893.36

Albus Dumbledore was annoyed. He'd tried several times to keep Harry from being distracted by unnecessary correspondence. His mail diversion box was nearly always empty and the young man kept getting his mail. He knew it was being hand-delivered and was going to ask Cornelius to do something about it. He eyed the mailbox with disgust; most of the few things he did get were pranks, so he was being more careful about opening things. But now the box was nearly vibrating in place. He sighed and opened it with a tap of his wand. The resultant flood of mail nearly filled his office. Howlers smoked and jumped into the air. The resultant cacophony nearly deafened him. He called for a secretary but she, wisely, told him that it wasn't her job to answer fan mail. He eyed the piles and piles of mail and snarled. He could get away with redirecting Harry Potter's mail only if he actually dealt with it. He'd just vanished the first few posts but evidently some of it had actually been from the Ministry of Magic. He'd been told he had to deal with it all, not just store or banish it. This was going to be hell.

He was right.

.

Yusuke settled in to deal with the weeks between the first and second tasks. Dumbledore had wanted the tasks to be spread out over the whole of two terms with a ball at Christmas. Headmistress McGonagall had thought it was the most idiotic thing she'd ever heard of. Guess who won.

So, now, the first task had been accomplished just after New Years, the next one would be held in March. They were looking at the second weekend. Then the last task would be held the weekend before school let out for summer. This made much more sense. It gave everyone time to recover from the last task and study for the next, if they figured out what it was to be in time.

It most assuredly was not going to be hostages at the bottom of the lake. He'd laughed his ass off when his messenger had brought him a copy of the letter the ICW had sent to the head of the department of games and sports, Minister Fudge and the board of Governors of Hogwarts. He was told by Sirius that Fudge had read it to the Wizengamot and had his motion to send a protest to the ICW voted down by a nearly 100 percent vote.

More and more the Wizengamot was not voting for Fudge's motions. There was a lot of grumbling about the amount of gold he was spending on bounties on Death Eaters. Everyone agreed that removing the menace was a good thing―except for the ones who were Death Eaters themselves―but the majority of members didn't see the amount of the bounties as being reasonable. It really infuriated them all that the contract was with the Ministry itself, not Fudge. It didn't make any difference who voted how, they still had to pay, or lose their magic. Many were relieved that there hadn't been a pay-out since before Christmas.

They were soon to be a bit upset.

.

Yusuke eyed the report. His men had found a nest of mid-level Death Eaters. They were well trained and upper mid-level. He wanted high level Death Eaters but he'd settle for what he could get. All the upper-level people were in hiding. Sirius was of the opinion that they were all holed up with Voldemort somewhere. He'd tried tracking the LeStrange brothers and found nothing. They'd found the traces and disappeared. He'd also tried tracking the Carrows, but the same thing had happened with them.

The few low-level Death Eaters they'd managed to get hold of, didn't know anything. Voldemort had taken a page from the French Resistance of WWII. No one in the lower levels knew more than five of their fellows and one mid-level controller. They'd gotten hold of one of them and persuaded him to tell them a bit. He only knew his immediate superior and had never seen his, or her, face. They'd used a charm to distort their voice. The bounties on the few that they'd caught had barely paid the expense of catching them. Sirius was not pleased.

This find was worthwhile only if they took prisoners. Yusuke was looking forward to some action. Maybe they'd get lucky and get someone higher up. He hoped so. Musashi-sama was getting impatient. He'd thought this would be wound up much sooner and he was missing his son, and the shikkō-sha.

Sirius did the final reconnoiter himself. He wanted to be sure that Yusuke had every scrap of info he could get. Remus kept notes as he watched the back door of the nest.

They got back to Ken No Ie and settled in the upstairs lounge to go over everything. Remus presented his notes while Sirius wrote down a list of names. When they'd finished, Sirius examined the list of names and announced, "Well, the only one I've heard of is Yaxley. He's an upper level man. Probably this nest is a way point, a place that Yaxley meets with his underlings and gives orders for his section. This might yield a good catch."

Yusuke eyed Sirius for a moment. "They're not fish."

