Chapter 9 – What Was So Bad That Harry Had To Wait To Tell Me
"You have me really worried, Harry. What's so bad that you had to wait to tell me? We promised to tell each other everything, no matter how bad, while I was away. I told you about the attack on the pyramid."
"I know. Your dad made me promise that…"
"My Dad is no longer Minister, you are, so that excuse is gone. You need to be honest with me. What happened? We agreed that complete honesty was the approach which would make our separation more manageable for both of us. We've both seen how trying to protect my mother from his problems and worries cost my father his most effective advisor, led to Prudence, and almost ended his marriage. I don't want that to happen to us. My mother was never the poor, scared, traditional, little homemaker my father viewed her as. She is stronger than he is. She was in the Order. She killed Bella. They began their relationship as fellow fighters in the first Voldemort War. My father made a very serious mistake in being overly protective. It wasn't protective, it was demeaning. It hurt Mum not knowing the exact problems Dad was having as Minister. She would have been a far better confidante and advisor than Prudence. Prudence is smart, but she is naïve, and she isn't a fighter. I'm a fighter. I've killed. We've fought together. I'm leading a Quest. I've got as big a target on my back as you do. I know that I can be one of your best advisors. My Dad shoved me aside, even on Quest matters. I won't have you do the same."
Harry looked really worried as he babbled "I'm sorry... so sorry. I know... what we agreed. You've held up your end. Your father... well, you know how your Dad is... I guess I am in the habit of catering to his... whims err views. I am sorry. I promise to do better. This is so hard. Your Dad was so obviously hurting... he was afraid he'd cause your death with the Prudence business... he does really know how awful a job Prudence did, he feels... guilty. Well, he is guilty, but he thinks he is doing his best to do right by everyone he owes a debt... he was floundering, I feared for his mental health - didn't want to cause him to worry more about... your safety. I was wrong. I WILL do better. You should be able to trust me; you can trust me. Of course, you can."
"Okay, Harry, I believe you will be better in future and I'll just drop it. Know that I am determined that we handle your term as Minister a lot better than my parents did. It's best for you to just tell me what happened while I was away.
"The really bad part is that the Death Eaters attacked the new school in Wales. We never should have had a Muggle-born-only school. It was far too inviting a target. More of the older students should be at Hogwarts, at least all the younger new arrivals should have been sent there. Everything has happened so fast. I've mentioned this to McGonagall. She agrees about the younger new arrivals but disagrees on the older students. Anyhow, this happened because..."
"Let's get Ron and Hermione here and do this once, with all our input. I also want Neville."
Harry gave a contrite nod, so I summoned the others.
"Roger is flying back to England as we speak. He will report to Special Branch tomorrow morning, at least he will if he follows the agreed plan. I want to have all my truth-tellers present for that. I'm also guessing you know some Confunding tricks which my aurors don't know."
"Do I need to fetch Cissy."
"No, we should be fine without her and I really don't want her to know too much about this. She tends to blurt things she shouldn't. There's more. Narcissa finally showed up. She made a little speech at the Ministry lobby, saying that she had tried to rejoin the Quest, but found your camp on Asgard was abandoned. She has declared that you obviously abandoned your Quest and so she is free to start her own and expects the full support of my government, which I most certainly don't intend to give her."
Everyone was now present, so Harry, Ron, and Neville took turns telling us about the attack on the Wales school. A dozen Death Eaters had attacked. They had two Giants and a Dementor with them, plus a handful of demons. They were repulsed, but there were casualties and the school was burned. An existing building had been adapted for the school and it was more wood than stone, meaning not only that it could be burned, but that it couldn't support nearly the level of magical protections that a stone building could. The defenders had fought bravely. They had used the 'Kill!' curse, both singly and paired up. Six Death Eaters, a Giant, and all the Demons were killed. Fifteen students, two aurors, two kitchen Elves, and two professors were also dead. More, including Prudence, were injured. It was a giant mess. If aurors had not arrived to reinforce the school, more friendlies would have been burned alive. The aurors captured four Death Eaters and a Giant. They are in three Gringotts vaults at present. McGonagall was not demanding that they be released from this cruel imprisonment and Neville's Mum planned a quick trial. She had all the evidence she would ever have, not expecting the captives to reveal the organiser of the attack. Harry wanted to know if it might be possible for us to travel to seid-space to learn more about the instigation and planning for this attack. It had been very well coordinated.
