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Chapter Nine


“So there is a lot of magic coming from the Riddle House, so what?” Kingsley scowled. “We can’t do anything about it and we can’t constantly measure the Magical Frequency over Little Hangleton and search the rest of the country for more Horcruxes as well.”

“Then at the moment we’ll have to focus on finding a way to destroy it,” Bill said as he stood in Minerva’s office once more.

“What the hell do you think we’ve been trying to do for the last two months?!” Ron snapped at him.

“Ron!” Hermione hissed and kicked him. It was no secret that they were only present at the request of Minerva now. Harry would be there the whole way if only because he was the one that the prophecy specified as having the power to defeat Voldemort but that did not mean that he had to be accompanied by his friends at all times.

“Despite his inappropriate outburst,” Minerva said, “Mr Weasley has a point. We have been researching almost constantly since the beginning of September. It’s now November and we’ve had no success.”

“So we can’t search for more Horcruxes and we can’t remove the one we’ve found until we know how to destroy it,” Remus summarised as he ran through any possible courses of action they had in his head. “At the same time we haven’t yet found a means of destroying the first Horcrux and all the time we run the risk of Voldemort discovering what we’re doing and removing the only Horcrux we know of.” He sighed and looked around the group. There did not seem much chance of their finding a new and previously unconsidered course of action.

“Research seems to be our only course of action for the present,” Minerva admitted. Besides her Mad Eye looked almost enraged.

“So we’re going to continue to do nothing?!” he demanded.

“Yes, you understood my meaning correctly, Alastor,” she said coolly.

“What we really need is another Frequency Counter,” Harry said thoughtfully, not really listening to the conversation which was quickly turning into an argument around him. Kingsley raised an eyebrow at him but Remus looked almost thoughtful.

“Remus, you’re out of your mind!” Kingsley said to him in disbelief. “We only know of two and apart from the one currently under our possession the other is in Gringotts.”

“What would you have us do? Burgle the bank?” Bill asked with a slight smile.

“That’s exactly what I’m proposing unless you can borrow it somehow,” Remus said mildly. Kingsley and Bill stared at the sensible, mild-mannered man in a mixture of shock and horror.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Mad Eye growled as he stared around at them all.

“You’d like any idea as long as it didn’t involve more research,” Minerva said grimly. “Burgling anywhere else then I would have been inclined to agree but Gringotts…?!” She sat in silence for a moment, putting in some serious thought to the originally not-so-serious suggestion.

“You’d be caught and sent to Azkaban!” Hermione said suddenly, forgetting the fact that they were only barely tolerated at the meetings now. “You’re not going to be able to find the Horcruxes and defeat Voldemort from a gaol cell, are you?!”

Silencio,” Mad Eye said calmly as he pointed his wand at her and Hermione instantly became silent. She continued to wave her arms about in an amusing but mute fashion until Mad Eye threatened to add a full-body bind to the spell that she was already under. She became more still after that.

“You forget that no one has ever managed to steal anything from Gringotts before,” Minerva said rationally. Everyone knew that if you wanted to keep something safe then, apart from Hogwarts, Gringotts was the place to put it.

“That’s not true – Quirrel managed to get inside it to steal the Philosopher’s Stone years ago,” Harry told them.

“But he didn’t manage, did he?” Bill reminded him.

“Only because it had already been taken out of the vault that day,” Harry explained. “He managed to get in and out without being caught though.”

“That single break-in caused Gringotts to treble their security measures which were considered ridiculously high even before that,” said Bill. “Trying to break in now would be very near impossible.”

“Exactly,” Mad Eye growled as he circled the table as if he were readying himself to accuse someone of murder.

“It was Kingsley in the library with the candlestick,” Remus smiled and Mad Eye gave him a very cold look. Minerva laughed and Hermione looked like she would have been if she wasn’t silenced. The Muggle game reference was lost on Harry who had never played the game.

