A Sixth Year Story: Voldemort's Return brings in the International Confederation and a team from the North American Wizarding Confederation to take control. In this chapter, the Hidden turncoats i...
"Should we be surprised that the house is so well-warded?" Cornfoot asked.
"Probably not," Smith acknowledged with a twisted expression. "Considering the circles that family has been trying to get into, they would have to be careful."
"What do we do now? The Master seemed rather . . . impatient."
"True. Although it's never been easy to know when he's totally serious and just threatening to . . . motivate."
"Also true." Cornfoot paused, then said, "It's not quite dawn. I suppose we can wait and see if she goes out of the wards today. I'm sure we have at least until midnight to bring her back, if she's guilty."
"Actually, we have until the next feeding. If we ship Pansy off to them, that can wait until tomorrow night. You know they prefer playing with us instead of Muggles. They can probably feed off her for a day or two before one finally Kisses her."
"If she's guilty," Cornfoot pointed out.
"True," Zach agreed. "I rather hope she and the girls aren't."
"Because then it's that pest, Malfoy," Stephen agreed. Neither teen liked Draco at all.
"Best of all would be all of them."
"All of them!"
"Hush!" Zach commanded. "You're right of course. I'd be happy with Parkinson and Malfoy."
"Of course, in that case, the Master might have even worse things for us to do than feed the dementors once a week," Stephen pointed out.
A voice behind them stated, "Mallow cup." The two teens blinked, coming out of the spying spells, and saw it was one of their Hidden contacts. They knew none of the Hidden names.
"You two are a talkative pair," he said.
"How many people can sneak up on us as easily as you lot seem to be able to?" Stephen retorted.
"Not very many, I grant you," the Hidden agreed with a slight, superior smile. "From what you're saying, your Master believes Draco, Parkinson, or the Fifth year Slytherins may have turned informer on the hair-collection scheme, correct?"
"Correct," Zach agreed.
"When, of course, as you both now know, it was the two of you."
"Oh. . . ." Zach said.
"Shit," Stephen agreed. "That rather takes what little fun there was out of this."
"What's the solution?" Zach asked.
"I suppose, since there is no other solution that can be easily faked, Voldemort will figure out that one or both of you must be spies under these spells. So, I should just reinstitute them and let him kill you."
"Quite right, that would be cruel. I suppose you should at least know what's coming, so you can try and escape his wrath. If he's chasing the pair of you down, that should keep him distracted."
"You can't be serious!"
"You can't just abandon us!"
"I can," the Hidden said.
"You bastard!" Zach snarled.
Stephen gave his friend a dirty look and then turned back to the Hidden. "Look, we both were wrong, and we've both done terrible things, although about half of what I've done was done while spying for you! Even though we both deserve to be punished, don't you think being tortured to death is . . . extreme?"
"Perhaps," the Hidden allowed, "although, considering your crimes before turning, about the only people who wouldn't consider death a worthy punishment for your crimes would be those who dislike the death penalty on principle." He smiled nastily. "I am not one of those."
"No mitigation for what we've done for you since?" Stephen demanded. "You had mentioned exile with full magical rights."
"Perhaps. Would Voldemort really condone your killing Malfoy? That would force him off of that protected island."
"He says he's ready to move, if he has to," Zach said quickly. Stephen gave his acquaintance a dirty look. Zach was trying to win points by giving up information too soon.
"If we decide it was Draco, Lestrange will go and torture him to death," Stephen went on. "She's a member of his family, after all, and can still access Malfoy Manor."
"Voldemort is getting sloppy," the Hidden said. "Draco was confined to the Manor only until his seventeenth birthday, which was in early June. Yes . . . this will work out nicely. Draco has been playing both sides against the middle, hoping to create a situation where both Voldemort and Potter will be severely injured if not killed. We shall provide you with some information, slightly improved upon, which will be all you need to send Lestrange after Draco, while insuring Draco isn't there. The intent that Lestrange will have as she enters the Manor will cause Voldemort and his people to be trapped on the island if they are still there."
"I'm sure the Dark Lord knows that," Zach pointed out.
"Almost certainly," the Hidden agreed. "If not, well, then he's trapped. If he leaves, then he will not be under those powerful wards. Either way, that works to our advantage. You two will be under suggestions to get away if you can as well as supply him with the information. Voldemort will quickly decide you betrayed him after that. If you both pull this off, we will protect you, and will not execute you. Do you both agree?"
