Well, here we go again. Enjoy!
Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor
Chapter 31: The Dark Lord at Bay
The dining table at Bones Manor was set up for dinner, but Harry didn't feel much like eating. It was very strange for him, sitting in that house. In some respects it was a very familiar place to him but in other ways it was completely alien. Slowly he had been viewing more and more memories from other people regarding his stay within the house that summer, but there were still gaps.
Naturally everyone providing him with memories was concerning themselves with providing what they thought of as being important first, which was fine by Harry – it made sense to make sure he knew all the important things first, but the gaps in between were disconcerting and this was made worse by the fact that he didn't really know what order events had happened in.
Of course, things were not helped by the fact that he didn't really know the people who were in the house with him. Oh, he knew of them and some he was more familiar with than others, but he didn't know them, even though he knew that he did know them once.
It was strange.
Stranger still was trying to deal with the fact that he had broken up with a girl whom he could not remember ever having a date with, until she provided her own memory of the event. He had been sad earlier, back in St Mungo's when she had told him she was being sent to school in India, but he was sad for the fact that he could not remember her enough to be saddened by her leaving – that had been taken away from him.
It was all so very confusing.
Susan and Hannah had tried their best to cheer him up, but even that was strange. Even though the memories shown to him had proven that he had developed a good friendship with both girls over the summer, that connection just wasn't there anymore. They had gone from being people he knew to being people he knew of.
"Harry, you've been twirling that strand of spaghetti on your fork for the last ten minutes."
He blinked and looked up to see that it was Sarah who had spoken. She, along with everyone else at the dinner table was watching.
"Sorry…" he muttered embarrassedly as set his fork down. "I'm just not all that hungry."
Just then green flames roared into life in the fire place and Amelia stepped out into the kitchen.
"Auntie!" exclaimed Susan, getting out of her seat and going to give her aunt a hug, glad that the woman was home from the Ministry.
"How was your day Amelia?" asked Sarah as one of the House Elves set a place at the dinner table for the owner of the house.
"Trying," replied Amelia, taking her bag off of her shoulder as she took her seat. A plate of spaghetti bolognaise appeared in front of her. "Between our searches of Hogwarts and our questioning of The Order of the Phoenix, the DMLE is stretched entirely too thinly."
Before she started eating she picked her bag up off the floor and opened it up. She pulled out a large collection of books, far too many to fit inside the bag normally, indicating that she had placed an expansion charm on the inside.
"These are yours, Harry," she explained, setting the last book on top of the pile and pushing them over to him.
Harry eyed them curiously and asked "What are they?"
"Property of the Potter family," Amelia replied. "They consist of grimoires written by generations of Potters. They explain much about the history of your family."
Harry frowned and picked the first book up of the pile, asking as he did so "Where did you find these?"
"They were discovered during a search of Dumbledore's office at Hogwarts," explained Amelia. "We don't know why he had them, but at a guess he took them to try and discover exactly what happened when you banished Lord Voldemort as an infant. Much of what happened that night is a complete mystery so it is likely that he was hoping that one of those books would contain some long forgotten piece of magic which your parents used to engineer Voldemort's defeat."
"Sounds about as likely as any other reason…" muttered Harry. "Any reason why he didn't return them to me? Aside from wanting to keep me in the dark about everything, I mean?"
By way of answer Amelia simply shrugged her shoulders.
Harry sighed disappointedly and then opened the book in his hands. Almost immediately his eyes lit up; "Hey, this one was written by my mother."
"It probably contains some of her notes for improving on existing potions and charms," said Sarah. "She got really into that around the start of fifth year."
Harry flipped through the book a few pages and said "Here's one; Draught of Living Death. Let's see… she says to crush the sopophorous bean instead of cutting it as it releases the juices better. Then she says that when stirring, you should add one clockwise stir after seven counter-clockwise stirs as this obtains the clear colour faster."
"I remember your mother working on that one at the start of sixth year." said Sarah.
Amelia leaned forwards and asked "Is it possible that Lily shared her research with anyone?"
"Well, she used to study with Snape, though they had stopped being friends by the time we started sixth year. I suppose it's possible that they had at least discussed possible improvements to that potion before they stopped talking to each other."
