Length: ~4250 words
Summary: What's a wizard to do if he needs to break into a Muggle high-security area without leaving a trace? Why, call in expert help, of course! Advice and assistance are especially vital when the security measures to be evaded are in the Tower of London, and the target is the Crown Jewels. Unfortunately, when Mundungus Fletcher is the expert in question, there's no guarantee things will go smoothly ...
Warnings: Would be a Riddikulus fic in FictionAlley terms. Contains mild swearing (hence the rating) and some gratuitous abuse of archaic English words.
Author's note: One of those crack-type ideas that I signed up for (#154 on the 'Anywhere But Here' list -- Tower of London, England) for a bit of fun after finishing the previous challenge fic, and which ended up at about four times the expected length. People more familiar with Ye Olde Englishe than I am are welcome to point and laugh where it appears. And of course I don't know what the real secret security measures in the Tower are, so please don't arrest me. ;)
It's dead easy to get into the Jewel House of the Tower of London without being seen by the guards. Well, all right, you can't actually go straight to the room where they keep the Crown Jewels -- but I bet the man on patrol would have been embarrassed that he didn't notice us when we arrived in the annexe. Mind you, in his defence, we didn't make much noise -- just a slight pop, very easy to miss. And of course, it's always difficult to spot burglars who are invisible.
We held our breath and waited in the dark until the bloke was out of sight around the corner, then my ... er, companion lit a candle and cautiously poked it out from under the Cloak covering us. To my relief, he managed to achieve this without setting the Cloak on fire. And fortunately, its light wasn't the type to show up on the security cameras.
"Where did you get that thing, Fletcher?" I whispered, gazing with revulsion at the shrivelled hand he'd stuck the candle in.
"Well, when the Malfoys 'ad to go orn the run, there was stuff they ... er, abandoned, now weren't there?" he muttered evasively. "Appropriate really, you never know, it might even 'ave been from some poor sod who was done in 'ere ..."
I snorted. "Right. Don't tell me any more, I don't want to know."
"It'd 'av been a lot easier if we'd just 'av gone straight in ..."
"I keep telling you, there's a Ministry anti-Apparition ward on the room! Has been for centuries!" Bloody Fletcher, he'd done nothing but bellyache all evening. As you might have guessed, this job wasn't one I'd ever have volunteered for. In fact, I strongly suspect I only got landed with the sodding thing because I'd got up the nose of somebody senior. "Now what?"
The old villain bent his already bandy legs a bit further to get a better angle for squinting at the camera on the wall. "Well, we 'ave to fix those cameras. Don't want 'em noticing anything funny when they look at the film afterwards, do we? Unless your lot can come back an' sort it aht?"
"No we bloody can't," I replied shortly. "We don't want them to know at all. No telling what might happen. Just straight in, straight out, no fuss, no bother unless we make a balls-up somewhere along the line." I'd no intention of doing that if I could help it. Then again, I was working with Fletcher. He'd lived down to my expectations so far and I wasn't expecting him to get any better. Or less irritating. "How do you fix them, then?"
"Like this." Fletcher took out a wand and pointed it at the camera. "Recordari repetitius!"
I waited for a second or two for the spell to have some visible effect. "And what does that do?" I inquired when it didn't.
Fletcher shook his head sadly. Patronising git. "Makes 'em play back the same thing over an' over till we leave 'ere, of course," he told him. "So we can take the Cloak orf an' move about a bit. I invented that one," he added with a touch of pride.
"I'm not surprised," I told him, hoping fervently that his home-made spell actually worked. If it didn't, the cameras would show two men appearing from thin air outside the door of the room containing the Crown Jewels. And while it would be entertaining to imagine how Scrimgeour might explain that away, it definitely wouldn't be entertaining if I had to explain it to my boss
Still, I reflected, nothing for it now. I tucked the silvery cloak into my backpack and my ponytail into my belt (and no, I don't care what anyone else says, I like the bloody thing, so there). Now we had some light, I couldn't stop myself scowling at my companion -- not that I tried very hard. "Anything to get out from under this thing with you there. That foul stuff you laughingly call tobacco stinks to high heaven."
"No need to be rude wiv it now, Willie."
"Don't call me Willie!" I growled. I began to examine the door as a distraction to stop myself hexing him.
"Sorry. Just trying to be friendly, like ..."