Sirius rubbed his face then returned. "I'm well aware of that. But I was in my last year of Auror training. I specialized in counter raids and surveillance, along with the general classes. This is sort of what I trained for. So ... you and I will go in. Remus and three waka on the back door." Remus started to object. "I want you on the back as that's probably the bolt. And ... four waka on the front door. They'll do the knock and we'll fold into the main room and do our thing. Remus and the waka at the back will hold hard and do cleanup. Ok?"

Yusuke nodded. "Good. Just ... don't get in the way of my sword. I don't intend to take prisoners. We don't need any."

Sirius disagreed. "I'd like to question Yaxley. He's bound to know more than anyone we've gotten our hands on so far."

Yusuke thought about that, glanced at Remus who nodded then allowed, "As long as he surrenders, we'll take him. If he fights, he's done."

Sirius agreed with that and they finished their plans, picked their men and got organized. The first thing Yusuke did was make sure that everyone on the teams had a hachimaki, a headband, with the family chop on it.

The raid was to begin just at sundown, that gray time of day when the sun was just at the horizon. This would put the last of the light right in the front windows of the building, blinding everyone in the room. The distraction would have everyone looking that way and, when they turned around, their eyes would have to adjust to the dim light they were now facing.

Just at dusk, the diversion was begun. This consisted of loud bangs and yelling, in Japanese, but no one really noticed this. The whole meeting rushed to use their portkeys or apparate away. The wards that Remus and Sirius had put up kept this from happening, so they all tried to run out the back door, thus jamming the door between the lounge and the kitchen with writhing, swearing men.

Remus and his group lucked out and grabbed three men, one of them Yaxley. They stunned them and tied them up the old-fashioned way, with real rope. Yusuke had insisted on that, declaring that he wasn't about to risk someone knowing a wandless spell to break magical bonds.

Yusuke stepped into the room, folding in from outside with Sirius at his side. A few of the men at the rear of the group turned around and attacked them. Sirius began by stunning every man he could, Yusuke just stood back to see the result of Sirius' efforts.

It turned out that Yusuke's fears were realized. Sirius had stuck to his guns, figuratively speaking, and insisted on attempting to capture instead of kill. Yusuke had disagreed but, after a quick consultation with a more practical Remus decided to let Sirius have his way. After all, experience is the best teacher, as long as you survive the lesson. Yusuke just didn't want his godfather to win a Darwin Award.

So, while Yusuke guarded his back, Sirius learned the lesson that so many before him had refused to learn. His stunned Death Eaters were revived by their fellows and returned to the fray. Yusuke took them out again, with his sword.

Sirius, realizing that what he'd been taught wasn't working, went with his next best plan. He went with bludgeoning hexes instead. This worked much better, as the physical damage kept the re-enerviate spell from working.

While Sirius was dealing with the crowd in the door, the waka from the front were now entering the building. Yusuke sent them upstairs to clear that floor, just in case. They didn't find anyone but they did find some notebooks and papers. One of the waka gathered them all up and tucked them into a pocket for Sirius and Remus to look at later. They also found a few odds and ends of things; potions, gold, clothing and other such things. These were also gathered up as booty. Yusuke usually went over such things then divided them amongst the men in the raid.

The men came down to find that the fighting was all over. Sirius had given up on trying to take the Death Eaters into custody when Remus had come in and yelled, "We've got three, stop fucking around. All we need are their Marks. Hurry up!" Sirius had ducked a hex from someone who'd come to on him. He gave up the last of his ideals and dealt with the situation. He was glad to see that his sword lessons were taking.

Yusuke, for his part, just killed anything that wasn't Sirius, Remus, or a waka. That was the reason that all the men were wearing hachimaki, it kept everyone from committing a friendly-fire incident. He didn't want his men accidentally killing each other in the excitement.

After the noise died away, Yusuke issued orders that every body was to be searched, the arm cut off, and anything in their pockets inspected carefully. He wanted a portkey in the worst way. If he could get one and follow its coordinates, he could find Voldemort, maybe.

Little did he know that Voldemort was planning to bring Yusuke to him. Yusuke would have been puzzled if he'd known about the odd, convoluted, and downright idiotic plan to get to him. As it was, he didn't, so he was trying to find his main target by tracking a portkey to him.

After sorting through everything and packing most of it away, they went back to Ken No Ie with their three prisoners and a pile of knick-knacks. The waka went to their quarters with their booty to celebrate a successful raid.

