Chapter Eleven: Klangfarbenmelodie
As Percy's red head disappeared from sight, Scully began examining her surroundings further. The crowd was well dressed, at least as far as she could tell. There was a fair show of expensive fabrics, detailed embroidery, and dazzling jewels on the costumes of both the men and women. The men were harder for her to figure, since her knowledge of period costume was limited to ladies' dress. It was fascinating.
She remembered reading a Sherlock Holmes story in her childhood in which the famous detective divined from examining a man's abandoned hat that he was once wealthy, had fallen upon hard times and that his wife had ceased to love him. She doubted the great detective would have done so well against this crowd; not when transfiguration was taught in grade school and sizing charms were available.
Still, the odd lady tugged at the bodice of her robe to make more cleavage, and the occasional gentleman surreptitiously drew his wand to fix the heel that had fallen off of his old shoe. One gentleman was dancing attentions on a lady even though he was obviously allergic to the flowers she wore in her elaborate coiffeur. Wizards and Witches were still people after all.
A black-robed waiter walked by with a tray of beverages, and she took one, following the lead of those around her. She dared a sip. It had bubbles like champagne, and though she first tasted a crisp flavor she knew she should recognize, its body was rich and full with a dozen separate flavors floating in and out. Oddest of all, though the drink was chilled, it left a warm feeling in her mouth.
"You want to be careful with those," a voice said in her ear. "Rumour has it that they're spiked with squandering serum so that you'll spend more in the stores once you tire of licking the nobility's' boots. Assuming the first drink doesn't incapacitate you."
She managed to stop herself from driving an elbow into the solar plexus of the man who was standing entirely too close behind her. She turned to face him and managed to smother the fear, surprise, and amusement that bubbled to the surface. Instead, she graced him with a close-lipped smile that mirrored his own.
"Severus. What a pleasant surprise."
"I see you managed to lose Weasley not five minutes after your grand entrance. That's a trick you must teach me."
"Percy--" she said, emphasizing his first name, "--is taking care of a security threat."
"That you pointed out to him, undoubtedly. That boy is about as subtle as--"
"--an undercover agent who approaches another undercover agent in public?"
Severus' smile grew thinner. "I wouldn't expect you to grasp all of the complexities of the situation. Of course, it wouldn't have occurred to you that I might be perfectly in my rights as a member of society to appraise the pedigree and connections of a new arrival."
"So once you discover that I'm connected with the Ottery-St.-Catchpole Weasleys, our conversation will be at an end. But of course you already understand that particular complexity. In which case, I bid you a good evening, Severus." She dismissed him with a cheerful smile.
His lips thinned to the point of disappearing. Scully wondered if it pained him to smile so. "You're not going to get away that easily, Miss De Winter. You haven't yet apprised me of the security threat that Weasley is 'taking care of.'"
"I'm afraid you'll have to wait until your next appointment with Dumbledore, since it looks like some of your friends are getting suspicious." She gestured with an imperceptible nod of the head toward a gaggle of socialites who where gathered around the elder Mr. Malfoy. Mr. Malfoy didn't appear to be paying them any attention, but was focused on her and Severus.
Severus looked out of the corner of his eye and gave her a sour look. "Well, it seems there's nothing for it." He extended his hand to her. "Dance with me, Miss De Winter."
She hesitated, and he hissed. "Take my hand, you little fool. Malfoy will be suspicious."
Settling her most fixed smile on her face and reluctantly setting down her drink, she complied. "Absolutely charmed, Severus."
He led her to the dance floor, which was to the left of the grand stair. At one end, an assortment of instruments floated in midair, playing a waltz by themselves. Before she had the chance to gawk at the enchanted orchestra, he whirled her into the dance. When she adjusted to his overbearing lead enough to look at him, she found him studying her intently.
"Do you dance often, Miss De Winter?"
"No, but I've enough experience to follow a lead, assuming the gentleman in question knows how to lead."
