Theophany received four responses by owl the next morning volunteering places for her refugees. As she suspected, there was no space for a family of three together. They would have to choose who took the child and who went separate. In response she set up meeting times with the hosts and notified Feagle Allsopp, her contact in London, that she had found room and board. In addition she penned a quick letter to Otho Aubuchon. They had only met occasionally, but she was certain he’d make time for Merryn’s sister. To Merryn she sent a brief note, humbly asking permission to travel to London to transport Muggle-borns to safety. It was her job; he couldn’t very well refuse. Praying that she received quick responses from everyone, she threw herself into housework.
The horklumps were again chased from the garden, the last of the fall produce stored in the cellar, and the doxies in the attic repelled. She even had time to coerce the twins in from the garden where they were tending the rabbit hutch. In the end they compromised, doing homework at the kitchen table with a newly orphaned baby rabbit swaddled in a tea towel. Not much work was done as they tempted the tiny kit with vegetable scraps and complained that teachers were much sterner than when Theophany had attended the village charter school. Theophany was hotly defending Mrs. Teague, who had been teaching maths since before Theophany attended school, when Hero flew through the open window and landed on the breakfast table. The owl swooned dramatically onto the pile of textbooks, pointedly offering her leg with its large bundle of letters.
“Yes, yes, you’re a trooper. Thank you, Hero. I hope it wasn’t too heavy.”
Hero harrumphed but allowed Prosper to pet her and offer part of his biscuit. Theophany quickly rifled through the envelopes. Allsopp’s she kept on top, hiding the others from view.
“I have to go answer these, but when I get back I expect both of you to have finished Mrs. Teague’s assignment.”
The twins studiously bent their heads over their work. Theophany doubted this pose lasted long after she left the kitchen.
Allsopp had sent times, meeting places, and photos. Mrs. Honeysett and Felix, her son aged twelve, smiled widely from the photograph. It had been taken in a garden. Felix squinted at the camera and grinned. His mother shaded her eyes shyly but her smile was as bright as her son’s. The Poindexters, Quintus and Piper, cooed and smiled over their baby, Daisy. The picture was taken shortly after her birth. How could she ask them to split up their small family? There’s no other choice. Theophany gave herself a mental shake. Just keep them safe.
She’d meet the Poindexters and supply them with temporary papers and train tickets. She’d accompany the Honeysetts herself. Otho’s response was brief and barely cordial. Anytime she was in London, he wrote, she had only to present herself at the Portkey Office and Apparition Test Center between the hours of one and three o’clock.
Maddeningly there was nothing from Merryn. Theophany forced herself to relax. It had only been a day. Here she was warded and safe. She couldn’t be found. Once she stepped beyond The Mill, that’s when the clock started ticking. She’d given herself twenty-four hours before the spy pinpointed her location.
The Revelio Spell had many forms. Snape was most interested in Homenum Revelio. Usually used only in the caster’s immediate vicinity, it could still reveal at longer distances when paired with a location spell. Such was the principle behind simple homing spells cast on enchanted objects. He was reminded briefly of the Weasley’s fine clock. He’d always intended to ask how they acquired it; too late now.
The Four Point Spell recommended itself for its simplicity. Again, it was a local spell but when tied to a physical object, person, or part of a person, the results were satisfactory. He held the vial to the light; the single hair inside changed to a bronze hue. Of course there were a dozen Dark spells he could cast, most of them causing great pain to their target. Wizards and witches of old had been cautious to the point of paranoia of guarding themselves. Why else bother burning hair from a brush? But he had no wish to harm Miss Knapp or commit more Dark spells than necessary. Snape first cast Homenum Revelio. The hair in the vial curled a little, but no other indication of the spell working was visible. He then placed his wand on top of the vial.
The wand spun, wavered, spun again, and wavered between two points. Indecisive. She was under heavy magical protection still. Blocked herself from being traced by owl and more, it seemed. He retrieved his wand and pocketed it. He’d have to keep watch; she couldn’t stay warded forever. In the meantime, the Elder Wand was a pressing concern.
“You’re sure Grindelwald stole the Elder Wand himself?”
“How else could he have become its master?”
