20 April 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Three: Resolving Differences



Chapter Three: Resolving Differences

Note: "Butter-ball Charm" refers not to any modern American trademark, but to Krishna's Butter Ball in Mahabalipuram, India. It is near Chennai, and quite interesting.


Cappadocia was not a very peaceful country. Three times in the last twenty years, it had gone to war with one of its neighbors, the island of Cyprus. This was something of which Hermione was acutely aware, since the last war had only been two years ago, and British witches and wizards felt an extremely strong bond with the Cypriots. The Daily Prophet had run stories about the sufferings of the beleaguered Cypriots, and the treacherous dealings of the Cappadocians. It was all very suspicious, since tiny Magical Cyprus mostly spoke English and was dominated by several wealthy and influential wizarding families, while sprawling Magical Cappadocia had few cultural bonds with Britain and considerably less money. Barbarians versus the elite made for good copy. Harry controlled The Prophet, she knew, so it was odd the paper had been so uncritical. She supposed he didn't micromanage.

Actually, Hermione considered, since most Cappadocians spoke Greek as well as Arabic, they couldn't really be said to be "βάρβαρος." That nasty term had been used by ancient Greeks to describe those who couldn't speak Greek. It was onomatopoeia for what the Greeks had thought foreigners sounded like: bar-bar-bar-bar. Maybe she should write a pseudonymous letter to the editor, pointing this out, the next time the country hit the headlines.

Hermione gripped her broom tighter, increased her speed, and glanced around at the warband. Simon and Charlevoix were flying next to her, while Esther and Susan were below. Just above and behind her, Hyori and Jessie rode their own brooms, faces tight. She might need to write the letter soon. Somehow she thought Cappadocia would be in the news very shortly.

She looked down at the ground racing by below. Stone pillars sprouted up from the windswept rock below - the fairy chimneys. Tall and smooth, they studded the ridges and plateaus, looking for all the world like the frozen fingers of some trapped race of giants. They were natural formations - not ventiform, as the wind-whipped dust that swept past them might suggest, but worn away by years of cracking frost and whittling rain. Hermione looked away from them, leaned forward, and squinted ahead. Those white hills, there… yes. They were close. She raised her right hand and gave the high sign, and Hyori and Jessie peeled away from the group, swooping along a different path.

The fortress of Göreme, situated near the Turkish town of the same name, was protected in three ways.

First and most importantly, Göreme's existence was a secret. The best way to protect anything was to make sure that no one knows it exists. If you are unscrupulous and willing to use Obliviate, you could keep something very secret indeed.

Second, Göreme was inaccessible. It had its beginnings in a cave complex used as a Christian church during the eleventh century. The church remained, though it was now known as the Limon Kilise - to describe the sour feeling in the belly one experienced when visiting. The long and narrow passage through to the larger set of natural caves, on the other hand, had been erased by the Butter-ball Charm (which turned stone as soft as butter). Göreme was now surrounded by solid rock, and the depths of the fortress reached two hundred meters beneath the dust of the surface.

Third, Göreme was guarded by an army. The Exarchate of Cappadocia (which had no place in Muggle history, however important it might be to the course of magical events) did not station pairs of aurors or teams of Hit Wizards. Göreme was military, and its Dementors were weapons, and its guards were soldiers.

Cappadocia was not unique in the wizarding world for possessing a specialized army rather than relying on policing forces or militia. While the Peace of Westphalia had established the idea of an explicit "magical state," and the establishment of the International Confederation of Wizards pushed these states into formal organization, numerous personal fiefdoms persisted well past the end of the nineteenth century. It is true that political pressures, like the International Statute of Secrecy, and social pressures, like increasing education and Quidditch, did much to consolidate these pockets of autocracy into the same oligarchies that ruled much of the world. But nonetheless, some modern oligarchies and all modern autocracies had standing armies.

Truth be told, it would be difficult to say whether the Exarchate of Cappadocia was dominated by the sitting Strategos, or if the wealthy sakellarioi simply established new figureheads at regular intervals. Either way, it didn't matter to Hermione. Political reform of this (literally) byzantine country was secondary to another concern: the Cappadocians had Dementors, and they fed prisoners to those Dementors to keep them manageable. And that was not acceptable.

