15 May 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Seven: Aitiai, Diaphorai, and Alethestate Prophasis



Significant Digits, Chapter Seven: Aitiai, Diaphorai, and Alethestate Prophasis

Þis man, clepid Mundre of the Brook, seiden to Merlin, “How shal we stopje þis end?”
And Merlin ondswered in his drede, “Þat we may not come to the fate of Atlantis, which has passed out of þis world to nouȝt, I shall seal alle away.  Ac even þis lechecrafte, pestilence and blessyng both, shall not suffice.  Manne moste wax in kunnynge.”  And whanne þei hadden herd the princeps incantatorum speke þus, þei were trublid.

                 Harry Lowe, The Transmygracioun, passus duodecimus

≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

“Tarleton had been here two years.  He was a smart boy, and he had ambitious plans,” Councilor Tineagar said, as they approached the door to the mailroom.  “I didn’t know him well, but I did have several occasions to speak with him in his role as clerk.  He wanted to be nominated as Councilor someday.”

“Every loss is a tragedy, but particularly someone with a bright future ahead of them.  How long does that sort of advancement usually take, if you’ll forgive my ignorance?” Hermione asked, following her.  Charlevoix and Esther trailed them both.

“Usually a score of years,” Tineagar said, “but he wanted to achieve a nomination within his first decade at the Council.  That would be unusual, but not impossible.”  She pushed open the door.  “Tarleton had promise, and his murder is a terrible thing.”

The mailroom of the Council of Westphalia was a blackened ruin.  Hermione looked around.  It was rather like a puzzle.  Those lattices of metal wire, crumpled and torn, must have once been owl cages.  And that meant that the crooked metal poles had been owl perches, where they waited for immediate replies.  Two fireplaces were mostly undamaged, although the Floo Flounders next to them were both destroyed.  The Flounders were like small bellows on the floor, which dispensed a set amount of Floo powder.  It was slightly safer and considerably cleaner than using manual pinches of the stuff, especially for children and the elderly.  It was also more convenient, since you didn’t need to keep a stock in the house.  You couldn’t do the fancy tricks with them, like tossing a whole handful of powder on the fire and using it for communications, but how often did you really need such a silly means of communication? Hermione wanted one, herself.

Hermione took a step into the room.  The stone underfoot had been swept clean or Scourgified, since there was no broken glass and little rubble.  Hopefully someone had examined it first, although she doubted it.  There was no forensic instinct in the magical world -- just a general sense that the untidiness should be immediately fixed.  For generations, careful cleanliness had been one of the things that distinguished wizardkind from the rest of humanity, and so it was still a deeply-abiding tradition.

Well, that was okay.  She had never expected to just walk in and discover some hidden clue, anyway.

“Someone else saw the package as it was delivered, I suppose?”  Hermione asked, stepping further into the room and examining the floor.  It was scorched, but less than she might have imagined.  One area in particular was quite blackened.

“Yes,” Tineagar said, stepping in after her and standing just to one side of the door.  “That’s how we know it was from Narcissa Malfoy, that vile imperialist bitch.”  Hermione glanced back at Tineagar, and saw the American witch’s face was angry.  Upset at the loss, or upset at the affront?

“And you know the Malfoys?  Did you know Lucius Malfoy, Narcissa’s husband?”  Hermione asked, gently.

“We exchanged curses, upon a time.”

Hermione nodded.  Tineagar had been one of those sent from abroad during Grindelwald’s War and the Wizarding War.  “Even before that, though, Lucius was a problem.  For thirty years, he controlled a majority of the British delegation to the Confederation, and they were a constant thorn in our side as we tried to scale back some of the restrictions on Squibs and Beings.  For years, it was the Americas and the Ten Thousand against the European coalition when it came to the emancipation movement, fighting over the votes of the delegates from Africa, the islands, and the Sawad.  Malfoy helped keep most of Europe united around the status quo.  He’s the reason why it was legal to hunt merfolk for so many years.”  Even nearly a decade after the man’s death, Hermione could hear the anger in Tineagar’s voice.