“He could have hired someone or discovered the true thief and overpowered them.”
“The prevailing interpretation is that one can only become the master of the Elder wand through murder. I convinced Gellert otherwise.”
“Then it’s more than plausible,” Snape pressed, “that someone who didn’t know about the wand stole it during a petty robbery and that Gregorovich remains its master. Since the Dark Lord has interrogated and murdered Gregorovich, he’d be more than pleased to learn he is already master of the wand; he only need find it.”
“Thus preventing him from realizing Grindelwald ever had it.” Albus mused.
“If he learns it was Grindelwald’s, it’s over. Everyone knows who defeated Grindelwald.”
Albus sighed. “Our past actions, even our so-called feats, come back to haunt us. So,” he looked over his spectacles at Snape, “you intend to lay a false trail.”
“Long and obscure enough to delay him while Potter…” Snape sank into a chair, “while Potter tries to accomplish whatever he’s doing.”
“You sound defeated already—”
“I still don’t understand!” Snape was back on his feet, pacing. “You’ve sent a teenager on some secret mission when instead the whole Order should be—”
“A large scale operation would have lost us the element of surprise and Harry would have been killed—”
“But isn’t that the point!” Snape spat. “Does it matter to you at all when he dies? It seems you were resigned to the fact that it is his ultimate purpose.”
Albus said quietly, “You’ve said this before.”
“When you told me that the result of all my actions led to this, that our goal is the murder of a teenage boy. Yes, I might have mentioned it.”
“Believe me, Severus, there is no other way. And I believe that if Harry succeeds in his task there is a—a possibility…”
Snape looked around sharply. “Go on. What? A possibility of what?”
Dumbledore shook his head. “This magic is too old, and with no precedent I can’t be sure.”
And that was all Snape could get from him. He stormed a little longer, more for the sake of venting than for hope of an answer. Snape collapsed into the armchair by the fire and sat silently for a few minutes.
“So,” Snape said between his teeth, “we need a substitute for Grindelwald. A false trail leading to a different thief. Any suggestions for a scapegoat?”
“The lore is unclear after Loxias’s death, and the wand did not reappear until Gregorovitch claimed it.”
“It is assumed Gregorovitch somehow acquired it from the previous master, but in a duel?” Snape scoffed. “That short-sighted windbag? More likely he discovered it after its master had died or, what is more obvious, he stole it himself. No, no that won’t work. If he stole it then, according to the lore, he wouldn’t have killed for it, wouldn’t be its master, and the Dark Lord wouldn’t have won it by killing Gregorovitch. If we—if I—can create a theory that would make the Dark Lord already master of the wand, he is more likely to believe it.”
The wind was picking up outside. The portraits, always cast into slumber before these little chats, shivered and snuggled deeper into their respective cloaks, tunics, or armor.
“So he acquires it without winning it,” Snape continued, “and uses it for his experiments in wandlore, spreading the rumor that he has an ancient artifact as the source of his study, lending credence and status to his work. Then what?”
Snape pinched his nose in thought. Dumbledore hushed the portrait of Edesa Sakndenberg, who was muttering in her sleep.
“Arcus and Livius,” Snape said at last. “No one knows which of them was master after Loxias, and surely, whoever wasn’t the master desired the wand. How aggravating to be the most powerful wizard in the world by rumor only. So when they hear their old rival is dead and a wandmaker has it, they take it for themselves.”
“And which is it, Arcus or Livius, must be discovered,” Albus said approvingly.
Snape leaned his head back and stared at the tower ceiling. “I can’t say as much. Some evidence must be discovered by a different servant for the Dark Lord to interpret on his own. He isn’t unintelligent, but if the story favors him already having mastered the wand, he’ll believe it.”
Albus smiled beatifically down on him. “I’m sure I must have said so before, Severus, but I’d like to thank you for never flattering me. It’s disturbing to see how easily manipulated it can make one. Even Riddle.”
Snape Summoned the ottoman and propped up his feet. “Who’s flattering who now? Unlike you, the Dark Lord gives me some material to work with. Now, I need to think.”
“You need to sleep,” Dumbledore’s portrait insisted softly. But his successor gave no indication he heard, and the candles were left to gutter low again that night.