Hermione pulled up on her broom, slowing down, and the rest of the group matched her deceleration. She came to a stop, and pointed one finger at an uneven plateau of rock, far below them. "There. Bubble up, everyone. Bullesco." The Bubble-Head Charm sprouted from one nostril in its disturbing way, a single small translucent bubble swelling in the span of a breath until it encompassed her entire head. It wobbled a bit before settling into place. The other four witches and wizards did the same, ensuring they would have a supply of fresh and dust-free air.

Alarms would be going off in Göreme about now. She didn't know exactly what their response protocols were, but they had an immense number of jinxes overlaid on the area. No Apparating, no Time-Turners. There was an Anti-Disillusionment Charm (a term which gave her linguistic heartburn). Further, there was a charm to prevent broomstick enchantments from functioning. It didn't extend to this height, so as not to betray their position to a chance passerby or intruding Cypriot, but all of these jinxes limited their ability to respond. They could certainly be turned off, but what use was a precaution if you dropped it at every moment of alarm?

It was difficult to guess what they must be doing down there, deep underground, glued to their Foe-glasses. They had probably sent for aid. Were they confident that they were safe, unreachable down under all that stone? Diffindo did a great deal of damage to rock, but it would take long minutes for such a small attack force to blast their way down.

They didn't know enough to be afraid of 9.8 meters per second per second.

Hermione reached into the pouch at her waist and groped around for a second. She felt her nails scratch into something, and hoped she hadn't just damaged something important. It was one of the most annoying things about alicorn fingernails… even if she kept them nightmarishly short, they could still accidentally scratch things if she wasn't careful. Super-strength and claws might sound cool, but fingernails were definitely not designed to work like an animal's talons. It was embarrassing to accidentally ruin furniture, and it was annoying to pick the resulting detritus of stone, metal, or wood from where it would get embedded.

When she found the sextant, she lifted it to her eye and sighted through the eyepiece. The bubble around her head jiggled under the pressure as it warped. She found the horizon and adjusted the declination of the index, clicking it along to the proper minute and second. She checked the measurement, then checked her watch, and lastly checked that she was directly over the big white rock. Then she clicked her wand right next to the aeronautical sextant's index bar, and said, quietly and repeatedly, "Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite. Finite." She paused, then cast the spell ten more times for good measure. Her targets were enormously large, but also rather far away. She'd probably missed with most of those - no reason not to be sure, since the spell took so little effort. She was canceling her own magic, and so she cast the easiest and least powerful version of the spell and needed to put very little of herself into each iteration.

There was a long pause before the first beam of depleted uranium hit the rock beneath them.

Hermione could feel the impact in her inner ear as the roar of sound and air and dust blasted into the five mounted witches and wizard. They were quite high up… but then, it was quite an impact. Harry had told her about the idea, gifted to him by science fiction (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, her brain automatically supplied). Set high enough, the impact could have had the force of a nuclear weapon. But that would have required Muggle technology, which didn't work in the presence of magic (and it would have been overkill).

The whole thing was complicated enough. It had initially proven impossible, no matter how exact they were and how many calculations they did, to actually hit the beams with a Finite to end their Hover Charms. They'd tried attaching huge sheets to the beams to act as bigger targets, but they'd only acted as parachutes to drag the beams away from the necessary spot. The only way Harry and she could get it to work, after much experimentation, was to glue long threads of transfigured Teflon to their transfigured beams. The many threads were insubstantial yet easy to hit.

After the first beam hammered into the stone - once they knew it was working, but before the next ones struck with their own blasts of sand and dust - Hermione and her Returned clumped together and Susan cast a Prismatic Shield. They watched the next four beams hit in close succession. One was badly off target, but as far as she could see, it had missed to the north, rather than to the south. Hermione was willing to destroy the Limon Kalise if she had to, but she'd rather preserve it. It was an excellent representation of Byzantine Christian architecture and art.

The best Muggle bombs couldn't penetrate much deeper than sixty meters or so, even the ones currently under development, Harry had said. Well, nuclear bombs could do better, but that was out of the question. It didn't matter, anyway. They didn't want to penetrate and murder everyone.

They weren't trying to crush the wasp's nest. They were trying to shake it up enough so that all the wasps came out to play.

