Theo Nott is ordered to take over for Draco; Remus finally gets on-line
Chapter XI -- honest!
Even though the events had been nearly two weeks previously, Draco Malfoy was still the major topic of conversation on the train ride back to Hogwarts. Millie reported to Harry that the remaining pro-Voldemort students were in a deep panic. Several of them had been ‘questioned’ (ie, tortured) for information by their parents so the Dark Lord wouldn’t instead, and all were now equally terrified of Voldemort and the ‘Shadow’, as some now called the being which had exacted retribution from them the term before.
Harry was glad to know they were at least partially separating him from the attacks, but worried that might incline some of the slower learners to try testing him or to again attack his friends. When he reported the incident that night, his mentors sent him an interesting reply, along with some audio tapes, which Harry found entertaining and inspirational.
Harry first made his way immediately to Snape’s private lab however, and, as he suspected, the Potions Master was there waiting for him.
“Do I need to kiss the hem of your robe and call you ‘master’?” Snape asked.
“Yes,” Harry stated, and then he laughed at the look of shock on Snape’s face. “Had you for a second, didn’t I?” he teased. “Seriously, any luck on Pettigrew or Nagini?”
Snape’s sneer dropped, and Harry thought he detected a bit of fear. “No. Nagini is always near her master, and Pettigrew is on some mission. ”
Harry waved his hand over a table, and a small box appeared. “This might help, if you are ever in a location where you’re sure Nagini is, and are in an fairly unobservable position.”
“What is it?” Snape asked, curious.
“A little transportation device. I’ll show you how to work it later. Basically, once activated, it will be invisible and lets a field mouse out every thirty hours.”
“Why every thirty hours, and what good is a mouse?”
Harry shrugged. “If it was exactly every day, it might be more noticeable. As for the mice, they will poison the magic inside Nagini, while creating an instant attraction and addiction to the mice. Once she eats about twelve, we will be able to kill her. At the same time, once the first mouse is eaten, the device will automatically not release a mouse unless she’s within fifty yards. After three mice are eaten, my friends should be able to track her, even if she’s under a Fidelius or otherwise unplotable.”
That made Snape blink, but he went along with the outrageous statement.
“Now, tell me about what the Death Eaters are thinking,” Harry commanded.
Snape thought a moment, and then said, “They are broken into two different groups. The smaller group is confused, but are so loyal to the Dark Lord that they will keep going. The larger group are even more frightened than they are confused. No one believes Draco killed the Lestranges. . . .”
“I assure you, he did,” Harry said quietly.
“Knocked them out, somehow lowered his fears and inhibitions, and then were shocked at what he did to them, eh?” Snape shrugged. “Well, that’s unfortunate for him, but it happens. I doubt you care very much.”
Harry flushed, but said nothing.
“In any case, the Dark Lord is trying to work out a way to enter the Hall of Prophecy himself, as it’s apparent no one else can pick up the Prophecy for him and we can not find a way for him to access your mind as he had planned. I have alerted the Headmaster, who has put the Department of Mysteries on higher notice.”
Harry sighed. “Wizards is so stupid.”
Snape frowned at Harry’s locution, but something tickled his memory. “I assure you, the Dark Lord is no Loony Tune. And, if you recall, the cowboy was wrong about the rabbit.”
Harry nodded. “True. Still how much time did the Headmaster spend trying to figure out how I entered the Hall of Prophecy to get the original?”
“Many, many hours,” Snape admitted.
“The hardest part is getting in. A friend of mine posed as a researcher and went there with a bag and a stick. Remember, historical researchers are allowed access to many fulfilled prophecies, and to check on some other categories. He took the false prophecy out of the bag, used the stick to put the real orb into the bag, and set up the new orb in its place.” Seeing Snape’s stunned look, Harry said, “The active orbs may not be touched by any magic, or by any persons except by those concerned. A stick is neither a person nor magical. Feel free to tell the old fool, and then you and he can decide if it’s worth telling the evil fool.”
Snape rolled his eyes.
