I do not own, or receive any benefit from the Harry potter properties.

Palimpsest

Bodyguard: Chapter 15

By Larry Huss

Author's Note: This is a re-issue of Chapter 15 with the missing scene-breaks added.

Hermione stared at the postal owl. Its collar was clear to read: 'Deutsch Eule Postamt', but no letter or package was in its trained grasp, or tied to its leg. In fact, there was a piece of ribbon, official green in color, that looked… torn. It could only have been a reply to one of her inquiries, but which? And… had it been lost by some freakish accident, or had it been intercepted? And if so, by whom, and for what reason?

Certainly there was one person, or his followers, who would be most interested in discovering who was researching Horcruxes. One person she knew had created Horcruxes (or just one, or…), and that person might now know that Hermione Jane Granger was looking for his deepest secret.

"You know," Harry said, "looking at Felix's leg, seems almost as if there had been a package or something attached with a thread, and then torn off."

There was an obvious sigh of relief from the dedicated bird, and it turned to devouring the locally produced processed meat product with a sense of a job well done. It may not have been able to deliver its official message, but it had managed to deliver an important bit of information in any case. If only more Humans were as sensible and perceptive as the silver-feathered hawk/black-haired Human… Felix looked at his interpreter with a suddenly intrigued eye.

"You already know this owl, Harry? Or can you talk Bird?" asked Ron, intrigued by the discovery, though still not regretting his rejection of his Arachnid potential.

"Well, no. When it was dancing around I noticed that its name was on the back of the collar. Been developing quick eyes; have to, to keep track of the Quaffle."

Hermione looked at them, so young and innocent and sweet. She couldn't let them walk beside her into whatever meat grinder waited at the end of… at that point she lost her grip on the metaphor, but was still certain that she couldn't lead her boys to their ignorant doom like some sort of… Judas Goat.

That was it; just the right expression!

Anyway, she had to figure some way to either ditch them… no, that was very stupid. Her parents had made sure to let her know that in their opinion ignorance not only was not a valid excuse to break the law, but didn't do much to protect you from a host of other problems.

She'd have to find some way, soon, to tell them what they needed to know. But… she also remembered something from a history book her parents had left around the house (and which she had, naturally, read) dealing with the Second World War. It was… Churchill had said something like… 'Truth is too important to go around without a bodyguard of lies.' Yes, she'd have to figure out how to recruit a proper bodyguard for her secret truth.

Ω

The quick eyes of a Chaser had not only caught the name of the postal owl. Harry had been able to take in that Hermione was disturbed more than seemed reasonable at the lack of a message being delivered. Evidently... as she wasn't complaining about having lost contact with some hypothetical German pen pal... it was something she didn't want to talk about, even to her best friends. And that indicated that this was the sort of stuff Tonks had warned him about. He was sick of watching and wondering. Hermione was in danger; would he just calmly observe her slip her way down into madness and evil? No way, no how. The question was… what should he do?

If it was anyone else… if it hadn't been Hermione… if there wasn't such a clear conflict of loyalties between his obligations to the Tonks family (and Miss Tonks in particular), and someone who had always been there for him and had never counted the costs to help him... that seemed to be weighting the balances of Justice in one direction, didn't it?

But Tonks was an agent of Authority and the Proper Social Order. Which had kept him with the Dursleys for all those years, safe and starved. Balance wasn't really sifting back any too much, was it?

But Tonks was really clever and had almost graduated to being a fully Auror. Perhaps she could explain what had set her onto Hermione's trail in a way that would still his qualms on acting as if his best girl-type friend was a dangerous and potentially evil character. He'd send her notice of his reservations toward checking up on his friend.

One week; one week for her to give him a really good reason to continue. Then… he'd go with his gut.

Ω

Over the course of the next seven days, there were any number of nervous and aborted occasions when Miss Granger tried to engage Mr. Potter in singular conversation. In each case either one or the other found themselves suddenly at a loss for words and hurriedly changed whatever topic had evidently been planned, and they mutually allowed even the most trivial of trivialities or inane of inanities to derail what was increasingly evident to both of them was a voyage to an unwelcome destination.

They didn't avoid each other by any means. Hermione and The Boys remained a regularly observed phenomenon of School. And to Miss Brown's despair Hermione and Ron was a fairly regular pairing also. The awkwardness of the Potter/Granger relationship was obvious to both Longbottom and Weasley, but those two didn't much comment on it, even to each other. These things tended to work themselves out, and since it was clear that there was no anger or antipathy between their two friends, an unspoken agreement to let it go (for now) was psychically sealed. Life went on.

