“Let me get this straight,” Minerva said as she rubbed her temples. “You robbed Gringotts?!”
“And they know you did it for certain?”
“Oh dear Merlin,” Minerva sighed. She wanted to hex him for doing something so careless but at the same time the Frequency Counter sat on her desk. He would be hunted down by the Ministry and everyone who knew him would be questioned.
“But we have the Frequency Counter and that’s what counts,” Mad Eye growled approvingly from the window. “We need that if only so that we can keep an eye on the one Horcrux we know of whilst we search for others.”
“Madness, absolute madness,” Minerva sighed as she glanced around at the group assembled. “For now we’ll carry on the research into the destruction of the Horcruxes and I suppose we’ll have to talk about what to do with you, Bill.”
“So we can go do what we want now?” Ron asked hopefully, praying that he wasn’t about to be told to research instantly.
“Yes, Mr Weasley,” Minerva told him. “In fact I suggest that you take the opportunity to visit your sister in Diagon Alley this afternoon.”
“What’s Ginny doing there?” Ron asked in confusion and Bill rolled his eyes.
“You’ve no idea what’s going on in anyone else’s life, have you?” Bill asked with a slight grin.
Ron opened his mouth to argue but Minerva was rapidly getting a migraine and answered for him. “The sixth and seventh years have been becoming increasingly bored of their visits to Hogsmeade and have now been allowed to Diagon Alley if they wish.”
“What?! That’s not fair!” Ron exclaimed and Hermione kicked him. Hard. They were still trying to remain as quiet during the meetings as they could. “We never got to go there and we were bored too!”
“True, but this is the first time the staff have complained about boredom,” Minerva explained. “It’s not just the students who take time out of school.”
Harry nodded and shoved Ron towards the fireplace before he could begin to argue. Hermione quickly followed, along with everyone else.
“I reckon a shopping spree is in order,” Kingsley said rubbing his hands together. “Of course, not for Bill who’s now a bank robber.”
Bill shot him a glare but didn’t speak. The statement was unfortunately true and he wouldn’t be able to venture into public again for quite some time… not unless he formed some kind of magical disguise.
Remus ran his fingers over the new Frequency Counter and started noticing differences about it. Most notably the fact that it wasn’t whistling at an irritating pitch and yet it was turned on. “Can I take this to have a look at it?”
Minerva gave Remus a worried look before acquiescing. It was Remus after all. “Be very careful.”
“I will,” Remus sighed and rolled his eyes. He was not a child playing with a delicate toy. He flipped the Frequency Counter over in his hands and it slipped, almost falling to the floor. He glanced up and caught Minerva’s stern and now worried look on him. With a sheepish smile he said, “I really will be careful.”
“See to it that you are.”
“Come on, I’ve got things to be buying!” Kingsley said as he walked to the fireplace and stepped through it a moment later. He was followed quickly by Harry, Ron, Hermione, Remus and Mad Eye. Bill remained behind looking distinctly unhappy at the prospect of being wanted by the Ministry.
“So, where to?” Ron asked as they stepped out into Diagon Alley. Contrary to their past visits to the street, it wasn’t busy in the slightest. Harry presumed it wasn’t the holidays and the immediate horror of Voldemort’s return had worn off, meaning that people ventured out into public more. Evidently, they did not venture out all that much more however.
Harry wasn’t listening as Ron ran through the list of the places they should go before they left and discussing their first shop with Hermione; instead he watched the Frequency Counter in Remus’s hands and tried to puzzle out why it was different to the other one. There was a similar map of the surrounding area on it but instead of it focusing on a mile in every direction, it was much closer than that and showed things in a far greater level of detail.
“I presume Gringotts only needs a small one since it’s only measuring the amount of magic in a small area,” Remus mused when he noticed Harry watching.
“It doesn’t make any sound either,” Harry observed as they stepped into the main street and Remus quickly slipped the Frequency Counter into his robes.