"These days, that's assuming a great deal. Now, I hope you will see fit to tell me what inane task you've run Weasley off to do."
"Malfoy works for the Brisbin Institute, and we met briefly. I recognized him when he came over to insult Percy. If he remembers where he saw me, our advantage will be lost."
Severus stumbled over his own foot for what Scully assumed was the first time in his life. "Of course Malfoy works for the Brisbin Institute! You sent Weasley off to take care of Malfoy? Are you insane? He'll be killed! Although..." his lips curved up into a nasty smile. "Under what circumstances did you meet Malfoy?"
"When my partner and I went in to see Liangru Chang for the first time. We exchanged unpleasantries."
"Why would Malfoy concern himself with Liangru Chang?"
"Because he's his secretary. Liangru says that--"
Severus cut her off with a harsh laugh. "Draco Malfoy. I thought you meant Lucius. That's an entirely different matter. Even Weasley could manage Draco."
"Your confidence n me is overwhelming, Professor. May I cut in?" Percy looked down his nose at the Snape as best as his smaller stature allowed.
Severus sneered, an expression that suited his face far better than smiling. "Weasley. For once, I'm almost relieved to see you in one piece."
"My honor won't allow for me to say the same. If you are finished manhandling my cousin, we should like to be off."
"You should be so fortunate to have such a relative in reality, Weasley."
"Percy, Severus, stop."
"Daphne, I'm sorry you were forced to endure this man's company." He turned to Severus. "I believe she made her feelings known to you the first time you met."
"And you demonstrated your cleverness and skill the first time you tried to follow her."
Scully glared at both men, turned on her heel, and stalked off.
Severus and Percy glared at each other, then stalked off in opposite directions; Severus to Malfoy and his cronies, and Percy after Scully.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Mulder had just settled himself down with Magical Theory when the phone rang. He reluctantly roused himself from the nest of pillows he'd created.
"Mr. Mulder, I'm delighted to find you in your room."
"Mr. Whi- Dumbledore?"
"Please call me Albus. I would like to talk to you, if you aren't too preoccupied with your perplexing case."
Mulder smiled. "Well, my dance card is pretty full for this evening, but I guess I could squeeze you in."
"I'll be there presently."
"See you soon." Mulder wondered how long it would take Albus to arrive, when his thoughts were interrupted by a loud pop.
"I apologize for intruding into your free time, Mr. Mulder, but I hope you'll accept this small token of my gratitude for your cooperation." Albus handed him a dark brown bottle, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "This is a favourite of my students, as well as one of mine. It's a regional specialty."
Mulder examined the flashing red label with a wry smile. "Butterbeer?"
"Brewed in Hogsmeade, Scotland. The bottlers have incorporated a heating charm, so it will always be warm." Dumbledore opened his own bottle and allowed some of the steam to escape before taking a large mouthful. He sighed contentedly. "The liquid equivalent of a pair of hand-knit wool socks."
Mulder took a hesitant sip, then closed his eyes as the warm, sweet liquid spread across his tongue. "How many bottles of this stuff do you have on you?"
"As many as you like, Mr. Mulder, as many as you like. Now I'm curious about several things you mentioned in our last conversation. Exactly how did you come across your information on the failed Roswell invasion?"
Mulder took a gulp of Butterbeer before answering. "That in itself is a long story, Albus, and involves many personal and messy details."
"I am in no hurry, Mr. Mulder. Being officially deceased, I have all the time in the world."
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Scully managed to locate another waiter and snatched another of the tasty drinks from his tray and took a rebellious swig. Best leave the men to their pissing match and find better things to do. She drained the drink and slipped out the door past a supercilious-looking maitre'd. As she took in her new surroundings, she wondered if Severus hadn't been right about strange additives in the drinks.
