Until Next Time
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The Rear Guard
I was tapping my foot impatiently, making quiet thuds against the grass. A red light caught my eye, something contrasting the dark sky somewhere in the distance. I snapped my head in that direction to investigate, as did Bill, standing next to me. It was only one of those Muggle contraptions – plain, or whatever they were called. There had been quite a few of them this evening. Flashing red, green and white against the night sky.
Bill checked his watch and muttered the time for us all to hear. It wouldn't be long until the Advance Guard would arrive at Grimmauld Place with Potter, if everything went according to plan. We in the Rear Guard had Apparated with wands in hand to designated spots along the route in pairs, keeping up with them and to be in sight of any warning spells or any kind of trouble. So far, so good.
I sighed, and my mind wandered back to the thing that had occupied it for a couple of days now. The Dementor attack.
The Minister had in fact ordered a few Dementor guards for a meeting that day. Kingsley had wheedled it out of certain people and put together the facts and confirmed it in a message to us all the very next day. But he had not been able to figure out what kind of meeting warranted this guard, or if Fudge had wanted only three and someone requested two extra to go out of their way to attack Harry. It had been the Minister's assistant who had delivered the order, and it seemed perfectly legit.
Apart from the small incident of the attack.
As I had gone into the office the day after the attack and the extraordinary Order meeting, I noticed that no one spoke of it. All they talked about was how Harry Potter had done underage magic in front of a Muggle. It seemed like they didn't know about the attack at all.
It scared me. There was no real evidence about who had actually ordered the attack, if it was the Minister's assistant or some outside force. Either no one knew about it because the Dementors were slipping out of our control, or because someone on the inside was disloyal.
Both theories scared me, and I could not afford to be scared. Every morning since the attack, I had to take a few minutes to gather my wits, before being able to go to work. I was going back on Azkaban rotation in just over a week, and I needed to get over it.
So I buried myself in trying to add to the routines at Azkaban, to prevent this kind of thing. Even if no would one believed that the Dementors could be taking orders from someone other than us or the Ministry, or that our Minister ordered unfounded attacks, I doubted anyone would be against strengthening security. They were all on board with adding to the wards, so why not sharpen our routines as well. Ideas kept bubbling at the back of my mind every minute I was awake.
Again, a red light flashed in the distance. I was getting pretty sick of them, these stupid flying metal ships the Muggles liked so much.
But this was not a false alarm. "He has arrived," Minerva's whispering voice suddenly sounded from a very small, glowing cat on the ground. One by one, the Rear Guard vanished with a soft pop.
"It's possible to hide here, here, and here," Arthur said and pointed to a blueprint of the Ministry, this particular one showing Level 9. "By design, it's not possible to hide at all down there, but these spots are our best chances."
"Have you ever been down there to see?" I asked, eyeing the three alcoves, committing them to memory. I'd never been down near the Department of Mysteries, and I had to admit I was really curious.
"Not recently, no. I haven't had the chance. But if my memory is correct, these spots should provide the opportunity to hide oneself with either a glamour or a Disillusionment Charm."
"I have an Invisibility Cloak," a gruff voice said from the doorway. We all snapped around in surprise to see Alastor there. We had been so engrossed in the map, that we hadn't even heard him or the rest of the Advance Guard coming down the stairs.
"Harry is here, then?" Sirius asked, and I heard barely hidden excitement in his voice.
"He is," Remus replied with a smile. "Molly is showing him to his room as we speak."
There seemed to be a look between them that held a whole conversation, but then they smiled at each other.
"You have an Invisibility Cloak, Alastor?" Kingsley asked, taking a place in front of the table and perusing the blueprint.
"I have two," Alastor continued. "They are of high quality and we can use one of them for guard duty at the Ministry."
We poured over the blueprints again, and it was quite crowded around the table as everyone had their heads together.
Severus had learned a short while ago that You-Know-Who knew there was more to the prophecy concerning himself and Harry, and that he was determined to learn the rest of it. Albus had told us in no uncertain terms that it would be a disaster if You-Know-Who were to hear the entire prophecy. Not that we were told of its contents either. For our own safety he said, but I had a sneaking feeling that he didn't trust any of us enough to tell us. So now that guard duty for Harry was no longer our top priority, we needed to get started on a more organised way of guarding the prophecy.
It was located in the Hall of Prophecies in the Department of Mysteries, and continuing with the previous schedule, we would all take shifts hiding down there to look out for You-Know-Who or any sympathisers, make sure the prophecy was safe.
"So, we have an Invisibility Cloak," Remus concluded after we had mapped out all the places we could hide. "But we need more. An Invisibility Cloak isn't fool proof. I suggest we Disillusion as well."
Most of the Order nodded at this. "We should have cover stories too," I added. "Just in case all else fails."
"Some of this lot is going to have a problem with that," Alastor pointed out. "There's a handful of us not working at the Ministry. That would be a pretty damn good cover story to make up for being down on level nine."
"Just don' get caught 'en," Mundungus grunted.
Alastor shot him a look.
"But we can't exactly have only the people working at the Ministry on guard duty, it won't be enough," I interjected. "And we're not really supposed to be down there at all hours of the day. I'm supposed to be all the way up on level two."
"Don't get caught," Sirius repeated Mundungus' words.
"Easier said than done," I muttered as the conversation around the table continued.
Sirius leaned towards me across Bill's seat. "You'd rather do house calls instead of guard duty?"
I fought furiously with the blush that threatened to burn me alive, and managed to meet his gaze calmly. "Yes, I'd very much like to knock on... Voldemort's door and strangle him," I said quickly and coldly before we were told off for not paying attention, trying not to show my disgust at speaking the name.
I couldn't believe that Sirius somehow knew what I'd done to get information for the Order at the last meeting. But it would be just like him to take the mickey out of me for it.
Eventually, the schedule was set for the rest of the month. While it was a steady rotation for most of the Order members, I only got guard duty when I was on my three-week Ministry rotation. In turn, I had more frequent duties during those weeks.
As the meeting dwindled down, Molly finished up the dinner – or rather small feast – that had been simmering away all throughout the evening. While it smelled delicious and she had invited me to stay and I wanted to see The Boy Who Lived in the flesh, I was a bit wary about being there. I had noticed both Sirius and Remus becoming more and more agitated towards the end, and this seemed more like a family reunion with Harry coming to stay, and I would feel like an intruder, no matter how much Molly insisted.
"You have to stay, dear. You haven't eaten since before you left for the guard today!"
"I'm not hungry," I lied, feeling the ache in my stomach, and hoping dearly that it wouldn't betray me by making a noise. "I'm sorry, Molly. I'm sure it's delicious, but an another time, I promise."
"Have this on your way, at least." She thrust a Butterbeer and a small pastry into my hands.
"Thank you, Molly." I cracked a small smile, and was a bit taken aback when she stood up on her toes to give me a quick hug.
Feeling a little bit awkward, I thanked her again, found Alastor to arrange to meet him later to pick up his Invisibility Cloak and rushed out of the house.
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