Author's Note: Yes, it's been far too long since this fic was updated, but here it is. See my profile update for more info.
Inevitably, relief supplies began to arrive in Hogsmeade. Personnel from various European Ministries came bearing pallets of supplies by portkey. The first went into the few surviving storehouses around the Hogsmeade station. After that, the aid was left in tents, or under magically enhanced canvas until such time as it could be distributed.
None of the foreign personnel stayed very long. This was not only because there literally was no room at the inn, but because the Ministry's de facto policy was to smile, take the stuff, and then show them the door.
There was a brief moment of unpleasantness when the Spanish contingent arrived on several very large flying carpets. The first Ministry man on the spot demanded assurances that the carpets themselves were not being imported into Great Britain before he would allow the Spanish aid to be offloaded. Once that was settled, the remainder of the process went smoothly. The carpets were cleared and back in the air within an hour.
Efforts to use the supplies were, at best, haphazard. The people the Ministry sent to Hogsmeade to coordinate the effort tried their best, but what they were facing was far outside of their experience. And, like most British wizards, they didn't react well to novel or unexpected situations. So, the supplies remained unpacked and unused, while the populace continued to languish inside the Hogwarts castle.
The Americans arrived two nights later, under cover of darkness.
Madame Rosmerta was behind the bar in The Three Broomsticks, wiping down glasses when a strange rumbling sound filled the room.
"What in the name of Merlin..." one of her (very few) patrons asked, looking up at the tent's ceiling.
"I don't know, but I'll be damned if I let another raid by those stinking Death Eaters take my bar again," Rosmerta growled. Dropping the glass and her bar rag, she pulled out her wand and headed for the door. "All right, you lot! Who's with me?" she demanded, turning a glare around the room. Her heart began sinking in her chest as men and women just sat there shrinking in on themselves, until...
"See 'ere, Rosie; you'll be our backup, like," a strong voice called out, followed by a basso "Aye!"
Rosmerta saw Silas Cooper and Miles Sanderson—now Lord Black's men—headed towards her, just a bit too fast for men to be moving. Cooper had found himself a beater's bat, while Sanderson—Sweet Circe! —was swinging a great bloody sledgehammer like it was a child's toy.
The shorter man gently shouldered Rosmerta aside, grinning up at her. "Them nancy boys in their pretty robes and masks, they won't like what we're about to give them," Cooper said. "Me and Miles, here, we ain't got wands, but we've been in a fight or two. Plus, our condition," he said, his grin turning purely feral, "makes us tough as old boots. So, me lovely, if you'd be so kind as to undo the nastier things we catch tonight and keep us on our feet, we'll see to the head bashing parts."
"I do like that plan," Rosmerta allowed, grinning. Then, she turned once more to the bar crowd. "Well, I see now just why the whole bloody place was burned to the ground before. Fine lot of wizards and witches you all are, too scared to fight for what's yours," she sneered. "Come on, boys, there's work to be done!"
Behind her, Rosmerta heard several shouts of indignation, but she didn't take the time to look back. She was having too much trouble keeping up with her two friends, and quite frankly didn't care all that much, anyway.
The two werewolves stopped just outside the entrance to the tent, looking around and sniffing the air.
"Something flying overhead," Cooper said, pointing upwards. Rosmerta followed his arm with her eyes, and in the darkness she fancied that she could see a number of large black shapes, each of them surrounded by brightly glowing spheres.
"They're headed towards the edge of town," she said, taking a guess based on the direction they seemed to be moving. Lifting her skirts, she set off, flanked on either side by a werewolf escort. Oddly enough, she felt better for having them there that she should have, by all rights. She'd been raised, like most wizarding folk, to believe the cursed were savage, bestial creatures all the month 'round, not just at the full moon. Still and all, the last few days had gone a long way towards changing her ideas about that! The pair she now had as regular boarders were quiet, helpful, willing workers; she'd not had the first problem from them. Oh, plenty of dirty looks they'd garnered, that was for certain, but they'd never seemed to take offense or lash out at those around them. And, there could be no denying this: they'd been the first to stand up when a threat to their new home appeared.
Overhead, the huge shapes drifted closer to the ground, and the hairs of their impromptu welcoming committee began to stand on end as they passed over.
"Some kind of flying carpet, you reckon?" Rosmerta ventured a guess out loud. Shrugs from the men on either side of her were her only answers.
By the time they reached the large open fields on the outskirts of what had been the village of Hogsmeade, the first of the strange craft had already landed, and men in unfamiliar uniforms were beginning to pour out. One of them, seeing Rosmerta and her two friends, clicked on a muggle torch and headed her way.
"Evening, folks," the young man said, his voice immediately pegging him as American. "I'm Lieutenant Johnson, with Magical Logistics Command. Would one of you happen to be from your Ministry?" he asked.
"No, I'm Madame Rosmerta; I run the local watering hole, these are two of my friends," Rosmerta answered, shaking the youngster's hand. Merlin, he looks like he ought to be a sixth or seventh form, not an officer, she thought. "I don't know that anyone from the Ministry's around tonight, and I'd think that any that were would be in my pub."
The Lieutenant gave a wry grin at that. "So, SNAFU, not a problem. If you could just wait here, I'll get Colonel Landry; he's in overall command of this detachment. You and he can work out where we need to deploy. That kind of thing is above my pay grade," he said, snapping off a crisp salute and jogging off.
