Harry and Hermione, as Death's Hunters, enter Hogwarts.
Unfortunately, there's no action in this chapter. Sorry.
As usual, I don't own Harry Potter. It would have made one hell of a birthday gift, though.
Chapter 11 - First Contact
Dumbledore frowned in confusion at the woman's announcement; Death's Hunters was an unfamiliar name to him.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that I do not know who you are," the wizened man said, his eyes twinkling. "I'm afraid I haven't been able to keep up with current events outside of the country."
"Yes, I imagine that having to contend with an insane terrorist organization leaves little time to peruse the periodicals," Hermione said, her voice maintaining its professional neutrality. "But to the point, we are a private organization specializing in the tracking and apprehension of wanted individuals, for a fee of course." When she finished, Dumbledore furrowed his brow, his eyes losing their twinkle.
"I see," Dumbledore said evenly. "And what is this proposal that you wish to make?"
"A standard contract," Hermione replied. "We bring in one or more individuals of your choice, and you provide us with payment. Considering your current situation, my superiors are willing to offer a one-time discount: Two thousand Galleons per standard Death Eater, five thousand for an Inner Circle member, and fifteen thousand for the Dark Lord himself." Behind Dumbledore, outraged mutterings broke out between the Order members.
"Albus, we don't have that kind of money," McGonnagal whispered harshly into her mentor's ear. With a heavy sigh, Dumbledore looked down at the diminutive image of Hermione sadly.
"I am sorry, Miss Grayson," he said regretfully, "but I simply do not have the resources to honor such a contract. Perhaps your superiors would be willing to waiver their...fees just this once," he pleaded. Hermione gave a light chuckle and shook her head.
"Mister Dumbledore, we run a business, not a charity," Hermione chided. "Our skills are highly prized, and high quality service must be met with high prices." Dumbledore sighed and rubbed his forehead tiredly.
"Then I am afraid that I must refuse your offer, Miss Grayson," Dumbledore said diplomatically. "In addition to your...steep prices, there is another reason why I cannot take your services. I'm afraid that...special circumstances must take place in order for Vol...You-Know-Who, to be defeated," he explained, catching himself just in time. While he was personally not fond of the habit of using such titles as "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named" in reference to Voldemort, he realized with a heavy heart that if he encouraged such behavior outside of the boundaries of Hogwarts' protection, then those who performed it would be captured, and possibly killed.
"'Special circumstances,'" Hermione repeated skeptically. "Very well then, it is fortunate that we already have a contract in place." This piqued Dumbledore's attention, and Hermione tried not to smile as the old man leaned forward in interest.
"You already have a contract?" Dumbledore asked. "May I be so bold as to ask who has hired you?" Hermione pretended to consider it for a moment.
"You might..." she began, "if you do something for us." Dumbledore’s shoulders drooped slightly as realization dawned on him.
"Of course," he sighed. "What is it that you require?" he asked.
"Two of our agents are currently in Great Britain, but have no proper lodging," Hermione said, fighting the urge to grin. "If you would be willing to house our agents, then our client has waived his right to confidentiality in your case." Dumbledore was quiet for several seconds while he considered the offer. "Please be quick, Mister Dumbledore," Hermione admonished her former headmaster. "My superiors do not like to be kept waiting."
"I apologize, Miss Grayson," Dumbledore said, "I am normally not in the habit of providing housing for mercenaries." Hermione gave a mirthless smile.
"And we are not normally in the habit of providing the identities of our clients to civilians, Mister Dumbledore," she responded. "Now, have you come to a decision or not?" Dumbledore was silent for a moment, and then eventually nodded his head.
"Very well, I shall provide housing for your agents. When can I expect them?" he asked.
"They will arrive at precisely ten thirty tomorrow morning," Hermione said. "Death's Hunters thanks you for your hospitality, Mister Dumbledore."
"You are welcome, my dear," Dumbledore said politely. "Now, who has hired you to come here?" he pressed.
"I believe he said that you know him, Mister Dumbledore," Hermione said, "does the name Harry Potter ring a bell?" Predictably, the reaction was immediate and loud as the Order members present clamored over the news.
