Well, hello there! You've made it to Book 6 of the series!
IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS, PLEASE DO THAT BEFORE READING THIS ONE! IT IS COMPLETELY NECESSARY!
There isn't much to say at this point, so let's just get right into it, shall we? :)
ALBUS POTTER AND THE CHAOS CONTAGION
The Double Agents
The Wilcox House
Seven Schools in Thirteen Days
The Blood Bandits
The Next Level
Master of All the Earth
Secrets and Lies
The First to Fall
The Shadow's Engine
Through the Spying-Glass
Calm before the Storm
The Well-Organized Mind
Light and Darkness
Luck of the Drop
The Chaos Contagion
THE DOUBLE AGENTS
All eyes from the circular table were upon her. No one spoke or moved. The entire Sandblood cause, she knew, hinged upon what she said today, and what she did in the next few days.
Harry Potter and his family had decimated their ranks and devastated their best-laid plans. The time had come to formulate their biggest counterattack yet. They could lay waste to cities and overthrow governments when the time came. But if they were to survive, the Potters had to die, and they had to die quickly.
"We have suffered harsh losses in recent times," said Marsilia Scadjair carefully. "This must be addressed, no matter how badly we may not want to."
She looked around. Sensing no dissent, she carried on.
"Palmer Viller's demise after the events in the Hourglass Empire was only the beginning," said Scadjair. "As your new commander, I know this perhaps more than any of you. They will inevitably come for me next. They will try to dismantle us bit by bit, as they have done with our last two leaders. Maskorn Malseth's death was a stroke of luck on the part of the British Ministry of Magic, but it gave the bastards momentum on which they have now capitalized. We are broken in their eyes; they think that we are weakened by these losses. But we are strengthened. Like the least successful members of a species die out, our numbers have been decreased only by the deaths of those too fragile to survive in our ranks. You remain here because you are smarter and better than the ones who got themselves killed. Now we are a league of survivors, and we will continue to survive. Not only that, but we will cause their extinction."
Scadjair looked about the room, and her lip curled up. "I sense some skepticism," she said. "Some doubt amongst you. But I think I can cast that doubt away… with the newest intelligence report."
Mella Ligmia, Scadjair's second-in-command, handed her a thin folder. Scadjair took a piece of paper out of the folder, and laid it on the table in front of her.
"The Ministry is unaware of this," said Scadjair. "But our intelligence reports that a secret weapon is being developed by an unknown party… for use in eliminating all non-magical people from the world."
Scadjair was expecting nervous murmurs around the room, but instead, her audience was struck dumb by the news.
"You may be wondering why I consider this to be good news," said Scadjair. "The answer is that this little project can be adjusted to our advantage. You see, this device is powered by blood. By filling this machine with the blood of Muggles, they would send out an energy wave around the entire globe which would kill all Muggles—and Squibs."
The Sandbloods shuffled angrily in their seats.
"We knew this day would come," said Scadjair. "Just not so soon. This is precisely why we have to wipe out the wizards, before they do it to us. But there is a way that we can use this device against them. We don't yet know who is behind the creation of this machine, but we know where the machine is being built. All we must do is slip the Marionette's Medicine to just one of the workers building the machine, and he can replace the Muggle blood in the machine with magical blood… and when the machine is detonated, every wizard on the planet will be killed."
"I think you've actually got things a bit backwards, there," said an unfamiliar voice from just down the hall.
A gray-haired stranger with sharp features strolled her way into the room casually. She was holding a wand—a wizard, in their last remaining base out of her own free will? How had she gotten in, and gotten past all of the defenses?
The wizard puppets in the Sandblood base all raised their wands to face the woman, who smirked and tilted her head.
"What are this creature doing here?" spat Scadjair. This was all she needed right now—a witch to just walk right into the conference room of the headquarters while she was attempting to rally her troops and gain their confidence.
"I'm adding a little footnote to your speech," she responded. "May I? Don't worry. I'm here to help. I am in the employ of the Man in the Shadows."
Scadjair snorted. "Prove it."
The wizard puppets all around the room lowered their wands.
Scadjair looked around nervously at them, before remembering that their puppets on the surface were controlled by the Man in the Shadows. If they'd lowered their wands, it meant that the Man in the Shadows recognized the woman before them.
"My name is Duopold," said the woman, leaning against the wall and picking under her fingernails. "I am in the trusted employ of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and have been for quite some time. But for longer, I have labored for the Man in the Shadows. I speak for him now."
