Chapter 29 Closing the File
Sir Harry Potter, Beowulf, and Major Lee walked down the tunnel toward where the battle had been fought. The smooth water worn limestone of the walls changed abruptly at the guard post. "Sirs, you'll need to cast a Bubblehead before you go any further. The whole area has quicklime dust all over."
"Quicklime?" Harry said, then caught himself. It had happened during Operation Beowulf, too, but it had not been nearly as much of a problem. The intense heat Fiendfyre on limestone made quicklime. They cast Bubblehead Charms, then walked down the tunnel into the large room. A strongpoint had been set up there, with machine guns covering the other two exits.
The officer in charge was a Lieutenant Harry didn't know, with a wisp of blond mustache and blue eyes under his helmet.
"Sir." His greeting was clearly directed at Major Lee.
"How goes it?" The Man replied.
"Quiet here so far. The word was passed that Scorpion isn't accounted for yet, though. When possible, it would be good to have that map. The left hand tunnel is the one you want, Sir, but you'll want to watch your step. The footing is a bit tricky." The Lieutenant remained alert with his head on a swivel during the conversation. The soldiers manning the strongpoint, composed of slabs of stone cut out of the wall, were also focused on their assigned arcs of fire.
The Lieutenant jerked his helmeted head toward a group of soldiers by the entrance. "Corporal. Escort duty."
The Corporal picked four men, and they all picked up their weapons, zipped up their armour vests, and headed over toward the three of them.
"Is that really necessary?" Harry said, feeling a little guilty. It seemed like imposing on men who had already had a long, hard and dangerous day.
The Lieutenant gave him a brief, wry half smile. "Humor me, sir. Having the Commander MMS and the Chief and Deputy Chief of MK-1 killed on my watch would be embarrassing."
Harry decided that humoring the Lieutenant wasn't a bad idea. They headed on down the tunnel, taking it slow with a Lumos Maxima object - it looked like a rock - floating along ahead of them and lighting the tunnel in harsh relief while the escorting soldiers led on and followed behind. Harry was glad he'd worn boots instead of shoes. As they had been warned, the footing was tricky, wet water worn pebbles that could turn under your foot very easily. They came to a curve in the tunnel where there was a big divot in the wall. The area was thick with quicklime dust.
"First contact. Death Eater sentry. More like a tripwire, really. No way to take him out quietly." The Man said as they walked by.
They use up their own men like tissue paper. They wanted to rule the Realm that way. What creates people like that?
Harry's early life had been bad enough, but he knew Riddle's had been worse. It is our choices that define us. I chose to protect the Realm, not destroy it.
Not far down the tunnel the passage took a sharp dip down to a T junction with another tunnel, a larger one. Harry was sure that in past times it had been a small waterfall. A rope had been rigged down one side to act as a guideline. They went down one by one, picking their way carefully. Harry stopped short when they came to the bottom, taking in the scene before him.
The floor was thick with white dust, which puffed up in small clouds as they walked up the tunnel toward the strong point. There were actually two of them. The one nearest them was relatively small and evidently thrown together very hastily. There were divots in the floor and walls just in front of it where Death Eaters had died. The two slabs of stone that had provided cover for the men behind it were half eaten away by Fiendfyre.
"The Air Element was conducting a recce patrol under the command of Lieutenant Ashland when they encountered the lead element of the Death Eaters with the body of Voldemort. They established a hasty defence and were able to delay the Death Eaters long enough for reinforcements to come up. They were six, all told. Corporal Hartlestone was killed in action, Private Jameston died in St. Mungo's, and the others were wounded. I have recommended all of them for medals." Major Lee's face and voice were sombre, controlled.
Harry looked around at the section of the tunnel and tried to imagine that brutal close-quarters fight in the depths of a cloud of poisonous dust. Merlin's long flowing white beard, and I thought playing tag with a dragon was hard.
The second strongpoint was further down the tunnel, much more heavily built and heavily defended with both guns and men. They were passed through a narrow gap in the heavy slabs of stone. There had been fighting here, too. The front of the strongpoint was scorched and there were chunks of rock scattered around the stone floor, and more quicklime dust.
"At the end, the remaining Death Eaters panicked and tried to make a run for it, but they were too late. The passage was blocked in both directions. None of them survived." Major Lee spoke in the same sombre, controlled voice.
"The end of all this at last." Harry said, then looked around at the evidence of the battle that had been fought here. At what cost? I started all this. These soldiers were here because of the information we - I - gathered. Could I have done better? Could I have saved their lives if I had been quicker, cleverer?
Down the tunnel and around a bend there was an open area, a wide spot in the tunnel. In the centre of it there was a stretcher with, on it, the body of a man. He was covered only by a sheet of cloth. Even from a distance Harry knew that face, and it filled him with cold loathing. The head looked like something from a horror movie, split by red seams extending all across it. Standing over him was a clerkly looking man in dark robes.
"Sirs, if you'll stand back, please. I'll let you know when I've made safe." Harry recognized Adrian Carbuncle, and he was more than willing to obey that request. Major Lee and Evan were of the same mind, and they backed off and waited. Carbuncle was surrounded by sheets of writing hanging in the air, with symbols rolling up them.
