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 Seven - Through The Looking Glass

By Mad Martha

       

"You're asking for a hell of a leap of faith here, Malfoy," Harry told him, coolly. "Did you honestly think you could just walk in and expect us to fall on your neck or something?"

"What I thought is irrelevant, Potter. Like Dumbledore says, we have to work with what is, not what we want. I'm here. I have what you need. I'm offering it to you with no strings attached. The question is are you man enough to take it?"

"It's not a matter of being man enough or not," Harry retorted. "It's a trust issue as simple as that. I can't just put aside ten years of animosity, and I don't believe you can either."

They were standing in the middle of a vast, empty stone room that reminded Harry of the room where he had found the Mirror of Erised all those years ago. The main difference was the huge, circular motif carved into the floor. It was a phoenix, and matched the image of Fawkes stamped into Ron's shoulder.

This was somewhere in Hogwarts, although how he knew that he wasn't sure. It wasn't a part of the castle that he recognised.

He and Malfoy were faced off across the motif; off to one side a little was Ron, watching the argument but not actively participating, apparently. He was wearing an unfamiliar hooded blue robe, and had his hands tucked into the wide sleeves; he looked both angry and apprehensive.

Malfoy was wearing black robes again, a colour or lack of colour that irritated Harry. His own robe was a fiery red, a shade he normally avoided as being too attention-seeking.

Curiously enough, Malfoy was lacking his normal sneer and instead merely looked frustrated.

"You don't get it, do you?" he snapped. "There's no time for personal vendettas or the re-hashing of petty childhood arguments! We have to do this now. There won't be a second chance."

Yet still Harry hesitated. He turned to look at Ron.

"What do you say? It has to be all of us if we're going to do it, we need you too."

"He has even less choice than you or I!" Malfoy protested. "Haven't you been listening to what I've been telling you? This isn't about just you anymore, Potter "

       

For the second time in three days, Harry awoke with a sickening jolt. Fortunately, this time he didn't make any sudden, violent moves, and Ron remained peacefully asleep at his side.

For a moment he lay very still, sweating and every muscle tensed, staring into the early morning light. What the hell had that been about? Two nightmares about Draco Malfoy in a row, both of them seeming to want to impart a message which, not to put to fine a point on it, was utterly opaque to Harry.

Any more, he decided finally, and I'll ask Ron to look into it.

He hoped there wouldn't be any more.

He forced himself to relax and rolled onto his back. Even with the curtains around the bed closed, it was getting lighter. The cuckoo clock would be going off any time now.

Right on cue, the little doors on the clock shot open and the cuckoo flopped out, making a noise like a strangled cat. It hadn't been the same since Ron had cursed it a couple of months ago. The spring was all stretched and limp, and Harry had to stuff the animated bird back into the clock case every night before it would work.

Sighing, Harry sat up and looked at the man lying next to him. Ron slept on, blissfully unaware of the alarm. Harry reached out and gave his shoulder a firm shake.

"Hey Ron - come on. Time to get up."

But all Ron did was grunt and snuggle further under the covers. Shaking his head, Harry climbed out of bed, put on his glasses and shuffled across the room to collect his bathrobe and towels.

Ron would sleep through the Apocalypse, he thought, let alone anything Voldemort could throw at them. For a second he imagined standing on a battlefield opposite his old enemy and saying "Sorry, we can't finish the war today - Ron hasn't got up yet". The idea made him grin. He doubled back to the bedside table to pick up his wand and headed for the door.

At the last minute he turned back and pointed the wand at his slumbering friend, saying, "Tarantallegra!"

Then he made a run for it, laughing as he heard the outraged yell from the bedroom.

       

Neville was just leaving the bathroom, and Harry had to blink and squint as they passed each other.

"Crikey, Neville, who gave you that bathrobe?"

It was pale blue with dozens of dancing pink hippopotamuses on it - literally dancing hippopotamuses.

"What? Oh - Emily did," Neville yawned and wandered off down the passage, the hippos jigging merrily on his back.

