Chapter 3: Ron Weasley, Detective Extraordinaire
'What? How can this happen?!?!' bellowed Percy Ignatius Weasley, the youngest Minister of Magic in England's history. 'How many of them were there?' he added, in a calmer voice, seemingly regaining his composure in a flash. After all, one was not Minister of Magic without seeing his fare share of heart stopping events. And to Percy, this event seemed to have the most potential at stopping his heart than any other he'd faced during his short and peaceful stint as Minister.
'Well, sir, according to the guards, the thieves were all wearing invisibility cloaks, so they aren't sure how many. But most aurors present estimate the thieves to number around fifteen to twenty five. All aurors report that they got stunned before they can mount a serious defence', replied his aide hurriedly, seemingly hoping his boss would suffer from temporary idiocy and not ask for more details.
'What? Just like that? Wasn't there charms, wards, and whatever pass for security measures those muggles have all around the Excalibur?' Percy asked, quite frustrated but not knowing where to vent the anger.
'Well, Yes... But apparently, the wards were somehow disabled. The aurors think it was either sabotage, or just really clever ward breakers at work. Either way, the aurors suspect somebody informed the thieves of where the wards were located', replied the aide, in a monotone voice quite similar to that of newscast. 'The auror team leader, a certain captain Roger Davies, reports that he was able to recover from the stunning spell in time to witness a group of masked men in Death Eater looking attire carrying a few of their unconscious comrades out from the display room and fleeing the scene.'
'Hmmm… This is worrisome news indeed. We've also got a report of renewed Death Eater activity from THE source. It appears that the Death Eaters are indeed making a come back.' Here, Percy took a deep sigh. 'Did this auror captain see any of the Death Eaters faces?' Percy asked, not really expecting a positive answer.
'No sir, he did not. Captain Davies said they were all wearing masks.' Replied the aide. 'The auror leadership has already dispatched a full squad of investigators to the scene, sir. They said they will report back as soon as anything comes up.'
'Hmmm…' mused Percy, stroking his beardless chin in thought. Had it been another day, the aide would have found the gesture highly amusing. After a while of comfortable silence (for the aide was used to wait around while his boss was contemplating some problem or other), Percy finally said out loud, more to himself than to the aide: 'I doubt the aurors will find anything. If this theft was the act of the Death Eaters, then they must have planned it to perfection. We must assume that the Death Eaters are now in possession of the most powerful magical artefact in the world. This is really bad news…' Percy trailed off, not ready to think about the host of destructive catastrophes the dark wizards were now capable of performing. Suddenly, as if a candle just lit up above his head, Percy turned to the aide and said pompously: 'I know exactly what to do. Please have my brother come immediately.'
'Eh… which one, sir?' the aide asked, a bit scared by his boss's new attitude.
'Well, how many brothers do I have that defeated a Dark Lord?' replied Percy, with a twinkle in his eyes, apparently ready to start a brilliant plan to bring down the dark forces.
'What? Your blasted brilliant plan is to have me handle this case?' asked Ron, incredulous.
'Why yes, dear brother of mine. I daresay your success record in investigating dark activities speaks for itself. After all, you've thwarted Voldemort himself no less than six times!' Replied Percy calmly, knowing he was threading on a delicate subject for his brother. For most, if not all, of Ron's major victories over dark wizards were accomplished in the presence of his two best, and departed, friends.
'I did all those things with Harry and Hermione, you bumbling git!' said Ron angrily. 'It was always them who worked out the puzzle. In fact, it was always Hermione who solved all the mysteries, remember!?!' added Ron, now a hint of sadness in his otherwise still angry voice. He then closed his eyes and started to take deep breaths, seemingly trying to calm himself. When Ron spoke again, all traces of anger were gone, leaving only a sorrowful voice behind: 'Percy, I finally have a lead to find Hermione, and that's what I want to do now. Why did you even ask me here? You know I am no good at solving anything, especially not an important theft case like this.'
'Yeah, I know Ron. But you are the best agent I've got. And with apparently a traitor in the auror's ranks, you are the only one I can fully trust.' Replied Percy, in what he hoped was a consoling voice. 'Look Ron, you're the only person I dare to send against a band of dark wizards alone, because I know you will win through. If I send someone else, I might very well be sending him to his death. There is no one more qualified than you for this job. And I understand about Hermione, believe me, I do. That's why I will ask some of my own auror guards to go look for Hermione in your stead. What do you say, brother?' Percy finished, locking eyes with his younger brother, hoping to convey the sincerity of his words to Ron.