After a few minutes, Carbuncle dispelled the sheets and sheathed his wand. "Made safe."
They walked over to stand over the body.
"What did you find?" Harry asked of Carbuncle.
"This is confirmed as the body of Tom Marvolo Riddle. Compared to his followers, there were few traps on him. He had a Portkey implanted on him, which has been disarmed and removed. His tattoo did not have Cruciatus imbued in it like the others. It was keyed to the other tattoos, but it was an activation charm."
"Well done, Mr. Carbuncle. It was very necessary to ensure we had the right body, and not some sort of fake or red herring." Harry looked down at Riddle's dead face.
Another thought came to him. "What could the Department of Mysteries learn from examining Riddle's body?" At the end of the day, that decision comes to me. I can't just whip out my wand, though. Harry was dead sure that Croaker was going to want to go over that body. He was going to weigh that risk very carefully before he acceded to any such request.
"Really, Sir Harry, the effects of the Resurrection Stone and the Elixir of Life. They were, I'm sure, used on Riddle rather extensively. I'm not a mediwizard, but there was evidence of healing, mostly in the head." He pointed his wand at the red seams across Riddle's head, looking like the seams on Frankenstein's monster.
"Thank you, Mr. Carbuncle. Did you find anything else?" Harry asked.
"Yes, I did, Sir Harry." He picked up a small box from the side of the platform, such as might hold a ring or a piece of jewelry. "The container had a Fiendfyre trap on it. That trap would have been triggered if the container had been removed from a certain, very short distance, from the body of Voldemort. It would also have been triggered by any attempt to remove the contents. It has been made safe."
He tapped the box with his wand, and it opened up. "This is the Resurrection Stone."
Harry looked down at the small black stone, that had likely cost many more lives than it had ever saved. What surprises are in you? It is a fundamental principle of magic that the dead cannot be brought back to life, and from all we have seen the Stone breaks that principle, or appears to. The first law of magic. Tamper with the deepest mysteries — the source of life, the essence of self — only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind. What power does that Stone hold, and what price does using it carry?
Carbuncle tapped his wand again, the box closed, and he picked it up and handed it to Harry. "Let these witnesses verify that I have transferred the Resurrection Stone to the safekeeping of the Chief of MK-1."
Harry took the small box, and put it in his pocket. Carbuncle looked as if he was glad to be rid of it, and Major Lee and Evan made no remark at all, as if that was normal and expected. Immortality in my pocket, and everyone just trusts that I will do what is right with it.
They walked on down the tunnel, the alertness of the soldiers leading and following them unabated. It was a few minutes walk before they emerged into a chamber, about fifty feet or so across. There was evidence that people had been living there for quite a time, though not in much luxury. Discarded food and water containers, cots for sleeping. Up against one of the walls there was what looked like a laboratory of some sort, with equipment both non-Magical and Magical that Harry could not make head or tail of.
Two soldiers were on guard, faced out away from the equipment and well clear of it. The equipment surrounded a clear area, which Harry was in no doubt had been where Voldemort's body had lain while the procedures to resurrect him had been performed. Some of the equipment, made of glass, was broken and a cabinet, at shoulder level, was open with one of its doors hanging by one hinge.
Major Lee pointed at the cabinet. "A search was conducted to see if any of the Elixir of Life was left. None was found. If any had been, it would have been used on our casualties. All the evidence suggests that one of the Death Eaters took it and ran for it. It would have been destroyed along with him."
Harry was not disposed to argue with that conclusion. As far as who might have owned it if it had been found, he would have made exactly the same decision as Major Lee. Nicholas Flamel had been left with the means to make more of the Elixir. That ended any obligation to him as far as Harry was concerned.
"Mr. Carbuncle." Harry said, still looking at the laboratory equipment.
"Sir Harry." Carbuncle had been sitting on one of the folding chairs the Death Eaters had left behind, taking what Harry was sure was a well deserved break. He got up and walked over to where they stood, looking at the laboratory.
"Would it be possible to make this safe?" Harry pointed at the laboratory equipment.
"Perhaps, Sir Harry. There would be significant risk, and it would take time. Trying to move it before it was made safe, by any means ... I would recommend against that very strongly indeed." Carbuncle looked dubious.
"I can tell you that Rookwood, and perhaps others, used very dark magic in addition to the Stone and the Elixir." He added.
"Thank you, Mr. Carbuncle." Harry said. Carbuncle nodded and went back to his chair.
"Major, when you are clearing out this area, please ensure that equipment, all of it, is destroyed, thoroughly, with Fiendfyre. I do not see any gain here that is worth the risk." Harry said.
Evan broke his silence for the first time. "The Department of Mysteries isn't going to like that."
"They can address their complaints to me. There's been entirely too much of dangerous magic lying around loose. They know it's possible, and that's half the battle with anything. They can settle for that." Harry said.
"What about Voldemort's body?" Major Lee asked.