"Snaah...foo?" Miles asked his companions, neither of whom had an answer. "Who knows?" Rosmerta shrugged. "And the bloody Americans...never thought that Fudge was serious when he said he'd accepted their offer to help us out."
"I'll give 'em this, they don't do things by halves," Silas said, as yet another dark shape passed overhead to settle down beyond the others. Any further musings were interrupted by the return of the young Lieutenant, accompanied this time by a man of (Rosmerta thought) a more reasonable age.
"Ma'am," the older officer said. "I'm Colonel Marcus Landry; commanding the third Air-Mobile Relief company. Lieutenant Johnson said that none of you are representatives from the British Ministry of Magic?" he said, making his statement a question.
"That's right, Colonel; I'm Madame Rosmerta, I run the local pub, The Three Broomsticks. If there were any Ministry types around, they'd be drinking up my stock right now. I can offer you a floo, if you'd like to try to contact London...?" she trailed off, trying to be helpful.
The Colonel gave her a thin smile. "My thanks, Ma'am, but that won't be necessary." Reaching up with one hand, he grasped a squarish black device that appeared to be attached to his uniform. "Landry to Communications, over," he said, then waited a second until the device squawked and a voice answered. "Communications to Landry, Specialist Andrews here, Colonel. What do you need, Colonel? Over."
"Owens, get on the horn to London; have somebody from our Embassy get in touch with the Brits at their Ministry. We're here, and there's nobody from their Ministry around to tell us where we're supposed to unload. The sooner we get this stuff set up, the sooner we can get their people in it. Over."
"Will do, Colonel. Anything else? Over."
"Not right now, but don't take a nap just yet; it could be a long night. Over." The Colonel turned his attention back to the now-staring locals. "Well, we'll see what comes of that," he sighed. "In the meantime, are there some town officials I could meet with? Local mayor, council, that sort of thing?" he asked.
"I'm afraid not, Colonel," Madame Rosmerta answered him. "The Lord Mayor; well, he was one of the first ones killed in the attack. We don't really have a village council as such, we've never really needed it, you see," she explained, suddenly feeling the loss of something she'd never needed before. Then, inspiration struck her. "Why don't I take you back to my pub, and we'll send a runner up to Hogwarts; the Headmaster is Albus Dumbledore, and most of our people are in the castle at the moment."
The Colonel's face turned grim for a minute as he thought. "I'd rather not leave my men while we're still getting on the ground and secure, ma'am. Can I send a man with you to go to this castle," he said, the word obviously strange on his tongue, "and contact Mr. Dumbledore? We've been briefed on him, naturally, but my orders were to put myself at the disposal of your Ministry, not your Chief Warlock."
"I don't see why not," Rosmerta smiled. "'Tis a good leader who thinks of his men first, Colonel; still and all, I'll expect you to see the inside of my poor place, such as it is, before you leave us. I'll be happy to see your man along. Now, tell me: will I be needing to feed your strapping young soldiers tonight, or tomorrow morning? If you'll give me an idea as to just how many plates I've got to find, it'd be right helpful."
Colonel Landry smiled at the saucy grin on the bar owner's face. "I'll certainly come and see your fine establishment before we leave here, and I'm certain that a number of my men will, too. I'll have to detail some security for you, as well; can't have the boys and girls getting too rowdy. I appreciate the offer of grub, but we're fine for right now; setting up our own kitchens is one of the first things we do when we hit the ground, and we're used to MREs. Of course, I'm sure that can't compare to what you'd be serving, but it'll get us through the night. Now, let's see about getting a message to this castle," he said, turning to the waiting Lieutenant at his side. "Johnson, take Sargent Owens and second squad; go with Ms. Rosmerta here and follow her instructions on how to get up to Hogwarts castle. If you can, tell the Headmaster that we're here, and only waiting on someone from their Ministry to tell us where to set up. In the meantime, we're going to sit tight and wait for further instructions. Get back here ASAP; no need for you to be hanging around, bothering the locals."
"Yes, sir," the Lieutenant saluted, then jogged off, talking into his own shoulder just as the Colonel had.
"He'll be right back," Landry said easily. "Good man, he'll go far," he mused.
"Colonel, if I might ask, just what are you going to be 'setting up'?" Rosmerta wanted to know.
"Oh, nobody's told you?" The Colonel was mildly surprised. "We brought temporary housing for six thousand, a field hospital, two field kitchens and three month's worth of supplies, again, for six thousand. We've also got four Caterpillar D9's—bulldozers, sorry—and several other pieces of construction equipment, mostly for clearing away debris and doing site prep; four large assembly tents that can be used for schools or whatever, and two dozen prefab ferroconcrete 'secure huts'." He shrugged at this last. "They make pretty good temporary cells, or can be used to safely house any weres who don't have access or have allergies to Wolfsbane," he said. "I was told that one of your people—a Lord Black, isn't it? —is planning on using weres to aid in the rebuilding. I thought it might be a good thing to throw a few of them in, and we had plenty of room, so why not?" He grinned, then sobered. "I was told not to mention anything about weres to your Ministry, because I know you people have different ideas than we do, on our side of the Atlantic. Some of my people—my best people—are weres; I don't want them to have any trouble over here. I promise you, you won't even notice them; most of them can control their shifting completely, another is a wereboar who isn't tied to the moon's cycle at all. They have their own supply of our version of Wolfsbane, and we've got plenty of it in the hospital stocks. I just don't want any trouble, understand?" he said, his face a blank mask.
