The trace

After settling in at Grimmauld place, Harry sat on his bed and relaxed. His trial wasn't until the morning.

In the meantime, he had an awful lot of time to think.

The most prevalent of these thoughts was on how the hell the whole underage magic stuff got tracked. There seemed to be quite a few inconsistencies with the whole thing, and he was left with a number of unanswered questions.

His most recent case of underage magic he could understand – that was him doing magic outside school, he could understand the letter – but he also recalled his previous conviction.

Why did Dobby's magic net him a letter?

Surely there were elves running around in all the posh wizarding households, so why didn't their kid's get charged? Hell, there was an elf skulking around Grimmauld place at that very minute!

So what's the glitch?

Harry decided to ask.



"Yous be calling Dobby Mr. Harry Potter sir?"

"Yes, I have a question I need to ask you, would that be alright?"

"Great wizard Harry Potter sir wants to ask lowly elf Dobby a question? Dobby be happy to tell yous whatever yous need to know!"

"Right, um, do you remember back before my second year when you came to visit me during the summer?"

Dobby started pulling on his ears.

"Dobby remembers. Had to sticks his head in the oven for that Dobby did."

"Stop pulling your ears Dobby, I'm not mad at you. It's just… how did the ministry think that your magic was mine? As in, how did they pick up that hover charm you did and blame me for underage magic?"

"Dobby doesn't know. When Dobby lifted that cake, all Dobby wanted was for yous ugly relatives to gets mad."

"Okay then, well… what the hell."

"Dobby used his magic all the time with the bad masters, and Dobby used to watch the little master use his wand all the time during the summer."

"Wait, Draco could use his magic over the summer?"

"Oh yes, bad master would spend hours teaching little master dark magics."

"Huh… Okay, thanks Dobby, you've been a great help."

"Thank you master Harry Potter sir!"


"Hey! For the last time, stop calling me master! Oh, he's gone. And I'm talking to myself. Like a crazy person. Okay stop now."

So how did they go about tracking underage magic? Was there a spell on the wand that tacked it's use? Did Lucius Malfoy take off the spell? Did he give Draco a spare untraceable wand?

No, that couldn't be right, Dobby never touched his wand.

Do they have a giant magic net set up over the country tuned to sense magic? Maybe, but then what the hell happened with Dobby?

He brainstormed for another few minutes before deciding that he wouldn't find the answer alone.

He got up from his bed, and made his way to the only person that could help him in this situation.

Not Hermione, too much of a stickler for the rules. No way she'd be willing to facilitate a 'criminal' act.

Not Ron. Ron wouldn't have a clue about any of that stuff.

Thinking of Ron, or more like thinking of the Weasleys, weren't there rumors about Ginny having a nasty bat-bogey hex even before she had her wand?

What about the twins? No way in hell they came up with all their prank related charms without the use of a wand! If anyone could find a way to use magic in the summer, it was the twins.

Shame the twins were out drinking, they could have spread their wealth of knowledge.

Couldn't ask any of the 'responsible' adults.

Harry came to the door and knocked. After a moment the door crept open.

"Yeah? Oh! Prongslet!"

"Hey Sirius."


"Right, Padfoot. Anyways, I've got a couple questions I need to ask you."

"Girl troubles? You've come to the right man! Wait, unless this is about the talk, then um well you see... when a wizard likes a witch he sometimes wants to –"

"No! God no! I don't need to hear this! Last time was bad enough!"

"Hey, I just thought you might want to hear it again, Arthur told me how well it went last time, and I was hoping to catch a repeat showing."

"Yeah, um, not that. I need to ask you about underage magic."

"Oh? Has the Prongslet come to claim his birthright as a master prankster?"

"That too, but mostly I want to know how they track magic use you know?"

"Indeed! You're not going to get this information from just anyone you see; all the adults around here are far too stuck up!"

"You're an adult Sirius."

"You wound me! Anyways! Come in, come in! Good, okay so the first thing you need to know is that when you walked through the portal at kings cross for the first time you also unwittingly agreed to have a charm placed on yourself called the 'trace'…"

Sirius went into as much detail as he could – which was actually quite a bit.

Being raised in a pureblood household and being a notorious prankster in his day (not that he had stopped with his pranks in recent years) had given the man-child a certain understanding on how to bend or break certain rules.

The trace was kept on a wizard from the very first time they walked through the portal at kings cross until their seventeenth birthday.

During that span, all magic done around them was registered by the ministry. That meant that any other wizard's magic could be picked up by the trace. Or Dobby's magic for that matter.

Harry asked about wizarding households. Why didn't those children get charged?

The ministry ignored them, that's why. If you couldn't prove who cast the spell, and you couldn't force an adult wizard to stop practicing magic, then the only thing left to do was to do nothing at all.

