24 April 2015

Significant Digits, Chapter Four: Established Patterns May Have Little Predictive Value

Chapter Four: Established Patterns May Have Little Predictive Value

The family of Nikitas Seyhan had spent generations in the Taurus Mountains at Külek Boğazı, watching the pass through the peaks from among the rocky crags. It was harsh and cold at Külek Boğazı, and there were few Muggles (or, as Nikitas knew them, “Μύγαλοι”) around. The Seyhans and the few nearby families had very specific concerns, such as caring for the kneazles, ensuring there would be sufficient food, and guarding against giants. They did not live glamorous lives, and had little contact with the outside world.

In a world where every witch and wizard can Floo and Apparate and portkey and Vanish on a moment’s whim, this isolation might seem strange -- if not downright stupid. “Why,” we might ask, “do these foolish people not just travel to a nearby city and catch up on some of the modern advances?”

The Seyhans would have stood to gain a great deal, had they educated themselves. There were numerous simple spells that would improve the Seyhan lifestyle. Uncle Alexis would not have to spend night after night resealing the kneazle pens if he just knew a few simple wards: he could sleep the dark hours away in peace after a simple Duro turned the walls into stone (let’s see a kneazle try to get out of that!). And Nikitas himself would have found life much more pleasant with the trivial spell of Lumos -- no more glowstones, just a simple light. Lumos had been known in Cappadocia for two hundred years by now… get off your κώλος and go learn something, Seyhans!

A more careful person, of course, might point out that all the magical forms of travel would require enormous and risky investments of time and money. Should one of the Seyhans attempt to locate the nearest wizarding town, far away, based on rumor from Uncle Alexis and an old book? And once there, do they beg in their mangled Greek (and no Arabic or Turkish, so good luck there!) to be given resources and a whole magical education for free?

Yes, it is possible that Nikitas Seyhan and his family might have improved their situation. You might mock them for their failure. But it would have been difficult and dangerous for them to make the attempt, and it is better to light a candle than curse their darkness, you incredibly insensitive ass.

Anyway, the facts are this: Nikitas Seyhan was only vaguely aware of requirements for secrecy, the presence of a larger magical world, and the existence of the Exarchate of Cappadocia. And so it was somewhat bewildering when he was arrested by a team of three wizards and witches (a team that might be called an “auror trio” in Britain) on charges of breaking Clause 73 of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy.

We will dispense with the Greek and move forward in translation, but the conversation went something like this:

AUROR #1: [Bursts through the door, wand raised. Protective amulets drip from his modern robes] Attention!

NIKITAS: [Strangled surprise]

AUROR #1 [Sternly repeating himself] Attention!

AUROR #2: [Entering behind him] What is it?

AUROR #1: They are not coming to attention.

AUROR #2: Attention!


AUROR #1: You see?

NIKITAS: Who are you? What do you want?

AUROR #1: Finally! Barely makes sense, though. 'You want what it?' Idiots.

AUROR #2: We want you to come to attention.



AUROR #1: Be quiet, at least, if you won’t act properly. Which one of you is in supposed to be in charge of the kneazles? You are in violation of Clause 73 of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, as written and empowered by the righteous and good Strategos of the Exarchate.



AUROR #3: Enough of this. It doesn't matter, let's just get it done. They don't even understand. Stun that one and let's go.

And they took Nikitas Seyhan, and accused him of allowing a kneazle to break loose and run free in Çiftehan, where dozens of Muggles had the chance to observe the bizarre, catlike creature. This particular kneazle was a big red one, knee-high, with long and drooping ears and a brownish streak on its back, and the Seyhans had certainly been aware that it had gotten free. They’d been counting on its long whiskers and significant meat, and had been saddened on its escape (and, they thought, his inevitable snowbound death).

Nikitas never really understood the proceedings. Every aspect of the trial was beyond his comprehension. Frightened and confused, he shut down, rather than risk making things worse for himself (or harming his family further). This was viewed as stubbornness or defiance or stupidity. A man shouted at him from a high seat in a room that was warm and close, and he sat as still as a stone. Nikitas had no wealth or power. He was not related to anyone important, and he had no allies who could cause any trouble. His only protection was a system of justice that had seen no major reforms in a hundred years. Naturally, his fate was sealed.

It was a big red wax seal. It was affixed to Nikitas' death warrant.