The floo network had gone down. There had been a major incident in Sheffield, requiring many aurors to intervene to capture a phoney-Muggle-performer of wild magic and to obliviate over a hundred Muggles. Tony was very upset. Worse, one of the friends-from-across-the-pond had witnessed the whole affair. He had, of course, been obliviated, but who could be certain that the friends wouldn't be able to determine that his mind had been tampered with. At least the aurors had sent him to St. Mungo's and very great care had been taken during the obliviation. He had been out of contact with his superiors longer than might have been planned. A cover story had been implanted. Harry hoped the guy wouldn't be observed as somewhat odd by his fellow friends.
At precisely the same time, the Slytherins had attacked and set afire three Muggle-born Gryffindor first years. Four Slytherin fourth year boys were involved in that attack. Neville and his staff, with help from Margaret and the twins had broken up that attack, but Neville had promptly reported the attack to his mother. Mrs. Longbottom had decided to send two aurors to transport the prisoners. Then, at the time of peak chaos, the school in Wales had been attacked. That is why the auror response had been slower than ideal. It wasn't the aurors fault. Nobody expected the opposition to mount such a deadly coordinated attack. This was a higher level of capability than they had displayed at any time since the death of Voldemort. It was frightening. Harry and Ron hadn't gotten it straight in their own minds, which is one reason they hadn't told us before now. To go from Eva Duerr to this, in such a short time… it both confused and frightened them.
Of course, the Daily Prophet blames our government. They also blame your Quest, claiming that the actions you took to vastly increase the number of magical Muggles – yes, they've stopped bothering to say Muggle-born, have left proper, right-thinking, traditional Witches and Wizards no choice but to fight to preserve their way of life. They say that we may have won two elections, but that doesn't give us the right to turn Wizard society into something which would have been utterly unrecognizable to those living just three years ago. I'd like your help as truth-tellers in the interviewing of the prisoners. Spiked Veritaserum is perfectly fine by Mrs. Longbottom. She says that the rules of war apply to this attack.
"Oh," Ron hastened to add, "you also should know that two of the attackers were opposition members of the Wizengamot. One is dead and the other is in Gringotts, following an overnight stay at St. Mungo's."
"These were stories which you needed to hear in person, not when you were fighting for your lives," Harry excused his lapse. I sort-of bought his defence.
"What else has happened since we were gone?" Hermione asked.
"I expect more trouble from the Slytherins," Neville replied. "I will continue to react promptly and strongly to their attacks upon other students. I expect continued complaints from McGonagall, Slughorn, and the Daily Prophet that I am destroying the character of my school. I will continue to ignore them. I believe that the problems will slacken as my mother jails the worst offenders. There obviously was a conspiracy between those who attacked the Welsh school and those Hogwarts students who set the little Gryffindors afire. I don't believe in that much coincidence. Half of the Welsh students are coming to Hogwarts, starting tomorrow. The castle has already expanded itself. We have found a replacement building to house the remaining students from the Wales school. It is in northern England and it is stone. We have started installing the magical barriers. If you were staying longer, I'd ask you to help. Oh, and I'm to be married in a month. Both of you are invited, of course. In fact, I'm hoping that the two of you will officiate."
"Congratulations, how did that happen so quickly. You seemed to be poking along ever so slowly... well, at least compared to Harry and me."
"Ostara had a late night of academic activities at Hogwarts and spent the night in Gryffindor. Her father convinced himself that I had probably gotten his daughter pregnant. Ostara had expected a lot of convincing to be required to gain her father's approval for us to marry. She was so pessimistic of receiving her father's approval that she was debating going ahead without him. She had talked to her mum about it. She had considered breaking up with me. Then, I find myself being verbally accosted by her father and accused of ruining his daughter's reputation. He demands that we marry within six weeks. I was so happy. We announced our engagement immediately, before he could change his mind."
