This chapter has been translated anew in April of 2020.
Chapter beta (2nd time): Dani
Chapter translator (2nd time): Aivy
An annoying beep woke me from my well-deserved but much too short sleep. Reflexively, my hand shot up and struck the noisy stupid thing which immediately fell silent. Sometimes, I hated myself! Groaning, I rubbed the sleep out of my tired, sticky eyes.
It was my own fault if I tried to train myself to get by with five hours of sleep. I had researched that it was possible. Although it was still a mystery to me how it would work, I hoped to achieve it with discipline and continuity.
Napoleon and the Old Fritz of Prussia had, according to my research, also achieved this. Maybe I shouldn't read so much, then there would be less risk that I would come up with such nonsense ... No way! The written word has been my best teacher so far, and I would never give up something that was such a big part of who I am.
I'd never slept long, always about eight hours. Still, I felt those three hours I'd been denying myself for three weeks in my bones. I was stubborn though, and obstinate as a mule, and therefore I did not allow myself any weakness. Alas, I had wallowed enough in self-pity! It was time to get up; another long day with new tasks awaited me.
After a relaxing shower, to help with the cramps in my muscles that I had gained from the hard Apparition training last night, I went to the kitchen. My parents were already waiting and so I was welcomed with a warm "Hello". Mum handed me a steaming cup of delicious black coffee, while I sank gratefully and very carefully onto a chair. I inhaled the fragrant, spicy scent and carefully took the first sip. My spirits slowly began to rise after that.
I looked up with a smile on my lips.
"Thank you," I breathed into the cup.
"You are welcome, my little girl. What are you up to today?" Mum asked in a good mood and, apparently, well rested, which was no wonder after the dose of sleeping pills that I had given them. I was overcome with a tiny bit of envy.
Dad also lowered the daily paper and looked over at me. I guess I didn't really look like someone bursting with energy after five hours of sleep, I thought sarcastically as he raised his eyebrows inquiringly. Concern showed in his kind brown eyes as he examined my appearance. Before he could say or ask anything, I quickly answered my mother's question.
"Well, I thought I'd go to London today and do a bit of shopping," I said with pronounced cheerfulness and took another sip of my coffee.
"Oh, if I had known that, I would have changed my appointments so I could go with you, child. We haven't done anything like that in a long time. But wait, maybe... let me take a look..." Mum said in a sad tone of voice and rummaged agitatedly through her bag, which she had dragged to her side and was now reaching for her personal organizer. I quickly looked at her apologetically, because it wouldn't suit me at all if my Mum forced herself on me today.
"Sorry, Mum, I'll take a rain check, but I wanted to visit the Portrait National Gallery. You know how I love that and how I missed the pictures," I fluted because it was true.
I liked the portraits of the old monarchs and important people of England. In the past, I was really taken with them and on every trip to London there had to be a stop at the museum. But nowadays, when I knew the moving and speaking portraits in the Wizarding World, the Gallery could not keep up. My parents did not know this because I gave them almost no relevant information about my magical life. This made it easier for me, as it did now. I knew how Mum would react to such a statement from me and she didn't disappoint me, already getting wide-eyed.
"Oh, yes... But of course, dear. Well, it's a shame my patients booked me out today, but as I said, next time I'd be delighted to take you for a stroll around town."
She got up and fled behind the kitchen counter, as if she could imagine nothing worse than standing in front of paintings for hours. It wasn't my mother's world at all. When I looked up, my father grinned mischievously at me and I grinned back. It was always wonderful when someone was so predictable. Half an hour later, I was still sitting in the kitchen and nursing my fourth cup of coffee. I felt fully operational again when my parents returned, dressed and ready for the working day. They said goodbye to me and after the door had shut behind them, I waited another five minutes to be sure they wouldn't come back.
I quickly got up and ran upstairs to my room. There I opened the door of my wardrobe and took out my night-black robe, slipped it on, and stepped in front of my mirror. Drawing my white wand from my inside pocket, I pointed it at my hair and cast a transfiguration spell. Now I wouldn't need that stupid hairpiece anymore. Thanks to magic, my curly mane was now smooth and trimmed to chin length and another spell later they were dark blond. Oh yes! I looked happily into the mirror because that was quite a change. I also wanted to adjust the rich brown of my eyes and spoke the spell to change the eye colour. Now two watery blue eyes were looking at me. Perfect!
I did not want to change the shape of my face. Since I was no Metamorphmagus, it would require higher magic. Not that I couldn't, but it was too complicated. It should always be quick to turn myself into my disguise personality, and what was make-up for? Apply it a bit heavier and nobody, absolutely nobody, would recognise me.
