Muggle Summer, Wizard's Fall
Author's Note: Thanks to clell for beta'ing this update. Other author's notes are provided at the end of this chapter. Meanwhile, if you want to get an idea of the potential power of a magical haka, or to get into the mood for the meeting at Carlisle, do a youtube search for "haka all blacks."
Disclaimer: Not my characters, no money being made, etc., etc.
Book 7: Insert Title Here
Chapter 69: Ringa Pakia
Saturday, 14 July
When Voldemort woke up on the morning after Carlisle Castle got a twin, he looked at a calendar, cursed…and wondered whether Severus Snape's brews were on track to heal his injured Death Eaters in five days' time.
When Snape woke up on the morning after Carlisle Castle got a twin, he looked at an empty bed, cursed…and wondered whether Draco Malfoy had done something truly stupid.
And Draco Malfoy was dead on the morning after Carlisle Castle got a twin, so he wouldn't be waking, or cursing, or wondering about anything, anytime soon.
8:00am, Carlisle Castle, Carlisle
Under terms negotiated three days previous via an exchange of owl posts, Special Ambassador Hermione Granger left the magical and military protections of Carlisle Castle for a pre-meeting discussion with a designated Ministry official. Though by prior agreement she was flying solo, her boyfriend was of no mind to leave her unescorted, and insisted that he give her a ride on his motorbike…at least to the edge of the meeting fields.
The bushy-haired witch climbed off Harry's Bonny, and gave him a reassuring kiss that drew some pointed comments and catcalls from those who were following along via open microphones, activated Art Club badges, and both ground-based and airborne cameras.
No mind was paid to said comments and catcalls.
It was only after Hermione's counterpart was spotted leaving the gates of the other castle that she left the shadow of "her" castle, and walked towards the ten-meter diameter stone circle that now stood in between the two larger structures.
When the teen-aged witch and middle-aged wizard met within that stone circle, he extended a hand and introduced himself.
"I'm surprised that they sent someone so young for this meeting," the Unspeakable stated, "and a witch, no less?"
Hermione snorted. "And I'm surprised that you're neither Percy Weasley nor Dolores Umbridge."
"Surprised?" the wizard asked. "I'm rather pleased that's the case, actually."
"Who wouldn't be?" Hermione asked with a thin smile. She then nodded towards the structure that stood behind Croaker.
"That's a rather impressive bit of magic."
"It is, isn't it?" the wizard replied. "Wish that I could claim credit for it."
"And yet you stepped out from its walls?"
Croaker shrugged. "Not intentionally…my portkey was redirected."
"Really?" Hermione asked. "Where were you coming from?"
"I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to."
"So you're not the Secret Keeper, then?"
The wizard chuckled.
"Perhaps they did send out the right person," he observed. "And on that note, before the Queen's Wizard or those Muggle snipers get itchy fingers…"
"Snipers?" Hermione asked. "Surely you don't think that lowly Muggles could do anything to harm a powerful wizard such as yourself?"
Croaker rolled his eyes. "Don't patronize me, Miss Granger…there are a few of us in the Ministry that aren't blinded by prejudicial hubris."
"Far fewer now that you've locked the Ministry down behind a Fidelius Charm."
"Perhaps," the Unspeakable admitted. "So in regards to the meeting this afternoon…it will be just the principles, right?"
Hermione nodded. "Two on each side?"
Croaker shook his head. "Three, I think."
"Scrimgeour can't choose between his two underlings?"
"Something like that."
"Three it is, then…approaching the circle on foot?"
The Unspeakable shook his head. "Treaty also allows for either broomstick or horse."
"What…afraid that Umbridge can't waddle that far?"
The wizard snorted, and wondered if the young witch knew just how close she was to the truth.
Hermione then asked, "Any idea what we should make of the Treaty phrase 'enforced parlay'?"
"Not exactly," Croaker replied. "There are magical contracts strong enough to inflict penalties upon any who might violate a negotiated truce…and if the Treaty is strong enough to build castles…well, if it were me meeting up with the Queen, I wouldn't be fingering my wand."
"That makes sense," Hermione replied. "Can I assume that the Ministry is aware of the other requirements for meetings governed by the Treaty?"
"The Minister's Orb, signifying his stewardship of those designated powers provided to Her Royal Majesty's Justice of the Peace for Magical Britain."
"I'm not quite sure what you're talking about."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Now who is the one trying to patronize?"
The Head Unspeakable scowled.
"Do you have any idea just how dangerous your actions could be?"
Having gotten used to standing up to the Home Secretary and other powerful middle-aged males within COBRA meetings, Hermione was able to calmly stand her ground.
"From my perspective, it is the Minister who needs to account for his actions. But as this is not the actual meeting, and as we are not the principal parties, neither my perspective nor your opinion really matters, now, does it?"
Croaker clamped down on his emotions, and bit his tongue.
"Two this afternoon, then," he finally replied. "Three principles on each side on the field…you have your castle, and we…apparently…have ours. Terms and conditions as set out by Treaty."
Hermione nodded. "Sounds good to me."
The wizard stared hard at the witch in front of him, then shook his head and muttered, "Merlin help us all."
Hermione snorted, and said, "On that point, we agree."
9:45am, Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, 10 Downing Street, London
When Kate Miller ran to the women's lav just before the start of the morning COBRA meeting, she spotted an equipment belt, thigh packs and comm gear stacked in a pile next to one of the wash basins. Turning towards the stall whose door was closed, she asked, "Hermione?"
The sound of an amused snort carried over the white marble privacy walls, just before it was drowned out by the sound of a flushing loo.
A witch-in-black emerged from the stall and made her way towards the sink.
"And how, oh how, could you tell it was me, Chief Inspector?" Hermione asked.
"Well, I am a detective, right?" the older women replied, as she faced the mirror behind an adjacent sink and straightened her tie.
The teen-aged Secret Agent closed her eyes for a moment while she washed her hands.
"Guess there aren't that many other women kitted out like I am, eh?"
"Certainly none that have access to 10 Downing Street," Kate replied with a grin.
As the first of her two black leather thigh packs was strapped against Hermione's leg, the Chief Inspector asked, "Isn't there some way to magically relieve yourself without needing to strip all of that off?"
Hermione snorted. "There is actually…magical nappies that banish the waste…used like bedpans in magical hospitals. Unfortunately…they aren't very sexy, and not practical replacements for knickers."
"Why is that?"
"They chafe something horrible," Hermione replied. "The charm that collects and gets rid of the urine works on any fluid, so your skin dries out if you wear them for more than a few hours at a time."
"Sounds like you've had some personal experience."
The young witch shook her head and sighed. "Yes, well…when I first learned about them back in Third Year I thought they'd be great for studying…I mean…you could drink all the tea you wanted, and never have to get up from your desk! But then one night I fell asleep wearing a pair, and, well…if it weren't for a trip to the infirmary the next morning for an embarrassing application of a magical salve, I wouldn't have been able to sit for days!"
Kate laughed. "So I guess that witches have to suffer through long queues at public loos like the rest of us?"
Hermione smiled as she tightened her equipment belt. "Well, there are still some advantages to being magical," she admitted. "We have charmed chamber pots small enough to fit in your bag, and if you go regimental underneath your robes…"
"Nice," the Chief Inspector replied. "Although I'd still prefer to wait in line rather than squat over a pot in public."
"Notice-me-not charms help out there."
"Imagine so," Kate admitted. "But if there isn't a need to share public facilities, then where do witches go to just talk amongst us girls and gossip?"
"My dorm mates never seemed to have a problem finding places," Hermione muttered.
"Well…that probably is a pain…especially when you snog your boyfriend beneath castle walls?"
Hermione scowled. "Kate!"
"And I suppose that the Queen's Wizard provides more than enough motivation for you wanting your knickers to look sexy?"
The older woman laughed as she patted the well-armed witch on the shoulder. "Just a bit of teasing, love…and if you think that's bad, you should have heard Remy's snide whispering while he listened in this morning on his sunburst badge!"
"Thought that you and…Remy…were still working on your secret project this morning?"
"We were…just a bit of multi-tasking," Kate replied.
Hoping the change the topic, Hermione asked, "So how is your werewolf investigation coming along? Did you lose any momentum with the reassignment?"
