Harry deals with Pettigrew; Remus and Snape become nervous, if for different reasons
Both the late winter and early spring saw quiet times at Hogwarts. There were certainly rivalries, but these were all personal, rather than truly House-driven. No doubt many students (and staff) felt strongly about issues of heritage and blood-lines, but everyone had, singly and collectively, decided to keep their mouths shut. So far, everyone could agree that those who had been punished, or worse, could be seen as having ‘deserved it’ to some degree. The students therefore collectively felt they knew the lines where they no longer dared to go.
For some of the Slytherins, that had been a hard lesson to accept, but accept it they all now seemed to.
For those students interested in the goings-on of the adult world, the fall-out of Umbridge’s confessions and subsequent ‘suicide’ made for interesting discussions. While ‘The Prophet’ usually kept to generalities, ‘The Quibbler’ and a number of foreign periodicals had few compunctions about printing large excerpts – unlike much of the Muggle world, wizarding Britain had no laws against such publication, even when there were trials in progress. Hermione had thought that through when she had been told of it, and decided that since the Wizengamot, which supplied both judges and juries when not acting as both, could not be considered unbiased to begin with, this lack made a certain amount of sense.
Dumbledore had his hands full with all this political fallout, plus the normal demands of running the school, and therefore could not easily keep track of what else was going on. Like Harry, he received full reports from Snape on Voldemort’s activities.
Since recovering the faux prophecy, Voldemort had been very quiet. He had been thrown totally off-balance and was trying to find information so that he could deal with the changes in wizarding Britain. In addition, the remaining dementors at Azkaban had not only refused to deal with him, they had threatened to suck out what remained of his soul if he bothered them again.
That confused Voldemort, as the dementors had always been very much interested in dealing with him before. He was never to know that was because he had commanded (without ever knowing it) the resurrection stone, which had both the power to liberate the souls dementors had captured and to destroy the physical manifestations of the dementors themselves. Now that Harry commanded the stone, the dementors wanted nothing to do with Voldemort. They had been attracted to Harry before only because he had held part of Voldemort’s soul in his scar, making him about the richest meal available.
Voldemort therefore sat back and waited to see what was happening, both within the Ministry (where his few Death Eater Ministry members were trying both to protect themselves from the fallout and trying to protect those sympathetic to their general agenda – neither would have much success, as Madam Bones was having suspects separated from sensitive information and also having them followed) and within magical Britain.
Harry and Hermione were both disappointed, although Harry was not greatly surprised, that while the constant revelations of corruption were clearing out just a few of the most bigoted, Dark, and even corrupt members of the Ministry (they were not to know that the biggest purges would come that summer), they were being replaced by at best conservative Purebloods.
“If this continues,” Hermione said sadly, “the Ministry people might be a little more honest, but they’re unlikely be any more open to new ideas or civil rights.”
Harry could only agree.
Hermione and Luna were also worried about Harry. Most of the people around him thought he was looking worried and a bit worn because of the up-coming O.W.L.s. In reality, he was waiting for Nagini to be poisoned. Harry had given Snape a few more of the devices, but he had only been called to one new safe house where he had been able to hide one. The waiting was getting on Harry’s nerves far more than the O.W.L.s
That did explain why Harry was awake at 4:20 am one Friday morning in late March. He really did not want to start working out that early, so he dressed quietly and went down to the common room to wait. He figured after an hour or so, he could start his morning exercises.
On a whim, he had brought the map with him, in part to see if there were any ghosts materialized and wandering around that he might care to talk to. As usual, Harry scanned the castle and saw nothing unusual. This morning, however, Harry was also going to try an experiment, adding some charms designed by some Korean technomages. If the new charms worked, non-materialized ghosts would show on the map, noted as such.
It took Harry just five minutes to add the new spells, but the map took a further ten for them to be fully integrated. Harry nodded, noting the various ghosts fade into view. It worked as it was supposed to. Instead, what brought Harry up short was seeing the name ‘Peter Pettigrew’ retreating from the Slytherin common room, apparently heading towards the general direction of Myrtle’s toilets.
Harry glanced around the common room and again looked at the map, making certain no one was near him. He then went towards the fireplace and melted into the wall.
Scabbers hurried towards the hidden entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. There were some cracks under the sink he could wriggle through. Although he had to come into Hogwarts through a long and torturous route, he could leave more quickly once he made it to the bottom of the slide and past the rock slide, where he could become fully human and then portkey out. (Voldemort could and had portkeyed in; however he was not certain he could repair the collapsed portion of the tunnel without causing further damage. He had therefore set aside that problem until after he had conquered Britain and could have goblin slaves do the work properly. Fortunately, the new anti-portkey wards Dumbledore had installed after the tournament prevented anyone from portkeying from the chamber to the bottom of the slide. )
Still, despite being a fair-sized rat, corridors at Hogwarts were hardly designed for travel by a creature that size. Only the dark corridors helped Pettigrew make his appointed rounds when commanded by his Master.
