Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Old Locket

She thought this would be one of the easier ones, the locket from the founder of the House she loved, but it was proving more complicated than even the Sword had been.  I need just the right thing, she thought, closing the lid of her jewelry box, where she had spent a long and fruitless hour rummaging.

Nothing presented itself, nothing said power and sentiment at the same time.  Nothing drew her eye.  The Nagini-slug had been no help either. Probably because it's an "I'll know it when I see it." problem  If I could describe exactly what I needed, it might be able to turn something up*  She sighed, putting her hands together and resting her chin on her thumbs.

"Problem?"  She looked up, startled.  Dimo was there in the room.  She hadn't heard the door open, nor shut, he was just suddenly there.  Times like this, she could understand the superstitious dread the people of Schadelthron had of the Hounds -- something that large shouldn't be able to be that silent.

"It's -- this school project I'm working on.  For extra credit."  That was kind of the truth, if you looked at it sidelong in a dim light.  If the staff knew we were doing this, they'd shut us down in a heartbeat, and institute policies about student gatherings that would make Umbridge's Headmistresship look positively liberal by comparison.  She'd already skirted the prohibition about talking to non-Order members about the false Horcruxes pretty deeply in talking to Totenberg and Sascha.  Which probably means Dimo already knows most of it.  I'd swear they had some kind of limited legilimency going on among them, but they aren't wizardly.

"Tell me 'bout it. Mebbe that help."  He leaned against the wall, not coincidentally between her and the door.

"It's  . . . part Transfiguration, part Confundis,  So it involved putting two charms on one item, a little more advanced than the work we normally do."

He raised one bushy eyebrow, nodded.

"I need to  . . . create a locket that looks like a different locket, some.  It can't be a positive exact duplicate, but it needs to have the same sort of  . . . resonance, on the level of magic."

"So how it need to feel?"

"Powerful.  Sentimental.  Maybe a little greedy -- no, a lot greedy.  Covetous,  avaricious, miserly.  An object of longing, maybe even desire that can't be slaked."  She was surprised that the description came so easy now.  She'd been trying to explain to the slug, but had gotten nothing but some bulgy-eyed blinking in response.

He looked at her long and hard, on hand on his chin.  Pondering, weighing some course of action. Dimo had always been the cool, stoic, distant one of the three.  Sascha was a sweet pussycat in his own way, full of fun and mischief.  Totenberg was ruled by passion and moody, sometimes high and often low, but Dimo -- she'd never been quite able to read where he was coming from.  She would have thought he didn't feel at all, had she not seen his reactions after visiting Herr Scherblocken just before term started.  He dug a hole and pulled it in after him for several days, didn't say a word.  Sascha had been nearly manic, Totenberg even more watchful and wary, but Dmitri had been silent and absent in a way, looking into the middle distance as if watching a Muggle movie on a screen in his head.

At last he nodded, unwound the stock from around his throat.  "What are you --"  He grasped something at the base of his throat, gave a swift savage yank.  "Dimo!"

He crossed the room in a heartbeat, pressed the tiny silver medallion into her hand.  "This do?"  The silver faces winked up at her, the Mother and her Child, faces entwined in a yin and yang.  The only human faces in the pantheon, unless one counted the hooded countenance of the Stranger, whose face was never seen in the shadowed folds.

"Yes, but --"  He had worn that around his neck since forever, she could dimply remember the pain of cutting new teeth waking her in the night, and then something cool and soothing in her mouth, hard and textured and comforting to rub on the sore places.  "I can't --"

"You can.  You need it more than I do, now."  With that, he turned, tapped on the door, and left.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Running the Numbers

It was a quiet end-of-term night in the Dungeon as the students frantically worked to finish the last of their homework so they could advance with the rest of their class. Heads down, they worked into the night, interrupted only occasionally by muffled pops and bangs from the Potions lab downstairs.

“Bubotuber balls! Wingarduim leviosa! Confuego!!” From the first-years’ table, papers rose in a tornado of flame as Charity Gormling burst into tears.

“You’re the designated firstie wrangler,” murmured Narcissa from her chair near the fire. Spike looked up from her Ancient Runes text, and sighed, getting up.

Augamente,” she said, and the flames were extinguished. “What’s up, Gormling?”

“I hate Arithmancy!!! Hate it, hate it, hate it!”

“Hate it--or it doesn’t come easy?” Spike handed Gormling a handkerchief with a black lace edging.

Gormling dried her eyes.

“Both,” she admitted sourly. Slytherin to the core, Gormling refused to admit defeat, or concede she might need help.

“Let’s see what I can do--Arithmancy was one of my best subjects.” Narcissa overheard, and looked up with a raised eyebrow.

