Cho Chang/Harry Potter Hermione Granger/Viktor Krum Original Female Witch/Ron Weasley
Harry Potter
Action Suspense
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 02/06/2003
Updated: 02/18/2003
Words: 264,404
Chapters: 34
Hits: 87,813

Harry Potter and the Flying Squad

Horst Pollmann

Story Summary:
Fifth year in Hogwarts. Even before terms start, Harry is involved in the defence against an evil attack from the Dark Forces, something which ``later will be called 'The Hogwarts Express Accident' ...``In Hogwarts, many things are different - most of all, the joining of all four``Quidditch teams in the 'Flying Squad', for patrol and exploration services.``For Harry, this looks like a path toward Cho Chang, except that - well, ``maybe this should really be left to the story itself ...``At any rate, expect Giants, Goblins, and house-elves to play their roles in ``this fic - as well as some new characters.

Chapter 11 - Allies and Enemies

Chapter Summary:
The new Defence against the Dark Arts teacher gives a remarkable inauguratory speech, which causes quite some trouble for Harry. However, this is nothing compared to the trouble he has soon afterwards, when a minor attack from the Dark Forces leads to a reorganization of the Flying Squad ...
Author's Note:
If this fic is truly English, then it's thanks to the efforts of two people:

11 - Allies and Enemies

The Gryffindor fifth years gathered for their first Defence against the Dark Arts class with the new teacher. Coming into the classroom, they found him waiting patiently behind his desk, making the space look as if it had narrowed since the last time they'd seen it.

He watched them sit down, then started, "Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My - "

The giggling made him stop. He waited a moment, examining the students' faces.

"We are still strangers to each other," he said then. "That was the best I could find in my freshly achieved memory. However - " another pause until the laughter ebbed, "in my native country, students your age count as adults, so they expect to be addressed properly. I tend to see you that way, particularly because our next topic is more on the adult side."

The announcement stirred a wave of murmurs. Anticipation was growing in everyone's face.

Drilencu seemed in no hurry. "It is good tradition to start a new assignment with an inaugural lecture. Since that's our first class together, I'll gladly stick to the habit and present an outline of what's going to keep us occupied for quite some time. You might call it an eye-catcher - although I'd also appreciate if you lend me your ear, young lady!"

Parvati Patil stopped whispering to Lavender Brown and twisted around, flushing.

The teacher continued in normal tone. "What I'm trying to say is that there'll be no homework from today, also there's no need to write all the time because we'll come back to all of it."

Hermione was still holding her quill, head tilted to her parchment. When Drilencu didn't continue, she glanced up to see him watching her. Quickly, she dropped the quill and sat upright.

"You might do me a favour in return. Please ask as much as you can, and start your questions with your full name. When I call you by your name first, please take it as the signal to stop with it."

Harry felt amazed. This funny-looking newcomer hadn't even started to speak about his topic, and yet his grip easily held them as tight as that of Professor McGonagall. More comfortable, yes, but -

"Over the past years," explained Drilencu, "I have dedicated my special interest to our new topic. Quite naturally so, you might say, since the southern and eastern parts of Europe are their territory more than here around. Before you give up hope that I'll ever come to the point: I'm talking about Veela and Vampires."

The room had been quiet before, but now the silence was that of astonishment.

Hermione, naturally, recovered first, raising her arm.

Drilencu nodded at her.

"Hermione Granger. Professor Drilencu, why did you put them together?"

"Thank you, Miss Granger. Before I answer, please let me add something I forgot to mention." He looked at the class.

"It simply takes too much time to say my title plus my name, in addition to the fact that, in your language, it sounds more like borrowed footwear. So ..." He let the giggling fade. "Just drop it - or, if you are in dire need of something other than Hey you, call me Prof."

The class gawked, unsure whether giggling wasn't too impolite.

Drilencu turned to Hermione. "Why both together, Miss Granger? Because they have much in common - as different as the details might look. The first common factor is quite obvious; they both start with a 'V'."

Some students laughed. Not so Hermione, who drew a face at this answer, not bothering to hide it.

Drilencu's expression didn't change. "The second common factor is the context in which Veela and Vampires gain and use power that looks magical. This context is the adult part - sex."

The class froze.

Nobody dared look anywhere but forward, partly for fear of being watched and teased afterwards for their astonished face, partly to avoid seeing such faces.

Hermione leaned back. Looking at her, Harry could hardly avoid the feeling that her question had been a test.

"We'll use that word more often," said Drilencu, "although today I just want to set some spotlights on myths and rumours that go with these creatures. So let's start separating fact from fiction. I've numbered them. Don't bother with the sequence; it's more by accident than anything else."

He used his left hand to spread his right thumb. "Myth number one. Veela and Vampires have magical power ... Fact or fiction?"

Nobody wanted to answer.

Harry wondered if Hermione really didn't know or, for a change, didn't want to appear as a you-know-what.

"Unclear," answered Drilencu his own question. "Fact is, reliable proof of true magical power is still missing. Fact is, they can inflict extreme power through chemicals, injected in the bloodstream by Vampires and spread into the air by Veela. The technical term for the latter is pheromone; a Veela victim looks like a sex maniac - although the most accurate term would be pheromoniac."

An arm was up. "Lavender Brown. Prof - er, what's a maniac?"

Harry turned to watch Hermione's arm shoot up. He wasn't disappointed while she was: Drilencu let Ron answer.

It came as a real surprise to Harry, probably it had to do with Ron's Muggle literature.