"Then speak his plans to us," said Scadjair, sitting down. She folded her fingers together and resting her chin on them; she couldn't wait to see how this would turn out. The Man in the Shadows was a wizard: this much was quite clear to them. They knew he wanted to rule the world, but Scadjair failed to see how the Man in the Shadows would want to destroy all wizardkind with this machine—he would die, too. But if he wanted the Sandbloods dead, he could have turned his wizard puppets on them at any time, and the Sandbloods would have suffered severe losses even if they weren't completely wiped out. So what was his plan?
"The Man in the Shadows has been biding his time for decades," said Duopold. "He has been waiting in the shadows, studying the ultimate forms of power, and he has finally had a breakthrough. We've discovered the way to revolutionize murder and genocide. And we call it the Shadow's Engine. Yes, that machine you were talking about… Your intelligence reports were not the most intelligent. You were spying on your own allies, though admittedly we've been keeping it quite the secret, so we're not surprised you didn't know whose it was. We'll have to seal that little crack in our defenses… we can't have anyone else figuring out what we are now capable of."
She began pacing around the room, a wrinkly little smirk on her aged face. "But we were going to tell you anyway, if you hadn't found out," she cooed. "We need your help. We are both after the same exact thing now—world domination and the deaths of almost every witch and wizard on the planet—and the best way for us to win is by combining our forces and working together. See, you were wrong—we aren't creating that machine to kill Muggles as you suspected. We're not powering it with Muggle blood to kill Muggles; your spies assumed incorrectly. We've been gathering wizard blood for months already. We intend to kill every wizard on the planet except for ourselves.
"We have a bunker," she continued. "The Hourglass Empire. Its nature makes it separate from our world, and so it won't be affected by our machine. We will eliminate all wizards up here, while the Man in the Shadows and those in his most trusted employ wait out the storm below, and then we will come back to the surface while others bring our machine down; they will then do away with every wizard in the Hourglass Empire. The extinction event will come by the end of this year, if we can stay on schedule."
Scadjair looked around the room; all eyes were on Duopold. She hated granting the spotlight to someone else, as she was already having trouble asserting her authority among a group that had lost two of its most valued leaders. But she couldn't help admitting to herself that what Duopold was saying sounded… well, perfect… if they could also be assured that it was entirely true.
"You were correct in your analysis of the machine," said Duopold, "but incorrect in our intentions for using it. Yes, putting Muggle blood in the machine would kill all Muggles and Squibs. But no, that wasn't our plan. Our plan was to use wizard blood, and kill all wizards, apart from ourselves… then the Man in the Shadows, being the leader of the only magical people left on the planet, has a clear path to ruling the world, and you get what you want: the essential extinction of wizards. And of course, the Man in the Shadows will remember your loyalty when he reigns supreme, and you will have anything you ask for. But I digress; you know this already. This was part of your agreement in teaming up with the Man in the Shadows in the first place."
"Then tell us something we don't know," mused Scadjair. "You must be here for more than just to tell us that… this alone wouldn't have mandated a visit."
"You are correct," said Duopold. "There is indeed more for me to say. I'm visiting you as a courtesy, because what we're asking is not easy, but it's what needs to be done in order for the plan to succeed."
"Then spit it out."
"I will," said Duopold. "There are certain individuals who still need to be… taken out of the picture. People who have dabbled too far in the ignoble arts… We took care of the large part of the threat a year ago, but that will make the rest all the more difficult to catch when they realize we're on their scent. But they aren't looking out for the Sandbloods—why would they? That precious wizarding ego on which you have capitalized so many times before is all the more pronounced in the people who believe they have harnessed the full capacity of magic. We need your organization to continue killing wizards, but you must focus your attacks on the targets we indicate. You will murder for hire, under the continued guise of anarchy. And thusly you will create a background of chaos into which the Man in the Shadows may blend. We will give you a few names of targets to eliminate, and the more you do for us, the more we will do for you. To continue using our precious resources, you need to be willing to pay the rent. This is what we require. Have you any problems with this proposed partnership?"
"And you can guarantee," said Scadjair, "that you will do your utmost to provide protection for our numbers from those same individuals? They will inevitably come after us if they know we're after their kind."
"We can guarantee the survival of the Sandbloods," said Duopold, "and we will use our spies in the Ministry and beyond to do our best to ensure that you are neither killed nor caught, not by the law nor the prey."
