I pity his wretchedness, though he is my enemy,
for the terrible yoke of blindness that is on him.
I think of him, yet also of myself;
for I see the true state of all us that live --
we are dim shapes, no more, and weightless shadow.
Rita Skeeter, of all people, sent the owl. Hermione brought it to Dumbledore, met him in the Three Broomsticks with McGonagall in the last Hogsmeade weekend of the term. She still recognised some of the students. The table was sticky and dirty and she didn't know how so many people were out when last week King's Cross station had nearly been hit.
McGonagall looked down her nose at the owl sharply. "Are you sure it's authentic? Why would Skeeter be writing to you?"
Rita Skeeter, in all the years they'd known of her, had never shown a decent bone in her body. Dumbledore was more concerned that the letter had been opened already - not that there was proof, but there was already a chance - and told Hermione not to meet her.
It was a fable, back in the old days, that the war would speed everyone up, put everyone on their toes, fill everyone's lives with fear. It wasn't really true. Certain people lived in perpetual fear; certain people, with Muggles for parents, spent days looking over their shoulders. Many simply moved out of the country.
"Are you sure?" Hermione didn't like it, this market was too open, and moreover it was in the wizard section of town. Not being an Auror herself didn't mean that she was stupid or unaware. They were sitting ducks. "Who is it?"
Skeeter's eyes darted around nervously. "I don't know." She relaxed suddenly, against the bench. "That's your little job to find out."
Only Hermione's constant vigilence spotted Malfoy before he was upon her. She leaned across the table to keep herself from staring - Draco had changed, utterly. "How much did they pay you to get me here?"
Skeeter shrugged. "Enough that I can buy myself a house. Didn't care who. They don't know about our agreement, and it'll stay that way."
Hermione let her go, and Apparated before his wand was drawn. He never was good enough to catch any of them, despite trying. Draco Malfoy was low priority on everyone's list; he couldn't inflict half as much damage.
Tonks stormed through the Ministry, eyes wet with tears. Harry ducked out of the way. Apparently it was more bad news. He never did find out what.
Dumbledore didn't scold her when Hermione brought back news. "Was she sure?" he asked, hands folded calmly. "Someone has been feeding Voldemort information about members of the Order."
Hermione nodded. Dumbledore leaned back, closed his eyes; it was one thing to suspect a traitor within your ranks and quite another to have it said aloud, to confirm that another one was taken from you, taken from that category of 'friend' and put in 'distrusted'. "She set me up," she added, unnecessarily, "but she was telling the truth."
"How can you be certain?" he asked her.
"The truth potion I slipped in her tea."
Cho owled Harry out of the blue. It was one of those letters that didn't find the house directly; that Harry, on his one day home that whole month, picked up from the market in London. He read the letter, and tossed it in the bin before climbing down to the Tube station below. Cho's name was enough to ping on his radar; it was probably false, and even if it wasn't, he wasn't going to take the chance. not for Cho.
At home, Neville was going through the Order registry - something that Dumbledore himself revived, once Sirius was dead. The old Order, signatures faded and parchment crackling, had Sirius's name in charming blue, but the new parchment - usually kept in the cupboard above the sink - had only a picture, tacked to it with spell-o-tape. Harry had insisted. "I can't figure out who it might be," Neville finally told him, pushing his chair back with a sigh.
Harry pulled the parchment towards himself. "It doesn't make any sense," he admitted.
"It doesn't." Names, crowded around a drawing of a phoenix. The parchment was enchanted, of course, and even Harry wasn't quite sure how. Neville added, "we know Dumbledore protected the Order in case of betrayal."
"That could be got around." Harry studied the names, one by one. Ronald Weasley. Hermione Granger. Kingsley Shacklebolt. Emmaline Vance. It wasn't Dedalus Diggle, though Harry nearly wished it was; he would be hated, and never forgiven, but he wouldn't be in the ground. Charlie Weasley. Fred and George. Dumbledore, Dung. Moody. Ginny. "What I don't understand," he said, sighing, "is that if someone is under Voldemort's influence - willingly or unwillingly - why haven't we seen them round the house?"
Remus and Bill were just coming in the kitchen. "Because unless Dumbledore gives them the address, no one can find it," Bill answered. "I can tell Voldemort where it is, exactly, I could show him - and he still wouldn't find it."
Harry swung around. "Where did my parents live? Before they died."
Remus hesitated. "Godric's Hollow." Harry looked at him, eyes piercing. "We'd see them in the neighborhood anyway," Remus said. "We would."
