"Welcome back, everyone," Ron greeted the assembled meeting of Dumbledore's Army. "I'm glad to see you're all back."
The assembled group remained silent, having already greeted each other and shared stories of their Christmas holidays. As Ron looked around the room, he was very pleased to see that everyone had indeed come back to school, although he wouldn't have thought any less of anyone who'd stayed away. After all, he'd come very close to staying at home himself.
"Okay, everyone," Ron continued. "I do have one announcement to make," he paused. "Over Christmas, Ginny made contact with me."
At this announcement, the room immediately broke out into excited whispers.
"Is she okay?" one of the sixth-year Gryffindors asked anxiously.
"She seems fine," Ron replied. "But she asked us to do something to help her out. Well… Harry asked her to deliver a message to us."
"Harry? At last!" someone shouted loudly. "A way to really help!"
"Alright!" Ron said, raising his voice so he could be heard above the excited chatter. "All Harry wanted to tell us was that he may be attempting to get into Hogwarts and if he does, then we need to be ready to help him."
"That's all!" Dean Thomas replied. "That's all he wants us to do?"
"Yeah," Ron replied. He and Neville had decided not to tell the DA about their other mission. At least not yet. Not until they had more information. "That was all he said."
"But that still leaves us with nothing to do!" Dean replied hotly.
"Of course we have things to do!" Neville shot back. "We keep looking out for each other and the younger kids, we look for ways that Harry could get inside the school, and we make sure he has somewhere to hide out when he gets here, but mainly, we need to be ready!"
"Yes," Ron continued, picking up from where Neville had finished. "When Harry does come, I get the feeling we will need to be ready to fight."
Adam January 6th 1998
The employees' entrance to the Ministry of Magic seemed surprisingly unglamorous to Adam. To the casual observer, it seemed simply to be a public toilet. A public toilet that had a strangely large number of unusually dressed men and women entering, but still, a toilet.
It was fortunate that Mr Weasley had taken most of the Weasley children into the Ministry with him at some point when they were younger because, luckily, even with the recent changes, Ginny still remembered the area quite clearly. She had been able to Apparate both herself and Adam very close to the staff entrance.
Adam and Ginny had come here today as the first stage of their plan to rescue Hermione from the Ministry's clutches. Their first task was to find out exactly where Hermione was being held. To do that, Adam was confident that they wouldn't actually have to infiltrate the Ministry, but just try to grab an employee and get them to tell them where Muggle-born prisoners were being kept. If they could find a friendly Ministry worker, then all the better.
As the morning wore on and nine o'clock approached, they saw more and more people walk past them into the toilets.
So far, they had not spotted any familiar faces amongst the people heading to work in the Ministry and, as they continued to watch, Adam secretly hoped that they would see Mr Weasley, but there had been no sign of him yet.
"Adam," Ginny whispered into his ear, "let's see if we can edge forward and see where the people are Apparating in."
Adam nodded in response and the two of them carefully edged forward, bringing the street leading up to the toilets into full view. They crept along, under the Cloak, until they saw a small alleyway that the Ministry workers seemed to be appearing from.
"Let's get a look at that alleyway," Adam whispered into Ginny's ear.
They had taken three more steps forward when Ginny suddenly stopped, nearly knocking Adam off balance.
"Over there," she whispered. "Standing there, just across the street, opposite the alley. I think it's an Auror."
Very slowly, Adam turned to where Ginny had described. It was an Auror… or at least, Adam thought it was. The man was obviously trying to lean casually against the railings behind him but, as Adam watched, he could see the man watching as people walked from the alley, down the street and into the toilets.
Were the Ministry spying on their own people?
Even though the Auror was only a few feet away, Adam and Ginny stayed where they were for some time, partly because it was an excellent place to watch the Ministry workers, and party because Adam thought they were far more likely to get caught moving around than standing still.
Adam and Ginny watched the entrance to the Ministry until about half-past nine, when the Auror finally left. All in all, it had been a fairly un-eventful morning, although seeing Mr Weasley had been the highlight. Unfortunately, they couldn't actually communicate with him due to the presence of so many other people from the Ministry and the presence of the Auror.