Scabbers suddenly stopped.
Something had changed, but neither the rat nor the human mind inside of it could determine what had changed.
Then the world went dark.
Remus Lupin was not running, but he was not taking his time. His werewolf senses were howling at him – he knew he was being followed.
Remus had not yet spotted whoever was on his trail, but he knew that he was carrying illegal technomage material, just printed off, and he knew he had knowledge that Dumbledore, the Ministry, and Voldemort wanted. He knew that the latter two would not be gentle in extracting it.
Suddenly, Remus realized that despite his skills and precautions, he was hemmed in by three large men, one on either side and one behind him. His nervousness was not lessened when he recognized one. “Brock?”
The huge man nodded. “Come on, Lupin,” the man growled. “Boss wants ta talk wit’ ya.”
“Dinsdale. . . .”
“Not Dinsdale. Doug.”
“Doug?” Remus asked nervously. He was by far the most dangerous of the two crime leaders.
The three men herded Remus towards a main street and into the back of a large black limo. The three thugs then went into a follow-car as the limo pulled into traffic.
“Remus Lupin, I presume?” Doug ‘Piranha’ was a square-jawed, dark-haired wizard in his late forties. Until you looked into his expressionless eyes, he was in many ways just a heavily-muscled but other-wise somewhat nondescript man.
“Yes, sir,” Remus answered nervously.
“You did a little work for us back in the late 80s I believe.”
Remus merely nodded.
“Why did you leave?” Doug asked. “We didn’t care that you’re a were.”
“I’m suspect enough just because of the curse,” Remus answered. “I didn’t need to borrow trouble working for you.”
“It was a perfectly legal job,” Doug retorted. “The Ministry still isn’t on to that front.”
“I didn’t want to take the chance,” Remus admitted.
“You don’t like taking chances, risks, do you?”
“Not really,” Remus had to agree.
“Then why are you helping Potter?” Doug noticed the shift in Remus’ body language. “Protective of the pup, are you? I guess that while he told you about the technomages, he didn’t mention us.”
“No, he didn’t,” Remus answered, not happy.
“In the short run, the Gang could make a lot of money helping Voldemort,” Doug mused. “But in the long term, he wants control on a scale that would destroy everything. Twenty-five years ago, when we were getting started, we avoided him because of the blood-issue. Some of the other groups operating in the shadows between the worlds didn’t, and got crushed or absorbed by the Death Eaters, or were exposed by the Death Eaters who bought their way out as part of the payments they made to the Ministry. The rest were either blackmailed into bankruptcy, or joined us. Voldemort would use us and destroy us if he could, and we knew, just by watching the toff Death Eaters, shite like Malfoy, that Harry didn’t destroy the tosser back in ‘81 but just drove him off.”
“So you kept an eye on Harry.”
“Malfoy kept an eye on Harry; Dumbledore kept an eye on Harry. Hell, the Ministry had the strongest underage monitors in Europe set up just to keep an eye on Harry, and it turns out there was a lot more watching him than just us.”
“And so you’re helping Harry. . . ?”
“Enlightened self-interest,” Doug answered. “Harry’s going to win. When he does, he’ll either leave to get away from the Pureblood bigots, or he’ll stay and straighten ‘em out. If it’s the latter, well, he understands now that we’re not really hurting anybody. Just making a bit of gold trafficking between the worlds.”
“And if Harry broke down those barriers?”
“Naw, Harry wouldn’t do that. No, we will still be in business, and even if we have to adjust what we smuggle a bit, I’m betting we’ll be able to expand business, as what will be in demand will expand as well.”
Remus’ eyebrows went up in surprise. Doug merely smiled. “A lot better to smuggle in some technology than illegal potion supplies. Believe it or not, properly masked wizard wireless sets make us a tidy little sum, since we supply most of Europe as well as the UK.”
“Wireless sets that get both Muggle and wizard stations, with the magical bands hidden from Muggle eyes. Perfectly legal in the Americas and the Pacific and Asia, legal even in most of Africa and the Middle East, but banned here. The Japanese are developing a magical version of the tellie, and are trying to do the same with computers. The Yanks are right angry that they’re being beaten, and are trying to come up with both before the Japanese get their products out. We’ll sell ‘em either way.”
“Almost sad, isn’t it?” Doug asked. “Still, so long as the European Ministries and the ones who act the same do so, there’ll be money for us to make.”
“And why have me picked up?” Remus asked.
“If you mean by me personally, I had a meeting in the area, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. If you mean why in general, some friends of mine want a talk with you. By the way, Umbridge was the loudest about going after ‘beasts’, but she wasn’t the only one to feel that way in the Ministry.”
“I know,” Remus pointed out.
“Then you should know that the remaining bigots and idiots are wondering if Harry had anything to do with her rather spectacular suicide,” Doug retorted. “Chap by the name of Percy Weasley suggested it, if I heard right. If they were to stop just wondering, they might go after you. They have you pegged as a possible ally. Wouldn’t want you hurt, as Harry seems to like you. Just a nod.”
