Potter's Resistance 1: Breaking Ties
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.
Chapter 2: Davidovitch's
Solitary figure was purposely walking down one of the side alleys in Knockturn Alley district. He was five foot eight tall, by the looks of him in his early twenties, with brown eyes and shoulder-length dirty-blond hair. He was dressed in beige and black robes, with mandatory hood that obscured most of his face. After all, not being secretive in this neighborhood was a straight giveaway. Local hags and scoundrels knew him by the name of Lucas Vader.
All the muggle-educated dwellers were aware that it was a fake name, taken from a well-known Muggle movie. Few of those idle enough to theorize about said person's identity invented all sorts of fantastic stories about his background, ranging from fallen-from-grace royalty, hiding from vengeful relatives, to South-African assassin on a mission to kill Fudge. None of them came even close to the truth, which was far simpler than their fairytales, yet still totally unexpected. For Lucas Vader's real name was none other than Harry James Potter. Harry had invented this identity one week after his daring escape, and had been building Vader's reputation ever since. Nobody even suspected that Vader had anything to do with famous Boy-Who-Lived and Harry had every intention of keeping it that way. Thankfully, fake names were frequent occurrence in Knockturn Alley, and few of it's dwellers would dig too deep to find out some random guy's true identity. After all, you don't survive in such neighborhood by sticking your nose in other people's business.
So, as far as other Knockturn residents knew, Lucas Vader had appeared out of nowhere about month and a half ago and settled himself in one of middle-class rooms at Knockturn Lodge. He generally kept to himself, always quiet and polite, but distant. He was throwing fair amount of money around, but wasn't much for extravagance. He was openly neither pro-light nor pro-dark and he certainly wasn't working for the Ministry.
Vader's only identifiable interest so far was in knowledge. He was making rounds of all the local shops, looking for any rare or forbidden books shopkeepers had to offer. He made himself a name, and created quite a commotion amongst the local buzzers, when he bought a complete set of Morhad Arven's journals.
Arven was well known dark scholar from 16 th century. While not very powerful or innovative, he was extremely methodical and studious. He spent most of his life traveling across Europe and collecting various obscure knowledge. By the time he was finally caught and executed for consorting with the Devil, Arven managed to compile one of the better known Dark and Forbidden Arts textbooks. Like most of such collections, this one was also protected against duplication, leaving only twenty or so known copies in existence. And one of those copies was, until recently, prized possession of one Bernard Crabble. Said Mr. Crabble had a misfortune of getting himself caught inside the Ministry Of Magic building, parading around with bunch of his Death Eater buddies, dressed in full Death Eater uniform. While some of his more influential associates, like Lucius Malfoy, managed to slip through the cracks, Crabble and few others were left behind, taking the blunt of the blame. They all ended up with few decades in Azkaban and large fines they had to pay to the Ministry. Unfortunately for Mr. Crabble, his family vault was already quite depleted, thanks to some not so wise business ventures he had undertook. That was why his wife, Melissa Crabble, had to resort to such drastic measures, as selling family heirlooms in bowels of Knockturn Alley.
Story was that Vader inspected authenticity of the books and spit out required sum of 1,600 galleons without bating an eyelash. He also spread the word that he would be interested in buying any other valuable books that Mrs. Crabble or her husband's imprisoned friends had to offer. In following two weeks, Lucas acquired more than dozen other rare books and journals, spending over 5,000 galleons in the process.
Even now, Lucas was on the trail of a book, probably the most valuable book he had sought so far - the infamous "Anarchia". Unfortunately, the price for such book was more than just money. And Lucas was currently on his way to procure the first third of the payment.
Harry expertly steered through narrow alleys, avoiding hags and beggars. His path led him deep into the bowels of Knockturn district, where he finally reached his destination. It was a small, dingy and completely unremarkable combination of antiquary, pawnshop and junk store. He briefly glanced at a faded sign, which said "Davidovitchs - Fine secondhand hardware since 1957 AD". He snorted at suggestive word-game, before stepping in through rickety door.
Like one would have expected, interior was dark and dusty. Right next to the entrance, a genuine medieval iron maiden greeted the shop's patrons, its spikes still coated with rusty-red blood marks. In the corner of the room stood a huge magical globe, political markings on it originating roughly from the middle of 17 th century. Harry's eyes idly flew over rickety shelves, inspecting allegedly cursed jewelry, broken magical mirrors, old clothing with some truly disgusting hats and other knick-knacks. Simply put, it was useless junk, all of it. But like with everything else in Knockturn Alley, one had to scratch beneath the surface to find the real treasure. And in this case, the real treasure was the owner of the shop himself, who was currently sitting behind the counter.
Boris Davidovitch was an older, heavy-set man, with thick grey mustaches and little to no hair. He was wearing blue factory mantle and black leather cap with Soviet red star on it's brim. Beneath grizzled eyebrows were keen intelligent eyes, that were currently inspecting every detail of Harry's presence.
"Mr. Davidovitch," greeted Harry impassively.
"Yes, my name is Boris Davidovitch and I am the owner of this fine establishment," he drawled with heavy Russian accent. "And who might you be, young sir?"