“Matters are different, now,” Hermione suggested.  She did not mention the awkward fact that the vote for an International Statute for Health and Life had also failed, in large part thanks to the opposition of that same American-Eastern bloc.  But the Confederation had dismembered a dozen international restrictions on Squibs and Beings, so there had been some progress in the right direction.  Harry had even, at Hermione’s urging, begun planning out a campaign to give different Beings seats in the Confederation itself, although that wasn’t yet public knowledge.

“Yes… the, ah, incidents of 1992 and the establishment of the Tower changed the positions of many Things.  Egypt and Kenya, for example, switched their votes on the merfolk issue right after it became apparent that there were going to be no more bribes.”

Hermione bent to one knee, tracing a finger through the light layer of soot on the floor.  “I’m not sure if we should be happy that their true position is the moral one, or unhappy that money could change their minds so readily.”

Tineagar crossed her arms, and just made an inarticulate murmur of assent.  Hermione turned her full attention to the crime scene.

Observations first.  No theories, no guesses, no imagination.  What do I see?

Owl cages and owl perch over there… some long tables, mostly undamaged… one table in pieces and quite blackened… floor has a settled layer of soot on it and a small amount of loose debris… large numbers of empty and unmarked cubbyholes along another wall… ceiling seems mostly unmarked, although it was hard to say if the grey stone had been made dingy... some sort of dried brownish stains over in one corner, looked like blood… fireplaces undamaged but Floo Flounders destroyed… various supplies still in evidence with stacks of parchment, bottles of ink, and a pot of Floo powder on one fireplace mantle… the destroyed cages and perches for the owls were also sooty but otherwise unsoiled…

“Almost done?” Tineagar said from behind her.  The American witch was clearly unhappy that Harry had requested Hermione’s presence with such vigor, or that her fellow Councilors had agreed to the gesture.  Or maybe she (and they) had assumed it would just be a token visit.  “Not much to see, I’m afraid.”

Hermione looked back at the American, whose pinched face looked displeased.  “There’s quite a lot, actually.”

Tineagar shook her head.  “We’ve already done all the searching that can be done.  Scrying, spell-trace, all the usual.  But we found no surprises.  No destructive spells were cast here, and no one Apparated or portkeyed out after the attack.  You can see the Flounders were destroyed.  This damn Muggle device had no magic at all… it was like a Dungbomb, but with fire and force.  For now, we’re calling it a Blastbomb.”

I’ll just write that down with my Writingpencil on this Parchmentnote, Hermione could hear Harry say in her head.

“Did you go back further and check?”  A question that was vague nonsense unless you already knew about Time-Turners.  Hermione assumed that Tineagar was aware of them, given the rather nauseating amount of information that Hig and his allies commanded, but information hygiene was an important habit.

Tineagar shook her head.  “We’re time-locked here.  It’s not to prevent this sort of thing, actually.  I’m not sure if you ever heard of Albrecht Perel?”  Hermione shook her head.  Tineagar continued. “Well, in the sixties, there was one particular wizard who would go back an hour in time whenever he wished to prepare for a difficult turn of debate.  When challenged on any point of rhetoric, he would spend an hour revising his speech, mustering supporters, and extracting relevant promises from allies.  The end result was that he would smash through his agenda every time, since everyone was already committed to supporting it and the opposing arguments had already been defeated.  When others started trying to do the same thing, then the stakes went up… participants were going back in time over and over, to try to out-prepare with information from the future.  As I understand it, the transcripts from such meetings stopped making sense… just a jumble of foregone conclusions describing rhetorical battles that had only existed in implication.  One of our seers went mad, screaming about a loop with only one side.”

Tineagar grimaced, her upper lip hunching near her narrow nose.  “Eventually, Albrecht tried to break the stalemate by going back six hours, then having an assistant try to take his notes back another six hours to conduct an opinion poll.  Albrecht, the assistant, and three bystanders were all wiped from existence like a smear of ketchup… and we locked time in the Alþing.  That is the purpose of that precaution… to guard the sacred integrity of debate.”

“Not the worst reason I’ve ever heard,” Hermione commented, walking over to the long tables on the other side of the room, which probably would normally have been in the center of the mailroom.

