The Art of Larceny
Hermione had not been impressed with my plans. Not that I’d gone out of my way to explain them to her, but she had refused to help until I’d told her what I’d be using the items for in the first place. While I’d been sorely tempted to lie, I just couldn’t justify that to myself. Not after what Dumbledore had done to me in the past. She had gone from shrill with disbelief to icily silent within a minute.
“Harry James Potter! I cannot believe you are even considering this, this…”
I raised my eyebrows, giving her a questioning look. “This what?”
“This larceny! You are planning on stealing from the Pope!”
I sighed. “Would he just hand the journal over to me?”
She frowned. “Well…”
I continued, interrupting her. “Oh, I suppose I’d actually have to ask him personally first. Would he grant me an interview?”
“I suppose I’d have to have a good reason for a personal meeting. Would telling his secretary that I was trying to save the world from an evil man get me in?”
Hermione actually blushed. “It would probably get you taken away in a straight jacket.”
I grinned at her. “Hermione, love, listen. I have an invisibility cloak. I can cast magic spells. There isn’t a muggle bank in England I couldn’t get into, rob blind and waltz out of again. Yes, stealing is wrong, I agree, but this needs to be done.”
Nearly a fortnight later, I silently crept through Piazza San Pietro once more, dressed rather differently.
Rather than give the ex-mafia moron’s invisibility cloak away, I incorporated it into my wardrobe. I had brought along the cloak I’d nicked from the battlefield at Hogsmeade, so I now had two spare, incredibly rare items. I essentially cut up both cloaks and sewed them together into a rough set of robes. Instead of an invisibility cloak, I had an invisibility suit.
I’m hardly a master tailor though, and the first few times I put it on I tore the seams just by moving normally. After the third error, I picked apart one set of robes I’d had for a while, and matched the pattern to the invisibility material. But now, after resewing it over and over, I had a loose set of robes that completely hid me without threatening to tangle my feet when trying to run. Hmm, maybe I could patent this and go into business supplying the Ministry and Order with these things.
I knew that there were spells that rendered invisibility cloaks useless, and that they would undoubtedly be used within the cathedral itself. But I assumed that they wouldn’t dispel the invisibility immediately, since that would prevent authorised use of invisibility inside the holy building.
I had a few other items I had created in my room and some potions I’d brewed. As ready as I’d ever be, it was now or never to take on the fortress-like St. Peters.
I made full use of my new gloves, the only part of me that was visible. I was rather proud of them. Matt black when unworn, the gloves were made of a mimic’s skin, which allowed them to take the colour and texture of any surface they touched. I’d also enspelled the palm and fingers with the unspun contents of the acromantula silk sacs, giving me the ability to climb the walls just like a cartoon character Dudley used to watch when we were kids.
(The first time I tested my gloves, their failure was fairly obvious, and I nearly fell over laughing. The test had involved me jumping up and pressing my fingers high up the wall in my hotel room, in an effort to have the gloves’ fingers stick to the wall, and have me hang there without falling. The first of which I must say, worked perfectly. What wasn’t planned was the fact that my hands didn’t stay in the gloves. After all, how do you take a glove off? You pull on the fingers! I had collapsed straight down into an undignified heap on the floor as my hands slipped out. It took me a while to stop laughing and even longer to work out how to get the gloves down from the wall to make modifications.)
So rather than creep through the babbling crowds unseen, I climbed up one of the pillars surrounding the piazza to the top of the enclosing structure, and ran along that structure’s roof. With no one to accidentally bump into, and in a place where there would be far less attention, I quickly made my way to St. Peter’s entrance. Or, more specifically, the façade in front of the building, above the entrance.
I reached the main building rather quickly. With my gloves, I managed to creep along the front face of the building, hanging from my hands. I didn’t have the exceptional strength of that cartoon character, so I had to rely on my own muscles. Fortunately, it didn’t take much more of an effort to hang from my fingers as it did to hang from a broom flying at over two hundred miles an hour. I inched sideways across the face of the massive church, pausing occasionally when a stone ledge or statue came within reach of my feet. I’d take the weight off my hands to get my breath and to give my arms a rest.
I scaled up the front façade and finally crept over the balcony that the pope uses to address the faithful during his masses. Though there were no guards present here, I could feel the subtle tripping of the wards, alerting the people within the well-protected building that an intruder was in their midst.
I quickly made my way into the building proper, looking for a likely candidate for the next stage of my plan.