Zach and Stephen looked at each other and shrugged. They really didn't have much of a choice. A life of exile in the Hidden communities of North America was better than any of their likely alternatives.
Two nights later, Cornfoot and Smith were kneeling in front of Voldemort. "So," the Dark Lord hissed, "young Malfoy has betrayed me!"
"That is the best evidence, Master," Stephen answered. "It is the only explanation, unless Parkinson was just plain careless, and our friends in Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff didn't notice anything that they reported. We didn't wish to approach Malfoy or even Parkinson more directly with any questions without your approval."
"If they have any guilt, they would run, Master," Zach pointed out. "We would at least need reenforcements to help prevent that, not to mention help breaking down those wards we described."
"True." He eyed the two teens. They were the best of a poor lot. Still, they often showed just the right amount of initiative. "We shall move off the island tomorrow night. Bella will question her nephew the following night. There will be a lot to do. Do you have a preferred assignment?"
"Where ever we may be of the greatest service, Master," Zach said.
"No desire to help question Draco?"
"Anything beyond questioning is beyond our expertise, Master," Cornfoot admitted. "However, we will go as you command us."
"Very well. Go back to the Parkinsons the same night Bella goes after her nephew. Ten dementors shall meet you at Eleven. They can cross the wards you described. When they have feasted, show the Dark Mark, and one of the Dementors will lead you to my new lair."
When the two teens had acknowledged their orders, Voldemort ordered them to take two of the chests of cash Voldemort had to their own hideout. They would return it in three nights. The two bowed and left.
"Do you believe them, Master? They could be the traitors," Bella pointed out.
"Possibly, but if so, they must be under heavy enchantments. The Old Man would not continence it."
"But the Druids?"
Bella shrank slightly when Voldemort snarled at her. He quickly recovered, and said, "Then perhaps those chests will prove a trap instead of a treasure." He thought a moment. "Do you believe your nephew that trustworthy?"
"No, he has proven he can be trusted only to think of himself," Bella agreed, openly torn between her desire to protect her nephew and her urges to slowly torture the pretty boy to a bloody, helpless pulp. "Still, unless he has chosen the other side entirely, this does not seem likely."
"Agreed. Still, we shall see."
The next day, Draco opened his eyes to greet the noonday sun. As usual, he had been up drinking well into the night.
Seeing three wizards in druid robes holding wands on him was not a very assuring way of waking up.
"Good afternoon, Malfoy," one said.
"Who are you three?" Draco managed to demand, his heart beating hard.
"He doesn't know who we are?" another asked.
"Remember, he's not very bright."
Draco started making protesting noises.
"Quiet, boy," the second man said. "Who we are, if you are too stupid to figure it out, is not important. We've been keeping an eye on you. What? You thought once you were convicted everyone would forget about you? We no more forgot about you than Voldemort has. We know of each contact he has made with you, and what you've done for him. If we wished, we could have your parole revoked."
"Why don't you?"
"Well," the third man said, speaking for the first time, "there is really little reason to. You see, in a sense, you have told us everything we needed to know about your dealings with Voldemort. No," he broke in over Malfoy's protests, "you didn't directly tell us, but we have watched, and therefore we have learned. Voldemort will not care about the difference, and that he has been nearly as sloppy as you. In fact, we have learned he has decided you are most likely the leak he has been looking for. Therefore, Voldemort has for the most part already left that all too-safe little island retreat you provided for him, and your Aunt Bellatrix will be visiting you in a day or two."
"We have used you, so we thought we should pass that along," the first man added.
"If you wish to try and explain this to her, go right ahead," the second man said slyly. "Perhaps you'll find her more sympathetic than we imagine."
"You've just passed your seventeenth birthday a short time ago," the third man pointed out. "You might consider moving to some other property, especially if there is one your aunt is unaware of."
"My mother probably would tell her if she was questioned too closely," Draco said, worriedly.
"Perhaps she could join you, under the circumstances," the second man pointed out.
"In any event, that is up to you," the third man said. "We thought we should mention what was coming." The three men started backing out of the room.
"Wait!" Draco called. "Can't you help me?"