The Chief Inspector shrugged. "Not really…it's only been a day that we've been working on the Ministry problem, and we'd already made good progress with the packs. Remy can be quite…persuasive…at times. Not quite in lines with Department regulations, but…well…all sorts of dividing lines are blurry these days, right?"
A sigh escaped from the teen-aged witch's lips as she nodded in agreement.
Hermione and Kate took their "normal" places at the rectangular conference table, which meant that the younger woman had to endure some predictable "wink wink, nudge nudge," teasing from Wally, who always sat to her left.
There weren't assigned seats, as such, but every member of the COBRA team had by now staked out a permanent place at the table. The Prime Minister sat at the head, with Wally, Hermione and Kate to his left, and the Home Secretary, Defense Minister, and Met Commissioner to his immediate right. This arrangement was quasi-partisan, with younger, "hipper" non-politicians on one side, and older "stuffier" Cabinet Officers on the other. The MI-5 and MI-6 Directors sat opposite the Prime Minister, and each played true to that relative position and occasionally helped mediate between the two sides.
Hermione took note of a new chair at the table, on the same side as the Prime Minister's. The reason for that addition entered the room by the Prime Minister's side.
Hermione's boss flash her a smile as he took his seat. "Right, now that we are all here…there is, as always, a lot to cover this morning. Gentlemen…Ladies… if you please?"
Those primaries and aides who hadn't already taken their seats did so at this time. The Prime Minister opened the meeting by welcoming his predecessor to the group, and jokingly apologized to Sir John for keeping him away from Surrey's match against Northamptonshire. The cricket-loving retiree smiled and made some type of gentle jab at the opposing side's batting that went completely over Hermione's head…but hit home with the scowling Home Secretary, who (as the former Prime Minister was fully aware) supported the Steelbacks (thereby giving the young witch one more reason to like the man who had been defeated by her schoolgirl crush).
The reason for the former Prime Minister's addition to the crisis committee was briefly discussed during a review of overnight events. As the lone Muggle member of the newly installed Queen's Magnum Concilium, he needed to be briefed in on her non-magical government's actions with respect to both Voldemort and the current Ministry of Magic. The mention of the installation ceremony then served as segue way to a review of how the following reception had been cut short.
The MI-5 Director took the lead on describing Draco Malfoy's demise, since the sniper team was presently under his purview. The surly Home Secretary had a lot of questions about the operation, but rather than direct them towards the intelligence chief, he tossed them across the table towards Hermione. The rather rotund Cabinet Officer focused on jurisdictional issues, but having seen those inquiries deftly parried by Hermione moved on to more general questions regarding intelligence gathering.
"Do we have any touts within the enemy's ranks?" he asked.
"Touts?" asked Hermione. "You mean magical black taxis?"
The question earned the young witch some chuckles from around the table.
"He is asking if we are working with any informants, Agent Granger," the Met Chief explained.
"Oh, well…the only Death Eater informant that I knew about was Snape, and since he was the one who murdered his control…"
"Dumbledore?" the Prime Minister asked.
Hermione nodded. "Yes, Sir. Our working assumption is that he was a double agent whose loyalties lie with Voldemort."
"And that assumption is strong enough to warrant a lethal response if he is spotted out in the open within your magical district?" the Home Secretary asked.
The young witch chewed on her lower lip. She glanced towards the respective heads of MI-5 and MI-6 and then replied, "I believe that decision is above my pay grade."
"But not your boyfriend's?"
"You're out of line," the Prime Minister called out to his Home Secretary. "And if you have to ask Agent Granger about the shoot-to-kill policy that you yourself signed off on, then…"
"Alright, alright," the red-faced man hastily replied. "All I am trying to do is head off the kind of embarrassing inquiries that Her Majesty's Government has faced in similar circumstances."
"Similar circumstances?" Hermione asked. "Have there been other covert operations against Death Eater targets that I've not been made aware of?"
"Agent Granger, with all due respect, what makes you think that you'd have a need-to-know if there were?" the Defense Minister challenged.
Hermione's face flushed with a mixture of embarrassment and indignation. Kate reached under the table and gave Hermione's hand a reassuring squeeze, which caused the young witch to take a deep breath, and revise the retort that had been forming in her head.
The slightly less caustic version was delivered in a dangerously low voice.
"This is just like the SAS safe-house operations," she noted. "My apologies if I was once again mistaken in the belief that such a thing would be within my portfolio as Special Ambassador to the Wizarding World...I suppose that means that the Foreign Office was also kept in the dark about Sport and Social's black ops within the Irish Republic during the Troubles?"
The Defense Minister growled, "As a matter of fact, young lady…"
"Enough!" barked the Prime Minister. He waited until a sufficient period of silence confirmed that he had regained control of the meeting, and then turned towards Hermione.
"To my knowledge, you are as briefed in on the government's current response to Voldemort as I am." He then made a point of glancing towards both the Defense Minister and Home Secretary and added, "Unless there has been some plausible deniability at play here?"
"No, Sir," the three men all insisted.
"Then I am assuming that the Home Secretary was, in fact, referencing the Official Inquires that were made into specific counterterrorism efforts within Northern Ireland?"
"Yes, Sir," his cabinet officer replied.
"So what's your real concern, then?"
"The lack of an investigation after last night's shooting!" replied the Home Secretary. "Our magicals removed of the body and other physical evidence from the scene!"
"Removed evidence? Have you gone mad?" asked the former Prime Minister, who could no longer hold his tongue. "This was a covert operation, not a bloody crime scene for investigators to rope off with yellow tape!"
"Exactly," the current Prime Minister added.
"You know, we could head off a lot of these concerns by making this purely a military operation…" offered the Defense Minister.
"Oh, right!" replied the Home Secretary. "Because that worked so cleanly in Belfast!"
"Moot point, actually," opined the MI-5 Director.
"How so?" the Defense Minister asked.
"The Army doesn't have any female sniper teams."
"And the shot was taken from Agent Potter's flat within the Rookery," replied the head of MI-6. "Given the historical tenancies within that building, the assets that we've placed there are presumed to be his…shall we say...romantic interests?"
"So you are telling me that there aren't magical poofters?" the Defense Chief asked. "That Potter can't himself assume a gay cover identity for operational purposes?"
Eyes were invariably drawn towards Hermione, who quietly blushed. Wally snickered, and chimed in, "Well I've gotten him to dress well enough for the role…most of the time, that is…but otherwise…"
"Right, we have seriously moved away from our agenda here," interjected the Prime Minister (who was smiling, despite himself). He turned towards his predecessor and asked, "Sir John, you were with both the magical head constable and a representative of their U.N.-equivalent when these events unfolded, were you not?"
"That's right…and the only eyebrows that were raised were over how efficiently the situation was resolved. They both supported our shoot-to-kill response."
"That's good enough for now, then…let's move on to Carlisle," the Prime Minister decided. As committee members and their aides shuffled papers he added, "You've all read, I hope, Agent Granger's brief on what happened there last night?"
"Rather unbelievable," the Met Commissioner stated. "That a stone-walled castle could suddenly appear like that, out of the ground?"
"Magic can do some amazing things," Hermione replied.
"Are you capable of conjuring something up on that scale?"
The teen-aged witch shook her head. "Not even close. But then again I'm no Merlin, and this could have been something other than a conjuration."
"What do you mean?" the former Prime Minister asked.
Hermione shrugged. "That castle could have been magically hidden, and already standing there. Something like how a Fidelius charm works."
"Already have been standing there?" Sir John asked incredulously. "That's impossible! I've actually played on the pitch where this new castle now stands."
The teen-aged witch nodded, and replied, "Fair enough, but I've seen a house protected by a Fidelius charm make room for itself by shouldering out buildings on either side, once I was told the secret. The Muggles who were in those adjacent buildings didn't even notice."
"That might be getting ahead of ourselves, as we've got a presentation on this secret charm farther down the agenda," the Prime Minister noted. He then asked his Senior Advisor, "Does how this castle came into existence have any negative impact on the meeting this afternoon?"
