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Chapter 1 : Different Kinds of Trolls
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Harry Potter and Ron Weasley traveled by wizard apparation to an empty courtyard, set amidst several buildings in a run-down section of the city that must have once been a bustling home for working class families. The only moving things in the vicinity was wind blown trash, and sad, dilapidated swings in the playground. No kids played in the deserted, all metal play set in a corner, and only distant car traffic was visible evidence of any Muggle activity, whatsoever. Nothing at all seemed very active now, even in broad daylight. And Ron forced himself to relax after a worried glance about, having been a little stressed at so openly using magic in a known Muggle neighborhood.
“Still should have done this in a portico or inside.”
“Relax Ron. Do this all the time. Only a crazy person would believe a couple of men would pop into existence.” They both rolled their eyes at same tired line. But it was more or less true. Harry pointed to the one place that the windows seemed more or less intact, and in fact had a dim light bulb burning above a scarred wooden door. “Here! This is the place.”
Ron frowned at the peeled paint and crumbling brickwork. “Scary these old projects. Can't imagine living here.”
“Didn't think anyone did, when I first saw it. But there are people in some of the other buildings. I wouldn't have looked twice at the place, but I saw the footprint. Covered it over, then went to get you.”
Harry walked over to a sheet of weather-beaten plywood lying on the ground and pulled it aside. Revealing a large print of something in the mud, with three toes and feet considerably larger than either man.
Ron knelt to it, and traced a finger about the edge. The mud was still firm and moist and the imprint fresh. This had been made within the night. “Lord, what is it?”
Harry chuckled. “You must not remember a certain boys' restroom and a young girl hiding in a stall. I believe the boogies were quite remarkable.”
“A troll? I can't honestly remember the feet. Just the club and the fact it could have tossed all three of us out the window in one swing.”
“I think so. The client said that decided for her that some wizardry was about, just having heard voices, maybe voices of children, coming from this area. That and the troll print.”
“Well, kids, knocking about, that might be not such a mystery. My brothers and I played in plenty of abandoned houses and buildings as kids.”
Harry was studying the buildings around them, trying to get a feel for the ones still occupied. “I am inclined to agree, though I never had much experience of that, myself. But the woman collects pixies, and heard a bunch of kids, briefly, but saw no one. Couldn't get the first aurors she ran across to pay any attention to her, but she was certain there were kid's voices coming from around here, and positive that this footprint wasn't a fake.”
Ron straightened up and dared Harry to look him square in the face. “A pixie picker? You are doing this for free, aren't you.”
Harry had the decency to look abashed, but plowed on as if Ron hadn't exactly described Harry's typical 'free-lancing'. “Don't you think this is something to check out?”
“Well, simple enough.” And Ronald cast toward the one seemingly intact house with a silent Homenum revelio spell with his furtive wand wave and was surprised to get a silent, ghostly appearance of about twenty vaporous figures of children which then quickly blew away in the stiff noon breeze. “Wow, some kids are in there. No adults, apparently.”
“We have to check this. If they are Muggles, they will have no clue, and no defense if that thing is still around here.”
“Why do you always do this to me on my lunch break?”
“Don't whine. If this is nothing, I'll take you to that American-style place down near the river. You can get your milkshake from the waitress in the short-shorts.” Ron philosophically considered that for a few seconds, and Harry knew he had him hooked. “ I just have a feeling this is trouble. I'll go in myself if you won't.”
Ron stifled a brief groan. “No. Don't be a pain, Harry. Get into trouble every time you take matters in your own hands. Let me check in with the Sergeant and I'll hold your hand in minute.”
Harry wasn't in the least bothered. He knew Ron would back him up. He watched as Weasley cast a Patronus and recited a message telling the Auror desk sergeant Weasley's whereabouts, and that he'd report in afterwords.
Harry then led the way inside. The door, though battered by years of abuse, was only nominally locked, which was cast aside easily by Potter with a negligent flick of his wand, and the two wizards entered after a quick look around to see if anyone was watching.
To be surprised to see a hugely locked and bolted internal door, practically a bank vault, in the short hallway inside. It all looked like hastily, if massively-built modification, with little regard to appearance. Ron closed the outer door, and looked up the steep, narrow stairwell. At least two more floors above the ground, but no sign of life or occupancy.
Harry flicked his wand at one of the big keyed locks, but it didn't even shift. The manual dead-bolts above and below the key hole were similarly huge and looked heavy and hard to lift. This wasn't just left here by the previous owners, that was for sure.
Harry whispered, “Magic isn't working on them. What do you think?”
“A repellent charm. Good one. Let's leave that for later. The kids seem to be all upstairs. Doesn't make much sense. It's dead quiet.” Ron whispered back, looking about, the remains of a front living room were dirty and vacant. All there seemed to be here was a massively protected locked door, and a lot of children, upstairs.
“No, not like any daycare or kindergarten I've ever been to. These places should have been bulldozed years ago. Not safe for anyone, much less children. Let's go up quietly though. I'm getting an itchy feeling.”
“Me too. Maybe we should wait for some more help.” Ron knew this was futile hope, but had to say it for form's sake.
Harry looked at the looming vault door, and then indicated with a nod of his head they should go now. Ron agreed, but was more and more uneasy about this. So much for his free lunch.
The two wizards stepped carefully up to the next floor, and found nothing in the vacant rooms. Only silence greeted the two. They were careful, but the stairs squeaked and some floor boards groaned
when the walked on them.
The middle floor was like the first. Deserted, dusty, and smelling long closed. Or was it?
“Smells like an overflowed sewer.” Ron wrinkled his nose and looked hopefully at the hallway window, but was surprised to find it nailed shut, from the outside. He had kept his voice low, but it echoed alarmingly in the still silence. Like the inside of a tomb.
“Might be what's in the vault.” Harry made a effort not to gag. It did smell stronger, now. He wondered, if besides spells to prevent other wizards opening their special door, the owners of this place hadn't had magic to prevent passers-by, down below, detecting whatever was so unpleasant.
Harry made a puzzled face, then thought of twenty children shut in a room above a place like this. Emotions swam across Potter's face, just thinking of maybe what might be behind the door. He looked angry and loudly said “Door's locked. I'm going in,” and before Ron could think of stopping him, Potter blew open the lock with a wand flick and leaped inside....... coming to a stop just as Ron was about to bull his way behind his friend.
The room was empty. But it was radically different than the lower levels
“I don't understand. This is …..nice.” Ron said wonderingly, crossing into the room. Nicely carpeted, well painted. There were comfy chairs and helpful reading lamps, and footstools. It wasn't at all like the floors below, which looked long abandoned.
“But your Reveal spell showed someone up here. This is empty.”