Metal fell from the sky like the wrath of an angry deity. Each concussion had reached them even beyond the Shield. Göreme was no hardened facility, like the Muggle military bunkers Harry had discussed with her with such pleasure. There was no anchoring or precautions taken against impact. It was essentially just a set of buildings constructed into natural caves. It would be very susceptible to some vigorous shaking.

They waited a few minutes, remaining still and in place. After a while, a green bolt of light streaked out of the rock below. It went the wrong way and vanished into the sky, nowhere near Hermione or her Returned. It had been shot blindly. A clever idea in its essence, undertaken by some desperate and vicious soldier, but the odds of a blindly-aimed curse hitting them were microscopic. She noted the trick down in her memory for later consideration.

Figures appeared on the ground below. Twenty or thirty, perhaps. The witches and wizards inside were using their portkeys to get outside to face the attackers who had just rattled them with a half-dozen serious earthquakes. An instant later, curses began pouring up and at Hermione and her tightly-packed crowd of convenient targets. Susan dropped her Shield without needing to be told, and they all separated and began dodging.

Hermione had thought that the soldiers would be coming on brooms, but they didn't seem to have disengaged that jinx. Odd... that left them as distant infantry fighting an air attack. Perhaps they didn't feel threatened, since the Returned were high enough that neither side could really effectively aim? No, that didn't seem credible… they'd just had their secret military base smashed by mysterious metal rods from the sky. They would definitely be feeling threatened.

Hm, a powerful attack or jinx that they were readying? Or were they just too rattled to get their act together?

She shrugged, and gave the high sign again. The Returned began reaching into their own pouches, scooping out pots, and dropping pot after pot. The pots were padded or altered in all manner of ways, the legacy of a school project that both Hermione and Harry had done when they were ten ("Class, we are going to be trying to figure out how we might drop an egg from the roof without the egg breaking. Please look at the first page of your worksheet packet…") There were some with small parachutes, some with inflated bladders, some with thick padding, and many others.

To be honest, it probably would have been better to actually test these first, and see which ones worked the best. Then they could have copied those. But this way had been much more fun. When Hermione had gone to Tesco for crafting supplies, Harry had given her a list as long as his arm, and she was fairly sure he'd spent all night on his six designs.

Esther, on the other hand, had looked at them as if they were crazy and had just cast a Charm. She'd been done with her six pots in sixty seconds. Philistine.

Many of the pots smashed with great force onto the rock, seeming like some direct and pathetic bombardment. One landed directly on a wizard, but exploded into flinders and dust when it hit an active shield. A few others landed with such ease and grace that she bet they weren't even cracked, and so they had no effect.

Others, though, were simply smashed open. And the young Mandrakes that were awoken from their warm and comfortable napping in the dirt wailed in protest.

It was a common Muggleborn trick, she had to admit. People who entered the magical world after growing up in the more safety-conscious mundane life of Muggles were frequently astonished that there were so many dangerous spells, plants, and creatures, much in the way that few pureblood witches and wizards who'd seen the accident statistics could understand the use of automobiles. To the Muggleborn, it was immediately obvious that these deadly things could be used directly as weapons.

She'd read a dozen books about why this was a foolish idea. In the first place, the scream is easily warded by an adult witch or wizard. Further, they only scream when awoken, so you must awkwardly go to battle with a fairly obvious large container, making surprise difficult to achieve. Even further, Mandrakes take most of a year to fully mature. Until then, their scream will merely cause unconsciousness. There were many other spells that could be cast that did not require most of a year of preparation and a large flowerpot, and which could not be blocked by numerous trivial charms. The plant had its uses, but the practical ones were almost universally as a potion ingredient.

Mandrakes and chainsaws made poor weapons, and for much the same reasons.

All of those caveats were true, and all of those scolding books were wise. But if you wished to attack from beyond wand distance, unexpectedly, and with the intention to stun?

Bombs away.

Hermione had no intention of making this a fair fight. As long as you controlled the battlefield, you controlled combat, and she'd come prepared for an aerial war. They had tricks upon tricks upon tricks. There were a thousand different clever things one could do quite beyond normal magical dogfighting. If she could eliminate most of the enemy like this, before they'd even had a chance to take to the air, then this fight would be short and safe.