The bushy-haired witch shook her head. "None that we've thought of, Sir. The Ministry representative that I met with this morning was just as surprised as we were by the castle…and we've actually taken it to be a positive sign, assuming that the magic behind its construction is tied to the Treaty."
"Makes it more likely that they can't attack the Queen, since the Treaty specifically bans the drawing of any weapons during the meeting time. It also supports the idea that the Treaty itself can magically adjudicate how the signatory parties respond to its terms. And if our assumptions are correct about the Ministry somehow breaking the treaty, then there will be that much more power behind Her Majesty's reassertion of direct control over her magical subjects."
"I don't understand why we even need a five-hundred year piece of parchment to justify our desire to enforce the rule of law within our borders," the Defense Minister muttered.
"Well I can think of three very good reasons, Sir," Hermione replied. She then looked towards her boss for fear of again moving off-topic. When the Prime Minister smiled and encouraged her with a head nod, the teen-aged witch took a deep breath and launched into lecture mode.
"First off, the international magical community has already weighed in on the legitimacy of both the Treaty itself, and Her Majesty's dominion over her magical subjects should the abrogation penalties come into play. That's what the meetings in Oslo yesterday were all about, and also the reason why the Supreme Mugwump is now in Britain."
"So this Japanese wizard speaks for every witch or wizard in the world?" someone asked.
"Well, not literally," Hermione replied. "But Aoki-sensei is the head of the ICW…that's something like being Secretary General of the U.N., except that he has a lot more authority and power."
"And he is really going to favor a Muggle government controlling Magical Britain?" asked the Home Secretary.
"Erm…well, actually…he has pledged his support for the Lord High Steward acting on the Queen's behalf, should it come down to that."
"So rather than Parliament, we'll have a sixteen-year old boy ruling over…what…25,000 British witches and wizards?"
"He'll be seventeen in two weeks," Hermione snapped reflexively. "And it's probably closer to 30,000 if you include those living within the Irish Republic."
"And then what…you'll magically rip up the Magna Carta?"
"This is old business," the Prime Minister interjected. "We've already accepted, in principal, the establishment of a limited international magical protectorate should events play out as expected this afternoon. Between that, and Sir John's presence on the Magnum Concilium, and Agent Potter's loyalties to the Queen, I think that we've got our bums covered."
The head of Her Majesty's government snorted when he spied the blush that his choice of words had produced on his Senior Advisor's face. He shrugged off an apology, and then asked her about the other two reasons for the Treaty's importance.
"Erm, right, so…second point is financial. The Treaty's response to our calling out of the Ministry of Magic will be recognized not just by foreign witches and wizards, but by other magical sentients as well."
"You mean the goblins?" Kate Miller asked.
"Exactly," Hermione replied. "If the Ministry is magically stripped of its authority to rule, that will also affect their ability to collect taxes, or draw on any government-owned vaults or other funds held at Gringotts.
"The power of the purse," stated the former Prime Minister.
"That's right," the teen-aged witch replied. "It would be the equivalent of freezing the foreign assets of a rogue Muggle government, only worse because they would also lose control of their domestic bank holdings."
"And these goblins will, in turn, also recognize the authority of our new Lord High Steward?" asked the Home Secretary.
"Yes, Sir," was Hermione's simple reply. "The goblins are going to be very helpful…not only with access, but with a full audit of all previous Ministry financial transactions."
"And what has their support cost us?" asked the Defense Minister.
"Not much at all," Hermione replied. "Should it come to bear, the Lord High Steward, at the Queen's behest, has promised the negotiated return of any goblin-owned artifacts currently held by the Ministry. He will also immediately lift the ban on goblin-backed financial investments within the magical community. Oh, and he also plans on moving the Goblin Liaison Office into the magical equivalent of the Foreign Office, rather than treat the Goblins like a subservient race that needs to be controlled."
Hermione treated the silence that followed her response as tacit acceptance by the other COBRA members, and moved on.
"The third reason ties directly into the Fidelius charm or charms that are limiting access to the Ministry of Magic," she stated.
"I'm sorry, Agent Granger," the Home Secretary stated (although he didn't really seem to be). "But I'm still having a hard time understanding what this fidelity magic is all about…and yes, Prime Minister, I say this after having read all of the relevant briefing documents."
Kate thought for a moment, then turned to Hermione and winked. She then announced, "I think I've got a workable analogy, Sir."
"And that is….?"
The Chief Inspector smiled, and replied, "With all due respect, Sir….boxers or briefs?"
"I beg your pardon!"
"That's my hypothetical secret to protect, Sir," Kate explained. "Are you wearing boxer shorts or Y-fronts today?"
"This is a ridiculous line of…"
"No, no….I like it," the Prime Minister interjected. "Please continue, Chief Inspector."
"Yes, sir," Kate happily replied. She then glanced back at the Home Secretary and asked, "So rather than answer the question, can you tell us how many people actually know the answer to that question?"
"I imagine that you can remember what you are wearing, Sir," Kate pushed on. "But are you the only one that knows? Perhaps your wife laid out your clothes this morning? Or maybe you changed in the locker room following a morning workout?"
Hermione considered the latter possibility improbable, given the man's girth, but thought it might help if she jumped in.
"For discussion purposes, Sir, let's assume that it is only your wife and yourself that know for a fact that you are presently wearing boxer shorts."
"Does color or pattern matter, Agent Granger?" Wally teasingly asked. "What if they had a Hello Kitty imprint on the front?"
All previous attempts by meeting participants to swallow their laughter failed with this question.
Amidst the guffaws, and the Home Secretary's blustering, Hermione eventually replied, "What type of boxer shorts wouldn't matter, although Hello Kitty shorts might provide more than enough motivation for him to keep their existence a secret."
The target for all of this teasing seethed, "This is absolutely…."
"Oh, be quiet," the Defense Minister admonished. "So, Agent Granger, the secret to be protected is that the Home Secretary is wearing Hello Kitty shorts, and only his wife and he are aware of that fact…what's next?"
"Well, let's imagine that I am able to cast the Fidelius charm, even though I really can't. The Home Secretary would come to me, tell me the secret that he wanted to protect, and…"
"So then there'd be three of you that knew?"
"At that time, yes," Hermione replied. "Then a Secret Keeper would be chosen…he or she would become the vessel within which the secret is magically stored." She then turned towards the Home Secretary and asked, "So, Sir…whom is to become your Hello Kitty secret keeper?"
"But I'm not wearing Hello Kitty shorts!"
"Please, Sir…it's just for illustrative purposes…"
"Oh, Bloody Hell…..let's give the job to the Defense Minister, then."
The cabinet officer in question channeled his inner Homer and shouted, "Doh!"
"Fair enough," Hermione stated, as she drew her wand from her wrist holder. She waved it around in the circle, called out "Fidelius" and jabbed it towards the Defense Minister.
"So now he'd be the only one to know? Even I would forget what I'm wearing?" asked the Home Secretary.
The young witch nodded. "Unless the Defense Minister chose to share the secret with you."
"But all I would have to do is drop my trousers and look, wouldn't I?"
"Wouldn't matter," Hermione replied. "You could hop up onto the table and drop your trousers for all of us to see, and none of us would be able to recognize or describe what you were wearing underneath."
"Even if they were clearly visible?"
"Sort of like you don't know where your house keys are located, even if you are looking right at them on the coffee table?" the Prime Minister asked.
"That's right…you could stare at his little white cat all day long and not recognize them as what they were."
Glowering, the Home Secretary asked, "Could I still feel these shorts against my skin? Or would I then go about the day on the mistaken assumption that I wasn't wearing any underwear?"
"That might cause an embarrassing mess in the loo," muttered the MI-5 Director to his counterpart.
Hermione let the resulting laughs die down before she replied, "Actually, that observation points towards the limitations of this type of magic, as well our response to the situation at hand."
"It all comes down to the exact wording of the secret," she explained. "I wasn't asked to sequester the fact that the Home Secretary was wearing underwear…only the specific type of underwear he was wearing."
"So I would know that I was wearing shorts…know well enough to pull them down when I…erm, well…when the situation called for it?"
The Home Secretary then noted, "But I still couldn't describe them to you…or to myself, for that matter?"
"Yes, Sir," Kate interjected. "Just as we could state with certainty that you weren't going commando if you dropped your trousers. We might even recognize that you were wearing boxer shorts, as the secret specified the type of boxers worn."
