"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 s