Yusuke did the dirty work of getting the proof for their claim. He wasn't best pleased with his catch, but anything was better than nothing, and this raid was on a safe house, so that was something new. The Death Eaters were beginning to hide better, which was not good, but it was proof that they were on the run and that was good.

They traced the portkeys with ease, but when Remus folded to a place about a quarter mile away and walked up, it was an empty barn, obviously a waypoint. He checked for any spell residue that might tell him where they went from here but wasn't successful. He returned to Ken No Ie.

"Sorry, no go. Someone cleaned up rather carefully. It was just an empty barn, not even any discarded junk to check out."

Remus started to sit down but Yusuke stopped him. At his motion several waka moved in to strip Remus down to his smalls and wipe him down with damp cloths, removing sweat and dirt. They then helped him into a clean yukata set.

He settled on a zabuton cross-legged and accepted a cup of tea. "So. Have you questioned Yaxley yet?"

Sirius shook his head. "No. He's in a cell in the basement, softening up. I thought we'd leave him for a bit, then go down and put some pressure on him. I've got some of the older waka questioning the other two." He grinned, "At least one of them speaks good English. The rest? Not so much."

Remus snorted into his tea cup. "You're a hoot, Sirius."

Yusuke nodded. "Just softening them up. When I go down, they'll talk. Most of what the waka is doing is slapping them around a bit, then telling stories of what I'll do."

Remus shrugged. "You really ought to leave the knee-breaking to the experts."

Yusuke thought about that for a moment. "I'm really not good at that. I tend to lose my temper and just kill them. No information to be had out of a corpse."

"Exactly." Sirius agreed. "You leave the interrogation to us. If we need you, just give them that shinigami look and get a mop." He laughed softly at Yusuke's insulted expression.

"And why would we need a mop? I don't make a habit of cutting prisoners into fish bait."

"That's good. But the shinigami look could make just about anyone piss their rompers." Sirius smirked at Yusuke.

Remus chuckled then added, "And, if that doesn't work, I'll growl at them." They laughed at that and continued to drink tea, eat snacks and analyze the mission.

Finally, a man came up and told them that the two men were beginning to break down. Yusuke stood up and ambled out the door, thanking the man and giving him an envelope. He usually gave men who went a bit over and above a bit of extra money.

They went down into the basement and realized that the waka, or some gaki, had turned the end room in the basement into a cell. The room was the last one before the door that led to the roots of the Whomping willow.

Yaxley was incarcerated there while the two zako, or small fish, were tied to chairs in the main room.

They were showing signs of hard use, one had a black eye while the other had a split lip. They both looked unhappy.

Yusuke eyed one man then the other. "Ok, who's going to tell me what I want to know?"

"Fuck you, you little girl. Who's scared of you?"

Yusuke just shrugged. "Everyone with sense. I want names; who do you know?"

This didn't get anything but more swearing and name calling. Yusuke asked the same questions of the other man and got much the same result from him.

And so it started. Yusuke would ask a question, the Death Eater would refuse to answer and Sirius would write what he said down. Everything the Death Eaters said would be analyzed later for anything they might let slip. After a few questions with non-answers, Yusuke cracked his knuckles. This was when Sirius and Remus learned that Yusuke wasn't the sort of man who'd make someone else do something he wouldn't do himself. He spent a few minutes smacking both Death Eaters around. He actually let the larger of the two up and invited him to fight.

This didn't result in what the Death Eater hoped, it just got him pounded. He started swinging the second he was loose. He'd been told, by a waka that, if he could beat Yusuke, he'd go free. It was a lie, but what do you expect from a yakuza? Unfortunately for him, he was only dumb muscle and totally untrained. He was used to having the advantage of magical help, in the form of someone else hexing his opponent. This put him up against someone who had been trained by the best and was not only a true martial artist but capable of casting wandless, wordless hexes of extreme power. They were also some of the nastiest around.

So, Yusuke spent a bit of time, letting the man wear himself out, swinging wildly and swearing. Then he buried his fist up to his wrist in the man's belly. The Death Eater yelled out all his air then fell down to lie gasping on the floor. He was dragged to his feet by a couple of waka.

