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 5: Mind games
Muggle and wizarding slums aren't all that different , thought Harry, as he confidently walked down the street in the poorest part of the London's East End area. His clothes were muggle, but not much else was different - one had to radiate the same kind of attitude both in Knockturn Alley and this overpopulated industrial ghetto. Beggars, street vendors, grim factory workers, old war heroes sitting by the sidewalk, kids playing football on the street and an occasional bobby, keeping to the brighter and busier intersections, were regular sights in this neighborhood.
But Harry quickly steered away from the lively street and went deeper into the dingy alleys, where once upon a time, Jack the Ripper sought out his victims. The more colorful sort of people could be found here - hookers, thugs, drunken bums, and... yes, they will do nicely , Harry thought as he spotted a pair of potential targets.
There were two of them, the Brain and the Muscle, as Harry mentally dubbed them. They kept near the entrance of a foreboding looking pub, trying to interest patrons in buying some of their 'stuff'. The thinner one was currently smoking a cigarette, leaning against the wall and chatting with a sickly-looking girl dressed like a slut. He was wearing sunglasses and a nice leather jacket, that concealed several kinds of drugs he had for sale, along with several different weapons. His bodyguard was a very big bald guy, dressed in loose black clothes, with the mandatory leather jacket. He was looming near his boss with his arms crossed, glaring at the girl suspiciously. Harry mentally confirmed his decision and then glanced at his phoenix sitting on a nearby roof. The bird was keeping a keen eye on him, but Harry paid him no mind. He has already gotten used to the annoying voyeur, following him wherever he goes. I just hope that he doesn't make a big fuss with what I'm about to do , Harry thought, before making a beeline towards the two drug dealers.
"Oh come on Jazz, I'll bring the rest of the money in a weak, I swear on my mother's soul. You know I'm good for it!" the girl wailed at the smaller guy. She seemed very nervous and shaky and had large bags under her eyes, which she unsuccessfully tried to cover up with layers of makeup.
"Sorry Crystal, babe, you know the drill. Cash for the stash," replied Jazz nonchalantly.
"But I neeed it, Jazzy! Come on, I'll even give you a little advance," she purred while showing off her 'goods'.
Jazz eyed her lazily. "Sorry to say it babe, but you don't have much to show off," he drawled, making her look down in embarrassment while covering herself up. "How are you with giving head?" he asked her offhandedly.
She immediately brightened. "Yeah, blowjobs are my specialty," she said sweetly, licking her lips.
Jazz sighed and asked his associate. "How 'bout it, Cueball? Up for some tunnel-diving?"
Cueball smiled greasily, making him look hideous. "Sure thing Jazz, you know I'm always up for a good dick-wash... heh... get it? Always UP!" he snickered, making his fat jiggle.
At this point, Harry approached them and cleared his throat. "I would like to do some business with you gentlemen... in private," he said calmly to the "brain of the duo.
Both men exchanged looks and then snickered at Harry's use of proper language. With the people they were usually dealing with, they had gotten used to the street slang and barely coherent muttering of the drug addicts in withdrawal.
"Beat it kid, we're busy right now," said Jazz dismissively, while his colleague stood in front of him protectively.
Harry exposed a big stack of cash sticking from his pocket and said smoothly: "Did I mention it's a very, very profitable kind of business?"
Their disposition immediately shifted 180 degrees. Cueball was looking confusedly at his boss, while Jazz was literally drooling at the money, his eyes wide with greed. Harry could almost imagine seeing dollar-signs in his pupils. "Go away Crystal, we'll speak later," he said dreamily.
"But Jazzy, we had a deal, baby!" she wailed, attaching herself to the drug-dealer, desperate for a fix.
Harry put the money back to his pocket, breaking the drug dealer's daydreaming. Jazz looked down and seemed startled when he realized that Crystal was hanging from his arm with a pleading look in her eyes. He roughly pushed her away and yelled, "Go away you cheap slut, we don't have time for the likes of you! Go find someone on your own level to bother!"
"Fine! Fine! I'll go!," she yelled. "You probably couldn't even get it up, you... you... faggot!" she screamed, pointing her shaky finger at Jazz.
Cueball drew a switchblade from his pocket and took a few menacing steps towards the hysterical girl. "Jazz told you to get lost, bitch. So scram, before I leave some permanent make up on that ugly mug you call face," he muttered.
She sneered once again at the group, then promptly turned and stalked away. "Fat piece of shit, probably hasn't see his dick in years. How'd he expected me to work under all that fat, I'll never know..." she mumbled, as she was stumbling down the street, out to find some other dealer to do her business with.
"Alright kid, you've got my ear. Shoot," said Jazz importantly, desperately trying to play the roll of a big shot, instead of some street lowlife that he was.
"Not here. Is there some place more... private?" asked Harry seriously.
"Yeah, right behind the corner," Jazz nodded his head towards the closed off alley Harry was aiming at all along.
"Well? Lead the way," said Harry impatiently.
Jazz eyed Harry suspiciously but then nodded to Cueball and started walking towards the alley. Cueball was hanging behind and keeping a keen eye on his boss' suspicious customer. Harry pulled out his wand and nonchalantly cast a few muggle-repellant charms on the entrance, as he and the drug dealers entered the alley.
"What's that?" asked Cueball suspiciously, eyeing Harry's wand.
"Oh? Just my Chinese good-luck charm," replied Harry, like it was the most normal thing in a world. Cueball gave Harry a confused look, but seeing that the stick couldn't be a threat, he let it go.
"Alright," said Jazz, when they reached the end of the alley. "What do you need kid? I hope it's not just a shit load of pot for all your little school buddies."
Harry turned around and inspected the entrance, twirling the wand in his hand. When he had made sure there were no witnesses, he promptly fired two stunners at the unsuspecting muggles. They barely had time to form confused expressions on their faces, before they were hit and fell to the floor unconscious.
Now for the hard part , Harry sighed mentally. He had practiced this spell at home, but for obvious reasons, this was the first time he was doing it on real targets.
"Corpus ad ossis converto!" he said firmly, doing complex wand movements and projecting a strong mental image of the desired results. He had gotten the idea for this spell from Barty Crouch Jr., who had used something similar to hide his father's corpse. The only difference was that this spell was supposed to create a bone out of a living human, instead of a dead body. Not a very easy piece of magic and seeing as transfiguration had never been Harry's forte...
"Shit!" he cursed, when he saw the result of his casting, which looked rather like an Elephant-man. Harry quickly reversed the transfiguration, thankful that creator of the spell had integrated a bunch of fail-safe measures against killing the subject. Harry tried again and this time got a rather large bone, with human head on one end of it. He managed something resembling the correct result on his third try. He was satisfied only on fourth. The bone looked kind of shabby and unnaturally large, but it was good enough for Harry's purpose. Harry quickly inspected his wristwatch and sighed in relief when he saw he had spent only few minutes perfecting the spell.
That dry-practice back in the tent surely came in handy now , he mused.
Harry then transfigured Cueball's body too, ending up with an even larger bone. If someone saw him now, they would have probably assumed he was smuggling dinosaurs' remains. Harry quickly packed both bones in a backpack, and walked out of the alley to hail a cab. He would have only two to three hours before the transfiguration wore out, and he had every intention of being at his destination point when that happened.
Forty-five minutes later found Harry in front of an old warehouse, in the industrial wasteland of Bexley, south-east of London. The warehouse looked old and abandoned, surrounded by huge factories of heavy industry, but that's exactly the way Harry wanted it - unobtrusive and out of the way. Not to mention that the lease was ridiculously cheap. Harry strode to a chained steel door and with a quick unlocking spell, let himself in. He found himself inside a huge hall, which had once upon a time been used as a warehouse, but now it was mostly empty. The blue phoenix followed him in and flew a few circles around the room, inspecting it thoroughly. It seemed completely desolate and useless, but a careful observer would notice small carved runes along specific walls of the hall.
