The Horror! The Horror!
Harry Potter and the Kurtz Estate, Chapter 6
Harry Potter smiled. He had the three sides of the looming war sitting in his kitchen…and he was in control. (How different would things have been had he stayed in Britain like a good little puppy?)
He had no intentions whatsoever of leaving the Congo…but he didn't reveal that fact. He expected to get some very excellent concessions in the next few hours. He expected to get exactly what he needed: a long, peaceful, happy life.
"Hold up, before we start bidding on me, why don't we all bid on the bounty of prisoners who arrived here last night?"
"Prisoners?" Amelia asked.
"Violated the sovereignty of Kiss-My-Ass, The Congo. They're mine to do with as I see fit. I expect our innkeeper and reverend have already begun experiments on some of them."
"I guess I'll have to bid for my boss…and maybe for my Head Auror," Amelia said. "But, I have no knowledge of any other Ministry personnel in Africa…as no one filed the official memoranda to indicate they were pursuing a case in the Congo."
"Death by paperwork? How…evilly bureaucratic," Voldemort said, more and more impressed. "I should bid for…hmm, who was the least worthless of my minions? Malfoy? He did 'donate' all that money, but he whines so much…and requires liters of hair product.
"Snape, perhaps? Dark, disturbing, and evil…but I could never be sure if he was evil for my cause or evil for the side of good…or evil just for the sake of evil. Then there's Bellatrix…a randy, dirty girl, oh hooo!, but she's about as close to the moon as she is to her sanity. Maybe I should just take someone evil and mostly useless, like Goyle…."
Harry's eyes turned from Voldemort. He wondered who Minerva might try to ransom.
A phoenix flamed into the room just as Minerva was about to speak and presented Minerva with a letter. "I have been…ahem, instructed…to bid for three piles of manure that were once the brothers Lestrange plus the wife Bellatrix. I am to offer…oh no…this phoenix…."
Fawkes squawked loudly.
Harry smiled at the fire bird. "Fawkes, if you want to, our Augurey is just upstairs. You could visit…and see if you have anything in common."
Fawkes squawked and disappeared in a dramatic, fiery sort of way.
"I wonder what a phoenix-augurey crossbreed is called?" Harry muttered.
Minerva looked even more severe than usual…and then set down the letter. "Albus wants me to negotiate for those three piles of Death Eater manure…I'd rather negotiate to have them burned so that Dumbledore can't practice his depraved arts upon them."
Voldemort stopped trying to figure out who was the least worthless of his minions and said, "He's a necromancer. Deliciously evil!"
"If he's practicing illegal necromantic magic, why don't you just have him arrested, Professor?" Harry asked. Madam Bones, wide eyed as had been the case lately, just nodded.
"He's a great wizard."
"He's a criminal."
"But he's a great wizard. It doesn't matter what he did to Mr. Filch, or Hagrid's dog, or even you, Mr. Potter. It was for the greater good." Minerva's eyes were twinkling madly now.
"So…he can do whatever the Merlin he wants, including keeping an inferus on staff, and no one cares?"
"Oh, the purebloods care…but not for the right reasons. Besides, Albus is a great wizard."
"Professor, have you ever learned to resist the Imperius Curse?"
"Oh, no, not really. I was quite meek as a child, had no mind at all for witchery."
"A bad Transfiguration student?"
"Until Albus began giving me private lessons…."
"You never had an interest in whips and harnesses until your lessons with Dumbledore?"
"No, can't say that I had any inclinations that way."
"So, you agree then?"
"Albus is a great wizard."
The stern visage melted away into a tearful, frightened woman – one who looked rather like Mrs. Figg with all those cats and so much cabbage always at the boil in her kitchen.
"Oh, my, god. What have I been doing with my life," Minerva shouted. "I wanted a dozen children and I have none. I wanted forty grandchildren and I have none. I wanted to become the world's best baker…cookies and cakes and muffins, oh yes, muffins!...and I haven't cooked a meal for myself in half a century! I'm a terrible teacher…and I scowl at children when I really want to hug them…and…."
"You were less whiny when you were under the Imperius Curse," Voldemort said with a smirk.
The auction for the release of the prisoners was temporarily on hold.
Albus sat in his harness, humming an offkey tune, when he felt the fingers of fate flick down his spine. His grand plan to make Minerva seem like the brains of the operation had just gone awry.
He called for Fawkes…but realized he'd sent his phoenix to Africa.
His wand was lodged up his…disciplinary holster. And his hands were wedged under his armpits as part of his harness.
How could he get free…and put everything back to rights? Blast! And double blast!
Eventually he forgot the feeling…and went back to singing offkey lullabies. Minerva would take care of everything. That's why he'd made her the way she was – spicy, cruel, demanding, and intimidating, the three…er, four keys to everyman's heart.
It was nearing lunch time when the bidding resumed. The breakfast dishes were still on the table, although the warming charms were wearing off.
Madam Bones picked at the goat ragout…and wondered how much longer she had to be in this madhouse.
"Lot one," Harry said, "is a rather weathered and used Auror named Dawlish."
Amelia looked down at her fingernails and pretended to flick lint off them.
Voldemort held up his hand. "I've got a broken pocket watch."
Minerva clenched her jaw. "Can he teach? We need a new DADA instructor…."
Harry nodded, even though he knew nothing about this Auror. "Sure. Why not?"
"Alright then. I'll bid…Albus' sock collection."
Harry looked non-plussed. "Any other takers? Hmm, guess he is fairly worthless then. The reserve price hasn't been met, so no sale. Let's move on to Lot 2, an Auror named Shacklebolt."
