A/N: to those people in such benighted parts of the world as do not play cricket[oops my prejudices are hanging out] I need to explain that the game is often referred to in a poetic fashion as 'the sound of willow on leather' ie the willow wood bat striking the leather covered ball. You need to know this for the Marauders' joke in this chapter to make sense.
The New Marauders were planning to have a very full holiday and new school year too.
Not only was there a magic scrying mirror to find, it had to be established quietly in Durmstrang by house elves; and the task of protecting Hogwarts would then – in the opinion of the four regular and one occasional members – fall to them. They would be fourth years after all!
"We need to make a concerted effort to find more of the secrets of Hogwarts before we get tied up with our OWLs" said Hawke "The marauders' map shows the seven secret passages that the original Marauders knew; and Filch knows four of them. There's gotta be more than that."
"I vote we explore the roofs while the weather's good still" suggested Kinat "Chimneys sometimes have secret passages in them in stories, we might be able to tell by the thickness."
"Unless the passages are hidden by being at least partly in wizarding space" said Wilhelmina Prince, the occasional member. "I'm going to be busy this term; I'm still perfecting my animagus form, but I can help with abseiling stuff."
"Wizarding space – that's a point there Bil" said Abraxus.
"Yeah, I thought it was a good one…and by the way, I'm changing my nickname; from now on I want to be known as Willow."
"Willow? That's pretty. Y'feel old enough to want to be more feminine, that it?" asked Kinat. Their friend had also changed her look, getting rid of the masses of dark hair that fell lankly about her face to wear it short and spiky in the front and long at the back, with a scarlet streak enchanted into it and heavy Goth makeup.
"Yes; and it kind of goes with the animagus; Pussy Willow you know, as well as the analogy that willow bends but does not break."
"Sirius may look on the betrothal with you as a way to protect you from your father, but I'm guessing you see it more seriously…. I wonder who's going to try to get detentions to have him spank you with a slipper so there's the sound of leather on Willow?"
Willow blushed but grinned; she appreciated the cricketing joke at her expense.
"Well, we shall see" she said.
Sirius was special; he had looked after her since she first got to school, had saved her life; had put himself out to make sure her horrid father and his unkind wife could not get her back to make into a servant. Sirius was wonderful; and Willow adored him from the bottom of her complex little heart.
The adults were tracking down the second mirror that could be looked through with the one from the attic; Severus had put his memories of having found it when he was a fourth year into the Penseive to see if there was anything in them to tell of its whereabouts. Other than that it was in a brothel, little could be told from its current location, for it had been moved since Severus was at school.
"It's in London I am certain" said Severus "The business suited men who stopped to comb their hair in it had the air of Londoners…and one of the girls had the traces of a cockney accent when they were talking amongst themselves and not being lah-di-dah for the clients. Not that that helps any I guess, because people move about…why would there be a magic mirror in a brothel?"
"Because it used to be a wizarding house that got sold and someone found the mirror and thought it was cool" said Krait. "If they match in style – as one might assume they do – it's all rococo and ornate and ghastly. Just right for a brothel!"
"Right….so we need to talk to the sort of people who were wealthy enough to own a big house like I think it is, it certainly has big rooms, and find out if anyone sold it.."
"Lucius might know" said Krait "He dabbles in the muggle property market among other things."
"Before his time; he'd barely left school when I found it, and it was an established bordello then." Objected Severus.
"Meh; but Lucius knows things and he knows people" said Krait. "Meantime, let's see how high class it is; we can see the feet of people before they get undressed and maybe we can recognise the sort of people we see on TV… muggle politicians and the like."
"Oh for that spot of genteel blackmail, eh?" Severus laughed.
"Along those lines" grinned Krait "Actually I was thinking of genteel breaking and entering to find address books or having house elves follow them, but we could be blunt if you preferred."
It was Casimir who came up with the idea of peering at the clock that Severus' view showed; the window was reflected in it.
"But I didn't look at it; so how can I have any recollection of a reflection that's not even something I saw?" said Severus.
"The eye assimilates more than it realises; it's a very efficient organ" said Casimir "We might see something if we can only home in on it. Pity you can't computer enhance pensieve views."
"But we can use a camera with wizarding chemicals and scan it from the current one" said Krait "You never know…."
It took a little patience; but the girl whose room this was in was in the habit of sitting on the bed with a mirror to fix her face after clients had gone.
"Gotcha" said Casimir looking at the photo "She's got a window behind her. And THAT we can enhance and use an internet house tracker….."
"Clever business" said Severus.