"My name is Lucas Vader, as I might have mentioned when we first met, two weeks ago," answered Harry smoothly.
"Lucas Vader... Vader..." he drawled, letting the 'r' voice roll in true Slavic manner. "I'm truly sorry, young sir, but my memory is not so good as of late. Old age, you see. If you could please state the purpose of your last visit, it might help stir some memory."
"Certainly, Mr. Davidovitch," said Harry promptly. "You see, I had a slight problem with focusing myself as of late, with all those stray thoughts tracking me wherever I go. Thankfully, an acquaintance of mine recommended a rather crafty solution. You see, he specified that you of all people, Mr. Davidovitch, might be able to make an excellent home-brew remedy for fixing problems such as mine. I had explained my problem to you two weeks ago and you generously offered to prepare for me five generic and one customized... medicine . You kindly informed me that brewing process would take up to 14 days and that I should come back then. Exactly two weeks have passed since that very day and here I am, ready to collect my order and pay up your fee, my good sir," said Harry with exaggerated flourish, unable to keep a smirk from his lips.
"I see," drawled Boris. "Yes, it's all coming back now... customized with dragon heartstrings, I believe?"
"Phoenix blood, I'm afraid," answered Harry unfazed.
"Yes, I remember now, phoenix blood. Very rare, very... expensive," he drawled, giving Harry an inquiring look.
"But well inside my price range, I assure you," said Harry, retrieving a money pouch from his robes and giving it a noisy shake.
"I see..." he drawled, only briefly glancing at the money and then giving Harry one more piercing stare. "Well, mister... Vader, I was fortunately able to prepare... the medicine you've requested. If you would please follow me to my private quarters, we should be able to conclude or business with some much needed privacy," Boris said as he flicked his wand, making the sign on the front door switch to 'closed'.
"Certainly, lead the way, Mr. Davidovitch," said Harry and followed the old man through the door behind the counter.
Davidovitch's private quarters were dark and dingy, like the rest of his shop. Boris led Harry to one seemingly empty wall at the end of corridor and placed his hand on a skull in one of the surrounding shelves. The skull glowed with soft bluish hue, inspecting Davidovitch's hand for identification.
"You know," said Harry, "you could have simply given me a password when we first met, and avoided this whole charade."
Boris heartily laughed and said cheerfully, "Where would be the fun in that, eh kid?" Gone was his thick Russian accent and drawling voice. There was still slight Slavic-like tone in his words, but that was now hardly noticeable.
At that moment, the glow faded and the wall slid away, revealing a narrow staircase. Harry followed the owner downstairs and shortly found himself in a spacious workshop. Center of the room was what Harry dubbed carpenter's workstation - large desk surrounded by racks containing variety of wood-processing tools. Right wall was lined with branches of various magical wood from around the world. Left side of the room was covered with shelves filled with dozens of samples from various magical creatures. Far wall was empty, except for a blue, metallic sign with a carved golden writing on it. Harry didn't speak Russian, but this table was stuff of Knockturn legends, and so was the caption on it: "Davidovitchs - makers of exquisite wands since 967 AD".
Name "Davidovitch" is nowadays nothing more than a faded caption on a dingy pawn-shop, lost in the jungle of Knockturn slums. But a century ago, that title was synonym for quality wands in the whole northern part of European Russia. Famous sign, that caught Harry's attention, was originally crafted by the founder of family business, Oleg Davidovitch. It was the first thing he did after he finished apprenticeship under English wand-maker Darius Ollivander and returned to his birthplace Petrograd to start his own workshop. Generation after generation of Davidovitchs was taking over the business, but that sign always had a place of honor above family shop's entrance.
That was until 1920's, when Magical wing of Communist party started forceful nationalization of small Magical shops across the country. Only thing that Boris' grandpa, Georgy, managed to take when they kicked him out, was the shop sign, that represented his only connection with generations of his ancestors. All craftsmen that had lost their shops were appointed to work in a newly opened "Stalingrad Magical Factory," which would provide whole western part of Soviet Union with magical supplies. Unfortunately, the only job Georgy was able to find was in cauldron department, since prestigious wand-making sector was immediately populated by people with strong Party connections. But Davidovitchs were patiently waiting their chance. Family trade was passed, along with the old shop sign, from Georgy to Vladimir and at last to Boris. Finally, enough higher-ranking comrades managed to get themselves killed by either the Nazis, Grindelwald or politics and Boris was finally able to seize his chance, becoming a junior carpenter in the Wand Department of S.M.F.
Thanks to his talent and family knowledge, he advanced quickly through the ranks, reaching the position of senior carpenter. He quickly sensed a major glitch within his department. At the time, the Workshop made wands with several standard core and wood combinations, and sent them to transport department. Problem was that said department did it's job automatically, without considering variety of products they were sending to various markets. Local shops often happened to receive complete shipments of identically constructed wands, leaving a whole lot of wizards with incompatible and unresponsive magical foci. Boris correctly sensed political climate at the time, worked hard in his free time and developed a completely new type of focus, which he named "cocktail wand". Of course, some paper-pusher later renamed it to a more mundane name, "generic wand," but the final product stayed the same.