“Several days, I imagine.” Ron fingered an opened pizza box, and some stale remaining pieces. “This is barmy. I've heard of trying to conceal people. Why go to the trouble of pretending some were hidden in here, and leave all this?”
Harry could only shrug, and they wandered about the room. It was outfitted with at least twenty computer stations, several printers and other Muggle office stuff. “This is some sort of financial or informational collection place. But no phones,” Harry pointed out. “Maybe the kids' voices were a charm to fool people.”
“They went to the trouble to fool an auror's reveal spell,” Ron shook his head. “That vault door, too. They have wizarding protections. Somebody is up to no good. Not located here for the scenery”
Ron went to the windows, which showed lush parkland, and a little lake in the distance, with a small boat moving across.
There wasn't a lake for miles near Weatherhead.
The windows were obviously covered over in some sort of illusion that made it seem tranquil outside.
Not the rundown, half-abandoned tenement, it was in reality.
“Okay, I am officially confused,” Ron said.
“Whoever was here, was not in here involuntarily.” Harry picked at some trash. Crushed soft drink cans, fast mood meal wrappers. And there was old newspapers, in some Asian language and text he was completely ignorant in.
Despite the now open door, it there was only the neutral smell of long shut-in room. Harry ventured back to the doorway, and moved his head to and fro across the boundary. If anything the foul smell out there was more profound since they had been in the 'clean' room.
Harry said, “This room is shielded. Or was, from our detecting it. It smells out there of something I don't want to shake hands with.”
“Yeah, I don't like it either.” Ron agreed.
Harry bent over a computer, finding it was still on, and fingered some keys. The screen came on, but was no less bewildering than the newspapers. Potter couldn't read the confusing charts and the words. “....some sort of financial thing. But I have no idea.”
“All magic mumbo-jumbo, as far as I am concerned.” Ron muttered, walking back to a window. Harry smiled at the wizard with the mild Muggle-technology phobia. He continued to press random keys on the plastic keyboard, but Harry was only slightly less inept at this than Ron was. They really needed Madelene or Teddy for this kind of work.
“It's probably not too hard.”
“I'll sign up for classes the same day you do.”
Ron just smiled in response to Harry's dark mumbling went to the windows, and after some spell tinkering, got one to let in the natural view. Flakey, pealing paint, and old aluminum siding trailing from the sides of old homes across the weedy plaza.
Potter looked up and eloquently said, “Ewww!”
Ron philosophically had to agree. “Not my first choice, either.”
“At this point, what does this all mean?”
Ron was still not high in the auror hierarchy, but not junior enough to pretend this wasn't something he should investigate. The magical locked vault door down below was indication enough that this place was not on the 'up and up'.
Harry spoke before Ron had to fill the silence. “Before we call for more aurors, let's …..let's look about. See what in the world they are doing.” He walked from computer to computer, pressing random buttons. But only the one had been left on, possibly by mistake.
He didn't especially notice at the moment the odd tingle up and down his backbone, thinking it was just lack of exercise, and the stairwell climb up here.
Ron joined him, but was little more enlightened. He hadn't noticed the change in the room, either.
“Some sort of ...really advanced calculation,” Harry muttered.
“Hell with this. They weren't here by accident. Let's pull the plug, and get some from Muggle Relations to decipher this garbage.” Ron pointed to what seemed the obvious main power cord, which ended in a floor sited box at his foot. He tugged at it, then pulled, and then yanked with all his strength. And as Harry held the power cord straight, Ron proceeded to fruitlessly and with more vigor, cast stronger and more elaborate spells of breaking and/or separation, to the point that one of them misfired and cast Harry's shoe on fire and another took off a chunk of the nearest table.
Harry finally had to shout to get Weasley's frustrated attention, “Hold off! Stop! Stop, you'll blow me apart if you are not careful.” He stomped and slapped at his burning shoe, putting it out in a sputtering poof.
Ron shook his head in bewilderment. “My spells are all over the place. I can't budge this thing. Nothing like I've heard of. Must be magic though. This screams of illegal wizard use of Muggle labor.”
“Huh. You think! They are hiding something. Whoever ...they are.....they are information gathers, int...errupted, ….....ttttttt-icklish, ..... pine-needles.” Harry blinked at himself. “That's not what I want to say”
Ron looked bewilderingly at Potter, then got what he was trying to say, “You mean. …..snnnickkker-doodles.......... slipppppppers .....sammmmmmovars ...........swwwwwword-handles...... Gosh, I can't either. What's wrong with us?”
Harry turned about, searching the perfectly clean walls, with motivational posters (in English!) for some indication of charms or magical devices. There was nothing but the posters and paint (although one had a false mustache penned in on a comely blonde woman's upper lip. “Some sort of tongue-twisting counter-spell. Maybe there are other words we can't use. That might be what is nullifying our go at breaking the power cord.”
He did notice a hand-scribbled 'sticky' note by the light switch on the wall. It was written in the same baffling script, and Harry wasn't further enlightened. But maybe because it was hurriedly written, or these people didn't have their own words in their language for modern items, Potter hazily got. “ 'Pwr'... maybe 'power', and 'Rrrrrrrr'.”
“Rrrrrrrr, professor! How very educational.” Ron laughed.
“It says 'Rrrrrrrr'. I'm not making that up. That's what written …”
“Don't have a hissy fit. Just teasing.”
“ 'Rrrrrrrr',” Harry repeated outloud, as if hoping it in itself was some magic word of power.
Ron just looked about, as if expectation. He shook his head. “Unless its something about the machines ...”
Harry grumped, “No. Don't think it has anything to do with the operating system or anything mechanical. Maybe its a password or user-I.D. ….”
“I kind of liked it better when you spoke angry animal sounds. I have no idea about the computer mumbo-jumbo.”
“And I thought I was the hopeless caveman!” Harry tried to explain, “Sometimes, people leave their commonly used access commands ...” At Ron's vague blank look, Harry corrected himself to “.......Spell words they use all the time, or others might need, stuck in front of the computer terminals or their desks. Saves time if they have to remember several.” Harry had to wryly smirk, “Helps me out, loads. Especially if I have to snoop around their offices and stuff.”
“Am I supposed to know that?” Ron smiled inquiringly.
“No, forget I said that. You keep looking about over there. I have a bad feeling a “Rrrrrrrrrrrr' is whatever is behind vault number one, downstairs. There must be a spot some central power controller, or main box.” At Ron's renewed blank look, Harry said, “That controls the main power. Some master kill switch.”
“No, no, not the people! I mean the machines.”
“Ohh,” Ron said in relief. “I am increasingly feeling like these Muggles are leaving us behind. The kids come home and talk about stuff like this that leaves me completely baffled.”