Tiny lights swirled in the evening breeze and the shop windows that lined both sides of the alley were colorfully lit. Small groups of laughing wizards and witches wove in and out of the clusters of window-shoppers that loitered around the windows. It was far more crowded outside than it had been in the... what kind of place was it they had entered? She turned and studied the obscenely neoclassical façade. A placard proclaimed it The Du Bonnay Club. A smaller sign added, "members and guests only." Turning towards the alley, she wove through the crowd towards the nearest shop window, which had some exquisite garments displayed in the window. "Poinsettia's Period Pieces" had all manner of fashions from different historical eras. The Regency period was far better represented than most, and Scully assumed that was what was "in" now.
Further down the alley was a luggage store ("Cassandra's Carpetbags hold all your belongings and your house, too!"), a store of imported potions ingredients, Gems Plus! by Giorgio, and an dimly lit side street called Akchew Alley, which appeared to be mostly secondhand and antique stores. While Scully was admiring an elaborate window display for a magical toyshop, she heard someone clear his throat from somewhere behind her. She turned to find an appropriately chagrined Percy.
"Daphne, I'm so sorry about all this. This evening is not going as I had planned, and running into Snape made things even worse. Snape brings out the worst in me. He always did. He goads me until I behave as badly as he does. As for the Portrait Gallery and our grand debut, I think I'm going to kill McKendrick. I had no idea it was the entrance hall of the poshest club on Diagon Alley." His cheeks reddened. "I just wanted this to be a fabulous evening out, but it's been kind of a washout so far. The only remotely good thing is that Draco Malfoy will have no recollection of having seen you here."
He looked so glum that Scully put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "I wouldn't say it's been a complete washout. Severus can really be quite charming, and he dances divinely."
Percy stared at her in disbelief until he realized that she was joking. "How many of those buttergin and tonics did you have?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "One-point-two, thank you very much."
"You know, rumour has it that they put a potion in it that makes you prone to spending large amounts of money in the stores."
"I think I'll take my chances. Something tells me I might want to spend lots of money here even without chemical aid."
"Then off to the goblins it is." They set off down Diagon Alley arm in arm.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Dumbledore's face was grave as Mulder finished his narrative. "Allow me to offer my condolences on the loss of your sister and father."
Mulder waved his hand dismissively and opened a fourth bottle. "Dad and I were never really close, but Sam's the reason I went into the FBI. Sam's what made me start looking for answers. Sam's the reason I want to scream every time I look up into the sky at night." His head snapped toward Dumbledore. "Albus, is there any magic out there that could help me find her, or at least find out what happened to her?"
Albus shook his head sadly. "Though magic is a great tool for making our lives easier, it cannot accomplish everything we wish. Magic cannot bring back the dead, nor can it show us truth. No magical person is wise or strong enough to divine truth unaffected by the individual's perceptions or desires. From a purely technical side, magical investigations are far more effective in determining what kinds of magic were used in foul play. When it comes to nonmagical causes of death, we run into even more problems than Muggle investigators. I wish I could help, Mr. Mulder, but there's nothing I can do."
Mulder finally nodded. "It was worth asking, though, wasn't it?"
"Yes Mr. Mulder, it was. But I have a question for you. I would like to hear more about the Consortium of which your father was part. I think Nicholas would be particularly interested in the abductions in Oregon that you mentioned. Would you mind terribly if I were to invite him to join this evening's téte-a-téte?"
"Of course I don't mind! How often do I get the opportunity to rub elbows with two officially deceased wizards in one evening."
"'Capital, my boy! If you will excuse me a moment." Dumbledore withdrew his own wand from his sleeve and murmured a few words. A large fire roared to life in the middle of Mulder's bed. Mulder bit back a yell of surprise when he noticed that nothing was actually burning. Dumbledore withdrew a hand from one of his many pockets and threw a pinch of powder into the fire. "Flamel" he said commandingly. The head of an old woman appeared in the middle of the fire. Her face was heavily lined, but her eyes sparkled with vitality. Upon seeing Albus, she broke into a wide grin.
