The Falling

Three Days of the Weasley (Part Two)

The following are the accounts of September 21st, 1995, as told by Harry James Potter and Hermione Jean Granger. The facts have been verified by others that witnessed the events of that fateful day. This was the second day of three days known now and forever as "Three Days of The Weasley".


September 21st, 1995 (Day Two)

Harry woke up that morning expecting to hear some loud bangs, booms, or screams. Instead, all was silent and it made him shiver. He looked out the window of his dorm room as he dressed to see the purple fog was still exactly where it was when he went to bed; surrounding the entire school like a blanket. Ron and Neville's beds were empty, so he supposed that they had already gone down for breakfast.

"Harry," said Seamus, as he was finishing getting dressed, "wait for me and Dean. We'll walk down with you and Hermione for breakfast."

Harry waited as his friends finished dressing and they headed down to the common room to find Hermione holding Crookshanks while sitting around the fireplace with Neville, Lavender, Parvati, Angelina, Lee, Ron, and the twins.

"Ah look, we be the dirty dozen." said Seamus smiling.

"What did you just call us?" asked Angelina, looking quite annoyed.

"It's just something I heard once in an American Muggle movie." replied Seamus. "It was an excellent movie and I've always wanted to say that."

Angelina's face softened at the explanation, but Harry could still tell that she didn't care for the reference.

"A bit chipper this morning?" asked McLaggen sarcastically from the other side of the common room. "Then again, all seems to be going your way."

"What you on about, McLaggen?" asked Lee heatedly.

"This purple fog. It's all you lot's doing." said McLaggen, approaching the group and leaning on the back of a nearby chair. "Havin' a bit of fun? Well, it has gone far enough."

"I'd be careful who I was accusing, McLaggen." said Harry firmly. "It's a terrible thing to spread lies."

"Y-Yes sir... I-I mean, Potter... uh..." babbled McLaggen as he stumbled backwards before darting for the portrait hole.

"Well that settles it." said Hermione with a satisfied look at Harry.

"Settles what?" asked Dean. "We all knew McLaggen to be a coward."

"He's working for Umbridge." said Hermione exasperatedly. "Why else would he react to Harry showing signs of anger or be up so early? I swear I've never seen his arrogant face before breakfast."

"Maybe 'cause Harry defeats dragons in his spare time?" retorted Seamus. "Besides, why would McLaggen work for Umbridge?"

"Cause Umbitch probably offered him Quidditch Captain if he could help her find the culprit behind the fog, and he's the only git in Gryffindor big enough to turn on his own house." said Harry dryly. "Probably got up early and went to see her."

"Umbitch in the morning." said Dean.

"Sounds like a horrible Muggle talk show." said Seamus.

"Is it safe to go have breakfast?" asked Parvati, interrupting Dean and Seamus' impression of the twins. "I'm famished."

"Do not worry, me lady, for I will protect thee." said Fred, sweeping Parvati a low bow and extending his arm.

To Harry's shock, Parvati graciously accepted the gesture and headed out of the common room side-by-side with Fred. George extended the same gesture to Angelina who accepted immediately.

"Come on boys." said Lavender to Seamus and Dean, who joined her; laughing as they left.

"Better hurry up Ron. Luna's probably at the entrance to the Great Hall waiting." said Lee.

Ron's ears turned a bit pink, but smiled none the less. Harry noticed that Neville had a dark look about his eyes; as though he didn't get much sleep.

"You alright, Neville?" asked Harry.

"I'll be fine, Harry." replied Neville. "Just some bad dreams."

"I'm sure Ginny is safe." said Hermione, before whispering "She'll be back with us soon."

"Malfoy said Bellatrix Lestrange has her." spat Neville, clinching his fists; his eyes hardening. "She has hurt my family before. If she harms one hair on Ginny's head, the bitch will never see Azkaban again."

Harry heard his words, but felt his emotion. He knew that feeling; to care for someone and to fear for their safety. The room became silent for a moment as everyone reflected on the words.

"Right there with you, mate." said Ron, breaking the silence and placing a hand on Neville's shoulder.

Lee, Ron, and Neville walked out of the common room together; Lee appraised the two younger Gryffindors with him with a complex look that lingered between shock and admiration. This left Harry and Hermione alone, with the exception of Crookshanks.

"Last year, when the fake Moody was showing us the Unforgivable Curses, I never even dreamed of using them." said Hermione, staring at the floor. "Now, I'm counting the days until I have the opportunity. Harry, what is happening to me?"

Hermione looked up at Harry with tears in her eyes. She looked lost and uncomfortable, yet strong and determined. Harry took her in his arms and pressed her head to his shoulder; her arms wrapping around his waist.

"You're being forced to live my life." said Harry, his voice cracking as the thought tore at his chest. "Those feelings are how I survived coming face-to-face with Voldemort in the graveyard. For one – terrifying moment, you stare into the eyes of your enemy and don't give a damn if you die."

"I love you Harry." said Hermione softly into his ear.

"There they are." said Harry softly. "The words that change everything. Those simple words have given me new reason to fight. I no longer want to avenge my parents. Now, I have someone to protect."

"We'll protect each other." whispered Hermione.

~0~

Harry and Hermione caught up with Ron, Neville, and Luna at the bottom of the grand staircase; Lee having already made his way into the Great Hall. As they got closer, it sounded to anyone who didn't know better that Ron was trying to encourage Neville to study harder, but Harry could tell that Ron and Luna were trying to encourage Neville in code. He knew that Ron had no interest in passing his O.W.L.'s, let alone encouraging anyone else to study for them.

Harry was about to say something when Malfoy, Crabbe, and Goyle emerged from the stairs that lead to the dungeons. Ron spotted them and turned directly into the path of Malfoy; colliding with the ferret. Harry swore he saw Ron slip something into Malfoy's robes.

"Do watch where you're going, Weasley." sneered Draco. "If you need glasses, maybe you can borrow Potter's. Then again, I do hear that the Ministry has programs for families like yours."

Ron glared at Draco, but did not say a word. Goyle shoved Ron out of the way as they made their way into the Great Hall. The evil grin that curled Ron's face confirmed Harry's suspicion.

"Ron, what did you just do?" asked Harry.

"Let's go get something to eat." said Ron, ignoring Harry. "It smells wonderful in there."

Reluctantly, Harry, Hermione and Neville followed Ron and Luna into the Great Hall.

~0~

Harry had just finished off a stack of hot cakes when the doors of the Great Hall opened and in walked two wizards that he had never seen before, accompanied by Bill Weasley. All three wizards wore long black robes, dragon hide boots, and a dragon tooth earring on the left side. The two unknown wizards were black haired with long braided ponytails and Bill had changed his hair to a darker shade of red; his ponytail braided as well.