"That's great. I just don't understand why he doesn't like you."
"I'm not a farmer; I didn't grow up in his church; I attended Hogwarts; I'm Headmaster of Hogwarts; my mother is in the government; I have killed; you name it. The good news is that I think I finally have Ostara. The rest isn't important."
We drank some sherry, we commiserated about our responsibilities and worries. We assured each other that we really were up to the tasks we needed to accomplish. It was time for us all to head to our beds and, I hoped, sexy times for at least Harry and me. Neville had over a month to wait.
As soon as I got into bed, I realised that I felt way too tired and a little too drunk for sexy times. Worse, Harry didn't mind. I gave Harry a good snog, realised that he still wasn't up for anything, and cuddled up against him to try to fall asleep, even as I knew the combination of revved up and overly tired wasn't going to help. Whale song! I reached for it and was drifting into sleep
, just as there was a loud knock on the door. Barb answered the door, then knocked on the bedroom door.
"It's Harry's assistant. Tony spoke to him through the portrait. He wants the four of you in the offices of Special Branch now, so that you'll be there when Roger arrives and so that you aren't observed by agents of the friends, either coming or going. He wants you to sleep in the secure files room. I've been there and can Apparate all of us. Tony apparently expects you all to sleep there."
"Just great!" I had to grudgingly agree that it was an intelligent tactical plan. We certainly didn't want the friends to identify us. I realised that I hadn't missed out on anything by drinking so much sherry.
We grabbed blankets and pillows for sleeping on the floor and then the four of us linked hands and found ourselves standing in a large vault, with row after row of filing cabinets. There were also three Special Branch employees, including Mrs. Toms, there to greet us. "I apologise for the inconvenience, but I agree with the Minister that security demands this. We have already had some of the friends sniffing around our false Harry Potter trail and three agents of the friends were on Roger's return flight. Two of them followed him back to his home and I assume will follow him to determine whether he deviates from his normal workday patterns tomorrow. So... we must limit the number of people who know you will be meeting with Roger tomorrow. That's also why Tony won't be joining us - it would be too difficult to sneak him in. Yes, I know you could do what you do to transport him here, but I fear too many are already in on that trick. Sleep well, Margaret and Mitch will stay with you and wake you an hour before the meeting. There is a loo just down the hallway to the left, as you leave the vault. I hope you are no longer upset that we spied on you. We do that routinely and, in your case, it was largely to protect you and your secrecy. Everyone involved was, or I thought was, thoroughly vetted. Roger's mistress is quite new, and we missed him. Why he thinks calling him a mistress helps his situation, I certainly don't know. I regret that. I regret that the spying caused a breach in our relationship. I hope it can be mended. I have been watching out for you and have done nothing to harm you."
"In that spirit I have a question. When the four of us went to Australia to retrieve my parents, you had photographs taken within seconds of our arrival. That could only happen if you already knew where my parents lived. The Death Eaters were the only ones, whom we have discovered knew where my parents were. They had been to their house. Did you learn the location from the Death Eaters?"
"That's a complicated answer: they told us, but we already knew. We knew as soon as your parents left for Australia and followed them from the airport. We protected them for months and then decided that they were safe. When you booked the plane tickets, we thought something bad might happen, before you reached Australia and sent agents back to the house. And, in answer to the obvious next question, we had to share a photo of all of you with those agents - otherwise they might have attacked you as soon as you arrived. Those agents have orders to destroy all physical and electronic copies of the photos we sent them and to speak to nobody about that. The photo they took of your arrival was as much to prove their timely arrival on the spot as anything. We like to document. They deleted all copies on their end. They are very trusted agents. I know, I know, so was Roger. This has been as bad for us and me, personally, as it has for you. That was my biggest error in over a decade, hung out right in front of the PM. He is not at all pleased. I've never, since my first year in this service, been told to go stand in the hall, while an important meeting was continuing. I fear for my position. I have at least as much incentive as you to make certain that this situation with Roger and with your people ends well. The PM is very angry. Now, Good night, you have a challenging morning ahead of you."
