Disclaimer: I do not own any characters you think you might remember from two wildly popular movie series you may have seen before.
Claimer: Troth is mine. Because I always wanted a pet Rottweiler.
=Chapter 1: A Nearly-nameless Threat=
Harry's spectacles flew off his face, shooting straight into a black felt glove with pinprick copper stars sewn into the seams. Five slim fingers inside the glove closed into a fist, crunching the glasses frame and lenses like toothpicks and sugar crystals. The fragments clittered to the cold, stony, sooty castle floor.
"Accio, wand!" shouted the strangely ageless-looking wizard. Snatching Harry's streaking wand out of the air, he aimed both it and his own sleek, palm-wood wand at Harry's frenzied face, and yowled, "Crucio!"
"Expelliamus!" Hermione shrieked, also aiming her wand at Harry. He had no weapons to be disarmed of, but the force of the spell still knocked Harry backwards about twenty feet, well out of the way of the stranger's spell. Harry would have quite the backache, but at least he wouldn't be tortured. Hermione would've just used the disarming spell on Harry's foe, but apparently, the man was immune to it. "That was a dirty trick," Hermione hissed at the stranger, whose attention was now solely on her.
"We're wizards and witches," the stranger retorted in a slightly Spanish accent, as he kicked the little pile of crushed spectacles with the toe of his musketeer-style, cuffed boot. "'Tricks' is what we're all about."
But suddenly, his feet were invisibly knocked out from under him- he landed face-first, and the wands skidded out of his hands, rolling dizzily along the ancient castle cobblestones.
"Yeah, and sometimes the simplest ones are the best," sneered a voice which had not, even in his early twenties, ceased to grate on Hermione's nerves. "Impedimenta, for example. Oh- I also put an anti-Disapparation jinx on you, so feel free to try escaping, but expect to be splinched."
"Hullo, Malfoy," Hermione sighed, as she joined the spindly, chalky-blond Auror beside the floored, disarmed wizard.
"The Ministry owes me a new pair of shoes," Draco growled, glancing down at his once-smart, once-shiny, black, patent leather shoes, which were now scuffed, thorn-stabbed, and mud-drenched.
"Honestly, who wears formal shoes on an expedition to a rainforest?" Hermione retorted. "And why do you need the Ministry to replace them? You're filthy rich."
I know. I just want to make the Ministry pay. Stupidest assignment ever..."
Hermione couldn't help agreeing somewhat- after all, hunting down a nutcase Azkaban escapee, posing as a witch doctor deep in the Amazon, was a bit of an off-the-wall mission.
"Well, you could've at least tried dressing for the occasion," Hermione sighed.
In addition to the fancy shoes, Draco Malfoy had worn a black button-up dress shirt and long dark jeans, during the Amazon's dry season, on a 92 degree day. His armpits and neckline were damp with sweat, and there were little streaks of tiny black legs and bug-wings smeared on his cheeks and stuck in his formerly perfectly-combed hair. Since he'd also forgotten his bug spray.
She'd dressed a lot more traditionally for a jungle romp- khaki shorts, pocketed khaki vest over a cream, elbow-length shirt; black bandanna necktie, hiking boots, black, tan-striped stockings- and even a proper, British, straw, pith helmet-hat. Her own sweat was chilly now, since this castle was as cold as iced tea.
The strange wizard made a sharp grab for his wand, but Malfoy was quicker, and scooped it up promptly.
The stranger hissed an offensive-sounding Spanish word. On his outstretched arm, under the black cherry sleeve of his oddly slitted robe, just above one of his intricate gloves, Hermione caught sight of a depressingly familiar mark... A twisting skull and snake. "You're a Deatheater, then?" she asked coldly.
"However did you guess?" the stranger retorted from under his black, shoulder-length hair, with a foxy, half-hidden smirk, which made his high cheekbones jut out from his narrow face. He was awfully good-looking, Hermione noticed uncomfortably, and not nearly as old as her first guess. He was possibly even a year or two younger than her.
"How come you still have your mark?" Hermione demanded. "I mean- Voldemort can't be back- right?"