Harry was far from an expert on runes, seeing how he had foolishly dropped the preliminary subject "Ancient Runes" back in his third year, but the whole process of placing this set was so nicely explained in Anarchia, that even an idiot could understand it. This particular combination would block most of the raw magic leaking from Harry's spells, preventing the Ministry's sensors from detecting anything suspicious. Magical radiation wasn't a problem in Diagon Alley, since the air around there was already saturated with a high level of residual magic, but if one wanted to do anything in the muggle world, wards like this were an absolute necessity. Of course, such a basic ward could never block all the magic from leaking outside the perimeter. The Ministry would send someone in sooner or later to investigate the higher level of magical readings in the area, but Harry had every intention of being long gone before that happened.
Harry dropped two bones in the center of the hall and reversed transfiguration on them. He then proceeded with rummaging through the drug dealers' possessions, 'releasing' them from everything that could potentially be used as a weapon, or that he simply found useful and wanted to keep for himself. From Jazz, Harry retrieved two pistils, holsters, 6 clips of ammunition, switchblade, around 1,500 pounds, ID card, passport, cellular phone, Zippo lighter, leather phonebook with information on various useful contacts from the London underground, small pack with no more than 200g of heroine and a larger bag, with maybe 1kg of pot in it. He also took Jazz's leather jacket and sunglasses, since they looked kind of cool on him. Harry then frisked Cueball, and retrieved a huge revolver, a bunch of bullets, less then 200 quid, an ID card, brass knuckles and two switchblades. Done with that, he donned on the leather jacket, while throwing everything else into his backpack. He then took out his wand and tied them up with magical ropes, before reviving them.
Two dealers stirred and looked around confusedly. They briefly struggled against the ropes and then spotted Harry looming over them.
"What... What the hell you think you're doing kid? Do you have any idea who you're dealing with!? D'you have a death wish or something!?" yelled Jazz from the floor. Harry eyed him impassively, mentally going through today's training regiment. He had a specific purpose on mind for later that night, and he couldn't afford to waste his time explaining himself to these two idiots. He once again checked his appearance, making sure he didn't look remotely like Harry Potter and that his new wand was under glamour, making it look completely generic. He really didn't need his actions today to loom over his head for the rest of his life. Memory charms were useful, but even the strongest of them could be broken.
Deeming himself ready, Harry pointed his wand at Cueball, who looked more confused than afraid, and forcefully said, "Imperio!"
Cueball's eyes immediately glazed over, and Harry felt something akin to a bubble forming in his mind. He tried to do something with it, but it suddenly slipped like a wet soap and the spell was broken. Harry tried again and this time, he got a firmer hold of it. He tried to tell Cueball to open and close his eyes, but as soon as he pushed little magic into the bubble, it disappeared again. This is gonna be a long day , he mused. Harry ignored Jazz's repeated demands for an explanation and Cueball's even more confused and somewhat fearful expression, and continued with his training.
During his practice, Harry kept throwing anxious glances at his phoenix companion, but the bird seemed strangely unconcerned by Harry's not so legal or moral actions. He just kept staring at the scene with those large, curious eyes, not even batting an eyelash when Harry started casting the curse deemed evil by most of the Wizarding society.
Maybe it's just the fact that no one is truly hurt by being kept under the Imperius , Harry mused. I guess phoenixes don't have the same standards as we humans do... either that or the damn bird simply doesn't give a shit about what I'm doing with my life.
Shaking his head, he decided to postpone that deliberation for some other time. Apathy was perfectly fine with Harry. As long as the phoenix didn't try to get in his way, he could follow him around and observe as much as he wanted.
It took Harry almost an hour to improve his Imperius curse enough to keep someone under it for a prolonged period of time, as long as his orders were relatively harmless. But as soon as Harry told his test subjects to do something that they were averse to (like when he told Jazz to give Cueball head, seeing how the big guy had been deprived of it earlier), their resistance would get too strong, making the bubble slip away.
At that point, Harry realized that the Imperius curse was much more advanced and complicated than he had expected it to be, and that he would need a lot more practice to completely master it. At the moment, he could potentially control a muggle or some weak-minded wizard, but not much more than that. Still, Harry deemed his current skill with the curse acceptable for the time being and decided to postpone any further Imperius practice to some later session.
One done, two more to go , Harry mused, as he observed sniveling drug-dealers. Taking a deep breath and trying to clear his mind, Harry pointed his wand at Cueball's forehead and yelled: "LEGILIMENS!"
He felt as if his mind had flown out and slammed at Cueball's forehead, but other than that, nothing else happened. After a few more tries, Harry got his first results, a few snippets of his target beating up small kids and stealing their lunch money. It took Harry next half an hour to improve his spell-casting enough to be able to browse through target's visual memories at will. Sure, his navigation was mostly random and any amount of magic would have probably expelled him easily, but it was as good as it would get while practicing at muggles. This is not my main focus today, anyway , Harry decided, deeming his skill with the Legilimens spell as good as it would get for the time being.
Harry glanced at his wristwatch and saw that it was already half past six. He had spent almost two hours getting the hang of the previous two spells. He only hoped that he would have enough time to learn last and the most important spell that evening.
Harry sighed and looked at his 'test subjects'. Both men were beyond the point of hysterics now. They were just numbly staring at Harry, waiting to see what other 'demonic power' he would use on them. Harry shook his head and tried to concentrate. He pointed his wand at Jazz's forehead, whose eyes widened in fear, and said clearly: "Oblivate".
Harry immediately felt his mind hitting the subject's and trying to merge, exactly like with the Legilimens curse. He was actually so surprised that his concentration slipped, breaking the spell. Harry blinked once and then tried again. This time, he got through and saw that the spell was moving backwards through Jazz's memories. It was obviously intended to be used for erasing muggle's minds after some magical accident, where the Oblivators would only have to cut off the last couple of minutes. As instructed, Harry tried to order the spell to stop and enclose the 'selected' section in a bubble. He once again got the feeling of 'wet soap' and the spell broke. It took Harry almost half an hour of trying, before he was able to correctly isolate the last couple of minutes of Cueball's life and encase them in a magical bubble, so that they couldn't be accessed. It was incredibly crude job, easy to detect and even easier to restore, but Harry couldn't help but sigh in relief. With this newfound working knowledge of Oblivation, he would be able to hide this little 'training session' from the authorities and get away undetected. Furthermore, he would be able to go on with the second part of his daily agenda.
Harry tried the spell few more time, polishing the rough edges, before deeming it good enough for the time being. There was a lot more finesse to this technique, like fortifying the bubbles, making them untraceable or planting fake memories, but these weren't strictly necessary for Harry in the foreseeable future. Besides, Harry already decided that he would definitely have more of these 'practical training sessions', where he could improve all of the mind spells he had tried today.
Deciding to end the session, Harry Oblivated both muggles from anything that happened after he had led them to the alley and then stunned them. He then transfigured them back into bones, this time getting much better and smaller results and repacked them in his backpack. After rechecking that nothing was amiss in his warehouse, Harry exited the building and sat by the road, waiting for the taxi he had ordered earlier to arrive.
Damn, I definitely need my own car , Harry mused idly. Using muggle transportation was a bitch, but at the moment, Harry had no other option. He couldn't practice Apparation without someone around to fix him up in case he get splinched. He definitely wasn't feeling like testing his fake identity with the Ministry's Magical Reversal Squad. Knight Bus was also not an option. He had learned that the hard way, when he tried to summon it for the first time after blocking the trackers on his old wand. It seems that the Knight Bus summoning system works by relaying a silent request over the Ministry's tracer back to the Ministry and then up to the bus itself. With a blocking solution working, this requests simply couldn't come through.