The three wizards approached the staff table and Umbridge walked around to greet them.

"Headmistress, my name is Benjamin Hughes." said the lead wizard with a bow. "These are my fellows, Bill and Maxwell. We are Curse Breakers from Gringotts, sent here by the Ministry to investigate the situation."

"Mr. Hughes, so glad you could come." replied Umbridge. "Tell me, how did you get past the purple fog?"

"We arrived via the floo network." replied Hughes. "Direct access from the Ministry."

"Very good." said Umbridge. "Mr. Hughes, I want you to find out who has done these things to our school and I want these curses removed from this school, immediately."

"We will do our very best, Headmistress." said Hughes with a short bow.

"I DID IT!" shouted Draco, standing straight up and looking rigid.

Gasps and utensils bouncing off table tops echoed throughout the Great Hall before the entire hall fell deathly silent; every eye fixed upon Malfoy.

"What did you say young man?" bellowed Hughes, spinning to face the Slytherin table.

"There's no need to look any further. I am responsible for cursing the school." said Draco, standing very stiff.

Harry quickly glanced at Hermione who looked just as bewildered as he felt. He then glanced at the twins who looked like all their dreams were coming true. Finally, Harry glanced at Ron, who was doing something very strange. He had his hands cupped over his mouth and was whispering something.

"Mr. Malfoy," said Umbridge "do you have any idea as to what you are saying?"

"Yes Headmistress, I do." replied Draco. "I have been a curse to this school since the day I arrived. I never wanted to attend and be surrounded by filthy half-bloods and mudbloods. Mother and father said it was necessary for me to attend in order to preserve our appearance in society until the Dark Lord returned to power once more."

"MR. MALFOY, SIT DOWN!" shouted Snape, springing to his feet and rounding the table; his robes bellowing behind him.

"IT'S NOT MY FAULT PROFESSOR!" shouted Draco. "ALL I EVER WANTED WAS TO BE LIKE YOU AND MY FATHER!"

"CONTROL YOURSELF!" shouted Snape, looking quite deranged and making his way down the Slytherin table towards Draco while ignoring the stunned looks of the other Slytherins and the laughter erupting all around the Great Hall.

"I'M ON FIRE! I'M ON FIRE!" shrieked Draco, beating at the front of his robes with his hands.

Harry turned in time to see Ron drop a chess pawn onto the table before it turned to dust. Ron met Harry's eyes and smiled.

"SILENCE!" shouted Umbridge, and the Great Hall began to quiet down.

"Young man," growled Hughes as he marched towards a very distraught looking Draco and a seething Snape, followed closely by Maxwell and Bill "what is the meaning of this display? Have I just heard you admit to cursing this school? Do you have any idea what the punishment is for such?"

"I must say, Mr. Malfoy," said Umbridge, striding up behind Snape. "I cannot believe my ears!"

"ME?" shrieked Draco. "I didn't curse the school! What are you all talking about?"

"You just stood here and confessed that it was YOU that placed these curses upon the school." said Hughes soundly.

"W-Who are you?" asked Draco, pointing at Mr. Hughes as though he had missed the introduction.

"Headmistress, might I suggest that we take this discussion to private quarters?" requested Snape.

"Very well." said Umbridge. "Mr. Malfoy, please come with us so that we can discuss this in private."

Umbridge motioned for Malfoy to exit the Great Hall. Looking very confused, Malfoy followed Snape out of the Great Hall, followed quickly by Umbridge, Bill, and the other Curse Breakers. Harry smiled at Ron and the twins, who continued their mock innocence. Hermione was staring at the Weasleys too, and Harry could tell that she was working hard on how they had gotten Malfoy to do such a thing. Amongst the chatter and gossip over Malfoy's outburst, Harry found that he was finally able to finish breakfast.

After breakfast, Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the Gryffindor fifth years joined Ravenclaw as they headed to a Double Charms class. Professor Flitwick greeted the class with an unusual tension; his normal cheery disposition absent.

"I believe that we all understand the importance of charms in our daily magical lives," said Professor Flitwick, taking his place behind the podium. "However, charms can serve many purposes – especially in the art of duelling, as we all well know. In today's class, I will go over how some of the more fundamental charms that are not normally associated with defensive spells can be used when combating another witch or wizard. The true mastery of charms will make anyone a most formidable opponent." Flitwick looked about the room as whispers of approval and admiration broke out. "Now the most common charms, such as Lumos, can be very effective in defeating your challenger when used alongside specific curses. In addition, we will also begin to learn and master the Confundus charm. It too, is another great choice amongst great duellers."

Harry and Hermione glanced at one another. Never before had Professor Flitwick mentioned duelling in his classroom, even though everyone had heard tales of his prestigious skills.

"Professor," interrupted Padma "shouldn't we be learning this in Defense Against the Dark Arts class?"

"You should, Ms. Patil." replied Professor Flitwick. "However, since your Defense Professor has chosen to teach from nothing more than a text book, I see no reason why I shouldn't make sure that my students are ready for their O.W.L.s. Now, let us begin."

Harry looked at the tiny professor and felt as though he was just seeing him for the first time. Confidence exuded from him and Harry could see the duelling champion they had heard tale of. Professor Flitwick flicked his wand and the shutters on the two large windows in the room slammed shut. Now, only candlelight illuminated the room.

"The five senses that most wizards and witches share are sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell." continued Flitwick. "We rely on them so much that we sometimes take them for granted. Take one away and most will panic. Mr. Finnigan, please join me in the center of the room."

"Nice knowing you, mate." said Dean.

Seamus swallowed as he stood up and joined Professor Flitwick in the middle of the room.

"Mr. Finnigan, please take out your wand and prepare to defend yourself on my mark – stunners only." said Flitwick.

Seamus withdrew his wand and looked at the tiny professor as though he was facing a fire breathing beast.

"Be aware of your surroundings." said Flitwick, instructing the class.

Professor Flitwick flicked his wand and all the candles went out; casting the entire classroom into pitch black darkness. Harry stared as hard as he could but could not even make out the back of his own hand.

"One... two... three!" shouted Flitwick. "Lumos Maxima – Stupefy!"

Harry instinctively covered his eyes from the assault of the blinding light. When he opened his eyes he saw the room a light once more by candles and the Seamus laying flat on his back across from Professor Flitwick.

"Like the rest of you, Mr. Finnigan shielded his eyes from the light." said Professor Flitwick as he helped Seamus up. "Therefore, he had no chance to defend himself. Thank you Mr. Finnigan. You may return to your seat."

Seamus made his way back to his seat, looking dazed but impressed.