The investigation and verdict were all technically true and in keeping with the law, and it would be false comfort to tell oneself that the only thing at work was the corruption of the ignorant. There had been moments of real compassion. One sakellarios had even spent a few precious minutes reaching out to the magistrate involved, to ask for leniency. But there were good and solid reasons that ensured Nikitas' verdict.

For one:

Honoured delegates of this Confederation of Wizards, even the Supreme Mugwump can attest to these numbers, as he has verified them himself! The noble Exarchate of Cappadocia has enforced the Statute with extreme zeal, even going so far as to condemn these three prisoners to harsh sentences in the last five years! We take it more seriously than most, and so it is flatly ignorant to suggest that the son of our righteous and good Strategos would receive anything but strict scrutiny! Those who would make such accusations in these hallowed halls would be well-advised to look to their own affairs, and abandon such calumnies!

For another:

These look just like the real cards, see? Look at the picture, see the good movement? Fudge is doing the same gesture on his card, the exact same way. I took this myself and made my own copies. Didn't even take that long. We can do this for all of them. I'll wrap them up for you, here hand me that. Heh, look at that donkey in the paper. Face like my ass. Twelve years, they gave him. Did you hear the one about the Arab who got twenty years, and when he got out, all he remembered was his mother-in-law's name? Hahaha! Yeah, mine too. No, give that here, wrap it tight.

So it goes. The road to Hell is paved with reasonable responses to individual incentives.

Nikitas went to Göreme. The Dementors would feed on him. They had to be kept quiet, but hungry. The Cypriots had been making noise lately, and war might be on the horizon.


It is dark. A man is speaking, hoarsely.

“Όχι... όχι... όχι… όχι… όχι…”

It has been twelve years.

“Σκότωσε με ... σκοτώσεις ... σκοτώσεις ... σκοτώσει εμένα...”

He knows how long it has been. They feed him at intervals, and the knowledge of the passing time is one of the things that stays in his head. He knows that many things did not stay in his head. Monsters are eating him. They are eating him.

He rasps again.

“Όχι... όχι... όχι… όχι… όχι… σκοτώσει εμένα...”

It is dark. Monsters are eating him. He knows there are other things besides the dark and the monsters. There is also coldness, and stone, and metal, and footsteps, and the wooden platters stacked into a short pile that slowly melt into a grey puddle in the corner. Is there ever anything in the platters? He can’t remember. They decay in only a few days, and there must be a reason that the people bring them to him and then stack them there, but he can't remember what it is.

“Σκότωσε με ... σκοτώσεις ... σκοτώσεις ... σκοτώσει εμένα...”

He used to say different things, he knows. He can’t remember what they were. It doesn’t matter. He only has these now. He says them.

“Όχι... όχι... όχι… όχι… όχι…”

It is dark. Monsters are eating him. He speaks when he can. When he has the strength. It is a request. Maybe they will do it. Maybe if he asks.

“Όχι... όχι... όχι… σκοτώσεις... σκοτώσει εμένα...”

No… no… no… kill me… kill me…

Twelve years with no changes that he can remember. He knows there might have been changes that he has forgotten, and he knows that he has forgotten so many other things as well. He can't remember what he has lost, though.

It is dark. Monsters are-

What? What? There is a loud noise. It is so loud. It’s like the world is shaking in the hands of some great deity. Everything shakes, and the rocks underneath him rear up and shift. One slides out of the wall, and then another. The second one lands on his hand. It is very heavy, and he chokes on his own breath. It hurts.

A little time passes, and then there is more shaking. The stones beneath him jump and he is thrown around. He doesn’t move very far, because his hand is still pinned. His hand hurts very much, now, but that doesn't matter. It is just pain. It doesn't matter, because it is still dark, and he can feel that there are monsters near. And they are eating him.

More time passes. He says nothing now. He is waiting to find out what will happen. There is something in him, like waiting for something that is not pain. He can’t say what that might be. But he is waiting.

There is a change, now. Something else is different. He is still exhausted and cold and in tremendous pain, but that does not matter because something is different. For so long, for so many years, there was a presence in his chest and head. It was a strong but gentle hand, holding him close, cradling him into an intimate embrace and lavishing him with long, tender, toothy kisses that scraped his soul. Splinters came away from his raggedness. They were prised free and consumed and savored. He had lost bits of himself.

That touch is gone.

It is hard to understand, since there is nothing to which he can compare it. There had been the touch of bony hatred, as there always had been, and then it was gone. It is still gone. And he knows that. He knows that it is gone and he is not being eaten. He isn't forgetting.