Draco hastily tugged up his left sleeve, to check where he'd been marked with the same symbol while Voldemort lived, but there was nothing there but an old, pale scar.
The stranger casually slid a handful of fingers through his fine hair- and Hermione noticed four slender, rust-hued highlights in the black strands- two above each ear. He then slid one angular arm under his shirtless chest, and tried to push himself up, but Draco jabbed both his wand and the stranger's down towards the man's face, and said,
"One move, just one, and I'll Defodio you."
"Malfoy!" Hermione scolded. "Defodio is a tunneling spell, for gouging holes in solid rock, not in people!"
"I know," he retorted coolly.
"You simply can't use that on him, that'd be practically black magic!" she hissed back.
"Last I checked though, it's not unforgivable black magic. Actually, it's not even registered as black magic in the Ministry registers, so I'd prob'lly get away with it. Oh, I still can't believe this..." Draco went on crossly. "-I sign up to be an Auror on the Hit Wizards Department to regain my completely crushed social status, and what does the Ministry do? They say, 'Oh look, Weasley's called in sick, why don't we partner Malfoy up with Potter's regiment? Yeah, sounds brilliant, they'll get on spiffy, won't they? Betcha one-to-three they start killing each other nine hours into the job! That's okay, we don't like them anyhow!"
"Speak for yourself," Harry called across the room.
Scowling profusely, Hermione snapped, "Aren't you supposed to be out guarding the tent?"
"Well so sorry, Weasley, I just got a smidgen bored staring at a patch of nothing in the middle of the blazing hot jungle for nine hours straight," Draco scoffed back. "Must be my short attention span."
"Well you could've just used an Aparecium spell so you could see the tent- hold up, nine hours?" Hermione interrupted herself in disbelief. "Oh, quit exaggerating."
"Easy for you to say, you've been here in this air-conditioned castle all the while!" Draco retorted huffily. "It's been precisely nine hours- I've been keeping track. Unlike some people, I can afford a watch."
"Harry, didn't we only just come in here about four minutes ago before this- whoever-he-is, attacked us?" Hermione called over to Harry, who had finally retrieved his wand. He'd probably had a rough time of it without his glasses.
"Yeah, 'bout that," Harry agreed, as he limped dizzily over to the group from across the grand, ancient room, while cautiously rubbing his scraped back. The eroded, almost jagged stone floor had sheared through the skin on his elbows, and they were dripping blood- they'd hit the ground the hardest when Hermione had knocked him backwards. "Thanks, by the way," he added dryly.
"You're welcome," Hermione replied primly, choosing to ignore the sarcasm.
"So where's Mrs. Potter?" Draco asked Harry absently.
Harry shot a deathly glare at a patch of wall to the left of Draco. "She's dead, as you well know- as the whole Wizarding World well knows!" Harry retorted caustically.
"So what else happened in the past nine hours I should know about?"
"What are you saying- my mum's been dead for years!"
"So does losing your glasses make you thick as well as blind as a bat?" Malfoy drawled dryly.
"Actually," Hermione couldn't help putting in, "recent research has shown that bats do in fact possess photoreceptor cells in their retinas consisting of cones as well as rods, so even though they do have echolocation, they can also see fairly through their eyes, even in daylight, so the phrase 'blind as a bat' is somewhat scientifically outdated, when you think about it. Oh, and by 'Mrs. Potter', Malfoy meant Ginny, Harry," Hermione sighed. "Remember?"
The wedding had been scarcely a week ago, and Harry was obviously still getting used to the idea of Ginny being his wife.
"Oh. Right, Ginny," Harry said sheepishly, glancing up at the little candy-green and pink parakeet flitting in-and-out of the curling ironwork of the chandelier overhead. "Um, she's a bit transfigured right now, but we'll get it sorted."
Hermione spotted an empty pair of light blue cut-off jeans, a tie-died T-shirt, and matching pair of aqua undies and bra, lying in a crumpled pile on the sooty castle cobbles. "What, you couldn't even Transfigure her clothes with her?" she snapped down at the robed stranger. "What sort of fifth-rate wizard are you?"
