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"Truly great madness cannot be achieved without significant intelligence."
~ Henrik Tikkanen ~

Chapter 10 ~ Encryption

"Good evening Remus." Dumbledore greeted as he stepped out of the fireplace, never removing his eyes from the parchment he was working on. "Or should I say afternoon? Judging by the position of the sun, which so stubbornly insists on hovering at that precise angle there..." He continued on, gesturing absentmindedly with his quill. "I would swear on my deathbed that it does that in order to maximize the amount of time it can spend blinding me with its own lingering glares each late afternoon. Spiteful little thing...or should I say large?"

Remus smiled warmly, dusting ashes from his dingy robes as he walked towards his former Professor's desk. But then again, Dumbledore really never had stopped teaching him had he?

"But matters of that brilliant orb's incessant onslaught against my aching retina's aside. How faired Leeds?"

And so the verbal sparring begins, he thought with another weary smile, fully aware of all the simple question implied. "Our friend was excited to hear of recent news from here Albus."

Dumbledore seemed to mull that over, thoughtfully scratching several more lines onto his parchment before continuing. "So I take it he would not be entirely opposed to another visit?"

"Not at all. In fact Leeds mentioned as much. Truthfully I think our friend is rather anxious to show you his latest renovations."

At that Dumbledore glanced up, a meaningful look across his ancient features. "Ah... The young never are satisfied with the works of their elders are they?"

"Not when they have better accessibility than we do."

"Ah Remus, don't you try and group yourself into the ruddy old bat category with me now. Though if I didn't know better I'd say you were enjoying that mobility your young legs provide."

"Only as far as they carry me."

Dumbledore grinned, slapping his desk happily. "Well perhaps I may be letting these old legs carry me to Leeds sooner than I expected."

"I think our friend would enjoy that."

"Then it's settled. I'll send an owl out as soon as Miss Kaylens arrives."

Remus nodded, glancing at the pocket watch he had already fished out of his cloak pocket. No blue for a change. Of course, she was probably still punishing him for ignoring her that afternoon. Not that he had had a choice in the matter. One didn't put a meeting with Dublin's head auror on hold to speak with their 16 year old student.

Particularly if that meeting was never supposed to be happening.

Ireland's Minister of Magic had previously proven as meddlesome as Fudge in preparing for Voldemort's return, and the Order had decided that it could not risk his involvement in their activities.

Which was precisely why the Order remained a secret to both Ministries, with the exception of carefully placed agents within each, such as Arthur Weasly, Nymphadora Tonks, Kingsley, and now in Ireland's Magical Defense Department, Spruner.

He still felt awful about blowing Kalliandra off, but he really had had no choice. He had at least been able to talk with her during part of his journey, when he had taken the Muggle train as far North as Leeds. Voldemort's agents seemed to be making one huge mistake in their intelligence fortunately, and that was their failure to monitor Muggle methods of transportation.

Sure they were monitoring the flo network, looking out for unauthorized port keys, and detecting large leaps by apparation.

But they weren't monitoring bus and train stations, and that was precisely why Dumbledore had had him take one into Northern England, where Voldemort's forces, upon last report, were said to be less concentrated. Apparently Voldemort was attempting to concentrate his forces around Surry and London, and near Hogwarts, so there was less tracking in itself up north.

The self-belligerent idiots.

Monitoring one's apparation was a difficult task in itself, but Dumbledore had not wanted to risk the chance of his apparation to Ireland being detected. So that was why he had spent hours aboard a train, before exiting in Leeds, and apparating from that station's bathroom to an empty field in Liverpool, where he had wound up with soaking wet trousers from landing in a particularly deep puddle from recent rainfall, and then apparating again from there to the train station in Dublin.

He had then proceeded to spend the night in a rather swarthy inn that was already getting ready to close up for the winter months, before meeting with Spruner as inconspicuously as possible the next afternoon, in Dublin's Phoenix Park. Meeting in Ireland's equivalent to Central Park had been his own idea. Mainly because he was lapse to meet at a pub due to the close proximity that enemy agents could easily obtain due to the very nature of local watering holes. But in a wide open, busy park, during the Muggle lunch hour, it would be easy to slip out of ear shot while not looking suspicious.

