The Origin Of Our Kind (Rewrite)
This is the first chapter of my abandoned re-write of Origin of Our Kind.
Deep in the Department of Mysteries, behind a soundproof door, there sat a sealed box. For centuries, the things inside the box had lain inert. Now, they twitched. The objects began to rattle, thumping against the box's bottom with the deep sounds of wood and the high sounds of chinking china. Then the objects began to dance, thumping against the walls and up to top of the box until it, too, began to shake and rattle against the marble floor on which it had been placed.
The door was warded against many things, and sound was one of them, so no-one came to investigate the phenomenon. The objects crashed into each other in a frenzy, bouncing off each other and banging into the walls of the box, but did not break. The box crept across the floor with their vibrations until it banged against the door.
The door held firm and did not shake. It was well-warded.
The objects began to settle. The jug with the sunset mosaic stopped first, the lid falling neatly into place. Then the twisted, U-shaped piece of wood clattered next to it. Finally, the arrow with the fish-bone head stopped moving.
It would be weeks before anyone noticed.
Dear Mr. Harry Potter,
The Ministry of Magic requests your assistance in a matter of utmost urgency. Please make yourself known to the secretary of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad at Ten AM tomorrow. The Auror Testing Squad has already been informed of your absence and will not expect you.
Department of Magical Law Enforcement
Ministry of Magic
"Level Six, Department of Magical Transportation, incorporating the Floo Network Authority, Broom Regulatory Control, Portkey Office and Apparation Test Center."
The chains gave an extra rattle as the lift jerked to a stop. Harry watched as the memos darted around the ceiling light like moths, dimming and brightening the lift as they covered the light. Some parted from the light to zoom away through the golden grille which was just now opening. They were replaced by a few more, which swirled in circles, turning pale purple as the light shone through them.
People got on, and pain exploded in Harry's toe. He swore. Winching, he jerked his foot up and curled it around his leg. The Wizard who'd stood on it craned his head around and grimaced in wordless apology. Harry gave him a scowl.
Today wasn't Harry's day. He was supposed to be in his Auror exam right now, but DMLE had decided they needed him in the secretary's office instead. Now this man had stepped on his toe and was staring at his forehead. Harry intensified his scowl, and the man sniffed and turned purposefully away.
Harry huffed, carefully returning his injured foot to the ground.
It was Hermione, squeezing between two extremely tall witches who were having a conversation of their own above her head. Her hair was straight and shiny, falling behind her shoulders in a rich waterfall. Her face was makeup-smooth and her lips had been lipsticked red. Annoyance was disappearing from her face.
"Hermione! Aren't you supposed to be on holidays?" Harry asked in astonishment.
"Yes, but it seems DMLE's finally getting back to me about my transferral, and it seems they've accepted me into the Aurors, so I'm not complaining," Hermione smiled wryly.
Harry grinned. "That's great! We'll catch you up in no time. I'm on my way to DMLE too."
"You can show me the way then." Hermione answered.
""Level Two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services."
Harry and Hermione squeezed through the crowded lift until they popped out into the corridor. It was raining lightly inside the enchanted windows, and sun sparkled off the drops the clung the glass. The doors were a dark stained wood and dome-topped, with little plaques that indicated sub-divisions and individual offices. Harry led Hermione down the corridor and through one marked Secretary Magical Law Enforement at eye-height, and below that, there was a removable placard that read Thomas Bockleby.
The office was dustless, with shiny yellow floorboards and a U-shaped counter, behind which was another door. Wizards and witches sat along the bench that lined the walls. There was no-one behind the counter.
"Well." Said Harry after a slight pause. "I suppose we should sit down."
The witch nearest them gave them a baleful look and shuffled over. There was enough room for Harry to squish between Hermione and the witch.
The door beyond the counter opened, and in bustled Thomas Bockleby, a white, broad, thickly-muscled man with short hair and a thick moustache. He glanced up, his eyes meeting Harry's immediately.
Harry gestured to the other people sitting slumped and impatient along the bench, but the man didn't seem to notice.
"Harry Potter and Hermione Granger?" he asked. "Come with me. The Head wants to see you."
The Head? Harry shared a look of confusion with Hermione, but quickly followed Bockleby as he opened the gate in the counter and whisked them away down the corridor.
"The Head?" Harry hissed to Hermione.
"I've got no idea." Hermione answered. "I should have known it would be something like this. 'Situation of utmost urgency'? it isn't going to be a department transfer, that's for sure."
"That's the same reason they gave me," said Harry.
They were slowing down, getting closer to the Head's office. And there it was. Department Head the plaque read, and beneath that, Kathleen Gingerwalk.
Bockleby knocked on the door. Harry tried to swallow his nervousness. Three swallows later, he wasn't feeling any better.
Voices rose behind the door, but no-one came to answer. Bockleby knocked harder and with more impatience. The voices quietened. The Secretary hissed between his teeth and leaned forward to speak into the crack by the doorknob.
