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Harry Potter and the Conspiracy of Blood by CambAngst
Chapter 13 : The Silliest Thing I’ve Ever Heard
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 23


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As always, the characters herein belong solely to JK Rowling.

 




Harry nodded to the pair of Obliviators waiting by the entrance to the muggle morgue as he entered. They had been selectively modifying the memories of the muggle police and medical examiners. None of the muggles would recall the steady stream of people in odd clothes who came and went throughout the day. In a case where there was already a police record of an apparent murder, the Ministry preferred to leave the body in the custody of the muggle authorities if possible. It allowed the Obliviators to operate with a lighter touch, altering fewer records and memories and reducing the likelihood of mistakes.


Justin was waiting for him inside the doors and turned to escort Harry to the back. He flicked his wand slightly at the guard working the front desk, causing the man’s eyes to momentarily glaze over as they passed. Harry silently cast a protective charm over his face to prevent the smell from reaching him. He hated the smell of morgues. It reminded him of the Great Hall on the day of the battle.


They entered an autopsy room where Marcus Flint’s body lay on a cold, metal table, covered by a white sheet. A medical examiner sat at a table in the corner of the room filling out paperwork, totally oblivious to the three wizards. Justin nodded to the Auror investigator standing by the body.


“He was struck by the killing curse, center of his chest,” the investigator explained. “We couldn’t find any other injuries, magical or otherwise. We have the wand profile already and we’re checking to see whether it matches anything from the recent attacks. The muggles estimated the time of death as Wednesday, but it’s a good bet he’s been dead for longer. Dark magic tends to interfere with the decomposition of a body.”


“They found him in a rubbish bin in an alley in the bad part of London,” Justin added. “There were traces of muggle-repelling charms around it, but they were faint. Around a week old, I’d guess. The muggle garbage man who normally empties that bin decided to skip it on Tuesday, so the details fit. The only magical item in the bin with him was this.” He handed a slightly damp book to Harry. Gilderoy Lockhart’s normally happy visage seemed more than a little upset about the condition of the book around him. Harry would have found his plight amusing if the whole situation weren’t so grim.


“Any traces of magic on it?” Harry asked.


“Yes,” Justin responded, “but nothing out of the ordinary. It looks like somebody cast a series of revealing and illuminating charms. No dark magic that we could find.”


“How about fingerprints?”


Justin smiled at him. “We thought of that, too. The only prints we could identify belonged to Flint. There were others, but unfortunately there aren’t a whole lot of wizards with prints in the muggle computer system.”


“Keep copies of them just in case,” Harry said as he started to hand the book back to Justin. At the last second, he reconsidered. “There’s somebody I want to show this to. Did Flint have any next of kin?”


“His father died in Azkaban after the war and his mother passed away about twenty years ago,” Justin replied. “He has some cousins from his mother’s side of the family, but that’s as close as it gets.”


Harry shrugged. “Notify the cousins. If they don’t want to claim him then let the Muggle Liason Office know that they’ll need to come get the body after the muggles close their investigation.”


“Are we going with the standard cover story for the muggle authorities?”


Harry nodded. “He fell into the rubbish bin and had a heart attack. Case closed.”


Harry left Justin to complete their work and hurried back outside. As soon as he exited the building he took a deep breath, enjoying the cool autumn air. After taking a few moments to shake off the grimness of the morgue, he studied the book in his hand. It appeared to be about the correct width, but he needed to be sure. He summoned a mental image of the front gate of Malfoy Manor, turned and disapparated.
 





Percy slipped quietly through the front door of the comfortable London townhouse that he shared with his wife. The word “shared” seemed especially appropriate of late, since they rarely saw each other there. Percy had spent the previous night in the flat over George’s Hogsmeade store after staying out late to see a local wizarding band perform at the Three Broomsticks. He had been the only wizard over the age of forty at the show; the only one over twenty-five, if he was being completely forthright with himself. But something about the energy of the young crowd was exhilarating to him, and by the time the second encore ended he thought that it was far too late to come home. George had decided years ago that it was too much of a bother to take a tenant for the apartment over the store. This was a godsend for Percy, sparing him the trouble and potential embarrassment of renting out a room.