He was being eaten, and now he is not. Existence has been upended: the unstoppable flow of life, which moved from one pain into a worse pain, has reversed itself. He cannot feel surprise. There is not enough left of him to feel surprise. He is stripped and broken, the marrow licked clean from his soul. Whatever is left cannot quite grasp this event. A law of life has upended. He is not being eaten.

Time passes. He does not reckon it. He is waiting. Could he move, if he wished it? It does not matter, since he does not wish it. He lies there, hand crushed, and waits. Such a curious thing, to know and remember that a good thing has happened to him. He has a bruised and shallow mind, and cannot hold much more than this marvel. A good thing has happened. He is not being eaten.

He hears voices. The door to his cell opens, and with it comes light. It is warm and yellow, and he feels it on his skin. A woman has the light. It is coming from her wand. He sees the woman. She is beautiful. He has nothing to which he can compare her, but she is beautiful. She has a tight smile on her face, and she has brown hair that falls in curls to her shoulders. She says something, though it is nonsense to him, and her voice is music.

More people are behind her, speaking more nonsense. He does not move very much. He watches the woman. The others are also beautiful, but they are not like her. She moves to him, and he feels her push open his jaw and place something soft in his mouth. It is sweet -- he knows it, though he cannot remember it. He stares at her. She touches his cheek, frowning, and then gently strokes his throat. He swallows. Sweetness.

At some point, the others had moved the stone off of his hand, and had done things to him. The pain is gone from it, although it had never mattered very much. It had only been pain. He is not being eaten, and what else could matter but that?

Then there is a sound of metal -- Ker-chak! -- and sudden darkness.


Pip had been an auror for only a year, so he knew very much how lucky he was to be assigned to the Tower. His mother had wept with pride when he’d told her… not even cried a little, but out-and-out bawled. He hadn’t even known what to do, so he just stood next to her and patted her on the back, and said, “Now Mum… now Mum…”

She had turned and clung to him and wailed out something about being so proud of him, and how he would be working with the most important man in the world, and how his father would have been so proud had he not been killed for trying to protect his students, and how Pip was turning out just like him and it was wonderful. Finally she had just clutched him close and said, “Dear Phillip, dear dear dear Phillip, I am so… oh, dear Phillip!”

He knew that she had never been happy these last six months. She was scared for him. He’d been on the three-week Nurmengard rotation. Now he’d be in the guarded clinic compound that was almost literally the safest place on the entire planet, located in an impregnable school and staffed with the best healers history had ever known. The whole situation was basically a mother’s dream. She might actually have dreamed this, come to think of it.

Not that he hadn’t earned it, mind you. He had worked himself like a shaggy bobbin to get his NEWTs, pullingfour Os and an E (stupid Herbology). Pip hadn’t rested on his laurels -- two tries to get into the training program! -- but had done a proper Hufflepuff and slaved away until he thought his wand-waving fingers would fall off.

Hard work had paid off. All those hours twiddling away with Transfiguration had gotten him noticed, pulled off assignment and put in the Tower. Younger than anyone else, as far as he knew, and wasn’t that quite the thing! Every auror here had to be particularly expert at Transfiguration, and he’d been one of Professor McGonagall's star students thanks to many late nights and strained nerves, but this did her proud. He’d owled her his gratitude (it was proper strange he couldn’t just pop down to the rest of Hogwarts to tell her in person, but rules was rules).

He’d make the most of it, now that he was here. He’d put in the hours again, and eventually he’d get noticed by Mr. Diggory or Mad-Eye or even Madame Bones.

Pip stood sharply next to the Tower entrance, doing his best to look both intimidating and invisible. His companion on this shift, J.C., was managing both effortlessly. He could learn a lot from her, really. How in Merlin’s name did she achieve that look of fierce attention and profound boredom? It seemed like a contradiction in terms.

A steady flow of healers and their levitating subjects flowed in and out of the Tower’s entrance, a simple golden doorway. Fairly quiet day, so far.

“Hello?” A man and woman stepped hesitantly through the entrance, peering about curiously. Pip’s wand was already in his hand, but a look through the passage behind them showed that the aurors on guard were holding up today’s handsign. All was well. Pip glanced at J.C., and she just jerked her head at the visitors.

“Hello, sir, ma’am.” Pip said, brightly. “I hope that your trip was pleasant, and that the security precautions didn’t overly inconvenience you.”