Quidditch practices were held, an unofficial little Sunday get-together wherein students cast painful spells at each other occurred, and plans were laid for the next Hogsmeade weekend, depending on the weather. Classes were attended, assignments cribbed from each other, and as might be expected, certain oddities occurred. Draco Malfoy was being seen frequently with Miss Parvati Patil in the Library, and on other occasions. Peeves the Poltergeist flying about with a blindfold over his eyes half the time and running (painfully) into walls on occasion. George Weasley walking around with a crimson hand-print on his face for several hours after he had made an unwise remark to one of his Quidditch teammates. The usual sort of unusual things that might happen at any normally functioning magical school.

So passed a week, during which Harry Potter received no mail.

Ω

Lord Voldemort, proper ruler of all Magical Britain (in his own opinion) and also as much of the rest of the world as he could grab (similarly), had at last settled into his new dwelling. He had high hopes about it; true, it was only really a starter, small and suffering certain inconveniences, but it had potential. The very newness would allow a more flexible development, and a better chance that it wouldn't become too crowded on him in a mere year or so, as Quirrell was going to have done, in any case.

Dying, never too high on Voldemort's things-to-do list, had become even less agreeable to him. His years in Albania, intermittently inhabiting snakes and other creatures with relatively low levels of cerebral development had been unpleasant enough. While they did, of course, suffer when their time came... unless said time was during a winter's hibernation and sleep... the amount he could suffer from it was limited due to his essential mismatching of neural system, soul structuring, and previous experience.

Dying (at first slowly as the body rejected his alterations, and then increasingly swiftly as toxilogical insult added onto previous problems) as the living but internally liquefying long term food supply of a gigantic spider had been, however, especially painful and degrading. The human nature and the close knitting of the physical and magical essences of his host had ensured that no pang of agony escaped his attention. Cumulatively, it had been far worse than the times he had experienced the Cruciatus Curse.

If this current embodiment proved unsuccessful there was really only one alternative left; a custom built model, and he had no idea of where there was an experienced practitioner of the art. So he spent his time as unobtrusively as possible, avoiding any antagonizing of the family elders, and saving up the energies available for building up the girl's magical core. As soon as he could train up the body to perform magic, he was ditching the area (much too near Dumbledore and Hogwarts) and getting to a place he could mature into the wizard he knew he could be. Well... Witch, in this particular case. He really didn't mind the mere fact that he was within a female body; sex had never been one of the important things in his life. Dominion and domination had always been far more interesting. And sadism; there was always sadism.

The parents of Mavis Campbell would not have been very pleased if they had even the slightest intimation of why their daughter had suddenly changed from a cooing and smiling infant into a too-often silent and brooding presence in their small cottage in Banchory town, up near Aberdeen. The local pediatrician was at a loss for the child's sudden lethargy and failure to thrive, but she was certain it was in no way due to a lack of kindness or attention by the young parents. If the scheduled examination that had been arranged at the hospital in Aberdeen proved unable to find a cause… then the hell with science, she was in the business of healing children. She had some markers she could call in.

Ω

"I've been in a pretty frequent correspondence with Tonks, you know."

"Well, you're living at her parents' place over the summer, after all. And she's been such a help for us; especially with the self-help defense group. I've written to her myself, a few times.

"But I don't think that's why you've dragged me off into the gloom and chill all alone and so vulnerable. Jealous of our last bout of animal combat?" Hermione said as she looked about at the dingy stone walls and shuttered windows of the large amphitheater. Unused, it seemed, for some generations of the lives of wizards.

Harry shrugged. "No... not the fighting thing, unless I have room to fly and something good to drop on you there really isn't anything I can do that way.

"I meant we're here because of Tonks. About a month ago she wrote me. Told me to keep an eye on you. Said that you were getting involved in Dark stuff; not the philosophical sort of Dark, but the real stuff. And then… there was that post owl without a message. The way you acted. The way you've sort of gone all pale and trembly now. What trouble have you got yourself into? What can I do to help you get out of it?"

"Ah… ah…" Hermione had a bit of trouble bringing out any of her several well body-guarded, and often mentally rehearsed explanations. She had expected herself, whenever she worked up the nerve, to be the one in control of the conversation, being on the receiving end had never been in her plans. And to think Tonks was behind this!