Amelia sat up. Kingsley was a very useful Auror. "I bid the Minister's collection of antique wall hangings."
Voldemort's eyes lit up at such a high offering price. "I bid my services to resurrect James and Lily Potter."
Harry rolled his eyes and snorted.
"Seriously, I'll bring back your parents."
"I've already seen some Inferi here. No thanks!"
"Then I revise my bid. I'll teach you everything I know."
"You'd lie to me. Tell me it was a cake baking charm and it would blow me up."
Voldemort scowled a bit before regrouping. "I'll give you Severus Snape to feed to your nundu."
"Our dragons have 'adopted' Snape. His screaming is apparently soothing to a newborn dragon…and Snape screams a lot. Besides, the nundu's full up from a trio of Lestranges."
"The head yeti adopted him. He apparently looks quite a bit like a fluffy bunny rabbit and the yeti refuses to let Malfoy go. No big loss that one."
"Hmm. I will accept that as a legitimate bid. Professor McGonagall?"
"Kingsley would make a superior DADA instructor. I bid the Hogwarts Library Restricted Section…."
"Again, Professor, I'm not Hermione."
"Sorry. Hmm, how about five fat cows? I sampled the goat ragout…rather decent…but I suspect you're missing good old fashioned beef."
The bidding went from there for ownership of Auror Shacklebolt. Amelia Bones threw in the Minister's finest crystal tea set, the Minister's dozen finest Persian rugs, the Minister's finest collection of blackmail materials, the Minister's most secret collection of bribery and corruption handbooks, and eight fat cows.
"Excellent, the Ministry's up to a bid of eight fat cows and a bunch of useless shite. Tom?"
"Wormtail, a cursed water goblet that desiccates people the more they drink, the evil overlord's checklist…."
"Excuse me?" Harry asked.
"Well, Harry, my boy, you're well on your way to conquering Africa. You just need the rest of the instructions."
"I'm not an evil overlord…."
"Let's find out. Do you mark your followers?"
"No. I mark no one…and I have friends rather than followers."
"Alright, do you teach your 'friends' accuracy in spell casting?"
"Well, we've done some magic, I guess…and I did yell at our reverend for having a lazy wand hand."
"Excellent. Wouldn't want your 'friends' to all aim at an enemy and have everyone miss him by a kilometer, right?" Voldemort smiled. "Have you ever killed an enemy?"
"Accidentally, I suppose."
"Keep dangerous creatures as pets?"
"Most everything around here could qualify as dangerous. So, yes."
"Do you render down your conquests for potions ingredients?"
Harry sighed. This wasn't going well. "Well, we did that to the lethifolds…."
"Ever create a hyper elaborate plot to kill an enemy…then walk away a few minutes before his demise?"
Voldemort crowed. "Even I continually fall into that trap. You're beating me by a point, boy, I'm so proud…"
"I'm not an evil overlord," Harry protested.
Voldemort smiled. "Ever claimed a portion of unowned land for your own nefarious purposes?"
"No, I bought this land at a realtor in Diagon Alley."
"No one's perfect. Have you ever built a secret lair?"
"Maybe. We did have to dig pretty deep for the nundu…."
Voldemort's smile was practically blinding. "Do you have a secret plan for world domination?"
"Well, Remus insisted I write up a business plan. I didn't want to put in any Excel financial models…."
"Excel! Evil, evil, evil!"
"There's nothing evil about a business plan," Harry said. "I could show you the PowerPoint presentation…."
"PowerPoint? PowerPoint! Be still my foul, non-beating heart! You're so evil… A plan for world domination in PowerPoint slides with bullet points! Hahahaha! You're more evil than a lunchlady in a hairnet slopping out Salisbury steak to disgruntled school children!"
Harry clutched his head as Voldemort laughed and giggled like a schoolgirl. Why did Harry even bother to humor Tom? He wasn't…that evil, was he?
Luna arrived either a few days early or a few days late to start the internship her father had arranged for her. That was her official cover…secretly she was looking for rare animals that no one else knew existed.
Within three minutes of being in the Congo, Luna found eighteen varieties of rare animals hiding behind wooden huts and trees or winking at her from up in the taller branches.
Purple-Necked Humdingers…and Slack-Jawed Yokels…and Monkey-Brained Peacocks…and a Firefly Quackenbush…and a pair of highly noxious Chair-Bound Wither Nurses…and an ultra-rare Merkin Muffley.
"It's anything but slim pickens here," she muttered.
Luna sat down and pulled out a notepad and an odd quill from a bird no one believed to exist. She began to write with an ink made from saliva donated by a creature no one believed to exist.
She drew pictures of every animal she saw and got a few of the Purple-Necked Humdingers – which were rather fond of butterbeer corks – to come sit in her hands.
Luna quickly revised her opinion of this whole internship. This was the best trip her Daddy had ever arranged, even better than that visit to Chernobyl to see Glowing Fizzfubbs.
Eventually her belly grumbled and her face protested that it had begun to burn under the fierce morning sun.
Luna allowed a trail of Vicious Knids to show her the way to the local mess hall…where some rather delightful food perfumed the air.
Luna knocked lightly on the door, but got no answer, so she walked right in. The trail of Vicious Knids led right into the kitchen…and specifically into the plate of uneaten food sitting in front of a pale man in a dark cloak.
Luna had never eaten food favored by a Knid before…so she snatched the plate away and began to eat.
The eggs were a bit cold, but perhaps Knids liked them that way, extra rubbery?
Luna munched away…offering bits here and there to a rather affectionate quintaped – with three extra legs, otherwise known as a Fabulous Octopus – while trying to ignore all the rude shouting going on above.
