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  “What the fuck, you bastard –”


   Harry reeled from the force of Kemester’s backhand hit and staggered backwards, against the dark stone wall of the room the two had Apparated into. But the Hit Wizard wasn’t done with Harry – taking an iron grip on his shoulder, he wrenched Harry forward and slammed him into the heavy metal table bolted to the floor in the center of the room.

   “Like that, Potter?” Kemester snarled, knocking Harry’s wild punch aside and elbowing him in the mouth for good measure. “What’s the matter, you can’t back up your tough talk and tough money with a hit?”

   Harry spat blood, glared daggers at Kemester, and with a roar, tried to slam his shoulder into Kemester’s chest. But the Hit Wizard saw the attack, and with the dexterity brought from years of training, twisted Harry’s momentum and shoved him into the table again. Grabbing hold of Harry’s hair, the Hit Wizard gave Harry’s head a slam against the table for good measure.

   Harry howled with pain and tried desperately to kick for Kemester’s groin, but the older man smoothly sidestepped and with the pull of a lever, brought something that looked like a set of roughly riveted metal gauntlets down on Harry’s forearms and hands – except this device sealed itself to the table with a click, leaving Harry’s arms wrenched down on the table.

   With a satisfied grunt, Kemester raised his wand, and Harry felt his legs get knocked out from underneath his body as a stone chair materialized out of the floor, shoving him into a crude sitting position. Looking through his shattered glasses, Harry saw Kemester walk to the other end of the table and face him, a cold, triumphant smile on his face.

   “Looks like I win.”

   “Bite me, you bastard –”

   “Rather not, sorry,” Kemester said icily, leaning forward. “And don’t even waste your time pulling yourself free. See those blades at the end?”

   Harry looked down to see his arms sheathed in metal up to his elbows – where, just above them, two sharp, curved blades were locked into place.

   “You try and yank yourself free, those blades drop, and you’ll be bereft of both arms, instead of just the one,” Kemester hissed, leaning close, so Harry could see every inch of the man’s craggy face. “So you’re mine till we’re through, got it?”

   Harry spat a mouthful of blood into the man’s face, only to get another backhand blow across the face. He felt his nose crunch, and another fresh stream of blood trickled down to his lips.

   Kemester wiped the blood off his face as he glared down at Harry. “And it certainly took long enough to get you here. Do you know how hard I’ve fought to get this?”

   “I’m not saying anything,” Harry growled. “I want a lawyer.”

   Kemester laughed openly at that, the mocking sound nearly driving Harry forward. The noise echoed in the dimly lit room, and for the first time, Harry wondered where the hell he was.

   “You think you’re getting legal counsel now?” Kemester said, his eyes gleaming as he began walking around the table. “Well, I’ve got news for you, Potter – where we are, the only place you’ll be getting your counsel will be in a Wizengamot courtroom – and we aren’t too far from one of those. And as soon as Fudge knows you’re here and can assemble a quorum, you’ll be carted off to Azkaban where you belong.”

   So I’m in some sort of interrogation room at the Ministry, Harry thought wildly, spotting the heavy iron door directly in front of him. He swallowed hard when he noticed that the door didn’t have any hinges – or a latch. How the hell can I get out –

   “And the funny thing is that the second you stepped out of Hogwarts, you sealed your fate,” Kemester said, his voice filled with smug satisfaction. “Out of Dumbledore’s protection, out of his reach –”

   “No court will convict me, you’ve got no evidence!” Harry snarled, his legs twisting around the chair, hoping that somehow he could knock it free so he could extricate his arms.

   Kemester raised an eyebrow as he stepped forward, his unkempt orange hair shining in the torchlight. “You really want to go down that road, Potter?  You really want to cross that line?”

   “You can’t tie me to anything –”

   “Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?” Kemester spat, grabbing Harry’s hair again and wrenching him back. “You fled from the Ministry just a bit more than a month ago, and my brother died because of it – along with three good men who I called friends.”

   “They chose to chase me,” Harry growled.

   A second later, he regretted the words, as Kemester had brutally slammed Harry’s head into the table again.

   “They were doing their jobs, Potter!” Kemester snarled. “You’ve never lost someone like a brother before, have you? You won’t know what it feels like to know that you can never look into your brother’s eyes again, because he got fucking decapitated by a Muggle aeroplane!  Bartholomew was my only brother, Potter, and don’t you dare deny the blame for his death!” He punctuated the words with another punch that left Harry lurching in the chair, struggling to avoid the blades that would take off his arms if he rose.

   “But that wasn’t enough, was it?” Kemester whispered, his eyes blazing as he began walking around the table again. “No, you weren’t satisfied with manslaughter, so you broke into Gringotts – collaborating with a criminal all the while. And the disgusting thing is, I should have expected it, though why you would work with a psychopath like Black is beyond me. And I nearly got you that day too – I nearly found you at your little hideaway, and if it wasn’t for Scrimgeour, you would have been in Azkaban weeks ago!”

   “You’ve got no evidence to connect me to Gringotts,” Harry growled. “You can’t prove anything. And as soon as Scrimgeour finds out that I’m down here, he’s going to –”

   “He can’t interfere – not this time,” Kemester said with a twisted smile. “Not like the last time – I knew that trial was a sham, but your money can only take you so far, Potter!”