If at least that good-for-nothing bird would allow me near him, maybe I could hitch a ride , Harry mused, glaring at his Phoenix perched across the street.
Shaking his head from these musings, Harry reviewed his plans for the evening. He would first bring the muggles back to that alley and leave them there. With some luck, they would think that he had knocked them out, mugged them and left them there unconscious. He would then return home and leave all the nice things he had taken from the drug dealers in his stash. Finally, he would go to the Diagon Alley and proceed with the second part of his daily agenda.
It had been almost a week since Dumbledore had discovered his escape and moved his search to Australia. Harry suspected that the old man was getting quite restless and suspicious by now. He just might try to retrace his steps and dig deeper through the clues Harry had left for him to find. If he did that, he would definitely discover that Harry had in fact never left England. He would then move his search operation back here, which wouldn't make Harry's life any easier. Besides, Harry rather liked that meddling bastard wasting his resources by looking in the wrong place, while his target was right under his nose the whole time.
That's why he needed to make an appearance in Australia, to leave an impression he was still there. He already had it all planed out - a fake identity, one-day visiting permit and portkey scheduled to activate at 10 pm that evening, all of these waiting for him back at the Kontiki travel agency in Diagon Alley. Now that he had learned the basic Oblivation, he was finally ready to go through with the trip. If everything went by his plan, he could easily buy himself several more days of chasers-free time. Not to mention give Dumbledore a mighty headache and a big dent in his budget.
I hope that the Old Crew wouldn't mind spending some time in the nature... On good ol' Dumble's expense, of course , Harry smirked mentally when he saw his taxi approaching. This would definitely prove to be an interesting day for his 'minders'.
Magical Community Hall in Cairns was central hub of wizarding activity in the whole of North-Eastern Australia. From the outside, it didn't seem like much more than a poor souvenir shop, not unlike many others in such big tourist center like Cairns is. But inside, behind the barrier of Muggle-Repellent charms, it had all the necessities a Wizard could ever need - Apparation and Floo station, tavern with rooms for rent and nice meals, government offices, with Sheriff, Mayer and few more paper-pushers and, of course, general store with variety of Wizarding goods for sale.
That same store was currently totally empty, except for it's grumpy owner, lolled in a reclining chair, with his feet upon the counter and papers in his hands. Gibbon Lockyer, an older skinny man with thinning hair, was having a nice, peaceful morning. Business was always slow before noon and he never had much to do, except occasionally Oblivate a stray muggle tourist shopping for souvenirs. That's why he was rather annoyed when he heard someone entering the store, approaching his counter and clearing his through to get attention.
"Tavern is to the right, offices upstairs, Floo and Apparation station entrance from the tavern, working hours from 8h to 22h, Sunday to 15h," he said offhandedly, without even looking up from the funny pages.
"Actually I was wondering whether I could possibly buy a thing or two," asked youngish voice, with pronounced English accent.
Oh no, not another stray tourist , wailed Gibbon mentally. When you think you need to be somewhere else, then go there, for crying out loud! Some muggles are just too damn stubborn for their own good.
He was just about to pull out his wand and Oblivate the annoying pest, when he for the first time noticed the offender's appearance. He was a reasonably tall lad, dressed in gray khakis and red t-shirt. He was also carrying a huge Army backpack on his back. But what captured the store owner's attention most was his shaggy black hair, startling green eyes and most peculiar bolt-shaped scar on his forehead. Gibbon's mouth hang open, while his eyes traveled over the boy's face, then upwards, to his scar and finally below the counter, where was pinned a photograph of exactly the same lad as was now standing before him. Gibbon just couldn't believe his good luck. All the scoundrels in magical Australia were desperately searching for this rich runaway kid, and here he was, right in his shop, ripe for picking. He had no clue what was the boy's name, why was he running away, or what would his seekers do to him when they find him, but he honestly didn't care. He would only make a simple fire-call and collect his prize. What others would do to the boy afterwards was not his concern.
"Err, sir? Are you alright?" asked the boy with apparent confusion.
"Ya', of course, lad. What can old Gibbon do for you?" he asked, giving the boy his widest smile.
"Well, sir, I was planning on taking a small trip through the rainforest and I wanted to see whether you have any books on survival in wilderness?"
"Books, ay? Well, I thing I have just the thing you need," said Gibbon as he stood up and retrieved a moderately thick volume from the only bookshelf in the shop. The title was 'Freedom in wilderness', by Layton Wild. "In here you have all sorts of spells to use in the wild - to cover your tracks, block smell, avoid wildlife, prepare food, everything. This bloke who wrote the book, he did it all, saw it all and lived to tell the tale. So he damn well knows what he's talkin' about."
"Yeah, that sounds great, I think I'll take it," said Harry, while inspecting other books available for sale. He let the storeowner study him curiously, while he selected the two most advanced books on Aboriginal magic he was able to find. Harry heard that Aborigines had specialized themselves in Dream Magic, an area that western civilization knew practically nothing about. Harry understood that these books were written by western explorers and that they would probably teach him nothing about practical aspects of the Dream Magic, but there was still a chance that he would find at least something useful.
Harry added these two books to the counter and asked for the total price.
"That'd be 23 galleons," replied Gibbon. "Err, lad... You're not planning on going out hiking in the rainforest on your own, are you?"
"Yes I am actually. I mean, why not? It's no fun having some bloke lead you by hand wherever you go, right?" countered Harry, while handing out the money. "Besides, I'm not going out there blind. This is top notch survivors pack on my back. With this book you've just sold me, I'm all about ready to start with the trip," he said while storing his new books in the backpack. "Besides," he added, "before I go adventuring, I'm planning on riding over the whole area in that Skyrail thing your muggles have. Actually, a cab is waiting on me right outside to take me there. So, no worries, right?" Harry said, giving the old man a winning smile.
Gibbon smiled even wider, if that was even possible. Stupid boy had just given him 1,000 galleons finders fee on a silver platter. "Sure thing, kid. Good luck on your trip!"
"Of course, sir. Good day."
"G'day," replied Gibbon, while his feet where already carrying him to a public Floo station. He entered the room and approached one of the smaller fireplaces, used only for fire-talk. He threw some powder in the fire and said "Feroll Bold's residence".
Albus Dumbledore was sitting at his desk, aimlessly staring through the window of his office. He had tried to concentrate on finishing piled-up paperwork, but it was of no use. He just couldn't get over the fact that the main piece on the chessboard was out there somewhere, completely out of his control. It has already been a week since the search had moved to Australia, and there was still no trace of the boy. Albus was already on verge of altering his strategy and bringing in a few new pieces to the game.
His contemplation was rudely interrupted by the fireplace coming to life and a haggard head appearing in the green flames. The man had shaggy grey beard, a huge scar over his left cheek and steely grey eyes barely visible behind the rim of a leather cowboy hat.
"Mr. Bold, how nice to see you. I believe you have something to report?" said Albus without his usual warmness, as he stood up and walked to the fireplace. Unlike his minions, whom Albus looked upon with characteristic warmness, like a child would look at his favorite toys, this man was nobody's fool and especially not Dumbledore's. Actually, he was considered for one of the best bounty hunters in the whole Commonwealth. Feroll Bold had on his disposal a vast intelligence network over the colonies. Dozens of informants kept an eye on all the major wizarding hubs, tipping him off if they saw anyone from his hit-list. Feroll would then follow the trail of his pray like a rabid dog and return only pieces big enough for identification, so he could collect his prize. As much as Albus disliked the idea of implicating his name with such man, his vast intelligence network in Australia made it a necessity in this operation. Thankfully, Albus requested only information about Harry's whereabouts, not the actual capture. After all, he still needed his pawn in one piece.