Finally something did attract Luna's notice as she finished the last bit of the fry up: shouting.
"Which one of you ate my breakfast?" an angry man bellowed out. He sounded really mean. It was so bad, the quintaped began to growl.
The pale man with no nose peeked under the table and began to shout. "This little mongrel ate my food! Why, I'll…where's my wand…I've a new super-duper-evil curse I've been dying to try out…"
The quintaped began to growl and one its three extra 'legs' suddenly detached and went flying for the cloaked man's wand…in point of fact, it actually managed to eat that wizard's wand.
Luna just giggled.
Eventually a young man with black hair peered under the table. "Hi there, miss. Why have you come to join us?"
"I'm supposed to be interning."
Harry's eyes got wide. He'd heard about 'interns' before…American presidents had 'interns'…but didn't think he wanted to lose his innocence to a girl who'd sit under the breakfast table eating cold food.
That didn't show good common sense. Why…she could have just asked for a fresh plate. Harry did enjoy cooking for anyone not named Dursley.
"Well, our librarian-slash-publican should finally be waking up. He'll show you the ropes…err, maybe he would at that…he's hot to get you set up…err, he'll show you our animals."
Luna just smiled and nodded. "I like animals."
Harry left the nutty girl under the table and went back to the auctioning. Amelia Bones was bidding on her chief Auror, That Moron Rufus, when Luna heard something very…interesting.
"I bid the secrets of the Department of Mysteries…"
Luna crawled out from under the breakfast table and sat in Harry's lap. "Heliopaths?"
"Yes, a secret army."
Luna became so excited she began bouncing up and down in Harry's lap. Harry bit his tongue as the pain increased…she was grinding his twig and berries into dust.
"No, but I hear Cornelius did prefer house elf bon-bons."
Luna began bouncing harder. Harry was almost to the point of screaming….
"I have three to attend me in my bath tub. Perk of the job."
Luna collapsed firmly into Harry's lap from the shock of this revelation…and Harry shrieked a bit before he shoved the blonde to the floor.
"Never do that again…or we'll see if the nundu is hungry. Interns…can't kill them, err, I guess we could." Harry began to nod and plot. It took him a few minutes to calm down…and regain the sensation from his, ahem, lower body.
"Back to the auctions. Professor McGonagall had a devious gleam in her eye when she bid one mouldy boot for Dolores Umbridge. Any other bids?"
Luna got up off the floor and went exploring again. Maybe there was something interesting upstairs? If that old woman was right, Snorkacks didn't hang out in Sweden…but rather in the bathroom.
Luna felt the sudden urge to draw a bath…and wait for some snorkacks to show up.
Bill Weasley looked down at his instructions…and then he looked up again. He was in the middle of the jungle, so who would need warding or cursebreaking skills out here? Wasn't anything to steal, was there?
He looked down at the paper again. He had portkeyed…five kilometers away from his destination. Huh?
So he had to walk five kilometers. Bill was a wizard, not a marathoner. And it was awfully hot out…but, thankfully, he was a wizard. Bill pulled out his wand, transfigured a broken branch into a comfortable, shaded divan…and then transfigured four rocks into four scantily clad, svelte golems to carry him around.
One learned a lot of interesting things working in Egypt.
Bill could probably have walked the five kilometers faster…or enchanted a twig to fly like a brook…or followed step two on his directions and sent off a Patronus messenger so someone could come with a portkey…or done pretty much anything faster, even crabwalk. But the view was fantastic as his golems toiled to carry him through the jungle. Rarr!
Just after midday, Bill arrived at what appeared to be a small village. He pulled out his letter again…and it said to go right on in.
"Alright," Bill muttered, "I'm getting fifty galleons a day and fully reimbursed expenses. Why not?"
Bill stumbled into a shambles of a bar…which had a surprisingly large collection of books lining all the walls…and then departed. He poked his head into a small church…which had a garish representation of Christ in fuschia and lavender robes hung on a cross…and his crown of thorns seemed to blink on and off, like a sign in a muggle bar…and then he visited an inn which had heart-shaped rotating beds…with mirrors above them. It seemed a den of inquity, something so perverted only Fred and George, working together, could dream up in their twisted minds.
Eventually he decided to enter the oddest looking building of all…it looked to be at least a hundred years old, without much of a roof, and ready to collapse should someone dare sneeze inside it.
Walking inside, Bill was shocked. It was much nicer here than at the Burrow…and there was the smell of food in the air, good food.
Bill's tummy rumbled as he hadn't eaten in more than thirty-five minutes. All Weasley men needed food almost constantly.
Bill started to knock on the entry to the kitchen…but stopped, utterly flabbergasted.
His old Head of House, the hard ass McGonagall, was arm wrestling a scary looking man…sans nose…in a black cloak…and she was winning. What next? A beer chugging contest? Shots of tequila until someone passed out drunk? When had old McGonagall joined a muggle fraternity…and why were they accepting people as ugly as the guy in the hood.
Bill just watched as the scary man seemed to be winning for a few moments…before McGonagall reasserted her alpha female strength. The man's hand and wrist thudded into the table…and the man looked furious.
A black haired boy – Harry Potter? – stood up and shouted, "McGonagall wins the auction for a grand total of one arm wrestling championship and a promise to change Slytherin House's colors to pink and maroon."
"Nooo!" the man in the black cloak howled. He'd obviously been a Slytherin at school.
A raffish man leaning against the counter in the back just laughed and said something like, "Snivellus Sucks and Always Will!"