Yusuke eyed him for a moment then said, "I ask, you answer. Or someone will hurt you."

Remus eyed the man, let gold drift into the brown of his iris, and said, "You'd better answer or I will seriously fuck you up." The man paled, then gulped. "I think we have an understanding."

The Death Eater looked from Sirius to Remus to Yusuke then smirked. "He's a werewolf."

Yusuke returned a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Yes, he is." he turned to Sirius. "When is moon rise?"

Sirius shrugged. "Not sure. Does it really make any difference?"

Yusuke thought for a second while Remus sniffed at the man. "No, not really. We might luck out and get another were out of this. Or Remusu-aniki will just eat him."

Remus snorted, hard, through his nose. "No, I won't. He stinks. I think he's shit himself."

This led to another round of questions and, this time, answers. The other Death Eater was much more cooperative, he answered right away. Evidently seeing his compatriot, who was twice his size, scared, literally, shitless scared him too.

It didn't make much difference in the long run. They didn't know much, all they could say was that orders came to them through Mr. Dukes, who was dead. They knew that Yaxley came, spoke with Dukes and then they did things. Mostly robbing people, mugging them in alleys and announcing that, 'The Dark Lord thanks you for your donation,' or beating up shopkeepers who refused to donate. This last was now a problem as some group that called themselves the Merchant's Association was hiring muscle to deal with that.

Yusuke eyed them both then said, "Ok, that's all they can tell. Yaxley is next."

The Death Eaters both sneered, through split lips. One said, "Yaxley won't talk."

Yusuke just grabbed the speaker, who turned out to be the smaller of the two and twisted his arm. This drove the man to his knees. Yusuke stepped over his arm and applied a bit of leverage. The man screamed like a girl. Yusuke let off, then reapplied the pressure. Another scream was his reward. He did this several more times, eliciting screams, sobbing and pleas for mercy.

Remus eyed the sobbing man then turned to Sirius. "I think he's a real girl but ..."

"Better to soften Yaxley up this way than to do a few other things."

Just then the smell of burning meat drifted by as the man screamed again.

Sirius raised his eyebrow at Remus who couldn't help a real laugh. One that changed in odd ways as it echoed around the basement.

A few more screams were elicited by more arm twisting then Yusuke shoved the man to the floor and ambled over to Remus and Sirius. "Ok, that should do the trick. Let's bring him out and see what he has to say for himself."

It took two big waka to drag Yaxley out of the cell and get him to the main room. Remus glowered at him while Sirius just smoked. Yusuke waited until the waka had Yaxley tied to a chair, then he started asking questions.

Yaxley tried to play tough but between the remembered screams, the smell of burning meat, pork roast in this case, and the fact that both his compatriots had disappeared, he didn't hold out all that long. especially after he saw one of the waka heating a branding iron on a charcoal brazier in one corner.

Yaxley sneered, "You won't do anything to me. I'm not sure what you did to those men, but it won't work on me."

Yusuke just shrugged. "Why do you think we won't?"

"You Order of the Phoenix idiots don't have the balls for torture. Dumbledore's an old woman."

Yusuke nodded. "He is. But ... you see ... I'm not in that order. I'm not in any order. My Father would never permit it." he bowed slightly. "Miyamoto Yusuke ... yakuza kumicho. I want to know where Voldemort is. The bounty on him is high and I intend to collect it."

Yaxley turned pale. "Yakuza? What the hell are yakuza doing in England?"

Yusuke glanced at Sirius. Sirius took over, for the time being. "Well, that's an interesting story. Yusuke-san's got an inheritance but the Ministry won't turn it over to him unless he gaks Voldie. And it's a fuck ton of money. So... and we..." he gestured to Remus. "like him so we're helping. You'd better talk, or else."

Yaxley eyed Sirius for a moment then exclaimed, "Sirius Black! I thought I recognized you."

Sirius nodded. "Yes. Sirius Black." He grinned in Yaxley's face. "Do remember the Black family reputation."

Remus nodded. "Sirius, you're not to kill him until we're done. Dead men can't talk."

Yusuke, irritated by all this dancing around, demanded, "Ask questions and get answers. I'm running out of patience."

Sirius just cast a spell. It wasn't Cruciatus, but it was painful enough.

