Harry and Hermione stared at each other in shock.
"Oh my god," the girl whispered. "Harry..."
"What the hell was that?" he said, also in muted tones.
"I… I have no idea." She gaped at him, then shook her head hard, before pulling out her wand and casting a few detection and identification spells she knew. The results were… weird.
"We need to research this. Come on, library. Now."
"What about Ron?"
"What about him?" she asked dryly. Both of them looked towards where the red-head was snoring in a chair, his head lolling to the side. He was visibly drooling.
Harry sighed, while his other best friend looked mildly ill. "Fair enough. OK, we need to figure out what that was."
"It was freaky as hell," she muttered. He gave her an upset look, making her immediately flush as she worked out the problem. "It was freaky, Harry. Not you. Never you." She put a hand on his back and pulled him close for a moment, feeling the usual twitch as he suppressed his dislike of being touched. "Never you, Harry."
After a short pause, they left the common room and headed for the library, and some books that might hopefully let them work out Harry's latest example of how he differed from the average wizard in the street.
Two and a half weeks later, they finally worked it out. Which lead to a considerable amount of puzzlement, then some very careful thought.
"We can't tell anyone," she noted. "People with your… talent… they make others nervous."
"Wizards are idiots," he muttered.
"Most of them, yes," she agreed unhappily. "Magic seems to be a pretty good replacement for intelligence. I think it makes life too simple, or something. Nothing selects for wits and common sense, and this is what you end up with."
He nodded glumly, seeing her point. "Bunch of pillocks, most of them. Even the ones that mean well."
Hermione nodded absently, leafing through a book on the library table. "We need to experiment a little," she commented as she read a couple of pages. "See what the limitations are."
"Well, it might be useful, you never know," she replied. "We need all the help we can get if we're going to deal with the Dark Wanker. And all his hellish minions."
"I wish we could just shoot them all or something," he grumbled. "I've had it up to here with all this shit." He waved a hand somewhere over the top of his head, making her smile. "All I want is a quiet life, but can I have that? No, of course not, I get to be the Chosen One. Brilliant job, great long term prospects with a good retirement plan." His voice had gone very sarcastic by now.
Hermione put her hand on his in a gesture of support. "I know, Harry. It's not fair. But life isn't, is it?"
"Not even close," he agreed with a sigh.
They sat in silence for a while, until he suddenly looked up from examining his wand, which he was rolling idly between his fingers. Hermione noticed the movement and glanced at him. He was staring into space, his face slowly acquiring a look that was positively evil.
"Ah… Harry?" she asked carefully.
"Yes?" he replied, still smirking in a way that would have made most people back away slowly.
"Why are you grinning like that? It's… worrying."
"I just had a really neat idea," he said with a faint laugh in his voice. "I think we need to take this to the next level."
He looked around suspiciously, then leaned closer. "We need to take the fight to them. All the people who should be doing something are just wasting time, mucking around and reacting to the twat and his little cult. We need to get ahead of them."
The brunette girl studied him closely. "All right," she said slowly. "I agree. But how? We're fifteen for heaven's sake, neither of us would stand a chance in a fight with most of them. Certainly not more than one at a time."
"Actually, I'm not entirely sure that's right, but it's not important," he smirked. "I'm not thinking about fighting them. I'm thinking about killing them."
She covered her mouth with a hand, staring at him.
"They're killing people almost daily," he went on. "And the Headmaster and his people just stun them. Even the Aurors don't usually do much more. This is a war, we keep being told that. In a war, you shoot to kill. They certainly are. Why should we let them keep doing that without responding in kind? And don't say it makes us like them. It does in the most important way, which is that we live and they don't. I'd rather have it that way around than the other."
Hermione listened to his low voiced and impassioned speech, unable to refute it. He was basically right. She knew enough history to realize that the current 'Light' response was, at best, merely delaying things. Not to mention that there were some very strange aspects to the whole thing, which all revolved around her best friend in a way she still didn't quite understand, but didn't like one little bit.
Now, unexpectedly, he'd shown a new, and very, very rare, talent. One that appeared, from their research, to be associated with some dubious characters in the British Wizarding history, although in some parts of the world it was actually valued.
After thinking it over for some while, she asked, "How do we use this… ability… to strike back at them?"
"We need two things," he said quietly. "A book on non magical chemistry, and some idea of names. I know a few, we should be able to find out more with a little work. We need to build a list, then get them all as fast as possible before they managed to work out some way to stop us."
"Chemistry?" she asked, puzzled.
He explained his plan. Both of them stared at each other when he'd finished, then Hermione started giggling. "Oh, wonderful. I mean, not wonderful, it's horrifying in a way, but it should work. If nothing else it will cause so much chaos that they should be easier for the Aurors to find them and deal with them."
"Can you get the information we need?" he asked.
