The next morning Minerva McGonagall opened her eyes and instantly felt disorientated and unaware of her location until the events of the night before came flooding back to her. She was in the Durmstrang Institute, which was one of many places she would rather not have been in at such a time. Especially not whilst Voldemort was supposedly on the rise and the school itself was rumoured to teach even the youngest students to wield the Dark Arts.
She glanced at her watch to find it was already mid-afternoon. It wasn’t particularly surprising since they had been airborne since almost five that morning. Minerva dragged herself out of bed and quickly showered in the small ensuite. Their quarters had been very comfortable, which was only natural from a school wishing to impress highly influential people, as Minerva now realised she was. It would also have been highly useful for Norov to hold them hostage or to hand them over to Voldemort… She banished those thoughts and resolved to trust the headmaster of Durmstrang; they were not in their own territory now and they had been given no reason to do otherwise than to trust in him and his school.
Her robes were hanging where she had left them the day before and she quickly dressed herself with a flick of her wand before exiting the room. Minerva left the room in exactly the same state as when she had entered it and walked into the common room. Remus and Harry were already seated by the fireplace, talking in hushed voices so as to not disturb anyone else who may still be sleeping. Alastor stood in the middle of the room, his magical eye spinning in its socket. Minerva presumed that he was searching the entire castle for anything of the slightest threat.
“Good afternoon,” Mad Eye greeted upon his roving eye finding her. His normal eye was closed so that he only got one vision and could concentrate on the rest of the school. Harry and Remus glanced over to her and smiled slightly before each turned back to the other and resumed their conversation.
“Kingsley still sleeping?” Minerva asked as she walked past Alastor and over to Harry and Remus.
“We presume so,” Remus said calmly. “Go hammer on his door and wake him if it bothers you.”
There was no need for her to do so as, a few moments later, the third door of the eight opened and a rather dishevelled-looking Kingsley stepped out into the common room. Clearly he had not had nearly the amount of sleep he usually required.
“Sleeping Beauty awakes,” scoffed Mad Eye and Kingsley gave him a cold look before collapsing next to Remus. He looked as if he was ready to go back to sleep again.
“Oh shut up, I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night,” Kingsley scowled at him. Were it anyone else, the scowl would probably have been accompanied with a few hexes but no one in their right mind starts hexing Mad Eye Moody.
There was a knock at the common room door and a moment later the same elf which had attended to them the day before appeared in the doorway, looking very much like Kreacher. Or so Harry thought.
“Breakfast is served in the hall,” it said monotonously. Its voice sounded very different to the exuberant tones of Dobby. “Follow me.”
The five of them left the room, following behind the unnamed elf all the way through the three floors, still unaware as to their location within the school or how to get anywhere on their own. The entire building appeared to be deserted although that was to be expected considering that it was not yet term time.
They eventually reached the hall after around ten minutes of walking through dozens of identical corridors to find it of an intimidating size. Harry was not aware how many students studied at Durmstrang but from the size of the main hall he would have thought there to be around double the amount at Hogwarts. It wasn’t entirely impossible owing to the fact that Britain was only a small country but still… That many witches and wizards allegedly learning the Dark Arts was not good. Harry noticed that the others looked similarly uncomfortable as they entered and he wondered whether similar thoughts crossed their minds.
Harry tried to stay composed and at least look unmoved by their large hall but he couldn’t help his eyes straying upwards to the ceiling. Except that there didn’t appear to be any ceiling. The walls sloped upwards and it appeared that they would meet at an eventual point… but they never did. The walls became darker the higher you looked and eventually there was only darkness pressing down from above. It did not make the guests feel any better about their location.
“Good afternoon,” Cermak Norov greeted them as he rose from his seat at the end of the long table. Next to him another man was seated, one who looked very familiar to Harry. “I trust you all slept well?”
“Yeah right…” Kingsley muttered and upon being looked at by Norov he added in a louder tone, “Like the dead, Sir.”
“Let us hope that the dead continue to rest,” Norov said seriously. “I have heard some unsettling rumours concerning Inferi recently.”
“Really? And might I ask for your source on the matter?” Minerva asked in a tone which betrayed some underlying interest.