These wands were crafted by fusing many different types of core and wood into a single combined core and wood shaft, using special process that Boris himself had designed. Final product was a wand that any witch or wizard could use with the same amount of compatibility, which was approximately 40 percent of normal. Of course, such wands made casting of any advanced spells extremely difficult, but they were still good enough for normal every-day usage.
New wands were an instant hit with the Party bigheads. On their parties, they would toast to Davidovitch's name who, with heroic effort, managed to remove another thing that separated their comrades apart. "In equal society everyone should have an equal wand," they would say, roast-beef and expensive champagne spilling from their mouths. Of course, they and their families still remained regular visitors of the Workshop's "Customized wands" department. So, in one gigantic leap, leaders had gained their moral victory and slightly increased productivity, Victor had gained a job of the Chief Engineer in the Wand Department and two week vacation on the Black See and Soviet Magical Community was taken 2,000 years backward.
They say that Davidovitch's downfall began when the Party assigned him an apprentice, an ambitious young man named Ivan Tvorov. Tvorov spent several years gaining his master's trust and learning all that his boss was willing to teach him about wand-making. In time, Boris took a liking to the talented young man and even showed him some of his family's sacred lore, valuable techniques that had rarely ever been taught outside of family. When Tvorov felt there was nothing more his master could possibly teach him, he struck. During one of worker parties in a local tavern, he laced Boris' vodka with a combination of relaxing, anti-inhibition and truth potions, and than coaxed him into conversation about factory management and politics in general. He waited for Boris' tongue to get loose enough and then signaled to his contact inside the Internal Harmony Comity, whom he had bribed beforehand. When secret police broke in, they found Boris in a middle of another one of his "he is so stupid..." jokes about one particular high-up party member, who had made his life difficult before. Boris looked confused for a moment, but then saw a smug look on Ivan's face and realized that he was busted. He knew what would follow - interrogation about his betrayal and a long term sentence inside one of Siberian gulags. He threw one last hateful look at his former apprentice and then activated an illegal Portkey that he always carried in his pocket.
Boris appeared in his small flat, grabbed his most prized possession, mounted his broom and flew through the window just when he felt anti-apparition wards being erected. He flew whole night low over Baltic Sea, and found himself on the shores of Finland early in the morning. He was cold, hungry and had only his broom, factory uniform and old family sign in his possession. He traveled across the Europe for the next few months, finally finding asylum in the land where his ancestors had learned their trade - England. There, he tried to gain license for wand-making business, but Ollivanders learned about his request and decided that they didn't want competition, especially one that offered better services than they did. They threw some of their political clout around and pushed for a new law, stating that only third generation or higher British citizens were allowed to own a wand-making license. Defeated, Boris retreated to the slums of Knockturn Alley, opened his small pawn-shop and seemingly disappeared from the community radar.
But Davidovitch's were not beaten yet. Boris's wife had died ten years ago, but she left him two sons. He taught them family trade, like generations of his forefathers did to their own children. His oldest son, Bernard, was already expecting a child, offspring that would become the first from the second generation of British Davidovitch's. Boris knew that he wouldn't live to see his family's honor restored, but he hoped that his sons would. And then, the old family sign would see the light of day again.
"Like it?" Boris suddenly asked, rousing Harry from his thoughts. "You know, this sign is over 1000 years old, made by my ancestor Oleg Da..."
"Yes, I know, Mr. Davidovitch. You told me all about your family history while you were testing me for compatible woods and cores the last time I was here." Harry briefly grimaced when he remembered the two hour long process, during which he was subjected to a long sequence of complicated spells, potions and rituals, all the while listening to Boris' life story.
Boris looked mildly uncomfortable. "Well, you know what they say young man, memory and seniority don't mix well together," he said benignly. Harry briefly noted that every old man he'd ever met tended to use this particular tactic where confronted with their mistakes. He mentally dubbed it the Poor-Old-Me disability card, mentally recalling an image of a crying, wrinkled and definitely non-twinkling Dumbledore whining about 'an old man's mistake'.
"Anyway," said Boris, interrupting Harry's musings, "here are the items you've requested. One, two, three, four and five improved cocktail wands..." He was handing Harry plain looking wands one by one. "Should have nearly 60 percent of normal compatibility. The worst and the best thing I ever invented, I tell you," he grumbled. Harry had to agree. While generic wands were indeed a technical masterpiece, they had been partially responsible for magically crippling an entire country for over four decades.
"And one... customized wand," the old man said with much brighter disposition, while reverently holing a beautiful black wand. "Eleven inches, flexible but strong... Core from Phoenix blood... Extremely powerful. Essence of light, taken by force. Blackest and purest, enclosed in one..." Boris was lost in his own world, while inspecting the wooden shaft. "Siberian weeping-willow... wood of sadness and loss... but also of vengeance. Unlike non-magical variety, this one has very strong defenses and should be approached with extreme caution. She would let you clip a branch or two, but if you take too much..." He left the sentence hanging and suddenly looked up at Harry with a new light in his eyes.