He hoped that he had timed his arrival correctly. Audrey usually went to brunch with her sister on Sunday mornings. If she stuck to form, he would be able to shower, change into fresh robes and be out the door to meet Arabela for lunch before she returned. As he made his way up the stairs, he pondered why he kept avoiding his wife. He didn’t dislike her. In fact, he still loved her dearly. There were certain conversations that he simply didn’t want to have at this exact moment in his life. Audrey always wanted to talk about the period of introspection that he was going through. More to the point, she wanted to talk about how much longer it was going to take and when their life would return to what she considered normal. In his heart, Percy wasn’t sure that he could go back to that version of normality. But that was going to be a long and difficult conversation and at the moment, as the young people would say, Percy couldn’t deal.


He turned the corner into their bedroom and found himself face to face with his wife. There was a moment of awkward silence where neither one spoke.


“Hello, Percy,” Audrey said. Her face betrayed no emotion, but he could hear longing in her voice. “I didn’t hear you come in.”


“Oh, well, I was just feeling quiet this morning, I suppose,” he mumbled. He didn’t want to look into her eyes. He was worried about the feelings he might find there.


“You didn’t come home last night.”


“No, I didn’t,” he replied, feeling more and more uncomfortable. “The show ended so late, I didn’t want to risk waking you. I stayed in George’s loft in Hogsmeade.”


She stared back at him, her unbelieving eyes piercing his chest. He noticed a slight quiver in her lower lip. This was a very bad sign. Audrey wasn’t given to showing her emotions unless she had something very serious on her mind.


“Percy, we need to talk,” she said quietly.


He gave her his best charming smile. “Yes, dear, we certainly do. But I have an appointment to keep at lunchtime. Could we talk in the afternoon? Perhaps over tea?”


“It’s Sunday,” she said incredulously. “Percy, I’m your wife. I think you can postpone a lunch meeting if it helps to start sorting things out between us.”


“Oh. I wasn’t aware that there was anything to be sorted out,” he replied, feeling his body tense. He wasn’t sure where the conversation was heading, but he didn’t like the sound of it. He started to feel overwhelmed. Trapped.


“Percival, you know very well that we have a great deal to sort out.” Her voice was starting to rise. The quiver in her lower lip was no longer subtle. Her eyes were pleading. “You never sleep in our bed any more. Your grandchildren tell me that they miss their Poppy. I miss you, Percy! What do I have to do to get you to come home?”


The conflict was tearing him apart inside. Part of him needed to rush across the room, to pull her into a warm embrace. He wanted to beg for her forgiveness and promise that things would be good again. But another part needed to flee, to get away from this terrible, confining situation that threatened to smother him. In the end, he did neither.


“Dear, I promised the Minister’s secretary that I would meet her for lunch. I promise you that I will come home this afternoon and we will talk for as long as you like.”


“So this is what it’s come to?” she asked as tears welled in her eyes. “You can’t spare an afternoon away from Arabela Dynt to try to salvage our marriage?”


This time, Percy did take two steps closer to her. “Audrey, dear, please don’t talk like that. I’ve told you many times, Arabela is just a friend. And I don’t think our marriage needs to be salvaged. I love you dearly for how understanding you’ve been while I try to sort myself out. I know it’s been very hard on you and the rest of the family, and I promise that I will make it all up to you as soon as I figure things out. There’s a conference on international magical law in Australia in January. Why don’t we see whether Molly and Lucy can pull the younger children out of school for a few days and we’ll all go together?”


She just stared at him, with tears running down her cheeks. “That’s your answer? Drag the whole family halfway around the world on a so-called holiday where you’ll spend all your time working? I don’t know what to say, Percy. Ponder this while you’re lunching with your ‘dear friend’ Arabela: is this marriage something you still want? When you’re ready to talk, you know where to find me.”