The stranger simply shrugged, and gave an unhinging smile. He's staring at my legs, Hermione realized queasily. She shot him a treacherous scowl.
"Don't fret it, Ginny!" Harry called up to the chandelier. "Look, I know you're a bird right now and can't understand a word I'm saying, but you've really gotta just hold still so I can turn you back, okay?"
"Oh, let me, you idiot," Draco snapped. "I'm better at Transfiguration anyway, and you're blind, practically. You'd probably turn us all into hedgehogs or ferrets or some equally stupid animals by mistake."
Harry crossly crossed his arms over his wrinkled indigo T-shirt, concealing the pale orange, flaming phoenix design, while his elbows dripped blood onto the wizard band name 'Threnody'.
"Wait!" Hermione protested, sharply grabbing Draco's raised wand-arm, "You can't do that!"
"Yes I can, I was top-of my class at Transfiguration."
"No, actually I was. And you do realize that if her clothes are in a pile over there... she'll be- besides, you can't just turn Ginny back midair, look at the height of that chandelier! She'll fall!"
"She'll heal," Draco retorted with a shrug, irritably jerking his arm out of Hermione's clenched fingers. "And haven't you ever heard of the Feather-Fall charm?" But just as he was about to fire off the un-Transfiguration spell, his eyes flew back down to the stranger, who was moving slightly.
Seeing that Draco's wandering wand had sprung back towards his face, the stranger yawned widely, like a cat, showing off needly teeth. "Well, this isn't dull at all, is it?" he droned dryly. "I fancy I'd just fall asleep now, if this floor wasn't so cold. You know, you'd think that instead of all this squabbling small talk, you three'd be asking me a parcel of glaringly obvious questions, such as, 'Who are you, you dastardly rogue?', or 'Why do you live in a tent sewn of invisibility cloaks which is bigger on the inside than the outside, and in fact houses an entire castle on the inside?' To which I would probably retort: 'How in bloody blue blazes did two young wizards and their girlfriends, bumbling aimlessly through-'"
"Ginny's my wife," Harry corrected severely, and again glared in Draco's general direction. "So if anyone's going to un-Transfigure her, it'll be me!"
"And I'm absolutely not his girlfriend," Hermione added stringently, nodding her frizzled head of hair sideways towards Draco. "I'm also married, to a totally different person."
"Don't interrupt, it's rude," the stranger chided.
"It was important," Hermione snipped back. She was really starting to miss Ron...
"As I was saying," the stranger continued, ignoring her, "I would retort: 'How in bloody blue blazes did two young wizards, the wife of one of the wizards, and the non-girlfriend of the other one, bumbling aimlessly through the Amazon jungle, just happen to accidentally discover my insanely well-concealed secret lair? And while we're on the subject of unasked questions- you there," he said to Harry, "she addressed you as 'Harry', and he addressed you as 'Potter'. So as I doubt he's the one on first-name basis," the stranger added, pointing up and over his shoulder at Draco (who was rolling his eyes), "That'd be 'Harry Potter', instead of the far less catchy 'Potter Harry', wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, sorta," Harry admitted warily.
"Any relation of the Boy Who Lived?" the stranger asked curiously.
"Guess you could say that..." Harry replied slowly.
Harry exchanged a 'what-the-heck?' expression with Hermione- or at least with the pillar to the right of her. His eyesight really was pathetic without his glasses.
"Second cousin?" the stranger guessed again, doggedly refusing to drop the matter. "Idol little Harry was named after? C'mon, help me out here!"
Draco snickered. "I seriously think he doesn't know! Oh, this is rich."
"He's the Harry Potter," Hermione sighed, raising an eyebrow and cocking her head to the side. "What, do you live under a rock?"
"No, I live in a rock castle under a time-altering enchantment and an invisibility tent that gets terrible cable reception," the stranger retorted flatly. "The Harry Potter, you say?" he asked Harry. "I imagined you so much shorter!"