It had worked perfectly as far as he had known. And now Spruner was on board.

The entire meeting had been a success, with the exception of one small, little, teensy, smaller than Wormtail, thing.

He had left his pocket watch out.

So when it started glowing, halfway through their lunch meeting, Spruner's curiosity had been arroused.

That had been a tough one. Answer Kally and risk both her and Spruner overhearing something they shouldn't, or ignore her and risk the small chance that she had gotten herself into something abysmally risky mess.

He didn't even want to fathom the possible mayhem she could have caused.

As it was, he had slipped it back into his coat pocket as if nothing were amiss.

The Order couldn't afford to let someone like her know about its undertakings. Besides, it would just put the girl more at risk than she already was, and that was one thing he did not want.

Thinking of Kally brought forth a long sigh from himself as he wondered what was keeping her. He had been late in arriving as it was. But Kally...she was usually insufferably early everywhere. Never late... He was just beginning to actually worry when Dumbledore's baritone voice intruded upon his private thoughts.

"You do realize, Remus, that you are pacing about even worse than my father did when I fought Gindelwaud. Though of course, I am not entirely sure he realized that I was even gone. He had just received word on my brother's illegal goat herding so he was a bit distracted at the time by those more pressing matters."

It was all he could do to not laugh outright, and the smile peeking around the corners of his mouth told the tale of a losing battle. It was hard enough to picture Dumbledore young, let alone young enough to have had a father who would actually be concerned for his welfare.

And then there was the fact that Dumbledore had just very much reminded him of Prongs, who had accused him on more than one occasion of being the grandfather of the group. Always worrying about where the others were, when one of them ran off unexpectedly. But who could blame him with what Padfoot and Prongs were always up to!

Then there was their jesting one particular evening, when Wormtail had went missing and he had combed the Marauder's Map till day break searching for their tiny four legged friend. They had been besides themselves with amusement.

And Padfoot had said he'd eat Wormtail before he ever became the fatherly type.

If only Padfoot had been able to see himself 14 years later with Harry. He might have bit his own tail at that sight! Not to mention that now he didn't exactly mind the thought of Wormtail being subjected to Padfoot's formidable stomach. Who would?

At least his work now would make a difference in righting all of the wrongful deaths. His meeting with Spruner had gone well, and now the Order had an agent in Ireland's Magical Defense Department.

Remus sighed again, his thoughts shifting to the loud knock at Dumbledore's door, and the ensuing argument that followed as Kally and the lovely gargoyle knocker began bickering loudly.

"Ah...I can see Crustantheas is as cheerful as always about his parts being banged loudly against my office's wooden entrance." Albus said with a rather cheeky grin for someone his age.

Remus just shook his head as he opened the door, relieved to see an intact Kalliandra just outside. There was no telling what that girl might do when left to her own devices, and considering that she had her Thursday and Friday afternoon's free, she most certainly had been left to them for too long for his own liking.

"Afternoon Remus," She muttered, stalking in sulkily.

"Crustantheas giving you problems?"

"Yes! The bloody knocker tried to bite me agai..."

"And she deserved it! You know missy you can KNOCK yourself! You don't NEED to use me every bloody time..."

Remus slammed the door shut before the knocker could get in another word edgewise, asides from the indignant grunt it emitted as it was slammed a bit too hard for its own liking.

"About time someone shut that thing up." Kalliandra proclaimed satisfactorily, eyes still narrowed in near slits.

"Yes, yes... Perhaps I will need to calm him down a bit...later." Dumbledore cut in with a wry grin.

"If all Gargoyles are that touchy I hope I never have the misfortune to meet one..." Kally muttered, still staring towards the sound of Crustantheas' disgruntled mutterings, muffled by the thick oak separating them.

"Well that is Crustantheas in fine form, so I'll hope you never do encounter one like him. I can only imagine what Poppy would say if I sent a brass knocker down for her to treat...Oh, and that reminds me. Professor Tres wanted me to relay that his knee is quite better now. Poppy however wasn't too pleased, apparently repairing ligaments is tricky business. It took her nearly all afternoon to sort him out."