"What now?" Ginny asked in a low voice, once the Auror had Disapparated and the street was empty.
With a shrug, Adam replied, "I guess we head back. Did you recognise anyone that you think might have any information about the Muggle-borns?"
"No," Ginny replied with a shake of her head. "I didn't recognise anyone, other than my dad."
"There didn't seem to be any senior officials, maybe they're still allowed to Floo in…" Adam mused. "Well, if your dad's the only one we can approach, let's do that."
"What?" Ginny exclaimed, then, suddenly realised just how loudly she had spoken, she clapped her hand over her mouth before continuing in a quieter voice. "How?"
Adam chuckled. "All we need to do is distract the Auror, and make sure your dad arrives on his own, so no one sees us."
"Well, that certainly seems easy," Ginny replied, amusement plain in her voice. "But how do we do all that?"
"Erm," Adam hesitated. "I think that's where I need your help coming up with ideas. Let's head back and we can try and come up with a plan."
Ron January 7th 1998
"Have you found it, Nev?" Ron called to Neville, as they scoured the shelves in the school library.
"It's just up here," Neville answered, reaching up and pulling down a massive book. "Hogwarts: a History."
As Neville carried the large book back over to their table, Ron stared at it apprehensively. It was huge. How were they going to find anything in there?
"Erm…" Ron began hesitantly. "Where do we start?"
Neville, who was looking equally daunted by the book, replied, "Er, I think there's an index in here. Let's start there."
So Ron and Neville began the exhausting task of scouring Hogwarts: a History for any information on artefacts of the Hogwarts founders.
The boys spent several hours pouring over the book, searching through its pages and making notes as they went. Hermione would be proud, Ron thought wistfully.
Finally, after nearly two hours of searching, they had made some progress. The only known artefact of Ravenclaw was her diadem, Hufflepuff had apparently owned a historic cup, while Gryffindor had two known artefacts, the Sorting Hat and a sword.
However, beyond that, the information in Hogwarts: a History came to a dead end. The Sorting Hat was obviously still in the school and Hufflepuff's cup had apparently been passed down to Hufflepuff's daughter, but, most disappointingly, the sword and diadem had disappeared around the time of the deaths of their creators.
"The Sorting Hat…" Ron mused quietly to Neville as they organised their notes. "That must be what she's after. It's the only one in the school."
"Well," Neville replied, "there's nothing more in this book. I wish we had more information on the two that just vanished but…"
"I've had enough for tonight," Ron said tiredly, he couldn't face reading anything else tonight. "We'll come back tomorrow and search for anything else on the sword or diadem."
Ron then proceeded to pack up all of their notes, while Neville returned the book to the shelf. Once he had packed up, Ron stood up and looked around.
Neville had vanished.
"Neville?" Ron called softly, not wanting to speak loudly enough to attract Madam Prince's attention.
There was no answer and Ron swore softly under his breath. He shouldn't have let Neville go off on his own.
Now beginning to feel worried, Ron walked quickly between the nearest set of shelves, determined to find where Neville had disappeared to.
When he found the first aisle of shelves empty, Ron dashed into the second row. As he rounded the corner, he ran right into someone else, scattering the parchment in his hands and sending the other person flying to the floor.
"Oh, Ron!" a voice exclaimed. "You weren't looking where you were going."
"Luna!" Ron exclaimed, suddenly recognising the blonde-haired Ravenclaw girl that was in the DA.
"I'm sorry I was in your way, Ron, and you seemed so eager to get somewhere, too," Luna observed mildly, as she gracefully rose to her feet.
As she stood up, Ron noticed, with alarm, that Luna had his parchment in her hand and that she was currently reading it.
"Erm…" Ron began awkwardly. "Could I…"
"Oh," Luna replied, wafting the parchment around as if it was of absolutely no importance. "Sure."
"Thanks," Ron replied, feeling relieved. He did trust Luna, she was in the DA after all, but he wasn't sure he trusted her with this, yet. He hadn't told anyone other than Neville about the mission Harry had given him.
"So was that parchment the real mission that Harry gave you?" Luna asked suddenly.
Ron simply stared at the girl, his mouth moving up and down silently. "How…?" he finally asked.
