Concepts contributed by: Angelbot
The invisible wizard called Merlin shifted audibly in his seat, then
began his tale...
"It all started back in the days when You-Know-Who was on the rise. The
Hogsmeade Owlympics had just ended, and a dueling craze took hold of the
wizarding public. A lot of the shops in Knockturn Alley broke sales
records in those days. And Knockturn Alley is where I found myself on an
ill-starred, August day.
"I had been hired by a certain party to keep tabs on his younger son, who
could be charitably described as a 'problem child.' He kept lousy
company, had rotten habits, and spent untold galleons in ways that tended to
bring shame to his parents. Well, the old wizard paid me handsomely to
see just what his whipper-snapper was up to, and to see whether I could stave
him off from real trouble--Death Eater stuff.
"So I was trailing the lad--let's call him Rigel--and that day, as on
several earlier occasions, he joined up with friends and took Floo
powder to Knockturn Alley. I followed discreetly, taking care to come
out in the hearth next after the one where Rigel got off. I excused
myself hastily from the Hag Hairdresser's shop I turned up in and spent
a few minutes tracking down Rigel and his mates. When I found them, they
had just been approached by a stooped, greasy-looking peddler who was
handing Rigel a tattered slip of parchment. I listened from a distance,
using a handy eavesdropping spell. The old man was telling Rigel to
memorize the address on the parchment, then destroy it.
"Rigel pocketed the parchment and began pushing his way through the crowd
outside the Jinx Emporium, followed by a couple of his mates. He
appeared to be looking for a private spot, but Knockturn Alley was
crowded that day. I pushed after him, trying to keep a low profile, but
somehow in the scrum I caught up with the lad unexpectedly. He looked
straight at me for a moment--my heart almost stood still, I thought he
had twigged to my tailing job--but he kept looking around, as if trying
to find a particular person. While he was looking away, I did a quiet
summoning charm and found myself clutching the slip of parchment the old
peddler had given him. While Rigel was still looking around for
who-knows-what, I flash-memorized the slip and banished it back into the
"Later, when I had put in a long day of watching Rigel and his mates at
play, I retired to my garret and thought over the instructions on that
little slip of parchment. 'Between sunset and moonrise of the first
Tuesday after the full moon, go to the second stile past the churchyard
on the road that goes southeastward out of Little Hangleton,' they said.
'Follow the black ewe with the white streak on her head. Remember the
way she shows you, because she will not appear another time, and the way
can neither be described nor charted. Fidelius and Unplottable Charms,
"Well, I didn't know what all this was about, but I intended to find out.
It sounded like serious trouble to me. Death-Eater stuff. And if Rigel
was going there, I certainly must follow.
"I stood at that stile, on the night in question, covered in my trusty
invisibility cloak. A short time after sunset, Rigel appeared alone,
looking scared and excited. A black ewe with a white streak on its
head ambled out of the shadows of the nearby woods, and Rigel followed
it over a hill, under the deep shadows of the wood, through twisting and
forked paths, across a chuckling stream, around the base of another
hill, and into a hidden valley where the air bristled with anti-Muggle
spells, anti-apparition enchantments, and concealment charms. And at the
very end of the valley, sheltered under an overhang of rock so that it
almost became a cave, stood a huge structure of earth-colored brick. It was
covered in moss with windows few and tiny and a vast wooden door
behind an iron portcullis, a drawbridge and a moat. From within, or from
the ground beneath my feet, came eerie sounds or vibrations: deep
humming, a muffled throb, what might have been the shrieks of animals or
humans or mechanical things.
"At the end of the path before the moat stood a squat tower with a bell
in it, and a long rope dangling down. The ewe went up to the tower,
nudged it with her nose, then wandered off along the edge of the moat,
nibbling on the grass. Rigel looked around anxiously before pulling the
rope. The sound of the bell ringing split the silence of the valley, and
almost at once, things started to happen. Lights flared in the slit
windows, a trumpet blared, and the drawbridge thunderously lowered
itself toward us over the moat. As it did so, I stepped up close to the
tower and read an inscription fixed to it at eye level. It said:
Dark Arts Discount Stores
'We Terrorize, Kill, and Dominate For Less'
Corporate Headquarters, Distribution Warehouse & Product Development
Prague, Kiev, Abidjan, Baghdad, Tashkent, Samarkand, Katmandu, Osaka,
Opening soon in London, Hogsmeade, Paris, and New York
Positions open, Death Eaters preferred
"As I took in the end of the inscription, the drawbridge went bump
against the curb before us, and the massive portcullis began to rise
amid the clanking of chains and the scrape of machinery. With a shiver,
as if mastering himself to do something terrible but necessary, Rigel
"I should have run the other way, and I knew it. But I had to stop Rigel
from doing something he would never be able to undo. I could have
grabbed him right there and set a portkey back to his father's mansion,
and perhaps it would have been better to have done so. But I also had to
find out what Rigel was getting up to and what could be done to make him
leave under his own power. Otherwise, he would just come back another
time, when no one was following him. There was nothing for it but to
follow Rigel across that drawbridge, into what looked like the most
sinister fortress this side of Azkaban..."
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