What the Colonel didn't expect was for Rosmerta to burst out laughing. "Colonel, let me introduce my two favorite werewolves," she said, then did just that. "They were the only two men with the stones to follow me tonight when we thought your crew was another Death Eater attack. Yes, it's true, Lord Black's going to be using werewolves to rebuild his own house here, and probably a great many more. More importantly, it was Harry Potter's idea all along; and he's made a werewolf his Seneschal—the man who manages his estates for him," Rosmerta explained, seeing the confused look on the Colonel's face. "No, you might have a problem from some in the Ministry—you know how these government types can be," she gave the Colonel a wry look, which he returned.
"I do indeed, Ma'am," he said, matching her look with one of his own.
"Well, I won't lie to you...it's not an idea that most are comfortable with, as of yet, but with Harry Potter behind it," she said, shrugging. "Well, he's the Boy Who Lived, and this summer he's done more good for the average man in the street than any six Ministry types I can name. So, no; you'll likely have very little trouble, especially if your men are discrete about it."
"I figured as much," the Colonel sighed. "Still, it was an area of concern. And yes, we've also been briefed on Harry Potter, and this Dark Lord Voldemort of yours. Oh, sorry," he said quickly, seeing the looks the name of the Dark Lord got him, "I forgot, no saying the name, right?"
"Aye, and for good reason," Rosmerta said. "Last go 'round, he put a taboo on his very name, and who's to say he won't do it again this time? 'Tis better to be safe than sorry, I say."
"Probably good advice, I'll need to remind my troops," Landry said, obviously making a mental note to himself.
"'Scuse me, sir?" The short man—Cooper, if Landry remember correctly—beside Rosmerta had been working up his courage to speak. "You...you said that you've got werewolves in your company...that can...control the curse?"
Landry looked at the nervous man and nodded. "The curse? Is that what they still call it here? Well, they can control the change, but you'd have to talk to them about 'the curse' part," he sighed. "I'm not sure what all it entails, but it's not terribly easy, and takes some work to master, but...I suppose I could ask them if they'd be willing to speak with you," he said reluctantly.
"Oh, sir, we'd be ever so grateful! Wolfsbane's wonderful, when we can get it, but it's frightfully dear, and usually the muck you get's not worth having. So many of us have families, little ones and such, and the curse makes us a danger to them what's we care for..." he said, on the verge of tears.
"I'll see what I can do, but it may be a day or so. Can I leave a message for you with Miss Rosmerta, here?" the Colonel asked. Inside, he couldn't decide whether to be sad, or furious, or both. He resolved to strongly encourage his werewolves...and Sergeant Thibodaux, the wereboar...if they'd talk to these men about ways to make their lives more bearable.
"Of course, Colonel," Rosmerta was smiling at him. Just then, Lieutenant Johnson jogged up, a sergeant and squad in good order behind him. "And here's my young men now! Colonel, if you'll excuse us, I'll just be showing these fine young men the way to the Gates of Hogwarts."
"Thank you so much, ma'am," Landry said, nodding his dismissal at the soldiers. For several minutes, he watched the strange procession—the bar owner, two werewolves, and his soldiers—as they made their way into the town and out of sight. Then, sighing, he turned back to where the last of his command was just settling down at the end of a long row of transports. It promised to be a long night.
It was indeed a long night for several people, including Albus Dumbledore and Percival Weasley. Both were rousted out of bed at truly unhappy hours, and forced (Dumbledore by circumstances and Weasley by Fudge) to go into Hogsmeade to sort out the Americans.
By strange coincidence, both arrived at The Three Broomsticks at the same time.
"Headmaster," Percy said, a bit surprised to see the Headmaster out of the castle at such a Merlin-forsaken hour.
"Percy, my boy, how good it is to see you," the Headmaster twinkled at the former Head Boy. "I take it that Cornelius has foisted...excuse me, delegated the responsibility for taking care of our American cousins onto your capable young shoulders?"
Percy smiled at the compliment. "Yes, exactly, Headmaster. The Minister floo'd me moments ago to come in his place. He would have come, except..." Percy shrugged.
"Doubtless the Minister has early appointments at the Ministry tomorrow," Dumbledore finished, what would undoubtedly become the official line falling easily from his lips. "Well, since I cannot fault his choice of replacement, shall we proceed? Together we should be able to clear this matter up in short order." So that I can go back to bed while you spend the rest of the night being the 'man on the spot', Dumbledore thought to himself.
The pair walked quickly to the edge of the field where the Americans had landed. Both assumed correctly that the largest knot of people in the area would be where the ranking officer would be found.
"Excuse me; I'm Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry," Dumbledore announced himself to the man who seemed to be in command.
"Marcus Landry, Colonel, Third Air-Mobile Relief company, Headmaster. Good to meet you," the Colonel extended his hand, which Dumbledore took.
"Percival Weasley, here for the Minister," Percy stepped up, his hand out. Nodding, the American Colonel shook it. "The Minister asked me to convey his regrets, and asked that I provide you with any assistance you might need."