"I hope you're not going to tell me you expect great things from me?" Harry half joked while extending his hand to receive his new wand.
"Don't know 'bout great," murmured Boris distractedly, making no attempt to give away the wand he was still nervously twirling in his hands, staring at it with slightly vacant eyes. He suddenly gave Harry another long, hard stare and then nodded to himself, as if coming to a decision. "But it sure looks like you have some serious ishak to kick," he smiled, as he shakily deposited the wand in Harry's waiting hand.
Harry took his new wand and felt the familiar feeling of power rising in his gut, as a shower of white and dark-red sparks shot from it's tip. While the white sparks were simply hovering around, radiating strange calm and serenity with just a hint of Phoenix's song, red sparks were angrily flying around, leaving small scorch-marks on anything they touched.
Then suddenly, amidst the light show, there was a large burst of flames. Both men jumped in surprise at what they saw, Harry almost dropping the wand that was still sparkling with magic. Sky-blue phoenix appeared above Harry's head, hovered for a few seconds surveying the workshop and then gracefully landed on a nearby work table. Just when Harry and Boris were about to regain their senses, there were two more bursts in a quick succession. While Boris let go a string of Russian expletives, Harry looked around and noticed that they had two more visitors. Large, regal-looking phoenix, with red-orange plumage and a smaller one, colored in a combination of orange, yellow and green, were perched together on the shelf with core samplers. Harry noticed that the smaller one had exactly the same hue of orange as the phoenix beside him. Could he be the red-one's fledgling? , Harry wondered. Two new phoenixes immediately engaged themselves in a staring contents with the blue one, who didn't seem all that pleased to see them.
Three birds waited for the magic radiating from Harry's wand to die out and then started trilling amongst themselves. Two men watched in fascination at what seemed like an argument between the blue phoenix and coalition of the other two. 'Red' was singing soothing tones at 'Blue', like trying to prove some point and pacify him at the same time. 'Yellow' trilled a sound now and then, but mostly remained silent, letting his bigger companion deal with the 'situation'. 'Blue', on the other hand, didn't seem to like what 'Red' was saying, and was singing back angrier and angrier, glaring at the other two birds. "Red' suddenly shut up and seemed rather taken back by 'Blue's furious burst of song, which at this point could only be described as temper tantrum. After several seconds of angry screeching, 'Blue' was finally done, but he kept glaring at the other two, as if daring them to respond. 'Red' briefly seemed at loss what to do, but then he redirected his attention at 'Yellow' and trilled a few soothing tones. 'Yellow' didn't seem all too happy with what 'Red' was saying and sang back angrily. What followed was hushed argument between 'Red' and 'Yellow', which ended when 'Red' put his foot down, so to say, with an angry trill, which shut the other bird down. 'Yellow' gave 'Red' a sad, disappointed look and than turned his back to him, sulking. Harry was briefly reminded of Dudley's reaction when Petunia refused to give him what he wanted. He once again wondered whether these two phoenixes were father and son, a rather spoiled one at that. Upon seeing 'Yellow's reaction, 'Red' turned back to 'Blue' and gave him an angry screech, as if saying "See what you've made me do?". 'Blue', however remained unfazed, giving the other bird contemptuous look, which was more than happily returned. 'Red' thrilled another soothing and apologetic sound at 'Yellow' and then disappeared in a burst of flames, followed shortly by the smaller bird.
'Blue' thrilled a short, happy tone at where 'Red' used to stand, with a smug look on his face. He then turned to the two flabbergasted men and started inspecting them with his radiant blue eyes.
Harry was the first one to snap out from this strange three-way staring contest between two wizards and a bird. "What the fuck's that?" he asked stupidly.
"I believe 'it' is called a 'phoenix', Mr. Vader," said Boris slowly, noticing an angry expression on the bird's face.
"I know that," said Harry irritably, trying to regain his composure. "I mean, what was that? What was all that thrilling with the other two. Why were they here? Why is this one still here? What's going on?"
Boris had a thoughtful look on this face, as if remembering something that he had heard a long time ago. "I believe there is something in my family's lore that could explain this situation. You see..." But he stopped in the middle of his sentence when the blue phoenix redirected his glare at him, narrowing his eyes slightly. "On the other hand, I don't think that could be applied in this case. Totally irrelevant, yes..." he said weakly, shrinking under the bird's powerful gaze.
"Are you sure, Mr. Davidovitch?" asked Harry, giving him a glare of his own. "Why don't you tell me nevertheless? You never know when such knowledge might come in handy."
Davidovitch seemed to think about it, but Phoenix narrowed his eyes even further, giving the older man 'don't you dare' look. "Eh, that wouldn't... I couldn't possibly... I mean every wand-maker..." Phoenix interrupted him with a stern trill. "I mean... I just can't. I'm sorry, Mr. Vader," said Boris in defeated voice.
Harry saw that the old man was really itching to share some good story, but that damn bird somehow stopped him from doing it. "It's alright, Mr. Davidovitch, I was only curious," he said and redirected his stare at the phoenix, who was returning a smug, victorious look.