"Open the door. I've Potter and Granger with me."
"Potter and Granger?" asked a drawling voice from inside the door. The knob twisted, and the door opened to reveal none other than Draco Malfoy.
For a heart-stopping moment, Harry thought that Madame Gingerwalk had retired and made Malfoy her replacement. He stared, stupefied by Malfoy's presence. Then, someone nice and familiar came up behind Draco. Someone with red hair and persistent freckles, and the moment was gone.
"Ron?" Harry greeted, and Ron waved them in grimly. "I haven't seen you in ages!"
"Been busy," Ron shrugged, and glanced conspiratorially over at Hermione. "Anyway, we're still waiting for Madame Gingerwalk to turn up, Bockleby," Ron talked past him. "We haven't set the place alight yet."
"Keep it that way," Bockleby grunted, and sped back down the corridor so fast that it seemed all of his considerable strength was used in the endeavour.
"What are you doing here?" Harry accused the moment the secretary disappeared. Draco leaned against the Department Head's desk and raised a nonchalant eyebrow.
"I don't know. I am the only person in this room who is a functioning Auror. Maybe they've decided that the Golden Trio needs a little more… talent."
"Talent!" Harry hissed. "We don't need you. We're perfectly fine without your help!"
Malfoy became absorbed in his cuticles, and smiled. "Right. Says the person who doesn't yet have an apparition licence."
Harry was shocked into silence. Because, yes, he hadn't, but he'd always been so busy and the floo network worked perfectly well. It wasn't like he needed to apparate.
"Just shut up, Malfoy!" Ron snapped, stepping up beside Harry. Hermione didn't say anything, but she crossed her arms and glared. "How long have you been apparating, then?" Ron asked. "Bet it's since you were fourteen. It's common knowledge Malfoys don't care much for the law."
"Ah," sighed Malfoy, unruffled. He let his hands fall to the desk. "These days it's Potter that has his… goons do with bullying for him."
"Why are you even here, anyway?" Harry asked pointedly.
Malfoy looked at them all and opened his mouth.
"What is going on here?" a strong feminine voice interrupted.
Ron jumped back, Hermione turned around, and Harry found an innocuous spot on the wall to inspect. Draco smoothed down his robes.
"Look at me!" the voice demanded, and Harry's eyes slid over against their will, catching those of the Department Head.
Madame Gingerwalk was furious. Her pale orange hair was frizzy with rage, and her claw-like nails clutched spasmodically around her cane, under the duck-head top as though she was strangling its neck. She strode into the room, sat behind her desk, and gave them all an inspection that pierced their souls.
She left them hanging. Harry felt strung-out, like pig intestines drying in the sun, as his mind was flayed by her gaze. A moment longer, and the feeling stopped as quickly as a flipped a switch. She nodded meaningfully, put her cane down, and picked up her pen.
Harry turned to sit in the chair to his right, but Malfoy was already sitting in it. Hermione was sitting in the one to his left. He had to cross the room to the free chair beside Malfoy, exposing himself to Madame Gingerwalk's steely stare all the way. He sank into the uncomfortable cane chair and resisted the urge to cross his legs.
"The occasion for which we are gathered here is of utmost importance." Madame Gingerwalk began. "If you are going to create another scene like the one I walked in on, you may leave right this moment."
She paused, and silence stiffened around them. No-one answered or moved.
"Well, I see we are in accord about that, at least. Now, let us get down to business. I am your boss, Kathleen Gingerwalk – yes, yours too of an hour ago, Ms. Granger – and I took over this department from Madame Bones. Certain circumstances have come to our attention, and I believe you four are the best equipped to deal with them. Harry, Ron, Hermione—"
Harry sat up straighter.
"—you three were successful in locating and destroying Voldemort's horcruxes. Draco, you top your class in all areas, including assimilation with Muggles. You will make a spectacular guard for our experts."
Harry's eyes slid away from Madame Gingerwalk, and over to Malfoy. He had his head tilted up, fairly preening at the compliment. Harry eyed him with disgust. Where did he get off on the idea that Harry couldn't defend himself?
"It is better, Harry Potter, to be safe than sorry!" Madame Gingerwalk snapped. Harry gulped and startled back to see her steely blue eyes boring into him. He nodded quickly.
"Good." Harry didn't fail to see the satisfied smirk on Draco's face.
"I trust that teamwork will not be an issue here," Madame Gingerwalk commanded. "And as it will not be, let us get down to business."
She leaned over to the side of her chair, and brought a box onto the table. She drew three objects from it, passing them over to Harry, Ron, and Draco, then leaned back and indicated that they should study them.
There was a foot-long arrow. The arrowhead was fish-shaped, white and discoloured like bone. Someone had carved eyes into it and detailed little lines along its body and fins. The fletching was wooden too. The feathers looked thin and brittle like bark chips, but when Harry touched them they were sturdy.
