Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: The Nightmare Before Bedtime :: 03 :: Dastardly Plans

03 • Dastardly Plans

Once I got tired of Ginny pestering Harry to wear a costume that would match hers I yanked Neville aside for a little chat. “Neville,” I said quietly, “do you by chance hold any interest in Ginny?”

He blushed, which I took to be an affirmative. “All right, then how about this?” I spent the next few minutes whispering my plan into his ear with an end result of a rather enthusiastic Neville.

I then rescued Harry from the redhead’s clutches and likewise explained the plan to him. He was also all for it, so he outwardly expressed his agreement to Ginny as regards her desire. She was thrilled, as evidenced by the shriek of joy she emitted, causing me to ponder unsolvable crimes again.

So it was that when that happy occasion arrived, a number of us trooped down to the Great Hall in anticipation (really) of a fantastic evening. I was only mildly concerned about the possible threat of Voldemort, and Harry had seemingly cast the man out of his mind for the time being. The headmaster had arranged for the house tables to be removed, instead providing a number of smaller, round ones, which allowed for a more intimate setting.

He had also taken my suggestion on a costume, though no one could actually see him properly due to the curtain which hid him from view up at the head table. Ginny, poor Ginny, was smiling in what she thought was a seductive manner at the person she thought was Harry, but was in reality Neville.

They were dressed as Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion from the , though why the girl had chosen that particular costume for her supposed love was a mystery I would not soon be inquiring about. I could, actually, think of a number of reasons, but. . . . And then I snorted to myself. Perhaps she secretly had fantasies about bestiality?

At any rate, she seemed to have no clue that her date for the evening was not, in fact, Harry Potter. That young man was masquerading as Neville, dressed up as a mandrake, with purplish green skin and a tufty bit of leaves sprouting up from his head. I, of course, was dressed as a feline humanoid known in certain circles as a Prydaen.

I smirked as, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” wafted over from the head table, and turned my attention back to my choice activity of people watching. Hermione was standing nearby, chatting with Ron, who was adamant about not being a good dancer.

A pure-blood Slytherin student passed by, then paused and backed up a few steps to give Hermione a once-over. After giving a disdainful sniff he inquired of her, “And what, pray tell, are you?”

She glanced at him, gave her own sniff of disdain, and replied, “Why, a pure-blood, of course.”

The young man looked absolutely outraged at her response, and probably also due to her perfect mimicry of his snooty tone. He flounced off in a way often seen in , leaving behind a viciously triumphant Hermione.

Things continued to go well, if you can count being trapped at a party as a good thing, until two things happened almost simultaneously. Fawkes arrived in the Great Hall in a burst of flame, trilling a mournful melody, and one of the students shrieked and thrust a finger upward, drawing the attention of all and sundry to the floating malevolence of the Dark Mark in the sky overhead.

While the students were showing just how well they could panic, Fawkes was urging Dumbledore out from behind his curtain and off toward the doors. Being the nosy person that I am, and being a relative of the man, naturally I followed, and Harry was hot on my heels. Fawkes led us, not outside, but up to the headmaster’s office, and we all hastened to follow his lead, eventually ending up exactly there.

I pulled the door shut behind me, not wishing for too many people to be privy to whatever had befallen us, and was absently pleased to hear a grunt of pain as someone impacted the closed entrance. A second later the door opened and Ginny stepped through, a scowl on her reddening face, followed by Ron, Hermione, and Neville.

Fawkes had alighted on the desk, bringing attention to a piece of parchment there. The headmaster read it, then sat heavily in his chair as though lost, so I scooted over to read it myself, and gasped in surprise at the sheer maliciousness of the contents.

And then, I witnessed something that struck terror in my heart. Then again, it might have been indigestion. Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and leader of the Order of the Phoenix, broke down and wept over the theft of his sherbet lemon stash.

‘Really,’ I thought to myself. ‘A man his age sobbing over sweets? I bet he really does lace them with something.’

“Sir,” I began, but realized almost immediately that he hadn’t heard me. So I sidled over and gave him an awkward pat on the back, trying to approximate a comforting gesture. “Alby, you can get more,” I reassured him. “Surely he can’t have wiped out the entire supply in the United Kingdom.”

That only made him more weepy.

I stifled a sigh at great personal cost to myself and shot a helpless look at Hermione, who immediately turned and exited the office. She was back within minutes with the Lady of Tartan, who took over once she saw the state Dumbledore was in. Frankly, I was grateful to get out of there, though certain members of our party had more than a passing interest (morbid, I say) in the headmaster’s condition.

“Voldemort strikes again,” Harry said as we walked back toward Gryffindor tower.