Harry looked surprised- most people he met said, 'I imagined you taller'.
A few paces away, Hermione noticed a pile of half-packed suitcases. Wandering over to it, she lifted the leather-buckled lid of one. "Going somewhere?" she asked, staring back towards the stranger.
"That's better, a touch of healthy curiosity!" he said, beaming.
Hermione squinted curiously down at a rolled-up newspaper stuffed into the corner of the open suitcase. Picking it up and unrolling it, Hermione saw that it was a crisp, brand-new printing of the Daily Prophet- with the shocking cover story of 'THE BOY WHO LIVED: BABY WIZARD DECIMATES HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED!' Holding it up and flashing the moving picture of the headline story towards the stranger, Hermione asked sharply, "Why is this newspaper brand-new?"
"Ah..." he purred, "but I should think you'd, instead, be asking the most glaringly obvious question of all: 'Why, oh why, are you so famous that nobody knows your name?'" He said this random sentence with an enthrallingly dramatic flair, and waited a good long moment for it to sink in, before adding, "But since none of you seem to be curious enough to ask that, may I get up now?"
"Not unless you want to be gauged apart like a rock wall," Draco warned icily.
"But the floor is cold and my chest is bare," the nameless wizard complained sulkily.
"Serves you right for not wearing a shirt under your robe... thing," Hermione retorted, not sure what to make of the open-fronted, jaggedly-layered, red-black robe, with all the decorative gashes cut into it along the sleeves and hems. "Oh gosh," she said suddenly, excitably, "say that thing you said again?"
"Can... I... get... up?" the stranger repeated slowly.
"No- no- before that!"
"You're not curious?"
"Why are you so famous that nobody knows your name?" he repeated blankly.
"Yes! That!" Hermione exclaimed brightly.
"Care to let the rest of us in on your inexplicable and wholly un-contagious glee, Granger?" Draco drawled sarcastically.
"Harry, I know him!" Hermione chirped, ignoring Malfoy.
"You do?" Harry, Draco, and the stranger asked simultaneously.
"Well, not personally, naturally," Hermione clarified.
"Well, we can change that," the stranger invited suggestively.
Hermione glared and conspicuously fiddled with her shiny new wedding ring, then said in a sickly sweet tone, "Oh yes, I'm sure we can have a lovely long chat as we drag you back to Azkaban."
"But he's not even the 'witch doctor' we were sent to fetch back to Azkaban!" Draco complained.
"But he ought to be in Azkaban," Hermione replied darkly. "This is Riksamiren Troth, but his friends- and there were precious few of those- called him Rule-dodger Rik- or sometimes just 'Dodger'. He had a habit of sticking to power like paste, so of course, when Voldemort was brought to Hogwarts as an exceptionally magic-gifted youngster, Troth lost no time in becoming Tom Riddle's 'best-ever' friend, despite the fact that Riddle was a Slytherin and Troth was a Hufflepuff- who happened to be obsessed with dark voodoo arts. When Voldemort's power grew, and he broke off his old school ties to become the wizarding world's greatest threat, Troth became sort of Voldemort's pet Rottweiler, as it were- his thick-as-thieves first mate. Even though Rik Troth was always in the shadows, he was Voldemort's most valuable Deatheater."
"Funny I've never heard of him," Draco muttered.
"Oh hush, I wasn't finished yet," Hermione bit back. "See, everybody knew who he was, but nobody knew his name. No one made the connection that he was that Hufflepuff prankster who'd hung out with Voldemort during their schoolboy days. No, Troth had a habit of fading into the shadows. Then one day, Troth broke away from Voldemort and his gang, to walk his own path, and came out of the shadows, into the light... but everybody would've much preferred it if he'd stayed in the shadows. Troth began a rampage, constantly terrorizing everybody, wizards and Muggles alike; and he was all anybody could talk about for half a year- and then he vanished during the first Wizarding War, and that was all anybody could talk about. Then you were born, Harry, and well, you lived," she added, glancing back at 'THE BOY WHO LIVED!' headline of the newspaper in her hands, "and I suppose the fantasticness of that sort of drove Troth out of everyone's minds."