"Well don't! We're not here to make friends! I only had to bring you along because we needed someone with 'special knowledge' of circumventing Muggle security devices without leaving a trace. And heaven help us, you seem to be the only halfway acceptable candidate who fits the bill."
"Well then, better be civil, ain'tcha?"
"Grrr. Remind me again why we have to be so cold?" He'd insisted on a Thermal Equalisation Spell before we even got here, and the surroundings were bloody freezing.
"So we don't show up on their heat ... er, detector things," he said. "I didn't ask to come 'ere in winter, did I? Stop bellyaching. And stop faffing around wiv that door, it's only a ordinary lock. I checked when I did the tour. Alohomora! There you go," he added smugly as the door sprung open.
"Good." Well, well, he had some uses then. I poked my head cautiously through the doorway. "What's that funny carpet on the floor?"
"Moving walkway," explained my fellow burglar succinctly.. "Takes 'em past the cases so they can't stop and stare too long."
Right. That made sense. It also made things a bit more awkward. "Do you mean we've got to do this on the move then? That'll be tricky."
"Nah, it won't be working tonight." Fletcher put an arm out to stop me as I attempted to walk in. "Careful, now!"
"Why?" I asked, giving him a suspicious look.
"There might be, like, pads on the floor rahnd the cases that set off alarms if you step on 'em, mightn't there?"
I believe I blinked at this point. Pads? Alarms? "Couldn't we just silence them?"
Fletcher rolled his eyes. "They might sound somewhere completely different. We'd never know if we'd got 'em all."
"They can do all that?" I said, crestfallen.
Fletcher snorted. "Course. It's not 1890 any more, Willie!. Right, wands ready, then. We'll have to levitate up to that little viewing platform there, see?"
"Er -- oh, all right." I mentally added you'd better know what you're bloody doing, Fletcher and raised my wand. "Autowingardium leviosa!"
We floated smoothly up towards a raised platform set above floor level. Well, I did, anyway. My --partner in crime's levitation charm was performed with a lot less confidence than his tone had suggested. He landed awkwardly, and I had to grab his arm to stop him falling off the platform.
"Thanks," he mumbled reluctantly.
"Don't mention it." I dropped the arm as quickly as possible. I didn't know where it had been.
I turned to look down at the contents of the display cases and whistled. You had to hand it to their Queen; she really did have a nice little jewellery collection. "All right, Fletcher, that's the one we want, in the middle there, says it's the Imperialist Status Crown or something?" He nodded.
I placed my backpack on the floor and gingerly took out an object that looked exactly the same as the crown in the case (as far as I could tell, anyway). I really hoped it was. Expert wizards had checked very carefully to make sure, but then expert wizards have been known to cock things up before now, and I didn't want any fallout landing on me.
I gazed at its counterpart. Now that we were actually here in the room, swapping them looked like it was going to be quite tricky. "I suppose we can just Vanish the glass temporarily," I mused aloud, "but how do we get down there to change them over if you're worried about alarms? Shall I float you down? You didn't seem too sure of yourself just now."
"You can't just pick it up, mate!" said Fletcher, startled. "There'll probably be -- er, beams of invisible light like, if you move the crown it'll break 'em an' that could trigger all sorts of things off!"
"Beams of invisib ... oh, whatever." I scowled to cover my embarrassment. Breaking into Muggle high-security areas was turning out to be a lot more complicated than it looked. Mind you, I wasn't supposed to be the expert here ... "So what's the enchantment of choice in the criminal community for getting round that, then?"
"Switching Spell, of course," said Fletcher airily. "Changes 'em over in a fraction of a second, never be a gap, will there?"
All right, I admit, my face probably fell at that one. Bugger, that really was obvious. "Oh right. Fair point. Go on then."
"Ah." Fletcher gave me a somewhat shifty grin, which immediately registered as bad news. "Well, actually I was hoping you could do it , Willie ..."
"... 'cos I never was much cop at Transfiguration meself, really ..."
"Gah! You useless git, Fletcher! No wonder you get caught all the time!"
Oh well, 'if you want a job done properly, do it yourself' and all that. I placed 'my' crown on the floor and concentrated very hard, letting my eyes flick between the two objects and memorising their positions. After what I'd just said, I had no intention of screwing this one up. Once sure I had them set in my mind, I held my breath and flicked my wand at the case.