She stormed out of the room, wiping the tears away. Percy stood in the same spot for a long moment, stunned, as he listened to her footsteps recede down the stairs. His heart desired nothing more than to chase her down as fast as his legs could carry him. To confess all his feelings to her. To make her love him again. But the part of him that couldn’t bear to be suffocated by her sadness and need kept his feet still as surely as though they were nailed to the floor. And his heart hated the rest of him for being so weak.

 




Harry knocked on the hastily repaired front doors of the Malfoy house, noticing that the curse burns around the door frame were still prominent. He waited for several minutes, surveying the gardens in front of the house. The damage looked worse in the light of day than he remembered, but he didn’t think his memory from that night was completely reliable. Harry turned and knocked on the doors again.


“Kriffin? It’s me, Harry Potter. I need to ask you some more questions about the attack on your master’s home.”


After another long pause, the door opened just a crack. The elf peered out at Harry, looking miserable and ashamed. “Kriffin will answer Harry Potter’s questions.”


“May I come in?” Harry asked. There was nothing odd about house elves behaving oddly. Still, Kriffin’s reluctance made Harry uneasy.


The elf stared back at him, looking as though he couldn’t decide what to do. Finally, he opened the door for Harry and flung himself on the floor, pounding his face against the marble tiles.


“Kriffin is a terrible, terrible elf!” he wailed. “Shameful! Shameful to show Master’s house to Harry Potter in such a state!”


Harry dropped to a crouch and caught the elf’s head just as he was about to deliver another blow to the floor. The inside of the house looked considerably better than the last time he’d been there. Everything had been restored to its proper place and all of the dust and debris had been cleared, but there were scorch marks all over the walls and ceiling and dark craters marked the spots along the hallway where the lamps were once located.


“Kriffin, it’s alright,” Harry soothed. “I’m not offended. I am a bit curious as to why the damage hasn’t been repaired.”


The elf looked at him mournfully, then attempted to launch himself backwards towards a vacant section of floor. Harry managed to catch his ankle, preventing him from unleashing a new torrent of abuse on his head. Realizing he was trapped, the elf broke into sobs. “Kriffin cannot repair it,” he cried. “Elfin magic cannot mend what dark magic has destroyed.”


Harry reckoned that me might live to be older than Dumbledore and not learn all there was to know about house elves. He slowly set the blubbering elf back on his feet and tried to calm him. “Kriffin, let me give you the name of a witch I know. She specializes in purging dark magic. The Auror Department has used her for years to help clean up crime scenes.”


Tears continued to stream from Kriffin’s bulbous eyes as he stared miserably at Harry. “Harry Potter is too kind. Kriffin does not deserve such kindness. But Kriffin cannot use Harry Potter’s help. Master no longer has...” The elf stopped in mid-sentence and began to sob again. He opened his mouth wide and grabbed his tongue, then began to pull as if he were trying to tear it out of his head. Harry grabbed his arms and forced him back against a wall so that he couldn’t stretch his tongue any farther.


As he wrestled to keep Kriffin from hurting himself, Harry tried to parse the elf’s last statement. What was it that Malfoy no longer had? The answer dawned on him as he managed to get Kriffin to release his tongue.


“Kriffin,” Harry began, pondering how to word the question. He knew from Kreacher and Hermys that a house elf, once bonded to a house, could not reveal its master’s secrets. “Would it help your master if I were to pay for the cleaning witch to purge the dark magic from his home?”


The elf nodded slightly, looking guilty.


“Then consider it done. You don’t need to mention this to your master. It will be our secret.”


The elf looked relieved. “Kriffin was always told that Harry Potter was the kindest wizard in all the world,” he said quietly. “That he was the best friend of the house elves. Kriffin now believes this.”


