The return to Britain, and the first strikes are made. Ron is taken care of and Voldemort learns why you can't always depend upon the purely magically educated.
By Dr T
Harry Potter and other major characters, and ‘canon’, are the intellectual property of She-Who-Must-Be-Named and her minions. I just add and rearrange it all to my satisfaction, with no other rewards than your reviews.
It was early March when Voldemort felt well enough to allow himself to be seen. Exactly what had happened had puzzled him for some time, once he had recovered enough to try and discover what had happened, why he had felt such pain and why he had felt so weak.
Then, the answer had hit him. Being burned out of the weak Defense professor in 1992 had angered Voldemort; not with Potter but with himself. That was why he had decided to come back at first as he did – he wanted to both negate the blood protection and whatever ‘power’ Harry Potter might have over him. By drawing some of the boy's power to himself, he should have insured his triumph, if not directly as he preferred then indirectly in a few years as the power was leeched out of Potter. Granted, that would mean he would need yet a new host body at some point in the future, but he had various plans to take care of that.
Plans he now realized he would have to start working on in earnest; plans that would take months to mature, for somehow the link to Potter was broken. He could only hope that meant the Boy had somehow died.
Despite sometimes making overly-baroque plans, Voldemort usually made very few actual mistakes, and therefore had a difficult time admitting them to himself. Nevertheless, he had no choice but to do so. If Potter had not died, he had somehow broken the connections (or had had them broken by someone else, which was even more worrisome), and the amount of feedback he had suffered suggested that the conduit had been an accidental Horcrux as well – he had suspected that could be have happened, but had not really believed it before now. It was tempting to make another replacement, but he didn’t dare. None of the few references he had found suggested it was possible to split one=s soul even six times, let alone seven. As egotistical as he was, Voldemort had to admit creating any more would be more risky than a mere pushing of his luck at this point. If he were to risk one more split, it could only be with Potter’s death involved (because of their connections), and even that was risky.
Voldemort gave none of this away in his body language as he looked at Wormtail, Bella, and Macnair, who operated as his staff. The three were kneeling before him, eyes down, as was customary. All three were more than nervous, they were frightened; not atypical for the rat, but unusual for the other two. “What has happened while I was occupied elsewhere?”
None of the three wanted to be the first to speak. “Wormtail? Since these two for once look far more afraid than you, tell me everything. You two, do not speak until I give you leave!” Bellatrix and Macnair kowtowed while Wormtail straightened his back.
“There are several things which have happened, my lord,” Wormtail answered. “First, the so-called resistance continues, and continues to broadcast. The Snatchers are still active, but the catch is way down. More importantly, six Death Eaters have disappeared. . . .”
“Who?” Voldemort demanded.
Wormtail’s eyes flicked towards Bellatrix. This was her department. “Bella?” Voldemort demanded.
“The younger Flint, Baldwin, Simon, the elder Irwin, Chamberlain, and Harbottle, my lord.”
Voldemort frowned in puzzlement. Different ages, different responsibilities. “Why them?”
“What did they have in common besides my service? Yes, Wormtail?”
“All I can think of is that the six each lived alone in various Muggle areas, Master, and seem to have disappeared on their days off.”
Voldemort saw the other two move to protest the idea that Muggles could have had anything to do with this, but Voldemort knew that was not what Pettigrew was suggesting.
“Understood. What else has happened? It seems as if you are building up to something.” Bellatrix winced at that.
“Yes, Master. Two days ago, Malfoy Manor was assaulted. The prisoners held there seem to have escaped, as did Narcissa and her son who was visiting for the weekend, although it cannot be certain if they were captured, aided in the escape, or merely took the opportunity. Lucius. . . .”
Bellatrix still kept her eyes down, so Wormtail continued. “Lucius was disembowled and his body was left lying staked out on the lawn. All the house elves are missing, presumably taken by Narcissa.”
“Are you saying in your usual roundabout way that Narcissa Malfoy has betrayed me, Wormtail?” Voldemort could see Bella wince at that.
“No, Master, but it does appear to be the most likely explanation.”
“Does Severus know anything of this? He has always coddled that boy; he might know where the brat is.”
“I do not know, Master.”
“Go and ask him. Now!”
“Yes, Master!” Wormtail fled, relieved to be leaving.
"Waldon? Keep an eye out. In fact, you might wish to accompany one of your snatch teams occasionally. Tell me in a week how things are out in the countryside. Now, be gone!”
“Bella? Who did you have imprisoned at your dear sister and late brother-in-law's estate when this occurred?”
“The wand maker and the Lovegood girl,” Bella admitted.