"Oh I'm no expert on this but there are plenty of tools on the internet" said Casimir "It's why we keep half the house strictly magical and the other half strictly muggle, so we can have computers and I can use power tools and Wendy had a washing machine and so on. House elves are all very well, but my Wendy likes to control her own household chores. I'm inclined to think it's not so very far from where we are – same period, same style – and as Orme Court seems to have several wizarding houses in of families busy dying out so we could buy them up, it's a reasonable assumption. I'll run a search for Bayswater."
"Orme of course is from old Norse meaning snake or Great Wyrm" said Krait "So it was probably a Slytherin area. Might it not be easier just to print out the ruddy enhancement and go for a look-see?"
"It might at that" confessed Casimir. "My database is by no means complete…"
"Well we'll try around Orme Lane, Orme Court and Orme Court mansions" said Krait "To start with. I guess it'll be at the end near the A402, 'cos that's a big tree in the corner and I bet that's Kensington Park…"
It took a little while: but once the building opposite had been identified, it was a simple matter to pick out the brothel. It took no more than a lot of leg work; walking around the neighbourhood with copies of the photo, duly reversed as it had been viewed in the and mirror of the expensive whore, until they could find a scene that tallied.
"Nice and convenient for the Queensway tube station" said Krait cheerfully.
In common with most of the buildings in the area it was a big, five storied Victorian Gothic pile; unlike most of the other residences it had not been broken up into flats.
"So, what do we do? Try to buy it?" asked Krait "I can see you, Sev my love, 'excuse me I want to buy the mirror from the four poster of one of your girls'" she affected a slightly Monty Python Terry Jones dodgy character voice "You'd need a dirty raincoat!"
"I thought we might buy a plain mirror in some furniture superstore and transfigure the frame to match and get Sirri and Beloc to swap it when there's nobody around."
"Simple; elegant. I like it" said Krait cheerfully.
Once they had the mirror's partner – an easy matter – Krait turned both mirrors over to the New Marauders to see if there was any way the new one could be activated to scry back. If anyone could find all its secrets, five fourteen year olds could, she reasoned!
"It's broken" Hawke reported "It should be a two-way mirror, but some muggle has 'improved' it and broken off the activation device. We can get dad to carve and gild something that looks appropriate and I guess you grown ups are hard enough to reactivate it if you think it's worth doing."
"Hmmm" said Krait "We don't want Durmstrangers peering back at us willy nilly even if we put it back in the attics – which I think we should – but it might be handy to have an activation device. I know; we'll tie it to Parseltongue like the Chamber of Secrets, then only one of the Bloodgroup or other stray Parselmouths can activate it."
"Yeah; and use a muggle sort of word too that any stray German Parselmouth – if there are any – ain't going to think of" said Hawke.
"What, like, 'January-suborbital-denomination' from Mission Impossible?" laughed Krait.
"Yes; or – or 'activate surveillance'" said Hawke. "Scrying is a wizarding word; surveillance is a muggle word."
"So, sssssActivate Surveillancessss" she said, using parseltongue "Yup, that should defeat anyone who isn't us. Good-oh!"
Hermione's house elf, Rosli, rescued from Durmstrang, was able to give enough information that a good place might be chosen. A large anteroom with doors to staff offices and head's office was often used for firetalking through the Floo network and for conducting some business. It was almost a staffroom, like a lounge where staff might relax, though each had their own offices too for correcting and setting work. Krait had the impression that although many of the staff of Hogwarts would correct work in the staffroom - so they could amuse colleagues by reading out the better howlers and mistakes - that Durmstrang staff would never act so informally. They might, however, discuss school problems; and it might be instructive to see what fire messages were sent.
"There'll be a mirror in there" she said "To check they look neat before facing their pupils; just replace it. Sirri, Beloc, do you feel capable of putting a memory in the mind of the elf that serves drinks to the staff that the old one got broken and it was replaced, just in case anyone asks?"
"Well unless it's magical, we'll break it; let an elf see, and then just arrange replacing it" said Beloc "Better to have real memories than replaced ones."
"The seven years bad luck is just a superstition then?"
"I think so; but if Sev would let me have a drop or two of Felix Felicis I can take that before I break it to offset any bad luck…."
Severus was happy to oblige.
He had taken to keeping supplies of felix Felicis around against any more trouble from the fey or from Odessa.
They were back a few days later.
"Installed" said Beloc laconically "And the felix brought me more luck; I had an urge to look in a particular office, which turned out to be that of that fellow Hesse, the Odessa member. There was an invitation to him to train in a new installation deep in the Pripet Marshes. He was supposed to burn it; and he did, but not very well. I could read the words white on the black sheet in the grate. I should think that might be handy?"