When he was done Yaxley coughed a couple of times then snorted. "Won't make me tell. My Lord does much worse just for being late to a meeting."

Yusuke shrugged. "Ok. Bet he doesn't cut things off." And with that, he pulled a tanto out of thin air and proceeded to order a waka to hold Yaxley's hand down on the arm of the chair.

It took a moment for the waka to pry Yaxley's little finger out of the fist he'd instinctively made, but they managed and one waka held it in place while the other held the rest of his hand. One quick swipe and the digit was severed. Yusuke held it up for Yaxley to see then tossed it in the brazier.

Yaxley screamed, then sagged against the ropes. He looked at his hand as if he couldn't quite believe what had just happened. Yusuke snarled in a hard voice. "If you don't tell me what I want to know, I'll hex that so you can't regrow it. I know how to do it." He made a motion to one of the waka who just held up his left hand. It was missing the first joint of the little finger.

Remus just gave Yaxley a feral smile. "Or I could just bite you."

Yaxley shook. "You're ... you..."

Remus raised an eyebrow. "I'm ..." he prompted. His voice was soft and gentle. This was belied by the expression in his eyes.

"You're Lupin. You're ... a werewolf." Yaxley cringed back, just a bit, but it was obvious to anyone who knew what to look for that he was terrified.

"I am. And, believe me when I say, if you don't stop being an ass and tell us what we want, I'll bite you. Now. Start talking." Remus picked up a piece of paper and started reading off the questions.

Yaxley fell all over himself to answer every one of them.

Yusuke finally nodded. "I think we've squeezed him dry." He looked at Sirius. "I'm not inclined to let him go. What do you suggest?"

Sirius shook his head. "I'm going to suggest turning him in. Just because it's the responsible thing to say. But ..."

Remus butted in. "Someone will pay someone and he'll be out on the streets before the ink is dry on the charges parchment."

Yusuke produced cigarettes for all three of them then offered more to the waka. "I was afraid of that. So ... I'll just..." he turned, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. But before he could say anything else, the oldest of the waka just stabbed Yaxley in the heart. "Ok... that'll do."

The waka dropped to his knees and said, "Yusuke-kumicho. I am sorry. Please forgive. But ... it is beneath you to touch such a one. If I have displeased you, I offer yubitsume."

Yusuke snorted smoke out his nose. "And what about the other two?"

The waka shrugged. "Someone else took care of them. Their marks are sent already. The bodies taken care of."

Yusuke eyed the man for a moment then snapped, "Idiot! Get up." the man scrambled to his feet. Yusuke pulled a small bag of gold out of mallet space and tossed it to him. "Clean up that mess." The waka, relieved that he'd done the proper thing, hurried to take Yaxley away. His whole body would be sent to the Ministry as he was an upper-level and worth more than a common Death Eater.

.

Minister Fudge was not happy. The bounty purse for the last ―whatever they called it―was huge. Harry Potter had sent a dozen Marks, pickled in vinegar, and the naked body of someone named Yaxley, no first name, who was a midlevel Death Eater. This was costing the Ministry more than half their quarterly budget, so far.

He'd also gotten a real earful from several representatives about one, forcing a child to fight the Ministry's fight for it, and two, attempting to steal from said child.

Public opinion was turning away from the Ministry and toward yakuza. He wasn't sure exactly why, only that something called a merchants protection something was endorsing Potter over him. It didn't make sense; Aurors afforded all the protection anyone needed.

He sighed, sent a script to Gringotts to deposit the new bounty in the appropriate account. He'd given up sending gold via owl and made arrangements with that damn Sirius Black to deal with things this way.

.

Hermione was a bit worried. Yusuke had come back from Ken No Ie in an odd mood. He'd sat with the reading group to listen to the last chapter of their book. But he'd gone up to the dorm the second they were done.

After all the excitement of the first task, the reading circle had been a real help to most of the younger years. Yusuke usually stayed around for the discussions after the chapter, tonight, he hadn't.

She finished the discussion by saying, "It's time for everyone to finish their homework and get ready for bed." She ignored the moaning and groaning and followed Yusuke up, calling, "I'm coming up."

Yusuke answered, "Made okoshi, kudasai."

Hermione poked her head into the room, "Yusuke? You ok?"

