An Inconvenient Truth

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Chapter 022

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Chapter Twenty-Two

Mad-Eye's Story

Sunday 8 July

Nearly a week later, Harry and Susan were back on their floaties. Susan was trying to get Harry's attention. The problem was, she already had his complete attention. The white bikini that had fit so well a year ago was less adequate eleven months later. Susan smiled at the teen who she loved, and announced, "You know that you can do more than stare at them Harry, but now isn't the time. I'd asked you what you thought of Moody's training?"

Harry smiled and replied, "The strength and fitness training seems to be paying off. I feel good and you look fantastic. I'm glad that we worked on strengthening our spells on our own throughout the year. Rufus' drawn-out Diffindo hex saved my life last month. I like Mad-Eye and all, but honestly, I felt that I learned more from Rufus."

Susan replied, "I know, but he's too busy now. Professor Moody will be fine."

Harry replied, "I suppose. Sometimes I get the feeling that he's been in too many firefights. I know that being trapped in his trunk for ten months must have been terrible, but it's like it changed him."

Susan reflected for a moment and replied, "I'm sure that it did, and probably not for the better. Being forced to defend yourself in that graveyard probably changed you. I'm not saying for better or worse, and I'd never wish your experience on anyone, but it happened. You got through it and I love you."

She slid off her floatie, stood in the four feet deep water and undid her bikini top.

Harry didn't need a second invitation.

… - …

Lucius Malfoy was not a happy man. Yes, he had successfully fled Britain with his family and much of his fortune intact – but he was not happy. Everywhere he went, he was looking over his shoulder, expecting to be visited either by the assassin or the Dark Lord. Mentally, he questioned everyone that he met or spoke to, wondering if they'd been Polyjuiced and would pull a knife, wand or gun on him the moment his back was turned.

Draco infuriated him. The spoiled teen expected so much, worked for so little and had no understanding of the dangers that they'd escaped from – or those that were right in front of them. They had developed some very real, very dangerous enemies.

Perhaps the less populated island of Tasmania would be home to fewer potential enemies.

He was not a happy man.

… - …

While Susan and Harry were enjoying each other's company in the pool, Amelia, Connie and Anna were attempting to get information about Regulus Black from his brother, Sirius. As they walked through the critter-infested old brownstone building, Sirius explained, "When I was sixteen, I inherited a fair bit of gold from my Uncle Alphard and I moved out for good. For the previous two summers before that, I mostly lived with James' parents."

They kept walking from room to room as Sirius continued. "Regulus was mostly hanging out with young Barty Crouch and Amycus Carrow. I heard that they all eventually became Death Eaters. My parents were big supporters of Voldemort's cause. I'm sure that they gave him gold. Anyway, Regulus lived here and once in a while, I'd see him."

The Investigators remained silent while Sirius decided what to say next. "Early in 1980, my Dad died – Run over by a lorry while crossing a street in Leeds. A few months later, Regulus disappeared. Our old house elf, Kreacher went nuts from the loss. I'm surprised my Mother kept him on, but she was losing it too. I'd heard that she'd drowned in her bathtub, dead drunk, a few years later. I was in Azkaban at the time, but that's what I'd heard."

They had been slowly walking through the old house for about twenty minutes when Anna spotted it. The golden locket was in a glass display case with a dozen, obviously dark artifacts that had belonged to Regulus. Connie and Anna cast a series of detection charms and concluded that the case was not warded.

Anna asked, "Mr. Black, would it be okay if I took that locket?"

Surprised at the request, Sirius replied, "It doesn't mean anything to me. Why do you want it?"

Anna replied, "For a very good reason, Mr. Black, but I'd rather not say."

Sirius looked at her. She was a year or two younger than him, but the mileage had been much easier on her. To his female-starved eyes, she looked very good. He replied, "If you would have dinner with me tomorrow night, the locket's yours. Deal?"

Blushing slightly, Anna replied, "It's a deal. Thank you. You can pick me up at seven. Here's my address." She didn't get asked out very often, and to her eyes, the tall man looked pretty good, even if he was too thin.

