Chapter 20: Teachers? What Teachers?

Ron and Hermionie searched the school up and down, from the dungeons to the towers, and across the grounds, in every nook and cranny they could find, but to no avail. They were no where to be found. Not in the class rooms, or the library, Hagrid's hut, or even Dumbledore's office. No matter where they looked, not one of them seemed to be anywhere in sight.

"That's it Ron," panted Hermionie as she paused to catch her breath, "I think we can safely say not one of them is here."

"Safe?" Ron panted back incredulously, "How in Merlin's name are we safe without them? Where are they?"

Hermionie shook her head. "I don't know, Ron, and there's only one thing I do know for certain at the moment; there is not a single teacher in Hogwarts!"

(earlier that morning, just after sunrise...)

A knock sounded on Star's door as she dried her face.

"Come in!"

The door opened to reveal Aja, looking as though she hadn't slept all night. Star tossed the towel in her hands aside, looking concerned.

"Aja? What's wrong?"

"We're pulling out."

"What?" Star nearly shouted, "Without Pendragon? What about Harry?"

Aja shook her head. "Gunny said it's too dangerous to keep our cover here any more. We have to find those Deatheaters on our own. These wizards are useless."

"And how are we supposed to find them?"

Aja graced her with a tired smirk. "You and your wizards have put too many confines on the uses of your magic."

"And what does that mean?" asked Star as Aja turned to leave.

Aja glanced back over her shoulder with a secretive smile. "It means, where there's a will, there's a way. And believe me when I say, to find the Deatheaters, there is most defiantly a way."

With that she was gone.

(About fifteen minutes later...)

"Everyone ready? Got everything?"

Answering nods came from around the circle.

"Alright," continued Gunny, "Let's go."

"Hobby-ho," muttered Spader as each of them drew their wand.

The Travelers let the tips of their wands touch and they intoned,

"Eo lux lucis
Eo volatilis
In spiritus
Of veneficus donum
In pupillus pupilla
Ut locus nos postulo
Ut reperio quis est lost
Quorum nos have postulo."

With a flash of silent light, they were gone.

(Gloucestershire, England, about 45 minutes from Bristol...)

Spader was the first to look around.

"Aja, are you sure we did that right?" he asked looking beyond the others.

"Of course I'm sure!" snapped Aja impatiently as she picked herself up and stood next to Spader. "Why would you ask such a stupid-- oh!"

Aja stared in stunned silence, not sure what to make of the scene before her. The others scrambled up to stand around Spader and Aja to see what they could see and there was a collective intake of breath.

Before them stood a small house on the waterfront of the Severn. It was a bit run down and rickety looking, but certainly nothing that Deatheaters would have called home. The Travelers stood in silent confusion as they continued to stare. It wasn't the house really that shocked them, but rather the kindly little old woman who was watering her plants on the front porch, apparently not having seen their appearance at all.

Spader frowned and began marching toward the old lady, but Patrick grabbed his arm.

"Where are you going?"

"To talk to her."

Patrick raised an eyebrow. "And what are you going to say? 'Excuse me ma'am, but you wouldn't happen to know where we could find a pack of vicious, muggle-killing Deatheaters nearby, would you?'"

"No! At least, not in those exact words," Spader mumbled, realizing Patrick's point.

Patrick shook his head. "Let me try." He put a friendly smile on and walked briskly up to the old woman, who finally noticed that he was there, when he stepped foot on her porch. The others moved closer to listen.

"Good morning, ma'am," Patrick greeted her pleasantly.

The old lady smiled at him and exclaimed, "Well, bless my soul! Conrad!" She turned toward the house, yelling, "Lawrence! Lawrence! He's here! It's Conrad!"

She disappeared into the house still yelling and Patrick turned a bewildered look toward the others with a shrug of confusion. Not a moment later, the old woman reappeared, dragging behind her an equally old man, who took one look at his wife and said, "Oh, Bertha, that's not Conrad!"

"Of course it is!" Bertha replied, gazing up at Patrick with a look of pure joy. "Finally! Of finally, Lawrence! Our grandson's finally come!"

Patrick gave the old man a confused look and Lawrence shook his head with a sigh.

"Bertha, darling, why don't you go make some cookies for the boy. He must be starving!"

Bertha clapped her hands saying, "Oh what a lovely idea! Why didn't I think of that before?"

Then she noticed the others. "Well look at that Lawrence! Conrad's brought some friends along! I'll have to make a double batch!"

She disappeared into the house again and Lawrence smiled apologetically at Patrick.

"Sorry about that son. Bertha's harmless really. The only world she knows is the one in her mind, and that includes the grandchildren we never had. I'm Lawrence Macaby, Bertha's my wife."

Patrick shook hands with Lawrence saying, "My name's Patrick."

"Can I help you with something then, Patrick?"

"Yes actually. My friends and I were looking for a group of people that we thought might live around here. You wouldn't have happen to have seen any strangers in black robes by chance?"

"Well," Lawrence said, glancing around and moving a bit closer, "There's been some strange dealings going on around here, laddie, and it'd be best not to discuss them out in the open."

Patrick nodded and the old man motioned them all inside. Lawrence pointed them to the kitchen. As they moved off, he took another glance around outside, tapped his wand on the front door twice, and then quickly hid the wand away and closed the door firmly.

But before he turned to follow, Lawrence let drop the evil grin that had touched his lips and replaced it with a careworn smile instead.