Ginny’s head whipped around from her simpering treatment of Neville and stared at Harry in shock. “Neville, you never normally speak that name!”

Harry smiled a bit sheepishly and exchanged a look with Neville, then produced his wand and vanished his glamour, and Neville’s. Ginny inhaled sharply, her eyes going quite wide before narrowing. She looked at Neville, back at Harry, and threw in a few more repetitions for good measure before puffing up like an irritated cat.

“Great costumes, huh?” I said casually. “They fooled damn near everyone. Well, except people like you, Ginny. You’re far too good a friend to both Harry and Neville to ever have been taken in by such a transparent ruse.”

Ginny looked briefly poleaxed at my ostensible praise, then subsided into a thoughtful (and blessedly silent) mien.

It was then that Neville asked, “So, does anyone know why the headmaster’s costume was green and scaly?”

*

We were nearly through November when the blinding light of realization hit me. Something I had always previously passed off as the warning signs of an impending migraine was, in fact, a magical ability. I could see magic in its rawest, most pure form. And that, I was immediately convinced, was one sort of ticket to brownie points, and possibly even a bigger vault.

I considered mentioning it to Alby, but decided in favor of dear old dad instead, and so sauntered down to his office in the dungeons. Almost immediately I could tell he was amused by my shirt, which read “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense” but the expression he aimed at me was the usual sneer.

“Heyo, sir,” I said cheerfully.

“What is it, Brown.” He tried to be intimidating, but really, it just wasn’t working.

“Well, I’ve recently had a bit of a brainstorm, though not the type to cause dain bramage, and I was wondering, would you like that tacky Dark Mark removed from your arm? After all, I don’t really think you want to still be sporting that puppy when the Dark Tosser buys the farm.”

His mouth opened in what might be construed as a miniature act of gaping. Then again, it might have been that I confused him. Eventually he arched a brow and replied, “And what makes you think you can do that?”

“Oh, that’s simple, sir. I’ve discovered that I can see magic. Actually, if I’m not careful, it can blind me for short periods of time,” I rambled. “In any case, not only can I see it, I can directly manipulate it. It’s like pulling threads on a bed sheet. Or something like that. Well, and I’ve had some success with the odd potion idea or two.”

Snape narrowed his obsidian eyes at me. He was either thinking furiously or suspicious, I couldn’t tell which. Apparently that odd little eye contact thingie that worked on others did not work on him. It was quite nearly dreadfully boring and tedious to have to wait for him to make up his mind.

“And have you tested this?” he inquired.

I shrugged carelessly. “Not yet, no. But I’m open to suggestions.”

“I suppose I could lure Lucius here on the pretext of an issue with Draco, and then obliviate him afterward, assuming he lived through the process,” Snape mused.

“You could,” I said, “but do we really want Lucius Malfoy to be running around sans Dark Mark if it works?”

I was moderately shocked to see a coy look flicker across the man’s face.

“Oh my god,” I breathed. “You’re harboring an inappropriate lust for the Dark Wanker’s right hand man?”

“Silence!” he thundered, his face transforming into something that would no doubt scare first years into a coma. On me, however, it had no effect. “You will not speak to me that way, Nicholas!”

I inhaled sharply. How dare the man? “Nope, nuh uh, no way in hell. I don’t care how much pure-blood propaganda you were forced to suck up over the past few decades, there is no way on god’s green earth you are getting away with calling me Nicholas. My name is Nick, so get used to it.”

“You will watch your tongue around me, young man!” he bellowed. “You are not too old to be spanked!”

My eyes widened dramatically, then narrowed. “Oh, I see. Is that how it is with Slytherins? I didn’t realize you were into the kinky stuff, daddykins. Corporal punishment in the dungeons for those stressful days, hm?”

As I expected, that little dig set him off like a roman candle. After we yelled at each other for a good half hour we staggered back around to the actual point of my visit.

“About that experiment,” I said, aiming a tired glare at tall, dark, and broody.

He snorted and conjured up two squashy chairs for us to recline in, then said, “Fine. Lucius is the only person I can think of who would be appropriate under the circumstances. Should the experiment work, he would no doubt be thrilled to finally be able to denounce the Dark Lord, cast off that bitch of a wife, and enjoy freedom for the first time in his life.”

“And how sure are you that he wouldn’t actually run squealing back to snakeface and tattle?”

Snape tossed his hair back and stuck his considerable nose up in the air. “He loves me.”

I sighed heavily and looked down at my hands. “Why,” I mused softly, “do I get the feeling I was the result of an attempt on your part to figure out which way you swung? Maybe you were just drunk? Performed so badly the woman obliviated you?”