"It was quite simple, really," Luna replied. "I knew you were keeping something from the rest of us and I saw something on the paper about the Sorting Hat. Plus, I spend a lot of time in library, and in all my years in school, I have never seen you in here voluntarily. So…" Luna paused, suddenly looking slightly anxious, "am I right?"
Ron stared at Luna, not quite sure what he could do. He could lie and tell her that she was wrong, but Ron knew that she knew that something was up. It also didn't feel right to Ron to openly lie to one of the DA. True, he hadn't given them all the information, but did he want to lie to Luna? If he didn't trust them, how could he expect them to trust him?
"Er…" Ron began hesitantly. "Yeah…"
"Oh, wonderful!" Luna exclaimed. "I knew I was right."
"Oh…" Ron replied uncertainly, now feeling completely baffled by Luna's response. "Okay?"
"So, would you like me to tell you about Ravenclaw's diadem, Ron?" Luna asked casually, her voice far too loud for his liking.
"Shh!" Ron exclaimed, then he lowered his voice and continued. "You know about the Diadem!?"
"It's a well-known story among Ravenclaws," Luna answered. "And I'll be happy to fill you in."
Ron couldn't help but grin at the unexpected turn of events. It looked like they had more leads for information to help Harry than he thought.
"Sure," Ron responded. "But we need to find Neville first."
"Oh," Luna replied. "I saw him just a few seconds ago in the next aisle. He was struggling to put a large book back on a high shelf. I did offer to help, but he said he was fine."
"Okay," Ron responded, breathing a sigh of relief that Neville was alright. "Let's go get Neville and then we can talk."
January 9th 1998
"I can't believe you didn't know that the Grey Lady was actually once Helena Ravenclaw," Luna chattered as Ron and Neville followed her down the corridor towards Ravenclaw Tower. "But then, you aren't Ravenclaws. I expect you know all sorts of things about the history of Gryffindor that the rest of us don't know."
"Er…" Ron answered uncertainly. He didn't really know anything about Godric Gryffindor.
"I think that if anyone knows what happened to the diadem, it would be Helena; she was alive at the time," Luna continued talking as they walked along.
"So where is the Grey Lady?" Neville asked, looking nervous. "We don't want to be caught wandering around the school without a reason."
"I don't know," Luna replied lightly.
On hearing this, Ron immediately stopped walking.
"Where are we going, then?" he exclaimed in frustration.
"We won't find the Grey Lady unless we look for her, will we?" Luna replied, sounding genuinely puzzled by Ron's reaction.
"So we just walk around until we find her?" Neville asked disbelievingly.
"Of course," Luna replied. "She's normally never far from Ravenclaw Tower."
With that, the three of them ventured on, wandering through the corridors of Hogwarts, searching for the ghost of Ravenclaw Tower. As they walked, Ron and Neville did their best to act casual, desperately trying to avoid any unwanted attention. Luna, however, seemed completely oblivious to this and she continued chatting merrily to both of them.
"So, Ron," Luna asked. "Did you have a good Christmas?"
"What?" Ron blurted. "It was… err… good."
"Oh, that is good!" Luna replied happily. "I enjoyed spending time with Daddy. He even started to teach me how to Apparate!"
"Oh…" Ron began. "Don't you have…"
"Ssh, Ronald," Luna interrupted.
Ron could only stand there in silent amazement. One minute Luna was talking for England and the next minute she was telling him to be quiet!
Luna held up her hand to silence him. Then, suddenly, she set off at a run, forcing Ron and Neville to chase after her. They ran down the corridor and rounded the next corner before Luna stopped.
"Madam!" she called up the corridor. "Madam!"
Then Ron saw it. Floating midway down the corridor that stretched out in front of them was a ghost. A female ghost he assumed to be the Grey Lady. Upon hearing Luna's voice, the ghost froze and, turning gracefully on the spot, floated back down the corridor towards them.
"Yes, my dear," the ghost spoke, her attention directed firmly on Luna.
"My lady," Luna replied. "We need some help. We need to know anything that you can tell us about the lost diadem."
"You…" the Grey Lady replied. "You and these Gryffindors wish to know of my mother's diadem?"