When I was finished, a woman looked at me. I really didn't look like a student any longer. I must say that I liked me. Yes, I could leave it that way. I took a photo with my digicam, which I quickly printed out and glued into my strategy book. Next to it I wrote down the spells I had used for this appearance and the name I had chosen for this identity: Minna Cale. Everything had to be perfect!
I went into the living room, stood in the middle and thought of everything I had taught myself in the garden yesterday. A moment of concentration and an Appare later, I was standing in front of the wall behind the Leaking Cauldron which would lead me into Diagon Alley.
I was filled with profound satisfaction and a little bit proud of myself, because I had managed this distance and everything had worked wonderfully. No more dizziness and nausea attacked me. As it seemed, I had mastered Apparating. One less problem! I would still have to practice the long distances a bit, but there was time for it later.
I quickly raised my wand, touched the stones in the right order and the gateway opened for me. Quickly, I stepped into the mediaeval-ish alley and got absorbed into the flow of the crowd. I still had so many errands to run. Around me, the normal, colourful, cheerful chaos of Diagon Alley prevailed, which was part of its charm.
No one took the warnings seriously that HE had returned. No one wanted to see it start all over again. Everyone wanted to believe the Ministry and Minister Fudge that this claim was a lie made up by Harry and Dumbledore to make themselves important. We played right into his hands, but the masses had always been blind. Since everyone here was so merry and cheerful, they really didn't take the warnings seriously, as I was able to witness in person.
All the more so as the parents had their children with them, who were at home from Hogwarts. They had to be kept busy during the holidays after all. Many crowded in front of the Quidditch shop and pressed their noses flat against the window or populated Fortescue's ice cream parlour. I pulled the hood into my face, as I would come to the turn off at Knockturn Alley in a few moments, and no one, well almost no one, who was as young as I was and a woman to boot, would go in there voluntarily and unaccompanied, and also show their face.
Now, by day, there was more going on here in Knockturn Alley than at midnight. Even such a grubby, run-down street was alive during the day. I was astonished as I had thought they were all creatures of the night; but in this alley it was as if the night had already begun, because an indeterminable, diffuse and dim light was predominant. Here, too, I scurried along as a darkly cloaked form, taking care to be cautious and looking at the displays of the shops as I passed by. I ignored the figures that crept along the walls of the buildings.
Ah, there was the wand shop. Nah, it didn't look any more appealing than at night. Just opposite was my first target, the black magic apothecary carrying potion ingredients, even the forbidden ones. When I entered, the smoky, slightly intoxicating smell of various spices wafted towards me - typical for a magical apothecary, because nowadays muggle pharmacies don't even smell like disinfectants, let alone spices. It was very dim in the shop and with the large number of shelves that were arranged in several rows, the shop was certainly crowded, but also bigger from the inside than one would have expected outside. Expansion spells, I thought determinedly, but I would soon be able to do that, too.
The shelves were filled with the most different and unusual things you could imagine: Hearts for example, whether of snakes, chickens or dragons, maybe even humans. Yuck, how disgusting!
I averted my gaze and it fell on eyes of various species, whether pickled, dried or untreated.
Lacewing flies, mandrake, daffodil root, diptam, flobberworm slime, rat spleen, but also such things as a prominently placed, sealed jar of unicorn blood! My jaw dropped. Also, there were such abominations as ingredients from the carcass of a Thestral, things that you would never, ever get in Diagon Alley.
I would have loved to rejoice at all these treasures. It was like paradise, and so I was not surprised when I saw the owner of the shop haggling with a man I knew well at the counter. I kept calm, as I did not look like Miss-know-it-all, nor would he, nor anyone else, expect me, Miss Granger, to frequent this place. Thus, I purposefully and rather cold-bloodedly took a basket, walked calmly down the individual shelves, took a piece here and there for the potions I planned to brew during this holiday. Since some of them would take quite a long time to finish, I had to start as soon as possible.
In the background, I listened carefully to the conversation between the two men, but unfortunately only in fragments; I could not understand a coherent sentence. From what I overheard, I could tell that Snape had been given the honourable task of brewing potions for He-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named. This did not really surprise me, so I mentally shrugged my shoulders.
Well, the Dark Lord was fast, too, I'd give him that. When I had seen the professor storm out of the infirmary to meet the Dark Lord, it had been clear to me that the war was about to start. For the time being, it was being fought like the Muggle Cold War, Nato against the Warsaw Pact, East against West: No immediate, open fighting yet, but tactical maneuvering in the shadows.
For anything else, the Dark Lord was too smart and he had to regain his strength first. However, the first tendencies of a cold front could be felt, and if only in the harmless form that I saw Snape here, buying ingredients like a madman. At a bargain price, mind you.