A cassocked Cardinal was half-jogging down a corridor, a sheaf of paper in his arms. I glanced around, noting that there was no one in sight, so I snapped off a stunner, dropping him to the hard, marble floor. I raced over to the poor guy, quickly pulling a pair of potions from my belt.
I poured one down his throat, and rubbed the paste-like contents of the other onto a tiny spot on the inside of his wrists. I glanced down at his feet, noting with irritation that his boots would take me an hour or so to remove.
Forgoing the final touch, I cast an enervation charm to finish off the deception. Even though I was expecting it, it still gave me a small shock as the man’s eyes snapped open, the pupils like tiny pinpricks in his light grey irises.
“I see him! He’s here! My Lord is here! Praise be!” he shouted, struggling to his feet.
The befuddled man sprinted down the corridor and down the nearest stairs, into the church proper, shrieking his potion induced, euphoric rantings. Almost as soon as he was out of sight, more shouts and screams joined in as an accompaniment.
I grinned tightly as I scaled the wall to hang from the roof. The paste I’d rubbed into his wrists would cause blood to seep through the skin, leaving no wound behind. Even as the blood was wiped away, more would seep through. Which, combined with his divine visions, would undoubtedly attract a great deal of attention. Especially in this building.
I swung down the corridor, avoiding the suddenly packed hallways, full of churchmen, soldiers and the poor folk trying to find me in the chaos. Calls of ‘Stigmata’ echoed throughout the building, attracting more and more people. I hurried down one corridor that seemed to have fewer people than the others, looking for someone alone with whom I could duplicate my trick.
I discovered one of the Swiss Guard making his way towards the disturbance. Obviously it was his turn on the night shift, since he was still in a pair of shorts and t-shirt, looking rather rumpled and only half-awake, and struggling into his uniform while hopping along the corridor. I grinned to myself. One more quick stunner, judicious use of two potions, and a final enervation charm, and I’d have an even more effective distraction. This time, I even managed to put some of the paste on his feet too.
I watched with an enormous amount of satisfaction as the partially dressed guard shrieked about his divine visions to the world. People are required to wear long trousers or a full dress to enter the place. Having one of the guards run around in his boxers may well give some people here a heart attack. I glanced down at the small container of paste. It was nearly empty. I didn’t have enough for another go.
A pity. The potion had been difficult to brew, and since it achieved the consistency of peanut butter by the time it was finished, stirring it was tiring to say the least. It was certainly worth it, though. I silently thanked Zab and his vast, if ancient, potion library. When I originally found the potion recipe, in a medical text book published in the sixteen hundreds, I actually wondered about the pranking possibilities. The paste soaked into the skin (requiring the person dispensing the stuff to wear gloves), and drew blood to the surface. Generally, it was used to draw out poisoned blood around a bite mark or wound. And since it didn’t break the skin to do so, the recovery time was much quicker.
These days, there were literally dozens of potions (not to mention bezoars), which would counteract any poisons in a person’s bloodstream, with far better effect. Most were easier to brew too, and that made this potion obsolete. In this case though, it was just what I needed.
Calls of ‘Praise be’, echoed throughout the building, indicating that at least one of my test subjects had been successful in tricking those around him. I glanced around the corridors and passageways, looking for one which richly decorated, highly guarded and exhibited evidence of much use.
I discovered my destination far less quickly than I’d hoped. The building was disconcertingly laid out, with no rhyme or reason to the architecture. Despite my efforts to travel unseen, I had been forced to confront five separate patrols of Swiss Guards, and I only managed to scrape a victory against the last two thanks to blind luck.
I was beginning to panic, thinking that I’d never find the Pope’s chambers before I was eventually overpowered, before discovering the entrance I was after. The two permanent guards outside the antechamber to the Pope’s private apartments were easy to spot, since nearly a dozen extra guards accompanied them, all looking murderously alert. I guess my distractions were seen through. More than one gun barrel was pointed in my general direction at all times, and it was only my invisibility suit that kept them from noticing me (and cause my death from lead poisoning).
I shook my head. I should have known that making two people appear to have stigmata would ring some alarm bells somewhere. These guys look like they have no sense of humour and a great deal of cynicism.
It took a rather impressive effort on my part to confound the majority of the guards, and over half of them bolted in search of a fictitious vision of a gun-totting, masked terrorist, much to the dismay of the remaining guards. As much as I dislike pandering to stereotypes, it was quite obviously the quickest way to get them to run.
