Kinsfire's story Family Matters ended, but perhaps there were some loose ends? After all, what other bonds might have been snapped by the BondSevering Curse? Sequel by permission of Kinsfire.
However, I would like to say thanks to all of my readers and reviewers. Even if they're not going to continue reading.
The first attack occurred in Barrow In Furness, a little place just south of the Lake District National Forest. Just what had occurred was difficult to tell, though the results were obvious. The Ministry obliviators had a rough time finding everyone who had seen the Dark Mark glimmering in the straits between Barrow In Furness and Walney Island, where the sole bridge had been collapsed. In addition, fires raged through the warehouse district. Each fire would not have been difficult to fight, though they had been ignited in fairly separated spots, except that they weren't seen until they had merged into one large conflagration.
The report on the incident landed on Harry's desk. Harry looked it over, frowning. About halfway through his reading, a head poked into his floo. "Minister! A team of Aurors has just been dispatched to another Dark Mark sighting - this time in Pontypridd, down near Cairphilly. Not a huge attack, but there was a wizard there who said they saw Voldemort!"
Harry fought the urge to leap up and apparate to the scene himself. Even if Voldemort had been there, he was certainly long gone now. Being the head honcho, a husband, and a father sure had its down sides. He couldn't just jump out there and join the battle any more.
"But being a husband and a father has a lot of upsides, doesn't it, my love?" Harry heard his wife's voice purr in his head.
"Hi, my love. Yes, lots of up sides. And a nice backside. And ins and outs." He knew she could hear the smirk on his face as he thought about one of the nicest backsides he'd ever seen, and the ins and outs that went with it.
"Indeed, my little boytoy. What has you so antsy?"
"A couple of reports of attacks at which the Dark Mark was reported. The second one included a sighting of Voldemort. And, I'm most likely going to get pelted with requests for a statement, and I'm not really sure what to say. We don't know what happened yet, but I'm not going to be like Fudge and keep claiming that there's nothing to worry about. Since we found that damn horcrux, I know it's definitely possible that Voldemort is once again out there, but how likely is it, really? But if I even mention the possibility that he is out there, every wizard and witch in Great Britain is going to be panicking."
Hermione gave him many suggestions about what he could tell people, and some suggestions about how he might help people. He decided he would hold that press conference. To prepare for it, he spent the next hour working on his speech, and contacting various departments about the practicality of some of Hermione's suggestions. He was relieved to find out they weren't extremely impractical.
The Auror teams returned from the investigations. As it happened, Kingsley Shacklebolt had been leading the team that investigated the attack in Pontypridd. "Good afternoon, Minister. I have the reports on today's attacks."
"Come on in, Auror Shacklebolt. What can you tell me?"
Shacklebolt walked into the office, and closed the door behind him.
"The attack was fairly well planned, in both cases, but each was the work of but one individual. Wand signatures don't match up with anyone that we can identify, but we're still working on that. Damage was fairly extensive, but definitely not something one strong wizard couldn't pull off by himself. Over all, we're evaluating these two attacks as more or less announcements of existence - kind of a claim of 'we're back', and maybe recruiting calls. It's really hard to be sure."
"Sounds good to me, Kingsley. I'm planning to do a press conference later this afternoon. Anything in particular you think I should cover in it? Anything you want me to avoid?"
"Nothing really, Minister. Play it down, I would guess, until we can get a better handle on what's really going on. But by all means, don't lie! Merlin knows we don't need another situation like Fudge got us into."
"Believe me, I know. I plan to tell them that we don't know what's going on. That we hope to find out soon, and that they should take a few extra precautions, and call us as soon as possible. I think I'm going to offer to have the Department of Magical Transportation make emergency portkeys for people to use, tied into an alert so that when one goes off, we can send an Auror team to where they left from, and an Auror to where they went to to interview them for information on why they left. Probably send the Auror first to ask them what happened, in case of false alarms. But, of course, if we see a large group go off at once - well, I'm sure your squad leaders can figure out what to do about that."
"You know, that really makes a lot of sense. One going off is quite possibly a false alarm. 50 or 100 going off from Diagon Alley means something is going down. Where are you going to have the emergency portkeys take them?"