"I'll say" said Severus "That was well done, Beloc; I'm very pleased with that. Now go and put some clothes on; you look faintly ridiculous"
"Durmstrang elves do. Odd dusters they wear, old worn up teatowels, not even a livery of new teatowels like the Hogwarts ones! I can't wait to be back in silks and velvet! Sirri already is changing; doesn't want you to see her in rags she said."
Severus' face softened.
"As though I care… I love Sirri you know, Beloc; it may not be as dearly as I love Krait, but I do love her."
"If I thought you didn't I'd be taking issue with you."
"You two are remarkable elves."
Beloc pulled a face.
"Yes, I'd almost forgotten how servile elves can be… and how childishly many of them speak. Even with the other elves around, the free ones mostly try, and at least the Hogwarts ones aren't servile. You'll be deep reading us later, won't you, to see if the elf urge for self punishment is in any way tied to the Imperius curse?"
It was a brilliant idea to get self punishment urges reversed and outlawed!
Sirri asked Severus to love her first before he used deep legilimensy; and he was glad to do so, to relax her and make her feel empowered by taking pleasure from and with him.
He plunged into her mind, gently stroking her face as he did so for reassurance.
There were many things in there that made him boilingly angry for her all over again, her previous master's ill usage, the casual use of her as a brood mare to produce a saleable baby – and how glad he was that her Mimi had been rescued and was now one of his children – and numberless little abuses and discourtesies she had looked on as normal before being freed by the Bloodgroup.
It was there; it was deep but it was there, tied into her very being, heritable and unavoidable. It would be a ticklish business to undo so subtle and long established an enchantment.
"I think we'll need a ritual" he said to her as he emerged and she gazed at him anxiously "And I most certainly will bring this up in Session."
In the Wizarding Governing Chamber Severus was known as Severin Prince; and he wore a mask to hide scars, which it was implied he had got fighting Voldemort. He had murmured something about cursed wounds not healing and left it at that. He claimed a wife, Augusta Malfoy-Prince; since Krait's real name, forgotten by most, was Augusta; and whom Lucius acknowledged as a relative and let people think it was an illegitimate child of his. As there were now rumours abroad of his muggle mistress and her two children, this was given credence; and was used by many as good proof that Lucius really had been playing Voldemort for a sucker if he had a muggle woman and half breed children concealed all this time.
That the children were not his, but his half-nephew's, and that one was not even Charlotte's either was never known to the general wizarding world; and Lucius' wife Narcissa also went along with the fiction.
Charlotte had, after all, prevented her from acting under a version of the imperius curse to kill her own beloved son. Narcissa and Charlotte were as thick as thieves.
Harry Potter was by way of being the figurehead of the Wizarding Government; Lucius did most of the running of it; but Severin Prince was a little feared by most for his grim aspect, and that both Lucius Malfoy and Sirius Black in addition to Harry Potter backed his few suggestions and listened to him with respect swayed those who did not know who he was.
Frank Longbottom knew; and he was on Severus' side wholeheartedly over helping elves.
"It's an enormous task" he said "We'd have to round up everyone who owns – or employs – an elf and have them ritually de-cursed."
"I am on the arithmancy" said Severus "And I propose to try first on volunteer free elves that are known to me. But I wanted it cleared that what has been done in the past is illegal by today's more enlightened standards."
There was a general murmur of consent; and a law was duly passed that the self punishment by elves was an illegal curse and that all elf owners were to issue orders to their elves that they might think what thoughts they pleased and were not to enact punishment on themselves for it.
"It's a start" said Harry "And not all will obey, and how are we to know? But some will; some from respect of the law, and most, I suspect, out of fear of people like Lucius."
"Ah, what it is to have a reputation" he said.
"well, you used to be the worst offender where house elves were concerned that I knew. Until I went to Durmstrang that is; where I fancy they may be worse."
"Yes; and Voldemort did a good job on me to isolate me from any willing support I might have" said Lucius "It's given me a distaste for any kind of control…. You coming over to see your second cousin? Dudley's visiting Draco for a few days and he brought the baby."
"Yeah, I think I might; thanks Lucius. Then Draco and I can set out for our auror training together."
"What I thought" agreed Lucius.
Harry enjoyed meeting his infant namesake; and was amazed to see Dudley such a gentle, caring parent. Small Harry Dursley would not be likely to have any personal problems when he came up to Hogwarts!
The New Marauders, now their main Mission was complete set out to enjoy the rest of their holidays, and renewed their acquaintance with the actress Grace Sylvia and got themselves involved as extras in a cop show she was acting in!
