If you missed it, make sure you read Part 1 of the Hogwarts Caper first!
As the two thugs dragged me down the hallway, I assumed they were Crabbe and Goyle, who else would they be? I felt myself tense. The door they were taking me to was open. Inside, I could hear a prim, cultured, but terrifying female voice within.
“I had Stealth Sensoring Spells placed all around my doorway after the last one got in, you foolish boy…”
My captors dragged me inside the office, causing the speaker to break off and whirl upon us with her wand raised and an expression of pure venom filling her features. As her gaze took in myself and my two escorts, her visage changed from spitefully angry to mildly puzzled. She lowered her wand, adjusted her robes, and cocked her head to one side. Harry, from where he knelt next to the fire, holding his head, peered up at me. Why was he in here? Surely he had used the mirror and discovered that Sirius was in no danger. I raised my eyebrows at him, but he seemed to stare through me. Across the room, I could see that a large girl had pinned someone against the wall, my memory told me that Hermione was the one who was trapped. What was going on?
“And who is this, please?” she asked, her tone polite.
“Filch caught him sneaking around the first floor,” one of the boys replied. He handed over my precious badge. “Had this on him. Said he was here to fix a leaky faucet.”
“Hm,” her voice emerged in a polite little squeak. “Well, as I now have two people to interrogate, we shall have to expedite matters. Draco!” she did not raise the volume of her voice or seem to speak differently at all, but suddenly the word pressed through the room like a sounding gong. The tall, thin, blond boy leaning against the windowsill and casually flipping a wand about in the air instantly stood up straighter.
Umbridge smiled sweetly at him. “It seems we have a traitor and a spy in our midst. Please fetch Professor Snape.”
The young man nodded, throwing a triumphant smirk in Harry’s direction. The silence in the room was thick and suffocating. I felt confident I could break free of Crabbe and Goyle, but I had no idea what would happen to me if those wands were pointed at me with deadly intent. Could a real person die in the FictionVerse? I had no interest in discovering the answer just now. And them holding me kept them from discovering Ron and the others.
“You wanted to see me, Headmistress?” the slow, deliberate, completely bored voice of Severus Snape met my ears and I ventured to turn my head to see the imposing figure striding into the office. He stared at Harry and Hermione with utter indifference, but a slight crease appeared above his nose when he spotted me.
“Yes, I need another bottle of Veritaserum,” Umbridge simpered.
“You took my last bottle. I can have another prepared for you in about a month,” Snape sounded altogether absentminded. “Now, who in the world is that?” he gestured towards myself.
A shadow of frustrated impatience flitted across Umbridge’s face as she turned and looked at me. “I have no idea. An intruder wandering around the halls claiming to have been hired to fix a leaky faucet. He had this on him,” she held up my badge with a careless hand. “I hired no one to fix any faucets.”
“You should, this old place seems to suffer neglect far more than it ought,” Snape took my badge and studied it closely. His gaze narrowed.
At this point, Harry took it upon him to return to the original script. “”He’s got Padfoot!” he shouted at Snape. “He’s got Padfoot at the place where it’s hidden!”
I shot a stare at him and he glowered at me defiantly.
“Padfoot?” Umbridge cried, her head whipping back and forth between Harry and Snape. “What is Padfoot? Where what is hidden? What does he mean, Snape?”
Snape looked at Harry. “I have no idea,” he said coldly, “but the fact that an intruder penetrated the depths of Hogwarts should concern you more than an unruly student who spouts gibberish. Perhaps I should take this one and question him further.”
Umbridge seemed satisfied to focus on Harry and she nodded absentmindedly. Snape took me by the arm, my badge still in his other hand, and ushered me from the room. As we left, he shot a glance towards the shadowy part of the hall.
“You might want to get in there now,” he muttered. A few students, Ron and Ginny were the most recognizable, emerged and rushed to the door. Inside I could hear Hermione’s voice raised in an anguished shriek as Snape propelled me down the hall.
We entered a small room filled with shelves and vials. Snape shoved me in and closed the door. He whirled on me.
“What were you thinking?” he demanded, still in that calm, ominous, soft voice.
“What do you mean?” I asked, feigning innocence.
“Who were you here to interview? I recognize the InterFiction badge,” he paced for a minute. “They know better than to try to send reporters here… now… the timing is all wrong… and things changed…” he trailed up and glanced at me, and his eyes seemed to bore an actual burning hole through my chest. Far away down the hall, the sound of hurried footsteps echoed. “Who are you?”
I remained silent.
Snape continued to stare at me, a questioning light in his eyes. “You’re not here for an interview, are you?”
I stared back at him, unsure of how to answer. A dozen reasons for my presence flitted through my mind, but I discarded each of them. My silence was all that was required.
“You should be more careful in the future,” Snape intoned. “There are stories it is better not to meddle with. Some tragedies are easier to remedy than others. I had heard tell of a rogue reporter trying to fix perceived wrongs in the FictionVerse. I applaud your ingenuity, and your courage. But your stupidity is intolerable.”
“Where did I go wrong?” I finally managed to ask.
“Longer series tend to be more… rigid… than shorter ones or stand-alone works. Also, some characters are more aware of their fictional status than others. They tend to be easier for InterFiction agents to interact with. Those who are firmly convinced of their own reality and importance, like Mr. Potter, tend to be suspicious of anything that comes too easily or might cause them to question their pivotal place in the universe.”
I narrowed my gaze at him. I was unsure as to whether I could trust this information or if Snape’s well-documented bias against Harry was in play, but he was the first character I had encountered to realize that I did not belong in his world. That much, I had to grant him.
“Take your loss and be thankful it didn’t cost you any permanent damage,” Snape tossed my badge at me. I caught it, grateful to have it back in my hands. I activated it and the world began to kaleidoscope in on itself as Snape’s final words floated to my ears, “And pick your next target with more caution.”
Upon arriving home, I discovered that my little jaunt to the Wizarding World had changed very little. With the exception of my intrusion and the lack of capture suffered by Ron, Ginny, and Neville, the story was wholly unaltered. Snape’s warning rang in my mind as I got ready to leap into my next adventure. My failure had left me undaunted, if perhaps a little wiser and a bit humbler. My next project would be a bit more difficult, as I would have to leap into the story before its actual beginning. I was not sure if that could be done, such a feat had not been covered in my InterFiction orientation… but if it was possible, I was confident that my next caper would succeed.