Neville was rubbing his forehead; Harry turned back to the parchment in front of him, thoughts on some distant target. He was fairly certain the traitor wasn't himself; he could throw off the Imperius curse, and he wasn't likely to voluntarily help the other side. Arthur and Molly's names were huddled in with the rest of original members to sign on again. Tonks, refusing to use her first name. Elphias Doge; he was still with them, though Harry hadn't seen him personally in months. Arabella; as far as Harry knew she was still living by the Dursleys. Hagrid was at school. Hestia Jones; she was dead. Podmore, dead. Barbara, dead. Remus Lupin. Harry Potter.
"Dumbledore thinks that whoever it is hasn't ever been to the house, because we appear safe here," Remus was saying quietly. It should have been good news. Harry rolled up the two parchments, and stuffed them back into their hiding places.
That ruled out the name that Harry distrusted most on the parchment; his eyes had skipped it over so many times that he had nearly convinced himself Severus Snape didn't exist. Harry hadn't had the displeasure of running into the man in almost a year; whatever business Dumbledore learned from him was well out of earshot.
Percy never had signed on with Dumbledore. It was cause for some great heartache for both his parents; distain and outright hatred from his siblings. He was asked, once, what he thought of what Dumbledore was trying to do, and he'd replied with, "Dumbledore is a wild card, and though the Ministry respects him, he breaks too many rules to get things done properly."
Harry knew that that was the opinion bandied about some of the other departments; the Aurors tended to back him.
The Ministry was woefully prepared for even the slightest attack; so six Death Eaters, Apparating into the lobby, smashing statues and stunning the reception witch before Apparating away, threw everyone into a panic. The newspaper the next day said that the Ministry was completely unable to protect even its own walls; Harry balled the article up and tossed it into the trash.
"New orders." Kingsley dropped the parchment on Harry's desk, then leaned over. "Is there time for me to drop by tonight?"
Harry nodded, and replied, skimming quickly. "We're not going to try and keep them out?"
"Maybe we'll get a few caught in the trap." He glanced around nervously. "Don't Apparate anywhere without clearing it through me. Corn flakes."
It was a very simple code; the house, at midnight. "Do I pass that order around?"
"Please." Harry watched Kingsley striding, confident, and thought about how dreamy the faces of his classmates in fourth year were, when they tried to throw off the Imperius curse. He decided to follow his instructions.
All Kingsley wanted to say was watch their backs. It was unlikely the Aurors were responsible for the current leak, but anything was possible. "So I want you to stay out of your offices." His mouth twisted. "And no lunch breaks."
Ginny yawned. "No rest for the wicked."
"Or those tracking them."
They stopped going to the Ministry in the day time, but no one else showed up to the party. It was most likely boredom that pushed any of the Death Eaters to destroy the lobby in the first place. Out of Muggles to kill and a lull between tortures, showing the rest of the wizarding world how no where was safe probably looked like a good time.
Harry spent two weeks on broomstick, searching out the far reaches of the Ministry spies. He tagged two possibles, though by coersion or misinformation he wasn't sure. One of them was a pretty witch from the third floor; she used to bring him tea. The Aurors had a saying, oft repeated; after Moody told them about his two brightest recruits being poisoned, first day on the job, they didn't eat or drink at work.
"I can't believe it." Ginny stirred her noodle bowl, and slurped up some soup. "Holland? That's like a holiday. Why did I end up in Leeds and you went to Holland?"
Harry shrugged. "Get anything?"
They didn't even talk about their cases in the office anymore. "Ryan told me another Muggle family was killed." She used her chopsticks to crunch on a piece of chinese lettuce. "Think it was your man. Had his absolute lack of flair."
"Avery?" Harry sprinkled ginger on his pork. "He's been quiet for weeks. Didn't anyone notice they were gone?"
"Supposed to be on holiday, too." Ginny wiped her face with a napkin; she paused, put her chopsticks down quietly, and pulled out a ten pound note to pay their bill. There was a back door out the restaurant, a service entrance they slipped out, door closing quietly behind them. Sure enough, watching from a rooftop with magic binoculars, Harry saw two wizards with black hoods appear in the stairwell that lead down to the Tube station. It didn't seem to matter to them if anyone saw them.
It could have been someone in the Order, of course, someone willingly giving over only a small amount of information, just enough to be able to track Harry and the others. It could have also been a member of the Order being coerced, the information cunningly forced out of them, spells and control and missing hours. The why of the deceit was only important to someone who cared about the intentions behind it; someone who still trusted the people they worked with. Harry accepted a hundred reasons for deceit daily, and watched his back even while asleep.
They were more interested in the simple question of how to prevent it happening at all.
"and so James stands up, and toasts the whole bar, and offers them drinks for the rest of the night, all on the school's tab!" Hagrid pounded the table, startling a pair of witches drinking quietly at the next booth. "I remember it as if it were yesterday."
