Harry and Co. in thier attempt to spring Belle.
Ssseek the two-legged onesss, the warm onesss, then come back and sssay how many
The small reddish-brown adder nodded and slithered down the hole.
Harry, all but invisible in his Ghillie suit camouflage indicated to his team to wait. When the adder returned Harry started counting out small pebbles in rows of three. When he had placed four rows of three the snake said thisss many, in the great hole, the long hole isss an easssy crawl even for a warm two-legsss.
Harry nodded and said thanksss then summoned a field vole to reward his scaly spy.
Eat well Sssai-hath Ssseck
He signed to Cruz to head over to the other hillock with his new 'toy.' Jose "Kit Carson" Cruz proved to be a firearms expert as well as a deadly fast and accurate spell caster. Last week the company had received, courtesy of Her Majesty's Armed Forces, four L 96 British Army Sniper Rifles. Cruz, after calibrating the scope and getting a short familiarization lesson from the squib RA sergeant, had put out a lit match at a distance of 500 meters. The sergeant was impressed; when Cruz combined the sniper scope with his wand he found he could accurately cast a spell at nearly twice that distance. Jose produced a narrow cutting beam that drilled a neat hole through a rock no bigger than a golf ball at 800 meters.
Harry's only concern was that Cruz might not be able to pull the trigger on a live human.
"If you have any reservations, tell me now, and I'll bring the RA sergeant."
"He can't help you if you need a spellcaster, Commander, I can do this." Jose insisted.
Just before they left for the caverns Harry surveyed his team. Jose was the sniper, Squad Leader Morris was Cruz's shield and concealment specialist, and lastly his own Lieutenant provided the same service for himself. Harry hadn't even considered leaving Marie behind, she was a nearly fully trained auror and would be an asset on this mission.
"This is a smash and grab, upset the hornet's nest but do not let them see you. If Voldemort appears use the emergency portkeys immediately. Do not try to engage him; it would be suicide and none of us are authorized to kill ourselves."
They apparated to the auror checkpoint that had been set up earlier in the week, checking in with the regular auror on duty they found there had been no movement in or out of the cavern entrance for the past 30 hours.
"Something's up," the auror said, "I think they're planning to pack-up and go."
Harry moved his team to one of the vents that a careful review of the echo sounding maps had revealed three days before. Reaching into his sleeve he gently extracted the wriggling half-meter long sausage that was Sssai-hath Ssseck, an adder he had befriended the week before.
"You do know that adders are poisonous, don't you Harry?" Marietta had asked.
"Only when they bite" he'd replied.
As they waited for the reptilian spy to return Harry had gone into the light trance-like state that allowed him to communicate with Belle.
"There will be a disturbance at the entrance of the caverns in thirty minutes; can you meet me at the portkey point?"
"Yes, please be careful." She replied.
Belle hadn't moved from her hiding place in the lower caverns since her encounter with Nott almost eleven hours before. Her near constant communications with Harry had made the wait bearable as she hunkered down inside the blanket, covered by the invisibility cloak. Again she blessed the memory of Alex Jones for providing her with the cloak. She allowed herself a satisfied smirk as she remembered the look on Nott's face after she had kicked his exposed 'bits,' hard, the look on his face was sheer and utter disbelief, as if to say "I can't believe you did that" so for good measure she kicked him again, only harder. He had whimpered and curled into a tight ball on the floor.
She took his wand, cloak and pants up the ladder with her, pulled up the ladder and then settled down in her present spot leaning back comfortably against a smooth limestone column waiting for all hell to break loose. She almost regretted the fate that awaited Theodore Nott for allowing her escape; almost.
"Harry!" she nearly shouted in her own head, "Harry, I'm out of the dungeon and hiding in the caverns but I may need help getting to the portkey point."
It had taken Harry five hours to assemble and equip his team, another three to run through the diversion scenarios and just under an hour to set up the emergency portkeys for the team and an extra for Belle when he found her.
Harry slipped out of his Ghillie suit and, dressed only in tight fitting flat black fatigues and crepe soled boots slid head-first down the air vent.
"Wide enough for a two-legsss, huh?" he groused as he had to wriggle to pass yet another tight spot on the way down.
Finally he emerged onto a steeply sloping limestone wall and slid silently down to the cavern floor. It took a few minutes for his eyes to fully adjust to the low light, he then took his bearings. The stone waterfall formation was to his right, he needed to go at least one level down, perhaps two to find Belle and his unborn child.
