DISCLAIMER: The Harry Potter series and all the characters associated with it are the property solely of J. K. Rowling, her agents and publishers. No infringement of any rights is intended from the creation of this story. Nor is any money being made from it.


Circles of Power

Part Three - Seal Of Honour

By Mad Martha

       

The gaping hole in the living room wall had been tidied up and a reinforcement spell placed on it, but it would be a couple of days before they could get anyone in to mend it. Always supposing that it could be mended; the trouble with the Avada Kedavra curse was that it tended to leave powerful traces of itself in anything it touched like Harry's scar, for example.

Every bit of rubble and plaster had been taken away by the Aurors for examination for signs of who was really behind all this. The seven occupants of the student house six with Ron in custody were left with a surprisingly clean living room and a very rough-and-ready new entrance into their study.

Harry found it nearly impossible to ignore the hole.

He had left the Auror Facility with great reluctance, despite knowing he could do nothing to help Ron. In the end, it had taken a combination of persuasive arguments from Hermione, Sirius and Dumbledore to convince him to go home, but once there he had found himself unable to sleep like the others, and after a couple of hours he crept downstairs to keep a solitary vigil over the scene of the crime.

The truth was he didn't like sleeping alone. He and Ron hadn't been apart like this more than half a dozen times in their entire three-year relationship, and never before under such appalling circumstances.

Harry's mind wouldn't let him rest as everyone had told him to do. Instead he sat in the living room, staring at the hole in the wall and feeling his brain whirl around like a spinning-top out of control

"I thought I might find you in here."

Harry almost leapt out of his skin, and shock set his heart racing.

"Hermione! Don't do that to me "

She was standing in the doorway, hands on hips, arrayed in baby blue pyjamas and a pink terry-cloth dressing gown. The scowl on her face took Harry back nearly ten years to an eleven-year-old Hermione catching him and Ron out of bed during an illicit night-time excursion at Hogwarts.

"Harry, you're supposed to be getting some rest! How are you going to be any use to Ron if you're falling asleep at a crucial moment?"

A second head, topped with fiery red hair, popped up briefly over Hermione's shoulder: Ginny. Great, it was a pyjama party. In the daytime.

"I can't sleep," he muttered. "You didn't see his face when I left him "

"No, but I did see his face when they woke him up from Neville's stunning spell and told him what he'd done." Her voice was curt but when he looked up, her face was tight with distress. "That's not going to make it easy for me to sleep either, Harry, but I'm going to try because he needs us both to be on top form."

Ginny reappeared, holding a glass of water and a little purple bottle. She gave him the glass and tipped two smoking drops from the bottle into it, turning the water a luminous pink.

"It's a sleeping potion," she told him. "Go on, drink it. We're both going to have some too."

Harry regarded it distastefully. "I don't know "

"It'll stop you dreaming," she interrupted sharply, sounding a lot like her mother.

Perhaps it would be as well. He screwed up his face, knowing what the stuff tasted like, and swigged it down.

Hermione let out a little sigh of relief. "Good. You've got about five minutes to get yourself into bed before that knocks you out." She watched him shuffle to the door. "And Harry?"

He looked back at her. "Yeah?"

"We'll find who did this to you both," she promised, "and when we do ...."

He nodded and quietly left the room.

       

It was nearly eleven o'clock in the morning when he went to bed. When he next awoke, it was to a sharp rapping on his door.

Ginny stuck her head around the edge of it.

"Harry, are you awake yet? It's seven o'clock."

Groggily he asked, "Have I missed dinner?"

"Seven o'clock in the morning, silly. You've slept for nearly a whole day."

Her head disappeared and the door closed, which was just as well because Harry, horrified, leapt out of bed in a rush and sometime during his marathon slumbers he'd managed to lose his pyjama bottoms.

When he scrambled downstairs twenty minutes later, with his hair uncombed and his robe on back to front, Hermione was sitting composedly at the kitchen table with Seamus, eating toast.

She rolled her eyes when she saw him. "For heaven's sake! Calm down, we're not late."

"I've slept a whole day away, and you say I'm not late?" Harry tried unsuccessfully to straighten his hair with his fingers.

"You need some gel to do anything with that, dear," the mirror behind the kitchen door advised him languidly.

Harry's response made it steam up its glass in embarrassment.

"Don't swear at the mirror," Hermione scolded him. "Moody gave us the day off, remember? And God knows, I needed the sleep. Have some toast."

Harry would have declined, but her expression warned him of trouble if he tried. So he stood twitchily in the middle of the kitchen, trying to force the slice down.

Seamus shook his head wryly, and got up from the table.

"I'll see you two later," he told them. "Give Ron my best, won't you?"