"Miss Grayson, I beg of you, please tell us where Mister Potter is," Dumbledore pleaded to Hermione. "We have been searching for him for twelve years, and we cannot win this war without him." Hermione almost laughed at the look of desperation on the old man's face, but maintained her emotionless mask.
"I'm sorry, Mister Dumbledore, but that is information that we simply do not divulge," Hermione said coolly. "Our agents will be arriving tomorrow; have a nice day." With that farewell, the image of Hermione flickered away, and the crystal crumbled into dust. Dumbledore sagged in his chair tiredly. To be so close to having Harry's location, only to have it snatched away, it was almost as if the woman from Death's Hunters was deliberately taunting him.
"What will we do now, Albus?" McGonnagal asked the older man. Dumbledore sighed and rubbed his temple.
"We have no choice; we have to let the agents from Death's Hunters in," he said. "We can only hope that we can obtain Harry's location from them." In the back of his mind, Dumbledore had doubts about this plan, but he had no other choice.
"Alright, we got into Hogwarts, but no payment," Hermione said as she took off her wig. Harry was sitting at a desk, several plates, disks and springs scattered about its surface.
"I kind of figured he wouldn't pay," Harry said as he began to assemble a device from the parts before him. "It was worth a try though." Hermione hummed in agreement and watched as Harry assembled her latest invention. The various components came together like a jigsaw puzzle, until eventually he had a black metal disk approximately seven inches in diameter and one inch thick, with a dark red jewel the size of Harry's thumbnail in its center. Harry pushed the jewel into the body of the device and gave it a quarter turn clockwise, where it began to blink rhythmically. He then tried to remove it from the desk, but it held firm to the wooden surface. Nodding in satisfaction, Harry grabbed a small box with an antenna and switch on it, and flipped the switch, causing the device to make a soft click. Nodding again, Harry released the jewel and partially disassembled the device to implant the most important component: a hollow glass ring containing a familiar orange potion. His work complete, he turned to Hermione, smiling triumphantly.
"Okay, that's one down," Harry said, "only what, nineteen more to go?" Hermione shrugged silently as she grabbed some parts from her husband and began to assemble the devices herself. "You know, this plan isn't exactly subtle," Harry said as he completed another device and set it aside. "People are bound to notice a missing house eventually, even as far out in the country at Riddle Manor is."
"Perhaps, but it's the only way to be certain that no one is going to ransack the place later for any undesirable objects," Hermione replied. "And if we do it right, the Muggles will have no idea what was the cause of it." Harry hummed to himself before changing the subject.
"So what are we doing after this job?" he asked his wife. "It's not like there's going to be a government to finance us, and the Order certainly isn't willing to pay us." Hermione pondered her answer silently while she worked.
"Well, it's not like we're hurting for money, so I guess we can take a sabbatical and keep an eye on the rebuilding process, or we can simply head back to the continent; it's not like there's any shortage of criminals there," she said.
"That's true," Harry agreed with a chuckle. "Weren't the Italians practically on their hands and knees, begging us to stay longer?"
"The Russians too," Hermione added, chuckling herself. "I think they even offered to put a word in with their Muggle counterparts to help capture members of the Mafia for them as well."
"Wow," Harry said, surprised. "We've certainly moved up in the world, haven’t we?" he asked, half-rhetorically.
"Yes, we have," Hermione agreed. "Who'd have thought that the skinny boy with glasses and the bushy-haired bookworm we were seventeen years ago would grow up to be a pair of mercenaries that many of the world's powers are practically in a bidding war to obtain the services of?"
"Not me, that's for sure," Harry laughed. The two mercenaries continued their idle chatter until all of the devices had been assembled. Afterwards, they pulled out several shrunken padded briefcases and, after canceling the shrinking charms, placed four devices into each case, re-shrinking them and placing them into the pockets of their uniforms. "So, now what?" Harry asked after they had finished cleaning off the debris from their work.
"Well, we're not due to arrive till tomorrow," Hermione said, thinking, "so I guess we could go downstairs and train." As Hermione rifled through her bags to find her training clothes, Harry did the same and turned his back to her as they changed. As he stripped out of his day clothes and into his training adornment, he fought the urge to turn around and peek at Hermione, or even think about the image of his wife half-naked.