   Harry tried to prevent his eyes from widening – how much did Kemester really know? “So you’re saying that I bribed Rufus Scrimgeour, Kemester?” he asked, forcing a derisive laugh. “Honestly, how stupid can you get?”

   “I wasn’t the only one who knew something was wrong in that courtroom,” Kemester hissed, “and it’s all making sense, too – in exchange for Black helping you, you accorded him a little act of terrorism. You didn’t blow up Ollivander’s – he did!”

   Harry did laugh this time, at the sheer ludicrousness of Kemester’s reasoning. “And place myself that close to the blast radius? I’m not an idiot, Kemester, despite how much you appear to be!”

   Kemester’s next hit landed with an audible crunch across Harry’s jaw, and he felt teeth get knocked loose. He reeled in his chair from the hit – only to meet the next punch in mid-swing, knocking him back in his chair. Pain exploded across his face, and he could taste blood in his mouth. He wondered, in the back of his mind, when Kemester would break out the Cruciatus Curse. Then again, he wouldn’t risk compromising his case… but if I get him angry enough, he could make a mistake… I’ve just got to stay conscious…

   “But you made a mistake bombing Ollvander’s, Potter,” Kemester said, a note of grim triumph in his voice as he grabbed Harry’s hair again. “We tracked your explosives, and we knew it was you behind the attacks. So when you tried to head for Dumbledore’s sanctuary, we were waiting.”

   “And that did so much good,” Harry said with a mirthless grin as he spat blood again. “You just lost more people there – do you like throwing people into a meat grinder, Kemester? Do you really have that much disregard for other lives?”

   Kemester’s face went red with rage and Harry prepared himself for another hit, but Kemester didn’t punch him this time. Harry cautiously looked up, only to see Kemester’s eyes darken, as if they had seen something unpleasant.

   “Oh, I see what game you’re playing, Potter,” he muttered, turning away towards the door. “You want me to hit you so much that it’s obvious, that disorderly conduct charges can be filed against me, that you can have me thrown off H.A.I.T. and out of the Hit Wizards… a clever plan, Potter, but I’m not stupid.”

   “Despite all the evidence on the contrary –”

   “Potter, I’ve got the puzzle pieces, and they’re finally fitting together,” Kemester said softly, leaning close. “You’ve been working with Black since the beginning – and when you went to meet with him today, something went wrong. You had a falling-out… and now he’s hungry for your blood.” Kemester gave a harsh laugh. “And you told Dumbledore you were looking for ‘legal counsel’.”

   Harry shook his head with incredulity, spitting another mouthful of blood onto the floor. He could hardly believe what he was hearing – Kemester had used a bad premise, logically inferred, and jumped to entirely the wrong conclusion.

   Suddenly, his eyes snapped up. “So you admit that I wasn’t responsible for the Ollivander’s explosion! Then why are you still holding me here? Isn’t that against the law or something?”

   “You collaborate with Black, you share his sentence – and you’ve got a slew of crimes to add here – I think we can start with obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, and manslaughter to name a few,” Kemester growled. “And this time, there’s no hiding under Dumbledore’s security blanket.”

   “And what makes you think you have enough evidence?” Harry snapped, anger rising in his gut. “You don’t have a shred of proof to tie me to Sirius Black, and you know it better than I do!”

   “There’s a way to resolve that,” Kemester growled, slamming both fists down on the table. “Where’s Black, Potter?”

   Harry glared back at him. “I don’t know – and I wouldn’t tell you even if I did!”

   “Already admitting you collaborated with him?” Kemester snarled swiftly.

   “More like you’re a massive tosser that I’m telling a damned thing!” Harry spat. “Have you even bothered to think that my attacker back on the road wasn’t Sirius Black? Why would he attack me if he helped me before?”

   “You tell me, Potter!” Kemester roared, his temper finally exploding. “Why you would protect a homicidal maniac remains beyond me anyways! But please, tell me who you think it really is, instead of your dear friend Sirius!”

   “Death Eaters!” Harry yelled furiously, straining against the desire not to throttle the Hit Wizard. “It’s not him!”

   “Prove it! Unless…” Kemester’s face twisted into a hideous scowl. “Unless, of course, you’re going to say that You-Know-Who himself ordered it, that he’s back, that he seeks your blood yet again!”

   “It’s possible!” Harry said angrily, a sudden chill surging down his back. It couldn’t have been Sirius, he knew that – Voldemort couldn’t have gotten to him if he had stayed inside Grimmauld Place. It must be some sort of disguise, some sort of misdirection to throw me off…

   “Sure,” Kemester sneered. “Another excuse. Another desperate attempt to avoid taking responsibility for the deaths you’ve caused, the lives you’ve ruined. I’m sure Cedric Diggory would feel so proud of what you’ve done.”

   White-hot rage surged through Harry. He’d never hated anybody more than he hated Kemester in that second. “Well, I’m sure you ruined your brother’s life plenty before he had the misfortune to end it – maybe he just wanted it –”


   Kemester’s punches came in a hard, hot flurry, sending pain exploding through his jaw and across his neck. He felt his hair in Kemester’s white-knuckled grip, and before he could even say a word, he felt his head slam violently into the metal table, and he heard no more.

*          *         *

   Reed Larshall didn’t often panic, but the second he saw Kemester grab Harry Potter and Disapparate, he knew that panic would be a very appropriate response. He’s going to kill him – and that’ll ruin everything! He’ll lose everything, and I’ll go down with him!