Severus had learned to drive and bought a minibus to share with the Casimir Malfoys for the ferrying of excess children around, since one of the Marauders, Romulus, was his adopted son and Willow was his cousin and ward.
It was Hawke's idea to paint the minibus black and fit brass rails on top; and enthusiastic fun was had by all the children, right down to three year old Lilith, in making and dressing an articulated dummy painted to look like a zombie from a movie, that dangled in the back and waved to passers by.
They were stopped once by the police who wanted to check 'Unhygenic Igor' was not a child dressed up and unrestrained in the back; and Severus said,
"Don't blame me, officer, I have teenage children and their friends live next door. It was blue and quite ordinary when I bought it."
There was much hilarity amongst the traffic cops once they had verified that Igor was just a very cleverly made doll; and the 'Orme Court Hearse' became known to the police and henceforth ignored.
Abraxus approached Krait hesitantly when she was – for once – alone, and the other Marauders preoccupied.
"Krait, can I ask you something?" he said.
"You can ask me anything…the answer will depend on the question" she said "But you look more than serious; so I'll do my best to answer as fully and truthfully as I can."
"Without being cross?"
"I guess that depends if you've trashed my new herb bed and if so, how badly and how it happened" said Krait.
"Oh no! I haven't damaged anything" said Abrax "Only…only I want to know if it's possible to do something no-one else has done before and if it's a morally acceptable thing to do."
Krait was all ears.
Any fourteen year old who was throwing around phrases like 'morally acceptable' was a troubled child in need of as much aid as she could give him.
"Well I guess it's a magical question if your mum can't help….tell me about it from the beginning."
"It's Myrtle" said Abraxus in a rush "Because it's so unfair her being a ghost."
"Yes; extremely unfair" said Krait. "You think she ought to cross over the veil?"
Abrax shook his head.
"Voldemort was killed; but he left parts of his soul in horcruces" he said "Myrtle's whole soul is in her ghost. HE had a new body made with ritual materials; can't we make one for Myrtle?"
"I don't know….let me think. She'd need some blood or bone of her own ancestors, I guess, do you know where they lived?"
"I found out some from her, though I've not told her what I want to try; her parents are still alivel I found them on the internet, her dad's in his nineties and her mum is eighty something but they are alive! And living blood of her parents would be more efficacious than bone of her ancestor, wouldn't it?"
"Blood of the one who killed her….can't manage that, but maybe blood of the heir of one who killed her willingly given, activated by a wand with the core of basilisk crest – my wand. Myself I'd also include blood of unicorn, freely given – and that's from me again as well – and tears of the phoenix, one of the few things that can heal a wound from a basilisk. I'm sure Ffawkes will oblige. But I should think that a flesh offering would be required as well."
"It is" said Abraxus "I found the book he had used when he was Tom Riddle. I guess Professore Dumbledore had taken it out of the library judiciously 'cos I said accio blood ritual book and it came flying out of the head's office window. It had it all in, heavily underlined in splotty ink. Madame Pince would have crucified Riddle if she'd caught him doing that!"
"Pity she didn't; we might have all been saved a lot of trouble" said Krait dryly. "So where's that coming from? Can it be a random corpse?"
Abrax shook his head.
"It has to be given willingly for love; something important like a hand" he said. "I'll donate that; I love Myrtle to bits and I'd readily give a hand to have her get a chance to finish growing up and be a real girl again."
Krait looked at him thoughtfully.
"In which case it might even work" she said. "I want you to go and talk to your parents about this; they have a right to know what you're planning, as it is extremely risky. I don't think they're likely to forbid you but you can't do something like that without at least telling them. If they were likely to forbid it, you'd just have to wait until you were seventeen; Myrtle isn't going anywhere and we could maybe sustain her parents to make sure they survived. Then we have to get THEIR permission to give their blood, it's not an automatic given. However much they miss her, people can sometimes be illogical over issues of death, and get stubborn and refuse to discuss anything once closure is over. You need to talk them into it."
"Well, you're not dismissing it out of hand."
"Abrax, we've done far too many things that nobody has ever done before to start quibling over any matter that looks at first glance to be impossible" she said "And we have an example of what kinda sorta worked before."
"I'd not want her looking like him; I guess she'd rather be dead" said Abraxus.
"Quite. No, there was a reason for his fishyness's appearance; he had sustained the homunculus body on snake venom and unicorn blood – murdered unicorn at that – and it had an inevitable effect. I'll start some arithmantic calculations…dear me I seem to be spending all my time calculating when to put rituals into effect. I need Myrtle's birthdate; and time too if you have it. And I need to feed in your age to it too, and the time between, and the effect of the generation between me and Riddle…" she smiled at him. "go talk to Wendy and Casimir while I work some things out as a framework and if you're good I'll even talk to Ffawkes for you to get his tears."