Harry wondered briefly who Emily was, then decided he didn't want to know. She had terrible taste, whoever she was - nobody should have to be confronted with a bathrobe like that first thing in the morning. He plunged into the bathroom before someone else could come along and bag it, and had a very quick shower. By the time he got out, Ron had arrived and was brushing his teeth, looking unusually wide awake and annoyed.

"Did you have to do that?" he mumbled around a mouthful of toothpaste. He rinsed out and shoved his toothbrush back into its holder with an irritable little snick. "I had to get Ginny to work the counter-spell, and she wanted to know why I was tap-dancing outside her door."

Harry chuckled. "Woke you up, didn't it? Have your shower!"

He threw a spare towel at Ron who disappeared into the cubicle, still scowling.

"If you hadn't been in such a hurry, we could have showered together," he grumbled, as he set the water running.

"Work day, Ron. Besides, Hermione's going to be hammering on the door any minute now."

"She can wait," Ron called over the noise of running water. "Harry, can I borrow some of your shaving foam? I think I've run out."

Harry rolled his eyes and looked in one of the seven little bathroom cabinets on the wall, the one that had a jaunty sign saying "Ronald" on the door. Mrs. Weasley's doing again; it made him feel like he was one of the seven dwarfs. He pulled out a shaving foam can and gave it an experimental shake. "Yeah, you have."

"Remind me to get some, will you?"

"What am I, your wife?"

"Can you two stop bickering and hurry up?" Hermione complained, breezing through the bathroom door with a sublime disregard for the occupants. "We're all running late."

Ron's dripping head - only his head and nothing else - appeared around the door of the shower cubicle. "Hermione!" he exclaimed, outraged. "Can't you wait outside? Some of us are showering!"

"Oh, and like I haven't seen it all before," she retorted, eyeing him witheringly. "Get a move on, will you!"

She stalked out again, leaving Harry to stare at Ron in surprise. "When did Hermione see you naked?"

Ron just laughed and ducked back into the shower. Shaking his head in bemusement, Harry finished shaving and picked up his things.

Hermione and Seamus were both waiting outside, looking impatient.

"Is he finished yet?" the former demanded.

But Harry had other things on his mind. "When have you seen Ron naked?" he demanded.

Seamus sniggered, but Hermione merely raised an eyebrow.

"None of your business," she told him, sweeping past him into the bathroom and shutting the door.

       

A further surprise was waiting when Harry and Ron finally scrambled into the kitchen. Sitting at the table was Hermione's on/off boyfriend, Viktor Krum. The captain of the Bulgarian Quidditch team was placidly consuming coffee and toast, and reading the Daily Prophet.

Ron did a double take and laughed, clapping him on the shoulder in passing. "Hullo, Viktor! When did you drop in?"

Krum gave him an amiable look from under his heavy dark brows. "Last night. I vos in the area."

This seemed rather unlikely, but both Harry and Ron accepted the explanation with nothing more than a grin. Some things Hermione had told them once suggested that Krum worked as an under-cover agent for the Bulgarian equivalent of the Department of Mysteries. If that was the case or even if it wasn't they weren't about to question his occasional unexpected visits. Hermione saw him all too rarely.

Harry knew that Krum had asked her to marry him at least twice, and she had turned him down. What he didn't know was why; and if Ron knew the reason (Ron was far less reticent about asking than Harry), he wasn't saying. It seemed a shame, for Krum was certainly a very constant lover. He had remained devoted to Hermione since she was fourteen, a devotion that had weathered numerous other relationships she had had in the meantime, including her brief fling with Ron.

Hermione herself finally appeared just as Ron and Harry were finishing a very hasty breakfast of toast and tea. She refused the offer of both, stealing a quick mouthful of coffee from Krum's mug, and twitched her cloak into place.

"Are you two ready to go?" she demanded. "We're going to be late as it is ."

"I'm ready, I'm ready," Harry assured her, shoving his dishes into the sink.

"Well, at least one of you is organised this morning," she huffed, giving Ron a pointed look.