Remus broke out in a sweat.
The limo pulled up to a small electronics shop. “Tell the man at the registrar that you have an appointment with Elric.”
A befuddled and worried Remus did as he was told.
Sunday afternoon, Harry asked for a meeting with the Headmaster and Snape. Neither wanted to miss out on what Harry might have planned. Dumbledore only hoped no further blood would be shed.
Harry did not waste any of their time. “Pettigrew was captured in the castle last Friday.”
Snape blinked, while Dumbledore admonished, “And you are only telling me now?”
Harry was not phased. “He had to be questioned, not allowed to escape by the Ministry, or patted on the head and given a lemon drop by you when he gave you a sob story.”
“So you tortured him?” Dumbledore scolded.
“Hardly,” Harry said drily. “He sang like a canary once he realized he was trapped. Except for having the silver hand removed, he’s probably in better condition now than he’s been since he betrayed my parents. He only wants not to be killed or sent to the dementors. My side could promise him neither, unless they keep him, which they don’t particularly want to do. However, in return for a full confession, he should be able to live in a nice cell far away from dementors, especially if he can turn into the rat he really is whenever he wants.”
“And you want me to arrange that?” Dumbledore asked. Due to the current crises within the Ministry, he had grown stronger politically than he had been in years.
“That’s part of why we’re here,” Harry acknowledged.
“And why am I here?” a suddenly very worried Snape asked.
“Like I said, Pettigrew made a full confession.” Seeing no comprehension on either man, Harry added. “And named all the names he knew, along with their crimes.”
Still nothing beyond mild interest.
Harry sighed. “You are a Marked Death Eater, Professor, who has certainly committed crimes, remember?”
“Professor Snape. . . .”
“Was given probation back in the early 1980s,” Harry agreed. “That does not cover anything he did since, and just consorting with Death Eaters convicted of crimes since 1981, and some will be, could reimpose the full sentences.”
Snape went totally pale.
“Unable to protect your minion, Harry?” Dumbledore taunted, making Snape flush in anger again.
“Most people still respect your old reputation,” Harry answered. “And the Professor here has given you more information than he has me over the last few months. And yes, when this is over, I will happily put in an accurate word about how he has helped the two of us. However, you’re the high muckity-muck in the Ministry at the moment. You’re the one who can give him cover with Bones before Voldemort’s downfall, unless you want to waste him as a resource.” Harry looked at Dumbledore with such curiosity that Dumbledore squirmed. “I always knew you cared for me only as a tool,” Harry finally said, “but I thought your regard for the Professor here was at least equal to that, if not slightly higher.”
Now it was Dumbledore who flushed. After a moment, he turned to Snape and said, “Indeed. My apologies, Severus. I shall of course shield you at the Ministry.”
Harry nodded, put his hand into an inner pocket of his robe, and then slid a memory crystal across to Dumbledore. “I would hope this would hurry Sirius’ pardon along,” Harry commented. Dumbledore just nodded.
“Where is dear Wormtail?” Snape asked. “Are your friends sure he cannot escape?”
“Right now, Wormtail cannot wake up,” Harry answered. “He’s in an induced deep dream-state.”
The two men nodded.
Deep in the heart of Hogwarts, in a secret chamber, Peter Pettigrew lay, barely breathing, hooked up to several advanced technomage gizmos. In his dreams, however, Scabbers the rat huddled in a cage suspended above a seething room of vipers, all hissing – hissing that for once the rat could understand.
‘Nice fat rat,’ they all hissed in a cacophony of overlapping sound, “come down and play. We’re hungry!”
It was a very shaken Severus Snape who returned to his quarters after a foreshortened dinner. For a moment, he had feared that the Headmaster would throw him to the wolves in the Ministry. He was under no illusions – Potter might be able to protect him from many things, but not, at least for the present, the Ministry.
As much as he hated to admit it, it had appeared as if Potter had anticipated every move that afternoon, which meant that he had wanted Snape to see and understand what was going on.
It suddenly dawned on Snape – it had been a warning. Not a warning not to trust Potter, but a warning not to fully trust Dumbledore. Had Dumbledore refused to step in for Snape, Snape was under few illusions. If Potter had to choose between saving the Mutt or saving him, Potter would see Snape sent off to Azkaban, at least for a while. Potter had wanted to remind Snape of that, and that he might have to make that choice. Knowing it, Snape could have still saved himself by running.
Snape did not think anyone knew about his emergency escape plans, just in case he needed to leave Britain and assume a new identity. It seemed, however, that Potter had at least realized that Snape might have such plans, or could at least escape if he had to. Potter might have had to give up information which, without Dumbledore’s help, could have condemned Snape to Azkaban if caught, but Potter was at least giving Snape the chance not to be caught if Dumbledore had backed off from some 15 years of commitments.
And, if only for a moment, Dumbledore had been tempted, in order to get back at Potter.
Snape decided he had best double check his plans.