Consulting The Queen
A/N: Sirius makes some wrong assumptions about the Gaunt ring in this chapter. It's deliberate. Also, can anyone spot the VERY IMPORTANT bit of information that completely slips Sirius' mind in this chapter?
January 10, 1993 Hogwarts
It wasn't until after everyone returned to Hogwarts that the Potter/Black/Weasley Alliance caught a break. A break they got thanks entirely to Harry's regular weekend visits with Hagrid. Harry had made a point, first year, of visiting Hagrid frequently, and had continued it this year. He couldn't always make it every weekend, but he made sure he made it at least once a month. Most visits, he brought one or more of his friends. Even Draco, who was not precisely a friend but wasn't an enemy either these days, had gone for a visit.
These visits were always accompanied – whatever else they might be doing – with rambling conversation. Usually about some magical creature or other. Hagrid didn't talk much about anything else. Harry, who hadn't had the best time prior to Hogwarts, had his suspicions as to why. Whether or not Harry was right, he didn't push.
That said … Hagrid did occasionally mention things about his past. So it was entirely possible that Harry had heard mentions of Hagrid's school days before today. Heck, it was entirely possible Hagrid had mentioned (if very offhandedly) the incident that resulted in him being expelled, and Harry just … didn't put two and two together. He was, after all, just a kid. And life had been more than a little crazy since the day he'd stepped into the Wizarding World.
"Wait … you got expelled for having a weird pet?" Harry asked, when Hagrid mentioned the incident.
"Nah. Not that. They thought Aragog were responsible fer the attacks that were happenin' at the time. But he never." Hagrid said.
Harry blinked at Hagrid. "Ok, that makes … no sense whatever. I mean, yeah, you like the big and scary creatures, but you'd never set a lethal one loose where it could hurt people. I mean, even Fluffy and Norbert are kept away from everyone in the forest. And they both obey you without a qualm."
Hagrid smiled at him.
Hermione and Neville, who had both accompanied Harry and Hedwig on this trip, nodded their own agreement.
"Can you tell us what happened?" Hermione wanted to know.
"There were a lot of nonsense goin' on that year." Hagrid said. "Firs' time Hogwarts weren't safe. People getting' petrified near every week. Then one girl got kilt. I'd brung Aragog ta Hogwarts start of the year as me pet. Kep' him in a box, y'see? Kep' the box in a 'bandoned classroom, so Aragog didn't bother nobody."
"What was Aragog?" Hermione asked.
"He's an acromantula." Hagrid told them.
Which meant nothing to Harry, really. Except for the back half of that name was the same as the back half of tarantula. Which made him suspicious as to what Aragog actually was. Hermione on the other hand, sucked in a lungful of air, clearly recognizing what Hagrid was talking about.
"So … what's an acromantula? Harry asked.
"Big spider." It was Neville that spoke up, not Hermione. "Really, really big. They get big as horses as adults. Fifteen feet or more legspan."
Harry gave Hagrid a wide-eyed look. He wasn't at all arachnophobic, but he might just get that way after meeting a spider that big. "Ok, that's … creepy." He admitted.
Hagrid, for once, forebore to repeat his oft-used phrase when it came to big and nasty critters.
Then Harry blinked. "Wait … you said he 'is'. Which implies he's still alive."
Hagrid nodded. "He's gettin' old, but he's got 'nother decade or so in 'im yet."
"And … where is Aragog now?" Neville wanted to know.
"In the forest. Found 'im a mate, 'an they got themselves a colony now." Hagrid said.
Harry shared a look with Hermione and Neville wherein all three of them agreed to never, ever set toe in the Forest again. Because monster spiders. Norbert would just have to understand.
"Was Riddle that accused me an' Aragog of bein' behind the attacks. Rotten Slytherin." Hagrid continued.
Seeing Harry's eyebrow head for the ceiling, Hagrid grumbled. "A'ight, so not all of 'em're bad. He was."
Riddle … Riddle. Wait. "Tom Marvolo Riddle? I saw something in the trophy room once … " Harry said.
Hagrid made an epic stinky face. "That be him. Got hisself an award fer special services ta the school from Headmaster Dippet."