“And one more thing. Hold out your left arm, and roll up your sleeve.”
Snape hesitated and then did as he was commanded. Harry wrapped what a Muggle would have thought was a wrist weight around Snape’s forearm, fastening it tightly over where the Dark Mark was hidden with the velcro. “Wear this just as I have it while you sleep. It basically monitors and analyzes the Mark. It should also cut any pain down by about half while you’re wearing it.”
Snape just stared, first at the device wrapped around his forearm, then at Harry. Harry made a circle with his right thumb and forefinger, extending the other three fingers. He brought the circle to his eye and said, “Be seeing you,” and left.
Snape stood, slack-jawed, for nearly two minutes. “I’m getting too old for this shit,” he muttered. He decided he needed a drink before seeing the Headmaster.
As for Harry, he went to see how Hermione and Luna were getting along, as they were in the Arithmancy classroom.
“I have to admit,” Luna told Harry as he walked in, “that I never suspected that Muggles had such advanced mathematics!”
Harry shrugged. “I’m glad you understand Trigonometry; it barely made sense to me last summer. I’ll likely be spending most of my free time studying maths and physics this summer.”
“It’s a bit like learning languages,” Hermione mused. “If you don’t have a natural knack for understanding them, you really need to be trained young and keep learning. You both had your learning interrupted by coming to Hogwarts, and Harry’s not even taking Arithmancy.”
“And you have the knack,” Harry acknowledged.
“I do,” Hermione agreed, “but more importantly, my parents have kept after me to learn Muggle things, like maths and science.” She sighed. “I almost wish we had known about the American schools. Even Salem and the Ysgol offer more-balanced curriculums than Hogwarts.”
“Beauxbatons also offers a more somewhat more balanced curriculum than Hogwarts,” Harry pointed out. “Granted, most of the other schools are even more reactionary than here and don’t even offer Muggle Studies. Tradition often means more than new information. Still, we’ll make do.”
“Have any of your other friends decided to become interested?” Luna asked.
“Ron and Ginny have pretty much rejected any outside learning, and at least until we left for the holidays Seamus was staying neutral,” Harry responded. “The twins are fascinated by chemistry. . . .”
“They just like the smells and explosions,” Hermione pointed out.
“True,” Harry agreed. “Neville is only interested in Muggle fertilizers and cross-breeding techniques. The only aspect of his Muggle background Dean seems interested in maintaining is football, although he does admit to using the family computer.”
Hermione’s eyes darted around, and Harry said, “Yes, we are completely private here.”
“Any word on if we can get some actual technomage information this summer if we stay?” Hermione whispered.
“Not directly, but there are some places where you can find the information in the Muggle world,” Harry told her. He turned to Luna. “What did your father say?”
“He said that learning about Muggle things could help in our searches for exotic beasts,” Luna answered. “So, I may spend six weeks next summer with you or Hermione.”
Remus stared at the computer screen:
“Dear Mr Lupin:
We were a bit surprised to receive your inquiry, as of course it is very rare to hear from European, especially British, wizards.”
Remus glared, wondering how they had determined his location, since he made certain to go through ‘The WELL’ rather than directly through his British ISP.
“Even more surprising was to hear from a werewolf. Be careful; a British werewolf accessing this information would be in serious trouble if caught.”
‘That I know,’ Remus admitted to himself.
“Normally, we would have ignored your queries. However, you have been vouched for by an associate of ours, which should satisfy part of your curiosity and help you formulate your studies. Below is information on how to access a semi-open USEnet group and our semi-open discussion groups on the Well, GEnie, and delphi, should you be able to afford to join those. You may also respond to this e-mail.”
“Well,” Remus muttered, “it’s a start.”
Early the next Saturday morning, a disillusioned Theodore Nott walked to the edge of the Forbidden Forest, where the wards ended. This was also far from the Quidditch Stadium, and Hagrid’s hut, the greenhouses, and just about everything else. He had to walk between two fields which grew some of the food Hogwarts consumed, although both were merely plowed earth at this time of year.