"So, what's your name, boy?" Harry asked the bird curiously, as he approached him with an outstretched hand. For some reason, the phoenix narrowed his eyes angrily at Harry, but he didn't noticed. "What is that secret you wish to hide from me?" he asked the bird softly, while reaching out to pet him. Phoenix let out an angry thrill and pecked Harry's hand with his sharp beak, drawing some blood from the wound.
"Ouch! What the fuck?" Harry yelled, glaring at the phoenix, who meanwhile flew over his head and perched himself on the opposite end of the room, looking quite pleased with himself. Harry's mouth hang open in surprise. He was always getting along quite well with Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes. This refusal came as a total shock to him. Not to mention that stupid turkey's keeping secrets from me , Harry thought angrily. Boris, on the other hand, wasn't all that surprised with this reaction, he just watched Harry's plight with slight amusement in his eyes. Phoenix threw Harry another smug look from the other end of the room and then trilled a short note, bobbing his head in a self-satisfied manner, as if saying "And stay away!".
"Why you little..." Harry hissed angrily but was interrupted by a shrill beeping sound coming from his robes. Boris jumped in surprise for the third time that day and then started cursing, reverting to Russian once again.
Poor old man will end up with a hart attack one of these days , Harry mused, as he retrieved a muggle cellular phone from one of his inner pockets. He inspected tiny monochrome screen and opened SMS message he had just received.
"Other freaks found out, send rest of the money. Dudley," the message said.
Shit, I was hoping that masquerade would have lasted for at least another week , Harry thought. Oh, well, there is still that other misdirection I have planted. It should give me several at least another weak without the Order on my heels.
Aloud he said: "Don't worry, Mr. Davidovitch, it's just a muggle communications device." Boris nodded in understanding, looking curiously at the contraption in Harry's hands. Harry threw another glare at the phoenix perching in the corner, feeling satisfied when he noticed that the ringing has unsettled the bird too, and then decided to finish this transaction. This whole thing is getting much too weird for my taste , he thought.
"Mr. Davidovitch, about the payment..." he said, pretending that the phoenix didn't exist.
"Yes, of course," Boris started, reverting to self-assured businessman. "You have 5 cocktail wands for 20 galleons each and 50 galleons for that custom job, with Phoenix blood no less, which makes it total of... 150 galleons. Take from that 50 galleon deposit you have already paid and you own me... exactly 100 galleons".
Harry nodded and pulled out single banknote for 100 galleons, which looked like a fancy piece of parchment with a Gringotts seal stamped on it. Boris took it and carefully examined it. When he was done, he nodded in confirmation and escorted Harry back to the junkshop upstairs. Harry noted with satisfaction that the blue phoenix had fire-traveled away as soon as he left the room. "That's right, find someone else to bug. Stupid turkey," he grumbled under his breath.
Upstairs, Boris took his customary place behind the counter and said in his fake accented drawl: "Well, Mr. Vader, I'm glad to see that my... medicine had worked in your case."
"Of course, Mr. Davidovitch, I am very grateful for your generosity," said Harry with flourish.
"Before we part ways... I would appreciate if you wouldn't mention my err... healing skills to anyone with disposition towards official health protection."
"Certainly, Mr. Davidovitch, my lips shall be sealed. Of course, I would also prefer for my visit here to remain a secret. Such a scandal would it be if a word of the problems that were tracking me got out."
"Of course, young sir. I can already feel your visit fading away from my memory. Old age, you see."
Harry smiled at the old man's antics. "Then, I better take my leave. Good day, Mr. Davidovitch."
"And good day to you, young sir," Boris drawled and saw Harry out of the shop. "And good luck," he added, after Harry closed the door.
After Apparating from Private Drive, Albus Dumbledore found himself in the middle of a dark, ominous looking forest. Huge, gangly trees, tangled with vines and weeds, seemed to be thousands of years old. Ground was covered by a layer of thick fog, hiding piles of decayed leaves and intermingled tree roots. Cold, damp air was filled with sounds of wild animals, many of whom were definitely magical. The woods would have looked totally forgotten and untouched by human hand, if there weren't for four 20-foot high poles, rising together from ground, in a tight, square formation. Each of this poles had a small, carved phoenixes along it's height, mingled with magical runes. One purpose of these poles were to be used as a reference point for Apparation. The other was to stand as focal points for the Fidelius wards.
Albus closed his eyes and thought about the key phrase: "The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix can be found at Moody's cottage, La Fey's forest, Scotland Highlands."
As soon as he thought that, the pools moved apart, creating a rectangular glade in the middle of the forest. The field was flat and almost totally bare, littered with what looked like scorch marks from explosions. In the center of the glade was two-stories high, sturdy-looking wooden house. All the windows were boarded, the walls were fortified. The cottage was surrounded by battlements, tangled in a vicious looking barbed wire. Shortly, the whole place looked like a World War I fortress under siege.