It would be awkward to fight with an erection, after all.
The next morning, Harry and Hermione were dressing in their Death's Hunters uniforms.
"You know, I think I'll let you do all the talking this time, and I'll be the silent partner," Hermione said conversationally.
"Oh yeah, why is that?" Harry asked her.
"Well, I have been acting as the spokesperson of Death's Hunters for what, five years now? And besides, you probably have more to say to them than I do, so I'm letting you take the reins on this one," Hermione answered.
"Aww, thanks, how sweet of you," Harry said, wrapping his arms around her.
"Well, I'm just nice like that," Hermione responded before reaching to kiss her husband on the lips. They both snapped their helmets on and checked their chronometers: it read 1029 hours. After making sure that all of their equipment and belongings were stowed in their proper places, they Apparated to the edge of the Hogwarts grounds.
At the edge of the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Dumbledore and Minerva McGonnagal were waiting for their two new guests to arrive.
"Are you sure that we can trust them, Albus?" the elderly witch asked.
"To be honest, I am not sure," Dumbledore responded. "However, these are bleak times, and we cannot afford to turn away any assistance, even if I do not agree with their methods." Just as he finished speaking, two cloaked figure Apparated at the edge of the wards. "Ah, speak of the devil." Walking towards the two Hunters, he opened his arms in a welcoming fashion. "I assume that you are the agents that Death's Hunters has sent; welcome to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Harry looked up at the castle before him; it had stood remarkably unchanged since he last saw it twelve years before.
"Nice place you have here," he finally said, his voice deepened by the synthesizer in his helmet. "So are we going to stand around here all day, or are you going to let us in?" Dumbledore was slightly taken aback by Harry's bluntness, but quickly recovered.
"Ah yes, about that. I cannot simply let you in without question; I must have proof that you will not betray us to You-Know-Who." Harry sighed and drew his wand, Hermione repeating the action.
"I swear on my magic that I do not wish to physically harm you, nor will I intentionally assist the Dark Lord's regime. So mote it be," he incanted, an aura of magic briefly enveloping him as the oath took effect. After her oath had been emplaced, Dumbledore keyed them into the wards and allowed them entry.
"Forgive me for the inconvenience, but I trust that you understand that in these trying times, one must take precautions," Dumbledore apologized. "I am Albus Dumbledore, and this is my friend and colleague Minerva McGonnagal." Harry and Hermione nodded respectfully at their former head of house.
"This is my partner, Morticia," Harry said, gesturing to Hermione, "and I am Mortis." Dumbledore was visibly surprised by the announcement, an amusing sight in Harry’s opinion.
"Forgive me, but that is a name that I have not heard in a long time," Dumbledore said, shaking of his surprise. "Is that your real name, Mortis?" he queried.
"Maybe," Harry said vaguely, crossing his arms. "Now, perhaps you could show us in?"
"Of course, please follow me," Dumbledore said as he led them inside the castle. When they entered the Great Hall, the ceiling was still enchanted to show the sky above them, but the room seemed unusually large and empty now that the four house tables had been removed.
"Morticia, I need to speak to Mister Dumbledore in private; could you be so kind as to secure a room for us?" Harry asked. McGonnagal looked at Dumbledore, who nodded his approval, so she took Hermione to find a suitable room.
"What is it you wished to speak to me about, Mister Mortis?" Dumbledore asked.
"I was wondering if I could meet some of the infamous Order of the Phoenix," Harry said. When Dumbledore raised his eyebrow questioningly, Harry added, "I do not plan on being here long, but I would be more efficient if I knew who I was working with." Dumbledore considered it for a moment, and then nodded in acceptance.
"Very well, I shall take you to them," Dumbledore said, beckoning Harry to follow him. "That is a very interesting wand that you have there, Mister Mortis," he said to Harry conversationally as they walked down the myriad of hallways.
"Thanks; it's custom made," Harry replied.
"What materials were used in its construction, if I may be so bold?" Dumbledore asked.