"Very good," Landry replied, then addressed both men. "Mostly what I need from you gentlemen right now is directions to where you want us to set up. If there's a large open area near here, that would be ideal. Or, we can clear ourselves a space, if you'll just point me towards the general area."
"Just how much space will you need, Colonel? That will determine where we set you up," Dumbledore asked, easily cutting off whatever Percy was about to say.
"As I told Madam Rosmerta," the Colonel repeated, "we brought housing and supplies for six thousand for three months, along with…."
"Six thousand? Why, that's preposterous!" Percy barked.
"I assure you, that is what we loaded," Colonel Landry's face was a cool, blank mask. "Along with sufficient earthmoving and construction equipment to prepare, erect and maintain those facilities."
"That is…quite impressive," Dumbledore said, meaning it. That was nearly four times the number of refugees he was currently housing in his castle; there would be absolutely no question that even half of what the Colonel claimed to have on hand would more than suffice to house the displaced population of Hogsmeade.
Landry only shrugged at the Headmaster's statement. "It's what I was told to bring, sir; therefore, it got brought. Now, about that field..." he hinted.
"I should think that just outside the village would be the best place, Headmaster," Percy spoke up, eager to be a part of the conversation once more.
"I believe that you have a workable idea, Mr. Weasley," Dumbledore twinkled at the group. "Why don't you show the Colonel just where you have in mind? I think that I shall leave him in your eminently capable hands," he finished, now smiling genially. If I hurry, my bed will still be warm, he thought to himself.
"I certainly will, Headmaster. Colonel, if you'll follow me, we'll see if we can't get you settled." Percy waited for the Colonel to shake hands again with the venerable Headmaster, then led him away.
Well, that's interesting, Dumbledore thought as he made his way back to the castle. Six thousand? I wonder what prompted them to send so much?
Shrugging at the foolishness and extravagance of the Americans, Albus Dumbledore made his way back to his chambers, and his (still warm) bed.
Just outside of Hogsmeade were several large open fields that typically provided grazing for the sheep and goats that were the most common stock animals in the area. While the first proved to be unsuitable ("too small, and the slope is a bit steep without lots of grading," the Colonel had decided), the second was "as close to ideal as we could hope for". Once the decision was made, Percy was politely asked to stand back and stay out of the way. What happened next was something that the third Weasley son would carry as a memory until his dying day.
As soon as Colonel Landry had made his decision, he'd barked a few short orders into the black device on his shoulder, and then all Hades broke loose on the chosen field. Within minutes the American's transports—huge platforms stabilized by levitating globes around their periphery—had moved into position and dropped to the ground. Almost immediately men and women in uniform boiled out of the things and transformed the quiet field into a hive of frantic activity. Within minutes, Percy was surprised to hear the growl of muggle machinery, followed quickly by bright lights snapping on all around the area. Shielding his eyes from the light, Percy stepped over to a young soldier about his own age (who, it seemed, had been stationed there to answer his questions) and raised his voice to be heard over the din.
"What type of Lumos are you using in those lights?" he asked, genuinely curious.
Private Donnelly had specific instructions to answer any questions the Ministry representative might have to the best of his ability, but mostly he was there to keep the Brit from getting underfoot and possibly squashed. Aside from the brief lecture his unit had been given while en route about the general…eccentricities…of British magicals, he'd not had any training in the differences between life in the UK and what he was used to. Fortunately, he'd paid attention to the lecture, so he wasn't too surprised by the question.
"No magic, sir. Those are standard construction lights. We've set up our main generator over there," he said, pointing, "where it'll be close to the command tent and mess hall. Later on, we'll see about running lines to tap into the power grid, but for the next few days we'll be using generators."
"But…those are muggle machines!" Percy stood there, gobsmacked.
"Yes, sir, but like all of our equipment, they've been hardened against magical interference. As it turns out, it also protects them against radiation, as well," Donnelly said, oblivious to the shock his casual statement had caused in the Brit.
Percy just stood there, speechless, as the Yanks ran around, yelling, cursing and doing any number of odd things. Off to Percy's left, a sudden roar split the air, and Percy whipped around, his wand out, ready to defend himself against some great beast. What he saw was a machine the size of a small dragon with a huge metal wall on the front, moving inexorably towards him on two clanking, metal belts that ripped the ground to shreds as it passed.
"Merlin's beard!" Percy gasped, only to feel Private Donnelly's hand on his wand arm.
"Easy, Sir," the Private said, loudly enough to be heard over the device's roar. A small part of Percy's mind insisted that there must be a dragon somewhere, making the sound. "It's just one of our 'dozers. We've got four of them to do the heavy work, as well as a couple of drag scrappers and a pair of skidders for road work and lighter stuff. Oh, and the backhoes, and the Bobcats, and the packer. We only brought a couple of heavy trucks, because we were told that our Consulate was going to be arranging for us to get some from the Royal Army, or from one of the NATO bases." The young man shrugged. "Even if we have to get them from Ramstein, it'll be easier than bringing them with us."
"Erm…yes, I see," Percy said, not seeing at all. The young American might as well have been speaking Sumerian, for all that Percy could understand him. So, rather than be thought a fool, Percy kept his mouth shut and nodded once.