"Mr. Dumbledore," Bold inclined his head slightly. "I have located the subject."
Dumbledore just raised his eyebrow, his body keeping a nonchalant pose, with his hands behind his back. He was trying to rely an impression that he was interested in Harry's whereabouts purely for an academic purposes, and not because all of his plans relayed on the boy's retrieval. Somehow, he doubted that Bold had bought his act.
"Have your team speak with Gibbon Lockyer, storeowner in Cairns Magical Community Hall, north-eastern Australia. Time is of essence," Bold said coldly at Dumbledore's gesture. "Now, I would be very disappointed if you happen to forget a small matter of the finder's fee. And trust me, you wouldn't want to see me disappointed," he sneered slightly.
"Yes, you will get your money, Mr. Bold. Good day," replied Albus dismissively as he taped his main Order pendant. After Bold disappeared from his fire, Albus sat back at his desk and quickly wrote a message. He checked his clock and nodded. Exactly two minutes had passed since the summons over the amulet.
"Fawkes," he called his familiar and handed him the message. "You know what to do, you have their tracer".
The majestic bird nodded and disappeared in a burst of flame.
Now, comes the hard part - waiting , mused Dumbledore as he retrieved a customized chess-set from a drawer of his desk and started a game against himself.
A small silver instrument was gently twirling and wheezing on a table inside a spacious muggle bungalow in Melbourne. That was the only personalized object in the living room of the building that served as a field headquarters in the Order of the Phoenix's search operation. The rest of the rooms were pretty much bare, save for a few discarded items here and there. Still, this situation was perfectly understandable, since Order members were using this apartment primarily for sleeping and meetings. The rest of their time they were spending jumping all over Australia, in a futile effort to locate their escaped charge.
Relative silence was rudely interrupted by a loud cracking sound of Apparation, signaling Mad-Eye Moody's arrival to the room. Seconds later, with another loud bang, Severus Snape appeared besides Moody, who jumped two feet away and drew his wand. Both men eyed each other warily, before Moody gave Snape a victorious smirk, which looked truly hideous on his scared face. Snape scowled viciously in return, irritated that the retired Auror had arrived before him, thus proving he was more punctual than the strict Potion Master. That said, both men retreated to their respective corners of the room, guarding their backs against the walls and waiting for their comrades to arrive.
In next minute the room was filled three more cracking sounds, as Kingsley, Tonks and Podmore arrived to their predesignated meeting place. Second later, twin cracks signaled the arrival of the Order's two youngest members besides the Weasley twins, Terrence Higgs and Phillip McLaggen.
Terrence and Phillip had been best friends since their early childhood. They'd met when they were only four years old, on one of many hunting expeditions of Terrence's uncle Tiberius Ogden and Phillip's dad, Bertie Higgs. Their friendship only grew stronger on each subsequent hunting expedition, until they were truly inseparable. When they went to Hogwarts, they were sorted into different houses, Higgs in Slytherin and McLaggen in Gryffindor, as by their families' tradition. Still, they never let the house rivalry get in a way of their friendship. And truly, they remained one of rare examples of successful Gryffindor-Slytherin friendships in the recent Hogwarts history. After leaving the school, they enrolled together for the Auror training, with a lot of help from another hunting friend of their father and uncle, Rufus Scrimgeour. They decided to join the Order only a few months ago, after experiencing their first clash with the Ministry's bureaucracy. After all, young men such as themselves were better suited for action and adventure, then strict rules and written reports.
Gathered Order members stood there in silence, awaiting further instructions. Exactly two minutes after their amulets had started signaling them to retreat to the safe house, there was a flash of flame, and Fawkes appeared in the room. The Phoenix circled the room once, dropped the message on the table and disappeared, presumably back to his bonded.
Kingsley, as unofficial leader of the group, picked up the message and read it. After finishing, he hurriedly informed his colleagues of it's contents. "Albus has a lead on Harry. We're going to Cairns, up in the north. Our contact is Gibbon Lockyer, store owner in the local Community Hall. We must hurry."
"I'm on it," said Tonks, before stumbling to a nearby cupboard and retrieving Australian Apparation Index from it. She quickly turned pages, before finding the associated image for Cairns Apparation point. It was a kangaroo, carrying spear in his sack, exotic-looking fish in his left and pink tropical flower in his right hand. Tonks just shook her head, before placing the book on the table, so that all could see and memorize the image. They should really fire the guy who designs these images , she thought, as she tried to commit every element of the drawing to her memory.
Of course, the most natural way to apparate was by simply projecting the destination place in one's mind and then funneling the magic through the silent incantation. The major problem with this method was that one had to actually visit the destination beforehand apparating there, so that they could properly visualize it in his mind. That's why the Wizards had came up with an ingenious idea - they would place these so called apparation beacons all over the world and then apparate using them as destinations. Each carried a specific picture, that had to be unique for the whole world and very unrealistic, so that it couldn't be repeated anywhere in the nature. If you just used a photo of a tree, for example, there was a good chance that you would end up Merlin knows where, by some random tree on the planet. That's also the reason why one couldn't just apparate by using a photograph of the destination. Pictures simply lack too many essential parts of the reality, like a full panoramic view of the surrounding, smells, sounds and so on. Thus, the only thing a wizard needs to apparate anywhere in the world is a picture attached to the target beacon, enough magical power to reach the destination and permission by the custom services, if traveling to another country.
"All ready," asked Kingsley, at which he received positive nods.
"Alright. Let's go," he said and apparated keeping in his mind a picture of a kangaroo with a spear in his sack and a flower and goldfish in his hands
Gibbon Lockyer's peace and quiet was once again interrupted as strange procession of six wizards and one witch marched into his store. He was just about to shoo them away, when he realized that these could be the mercenaries Bold had told him to expect.
"Gibbon Lockyer?" asked an imposing black man, who was acting as the group's leader.
"Took you long enough. The boy left almost 10 minutes ago," replied Gibbon.
"Are you sure it was him?" asked Kingsley, ignoring the comment.
"'Course I'm sure. He had the scar and everything, same as on the photo."
"What did he do in your establishment," Kingsley asked hurriedly. With every second Harry was getting further and further away, but they needed all the info they could get before moving on.
"Bought a book on survival in the wilderness and two more advanced books, on boong magic or something," Gibbon replied. "Said he needed it for hiking in the rainforest, if you'd believe the dumb kid." he sniggered, earning what seemed as a sneer of agreement from Snape.
"Do you know where he's now?" Kingsley asked the million-dollar question.
"What if I do?" countered Gibbon, greed in his eyes. "What it's worth to you?"
But Kingsley wasn't so easily swayed. He was well aware where did this tip come from and who was already skimming the Order funds for it. "Mr. Lockyer," he said stiffly, "I'm well aware that Mr. Bold has already taken payment for this information, and that he's right now counting on you to keep up his good name by providing it. You wouldn't want to disappoint Mr. Bold now, would you?"
Gibbon paled and blurted: "He said he was going to that muggle contraption, Skyrail, to take a tour over the forest."
"And pray tell, where is this Skyrail located?" asked Kingsley with a slight sneer.
"I think that starting station is some 10km north of the city. Caravonica. It's called Caravonica." Gibbon replied quickly.
"Have you ever been there?" asked Snape, already preparing himself for memory extraction.
"No, of course not. And you won't find anyone around here who did," sneered the storeowner when Snape started looking around for another victim. "No self respecting Aussie would even approach one of those damn tourist traps. And least of all a wizard."
"Damn," blurted Tonks. "Then, how are we supposed to get there?"