"This is all so much fun and games, Chief Inspector," the Home Secretary then noted. "But if the specific secret is so well guarded, how does one go about circumventing it?"
Hermione and Kate looked at each other, before the witch gave the policewoman a go-ahead nod.
"Well, Sir…we have been able to work with these limitations, as well as the difference between knowing and guessing, to narrow down exactly what the Ministry of Magic has done to hide itself."
"Knowing and guessing?" asked the Home Secretary.
"Yes, sir…just because magic might keep us from knowing a secret doesn't preclude us from making educated guesses using the available evidence."
When the cabinet officer in question furrowed his eyebrows, Hermione jumped in.
"If we go back to your Hello Kitty shorts, Sir…"
"But I'm not wearing Hello Kitty shorts, I tell you!"
"Yes, Sir…Of course, Sir…but if you'll indulge me for a moment?"
"Thank you, Sir. So let's say that I was curious about what type of underwear you were wearing today…remember, this is only an illustration…"
"Yes, Yes, Go on…"
"So…because of the magic I couldn't know with certainty what you were wearing at that moment, even if you showed me. But what if I was to go to your house, and picked through your pile of soiled laundry, and discovered several pairs of Hello Kitty shorts? And then I rummaged through your drawers and found one that held nothing but clean Hello Kitty shorts? And then I asked your wife what you wore yesterday, and she told me that you had worn Hello Kitty shorts?"
Kate added, "Then maybe we could ask every man in this room of similar age and station to tell me what they were wearing, and every one of them replied that they were, at that very moment, wearing Hello Kitty shorts? That would allow us to make a very good guess, now…wouldn't it, Sir?"
"The relevancy, Agent Granger?" the Home Secretary whined.
"As it is part of her brief, that's perhaps best answered by the Chief Inspector?" Hermione replied.
"Let's start with location, then," Kate stated. "Over the past day we have interviewed more than fifty different witches and wizards. All of them informed us that they think that they used to know where the Ministry of Magic was located, but none of them can now recall that fact. So there has to be some geographic component to the secret."
"Well that's not rocket science," muttered the Home Secretary.
The Muggle police officer ignored her boss's boss and pushed on. "Working down the same lines of asking other blokes what type of shorts they were wearing, we gathered some information on the locations of the magical governments in other countries. Most of them turn out to be in whatever regional city was largest, or most powerful, anywhere from five hundred or a thousand years ago."
"So the French magical ministry is located in Paris?"
"And the Italian Ministry is in Rome?"
"Venice, actually," Hermione replied.
"That makes sense, I guess," the Prime Minister noted with a nod. "The Venetian City State ruled the Adriatic back then, and was far more powerful than Rome."
"So for England…should be London, right?"
"Were it just England, that's the obvious guess," Kate replied. "But as Agent Granger has noted before, the Ministry of Magic has jurisdiction over Wales, most of Scotland, and all of Ireland, including the Republic. So at first glance the Ministry might just as easily be located in Dublin, or Edinburgh…maybe even Cardiff."
"At first glance, but not when you look a second or third time?" asked the Prime Minister.
The Chief Inspector nodded. "It's been a challenge, as we've started eliminating other possibilities…once you are down to just one best guess it approaches more knowing than guessing, and the magic keeps us from knowing, so…more than once we've reached a certain point in our analysis, and suddenly felt the need to discuss sports, or the weather."
"So how far down the road have you gotten, then?"
"We are guessing London," Kate replied. "The largest magical commercial district is located here, after all. And Agent Potter's memories of the place are also useful. He has visited the Ministry of Magic before, you see…and he recalls that trip involving a walk. Of course, he could have been walking in any city…"
"But Harry can't ever recall visiting Ireland, and doesn't remember visiting Edinburgh or Cardiff before this past week," Hermione stated. "Now this could be the magic playing with our minds, here, but if we have to make a best guess…"
"That guess is that the Ministry of Magic is located someplace in London…where to from there, then?" Sir John asked.
Kate Miller rose from her chair and walked towards a three-dimensional rendering of the Ministry of Magic that Wally had thoughtfully called up on his computer and projected against a wall.
"This layout is based on interviews of Ministry employees who were booted out before the Fidelius charm took hold," she explained. We also got some help by reviewing a few pensieved memories…you know…those wisps of smoke that can be used to walk through specific recollections?"
"Like those provided by Agents Potter and Granger that walked us through the Garden Party and Inverness?" asked the MI-6 chief.
"Yes, Sir," said Kate. "Based on the layout and dimensions of the different levels, it's a good guess that the Ministry is located underground."
"The top level apparently being larger than the bottom level?" asked the MI-5 chief?
"Yes, Sir," replied Kate. "Now there is some counterevidence…for example, several of the employees recall having window views in their work area. But that is also something that could be accomplished with magic."
The Home Secretary asked, "By punching out underground window views?"
"No…by creating the illusion of a window view," Kate replied. "This alternative explanation is supported by reports of seeing snow-capped mountains from one window, while the same vantage point one floor higher looks out over green rolling hills."
"So it's underground, someplace," the Defense Minister concluded. "How is it accessed?"
Kate nodded. "That's also a secret…either with the same magic that protects its location, or…more probably…a second charm."
"There'd have to be lift shafts to access an underground location, right?"
"Not necessarily, so long as magic is involved," Hermione replied. "Again, for comparison purposes…the magical transportation hub in Oslo is located underground, but doesn't have a public aboveground access point."
"So how is that reached, then?"
"Dyrrheim Station can be accessed by floo, or apparition, or portkey," stated Hermione. "Our Art Club badges work as well, if one of us is already there as an anchor point."
"So these are all magical types of transportation, right?"
"So wouldn't it stand to reason that these same methods could be used to gain access to our British Ministry?"
"That would be a logical assumption," Hermione replied. She pointed towards the three-dimensional computer image of the Ministry and added, "In fact, that would explain a lot of things, like the banks of fireplaces on that one level, and what looks like a portkey arrival platform up on top…"
The young witch's mind suddenly began to drift.
Ten minutes later, Agent Granger began to wonder why the COBRA team was discussing the failure of England's side to advance through to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup.
Eleven minutes later, she figured it out.
Hermione caught Kate's attention and asked, "We got too close again, didn't we?"
"Looks like it," the Chief Inspector replied.
"So what were we talking about, then?" asked the Prime Minister.
"Something about the link between the Queen's meeting at Carlisle and the Home Secretary's shorts?" asked Wally.
"That doesn't seem likely," the Cabinet Officer replied.
"Hold on, then," asked Kate. "Was it the Home Secretary's Hello Kitty shorts and the Ministry's Fidelius Charm?"
"For the last time, I'm not wearing Hello Kitty shorts!"
"Well, then…that leaves us talking about how the Queen's meeting could help us crack the Ministry's concealing magic," Hermione noted.
"Can you provide a succinct response to that question that doesn't involve my choice of undergarments?" the Home Secretary asked.
The young witch considered what the beefy politician might look like if he went commando, and decided that to be an excellent suggestion.
"Short of finding and killing the secret keeper, the easiest way to bypass a Fidelius-protected secret is to make it irrelevant."
"Irrelevant?" the Home Secretary asked. "While my preference for boxers is hardly relevant to this discussion…"
"Allow me to give a real life example, then," interrupted Hermione. "When the Queen's Wizard was just a year old, his family decided to go into hiding when they learned that they had been targeted by Voldemort and the Death Eaters."
"So they used a Fidelius charm?" the former Prime Minister asked.
"Yes, Sir," the young witch replied. "As best we can tell, the wording of the charm was something like, 'The Potter family is hiding in their cottage in Godric's Hollow'." Might have included an actual street address, but it wouldn't have been necessary. Based on that kind of wording, our Charms professor at Hogwarts says that Voldemort himself could have looked into their cottage's windows and not seen any of the Potters walking about within it.
"So long as he didn't know the secret, of course," Kate added.
"But he did find out the secret…they were betrayed by their Secret Keeper, right?" the Prime Minister asked.