Amelia turned to Harry "See if your mother made any additions to the brewing of the Wiggenweld Potion. That's the usual counter to Draught of Living Death but healers have been having trouble waking Dolores Umbridge up from the dose she was given. If Snape brewed it using the methods your mother mentions in that book then the Healers may have to adjust their antidote."
"I don't think it matters if mum ever shared these with Snape herself," Harry commented as he began flipping through the book. "He and Dumbledore have had fourteen years to learn all of her research from this book, and every other Potter book besides."
"Which, by the way, constitutes a massive breach of family protocol," said Edward. "Books such as those should have been placed straight into a vault at Gringotts until Harry was of old enough to receive them."
"Believe me, Edward," said Amelia "we've already added it to the list of charges against Dumbledore. His crimes against The Noble and Ancient House of Potter alone could see him getting at minimum a lifetime sentence to the high security wing of Azkaban. Add in everything else he has done and he'll be lucky to escape a death sentence."
"I doubt that'll bother him too much," said Harry, not looking up from his mother's journal "He's prattled on several times to me about how "death is nothing but the next great adventure.""
"Sounds almost as if he was trying to convince you of that fact," observed Susan.
"With all that you guys have helped me remember these past few days, I'm inclined to agree…" muttered Harry before saying in a more excited tone "Aha! Here we are: The Wiggenweld Potion."
He set the book on the table and Read through the page of notes. "She says to add a pint and a half of Horklump juice instead of just a pint and to grind the Lionfish spines and Chizpurfle fangs into powder before adding either of them. Oh, and add two sprigs of mint instead of just the one."
"Can you write me out a copy of that Harry?" asked Sarah. "I've got an appointment this evening for a check-up. I can drop it over to the Healers looking after Umbridge them."
"Sure," agreed Harry before turning back to Amelia. "Have you heard anything more about the other students? The Patil twins are being sent to a school in India instead of going to Waxwings and waiting for Hogwarts to reopen."
"I haven't seen Griselda Marchbanks since early on this morning. However she already mentioned that the Changs are sending their daughter to study in one of the schools in China. Evidently her interest in you during your one week at Hogwarts this year was mostly down to a potion."
"Mostly?" asked Hannah in confusion.
"It magnified something that was already there," explained Amelia. "She already fancied Harry on some level, the potion she was under magnified that tenfold and lowered her inhibitions slightly."
"That explains her bold move on the train at the start of term…" observed Hannah.
Harry frowned and commented "I don't think I've seen that event yet."
"I'll share it later," said Hannah, who was grinning like a Cheshire cat "It's a good one, believe me."
As Hannah and Susan began giggling Harry shook his head and decided to ignore them. Turning back to Amelia he asked "Why would someone give Cho such a potion."
"To keep you occupied," supplied Amelia. "We've already questioned Snape on this matter. Dumbledore wanted you as distracted as possible this year. The lady who pushed the snack trolley on the train was placed under a compulsion charm and given a small phial of the potion. The moment Cho ordered something the witch discreetly laced with the potion. Evidently Miss Chang either has a significant amount of willpower or Snape brewed the potion incorrectly as it did not work as well as it should. According to Snape, Dumbledore was most upset when you arranged a date with Miss Patil instead of Miss Chang."
"Bastards," muttered Harry. "What about any other students?"
"Well, now that you mention it, there is a rather curious issue," began Amelia. "It seems that a number of students returned from Hogwarts only to find their families missing. Most of those students are now at the Ministry waiting for new homes to be sourced. Pansy Parkinson was invited to stay with the Greengrass family and the Nott boy went to stay with the Zabinis but there are at least a two dozen more that are still without homes to go to. Most interestingly, they all are members of families who you named as Death Eaters following the Third Task of the Tri Wizard Tournament."
Edward frowned and said "So you finally get your hands on dear old Severus and two dozen families just up and leave? Seems a bit suspicious doesn't it?"
"There are more than just two dozen," said Amelia. "The Malfoys are completely unaccounted for, including their son. Yaxley has no children but he too has disappeared. It seems our arrest of Snape as scared his old friends."
"What about Voldemort?" asked Harry, "Am I going to need to come clean and tell the truth about that?"