Troth's hands started lazily clapping; once, twice, three times. "Bravo, girl!" he said with mock-enthusiasm. "I should hire you to write my biography. But for the record, my short-lived glory days of power occurred quite a goodish bit before the Wizarding War, when Tom was in the shadows. But even though you royally jumbled the facts, that was still pretty impressive. Do tell, where, oh where, did you learn all that? I thought I'd Confundoed all knowledge of my existence out of the mind's eye of the general public."
"You can't make books forget," Hermione retorted smugly.
"But you can burn them," Troth countered. "But obviously, I didn't burn enough. Why, you ask- or haven't asked- did I erase myself from the public's memories and 'crawl back into the shadows', and hide myself in Tom's old secret lair- this dusty castle, as a matter-of-fact- which I moved by the way- inside this tent of invisibility cloaks enchanted to work like one of those carry-all purses, and also enchanted so that time would stand still on the inside, and life in the Amazon and everywhere else would just keep going on without me? Well, that's another of those superbly-obvious questions, with a just-as-superbly-obvious answer. Tom never could cope with betrayal. I really think it all started with the mark- he burned it into the arms of all the others in the old gang- Avery, Lestrange, Rosier, Mulciber, Nott, all of them... but I wasn't too fond of Riddle having me marked as his personal slave- and bound to him magically to boot. So I just tattooed the mark in- I've always been fond of needles anyway." Troth's thin lips parted into a sliver-moon smile as he said this, but the look faded fast. "But Tom wasn't amused, and tried to forcibly mark me his-" Troth's angular shoulders shrugged lightly up off the cobbles. "-so I ran. But not before stealing a single lock of Tom's black hair, and a few fingernail clippings."
Hermione's brown eyes widened tautly. "Oh, you did not!..." she gasped.
"What?" Harry asked, sounding thoroughly puzzled. "What did he not?"
"You tried to make a voodoo poppet doll, of Lord Voldemort?" Hermione exclaimed, in absolute bewilderment.
"What's a voodoo poppet doll?" Harry asked.
Troth shrugged again. "Well, if you can puppeteer the most powerful wizard in the Wizarding World, that sorta makes you the most powerful wizard in the Wizarding World, comprende? Tom always thought my voodoo nothing but parlor tricks, and had no interest whatever in it- and no idea how it worked. So, for a very little while, he was my... pet Rottweiler, was it you said? But once he did free himself from my little hex, oh, then there was hell to pay. Tom swore he'd hunt me down, pluck out my eyeballs and feed them to his pet snake, Crucio me, flay me to shreds with a nasty little spell which good kids like you shouldn't even know about, pull my brain out through my nostrils like an Egyptian mummy- only I'd be alive- and... and I've spent a lot of time trying to forget the rest. So, obviously, I ran again. I thought it easiest to let the rest of the world just pass on by, and hide out in my own little storm shelter until the tornado which was Lord Voldemort had blown over." Pausing, Troth glanced directly up at Hermione's eyes. "Are you getting all this, Miss? Because I really want my biography to be spot-on when you pen it- not like that first one you told. Anyways, now that Tom's well and truly gone- assuming the press got it right," Troth added, gazing at the newspaper Hermione was still holding, "there's this lovely, enormous power vacuum just waiting to be filled..." he finished ominously.
"What do Muggle cleaning contraptions have to do with anything?" Draco asked irritably.
Hermione saw Troth reach towards his neck as if to scratch it, saw a peep of something gold, recognized the shape- and was too late to stop the inevitable. She just stared down, petrified, at the empty space where Troth had just been.
All three of the young Aurors stood in silent shock for a moment, as Ginny wheeled overhead, chirping sunnily.
"Did he Apparate?" Harry asked weakly.
"No, I saw to that," Draco replied in a voice like cardboard.
Hermione just shook her head. Her jaw stiffened as she struggled to say, "Harry... do you remember- our third year at Hogwarts... the Time-Turner?"
"Oh, blimey," Harry mumbled.