EIGHT WAYS TO SUNDAY
Harry steadied his thoughts. He determined to plan his next steps in an orderly fashion. "First the meal," thought Harry, a bit chagrined. "I do need to keep my strength up." He waited for his chance to surreptitiously summon the meal through the barrier. Even though his body was screaming for him to attack the meal, he set about eating purposely and slowly. He savored each bite and when he finished, he felt a bit of pride in this small success on his way to self-mastery.
Having finished his lunch, Harry levitated his empty dishes and tray through the barrier and back to the desk. "While I'm at it, why not save Dobby a few steps?" thought Harry as he magically gathered up the remaining dishes and trays and set them on the desk for Dobby.
Although the prospect chilled him, Harry had an inkling of the direction he needed to go. "First," he thought, "I need to put order to my thoughts and verify my initial impression." Settling himself at the desk, he intoned "Gemynd" and focused on everything he could remember about advice concerning the ever-looming confrontation with Voldemort. It took almost two hours to put the many memories in order, but when he emerged from the spell he knew he had some difficult tasks ahead. He knew he had limited resources, and additionally, his body was telling him he was hungry again. "How did Hermione put up with using a Time-Turner? If it wasn't absolutely necessary I would just chuck this thing." thought Harry.
Dobby entered just as Harry had put the finishing touches on his plans. "First I have to eat," thought Harry, "then off in every direction." He watched until "he" had settled to read the book on duplicates, and knowing "he" would be coming through the door in scant seconds, he performed a summoning charm and quietly retrieved the tray of food. He had just gotten the tray through the barrier when "he" peeked around the doorframe and entered the office. Harry ate the meal purposely, enjoying every bite. He watched as "he" and Dumbledore talked and then "he" left. In the intervening few seconds between "his" departure and "his" finishing the book on duplicates, Harry quickly replaced the now empty dishes on the alcove landing. He then used magic to open the left hand drawer of Dumbledore's desk and summoned all of the items it contained to the upper alcove. He had barely completed the transfer when "he" ended the "Wallacearia Condensata" spell.
The rest and the food had put Harry in a fine fettle, and he was determined to follow the course he had planned....
During his mind-ordering, Harry had recalled the conversation between Dumbledore and Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, just after Voldemort had regained a physical body. Dumbledore had outlined several things to be done immediately, one of which was to send an embassy to the giants. Though Fudge had refused all of Dumbledore's entreaties, Harry could see that Hagrid's failed mission to the giants had one potentially positive outcome. As much as it made Harry shudder at what was ahead, Grawp could be an answer to the giant problem facing the Ministry and the muggles. Hermione had said she thought Grawp looked larger; Hagrid had said that Grawp was "loads better" behaved. "What if I could give the situation a little nudge, as well as live up to the promise I made Hagrid to teach Grawp?" thought Harry. "I'd need to go back to a time after Grawp moved from the forest to the mountains. I can follow Hagrid and spend some time with Grawp (Harry blanched at the thought.) Maybe I can turn him into an asset in this battle. Now how do I get out of here undetected?"
Method and plans flitted through Harry's mind. "I'll just use the Time-Turner from here. Simply go back to an earlier time when the office was empty, leave from here and find Grawp." That part of the plan made teaching Grawp seem easy... "Well, no, not really," decided Harry. "The question is "when" to go back to the office. According to Hagrid, Dumbledore provided Grawp a mountain home before the beginning of the school year. Hagrid had been late for the start of the year feast; a couple of days before that seems as good a place to start as any," thought Harry.
He pulled an astronomy text from his mind's-eye library, did some mental calculations, and then adjusted the Time-Turner to the morning he had chosen. He deliberately chose breakfast time as Dumbledore usually took his breakfast in the Great Hall. "If Dumbledore was out on one of his jaunts away from the school, this office stands a reasonable chance of being empty," determined Harry. Nevertheless, Harry extracted Greyback's invisibility cloak from among the items retrieved from the desk drawer and swirled it over his head. "Less chance of awkward questions or confrontations," thought Harry. He stuffed the remainder of the items in his haversack, adjusted the Time-Turner and set it in motion.
As his view of the office ceased to flicker and swirl, Harry found himself on the upper alcove of Dumbledore's office in streaming sunlight. He surveyed the office and thankfully found himself alone. He walked quietly to the door and silently let himself from the office.
He decided to keep the invisibility cloak in place and head for Hagrid's cabin. He stepped off the spiral stair at the lower landing and confidently said, "Novus Ordo" but the wall didn't move. He tried two more times before he realized that this was a pre- McGonagall wall and gargoyle. Searching his memory for the earlier password and praying that it had not been different before the school year began, Harry presented the password to the wall and was relieved to see it slide sideways as the gargoyle jumped out of the way. He stepped through the opening and headed through the castle. Dodging the few teachers he met in the corridors, he went out the huge oak front doors and made his way across the empty school grounds toward Hagrid's cabin. As he approached the cabin he slowed and proceeded cautiously. He didn't want to chance the fuss Hagrid's enormous black boarhound, Fang, would make if he were about, invisibility cloak or no. As he examined the hut from a safe distance, he couldn't help but imagine the damage that would eventually be done by a Death Eater's fire charm. Harry regained his focus on "when" he was. He could see a plume of smoke issuing lazily from the chimney. "Well that's a fair sign that Hagrid hasn't left yet. I just hope he leaves Fang home. That's one complication I can do without," thought Harry.
Harry wasn't sure how long he would have to wait for Hagrid to appear, so he decided to try some of the magic he had recently learned. He chose a post set in the ground next to the path that led to the cabin. He remembered the chapter in Flamel's book on dissociate magic clearly, as it had interested him so. He focused his mind on the post and the incantation. Suddenly it was as if he could see and hear conflicting signals.
He remembered the Dursley's setting him in front of a bank of television sets at a large store in London while they went shopping with Dudley. He heard Uncle Vernon's admonition, "Now don't you move from this spot even if there is a fire." He recalled that the screens were each tuned to a different program. It had been tempting to try to keep track of what was happening on each screen, but that task proved impossible. He remembered finally deciding to focus on one program and just occasionally flick his attention to the other screens. He had even gotten fairly good at it by the time his aunt and uncle returned with Dudley.
This sensation was similar, Harry found he could focus on what was directly in front of him and still keep the dissociate senses in tune.
Confident he would be able to tell when Hagrid left his cabin, Harry decided to explore a short way into the forest. He recognized the danger but reasoned that as long as he didn't venture too far in, and remained invisible he was fairly safe.
Harry walked carefully into the edge of the forest, cautiously examining everything around him. He had only gone a few paces into the trees when a chittering from above his head almost made his heart stop. He looked up and saw a Bowtruckle bearing its teeth and flexing its sharp little fingers. Apparently this was a wand-wood tree. As Harry looked up at the Bowtruckle, he was amazed to see a branch as smooth and straight as a broom handle. He took a step to his right and the change in perspective showed him it was a broom handle! Indeed it was an entire broom! Harry pointed his wand at the broom and said "Accio broom." The broom vibrated and the tree shook but the broom wouldn't come out of the tree. Either it was stuck fast or the wand-wood tree was affecting the spell. He decided that he either had to write the broom off as a bad job or climb the tree to disentangle it. He wasn't thrilled about climbing a tree containing a Bowtruckle without a food gift. "Am I daft? Am I a wizard or not?" thought Harry. He harked back to McGonagall's transfiguration class and her Conjurus Animatus lessons. He compared those lessons with a page from a book he had read only hours ago. He aimed his wand and focused his mind. Almost instantly there was a small pile of what appeared to be wriggling brown rice at his feet. Pleased with the result, but wishing he had included a container in his conjuring, Harry picked up a handful of the woodlice and offered it to the now-interested Bowtruckle. The stick-like creature made its way quickly down from the tree and immediately began to eat the woodlice, spearing one at a time on the end of its sharp pointer finger. Assured that the guardian would be engaged for a few minutes, Harry climbed the tree to the broom. The broom was lodged tight, the tree branches almost formed to the smooth handle. Harry had to flex and pull the branches that held the broom fast; but he finally managed to prise it free. He quickly made his way to the ground, not wanting to spend any more time than necessary in the Bowtruckle's tree.
When he felt he was a safe distance away, he carefully examined the broom. It was undoubtedly a school broom. Harry searched his memory. He recalled his first instruction session on flying a broom. He "saw" Neville's accident and the broom sailing off toward the forest. "This might be that very same broom," he thought. It looked weather worn and one side was severely sun faded. Tentatively, he mounted the broom, it shook slightly but rose off the ground. He leaned forward and the broom moved slowly at first as if it was trying to remember what it was about. Staying close to the ground in case the broom forgot how to fly, he slowly circled some of the larger trees. Harry could tell immediately that the broom had a strong, albeit manageable, list to the right, but it seemed to be flying better with each circuit.
Suddenly he was jarred from his flight-testing by his dissociate senses. He could see Hagrid leave his cabin; he could hear him tell Fang to stay in the cabin. "One less problem," he thought gratefully. "But I don't want to run the slightest risk of Hagrid seeing me." The disillusionment charm seemed an ideal addition to the invisibility cloak in this situation. Thinking back to his trip with Madam Maxime and Hagrid to visit secret dragons, Harry considered, "I remember running to keep up with Hagrid and that wasn't in the forest. Since I've got a broom, why not fly?" It seemed a good idea, so he disillusioned the broom also. Immediately he realized why brooms weren't usually charmed to be invisible. If he hadn't had his hand on the handle, he couldn't have found the broom without groping around on the ground. Harry considered the dilemma, knowing that Hagrid would be headed somewhere shortly. "Just watch out for any antics from the broom and be careful not to get knocked off," he inwardly admonished himself.
Harry handled the broom around and headed toward Hagrid's cabin just as Hagrid came striding into the forest. The look on Hagrid's face was one of decided purpose. Harry turned the broom and followed Hagrid. It only took a couple of minutes for Harry to realize that if he hadn't had the broom, he couldn't have kept up with the half-giant's pace. Without anyone to slow him down, Hagrid covered ground very quickly. He pushed through bushes and bent trees out of his way that would have required Harry much backtracking to get around. Hagrid, Harry noticed thankfully, was taking a path that led away from Aragog's lair and into a part of the forest that he had never seen. In short order the trees began to thin and Harry breathed a little easier. Dodging the trees on the broom had been an exhilarating exercise but it was much easier to follow Hagrid without the intervening obstacles.
Harry flew a short distance behind as Hagrid cleared the forest edge. Hagrid's pace never slowed as he began to scrabble up a sloping mountainside that edged the forest. Harry was so intent on controlling the errant broom that he wasn't watching Hagrid's progress up the mountain. When he turned his attention back to Hagrid, his heart almost froze in his chest. Hagrid had just placed his huge hands on a ledge above his head and had begun to pulling his immense bulk upward, when a mountain troll roughly the size of a bus, grabbed Hagrid by his wrists and hauled him onto the ledge. Before Harry could react, the troll swung Hagrid by his wrists into a sheer rock face. The impact sent a shower of rocks and pebbles cascading down the mountain. Harry knew that Hagrid was dead. Even the half giant's immense size and strength couldn't have survived such an impact. As Harry urged the aged broom toward where his fallen friend lay, he was astonished to see Hagrid stir, and with amazing quickness, jump to his feet. Hagrid loosed a terrific yell and ran at the troll. The two combatants clapped hands on the first part of their opponent they could reach. Hagrid grabbed the troll by wrist and waist, and dropping to one knee, pulled hard. Hagrid's leverage and the troll's momentum knocked the trolls' horny feet from under him as he went over Hagrid's knee. As the troll fell, Hagrid twisted his upper body and threw the troll into the same rock face he had just gathered himself from. The impact was tremendous. Once again rocks rumbled down the mountainside. The troll stirred much more slowly than had Hagrid. Hagrid walked fearlessly to where the huge troll lay panting in the detritus. Harry was sure he was going to see Hagrid finish off the troll and he couldn't bear to watch, but as he made to turn from the scene, he was amazed again to see Hagrid extend a huge hand to the fallen troll and pull him from the rubble. Harry was even more astonished to see Hagrid dust off the troll and embrace him as one would a friend or brother.
Harry flew behind a large boulder where he could see and hear what was going on between the troll and Hagrid. They were speaking in an odd language full of grunts and gutturals. As Harry listened and concentrated, he found he could understand enough to follow the thread of the conversation. The troll's name was T'ull, at least that was as close as he could make out of what Hagrid said. Apparently the two were long-time friends and Hagrid had expected to "bump" (it was Hagrid's word) into T'ull on his way up the mountain. Hagrid slipped off his haversack and produced a fresh rabbit from one of its many pockets. He offered the rabbit to T'ull, who ate it immediately, fur and all. The two smiled, traded slaps on the back that Harry was sure would have concussed a normal person, uttered a word of parting and continued on their separate ways.
Marveling at the scene he had just witnessed, Harry flew a slow, silent guard over the half-giant. Harry was immensely grateful for the broom. Climbing the mountain, even if invisible, would have been impossible without causing rock falls, and he definitely didn't want a run-in with any mountain trolls. Hagrid scaled the remainder of the mountain quickly. He looked to Harry like a bit of mottled boulder moving up the mountain. As Hagrid reached the plateau that formed the top of the mountain, he set off at, what for him, was a quick jog. Harry saw that he couldn't have kept up at a flat out run. The trail dropped into a hidden verdant bowl between two looming peaks. A crystal lake lay nestled gleaming in the morning sunlight at the bottom of the bowl.
Hagrid's pace slowed and Harry resumed his cautious observation. Hagrid stopped, cupped his huge hands to his mouth, and yelled, "Grawpy, I'm here!" The call rolled in echoes like thunder against the surrounding mountains.
At Hagrid's yell, Grawp's head popped up above a line of fifteen-foot tall fir trees. Then Grawp stood and straightened up completely. The treetops came only to the middle of his chest.
"He's huge!" was all Harry could think. It had been quite some time since he had seen the giant stand, and Hagrid's brother or no, this was the biggest thing Harry had ever contemplated risking his life on.
"Haggered back!" growled the giant, a smile splitting his lopsided face. "Grr,opp gardn kare,otts!"
Harry gasped at the giant's enthusiastic greeting. He understood the giant's name! "Grr,opp" meant a burden to be left behind when moving campsites. The rest of the giant's words, however, made no sense at all to Harry. He watched enthralled as Hagrid (who now only came up to just below his little brother's belt) and Grawp embraced. The giant did seem more refined, as he tempered his strength during the hug, and did not inadvertently injure Hagrid.
"Haggered c kare,otts!' said Grawp animatedly. He grabbed Hagrid by the arm, and forgetting his strength momentarily, lifted him entirely off the ground.
If the proportions hadn't been so huge, and the chance of injury so great, Harry would have laughed. It looked much like a child enthusiastically taking a rag doll by the arm to a tea party.
Hagrid flailed a bit and then went resignedly quiet as his little brother carried him around the end of the trees that had concealed him upon their arrival.
As Harry flew over the trees he had to stifle a gasp, he was amazed to see a garden laid out in neat rows. Hundreds of rows. Acres of garden. "Hagrid is teaching Grawp to be a farmer!" thought Harry, "And Grawp seems to be enjoying it."
Indeed, Grawp had set Hagrid to the ground and was leading him excitedly from row to row to show him the garden's progress. The vegetables were enormous. The squash and pumpkins rivaled anything Hagrid had ever raised near his cabin at Hogwarts. There were three foot long runner beans, corn twelve feet high, tomatoes the size of soccer balls and a basket full of shelled peas that looked like green cricket balls. Harry saw that the kare,otts that Grawp had gone on about were indeed carrots. Their fern-like tops made almost impassable hedgerows. Grawp lowered Hagrid to the ground at the nearest carrot row and pulled hard on a leafy top. The ground strained as if trying to prevent the giant from gaining his prize. Soon though the earth cracked and then crumbled. When the dust cleared, Grawp was holding a carrot almost four feet long and the girth of an average man.
Grawp ambled to the lake, washed off the huge carrot, snapped it cleanly in two, and offered the lower part to Hagrid. He then plopped to the ground next to Hagrid. The giant's immense bulk hitting the ground caused the earth to shake and rivulets of rock to cascade down nearby slopes. As the two brothers noisily ate their vegetable repast, Harry silently reconnoitered the hidden valley on the broom. Just beyond the enormous garden was a high-fenced enclosure containing a flock of well-tended mountain goats. A small clear stream meandered through one end of the enclosure providing water for the herd. Harry had been so enthralled with the goats, that he hadn't noticed Grawp and Hagrid making their way through the row upon row of garden. Harry flew around a tree and had to execute a steep climb to keep from crashing headlong into the giant. As he regained his composure after the near collision, he saw that Grawp and Hagrid were leaning on the fence, feeding the greens and the remaining bits of carrot to the goats. The goats gathered unconcernedly for the feeding.
Harry couldn't help but feel the goat's life of ease came to them at a significant capital cost.
Harry watched the remainder of the day as Hagrid and Grawp cultivated the garden, fed the goats, made improvements to Grawp's cave, and amazingly played catch with large boulders. As sundown approached, it became apparent that Hagrid intended to stay the night. "I'd better make some arrangements for a safe place for myself if I'm going to be staying for a while." considered Harry. He flew around the mountain and was rewarded with the discovery of a small cave on a sheer rock face. The opening would only be accessible by broom, bird or thestral. Situated under a rock outcropping, the cave was moderately protected from the weather and almost completely invisible from the ground. Inside, it was about the size of the dormitory room Harry shared with his fellow sixth year Gryffindors. One of Harry's first actions was to clear the rubble from a natural rock shelf just inside the cave entrance. He placed the disillusioned broom on the shelf and determined that the shelf would be the consistent location for the broom when he wasn't flying. "I don't want to lose my only way in and out of this cave," thought Harry.
Harry had just drawn his wand to make the cave more comfortable when a sick realization jolted its way through his system. "I'm off Hogwarts grounds. I'm still an underage wizard. I can't do magic without alerting the Ministry to my location...just what I don't want! How thick can I get? What do I now? If I don't use magic it will be almost impossible to work with Grawp. How could I have been such a clunk!"
Considering his situation, Harry went to the cave opening and fished Dumbledore's glasses out of his robe pocket. He traded glasses and surveyed the little valley. His heart sank as he realized the he couldn't see the faintest trace of magic.
"I was sure that Hagrid "encouraged" the garden with his umbrella but that's apparently not the case. The stream and lake appear to be natural as well," thought Harry. "Dumbledore really did "find" Grawp a new home, contrary to my assumption that the whole setting had been magically contrived."
Looking down, he could see Hagrid and Grawp making preparations for an evening fire, whether for cooking or warmth, Harry could not tell. As the thought of a cooking fire crossed his mind, Harry recognized his hunger. It had been hours since he had eaten and he felt shaky and drawn. He went to the rock shelf and picked up the broom. "Have I already compromised my position by using this?" Harry thought, disgusted with himself. He took time to consider the possibility of Ministry officials arriving and asking questions that would be very difficult to answer. Harry recalled the summer between his first and second year at Hogwarts when Ron and his twin brothers had come to rescue him from the Dursleys. The Ministry had sent him a warning about the underage use of magic, when actually the magic had been performed by Dobby the house elf. "If the Ministry was watching me then, and I'm sure they were, and they didn't register the magic of a flying car, they surely wouldn't notice a single broom." The logic gave Harry small comfort. "I'll have to put my wand away and act the muggle until I'm satisfied with Grawp's progress. I can always take a quick trip back to Hogwarts for small magic needs."
Moderately mollified, Harry mounted the broom and took a second flight around the valley. He saw pear, apple, cherry, and plum trees that he had missed on his first perusal. He picked fruit from each, and with the addition of one sweet pea, he made his way back to the cave. Upon entering the cave he replaced the broom and set to the food. He couldn't finish all he had gathered and was soon satisfied. Recognizing the need for refrigeration and basic sanitary facilities to keep his health, Harry started to mentally compile a list of necessaries. Exhausted, he made his way to the back of the cave and, picking a "soft" patch of rock, he lay down and fell immediately to sleep.
Harry awoke to the sound of birds and the sting of bright sunlight streaming into the cave. He was supremely aware of his need for a bath and a bathroom. He appreciated much more fully the many bathrooms in Hogwarts castle. Many of the small day-to-day things he had taken for granted now seemed almost insurmountable. Looming on his horizon, Harry saw a multitude of lessons in learning to take care of himself.
As he ate the remainder of the fruit he had picked the previous evening, Harry determined that to give his plan any chance of success, he had to have some basic supplies. Accordingly, as soon as he finished his meal (it was very satisfying), he retrieved the broom and quickly headed back to Hogwarts grounds. Even though Harry's flight through the forest was quick and purpose specific, he kept alert to the many dangers he knew existed in the dark tangle of trees and bracken. He wasn't sure if centaurs could see past disillusionment charms. Thinking on it, Harry considered, "I've never really seen extensive magical power evidenced by the centaurs. Likewise the giant spiders, other than the fact they can talk, they don't seem a magical threat, but better safe than sorry. Sharp eyes and ears might prevent potential confrontations."
At the arrested pace of the ancient broom the trip took fifteen minutes. Harry flew to the garden behind Hagrid's cabin and landed quietly. He had been formulating in his mind what types of supplies he was going to need to teach Grawp, live day-to-day, and just plain survive.
Harry carefully placed his broom on one of the long tables Hagrid used in his Care of Magical Creatures class. He had grown very fond of the ragged broom, already recognizing it as his connection to the outside world. Shielded by Hagrid's cabin from line-of-sight view to the castle, he set about his work. He had to consider what magic to do here and the effect it would have when he got back to Grawp's mountain redoubt. He first conjured the teaching supplies, taking into consideration that a giant would be handling them. Next, came camping supplies; lanterns, loads of matches and candles, sleeping cot and bedding, cooking and eating utensils, rope, a hammer, nails, and saw, and several huge tarps. Lastly came personal supplies; extra clothing, a toothbrush and other toilet supplies, a sheaf of parchment, quills and several bottles of ink. Harry then set about nesting all the supplies into stacks and bunches. He was tempted to shrink items to make them easier to carry, but he realized he couldn't return them to full size in Grawp's valley without magic; and he didn't think that a bunch of doll-size supplies would do him much good. When everything was stacked and organized, he enlarged Greyback's invisibility cloak to match the size of the tarps, placed it on the ground and overlaid it with the other tarps. Then he stacked all the supplies in the centre of the tarps and drew the four corners together with the rope. The bundle was huge! Harry wasn't sure the tiny broom could lift the load. "No time like now to find out," said Harry aloud. He ended the disillusionment charm on himself, swirled his father's invisibility cloak over his head, retrieved the school broom and secured the bundle tightly to the handle with the rope. He crossed his fingers for luck as he pushed off the ground and tipped the broom handle toward the sky. The rope stretched and went taught, stopping the broom's upward progress. Harry urged the broom, and very slowly the bundle left the ground. He was able to achieve only about twenty feet of clearance between the broom and the ground. As he started to move forward, he found his maneuverability almost nil, but reasoned that if he proceeded slowly and carefully, he could manage the journey.
The going was very tedious. He had to carefully judge the openings and gaps in the trees and tangles of brush. At one point he had to hover motionless while two centaurs galloped just feet below the nearly invisible bundle. The trip took a tremendous toll on Harry's energy, and when he cleared the forest edge he almost cried at the sight of the looming mountain. Even though he didn't have to climb the mountain, the going was so arduously slow that his strength was nearly spent as he finally maneuvered the bulky bundle into the cave.
Harry's first impulse was to curl up in a corner of the cave and go to sleep, but Dumbledore's admonition to maintain strength through frequent meals drummed in his mind. Accordingly, he removed the rope from the broom handle and wearily headed out of the cave toward the immense garden. Deciding on the easiest course in his spent state, he made his way directly to the fruit trees and picked a quick armful of ripe fruit. On his way back to his cave, Harry saw Hagrid and Grawp at the side of the lake splashing great handfuls of water in their faces. Hagrid was teaching Grawp basic hygiene! Harry was amazed at the perseverance of his large friend.
Not stopping to watch the process, Harry made his way back to his cave, ate a quick meal and collapsed without unpacking so much as a blanket. When he awoke, the sun in the cave entrance told him it was late afternoon. He stretched and began to work the kinks out of knotted muscles. The food and rest had helped, but he still felt thin and drawn. He hadn't eaten all the fruit he had gathered, so he finished the remainder as he set about unpacking his supplies. Mentally, Harry divided the cave into areas roughly equivalent to rooms. He set up a bedroom with the cot and blankets, a kitchen with all the cooking gear, and an area to prepare the teaching materials he intended to use to instruct Grawp.
The housekeeping tasks took nearly the entire afternoon. When the cave was as comfortable as he could make it, Harry ventured to the cave entrance concealed by the invisibility cloak. He made a commitment to himself to never give away the location of his "home," even to Grawp. Looking out over the peaceful valley, Harry planned possible methods of initially introducing himself to Grawp, as well as his teaching process and what he intended to accomplish. He set benchmarks to measure Grawp's progress and established a drop-dead date for the completion of the lessons.
Feeling comfortable with his intent, Harry set out to explore the entirety of the cave. Recalling the Slytherin rule to always leave a way out, he paid special attention to locating a hiding place or a way out in case of emergency. He found the cave walls joined seamlessly to the floor with the exception of one place. A fissure large enough to admit a person was formed by a broken rock in the very back of the cave. Curious, Harry cautiously examined the opening. He could feel a breeze issuing gustily forth from the broken defile. "It must connect to an outside opening somewhere," reasoned Harry.
A resounding crash roused Harry from his explorations. Thinking he was under attack, Harry covered himself with the invisibility cloak, drew his wand and sprinted to the cave entrance. Peering cautiously from the opening, he was unprepared for the sight that met his eyes. Hagrid was bending a ten-foot sapling toward the ground. When the tree was bent to the point of being uprooted, Hagrid placed a boulder the size of a watermelon in the fork of the tree and released it. The rock sailed nearly a Quidditch pitch length and smashed into the mountainside with a huge crash. Hagrid smiled as Grawp roared with laughter. Grawp then selected a tree and repeated Hagrid's antic. Grawp's rock, though much larger than Hagrid's, sailed nearly twice the distance. Hagrid and Grawp dissolved in peals of laughter at the sight. Suddenly Harry realized this was a game of target practice. He watched as Hagrid pointed out a specific spot on the mountainside and then attempted to bend the tree the correct direction and amount to allow his granite projectile to hit the target. Harry watched as the two brothers took turns. Apparently this was a normal pastime for the two, as Harry could see a prepared pile of boulders next to the trees.
Assured about the cause of the tremendous crashes, and figuring the game could go on for some time, Harry resumed his explorations. He lit a candle with the intent of determining how far the crevice extended into the mountain, but as he approached the opening, the breeze extinguished the candle's flame. Rummaging through his supplies, he found the oil lamp he had brought. It was soon lit and glowing brightly. With the glass chimney in place, the flame sputtered a bit when brought into proximity with the crevice, but it did not go out. Carefully worming his way into the small crack, he found it difficult to keep the hot lamp upright and away from his skin. He had gone down a painstaking ten feet into the rough rock when the opening widened. What Harry saw when he was able to stand took his breath away. A shaft of afternoon light, that proved an outside entrance, illuminated a chamber almost as large as the one above. The walls sparkled and glittered with huge quartz crystals. The bright afternoon light was broken into a rainbow of dancing kaleidoscopic images. As Harry examined the beautiful crystals, he noticed a dark band of colour, roughly the size of a wardrobe, imbedded within. He located a place where the quartz had fractured and fallen away to reveal the cause of the block of colour. With a start Harry realized it was elemental gold! A huge amount! Harry prised a piece of gold the size of a grapefruit from the cave wall and carefully made his way back toward his cave "home." Harry skinnied his way back into his cave, holding tightly to his lamp and the heavy lump of metal. As exciting as the discovery was to him, the discovery of an additional way out of the cave seemed even more gratifying.
Scuffed and wearied, he sat on the edge of the sleeping cot and considered his next step. He knew he had to wait until Hagrid was gone before he would even dare to approach Grawp. The prospect of facing Hagrid's little brother alone filled him with deep trepidation. Shaking off the thought, he made his way to the edge of the cave opening and checked on the location of the two huge brothers. He found them clearing boulders and brush from the ground adjacent to the immense vegetable garden, apparently in preparation for further planting. The setting sun was casting a crimson hue on the western horizon when he saw Hagrid look up as if astonished at the time of day. Harry realized that Hagrid had dallied overly long with Grawp, and was going to be late in getting back to Hogsmeade to greet the Hogwarts Express. Indeed, Hagrid was going to have to hurry to make the beginning-of-year feast. Harry heard Hagrid bid a hasty farewell to Grawp, gather his things, and head back down the mountain. "Good luck Hagrid," Harry thought. "I wouldn't want to travel the forest in the deepening gloom. I know, at the very least, the centaurs consider the forest invioably theirs."
Each day being sufficient to its own challenges; Harry determined to eat, get some rest, and attack the prospect of teaching Grawp after a new sunrise. He placed the chunk of gold beneath his cot, ate a cold meal, and when he lay down, was instantly asleep.
