Seriously, Black

Rat Tracks

Chapter 2

Rat Tracks

Ministry of Magic

Department of Magical Law Enforcement

The DMLE was at full alert, the disappearance or death of Voldemort notwithstanding. In fact, without the leadership of the Dark Lord, it seemed that much more important to round up his followers while they were still reeling from the blow. All leaves had been cancelled, shifts went from eight to twelve hours per day, and some retired Aurors had been called back into service, mostly to free up active duty Aurors who had been riding a desk, but in some rare cases to go back into the field or to work at the training centre. One of these tough old birds was in the office right then preparing to go out on a tracking team in search of Peter Pettigrew. His name was Alistair "Mad-Eye" Moody and he was one scary man.

Moody had been fighting Dark Lords and their followers for the past forty-odd years. He had joined the DMLE as a fresh faced rookie, then after taking down a seven man spy unit infiltrating Britain for Lord Grindlwald, leaving no long term survivors, he was recruited by the Unspeakables for the duration of the war. He was given a license to kill, then infiltrated into Grindlwald's forces and told to work his way to the top via attrition. The more people above him that he could 'retire', the closer he could get to the inner circle. The killings were all credited to some mysterious 'hitwizard' and Moody never came under suspicion. This role culminated in April 1945 when Albus Dumbledore cast the only killing curse in his career, taking down Grindlwald while Moody kept most of the inner circle tied down and unable to help their master.

Following the war, Moody worked undercover with muggle Nazi hunters from MI6, the CIA, and after 1948, the Israeli Shin Bet. When Hitler's minions headed for safer ground in places such as Argentina and Brazil, many of Grindlwald's people went with them. Where the Nazi hunters, for the most part, attempted to extradite their quarry through diplomatic means, Moody had no such restrictions. Many dark wizards found their final resting places in Brazilian jungles, and in Argentina, were transfigured into cattle and, in a real example of poetic justice, disappeared into the slaughterhouses of that nation's beef industry. Moody was very good at transfiguration.

After fifteen years of this, Moody reentered the Auror Corps as a fugitive tracker, then a trainer. When the first Voldemort war broke out, Moody led a group of green trainees into battle against Death Eaters who attacked the Auror Academy. The fight was long and bloody. Moody lost almost half of his troops in the battle, along with his eye and one of his legs. Although he attempted to come back to work after recuperating, the Ministry, in their infinite wisdom, gave him an Order of Merlin (second class), a gold watch, a pat on the head, and a pension, then put him out to pasture. Moody called in a few favors from some very important people and went to work as a 'consultant' for the Unspeakables, picking out low level Death Eaters, and helping them meet with 'accidents', thereby giving Voldemort less cannon fodder to throw at the Ministry.

At the present time, they were preparing to follow up on a lead sent in by a squib who had seen a man who looked like the picture of Peter Pettigrew that he had seen in the Daily Prophet. The squib was a cousin of Arthur Weasley, an accountant who worked in downtown London. He had seen the man looking furtively around before entering a seedy apartment building. Mr. Weasley had peered in the glass front door of the building, but had seen only an empty hallway, a lift with an out of order sign, and a set of stairs, also empty. The plan was for Moody to look through the doors of each apartment with his magical eye to attempt to spot the suspect. This team had already had some limited success when they raided Lucius Malfoy's home on a tip that Pettigrew might be hiding there. Although they did not find Wormtail, Moody's eye had spotted a hidden cache of dark items hidden in a secret compartment in the dining room, and in a scuffle with the Malfoy patriarch, his left sleeve had been ripped, exposing the Dark Mark. Lucius was now awaiting his trial in a Ministry holding cell. The house was purged of everything more dangerous than a butterknife.

The team, made up of Moody, Sirius Black, and Frank Longbottom, planned to approach the apartment building with Moody under an invisibility cloak and Sirius in his animagus form. Longbottom would be disguised as a blind man with Sirius as his guide dog. Sirius Black would use his nose to attempt to pick up Pettigrew's scent, hopefully tracking him right to his door, or at least ruling out most of the apartments. As they were getting ready to leave, Amelia Bones called Frank back in.

"Frank, your wife is calling on the floo. She needs to speak with you."

"Be right there!" Running back over to the floo, Frank asked Alice if there was a problem.

"Not at all, I just wanted to let you know that your mother and I are taking the boys into muggle London to pick up some new clothes for Harry, along with some baby furniture that Sirius can take to his flat. We will just get a receipt and he can pay us back when he gets a chance. We will probably be having lunch there also, so we won't be back home for several hours."

"Sounds like a good plan, dear. I'll let Sirius know what's going on. See you tonight."

Alice broke the connection and Frank headed back to the team. Sirius transformed and Frank put the handle harness on his friend, then put on his dark glasses, completing the disguise. Moody waited until the two exited the phone booth at the street entrance before he put on his cloak and followed them. They walked down the street until they encountered one of London's famous bobbies and Sirius barked, getting the man's attention.