Yusuke smiled at her. "Yeah, I'm ok. Just a nasty bit of work done and I'm in a mood. Don't worry."

Hermione eyed him for a moment. "Well, I do. It's not fit for you to have to mess with adult shite."

"I've been doing it for years." Yusuke dismissed the problem with a wave of his hand.

"Still not right. But ... done is done. What can I do?" Hermione flopped onto Ron's bed, made a face and moved to Neville's. "Ick. Boy stinks."

Yusuke nodded. "That he does, but I'm not about to try to teach that pig personal hygiene. He's got a mother for that." he plucked a cigarette out of thin air and started to smoke. "As to what you can do? Just keep doing what you're doing. And do not allow yourself to be talked, or coerced into being my hostage for this idiotic task. We'll force Dumbledore to pick something else."

"But what?" Hermione pulled a parchment from her ever present bag. "And thank you yet again for this bag." she started to write. "I'm going to write a refusal to participate in the task, send it to my Dad to sign, and then send a notarized copy to the Ministry, and give one to Headmistress McGonagall. Don't trust them to listen to a verbal from me."

Yusuke snickered. "I'll ask that you send a copy to Shiriusu-oji as well."

Hermione finished with a flourish. "Ok. You want to duplicate this or should I re-copy it?"

He considered that for a moment then said, "Re-copy, I should think. That way we can prove that you didn't fiddle with your father's wishes. He'll have to sign every copy individually."

Hermione settled in to copy out her draft the required number of times.

Yusuke smoked and thought while she did that. When she was finished, he handed the letters to the nearest waka and said, "Please. Take these to her father, wait, then take them where addressed. Thank you." he bowed and folded away to do as he was told.

Hermione, who now understood Japanese quite well, asked, "You always say please and thank you. Why?"

"It's just a few words, but they make so much of a difference. My men serve me well because I reward them properly and treat them well. It doesn't take much." he shrugged. "Makes sense. Now, I've got some reports to read. You need anything else?"

Hermione thought for a moment. "Well, what are we going to manipulate Bagman into suggesting instead of that lake insanity?"

"No idea. Come up with some suggestions." Yusuke returned to his report while Hermione started making a list.

Neville wandered in and commented, "My bed, Granger." hermione scooted over to let him settle against the head board. "What you working on, then?"

"List of substitutes for the second task, since no one will be hostage. They're going to have to find something else." Hermione frowned at her list. "I don't think I've got the proper mind set."

Neville took the list, glanced at it and started snickering. "Oh, I don't know ... chess seems really exciting."

"Ass." Hermione took her list back.

Neville produced a cigarette from his mallet space and started to smoke.

Hermione glowered. "And when did you learn that trick?"

"Yesterday. Yusuke has had me working on it every evening for ... well, ever. Finally got it. Want?" He offered his cigarette.

"No, I thank you. And you..." she gave Yusuke an evil eye. "Why haven't you taught me?"

"You're never around when I'm in the mood. I'll give it a go as soon as I'm done with this report." Yusuke turned back to his report.

Neville poked Hermione. "He's telling the truth. Every time he's been in the mood, you've been somewhere else. I'll try, if you like."

Hermione decided to let Neville try. He explained and demonstrated the charms, just as Yusuke had for him. Luckily, Hermione was much better at extrapolation than Neville was. The biggest problem with creating a mallet space that stored hot or cold things was that, everyone's magic was a bit different so the spells had to be adjusted to attach the maintenance spell to their magical core. Hermione managed it quite quickly.

Yusuke kept one ear on both of them. He'd actually intended to do this much sooner but things kept getting in the way. He was glad that Neville managed to teach Hermione, both for the boost he got and for the pleasure Hermione would get out of having hot or cold things handy without carrying a food bag. Although he had to admit, it did make a good weapon. He smiled at the memory of her hitting some Slytherin with it for some reason.

At Hermione's crow of triumph, he asked, "Did you get it?"

Hermione left off attempting to strangle Neville, "I did! I did! Sugoi! Yatta!"

Yusuke smiled. "Well, good. Great job, Neville. Now. Go to bed."

Hermione suck her tongue out at him but obediently gathered up her things. A quick look at the clock relayed the information that it was very late. "Hell, look at the time. No wonder I'm tired."

