The new headmaster is Professor Cermak Norov. He was the best student in his year and the Head Boy was. I think he a very good person. Much better than Karkaroff who we heard is dead now. He is very supportive to the teachers and is also very friendly. Why ask you? We heard of the decease of Professor Dumbledore and I am sorry for it. He was a good man.
I hope to hear from you soon,
Hermione showed Harry and Ron the letter in her hand briefly before going to find McGonagall, who was seated in the lounge downstairs. She read over the letter and quickly called a meeting in that room. It was lucky that the day was one of few in which all members of the New Order, as Minerva had begun to think of them, were in the house. They were quickly assembled and all but three wondered what they had been called for at such short notice.
“Miss Granger has received a reply from Krum in Durmstrang,” she told them calmly as she glanced down at the letter in her hands.
“About time,” Mad Eye growled. It had been just over a week since they had last met and the month of August was already upon them. To be fair Viktor was over in Finland but they had used Hedwig and she was by far the most efficient owl in the Order.
“He simply says that the headmaster is Professor Cermak Norov and that he’s preferred over Karkaroff,” Minerva summarised. “Not that it would take a great deal to do that.”
“So now what?” Bill asked her. “Do we go and get the Frequency Counter?”
“I don’t see how we can just fly over to their school and expect us to hand something like that over,” Kingsley said calmly and Remus nodded his head in agreement.
“We could force them to,” Mad Eye growled but Minerva gave him a piercing look.
“Yes, nothing like thievery to promote unity, is there?” she said coldly. “No, we shall send another letter. This time to Mr Norov and request the Frequency Counter on loan for a few months.”
“And if they say no?” Mad Eye asked.
She sighed before answering. “Then you may burgle Durmstrang.”
“Excellent,” Mad Eye said, a flicker of life in his one good eye. “I’ll get working on that plan now.”
“I’m sure there will be no need, Alastor,” Minerva said hastily, hoping against hope that he would at least wait for a reply before barging into the school. “I shall compose the letter this evening and we will wait for a reply before taking any further action.” Mad Eye nodded sullenly.
As it turned out, all Alastor’s wildly thought out plans involving no less than five murders were unnecessary. Minerva received a letter from the headmaster of Durmstrang six days after she had initially sent her own letter and read it out to the New Order in her office that evening.
Dear Headmistress McGonagall,
I am glad to finally enter correspondence with your school. I admit that the first term in the office of headmaster is quite tough and I will be happy to lend assistance to you where possible. As it happens the Frequency Counter is almost gathering dust in one of the storage rooms; it has been left for quite some time. The amount of magic in the school was far too much to be of any use here. However, should you wish to borrow it then I have no objections.
I cannot spare any of my staff to deliver the Frequency Counter to you however, so you will unfortunately have to come and collect it yourselves. Our school is always open to you and, in the unlikely event that directions are needed, I will be only happy to direct you here.
Awaiting your arrival,
Professor Cermak Norov
Headmaster of Durmstrang School
“Sounds rather conceited to me,” Kingsley observed. “Offering you advice and all.”
“I’m sure he was just trying to be friendly,” Remus said, hoping that they weren’t going to go to Durmstrang with a poor view of the lender of the magical object they needed.
“Still, he practically said that their school was better and more magical than ours!” Kingsley argued further. “As if a Frequency Counter would work in Hogwarts!”
“I think it might,” Minerva observed. “At least for specific things within the school.”
Mad Eye, who had been quiet throughout the conversation so far, spoke up. “So when do we go then?”
“As soon as we can,” Bill replied. “We want to get working as soon as possible. There’s nothing to be done without it.”
“I agree,” Minerva said quietly. “I think that we ought to send as many people as we can. Safety in numbers.”
“Yes, but we can’t all go,” Remus pointed out. “If something happens…”
‘Then there won’t be anyone left alive who knows about the Horcruxes…’ Harry thought. He hated to say it but they couldn’t all go gallivanting into Durmstrang. He already knew which three of them were the most likely to be left behind. It seemed as if Remus could sense his thoughts.
“I think that either Harry or Hermione ought to come,” Remus said and, upon seeing Ron’s indignant expression, quickly added, “since they both know Viktor.”
Minerva nodded. “I quite agree, and it would be most prudent if I, as headmistress, also attended. Remus, Kingsley and Alastor; I suggest you join us.”
“Uh… Professor, I’d rather not go. I mean I’m not a very good flier…” Hermione said quickly, aware that there was a blush creeping up her cheeks. Since she was now with Ron she didn’t particularly wish to meet Viktor again, although she had no objections to continuing her correspondence with him via owl.