   He heard Tonks’ wordless scream of frustration and rage, and before he could even react, he felt the Auror’s hand on his collar.

   “Where’s he gone, Larshall?” Tonks said in a deadly voice. “Where the hell did Kemester take him, Larshall?”

   “I don’t know, Tonks, I don’t know!” Larshall replied, looking wildly around. “If I would have to guess, he probably went to the Ministry –”

   Tonks swore violently. “We need to get Charlie up to the school – Dumbledore’s going to be on his way and I hope to Merlin that you got the rest of H.A.I.T. too –”

   “I did –”

   “Because Charlie’s dying of some sort of anemic curse, and I can’t reverse it!” They hurried over to the blood-stained patch of ground where Charlie lay, bleeding and moaning in pain.

   “Damn, he’s going fast,” Larshall said anxiously, drawing his wand. “You can’t stabilize –”

   “I’m not a Healer, Larshall!” Tonks said furiously, getting back to her feet and looking quickly up the road. “I think H.A.I.T.’s coming down the road – and I think Dumbledore’s with them!”


   “Where’s Charlie? Let me get a look at him!” Kingsley Shacklebolt asked sharply, shoving Larshall out of the way as he drew his wand. “And where’s Potter?”

   Larshall and Tonks exchanged looks at the sight of the grave expression on Dumbledore’s face.

   “Kemester,” Larshall said in a strained voice.

   Dumbledore closed his eyes. “You did not stop him, Larshall?”

   “Professor, please –”

   Dumbledore turned to Tonks. “You know what must be done. And I will want an explanation.”

   Tonks swallowed hard at the hard expression on the Headmaster’s face. “Okay.” Spinning on her heel, she Disapparated.

   Dumbledore turned back to the gathered H.A.I.T. members, many of whom were trying – and failing – to reverse the curse on Charlie.

   “I assume you all brought brooms?” At the nodded response, Dumbledore pointed towards the castle. “Fly to the Hospital Wing with Mr. Weasley immediately. Where’s his arm?”

   “I’ve got it,” a scarred Auror by the name of Wilson said as he gingerly picked up the severed limp. There was a sick crunching sound as he moved it in his hand. “I… uh, I don’t think this is in any condition to be reattached –”

   “Madam Pomfrey is one of the best Healers in the country, and if anybody can do it, she will be the one,” Dumbledore replied tensely.

   “Professor Dumbledore, I don’t have a broom,” Larshall said tentatively. “How am I –”

   “You will be returning to the Ministry immediately and informing the Minister of this development,” Dumbledore said. “Instruct him that it is necessary to proclaim a state of emergency and mobilize the full corps of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

   Larshall nodded. “That makes sense, and if Black’s capable of this, he’s probably –”

   “Black?” Dumbledore asked sharply. “Sirius Black was spotted here?”

   “He was the one who attacked Potter!” Larshall exclaimed. “He and two others…I’d recognize Black anywhere!”

   Dumbledore eyed Larshall for a long few seconds. “Yes, I’m sure you would.” He turned to the rest of H.A.I.T. “Once you have Mr. Weasley in the Hospital Wing, contact the rest of the Weasley family. Do not expect to find the twins – they will already know.”

   Larshall opened his mouth with confusion, but Kingsley spoke first.

   “And you, Professor?”

   “I’ll meet you in the Hospital Wing shortly. For now, I must reinforce Hogwarts,” Dumbledore replied curtly. He Disapparated with a whirl of his cloak, leaving the group of flabbergasted Aurors and Hit Wizards behind.

*          *          *

   “Professor Flitwick, I’m going to need the Weasley twins for the rest of the day,” Tonks said tersely, barging into the room. “As in now.”

   At the expression on Tonks’ face, Flitwick knew better than to ask questions. “Go with Miss Tonks, boys,” he said in his squeaky voice, “and be careful.”

   Fred and George exchanged confused glances as they left the classroom. Probably has been the first time they’ve been pulled out of class instead of being thrown out, Tonks thought to herself.

   “Tonks, what’s going on?” Fred asked the second the door closed. “I mean, I’m not complaining, mind you, but –”

   “Not here!” Tonks hissed, pulling both of them into a nearby broom cupboard and kicking a startled Ms. Norris out of it.

   “Well, we’ve always wanted to be in a broom cupboard with a Metamorphmagus,” George muttered.

   “Shut up, you two, this is deadly serious,” Tonks said sharply. “Your brother’s in trouble – big trouble.”

   “What, Ron?” Fred asked with a frown. “What did he do now?”

   “It’s Charlie, Fred,” Tonks said anxiously. “Look, I can’t tell you everything – I’m only telling you this much because Dumbledore thought I could use you two –”

   “What happened to Charlie?” George demanded. “Is he okay?”

   “He Apparated onto the path from Hogsmeade bleeding from a dozen attacks,” Tonks said in a low voice. “And once the Death Eaters were finished, he was missing an arm and dying on the rocks.”

   Both twins went pale.

   “There are Death Eaters in Hogsmeade?” Fred asked, swallowing hard.

   “Forget them, Fred, is Charlie going to be okay?” George asked fearfully.

   “It looks bad… really bad,” Tonks said, clenching both her fists. “But that’s not why I’m here – I need both of you, more specifically your little magical stones that emit fields and willing participation in something that’s most definitely illegal.”