"You didn't have to fight off a tap-dancing curse before you even got out of bed - "

"I'll see you for lunch, Viktor," she said, ignoring Ron's indignant explanation, and she leaned over Krum's shoulder to kiss him.

"I hate the Floo network," Harry muttered as they each took a pinch of powder from the jar on the mantelpiece.

"It's still more efficient than Muggle travel," Ron reminded him.

Hermione didn't even bother offering an opinion; she tossed her pinch of dust into the living room fire, stepped into the roaring flames and snapped: "The Leaky Cauldron!"

Ron followed her, disappearing quickly up the chimney. Harry waited until he was out of sight, then put his Floo powder back into the jar. He didn't feel like getting covered in ash this morning, so with a twinge of mixed guilt and amusement, he Disapparated.

       

"You are a filthy cheat!" Ron panted as they ran down Diagon Alley to the Auror Facility.

It wasn't possible to take the Floo network or Apparate directly into Ministry buildings, so they usually travelled to the nearest grate on the network and walked the rest of the way. This morning, however, they were so late that they were obliged to make the final leg of the journey at a headlong dash.

"I told you I don't like the Floo network," Harry puffed in reply.

They skidded to halt outside the Ministry, quickly straightened their robes and scuttled through the door.

Inside, the lobby was cool and dimly lit. It always reminded Harry of a particularly old-fashioned art gallery; dark wooden panelling, subdued lighting, and elaborate bits of sculpture on pedestals in the corners. The only real oddity was a vast mirror on the opposite side of the lobby, reaching from floor to ceiling. An expanse of marble mosaic flooring in an abstract design lay between them and it, and to the left side of the mirror was a severe-looking reception desk. To the right were a set of marble stairs going up; these led to the more publicly accessible parts of the building.

The entrance to the Auror Facility lay through the mirror, and only certain people had access to it.

This morning the reception desk was manned by Bethany Bloom, a dark-haired witch who had been at school with Harry, Ron and Hermione. Also a former Gryffindor, she had caused some excitement during their sixth year when her father - a notorious Death Eater - had kidnapped her and tried to use her as the main ingredient for a spell.

Bethany wasn't an Auror at all - she was an Unspeakable (a member of the Department of Mysteries, who were located in the upper part of the building), but her hair-trigger reflexes, a leftover from her traumatic tussle with her father, meant she was a rather good person to have guarding the building's front entrance.

The three of them nodded a hasty greeting to her and presented themselves to the mirror. Hermione stepped through the glass first, quickly followed by Harry who shuddered slightly at the usual sense of intense cold passing over him from head to foot. Then Ron tried to step through -

- and all hell broke loose.

Alarm bells started clanging and lights flashing all over the building, and people burst out of offices at a run. Within seconds the cramped little area behind the mirror portal was jammed with Aurors and Harry was staring at Hermione in shock.

"What the hell - ?"

Then he realised it had to have been Ron.

"Harry, no!" Hermione cried, but it was too late. Harry had plunged back through the portal.

The lobby of the building was almost as jammed with people as the Facility. There was a vast clear space in the middle of the floor, however, where Ron was kneeling, hands spread out wide above his head in the submission posture all Aurors were taught to use with dangerous, armed wizards. Behind him stood Bethany with her wand pointing at the exposed back of his neck. For a wonder she hadn't simply stunned him already, which was something of a miracle considering how quick off the draw she tended to be.

Ron was pale with fright, and protesting helplessly - but he didn't move a muscle, only too aware of not only Bethany's wand but also about twenty others all pointing straight at him. His eyes tracked to Harry as soon as he saw him reappear through the mirror and they were stark with terror.

But it was obvious - to Harry at least - that he hadn't a clue what had happened to set the alarms off.

Then Moody appeared, stepping almost casually through the mirror behind Harry and shoving him out of the way. Behind him came Sirius and Remus Lupin, followed closely by Hermione. A deadly hush fell over the lobby, in which the dull clunk of Moody's wooden leg could be clearly heard on the mosaic floor.

He pushed through the crowd of Aurors and other wizards, and slowly stepped over to Ron. His magical eye seemed to be going crazy, whizzing from one face to another, then down at Ron, and back to the crowd again.