Well, what did you know. A monumental screwup that wasn't attributable to Dumbledore, Harry thought. Didn't make it any less horrible, but it was a nice change of pace from 'Dumbledore's fault'.
"Ok, that just … that's completely unfair to you. Is there anything … ?" Harry said.
"Were him 'gainst me, 'arry. T'ain't no proof neither way now, not really." Hagrid said. "Not like th' Ministry's gonna take the word of a ghost. 'Specially not one they've had problems with."
That's when the other shoe dropped, because while Harry hadn't met her, he'd heard about Moaning Myrtle – the only Hogwarts-age ghost he knew of. A tenuous connection at best, until another memory slotted into place, of Minerva mentioning an incident involving the Chamber.
"Wait … Myrtle … The Headmistress … Shass … " Harry sputtered, as all those old bits of information slotted into place in his head. "The Chamber! It has to be opened by a parseltongue!"
Hermione sat bolt upright. "And the only known parseltongues in the UK in the last century are you … and Voldemort."
"So Voldemort's real name is Tom Marvolo Riddle." Harry grinned. "Finally! Everyone's been going nuts trying to figure out who he is." Harry focused on Hagrid. "I know you couldn't have known him for long, Hagrid, but did you know him at all?"
"Nah. He were Slytherin, an' two years ahead o' me. Saw him in the halls, but that were it until he got me booted out. Popular feller, but he weren't the only one could claim that."
Harry almost pouted. "Darn. Guess we'll have to do some digging then. At least we finally have somewhere to start. Thanks, Hagrid!"
Despite the breakthrough, Harry and Hermione finished the visit before Harry wrote a note and sent Hedwig off.
February 1, Potter Castle
The note from Harry had been a godsend. Once they had a name, Sirius and Remus basically tripped over Riddle everywhere they looked. Minerva, when they asked, happily forked over Riddle's school records and, more importantly, his mailing address from the Book of Names.
From there, it was like watching dominoes fall. Within three weeks, they had traced Riddle's steps from the orphanage right up to his 'disappearance' in the very late fifties. A bit of footwork in the Auror archives even got them a timeline on all but the diadem horcrux that they'd found and destroyed. They simply asked about records of crimes related to the Gaunts or any of the known Founder artifacts.
That was the good news. The bad news? They had also gotten a line on a horcrux they hadn't known about yet – the Gaunt Family Signet Ring, which had neither been on the body of Marvolo Gaunt, nor had it returned to the bank like James' had, when they asked the goblins. Given what it was, it could not have been stolen. Which left only Riddle as the root cause of the ring's disappearance.
Given Gaunt's first name and Riddle's middle name, not to mention the proximity of a house once owned by the Riddles to Gaunt lands when they poked around, Sirius posited that Riddle, as a (probably very marginally) more suitable potential heir than Marvolo's acknowledged son, had just taken the ring off of Marvolo at his death. Said ring could be anywhere now.
More good news – Severus' rumors as to Riddle's blood purity had, of course, been confirmed. Better, if what little they'd found on Merope Gaunt – which was mostly that her name wasn't in Hogwarts' book – was right, she had been, at best, a hedgewitch. Making Riddle the son of a horrifically inbred hedgewitch or worse a squib, and a Muggle. That discovery would have certain parties foaming at the mouth.
On a note unrelated to ammunition they could use against Riddle, the Gaunt family's history of inbreeding creeped Sirius out. Oh, most pureblood families were inbred, sure. But they at least tried to keep things to a dull roar by (mostly) not marrying closer than second cousins. The Gaunts? Yeesh. It was a long, horrifying trail of fathers siring the next generation on their daughters, or siblings bringing the next generation into being. At best, they hitched with a cousin. With all that going on, no wonder Riddle had gone barmy enough to become a Dark Lord. He couldn't have been dealing with a full deck to start with, even with the infusion of completely unrelated blood from his father.