"Yes!" Ron exclaimed.
"I am afraid," she said, suddenly turning around, "that I cannot help you."
"WAIT!" Ron cried out. "You can't just go!"
"I will not reveal my knowledge of the diadem to mere students seeking to use it for their own ends," the Grey Lady replied disdainfully.
"But, Madam," Luna answered quickly before Ron could respond. "This isn't for the advancement of our knowledge. It's to help in the fight against…" Luna hesitated, "…Voldemort."
Ron felt himself involuntarily tense at the mention of his name; he couldn't believe Luna had said the name. However, it seemed to have done the trick because the Grey Lady had paused. They seemed to have grabbed her attention again.
"We've been given a mission," Luna began conspiratorially. "Recovering the diadem would help those fighting against him… that is… if you want to oppose him?"
"I…" the Grey Lady responded. "Of course I want him gone."
"So you'll help us?" Ron asked in amazement. He couldn't believe how Luna had been able to change the ghost's mind so quickly.
"I…I will. You see, the diadem bestows wisdom, but I doubt that it would greatly increase anyone's chances of defeating the wizard who calls himself the Dark Lord."
"That's not…" Ron began, planning on protesting that wearing it wasn't their plan, but then he realised he didn't actually know what Harry's plan was, or why he wanted artifacts of the founders. He paused, wracking his brain for something to tell the ghost. "The important thing is that You-Know-Who doesn't get his hands on it!"
At this, the ghost of Helena Ravenclaw wailed pathetically and, as she cried, she seemed to shimmer and become more transparent.
"Then all is lost!" she wailed. "He already has it!"
"What?!" Ron practically shouted. How had he beaten them to it?
"You see, I stole the diadem from my mother. I sought to make myself cleverer, more important than my mother. I ran away with it. My mother, they say, never admitted that the diadem was gone, but pretended that she had it still. She concealed her loss, my dreadful betrayal, even from the other founders of Hogwarts.
"Then my mother fell ill — fatally ill. In spite of my perfidy, she was desperate to see me one more time. She sent a man who had long loved me, though I spurned his advances, to find me. She knew that he would not rest until he had done so.
"He tracked me to the forest where I was hiding. When I refused to return with him, he became violent. The Baron was always a hot-tempered man. Furious at my refusal, jealous of my freedom, he stabbed me."
"The Baron? You mean—?" Neville exclaimed.
"The Bloody Baron, yes," said the Grey Lady, and she lifted aside the cloak she wore to reveal a single dark wound in her white chest.
"When he saw what he had done, he was overcome with remorse. He took the weapon that had claimed my life, and used it to kill himself. All these centuries later, he wears his chains as an act of penitence… as he should," she added bitterly.
"What about the diadem?" Ron questioned intently.
"It remained where I had hidden from the Baron. It is concealed inside a hollow tree."
"Where is this tree?"
"A forest in Albania. A lonely place I thought was far beyond my mother's reach."
"Albania…" Ron replied in disappointment. He wasn't even sure where Albania was.
"Where does You-Know-Who come into this?" Neville asked.
The Grey lady just stood there, not responding to Neville's question. Instead, she seemed to shimmer once more, becoming far more transparent than she normally was.
"Please tell us, my lady," Luna spoke again, taking Ron by surprise.
"You," she began, very softly, "you're not the first people I've told this story to."
"You told You-Know-Who?" Luna exclaimed.
The lady seemed to sigh, and she sank down towards the floor until she was almost submerged in it.
"He wasn't a Dark Lord… at least not then… I had no idea. He was… flattering. He seemed to… to understand… to sympathize. "
"You told You-Know-Who where you hid the diadem?" Ron blurted. How could she have done that!
"Ron!" Luna exclaimed angrily, then, turning back to the ghost she continued, "My lady…"
"I knew you wouldn't understand!" the Grey Lady screamed at Ron.
Then, before any of them could say anything else, the ghost turned on the spot and sped off down the corridor at a tremendous speed, her cries echoing down the corridor after her.
"Well done, Ron!" Neville snapped at him. "Now we won't get anything else out of her!"