How do you know about Cluedo? Read the large letters that Hermione conjured from the end of her wand and Ron glared at her use of speechless spell-casting.

“You find some interesting things in the Muggle Studies office upon occasion,” Minerva explained with a slight smile.

“Yes, yes, now back to the matter at hand,” Mad Eye snapped and opened his mouth to continue whatever it was he had been saying before.

“Yes, like when we had a television in the staffroom for a week or so when I taught,” Remus smiled slightly at the memory.

“Really? What was it like?” Bill asked.

“If we could please get back to the subject!” Mad Eye snapped.

“It wasn’t very good – it was only small and black and white but it gave us all a laugh,” Minerva smiled at the memory.

“Yes there was a man on it who reminded me of Severus, what was his name now…?” Remus mused whilst Mad Eye continued to fume in the background and Kingsley let him; it always amused him greatly to wind the man up but it appeared that he didn’t even have to put the effort in now.

“I’ll be wondering about this for the rest of the night now,” Minerva said with her brows creased.

“These meetings are a farce!” Mad Eye shouted at the top of his voice and Kingsley and Bill collapsed into fits of laughter.

“I do apologise,” Minerva said as she turned back to the matter at hand. “So what is it that you were trying to say, Alastor?”

“That because Gringotts has increased its security so publicly then the chances of someone attempting to burgle it would be incredibly unlikely and no one in their right mind would attempt it,” he said and his magical eye roved the room and beyond.

“As well as that we have someone who works in the building in question,” Remus pointed out.

“The security will only be high around the vaults,” Kingsley added. “They’re not going to keep a Frequency Counter in the vaults themselves, are they?”

“I seriously doubt it,” Bill said, “but I don’t know its exact location within the building.”

“But you can find out?”

“Probably,” Bill said as thoughts about burglary began to speed up. “It shouldn’t be too difficult if it’s not in an actual vault.”

“So that’s our plan of action then,” said Minerva thoughtfully. “Bill finds out where the Frequency Counter is within Gringotts and once that’s done then we can formulate a plan to steal it.”

“You’re looking very quiet, Harry,” Remus noted as he glanced at the boy stood next to him.

“Was it Marilyn Manson?” he asked and Remus’s and Minerva’s eyes lit up.

“YES! That’s who reminded us of Severus!” Remus said suddenly and Minerva, Hermione and Harry started to laugh hysterically.

“Who on earth is Marilyn Manson?” Kingsley asked in confusion.

“I’ll find you a picture of him later on,” Harry told him once they had all calmed down. Ron stared at them all since he too had absolute no idea who Marilyn Manson was.

“That’s it,” Mad Eye growled and stalked towards the fireplace. “I’m leaving!”

“Don’t do it, Moody,” Kingsley said as he got to his feet and crossed the room in three quick strides, effectively blocking Mad Eye’s route out of the room.

“Let him go, Kingsley,” Minerva said calmly as she too rose to her feet and walked towards the fireplace. “There is no more to be said at this meeting.”

*


Bill walked confidently down the many winding corridors of Gringotts hoping that he looked like he was meant to be there. He had absolutely no idea how to go about finding the Frequency Counter in the large building or where one might be kept. They had talked it over many a time in the last week after each day at work when he had made another expedition around the large building.

The unfortunate thing was that the more he seemed to search the more he realised just how giant Gringotts really was. The building was large enough even if one wasn’t aware that it extended deep into the ground. Not only the vaults were located beneath ground level; some of the workers offices were down there along with most of the more magical and technical aspects of the banking system. If there was anywhere that a Frequency Counter was kept then it would be there, underground. The only question was, where underground?

Slowly but surely he was beginning to draw up a map of each floor, filling in the blank spots as he found them. It didn’t help that it was as bad as Hogwarts when it came to hidden rooms and passageways. Although that Bill could deal with. What he struggled with the most was the fact that he had no idea how well hidden the Frequency Counter would be. It could well have been on prominent display somewhere; it wasn’t something which most people would think of stealing as it wasn’t a widely known magical artefact, although it was certainly valuable.