"The same can be said for the other senses." continued Flitwick. "For example, douse your opponent in water then attack before they can recover. Confusion can be your friend or your foe – it just all depends on whether you are aware of your surroundings."

Professor Flitwick then broke the class up into four groups. Each group took turns studying how to use sight, sound, touch, and smell as ways to confuse opponents in duelling in order to gain the advantage. It was easily the best Charms class that Harry could ever remember.

After class, Harry and Hermione headed back to the common room to collect Sirius' mirror. They hoped to sneak away during their free period to contact his godfather and discuss the coming trip to Hogsmeade and the plan to rescue the Grangers and Ginny.

"Still don't understand the double standard." said Harry, as Hermione accompanied him to his dorm. "How is it that they just naturally assume that girls are above sneaking into the boys' dorm?"

"They don't believe that girls are above it; it's because there is one thought that has never crossed your mind, so you couldn't understand." replied Hermione, smiling at Harry's confusion. "While most boys have merely fantasized about sneaking into the girls dorms," Harry reddened "some boys would do it and try to force themselves on an unsuspecting girl."

Harry stopped dead in front of his bed and stared at Hermione.

"Are you suggesting that a Gryffindor boy would try to rape a Gryffindor girl?" asked Harry incredulously.

"I'll give you one name." replied Hermione. "McLaggen."

"HAS HE TRIED?" roared Harry.

"Shhh Harry!" exclaimed Hermione. "No, he hasn't – that we're aware of, but would you call it impossible?"

Harry thought long and hard before regretfully shaking his head no.

"You don't consider such things because you're good." said Hermione, touching Harry's chin with her fingertips. "The thought of forcing yourself upon someone repulses you, as it should. You treat Muggleborns, Half-bloods, and Purebloods the same; you treat other magical beings as equals; you call a house-elf friend. You're very special, Harry James –"

His last name was lost as she pulled him into a passionate kiss. Harry's mind blurred as he wrapped his arms around her. The smell of her hair, mixed with the light perfume she wore, was intoxicating. The worries of ever letting her down vanished with all the other thoughts that plagued his mind on a daily basis. She believed in him and he could never fail her.

"You realize that if you get expelled early it will ruin the plan." said Seamus.

Harry and Hermione hurriedly broke apart while Seamus laughed merrily.

"Git." murmured Harry, trying hard not to grin.

Suddenly, there was a burst of light behind Seamus as Fawkes appeared in a ball of flame; perched on a table in front of the nearest window. The great phoenix's mood placed Harry on immediate alert for he knew there was something wrong. The warmth of his wand in his holster confirmed it.

"Bloody Hell!" shouted Seamus at the sight of the phoenix.

"Shhh!" exclaimed Harry with a finger to his lips and withdrawing his wand. "Something's wrong."

Hermione and Seamus withdrew their wands as well. Fawkes merely bowed his head before disappearing in a ball of flames. His new friend had done what he had come to do; warn them. Harry made his way into the common room with Hermione and Seamus right behind him.

"You really take the fun out of things, Potter." said a soft voice.

Harry's eyes and wand snapped to the fireplace; searching for the source of the voice. There, standing next to the fireplace was a hooded and masked individual; their wand pointed almost lazily at Harry. He recognized the mask as those worn by the Death Eaters in the graveyard. A jet of red light shot out of the wand in Harry's direction.

Harry quickly deflected the spell as jets of red light burst from Hermione and Seamus' wands, causing the Death Eater to leap almost directly in front of the fireplace. Harry seized the moment and cast a blasting hex directly into the fireplace behind his adversary. Instantly, a ball of fire and ash exploded from inside the grate, sending the Death Eater tumbling forward over top of the couch. Harry's triumph was only briefly enjoyed though, as their attacker rolled across the floor and back into a duelling stance; clearly trained for combat.

Hermione and Seamus continued to fire stunners at their opponent in a staggered sequence; now showing their training, though the would-be assassin held their ground and deflected the jets of red light. Harry focused on deflecting the wild array of spells being cast their way while he summoned several objects behind their attacker, causing their masked adversary to maneuver quickly to avoid being struck by flying books and vases.

Harry knew that the Death Eater sensed that they couldn't fend off the trio much longer and made their way for the portrait hole. Harry saw Hermione pull out a gold galleon and press her thumb to its center.

"Don't let them make the portrait hole!" shouted Harry, firing the first of several more sinister spells than before.

Harry knew the importance of capturing and unmasking this individual alive, but at the thought of this possibly being Cho Chang's murderer and Hermione's attempted murderer, a new and darker thought crossed his mind; revenge. The change in fighting was instantaneous, as now the Death Eater wasn't just fighting to escape, but for their life; Harry's spell work turning much more sinister every passing second. Only the three Unforgivable Curses were now being withheld as Harry let loose his full range of arsenal.

Hermione and Seamus continued to fire stunning spells, though Harry knew they had noticed the change. He fired a blasting hex that nearly made its mark; barely deflected into the stone wall. Screams wrenched the air apart as a couple of first years started to enter the common room, but fled for their lives instead. Harry immediately softened his approach back to non-lethal spells, lest he accidentally harmed any students.

Their masked adversary pelted out the open portrait hole and Harry saw more jets of red light fill the air; the Alliance had arrived. Harry burst out of the portrait hole with Hermione and Seamus to find Neville, Dean, Ron, and Lavender casting spells at the retreating back of the Death Eater.

"They ambushed us in the common room!" shouted Harry. "Don't let them get away!"

The seven Alliance members sprinted after their unknown adversary together; firing and dodging spells. Harry watched as the Death Eater turned the corner up ahead and ran as hard as he could. He turned the corner into the long corridor and stopped dead; the other Alliance members crashing into him from behind. The Death Eater had disappeared.

"Where did they go?" asked Lavender.

"Disapparated?" suggested Dean.

"Not while inside Hogwarts." retorted Hermione.

Harry was thinking fast. Suddenly, he started blasting every suit of armour in the corridor amidst the cries of protest from Lavender and Dean. He struck pay-dirt when one of the suits was cast down as the Death Eater leaped down to defend themselves; shaking off a disillusionment charm. The figure then darted into a room to their right. Harry, Hermione, and the Alliance followed in pursuit to find the room empty. The lot of them cast stunners and blasting hexes into every corner of the room, but no luck. Somehow, the Death Eater had escaped.

"DAMN!" cried Harry as he dropped to one knee, causing the room to heat up dramatically.

Hermione squeaked and Harry turned to see her rubbing her fingers from where she had just touched his shoulder; his clothes and body as hot as burning cinders. He closed his eyes and focused on calming down. As he did, he could feel the temperature in the room return to normal. He opened his eyes and turned to face Hermione and the others. Harry half expected to see fear on some of their faces, but instead he saw confidence and determination staring back at him.