Awaking refreshed but very hungry, he made and ate a cold breakfast. While brushing his teeth and combing his unruly hair, Harry considered his upcoming task. "The hardest part will be getting Grawp to listen to me without getting hurt. Hurt! Dead or dismembered more likely!" he thought ruefully. As he watched from the cave entrance, he could hear Grawp still snoring in a cave at the far end of the valley. "That makes it a bit easier," he thought as he began to gather the materials he had brought to teach the giant. "I'll need quick access to the boards and the pictures," he said to no one in particular. "I'll arrange the materials and then cover them with the invisibility cloak. That will give them a modicum of protection, and I will be able to keep a closer eye on Grawp if I'm not flying back and forth to the cave all the time." Accordingly, he set about silently moving all the primer materials from the cave to a sheltered rock outcropping at the base of the mountain. Knowing how fast the giant could move, he paid close attention to Grawp. "No nasty surprises on the first day of school," he mused. When everything was arranged to his satisfaction, he grabbed a quick snack and sat near the mouth of his cave home to await the giant's awakening. As he waited, he contemplated all the other things he wanted to accomplish before his return to the castle. His mental machinations were cut short by a rumble that filled the small valley. He thought that it might have been another rock slide but as he returned his attention fully to Grawp, he found the giant awake, stretching and growling a terrific yawn. He watched enthralled as the giant rubbed sleep from his mud coloured eyes and ambled to his feet. Once again he was impressed by the quickness such a huge person could exhibit. "Better not underestimate Grawp's abilities. I must maintain a considerable distance to remain safe," thought Harry. "Initially I'll have to let Grawp know that I'm here and then try to gain his trust. That may be a challenge considering that the last time I saw him was in the forest. Centaurs were shooting arrows at him. I hope he doesn't hold me responsible for that fiasco." Harry watched the giant go to the lakeside and perfunctorily dip his huge hands in the lake and splash water in his face. "Hagrid taught him that, and it appears that Grawp not only retains what he's taught, he continues to do the thing even without supervision. This may just work!" thought Harry, excitement rising in his mind. He watched as Grawp gathered and consumed an enormous breakfast, suddenly considering what he had seen as a huge garden as barely adequate for Grawp alone. "How do a bunch of giants live together and get enough food to survive?" questioned Harry in his mind. "Now I understand a bit of what it makes it so difficult for them to live together. Beyond their own personalities, they have to compete with each other for everything they need to survive. They are their own biggest rivals for resources!"
Grawp finished his breakfast and proceeded to take the leftovers to the penned goats. "No time like right now to get to know Grawp a little better," thought Harry with an attendant shudder. He wrapped in the invisibility cloak and mounted the disillusioned broom. He quickly flew to the goat's side of the enclosure. Grawp was hefting over an armload of greens when Harry swept off the invisibility cloak and said, in what he hoped was a winning, friendly voice, "Good morning Grawp."
The giant stopped in mid-motion and stared about. Finally catching sight of Harry inside the pen, a smile split the giant's lopsided face. He got down on his hands and knees so his face was only a few feet above Harry's head and exclaimed "Ha,ry," and then looking expectantly around, "Where Hermy?"
Harry was thunderstruck that the giant remembered him and that there was a mental connection between him and Hermione being together. "Ahh, Hermy isn't here. I have come to visit Grawp," said Harry, who had determined to keep his sentences short and to the point. He remembered Hagrid's assessment that if things got too complicated a giant would kill you just to keep things simple. Deciding now was the time to take the plunge, Harry looked up into the giant's now beaming face and asked, "Grawp would you show me your garden?"
Grawp's face brightened even more. "Grr,opp show Ha,ry kare otts!" Grawp then looked for a way to get Harry out of the goat pen. Harry swung his leg over the disillusioned broom and soared into the air. He made sure to stay out of the giant's reach in case Grawp decided to snatch him out of the air. He knew he must look odd, appearing to fly unsupported through the air. He flew directly to the long garden rows of carrots, with Grawp following closely behind. The speed of the broom barely out-pacing Grawp's long strides. As soon as Grawp arrived, he began animatedly showing Harry the immense garden. Harry watched and commented briefly on each of Grawp's presentations. At one point, among the huge boles of radishes, Harry reached down and pulled some weeds from among the garden plants.
Grawp went immediately still and thrust his huge face close to Harry. Harry felt an immediate flush of fear. "Have I done something to offend Grawp?" he wondered, inwardly trembling. Grawp poked a finger the size of a stile post at Harry and inquired, "Ha,ry help Grr,opp gar den?"
"Yes I would like that," said Harry
Grawp smiled and motioned to the row of runner beans. Harry stooped and removed weeds from between the vegetables that he knew would be difficult for the giant's huge fingers to negotiate. The morning passed quickly. Harry found, much to his surprise, he enjoyed the quiet time working in the dirt. The giant seemed to enjoy Harry's company and soon they were weeding and tending row after row of plants.
As he worked, Harry found his mind freed to muse on his quest to defeat Voldemort. The quest seemed so intense and time sensitive that this respite felt somehow like stealing away in the midst of a battle. "Now I know why Hagrid gardens, now I know why he likes to spend time with Grawp! It's like a vacation from the pressures of the world," concluded Harry. "It would be tempting to step away from the pressures of fighting Voldemort and escape to a quiet life like this with Ginny," said Harry to no one in particular.
At Harry's words, Grawp stopped working and looked at Harry. Smiling an unknowing smile, he questioned, "Ll,unch?"
"Yes, please," said Harry, suddenly aware of just how hungry and tired he felt.
Grawp busied himself collecting an assortment of plants and fruits. Taking his gatherings to the lakeside, he washed each item carefully and then spread them in the sun to dry. Grawp had chosen several items Harry had never encountered. Intrigued but cautious, Harry watched as Grawp lowered his great bulk to the valley floor and began to eat. Harry separated a few items that were among Grawp's offerings and even took several he had never seen. One, a perfectly round purple bulb, had brittle red and white striated leaves. Harry was about to take a bite of the bulb when he heard the giant laugh. Looking up he saw Grawp shaking his head. Harry watched closely as the giant broke the leaves off a similar bulb and then began to eat the leaves as he casually tossed the bulb in the pile intended for the goats. Imitating Grawp, Harry broke off a piece of the brittle leaf and placed it in his mouth. It tasted like bacon! Crispy bacon! The best bacon Harry had ever tasted! "I'll definitely have to have that plant in my garden," said Harry smiling up at Grawp. Grawp smiled back.
Harry recognized the restraint the giant was showing. Grawp had not tried to touch him; neither had he bumped, swatted or otherwise flattened him. "Thank heavens for Hagrid's determination," thought Harry. "Grawp?" Harry started tentatively, "I have something to show you."
Grawp looked expectantly at Harry. Apparently the giant knew what it meant to be shown something. Harry stood up and walked over to the mountain outcropping. From the ground, the rocks made a natural amphitheater. Harry went over to where he had concealed the teaching supplies and removed the invisibility cloak. "Please come here Grawp," said Harry, unsure of the giant's reaction. "Cho said I was a good teacher ages ago, now we'll see if that's true on a larger scale," thought Harry.
Grawp ambled over to where Harry stood. He seemed more than a little interested in the materials stashed in the rocks. Harry motioned to an immense book. The pages were the size and thickness of a piece of plyboard. Each page was emblazoned with a single letter of the alphabet and a large picture of an item whose name began with the letter. Harry looked up into Grawp's' mud coloured eyes and said, "Grawp this book is yours."
Grawp reached for the book, and in his excitement he knocked Harry reeling. As soon as the book was in his hands, he began turning pages, looking intently at each picture. Harry gathered himself up and motioned for the giant to sit down, which he did with a tremendous, jarring thud. As Grawp turned each page, Harry pointed out the picture and the associated letter. It took some time before Grawp made a connection between the picture and the letter, but once it was made, Grawp excitedly turned each page and encouraged Harry to give the name of each letter. Harry took Grawp's animated interest as a positive sign. Grawp seemed particularly excited by things he recognized; an apple, a butterfly, even the simple picture of a leaf. They spent the bulk of the afternoon on the alphabet book, and as the day drew toward evening, Harry made motions to put away the gargantuan book. Grawp seemed disinclined to agree until Harry made him understand that he would return the following day and they could continue.
Harry stowed and covered the book and waved a farewell to Grawp. He swirled his father's invisibility cloak around himself and mounted his disillusioned broom. Then it was off to the gardens to restock his pantry for supper and tomorrow's breakfast. As he flew toward his cave, his last glimpse of Grawp was as the giant cleaned up the leavings of their lunch and trudged off to feed the goats.
The following days seemed to blend together for Harry. The routine varied little; rise, eat, work in the garden with Grawp, eat, teach, eat, sleep. By the end of each day Harry was entirely spent. He didn't have the energy to do much of anything except eat and roll into bed. Upon review, Harry felt an odd satisfaction in his exhaustion. He felt as if he were accomplishing something with Grawp. He saw great improvement in Grawp's demeanor and found it easier each day to communicate with the giant. Indeed, Grawp seemed to anticipate the lessons and the opportunity for company. Chores and gardening were done quickly to allow the maximum time for "school."
Harry saw the need to impress upon Grawp an understanding of secrecy, that their lessons remain between just the two of them. He explained (and he hoped Grawp grasped the concept) that he could stay in the valley only as long as his presence was kept a secret.
That promise of secrecy was tested the following weekend as Harry was preparing to leave his cave to work the gardens alongside Grawp. As he readied his broom he was shaken to reality by Hagrid's booming voice announcing, "Grawpy I'm here. It's me, Hagrid." Harry watched in awe as Grawp's enormous head appeared above the sunflowers he was tending. Grawp sprang to his feet and sprinted toward Hagrid. When they collided, the giant swept Hagrid from his feet as easily as if he were made of feathers. Harry smiled inwardly as he saw how happy Grawp was to see Hagrid. The giant pulled Hagrid from one place to another, showing him things for which he had learned names. Hagrid seemed impressed but beyond that, he seemed to be happy to be with his little brother.
Harry considered what to do with the time he found he had while Hagrid was with Grawp. The first weekend he contented himself with watching the huge pair to be sure that Grawp didn't let slip their arrangement. To his relief, it seemed that Grawp was honoring their shared secret.
Hagrid spent the entire weekend with his brother, and indeed over the next several months he spent at least part of each weekend with Grawp. After carefully observing the first weekend, Harry's fears of Grawp informing Hagrid vanished. Harry became more and more cautious about leaving evidence he was in the valley after Dumbledore came to visit unannounced, in the middle of the week. It was only by luck and happenstance that Harry wasn't discovered. He had just gathered a huge bunch of cornstalks to feed to the goats when Dumbledore appeared on his Firebolt. Harry hid behind the cornstalks and scurried away down the garden row, completely obscured by the verdant vegetables.
He remained hidden and was thereafter much more cautious about being in the open. On Hagrid's weekends, Harry would sit in his cave and review his mental library, write some of his observations, explore the surrounding area, or just rest from the week's labors. Harry came to enjoy the weekends immensely. As he explored (always under the invisibility cloak) he found a mountain troll village, watched centaurs, discovered an enclave of werewolves in a secluded corner of the forest (he was enthralled by the ambling play of the werewolf cubs), he saw Hagrid visit Aragog and caught a glimpse of Asgoth guarding the entrance to his father's web. He watched unicorn herds, and even collected a large bundle of unicorn tail hairs from among the brambles. He visited hills and trails and streams. He saw fairies dance, leaving their curious circles behind as testimony of their care for nature. He spent time in the crystal room and considered removing more gold but couldn't justify the effort, as he had no practical use for the metal in Grawp's valley. He did, however, collect small delicate crystals and some fuzzy black magnetite rocks, thinking of giving them to Fred and George for their magic shop.
He continued to revel in the freedom of time, but often returned to his cave feeling guilty. He came to recognize that the guilt stemmed from his freedom and pleasure juxtaposed against his knowledge of the happenings in the outside world. He even felt guilty for not being with Ron, Hermione and Ginny; for not protecting them from what he knew they were facing. It was tempting to slip into daydreams where he ignored the pressing needs of the wizarding world, ignored Voldemort's goal of subjugation of the world, withdrawing from what he knew would ultimately be required of him. The daydreams were enhanced by the realization that, in this bucolic setting, his thoughts were rarely troubled by worries of Voldemort's doings. But in the end, Harry determined to stick to his plan. He taught Grawp to count, basic reading, tool construction and usage, hygiene and nutrition, a bit of science and mathematics, better verbal communication and manners, he even taught Grawp how to aim the rocks more accurately in the catapult game. Harry in turn, realized he was learning patience, caution, resourcefulness, an ability to solve problems without magic, and an appreciation of the life-struggles of other creatures. "A pretty good trade,'" Harry came to tell himself almost as a mantra.
Harry knew it was time to move on to his next goal the weekend Grawp had written Hagrid's name in the lakeshore mud. Hagrid had been pleased, and from his statements, it was apparent that Hagrid thought that Dumbledore had been teaching Grawp. Ironically, Dumbledore had complemented Grawp on how well he was learning what Hagrid was teaching him. "All well and good," thought Harry, "let them think the other responsible. It makes my task much the easier." Even though he knew it was time to leave, Harry worried about Grawp's reaction. They had become very close friends through the intervening months and he explained that although he wouldn't be around all the time, he would visit. He presented Grawp with all the teaching materials and said goodbye. Harry left Grawp with a heavier heart than he would have imagined possible just a few short months earlier. He returned to his cave, tidied up, secured the few things he was taking with him, and disappeared under the invisibility cloak. He gave a final glance at the cave he had come to regard as home, and reluctantly flew off toward the forbidden forest.
2. The Chamber of Secrets Revisited
He traveled quickly but cautiously, emerging from the forest a short time later. The weather had a decidedly cooler cast to it and he gathered his cloak closely. Fall was giving way to winter. "That's one more reason to leave the cave for my next goal. The cave was pleasantly cool during the summer but it would be freezing in the winter without magic," thought Harry.
He landed the broom at the edge of Hogwarts grounds, his senses alert to being discovered. He put on Dumbledore's glasses for the first time in months and surveyed the castle grounds. It was deeply reassuring to see the infusion of magic all around him. He felt like he had come home. Chancing a quick fly around the castle, he hugged the edge of the crenelated ramparts. He was just turning toward the lake when a concentration of magic drew his attention to a roof pitch far below. Curiosity raged. He cautiously reversed his path and flew to the location of the magic's emanation. As he drew near to the roof pitch he was astounded to see a wand wedged between the roofing tiles and the stone of the castle wall. Hovering on his broom he worked the wand free. He recognized it immediately; it was the elaborately carved and decorated wand that had belonged to Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry remembered Ron tossing the wand out the window during their confrontation with Lockhart in his office during their second year at Hogwarts. Pocketing the wand, with a mental note to test it later, he flew on.
Having given long consideration to what it was going to take to defeat Voldemort, Harry had determined he needed some time to become more familiar with Voldemort's abilities. He decided to go back to the beginning of the prior summer holiday, when Hogwarts would be practically empty, to give him some time to attack the Chamber of Secrets. His time in the Chamber had been short and filled with, well...distractions; but as he had ordered his thoughts, what seemed like years ago, he had noticed a common manifestation of Voldemort's magic. Just as the magic gone bad in the Room of Requirement and the failed hexes from his first dueling club practice had appeared moldy grey-green; he had come to conclude that Voldemort's magic carried a signature green aura . . . the dark mark, the potion protecting his Horcrux, Avada Kadavra, and a green glow Harry had noticed, but not explored in the Chamber of Secrets. Now was the time to investigate.
Harry landed at a secluded spot, not far from where he had waded out into the lake during the Triwizard Tournament. Exultant with the feeling of performing magic again after so many months of living the muggle, he pulled the Time-Turner from beneath his robes and set it back to the day after his fifth-year term had ended. As he set the hourglass in motion, he fought down the disorienting sense of time travel. When the feeling subsided, he was heartened to find himself looking out over the lake at sunrise. If this was going to work, he felt he would need all the sunlight available. He glanced about to assure that he had not been seen. It appeared he was alone on the grounds. He had anticipated entering the castle by the easiest route possible. Starting with the most obvious, he went directly to the castle's huge front doors. They were locked and resisted all his attempts to force opening. He flew around the castle looking for an open window. It appeared the house elves were very thorough, not a window was open and they too resisted his attempts to magically coerce them. Magical protection had indeed been increased since Hermione had opened a window with a basic Alohomora charm. He considered the many chimneys as an option, but most were too small or still had fires alight. He tried the ivy-hidden water passage under the castle that he and his fellow first year students had used as access to the castle's front door. He had always assumed that there might be an entrance under the castle, but if it existed, his extensive search did not reveal its opening. He tried Dumbledore's secret broom cupboard entrance but it would not respond without one of Dumbledore's brooms. With the sun high in the sky, Harry was beginning to feel a bit aggravated. He had wasted over four hours and had nothing except frustration to show for his labor.
He landed near the lake and retrieved a huge pear from his bag. He ate slowly and considered his options. As he looked out over the glassy lake a thought stirred in his mind, "Fleur and Cedric both used the bubble-head charm during the Triwizard tournament. Could I get into the castle through the lake?"
Harry reviewed the bubble head charm, "All I would have to do is tweak it a bit," he thought. He toyed and tinkered with the incantation designed to allow one to breathe under water. His goal became not only to be able to breathe, but to be able to fly and negotiate a broom underwater. It took the entire afternoon, several times he had to review books from his mind's eye library, but in the end he succeeded in extending the field to such an extent that he could fly his broom while encased in a gigantic bubble.
Harry flew to almost the centre of the lake before he leaned forward on his broom and plunged into the black water. He was grateful to see that the bubble remained intact, but he found that if he tried to go too fast, the water's slipstream stripped away a part of his protective enclosure. Through trial-and-error, he found his maximum safe speed, and made his way toward the murky lake bottom. He finally found the huge pipe that drained all of the castle's wastewater into the lake. Without a second thought, he plunged into the pipe and angled upward toward the castle. Harry estimated that he traveled almost a mile underwater before he reached the static level of the lake and broke free from a completely full pipe. The water that flowed down the pipe was barely a trickle; exactly as he had expected during summer holiday. Quite soon, he came to a large branch collection chamber that accepted water from the entire castle. He recognized the chamber as the one that connected to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. The one he, Ron, and Lockhart had slid down the night he faced the basilisk.
He dismounted his broom, removed the bubble body charm and started the trek toward the Chamber of Secrets. Shortly he came to the wall of rubble caused when Ron's wand backfired four years previous. As he attempted to negotiate the opening Ron had cleared away, he found he no longer fit. He had grown considerably during the intervening years and had to remove additional debris and rock to get through the detritus. He wormed his way through the hole and scrabbled down the other side, his glowing wand tip showed footprints on the dusty tunnel floor; his going in, his and Ginny's coming out.
"No one has been here since that night," thought Harry. "I always assumed that after the location of the entrance was revealed, someone would have come to investigate. But no, I suppose you couldn't get here this way unless you spoke Parseltongue."
Harry walked on, lost in thought. "If Dumbledore couldn't get here, as magically powerful as he was, how much magical power did Salazar Slytherin possess?" Harry had always equated Dumbledore's prowess with that of Hogwarts' founding four, now he was not so sure. "Hogwarts may hold more secrets, more power than I have considered," concluded Harry.
He pulled up short, having come to the Chamber of Secrets' outer seal. He reached into his robe pocket and replaced his glasses with Dumbledore's half moon spectacles. He looked into the stone snakes' green glittering eyes and without hesitation, he said, "Open" in Parseltongue. The snakes responded immediately and the entrance opened.
Harry noted the silver-white light that flowed as the wall slid apart revealing the opening to the Chamber. "That's different than Tom Riddle's signature magic," he thought, excited at the prospect of encountering some of Salazar Slytherin's magic. Harry stepped cautiously into the Chamber of Secrets. The room flared with magical emanations.
"Remarkable," he said out loud, "over a thousand years and Slytherin's magic is still potent." He stood immobilized, struck with awe at what he was seeing. His earlier sojourn had been so goal-purposed that he hadn't really looked around, but then neither had he possessed Dumbledore's glasses. The huge columns with their verd-antique carved serpents kept silent vigil over the solitary hall. The shadows at the very end of the Chamber remained impenetrable to Harry's wand light, but he knew what he would find there; a huge statue with monkey-like features and the remains of a basilisk. A greenish glow seemed to cast a weak miasma from high above the Chamber's floor. As Harry proceeded, he saw that ancient bronze cressets hung suspended from the inward-arching walls. He considered who had built the chamber and then the spell to light a fire. Translating wasn't a mental process... it just seemed to happen. As Harry sibilantly syllabized the incantation, the cressets burst into flame, filling the chamber with an eerie flickering light.
Harry extinguished his wand and made his way to the end of the chamber near the base of Slytherin's statue. The huge monolith was a mute witness to the things Harry could only imagine had occurred in this foreboding place. The basilisk, or what remained of it, lay in a crumbling heap on the floor at the feet of the statue. Once the ruler of the underground domain, once the predator of all that slinked, crept, or scurried here; the basilisk had been devoured by those that had once been its prey. The huge snake had been reduced to heaping mounds of scaly skin, bones picked clean of all flesh, and still impressive fangs. As Harry cast his eyes about, he could see where the ink from Tom Riddle's diary had stained the green marble tiles that made up the floor of the Chamber.
Harry looked up into the statue's face, and with a bit more belief than he would have considered possible, he lapsed into Parseltongue, "Salazar Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts' four, speak to me." The mouth of the statue began to open, as he knew it would. He prayed inwardly that the basilisk lying in ruin on the floor was the only one in the Chamber of Secrets. He watched as the mouth of the great stone statue opened wide and ground to a halt. An intense green light flooded the chamber from inside the statue's mouth.
It was much as Harry had expected but now that he was faced with the prospect of proceeding on his own, all he could think about was Dumbledore's blackened, dead-looking hand.
"If Voldemort's magic had been powerful enough to harm Dumbledore, what chance do I really have," thought Harry. Another thought raced through his mind, "the damage done to Dumbledore's hand while he attempted to obtain Voldemort's Horcrux in the guise of Morfin Gaunt's ring was magic set in place by Tom Riddle not long after he had completed his final year at Hogwarts. I'm facing magic performed by Tom Riddle at almost the same age, as well as Slytherin's potents. Caution is not only justified, it is absolutely necessary." His own admonition ringing in his mind, Harry mounted his broom and flew towards the statue, a wary eye out for magic traps. As he ventured higher, he could look directly into the statue's mouth. He could see that the green light issued from a table set in a hallway directly across from a huge hole in the hallway floor. Deciding on extreme caution, he looped and returned to the chamber floor.
"Right," Harry said aloud to the empty chamber, "what to do now? I can go back up there and blunder about, probably get myself messed up, or worse. I can give it up as a bad job. I could get help, or I could think this through a little more fully." Harry pondered his situation. "I'm surrounded by Salazar Slytherin's handiwork, added to by Tom Riddle's malevolent magic. I need to know more about their magic, their abilities, ways to break their spells." As Harry formed this thought, Professor Binns' comment about the study of reverse incantations came back to him. "...there are half a dozen texts in the school library. The foremost of them was written by Albus Dumbledore. It is entitled Forensic Magic."
"Upon consideration, I think now is the perfect time to study that particular aspect of magic." Harry's thoughts were accompanied by the absolute desire for secrecy.
"Well lad, let's get to it," Harry said to himself. "No need to lug this when I'll be back directly." With that, Harry took off the well-worn bag, removed two invisibility cloaks, the Marauders Map, and an apple. He turned on his heel and headed for the school library.
When he was confronted once again by the rockslide, he decided he didn't want to scramble through the small hole each time he traveled the tunnel. He stopped and shored up the loose rock with buttressing magic and enlarged the passage, making the opening large enough to fly through on the broom. The remainder of the trip back to the castle-proper was uneventful and when he flew from the pipe in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom he was mentally prepared for what his plan entailed. He stowed his disillusioned broom behind the bathroom door, checked the Marauders Map, covered himself with the two invisibility cloaks and headed for the library. The castle was still and silent in the evening gloom. The only encounters Harry had were with a clanking suit of armor and two silently gliding ghosts. He made his way to the back of the library, silently thankful that he had chosen the cloaks instead of disillusionment. Ghosts, he had discovered, could see through disillusionment. Making his way through the library, as he passed row upon row of shelves, inwardly admonishing caution, "Don't take safety for granted anywhere, even here at Hogwarts."
Harry began with the Invisibility section but couldn't see anything. He then proceeded to the Restricted section, assuming that if Dumbledore's book was as controversial as Professor Binns had made out, then it might be a restricted text. He scanned the shelves with only the tip of his wand projecting from beneath the cloaks. Title after title slipped in and out of the lit wand tip's light. He was seized with the urge to sit and read but his inward resolve fought down the desire for mental satisfaction. Going resolutely on, it was only a matter of a half hour until Harry's diligence paid off. On the top shelf in a back corner, he found Forensic Magic, a grey leather book with burnished bronze lettering. After hoisting the book from the shelf, he slid the surrounding volumes together to mask the absence of the missing book. Tucking it under his arm, he headed back to Moaning Myrtle's second floor bathroom.
The trip back to the Chamber of Secrets was quick and uneventful. When Harry was securely in the Chamber, he finally relaxed. Locked in, he knew that the odds were that only another Parselmouth could intrude on his solitude.
Even though he ached to read the newly acquired book, Harry set to make himself a meal. He had very few hot meals during his stay with Grawp, as the giant seemed to prefer all his meals uncooked; a habit Harry had not been able to alter.
Moving well away from the moldering remains of the basilisk to a protected corner formed by one of the huge stone serpents and the chamber wall, he produced a small table and chair. He then conjured mashed potatoes with gravy, rolls, ham steak, and iced pumpkin juice. The food appeared and immediately Harry tucked in. He was disappointed to find that even though the food looked good, it had no taste or texture. It was as bland as if it were pictures cut from a magazine. Harry ate a few bites and gave up, going back to the apple he had brought from Grawp's orchard. "I'll have to get some books on making meals by magic if I'm not to starve while I'm here," thought Harry. He ate the apple and vanished the leavings of the meal.
Setting Dumbledore's book on the table before him, Harry prepared to read. Owing to past experience, he surveyed the entire area for traces of anything potentially harmful to him while he would be under the Wallacearia Condensata spell. Finding nothing of concern, he settled himself for a good read.
As the magic surrounded him, he was filled with a sense of great peace and a desire to learn. Opening the book, printed words bathed and filled his mind. He reveled in the feeling, and even though he knew he could read each page very quickly, he forced himself to slow down and savour each word. He was intrigued by chapters on "Magic - The Concealed Revealed," "Detecting Magic Traces," and "The Magic Behind Unmasking Magic." It was in the fourth chapter, "Spectrum Emanations of Magical Personality," that Harry received a confirmation of a prior theory. As Dumbledore's text explained the difference between tracing the origins of magic performed by known wizards, versus unknown wizards, Harry learned that magic took on the personality cast of the witch or wizard by whom it was performed. The more powerful the magic, the more personalized and obvious it became. Harry recalled Dumbledore's words as he explained the sealed entrance to Tom Riddle's secret cave . . . "This cave has known magic." Now he understood it wasn't that the cave had "experienced" magic, it was that the magic performed in the cave was "recognized," its originator familiar to Dumbledore.
Harry read the book three times before he put it aside. As he luxuriated in the afterglow of the spell, the thought occurred to him of how good it felt to use magic freely after so many months of acting the muggle with Grawp. As he began to take stock of his surroundings he contemplated what he had just read. Noting the time on his watch, he was astounded to see he had spent more than two hours "inside" Dumbledore's text. The cressets he had lit still burned brightly.
"I love magic," Harry said aloud, his words confirming a deep feeling of appreciation for those who had gone before and laid the foundation for magical experimentation and knowledge. "Let's see what's around here." Harry's words echoed in the empty chamber. "This was called the Chamber of Secrets. I don't think a basilisk was Salazar Slytherin's only secret." With that pronouncement he began to carefully examine the chamber. He started at the stone snakes guarding the entrance and worked his way to the rearmost wall, carefully avoiding the basilisk's remains piled in front of the statue's feet. Frequently he dropped to his hands and knees to view the chamber from a snake's-eye view. He noted at least a dozen magic emanations, with what he had come to recognize as Slytherin's silver-white signature. Aside from the greenish glow he had already discovered coming from within the statue's mouth, he had not discovered any obvious magic traces left by Tom Riddle.
"I think I'll tackle the most obvious magic first. Dumbledore's book said that the most blatant magical evidences should be the most basic and therefore the least likely to be tamper proofed," recalled Harry. He approached the fire still burning in the nearest cresset and looked for traces of magic to unravel. He found the edges of the magic traces tattered and he knew it to be old magic. Summoning a basic forensic spell from Dumbledore's book, he intoned "Hallar" and preformed the attendant intricate wand movement. The ancient magic responded as a cat to a loving touch. It brightened and flowed toward Harry's wand, and as it did, Harry was infused with a vision of Salazar Slytherin, more than a millennia previous, performing the underlying magic. "I can understand this magic's incantation. Slytherin performed it in Parseltongue. Tom Riddle and I are possibly the only two wizards who had a chance to understand Slytherin's magic," but as the thought crossed Harry's mind, he was struck with the images presented in the memory of the Gaunt family. "They talked to each other in Parseltongue! Dumbledore made comment to the end that I could obviously understand what they said. Dumbledore hadn't seemed troubled by their conversations. Indeed he had drawn extensive conclusions from the memories. Dumbledore, at the very least, understood Parseltongue!" Harry's mental connections took only seconds but opened his mind to possibilities regarding Dumbledore that he hadn't considered. "More questions for Dumbledore's Porcrux the next time I see him," thought Harry, "now back to the subject at hand."
Harry spent the rest of the evening and a good bit into the night examining Slytherin's magic. With Dumbledore's book at his mental-ready, he discovered and dissected some of Slytherin's basic magic in the Chamber of Secrets. He left the more intricate magic for later, wanting to be fully rested and relaxed when he attempted to unravel larger magic spells.
Feeling he had accomplished as much as possible for the night, Harry set to make a place to sleep as far from the basilisk's remains as possible. In a distant corner, he conjured a comfortable bed with a table and lamp. He set his bag on the edge of the bed. Inwardly thankful that he had brought a bit of fresh fruit from Grawp's orchard, he ate a quick meal.