"I figured we could have it take them somewhere of their choosing. That way, we don't have unwounded portkeying into St. Mungos in the middle of a major attack, or as a easy way for a team of Death Eaters to appear in the middle of the Ministry. Oh, I'm also planning to set up each Auror with a set of pouches that will contain pre-set portkeys - one that will contain portkeys for St. Mungos, one that will contain portkeys for Ministry holding cells for prisoners, and one with portkeys for a sanctuary location. Since we got rid of the Dementors on Azkaban Island, I'm thinking a holding area there, guarded by goblins, might work. We can make it reasonably comfortable, until someone can come and debrief them and take them home."
"I really like that idea, Minister! It won't help if whoever is doing this puts up portkey wards, but they usually don't, since it's so hard to do. Gets the wounded to help, the prisoners to secured lock-up, and the innocents out of the way."
"Exactly. And I'm going to talk to the Weasley Twins about the possibility of bombs that will take down an anti-portkey ward. Those two are some of the most creative wizards I've ever seen, and if they can cause as much trouble for normal people, imagine if we let them take off some of the kid gloves on the stuff aimed at evil wizards. OK, talk to your people. See if they can come up with a better place than Azkaban for a sanctuary. I know I really don't like the idea of doing it there. I don't want to use Hogwarts, either. See what your people come up with. Ask them for ideas for things the Weasley Twins could work on to make their jobs easier, too. In fact, we should consider making our own research and development department for building and testing things. Nothing as heavy-duty as what the Unspeakables handles, more along the lines of innovative ways to use things we already have.
"Alright, I think we've covered enough here. I'm going to finish going over this speech. I have one appointment with the Wobbly Wizards beforehand, who want to talk to me about truth in packaging, and I have no clue what that could mean. And I'm not really sure I want to know!"
Shacklebolt left the Minister's office to have a talk with the head of the DMLE about what they had discussed. He certainly didn't want to be around when a group of gay wizards came by to talk about packages!
Shortly after one in the afternoon, Harry left his desk, his lunch mostly uneaten as it had come right after his meeting with the Wobbly Wizards. The nature of their issue had left him somewhat shaken, and not really in the mood for food. He thought to himself "After that, the press can't be too bad!"
Harry stepped up to the podium in the Ministry press room. Looking out over the reporters he had come to recognize over the last couple of years, he smiled to himself about the fact that Rita Skeeter was no longer there. The tough stand he'd taken on all forms of the press being able to back up their stories about specific people had quite simply put her out of business. The Quibbler had become a much more respectable paper, though the articles about Crumple-Horned Snorkacks, and Rotfang Conspiracies stayed. The subscribers had come to enjoy the quirkiness, and it was fairly simple to distinguish the real stories from the in-jokes.
Harry cast the Sonorus spell on himself. "Thank you, everyone, for coming this afternoon. Late last night, and early this morning, two attacks were carried out by evil wizards. At the second one, this morning, a wizard gave us a description of someone that looked somewhat like Voldemort.
"We are going to take this threat seriously. Our best guess, right now, is that it is someone either using polyjuice or a glamour spell to look like Voldemort, trying to use his reputation as a path to power. I will not deny the possibility that Voldemort used some kind of ancient magic, though, to come back to life once more. I will pull a Fudge on you. For now, we suggest that you simply be more cautious, and if something starts to happen, get away fast. To help in escaping, I am going to order that the Department of Magical Transportation, and an Aurors on duty, will make some small item of each family member into a portkey to be used in the case of an attack. Please note that these portkeys will be tied into an alarm at Auror Headquarters, and that an Auror will be dispatched to the destination of these portkeys as soon as possible to find out what any Aurors going into the attack might be found, so jokes will not be found funny.
"In addition, if anyone happens to have any old spellbooks that might have mention of some of the kinds of magic that could help Voldemort come back, we ask that you bring them in to the Ministry of Magic, and ask for an Unspeakable to turn it over to. If possible, the books will be returned, though if the magic they contain is too dark, we will attempt to replace the book with one or more books of light magic of equal value. If you fear actually being seen giving it to an Unspeakable, cast a shrinking spell on it, and send it via owl to the Department of Mysteries, and your wand signature will be used to identify you and return it or replace it very discretely.
"Even if Voldemort has not returned, we would like to get these books. It is not likely that Voldemort will be the last Dark Lord, so any help to prevent them in the future will be greatly appreciated.