Foregoing subtlety, I crept up beside the nearest, gathered my strength and pushed out at the last five, sending them flying along the corridor with shouts of surprise and denial. Several stunners later, the dozen guards who had been standing their ground outside this room were either unconscious or wondering where the armed fellow with a personal disagreement with fundamental church policies went.
I spent the next few minutes building a set of defences that would have put Grimmauld Place to shame. I layered aversion charm after aversion charm, transfigured a granite wall in the middle of the passageway and lined the area with delayed blast stunning spells. Anyone coming near the place would have to overcome my aversion magic, break through a slab of stone two feet thick and dodge a dozen stunners coming from multiple directions.
This would give me a maximum of five minutes, if the wizards around here were any indication.
I finally crept into the antechamber leading into the Pope’s rooms. The well-appointed room was empty, though showed signs of recent activity. Blueprints were arrayed on the large oak desk in the middle of the room. Papers, a computer and a couple of trays lay haphazardly on the floor nearby. Obviously, someone had swept the desk clear before laying his load down on the desk.
The rest of the room was opulent, yet utilitarian. There was no extraneous artwork or decorations, but the chairs and furniture were all expensively decorated and adorned. From the antique silver tea sets in a cabinet to the solid gold pens littering the floor, the room was filled with beautiful, but utilised items of all kinds.
The wall at the back of the antechamber was dominated by an enormous pair of double doors, the same style as the ones at the entry to this room. I turned to examine the doors leading into this chamber, noting that there were heavy wooden bars on the inner side. Well, it stands to reason that there would be the same on the other side of the doors to the Pope’s room too.
“Reducto!” I cast at the closed doors, only to duck (and swear) reflexively as the spell rebounded straight back at me. A small explosion and a rain of stone chips occurred behind me as my spell hit the wall on the far side of the antechamber.
“Bugger,” I said, casting a spell that would tell me if there was anyone in the corridor outside. No one. Yet. Well, it wouldn’t be long. There was no way my little traps would keep powerful wizards at bay for more than a few moments. Fortunately, the new hole in the wall gave me an idea. I moved back in front of the Pope’s doors, lined my wands up side by side and cast the spell again.
Not at the protected doors though, at the wall next to them.
The spell hit the marble-sheathed wall hard, sending shockwaves throughout the whole building. While my spell didn’t break through the wall, it did send such a spider web of cracks through the stone that the hinges of the door came free from their moorings. The left massive door pulled away from its twin and arced over in a wonderfully slow show of gravity, allowing me entry.
Fortunately, I was not in the doorway, since the space was suddenly full of the rapid, full-throated crackle of aerodynamically shaped pieces of lead. Going through the now open portal would have sent anything short of a tank to meet its maker. I hurriedly cast another shield charm and cowered against the side of the antechamber as bits of marble and chips of granite rained down around me.
Not for the first time I wondered if what I was doing was strictly necessary. Perhaps diplomacy would have been a better bet. It was far too late now though.
The enormously loud expenditure of ammunition stopped temporarily, and I heard one voice command someone to check the antechamber. With an adrenaline-fuelled vertical leap, I touched the ceiling with my fingertips and hung there briefly, before pulling my body up and holding it tight against the roof.
A helmeted head slowly emerged from the ruins of the doorway, scanning the antechamber intently for intruders. “Nothing,” the nervous soldier reported, before the head was withdrawn back into the room.
I silently dropped to the floor, holding my wands at the ready. Taking a leaf out of Dumbledore’s book, back in the Department of Mysteries, I transfigured some of the free stone blocks into tiny stone dogs, and sent them into the Pope’s chambers barking and growling. I didn’t have the skill to actually make them into attack dogs, only just enough to give them voices and movement.
It was enough, however. The three guards in the Pope’s private chambers were panicking at the unexpected intrusion and were shooting off rounds at the floor, shattering my creations to bits. I stood in the doorway and shouted, “Accio guns!” tearing the weapons from the guards’ hands, as well as summoning all the holstered weapons in the room.
The weapons sparked and spat as they hit my shield, then dropped to the ground. I stepped over them, and into the room. The three guards, though disarmed, were certainly not rendered incapable. But what terrified me the most was that each looked directly at me and took on a martial arts stance that sent shivers of horror at the impending pain down my spine. As one they leapt at me, no fear in their eyes.
How could they see me?
