Voldemort takes actions, Dumbledore is surprised, and Remus thinks aloud to Sirius' confusion.
Snape’s belief (and deep hope) that his Slytherins would be keeping their heads down and their mouths (largely) shut was maintained throughout the rest of the month of November. It was apparent to him (and the rest of the staff) that the Slytherin centrists were keeping an eye on the remaining extremists, and Snape had little doubt that some intimidation was going on behind the scenes in the dorm rooms. Snape was very glad that the main outside agitators, the Weasley twins, were still occupied with testing many of their products. At least those being victimized these days were being paid for it, and most of the current test subjects were currently Hufflepuffs.
Even though the Slytherin-Gryffindor Quidditch match aroused a great deal of partisanship, the rivalry was kept within reasonable bounds. The fact that the match ended in a 270-270 tie, when Draco Malfoy just managed to beat Ginny Weasley to the Snitch may have helped with any aftermath, although Ginny Weasley herself was depressed for the rest of the term. Some of the more optimistic members of the staff were starting to suggest that they might get through the rest of the term without a major explosion.
One Monday morning in early December, however, Harry looked up from his breakfast. “Something seems to have stirred people up,” he observed.
Hermione looked up from the first year’s homework she was proofreading and saw Harry was right. Something was causing a louder buzz than usual. Seeing a number of departing owls, she said, “It must be something in ‘The Prophet’.”
“It is,” Katie Bell said from further up the table. She passed her copy down to Harry.
It was a notice that half a dozen Death Eaters had escaped from Azkaban.
Harry looked around and saw than Neville was at the entrance to the great hall, talking with a group of Hufflepuffs. He slapped together some toast, eggs, and ham into sandwiches, and left the table. Hermione watched as Harry culled Neville from the group and led him from sight.
Hermione was not the only person who noticed that Neville was more nervous than usual for the rest of the month.
The escape seemed to bring Draco and his few remaining cronies back to life. They resumed taunting select students, especially Neville and Ginny, but they always made certain that Harry was never in sight. Only Draco was brave (or foolish) enough to taunt Hermione and Luna, but again, even he made certain that Harry was not anywhere near by when he did so and compared to some of his insults in previous years, he was rather restrained in his taunts, and he made no overt threats.
Draco was not to know that reports of his actions, certainly violating the Dark Lord’s command to watch only, were being reported back to his would-be Master not only by a large number of his fellow students, but by Snape. Snape, in fact, was managing to make it appear to the Dark Lord that it was mostly due to Draco’s continued spouting off that security arrangements at Hogwarts were so strong and were likely to stay that way. Snape even agreed with Pansy Parkinson’s report that Draco had been behind her attempt on Luna, although he knew that it had been almost totally Pansy’s plan.
Draco would be in for a shock when he went home for the holidays.
Except for the slight raise in tensions caused by the escapes and Draco’s taunts (as all the blame for the increased taunting was being laid on Draco, even though he was not behind even half of them), nearly all of the students were able to get into the holiday mood as the month progressed. Most of the staff felt the same way, although Dumbledore was seen to be a bit out of focus mentally. Dumbledore himself realized this, and knew that part of the problem was that he was still unable to really communicate with Harry – which to Dumbledore meant getting information from and control over The-Boy-Who-Lived. Each attempt had ended with Harry somehow distracting him from his purpose. In addition, for some reason each time he thought about questioning the Granger or Lovegood girls, he promptly forgot the thought. Even more troubling, the Headmaster felt his magic was off, and he was having difficulties communicating with the castle – or at least the castle was refusing to tell him everything he wanted to know. All of that worried him, and Dumbledore wondered if age was finally catching up to him. He resolved to take time over the holidays for some deep meditation to explore his magic.
The only development concerning Harry which Dumbledore did not feel was totally negative was that the boy was going to spend Christmas with Black. He was not thrilled with the idea, as Black and even Lupin had been largely uncooperative since the summer, but it was better for Harry to be at Grimmauld Place with the Order as well as Black and Lupin than to have the boy somehow going off to his mysterious tutors. And, since Dumbledore refused to share the location with Harry, the boy could only come and go with an escort of some kind. Black was still largely confined to Headquarters and there was a full moon coming up which should keep Lupin on a short leash. That meant that the Order members could control any attempts by Harry to leave.
Again, not totally satisfactory, but acceptable as far as Dumbledore was concerned.
The night before the students left on holiday, Snape was surprised to find ‘the Chosen One’ in his private potions lab. He mostly suppressed the irritation he felt and demanded, “What do you want?” He knew it would be no use pointing out that it was near curfew.
Harry shrugged and asked, “I was wondering if you wanted to score some points with the grand pooh-bah?”
“The all-unknowing, all unseeing leader of the Order of the Pheasants.”
Snape rolled his eyes, but merely asked, “How?”
“He’ll likely figure this out over the break, as so far as I know no one will be here to keep up his conditioning, so you might want to get the ball rolling.” Harry glared at Snape, “So long as you agree not to say anything until after dinner tomorrow night.”
