Jason and Pamela make some interesting discoveries. Harry and Ron go looking for Jason. Dr. Hirsch plots his next move.
When Septimus had a message, he waited until he was sure he was not being followed and made the drop. Jason trained him to do it in a few seconds, sometimes without even breaking his stride. Then he signalled Pamela that a message was waiting by sticking a thumbtack in the top left corner of a public notice board of a convenience store not far from CIA headquarters. The colour of the tack gave the location of the drop.
Septimus did come under suspicion at the Department of Magic but their investigations led nowhere. The problem was that the Magical Bureau of Investigation was divided into two camps. The old guard were traditionalists and assumed that any security breach had to involve magic. Their theory was that Septimus was communicating with the British using the Patronus messenger spell that Dumbledore had invented. They followed Septimus on his nightly walk, waiting for him to produce a silvery Patronus. They never noticed him reaching into his pocket for a plastic bag wrapped in tape.
The new guard was fascinated by Muggle technology and tried to break into Septimus's computer. Septimus was probably the most skilled computer user in the entire magical world and he could easily have blocked their attacks, but he didn't bother. There was nothing for them to find. He wrote out his messages by hand.
Watching Pamela also revealed nothing. She used junior agents, a different one each time, to do the pick-ups. The messages she received were coded using a one time pad, an old but very secure method of encryption that neither the old guard nor the new guard at the Department of Magic had ever heard of. Her own notes were carefully worded to make no reference to magic. As far as her Muggle superiors were concerned, she was simply doing her job by tracking down a possible security leak.
Jason simply had to keep out of sight. Both the Muggle and magical authorities appeared to believe that he was dead. They assumed that he had gotten lost in the woods, died of exposure and been eaten by crows. With no active search to avoid, he was able to stay in the Washington area. He found a small apartment in Baltimore. It was far enough away from Washington that he didn’t have to worry about meeting federal agents on the streets but close enough that he could Apparate when he needed to meet Pamela. He reestablished contact with Gringotts and found that they were as reliable as ever. He had no invisibility cloak or Polyjuice potion now, but he didn’t care. He realized that having too many magical aids had made him careless. From now on he would use his wand and his wits.
Pamela kept Jason briefed on what she was learning. It was insurance in case she was memory-charmed. It also kept Jason quiet and out of trouble. He understood that if he acted prematurely, the whole investigation would be ruined. There was just one time when he found it hard to hold back. Septimus had received information about Nicky from a source he had been cultivating. It confirmed that Nicky was under a silencing charm that prevented her from speaking about the magical world. There were also details of the location of her cell and the magical protections around it.
“I’ve got to help her,” Jason insisted.
“No you can't go near her, it’s an obvious trap,” Pamela replied.
“Who would be trying to trap me? Everyone thinks I’m dead.”
“Not everybody. The Prince brothers know you’re alive. They must have heard about the stolen thestrals.”
“I’m not worried about them. They’re mediocre wizards. I know their tricks now and they won’t take me again.”
“Jason, don’t understand. They don’t need to capture you. They probably won’t even try. What they’re after is confirmation that Septimus is passing information to us. If you go anywhere near Nicky they’ll have what they want. Then they’ll either kill Septimus or start feeding him false information to confuse us.”
"So do we just let Nicky sit in a cell and say nothing? Her life could be in danger."
"It's not that bad. Jason, you have to remember, that whatever may have happened to you, this is still America. Nicky has rights. She doesn't have to talk to us. Sooner or later she'll have to go to trial."
"And get put away for life."
"That's just a bluff. Justice says that the best they can hope for is disclosing classified information to an unauthorized person. The maximum sentence for that is ten years. She' ll be out on parole in two or three years at most."
Jason reluctantly agreed to wait.
"Anyway, I wanted to discuss Harry Potter,” Pamela continued. “You say he's been trying to contact you and you've got to decide how to reply.”
“I don’t know what he’s up to. He seems harmless but he could be working for someone who isn’t. `”
“Let's go over what we know about him. We know that he's tried to protect you from the Prince brothers and the CIA. We also know that he helped you break into CIA headquarters to steal the horocrux. Then, when you had a chance to destroy the horocrux, he stopped you. Any idea why he would do that?"
"I have two theories. One is that you only had half the horocrux and you have to have both halves before you destroy it. The other is that he wants to get his hands on you and the entire horocrux so he, or whoever he's working for, can use you for their own purposes."