The other bit of news was that in investigating Riddle, they found where Dumbledore had met his end. The cemetery still stank of Black Magic and bore the scars of the magical battle that had taken place there. Severus was even able to guess at how the resurrection might have been accomplished, based on the desecration of Tom Riddle Sr.'s grave. Sirius didn't doubt but that Severus might find a way to mess Riddle up, even so long after his resurrection, with that knowledge. Such Black arts invariably had a glaring weakness somewhere. All you had to do was find it, then figure out how to take advantage of it.
The whole thing had been, yes, a mixed blessing but they at least had the weapon of Riddle's true parentage to wield if it came to that. Whether against the purebloods that followed him or against Riddle himself, depending on how he felt about it. Which, given his rampage against pretty much everyone under the guise of pureblood superiority … well. Who knew? It was entirely possible that not even Riddle knew what he was fighting for, given how crazy he'd gotten. Yeah, he'd evidently re-tightened his screws, but that didn't mean information didn't get lost in the meantime.
More importantly, that early trail gave them a better idea of how a saner Riddle thought, acted, and reacted. Which, since Riddle was close to or at that level of sane again now, would give them a good idea of what he might pull. Aside, of course, from the micro-raids. Because he wouldn't stick with those indefinitely, even if they were working. Sooner or later he'd have to go for something bigger. He couldn't take over the Ministry or much of anything else doing the micro-raids.
Sirius figured he'd keep the raids up for a little while. Until Riddle judged the Aurors – and the Alliance – to be frazzled, worn, and tired from chasing the Death Eaters around. A tired, frustrated defense force made mistakes. Mistakes that Riddle could capitalize on.
Thank Merlin for the Weasley clan. Because otherwise, Riddle's plan would work. It still would with the Aurors, but with the Weasley clan in the Alliance, the Alliance would be able to stay a whole lot fresher. And who knew? With so many minds to bend to the problem, they might just figure out a way to interrupt or stop the raids.
There was one last problem. With the discovery of the ring horcrux – which they were going to have to find – they had five horcruxes, with a sixth portion of soul in Riddle himself. Sirius didn't think Riddle would have settled for that. There were, after all, numbers with special magical significance. Six wasn't one of them. But seven was. Which meant they very probably had one more horcrux to be looking for.
Given Riddle's previous choices for horcruxes, the odds of it being some Founder's artifact were high. The question being: Which artifact, from which founder? They had one each from three of them. The problem lay in the fact that the only known Gryffindor artifact was his sword – which was safely well beyond Riddle's reach. None but a 'true Gryffindor' could summon that sword. A phrase that had taken on a whole new meaning for Sirius since the discovery that Harry was actually Godric's heir. Sirius didn't even know where the sword was stashed until it was summoned. No one ever had, so far as he knew. Though it was logical that a Potter had known, at some point in the past, even if the information had eventually gotten lost. The point being that Riddle wouldn't have been able to get his hands on the sword.
There could have been, of course, some other (forgotten) artifact that Riddle had found. But it was also a possibility that Riddle had chosen something else. Either a second artifact from one of the other Founders, or maybe something else linked with the Gaunts or the Riddles.
Sirius shoved the journal that had all their information and guesswork on Riddle in it aside and sat back, thinking. Maybe he should get some of Her Majesty's people in on this? Granted, they didn't know or understand magic for the most part, but that didn't mean they couldn't or wouldn't come up with a solution to one or more of their problems. It was worth considering. For all he knew, they had some sort of technology that could see through wards and other magic. Or could develop technology that could do so, if they were informed of the problem. Also, the Queen was probably getting a touch irked at the mess Riddle was making on the Muggle side of the divide. She hadn't demanded an audience yet, but Sirius was willing to bet she would if things continued the way they were.
Right. A trip to Buckingham Palace it was, then. Well, after the appropriate invitations and acceptances, of course.
"Hey, Remus!" Sirius called out to the hallway, through his open office door. A moment later, Remus poked his head in.
"What is it, Sirius?" He asked.
"What's our schedule look like for the next few weeks?" Sirius wanted to know.
"Why?" Remus asked, instantly on the alert. But then, he had a lot of experience recognizing when Sirius was up to something.
"I think we need to have a confab with the Queen and whatever of her people she thinks need to be in on this. They might have something or be able to come up with something to help with the raids. And I figure it's been a while since she last got a rundown of what's going on. With all the mayhem going on Muggle-side, she's probably considering demanding an audience with us." Sirius told Remus.