"At least we know one thing now." said Seamus.

"What's that?" asked Neville.

"Our Hogwarts Death Eater is a witch." replied Seamus.

"How can you be sure?" asked Lavender skeptically.

"She spoke to Harry in the common room." said Seamus.

"She spoke to him?" repeated Dean.

"Taunted him, to be precise." interjected Hermione, still massaging her fingertips.

Harry stood back up; shaking off his frustration at not catching the Death Eater. He knew that Seamus was right; this Death Eater was a witch and there was something about the tone in her voice that was familiar to him.

"Let's get back to the common room before anything else happens." said Harry.

"Like getting expelled?" said Professor McGonagall as she entered the room.

They all looked at each other before turning their gaze to Professor McGonagall who stood between them and the door. Harry trusted her and knew that she was on their side, but the stern glare and lips so thin that they looked non-existent made him hesitant in assuming that she could truly set aside the rule book.

"To the common room at once!" commanded McGonagall. "And hurry!"

No one dared argue with her, but instead rushed to get to the common room, stepping over the rubble in the corridor. Harry figured had anyone argued with her at that moment, she would have been carrying a pocket watch or two in her hand. Professor McGonagall repaired the corridor as she followed behind them. They entered the common room to find it completely empty. The moment the portrait hole closed behind her, Professor McGonagall wasted no time.

"If I was Headmistress Umbridge, what do you think would have happened?" asked McGonagall, arms folded and not waiting for a response she continued. "Judging by the sheer amount of commotion that just transpired, the corridor floor covered with suits of armour blown into pieces and the room you were standing in looking like a hoard of dragons had just left, I would dare say that everyone here would be expelled and headed for home."

Professor McGonagall glanced at Hermione and her glare faltered. Harry glanced about the common room and saw a shadow move close to the boy's dorm.

"You're right, Professor." said Harry, shocking everyone including McGonagall. "We should have never been practicing spells in that room and we definitely don't want to ruin our chances for a trip to Hogsmeade should the Curse Breakers remove the fog."

Harry glared at the group imperiously, attempting to convey his warning that they were not alone.

"I agree with Harry." said Neville with a nod. "We should definitely be more careful."

"Yes, well, do not let me catch your group practicing again unless a Professor deems it a requirement." said McGonagall, her eyes darting about the room.

"It won't happen again, Professor." said Hermione. "We were just anxious to practice what we studied in charms today. I'm sure that with our O.W.L.s this year, they will become a requirement later."

"Oh they will be." said McGonagall. "I expect nothing less than seven O.W.L.s from each of you."

"Seven?" repeated Ron, feigning a squeak.

"Don't worry Ron." said Lavender. "You can do it."

"Well, I have a class to prepare for." said McGonagall turning to leave. "STAY OUT OF TROUBLE."

"Yes Professor." said the group in unison.

Professor McGonagall wore a twisted smile as she left the common room. The moment the portrait hole closed, Harry whipped out his wand and pointed it at where he saw the shadow.

"Petrificus Totalus!" shouted Harry as a jet of red light shot from the end of his wand.

The large form of Cormac McLaggen fell to the floor before them.

"If you were just going to curse the large oaf –" began Lavender, but Harry silenced her by raising a hand.

"You're really starting to annoy me, McLaggen." said Harry harshly as he knelt down beside him. "I'm not one to be trifled with. I'm sure you remember the Tri-Wizard tournament and you've heard what happened at Gringotts."

McLaggen's eyes were wide with fear as he stared up into Harry's face.

"I truly hate to rush you, Lord Potter, but we could have company at any moment." said Ron, as though he was addressing his General.

Harry smirked, for he knew what Ron was doing. If possible McLaggen's eyes bulged more when Ron called Harry, Lord Potter. He presumed that McLaggen's worst fears were coming true inside his head right now.

"What are we going to do with him?" asked Lavender.

Harry glanced at Lavender who was fighting back a smile.

"It's quite simple really." said Hermione, walking over to stand beside Harry. "I know what you're thinking Harry, but he's really not worth the trouble. I say we release him, have him explain why he was spying on us, then remind him of what happens to witches and wizards that cross you."

"Excellent idea Hermione." said Harry as he removed McLaggen's wand from his hand before releasing him with the counter curse.

McLaggen quickly rolled to his feet, but stopped short of standing when he realized that seven wands were trained on his chest.

"W-What do you want?" stammered McLaggen.

"We'd like to know why you were lurking in corners listening." said Hermione.

"M-Me? N-No, I was just c-coming down from the dorms when you lot entered followed by Professor McGonagall." said McLaggen quickly.

"Why hide?" asked Seamus.

"I skipped class." replied McLaggen. "I didn't want McGonagall to catch me."

"Why did you skip class, McLaggen?" asked Harry, realizing that he was skating around the truth the way Dudley often did when caught.

"J-Just didn't feel like going." replied McLaggen, not looking at Harry.

"We've placed a number of sensory spells about our dorm room." said Harry. "If you were in our dorm room, I'll know."

"I know it was you that cast this purple fog around the castle and it was you that made Malfoy confess earlier." said McLaggen, finally finding his courage and staring at Harry. "I just wanted to be the first to catch you."

"So you thought that Harry Potter had cast this purple fog and that you'd get a shiny medal or plague if you could catch him?" retorted Dean incredulously.

"Wasn't going to turn him in." spat McLaggen. "I was just going to force him to remove it before tomorrow night."

"Wait... you mean to tell us that you'd risk facing Potter for Quidditch?" asked Neville, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline.

"I knew Potter wouldn't care if there were tryouts tomorrow night since he was already off the team." replied McLaggen.

"You little snipe." growled Harry, causing McLaggen to flinch. "The only way you'd know I was off the team was if Umbridge told you."

"She told me that if I could find out who had done the fog, then the tryouts would go on as scheduled." replied McLaggen nervously. "She said I had a great chance of making the team Captain with you and Johnson out."

About that time the portrait hole opened and in walked the twins and Lee. They surveyed the scene before the twins strolled over to McLaggen.

"Ah, there you be McLaggen." said Fred in a chipper tone.

"We were worried about you." said George with a devilish grin.

"McLaggen here thought he'd take on Lord Potter." said Ron in a business-like tone.

George straightened a little, glancing at his younger brother; his mouth curling into a smirk.

"So, you decided to challenge Dark Lord Potter." said Fred in a disappointed tone.

"And we thought you'd make the Quidditch team this year, McLaggen." said George.

"Before you ended up in the hospital wing." said Fred.

McLaggen had slowly begun to back away from the group until he backed into the far wall. He looked at all of them as though they were totally mad. Harry knew that the twins were thoroughly enjoying themselves, however there were more important things to do besides toy with this witless oaf.