"Pardon me, is there a constable here?" Frank was in full character as an able blind man.

"Yes, sir. My name is Constable Smythe. Is there some way I can assist you?"

"Yes, Constable. I find myself in need of a taxi, but I have no way of knowing where they are to hail one. Also, many of the drivers do not like to allow my seeing eye dog in their taxis, so they tend to drive right past."

"Ah, that sounds like a right rotten thing to do. I would be happy to hail a taxi for you and make sure that the driver doesn't refuse your dog. Smart animal, that one is. It seems that he looked for me on purpose."

"Oh, he did. When I tell him to get help, he looks for the first bobby that he can find, he knows that we can trust the police. He then gets the officer's attention."

"Amazing. It just goes to show that dogs really are man's best friend." The bobby took a cookie out of his coat pocket and offered it to Sirius, who eagerly took it, tossed it in the air, then caught it, making it disappear in one gulp. Smythe spotted an empty taxi, hailed it, and when the cabbie pulled over, opened the door for the 'blind' man and his dog. Mad-Eye, under his cloak, scooted in the seat as soon as the door opened, then Sirius hopped in, followed by Frank. Frank thanked Smythe, then gave the cabbie the destination address. As the taxi pulled away, Smythe heard the blind man say "Showoff" to his dog, then heard the words "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"

"Constant vigilance, eh? Not a bad phrase to live by," Smythe said to himself as he gave his baton a twirl, heading back down the street, happy to have been of service to one of Her Majesty's more vulnerable subjects.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Longbottom Manor

Alice Longbottom was wondering if she would survive this shopping trip. After feeding the two toddlers, getting more food on her and the children's outsides than their insides, she tucked one under each arm and took them into the bathroom to clean them up. After they were both clean, she made the mistake of taking both of them out of the tub at the same time to dry them off. Neville and Harry, with twin yelps of joy, took of running in different directions, stark naked and dripping wet. There were doors at each end of the bathroom going into adjoining bedrooms, and both doors were open. Finally catching them, not so easy since Harry hid under a bed while Neville ran straight to his grandmother and attached himself to her leg, Alice dried them off and popped them both onto the changing table to put fresh nappies on. She tickled Harry's tummy while she used her wand to attach the nappy to Neville. Harry promptly peed on her. She dried him off, then put on his nappy while holding her hand on Neville. Her son grunted, then got a contented look on his face as a stench filled the room. She then recleaned Neville and dressed both boys.

After leaving the boys with Frank's mother, Augusta, she took her own bath, then dressed for the trip. When she came back down, she had to convince Augusta to leave her vulture hat there on the grounds that it would make them too noticeable to the muggles.

"Nonsense, dear. I have worn this hat ever since Frank's father died. If it is that important, I will just put a 'notice me not' charm on it." She then proceeded to do exactly that.

Each of the women took a toddler, Alice charmed the stroller to hold two children rather than one, then shrunk it and put it in her purse. They each took some floo powder, tossed it into the fire, called out, "The Leaky Cauldron", and stepped in, disappearing from view.

At the same time, another hunter team was closing in on their quarry. Bellatrix, her husband and brother-in-law apparated to just outside the wards of Longbottom Manor. Since it had rained the previous night, they landed ankle deep in mud. Slogging out of it and ducking behind a hedge, Bellatrix studied the wards.

"Okay, pretty standard. We have apparition wards, portkey and floo wards, and…oooh, here is a tricky one, they also have one that only family members can get through unless they are keyed in."

"Well, are you going to have any problems with them?" asked Rudolphus.

"The only one that we have to worry about is the family ward. Since we are not apparating, portkeying, or flooing, once we get past the family ward, we can just walk up to the front door." She then studied the family ward for a while until she found a weakness.

"Got it. There is a two inch gap where a gnome has tunneled under the wall." She then cast a shrinking charm on each of them and they walked right through the tunnel. "Idiots made our job pretty easy. Seems they're just a bit overconfident."

Once they were past the wards, Bella cast the counter-charm on each of them and they proceeded to walk up to the front door. A simple Alhomora opened the door and they dove through, bracketing the door. They had, however, made one serious error.

There was one more ward. It was not cast by wizards, but rather by the house elves. This would alert them when there was a situation where they were needed. Bellatrix, because of the natural scorn in which wizards and witches held elves, completely discounted the ward, deeming it unimportant. She would never make that mistake again.

Missy, one of two house elves owned by the Longbottom family to keep the manor clean, watched with shock as the trio poured into the room. The reason for her shock was the fact that their feet were coated in mud and they were tracking it all over the polished marble entryway.