"At this time, I've told you everything that I actually know about these attacks. As soon as I find out anything solid, I will call another press conference. Please don't pester the Aurors for information, because they don't know much themselves, and I expect them to rather busy trying to find out things for us. Thank you, and have a good afternoon!"
Harry watched as the reporters left to file their reports. He expected one or two of the less reputable ones to put out some version of "Voldemort Is Back!", but he'd noted which of the reporters were using VerbataScribe quills. If needed, he'd contact them for verbatim transcripts of his speech. After all, the one that his VerbataScribe quill had been making on the table beside him could have been tampered with.
Harry headed back to his office, making a quick stop by to visit Arthur and Percy in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts department. He wanted to get their ideas on the possibility of a Muggle Artifact Adaptation office, to possibly bring in things the muggles used all the time, like biros and notebook paper. He knew it might turn into a battle with the purebloods, but some things just really were better in the muggle world!
Lord Voldemort sat on the throne he had transfigured out of a chair. "Thank you, gentlemen, for coming. As you can see, I have indeed conquered death. I am once more among you. And together, we WILL wipe this world clean of muggle scum! Step forth, and become my new Death Eaters!
"As soon as I am finished providing you with my Mark, you will be apparating to Normanton South, where we will destroy everything we can. However, I want no one harmed. All of the muggles must be left stunned, and left with nothing to go back to. Clear the buildings of everyone before you reduce them to splinters. I want to leave the Ministry with an almost impossible job!"
"Erickson! Step forward!"
"Fitzjames! Step forward!"
"Fitzroger! Step forward!"
One by one, the new Death Eaters stepped forward, and with the excruciating pain of it freshly impressed in their mind, they apparated to that night's target, to begin their reign of terror.
"Tonight, my Death Eaters, we announce my return to the world! We will take this portkey to the heart of Normanton North. There, we will disillusion and silence ourselves, and very quietly, we will kill every person we come across. I want them all dead of the Killing Curse, preferably with no sign of struggle. And when you see my Mark rise once more in the sky, you will apparate away, to return to your homes to await my call once more!"
The five meter section of rope that Voldemort had made into a portkey carried them all off to a small park at the south edge of Normanton North. From there, they each immediately went into stealth mode, and spread out. Working their way slowly up each block, they entered the houses with very quiet /alohamora/s, then quietly cast the killing spell on each inhabitant.
Finally, the entire town had been depopulated, leaving behind nothing but unexplained corpses. Finally, when they had all finished their work, they left, leaving behind one sole monster by the name of Lord Voldemort. He pointed his wand into the sky, and cast his signature spell Mosmordre! high into the sky, before apparating away to his headquarters. If he had just looked over his shoulder, he would have seen an identical Mark, rising over Normanton South.
Harry sighed to himself. The previous week had started off badly, with those two attacks nearly all the way across England from each other. But then the week had settled down. No real progress was being made, but a few families had taken the offers of portkeys for safety, and manufacture of the portkey pouches for the Aurors had started. This week, so far had been nice, but as he'd looked the previous evening at his calendar for today, Thursday, something nagged at him. An appointment for the Daughters of Freya had been listed, and something about that struck a chord in the back of his mind.
It annoyed Harry when he couldn't remember something like that. The link that bound him and Hermione together didn't fade with distance, but it was a bit harder to use it for regular conversation over distance. Besides, the two of them had come to recognize that they needed some privacy, and over the last couple of years, they had settled into a habit of not using the link for talking nearly as much as they had at first. So, Harry decided not to bother Hermione for something as minor as who Freya might be.
Something had woken Harry early that morning, and not being able to go back to sleep, he'd gotten up and gotten ready for the day. By the time Hermione was waking up, he was nearly ready to go. He kissed her good morning, and explained that something was nagging him, so he'd decided to go into work a good two hours early.
Just about the time an owl flew into his office to deliver the Daily Prophet, he heard a knock on the door. He yelled a greeting, and an invitation to enter, as he picked up the paper. He barely noticed that it was his Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones, coming in, because the headlines of the paper caught his attention.
The headline read "DARK MARK RISES AGAIN!"
"Should I presume you're here about this headline in the Prophet, Director Bones?"
"I am, Minister. The attacks carried out last night were horrifying. In Normanton South, there was great destruction. On the other hand, Normanton North suffered almost complete casualties. In fact, as far as we can tell, the only way anyone was attacked in Normanton North was by the Killing Curse. Even that would not be as certain, if we didn't have a witness.