Merryn contacted Theophany via Floo that night. He couldn’t very well forbid her to go but insisted on learning her itinerary.
“After you contact Allsop, what then?”
“He’ll take me to meet the Poindexters and Honeysetts, separately,” Theophany recited from Allsop’s letter. “The Poindexters will split up and meet their designated host families. I’ll accompany Mrs. Honeysett and her son to their new home.”
Her brother looked tired; the flames revealed deep shadows under his eyes.
“And that’s all?”
“I’m meeting Otho Aubuchon,” Theophany blurted.
Merryn closed his eyes. “Well, you did warn us you were going to look into it. But, Tiff, the risk to you is also a risk to the community—”
“That’s not true. The task of Secret-Keeper passes on to the next person.”
“You do so much more than merely keep the secret. It may not be as it looks. Why not trust our superiors?”
“Because I think they may be receiving anonymous information that—that I might be able to verify as trustworthy.”
If I can get close enough, she added silently.
“What then? Otho won’t have all the answers; you intend to go back tomorrow and the day after that and question everyone?”
She shook her head. “I won’t have time. It’s tomorrow or never.”
Merryn wanted to know more, but that was all she could say. If this spy really was a spy and operated alone, unconnected, anything she did could compromise his cover.
Which was another reason why, the next morning, Theophany had multiple butterflies in her stomach. Silyn saw her to the edge of the valley, and she tried not to blench as she stepped out of the protective spells. That was it, she was visible, the clock was ticking. He could find her anytime, but even with the best spellwork she had at least today.
Apparating to London was easy, but the random checks made by Ministry officials slowed her down. She was Theophany Knapp, a potions and ingredient supplier for Cornwall, in town for some ordinary shopping. Her papers were all in order; Maevan saw to that. All of it truthful; she even did some shopping to prove it but stayed away from the more heavily patrolled Diagon Alley.
Allsop was waiting at the Hand and Heretic. As previously agreed, Theophany entered carrying multiple bags, looking footsore and hungry. While she was peering around for an empty table, Allsop called out and waved. Theophany responded with cheerful surprise and dropped gratefully into his corner booth.
A round, hearty-looking wizard, Allsop acted the part of favorite uncle with ease. As it was getting on towards lunch, the pub quickly filled while they chatted. Shortly before their food arrived, a young couple entered. They looked haggard, but the laughing baby in the pram made a reasonable explanation for their apparent exhaustion. No tables were left, so Allsop graciously offered his booth and Theophany fussed over the baby.
“How old is she?” she asked Piper Poindexter.
“Ten months,” the mother tremulously replied.
Theophany kept her eyes on baby Daisy, letting her chase and grab Theophany’s wriggling fingers. Mrs. Poindexter took a few deep breaths while her husband held her hand tightly. Allsop cast an Eavesdropping Spell from under the table, then nodded to Theophany.
“We have a place for you,” Theophany said simply. “But families can rarely stay together. You have to decide who keeps Daisy.”
Quintus Poindexter paled but didn’t move a muscle. His wife, to her credit, quickly brought her sleeve to her face, as if overcome by heat.
“Will we be close enough to see each other?”
Theophany kept her voice even. No amount of sympathy could make this better.
There had been another home in close proximity, but Theophany had been forced to place the Honeysetts there instead. Not everyone had been willing to take a Squib, unfortunately, and the Hughes were willing accommodate Felix Honeysett. Most hosts wanted someone useful.
Allsop nudged her foot. Theophany glanced at him; it wouldn’t help but she could try.
“I’m sorry,” she added to please him but kept her tone still professional. “If you would rather wait…”
Quintus was vehemently shaking his head, then recalled himself and tried to relax a little. No one seemed interested in their table, but the Ministry had willing eyes everywhere.
“There’s no choice. We’re grateful to whomever will take us in. What do we do?”
Theophany blew on her hot pasty. “Look into your glass, Mr. Poindexter. You’ll take the train from King’s Cross from this platform at that time.” As she spoke, the foamy surface of Poindexter’s tankard rippled, displaying the platform and station clock. “You’ll disembark at this destination.” The station changed to a rural scene, the train station name and time again visible. “You will be met by this man.” A wizard’s face swam into view, with frothy eyebrows and beard.
