For those who came in late:
Ra'jirra has a darling little granddaughter, he's back on Earth-2 to catch up on what's what, and now he's bearding the British government in its lair before the magical world is.
Speaking of which, in No. 10 Downing:
"You're right," Margaret Thatcher admitted.
Two sets of eyebrows went up. John Major's rose because he had no idea until now that anyone was doing more than working out contingency plans – CASE AVALON – for the inevitable revelation of the wizarding world. He knew the United States had their own drawn up, and he suspected that other countries did as well, but it was the general consensus that Great Britain would be the most likely place it would happen.
Ra'jirra's went up, followed by a shrug, because he'd been expecting that. He hadn't expected such candidness.
"The current state of British Wizardry is such that, left to its own devices, we're looking at CASE AVALON YELLOW or ORANGE at the moment – but over time, the cultural divide is only going to get worse. There's actually a lot of unrest among muggleborns over how they're treated as second class citizens, and for all we know that could lead to open revolt – that would be CASE AVALON RED by the way."
"And you want to stop that before it starts," was Ra'jirra's intelligent surmise.
"Exactly. However, our contacts in the Ministry aren't very influential – hardly anyone cares about the opinions of clerks – and those with any influence are either hard to reach, or under the influence of, ah, 'blood purity' doctrine or Albus Dumbledore."
"And from what he told me some time ago, he likes things just as they are," Ra'jirra mused, eyes wandering among the portraits on the office walls. "Thing is, from what I gathered about recent history," his voice became reflective, "he's spent a lot of his life fending off bad bastards who wanted to put themselves in charge now matter how much damage they did. There was Grimblewall who set off World War Two –"
"Grindlewald," Thatcher corrected with a smile, "Interestingly, he was one of Dumbledore's fellow students at Hogwarts."
"Really?" Ra'jirra blinked in surprise. "He didn't mention it I think... and then there's bloody Voldemort. And from the sound of things... I think he was getting the upper hand.
"And right now, there's..." the old Khajiit trailed off, looking at nothing, his expression suggesting furious cogitation. The two politicians looked at him, waiting not particularly patiently.
"You said cultural divide," he came back to reality at last, "and that is what's causing the problem. You need to bridge it, or fill it in completely, but I think Dumbledore's as scared of you mundanes as any other wizard and just wants things to remain the same, so he'll fight or slow you down as much as he can. The wossnames – pureblood lot – won't want to have a bar of you, so they'll oppose as well. And in the meantime, the ground's nicely tilled for another crop of dark lords. Well – if we can help, we will."
"You will?" Both Thatcher and Major sat up that that.
"Yep. Actually, we have to. Harry's still a citizen of the Empire, and my adopted son, so I'm honour bound at least to help and protect him as much as I can. Mind you, what with Morrowind and those Thalmor," he spat the word like a hairball, "we might be a bit stretched."
"There is also the issue of Earth, er, Earth-1, as you put it," Major changed topic tactfully. "I think the United States would be interested in access there."
"Why am I not surprised," Ra'jirra began drily, "Mind you that opens a whole new bag of puzzles. For one thing –"
Ra'jirra stopped dead for the same reason both Major and Thatcher were. A house elf had popped in and was plucking at Ra'jirra's trouser leg.
"Begging pardons Master Arch-Mage Rajerry sir," the bat-eared little brown creature said, "but Lord Malfoy sir is awake and asking for yous before Lady Malfoy and the healer come back."
Ra'jirra blinked at the elf, then at the two people he'd been brought to see, who blinked back, then they all looked at the house elf and blinked, then blinked at each other again. The house elf also blinked, but nobody noticed.
"So that's a house elf," Major murmured, "I remember hearing about them from one of your briefings, Margaret."
"Perhaps," Thatcher said thoughtfully, "we can resume this discussion at some other time. From the sound of things it might be a good idea to see what he wants now." She dug into her briefcase again and handed the old Khajiit a business card. "Here's how you can reach us."
Ra'jirra put the card into one of his suit's small but convenient pockets. "All right then," he shrugged, "We'll meet again. Now," he stood and directed to the elf, "take me to Malfoy."
With a slightly louder pop, the two nonhumans vanished. Thatcher and Major looked at the space where they'd been, then began discussing the meeting, how this might affect their plans, and what should they tell George?
The master bedroom, Malfoy Manor:
The bedchamber – well it was, owing to the large, ostentatious, and currently occupied bed that commanded it – was dimly lit, curtains drawn. Ra'jirra was escorted to the side of it and looked at the shattered man within.
Lucius Malfoy was obviously a wreck. His hair was wild, face pale, and his eyes, when they trembled open, were burning with a manic fever.