“Yeah,” Harry had to agree. “Why I am pushing that they don't ignore the Muggle studies stuff at the Orphanage. Or at Hogwarts. There is good stuff that our kids need to know, that you and I never got.”
Harry's continued work supporting the special school set up for parentless young wizards and witches seemed never to finish. He didn't want it to simply turn into a 'junior' version of Hogwarts. Which was what some would turn it into if the Ministry and some of the 'old' magical families had their say.
Ron said, “Guess we've seen it, …...the big metal box and a ...electrical thingie, whatcha-ma-call it. All the turned-off ones go to that still working one, and that goes to this.” Ron waved vaguely at his feet. “You are not going to make me touch that? That sort of thing scares the be-jezus out of me.”
Harry felt some of his exasperation take hold, “Will you grow up. It is just electical supply connection.”
“Harry, every time me or my brothers have been ….'zapped', was when we were ordered to help Dad out in his shed with some Muggle contraption. It's not funny!”
Potter carefully stopped smiling and crouched down in front of the unusual device. “Okay. Come on, time is a-wasting.”
Harry pulled fruitlessly, and was unable to get the plug out of the socket. It wasn't bolted or physically held on, not that Harry could see. But he rapidly ran out of ideas. He couldn't just haphazardly turn this all off.
Ron sullenly joined Harry on the floor, trying to hold his breath. Weasley pointed his wand at the big, thick electrical plug, thoughtlessly muttering while firing spells at it. “ ,,,, none of my spells are working …....rose bush …..rubinesque …. ribald....”
Harry had to dodge back in alarm, as one jinx ricocheted past his nose. He shouted, “Stop! Stop, Ron! You're are going to mispronounce something and maybe make things worse. You don't have to blow it up.”
“I'm not touching it. Especially after you couldn't make it work.”
There came a sound of someone in the stairwell. “Aurors in the building!” came a roar from down at the front door.
“Thank God!” Ron muttered. He called up and out to the door to the stairs, “Up here, Sergeant. We've got …. objects ….. we are ….disconnecting.” An ominous hard plonking of a heavy wooden leg and wheezing breath, and round the doorway came pounding Auror Sergeant Jeffers, one wooden leg and one eye patch and all.
“Address nudged an old memory, Weasley,” as quick explanation to why the old auror was coincidentally also there on his lunch break. Jeffers breezely bellowed, “Hallo, Potter! Wife and kids doin' well, I fancy.”
Harry knew this man. An eccentric old wizard, along the lines of many Harry had come to know in this job. Jeffers wasn't known to take hands-on interests, usually, in what his underlings like Ron Weasley were up to. “Fine, Sergeant, fine. We seem to have stumbled upon …..something or …..other.” Potter felt unusually dumb, as if the parts of his brain that easily fired up and worked his tongue was no longer providing instructions to his body how to use it.
Jeffers waited for a moment, expecting more, and when Harry seemed unable to fill in the rest of the sentence, the old auror grunted, “Seems nice and posh. Better than my club downtown. No winsome hostesses, though!”
Ron seemed equally unable to say what was on his mind. Perhaps, both younger men were digesting the same idea, as well.
That this man belonged to a private gentlemen's club was truly stunning.
Jeffers looked interestedly about, feeling the leather back of one nearby chair. “Nice. Like a bloody nork's fantasy ...
“Nerd's.” Harry helpfully supplied.
“Nerd, that is.” Jeffers laughed at his own brilliance. All Jeffers was missing was the parrot on the shoulder, and he could have played the really scary version of the 'Jolly Pirate'. Ron weakly smiled and Harry safely kept his head down, silently swearing.
Of all the wizards he could think of, Jeffers would be the last to understand this kind of place.
Jeffers in fact was peering intently at the one active screen. “Oh, data mining. Probably multiple accesses and high data copying capacity.”
Ron was just stunned. Harry had to laugh out loud at his friend's bemused face. The gnarled, scarred, maimed old coot of an auror was more aware of Muggle society than either Weasley or Potter. Ron seemed to search for something safe to say, and settled for, “Harry found this from a concerned citizen tip. Sounded like kids playing, and the place looks pretty run down from the outside. But there was what looked like a foot print from a large 'Class A' creature, out in the courtyard ...”
“Troll. Big 'un. From the smell of it. Probably hasn't eaten in a while.” Jeffers conspiratorially said to Harry, as if this was a special secret. “Tend to reek extra, when the smell reaches the eye-waterin' stage.”
Both Ron and Harry exchanged glances at each other, simultaneously saying “Rrrrrrr!”. Weasley rolling his hands palm upwards before shoving them back in his pockets. “Should have put that together. We found that word on the memo paper stuck by the light switch. We had no idea ...”
“Muggles probably cleared out days ago. Doubt they understood the stench anymore than you two. This is the third one of these places, this month! No troll, though. That's a new touch.”
“What the hell! Third? Why am I just hearing of this now?”
“Top Double Secret, Eyes only, ears shut, some other blather.”Jeffers gave him a knowing single eye glare, the single orb seemed capable of peering right through any junior auror. “Been dodging out on the morning roll call? Haven't you two? Where the hell's Vortigern?” The eyeball demanded.
“She had to go stand in line at Accounting, again. They've been insisting she's an ninety-year old retiree. Wouldn't accept anything but her personal appearance.”
“Ummm.” That seemed to mollify the cantankerous man. Both Ron and Harry tried not to breathe audible sighs of relief. They both mentally hoped that it was just another example of the chronically arthritic Ministry of Magic's usual incompetent bureaucracy.
And not the covert vampire's secret identity being suddenly exposed.
Jeffers sharply snapped, “Well, what's the holdup?”
“We've been trying to turn everything off,” Ron said defensively.
“That's Muggle Relations job.” Jeffers had little interest or high-opinion of that department of the Ministry.
“Well, yeah, but we've found the power is magically protected. “
“Ooohhh! Interestin',” That renewed Jeffer's inquisitiveness. He always liked puzzles.
“Can't get it apart.”
This sounded more like typical 'goldbricking' he expected. “Wot nonsense is this?”
Harry said no more, but gestured at the extra-thick power cord and the odd metal box it disappeared into.
Ron attempted to explain. “Trying, Sergeant, trying. Magic won't work in here. There is some sort of tongue-tying jinx preventing us from....”
“Wot utter nonsense is that, all you have to do is …......” Jeffers pointed his wand at the length of the master power line nearest to him, and grimaced and strained, farting uncontrollably, then giving a final effort, which resulted in a gout of flame and a pillar of light blew out a hole in the wall behind Jeffers, stunning the trio in the room flat.