'Eh, I don't know Percy…' hesitated Ron, unsure if he trusted the search for Hermione to anyone else but himself. Then again, thought Ron, I am not the smartest guy around. Maybe it's best if someone else tries to find Hermione, especially if she is trying to remain hidden from the wizarding world. She'd recognize me from a mile away, but not some stranger she'd never met. With that brilliant conclusion in mind, Ron decided to accept Percy's latest job assignment. However, he was not about to consent without trying to squeeze as much benefit as he can out of Percy. With a voice that Ron hoped sounded strained, he said: 'Well, I don't know Percy. You guys all think I'm like this invincible dark wizard catcher, but I think my luck will run out sooner than later if you keep sending me on these missions, especially if Death Eaters are involved. What if I kick the bucket this time, Percy? And to think I haven't even tasted half of this world's food!' Ron finished with what he thought was a dramatic outcry. However, Percy knew exactly what his brother was up to, and chuckled slightly to himself, finding it highly amusing that Ron would use something as serious as his own death to blackmail people into giving him food. Then again, thought Percy, for Ron, food is a matter of life and death. With that disturbing thought in mind (for Percy couldn't even begin to fathom how someone can love food that much) Percy decided to play along with his brother's wishes. 'Well, if you put it that way', began Percy, trying not to let a smile creep onto his face, 'I will arrange for you to get a different dish every day of the week for the next year. Consider it a perk for taking on this dangerous job. That is, of course, if you accept this assignment.'
'Ok then, I accept.' Said an excited Ron, already starting to make his way out of Percy's office. 'Don't forget to send people to look for Hermione!'
'Eh, Ron, aren't you forgetting something?' asked Percy hurriedly before his brother went out of earshot.
'What?' retorted Ron, now almost out of the giant office's entrance.
'Um, don't you want to know where the Excalibur was stolen from before you start your investigation?' asked Percy, starting to doubt if he made the right choice by putting his not so quick witted brother on this important case.
'Oh yeah, that'd be good.' Replied Ron sheepishly, a little embarrassed that he didn't even bother asking for any more information before leaving so hurriedly.
Lucius Malfoy sat in a giant armchair, in front of a giant fireplace, within the giant, secret, underground cave located below his giant manor. The manor itself was now occupied by his son, as Lucius was a fugitive wanted by the entire wizarding world.
The underground cave was not all that uncomfortable anyway. For Lucius, holder of many dark secrets since a very early stage of his life, always knew that it might, one day come to a point where he had to hide from the law. Thus, in typical Slytherin efficiency, he ordered the digging and furnishing of the underground cave during the first rise of the Dark Lord, when finding silent partners in crime and disposing of babbling construction workers were things easily accomplished. When all was said and done, the underground cave was barely recognizable. Where once there was but stone and earth, the cave now resembled some magnificently decorated, cavernous hall that a king of old might have once reined his empire from. Large stone pillars, richly engraved with intricate pictures describing some glorious period of dark wizard history or other, rose to the ceiling of the cave, located at least four stories high from the cave's ground. Bright, silvery torches were spaced out evenly along the walls of the cave, though a magical golden light emanated from the centre of the cave's ceiling, basking the hall below with its comforting rays of simulated sunlight. The cave itself was quite large, rivalling, perhaps, the great hall of Hogwarts in size, though the cave was round in shape. Expensive furniture were scattered here and there, providing the cave's inhabitants with all the necessities of a lavish life. In sum, the secret underground cave was a place many in the world could only dream of living in.
Malfoy Sr., glass of rum in hand and completely ignoring the exquisite comfort he lived in, was silently sulking away at the failed operation of the previous night. Already, some of the newer members of his rag-tag group of Death Eaters were voicing their displeasure against him. Some are even calling for a change in leadership. Malfoy sighed heavily at that thought. In the old days, dissention like these would never have even taken place. But he, Lucius Malfoy, unlike the Dark Lord before him, did not possess the tremendous magical powers that kept the Death Eaters in check. He, Lucius Malfoy, could never inspire fear, awe, and loyalty at the same time amongst his army like the Dark Lord use to do. In fact, the only two things holding his band of dark wizards together was a common dislike for muggles and mudbloods, and the promise of power that Lucius's plan pledged to bring about. But now, with the failure of the very first stage of that plan, one of the only two reasons for the group to remain together was gone. Once again, Lucius sighed heavily, his mind turning to the series of events that led to the failure of his carefully planned scheme.