"Yes, that's right," Hermione stated. "But what is important to this story is the fact that Voldemort was the only person outside of the Potter family that was actually told the secret. Headmaster Dumbledore was specifically not told…and he didn't know where the family was hiding…right up until the moment that he did know."
"And that moment came when….what?" asked the Home Secretary.
"It came when both of Harry's parents were murdered," Hermione replied quietly. "He was an only child, you see…"
When the young witch couldn't find the right words to continue, Kate took up the task.
"Once Harry lost his family, the secret was no longer relevant," she explained. "It wasn't 'Baby Harry Potter is hiding in a cottage', but rather, 'The Potter family'."
Most of the people within the room were smart enough to get the connection, but it was up to the Home Secretary to state the obvious.
"So if the secret that we're up against is, 'The British Ministry of Magic is hiding…wherever'," he reasoned, "We don't need to find this Secret Keeper. All we need to do is rid ourselves of the British Ministry of Magic...and if the Ministry's authority is derived from the negotiated terms within this Treaty of Carlisle, then…"
Hermione nodded, and softly snorted when she glanced down at her watch.
If only the Home Secretary had needed an additional twenty minutes to catch on…then it would have been Kate who would have been picking up the tab for lunch...whenever it was that the both of them would actually have the time to eat out at a restaurant.
1:45pm, Carlisle Castle
Fifteen minutes before the schedule start of the meeting between the Queen and the Minister of Magic, three RAF attack helicopters escorted a fourth onto a landing zone that had been temporarily established in front of Carlisle Castle. Several well-armed SO14 agents escorted a very royal passenger and her small retinue out of this helicopter and into a waiting armoured vehicle. Everyone inside the castle walls sprung to attention when this vehicle drove through the main gates, and the Queen's Royal Standard was run up the castle's flag pole.
Many were lucky enough to get a glimpse of their white-haired monarch as she exited the vehicle and walked inside the Castle's stables. But only witches-in-waiting Padma and Hannah had the security clearances necessary to join her in a secured room, and to watch as her hair turned pink and her face shed decades of age.
Once Tonks completed her transformation, she anchored badge jumps for the real Queen, the Royal Wizard, and the Royal Wizard's consort.
"So how was the trip, Tonks?" Harry asked.
"Too bloody long," the Auror complained, as she shook out her limbs and ran her fingers through her hair. While a slightly frumpy dress morphed into battle robes, she caught the Queen's bemused expression, and quickly added, "Not that I'm complaining about the assignment, Your Majesty…it was fun to be queen for a day."
"Thank you for your assistance, Miss Tonks," the Queen replied. "We are afraid that we might become used to the luxuries afforded by a perfect body double and near-instantaneous badge travel."
The Auror curtsied, and replied, "I am happy to have been in a position to help, Your Majesty."
"Will you be staying within the Castle during the meeting, then?"
Tonks glanced at Harry and Hermione, looking for some guidance to her response. The bushy-haired witch nodded, and took the initiative.
"Your Majesty, my father is already here with the students, and can serve as the Castle's anchor point while we are outside of its walls. Tonks could do the same, but…we thought that she might be better deployed with our Ministry liberation team, which is presently on standby in London."
"Ah, very good," the Queen replied. "Godspeed, then, Auror Tonks…and stay safe. We would enjoy the opportunity to travel in this manner again some day."
"Yes, Ma'am," the witch replied, with a slight blush.
Once Tonks jumped back to London, Harry led the Queen and three witches out of the small room and into the stable area, where members of the Household Calvary were waiting with three saddled horses.
The Queen smiled as she approached a large black gelding and patted its flank. "We are looking forward to the opportunity to ride again," she stated. "It's been far too many years."
"Are you certain about riding in on horseback, Your Majesty?" Hermione asked. "Since it has been…well…"
The monarch smiled. "No worries, Dame Hermione. We have taken council from Sir Evan, who spoke wondrously about the ability of magic to limber up limbs and strengthen the bones of those of us who are more…advanced in years."
The Queen's words drew support from her actions, as she lifted a foot into a stirrup, and almost jumped up into the saddle.
"Yes, Your Majesty," the bushy-haired witch said with a slight sigh.
When the monarch gleefully began to ride her horse down and back the stable's wide main aisle, Hermione glanced over at Hannah and Padma. The two teen-aged witches were beating back smiles and pointing towards each other.
Harry nudged his girlfriend's shoulder, and said, "C'mon, Hermione…it's just a horse! Not like you're being asked to ride on a dragon's back."
"Easy enough for you…you've ridden on broomsticks…and Buckbeak!"
"Seems to me that you've ridden on a hippogriff as well."
"As a passenger," Hermione protested. "And with my eyes closed the entire time, and my arms wrapped tightly around you!"
"Now that's a story that I haven't heard before," Hannah noted with a grin.
"Indeed, a story that we would no doubt enjoy as well…at some other time," the Queen announced from her saddle.
"Erm, Yes, Your Majesty," the young witch said reluctantly, as she walked up towards a chestnut brown mare.
"Don't forget to bow first, Hermione," teased Harry.
"Oh, hush, you!"
The two-witches-in-waiting snickered as a soldier helped Hermione up onto her horse.
"I'm so afraid that I'm going to fall off," she muttered.
"Need a sticking charm?" Padma teased.
"You are doing fine, Dame Hermione," the Queen encouraged.
"You sure are, sweetheart," Harry added, as he deftly hopped into the saddle of the third horse and took up the slack in its reins. He glanced at his watch, opened up both magical and Muggle communication channels, and then ordered, "Game faces, everybody."
A last-minute flurry of activity took place around the three on horseback as witches-in-waiting and attendants checked and rechecked tacking, equipment, and protective gear. Almost all of the latter was being worn by the Queen, whose AK-resistant breast plate was secured outside of the red jacket of a cavalry uniform, which itself overlaid a dragonhide unitard that stretched from neck to toe. Hermione wore similar protective undergarments, and a riding outfit whose wool jacket was woven in Potter plaid.
Harry, on the other hand, was brazenly unprotected, and (in the Queen's opinion), channeling his inner Rob Roy. All he was wearing at the moment were dragon hide boots, a Potter plaid kilt, and a white puffy-sleeved dress shirt. The reasons behind this choice of attire were sufficiently strong enough for him to endure the teasing of the witches-in-waiting about the need to avoid saddle sores and sudden drafts.
When the stable doors were opened, the Queen, her Wizard, and his Consort encouraged their steeds into a slow walk. The monarch turned towards Harry and asked, "Our forces are all in position, then?"
"As best they can be, Your Majesty," Harry confirmed. "Just have to hope our guesses are on the mark."
The Queen nodded as they rode out into the Inner Bailey. She scanned both the grounds and walls, and nodded at those who watched them pass by. Their facial expressions combined various amounts of surprise, shock and awe…their geriatric queen hadn't ridden publically on horseback for more than a decade, and had never been seen before dressed in armour…as if she were the Elizabeth of centuries past.
One of the Muggle soldiers saw fit to give voice to his emotions. He lifted his rifle into the air, and yelled out a mighty, "HUZZAH!" Tears formed in the corners of the Queen's eyes as the cry was taken up by hundreds of voices.
"Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!"
That the horses didn't spook from all of the shouting demonstrated just how exceptionally well-trained was they were (and how carefully they had been selected from the Household Cavalry's stock).
A military escort that mixed both old and new elements formed around the Queen's party as they rode out of the castle. The procession was led by two "Jackal" reconnaissance vehicles (the biggest, meanest machines that could pass through the Castle's relatively narrow gates). These armoured vehicles were protected by both a forward-facing light machine gun (manned by a front-seat passenger who was doing much more than "riding shotgun"), and a turret-mounted heavy machine gun in the back. The field of fire for the lead Jackal was slightly limited by tall wooden flag poles that were mounted above each rear wheel-well; one flew the Queen's Royal Standard, while the other was adorned by the Union Jack.
A contingent of twenty horse-mounted Household Calvary formed up behind these two lead vehicles, with each soldier dressed as if they were about to lead the Queen's landaus onto the racetrack at Ascot. Harry's preference to have had these troops dressed in battle fatigues and body armour had been overruled by those who insisted that this kind of historic Royal procession demanded full parade dress. He did take comfort, however, in knowing that each horseman carried submachine guns alongside their sabers.