“Very well,” she assented. She didn’t ask Harry whether or not he would be joining them; she knew that he would not object to being such a part of the team. Besides, considering his fame in the Wizarding world it might be a good idea for him to accompany them.
Ron was still looking extremely put out that he had not been asked to go with them. Bill was looking almost relieved at the prospect of not having to fly all the way to Finland where as Kingsley was looking quite irritated at the idea.
“We shall go tomorrow before dusk. I suggest that you all get a good night’s sleep,” Minerva said to Harry, Remus, Mad Eye and Kingsley.
“It’s Order business, Molly,” Remus explained when he stood outside Grimmauld Place with the others who would be going to Durmstrang. She didn’t look very pleased that Harry was one of those going away on the ‘Order business’ but she clearly had no say in the matter now that Minerva had chosen to take Harry with them, wherever it was that they were going. “We should be back tomorrow or the day after.”
“Tomorrow? You’ll be out all night?” Molly demanded and Remus nodded.
“Don’t worry… we’ll be fine.”
With that the five of them took off into the air, all mounted upon Firebolts, Nimbuses and various other top-make brooms. Harry wondered what Remus had meant when he said that the entire way to Durmstrang was lit up. He presumed that however he had meant it that was the reason for their setting off just before darkness set in. Minerva had said that they wanted to be nearing the coastline before the sun set entirely and from there they would follow the trail.
“It’s a good evening for flying,” Mad Eye observed as they rose into the air. They all stayed closely grouped together for protection’s sake and Harry noticed that he was the one in the middle.
“No clouds, not much wind,” Kingsley said, glancing around. “We ought to be at the coast half an hour, over to Norway in another three hours or so and from there I’d say about four hours following the lights to Durmstrang.”
“It’s nine now so we ought to be there by five in the morning,” Mad Eye said. The prospects of flying in the dark over a large ocean did not particularly appeal to Harry or to any of the members of the Order for that matter, but they had all agreed and the journey had to be undertaken at night.
“Let’s get going then,” Minerva said and took the lead as they flew towards the coast, gaining height as they did so. Harry was suddenly very glad of the warm cloak he had wrapped around his robes and for the warming charm Remus had put on him before they had left the house. Down on the ground it had seemed ridiculously warm but now they were in the air things suddenly seemed a lot colder.
It seemed odd to be wearing robes during the summer but Minerva had insisted on his looking presentable to the Durmstrang institute, especially as they did not accept Muggle-born students. Muggle clothing would clearly not go down very well.
There was little conversation between them as they flew to the coast, watching the last of the land disappear beneath them, replaced by the sea and no sign of land on the other side. The flight over the water was a worrying one and a cold one as the sunlight faded beneath the horizon and the moon shone above them. Throughout it all, Minerva and Mad Eye led the way, never wavering in their knowledge of when to turn slightly and the way to land. Harry wondered how they did it. He felt that if he had been the one directing them they could well have ended up in America or somewhere similarly in the opposite direction to that which they went.
“Land ahoy!” Kingsley yelled over the wind after what felt like an age, and had really been about three hours of seemingly endless water beneath them. Remus moved his broom over so that he was touching Harry and pointed down to the land beneath them. There was a bright light down there and they began to descent towards it.
“That’s the first point which leads towards Durmstrang,” Remus said to him over the wind. He raised his finger along a line of bright lights and, sure enough, there appeared to be a perfect line leading into the distance.
“So we just follow those until we get there?” Harry asked him. Remus nodded and they flew on. It felt somewhat comforting to be flying over land again, even if it was still pitch black. As they got closer to Durmstrang it began to get lighter again and they flew faster.
“We’ve only got one hour to see the way,” Mad Eye yelled to them all and sped up, pushing their brooms as fast as they could so that they didn’t lose the trail. Eventually there was only one light left and Harry knew that it must be Durmstrang.
They spiralled gently down towards the light and it was only when they were almost inside the school grounds that Harry saw that the beam of light was not from the school but from a tower very close by which projected the beam of light up into the sky.
They landed smoothly inside the school grounds, just outside the main building. Harry’s first impressions were of dislike and unease as he stared up at the large gothic castle in front of him. It was not made of the same warm stone as Hogwarts, but rather of a colder, darker stone with giant gothic windows set into the stonework and gargoyles on top of the building which Harry was certain he saw moving.
“What do we do now?” Kingsley asked Minerva over the rush of the wind and he stamped his feet in the snow beneath him to warm himself up a little. Harry shoved his hands into his pockets in an attempt to bring some life back into them and Remus wrapped his arms tightly around himself as the chill wind blew harshly around them.