"Not now," answered Amelia. "While I'm reasonably sure that Cornelius will believe you if you reveal the truth now, if you change your story on that matter now you will seriously discredit yourself when The Order members are put on trial. We can still make preparations to combat Voldemort without discrediting you. The fact that Malfoy and the others have done a runner on us can be used to secure the DMLE more funding. Dumbledore being on the loose as well only adds to the practicality of me making such a request. We have people keeping an eye out for Death Eaters and Cyrus Greengrass and the Unspeakables are still working on Voldemort's Horcruxes. We do not know where Voldemort and his Death Eaters have gone so we cannot pursue them. We can, however, make sure that we are ready to fight them with everything we have should they ever make a return."
Harry gave a nod of understanding. He knew that he was not meant to have left that graveyard in Little Hangleton the night that Lord Voldemort was reborn. His escape had completely wrong-footed The Dark Lord, who was now remaining as quiet as possible so as to not draw attention. That the Ministry would be using that time to better prepare itself for the eventual confrontation was more than Harry could have hoped for. That Malfoy and his ilk had been driven into hiding and therefore could not use their wealth and influence to sway the Ministry's standing to something more to their favour was just an added bonus.
Albania, a country in South Eastern Europe had a handful of new residents that evening, though not one of the country's three million inhabitants knew it. Mount Korab was the highest mountain in Albania and inside a cave the Death Eaters and their leader had made their new base.
As the Death Eaters moved about the cave system, using their magic to expand small openings into vast rooms and to make their new lair habitable, their Lord and Master, Tom Riddle, the self-styled Lord Voldemort, sat alone in his newly constructed throne room pondering on recent events.
Although his retreat from Britain had been rather sudden, he had always known that it would be a possibility. Following his return to physical form, it had always been his intention to maintain a low profile for as long as possible, allowing him to quietly recruit more and more followers to his cause without raising the suspicions of the Ministry.
The arrest of Severus Snape had changed everything.
Voldemort did not yet fully understand exactly what had happened that night when Severus was arrested. However, he did know that whatever it was had seemingly forced Dumbledore to go on the run. That last bit should have been excellent news – The great Albus Dumbledore, out of the Ministry, out of Hogwarts, out of society, but it wasn't.
With Dumbledore out of the picture, any protection that Snape may have had from the Ministry was now gone. Dumbledore either did not realise or did not care to think on the fact that his keeping Severus Snape out of the clutches of the Ministry was in fact doing Voldemort a very great service. Snape knew much, and Dumbledore had gone to great lengths to keep Snape out of the Ministry's clutches.
Many Death Eaters, such as Avery, Crabbe and Macnair, had faced trial for their part in Death Eater activities, but had ultimately been let go on the basis of there not being enough information to convict them. Had Snape ever been questioned by the Ministry, the outcomes of many of those trials could have been vastly different and that would have been disastrous for the Dark Lord.
And now Voldemort was faced with the very real prospect of that potential disaster becoming a reality. Snape was caught by the Ministry and was slowly and methodically being pumped for information without the protection of Albus Dumbledore to save him.
Faced with the prospect of many of his followers being rounded up and shoved into Azkaban, or worse sentenced to the Dementor's kiss, Voldemort had taken the only course of action that he felt was available to him and retreated entirely from the British Isles, taking with him every Death Eater who still roamed free, along with their families.
Now that he considered it, such an action was not as bad as it seemed. Here in the mountains of Albania they were well hidden and few would think to look for them there. The Albanian Ministry of Magic had its own problems to deal with and Voldemort was certain that he and his followers could operate without arousing suspicion.
The major downside of his decision to retreat was that the order had come too soon for some, forcing multiple families to abandon any children they had attending Hogwarts. The only Hogwarts-aged wizard amongst them was Draco Malfoy, who had been at home when the order to retreat had come. Other families, such the Crabbes, the Goyles, the Notts, the Parkinsons, the Bullstrodes, the Puceys, the Vaseys, the Flints, the Carrows, the Bletchleys and the Montagues had all left at least one child behind, much to their consternation.
To Voldemort's mind this was unfortunate, as each of those children would have information that could be extracted by the Ministry, but there was nothing that could be done about it now. He had never personally bothered with keeping tabs on the offspring of his followers until such a time as they could join him, but all in all he believed that the early retreat had cost him between twenty and thirty wands. With his forces as depleted as they were he was far from happy with such a loss but, again, it was too late to change that. Already he had branded the spouses and older offspring of his Death Eaters with the Dark Mark and for now that would have to be enough.