A bookish looking man – a bit haggard at that – stepped out of the nearby pantry and fixed his sight on McGonagall. "Minerva, why in the world do you want Gregory Goyle Senior – or what's left of him?"
"He'd be better than that Inferus Albus keeps killing and reviving…plus that dreadful cat of his. As you know, the qualifications for caretaker are 1) be a living, breathing human being and 2) have little access to magic, thus forcing you to clean on your hands and knees…."
"Why in the world," the scholarly looking man inquired.
"Slytherin wrote that rule. Had a squib cousin he detested, but still had to employ the man. Decided to inflict the unpleasantness on everyone else…for all time."
"So…that's why Goyle will work. He just meets the qualification for being alive…and his magic is about as weak as it could be…and still be called a wizard."
Bill coughed…and then watched as a number of heads immediately turned toward him. The no-nosed man in the black cloak reached for a wand…but came up snarling and defenseless.
Wide-eyed Bill just stuttered out, "I'm here about the wards."
The young man – woah! That was ickle Harrikins! – got up from the table and then walked over to Bill. "Glad you could come. Hungry? No. Then, why don't we talk warding…. Remus, care to walk with us?"
The scholarly type followed right behind.
Bill's old Head of House began gloating over the pale wizard in the dark robe. The other wizard standing in the back of the room was laughing like a madman.
What exactly had Bill gotten himself into? It felt like a bad episode of a television show…he felt like he might be locked in this creepy house on a stormy night and find himself a murder victim or something odd…all television seemed to be that simplistic.
Just as Bill was about to step out of view of the kitchen, his old Head of House punched the pale wizard in the dark cloak.
"Just a minor disagreement," Harry murmured.
"Well…Professor McGonagall is having to, er, relearn a lot about herself. She's gone kinda, well, butch on us. I think if I brought firewhiskey over from the bar she might try to drink us all under the table, then rob us all in our alcohol-poisoning comas."
Bill just nodded, a bit stunned.
"Let's see what you can do with our nundu, huh?"
"I thought that bit was…a joke or something."
"Don't say that around the beastie," Harry replied. "She doesn't do well with those who underestimate her."
Bill just nodded…and wondered how he was going to survive this assignment.
'Nundu, huh?' Bill's mind was racing. 'Maybe I'm not cut out for this warding business. Maybe I need to do like mum always said and settle down with a hot veela chick and start popping out sprogs, one or two a year for the next twenty years or so….'
The auction continued over lunch. Harry made goat flambee, with roasted sweet potatoes and candied peanuts, and it surprised everyone there how good it tasted. Still, it was goat flambee.
It was a tumultuous afternoon. Hermione dropped by just after the last of the goat flambee was either eaten or thrown away – she was, after all, the smartest witch of her generation – and informed Harry about his forced participation in a dating show.
The oft-halted bidding for Rufus Scrimgeour halted again…when Harry began to bellow. "What?"
"I've set it up with the BBC, Harry. They'll start filming in eight months or so."
"Well, you've singlehandedly defeated all the forces of evil fangirls, Harry, which is why I formed them up into a union in the first place. I hinted that they should name themselves Harry's Other Trolls, or HOT, but they went with the Harry Potter Fan Club. So…the villains are defeated and now it's time for you to get the girl…just like your standard, size six fairy tale ending."
"I live in a jungle…and I have no intention of moving. How many girls are going to like that?"
Sirius and Remus both began to snicker and laugh. Sirius used his arms to measure out the dimensions – obscene and otherwise – of the girl he'd saved from prison so she could be his girlfriend.
"More than you'd think," Hermione said, possessing an answer for every objection.
"I can't dance, can I, how many girls will like a guy who can't dance?"
Hermione suppressed a laugh. Voldemort was sitting at Harry's kitchen table, negotiating, and Harry was scared of possibly dating and dancing with girls? Boys were weird.
"Fine. We'll make teaching you to dance one of the weekly challenges…."
Harry turned pale and began to look around for an escape route.
"But…but…it's a magical place. Television cameras won't work here, not around all my pets."
"The location scouts have already been here. They want to 'recreate' the camp over near those waterfalls. An excellent beautiful backdrop for the BBC's new smash hit."
Harry swayed a bit before almost collapsing. Even Amelia Bones was laughing now.
"Even Superman fell before Kryptonite. Who knew Harry was allergic to dating?" Hermione loved it when a plan came together.
She'd make sure Harry found a good match…and she'd watch as Ron turned into a spluttering, jealous moron, just perfect for rebuilding.
Morton Throckmorton Aloysius Ottoman Pendergast Biedermeier Jones VIII, recently appointed by his daddy as editor of the newspaper the family had owned for 200 years, hadn't gotten anything from Skeeter in quite some time. He decided to portkey off to Africa to see what there was to see. He'd write a damned story on Potter himself if he needed to.
The portly twenty-two year old man landed with a thump in the middle of a clearing. With a great deal of wheezing and sweating, he managed to follow the path into an odd sort of village. Voices on wind told him where the interesting things were happening in this town.
Morton crept up to the open window of the only house in the village and pulled out a Dictating Quill.
"…the gentleman from Little Hangleton? No more bids, then? Highest bid is from McGonagall, one dragon skeleton, one liter of acromantula bile, and one box of…er, rotten apple cores. Madam Bones, are you sure you don't want to increase the Ministry's bid?"
"Not at this time."
"Fine, Madam Umbridge's auction fails. No one meets the minimum reserve price. I guess I'll have to see if she likes tending to my fish…or perhaps that collection of poisonous toads that I've arranged for."