Theophany repeated the process in Mrs. Poindexter’s lemonade. She would be traveling with an elderly-appearing couple presenting themselves as day trippers. It was agreed she would keep Daisy with her.
“For both of you the password is gribbleyskunk. Your guides will identify themselves by that word, and you must respond in kind. You will be provided new names and papers by your guides.”
Theophany placed her napkin in her lap and cut into her meat pie. “Any questions?”
The Poindexters were silent. For appearances sake they picked at their food, but Quintus looked wary and impatient while Piper wilted like grass.
“So,” Theophany smiled, “is Daisy talking yet?”
Piper brightened a little. “Babbling mostly, but just the other day she said ‘no’.”
Theophany kept her talking while Allsop made his departure with great ceremony, shaking hands with the Poindexters, kissing Theophany on the cheek and reminding her to visit, and remembering himself to a fictional extended family. When Theophany finished her pie, she leaned over the pram and said goodbye to Daisy, adding softly, “Split up, don’t return home. Pack nothing.”
They managed to smile as they waved goodbye. Theophany gathered her bags and left with a final, casual wave and a nod to the barkeep. Allsop was waiting for her around the corner.
“I know I’ve said this before,” he began, “but you could be a little less...well abrupt. Professionalism may inspire confidence, but they want to know you are human.”
“You can be hearty and reassuring.” Theophany replied, “but if I’m sympathetic, it only forces their sorrow back onto them. By acknowledging it, I’m asking them to display it. If I don’t mention it, they bear up.”
“Still, a little human emotion?”
“Won’t make it any more pleasant.” Theophany was grim. “Where are the Honeysetts?”
“A safe house. Their home was attacked and raided. They’ve been in hiding ever since.”
“That makes it easier. They’ve already left their lives behind.”
Allsop offered an arm and Theophany took it. Side-along Apparition would protect the location of the safe house. Even she wasn’t to know. They Apparated into an underground garage.
“Sticklers for security, these old buildings,” Allsop apologized. “We have to take the stairs, I’m afraid.”
The building was old but clean, the fixtures and woodwork from a bygone, more grandiose era. Theophany calculated they were only a few streets from the Leaky Cauldron, but she kept that to herself.
Allsop knocked on the door of apartment 213. A whispered exchange was held through the door before it opened. Lavinia Honeysett was beautiful. Theophany found herself wondering if that was her real name; it suited her too perfectly. Her hair and eyes were the color of wild honey, her eyelashes long and hair gently waving. Felix had his mother's eyes but with darker hair and stronger features. Theophany didn’t ask after Mr. Honeysett. Allsop would have been informed if he was in the picture; there was no need for her to know.
“We try to mix parties as much as possible for travel. If the Snatchers are looking for a young couple, we age them and add a fake son or daughter,” Theophany explained. “You will both be traveling with me. I will not be disguised, but Mrs. Honeysett, you will need to drink this.”
She drew a potion bottle from her bag. “Felix isn’t so noticeable once the family resemblance is removed. He shall travel unchanged.”
Lavinia took the bottle and opened it. The potion was cloudy blue and smelled of pine.
“Who will I be?” she asked.
“My brother Silyn. He provided duplicate identification papers for the purpose. The potion is quite strong and will last twelve hours. Allsop has wizard robes for you. Drink the Polyjuice at two p.m. I will collect you at four o’clock. You should use the time in between to become accustomed to your new person and clothes. The smallest slip has betrayed others. You must practice your movements. Your voice won’t change, so avoid speaking in public. Is there anything you need?”
Lavinia looked at Felix; whatever they communicated silently was satisfactory. Lavinia took her son’s hand and looked at Theophany.
“We’ll be ready.”
Allsop saw Theophany to the door.
“You can Apparate from the hall. May I ask,” he inquired carefully, “why the two-hour gap?”
“She does need the practice, but I also have an errand.”
“But the Polyjuice Potion, shouldn’t we use every minute she’s affected?”