“Found anything of interest yet, Ms. Granger?”  Tineagar asked.  “While I appreciate your efforts in this, especially since it was one of Britain’s radicals at fault, I’m not sure there’s anything for you here.”

There was a significant edge of suspicion in Tineagar’s voice.  Is there any way to reassure her that I’m not here to spy on them, but to look into this bombing?  They must think I just want to snoop.  Hermione couldn’t think of anything.  She’d certainly been whisked here without much of an opportunity to look around, and the passage of air along the hall had suggested that at least a few of the walls had been illusory.  And while her reputation was impressive, there probably wasn’t anything to suggest to the Councilor that Hermione would have better powers of investigation than what they could have mustered already.

“I’m not sure yet.  I think it’s important to just look at everything and ask questions and think a bit, first, before you try to start figuring things out,” Hermione said, touching the table in front of her.  It had nothing on it but a light coating of more soot.  Not scorched… it looked like the settled soot from smoke.  They came in here and cleaned this place immediately, otherwise the Scourgifies would have carried all of this away.  But if this Tarleton had only been working here for two years, then he wouldn’t have been entrusted with anything all that secret.

A mailroom that was filled with material sensitive enough to scour away before the smoke had even settled but which was unimportant enough for a relatively new employee to handle?

That didn’t make any sense.

I notice I am confused.

Ah.  I see.

“Some things here don’t make sense.  And that’s because this was not a mailroom for ordinary correspondence,” Hermione said, turning to face Tineagar.  “It was a processing center for intelligence.”

The other witch didn’t seem to understand, so Hermione clarified using more specific language.  She kept her voice pleasantly neutral.  “Councilor Hig and several others here at the Westphalian Council have numerous information-gathering devices, all over the world.  This was one of the places where you sorted through some of that information… parchments people were writing that looked important, conversations that sounded interesting.”  Hermione thought for a second, then amended, “Or at least, Tarleton’s job was something to do with that.  He could also have been payroll for them, or something.”

Tineagar’s face soured.  “Ms. Granger, this was a mailroom, and I’ll thank you not to make a joke out of the death of one of ours.”

“If I had to guess, I’d say that probably the second or third thing that your people did in here was to clear away all the parchments and letters, right?  Run in and see what happened, check to see if you can help Tarleton, and then go through here with a Gathering Charm and Scourgify right away.  That’s why everything is still covered with soot and these little flakes of ash, even though all the paper and detritus from the blast is gone.  But Tarleton had only worked here for a couple of years.  If the parchments coming through here were that important that they needed to be cleared away immediately, before anyone could see or steal them in the confusion, then he wouldn’t be allowed to see them.”

Hermione pointed at the wall of cubby holes, then at the ruined owl cages.  “A lot of information was coming in and out of here, to be sure.  But highly confidential owls go right to their recipient, not to a room like this.  At the Ministry back home, this sort of room is for processing and sorting generic inquiries or complaints… nothing you’d want to obliterate immediately.”

She turned back to Tineagar.  “But the Council does have something that the Ministry doesn’t have… many ways of gathering information that produce a flood of parchment.  Shopping lists, fan mail, and conversations about tea -- plus the occasional important letter about a secret plot.  So why have a low-level employee sort through secret parchments?  Well, when you have a thousand secret parchments a day, you have to use low-level employees.  They’re just instructed to sort through and kick anything that looks important upstairs.”

Tineagar was shaking her head.  “None of this is important, even if it were true.  You’re not here to seek out the way the Council operates or to spy on us.”  Her voice was tight with anger and what may have been apprehension.

“I’m not here to spy on you, you’re right,” Hermione agreed.  “And I’m sorry if it seems like I’m getting into your business.”  She approached Tineagar, her steps light but her eyes intent.  “But just this month, a bomb much like this one nearly killed me.  It sat in a satchel as close to me as you are now, and if I’d been a few seconds slower…”  She gestured at the scorched floor.

The American frowned again, and spoke with acid tones.  “Yes, I read about that.  As I recall from the papers, the Malfoy faction has been giving you quite a lot of trouble.”