Of course there were a few other downsides as well. Fenrir Greyback and the Werewolves who followed him had been left behind, but they would have to wait it out. Then there was Scabior and the other lowlifes and petty criminals of the seedy underside of society. While they certainly had their uses, Voldemort had never marked any of them and never even considered including them the order to retreat. In all honesty it was just as well that they remained in Britain, out of the way.
Also left behind were the Dementors of Azkaban and the prisoners whom they guarded. Voldemort had been able to make contact with the guards of the wizarding prison but so far talks had been relatively fruitless. Again, for the time being, the Dementors and their prisoners would just have to sit tight until such a time as Voldemort was able to come for them.
Of course, there were benefits too. It would be much easier to recruit new followers from Albania than from Britain. The country they were in had its own collection of dark and shady characters, all of whom could easily be persuaded to join Voldemort and his cause.
Then there were the creatures. Macnair was already off recruiting the Giants to their cause, but from their new location it would be easy to recruit others: Trolls, Hags, Ogres, Vampires, Ghouls and possibly even Dwarves, if they could be persuaded. And, of course, there were Werewolves out here as well.
Then there were the other creatures to consider, Lethifolds, Nundu, Manticores, Yetis, Occamies, Sphinxes, Dragons and many other terrifying monsters all of whom could be brought in secret to join Voldemort's cause.
On top of that, there were many other guaranteed recruits all over the world. The Malfoy family for one had originated in France and the family was still fairly prominent there today. There were also Malfoys in Canada, the U.S, Germany and many other countries. Malfoys from around the world had provided a certain amount of financial backing to his first campaign for power, but this time he would make sure that they were more active participants. The same went for the Lestrange, Dolohov, Rowle and any other foreign relation of his followers. It was time that they all brought their wands to the war and united under his banner once and for all.
Only that way could they dominate the world as they so desired.
Of course, Antonin Dolohov and Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange being locked up in Azkaban did present him with the slight problem of no longer having a decent in-road with those families but for now that could not be helped. Those families would have to wait. In the meantime Voldemort planned to meet with Lucius Malfoy and Thorfinn Rowle the following morning to request that they visit their cousins.
Names like Malfoy, Rowle, Dolohov and Lestrange had been associated with a different Dark Lord fifty years previously and members of those families bore a significant grudge against Wizarding Britain for their interference in a war that Gellert Grindelwald had never intended to allow to spill over onto British soil. To their minds the British Ministry had interfered in a war that had nothing to do with them and they hated Britain for it. Of course, they rather conveniently overlooked the fact that the Muggle side of the War, as led by Adolf Hitler, had spread to Britain, causing much death and destruction, thus forcing the British Ministry to act.
But in especial they loathed Albus Dumbledore, the man who had stepped in just as they were about to seize victory and defeated Grindelwald in a duel to surrender.
Voldemort was certain that he could harness that hatred and use it to achieve his own ends. It had worked well enough in getting the Pure-blood Elitists of Britain to do his bidding, so it would work just as well here.
Contrary to popular belief, Lord Voldemort was not a blood-purist. All in all he barely cared what a person's parentage was so long as they knew their place and did as they were told. Oh, and they had to be capable of performing magic, that bit was important to him as well.
The fact was, the Blood Purists were the easiest group to manipulate into doing his bidding. All he had to do was spout off about killing mudblood upstarts and blood traitors, pruning family trees to ensure purity remained and ensuring that the pure bloods ruled the roost as they were entitled to and the Blood Purists bent over backwards to do whatever he wanted of them. They were so easily manipulated, it was almost disgusting.
But if there was one thing that Lord Voldemort was good at, it was taking someone's anger and stirring it up until it boiled over before pointing them at his intended targets.
He was certain that within a year he would have forces at his command which dwarfed that which he had had during his first attempt to seize power.
When he finally did return, Wizarding Britain would not know what hit it.