Harry smiled at the elf earnestly. “Kriffin, my kindness to the elves has been repaid a hundred times over. Now, I came here to ask a favor. Can you tell whether this is the book that was taken from your master’s study?”


Harry pulled the weather-damaged copy of Magical Me from his robes. Kriffin’s eyes widened as soon as he saw it.


“Master’s book! Harry Potter has returned Master’s book! Harry Potter is truly the kindest wizard of all. Oh, happy day! Master will be so pleased that his book has been returned.”


“Um, yes,” Harry managed. “I’m sure your master will be, uh, thrilled to have this back. You’re absolutely sure that it’s the same book?”


“Yes,” Kriffin replied with complete certainty. “There is no doubt.”


Harry stared at the elf, weighing a number of emotions. He finally settled on rage. A good man with a family had died and another clung to life by a thread, all so that somebody could steal a worthless copy of Gilderoy Lockhart’s pompous, gasbag autobiography and then toss it into the rubbish.


“Thank you, Kriffin,” Harry said abruptly, rising to his feet. “I appreciate your help. We’ll need to keep this book a little while longer for evidence, but I’ll be sure that it is returned to your master as soon as our investigation is complete. I’ll send the cleaning witch straight away.”


Harry turned and left the house without another word. He grew angrier and angrier as he stalked towards the gates. It was all so senseless, so unnecessary. So much destruction and killing over a journal that might not even exist. He looked at Gilderoy Lockhart, who was fruitlessly trying to cleanse the mildew from his picture. Harry tossed the book into the air in disgust.


CONFRINGO. He poured is anger and frustration into the curse and the book went off like a bomb. Smoldering shreds of parchment rained onto the fallen leaves as the explosion echoed off of the nearby hills. Harry took a deep breath and regained control of his emotions. It occurred to him that he’d be purchasing a new copy of Magical Me.


“Dammit.”


Then he turned and disapparated.

 




“Audrey, there’s no point in beating around the bush,” Percy began, donning the most earnest look he could muster. “I’ve been acting like a fool and you and the kids deserve better than this. It’s time I grew up and acted my age. Let’s talk about what we need to do to make everything right again.”


Percy’s reflection stared back at him from the mirror over the sink and he decided that he was happy with the way he had delivered the words. After finishing his lunch with Arabela, he felt completely clear on what he needed to do. He had nearly broken down when he told her about Audrey’s ultimatum. Far from being sympathetic, Arabela had given him the royal what for that he knew he deserved. That was part of what he liked about Arabela. She was always completely forthright with him, no matter the topic. Percy wished he could remember more of the things she had said to him. He was sure he was forgetting some gems that he could work into his conversation with Audrey.


He took a deep breath and walked out of the men’s room, heading for the front door of the little cafe. Arabela had some urgent bit of business to tend to for the Minister, so she had bid him farewell as soon as he settled the check. The late afternoon sun helped to ease the chill of the autumn breeze as he made his way towards a nearby alley. He heard voices coming from a pub across the street and felt a sudden yearning to see what was happening inside. The muggles were probably watching a football match, which always fascinated Percy. He forced himself to ignore the pub and went over the words once more in his mind. They suddenly sounded a lot less sincere. He wished that Arabela was there to give him one more pep talk, but he would have to make do with the encouragement she’d already given him. He ducked into the alley and disapparated home.

 




Ron stood at the door to Hermione’s study, marvelling at the spectacle of organization and efficiency laid out before his eyes. She had catalogued all the documents from the Stoops murder file, sorted them by topic, cross-referenced them by author and constructed a timeline. She had also enchanted a miniature diorama of the muggle jail based on the crime scene photos and witness accounts. At the moment, miniature Percy was paused outside of the last cell on the row, pointing his wand at miniature Edwin Stoops. Ron was very impressed. The Aurors had a similar setup for reconstructing crime scenes, but it was the product of decades of carefully applied enchantments. She had made hers in less than a day. In spite of his awe, he had to suppress a strong urge to squash miniature Edwin Stoops under his thumb.