Remus glanced between the two of them knowingly, throwing a suspicious glance in Kalliandra's direction, who for her part, was doing her best to look as innocent as possible. "And what exactly did you do to him Kally?"

All pretense of innocence disappeared, a small smirk creeping onto her young face. "Absolutely nothing that he did not already deserve."

"Define deserve," He ordered, feeling the foreboding of a parent who's child had just been sent home for blowing up their school.

"I may have torn his ACL. But I didn't mean to...."

"YOU WHAT!?" He exclaimed, interrupting her out of shock and nearly tripping over the chair he had been trying to sit in. "When did this happen!?"

"In class yesterday," She replied complacently, sliding into the chair besides him. "He failed to mention that he was planning on starting the year off with a practical examination and thought it would be fun to attack us. So I kicked him." She shrugged, shooting a curious look towards him as if trying to guess how he would react next.

At this point Dumbledore was grinning rather amusedly, but he was having severe trouble shutting his agape mouth.

"Turns out Kalliandra here put on quite an exhibition of how Muggle self defense is a useful tool. In fact, Professor Gai has even mentioned using her as a practice dummy when they get to that section of their curriculum later on this year."

He found himself facing Dumbledore now, still speechless as he put things together in his own mind.

"Wait? Tres wants to use me as what?" Kalliandra asked, surprise evident in her voice.

"Tres is it? I do suppose he was insistent about that first name business... But I would have thought he had informed you about that idea of his in class today." The headmaster replied amusedly. "As soon as he was able to put weight on that leg of his again he marched straight here to my office to ask if you and Mr. Potter could help him in separate demonstrations later on this year."

Remus turned in time to see Kally shaking her head as if astounded. "He failed to mention it..."

"Ah! Well now it has been mentioned and all parties, except for Mr. Potter, are informed, so I'll be making sure he knows that Professor Gai is planning on abusing him as well later on. But your Defense class is totally off the incantation for what were supposed to be discussing right now."

Remus, finally getting his voice back from the shock of finding out that Kally had abused more than herself this week, nodded assent while adding, "Which is the arrangements for your tutoring."

"And they would be?" She asked, seemingly disinterested, but he could see she was just the opposite. She was hard to read, but after having spent nearly twenty four hours a day with her prior to the start of school, he had gotten quite good at it. He had a decent idea of how she reasoned things out, or rather didn't, and that was more than he could say for his understanding of his three best friends growing up. He had known them for years and he still hadn't figured out how their often deluded minds had operated. All he knew was that as soon as he got a hold of the remaining one's head, he wouldn't be too concerned about that mind remaining intact for very long.

No, on the contrary, he would very much like to smash it into tiny bits all over the floor.

"Are you familiar with what a port key is?" Dumbledore asked, rousing him from his angry thoughts of the past.

"Yeah, I read about them in one of the books you gave me. Unfortunately Hermione saw me reading it and started going on about how 'wonderful' it was to see someone reviewing a first year book."

"Ah, Miss Granger is an observant one isn't she?"

Kalliandra snorted.

"Well," Dumbledore continued, non flumoxed, "At least you have made a new friend."

Instantly Kally was shaking her head. "You can't exactly call it that. She's just ridiculously interested in how my 'home-school' curriculum must have been so different from Hogwarts. Lying to her is getting rather tiresome."

Remus cringed at the look on her face, and for the thousandth time wondered whether or not Albus' decision to explain her condition to her had been a good thing or not. So far all it had done was encourage her self-induced patterns of isolation.

And living as if the next week may be your last...that was no way for a sixteen year old girl to live.

He flexed his hands vigorously, a nervous habit he had picked up in his childhood. The extension and retraction of his phalanges after transformations had always alleviated the pain associated with the growth of his claws. Eventually it had come to alleviate stress as well. And now...Well now it was an effective distraction from thinking about things he would rather avoid for as long as possible.

He didn't want to think about what could happen to Kalliandra.

She was far too young to be dying.

Photograph couresty of the previously mentioned public domain website. Accreditations can be found via my personal website.

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