"We could," the first man answered, "why should we?"
"In other words," the second man asked, "what do you have to offer us?"
"We don't like you," the third man stated. "Most of us think you would serve the world best by leaving it. You have made our tasks in Britain more difficult. You have endangered the Key to the destruction of Voldemort."
"What key? Do you mean . . . Potter?"
They ignored that. "So, why should we try and save you more than we already have?"
"There must be something specific you want from me, otherwise, you wouldn't be here!"
"Really?" the third man said with faux-friendly smile. "You are not that important, powerful, or interesting. We did what we had to do. Perhaps, if we find need of you, we shall contact you."
"And don't worry," the second man said with a nasty smile, "we WILL know where you are, and what you are up to."
"If you manage to leave without alerting Voldemort's forces, we might take out your aunt," the first man said in a musing tone. "Still, that's up to you."
"Good luck, boy," the second one said. "You might wish to be gone by dusk." The three men disappeared, despite the disapparation wards.
Draco stared, and then leapt out of bed. He had to get moving. He was certain that whatever had changed, his aunt wasn't likely to be any more sane than the last time he had seen her.
"That ought to get the little shit moving," Mercher said to the others.
"It should," Cadfael agreed. "The trap is set for Lestrange?"
"Yes, Master, the traps are set both there and here," the third man answered.
"You are ready to track Malfoy?" Cadfael asked.
"Yes, Master," Mercher answered. "No matter where he goes, we will be able to bring him in when the time is ready."
"Why are we bothering with him?" the third man asked. "I mean, I understand why we're keeping an eye on him, but why haul him in?"
"He hopes Voldemort will be destroyed, so that the Pure-Blood movement can concentrate on what he regards as its rightful program -- keeping power in the hands of people like himself," Mercher answered. "We are going to be voice of tradition in Europe, and the Open Believers will become the voice of integration, just as we are in North America. Therefore, the Pure-Blood point of view he claims to represent must be discredited. Malfoy will therefore disappear into the frozen communities of the north Yukon. He can argue with Cornfoot and Smith, but he won't ever be leaving. If he marries, then the Malfoy assets will be added to those of his wife's clan."
"And in the end, Europe, like much of North America, will have two view points, two faces of the same coin, with all agreeing on the fundamentals," Cadfael stated, "just disagreeing on interpretation."
"And he dared plot against Potter, right?" Mercher asked.
"That is correct," Cadfael agreed. "We don't like that."
That evening, forces credited to the International (according to The Daily Prophet) captured Bellatrix Lestrange and several of the more sadistic new Death Eaters. All managed to commit suicide, rather than revealing Voldemort's new locations. A number of dementors were also noted as being destroyed.
Saturday, August 16, 1997
Albus Dumbledore shuffled into the Headmaster's office late that morning. This was, to say the least, unusual. Although he was aged even by the most liberal magical standards, Dumbledore was normally as spritely as any Muggle dancer in their fifties.
This past year or so, Dumbledore's body language had slowly caught up to his age. Several of the staff had remarked on it amongst themselves. Had it started as early as the Third Task of the Triwizard Tournament? Had the Headmaster never fully recovered from the Battle at the Ministry?
Both were partially true. Those who knew Dumbledore best, and who knew the situation nearly as well as the Headmaster -- Snape, McGonagall, Moody, and Dumbledore's younger brother -- knew that the rate of aging had certainly increased when the International had appeared, and especially since the Hidden had reactivated their Circle of Power.
Aberforth wondered if perhaps Hogwarts itself had somehow been keeping his brother youthful in some aspects. If that were true, then perhaps the Hidden's Circle was somehow draining that power.
Snape knew that Dumbledore had only started to shuffle a few days before, when a message had informed the Headmaster that Potter's trainers would be meeting him on August 16.
That meant that they had decided if and when Potter would be facing down Voldemort.
Dumbledore had seemed age twenty years in as many hours.
Dumbledore sighed, sat in his chair, and closed his eyes.
And opened them almost immediately. "You could come in the normal way."
In one of the chairs sat Cadfael. "Where's the fun in that? Admit it. If you could do it, you'd love doing something similar."
Dumbledore almost managed a smile. "Perhaps."
"Who all is going to be here?"
"My brother and Moody. I am not certain who the International is sending."