Scadjair narrowed her eyes. They'd "do their best," they say… She still didn't fully trust this man, whoever he was, but she knew that this was a dangerous game in which nobody could ever be fully trusted. After all, they were planning on killing him once their plans were completed, so it was only natural to assume that he was going to do the same. They would have to play along, for now.
"It is a deal," said Scadjair, looking to her left and right at Tawder Brune and Mella Ligmia, who both nodded. "We will take what you have offered to us."
"Good," said Duopold, with a gray toothy smile. "Then your first target—"
"As long as this goes smoother than your idiotic handling of the Dismiusa incident," said Scadjair, unfolding her fingers and folding her arms. "Can you assure us that this won't end like the last plan the Man in the Shadows employed… and how can you assure us of that?"
"The idiot Potter boy stumbled into our carefully organized plans," said Duopold, grinding her teeth together. "That will not occur again. We are making sure of it. The Potters must die first."
"That is something we definitely agree upon," said Scadjair.
"But at the same time, they cannot die immediately," added Duopold. "I will explain later. However, all that you need know for the answer to your question is that the disastrous end to our previous plans was due to a circumstance we could never have predicted. After I awakened Dismiusa and imprisoned her under the castle, I used the Marionette's Medicine to subdue her and keep her there under my command and control. But the Potter boy's clumsy mental magic and grievous mental trauma absorbed some of the mental signals I was sending to Dismiusa. He developed a mental connection with her somehow—we believe it is likely that the reason he was attuned to Dismiusa's mind was because he had his own little experience with the Marionette's Medicine when he laid waste to your first headquarters. When Malseth was killed while under the potion, the wound it left in his mind was prone to picking up on signals from the Marionette's Medicine. So… I suppose that makes it your fault."
Scadjair glared at Duopold, the corner of her lip twitching.
"But who's throwing blame around?" simpered Duopold. "Certainly not us. But listen to me. Three years ago, when I dug up the old bitch, I didn't expect a gigantic cloud of dust to fly into the air and nearly give me away. I didn't expect the Headmaster and his dog Valon to come sniffing around chasing a fairy tale and nearly ruin us. I didn't expect the Potter boy to intercept my Marionette's Medicine signals and I didn't expect the mental burden following his interference to be so much that it sent me to St. Mungo's, leaving Dismiusa unchecked in the castle catacombs. And I most certainly did not expect the stupid Potter boy to unleash Dismiusa from the barrier I assumed was unbreakable. I will admit it: A lot of inanity occurred that not even the Man in the Shadows predicted. But now, this time, with this plan, we have everything under control. Everything is planned out. We have the situation almost entirely in the palm of our hand… All we need is your help to complete it. If you take out the threats when we ask you to do so, nobody will come bungling into our affairs this time, and there will be nobody capable of stopping us."
"You mean, to kill the Potters so that they can no longer fuck with our plans?" asked Brune, working his jaw back and forth impatiently.
"Not just the Potters," said Duopold. "I assume your intelligence recalls all the incidents at Hogwarts with the little prankster known as IMW?"
"Not so little of a prankster, though, was he," scoffed Ligmia.
"Our guess is that this 'IMW' was none other than Hogwarts Transfiguration teacher Dalton Desulgon," said Duopold. "But it's much too dangerous to go after him directly, especially since he could be receiving aid from the Headmaster and Potions master. We think this may be the case, as he is consistently able to avoid detection and capture in the castle, and because he is using advanced potions that only a real Potions master could make—most likely Zayn Valon, Potions professor at the school."
"Then what do we do about him?"
"The Man in the Shadows has instructed us to bide our time on this one," said Duopold. "In fact… on most people. You will continue to kill—kill at least ten of your own targets before gunning down one of ours. Reduce suspicion in any way possible. And we in return will provide further resources and as much immunity from the law as we can manage. Soon the time will come for a massive strike against all who oppose us. You are to prepare for that as well."
"Our first target?" asked Scadjair, drumming her fingers on the table.
"Killian Aubrey," said Duopold. "He's stumbled on a secret we cannot allow him to share. This one comes first, before anything else. Top priority. As soon as possible. Understand?"
"Yes, we understand," said Scadjair. "Killing Aubrey will be all too simple. Don't worry about that."
"And we are understood by each other elsewhere as well?"
"You have yourselves a deal," said Scadjair. "We will not renege on our end; you'd best not with yours."