"Ron Weasley. A maniac is an acute case of a mania. A mania is the suffering from an obsession, such as, um ..." Ron flushed.

"Correct, Mr Weasley. By the way, don't be disappointed because I'm not spreading Gryffindor points through the air. It would be unfair to give points while no homework."

This turned out to be the teacher's first command that wasn't followed. Murmurs of protest indicated a different view of fairness among the students.

Drilencu wasn't impressed. "Myth number two, Veela are animals ... Fact or fiction?"

Harry's arm flew up into the air by itself. "Wrong - er, fiction, I mean ... Sorry, Harry Potter's my name."

The class laughed.

Drilencu didn't. "Proof, Mr Potter?"

"They can ... Veela can ... Humans and Veela can have children." Harry felt his cheeks burn.

"Correct, Mr Potter. The term you were looking for is, 'They can mate.' Please note," said Drilencu to the class, "the ability to have sex with them wouldn't be sufficient; only a child who survives and can have children of its own is proof."

The class was starting to get used to the three-letter word. Harry's cheeks felt normal again.

Drilencu spread his next finger. "Myth number three, Vampires are immortal, unless you find a way to kill them ... Fact or fiction?"

Another arm. "Seamus Finnigan. It's fiction - although I can't prove it. Everybody thinks it's true, so I guessed ..." Seamus' voice trailed off.

"Judge your own guess, Mr Finnigan." Drilencu held his hand out in front of him as though weighing two things. "Truly immortal, no. De facto immortal, sometimes - Vampires are revitalized by the blood of certain victims. We'll come to the details later; I don't want you to drown in this new territory."

Drilencus face was even, while Harry could hear Hermione suppressing a giggle.

"Myth number four, Veela are, if not animals, but stupid like animals."

Forestalling any protest, Drilencu added, "Let's not discuss whether animals are stupid, let's just agree some are. Anyway, fact or fiction?"

It was Harry's turn to raise an arm without luck.

"Neville Longbottom. Fiction."

"Proof, Mr Longbottom?"

Neville surprised Harry again. "Our Beauxbatons Liaison Officer, Fleur Delacour."

In most other classes, the answer would have caused a short tumult, more so because Neville had been giving it. Not here.

Drilencu smiled for the first time in a while. "Proof accepted, Mr Longbottom, thank you. Yes, the intelligence of Veela is in the human range. The myth probably stems from the fact that they don't use it very often. Yes, Miss Granger?"

"Why not, Prof - erm?"

"To survive, you'll use what works best. Thinking hurts, so if you have someting better - "

Watching Hermione's look, Drilencu said, "Well, some people feel more pain, some less. Anyway, if you have something better, for instance Veela power to let someone else do the work, there's no need."

Parvati Patil had a fit of giggles. Harry saw Hermione's jaws going tense.

The teacher's voice stopped both of them. "That raises another question. Can you see it? ... Yes?"

"Dean Thomas. Does it make them parasites?"

"Precisely, Mr Thomas. What's the answer? ... Miss Granger?"

"Yes, of course." Hermione looked satisfied at her indirect remark to Parvati's hidden insult.

"Wrong, Miss Granger. Science defines a parasite as a creature requiring a host to exist. Veela survive without a host. Whether a parasite is just taking without ever giving is irrelevant - some do, some don't. The term is badly misused for prejudices and insults."

Oh, what a bitter moment for Hermione. Defeated with her own weapon, she sat tight-lipped in her seat, glaring at the teacher, who continued shredding myths to pieces.

Was it true that garlic protected against Vampires? Not really, garlic disintegrated the revitalizing effect of a victim's blood and made it useless, so there was a limited protection ... Did daylight kill Vampires? No, only unreflected sun rays quickly decomposed the life-preserving substance in them ... Did Veela power work only on males? Basically yes, details to be discussed later ... Did crosses or rosaries protect against Vampires? Not if the Vampire was a Jew or Muslim ... Did a piece of wood, driven through the heart, kill a Vampire? Certainly so, same as with any other human or non-human.

The other students, including Harry, listened in fascination.

Close to the end, Hermione had recovered enough to ask a final question. "If none of them have true magical power, what's the reason for this topic?"

It was the final blow. "I thought it's obvious," answered Drilencu. "This is Defence against the Dark Arts, neither Care of Magical Creatures nor Defence against Black Magic. Veela and Vampires are quite artful, and their power involves enough elements that can be counted as dark ... It will be our task to figure out if the dark elements are ours or theirs."

* * *

The last milestone of the Giants project was scheduled after classes but still before supper. It wasn't supposed to take long; the narrow time frame was barely enough, leaving the rest of the day for other duties. Ron in particular had insisted; this schedule would enable him to dedicate the full evening to his organization project which - in contrast to the Giants' O.W.L. - still held all the glamour of an adventure.

The milestone's agenda spanned just two items: delivering the completed papers of the first six sections, and deciding about the split of the last one. Keeping their speed, they would finish the last line by January.

At the beginning of the school year, an O.W.L. in store even before the signing deadline was due would have looked like a dream to Harry. Today, however, it felt more like a threat. What to do afterwards? Leisure time was great - unless your friends kept working like house-elves on their additional O.W.L.s.

"All right," said Ron, "papers completed? Fine. I think we can handle them like books, with a list who's borrowing them out and so. Here, I've prepared one."

He presented a parchment. "Is it okay to keep it in my office, together with the papers? Myrtle can be our librarian."