“A colleague of mine sent me an article from your Prophet by a woman named Rita Skeeter,” Norov answered and noticed the grim looks on the faces of his guests.
“Skeeter is not a woman whose word I would hold particular faith in,” Remus answered for them mildly. Norov raised an eyebrow slightly at such an open display of dislike towards the woman from the group but did not question it. He noticed Harry’s eyes on his deputy head and instantly apologised for himself.
“Excuse my rudeness,” Norov said smoothly, “and my I introduce to you my deputy head, Viktor Krum.”
Viktor got to his feet and shook hands with them all, pausing at Harry.
“It has been too long, Harry,” Viktor said and Harry instantly realised how much his spoken English had changed for the better, even if he had borne witness to his poor writing. Harry smiled slightly and returned the sentiment. Kingsley seemed slightly bemused by the fact that Harry had met the world famous Quidditch player before and only gibbered slightly before making a comprehensible response to Viktor’s greeting to himself.
They breakfasted together and Harry sat next to Viktor, talking to him throughout the meal about things such as Quidditch, Hermione and their respective schools.
“I vas rather particular to Hogvarts,” Viktor said towards the end of the meal. “Durmstrang can be quite gloomy at times, especially since no students in school are.”
‘So his English isn’t that good yet,’ Harry thought as he finished off his meal. He silently agreed that Durmstrang seemed rather gloomy and also rather imposing.
After they had all eaten, Norov lead them through the school and down into the dungeons. They seemed to make the ones at Hogwarts seem almost homely and all the guests felt uncomfortable. Even Viktor did not appear particularly pleased by their travelling into and under the school. They passed several cells on their way to the storage place for the Frequency Counter. Mad Eye couldn’t help but peer through the walls and find yet more cells, some with iron shackles on the wall, others with what appeared to be medieval torture devices. The knowledge of the presence of such things did little to increase his comfort within the building. The sooner they were out of there, the better for all of them.
Eventually they came to a stop outside a large wooden door. Norov opened it with a large silver key and stepped inside. The moment he did so dozens of torches along the walls burst into life, illuminating the vast chamber which was filled with dozens of objects, magical and Muggle.
Norov and Krum lead the way through the maze of things, passing everything from Foe Glasses to old black and white TV sets. Old brooms lay scattered around, surrounded by parchment, sofas and Sneakoscopes. A lone Rememberall rolled into Mad Eye’s path and he picked it up. The smoke turned red and he spent the rest of the journey through the room trying to remember what he’d apparently forgotten.
“Here we are,” Norov stated as he bent down and picked up a small object. He handed it to Minerva who stared down at it for a few moments and then slipped it into her robes. “Just cast an awakening spell on it for it to work and finite for it to shut up.”
Minerva nodded and thanked him before they were all led back up to the surface of the school. It seemed almost odd for them all to have trekked down there for such a small object and then taken back.
“So that we can all see the torture chambers they have here,” Kingsley muttered to Harry on the way back as they trailed behind the group.
“You’ve not seen the half of it,” Mad Eye growled as he dropped back. “You wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve seen on the other side of these walls.”
Harry decided that he probably didn’t want to see them either. From the grim look on Mad Eye’s face they were probably extremely unpleasant and would not make his short stay in the castle any more comfortable than it already was. He had yet to see the Frequency Counter which Minerva had in her robe pocket and he wanted to, just to satisfy his curiosity.
“I can’t believe that five of us have come for such a small thing,” Kingsley said, preferring not to press his mentor as to what might be on the other side of the walls. Like Harry, he too knew that it would not make him feel any easier about being surrounded by Dark wizards. He did not believe for a moment that there were only two wizards and one house elf in the school.
“I didn’t see it,” Harry replied, hoping a description would be the next thing Kingsley would say.
“I haven’t either but if it’s small enough for Minerva to put in her robe pocket and hold in one hand then clearly it’s not something that five people need to journey all night for,” Kingsley muttered. Clearly he was still not pleased by his lack of sleep from the night before.
“Its size doesn’t matter,” Mad Eye reprimanded, “it’s the fact that it’s a highly valuable magical object. We only know of two in existence at the moment and we need one if we’re ever going to find the –” his voice had been steadily getting louder the more irritated with Kingsley he got. It was only by Remus stopping sharply so that Mad Eye walked into him that he had been prevented from saying ‘Horcruxes’ rather loudly.