"You needn't worry about that," said Duopold, smirking. "You do what concerns you at this time, and we will play our part as well. You needn't be concerned about the promise—we are both getting exactly what we want out of this deal. I will oversee things at Hogwarts; Wilcox, Valon, and Desulgon are all potential threats, but as long as I keep them in check, we will have nothing to worry about from them. I remain innocuous as a simple Flying instructor at Hogwarts; I've flown under their radar for many years now, and I plan to keep it that way. I suggest you do the same apart from your job. Eventually we will be able to slaughter all wizards at once and we will no longer need to target individuals… preferably, we should even be able to do it by the end of this year. Therefore, we need only take down those people who present an immediate threat to our success. Right now, that is Killian Aubrey."
"Then he will die," said Scadjair. "And you needn't worry about that."
"Then it sounds as though we are understood," said Duopold. "Thank you, Marsilia. I will take my leave now. If you need to contact me, do so by owl at any time—I am in charge of incoming and outgoing mail at Hogwarts, so no one is checking mine."
She turned and left the conference room. The wizard puppets all sat back down, and Scadjair eyed them carefully, knowing that they were listening closely and mentally reporting to the Man in the Shadows.
"So," she said. "We'll do as the Duopold woman says. We'll need a group of volunteers to hunt down Aubrey. He's hot-headed and arrogant; it won't be difficult."
Several Sandbloods raised their hands.
"Good," said Scadjair, leaning back against her chair. "Thank you to those volunteers. Do what you will. And this meeting is adjourned. We will meet again when Aubrey is deceased."
"What about Slade?" asked Ligmia quietly as the others began to leave.
"Duopold said nothing about Slade," said Scadjair. "So I assume his mission continues as planned."
"This is his riskiest mission yet," whispered Brune. "If he's caught, we lose our only connection to the Ministry's most trusted officials—the only one we have telling us what's going on at the top of the ladder."
"We knew that when we told him what had to be done," said Scadjair.
"And now we have a trusted lieutenant of the Man in the Shadows telling us to lay low," said Ligmia.
"He's been listening in on all of our meetings," said Scadjair, gesturing to the wizard puppets. "So he knows full well what we're about to do. I'd say, given the lack of direction on his part, that he supports our next move. He just doesn't want to admit that we came up with the idea before him. The new poison has been successfully tested?"
"And it paralyzes the lungs first," said Brune, grinning toothily. "So they can't call for help or say any spells out loud."
"Then we sit back and wait," said Scadjair, smirking. "It is the hottest Adelina Nelson Day on record, after all."
"Harry!" said Stenet, beckoning in his favorite Auror. "Good to see you again! What's on your mind today?"
"Treason," said Harry immediately.
"Cheerful topic," sighed Stenet sardonically. "I always love me a good conversation about treason, especially when I'm enjoying my daily kick in the balls."
"This is serious, Geri," said Harry dolefully. "I'm… I'm honestly worried."
"Wait, you are referring to someone else committing treason, and not yourself thinking of committing treason, yes?"
"Yes," said Harry, finally cracking a smile. "But it's still something I want to take very seriously. I get the feeling that something bad is about to happen."
"What makes you say that?" asked Stenet, his brow lowering.
"People are quieter lately," said Harry. "There's less social activity in the office. There's more tension, like people are expecting something bad to happen soon. Which is even worse, considering that this would imply there are people who know about something bad that's coming, and they aren't telling us—"
"Harry," said Stenet, "you're a nervous wreck."
"Well, of course I am!" said Harry defensively. "I mean—this is exactly what happened during the Dark Revival—right—right before—"
He choked on his words, and Stenet stood up, all traces of humor leaving, with concern flooding into his features in its place.
"I don't want to die yet," said Harry. "I've fully accepted that it's going to happen at some point, but there's just too much to do for me to die right now! Not to mention that my family and friends need protection."
Harry looked up.
Stenet cleared his throat. "If you think you are in present danger," he said, "you will leave now. And I will not only test the entire staff of the Auror Office for Marionette's Medicine immediately after you leave, but I will also move our Veritaserum interrogation forward to today. We'll lock down the Ministry until everyone is—"
"By Merlin, Geri, I don't know if all that is necessary," laughed Harry. "That would be a lot of trouble just to go through for a feeling—"
"Harry, your gut feelings and your intuition have saved not just the Ministry, but the world, multiple times," said Stenet. "And I'll add that it's Adelina Nelson Day, which seems to be the perfect day to plan an attack to shock the world. We should take extreme caution and address this right now before anything happens. Tell Aanmar and Brickface. If you are feeling this so strongly that you came to have a talk with me about it, I'd like to take your suspicions seriously, if you'll allow me to."