"The same. Ensure there are witnesses and records. That man, dead or alive, is a threat to the Realm, and I'm going to remove it, once and for all, and make sure it is known to have been done." Harry said.
It was just two hours from the time when Major Lee gave the order to when an entire group of people was standing around Voldemort's body at a safe distance.
Major Lee looked long at the body, then turned to Harry. "By all odds, Sir Harry, you have by far the longest history with this ... thing. Would you like to do the honours?"
Harry, too, had been looking at the body, thinking about the cost of getting them all to this moment. "Yes, I would. Thank you."
Harry bared his teeth, raised his wand, and shouted Fiendfyre!
"This meeting of the Select Oversight Committee of the Wizengamot is now in session." Minister Bones stated.
Harry was seated at the end of the table, with the half dozen Members of the Wizengamot looking down it at him. "Has the Oath of Secrecy been administered to all participants in this meeting?"
"Yes, it has." Minister Bones' voice left no room for doubt. That Oath of Secrecy was tied directly to the ancient magic of the Realm, just like the Oath of Fealty to the Sovereign.
The name plate of the third person down from Harry's end of the table said "Eliza Brightwand". She was a green haired woman, about middle age for a witch. "I hardly think such extreme measures of secrecy are needed, Mr. Potter. We are all trustworthy and honorable persons."
"That is Sir Harry Potter, if you please, Mrs. Brightwand. The information you will receive is classified ARCANE, and for good reason. I am taking no chances with the safety of the Realm."
Results were one thing. There would be a press release to tell the wizarding world that the threat of Voldemort was done for, finally and completely, at long last. The means by which those results had been achieved would be needed for a very long time, and the fewer people who knew about them the more effective they would be.
Harry looked down at the reports in front of him on the table. Ordinary sheaves of parchment. The amount of sweat and deadly risk and bloodshed they represented was beyond anything Brightwand could imagine.
"It is my duty to report to this Committee that the Resurrection File is now closed. The body of Voldemort was found and destroyed. The group of Death Eaters who were trying to bring him back to life using the Resurrection Stone and the Elixir of life are dead, except for one, who will be spending the rest of his life in Azkaban."
Harry spoke for about ten minutes, telling the story of all the effort by the people from the agencies who had come together on this search, and ending with the destruction of Voldemort's body and the equipment the Death Eaters had used to try to bring him back to life.
The Members of the Committee were still digesting all they had heard. Minister Bones was the first to speak. "What became of the Resurrection Stone, Sir Harry?"
"It is being held in safekeeping at MK-1 Headquarters, Minister." Harry replied evenly.
"Surely it would be of great use at St. Mungo's?" Brightwand said.
"Mrs. Brightwand, I will remind you of Waffling's commentary on the First Law of Magic. 'Tamper with the deepest mysteries — the source of life, the essence of self — only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.' Little is understood of this artifact, and the history of it does not provide much assurance that the price of using it is worth it. That is my decision, and it is final." Harry's tone reflected his mood.
Brightwand looked as if she wanted to argue further, but she fell silent under Minister Bones' hard look.
"Is there any of the Elixir of Life left?" Jonas Oldacre was a wizened man, old even for a wizard.
"No. The Death Eaters stole all of the stock that Nicholas Flamel had, and what was not used on Voldemort was destroyed during the assault on the Death Eaters' lair." Harry said.
"Are you certain of that?" Oldacre's voice quavered a little, like someone clinging to hope.
"Yes. As to whether more can be made, the Department of Mysteries has what I know of the matter, and they will be responsible for negotiating with Mr. Flamel to gain more information on that subject. The process, as I have told you, is not easy, quick or simple." Harry said.
"What was the fate of the Scorpion?" Minister Bones asked.
"As best we have been able to determine, he died during the assault. He vanished off the Marauder's Map at that time, and he is currently nowhere in Britain. We have, however, passed that file to MLE, and we will alert them should he show up in Britain." Harry said.
"But how can you be certain?" Brightwand asked worriedly.
Harry looked down the table at her over his glasses. "Certainty is very hard to come by, Mrs. Brightwand. We do the best we can."
There was a knock on the door of the committee room, and Evan came in. He walked straight over to Harry and handed him a folded sheet of parchment. He leaned over and whispered in Harry's ear, "From the Chief of MI-6."
Harry opened the letter and read it. He frowned, and folded it again, then looked up at the members of the Committee, who were all looking at him with expressions of intense curiosity. "Ladies and gentlemen of the Committee, thank you for your time. I have business that cannot wait, so I will ask you to excuse me."
He got up and left, with Evan by his side. As he went out the door, he heard Minister Bones say, "This meeting of the Oversight Committee stands adjourned.", overriding other voices that wanted to ask more questions.
As they strode down the hall, Harry began thinking through what was needed. "Evan, I'll need a meeting of the Intelligence Chiefs. Tell Croaker we may need support. Put a requirement in to Analysis for a complete search."
"The requirement is already in work, Chief. I've alerted Investigations, and we can put together a field team at short notice if needed. I gave the Man a heads-up, too."
"Good. Well, the Realm still needs defending. Let's get on with it."