"I suggest you take a cab, like your freakin' lil' runaway did," sneered Gibbon, completely loosing his patience. "Now, if that's all, I have more important business to attend to, other than chit-chatting with a bunch of annoying, Pommy cheapskates!"
When he finished his tirade, the Order agents were already on their way out of the shop, listening to Tonks' explanation on how to acquire a taxi.
Ten minutes later, Order members were standing in front of Caravonica Skyrail station. They observed tourist busses and other vehicles parked around, while Snape Oblivated their cab driver and retrieved the fake 500 pounds that the wizards had bribed him with to drive faster.
The group briskly walked into the building and approached the departure terminal. Kingsley immediately spotted a smiling female attendant checking tickets and assisting people with boarding into a gondola cabin. He made a beeline towards her and pulled out a fake Australian Federal Police badge.
"Miss... Hilary," Kingsley said officially, after looking at her name tag. "Inspector Kingsley, AFP. May we have a word in private?"
"Err, certainly, sir... Lucy, would you please take over for a minute? Thanks!" she said and then led the group to a secluded corner of the terminal.
"Have you seen this boy in last half an hour?" asked Kingsley as he pulled out Harry's photograph and showed it to the girl.
"Hmm... Yes, I remember him. He asked me where he could exchange British Pounds for Australian Dollars. I believe he embarked with previous cabin, which was some 10 minutes ago. By now, he should already be at the Red Peak substation, at the edge of the rainforest," she finished explanation in a trained bubbly voice.
"Have you ever traveled in this... train before?" asked Snape with a sneer.
"Yes, of course. That's a pre-requirement..." That was as far as she made it, since Snape pulled out his wand in a flash and hissed "Legilimens!"
Snape first browsed through Hilary's most recent memories. He saw her inspecting tickets for the previous cabin, letting in an Asian couple and then some distracted muggle with a notebook. She was for a while busy with checking their names on a departure list. "Chiang and Hoshiko Nariaki, check! Fritz Erzberger, check!" Someone cleared his throat, making her look up and there he was! Potter was asking where he could exchange his money, just like she said he was. After hearing the answer, the boy left somewhere out of the girl's eyesight, only to return a few minutes later. He and another man with a raincoat and explorer's hat on his head, showed their tickets to the lady. Hilary checked them in and circled their reservation names on the list, "Ian Paul Freely" for the other man and "Boyle Livingston" for Potter.
Boyle Livingston... Boy Living... The Boy-Who-Lived. Yes, I got you, you little brat , Snape sneered mentally. "It's him," he confirmed to his comrades and then plunged deeper into the girl's memories.
Snape went back to the last time Hilary had taken a ride on the Skyrail. He saw her entering and leaving on various substations, making a point of memorizing in detail locations that could be used for Apparation. When done, he retreated from her mind and promptly Oblivated her.
"Thank you miss, I think I can find a toilet on my own now," said Kingsley and quickly led his group to a public bathroom. After locking the door with a temporary charm, he turned to his men: "Alright, we are going to the first substation. Snape, have you got the spot?"
"Yes, I'll be using Order marker 10. I'll signal you when it's ready," he said and promptly disapparated.
Snape appeared in a secluded corner of a walkway amongst the trees. After quickly Oblivating a nearby muggle, he looked over the railing and saw that wooden bridges were elevated at least 15 feet over the forest ground. Shaking his head at muggles' antics, he ran straight towards the terminal. He arrived just as the cabin was taking off. He looked through the rear window and immediately spotted his prey, standing in the rear end of the cabin.
"Potter," Snape sneered under his breath.
As if he had heard him, the boy turned around and for a moment, their eyes met. Potter's eyes widen in surprise and fear as he stepped back from the window, making Snape smirk evilly. From that muggle girl's experience, Snape knew it would take almost an hour for the cabin to reach the next substation. And there was no way Potter could disembark earlier than that. I got you now, you little shit , he thought victoriously, as he watched the brat's cabin disappear behind the thick canopy.
Snape then nonchalantly found a bathroom and locked the door behind him. Once the room was secured, he started constructing an image of the marker number 10 in his mind, which was something called the "Bannanaman." It was a cartoon dressed in tight blue outfit, holding a "banana-gun" in his right and ice cream in his left hand. For some reason, his right leg was resting on a colorful beach ball on the ground. Snape sneered at the image, mentally cursing Albus and his damn fascination with muggle comic books from the fifties. When he was ready, he pushed the image forward and performed the complicated spell, pointing his wand at the spot at the center of the room. Blue light flashed, briefly forming an image of "Bannanaman" in his full glory, before completely disappearing from sight.
Snape then tapped his amulet, sending the appropriate spell, before stepping back to a nice looking corner. Few seconds later, Order members started Apparating all around the spot where he had placed the marker.
"Status?" asked Kingsley.
"Potter was just leaving when I arrived. I can confirm that he is in the contraption that had just left this terminal. From that girl's experience, it would take him almost an hour before the next station, with no stops in the meantime. So, unless the brat decides to break his neck by jumping off the cabin, I see no way he could avoid us at the next station."
"I don't think Harry's that desperate," piped in Tonks. "He knows we have no legal authority over him. He would probably just show us his permits and demand that we leave him alone."
"On the other hand, he is a Gryffindor," sneered Higgs, earning an approving nod from Snape. "They always have the craziest ideas and then rely on luck to make them work."
"Shut up, Terr," said McLaggen playfully, not in the least annoyed by his friend's comment. "You're just peeved 'cuz Potter, as a mere first year, beat you on your last match against Gryffindor."
"That's exactly what I'm saying, Phillip," said Terrence stiffly. "Pure luck."
"That's enough, rookies." grumbled Moody. "The plan is solid. We apparate to the next station. Wait for him. Snatch him. Disappear."
"Then it's agreed." finished the discussions Kingsley. "Snape?"
Snape nodded. "Marker 11," he said before Disapparating.
More than half an hour has passed since the Order's strike team had departed from their temporary headquarters, back in Melbourne. The main living room was once again quiet, save for the quiet fizzing of a small silver instrument on the main table. Suddenly, the instrument started spinning wildly, emitting beeping sounds, interrupted by occasional puffs of smoke.
If some powerful wizard was there now, they would have sensed two distinct magical links connected with the contraption. One was being activated only sporadically and it led to a rainforest in the north of Australia. The other trail was solid and it led right to a similar silver device, on a shelf inside a huge magical castle, somewhere in Scotland.
"Damn that bugger, he is good!" Albus Dumbledore commended his opponent, who happened to be himself.
He had just been forced to exchange a rook shaped like Mad-Eye Moody, for a Dark Side's bishop, which looked strangely like Rodolphus Lestrange. He was aware he had made a crucial mistake five moves ago, when he had foolishly allowed said Bishop to take over an important diagonal line, shooting straight through his Auror-like pawn formation. His only chance now was to take advantage of the Dark Side's reduced left wing and turn the tables around. Actually, Albus already saw a possible three-move combination that could isolate two black pawns, dressed in generic Death Eater uniforms, in a single vertical column. He was briefly tempted to take a peak at his opponent's plans, but he managed to prevail his moment of weakness, before deciding on the first move in his new scheme.
"Minerva, would you please move to G6," he said to one of the Light Side's knights.
"Are you sure about that, Albus? I could easily be taken by Bellatrix on that field," said the tiny animated figure.
"Trust me, Minerva, it's for the greater good." said Albus, making the small McGonagall stride to her new location in a huff.
Done with that, Albus lolled back into his comfy chair and closed his eyes contently. He then carefully magically isolated all of the Light Side's plans and strategies in a secluded corner of his brain, effectively Oblivating himself. At the same time, he found another memory bubble, with the Dark Side's plans and moves, and gently dissolved it. He suddenly felt a rush of new information into his brain, while the old ones faded away.