And he disappeared into the living room, to take the Floo to Gringotts.

"Ron is fine," Hermione told Harry sternly. "I sent an owl as soon as I got up. Nothing will happen to him while he's in custody; Moody's fair, whatever else anyone might say."

"It's not Moody I'm worried about, it's Kisbie. He was itching to send Ron to Azkaban yesterday."

"He can't overrule Moody and Dumbledore. Here's your tea."

Harry didn't want the tea, but he drank it to please her. Then he re-checked a bag he'd packed with some of Ron's clothes.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked her.

Hermione sighed.

"I will be as soon as you put your robe straight."

       

The Auror Facility was a hive of activity when they arrived. Harry and Hermione hurried through the office to their desks, where they found Sirius and Remus Lupin waiting for them.

"The report's back on Ron's broomstick," were Lupin's first words. "It was definitely tampered with, and we're pretty sure now that he must have been diverted in-flight."

"He said something about Pontypridd," Harry said quickly.

"I know. We've got people on their way there now, to question the local wizarding community and find out if anyone saw him."

"The Welsh Office is screeching," Sirius commented, with a twisted grin. "They don't like the idea of Voldemort being in their midst. Harry, how are you feeling today?"

"I'm okay "

Sirius grabbed his godson's chin and turned his head to one side, examining the burns on his left cheek with pursed lips.

"Ears still ringing?" he asked.

"A bit."

The wizard shook his head wonderingly. "You have to be the luckiest person alive, to survive that curse twice."

"I'll feel luckier still when we get Ron out of custody," Harry said, pulling away. He caught an odd look on Sirius's face and added quickly, "It's not his fault. Someone else should be in that cell."

"Well, let's see if we can dredge up some evidence today and get young Ron out of there," Lupin said.

They set to work.

       

It was examination of the rubble from the student house that was to lead to Ron's release later that day.

Every spell had its own unique signature that was absorbed by everything it touched. But more than that, every spell absorbed something too, a subtle signature of the wizard or witch who cast it.

The rubble from the house was saturated with the ugly vibrations of the Avada Kedavra curse, and upon examination by the most sensitive and experienced Aurors, not only was Ron's signature identified, but also overlaying it was ... Voldemort's.

"I could have told them that," muttered Harry irritably, when this news was broken to the team. "I did tell them that. My scar is still tingling from it "

But the question had to be asked: How had Harry got such a strong sense of Voldemort, when the dark wizard himself was patently not in the room at the moment the curse was cast?

By lunchtime another question had been answered: Ron had been seen in Pontypridd by a retired member of the Dark Force Defence League, and in the company of another wizard the elderly witch had never seen before. She identified Ron easily by his bright red hair; but her description of the dark-haired, older wizard with him left the Aurors baffled. It didn't fit any known Death Eater.

Ron himself wasn't able to help them. He had no recollection of that day at all, and certainly none of landing in Pontypridd. His most helpful comment was to observe that he never would have flown there anyway, for he wasn't even sure if he could find it without a decent direction spell.

"One question answered, but a whole lot more raised," was Mad-Eye Moody's assessment later. "Why would he even have mentioned Pontypridd under the influence of this spell?"

"Because he was fighting it," Harry repeated stubbornly. "I told you before he kept trying to make me go away just before he cursed me, and he sounded frightened."

"So why doesn't he remember fighting it, then?" the elderly Auror retorted; for which, of course, there was no answer either.

By the end of the day, Ron had been put through every Dark detection spell and device the Aurors possessed. His clothes, still reeking of the Avada Kedavra curse, were taken away and burned; and his wand, forever tainted by Voldemort's baneful influence, was ceremonially snapped in two and consigned to a purifying flame.

The latter was very hard for Harry to witness, for it smacked of a shame and disgrace within the wizarding community which Ron patently did not deserve. But it was also absolutely necessary, for the wand would never be the same after being perverted by the casting of the most heinous of the Unforgivable Curses.

"Better for him to start fresh," Moody told both Harry and Hermione, who were visibly shaken by the procedure. They were not the only ones; everyone who watched flinched as the wand was snapped. "A new wand, one he'll be able to put his trust in. But not yet," he cautioned. "Until we're certain what happened, I don't want him carrying one around. Better safe than sorry."

Unfortunately, the wand-snapping was not the worst thing that could happen to Ron.

       

"You know what this is, Weasley?" Moody asked him casually, opening a small leather casket stamped with the cipher of the Dark Force Defence League.

Inside the box was what looked like a stick of dark green sealing-wax and a large circular stamp with an ebony handle. The elderly Auror gave Ron a moment to look at them, then passed the box over to Remus Lupin, who took out the stick of wax and the seal and held them ready.