I felt the spell take effect. I also felt like allowing myself a huge sigh of relief, but that would have given away that I'd been worried. So instead I simply picked up the crown from the floor and stood up as nonchalantly as possible.
"Did it work then?" asked Fletcher, turning towards me. "Nothin' seemed to 'appen?"
Ah, sweet revenge. "Of course it bloody worked, I'm fully trained," I said, stowing the crown from the case back in my bag. "With a bit of luck, they'll never notice anything has ever changed. Let's get out of here before that guard comes around again. Reverse our steps?"
"Reckon we'll 'ave to. We can't Apparate out, can we?"
Even Fletcher can occasionally ask a sensible question. I tested the limits experimentally and sighed. "No, it looks like the wards are two-way. All right. Careful now. Are you OK to levitate yourself back or shall I help?"
"I can do it meself, Willie," said Fletcher in an injured tone. "Watch!" I looked on as he cast the spell and floated gracefully towards the door, looking back up at me as if to say "See?" It was a good piece of spellwork, actually, only spoilt when he mistimed his turn to land and slammed headlong into the door.
I fought to suppress a grin as I landed smoothly next to him. Not that I fought very hard, obviously. "Well, I'm sorry I doubted you Fletcher. That was impressive."
"Anyone can make a mistake," he muttered, colouring. He reset the lock on the door and turned away; then we both froze as we heard another voice from just out of sight.
"Yeah, Mike, I thought I heard a noise? I'm just going to have a look. I'll call you back in five minutes. Over."
You know, if we'd just put the Cloak on and waited till he'd passed by, we'd have been perfectly all right? It was the indecision that cost us. A uniformed, armed guard turned the corner and stopped dead, his jaw dropping as he caught sight of what (to be fair) must have been a very surprising sight..
I glanced at Fletcher and suddenly realised he was going to try something. I had about half a second before he did -- not nearly enough time to actually stop him, of course, but ample to let my heart sink into my boots. I just knew instinctively that whatever idea he came up with, it was going to be a really bloody stupid one.
I wasn't wrong, either. He raised his arms and spoke in a high-pitched, quavering voice.
"Woooooooo! Who cometh hence to disturb the rest of ... ah, the Marquis of Mundungus, cruelly and unjustly executed in this tower in ... oh, centuries past!"
The guard boggled even more as he took in the robes we were wearing, which must have looked tremendously old-fashioned to him. Do you know, for one moment I actually entertained a wild hope that the idea, however insane, might actually work? Fat chance. Unfortunately, he was also clearly taking in our decidedly solid appearance and my very modern backpack. Not to mention wrinkling his nose at the smell from Fletcher's pipe, which was wafting its way down the corridor.
The guard raised his gun and pointed it at him. "Bollocks! Don't move! And keep those hands up!"
By some miracle Fletcher actually had enough sense to stand still where he was, which was lucky -- partly because he'd doubtless have been shot otherwise (all right, that wouldn't have been a huge loss, except that my bosses would probably have found some way to say it was my fault), but mostly because it hid me from the guard's view just enough to let me raise my wand.
"Expelliarmus!" The Disarming Charm sent the gun spinning out of the guard's hand. He gaped. I was just about to follow up with a Memory Charm so we could throw the Cloak over us and get out of there, but of course I hadn't allowed for the man who could make a troll look intellectual.
"Stupefy! Stupefy!" The first of Fletcher's panic-stricken and completely unnecessary Stunning Spells hit the guard in the stomach and sent him flying into one of the glass cases dotted about the place, full of swords and armour and stuff like that. Now that in itself wouldn't have been too bad, because the glass obviously had some sort of Muggle reinforcement charm on it and survived the impact quite nicely. Unfortunately, it didn't survive the second spell, which missed the falling guard, shattered the case and brought its entire contents crashing down on top of the poor bleeder.
There was silence for a few moments. Fletcher broke that too. "Oops," he said apologetically.
OK, I admit I lost it at that point. "'Oops'? You make a complete balls-up of the mission and all you can say is 'oops'? You utter moron!" My heart was racing as I went to examine the guard. Fortunately, he was still breathing, but I couldn't see any way we could fix all this before he was due to report in. Still, we had to try. "You! Fletcher!" I snapped at him. "Get this stuff back in the case!"