Snape again repressed his first response, and agreed.
“Good. Now, look into my eyes.” Snape reluctantly did so. “After dinner tomorrow, ask Dumbledore why he is using a different wand. You can not ask before then, and even if you somehow managed to, Dumbledore would not be able to respond.”
Harry blinked, and Snape quickly shut his eyes and shook his head. He didn’t know what had happened – it was not Legilimency, the Imperious, or anything he was familiar with. He did know he could not disobey the commands he had been given, and was grateful they were commands he did not overly-mind following. After a moment, he asked, “Do I want to know what the hell you just did?”
“No,” Harry said seriously, “you do not.”
After dinner the next evening, Snape left the nearly empty great hall with the Headmaster. As soon as they were sitting in the Headmaster’s office, a rather tired Dumbledore asked, “You have something to report?”
Snape shook his head. “No, not something to report, but I do have a question to ask you.”
Repressing a tired sigh, Dumbledore merely asked, “And what is that?”
“Is that your usual wand? Something looks different about it.” As soon as he said that, Snape saw the wand change color and shape. It was indeed a very different wand.
Dumbledore frowned and looked down at the wand on his desk. Suddenly, a look of horror overcame him. Dumbledore swallowed hard and picked the wand up, his hand shaking slightly. “Indeed. This is not the wand I have been using these past fifty years. It is not even the wand I bought as a youth.” He studied the wand for a moment and then blushed slightly.
“What is it?”
“Pussy willow and . . . flobber worm? No wonder my magic has seemed so weak of late!” Dumbledore flung the wand on the desk in disgust and opened a drawer, pulling out a different wand, which immediately shot off a huge display of sparks. “That’s better,” he sighed with a relieved smile. He looked at Snape and said, “My original wand.”
Snape merely nodded.
Dumbledore stood. “I must confront Harry about this.” He turned towards the fireplace, but then stopped. He slowly turned to Snape. “Do you remember where Headquarters is?”
“Of course,” Snape replied. “It’s at Black’s.”
“I know that. But the actual location, the address?”
Snape opened his mouth, but then closed it. “No, I don’t remember,” he had to admit. He frowned. “But you put the Fidelius on it!”
“I did, and it is not broken,” Dumbledore agreed. “Somehow, and I would have thought it impossible, someone who knew the secret has overlaid my Fidelius with another!” And, Dumbledore knew, that almost certainly meant whomever had done so had used the Elder Wand. That also explained how he had been bewitched – having studied it for over fifty years, Dumbledore knew his native magic could not easily overcome the effects of the wand. If, as he suspected, Slytherin’s ring held the Resurrection Stone, then it was likely that Harry now commanded all three of the Deathly Hallows, and hence more power than Voldemort could command, never mind himself.
Dumbledore also reminded himself that, now that he no longer wielded the Elder Wand, he would be unable to confront Voldemort directly, at least with any real chance at survival.
That knowledge shook him almost as much as the amount of magic that had been used on him.
Draco Malfoy screamed in agony yet again as he was tortured. “Very good,” Voldemort said with real satisfaction to his minions. “You all seem to have recovered your magic.” A flip of his wand restored Draco, physically. “Since dear Lucius spent so much on securing you all quarters well-away from the dementors, we will leave this self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Slytherin’ to get his rest.” After a pause, Voldemort stated, “You may start working out your anger tomorrow by practicing your skinning charms on him.”
The six escapees chortled; Draco passed out.
“Stop pacing, Moony,” Sirius growled.
“You don’t wonder where Harry is?” Remus demanded.
“To tell the truth, yes,” Sirius admitted. “There is a hell of a lot going on that we don’t understand. But let’s face it, we are slightly less in the dark with Harry and his friends running things than we were when Dumbledore was in charge, plus Harry seems to care about us a lot more than the Headmaster did.”
“True,” Remus admitted. “Still, we’re no better informed, and I really wish we knew something more about these allies of Harry’s.”
“You mean other than the fact they seem to have trained him amazingly well?”
“Yes,” Remus snapped. “If what we’ve been told about what’s been done at Hogwarts this past term is true, then Harry’s walking a fine line.” Seeing Sirius’ frown, Remus added, “Oh, I disagree with Albus as much as you do. Harry has not gone dark grey, let alone truly Dark. Still, he’s a lot more ruthless than I think is good for him.”
“So, you think it’s all Harry? That Harry could actually do all that himself?” Sirius seemed doubtful.
“I have to say yes to that,” Remus stated. “Do you think it could be a group of students, led by Harry?”
“No,” Sirius had to agree, “that doesn’t seem likely.”
“Then could Harry really be able to slip even one person in-and-out of Hogwarts at will? Or hide a group in Hogwarts all term, without them being caught? I assure you, Padfoot, the staff have lots of ways of monitoring the students, and Dumbledore has even more. I can see the school allowing Harry to get away with a lot, but not bringing in outsiders.”
