“It’s just a set of instructions for a potion that he wants making,” Harry said as he glanced down at the note in his hand, and the New Order watched him suspiciously. The raven which had delivered it leapt off the windowsill after seeing that its message had been read and left for its owner.
“Do we really want to trust Snape in this way again?” Kingsley asked cautiously. Minerva was their leader and it was she who would have the last say in what they did and didn’t do.
“Yes,” Minerva said confidently. “We will make the potion and we’ll see what happens. I want some research done into what that potion will do, preferably before we send it to him.”
“What?!” Mad Eye demanded. “This is preposterous! The man murdered Dumbledore and you’re doing him favours?!”
“You saw him in the pensieve, Alastor,” Minerva said calmly, addressing not only him but the rest of the group. “I do not believe that he would have gone through all that to acquire a potion and the potential trust of Harry if he was not serious about it. Had Voldemort discovered what he was doing then he would be in great peril.”
“Voldemort was attacking Hogsmeade,” Bill pointed out. “Two people died and seventeen were badly injured. It’s hardly coincidence that the perfect time for seizing Harry without any real notice being taken was then, is it?”
“You mean that Voldemort knew what Snape was doing?” Hermione asked, though she didn’t believe it. Bill nodded.
“No, I really don’t think that he knew,” Remus said, making a rare contribution to the conversation. “Had he known then he would have made sure that the fight had already begun to make sure that we were all occupied with fighting the Death Eaters. We would not have noticed that Harry had gone but Snape wouldn’t want to risk Harry returning to Grimmauld Place before he could speak to him. Snape had planned this but Voldemort was unaware.”
The rest of the Order watched him for a moment before most of them nodded in agreement; it seemed like the most likely scenario, but they still couldn’t be sure. They had to make a decision one way or another to either brew and send Snape the potion for which he had given Harry instructions or not. There was no telling what the potion could do if brewed correctly; it may be an existing potion with some modifications which would ensure it blew up in the caster’s face… they just didn’t know.
“We’ll get straight onto researching that,” Kingsley said. “We’ll get two people to brew it slowly whilst we research. It’ll take until the middle of next month to brew correctly anyway.”
“Yes, it should be brewed by the fifteenth of March if we begin tomorrow,” Harry said, glancing back down the list of instructions and let Remus peer at them over his shoulder.
“I can’t think what that potion could be,” Remus said mildly as the others began to get ready to leave. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before in my life.”
“I have,” said Kingsley suddenly as he snatched the parchment from Remus and Harry. He stared at it for many long moments and clenched his other fist. “I can’t remember what it’s for though!”
“It’ll come back to you,” Minerva said confidently. “Alastor, you will be collecting the ingredients necessary for the potion; Hermione and Bill, since neither of you will be leaving Grimmauld Place for any foreseeable reason then you can both brew the potion; and the rest of you—” she glanced around at Harry, Ron, Remus and Kingsley “—will conduct research into the potion they’re brewing.”
“For Merlin’s sake!” Ron said, sounding very frustrated. “Why is it always us that have to do the research?”
“Because, apart from your NEWT studies, you don’t actually do anything,” Remus reminded him and silenced him quickly, preventing any argument to come forth from the now wildly gesticulating boy.
“I’ll make a start on the ingredients then,” Mad Eye said and made a duplicate copy of the parchment which had been returned to Harry.
3g of powdered unicorn horn
1 newt tale, sliced finely
fresh Acromantula venom
Two Snidget wings
“Oh Merlin,” Mad Eye growled and everyone turned to look at him. “How am I meant to get Snidget wings…?”
“I presume you’ll have to catch one,” Minerva said mildly and pulled out the beginnings of an infuriated letter to the current Minister.
“Catch one?!” Alastor repeated, sounding rather horrified, and with good reason. The Snidget, the original Golden Snitch, was a small, golden bird which was now a rare and protected species. The game of Quidditch had not helped its survival since it almost always died when it was caught. “I’ll go to Azkaban for three years if I get caught!”
“Don’t get caught then,” Kingsley said with a grin.
“They only exist in reserves for endangered magical creatures,” Alastor explained patiently. “I would have to first find one, then fly in there, then catch a tiny golden bird despite my uselessness at Quidditch and get back without being seen, caught or arrested.”
“Exactly,” Minerva said. “Enjoy your day.”
Alastor wondered whether Minerva had seriously gone off him since he had shouted at Harry months ago in her office for being useless in Snape’s office. If she was still upset about that then she was about to get rather more irritated with him.
“Potter,” Alastor said to him suddenly. “You’re coming with me.”
“What?” Remus asked dubiously and then his eyes widened slightly in realisation. “Oh no, most certainly not. He could be imprisoned for this!”