"You're back, Master?" asked Lucius Malfoy, still standing at his starting position, by the side of a tiny Lord Voldemort.
"Yes, Lucius. I see that the Light Side has indeed fallen into my trap," said Albus, truly enjoying playing a part of another great British wizard besides himself.
"Yes, my Lord. Your brilliance is nothing less then legendary. Not to mention that the old muggle-loving fool had always been much too trusting for his own good," said 4-inch tall Malfoy with an evil sneer.
"Indeed," said Dumbledore, managing a sneer with surprising ease. "Bella!"
"Yes, master?" a Rook in shape of Bellatrix Lestrange said, dropping on her knees.
"You may proceed with taking that Dumbledore's bitch from G6," said Dumbledore, making the tiny McGonagall splutter in outrage.
"Yes, Master," Bella said, with insane look on her tiny carved face.
"And Bella... You don't have to be gentle." sneered Dumbledore, managing an evil look. If some of his students saw him now, they would have probably ended up scared for life.
"Really Albus, was that truly necessary?" said the small Minerva, crossing her arms self-indignantly.
"You Mudblood whore, how dare you speak to the great Lord Voldemort, the future ruler of the world!?" boomed Albus angrily, some distant part of his brain praying that privacy charms around his office were still working.
"I'll make her pay for that insult, master!" purred Bellatrix evilly. "Here, kitty-cat."
"Go along, my pet! Go along and carry on the seed of darkness!" boomed Dumbledore, as he watched tiny Bella stalk towards proud-looking McGonagall. "Soon, the light shall falter and all those fools who dared cross my path shall realize that there's no good or ev..."
But at this point, a loud teapot-like whistle rudely interrupted Dumbledore's impersonation of his enemy. He instinctively pulled out his wand, but instead of defending himself, he quickly conjured a sheath over his toys.
"Hey, what's the big idea..." some figure protested, but it was quickly silenced when Albus charmed the cover to be sound-proof. He then turned to the source of the sound, ready to Oblivate whoever was responsible. He relaxed and pulled his wand back, when he realized it was just one of his magical tracking devices.
Albus quickly stood up and stalked to the shelf with all the instruments he had been forced to repair after Harry's little temper tantrum. His eyes widened in surprise when he realized he was hearing the device connected with the spell-tracking charm attached to Harry's wand.
So, they have truly found Harry , thought Albus happily. And it seems that the little urchin is resisting arrest, bless him.
Albus briefly wondered how much heat Harry would receive from Fudge for performing underage magic, but then he realized that the Ministry trackers wouldn't be able to detect Harry from ten time zones away. The only reason Albus was receiving this now was because he had sent a sub-unit of his detection equipment set, with his search team in Australia.
The silver instrument was spinning faster and faster and soon, there was a beep, a puff of smoke and a small billet was conjured between the instrument's four legs. Albus was just able to see the word "Expelliarmus," below which stood the wand's geographical location and time of the casting, before three more papers were conjured on top of it in quick succession. Albus quickly inspected them all and saw that they were all "Stupefy's," with the same coordinates as the first one. He was almost eagerly waiting for more, but there was nothing coming.
Albus waited few more minutes, inspecting the notes, and he was just about to turn away, when there was another beep, signaling Harry's new spell.
So, he still isn't subdued , thought Albus worriedly. He was just about to inspect this new note, when there was yet another puff and a new note appeared on top of the previous one.
Albus picked up both papers and read the last one, which said "Stupefy". He then moved that paper away and took a good look at the previous one. His eyes widened in surprise when he saw "Corpus Labi Delenitus" written on it.
Thanks to his monitoring, Albus was well aware that Harry had learned that spell after a nasty fall from a broom in his third year. It was a spell that would slow down any object's free fall, subduing the force of gravity. Where in the Merlin's name is Harry falling from to use that spell , Albus wondered.
He waited a few more minutes but no new reports came through. After the instrument stopped spinning, Albus retreated back to his desk, and lolled back in his favorite chair. He was sorely tempted to send this information to his team using Fawkes, but he decided against it. It would only hinder his men if a magical bird suddenly popped up out of the blue, right in front of countless muggle witnesses. He would just have to wait for them to contact him and hope for the best.
The "Harry Potter retrieval team," as they jokingly dubbed themselves, was currently sitting in a small open cafÃ©, a part of Barron Falls Skyrail substation, relaxing in a fresh air, while waiting for Harry's cabin to arrive. After Apparating at the marker Snape had placed in the men's toilet, the group had spent some time walking around, enjoying the view from open terraces and confusedly inspecting touch-screens with information about rainforest and nearby Barron River. After getting bored with sightseeing, the group had decided to take a seat in the station's open cafÃ© and spend their time in a more comfortable position. People that were friends immediately started chatting amiably, one thing led to another, and they soon found themselves engaged in a full-fledged joke telling contest.
"Well, I guess it's my turn now," said Sturgis wearily, smiling weakly at the joke Kingsley had just told the group. The other Order members gave him encouraging looks. It was such a rare thing seeing him smile after his stretch in Azkaban.
"So, this Auror is patrolling in a park, when he hears someone in the bushes.
'- Who's there! Identify yourself!' he yells.
'- Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.' says the voice from the bushes.
'- Alright, get out of there, all five of you.'"
There were a few weak laughs, but they were mostly forced for Sturgis' sake.
"Alright, I get it, it's not that good" said Sturgis downheartedly.
"Well, what did you expect, we're all Aurors here." said Phillip. "What're you smirking at, Terr? You're an Auror too, you know."
"Don't mind him, those damn Slytherins are always smirking." said Tonks, making Higgs scowl at her. "Ah yes, that too. How could I've forgotten scowling?" she added semi-dryly.
"Maybe we just don't like flaunting our emotional depth to you lower-house simpletons." Terrence said in his most dignified tone. His perfect aristocratic posture was ruined when Phillip gave him a friendly pat on the head.
"Yeah sure, whatever. My turn now!" chirped Tonks. "Ok, here's one about our very own famous prey-of-the-day. It goes something like this... This kid enters a tattoo parlor and says to the artist, 'I want a scar put on the front of my head, sort of like the one Harry Potter has.'"
Snape scowled but Tonks paid him no mind. "The artist says, 'Uh, why yes, I can do it... But if you don't mind my asking, why do you want it?'
At that, the kid replies: 'Well, you see, I once met Harry Potter in person and asked him straight out, how did you do it? How did you managed to deflect the Killing Curse, save the Philosopher's stone, kill a basilisk and win the Triwizard tournament, and all that before your fifteenth birthday? And you know what he told me?'"
"'He told me,'" Tonks pointed to her forehead. "'You've got to have something up here.'"
There was much healthier laugh after this one.
"Alright, as a piece offering to our chirpy little Nymph," said Higgs, making Tonks scowl at him, "I accept to share another joke about our Golden Hero from my vast and superior collection of folk wisdom and..."
"Get on with it!" said Tonks indignantly.
"Your wish is my command, oh feisty one," said Higgs with slight bow. Tonks just stuck her tongue at him. "We begin our story with an old and weary Harry Potter telling his life story to his many grandchildren, gathered around a merry camp fire." started Higgs epically.
"' One day, many years ago', starts Harry Potter in wizened old voice, 'my team had gotten captured by the Death Eaters and brought before the Dark Lord. The Dark Lord immediately lines us all up and starts walking down the line, killing people as he goes. Finally, he reaches me, points his wand at my forehead and cries, 'Avada Kedavara!' The spell hits me right at forehead, but nothing happens. The Dark Lord inspects his wand confusedly and then tries again. Nothing. The Dark Lord, already getting agitated, points his wand at me once more and cries with all his might, 'AVADA KEDAVARA!' Yet again nothing.