He was about to retire when he considered the remains of the basilisk. "Whatever ate the basilisk is probably still here. I'm not too keen on it crawling into bed with me," thought Harry. He determined that he would use one of "The Magic of the Ancients" spells. It was explained as a magic that produced a protective sphere around an object. Thinking it was the perfect answer to his concern, Harry focused on the incantation and the area of its boundaries. To verify his progress, he donned Dumbledore's glasses. The spell itself was simple but the concentration required was tremendous. At length, Harry had enveloped his bed in a golden oval completely surrounding and encasing him. Pulling his covers up to his chin, Harry aimed his wand at the lit cressets and thought, "Nox." The flames continued to flicker smokelessly. "Nox," Harry said aloud. The flames burned on. Rather than getting upset he performed the incantation again. He could see the power of the spell gather and leave his want tip, but where it struck the protective barrier, the magic membrane absorbed the power of the spell. The sphere glowed temporarily brighter and then returned to its soft golden glow. Intrigued, Harry sat on the edge of his bed. He poked at the magic wall with his wand. Like a flexible bubble, the wall pushed out at his wand's touch but it would not break nor allow the wand to push through. Curiosity piqued, Harry used a variety of small magical spells to see if any penetrated his golden chamber. Suddenly he realized he was getting terribly cold. Uncontrollable shivers began to wrack his body. He was so cold he was having difficulty moving his fingers. His breath hung icily in the air. "What if I can't get out? I could freeze to death right here!" thought Harry his panic increasing. Recognizing his rising heart rate and apprehension, he took calming breaths and focused on the magic. When he felt a bit more collected, he concentrated on the spell to end the incantation. Nothing changed, if anything, it became even colder inside the protective orb. He was now so cold that it was impossible to move his fingers. He could no longer see out of the frosted orb. Shivering violently, he knew he was about to freeze to death. Through the numbing cold, he forced his mind to calm. He re-examined what he knew of the spell. It was very precise spell work. He assumed the same position he had taken when he performed the spell, aimed his wand at exactly the same spot, used the same tone of voice and the same magic inflection, suppressed his shivering and performed the ending spell. The orb vanished and Harry was washed over by chamber air that felt tropically warm as it replaced the magically chilled bubble that had just disappeared.
Relief flooded Harry's mind but he was still almost frozen. The bed covers and floor were littered with what looked to be a fresh covering of light snow. He tried to use his wand to heat the rocks and air around him but he found himself shaking so violently that he couldn't perform the needed wand movement. "The fire in the cressets is too high to provide much warmth here on the chamber floor. I don't think it's a good idea to mount a broom to get up to them; I'd probably fall off...my hands are too cold to grip the handle. I could just remain still and wait to rewarm but without a hot meal or some external heat that could be a risky wait," as the thoughts snowplowed through Harry's mind, a picture of Fawkes came to memory. Through chattering teeth, Harry said, "Fawkes, I really need you." For the second time in his life, Harry heard the unearthly piping he knew to be Phoenix song, echoing through the Chamber of Secrets. The sound filled him up with hope. Looking to the end of the chamber, he could see Fawkes flying swiftly toward him. Fawkes landed and made his way to Harry's side. Harry saw that with each step though the snow, the Phoenix melted a narrow trail. When Fawkes reached Harry he gave a short flap of beautiful wings and landed in his lap. Immediately he could feel the warm weight of the extraordinary bird. Fawkes seemed content to remain motionless and let Harry stroke his softly glowing plumage.
In a matter of minutes his hands were warmed enough to flex his fingers. His shivering had stopped and he felt markedly better.
"Thanks Fawkes," Harry said to the Phoenix. "I'm grateful that you came back to help me." A sudden memory of Dumbledore admonishing Lucius Malfoy, "...at Hogwarts help will always be given to those who ask for it."
"Is this part of what Dumbledore meant? Will you be around to offer help?" As if in answer, the Phoenix rested its head on Harry's chest and then disappeared in a golden flash of light.
Feeling up to a little magic, Harry vanished the hoar frost and warmed the blankets on his bed. Sitting on the heated covers helped finish rewarming him. At length he got up from the edge of the bed, curious still about the protective magic that had nearly killed him. He turned back to his bed, and this time, performed the magic from outside. Once again, a golden protective bubble surrounded the bed. He took off Dumbledore's glasses, and as he had expected, the glow disappeared. The bed appeared completely normal. He tried to approach the bed but when he came near to where he knew the boundaries of the spell existed, he found himself stopped by a cold, inflexible barrier. He tried a multitude of spells in an attempt to break the magic sphere. As no small spells seemed to penetrate, Harry moved on to larger and more powerful spells. The encasement glowed brighter as it absorbed more powerful magic but it seemed none the worse for wear. As a final experiment, Harry conjured up the most powerful magic he knew. His stag patronus burst from the end of his wand. It lowered its antlered head, and at Harry's urging, charged the shimmering wall. The wall seemed to give way as the stag's horns came into contact, but in the next moment the patronus was absorbed by the protective magic shield. He tried several more times before he backed away, resumed his original position and manner and removed the spell.
Harry sat down on the now unprotected bed and pondered what he and just learned. His mind flew back to the protective barrier that had encased Voldemort's fake Horcrux in his cave. It had been impenetrable to all of Dumbledore's magical probing. "It might have been an derivation of the same spell, tweaked by Voldemort." Harry was stopped in the middle of the thought by the initials R.A.B. "Had R.A.B. replaced Voldemort's original magic or had R.A.B. somehow gotten around Voldemort's spells? How powerful had R.A.B. been? How had he or she had been able to do alone what Dumbledore and I were barely able to do together?" The thought plagued Harry's mind. He extinguished the lights, replaced the protective orb, and drifted off to a troubled sleep.
Harry awoke the next morning with a renewed desire to attack and decipher more of the magic the chamber held. He dissolved his protective magic (much more easily and confidently this time). "I have to get either more fresh food, or a book on cooking, or I'll starve like Marvolo Gaunt," Harry thought as he ate the last of the food he had brought from Grawp's. Finishing his morning routine, Harry set to each of the magic emanations he had noted on his earlier perusal. He started with the more easily recognized and decoded magic. The magic became more intricate, presenting considerable challenge. At the end of the day, Harry had succeeded in identifying and deciphering many magics. He even located the point of origin of the silver-white light that surrounded the entrance serpents.
Exhausted by the day's mental and physical concentration, Harry once again donned the invisibility cloaks and headed to the library. He replaced Dumbledore's book and removed several of the more interesting tomes, placing them in his bag. He then searched for a book on preparing meals by magic. He was astounded to find only one small book on the subject. "I might just starve," thought Harry as he turned to make his way back to the chamber. His stomach growled in complaint as he headed "home."
Harry stopped mid-stride and made a snap decision. "Dobby," Harry said aloud as he removed the cloaks. Almost instantly, Dobby appeared at his side with a loud crack.
Dobby's wide face split in an excited smile, "Harry Potter, sir! Dobby thought that Harry Potter had left for holiday! Dobby is ever so glad to see Harry Potter."
"Yes Dobby, I'm glad to see you too. I'm going to be around Hogwarts for a while yet. I'm doing some special study, but it must remain a secret just between us. When we meet I'll point to my sock to let you know it's me and that everything is all right. Right now I need to ask a favor, can you bring me a few things from the kitchen?"
"Oh yes sir. Dobby understands secrecy and Harry Potter can count on Dobby." With a loud crack he was gone. Almost instantly he reappeared with another crack. "Dobby was a bit too excited to fulfill Harry Potter's request," said the elf, his green eyes downcast. "Dobby failed to ask what Harry Potter is wanting from the kitchen."
Harry retrieved a scrap of parchment and quickly scribbled a dozen items. Dobby took the list, bowed, and was gone. In what seemed like little more than a moment, he was back. "Here, Harry Potter sir, is your food. Can Dobby do anything else for Harry Potter?"
"No, thank you Dobby. Although I may call on you later for additional items," said Harry. "Right now, this helps loads, and I need to be on my way." Smiling a knowing smile, Dobby vanished.
Harry secured all the items Dobby had acquired and made his way back to the chamber. As he descended the pipe and made his way toward the chamber, he was keenly aware of the stillness of the deep passageways. "I miss the breeze, and the sounds of the birds, the feel of warm sunlight, and even Grawp's company," Harry thought woefully as he ended his journey facing the serpents guarding the entrance.
"Secure back in the chamber. Odd that I think of it that way," considered Harry silently as he passed the sentinel snakes. He opened his bag and took out the books and the food Dobby had brought. He first attacked the book on cooking, leafing through the pages sans the Wallacearia Condensata spell. After a brief perusal, he decided to get serious. He secured the area around the table and concentrated on assimilating the book. Very quickly he had read it through several times. Ending the spell, he looked at the food items on the table. "Now I know what I did wrong in my earlier attempt," Harry said aloud. "I tried to conjure the finished product without focusing on the quality of the ingredients going into the dish. I need to visualize not only the taste of the raw ingredients, but their smell, texture, and colour. By having high-quality ingredients, I'll have a better quality finished dish." He thought how easy Mrs. Weasley had made it seem to create a sumptuous meal for a large family in relative instant. "It must take a lot out of her to concentrate so hard on each ingredient going into her feasts!" Harry had no more than thought of Mrs. Weasley when a longing to see Ginny pushed hard on his mind. "Not now," thought Harry, "I'll have time for Ginny in a bit, but right now I need to get some very basic things done." Reluctantly, he banished the tempting thought of being with Ginny from his mind and refocused on the table in front of him.
He felt he had a very good background in fruits and vegetables, and now that he knew where his deficiency in meal preparation lay, he was determined to correct it. He started with a bright red apple. He concentrated on everything he knew about the perfect apple, taste, texture, aroma, even the tending and picking necessary to produce a quality result. Focusing his thoughts he conjured an apple. It looked good, it felt like an apple, but when he bit into it, it lacked the balance between sweet and tart. Unsatisfied by the results he conjured a single apple a dozen times before he had what he considered a "good" apple. It wasn't until he had used the simple spell to produce the 12th apple that he noticed he was getting uncomfortably cold. "Dolt!" He thought in a panic, "I didn't remove the protective spell. Each bit of magic has dropped the temperature inside my protective bubble. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Such an insignificant oversight might have cost me my life. What if I had done larger magic! I could have frozen to death here in the chamber, and no one would have been the wiser as to what became of Harry Potter!" He immediately dissolved the protective bubble and the blast, of cool chamber air felt like a summer afternoon. "Better take care mate or you'll be your own undoing yet!" he thought stoically.
Practice with the cooking spells, coupled with Dobby's fresh ingredients and what he had learned during his time with Grawp, turned Harry into a passable cook. He realized his meals would never rival Mrs. Weasley's, but they were tasty and he felt satisfied on his own merit. Indeed, over the next four weeks, Harry's proficiency at cooking was more than rivaled by his increasing ability to recognize and unravel magic. The gloom and solitude of the chamber were oppressive to Harry, and were it not for the frequent excursions to the library and the pleasure of reading, Harry thought he might have given it up and gone on to his next task-list item. He had discovered he could limit the effect of the temperature drop inside the protective sphere by extending its boundaries. It caused him to be more careful about checking the area enclosed, but kept him from inadvertently freezing to death.
Six weeks into what Harry had come to wryly consider his "chamber of trials" he was finally fed up with the presence of the moldering remains of the basilisk. "Time to tidy up a bit 'round here," he thought. His attempt to remove the entire basilisk's remains at once but it was harder than he had anticipated. The remains of the potently magic creature proved highly resistant to all his efforts. The resistance became a challenge that pushed Harry. He did not like the idea of being defeated by something he had killed once already. Consequently, he focused his attention on the basilisk and by using a variety of spells, drawn from a dozen different texts; he finally succeeded in vanishing all but the immense snake's head. When the basilisk had hit the chamber floor in the last of its death throes, one immense fang had pierced a junction where four huge green marble tiles intersected. The snake's head withstood all of Harry's magical prodding. He tried for an entire day with no discernible effect.
Exhausted, Harry set to eat and consider. He had discovered that cooking, like gardening, gave him time to think; often time to make connections that even the Gemynd spell didn't allow. As he heated a bowl of tomato bisque with ginger, a line of text from the long dead author bubbled to the surface, "...any magic can be made unbreakable if the wizard can join it to a continuing source of magical power..."
"That could be it!" marveled Harry. "The basilisk's remains may be receiving magical power from here inside the chamber." The thought excited Harry, but he put down the urge to rush back to the task. He purposefully finished his meal and cleaned up before once again focusing his attention on the basilisk's bone-white skull and fangs.
"What is it I've missed?" thought Harry he put on Dumbledore's glasses and proceeded to examine the basilisk's skull very carefully. He found three things he had not noticed before. Two bore magic signatures with which he was familiar, the third was unknown.
The magic traces were hidden until he crawled inside what was left of the great snake's jaws. As he inched his way inside, careful of the still-sharp fangs, he could see where he had pierced the roof of the Basilisk's mouth with Godric Gryffindor's sword. At the junction where the sword blade had sundered bone, two magics danced as if in contest for supremacy. Harry was shocked as he recognized one of the magics as Tom Riddle's. "What did Tom Riddle's magic have to do with the basilisk? Wasn't the basilisk Salazar Slytherin's creation, almost a millennium old?" Harry mused. The second magic pulsed in a line inside Riddle's green magic, alternated from a shimmering gold to a ruby red. Each magic remained extremely potent, fighting a continual ebb-and-flow battle. Harry felt, strong though they were, they couldn't possibly be the force keeping him from removing the desiccated skull. His question was answered as he turned uncomfortably inside the snake's mouth. Looking down, he could see magic; strong, viable magic, coursing into the basilisk's fang where it had pierced the floor. "Either there is something below the floor, or Slytherin encased the chamber in powerful magic to keep it hidden. Regardless, this looks to be the source of additional power preventing me from removing the basilisk's remains." Harry's thoughts spun as he made his way out of the snake's maw.
"First, since magic doesn't seem to work," he said aloud, "Let's try the muggle way." He conjured a long pole and a boulder next to the basilisk's skull. He fixed the pole over the fulcrum and threw his weight to the end of the lever. Bone crunched, and Harry had to reposition the lever to get a better surface. His second attempt was more productive. The embedded fang grated as it withdrew an inch from the porphyry floor. Harry repositioned his lever, and on his third attempt, the hollow fang wrenched free. The basilisk's head toppled sideways, fangs in the air, liberated from its connection to the floor. Harry saw only the briefest spark, as the two magics fighting each other in the roof of the snake's mouth annihilated each other.
Harry walked over to the basilisk's skull and uttered, "Evanesco!" The basilisk's head vanished in a crackling puff of smoke. Satisfied, he turned his attention to the silver-white magic now shining from the gap previously occupied by the snake's fang. As far as he could tell, there remained only two magics unassailed in the chamber. Riddle's green glow about him, and this newly discovered magic that had been hidden by Salazar Slytherin. Harry sat back to consider before plodding on. "Slytherin would have assumed that only a Parselmouth would have gotten into the chamber. It stands to reason that he would expect whoever was here would espouse his own beliefs and abilities, but what to do?" His own thoughts mocked him. His inadequacies taunted him.
"Best spend a bit of time reviewing and ordering my thoughts before I charge ahead," thought Harry. He secured the area, carefully keeping his protective sphere far away from Slytherin's glowing magic. "Gemynd" cools enough alone, I don't need Slytherin's old magic to be my frosty end," Harry said aloud as he raised his arm and performed the mind-ordering spell. As calmness settled, he bent to the task of reviewing and arranging what he knew of Slytherin and any connections with either Riddle or his alter ego Voldemort. The review took a very short time. The material was scarce and gaps had to be filled through guesswork. He emerged from the spell with only a few additional insights, and those insights he realized, were based mainly in supposition.
"Well, let's see what we have here," said Harry, deciding to attack the old magic first as he removed the orb. "Slytherin has hidden something. He would only expect his heir to be able to be here. There is a bit less chance of this magic being malevolent than with Riddle's magic." His is own words boosted his confidence a bit. He settled himself a distance from the break in the marble floor, held out his hand to the streaming magic, and in Parseltongue began, "Oh Salazar Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts four, reveal your secrets to me." Harry had not expected this first, obvious, attempt to produce tangible results. He was surprised therefore, when a silver-white magic coursed from the breach in the floor and surrounded him. He was locked in its embrace for several long minutes and was seriously considering removing it forcibly when it withdrew back into the floor.
Immediately, a large section of the marble floor moved and the tiles folded into an opening looking down on an oubliette beneath the chamber floor. Astounded at his immediate success, Harry surveyed the opening through Dumbledore's glasses. He recognized the magic that made the lower chamber possible as straightforward Inatimus Circumlocation. It was what the bottom of the chamber held that took Harry's breath away. On an ornate wrought-silver desk lay an ancient book. A coating of dust gave Harry the impression that he was the first in a thousand years to open this stronghold of Salazar Slytherin.
Harry approached the opening in the floor and halted. Once again in Parseltongue he said, "Thank you great Slytherin for revealing your secret to me. May I, an humble heir, approach and learn?"
As if waiting for the request, the blinding silver light softened to a beckoning silver glow, identical to the one guarding the outer entrance to the chamber. Harry cautiously levitated himself through the opening, his senses alert for trap or danger. Finding no indication of attendant peril, Harry let his feet carefully touch the floor. He crossed the small oubliette and looked down at the book. The ancient leather cover was emblazoned with two snakes; one glittering green the other sparkling silver. The snakes intertwined to form the dual letters SS. "This book not only belonged to Salazar Slytherin, it contains the magic that feeds and sustains the Chamber of Secrets," determined Harry silently to himself. "This must be Slytherin's grimorie. The things it might contain, the power of the magic Slytherin knew, rival the most powerful wizards who ever lived. Possession of this storehouse of magic, this grimorie, may be why Tom Riddle wanted to come teach at Hogwarts! It took the combined magic of Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, a powerfully magic basilisk, and some bit of magic from Tom Riddle to access this oubliette. Tom Riddle never discovered this secret chamber within the Chamber of Secrets. He may have guessed at the source of the chamber's continued magical power, but he never found it!" The exhilarating thoughts had raced through Harry's mind so quickly that he had barely enough time to register each.
His first impulse was to reach out and open the book, but a warning in Ron's voice sounded in his memory; a caution about books of unknown intent, and the possible consequence of even looking at them. Harry stood motionless in the light filtering weakly through the hole overhead. At length, he decided to try his hand at persuasion. For the next hour Harry attempted every type of request in Parseltongue he could contrive. His requests had no discernible effect. "Let's try another tack," thought Harry, "rather than importune, let's see how it responds to command." Summoning his focus, Harry steeled his resolve and his tone of voice. "Book of Salazar Slytherin's secrets, I command you, yield and open!" The result astonished Harry. At the end of his Parseltongue demand, something stirred behind the thick book. He watched in amazement as a small dragon, reminiscent of the miniatures presented to the champions during the Triwizard tournament, clawed its way to a protective position on top of Slytherin's grimorie.
"More to consider," thought Harry as he regarded the tiny dragon. Unlike the dragons he had previously encountered, this one had only two legs. "Looks more like a snake with hind legs. Yes, a wyvern would be Slytherin's logical choice for a guardian. It's as close to a snake as possible, but it is longer lived and presents more magical challenges." Harry stopped to think. "Maybe not. Why don't I approach this as a friend instead of an enemy? It only makes sense that Slytherin would have protected against an enemy while preparing for a friend or successor. What had Hagrid said? Any creature can be handled if you just know how to calm him. What do I know about wyverns?" Harry's mind seemed to click into another gear. He could see several of the texts he had read regarding magical creatures like this wyvern. What surprised Harry was that the texts came unbidden without the use of a spell or reviewing trance to access them.
"...wyverns were used in heraldry to denote strength and courage..."
"That's my path," thought Harry. "A direct courageous approach."
Holding out his hand, he said in Parseltongue, "Come to me." The dragon did not hesitate; it unfurled its leathery wings and flew to the back of his outstretched hand. It looked into his eyes as it extended the sharp claw at its first wing joint. Harry knew what was going to happen an instant before the dragon sank the claw into his skin. He winced at the injury, but neither attempted to shake the diminutive dragon free nor withdraw his now bleeding hand.
Harry watched enthralled as the dragon bent to first sniff and then lick the drop of blood welling from the claw prick. Seemingly satisfied, the dragon flew back to the table. It fastened the same claw, covered in Harry's blood, into a small loop on the cover of the immense book. Then, with what appeared to be stupendous effort, the dragon wrenched open the cover. Standing back, it looked up at Harry, blinking black fathomless eyes.
Harry considered the guarded text. The writing was small but precise. It seemed familiar to him but he couldn't place how or why. The writing was in syllabized Parseltongue and as far as Harry could remember he had never seen Parseltongue expressed in written form. It was only moments before he was able to sound out the syllabization and translate into intelligible words...
"Well done my heir. To be reading this you have survived tests that would have killed one unworthy to behold my secrets. I knew I could not live forever, you will fulfill my plan. This simple book holds great power. Now is the time for decision. You will receive a single chance. You may leave now, unharmed, if you wish, but leave or stay, you will not be allowed access to this chamber again. If you stay, secrets of the ages could be yours if you are strong enough to seize them. My wyvern has deemed you a friend, a blood-kin. Otherwise you would not still be alive, but be warned, friend or no, at a hint of duplicity he will strike. You have overcome a multitude of challenges to arrive here. If you stay and proceed through this text; it shall be seen if you are strong enough mentally, physically, and emotionally to keep from losing yourself in the magic. If you survive the book, a determination will be made whether you will be allowed outside this chamber with your new-found knowledge."
With this promise; "or was it a threat," Harry wondered, Slytherin's preface ended.
Harry stood and pondered his next move, "Do I back out now or challenge Slytherin's magic? This is my only chance. I may learn things that will aid me in my attempt to thwart Voldemort... Yes, I go on."
Harry felt very vulnerable in the dim room. He deemed himself ill prepared for what he was facing but he forged ahead. He prepared himself for the Wallacearia Condensata spell, and when he was ready, he addressed the wyvern in a single Parseltongue word, "Proceed."
Harry took in the first page and committed it to memory. Somehow knew he wasn't to touch the book, and at the completion of each set of pages, he nodded to the wyvern, which then pulled a new pair of pages into view. Harry read each page multiple times before allowing the dragon to proceed to the next page. The first part of the book was a brief history. It spoke of Slytherin's life and the high regard he held for his best friend Godric Gryffindor. The last bit of the narrative told of Slytherin's anguish over the schism dividing him from his life-long friend. Slytherin concluded his monograph with his reluctant decision to hide away a power to complete his work, his "noble vision" as he called it; long after he and his friend Godric Gryffindor were dead. "In the end," he wrote, "my monster and I shall prevail. Blood will out."
The remainder of the book consisted of Slytherin's lifetime of learning; spells and enchantments, some so dark and powerful that Harry shuddered at the mere thought of using them. "Still, in knowing what can be used against me, I can gain insight in how to protect myself and others from these very spells," thought Harry.
Harry's thoughts morphed to Professor Binns words from so long ago, "... just because a wizard doesn't use dark magic, it doesn't mean he can't..."
"I have the strength to know this and not use it," said Harry inwardly, hoping he wasn't just trying to convince himself.
Hours passed. Harry trembled with concentration. Sweat drenched him. Fatigue and hunger ground him down. Thoughts of the spells he was committing to memory tore at his psyche. He fought to remind himself of the defensive value of these offensive spells. Eventually the wyvern turned the last page, and the book was consumed in a blinding flash of silver light. All that remained on the table was the small dragon looking inquiringly up at him. Harry stretched out his hand and clicked his tongue. The wyvern responded immediately, flying to Harry's hand. It then clawed its way clumsily up his sleeve to perch like some bizarre parrot on his shoulder. Harry felt the skin on the back of his neck prickle having a creature as dangerous as a dragon so close to his head and exposed neck. Fighting down the urge to fling the creature away, Harry carefully levitated back out of the oubliette and into the chamber proper. As he walked to his table and sat down shakily in the chair, the marble tiles slid back into place and sealed the secret chamber from sight.
Recognizing his precariously weakened state, Harry focused on a meal. He even provided a bit of raw steak for the winged carnivore. Even though the food helped steady and strengthen him, he felt as dusted out as he had ever felt in his life.
"I need to rest," Harry said to the now circling dragon. "You seem very happy with your new freedom," he said to the obviously elated dragon. "A thousand years with no companion. Nowhere to go except that tiny chamber. I saw the spell Slytherin used to imprison you there, to sustain your life by magic. All I can say is it's a good thing dragons have a solitary nature."
The dragon ceased flying and landed on the table at Harry's words. It seemed inclined to stay even though Harry had expected it to flee for freedom once released. "Let me guess. You were to either kill me, or befriend me, depending on my blood," said Harry looking at the wyvern. The leathery creature chirruped and blinked at Harry. "Well I'm glad that worked out for us both," said Harry while inwardly wondering what else Voldemort's deflected killing curse had done to him.
"Obviously enough of Riddle's ancestry, or the trappings of it, was transferred to fool Slytherin's dragon. Very lucky for me. I'll have to thank Voldemort if ever I get the chance," reasoned Harry.
He looked down at the dragon and felt simpatico with the little beast. It seemed to be enjoying the bit of steak after so many years of magical sustenance. As the creature downed the last of its meal, it looked up expectantly.
"Still hungry mate?" asked Harry. As their gazes connected, Harry was once again privy to the basic thoughts of another. "I see you are hungry. I also see that you intend to stay with me." He produced more meat for the dragon. "If we can come to an understanding about you not breathing fire or trying to eat me, I have to admit I can use the company."
As he said the words he could tell immediately that the dragon understood him. "Hey, I don't speak dragon, how come you can understand me?" asked Harry as he stroked the scaly fringe of the dragon's tail. The monster ignored him and continued to eat. Harry watched for a moment longer, and then turned his attention to the green glow still mocking him from overhead.
"I'm not sure how to feel about this," said Harry more to himself than to the dragon. "I'm filled with memories of Slytherin's spells. I'm fighting minute by minute to hold them down, keep them from overwhelming me. I could really use Dumbledore's Pensieve right now."
Feeling as if he was drawn mentally thin, he considered his Occlumency training with Lupin. "Maybe I can build a mental wall to hold back Slytherin's magic. At least it's worth a try."
Harry focused his mind. He found that trying to wall off Slytherin's magic was akin to holding a handful of pixies. It went different directions, it fought, and it bit. His mind was assailed by the words of Slytherin's grimorie. They screamed for mental attention. "Now I understand Slytherin's warning about being strong enough to handle his magic," he said as he put in place stronger and stronger mental barriers. At last the shouting mental conflict was stilled to a sibilant babble in the back of his mind. "At least now I can concentrate again," said Harry, taking notice of the attention the dragon was paying him. It was looking unblinkingly up at him while it held its wings fully extended and quivering at its sides.
"This was part of Slytherin's test wasn't it?" he asked of the dragon, but knew the answer already. He could see it in the creature's black eyes. "If I had failed or showed weakness, you would have attacked, wouldn't you? How many more tests will I face before I'll be safe in your presence?" As if refusing answer, the dragon looked away and folded its wings fastidiously against its body. "Well no use in fretting about that eventuality," said Harry, once again stroking the leathery little monster. "I think I'll finish my meal, review a few things and take a grab at Riddle's magic."
As he resumed eating, he smiled inwardly at his improvement in magical meal preparation. The food he was able to envision and produce had gotten better with each attempt. Thinking on his time here in the chamber, Harry concluded he had improved in many areas since he had the time to focus on practice. "I've gotten better at the Duplikatus, Gemynd, and Wallacearia Condensata spells. I've gotten better at reading and deciphering magic performed by others. I've become more self-reliant. About the only thing I've failed miserably at is doing without my friends. I miss Hedwig. I miss Ron and Hermione. I miss Quidditch matches. I even miss the bustle and teachers at Hogwarts, but most of all I miss Ginny. I miss her touch and her smile; just being with her. That's soon to be remedied though. Only a few more things left on my list of things to do before I get back to my time."
Harry put away his self-pity and refocused on the dangerous task at hand. After asking the dragon to watch out for danger, Harry seated himself and ordered his thoughts. He focused on defensive spells designed to protect stationary objects. Many of Slytherin's spells fit his parameters and slipped into his review queue. He ended the spell with an audible gasp.
"I think I recognize the spell that required drinking the potion protecting the locket in Riddle's cave. A spell similar to it was in Slytherin's grimorie. Someone either had access to this magic or developed magic closely akin to it. If only I had known this before I went to the cave with Dumbledore. I could have warned him. I could have helped him get around that protection."
Harry sat stunned in his discovery. His feeling of regret vied with Slytherin's dark spells for the forefront of his mind. "I've got to get this under control or I'll lose myself. I'll go mad." The thought strengthened his resolve. Bringing all the tangents back under his control, he stilled the battle in his mind.
"I've got to have focus or I'll never be able to safely take apart the magic," Harry concluded. He calmed his mind and when his heartbeat had returned to normal, he mounted his broom for another look in the great stone statue's mouth. As he took flight, the dragon joined him in the air. Marking him, it kept at a steady distance while watching him intently.
Apprehension blossomed inside Harry as he rode the old broom closer and closer to the sickly green light coming from the ancient statue's open mouth. Some distance out in the chamber and slightly above the opening, he could once again see the hole in the floor of the "mouth's" passageway. He knew that this vile imitation of a human throat was where the basilisk had accessed the chamber when Tom Riddle had called the giant serpent to kill him. As he skewed his broom sideways two things happened in quick succession; the image of a thin strip of red light flashed across his vision and the circling wyvern dived, wings close to its body, interposing itself between him and the statue. As Harry attempted to get closer to the opening, the dragon stopped all his attempts to approach the stone statue by spreading its small leathery wings and blocking him at every turn.
After ten minutes of aerial acrobatics, Harry was feeling extremely frustrated. The wyvern flew better than any opponent Harry had ever competed against in the air. The speed of the old school broom was no match for the speed, agility, and apparent determination of the small dragon. Feeling near the end of his tether, Harry moved away from the statue, landed, and stilled his effort-strained mind.