The council room, although unusually full of people, was quiet enough to hear the proverbial pin drop. Ron swallowed hard, and Harry gripped his shoulder tightly, trying to impart some courage and reassurance to his friend.

"It's the Seal of Honour."

"That's right. And you know what it's for?"

Ron licked his lips nervously. "It it judges the worthiness of the bearer."

"Well that's the flowery version you'll find in the textbook," Moody said, and gave a dry chuckle. "I'll tell you what it really does. You could say it's a magical spy into your heart, sonny. We fix the Seal on your bare skin - the forearm used to be the best place, but as the Dark Lord likes to mark his followers there, we've moved it to behind the shoulder - and it watches you for us. While your actions and intentions are good and wholesome, you've nothing to worry about. But if you suddenly take it into your head to, say, attack young Potter here again - or if one of the Dark Lord's followers tries to act through you ." Moody let his voice trail off suggestively.

"It's just a precaution, you understand," he finished after a moment, and stepped back, his magical eye zooming from one face to another around the room, even as the normal one was fixed on Ron.

Lupin stepped forward and pushed the sleeves of his robe back, his face grave. "Let's have your shirt off, then, Ron ."

Ron swallowed again, his adam's apple bobbing nervously, and began to pull his shirt out of the waistband of his jeans. It seemed to take an unusually long time for him to unfasten all the buttons and pull it off.

In the meantime, Lupin had set the seal down on the nearest desk and was holding the tip of his wand to the stick of wax, murmuring an incantation under his breath. The wax began to soften and melt.

"Right It might be better if you sit back-to-front in that chair there and bend forward - "

But Ron's eyes were fixed on the smoking wax. "This is going to hurt, isn't it?" he said unhappily.

Lupin met his eyes squarely. "Yes it is, but only for a minute or two while the Seal sets itself."

"Nothing really compared to how badly Potter would have hurt if that curse had actually hit him," Moody commented, almost idly.

Ron went as white as milk under his freckles, and Harry had to bite back a really savage retort. He had thought Moody felt some sympathy for Ron's plight, but now he seemed to be taking every opportunity to twist the knife.

Ron straddled the chair and bent over the carved wooden back. Every muscle in his shoulders was tensed.

"That okay?" he bit out.

"That's fine," Lupin said quietly. "I know it's going to be difficult, but try not to flinch. If the Seal moves before it cures, I'll have to re-melt it."

He leaned over and held the rapidly melting wax over Ron's back. Huge, pearly, green blobs formed on the end of the stick and dropped almost lazily onto his skin. The young wizard hissed and twitched slightly as the first one made sizzling contact; then, as the tiny pool of wax on his shoulder grew, he let out an involuntary yelp of pain.

"Shit!"

In spite of himself, Harry flinched at the cry and had to shut his eyes for a second. The heat of the wax must have been intense; he could smell burned flesh.

"Bear with it, Ron " Lupin swirled the tip of the stick over the surface of the wax to make it as circular as possible, then quickly grabbed the seal and pressed it firmly down into the centre of the puddle. The seal itself was the size of Galleon and bore a deeply engraved image of a phoenix that looked almost exactly like Professor Dumbledore's bird, Fawkes.

"There "

There was a flash of searing white light under the seal, and the wax seemed to sink into Ron's skin. Then it was over, and Lupin was stepping back, polishing the seal unthinkingly on the sleeve of his robe.

Ron slowly sat up, and then stood up. He was shaking, and his face had taken on a faintly greenish cast; Harry could see shining tear-tracks on his cheeks. But he managed to face Moody and look him in the eyes.

"How long do I have to have this thing on me?"

Moody was giving him a very hooded-eyed look. "For as long as it takes, Weasley. Until we're certain."

"The Seal is honourable if honourably worn, Mr. Weasley," Rufius Kisbie's voice cut in sharply.

"Great," Ron snapped. His fists were clenched tight. "But what happens if it decides I'm not honourable?"

"Let's just say that we'll all know about it, Ron but you'll know first." That was Lupin, and his head was slightly bowed. Harry, watching him, got the impression that he wasn't entirely happy with this procedure. "The Seal hasn't been used in over twenty years, and this time it's just a safeguard. I don't think you have anything to worry about."

"But it will be removed? Eventually?"

Moody regarded Ron for a moment. His magical eye had begun to wander again, taking in each and every one of the tense, uneasy Aurors packed into the little office. The atmosphere cranked up a notch in the extended pause, and Harry began to wonder just how much of this scene had actually been put on for the benefit of people other than his friend.

"Oh yes," the old Auror said finally. "It'll be removed eventually."

 

End Part 3/30


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