“Ever since 1993.  They’ve been underground for six years, and we’ve had disappearances over that time as others have joined them.  Narcissa and Draco are clever and resourceful… they’ve broken into Gringotts and they’ve burgled the Department of Mysteries at the Ministry, and I never would have thought either of those things were possible.  And they’ve never stopped trying to bolster their support… publishing newsletters, threatening Beings, and generally being a dangerous nuisance.  It’s been hard for us all to handle.”  Hermione felt her voice become a little strained as she spoke.

She dangled from the edge of the roof, her shoulder aching and her wrist caught tight in the grip of a white-haired boy.  "He's going to come help me, but first he's going to Luminos both of us, there's no way he wouldn't. You have to let me go.  Do it, do it, Draco, do it, you can beat him yourself we have to win Draco!"

Hermione blinked rapidly for a moment.  “So quite a lot of trouble, yes.”

“And how many friends have you lost?” Tineagar asked, glancing pointedly at the corner, toward the brownish stains.  She clearly knew the answer.

“Some people injured and many scared, but this is the first time they’ve actually taken a life,” Hermione admitted.  “They had never even tried anything like this until this month, with their attempt on Harry and me in London.  I was -- am -- surprised that they’ve resorted to this.  I thought that Draco had become a different person than the boy his father raised.  I honestly could barely believe that he could have wanted to take the life of any bystander.”  Much less my life.

“It is indeed very unlike what I know about the Malfoy clan’s behavior.  Lucius would never have resorted to something this crude, or this pointless, as abhorrent as he was.  This murder seems to serve no purpose except to terrorize us.”  The last sentence was heavy with meaning.

Does she mean... ugh!

“Indeed,” Hermione said.  “It is a vicious and violent crime, and you will be driven straight into the arms of Harry Potter and the Treaty for Health and Life, especially since he also attempted to attack me.  We have the same enemy, let’s fall into each other’s embrace.”  She was disgusted, and let it show as she glared at Tineagar.

She thinks this that Harry or I arranged this and the other bombing attempt, to try to make a common enemy (the thirty-fourth strategem of Zhuge Liang, her brain automatically supplied: Inflict Injury on Oneself to Gain the Enemy’s Trust).  But if we intended that, would we be this stupid about it?

“Maybe you’re not so crude, either,” Tineagar grudged.  “But then what was the point of this?  I see no reason to murder a promising young clerk, no matter what parchments were here.  There’s no political power to be gained by this… no one has been intimidated or frightened in the slightest.  The witches and wizards of the Council are mostly made of stout stuff, but even the cowards would be ashamed to yield in the face of such an obvious tactic.  If a vote were held on your treaty today, the results would be the same as yesterday.”

Tineagar stepped to the door and through it.  Charlevoix and Esther peered from either side of the frame into the room, to check on their leader.  They had remained so utterly silent that Hermione had almost forgotten they were waiting.  She smiled at them both a bit wryly, then looked back to Tineagar.  “Councilor, I have the same questions.  Let us work through them together.  Cui bono?

“ ‘Who benefits?’ “ Tineagar asked.  “Only the Tower, I should think.  At least some of magical America will reflexively side with him against his known enemy and the purported attacker, Narcissa Malfoy.”  She halted in the hall.  Maybe just being in that room made her uncomfortable.  Not because of Tarleton’s fate, but because of what it implied about her own vulnerability.  That would be normal.

“Granted.  But that’s what the Tower himself would call a ‘first-level deception.’  And you’ve met Harry… can you honestly say that he would be this dumb or this sloppy?  If he was planning some sort of bombing campaign, then I can assure you that there would be no clumsy casualties and you would not be able to figure out his plot this easily.”  Realizing what she was saying, Hermione quickly went on.  “But even more to the point: Harry’s entire goal in life is to stop people from dying.  If you only knew how greatly he cares for every human life, you could never think this of him.”

