Set post-epilogue as far as HP goes. Lemme know what you think! :) *Minor edits for grammar and structure now included!*
"Mr. Potter." Kingsley Shacklebolt's rich, confident voice came out of Harry's fireplace with a faint echo as Kingsley's lynx Patronus finished materializing in Harry's office, causing the Head Auror to drop his pen and look over at his hearth in surprise. "If you'd Floo over to my office at the first opportunity, please. The gargoyles will be expecting you."
"I'll come right away, sir," nodded Harry to the silvery, spectral cat as he got up out of his seat. After the lynx smiled and vanished, Harry pushed the intercom button that led to his wonderfully efficient, reliable secretary. "Anne, can you cancel all of my appointments for the rest of the afternoon? Mr. Shacklebolt's sent a meeting request via his Patronus just now."
"Of course," replied Anne cheerfully. Neither of them had to mention how unusual- and therefore how significant- the Head of the Ministry of Magic scheduling an appointment directly was, much less him using his Patronus to do so. "Do you want me to reschedule for tomorrow, or sometime later in the week? You've got some interviews lined up for the north regional Auror squad leader position, and a phone interview with the Daily Prophet regarding the dragon egg smuggling over in Diagon Alley last week."
"Let's start by rescheduling everything for tomorrow, and I'll let you know if things change alright? Thanks again, Anne." Harry released the intercom button and dug in his desk for the sack of Floo Powder that he kept in his desk for the trip home after work. Right, then. Time to see what this is all about. He resealed the pouch, got up out of his desk and walked over to his fireplace. After he threw the large pinch of Floo powder into the fireplace, the emerald green flames waited to hear his destination. "Kingsley Shacklebolt's office," Harry stated firmly after taking a step forward.
As soon as Harry finished appearing in the Minister of Magic's office, he was being inspected closely by the pair of medium-sized stone gargoyles that perched on the mantle of the fireplace, their ruby eyes studying him and their noses twitching intently as they took in his scent. They could see through any sort of attempted disguise, Muggle or magical in origin, and they would forcibly send any unannounced visitor down to a waiting, well-secured prison cell through a combination of the Stupefy spell and Floo powder. After a few moments the gargoyles slowly returned to their normal, immobile state facing Kingsley's desk, satisfied that Harry was really Harry.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Mr. Potter. I think you'll agree that it's a critically important development, and an unpleasant one as well, once you finish seeing and hearing everything." Kingsley got up out of his plush seat and indicated a large scroll that was lying on his desk. "Our Department of International Magical Cooperation received a letter first thing this morning from the headquarters of the International Confederation of Wizards." He frowned and studied the scroll before reestablishing eye contact with the Head Auror. "They brought it straight to me after they finished reading what our Japanese allies had to say. Have a look and tell me what you think."
The first thing on the scroll that caught Harry's eye instantly made his throat go completely dry while he blinked twice in disbelief, absolutely sure at first that his eyes were playing tricks on him- or at least he prayed that they were. It was an all too familiar symbol, but one that he hasn't seen in going on twenty years. He pulled his glasses off and cleaned them while he desperately wished in his mind for the hated symbol to vanish. To his disappointment, however, the evil-looking snake emerging like a tongue from an angry skull's open mouth was still glaring at him malevolently after he put his glasses back on. Harry then realized that there was actually a letter written below the symbol, in neat, precise typewritten English.
To Whom it May Concern within the Confederation:
We've had a number of witches and wizards disappear in Japan over the last two months, with the number of kidnappings greatly increasing in the last two weeks. It's gotten to the point where we're no longer sure how long our Obliviator squads can keep up with modifying the memories of the Muggles witnessing and investigating these various incidents. At least thirty witches and wizards so far have suddenly vanished without a trace since the incidents were first reported to us, and the above symbol being left of the wall of the most recent victim's apartment is our only real lead in any of the cases.
We're all too familiar with what and especially who the symbol represents, which is why we've contacted the Confederation. We also strongly suspect, but cannot confirm at this time, that the last known black witch is their primary target as our colleagues in other countries have had no such kidnappings occur. We hereby formally request the aid of the International Confederation of Wizards, particularly that of the British-based Ministry of Magic as they're so familiar with this enemy, and that it be dispatched as quickly as possible.