Panicking, I pushed, sending all three of them plus half the nearby furniture into the wall on the far side of the room. And since it was a bloody big room, they built up enough momentum that furniture was destroyed and each of the guards slumped down unconscious, out of the fight.
But I took Moody’s lesson to heart, and stunned each before checking to make sure they were in no danger of dying. I finished my diagnosis and accepted that each would survive. They’d have concussions, major headaches, fractures and assorted bruises mind you, but they would survive. I cast a mobilicorpus charm and levitated them all out of the room, dumping them unceremoniously in the antechamber before repairing the wall and the door. I needed time alone and no distractions to accomplish my little heist.
“Who are you?”
I jumped, startled at the voice, and whipped around, wands leading. In front of me I saw a man instantly recognisable at the Pope, sitting in what looked like a huge glass box, built solidly into one wall, obviously for his protection. He was looking directly at me, obviously able to locate me in my invisible state. Without thinking, I threw back my hood, allowing him to see my face and replied, “Sorry, I cannot tell you that. I’m here for something dangerous.”
The Pope straightened, pride and unbending determination quite visible in his posture. “Then you have made the effort for naught, wizard. There is nothing in this room that fits your description.”
I nodded. “I know, your Holiness. The item I need is in your personal storeroom.”
The Pope’s eyes narrowed. “I shall never give you the key. Leave this place now.”
I shook my head sadly, noting absently that I was covered with a fine layer of stone dust. My outline was perfectly visible to all. With a wave of my wand, the dust was removed, once more making me invisible. “I’m sorry. But as long as you have that book in your possession, an evil cannot be driven from this world. Accio keys!”
Keys flew to me from everywhere, from the broken belt of one of the recumbent guards, out of the keyholes of locked boxes on the shelves and even out of drawers by the massive bed. One drawer remained locked however, but it vibrated and shook as though something was struggling to escape. With a sigh, I sent another reducto curse at the ornate set of drawers, shattering the priceless piece of furniture. I quickly sifted through the remains and picked up an ancient looking key.
Cries from outside the room indicated that my outer defences had been breached. I drew my wands and reinforced both the door and the wall to the Pope’s chambers. Once both were as strong as I could make them, I cast as many locking and defensive charms as I could remember. Before I had finished, muffled booms echoed throughout the room, signalling the efforts those outside were going through to gain entry.
I cast a detection charm, which lit up one otherwise inconspicuous wall. It took me what felt like an hour to discover the hidden keyhole, but once found, the old key fit and turned easily.
I’ll give the Pope credit, despite the waves of panic and defeat I was detecting from his unoccluded mind, his poker face was well established, and outwardly gave no indication that I was just seconds from my goal.
The hidden door swung open, revealing a tightly curving stone spiral staircase, leading downward. Not exactly the epitome of Health and Safety; the only way a wheelchair would be getting down there was in pieces.
Trusting that my protective spells would keep the remaining guards out of the Pope’s room for the moment, I descended the long, winding stairs. Though it felt as though I’d descended deep into the earth, it probably wasn’t much deeper than the crypts, four or five levels down.
I absently cast “Lumos,” to keep the oppressive darkness at bay. Well before I reached the end of the stairs, I could sense the oily, dark magic residue in the air. I had a little trouble breathing for a second or two, before I mentally shook off the unholy stench of the place.
I held my wand high, to illuminate a treasure trove of items that had me gasping. I seriously wanted to return to the Pope and demand, “What on earth have you got back here? It stinks of pure evil!” Shelves were lined with arcane objects that my magical senses warned me to stay away from. Lifelike statues were arrayed around the room, along with jewellery, weapons and ugly pieces of artwork.
Light footprints in the dusty floor drew my attention to a set of bookshelves. The most recent visit someone had made down here was to go to a bookshelf and back again. I’d taken only one step towards the shelves before a sound straight out of my memories froze me to the spot. The soft, subtle, slithering of enormous coiled scales. Suddenly, the number of human statues took on a far more sinister meaning.
Instantly, I shut my eyes as tightly as I could. The slithering grew closer, and I heard a hissing.
A man creature comes. I can smell it. Shall I eat this one? Or should I add him to my collection?
Oh. Shit. They have a basilisk.
I drew a deep breath. Stop, I hissed in parseltongue.
Oddly, or perhaps, thankfully, the sound ceased.
A manling who speaks the noble tongue? Who are you, little one?
I tried to keep my heart from bursting through my chest. Didn’t snakes have to obey a wizard who could speak their language? Perhaps I could command this one the same way Riddle commanded the one I killed.