A symmetrical cadre of cavalry and armoured vehicles formed up behind the Queen and her companions, creating a highly armed sandwich that paraded out the castle while its garrison continue to cheer and a military bagpipe band struck up a tune.
The main gates of Carlisle Castle were located on the south wall and faced away from the meeting fields and magical constructs to the north. This relative geography required the Queen's party to follow the route that Harry had run his motorbike on earlier in the day…a route which included a fourteenth-century stone bridge and a small portion of the A595 four-lane motorway.
It only took a few minutes for Queen and escort to make their way onto the narrow two-lane roadway that ran along the Castle's northern ramparts. They rode silently past a row of mature trees whose tops had been trimmed to keep sight lines and fields of fire cleared, and pulled up at predetermined positions that had been personally marked by Hermione as being located inside her ward lines.
Three members of the Household Calvary escort quickly dismounted and took on the roles of squires for the Queen and her companions; each grabbed a bridle, and gently pulled their horses around to face the North. Those soldiers who manned the vehicle-mounted machine guns similarly swiveled their weapons, and set their sights upon the main gates of the magically constructed castle that sat on the far side of the field.
The Queen's Wizard glanced at his watch and nodded with satisfaction; there were still two minutes remaining before the top of the hour. He then turned to the rider next to him and asked, "Alright there, Your Majesty?"
The monarch smiled and nodded her head.
"We didn't realize just how much we missed a good ride," she replied. She then turned to her right and asked, "And how are you doing, Dame Hermione?"
"Erm…just fine, Your Majesty," the bushy-haired witch replied.
Harry leaned forward in his saddle just enough to catch his girlfriend's response. He could hear the nervousness in her voice, but didn't know if it was due to her unease on horseback or her unease with the situation in general. Some discretion, and the approach of two more soldiers on foot, kept him from asking.
The men carried the standards that had been mounted on the lead vehicle. The soldier who held the Royal Standard walked up to Harry's mount, and slipped the base of the pole into the tacking just in front of his left knee. The other attached the official flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Hermione's mount, and discrete sticking charms were applied so that they didn't have to worry about holding the reins and flagpole at the same time.
Harry and Hermione spent the balance of their wait communicating using both badge and radio. The Queen listened in on some of these exchanges, and shook her head slightly while Harry discussed the deployment of Summer Institute students to the Castle's walls.
"When we rode out and saw all the Potter Plaid…they look so young, Gryffindor!" the monarch lamented.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Harry replied. "Although a fair number are no younger than Hermione and myself."
The Queen sighed. "We forget, sometimes, that you both act far older than your years…but you are certain that it was worth the risk to bring them up from Windsor?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, Your Majesty. They have all been training hard, and learning the kind of magic that might prove invaluable during the meeting."
"We pray that bears out," the Queen said solemnly.
The conversation was interrupted by a new burst of radio and badge chatter when the gates of the other castle opened. A dozen witches and wizards dressed in Auror robes flew out on broomsticks and split off, six to each side. The fact that Dawlish was spotted amongst this contingent made it easy for the two teen-aged wizards to accept a remote assessment provided by Gawain Robards…that all twelve were Scrimgeour or Umbridge toadies who had stayed behind when the Ministry went into Fidelius-aided hiding.
The Queen's Wizard could feel the tension level rise in the air as the carillon of Carlisle Cathedral began to ring out the hour. As soon as the last bell was struck, and the hour of two declared, the granitic stones that made up the circle in the middle of the field began to hum and glow blue. The intensity of both hue and hum grew, until arcs of magical energy shot out from one stone to the next, forming a blue ring of energy that flowed clockwise on a path two meters off of the ground.
The buzzing noise rapidly grew in volume as the flow of magical energy picked up its pace, causing a few of the lesser-trained horses to become skittish and rear up. But before any of the riders were thrown, or any ears began to bleed, the humming suddenly stopped and a pinpoint of bright blue light formed in the center of the circle. This spot mushroomed out into a fast-growing sphere…a sphere that exploded in a blinding flash of light that rushed outwards from the stone circle and enveloped both castles in a hemispheric magical dome.
The magic that was at work within this shimmering dome was strong enough to kill any active Muggle electronics within the protected area. The Art Club badges still worked, though, which allowed the Queen herself to confirm that she hadn't been harmed by this magic.
The same couldn't be said for any person who had been holding a weapon at the time of dome formation. The same kind of magic that had been at work on Azkaban took hold, and shot arcs of lightning down upon each weapon-holding hand...whether the hand belonged to a Muggle or wizard.
The cries of pain heard as wands, and sabers, and machine guns were dropped like hot potatoes confirmed Hermione's suspicions on just what the treaty meant by "enforced parlay." They also served to justify the somewhat controversial decision to fly more than a hundred teen-aged witches and wizard up for the day from London.
When the Queen, Harry and Hermione nudged their horses towards the stone circle, Scrimgeour, Umbridge and Percy emerged from the far castle on broomstick and began their approach from the opposite side. Attempts to activate electronic gear retrieved from EMP tents proved futile, which forced Roger Granger to grab a standard pair of Muggle binoculars and run up to the ramparts.
Stoic stares were exchanged when the two parties reached the stone circle, before Harry took the initiative and nudged his horse forward. When the Queen's Wizard suffered no ill effects from crossing in between the standing stones, the Queen and Hermione brought their own mounts forward.
But Harry didn't see the other two follow…his eyes were focused on the three Ministry officials as they flew their brooms into the circle. Those eyes bulged when the glamour charms that Scrimgeour and his flunkies had been hiding behind were negated by the magic within the stones.
Roger Granger, who had watched the three Ministry officials lose their disguise from the castle's ramparts, couldn't help breaking Art Club badge silence.
"We represent…the Lollipop Guild…the Lollipop Guild…the Lollipop Guild…"
"Dad!" Hermione hissed into her badge.
"Sorry, Ambassador," Roger replied, not really sounding as if he was. He then asked, "So maybe you think they're more like the Umpa-Lumpas?"
"Their skin tone would require more orange," the Queen dryly noted, using Ron's borrowed badge.
Hermione eyes went wide, and she turned towards the monarch in disbelief. The smirk displayed upon the Royal countenance caused the bushy-haired witch to shake her head and sigh…if the Queen was going to join the commentary, then how could she reprimand her father?
The Special Ambassador to the Wizarding World gathered herself and pulled a copy of the Treaty of Carlisle out from a jacket pocket.
"In accordance with the terms negotiated between the magical and mundane, on these very grounds, in the Year of Our Lord…."
"Hold on, Hermione…" Harry interrupted. "We're supposed to be meeting with the Minister of Magic and his two underlings, not with some colorfully dressed dwarves."
"Oh, Sod off, Potter!" bellowed the red-bearded broomrider. "This is Minister Scrimgeour, and that's Madame Umbridge, and I'm Special Assistant Percy Weasley."
"Really?" Harry asked with a smile. "So has this circle made the three of us really large, or the three of you really, really small…and silly looking…and slope-nosed…."
"Show respect for your betters, boy!" Umbridge barked.
"Well that certainly sounds like Dolores Umbridge," Hermione said with a smile. "But just to be safe, perhaps a quiz?"
"Good idea!" Harry declared. He turned towards the red-bearded gnome and grinned. Then, using a theatrically raspy voice, he demanded,
"What…is your name?"
Hermione's eyebrows arched, and she hissed, "Behave, Harry!"
The dwarf replied, "I already told you my name…it's Percy Weasley."
"What…is your quest?"
Percy frowned. "I am here only because your Queen demanded a meeting."
Hermione giggled. "Harr-r-r-y!"
"What….is Ron's favorite color?"
Harry snickered, and then screamed, "A-a-a-a-a-a-a-h!"
The Queen smiled, and decided that she really needed to talk with her Prime Minister about getting a few Pythons onto her Birthday Honours List.
Roger Granger's laughter was carried over the Art Badges, which made it harder for his daughter's admonishments to be heard.
"What's that Hermione?" Harry asked.
"I said…get on with it."
"Yes, Dear," he replied cheekily. The Queen's Wizard then turned towards the pig-tailed broomstick rider and asked, "So you're supposedly Dolores Umbridge…how can I verify your identity, then?"