“So could I!” Alastor shouted. “The boy has an international standard broom and he’s the best Seeker out of all of us.”
Minerva watched him with some consternation. She did not want the young man going out and catching a Snidget. Alastor had not been kidding when he said that the penalties attached to harm of that particular bird were high. For capturing one he would get three years in Azkaban but for killing one…? She wasn’t sure how high they were but it would indubitably land Harry in Azkaban for a very long time. She could not take that risk for the Wizarding world; he could not do much in prison to stop Voldemort, but there was more than that – he was only a young boy with his whole life ahead of him after all this. He couldn’t become like Sirius, and spend his young life in a cell.
“He’s too young, too inexperienced,” Remus said, breaking through her thoughts. “If he gets caught he can’t even disguise himself and fight his way out. His magic is excellent for his age but that’s all.”
“Yet if Mad Eye goes alone he’ll never be able to catch it,” Kingsley said. “So send them both and Harry can do the catching and Mad Eye can do the paranoid protecting.”
Minerva nodded slowly. “I suppose that’s the only thing we can do. We need the Snidget wings for the potion and there’s clearly no other substitute we can put in its place. Go during the first week of March before the Snidget wings are needed.”
Harry and Mad Eye nodded before everyone vacated the office, Ron complaining once again that he never got any of the action in the Order.
“I wish I was going,” Ron scowled as Harry walked out of the house with his Firebolt over one arm. “You always seem to get all the action.”
“Yeah, well sometimes I’d rather I didn’t,” Harry said grimly. Mad Eye nodded at him and he mounted his broom. The rest of the Order watched them from within the house, many of them wondering just what Mad Eye and Harry were doing leaving the house on brooms. It was evidently Order business but just what that was, most of them didn’t know.
Ron watched as Harry and Mad Eye rose into the air and flew off quickly towards the North West, towards the Lake District. They both rode Firebolts for that night, Mad Eye having borrowed his from Kingsley, though the younger Auror was not happy about lending his prized broom to a man likely to hex it.
On the fastest brooms available to them, it took the two only two hours to fly there, though it could hardly be considered a short distance by any means. Mad Eye began to slow and lower his broom as they flew over the beginnings of the Lake District and Harry followed him down.
They hovered over a small forested area and Mad Eye manoeuvred his broom with some difficulty next to Harry’s. “We’re right over the reserve now,” he told Harry. “We’ll go down and the first Snidget you find then catch it and we’ll get out of here.”
Harry nodded and felt the strange but familiar sensation as Mad Eye cracked him on the head with his wand and Disillusioned him. He had been made well aware of the penalties that this could incur for him by Remus and Hermione in one last desperate attempt to make him back out of the plan. It hadn’t worked but he was feeling slightly nervous at the idea of being caught and prosecuted by the Ministry.
He lowered his broom slowly and steadily, so as not to attract any attention if possible and descended into the trees. For a moment there was nothing; not a movement caught his eyes nor a sound his ears. Then something gold raced past Harry’s vision and he streaked after it.
The bird was tiny, it was about as big as a Snitch and its wings were small but carried it extremely quickly. It changed direction in an instant and Harry had to react quickly to ensure that he didn’t go ploughing into one of the trees ahead of him. He quickly saw his disadvantage – the bird was very small and in such a location he could be some time in catching it. It would easily be able to hide in the trees and squeeze into places that he could not.
He shot through a group of branches and from behind him he heard squawking as several Snidgets’ nest was upset. Moments later, there were more than twenty of them racing around him, blinding him and almost making him lose control of his broom. It was only when he waved his left arm in front of his face to enable him to see that he managed to catch hold of one of them in his hand.
He stopped in surprise and waved his wand quickly around the Snidget in his hand. “Carcer Claustrum.”
A cage appeared over it and Harry quickly slipped his hand out, ensuring that the Snidget had been caught inside it. It had and Harry wasted no time in shrinking first the Snidget and then the cage around it down to pocket size. Once it was inside his robes, he shot upwards, towards Mad Eye.
“You got one?” Alastor asked, scanning the area with his magical eye and glancing at Harry with his real one. Harry nodded and the two of them flew off quickly. Alarms sounded behind them when they flew out of the magical compound but neither of them turned back as they accelerated towards the south, in an attempt to get as far away from there as they possibly could. Shouts could be heard from behind them and Mad Eye glanced around for a moment to see seven Wizards racing after them.
Harry moved quickly over to Mad Eye and grabbed hold of his arm. Alastor understood what Harry meant to do and Apparated the two of them quickly up into the north of Scotland before taking them back down to London and to Grimmauld Place.