They'd run out of Mandrakes. Hermione peered down, squinting. From this vantage point, it was hard to tell, but only ten or eleven soldiers still seemed to be moving. It was time for

falling

It was time for falling, apparently. Hermione's broom went dead as a stone between her legs. Ah, she mused, letting it tumble away from her fingers. That's why they didn't turn off the jinx. They were just working on making it stronger. Clever defense, she didn't know you could do that. Two overlapping fields, perhaps, with one usually off? The wind whipped her robes against her face as she fell. How long? Seconds.

Hermione reached to her wrist and slapped a bracelet there, hard. Never fight in the air without a backup.

Hm. Beater Bastion not working. She slapped it again.

It was a safety device meant for Quidditch, and it was supposed to be reliable, but she couldn't help but notice that she was still plummeting.

She twisted in the air, scrambling for her wand and looking for one of the Returned. There was no one… getting closer to the ground now… a few seconds… no, there, Simon, if she could just... no, damn, where'd he go… there was Esther but Stunned, no no… have to move, can you swim through the air?... turn turn turn, there he is there wand up and YES "Arresto Momentum!"

He vanished from her sight, jerked away as his descent rapidly slowed.

And that was the last thought Hermione had for some indeterminate amount of time.

≡Ω

She could see. Her eyes had already been open, so she hadn't needed to do that. But she could see. They must have just healed. She felt nothing. That would be her spine, broken. Lucky, lucky. This would be much more unpleasant, otherwise.

Not sure how long she'd been out. A minute or two, probably. She'd fallen quite far, but wizards were resistant to blunt trauma generally - some quirk of magical inheritance. Also, Hermione was a troll/unicorn woman, and rather hard to hurt.

Hermione couldn't stop herself from blinking the blood out of her eyes, but remained still otherwise. She couldn't see anything. Unluckily, her face was pressed against a large rock, and it entirely blotted out her view. She listened, instead, and waited for her body to finish healing.

"Τι συνέβη [What happened]?" A male voice shouted. A female voice called back an answer, but was too far away to be audible. No mandrakes could be heard, so the soldiers must have killed the exposed ones.

She heard a slight crackle as her neck healed, the bones pushing themselves to where they were supposed to be, and drew her breath sharply as the pain of her body screamed through her. An inarticulate shout tore from one of the soldiers nearby - so she'd been seen. Well, nothing for it, then.

Hermione jerked one leg in front of her and pressed against it, spinning herself into a sidelong roll. There was a wash of heat along her back as she did - a missed curse. Nausea assaulted her with the motion, but she ignored it. Her leg wheeled over her spinning body and impacted the rock, and she levered herself up onto it. The spin improbably became a vault, and she landed on her feet in a crouch. It was an act of fluid beauty, and it still seemed unreal that she was capable of such effortless grace.

Fourteen men and women in Cappadocian robes (sharply pointed sleeves, swooping long break in the fabric in the back) stood before her, their attacks halted for the moment now that she was motionless. She'd counted badly, or they'd already restored several of their number. She only saw one of her Returned: Simon. He stood nearby, arms raised. She'd saved him, but all of his emotion was concentrated in anger: the fleshy Scot was scowling at the soldiers. He'd been disarmed. That was smart. But neither she nor he had been Stunned. That was foolish.

The other Returned were not visible. They had probably hit the ground hard, and their emergency portkeys had broken with the impact.

Her own wand was probably somewhere around here. No matter. The soldiers were watching her warily. They were surprised but not awed, so maybe the fall hadn't looked as impressive as it had felt. Still, she gave it a try, speaking in clear and awkward syllables: "Θα πρέπει να παραδοθούν. [You must surrender.]"

There was an absolute and complete absence of contemptuous laughter, scornful retorts, or other displays of bravado. Instead, several of the soldiers glanced at one of the tallest among them. Considering the offer? There were no marks of rank visible, and Hermione surmised that this man, who was watching her edgily, was some sort of unofficial leader among the group. He had an impressive chin - broad and cleft. Could a fantastic chin make you a leader among men?

Whatever thought process had gone on in the man's mind did not end in Hermione's favor. She could see it in his eyes, once he'd decided. It was disappointing. They must know her - some of them had even probably seen her in the flesh before, since she'd visited Cappadocia a dozen or more times - but she and Simon were disarmed and Hermione was a bloody wreck. Hermione thought she must not be impressive enough. She'd better work on her image some more. The more fights she could win without actually fighting, the better. It would make eliminating all the Dementors that much faster.