"What did I do?" Ron argued back. "It wasn't as if she was going to tell us anything else anyway!"
The three of them stood there in silence, as they tried to digest what they had just been told.
"She said," Ron began, "that she told You-Know-Who before he was a Dark Lord, so does that mean it was years ago?"
"Before we born, probably," Neville answered.
"So, it can't have been the diadem that Harry is after. Not if he's had it all these years," Ron surmised. "He only asked us to look for things in Hogwarts, and the diadem hasn't been at Hogwarts for years."
Neville nodded in agreement. "But that just leaves us with the Sorting Hat then, unless we can find out anything about the sword of Gryffindor or Hufflepuff's cup."
"Do you Gryffindors know anything about the sword?" Luna asked suddenly.
Ron shook his head. "We need to look again in the library."
"Well," Luna continued, "I was thinking. Most Ravenclaws know of the existence of the diadem, so maybe someone from the DA who's in Hufflepuff might know about the cup?"
"Yes!" Ron exclaimed. "That's brilliant!"
"We have a meeting coming up soon. Let's ask around then," Neville added.
"I don't want too many people finding out about our mission, though," Ron said. Despite the massive help that Luna had been, he still didn't want to let anyone else in on the plan. "The more who know, the more likely Snape will find out."
January 11th 1998
Ron waited anxiously just inside the Room of Requirement. With a bit of luck, Susan Bones would be arriving a few minutes early for the DA meeting. Ron had wanted to try and talk to her before the meeting, so he hoped she had taken his note seriously. The last thing he wanted was the entire DA hearing what he was asking and then gossiping about it.
He did feel guilty that he was keeping this from the DA, but then, this was extremely serious and he couldn't afford for the Carrows or Snape to find out what he was after.
Five minutes before the DA meeting was due to start, the door to the Room of Requirement slowly opened and a head appeared through the gap between the doors.
Once Susan had seen him, she and Hannah Abbot, also from the DA, quickly let themselves into the room. Even though Ron had said he only wanted to speak to her, he was secretly pleased that she had brought someone else with her. After all, safety in numbers was important.
"Hi," Ron said. "Thanks for coming."
"Ron," Susan replied uncertainly, "what's going on? Why did you want to see me?"
"I…" Ron hesitated, debating whether he should ask Hannah to leave. "I… err… need to ask you something."
The Hufflepuffs stood there, looking at him expectantly.
"Do you know anything about any artefacts that once belonged to Hufflepuff?" Ron asked, finally deciding that there wasn't much risk in asking Hannah as well.
"You mean like Hufflepuff's cup?" Hannah questioned.
"Yes!" Ron replied enthusiastically. "What do you know about it?"
"Not much," Susan began. "Professor Sprout told us about it once. Apparently it was passed down through the Hufflepuff family and when the family died out it passed to the Smith family, but then it vanished."
"Vanished?" Ron asked, feeling disappointment. Yet another dead end!
"Yes," Hannah continued. "It just vanished, apparently not that long ago."
"Well, no," Hannah continued. "Fifty years or so, I think, but…" she laughed, "that is recently compared to when Hufflepuff was actually alive."
"Yeah. I suppose," Ron replied in disappointment. "Well, thanks for coming and," he hesitated, "I guess the rest of the DA will be here in a few minutes."
While they waited, the two Hufflepuff girls chatted between themselves, but Ron didn't attempt to join in. He needed to come up with the next step in their plan. They hadn't found anything on any of the other possible artefacts, so Ginny and Harry must be after the Sorting Hat.
Now all he had to do was figure out how to get it.
Ginny January 12th 1998
For the first time in what felt like years, Ginny was actually inside the boundaries of her home. She was back at The Burrow!
She was actually hiding under the Cloak just inside the wall of her family's property. Her job in the grand plan that she and Adam had come up with was to delay her father just long enough so that he would arrive after the Auror that was routinely on guard at the entrance to the Ministry had left. The real trick was that she had to avoid being detected. Ginny knew the house was still being watched.
Ginny had worked out that, if possible, she needed to delay her dad for at least half an hour. She didn't think she would be able to delay him that long, but it was a goal. The longer she could delay him, the easier things would be for Adam.