Here, the Dark Mark and the Dark Lord's name were worth something. No shopkeeper on Knockturn Alley trusted the Ministry, but they did trust the Death Eaters. Yeah, they believed in their threats of retaliation right away.
Fudge was such an idiot! But that wasn't my problem. During those thoughts, I counted my lacewing flies for the Polyjuice Potion. Suddenly, I felt a tingling in my neck. Next thing I knew, I couldn't hear any more voices. Ah yes, apparently the conversation was over and Snape seemed to have turned around to see my black figure standing bent over the transparent container of flies. Surely he knew his way around the shop like the back of his hand, it went hatefully through my mind. I didn't let myself be disturbed and just kept counting. Leave already, you greasy grouch...
There, finished! I put the lid back on, put the transparent bag with my flies into my carrying basket, turned around and saw myself confirmed, because two deep dark eyes were glued to me. He could not see much because I had not taken off my hood, but it showed a good half of my face. I tried to move on as gracefully and normally as possible. I and he were certainly aware that there were not many potions that required this ingredient. The question was, would he impose himself and be curious, or would he fail to care, just like he did about what the students were doing at school.
I stepped up to the next shelf and looked at the displays carefully and with the greatest of ease. Just don't let it get to you, because that would alert him like a hunter scenting his nervous prey.
I heard the slimy, submissive voice of the apothecary:
"Mr. Snape, is there anything else you want? I hope everything is still to your satisfaction."
Looking up, I spotted Snape standing in the aisle in all his black splendour, staring at me just like I had just cynically thought he shouldn't. I was no prey!
The way he stood there, he didn't really cut a bad figure. Impressive, yes, that was the word. Snape turned his face in the direction from which the submissive voice had come.
"No, Mr. Sals, everything is fine!" He turned so that his robe flared up during the dramatic exit and disappeared through the door.
Whew, thank the goddess he's gone, I thought. Let's get on with the show. I searched the shelves meticulously for another ten minutes before I turned to the apothecary. He had followed my every move with eagle eyes, but I wouldn't have wanted his fear of thieves either.
"Well, what can I do for you?" he said to me while I was lifting my basket on the counter. Because of the amount of ingredients he had a rather greedy glint in his eyes and was probably just calculating the loss he had to make up for thanks to Snape's shopping.
"This... and if we agree on the price, maybe a little more," I said in a cool, slightly lower voice than usual.
I let my eyes wander through the shop while he measured, weighed and packed the ingredients. After he had done everything to his and my satisfaction, he looked up from his pad and sized me up with a piercing look from his muddy brown eyes, whose whites were closer to yellow, as if he had been indulging in fire whiskey frequently for a long time.
"That would be two-hundred-and-fifty galleons, madam," he said with a slimy grin. Letting my hood slide back slightly, I raised one eyebrow and looked at him sceptically. Did he think I was stupid?
"Yes, that price sounds fair," I said slowly and with steel in my voice. My face expressed the same tenacity, "...if you throw in boomslang skin, a bicorn horn and a vial of unicorn blood!" You could plainly see the grin slipping off his face, but I didn't feel sorry for him.
"Lady, you can't do that. The horn and the boomslang skin are on the blacklist. Besides, you know how expensive and rare this blood is? It's worth a lot more-" I interrupted this snivelling babble with a harsh gesture of my hand.
"Listen, my good man, I know that you have the two ingredients. Perhaps I should stop by the Ministry on my way back..." I paused for effect and looked him straight in the eye to make him understand clearly that I meant my unspoken threat. "Either you accept my offer or you may put your ingredients back on the shelves," I said in an indifferent voice and took a step back.
"No, no, wait! It would still be far too cheap for three-hundred galleons, but I can live with that." He sounded dejected.
"Two hundred and seventy-five! My last word," I hissed angrily. He was obviously squirming uneasily, but I didn't move a muscle and just stared at him coldly and waited. After some seconds of reflection, he nodded, then reluctantly began to fill the vial and finally went into the storage room, only to return with the illegal ingredients after a short time.
I pulled out my purse and began to count out the money. Well, there'd be a trip to Gringotts today. Mr. Sals greedily watched as the coins dropped onto his counter. Almost reluctantly he handed me the bag with all the ingredients and gave me the extremely valuable vial with the silvery liquid separately. I put it in an inside pocket of my robe, it was safer there. I nodded to him with emphatic gratitude, but with a mocking smile, and turned away resolutely.
"Have a nice day, Madam," he shouted cynically after me. A second later, I was already out the door and walked briskly towards the book shop.
I could have taken up quarters here. I rummaged curiously through the rows and took my time going through all those grey and dark books. My pile was growing fast.