It had started well. The wards guarding the museum and that might have alerted the guards to the presence of intruders were safely disabled by a contact within the guards. All had gone according to plan as the aurors fell easily before the carefully coordinated and intricately planned attacks of his Death Eaters outside the main entrance to the Excalibur's display room. Not have given much thought to muggles (except on ways of disposing of them) in his life, Lucius did not count on the dangerous resistance put up by the muggle guards. In fact, Lucius Malfoy, in his great arrogance toward all muggles, didn't even consider than there might have been anything but wizards and witches guarding a precious magical artefact. It had been pure coincidence that the particular barrier charm he had put up was able to deflect the muggle weapons, essentially rendering all muggle guards powerless from a distance. Some of the guards had tried to rush Lucius and his Death Eaters in hopes of getting close enough to force them into hand-to-hand combat. But those were quickly brought down by the stunning spells of his efficient and alert team of dark wizards, trained, for a rare time in dark wizard history, to work with, and not despite, each other. Once all signs of resistance had died away, Lucius himself quickly rushed to the Excalibur and was just about to take it out of its display casing when someone, or something, attacked his Death Eaters from behind. According to the Death Eaters who were knocked out, they appeared to have experienced the usual symptoms and sensations of a stunning spell, suggesting that the attacker was a wizard. The person, or thing, seemed to have gone through some kind of metamorphosis after that point, and somehow brush off seven killing curses before knocking Lucius unconscious. Lucius vividly remembered the contact to be almost soft at first, before becoming very hard. According to the Death Eaters who still had enough wits to have vaguely been aware of the events occurring in front of their very eyes (though Lucius knew they all had their eyes closed by that point due to the blinding light), the creature appeared to have fumbled around the Excalibur display case quite a long time (relative to the total of fifteen seconds or so it had spent on knocking two Death Eaters and Lucius out), and suddenly disappeared, leaving only the unconscious Death Eaters and a nasty bruise on Lucius's right temple as marks of his passage.
Lucius carefully considered this information as he silently stared into the dying flames of the majestic fireplace he was sitting in front of. It suddenly occurred to him that the figure had been using normal stunning spells prior to its metamorphosis, and none after. Brushing absently the bruise on his right temple, Lucius deemed that the figure had resorted to some rather barbaric methods to dispose of its enemies after its transformation. Barbaric, or, animalistic, thought Lucius, with a grim satisfaction in his eyes. It would appear that it was a wizard (or witch, for Lucius, as he would proudly tell you, wasn't discriminatory in that way) who attacked the Death Eaters. And it would also appear that the wizard was an animagus, though the nature of the animal still escapes Lucius at the moment, for he could not recall any creature, magical or not, that can withstand an unblockable killing curse. Well, not entirely unblockable, thought Lucius darkly, thinking back to a certain scar headed boy. Though the ancient magic used to block the killing curse would require another to die in the intended victim's stead. And the curse would have rebounded on me if that particular magic was used. Reflected Lucius more carefully. Well, whoever the wizard was, he is extremely powerful, contemplated Lucius, dismissing the wizard's blocking of the killing curse for later analysis. And a powerful wizard never acts without a good reason, continued Lucius, deep in thought. But, of course, there can be a great deal of reasons a powerful wizard would want the Excalibur… And all of them would result in attracting a tremendous amount of attention to the sword's wielder! Realized Malfoy. It would be a piece of cake to track the man down once he starts using the sword in any significant way. And then, we can corner and convince him into either joining us or giving up the Excalibur…thought Lucius darkly, a murderous glint in his piecing grey eyes. It was obvious that the 'giving up the sword' part of his plan involved a great amount of pain and would end in death. However, Lucius was no fool, and knew he would have to confer with his fellow Death Eaters in finding a way to kill something that can resist the killing curse. Already, Lucius Malfoy's sinister but brilliant mind started to cycle through the hundreds of killing methods he had become familiar with over the years, each more horrendous than the previous.
Ronald Weasley arrived at the Royal British Museum shortly after his exotic but delicious Egyptian lunch. The jovial autumn wind, warmed by the sun since the start of the day, softly caressed his exposed face in a way that made him wish he was on his broomstick, flying carelessly across the clear sky, rather than being stuck on an investigation that he was certain he couldn't possibly solve.