Amelia Bones began to laugh. Morton Jones knew that laugh well. It was the laugh he'd heard the last time he'd been caught out in Knockturn Alley flashing the hags…his wares. Dreadful harridan…no one should be able to laugh like that when they were arresting a proud, naked man. The sound should be respectful…or even awed…or perhaps sheer lust?
Morton Jones resolved to get to the bottom of this, to expose it…and to make sure Amelia Bones never laughed at anyone else, for any reason.
They were auctioning off people in there…Umbridge, another one who laughed at Morton's artistic attempts in Knockturn Alley.
Jones wasn't against slavery per se, but he didn't like women who laughed. So he'd pursue this story to the ends of this earth. He'd run Amelia Bones the Laugher into the ground.
This story was so good he wouldn't even need to lie. He could just publish the truth under Skeeter's byline, make sure everyone thought it was a lie, and then…. Hold up, there was a flaw in his logic. Where had he gone wrong?
True story, check.
Published under Skeeter's name, check.
People believe it's false, but amusing, causes disruption inside Ministry as people laugh about it…hold up. That wasn't the result Morton Jones wanted. He wanted people in prison, rotting, never able to laugh again.
Hmm, how to use Skeeter's name to get this story out, then? What would Rita do?
Rita's strategy would be to take a true story, twist it into a half dozen lies, and then somehow get people to believe her ridiculous lies. That sounded better.
But how to do it without Rita's distorted mind present to help?
Take a true story and twist it into lies…hmm, Morton was on the right track, but how to do it? What was more salacious than Harry Potter, Amelia Bones, and company auctioning off Ministry personnel in the Congo?
Rita looked for scandals…and love stories…and tales of public figures going mad. Hmm, perhaps Morton Jones could review Rita's old columns and make something about that horrible Amelia Bones.
Some kind of massive orgy in the jungle?
Or a corrupt scheme to kidnap Ministry officials for ransom, spearheaded by the Ministry's top law enforcement officer?
Wow, Morton was shocked. It was pretty easy to make this crap up. Excellent! Morton Jones had feared it would be hard to do what Rita did…but it wasn't. A little lie here; a lot of fabrication there; tied up with sass and vitriol.
Yes, that is exactly what Rita would do.
A pure formula for success!
Harry wiped the sweat from his forehead. Making eight pans of goat lasagna (with fresh goat cheese) was a hot, messy business…but he had to feed a lot of people. Remus plus his new girl; Sirius plus his new girl; Fred and George; a whole lot of prisoners, including the batshit crazy Ginny Weasley; McGonagall; Voldemort; Madam Bones; that crazy intern who kept sitting on his family jewels; crazy, plotting Hermione; and now the former players from two Quidditch teams.
(Thankfully the yetis fed Lucius Malfoy and their other captives whatever they had on hand, mostly leaves and bugs. And the Congolese Black fed Snape whatever roasted, burnt bits they had left over from their feasting.)
Everyone wanted something…but Harry was still stuck with the most worthless of the prisoners.
He'd thought the auction a good idea, but it was a mess. McGonagall only wanted a new near-squib caretaker and DADA teacher. Amelia Bones had only pursued a few of the better Aurors and had 'mysteriously' failed to bid high enough to win either Fudge, Umbridge, Percy Weasley, or any of the other executives of the Ministry.
No one had bid on Arthur or Ginny Weasley…it was sorta sad.
What was Harry going to do with so many useless people at his Magical Creature Ranch?
Harry sighed and put the third and fourth pans of lasagna into the oven.
He needed to think.
He just wanted to live his life. How to get things back to normal? Harry didn't want more invaders…more Dark Lords popping in for torture and tea…more teachers demanding he return to school…more Ministry flunkies pushing paperwork at him.
Harry had a job now, a fun one, and he had some good people living here.
What to do? What to do….
Whatever it was needed to be a total solution. No more auctioning off this person and that person. He needed a neat, all encompassing solution…something creative.
Maybe Sirius or Remus would have an idea…something memorable.
Nine Months Later
Hettie Bogrash – formerly known as Perenelle Flamel – was bored in her realtor's office in Diagon Alley. She hadn't sold a piece of property in a month. Perhaps it was time to get into a new side venture: travel sales, perhaps?
The Daily Prophet had put out the most wonderful stories about a new wizarding theme park called Snorkack World…she needed to take her husband on a vacation, perhaps start signing up others to travel to the exclusive theme park.
The brochure looked promising. Hettie could sell a hundred trips to parents of children interested in having breakfast with Handy Dandy the Occamy and his girlfriend Citrina the Full-Bodied Erumpent.
Plus they had the largest publicly viewable animal preserves in the world. And the most diverse crew of animal keepers ever assembled.
She read the brochure again…and smiled. This was a surefire way to earn money.
She'd just have to talk Nick into it…er, Augustus…er, what the hell was his new name? Trellis, perhaps? All this changing confused her. Cockrot, her husband Cockrot.
The portkey was as gentle as Hettie had ever felt. Her husband had been forced by the goblins to remain behind and work in the dragon pits, but Hettie wasn't too concerned. The man who could make a Philosopher's Stone could do anything.
Hettie had a huge smile on her face. She'd been asking around for the last few days and no one had anything other than great things to say about Snorkack World.
Hettie looked around at her landing spot: a beautiful waterfall in the foreground, a beautiful golden tent off to her left, and a large, comforting storefront off to the right. Hettie moved toward the golden tent: Welcome to Snorkack World.
Once inside, massively powerful cooling charms kicked in. The room looked like it was out of an immaculate hotel: marble desks and beautiful women from all over the world.