Private Donnelly smiled, believing that the British wizard knew what he was talking about. The private hadn't been in the unit very long, and took a pardonable pride in his outfit's equipment, and what they could do with it. He'd been told that there was a group of terrorist wizards running loose throughout the UK, and there were people who'd had their entire village destroyed in a recent attack. Well, that wasn't much different from what he'd already seen in the aftermath of a couple of tornadoes and a hurricane back home, and he felt confident that within a few days the refugees would be taken care of, and well on their way to rebuilding.
In short order, large pallets began floating out of the boxy structures on the platforms, and Percy breathed a sigh of relief as he saw teams of uniformed personnel using their wands to move them. Finally! Something he understood. The 'pallets' turned out to be wizarding tents of various sizes, and Percy watched curiously as they were laid out in a regular pattern, and then magically activated. Within moments, each tent pitched itself, and more crews of personnel began dragging cables to each one, attaching the cables to strange boxes on the front of the tents.
"What are they doing there?" Percy asked his escort, his curiosity getting the best of him.
"Oh, they're just connecting the electricity," Donnelly said. "Like I said, we'll be running on generators until we can run wire to the nearest power lines. Can't have people living in the dark, can we?"
"No, I suppose not," Percy said. "Still, I would think that lamps, or Lumos spells…."
"We'd prefer people not use lamps. Fire hazard," Donnelly replied quickly. "And we usually ask people to restrict their magic use to inside the tents. Oh, Lumos and stuff like it'll be no problem," he reassured Percy, "but a lot of our work is done in mixed communities, so we usually try to be as mundane as possible. It's just easier," he shrugged. "The tents are fire-resistant," he went on, after a minute. "We just don't like to encourage fires, not when we've got power available. Better safe than sorry."
"I'm sorry, you called it…mundane?" Percy asked.
"Sorry, you say 'muggle' over here, don't you?" Donnelly grinned. "Like 'lorry' instead of 'truck', and 'boot' instead of 'trunk'. I get it."
"I'm glad one of us does," Percy muttered, confident that he couldn't be heard over the cacophony around them.
It was shaping up to be a long and confusing night for one Percival Weasley.
"…But still, in matters vegetable, animal and mineral, I am the very model of a Modern Major-General!"
Terry Boot bowed with a flourish and then blushed furiously as the boxes' spell ended. Hopping down from the table (he'd jumped up during the second verse), he took his seat as the Hogwarts Great Hall gave him a standing ovation. Around him, other Ravenclaws resumed their seats from where they'd become an impromptu chorus for the patter song from The Pirates of Penzance.
"Fifty points to Ravenclaw!" Professor Flitwick's amplified voice rang out over the applause.
Headmaster Dumbledore let the applause begin to die down, then stood to address the students who were just finishing breakfast.
"Yes, yes, an absolutely wonderful performance from Ravenclaw. Now, I'm happy to report that we anticipate being able to move the displaced of Hogsmeade from the castle to more suitable accommodations within the next few days. Consequently, it appears that we will be able to resume our regular schedule, beginning next Monday. I know that you are all as eager as I am to return to your studies," he went on, ignoring the various sounds of joy and dismay that swept the hall, "and I would encourage those of you who have procrastinated over your recent assignments to be sure to complete them this weekend. Until then, we will continue on as before, so as not to interfere with our guests leaving the castle." Smiling and twinkling, the Headmaster took his seat.
At the Hufflepuff table, Harry, Cedric, Neville and Hannah all shared a look.
"Next Monday," Neville was the first to speak. "Well, I suppose it couldn't last forever," he sighed.
Harry and Cedric shrugged. They'd been making tremendous progress on a number of projects the last several days, without the bother of formal lectures to attend. Each of them had gotten into the habit of working through their regular assignments in the morning, which left the afternoons and evenings free for research, training and other things. Of course, those 'other things' had included naps and snogging sessions, which both of them would have to adjust to doing without.
Neville and Hannah had a slightly different view. Since Hannah couldn't regularly come to the Lord's Hall without an escort, Neville had taken to swinging by the Hufflepuff common room in the afternoons on his way back from the greenhouses. He'd learned from experience that Cedric and Harry liked to have their 'alone time' every afternoon, and that suited him just fine. He and Professor Sprout had been doing yeoman's work in the greenhouses, setting up a number of new seedlings and sprouting trays for some of the specimens Harry and Cedric had brought back from Japan. Then, a quick freshening charm later, Neville would go and spend an hour or two with Hannah in her common room. The Lord Longbottom had endured the obligatory jokes with good grace, even when he'd been told he was being considered for 'honorary Hufflepuff' status.
To everyone's great surprise, Neville had stood up and proclaimed that he intended to march directly to the Headmaster's office and demand a resorting…into Slytherin!
This announcement produced complete silence for almost six seconds, before the pillow fight broke out. For some reason, Neville had been smiling when he'd met Harry and Cedric for dinner that evening.
The relocation of Hogsmeade residents began the next day right after breakfast. Dumbledore had insisted, with the concurrence of the Heads of Houses, that beginning the move while students were moving about the corridors would only add to the inevitable confusion. Consequently, there was no interaction between the locals and the student body as the displaced wizarding families decamped from the castle.
The Americans had asked that Hogwarts only release a hundred or so people at once, but stated that they could process each group in about an hour. Consequently, the first day saw almost half the residents of the new tent city settled in and reading the basic information pamphlets each had been given.
