"The pleasure of your company ..."
Roxanne stretched and opened her eyes to see the face of her beloved Napoleon looking concerned. She didn't fee like she'd had an episode, so she asked. "What?"
"Ever get twinges that someone's in trouble?"
"I'm not … what's the muggle word? Precognitive. But you border on it. Illya?"
"I think so. In trouble but not … in danger?" He sounded like he wasn't entirely certain of what was going on. "Maybe the magic is bothering him."
Roxanne frowned at that. "If he's a Muggle, why would the magic … Napoleon, what haven't you told me?"
He looked startled at her question. "A lot of things, I'm sure," he responded with a laugh. "But if you mean Illya … I don't know. Could he not know … the way I didn't?"
She thought about that as she rose and took care of morning actions before choosing a new outfit to wear. "I suppose it's possible. You're people turned their backs on magic in a lot of ways. The choice not to send a child to wizarding school is the right of the family. You don't find a lot of ours doing so, but in the New World … even for us, transportation might have been an issue in the 1700s; and then, as you pointed out, your family went political and military. Even then we were keeping to ourselves. Accidents are … well … noticeable."
"I thought you said there was a school that handled most of the continent … Europe."
"There are two. The French and the Germans are much in disagreement even in things magical. Beaux Batons and Sturm und Drang are the two greatest schools on the continent. Beaux is much like Hogwarts here, a well rounded magical education dedicated to knowing who, what, when and how. Sturm und Drang is known for it's Dark Arts program on the theory that if you know what it is, then you can defend yourself against it better. It's likely that your friend would have been tapped for the latter, given his proximity."
"No other schools?" he asked.
"Well, there is rumored to be one in China, two on the African continent, one in Australia and possibly one in Russia, but we're not entirely certain that the latter has been allowed to continue in the light of the whole Rasputin debacle. You think he might have been tagged for the Russian school? If it exists?" The idea seemed frightening to her, given what she knew of the Muggle world in the USSR.
"I think he might have been kept from being tagged for the Russian school." Napoleon considered the programs that he knew about from the 1960s and 1970s. There was a considerable emphasis on psionic capabilities. The biggest evidence that things like telekinesis, pyrokenisis and mind reading did not exist was predicated on the fact that the USSR had not fielded hundreds of people who could do these things, regardless of their training programs. If they had wizards to field … Only wizards might not have been tractable to being ordered about like so many magical weapon platforms. "I think someone who knew who and what he was probably kept him from being taken to the school run by the Russians since it's probably being handled by the government."
"But … Napoleon … we keep these things secret." The concept of a school of wizardry under the control of Muggles deeply disturbed her and he could see that.
Napoleon pulled her onto his lap with a hug and gentle kiss. "In the turmoil after the Russian Revolution and World War II, there is a pretty good chance that someone let something slip somewhere. Illya's parents may have shielded him somehow. Can you … hid a wizard's abilities? Shield them from being used?"
"Do you think we'd gladly suffer the Death Eaters and those locked up in Azkaban if we had a way to do that, to … to make them Squibs or Muggles?" she asked with a shudder. The thought of being stripped of all magic terrified her on a level that was hard to describe. Roxanne clung to her husband for a few minutes, trying to wipe the idea from her mind.
"Probably not. Which means, that if there is a way, it's probably only known to your dark wizards and they're not sharing," he pointed out with a laugh. "Well, first we get him back. Then we figure out if he has magic or if it's something else."
"The Malfoy's won't give him up easily," she muttered into his robe, then straightened as a thought hit her. "It's not your friend they were after." Roxanne stared into his dark eyes in horror. "It's you they're after."
"Well, you are a potent if not well trained wizard, Mr. Solo," she pointed out brightly. "And you've married into my family, one that Voldemort has hunted down and tried to exterminate when we wouldn't bow to him," she added more seriously. "The Death Eaters don't like opposition."
A tap at the door broke up their discussion. Roxanne went to see who it was. A large owl fluttered into the room, dropping an envelope on the bed and leaving. Napoleon reached for it and handed the letter to Roxanne. She opened it and quickly read the short missive inside. "Dumbledore wants us to meet him at the school in about an hour and a half. We need to eat and go see him."
"Any indication why?" Napoleon asked as he held her robe for her to slip on.
"No. But he wouldn't want to meet us if it wasn't important. He'd come here. His office is … well, quite special as the headmaster of Hogwarts."
After breakfast, they grabbed their brooms and flew to the school, setting down outside the front gates and walking in. They were met by one of the professors and taken to the headmaster's office.
"French tarts," their escort informed a large statue barring their way. Obligingly, it slid back to allow them access to the stairs leading to the office.
"Well, I see you've settled in already," Roxanne greeted the strawberry blond looking gentleman. "How's being in charge treating you?" She gave him a quick hug and took a seat, gesturing for Napoleon to do the same.