(writing on behalf of Oonishi Manami)
Harry cocked an eyebrow as he read the last lines of the request for assistance. "Last known black witch? What exactly do they mean by that?" He met Kingsley's eyes while wearing a puzzled frown. "I thought we'd finished flushing the last few pockets of Death Eaters out of hiding at least five or six years ago." Those who had clung to the Death Eater's ideals after Voldemort's fall had quickly learned that they weren't going to get very far without the Dark Lord's evil machinations backing their efforts. Judging by their symbol being left behind at a recent kidnapping, though, it seemed that there were at least some of them that were still soldiering on in spite of their leader's death close to twenty years ago.
Kingsley suddenly withdrew into himself for a moment before regarding Harry with a grim expression. His face then lit up with a roguish grin. "How well did you pay attention in your Magical History classes back when you attended Hogwarts, Mr. Potter?"
"Which part of it, exactly? We studied a lot of different stuff in that class," Harry replied with a grin of his own. He suddenly wished that he could call up Hermione and ask her; if anyone would know every last detail of that particular subject, it would be his incredibly intelligent friend.
Kingsley nodded as his face and tone became serious again. "Indeed, Mr. Potter; it's a very lengthy, broad subject. Of particular interest to this discussion, however, is the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy- especially its signing and the events that led to that signing."
Harry settled into a seat opposite the Minister's desk and began trying to recall his long-ago schooling. "Well, I know the movement for the treaty got started because of the increasing tensions between Muggles and magic users back in the late 1600s. The Salem witch trials were really what finally brought everything to a head, with all of the witches being burned left and right- and a lot of Muggles being falsely accused of being witches and burned at the stake as well." Harry looked skyward, reaching back into the dusty corners of his mind for any further information that he could recall. "It was officially signed into law in...1692 or 1693, I forget which."
"Exactly." The Minister of Magic's face and tone grew solemn. "It was ratified in 1692, actually. However, when the statute was officially enacted, there was a not-insignificant contingent of witches and wizards that didn't want to go underground and live in secrecy alongside the Muggles. They felt that hiding Magic from the rest of the world wasn't the proper course of action to take." Kingsley cleared his throat. "It was eventually decreed that the witches and wizards who deliberately chose to not obey the new statute were to be considered 'black listed' by those obeying the new treaty. In short, if they were found out and Muggles came after them, they weren't to be given any assistance by the Confederation." He took a drink of water and continued in the same grim tone. "It was a very controversial decision that not everyone signing the statute agreed with, but it was felt to be the best long-term course of action for the Wizarding world as a whole."
"I sure don't remember reading about that in the history books we studied," muttered Harry as he rubbed his chin in thought. "And I take it the 'black listed' thing is how the term 'black witch' came about?"
"Yes. Those witches and wizards are also where a lot of the Muggle stereotypes regarding witches and wizards originated from; they tried to keep the Muggles at bay without fighting them by using fear. Of course, we've tried to carefully cultivate those stereotypes in Muggle culture over the centuries as well so that the Muggles won't look too closely at their neighbors." Kingsley sat back down in his chair. "It doesn't surprise me that you didn't know about it. It's a dirty little episode that the Wizarding world would like to forget entirely if it were possible. In fact, there are some wizarding families that still bear some ill will towards the Confederation to this day because of black listed relatives that were denied aid back in those days."
"So...what exactly happened to these black witches and wizards?" Harry could make a pretty good guess, though, seeing as how there was only one apparently left living.
"Their numbers gradually decreased over the centuries, as you've probably already surmised" replied Kingsley with a shrug. "Some were killed by Muggles; some simply died of old age. A few of them were also killed by the Confederation after they decided to start using their powers to try and manipulate and control Muggles, if they refused to listen to reason when confronted about it by the Confederation. Quite a number of others eventually decided to start abiding by the statute after they realized that it would be a hard, lonely road ahead without the Confederation's assistance, and their families are still active in the Wizarding world to this day."
"So now there's only one left? And they're in Japan?" Harry frowned. "Just what would Death Eaters want with this person, anyhow?"
"Well, it's not absolutely certain that she's the only one left, but it's believed that she is." Kingsley rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "To be frank, it's always been whispered that some of the more powerful black witches and wizards had the ability to contact the underworld. They, ahem, didn't believe that much in the way of magic was off-limits, including some of the Unforgivable Curses." He cleared his throat again. "In fact, Lucifer himself was said to be at the beck and call of the more powerful among them. I really don't like to think that it would be their goal, but perhaps the remnants of the Death Eaters want to see what can be done about bringing Voldemort back from the dead."
