“Of course, the [question] I get asked the most relates to that one designation on the bottom of the [Field Performance Report] brevium: neutral, influenced. The key word there is 'influenced', and during the initial stages of OAR (Observation and Reporting) it tends to come up a lot. What is 'influenced'? How do you define that on the ground? Even field agents still have questions about it, even Primarius. How and where do we draw that line?
The simplest definition of 'influenced' falls along the lines of the obvious, we're talking about mind control now, total loss of freewill. It's once we move into the less apparent that things start to become murky. What about blackmail? What about conscription? Now we're going to have difficulty. That kind of decision becomes too detailed, too situational. Those people are inevitably going to be lumped under 'hostile'. If they're shooting at you, it's kind of hard to think of them as being anything else, right? Many of you have been in that position.
But the most insidious definition, the one that raises the most uncomfortable questions is, I think, the victims of misdirection. The victims of lies. Not everyone who hinders is aware that they're doing it. People can be taken advantage of in truly awful ways, and that's just the worst situation to find yourself in.”
Major Ezekiel Philipps, Praesaedius Training Corps Keynote speech at ICDCą DCCCXCVI
1. Imperiarchy Communis Disciplina Congressus
Kylie's parents had been taken from her. The thing was, if she hadn't received the note informing her of this fact, she probably wouldn't have known.
The manor was large, silent and empty, but it was always large, silent and empty. The pristine halls were as quiet and cold as a tomb, the neatly buffed floors and elegant archways lacking any sound save for the hushed flutter of the lamps. Kylie had spent her whole life avoiding those halls with their stone-tiled floors. She traversed the carpet where she could, tiptoed where she couldn't. Sound could only bring attention to what an ungainly beast she was (or so mother said).
She knew that her parents were not at home and apparently were not coming back, but some habits couldn't be broken. She could no more speak out loud or run freely than she could when Mother and Father were there to note her every misstep and enumerate her failings. So she hid in her room and glanced furtively out the rain-slicked window, trying to ignore her frantic heartbeat and hold on to the faintest hope that help might come.
The note had been pinned to her door when she had opened it in the morning, ready to sneak across the hall to the loo like she did every day. She purposefully woke up early since her father would descend the nearby staircase on his way to breakfast, and she couldn't look unkempt if he were to spot her. But that day instead of a scolding for tousled hair she received a letter explaining that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had taken her parents and she need not look for them (as if she would know where to start).
She was positive there were still Death Eaters around the garden. She had seen shapes moving near the front walk at night. She wanted to take a closer look but had ended up cowering beneath her sheets instead, trying to summon up the bitter disappointment in herself she should have been feeling, since Mother and Father weren't there to berate her. What kind of Gryffindor was she?
The afraid kind, obviously. She had stuffed her house scarf in the bottom of her bag, terrified that her parents would find it. She didn't have to lie about which house she had been Sorted into, she just had to hide — no one talked to her if they could help it. If she kept quiet (which she always did) then her parents would assume… well, they would never assume the best, but they might not assume the worst.
A proper Timous belonged in Slytherin; her ancestry proved that well enough. And though the Timous family had been marginalised and ignored for the better part of a century, they were still from the same, pure-blooded stock. Kylie was supposed to be making connections in Slytherin, reminding them that the House of Timous may have been forgotten but was not gone. Instead she was making friends (real friends!) in Gryffindor.
If her parents found out, Kylie wasn't sure what would happen. She was already unworthy; she barely existed in the margins. She had a feeling that she couldn't be a Timous and be a Gryffindor. She knew which one she'd choose if she had to.
She dropped the quill she'd been using at her desk and drew her knees up, hugging them to her chest. She breathed hard, fighting down the panic that scraped at the edges of her heart, squeezing it tight. Such thoughts were dangerous and difficult. It had been hard enough just to write to Harry Potter and ask for help.
She knew he probably wouldn't come. And even if he did, what would he do? Everyone was running from the Dark Lord, terrified and overpowered. She had been taught to take comfort in that, to know that she was on the winning team. But she didn't feel like she was. And if the Dark Lord was on her side, why had he taken her parents?
It was what she understood the least. Her mother and father had been ignored by the pure-blood elite just as she was ignored by them. Nobody remembered the Timous family, nobody asked for their presence. Their fortune was modest by the standards of the upper class; they were not disgraced, but they were not important. Maybe they were of some other use? Maybe… a sacrifice?
Kylie shuddered again, planting her forehead against her knee. If he had needed a sacrifice, why not take her?
Was she so unworthy that she was useless even in death?
Not that she wanted to be killed (though that hadn't always been true). Going to Hogwarts was the greatest change her life had ever seen, an entire new world opened to her; and then the Headmaster had been murdered as her new home was attacked by the people she was supposed to consider allies. Even if she could go back, it wouldn't be the same. Maybe it didn't matter. Everyone had probably forgotten about her, by now.
She picked up the quill again, trying to summon the willpower to finish her letter to Trevor. Even if he didn't reply, at least she had tried. That would be a personal victory. Harry Potter and Scott had never responded, though, and it hurt. She shouldn't let it. She should be used to being ignored, and with no real experience at making friends how could she expect to be any good at it? Their affection had probably been nothing but pity.
Even so, it was still the best thing in her life. She would always have those moments.
The parchment stared up at her, half blank and waiting for the words. She pressed the quill to it and tried to be honest. It didn't come easily. She had been taught to keep herself tightly bound.
This last year, those knots had started to fray.
The night was wet and dark. Rain drops fell from the sodden skies and ran down the tree trunks, hanging off the leaves and dripping onto rocks and mud. Harry shifted in the wet grass, trying to ignore the way it was soaking his trousers. This was the first real strike of the war he had found himself at the centre of. He needed to focus on the task at hand, not how bloody uncomfortable he was.
Besides, it seemed like the sort of thing he should become accustomed to. The enemy wouldn't wait on the weather. The rest of his piecemeal hunting party were all wearing similar expressions of discomfort, save for Scott; he was prone on his stomach, disregarding the mud puddle he was laying in.
No time like the present, Harry thought. Bracing himself, he shuffled forward a few feet on his knees and then fell next to Scott. He instantly regrett