Chapter 1: Of Spies and Speculations
From the point of view of Severus Snape
The post owls’ entrance into the Great Hall barely caused me
to pause in eating my breakfast until a square package landed in the middle of
my scrambled eggs. Considering the black
paper and odd stains on the parcel, I began to suspect that I would not be
finishing my early morning repast. And
the presence of Mortin’s severed head in the package only confirmed my suspicions.
The minute I found out about Voldemort’s rebirth, I had
known what I had to do. I assumed the
necessary, if rather inelegant, job of gathering information from our spies
among the Death Eaters. It was annoying
that I was unable to perform the spying myself as I had done during the Dark
Lord’s first reign, but inevitable because some of my conversations with
Quirrell and hence Voldemort had betrayed my true loyalties. I rather resented
having to rely on others’ ears.
McGonagall’s gasp of horror brought me back to the
present. I was silently thankful that it
was still summer so there were no students in the Hall.
“Severus, who is that?” she inquired in a slightly weak
“That was Eleanor
Mortin.” Dumbledore abruptly ended his conversation with Sprout in response to
my breaking of my habitual silence during breakfast. Upon seeing the parcel on my platter he
silently inclined his head in a request for more information.
“Mortin was my best and only information source on the
goings on in the upper levels of Voldemort’s supporters. Considering that she is now dead and
delivered to me in this unnecessarily dramatic fashion, I believe it is safe to
assume that Voldemort questioned her loyalty.”
All the other Professors continued to look inquiringly at me
after I finished this pronouncement.
Having no further knowledge I wished to impart, I glared at them. Finally, irritated with the silence, I
“Perhaps there are some people I could contact to obtain
additional information.” This suggestion
was quickly seized upon by all present.
That is why less than an hour later, I found myself walking to
Hogsmeade, with an empty stomach in the bright late August sun, so I could
apparate to the darkest corner of Britain.
Upon arriving in Knockturn Alley, I was again impressed with
how an innocent line of storefronts managed to look so sinister. Perhaps the slightly grisly items displayed
in the windows contributed to the effect.
As it was unwise to stand gawking in this area, I began to stride
quickly down a narrow street.
Reaching the shop of Palson & Palson: Purveyors of
Products for Potent Potions was something of a relief. The smell of dried herbs and display of
premium thick-bottom cauldrons made me feel more at home. I practiced looking comfortably menacing as I
examined the not exactly illegal products while waiting to attract the older
Mr. Palson’s attention.
Within seconds, my wait was ended as a hand grabbed my arm.
Professor, yes, Professor, welcome to my humble shop, yes, welcome. I hope you are
finding everything you want – everything indeed – I am at your service, as
always, Professor – do you need any help, yes, any help at all?”
I was instantly annoyed with the man’s rush of irrelevant
words. I only deigned to reply after
taking a long moment to allow him to squirm and hastily remove his hand from my
person. I hate it when people touch me.
“I am looking to place an extensive order,” I lied, “which I have no intention of discussing in
public. Perhaps we should conduct
further business in your office.”
“My office. Wonderful.
I have a choice selection of products exclusively displayed to my more
discerning customers.” Palson chattered
on as he again grabbed my arm and ushered me into a small cluttered windowless
room in the back of his store.
The minute the door closed the torrent of words dribbled out
as he sat himself behind a rickety desk and motioned me to even more
unstable-looking chair in the corner.
When he reached a complete silence I asked, “Have you had any recent
information from Eleanor Mortin?”
He looked momentarily troubled before replying. “I saw her
yesterday – yes, yesterday. She was
awfully excited … uncharacteristically excited … heard something very
important. About Azkaban … and dementors. Or … maybe it was something else
entirely. Wouldn’t tell me what though –
no, wouldn’t tell me. Said there was no
time and she had to go to an important meeting.
Yep – important. Said our Lord
would tell her more and she didn’t want to say anything until she knew enough
to make sense of it … yes … make sense.
Said I was to send you an owl to tell you to meet her this evening at
the Hogs Head. But I guess now I don’t have to because you are here -- yes --
Manfully fighting back the urge to strangle the stupid little
man I inquired, “Have you heard anything more from or about her?”
“No, I haven’t heard.
Not anything. I wasn’t called to
the meeting last night. I’m not
important enough. No not important. But I think Kip went. Aye, he went.”
Well at least now I had a lead for more information, which
was honestly all I could logically hope for.
Palson was really only half a Death Eater. Before his inexplicable change of heart, he
had supplied the Dark Lord with dark potions and Veritiserum. Although he bore the mark as I did, he had
never participated in the more ‘hands on’ portions of Death Eater
activities. As he is regarded as
something of an idiot, no Death Eater ever tells him more than strictly
necessary. While this severely limits
his usefulness as a spy, it also means that no one really pays any attention to
his actions. It is a generally accepted
pattern that only intelligent followers turn traitor.