"As well as can be expected," the older wizard answered her question as he took a seat behind his desk as well. He regarded them for a long moment before nodding as though answering some question he'd asked himself. "You know we are having dark times." He addressed his statement to Napoleon.
"I've seen some of the evidence, yes."
"I have information that one of Lord Voldemort's younger generation has been sent to look at an organization of Muggles, something calling itself "THRUSH" I believe." His keen pale eyes took in the recognition from Napoleon's reaction. "You know of this organization?"
"Yes. Before I … knew what a wizard was, I spent several years working for an oppositional organization: the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. It's an international … policing force of sorts. THRUSH … well, if THRUSH could get magic into its arsenal, they'd be difficult to stop."
"And if Voldemort drew this organization into his own plans …?"
Napoleon had to think about that. "I don't think they'd be much use to him," he replied. "The things he can do, that his followers can do, with a wand and the power they wield on their own … If he was someone without a lot of power, I could see an alliance. But given what I've been told and seen, no. Not useful to him."
"But possibly a rival, if they also wish for world dominion?"
"Yes," Napoleon agreed slowly. "An obstacle, one that he might want to remove early in the game."
"Then it behooves us to see about getting the wizard back from them before they figure out a way to work against magic. His name is Severus Snape. His strengths are hexes and potions; and a will of iron in may ways. If you could be of assistance?"
"Any way we could trade him for my friend?" Napoleon asked.
The other two wizard's considered this. Roxanne answered first. "If we can convince them that this Snape hasn't been suborned by us, it's a possibility, isn't it, Dumbledore?"
"It is indeed a possibility, although not a large one. I will see what I can do once Snape is … secured."
As he and Roxanne left, Napoleon could sense that he was missing part of the story. Dumbledore's acquiescence to trading Snape for Illya was … just too pat an answer. His mind worried at the puzzle for several minutes before coming to the conclusion that whatever else Severus Snape was, he was also some sort of double agent. It would then make perfect sense to have the "good guys" rescue him and use him as a bargaining chip. Whatever he had learned about THRUSH, the opposition would be satisfied if he was returned for a fairly useless chip of their own. He just hoped Illya would survive this.
Illya awoke about mid-afternoon in an unfamiliar bedroom. Something that looked remarkably like a potato with arms, legs and a cartoonish set of ears on a small head was straightening the room. Upon hearing him move, it turned to face him and bowed. It was clad in what looked like a dirty tea towel turned into a sort of toga. "Food?"
Illya nodded. The entity snapped its overly long fingers and a tray with food appeared on the small table next to one of the chairs before the fireplace. "Spasiba," he thanked it without thinking. "I mean, thank you."
"Master's guest is welcome," the thing's somewhat scratchy voice answered. "Clothing has been provided." It gestured to the other chair. He saw a neatly folded stack of clothes, a pair of clean, well polished, new shoes on top of the pile. "Master Lucius has asked that you stay here. The bath is through there," it gestured to a door. "If you desire anything, just ring." It set a small hand-bell on the table with the food.
"Thank you … I … What are you?"
"Me, sir? I'm Master Malfoy's house elf," it answered. "One of many. I am Dobby." It snapped it's fingers again and disappeared.
House elf. Illya padded into the bathroom which looked much like a turn of the century version of what was common in England. He washed his face and hands, toweled off and returned to the clothes. Black on black. A soft turtleneck of cashmere, black slacks, black socks and shoes. Even the briefs were black. Dressed, he felt both more and less like himself.
Shying away from the memories the other man had caused to surface, he worked his way through the meal provided before checking the room. The windows were latched, the door unlocked. The room itself was an opulent display of wealth from the brocade curtains to the exquisite rug under foot. He was tempted to wander, but the thought of meeting that portrait again chilled him.
That left Illya with his thoughts. Magic. No. There was no magic beyond stage illusions and trickery. There wasn't. She told him there was no magic, whispered it to him over and over again, tears in her eyes and voice. She told him and his sister. Only with no magic were they safe.
Only they weren't safe. She was torn from them, savaged, murdered by a raging mob. He and … he couldn't even remember his sister's name … separated, never seen by each other again. The cries of the toddler echoed in his brain. There had to be something to do … He searched the room, locating books written in languages he could not read until he found one small leather bound journal, written in English. He would occupy himself with this until his jailer came.
Lucius entered his rooms some time later to find his captive dressed, fed and reading. Where the hell had he found that? His first instinct was to tear the journal from the Muggle's hands and discipline the smaller man. He quelled the reaction. Let him read Nicolaidae Malfoy's journal, to see the descent into madness the denial of magic led to. His soft tread brought him to the chair. The man looked up, his mouth slightly open. Lucius bent down to accept that accidental invitation.