And to forestall any comments on his part I said at a normal volume, “All right. So you’re willing to use the love of your life in an experiment that could kill him, is that correct?”

He scowled at me. “I never said I loved him.”

“Oh, right,” I replied airily. “You harbor an inappropriate lust. Well, you need to figure it out and get back to me. If you want to kidnap a lesser known follower and stash him in the dungeons here, okay. We can experiment and keep an eye on the poor sap to check for deleterious effects.”

Snape looked thoughtful for a short while, then nodded sharply. “I’m sure no one will notice if a few of the younger and stupider Death Eaters mysteriously vanish after a meeting. What’s the shelf life on this creation of yours?”

“Not long,” I said. “A week or so at most. Around then it turns this really alarming shade of sparkly pink, and that’s almost enough to put me off potion making.”

Dear old dad snorted and shot a smirk my way. “Hazards of the profession, Brown. Get used to it. Fine, I’ll get back to you, so for now stop breathing my air.”

I made myself scarce, quite happy about the fact that he hadn’t bothered to ask for a formula. After all, I knew he would try to hoot me out of his dungeons in hysterical laughter if I let that slip.

As it turned out, Snape did not get back to me until Christmas break was about to start. I had signed up to stay not having an actual home to go to, and I was pleased that Harry also chose to remain at the castle. Perhaps I could finally make a decent move on the young man. We had, however, been invited over to the Weasley home for Christmas day.

Daddykins hailed me as I was attempting to leave the Great Hall after breakfast, so I told Harry I would find him a bit later on and asked if he would say good-bye to our mutual friends for me, then followed Snape like the obedient son I wasn’t.

“What’s up?” I asked once in the privacy of his office.

That earned me a scowl. “I have secured two subjects at great personal risk so I suggest you get started on that potion. As soon as you have it done we can commence testing.”

“Fantabulous!” I enthused. “I’m right on top of that, Rose.”

Snape shot me one of his patented glares.

“I can have a batch ready by tonight,” I assured him. “I assume you don’t want to do anything until after the students have left anyway.”

“Correct. Find me when you’re ready,” he ordered, then impatiently shooed me out.

I found Harry lounging around in the common room, but he attached himself to me immediately and followed me to my room. “What are you doing?” he asked as I began to set up my personal station for my task.

I gave him an innocent smile before saying, “A project with daddykins. After I whip up a potion I created, we’re going to test it out on a couple of volunteers he found.”

He nodded and came a bit closer, dragging a spare stool with him to sit on, then tapped a container of Oxyclean I had placed on the worktop. “And this fits in how?”

“Well,” I said, “I had this idea a while back on ways to remove the Dark Mark. I mean, I’ve already improved a number of potions I use frequently. I call it self defense given that no one else seemed smart enough or motivated enough to tackle the issue. You know that. Anyway, that Oxyclean is a key component of the formula I devised for this Dark Mark problem that dad has.”

Harry’s face was adorably clueless.

“It’s a muggle cleaning product,” I explained. “Likewise, this stuff”—I indicated a tube of Firming Lift Serum by Juicy—“is muggle, and has some interesting properties when introduced to the mix. The base for the whole idea is Mrs Scower’s Magical Mess Remover.”

My soon to be paramour looked appropriately impressed, so I blathered on for a while about how the ingredients needed to go together and how each would affect the end result. “And so,” I concluded, “this will not only break the magical bonds the Dark Mark creates, but also lift that nasty tattoo out of the skin and clean up any of the aftermath. In theory, at least.”

“And Snape found volunteers for this?” Harry looked understandably skeptical.

“Well,” I admitted, “Snape has no idea what’s in this stuff or he might not have been so helpful in finding people. And besides, I think he may have intimidated them into it. He certainly wasn’t going to be the guinea pig.” I shrugged and went back to adding and stirring.

“And if this works,” he said slowly, “does that mean it might work on this?” Harry tapped his forehead meaningfully.

I paused and gave him a thoughtful look. “You know, it just might. There are a lot of similarities between that scar and the Dark Mark. We’ll have to discuss it after this has been tested. I’m not about to risk your health. You’d better not mention this to anyone, though. Alby would probably pitch a fit.”

Harry laughed softly and nodded, but I could see that a certain kind of restlessness had taken ahold of him.

“And anyway,” I added slyly, “we would have to discuss a price.”

“A price?”

“Of course,” I said casually. “I don’t do this sort of thing for the joy of creation, you know. A philanthropist I am not.”

Harry coughed a bit uncomfortably, then asked, “And what exactly do you plan to get as payment from Snape?”