“Probably not a good idea for me to flash around a highly valuable belonging of Gringotts’ as we walk past the bank,” Remus explained with a slight smile as they walked slowly after Ron and Hermione. “The lack of sound puzzles me however.”
Harry and Remus, not wanting to buy anything, did not venture into Gringotts; it was mostly because they had no need for any money but also because on one of them was a wanted artefact. Ron and Hermione hurried inside, not wishing to linger on the streets although their discomfort in the open space was not something that they could have explained. Perhaps they still felt lingering apprehension after the attack on the Alley back in the summer.
They meandered slowly down the street and once they were quite far from Gringotts and away from anyone else Remus took out the Frequency Counter again for a closer inspection. They were further away from the bank now and both stared down at it in confusion.
It was exactly the same as they had seen it up the street.
“I don’t understand…” Harry said as he stared down at it. “Why didn’t it follow us?”
Remus stared at the building that the Counter covered and suddenly everything was very clear. Bill was going to be furious.
“It’s focused on Gringotts,” Remus told Harry quietly and he instantly understood the ramifications.
“So we can’t use it then,” Harry sighed and wondered what would happen to Bill. Perhaps it could be returned and Bill might escape becoming a fugitive.
“We’d have to reprogram it entirely and none of us know enough in the field to manage it. It’s extremely advanced Charms and would take years to make one,” Remus sighed as he ran his hand through his hair.
They continued to walk down the street until they reached Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes and then turned back up the street. No one else knew about the Frequency Counter in Diagon Alley at that time except themselves, Ron, Hermione, Tonks and Kingsley. All the students milled around that particular area along with Fred and George; they would no longer be able to puzzle over the mysterious object if they remained near that end of the Alley.
“It changed then…” Harry said as a flicker caught his eye in Remus’s palm. Sure enough, the picture of the building on the screen was much wider and showed many small rooms. In the corner of the picture it said ‘B3’ in small, gold lettering.
“So it must show every floor, and each of the vaults,” Remus noted as a small vault number glimmered as it caught the light and faded again. The amount of magic in that building was so strong that the pale golden lettering was barely visible against its background. “The only problem now is making it change floors.”
Harry smiled and Remus pulled a face. “That’s my luck, you know,” Remus sighed as the floors changed and it showed ‘B4’ which was another floor of vaults. Suddenly an awful idea occurred to Harry.
“You don’t think that they can track this, do you?”
Remus looked momentarily uncertain before he shook his head. “I doubt it, after all they’d already have caught us by now if they could track it,” Remus waved his hand at the large quite building they were coming back up towards, “seeing as we’re still so close.”
‘B14’. That was all Remus read on the Frequency Counter before he slipped it back into his pocket some minutes later as they walked back towards the group leaving the bank. He didn’t notice the sudden brightness on the small screen which would surely have shown an extremely powerful magical force and neither did Harry as they turned to walk with Tonks and Kingsley towards Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes.
“Bill, I am truly sorry but until your name has been cleared you must go into hiding,” Minerva sighed. “I do not want to see you taken to Azkaban.”
Bill sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair. He had returned to Hogwarts with Minerva after the others had left and was almost regretting his decision to steal the Frequency Counter. However, the knowledge that it would be useful to the New Order and thus in the removal of Voldemort was enough to keep him calm and resigned to his fate. It was only just enough though.
“I know… I’ll stay inside Grimmauld Place from now on,” he replied sullenly.
Minerva smiled at him slightly. “I am glad to hear it, although you may come to school for the New Order meetings – that should be safe enough.”
Bill suddenly realised something and his mouth opened in horror. “What’s Mum going to say when she finds out?!”
Minerva had been expecting this question and had thought he would have asked sooner rather than later. Molly Weasley was a frightful force at the best of times but to her oldest son who had just robbed a bank and whose face would be plastered over the paper the next day she must have been petrifying.