“This is bloody brilliant,” he said softly, moving to sit on the arm of her chair as she magically sorted and reorganized the catalog of documents to suit her. “If the investigators had this four years ago, they probably would have solved the case in a day.”


Hermione snorted at him. “Not with this file, they wouldn’t.”


Ron gave her a puzzled look. “Why not? ‘Mione, this is amazing. What else could they want?”


“Well, for starters, how about the pieces that are...”


“...missing?” Harry completed her sentence an instant before he appeared in the doorway, causing both of the Weasleys to start and reach for their wands.


“Sorry,” he said, raising his empty palms. “Didn’t mean to startle you, but your floo was open and nobody was in the living room so I decided to drop in.”


“Blimey, Harry! You’re gonna give somebody a coronary,” Ron complained, lowering himself back onto the arm of Hermione’s chair. “What have you been at today?”


“I started out at a Quidditch match and ended up at the morgue,” Harry replied glumly. In response to their alarmed looks, he went on. “Flint’s dead. Somebody hit him with the killing curse and dumped him into a rubbish bin. The book he stole from Malfoy was in there, too. It’s nothing, just more rubbish.”


“Then the whole attack was what, for show?” Ron asked irritably.


Harry shrugged his shoulders. “Unless somebody just has it in for Malfoy, that’s how it looks.”


“So Harry,” Hermione said, turning the subject back to the documents on her desk, “you knew this file was incomplete?”


“I suspected,” Harry admitted. “But I wanted you to look at it with fresh eyes and make sure that I hadn’t missed anything.”


“If you missed anything, then I missed it as well,” she replied.


“And that isn’t bloody likely,” Ron added, gesturing at the meticulously organized files in front of her.


Harry whistled softly as he took in Hermione’s work. “Hermione, this is amazing.” She beamed at the two of them, revelling in her renewed feelings of usefulness. “So tell me, what do you think is missing?”


She surveyed the neat piles of documents spread across her desk and summoned a sheet of parchment to her hand. “First and most important, I’d say, is the report from the Auror who did the assessment of the jail cell. I see references to it all over the place but the report itself is missing. I also can’t find the notes from the muggle detectives who interrogated Stoops after they caught him or the witness statements from the muggles who heard the shots and found...” Hermione paused and her eyes softened as she looked at Harry. “The ones who found Ginny and Octavia.”


Harry turned slightly away from her. A long moment of silence followed. Harry found himself staring venomously at miniature Edwin Stoops. He fought back an impulsive need to blast the diorama into bits.


“I don’t get it,” Ron said, trying to change the subject. “Why would somebody remove part of a file that was going to be locked up in the Minister’s office anyway?”


A fourth voice came from the doorway, causing all three of them to jump. “Maybe they didn’t want the Minister to see what they were removing?”


Luna appeared in the doorway at the same instant that Harry’s wand snapped into his hand. Without thinking, he pointed it at the center of her chest. He quickly caught himself and lowered his arm, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, Luna. You just startled us.”


Luna regarded them from the doorway, seeming unconcerned. Her long, blond hair was mixed with streaks of grey, a look that Harry found flattering for witches her age. Her large eyes retained the childlike wonder that made her at once endearing and frustrating. She was wearing a pair of large hoop earrings with a hand-painted toucan perched in each one. Her husband Rolf had sent them to her while on an expedition in the Brazilian Amazon. Sadly, he never returned from that expedition.


“Are we still having tea, Hermione?” Luna asked. “I tried calling out through the floo, but there was no answer, so I just came in.”


Realization dawned on Hermione and she scrambled to organize the documents covering her desk. “Luna, I am so sorry. I got caught up in what we were doing and I completely forgot. Please help yourself to a seat in the living room. I’ll be there in just a moment.”