"Geri, you're a lifesaver," said Harry. "I'm sorry to trouble you with this, but… things just… in recent years, things have felt more and more strongly like Voldemort and Ingot than I remember at any other time. It's not a coincidence. It feels like our office could host a Dementor funeral right now, and despite our usual dour mood around here, that is definitely less normal than… well, less normal than normal."
"I understand, Harry," said Stenet. "Don't worry; I'll get on that right now."
Harry scratched his sideburns, then wiped a bit of sweat off his brow.
"I don't know if it's just my nerves," said Harry, looking around, "but I'm sweating. Is it really hot in here?"
"Ministry cooling has been funky lately," said Stenet. "Nothing life-threatening or conspiratorial. It's just a hot day out."
"Happy Adelina Nelson Day," said Harry, leaving the office. "I'll let Aanmar and Brickface know to keep an eye on things when we announce the double dose of random testing that's going to happen today. We'll see if anyone bolts."
Stenet smiled and waved after Harry, then took out two wands as Harry closed the door and pointed them at the fireplace in his office.
"Frisorba Vitigida," he said, and a spark of Frostflame leapt onto the logs in the fireplace, sending a cooling breeze across the office immediately.
He unwrapped the sandwich he'd brought for lunch, and brought it up to his mouth, then stopped.
He laughed, putting the sandwich back down, and did the usual once-over for curses and poisons. How could he have almost forgotten that? Finding nothing, he bit into the sandwich happily, chewed, and swallowed, organizing his papers for the coming security scan, and putting in an order with the Potions department for a bit more Veritaserum. They were going to need it. Not enough to invade the privacy of his employees—just enough to check if they were really his employees.
The fireplace was crackling slightly more than usual. He glanced over, cautiously examining anything that was out of the ordinary as he was trained to do.
A vague green smoke, almost too faint to see, was wafting from the blue flames.
He tried to shout out, but no sound came from his throat; his lungs seized up and he was unable to breathe, let alone yell an alert or cast a spell.
Aguamenti! he cried nonverbally, pointing a wand towards the fireplace.
The water rushed out of his wand onto the flames, and suddenly the green smoke billowed out like foam from a waterfall, washing over him. He ran for the door, but his limbs slowly gave out one by one and he crashed to the ground on his side, gasping and choking.
The smoke cleared out in a flash; the door opened, and Caradoc Slade, Senior Undersecretary to the Minister for Magic, walked in.
Stenet tried to signal that he needed help; Slade walked over and crouched down next to Stenet, letting the door close behind him.
"Aw, look at you," he crooned softly. "That's one way to beat the heat—paralyze all nerves. Then you can't feel warm. Or much of anything, really, besides the sweet embrace of death…"
Stenet tried to gasp, but his lungs drew no air; he was suffocating.
"Lovely new poison, isn't it," said Slade. "Reacts with Frostflame to produce a deadly inhalant. Nobody knows about it, because Frostflame is so new. You should feel lucky—you're the first human to experience it!"
Darkness was closing in around Stenet's eyes, as he gave a few final twitches and stared blankly ahead.
"Don't worry," said Slade, uncorking a small vial and lowering himself down to look Stenet in the eye. "You'll still serve some purpose after you die… you'll still be useful. Sectumsempra!"
Stenet's neck was severed instantly; the breath that had caught in his throat was suddenly released, and his blood began to spill out all over the floor.
With a wave of his wand, Slade began to siphon the blood into the vial; magically enchanted for this purpose, the vial did not fill until every drop of blood had been drained out of Stenet's corpse and he was nothing more than a shriveled husk on the ground. Slade capped the vial and patted Stenet on the back of the head.
"Bloody good time talking with you," said Slade, strolling out of the room and leaving the door wide open in his wake.
The Book 6 uploading schedule is still not set in stone. To play it safe, I'll just say that I'll be uploading two more chapters sometime by the weekend after this one. I'll see how fast I can write without rushing and get back to you when I upload Chapter Three. Hopefully I'll have a regular uploading schedule to give to you by that time, and hopefully it'll be a fast schedule!
Please review, and I'll see you again soon for Chapter Two!