Minerva had suggested that he could only keep searching and scouring the building until he came across it and that he ought to make a map as he went along. Mad Eye said that the Frequency Counter was most likely to be held in the deepest, darkest vault guarded by dragons and goblins alike. It was Remus who suggested that it would be on the level closest to the vaults since it would be used to measure any unusual magical activity within them. It was that level which he searched the most diligently whenever he could. It was that level he was on right then.

The corridors were silent during the night and busy during the day. Bill used both times of day to conduct his searches knowing that he would not be caught during the night by people or goblins who were not there and during the day there were too many people about for his presence to be suspicious. It was the middle of the day when Bill caught his first glance of that which he was to steal.

“Thank you, sir,” Bill said with a grateful smile as he faced his supervisor. He had been called to his office for reasons of which he was unaware only to find that his recent hard work had earned him a pay rise. Bill knew that it was really because the most prominent French wizarding bank was looking for workers and that Bill had been known to travel. Not that Bill would complain – money was money whether he got it in London or Paris.

“You’re quite welcome, Bill,” smiled his supervisor as he rose to his feet and motioned for Bill to do the same. The men shook hands as they stood by the door and it was only the chance glint of charmed sunlight from the window which made Bill turn and see the Frequency Counter lying on the desk he had just been sat at. His supervisor saw him looking and smiled at his interest. “That’s the Frequency Counter.”

“As in the one and only owned by Gringotts?” Bill asked.

“The very same.”

“How came it to be in your office? I thought it constantly surveyed the surrounding area and recorded the magical frequency of everything in the vaults below,” Bill said and must have realised that he came off as a bit too knowledgeable about the subject because his face became pink and he fell silent.

His employer merely laughed at his supposed enthusiasm. “That’s exactly what it does. It transmits from my office into the room upstairs,” he explained to Bill. “The results are printed out and analysed at the end of every week but thankfully my job hasn’t got that dull yet.”

Bill nodded and smiled. “Very good, sir, although I’m still slightly surprised that such a valuable item is left in your office instead of locked away elsewhere.”

“It’s only valuable to those who know what it is,” the supervisor said wisely. “Very few people are aware of its use or it’s rarity.” He glanced over at the clock which hovered over his desk. “I’m late for a meeting with the head goblin! Wonderful talking to you Bill, I’ll see you later on!” With that he hurriedly ran back to his desk and started gathering papers inside a small briefcase and Bill took it as his cue to leave.

Who’d have thought that he could find a new Frequency Counter and get a rise in the same day? It was quite a shame really because surely he couldn’t continue to work for Gringotts once he had stolen from them. It would be known who had taken it after his conversation with his boss that afternoon and there was no way that he was likely to get away with setting someone else up. Besides, that was hardly fair.

He went back to work with a calm and collected air although really he was desperate just to fire call Grimmauld Place and talk to Minerva or Remus or whoever else could give him some good advice on the matter. Should he just run in there and take it and Floo out of the building? He could go somewhere in Diagon Alley and then after that he could walk back, or catch the Knight Bus to somewhere not too far from Grimmauld Place and walk through there.

Then again he could just leave it entirely and plot what could be a more suitable plan to steal the Frequency Counter. What if it was moved though? What if it was taken somewhere else now that he knew about it and the meeting that his supervisor had attended earlier was only to discover where else it could be kept without risk?

All these thoughts whirred through Bill’s mind as he walked out of his office and past that of his supervisor later that day. The door was shut but he knew it wouldn’t be locked, and if he was caught? Then he’d say that he was sorry but couldn’t resist going back for another look at a magical item so rare and fascinating. He could only hope that it wouldn’t come to that though as he silently slipped into the office.