A tired Percy Weasley had managed to grab a brief nap on a cot in the junior officer's tent that morning, and been taken straight to the 'mess tent' for lunch when he'd awakened. Along the way he'd been quietly amazed at the efficiency of the operation going on around him. The Americans—all of whom were dressed in camouflage uniforms—were chivvying refugees into lines that moved quickly through 'processing'. Each group started out with a brief orientation talk in one of the larger tents, then moved through a number of stations where they gave their basic information, received a 'care package' of basic clothing, toiletries and other necessities, and an information packet about the tents and the resources of the new camp.
Percy was pleased to note that the Americans were quite insistent that everyone be sorted, interviewed, catalogued, and presumably filed for future reference as they came through. When he commented on this, Private Donnelly (who had mysteriously appeared as Percy had left the tent where he'd slept) had grinned at him. "It's the Army, what did you expect? You can't hardly fart without a requisition form in triplicate. But, it's not really all that bad, and actually most of this stuff can be helpful." The young man rattled on, oblivious to Percy's growing shock. "If you're working a disaster like this, knowing just who's come through and where they're billeted helps people reconnect afterwards. It makes the eventual resettlement easier, too."
"It looks like you people are experienced at this," Percy marveled, watching a little girl's eyes light up when a burly man at one of the processing tables produced a plushy unicorn from a box behind him.
Donnelly followed Percy's eyes and grinned as the little girl hugged her new toy. "Yeah, you could say that," he said, then sobered. "This unit dropped into Kuwait during the Gulf War, but that was before my time. There were lots of the local magicals that had been displaced by the war, and from what I've heard it was really bad for a while. Most of the time, though, we do disaster relief and cleanup at home. Between the tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and blizzards, we're usually pretty busy. And, since our magicals and mundanes are usually all mixed together, we have to try to be discrete about how we go about things."
"You mean, you work with mug…mundanes?" Percy corrected himself, trying to cover his shock at the idea.
"Yeah, all the time," Donnelly shrugged. "It's not a big deal, after all. About half of our personnel are what you call 'squibs', so using mundane tech for pretty much everything just makes sense. I'm an LMP myself, even though my mother and both sisters are witches."
"But…" Percy struggled to put his questions into something resembling order, but couldn't. The casual way the young man—who was roughly his own age, Percy knew—described they way his society intermixed magicals and muggles had him completely boggled. "El Ehm Pee?"
"Low Magical Potential." Donnelly turned and looked Percy directly in the eye. "I know that you do things differently over here, and we're under orders not to say anything about that," he said, his expression blank. "I apologize if I've offended you," he went on, his face not showing any emotion.
"Oh, no!" Percy was quick to reassure him. "It's just…so different from our way of doing things," he said. It sounded lame even to him.
"Yes, it is," the young private said, turning and moving off. "The mess tent's this way," he said, as Percy hurried to follow him.
"Wait! Mr…Donnelly," Percy reached out and put a hand on the young man's shoulder to stop him. "I'm sorry if I offended you," he said, and relaxed as the young man gave him a small smile in return.
"You didn't offend me, sir," the American. "And it's Private…or Jack, if you'd like." He stuck out his hand.
"Percy, then," Percy grinned, taking the hand.
"Cool. Percy it is. Now, let's grab some lunch," Jack smiled, leading his new friend to one of the larger tents.
The mess tent reminded Percy of nothing so much as the Ministry cafeteria, only with more vibrancy and less magic. Rows of tables dominated the room, while two separate serving lines took up one of the longer sides of the structure. Shiny metal serving tables held all manner of food, only some of which Percy recognized. White-aproned servers dropped generous portions onto utilitarian metal trays at the request of the people moving through the line, while cooks moved back and forth replenishing the tables' pans and trays. The babble of voices and multitude of tantalizing smells washed over Percy, and he noticed that it was by and large calm and happy, not the harried scene he'd witnessed just a few days before.
The Ministry man blinked as he noticed that each serving line began just inside the door to the tent, and that each end was opened wide to allow entrance. The lines moved towards the center, which let the people move down them more quickly. The sensible design appealed to his sense of order and function, and he found himself watching the way these people did things more closely. Someone had obviously put some serious thought into the best way to quickly feed large groups of people, and Percy grimly realized that his own Ministry's efforts hadn't come close to this level of competency. Well, a Weasley was nothing if not adaptable, he reminded himself. Perhaps he should just let these people do what they obviously knew to do, and stay out of their way as much as possible….
"Grab a tray, and let's see what's for lunch," Jack thrust a tray into Percy's hands, nodding for the young Brit to follow him. "There's no telling what they're going to be poisoning us with today," the private raised his voice, making sure some of the servers heard him.
"I'll make sure you get some with extra spit in it, Donnelly," one of the servers grinned back.
"Oh, goody!" Jack laughed, then turned to a confused Percy. "Percy, meet Arnie; Arnie, Percy. Percy's the British Ministry rep who's keeping us straight, so don't spit in his like you do ours."
"Jack, you know we only spit in the food before it comes out here. Wouldn't be sanitary otherwise," the server laughed. "What can I get for you today, sir?" he asked Percy.
"Umm…what do you recommend?" Percy asked carefully. He thought he recognized pot roast, and chicken…and mashed potatoes a bit further down, but…what was that rice with the lumps?