Man, I was feeling so embarrassed, with all those people waiting behind me...'"
All the wizards, save Snape, were heartily laughing. "Yeah, that's a good one," said Kingsley. "Little dark, though."
"It's nothing compared to some others I've heard," replied Higgs. "You should really hear some of the stuff Professor Snape knows." Snape frowned disapprovingly at his ex-pupil.
"Yeah, that's right, Snape didn't tell a joke yet," said Tonks chirpy. "So, how about it, Sev?"
"I absolutely refuse to lower myself..."
"Oh, come on Sevvy, don't be such a spoil-sport!" whined Tonks, giving him puppy-dog eyes.
"Stop staring at me like that, woman! And it's Snape... Professor Snape to you! Unlike some of you, I'm a very busy man and I don't have neither time nor the inclination to waste my time on learning these useless... 'jokes' or engaging myself with any other meaningless shenanigans!" he spat, frowning like there was a piece of crap under his nose.
"But young Terrence here clearly stated that you've still managed to pick quite a lot of... 'meaningless shenanigans', between your potion brewing, teaching and... other activities." said Kingsley reasonably, smirking all the while.
"From his Death Eater buddies, no doubt." grumbled Moody.
" Young Terrence should have probably kept his mouth shut and minded his own business." said Snape mock-sweetly, while glaring at Higgs. But then he saw mischievous smirk on the young man's face and suddenly changed his mind. "But if you truly insist, I guess I could share a little... comic fiction I have heard from a certain... disreputable associates of mine." he said silkily, with an evil look in his eyes.
"Yeah everyone, Snape's telling a joke! Snape! Snape! Snape!" cheered Tonks. Snape sat there with a stony look on his face, patiently waiting for Tonks' chant to die down.
"Now, if the amazing klutz-wonder is quite done..." he sneered at cowed Tonks, "I think I might want to get over and done with this foolishness."
"Go ahead, professor," said Higgs softly, at which Snape nodded curtly and cleared his throat.
"The setting of this... let's say fictional anecdote is quite similar to the one from Mr. Higgs' tale," started Snape in his silkily voice, the one which he used for his lectures. "The Dark Lord has lined-up some captured Mudblood scum and he's walking down the line, killing the filthy vermin one by one."
Few Order members gave Snape disapproving looks, but they couldn't stop him now, since they had clearly asked for it.
"Somewhere in the middle of the line, the Dark Lord reaches a cute little girl, who raised her tiny hand and asks in a small voice: 'Mr. You-Know-Who, I have a little wish.'
The Dark Lord looks down on her irritably and says, 'Very well, just hurry up, I'm a busy man, you know.'
The little girl looks down shyly and says with a sniff, 'I just want to live a little while longer.'
Suddenly, there is a spark of something long forgotten in the Dark Lord's cold heart and he takes pity on that small, innocent creature, who just wanted to see her mummy and daddy again and live her innocent little life, happily ever after." Snape's mysterious, soft voice was masterfully capturing everyone's attention. All the listeners were leaning forward eagerly, waiting to see what would happen with that cute little girl.
"'Very well, little one. I shall grant you your wish,' says the Dark Lord softly, almost emotionally. 'You can go to the end of the line.'"
"No!" yelled Tonks. "You can't do that, you slimy, sick bastard!" Only Higgs and strangely Moody were laughing, while other members shared a mixture of disgusted and amused expressions.
"You asked for it." said Snape softly, smiling smugly.
"That WAS kinda funny, Severus," said Sturgis, "but considering the fact that you're surrounded by Aurors and Light supporters, you could have chosen some other topic."
"Look who's talking." muttered McLaggen.
"It's time," grumbled Moody, ending all discussions.
"Oh come on Moody, we still have almost 20 minutes left 'till the cabin arrives." replied Tonks.
"Nevertheless, we must be well prepared for Potter's arrival. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" he boomed.
Even though Kingsley was officially calling the shots, Moody would take reins from time to time, when the group's vigilance would drop below some minimal point only Moody could fathom. Thus far, nobody had the guts to challenge him in the times like this.
"Alright, you've heard the man. Let's create a perimeter around the station and keep muggles at check. We need to make this clean and fast, people, so move it!" ordered Kingsley, accepting Moody's not-so-subtle suggestion.
Fifteen minutes later met all the team members at their posts, waiting for Harry's gondola to arrive. Suddenly, the cabin appeared behind a tree canopy, making all the Wizards tense in anticipation. Mad-Eye was the first one to notice that something was wrong. "It's empty," he said and left his post, pulling out his wand.
The other members followed his example and they were soon lined up on the platform by the rail, waiting for the cabin to stop.
"Oh, shit," said Tonks a second before nearby muggles started screaming, calling for doctors. Kingsley quickly flashed his fake badge and started calming them down, while Snape strolled into the cabin and inspected the sight.
On the floor of the cabin lay four unconscious people. Snape immediately recognized the Japanese couple, thanks to an abundance of muggle cameras, tour-guides and souvenirs sticking from their various pockets. Besides them was that German with a notebook and a strange haggard man in a raincoat. There was no trace of Boyle Livingston, a.k.a. Harry Potter anywhere in the cabin. Shit indeed , Snape thought glumly.
After casting a few Muggle repellent charms around the platform, Snape levitated the muggles out of the cabin and enervated them. Three of them looked around confusedly, but the fourth one, the one in a raincoat, immediately yelled: "Bugger! I can't believe that the kid stunned me!"
"You're a wizard?" asked Tonks. All the Order members were now standing around the cowed passengers. Only Moody was stalking around, making sure that Potter wasn't trying to escape using his Invisibility cloak.
"Yes, of course I am. Ian Paul Freely, Wizarding Association of Amateur Naturalists, at your service," he said in a friendly Australian accent, after standing up and dusting dirt from his cloak. He than started shaking hands enthusiastically with all the Wizards surrounding him. When he came to Tonks, he bowed and gently kissed her hand, making her blush. Higgs scowled at that but remained silent. "And who might you be, gentlemen... and lady?"
At this point Kingsley took over. "We are minders of one of the passengers in this cabin. I believe you saw him, a taller young man, with black hair and a scar on his forehead."
"Cripes! That's the bloke who stunned me!" yelped Ian. "What's the problem with that kid, anyway? He was all fine and dandy at first, and then he just went berserk and started firing curses all around him."
"As you must have experienced first hand, the boy is having some... difficulties with his mental stability, which is why he needed minders in the first place," replied Kingsley smoothly. "I'm afraid that our charge is at the moment extremely dangerous, both for himself and the others. We would truly appreciate it if you explained to us in detail what had exactly happened back there."
"Yes, of course, no problem," said Ian confusedly. "Well, you see, until that last station, the boy seemed perfectly normal, seeing the sights, enjoying the ride... You know, the usual. But as soon as we left the previous platform, he started acting as if experiencing some sort of panic attack - pacing around nervously, sweating, muttering under his breath. Then, about 20 minutes into the ride, he pulls out his wand and starts apologizing for what he's about to do. I immediately pull out my own wand, but he's quicker and hits me with Expelliarmus. Then he stuns all the muggles in the cabin and starts asking me about the rainforest - you know, where's the nearest river, which are surrounding villages, where is the wildest part of the forest and so on. So after I tell him all that, little bugger casts some long spell on himself and then says he's sorry and stuns me. The next thing I remember is you guys waking me up."
Kingsley turned to Snape, who was at the moment extracting memories from that German muggle.