"Listen McLaggen," said Harry, stepping between the twins who dramatically jumped to the side at his presence "I'm not the one that cast this fog." Harry allowed his magic to bloom, causing the air temperature to rise. "Be that as it may, I do not care for you sticking your pompous nose into my business. If I ever catch you again, you and the Gringotts' dragon will have a whole lot in common."

Harry reached over and casually jammed McLaggen's wand inside his robes and straightened McLaggen's tie. A foul smell filled the air before McLaggen ran past all of them and out the portrait hole.

"Think he's gone to tell Umbridge?" asked Lavender.

"Judging by the smell," said Lee, holding his nose "I'd say he's headed for the lavatory."

Harry allowed himself a brief chuckle with the others before quickly sobering up.

"We've wasted enough time on him." said Harry seriously, causing the group to snap to attention. "Not sure what your plans are," continued Harry, glancing at the twins and Ron "but I need to send a message and we have a meeting tonight at seven per Professor McGonagall. Unless there is something important to discuss, I suggest we wait until tonight to gather, but travel in pairs at all times."

"The rest of today is in the capable hands of the eldest and his faithful mates." said Ron.

Harry needed not ask, as he knew Ron was referencing Bill Weasley. If Bill could hold his cover, then it was the perfect plan, for Umbridge would never suspect someone sent by the Ministry. Harry nodded then took Hermione by the hand and headed once again up to his dorm room to collect the mirror. The rest of the group disbursed, some leaving the common room while others settled in for a few minutes break or to study.

When Harry and Hermione arrived in his dorm room for the second time today, he wasted no time retrieving the small mirror that Sirius had given him and the Marauder's Map.

"There aren't really any sensory spells around your stuff, is there?" asked Hermione.

"Nope," replied Harry smirking "but I could tell he was hiding something. He had the same look that my cousin Dudley gets when he's squeezing out of a tight situation."

"So, what were you going to do with McLaggen?" asked Hermione, slightly concerned.

"Dunno." replied Harry as they left his dorm room. "Was hoping you'd step in, which you did."

Hermione shook her head and squeezed his hand. Harry faked pain which earned him a slap on the shoulder.

They made their way out of the common room and absentmindedly began making their way to their next class until they remembered that it would normally be Herbology, which was canceled due to the fog. Harry waited until the corridor was clear before pulling his invisibility cloak out and draping it around himself and Hermione. They walked silently until they found an empty room; entering as quietly as possible. Once inside, Hermione sealed and silenced the door while Harry checked the Marauder's Map for signs of any danger.

After they were completely certain that they were alone, they settled into some chairs and Harry withdrew the mirror. He held the mirror at eye level and said, "Sirius."

A smoke-like substance swirled inside the mirror for a minute before the face of his godfather came into focus.

"Hello lad." said Sirius happily. "Glad to see that Hermione was able to tell you how to work the mirror."

"Hello Sirius." said Harry smiling. "Why are you so happy?"

"Can't a wizard be happy to see his godson?" retorted Sirius.

Harry scrunched his nose at his godfather's obvious avoidance of the question, but decided there were more important things to discuss.

"Of course." replied Harry. "So, are we ready yet for Saturday?"

"As ready as we're going to get, lad." replied Sirius. "Arthur, McGonagall, and Dobby will meet us in Hogsmeade. From there they will take Longbottom, Johnson, Finnigan, Jordan and Bones to Malfoy Manor to rescue Ginny and the Grangers. Fred, George, and Bill will accompany us to the goblin caves in Ireland via portkey. Ron, Thomas, Brown, the Patil twins, Lovegood, and Boot will return to Hogwarts to cover and lay the false trail. Once Ginny and the Grangers are rescued and safe, Arthur will send us a sign and head to the Ministry. There, hopefully Dumbledore and the Order will be waiting on us to stop us, with You-Know-Who hot on our trail."

"It sounds completely daft when I hear you say it, Sirius." said Harry.

"Do you think it will work, Sirius?" asked Hermione, doubt hinged in her throat.

"Experience tells me that it's the idea that counts." replied Sirius. "If the idea sounds foolproof, then it's doomed from the start. If the idea sounds good but risky, then we stand a chance of success."

"That's completely illogical." retorted Hermione.

"Not really." said Harry calmly. "Would you call the idea foolproof when we rescued Sirius from the tower here at Hogwarts using a time turner and a hyppogriff? Or how about the time we stopped Voldemort from stealing the philosopher's stone? Or what about –"

"Okay-y-y-y, I get your point." said Hermione, interrupting Harry. "Just a bit nervous. I don't want anyone else getting killed because of me."

"We understand Hermione," said Sirius "but you cannot blame yourself for the Chang girl's death. The longer Voldemort is out there, the more innocent people will die. The war is coming and this you cannot change."

Harry placed an arm around her shoulders while holding the mirror at eye level with the other hand. Hermione leaned her head on his shoulder and he knew that she had not fully accepted that Cho's death wasn't her fault. He thought about the attack only half an hour earlier and realized that it had shoved all those memories of Cho's death back to the forefront of Hermione's mind. If he was honest with himself, it had done the same to him too.

"Harry, what's wrong?" asked Sirius, no doubt spying the troubled look on his godson's face.

"We had a visitor today." replied Harry. "In our common room... we think it might have been the same person that murdered Cho."

"You're telling me that a potential Death Eater was in your common room this morning and you started the conversation with going over preparations for Saturday?" asked Sirius incredulously.

"No one was hurt," replied Harry "and they got away so I didn't feel the need to share."

"Bloody hell, Harry!" said Sirius angrily. "You could have been killed. Those are details I'd like to know about."

"We believe that they're a witch." interjected Hermione.

"What makes you believe so?" asked Sirius quickly.

"She spoke to us in the common room before she tried to murder us." said Harry dryly.

"Well, this confirms that the person that tried to kill Hermione before is still in the castle." said Sirius. "It also helps narrow down who it could be. Does Umbridge know?"

"I'm sure she knows something by now." said Hermione. "We tore up an entire corridor on the seventh floor chasing the Death Eater."

"Did anyone see you chasing this potential Death Eater?" asked Sirius.

"As far as we know, only Professor McGonagall." replied Harry. "She cleaned up the corridor afterwards."

"Just keep your heads low until Saturday, if possible." said Sirius. "You'll need to act normally for a few hours when you reach Hogsmeade, so be thinking about where you want to go and what you want to do. The last thing you want to do is wander around as though you're waiting for something."

"A few hours?" repeated Hermione.

"We cannot attempt a rescue in broad daylight, so we have to wait until sunset before we head to the caves." said Sirius.