A ministry auror, easily discernable by her out of fashion muggle clothing, was waiting at the museum's entrance, trying hard to not get noticed, and obviously failing miserably. Ron, not being in touch with the muggle world since Hermione's departure, was the only one entering the museum that didn't notice the auror's suspicious attire. However, as Ronald Weasley's face had become well known throughout the wizarding world both as a hero against the forces of Voldemort and as an exceptional quidditch keeper, the auror was able to recognize Ron instantly, and reverently yelled out: 'Mr. Weasley! Over here!'
Ron, by now used to strangers calling out his name out of nowhere, made his way to the auror. It was obvious that the ministry auror was enamoured with Ron, as her eyes seemed to have glazed over, and her expression was that of open adoration. Ron stood in front of her and finally, after a few minutes in which the auror simply stared at him with a dreamy expression in her eyes, cleared his throat. The witch shook her head slightly, as if snapping out of some blissful reverie, blushed furiously, and, avoiding Ron's gaze, timidly said: 'M-M-Mr. Weasley! Your brother, eh, I mean, the Minister of Magic has already notified the Department of Magical Law Enforcement about your involvement in this investigation. I've been assigned by my superiors to be your auror attachée. May I say it is really an honour to work with you, sir!' The last part was said with such ease compared to the rest of her words that Ron was sure there had to be a mandatory class dedicated to the practice of saying that sentence at the ministry. Nevertheless, Ron was grateful to have another person with him during his investigation, as he was almost certain that he would miss some extremely obvious clues otherwise.
'I am also honoured to have you as a partner', Ron replied sincerely. 'But, eh, do you think you can tell me your name before we start the investigation?'
'Oh, right!' Said the auror, apparently extremely embarrassed that in all her excitement at meeting the object of her affection, she had actually forgotten to give him her name. 'I am Valerie Green; I first went Hogwarts during your third year! I was in Ravenclaw!' She finished enthusiastically.
Ron didn't have the heart to tell her that he rarely paid attention to anyone from Ravenclaw, and that he personally thought that they were all a bunch of know-it-alls, and that he's had enough dealings with a certain know-it-all to last him a lifetime.
'I think one of my commanders is waiting for us inside.' She continued.
Ron nodded, and they walked into the cavernous halls of the Royal British Museum side by side, attracting incredulous and amused stares all the way to what was once the Excalibur Exhibit Room. The room had been cordoned off by muggle security, but Ron and Valerie passed without problems.
From a distance, Ron could already make out the voices of two people shouting angrily at one another.
'… knew it was a mistake letting you weird people guard the sword', roared one of the voices. 'You probably had this whole thing planned from the beginning, didn't you? We all knew that you guys wanted to keep the sword for yourselves! Your minister said as much during the meetings, don't you dare deny it!'
'Well, I suppose your people fared far better than our aurors, seeing as how your crazy contraptions can't even make a dent in a simple barrier spell!' Replied the second voice heatedly. 'And don't you dare accuse us of setting up this theft. Believe me, if the ministry wanted to steal the sword, you won't even remember we wanted the sword for safekeeping in the first place! We'd have memory charmed the whole lot of you!'
'Are you threatening me, Shacklebolt!?!?' Defied the first voice eagerly, clearly hoping the answer would be 'yes'.
At this point, Ron and Valerie have reached the origin of the voices. One of the voices belonged to Kingsley Shacklebolt, a veteran auror of the Second War. The other voice belonged to an angry looking muggle, who Ron summarized must hold a fairly senior position in whatever security organization the muggles have. Many aurors and muggle-looking uniformed men were milling about, taking samples or waving a scanning spell around something or other, clearly trying to gather as much information from the crime scene as it was possible. At Ron and Valerie's entrance into the former exhibit room, the two men stopped staring daggers at each other and turned to look at the newcomers. Shacklebolt's expression changed from a scowl to a smile at the sight of Ron, while the other man rolled his eyes and let out what was unmistakably an exasperated sigh.
'Professor Shacklebolt!' exclaimed Ron, glad to see his 7th year Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher alive and well. 'Nice to see you again.'
'Commander Shacklebolt!' Ron heard Valerie call out next to him. 'I am Valerie Green, auror 2nd class, here as per orders from the auror leadership to act as liaison between the aurors and Mr. Weasley.' As Valerie said this, she handed some official looking parchment, obviously some kind of auror identification, to Shacklebolt, who quickly waved his wand over the paper while muttering something unintelligible under his breath. Satisfied, Kingsley handed the paper back to Valerie.
'More of your useless hit wizards?' said the muggle man, contempt drooling all over his words.