The man aimed his wand at her again and shifted his feet. Other soldiers picked up on the same cue as Hermione, but as they all made ready to fire, she already was diving to the side and plunging her hand into her pouch. Curses flicked over her and behind her as soldiers barked their spells. One curse - a Severing Charm, maybe? - opened up her back as it struck her squarely. She didn't know how badly - she was already on her feet, dodging and flinging a glass orb the size of her fist at the soldiers.

Big-Chin was a quick thinker, and his wand flicked to the side to track the orb as it flew at them. "Reducto!"

The orb shattered well before it reached them, the glass (actually a perfectly and wondrously thick hollow borosilicate glass sphere, courtesy of transfiguration) detonating as its pressures were released. Big-Chin and another soldier, the closest, were staggered by the explosion and the wash of warm air that swept over them all. Simon, unarmed, had dared only cover his face with his hands. He'd known what to expect, and took advantage of the distraction to immediately slap the small of his back with one palm. He disappeared with a wet sucking sound as his portkey was broken and activated.

Hermione dropped to a crouch as the soldiers opened fire again. She rammed her right hand into her left forearm, below the wrist. Curses flickered overhead with coruscating light. One brushed her leg, and she lost feeling in it. Even as she went sprawling, though, she was already ripping a slender and gorey wand from her left arm, and casting another Finite with bloodslick fingers. She didn't have to aim the spell. The air in the sphere had been quite concentrated.

If she'd been evil, she would have transfigured acid, though it would have been trickier with the pressure pump and chamber they'd used. This was just water. Water, water, everywhere. In a drizzlingly thick cloud around them, in their mouths (tasting of dust), and in their lungs. Even worse, they'd all taken a few panting breaths over the last ten seconds or so, respiring transfigured air from what must have seemed like a small bomb.

In the lungs of Hermione and fourteen other witches and wizards, the alveoli which clustered like grapes along the bronchioles had transferred oxygen into their blood and bound it into red blood cells which raced down capillaries and arteries. The oxygen was immediately put to work throughout the body in every living cell, producing ATP in a trillion mitochondria all throughout their flesh.

In an instant, though, a significant percentage of that oxygen had just been reverted back into water.

And that was the last thought Hermione had for some indeterminate amount of time.

≡Ω

She could feel. She was on her hands and knees, her fingers buried in the rock in front of her. She was blind and deaf. But she was alive and conscious.

Hermione rested for a moment in the sudden peace of deafness, then pushed back onto her heels and rose to her feet. It was not difficult; this one hadn't even hurt. Some percentage of the cells in her body had just died. The exact number was hard to even guess, but she didn't imagine it could have been much. Half a percent?

As her vision slowly returned, along with her hearing (for now, mostly a high-pitched whine inside her head), she revised her estimate. All fourteen of her opponents were either writhing in gasping agony... or lying still and grey.

Wasting no time, though she was a bit unsteady on her feet, Hermione plucked yet another object from the Pouch of Poorly-Conceived Weapons Intended for Bombardment. She trotted quickly from body to body with the device, which was a potent relic from ancient and bygone days: a chrome money-changer. It had once dispensed coins for a train conductor.

At each body, she clicked the changer over them. A coin dropped onto them, and they vanished with a wet sucking sound. Off to be saved, off to the Tower, off to the only man in the world who could heal these injuries.

The changer made a wonderfully satisfying sound each time, though she didn't dawdle to enjoy. Ker-chak. Ker-chak. Ker-chak. Ker-chak.

Along the way, she found her regular wand and put it back in its holster. The still-bloody Ultimate Ulna (she was proud of the name) went into her pouch.

When she finished, she stopped and looked around. Hermione was alone on what had once been a rocky plateau but which was now a shattered moonscape. They might actually have cracked Göreme open, from the look of the mighty crevasses that still smoked from the impact. Her robes were ragged and burned and slashed, even soaked through with blood in many places. Her wounds were gone: in just the past few minutes shattered bones had pulled together, a deeply slashed back injury had knit closed, and billions of detonating cells had been transfigured back into life. No Dementors, though. There must be more soldiers, holding them in their pen. The pen where they were fed.