Remus blinked. "That's … all good points, actually. Just send her the letter, though. Her calendar has to be a whole heck of a lot busier than ours. Whatever day she says works for her, if we have appointments scheduled, I'll re-schedule them."
"Right, good idea." Sirius said. "Now where's that book … " He pawed through the desk drawers, looking for the letter writing guide book. He didn't normally have to consult the thing, long used to addressing letters to folks in the magical world. But writing the Queen was definitely not something he'd done much, and doing it badly might not displease her, but it was just plain bad manners when he had a book that told him how to do it right.
"There anything else we need to talk to her about, or ask her?" Sirius asked as he finally found the book and put it on the desktop.
"Maybe ask about setting up a fund on the muggle side for the victims? I know you've been doing what you can from our end, but having something not tied in any way to the magical world might be easier."
Sirius nodded. "Good idea. Maybe a dedicated orphanage, too. I know the kids are being absorbed into the existing system, but … "
Remus nodded, understanding what Sirius was getting at. The kids' situations were the fault of the Wizarding world, and they kind of owed them. They couldn't bring back the kids' parents, but they could damn well make sure the kids were well taken care of.
"It's worth bringing up. Even if the dedicated orphanage is a no-go, setting something up to ensure the orphans get taken care of would be necessary." Remus told Sirius.
"And I haven't got a clue what we'd need to do to set something like that up, Muggle-side." Sirius said with a nod.
Buckingham Palace, February 3, 1993
Queen Elizabeth had been pleased to receive a missive from Lord Black. She did not blame him for the current rash of attacks. The man had done all that was required of him and more to try to bring the conflict to a close. Never the less, she wished to speak with him.
As she had indicated, he was but one man. While he'd had a number of good ideas, and her own people had had further ideas, it was past time to conduct a thorough, in depth consultation to see if, perhaps, a way couldn't be found to end the conflict.
This being something of great importance to the Realm, the Queen arranged for Rifkind and as many officials from the various agencies that had a stake in this matter as could clear their schedule on such short notice. Given it was the Queen asking, there had been no demurals. There had been a surprise bow-out however, mere hours before the meeting would be taking place. The official in question's wife had gone into labor a week early. The Queen was not nearly so much a martinet that she would demand the man's attendance under such circumstances, and had given him leave to attend the birth of his child rather than still try to make the meeting.
They met in one of the more formal, less showy meeting rooms in the castle. This, after all, wasn't about pomp and circumstance. This was about getting the job done. Once everyone had greeted her properly and found their seats, the Queen spoke up.
"Lord Black, We would first tell you that We are not displeased with you, or the job you are doing. Attempting what you are, alone, is a monumental task, and one you have acquitted well. That said, the situation is becoming untenable. Our citizens are under threat, vulnerable to attack at any time. The forces We prepared and that you and your group had taught to deal with Our wayward Magical subjects cannot perform the task expected of them under the current conditions."
Sirius sighed. "No, they can't. Even we are having problems. We don't even find out something's happened until it's been over for hours, because Voldemort is hitting places where no magicals live. Which means we don't have a house elf presence in those areas to warn of danger."
"There is a bit of good news, though." Sirius said. "We finally have a real name to go with the man. One of the people I am acquainted with actually went to school with the man, before he went completely barking mad. There was an incident at the time, the specifics of which allowed us to identify Voldemort's true identity."
"What's the margin for error on that?" One of the men at the meeting asked.
"Zero percent." Sirius said. "Voldemort has an unusual magical ability. Well, unusual for the UK proper, anyway. There have only been two people with this ability in the last hundred years, and the other one is my godson."
That got nods.
"Interestingly, he had a presence on the non-magical side. He was born Tom Marvolo Riddle. His mother died, and he was placed in Wool's Orphanage sometime in the nineteen twenties, where he lived for the first eleven years of his life. I would be grateful if an investigation could be launched. Specifically, looking for any crimes associated with the orphanage in any way, or in the surrounding area, from nineteen twenty to nineteen sixty. It would, at worst, give us valuable information on the man, and at best, give us an even better idea of how he thinks and how he works."