"Ra'jirra?" The tones were smooth as cheap sandpaper.
"Yeah, me," the old Khajiit replied quietly, "What in the name of the Nine happened to you?"
"You," Malfoy's eyes bored into him. "Threats and promises; that's what you said," he paused to swallow, "and they are expressions of power. And Malfoys... we are the masters of power."
Ra'jirra said nothing, fitting Malfoy's feverish words into something Dumbledore had said: the Malfoys were the other power behind the Ministry, opposite of the old fart himself. He began to wonder what a Malfoy or two might do if exposed to the Imperial Council, but Lucius resumed.
"Our secret... before 1692... the Statute of Secrecy... we were considered nobles among muggles, had the ears of kings. Afterwards... we hid from our past as well as muggles. We are descendants of Salazar Slytherin you know. We don't rush in face first like some Gryffindor."
He looked uncertainly at Ra'jirra, who had winced in self-recognition. Especially the final battle at Echo Cave.
"The Dark Lord... he told us muggles were filth, unable to stand against us. We believed him. It would've been fatal to doubt. But some of us... they never returned. We thought it was the Aurors or Dumbledore. But really... there were too many for that.
"Your words in Hogwarts," he got to the point, "I've been studying. Dobby would collect books on muggles, from muggle libraries. I had to know. Politics, of course. History. Machines. Weapons." His voice rose unsteadily in pitch. "Three weeks I studied. I know what you mean now, Ar-Arch-Mage! I know!"
Ra'jirra just raised his brows, silently encouraging Malfoy to explain. While he'd seen a world ravaged by mugg– Ninedammit, mundane – weapons, even after ten-odd years of study and experiment he still didn't know all that much. Other than those Thalmor wankers disapproved.
"They have machines in the sky," Lucius' eyes focussed on the ceiling, voice slightly crazed, "hundreds of miles up and they can see us, see through our wards because they're so far away, their armies can move faster and strike harder and fly faster than brooms! And they can see what happens in one place around the world with their tell – teller – te-le-visions," he slowed to carefully pronounce the word. "Not all the Obliviators in the world could blot this out...
"We cannot hide! They have power – through their machines – power! Malfoys follow power. That is ours. We advise, we remember, we guide, we survive. We preserve the ways of magic, we remember them right... and true...
"It's hard," and now Malfoy's hands clenched white on the bedclothes, "Everything I knew! It was right but wrong... assumption and ignorance and," his voice became a parody, "yes Master, no Master, anything you say Master, please don't crucio me Master..."
Ra'jirra just nodded. He know what had happened now. But only Lucius Malfoy could get himself out of the fevered madness he was in.
"I stopped you know," now a hand grasped at him nervelessly. "I decided I needed distraction. Changed direction. Did I tell you? Languages. Including Parsel-Runes. Hard to read, harder to decipher, but oh, when you work them out..."
Ra'jirra froze, trying to remember where he'd heard the term. "Parsel?" he asked, "You mean like Parselmouth?"
The smile Lucius donned was more like a skull's. "Yes! Parsel-Runes. Any Parselmouth can read them... You know of one... right?"
"Harry? You want Harry to read something?"
"Yes! More than something! This is..." Lucius fell back on his pillows as he coughed, hard and painful. "Bloody hell... look. Give it... a few weeks. I tried myself... too soon. After those... about the muggles." There was a pop. "Damn it..."
"The healer is coming," said the elf, "and Lady Malfoy as well."
"Wait," Lucius struggled more upright, "bring my Master's keepsake. The book." The house elf popped away, and the shattered man looked at the Khajiit. "I want you to have this."
Before Ra'jirra could compose an intelligent response, the house elf popped back with a rather small, old, thin black book in its hands. "Take it," now Lord Malfoy commanded from the bed, "it holds clues to the fate of wizardkind. My Master bid me keep it safe, but now... damn! Go!"
Ra'jirra didn't hesitate. He took hold of the book, the elf took hold of him, and there was a moment of disorientation as he was relocated.
Back at Number 10:
There was a large difference in the room, one of those wide thick square spindle-legged red-faced political types that the United States seems to specialise in.
"What th' hell!" For a big man, he moved quickly, pulling a wand on the arriving Arch-Mage. "What're you?"
"Put that thing away," Thatcher said testily. She remembered that the Yanks tended to think shooting precluded asking any questions at all. "This is the Arch-Mage Ra'jirra we were telling you about."
"He is?" Too late Thatcher remembered that the Yanks could also change tack at the drop of a... was it a stetson? "Herb Snout! US Department of Magic! Pleased to meet ya!" He extended a hand, wand disappearing, then wavered slightly. "Oh hey, what's that there?"