“Also the reason Spike was kicked out of Durmstrang,” she whispered, sotto voce, to the upperclassnakes nearby. “The dark geometries teacher caught her passing notes--”

“Not exactly.” Spike smiled at Hecuba and Drusilla. “But that’s a story for later.” Turning back to Gormling, she said, “So. The practical assignment is to create a pair that are the same size, but not the same gauge, right? And no cheating with engorgio/reducio, you’re supposed to change space itself with numbers.”


“So okay. You know your usual sock is 60 stitches on a size 1 needle, and you get 7.5 stitches per inch, yeah?”


“So make me one now.” Gormling flicked her wand, and an orange and white striped sock appeared.

“Great! Now, what other yarn do you craft in?”

“Worsted. And I have some plain orange.”

“Ok. And what’s your usual gauge in worsted?”

“4.4 stitches per inch.”

“So--you know that a sock that fits at 7.5 stitches per inch takes 60 stitches, and you want to know how many stitches a sock at 4.4 stitches will take. We do a little algebra--”


“Mermish math. Has to do with unknowns. And--” Spike scribbled on a spare bit of parchment. “--We get 40 stitches for the plain orange sock. That should give you two socks that both fit your feet.”

Gormling tried them on, “Thank you! I could do the same thing to change a sweater, couldn’t I?”

Spike nodded. “You could, but swatch first. A larger gauge is likely to be stiffer and won’t drape as nicely or be as fluid.” She shrugged, getting up. “It has fewer stitches to bend and flex, after all.”

“So what exactly happened at Durmstrang?” asked Drusilla.

Spike had told the tale over and over in her interviews at Hogwarts; the story flowed smoothly now. “The professor there thought I was passing notes, so he snatched one up to read to the class. Have you ever had an idea that set you on fire? Where you had to stop right now and get it all down?” The other Slytherins nodded, they knew that feeling. “So that’s what I was up to; I was drawing up an equation relating time and space. If I was right, you’d have something between Legilimency and the Floo Network; you could communicate mind-to-mind over great distances using the aether.”

“But what about--well, I’ve heard that there are things in the aether. Just hints and murmurings and stuff. Practically Quibbler things, but once in a while they get it right.”

Spike sighed. “That would explain what happened to the professor then. He …” She closed her eyes for a second, thinking about that day in the classroom. *The blood on the walls.* “I hear he’s doing much better,” she concluded. “I understand the Healers have been able to *scrougify* the feeding instructions they posted to save paperwork.”

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Not the Sword, Conclusion

She rubbed her temples in small circles.  "So first, a little history."  Tapping the textbook, she continued, "Riddle -- Voldemort -- was a powerful wizard who intentionally split his soul seeking immortality.  So long as any part of him survived, then he would survive.  So he tied the parts to various objects he associated with power -- Hufflepuff's Cup, Ravenclaw's Diadem, Slytherin's Locket.  But notice-- he never managed to corrupt Gryffindor's Sword."

Sascha nodded, playing good minion.  "Yahhhs," he drooled again, for effect.

"All right."  Getting up off the bench for the first time since dinner, Spike began to pace, the candles in their puddles of wax flickering in the breeze she created.  "So . . . if the plans I'm laying depend on making it appear that another dark and powerful wizard has arisen -- maybe Voldemort himself, maybe a worthy successor -- then would it not make sense to do the one thing Voldemort himself never managed?  Create a Horcrux from the Sword?"

Sascha tilted his head to one side and pondered.  Bit down on the first immediate question -- Why?  They'd been over that; it was something magicker that she couldn't talk openly about right now.  Part of being a minion was being willing to accept whatever the master doled out -- a thwack on the head, a piece of a convoluted plot, a quick handshake before being sent to lay down one's life.  Although, hopefully, that last wasn't in the offing for a while.  "That makes sense," he agreed, slowly.

"So!  Now here's the thing.  The Sword was returned to the goblins ages ago.  They probably wouldn't have destroyed it; it's far too pretty and well-crafted to be melted down and returned to metal.  But neither is is walking in the wizarding world, and it would have no place for the Muggles, either.  So how does our putative Dark Wizard lay his hands on it to make it a Horcrux?"

"Couldn' he force the goblins to part with it somehow?"

"Sure -- but that kind of eruption wouldn't pass unnoticed.  At a minimum, that would be a clear declaration of war.  Same with sneaking it out and replacing it with a fake -- the goblins would know immediately that the true Sword was gone.  But here's the thing -- the Sword goes where it will.  So what if he was able to convince the Sword to come to him?  To lie to it?"  Behind her, the slug oozed its way up to the top of the bench, dropping something small and light onto the top.

Sascha took a quick step back.  A rough campaign against an enemy who used gelatinous blobs as riding mounts for his cavalry had left him with a creeping horror of all things slimy.  Spike had smuggled back a Muggle delicacy, Jell-O salad, one time, and Sascha had left the room in a hurry.  "Vass --DAT?" he hissed.