Remus finally stopped laughing. "He ended up having to owl Gringott's for the money from his own vault at the end of the night, when Dumbledore showed up and disavowed knowledge of who the Potters' were." He wiped his eyes. "He had to wait, sweating, until they sent it to him."
The Aurors didn't often drink together - it was a bad idea to gather too many people in one place - but Harry, Ginny and Tonks were convinced out by two of the newest Aurors. Hagrid and Remus, heading home, had met them on the way. "Your father sounded like he was a right riot," Tonks said, grinning.
Remus nodded, smiling. "Oh, James faced down anything, convinced he was going to come out on top. He looked Voldemort in the eye three times, you know."
Harry already had that record beat, but he knew that his father was a formidable man, regardless. Ginny laughed, standing. "I'll get another round."
If she hadn't stood up at the precise moment, the bar would maybe not have been standing.
and it did no good but it was enough to warn the rest to jump out of the way.
Ginny threw herself onto the floor, pulled the two witches - cowering in shock - down behind the table. Dolohov faced them off, hissing, whilst Avery stood behind him.
"You'd think they'd have sent their best!" Ginny said, and narrowly ducked out of the way of another curse. "Harry, I'd best send these witches on their way. Weetabix."
It was a code, a very simple code that stood for a portkey destination. They favored portkeys because somehow Voldemort had got a spy in with the Apparation wizards; nowhere was safe to Apparate, though sometimes the risk was necessary. "Dawns and I will bring these two in," Harry said to her. "Be back soon."
Ginny disappeared, the two witches in tow, and then the pub was empty of non-combatants. Every battle bled into another in Harry's mind; in this one, they stunned Dawns and nearly finished him off; Remus slipped into the back room and took out Avery. Harry didn't even see the jinx coming, didn't even hear it, but just like that there was only Dolohov facing him, and then a crack - no one at all. Avery was curled on the ground, face twisted. Harry wasn't gentle in the bindings.
"Will it hold him?" Summer, an American witch, only qualified last week. She was very white. Obviously this was more than she'd ever seen.
Remus stepped back, stayed hidden to the shadows. Unfortunately Hagrid didn't do as well, and sat back down in the booth heavily. Tonks put a careless foot on Avery's head. Harry grabbed a tankard - they had better portkey him to prison, and quick, before someone else came round. "You go, we'll handle him." It wasn't procedure at all. The two novices Apparated away.
Ginny stepped up behind him. "Are we done here, then?" she asked. "Let's take the garbage out." In her hand she held a wand that was likely Avery's; a snap, and then she had two pieces of wand in her hand. Harry felt nothing, no pity or anger; Ginny said, "Oops."
They stayed up all night, guarding Avery, until the court could take his case. The wizard was still unconscious - whatever Remus had done looked like it might be permanent for a while - so he was sentenced to in-house arrest until a full trial could be convened. Avery's capture was a major news item; Rita wanted to interview the three of them as they left the jail. "Was it difficult," she asked, "looking one of the men that might have murdered your parents in the eye?"
Harry sighed. Before, it was invasive, intrusive, and offensive - now he just took the quill out of her hand. "If you continue to break the law, Skeeter, I'll have to do something about it."
She detached herself from the group she was standing with, following them down the hallway with nice clacks. "Didn't I tell you?" she hissed. "Why didn't you listen?"
Ginny swung around, a hand closed around her throat. Tonks and Harry stood in front of them, blocking them from view. It was so sudden, so surprising, that Rita just stood there. "Is it an Auror?" she asked, voice calm. Rita managed to shake her head. Ginny let her go.
Harry was already heading away; if it wasn't an Auror, then it could be anyone. Their suspicions were stacked one on top of the other, like marbles in a corner - no way to narrow the field, and hundreds of ways to pull out the wrong marble, have the whole stack roll away.
It was much easier the next day, when Harry got to the office and faced Kingsley. "Someone attacked you last night?" he said.
"Avery and Dolohov."
"Tell me you got Dolohov." Harry shook his head. "Tell me you have some good news."
"We got Avery."
Kingsley sat. "That's something. Tonks is missing."
"What?" A hand clamped around Harry's throat; Kinglsey had abandoned his role as Harry's boss. This wasn't an Auror problem. "When?"
"She didn't show up this morning. Dumbledore sent a note. He suspects the worst."
Of course he did.
The owl Harry got was tampered with, and nearly snapped at him as he took the hasty note. It probably looked like a shopping list to whoever had read it; but there it was, on the bottom. Corn flakes, in Dumbledore's distinctive hand.
The whole Order showed up.