“Then you think this is a second-level deception?  We are meant to suspect the Tower, by the bomber’s design?  That seems too cute by far.  And given that the Tower is as subtle as you say, the natural conclusion is that this is a third-level deception, is it not?”  Tineagar shook her head, and then started off down the hall, leading the way once more.  Hermione followed, and behind them both followed the two Returned.

This woman contradicts everything you say.  “Then let’s get more information.  Can I examine the body?  Bombs are made of specific kinds of chemicals and metal shells, and sometimes certain principles of science can be used to trace their origins.”

“The family has claimed it.  His identity was verified down to the curve of his soul by his friend and fellow clerk, hired at the same time and intimately familiar with the boy - not someone who could be fooled.  It was not a death doll or any other simulacrum.”  Tineagar turned a corner in the corridor, around to… another featureless corridor of grey stone.  Why were so many magical headquarters built of grey stone?  Was that material particularly easy to ward, or was it just the lingering effects of medieval architectural trends?

“Curve of his soul?”  Hermione said.

“It’s just a saying from a story here.  We’re sure it was Tarleton, and his body is gone.”

“Hm.  I wonder… who was first into the room, after explosion?  Is that something you can tell me?”

Tineagar paused for a moment to glance back at her, then continued on.  “Two witches named Sybil and Cynthia were first, one after the other.  They work in another mailroom, nearby.”

“Is it possible to view their memory of what they first saw?”  Hermione asked, hopefully.  “There might be a clue that was wiped away.”  And I noticed something, and I need to confirm it.

The American came to a full stop, and turned around.  She was tall and thin, and she drew herself up to her full height.  Her voice was arch with irritation.  “I am not going to drag one of those poor girls out of their home after they just saw their co-worker murdered yesterday, and ask her to dwell on that memory.”

Hermione folded her arms and looked up at Tineagar.  Behind her, she could hear Esther shift slightly in place.  Ever-ready Esther.  “Councilor, a man is dead, and you’re still worried about what I might see.”  She raised her voice to speak over Tineagar’s immediate protests, continuing, “I know this is upsetting, but the Muggles have discovered a principle as inviolable as Gamp’s Law.  It’s called Lorcard’s Principle, and it says that every contact leaves a trace.  Your fingertips leave behind oil or tiny skin flakes on whatever they touch.  A bludger leaves a small fibre of leather when it hits a player.”  In point of fact, certain impervious magical substances left no trace that could be discovered, but that could itself be revealing.

Tineagar had subsided somewhat, but she was still scowling.  “A clever criminal leaves no clues.  And what do you expect to see… a scrap of cloth caught in the package, which turns out to be from my sleeve?”

Hermione blinked rapidly for a moment in surprise.  Oh.  Was Tineagar now worried that she thought it was a false-flag attack by the Council?  She’d missed that.  Maybe her scornful words had been too effective, earlier.

“No,” she said to the American.  “It honestly never occurred to me that you or Councilor Hig could have had anything to do with that.  Now that you mention it, though, it becomes obvious that there probably is at least one Councilor who might benefit by this.  Sorry, I’ve been too focused on things from my perspective… foolish of me.”

Hermione met Tineagar’s gaze, and weighted her expression with every ounce of conviction that was within her.  This woman must know and believe that we are allies in this.  Hermione’s eyes had a message.  It was a message that had won over countless others to her cause, and helped inspire a dozen to devote themselves wholly to her command.   That message was I am become the world, destroyer of Death.  Join me.

“A man was murdered here,” Hermione said.  “Let’s find his killer and punish them, and use every scrap of resources at our command to make that happen.”

≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

Thanks to security concerns and personnel issues that Hermione could completely understand, Hermione, Charlevoix, and Esther were sent to wait at Franklin’s Nez, a tavern popular with magical Boston.  It was a homey place of whitewashed brick walls, heavy oaken tables, and enormous mugs of butterbeer.  It also did a side business in recreational Pensieve-use, or “bobbing.”  It was an expensive form of entertainment -- a Galleon per go -- because Pensieves were expensive and worthwhile memories even moreso.  Hermione assumed that there were probably more illicit versions of the same sort of establishment, that catered to less wholesome demands than memories of skydiving or fighting a giant.  There was at least one such place in Britain, or so she’d guess from a sign in Knockturn Alley (“Billie’s Bobbing Bubbies”).