Harry stared. Ron the manager in full action - that was something new, and not entirely pleasant. He seemed to be alone with his feelings; Hermione looked appreciative.

"But ... somehow I thought we could read them any time," Harry said lamely.

"Nice idea," replied Ron, "only a tiny little problem: where's the copier?"

Harry bit his lips. It had been a stupid thought, and Ron had made it clear to everybody without using a word of insult. Looking at him, he saw it hadn't come by accident.

"Talking about copiers," said Ron, "I wish we had something like that. In those books, they seem like the absolute minimum of office equipment, and here?"

Hermione said thoughtfully, "There are magic copiers - "

"Really? Tell me."

Ron's hand already held a quill, another detail which enervated Harry. Always ready, always the busy assistant ...

"Ask your bank first," said Hermione with a dismissing gesture. "They cost a fortune. The original is hexed to make the ink iridescent, then they run it through a grid of - "

"Forget it," interrupted Ron. "Hogwarts has no money for it." He looked around. "So it's okay with our papers in the office?"

They nodded.

"Then we come to the last part," announced Hermione.

To Harry, it seemed as though her satisfaction with Ron's business style hadn't lasted long. A milestone without Hermione doing at least half of the directing probably counted as a disaster, still more so after the unlucky episode in the Defence class.

Hermione took a parchment from her bag.

"I've prepared a split into three parts, pretty balanced I'd say. The first cut is after the break-off between Giants and wizards ... second cut after last year, which makes negotiations, contracts, and events since then the third part. If you agree to my offer, we can settle it right now."

"Wouldn't it make us parasites?" asked Harry. "Using your work?" It came out without thinking, the result of hidden anger.

For a second, Hermione didn't understand, then she looked hurt.

Ron chuckled. "Can't be, Harry - we aren't Veela. By the way, are there male Veela? Must be - probably most of them in Bulgaria."

Hermione was close to tears. She grabbed the parchment, about to tear it apart. Suddenly, she threw it across the table.

"You are so funny, you two, I could roll over from laughing. So that moustached gorilla has caught me giving a wrong answer, huh? Because that hollow-head Parvati provoked me? Must have made your day ... All year long, you can blurt out the worst nonsense and nobody cares. But woe me saying ..."

Her head fell into her hands, her face hidden.

Ron's expression showed consternation and guilt. Harry felt sick with shame. His stupid anger had spoiled the evening! He looked at the parchment.

Hermione, still head down, grabbed for her bag -

"Wait," said Harry.

Hermione's hand rested on the bag. She didn't move, didn't look up.

"I'm sorry. It was a stupid remark."

He took the parchment and folded it. "Thanks for the structuring. I'll do it alone."

An instant earlier, he hadn't known what to say or what to do. It had come as a reflex.

"You're mental!" Ron's hand waved through the air. "What about me? I mean, we did it - "

"Save it," said Harry. "It's okay, I have my reasons. At least," he added with a fleeting grin, "it'll teach me a lesson - to leave stupid remarks to more qualified people."

Ron looked unsure, still not knowing why Harry had taken all the blame for himself, plus all the work.

Harry felt grateful for this; he had no intention of ever revealing his secret. Although Hermione might know, considering the expression on her face, in which the eyes still were still red. But this was okay, too; she wouldn't tell Ron.

He felt better by the second. "That's it?" he asked. "Is the stone milled enough?"

Hermione's hand reached again for her bag and finally took it. "Yes," she said.

* * *

Supper was a quiet occasion, if only for Harry and his friends. They ate while enjoying the comfortable mood between them, listening to the other students' animated discussion about the new teacher. Harry was still a little jumpy at the thought of how the meal would have been without him finding the proper solution. Staying silent wasn't too bad, even better when the discussion shifted from the teacher to his new topics and their common background.

Hermione's voice interrupted his thoughts. "By the way, Harry, what's your opinion of our new Defence teacher?"

"Well ..." Harry's mind started to weigh his answer carefully.

"Frightened of burning your mouth again?" Hermione looked challenging. "Okay, I'll help you. I think he's great."

"Really? It didn't seem so - " Harry stopped.

" - in class," completed Hermione. "True, but only toward the end. Let's say it was my own mistake. Otherwise, it was the most brilliant lesson I've heard in a long time."

"He knows what he's talking about," agreed Harry.

"Of course, nobody can compare to Lupin ..."

Harry nodded, then saw the grin spreading in Hermione's face. He flushed.

"I do share your feelings," said Hermione soothingly, "as far as it's possible for me; after all, I don't have your special experience with him, I only profited from it. And that's something I'll never forget - him, I mean," she added before Harry could turn pink. "He gives you the feeling you can do everything, and talk about everything, something Drilencu doesn't do.

"Although" - now her grin was really malicious - "he's going to talk about everything by himself."

Harry gave no reply. In his opinion, some things could be discussed only with Fleur, a fact he would hide from Hermione even under torture. He welcomed the interruption from Ron, who went for his office work.

They finished their meal with less haste, Harry being grateful when Hermione didn't stress the issue.

After supper, he fetched his papers and took them to Ron's office. Myrtle was as helpful as possible, which wasn't much - papers handed to her would simply fall to the floor. Hermione had given him the list of books she'd prepared; this seemed a good time to check through the library.

Passing the staircase to Dumbledore's rooms, Harry noticed a shape, which waved at him. Looking up, his step broke abruptly. There stood Sirius, holding a finger at his lips.