“Have you ever known my Polyjuice to last less than fifteen hours?”
“You said twelve!”
“That’s because I’m humble.” Theophany winked. “Oh, and Feagle, when did you first hear that Reading was under attack?”
Feagle Allsop blinked, and shook his head.
“Tragic, tragic. With Tricklebank gone, there was no warning, and I didn’t hear until long after it began. In the wee hours it was.”
“Thanks. Hold these for me until I get back.”
Interrupting his questions, she dumped her shopping bags into his arm and Disapparated.
The visitors’ entrance to the Ministry of Magic was the same, thankfully, though she’d heard the employees’ entrance had moved. Theophany stepped into the telephone booth and took a deep breath.
“Hello!” Theophany trilled into the phone and winced; she sounded like a teenager at her first job interview. “Theophany Knapp. I have a meeting with Otho Aubuchon. Portkey Office.”
The visitor badge rattled into the slot, and she pinned it to her lapel and checked her watch. Ten minutes until two.
“...you are required to submit to a search and present your wand…”
The box was finally lowering. Theophany tapped her foot.
“...We at the Ministry of Magic wish you a pleasant day.”
She stepped into the Atrium. With a quick glance around she located the visitors' desk and presented both herself and her wand for inspection.
“Willow, twelve inches, dragon heartstring.” The ministry clerk read. “Been in use…”
Theophany caught her breath. Would it count the previous owner’s use? If it said two days, she might be arrested on the spot.
She breathed again.
“Lifts are straight ahead.”
“Thanks!” Theophany flashed him a smile and he blushed. Theophany mentally got a hold of herself. Stop overcompensating for nerves. She requested level six in a crisp tone. The long corridor was unmarked, so Theophany marched its length, reading doors as she went. Broom Regulatory Control, Registration of Temporary Magical Transportation, Portkey Office.
“Hello. I’m here to speak with Otho Aubuchon,” she informed the witch with impossibly blonde hair who sat behind the desk.
“Sign in, please. He’s straight on, fifth door on the left.”
Theophany thanked her and stepped through. The first door was open, revealing a witch struggling with a crate full of old toddler toys. Some were spinning, others glowing, and their number was in constant flux as toys appeared and reappeared at random. The second office door was shut but she could hear raised voices.
“I thought Portkeys were supposed to be safer than Apparition! If we hadn’t noticed it was off, we could have been picking up the pieces from here to—”
Offices three and four were silent. The fifth office too was still. Theophany knocked.
Otho Aubuchon was a slight wizard, about Merryn’s age. He had the mild expression of all civil servants. Combined with his indifferent dress sense and curly hair, he seemed harmless.
“Theophany Knapp.” She put out a hand. “We’ve met only briefly.”
“Yes, of course.” Otho shook her hand. “How can I help you?”
“Should we go out? Have you eaten?”
Otho understood her. “My office is always protected against eavesdroppers. Some of the work I do is sensitive, so it’s expected.”
“But to discuss this here—?”
“Being seen meeting someone outside of work would attract more attention. This way you’re the sister of a friend, looking for a Ministry job, and I felt obliged to give you some time.”
Theophany smiled back. “Nice of you.”
As if put off by her genuine smile, Otho became professionally cordial again. “So, what can I do?”
Theophany held his gaze. “Feagle Allsop, my London contact, only heard about the attack on Reading in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Assistance didn’t arrive until eight in the evening. Haven Alley was attacked after dusk, which being November was roughly four forty-five. The wizards and witches who arrived in aid were mostly relatives or had connections in the area and were contacted individually and privately for help. We, we the resistance, were alerted and arrived at eight forty-seven to discover there were members of our organization already present who had been warned in advance and arrived at four in the afternoon. Mr. Jacka, of Frog’s Hollow, received word through contacts in Kent. Our counterattack was non-existent. We were few in number and had evacuated as many as possible in the short time we had.”
SIlyn had given her all the details. As usual he had been one of the first to respond.
“These early arrivers were informed by Jacka. You, Mr. Aubuchon, sent word to my brother, Merryn Knapp, at eight o’clock that an attack was underway in Reading. That makes Jacka the first to know, and he only had it on hearsay. So why were we, the Dagda, so late in finding out?”