“I do apologise, Alastor,” Remus said in his usual mild manner but with a hint of warning in his voice. After that all conversation was halted upon their reaching the entrance hall and all those from Hogwarts just wanted to run out of the castle as fast as they could and never look back. Sadly, a sprinted escape was not an option open to them.
“I grant you the rest of the castle for the day and Viktor as your guide,” Norov said to them. “I trust you will be leaving this evening, or would you prefer another night?”
“No, we won’t trespass upon you another night,” Minerva replied, perhaps a little too quickly. “We’ll set off at dusk.”
The rest of the day was spent mostly in the small guests’ common room, although Viktor had taken Harry, Remus and Kingsley on a tour around the school at one point. The offer had originally extended only to Harry but the others had clearly looked uneasy at the idea of the youngest of their group wandering the school without them, even if Harry himself had not felt uneasy in the slightest.
As the sun sank lower and lower towards the horizon Harry stared down at the small Frequency Counter in his hands. Minerva was watching him as if she thought he was about to throw it as far as he could. She clearly didn’t trust him with anything of much value. Remus hovered over Harry’s shoulder, staring at the small flattened cylinder with interest and Kingsley only shot it a contemptuous glare.
It was a small cylinder, big enough to fit in the palm of Harry’s hand with a rim of about two centimetres in thickness. The top of it was slightly domed and as Harry stared down into it he saw a map of the surrounding area.
“How much does it show?” Harry asked no one in particular.
“Around a mile radius from this point,” Minerva replied.
Harry nodded as he watched it. The map was no ordinary one; it was entirely golden. There was a very bright rectangle in the middle of the screen and Harry assumed that it was Durmstrang. Around the area of the school, it gradually became darker and darker until it became almost black in places.
“That’s where there’s very little magic,” Remus explained. “There won’t be more than there is in any normal Muggle town there.”
“So the more magical something is the paler it is on here?” Harry asked and Remus nodded. Behind them Kingsley cast a levitation charm on the coffee table and on the Frequency Counter Harry and Remus watched as at the centre of the building it became slightly lighter before returning to the same pale gold it had been before.
“So why’s this thing called a Frequency Counter if it doesn’t actually count anything?” Kingsley asked Minerva as he set the table back down onto the floor.
“It does,” Minerva countered and reached out to the Counter in Harry’s hands. She flipped it over to the other side where there was a counter rapidly increasing in tens. She touched her wand to it and muttered, “Finite Silencio.” Instantly whistling filled their ears along with the whirring of the counter as it shot up at her magic.
“TURN IT OFF!” Mad Eye yelled over the whistling and Harry was sure that he saw Minerva smile. He glanced back at Remus and saw that he had his hands over his ears. Remembering how sensitive the hearing of werewolves was, Minerva quickly silenced it.
There was a knock at the door and Viktor appeared to accompany them back down to the entrance hall where the headmaster was waiting with their brooms.
“It has been good to see you again,” Viktor said to Harry as they walked.
“Likewise,” Harry replied and had to stop himself from walking down the entirely wrong way.
“I do not ask for vat you need the Frequency Counter but I vish you the best of luck,” Viktor told him, keeping his glance partly on Harry and partly on the way they were walking. “I know that times are not easy.”
“Thank you,” Harry replied, not knowing what else to say. They reached the entrance hall shortly afterwards and saw Cermak Norov standing there facing them, his back to the door.
“I hope you have enjoyed your brief stay with us,” Cermak said, his voice lacking any warmth; it was something they had become quickly used to. “Our doors are always open to you should you require us.”
“And ours to you,” Minerva replied. “Should you need it then our hospitality will be available to you whenever it is required.”
“I wish you a safe journey and light in these dark times,” Norov said as he flung open the doors. It was snowing heavily and the last of the sun’s rays were disappearing below the horizon. Harry felt someone cast a charm for warmth over him and then he was walking outside, his broom in his hand and four people standing around him.
As they got higher and higher into the air they began to follow the trail of lights back towards the coast. The journey back was just as cold and this time slightly wet since they had to stay beneath the clouds in order to see the way home. Once they were far from the school, Minerva put the Frequency Counter back on, allowing it to whistle whenever they passed over something particularly magical, although that didn’t happen often once they were away from Durmstrang. It was of most use as a map of the area they were above.