"Checking in?" a beautiful black woman asked. She seemed happy to work at a place like this…unlike that odd looking freckled, ginger haired man scowling next to her. (Had Hettie paid attention, she would have discovered everyone just called him the Weasel.)
"Yes. Reservation for Hettie Bogrash, two nights."
"Of course. You'll be staying in room 1045 of the Hogwarts Center for Jungle Studies…."
"Hogwarts is involved in this?"
"Oh, yes, I don't know the whole story, but the first edition of Snorkacks: A History just arrived in the gift shop. It's supposed to be a fascinating story…all the compromises that went into the building of this place."
"Does Hogwarts teach classes here?"
"Absolutely. You can sign up for practicals in Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology, or four other fields. We have the world's largest free-standing Devil's Snare, over four hectacres in size."
Hettie just smiled and nodded.
"Here is your booklet with all of your options here. The Snake House just opened and it's quite popular. The Quidditch Stadium has a daily game at four o'clock; today the Auguries are playing a visiting team from America. The magical rides – Into the Waterfall, Flying with Dragons (my personal favorite), Name That Magical Crossbreed, When Nundus Attack, River Boat Voyage, Kurtz's Haunted Shack, the Snake House Plunge, the Philosopher's Stone Gauntlet, Battle with a Basilisk, the TriWizard Travesty, and the others – are less busy in the mornings and late evenings. Finally, the Harry Potter Fertility Shrine and Meditation Center…."
"Yes, the Harry Potter Fan Club established it on the property. It's open for visits from ten to four daily."
"I don't understand," Hettie said. She assumed Potter was dead. After all, she'd given away his location to a bunch of mercenary goblins.
"The twenty foot tall anatomically proportionate statue is the main attraction. Potter only modeled for it under duress, but it's…quite nice, if you get my meaning. I sometimes take my lunch down there and stare at it for an hour or two…."
Hettie went pale.
"Who built Snorkack World?"
"Well, it's a long story, but the founder is Harry Potter…."
Hettie fainted dead away.
Hettie woke up later that day and had no idea where she was. The beautiful room she woke up in – complete with a lively, happy, smiling cartoon occamy painted on the inside of her door – finally prompted a memory or two: she was at Harry Potter's Snorkack World.
She lurched out of bed and felt nauseous again. All her plotting had failed. She'd sent Potter into the jungle to die; she'd told the goblins about it to make sure all his enemies and all the boy's overzealous 'supporters' knew about it.
No one got the better of Hettie Bogrash! No one. She was just going to have to sabotage this whole disastrous concept.
Hettie got dressed and made in downstairs in near record time. When she arrived, there was an odd girl talking to a group of people. Hettie was trying to push through to get to the restaurant, but just a few moments of listening forced Hettie to stand there, open mouthed, listening.
"…Nargle-free zone. We're still building two more hotels based on where the Sprinkles told me to put them. The Dragon's Horde will open in three months and the Thunderbird's Aerie will open a few weeks after that. The Hogwarts Centre will remain our premiere education and living facility, however. Any questions about accommodations at this time?"
Hettie couldn't help herself. "Excuse me, miss, but I missed your name."
"I'm Luna Lovegood, Executive Vice President for Customer Experience."
Hettie knew the Lovegoods. She felt like puking. This crazy girl was an executive vice president? She probably wasn't even qualified to be an intern.
Hettie tried to slink away, but the crazy blonde girl latched onto Hettie. "Oh no, ma'am, you need to finish off the V.I.P. tour. All potential investors need to see the inner workings of Snorkack World."
"I take it you named the place, then?"
Hettie was seething inside. She had mayhem to plan and unleash…and she was being forced to walk around the park with a bunch of potential investors. Who would ever be so stupid as to invest in a place like this?
"And here is Sybil Trelawney, ladies and gentlemen, the Hogwarts Teacher in Residence…."
"Who teaches Divination at Hogwarts then?" One of the battier women in the crowd asked that.
"Headmistress McGonagall used a generous donation from the Harry Potter Foundation to transition the main campus from Divination and Muggle Studies to Living with the Non-Magical and Starting Your Own Business: Basic Entrepreneurish and Beginning Arcane Magics. Professor Trelawney is now Chief Curator of Useless Magical Artifacts, such as crystal balls and Tarot cards."
Trelawney pointed at Hettie Bogrash, clutched at her throat, and began speaking in a bizarre voice. "The one with devilish eyes approaches…."
That was when Luna silenced her with a spell. "I know you can't help it, Professor, but these nice investors don't need to hear more of your tripe. You tried this three times last week…you're just so lonely. Perhaps if you would speak with the Chifurples that live in your new tower, you'd be less miserable. I arranged for them special, just for you…."
Hettie followed behind the group barely able to think. A tour guided by Luna Lovegood was three parts incomprehension, followed by two parts uncomfortable truths, capped off with one part ridiculous beasts no one had ever heard of before.
The group passed by line after line at the park on their way to the Snake House and the newest ride at the park, the Snake House Plunge.
Hettie followed the other idiots into the Snake House…and screamed when she saw the attendant inside one of the snake enclosures.
"It's the Dark Lord…."
The other potential investors turned to look and merely nodded. Luna Lovegood, however, wasn't amused. "Didn't you read the investor packet before arriving? Of course, the retired Dark Lord is at Snorkack World. It was a condition of the contract he signed to end the war."
"Dark Lords start wars…of course. They wouldn't be Dark Lords if they just went around selling cotton candy, you understand. And…well, the story is quite involved. There are goats, and dragons, a few yetis, of course (no good story can leave out the yetis), a basilisk, a corkscrew, a quintaped, a whole bunch of spiders, several scantily clad witches, and a dating show starring Harry Potter…."