Otho Aubuchon probably played cards. His face hadn’t changed from polite concern. She might have been complaining about her plate to an experienced maitre d’.
“I receive my orders anonymously,” Otho said slowly. “For security reasons, obviously. As to why I received this information later than others...I can’t guess. We’re a wide body, forced to operate and communicate obliquely. These things happen.”
“Croydon, Bristol, Beccles, Slough. All since last July. These things happen with disturbing frequency recently. Each village was attacked, and each time there was an early response with an untraceable origin, except that Jacka or another werewo—”
Otho gestured frantically. Perhaps certain trigger words would release the Anti-Eavesdropping Charms.
“—Friend of Jacka’s,” Theophany substituted, “was the first to receive word. Where are the tips coming from?”
Otho leaned back.
“Why don’t you tell me what you’re accusing me of, exactly?”
“Oh no, I’m not accusing you of anything! Well, maybe I’m saying you’ve been turning a blind eye. Someone isn’t using the channels of communication as they should. Information isn’t being verified by three members and presented to the group as agreed, but being directly sent to active groups for immediate action, specifically communities of—of people like Jacka. If this intelligence is originating from outside of our organization, then our people may be sent into a trap at any time. If it is coming from inside, but from a single person—”
“Then someone has real time information. A direct source—”
“And they’re keeping it from everyone else,” Theophany finished. “I knew you had to have noticed it. And it’s not just the attacks, is it? Other information is being fed directly into our intelligence collection, but no one knows where it comes from.”
Otho looked at his clasped hands.
“Suppose a reasonably intelligent, somewhat high ranking member of our organization did indeed notice this phenomenon.”
Theophany raised an eyebrow. Otho gestured her to keep silent.
“Let’s say someone trusted with transporting materials and people for the resistance. Someone, in, say, in the Portkey Department, noticed people being moved just before certain events transpired. Or goods being ordered and delivered just before they were needed.”
Theophany leaned in. “And what would this person do, in such a situation?”
“Tracing orders, comparing times, much the same as you have done yourself, Miss Knapp. Should such a person actually exist.”
“And as we have established, this person would be, or could be, of some standing, so he would apply directly to leaders within the resistance. Would he do so?”
Theophany studied him. A little fusty, very conscientious. “He would.”
Otho brought his hands down on the table with a smack.
“Aha! And there’s the catch. Such a person—who bears no resemblance to myself—would find his inquiries into such a delicate subject instantly shut down, his motives examined, and his person under suspicion. Simply for questioning his superiors.” He resumed in his former bland tone, “That would be the conclusion to this hypothetical situation.”
Theophany nodded. “If it leads nowhere, then why tell it?”
Otho looked at her hard. “Consider it a cautionary tale.”
She stood and offered her hand. “In that case I’m very grateful you shared it. Thank you.”
Otho shook her hand and said goodbye. When Theophany reached the door he spoke suddenly.
“If I had remembered, before you left, I would have told you that our hypothetical protagonist would have shed some light on the matter. He might have theorized that the safest course for an informant in such a situation would be to inform several people simultaneously but separately. In that case everyone knows but everyone thinks he is the only one who knows.”
Theophany didn’t turn around. Otho added sadly, “As I said, should have mentioned it. Only you’d already left.”
So she did. Theophany signed out, took the lift to the ground floor, and returned her badge.
When she stepped from the telephone booth, she checked her watch. Twenty to three o’clock. She would meet Allsop at King’s Cross, they’d Apparate together to the safehouse and collect the Honeysetts at four. What could she do in an hour?
She had been right, Otho had confirmed it, but she had nothing to connect the two sides. On the one hand, an anonymous source giving real time information and apparently through channels of the werewolf community. On the other, a Death Eater who showed compassion. She sighed. How to connect them? The sword? Could it be connected to some resistance plot? It was her only evidence he was involved in any Anti-Death Eater activity. But why pass off a fake? What was the sword needed to accomplish? It was locked away in a vault, and any inquiries she made from the resistance side would be swiftly dealt with, as Otho had experienced. It wasn’t like she could enquire from the other direction—yes, excuse me, Mr. Dark Lord, were you looking for a sword by any chance? Besides, the only Death Eater of her acquaintance had withheld his name. Who’s Who should come with pictures and descriptions.