"Oh goodness." muttered Hermione. "I'm not sure if my nerves can take it."

"Don't worry, Hermione." said Harry. "We'll just make a day of it. I mean, we haven't really had a first date yet."

"You want to have our first date on Saturday?" retorted Hermione incredulously, her voice slowly rising.

"I think it's a brilliant idea." interjected Sirius, chuckling. "It will be an excellent way for you two to pass the time and not look suspicious. It will also help calm your nerves."

Hermione sighed, "Okay Harry, but you better make it a good one if you're going to keep my mind off of what we're about to do."

"Ah, good... and I thought our first date would be stressful." said Harry sarcastically.

"Have Fred and George informed you of when the purple fog will dissipate?" asked Sirius.

"No." replied Hermione. "They have been quite careful not to admit or divulge anything to anybody."

"They know when they have to have it done by, so I guess we'll just have to wait." said Sirius. "Now, you two best run along before anyone notices your absence. If we don't talk before Saturday, I'll see you then. Stay safe."

"We will." said Harry.

With that, the mirror swirled with smoke and then went clear once more; Harry's own reflection staring back at him.

Harry absentmindedly laid the mirror down. He was thinking hard about the task ahead for them; wondering how they were all going to make it out alive. Hermione squeezed his hand, causing him to look at her.

"You can still back out." said Hermione softly. "You don't have to go through with this."

"That is not a bloody option, Hermione." said Harry firmly. "We are going to rescue your parents."

"Oh Harry, the closer the day gets, the more impossible it seems that we will succeed." said Hermione, tears filling her eyes.

"I'm good with impossible, Hermione." said Harry smirking. "I'm the Boy-Who-Bloody-Lived."

Hermione couldn't help but laugh as Harry looked at her. Harry took her face in his hands and wiped away her tears with his thumbs. He never could stand to see Hermione cry, even when she was just his bushy-haired friend.

"Prat." sighed Hermione, grasping his wrists.

"Prat?" repeated Harry, his smirk growing.

"Yes, prat." sniffed Hermione smiling. "You're enjoying consoling me."

"If encouraging you when you're down or making you happy makes me a prat – then I accept the role." said Harry smiling.

"I'm just not the damsel-in-distress kind of girl." said Hermione.

"Okay then," said Harry, leaning his forehead against hers, "the next mountain troll is all yours."

Harry laughed as Hermione slapped him hard on the shoulder before giving him a passionate kiss that lasted for several minutes. As long as Hermione could kiss him like that, he would never need to ride a broom again.

~0~

The Tea and Sugar news, as the twins now called it, was that Malfoy was able to convince Umbridge and the Curse Breakers that he could not understand why he said what he did, nor remember saying it. Sure enough, Umbridge announced at lunch that Malfoy had been jinxed into saying those things and that the culprit was still at large.

Harry thought for one wild moment that they would escape lunch for once without some major interruption. Why he thought that the Weasleys would allow an opportunity to cause mass chaos to slip by was beyond him. Umbridge certainly didn't believe so; her wand laid next to her plate.

A low rumble echoed in the Great Hall and the student body cringed as one. Harry closed his eyes so not to see the twins as they feigned dread. When he opened them again, he noticed movement above his head. Harry tensed as he looked up to see the enchanted ceiling changing from a purple tent to a vision of dark storm clouds. Another rumble echoed through the Great Hall as lightning streaked the clouds.

Harry could clearly see through the stained glass behind the Staff table that the sun, though marred by the purple fog, was still shining brightly outside. A third rumble echoed and this time he could feel the Hall shake. Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Ravenclaws, and Slytherins alike were leaning close to their house tables; no doubt deciding whether to make a run for it.

"I will take care of this." said Umbridge from the staff table.

"Headmistress, I don't believe that you should –" began Hughes from the end of the table.

Harry looked to see Umbridge raise her wand toward the enchanted ceiling and a burst of white light shot from it, striking the enchanted sky. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning flashed and the Headmistress' podium exploded; incinerating into a small ash cloud. Students closest to the Staff table cowered away and Harry heard some of the girls shriek in fear. At that same moment, it began to rain in the Great Hall. Large drops splashed on the tables in front of them; soaking everything. Faster and faster the rain fell; pounding on the floor at rapid speed. Another flash of lightning followed by a boom of thunder and the entire student body made a dash for the doors. Harry grasped hold of Hermione's hand and pulled her along with him, to make sure that neither of them were trampled by the stampeding students.

As Harry and Hermione were exiting the Great Hall, Peeves flew merrily through the doorway above them singing, "On Gryffindors, on Ravenclaws, on Slytherins, on Hufflepuffs too. Now run away, run away, run away all!"

"Peeves!" bellowed Nearly Headless Nick, floating above the grand staircase. "Are you responsible for this?"

"No no no, oh waggle-neck one." cackled Peeves. "The Demons of Hogwarts have risen to cast out our Umbitch!"

"Blimey!" said Neville, wringing out the sleeves of his robes. "I didn't know that the enchanted ceiling could do that!"

Older students were using a drying charm to dry their robes. Many first years were begging for the older students to do the same for them. More shrieks filled the air as a wintry blast pelted out of the Great Hall and up the grand staircase, chilling everyone who was still soaked to the bone. Hermione gasped and Harry turned to see what looked like a blizzard occurring inside the Great Hall. Through the blowing snow, he could see Umbridge, the Curse Breakers, and the teachers attempting to stop the inclement weather. Finally, they came rushing out, sliding as they did, and closed the doors behind them.

"We'll have to wait until this curse weakens before we can remove it." said Maxwell, brushing the snow from his robes.

Most of the students were still congregated on the stairs and in the main floor corridors watching the staff, Headmistress, and Heads of House, as though waiting for instruction. Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys, and the rest of the Alliance were watching in silent amusement. Harry noticed that Peeves had quickly departed the area and he was sure that the Poltergeist was avoiding Umbridge.

"All students," said Umbridge in a tired voice "please return to your common room until it is time for your next class. The Hogwarts house-elves will see to each house and bring food to those that were not through eating."

"I'm contacting my father and requesting to leave." said a sixth year Ravenclaw that Harry recognized, but did not know her name.

"Me too." shouted a first year from Hufflepuff.

Murmuring broke out amongst the student body of a general discord. Umbridge glared at the students with utter dislike.

"ALL STUDENTS WILL RETURN TO THEIR COMMON ROOMS AT ONCE!" shouted Umbridge over the commotion. "Any student that doesn't do so IMMEDIATELY will serve detention with me!"