As soon as Luna disappeared from the doorway, Hermione looked at Ron and hissed “Will you please close the bloody floo?” In a more cordial voice, she said, “Harry, would you be a dear and make tea while Ron helps me to the living room?”


“Sure,” he chuckled, turning to head towards the kitchen.


“Harry, wait,” Ron whispered. “Do you think it’s OK if she knows?”


Harry considered the question for a moment. “It’s Luna,” he replied quietly. “She would never intentionally betray us. And if she were to let something slip, would it really matter? I love her dearly and all, but she could walk around shouting the incantation to turn lead into gold and most people wouldn’t pay her any mind.”


Several minutes later, Harry carried a tray of tea and biscuits into the living room where the others sat enjoying the low fire.


“So that’s where things sit,” Hermione was saying. “I feel much better physically but I just can’t get over this mental block about the wheelchair.”


“I understand,” Luna replied, accepting a cup of tea. “Once, when I was young, father developed a paralyzing fear of Imperceptible Dragon Mites. First he refused to walk on carpet or come into contact with any upholstry. Then he took to changing and laundering his clothes every few hours. Sleeping eventually became very difficult for him. Finally the hallucinations got so bad that he had to crawl into his bed and hide, which put the whole imperceptible mite phobia into perspective, I think.”


Ron, Harry and Hermione all sipped their tea in silence, unable to come up with any sort of worthy response.


“So Harry,” Luna said without acknowledging the awkward pause, “I hear that you’re investigating a new Death Eater movement?”


“What makes you say that?” Harry asked. He tried to respond casually, but the effect was ruined when he absentmindedly set his tea on top of a biscuit instead of the saucer.


“Well, there are people attacking the Ministry, killing Aurors, breaking out of Azkaban and posting flyers with the dark mark on them. Aren’t those the kind of things that Death Eaters do?”


Harry found himself speechless. Leave it to Luna to make something that seemed impossible sound flawlessly logical.


Hermione found her voice first. “Well, there’s one important difference, I think. Whoever is doing this isn’t following Voldemort.”


“Well of course not. Harry would obviously know about that,” Luna said matter of factly, touching her finger to her forehead. “But it seems they think that they are.”


They think that they are. Something clicked in Harry’s mind. A connection that he had not made before. He chose his words very carefully when he spoke. “They’ve been looking for a journal that they think belonged to Tom Riddle. That’s why they attacked Malfoy Manor.” Ron shot him a concerned look, but Harry ignored him and continued. “They must think that there were secrets in the journal that will help them to take over the Ministry. What do you think of that, Luna?”

 
Luna pondered Harry’s question for a brief moment, then replied, “Why, that’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”


“Luna, how can you be sure of that?” Ron asked, looking dumbstruck by the casual certainty of her answer.


“Tom Riddle intended to live forever,” she replied. “That’s why he made all the horcruxes. Why would he write down his secret plans if he never meant to die?”


Harry and Ron stared at each other, open-mouthed.


If the journal was just a ruse,” Ron began.


“Then the whole pure blood revolution could be a ruse, too,” Harry continued.


“So what are they really playing at?” Hermione voiced the question that they were all pondering.


“Well, I suppose you’d have to find them and ask them,” Luna replied, taking another sip of her tea. “It doesn’t seem very logical, does it?”


Harry took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. Nothing seemed very logical any more. The one solid thing they had to go on was the DNA linking the New Blood Order to Ginny’s murder. They needed to find copies of the missing documents and begin to fill in the blanks.

 




Lady Tenabra was pleased. Quietly, the old pure blood families who had been disenfranchised by the war were coming around. A couple were even speaking out publicly, in spite of the Ministry’s efforts to assuage their grievances. Those efforts were complicated by a staunch cadre of progressives who held seats on the Wizengamot. They vehemently opposed any proposals to mollify the pure bloods. The Minister was caught squarely in the middle, unsure of how to proceed. It made him appear weak and indecisive. It was perfect.