Kingsley Shacklebolt frowned slightly at this, not because of the obvious insult, but because the words held some grains of truth to them. Well, if I am totally honest with myself, it would be more like a giant rock of truth. Thought Kingsley sadly. Kingsley desolately remembered that he was one of only a handful of senior aurors that survived the Second War. Consequently, all the surviving senior aurors, such as himself, now held top positions within the auror leadership, while the middle and bottom positions of the hierarchy were filled by fresh out of school kids, such as Roger Davies and Valerie. All in all, Kingsley knew the aurors were no where near as formidable as they use to be at the prime of their days, and that many years will pass before they could return to their former glory. Most of the erratic dark activities of the past few years were handled by special agents of the ministry, such as Ron, or sometimes by a senior auror tired of sitting behind a desk doing nothing but paperwork. This was the first major test for the newly reconstructed auror ranks, and to Shacklebolt, they have failed miserably. As there were no major dark wizard activities up till now, the ineptitude of the auror cadre hasn't really been an issue. But now…
'Mr. Shacklebolt, are you ok?'
The concerned voice of Ronald Weasley startled Kingsley out of his reverie. 'Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking back to the old days that you remind me of.' Lied Shacklebolt, not wishing to admit to his muggle counterpart that his insulting assessment of auror usefulness might be close to the truth.
'Ron, this is Mr. Zed, he's my counterpart from the muggle secret services.' Continued the venerable auror. 'Mr. Zed, this is Ronald Weasley, one of our top agents. He was part of that famous trio that brought down Voldemort. You remember Voldemort, right?' finished Kingsley, knowing full well that his counterpart did indeed remember Voldemort, and hoping that those memories of the dark lord would make Mr. Zed show a bit more respect toward Ron. However, his hopes were dashed by Ron's next few words.
'Zed, that's an unusual name. What part of the world are you from, Mr. Zed?' asked Ron, innocently hoping to start a polite conversation.
'Zed is my codename, you dimwit!' Replied Mr. Zed angrily. 'That's 'Z', you know, the last letter of the alphabet?' turning to Shacklebolt, he continued: 'Really, is this the best you've got at your ministry? No wonder a lunatic like Voldemort was able to take over so easily. You're all a bunch of…'
'Mr. Zed', interjected Valerie before the muggle was able to finish his sentence. 'Mr. Weasley is simply unfamiliar with the way you non-magical folks name their people. As I'm sure you are unfamiliar with the way we wizards name ourselves. It's simply a case of cultural ignorance, and nothing else. I've heard Mr. Weasley here once took down five dark wizards by himself with nothing but his wand and his wits, and I seem to recall that your own security forces weren't even able to injure a single dark wizard last night. So please think about who you're calling dimwitted before you speak.'
Mr. Zed was a bit taken aback by Valerie's statement, as was Ron, who never heard anyone present arguments in such a non-sense yet logical fashion since Hermione. Shacklebolt, used to weird teenagers saying crazy yet sensible things (from his experience with the famous trio), wasn't all that surprised.
'Perhaps it would be best if we update Mr. Weasley what we've gathered so far.' Cut in Kingsley before Mr. Zed had time to recover and launch into another round of derogatory comments. 'Ron, here is what we know for a fact. Last night, a group of two dozen or so Death Eaters silently dismantled all the wards protecting the Excalibur and its surroundings under the guise of invisibility cloaks. They then took down all the auror guards using stunning spells, before charging into this very room. Mr. Zed told me that his men tried to take down the Death Eaters with their muggle designed weapons, but the Death Eaters seemed to be impervious to their attack and knocked out all of our fellow muggle guards, once again, with stunning spells. Mr. Zed told me that all of their surveillance devices went offline, and we both think it was due to high concentration of magical energy, so the muggles don't know what happened after that. But from what our experts can gather, there were several killing curses being fired in this room last night, for some reason. As well, we've been able to determine that the Excalibur's glass casing was broken through using physical means, rather than magical. And finally, judging by the dispersal pattern of the shattered glass pieces on the floor, we think someone was laying on the floor near the sword when the casing was broken.' Here, Shacklebolt took a pause, giving Ron time to digest what he just said. After a moment of silence in which all four people seem to be contemplating (or recontemplating) the information just presented, Kingsley softly asked: 'I assume you've already been briefed about Captain Davies' testimony?'
'Yeah. He said several of the Death Eaters were unconscious and being carried out by the others. Which is kind of strange, as Death Eaters usually just leave their fallen behind. Also, why do you think they used stunning spells only instead of killing curses? This doesn't seem like normal Death Eater behaviour to me.' Concluded Ron, deep in thought.