“We wait,” Minerva said and cast a spell for warmth around the group. Suddenly the wind didn’t bother them in the slightest and the numbness in their fingers and toes became a tingling heat which was not unwelcome.
After a few minutes the large front doors were thrown open and a man stepped out to greet them. He was very tall and appeared a rather imposing figure. He was wrapped up warmly in furs which hid all of him except his hands and his pale face which reminded Harry of Professor Snape, although his eyes had never had the steely glint of the man in front of him.
“Good morning,” he said as he shook Minerva’s hand warmly before bringing them out of the cold and shutting the doors behind them. “I am Cermak Norov and welcome to Durmstrang Institute.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, especially at such hours,” Minerva said formally.
“Of course,” Norov replied smoothly, “but then the school is not the easiest to find in daylight so we must he hospitable at all hours if only because of our school can only be found in darkness.” He turned to those who stood behind her and glanced over them. His gaze stopped on Harry and his eyes flickered up to his forehead where the lightning bolt scar was just visible under his hair. He raised an eyebrow slightly and turned back to Minerva. “Quite the troop you’ve brought here.”
“The skies are treacherous. I would rather not risk getting lost or assaulted in such dark times,” Minerva replied, glancing back at those who stood behind her. “My companions –” she introduced them one by one and Norov shook the hand of each of them in turn. His eyes lingered last and longest on Harry who returned his cool, searching gaze with just as little emotion.
“After such a journey I am sure you must be very tired,” Norov said to them and Minerva nodded with a slight smile. The headmaster clapped his hands together and a house elf appeared. It was paler than the ones that worked in Hogwarts and Harry noticed that it had an odd, haunted look about it which reminded him painfully of Sirius. “Please show our guests to their chambers for the night.”
“Thank you again, Professor Norov,” Minerva said quietly as they were lead out of the entrance hall. Harry was glad to be moving away from that man and the entrance – it had a dark, almost sinister interior which seemed very fitting to the outside. Black metal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, their candles acting as the only light within the walls as the sun had not properly risen yet. The portraits which surrounded them spoke in whispers as they passed and watched them warily, just as the passers by did to them and all the while Harry had a strong feeling of unease about him.
He disliked being in a place when he could not understand what most of those around them were saying. Three ghosts floated past, chatting animatedly in a language they did not understand. Remus thought it highly ironic that the most life they had encountered in the castle so far had been from beings already dead.
If there were any secret passageways in the labyrinthine school then they were not taken through them. The house elf they walked with led them along all the main corridors and up three flights of stairs until they came to a single wooden door. It was intricately carved with some rather unpleasant things but, from what they had seen of the rest of the castle, that was nothing unusual in itself.
The elf motioned for Minerva to enter and then spoke with a heavy accent. “All the rooms within are unoccupied. My master says you are to take them for as long as you need.” With that he was gone, leaving the small group of five feeling very isolated and rather uncomfortable. Minerva pushed open the door and found themselves in a small common room. Along one of the walls of the room were eight doors, presumably containing their sleeping quarters. She opened the first door and stepped inside.
It was a small room, lightly furnished with a bathroom to the side. She bid them all a good morning and retired to her room. Harry waited for everyone else to take a room before choosing one on the end next to Mad Eye.
When he opened the door and stared inside he saw that it was exactly the same as the one he had seen Minerva take. The large, four posted bed was in the centre of the wall just opposite the door. A wardrobe large enough for several men to hide in stood nearby along with a desk, a chest of drawers and a small sofa.
Walking over to the bed, Harry discovered a pair of pyjamas laid out neatly for him and, upon removing his socks and shoes to change into them, he was pleasantly surprised to find that the carpet was heated. It made sense in such a cold climate and he savoured the warmth in his feet as he crossed the room to his window and pulled the heavy curtains to one side.
The view was breathtaking. It was a world covered in a blanket of white and Harry found his tired eyes widening at the sight. It was only when he yawned and realised how heavy his eyelids were beginning to feel that he decided bed would be the best option right then. He returned to the bed and fell asleep the moment his head touched the pillow.
A/N: According to the Lexicon, Durmstrang isn't in Bulgaria but it's in the North of Europe somewhere. I stuck a new paragraph into the previous chapter somewhere to reflect this. Nothing major if you read it last time but the school is now on the Finland-Sweden border, or at least that's where I've put it! :o)
Thanks again to all you who've been reviewing so far. I love reading your comments and have been responding to them all as they've come in. My offer to email you when I update still stands and will remain so until I finish the story so just drop me a line with your email if you want. Later Gators...
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