"So which one is it?"
"I have no idea. Before we decide, we have to know more about him. What do we know about his mentor, Dumbledore?"
"Not much, he wasn't well known in America and even in Britain he mainly operated behind the scenes. There's a book out on him by a journalist named Rita Skeeter, I'm trying get a copy but it takes time. I don't want to use Owl Post too often in case they can trace it."
"Well keep trying, Jason but be careful."
Ron Weasley made several trips to Washington to check on the American dealership and he was able to confirm that Jason, or at least his shirts, were still in the area. Harry joined him on one of his trips. He claimed that he was simply going to see the sights and watch some Quidditch but, of course, his real purpose was to track down Jason.
Using the tracking charm was simple, in theory. You used a sort of magical compass to get a bearing on the charm and plotted a line on a map. Then you went to another location, took a second bearing and plotted it on your map. The intersection of the two lines gave you the approximate location of the charm. You went to that point and repeated the process to get a more accurate reading.
In practice, it was more difficult. The first day they tried it was a Sunday and the only map Harry and Ron could find was a tourist map. It was not to scale, so the readings they took were totally inaccurate. After a day of walking around Washington they had nothing to show but sore feet and a map covered with lines that never seemed to meet in the same place.
On Monday, they bought an accurate topographical map and tried again. Now, they had a new set of problems. The map covered a larger area, so walking took too long and they did not know any safe Apparation points.. They tried taking taxis but found that drivers were suspicious of two young men with English accents wanting to be driven to odd street corners.
Then they realized that people walking around Washington with a large map and a strange looking instrument attracted a certain amount of attention. They had their map spread out on a dumpster behind a government office building when they were surrounded by two armed guards and a very suspicious Secret Service agent. They stunned all three and Harry wiped their memories.
On Tuesday, they worked on a better cover story. They would be two businessmen scouting locations for a new store chain. A stationery store provided them with some instant business cards and two briefcases. They cut the map into sections and pasted it onto sheets of cardboard. Fortunately, they had both brought their Muggle suits, but Ron only had trainers and dragon hide boots with him. Harry insisted on buying him a pair of black oxfords.
On Wednesday, everything went smoothly. With the magic compass in one brief case and the map in the other, they were able to take their readings and mark the map from the back seat of a taxi. In less than an hour they found their way to a locker in the bus depot. Harry checked to see that no one was looking, pointed his wand and said, “Alhomora.” The locker stayed shut.
“Well, we can be pretty sure it was him,” Harry said. “The shirts are definitely in there and there’s a locking charm on the door. Probably a Muggle-repelling charm too.”
“Why do you think he’s not wearing the shirt?” Ron asked.
“Don’t know. Maybe he’s worried that it will make him careless. He told me once that agents should rely on their wits and not on gadgets.”
“Speaking of wits,” Ron said, “I think we should get going. Look over there.”
Harry saw two men approaching them. They were dressed in hoodies, stripped trousers and cowboy boots. Harry recognized one of them as Jackson Bowerman.
“Hello, Potter, remember me?” Bowerman said, with a slight emphasis on ‘remember.’ “What are you in town for.”
“Ron’s here on business and I just came along to see the sights.”
“Odd place for sight seeing, it’s a little out of the way of the usual tourist spots.”
“Well ... er... the train stations just across the street,” Ron broke in, “and ... er... I’m really into train spotting.”
“It’s sort of an English Muggle thing. You try to spot different kinds of locomotives.”
“Well have a good time, take back some good memories.” Bowerman and his companion turned and left.
“That was brilliant, Ron. How did you hear about train spotting.”
“How else? It’s Dad’s latest craze.”
“Anyway, they’ll be watching us now. We’d better go home and try to think of something else.”
Meanwhile, Septimus had a stroke of luck. He was able to find the MBI file on the search for Jason and learned about the connection between Dr. Hirsch and the London shop called Caractacus Antiquities. He passed along the information to Pamela and she discussed it with Jason.
"He'll have to go to London and follow it up," Jason said. "Potter obviously thought this was something important."
"It could be dangerous, he's not a trained agent."
"He's our only choice. I can't go because the British are looking for me. You can't go because you're a Muggle so you'd give everything away. Septimus is from an old wizard family. People will talk to him."
Septimus booked some vacation time and a few days later was standing outside the deserted premises of Caractacus Antiquities. He saw a light on and tried the door. It opened and he saw a young man with blond hair probing in various corners with his wand.