The woman gave him a chilly glare (odd bird… skinny and pale), but the man smiled good-naturedly and said, “Oh, it was a bit inconvenient, but I suppose it’s all understandable, isn’t it?” He was a short and lumpy-looking fellow, with thick black hair that sat in random licks along his oily scalp. Nice enough, though.

“Yes, sir. That’s why we aurors are about. The Ministry has assigned us to keep an eye on the Tower and make sure that the important work here is not interrupted. Not a wisp of air gets in without our say-so, sir.” Pip was justifiably proud… and it couldn’t hurt to emphasize the security. Reputation could be the most useful shield of all, as Madame Bones frequently said.

“I’m sure, I’m sure,” the man said, looking around. He didn’t sound convinced. They’d just gone through the main entrance of the Tower, from the Receiving Room in the upper bounds of Hogwarts. Perhaps he hadn’t seen enough to be impressed, or maybe he was just a gorky little fellow who didn’t know enough to be properly awed.

Travel to the Tower was an exceedingly simple matter for the large population that it served these days: touch any Safety Pole or break any Safety Stick, and you went right to the Receiving Room. It was a safe and smooth trip, since the devices were crafted by the most skilled enchanters available on the planet, but it also left you unconscious. If you were conscious on your arrival, which sometimes happened through the usual magical quirks (werewolves and anyone with giantish blood were, for whatever reason, immune to the Stupefy laid on the devices) then a friendly team of aurors would assist you with that difficulty. Bottled swarms of chizpurfles and a few dozen Dark Detectors aided the defense team.

Thus far, though, none of the more esoteric precautions had ever seen any use, and they were not widely known. A few werewolves and one half-giant had needed manual stunning and Obliviation, but really it was only Mad-Eye Moody himself who had really tested the matter. He made a habit of trying to break into the Tower and assassinate Mr. Potter. He made an attempt on every odd-numbered day. Security was very high on odd-numbered days, and extremely high on even-numbered days (“This’ll be the one!”).

This gentleman, then, had really just touched a portkey, been Stunned into unconsciousness, and then woken up after a friendly and professional auror had scanned and tested him two or three dozen times. He just didn’t know enough to be impressed. The only really visible security would have been the Thieves’ Downfall in the passage from the Receiving Room.

“You have a meeting, sir?” There were often meetings, and often with the most important of people. It was rare for visitors to be complete strangers. Many Ministry officials came for advice and assistance, though the Tower wasn’t actually an official part of the government, and the healers and “scientists” were all well-known (though frequently checked).

The man smiled again. “Ah, yes. I am Councilor Reginald Black-Horse Hig. This is Councilor Limpel Tineagar. We are here on business for the Council of Westphalia.”

Pip looked over at J.C. She had a mirror in front of her, and she was reviewing its display. After a few minutes, she looked up at Pip and nodded. He turned back to the visitors, and said, “Right this way, sir.”

As the three moved down the quadrangular halls, Pip gave the most cursory of tours, out of courtesy. His mother had raised him properly, and she had always said, “Be nice to everyone, since you don’t know who can help you later.” And of course, it could only help the Tower himself when it came to meeting with these two. If they were allowed to be here, then it could only be assumed that it was permissible to see a bit around. Might as well show off the amazing work being done. Nowhere else in the world was there so much magical might and ingenuity, except maybe the Ministry of Magic.

“Mr. Potter’s meeting room is just down here, sir. A lot of interesting work being done on the way, though.” Passing a wide side passage, Pip gestured at it. “That’s the Conjuration Conjunction… they’re working on pushing the limits of Gamp’s Law, figuring out the exact point at which something can’t be conjured.” Pip understood the basic idea, although he’d also overheard complete gibberish like “isolating variables” and “conceptual limitation.” But whatever their silly jargon, it would be ruddy useful to be able to conjure up a glass of firewhiskey whenever you wanted!

“And here’s the Extension Establishment. They’re doing amazing things with boxes that are bigger on the inside.” Although, for whatever reason, their main activity seemed to be making thinner and taller extended spaces. A cute bloke who worked there sometimes stopped to chat with Pip, and apparently had been very excited that they’d refined the Undetectable Extension Charm to create a small box which had internal dimensions that were too narrow to even fit your hand but as tall as a building. Might be useful to hold a lot of parchment, Pip supposed.