"That made no sense," Hettie protested. But the other potential investors seemed to be following along.
"Fine, read the book. I wrote the first draft of Snorkacks: A History myself. Now, back to the Snake House. As you can see, the lead attendant is currently checking on the health of our boomslangs. The occamy are in the next room over…"
"Excuse me," a demure blonde woman asked. "But what is the 'attendant' doing to that snake?"
"Well, it was written into his contract that he had to verify the intestinal integrity of all the larger snakes, pythons and such, with a Wormtail device. The device…."
"You mean a rat with a silver paw mounted on a semi-flexible stick?"
"Yes, quite. The Wormtail device is pushed inside the snake's mouth and down the length of its body once per month to ensure proper digestion…."
Most of the potential investors seemed to think the idea sound.
"What happens if the rat gets bitten?" Hettie asked.
"He does all the time. But he's really an animagus, of course, so we can dose him with an extremely painful anti-venom…and he survives just fine. Whimpers a lot, though."
"Only once a month?"
"Every snake once a month. We have almost four thousand here. The attendant just barely has time to finish up one cycle before he has to start over again…."
Hettie began to pale again. That sounded like torture, like something out of Greek mythology, a truly terribly fate. Equivalent to being made immortal, but having your liver torn out daily, only for it to regrow over night. Why did no one else see it?
"Let's move on to the Plunge. It's the only way to exit the Snake House."
Against her will, Hettie enjoyed the massive magical rollercoaster. First it went way up high, far higher than should have been possible inside a small building like the Snake House, then it dropped everyone right into an environment with the occamies, the flying snakes hissed and threatened to bite, but the ride swerved back up and out of danger at the last second. The rest of the house got second visits…and then came the Plunge! The ride chucked off each person, one by one, into a long spiraling glass tube that seemed to go on for a kilometer. When Hettie reached the end, she landed in a massive tank of water…roiling with a hundred sea serpents of various sizes from massive to 'please save me now.'
Just a moment before she was about to be attacked, Hettie found herself, perfectly dry, sitting in a deep, comfortable, leather couch…in a room just off the entrance to the Snake House. She'd never been here before…and had no idea how she'd gotten here.
That ride was some kind of magic. Illusions? But illusions so real they felt terrifying and exciting and completely real. How could this place do that? Or was it all real? Had they created a muggle style track up in the darkness of the ceiling? How? How!
"How do you do that," Hettie asked as soon as she laid eyes on Luna.
"Trade secret. Harry invented the process…."
"This Harry is, what, fifteen? How can we trust a fifteen year old to develop something like this…something that's completely safe?"
"It's safe, Ms. Bogrash," Luna said. Hettie shut up for a moment. She had never mentioned her name to this group.
"Let's keep walking. To your right is our goat pavilion, tended to by the retired Hogwarts Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore…"
"Dumbledore is a goat caretaker now," Hettie blurted out.
Luna just rolled her eyes and kept the group moving.
"To your right is our highly secure nundu enclosure. The lead janitor is currently removing some of the detritus…."
Hettie looked over…and saw the Minister of Magic scowling as he pushed a wheelbarrow filled with…manure.
"Dare I ask why Cornelius Fudge is doing that job?"
"Part of the contract," Luna said, in a sing-song voice.
"Can I see a copy of this contract?"
"I put it in Snorkacks: A History."
"Where do they sell it?"
"We'll visit the pub-slash-library-slash-main gift shop in a few hours. Can you hold out until then?"
"Fine," Hettie muttered.
"Excellent. Next stop is Spider Village!"
Hettie's skin began to crawl. The further she got into the place, the more disturbed she was. Dolores Umbridge was used in a demonstration of what happened to people attacked by deadly spiders. Every fifteen minutes thousands of spiders attacked her.
Hettie didn't think it was possible for her to become any paler.
Mosquito Marsh left her stung, while everyone else in the group was untouched. Just her and a former Auror named Dawlish (who was now a gate attendant and guard).
The Werewolf Retreat: A Medical Clinic was a bit of a medical marvel. Two or three werewolves a day from all over came to lose their affliction. Rufus Scrimgeour seemed particularly unhappy reduced to a role as an orderly.
The group stopped and ate at Lakeside Laconics. The river was a bit terrifying to watch, as it was clearly filled with lethal serpents and biting fish. But she saw young witches and wizards enthralled everywhere she looked; they weren't scared of scary things. Some even threw in bits of food to watch the swarming of the deadly fish in the water.
A perverse form of entertainment if she'd ever seen one.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, we're on the tail end of our tour. But we have a couple more stops. We have a custom clothing and hair dressing shop which we should stop in."
Lucius Malfoy was styling some woman's hair…and Narcissa Malfoy was helping an obese woman into a new muumuu.
"He's a respected member of the wizarding community. What's he doing styling hair?" Hettie asked.
Luna looked around, spotted Lucius, and nodded. "Oh, him. He ran an illegal business with his wife. Harry didn't like the fact that Lucius was making anatomically proportionate dolls of him…and selling them to the public. Plus he was a Death Eater. So, Harry talked the yeti's into letting Lucius work during the day before returning to the yetis in the evening. Narcissa certainly seems happier, too. She doesn't have to share her hair products any longer…. Moving right along, follow me,"
Hettie shook her head but kept on walking.
"Here is the Temple of Time. We've created it as a wonderful ride. You download a memory and then you get to relive it again, but change anything you want. Be careful with it…it can be upsetting…or cause euphoria. We only allow guests to visit this place once per day for an hour, just like the limitation on most modern time turners."