Theophany continued to walk briskly but had no real destination. Her adrenaline simply pushed her forward. Muggles brushed against her and moved on, confused by her strange clothes for a minute before forgetting her entirely. The clock was ticking. Five past three. She was annoyed with herself. She was sure she’d seen the Death Eater somewhere before. If only she could think of a place to associate him with, or find someone to ask. Who, other than the enemy, had seen him? Theophany stopped. Someone had. Glancing both ways she stepped into an alley and Disapparated.
Diagon Alley was a crush of people. Quickly, quickly, she pushed herself through. The press of shoppers carried her along to Knockturn. Out of breath and disheveled, she fought out of the crowd and into the dim light of the back alley. The Spiny Serpent was empty. Maybe she’d missed the lunch rush, though she’d be surprised to see more than half a dozen tables occupied if it was the last pub on earth. Hallelujah, the same barkeep was behind the counter. Dropping gratefully onto a seat at the bar, she ordered something strong. She didn’t care. Theophany grinned over the top of her glass.
“Thanks, it’s mad out there.”
The barkeep grunted. Theophany concentrated on slowing her racing heart. The drink was firewhiskey, she believed, but a higher proof than she’d ever tasted. She wondered if it was legal and took another sip. With a look at her watch and a theatrical start she called for a glass of water. It came in a grimy glass but she downed it anyway and slapped a tip on the counter.
“By the way, I was in here the other day, you might remember, I was a bit off colour and you kindly let us use your Floo. Anyway, chap I was with, seen him since?”
The bartender eyed her once and went back to scraping scum off the counter with a bent knife.
“Certain. Now bugger off.”
Theophany added more Galleons to the tip. Slowly.
“I’ve got to run, just want to leave a message for him. I know he’s in occasionally. Say I’ve got what he’s looking for, right? Got that?”
Eyes on the gold, the barman nodded. Theophany slid off her stool, keeping her hand on the coins. She chewed her lip, simulating coy uncertainty.
“Sure you’ll know him again? Tall, dark, hooked nose, bit sickly looking?”
“Yeah, yeah, I know what Severus Snape looks like. Bloody hell. He owe you money or something?”
Theophany gave him a warm and sincere smile. “Something all right. Cheers!”
She stepped outside, and Knockturn Alley had never looked so beautiful. Theophany grinned to herself. At last a name. Severus Snape. She was certain it was right, could almost picture it in type, but where had she seen it printed before? Her watch showed nearly half past. She had half an hour to get the information she needed.
Out of Knockturn and back into Diagon Alley, she turned south. If she vaguely knew the name, remotely as she lived, it must be common enough knowledge. The front of Whiz Hard Books was crowded and a queue spilled into the street. Theophany slid through and reached the offices of the Daily Prophet. The atrium was almost empty excepting the guard and the young wizard sitting in reception. He looked Theophany up and down and waited for her to speak.
“Archives, please,” she said crisply.
“Sub level three.”
He signed her in and then wrote her name and purpose on a slip of parchment and folded it. At the touch of his wand the memo leapt into the air and fluttered off.
“I’d try and keep up if I were you,” he said in a bored tone.
Theophany chased after the interoffice memo. It took her to the lift, fluttering agitatedly while she punched the button for B3. She could smell the ink and paper, and the dust, as soon as she stepped off. The hall was full of wheeled shelves, squeaking back and forth on brass wheels, each loaded with wheels of undeveloped film or document boxes. At the far end of the hall an elderly wizard halted each shelf, checked its contents against his clipboard, and waved it on. The paper memo bonked against his clip board until he caught it and opened it.
“Miss Knapp?” he asked.
“Excuse me, sorry to bother. I’m here for a little research…”
The wizard barely glanced up. “Follow me.”
The carts abruptly stopped their to and fro, though a few seemed confused which way they should go and followed Theophany and her guide into the archives. There were print archives, microfilm, undeveloped reels, carefully preserved scrolls and even a shelf with carefully wrapped stone tablets.