The last department they passed on their way to the meeting room had an open door. Pip and the two Americans could see inside briefly as they walked by, and Mr. Hig jerked to a stop. Inside, two goblins were dipping golden gauntlets into vats of bubbling black liquid, holding their faces back to keep their long noses away from the rising fumes. There was a stench of sulfur, but it didn’t seem to bother the diminutive, well-dressed goblins.

Mr. Hig spoke, saying with surprise, “There are goblins here.”

“Yes, sir,” Pip said. “There are twenty or twenty-two who work in Material Methods. But if you’ll come right this way…?” The two Americans followed him, Mr. Hig frowning fiercely. Did he not like goblins? Not that Pip really blamed him. All sorts of goblins and centaurs and veela and hags and house-elves had sent emissaries or representatives or the like. Merfolk had even visited, in big glass tanks of water. It made Pip uneasy, perhaps because he’d always been afraid he wouldn’t be able to hack it as an auror, and that he’d end up working in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures (not that he had anything against them… times had changed, and everyone deserved respect, he reminded himself).

As they arrived at the meeting room, Pip showed them in. Mr. Potter was already in the room, and he approached them. His hair was back in a ponytail, and his robes were formal but unmarked. Mr. Potter’s closet doubtless had much more impressive regalia -- Wizengamot robes, the robes of a Hogwarts professor, whatever a “scientist” wore -- but he generally wore either these plain robes or his Muggle clothing. Mr. Potter gestured at Pip when he was leaving, indicating he should stay. Pip stood along the wall, opposite from the other auror on guard and inwardly glowed. He was getting noticed!

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Councilor Hig.” Mr. Potter said. The two men shook hands. “And you, Councilor Tineagar.” He shook hands with her as well. They walked together to the meeting room table, and Mr. Potter sat in his usual spot, in front of a few folders and parchments.

“Yes… so, here we are again.” Mr. Hig said, settling into his chair.

Mr. Potter looked surprised at the greeting. To Pip, who had spent a great deal time around Mr. Potter these past few weeks and who was now quite proud of how well he knew the Tower, the expression looked slightly too pronounced. Mr. Potter was wearing his emotions openly, even exaggerating them a bit. “I am not sure that anyone has been in quite this situation, actually, Councilor. We agree on almost everything, and yet we seem to find ourselves in opposition on some small matters. It’s why I was so eager to meet with you.”

Mr. Hig leaned back in his chair, speaking pleasantly but breezily. “I think you might overestimate how much we have in common, if I can be frank, Mr. Potter.”

Mr. Potter smiled. It didn’t touch his eyes. “Councilor, you have spent years working for the protection of Muggles, goblins, and every other sentient creature. That has not gone unnoticed, and you have made many powerful enemies, both here and in the States. You wouldn’t have worked so hard and sacrificed so much unless you clearly believed in the cause. You must know, at this point, that I do, too. Can we not count that as a point in common?”

“We both do say the same things on that score,” Mr. Hig agreed. “In fact, I went to visit several of my allies in Britain earlier today, and I found one of them many years younger, and all of them speaking so highly of you that one might have thought you were Merlin reborn.”

“I hope I haven’t stepped on your toes. But our research here, and the programs we offer in tandem with the Treaty, give us quite a bit of persuasive power. What matters is not who gets it done, but that it gets done, correct?”

Mr. Hig shrugged carelessly. “Yes. But to get down to brass tacks, I have noticed that some of the things you’ve been getting done have been a bit unusual.”

“Unusual?” Mr. Potter asked, raising his eyebrows.

“‘The Center for Applied Thinking.’ ‘The Hinton Foundation.’ ‘The Southern Wetland Preservation Society.’ ‘Habitat for Humanity.’ ‘The Trevor Project.’ ‘The Union of Concerned Scientists.’” Mr. Hig said, then waited. The silence stretched long. Mr. Potter’s expression didn’t change. He folded his hands quietly in front of himself and said nothing. Finally, Mr. Hig added, “I’ll say it, then. These are just a few of the organizations in which you’ve recently bought a leather-lunged voice.”

“And if I had? How would you possibly object to charity?” Mr. Potter asked. His voice was even, but there was a hint of wry amusement.

“These donations come from a single hidden hand, but I know that it is indeed you. Your face is all the confirmation I need. You are buying influence among the Muggles. You are buying people.” Mr. Hig was speaking with sharper words now. Pip listened and watched, fascinated. This was going to be just like one of the stories!

Mr. Potter shook his head. “Then perhaps you have a point of difference here, indeed, since I happen to believe that charitable giving is a worthy pursuit, if you have the means.”