"An onyx shaft, with a dementor arm bone core," Harry responded, Dumbledore's eyebrows rising in interest.
"Really?" he asked. "That is certainly a very...unique combination."
"It serves its purpose well enough," Harry said, shrugging.
Dumbledore led Harry down several halls and corridors until they reached what from Harry's recollection was the Charms classroom. The doors opened to reveal several people sitting at a table. "Everyone, this is Mister Mortis," the elder man addressed the crowd. "He and his partner will be our guests for a while. Mister Mortis, this is Kingsley Shacklebolt, Jonathan Williams, Michael Turner, Serena Blake, Horace Slughorn, Severus Snape, Ronald Weasley and his sister Ginevra."
"A pleasure to meet you all," Harry said, inclining his head slightly. Harry felt a slight tickling in the back of his head, and quickly reinforced his mental defenses, forcing out the intruder. Snape grunted softly as the mental probe was deflected. Harry activated his Mage Sight filter and surveyed the people before him. He saw a dark splotch on the left arm of two figures in the room. One was attached to Severus Snape, which was no surprise, but the other one shocked him: Ronald Weasley. Turning to Dumbledore, Harry asked, "Could I speak to you outside for a moment, please?" Nodding, Dumbledore took Harry out of the room, where he cast a privacy charm. "Well, you certainly have a very interesting taste in company, Mister Dumbledore," he said, crossing his arms. "Care to explain to me why there are two Death Eaters in that room?"
"How did you know that?" Dumbledore asked, surprised that Harry had discovered the fact.
"Trade secret," Harry said simply. "You still haven't answered my question." Dumbledore sighed tiredly and rubbed his forehead.
"They are both spies for me within Voldemort's ranks," Dumbledore explained, falling back into his old habit of addressing Voldemort as such, "and I trust everyone in that room with my life."
"With all due respect sir, I cannot say the same," Harry said. "I am not willing to trust a terrorist group, no matter how honorable you say they are; I will trust them if and when they prove to me that they are worthy of such trust." Dumbledore sighed tiredly.
"And nothing I say can convince you differently?" the old man asked.
"Nope," Harry said, shaking his head. "Our client also asked about the status of one Remus Lupin, whom I did not see assembled. How is he?" Dumbledore tiredly sighed again, dropping his shoulders.
"I am afraid that Remus and his fiancée Nymphadora Tonks were killed several months ago," he informed Harry. His eyes widened in shock at the news that his last connection to his parents was dead, but recollected his resolve; he could grieve later.
"I see," Harry said neutrally. "Perhaps you could show me to my quarters; my partner and I need to prepare before moving out."
"Of course, let me call an elf to guide you," Dumbledore offered. With a clap of his hands, a diminutive house elf popped into existence before them.
"What can Snappy do for Master Dumbly-Door, sir?" the elf squeaked, bowing low.
"Could you show Mister Mortis to his quarters, please?" Dumbledore asked.
"Of course, Master Dumbly-Door, follow Snappy," the house elf said, leading the way to Harry and Hermione's quarters. Harry followed the elf around the castle corridors until they reached a door. "Master Morty's lady friend is in here. Call Snappy if youse needs anything," it said before popping away. Checking to see that he was alone, Harry knocked on the door.
"Who is it?" Hermione asked through the doorway.
"It's me; I'm alone," Harry replied. He heard the door unlock and open, although Hermione remained carefully behind the doorway. Harry slid in, and she closed the door.
"So, who was around?" Hermione asked, her helmet removed but otherwise still in costume.
"Shacklebolt, Ron, Ginny, Snape, and a few others I didn't recognize," Harry replied, removing his helmet. "According to Dumbledore, Remus and Tonks died a few months ago." Hermione gasped softly at the news. "And there’s something else: Ron has the Dark Mark." Hermione gasped again, louder this time.
"You know what this means, Harry," she said a moment later. Harry sighed and nodded his head sadly.
"Yeah, I do."
And there's chapter eleven; hope you enjoyed it.
Special thanks to Korval who suggested that Hermione's codename be "Morticia" in his review. Thanks, man!
Don't forget to review!