"THANKS Krait; you're the best!" said Abraxus; and ran off, a much happier little boy than when he had come in.
"Lumme!" said Krait to herself "And to think most people only have their young relatives with normal romance problems!"
Krait talked it over with Severus of course.
"You might need the venom of that which killed her; or the antidote to it" he said "I'll look into that. And I should say that we need her own bones to build a new body on. The Bloodgroup can use their synchronised heartbeats to kickstart her heart."
"And a drop of blood from each of them who will as willing sacrifice will boost the effect too" said Krait. "Must he cut it off? His hand?"
Severus pulled a face. "I would have said it might be more effective if he reached into the boiling cauldron to feel for her and pull her out, it joining to her as it boils off him."
"But it could be done the other way?"
"It could. It could. It worked with Peter's hand; and his sacrifice was not deep down one hundred per cent willing. He feared to do it. Somehow I think Abrax will approach this with more positive thoughts. And positive thoughts have a lot of effect on ritual magic."
Krait's initial calculations showed that it would be several months before the ritual would be suitable; and she set out to refine her work as she received more data from her researches. Bringing people back from the dead was not to be approached lightly; nor in most cases even considered. The resurrection stone brought only cold unwilling shades, if the stories were to be believed. She glanced down at the cracked stone in the damaged Peverell ring that was hers by right, though she planned to give it to her half brother when he was older. That however had brought people from beyond the veil; and Myrtle had never gone beyond the veil. Holding her wand against the stone might help too; it was worth a try, since it was a device of soul summoning. And indeed made pseudo bodies of some solidity. It might indeed….she scribbled a few things down and nodded in satisfaction. It should help to consolidate the bone and blood with which they would work to coalesce as a real body.
It could be done.
Whether it SHOULD be done was another matter; but she was certain her ultimate ancestor Salazar Slytherin never meant his pet to be used for evil ends. Myrtle should not have died; so bringing her back was less wrong than bringing back either an adult or someone who had an incurable illness say. Unless it was now curable. The moral question was decidedly murky; and much of whether it should be done would be decided by whether the Bloodgroup agreed it should be done and agreed to help.
Krait wasted no time; and soon the whole group was there including Abrax.
"You asked about the moral question, Abrax" said Krait "I'm not opposed to what you want to do, nor is Severus; but you must have the consent of the Bloodgroup as a whole or I don't think we can pull it off – not properly. Explain to them."
Haltingly, Abrax told the rest what he wanted to do, blushing as he did so. Hawke had his hand on his twin's shoulder, supporting him; Abrax had finally shared his dilemma with him.
"Is it right to drag someone back?" she said.
"Back from where? The loo?" said Krait "Myrtle's neither one thing nor another, not alive nor dead. She's a ghost. If she'd gone on, yes of course it would be wrong, you know the tale of the Peverells three and the second brother's lost love who was cold and sad when he used the stone….yes I am wearing it and yes, I thought it might play a part in consolidating other factors. If we agreed to do it."
"Myrtle's had a raw deal… I guess anything we can do to make up to her has to be good."
"Yes, she's cheered up with our company but she's still stuck in being somewhat depressed for eternity because it was the state in which she died" said Draco "And she can't move on from that unless she goes beyond the veil – or, I guess, comes back. I say go for it; what have we got to lose?"
"Myrtle's soul and Abrax's hand" said Krait.
"She could lose her soul? Nah, Krait, mate, it ain't dark magic" said Ron "Reckon for her worst that'd happen is she gets thrown through the veil. And Harry says it ain't so bad, he's seen his parents, hasn't he?"
"Ron you know nothing about the magic of death!" said Hermione
"No; and no more does anyone else" said Ron.
"And Ron has a down to earth assessment with all his common sense that I think is better than any amount of fruitless debate from those of us who try to be too clever" said Krait softly. "Abrax, there is that chance she'll be thrown beyond the veil; you'll lose a hand to no end and she won't be there to talk to."
"But she'll still then be able to move on and stop being sad, won't she?" said Abrax simply. "I'll miss her like mad; but I'll be glad for her you know."
"That's an answer enough for me" said Krait. "He knows the risks. Will anyone else join to help?"
"Stupid question, Krait" snorted Hermione "I may not be sure if I approve but we always pull together. I want to check your arithmantic calculations though."
"Of course Hermione" Krait smiled.
How VERY Hermione!