She hurried out, stuffing things in her mallet space as she went.

Neville,who'd received a lecture from Yusuke about exactly that, smirked and said, "Let her learn the hard way, only way she'll remember."

Yusuke snorted at that. "Why would she?" at Neville's puzzled look, he added. "I never do. You've seen the mess. I need to empty it all out again. I'm sure it's full of trash again."

"Why do you just stuff things in there? Why don't you banish your mess?" Neville was puzzled by that.

"I don't know. I usually forget, I guess." Yusuke laughed and started pulling mess out of his mallet space. "I'll clean it out now, while I'm thinking of it."

Neville just sighed. "And when the others come up? Which they're going to do any minute."

"Won't take that long and they can wait. They've all been in the common room, playing chess and trying to finish an essay. More chess than essay, if I don't miss my guess."

Neville agreed that Yusuke was probably right.

He was, but Ron, Dean and Seamus were all willing to wait and watch while Yusuke finished cleaning up his mess. Again.

But something interesting came out of the whole thing. Yusuke told them all that the projected task wasn't going to happen. He explained what it was and the other boys were properly shocked at the idea.

Ron grumbled a bit but finally remarked, "Well, it is Dumbledore."

Yusuke snorted then said, "He's getting old. He's overworked and his attention is scattered between too many jobs. I don't think he's paid proper attention to anything in years. I don't trust his judgement any more than I'd trust a two-year-old. He's too distracted."

Ron started to say something then just shrugged. "Don't really care. I'm for bed."

He started to tug off his robes and was startled, and a bit offended, when Yusuke told him, "Shower first. You stink."

He glowered around at his friends for some support but no one would meet his eyes. He snatched up his pajamas and stormed into the showers, snarling, "Well, ok, then." he returned too quickly, but his hair was wet so no one said much. He yanked the curtains closed, put up a silencing charm and went to sleep.

Yusuke eyed the closed curtains for a moment then returned to their discussion of what the second task should be.

Seamus' suggestion of skip rope was dismissed with all the contempt it deserved, and a face full of thrown pillows. The laughter that accompanied the pillows made him laugh too.

Dean's suggestion of a foot race was also dismissed. But it made Neville say, "Well, a broom race, then."

Yusuke looked up from his notes. "Now that's not that bad an idea. A race, up in the air, where everyone can see it. Obstacle course?"

Seamus joined in with, "Not just an obstacle course, something ... a combination. Obstacles plus oval track."

Dean sighed. "Like those races you crazy Irish do?"

"Yeah. Like that." Seamus threw a pillow at Dean, missed and swore. "Blast."

Dean stuffed the offending pillow behind his head and allowed, "Might be fun."

Yusuke just wrote a note to Sirius and gave it to the waka. "Deliver that now. Tell Shiriusu-oji I'd like an answer by morning."

"As you wish." The waka folded out.

Neville nodded to his three men. "You can go to bed anytime you like. I won't be needing you tonight."

The three men bowed and wandered off to bed.

Yusuke went back to his report. He was actually bored. He'd killed off most of the Death Eaters he could find and the rest had gone to ground. He didn't know how many of the Inner Circle were still in England, he'd heard that some of them had run to the continent, following Lucius Malfoy. He wondered if he should squeeze Draco for some answers.

He decided to ask Snape-san instead.

It was much easier to get around Hogwarts now that he was a champion. He was immune to most of the rules of the school, not that he had cared much before, but it was nice not to spend several minutes arguing with a prefect.

So he headed for Snape's quarters only to run into Moody.

"Well, what have we here?" Moody stepped out of an archway.

"Going down to see Snape." Yusuke handed Moody a cigarette.

"Thanks. What for?" Moody fell into step beside Yusuke.

"Need to know how many of the Inner Circle Baka are still around. Watashinochichi said to finish as many as possible before facing Voldiwhatsit. He wants this whole operation finished before the end of the school year. I'm falling behind in my obligations to my ... businesses."

Moody grunted then offered, "I'll talk to my sources."

"Thank you. I'm still going to talk to Snape. I have another thing I need to ask him about." Yusuke continued on his way while Moody took another corridor back to his quarters. He needed to write a few letters.

When he reached Snape's office door, Yusuke tapped gently, he didn't want to disturb the potions master if he was brewing.