"You can step back, Miss Bloom," he growled.

Bethany did so, but her eyes never left Ron and her wand was steady.

"Alright, what happened?"

"Weasley tried to step through the portal and the alarms went off," she reported grimly. "He didn't appear to do anything unusual, but the mirror rejected him immediately."

"That right, Weasley?"

Ron had to swallow twice before he could speak. "Yes, sir."

"And how's that shoulder of yours feeling?"

"F-fine, sir ...."

"Interesting." Moody's tone sounded very dry to Harry, who was watching worriedly from the side. "Lupin, check him over."

Lupin stepped forward and murmured a charm to his wand. Then he walked slowly around Ron, passing the point of the wand over him without touching him. When it passed over his lower back, there was a sudden burst of sparks and Lupin hastily stepped back.

"There's something on him, but I can't tell what."

Moody stared Ron. "Take your robe off, sonny - slowly! - and put it on the floor next to you."

Hands shaking, Ron did as he was told. As soon as the robe was on the floor, Lupin ran his wand over it.

"Nothing," he reported. But both his eyes and Moody's had almost at once been drawn to Ron's right hip. He was wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans under his robe, and there was a thick wad of parchment stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans.

Lupin passed his wand over the paper and sparks flew again, making Ron flinch. He looked up at Moody wordlessly.

Moody seemed unmoved, although suddenly both of his eyes were riveted to Ron. "What's that in your pocket, Weasley?"

"My Cannons programme," Ron said. He was trying to look over his right shoulder, eyes wide with shock and confusion.

"Your what?"

"We saw the Chudley Cannons play on Saturday," Harry put in quickly. "It's just a match programme - "

"It's not "just" anything, Potter!" Moody snapped. "Take it out of your pocket and put it on the floor, Weasley." Ron did as he was told. "Now move back. Miss Bloom, keep an eye on him."

Ron shuffled backwards, and watched as Moody slowly circled the folded programme. Abruptly, he pointed his wand at it and roared, "PATEFACIO!"

For a moment nothing happened. Then the programme seemed to twist and buckle on the floor, as though it was a living creature in great pain. The cream-coloured parchment shimmered and the lines of black printed ink seemed to run across the surface. There was a burst of green light, and the parchment transmuted into a crumpled square of roughly-woven black cloth covered in green and gold stitched designs.

There was a sudden collective gasp and murmur from the gathered witches and wizards, and everyone except Moody and Lupin drew back a little.

Ron was shaking violently now, unable to tear his eyes from the scrap of cloth that had been his Cannons programme.

"W-what the hell is that?" he managed, his voice trembling as much as the rest of him.

"Good question," Moody said sardonically. "I take it this isn't what you purchased at the game on Saturday?" His magical eye flicked across to Hermione. "Miss Granger, this is something you're good at ."

Taken by surprise, Hermione started slightly. She approached the cloth warily and crouched beside it, passing her wand back and forth across the surface; then she stretched her free hand across it, tracing the designs lightly in the air with her finger.

"This is an Eye of Ssiraz," she said after a moment, indicating one patch of stitching, "and these - I think - are spells of Who-What-Where. This is an old one, the Mouth of Thoth. I've only seen it in books. And this is a Rune of Bring-Me-Power, although I've never seen it in this form before. It's quite weak."

She looked up at Moody. "These are all passive spells to watch someone; except for the rune, which looks like it's meant to sample the magic being used around it. Sir, this piece of cloth is a spy."

       

"So tell me about this Quidditch match," Moody rumbled.

They were back in the interview room where Harry had been questioned by Moody, Kisbie and Dumbledore after Ron attacked him. This time, however, it was both of them being grilled and the questioners were Moody, Lupin and Sirius, although Dumbledore had been informed of what was happening.

The piece of spell-written cloth had been taken away for further examination and neutralisation by Hermione and a couple of older, more experienced Aurors. Ron, after a brief examination of his shoulder to confirm that the Seal hadn't been activated, had been allowed to get up and put his robe back on. He was not in custody again, by Moody's own admission, which was a huge relief to both him and Harry, although Harry wondered exactly what Moody was thinking about this second incident involving his friend.