While he worked on that (looking remarkably subdued) I tried to assess the guard's injuries. Luckily, the swords had missed him, but the glass hadn't; there were cuts all over his face, not to mention that he probably had a nasty bruise from the Stunning Spell. I gave him first aid as best I could, but it wasn't looking good. I rounded on Fletcher again to work off some of my frustration. "How much longer are you going to be putting that case straight? Can't you do anything right?"
"I got you in 'ere to get the crown, din' I?" he muttered resentfully.
"Yes, and then you lost your head completely!"
"Wouldn't be the first one 'oo did that round here," he said, trying to make a joke of it. Bad move, Fletcher. Bad move.
"SHUT IT, Fletcher, I'm not in the mood for jokes! You couldn't even do it quietly, oh no, you had to make enough noise to wake the dead ..."
There was a quiet little cough from behind me that nearly made my heart leap out through my nose. "May I assist thee, good sir?"
I turned round slowly. Very, very slowly.
The speaker was a genuine ghost (or at any rate, he was transparent and floating a couple of inches off the ground, so if he wasn't he was doing a bloody good impression of one), dressed in the kind of old-fashioned clothes that were on display all over this place. He gave us an elaborate bow; it would probably have been quite impressive if it hadn't been for the undignified grab to catch his head, which fell off his spectral shoulders when he bent over.
Fletcher spoke first. "Who -- who the 'ell are you?"
"Sir Henry Montague at thy service." He made as if to bow again, then obviously thought better of it and simply nodded his head very gently.
"I thought this place didn't have any real ghosts," I said stupidly, still somewhat gobsmacked by the turn of events. Fortunately, Sir Henry didn't take offence.
"Ah, we prefer to be ... discreet," he said, smiling. "But forgive me, I could not help but overhear thine good selves, and forsooth I could not contain my curiosity. Prithee, why do two wizards such as thyselves wish to steal the crown of England?"
I groaned. Fletcher was listening to the exchange with interest, and this was something I was under very strict orders not to discuss with him. I leaned forward to mutter a quick explanation in Sir Henry's ear, trying not to wince too much while I did it. It was like dunking your face in a bucket of ice-cold water. His ghostly face cleared, however, and he chuckled.
"Oh, I see. Thou hast indeed a tale to tell. Not that thou should oft tell it. Dost thou know, I believe that I shall aid ye?"
OK, I eventually managed to pick my way through that one. "You will?" I said hopefully. "How?"
He glanced at the display case, which Fletcher had managed to put back together -- well, after a fashion, anyway. He'd mended the glass, and bundled all the stuff back, but the display didn't look half as neat as it had to begin with. Sir Henry seemed quite unfazed by this, however.
"If ye will cover thyselves with that Cloak, and then be so good as to revive this poor warden and cause him to forget ye were here, then I shall show thee," he said.
I looked at Fletcher. He didn't seem any happier about the idea of putting the success of our mission in the hands of a secretive ghost than I was. But then the guard's radio started making a noise again.
"Jim? What's going on? Why haven't you checked in? Over!"
We exchanged glances again, coming to an unspoken agreement that there wasn't really any bloody choice now. So we dived under the Cloak, and I pointed my wand at the guard and muttered a quick Obliviate and Enervate. Then we both stood as still as possible, held our breath, crossed our fingers, and waited for Sir Henry to do his stuff. Both our jaws dropped as he calmly floated through the case and disappeared into the wall on the other side.
The guard got to his feet, looking rather groggy. Naturally the first thing he clapped eyes on was the display case, looking decidedly out of order. Perfect.
"Mike? There's something odd about ... argck!"
If you're wondering what 'argck' means, all I can say is that it's the nearest I can get to the spelling of 'sound made by a Tower of London security guard who sees a medieval ghost float out of a display case in front of him in the middle of the night'. It wasn't in the dictionary, oddly enough. I felt a fleeting sympathy for the man, but you know, it wasn't just his job on the line, was it?
Sir Henry made the case and its contents rattle, with what I swear was sheer relish, and spoke in a voice that was far more ethereal than anything he'd used with us. ."Who cometh hence to disturb the rest of Sir Henry Montague, cruelly and unjustly executed in this tower in the year 1484?"
"Um ..." The guard made a sort of strangled sound. So did Fletcher. I think he was miffed that Sir Henry was stealing his lines.
"Depart from this place! Thou shouldst not linger here tonight!"
"Er, yeah! Right you are mate!" He nearly broke into a run as he shot off down the corridor. I could hear the sound of his radio conversation trailing off as he did so.