'Yes, I was thinking about that as well', stated Kingsley. 'I think there can be only two possible explanations for this. One, we are dealing with a bunch of fake Death Eaters, who might want to steal the sword and put the blame on the real Death Eaters so we go follow the wrong track. Or, we are dealing with real Death Eaters and they want to draw as little attention to them as possible. You and I know fully well that had the guards all been killed, the ministry will launch a full out crack down on anyone even remotely related to a suspected Death Eater.'
'From what you're saying, it sounds like these Death Eaters are planning something big.' Added Mr. Zed, now fully absorbed in the analysis, all trace of misgivings toward wizards forgotten. 'It is something that we at the secret services often do. If you're planning something big and don't want interference, just do it as quietly as possible.'
'Yeah, but do we know for sure that it was real Death Eaters here, last night?' Chipped in Valerie nervously, a bit intimidated to be in the presence of such formidable company.
'Good point, Ms. Green.' Said Ron politely. 'I also wonder what those killing curses are for, if no one died last night... Maybe those unconscious Death Eaters were actually dead ones? Maybe there was a power struggle of some kind within the Death Eater ranks right here? That might explain about someone laying on the floor close to the casing thingy as well, as it might have been a dead body.'
'Or unconscious one.' Chipped in Mr. Zed, eager to contradict Ron's theory. Ron was just about to retort something not entirely devoid of insults when Valerie cut in to diffuse the tension.
'Do you mind if me and Mr. Weasley take a look around for ourselves?' asked Valerie politely.
'Of course. Feel free to look around.' Said Kingsley good-naturedly. 'But please put on these gloves if you plan on touching anything. Mr. Zed told me that they muggles have some sort of procedure they can use to track down a person using fingerprints, and if you touch anything without wearing gloves, you might disrupt the fingerprints that were already on the object.'
Not really understanding too much about what Shacklebolt just said, Ron simply put on the gloves that the senior auror presented to him and Valerie. They then walked a bit around the exhibit room, with Ron mumbling here and there about this being a waste of time. He was still looking up at the exquisite ceiling of the room when suddenly, his left foot caught on something and he tripped. Valerie, who also happened to be on Ron's left, deftly caught him midway through his fall. 'Thanks! Nice reflexes you got there, Valerie! Must be an auror thing, eh?' said Ron appreciatively. Valerie turned her face away to hide her blush and mumbled something incoherent.
Ron turned around and fixed his gaze on what tripped him: thin air. After years of going on dark and secretive missions for the ministry, Ron wasn't puzzled at all by the apparent lack of a solid object in the space that he knew he tripped at. Suspecting exactly what it might be, Ron cautiously thrust his arms forward and felt around for an object and the invisible cloak that must be covering it. He was not disappointed. Pulling away the invisibility cloak, Ron discovered another cloak, black in colour. Meanwhile, Valerie has called Shacklebolt and Mr. Zed over. After explaining to the two senior investigators of what just happened, all three turned their attention to Ron, who was turning the cloak over and over, examining it closely.
'This is odd… how come my people didn't stumble upon this earlier?' said Mr. Zed furiously, clearly unhappy about not discovering something before the magical folks. 'They assured me they have covered every inch of this place!'
'Maybe they just had bad luck. This is pretty isolated corner of the exhibit room, Mr. Zed.' Said Valerie soothingly. 'Your people aren't use to invisible objects either, maybe they just didn't think anything can be gained from examining an empty looking area.'
'Then what the heck were your aurors doing, Shacklebolt?' asked Mr. Zed angrily. 'Surely, your own criminal investigators must be familiar with such an obvious crime tool as an invisibility cloak and thought of looking for such things?' continued Mr. Zed, sarcasm dripping all over his voice now.
Kingsley was still trying to think of a proper retort to this latest attack on the auror's competence (though in truth, Kingsley was also appalled by this glaring omission in his young aurors' work) when Ron yelled: 'Hey, there is a note in the cloak's pocket.'
Ron quickly pulled out the note, a piece of parchment, and scanned it. Without a word, he handed it to Shacklebolt, an unreadable expression on his face.
'Hum… Mr. Weasley', started Kingsley, after glancing at the content of the parchment. 'I'm afraid I can't read these ancient runes. Can you just tell me what the parchment says?'