“If that is all of
your limited knowledge, I will require from you several hairs and a bottle of Polyjuice
starter.” This communication sparked a
deluge of barely comprehensible protest, warnings, and accusations, but after a
rather trying twenty minutes he had agreed to provide the requested items. He promised to lock himself in his office
until my return or until four hours had elapsed. Whichever was sooner. This actually meant I had about two hours to
find Kip and bribe him to tell me about the meeting last night.
It somehow felt more comfortable to walk around Knockturn
alley in Palson’s body. It felt as if he belonged here. I remember feeling this
way in my own body as a young man.
However, after an hour of wandering around searching for any sign of
Kip, the novelty had long since worn off.
Kip is best thought of as a part of Knockturn Alley. As he acknowledges neither mother nor father,
it is almost possible to believe him bred from the very cobbles. As a young
child he begged until he learned to pick pockets, which profession he diligently
practiced until he extended his skills to picking locks and petty
thievery. Although he owns a wand and
occasionally practices magic when he cannot avoid it, Kip generally thinks of
magic as inelegant and amateurish in his line of work. After all, magic folk prepare for magical
attacks and often forget to ward against their muggle equivalents.
In all honesty, when I think of his reasons for joining
Voldemort I can most completely state them as ‘why not?’. Stealing things from the Ministry and
planting misleading or incriminating evidence had been fun and exciting
work. And Voldemort paid him well for
his services. His reasons for acting as
a spy were probably similarly pragmatic.
As long as he was well paid, he was more than willing to sit the fence
and benefit from either victory.
I had almost decided to give up and go back when, turning
abruptly, I caught a glimpse behind me of rather ordinary sandy brown hair and
muddy brown eyes disappearing into the crowded street. The scamp had probably been following me the
whole time. Oh well, two can play that
I started off in the direction I had last seen Kip and,
catching sight of him, began followed the rapidly fading figure. I finally caught up with him in a dark
alleyway three blocks later.
“Stop following me Snape.
I have nothing to say to you.” He
began looking skittishly around to catch any witnesses. I was only slightly surprised he knew
immediately that it was I. Kip is
nothing if not a keen observer. A very
admirable trait, when he is not employing it to help Voldemort.
“I would be interested in purchasing information on the
meeting last night,” I began.
“Well that’s inconvenient for you, because I’m not
interested in selling.”
“Perhaps you could tell me how and why Mortin was killed?”
“I could, but, you see the how and why Mortin died is
exactly why I am not selling. You see
our dear Elly only made one stupid mistake.
She was listening around and heard something that was actually rather
interesting. It could have helped you
quite a bit really. However, the silly
fool was either fanatically loyal to you Dumbledore or bloody terrified because
she became slightly overexcited. She
attempted to slip away earlier than the earliest opportunity and that was all
it took.” Kip seemed to find it amusing
to relate the hapless Mortin’s fate. He
has even less tolerance for carelessness and stupidity than I do.
“You and I both know, Snape, Voldemort is not one to
randomly torture his own followers, but a hint of treason is all he needs. She broke distressingly quickly.” His expression twisted into a parody of a
mournful cast, “I thought she was made of sterner stuff. Such a terrible pity I was wrong. Not all is lost though, because I learned
something. Having loyalty to anything
beyond yourself is not conducive to long and healthy life. I have come to the conclusion that until you
can better guarantee my safety it is not in my best interest to sell you
I knew from bitter experience that it is pointless to argue
with Kip when he decides something is not in his ‘best interests’. Saying it is too much trouble or too
dangerous are prompts for you to offer more money, but Kip does nothing that he
does not consider to benefit himself.
“What precautions do you require in order to provide
“I have not entirely made up my mind. Come back when you have an offer that doesn’t
oblige me to make my reports to anyone in particular or send them in
writing. In addition, I expect a
Wonderful, I thought, he has decided to set up unattainable
conditions so he doesn’t have to point blank refuse.
“And how exactly do you propose we do that?”
An ironic smirk crossed his face as he answered. “That is not exactly my problem, now is it.”
As I walked back to the potions shop, I tried to compose my
report to Dumbledore in my head. Well
sir, one of my spies is an idiot, one refuses to provide any information, and
the other has inconveniently lost her head.
What a spymaster I am! A full
days work and all I have to show for it is that the information Mortin died for
might have something to do with Azkaban or dementors. If it wasn’t so pathetic, it might
actually be humorous.