I merely seek a book. I shall leave you to your duties, I continued, still with my eyes shut. I didn’t want to be petrified, and Fawkes wasn’t here to blind this one.
You didn’t answer me, manling.
I licked my very dry lips. I am one who learned to speak the language of serpents from the last of the line of Salazar Slytherin.
Who? The basilisk asked, sounding slightly bored.
If I didn’t have my eyes closed, I’d have blinked in shock. Salazar Slytherin was one of the founders of the school of wizardry known as Hogwarts. His symbol was the serpent.
I have not heard of this Salazar, or this Hogwarts of which you speak, though this is not surprising. I have not had the pleasure of conversing with another being for many centuries.
I swallowed nervously. How old are you? I hissed.
What is time to a basilisk? We live forever, until we hear the accursed crowing of a cockerel. The basilisk paused. Why do you avert your eyes, wizard?
Or until some idiot kid with no sense of personal safety jams a magical sword through the roof of your mouth and into your brain. I do not wish to be turned to stone, I replied simply.
I could almost sense the amusement coming off the creature. You have nothing to fear from me, little one.
You won’t attack?
The amusement grew. No, the light from your wand has disappeared. Without light, I cannot use my gaze to petrify.
My heart nearly stopped, before I ran his words through my mind again. Was that a joke?
The basilisk sounded amused. Of course, wizard. I could no more attack you than bite my own tail.
My heart rate dropped from a vibration to a mere two hundred odd beats per minute. Steeling myself, I cracked my eyes open, only to see nothing. My wand had indeed gone out. You are the protector of these objects?
What if I were to take just one?
The basilisk seemed to think on that. I would be unable to stop you, wizard. No serpent can disobey the orders given by one of your kind who speaks the noble tongue, not even one as ancient as I. But powerful as you must be to get this far, I suspect that you will not live to escape this place.
I swallowed, moving a stubborn lump. I need to take that chance. There is an item stored here that I need to destroy. As long as it exists, an evil wizard will not pass into the realm of the dead. May I take it?
The slithering coils began again, and I could just make out the outline of a moving, shiny creature. Once more, my heart leapt into top gear. This basilisk was at least twice the size of the one I killed. As I said, I cannot, and will not stop you, wizard. I sensed the massive head swivel to stare at the staircase. You do not have long though. As loath as I am to encourage the only conversationalist I’ve had in centuries to leave, if you wish to survive, you must go now.
I swallowed again. Thank you. With that, I summoned Ravenclaw’s journal.
A disappointingly small, leather bound tome flew to my hands. I quickly cast a couple of the spells designed to reveal a Horcrux. Instantly, the book responded to my probings, indicating that this was indeed a piece of Voldemort’s soul. I gently rubbed the cover, feeling a familiar tinge of magic.
I sighed at what I had to do. I bade the basilisk farewell, and ascended the tightly spiralling stairs. Tom’s corruption of this irreplaceable artefact was wrong on so many levels. Not the least of which was that in order to dispel this portion of his soul, a Founder’s repository of knowledge and lore had to be destroyed. “Damn you, Tom Riddle,” I said as I moved back into the Pope’s chambers.
Unobstructed voices instantly indicated that my magic had failed. Just one complete turn from the top of the stairs, I could make out voices demanding that someone be given the task of going down below and retrieving my statue, for identification purposes.
No one appeared to be ready to volunteer. Another voice said that they would need to drop some food down before it would be safe to enter. Seems that they knew exactly what hunted down there.
I again raised my hood, again fully disappearing from sight. I rounded the final curve, noting that there were only six guards in the room.
Two of them were wearing robes though, and holding a wand. One of them looked straight at me (through his enchanted spectacles), and his eyes widened quickly in surprise. Without further ado, I stunned the bugger, but that only gave me a half second of surprise to use as I could.
I tossed an Eveberus curse at the remaining wizard, the purple spell blasting through his hurriedly raised shield and tossing him across the room. Before I even saw the effects of my spell, I dropped to my knees and allowed myself to slide painfully down the rough stairs for a turn or two.
Once more, I was showered with stone chips as bullets hailed and ricocheted around me. I cast another shield charm that sparked and glinted as it kept me from harm.
I could feel my anger building, but it was directed at me rather than the guys trying to kill me. I was, after all, trying to steal something from them. No, I was getting pissed at my own lack of proper planning. I should have assumed something like this would have happened, and planned accordingly.