Amused at the scene that had just played out before her, Amelia asked, "What are your plans for this place? Everything in it seems pretty dark."

Sirius thought for a moment and replied, "Either sell it or burn it down, I suppose. I don't need the money, I don't want to live here and I don't expect that Harry ever would, either. There's a pretty good library upstairs, but a lot of the volumes are dark, and shouldn't be passed along. I suppose I could bin the really dark stuff, hold an estate sale and then burn the place down."

Connie remarked, "Harry's other friend, Hermione Granger would probably love the books, but you're right. The really dark volumes should go. They would need to be sorted through."

Sirius thought and replied, "My friend, Remus Lupin would be very good at that sort of thing. Actually, he could sort out the whole estate and keep the proceeds. It would be a good situation for him and he needs the gold."

Anna recalled the torn parchment discussion that they'd had months ago. The remaining piece was beginning to look somewhat manageable. From Sunset's testimony about the Azkaban attack, Voldemort was still a very deadly, extremely dangerous wizard. However, according to the Marr collection on Horcrux lore, the destruction of this fourth Horcrux piece containing six percent of his soul would make Riddle as mortal as everyone else. For several reasons, she had a smile on her face.

Amelia inquired, "Sirius, where do you plan on living?"

Black smiled as he replied, "I visited my Account Manager at Gringotts and went over the available properties. There is the beach house that I bought in the south of France when I was sixteen, an island estate in the Caribbean, a property in Boston and this old dump. I lived in a small villa in Spain that I enjoyed, although it could have been larger. To answer your question, I don't really know."

Amelia replied, "I know that Harry would like to have you in his life. There is a wooded property with a nice old farmhouse near our home in Welshpool. You might take a look at it and see if it could meet your needs."

Anna added, "I know where that is. I could take you there tomorrow if, you'd like?"

For several reasons Sirius also had a smile on his face.

… - …

It had been a week since Riddle had called them, and he'd received no response from the Malfoys, the Notts or Igor Karkarov. He didn't know if they'd run from his service, been arrested, or killed. Scrimgeour's Ministry held as tight a grip on the Daily Prophet as the old one. The only difference was when they printed something now it was factual. There had been nothing printed about them.

Junior announced, "Master, I've put out inquiries as I've been able to. I believe that Karkarov ran during the third task, possibly as soon as he felt the Mark. He wasn't at the leaving feast with his students or those from the French school."

Riddle replied, "Bella, Rabastian and Rodolphus have no need for their wealth. I lack the paperwork for much of their estate, yet there are many things here that have value that we don't need. Have the Carrows attempt to sell the artwork. We need more gold to support my followers."

Junior asked, "What of the children who lost their parents? Sylvia Edgecomb's daughter, Marietta, the Parkinson girls – Bulstrode had two children in school." He had met each of them while impersonating Moody.

Riddle replied, "We'll find a way to keep them at Hogwarts. Perhaps the Greengrasses, Wentworths or the Smiths could take them in. Have Mrs. Burke make the inquiry."

"What of Malfoy and Nott?" asked Junior, a little too sharply. He hated traitors.

Controlling his temper, Riddle directed, "Have Finrir make an inquiry with Tiberius Ogden. He would know if they're being held by the Aurors, or have been killed. If they have turned away from me, they will pay dearly, but now isn't the right time to collect that debt."

Junior asked, "What else do you need at this time?"

The fact of the matter was Voldemort knew that he was sorely lacking in resources. He needed people who had an air of respectability to conduct his public business. He replied, "I need a dozen additional recruits that can be seen in public and a potions master. Do not be offended, Barty. You did well with your own potions, but I have the need of a true master. In the meanwhile, go find the Carrows."

… - …

Cedric Diggory woke up. Based on the tubes connected to his arm and white sheets on his bed, he apparently had been hurt. He didn't remember getting hurt, but he was tired and felt weak.

He closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

… - …

Susan Casey felt honored to have been selected personally by the Master. She finished dressing and took a moment to admire herself in the mirror. She picked up the letter and carefully placed it in her bag, walked out the door of her fine brownstone and apparated to the main office of Ogden's Distilling.