Nott touched his wand to his head, making himself fully visible for a moment, and then reconcealed himself.
“You were not followed?”
Nott shivered, as there was no doubt who this was, even if he could not see the speaker. “No, my Lord.”
“Good. Are you prepared to take action?”
“As my Lord commands.”
“Look in my direction, eyes up!”
Nervously, Nott did was he was commanded. He felt the alien presence, and then he remembered that he now had a two-compartment trunk. That had been a secret under the Fidelius.
“Let us discuss possible services you might render.”
The meeting lasted nearly twenty minutes. The Dark Lord wanted to be sure that Nott knew what to do, and he knew he had to leave Nott in a suitable condition to do what he had been told (not to mention that he could not curse Nott across the wards, but there was no reason to clue Nott in to that fact).
Just before the Dark Lord left, he had signaled and Nott’s father had joined them. Nott Senior had a few minutes to further explain the situation to his son after the Dark Lord left. Nott Junior scurried away, leaving his concerned father watching.
Therefore, the Younger Nott did not see the spell that froze his father. A pair of unseen hands attached some invisible devices to Nott, Obliviated him, and then sent him on his way all before Nott’s son was more than eighty yards away.
As Nott was wanted for questioning by the Ministry, he could not appear at his home, but instead went to a safe house. When Nott arrived, two of the invisible devices peeled off him and moved off under their own power. The first released one of the cursed mice, but unfortunately Nagini was not in residence. After thirty-three house, three hours after the second mouse was released, if neither mouse had been eaten and triggered the magic within the mice, the device and the second device would explode under the right set of conditions: ie when there were at least two Dark Marks in proximity to the boxes.
The remaining device, still attached to Nott, would explode either when his inner robe was removed or whenever he was near another Dark Mark but away from the other two devices. As Nott had immediately flooed to another safe house where he was met by three other Death Eaters, the small device had immediately exploded, tearing Nott’s lower leg apart and sending poisoned shrapnel around the room. Nott died within minutes. The other three Death Eaters were treated, but were magically weakened for over a week. The other devices went off two days later, again without killing anyone, but injuring and weakening four other Death Eaters for a time.
The remaining Death Eaters were now running scared.
Remus had had to buy a laser printer to meet his needs, and in just a few days he had printed out nearly three thousand pages of information. He took the documents back to Grimmauld Place to read. He kept them there, as he was always worried his own hut might be searched, and he did not want to spend too much time in the flat.
He was shocked at the theories proposed by the technomages, even if most of their ideas were supposed to be just that, theoretical. Of course, Remus had to admit, he was still in areas where the general magical communities could only enter by invitation. The North American and Australian Ministries had determined that so long as the information was password protected and entry was by invitation only, it passed muster under their versions of the secrecy statutes. He knew this was by no means all the information there was.
Remus was collecting questions he would send to his technomage contact, and he would see if he could learn more than what was available to the average non-European wizard. He of course did not dare actually post in the forums, just in case they were monitored by the British Ministry in some fashion.
Sirius was semi-interested in the information. That meant that he was interested in the devices produced and those speculated upon. He was not interested in the magical theories behind them (as Remus was), let alone the Muggle science. What he, and Remus, were most interested in of course was learning about what they were sure was now a strong part of Harry’s frame of reference.
“What the hell did you do, Potter?”
Harry merely looked at the Potions Master. “Do? To what?”
Snape took a deep breath. “The Dark Lord is NOT as stupid as you seem to want to believe. Whatever blew Nott apart, not to mention which exploded at some other same house he had traveled to, had to come in with Nott!”
“Okay . . . and so?”
“The Dark Lord and Nott were apparently in the Forbidden Forest!”
Harry nodded. “Probably here to see Theodore.” Harry cocked his head. “Does Volde think Theodore booby-trapped his dear old dad?”
“No, he thinks YOU somehow booby trapped Nott!”
“Me?” Harry asked, wide-eyed. “Now how could I get outside the wards and sneak up on a superior, pure-blooded, Death Eater, one hand-picked by the mighty Dark Lord himself?”