"It's all good, 'cause Cookie wouldn't serve it otherwise," Arnie said confidently. "Just depends on your tastes." Noticing the confusion on the Brit's face, the server pointed at the dishes. "We've got pot roast, baked chicken, dirty rice; mashed spuds with gravy, English peas…I think you call them something else, but that's what we call 'em...carrots, green bean casserole, steamed mixed vegetables…."
"Give 'im some 'tall; he'n come bak when he done fin out what he lak", a voice boomed out from behind the server.
Percy jumped in surprise as a huge man appeared seemingly from nowhere. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed that no one else so much as blinked at the man's appearance, and the server quickly began piling food on Percy's tray.
"Please, not that much…" Percy began to protest lamely, only to be cut off himself by the man.
"Scrawny boy lak you needs feedin' up, and iz mah job to do, dat it is," the burly man said, grinning. Percy worked hard to understand what he was saying, his accent was like nothing else he'd ever heard. "Yo momma, she not feed you, but das awright. You be in Henri's (he pronounced it 'ahn-RE's') kitchen now."
Percy was shocked speechless at the man's words. His mother's ability to cook and feed…and feed…and feed some more was almost legendary in wizarding England. To hear Molly so casually, jovially dismissed was….
"Don't pay any attention to Cookie," Jack was laughing. "He thinks everybody ought to be as big as he is," the young man told Percy. Since the man in question was well over six feet tall and had to weigh at least 400 pounds, Percy just nodded. "Cookie, this is Percy Weasley, from the British Ministry," the private was saying.
"Please to meet you," the massive Cook said, nodding at the young man. His accent had thinned considerably, making it easier for Percy to understand him. "One thing you need to know, Mr. Weasley…there's always food here, anytime you want it. It may only be sandwiches and coffee, but there's always something here. My momma would rise up from her grave and slap me if I let people go hungry an' I be havin' de means to feed dem." He said the last like the Minister making a grand pronouncement, his accent back in force.
"I thought you said Marie Leveau had already raised your momma," one of the servers laughed.
"Only on de special occasions, lak de Mardi Gras," the big man boomed, to general laughter. His tanned face broke into a wide grin, and his accent thickening even more. "De res o' de time, she done raise hersef," he laughed.
Percy could only shake his head as Jack nudged him gently along. He tried not to think about how he was ever going to finish the small mountain of food that was growing on his plate.
"That's Cookie, aka Master Sergeant Henri Thibodaux," Jack was saying. "He's from New Orleans, and is our resident wereboar. To hear him tell it, he's from a long line of great cooks, and has made it his own personal mission to stamp out world hunger with his momma's recipes."
"Tibidough?" Percy asked, struggling with the strange name.
"Close enough. Just don't ask how it's spelled," Jack said. "It's a Cajun thing." he finished, as if that explained everything. Deciding that he'd look it up later, Percy just nodded, took his tray, and followed Jack to a table.
A short while later, a thoroughly stuffed Percy Weasley had decided that, as good a cook as his mother was, she could learn a thing or two from the incomprehensible American with the unpronounceable name. He also knew that his life wasn't worth the effort to tell Molly that…but he did go back for thirds of pot roast and mashed potatoes.
"AMERICANS SET UP REFUGEE CAMP FOR HOGSMEADE SURVIVORS" was the headline in the next day's Daily Prophet.
Lord Voldemort read the article carefully, noting that it was expected that all of the people of the area would be out of Hogwarts castle and settled into their new temporary housing by the end of the week. He would never admit it, but the pictures of the new settlement the Americans had thrown up was impressive, all the more so because it appeared they were using mostly muggle technology to do so. He'd received several reports from the area, and been somewhat displeased that the general tone was one of growing respect for the newcomer's ability to make their muggle devices function normally around magic. Voldemort knew such things were possible, of course, but he'd made a conscious effort to avoid revealing any knowledge of the muggle world to his followers. It wouldn't do for the rank and file to learn that he'd spent his childhood and adolescent summers in that wretched orphanage, and those who knew also knew to keep their mouths shut about it. That the Ministry was not only allowing it to happen, but also sanctioning it, irked him no end.
The Prophet had interviewed one of Arthur Weasley's spawn, who had gushed all over the reporter when asked how things were going. The young Ministry flunky had nothing but good things to say about the way the Yanks were managing things. Voldemort found himself smirking as he read Percy's comments that 'even my mother couldn't fault the way they're feeding people'. Tom shook his head, wondering if Molly would send a Howler to her son—who was remaining on-site as the Minister's 'personal observer and liaison', or go to Hogsmeade in person to give her son a dressing-down. In the meantime….
Riddle pursed his lipless mouth in thought. By the end of the day….
Hundreds of people had just been moved from Hogwarts castle into a newly constructed tent city. By and large, these were the sheep his Death Eaters had so easily cowed during the previous attack, and since then they'd been crammed like sardines into the castle. Now they were in a new, unfamiliar place, and it would obviously take some time for them to settle in. There was an opportunity here just begging to be taken advantage of….
"Wormtail, I have a mission for some of our new recruits. Summon fifty or so of them for a meeting with me this afternoon…and tell them to cancel any plans they may have this evening. Summon at least one of the more senior Death Eaters to lead them, as well." Lord Voldemort leaned back in his chair as the rat man scurried away to do his bidding. Half a hundred of the new recruits should be more than enough against the sheeple of Hogsmeade, even defended as they were by a few dozen Americans. He hadn't seen that many carrying wands, and his reports had mentioned large numbers of squibs among the newcomers…well, so much the better!