"Harry - you're the one I was looking for. Please keep quiet and come over."

Harry walked to him. Before he could do anything close to a hug, he was pulled upstairs.

On the landing with the gargoyle, Sirius stopped. Turning, he extracted something from his pocket that looked like a black ribbon or a thin shawl.

"Okay, Harry, good to see you. Listen, Dumbledore sent me to find you. He'd appreciate very much if you'll accept his invitation - and if you'll agree to the special precautions." Sirius held the black thing up. "I have to blindfold you."


"Yes. He has visitors who'd prefer not to be seen by you."

"Why? Who are they?"

When Sirius only held the thing without answering, Harry realized how thoughtless his question had been.

"Baah ... okay, go ahead."

What a strange thing from Dumbledore, Harry thought, while Sirius fastened the scarf around his head, leaving the ears free. He didn't like it much; he had only agreed with the assumption that Dumbledore wouldn't have asked for something like that without good reason. And of course, this was the only way to find out more.

A hand grabbed his shoulder. Sirius' voice said, "Up we go."

Harry climbed stairs, following his memory of the way.

"Watch it - last step," said Sirius.

A knock, then Dumbledore's voice called from inside, "Come in."

A hand pushed him forward, took his shoulder, and steered him through the room. The hand stopped him; a chair touched the back of his knees. "Sit down, Harry."

He obeyed, grabbing for the chair first.

Dumbledore's voice spoke. "Thank you, Mr Potter, for accepting this unusual invitation." The smile came through the voice. "It was certainly helpful to let Sirius make the request."

Harry nodded, then forced himself to overcome the odd feeling of talking blindfolded. "Er - yes, Professor Dumbledore."

"Harry, my next request is even more unusual."

Dumbledore changing to his first name, that reminded him of the meeting in the summer break, and why the Headmaster -

"Our visitors asked me for a detailed report of the events that resulted in Voldemort coming to full life again. I followed that demand as much as possible. For the critical evening, however" - Dumbledore's voice hesitated - "you're the most qualified witness."

Dumbledore paused to let his words sink in.

Harry suppressed the urge to check his ears. The message was clear enough; Dumbledore was asking him to talk about that evening again!

"Please believe me, Harry, I know what I'm asking you. All I can say is that I have good reason, and I hope you trust my judgment."

Which visitors might ask for that? Harry felt at a loss to come up with the slightest idea. Other wizards? Certainly not; they would be satisfied with Dumbledore's own description. If Dumbledore was asking for so much, the visitors had to be very important. Maybe - probably - some more allies. Ready to help, but not satisfied with Dumbledore's words only. Or just curious to hear the story from himself. They could watch him, but he couldn't see them.

A memory came up, something Mr Weasley had said. "Professor Dumbledore, I trust you ... and basically I'm ready to tell the story, but not blindfolded."

"Harry," came Dumbledore's voice, "it would make things a lot easier that way. Why not?"

"Some advice from Mr Weasley. 'Never trust anything that can think for itself, if you can't see where it keeps its brain.' I can't see anything."

A pause, then Dumbledore's voice. "Gentlemen, I respect Mr Potter's view - or the lack of it, and I feel the implicit obligation in trustworthy hands. What about you?"

A low murmur, unintelligible, strangely familiar.

Dumbledore's voice, "Very good ... Sirius?"

A hand at Harry's head stripping the scarf off.

He blinked, adjusting his eyes to the light. What he saw first was Dumbledore, sitting at the table, inviting Harry to look around.

He did. Goblins!!

"These gentlemen," said the Headmaster, "are representatives of a ... movement in the Goblin Federation, a movement that is willing to ally with us against the Dark Forces."

Dumbledore gave Harry time to take the news before he continued, "It won't surprise you to learn that secrecy is most imperative in this matter. Now you see, and now you know. Harry, this is strictly confidential until told otherwise. Nobody must know about it." Dumbledore spoke each word distinctly, then added almost apologetically, "That's the price of confidence."

Harry nodded and swallowed. Another secret to hide.

Hopefully, routine would do it. Had Dumbledore trapped him? In a way, yes ...

But no, he hadn't. He'd tried to hold the knowledge from him, he'd warned him. Dumbledore wasn't the man to warn twice. Harry had insisted, and Dumbledore had treated him like a reasonable adult. He was the second one today. Why did it feel like betrayal to be treated like an adult?

"Please begin with the portkey in the maze," said the Headmaster.

Harry started to speak. He had told the story not long ago, which was helpful in presenting an orderly report.

His audience were six Goblins of different ages, sitting nearly motionless. They watched him, studied him.

His mind had time to study them in reverse. Leathery faces, one of them clearly older than the others, the Goblin equivalent of Dumbledore but beardless, the long fingers calmly on the table in front of him.

Coming to his conclusion, Harry's focus retreated to the pictures in his memory. Involuntarily, his voice echoed the emotions, gained speed while his speech became more chopped.

"... ran to the portkey. The others were hunting me ... Voldemort cried to stun me ... But only stun, 'He's mine,' he called ... I slowed some of them with a spell. Then I called the portkey and took Ced ... Cedric's corpse and came back ... That's it."

He looked at his feet, exhaling.

"Mr Potter."

It was the old Goblin. "We are in your debt for your cooperation, and we'll find a way to express our thanks properly. Be assured that your contribution to our meeting here is kept as confidential as anything else of this evening."

The old face moved. Goblins were difficult to read, so Harry couldn't make out much; at least it didn't look like disappointment.