   “What about Charlie?” George asked quickly, looking sick. “If he’s dying, he needs us –”

   “There’s nothing we can do about him, Madam Pomfrey’s doing everything she can,” Tonks said tensely.

   “He’s in the Hospital Wing?” Fred asked, turning towards the door, but Tonks drew her wand and sealed the door with a wave.

   “You can see him after we’re done – you two are the best for this kind of job –”

   “You’re telling us we can’t see Charlie because of some stupid job?” Fred asked incredulously. “He’s our brother, and he’s dying!”

   “The Order needs this, Fred –”

   “We don’t give a damn about your dumb Order!” George shouted furiously. “This is our brother dying here!”

   “Listen to me!” Tonks growled. “You wanted to join the Order, you two? Well, this is a part of it – you’ve got to think of the mission! And right now, the mission is the first priority – Harry’s been arrested, and we need to get him out of there.”

   “Surely he can wait until after we see our dying brother!” Fred snarled.

   “Not with Kemester interrogating him, he can’t!” Tonks shot back. “And if we want to have any shot of getting him out before he winds up in Azkaban or dead from ‘interrogation complications’, we’ve got to move!”

   “Do you even know where he is in the Ministry?”

   “I will,” Tonks said grimly. “Dumbledore’s going to activate a deep-cover agent to get Harry out of there – hopefully, we’ll have enough time.”

   “And if we don’t?”

   Tonks shivered. “I don’t even want to think about that.”

*          *          *

   Kemester stepped back away from the unconscious Harry Potter and cautiously surveyed him. He was still breathing, but only just. He certainly wasn’t going anywhere.

   He was disgusted – both with Potter and with himself. He had let his anger get the better of him, and even though he couldn’t deny the powerful rush of pleasure he had felt by slamming Potter’s head into the table, he knew that if Potter was seen in this condition, he would be in deep trouble. Particularly as I didn’t have a warrant… Umbridge should be able to smooth that over, or we can use the previous warrants that I got for Larshall, but even still that’s a complication…

   He thought, suddenly, of Kingsley Shacklebolt. He knew that with Black on the loose in England, the Auror was either guilty of gross incompetence or collaboration with the criminal. Just as I’ve suspected all along, he thought with a smug smirk of triumph. His career’s over...

   “As is yours, if you are seen with Potter in that condition,” a voice said from directly behind him – a drawling voice that defied all of Kemester’s reason.

   He spun on his heel to see a floating impossibility. It’s not possible, he can’t be here – he’s bound to Hogwarts – 

   Peeves waved jauntily at the Hit Wizard with a twisted smile on his face. “Miss me?”

   “How… how the hell –”
   “Ask me no questions, Dmitri, and I’ll, ah,
tell you no lies,” Peeves said, his smile growing impossibly wide. “Of course, I’d probably not tell you the truth either – but that’d be the way you’d want it, after all.”

   “What are you talking about, you damned polter –”

   “I’m talking about the fact that you just beat Harry Potter and knocked him out,” Peeves gloated wickedly. “Oh, I can see the headlines now… you know, I love watching people go above and beyond in their work, but this just takes the cake…

   Both of Kemester’s hands were clenched into fists, but he knew, deep in the empty pit of his stomach, that Peeves was horribly right. His career was over if Bones found out…

   “And even if the cake is not a lie,” Peeves added with a cackle, “Potter has some powerful friends – not in the least is his godfather. I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to see what you did to him…”

   “So he has been collaborating with Black!” Kemester shouted triumphantly. “I knew it!”

   Peeves tilted his incorporeal head sideways, his smile transforming into a satisfied smirk. “And you know what the best part of all this is?”

   “What?” Kemester asked, leaning against the wall, secure in his logical victory.

   “The Unspeakables know you’re here.”

   Kemester sprang up, a wild expression on his face. “What?”

   “You know, are you really allowed to speak about the Unspeakables?” Peeves mused, floating around the table. “Or are they the ones not allowed to speak? I’ve never had the pleasure of asking –”

   “How did they find me?” Kemester yelled. “These interrogation rooms haven’t been used for almost thirteen years!”

   Peeves gave Kemester a stern look. “Dmitri, you’re inside the Department of Mysteries – the Department that has none of that accountability that you’ve got the misfortune to have to deal with, so where else would all those little cops build their private hideaways to take their accumulated scum?”

   “So they’re coming?” Kemester said, very real panic on his face. “Oh shit, oh shit –”

   “Slow down a bit, you’ll give yourself a heart attack,” Peeves said with a devilish wink. “Let’s not, ah, blow this out of proportions here – the Unspeakables want Potter for their own purposes, and when he’s unconscious, it’s all the better.”

   “Why would they want him?”

   Peeves frowned. “Something to do with… hmm, might have been that missing prophecy about him in their halls. Oh, and they want to run some tests on him too, and you already removed their need for a sedative! Congratulations!”

   Kemester looked around the room frantically. All of his plans to keep Potter secluded until he could talk to Fudge were crumbling. “I can’t be seen here! Not now, I need more time!”

   “Well, I can see you here,” Peeves said, feigning confusion as he floated around the room. “Although you really might want to leave… those Unspeakables might consider your presence an invitation for additional tests on you –”

   “I’ll Disapparate out of here, and leave Potter to them,” Kemester reasoned, gritting his teeth. Suddenly, he grinned. “And after they’re done with him, he’ll be begging for Azkaban…”

   Peeves’ eyes glinted. “Good plan, I think. Oh, and Dmitri?”