“I have a difficult time believing Hogwarts is alive,” Sirius grumbled.
“Alive? Well, in the sense that she exists and is sentient and intelligent, she is, just as the Sorting Hat is. Dumbledore and the others do not seem to understand that; they know Hogwarts can feed them information, but refuse to see that she has opinions, and even favorites.”
“Like Harry,” Remus agreed. “Still, that’s different than allowing outsiders, even those vouched for by someone like Harry, to have access within the wards.”
“You may be right,” Sirius admitted. He scowled, and added, “I just wish we knew anything about his allies.”
Remus rolled his eyes, and Sirius demanded, “What?”
“We were talking to him while he unpacked, Paddy.”
Sirius shrugged. “So?”
Remus sighed, “So, think about his trunk. What did you see?”
Sirius frowned, but sat back and thought the question through aloud. “It was a five compartment trunk, although we only saw three of the compartments. The first compartment was filled with his clothes.”
“True,” Remus agreed.
Sirius thought some more and then shrugged. “The other two compartments we saw had books. You and the Granger girl and the Ravenclaw must be corrupting him.”
“Ha, ha,” Remus retorted. “Think again.”
Sirius gave Remus a dirty look, but complied. After a few moments, Sirius said, “Well, Harry did have an out-putter and some similar odds and ends.”
“‘Out-putter’?” Remus teased. “Spoken like a true Pureblood. It’s called a deluminator.”
“Whatever,” Sirius said dismissively.
“And did it not occur to you that deluminators are licensed items? That the Ministry proscribes most technomage items and that Harry must have had at least twenty such devices?”
Sirius sat up straight. “Hey! You’re right.” Now it was Remus’ turn to roll his eyes. Sirius ignored that and asked, “How did he slip that by Minnie, never mind Dumbledore?”
“That type of trunk is also a proscribed item for Hogwarts students,” Remus explained. “We only saw it was a five-compartment trunk because Harry allowed us to see that.”
That made Sirius blink. After a moment of futile thought, he asked, “What do you think it means?”
“What do you know about the technomages?” Remus asked.
“Not a lot,” Sirius admitted. “I know it’s a new movement and they mess about trying to get magic and technology to work together, and that most of their items are banned almost everywhere.”
“It’s mostly banned in Europe, North Africa, and parts of the Middle East,” Remus said drily. “And yes, that’s how it started off, some seventy years ago in North America, although some claim it started over a hundred years ago. That’s where ideas like the wizarding wireless came from. But the movement has really grown in the last thirty years, and Japan and Korea have been partnering with Australia as an alternative center to North America. Between the two areas, they’ve gone far beyond merely getting Muggle technology to work around magic and making use of Muggle ideas to form things like the wireless. They are truly merging Muggle technology and magic to form a whole new area!”
“I thought most Muggle things couldn’t work around magic,” Sirius complained.
“Normal Muggle devices can’t,” Remus answered. “I can’t explain more, because the knowledge of how to make it work around, or with, magic is proscribed. That’s why Arthur got into so much trouble with his enchanted car.”
“So, you mean my cycle. . . .” Sirius started.
“How the hell did you even sneak that into the country? And yes, items like that are, and always have been, illegal to possess in this country without a special permit.”
Sirius shrugged. “I saw it in Salem when I went there for Dumbledore. I simply shrank it and brought it home.”
“Doing that now would be a 10,000 Galleon fine,” Remus said drily.
Sirius winced at that amount, but quickly recovered. “So, you think Harry is in contact with these technomages?”
“It’s certainly possible,” Remus agreed. “Still, most North American groups could have supplied him with the gizmos as well.”
“Not the Japanese or Koreans?” Sirius asked with a grin.
“I can’t see why they’d be interested,” Remus answered. “However, the Aussies might be.”
“Are they very different?” Seeing Remus looked puzzled, Sirius added, “I mean what the two groups’ ‘gizmos’ do.” He frowned again. “‘Gizmos’?”
Remus shrugged, “That’s sort of the generic name for the devices. And since even most of the information is banned here, I can’t really say.”
“Banned?” Sirius asked.
“There are at least three printed technomage journals,” Remus replied. “Having one copy of any of them in Britain is a hundred Galleon fine. And, since I can’t afford either a computer or an internet connection. . . .”
“A what and a what?”
“Advanced Muggle communication technology, allowing you to read documents over a telephone connection,” Remus explained. “And no, I can’t explain it more than that.”
“Is that something we could install here?” Sirius asked.
“I doubt the information would make it through one Fidelius, let alone two,” Remus retorted.
The two fell silent for a moment. “You still look worried,” Sirius finally pointed out.
“If Harry is directly working with, or for, the technomages . . . well, some of them are as radically progressive in their own way as Voldemort is the exact opposite.”
“Meaning they may be using Harry in ways he doesn’t realize.”
Sirius nodded. “Either way, we back him up, and help him as needed.