"But… but I wrote to Tonks. The last letter I sent... she knows I'll respond, why didn't she just ask me?"

"The kind of stuff she says you're doing, you just don't ask people if they are doing stuff involving…" Harry pulled the well crumpled letter from Tonks out of his robe's left slit pocket and began to pretend to scan it for the particular part he needed.

"Horcruxes," Hermione supplied, unknowingly increasing his knowledge without doing a bit to his actually understanding of what was going on.

"Nasty things, them Horcruxes."

"Well yes. That's why I wrote to her. It was in Professor Rotschmidt's book... he was talking about Grindelwald and he mentioned them and I wondered about what they were because he didn't go into any details and the whole Horcrux thing is supposed to be about immortality, and I'm sure I read, a few years ago, that Voldemort made something that looked like that, and so I thought-"

"Hold it there," Harry interrupted. "Where did you read it?"

"Well, it was years ago, and just in passing."

"You aren't angry enough at yourself for forgetting the answer to a question, Hermione. How long ago? Where? I can tell when you're dodging a question," demanded Harry.

"If I was guilty of anything would I have written to Tonks? What kind of sense would that make?"

"Playing dumb to throw off your pursuers? What made you so shaken by the post owl?" he asked.

"I'd written to the Professor to ask him, of course. The book flap gave his address in Germany. And I wrote to Tonks and a few other people to get some alternate takes. Parallax views, like in Astronomy. "

A completely different look came over her face.

"How did Luna's telescope turn out?"

The last question threw him off of his stride; it didn't sound like it was related to the current topic of inter…discussion at all, but was a lateral logic leap that somehow only made sense to the relationship-orientated female mind, somehow.

"Got Percy to lend her his, he's not doing Astronomy this year, and she is a neighbor and all. Still sort of working on figuring out the repairs... optics at that level don't fix as easy as you might think.

"But that's to the side. What have you found out, about those Horcruxes?"

"Not a damn thing! There's nothing in the Library here, and with my mail being intercepted... you saw the torn string on the owl... I can't learn anything more. It's driving me mad!"

Harry had to admit that this time the tone and expression was an honest Hermione-Denied-Information one. Her face was now flushed, and she was breathing heavily. As she hadn't attempted to either take him down with a spell, or transform into a ferocious beast (though he had chosen this amphitheater with the knowledge that it had a high ceiling and a ventilating shaft he could get through in his own Animagus form) to dismember him, there was a good chance that… if she was telling the truth… he could test things, couldn't he? And if Hermione was lying to him, at least he'd give her a chance to make a run for it. Lord knows, he owed her that much, and more.

"I'll write to Tonks, ask her exactly what you said. I won't say that we've had this talk... be at least two/three days before she can respond... I'll know by then.

"I think next week there's a Hogsmeade Weekend. If you're short a bit I've got a few galleons I could lend you, let you take Ron for something special."

Hermione sighed: "And so I'll have a bit more to survive on if I go on the lam. Sweet of you Harry, but I'm not going anywhere. Except to Hogsmeade, I mean, and Ron and I go Dutch. I even had to argue with him about that; he wanted to pick up all the costs, but I said that all the other nice things that happen are also mutual… and you can stop blushing as I won't go into details."

"Wasn't blushing."

"Was too."

Ω

The next day, after a walk and a brisk swim in the Black Lake with the Squid, Hermione Granger (life-guarded from shore by Ronald Weasley) and her date (again Ron Weasley)were warming up at Rosa Lee's Teabag (to Ron's relief she thought that Madame Puddifoot's Tea Shop was excessively twee). They were having some Darjeeling and homemade scones that were made in -shop, as Harry Potter was dragged away from his companions; Neville Longbottom, Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, by a tall, dark, and mysterious man.

When the two last named made ready to follow their roommate into the dark in a rescue attempt Neville stilled them. "I think it's just Tonks, being a tall, dark, and mysterious man."

Well, if it was just Tonks… they'd get her to buy them something, or teach them something amusing later on. Tonks was OK.

Neville was almost correct. This wasn't merely Tonks; it was Tonks under the gimlet eye of Alastor Moody. Not that he was saying much.

The tall, dark, and mysterious man let go of his (?) grip on Harry's arm.

"What the hell are you doing, Potter? Letting her run around town without any surveillance? What is she doing right now? Do you have any idea? Do you have any clue who she's in contact with?"