Sure enough, the Frequency Counter lay on the desk just as it had done before. Bill cautiously looked around the room before confidently crossing the room and picking it up, praying that no alarms would go off whether audible or otherwise. It was slightly larger than the one they currently had back at Grimmauld Place but apart from that small fact it was identical to it in every way.

Bill took a deep breath and slipped the Frequency Counter into the inside pocket of his robes. Quickly he walked back towards the door. The only problem was that the door opened just as he reached it and he froze in horror. His alarm only increased when his supervisor stepped inside the room and eyed him with confusion.

“Bill, what are you doing here?” he asked and Bill froze for a moment.

“I just wanted to thank you again for the rise, sir,” he said, hating himself as he said it but it was the first thing he could think of saying which would warrant his presence in an office that was not his own. “I really don’t deserve it.”

“Nonsense Bill, and I’ll hear no more of this self-depreciation!” his supervisor smiled. “How about we go to the Leaky Cauldron for a celebratory drink?”

“I’d love to, sir, but I’m afraid I’m having dinner at home tonight with my family,” Bill lied and excused himself quickly from the office. He knew that he had very little time to get out of the building. The Counter was clearly a matter of pride to his supervisor and he would realise its absence very quickly. Behind him he heard a shout just after he turned the corner. He knew where it had come from and he had no desire to go back and hand over what he had just stolen.

Bill was very tempted to break into a run and race back to his office to get out of there but his Floo system could be disabled in an instant and he would be sent to the main office. He would have no escape then and no more chances of regaining the Frequency Counter. His heart began to pound as he realised that he was trying to steal from one of the safest places in the country and from goblins.

He walked swiftly so that he would not attract attention to himself and walked into the office next to his own. He knew the woman who worked in there well, well enough to know that at this time she would be stocking up on caffeine as she did every day at half past five before she worked until nine. Bill quickly let himself in and, finding the room deserted, crossed over to the fireplace.

He picked up the Floo powder and threw it into the grate. As the flames turned green and he muttered his destination he could hear the vague alarms which were already beginning to ring upstairs. He could only hope that the Floo system would let him out now. Behind him the door opened and he threw himself through the flames, knowing that he would not have been followed to the other side.

The streets of London met him as he staggered out of the Leaky Cauldron, so close to the bank he had just robbed. Bill let out a laugh at that thought – he had just robbed the most strongly protected bank in wizarding Britain. The fact that it was the only bank didn’t cross his mind as he ran out onto the road and hailed the Knight Bus.

“Grimmauld Avenue,” Bill gasped as he clambered onto the bus and paid his fare without responding to the driver or the temporary conductor. Stan Shunpike was still being held in Azkaban clearly.

The alarms must have been from the disconnection of the Frequency Counter from the analysis contraptions on the floor above, Bill thought as he sat down. For the first time he wondered whether any tracking charms had been put on the Counter and whether at that moment in time the Ministry and the bank were following his every move. Suddenly Bill realised how stupid he’d been; it was impossible to trace Apparition and he was calmly sat on the bus racing very close to the place he wanted to be.

When the bus stopped, he leapt off it and Apparated inside number twelve Grimmauld Place. He was behind the Fidelius charm and there was no way that anyone he didn’t want to meet could find him then.

“Where’s Minerva?” Bill gasped at the first person he saw, who, luckily for him, happened to be Mad Eye.

“School. She does actually teach, you know,” Kingsley said calmly as he appeared behind his mentor.

“New Order meeting now!” Bill said and walked past them, intending to go towards the fireplace and thought better of it. There was nothing easier to trace than someone through the Floo system. If he took the new Frequency Counter to Hogwarts he may as well have taken it back to the bank and told them just where he was going with it in person. “Tell them to come here – we’ll meet in the attic.”

Kingsley and Mad Eye stared at Bill as if he was out of his mind when he marched out of the room and up the stairs. They merely shrugged and set off to find the other four members of the New Order. Evidently something had happened and they were about to find out what.

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