She deftly made her way past the receptionist and found the office that read Tiberius Ogden and opened the door. Tiberius was at his desk in the large, well appointed office. Looking up and enjoying the view, he asked, "May I help you?"

The attractive woman replied, "Yes. Very much. I was given this letter from the Dark Lord to give to you. He has noticed you and believes that you have some mutual interests. Please read it and give it your consideration. Good day, Sir." That said, she walked out of his office and closed the door behind her.

Ogden picked up the letter with some hesitation and opened it.

Mr. Ogden,

You would serve the conservative cause well by running for the Minister position and reminding people of the value of upholding our traditions.

Please give it serious consideration.

The Dark Lord

… - …

Monday 9 July

The summer version of the Hogwarts Breakfast Club was reading the Daily Prophet summary of the Azkaban breakout. McGonagall appeared lipless as she read the various headlines.

Six notorious Death Eaters killed attempting to escape

Two Death Eaters killed aiding in the breakout

Two Guards killed in valiant defense of the fortress

Forty-four prisoners murdered on H.W.M.N.B.M.'s orders

Ten prisoners actually escaped

Guards place H.W.M.N.B.M. at the fortress

Two Guards managed to escape to safety

The paper quoted Investigator Anna Daily as saying, "Ironically, the heavy-handed efforts of the Death Eaters attempts to aid in the break-out of some of the imprisoned Death Eaters appeared to be the cause of their deaths." There was a gruesome photo of Bellatrix with a cell bar impaled in her chest. Daily was quoted saying, "The others appeared to have been mortally wounded and left to die at the hands of their so-called colleagues."

McGonagall put the paper down in disgust and remarked, "There is no need for such a graphic account of a tragic event."

Flitwick looked at Moody, who shrugged, and the diminutive Professor observed, "Actually, I believe it's a brilliantly orchestrated account, designed to accomplish a goal."

Moody nodded and added, "With a bit of luck, Snake Face will see the photo of his favorite squeeze with a bar in her, er, chest and kill the idiot who blasted the cell apart. That's one less scum that we'll have to fight."

McGonagall walked out in disgust.

After she was out of earshot, Flitwick asked, "So what do you really think?"

Moody replied, "I see it as yet another public relations nightmare for Snake Face. The families of everyone killed there will blame him for throwing a tantrum, and refuse to support him. Our world in Britain is small enough that three fourths of the witches and wizards must have been second cousins or closer, to at least one of the prisoners. It's just the muggle-borns like Potter's friend, Hermione Granger who don't have the blood ties running around our society like a spider's web."

Silently, the old Auror wondered how much Scrimgeour influenced the tone of the story.

… - …

Wednesday 11 July

As was their habit, Amelia, Anna, Connie and Rufus met in the morning to discuss the latest happening related to the unpublished aspects of their war against Tom Riddle. Amelia reported, "According to the financial records, the twenty-eight million galleon "donation" originated from the Gringotts London branch. There are only a handful of families that would have the cash assets to make such a donation – Potters, Blacks, possibly the Notts, Ogden and the Malfoys."

"Who coincidently sold their Wiltshire estate on 30 June," added Connie.

"The same day it mysteriously burned to the ground," reflected Amelia.

"Without so much as a peep from old Lucius. I wonder why?" asked Connie.

Amelia remarked, "Stephen Nott and family apparently departed for parts unknown two days earlier. Theodore was pulled out of school early. He appeared to have used the same M.O. as Malfoy – He sold what he could and vanished."

Rufus considered their words and suggested, "Maybe Riddle called them together a second time and they didn't like what they saw."

All equals in this meeting, Anna shook her head and replied, "Or Harry wounded them that night of the first task and they didn't enjoy it."

Connie added, "Or someone encouraged Malfoy to be generous. I don't think Nott could come up with twenty-eight million, if he sold everything that he owned at fair market, let alone if he was in a hurry."

Anna quipped, "Who? Dumbledore's ghost?"