Her first step had been to jam up the gate. When her dad came along, he wouldn't be able to open it. That should at least buy her a few minutes. The second thing she had done was, using the Aguamenti Charm, she'd turned the path immediately in front of the gate into mud. Hopefully her dad would try and dry it before his shoes became all dirty. If both of those didn't delay him enough… well, Ginny had more ideas up her sleeve.
As it turned out, her dad did her a massive favour by leaving for work ten minutes late. He left the house and began walking towards the gate where Ginny was currently hidden.
"What!" she heard him exclaim as his feet squelched in the mud she had created.
At the sound of her father's voice, Ginny froze, feeling a strange overpowering desire to run up and hug him. But she couldn't. She mustn't. Instead, she took comfort from being in his presence, and just being able to hear his voice.
Ginny shook herself out of her reverie a few minutes later to realise that her father had already moved past the mud and was now trying to open the gate.
"Those boys…" she heard her father muttering. "Isn't the time for pranks…"
Ginny had a stifle a giggle at this point. Her dad thought that her tricks to delay him were the twin's pranks! That's a big complement!
Then, with a sigh and a swift flick of his wand, her dad opened the gate and mused, "Clever…"
Ginny was now worried. She had used her two best ideas and, even including the fact that dad left the house late, she had only managed to delay him fifteen minutes.
In a last-ditch effort, Ginny took out her wand and, using the levitation charm, levitated a nearby bush. She didn't actually levitate it, but just caused it to shake.
Her father, hearing the strange noise, went over to investigate, but, finding nothing, he quickly stopped searching.
Desperate now for some other way to delay him, Ginny picked up a nearby pebble and lobbed it towards her dad. It missed him, impacting on the ground near his feet.
Her dad hardly even reacted to it. He just stood there looking around, obviously trying to pick out the source of the mischief.
"I don't know who's doing this, but I'm afraid I don't have time right now," he said, and to Ginny's surprise, she thought she heard a tinge of regret in his voice. "I have to get to work."
Then, with those words, her dad turned on the spot and Disapparated. Ginny had only delayed him eighteen minutes. She hoped it was enough.
Adam January 12th 1998
Adam was waiting anxiously in the alley that Ministry workers Apparated to every morning. In order to be certain of avoiding detection, Adam had arrived early, very early, and as he had given Ginny the Cloak for her part in their plan, Adam had to hide inside a doorway that led off the alley.
Leaving the door slightly open, Adam peered out into the alley. He had to wait nearly half an hour before the first Ministry employee Apparated into the alley and, readying his wand just in case, Adam watched the employee walk down the lane and turn the corner.
Looking at his watch, Adam noticed that it was nearly half past seven. Mr. Weasley normally arrived just before nine, and the Auror normally left half an hour later. If their plan worked, Ginny would delay Mr Weasley so he arrived after the Auror left, if not, then Adam would just have to be extra careful. The main thing was that Mr Weasley arrived after the other Ministry workers had already arrived at work. If they were seen talking, it would be very bad for both of them. Whatever happened, Adam had quite a bit of waiting around to do.
Adam was still waiting, hidden behind the door, when nine o'clock came around and the final few Ministry workers appeared and hurried down the lane. Good. Ginny had obviously succeeded in delaying Mr Weasley for a least a few minutes. Now, all Adam had to do was wait.
Mr Weasley arrived just after quarter past nine and, even though Adam was waiting for him, his arrival took Adam slightly be surprise. Ginny had done excellently, but she hadn't managed to delay him for a full half hour.
Realising that he had to act quickly before Mr Weasley reached the end of the alley, Adam made a loud noise with the door that he was hiding behind. Hopefully, Mr Weasley would come and investigate.
The noise made Mr Weasley stop in his tracks. Taking out his wand, he slowly turned around, scanning the area before his eyes locked onto the door.
Adam waited patiently as Mr Weasley slowly approached the doorway until he paused less than ten paces away.
"Who's there?" he called. "Come out!"
"Mr. Weasley," Adam said as loudly as he dared. "I need to speak to you."
Mr Weasley must have recognized Adam's voice. He closed the distance to the doorway in a matter of a seconds before bursting through.