Draco Malfoy was not enjoying his work. He had served only a short time in Azkaban for his role as a Death-Eater but he was facing a long term of parole. Part of his sentence was community service with the Dark Objects Destruction Committee. Today he had been assigned to sweep the former premises of Caractacus Antiquities.
"Hey! Can't you read? This shop is closed," Draco shouted, pointing his wand at Septimus.
"I'm just visiting from America. I was trying to track down some family heirlooms. We had to sell them when we ran into a bit of money trouble and I was trying to get them back. I had heard that they might have been sold through here."
"This place has been closed for years. Are you a Muggle or a wizard?" Draco asked, suspicously. Draco did not quite know what to make of the stranger. He was dressed as a Muggle but something about him suggested magic.
"Wizard. My name is Septimus Brankovitch."
"Draco Malfoy. Any relation to the Quidditch player?"
"My oldest brother."
"Anyway, if you're looking for something you can check with the main shop in Knockturn Alley."
"Thanks. What are you doing here?"
"Sweeping the place for stray jinxes and Dark Objects. Big waste of time if you ask me."
"Why do you say that?"
"I've spent hours turning over houses of so-called Death Eater families and never found a thing. But there's one place I'd like to look and that's Potter's house."
"He inherited the Black family house from his godfather. The Black's had one of the oldest collections of Dark Objects in England. They say that they got rid of it all before the end of the war but I don't believe a word of it. Everyone thinks that Potter is so wonderful because he killed the Dark Lord. But no one really knows the whole truth of it. There are rumours that Potter has a bit of the Dark Lord's soul in him. I think he's just biding his time, building up strength, and then we'll see his true colours."
Pamela met with Jason again to discuss Septimus’s report.
"He says that Malfoy is a convicted Death Eater and that he and Potter hated each other since they were boys. I don't think that we can put much weight on what Malfoy says," Jason said.
"No, but it's still intelligence. We can't reject it until we've analysed it," Pamela replied. "What have you found out about Dumbledore."
"Not much. The book was only by a hack journalist named Rita Skeeter. It’s hard to know how much of it is true. Apparently when Dumbledore was a young man, he had a relationship with a wizard name Grindewald.”
“A sexual relationship?”
“Doesn’t say. From what I’ve seen of them, witches and wizards tend to be fairly prudish about these things. Anyway, the fell out and Dumbledore turned against Grindewald and defeated him.”
“So where does that leave Potter?”
“Hard to say, but I think you’re right, Pamela. It’s best not to trust him until we find out more.”
The Prince brothers were growing frustrated.
“We’ve been feeding Brankovitch information for weeks and Bourne has done nothing with it,” Tiberius complained. “We don’t even know if he’s getting it.”
“If Bourne is doing nothing, then we can be confident that he is getting our information,” Hirsch said.
“That’s absurd. I can never follow your Muggle logic,” Gaius said, impatiently.
“Let me explain.," Hirsch replied. "I know Bourne. He is not the type to sit around and do nothing. If he hasn’t responded, there must be a reason. If he were dead or captured, we would have learned something by now. The only other reason I can see is that Pamela Landy is controlling him. She is an experienced intelligence analyst. She won’t be easily fooled into giving herself away.”
“I still don’t follow. If Bourne is being controlled by Landy, how does that prove she is getting information from Brankovitch?”
“Simple, Bourne would not listen to Landy if he saw that she was getting nowhere. Since he seems to be following her advice by staying out of sight, we can assume that he believes she is making progress.”
“All right, let’s assume you’re right and Bourne is getting our information. That means that he and Landy won’t trust Potter. Where does that leave us?” Gaius asked.
"It's time to change out focus to the main problem – getting back the half horocrux. I assume there's no hope of stealing it in London,” Hirsch said.
"None. All of our British friends are in prison, hiding or dead," Tiberius sighed.
"So we need to get the horocrux back to America. You told me that the Department of Magic wanted it handed over for independent testing?"
"That's right. They don't trust the British on this."
"But the British don't trust the Department of Magic so they won't hand it over."
"That's right. They suspect that we have spies there who will steal it."
"So we're facing a stalemate. Do you know that chess players sometimes do to get out of a stalemate?" Hirsch asked.
"Sacrifice a piece. Sometimes you have to give up a pawn or even a queen."