She drank her butterbeer and spoke quietly with her Returned.  She avoided talking about the investigation -- prying ears everywhere -- and they didn’t speak very much about the States or the Americas, either.  Hermione knew that it made Esther uncomfortable.  She’d been born in Texas, but remembered little that was pleasant about her former home.

They spoke about magical theory, instead.  Charlevoix was interested and Hermione loved discussing the recent research, and it was something to take Esther’s mind off of their surroundings.

“It is insulting, though -- rude, you know? -- to say that these things are not branches of magic,” Charlevoix said, shaking her head.  Her accent put a French edge on every sibilant sound.  “Herbology and magizoology… this must make so many angry.  It is something I cannot understand.”  The witch absently plucked at the silver necklace around her throat with her ruined fingertips.

“I heard that Lord Longbottom introduced a resolution to ban pink in the Wizengamot, as revenge,” Esther said.

“Neville definitely didn’t do that!  But you’re right, I think it irritated a lot of people.  Umbridge’s paper might not even have been worth publishing, since it was just sort of a reclassification of things, rather than anything backed up by experimentation.”  Hermione shrugged.  “But that’s where the Tower School’s thoughts are, these days, along with the Unspeakables working with them.”  The fact that people routinely used “Tower” as an all-inclusive term to refer to the school of higher learning, the medical clinic and research center, or Harry himself, could be annoyingly ambiguous, but everyone made do.

“I don’t see the point,” Esther replied.  She sounded a bit distracted.

“If all magic is essentially just enchantment or transfiguration, with everything else just being the exploration of some property of already-existing objects like the stars or plants, then we might be actually getting closer to figuring out how magic works at its basics.  How does the brain combine with some physical manipulation of the environment to cause changes... even ones that violate physical laws of Muggle science?  And it’s rather clever to think of potions as just a form of enchantment.”  Hermione smiled in spite of her efforts to remain calm.  While Umbridge’s paper had been more of an act of provocation than a usual advance, the whole topic was fascinating.  She actually knew Harry had gone even further, and was talking about possible theories for a single magical interaction at the heart of everything.  It was all fluff and science fiction right now, of course, until they could support any of it with evidence.

She wondered for a moment about Harry.  What was he doing now, trapped in the Tower?  Trapped into being the Tower?  Making someone’s healing permanent?  Working on the slice-boxes?  He seemed to spend more time these days in private, from what she’d seen.  Perhaps too much, since she’d noticed him looking a trifle haggard at times.  He’d changed.

From behind Hermione, there was a thump and a whoosh of warm air.  She saw Esther tense, and Charlevoix raised her eyebrows.  Hermione turned to see Councilor Tineagar approaching them, accompanied by a sweaty-looking man with black hair who was certainly Councilor Hig.  Hig looked flustered and unhappy, but he still smiled when he saw Hermione.

“This must be the Goddess I’ve heard so much about! Your patron swore up and down that you would set my mind at ease about any doubts I might still have about him.  It’s a pleasure.  I’m Reginald Black-Horse Hig.”  Hermione rose from her seat with a motion as fluid as sublimation itself, shaking the man’s hand.  His face was stubbled with coarse black bristles… he must have been too busy to shave.  Not surprising, with recent events.

“I’m sorry we have to meet under these circumstances.”  She gestured at her two companions, who had risen from their seats, as well.  “Councilor, this is Odette Charlevoix and Esther Price, two friends of mine.”

Hig was a smart man, Hermione noted.  He didn’t ask any of the questions that he must have had for the legendary Returned, but simply gave slight bows to the two women.  Harry had been impressed with Hig, even as he described the man as “badly needing to read Montesquieu and Orwell if he was going to have any hope at all.”

“So you think you can figure out some clues that we could not, Limpel says.  Certainly recent advances in transfiguration from the Tower show that Muggle science can bring benefits I’d never have imagined.  So we brought something for you, as you requested.”  Hig gestured at Tineagar, and the witch produced a phial that glowed a faint silver.  Her face was still sour.  “I’ll be interested to learn what good you think this might do.”