"I think so. I can owl Dad, he had… shall we say, a somewhat misspent childhood?" She laughed as Harry grinned. "I think he'd know where to get the information we need. But it's dangerous. We'll have to be very, very careful. Some of this would make Potions look positively safe, even if Neville was doing the stirring blindfolded."
"I know, it's a risk I'm willing to take, though." He shrugged. "It needs to be completely non-magical. Otherwise I'd suggest a potion, it would be easier to get the information. But you know wizards, if there's no magic involved, it can't possibly be dangerous."
She nodded, remembering some of the rather hair-raising close calls Mr Weasley had had with his 'muggle artifacts' in the past.
"Fine. I don't like it, I have to admit, but I like the alternatives a lot less. I'll write Dad and explain what we need. We'll need to find a place to do it where no one will find out, and it's going to take weeks to set up if we want to survive it."
Harry thought for a few seconds. "Let's ask the elves. I'll bet they know somewhere private."
"Good idea," she smiled. Getting up, they put the books away and headed off to talk to the small people who did all the work.
"Well, that works," Harry said, wiggling a finger in his ear and watching Hermione wave smoke away from her face. "Almost too well."
"It was very loud," she said, rather louder than normal herself. Both of them were having trouble hearing. "I think the silencing charms need work. Hopefully no one heard it."
"Let's reinforce them, then try the next one. I'm still not happy about the trigger."
They got back to work, very carefully. Having seen the results of the tests, they didn't fancy getting caught up in their experiments. It wouldn't end well.
Quickly, admittedly. And all over the room.
But not well.
"Perfect." Hermione looked satisfied, as she stood with her hands on her hips looking around. "Almost totally symmetrical pattern."
"Do you think a spherical one is best?" Harry asked, also inspecting the damage. "We could get a higher density if we made it a cylinder."
"We can't guarantee the orientation, so a sphere is the safest arrangement," she remarked, causing him to nod after a moment. "We can compensate for it with more ball bearings."
"True. Right, let's do that, then."
He made a note on his parchment. "Next test, series seven, experiment five. I'll arm it, you get the trigger ready."
Very cautiously, they resumed the testing. So far, things were going well. Their 'muggle' literature, which Hermione's father had, after considerable argument, finally provided, went into a lot of detail, but experimentation and familiarization was still required. But they were learning fast.
Quite soon, they would be ready. And it was very unlikely that the people they were after would ever work out what was happening until it was too late.
"That's the last of them, Harry," Hermione said in pleased tones. She retrieved the automatic quill that had written the name on the label which attached to the outside of a box a few inches on a side. It was quite heavy and there was a large stack of them on the table, each with a different name. She was handling them with extreme care, and wearing disposable gloves, as they had both done during the entire operation, to avoid fingerprints. Just in case any mundane law enforcement ever got involved.
Harry nodded, watching her work. He appeared both cautiously excited, and somewhat terrified. And quite pensive.
She glanced at him. "Second thoughts?"
"Not really. We need to do this, or thousands of people will die. But even so… we're going to kill dozens."
"You said it yourself. I wasn't sure at the time, but I've thought it over and over, and you're right. We're in a war. It's them or us." She sighed a little, putting her quill down. "I don't like it, not one little bit, but we don't have much choice, do we? Another twenty-seven people have died in the last month from Death Eater attacks. And that's just the magical casualties. The Ministry doesn't even count all the non magical ones, you know. My parents have been keeping an eye on the news for me to try to work out how many other deaths there were in the real world, they think it's probably over eighty in the same time. This can't go on, and Dumbledore isn't going to do anything to stop it."
"Neither will the Ministry," he sighed. "They're totally corrupt, the few honest ones can't deal with it."
They looked at each other, then at the pile of boxes.
"When do we do it?" he asked.
"It would raise suspicions if we did it now," she said after thinking for a moment. "Probably best to do it early in the morning, which should make everyone think it's normal, until it's too late. And we need to get as many as possible as quickly as possible so they can't warn each other."
"Tomorrow morning, then," he replied.
"Yes." She shrugged. "Owl post normally turns up about six in the morning. Let's get ready for then."
Standing, he followed her out of the room, both of them carefully locking the door with every spell they knew, and covering the entrance with a whole series of aversion charms. No one would stumble over it, they were sure, you'd have to be actively looking, which shouldn't happen since no one else knew what they were doing.
"Yes." Harry took a deep breath. "Let's do it."
"First one, then," His friend said, gingerly picking up one of the packages and looking at the label. "Open wide. Lucius Malfoy."
Harry looked like he was yawning, but his mouth opened far wider than it should have been able to, the inside completely dark. Hermione carefully pushed the box into the unnatural opening, then let go. It disappeared and he closed his mouth and swallowed.
"Next one. Bellatrix Lestrange."