“I will speak with Molly,” Minerva said confidently although she had no idea what she was going to say to the woman as of yet. “I suggest that you return to Grimmauld Place now.” Bill nodded and Flooed back to the house.
It all depended upon what the Prophet would print the next day. Gringotts goblins were widely known as unfriendly with humans and reporters especially. Rita Skeeter being able to find information as to what had been stolen was unlikely but if it should happen then Molly would know what they had taken. She would be unable to figure out the entirety of what was going on but that something within the Order was occurring without her knowledge would not be a pleasing thought.
Minerva sighed as she ran her eyes over the other Frequency Counter. That one could easily be fixed upon any specific place at any time just as long as it was set whilst the Counter was in that location. Mad Eye had said there would be a Horcrux in London and, if there was, she would bet her wand arm that it was somehow hidden in Diagon Alley, or perhaps even Knockturn Alley. Somewhere very public and right under Dumbledore’s nose would have amused Voldemort to no end, Minerva knew that much.
Would it hurt to wander around the streets for an hour or so and see what the Counter thought of it? Of course if she didn’t tell anyone and had little success then she would be able to let Mad Eye walk through London on his own and have no success also. That ought to keep him quiet for at least a while. And if she did find something…? Well, then they’d be one step closer to defeating Voldemort once and for all.
Her mind made up, Minerva reset the Counter and pocketed it as she walked towards the fireplace. She didn’t pay attention to Phineas as he shouted his disapproval across the room but listened instead to Dumbledore as he told her to visit Knockturn Alley. Just before she stepped into the flickering green flames, a single tap to her head was administered and she became disillusioned. The fire engulfed her and spat her out again moments later in the Leaky Cauldron. No one even looked her way.
The Frequency Counter was silent as she stepped into the street; it had been silenced before she dared go near another human being. The magic there would surely overwhelm it and she could not look at the Counter anywhere near Gringotts for fear of it being seen. Minerva instead remembered Dumbledore’s parting shout as he struggled to be heard over Phineas’s stubborn painted self. Well, she didn’t remember it precisely but it had involved Knockturn Alley and it was there she was headed.
Three of her own sixth years were hovering near the entrance to the Alley and she shooed them back into Diagon Alley before quickly crossing into the unseemly street, hopefully unnoticed by any of her current students enjoying the day out.
It was the same street she had come running into as a young girl, just to see what it was like and why her mother had never let her enter it. Some things never changed and it appeared that Knockturn Alley was one of them. The old woman selling whole human fingernails had surely been there since she had been young… for a brief moment Minerva wondered whether the woman took on an apprentice to take over seamlessly after she died. That way no one would ever know.
She shook her head of the strange thoughts that Knockturn always seemed to bring about and wandered slowly down the streets, pulling the brim of her hat further down over her face in the hopes of concealing her identity that bit further.
Slipping down a small ginnel, Minerva took the chance to pull out the Frequency Counter. It showed the entire street and many little passageways from it which she had not even been aware existed until that moment. There was something extremely powerful radiating from Borgin and Burkes, of that she was certain. She wanted to get in there but as a professor at Hogwarts it would look extremely suspicious… Besides, she could hardly walk in and buy a Horcrux; someone else would need to do that.
She walked slowly towards the shop in question and Minerva watched as the Counter shot up, counting thousands of magical particles every second and the speed was still escalating. She took a step back and flipped the Frequency Counter over. From this point she could see an extremely concentrated point of white light in the shop next to her. There was more magical energy from higher up the street; probably from Gringotts, Minerva reasoned and put the Counter away again.
Turning on her heel, she strode confidently out of her hiding place and out of the street entirely. She had located what she believed to be another Horcrux, or at least an extremely dangerous and powerful Dark object. She didn’t know which she would rather it have been.
“I’m serious – Ginny has no idea what she’s getting herself into,” Hermione said as she glanced worriedly over Ron’s shoulder to see the girl of whom she spoke reading a long letter.