Feet back on the chamber floor, he paced back-and-forth as the wyvern circled almost lazily above him. "What does it want?" Harry asked himself aloud. "Its purpose is to either protect me or kill me. Let's assume it is trying to protect. What have I missed?" his verbal musings seemed to affect the dragon. It landed and started making its way toward the statue's enormous stone feet. Harry noted that just like Viktor Krum, the dragon seemed awkward and ill disposed to travel on the ground compared to its grace and quickness in the air.
Harry seized his chance as the dragon made its way clumsily across the chamber floor. He grabbed the broom and flew quickly and directly toward the open mouth high above him. The wyvern's reaction was immediate. It launched into the air and sped to head Harry's path to the statue. Harry could tell that his head start was too great for even the speedy dragon to overcome. He was going to gain his goal this time! Just as he was about to shout for victory, a jet of fire cut across his path. He veered hard, narrowly missing the flame. He could smell the scorch of his robes. As he completed a sloth-grip-barrel-roll and turned to once again face the wyvern, his mouth dropped open in disbelief. The wyvern was no longer the small nimble dragon he expected. It had increased in size until it seemed to fill the chamber. Harry plummeted from the air in shock.
He eyed the immense dragon. With its wings spread to their full and considerable extent, it nearly touched both walls at the sides of the chamber. From his vantage point on the chamber floor, with the dragon looming at least thirty feet above him, Harry felt miniscule and insignificant. He understood with a thrill of dread that if the dragon had ill intent, he was doomed. The school broom was no match for a dragon in the air and even though he thought he knew enough magic to shield himself from the dragon's fiery breath, its immense bulk led him to believe that in a protracted battle the dragon would simply wear him down and batter him to defeat. Mulling these discomfiting thoughts, Harry was alarmed to see that the wyvern had arched over him and curved its wings into a barrel-like enclosure. It then began a curious side shuffle that effectively forced Harry the direction it wanted. Feeling outmatched and a bit tentative about a counter-attack, Harry reverted to Slytherin tactics... "patience will drive the blow deeper." "I'll choose the time for the final confrontation," he determined silently. He suddenly realized what the wyvern was about as he recalled chess games with Ron; the dragon had completed a half turn, no longer shielding the statue from Harry, but instead forcing him toward it.
Harry fought down the panic rising within him as he saw that he was effectively pinned against the wall by the ever-closing dragon. Holding the broom in his left hand, he drew his wand from beneath his robes with his right hand and held it loosely at his side. He mentally rehearsed spells, which even in his desperation, he knew would have little effect on the now gigantic dragon.
A scant foot from the wall, Harry dropped the broom directly in front of him, intending to use his left hand to gauge when he had run out of maneuvering room. He decided he was not going to let the dragon crush him against the wall and he determined he would strike when his back was up against the wall.
He had started to form the incantation in his mind and was prepared to loose his attack as his left hand brushed against the stone wall. As his hand came up against the wall, Harry's focus split; although he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the wyvern, his left hand was telling him a tale that could not possibly be true. The stone behind him was not rough and uneven; it was perfectly smooth and flat. Thinking he had missed some feature of the chamber, he inched himself to the right and found the same flat smooth wall behind. Curiosity and terror vied for his attention. "Forget it mate," he reasoned mentally, "what difference does the wall make if you become dragon nibbles?" The dragon had ceased its relentless press, giving Harry a momentary respite from his thoughts of certain destruction. As the dragon gave a bit of space, Harry chanced a quick glance over his shoulder at the chamber wall behind him. Even though his situation was dire, his astonishment was so great he could not tear his eyes from what he was seeing. The wyvern had backed him into the wall directly beneath the huge statue. Where the feet of the statue should have extended into the chamber, indeed Harry realized, where he should have stumbled over the stonework extending into the chamber, the wall was flat and smooth.
His mind reconnecting with his immediate danger, he dragged his attention away from the wall and back to the imminent death in front of him. Once again, Harry's mouth fell open in astonishment. The huge dragon had returned to its relatively diminutive size and was standing on the chamber floor, once again looking up at him. Unsure of this turn of events, he took a step toward the dragon. It snapped still imposing jaws at him as if impatient with his action. Withdrawing his hand, Harry tentatively returned his attention to the chamber wall. The wyvern chirruped its approval as it took an ungainly hop toward him.
Encouraged, Harry positioned himself where he could examine the wall and still keep a wary eye on the now seemingly appeased dragon. What he found initially confused him. The stone statue's feet appeared to extend into the chamber but when touched, they were flat...two-dimensional. Understanding clunked into place. Now fully engaged in this new discovery, and forgetting about the wyvern, he stowed his wand and began to run his hands over the chamber wall. What he found intrigued him even more. The entire bottom of the statue's feet and as high as he could reach, as well as a meter or so to each side had the same flat, nondescript texture. To either side of the phenomenon, the walls regained their rough, hewn-stone feel.
As Harry mounted his broom, the wyvern launched into the air. He pushed Dumbledore's glasses up the bridge of his nose, and keeping a respectable distance from the statue, flew carefully and purposefully back and forth along the chamber's end. Satisfied with his observations, he made his way back to the chamber floor. The wyvern once again landed; apparently content to watch his machinations.
"First off," said Harry addressing the dragon, "I'd like to say thanks mate. Now I see why you were trying to protect me. There is a covering magic over much of the statue. If I had run headlong into it, who knows what would have happened!"
The dragon growled its understanding and approval.
He continued more to himself than to the dragon, "Now let's see, how should I approach this?" Leaning his broom against a far wall, he paced back and forth along the stretch of chamber wall that he now understood was hiding something.
"What else have I missed here? Maybe it's time to pay a bit closer attention to this chamber." With that pronouncement, Harry put away all things magical and began his second systematic exploration of the entire chamber. This time, the hands-on search took the better of three hours and when Harry was finished, he rested, ate, and fed the wyvern before proceeding further.
"Now I have a better grip on where I am, I need to decide what to do next. I need a review of this magic. Dumbledore cautioned me against this magic if it is more than a couple of days old and this has been in place at least fifty years since Tom Riddle was here, and possibly a thousand years since Slytherin sealed the chamber."
The wyvern continued its penetrating stare, apparently waiting to see what would be done next. Harry settled himself into his protective sphere and focused his mind on everything he had learned or read about masking magic. The Gemynd foray took over an hour and he emerged, if anything, more concerned about what he was facing.
"Well let's begin with the obvious shall we?" asked Harry to the attentive wyvern. On a whim, he went to his haversack and retrieved Lockhart's wand. I've practiced with Greyback's wand, let's give this one a go." He produced a bright white ribbon from the wand, then looking through Dumbledore's glasses, he placed the ribbon adjacent to the demarcation of the true stone wall and the deceptive image. With the borders of the masking magic delineated, Harry decided to take the advice of an ancient text from the Hogwarts library, in that a very small magic directed at the masked area would indicate just how self-protective the masking magic had become. The smallest most innocuous magic Harry could come up with was an obscure tickling charm. It produced one, small, single feather. The constantly moving feather was usually made to materialize inside the victim's robes and caused immediate result. Harry, however, made the feather appear in the air between himself and the false wall. Once hovering in the air, he urged it forward with Lockhart's wand until it just barely brushed the protective magic. The effect of the small feather was dramatic. Immediately the wand became so hot Harry dropped it out of reflex; simultaneously he was blasted off his feet and landed with a bone-jarring crash, twenty feet away on the stone floor.
The pain was incredible. Harry could feel shooting, burning pain in his wand hand. His body ached all over. He laid on the floor and mentally examined himself. He could feel his feet and legs, and unfortunately, he could definitely feel his right hand and arm. Opening his eyes, he hazarded a glance at his throbbing hand. It was red-raw, burned looking, as if it had been thrust momentarily into a flame. "What I would give for some essence of mertlap tentacles right now," he thought mirthlessly. Lockhart's still-smoking wand lay some distance away. Getting gingerly to his feet he was heartsick when he found Dumbledore's glasses bent and mangled beneath him. He set to assess any additional damage. His robes were singed around his right sleeve. His hair stuck out oddly straight from his head and felt stiff and wiry. Lockhart's wand had turned from its original ivory color to almost charcoal black.
"Blimey, that was a close thing." he said to the wyvern. "If I had run into that with the magic behind a broom or if I had struck it with a spell or even with my wand, I wouldn't have survived. I can't believe how fortunate I've been. I've willy-nilly cast all sorts of spells around this chamber without the slightest thought as to the danger they might pose!"
"Harry's mind sifted the spells to unravel unknown magic. Every method of which he had knowledge, required magic to touch magic. How do I go about removing this magic if I can't touch it with magic?" he thought aloud. "Binns' asserted that I might be in a unique position to blend muggle scientific advances with magic principles. Since magic could prove dangerously counterproductive, how about a muggle approach? If I can't go through the magic, can I get around it?"
First tending to his burned hand, Harry wrapped it in clean bandages. Then returning his attention to the wall he conjured a plain steel chisel, a hand sledge, and a long pry bar. Making sure to stow the wands, broom, cloaks and any other magic-bearing items well away from his work area, he set about excising a small piece of stonework at the junction between the masking magic and the "real" stone of the chamber wall. Chipping away at the ancient stone was slow, laborious work that made his hand ache, but Harry was determined. His muscles still bore the tone developed in the long hours tending garden with Grawp, and he continued doggedly on. At length he was able to loosen the mortar that cemented the stones together. Using the pry he was able to wrench the stone from the wall. Feeling back into the hole created by the stone's removal he was discouraged to find that the magic had penetrated as deep into the wall as he had excavated. Undaunted, he removed stone and mortar, interspersing his labor with only meals and careful examination of the magic as each succeeding stone was removed. By the end of the day, he had removed stonework to the depth of nearly a meter and large enough for maneuvering room.
As he removed what he had determined would be the last stone of the day from the back of his excavation, he was excited to see through one lens of Dumbledore's mangled glasses, an edge, a definite end of the magic. However, as he removed the stone he watched dejectedly as the magic seemed to flow and fill the area he had just cleared.
"Not good," said Harry to the wyvern now settled at the mouth of the cave-like excavation. "If the magic extends as I expose new rock, we'll never accomplish anything. It would be like trying to dig a hole on the bottom of the black lake. The water, the magic in this case, will just keep filling in the hole."
"Time to re-examine our resources," said Harry as he clambered out of the hole in the wall and back onto the now debris-strewn chamber floor. He cleared a spot well away from the masking magic and neatly arranged his supplies from within the now worn bag. As he sat and contemplated the items at his disposal he woefully considered the twisted remains of Dumbledore's glasses. "I've come to rely on these. I really need to address this loss." He attempted to straighten the twisted metal frames but they refused to return to shape. One of the lenses was shattered and didn't respond to the Reparo spell. Finally determining that the best course of action was to duplicate the magic on his own glasses, he set about deciphering the magic behind Dumbledore's half-moon glasses. The reverse incantation rewarded Harry with a look at a much younger Dumbledore. The attendant spells were manifold and complex. It took almost a day to separate and duplicate the intricate magic. The wand movement necessary was akin to a conductor leading a symphony orchestra. In the end Harry prevailed. He even added an infrared and ultraviolet spectrum attenuation, waterproofing, and scratch resistant lenses in addition to the magical spectrum-deciphering present in the original spectacles.
Pleased with the results, Harry returned his attention to the masking magic. The working time on the glasses had allowed his mind to quietly ruminate on the problem as effectively as the Gemynd spell. A wonderful, dangerous plan had formed in his mind.
"Wizards and alchemists have worked for millennia trying to make gold," reasoned Harry. "It's one of the things that proved ultimately difficult for even the most learned experimenters. As I ponder on it, I see that magic has limitations with almost all of the heavy elements beginning with silver. They are dense, atomically tight. That must be why we use gold and silver coins; no ordinary magic allows the production of these metals. Some texts indicate that magic can be completely hidden behind a layer of gold. If gold can prevent magic from being seen... I wonder if it could encase a very powerful magic?" Harry noticed the hank of unicorn tail hairs he had collected from the forbidden forest and his plan took a new twist. "It's completely unique, untried magic. But if I proceed cautiously, I believe I can remain safe."
He started working with a feverish, almost manic energy. Ignoring his hunger and the pain in his abused right hand, he copied the outer dimensions of the masking magic and placed them on the chamber floor. Then he placed one half of the lump of gold in the centre of the marked area. With his wand he melted the gold and flowed it out into a thin covering that reached the edges of his "target" area. Finally, he painstakingly placed the unicorn hairs into evenly spaced grids on the gold plate. With an embedding spell he sank the unicorn hair into the surface of the gold. He tied the unicorn hair grid together and left one solitary hair extending beyond the edge of the golden shield. Cautiously, he levitated the thin gold shield into the air with the unicorn hairs facing the wall concealed behind the masking magic. He levitated the adamant crucible and placed the single trailing unicorn hair inside. He then secured the tight fitting lid. Standing well back, he urged the shield forward with his wand. When the shield and the false image collided the result was terrific. He felt the chamber floor shudder. The light and heat were incredible. A horrific sound pounded his ears; the sound of dying agony. He held the shield in place until all was quiet. His strength was exhausted by the effort. The chamber had warmed to a temperature reminiscent of summer.
Harry slumped to the floor and weakly took in the carnage around him. The unicorn hair glowed white-hot in a grid in the gold shield. The debris from his excavation had formed a slag that flowed like lava toward the statue's protruding feet. Remarkably, the crucible floated unconcernedly a few feet off the chamber floor as if nothing had happened. The unicorn hair extending from the crucible remained stunningly white, just as Harry had found it in the forbidden forest. Without moving from the spot, he conjured an apple, a bit of meat for the dragon, and summoned a blanket from his bed. Not bothering to do anything but eat the apple and cover himself with the blanket, he fell into an exhausted dreamless sleep.
When Harry awoke he was stiff and sore. His muscles were knotted from the night on the stone chamber floor. "If I thought I was hard put when I faced Slytherin's oubliette; that seems like child's-play compared to breaking old masking magic. If I have my choice I'll never do anything like that again," he said to the wyvern that had apparently spent the night on guard at his side.
He made his way slowly to the table and prepared a breakfast for himself and the wyvern. "Blimey, even chewing hurts!" said Harry as he looked around the chamber. The heated materials had cooled and solidified. Other than the obvious damage to the chamber, the statue had not changed markedly in appearance, although he fancied the greenish light coming from statue's mouth exhibited greater intensity. He cleared the meal, gathered the gold together into a lump, retrieved the unicorn hairs and walked to the stone statue of Salazar Slytherin. Carefully running his hands over the wall, he was gratified to find all traces of the masking magic gone. Cautiously he approached the crucible, looking thoroughly about for any signs of danger fostered from his experimental magic transfer. Everything appeared normal but Harry's heart hammered in his chest. "If this worked, I think I've invented new magic!"
He wasn't keen on using magic to manipulate the hair protruding from the crucible, lest it be able to transmit potent magic back toward him. "Even as the magic became self perpetuating and protective, it didn't seem affected by touch as long as the contact was completely non-magical. I can only assume it retained that property when transferred into the crucible," Harry concluded to himself. Once again he set aside everything that held a magical bent and approached the hovering crucible. Stopping abruptly, he considered the crucible magically suspended in midair. "How come the magic isn't reacting violently with the levitating charm? Could it be the adamant?" Harry mused aloud. "There were mentions of adamant in several texts I have read, but they were precious few."
He settled his mind and brought the correct volumes forward from his mind's-eye library. Upon reviewing the scanty material, he began to more fully appreciate just how rare a thing he had in his possession. Adamant was spoken of in vague and fleeting ways, as if the authors had heard of the substance but had never really seen it; but there was always reference to the incredible power and resources necessary to create this material of legend. "No wonder Greyback was so excited at the opportunity to acquire the crucible," thought Harry.
Resuming his mind-search, he concluded from the spotty references that adamant would, by its nature, separate any two substances or magics. "I've dodged another one," thought Harry. "If that crucible hadn't been made of such stern stuff it couldn't have separated the magics. In all likelihood I would have been killed by the magical backlash. I'm like a babe on a blanket, reaching to touch the grass beyond my familiar world; lucky to avoid crevasse, bulldog, and motorcar."
With thoughts of his inadequacy dancing in his head, Harry reached out and removed the lid from the crucible. The potent magic inside gave off a blindingly bright light. He carefully pulled the unicorn hair free from the crucible. It came away completely clean with no magic trace. He carefully replaced the tight fitting lid and the intense light was trapped away, encased within the crucible. Recognizing the need to keep the lid firmly in place, he focused his attention on the crucible and designed a custom box in his mind. Using "Conjurus Inanimatus" he created the box. The box hinged like a book and was split down the middle. White satin lined a space exactly the shape and size of the crucible inside the box. Harry slipped the crucible into the box. The crucible nestled snuggly inside, and with the box closed, the lid could not come off even if tumbled about. Harry examined his work, found it to his liking, and sealed the crucible inside. He set the Potter family coat of arms across the seam in a thin vellum backing, both pleased at the outcome and amazed that he knew the crest. "Must have come from one of the wizarding genealogies from Dumbledore's office," mused Harry. "I'll have to ponder on that later, for now, let's get back to the reason for challenging this magic."
Harry turned his eyes toward the statue's open mouth. "It makes sense that the magic would have covered an open mouth. Otherwise the basilisk couldn't have come from behind the masking magic. Either that, or there was some special connection between the Tom Riddle from the diary and the masking magic. With the diary gone, I may never know the answer to that question. For now, it works to my advantage either way."
He called the wyvern to his side and spoke to the diminutive dragon, "You saved my skin once. I would like you by my side as I approach the statue again." The dragon churred its approval.
Soon the pair was airborne, Harry on his broom, the dragon skimming the air nearby on tiny wings. Harry took his time, viewing the statue from many aspects, altitudes and distances. Finally satisfied that his approach was safe, he made his way slowly toward the opening. He was cheered a bit by the fact that the wyvern didn't try to stop him. He brought his broom to a halt and hovered. Just as before, he could see the hole in the floor of the passage that allowed the basilisk access to the chamber. He could see the writing desk and a bookcase filled with ancient books, but now beyond the desk he could see a larger table with a single book sitting, pride of place, on its top. Tentatively he placed one foot on the floor of the opening. When nothing out of the main happened, he dismounted his broom and stepped onto the dusty floor.
Remaining resolutely on the spot where his feet touched the ground, he cautiously surveyed the entire room. It was fairly small, only six or seven meters in length and three meters wide. The hole in the floor divided the empty outer chamber from the desk, bookcase, and table. The hole was nearly as wide as the room, leaving only a scant ledge along each wall. He could see a cylinder of unknown magic extending from the hole in the floor to the ceiling. It appeared to Harry that the only way to the back of the room was through the magic or to skirt along the wall on the small ledge. Letting his curiosity push him, he chose the ledge. It was doable and he noted that the wyvern didn't seem concerned. He made his way cautiously to the ledge and momentarily reconsidered flying over the hole in the floor, but thought the better of it. He stowed his broom against the wall and his wand in his robes and started to traverse the ledge. With his back to the hole, he leaned in to rough stone wall, avoided the magic cylinder, and worked his way carefully toward the far end of the chamber.
Near midpoint, a rock Harry had chosen as a handhold wrenched free. His feet slipped on the dusty ledge and he was pitched backward into the black shaft. In the instant it took his mind to assimilate the information that he was falling into a who-knew-how-deep hole, his world turned upside down. He felt suspended, weightless, and about to be crushed against the jagged rock ceiling. For the second time in his life it seemed gravity had been reversed. He calmed his mind. He could see the wyvern at the edge of the hole considering him, with, what Harry thought, was a bemused expression, even for a dragon. "A great lot of help you were," said Harry. He noted the rock and debris he had pulled free was hovering near his shoulder. It felt as if the movement of either of his feet would sever the tenuous hold he had on up and down and send him plummeting into the ceiling.
Summoning his courage, he pulled his feet free and jumped toward the nearest ledge. At his motion, gravity righted itself and he landed, arms flailing, on the far edge of the gaping hole. He was about to congratulate himself when the rock and debris smashed against the side of his head. Harry crashed to the floor, seeing stars. As he sat and tried to get his wits about him, he saw the wyvern fly directly through the magic above the hole. It did a full roll, righted itself, and landed smoothly at his feet.
"Showoff," murmured Harry. The wyvern shook itself and hopped toward him. He gingerly touched his cheek where the jagged rock had struck him. His skin had been split open, leaving a shallow two-inch gash.
"That's probably going to leave a mark," thought Harry remorsefully, as he staunched the flow of blood and dressed the wound with a spell.
Harry settled his senses and reapplied himself to his new aspect on the room. The table at the far end of the room contained a small black leather-bound book that bore more than a passing resemblance to Tom Riddle's diary. An involuntary chill raced through Harry. Pulling his attention away from the table, he studied the bookcase. Titles jumped out at him; Torma ("Hey, I can read Tibetan!"), I Ching (and Chinese), Principia Mathmatica, Azoth - the Universal Cure, Aristotle's On the Heavens, and other ancient volumes. Some he recognized as Hogwarts library books, obviously stolen from a frustrated librarian. Most he had already read and stored in his mind's-eye library, and as much as he yearned to read the others, the black book on the table seemed to call him.
"Tom Riddle separated these specific books from all those in the library. They may well hold a clue to what he was studying. Best start here," thought Harry. He moved to the writing desk and lit the lamp. Seating himself, he arranged the books, sealed the outer opening of the statue's mouth against intrusion, and setteled himself for the "Wallacearia Condensata" spell.
As the peaceful calm settled over him, Harry began to read. Astonishment was his first reaction, for even though the printed word was the same as he held in his mind's-eye library; the margins were filled with tight hand-written notes. With a shock that jarred him from the spell, Harry recognized the tiny precise writing, "The Half-Blood Prince! But how did Snape get in here? What's going on?" he asked in amazement.
Removed from the spell, Harry sat back and pondered aloud, "Tom Riddle sealed this chamber sometime after Myrtle's murder. Snape came to Hogwarts years later. As far as I know Snape doesn't speak Parseltongue. He seemed as surprised and bewildered as anyone when I told Malfoy's conjured snake to leave Justin alone at the dueling practice. Without Parseltongue, no one could have opened the chamber, let alone made it in here. What are the possibilities... a Time-Turner? Riddle could have brought the book back from the future. Riddle and Snape had such similar writing that this just looks like Snape's writing?"
"I need to sort this out a bit," said Harry to the wyvern now perched on the table as if it too were interested in the puzzle. He stroked the dragon. It closed its eyes in apparent pleasure. Harry ended the protective spell, it being a bit too cool in the room for his liking. Addressing the dragon he asked, "If I order my thoughts a bit, would you keep a lookout for trouble?" The dragon blinked both eyes and Harry fancied it gave the tiniest nod before taking to the air. He noticed its erratic flight as it once again traversed the magic in the centre of the room. "I'll have to make a mental note to trace down and remove that annoying magic as I leave," thought Harry as he prepared himself for the "Gemynd" spell.
He eased into the spell looking for any connections or similarities between Riddle, Voldemort, and Snape. When he ended the magic almost an hour later, he was concerned, hungry, and most of all amazed. He put off his hunger and exhaustion to once again look at the writing in the margins of the book before him. "It's painfully obvious; the writing in this book, and the Half-Blood Prince's potions book, and the writing that appeared in Riddle's diary were identical. Riddle, not Snape, is the Half-Blood Prince!"
This new understanding cast a revealing light on many of the events of the past, but gave Harry still more to consider. Even without the spell, he felt additional links slide into place... "Snape came from a poor family, he would have purchased second hand books, or possibly Riddle's old book found its way into the Potions Class loaner books. Either way, Snape had access to Riddle's book. His reaction to "Sectumsempra" gave that away. Riddle, by Dumbledore's account, was the brightest student ever to attend Hogwarts. Snape acquired Riddle's notated book and adopted the writing style! I should have recognized it in Snape's Defense Against the Dark Arts O.W.L. exam, or in his potion instructions written on the blackboard. His writing had matured, but the basic adopted style was still very much evident. He even fancied the title "Half-Blood Prince" since it seemed to fit him so well! It even squares with Snape's apparent longing for some type of a title. When he tried to command the Marauder's Map he gave himself the title of "Master of this School", and he seemed particularly disappointed at the loss of the Order of Merlin title for capturing Sirius Black!"
Stripping away his suppositions, Harry returned to reading the remaining books by guttering candlelight and found each carried extensive notations in the margins. The scribbling varied from observations about the particular page or spell, to comments and comparisons to other books and authors. Astounded at the depth to which Riddle had carried his studies, Harry worried inwardly about confronting magic prepared by someone as obviously brilliant as Tom Riddle.
Nearly every page had copious notes scribbled in the margins. The notes were very enlightening about Riddle's interests and thoughts. Halfway through a hand written, Middle-Ages text, he found a single sheet of ancient parchment. It was blood-spattered and crumbling with age but Harry recognized the long dead language. It was the process for creation of a Horcrux.
He stopped reading and turned to the wyvern, "Do I really want to commit this to my memory? Come to think of it I have many books, not the least of which are Slytherin's, roiling around in my mind. I really don't want to remember some of them. I must have Dumbledore teach me how to use the Pensieve when I get back to his office. If I can't empty some of these thoughts I might well go mad!"
Harry covered the sheet of parchment with a book and slowly exposed a line of text at a time, knowing he could stop before he got to the actual incantation to create a Horcrux. Adding to translating the language and Riddle's cramped notes, the parchment was made more difficult to read due to the spattered blood. Harry plowed on. The unnamed writer had included instructions indicating the splitting of the soul did not have to be performed at the time of the murder but the longer the time interval between the murder and the spell, the weaker the Horcrux and the greater the chance of failure and loss of that piece of soul. Also was an allusion to the strength of a Horcrux created after a multiple murder. The writer hinted that a multiple murder, and an immediate creation of a Horcrux, made the magic stronger; implying that three or more murders at a single time would assure mortal consequences to anyone attempting to destroy a thus created Horcrux. Harry did not read on. He looked back over the vile document, and with a start, he saw that the spattered blood was on top of Riddle's notes. In places it obscured the notes completely. Curious, Harry took out his wand and vacuumed the blood from the sheet. Taking a small bottle from his robes, he deposited the dried blood inside and sealed it. The exposed text gave a few further insights into Riddle. Sickened by what he had read, he closed his eyes and crumpled the parchment. It fragmented and fell apart. He aimed his wand and reduced the remaining debris to ashes.
"I don't know if I can go on! The pressure in my mind is becoming more than I can bear." The wyvern responded to the statement by rubbing up against Harry's hand. The touch drew his attention. Looking into the dragon's eyes, Harry saw hunger. He was shocked from his self-deprecation by the dragon's obvious need. "Little mate, I haven't been very good to you. Let's have a meal and rest. It will do us both good."
Harry tore his attention from the few remaining books and focused on a meal. He prepared it quickly and when he and the wyvern had eaten their fill he determined to put off the remaining texts until he had a chance to rest. Not even wanting to face the magic protecting the hole in the centre of the room, he conjured a blanket and lay out on the stone floor. He was asleep almost instantly.
When he awoke he felt like a different person. Locating the ledge that had been the dragon's temporary aerie, he called to it. The wyvern stirred and flew directly to him. "I just wanted to thank you. You could see what I ignored. I was at the end of my endurance. I needed food and rest. I was about to make clouded decisions and you stopped me. Thank you. I think it's time to name you. How about...Capricio?" The dragon had taken in Harry's words as if it understood. At the question, the wyvern took to the air and did a loop, landing back at Harry's side. "I'll take that as a yes," said Harry. "Let's finish these books, remove that upside-down magic and get out of here!" Capricio churred his approval and flew directly to the desk.
Harry made short work of the manuscripts and at length it was painfully obvious that the only thing remaining was Riddle's book on the large table. He considered the book. "Why do I fear this more than I did the confronting of Slytherin's magic?" Harry pondered his own question. "As much as I considered Slytherin evil; it has become plain, Slytherin was powerful, he was strongly opinionated, he was utterly dedicated to his cause, he was mindlessly inflexible, knew very dark magic, but he had not been evil."
"Riddle, on the other hand, was evil," determined Harry. "He had not only taken Slytherin's position that muggle-born should be excluded or removed from Hogwarts, he had taken the dogma a step further in his desire to eliminate the muggle-born by killing them. But what about Slytherin's monster? Wasn't the opening of the chamber supposed to release the "horror within" and purge the castle of muggle born?"
Capricio landed next to Harry as if contemplating his words. Slowly the dragon extended his wings, shivered, and snapped his fangs at Harry.
"What?" said Harry suddenly considering the dragon. Understanding wedged into Harry's brain. "The Riddle in the Chamber of Secrets said Ginny had "set the serpent of Slytherin on four mudbloods." Wait a minute, he didn't say Slytherin's monster. A monster is in the eye of the beholder. Hagrid didn't consider any of his horrible "pets" monsters. Slytherin being a Parselmouth, would have spoken to many snakes. He wouldn't describe even a basilisk as a monster."
As Harry mentally ruminated, an additional piece fell into place, "When Tom Riddle from the diary set the basilisk at me, he said I was going to face the power of Lord Voldemort, not of Slytherin! It all fits!"
Harry turned his attention back to the still quivering wyvern. "You are Slytherin's monster aren't you? You are the horror "within." Your job is to drive muggle born from the castle!" Capricio continued to shiver. "You're having second thoughts. You don't want to complete your task, do you?" Harry could see the answer in the black pools that were Capricio's eyes. "Well how about this? You are to kill me or protect me, right? We've gotten along pretty well. I'll need help to complete my quest. Some of my best friends are muggle born. I need both you and them. If I can show you that Slytherin was wrong about all muggle born being untrustworthy, can we reach at least a temporary accord?"