Oh, yes, I knew quite a bit about black magic. Oh, what am I saying? I knew it as well as I knew light magic. Now some of you may ask: how? Because my friends would surely throw up their hands in horror if they knew. But in my third year at Hogwarts, when the Time Turner was in my possession, I certainly hadn't been idle. I took advantage of that year and the precious artifact any way I could.
I knew when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presented itself, and this year with the Time Turner had been just that. Being a strategist, I had quickly left the general library behind me. It was always open to me, but the Restricted Section was another story. So I used the borrowed time to study the whole - yes, I mean the whole - section. I had read and studied all the books in it. After about half a year I successfully completed it, and then devoted myself to more intensive studies of the most interesting books therein.
Since then I would call myself a black magician, a Dark Witch. No, I still didn't like the Unforgivables. However, unlike Dumbledore, I saw the benefit in blood or ritual magic and also the power and strength behind these spells, surpassing almost all white spells in power. Furthermore, in my opinion, it was still up to the witch or wizard themselves what they used their spells for. Even white spells could be devastating in their effect. And no, nobody knew about my stance. That was a well-kept secret of mine.
I smiled pensively as I thought of the faces that McGonagall, Dumbledore, the Weasleys or Harry would make. Even Snape's mask would most likely slip. Oh, what a funny thought...
After being in the bookstore for almost two hours, I had found a good twenty books I didn't know yet and decided that this was enough for now and carried them to the checkout. Again, I spent a small fortune. I had the hunchbacked witch behind the counter shrink the books for me, so that I could fit them into a pocket of my robe. Unfortunately I could not treat the potion ingredients in this way, for it would not do them any good. They had been too expensive for that.
My next stop was at Borgin & Burkes. Harry had told me in detail about this shop in his second year, after he had accidentally landed here when he used the Floo for the first time. From his story I concluded that I would find what I was looking for in this eerie-looking shop.
"What can I do for you?" a white-haired man asked briskly after the door closed behind me. I let the hood fall back a little so he could look me in the face.
"I'm looking for knives," I said briefly and was screened carefully because there was no trust here. But then again, I didn't trust him either, so it wasn't bad.
"Yeah, of course I have some of those. What exactly are you looking for?" he drawled with a raised eyebrow.
"Made of silver, maybe two pieces, light in the hand ... Show me something," I commanded downright arrogantly.
"Of course, of course, madam, as you wish," he said hurriedly, and pulled a length of cloth out from under the counter, which he rolled out lengthwise with a flourish. Lined up on the dark green velvet was a variety of silvery, sharp, pointed knives. The first were wider, the next longer, some decorated and others quite plain. A malicious smile appeared on the man's features.
"Pretty little things, aren't they? I could recommend this one! Who would it be for? A present?" he asked curiously, but came across as very slimy. I didn't answer immediately and deliberately ignored him, taking my time and examining each one carefully because I had clear notions of what I was looking for. For example, I rejected the first set immediately, they were much too chunky for my small hands. My hand unerringly moved to a pretty pair of daggers and I ran my fingers over a golden handle.
"Oh yes, a good choice! Horus daggers, fourteen and a half inches long with a light silver blade decorated with useful glyphs. A beautiful pair. The blade is enchanted so that it never becomes dull and the golden hilt shows the head of a Horus. It lies wonderfully in a small hand. A light and handy dagger," he said in rapture, becoming really exuberant in his manner of speech.
If I'd allowed myself to do it, I'd be smiling right now. After this explanation, I boldly reached for one of the daggers and picked it up. Oh yes, I felt the magic that was in it intoxicatingly flowing through my veins. It is said that you feel intuitively whether something suited you or not and this dagger was made for me.
The Horus handle fitted perfectly into the palm of my hand and warmed slightly in it. I grabbed the second Horus dagger and now I had both of them in my hands and yes, they felt very good and above all they felt right. Moreover, the pair fulfilled all my requirements. I nodded and put both daggers back on the counter.
"How much?" I simply asked.
"Fifty galleons each, but wait," he bent down, "these are the matching leather sheaths. They turn invisible when you put them on. Very valuable!" He placed the two daggers in their sheaths.
"All right!" I nodded and pulled out my purse again, which had become noticeably lighter, and began to count out the hundred galleons.
I could not believe my luck; I had not considered invisible holsters. I pushed the stack of Galleons to Mr. Borgin. Then I opened my robe, fastened both leather sheaths with the daggers inside to my thighs and allowed my robe to fall back over them.
Glancing up briefly, I nodded at Mr. Borgin and with quick steps I disappeared from his peculiar shop.
It had been an expensive shopping trip, but I was happy with my acquisitions.