It was now almost commonplace to see Ginny reading something or other and if she wasn’t reading a long letter then usually she was writing one in response. Ron didn’t seem to be phased by this behaviour in his sister although Hermione wondered if he really knew what was going on, after all he seemed to be under the vague impression that something was still going on between Ginny and Harry.
“Hermione, she’s just writing to someone…” Ron sighed as he turned away and glanced longingly down the street towards the shop owned by his twin brothers.
“You haven’t read any of the letters, have you?” Hermione suddenly realised. Had Ron seen any of the content his younger sister was being sent then she was sure he, and his other siblings, would try and hunt the culprit down.
“Does that really make any difference?” Ron said, sounding thoroughly exasperated. “Let her write to whoever she wants!”
“You are aware that she’s practically dating this mysterious penpal, right?” Hermione asked, knowing that he had absolutely no idea. “Although you haven’t actually read anything they’re saying to each other so maybe you didn’t know that…”
“B-but Ginny’s going out with Harry…” Ron said, suddenly feeling very confused. Hermione could have laughed outright then at the obliviousness of her boyfriend but decided against it; she had laughed at him a lot recently.
“They haven’t been together since Dumbledore’s funeral!” Hermione said shaking her head at Ron. “So now she’s going out with this guy called John who she only knows through letters.”
“Not for long she isn’t,” Ron said, suddenly sounding very determined. Of course he wouldn’t have any power over Ginny on his own so he would need to call on the twins and maybe Bill and Charlie to help as well. This was a family matter and the more family involved the more likely Ginny was to stop writing to John, or whoever he was. “I mean, he could be a Death Eater or anything!”
“Precisely,” Hermione muttered as she watched Ginny’s face light up at something within the letter she read.
“Should we say anything to Harry?” Ron asked tentatively. He knew how things had been between Harry and Ginny since they had broken up and although Harry didn’t seem all that bothered about her absence in his life, Ginny had been very bitter about the entire thing.
“No, I don’t think we really need to, do you?” Hermione asked quietly and glanced around her as if afraid that Harry was about to appear at any moment. “Come on, let’s go get Fred and George then.”
“How did you—?”
“What do you think I am? An idiot…?” Hermione asked, rolling her eyes. Quickly she left Ron’s side and marched down the street towards Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes whilst Ron ran after her, still wondering how she knew what he had been going to do. Maybe she could read minds or something…
“Well wasn’t that interesting,” Harry muttered as he wound up his Extendable Ears and shrunk them before returning them to his pocket. He couldn’t believe that Ginny was not only going out with someone else but that she only knew him through parchment. For once Ron was right; ‘John’ could have been anyone.
Remus handed back his Extendable Ear, his own having been left in Grimmauld Place, and watched Harry warily. He didn’t exactly condone spying on Harry’s friends or particularly feel the need to participate in the act himself but that hadn’t stopped him from absorbing all the information he was given. Ginny was indeed putting herself in danger but it was clear that her brothers would do something about that. It was just a matter of how soon and their method.
He bit his lip slightly in a nervous manner as he and Harry set off slowly after them. All in all it had been a very interesting afternoon for both of them, even if all they had done was wander around Diagon Alley. Still, neither of them knew how they could ever tell Bill and the rest of the New Order that the Frequency Counter they had taken from Gringotts only worked on that particular building.
“Minerva,” Remus greeted warmly as the woman happened across their path as they travelled the street. “I wasn’t aware you were planning on following.”
“I wasn’t but I’m glad I did,” she muttered so that she was just within Remus and Harry’s hearing. Remus raised a questioning eyebrow and motioned for her to continue whilst Minerva glanced around nervously, afraid of being overheard. “Well, I decided to come here myself with the other Counter…”
She paused slightly, wondering how best to phrase herself in a manner which would not allow anyone listening to their conversation to know what was going on and at the same time to give Remus and Harry a clear idea of what had transpired.