"It would be just my luck," admitted Amelia.

Anna observed, "It would have taken him a few weeks to liquidate all of his consolidated business interests. Maybe he and Nott discussed it in the weeks before Riddle's reformation. Maybe they went to the first meeting, didn't like what they saw, or realized that they had too much to lose, and executed their plan."

Amelia frowned. Something didn't fit. She asked, "So why the donation? I doubt if he ever helped anyone across the street unless he was expecting something in return."

Rufus, declared, "Its moot. The trail stops dead with the goblins. They'll never talk. Let's move on, for now. Next subject – Did you have any luck with Black?"

Anna blushed for a moment, regained her composure and replied, "Regulus had acquired the locket somehow. Sirius had no idea what it was, or where it came from, and gave it to me."

Rufus asked, "What's stopping you from burning it up?"

Anna admitted, "The destruction of the other horcruxes had a significant impact on Harry. I didn't want him to be in the air, flying on his broomstick, light it up, and have him fall off and break his neck."

Connie had a sly look on her face and suggested, "What if Riddle was at least as adversely affected? What if we could get him to fall off his broomstick, so to speak, at an opportune moment?"

Anna observed, "I think we're better off chipping away at his magical reserve. If he managed to steal his horcrux back, we may never see it again. So we burn it up. He fires four good spells and he's winded. What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing – As long as you're still standing, waiting for the fifth spell to fail," observed Rufus.

"How certain are you about the number, Anna?" asked Connie."

She admitted, "We can guess within a fairly narrow range based on the reports on the raid at Azkaban. According to Sunset, Riddle fired several killing curses at Litchcomb before hitting him and then cast that huge blasting hex at the door. That's probably all he was good for, without resting. So to answer your question, it's not three, but it's not ten either."

Wanting to change the subject, Amelia inquired, "Back to estates – What about Mulciber, Dolohov and Rookwood?"

Rufus announced, "Family, family, and a lifetime of expensive habits, respectively. We don't need to worry about their estates funding Riddle."

Amelia asked, "What about the Lestranges?"

Connie observed, "Tonks lit up the family vault. Everything in it, including the deeds, was destroyed. It would take months to get replacements made, so effectively the estates are tied up for the rest of the year."

Rufus declared, "Our half hour is up. Please destroy the locket today. Thank you."

… - …

Training with Moody was a series of contrasts. Unlike Rufus, who carefully explained what he was going to teach and the practical application, demonstrated it, had Harry practice it, and then demonstrated the fine points, Mad-Eye was completely random. Sometimes they just talked, sometimes he had the teens go flat-out – firing the same spells over and over. Other days, he offered what he referred to as "practical proverbs."

Today was such a day. He had a little sidewalk café set up in the Room of Requirement. Several tables were set up. He told the teens, "I have to run an errand for fifteen minutes. Wait here. I'll be back and we'll discuss the day's lesson."

Susie was amazed at the room that Dobby had found for their training use. Deep down, she knew that they were inside the castle, yet here they were, sitting at a sidewalk café with black cast-iron tables and people walking around them on their way to some errand or another. Eating a lunch of fish and chips and having butterbeers with Harry was a very enjoyable time for Susan. Two new bottles of butterbeer had just appeared on their table when it happened.

The dozen or so people who were walking around in the background were suddenly wearing Death Eater costumes. Without warning, they began attacking. Jets of light seemed to fill the air.

Susan fought valiantly, then found herself overwhelmed when eight of the Death Eaters cast spells at her, to her immediate right and to her left. She had nowhere to dodge, was hit, and collapsed on the floor. Next, all of the Death Eaters cast incarcerating spells at Harry and within moments, he found himself tightly bound.

One of the Death Eaters walked up to Susan, and tore her top off. It was obvious what was going to happen next.

Boom!

Harry, free from his bindings, had murder in his eyes.

The simulation disappeared, and a loud voice commanded, "Stand down, Troop."

Moody stepped out of the shadows, accompanied by Sprout. Harry still looked like he wanted to blast something and Moody again directed, "Stand down, Harry."