"Adam," he began, then his expression seemed to fall in disappointment before he continued, "Harry Potter!" he exclaimed. "Sorry, I… I thought you were someone else."
As Adam watched the expression on Mr Weasley's face, he felt a tremendous sense of sadness. For a second, Mr Weasley had looked so happy when he thought he was Adam, but he wasn't Adam, at least not from Mr Weasley's point of view. Right now, he looked like Harry Potter. In fact, he hadn't looked like Adam since he'd fled from Hogwarts.
"Harry," Mr Weasley enquired, "are you okay? What are you doing here?"
"I—" Adam said hesitantly. Now that he was actually talking to Mr Weasley, he couldn't think of what to say.
"Do you have any idea how dangerous it is for you to come here?" Mr Weasley asked anxiously. "Why do you need to speak to me?" Then his face paled. "Has something happened to Ginny?"
"No, no," Adam said hurriedly. "Ginny is fine, in fact…" He felt himself smiling involuntarily. "Did you find yourself delayed this morning?"
"That was Ginny?" Mr Weasley replied, a wide smile appearing on his face.
Adam nodded in response.
"And how is Adam?" Mr Weasley asked, still looking anxious. "You sounded so much like him… when you called out…"
"Mr. Weasley," Adam choked out, "I… Adam's fine, too."
"Good," Mr Weasley replied. "That's good, but if everything's okay, why did you want to see me?"
"Hermione's been captured," Adam said bluntly. "We want to try and rescue her."
"Hermione!" Mr Weasley exclaimed in horror. "That's—That's terrible, but can you really mount a rescue?"
"Yes," Adam quickly responded. "But we need to know where the Muggle-borns are being held."
"Ah," Mr Weasley responded, a tone of distaste coming to his voice. "It's no big secret where they're holding them. Since nearly all the original prisoners have been released and the Dementors have been set free to roam the countryside, they've been using Azkaban."
"Azkaban!" Adam exclaimed in horror. "But that's… I heard it's a horrible place."
Mr Weasley sighed. "It is, but the true horror of it was the concentration of Dementors. Now they've gone, it is considerably more hospitable and now guarded by," he gave a short laugh, "so-called Ministry guards."
"Okay," Adam replied, his mind now racing. With the Dementors gone, they should at least have a chance of rescuing Hermione.
"It won't be easy," Mr Weasley added. "Azkaban is on an island, and the whole place is covered by Anti-Apparition wards. I've only ever been there once myself, so I'm afraid I can't offer much advice, but when I went I used the Floo and ended up in a sort of office. From there, the Aurors took me by some sort of special Portkey to the island. You'll need to find a way to sneak onto the island and then be able to avoid detection while you attempt to rescue Hermione."
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley," Adam responded. They could do this. He was certain of it. It probably wouldn't be the best idea to try to sneak in the way Mr Weasley had used, but once he found the island, he surely he could figure out a way to get there undetected. "That's exactly what I needed to know."
"No problem at all, Harry," Mr Weasley responded politely. "Now I'd better be going before I'm missed. I'm already late enough for work as it is and I'm sure you don't want to hang around here too long."
As Mr Weasley turned to go, Adam felt a sudden powerful sense of regret. Despite everything, he had been looking forward to talking to Mr Weasley again, but even though he had been friendly and helpful, it just wasn't the same. Mr Weasley had treated him as an acquaintance, not as… as the member of the family he'd treated him like before.
Adam was suddenly overcome with the urge to completely open up to him, but he couldn't, even though he wanted to. He knew he would have to face telling the Weasleys soon, but couldn't just blurt it out here, where they could be discovered by the Aurors at any minute.
At least he had the information he came for and could now begin planning Hermione's rescue.
"Good bye, Mr Weasley," Adam finished numbly, as Mr Weasley began moving back towards the door and the alleyway that lead to the Ministry.
As Mr Weasley ducked out of the door, Adam wondered to himself, how different would things have been if he'd told the Weasleys last year as Dumbledore had suggested?
Beta's Note: Some of the dialogue from Ron's talk with the Grey Lady is paraphrased from "Chapter Thirty-One: The Battle of Hogwarts" in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.