“Subject and dates of interest?”
Now or never.
“Everything you have on Severus Snape.”
He blinked at her. “Anything in particular?”
Was the librarian a reporter too? Two-faced propaganda pushers. She quirked an eyebrow.
“Is he such an unusual subject?”
“No, no, I mean, given his position, one might say it’s unusual that there aren’t more inquiries. Still it’s a little early for a biography.”
“Not a full work, no, but a biographical piece.” Theophany replied sunnily. “Maybe a professional profile only. It’s sort of a labor of love, a series…”
She was stammering a little but hoped it would be mistaken for self consciousness.
“Well, it won’t take you long; there’s not a lot. Some of it’s been compressed for storage, but the recent article from August will be in print.”
He continued to chat while he settled Theophany at a desk and fetched some newspapers sealed in brown paper and a roll of microfilm. It was indeed a very small amount. She assured him she could do the rest without assistance and spun the wheel on the Camera Aperient. Unlike the Camera Obscura Louis Daguerre had patented for Muggle use, his Camera Aperient was intended for enchanted wizard film. After she set the wheel spinning, the Aperient began to puff, and Theophany set the first wheel of microfilm on the spindle. It slowly unwound itself, and she put her eyes to the lens. The news page was dated February 8th, 1981. The picture showed a seated panel of grim-faced Wizards. They weren’t speaking to each other and looked exhausted.
Wizengamot Sits for 102nd Day: For what some are calling the longest court session since the trials of 1944 the end is in sight. The court expressed hope that the last Death Eaters in custody will be tried by the end of the week. The names of those yet to appear before the court are listed here for our readers. Those who have been tried may be found below as published previously. We will continue to update the list….
Theophany’s eyes slid through the dishearteningly long list. Sabithine, Adonis. Sellers, Daniel. Shortteeth, Ruel. Skint, Adam. Snape, Severus… That wasn’t much of a surprise. He looked the right age to have been an early supporter. She continued to read, but his name only appeared in lists, never alone or with details. No pictures. The final list appeared under the headline, Ministry Official Against All Pardons:
“...head of Central has issued a statement regarding the pardons and alleviated sentences passed by the Wizengamot. “Imperius Curse or not,” he told reporters on Tuesday…” Typical politician, post-crisis grandstanding. Taking the so-called hard line, Theophany thought. “...our readers can find those pardoned and found innocent, or acting under an Unforgivable Curse, on page...”
And there he was again. Severus Snape. No details. No picture. Frustrated, Theophany removed the reel and tried the next. The roll of film spanned the next decade, Snape appearing only in name and never the principal subject. Usually in tandem with Hogwarts School. Anonymous, forgettable.
Ten till four. Theophany switched off the Aperient and unwrapped the newsprint. It was from only four months ago. The headlines were full of the new regime, the “untimely death” of Minister Rufus Scrimgeour. Theophany wasn’t sure why the newspaper was included in her search until she turned past the front page. Severus Snape Confirmed as Hogwarts Headmaster.There he was, scowling at the camera like it offended him personally. Theophany let out a triumphant gasp and ran to the front to demand a copy.
This is what she had seen, she could remember it now. The months of hearsay and confusion after Severus Snape was witnessed fleeing Hogwarts by Harry Potter after Albus Dumbledore’s murder. Then in August the famous Potter, in absentia, and Dumbledore, posthumously slung with mud, were attacked by the likes of correspondents like Rita Skeeter while Snape was installed as Headmaster. Such a position would grant him influence but also place him under public scrutiny. On the other hand, the degree of trust You-Know-Who must have in Snape threw doubt on his motives.
She placed the rolled copy in her pocket and jabbed the button on the lift. With aching slowness it rattled upwards. Four minutes until the hour. Six hours since she left the protection of The Mill. How long did she have until he found her? Theophany briefly thanked the unresponsive receptionist and asked if it was possible to Disapparate from the atrium. With a vague wave the young wizard invited her to be his guest and, surprisingly enough, winked at her. Theophany turned on the spot and arrived at Kings Cross just as the bell struck.
Chapter Endnotes: Thank you for reading!