The Goblin spoke again. "It was a wise man who gave you that advice. We feel respect for your principles. We feel satisfied with the decisions, yours and ours."

It sounded like a goodbye. Harry stood up and did the only thing that felt right - he bowed, then turned to Dumbledore, who nodded and indicated Sirius to escort him out.

Down the staircase, Harry tried to squeeze a little more out of Sirius. He learned no more than what he could have guessed by himself.

"I'm Dumbledore's agent in this business," said Sirius, "that's all I can tell you. Harry, I'm sorry that you're involved so deeply that you can't talk with anyone but me - and I'll be off and away this evening."

He interrupted Harry's protest. "No, I have to go upstairs. And listen, you haven't seen me, right?"

Harry nodded. "At least I can talk with you - when we find the time."

Sirius disappeared upstairs.

After the encounter, the idea of working on the Giants' O.W.L. felt ridiculous to Harry; too much kept whirling through his mind. It seemed a little early for his dormitory, maybe he could check the library for some books about Goblins.

He considered what that old guy had said, about expressing their thanks. What could it mean? With Goblins, probably money, that was more likely than a large box of sweets ... Wouldn't hurt, although he couldn't do anything with it here, certainly not play generous, as the source of the money was part of the secret.

He felt like a spy. Had Snape earned money? Maybe it would be just a letter with some weird Goblin diploma, or the Order of the Purple Vault or something like that. And he couldn't talk about it. Suddenly he felt like the twins after Ron had been appointed Prefect.

* * *

Some days later, on his way to the lunch table, Harry passed Ron's office. Glancing in, he saw Ron talking with a man. When Ron looked up, the man turned and, seeing him, smiled broadly.

"Harry!" It was Bill Weasley.

"Bill - what a surprise!"

They shook hands. "Let's go get some lunch," said Bill. "Ron's too busy."

They walked toward the hall. "What's brought you over here?" asked Harry.

"My job, what else? I'm helping Dumbledore with some money business."

Bill worked for Gringotts. Of course, Gringotts was a bank. Run by Goblins.

"Money, huh? Because Dumbledore can't do it alone."

Bill's look met Harry's eyes. Without smiling, he said, "Yes, Harry. Money. That's why I'm here, and that's why I might come more often. Right?"

"Yeah, got it. What else - with lots of parchments and so."

"Exactly." Bill was smiling again. "You got it. So with that out of the way, how are you doing, Harry?"

"Meeting people - all kinds."

"Strange, isn't it? At a place as far off as Hogwarts." Bill hadn't asked which people. So he knew, although not from Ron.

They reached the Gryffindor table.

"This is Ron," announced Harry. "The office job is aging him more than you'd expect."

A few students looked perplexed - no doubt this was a Weasley. The twins hurried to provide a proper introduction, then asked why Bill had come.

"Money business," answered Bill, giving the twins the opportunity to tell everybody about Bill's job at Gringotts, and that he was the only family member in decent distance to some fortunes - without finding enough family sense to leave a vault open for his brothers to benefit.

Nobody thought it unusual to find Bill here.

Ron didn't even come for a few bites. They talked about Hogwarts, about life in other places.

Fleur strolled by. "Salu, 'arry. 'as Ron given up eating?" She looked at Bill, who occupied Ron's place.

"Hi, Fleur. Bill, Fleur Delacour is our Liaison Officer with Beauxbatons. Fleur, Bill Weasley is the oldest of the Weasley gang."

"We saw each other last year," said Fleur.

"Yes," said Bill.

Fleur found a place at the table, right next to Bill. She asked him why he was here, he answered, then asked her about her job, she explained, and they were lost in a conversation that excluded all people around.

Harry watched, feeling admiration. He remembered their glances to each other at the Weasleys' visit just before the third task, and was amazed at how easily some people could walk to a table, sit down, and start talking and laughing and looking great.

They didn't need him, so he decided to take some left-overs to Ron, feeling pleased at the thought of Fleur and Bill.

Coming to the office, he found Ron talking with Viktor. Both of them looked worried.

Harry placed the dish at the table. "Here, some food for you ... Something wrong?"

"The pre-lunch patrol is late - more than late, actually. Viktor's going to trace back their route."

Harry checked times. How long had they been lunching? Twenty minutes? "Which route?"

"Normal," replied Ron. "Giants - Dragons - back."

"I'll fetch Cho." Harry turned. "Viktor - if you're going to scan counter-clockwise, we'll do the same from the other side, okay?"

Viktor nodded, already leaving.

Ron looked at Harry and nodded. "Be careful. Maybe I should ask Dumbledore first, but ... It's cold outside."

Harry rushed back. Reaching the hall, he saw Cho still sitting at the Ravenclaw table, talking with Almyra. He walked over, almost running.

Cho looked up and saw him approaching. When he reached the table, she was already up.

"Cho, Almyra, hi. The patrol's late. Viktor's scanning their route backward. I told him that we'll do the other direction. Okay?"

Cho wasted no time. "See you outside."

She went to get her cloak and broomstick. Harry did the same.

They flew at medium speed in the direction of the Giants' camp, scanning the ground with their eyes.

At first, Harry had tried to use his Firebolt's superior speed for serpentines along the main course, to cover a wider track to both sides. It didn't work, and he realized immediately how this technique narrowed his viewing angle down to single spots. A race flyer couldn't watch the landscape.