Already his mind was racing, considering all the ways his minions could use the slaughter of the American relief force and more of the Hogsmeade population to his benefit.
It was time that the world at large learned what it meant to stand against the will of Lord Voldemort!
XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy were just finishing up breakfast when a house elf arrived with the morning's mail and papers. Before the elf could approach the table, Narcissa stiffened and turned to the small creature.
"Stop right there! You are a bad elf, and were late bringing today's mail to us. We had already left for the day, and you won't deliver today's mail to us until tomorrow."
"Mistress?" The confused house elf had frozen at Narcissa's first command, and looked to be on the verge of weeping.
"Gizzy, when you bring us the mail tomorrow, you will punish yourself most severly," Narcissa continued, her tone gentle. "Your punishment is to hop on one foot for ten seconds, no more. Do you understand me?"
The elf slowing nodded, understanding blooming across it's face. "Yes, Mistress. Gizzy is a bad elf. Gizzy didn't deliver the mail to Mistress and Master before they had already gone away. Gizzy must punish himself tomorrow, and today, as well. Gizzy will be going to start the punishment now," the little elf said, hopping out of the room on one foot.
Narcissa turned away, smiling, to her confused husband. "Lucius, I simply must have a new gown, and I refuse to wear another gunny sack from Twillfit and Tattings. You are taking me to Paris right now. We leave in ten minutes. Have the elves pack your overnight bag; I see no reason to go to Paris and not stay for breakfast there tomorrow morning."
Lucius nodded and stood to go do as his wife commanded. He held out his hand, which Narcissa took and rose beside him.
"Anything I should know about, my dear?" he asked carefully.
Narcissa shook her head minimally as the pair left the table. "I want you out of the country and unavailable for the next day or so, and a new gown from Paris is as good a reason as any. If someone should ask where you were, you have a ready excuse that any man will believe."
"As if I need an excuse to spend a day and a night in Paris with my lovely wife," Lucius chuckled, raising Narcissa's hand to his lips.
Narcissa's smile was all the answer Lucius needed.
Eight minutes later, the house elves had been told not to expect the pair back until early the next afternoon, and the Master and Mistress of Malfoy Manor vanished.
In the Black library, Sirius Black was munching on a buttered scone and sipping his late-breakfast tea. Contrary to what Remus was sure he was doing—looking for kinky sex magic in some of the more scurrilous books—Sirius was reading about ancient Egyptian death magics.
Several waves of Egyptian fever had swept across Europe in the 19th century, both in the muggle and magical worlds. It was widely believed that the Egyptians had been the first to develop wands and wanded magic, and they had raised warding to levels not seen before or since. So many artifacts had been moved to Europe that some wag had noted that 'there were more mummies in the British Museum than in Egypt'. It wasn't true, of course, but there were still tombs and treasure catches in Egypt waiting to be discovered.
According to the slim volume Sirius was reading—Incantations of Immortality—the ancient Egyptians had first learned of horcruxes from the Sumerians. The Pharaoh's priest/magicians had studied the soul fragments and their creation and use thoroughly, then rejected them because of the need to fracture the soul through murder. They'd taken what they'd learned and developed their own methods of cleaving and then storing souls in soul jars for later reanimation, but had never quite developed acceptable ways of restoring the bodies of the dead. The techniques of mummification had been the result of their best efforts, and (according to the book) many of the priests were convinced that it would only be a matter of time before a suitable means of rejuvenation of the bodies of their leaders was developed. They weren't particularly concerned about the time frame this would take, because after all, when you have all of time, what's a few centuries here or there?
Had that been all that the book said, Sirius would have put it down. What piqued his interest was a small paragraph about how the British Ministry of Magic had managed to confiscate some of the many magical artifacts that had entered the country, but the bulk of them had gone to the British Museum. Once in the Museum, the staff—many of whom were magical, as the Museum had a magical wing—strenuously objected to the Ministry's high-handed attempts to 'loot' what they regarded as 'their' property.
There was a brief description of what happened next, which boiled down to 'we discussed it, and the Museum won'. Sirius was familiar enough with the family names of some of those involved in the 'discussion' in the Wizengamot to know a whitewash when he saw it, but as juicy as that story might be, it wasn't important.
What was important was the large number of magical Egyptian artifacts housed in the British Museum…and the possibility that there was a staff who had been studying same for decades.
"I feel the need for a spot of culture," Sirius mused, brushing the crumbs from his dressing gown. "And possibly a new set of robes, while I'm out."
Standing up, Sirius strode to the library door and yelled out into the house.
"Remus! We're going to the British Museum! Be ready in an hour!"
In the kitchen, Remus Lupin looked confused, then sighed. "So that's what we're calling clothes shopping today, eh?" Deciding that he could be ready in far less than the promised hour (and knowing that 'one hour' of Sirius-time was at least two and a half in the real world), Remus went back to his morning correspondence.
A/N: This has actually been on my hard drive for some time, with the next chapter roughly halfway done. No promises as to when it will be up; other projects have to come first. But, I'll keep working on it as I can; I've got the story plotted out and know how it needs to go. It's just a matter of having the time and motivation to pound it out.