   “I was right,” Peeves hissed with a demonic smile, and his voice dropped another octave. “You do thrive in the darkness, in the rooms filled with flickering torchlight… after all, where else to see your true self?”

   And with a wild cackle that send a horrible chill down Kemester’s spine, the poltergeist shot through the wall, his last laugh echoing horribly in the room.

*         *          *

   Severus Snape leaned back against the edge of his chair, a thin sheen of sweat on his face as he worked to control his breathing. “The curse is broken – or as much as it can be.”

   “Thank you, Severus,” Dumbledore said quietly from his position at the end of Charlie’s bed. “His arm cannot be replaced, though?”

   “Not from a curse like Macnair’s,” Snape muttered. “That’s Dark magic that even I haven’t seen before – but given the fact that the man’s an executioner, I’m not surprised he knows this brand of magic. And considering that every bone in that arm is in slivers the size of my fingernail, I wouldn’t dare try to reattach it anyways.”

   “That spell doesn’t seem like Macnair’s style, if I remember correctly,” Dumbledore said softly. “Another Death Eater, or a foreign agent hired, I wonder…”

   “Was it Black?” Snape spat. “Did the dog break your collar? It’s not so hard to believe, considering his mind was half-broken before I left –”

   “Voldemort will want us to think that it is Sirius,” Dumbledore replied heavily, “and given the most recent circumstances, we will have no way to verify it.”

   “It’s just a matter of going to Headquarters to check!” Snape said impatiently. “Surely that’s not that difficult – just get your pet werewolf to do it –”

   “Grimmauld Place has been sealed off,” Dumbledore said heavily. “Lord Voldemort has been working some esoteric magic indeed – and the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has a leak that must be plugged.”

   Snape’s eyes widened, and then narrowed. “Nothing can get past the Fidelius Charm, Dumbledore, and you know very well that I have not had the opportunity to betray us.”

   “In the files relating to Kingsley’s arrest and the previous case against Harry Potter, a scrap of paper was painstakingly reconstructed using Arithmancy magic. The fragment was used to track Harry to Grimmauld Place, and if my guess is correct, it was appropriated by one of his agents. Although the number was not revealed, Lord Voldemort now knows the rough location of the Order Headquarters – but that was all he needed. He cast an exceptionally powerful shielding spell over the entire road, preventing any form of magical communication or transportation into or out of that area. It also boasts a terrifically powerful wizard-repelling charm that I’ve never seen before – and a failsafe woven through all the magic that I dare not activate.”

   Snape’s eyes narrowed. “What failsafe?”

   “It is a blend of Spanish and Italian magic, crafted centuries ago by desperate wizards fleeing the Inquisition and who would rather die than fall into the hands of the enemy.” Dumbledore’s face was grim. “If one of the charms fails without the careful disarming of the failsafe – from the inside – the entire area within the radius of the charms is annihilated.”

   Snape was silent for a few seconds. “So the rumor has been confirmed, then – the Dark Lord is appropriating magic from the continent.”

   “It is as we feared,” Dumbledore said heavily. “And as Charlie is in this condition, I would guess that his mission was a failure – Gertrude Marchbanks is dead, and Harry’s chances for acquittal grow slimmer.”

   “I thought Potter was arrested!”

    Dumbledore gave Snape a very small smile. “Now, Severus, you don’t think I was not prepared for this possibility? Harry Potter will be back at Hogwarts soon, don’t worry.”

   “You couldn’t just let the Wizengamot decide this?” Snape snarled. “You just had to rescue him?”

   “There would have been no decision, Severus, you and I both know that,” Dumbledore replied seriously, “and if Harry was to be sent to Azkaban… I do not need to tell you of the danger, then.”

   If you only knew, Snape thought to himself, turning away from Dumbledore. “I still think –”


    “Where’s Charlie?” Arthur Weasley said, his face white with fear. “Damn it, where’s my son?”

   “He’s right here, Arthur,” Dumbledore said quickly, moving to where he and his wife were standing, along with a pale-faced Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. “He was gravely wounded –”

   Molly Weasley burst into tears as she shoved her way past Dumbledore to where Charlie was lying, unconscious, badly scared, and missing an arm, on the white sheets. “Charlie, speak to me! Charlie!”

   “Mrs. Weasley, he will be all right,” Snape said coolly, rising to his feet. “The anemia curse was reversed, and I was able to heal many of his wounds. He is resting now. His scars, on the other hand… well, he’ll match well with Moody when we decide to take new photographs.”

   “Severus,” Dumbledore said warningly. “That’s enough.”

   But before Dumbledore could say anymore, the door burst open again, revealing none other than the squat form of Dolores Umbridge, with two grim-faced H.A.I.T. members right behind her.

   “Where’s Potter?” she demanded as she swept into the room. “I expected to see him here, given the recent attack!”

   “Your Hit Wizard Kemester has taken care of that, Dolores,” Dumbledore said coolly, and Snape felt a terrible chill run down his spine as he saw the hard look of anger on Dumbledore’s face. The old man’s blue eyes were blazing with fury as he approached the woman, and Snape knew in a second why the Dark Lord had feared Dumbleodre. “As soon as the Death Eaters –”

   “Black’s Death Eaters,” Umbridge interrupted, her eyes glittering.