"In one sense, Ron Weasley, and probably snogging him silly, as if that's any of your business. And in other news she's trying to correspond with Doctor-Professor Heinrich Rotschimdt of the Magdeburg Academy of Spellcrafting, and some librarians, and a bookstore and a publisher, and once again, what about that any of it is your business?"

"Tell us something we don't know, Potter! We've got that much just from the mail we've intercepted. What is she up to? Is she in this for herself, or is she an agent of…" at that point Tonks got a slightly distracted look, and almost lost a good inch of height while her mind was otherwise engaged, "… criminal and terrorist elements? Foreign agents, even. Who knows? No one should be looking into Horcrux lore, especially not schoolgirls!

"If you can get her to come clean, Potter, we may be able to arrange something better for her than the hard landing she's heading for."

This was the first time Harry had ever wanted to place Tonks into the "them" category. "Them," the people who bullied and used others; who were all for themselves under the cover of 'legitimate' authority, and said things like 'for the love of all decency!'

He tried to give her another chance: "You wouldn't even know what she'd doing if she hadn't written to you, would you?"

In that shadowed alleyway, if one were sensitive enough to appreciate emotional atmospheres, and were clear-headed, one would have started to look for an unblocked exit at that point.

"Her taking 'refuge in audacity' shouldn't take you off her scent; anyone who's asking about things like that is already in too deep to just walk away from things.

"If you can't keep a good eye on her, cut her off Harry. Save yourself."

"From what? From who? No one will tell me what a damn Horcrux is, and no one will tell Hermione. If no one tells us, how can we avoid it if we come up against it? I'll go with "don't touch the wet paint", but only if I'm told what paint is, and what it's for. What's a Horcrux, and what is so damned bad about them?"

If there hadn't been a quick hand motion by the elder Auror just as Harry was reaching the end of his complaint, casting a silencing charm on the open end of the alleyway, there was a good chance a quarter of Hogsmeade (a small enough little village) would have been let in on matters too scary for the ordinary citizen (in the opinion of the Ministry) to contemplate even enough to reject contemptuously.

Moody began to chuckle, without a lot of real humor in it.

"Playing the innocent, Potter? I've seen too many get into trouble thinking acting stupid was an excuse for breaking the Law."

"What is the Law, then?" Harry demanded.

"Can't tell you; security."

"Mr. Moody, I deeply regret I can not promise you to obey laws that I haven't ever been informed of. Is there a Law saying you can't make, carry, talk about, know or define what a Horcrux is?"

"Doesn't have to be... it's obvious."

Harry gave a quick dip of his head, turned, and taking long steps left the alleyway.

After the boy was gone, Moody leaned against a wall and began to laugh, with a great deal more true humor and warmth.

"I told Albus this wasn't going to work. The boy's not some little brown-noser eager to grass on his friends.

"Well, Auror Tonks, how are you going to repair your relationship with Potter? As, according to Albus, he may be the most important Wizard in Britain today."

The person named, now looking like a very sad twenty year-old women with mouse-brown hair, looked at her mentor, frowned, and then said, "sell you out to him?"

"Good, good. That's the sort of thinking that will get you informers worth something!"

"So, Sir, what exactly is a Horcrux?"

Ω

Hermione discovered that her post-snogging euphoria lasted about 1.23 seconds after Harry waylaid Ron and her on their way back to the school and informed them that Tonks and Moody were deeply engaged in being arses and were after her for laws yet to be written, if ever. It took her that long to realize that he was being serious, and her high mood to crumble into jagged shards of confusion.

As they entered the school grounds, meeting Neville at the gateway, she slowly managed to grasp from Harry's rage-sputtering recounting of his recent conversation that he had had with Tonks, who had brought Alastor Moody along to prove the gravity of whatever she had done. Or was thinking of doing. Or was likely to do without knowing whatever it was, etc...

"And what, specifically has our budding Dark Lady been up to?" Neville asked.

Hermione gulped a little, but things were too far gone for any bodyguard detail smaller than an armored brigade to help.

"I was researching Horcruxes."

Ron was a bit puzzled. Hermione was always researching something, usually something that he had never heard about before, despite living in a magical household all his life. What was so special about Horcruxes that there was a law against them? There had to be, otherwise why would Auror Moody be involved? Still, he definitely had to put his foot down. As a friend, as a boyfriend, he had to make sure that his friend, his girlfriend, stayed away from dangerous things like that. Accordingly he fell back on the best role-model he had for reining in a headstrong woman:

"Um… Hermione, maybe you could have a sit down with Moody and say that your grades will suffer if you don't have your work on Horcruxes done before planting season?"