Keep to the shadows, look, listen; move quickly then freeze. Look, listen and move. He found a hooded grey robe draped across a seat in a side chamber so he threw it on and put up the concealing hood. Then he walked with purpose to the passage leading downward. Harry fully understood the concept of social camouflage, if you look like you belong, and are in a hurry, no one will stop you. On the second level he spied what he was looking for, a stalagmite that looked as though it had formed from salt. Next to it another grey robed figure stood guard.
"Are you my relief?" the guard asked.
"Yeah, go get summat t' eat." Harry replied gruffly.
"Well, you keep yer eye on 'Lot's Wife' here, I'm off!"
Harry stretched out his senses hoping to sense Belle or his little one. Down there? No. over there? No. How about? No. In spite of his frustration he calmed himself to reestablish the link.
"I'm in the side tunnel" she replied "up against a stone column. There are three people between me and the portkey point.
"Two, actually, the guy standing guard on the portkey spot is your's truly." Harry smiled and waved.
"Thank the Goddess, now we need to get these others out of the way." Her relief was almost palpable.
"Five minutes more, how are you? How is little Alexis?"
"Mother and child are fine now thank you, how is the expectant father?"
"Funny thing about that, I think I'm retaining water, my ankles are swollen and my breasts are very tender. Why do men have breasts, anyway? Oh and I've had the weirdest cravings, sardines f'instance, I never liked sardines before. And any kind of canned meat, but only fried. I wanted Spam and eggs f' brekkers this morning. How about you?"
"Oh, the porridge was cold and could have stood a bit of garnish but it was filling and the water was fresh and clean." She mused.
"When we get you out of here I'm going to make you a proper meal, anything you want."
"Let's start with coffee and croissants, and then take it from there, all right?"
"Whatever you say Luv, let's just get you out of here."
Outside Cruz was sighting in on the old mine's pulley assembly. If he hit it just right the block and tackle would fall and shatter taking the old miners cart and several metal miners' implements would go rolling through the entrance of the cavern hopefully making a terrible racket. He worked the noiseless bolt assembly to chamber the 7.62 mm round, sighted in on the links that held the block and tackle in place and squeezed the trigger. The single report of the rifle was quickly drowned out by the clamor of metal on metal and glass echoing through the hills as several displays loosened by the sudden shift of tension on the support frames fell crashing and banging over. A miners cart went careening into the main cavern.
Inside the caverns the racket was deafening. Harry turned to look in the direction of the noise when the other two robed figures ran past him. The one in the black robe pointed at Harry and shouted, "You stay at your post or it's your guts f' garters!"
"Aw' right, aw' right!" Harry grumbled back.
As they ran off Belle whipped off the invisibility cloak ran to and grabbed Harry in a fierce hug and sobbed, "I knew you'd come, oh I knew you'd come!"
Harry hugged her with equal enthusiasm then held her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, those dark eyes that he had lost himself in at the beginning of the summer and asked, "are you all right?"
"I'll be better as soon as we're shot of this place!"
He took the emergency portkey from his side pocket.
"Okay, on three, two, one."
No pull behind the navel, no sound like a rushing wind, nothing. Then something; the ear shattering sound of a klaxon horn.
"Merde, they warded the spot; they knew I'd try to leave this way!" Belle cried.
"How did you come in?" she implored.
"Air vent, first level; and before you ask, too steep to climb out; but maybe, just maybe, quick we need your cloak"
Having said that Belle threw the invisibility cloak over them and they moved swiftly and silently to the far cavern wall to begin inching their way out.
They had moved just in time as two black cloaked figures fired killing curses at the white pillar in hopes of foiling an attempted escape.
Slowly, carefully they edged their war up the narrow corridor stifling a gasp as the cloaks of Death Eaters brushed them in the close confines. As they entered the main cavern the dust hadn't yet settled, and for two people in an invisibility cloak that is not good, because where you don't see dust there will be someone trying to stay invisible.
Still keeping close to the wall Harry was frantically looking for the door that would lead to the small cottage at the entry point for the caverns.
"You three," a familiar voice rang out, "check outside, see if anyone is about; if so bring them back, alive!"
Harry was frozen in anger; the voice was his old potion's master and the man who murdered Albus Dumbledore.
That greasy git, Snape.
Just for grins I decided to give the snake a unique mathematical perspective, in the world I've envisioned snakes have math skills and can count using base three (hence the rows of three) so four rows of three would be 12 in our base ten, but in base three it would be 110, remember the only digits in base three would be 0, 1 and 2, so counting the rows: (1,2,10 then 11,12,20 followed by 21,22,100 and finally, 101,102,110). I know, I know, too much free time on my hands. . . It just seemed a good way to drive home the completely alien nature of the reptilian mind. So not only does Harry understand Parselmouth, he also understands Parselmath.