Jeffers one remaining eye blinked rapidly and as he and the other men rose back up to their feet, he began to ….sniff around the room, as Harry and Ron disgustedly brushed themselves free of dust and lint they'd gained from diving to the floor
Jeffers waved a gnarled hand about the door jam and the near wall. Suddenly leaping to press his face to the doorjamb, making arcane hand-signs and peering at the crack along the edge molding just centimeters from his face. It was enough to cause Harry to want to giggle.
Neither young man so much as uttered a word.
“Ah, …...I feel it. Should have noticed. Clever..... clever bastards. Counter-spell of some power. Makes me warning charm get all tingly …..about in the walls. Either of you use any words when you blasted your way in this here den? Like 'Ministry,' 'aurors,' …?”
That made Harry think. And now remembered the peculiar shivery feeling, not after they'd first entered.“Yeah, I think I did say 'auror' when I told Ron we'd need help.”
Jeffers nodded to himself, “That triggered it. Very smart indeed. Figured any wizards getting in would be us, if not their lot. Sneaky bastards. Have to call in curse-breakers. Or whole teams of those useless losers from 'Inno-Vision'.” Jeffers finished that last thought heavy with derision. “Innovate my arse ...”
“Perhaps I'll just go and find us some pliers..” Harry muttered to Ron, who just nodded in agreement. Out loud, Harry said, getting to his feet. “I think there is a hardware store down a few miles on the motorway. I'll go and you two keep trying to get them loose. Should I signal for some reinforcements, Sergeant?”
“Hold on, Potter, hold on. Let me look at this. Have you tried bashing it about?” Jeffers pushed aside the computer chairs blocking him, and bent down to peer at the odd shaped metal box.
“Well, no Sergeant, we hadn't thought of that.” Ron said with some exasperation. “The cable as thick as our fingers, and the box a lot harder than our knuckles....”
“Simmer down, young Weasel, only getting a lay of the land, sort of speaking.” Jeffers seemed in fine fettle, not at all put out that his junior-most underling had just dared to speak to him in less than polite tones. “Seems straight forward, enough, just a proper application of physic. Mind over matter. That's the problem with you young people these days....”
Harry watched with growing alarm at the red color Ron's face was taking on. He'd crossed the line, and edged back over a few seconds ago, but he had all the signs of losing any sense of balanced respectfulness to the well-known eccentric auror. And forced to listen to the old veteran bloviate about the problems with young people these days!
His tolerance must already be at maximum, Harry thought. Ron also rarely accepted anyone calling him by that nickname.
Harry spoke up before Weasley could utter something that would land him in some real trouble. Ron had little patience for instruction, and especially didn't like getting being badgered to touch something he had deep reservations about.
Most of Ron's father's non-chemical accidents in his storage shed usually involved electricity!
Harry said quickly, “I'll just pop over to the store. Be back in about five minutes. Won't be ...”
“Keep all your options open. Think things through. Use maximum force when there is a will and a need, like this....” and the ancient, battered old auror pulled out from behind his back and underneath his cloak an equally ancient blunderbuss, with dragon-carving about the bore that looked briefly to Harry to be as wide as his arm and the two younger men pulled back instinctively from the heavy metal box connecting all the computers to the floor when the blast detonated the hole where their hands had just been.
Box, plug ends, and a goodly portion of the floor was gone in a blinding, thundering double explosion.
Almost like a live thing, the electrical cables seemed to retract upon themselves, doubly reinforcing that this wasn't an ordinary Muggle operation. The lights also died, as did the charms disguising the outside on the remaining windows up. A whole series of alarming thumps and bangs also ensued, well below them somewhere down in the lower floors.
As the cords began to self-detach themselves from the consoles with a slithery, plastic sound, Ron and Harry dazed and deafened took mental inventory of themselves and each other. Nothing appeared missing!
Harry looked down the smoking crater in the floor boards that the sparking ends of the cables disappeared. To see a dim series of similar, smoking holes in the floors below them.
Their heads had been directly in line, just seconds beforehand.
“See? Simple.” Harry's gunpowder smudged face grinned back at Ron.
Ron gave Harry a disgusted, helpless shrug and they both pulled themselves up from the floor. To the bemused enjoyment of the old Auror.
“Always carry one of these when entering a possible hostile building. Two if possible. First lesson of the day, Weasley!” Jeffers turned to the door, and new prevailing breeze pushing the noxious air from the stairwell into the computer room.
Apparently, eliminating the power nullified whatever charms protected this space from the 'air' of the troll.
Jeffers seemed to be resoundingly happy, nevertheless. Nothing was more fun than using deadly force to solve a problem.
Ron gestured at the rooms contents. “How do we explain our …..penile servitors..... destitute labor ….. drafted proletariat.”
“One thing at a time, young Weasley, and just for information, it's penal. Penile is what you young men use to think with. Think there will be many people interested in the contents in here.” He smiled nastily. “Some of those in charge, in particular, maybe. Now, out of this stench, before it takes the curl out of me hair ….”
Something shook the walls and the floors and a resounding crash, like a very heavy door being slammed open at the foot of the stairs, came up out of the stairwell. And something sort of the cross between a diesel locomotive and a Muggle jet roared out. Making even the men shrink away from the door.
“Why do I think things have just gotten worse,” Ron said some exasperation.
It hit Harry, now, what the memo note left on the wall was referring to. “Rrrrrrrr! They meant, the power 'out' lets loose the troll. Must be why there was no master button for the Muggles to toggle.”
The very floor and walls shuddered, and from the open door, something down below at the foot of the stairs was not happy. Jeffers seemed to rethink his opinion that this case was a done deal. He glanced out the front window. Without functioning magic, jumping was not really a healthy option. That left ...
“Err, Weasley! Potter! You see about knocking us an exit on through that back wall. We should be able to get to the next house through there. I'll just stand rear guard, like, and ….tickle our friend troll.”
“What?” Ron blinked.
“Tickle?” Harry shook his head, as if shaking out stuff from his ears that prevented him from understanding.
“Yes, you two useless excuses for wizards. On the double.”
Harry looked at Ron worriedly, and he shrugged back, and they both began knocking aimlessly at the wallboard, finding it a lot more solid than Jeffers' prediction. Harry mumbled to Ron, “Did he really mean tickle, like tickle...?”
“Tickle. What you do to your wife, Potter, at night. Merlin! Damn my missing eyeball! Don't they teach you kids anything at that fucking castle these days?”
Sounds of annoyed bashing of walls down in the foyer of the ruined house, then in a lull between the roars, Harry yelled, “Actually, didn't get around to trolls, Sergeant. We're that lot that had Quirrell, Lockhart, Umbridge and the fake-Moody as teachers. Only had one decent Dark Art's teacher....”