"Approximately 22:12 last night, the alert board for the emergency escape portkeys lit up. As it was only one, the on-duty officer believed it was most likely a false alarm, or someone playing a prank. He assigned one of the on-duty Aurors to investigate it, but took his time about it. I will be having a discussion with that officer after this meeting about his future in this department."
"Don't go to hard on him. I'll admit that I didn't even think we'd see any of them needed yet, and I even planted the idea of false alarms in my speech when I announced the things. Still, we are going to have to take them seriously.
"You say there was only one?"
"Yes, Minister. The two communities hit are primarily muggle. In fact, the family of the young girl who escaped is the only known Wizarding family in either community. As per our established procedure, only the one wizard was sent to interview the person who used the portkey. He took his time, and it took about 15 minutes before he got around to apparating to her location. When he got there, he found a young female, approximately 9 years of age. The only words he could get out of her were 'the green spell'.
"I will give the Auror credit for this. As soon as he heard those words, he gathered the girl in his arms and apparated back to the Auror offices. He told three of the other Aurors there that the girl had seen the Killing Curse used, and sent them to investigate. He stayed behind to try to comfort the girl, and finish out the interview. A Healer from St. Mungo's was called to give the girl an examination. No signs of injury were found, but they're treating the girl for the shock at this point. I've got the transcript of the Auror's interview with the girl here."
Director Bones handed Harry a piece of parchment. On it, he read how the girl had seen her mother and father talking in the living room, and how she was still up even though she was supposed to be asleep already. She didn't see or hear anything, but all of a sudden, there was a green light out of nowhere that struck her mom, then her dad, and they had jerked like they had been hit. She cried as she told how her mom and dad had just gotten her this new necklace just a week ago, and how they had told her that if something really bad happened, to grab it and yell "SAFETY" as loud as she could. The last thing she'd seen, as the portkey took hold, was a green light coming at her.
"I'm glad those portkeys saved at least one life. Where did it take her?"
"Her aunt's house, in Leeds. Her aunt and uncle had gone out for the night. They've agreed to take the young girl in once St. Mungo's releases her."
"OK. Good. What is your read on the situation?"
"When the investigating Aurors reached the scene, they saw two separate Dark Marks, one over Normanton North, the other over Normanton South. One went back for re-inforcements, the other two split up to survey things. Once backup arrived, both villages were thoroughly searched, and the repair squads and obliviators started their way through Normanton South. It's a rather massive job, as there were a couple of thousand people in that village. They were expecting to finish up shortly after I came in to report to you.
"I think we have the potential for a major problem. I've assigned Auror Shacklebolt as the lead investigator on these two incidents, as well as the two that occurred early last week. He suspects there might be two coordinated groups of left-over Voldemort sympathizers out there. At some point, there will likely be a power struggle between them, but until then, he thinks we're going to see more simultaneous strikes like these."
"Right. That sounds likely to me, too. I think we need to set up some kind of focused group specifically dedicated to these strikes. Auror Shacklebolt would be a good head for it. He'll report to you daily on anything they find; you'll report to me only if they find anything significant."
"I suspect, Minister, you might get a call from the Prime Minister about this. The plan was to make it look like a cell of terrorists of some new group was making a poison gas, and it blew up on them, to try to account for both the destruction in Normanton South, and the deaths and lack of destruction in Normanton North."
"OK, Director. That sounds good. Now, in addition to the group tasked strictly to chasing these people down, I think we might need to do a bit more. Why don't we consider bringing in some of the reserves to help with regular patrols and stationings, and bring in all of the reserves for refresher courses, as well as running the regulars through the same refreshers.
"We also need to re-think our standard operating procedures on the response to emergency portkey use. For the duration of this situation, I think we need to have the interviewing Auror go out, as we expected, but we also need to go ahead and send a three-Auror team straight to the departure point prepared to go hot. As well, we need to go ahead and quit thinking in terms of false alarms, and assume any usage is real and treat it that way right now. We'll have reaction teams specifically designated, and they'll wait in the monitoring room with the operator. As soon as they leave, the operator will alert the ready room to stand by.
"Keep an ear out, too. I'm still a bit worried about that person last week who thought they saw Voldemort himself. We really need to find out what is going on there as soon as possible.