I shot him a naughty grin. “If this works, and he wants to be free, he’s going to have to agree to not bug me about you.”

A wide smile broke out on Harry’s face, which boded well for me. “And from me?”

I arched a brow and pretended to check him out. “I don’t know. I was thinking maybe a kiss.”

And as surely as the sun sets each day, Harry blushed. I thought it was downright cute.

*

“So, these are the victims?”

Snape had thoughtfully stripped off their robes and upper garments, bound them up, and bespelled them to stay asleep. “Yes.”

“Spiffy,” I said, then turned to Snape in mild confusion. “How is it that this house has a basement? Isn’t that a bit odd, even for Hogsmeade?”

He gave me a curiously blank look before saying, “The previous owner was a bit mad.”

Well, that explained absolutely nothing at all. I shrugged it off and let my satchel slip down off my shoulder so I could park it on a nearby wobbly table. Inside was my potion, neatly divided into several non-breakable containers, and several variants on cleaning implements, like face flannels and steel wool.

After I had everything out and ready I took a vial and a flannel and approached the first victim, a rather unfortunate fellow who snored and had really bad teeth. Snape looked on curiously as I dumped half the vial on the guy’s Dark Mark, let it sit for a a number of minutes, then began scrubbing.

“See?” I said, pointing a finger at one section of the mark. “It’s already starting to lift.” And indeed, not only was the hideous brand being removed, I could also see with my other-sense that the bonds incorporated into it were dissolving all over the place as the mixture continued to soak in.

“His aura is changing,” Snape stated, causing me to snap my head around in shock. His expression was somewhere between avid interest in the victim’s arm and a smirk for my surprise.

“You sly dog, hiding stuff like that. Well, whatever. It’s just additional confirmation, and in a way I suspect is different from my own.” As I turned back to continue working I asked, “Are you seeing anything alarming or suspicious?”

“No.”

So I kept on, eventually finishing up. I couldn’t see anything left behind, and Snape was in agreement.

“I plan to check in frequently. We should give this a few days before we attempt the same with the second.”

I nodded. “Possible side effects and all that.”

“Once we are sure this is a viable solution, I will obliviate these two dunderheads and arrange for a portkey to somewhere unexpected.”

Soft laughter escaped me at that and I nodded in appreciation.

When nothing untoward had happened after several days had gone by the other fellow was scrubbed clean as well. Eventually daddykins shipped them off to Greenland or Venezuela or something—I really wasn’t paying attention—and we settled down to have a chat about his personal welfare.

We argued for about a half hour rather than doing the sensible thing and negotiating, but I won out in the end by getting him to agree to leave poor Harry alone and to not give me any grief about our relationship, whatever it might evolve to be. It was at that point I asked, as innocently as possible, “Could I get that in writing?”

I stood my ground when he erupted like Mount Vesuvius; why that pesky sorting hat thought I needed to work on bravery was totally beyond my ken. Bugs? Piffle. Snape eventually settled down and grudgingly signed off on his promise, so I went ahead and fixed him up good, at which point I inquired about his thoughts on the formula’s effect on Harry’s scar.

“Dumbledore may not be pleased that his best information source has been cut off.”

I scoffed. “Oh, please. Harry doesn’t have visions any longer. Between a combination of Occlumency and my personal blend of sleeping potions, he hasn’t had one in forever.”

Snape eyed me sharply. “Oh? Pray tell, what other miracles have you accomplished in the field of Potions that you have not seen fit to share with me?”

“Well, I thought that whole addiction thing for painkillers and sleeping potions was a real downer, so I fixed them,” I replied blithely, and was rewarded when his whole face tightened up.

“And were you going to share these formulae with me, your father, a Potions Master?”

“That would be a whole different set of negotiations,” I pointed out, pleased that I had annoyed him so easily. “It’s not like I care about taking credit, after all. I was considering tackling that whole lycanthropy thing next.”

I swear, he growled.

“But I’m not so sure I’d want credit on that, either, should it work out. I’m not a huge fan of being mobbed in the streets for my accomplishments, you know?”

“And is this because of your little friend’s pet werewolf?” he asked snidely.

“You’re going to hold a bi-annual dance on Voldemort’s grave, aren’t you, once he’s dead. Boy, you sure can hold a grudge. Anyway, this is beside the point. I want to know about Harry’s scar, and you should be thinking of what Lucius might be willing to pony up as his fee for freedom, eh? You know, like a no-holds-barred exposé on the Dark Wanker and his plans for the future?”

He sneered at me and said, “And I suppose you have a plan for the Dark Lord’s defeat up your sleeve as well.”

“Actually,” I said, “I do.”