The room created four comfortable chairs and Professor Sprout cast a reparo spell on Susan's top. Moody directed, "Sit down, both of you, and tell us what you learned this morning." A chalkboard appeared and Sprout stood by it, chalk in hand.

After a minute, in a shaken voice, Susan offered, "Too many enemies will always win."

Moody replied, "Okay. What else?"

Harry added, "Too many enemies will usually win if you stay and fight."

"Good. What else?"

Susan remarked, "An attack can happen anywhere."

"Excellent. What else?"

"An Incarcarious spell can be overcome."

Moody nearly smiled and replied, "Outstanding! How did you do it, wandlessly?"

Harry replied, "An accident, I expect."

Moody shook his head. "That was no accident, Harry. You truly wanted to get loose, and with enough anger or emotion, you made it happen, without your wand. You should work on that and see if you can repeat it a bit. Outstanding."

Harry asked, "Is that what happened to you?"

"Yep. I was in my den, reading the current edition of Longwand magazine." Sprout sniggered, but didn't say anything.

Moody continued, "Snake Face, Pettigrew and Junior showed up. Snake Face was in a baby pram. Pettigrew was in his rat form. He got behind me and got the drop on me. The three of them together beat me with an Imperius. Ironically, Arthur Weasley turned up a few minutes later with some coppers, but I couldn't break away, and they left. That was that."

Mad-Eye thought for a second and added, "I wish I'd have carried one of your sticks with me. The little shite would have never recognized it, and I could have gotten away. Susan, you did well too. You both held them off respectably, until they came at you with coordinated spell-work."

Harry still looked mad and Moody explained, "Harry It wasn't a winnable fight – back then, or today. Sometimes the best you can do is to get away.

He reflected on his experience in Azkaban and admitted, "There have been times I could have stayed in a fight, and maybe picked off one or two more, until someone could get in a lucky shot and take me down, but that goes against Rule Number One."

The teens recited in unison, "Do what you need to, to end your shift."

"Rule Two?"

"Do what you can to help your partner end theirs."

"Good. I'll see you tomorrow." That said, he walked out of the door with Professor Sprout, leaving the teens a few minutes to collect their thoughts.

… - …

Later that day, as Connie and Amelia were eating their lunch together, Amelia asked, "Did Anna say how her date with Sirius went?"

Connie exclaimed, "She had a lusty look in her eyes and claimed that Sirius was a wonderful man who treated her like a perfect gentleman. I think she was secretly hoping that he'd ravish her like a pirate in a novel, instead."

Both women laughed. They both had deeply loved, and lost their husbands when they were younger, and wanted Anna to find someone who would love her.

… - …

Amelia came home that afternoon and announced that Rufus, Anna and Connie were coming for dinner. Susan was ready to ask about Sirius and Mad-Eye, but her great-aunt cut her off, saying, "Anna obtained the locket Horcrux and we're going to destroy it after dinner."

Harry asked, "What can I do to help?"

She replied, "We're going too use Fiendfyre to destroy the locket. It requires a high degree of concentration and willpower to keep it contained. You can help the most by being on a sofa, or on your bed when it's destroyed, so…"

Somewhat dejectedly, Harry added, "So I don't get in the way."

Amelia looked her son in the eye, and replied, "It's not that way, Harry. You get a free pass on all this. It's just that destroying these God-forsaken things are one of the few things that we can do to help you. Once this piece is destroyed, Anna believes that Riddle will be as mortal as you or I. Then we'll keep chipping away at his power base, but eventually, it will be your fight."

Rufus, Connie and Anna came through the door and he added, "Harry, there are plenty of Death Eaters to go around. We're just trying to level the playing field a bit. He was responsible for the deaths of three good men on Monday – One by his own hand. Litchcomb was a good man who knew the ropes. You two keep training with Moody. He'll teach you as much as you let him."

Harry promised, "I will, Rufus. We will."