While the murmuring did not cease, the students all began to make their ways back to their common rooms. Harry and Hermione followed their fellow Gryffindors up to Gryffindor tower; Ron and Parvati ushering their house in true Prefect manner. Once inside the common room, the Gryffindor division of the Alliance thoroughly scanned the room for anything suspicious then crowded into a corner around Harry and Hermione.

"This is ridiculous." said Hermione, and Harry had to agree.

"Dobby." whispered Harry.

CRACK

The tiny house-elf appeared in the midst of the group; bouncing up and down.

"Dobby, could you conjure up a table and chairs for us?" asked Harry.

"Oh absolutely, Master Harry Potter sir!" squeaked Dobby. "Dobby would be most happy to!"

A few minutes later, they were sitting around a table with flasks of pumpkin juice and trays of sandwiches. Harry spotted McLaggen watching from a table across the room. Hogwarts house-elves had appeared while Dobby was attending to the Alliance and must have thought it a good idea, for they too started rearranging the common room furniture; conjuring tables and chairs. It wasn't the first time Harry had seen this type of arrangement. Matter of fact, it was becoming much more common.

"Wonder how long the Great Hall will remain a winter wonderland?" asked Angelina, glancing at the twins.

"Not to worry." said Fred offhandedly.

"The Gringotts Curse Breakers are here now." said George confidently.

"What could the Demons of Hogwarts possibly do against them?" asked Fred.

~0~

After lunch, Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the Gryffindor fifth years joined the Hufflepuffs for a double Defense Against the Dark Arts. Snape, who was filling in that evening for Defense Against the Dark Arts while Umbridge attended to the Curse Breakers, was barely less than murderous while going over the curriculum. If you weren't aware of what had transpired earlier, you would have thought the text book had done something personally to offend him.

"Five points from Gryffindor, Mr. Thomas, for talking while you're supposed to be reading." spat Snape.

"But sir, I was just asking Seamus a question about the chapter." retorted Dean.

"This chapter does not require discussion while reading, Mr. Thomas." said Snape. "If one must ask, then you really shouldn't be in here. Or did the Death Eater not keep you up with the curriculum last year?" Snape shot a glare at Harry.

Before it was over, Harry rubbed the back of his head too many times and lost five more points for Gryffindor. Harry smirked to himself that Snape really believed that House points mattered to him. When the class mercifully ended, Harry, Hermione, and the rest of the fifth years headed downstairs to check on the Great Hall and see if it was going to be usable for supper. As they reached the first floor, it did not baffle anyone to see the doors to the Great Hall closed.

The one thing that did baffle everyone, was the message written in what looked like blood above the doors to the Great Hall. The first floor was jammed with students that evening as everyone arrived; all staring at the words above the door, 'The Pirates of The Black Lake Have Come For The Toad'.

"Bloody hell." said Neville in awe.

"What are all of you doing sta – " began Umbridge, descending the stairs and flanked by the Gringotts Curse Breakers.

"Who are 'The Pirates of The Black Lake' and what is 'The Toad'?" asked Curse Breaker Maxwell.

Harry stared at Umbridge who said nothing as she continued to stare at the writing above the door. Finally, Umbridge found her voice.

"All students into the Great Hall at once!" shouted Umbridge.

"Is it safe?" called out Terry Boot.

"Yes, the Gringotts Curse Breakers were able to remove the curse." said Umbridge reassuringly.

Perks and Knot stepped forward and made to open the doors to the Great Hall so that everyone could enter. As they opened the doors a great wind blew through the castle, sweeping through the corridors, down the grand staircase, and into the Great Hall. As the wind passed into the Great Hall, all of the candles burst into black flames before changing back to normal.

Murmuring immediately broke out throughout the students that were gathered outside the Great Hall. Harry had no idea what this meant, though he was certain it was some dark omen, and looked to Hermione for answers. Hermione however, looked blankly at the Great Hall, then at Harry.

"Blimey." sighed Angelina from behind Harry.

"What does it mean?" asked Harry as he turned to look at her.

"It's a death omen, Harry." replied Angelina. "It symbolizes that someone is in great danger within these walls."

At that moment, Harry realized that most of the students were staring at Umbridge. Realizing this herself, Umbridge pushed her way through the students blocking the doorway shouting, "Out of my way!" Once inside, Umbridge ordered again that every student enter the Great Hall. Only a small handful of students, some from each house, refused to enter the Great Hall and returned to their respective common room.

After almost every student was assembled in the Great Hall for supper, Umbridge launched into an all out assault on the student body as she demanded to know who had done that above the door. When nobody answered, she announced that anyone caught anywhere suspicious would receive detention immediately with her. Harry was sure that the message above the door had struck a nerve of some sort.

Most of the students ate supper timidly; waiting for something dramatic to happen. Ron begrudgingly picked at his food in order to not stand out. The only dramatic thing that happened was that nothing happened. Umbridge started to order Filch to scrub above the door, but turned a shade of red when she realized that he was still recovering in the hospital wing.

After supper, Harry and Hermione retreated under the invisibility cloak to the Room of Requirement to just get away for a moment. There, the room provided an over-sized cushioned sofa for them to sit on in front of a roaring fireplace. They found the sofa to be extremely comfortable and Harry leaned his head back to try and relax while Hermione laid her head in his lap. Harry absentmindedly stroked Hermione's hair with his hand as he steadied his nerves. 'Only 48 hours more to go', thought Harry as he sat there enjoying the warmth from the fireplace.

Suddenly, a flash of fire caused Harry and Hermione to jump as Fawkes landed on the edge of the sofa. The great phoenix bowed its head in Harry's direction.

"Thank you, Fawkes." said Harry.

Fawkes hummed a tune that Harry took to mean that he understood. The phoenix then began to sing a song that Harry had never heard before. He glanced at Hermione who just shook her head. The tune was deep, filling the room with song and his soul swelled with confidence. It was as though Fawkes was trying to encourage them.

As the song ended, Harry suddenly felt as though the whole world had fallen into darkness. He closed his eyes to rub them and when he opened them again Hermione and the Room of Requirement were gone. He was standing in a grassy field, Fawkes perched upon his shoulder, as he looked out towards a shoreline and the vast sea beyond. The wind was blowing strong as storm clouds were forming over the waters; the waves crashing against the shore. In the wind Harry could hear the high cold voice that was unmistakably that of Voldemort. At first it was nothing more than a whisper whose words were mumbled, but the longer Harry listened the louder they became.

"Potter is amassing his army and is preparing for war." hissed Voldemort, as though from within the storm clouds. "If he is allowed to continue, he will succeed where Dumbledore has failed. Those that follow Potter must suffer the consequences of their actions. Harry Potter's followers will watch helplessly as every member of their immediate family dies. Then no one will dare defy Lord Voldemort again and Potter will face his fate alone."