Now they kept as much distance between them front to back as from side to side, with Harry in front. Empty soil and leafless trees or bushes didn't make it particularly difficult at this time of the day, with a milky sun hanging behind a haze of clouds. There was nothing that looked like a Squad member.

They reached the camp in which, over the months, wooden huts had replaced the former tents. Harry swerved down to Hagrid's spot, stalled, and jumped to the ground.

"HAGRID!" He hammered at the door.


He called again, listening. Trying the handle, the door opened. Inside, Hagrid's large figure was rising from a bedplace of woodwork and straw.

"Harry!" Hagrid yawned. "What yeh doin' here? Yer' scarin' the craws with that racket of yers." He scratched his hair, stretching.

"We're looking for our patrol - the one before lunch. Did they pass by?"

"Dunno. Bin sleepin'."

The full meaning of Harry's words made its way into Hagrid's sleepy mind. "What - "

But Harry was already dashing out. He checked around, looking for the hut of the chief Giant. All he knew about him was his name: Lleyrin the Fist. The thought of talking with a Giant made his mouth a bit dry, only he had no choice, not with Hagrid being just too slow in a situation like that.

He took his Firebolt and started to walk. Almost having reached the next hut, he recognized Cho coming around the corner.

"They've been here," she said and pointed backward. "I asked Lleyrin, and he asked someone else, and yes, he's seen them."

Cho's face showed nothing but concentration. Small as she was, talking with huge figures seemed to be a life-long habit in which a Giant just marked the top of the range.

"Let's go," she said, mounting her Comet.

They jumped in the air, circled cross-wise round the camp, and followed the course toward the dragons' nests. This area contained more trees, so they had to slow down in order to find enough time for scanning without a stop in mid-air.

Passing the top of a small rising, Harry saw a black dot in the distance ahead. The dot grew to a comma, then the comma glittered in the sunlight. It was a broomstick flyer, drawing a circle in the air. Coming closer, they recognized Viktor.

Then Viktor had seen them and pushed his own Firebolt. Next moment, he was there and had stopped. "I haff found them ... They're lying on the ground."

"What's wrong?" asked Harry. Lying on the ground didn't sound good.

"I don't know ... Alone, I didn't want to be caught in the same trap." Viktor gestured. "Listen. We fly over. I go down, you watch. Stay in the air. If something gets me, you two go and tell Dumbledore. Don't come down. If I wafe, Cho comes down. Harry, you stay away. Okay?"

Harry said, "Let me - "

"NO!" shouted Viktor. "You haff the faster broomstick, and this is a command, know what that is? Go!"

With a sideways falling movement, Viktor turned and sped up.

They followed.

Viktor let them close in, then pointed downward. "See?"

There was a group of trees, and at their feet they could recognize a lumpy shape. Coming closer, the shape divided into two.

Viktor called, "Wait!" and dived down.

When Viktor reached the spot he stopped, checking around. He dismounted, walked to the shapes, and knelt over them. When he straightened, he turned and held an arm upward, thumb up. So they were alive.

Viktor waved at Cho.

She swerved down and reached him. Harry saw her doing much the same as Viktor before. They talked. Cho reached in her cloak, the movement of a wizard getting a wand ready. Viktor held her, shook his head. They talked more.

Cho mounted her broomstick, flew up, and reached Harry. "They are alive. They don't look hurt, but unconscious. Viktor doesn't want anyone but Dumbledore or Pomfrey to try anything on them."

She pointed down at Viktor. "He stays with them. I'm going to call Lleyrin to come with two Giants, to carry those two back to Hogwarts. You go and tell Ron and Dumbledore."

Cho was about to push forward.

"Who are they?" asked Harry, pointing down to the scene on the ground.

"The Hufflepuff Beaters," answered Cho. "Now GET LOST!" She pushed her Comet into the air and flew off.

Harry did as he'd been told.

It was probably the first time flying something like patrol at the full speed of his Firebolt. The cold air drove tears in his eyes and wiped them off immediately. He checked landmarks, holding the approximate direction to the school.

Reaching Hogwarts' surroundings, he saw that his course would take him to the left of the school. Bending to the right, he corrected in a wide curve at full speed. The buildings came into view, with tiny figures at the entrance. Harry shot down, aiming point blank toward the entrance. Seconds before crashing, he stalled, doing it at the very last moment. Some figures stepped aside in panic, while others waited calmly. As he came to a halt, he realized that those who hadn't moved were other Squad members.

"We've found them! They're alive." He raced past them and upstairs.

Ron waited in the office, Dumbledore with him, and also Flitwick, the Head of Hufflepuff.

Harry gave them the news.

Hearing about the missing Squad members alive had a calming effect. Their eyes lost some worry.

"Good," said Dumbledore. "Harry, please tell Madam Pomfrey to get prepared. Afterwards in class, please tell the teacher that I'm keeping Ron with me." To Ron, he said, "I'm downstairs."

Harry reached the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey asked for details, and he told her what he knew - alive, unconscious, no visible wounds.

"So the hypothermia won't be too bad," muttered the witch and started to prepare for their arrival.

Checking the time, Harry saw that the first afternoon class was due. What a mess. He wouldn't be able to see the Giants arrive.

* * *

Charms was first. The class was waiting for Professor Flitwick - only the one who appeared instead was Professor McGonagall.

She announced that the Charms teacher was busy, then informed the class about the current state of events. "Trying to do a normal Charms lesson would be a lost effort," she said, "so let's take the opportunity and do a cross-over lesson."

She paused to wait for as much attention she would get. "Our topic is how to transport living bodies."