We used the loo, we cleaned up as best we could, dressed, and were just finishing breakfast, when Mrs. Toms arrived. Roger showed up five minutes later, with several more of Mrs. Toms' agents drifting in over the next several minutes. When the last arrival was seated, Mrs. Toms asked Roger to give us a detailed account of all that happened since he boarded the plane to cross the pond.
Roger knew the drill. He gave us a quick overview in just fifteen minutes, then spent almost two hours describing the events in fine detail. There were no questions asked, but when Roger finished Mrs. Toms told Roger "You did very well Roger. A fifteen-minute break and then we resume with Hermione's magic juice." Hermione gave him a dose and a half. All but the two agents guarding the vault made a quick trip to the loo. Roger and his escort were the last to return, obviously by plan, as Mrs. Toms' took the opportunity to ask, "was he truthful". We assured her that he was.
With questioning, and a short lunch break, it was four hours until Roger was excused. He and his minder ate separately, with his normal lunchmates. We learned from Roger that we had attracted the attention of some very senior security staff among the friends. Roger had even met Darth Cheney, who had both thanked him for his service with a big wad of cash and threatened him. The most important point was that the friends had accepted the phoney photos of us, which Roger gave them. Roger had been ordered to provide more files. The auror who would be one of the teachers at the phoney Wizard school would be one of the photos. He would be substitute Neville. Mrs. Toms told us that she had 'absolutely forbade Mr. Weasley from participating in the subterfuge. He was brave but feeling as guilty as he obviously did made him a risk to blow the charade. Roger's spy craft was good enough that he had detected his three shadows but was certain they didn't realise that. He thought they believed his tale. He had passed their lie detector test. He had done so twice. The more unbelievable substitute facts we had confounded him with caused the friends to think he might be overly credulous and that the things he had obviously observed might not be as significant as Roger obviously believed. There was some very bad news. The friends had identified, but not yet met with, Hemerocallis, who apparently was on holiday in Britain. Roger's shadows were tasked with tracking down Hemerocallis, just as soon as they were convinced that Roger wasn't a double agent running straight back to his Special Branch handlers.
"That's all Roger," Mrs. Toms finally declared. "You're lucky. We already know of your transgressions, so our friends can't blackmail you. You're helping us, so if you do well as a double agent, you can avoid jail and even continue to work here - with less access to important secrets. The friends aren't a threat to kill you; you've happily escaped the attention of the big bad bear. You can expect to be detoured to the American Embassy sometime in the next week for a further debriefing and polygraph. You need to know certain things, but the things you don't know are about to be obliviated. You can keep your boyfriend, although I don't understand why you refer to him as your mistress. You will drink some liars' milk before you leave and will be confunded to totally believe everything in these new files. It will be liar's milk every day, when you leave work, with a top up if you leave the building for lunch. Here is your next official assignment. It is important, but it's NATO and unobjectionable and quite uninteresting to the friends. You will be working with two other agents. That is both for your safety and so that we know where to find you. Do what you need to do, Hermione."
Roger was dismissed, with knowledge of this meeting obliviated and a full day's work, including a routine, post-travel debriefing substituted.
Harry spoke determinedly as soon as Roger was out of earshot "If the friends can trace Hemerocallis back to Madam Bones, we are in deep trouble. We must find Hemerocallis first. We must work together. The only plan I can think of is to kidnap Roger's shadows and use the Juice to force them to reveal the real identity of Hemerocallis."
"Their contact was by internet," Hermione explained to Harry. "All trace of that must be erased. We must question Madam Bones and learn from where and how she transmitted her messages. She was vague on how she initially got together with Hemerocallis, but it sounds like she left a record on the FanFiction site. That is our biggest risk. Special Branch needs to act on that."
"Talk to your woman, get me the information before dinner, and my people will act before you are snuggled into your beds."