There were several nods. "Profiling him does sound like it might help." Someone said. "Establish a pattern of behavior you can watch for. Though I'm curious as to why the long timeframe."
"Yeah, we've already had problems with that." Sirius said. "In the seventies, Riddle was … seriously unhinged. I'm not sure of the specifics other than he was definitely insane. Almost a textbook supervillain, in a lot of ways. Monologues and evil cackling included. But since his return, he's … well, saner. Not pulling the same grandstanding tactics he used in the latter days of his first attempt at ruling the magical world. It's driving everyone barmy trying to figure out what he's going to do next and whether or not we're going to be able to counter it. Really, the way things stand, we're stymied until he goes back to the big moves. Which he eventually will, because he can't conquer the magical world by conducting guerrilla strikes against purely non magical populations."
"As for why the long timeframe, from what we've discovered, Riddle disappeared sometime in the very late fifties. Where he went or what he did we haven't a clue, but it definitely wasn't anywhere here in the UK. So if he did anything to or at the orphanage, either as a resident or after, it would have to have been before that disappearance."
"No luck on locating him?"
"No. If we had or could suborn a house elf attached to one of his followers, we'd have him in a trice. As it stands, he's got wherever he is warded to the hilt. Enough so that none of the house elves we do have on tap can find him."
"What makes the difference?"
"House elves are bound to a particular Family." Sirius said, opting not to try to explain how the system worked for the Hogwarts elves. "Which allows them to find and get to all the members of that Family regardless of where they are or the wards around them. But they can't do that with anyone outside the Family. They locate magical humans by way of our magical cores, which are apparently as unique as fingerprints. Most elves, regardless of who they're bound to, have a list of people they 'know' and can go to. But only if that person isn't behind heavy duty wards."
"What about having them get a load of these terrorists' 'magical cores' and then nabbing them the moment they stick their heads out the door of wherever they're hiding."
"A good idea in theory, except non of the ones we have access to have an ID on the people we're wanting to find. And they can't get that ID without meeting the people first." Sirius said.
"And even if they could stumble across these people, they're dangerous and the elves would risk being spotted by any of their own kind that worked for the terrorists." Someone said. "And maybe caught and killed. Right, so that's that idea scuppered, at least until we get really flat-out desperate."
Sirius nodded. "I'm actually hoping you guys might have an answer to the problem. I know nonmagical people can't find magical places thanks to certain wards we put up, but I wonder if some of your tech might not be able to spot those places. After all, technology doesn't have a mind to fool."
"That … bears investigating." Someone agreed. "How would we go about it?"
"Well, I can give you the location of a couple places, provided no record is kept of their existence, whether you find them or not. Until we're ready to reintegrate, having information like that recorded somewhere might end up a disaster." Sirius said.
There were a number of nods.
"Right, if you come to our satellite control center, we can try and find these places."
That sounded like a plan to Sirius. "And if you guys can find our places … well, then it becomes a question of finding all the places and matching them up with places we know of. If one's showing activity it shouldn't, or there's an extra place hidden somewhere, well then, we have our terrorist hideout."
"And with it located, things get a lot easier." There was something in that man's tone that promised a 'training accident' with Her Majesty's Royal Air Force.
Not that it was a bad idea, Sirius reflected. One bomb and no more Death Eaters? That would be sweet. Sure, so long as he had at least one Horcrux, Voldemort wouldn't be killed but putting that big a dent in his army would slow his take over attempt to a crawl. Not to mention that without people to hide behind, it would be a whole heck of a lot easier to hunt Voldemort down, slap some magic restraining cuffs on the bastard, and pour truth serum down his throat to find out where the remaining horcruxes were.
Yeah. That kind of thing, Sirius could get behind. He was realist enough to know it wasn't going to happen that easily, but a guy could dream. Especially when doing it that way meant Harry would never have to face off against the bastard. The less Harry had to do with this mess, the more Sirius liked it.