This had been poorly planned. She knew better, too. When you are making a plan, look at each step, and ask yourself: how can this go wrong? Once you have done that, and satisfied yourself with the answer in each respect, ask yourself a second question: what two things can go wrong at the same time? Always plan for two independent failures.

She'd planned for the bombardment to fail, or how to handle a broomstick failure, or if the enemy found a way to target them in the air, and everything else. But it hadn't been enough. All of the first line of her warband had been taken out in the first engagement (though they had come to no permanent harm) because the broomsticks had failed and their safety net had failed. Not paranoid enough, she murmured to herself with annoyance. Alastor will be disappointed.

Hermione plucked her wand from its holster, and readied herself. Then she expected the Dementors to come to her. It took no effort, for it seemed the natural course of events. I am here. I am waiting.

Come and get me.

Before her, two score of black and indistinct shapes emerged slowly through the blasted stone. They were hungry and evil and wrong, these wounds in the world clad in ragged cloaks. They were her great enemy, and there was nowhere in the world that they could hide from her. She would hunt them all down, unless they took her now. Hermione willed that thought out at them like a weapon, and if someone had been watching at that time, such as Hyori and Jessie (who flew in a wide circle out of range of the fortress, waiting for green sparks to summon them), that person would have seen a fierce joy in Hermione's eyes. She had died twice in these past eight years, and she had made death her dearest foe.

She raised her wand, and opened her mouth to cast.

And then her world was flame.

She wasn't sure what had happened. In some conscious part of her mind, she knew that the soldiers who had been guarding the Dementors down in Göreme must have portkeyed to the surface once their charges had escaped, and that they had turned some spell of fire upon her. But that thought was beyond her at the moment, because there was fire hot on her face and burning her burning her. Fire, that could hurt her quickly enough to incapacitate her. Fire, which had killed her once already. She shrieked as her flesh seared.

The Dementors were already there, and she felt their presence like a stain of hate that saturated her, even as the fire roared around her and devoured her. They were close enough and numerous enough that their presence began to consume her. The touch of their evil felt like despair, and it whispered into her mind and it sucked away at her marrow.

Hermione fell to her knees, and knew dimly that she was dying once more. The thought beat down on her as though it had great black wings, pulsing down and driving her to the ground.

She would burn and she would die.

She would burn and she would die.

She would burn and she would die.

But

But there were things to be done.

She was on fire and Dementors were eating her and the soldiers would kill her but there were things to be done.

Hermione rose to her feet, staggering. She shrugged off the hatred that sucked at her soul with a sheer effort of will. She defied it, and gasped something through a burning throat, and then raised her wand once more and shouted her spell past pain and smoke. Her voice was inhumanly powerful, alight with passion and flame.

"Expecto Patronum!"

Heat swirled around her, crackling in her hair and turning her robes to ash around her. She ignored the flames, though the skin on her neck and arms reddened, cracked, and charred. She ignored the soldiers who poured fire on her. Her world was her wand and her spell.

And so it was that Cappadocia came to know why she was called the Goddess.

For the white light that came from her wand was no white mist and no argent animal. It was not even the shape of a silver human being, though none of the witnesses would have expected that.

Hermione's patronus was the noonday roar of the full sun. It was bright beyond measure and glorious beyond words. With its puissance, she was ineluctable and divine.

Barely visible through the squinting eyes of the onlookers, forty Dementors shuddered in place.

Their substance ruffled as though in a strong wind, their black cloaks billowed back into shreds and threads, and they and their despair ceased to exist like a candle had been snuffed.

Hermione lowered her wand.

The flames died away, though her robes hung in smoldering and ashy rags around her. Her body was a mass of pain, but that was temporary, and was already beginning to fade. It slid away from her awareness more slowly than before, but the charred flesh was bubbling back into skin and replacing itself. She plucked at a locket around her neck to free the chain, so that the piece of gold-and-green jewelry wouldn't stick uncomfortably inside the healing wound. Then she raised her wand to send up red sparks - there were prisoners to rescue - and turned around with a searching glance. Who had been burning her?