Albus pulled out his Order pendant and tapped it with his wand, muttering this week's code phrase. He then nimbly walked through the glade, carefully following the pull that the amulet was giving. Left... Forward... Right... Forward... On his way, he cheerfully greeted other Order members, who were holding their own pendants and following similar imaginary path through the field. They all looked like a bunch of zombies, slowly advancing towards the house. Albus inwardly shivered when his eyes crossed over a nearby scorch mark. He knew that Moody had put them around just for the effect's sake, but they still looked extremely sinister and foreboding. Thankfully, Albus had managed to persuade Mad-Eye to replace real live mines and lethal booby-traps, that he had used before the Order had moved in, to slightly less lethal means of stopping the intruders. Tonks was simply much too valuable for the Order to loose her on their own security measures. In return for this generous favor, Moody requested that they shift the traps around at least once each week. Thus, Albus have had to alter all of the Order amulets, making them capable to show the correct way through Moody's ever-changing mine-field.
After a minute of careful walk, Albus finally reached the cottage, cursing his lieutenant's paranoia. He found himself in front of a sturdy wooden door, with a plain-looking doorknob and a brass-knocker. But Albus knew better then to reach for either one of them, since they were both heavily jinxed. Instead, he found a small carved symbol, that could have easily been mistaken for a crack on the wood, and reached for it. Surprisingly, instead of empty air, his hand grabbed invisible doorknob and turned it, opening the door.
The doorway was charmed so to inhibit more than one person from passing through it between each opening and closing of the door. Every time the door was closed, carved symbol and invisible doorknob would magically relocate themselves to a new, random location, slowing down the progress of a next person in the line for entrance. Thus, people were forced to enter the cottage one by one, preventing any large scale invasions from happening.
Albus let himself in, and closed the door behind him. He vaguely felt slight shift of magic from the door, indicating that the mark has indeed changed place. Albus found himself in main corridor of the hut. On the left side was doorway to Order's main meeting room, which is where they would gather today. On the right side was rather spacious kitchen, with a small table in the middle. Albus had to magically enlarge this room at Molly's insistence, since she simply refused to work in Moody's old bachelor conditions. Beside the kitchen was another smaller room, that was used as a kind of command center, for monitoring both the country for Death Eater attacks and Headquarter defenses. At the end of the corridor was a surprisingly cozy living room, with several armchairs and a large fireplace. Whoosh sounds coming from there indicated that it was connected to the floo network. Still, there was at least five seconds pause between two entrances, which was another one of Moody's security measures. Upstairs were Moody's personal quarters and several guest bedrooms for stranded Order members. The whole interior was simplistic and utilitarian, more like a military barracks than someone's home. Dark detectors and foe-glasses littered around the house only added to a rather foreboding atmosphere.
But what attracted Albus' attention most at the moment was a commotion happening in the main corridor. In the center of the hustle were, as expected, the Weasleys, who surrounded cowed Tonks, demanding to know what had happened to Harry. Molly was, apparently, leading the investigation, screeching at poor Tonks, who was stuttering answers while flashing all the colors of rainbow. Remus somehow managed to wiggle his way out of that mess and was currently sitting at the kitchen table, drowning himself in firewhiskey. Snape simply loomed in the corner, smirking at 'stupid Gryffindor show of emotions'. Several Order members were watching them confusedly, obviously having no idea what was that all about.
Albus flashed his aura a bit, letting some of his raw magical power flood the room. He also played with illumination a bit, emphasizing his glowing pink-emerald figure against dark and dreary walls. That had quickly gotten everyone's attention, leaving the hallway in tense silence.
"Let us retire to the meeting room, ladies and gentlemen, we have a lot to discuss."
"Albus, what happened to Harry? He wasn't caught by You-Know-Who, was he?" Molly wailed.
"Yeah, where's Harry?" piped in Ron.
He and Ginny were spending some of their time here, helping with the upkeep of the new Headquarters. They were needed because Moody had absolutely refused to allow any house-elves into his house, after 'the Kreacher incident' two months ago. Unfortunately, the Headquarters still needed some redecorating and none of the Order members had neither inclination nor time to deal with such mundane tasks. That's why Albus had to resort to his old tactic and use children labor instead. Few wise 'advices' to Molly and Arthur about 'keeping the family together in this dark times' did the trick splendidly. They even ended up believing it was their idea in the first place. Thus, Ron and Ginny were immediately whisked away from lazing around in the Burrow and given a long list of chores they were to finish before the end of the summer. That was how they found themselves as a part of the Weasley mob that had almost lynched Tonks for answers.
"That's exactly what we're going to discuss at the meeting," Albus said loudly, ending all inquiries. "Molly, gentlemen, shall we?" he asked and started towards the meeting room, followed by tipsy Remus and few other Order agents.
"Ginny, Ron, to your room," said Molly and went after Albus.
"But mum, it's about Harry, we have to find out what happened to him," whined Ginny.
"No buts, Ginny, you know this is for grownups only," said Molly gently.
While Molly and Ginny were arguing, Ron remained silent, sulking inwardly.
- Damn! Nobody ever tells me anything. Like they are so much better than me, just because they're older. It's not fair , he wailed.
- You mustn't miss this meeting, boy! This could be important. Use your best friend card and get in! , another voice said in his head.