Ron's role-model was, of course, his father talking to his mother when her blood was up.

"Probably not Herbology," said Harry.

After a moment's contemplation and memory searching, Neville confirmed that Herbology was probably not involved in the slightest.

Returning to the fray Ron interjected "... or you could just drop the subject. After all, evidently it isn't part of the curriculum, and you don't want to get distracted from your proper schoolwork..."

All eyes shifted to the red-haired one.

"Ron, have they gotten to you?" Harry said with a disbelieving voice.

They accepted for now his spluttering denials, but the topic was put away for resolution on another occasion as they passed through the front entranceway of the Castle and joined the returning throng just come up from Hogsmeade.

XXX

He was wearing a modified face, eyes of a different color, and lifts in his boots. All courtesy of a drama major at the local University. It made him look, if not totally different from the Tom Riddle of the late '40's certainly, obviously on closer inspection someone with a mere superficial resemblance to that person. With no magic at all used in the disguise, he was considerably more secure from wizardly detection than he had been before.

Having drained old Rosier of cash, information (surely to be taken with a peck of salt) not in the history books he had found that mentioned his earlier career, Riddle realized that he had no choice about some things. Finally, over a long half-month during which it had become harder each day to keep Abelard from announcing in every format but the Muggle media and the Daily Prophet that Voldemort was back and Rosier was his prophet, Rosier was drained of life.

Tom hadn't taken the older man's attempts to seduce him as sufficient motivation for this seemingly ungrateful act. These things happened, after all, and one mustn't be petty about such matters. Even if the letcher was completely unappealing. It was Rosier's consistent refusing to keep his insolent mouth shut, and avoid dropping hints all over the place no matter how many reminders that it wasn't the time yet that had decided the man's fate. Also, Tom had been getting hungry, and with the old braggart constantly following him around as self-appointed Jeeves, publicity agent in waiting, and eager would-be Himmler, it seemed like the most efficient thing to do before everything went to wrack and ruin. Sentimentality might have its place (somewhere), but that place wasn't any too near a demi-soul sucking vampireoid who was probably, at this time, the most successful serial killer in Magical Britain.

Having left dreary old Scotland before Rosier's withdrawal from the social whirl was noticed, Tom had come South, and at a Kentish University found his little gem of a Muggle flesh-artist. Contact lenses! What wonders of perception he'd be able to achieve when he figured out how to permanently enchant them for certain types of perception!

For Tom had reluctantly come to the conclusion that only being an upper year student at Hogwarts, even one of his caliber, had left him with many rough spots in his education. And some down-right holes in his abilities and memories. Whether or not these were due to him being a soul-fragment, a former resident of a decaying Horcrux, or some other reason, he didn't know. But those gaps in his knowledge had to rectified; accordingly, at each opportunity he had gotten access to a meal's private magical library he had taken a few selected items beyond those safely saleable. He hoped that no pattern had become apparent to the Aurors in his altogether reasonable quest for knowledge, but certain risks had to be taken. It wasn't as if he was immortal (as far as he knew) and could play a long, slow, sloppy game for ultimate power. Nothing of what he had seen (of the little information available) appeared to offer any hope that a completely separated soul-fragment could produce its own Horcrux.

Though there were some consolations. His little drama-queen-major was agreeably discrete; evidently certain that some group she called "the Columbians" (seemingly not the Yanks he remembered from his own first life) were after him, with him being a heroic rebel to their control of the recreational drug trade. Since the potions he occasionally supplied her and her friends with were considerably safer and more powerful than the street drugs that they usually obtained, Tom felt he was pulling his weight in the current arrangement. And the sex was better than he remembered it being.

Evidently (or at least, perhaps) that part of his nature that previously had made the entire topic fairly uninteresting and tedious had mostly remained with the Core Voldemort. What a bitter, cold, and lonely creature that Core must be, what with young Tom having seemingly received all the fun parts of the Riddle essence.

Tom patted his jacket of many pockets: all the little knick knacks and potions he might need for an emergency flight were in place, extractable by his hands only. The magic involved was slight, and hardly anything that would attract the Authorities he wished to avoid. The messenger bag he shouldered clinked gently with the relabeled recreational potions inside. It was Saturday night, he had no moral qualms about anything, ever, and he had a party to be the life of. Riddle went forth.