"Good evening, Albus. What can I do for you?"
"Good evening to you, Pernelle. I was wondering if I might borrow your husband for a few hours. I know that tonight is your bridge night, but--"
"It's all right, Albus. George and Martha had to cancel tonight anyway because their great great granddaughter is chasing for Puddlmere against the new team from Pontrhydfendigaid. Let me put Nicholas on."
Her head abruptly disappeared, a smiling elderly gentleman's head replaced it. "Albus my boy, how wonderful to hear from you! I was thinking about you the other day because I heard the most wonderful new joke about a witch who goes into the mediwizard's office because her brother thinks he's a phoenix--"
Dumbledore cleared his throat reluctantly. "I look forward to hearing it over tea next week, Nicholas. You remember me telling you about Mr. Mulder?"
Nicholas's head turned toward Mulder, who waved awkwardly in greeting.
"So it's serious, then. Well, I'll be there in three shakes of a unicorn's tail." He winked at Albus. "Shall I bring anything to facilitate conversation? I've a nice bottle of 1758 Ogden's that I was saving for my 525th anniversary with Pernelle, but--" A shower of ash fell on Nicholas's head, and he spluttered a moment before shaking most of it from his silver hair. "Or I could just bring some of my special whomping willow bark tea."
Albus chuckled. "I brought the bottomless crate of Butterbeer with me, so all I need you to bring is the Books of Ra, Seti's Journal, and your unabridged notes on the Alephi. The last seven volumes should be sufficient."
Nicholas looked slightly hurt. "But I feel my best conjectural work is in the first three volumes, plus if you skip over the section on theoretical ancient magic in volume twelve, his understanding of modern charm usage and endowment of mundane objects could be severely compromised!"
"I've already given him an overview of the first fifteen or so volumes, though I'm sure you can fill in any holes in person in less time than it would take to read them. Besides, you'll be wanting to update volumes nineteen through twenty-three. Mr. Mulder has some anecdotal experiences I think you'll find very interesting."
If more of Nicholas had been visible, Mulder would have sworn he was leaning towards him eagerly. "You've seen them? What did they look like? Did they speak?"
"Nicholas, I'm amazed that after 550 years of life you've no more patience than one of my first-year students," Dumbledore teased. "Get your materials together and come here as quickly as possible. We'll talk then."
"I'll aim for a meter away from you. In the meantime, try not to stand in any closets. I had a dickens of a time trying to convince that wall in your office to release me."
"A bientot, old friend."
Nicholas's head disappeared from the fire, and with a flick of Dumbledore's wand, the fire was gone, too. Mulder smoothed the comforter on his bed. It wasn't even singed.
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
With over fifty golden galleons burning a hole in her pocket; rather, purse; or rather, binoculars case, Scully was practically dragging Percy through the crowd gathered outside Quality Quidditch Supplies. Fortunately, there was no crowd around the wand shop. In fact, had Percy not pointed it out to her, she wouldn't have even known it was there, much less open. She could see a single candle burning through the glass in the door, but she saw no sign of a salesman or proprietor. A bell jangled merrily as Percy held the door open for her, and when as Scully's eyes had adjusted to the darkness she noticed a man with thick-lensed glasses standing in the corner.
"Mr. Weasley, it's a delight to see you again. Eleven inches, cedar and heartstring from a venerable Ironbelly, if I recall correctly?"
"That's correct, Mr. Olivander. May I present my American cousin, Daphne De Winter? Daphne is in need of a wand."
Mr. Olivander peered at her owlishly. "An American Weasley. You studied at Salem, I'm sure. You had a Revere wand?"
After a fraction of a second's hesitation, Scully nodded.
"All of my wands all utilize wooden casings and either phoenix feather, dragon heartstring, or unicorn hair as a core for greater control of organic elements. Anyone used to a metal or combination wand may require an adjustment period, since my wands require, if I may say so, a more subtle touch. May I ask why you wish to purchase one of my wands when you already have a Revere?"