"Now, I think I've taken up enough of your time, Amelia, and I fear I have a few things I must get done before the Daughters of Freya descend on me."
Amelia laughed. "Aren't they the ones pushing for classes about fertility rites at Hogwarts?"
Harry looked at Amelia in dismay. "Is that what they're pushing? Oh, well, I guess Sex Ed classes are likely to be more popular than Professor Binn's History of Magic class. As long as they're not pushing for demonstrations, I think I could be behind it."
"They are. Enjoy your afternoon, Minister!"
Harry groaned. Two years of the Granger Family ways had not quite yet completely burned out his embarrassment circuits. "I should have remembered that Freya was the Norse Goddess of fertility," he thought to himself. "Why did I take this job again? Oh, yeah. My saving people thing, and this time it's trying to save the Magical world from itself. Stupid, stupid, stupid!"
Harry thought a minute, over whether he should hold a press conference on this matter. Waving his wand, he cracked open his door. "Violet, would you contact the press and let them know I'm going to hold a conference this afternoon after my meeting with the Daughters of Freya. Give me a thirty minute window after that meeting before the press conference starts. And ask my press ad visor to come in so we can discuss what I'm going to say."
Harry didn't really like the idea of needing a press ad visor, at least not the way Fudge had used one, which was mostly as a matter of figuring out how to say what he didn't mean. So, he had started using his press ad visor mostly as a sounding board, to see if he was actually conveying what he wanted to. They discussed a few things here and there, with Harry having to put his foot down about the phrasing to avoid slipping into the kind of half-truth/half-lie that had so long characterized Ministry press releases. The press adviser was a hold-over from Fudge's administration, and Harry was starting to think he would have to find a reason to replace the man.
Done with the discussion with his press adviser, Harry looked over paperwork, approving a request by Hagrid to allow a visit by a couple of dragons for his Care of Magical Creatures class. He absently wondered if Norbert would be one of the dragons brought, and if so, if Norbert would remember Hagrid. Harry rather expected so, since he found Hagrid so memorable! Magical beasts on the scale of a dragon required actual approval by the Minister, and not just authorization by the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, Harry remembered from his Care of Magical Creatures class. Other paperwork flew by, until his meeting with the Daughters of Freya. Immediately after that, he ate a quick lunch while reviewing his rough notes for the press conference.
The time for the press conference came, and feeling like a convicted felon headed for the chopping block, Harry went to the press room. "Ladies, Gentlemen of the Press. Thank you for coming.
"At this time, there's not much I can really add to the information given out last week. I can confirm that most of the facts reported this morning in the various newspaper articles were reasonably accurate. I can also add one more piece of bittersweet news. One person did escape the slaughter in Normanton North. No, I will not be releasing his or her name; it was a child, and if his or her guardians feel it appropriate, they will make the name known and arrange for interviews. We here at the Ministry will only confirm or deny if someone makes a claim. Please do not try to guess the person. They need time to rest and recover from a horrible situation, one I can completely sympathize with, having lost my parents at a very early age.
"I can confirm that the escape came due to one of the emergency portkeys I authorized during the press conference last week. We are not completely satisfied with the response of the Aurors to the situation, but we're not certain they realistically could have done much better with what we knew at the time. Director Bones is reviewing the situation closely with the members of her department. At this time, we have a team headed by Auror Kingsley Shacklebolt specifically tasked to chasing this group or groups. We are also calling in reserve Aurors, and putting all Aurors and reserves through refresher training to be sure everyone is at the top of their game. I'm planning to put retired Auror Alastor Moody in charge of the refresher courses if he will accept. I expect the Aurors are going to be somewhat annoyed with me over this decision, and likely to be somewhat jumpy, especially if someone yells 'Constant Vigilance!'"
The crowd laughed, because Moody's little quirk was quite well known.
"That's all for this afternoon, gentlemen and ladies of the Press. I will leave you to distribute your information to your respective agencies. Oh, yes! I do ask that you try to encourage people to get the emergency portkeys as we've seen that they can be of service! I hope we won't really need them any more, but I can't lie to you and say that we'll have this wrapped up by supper time."
A voice was heard in the back of the crowd to yell "Constant!" The rest of the crowd instantly responded with "Vigilance!", and left, laughing to themselves a little.