The thing spoke up again, like the inside of a stadium loudspeaker on full volume. Jeffers spoke after it briefly faded to a low roar. “Damn, that's right. A whole generation gone retarded. Well, then, Troll 101! Spells and jinxes are relatively useless on trolls. They are a lot like giants.” Jeffers spoke unconcernedly, after peering around the corner looking at the bend of the stairwell to get a glimpse of the beast. “Oh, your average bald, fat ten-footers aren't so much. It's the small hairy ones that are the trickiest. Those fangs.”
Weasley and Potter looked at each other and gave up being gentle, throwing chairs and an actual computer at the wall, making a sudden hole into the next house's empty bedrooms. Which looked dusty, dirty and much more like the outsides than this well appointed 'club room' did.
Harry punched out through the other side's plaster, proving there was somewhere they could physically escape to. Even if the foul thing followed them. Freedom! If only they could used magic to knock a bigger gap. Better yet, just apparate to somewhere nearby. But the men still couldn't speak the spells correctly, and that was a dangerous enough magic to do without duress.
“Tickling is the surest means. Hearts can't take the strain. Usually fall over dead after a few seconds.” Jeffers gave the monster, now visible around the bend of the stairs a critical 'eye', and said, “Ewww, this is a new one for the books. Big and Hairy!”
The troll was now obviously at the final flight of stairs and voicing its displeasure at being awakened by a small cannon blast.
Professionally, Jeffers continued his recitation. “Blighter's got the end of that Eee—leck- tricycle stuff still tied to 'im, slowing him down. Cutting it up here must have awakened it in the basement lair. Should have figured the bastards who set this caper up would have a last defense. This thing'd eat up the Muggles and bash the place to bits, if it all went pear-shaped. That is if we wasn't here.”
Jeffers spoke confidently, but at this point, Harry and Ron were looking a bit pale and just took to hacking at the wall with pieces of equipment. The damn joists between this room and the adjoining house were narrower between them than they'd expected. Jeffer would never squeeze through that. Harry began hacking at one timber with a chair.
The old auror said something like, “You're one ugly, mother-f..” and that was the end of the sentence that Harry could understand, because a blow and a bellow like that of a dragon's hello blasted the wall next to Jeffers, and Jeffers was knocked back into the stairwell, lashing out with a wooden stab with the wooden leg, evidently into its face, and swung the now useless hand gun on its horned head, breaking the ancient wood of the handle with a sharp 'crack'. The now half-seen furred troll didn't like that at all, and it hurled back loose wallboard and railings at Jeffers, who disappeared under a mound of debris.
The thing turned to the men it could see. Harry didn't turn in time, and Ron just pushed him to away, in time to avoid the flung door.
Which wedged precisely into the gap they'd spent so much effort making.
There was no time for another plan. Both men just flung whatever was at hand: computer monitors, an empty pizza box, a box of full of smaller hard slim plastic disks, which the troll got in the face and did not like one bit. Spitting out several shards of plastic, he or it threw a chair and table right back at the two, knocking them into the far wall, and on their backs, helpless.
Ron grabbed Harry shoulder and was trying to force him into what was left of the wall gap, but Harry shook him off and together they raised their wands to point in the slavering face of something that looked like an immense horned-Gorilla with a goiter problem and an serious overbite....
Only to lower their wands, and stare mindlessly at the foul-smelling creature drunkenly bob and helplessly paw both clawed hands at its shoulders. At the figure of Herotitus Jeffers, clinging to back of its neck, where it evidently was helpless to reach, and tickling the monster.
The troll, only eight-feet tall and covered in mottled brown and black fur, gave what actually sounded like a locomotive-sized chuckle, then gasped and fell over like a eight-foot hairy statue, crushing several of the computer tables, smashing them into a tangled, electrical cabled ruin. It made the floor under Harry's feet hop up and down and he nearly fell over backwards into the partial wall gap
Maybe it smelled bad. But in the silence, none of the three men cared.
“Well, all in a days work, eh lads.” Jeffers was incredibly pleased with himself. Clapping his hands and cloak free of dust and interior wall fragments as he could. “We'll have to go out the other way. Stairwell is shot for shit. We'll do a bit o' a hose down, find the appropriate Muggle-Magical ministerial authorities and task a special team for some troll keepers I'd like to talk to.” Jeffers paused, resettling this paunch over his enormous belt buckle, and dramatically eyed the other two wizards. “Oh, aye. I'll have a talk to them. Someday.”
Every so often. Jeffers scared the hell out of Harry.
[Diagon Alley, office of Potter – Detective, a few hours later, without lunch]
Harry opened his Diagon Alley office door, and walked into the small landing leading upstairs. He had had a mixed rate of success entering the alley without someone coming up to talk at too close range, then having them back away from the lingering odor from the newly liberated sweatshop. The auror 'clean-up' team was normally more concerned about removing any magical criminal evidence, and had apparently not 'de-stink-a-fied' Potter sufficiently.
It was a difficult thing to judge, as he stood staring at his doorway's frosted window. He didn't smell appreciably bad, to himself. But apparently, to the shadowy Quidditch figures floating about the goal posts, he was not completely cured, as they waved little charcoal and black sketched hands about their faces.
Fine! He aimed the wand at himself and uttered a perfume spell at his chest. Again! And was awarded with a wafting of heady pine forest.
Damn magical door window figures! What did they know? Harry walked up the stairs, calling up “I'm back. Everyone is fine.”
“Hmmm? Wha?” Madelene Weasley, his secretary-receptionist-door warden looked up from her desk. A distracted look on her beautiful face.
Her hair and face was also brilliant orange. Not red like the other Weasley's, but ...intense, neon orange.
Harry stood still midway up the flight of steps. She was a beautiful woman, his sister-in-law. Even with the techno-colored skin or even without hair. But usually not all one glowing color.
“I ….I like it, actually.” Harry smiled. And looked over to Lee, who had been chatting with Maddie when Harry had returned from his 'rescue' mission.
Lee Jordan, the co-proprietor of the store next door to Harry, was leaning out over the half-door that connected the two businesses, and chuckled. “See. We think it looks fine.”
“That's because this is the hair color of that rock band of trollops you pant after …...Busty and her Happy Lays, or whatever they are called.” Maddie sourly returned.
The wizards laughed and Harry pointed at Lee in agreement. Lee shook his head in chagrin, but did not deny that was the case. “I umm …. not really her natural hair color.” Which got even more laughs from Maddie and Harry. If Lee's dark face could redden, he'd be as brilliant as Madelene's hair.
“So ….is there some ….. reason …..?” Harry waited patiently, the obvious question he meant to say was why she was now the color of an electrified carrot.