'Oh, you don't?' asked Ron, surprised that the senior auror didn't know the ancient runic language the parchment is written in. 'Eh… to tell you the truth… neither can I. I was hoping you were going to read it aloud. haha!' finished Ron, slowly scratching his head in embarrassment, a goofy grin on his face.
'Oh, honestly!' Exclaimed Valerie. 'Here, I will read it for you!' And she quickly grabbed the parchment out of Kingsley's hands, looking it over carefully.
'How do you even know you can read this particular set of runes?' questioned Ron, a familiar tone creeping into this voice. 'I mean, I might not know ancient runes and all, but I definitively remember Hermione telling me there are at least a dozen different language sets of them.'
'Well…' started Valerie, pausing for seemingly dramatic effect. 'I actually know all of them.'
'That's impossible!' countered Ron, still with that familiar tone in his voice. 'Even Hermione didn't know all of them. And if she can't, then no one can.' Finished Ron, with such conviction that left no doubt to all present as to whom Ron considered to be the smartest witch.
'Eh… well, I happen to know this one', stated Valerie carefully, obviously not wanting to be drawn into an argument against the object of her affection. 'It seems to be a chronicle of some kind.'
'Hum… can you be more precise, Ms. Green?' asked Shacklebolt, curious.
'Yes, I think so.' Valerie said absentmindedly, still concentrated on translating the parchment in her head. 'Well, if I am not mistaken, this must be part of an old copy of Merlin's personal diary.'
'The Journal of Merlin? I didn't know any records from that period even survived!' exclaimed Shacklebolt, obviously surprised.
'Yeah, it is definitively not common knowledge. I believe professor Binns mentioned it only once in class, and only as a passing reference too.' Explained Valerie for the other three. 'Fortunately, because of my ancient runes studies, I know for a fact that back in the old days, they use to have almost the entire, uncensored copy of Merlin's Journal circulating around. In the original runic language, of course. Eventually, the Magical Council, the predecessor of our Ministry of Magic, realized that the information contained in the journal was way too dangerous, and banned the making of any kind of copy of the journal, forever. That ban is still enforced to this day, and all copies of the journal that were found were immediately destroyed.' Finished Valerie, a bit out of breath from all the explanation she just gave.
'Wow! This is some great history lesson, Valerie. If only Binns taught like that.' said Ron, sincerely impressed by the depth of the young girl's knowledge. 'I didn't even know such a ban existed! And I've been a top agent in the ministry for years now.' Kingsley remained silent, though the expression on his face showed that he was just as impressed by the new information as Ron.
'Really… Stop being surprised so much.' Chided Mr. Zed, far less impressed by the new information concerning the greatest wizard in recorded history than the two other men. '…Although I doubt the presence of this piece of paper is a coincidence, since we are dealing with the theft of the Excalibur and all.' Added the muggle chief, trying to bring the subject back to the ongoing investigation.
'True, true.' Concurred Shacklebolt. 'Can you tell us what the parchment says, Ms. Green? Perhaps that might tell us something about the thieves' intentions.'
'Of course… Hmm…' Valerie's eyebrows furrowed in concentration. 'Merlin seems to be talking about his own funeral arrangements in this passage. A lot of the text has already been censored. From what I can gather, Merlin is saying how he knows that his magical creations and artefacts might eventually be used for evil. But he is also saying that it can be used to fight evil or something like that. He's just using a very poetic and round about way of saying it in this text. Anyway, he goes on about this debate for a while here, sounds like he's trying to convince himself. Geez, who would have thought Merlin was so indecisive.' Here, Valerie slowly shook her head in disapproval. She quickly ran her finger over the lines of ancient runes, obviously scanning for something. 'Ah, here we are. He writes here that he finally decided to lock all of his magical spell books, items, and his staff in a tomb located… Hmm… the location of the tomb was censored already on this copy of the Journal... Anyway, he said that to insure his things doesn't fall into the wrong hands, he magically tuned the entrance to his tomb to only open at the presence of his best friend's sword…'
'Hmm… I wonder who this best friend is.' Thought Ron cluelessly, and aloud for everyone to hear. 'Why didn't he just use his mate Arthur's Excalibur instea…' Ron trailed off, comprehension finally dawning on his face.
Valerie suppressed a giggle, while the other two men gave Ron disapproving looks, although of different nature. Kingsley's look seemed more like that of a father scolding a child, while Mr. Zed's look reminded Ron unpleasantly of the looks he use to get from his Potions professor back at Hogwarts.