Snape pinched the bridge of his nose, saying, “I would imagine the Dark Lord will, or has, ordered young Nott to injure you, if not kill you.”
“Oh! I see. In that case, thank you for the warning. You think Volde’s so angry he doesn’t want to deal with me himself. Or,” Harry said, his voice hardening, “he’s too frightened to take me on himself. If the opportunity arises where you can suggest that to some of your tattooed friends without getting into trouble, you might want to.”
Snape considered that, and said, “Not an easy thing to say in those circles, but I think I might be able to.”
“Good. And if you can, warn Nott. And if he goes after anyone but me, he’ll regret it more.”
Voldemort sat in his throne-like chair, thinking, wondering, ‘How did it come to this’? He managed to suppress a sigh. “You have done well, Peter. Approach.”
Nervously, Pettigrew did as he was told..
Voldemort handed Pettigrew a necklace. “After you take that thing to a cell, instruct the others to feed and water it. Then, proceed to Hogwarts. If you transform while wearing that, you will not be picked up by either the wards or that map you told finally me about.” Pettigrew winced. “Do not transform back to human while on the grounds unless you have to; it will not hide you then, or if you transform back. I will need to reset the triggering spells each time before you go back. Observe only. Take your time. See if you can understand what is going on there. Something does not feel right.”
Pettigrew bowed, and then dragged the frozen form of Draco Malfoy from the ‘audience chamber’.
“What the hell are you doing to me? Leave me alone!”
“Quiet, Theo,” Millie growled. She nodded, and Greg Goyle and Blaise Zabini released him, while Mille kept his wand.
“Well?” Nott demanded.
“We’re trying to save your bloody life!” Millie snapped.
“If I don’t kill one of my targets and portkey out, the Dark Lord will kill me.”
“And if you try to kill Potter or one of his friends, you’ll be too dead to portkey anywhere,” Millie argued.
“Some of us got away with beating the Weasel and the Mud-blood,” Nott pointed out.
“And some of us didn’t,” Millie retorted. “And that was the first try. Need I remind you of what happened after Hogsmeade?” she demanded, rubbing the spots where she had been nailed to her bed. Goyle and Nott mimicked her actions, wincing in memory. “Or what happened when Pansy and Edgecombe just plotted to attack Loony?”
“I might get hurt, or even killed, if I try this,” Nott acknowledged, nearly in tears, “but if I don’t, then I’m dead as soon as I leave school.”
“He’s right,” Pansy said, shocking them all as she came into the unused classroom they thought they had secured. They hadn’t realized they had been followed. “His choices are probable death or crippling on the one hand; certain death on the other. Not much of a choice, is there?”
“Do you remember the pain you went through? Think of how much worse it could have been!” Millie snapped in return.
“Quiet!” Blaise ordered. He turned to Nott. “Are you on a time line?”
“As soon as possible,” Theodore replied, dejected.
“So,” Pansy said sourly, “now what?”
At that moment, the torches dimmed to what had to have been their lowest setting. A deep, resonant voice asked, “WHO KNOWS WHAT EVIL LURKS IN THE HEARTS OF MEN? . . . . THE SHADOW KNOWS!” The laugh that followed would have frightened anyone less than Voldemort to some degree.
When the lights came up slightly, the students were shocked to see an indistinct humanoid shape was in the room with them, seemingly made of shadow. “Do you people really need another reminder not to play games like these?” it asked in the same deep voice.
All five shook their heads vigorously.
“If you truly want out of this war, then apply to Harry Potter for sanctuary for the summer. But if you betray the Light, the Darkness cannot help you. You may end up impaled much as Draco impaled his aunt, only needing weeks to die.”
“You are hardly Light if you can do that!” Pansy managed to snap. She squeaked as the being’s attention turned to her.
“I am grey. I stand between the Darkness and the Light. I go into the Darkness and use its own weapons against it.” The being backed into the wall, and as the light again failed, it looked as if it was melting into the wall.
Then the torches flamed high, making everyone blink.
The five finally looked at each other in terror, and ran from the room.