   “– Had fled, Kemester arrested Harry and Disapparated,” Dumbledore finished, his voice icy. “I would like to know if you gave him this authority, Dolores, because I certainly did not.”

   “Potter chose to leave the school,” Umbridge began haughtily, “and he was liable for arrest the second he stepped off out of the Hogwarts grounds.”

   “He was under the escort of an Auror!” Hermione shouted angrily, rising to his feet from his position beside Charlie. “And you didn’t have a warrant –”

   “Hermione, hold your tongue,” Mr. Weasley warned, but Umbridge looked smug.

   “Unfortunately, Miss Granger, you are incorrect, because we certainly did have a warrant for Potter’s arrest – one that Kemester obtained from me before the term began.”

   “I will want to see the dates on that warrant,” Dumbledore said calmly, “because if it is invalid, Kemester has committed a grave crime indeed.”

   “You’ll find them quite valid, Professor,” Umbridge said, her voice just as calm as she pulled an official-looking piece of paper from her purple cardigan. “Just as you’ll find the dates on this warrant just as valid.”

   “What is that for?” Snape asked sharply.

   Dumbledore carefully unfolded the parchment and read it. A few second later, he looked up and met Umbridge’s smug, pouchy eyes with a very dangerous expression. “You should not have done this, Dolores.”

   “What does the warrant say?” Mr. Weasley asked.

   “It is a warrant for the arrest of one Charles Weasley.”

   There was a split second of silence before –

   “How dare you?” Ginny screamed. “Can’t you see he’s nearly dying here?”

   “That’s out of line!” Mr. Weasley shouted. “Completely unjust!”

   “YOU EVIL WOMAN!” Mrs. Weasley shrieked. “HOW DARE YOU DO THIS TO MY SON! I’M GOING TO –”

   “What are the charges for?” Snape demanded angrily, pulling the warrant from Dumbledore’s hands and reading it. His eyes widened, and then he handed it to Mr. Weasley with a disgusted look. “You’re charging him for illegal Apparition?”

   “No, the Department of International Magical Co-operation is charging him for illegal apparition across multiple countries,” Umbridge said coolly. “This is an international issue here, Professor Snape, and I am only here to escort Mr. Charles Weasley to St. Mungo’s and then to a Ministry holding cell, as his Apparition license has already been revoked.”

   Mr. Weasley suddenly grabbed a hold of the bedpost and swayed on his feet. His eyes were suddenly wet with uncharacteristic tears.

   “Arthur, what’s going on?” Mrs. Weasley asked, pulling the paper from his hands.

   “No, he didn’t… he wouldn’t have,” Mr. Weasley said, his voice taking a strangled tone. “No, no, no…”

   Umbridge smiled at that second, and Snape felt a rush of repulsion running through his veins that he hadn’t felt since the last time he had looked upon Evan Rosier.

   “And, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, you’d honour a warrant signed by your own son, wouldn’t you?”

   Ron and Ginny’s mouths fell open, as Mrs. Weasley began to sob, throwing her arms around her husband.

   “Using Percy to send a message to the Weasleys – and to me – was a very bad idea, Dolores,” Dumbledore said, his voice ominous. “Very bad indeed. And as someone who was the former Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, I have the authority to lodge an official complaint.”

   “And when you can find somebody to listen to you, I’m sure that complaint will be addressed,” Umbridge retorted, gesturing for the wizards behind her to come forward. With a wave of their wand, they had conjured a stretcher between them, and with another wave, Charlie was lying on it.

   “Take him to the gates,” Umbridge ordered.

   “YOU CAN’T DO THIS!” Mrs. Weasley screamed, leaping up to fling herself at Umbridge, but Snape grabbed her and her husband before they could attack the toad-like woman.

   “If you attack her,” Snape snarled, wrestling for a firm hold on Mrs. Weasley’s robe, “your son will be worse off! Calm down, woman, or it will be worse for him!”

   “Wise words, Snape,” Umbridge said with a cold smile. “Perhaps you can be trusted after all.”

   Don’t count on that, Snape thought hatefully, as Umbridge strode out, leaving the horrified Weasleys behind as she took with her their second-eldest son.

   “And you’re sure she’s not a Death Eater?” Ron finally said furiously after a few seconds. “Are you so sure of that now, Hermione?”

   “She is not a Death Eater, Ronald,” Dumbledore said quietly, “but something just as bad. Fortunately, she will not have won this round entirely. Fred, George, and Nymphadora Tonks will see to that.”

   “Where are the twins?” Ginny asked. “I couldn’t find them anywhere –”

   “Getting Harry.”

*          *          *

   He could see Hogwarts in the distance, the high towers scraping the sky like so many grasping hands reaching for heaven… and yet he was below, and all he could see was hell…

   Harry gasped as he jolted awake – only to bang his head rather suddenly against something solid.

   He blinked rapidly, looking around, but all he could see was blackness. He could smell something, though – something terrible.

   “What the hell…” he whispered, trying to work up enough blood in his mouth to spit…

   And then he noticed it.

   He tried to flex his fingers, but he couldn’t.

   He tried to wiggle his toes, but he couldn’t do that either.

   He tried, with rapidly rising panic, to hear his frantically beating heart.

   He couldn’t hear a thing.