- Yeah, like they would let me in just because of that. Most of the meetings are about saint Potter anyway and I'm still never invited.
- This is not just another meeting, stupid boy! Didn't you see how nervous that changeling was? Didn't you notice the werewolf's condition? What have I told you about observing your surroundings?
- Err... Always examine people's faces and analyze their expressions, try to determine their motivation.
- So why aren't you? Don't you want to achieve something? Don't you want to rise above your brothers, to outshine your classmates, to prove yourself to Granger, to step out of Potter's shadow?
- Yes, but it's still not fair. Why do I have to work for everything, while they just get it on a silver platter?
- Don't whine, boy. Instead, think on how you're gonna get yourself into that meeting.
- I've already told you, they would never let me in. Believe me, I know, I've tried before. Besides, I'll learn what happened sooner or later anyway.
- Not good enough, boy! I told you hundred times, never give up! Otherwise, you'll never amount to anything.
- But it's impossible!
If a disembodied voice could sigh, this one definitely would.
- Very well. I'll get you inside myself, you incompetent nincompoop... Just do what I tell you and you might even learn something this time.
- Alright, mister great and mighty... err... mister X! You've just got yourself a deal. But you better not make myself... me make a fool of me... myself. Not make me make myself a fool of...
- Try not to think so hard, boy. It's not pleasant up here when you're straining your brain like that.
- Hey, watch your mouth... err, brain-waves...
- Shush, it's time for action.
At that moment, argument between Molly and Ginny was slowly winding down.
"No, Ginny, I can't allow you inside, you're just too young. Come on, honey, why don't you be a good girl and go play in your room..." pleaded Molly at pouting Ginny, who was still refusing to give up. Ron started towards them, but the Voice interrupted him.
- No, not with her. She's dead set on protecting you two from reality. NaÃ¯ve woman, she should know better. Go directly to Dumbledore.
Ron nodded slightly and steered around distracted Molly, entering the meeting room. Thankfully the door was still open, since some Order members were yet to arrive. Ron timidly approached Dumbledore, who was sitting at the head of the grand table, waiting for his men to gather.
- Ask whether something happened to Potter. Act nervously and apprehensively. Whatever you do, DON'T look him in the eyes.
Ron cleared his throat and asked Headmaster: "Sir, err, has something happened to Harry? 'Cause I've just heard Mrs. Tonks speaking about him and Professor Lupin won't say anything and I was just wondering what was wrong with my best mate... Sir."
- Very good. It's lucky that being confused comes naturally for you , the Voice praised.
- Thanks... Hey!
Albus looked at the apprehensive lad and smiled gently, with twinkle in his eyes. He knew that Ronald Weasley was somewhat loudmouthed and rash, which was exactly why he had never approached him directly. Instead, he was controlling him using his parents, who were worshiping the ground Albus walked upon and would do anything he said. Ronald proved invaluable in steering Harry towards Gryffindor and away from following his ambitions. Thanks to him, Harry had spent countless hours playing games and talking about Quiditch, instead of exploring his powers and learning all sorts of dangerous information that didn't have place in the black-and-white world Albus had created for him. Very useful tool, indeed. Still, it wouldn't do to give him any special treatment. Ronald already had problems with his ego and inflating it further wouldn't help at all. He would probably only end up bragging left and right how he had gotten one over Harry.
"Ronald, my boy, you know that I can't discuss that with non-Order members. Why don't you go to your room for now? I'm sure that Molly would gladly tell you all you want to know after the meeting is over," said Albus in his grandfatherly voice, but with clear dismissal.
- As expected , said the Voice. Now accept his decision, turn around and leave.
- What? , yelled Ronald in his mind.
- Don't interrupt, boy! As I said, turn around and walk away. And then murmur under your breath, but so that the old coot can still hear you, that it's no wonder that Potter had left, judging by his recent behavior.
- What behavior? I haven't noticed anything strange.
- Of course you haven't, you dolt. You wouldn't have noticed a pink elephant if it were hanging right in front of that overlong nose of yours. But Dumbledore doesn't know that you don't know. We'll just have to invent something later, during the meeting.
- Oh, I see now.
Ron turned around and walked away. But just when he was at the door, he murmured: "With the way Harry has been acting lately, it's no wonder he left."
Dumbledore's head whipped around at that comment. How was Harry acting? Hermione hadn't said anything last time we spoke , Albus wondered.
"Ronald," he called the teenager back.
"Yes sir?" asked Ron innocently.
"Why don't you and your sister join us, just this once? I'm sure that your insight could prove to be more than helpful in this situation," said Albus in a kind voice, acting as if he was doing Ron a huge favor.
Yes! I got you, you conceited bastard! Who is better now, you old goat?! , yelled the voice in Ron's head. Ron sometimes sincerely wondered whether his mysterious companion was sane or not. He obviously harbored an unhealthy hatred towards Dumbledore. On the other hand , he mused, who am I to judge? I'm the one hearing voices in my head.
"Are you sure, sir?" asked Ron confusedly. "I really don't want to be a bother."
Very good boy, you're learning , said the Voice approvingly. Just don't push it around Dumbledore. The old man can detect a lie from a mile away. Thank your lucky star he's not concentrating on you right now.