Snape answered his door with a scowl on his face. "Yes? Oh. It's you. Come in." He removed the scowl in favor of an inoffensive, bland expression and stepped to one side.

Yusuke nodded. "Thank you." he settled in the indicated easy chair and accepted the offer of English style tea. He took a sip then floored Snape by asking, "Do you have Hogwarts copy of Potions Interactions Explained?"

Snape choked on his tea. "Excuse me?" he put his cup down. "Dumbledore gave that to me, the second year I was a professor."

"I see." Yusuke sipped his tea. "You do know that the proposed new edition never materialized. Most copies of that book are ... coveted."

"Yes, I do. I have one of two copies left in Britain. The rest were discarded as out-dated when the new edition was announced." Snape watched Yusuke from the corner of his eye.

Yusuke smirked. "I have managed to acquire the publishing rights for a ... good price."

Snape smirked right back. "In other words ... a pittance."

"Exactly. Only I have an idea. An edition ... an annotated edition. I cannot call it a new edition as there is actually no new information to be published, but an edition annotated by a famous, well known Potions Master. Now that would sell extremely well." Yusuke eyed Snape over his cup.

"And what would persuade such a man to annotate this edition?"

"A cut of the profits. Perhaps 10 per cent of the net."

Snape sipped his tea then said, "Twenty per cent of the gross."

Yusuke made a rude noise. "Ten percent of the net."

Snape snorted then offered, "Fifteen percent."

"Of the net." Yusuke's expression told Snape that this was the firm, final offer.

"Done. Don't send Black with the papers." Snape frowned into his cup.

"I'll send a waka. Just read, sign, stamp it and send it back."

"Stamp it?" Snape looked confused.

"Ah! I forget. You do not have hanko here. Never mind. Just sign it." Yusuke returned to his tea.

Snape did the same and they sat, drinking tea for a few minutes.

Finally Yusuke put his cup down and eyed Snape for a moment. "How many of the inner circle are left?"

Snape didn't pretend he didn't know what Yusuke was asking. "I don't know. Since I've refused His call, I have no resources. If you have a list of names of those you've already gotten, I might be able to fill in some blanks, but you do realize that he's promoting people to fill the slots."

"I do, but they won't be well trained. I am going to end this idiot." Yusuke fished in his mallet space for a moment. He found the small book he'd been keeping notes in. He started to offer it to Snape then pulled it back. "Shimatta."

"I read kanji and kana." Snape looked pleased with himself.

"Very good. Here. If you have trouble, I'll translate." Yusuke handed the book over and settled back, helping himself to more tea.

Snape read for a moment then announced, "I think you've gotten about half the inner circle and more than half the next level down. Tom is going to have a great deal of trouble keeping people at this rate."

Yusuke smirked. "He's already got real trouble getting knee breakers and other dumb muscle. Seems that they've either been hired out from under him or scared off."

Snape smirked back. "I can't imagine why. So ... I'll write you a list of the rest of the inner circle ... those that I know. And watch Karkaroff ... something's off with him. I'm not sure exactly what as I haven't had dealings with him in years."

"Ok. I'll do that." Yusuke offered Snape a cigarette, was refused and began to smoke it himself.

Snape waved his wand, dismissing the smoke. "I'll thank you to take that out of my office."

Yusuke shrugged. "When can I expect that list?"

"Tomorrow sometime." Snape scowled at the cigarette, rather pointedly.

Yusuke ambled to the door, smiled and left.

.

"Nani gan kureten da yo?!" - what the hell are you looking at

Obandesu - good evening

ICW GEL - International Confederation of Wizards General Education Level.

Chikusho! - shit

Watashinochichi - my father

kakushi kazoku - hidden family

Watashi yorokobanakerete - I am not pleased.

Ojosama - princess. Per J-list so I hope they know how to spell.

Yakuzade wanai - not yakuza

O-Shiai - the Game

zako - small fish/fry, low level criminals

Libraries charging by the word was quite common a century ago. It could range from a penny a book, per day to a penny per 1000 words. That was one reason some authors wrote such long books.

www. mythicalcreaturesguide page/ Cynogriffon remove spaces for link.

First task - Jan 15

second task - March

third task - may 29