“What the hell did you do that for?!” Harry demanded, his head reeling and he would have collapsed onto the kitchen floor had Minerva not caught hold of him.
“Come on, to my office,” she said to him once his head had stopped spinning. The Weasley twins were in the room and watched them suspiciously, and she knew that Tonks was outside, listening with a pair of Extendable Ears for anything that might give her a clue as to what was going on within the Order.
“Tell me you didn’t lose it,” Mad Eye muttered as the two of them returned to Minerva’s office. Harry checked his pockets and then assumed a panicked expression. He waited for Mad Eye to look fuming before he pulled the miniature cage from within his robes and set it on the table.
“You weren’t caught then?” Minerva asked and Harry was very tempted to reply with a sour, sarcastic retort but he held his tongue and returned the Snidget and the cage to a normal size. “Excellent work, and I believe you’ll be needing fresh Acromantula venom also.”
“That’s right,” Mad Eye muttered. He was sure that Snape had only given them that particular potion because of the difficulties it would present him gaining the ingredients, let alone making the potion itself.
“That won’t be too hard to acquire then, since there are a good few dozen of them living in the Forest here at Hogwarts,” Minerva said. “You can get some this afternoon if you like. Or you can wait until evening. It doesn’t matter which.” Harry was sure that Mad Eye didn’t notice the slight smile with curled her lip slightly; he probably didn’t as he stormed out of the room towards the Forbidden Forest, brandishing his wand and shouting at nothing in particular.
“I’ll take this to Hermione then,” Harry said and reached out for the cage. “They’re using the last dungeon, aren’t they?” Minerva nodded to him and opened the door with a flick of her wand.
“If you see him, tell Alastor that there was some fresh Acromantula venom stored in the school from yesterday,” Minerva said with a smirk. “Tell him it slipped my mind and make sure you’ve got an exit close by when you do.”
“I will,” Harry grinned and left the room.
“I reckon Snape only chose this because the ingredients are so hard to get hold of,” Hermione said as she stirred the cauldron three times counter-clockwise as the clock charmed midnight behind her. She put the Ashwinder eggs in one by one and waited for them to finish bubbling before stirring again.
“It’ll have been a loyalty test,” Kingsley said knowledgably and Harry nodded from behind them. He was there on the advice of Kingsley to try and keep up with the brewing of more complicated potions and the usage of rarer ingredients. “He wants to know whether we’ll go to the trouble of making this potion for him despite everything that he’s done and the circumstances he left us during.”
“Still no luck finding out what it does then?” Hermione asked Harry though she knew he would have said so if there had been any headway.
“Nope, no one has any idea,” Harry admitted. “The closest we have to finding out is you, Kingsley, but since you can’t remember what it does we’re still as lost as ever.”
“I wish I knew,” Hermione sighed. “The potion will be ready in about two hours and I don’t like the idea of giving a potion to Dumbledore’s murderer when we don’t even know what it does!”
“Me neither,” Kingsley muttered as he read over the instructions again and again, determined not to miss anything out. “All we have to do now is to add the Snidget wings and it should turn bright yellow. If it doesn’t then we’ve really messed up. Once that’s done then we’ll bottle it and get Ron to send it off, just so that he’s doing something.”
Hermione nodded and added in the two wings. Harry watched with mild interest as the mixture turned bright yellow and Kingsley sighed with relief. He left the two sitting in front of the cauldron and went to find Ron upon Kingsley’s instruction. Ron was easy to find in Grimmauld Place; he was sitting with Tonks, playing chess and being questioned about the goings on in the Order. He didn’t think he knew much that she didn’t however and gave little away.
Upon the muttered request to be the one to send the potion to Snape, Ron was overjoyed and almost fell over his own feet trying to get to the fireplace before Kingsley would change his mind. Harry privately wondered whether it was a good idea entrusting the potion to someone who couldn’t even walk to a fireplace before he banished the idea and took over Ron’s game. His loss was spectacular but he managed to lead Tonks’s ideas of the New Order in entirely the wrong direction which was exactly what he’d planned, well not so much the losing as the misdirecting.
“I sent it with a school owl since they blend in,” Ron said to Minerva after having sent the potion. She nodded approvingly and he smiled nervously.
“Good, do inform me of any replies as soon as they’re received,” she said to him and effectively closed the conversation.
Ron nodded and left the room, whilst many miles away one particularly speedy owl raced towards the living quarters of Severus Snape, a small potion bottle tied to its leg with a small letter. The man would glance at it in a mildly surprised manner before opening it warily. He hadn’t thought that the Order would send him it so readily since they would have a hard time discovering just what the potion did. Still, he welcomed it readily; it would make his job very much easier.
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