"Of course I'm sure, my boy. Come along now, sit down there. You too, Ginevra, don't be shy now," Albus said kindly.
Molly and Ginny stopped their argument and whipped their heads at Albus' words. Ginny was looking at Ron like he was God, while Molly immediately started to protest. "But Albus, they're just children! We can't let them get involved in this war. They could get themselves killed!" she screeched.
"Now, now, Molly, it's just this once. We are certainly not initiating them into the Order or sending them into battle. We just need their unique insight in this particular case. They are Harry's friends, after all," said Dumbledore mildly, but sat straighter and released just a little bit of his aura. His current image screamed with benevolent authority, kind of which you wanted to follow.
"But Albus, we've agreed that they are still much too young for this," she wailed.
"Trust me, Molly, it's for the best," said Albus in his knowing manner.
Molly sighed and relented. "Whatever you say, Albus. I trust you know the best." She then turned to the two gleeful teenagers and said sternly: "You two, listen up. I'll allow you inside, but just this once. You will not speak about this to anyone. You will sit quietly and be on your best behavior during the meeting. One offence from either one of you and you're back to your room. Am I understood?"
"Yes mum," they chorused and took their seats at the table, anticipation written all over their faces.
Eh, if all of my subjects were like Molly and Arthur , sighed Albus wishfully, as the Order members settled down. Some people are always questioning my plans, like they could possibly know better. Albus truly enjoyed gently manipulating people, but from time to time, he craved for simplicity of direct orders. He never approved of Tom's methods but certainly understood their benefits.
"Welcome!" he said simply and captured everyone's attention. "We have gathered here, on this emergency meeting, to address a newly-arisen issue concerning our own charge, Mr. Potter."
"What issue is that?" asked Kingsley, who had just arrived.
"To put it simply, and confirm rumors that have been passed around, Harry's gone," he said and observed newly arisen chaos with twinkling eyes. Oh, heated arguments were so much fun. Albus avidly watched flow of emotions between people at the table, as accusations and denials were thrown around. For an accomplished Legilimens, it was like watching a thunderstorm on a warm, summer night. Of course, Albus could have introduced the news gradually and kept the meeting under control, but where would have been fun in that?
Half an hour latter, Order members slowly filled out of the meeting room, each with their own appointed task in the organized search effort. Albus himself would check Gringotts and few other possibilities for finding Harry that nobody else knew about. Other Order members would comb specific areas of the Magical World and try to collect clues about Harry's whereabouts. They chatted for a while about their mission and then dispersed, leaving Dumbledore alone at the table.
Albus had a sudden urge to let go maniacal laugh, like he would sometimes do when he was alone in his office. It was such a thrill ordering people around, making them do something without even knowing why they're doing it. Unlike Tom, Albus never got kicks from direct submission or groveling. But to subtly push people around, create conflicts and then solve them, to hold information crucial for his subjects and then reveal them bit by bit, to be mysteries and speak in riddles that everyone takes for great wisdom, to watch from above as his inferiors mile around, living their own lives, not even aware that they are nothing but pawns on Albus' mental chess board... Gentle manipulation was so much better than directly torturing some poor chap - any fool could do that. Albus sometimes felt almost like God; Benevolent but all-powerful, always there but never outright available, all-knowing but mysterious. Just thinking about it gave him a slight erection.
Ah, but no time for daydreaming now , Albus reprimanded himself. It's time for me to check with my spy at Gringotts. I wonder just how much money did Harry spend for this little escapade of his. The fact that Slimepick, Harry's account manager, hadn't contacted Albus earlier was worrying and required an immediate investigation. Albus briefly considered using his ultimate spy, but decided not to risk revealing that card just yet.
Because tomorrow, the Order members would meet again and present their findings to the group. And Albus was hoping that Harry would be a guest of honor at that meeting, shamefully awaiting his punishment.
Not a lot of Harry in this chapter, but I sort of like this whole "background information" thing. When I started this fic, I wasn't planning on writing like that, but Kill Bill kinda inspired me into it. So blame Quentin Tarantino, not me.
EDIT: This is a revised version of this chapter. I changed a few sentences and fixed some grammar errors, but the plot remained the same. You don't need to re-read this to follow the plotline (although it's probably late now, seeing how this message is placed after the actual chapter content ;-))
o - About magical Russia
I'm not Russian. All that info about Russia was pulled out of an Encyclopedia, with some very limited personal experience added for good measure.
Problem with transport I stated was very real. They would simply dump products in trains and distribute them randomly around the country. It happened that whole cities got only shoes of one size or t-shirts of the same color etc.
At the time, everyone was trying to have everything equal, meaning the same models of clothes, same colors, buildings, haircuts... Politicians of the time would have gladly sacrificed quality of wands for the fact that all the wizards would be equal.
o - Sources and additional disclaimers
Harry's fake name is a reference to Star Wars (Harry isn't very creative with names, I'm afraid).
Encyclopedias used for reference are Microsoft Encarta 97 and Britannica 2005.
I don't own any intellectual property mentioned above.