In the muggle's memory, Snape saw agitated Potter pacing around and then saying something and pulling out his wand. Then he saw that strange Aussie wizard pulling out his own wand with extreme flourish, like he was on a dueling competition. Of course, Potter immediately disarmed him, then stunned the Japanese couple and then finally the German whose mind he was reading. After that, everything went blank.
Snape turned back to Kingsley and nodded slightly, indicating that the wizard was telling the truth.
"Mr. Freely, would you mind terribly if we checked your wand?" asked Kingsley the other wizard, while Sturgis quietly cast Glamour-detection charm at his back, before shaking his head slightly.
"Well, OK..." said Ian and started rummaging through his pockets. "Shit! That little bastard stole my wand!" he yelled indignantly. "Just so you know, I hold you responsible for this and expect full repayment for my lost wand! That kid is your responsibility after all!" he said angrily to Kingsley. Wizards were usually very attached to their wands.
"Of course Mr. Freely, we will gladly repay you for your lost wand, as well as little extra for all the troubles our client has put you trough. Of course, in return we expect of you not to involve the official authorities in this case. Our charge is just a confused, sick, little boy. I'm sure he didn't even know what he was doing when he took your wand," said Kingsley smoothly.
Ian sighed. "Very well, I'll keep my mouth shut, and I could surely use some cash," he said as he took a bag of Galleons from Sturgis. "Just make sure you give that little whelp a good spanking once you find him."
"Mr. Freely, you can certainly count on that," said Snape sincerely, with an eager glint in his eyes.
"Alright, good luck then, gentlemen, ma'm." Ian bowed to the wizards and give an extra deep bow to Tonks, with a small wink on side. He then turned and left, never noticing Higgs scowling at his back.
At that moment, Australian Aurors started apparating on the station, trying to contain the situation.
"I'll take care of this," said Kingsley to his team. "You guys go to the loo and wait for me there. You can contact Albus and inform him that it's safe to send in Fawkes."
They all nodded and left the crime scene, letting Kingsley deal with the authorities and try and use Dumbledore's influence to cover up the incident. They needed Harry safely back in England, not under charges in some Australian prison.
Five minutes later, Kingsley entered the toilet and closed the door behind him.
"It's all taken care of. There was a sudden burst of natural magic and the muggles have fainted from the shock. There never was a man named Boyle Livingston taking the Skyrail." reported Kingsley. "I also had Aurors check Apparation and Portkey signatures. There were no recorded jumps anywhere in the rainforest, which means that Harry is still out there somewhere."
Order members nodded. These were good news.
"We received a message from Albus." said Mad-Eye. "This is the list of spells detected from Potter's wand, along with their times and places."
Kingsley took the paper and inspected it. "Disarmer and three stunners. Then, after a pause, anti-gravity spell and another stunner." he murmured under his breath. "That fits the witnesses' description perfectly. The boy stunned the other passengers and jumped off the gondola to the rainforest."
"I believe now would be the perfectly reasonable time to say - I told you so!" said Higgs smugly, sneering at Tonks.
"Shut up, you snake! How was I supposed to know he even knew that spell and then had the guts to use it? I mean, he couldn't possibly know that the Ministry wouldn't detect him here!" retorted an angry Tonks.
"That's enough, rookies!" snapped Mad-Eye. "Potter now has an untraceable wand, a survival pack, a book on covering up his tracks and a half hour head start. We need to pull our shit together, and create a new strategy, or we'll completely loose him in the wilderness."
"Or, hopefully to some rabid beast." muttered Snape under his breath.
"Moody's right," sighed Kingsley. "We'll need muggle guides, trackers and search dogs, with some more hired arms to cover up the wider area... maybe even air support."
"We will also need food and water rations, along with some camping equipment," said Sturgis wearily.
"Maybe even some training on survival in wilderness!" exclaimed McLaggen, with an expression of horror on his face.
"Don't forget something for mosquito bites." piped in Tonks glumly.
"Albus will be mighty pissed when I send him the bill for all the extra expenses," sighed Kingsley, before disapparating back to their temporary headquarters. The other Order members soon followed him, all of them wearing depressed faces.
"Merlin, how I hate that brat," sighed Snape, before he too disappeared away with a loud crack.
An hour later, a taxi was slowly driving down the street in the cheapest slums of Cairns, far away from tourist attractions of the city. The car briefly stopped by an abandoned parking lot, letting one Ian Paul Freely disembark from the vehicle. The strange man quickly looked around, making sure his arrival went unnoticed, before stalking deeper into the closed-off parking lot, filled with dumpsters and trash. He once again checked that he wasn't being followed, before pulled out a strangely familiar wand and casting muggle-repellent charms around the area. Satisfied that he's out of sight, he closed his eyes and visibly concentrated. Few seconds later, in place of Ian Paul Freely stood well-known figure of one Harry James Potter.
After another check of his surroundings, Harry retrieved a large bone from his raincoat's inner pocket and put it on the ground. He then pointed his new wand at the bone and cast the appropriate reversal spell. The bone slowly transformed into a man that looked like an exact duplicate of Ian Paul Freely, save his clothes, which were muggle, dirty and worn-out.
Harry quickly examined his wand, making sure that glamour was still in place, before casting "Enervate" on the unconscious men.
"Eh... Wha... What the hell?" mumbled the men, before he saw Harry looming over him. "Oh, it's you. Hey! What's the big idea of knocking me out and..."
"Here's the rest of your payment, Carl." said Harry, stopping the man by handing him over a 50 dollar bill.
"Why, thanks!" said Carl eagerly, while taking the money in his dirty hands and putting it in the pocket of his haggard clothes. "So, was the prank successful? That light show was truly somethin', but you should have warned me you were gonna hit me with that... thingy."
"Yes, Carl, the prank worked great," said Harry, while lifting his wand and pointing it at Carl's forehead. "But I'm afraid I can't let you go away with your memories of the prank intact." he said apologetically.
"It... it wasn't a light show, was it?" spluttered Carl, taking a step back. "Wait a second, I know who you are! God, it all makes sense now!" he yelled, while pointing his finger at Harry accusingly. "You're one of those... man in black! You're helping the aliens take over the world!"
Harry smirked and said, "That's right Carl, you've got me all figured out. Oblivate!"
I'm pleased with this chapter. It's signaling a new direction this story will be going, which is towards more humorous dialogs, while keeping serious tone of the plot. Also, the dark parts are starting with the next chapter, along with some fight scenes.
EDIT: This chapter has been edited, but little was changed, seeing how it was already beta-ed beforehand. You don't have to re-read it to know what's going on. Actually, you don't have to re-read it at all.
o - Author notes?
Some reviewers have suggested that this story could get deleted for having author's notes at the end of the chapters. Here's what the rulebook has to say about that:
You can add short author notes to the beginning or at the end of stories but never as individual chapters.
So, I figure it's OK as long as I don't go overboard with the length, or write review responses here.
o - Beta
This story now has an official beta reader. I would like to thank Jolly Rancher for going through this chapter and beating out grammar errors, and also to all those who contacted me and offered to beta my chapters. I truly appreciate it.
o - Sources and additional disclaimers
Information about Cairns city and Skyrail, I got from:
General information about Australia and it's police forces (AFP), I got from:
Some tips about Australian speech (which I haven't used very much), I got from:
> www.absoluteastronomy.com/ encyclopedia/ a/ au/ australian_words.htm (remove spaces)
Jokes that the Order members are telling I got from a few web pages, some documents I have on my HD and personal experience.
You may also spot tidbits from the following shows and movies:
> The Simpsons (TV)
> South Park (TV)
> Bannanaman (TV)
> Space Balls (1987, IMDb tt0094012)
> Men in Black (1997, IMDb tt0119654)
The encyclopedia I used for reference is Britannica 2005.
I don't own any intellectual property mentioned above.