Mr. Hig smiled now, rough black stubble surrounding the expression on his unshaven mouth. “What a remarkably noncommittal statement. Maybe we should turn then to your moves in the trade of magical items?” This next suggestion -- accusation? -- came with a renewed sharpness to his tone.

Mr. Potter smiled, now. It was open and friendly, and his body language shifted to accompany it as he spread his hands before him. “Maybe we can return to that, later? I’d prefer we speak of our political goals, where we might find fewer disagreements. Some people who study these matters have found that it is easier to be pleasant and reach an accord once two parties have addressed matters of common ground. If we begin with these small matters where we disagree, then we-”

“They are not small,” Mr. Hig said, cutting Mr. Potter off.

Pip was astonished that he’d ever thought this nasty little man was pleasant.

“This is your government, and everyone knows that. If you do not actually run it, you own it in all but name. Every major political opponent you have ever faced in Britain is now dead or in hiding,” Mr. Hig said. “And that government has not just doubled inspections of magical trade, it’s increased them tenfold! The pace of international trade between the Americas and Britain has crawled to a halt! Many powerful wizards and witches in the Council have their money in such ventures, and you are aiming to gradually strangle them into penury. We are known for our magical devices, just as Egypt is known for its alchemy and Britain is known for its culture of wandwork. In other words, you’re trying to diminish our greatest strength, while your own thrives. It is a crude and ineffective move, but that doesn’t make it any less intrusive. You’re expanding and want to clear the way, and I have caught you clear at it. The question is only: what do you want? Do you wish to dominate us, or do you intend to own the Americas right out?”

Mr. Potter’s smile grew wider. “Ah. Well, if we must.” He opened the folder on the table before him. “It does occur to me that I heard that some businesses have been having trouble in the Americas, lately. Let me name some companies, just so I know we’re speaking of the same ones? ‘Queevel’s Quills?’ ‘Musical Merchandising Unlimited?’ ‘Erato Publishing?’” With each name, he turned a sheet of parchment. Mr. Hig’s expression had become a bit fixed.

“These companies,” Mr. Potter continued, “all have something in common. They’re all yours, and they’re all being held up with inspections, lately. You presented a general problem, but really this complaint was tailored to your own needs, not that of your nation.”

“Not one fleck of gold has-” Mr. Hig started, in indignant response.

Mr. Potter continued as if he hadn’t heard. “Not that you own them, or anything so crude. But it has been observed by some friends of mine that they take your orders. I don’t know if it’s a favor-based economy, or what.”

Mr. Hig snorted in derision. “Is that all? I assure you, that while business may look simple to someone who does nothing but meddle in politics and bizarre researches all day, there’s such a thing as working in concert for the benefit of all.”

“Councilor,” said Mr. Potter, “the only things working in concert are the Quotes Quills produced by Mr. Queevel at your direction. Each one has a hidden Protean Charm on it. I can only assume that the other ends of those Charms are linked to quills under your management. Every British wizard or witch -- anyone in the world, in fact -- who buys one of these quills is producing a secret, remote copy of every letter, every receipt, and every love note they compose.”

“Nonsense,” Mr. Hig replied, his lips pressed tight.

“Musical Merchandising Unlimited, on the other hand, makes generally dreadful novelties for different musical acts. I have seen one such novelty… a plate with the promotional image of the group ‘The Weird Sisters.’ It’s a cute device… you sing the first half of a lyric, and the plate sings back the second half of the line, with music. Rather annoying unless you’re a teenaged witch, of course, but even more annoying is the fact that the Open Ears Charm that’s necessary for the plate to function never seems to turn off. Oddly, it seems as though the plate is always listening, and broadcasting the conversations it hears to someone else’s ears. Hard to detect. Useful, though, if you’re the sort of person who values information.”

Mr. Hig said nothing, now. Ms. Tineagar was trying hard not to react. Her jaw was taut with anger.

“Erato Publishing makes books. Mostly short ones about famous wizards from around the world. There’s one about Gilderoy Lockhart, for example. I think I have it somewhere in the office. Well-written, especially the action sequences. When Lockhart fought the vampires, my heart was in my throat.” Mr. Potter’s dry tone of voice made that seem unlikely to Pip. “There’s even an extensive little quiz in the back. You fill it in, and it uses numerology on your name and the personality questions to tell you just how much you’re like Lockhart. Are you 90% similar to the vampire vanquisher? Or just 15%? Curiously, though, the enchantment seems to be recording all of the answers and names somewhere, although it’s devilishly hard to trace exactly where.”