There was jug, a small, spheroid thing that fit in the palm of his hand. Little orange and yellow tiles decorated it in a mosaic depicting a sun half-hidden below the horizon.
The last was a curious piece of wood. It was twisted and pale, and flecked with little black holes. The wood was bent in a U-shape, like a horse shoe.
Draco and Ron stared at it.
"Bloody hell!" Ron cried. "That's the plague-bringer stick of the American legend, isn't it?"
"The plague-bringer stick?" Harry asked.
He was bewildered, and it must have shown on his face because Hermione rolled her eyes. She caught Madame Gingerwalk's eyes and the Department Head nodded.
"It's the legend of the North-American Colonists, Harry. The story goes that around sixteen-hundred some families went over there, taking with them a piece of wood renowned for its luck-giving powers in the hope it would bring them success. It was like solid Felix Felicis. A year later, all communication ceased, and nothing would ever be heard of them again. A hundred years later, more explorers went looking for their remains. Only half of them came back, and the ones that did were half-dead. They had that piece of wood with them, and called the Americas the Cursed World with their dying breaths. It is so cursed, it is said, that it drained the stick's luck-giving power and cursed it. Since then, the stick has given only bad luck as has been known as the plague-bringer. As for the Cursed World, only small parties have gone over, and they have never stayed very long."
"It's all truth," Madame Gingerwalk added. "However, the tale omits the other objects, which were brought back with the plague-bringer. We have recently determined that the reason the objects appeared cursed is that they were horcruxes. Now that they are empty, they should be harmless."
"Horcruxes!" Harry howled. Okay, so it sort of made sense. That was why he, Hermione and Ron were here, but horcruxes? Really? Even the world made his scar tingle it seemed to try to wriggle away from the idea.
"They should be, Madame Gingerwalk?" Hermione asked with amazing calm. The Department Head didn't reply. Harry shivered.
Madame Gingerwalk continued. "Ever since it was discovered that these objects were horcruxes, new questions have arisen as to the fates of the Colonists. It is generally agreed that they created the horcruxes. Some have argued that they did it in defence against the wilds of America. Some argue that they did it the moment they were freed from our laws. We don't know."
"You want us to go the Cursed World," Ron spluttered. "That's insane! Look, me and Hermione—"
"Shoosh, Ron," Hermione snapped.
"Yeah. Right. Sorry." Ron coughed awkwardly, and the heavy mood resettled.
"The fact remains," Madame Gingerwalk continued, "that we need to know what happened to those settlers. The disappearance of the souls in those horcruxes cannot be a good thing."
"Why not?" Harry grumbled. "Maybe it means they've got their morals back."
Madame Gingerwalk held her palm outward in a 'stop' sign.
"Mr. Potter, I am beginning to tire of being interrupted. It is not a good thing because the souls disappeared at the same time. Three souls, from three different people. This indicates that the Colonists are functioning and in contact with each other. All the colonists: we cannot assume that only three colonists created horcruxes, or that their horcruxes, too, were destroyed. We have discovered that the objects still resonate with the bodies of the souls they were once a part of and have isolated their location, which remains in North America. We have special permission for you to use a flying carpet to get to your destination, and we have portkeys that will bring you back here. You must owl us with your progress at least once a week."
She smiled. Horror dawned over Harry. Ron's shoe squeaked against the floor.
"What! That's too fast!" Harry exclaimed. "We haven't agreed to anything!"
"And… our jobs!" Ron spluttered.
"I am your Department Head, Mister Weasley," Madame Gingerwalk answered. "All four of you have been suspended for a minimum of eight months. You may be able to resume work after that."
"You can't do that!"
"That's an awful manipulation," Hermione snapped.
"By your reactions, it seems quite effective," Madame Gingerwalk answered. She gave them all a mild smile. "You will collect your carpet from the Department of Magical Transportation in ten minutes. They will also have the muggle money we've procured for you."
A small paper aeroplane zipped through the crack under the door and into Madame Gingerwalk's hands. She unfolded it and nodded to herself.
"I am required elsewhere," she told them. "I trust you to let yourselves out." And with that, she left them.
"I can't believe her!" Harry hissed when she was out of sight. His friends nodded unhappily. Draco just leaned back in his chair, stroking the armrests and smiling lazily. He didn't look bothered at all. Harry stormed over to him.
"And why do we need you?"
Draco sat up. "Contain yourself, Mr. Potter," he drawled. "Unless I have become deaf, I believe I heard her say that I am to be your bodyguard."
"We don't need a bodyguard."
"Well, your boss says otherwise," Draco answered. He got to his feet and slid out the door as well.
"I'm sorry guys," Harry sighed to Ron and Hermione.
"We'll just have to delay it," Ron answered sadly. "Maybe we can plan the some of the wedding while we're there. That way Mum doesn't take over everything."
"She'll find a way to do it anyway," Hermione said. Her voice was acerbic, and she led the way from the office.