   “Oh my god, this can’t be happening,” Harry said frantically as he looked around the pitch black… area he was in. He looked down, but he couldn’t even see the rest of his body – if indeed, the rest of his body was even there!

   “Help!” he shouted. “Somebody, please, help!”

   There was a scuffling very close to his head, and he froze. It sounded like somebody was fiddling with some sort of lock…

   There was a sudden flash, and Harry blinked back tears as he looked through the sudden window of white light in front of him –

   Only to see the smiling face of Nymphadora Tonks.

   “God, you look like shit,” Tonks said, cocking an eyebrow. “Sorry, Harry, but I’m not going to be kissing anyone who looks like they had the tar kicked out of them.”

   “Tonks, where the hell am I? I can’t feel the rest of my body!” Harry said fearfully. “I don’t know where I am, but I want you to get me the hell out!”

   “Is he awake?’ an unrecognizable somber voice said from somewhere to Harry’s left. He turned his head to look – horrified that he couldn’t feel anything from the neck downwards – only to see blackness.

   “Am I in some sort of box?” he demanded. “Damn it, Tonks, what the hell happened to me?”

   Tonks looked a little nervous. “Well, Harry, it’s like this –”

   Suddenly, the window in front of Harry was filled with two grinning faces – two identical grinning faces.

   “Hello Harry,” George said amicably. “Pleasure to see you. I’d shake your hand, but that’d be a bit difficult at the moment.”

   “So, you know that trick that Muggle magicians use where they cut people in half?” Fred asked with a wink. “Well, the Department of Mysteries found a way that they could do that –”

   “-Except magically,” George finished with a smile. “Turn the box, Tonks, so he can see his benefactor.”

   “What box, I don’t know –” Harry’s voice was cut off by a scraping sound, and a second later, he found himself staring at a sallow-faced man with a mournful expression, wearing very dark robes and brandishing a very thick wand in one hand and a long metal saw in the other.

   Harry felt the blood drain from his face – although into what, exactly, he hadn’t a clue. “You… you sawed me in half!”

   “Broderick Bode, and a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” the wizard said calmly. “And no, not exactly in half. I just took the liberty of separating your various limbs into boxes for transportation.”

   “And we’re going to transport you right back into Hogwarts,” George finished with a smile as he slid behind Bode. “Wicked cool magic, don’t you think? We’ll walk straight through the doors at Honeydukes, and they’ll think the boxes are candy shipments. Meanwhile, we can go straight up the secret passageway right into the school!”

   “It’s ingenious, isn’t it?” Fred said, poking his head into Harry’s view. “Nobody will see it coming!”

   “I think I’d kill you all if I could feel my arms!” Harry said furiously. “How do you know this Bode can be trusted?”

   “Because he’s under the orders of –”

   “Headmaster Dumbledore,” Bode finished with a grave nod. “It may be the only way in which you can return to school without being detected, as these boxes are impenetrable to any forms of scrying or detection magic.”

   Harry swallowed hard. “This… this is just wrong.”

   “You’re telling me,” Tonks muttered, “considering I’m going to be the one stuck carrying your torso!”

   “And why is that so bad?”

   “Where do you think his manhood is attached? We’re not leaving it behind!”


*          *           *

   It was a very disheveled and sore Harry that climbed out of the reconnected boxes in the abandoned classroom. Tonks had left Fred and George responsible for putting the boxes back in order, and thankfully, they wouldn’t reattach if the body parts weren’t in the correct order.

   “I would have liked to see his arms growing out of the top of his head,” George said wistfully. “Clearly, we need to fiddle with that magic a bit –”

   “Then you get in the boxes next time,” Harry grumbled, wiping a smear of blood from his face. There had been one benefit of the boxes – they had muffled the pain. Now Harry felt the pain of a fractured jaw and a severely broken nose radiating through his face. “Unless we have to return them to Bode –”

   “Which we do,” Tonks said heavily, stepping into the room and rubbing her eyes. “Now get out, you two, Harry and I have to talk.”

   Both twins wolf-whistled, and Harry went red and reached for his wand – only to find it missing.

   “Where’s my wand? Did somebody get –”

   “Relax, Harry, I’ve got it right here,” Tonks said tiredly, tossing Harry his wand and rubbing her eyes again.”It’s not going to help you much, though – not now. You want me to fix your nose?”

   “Can you cast that charm?” Harry asked nervously as Tonks drew her wand.

   “I’m not a Healer, but I’m at least competent,” Tonks replied with a snort, pointing her wand at Harry’s face. “Episkey.”

   Harry’s face felt quite hot for a few seconds, and Tonks removed her wand with a sigh. “There, that doesn’t look half bad. You’re still going to have some wicked bruising, though.”

   “How did you find Bode?” Harry asked quietly. “That must have been a stroke of luck.”

   “Dumbledore,” Tonks replied simply. “He just put his contingency plan into action. Bode was the agent he recruited after Rawling’s death, and if anything, that whole box scheme was his idea.” She snorted. “Talk about a morbid sense of humor.”

   “Why does the Department of Mysteries even do that?” Harry asked, shivering at the bizarre feeling of his head being detached from his body. “I mean, it’s disturbing as hell!”

   Tonks swallowed hard. “Well, one of the things the Department of Mysteries studies is how we are magical – so, being the creepy people they are, they found a way to isolate limbs and test them individually while keeping the body alive. It’s disturbing, and if you’re not unconscious when it happens, the shock can reportedly damn near kill.”