“I still had need of the wand maker, Bella!” He had been set to trace the so-called ‘elder wand.’ “Crucio!”
Luna turned on the soft pillow and comfy mattress and muttered, “Go ‘way.”
“Luna?” Now there was shoulder touching.
“I said. . . .” Luna suddenly jerked around and sat up. “This isn’t right!”
“Harry?” Luna blinked twice – rare for her – and took in the scene before her. “Harry!” Luna hugged Harry tightly for a moment and then sat back. “What happened and where am I? While I am very thankful not to be in Malfoy Manor. . . .” She looked around. “At least, I am not in parts I was used to, I must again ask, what happened?” Then she realized more. “And I’m clean! And I don’t hurt!” She sat back on the bed and looked at Harry for an explanation.
“Short version, Hermione and I left for America just before Christmas. We found help and brought it back. We are just starting to oppose Riddle and his Death Eaters, and the first big strike was on Malfoy Manor, because I had been in contact with a friend of mine called Dobby, who said you were . . . trapped there.”
Luna lowered her eyes and admitted, “I was also . . . being hurt there.” She looked up at Harry. “And you rescued me?”
“Well, at our request you were rescued,” Harry answered. “I didn’t actually take a direct part. Ollivander was sent out of the country to recover. You can go too, if you like, but Hermione and I thought you might like to stay and help out a bit, once you’ve recovered.”
Luna flushed, but her eyes did not leave Harry’s. “You know what they did to me?”
“In general, but not in detail,” Harry answered. “You’re my friend, Luna. Tell me what you want, and if I can help, I’ll make it happen for you.”
Luna thought about joining her father, but realized that might be difficult unless they both somehow fled the country. “I’ll stay and help you.”
“Good. You rest.”
“What happened to the Malfoys?” Luna asked, worried.
“Lucius was sacrificed by the raiding party, while Narcissa escaped. They hadn’t realized at first that Draco was part of the setup, and brought him in with you.” Harry frowned. “He went a bit crazy when he saw me and Hermione.” He flushed. “Let=s just say when I realized that he had done to you, along with the others . . . .”
“I won’t have to worry about him using me again?”
“No, and neither will anyone else. He is alive, but I promise you, he will not escape Justice.”
Luna thought about Harry’s emphasis on the word, and then nodded her understanding, adding, “Where am I?”
“You are in a magical tent, and where the tent is, I don’t know,” Harry answered. “There are fifteen of them, linked together, and we are near a hidden great stone circle, an unbroken one. We are not allowed outside, but some of us will be launching the next major strike soon.”
“Good luck.” Luna laid back down, and for the first time since December, smiled. She had her friends again. While she had not been tortured for information, she had been abused and the two major abusers were dead.
Luna saw Harry smile back, so while her own smile brightened, she wriggled into the pillow and managed to fall back to sleep.
“Any luck, Severus? I hope Mister Weasley has not given up?”
Snape, barely inside his office, glared at the portrait and then went over, poured, and then downed half a shot of fire whiskey. “Luck? No. Action? Yes.”
“What happened?” the portrait demanded.
“I managed to track Weasley easily enough, as usual. I will say, despite all his myriad faults, he has been most persistent, at least when he remembers he should be trying to find those other two idiots,” Snape allowed. Ron had searched for Harry about twice a week since Christmas. “This time, we were near a small Muggle town not far from the Welsh border. It was fairly developed, except for one patch of forest. I estimated at first that it appeared to be about a square mile or so, centered around a small rise.”
Snape nodded. “Exactly – it appeared to be. It had strong enchantments around it; I can tell you that, against the magical as well as any Muggles. However, despite some attempts at analysis, that’s all I can say about it. Weasley could only approach the area while staring at your device, and I only by putting all my concentration on Weasley. Then, he disappeared.”
“I was actually watching the boy. And the next thing I knew, Weasley had disappeared and I was running as if my life depended on it. It felt as if the hounds of hell were after me, and I heard a huge flock of ravens chasing after me as well.”
“Raven, crows, whatever!” Snape snapped at his late mentor/controller.
Dumbledore shuddered and stated, “I think you had a very narrow escape, Severus.”
“I know that, but what the hell did I escape from?” Snape demanded.
“The Druids still hold places of power, here, in Ireland, and in Western Europe. I can only surmise that Harry has somehow allied himself with them, which is what drew Ronald to such a place. As for you, well, one group of elite Druid hit wizards are known in English as ‘the Ravens,’ after the totem of their goddess of justice.” The painting paused, and then stated, “Unless the Dark Lord orders you otherwise, you should stay within the castle grounds. You do bear the Dark Mark, and the Druids still have a very savage code of justice. You might wish to cultivate contacts within the so-called Resistance.”