The class was delighted - until McGonagall asked for volunteers to be moved through the air by the other students' spells. As long as the spells had been her own, everybody had wanted an air ride along the floor. But when Hermione got ready for her first try and McGonagall looked around, all students kept busy with their parchments.

"Mr Potter," called McGonagall, "what about you?" She came closer to a grin than Harry had thought possible. " Now's the time to show true friendship."

"All right," sighed Harry, "I'll do it."

The class breathed relief.

"But only for her."

Hermione beamed, and the rest of the class groaned.

What an odd feeling ... The best that could be said, Hermione didn't let him bump, in contrast to the unlucky victims of other students' attempts.

Neville wasn't able to do his turn; not that he wasn't willing, but nobody could be talked into serving as his test object. McGonagall offered ten points for Gryffindor, with no success. Harry came to the conclusion that Viktor's choice of transportation had been the best they could find.

Ron joined them afterwards. He reported that the Giants had arrived - "You should have seen them move!" - and that the two Hufflepuffs were now under treatment from Dumbledore and Pomfrey together. Patrol duty was stopped until they would know more.

In Defence against the Dark Arts, Harry found it difficult to concentrate. While Drilencu spoke about Veela origins, his thoughts drifted off to the memory of the figures on the ground, speculations what might have happened to them, and what the impact on the Flying Squad might be.

At one point, Hermione elbowed him. Paying attention, Harry heard Drilencu talk about male Veela. They existed of course, but they didn't have the female's specific power. It was the only detail Harry remembered of the lesson.

At supper, waiting at the Gryffindor table for the food, Harry watched Ron enter the hall and pass along the tables, talking with Squad members. Then he reached their own table. "Squad meeting afterwards," he announced.

Hardly aware of what he was eating, Harry had trouble tempering his impatience. He ate quickly, trying to slow down when he realized that the meeting wouldn't start until all students had finished - and all teachers. It was unbelievable how slowly they spooned, Dumbledore among the slowest. He tried to squeeze Ron for information.

"Save it, Harry," was the answer. "I don't know much more than you. In a few minutes, we'll hear all of it."

"Then tell me the bit you know."

"You might not believe it, Harry, but I'm hungry!" Ron was chewing again.

Eons passed.

Harry looked at the Ravenclaw table. Cho was eating. Where did she stuff all that food? He checked the Hufflepuff table; the two Beaters weren't there. So they were still in Madam Pomfrey's hands. What did it mean? Hopefully just recovering from the exposure to the cold. Were they awake, or had they been awake? Probably, the meeting announcement seemed to confirm that.

Right now, Ron went for another helping. How could someone be so greedy? Just what you'd expect from office people.

The first students were leaving, thank God for small favours. His own cup was empty again - did the juice evaporate?

Eventually the hall cleared. Quite a few students tried to join in the meeting, only to be driven off with polite words from Dumbledore and more rude pushes from their own housemates.

Ron, of course, was the exception. Armed with parchment and quill, he'd joined Dumbledore and Viktor at the teachers' table. The Squad teams sat together; it was the first time that Harry had sat at the Ravenclaw table. Then Myrtle appeared and took the seat next to Ron.

Dumbledore stood up. "My dear Squad members, let me tell you first that there's nothing confidential in what you'll hear. So you can spread the news afterwards - provided you'll be quicker than the owners of all those ears around." His gaze passed the corners and exits. "This meeting is members only just for the proper atmosphere - and in honour of your service."

The Headmaster looked at the Hufflepuff table. "Our two victims are in good health, that's the most important news. They'll be back tomorrow morning. Madam Pomfrey wants to make sure that the loss of body heat won't leave any permanent damage."

A murmur of satisfaction ran through the Squad.

Dumbledore waited until their attention was back. "Let me tell you, in the proper sequence, what happened. The two were caught in a trap that was as simple as it was efficient. The first of them saw a body lying on the ground. He went down to examine it. The other came down to help him. Next they were both stunned by hidden wizards - maybe under an Invisibility Cloak."

Harry twitched, but Cho at his side didn't notice. Ron didn't look at him.

"... were treated with Veritaserum and then interrogated. The questions were about our internal organization, about the Durmstrang people, and about specific persons."

Harry felt Cho glance at him.

"Then they were stunned again and left in the cold. Thanks to the rescue operation that was triggered in time by Mr Weasley, and thanks to the clear minds of the rescuers led by Mr Krum, they could be saved before suffering more than just exposure."

Harry, like the other Squad members, contemplated how efficiently the Death Eaters had performed their attack. Without setting a foot into Hogwarts, they'd spied it out from top to bottom.

"Before I come to the conclusions," continued Dumbledore, "let me add some more news we've gathered recently. They may not be directly related to the events today, but they are important to understand the decisions we'll take. This information comes from reliable sources, something like an espionage network of our side."

Harry barely managed to suppress a gasp. Of course - the Goblins! Doing the money business in the entire wizarding world, they represented the perfect spies.

Cho had sensed his stirring; she looked at him, then turned back to listen.

"Aside from his global goal to establish the dark power all over the world, Voldemort has three specific targets," explained Dumbledore. "The first is Hogwarts in general and my own person in particular." He smiled. "That's the least of our worries. Currently, Hogwarts is truly a fortress which not only protects its inhabitants but also holds the role of the central counter-power ... We'll make sure to keep it that way."

Sounds of agreement went through the seats. Myrtle beamed; being part of a counter-power was better than anything she'd dreamed of.