Since the only other time they all got together at Grimmauld Place tended to be wakes, Harry could never fully enjoy the kitchen being full. Since there were no more children living in the house, they didn't have to worry about keeping their voices down.
Dumbledore took charge. "Do we have any idea what might have happened?" Fred and George snorted, as one; he conceded, and asked, "then do we have any idea who might have given Nymphadora's location away?"
McGonagall's head was in the kitchen grate; she and Hagrid were unable to come directly, owing that the school was still vulnerable. Hermione spoke up. "Rita Skeeter told me someone was sending information. She *told* me."
Dumbledore moved aside, and allowed Snape to speak. "I have been unable to ascertain who this Skeeter woman may have been referring to," he said, slight sneer in place as ever. "There are any number of options for spies within and without the Ministry that the Dark Lord might be using in order to keep himself appraised of your movements."
Another reason for calling the meeting was to double check for signs of betrayal within their own ranks. Dumbledore had probably put truth potion - not as strong as most, but strong enough - in everyone' tea. Most of them, even though they drank from personal flasks themselves, would have accepted the cup, knowing full well what it meant.
Harry watched carefully to see every single person drinking their tea. He drank his in one swallow, ignoring the burning in his throat.
He picked up the mail the next morning, and found a letter addressed to him from Wormtail.
Never in a million years would Harry have guessed he could have been grateful to hear news from that piece of trash. It was the first solid lead they had for Tonks' case. The rest of the parchment - an apology, an explanation, a plea - he showed to Remus, because he didn't know who else might appreciate it. Harry certainly didn't care.
Remus read the letter, and started crying a little. "Oh, Peter," he murmured.
Ginny took the lead. She marched straight up to Kingsley in the middle of the Ministry, in the middle of the day, and said, "I'm going to get her back."
Remus surrendered the letter to her. Clinging to it might have given him a fraction of solace, of peace - Peter had done something right in his life - but the shop in Wales Peter mentioned needed a personal invitation to enter, so Ginny needed it as evidence.
They never did find out who gave Tonks away. Hermione came to breakfast one morning at Grimmauld Place, and told them that Skeeter was missing, too; house ransacked, things smashed. There was no Dark Mark, because Rita Skeeter was a pureblood. Harry couldn't help feel that she deserved it.
"who's taken over her job at the Prophet?"
Hermione shrugged. "I don't know." Her voice was small. "It was awful. They pulled her pictures down, ripped them up. They didn't just kill her, they," and Hermione swallowed. "I, I feel a bit responsible," she confessed.
Harry had rolled right past feeling responsible and gone on to wondering how they'd known Rita was playing both sides against the middle. Harry played the Order and the Ministry, and didn't properly fit with either. It was odd how easy it was to accept Rita's actions, and the knowledge that whoever gave her away was still out there. Even the possibility that he was being followed simply meant a change in tactics for Harry, now. As if it were possible to become accustomed to even the idea of betrayal.
At the shop in Wales, Ginny nearly caught them. She herself was stunned, left for dead, until someone found her the next morning. The first thing she croaked was, "I saw the cage - had to have been for her. special metamorphmagus protection. They got me before I could do anything."
Wormtail's information, then, sent them back to square one. Either it was a double cross, or a set up, or someone had got wind of it on the other side and moved Tonks before they could act. Rita Skeeter's death was on the front page of the news.
The last thing Kingsley did before he was killed - in his office at midnight, poisoned - was swear on his life they would take Voldemort down. It was ironic, in some ways, and disheartening in others. He'd said it in front of the whole office, and the thought floating around the Aurors was that someone may have relayed his words.
No one acted any differently at work. Harry brought his tea in a very Muggle thermos, didn't let it out of his sight. Even if he still had enough trust left in his body to know that all sides of the Ministry were on his side, Voldemort could control people as easily as Harry could breathe. No one left his control. No one left his employ.
Harry got another letter. He didn't even bother to open it; just handed it to Ginny. She would follow up on whatever Wormtail had to say, whether it was good information or not.
They found Peter Pettigrew's body in the middle of London, owing to Snape's timely information. They picked him up, Harry and Ginny huffing whilst dragging the body away before the authorities could arrive.
Remus borrowed the money from Harry to have him buried properly.
No one showed up, save Dumbledore and Remus himself. Remus muttered, "I think I feel sorry for him." There wasn't even enough money to get a proper marker, so it would be an unnamed grave. "He was always so scared."
"Remus," Dumbledore said.
"Don't tell me," Remus hissed, wiping his wet eyes. "I shouldn't feel this sadness clinging, right?"
Dumbledore left, allowing Remus - lone - to watch the casket dropped in the hole in the ground.