Mr. Potter closed the folder in front of him, and continued, his voice turning cold. “Mr. Hig, when you entered, you said we’d met before. That’s clearly not true. If we’d ever met, you never would have kept trying this sort of thing once you knew I was in charge.” He tapped the folder with his index finger.

There was another long silence. At length, Mr. Hig’s face, which had stiffened and become slightly red to match his plum-like nose, relaxed. He glanced over at Ms. Tineagar, then back at Mr. Potter. Finally, he spoke.

“Oh, I know you. I know you to your core,” Mr. Hig said, leaning forward, his dark eyes glittering. “For I have listened.

“I have heard of a baby whose parents were murdered, and who was famous from infancy for having defeated one of the greatest Dark Lords of history. How did he do it? Why, his mother’s love protected him. How curious that the mothers of Timothy Ghent, Salubria Sintheread, and Geoffrey Bones did not love their children. Lord Voldemort had no trouble with them, or their babies. What unloving and unnatural mothers.

“I have heard of a child who acted and spoke as an adult, and who knew eldritch magics that were not only beyond his age, but beyond any other wizard in known history. This child’s words and confrontations are chronicled in significant detail, often verbatim, by newspapers and books. This child even led armies in play-acting fights with the tactical skill and clever Muggle tricks that might be expected from someone who had lived much longer than he. This child even frightened DementorsI might think these incidents and events exaggerated, had I not examined many of the events myself with the aid of significant monies and a Pensieve.

“I have heard of the tragic death of one of this boy’s early rivals, a young girl who had dared defeat him in those play-acting battles and who had dared excel beyond him in scholarly pursuits. She had tragically died a most terrible death, you see, a victim of that same Dark Lord whom he had defeated as an infant, and who had apparently returned.

“I have heard that this boy was also present during a confused and unwitnessed later incident in Azkaban, when the most abhorrent and evil of that Dark Lord’s servants was taken from that prison -- again, with no witnesses ever actually seeing that Dark Lord, who escaped while aided by a Muggle device of considerable scientific advancement. The Dark Lord was not known to have ever used such devices before that time, interestingly, nor known to have had any power over Dementors. And Bellatrix Black… why, she has vanished as completely as if she were dead in a ditch.

“I have heard that this young man was present at some amazing confrontation on a dark night, resulting in the mass murder of some of the most powerful witches and wizards in Britain as well as a Hogwarts professor and leaving behind gruesome severed hands, said to be those of that Dark Lord, and many unidentifiable ashes. So many obstacles vanished for the young man that night, including Lucius Malfoy… and Albus Dumbledore, one of the greatest heroes of this or any age. And his rival reappeared, returned from the dead and now become one of his stoutest allies.

“I have heard that the young man’s rival has the ability to command and destroy Dementors, those darkest of creatures and powerful weapons under the control of others. And that she went to Azkaban at his bidding after the Ministry of Magic balked at his orders to shut down the prison and release the criminals. His rival defeated every auror, destroyed every Dementor, freed every criminal remaining, and razed that prison to sand and ashes. And now she and her army of fanatics act as a law unto themselves, and none can stand against them.

“I have heard the rumors that this young man has, in the years since, shown the power to heal injuries beyond the capabilities of St. Mungo’s or the Russell Center. Lycanthropy, vampirism, missing limbs, and the darkest of curses. What is more, the young man and his healers have the power to grant new youth, a skill beyond that of any other. It is an amazing new method of Transfiguration, I hear, and one of his most prominent healers took an Unbreakable Vow in public to attest that it could not be copied beyond the walls of the Tower. This has not prevented some hushed-up tragedies around the world, as others attempt to emulate the young man nonetheless… all unsuccessfully.

“I have heard that this young man is the secret ruler of Britain, controlling through proxies the proceedings of the Wizengamot, the lesser courts of inquiry, and every action of the Ministry of Magic. The streets are filled with those who are newly young or newly healed, and all of them changed in body and spirit -- remade into new people -- and all of them eager to assist this young man in any way they can. This young man has changed his country, and is now working to extend his reach in countries around the world.

“I have heard that no fewer than eighteen individuals have died within the Tower. They were not severely injured, not mortally wounded, not on the brink of death. I have read testimony and seen with my own eyes the memories that show at least eighteen people dying here and passing beyond the Veil. And yet those people were returned from death and restored to life, and they walk the world, youthful once again and completely healthy. Remade. Something only whispered about in the darkest of rituals. And my goodness, do they speak highly of the Tower and his kindness. They’d do anything for him.”