Capricio lowered his wings and hopped to Harry's hand. He took his wing joint claw and scratched the inside of his wing. Turning to Harry he made a small scratch on the back of Harry's left hand, over the ghostly "I must not tell lies" scar. Immediately the dragon pressed two scratches together.
"That's more than I could have asked for!" said Harry. He picked up the dragon and with his wand healed the small scratch, leaving a thin gold line. "Together then!"
As Capricio took to flight, Harry made to summon the black book remaining on the desk. "These seem to have been well-used reference books but what do we have here...?" He had motioned with his wand from Capricio to the book on the desk when the dragon dived and flew straight at him. The wyvern began to enlarge before Harry's eyes, and at the speed it was growing; he estimated it was going to deal him a terrific blow. Bracing for the impact, he turned a quarter turn toward the bookcase as the wyvern struck. The force threw Harry against the rough wall and on to the floor just as a tremendous concussion wave broke in the small chamber. Rocks split apart, debris rained down, the noise was horrific. As blackness dragged him down, a huge leathery wing covered Harry. His last conscious thought was, "I've killed us."
Harry regained a sense of himself an untold time later. As he struggled to disentangle himself from the dragon's wing and the debris, he noted that the dust had settled; giving him cause to think that a significant amount of time had passed. Every inch of his body ached. His cloak was torn. His right hand was bleeding where the dragon had struck him with clawed feet. Testing gingerly for broken bones, he got unsteadily to his feet. Worse for the wear, but still able to move, he surveyed the damage. There was a clear foot of detritus everywhere except at the opening in the room's floor. There, the rocks and dust seemed to hover as if not sure which way to fall. With a start, Harry realized that he hadn't seen Capricio move at all. Fearing the worst, Harry addressed the dragon, "What was that all about?" His heart sank as he saw the tip of a leathery wing, smoking and immobile, protruding out of the litter-strewn floor. Capricio didn't stir. Spirals of smoke curled from the dragon's scaly hide. The odor of char was thick in the air.
"What have I done?" choked Harry. Frantically removing rocks from atop the dragon, Harry sobbed, "I missed something and you interdicted."
As more debris was moved, he was astounded to see the dragon's wing twitch. Heartened by the motion, he redoubled his efforts. Harry was almost overcome with emotion when, at last, the dragon freed itself from the remaining debris and attempted to stand. Capricio flexed his wings and legs, reminding Harry forcefully of an umbrella being opened and closed. Harry noted anomalies in the dragon's movements and concluded that Capricio's right wing and leg were broken.
"Will you let me take a look at that?" Harry asked the wyvern. "I know that you have no reason to trust me after my pea-brained stunt, but I may be able to help."
As if in answer the dragon ceased moving and looked at Harry.
"I have been the subject of bone regrowing potion and broken bone mending. I have book knowledge of some healer's spells...if you give me a chance, I would like to help. If not, and I would understand completely, I will take you immediately to Hagrid. He'll know what to do."
In answer to Harry's entreaty, the dragon stood stock still, balancing on its left leg. And look expectantly at Harry.
Harry first cleared the remaining debris from around the dragon. Preparing himself for the untried magic, he knelt in front of the dragon. He reviewed healer's texts and concentrated on Madam Pomfrey's spell to repair broken bones. When he felt he was ready, he held his wand to the dragon's wing and intoned Coeo Comminutae. Through his glasses he saw the spell strike the dragon's scaly hide and bounce off, ineffectual.
"I had forgotten how powerfully magical dragons are," said Harry. As if in answer, the dragon jerkily lifted its damaged wing to expose a small spot where either the jagged rocks or the earlier magic backlash had cut through its tough hide. Harry took the cue. He placed the tip of his wand nearly in the wound and performed the spell again. This time he watched enthralled, as the magic seemed to slip through the perforation, and in a pinkish light, the wing straightened. The dragon flexed its wing, and apparently satisfied, held out its leg. Harry had to search carefully for an access point for the magic, finally finding that one of the dragon's claws had been torn partially loose from the nailbed. He performed the spell nonverbally and saw the same pink glow.
The wyvern stepped cautiously on the mended leg, returned to its diminutive size, and hopped to Harry. It bent to rub its scaly head against Harry's thumb and then took flight, cuffing Harry about the head with its wings. The meaning was perfectly clear, "Thanks, but let's not go that route again."
Before proceeding, Harry made a meal for himself and the dragon. They both took their time to eat as if chewing and swallowing were a bit painful. "Sorry you got the worst of my mistake," Harry said humbly to the dragon, "I have to admit that if that spell, or whatever it was, had hit me without your protection, I'd be dead." Capricio churred.
When they had eaten their fill and the meal was cleared away, Harry returned his attention to the table. He stowed magical items and cautiously began to run his hands along the wall. As he had expected, when he came to the table, it lost three-dimensional features and became flat to his touch. "That's twice I could have died by not recognizing masking magic. I've got to figure out how you can sense when masking magic; what am I saying, when any magic, is present. I don't want to have to go around touching every surface around me for the rest of my life." Then almost sheepishly Harry added, "Thanks!"
Setting to the magic, Harry retrieved the crucible and set his gold and unicorn hair shield in place and removed the masking magic. The close walls of the small room magnified the heat and noise, but when the din receded, Harry decided that at least he was now warm. He resealed the crucible and left the gold to cool.
Stepping over the puddle of molten slag, and before setting to the table, he looked closely for any attendant magic. He found two protections in place. Wanting to be as careful as possible, Harry took his time to decipher and break the spells. They were not exceptionally difficult to break even though they were sufficiently malicious in their intent. Harry opened the book without the Wallacearia Condensata spell in place and flipped through the pages. The book was written in code. It was a form of Parseltongue but entirely different than that in Slytherin's grimorie. Harry could not get his mind around the language and decided to take a small break from the task. He called Capricio but the dragon seemed ill at ease about landing on the table, so Harry turned from the table and sat at the chair near the writing desk. The time spent stroking the dragon seemed to calm and focus Harry's mind.
As he returned to the table, his elbow struck Riddle's book knocking it to the floor. He watched in horror as the book fell, dreading the result of the impact. The book landed with a thud and the leather cover split along the binding. "That could have been much worse!" thought Harry, unsquinching his eyes. Gingerly, he picked up the book. As he was about to lay it flat, he noticed a slip of parchment concealed within the fractured cover of the book. Withdrawing the parchment, he saw one side covered with anagrams; the other contained a preliminary attempt to translate English to Mermish and then Mermish into Parseltongue. "That's it!" said Harry. "It alters the placement of modifiers, subjects and verbs; and these extra symbols denote stress, frequency, and volume." With that revelation in hand, he began to haltingly translate the book.
A small degree of pity filled Harry's mind as he read the initial words of a young Tom Riddle. He related being bullied about by older students his first few weeks at Hogwarts. The pity quickly evaporated as Riddle wrote of the methods he used to acquire cooperation and information from the older Slytherin students. Apparently Riddle had associated with the darkest of the Slytherin students and applied his considerable talents of bending others to his will more than once his first year at Hogwarts. Using his nefarious skills he gained access to banned information. Riddle wrote that he saw more to magic than was being taught at Hogwarts. Several of the older students mentioned Knockturn Alley as the best place to acquire "interesting" items. Riddle wrote that he applied himself to the "little" that Hogwarts teachers were allowed to teach and gained top marks. He wrote of his desire to visit Knockturn Alley at his first opportunity. That chance came at the end of his first school year. He wrote of his disdain for the staff at the orphanage, how he felt they never treated him with the respect he deserved. They let him wander London at will, and he felt they secretly hoped that one day he would not return from his roaming. He wrote of his first confrontation with an adult wizard in Knockturn Alley, how the greasy-haired wizard had noticed he was alone and tried to forcibly abduct him. The young Riddle's words dripped pleasure as he recounted sending the man to the cobblestone alley screaming in agony. Discounting the willingness and ability of one as young as Riddle to use the Cruciatus Curse was the wizard's undoing. From that experience, Riddle wrote that he learned to strike first and strike decisively. Three themes vied for space in the book; first his desire to find out about his parents, second a quest to explore dark magic, and near the end of his first year, a near mania to find out all he could about Slytherin and the Chamber of Secrets. The diary continued on in the same vein relating books he had read and spells he had mastered. Notably, one to completely hide the trail of his performed magic. "Trail maybe, but not the signature," thought Harry. Riddle told of the facade he maintained with the teachers and most of the other students.
Harry was shocked to see a passage written in sloppy block English, as if Riddle had been too excited to bother with the dual translation. It recounted the acquisition of a basilisk. He told excitedly of how the owner had been only too eager to be rid of the deadly serpent, as the snake had already killed her only son with its deadly stare. Riddle had spoken to the snake in its own language and established dominance. He forced the snake to wear a magic hood covering its eyes whenever it was in his presence, upon threat of its own life. He had kept it in a suitcase under his bed, feeding it on mice and rats captured in the castle. When he finally discovered the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets he had housed the serpent within the chamber. He spoke of altering the chamber to more fully accommodate the snake, which quickly grew to match the proportions of its enclosure. Some pages later he told remorselessly of the murder he committed to gain the single piece of ancient parchment containing the secrets of the Horcrux. Harry nearly retched; Riddle had been thirteen! He told of his frustration at not being able to find Slytherin's monster and release it, and the decision he made to instead loose his basilisk on the school.
"That's a clue I missed completely!" said Harry aloud, "The basilisk didn't have the ability to attack only muggle-born. It was indiscriminate in its gaze! Any who fell under its stare would have died; pureblood, half-blood, and muggle alike."
Harry went back to the book. Riddle told of Myrtle's death and almost jokingly described it as a "convenient accident." The next paragraph took Harry's breath away as Riddle recounted making the basilisk his first Horcrux at Myrtle's death; framing Hagrid, and using Hagrid's expulsion as opportunity to kill his "pets" and create the Diary Horcrux.
Harry didn't know what Riddle meant by Hagrid's "pets" and it wasn't elaborated it the text but the revelation rocked him to his core.
"I have destroyed TWO of Voldemort's Horcruxes already...the diary and the basilisk. Dumbledore destroyed the Horcrux in the Peverell ring. That leaves only three!"
His own words stirred a bit of hope and also struck him with awe at his luck. "If I hadn't used Godric Gryffindor's sword, with its ancient magic, the basilisk/Horcrux would, most likely, have destroyed me. If I hadn't used the basilisk/Horcrux fang to destroy Riddle's diary I could have ended up looking like Dumbledore's withered hand. It appears that I might be able to use one Horcrux to destroy another Horcrux! There are still many questions to answer but there is one less Horcrux than I thought I had to find!"
Riddle finished the book somewhat distractedly. He told of his disdain for Headmaster Armando Dippet because he was so easily spied upon with dissociate magic, and his grudging respect for the abilities of Albus Dumbledore, the Hogwarts Transfiguration professor. There was a vow to better Albus Dumbledore in all things magic. And finally the discovery of the tale of his muggle father and witch mother, of his hatred for his father, of his locating the Gaunt family and his desire to become the most famous of "that noble ancient house."
The last lines summed up Riddle's life; "I'll hide this work away. Either I will gain later access to the castle or I will give another the responsibility of setting my basilisk loose. Either way I will show the wizarding world who is truly the greatest wizard of all time! Salazar Slytherin will be remembered as nothing compared to me!"
Harry pushed away from the desk and wiped his brow. "Blimey Capricio, what we've learned!" He shut the book and sealed it with his own spell. "Let's get out of here and consider some of this!" He turned and set to work on deciphering the remaining spell. He reverse incantated the magic and could see Riddle altering the Chamber to allow the basilisk entrance through the interconnecting system of castle drains and a 'throat' Riddle created in the statue. He also saw a fine line of magic, a backdoor, allowing Riddle to access the protected end of the room without going through the topsy-turvy magic. "That makes sense," thought Harry, "Riddle wouldn't want to go through that machination every time he came up here." Harry removed the magic, summoned his broom and flew out of the statue's open mouth.
Landing on the chamber floor Harry surveyed all around him. He looked at the statue's open mouth high above the chamber floor. "Another missed clue of the "monster within" said Harry. "Without Riddle's alteration of the Chamber of Secrets, the basilisk could not have gotten to the statue's mouth. Riddle must have thought it great poetic justice to allow the basilisk to come and go through the statue's mouth as Slytherin had been called "Serpent Tongue." Placing his study in the chamber behind the mouth must have given Riddle a feeling of power over Slytherin, offsetting his frustration over not finding Slytherin's monster."
As he went to bed, he rolled his new discoveries around in his mind. He drifted off to an uneasy sleep considering whether he had tackled and beaten all the magic the Chamber held. But the ramifications of his discoveries left much for him to dream-chase.
3. The Cave
"I think I've exhausted the challenges of the Chamber and it's time to confront some of the magic performed by Voldemort as an adult. The unraveling of Tom Riddle's magic was a near thing. I need to test my abilities against some of Voldemort's stationary magic," thought Harry as he arose the following morning. Turning to Capricio, Harry queried, "Well little mate, do you feel well enough to help me in a quest?"
The wyvern churred its approval. Flexing its wing and leg momentarily, it took flight and landed on Harry's shoulder, showing obvious anticipation.
"You're apparently recovered enough to be ready for adventure," observed Harry. But a worry penetrated Harry's mind, "Can you exist outside the chamber for an extended time?"
He looked into the dragon's deep, black eyes. He could see the thought form indicating that all would be well. He could also "see" the eagerness of the dragon to leave the Chamber that had been its home for nearly ten centuries.
"We've messed about with Tom Riddle's magic, I need you by my side as I approach some of Voldemort's magic. I ask your help to avoid what I might miss in the magic spectrum. I need you to watch my back," said Harry to the wyvern. Sensing mounting anticipation in the small dragon, Harry loaded his haversack with all his resources. He considered leaving the crucible in the chamber but decided it was too valuable to leave behind. Accordingly, he checked the lock on the custom box and placed it in the bag. He considered where and when he wanted to confront Voldemort's magic. He knew his limiting factor was the Ministry of Magic's ability to detect underage magic; making transport away from Hogwarts a difficult proposition. "If only Tom Riddle had included the method of covering magical trails he had mentioned, this would be much easier. That's something I've got to learn," thought Harry.
He enumerated his remaining options; "I could overlay my magic on another wizard's magic, I could use the old school broom, I could call a thestral, I could walk, I could try to mask my magic from the Ministry. Of the choices available I think I'll use overlay magic for the next foray from Hogwarts."
Addressing Capricio, Harry said, "I'm planning on a trip to a cave fashioned by nature and modified by Voldemort. We will be following a wake of apparition magic to mask our presence. The trip back may be a different story however. It will largely depend on the amount of time we spend at the cave. Are you still game?"
Capricio blinked his assent and flew from Harry's shoulder to his outstretched hand. Harry magically stiffened the lining of one of his pockets to protect the wyvern. Slinging on the haversack, slipping the wyvern into the protective pocket, and grabbing the old school broom, he headed out of the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry disillusioned himself and the broom and then threw the invisibility cloaks over his head and flew out of the drainage pipe and up toward the castle. He cleared Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and flew uneventfully from the castle. The duo flew through the forest and then toward Hogsmeade. When they arrived at the outskirts of the town, Harry landed the broom and found a deserted alley. A protruding shop sign prevented direct view of the alley from the street. Satisfied with the location, Harry removed the cloaks, looked at the surrounding ambient magic, and hoped it was enough to hide his underage magic. He removed the disillusionment charm, pulled the Time-Turner from his robes, and after a bit of mental calculation, he set the Time-Turner in motion.
The disconcerting feeling of time travel was augmented by a sharp pain in Harry's side. He instinctively reached inside his robes and drew back a hand covered in blood. He realized belatedly that because he hadn't warned Capricio about the impending time travel, the small dragon had lashed out fiercely, slashing through his robes and gashing his side. Taking the wyvern out of the robe pocket, Harry checked him for any injury before attending to his own wound. The slash turned out to be superficial and a bit of pressure stemmed the blood flow.
Harry held the wyvern at arm's length and spoke calmingly, "Sorry about that mate. I thought I had that sorted; I'll have to remember to warn you about upcoming events. So, shortly we will be disapparating. It's a bit worse sensation than time travel and I want you to be prepared for it. The wyvern blinked understanding and clawed its way back into Harry's pocket.
Harry disillusioned himself and the broom and donned the cloaks. Then he looked for a place from which to observe. He finally settled on the yard supporting the Hog's Head sign, as it provided a clear view of the street below. Balancing on the timber, he waited patiently. His waiting time was spent preparing emotionally and mentally for what he was about to experience. At length his patience was rewarded by a view of Dumbledore rounding the corner and strolling toward the Hog's Head pub. Although he had thought himself prepared, he nearly fell from his perch at the sight of Dumbledore; setting the Hog's Head sign swinging gently. As soon as Dumbledore had disappeared, Harry tuned his glasses to spectrum attenuation and immediately saw the magic wake of recent apparition. Speaking soothingly to Capricio to warn him about the apparition, he descended from his observation point, focused his senses on the magic trail, turned carefully on the spot, and disapparated.
He appeared on the rock in the roiling sea and backed immediately away from "Harry" and Dumbledore. He watched Dumbledore give instructions and dive into the rough ocean. "Harry" slipped in to the water, following Dumbledore's wand light. Harry sat on the broken rock and tried not to think about what was happening inside the cave. His heart called out to him to intervene, to warn about the deadly path that "he" and Dumbledore were treading. All that stopped him was Dumbledore's admonition (echoed in his mind by Hermione, and Samthong Lung) that, "terrible things happen to wizards who meddle with time."
Looking at the cold, churning water, Harry shuddered. He considered just flying to the cave instead of swimming in the cold grey sea. Shivering, he dismissed the idea as Ministy-traceable. When he was sure that enough time had passed to allow "Harry" and Dumbledore to enter the inner cave. He freed the dragon and lowered himself into the churning water. He swam purposefully toward the cave, the wyvern flying lazily overhead. The dragon recognized where Harry was headed and flew directly into the cave. He was waiting when Harry stepped from the cold water.
Capricio watched intently as Harry slogged into the cave, covered his wand with a gold shield, and dried his robes with a quick spell. Harry then set about exploring the antechamber. Running his hands over the rough stone walls, he came to the same conclusion Dumbledore had reached; masking magic covered a secret entrance. The stone appeared to be rough and natural, but when touched it was smooth, almost featureless. Harry tuned his glasses and could immediately see the green outlines of Voldemort's magic. Harry knew better than to allow any magic to touch the long-set spell. Without allowing the magics to touch behind the thin gold sheild, he coaxed a bit of the magic away from the wall with a verbal offset spell taken from a long dead author. The magic resisted valiantly, finally breaking, a small sliver of green floating in the air several feet from the wall. He captured the magic and set about reverse incantating it. Much to his surprise, the magic broke easily and Harry could "see" the young Voldemort producing the magic imitating a cave wall. He could see the coarse, vulgar incantation, requiring a blood offering to open the entrance. There was something else too, the same a thin thread of backdoor magic that Tom Riddle had used in the Chamber of Secrets; magic access that would allow Voldemort entrance without the prerequisite blood offering.
"Typical. Voldemort wouldn't want to bring anyone else to the knowledge of this cave and he wouldn't want to stoop to offering his own blood to open the passage, so once again he made a way around his own magic!" Harry realized he had spoken aloud, his words reverberating off the hard cave walls. Checking his folly he clucked to Capricio beckoning the dragon to his hand. Quietly he whispered to the dragon, "In a bit, two people will be coming out of a door on the opposite side of the cave. They will be in a state but you need to stay out of their sight. When they have gone, our work will begin."
Evidencing his understanding, Capricio flew to a remote corner of the chamber, hiding high among the broken rocks. Harry settled himself under his cloaks and waited for the reappearance of "himself" and Dumbledore. While he waited, he contemplated Voldemort's magic. "It was much easier to decipher and break than I would have guessed. Voldemort failed to meet the level of magic ability I have come to expect regarding him."
As Harry rolled the thoughts over in his mind, the hidden doorway opened. A sagging Dumbledore supported by a staggering "Harry" struggled through the doorway. Harry could see that "Harry" was at the end of his strength, and defying the inner resolve he had made, he rose to help support Dumbledore. Still invisible, he stayed on the opposite side from "Harry" and lifted with all his might. "In for a penny, in for a pound," thought Harry as he made up his mind to assist "Harry" and Dumbledore back to the rock. He supported, used subtle maneuvering to lift, and even swam along, helping "Harry" get the incapacitated Dumbledore back to the rock, allowing the sound and action of the crashing sea to cover his splashes and sounds. He watched until he was sure that "he" and Dumbledore had safely disapparated before swimming back to the cave. He arrived tired and bleeding. The seawater and exertion had reopened the slash that the wyvern had given him when they time-turned.
Calling the wyvern to his side, Harry decided against the easy path of opening the hidden doorway even though it had conveniently presented itself. He stemmed the flow of blood and sat down on a rock. Capricio landed at his side and made a small sound of concern. "Its all right little one, we just need a bit of time to prepare for what's ahead." Harry's words seemed to placate the dragon. Harry withdrew the remaining lump of gold from his bag and formed it into a shield, which he placed over the seaward entrance. "That will limit the possibility of the Ministry sensing anything else we do in here," he said to the dragon.
"Now we really need to eat and rest just a bit. It took only moments for Harry to prepare a basic meal for himself and the wyvern. The food was eaten slowly and deliberately (at least Harry's was) and the remainder cleared away. Feeling better for the bit of rest and sustenance, Harry turned to the dragon and asked, "Are you ready to help me sort this out?"
Capricio flew to his hand and blinked assent.
Harry accessed the magic hiding the entrance to the inner cave and duplicated Voldemort's backdoor spell. The doorway responded immediately, glowed and disappeared. Harry was once again filled with a feeling of dread and foreboding at the prospect of what was ahead. "Shake it off. This time is different. I'm in charge and much more capable. I don't fear the bodies in the lake and I understand much more of Voldemort's magic. This is my turn!" The unspoken thought bolstered Harry as he considered the lake by wand light.
Whispering to the dragon he said, "Whatever we do, we don't want to disturb the lake water." The dragon churred. Harry saw that Dumbledore's fiery flames had died to just flickering light out on the island in the centre of the lake. He considered making his way to the place the small boat was hidden when a better idea came to mind. "Capricio, can you fly out to that island?" said Harry indicating the distant spit of rock. Capricio looked at the island and a violent shudder ran the length of his body but he extended his wings and took to flight. Instead of flying directly to the island, he flew straight up; higher even than the wand light penetrated. Harry watched for almost a full minute. He was about to call Capricio back when he saw the dragon tumbling out of control, wings pinned to its sides, heading directly for the black lake water below. Harry's years as a Quidditch seeker caused an immediate reaction. He determined an intercept was going to be nearly three feet out over the lake surface. Instinct seemed to take over. He unhitched the haversack, letting the straps come to rest in his left hand. He timed his motion and at the last instant he tossed his wand to the pathway behind him and swung the heavy backpack out over the lake. The pack's momentum and Harry's balance resulted in a circular pirouette. He sustained the motion and as his now empty right hand passed just inches over the lake, he felt his fingers close on the plummeting dragon. The backpack's momentum continued the spin and Harry pulled down hard as the pack passed the path. The change in direction pulled Harry and the wyvern back toward the path and toppled them in a heap against the stone wall.
Harry sat up shaking. The dragon was trembling in his hand. "Well little mate, that's what happens when I underestimate Voldemort. I'm sorry for putting you through that. Let's see what we are up against." Harry gathered up his wand and settled the pack against the wall. Still shaking, Harry touched his glasses with his wand and looked up. It was immediately understandable why the wyvern hadn't been able to fly over the lake. The air was filled with magic. Harry began to unravel the multitude of spells. One made the air difficult to penetrate with light. One caused the feeling of chill and fear. One forced down against the lake surface dampening the ripples caused by the bodies below the surface. One disrupted any means of flight above the lake surface. "That's what hit you. It wouldn't have mattered if it had been a broom or a jet airplane; that spell would have tried to bring you down in the lake. Believe me, that would have been bad!" Harry said to the now composed wyvern.
Harry set to dismantling the magic over the lake. It ended up painstaking work. Each spell had protections in place that he worked hard to unravel and eradicate. After the first two, the third was easier and the fourth seemed child's play. "Voldemort wasn't very creative here. He used the same type of protection to guard each spell. Better for us though! I think that does it," said Harry quietly to the dragon as the last of the magics dissolved. Just to be sure, Harry carefully surveyed the entire cave. The lake water, the island and the hidden exit were the only magic emanations Harry could discern.
Turning to the wyvern Harry asked, "Are you willing to try again?" The wyvern flew to his outstretched hand and rubbed its scaly head against Harry's hand. He took a minute to stroke the dragon, and as he did so, he saw the creature's thoughts. "Now I understand, you were trying to get above the magic you could see. You calculated that at worst you would end up in the lake and you didn't see great harm in that prospect. Thanks for your courage but in the future if I ask you to do something that seems contrary to the magic you encounter, you have my permission to whack me with your tail, or do anything else short of eating me, or making a toasted marshmallow out of me." The dragon rumbled a note of understanding.
"So now do you see anything that would prevent you from flying over the lake?" asked Harry. With the question, the dragon took to careful flight. Returning some minutes later, the dragon landed next to Harry and indicated approval of his work. "I have one more question. You know that "get large" thing you do? Can you do it at will or do you have to be threatened?" In answer to Harry's question, Capricio extended his wings, took to flight and, in the blink of an eye, became huge. "Can you get me over to that island?" Without hesitation, the wyvern swooped down; barely giving Harry time to scoop up his wand and pack. Grabbing Harry by his shoulders in sharp-clawed feet, the dragon lifted Harry and in a few impressive flaps of his large wings, dropped him lightly on the small island.
Harry surveyed the island. He could see the scorch marks from Dumbledore's now extinguished fire. The crystal goblet that had been used to scoop potion from the basin lay discarded at the base of the plinth supporting the basin. The Inferi who had been piled, restrained, and immobilized around the island had been dragged back into the lake. The basin had refilled to the top with the evil green potion. He took off the pack and fished around for a flask. He unstoppered the flask, picked up the crystal goblet and plunged it into the basin. Focusing to quell his nerve-shakes, he cautiously poured the potion from the goblet to the flask. Resealing it he carefully placed it in the pack. Harry next considered the magic surrounding the basin. Little by little he deciphered it and removed it. He came to realize he was facing at least two distinct magic personalities. The green magic signature of Voldemort was interlaced with a subtle yellow magic. Initially it was difficult to separate the two magics. Harry persisted until he had a single strand of yellow magic. As he began reverse incantation, a view of a dark haired young man came forcefully to his mind. Initially startled, he thought he was looking at his godfather, Sirius Black, as a young man; but some features were wrong. The face was fuller, the eyes the wrong shade, the hair straight and close cropped. With a gasp, Harry realized that he may be seeing R.A.B..
Having accomplished his initial purpose for coming to the cave, Harry weighed his options. He considered placing masking magic over the lake and letting it become self-protective; effectively sealing the Inferi below the surface. As he contemplated the lake by wand light, he saw bodies floating just below the surface. Instead of being repulsed or frightened, Harry found himself pitying the poor individuals who's bodies had been co-opted by Voldemort's evil. A plan came to Harry's mind; a plan that would cause Voldemort a dilemma if he determined to check on his Horcrux. Calling to the wyvern still circling overhead, he positioned himself carefully as the dragon swooped down to pick him up. As his feet left the rocky island, he landed a carefully placed kick on the rim of the basin, sending it careening off its plinth and into the black water. The potion stayed within the basin and cast an eerie green glow as it sank beneath the black water. The Inferi swarmed from the lake but finding no one, they slipped silently back into the water.
The wyvern flew noiselessly over the water and deposited Harry at the sealed exit door. Realizing his blood was already on the passage out, he reached inside his robes and brought out a bloody hand. Smearing his blood against the stone opened the passage immediately. Harry, and the once again diminutive dragon, stepped into the cave's antechamber. He gathered his shield into a condensed lump and stowed it in the pack. Lowering himself into the sea, he swam back to the rock. Using his glasses, he looked for "his" apparition wake. Although the wake was weak, it was still present. Deciding there was enough original magic to mask his apparition; he stowed and warned the wyvern and disapparated back to Hogsmeade.
Pausing momentarily in the street, he looked longingly at Hogwarts castle. The Dark Mark floated menacingly above the school. Fighting the urge to fly to the aid of his mates and Dumbledore, Harry tore his gaze from the scene and reluctantly time-turned.
The disorienting feeling caused by time travel seemed to subside more quickly and Harry gathered his wits. Speaking soothingly to the dragon in his pocket, he mounted the disillusioned broom and flew a different route through the forest back to Hogwarts, lest they run into "themseves." They arrived only moments after they had left and made their way back to the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry carefully placed the pack on the table. He thought hard about what he had just experienced, "I just abandoned Dumbledore! How do I come to grips with that? I know the warnings. I know the rules. I just can't believe I let him face his death without so much as a word." Harry shook with self-anger at the thought.
Capricio hopped to Harry and rubbed against his arm.
Harry looked down and saw wisdom in the wyvern's eyes. "I'm doing it again, aren't I; bad decisions under duress. We both need food and rest."
Harry set to prepare a meal with his mind churning. "Dumbledore, R.A.B., Horcruxes...as badly as I need sustenance I feel I need time to sort out this new information. My focus needs to be on R.A.B. That's something I can accomplish. I'm close to a breakthrough on R.A.B., I can feel it! I have a bit of potion with magic that may well help me on my way to locating one of Voldemort's Horcruxes. Dumbledore would not approve of my self-pity. Time to buck up and go on."
After the meal had been demolished and the cleanup complete, Harry cleared the table and stared at the flask of potion. "This is where I need to put my energies, not in something I can't change."