Madelene breathed out a snort of impatience, but still good humor, “I was practicing some morphing spells. The demon teachers are drilling me in all sorts of useless magic like this. ….....wasn't paying close attention to what I meant …..”
Which was her way of saying she paid no attention at all.
Harry philosophically thought she was an incredibly lucky witch. There were probably a hundred ways Maddie could have altered herself, probably in ways that might have been lethal. “I ….ah, will have to look up what changes that back. Never was into that magic myself, to be honest. But I really do agree with Lee. It does actually make you ….even more striking than before.”
Maddie beamed, unintentionally, but sniffed, and her happy face frowned slightly. “City must be having another problem with the drains, again. You smell almost eye-wateringly …..spruce, by the way.”
Lee was also looking vague, as if trying to sense from whence came the odor he detected. “What was the job like today, Harry. Poltergeists in an air freshener factory.” He was only half kidding, as Harry on first whiff smelled ….fantastic. And on further experience, Lee was detecting something else hidden under the bouquet of heady northern woodlands. Not so fantastic.
Harry felt it was only fit to be forthcoming. “That's troll.”
Maddie frowned further, the effect with her hair color looking like an angry beauty queen with her head aflame. “Troll? Like in Billy Goats Gruff?”
The wizards laughed again, and Harry shook his head. “No, no, not nearly as cute as that. Real troll. Real stench. Some sort of highly disguised illegal operation, guarded by the troll. And the troll was the ...well, sort of the guardian that we had to defeat. Ron helped ….and his sergeant.” Harry knew this did not make much sense, but he was trying to be concise.
“Ohhhh, Jeffers, was it? What's he like?” Lee said, still trying to converse in a friendly fashion, but distinctly edging slightly away from the doorway.
Harry gave a sincere shiver. “Not easy to describe. I just left him and Ron. The aurors were doing their best to de-stench the lot of us, after we got out next door. But the Sergeant wasn't a happy wizard. I bugged out after he jinxed off the eyebrows of the technicians trying to redo the anti-smell spell.”
“Hot damn. That would be a sight.” Lee was manfully trying not to wrinkle his nose, making an artful display of rubbing his face and nose. “I'd love to get the rest. In fact, dying to tell George about it. If you two would excuse me.” And he left, quickly, letting the upper door to the 'Wheeze's' jokeshop shut firmly behind him.
“Never was a good actor,” Harry lowly grumbled, sighing in resignation that he would have to take some drastic action in the personal cleanliness department. Maddie was doing her level best not to make as if she was edging back in her seat as much as possible. The frozen grin of interest at odds with a real look about her eyes of wanting to be elsewhere, too. Harry accepted this was a bad idea. But going home would only ….bring the problem home, with him. “Guess I have to do …..more.”
“Yes, more.” Maddie suddenly brightened, thinking that was an excellent idea.
“Okay, I'm leaving. Could you send a note to Bill? See if he could stop by the Burrow on his way home. Might need his …..skills at curse breaking. That is if Molly doesn't know what to do.” Harry finished lamely, hoping their mother-in-law had more skill at this sort of thing. It was his own fault, naturally. He couldn't help recall there were dozens of spells he could have used on Ron and himself to protect them from the pervasive odor of open sewer and troll den. Had they thought of it beforehand.
In fact, he thought, he just might just have a book of spells like that in his office. “I'll just duck in and get a book.”
“NO!” Maddie erupted. Then taking a shallow, nose-less breath and quieter, she calmly said, “No, Harry. Mrs. P. is in with a client. Might make things …..”
Harry snorted gently, making a wry face. “Better?”
“Ah.” Harry agreed. That was often how it was. He loved Ginny. She was truly well-liked by a ….significant portion of their clients. Her fame as a former athlete often made her sought after by many wizards who would never utter a word to Harry, and he happily surrendered dealing with those who still held an outstanding grudge against Harry Potter, for the numberless reasons people continued hating him.
For being Voldemorts bane.
For being right against the opinion of a lot of witches and wizards.
For being famous.
In her part-time position as private detective on days off from the home and kids, Ginny's arrival with the firm had been an outstanding success.
She was loved on some days. On others .......Ginny had severe problems with patience and letting the customer win any disagreement. In truth, she was also as diplomatic as a badger. With high voltage cattle prods in both hands. Riding saddle on a rocketship. Flying out of a volcano. Harry was fairly sure he could continue the metaphors, but was interrupted by the door bursting open, the silencing spell on it covering up the emphatic and urgent thrusting of the door latch.
An unhappy witch marched out. Nobody he immediately knew. Her dark brown skin and hair and appearance suggested to Harry ….. late thirties, a beautiful woman. That is ….if she hadn't had a scowl on her face to match the tone of voice. “ ….sorry doesn't begin to cover it, Mrs. Potter! The damage you've caused ...”
“You've got to be joking?” Ginny interrupted her, following her out from the office with an angry stamp of one foot, “You got the answer you asked for. We don't guarantee it would be one you loved. There was absolutely no basis for your charge against your neighbor....”
“Who knew nothing of this, until you blundered in.” The unhappy witch thundered.
Ginny had apparently maintained control, and rocked back on her heels as she beheld Madelene and Harry starring in frank interest. “Well, what exactly did you expect? She wasn't guilty. You hired us to blunder in. They would have noticed you'd been jinxing their pets, from the trail of their carcasses lining back to your yard!”
“Filthy animals. I want them off my property. As I never want you on mine again.”
“Squirrels. A rabbit. And a kitten!”
“Eating my prize flowers. And pooping all over the Japanese rock garden ….”
“Fine! Deal with your neighbor like an adult should!”
“Fine. See if you get another knut or sickle out of me.”
“They'd be the first, since you never paid us!”
“Ladies, maybe if ..” Both witches glared at Potter, who subsided back into careful neutrality.
Harry didn't know the other woman, though he might have seen her on occasion. Her daughter was school friend of his niece and god-son's. All he knew of her was that she had asked specifically not for Harry to work her case.
That was fine. He had his own interests, one of which was to avoid stupid people like her. Who held ridiculous grudges for things they barely understood.
He had better things to do.
She paid no attention to Potter, staring down Ginny like that had a hope of intimidating her. “So like that brother of yours.” The witch growled, but seemed not to want to describe further the Weasley similarity. She glanced finally to Harry, as if he was an under-creature from an old moat. “Stinks of …....betrayal in here!”
Maddie lost her blank look and leapt to her feet, but Ginny waved her to stay. Harry just looked mildly taken aback. Worse was said to him, still! The unhappy customer seemed to think that was fitting cutting remark for her exit, sniffed at the Potters receptionist and went on down the stairs, intending on punctuating her departure by slamming the magical door.