Ah, over there. That had been the trouble. She saw two Cappadocian soldiers, collapsed and motionless. They'd been badly burned, as well, but had lacked her advantages. It was a dangerous spell, the sort you'd normally bring to bear on an army of Inferi rather than one lone woman.

Hermione Jean Granger, the Goddess and the sworn enemy of death, sighed to herself, pulled a chrome coin changer from the pouch on her belt, and started saving lives.

≡Ω

Deep in Whitehall lies the Ministry of Magic, from which every aspect of magical Britain's government and bureaucracies are officially run. Deep in the Ministry of Magic lies the Department of Mysteries, where magical research is conducted and the most esoteric problems are investigated. And deep in the Department of Mysteries lies the Hall of Science, in an immense chamber that once held the collected prophecies of the nation.

In the Hall of Science, five witches and wizards huddled around a magnificently long hickory table. Mafalda Hopkirk, Dolores Umbridge, Luna Lovegood, Basil Horton, and Nemeniah Salieri thought they had just made a great discovery.

They verified their preliminary result. Horton, a sturdy-looking older wizard with the physique of an athlete gone to fat, raised his wand and cast, slowly. "Lumooos. Lumoos. Lumis. Lums. Luums. Lumos. Lumoos. Lumis. Lumos. Lumos."

The spell, cast with the worst imaginable skill, only took on the tenth try. Horton's pronunciation only vaguely approximated the necessary syllables and his wandwork was abysmal: when he had performed the very slight and simple dip of the wand necessary for the spell, he had waggled his wand as though palsied. It would have been embarrassing, had it not been intentional.

The spell was one of the weakest known. When cast this badly, it yielded a barely visible soft yellow glow. It was an extraordinarily slight bit of magic.

Horton held his wand next to a thin golden rod. The half-meter rod was mounted to a bulbous and unworked lump of obsidian. It had been sunk deep into the crusted grey rock-rime on the lump's top. The rod vibrated in place, gently, as the wand approached.

Lovegood and Umbridge looked at each other. Umbridge's lips were pursed. She did not entirely approve of these experiments into the workings behind the Trace, the charm that detected underage magic. But there were interesting possibilities for control here. She nodded shortly to Lovegood, and the two of them stepped to the other end of the table and picked up a grey metal lattice thickly interwoven with green vines. There were no roots to the vines, only many tiny leaves.

In unison, Lovegood and Umbridge set the lattice over the rod-and-stone device. Horton did not alter the exceedingly soft glow of his spell, yet the rod stopped vibrating. Everyone involved looked at each other in satisfaction, although perhaps only Luna Lovegood truly understood the importance of what they had discovered.








'Twas I, my lord, that gat the victory;
And therefore grieve not at your overthrow,
Since I shall render all into your hands,
And add more strength to your dominions
Than ever yet confirm'd th' Egyptian crown.
The god of war resigns his room to me,
Meaning to make me general of the world:
Jove, viewing me in arms, looks pale and wan,
Fearing my power should pull him from his throne:
Where'er I come the Fatal Sisters sweat,
And grisly Death, by running to and fro,
To do their ceaseless homage to my sword:
And here in Afric, where it seldom rains,
Since I arriv'd with my triumphant host,
Have swelling clouds, drawn from wide-gaping wounds,
Been oft resolv'd in bloody purple showers,
A meteor that might terrify the earth,
And make it quake at every drop it drinks:
Millions of souls sit on the banks of Styx,
Waiting the back-return of Charon's boat;
Hell and Elysium swarm with ghosts of men
That I have sent from sundry foughten fields
To spread my fame through hell and up to heaven:
And see, my lord, a sight of strange import,--
Emperors and kings lie breathless at my feet;
-- Christopher Marlowe

2 comments:

  1. > Hermione had no intention of making this a fair fight.

    "If you find yourself in a fair fight, you didn't plan your mission properly" -- Colonel David Hackworth

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  2. The Dementor behavior in this chapter really bugged me. Even if you buy the expectations hypothesis of Dementor behavior, which I don't think there's enough evidence to endorse with confidence, in HPMOR Harry's attempt to influence Dementors by naively manipulating his expectations fails miserably. Hermione pulling it off here, especially when there are guards specifically trying to keep the Dementors contained, feels really cheap. Even more so combined with the chapter as a whole having Hermione succeed through brute force despite being generally outplanned.

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