"NOOOOOO!" screamed Harry as the mirthless laughter rang out.

Harry suddenly felt his face burn as the stormy sea disappeared and the Room of Requirement swam back into view; Hermione standing directly in front of him looking scared. He felt Fawkes leave his shoulder and return to the side of the sofa. He felt his face and realized that Hermione had slapped him hard.

"I'm sorry Harry, but I was scared." said Hermione nervously. "You went into some sort of trance. Fawkes looked like he was trying to help you, but he couldn't so I started yelling at you. Then you started screaming so I slapped you. I didn't know what else to do."

Tears were now streaming down her face. Harry pulled her into a hug as he recalled what had just transpired. If what he heard was true, Voldemort planned to kill the families of every member of the Alliance if they continued to help him.

"Hermione, I think I heard Voldemort." said Harry softly.

Hermione jerked away so that she could see his eyes. "Did your scar –"

"It wasn't my scar." interrupted Harry. "There was no pain, but I saw a vision of what looked to be a storm building over a vast sea. Then I heard his voice coming from the storm clouds."

"What did he say?" asked Hermione, her eyes wide and fixed upon his.

"He wasn't speaking to me. It was as though I was hearing his thoughts or one side of a conversation." replied Harry while concentrating on what he had seen and heard. "He said that the families of all that help me will die."

"Well, that's not really a surprise –" said Hermione, looking away. "It's kind of an expected response given his history."

"It's a cowardly response." spat Harry, thinking first of his parents then of Hermione's. "He uses fear as a weapon while he hides in the shadows!"

"What are you thinking about doing?" asked Hermione apprehensively while staring at his face.

"I'm going to warn the Alliance." replied Harry simply. "They need to know what could possibly happen if they continue to help me."

"You mean, help us." corrected Hermione, taking his hands in hers. "We're in this together, Harry."

Harry couldn't help but smile as he stared into Hermione's eyes; her intensity burning like flames in her gaze. He knew there was no way now that he would ever get rid of her, even if he wanted to.


Later that night at seven, the Alliance gathered in the Room of Requirement. Hermione had used the fake galleons to send word of the time as it was too risky to convey the message verbally. Once Professor McGonagall arrived, the meeting began.

"Professor, a masked person ambushed us in the common room." said Seamus, as everyone took a seat at the table. "We chased her, but she escaped."

"Her, Mr Finnigan?" repeated McGonagall. "You believe this person to be a witch?"

"Yes Professor, we do." interjected Hermione.

"You should never have chased them out of the common room." said McGonagall firmly.

"You mean we should have just let them escape?" retorted Seamus hotly.

"Correct, Mr Finnigan." replied McGonagall. "You successfully defended yourself, and for that I am glad, however chasing a potential Death Eater around the school under the nose of Umbridge was borderline foolishness. Regardless of the outcome, if Umbridge had caught you she would have used it as a way to strip you of your wands at the very least. This would highly jeopardize the plan."

"She can't really take our wands, can she?" asked Neville, looking alarmed.

"The rules are clear here at Hogwarts, Mr Longbottom, even if Professor Dumbledore had the tendency to look the other way." replied McGonagall.

"The Weasleys are keeping Umbridge busy," said Harry, causing the twins and Ron to incline their heads "so let's not do anything to attract her attention. When will the fog be lifted from the castle?"

"If all else fails, Bill and the other Curse Breakers will remove the fog tomorrow night." said Ron. "That will give Umbitch her feeling of triumph right before all hell breaks loose."

"Language, Mr. Weasley." scolded McGonagall.

"What do you mean?" asked Susan, staring at Ron with fear in her eyes.

"Sorry Susan." said Fred, folding his arms.

"Best everyone finds out together." said George.

Hermione glanced at McGonagall, who looked half way between amusement and outrage. She knew that such blatant disregard for the rules was against every grain of fiber in her soul. Hermione was sure that the pride that filled the twins' voices was almost too much for McGonagall to take.

"Remember gents," interjected Harry "you're above murder, so make sure nobody gets severely injured."

"Perish the thought, Harry." said Fred, enjoying his own pun on words.

"We will terminate any plan that becomes too dangerous." said George with a smile.

"All I ask is that no other members of Staff become pawns in your game." said McGonagall firmly.

"None planned, Professor." said Ron.

"I dare say we will all face quite enough danger in a few days," said McGonagall solemnly "so let's not push things here any further than you already are."

"Before we practice tonight, there's one more state of business." said Harry standing up; all eyes focused on him.

Hermione knew what he was about to say and whether or not Harry wanted to believe it, she had already told him what the Alliance would say in response.

"What's wrong?" asked Professor McGonagall, looking tense.

"I know that we have discussed this before, but I feel that I must stress it one more time." began Harry, glancing at Hermione. "Everyone here is risking much by following through with this plan."

"We know the risks Harry," interrupted Dean "but we cannot sit back and allow Ginny and Hermione's parents to be eventually murdered."

"Dean, I don't think you do understand the risks." continued Harry. "It's not just you that will be in danger, but your families as well. Voldemort will use them to punish you for helping me."

"What have you heard, Harry?" asked Susan, looking concerned.

Harry took a deep breath and Hermione knew that he was trying to relax. Trouble was, she could tell it wasn't working.

"While Harry's not at liberty to divulge his source to everyone just yet," interjected Hermione, standing up beside him "we believe that Voldemort is planning to attack and murder your families if you help us rescue Ginny and my parents."

"You know where we stand mates." said the Weasley twins in unison.

"Yeah Hermione," said Ron darkly "our whole family is at war with the bastard."

"Mr. Weasley." growled Professor McGonagall, causing Ron to look at Luna so she couldn't see his snarl.

"What about the rest of you?" asked Harry. "No one will hold anything against you for protecting your families, but now is the time to back out –"

"Ya know it's really hard to think of a plan when you're being all noble, Harry." interrupted Terry Boot with a smirk before looking serious. "He's going to attack our families no matter the stand we take – it's just a matter of time. You don't think we haven't considered the consequences? We know the risks, but we've also considered the risks if we do nothing. Cho wasn't fighting against him when she was murdered. Cedric didn't die because he was defying You-Know... V-Voldemort. According to you, Harry, he was just in the way, like Cho."

"What Terry is trying to say," interjected Neville, standing up "is that it doesn't matter what we do, Lord Voldemort is back and our families will never be safe as long as he's out there."

The rest of the Alliance stood to join them and Hermione had to fight back tears.

"I've never been prouder of any group of students than I am of you all." said Professor McGonagall, rising to her feet as well; her voice firm yet full of emotion.

"All in to the brink." said Seamus.

"Now, as for our families," said Neville, rubbing his hands together "I have a plan."


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