… - …

Riddle sat in a high-backed chair as the Carrows awaited their judgment. They had come back with just over one hundred thousand galleons, and Riddle had barely noticed the difference in the large art collection hanging on the wall. In fact, Rabastian had amassed quite an extensive collection, which was worth many times what Alectro had been able to get for the pieces that he's sold, but no one really lost. Carrow was selling artwork that he had no proper paperwork for and the buyers weren't asking too many questions.

"Are there other pieces that would fetch a similar price?"

Amycus replied, "Most of them, my lord. With your permission, we will try again in a few days."

Riddle remarked, "Proceed. You have done well this time, Alactro – you too, Amycus. I may yet forgive your blunder while rescuing Bella, but not today. Cruci…"

Suddenly, the Master jerked and fell on the floor in a spasm of agony. Amycus screamed, not knowing what to do, and Crouch ran in, shouting, "Leave now! Return when you have completed your task."

He knelt down and inquired, "Master, how can I help?"

Riddle could barely move. He felt light-headed and weak, just like before, but the feeling soon passed. Suddenly clarity struck, and he murmured, "My horc…"

Junior asked, "What is it, Master?"

Riddle shook him off, saying, "I'll be fine, Barty. Bring me a glass of brandy. Go."

After the door had closed, Tom Riddle shook with rage. Someone must be destroying his horcruxes. He'd have to go check on them. The British wizarding world would soon shake from fear.

… - …

The next morning when they met, Harry greeted Moody, asking, "Hey, Mad-Eye, who's Junior?"

Three comfortable chairs appeared in the room. Moody gestured to the teens to sit. He replied, "Before I answer that, "I'll tell you something else. After yesterday, I owe it to you. The bad guys have gotten the best of me three times."

Harry and Susan listened in rapt attention ad the old Auror began his story.

"The first time I was twenty-two – not much older than you. My Betty and I were having beers at this sidewalk café. The war was winding down and it happened just like I showed you yesterday. I never saw her alive again."

"They left me for dead. I was lucky to have gotten away. Albus took Grindewald down a couple of weeks later."

The teens had no idea what to say, and Moody didn't look like he was hoping for a hug, so they sat for a minute in comfortable silence.

"The second time, Stan Rosier, Antonin Dolohov, Rosier's son, Evan, and another sick bastard jumped Rufus and I in Brighton. Again, there was no reason to believe anything was wrong. There had been a fake call about some kids flying their brooms up and down a public street. We weren't expecting trouble, as you say, it just found us.

Dolohov tagged Scrimgeour pretty good and I eventually lost my leg from a spell that Rosier Senior hit me with. I cut him in half and clipped his son pretty good, but it wasn't until Rufus punched a hole in that other bastard's throat that Dolohov ran away. We helped each other get back to St. Mungo's. The lesson I learned that day was to never give up."

Harry stated, "And the third time was last August."

"Yep, and you know the take-away from all that?"

The teens replied, "Constant Vigilance."

Moody took a swig from his glass of Ogden's and remarked, "I got beat three times, but there were forty or fifty times over the years when I didn't. Better yet, were the hundred or so times when I spotted trouble before it spotted me and I left."

The teens waited for Moody to finish his lesson. After a minute, the old Auror drained his glass and stated, "There's no such thing as a fair fight. There're fights where you're likely to win, and fights that you have no business being in. Every one of those scum would rather cut you down when your back's turned than dual you at ten paces. You two would plant most of them in the ground in a fair fight – That's why they attack in packs like wolves.

The day's lesson was obviously over, so the teens got up to leave, and Harry remarked, "Thanks, Mad-Eye. See you tomorrow."

ooo CCC ooo

The old scribe sensed that he'd crossed some invisible line that the Transfiguration Master had drawn. Granted, he'd slipped up on the product placement guideline – several times, but Old Crow realized that those sorts of things happened.

He shuddered and he recalled her threat, no statement, that she would transfigure his steel horse into a Vespa the next time he stepped out of line. He silently hoped that she would have a close encounter of the Voldemort kind.

On the way out, he noticed a series of numbers that totaled 6701152 and thought that it would interest Amelia.

… - …

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