The procedure repeated, over and over, until the last one was in her hand. "And the best for last." This box was about three times the size of the others. "Tom Riddle."
When it was done, they smiled at each other.
"Now we wait and see if it worked."
Lucius yawned, covering his mouth, as he walked into his study. A few paces inside the room, he stopped and stared suspiciously at his desk. There was a parcel wrapped in brown paper, tied with string, sitting on it, right in the middle.
Looking around, he pulled out his wand, then cast every detection spell he could think of, both on the box, and on the room. Nothing at all seemed amiss. There was no active or passive magic on the box or contents, it read as entirely unexciting.
Still feeling a little paranoid, he walked over and peered at it. There was a label on the top with his name in neat writing on it, which he thought was the result of a spelled quill, above the words 'A donation from an admirer of the Pureblood Cause.'
He wasn't convinced. This was very irregular. However, the owl delivery opening was unlocked, the wards hadn't been breached, and there was no way anyone could have got inside the manor unobserved. Checking his results again, he stared at the box. His curiosity was warring with his paranoia.
It wasn't magical, though, he was certain of that. How dangerous could it be?
Prodding it with the end of his wand at arm's length, he pushed the box a little way across the desk. Nothing happened, so after a moment he put his wand down and picked the thing up, very carefully. It was surprisingly heavy, and to his interest it made a metallic clinking noise.
One that sounded very much like a significant number of galleons moving…
Putting the box down again, he sat, his curiosity now reinforced with greed. Absently the thought of calling for an elf to open it crossed his mind, but he reached out and tugged on the knot of the string instead. Undoing it, he peeled the paper back, then lifted the lid thus revealed...
In the room she called her own, Bellatrix was holding a parcel addressed to her, looking curiously at it. No magic was involved, and it made interestingly money-like sounds when she gently shook it.
The absolutely enormous explosion that shook the entire building and came from downstairs knocked her off her feet, causing her to drop the box onto the floor from several feet in the air.
Anyone outside Malfoy Manor would have seen the window to the main study, along with a significant chunk of wall, rapidly head across the garden in small pieces, urged on its way by a cloud of rapidly expanding and super-heated gas mixed with pulverized fragments of the contents of the room. Including Lucius Malfoy, of course.
Moments later, the same thing happened to an upstairs window, the one to Bellatrix's room. Thousands of tiny steel ball bearings left holes in absolutely everything left intact.
Two kilograms of cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine, more commonly known as RDX, was probably overkill, but Harry and Hermione weren't playing around. The manufacture of it was surprisingly, almost horrifyingly, easy. Their largest problem was coming up with a reliable but safe, for a fairly limited definition of the word 'safe', detonator, but their literature and experimentation had been up to the task.
Adding a number of steel washers to sound like coins had been Hermione's idea. It seemed silly, but it might work, was the thought.
Similar events took place all over Magical Britain. There was, of course, collateral damage in the form of a couple of people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but otherwise not involved. It had been a risk both teenagers knew, accepted, and could live with, although they weren't at all happy about it.
But as they had realized, in a war, innocents got hurt. Or killed. Or worse.
At least this way, they could hopefully stop the war, or at least slow it drastically.
In the end they got just under eighty-six percent of the currently active Death Eaters, including all of the inner circle and the most dangerous ones. Their extra-large present for the Dark Lord himself was actually triggered by a minion, who had been ordered to open it while Voldemort stayed behind a shield spell. It turned out that the spell in question wasn't up to hypersonic shrapnel, even at forty feet from the blast.
The concussion might well have helped with that too.
Voldemort's remains would be found mixed with those of several Death Eaters when the Aurors eventually arrived. They had their hands full for some time and the single survivor didn't last until then, bleeding out while unconscious.
Neither teen would know about their success rate for a few days, but they found out very quickly that something had worked by how fast the entire school was locked down due to 'serious terrorist activity', along with most other public organizations in the country.
"You're right," Harry said to his friend, as they lay on the grass next to each other near the lake, watching Ron and some friends muck about on brooms with a snitch. They were the enjoying the warm spring day, behind a carefully placed privacy ward so they could talk. "Magic replaces intelligence for far too many people. No high-profile person in the non magical world would open a package that turned up out of the blue, not these days with the IRA and so on bombing things all the time."
Hermione smiled faintly. "No, they wouldn't. Luckily, these people had all the wrong survival instincts." She rolled her head to the right to look at her friend. "But we couldn't have done it without your special talent. No one wards against that sort of thing, since hardly anyone has ever heard of it."
He shrugged, also smiling.
"I certainly hadn't, until that point. I can't really think of another use for it, but hopefully we've at least given our side breathing room. And with any luck got the Dark Bastard himself."
Looking at her, his smile widened, before he went back to watching the improvised game. "Who'd have thought I'd turn out to be a parcel-mouth?"