There wasn’t room in the stairwell for me to brace myself against the roof and let the guards wander down beneath me, so my invisibility would only work for surprise just once. I wracked my brains, my mind working overtime, trying to figure out just how I was going to get past the last four guards.
A soft crunch of boot on stone alerted me to the slow descent of at least one guard. Gritting my teeth, I cast a quick jinx, and then gripped the side of the stairwell tightly with my spider gloves.
As the booted foot came into view, I could see the cautious young man’s face as he crept down nervously, a massive gun at the ready.
Mentally, I shook my head, marvelling at the fact that stupidity seemed to transcend all boundaries.
He stepped right on the jinx, sending him into some sort of Highland fling as he tried to keep his balance.
He had no chance though. With such a large weapon, he couldn’t manoeuvre enough to keep his footing. With a yelp, he crashed to his backside and began slipping down the stairs. His back slammed into me rather solidly, but since he was facing the wrong way, by the time he had tried to turn and grab me, he was already passed my body, heading down and, from the sounds of things, accelerating. He did manage to shout a warning to those above.
With the stairs covered with fine gravel, creeping up unnoticed, or at least unheard, was going to be difficult. I could silence myself quite easily, but any footprints I made in the rubble would be instantly visible.
My friend below me had managed to stop himself from falling further, and was climbing back up.
Making a decision, I raised my wand and cast the most powerful wind inducing charm I could.
The rubble and gravel on the stairs was instantly swept up in the spell, sending maybe twenty kilos of tiny rocks and sand swirling up the stairs. Curses and screams came back down, which I took as a good sign.
I took a deep breath, silenced my feet, and barged up the stairs, trusting my shield would withstand anything tossed at me long enough for me to incapacitate everyone.
It did. Two of the last three guards were on their knees, scrabbling at their eyes, while the last was unprofessionally dividing his attention between his comrades and the stairwell. All three fell to my barrage of spells, leaving me to just slam the door to the stairwell shut and lock it with a quick charm.
More shouts came from outside the room, from the antechamber. Despite feeling light-headed from all my spell casting, I once more slammed the main doors shut and reinforced them with a powerful locking spell. It wouldn’t last as long as the first lot of spells, but I should be safe for a few moments at least.
I lowered my hood, leaned back against the door and sighed with relief. This may work out for the best after all.
I faced the Pope, who for the first time showed emotion. Complete, gob smacked surprise. I guess there are very few people in the world that could talk a basilisk out of petrifying them. I looked over the glass room he was encased in as I reached into my robes. “That is one fucking big basilisk you have down there. I’m impressed. But tell me, if I destroy this here, will you be safe where you are?” I asked, holding up the tome I recovered.
The Pope blinked. “You intend to destroy that? You don’t intend to simply take it?”
I shook my head. “No. As I said, it needs to be destroyed to stop an evil, and if I was to be caught leaving, it would just be returned to your idiotic collection downstairs. And I simply have no way of ensuring that I can leave this place safely with it. Destroying it promises to be quite violent. Will you be safe from the backlash?”
The Pope nodded slowly, his expression showing his sudden caution. I don’t think he believed me that I didn’t want to take it. “I believe so. This contraption was designed to protect me against any modern weapon,” he said, tapping the side of the small room.
I raised an eyebrow, but didn’t take the time to discuss whether or not something that could counter muggle devices would stand a chance against a magical backlash. “Very well. I’ll destroy this here. On the off chance that this does kill both of us, I hope that I have your forgiveness.”
The Pope watched wordlessly as I began tracing a protective diagram in his carpet. With wards as strong as I could make them, I placed the book within the protective circle, holstered my wands drew out a shiv from my robes that have been carved from the horn of the last Imperial Arch-griffin, and stabbed the book.
I painfully forced my eyes open against the bright light above me. Agony lanced through my eyeballs and I slammed them shut again, groaning out loud.
“You’re awake,” snapped an unfamiliar voice. “Good.”
“Where am I?” I croaked.
“You will answer our questions, wizard, not the other way around.”
I tried to move, only to discover that I was tied down. Slowly opening my eyes, my sight gradually became adjusted to the light. I was in a completely white room, with two members of the Swiss guard standing to either side of me, each holding a powerful looking gun pointed directly at my heart. The man who had spoken to me was dressed as a cardinal, and was roughly examining me.