"I would imagine Dorff." Seeing the question in Dumbledore's eye, he explained. "Johnson, Tudor, Tabby and the others training the boy are too close to him. Like you, they know what young Harry must do, but when you become too close, it becomes difficult to send a wonderful boy like him off to face evil."
"And Mister Dorff can? You can?"
"We can. We don't like it any more than you do, but we still have just enough objectivity to do what needs to be done. The needs of the many and all that, you know."
"I never liked Utilitarianism."
"There are many things and ideas which I care little for which I find I must use to do my job. There are worse things to believe than any of the beliefs and values that either of us hold."
Dumbledore could only nod his agreement.
"You know, the period of your youth has much to answer for."
"What might that be, in this context?"
"What you European wizards called 'Pure-Blood Ideology,' which was simply the combination of what the Muggles called Social Darwinism, Eugenics, and what passed for physical anthropology at the time."
"How to justify bigotry through mystical ideology on the one hand, and pseudo-science on the other."
"And are many of your group any better?"
Cadfael scowled, but admitted. "They are not, merely more antique in their prejudices."
"In any event, there are three people arriving."
Henry Dorff, Aberforth Dumbledore, and Alastor Moody came in less than a minute later.
"Good morning," Dumbledore said in a tired voice.
"You sound awful," Aberforth told his older brother. "Still not sleeping well?"
Dumbledore glared. "I am sleeping quite well."
"Then why do you look like you spent the last week without sleep?"
Dumbledore simply ignored his brother and turned to Henry Dorff. "Harry's trainers have decided?"
"Harry is as ready as he is likely to become," Henry responded. "He will of course continue to get stronger, and to master his astral powers and his wandless magic and mind magic, but the stress he is under will undercut those advantages. We all feel we need to finish these over the next week or so."
"What are the boy's chances," Moody asked, "and I want a realistic appraisal."
"One on one, in a straight-up duel, I would say Harry would have about a twenty to twenty-five percent chance at best."
"But it won't be a straight up duel, will it?" Aberforth demanded. "Add in the Death Eaters and dementors. . . ."
"Do not worry too much about the Death Eaters," Cadfael said. "Voldemort had, as best we could tell, thirty-six Death Eaters two months ago. We have taken that number down to nine as of this morning, and we hope to take care of those over the next twenty hours."
"That leaves the dementors," Moody said.
"True," Cadfael agreed.
"Harry will launch a combined astral/Legilimency attack on Voldemort, supported by Master J and Tabitha. Luna and one of Master J's people will be coming along with them. They will be tracing the link and identifying Voldemort's location. If Harry can destroy him then, fine. If not, then Voldemort should be rendered unconscious for at least a short time. Tudor, myself, and at least a dozen North American hit-wizards and a dozen aurors from North America and Britain will then portkey to that location to try and secure it, along with a few others." He turned to Cadfael. "We would welcome your people to help destroy any dementors."
"You shall have it."
"If Voldemort survives the astral attack but things otherwise go perfectly, Voldemort will have been disabled, held in check by Harry. We just have to be careful. If we try and kill him in that state, it could harm Harry nearly as much as Voldemort. We must leave the final fight, or at least the final stroke, to Harry."
"And then?" Dumbledore asked tiredly.
"Harry and the rest of his support group will portkey in. The act of portkeying will break the connection between Harry and Voldemort if Harry hasn't broken it before. We believe that it will take some time for both to recover, and Harry's group should easily get him going first."
"And if that happens, Harry executes Voldemort?" Dumbledore demanded.
"I shall be coming with you," Dumbledore declared.
"As you wish."
"Where is the boy now? If he's still in whatever secure location he was training at, that is probably some distance to portkey," Moody pointed out.
"We all arrived in Britain a few hours ago," Henry stated. "Tom has Harry securely anchored, should Voldemort try the summonsing ritual."
In the cellar of #4 Privat Drive, Ron Weasley turned to his friends, his eyes staring but unseeing.
"/All the pieces are in play;/
If all Light's forces play their part,
Then victorious they will be over Dark.
Should Light's players fail their tasks,
Ashes shall be what remains at last.
Victory of Light shall not safety bring;
A touch from a grey one could bring death's sting.
/Yes, all the pieces are in play./"