The rumble of thunder echoed through the air as another storm passed over the North Sea. Winds blew, clouds swirled and rain hammered down as the sea below churned about. Great waves roiled across the surface of the freezing waters to brake against the rock of Azkaban Island. Thunder rumbled, lightning flashed, a wave smashed against stone and weakness in a cliff face gave out. A great crack split open, another wave slammed against it and it broke away, sliding, falling, toppling before crashing into the sea below, taking with it at least twenty graves containing the remains of some of those who had died in their cells within the large stone prison that stood prominently in the centre of the island.
In the East Wing Guard Room Simon Alton shoved another two logs onto the fire in the fireplace and stoked it up until the flames were roaring away, providing a nice contrast to the storm outside and the fog that permeated throughout the rest of the prison.
Over to one side Benny Cram took four cups out of a cupboard and popped a teabag and a spoonful of sugar into each one before joining Simon by the fire. He set the cups down on a small, wooden table before sitting himself down in his armchair. Simon sat himself down in the one next to him, picking up a copy of The Daily Prophet as he did so.
Benny glanced over and got a look at the headline on the front page, which read
EXPOSED: THE CULT OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE!
"What do you reckon about all this regarding Dumbledore?" Benny asked.
Simon closed the newspaper to look at the front page. He snorted and replied "It's long overdue, I reckon. Even when I was at Hogwarts there was somethin' about Dumbledore that set my teeth on edge. Of course, he was only the Deputy Headmaster back then…"
Behind them the door to the room opened wide, allowing Alexa Dedworth and Jerry Findlater to enter. They had been doing one final patrol of the East Wing of the prison before settling down for the night
"Well, everyone's down for the night," said Alexa. "No problems to report."
"Just what I like to hear," replied Simon.
"Cor, I'm ruddy freezin'!" complained Jerry. "Is the tea ready?"
"Kettle's almost boiled," said Benny.
While every prisoner in the East Wing of Azkaban may have turned in for the night, up in the maximum security wing, one prisoner was still active.
She held her left forearm up to her face and ran her tongue along the skin, licking away the grime and dirt that had accumulated there over the month since she had last been hosed down. Satisfied with her cleaning, she slapped the back of her arm against the heavy wooden door and waited, gazing up at her arm longingly.
A few moments later she was rewarded when lightning flashed outside and a narrow strip of light filtered through the tiny window of her cell. It wasn't much but years spent inside that cell had helped her see clearly in less light.
To her disappointment, when Bellatrix Lestrange saw the Dark Mark tattooed onto her arm, it was faded, nothing like it had been the last time she had been lucid enough to look at it. She knew that her beloved Dark Lord had arisen once again; she felt it through her mark every time he summoned the Death Eaters to him. What's more, she knew it in her heart.
The Dark Lord was back, he was once again going to make his war on the Ministry and this time Bellatrix knew that he would succeed. He would. She knew it.
She had hoped that he would come for her, but it had been over three months now since the mark had first flared to its most painful and yet he had still not come for her.
But he would. She knew he would. She was his favourite, after all. She was his most loyal. She had gone to Azkaban in order to prove herself to him, to prove her loyalty to him and their cause. She knew that her idiot brother – in – law Lucius Malfoy could not say as much, nor could that coward Severus Snape.
There was no way her Lord could run his campaign without her by his side, she told herself. So why had he not come for her? And why was her mark more faded than last time? Was he further away from her now? Had something happened that had caused him to leave? To abandon her?
No, she would not think like that. Lord Voldemort had returned and this time he would be victorious, she was sure of it. And it would be she who would rule at his side, the High Lord and Lady who held dominion over all things.
Yes… Lord Voldemort would come for her and they would win… together…
Cecilia Greengrass walked down the hallway on the second floor of Greengrass Manor, intending to check in on her daughters before turning in for the night herself.
Gently she opened the door to the bedroom of her eldest daughter Daphne. As the light from the hallway filtered into the room it illuminated Daphne who was sound asleep in her bed, a book lying open on her bed side table.
Satisfies, Cecilia shut the door and checked on her other daughter, Astoria. Finding the younger girl to be asleep also, she turned to head up to the room she shared with her husband, only to pause as she heard a voice muttering to itself from a room a little further down the hall. She went to investigate.
Inside that room she found their guest, Pansy Parkinson, wide awake and sitting at the desk in the room. Balled up pieces of parchment, several broken quills and three empty inkpots littered the floor around her as the girl muttered to herself.