Snape merely nodded.
Ron Weasley woke up, and with no pretense at still being asleep or otherwise trying to figure what anything, demanded, “Where am I?”
“You are on the island of Kahoolawe,” a woman with a soft accent told him.
Ron was still disoriented. “Huh?”
“Do you know where Hawai’i is, Mister Weasley?”
“Ah . . . no. . . .”
“The Pacific Ocean?” the woman asked, half in uncertainty and half bemused.
Ron thought a moment, and then nodded at that.
“The Hawaiian islands are a chain of islands in the Pacific. To the Mundane, there are a hundred and thirty seven or so islands, from very large islands to small atolls, seven of which they know are inhabited. The Mundane believe this island is eighth in size, and only some magic users know it has long been inhabited by a small group of magical native Hawaiians. We are members of the Collective. We are their guests, and you are ours.”
421 looked at Ron, wondering if he was merely more disoriented than he should be, or if he was simply not as bright as Hermione or Harry. “Your friend Harry is back in Britain, and soon our allies will begin taking apart Voldemort’s network. Oh, do not gasp, Weasley! The taboo does not work this far away. Your continued presence there would be a distraction. The technomages took your little gizmo and gave to Ms Granger. You are going to wait here.”
“And if I don’t want to?”
“You will find this island is out of apparition range of any other land, young man, and outside of this village, there is little water and less food. Now, our hosts have a feast planned for you. Get dressed.”
Ron was confused, but at least there would be a feast.
The plan of the group’s first set of attacks after Malfoy Manor and the kidnapping of some individual Death Eaters was not overly complicated. The targets were the snatcher squads. There were three sets of squads, for three shifts. Every shift set had six squads of nine men each (and they were all men). One or two on each squad were Marked, and one or two were 'associates,' including some werewolves. The rest of each squad were merely thugs who enjoyed the chance to hurt people. For all, the ‘sport’ was more important than the pay.
The technomages had long ago developed magical tents with more capacities than those available in the rest of the magical world. One tent could have any number of multiple entrances/exits. Harry had a knack of being able to apparate into a collapsed tent, no matter what the location, especially with Hermione waiting inside.
Hermione, Luna, and three body guards would be in one of the magical tents. Scouts would set out twelve hidden exits, which would be disguised as small stones when not in direct use. Harry could easily leave through any of the exits, but would have to apparate back. He would exit the first about an hour before the snatcher squad shift change, shout ‘Voldemort,’ and apparate back to Hermione in the tent before the snatcher squad could appear. A few moments later, Harry would repeat the process at the next site.
There would be a reception committee of twenty to take down each squad as they appeared. There was monitoring equipment to see who showed to check up on the squads when they did not reappear. One site would have a reception committee ready for any follow-up.
Most of those people within the Ministry who fully supported the new order of things still thought it was long past the time to disband some of the snatcher squads. Most days, there was no call for them, and rarely more than three calls were made in any two day period. In fact, even five calls a week were getting rare. The problem was, once such groups were created, it was difficult disbanding them. They tended to stick together and harass ‘good people’ (i.e. Purebloods minding their own business) during their off-hours and some of the Ministry people while they were on-duty, as well as those they were created to bother.
Now, however, the squads were being sent out every ten to fifteen minutes. Fortunately, it was near the change of shift, so all twelve calls could be answered.
It was only after twenty minutes passed by with no further calls that the Ministry official/Death Eater overseeing the squads that evening realized that it might not be a coincidence that there were the same number of calls as there were squads available, and that none of the squads had returned, even though it was close to two hours since the first one had left.
George Flamby therefore apparated to the first site, and saw an apparently undisturbed glade in the middle of a forest. He apparated back to the Ministry and sent for the next in his chain of command. Then, he remembered that Macnair had gone out with one snatcher team, and so sent for the senior death eater at the Ministry that day, and instead of one Lestrange, he got both brothers.
One sent for the aurors, the other for the Death Eaters present in the Ministry. They split the twelve calls in half and the aurors went to one set, the Death Eaters to the other.
The aurors came back in just over two hours, with little to report. There was evidence of a great deal of magic used on each site they had visited, but nothing they could pin down. When the Death Eaters who had left with the Lestrange brothers had not reappeared in another hour, the aurors cautiously checked the other six sites. At five, they found the same evidence as at the sites they had visited earlier. At the sixth, they found the highest concentration of spent magic yet, but again, except for a tree which had been hit by a killing curse, nothing specific.