“You are healthy enough to undergo interrogation,” he announced. He withdrew a vial of familiar looking clear liquid and nodded to someone behind me. Rough hands gripped my head and forced my mouth open. Three drops of the potion were placed on my tongue before the hands forced my mouth shut.
I felt my tongue tingle, and the rest of my body relax as the potion took effect. Somewhere in my mind, I realised that I’d just been dosed with Veritaserum.
Fucking wonderful. With some effort, I fought the clouding in my mind and examined my memories of Zab’s lessons on how to defeat Veritaserum. The only real option once you’d been dosed was to make your captives give you more, forcing an overdose. The only way to do that was to convince them that you were lying. Once overdosed, you were catatonic for nearly a full day, leaving you unable to answer questions at all. Even after that, until the potion had completely worked its way out of your system, (usually between four and six days) any new dose of the clear potion sent you into the same condition as an overdose. Unfortunately, licensed practitioners knew exactly how much to give in one dose. The only hope was that it was an unlicensed person administering the potion.
“What is your name?”
While I had to answer truthfully, I found I could inject my own tone on my answer. Sneering, and injecting as much sarcasm as I possibly could, I spat, “Harry Potter.”
Furious whispers erupted at one end of the room. Even with the earring still in my ear lobe, I had difficulty making out what they were discussing. The debate continued for a while before one faction won, and once more my mouth was forced open where another drop was placed on my tongue. I felt my consciousness spiral out of control, deep into my psyche. Wonderful, they couldn’t have acted any better if I’d answered that I was the Pope. My last thought was that my answer had bought me a day.
Consciousness arrived slowly, but this time, I managed to keep my wits about me and not groan to announce my arrival back to the world of the living. I gently cracked one eyelid open the tiniest amount, enough to just get a feel for who else was in the room.
An unfocused, man-shaped blob stood on either side of me, and I assumed that they were the humourless gun-toting guards I saw earlier, or at least their replacements. Strains of a far off conversation reached my ears, which I struggled to overhear.
“…believe he intended to kill His Holiness.”
“…cannot take the risk…”
“…execute him immediately…”
The last comment sent a shock through me. Bugger. How wonderfully ironic. For my entire life, I’ve been in danger from the most evil wizard in recent history and his followers, and now it appears I about to be killed by people who are supposed to be the epitome of good.
I opened my memories, pulling forth everything bad that had ever happened to me, and let anger flood through my body. Wrath surged through my mind, giving me access to the wells of power that are only available to me when I’m in a rage. I forced the split in my mind and let my anger feed itself, allowing the helplessness and unjustified response of my situation to fuel my impressive temper. Soon, the magical potential in the air tingled, causing even the muggle guards to become nervous.
It continued to build, and cries of alarm at the trembling magical potential in the air filled my ears. Short, sharp, barked orders came from either side of me, as the barrels of two powerful guns were jammed into my ribs.
Pain flooded through me as the barrels abused my already punished ribs, and I suddenly screamed my fury, venting weeks of frustration at how long my quest was taking. Hollering at the idiocy that ignorant fools displayed trying to stop me from finally removing an evil bastard from this world.
I pushed with all my might, hearing nothing but the roar of my heartbeat in my ears.
I have no idea just how long I screamed for. Suddenly, my arms jerked upwards. In my slightly befuddled state, it took me a moment to realise that I had been unconsciously straining against my bonds. With magic surging through my body, I’d torn the thick leather straps from the bed’s metal frame.
Once my breath had been expended, I gulped in a fresh lungful of air, and opened my eyes fully. Blinking rapidly in the bright room, I absently took stock.
Two armed guards, one on either side of me? Check.
Both of them unconscious? Check.
One beefy guard behind me, likewise unconscious but lying in a rather uncomfortable looking manner on his head? Check.
Remains of a bed complete with straps which, had they not been broken, would have held a prisoner down? Check.
Oh, my legs are still strapped to the remains of the bed frame. I guess the bed is less broken than I imagined. I blinked, trying to form thoughts. Something I found remarkably difficult to do. It took me a few moments to work out how to undo the simple buckles on the restraints attached to my legs.
I forced myself to think, but my concentration was shot. I felt as though I was trying to control my body from afar. Being drunk on firewhiskey was nothing compared to this.
I blankly looked up at what appeared to be some sort of viewing area, the place from where the subject of this room was observed. The large glass window that had separated the two rooms was gone, or at least, was now scattered around the place in shards of lethal looking edged pieces, like a dangerous jigsaw puzzle. Three figures were in that part of the room, two white-clad hospital types and a cassocked cardinal. Only one of the people wearing white was awake, and even he was dazed.