'Oh well, I guess we have a better idea of the thieves' motives now.' Stated Shacklebolt, voicing aloud what all four have already concluded. 'The Death Eaters must want to gain access to Merlin's magical artefacts to regain power.' Here, the aged auror started to ramble, with a slight panic in his voice: 'If they do find those things, I shutter to think of what kind of damage they can inflict. It's already bad enough that they have the Excalibur, but, Merlin's beard! If they get their hands on all those ancient spells! And all those magical artefacts that we've only heard in legends! We'd all be…'
'Eh… wait a minute here, Shacklebolt!' interjected Mr. Zed, a bit alarmed by his magical counterpart's unusual display of panic. 'Don't you think this is a bit too convenient? I mean, here we are, without a clear clue as to what these so-called Death Eaters want the Excalibur for, and all of a sudden, very conveniently, we find this piece of paper that tells us exactly what we were trying to find out?' concluded Mr. Zed, looking suspiciously at Ron.
Ron, no longer as clueless as he was in his youth, caught on to the look immediately, and indignantly said: 'What? You think I put this parchment here? I just got here, for crying out loud!'
'Precisely! You', exclaimed Mr. Zed, pointing an aged finger right at Ron's face. 'just got here, and luckily got tripped by this invisible cloak that, by pure coincidence, all the people who were investigating this room didn't stumble upon. Awfully lucky, don't you think? Tell me, Ms. Green. Did you see any parchment in that black cloak before you came to get us?'
'No. Sorry Mr. Zed. I saw what Ron uncovered and came to fetch you and Commander Shacklebolt right away.' Answered Valerie, now looking terrified about the turn of events.
'Eh… Mr. Zed' started Ron, in the low, calm voice typical of someone about to unleash some terrible punishment upon his foe. 'Do you know who I am?'
'What? Are you trying to scare me or som…'
'I', interrupted Ron forcefully. 'am Ronald Weasley, carrier of the Fire Shard. I have journeyed through horrors you can possibly begin to imagine. I helped defeat the Dark Lord Voldemort, leader of the Death Eaters. I have hunted their remnants for the past seven years. Are you accusing ME of conspiring with Death Eaters?'
Kingsley Shacklebolt was a bit taken aback by the intensity of Ron's words. It was the first time he has heard the boy speak of his travels with the famous Harry Potter in public. He, like the rest of the magical world, knew that the famous trio and one of their friends had, at some point, gone on a secret journey to gain the power needed to defeat Voldemort.
However, the nature of that journey was a very private affair, and no one knew what the four of them did on, or obtained from, the trip. Well, no one, except the ancient Dumbledore, of course. But the headmaster was dead, and so was the trio's friend. Thus no one alive, save the famous trio, knew about the exact details of the journey. Now, it seemed that Ron, intentionally or not (Kingsley thought it was the latter), has finally slipped and revealed some details of the trip. However, since Shacklebolt had no idea what the Fire Shard was suppose to be, he wasn't exactly that more informed than before.
The senior auror decided that there were more pressing matters at hand than to satisfy his own curiosity, and thus said: 'Mr. Zed, please just let it go. Mr. Weasley's past and present actions make him the most trustworthy agent we can possibly have. In fact, I dare say that you can trust him more than you can trust me on the matter of Death Eaters.'
'Hmm…. Alright, if you say so, Shacklebolt. I still think it is just too convenient that this piece of paper just happen to be here.' Said the muggle chief, somewhat mollified. 'Perhaps these death eating people left it behind on purpose to distract us from their real goal.'
'I agree.' Said Ron, still shooting daggers at Mr. Zed. 'But this is the only lead we have.'
'Why don't you work on it then!' launched Mr. Zed sharply. 'Since you seem so keen on the idea? Shacklebolt and I will continue to investigate from our end.'
Ron was just about to retort with a comment about Mr. Zed's mother when Kingsley wisely cut in: 'Ron, he has a point. There aren't really any more leads. Maybe it is best if you go and follow this lead about the Journal of Merlin. Zed and me will keep on analyzing the data we already have. I will let you know if we find something new, don't worry.'
Ron, by now also convinced that the parchment and cloak must be some kind of Death Eater decoy, didn't like the idea at all. But since it was true that they don't have any more leads, and also since he's always preferred to be doing something rather than thinking about something, Ron begrudgingly nodded his head and strode silently toward the exhibit room's exit. Behind him, Valerie said a quick good-bye to Shacklebolt, and followed Ron out.
A/N: Please R & R so that I know there are people actually reading this thing out there!