So then, was the trace turned off for those children?

No, just ignored. No way to remove the trace.

What do they do to the records then?

Sirius didn't know.

Several months later.

Cornelius Fudge sat nervously in his office.

The week had started out great. He'd finally dealt the finishing blow to his long time rival Albus Dumbledore.

Well, not finishing blow; the old goof got away, but he'd win in the end!

Without the pouf messing everything up at the school, that lovely lady Delores was having the time of her life, and now the pureblood agenda was once again taking its stride.

Then a couple of days later Lucius Malfoy stopped taking his floo calls. At first Cornelius thought that Lucius was busy, and so he called Narcissa and found that she too was not available. That was alarming.

Over the course of the last week over three dozen influential members of wizard society had simply vanished.

Just… gone!

He had been able to keep the press away from the situation for the time being – Couldn't have anyone actually believing those fables Dumbledore was telling about You-Know-Who being back and attacking families could he? – but they were bound to catch a whiff of the story eventually.

He quietly sent out his most trusted Aurors, but they couldn't find anything.

Finally as a last ditch effort, the Minister sent for the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

He didn't want to involve her, but in all honesty, the situation had simply spiraled out of control.

His door gliding open by that redheaded secretary of his suddenly pulled him out of his thoughts.

"Madam Bones is here to see you sir."

"Thank you Weathersby. Quickly now, send her in!"

The ginger scurried out the door and a moment later just the woman he wanted to see came in through the door.

"Madam Bones! Wonderful to see you again. Take a seat, take a seat! Would you like some tea?"

She chose to continue standing. "No thank you Minister. You asked to see me?"

"Yes, yes. Troubling times these are. Okay, straight to the point it is. I seem to have stumbled onto a plot of some kind. A most dastardly and evil plot."

"A plot minister?" the elderly witch drawled.

"I don't have all the information yet, but I believe that our old friend Dumbledore has taken it upon himself to deceive the public. You see, I believe he has captured some of our most trusted public officials in an attempt to coerce the public into believing that You-Know-Who is back!"

Amelia Bones just stood there for a moment blinking and trying to wrap her mind around what was quite possibly the stupidest thing she had ever heard. After a moment she decided to say as much.

"That is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard. Have you been hitting the sauce a little too heavily these days Cornelius?"

"What? No! I haven't had a drink in years!"

That anyone knew of.

"If you say so Cornelius."

"I do say so! Anyways, it completely fits, what else could be happening with all of these disappearances?"

"Arrests perhaps?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"My office has over the course of the past week been involved in the arrests in over one hundred witches and wizards for the use of the dark arts."

"What! Why wasn't I informed?"

"I didn't realize it was within your prerogative to decide who does and who doesn't get arrested. In fact, I'm pretty sure it isn't."

"But these are fine members of our society! You have no proof!"

"We do. You see, a little birdie informed us of an error in our implementation of the trace. Us at the DMLE, being the respectable crime fighters we are, aimed to correct that error."

"What error? The trace! These people you arrested weren't underage!"

"Ah, but you see, the trace picks up all spells cast near an underage wizard. So, when say… Lucius Malfoy is teaching his son the Unforgiveable curses, or when Mr. Crabbe is teaching his son the how to control Fiendfyre… that kind of thing is also picked up. We simply assigned a few wizards to go over all the trace reports and find out who lives at each home. Then we found out when said people were at home and cross referenced that to when a spell was cast. After that it was a simple matter of finding out if it was a case of underage magic or if it was a case of Dark Arts use. Both instances would require an investigation you see."

"L-Lucius Malfoy? Unforgiveables? Impossible, it must have been the Imperius curse again!"

As she spoke, she casually walked to his bookcase and ran her fingers over a few of the tomes.

"Cast by whom? Forgive me if I am wrong, but you do believe the Dark Lord is dead, correct? Are you seriously now telling me that the Dark Lord has the ability to cast spells from behind the veil?"

"I uh… hmmm… you make a fine point madam."

Madam bones then turned to the minister and said, "By the way Cornelius, there were some strange readings from your daughter's trace, and so I need to ask you a few questions. Of course I need your testimony to be irrefutable you understand – being the minister of magic and such. What's a drop or two of Veritaserum between friends after all?"

Cornelius pissed his pants.

…but then again, wizards are stupid.

AN: Sorry for the long wait between updates. My dad was in the hospital and had some serious surgery done, then I got a new job.

…Then I got lazy.

Hope you all enjoy it.

For those of you following 'Darkly Dreaming Harry', I'll try to have something up in the next couple days, but I make no promises. I just got Red Dead Redemption, and that game pwns.


AN2: (UPDATE... Like ten seconds after posing the chapter...)

Somehow I forgot to thank DemonicNargles for betaing!