"There's one other thing I'd like to ask about." Sirius said. "I know a lot of people have been deprived of homes, and several kids have become orphans. This is our fault, really, for not putting a stop to Riddle fast enough. I've set some stuff up magic-side to help the victims, but I was wondering about the feasibility of setting something up on the non-magical side. An orphanage, or at least a fund to allow the kids to go to their schools of choice, something to allow those who lost their homes to relocate without putting themselves in the poorhouse. That sort of thing."
The Queen nodded. "This is a good and needful thing. We are sure Our advisors can assist you in setting something up."
February 5, 1993
Sirius visited the satellite control center two days later. It was pretty impressive. And almost every bit of it was miles over his head. Pun fully intended. There were a lot of people in the room, even more computers, and a plethora of things that Sirius just didn't know what the heck it was or what it did.
"Right." The man in charge said. "Let's see if we can find hidden places."
Sirius grinned. "Right. Somewhere in the northeast Scottish Highlands, there's a castle." He said.
This, rather understandably, got him a dirty look. Given that there were something like two thousand castles in Scotland, there were at least a hundred, probably more, that were in the 'northeast highlands'.
"Point your little spy eyes to the area between Craigellachie and the coast." Sirius said, naming the town to the south and west of Hogwarts.
The man gave the necessary orders, and within the hour, a satellite was in position to get a good look at the area. The results were … interesting as hell. Because the equipment? Was insisting, very adamantly, that there was, in fact, a big, populated castle in that area. But any attempt to actually look, with human, non-magical eyes, and the screen Hogwarts was supposed to be on was empty, showing only the Forest and the lake and, according to the non magicals, the decrepit, tumbled-down husk of a castle. Which Sirius knew to be the 'cover' for Hogwarts.
He, on the other hand, could see Hogwarts on the screen as plain as day. He was betting squibs could, too, since most of them could see magical creatures and the like, they just couldn't cast spells at all. There were a lot of squibs in the UK. Many of whom were understandably angry at the wizarding world and might just be inclined to take a poke at the world that had rejected them.
And while the muggle-repelling wards obviously still worked even when seen through a whole bunch of filters, if these people listened to their machines instead of their eyes … yeah. It was a little worrying. Fortunately, the only person in the room that knew they were looking for a magical castle was the guy in charge.
Sirius had never before wished for Dumbledore (or better, Harry) level magical power before. But right now the urge to do one of those area-effect Obliviates that normally tool three or four Obliviators working in tandem to pull off was immense.
But he refused to be Dumbledore, manipulating people 'for the greater good'. Trust had to start somewhere, and where better than here? It was only one man who knew exactly what they were looking at/for. The others all thought they were taking a crack at some sort of anti-satellite technology. Which wards sort of were, so it wasn't even a lie, really.
Sirius kept his wand in its holster, and he and the guy in charge moved to the man's office, where no one would overhear them talking.
"Well, that was interesting. Mixed result, but if you got a squib in here, we could still check off all the places that are legitimate." Sirius said.
"Probably not worth it. I'm going to have a time of it redirecting some of the boys out there." The man said. "They like nothing better than a mystery. Eventually, they'll forget this, but not if they're constantly being asked to look for places that register on the machines but not with their eyes. They'll start asking really awkward question eventually."
"And we really don't want my world exposed right now. In a decade or so, after the memory of all this mess has faded a bit? Yeah, that might manage to not blow up in our faces. But right now? No. That would end badly. For everyone involved."
"Agreed." The man said. "So we let this lie, and try to find another way to find your terrorists. The sooner the better."
"We'll try to come up with something on our end." Sirius promised. "Don't know if we'll manage, but we'll try. As much as I hate to say it, we may have to wait for Riddle to lose patience and start back up with the big moves aimed at the magical community before we get anywhere. Those, at least, we'll be able to put a kibosh on right quick. House elves come in very handy."
"Sounds like." The man agreed. "Well, I'll let you go. You said something about an appointment to figure out what to set up and how for the victims of the attacks?"
"Yeah, in about half an hour actually. This took a bit longer than I anticipated." Sirius said.
The man nodded. "You better get going. Especially if you're traveling the non magical way. That can take some time."
"Nah, I intended to apparate to someplace close by." Sirius said. "There's a few likely spots where no one would notice me popping into existence."
"Have fun with that, then."