He pushed his sadness deep inside and looked at the wyvern. "I don't have much potion to work with and I don't want to run the risk of losing what I have here. I need to do this right the first time. I need some time to consider what I know, and what I need to know, to do this safely." Harry's words caused the dragon to land and look at him quizzically. "Capricio, you did more than your part by packing me around that cave. You can stay here and kip out on my bed if you'd like. I should only be gone a couple of hours." The wyvern hopped to Harry and clawed its way up his sleeve. "Or you could come with me," Harry said to the persistent dragon.
Harry pulled his ragged planner out of his pack, inwardly thankful that Hermione had forced its use upon him. He looked back though his Potions Class schedule and determined the days he needed to refocus his attention to what Horace Slughorn had been trying to teach him...Golpalott's Rules and poison/antidote classes. "I'm not so much interested in the class work as I am in Professor Slughorn's lecture because the book knowledge I have only goes so far. So we will be time-turning again, several times." Harry thought the mention of time travel might discourage the wyvern from accompanying him but it seemed to have the opposite effect. The dragon seemed to be anxious to get going. "Well then, let's be off," said Harry. He gathered a few select items, packing much more lightly than his last foray from the chamber. He slipped Capricio into the protective pocket and traversed the now familiar route to the castle. He stowed the disillusioned broom in its usual place in Myrtle's bathroom and headed to the potions classroom. He slipped inside the classroom, chose an isolated corner, warned the wyvern, and set the Time-Turner in motion.
The corner turned out a good choice, as he was thrust immediately into the hustle and bustle of Hogwarts at high use. His timing was perfect, as Slughorn had just started his lecture on Golpalott's First Rule. Harry was inwardly thankful he had to focus on Slughorn because his attention was drawn to Ron and Hermione. Harry began taking silent notes as Slughorn started talking... "We begin poisons and antidotes by studying Golpalott's Rules. Her First Rule states, "The strength and efficacy of any potion is directly proportional to the purity and concentration of each ingredient." Harry then intently listened to Slughorn explain purity and concentration for the remainder of the Potions class. He was jarred by a statement he had missed the first time he heard it. "Acromantula venom is the most potent reactant in any potion. When working around acromantula venom, care must be taken to avoid even the slightest contamination of preparation surfaces, flasks, vials, ingredients, or cauldrons. Even a trace of Acromantula venom acts as either a strengthening or a weakening catalyst. It strengthens all poisons and weakens all restoratives." As the class ended, Harry set the Time-Turner and the room dissolved.
The day compressed and Slughorn was speaking as if the lesson had simply been extended, "Her Second Rule continues in this vein, "The accuracy, efficacy, and outcome of any potion requires strict adherence to quantities, order of ingredient addition, brewing instructions, and assumes unadulterated ingredients, clean preparation surfaces and hands, and a clean and inert brewing cauldron." "We will begin today's class with her first two rules as our focus in every move we make. Slughorn spent thirty minutes expanding the rules and then directed the class, "Your instructions are on the board. Begin." Harry looked at his notes and the board and smiled inwardly. In a corner of the board was a poster, "Clean cauldrons prevent potions from becoming poisons" He remembered the same poster at St. Mungo's hospital and that brought thoughts of being with Hermione and the Weasleys. Refocusing on the intent of the poster he realized, "It's something I need to consider carefully." He studied the potion Slughorn had set. He noticed the many persnickety features of the directions and watched enthralled as the entire class set to work.
Feeling he had gained what he needed. He reset the Time-Turner and headed into time. The room spun and resumed normalcy. Horace Slughorn was speaking, "Today we will combine the lessons of the last several classes. Golpalott's Third Rule (and Harry noticed that he didn't quote it directly) will help us understand the breaking down and deciphering of any potion or poison. Although all poisons must be handled with great care because individual ingredients may themselves be toxic, some ordinary potions use ingredients that can carry hazards. Therefore, one always uses extreme caution when breaking down an unknown potion." Slughorn went on to explain about the process of breaking potions, determining toxicity, and began to touch antidotes when class time ran out.
Harry reset the Time-Turner and proceeded to the next Potions class. Hermione was answering Slughorn's question by quoting Golpalott's Third Rule, "The antidote for a blended poison will be equal to more than the sum of the antidotes for each of the separate components." Harry remembered this day. It was the day he realized that the Half Blood Prince wasn't going to help him in identifying a poison and creating an antidote. He remembered his helpless feeling. Silently he slipped to a position just in front of a feverishly working Hermione. "I'm sorry Hermione. I hope you'll forgive me later," thought Harry as he raised his wand and concentrated "Legilimens." Instead of looking for a particular memory, Harry quietly "rode" along with Hermione's thought process. He neither interfered nor pushed. The speed of the thoughts going through Hermione's mind astounded Harry. She was concentrating on the process of breaking down the poison while simultaneously entertaining thoughts of aggravation for himself, concern/fury/frustration/love/resentment for Ron (I can't believe she can contain all that), an awareness of the progress of other students in the classroom, and mental review of half-a-dozen texts she had committed to memory. The complexity of her thoughts stunned Harry. "Blimey," he thought, "no wonder she was irked when I pulled my bezoar stunt." Harry learned a great deal by following along with Hermione's thoughts. She pulled references out of books that he had also read, but would never have considered, until she "showed" him the way to connect the ideas. More as apology than need to see, Harry remained to the class end and, embarrassed this time, watched as he presented the bezoar to Slughorn. From his vantage point he could see the look of anger that momentarily crossed Hermione's face as she realized her hard work would go unnoticed. Harry found himself in complete agreement with her, "I was a cad. I'll have to remember to apologize to her when we get back together."
Harry watched as the class cleared and he questioned Slughorn about Horcruxes. Slughorn fled and "Harry," looking dejected left the classroom. As he sat in the now empty classroom, he absentmindedly reached into his pocket to free Capricio. "Sorry chum, I know I've had you in there a long go."
The dragon unfurled leathery wings and took to the air, happy to be free again. Harry paid little attention to the dragon as he considered how bad he felt about what he had just done to Hermione. Finally coming out of his mulling, Harry saw that Capricio was playing with something on the floor at the back of the room. Curious, Harry approached and was astonished to see that the dragon was rolling a bezoar around on the floor.
"Slughorn was so unnerved by my question that he must have dropped this in his hurry to leave. Thanks, Capricio!" said Harry as he retrieved the stone from the dragon. Holding the bezoar in his hand a sickening thought crossed his mind. "Bezoars look a lot alike but this one looks like the one I used to save Ron's life on his seventeenth birthday. Thinking on it, how did I know that Slughorn even carried a bezoar in his satchel?"
Harry made up his mind immediately. He clicked his tongue and the wyvern flew directly to him. He carefully stowed the dragon and tore from the room. Knowing where Slughorn would head, Harry raced through the castle taking two shortcuts and a secret passage. Even so, he was barely in time. Slughorn was opening his door as Harry skidded to a stop behind him. Trying to control his labored breathing, he slipped into Slughorn's chambers just as the latch snicked shut.
Slughorn placed his satchel on a low table and made his way to an overstuffed chair. He had just settled himself in when he turned to the spot Harry was standing and said, "That's quite enough of that." Harry's heart froze. Slughorn had heard his heavy breathing. He realized belatedly that he had forgotten "Muffliato!"
Slughorn continued, "I hear you Peeves. You know better than coming into a teacher's private quarters. There is no teenage angst here, so get yourself along."
Throwing caution to the wind, and in one fluid motion, Harry snapped open the satchel, dropped in the bezoar, and bolted out Slughorn's door. As the door latched, Harry heard Slughorn saying, "...one of the reasons I didn't want to come back to Hogwarts; too many manifestations of teenage drama."
Harry didn't hesitate. He set the Time-Turner on the spot. With a practiced flick he spun the hourglass. As soon as he had his feet under him, he called up the sound-deadening spell and pelted back to the Chamber of Secrets.
Harry entered the chamber completely worn out. "It's been over four hours since I've eaten, I'm hungry and exhausted as I'm sure you are," he said to the wyvern. He made a meal for himself and the dragon, cleaned up and settled himself in a chair. "Capricio, would you keep watch while I order my thoughts?" Harry had no more than uttered the words when the dragon took to flight, circling the chamber.
Immersing himself in the Gemynd spell, Harry focused on what he had learned about taking potions apart and the reference material he had read on the subject. He was "gone" over two hours and returned refreshed and with a renewed desire to unravel the potion still mocking him from the table.
He conjured a row of crystal phials, a cast iron cauldron, condensing coils, and brass scales. Next he took out the lump of gold and formed an inert lining for his cauldron. Feeling ready, he decanted the flask of potion into the lined cauldron. Before starting the fire beneath the cauldron, Harry reviewed Dumbledore's text on forensic magic, Scarpin's text on potion breaking, and a John Dee text, some five hundred years old, which Hermione had referenced during her poison identification. The combination gave him a tremendous start in the process. He silently used the spell that he knew would begin the splitting process of the individual potions. By unifying the three methods, Harry succeeded in basic separation of essences; one sickly green, one pale yellow, and a third absolutely clear. The clear substance seemed to be some type of binding agent. None of the texts Harry could recall explained anything like the clear material, but he soldiered on. He condensed the three essences into phials and approached each individually.
"Ironic," Harry thought, "the green potion appears to be Voldemort's and it's the one I'm inclined to start with. I recognize much of Voldemort's style. I shudder to think that I'm becoming comfortable with his magic." Harry reverse incantated the potion and found it was indeed Voldemort's creation. He could "see" Voldemort and the magic he put into place. Assured of the creator, He quickly broke the green potion into its constituent components and saw that it was intended to paralyze muscles and slow mental process. Taken in quantity, it would cumulatively incapacitate the drinker both physically and mentally, while simultaneously causing tremendous thirst.
Harry realized that, on the island, if the drinker tried to get water from the lake to slake his thirst, he would be no match for the Inferi. Satisfied with his findings, he stopped to share a meal with Capricio. Afterward he felt more composed, and he approached the pale yellow potion. Just to be sure, he reverse incantated the potion and was rewarded with the vision of the same dark-haired young man he had "seen" in the cave. He focused carefully and saw that the young man's robe had an embroidered crest over the pocket. The Latin motto "Toujours Pur" was clearly visible in the magic trail. With a start, Harry remembered seeing the motto "Toujours Pur" under the Black family crest on the silver goblets Sirius had so loathed. A sick, exciting feeling overwhelmed Harry. "Sirius' little brother's name was Regulus! He was a Death Eater! Sirius told us Regulus got in too deep, panicked; and Voldemort had him killed! His initials were R.B.! Could he be R.A.B.?" The thought coursed through Harry, as did new possibilities. "No, I can't jump to conclusions. I need to finish what I've started here and see where it goes," he said to calm himself. Settling himself in front of the cauldron, he poured in the yellow potion and began the process of dividing it into individual ingredients. The process took longer than Voldemort's potion because of the unfamiliar source. Eventually though he had the potion divided into its core ingredients. Harry had to search long and hard for what the materials would create when blended together. The potion turned out to be a union of a memory draught and a misery minder. Together the potions would cause the drinker to remember and relive the grief of all the bad experiences, poor decisions, and ruinous consequences of actions or inaction in their entire life. It would also cause unending mental anguish over each memory and the anguish was exponential with each drink of potion consumed.
"This combination is what Dumbledore endured. To be reminded precisely of all his mistakes and their consequences, to live the torment over and over; that was the intent of the yellow potion. And Dumbledore endured it in the weakened state caused by Voldemort's potion!" Harry thought in awed contemplation. "Even as young as I am I wouldn't want to relive my mistakes and their consequences over and over. I can't even imagine what Dumbledore endured after over one hundred fifty years of life." Sadness filled Harry. "Dumbledore did so much good during his life, he helped so many people, protected so many lives; to have to endure the reexamination of all his mistakes as an ending to his life is more than unjust, its despicable."
Inwardly loathing R.A.B., Harry turned his attention to the clear component of the potion. Duplicating his previous actions, Harry reverse incantated the liquid and was nonplussed when he saw that the magic had apparently failed. No magic trail leading to a magic incantation appeared. Harry tried again and got the same results, nothing. He researched the texts in his mind's-eye library and could find nothing that would coax reluctant magic to manifest its self. His mind finally settled on a passage by Aristotle, 'A thing examined closely, ceases to exist.' He stepped away from the table. "What kind of magic could be performed that can't be seen?" Harry pondered the riddle. Suddenly the answer was clear. "I've asked this question myself! The question about magic without words or wands." Harry continued the mental process, "Could this be the manifestation of elf or goblin magic? Magic without words, or wands, or a trail! Or possibly another non-human wielder of magic? He pushed the question further, "Why wasn't the Ministry of Magic able to tell that an elf had performed the hover charm they accused me of doing? How come Hogwarts staff, with all their magical acumen, didn't know that Dobby had messed about with the Quidditch bludger in my second year? Why wasn't anyone on the staff, not to mention the castle's own magic, able to keep Dobby out of the hospital wing after my bludger injury? And considering castle magic, house elves CAN disapparate within Hogwarts regardless of the spell that should prevent apparition. It appears that even those whose job it is to recognize and decipher magic have a blind spot!"
The carriwitchet seemed unanswerable. "If I assume that at this time there is no right answer, then I need to learn a little more, maybe a lot more, to solve this riddle. I now recognize two distinct kinds of magic bound together in that potion. One perpetrated by Voldemort; one designed by R.A.B.. I need to follow the one thin lead I have on R.A.B.. If it doesn't pan out, I start over. It's just that simple. I'll tackle the third magic as I gain more ability." Harry's decision brought a semblance of closure to a frustrating day. He shared a meal with the wyvern and turned in for the night knowing he'd need his strength for the upcoming foray.
5. Number 12 Grimmauld Place
Harry awoke the next morning determined to find solution to some of the questions that had plagued his yesterday and echoed in his night's dreams. "Capricio, little mate, I believe the answers to some of our pressing questions are held in London. So I'm going to have to ask you to put up with a new experience. We are going to travel by floo powder and I have to confess, it's not my favorite way to travel. All-in-all it is still our best method." Harry had waited for breakfast to be finished before he broached the topic to the dragon. "I would really like you with me, if you are willing to face the discomfort. The house we are going to was owned by very dark wizards and although much of it has been cleaned up, there may be some nasty things left." The wyvern snapped its jaws as if to say, "Let them come!" "Good answer mate!" said Harry, "We leave immediately."
Harry pocketed the dragon, performed the now standard disillusionment, took the invisibility cloaks, and broom and set out from the chamber. He had enlarged the hole in the cave-in to the point that he could take it at speed on his broom. The trip up to the castle took less than two minutes. Stowing the broom, Harry whispered to Capricio, "Now all we need is a fireplace and some floo powder." That turned out easier said than done as all the doors seemed to be locked and the fireplaces that were in the open didn't have a speck of floo powder near them. Harry finally decided that the tightened security arrangements were responsible for the lack of easy transport. "We only have a couple of options. We can break in to an office, we can put this off until later, we could go back before the security was tightened, or .... Dobby!" Harry had barely uttered the name when Dobby appeared at his side.
"Harry Potter, sir?" said the house elf tentatively, as he looked questioningly up and down the corridor.
Quickly Harry removed the cloaks and ended the disillusionment charm while pointing to his sock. "Sorry about that, Dobby," said Harry. "Is there any chance that I might be able to get any floo powder here in the castle?"
"Harry Potter could sir," said Dobby hesitantly, "Harry Potter could go to any of the teachers to get floo powder. You see, sir; one of the things house elves is not allowed is floo powder. When we elves needs to travel, we asks our master and then justs disapparates; so having floo powder would be pointless."
"I see. Thank you Dobby. I appreciate your help," said Harry.
Dobby, sensing dismissal, bowed and with a tentative smile, disapparated.
"Well, let's look at our choices," said Harry as he replaced his invisibility protections. "All the classrooms seem to be locked, I don't want to chance staff living quarters, the elves will be of little help, I don't have the necessaries to make floo powder." Harry strolled absentmindedly about the castle as he considered his new dilemma. His feet seemed to be taking him of their own accord and at length he stopped in the entrance of the castle. He looked around at the marble staircases going both up and down and at the huge front doors. "Well this is appropriate. From here I can go up, down, or out... hold on! What about Snape's office? I'm not sure if Moody stayed there, but maybe no one has bothered to lock up his office. I'll have to be extremely careful. Moody spells first and asks questions later." Turning his feet toward the dungeons, he headed down the narrow stone stairs leading to the bowels of the castle.
Stopping in front of Snape's old lair filled Harry with fresh dread of remembered horrors experienced in this dungeon office. He tried the door and to his amazement it was not only unlocked, it was ajar. Caution filled him like sand, slowing his movements. The door creaked on ancient hinges, the screech of tortured metal echoing down the mute passageways. In the quiet, the harsh sound grated on his nerves and filled him with deep foreboding. Sliding silently into the hated room, he saw cauldrons bubbling with Snape's private potions, and jars of floating things lining the time-blackened walls. Ignoring bubbling cauldrons of potions in various stages of completion, he crossed the room to the firepace. "I recall the night that Snape threatened to burn the Marauder's Map...he summoned Lupin through the fire by floo powder," mused Harry aloud. Putting the thought to the fore, he began a systematic search for the floo powder. Carefully moving the items on the mantle he was delighted to see a small jar behind a huge canopic vase. It was the same jar Snape had taken floo powder from to summon Professor Lupin in Harry's third year at Hogwarts. Pulling the jar from the mantle he was gratified to see it held glittering green floo powder. Sifting the powder into a pouch he took from his pack, and stuffing the pouch into a robe pocket, he backed quickly from the room. "I could have started a fire here, but I'd rather not spend any more time in this dungeon than necessary." Harry's words were intended to calm the wyvern as he had noticed that Capricio seemed to recognize and mirror his moods and emotions. Making his way to the nearest castle fireplace, he spoke soothingly to Capricio as he dropped a pinch of the floo powder onto the fire. The flames immediately went green. Without hesitation, Harry said, "Number 12 Grimmauld Place London" and stepped into the flames. The spinning sensation was not to Harry's liking; a dislike apparently shared by the squirming dragon in his pocket.
Harry appeared in Number 12 Grimmauld Place's kitchen fireplace. When the floo powder flames died down there was absolute darkness. He lit the lamps with his wand, removed the invisibility protection, and released Capricio. The silence seemed multiplied by the fusty air. The house had the imposing feeling of abandonment, neglect, and decay. Capricio flying above, Harry made his way up the stairs and out of the kitchen, silently lighting the lamps and scanning for malevolent magic as he went from room to room. Heading up the stairs, he shuddered a bit as he passed under the mounted house elf's heads. "If we have time we just might do a little cleaning around here, and those heads will be the first to go," said Harry.
Shortly, he arrived at the first floor room concealing the Black family tree. Sirius had mentioned that the tapestry emblazoned with almost seven hundred years of Black family genealogy had resisted all attempts to remove it from the wall. "Permanent sticking charm." Sirius had said. Harry inwardly hoped it had continued its resistance during the intervening months while he had been at Hogwarts. "If they succeeded in removing the tapestry our trip here could well be wasted. If it's still there, I'll need your help watching out for danger," said Harry to the wyvern.
Pushing the door open, Harry cringed a bit at the creak of rust bound hinges. Saying a silent prayer that the tapestry was still intact, he lit the lamps in the room. A curious relief flooded him as the light revealed the ancient tapestry still affixed stubbornly to the walls. As he made his way toward the tapestry, he could hear scuttling noises behind the walls.
"Capricio, keep a sharp lookout. We're not alone here. No surprises now mate," he called to the small dragon. Lighting his wand tip for extra light, he found the burn mark where Walburga Black had expunged her own son's name from the family tree. Immediately to the right of the burn mark was a thin gold thread connecting to Sirius's younger brother. Harry's heart gave a funny kind of leap in his chest. There in fine gold embroidery was the name Regulus Arcturus Black 1960-1979. "This could be it Cap! This could be what I've been looking for!" said Harry to the dragon flying lazily nearby.
As Harry reached out to touch the burn spot representing his godfather, Capricio tucked his wings and dived. The wyvern struck Harry's hand just a fraction of a second before his finger touched the fabric and then landed at his feet in a small poof of dust. The dragon proceeded to grind something into the floor with his clawed foot.
Once again surprised at the wyvern's quickness, Harry bent to examine the dragon, "What have you got there? What did I miss?" asked Harry, curiosity and dread welling up inside of him. The dragon stepped aside to reveal a motionless tiny black piece of what appeared to be fabric fluff. Harry searched his memory, finally coming up with the tiny creature's name. "Forget-me-mites!" said Harry, "In some circles they're called unminder-mites! A forget-me-mite's bite makes you forget what you're about. They may have protected the tapestry from destruction as they prevent anyone from remembering what they were going to do." Harry took several paces away from the tapestry and performed a blanket stunning spell. It looked as if the tapestry was falling apart as little bits of fluff cascaded to the floor and collected in a heap. Harry kept his nose and mouth covered with a fold of his robe, lest he inhale one of the mites, and forget his goal. When the mites had ceased falling to the floor, Harry vanished them with a flick of his wand. "That will take care of them for a while, but without constant cleaning, they'll be back. Although, that "mite" explain why the others weren't able to remove this tapestry. If they stirred up the air in this room very much, they wouldn't remember that they were trying to remove the tapestry. It's a good thing the air has been still in here for so long and it's a really good thing that I had you along. Thanks again mate!" said Harry picking up the small dragon.
"I don't really want to remove this just now," said Harry, motioning to the tapestry. "I do, however, want to right an injustice." He unraveled the tapestry's magic and repaired the burn marks at the locations indicating Alphard, Andromeda, and Sirius on the family tree. Feeling a bit better that Sirius was once again remembered as part of a family; Harry considered aloud what he had learned. "Regulus Black had the correct initials, and a connection to Voldemort. That's all coincidental without proof of some sort. Did he have a reason to motivate him to destroy a Horcrux? It looks like I search a bit more. The tapestry has told me all it can." Then to Capricio, "Let's push on shall we?"
As they proceeded to leave the room, Harry noticed the writing desk that had once been home to a boggart. That same boggart had nearly undone Mrs. Weasley by impersonating dead family and friends.
Curious, he walked over to the desk. It had apparently sat unmolested since Molly Weasley had unlocked it and released the boggart. He examined it and detected no magic. He remembered the boggart's effect on Mrs. Weasley and called Capricio down to the top of the desk. "Keep your eyes peeled, would you mate?" asked Harry. The dragon blinked assent.
Harry reached for the centre drawer pull and hesitantly slid the drawer from the desk. The drawer had only moved a couple of inches when a motion from within caused him to jerk the drawer free from the desk and aim his wand at a scrabbling figure attempting to escape. Harry's reaction was a fraction of a second behind Capricio's. The dragon swooped from the desk, and in a crunching of bones, landed atop the fleeing figure. Wand aimed, Harry approached the dragon, now the size of a house cat, to find it eating a large brown rat.
Harry tried to still his racing heart. "Thanks, I rather expected you to be a help with magical threats, but well done! Enjoy your meal."
As the wyvern ate a noisy meal, Harry wondered at how the rat had gotten in the drawer. "That rat wasn't magic. It couldn't have existed in that drawer without food." He placed the empty drawer atop the desk. It was immediately obvious that the drawer was little more than half the depth of the desk. Peering under the desk, wand tip alight, he could see the desk had been modified. A space between the end of the shortened drawer and a wooden block at the rear of the desk had allowed the rat to squeeze into the drawer that had held the boggart. He was about to get out from under the desk when he noticed a slip of parchment protruding between the wooden block and the underside of the desk. He hustled back to the kitchen and returned with a heavy knife. On his back under the desk, he attempted to free the piece of parchment by prying with the knife. Instead of the parchment, the entire block of wood detached and fell to the floor, nearly clunking him in the process.
Harry retrieved the wooden block and excoriated himself for using the knife, now stuck point-first in the floor inches from his ear. "Magic would have done a better job than that knife, and I would have had my wand at the ready," he mused. He slid back out into the room and surveyed what he had discovered. He found it wasn't a wooden spacer; instead it was a rectangular box. He could tell from the slip of parchment protruding from within the box that the lid slid sideways. Calling Capricio from his now finished meal, Harry set him on the desk as he prepared to open the box. The dragon extended his wings and quivered as the box lid slid open revealing a myriad of small items.
The inside of the box intrigued Harry. Now that it was open, he could see magic emanations; some of them appearing quite old. Inside there was a scroll of parchment, a flat leather box, a vial, a blood-red stone, and a gold ring. He could see no danger in any of the items but turned to the wyvern for verification. As the box had been opened the dragon seemed to settle down and now calmly watched as Harry sorted through the items. "Why couldn't I see the magic contained in this box? Is the magic enhancing my glasses failing? What's going on here?"
Attempting to answer his own questions, he replaced the drawer in the desk, emptied the box contents on the desk and examined the box more closely. Rubbing his finger on the inside of the box, he discovered lamp-black covering a thin layer of elemental gold. "That explains why I couldn't see the traces of magic, but why was this box hidden? Moody's magical eye didn't even detect this!" Turning his attention to the items on the desk, Harry looked over each of them carefully. "What do you think Capricio?" At his question the dragon walked clumsily among the oddities strewn on the desk. At length, apparently satisfied, Capricio took flight and landed on Harry's shoulder.
Harry picked up the scroll. It turned out to be two pieces of parchment. The outer scroll was unsealed and surrounded a magically sealed inner scroll. Unrolling the unsealed scroll, he found that it was a letter from Regulus to Sirius. Harry felt like a thief and intruder as he read the words of his godfather's long-dead brother...
I don't have much time. I'm being pursued by Death Eaters and I am only safe momentarily because of our dear father's desire to be completely isolated from the world. His unplottable charm on our house works to my great advantage. My fear is that since several of our relatives are also Death Eaters and have visited our home in the past, I may not be safe here for long. Sirius, I want to apologize and I may never get the chance to see you again face-to-face. You were right. I was a fool to bend to the inculcation of our father and mother. Pure blood isn't ALWAYS PURE. I have seen the cruelest; most vile acts perpetrated on muggles and wizards alike by "purebloods." I want no more of ALWAYS PURE. Beyond the infamy of being involved with the dastardly cowards calling themselves Death Eaters, I see the long-term outcome of Voldemort's plans. If Voldemort gains power, none of us will survive. He is as merciless to his followers as he is to his enemies. I have come into information that may allow me to atone, in part, for the horrors I have been a party to. You are the only one I can trust with this information. You are the only one I know who is strong enough to finish this if I can't. The inner scroll contains the particulars and can only be unsealed by recitation of our family joke.
It took me too long to recognize the value of the love you showed me as I grew. I sold that love for naught. I am sorry. I look up to you and hope to be able to, in the end, show the courage you have taught me through your example.
Please forgive me.
Your loving brother to the end,
Harry's throat constricted as he read Regulus' words. He was doubly saddened as he realized that the letter had never made its way to Sirius. Both brothers had died without knowing the other's true feelings.
Harry turned his attention to the sealed scroll. "Family joke, huh? The Black family didn't seem to be the joking type." As he re-read the letter, he noticed that Regulus had twice used block letters to emphasize the words "always pure." Harry turned to the tapestry, "The Black family motto that brought me here! Toujours Pur! That's what Regulus was alluding to. Regulus had come to consider the motto a joke, as had Sirius!"
Harry took out his wand and as he tapped the scroll he said "Toujours Pur." Nothing whatsoever happened. He tried several more times with the same result. He reread the letter again and considered the word "joke", "Most jokes are funny. Most jokes are followed by a laugh or at least a smile. Maybe I need to try a laugh." He tapped the scroll, said the words and gave a laugh. The scroll glowed momentarily golden-yellow, opened along an invisible seam, and flattened itself on top of the desk. Capricio, still on Harry's shoulder, churred approval.
Excitedly this time, Harry read the letter intended for his godfather...
One of two things has happened by now. You have been informed of my disappearance or my death. Regardless of the cost, my goal is to strike a blow against Voldemort. I was informed by our cousin Bellatrix, of Voldemort's attempt to become immortal by creating a Horcrux. I had to search long and hard to discover the purpose of a Horcrux. Suffice it to say it is the vilest of dark magic. It appears that Voldemort succeeded in splitting his soul and concealing a portion in a locket once owned by Salazar Slytherin. Bellatrix was entrusted to guard the locket, and although I can't imagine why, she broke Voldemort's trust and showed me the locket. The creation of a Horcrux means that Voldemort can't be killed as an ordinary man. The Horcrux must be destroyed first to make him subject to death. Voldemort counts himself an accomplished Legilimens and forces each of his Death Eaters to endure periodic, intense mental scrutiny. Many die in the process, but then they didn't have to face the daily mental interrogation our parents put us through. During one of my "interviews" I penetrated Voldemort's mind and saw the location where he hid his locket/Horcrux. With help both grudging and willing, I succeeded in acquiring the locket, although it nearly cost the life of both myself and our old house elf. I have now hidden it in plain sight. Do you remember the locket that I used to stare at when I was a child? The one purported to contain Ursula's flint heart. Well it did, but it doesn't any more. I emptied the locket and sealed Voldemort's Horcrux inside. If the locket is missing you will know I succeeded in destroying the Horcrux. If the locket is still on display, it will be up to you to open it and destroy the Horcrux. I know this is asking a lot, since you vowed never to set foot in Grimmauld Place after you left, but make an excuse, any excuse, get the locket and then destroy the Horcrux.
If I fail, you are the only one I trust to complete this task. You are the only one who would understand why this is so important to me. I truly wish I had heeded the advice you gave me before you left home. You were right, we each chose by our actions who we become. Thanks for trying to help me see what's right.