Harry paused, then waggled his eyebrows. "I know!"
And with that he walked his horse forward two steps, pulled hard on his horse's reins, and goaded the animal to rear up on its hind legs.
Visions of attacking centaurs danced in front of the little witch's eyes as Harry's steed towered over her. When the horse's front hooves pounded back down onto the ground, the former High Inquisitor shrieked…feinted…and fell off of her broom.
"Yup, that's Umbridge," the Queen's Wizard snarked.
"Harry!" his girlfriend whined.
"What did you do to her, Potter?" Percy demanded.
"Nothing!" protested the messy-haired wizard. "She just fainted. Cast an Ennervate spell on her if you don't believe me."
The red-bearded gnome scowled and reached for his wand. A small bolt of lightning sprung down from the sky and rewarded him with a nasty shock to his hand.
"Ouch! Bloody Hell!"
"Just leave her," Rufus scowled. "You didn't want her to come in the first place."
The Minister turned back towards the Queen and demanded, "So what do you want?"
The Queen was not amused.
"We shall not be bullied about, little one," she declared. She then turned towards Harry and said, "We suggest that your identity, as well as that of this other…man…who claims to be our Justice of the Peace…would be best confirmed under the terms of the Treaty."
The Queen's Wizard bowed his head and replied, "Yes, Your Majesty." He then pulled his single-pearl necklace from his sporran and slipped the chain over his head. When the orb fell to his chest it began to glow. That glow deepened with intensity when sparks of fairy lightening arced down from the tops of each standing stone.
Sitting tall in the saddle, Harry stared down at the two broom-mounted munchkins and reluctantly decided it best not to declare himself (by the power of Greyskull) to be Oz, the Great and Powerful.
Instead, he resolutely proclaimed, "I am Her Royal Majesty's Wizard, The Right Honorable Earl Gryffindor, Major Sir Harry Potter." He then smiled and added (almost as an aside), "I'm also Her Royal Majesty's Lord High Steward…and last, but not least, Hermione's boyfriend.
"Harry!" his bushy-hair companion chided.
The Queen smiled and noted, "We would not disagree with his priorities, Dame Hermione." The monarch then turned that smile upside down and stated, "That my Wizard's emblem of power is alive, and charged by the power of this Circle demonstrates that Our House and Muggle government have abided by the terms of the Treaty signed here at Carlisle some four hundred years ago. We would be pleased to see our Magical Justice of the Peace do the same."
The diminutive wizard scowled. "I am the Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour! I hold all of the rights and powers assigned to that post by the Wizengamot!"
Harry snorted. "Quit stalling. Where's your necklace, Rufus?"
The little wizard tried to give the Queen's Wizard an intimidating stare, but it was hard to pull off that kind of look when you're cursed to look like a cartoon character.
"Right!" Rufus spat, as he pulled his own orb from a pouch tied to his belt. He began to place its chain around his neck, but then thought better of it. He already knew that the orb wouldn't glow, and feared that the necklace might garrote him if he tried to fake it.
So he threw the necklace to the ground, right in front of the Queen's horse.
"There's your bloody orb!" he growled.
The Queen sucked in a deep breath and turned towards Hermione. The young witch pointed towards a highlighted paragraph of text in her version of the Treaty. The Queen reviewed the words, and shook her head.
"There is a lengthy declaration here that we might use to announce your position forfeit, and proclaim the reassertion of direct rule over our magical realm," she informed the senior dwarf. "But as we have learned that much of magic is based on intent, we believe it sufficient for us to declare that you, Rufus Scrimgeour…are sacked!"
Harry nodded, and added, "So mote it be."
The Queen's guess (and Harry's benediction) bore fruit when the stone circle responded with a flash of blue light. The dragon-guarded pearl that Scrimgeour had thrown down to the ground rose up into the air with the chain trailing behind, then moved laterally until it came to a full stop and hovered in front of the Queen's face.
The monarch looked first at Hermione, then at Harry. They both shrugged their shoulders, prompting the Queen to make a command decision. Dropping her horse's reins, she grasped the necklace with both hands and placed it over her head.
Hermione gasped in shock, and didn't release that breath until the chain rested loosely around the monarch's neck and the orb sat against her AK-resistant breast plate.
"Would have been sorted Gryffindor, for sure," Harry whispered, as he watched the Queen's orb begin to glow brightly.
"Well, that settles, things, doesn't it?" she announced. The Queen looked down at the two broom-mounted wizards and stated, "We shall assume physical control of the former Ministry of Magic presently."
Percy snorted. "You can't control what you can't find!"
"Ha!" Harry spat, as he wondered whether the portkey that Percy had provided him would still give him access to Scrimgeour's office. He then leaned forward in his saddle, and caught Hermione's attention. She nodded, and they both gave the Queen a firm head nod.
"Excellent," she declared smugly. The Queen then scowled back at Percy and said, "We do not wish to force the issue, but are prepared to do so, if need be."
"Your Muggles and their weapons are no match for magic," the red-bearded wizard declared.
"So what are we, Wetherby?" Hermione shot back. "Soggy toast?"
"And who says that we stand alone in defense of the Realm?" Harry added.
Scrimgeour snorted. "Nice bluff, boy."
"So you think that Hermione and I are only wands sworn to the Queen's defense?"
"I don't see any others on your side," Percy shot back.
The Queen gave the Ministry officials a dismissive glare as she reached for the bridle of Harry's horse. "My Lord High Steward, if you would kindly disabuse these people of this opinion?"
A wide grin broke out on his face as he jumped down to the ground.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Harry intoned, while pulling his white shirt over his head. Now dressed only in a Potter Plaid kilt and dragonhide boots, the bare-chested wizard turned his back on the Ministry party, cupped his hands around his mouth, and loudly barked out a Maori summoning cry towards Carlisle Castle's walls.
The castle responded with a roar, as Dean Thomas led more than a hundred witches and wizards up out of hiding and into view on the ramparts.
"Au!" they called back, with thundering voices.
Harry wanted to take a moment to relish the sight… Muggleborn Summer Institute students and Peanut Butter Brigadiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Rongo and his Maori mates. But those on the ramparts used that time to react to their first spotting of the diminutive Ministry officials.
"Hey Harry," Dean yelled out. "Who are you meeting with…the Minister of Magic…or Tinky-Winky?"
Laughter and cat calls echoed down from the walls as Roger's confirmation of Rufus' and Percy's identities spread, and Harry's comrades realized just how thoroughly the Ministry officials had been pranked. All of the fear and uncertainties that had built up within them dissipated, as what had been a confrontation quickly morphed into more of a spectacle.
Or a football game…as someone up on the walls began a stadium chant that was picked up in full chorus.
"Tele-tubbies!" Clap…Clap…Clap-Clap-Clap. "Tele-tubbies!" Clap…Clap…Clap-Clap-Clap…"Tele-tubbies!" Clap…Clap…Clap-Clap-Clap….
The Queen's Wizard let the taunting go for a bit, then instantly calmed the crowd by raising his hands. He then took in a deep breath and yelled out a well-practiced command using the Maori language.
"Kia whakangawari au i a hau!" (Let us prepare ourselves for the fray!)
In one voice the ramparts loudly responded, "Au!"
The Muggleborns followed the lead of Rongo and his Maori mates and began to slap their arms and thighs, left bare by sleeveless white t-shirts and short Potter Plaid kilts. Deep breaths were taken that were then forced out through puffed cheeks painted in the bold colors of the Muggle countries of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. More than a few students followed Harry's lead and bared their chests, which allowed the Queen's Wizard to pinpoint (with only a trace of incredulity) Luna Lovegood's placement along the walls.
"What in Merlin's name is that supposed to be?" Rufus demanded.
As Harry turned back towards the miniaturized Ministry delegation, he heard the Queen say with pride, "It is the answer to your question, Scrimgeour…they are our loyal magical subjects."
"But most of them are only children...without wands," sneered Percy. "What could they hope to do to us?"
The Queen let out a Royal snort, and turned back towards her Wizard.
"Ringa pakia, My Lord High Steward."
"With pleasure, Your Majesty," Harry replied.