Her sources within the Ministry were also giving her bits of insight into the Aurors’ investigation. So far, they were proceeding at a desirably slow pace, frustrated by the many dead ends and contradictions she had engineered. It troubled her to hear that the muggle-born Weasley witch was out of the hospital and once again helping Potter and her husband. Nott’s failure had introduced an important variable that she found hard to account for. She smiled cruelly, pondering some dangerous new assignments she would give to him. Sooner or later, his incompetence would relieve her of the burden of his company.


The ragtag “army” that Flint had assembled was working out better than she expected. They performed reasonably well at the simple tasks she gave them. Between assignments, the hatred that simmered between the Azkaban escapees and the common criminals kept their minds occupied so they didn’t ask her many questions. They all had a limited future anyway. When the time was right, she would dispose of the lot of them.


Noting the time, she stood up and pulled the hood of her cloak over her long blonde hair. She checked her appearance, making sure that the hood concealed most of her face, and added a couple of quick enchantments to darken the shadows that masked her features. She picked up the ancient book as she made ready to apparate to the ground floor and felt the dark energy that seemed to course through it. The book helped to remind her followers who was in charge, and she could also drum up a quick motivational speech in the Dark Lord’s words whenever their faith started to waver. There were many drawbacks to working with idiots, but one distinct advantage was that none of them could read runes.


She appeared in an unlit corner behind some old crates and disillusioned herself. Soon, Nott, Gamp and Goyle appeared in the center of the warehouse along with two of their fellows from Azkaban. For this particular assignment, she decided to prevent any conflict with Burloch and his men. They milled about, waiting for her to make an appearance. It still amused her that none of the men had ever dared to step outside of the gap in the anti-apparition jinxes, as though she had dragons hidden in the shadows. Perhaps decades of imprisonment conditioned the mind with an excessive respect for boundaries. She filed the idea away for future consideration.


“Gentlemen,” she said, employing a mild dose of the sonorous charm. She enjoyed the way that they jumped in spite of their best efforts. It was like toying with rats.


She stepped out of the shadows and moved quietly towards them. Thanks to the poor lighting, the shimmering of her disillusionment charm would not give her away. She moved to a position behind them and revealed herself. They jumped again as she spoke, spinning on their heels to face her.


“I have your next assignment,” she said calmly. “The Aurors have already captured one of the guards who assisted in your liberation. I believe they may be getting close to the others. This poses an unacceptable risk to our cause. We must eliminate that risk.”


She stood and listened as their reactions played out with tiresome predictability. Nott was uncomfortable killing the men who had helped to set him free. He had been uncomfortable in general since Flint’s death, one more reason that she hoped to eliminate him sooner rather than later. Goyle found the whole thing amusing. Life was apparently one long comedy when you were fat and thick. Gamp seemed eager to kill the men. He had been craving blood ever since the female Auror managed to escape from him at Malfoy Manor. Something inside his head was seriously broken, perhaps as a consequence of his long imprisonment, but she supposed that his sadism and casual brutality could prove useful.


She provided them with a few leads to the guards’ whereabouts and sent them on their way. The information was mostly speculation based on the lead guard’s last futile attempt to contact her, but she reckoned that it would get them close enough to find and eliminate their targets.


When they were gone, she apparated back to her hideaway in the rafters and conjured a chair. She sat down and opened the book on her lap, beginning to translate the ancient runes in her mind. She intently reread the section describing a dark spell that she had been using earlier in the day, a powerful variant of the imperius curse. Like many books written in runes, the words were both poetic and cryptic. She found that each reading brought new subtleties to light. A nearby clock tower struck eleven and she roused herself from her contemplation. After vanishing the chair, she climbed to the roof and disappeared in the moonlight.

 




 Somebody told me that readers pay more attention to author's notes when they're at the end of the chapter, so let's see whether they were right. First off, thank you all for continuing to read. I hope that you're enjoying the story. If you are, please take a moment to leave a review. They mean a great deal.


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