XXX

Love, or at least dating, had an awesome power to screw things up, Hermione thought as she continued her cartological stroll around the less well known corridors, halls, rooms, recesses, and niches of Hogwarts. She was doing it for the Twins, who were evidently attempting to make the most inclusive map of the place possible. It was the fruits of their researches (so far) of the Marauders' Map. They still hadn't figured out how to have the inhabitants (even if temporary) of Hogwarts show up on their version, but they'd achieved zoom in and out, and how to append travel notes to an index and footnotes section. All Hermione had to do was keep on shuffling along and sketch in the details (it was auto-scaling) and notes; nothing that occupied her enough to take her mind off of her current problems in the romance department.

The benefits of being in a relationship with Ron were evident: companionship, an appropriate degree of physical intimacy, a gangly-cute boyfriend. The drawbacks were slowly becoming apparent as things between them became more settled, and each was off of their best behavior.

He was, in his half-attentive way, brave and protective. Too protective. Whenever he noticed mentally that she wasn't just one of the Boys, he would slide in front of her to take the brunt of whatever was hurtling her way. Only annoying when it was during one of the Sunday Gatherings (its latest name) mêlées, but certain to be foolish and likely to get him injured (or worse) in a real battle. And then... there goes an imperfectly good boyfriend! Not that easy to find one, after all.

Then there was Mrs. Weasley. She was always reassuring Hermione that nothing was being held against her for being Muggleborn. Always. Repeatedly. At last Hermione understood her mother's aversion to certain seemingly splendid and decent people. They were a touch (or ten) too aggressively virtuous and understanding. It wasn't just that one had to wonder what was really going on in their heads that seemed to require them to be so repetitiously all-inclusive and tolerant in their opinions. They were also, if encountered outside of the local civic good causes meeting, so incredibly tedious. Was Hermione, for Molly Weasley, a trophy proving the liberality of her opinions, and a ticket to be punched certifying her membership in the Forces of Light?

Hermione had no desire to be anyone else's cause, as she was involved in furthering her own ones.

Sighing she reviewed her current priorities:

1- Protect and help Harry Potter, always. An enjoyable and wholesome way to pass the time, with the great benefit that it was also frequently fun.

2-Finding out about the Horcruxes Vold (better not completely say that name; you never really knew, did you?) made. And evidently doing something nasty to them it was becoming apparent, if they were getting usually reasonable (since she so often agreed with Hermione) people like Tonks (who's official first name had been discovered by Harry and discretely passed on) and so irrationally agitated.

3-Getting Neville a girlfriend. He'd come out of his shell enough to become a successful assistant to the Twins, but his every attempt at wrangling a date had seemingly come undone at some part of the process. She'd have to look into his technique, and perhaps get the Gryff Girls to put together a short checklist of what any young wizard should know about how to approach and secure the affections of a presentable young witch.

4-Mending fences, somehow, with Lavender. Everything was staying civil (even though it required Hermione not fill her roomates' ears with details of her progressive seduction; either by or of Ron), but mere civility was far inferior to the warmth and free-ranging conversations that had filled their room previously.

5-Figure out what was wrong with her Animagus form, correct it, write the definitive paper on the technique, and become famous.

With a full checklist like that (not to mention ensuring that Ginny Weasley didn't succeed in becoming a perpetual silent and depressing presence and general drag on the others every time something important had to be done) Hermione was certain she had no time to waste furthering anyone else's agenda.

XXX

Alicia Gordon had reached the end of her patience with blood drawing, high energy imaging, allergy tests that seemed to prove nothing, and physicians' consultations that were so brisk and efficient that they might as well have been done by a train dispatcher instead of someone eager to inform parents on how they were going to save their infant's life. Alicia had, reluctantly, come to conclusion that Mavis Campbell had been written off by orthodox medicine.

For someone of her nature, though, it just meant that her hands were now freed. It was a two minute task to pen a note, followed by an hour's drive to a certain rundown tavern. There, she put a Fiver up on the bar, went to the fireplace, threw a pinch of powder into the ever burning flame, and tossed the letter in while saying "Minerva McGonagall, from her great grand-niece Alicia Gordon, urgent."

Instead of flaming up, the envelope disappeared in a green flash. Now Alicia Gordon just had to wait, and hope her eccentric and ancient relative would consider the life of a Muggle child enough of an emergency to call her away from her day job.