   “That’s… that’s just sick,” Harry said with horror. “Who do they even study?”

   “Bode wanted to study you, but I convinced him otherwise.” Tonks looked green and she took a few shuddering breaths. “Mostly they study victims of the Dementor’s Kiss who aren’t put out of their misery.”

   Harry recoiled. “That’s terrible!”

   “They call it the Department of Mysteries for a reason, Harry, and for good reason,” Tonks replied, kicking the wooden box closed. “But really, your situation isn’t much better now –”

   Harry remembered with a flash. “Sirius! That wasn’t him, it couldn’t have been!”

   “We can’t prove it one way or another, because somehow Voldemort has sealed off Headquarters,” Tonks said with disgust. “Could have easily been a Death Eater, but until we somehow manage to get through the barrier, we won’t be able to verify anything one way or another. And Umbridge decided to arrest Charlie for illegal apparition – which she could have easily overlooked, considering what happened to him!”

   Harry felt a wave of hatred surge through him. “And Dumbledore just let it happen? Charlie’s dying!”

   “Not anymore he’s not, thankfully,” Tonks replied with a scowl. “Between Pomfrey and Snape, they brought him back from the brink. But that’s not the point now – what we have to deal with is the fact that we are down one school governor. Marchbanks is dead. Dumbledore just got a message from the German embassy – her body was found in pieces.”

   Harry forced back the urge to throw up. “Charlie couldn’t have done anything more. From the looks of it –”

   “He was facing off against a Death Eater from the First War who knew what the hell he was doing,” Tonks spat. “He didn’t have a chance.”

   “Hell, I barely had a chance,” Harry muttered.

   “Throwing Stunning Spells and Disarming Charms, you’re not going to,” Tonks said with a shake of her head. “And with Umbridge teaching Defense, you’re not going to learn any spells that can help you.”

   “Can you – I mean, you held your own out there.”

   “A lot of that magic I learned from Moody – he at least knew what he was doing,” Tonks said with another snort. “But none of that is relevant now – we’re done a potential governor, and even though Dumbledore’s working on getting Cuffe on our side, we’re going to need Cassane now.”

   “And that means the simulamancy,” Harry finished with gritted teeth. “And killing somebody.”

   “Only if we don’t get exceedingly lucky,” Tonks said with a grimace. She paused. “Wait a second… you’re actually okay with it now, Harry?”

   “Tonks, look at me. Dmitri Kemester beat the living shit out of me,” Harry growled, “and I want to spit in his face when I walk away a free man. And if I have to use simulamancy to beat that son-of-a-bitch, then I’m going to.” His eyes blazed with fury. “This time, it’s personal.”

*          *          *

   It was past midnight by the time Harry and Tonks had finished their work on the simulamancy charms, and he was walking back alone, trying to ignore the pain in his face and wondering if he could find something to bring down the bruises before class –

   “I must say, you look terrible, Harry.”

   Harry nearly jumped as he yanked his wand free. “Damn it, Peeves, get the hell away from me! I’ve had enough for one day!”

   “My sympathies go to you,” Peeves said, bowing mockingly, “but I’d really prefer your humble gratitude.”

   “What gratitude?” Harry spat. “You think I’m grateful for anything you’ve done?”

   “If it wasn’t for me, you’d be still chained up in Kemester’s cage,” Peeves said, wagging a finger. “I got you out – and I got me out too. Hmm, two outs in one day, really quite the record -”

   “Peeves, get out of my way, I need my bloody sleep,” Harry snapped.

   “You don’t want to hear my dirty little secret?” Peeves asked, darting in front of Harry, his eyes wide with glee. “And you won’t want to tell anybody, or you’ll be just another –”

   “If you’ve got something to say to me, bloody say it!” Harry snarled.

   “You were betrayed.”

   Harry froze. “What?”

   “Yep, betrayed. Treacherous little fiend went to Kemester and told him your plans,” Peeves said, his eyes dancing as he walked up the wall. “And the funny thing was, you never even saw it coming.”

   “And you know who it was?” Harry growled, shock mixing with fury as he walked forward. “Who was it, Peeves? Who betrayed me?”

   “You see, that kind of attitude is going to get you nowhere,” Peeves said reprovingly, though his eyes still danced with insane mirth. “Shan’t say nothing if you don’t say please, as I used to say.”

   “I’m not falling for that,” Harry snapped, raising his wand.

   “Then consider this, Harry,” Peeves said, his voice dropping an octave as the poltergeist moved very close. Harry could almost feel the chill in the air. “Your little departure here left an opening that was ruthlessly exploited, and your little plan may save you, but it won’t save everyone. You see, insanity’s a bit like a sexually transmitted disease – now that’s a term you don’t hear too often at Hogwarts!”

   “Just make bloody sense, for once, will you?” Harry exploded, his frustration finally coming up.

   “It’s kind of funny, ‘cause those who get around get the most, and although it might just kill you, you’ll have a wild time on the way!” Peeves cackled with glee as he shot up, landing on the ceiling of the hallway. “Oh, and one more thing?”

   “Yes?” Harry growled through gritted teeth.

   “At last count, there are three Death Eaters at Hogwarts – try to catch ‘em all!”

   And with that, Peeves shot through the ceiling, his insane laugh lengthening every shadow where it echoed.