The Queen's Wizard once again turned his back on the magical delegation and looked up towards the castle ramparts. The tartan-clad wizards and witches fell silent as Harry walked out towards the castle. Suddenly, he turned on his heels, took a giant leap back towards the defrocked mini-Minister, and landed in a crouch with arms spread, as if in flight. The Queen's Wizard then yelled out at the top of his lungs.
"Ringa pakia!" (Slap the hands against the thighs!)
The wall of Muggleborns and their allies jumped up into the air as one, then landed in a crouch, slapped thighs with open hands, and shouted.
Harry glared down at mini-Percy with bulging eyes, and then stuck out his tongue at him. As the Queen's Wizard slapped his hands against his arms and legs, Dean Thomas, the Summer Institute's Head Boy, took up the lead from the castle walls.
"Uma tiraha!" (Puff out the chest!)
Harry's efforts to appear menacing would have been severely tested at this point, had he been facing the castle and spotted Luna puffing out her chest.
Dean then shouted,
"Waewae takahia kia kino!" (Stamp the feet as hard as you can!)
The sound of a two hundred pairs of boots (and a dozen Maori feet) stomping on the stone ramparts rolled down onto the field below, carried forward on a harsh breeze that hit Percy's and Scrimgeour's face like a hard slap.
Not realizing that this was the start of a wandless Maori magical dance which was designed to induce insufferable fear and hopelessness in one's foes, Rufus and Percy sat there on their broomsticks, dazed and confused, while the haka's magic was invoked by students who danced and shouted from the castle walls.
Ko Muggleborn e haruru nei! (The Muggleborn storm is about to break!)
Ko Muggleborn e haruru nei! (The Muggleborn storm waxes fiercer!)
Ka tū te ihiihi (We shall stand fearless)
Ka tū te wanawana (We shall stand exalted in spirit)
Ki runga ki te rangi, (We shall climb to the heavens)
E tū iho nei, tū iho nei, hī! (We shall attain the highest of heights!)
A roar of approval came from the Muggle soldiers who were stationed at ground level behind the Castle's walls…the haka had boosted their spirits like a Dementor attack in reverse.
A polar opposite reaction was generated within the targeted wizards (both inside the circle and along the magical castle's walls), who cowered in fear as they tried (and in some cases failed) to retain control of their bowels.
"Wha….what was that?" whimpered Percy.
Harry smiled. "I call it the 'Oops, I crapped my pants,' dance…did it work?"
While Percy weakly shook his head, Dean Thomas and the Muggleborns appended the Maori chant with a rousing chorus of "God Save the Queen." The Summer Institute's Head Boy then yelled, "Three cheers for Her Majesty, the Queen!"
Giddy over what they had just accomplished, some launched into some freelance taunting. Dean jumped up onto a parapet, turned his back to the field below, and flipped up the hem of his kilt.
"Hey Percy, kiss my arse…your lips are at the right height for it!"
Within moments a scene from Braveheart was re-enacted as nearly all of the other Summer Institute students gleefully mooned the Ministry delegation.
"Oh, my," said the Queen, as she looked back towards the castle with eyes that were bright and mirthful.
Once the Muggleborn witches and wizards dropped their kilt hems and righted themselves, Roger Granger provided some additional inspiration. The students had no qualms when it came to loudly labeling Ron's older brother an "empty headed animal food trough whopper."
Hermione shook her head at the cinematic reference, but had been forced to watch enough Python on videotape to realize how she could contribute. From her position inside the circle she yelled back, "Fetchez la vache (Fetch the cow!)
Luna Lovegood considered this to be one of the funniest things that she'd ever heard. She therefore took up the chant, which was quickly adopted up and down the line.
"Fetchez la vache!...Fetchez la vache!... Fetchez la vache!"
Down on the treaty fields, the Queen was having a very hard time maintaining her decorum.
"What is that they're saying?" Percy asked weakly.
"We suggest that you duck if you hear something moo," replied the Queen. She then turned towards Harry and Hermione and added, "Let us depart. We have our answers, we have made our declarations, and we tire of these people's presence."
"Yes, Your Majesty," Harry said with a short bow. He squared off with Scrimgeour and said, "As Her Majesty's Lord High Steward for Magical Britain, I order you to tell me the secrets that have hidden the former Ministry of Magic, or provide the name of the secret keeper capable of doing the same."
Having gained back just a bit of bravado, Rufus hissed, "You think you can order us around without a wand, boy?"
Harry shook his head. "I can order you by the Grace of Her Majesty the Queen, and all of the magic backing the Treaty of Carlisle," he declared. "You have forfeited your right to rule," he added. "Either bow to the rightful ruler of Magical Britain, or slink away in shame."
"How dare you..."
"As Lord High Steward, that's how he dares," Hermione shot back. She then turned towards the Queen and asked, "Your Majesty, shall we detain these three for you?"
"We think not," replied the Queen. "They arrived here under parlay, and shall be offered opportunity to withdraw under those same terms."
Percy got a little bit of his own wits about him and demanded, "Who are you to...."
"Enough!" snapped Scrimgeour, pulling hard on Percy's sleeve. "We will not yield, but shall withdraw in good order."
The Queen glared. "So mote it be." She then dismounted, while Harry helped Hermione do the same. After sending the riderless horses back towards the Castle, the Queen tapped her Art Club badge and called out,
"Yes, Your Majesty?"
"Three to beam up."
The sudden disappearance of not just Harry and Hermione but the Muggle Queen herself left the former Ministry officials too shocked for words. While they tried to make sense of what had just happened, the dome of magical energy began to dissipate, and a dense fog bank began to spill over the river banks and onto the field.
Mini-Percy reached gingerly for the wand that was holstered inside his sleeve and used it to revive Umbridge. Not having gotten a punishing response, he conveyed this news to mini-Rufus, nodded towards the castle walls, and then asked, "Shall I send a few Reducto blasts towards those walls to put these traitors in their place?"
As Scrimgeour pondered the wisdom of this request, he noticed the fog growing thicker, and a strange "whap-whap-whaping" sound coming from the castle's direction. As his eyes followed his ears, three WAH-64D Apache attack helicopters rose from behind the castle's walls, each armed with Hellfire missiles pointed in their direction.
"What in Merlin's name…?" hissed Percy.
A flash of light caught Scrimgeour's attention, and he looked down at five different red spots that had suddenly appeared on the front of his robes. He didn't know what these spots were or what they meant…but given the position of the Muggle flying machines, he was quite certain that he didn't want to find out.
"Keep your wand hidden, Percy," Rufus said evenly. He slowly pulled the Head Auror badge from his robe front and held it out.
"No sudden movements," he ordered. "Grab hold of Dolores and her broom…nice and slow…and grab onto our ride home."
Once Percy managed to get the groggy witch's fat fingers joined with his onto Rufus's badge, the three disappeared in a flash. This was the signal for the Aurors who had been guarding their backs to use their own portkeys.
The fog was now thick enough to mask the Aurors' escape, which forced the Muggle attack helicopters to maintain their positions and provide cover for the Queen's cavalry escort to return back inside the walls.
When the dense fog lifted, the three helicopters were ordered to make low altitude passes over the meeting fields…just to make sure that the stone circle and magical castle that had seemingly disappeared along with the fog were really no longer there.
The magical haka presented in this chapter is a slightly modified version of the "Ko Niu Tireni" haka, which was specifically written for and first performed by the All Blacks Rugby team during their unbeaten 1924-25 tour of England, Wales and Ireland. It is not the famous "Ka Mate" haka, which now is the copyrighted property of the Maori people. The use of a haka in this story is not for commercial purposes, and is presented with the greatest of respect for the All Blacks, the Maori and their traditions.
This chapter's discussion on the Fidelius-charm and secret keepers is not consistent with canon's Book 7. It is, however, internally consistent with an earlier discussion, way back at the start of the story, which was written and posted before DH came out.
And speaking of Book 7, this update is the first chapter in my own "Book 7"…the breakdown in chapters for the previous six "books" is provided in the revised google doc version of the story. So we're in the home stretch, folks…story's end is less than seven chapters and 70k words away (as far as I can tell from here). And the book 7 name isn't a placeholder, even if it looks like one.