Flamby had joined the ten other Death Eaters, and so for the first time since the take-over, there were no Death Eaters at the Ministry. Dolores Umbridge, who was working late that night, sent an owl to Bellatrix Lestrange, as she had no other way to contact a Death Eater. Umbridge did not admit, even to herself, that forces belonging to the Dark Lord controlled the Ministry, but she still had a tiny tether to reality.
Over the next twelve hours, another dozen Death Eaters disappeared – all of those who had lived alone and well away from other magic users.
Pettigrew was not one of the Death Eaters who was supposed to be a link between the Dark Lord and the Ministry, but somehow he had gotten stuck with the job of reporting the disappearances to him the next afternoon.
“And why are you reporting this to me only now, Wormtail?” Even a fool would have known that Voldemort was past being merely angry.
“I was only told of it a few minutes before I came in, Master.”
“And why were you the one told?”
“I think several of your servants were waiting for someone who was coming to report to you in any case, Master,” Pettigrew admitted. “And I did try to get more information. . . .”
Pettigrew winced, realizing he should have stopped talking. “I learned why the aurors could only get a bit more information than our people. . . .”
Pettigrew really did not want to say more, but knew he had little choice. “The remaining members at the Ministry don’t really know how to operate the devices which can decipher magical signals or traces.”
“What!” Voldemort was surprised, not, to Pettigrew’s relief, angry.
“They always left it to the Muggle-born and blood traitors to operate the devices, Master.”
That stopped Voldemort for a moment, as he had to think things through. Finally, he asked, “So, while the Ministry has many useful, even powerful devices for tracing or deciphering magical signals and signatures. . . ?”
“Those devices need constant adjustments, and require skills to interpret most of the data which none of the remaining aurors or support staff ever bothered learning,” Pettigrew admitted. “About the only remaining tracing devices that work that the staff understands to any degree are the ones that used to be used for tracing underage magic, which were re-tuned to track the taboo. The wizard who did that left because his in-laws were a Mudblood and a Muggle, and after they were arrested in November, the rest of the family fled to Portugal. And the people at the Ministry can only understand those readouts because the Underage Office has always been staffed completely by Purebloods, and someone figured how to link a quill to the equipment. No one knows are to adjust those, or any other, tracing devices.”
Pettigrew sweated at the silence that came after that report.
“How bad is it, Peter,” Voldemort finally asked quietly.
All this was far from Pettigrew’s area of responsibility, so he answered honestly now that it seemed like whoever would be cursed for these failures, it was unlikely to be him. “I don’t know, Master. I sent young Harper over to demand a full report.”
“You did well. Your arm, Peter.” It was not a full summoning, for the call on his Dark Mark barely stung. It was, in fact, a signal to a particular Death Eater to come whenever he was finished with whatever particular job he was on.
In less than ten minutes, Dale Harper, a Death Eater in his early twenties appeared, answering the call. He quickly abased himself.
“Do you have the information Peter sent you for?”
“Yes, my Lord.”
Voldemort interrupted him. “Was it difficult to obtain?”
“Not after you sent the recall, Master. It was only then that they believed it was directly for you.”
“I will want a full written report by morning, detailing all the information, who you got it from, and who was giving you trouble.”
“A quick summation: how bad it is?”
“All the devices, or ‘gizmos’ as they are called, are outside the competence of the Ministry to maintain or even operate in any manner, other than the taboo trackers, Master. Hopkirk estimates that the taboo tracker should remain reliable for at least three to five months, but the equipment is over seventy years old and will need adjustments to keep it going at some point in that time frame, based on her previous experience. In addition, similar devices are incorporated into the floo, as of course floo use is taxed after the minimum number of usages each month. Edgecombe claims that this should present no problem, but my cousin works there as well, and she told me that the tax counters will likely fail in two months unless they are maintained, and it’s possible that the floo itself will fail at some point, but she wasn’t certain when.”
“Go; write your report. Peter, did you happen to get the locations the snatcher teams were sent to?”
“I sent Michael Bulstrode to get that information, Master. He should be back by now.”
“Get the locations for me. I think I shall see if I can do better than the others.”
Voldemort had many talents and skill, but non-magical tracking was not one of them. Still, he visited each site in turn, and really discovered little more than the aurors had. He never noticed the hidden cameras.
He was not certain what was the more disturbing – the loss of the Snatch teams and the Death Eaters or the knowledge that his regime was dependent on devices that were beyond the competence of his Ministry. Despite his liberal use of terror against his followers as well as the general population, even he knew that true power could not be maintained over time merely through terror. It would take years, perhaps even decades, before his power base in magical Britain would be solid enough for him to use it to move against Muggle Britain or magical Europe.
He was still occupied with just the first stage of his grand plan, and now there were many more problems than he had anticipated.