Harry leapt up out of his seat so quickly and violently that the chair he was sitting in crashed to the floor, filling the room with a soft thud as the maroon carpet absorbed the impact. "That can't be allowed to happen," he cried passionately.
"I had a feeling you'd feel that way," grinned Kingsley as he stood up and placed his hand on his desk. "That's why I think it would be best if you went to Japan yourself and lent them your assistance. I normally wouldn't want to send such a high-ranking person because of the potential dangers, but this is a-" Kingsley seemed to be searching for the right words- "...special situation. Ms. Colt can reschedule your appointments, I'm sure." He cocked an eyebrow. "Perhaps Mr. Weasely would like to join you as well?"
"I'll try and get a hold of Ron after we're done here to see if he can come along. Just give me a name and a place in Japan to head to, sir," growled Harry in a voice filled with determination as he grabbed a napkin and pen from his pocket.
"Have you ever seen a symbol like that before, Satou-san?" As his partner shook her head, Takagi Wataru continued to study the strange symbol that seemed to be spray-painted in neon green on the wall. Seemed, because it wasn't any kind of spray paint product or brand that their labs could readily identify. An angry-looking snake emerging from the mouth of an equally irate-looking skull took up a good two and a half feet of the wall the pair was studying.
"The symbol's been run through the yakuza and gang symbol databases already, too. No hits on it in either one." Satou Miwako frowned as she turned her attention away from the wall and surveyed the apartment...an apartment that was eerily neat and clean for someone that was supposed to have been kidnapped. Aside from Tezuka Ayami having failed to show up to her job or answer her phone in over a week- the missing persons report had been filed by her boss, in fact- there really didn't seem to be anything pointing to the young woman being forced anywhere against her will. The only detail that concerned the detective was that Ayami's purse, with quite a bit of yen and all of her IDs, credit cards and half-charged cell phone still in it, had been sitting on the edge of her nearly made up futon when the officers had been let into the apartment by the landlord.
It was the latest in what was turning out to be an incredibly frustrating string of vanishings for the Tokyo prefecture. Ayami made the seventh strange, eerie dissappearance reported in the last two months, and the First Division homicide team had finally been called in because it seemed more and more likely that a particularly meticulous, shadowy serial killer might be at work. Of course, it really didn't help that all of the witnesses' memories, and even some of the officer's notes and reports, were peppered with strange gaps in memory and an almost total lack of detail across the board.
Takagi looked around at the three or four other officers trying to move around in the small apartment, concern filling his features as he studied the other people in the room. "Um...do you recognize any of these other detectives, Satou-san?"
After Satou began studying the faces of the other detectives more closely, she realized that she didn't recognize any of them aside from Chiba and Shiratori. "Except for Chiba-kun and Shiratori-kun, no I don't." A shiver ran up her spine as she grabbed Takagi's sleeve gently and pulled him towards the other two. "Do you two recognize any of these others?" she whispered as she finished approaching the other two.
"I don't recognize any of them, and neither does Satou-san" explained Takagi in a hushed tone as he looked around. "I know Megure-keibu mentioned that they might be bringing in one or two officers from other prefectures and towns where they've had kidnappings, but something just doesn't feel right here."
"Y'know, now that you mention it I don't recognize anyone." A worried look crossed Chiba's face as he examined the others in the room. "Maybe we should call Megure-keibu and see if he knows how many officers were supposed to come, or what their names are."
"Ah, you four must be with Megure-keibu's unit. First Division Homicide, right?" A confident, older-sounding male voice came from the group's left. They turned to see a trim, middle-aged man wearing a well-groomed brown mustache, equally groomed brown hair and a dark green three-piece suit. His eyes almost seemed to twinkle as he studied the four of them. "I'm Subaru Yachiru, Fifth Division Homicide's keibu. I apologize for the delay in introductions; if you'll all please come with me for just a bit, we'll do some proper introductions and get everything organized." He pulled out his photo police ID and let the group inspect it. Once Chiba handed it back to him, he indicated the apartment's front door. "We've set up a meeting room in a vacant apartment down the hallway- you're just in time for a quick strategy meeting, in fact."