Your loving brother,
Harry turned the parchment over. There was nothing more written. No mention of the other items in the box. Addressing Capricio he said, "Either these things aren't connected to the locket, or they aren't important in destroying the Horcrux. Apparently they weren't intended to go to Sirius with the letter. I'll figure them out later. Right now it's obvious that I don't need any more proof of R.A.B.'s identity. R.A.B. was Regulus. Now where did he "hide the locket in plain sight"? Let's reason this out. Regulus said Sirius would have to come back to Grimmauld Place, so I have to assume the locket was in this house. He said if it was still "in the case" Sirius was to open and destroy it. Slytherin's locket was concealed inside a Black family heirloom locket."
His gaze fell on the two glass display cases on either side of the fireplace mantle. It finally clicked. "The display case containing all the Black family mementos! The case we so assiduously cleaned out!" Harry scooped all the items into his haver. His heart raced as he walked to the mantle. The crystal glass display case stood before him completely empty. He recalled Sirius' disdain as each item was coaxed from the case and thrown unceremoniously into the refuse bag. "Where had the bags been disposed? I don't think they were put in the bin for the muggle rubbish collector. There would have been too much danger of a magical item getting into muggle hands. Come to think of it, I don't know if there is a magic rubbish collection service." He thought of the Room of Requirement and all the broken items hidden by students and castle-proud elves. "Elves! That's a possibility!" thought Harry, "I could ask Kreacher. No, I'll save that for a last resort. No need to tip him off to what I'm doing. I need some time to consider this. Besides I don't want to have to endure Kreacher's endless dark muttering."
As Harry stood brooding over the empty display case his stomach grumbled. "Capricio, what would you think about a bit to eat?" asked Harry.
Capricio did not protest the idea of a meal.
Harry opened the huge doors that sealed the drawing room from the rest of the house and headed back down to the kitchen. Intending to prepare a meal while allowing his mind time to consider options seemed a win-win solution to the quandary before him. He arrived at the kitchen and went about preparing a simple meal. When he turned on the hot tap, only cold water came out. "The boiler fire was probably put out when the last wizard left Grimmauld Place," reasoned Harry. Opening the door fronting the boiler, Harry lit a fire under the copper holding tank and was preparing to close the door when he spied Kreacher's "nest." The spellotaped portrait of Bellatrix Lestrange still sat in pride of place next to a filthy blanket. Hermione's Christmas present lay untouched and discarded at the far end of the small den. "Dobby would have appreciated that present even if Kreacher didn't," said Harry wiggling under the counter and pulling the gift free. As he exited the doorway he noticed a small pile of objects that had been pushed to the back of the cupboard behind the disdained gift. With a sudden intake of breath, he saw a flash of silver. Harry calmed himself. He knew that Kreacher had attempted to rescue all he could of Sirius' purged items but he didn't want to get his hopes up too high.
"The chance of Kreacher rescuing the locket, among all the cast off items, is highly unlikely," Harry said aloud, to still a mounting feeling of hopelessness over the slim chance of ever tracking down the bags of discarded items.
Harry knew better than touching the collection of artifacts. He had seen first hand what some of the Black family heirlooms could do. He levitated the collection of bric-a-brac to the kitchen table and began separating the items. Most were smashed or broken from being literally "thrown" way. Harry's heart skipped a beat at the sight of a heavy silver locket at the bottom of the pile. It was the same locket that had been in the display case. He recalled that no one had been able to get it open.
Suppressing the urge to attack the locket at once, Harry finished preparing the meal. The locket sat on the table mocking him as he and Capricio ate. He replaced all the items in Kreacher's cupboard and levitated the locket into his sack. Calling Capricio, he re-established invisibility, snuffed all the lamps he had lit, dropped a pinch of floo powder in the fire, and with a spinning whoosh, disappeared in a flash of green flames.
A fireplace at Hogwarts suddenly crackled with green flames. A casual observer would have seen the green flames whipped from the grate and then die back to the merrily crackling fire. Under the invisibility cloaks, Harry made his way through the flames and back to the Chamber of Secrets.
Arriving breathless with anticipation, he crossed the chamber and emptied his pack on the table. It seemed the items were leering at him, daring him to try to understand what they were about. He settled himself in the chair and examined the collection from the drawer first. "If these things were used to secure the Horcrux they may well hold clues to this quandary," said Harry to Capricio. Harry started to reverse incantate the magic surrounding the individual pieces and found that they had indeed been involved in the quest for the Horcrux. The blood red stone had been used as a force lever to locate the backdoor magic in the wall in Voldemort's cave. The ring bore the Black family crest and had been used to locate and command the chain holding the tiny boat on the black lake. The vial, Harry noted, contained a clear substance reminiscent of the one he had separated in the R.A.B./Voldemort potion. It's refusal to respond to forensic magic lead Harry to believe that it was the same, or a very similar, substance. The leather box, on the other hand, was easy to identify. Its magic was older and of a more refined substance. It was the same box Harry had seen in Hokey's memory. It was the box Hepzibah Smith had used to store Slytherin's locket. He opened the box cautiously. It was empty. He put away his disappointment and went back to task.
"We're still on the right track! Let's see what we can do with this," said Harry to the wyvern as he set the box to the side and carefully placed the locket to the centre of the table. He painstakingly examined the locket from every angle, with every magic spectrum he had at his disposal. No magic parting line was revealed. Addressing the dragon, he said, "I'm missing something again. Regulus said he had encased Slytherin's locket inside the Black Family heirloom. I can't see any way to get this open. It's almost as if the magic were invisible."
At the word invisible, Harry's mind flashed to Professor Binns' mention of The Invisible Book of Invisibility. "The owner at Flourish and Blotts said he had once stocked the book but could never find it again to sell it. That book may contain a hint of this magic. I feel a trip coming on in the morning. Let's sleep on this. When we wake up, we'll go back to the morning of my last birthday. That way there is no chance of me running into "myself" because I know I never left the Weasley's before I went back to school," said Harry with renewed purpose.
6. Diagon Alley
A night's sleep had done wonders for Harry. He and Capricio finished their morning routine and prepared for the day. "As I pondered on what we could accomplish today in Diagon Alley, I think we may be able to answer several questions," said Harry, finding he no longer felt self-conscious talking to the small dragon.
As they made their way toward Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, Harry spoke to the wyvern, "I just need you to understand that most wizards are terrified of dragons regardless of their size. You did well in Slughorn's classroom but that was with only about thirty students. We will be going to Diagon Alley and we may be surrounded by hundreds of wizards. I'll time our arrival for early in the morning to limit the number of people who will see us. I want you to know that even though you will be in my pocket, I may need your help. If I call your name, it doesn't matter where we are or who's around; I'd appreciate you turning up." The dragon churred understanding.
He stowed the dragon in his pocket and exited the pipe in the girl's bathroom. Myrtle was wailing in a stall. Harry ignored her but Capricio squirmed in his robe pocket. Glad to escape the bathroom without being injured by the wyvern, Harry made his way cautiously to the fireplace he had used for transport from Grimmauld Place. As he approached the fireplace he detected magic with which he was unfamiliar. He walked carefully to the fireplace and separated a strand of magic. A mild shock worked its way through his system as he recognized Minerva McGonagall as the initiator of the spell. Harry pulled the magic apart and found it contained a tracking spell that would alert the nearest staff member if the fireplace were to be used for floo travel. "So we aroused her curiosity, did we? Well let's not make her paranoid. She he has enough to be getting on about without me adding to her worry pile. We'll have to find other transport."
Harry paused and considered. "Snape's office then," said Harry to the dragon. The pair made their way to Snape's dungeon office and slipped inside. Harry paused at the door, an involuntary shiver working its way down his spine. He released the wyvern and motioned to the candles. Understanding immediately, the dragon flew to each candle, lighting them with short puffs of flame. Before heading to the fireplace, he surveyed the room through his glasses and was surprised to see he had missed the telltale fine red line of masking magic on a flask near the front of the room. Capricio watched with interest from Harry's shoulder as Harry examined the flask. At length Harry found the line to be a reflection. The real magic masked the bottom of a stone column behind Snape's desk.
"It's happened again Capricio," said Harry, "We come looking for answers and we get more questions. If we are going to continue to use this office as a jumping-off point, we might as well solve this puzzle now."
About to use the spell that Minerva McGonagall had used to seal the Headmaster's office, Harry halted in mid-motion as Capricio growled what he had come to recognize as a warning. "You are right," said Harry, "that spell would allow magic to come in contact with this masking magic. Let's take what we learned from our mistakes in the Chamber of Secrets. First, let's find out a bit more about what we are facing." He then drew a wisp of the magic away by an offset spell. Taking care that the magic was completely severed from its major, he divided it into components. Unsurprised, Harry found the magic traceable to Severus Snape. It was also clear the magic was of recent vintage.
"I'll use the same process to remove this masking magic that I used in the Chamber of Secrets to remove Tom Riddle's magic." said Harry to Capricio as he set about preparing and positioning the gold shield, unicorn hairs and the adamant crucible.
"This isn't nearly as much area as we faced in the chamber, therefore I can make the gold shield thicker," said Harry to Capricio. "It doesn't appear the magic is as age-fledged as Riddle's either. Still we are alone, and can't be too careful. Nobody is going to rush to our aid if something goes wrong."
He levitated the adamant crucible into the air and placed it under the single unicorn hair protruding from the shield. Before motioning the shield forward, he prepared for the burst of heat, light and sound he had come to expect from removing established masking magic. He checked the seal he had placed on the dungeon door and placed a shield charm between himself and the gold shield. When all was ready, he waved the shield toward the bottom of the column. It was much as he had expected. Since the area masked was much smaller, the heat and sound though significant, were quite a lot less than he had experienced with Riddle's magic in the Chamber of Secrets. The dungeon warmed and the sound reverberated off mute stone, but it was over quickly. The golden shield fell away from the bottom of the pillar. The new magic had blended with the magic already trapped within the crucible. The mixture now pulsed with malevolent fury. Harry quickly affixed the lid and placed the crucible back into its form-fitting box.
Examining the fruits of his labor, Harry was intrigued to see that the pillar was actually different in construct than the masking magic had made it appear. Instead of being hewn stone, a series of intricate ceramic tiles adorned the pillar base. A simple muggle lock with a line of rotating numerals protruded from the pillar. There was no magic involved in the cylinder that he could discern. Harry's first inclination was to touch the lock or tiles, but a warning in his head urged extreme caution. "I may detest Snape, but I won't underestimate him," he said to Capricio. "This is a muggle device worked into Snape's magic. Why would Snape use anything muggle-based to protect his secret?" Harry pondered his own question and recalled Snape's contribution to protecting the Philosopher's Stone. It had involved magic potions no doubt, but in the end, it had been a logic problem. He looked critically at the metal cylinder. He could see it had moveable rings reminiscent of his Time-Turner. "This is a combination lock," reasoned Harry. "Snape would be relying on the fact that most wizards have little common sense, and absolutely no patience for trying to solve such a conundrum."
He noted the cylinder contained ten individual cylinders with ten characters on each. "If we were to stay here a year, there would be little chance of accidentally stumbling upon the right combination. I suppose we don't really have to open this now. We can come back and test ourselves against it at leisure," said Harry to Capricio.
Capricio radiated disappointment at Harry's decision.
Moved by the dragon's attitude, Harry reconsidered, "Let's have one more look."
He touched his glasses with his wand and went through the frequencies of visible and invisible energy. The only thing he could detect was a dusty graying around the lock and the central tile in the design.
Harry rolled the puzzle around in his mind. "What could this possibly mean coming from someone like Snape?" he wondered aloud. "The size of the bottles and the colour of the potion had relevance in Snape's magic contribution protecting the Philosopher's Stone. I'd hardly expect less of him here. Let's take every detail as important shall we?"
Harry bent to examine the tiles. Capricio dropped from his shoulder in a dive. The dragon landed on the floor blocking Harry from a direct contact with the tiles. "OK. Right. I'm missing something. What do you want me to find? I won't come any nearer until I figure it out," said Harry to the determined dragon. As soon as he had spoken, the dragon had dropped his extended wings and hopped clumsily toward the pillar base. As if listening intently, Capricio turned his head side-to-side, then he turned and purposefully sniffed. A curl of smoke escaped his scaly nostrils. Once again Capricio regarded Harry, wings extended. Taking the dragon's lead, Harry turned his head this-way-and-that. He fancied he heard a subtle something. He paused. The dungeon room was quiet now except for the soft bubbling of potions, the guttering of candles lighting the room, and the pounding of his heart in his ears. Deciding on an experiment, he extinguished the candles one by one. In moments, he was enveloped in total darkness. The silence seemed profound, but as he strained his senses he could hear a faint ringing. Speaking to Capricio through the darkness, Harry mused, " I hear something. I've heard it before when I've studied alone, but I've always assumed it was an intrinsic quality of my hearing. Now that I think on it, I don't know if I've ever really heard complete silence. There's always some bit of background noise." Harry calmed his breathing and held perfectly still. The silence of the dungeon room, without any distraction, magnified the sound as Harry's brain strained for sensory input. He found that by turning his head, much as Capricio had done, he could discern the direction of the sound's origin.
Harry lit his wand tip, and to his astonishment, he found that the magic introduced another sound. Although the new sound was distinct from the prior sound, it was slightly louder than the faint background ringing. He extinguished his wand and the louder sound disappeared. Experimenting with several small spells, he found that each spell carried an identifying pitch. Repeating some spells a dozen times, he found the pitch of the sound associated with each magic was unique, but remained consistent with the spell.
Excitement filled Harry at his discovery. As much as he wanted to investigate Snape's magic, he wanted to find out more about this new evidence of magic. He conjured a chair and entered into the Gemynd spell, focusing on the manifestations of sound in magic. Emerging from the spell some time later, he felt refreshed but astounded. As far as he could tell, he had not read a single reference about sound being connected with magic. "Thanks mate, you just taught me a valuable lesson," said Harry as he picked the wyvern from the floor and placed it on his shoulder.
Returning his attention to the tiles, he found that the central tile bore the likeness of a man in a short leather cap. The tile was surrounded by another larger tile bearing three ancient runes. Harry translated the letters; p centred on the left-hand side, h centred at the bottom of the tile, and i centred on the right hand side of the tile. A tile split in halves horizontally surrounded these tiles. A single rabbit appeared in both the upper and lower halves. The tile surrounding the rabbits was divided in thirds. Each third held a separate flower; a lily, a narcissus, and an iris. Surrounding this tile was another divided into fifths. Each portion depicted a different variety of buttercup. The representations on the next tile, divided into eight parts, showed delphiniums. Harry had to get closer to the final tile to make an accurate count of the sections. There were thirteen, each a different type of ragwort. Harry was puzzled by the tiles, but thankful that Professor Sprout had forced the entire sixth year Herbology class to memorize one hundred potion-worthy plants after Dean Thomas had sprinkled powdered sneezewort on all the secateurs, causing a scene of pandemonium and chaos.
Harry smiled inwardly at the memory. The mental reminiscence and his momentary lapse of concentration brought a pang of longing for his friends, followed by a blast of Slytherin's magic striving to escape his mental barriers and dominate his attention. The intrusion of Slytherin's magic unsteadied Harry. He fought to regain his control of the barriers he had set in place. Slytherin's memories and magic dashed against his brain. They demanded attention and use. They whispered promises of solutions for the dilemma facing him. They tempted him with power. Harry fought diligently and without rest. Gradually gaining a semblance of mental dominion, he calmed himself. Shaken, he set back to task.
He stood a long time, settling himself, unmoving, examining the tiles intently. Capricio seemed to understand and stilled himself after watching Harry battle with Slytherin's magic. As Harry went through mental ruminations, he listened intently. "Just the one sound of magical tint," he said aloud, "and I recognize the central portrait tile from a thirteenth century text! That fills the surrounding representations with simple sense. I just can't imagine Snape making this so easy!" Then it dawned on him that it hadn't been all that simple. "Without the opportunity of extensive reading, I wouldn't recognize Leonardo Fabonacci's likeness. Without Fabonacci and additional training from Professor Sprout, the surrounding panels would be meaningless. The initial spells were considerable. They were difficult to detect and perilous to defeat." With a jolt of exhilaration, Harry realized his proficiency with all things magical was improving.
He moved to a position directly in front of the numbered lock and addressed Capricio, "I haven't removed the last magic, and I absolutely don't trust the maker of the magic. You have taught me to listen for magic, but there was a second dimension to your observation, I saw you sniff this pillar base. Can you smell magic?"
Capricio looked at Harry. The moment their eyes met, Harry could see that the dragon was confused at Harry's ineptitude at sensing the most basic things in the world around him. "The dragon sees me as Slytherin's heir and expects better of me," reasoned Harry.
Harry was a bit shocked to see the disappointment in the creature's mind. As he focused more intently on the feelings of the dragon, he could see that there was indeed something that Capricio could smell. Harry couldn't translate the feeling into a specific smell; he could only tell that the dragon equated the smell with danger.
Harry considered the lock in front of him and addressed Capricio, "Snape used magic, knowledge, and logic here. Why not potions?" Without attempting to touch the lock, he carefully re-examined everything around the tiles and the lock. The graying in the centre of the tile and around the lock became obvious. "It's dried potion, isn't it?" Harry asked, and he fancied he saw the now circling dragon smile a bit. Encouraged by the knowledge he was on the right track, he moved very cautiously. Conjuring a piece of linen, he wrapped it around his wand. He rubbed his makeshift swab over the surface of the tile and lock. The substance came off as a very fine powder; much like ordinary dust. As he watched, the powder seemed to absorb into the fabric. "I don't like the looks of this. I think I need to spend a little more time fiddling this potion. We'll leave it at this for now. When we return from Diagon Alley we'll pick this up and spend some time on it, and after we have broken it down, we'll decide how to proceed," said Harry as he unwound the linen from his wand without touching it. He levitated the linen to an inconspicuous spot behind the pillar and covered it with a piece of his own masking magic and stowed his wand in his gold lined pocket.
"Let's get back to task," said Harry as he gathered up his pack. Capricio flew to him and worked his way into the robe's protected inner pocket. Harry turned to the fireplace, created a crackling fire, and sprinkled floo powder in the flames. Warning the dragon, he stepped into the green flames and said very clearly, "Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor, Diagon Alley." In a whirling whoosh they were gone.
Reappearing at the great fireplace at the back of the ice cream parlor, Harry tried to step as unobtrusively as possible into the room. If stealth had been measured in his ability to blend unnoticed into a crowd, he would have failed miserably. There simply wasn't any crowd to blend in with. In the intrigue over Snape's hidden secret, Harry had forgotten that he had set the Time-Turner to early morning the day of his sixteenth birthday. The parlor appeared deserted. The chairs were upside down on the tables, their legs like skeletal fingers clutching at the ceiling in the early morning gloom.
The whooshing sound accorded by Harry's arrival had drawn attention from within a room just off the side of the parlor. A worried looking Florean Fortescue hurried toward the fireplace, wand drawn and pointed. Harry held his open palms outstretched. Recognition dawning, Fortescue lowered his wand, although Harry noticed Fortescue did not put the wand away.
Seizing the initiative, Harry began, "I'm sorry to have arrived so early and unannounced, but I've been through some trying times and I didn't have time to warn you."
Fortescue still looked suspicious and instead of putting his wand away, he raised it a fraction of an inch toward Harry's chest. "Aye lad, if ye'r who yeh appear to be, ye'r always welcome here, but given the times, and the look of yeh, I'm mor'n a wee bit 'ncomfortable havin' yeh jest appear."
"Death Eater," said Harry.
Fortescue blanched and raised his wand to an attack position.
"No, I don't mean I'm a Death Eater. I mean you have every right to assume that I am a Death Eater in disguise; given the circumstances," said Harry.
"Right yeh are lad, times bein' what they are. Can yeh prove up on who yeh appear ta be?" said Fortescue motioning to Harry.
Harry looked down at his clothing and realized that beyond being covered with soot and ash, his robes looked frayed and wear-worn. Plunging ahead toward his purpose, he began, "Mr. Fortescue, I had a question. You probably remember helping me with my History of Magic homework. When we talked about Wendelin the Weird, you said she allowed herself to be caught by the muggles so she could be burned at the stake. My question is this... if she was tied to the stake, how did she get her wand to perform the flame-freezing charm?"
Fortescue shifted slightly where he stood but did not altogether lower his wand. "I'm not sayin' I'm convinced about who yeh are, keep talkin' an' stay where I can see yeh. No wand, an' no quick movements."
"I would tell you that I would like one of your special choco-nut sundaes," said Harry.
The statement seemed to do what the earlier attempt at proof hadn't done. Fortescue put his wand away, turned over a chair and motioned for Harry to sit down. "Sorry lad, there're some unsav'ry characters around these days. A bloke can't be too careful. I know that choco-nut is yer favorite flavor. I'll open shop an' fix yeh that ice cream."
Bustling to the front of the store, he unlocked the door but didn't set out the "Open" sign. Monologueing as he scurried, he disappeared under the polished marble countertop preparing the sundae. "Only the real 'arry Potter would know about those sunny-day talks. Yeh've picked up on a fine point in Wendelin that most never catch. I've studied 'istory as a 'obby fer years an' I see 'er as a unique witch. She's usually passed over as oddball but in my estimation she must 'a been vera powerful. Yeh see, she was one of the few of our kind able to do magic without talkin' an' without a wand. Good thing too, a'cause 'er 'istories recount that several times she was gagged when she was tied to the stake. She seemed vera confident in 'er magical ability. She even authored a book, Wendelin Without Words, the Silence Behind the Spell. I used to 'ave a copy but it's gone missing. No matter though, I'll 'ave to get another copy from Flourish and Blotts. I dare say they'd 'ave a copy, not many are int'rested in 'er story or 'er magic. The dedication necessary..."
Harry was uncomfortable. Fortescue had placed him in a chair with his back facing the street. He calmed a bit when he realized that he could see most of the street in the mirror that covered the wall behind the ice cream counter. The surroundings warmed his heart as he recounted sunny days under the umbrellas in front of the shop. His mind wandered as he recalled his preferred the table on the sidewalk nearest the front door, and basking in the sunshine as the warm morning sun rose between Eeylops Owl Emporium and Madam Malkin's robe shop. The memories were a stark contrast to the dismal misty gloom that now layered Diagon Alley.
Harry had just looked for the table summoned from his fond memory, when he tensed. Layered upon the sound of Fortescue's voice was the swelling harmonic of gathering magic. Two masked figures dressed in black robes apparated in front of the store and burst through the door. Harry had no time to shout warning to Fortescue. He drew his wand and went immediately on defense. The Death Eaters attacked. Harry's shield charm deflected their spells and the mirror behind the counter exploded. Fortescue dived for cover. A second set of spells from the duo shattered chairs and tables. Harry shunted the debris to the side protecting both himself and Fortescue. Not waiting nor wasting an instant, Harry went on offense. Unable to see through the choking dust, Harry tuned his glasses to infrared and immobilized the two death Eaters before they could see through their own mayhem.
A second pair of Death Eaters burst through the smoke and dust and bore down directly on Harry. He watched as the Death Eaters gathered great magic. He found verbalization was unnecessary. Falling into the stance made comfortable during his many hours of dueling practice, he parried magic after magic. Shortly he realized what the Death Eaters were about. They were attempting to get on each side of him, catch him between their spells. He also noticed that no killing curses had been used. "They intend on taking Fortescue alive, I'm simply in the way!" reasoned Harry.
The Death Eater's attack intensified. Harry found it harder and harder to split his focus between the pair. "They're gaining their goal," he realized. "It will only be a matter of time before one or the other fetches me a blow I can't parry." Harry's attention was distracted for the barest fraction of a second as he felt Capricio claw his way out of the protective pocket. "I forgot about you!" exclaimed Harry. "Take care of this bloke behind me would you?" Capricio shrieked and disappeared into the increasing destruction. With only one assailant, Harry felt much more confidant. He loosed tremendous magic, which he was horrified to realize came from Slytherin's grimorie, and watched as the man crumpled in an unmoving heap in front of him.
Harry strained to see what had become of Capricio when a wand tip was shoved roughly into his back. His blood turned to ice. Dodge and deflect magic he could, but he couldn't move fast enough to dodge a spell pressed into his back. Harry ceased to struggle and waited. Without spells being cast willy-nilly, the dust began to settle, revealing a full sized dragon preparing to eat an unconscious Death Eater.
"Call yer dragon off or yeh die." The words were a hiss in Harry's ear. His heart sank even further. The voice was unmistakably that of Florean Fortescue, but his voice was no longer avuncular, instead it carried death in each syllable.
"Capricio, no!" said Harry. The dragon's attention was drawn away from the limp form dangling from his impressively clawed foot, to Harry. Immediately Capricio dropped the unconscious man to the floor.
"That's a good lad," said Fortescue. "Now put the dragon back in yer pocket."
Harry complied, calling to Capricio in Parseltongue; he said he had the situation under control and Capricio needed to return to the robe pocket. Capricio hesitated momentarily, then became small and returned grudgingly to the inner robe pocket. As the dragon clawed its way inside his robes, Harry recalled Bill Weasley telling him and Remus Lupin the news that Florean Fortescue's ice cream shop had been destroyed the morning of his sixteenth birthday, and that Fortescue had gone missing. "I've just lived through that attack. Blimey, I caused the majority of the damage in the shop!" thought Harry in amazement.
As the dragon settled into the pocket, Harry focused on the wand pressing sharply into the small of his back. "How could it be Fortescue?" wondered Harry. "Is this a Death Eater masquerading as Fortescue? What do I do next?"
Fortescue answered Harry's unspoken question immediately. "Drop yer wand on the floor."
Harry did as he was told. The clatter of his wand on the floor was almost like the slamming of a jail door to his churning mind.
"Accio wand," said Fortescue, catching Harry's wand by the tip. As Fortescue grasped the wand, his body went rigid, convulsed, and fell limp to the floor in a tangle of robes.
Harry stood momentarily stunned. Gaining himself, he released Capricio and drew Lockhart's blackened wand from within his robes. Aiming his wand at Florean Fortescue, Harry relieved him of the two wands, levitating them to the only table remaining upright. For good measure, he summoned the Death Eaters' wands and placed them on the same table.
"What have we here?" asked Harry almost as an aside.
As if compelled to answer, Fortescue began in a low rolling voice, "I summoned the Death Eaters. They threatened ta 'ave Fenrir Greyback visit my gran'kids if I didn't do what they asked. They knew yeh 'ad spent a considerable time at my shop when Fudge restricted yeh ta Diagon Alley. I was ta summon them immediately if I saw yeh near 'ere unescorted. Fail, and my grans would pay." Fortescue dissolved into sobs. "Now they're good as dead."
"Stay where you are," said Harry to Fortescue as he walked around the table so he could see the entire shop. Capricio watched as he circled the room on tiny wings. Using Lockhart's wand, Harry gathered up the unconscious Death Eaters; gagging them and binding them tightly in strong ropes. When he felt he was fairly safe, he bent to examine the wand Fortescue had taken from his hand. He was astonished to see the same grey powder he had found on the lock and tiles in the Snape's office. A small amount of the powder flecked the end of his wand. "Some of Snape's potion sifted through the linen I used to cover my wand. Fortescue touched it when he grabbed my wand. What is this stuff?" asked Harry.
"No idea," said Fortescue thickly, as if compelled to answer.
Harry settled on an experiment. "Do you know these Death Eaters?" he asked without looking at Fortescue.
"I can't tell through the masks. None appear to be Greyback, but it was Carrow who made the initial threat 'gainst me family. Yaxley an' Greyback visited later ta reinforce the demand ta turn yeh over should yeh ever show up 'ere," responded Fortescue in a flat voice.
Harry realized he had heard that flat, dead tone before. It was the way Barty Crouch Jr. had responded to Dumbledore's questioning under the influence of Veritaserum. He thought furiously. As a test, Harry addressed Fortescue. "If I asked you to tell me a lie, could you do it?"
Fortescue struggled with the question and then said, "No."
"Are you a Death Eater?" asked Harry.
"No." responded Fortescue.
"Will you do as I ask?"
Again Fortescue seemed to struggle with the answer, but at length replied, "I'll do as yeh ask."
Harry thought furiously. Decided, he addressed Fortescue, "You need to go to the Ministry of Magic. Tell them everything the Death Eaters have threatened. Tell them you tired of the threats and confronted the Death Eaters. You took them by surprise and subdued them. Tell the Ministry that the Death Eaters hit you with some kind of spell that affects your memory. Take this lot with you and turn them over to the Ministry. Have the Ministry put you and your family into hiding. Forget anything about seeing me here today. Tell the Ministry they must keep the capture of the Death Eaters secret. They must not alert the wizarding world to the threats that have been made. Do you understand?"
"I understand," said a benumbed Fortescue.
Harry erased all traces of his magic, replacing them with magic from Fortescue's wand. He picked up his wand, being very careful not to touch even the slightest speck of grey powder. Covering himself with the invisibility cloak, he wiped a bit of the powder on the neck of each of the captive Death Eaters. Then using Lockhart's wand he thought "Enervate." The Death Eaters stirred. Harry planted the memory of the fight with Fortescue in the compliant mind of each Death Eater. He stowed the Death Eater's wands in Fortescue's robe pocket and lead him to the fireplace. Placing Fortescue's wand back in its owner's hand he levitated the Death Eaters to the fireplace. Into the flames went a pinch of floo powder as Harry said very clearly, "The Ministry of Magic Headquarters, London" and with a flick of Fortescue's wand sent the Death Eaters into the green flames.
"You next," said Harry. "And don't forget, you fought them, and you beat them. Convince the Ministry that they must protect your family. Tell them that by keeping a close control of the knowledge of the capture of these Death Eaters they can question them at leisure while throwing Voldemort's camp into disarray. Now go!"
Without argument, Fortescue said "Ministry of Magic Headquarters, London " stepped into the flames and was gone.
Harry removed the invisibility cloak and set Capricio on his palm. "I had only intended to learn about wandless spells but we got a lot more than I bargained for. Thanks for saving my skin, but I have a question...would you really have eaten that Death Eater?"