Only it doesn't like that.
“Oooffff.” Maddie, Ginny, and Harry distinctly heard the guest utter before the door shut firmly but softly, as the unhappy customer received a proactive whack in the rear end from the door and was hurled forward out into the wet Alley.
There was a moment of …..pregnant expectation, in which Maddie smiled a broad and unabashed smile. Some muffled words sounded outside the door. Finally, nothing more was heard from out in the street. The witch evidently deciding it was more embarrassing to stand outside and rage useless at the blank and impenetrable door.
She couldn't have broken the glass if she had an army behind her.
“Troll!” Ginny muttered.
“Well, that went ….....” Harry was now searching for a safe way to describe the scene. At the moment, smoldering in Ginny's eyes held a lot of color very similar to the Maddie's new hair style. “ ….good riddance!” he smoothly altered. Being rewarded with both a look of glad relief from Madelene, who exhaled, and Ginny, who looked glad he agreed whole-heartedly ….with whatever it was she was mad at.
He mentally patted himself on the back for his brilliant split-second legerdemain.
Customer relations was now usually handled, quite successfully, by Madelene Weasley. She had superb skills at getting people to cooperate, recalcitrant payers to foot their just bills, and talking Ministry of Magic bureaucrats into suspending their inquiries or arbitrary tax leavening of the Potter Agency. Incredible good looks probably had something to do with that, but in any case, that was all part of her 'magic' as Harry viewed it. There were still random attempts by the government to put new restrictions on Harry's detective business, unhappy he could be relatively unregulated. Or that he could be in the business at all. But more often than not, they were putty in her hands.
Normally, such difficult customers were headed off from being Ginny's task, or Maddie skillfully got them to agree to leave on her own. Harry always said she could sell snow to the Abominable Snowman. This one had somehow got in through her vetting. A guilty look from her to Harry was returned by him with a slight head shake of 'don't worry about it.'
He looked to his wife. “Should I try to go out and smooth things over, or …. I can't remember if I met her. …. which brother?”
Ginny looked at him like he had grown two heads, but blinked a few times and calmed down. “No, Harry. She'll return, to plague us with some other paranoid thing, months from now. We will be unfortunate enough to be revisited by Madame Cortez, whether we like or not. That was one of my brother's many former lovers. One of them we are profoundly grateful he didn't bring home to the family.”
There was a moment of silence when both Harry and Madelene were jointly trying to figure out which brother that might have been, and both simultaneously came up with the answer of Charlie Weasley.
Maddie twisted her mouth, and made a soft 'ticking' sound. “Hmmm, …...another one! Maybe we should start a list.”
“Already have one. My mother and I will be teaching it to you as soon as Luna and Hermione are done with educating you.” Ginny said firmly. Then she stared back at Maddie. “Why are you orange?”
“Just ….mistake.” Madelene's bright fingers nervously fumbled with odd objects on the desk and shuffled papers, while making an anguished face at Harry. There was little he or her husband George could do to help her with that problem. That was all a female family issue. The men knew better than getting involved.
Ginny seemed like she wanted to ask more, but let it go. She didn't want to embarrass Maddie at her attempts to do simple magic. Back to the unhappy customer. “Well, ….apart from the her ridiculous demand …...that we take care of the dead pets AND smooth things over with the neighbor! She had the nerve to demand I release the curse ….” Ginny was still sputtering, and that brought Harry attention back to her anger.
Maddie shook her head slightly, when he glanced over. She had no clue either.
“Umm, what curse ….. oh!” Harry groaned. “Not that again!”
Ginny nodded. “God damn 'Harpies' partisan. More than that, turns out her family is a long-standing share holder of the team.”
Harry now shared some of his wife's anger. “The Holy Head Harpies Quidditch team,” he said in explanation to Maddie. “They still blame her for quitting and the team's fortunes diving into the tank along with nine-straight years of losing seasons.”
Maddie just shook her real red head and hair. “You people really need a life. It's a stupid game.”
“ 'Curse of the Ginevra', they call it. Wish I had cursed them. For real! Would have made it better than not being able to win a stupid match.” Ginny softly grumbled, sitting down on the chair by the new, unwanted water cooler, which bubbled encouragingly. “ ….make their hair fall out ….brooms fly backwards ….fart constantly …..something.”
Harry thought this had gone on long enough. He needed to get out and somehow get the 'smell of victory' off him. “I got to get a book from the shelf, then run over to see your Mom.”
Ginny seemed to become aware of him at the mention of her mother. “Mum? How come?” And then she seemed taken aback by something, and then frowned faintly, scenting the air in the room. “You smell like you've been dipped in pine fresh …..” she trailed off, frowning in concentration, trying to describe the underlying level of odor. “Make that your entire wardrobe…....and something else …... unpleasant.”
To save time, Harry said, “Troll.” Maddie helpfully nodded in agreement, as if she had seen the thing, too. She was numb to the smell in the room, now.
“Real troll. In a real troll den.” He dashed into their shared office, quickly rooting about the shelves and the floor. Harry honestly couldn't classify his collection of books as library. More like …...an extended pile. He grabbed an dusty book of spells from a seeming random stack, and began to leave for the front door.
“Troll den? I thought it was pixies..?” Ginny blinked suspiciously.
“It doesn't matter. Tell Ron if he calls, to meet me at your parents. He was with me, and probably in the same condition. I'll be back …..eventually.”
“Ummmm, okay. But don't bother. Go home to the Hollow …...” Ginny paused a few seconds, then added clarification, “ …..AFTER …. Mom has got you put to rights. I am meeting ….some people to fix something.”
Harry looked back at Maddie, before he went to far down the steps. “I'll ….umm.. mention the …..color thing to Molly, okay?” She smiled, redly, in appreciation and Harry hurried on. He had reached the front door, and called back to Ginny, “Okay, sweetheart. Don't get mad at them, and blame me if anything goes wrong.”
She laughed, the futility of continuing to be angry at a paranoid witch who killed her neighbors stray pets seemed more ridiculous by the moment. “Consider it done, Boy-who-Smelled.” They smiled to each other, and he shut the door, it's occupants doubly grateful he was gone before the couple began to descend into further endearments.
[same afternoon, Grimauld Place, a London townhouse]
The witch shut the heavy front door solemnly, but not with great force. The visitor wanted the picture in the stairwell to be awakened, ready to scream at the latest intruder to its long vigil. Not that had done any good in the past, but pictures are not great at telling time and it had blended most of the last thirty odd years into moments of quiet solitude and shrieking indignation.