The questioning was more friendly and informal this time, though for whatever that was worth. Ron was huddled over a mug of hot chocolate as he related how he'd got the tickets from Fred and George, and that he and Harry had spent the night with his parents before going to the game. He gave a short account of the first match at the Cannons' ground and explained how he'd gone to buy them both a drink and a programme for himself.

"And you bought just the one programme, for yourself?" Moody asked him. They had already gone over this once, but Ron nodded. "What about you, Potter?" the elderly Auror demanded. "Not a Cannons fan?"

Harry blinked in surprise. "No no, not really. I don't support any particular team. I like watching Quidditch, but I'd rather play it to be honest. Ron's the Cannons fan, as everyone knows."

Moody nodded, his magical eye whirling in a thoughtful way. Sirius leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table in front him.

"Why'd you bring the programme to work with you this morning, Ron?" he asked mildly.

"For my brothers to look at," Ron said tiredly. "The only reason Harry and I had the tickets was because Fred and George couldn't go. I was going to take it down to their shop at lunchtime."

"And going back to the game after you came back from buying the programme and drinks, you just watched the Cannons' match and went home to your mother's house?" Lupin asked gently.

"Yes. It finished a bit later than we expected, but that's all."

"Anything else odd about the match?" asked Sirius.

"No, I don't think so "

"Yes," Harry said abruptly, and everyone looked at him. He was looking at Ron though. "Remember I thought I saw Draco Malfoy in the crowd during the break?"

Moody uttered a quiet "Ha!" but Ron stared at Harry.

"I forgot about that but I thought we agreed that it couldn't be him?" he said, perplexed.

"Why?" Moody demanded, his whirling eye suddenly fixing on Ron's face.

"Well, Draco Malfoy at a Cannons match, it's not "

"You think Death Eaters don't follow Quidditch?" the old Auror demanded.

"No, but "

"He'd watch any old team if he had another reason to be there, laddie." His eye swivelled towards Harry. "What made you think it was him, Potter?"

Harry shrugged, embarrassed and a little perturbed. "It was mostly his hair Malfoy has really white-blond hair. But I was right at the top of the stands, and I couldn't be sure. Besides, I "

"Damn!" Ron interrupted suddenly, and he flushed with anger and embarrassment. "I dropped it."

"Dropped what?" Sirius demanded.

"My programme. I'd forgotten until now, but when I was walking back to the stands, my hands were full and I had the programme tucked under my arm. I dropped it and someone picked it up and handed it back to me." He looked mortified. "I didn't even really see what they looked like, but it wasn't Malfoy. I'd remember if it was him!"

"Doesn't mean a thing," Moody said sharply, but he was looking oddly excited. "Now we're getting somewhere, but I don't see ...."

His voice trailed off and he stared into the wall behind Harry's head. Harry swallowed. It seemed like a bad time to mention it, but he had no choice.

"Sir, I ... I've been dreaming about him. Malfoy, I mean."

Silence. Moody's eyes were suddenly back on him, along with everyone else's.

"What?" Ron exclaimed, incredulous. "You never said anything to me!"

Harry felt like a fool under Moody's equally incredulous gaze, but he shrugged slightly.

"Well, you know I've been having nightmares," he told Ron, embarrassed.

"Yeah, but you never said they were about Malfoy! Why didn't you tell me? I could have done a spread and seen if there was anything in it."

"It was only twice! You know what my accuracy rate is with dreams, and you had too much other stuff on your mind ...."

"Harry, you idiot "

"When you gentlemen have quite finished your little domestic quarrel!" Moody interrupted loudly, and they shut up hastily.

"This keeps getting better and better," Sirius said, staring at his godson in exasperation. "How long have the pair of you been in training as Aurors? Ron, I can make some allowance for the situation you've been in for the past week, but Harry .... Well, frankly I expected better from you."