They flew in silence once more for hours and hours on end until finally they could see the twinkling of cities below them. They were back over land and hopefully it was England over which they flew.
“We’ve gone off course!” Mad Eye yelled at Minerva. “We’re over Sunderland!”
“In case you’ve forgotten, Minerva,” Kingsley shouted, “we live in London!”
“Oh yes, the location of our house slipped my mind entirely!” Minerva shouted back. “If you’d rather fly over the sea in the dark then go ahead! I’d rather have land under me personally. At least this way we can pick up any substantial amounts of magic in the country!”
“In a one mile radius!” Mad Eye barked at her. “What’s that going to pick up except a very small straight line over the country!”
No sooner had he shouted this over the wind than the whistling got louder. Much louder as they flew over the county of Yorkshire. Minerva pulled up her broom so that it was hovering over the most magical area and tilted the Frequency Counter so that she could see it more clearly from the light of the moon.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake!” Mad Eye yelled as he flew over. “Are you a witch or not? Lumos!”
He pointed his wand at the Frequency Counter and stared down at it. The small disk was carefully passed between them so that all of them could see it. When at last it came to Harry, his eyes widened as Kingsley hovered over his shoulder, openly gaping at the Counter. There was a single bright white dot in the centre of a lot of pale gold. There could be no mistaking what it was.
“One of the Horcruxes…” Kingsley breathed in amazement.
It was almost six in the morning when the five members of the New Order landed their brooms in the garden of Number 12 Grimmauld Place. The sun was already over the horizon and the new day had already begun. They had only just reached the front door when it was flung open and Dobby was giddily jumping about, happy to be of service to them.
“So what do we do with it?” Remus muttered as they walked inside.
“I’ll take it,” Minerva told him as they stepped inside the hall. “Now all that remains to be done is to find out just where it went haywire last night.”
“This morning, don’t you mean?” Harry yawned. The five of them trouped into the kitchen and quickly Flooed to Hogwarts.
“Why didn’t we just fly to Hogwarts and Floo back here?” Kingsley demanded of Minerva. They would have had a considerably shorter flight if they had done so.
“Do you think you could locate Hogwarts without any guidance?” Minerva asked him sharply. “Scotland is a big place.”
“Does it matter now?” Remus asked. “We’re back now and it’s too late to change anything, even if we wanted to.”
Minerva pulled out a roll of paper from her desk and placed it onto the table where it immediately uncurled itself and became flat. Harry noticed that it was a map of Britain.
“Right, so we’d just passed Sunderland,” Minerva said and tapped the city on the map. It magnified instantly and zoomed in on that particular city. “So where around here would Voldemort hide a Horcrux and why?”
“We weren’t that close… we were further away from the sea,” Remus pointed out and Minerva rolled her eyes.
“Fine,” she waved her wand and the map zoomed out a little, giving them a wider area to work with. “So what places do we have around there?”
“Newcastle … Durham … Sunderland…” Kingsley read to her and she paused with her quill over a piece of parchment.
“No, think smaller,” she told him. “He’s not going to hide a Horcrux in a large Muggle city, is he?”
“I bet there’s one in London,” Mad Eye disagreed.
“Fine,” Kingsley muttered and then continued with his reciting of locations within the area they believed themselves to have been. “Gateshead … Darlington … Greater Hangleton … Little Hangleton … Hartlepool…”
“Hartlepool’s nowhere near Sunderland!” Mad Eye argued. “It’s bloody miles away. There’s no way it’s that far south.”
“We said it wasn’t that close to the coast,” Remus pointed out.
“Little Hangleton…” Harry murmured and glanced over at Minerva who was staring at the map and then at Harry with a strange expression on her face. All of a sudden he felt very sick indeed.
“We’ve no idea whether or not it was that close to the coast!” Kingsley argued.
“I really think that it’s more likely to be near Durham,” Remus asserted.
“Wasn’t that where Voldemort…?” Minerva started and then trailed off. It had the effect she needed and at the sound of Voldemort’s name the other three were quiet.