"Jim? What's happening? Over!"
"N-nothing! I just thought I heard a funny sound, that's all, but I reckon I must have imagined it. It's a bit creepy round here at night ..."
"Are you OK? You sound as if you've seen a ghost ..."
Sir Henry smiled once more and drifted off. I could swear I saw the old bugger wink at us before he disappeared through the nearest wall.
We Apparated back to base a few minutes later after some hasty tidying up, grinning in triumph -- not to mention relief. I don't think I've been so pleased to get out of anywhere since the last time Robards called me into his office for a verbal bollocking.
"Everything go all right, Ben?" asked Shacklebolt. He'd been coordinating the mission and (just as important) making sure that no-one in their Prime Minister's office had realised what was going on.
"Smooth as a Honeydukes strawberry mousse," I said, lying through my teeth. I glanced at Fletcher, who fortunately had the sense not to argue. I'm telling you, I'm bloody glad Shacklebolt isn't a Legilimens. Even so, there was a suspicious twinkle in his eye that made me think he suspected things might not have gone completely according to plan. After all, he knew Fletcher better than I did. He was the one who suggested using him.
"Right, Mr Williamson, er, can I be orf then ..." asked Fletcher, shifting from one foot to the other.
I let him stew for a few seconds before nodding. "Yes, you can, I suppose. Fair's fair, you did what you said and got us in and out again, that was the deal. Off you go. I imagine we'll see you back with us before too long anyway."
"You wound me, Willie," he said in an injured tone.
"Don't call me Willie! Go on, sod off before we change our minds."
He made his way hastily to the exit, then stopped in the doorway and asked, slightly too casually, "What did You-Know-Who want to put a fake one there for anyway?"
"I don't know, and I wouldn't tell you if I did! Leave us, Fletcher!" Luckily, he did. Someone immediately cast a Air-Freshening Charm to get rid of the smell
I went into the kitchen to get a drink. My throat was a bit dry after all that excitement, for some reason. Shacklebolt followed me, chuckling loudly, and patted me on the back as I filled a cup from the tap. "Nice work putting it back where it belonged, Ben. That'll keep things in order."
"Thanks, sir." I drained the cup and tossed it into the sink. Someone else could clean up later, I was getting too tired to even lift a wand. "That was a good question Fletcher asked though. What did He Who Must Not Be Na -- oh all right, Voldemort -- want with the damned thing?"
Shacklebolt shrugged. "Beats me. They didn't tell me either. But the rumour I heard was that he was planning to put a bit of his soul into it or something -- if he ever had one -- so when their Queen wore the hat he could take her over and have control of the Muggle government. Good job he never got round to it."
"Too bloody right!" I shuddered. Particularly at the thought that I'd been carrying the thing around in my backpack. "I thought she didn't usually wear the headgear, though? And isn't your bloke in Dunning Street the one who actually runs things?"
"Er ... yes." Shacklebolt looked embarrassed for a moment, as if he really should have known that after working with their government for so long. "Oh well, I'm just an Auror, not someone from Muggle Relations. Anyway, Ben, go and get some rest. See you tomorrow afternoon. You can write your report then -- or at least, the official version." He winked. Clever sod.
I went outside to Apparate. Fletcher was there, puffing away on that pipe of his with a contemplative look on his face. He started when he saw me and the look changed to something a lot shiftier. "Oh, 'ello, Mr Williamson. Nice night, innit?"
"Hello, Fletcher. Oh, by the way ..."
I grinned in the most annoying way I could possibly manage. "Remember that dagger you nicked from the case while I was working on the guard?" His face fell. "Don't go looking for it in your pockets. I put it right back in the case before we left. You see, unlike you I am pretty good at switching spells."
"Er, Mr Williamson, it must 'ave just dropped into my pocket, don't know 'ow it 'appened ..."
I held up a hand to cut off his babbling. "No harm done. But don't do anything like that again or we'll have you banged up faster than you can say Autowingardium leviosa!"
I couldn't help laughing out loud at his crestfallen expression as I Apparated home. It had been a good night's work, and hey -- even Fletcher deserved one for free.
Honour amongst thieves and all that.
Notes: Auror Williamson appears a couple of times in OotP, if you were wondering. He's the one with the scarlet robes and the ponytail. The kitchen sink was thrown in at the special request of lareinenoire. :)