I undid the remaining straps on my wrists and stepped through to the other area with exaggerated care. I was still dizzy and fuzzy-minded after my little pyrotechnic show.
The orderly who was dazed seemed to be shaking off his tupour. With a cry, he seemed to realise just what had happened and drew a wand from his robes.
I kicked out as hard as I could. My foot connected just under his ear. He slumped back down to the stone floor, as did I, though I had further to go.
Well, at least my legs work, even if I can’t keep my balance after a kick. Not to mention the fact that I was aiming for his wand hand, but this works well too.
I struggled to my feet and picked up his discarded wand, before casting an enervation charm on myself. I didn’t really expect it to do anything much, but I did feel a little more clear-headed afterwards. Now I only felt like I’d been drinking for three straight hours, rather than three straight days.
I retained enough presence of mind to cast a disillusionment charm on me the next second.
Just in time for when a trio of Swiss Guards burst into the room, two waving guns, the third waving a wand.
Despite how tired I was, I couldn’t let them catch me again. With everything I had left in me, I called forth an eruption of ivy from the floor, which entangled the three almost instantly. Such a simple trap wouldn’t hold a wizard more than a few seconds, but it was enough for me to summon the guard’s wand.
I took a deep breath and sat down, ignoring the bound trio’s shouts. The pair of muggle guards were trying to get a grip on their radios, but were having a bit of trouble with the plants restraining them. One part of my mind was screaming at me to get moving, but my body just wanted to relax.
“Come on,” I told myself. “Imagine Aunt Petunia coming through the door.”
That perked me up a little. I silenced the three bound guards and physically removed their comms gear, before I made my way out into the corridor. I just didn’t have the energy for three stunners at that moment.
While the interrogation room was reminiscent of the hospital wing, the interior decorators obviously didn’t get to the rest of the place. The damp, dank, stone corridor was obviously part of the original building, and probably located below ground. Another pair of guards came into view ahead, running towards me. They raced past me, missing my disillusioned self in the dim light of the corridor. It was the work of an instant to cast Petrificus Totalus at them from behind, before I continued on my way. First year spells were all I had in me at present, and even casting them left me feeling alarmingly drained.
The door they were probably guarding was just ahead, since they’d left one of their number behind. I staggered towards it, supporting myself with one hand against the wall, noting that there were several other similar doors that were unguarded. With my wits and magical strength returning too slowly, I hardly felt ready for a one-on-one fight, but I should be fine so long as I could ambush my opponent.
The guard was obviously a muggle.
One spell later, and the guard was an unconscious muggle.
I placed my hand on the door handle, but paused, looking down at the snoozing guard. A smile appeared on my face, and I quickly shed my hospital issue gown for a Swiss Guard uniform.
That little piece of deception gave me about three seconds I wouldn’t ordinarily have had. Long enough to send the two guards in the next room to sleep with a simple but obscure jinx, and then petrify the single wizard who was intently examining a pile of magical items before he noticed.
My magical items.
How very convenient that everything of mine was to be found in one place. I took a few seconds to gather my strength and cast a sleeping spell on the petrified wizard, just in case he had the strength to break my first spell.
It felt much better to dress myself in my own robes, including my invisibility robe. I strapped my wand holsters to my forearms and slipped my gloves on before noting that not all of all my items were here. The shiv Dumbledore had loaned me was missing, as was one potion and both of my wands. Panicking, I re-searched my pockets three times before accepting that my wands had been taken elsewhere.
Damn. No wands, and no Potensavenenum. Not that drinking it in my current condition would have done anything more than give me about fifteen minutes of power before sending me into a coma for a week.
I did find something useful as I scrabbled through my pockets though. I pulled out an item the twins had given me, something they were producing for the Order, not for the public. I unwrapped the sweet, then forced opened the unconscious wizard’s mouth. Holding the tiny sweet over his now gaping maw, I squeezed. One end of the toffee burst, letting three clear drops fall out, the perfect dose of Veritaserum, hidden within the perfect disguise.
Mentally thanking the twins, I gently kicked the wizard awake.
“Where are the wands that were taken from the prisoner?”
The wizard looked up at me with bleary, unfocused eyes. “His Holiness has them,” he slurred.
Oh, fucking great. This little adventure just keeps getting better and better.
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