"You is not belonging here! You is making mess of Mistress's house!" the little elf squeaked in outrage. Bella pointed her wand at the elf and fired of a bone breaking curse at her. The curse missed because the elf apparated across the room before the spell could leave her wand. It did, however, take out a portrait hanging on the wall. The Longbottom's other elf, Jenno, also appeared in the room. With twin snaps of their fingers, the messy miscreants were slammed against a wall, then slammed against each other, tied up and thrown out of the house through the family ward. That ward picked up the Death Eaters and tossed them into a holding cell in the cellar. That cell was heavily warded against any magic, making escape impossible. They would be waiting there when the Aurors arrived, notified by a still enraged elf.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

London

Frank Longbottom had the taxi drop them off a couple of blocks away from the target location. Mad-Eye followed behind them in his cape, a silencing charm on his wooden leg. They were almost directly across the street when Padfoot caught a familiar scent. He then saw Pettigrew walking away from the building toward an alley.

Sirius was torn. He couldn't bark since it might alert Wormtail to their presence. With the halter on, he couldn't change back to his human form without choking himself to death. There was also the fact that the muggles would freak at a dog suddenly becoming human. Mad-Eye and Frank had not seen Wormtail. He did the only thing that he could think of. He lunged, yanking the handle out of Frank's hand, and charged across the street. Both of the Aurors saw where Padfoot was heading, spotted Pettigrew, and began to follow. The honk of a horn stopped them from being run over by a car, but Padfoot was not quite so lucky. A squeal of brakes, a thump, and Sirius flew into the street and lay still. Pettigrew turned at the commotion, spotted Frank and Padfoot, and quickly turned into the alley.

"Quick! Follow Pettigrew!" yelled Mad-Eye.

"What about Black?" Frank yelled back.

"Nothing we can do for him now. We can get Pettigrew though!"

The two aurors dodged across the street and into the alley. The alley only went back about a hundred feet before coming to a dead end against a brick wall. There was no sign of Pettigrew. The Aurors searched the alley, finally seeing a shoe laying next to a sewer grate. Frank picked it up, recognizing it as one made at a shop in Diagon Alley.

"Bastard got away. Well, let's go see if we can do anything for Black. If we can't, we can at least recover the body so that he can have an honorable funeral, dying in the line of service and all." The two dejected Aurors headed back to the street.

What the Aurors did not know was that when they had rushed into the alley, the fellow who struck Padfoot, a kindly man named George Kingston, stopped his car and rushed to see if he could help the dog. Padfoot was unconscious, his hind leg twisted in an unnatural angle. Kingston, with the help of a passerby, picked up the big black dog and placed him gently into the back seat of his car. He then rushed away to take the dog to an animal hospital.

Frank and Moody looked at the spot where Sirius had been. Traffic was moving normally, there was no sign of their partner. Moody turned to Frank.

"Well, he's either not hurt or he somehow managed to get away from here. Probably portkeyed somehow to St. Mungos. We can start there, if we don't find him, go back to the office and figure out where to go from there."

"Damn."

"You got that right."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Soho Veterinary Clinic

George Kingston hurried into the clinic and got the attention of the receptionist. "I've got an injured seeing eye dog out in my car! I need some help getting him in."

A technician and a customer rushed outside and assisted him in bringing the big black dog, still wearing his harness and handle, into the surgery. Kingston, feeling terrible about hitting the animal, told the receptionist that he would take care of the bill. The receptionist took his information and asked him to take a seat. Roughly thirty minutes later, the vet came out to speak with him.

Dr. Sarah Nalett, known around the clinic as "CC", had worked feverishly to stabilize the animal. They had done full body X-rays and discovered that the only injuries that they could find were a broken hind leg and a possible concussion, but not life threatening. She had instructed her technician to begin to prepare the dog for surgery. She then went out to the waiting room to speak with Mr. Kingston.

"It was very good of you to take responsibility for the animal. He does seem to be a seeing eye dog, but he doesn't have a proper license or a service dog registration. Did you, by chance, see a blind fellow stumbling around looking like he lost his best friend?" At Kingston's negative shake, she continued. "The good news is that after surgery, he should regain full use of his leg. We don't know how serious the head injury is, but he seems to be breathing well and his eyes are responsive. Once we get the leg set, we will put it in a plaster cast. We can then begin to look for his owner. As regal a dog as that, we should have no problem reuniting them. If he is registered, the Royal Association for the Blind may go ahead and pay the bill."

"There is no identification on him at all?"

"Only a nametag on his harness. It has the name, 'Padfoot', but no address or telephone. I am sure that we will find the owner though, and I will personally give him hell for not marking his dog. I will also microchip him before he leaves. That way if he and his owner are ever separated again, any vet will be able to send him home."

"If that is all, I suppose that I should be leaving. Please call me if you cannot find his owner." They shook hands and Kingston left.

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