“I have heard so much more. So very much more. And it puzzles me that so many seem so deaf.”

Throughout it all, Mr. Potter sat silent and stone-faced, listening carefully. Word piled upon word, and accusation upon accusation. Pip could barely believe what he was hearing at this point, Merlin knows… it was outright insanity. Every little fact and weird thing was being spun around on its rear. This American was playing it all up so that it seemed like Mr. Potter was evil, rather than the greatest hero since… well, since Merlin! Pip felt like he was going mad. He knew better than to twitch a muscle. This was craziness and rudeness, but not violence. The other one -- Ms. Tineagar -- seemed almost as shocked as Pip, gaping at her companion.

Pip felt sick to his stomach, as though someone had grabbed his guts and wrenched them with a nasty tug. The most honoured man in Britain -- probably the world!-- and this hairy slug was saying he was Dark? He wanted to grab the idiot and shake him and tell him, Listen, you bloody fool, this fellow here has saved more lives than anyone else in history!

The worst of it was that it made sense, for a second, when he heard it. For just a moment, he’d believed the American, because when all the facts were twisted like that, it fit. It was like a line drawing he’d once seen. At first, it had looked like a snake, sinuous body twisting and mouth gaping. But other people saw a phoenix, swirling in fire with feathers spread. And the funny thing was that if you looked at the drawing the right way and thought about it the right way, you could make yourself see the phoenix.

But it was crazy. Pip was an auror, trained and trialed -- though new -- and he knew a great deal about Dark Lords. They ruled with pain and terror, and they couldn’t help but look the part. Dark rituals corrupted your soul even as they gave you power. It was one of the fundamental laws of magic: as above, so below.

Trolls and Dementors and flesh-eating slugs were all vicious creatures, and they took pleasure in causing pain as they acted out their natural urges. And sure enough, they were ugly and foul to the eye; the thick mucus of a flesh-eating slug was a pallid yellow that stank like spoiled meat, and you knew in an instant that it was dangerous. Other beings, like giants, were crude and angry but not obviously malicious, and so they were unpleasant and fearsome but not as hideous in appearance.

Pip wasn’t stupid, of course. There were a lot of perfectly nice people who smelled or who were ugly. But you simply couldn’t get away with Dark Magic without it affecting your looks or your aura. You-Know-Who was proof enough of that: pale and noseless and gaunt, as Pip had heard. Harry Potter, on the other hand, was a normal-looking bloke in dark robes, his hair tied back to expose the famous scar. He had glasses, and green eyes. And he was the Tower: Pip had personally seen him heal dozens of people, and not a single person whose life was saved by anyone in the facility left without a smile and a kind word from Mr. Potter.

“And so,” Mr. Hig said, settling back in his chair once more, “you can see that I have been listening, and that I know you very well indeed. You have overplayed your hand -- you have been too provincial. If one is caught up in all the drama of it, it might slip by. But over the sea, we have enough perspective to see the full picture. And every single bit of evidence, every jot and tittle, points to one conclusion. And now that I can look into your eyes, I can see it confirmed. I can see the coldness that I saw once before, one foggy night in Nottingham. It is the coldness of an evil soul.

“You are subtle, but not subtle enough, and now you are undone. I have taken precautions before coming, and soon the whole world will stand against you. For I know you well.

“Lord Voldemort, you are discovered.”

Ich möchte meine Stimme wie ein Tuch

hinwerfen über deines Todes Scherben
und zerrn an ihr, bis sie in Fetzen geht,
und alles, was ich sage, müßte so
zerlumpt in dieser Stimme gehn und frieren;
blieb es beim Klagen. Doch jetzt klag ich an:
den Einen nicht, der dich aus dir zurückzog,
(ich find ihn nicht heraus, er ist wie alle)
doch alle klag ich in ihm an: den Mann.

I would swirl out my voice like a wide cloth
to cover the shards of your death
and then rend it until it was torn to shreds,
and everything I'd say from then on would
wear, shivering, the tatters of this voice;
if lament were enough. But now also I indict:
not him who wrenched you back out of yourself,
(I can't find him, he's like all the others)
but, in him, I accuse them all: all men.
-- Rainer Maria Rilke

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


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.


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.


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 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.


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