“I am skeptical,” said Tineagar, as she offered the phial.  “But I learned a long time ago that others may see things I do not, and I admit you’ve not yet given me any reason to distrust you.”

“My mother taught me to check in every crevice and corner before giving up.  I hope I don’t disappoint,” Hermione said.  It had been a lesson in flossing, but it was still good advice.  She accepted the phial without further ado, and the entire group moved to one of the two smaller adjacent chambers, in which stood a Pensieve.

She poured the memory into the waters of the device.  Thick white vapor welled up, and images began to swirl in the Pensieve.  She dipped in her face.

The scene was chaotic from the moment it began, confused and cloudy in the way of any Pensieve view constructed from only one participant’s memories.  A pair of women, faded and ghostly like overexposed film, ran down a hall of the Alþing towards a door.  Black smoke was pouring out from under the door into the hall, but the women ran towards it anyway.  One of them -- Sybil or Cynthia, Hermione didn’t know -- snatched open the door and ran into the smoke.  Hermione’s Pensieve-self was swept forward into the billows of blackness, and for a moment she could see nothing.  But then she saw the first woman running in towards a mutilated body, bloody and blackened and lying in one corner.  The other just froze in her tracks and began screaming.  Owls were streaming out the open door, leaving behind their ruined cages.  Many lay dead.  Hermione had a long moment, then, when her Pensieve-self could turn in place and look closely around the room.  Some spots were indistinct or faded into nothing, but a majority of the room was visible.  There were some additional clues about the bomb -- useful things to tell the Americans, at any rate.  She could see a metal cap lying near the blasted table where the bomb had been opened, first off… this had been a bomb sealed into a pipe.  Any Muggleborn Brit who paid attention to the news knew something about that, so Hermione at least knew the basic concept.  The only other fragment she noticed was a brownish metal thing with two little wires sticking out of it.  She didn’t recognize it, but it was something to note.

She paused and to stare at the detail she’d noticed earlier.  It was the same.  And the implications, when she reasoned through it...  Her stomach turned, and she felt sick.

With a mental and physical effort, she pushed herself out of the memory, and straightened up from the Pensieve.  She stood blinking for a second, then looked at Hig and Tineagar, who were standing by, impatiently.

“That was… terrible to see, Councilors.  I’m…”  She felt ill, and she paused for a second, staring at the floor.  Esther was at her side in a moment, one arm slightly extended in case her Goddess needed help.  “I’m sorry that happened to you and yours.  I’m sorry that… happened at all.”

“Ms. Granger, are you all right?”  Tineagar asked, gently.  Seeing Hermione’s reaction must have driven some sympathy in her.  “Let’s go back and you can have a seat.  I watched that myself, and you’re right… it is terrible to see.  We need drinks, I think.  Many drinks.”

“Yes,” Hermione said, taking Esther’s hand in her own.  “But there is at least some good news.  I can tell you some things about the device, I think.  I think it was a thing called a ‘pipe bomb’... an amateur device.”

But in her head, even as she spoke, all she could think was: Oh, Harry… no…

≡≡≡Ω≡≡≡

Note: You possess all necessary information to solve the puzzle.











America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?
I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles
more so they're all different sexes.
America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe America free Tom Mooney
America save the Spanish Loyalists
America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die
America I am the Scottsboro boys.
America when I was seven momma took me to Communist
Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per
ticket a ticket costs a nickle and the speeches were free
everybody was angelic and sentimental
about the workers it was all so sincere you
have no idea what a good thing the party was
in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a
real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers'
Ewig-Weibliche made me cry once I saw the
Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody
must have been a spy.
America you don't really want to go to war.
      -- Allen Ginsberg

3 comments:

  1. Is the Montesquieu reference to any bits of his work in particular? If so, which?

    (Loving this by the way.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. What does the phrase "level and levels" mean?

    ReplyDelete
  3. @Edgar Freeman: As in one-level deception, two-level deception, etc. See HPMoR Chapter 27.

    ReplyDelete