Scully gave a small smile. "Cousin Percy has been explaining to me the differences between metallurgic and organic wands. I'm anxious to see if a wooden wand will make transfigurations less work-intensive. Besides, a wise professor of mine once told me that if the only tool you have in your toolbox is a hammer, all of your problems start to look like nails."
Percy grinned behind his hand.
Mr. Olivander regarded her a moment, then nodded. "I see. Well, you'll have to be measured." He snapped his fingers and a tape measure that had been lying on the counter wrapped itself snugly around Scully's arm. Then it slid up to her shoulder and coiled around her neck. Mr. Olivander frowned and clapped his hands loudly. The tape measure jumped, then slid down to her waist, shivering like a scolded puppy.
"You'll have to excuse my measure, Miss De Winter. He's been particularly resistant to training, but he's so affectionate I haven't the heart to get rid of him." He disentangled the measure from Scully and began taking her measurements by hand. "Which is your wand arm?"
He busied himself with digging through a pile of boxes that were stacked neatly against the wall. "What kind of metal was your wand's exterior, Miss De Winter?"
Time to fake. "Copper."
He looked up from his pile of boxes. "Copper? How unusual. You must have a great deal of control to force a conductive element like copper into submission. Let's see... hardwood, naturally." He pulled out a box and handed it to her. "Ten and a quarter inches, phoenix and mahogany. Quite rigid. Give that a wave."
She removed the rich brown wand from the box and closed her eyes. She felt its power humming below the surface like she had with Severus's wand, though it radiated with almost uncomfortable intensity. She gritted her teeth and pointed the wand at the tape measure that was playing with a quill on the counter. "Accio." The measure zipped into her left hand and wrapped itself tightly around her wrist.
Olivander snatched the wand out of her hand and tutted disapprovingly as he unwound the tape measure. "I'm not sure how Revere wands are made to fit, but I don't need you to do a spell, just wave it a bit. You'll know when we find the right wand for you. Try this one, cocobolo and unicorn hair."
Slightly embarrassed, she waved it obediently. Nothing happened. Olivander snatched it away and handed her another.
"Koa and Shortsnout."
"Sitka spruce and phoenix."
Mr. Olivander sighed and looked alternatingly at Percy and Scully. "This may take a while. It's much more difficult to match an adult to a wand than it is to match a child and wand. No matter how promising or precocious the child, they are much simpler creatures than adults. A child often grows to suit the complexity and strength of their wand, while a wand must exactly fit the complexity and strength of an adult wizard or witch."
"I'd like to stay with my cousin, Mr. Olivander. I don't mind waiting."
Over the next fifteen minutes, Scully tried dozens of wands, including three ebony, two mahogany, ovangkols, walnuts, cherries, larches, and ironwoods, all to no avail. Scully was beginning to wonder whether she'd have to go through every single wand in the shop when Mr. Olivander let out a laugh of triumph.
"How foolish of me! It's been so long since I fitted a total stranger that I nearly forgot I had a tool for just such situations." He went to the corner and pulled out an extremely dusty y-shaped branch. "Close your eyes and empty your mind. Let the yew pull you in a general direction. We'll go from there."
Scully overcame the urge to roll her eyes at the divining rod and relaxed her mind. To her amazement, she felt a gentle tug upwards and to her right. When she began to walk in the direction of the pull, Mr. Olivander snatched it from her hands. Moving much more quickly than she expected of a man of so many years, he shinnied up a sliding ladder and grabbed an armful of boxes.
"The Brazilian rosewoods!" he crowed. "Yours is a talent of great discrimination."
Sure enough, the third wand she tried sent orange-red sparks dancing all around the room. Her body tingled pleasantly, and the wand felt like a natural extension of her right arm.
"It's lovely," she exclaimed, handing it back to him. "I've never felt like this with any other wand."