Ra'jirra squinted suspiciously at the American, then switched the book to his left hand. "Once I know I'll tell you. Now who are you again?"
"Uh... Herb Snout. Well, Herb Snout III. My grandpa used to run Kar Kastle in Farmersville just out of Dallas, Texas. 'Course when I found out I was a wizard on my mama's side I ended up goin' to Salem and then workin' for the Department. So then I ended up as liason to the British Ministry o' Magic, and whew! Lawdy, some days it's like goin' back in time, lemme tell ya."
"I'd gathered that," Ra'jirra glanced at Thatcher as he replied. "Anyway, before you go on, Lord Malfoy might be interested in talking with you – once his brain fever breaks anyway. Seems the truth about modern mundanes gave him a breakdown."
Thatcher raised her brows, while Herb whistled. "Hoo boy! I know about the Malfoys. Big supporters of That, uh, well, we call him That Bastard. Must've been persuasive to make him change his tune."
"Not really, I think swiping books from mundane libraries and having a son to think about changed his tune. Anyway," and the old Khajiit blinked at the book he was holding, "he gave me this keepsake of Voldemort's, something to do with clues and fate. Just need a quill."
"Quill?" Thatcher spoke quickly.
"To write in it of course." He blinked at the slim volume again. "You know, like Voldemort did."
"Why? Voldemort's already written in it."
"What?" Ra'jirra blinked, train of thought derailed. "Well of course the sod's written in it. That's what you do with a diary. I'm not stupid you know."
"Just before you were asking for a quill to write in it. And how did you know it was a diary?"
The old Kahjiit stared at her bewildered. Then Herb intervened.
"Arch-Mage? I think y'all better put the book down. I need to check something," he said in a serious tone.
Ra'jirra looked at the book in his hand, then at the desk, feeling like something was wrong. All he wanted to do was write in it, cover the blank pages within with...
How did I know that? He wondered. I haven't opened the damn thing. How did I even know it was a diary in the first place? Something's more than wrong here. Julianos, help me see clearly!
"Petrificus totalus," Herb said from behind him, and he fell to the floor, stiff as a board. The book fell too, revealing pages stained by age rather than ink.
"Sorry fella," Herb apologised sincerely, "but I got a bad feeling about that book. Revelio incantem!"
They all saw it. The book vanished behind a miasma of dark swirls shot through with hues of poison. Tendrils of ugly colour probed out beyond the book, most reaching for the nearby Khajiit. One counterspell later and Ra'jirra scrambled away from the obviously dangerous object. "That thing was getting at me!" was his intelligent assessment of the situation.
"Yeah, I see some sort of compulsion charm all right," Herb's face was a mask of professional interest. "But there's all that black stuff. I got no idea what the hell it is, but it's Dark as Dark gets. I wouldn't touch that damn thing with bare hands."
Ra'jirra just nodded, face reddened with embarrassment. He'd heard tales of cursed objects, hells, he remembered the ring that had drowned that poor apprentice all those years ago in Cheydinhal. Not to mention an incident en route back to the Arcane University with the Bloodworm Helm that he would never forget and never, ever share with anyone (except Vaermina, but that was unavoidable.) And he'd just been got at by one again!
"I have some people who might be able to work on this," he grunted at last, "but I'll need a box or something." He shook himself. "Anyway, Herb, wasn't it? I take it you're interested in visiting scenic radioactive Earth-1..."
Later that evening at The Shrieking Shack:
"Arch-Mage," Dunard Geonette bowed in welcome. "How did your meeting go?"
"I'll tell you shortly," Ra'jirra grunted, already attempting to loosen the fancy hangman's noose Earth people called a tie. Right now he wanted good honest robes. "First off, I want to change, then I want something to eat, and while I do that, take this to Harnir's lab."
Dunard blinked at the bulky envelope. It was a large foolscap manila one, the sort you package official documents in, and Ra'jirra had scrawled on the front: FOR HARNIR – DANGEROUS! - DO NOT HANDLE WITH BARE HANDS! - WARE MIND!
"Be very careful. It's aware and it wants you to write in it," Ra'jirra pointed at the package with distaste. "Hells, it got at me, and I didn't twig what was going on. Oh – there's going to be a gaggle of American wizards popping over in a bit, they want to access Earth-1," he added, "but I'll explain that later..."
Dunard sighed, shrugged, and went through the portal to give the Arch-Mage's pet corpse-humping wood elf his package. He could tell Ra'jirra about the coming Halloween celebration afterwards. If he was right, it was like Tales and Tallows...