Harry could feel the heat creeping up his face and the back of his neck, all the worse because he knew the rebuke was merited. Considering that they were both supposed to be fearsome banes of Death Eaters, he and Ron weren't doing too well so far.

"Enough of that," Moody said abruptly, getting up and moving around the room restlessly. "Recriminations won't get us anywhere now. Potter, we need full notes of these dreams of yours. And I want to know more about that piece of spell-cloth. But before we go any further into any of that, there's one thing I'm very curious about."

His magical eye fixed on Ron again.

"What I want to know, Weasley, is what it is about you that's so interesting to Voldemort all of a sudden."

"Eh?" Sirius stared at him. "Alastor, I don't "

"Weasley's the Cannons fan, as everyone knows," Moody quoted grimly. "Your words, Potter. You think young Malfoy knows that?"

Harry stared him, slowly realising what he was saying. "Yes, of course he does. I think everyone in our year at school did ...."

"So he probably knows that you aren't, doesn't he?"

"Well, yes "

"That programme wasn't planted to watch you, Potter, which makes a change. It was put there for Weasley." Moody grunted, staring off into space again. "Yes, it's starting to make sense."

Sirius looked blank, but Lupin had an arrested look on his face.

"Of course," he said quietly. "The first spell, the controlling curse, was to see if it could be done. And if they managed to kill Harry in the process, then all to the good. Presumably on this occasion they expected Ron to leave the programme at home, where it could spy on him and Harry undisturbed; it was just sheer luck that he brought it here and we found out about it. But why would they want to watch Ron?"

"Because he has something Voldemort wants," Harry said, not feeling nearly as calm as his voice sounded. "Something they're not sure about, maybe."

"I'm a Seer," Ron offered weakly. He sounded rather faint, which was hardly surprising. For the last ten years he had played second fiddle to Harry, the Boy Who Lived, and it was a considerable shock to realise that one of the most evil wizards in history had suddenly decided he was the more interesting of the two of them after all.

"They have plenty of Seers of their own, lad. No, it's not that. There's something else about you they like the look of."

"Unless, of course, it's simply that he's very close to Harry," Sirius suggested, raising a brow. "Closer than perhaps they previously realised."

"If that had been the reason, they'd have taken him out years ago," Lupin disagreed.

"I need to talk to Albus about this," Moody decided, and he straightened up, rubbing his hands together. "But there's plenty to be done while I'm doing that. Potter, get those dreams written down so we can get young Weasley here to do an interpretation. Weasley, I want you to get that crystal ball of yours out or whatever other method you prefer and see if you can get some idea of what the Malfoy boy's up to. Lupin, you go help Miss Granger and the others with that cloth. And Black, you're going with me to Hogwarts."

 

End Part 7/30

 

 

More reviews! Thank you - I'm doing the happy Snoopy dance *grin*

Sal Glad you like their relationship. I hadn't written slash in a long time when I started writing this story, so it started out feeling a bit awkward. They ease up a little as the story progresses, but there won't be any mushiness, don't worry! I couldn't do mushy if my life depended on it ....

Quoth the Raven I've always felt that coming out to parents must be a most difficult thing, and given Ron's insecurities I think it would be so much worse for him. That scene was a difficult one to write, as I recall. As for Harry's dream well, I couldn't possibly comment at this point *smile*

Beth Ann Dunno that I'm a great observer of human nature, but I know I like writing dialogue *grin*

Becchan Glad you like it! More Ron/Harry relationship coming up shortly ... it's a big gap in the slash market I'm trying to fill!

Sally I posted the first five chapters in a lump because they were all a lot shorter, and 30 chapters seemed like a lot to post between now and June 21st! The later chapters get longer a lot longer but I'm hoping to update roughly every other day. As for an R/H/D love triangle .... *grin* Well, I don't want to reveal too much, but I will say that I don't think Ron and Draco would want to be intimately involved together and I don't believe either of them would be willing to share Harry. I'm delighted that you think both this story and "The Lodger" are sexy though. I'm useless at writing smut, but a very good friend told me when I was a teenager that it's "more erotic to conceal than to reveal" so I aim for that instead.


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