Mr. Olivander beamed. "Thank you, my dear. From a seasoned Revere-user, that compliment means a great deal to me." He examined the wand and polished it with a bit of flannel. "Ten and a half inches, rosewood and a heartstring from a particularly elusive female Chinese Fireball. That will be sixteen galleons, twelve sickles and three knuts." As he accepted payment and made her change, he tapped his chin thoughtfully. "It's rather interesting."
"I remember every wand I've ever sold, and I haven't sold a Fireball wand for almost thirty years. Part of the reason is the rarity of Fireball heartstring outside the Orient, but it is also because the intrinsic properties make them temperamental and strongly affected by the emotions of the wielder. Well, it's as I always say, the wand chooses the wizard." He handed the small box to Scully with a faint smile. "May you find plenty of jobs that require this tool. It will serve you well."
Scully slipped the box into Mulder's binoculars case as best she could. "Thank you, Mr. Olivander. I rather suspect it will."
<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>
Nicholas Flamel took an impatient sip from his bottle of Butterbeer and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt. "Nonsense, Albus! If the Magical community in the United States had been meddling with Muggle domestic law enforcement, it would have been spotted years ago by one of the International Confederacy of Wizards' inspection committees!"
"A small enough group of people in selected positions of power could have hoodwinked the ICW. There are far too many precedents of just that occurring. Besides, how else do you explain their ability to selectively alter memory, as Mr. Mulder has described?"
Mulder was in his element. "It's not just a matter of altered memory, it's also using alien technologies to control others. For at least the past fifteen years, the Consortium has been bargaining with extraterrestrials for these methods of control."
Albus frowned. "I have to wonder what leverage the Muggles used to forge such an exchange."
"Isn't it obvious, Albus?" Flamel's voice was soft. "They're deactivating or destroying the protection left by the Alephi--the first ones--" he clarified for Mulder's benefit.
Albus's eyes flashed with frustration. "Why would they agree to such a thing? They and their petty advantages would be destroyed along with the rest of humanity! Unless they weren't given the real reasons for their actions."
A new idea occurred to Mulder. "What if we were given technology because it helped locate the barrier generators?"
Nicholas shook his head. "Muggles are unable to wield Magic or perform memory charms."
"I think Mr. Mulder may be on to something. Perhaps the reward was not just pure technology but also information on the existence of Magic. I could name seven or eight American clans that are mercenary enough to sell magical services to Muggles in exchange for money or political position. I would also wager that the fifty or so years between the Roswell incident and the present was ample time for the attempted colonists to gather this information and use it to their best advantage."
"I don't understand, Albus. How could the Consortium find the barrier generators when you Wizards don't even know where they are?"
"I suspect the extraterrestrials have a much better idea of what they're looking for than we do, Mr. Mulder. After all, the only records we have of these objects are from only one early civilization. As you can read in volume thirteen of Nicholas's complete notes, or rather, as you could have read if Nicholas had brought volume thirteen--" Flamel stuck his tongue out at Dumbledore. "--we have an outline of the type of charms that went into the protective barrier, but we've never tried locating the generators. The risk to our planetary security would be too great."
Mulder laughed harshly. "Well, don't you think now would be an excellent time to begin looking?"
Dumbledore and Flamel exchanged glances. "I think you had best get home to Pernelle. Give her my regards. I will owl you in the morning."
Nicholas bowed slightly to Mulder and Dumbledore. "This has been a most enlightening conversation. I look forward to sharing my notes with you both later." He waved his wand and reduced his books to the size of postage stamps and swept them into his pocket.
He disapparated with a pop.
Albus turned to Mulder. "You don't approve of keeping this a secret." It was not a question.
Mulder shrugged. "I understand why you do."
"But don't you think it would be advantageous for more people to have an idea of how to defend themselves if or when the invasion comes?"
Dumbledore sighed. "You're right, it would be far more advantageous. However, you're making a very big assumption."
"And that is?"
"That we have an idea of how to defend ourselves."
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