"Pansy?" asked Cecilia as she moved further into the room. "Is everything alright?"
Surprised at the woman's sudden appearance, Pansy turned around to face her. "Oh, hello Mrs Greengrass. I didn't hear you come in."
"I noticed," replied Cecilia, sitting herself down on the edge of the bed. "What's got you up at this late hour?"
Pansy ran a hand over her face in frustration before replying "I've been trying to write a letter to my Uncle to ask if he'll take me in. Don't get me wrong, you and Mr Greengrass have been gracious hosts and I sincerely thank you for it, but I don't want to impose upon you forever."
"Quite understandable," replied Cecilia. "So what seems to be giving you trouble?"
"Dad and my Uncle never got on and I barely even know that side of my family. It feels really weird to be writing to him like this, and I just can't find the right words."
"Pansy you are welcome to stay here for a long as you need. Astoria told us of how you got her out of the castle when Dumbledore made his move and for that you have my gratitude and that of my husband. However if you do want to go and live with your uncle and his family then we will do nothing to stop you. As for writing your letter, the only thing that I can really suggest is that you be completely truthful. Whether the letter is formal or informal ultimately does not matter, if you aren't truthful then it may very well come back to bite you one day. And then where will you be?"
Pansy nodded her head. "I understand. Thank you."
Cecilia smiled and got to her feet. "Don't stay up too late, ok?"
"Ok," agreed Pansy and watched as the older woman left.
Once the door had been shut, Pansy turned back to the desk in front of her.
"Be truthful…" she said to herself before pushing the piece of parchment that she had been writing on to one side and taking a new, blank sheet before picking up her quill, dabbing it into her ink pot and beginning to write.
This time the words just flowed out of her and onto the page with ease.
It was after midnight that the large black dog slunk out of his cave in the mountains and made his was down towards the village of Hogsmeade. He had planned on waiting a couple of days before heading back into the village for information but in the end his need for knowledge had outweighed his reservations about entering the village.
Every light in the village was out and even the Three Broomsticks had closed up for the night. He still stuck to the shadows of the houses though, only venturing into the middle of the street when he absolutely had to. The chance of getting caught was still too great.
His first stop was at the Post Office. He knew from his previous stay on the outskirts of the village that any copies of The Daily Prophet that were not sold in the Post Office were bundled up in string and left on the front step under charms that protected them from the weather, ready for a House Elf owned by the newspaper to pick up first thing in the morning.
Padfoot found the bundle for that day and used his teeth to bite through the string before taking the topmost copy into his mouth and letting it land on the floor.
Above him a cloud moved, allowing moonlight to illuminate the village below. By the light of that moon, Padfoot saw the headline on the front page of the newspaper and in his shock he reverted back to human form.
Sitting on the steps of the Post Office he held up the newspaper and stared at the front page.
EXPOSED: THE CULT OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE!
Beneath that banner headline were thirty or more photographs of various witches and wizards, all of whom Sirius knew to be either members of the Order of the Phoenix or a member of staff within Hogwarts Castle – Albus Dumbledore, Alastor Moody, Kingsley Shacklebolt, Aberforth Dumbledore, Arthur Weasley, Molly Weasley, Bill Weasley, Mundungus Fletcher, Sturgis Podmore, Filius Flitwick, Severus Snape…
Sirius' stomach gave a lurch when he saw his own photograph added into the mix. If there was anything that was going to bang the final nail into the coffin of The Order it was his image mixed in with the rest of them on the front page of the national newspaper.
He opened the paper to the second page and was relieved to see that Albus had escaped and that Remus and Hagrid were still unaccounted for but apart from them, Sirius was the only other member of The Order of the Phoenix to not be in Ministry custody.
His eyes were just scanning the paper in an attempt to discover what had provoked the Ministry into taking this course of action when he heard a voice hiss "Stupefy!"
For a split second he saw a flash of red as the magic of the stunning spell raced through the air and slammed into his side, and then the world went black as he slumped over on the step of the Post Office.
Auror John Dawlish lowered his wand and turned to his partner Bertram Savage. "Get Bones here," he ordered "Now."
A/N: Thanks for reading!
Coming next, Chapter 32: The Fate of the Order of the Phoenix.