"The second target is Professor Snape. He's living proof that it's possible to join the Death Eaters, to detect and correct that mistake, and to damage their strategy successfully."

Dumbledore paused until the murmuring faded.

"Obviously, they could reconstruct that it was his work which enabled us to defeat them so triumphantly at the Hogwarts Express."

Some heads were turning toward Harry.

A hand grabbed his and squeezed it - Cho's hand.

Harry squeezed back, looking steadily at Dumbledore.

"Professor Snape knows about that. It's nothing new to him, and it doesn't hurt his good sleep. What's important in that matter" - Dumbledore's voice rose over another murmur - "is that Voldemort has made it clear to every Death Eater that he wants Professor Snape alive, so Professor Snape's immediate risk is that of being abducted. Still, as he asked me to tell you, he does sleep well."

Shouts of "Yes!" and "Bravo!" came from several places. Looking up, Harry saw that the applause was mostly coming from Slytherins.

"The third target has much in common with the second - it's nothing new, it's another living proof of other defeats, and Voldemort himself wants him alive." Others where already looking at Harry when Dumbledore said, "His name is Harry Potter."

Much in common with Snape - what a strange idea, thought Harry, while waiting patiently for everybody's attention to turn back to the speaker.

"What are the conclusions we have to take from that?" asked Dumbledore, and then answered himself. "First, we've seen our control organization perform successfully in the first serious test. The missing patrol was rescued."

Ron flushed, Myrtle turned silver, and the others applauded enthusiastically.

"The same cannot be said about the discipline in the Squad teams," interrupted Dumbledore in a sharp voice. "Let nobody think he or she wouldn't have fallen to the same trap!"

Silence fell over the Squad. Inwardly, Harry agreed; the trick had been very clever.

"But the same accident also has given us an example of how patrols should work," said Dumbledore, "and what we have to do. Remember, the rescue party also found bodies lying on the ground. The sample tells us that we need some reorganization, plus some training."

Harry recalled the scene in the early afternoon, with him in the air and Viktor and Cho on the ground. It would mean -

"A patrol team needs three people," said Dumbledore, confirming his thought. "We will restructure the Squad into triple teams, and Mr Krum will let you practise the proper handling of events like today. The practice will end with some tests."

Dumbledore was right, thought Harry. Their action today would have been impossible with only two members ... Whom should they ask, he and Cho? ... Twenty-eight Squad members in triple teams, that didn't fit. One would be left ...

With cold shock, Harry saw Dumbledore looking at him.

"The third and last conclusion is that Mr Potter's exposure as a flying Squad member is too much risk. Taking him out leaves twenty-seven members, in other words, nine teams. Mr Krum expects you to organize yourself until - "

"NO!" Harry heard his own voice shout.

Viktor spoke for the first time. "Harry, it's true. Remember, I'm the only one that can follow you at full speed - nobody else has a Firebolt."

"But if that's the argument, everybody else is more at risk than me!"

"Nobody else is a wanted person," replied Dumbledore, "that's the difference. Mr Potter, please see me in my office after this meeting."

Harry closed his mouth. Dumbledore's voice had been sharp. He looked around, suddenly all heads were turning the other way, with one exception, Cho.

"I'm sorry, Harry," she said.

Harry couldn't remember any detail of the rest. Viktor talked about training, Squad members discussed team grouping, Cho was busy joining a team. His eyes were burning.

Ron looked at him in sympathy.

Some time later, a voice said, "Harry, please come with me." It was Dumbledore.

Walking to the office, Harry awakened enough from his stupefaction to prepare some arguments, the most important of them that he wanted to be the master of his own life, and if it would be a short one, then -

Dumbledore's first words killed the discussion at the spot. "Harry, I'm truly sorry. I know what you're going to say, and for your personal risk alone, I might even agree with you, although I might be the only one."

Dumbledore smiled, not seeing an echo in Harry's face. "I know what the Squad means to you. But I have no choice."

Dumbledore waited until Harry looked up. "You are the only one who knows about our espionage network. We cannot risk you being interrogated. Once the secret has spilled through other channels, we might discuss the issue again. Until then, no."

Back in his dormitory, Harry had to fight waves of hate. These stupid Goblins, why had they needed his story? His stupid self, why couldn't he just have sat there and told it blindfolded? The damned Hufflepuff Beaters had been too stupid to follow the rule. Cho had just walked off to find herself a team. But Cho couldn't be stupid.

Who was to blame then? The Death Eaters. Cornelius Fudge, the bloody fool who hadn't been able to believe the testimony of a fifteen-year old against wizards like Malfoy. Which was proof that he was the most stupid of all, because even the Goblins had no doubt he was telling the truth ... They believed him ... risked their lives out there ... and hadn't hesitated to let him know. Why not, he could stand Voldemort's Imperius Curse ... well, yes, but not Veritaserum, nobody could ... Really nobody?

What would be the look at Snape's face if he came and said Professor, you promised me Veritaserum, here I am ... What nonsense, he couldn't think clearly. He, the insufferable want-to-know.

What had Cho said, it was curiosity that killed the cat? Wrong, it was curiosity that spilled the Squad! Ha, that was good, could have been Ron's comment. After all, he, Harry, was at least good for stupid gimmicks. He should join Ron ... except that Ron could use him in the office like Cornish Pixies in the kitchen. A nice idea actually, to buzz around and trash everything to pieces ... maybe ...

Sleep came.