Act 4: "My weapons aren't quite up to snuff."
Napoleon continued his hunt for Illya down the dingy alleyway in spite of his misgivings. His normally keen powers of observation were strained by some of the items in the dark windows of the small shops lining the walkway. There were some things you just didn't want to see while hunting for one of your best friends.
Halfway down the alley, deftly avoiding the unsavory denizens who watched his search, he knew he would not find Illya here. The Russian had been snatched from him. He watched for the other blond head, the one Illya had followed. Nothing. Frustration with himself almost overrode his good sense, but not quite. What he needed was Roxana.
Napoleon left Nocturn Alley walking swiftly. The inn wasn't too far away. He caught Roxana just leaving the lobby. Impulse won over intellect as he caught her in his arms, kissed her soundly and inquired after the health of their daughter.
"She's fine. What's wrong?" Her quick look around caught onto the missing Russian. "Where's Illya?"
"Gone. This way." He took her arm and they walked sedately back the way he had come. There was something in the suddenly hushed atmosphere of the place that made him cautious. Just opposite the opening of the darker alley he stopped.
Roxana's color dropped. She turned on her husband, angry. "Why? What the hell possessed you to go down there?"
Napoleon backed up a step before responding. "I didn't. He was following one of our attackers from yesterday. I wasn't fast enough to stop him. I was just behind him going in – "
"But he's not there, is he? Albus warned us – you did hear him, didn't you?"
That was where he'd heard the name. "Yes, I did," he admitted with a sigh. "I didn't connect it. Rox – I've never been here before. I didn't realize until just now that this was the place your friend talking about."
"Napoleon!" How she could hiss a name with no `s' in it, he didn't know, but she managed. "Leave you alone for five minutes -" She took a breath and calmed down. "I'm sorry. Any school child around here knows to avoid that place. It supplies things for the Dark Arts."
"And you let it stay open?" he asked curiously.
"Yes, dear. We do. After all, if you don't know what to watch out for, it's difficult to counteract it." They both smiled in understanding. "Hold on. Let's see if I can locate -" Unobtrusively, she pulled her wand and waved it in time to a low spoken incantation. The wand sparked. "Blocked. Damn. That means
we're dealing with someone powerful. It also means they knew exactly what they were doing."
"Lured into a trap. I'm an idiot," Napoleon castigated himself.
"No," Roxana countered. "You're out of practice and this is a new playing field."
He regarded her coolly before responding. The "out of practice" comment stung. But she was right, this was not his home ground by a long shot. "My weapons aren't quite up to snuff," he admitted.
"No, but they're getting there. We need help."
With Roxana in the lead, they went looking for Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore had already left for Hogwart's. Given the situation, Roxana decided the best thing to do was apparate to Hogsmead, rent a couple of brooms and fly into the school.
Napoleon blinked at this. "Are you sure?"
"Of course – Oh. All right, we'll use a Port Key. I keep forgetting you can't apparate."
In spite of the danger his old friend now faced, Napoleon chuckled over Roxana's rueful comment. "It's all right. The day you don't expect me to be more capable than I am, I might just have to worry."
As swiftly as she could, Roxana created a Port Key to take them to Hogsmead, the only completely magical village in England. The small town, looking vaguely like something out of an earlier age, lay a short distance from Hogwart's, the renowned English school of magical arts. They popped in, eliciting no comment from the few early morning denizens of the town who were out and about and hurried to the Three Broomsticks, one of two local pubs.
"Rosemerta!" Roxana greeted the buxom proprietress.
"Roxie! Never thought to see you here again. Someone said you were in the New World!" Rosemerta gave Roxana a hug and then ran an eye over Napoleon. "And who's this?" The question was not as friendly as he was used to from women who looked like this one.
Roxana caught his arm and pulled him over. "This is Napoleon Solo. Which makes me, Mrs. Napoleon Solo," she introduced him with mischief in her eyes.
Rosemerta screamed, not a "help, I'm in trouble" scream, but the kind of scream women who have been friends forever let out when good news comes to them. "Married! Married! And you never let me know! Not a word! Not an owl, not so much as a whisper. You rotten little thing!" At which point she enveloped Roxana in another hug and caught Napoleon in one also. "Mind you," she mock glared up at him. "You'd best treat her right, or you'll be hearing from me!"
"And most of the rest of the English wizarding world," he added with a smile.
Her eyes rounded as she looked from Napoleon to Roxana. "He's an American? Well I never."
"I do hope not." Roxana's bland look crinkled into a giggle. "Well, at least, not with Napoleon, anyway."
They were soon seated at a table with flowing flagons of butterbeer in front of them. Rosemerta, the morning being early, joined them. "So, what brings you here? And don't you dare say a broom!"
Quickly Roxana filled her friend in on why they were in Hogsmeade and in England at all. The mistress of the Three Brooms agreed to send a message to the school. Then all they could do was wait for Dumbledore to meet them, if he could.
THRUSH Central England
Demonique was beyond livid. The skinny, ugly young man in her custody continued to remain silent, except for screaming in pain. Her orders were to get a handle on the "wizard" abilities to see if they were of use. So far, all she'd proved was that their representative was yet another annoying man. Snape had so far stood proof against every non-invasive pain induction method she had employed against him.
Her frustrations were decimating her male staff. Lerya Porificov was making a note of every death and every perceived misstep Demonique made, although she was making very certain that her commander was unaware of her notes. She watched as the wizard was tortured again and again, noting his stamina, his resistance and even his giving in to the pain. There was much about the man that warranted caution, something her boss was missing entirely. But then, Demonique was well known for her hatred of any man she could not manipulate.
Lerya stole down to the cells where Snape was the only current prisoner to observe him in person. He was indeed a scrawny specimen when relieved of his shirt. Pale skin, almost transluscent over bones that didn't quite stick out. Scars. Too many scars for a man of his apparent age. So, the wizard was abused by someone, probably family. That was good. It was information she could possibly use.
As young as he was, Demonique's opposite number with these wizards trusted him to make a decision, to scope them out and let him know what THRUSH could do for or against them. That made him powerful. Lerya liked powerful. She inched closer to the cell, making sure Snape did not see her, yet. Something drew her toward him now, some indefinable something in the air that made the hair on her arms stand up. Magic. The thing her parents kept telling her did not exist, yet she could feel it around her, feel it coming in waves off some people. Snape had it in full measure. Wizard. Lerya shivered, trying to control her reaction to the strength of the power she could feel. She wanted to move closer, to touch the source, to … Demonique would kill her. Unless … if pain was something Snape was used to … a predatory smile curved her full, pale lips. It was worth a try to satiate the ache he was stoking within her. She withdrew to think and map out a new torture for the wizard.
Illya awoke from a nightmare to a nightmare. He lay on a sumptuous bed in a dark room lit only by the dim flames of a fireplace. For a moment, he let his eyes adjust to the light. With a jerk, he sat up and moved off the bed, stumbling slightly as he realized he was back in control of his body. Shaking, he sat in a richly brocaded chair. The terror of having his will and body taken away saturated him for a moment.
Now, he was free of the domination … or was he? The air currents only he could feel shifted and roiled around him here. Magic? Napoleon said it was magic. Power that could be manipulated if one knew how. Vague memories tickled at the back of his mind until he gritted his teeth against a growing headache. Where the hell was Napoleon when he needed him?
Never one to await rescue when he could stir up trouble on his own, Illya crossed the room and tried the door, which was locked. He grinned to himself. If they spent their time using magic for things, they probably weren't guarding against plain old human ingenuity.