“Wasn’t what were Voldemort what?” Kingsley demanded.
“Little Hangleton’s where the Riddle House is,” Harry explained. “It’s also where he resurrected himself and we were flying over it last night when the Frequency Counter went off.”
The room was silent.
“Let’s go get it then!” Mad Eye said suddenly and moved towards the Floo. Minerva stared at him as if he was insane, and so did the rest of the room for that matter.
“Are you entirely out of your mind, Alastor?” Minerva almost shouted. “You cannot just walk into that house and take a Horcrux. Do you really think it will be that easy?!”
“Before we get it we ought to know how to destroy it,” Remus said calmly. “Otherwise we’ll be hiding a Horcrux in Grimmauld Place or Hogwarts, neither of which is a good idea.”
“We also need to know just what kind of protection the Horcrux is under,” Minerva said, hoping that Mad Eye wasn’t going to listen to everything she had to say and go storming off to Little Hangleton regardless. “If it’s very well guarded then we might be as well trying to find the other Horcruxes before we attempt that one. I’ll station some members of the Order around there. They won’t know what they’re doing it for, just that they’re keeping an eye out for anything suspicious.”
Just then the fireplace glowed green and the flames leapt up. Bill almost fell through into the room and only Kingsley’s quick reactions saved him from smashing his face in on the floor. Not that after Greyback’s attack he could look much worse.
“I thought I heard someone passing through the house so I came to see if you had come here,” Bill said quickly. He sounded breathless and Harry realised he had probably run through the house to try and catch them. “Did you get it?”
Moments later Ron and Hermione also fell out of the fireplace before Minerva had had chance to answer, each of them with a barrage of questions about the flight and the castle. The three of them went silent when Minerva held up her hand to show the Frequency Counter and Bill grinned. It had been quite some time since he had seen one but if he could get himself transferred into the Magical Protection and Safety Regulations section of Gringotts then he would be working with one much more often.
“We think we found one in Little Hangleton,” Minerva explained and Bill’s eyes widened.
“It’s near Sunderland!” Kingsley said quickly and Mad Eye scowled at him.
“How did you find it so fast? Were you scouring the country?” Hermione asked, her eyebrow raised as she took in the exhausted looking group in front of her.
“It was just by chance; we flew over it on the way home,” Remus clarified.
Bill opened his mouth to say something but at that moment the flames in the fireplace turned green again. Clearly Bill, Hermione and Ron had not been the only ones to hear them pass through the house, or they had not been particularly quiet themselves.
“What on earth is going on here?” Molly demanded as she stepped through the flames. “You go out last night and return at home at five in the morning only to Floo straight to Hogwarts?!”
“It’s Order business, Molly,” Mad Eye said, as if that made everything perfectly acceptable.
“It might well be but Harry has just turned seventeen and to my knowledge he is not a member of the Order yet!” Molly was almost shouting now. “I am a member of the Order so, tell me, what is it that you feel you must keep secret from the rest of the organisation?”
“I’m sorry Molly, really,” Remus said quietly, “but this is on a strictly need-to-know basis at the moment. We can’t risk any leaks, not now that Voldemort knows so much from Snape.”
“Fine,” she snapped at them, “but would you at least come home and get some breakfast?”
They all nodded eagerly and Molly’s head disappeared from the fireplace.
“It appears we’ve run out of time,” Minerva said. “We will have to postpone this meeting.”
“We can’t leave it long,” Bill objected. “I’ve got to go back to work again soon – my holiday leave ends on Friday.”
“I’m working nights for the next two weeks,” Kingsley said. “Starting the day after tomorrow.”
“Full moon tomorrow,” Remus admitted glumly and Minerva gave him a sharp look.
“You should have said – you need not have come with us,” she scolded him and Remus smiled slightly.
“I know you wouldn’t have let me come if I reminded you,” Remus said. “That’s precisely why I didn’t.”
“So tomorrow and the next two weeks are out. We can’t meet during the day because Bill will be working and school starts again in about two weeks…” Minerva sighed. “I’ll never have any free time now so who knows when we’ll be able to meet again.”
“I’m sure we’ll find a time before you have to go back to school, Minerva,” Remus said reassuringly as they left through the fireplace and returned to Grimmauld Place.
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