“I found another one,” she decided upon eventually. Their reactions were as calm and as subdued as she had expected from Remus and Harry, although the moment they were free to talk she would be assaulted by a barrage of questions from the latter.
“Where?” Remus asked calmly although he could feel his heart fluttering madly. That was two they had found now but as of yet they still had no way to destroy them. It was all well and good knowing where they were but without a means of destruction Voldemort would still run amok and people would still be living in fear. Their research was now more important than ever, but that didn’t mean that they had to like it.
“In Knockturn Alley,” Minerva replied steadily although she didn’t feel it. “Borgin and Burkes.”
“It might be bought,” Harry realised suddenly.
“It seems unlikely,” Remus replied. “Surely Borgin would know that it held some value and wouldn’t sell it even if he was aware of what it was.”
“Perhaps,” Minerva mused. “Or maybe he’s just holding it for one of his more regular customers.”
“Malfoy?” Remus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Voldemort used to work there when he left school,” Harry told them as they neared the shop and Minerva stopped and stared.
“One of the most gifted students to pass through Hogwarts…?” she asked in disbelief.
“And he left school and went to work in a shop in Knockturn Alley, I know,” Harry said as they began walking again. It seemed that their discovery of a new Horcrux had opened more possibilities than it had closed.
Minerva glanced at Harry. She knew now that whilst research continued to be of little success that they ought to concentrate on locating Voldemort’s current location also. If anyone had known where he was then it would have been Snape, and his chambers still lay untouched after his departure so many months ago. Perhaps he had left some trace of his whereabouts in his living quarters. It was unlikely but worth a try, surely?
She was going to regret delegating the task to Remus and Harry, she knew that already. Minerva sighed and quickly explained the situation to them both whilst they were alone.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You want me to go snooping through Snape’s living quarters?”
“That is correct.”
“You could have asked me to do this sooner,” Harry said, wondering how many hexes he could have put on the room whilst Snape was still living in them. Remus laughed quietly.
“You do know that when Snape was living in the school Dumbledore was still alive and you had no reason to go into his quarters at all, right?” Remus asked him.
Harry shrugged, still wishing that he had been given this kind of freedom before but fully aware that he would never have gained it.
“Won’t he have protected his rooms?” Harry asked suddenly.
“In case you found them?” Minerva asked mildly with a slight smile. “Yes, he probably has done. That is why you’re not going in there alone.”
“That and because she doesn’t want you burning it or anything along those lines,” Remus muttered to him.
“Yes, I want Snape’s rooms to remain the same as when you enter them, do I make myself clear?”
“Crystal,” Harry said and smiled at the confused looks that his companions both wore. “Muggle expression,” he explained. Minerva nodded, still trying to understand the expression as she caught sight of three tall, red-headed males crowding round one angry looking girl.
“—don’t you dare tell me who the hell I can talk to!” Ginny yelled at the top of her voice. Everyone in the street turned to look at her and most people skirted away from her, aware that she was getting all the attention in the street. They believed that if there was to be an attack then she would be noticed first. The furthest away from the most obvious target the better for them.
“You don’t even know who he is!” Fred shouted. “He could be anyone!”
At this point in time Ginny turned to Hermione looking absolutely furious. “How could you have told them everything?! I trusted you!”
“Right, and you’re running about reading letters constantly and telling everyone about this man isn’t the slightest bit obvious…” Hermione scowled, folding her arms in a disapproving manner.
“You just wait until Mum hears about this!” Ron snapped at her.
“I think this is the perfect chance,” Minerva said, turning to Remus and Harry. She gave quick directions to Remus as to the location of Snape’s chambers and the best way to get inside them without being attacked. Minerva smiled slightly as they both Apparated back to the house while in Diagon Alley the arguing escalated with the sudden presence of Molly Weasley. All in all, Remus and Harry were glad that they’d left when they were given the chance.
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