Spike picked it up.  "A small plastic knife.  Thank you, Nagini."  She scratched the slug's eyestalks gently.  "So -- wouldn't that work?  To have the Sword volunteer itself, under false pretenses?  The goblins wouldn't be in any hurry to announce that this was possible; they'd never be able to keep the Sword after that."

Sascha pondered for a moment, keeping an eye on the horrible crawling thing on the bench.  "It holds together," he said after a moment, "If they don' look too close."

"That's what I'm hoping -- that their desire is going to blind them to what is, and make them see what I want them to see."  Like a Muggle magician -- all misdirection, smoke and mirrors.  She was never going to sneer at them again, not after this experience.  It was harder than it looked, getting people to pay attention to the right hand while the left took care of business in secret.  She tapped the hilt of the knife against her teeth as she thought.  It's going to take more than a drop of blood to make this feel right. There needs to be an element of loyalty and bravery tied in, a willingness to lay down everything for a friend . . .

"Sascha?  One more thing."

He raised one eyebrow, the twisted burn scars on the other side writhing above the eyepatch.

"Can I have a small lock of your hair?"  He snorted, pulling out his boot knife, and sawing off a thin strand from behind one ear.  "Thanks.  Ah, you don't have to stay for this next part, if you don't want to."  She reached into the cage of mice she'd taken to keeping in the lab to select a small, fat creature; set it on the table, and with a whisper, stunned it into immobility.

He grimaced, seeing it in her hands, knowing what was coming.  "If you need to . . . is there anything else I can do?"

"Tie the hair around the knife -- thanks."  Arranging the pieces quickly, she pricked her finger, and smeared the blood down the mouse's back.  A moment later, the Horcrux was made.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Not the Sword, Part One

Spike slouched at the workbench, supporting her tired head on one hand.  Now what?

It had seemed like a brilliant plan when Hecuba had explained it, creating false Horcruxes to lead the Knights of Walpurgis on wild goose chases, all on the off chance that one, just one, might have survived somehow as their former dark lord had cheated death once before.  It had appealed to her sense of mischief to walk in Voldemort's footsteps and create seven Horcruxes, all based on his.  The Four Houses of Hogwarts, an assistant as a spare pair of eyes.  But this . . . this one is so iconic and so well-known, thanks to the Boy Who Was All That.  How on earth am I going to fake the Sword of Gryffindor?

She stretched her aching neck, rolling her head on her shoulders.  Hands on her hips, she twisted her spine like cracking her knuckles.  The sword was returned to the goblins years ago, as part of the Pax Magus.  Everyone knows that.  She pondered a moment,  Although . . . the sword goes where it will.  Everyone knows that, too.

"Well, as long as we're working with what everyone knows," she muttered, pulling out her History of Magic text and flipping through for the chapters dedicated to the Second Wizarding War.  A moment of reading, and  . . .

Sascha burst through the door at the first howl, just barely pausing to fling it open rather than tearing it off the hinges; Dmitri right behind him to secure the doorway.  His little mistress was seated at her workbench, hands twined in her hair, a large book open in front of her next to a plastic knife.  He took a cautious sniff.  No blood, no sweet-bleachy smell of recently discharged magic, no one in the room but Spike, himself, and Dimcha.  "Sitrep?"

Spike pointed at the book.  "It won't work," she said, wiping at her cheeks impatiently.  "I can't make it do -- what I need it to do," she finished lamely.  "I can't explain further."

"Cause of what we talk about." She nodded glumly, and he sighed.  "Can talk to other magicker?  No, not teacher," he said, to forestall the explosion he saw coming, "but maybe . . . someone else involved in secret project you doing."

"It's kind of . . . experimental," she explained, "but safe."  Surreptitiously crossing her fingers in a fold of her robes, hoping he wouldn't notice the slight movement. 

"Experimental like sending you heart out of you body?  Safe like 'probably won't tear hole in the fabric of the universe as we know it?  Dat kind of experimental but safe?"

"I only tried that once, and I was much younger then.  It didn't work, anyway." It was an idea, but going to Hecuba and confessing that she had no idea what to do for Gryffindor, since Voldemort had never been able to convert the sword.  I’d rather drink pulverized flobberworms.  With that thought, she had it.  "Sascha, I still can't tell you what I'm doing, and why.  But I have a  . . . strategy I want to bounce off you, and as my loyal minion--"  she quirked air quotes around "loyal minion" "--that should be perfectly acceptable, right?  I am the evil genius, it is my job to monologue at you when I have no hero and a Byzantine method of slowly dissecting him with only one vulnerable point that could be easily accessed by a scantily clad heroine."

Sascha grinned.  He loved this game.  He flopped his tongue out of one corner of his mouth and drooled, "Yaasss, Mistress."  Better than tea parties with the dolls.