That did sound intriguing to Hettie. "I suppose it's also a trade secret?"
Luna shrugged. "No, not really. Harry traded with a local shaman for a battered old book. That book had this spell in it…so we built this particular attraction. Nearly seventy percent of everybody who comes here visits this ride…a higher ratio than almost any other ride. But it's the least visited overall since people can only visit it once per day. It's something special."
Hettie was definitely visiting this ride. It sounded like a souped-up pensieve, an incredible sort of thing done with a spell and not a rune-scribed bowl.
"Out there in the field," Luna said, "is where a Muggle television program is taping a show. Harry has to choose one girl to date from a pool of thirty-six. It was supposed to be twelve, but a whole bunch of countries complained they weren't being represented. So, Miss Witch China, the Russian Ministerial Beauty, the five finalists in the Best Witch Brazil competition, the Miss Sweden Bikini Waxing Champion, plus Miss Salem Institute, Miss Beauxbatons, Miss Witch Cape Town, and a selection of the most beautiful witches in all of Britain are competing for a date from Harry."
It wasn't fair. Hettie had sent Harry off to die…but now he was dating thirty-plus young witches. No! The inhumanity of it; the shame of it!
Still, like eyes toward a dragon mauling, Hettie turned to look at the television taping. Harry sat by himself inside the largest gazebo she'd ever seen (three stories, with a pool on the east side, and a waterslide from the third floor). A gaggle of girls, in skimpy bikinis, surrounded the front of the building, while a bushy-haired witch clobbered a red-haired and red-faced boy in the rear.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't right.
"The gift shop is right through here. That side is completely dedicated to the products grown and harvested here. It seems they are running a special on Devil's Snare clippings and Augurey down. Over here is our new pub. Library's through that door on the right. And the gifts are just over there, including the first copies of Snorkacks: A History."
Hettie almost jogged over to purchase that book. She wanted to know how Potter had survived in the jungle…and built the world's largest wizarding theme park.
She paid four galleons for the book and then started devouring it. Question after question answered itself: how the Quidditch teams arrived here; where all the animals came from; how Potter survived…then came the chapter on "The Partition."
After an unsuccessful auction to restore the Order, the Ministry, and the Dark Forces with their captured forces, Harry proved his leadership skills by negotiating a master agreement. Cornelius Fudge and his lackeys were convicted in open court of illegally declaring war on the sovereign city of Kicked-Your-Ass, the Congo; each was sentenced to forty years of hard labor.
Likewise, Albus Dumbledore and his entire Order of the Phoenix were sentenced to forty years, although Harry Potter granted pardons to everyone save Albus Dumbledore.
Finally, the Dark Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters were given life sentences.
The final decision was where to put the prisoners to work. A representative of Hogwarts suggested opening a salt mine…and to utilize the prisoners for hard labor. A Ministry representative suggested the new convicts should be set to recycling Ministry memoranda. A Dark Forces representative suggested that the convicted should be set to killing things, such as fluffy bunny rabbits, those weaker than themselves, or clowns and mimes.
Harry Potter' godfather, the rakish Sirius Black, proposed that Harry Potter should ensure that the prisoners earn a profit.
The three initial ideas were thrown out the window.
After discussing and dismissing ideas for installing a deadly nuclear facility in the Congo, an illicit drug processing plant, a massive compost heap, and a plastics factory mass producing toys for McDonald's Happy Meals, the conversation turned to ripping off DisneyWorld.
Harry Potter then announced that every crime committed in I've-Won-You-Bastards, The Congo, will be punished by indentured servitude at the amusement park….
Hettie stopped reading there.
Luna was gathering up all the potential investors around her. There was a short, black haired young man standing next to her. Was that Potter?
Hettie tried to sneak out of the gift shop, but she didn't get far. A powerful hand snagged her shoulder.
"I don't think you're going anywhere, Hettie."
That wasn't the voice of the same boy Hettie had sent into the jungle…but it was Harry Potter nonetheless.
"You're supposed to stay with the potential investors' group, ma'am," the young man said.
"I refuse to invest my money in a place like this."
"Fine with me. You see, you'll be investing your time, a lot of your time, here over the next forty years…. You see, we eventually figured out how so many people knew where I was. Goblins sold the information you wanted sold, but they also told my agents where they got it from in the first place. They're tricky like that."
"Attempted murder carries that sort of penalty. We'd never have bothered going after you, but then you decided to come down and see what it was all about."
"No. Trellis, my husband, needs me. I can't be away from him for forty years…."
"Write him a note. If he comes down and commits a crime here, we can ensure he gets 40 years as well."
Hettie reached for her wand…which Harry promptly snatched from her. "Excellent. Very thoughtful, too, you'll get this back in forty years, ma'am."
"We've got the perfect spot for you. One of our pavilions on magical sciences will open next week. We call it: The Alchemical Life: Make Your Own Philosopher's Stone in Thirty Minutes or the Next One's Free….."
Hettie collapsed to the floor. In her despair, she hissed out, "The horror! The horror!"
"…of course, it's non-functional, but extremely pretty. I didn't want to sacrifice a whole bunch of my dragons just so we could put a real heart in every stone. Waste of time, if you ask me."
"Horror," Hettie mumbled. "Horror!"
My apologies for ripping off Rorshach's Blot, every Evil!Dumbledore fic ever written, Joseph Conrad, Indiana Jones, Snakes on a Plane, Princess Bride, stupid dating shows on television, Dr. Strangelove, Network, The Simpsons, Clue, and all the other wacky comedies I like. I hope you enjoyed this little story.