After he sent the quartet to the three Obliviators awaiting them in the other apartment, Yachiru rubbed the bridge of his nose lightly while he watched the door close. He then turned his attention to a competent-looking, slightly plump black-haired young woman wearing a grey skirt suit that matched her grey-toned tortoiseshell glasses. "I really don't think that we can keep doing this to the police, or the witnesses involved, much longer, Tanaka-san. I've heard a lot of grumblings in a lot of different departments about how no one can remember anything about these cases- the grumbles of my own division included, of course." Yachiru frowned. "There may be the risk that these kidnappings are given even more scrutiny because of that, and I know that's not what the Center wants at all." The police department's long-time Muggle liaison gave his longtime friend and ally a cautious look. "Plus, is this...Obliviating, or whatever it's called, really good for them?"
Nanako offered the keibu a warm smile as she made adjustments to her hair sticks, which held her shoulder-length hair in an artfully disarrayed bunch. "Don't worry, Subaru-san; I assure you everyone that becomes an Obliviator is very, very highly trained - in fact, it's their entire job. The only long-term effects are on the memories that are overwritten."
"As long as it's safe," he replied with a nod. Yachiru was also half-watching the three Aurors in the room, who had all dressed as policemen in case a nosy reporter or a real policeman showed up on the scene. "So...what are they looking for exactly? A magic trail, or the remains of a portal? Something like that that could explain how these people are just vanishing?"
"I'm sorry Subaru-san, but that's on a very strict need-to-know basis." Nanako shook her head in frustration as she looked around the apartment. "I just wish we could figure out why they're making these moves now. They've been pretty quiet for the last twenty or so years, so what's kicked this into gear?" she mused as she studied the Dark Mark that had been drawn on the wall of the apartment.
A tired-looking young man who looked to be somewhere in his early to mid twenties walked up to the pair, turning towards Nanako and bowing slightly. "Tanaka-san, it doesn't look like they saw too much but we altered their memories anyway, for safety's sake." This was followed by a yawn that was hidden behind his hand.
"Thank you, Chidori-kun. I know that the Department has been running you and your fellow Obliviators ragged lately."
Chidori Toshiro offered a laugh tinged with weariness, running his hand through slightly shaggy dark brown hair. "To be honest, we're really not sure if we're doing any good at this point. This thing is becoming way too big - it's getting harder and harder for us to keep sweeping it under the rug." He stifled another yawn. "Too many witnesses, too many officers investigating that have to be watched and have their memories altered constantly..." The exhausted Obliviator let the sentence drift off unfinished.
"Just what is this all about, exactly? All these witch and wizard kidnappings...and this group." Yachiru pointed his thumb at the Dark Mark that was on the wall behind him. "I've been briefed on a few different things, but I'd like some straight answers so that I can know what we Muggles are dealing with," he finished in a serious tone. "I mean, I know Control has already sent off for help from Britain's Ministry of Magic because these Death Eater people originally started in England, but that's about all I was told."
"We believe that the Death Eaters are trying their hardest to locate a certain witch who's here in Japan, Subaru-san. A young witch who is, as far as we know, the last of the so-called 'black witches.' " Nanako walked over to a small wooden floor table and knelt down in front of a silver briefcase that was on the table. She pulled out her wand and tapped on the briefcase twice, whispering "Alohamora" under her breath on the second tap. The briefcase sprang open, revealing a set of file folders of various thicknesses. "I have a dossier we've put together on her, if you'd like to see it." She gave Yachiru a stern look. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you not to share this with anyone. If they're anything like they were in the old days, the Death Eaters will have eyes and ears everywhere. We don't want them to know that we know who their target is."
Yachiru walked over and picked up the dossier. "Well, if they know who this witch is, why are they kidnapping all of these other witches and wizards? It doesn't make any sense. Seems like a big amount of wasted effort on their part."
"Actually, we're going on the theory right now that all of these kidnappings are smoke screens- that the Death Eaters wanting us to scramble around thinking that it's just a string of random kidnappings." Toshiro studied the wall with the Death Eater Dark Mark on it. "What makes me wonder is why they decided to leave their mark this time. They've never done that before."
"So, this witch- what's her name? I see some pictures of her in here, but nothing has her name on it anywhere." Yachiru studied the contents of the file folder some more. "Pretty young girl, though. Reminds me a lot of my daughter."
Nanako looked at the picture of the long-haired girl that he was holding and nodded lightly. "Her name is Koizumi Akako."