Camilla Malfoy looked at the deserted hallway and the dark stairs leading upwards. Her glossy black long hair, and dark red-brown skin looked nothing like her forebearers who had lived in this cold house, long ago. But magic doesn't care about skin color. Some of the less vocal or obnoxious small portraits, lining the entrance hall, sat up in notice and whispered to themselves. They recognized a 'Black' had returned to the house. Camilla gave them an annoyed glance, but just walked on. Experienced visitors would warn her against plodding up the ornate but faded stairs as noisily as the witch was doing.
But in fact she did not care.
Camilla came to a stop standing in the first floor landing of Grimauld Place, before a large, shrouded picture on the wall, heavily-framed, covered in thick drapes. She stood alone. With a flick of her wand, the curtains parted, revealing a large portrait of an old woman, suddenly awakened to life, about to scream.
But portrait witch hesitated after opening her mouth to bellow. The animated picture instead mumbled, “Ummm, ... what? You are pure of blood, child?”
The visiting witch, very dark of eyes and beautiful long hair looked back at the confused picture. “Yes. I am a Black. Descended from Marigold and Charles Black, Canadian.”
“Ah, my North American cousin. So, finally, the defeat of the Mudbloods and the blood traitors can commence....”
Camilla cut off the beginning of the portrait's rant, jingling some old-fashion house keys in one hand. “I have possession, Great Aunt. Victory has been achieved. Your struggle is complete.”
The picture was a bit befuddled by the good news. She sat back on the edge of an uncomfortable-looking painted couch. It matched an existing one still sitting in the drawing room in the doorway just beyond. “A Black has ownership of this place? From those blood traitors? Filthy half breeds, fornicating on my furniture ...”
Camilla kept a level, non-committal tone, not wanting to give the portrait any reason to doubt her. “Gone, Auntie. A Black now owns this house.”
The old woman in the picture, seemingly swelled with pride, her extremely old fashioned hair style, something from the 1950's, seemed more durable than a steel helmet. “Joy, oh joy to me, my child.”
Camilla's voice was calm, almost soft, like whispering to a sleepy child. “You can sleep now, Great Aunt. In peace. It is done now.”
“Sleep. Are you sure, child. So long ….... and now they've eliminated poor Kreacher. Must not let down his service to the family ….” The Portrait's belated concern for the long missing house elf would have been touching, had she actually shown real concern in the past.
“Sleep, now, ...” And Camilla began chanting, in a language native to her mother's people. But powerful words, and profound, as the portrait Mrs. Black began to freeze back into immobility. And then there finally sounded a crack and the heavy-framed picture separated from the wall. The witch pictured on it stilled in frozen surprise.
It happened almost too quickly for the visiting witch to react. After a hurried wand cast of levioso to catch the ungodly heavy picture, Camilla guided it down to one side of the hall, pointing with her magic wand, to a bumpingly safe rest on the floor. She gave a relieved sigh, motioning Ginny Potter and Teddy Lupin from the shadows of the next floor's stair landing. “It is done,” Camilla breathed out.
“Mine? Are you two seriously saying this is my place?” Teddy's fourteen year-old face was alight at the possibilities, clambered down to sit on the lowest step.
Ginny Potter was miles ahead of him. “Cancel that party. Till you are an adult, this is all still under our guardianship.”
“I am sure they were going to be scholastic and educational events, Edward.” Camilla said smoothly, smiling her dark face and beautifully white smile at young Lupin. She was always formal.
“Not hardly.” Ginny said, dubiously.
Camilla smiled at Ginny and softly questioned, “Furniture?”
“Crazy picture. No idea what it was talking about.” Ginny guiltily dismissed the notion, and fooled nobody. The boy wasn't paying attention.
Teddy spoke in a disbelieving tone, “But she said 'Half-blood traitors'. I never thought that was me.” He'd heard that from this thing his entire life, and completely ignored the words. Until now.
“There is no such thing. Sick and twisted, this perverse thinking its in your blood to be an enemy. It's up here, Teddy, what you think. How you deal with others as a man. She fed that stuff to Sirius, her own son, and he rejected her. Ran away to live at Harry's father home. Her other son came to hate it as much, and gave his life to help destroy Voldemort.” Ginny held out a rejecting hand at the big picture. “That woman has been screaming at us for some seventeen-eighteen years now, and it is no more true now than it was then.”
“People want to believe the worst of others, Edward, because they look different, or spell their names oddly.” Camilla patted the back of her hand, indicating she was obviously not a typical European, herself. “She said nothing about my Huron heritage, yet there are Muggles today that discriminate against us, for my skin color, alone. Ignorance and hate is not a magical exclusive.”
“Makes me sick. The old ugly troll.” Teddy looked at the picture, as if it oozed a foul vapor.
Ginny was proud of him, for being ill at the thought. “You are you, Teddy. And not beholden to anyone's damned 'family duty'. You are going to make a new start. Maybe even have children of your own, in this place. Just what your parents would have wanted.” She looked between Camilla and Ted, smiling. “You two are nearly the last of the Black family, Teddy. Through your grandmother Andromeda and Camilla through her father. And you have a distant cousin, Camilla's boy, Scorpius. We will work on that reunion at some later time.”
Teddy looked evasive, not sure he was supposed to talk about his father, with someone like Camilla, who he didn't really know. “But I am … different.”
Camilla nodded, “Because of Remus, your father? I understand what you are thinking. Did that matter to the portrait? You are part Black, and that is true and all that was needed for the magic to work. So much for purity of blood.”
Teddy walked up to the picture, eyeing the bleached and startling bare spot on the wall where it had clung to for two dozen years. “She doesn't look anything like Grandma.” Teddy was referring to Andromeda Tonks, his mother's mother. Who hadn't stepped foot in this house for sometime. Because of this very portrait. “Don't want to look at this again,” Teddy said vehemently.
The Lady Malfoy couldn't deny it was not an art object she desired either and breathed out a resigned sigh. “A little, about the eyes ….... of my father and grandfather, Edward. I don't want it either. But it is our family history. We should not forget her, even if we deny her values as false. An attic will work for this. Let her finally rest.”
With playful mirth dancing in her eyes, Ginny laughed, “Not for the manor, Camilla?”
Camilla gave a genuine shudder. “Great Spirit, no, Ginny. Got enough horrors to dispose of as it is. The things Draco's dad kept about the place....”
“Not his mom?”
“No, oddly enough. Her room and and some of the living spaces are ...almost jarringly normal. Not fitting with the stories I've heard of her.”
Teddy shrugged, and said, “Maybe somebody with multiple personalities. I've read about them in Muggle books.”
Camilla, too, made a vague motion of her shoulders, leading them back downstairs to the kitchen and the remains of their tea. “Maybe. But the woman that Draco remembers, and the sister of Bellatrix Lestrange seem at times to be almost two different people, to me.”
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