Those dumb wizards didn't suspect a thing.

(Back at Hogwarts...)

The school was up in arms at the lose of the teachers. Students ran wild.

'Where were the teachers? Where was Dumbledore? Where had they all gone?'

Questions and gossip were running rampid and noboby knew anything. Ron and Hermionie decided to take matters into their own hands. They called together the DA and immediately set to work gathering everyone in the Main Hall. It took nearly an hour to get everyone together and settled down, and when the DA was unable to manage the chaos alone, a group of sixth and seventh years stepped in to help.

In the end, Hermionie stood before the whole of Hogwarts.

"Listen up everyone!" Slowly, the talking stopped and everyone turned their attention to her. "Yes, the teachers are gone, and no, we don't know where they are. Yes, Dumbledore is also gone."

(Outside Hogwarts...)

"Damn you for a bloody fool!" Minerva McGonagall swore, rushing headlong into Hogwarts, "If we're too late I'll hex you to the next millennium Severus!"

Running next to her, Severus Snape scowled.

"Now, now," cut in Dumbledore soothingly, "There's no need for that Minerva. I'm sure we'll be in plenty of time."

Behind the three, Hagrid, Madame Pomfrey, Professor Sprout, and the rest of the Hogwarts staff and teachers ran hard on their heels.

(The Main Hall...)

Hermionie took a breath to steady herself before she continued.

"For a while now, Ron and I have had reason to suspect that the teachers--"

The Main Hall doors were thrown open with a loud bang to reveal Professor McGonagall, standing straight and rigid, before the entire teaching staff. There was a collective gasp from the student body and Minerva marched toward the stunned Hermionie and Ron.

"Now then Miss Granger, Mr. Wesley, what were you saying about the teachers?"

"But... Professor... what happened... I mean... the other...," stammered Hermionie.

"The other what, Miss Granger?" asked Professor McGonagall crisply.

"The other teachers!" blurted Ron, "What about the other teachers?"

"Teachers?" Minerva asked, looking confused and annoyed, "What teachers?"

Suddenly, a great shout and a flash of light, then Hermionie found herself sitting next to Ron in their usual spot, though Harry wasn't with them and she wondered absently where he was.

"Ron? Where's Harry?"

"Don' know," Ron muttered, shaking his head as though trying to recall something. "Where you saying something just now? About the teachers?"

"Teachers?" asked Hermionie, confused, "No, I don't think I was. Weren't you?"

Ron shook his head. The two looked at eachother for a moment and then shrugged, going back to their lunch.

At the Head Table, Professor McGonagall breathed a sigh of relief.

"That was too close Albus," she said quietly.

"I agree. However, we made it, and that is all that is important right now."

"I suppose."

Dumbledore smiled softly. "At least the Memory Charm seems to be working. I do not think there will be any problems on that account."

Minerva nodded in agreement. "I just wish they'd given us more warning that they were leaving."

"Well, orders came in fast and they were needed immediately. I wouldn't blame them."

"No, and I don't, but you would think that they could have found a cover that would have been easier all around to pull out of."

"I wouldn't know, Minerva. Under cover agents must go where they are needed."

Minerva sniffed. "I just hope they didn't let the students fall too far behind. Oh! The make up work to be done before the end of the year! Good gracious, this will be a disaster."

"Calm down Minerva. I'm sure they did just fine. Now eat."

Grudgingly, the Professor turned her attention back to her food.

( Gloucestershire, England, about 45 minutes from Bristol, home of Lawrence and Bertha Macaby...)

"Here you are ducks," smiled Bertha cheerily, setting a plate of cookies in front of the Travelers. When none of them moved to take one, she continued, "Go on, try one! They're my special recipe. Here Conrad, I know you want one!"

She picked up the plate and held it out to Patrick. With a shrug at the others, Patrick took one to please her.

"Oh, your friends must have some too!" she exclaimed, holding the plate out for the others.

Seeing that nothing would get done unless the old woman was satisfied, the others each took one as well, though Star politely declined, claiming she was allergic to the peanuts. The others ate their cookies as Lawrence shooed Bertha out of the room and Patrick was just about to ask Lawrence about what he'd seen when he became suddenly dizzy. He lurched forward in his seat and Gunny and Aja, who were sitting on either side of him, stopped his fall, only to be hit with a wave of dizziness themselves. The three crumpled to the floor and the others began jumping up only to sway and fall to the floor, unconscious.

All the while, Star and Lawrence sat calmly looking on as Bertha stood leaning against the door frame, arms crossed. Once all the Travelers were down, Star turned to Bertha, a small smile on her face.

"Nice. Where'd you learn that one?"

Bertha grinned wickedly. "Years of experience, duck, with lots of time to kill while in a prison cell. You'd be surprised the reading material you can get your hands on in there."

Lawrence stood and began kicking each of the Travelers to make sure they were out before he took out his wand and tied them all up. He then pointed it at the sky saying, "Morsmordre."

He turned to Star and Bertha. "Let's go."

The two women nodded and the three of them Apparated with the Travelers, leaving nothing behind but the ruins of a house that had not been lived in for nearly fifty years.

A/N: My apoligies. I meant to get this chapter out last weekend but Life decided to hit me over the head and remind me that I don't live on my computer. But here it is now and hopefully I'll have the next chapter out in a couple weeks. Til then!