Looking into the black eyes of the dragon, he saw that if he hadn't been stopped; Capricio had intended to eat his vanquished foe. A bit unnerved, Harry said, "Right, we'll be a bit more careful in the future. I want to visit Flourish and Blotts and pick up the book Fortescue mentioned, but before we go there, I think an immediate visit to Ollivander's is in order to see if the Death Eaters went there as well as here. If you detect any offensive magic, be patient, I'll call for you. In order to use you as a secret weapon, I have to keep you a secret. We'll hurry our excursion here and get back to the Chamber of Secrets." Harry could sense the dragon's reluctance, but was reassured by the creature's compliance as it made its way into his pocket.
Stepping carefully between the rainbow puddles of melted ice cream to the front door, he refastened the invisibility cloak, erased all his footprints from the dusty floor, cleared his magic traces and stepped into the deep gloom permeating Diagon Alley. There was no crowd to negotiate. Few dared to be alone at the early morning hour. Those that were about, kept in groups, did not stop to talk, and looked fastidiously at the ground to avoid any eye contact. They either didn't notice the mayhem that had occurred at Fortescue's shop, or they didn't want to become involved.
Harry was glad for their indifference. He made his way straight to the wand maker's shop, registering with shock how many businesses were boarded, derelict and vacant. Diagon Alley had the distinct look of a ghost town in the making. The walk through Diagon Alley took less than two minutes. As he neared the shop, Harry slowed and took in all the details around him. "No more surprises from Death Eaters," he said to the wriggling dragon. The sign in Ollivander's window proclaimed the shop open for business and Harry made his way through the door. He was immediately struck by the enormity of the magical "white noise" in the shop. It seemed as if the many wands were whispering to him. The pleasure of the tinkling bell on the shop door had just registered in his mind when his blood was once again turned to ice as, for a second time, a wand was thrust into his back.
"Coming into my shop, invisible, is not a good idea in the best of times and is highly unadvisable given the current circumstances. Don't move a muscle or I'll see that it is the last thing you do." With his pronouncement, Ollivander pulled the invisibility cloak off Harry. The sight of who was under the cloak did not seem to give the old wizard comfort. Rather, he seemed more agitated.
Wands of all descriptions rose into the air from boxes around the shop and pointed at Harry. Capricio stirred inside his cloak. "Mr. Ollivander, I apologize for coming in under the cover of invisibility but I am here to warn you about Death Eaters in Diagon Alley."
"Yes my lad there are Death Eaters here in Diagon Alley," said Ollivander in a strained voice.
Harry's heart skipped a beat. "What if Ollivander has been turned to Voldemort's side? What if he has always been on Voldemort's side? Is he the Death Eater here in Diagon Alley? Ollivander did seem impressed with Voldemort's abilities. He spoke highly of him when we first met. I may have knocked over a bee's nest here. I should have thought this through a bit more thoroughly before I rushed in." The impressions rattled through Harry's mind to be replaced instantly with thoughts and plans of escape.
"Hold out your wand by the tips of your little finger and thumb. Move slowly, do not provoke me," said Ollivander.
Harry reached slowly inside his robe and took out the wand exactly as Ollivander had ordered. "If he touches the powder residue on the wand, I may gain an advantage," thought Harry as he completed the action and offered his wand to Ollivander.
"No. Not to me, just set it carefully on the counter."
Disappointed, Harry complied with the order.
Ollivander separated himself from Harry by a step and looked at the wand on the counter. His attention snapped back to Harry. "You have additional wands. I can hear them call to me. Out with all of them and do it carefully," said Ollivander in a tone allowing no latitude.
Harry complied slowly, placing Lockhart's scorched wand, Greyback's wand and finally Dumbledore's wand on the counter next to his own. Ollivander's sharp intake of breath told Harry that this was not what he had expected.
"I recognize three of these wands, as I am the maker of each," said Ollivander. "The fourth is foreign, although I believe it to be an Alexi Gregorovitch piece. An explanation please, and no attempts to deceive me."
Harry's mind raced. "If Ollivander is a Death Eater, why the time for explanations? The other Death Eaters attacked immediately. Still I don't want to give information that could be advantageous to Voldemort. Best to guard each word closely."
"You say you recognize three of the wands. You would remember then, Rubeus Hagrid and me coming to buy my first wand."
"Yes, yes I do. Point it out for me," responded Ollivander.
Harry pointed to his wand, "Eleven and one-half inches, phoenix feather core."
"Very good," said Ollivander. "Now the others?"
Harry identified the other wands and began, "They are the reason I was on my way to visit you. On the way here I discovered you might be in danger from Death Eaters. That's why I used my father's invisibility cloak. I was afraid of being detained and not getting here in time to warn you." Harry hoped he had included enough of the truth to cover for the misstatements.
Ollivander listened to Harry's explanation and then seemed to sag under a heavy weight. "You are spot-on about your wand. I can't imagine you having Dumbledore's wand unless he gave it over to you to prove you are who you say you are. As to Gilderoy Lockhart's wand and the Gregorovitch piece, I would like to hear how you came to be in possession of them." As he spoke Ollivander lowered his wand and all the wands in the shop followed suit.
"You are right. No one could take Dumbledore's wand away from him; he's too magically powerful. Lockhart's wand came in contact with an aged masking spell. The Gregorovitch wand was sent to you to verify it is safe to use. Free of curses and all that," said Harry trying to sound like no more than a young messenger boy.
Ollivander's professional curiosity seemed to press him to examine the wands. Appearing to forget all about Harry standing there, he picked up Lockhart's scorched wand. "I recall Gilderoy coming to me after he had gained a bit of fame. He felt that his teak wand was too ordinary and he commissioned this wand. One of a kind. Carved unicorn horn and a core of powdered dragon scales. Very powerful wand for long-lasting charm work. Not particularly good for small spells though, the powdered dragon scales require tremendous concentration to force the magic through. One of the most expensive wands I have ever created. A lesser wand would not have withstood contact with an established masking spell, it would have been destroyed by the contact."
"Dumbledore's wand. Mightily impressive," said Ollivander in almost reverent tone. "I didn't think he would be able to handle it when it chose him. He proved me wrong. Amazing wizard, amazing wizard." Snapping from his reverie, Ollivander looked sharply at Harry. "You say you were on your way here when you discovered that I may be in danger from Death Eaters? How did you come by that information?"
Harry swallowed hard and began, "I passed by Florean Fortescue's shop. His place is in a shambles. No one around. Dumbledore wanted you to know that you would be highly sought after by the Death Eaters because of your talents. When I saw the ice cream shop in ruins I hurried here to warn you."
"You have warned me. Now you should go," said Ollivander placing Lockhart's wand back on the counter.
"Dumbledore had a request for you too," said Harry. "In addition to examining the wands, he wanted me to tell you that if you saw anything suspicious; anything that indicated the Death Eaters were after you, that you should pack up and go into hiding.
"Yes, Albus and I have discussed that eventuality. I certainly didn't want to believe it was coming so soon. I will pack immediately and leave within the hour. As to these wands, Gilderoy's has been hardened by the magic to which it has been exposed. I could, given time, rework it but it would be very difficult. I suggest that no one but a very skilled, very powerful wizard use either Gilderoy's wand or the Gregorovitch wand.
Consequences could be rather severe. When things have settled a bit I will have time to examine the wands more closely. Until then I suggest they be put away and not used."
"I will relay the information," said Harry. "Good luck, wherever you go." Then not waiting to be dismissed, he gathered the wands, handling his most carefully, and left the shop. Swirling the invisibility cloak over himself the moment he was clear of the shop, he spoke to Capricio, "Thanks for your restraint. I know you wanted to come out when you felt I was in danger. Some small things I should be able to do."
They made their way directly to Flourish and Blotts book store. This time instead of just walking in, Harry carefully examined the store from the street. He tuned his glasses to different spectrum emanation levels and paid close attention to the couple talking to the lone salesperson inside the store. Harry could discern no danger but was surprised to see a small shelf affixed high on the glass front window. The shelf and its contents were not visible under normal light but they glowed an eerie translucent blue under ultraviolet light. Harry edged closer. The books were miniscule, smaller even than an octidecimo. From close up he could make out the name on a cover. The Invisible Book of Invisibility! Carefully scooping the row of books into his arms, he slipped into the shop. From under the invisibility cloak, he examined title after title. Many he had already read. Those unread seemed to call to him. "So many books, so little time," He whispered wryly to Capricio. He waited until the couple had concluded their business and had left the shop, before he approached the salesperson. Deciding on anonymity, he elected to stay under his invisibility cloak. Clearing his throat loudly to make his presence known to the sales clerk, Harry began, "I was in here once and talked to Mr. Flourish. He told me of a time that he purchased a stock of books titled The Invisible Book of Invisibility but that he was unable to locate it after it was put out on display. I have an offer for you, I can help you locate those books in exchange for one copy and a copy of Wendelin Without Words, the Silence Behind the Spell."
The clerk was momentarily in shock, having been addressed by thin air. Gaining his wits he said, "That would be a right fine trick, that would. Seein's how we've searched the store from spine to index slot and haven't found so much as an invisible dust jacket. Still in all, you are invisible. Maybe it takes one to find one. Either way I'm out nothing. If you don't find the books, you don't get your copies. If you do, well then I'll be the apple of his nib's eye. The way he went on about what those books cost him, a couple 'o books would be a small price to pay to get them back. You've cut yourself a deal."
"Get a copy of Wendelin's book and come back here," said Harry.
The clerk disappeared among the tottering stacks and came back with a brilliantly orange book in his hands. "Here's the Wendelin book. Odd duck she is, not much call for this book. Now can you come through on your end of this lovely bargain?"
"Place the book on the table behind you and then hold out your hands," said Harry through the invisibility cloak.
The clerk did as he was told. As he held out his hands, Harry placed the small copies, save one, of the invisible book into the clerk's upturned palms. "I suggest that you wrap each one of those immediately so you don't misplace them again."
"Thanks mate," said the astonished clerk, "just so's you'll know, I'm takin' full credit for this." He turned and quickly made his way to an office at the back of the store.
"I'd wager he's back there right now trying to tie ribbon or wrapping paper on those books to make sure he doesn't misplace them before he can present them to the owner. I'm more than happy to let him take the credit and leave me out of the story," said Harry with a smile. Retrieving Wendelin's book, he walked over to the fireplace, warned Capricio and in a whoosh of green flames, they were gone.
Harry and Capricio came out of the fireplace in Snape's dungeon office in a storm of green flames. Harry glanced at the magic still taunting him from the base of the pillar and said to Capricio, "I want to be a little more settled before we go back after this challenge. We've got what we went to Diagon Alley for. We'll take one step at a time." The dragon wriggled a bit but protested no further.
As they made their way through the castle, Harry saw Minerva McGonagall checking her magical floo sensoring spell on the fireplace he and Capricio had previously used to travel to London. He hesitated and watched McGonagall as she sifted for magical traces of transport. He was heartened to see McGonagall's self-satisfied expression as she swept past where he stood silent and invisible.
A few minutes later, as they approached Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, he watched as an apparently disconsolate Peeves drifted by. Peeves did not seem his normal vindictive self; he was almost ghost-grey, drained of colour. Harry stopped in his tracks, remembering that even when Peeves couldn't see him, the poltergeist's hearing was very acute. Peeves was muttering to himself, "...adult wizards all. So little to work with here. Only a few weeks more and the fun begins. Should move out during the summer holiday, I should. Might not be able to get back in though. No. Better to stay put and wait. Ickle kidsies. I miss 'em. Yes I do."
Harry was a bit shocked by the revelation that Peeves missed the Hogwarts students "But then, I guess that most of his pranks need either victims or an audience to satisfy him," he thought as he watched the despondent little man drift down a corridor. With a sudden heartfelt pang, Harry realized he missed the other students too. "Only a few more things on my list and it's back to my time," thought Harry.
He had no more than considered the longing to be back among his friends when Slytherin's magic once again assailed him. He almost panicked at the immensity of the feeling welling up within him as the dark magic fought for favor in his mind.
As Harry fought for mental and emotional control; Peeves burst back into the corridor, once again animated and full of color. "I feel better. Yes I do. I'll make it through this dratted holiday. There is more here at Hogwarts than meets the eye," he cackled as he sniffed the air loudly.
Harry fought the internal struggle with Slytherin's magic silently, afraid to make the slightest noise, lest the poltergeist be alerted to his presence and raise an almighty din. As he gained mental mastery, he noticed Peeves seemed to wilt before his eyes; once again turning to a baleful shadow of his former self before drifting off down the deserted hall.
Breathing a sigh of relief for his re-established mental control, as well as for the poltergeist's departure, Harry made his way back to the Chamber of Secrets. Upon arrival he cleaned up, settled in and prepared a meal for himself and Capricio. When they finished eating, Harry addressed the dragon, "You've been through a lot. I'm going to read these books and then attack the locket and the clear portion of the potion from Voldemort's cave. If I'm not overly long, we'll go back to the dungeon and dissect Snape's magic. I'll need you at full strength. For now you can take the rest I promised you earlier."
The dragon listened intently, but did not make any effort to remove from the table where it had landed, and was now considering the multitude of items. Harry watched as the dragon re-examined each item procured at Grimmauld Place. Judging the likelihood that Capricio was going to rest as almost nil, Harry addressed him, "Cap, you intend to help at every turn, don't you? I know you had a thousand years of solitude and rest, but I don't want to push you any further than you are able."
Capricio seemed to take no notice of Harry's words.
"All right then, together again," said Harry. "I'll be reading for a bit if you'll stand watch..." The words were no more than out of his mouth when the wyvern took flight, and began an aerial patrol of the chamber.
Harry selected Wendelin's book and invoked "Wallacearia Condensata," but instead of absorbing every page quickly; he read slowly and purposefully. Wendelin was methodical in her writings. There was a brief introduction where she explained her experiences as a child; manipulating magic before she knew what it was. Her parents were both muggles and the appellation "weird" was attached to her name by her father. She spoke briefly of the pain of being different, of realizing she could do things that others could not, of learning very young (she thought between three and four years of age) to keep her talents secret. She told how she mastered the emotions that led to her early accidental magic. She explained the focus necessary to maintain the ability to perform unaided magic. She recounted how she was sought out and recruited to attend Hogwarts at a time when the education of girls was unprecedented. She had been the poorest of the poor and had to rely on scholarship to remain in school. She told of acquiring her first wand and the marvelous feeling of doing what she referred to as "assisted magic." Even though her wand gave her a greater range of power in her spells, she did not forgo private practice of wandless and wordless magic. She wrote of being considered and oddball even among wizards, firstly because she was muggle-born, secondly because she was a girl, and lastly because magic seemed to come so easily to her. Others were jealous of her abilities and seemed to seek out opportunity to humiliate her. Their attempts were rarely successful unless a large number banded together to harass her.
Harry paused and considered what he had learned. He mentally searched his "library" and determined that Hogwarts had existed centuries before the first Confederation of Wizards. "That explains why there was no Ministry to detect underage magic. The Confederation of Wizards predates the Ministry of Magic. Wendelin was born between the founding of Hogwarts and the first meeting of the Confederation of Wizards in 1313."
He thoughtfully pondered his own earliest manifestations of magical ability. "I had early ability but after I got my wand I took the easy path. But what motivation did I receive to practice, improve, or even maintain control of the rudimentary magic I once wielded?" Other questions blossomed in his mind, "How was it that Dumbledore was able to track down those like Dean Thomas, or Hermione who were born in muggle families but had magical abilities? How was the Ministry able to detect underage magic? Can they really detect all underage magic, or is it only when magic is used in a muggle area that they could sort it out? I remember learning in primary school health class that muscles atrophy if they are not used. Is magical ability of a similar bent?"
Harry sighed, "More questions and no answers. I'm getting too good at that."
Once again he applied himself to the text. Wendelin detailed her experiences at Hogwarts. She hid her abilities even from the teachers. She slipped into the forest surrounding the grounds (it apparently wasn't off-limits then) and gathered a twig from a wand-wood tree and used it to convince her teachers she was using a wand, when in reality she was using her own focus. She left Hogwarts a top student but with no friends and no future. The dark ages meted capital punishment to anyone exhibiting unusual abilities. She didn't dare get close to muggles lest they find out her secret. Wizards deemed her odd and scoffed her abilities to scorn. She went back to her muggle family and even though her father continued to use the name Wendelin the Weird, she "helped" around the small patch of scrub ground her father called a farm. Her "help" allowed it to prosper. It rained on her father's little plot of land during droughts. Insects stopped at the edges of fields and went around, eating never so much as a blade of rye. Loads of produce seemed lighter, carts never broke down, animals never got sick or injured. At least that was until her father came upon her unexpectedly one day to see a broken cart wheel mending itself in mid-air under her direction. Her father didn't denounce her as a witch, although she felt it might have been out of fear for his own safety and standing in the community, and not out of love. He sent her away and told her never to return. She left and wandered alone for the rest of her life. Without her help, her father's farm failed miserably. She eventually set up a small cottage and continued practicing, refining her talents, and experimenting. She told of the mortifying fear that she felt when she was first denounced as a witch and sentenced to burn at the stake; then of her dawning realization that she was equal to the test. She came to see that muggles were dismally poor at identifying magical folk, and were particularly prone to misidentify muggles as such. Sadness filled her narrative as she spoke of the muggles who faced her fate without the slightest ability to escape. She decided to allow the superstitious muggles to vent their insecurities on her, hopefully deflecting some anger away from the unprotected innocent.
As Harry read on, his emotions rose to the surface as he discovered the lengths to which Wendelin had gone to protect the innocent from the ignorant. "And wizards consider her an odd ball. She may be the most courageous person I've ever read about. She learned to metamorph so the muggles would think it was different people each time she stepped in to assume the blame and secure the release of an innocent muggle." Harry's voice cracked as he made the pronouncement to the wyvern. "She included some of the spells and practice exercises she used throughout her life. They will come in handy with the D.A.," said Harry, as he gained control of his welling emotions.
As he finished Wendelin's book, he put it down almost reluctantly. He called Capricio and fed him, then he proceeded on to the Invisible Book of Invisibility. His progress was slow because of the difficulty turning the thin invisible pages. His glasses tuned to the correct spectrum allowed him to see the ghostly words shine, appearing to hover unsupported in the air. The chapters on invisible tinctures and Invisible Invisibility were particularly clear. When he got to Invisibility Revealed, he found the magic behind Fred and George's headless hats. He also found the author's challenge to understand the magic behind making the book invisible. Harry took the challenge to heart. He reviewed all the spells, potions, wand movements and mechanisms covered in the book. He proceeded to deconstruct the magic surrounding the book. The spells were complex, the wand movements finicky, and the potions difficult to counteract. Harry set to breaking each one, and at the end of the day he had a book that looked to be made of quicksilver. Although it was no longer invisible; it looked almost liquid in its page's metallic glint. With a start Harry saw that during the process of deconstruction, he had answered his own question about layering of different processes to make a more complete invisibility.
He was prompted to caution by a statement in the book... "As invisibility can be achieved by a myriad of processes, we urge the reader to be judicious in any multiple layering of invisibility techniques, as one may achieve accidental irreversible invisibility; a condition with unseen consequences."
Harry put the tiny book on the table and contemplated what he had discovered. "I know new ways to manipulate light and sensory perception. I know that layering can and has been done. I know that total invisibility, though attainable, is not something to look for. We've used this day well. Let's turn in and attack the remaining questions rested and ready."
As if in answer, Capricio landed atop a pillar near a low-burning brass cresset, tucked his reptilian head beneath a leathery wing and appeared to go to sleep.
7. Testing Mettle
Harry awoke from a fitful night's sleep. The rigors and revelations of the previous day had weakened him and Slytherin's grimorie had haunted his dreams. Turning to retrieve his glasses, he was a bit unnerved to see the wyvern standing next to the bed, surveying him with unblinking eyes. Understanding flooded Harry. "You can tell when Slytherin's magic is strong or near the surface, can't you? That's when you watch to see how I'll handle the onslaught. But it's more than a duty now isn't it? You actually want to help me don't you?"
The dragon hopped awkwardly to Harry and rubbed the scaly fringe of its neck ruff against his hand.
"Thanks," said Harry, "I can't tell you how much I appreciate a friend right now."
After breakfast was finished, they turned their attention back to the motley collection on the table. Harry went to work. Soon the tabletop was protected by a layer of inert gold; each item spaced apart from the others to allow thorough examination. Having sorted out the red stone, the Black family ring, and the leather box, he set himself to the clear substance that had joined Voldemort's and Regulus Black's potions in the cave. Once again it defied reverse incantation. Harry addressed the dragon, "I know what I want to try next. There was a process in The Invisible Book of Invisibility that uncovered phased invisibility. The little book says that an object, even magic, can be hidden between offsetting wavelengths of visible light. If the object or magic can be stabilized one hundred eighty degrees out of phase with the visible spectrum it will remain optically undetectable until it is forced back into phase. House elf and goblin magic might be one hundred eighty degrees out of phase with wizard's magic. That could be why their magic is so hard to detect or deflect!"
The dragon listened as if understanding.
Harry proceeded with the dephasing, and at length, the clear liquid became milky and translucent. When he then attempted reverse incantation, he was satisfied to see a house elf associated with the liquid. His satisfaction turned to shock, "Blimey, Capricio! That's not just any house elf. That's Kreacher!" He watched the magic trail in horror as the house elf drank the green potion from Voldemort's basin. Harry saw Regulus Black grab the exposed locket and replace it with a fake. Ignoring the elf's pathetic moans of despair, Regulus forced a flask of golden-yellow potion into Kreacher's shaking hands and commanded him to bind it to Voldemort's potion refilling the basin. The clear potion's trail disappeared as the elf lost consciousness under the effects of the debilitating draught.
Harry stepped back from the table in disgust. Regulus had forced Kreacher to drink a potion, terrible for a wizard, and apparently doubly so for a house elf. He found himself detesting Regulus without ever knowing him. Harry had a sudden appreciation for Kreacher's dark mutterings. "His mind may have been bent by the potion Regulus forced him to drink!" He bowed his head at the revolting thought of compelling another to do anything so vile. Fighting down the urge to vomit, Harry slid the phial of liquid to the far side of the table, as if afraid of being tainted by the deeds associated with it. "It shows you never can tell, Regulus seemed to be such a nice bloke in his letter to Sirius."
Mastering a desire to quit the task, he summoned the heavy silver locket and began to examine it anew. He put all thoughts of Regulus and Kreacher from his mind and focused on the much more dangerous task of confronting Voldemort's Horcrux. Setting on the table, the locket gleamed innocently silver in the flickering light. Harry inspected the locket closely. It looked and felt like a locket. There was no masking magic. He used everything he had learned from The Invisible Book of Invisibility. Nothing revealed itself in the way of a parting line, lock, or sealing spell. No frequency attenuation appeared; neither did phase stabilization provide any clue. He put away Lockhart's wand and detuned his glasses. He picked up the locket and hefted it. He shook it. He even considered biting it or throwing it at the floor.
Nonplussed, he held the locket and realized he might still be in over his head. "The Order members may be a resource. Moody, or Lupin, or McGonagall might be willing to help with this. I really don't have to do this all alone," he said absentmindedly turning the locket over in his palm. "I'm putting this to the side for later," he said to the dragon that had once again landed on the table to watch the progress. "We'll have a look at Snape's magic and see if we can make any headway there," he said carefully removing from his robes the entire gold pocket lining holding the remaining wands. Using Lockhart's wand he levitated the wands to the table. He saw flecks of grey powder still clinging stubbornly to his own wand and scattered in the well of the gold pocket lining. Once again, as he stared at the powder his knowledge failed him. No explanation of dried potions was present in his mental library.
"Let's examine this from a different perspective," said Harry to the dragon. "We've seen the effect of the powder. It acts like some derivation of Veritaserum. The question is how did Snape change the liquid serum to a dry powder?" Harry mentally rehearsed the process to create Veritaserum to determine if it could simply be mixed dry, but the month long brewing and the "juice of a spruce goose" seemed to preclude a dry mixture. "What if Snape was able to attach the potion to an inert carrier and then evaporate the alkahest? I would only have to find the correct solvent to put the powder back into suspension." He sat and pondered the prospect for a few minutes. Suddenly slapping his forehead he exclaimed, "I've been so thick! I've been trying to decide how to make the powder a liquid, when I should have been focusing on how to contain or control the powder!"
A new enthusiasm flared as he considered the relatively easier task. Using Lockhart's wand, Harry levitated the other wands and arranged them on the table. He removed the gold lining from his robe pocket and set it next to the wands. He examined his own wand first, tuning his glasses to the very specific frequency that made the flecks of powder stand out against the background material. It appeared that between Florean Fortescue and the Death Eaters, the majority of the powder had been wiped away. Harry noticed the wyvern was watching him intently. "I know I'm playing with dangerous stuff. I'll be duly careful." Even though his words seemed to placate the dragon, it stayed very close to Harry.
"Snape would have needed a process to remove all traces of this substance to access his own devices. How to do it? As much as I hate to admit it, Snape and I have some shared background. Maybe I can use that knowledge against him. He is a half-blood as am I. I assume he attended muggle primary school and was exposed, as Binns said, to a muggle perspective on questioning and study."
As the words flashed through his thoughts; something else Binns had said hit Harry with a jolt, "...take magnetism for example. Muggles have studied it until they have a rudimentary knowledge of how it works..." "Magnetism, electricity, logical reasoning, scientific study, some of the areas that wizards would not utilize. Why not start there?" Having said that, the reality of just how difficult it was going to be settled on Harry. "Every method of producing a magnetic field that I can think of requires the use of muggle devices. Hermione said that those things wouldn't work around the strong magic surrounding Hogwarts. We're either going to have to find a way around that or take our experimentation to another location." said Harry. Suddenly it hit him, "The magnetite I collected to give Fred and George! It's naturally occurring. It might not be effect- dampened here." Excitedly he dug through his well-worn sack and found the piece of black, spiky rock wrapped in a piece of old parchment. He left the wrapping intact and passed the stone over his wand. He was astonished to see the particles of grey powder leap from his wand to the surface of the parchment covering the magnetic rock. "I think we're on to something here Cap!" said Harry as he "vacuumed" the remaining powder from his gold pocket lining. In short order all the powder was clinging tenaciously to the outside of the parchment.
"That's got it," said Harry as he sealed the stone in a wide-mouthed glass jar and replaced the "clean" gold lining and wands back inside his robe pocket. "Let's go back Snape's office and see what we can do!" The pair made their way carefully through the castle to Snape's dungeon office. Harry controlled his excitement and prepared methodically to assail the magic. He removed his masking spell and began with the discarded linen rag. As he removed the magnetite from the bottle, he was disconcerted to note that the grey powder was gone from the surface of the parchment. He surmised it had, as one of its properties, the ability to pass through some materials. He cautiously swept the covered rock back and forth over the linen and saw the grey flecks jump from cloth to parchment. Pausing to test his theory, Harry saw the powder seemingly dissolve and slip through the covering. He then went to the tile and the ten-numeral lock and performed the same "vacuuming" motions. Just to be doubly sure, he passed the covered stone over all the surrounding area. Satisfied, he sealed the stone back inside the jar.
"Well Capricio, I'll leave it up to you. Have we removed all the dried potion?" As Harry spoke the dragon dropped to the floor and clumsily hopped around the base of the pillar. He sniffed the cloth and spent several long minutes snuffling at the tile and the lock. The dragon looked up and Harry could see concern in the dragon's mind. It wasn't a new worry. It was for the same smell of danger as before but the dragon was confused as to the location of the source.
Harry sized up the clues. "Inside the rotating lock!" exclaimed Harry. "Thanks, I'll take it from here." He looked about the office and found a container of knarl quills. Fetching one, he approached the lock. He looked at the ten rotating cylinders with an inward smile. "The combination seems the simplest of this access puzzle. Let's see if I am right." He took a quill, and holding the magnetic stone, he rotated the first cylinder. As he suspected a fine grey powder sifted from the cylinder as it turned. "If I hadn't had you with me I would have touched that powder. I would have been immobilized here waiting for someone to find me. That was evidently Snape's intent...incapacitate anyone trying to get at his secret and force them to tell him why they made the attempt." He collected the powder as he set the first cylinder to one. Repeating the process he set the subsequent tumblers to one, two, three, five, eight, one, three, and two. He held his breath as he cleaned the final tumbler and set it to one.
The lock vibrated and then dissolved in a purple shimmer. The tiles pivoted sideways, revealing a cavity at the pillar base.
Harry's first inclination was to increase his caution. He stepped back from the pillar and considered. "The pillar was disguised by magic, hiding its true character. Snape has been very careful about this. What else did he do here?" He spectrum analyzed the opening and found a fine black web of invisible threads. "Eurycleia's web, the same magic that protects the box in Dumbledore's office," said Harry excitedly. He reached into his robe and pulled Greyback's wand from the gold-lined pocket. As he began to place the tip of the wand beneath the invisible threads, the wand was jerked forcefully from his hand and disappeared into the black void. " That's just not on," fumed Harry to the dragon. "What in azoth's rot is going on here? I thought Slytherin and Riddle were good at guarding their secrets, but they were pikers compared to Snape."
Harry felt a grudging acknowledgement for the magical acumen of the man he detested so much. "I wonder if I could just excise a portion of the column and take it back to the Chamber of Secrets? Probably not, knowing Snape." He decided to utilize an offset spell, thus preventing contact between the existing magic and the deciphering spell. He tuned his glasses to Snape's particular magic and began the spell. He was encouraged as a fine stream of misty particles separated from the base of the column, but as soon as the mist was free of its parent magic it seemed to evaporate. He performed the offset spell several times and encountered the same result...the mist simply vanished. Stepping back from the phenomena, he looked about the room. He was startled to see that the bottle containing the magnetite was floating several inches above where he had placed it. Intrigued by the manifestation, he looked carefully at the bottle without approaching it. The magnetic rock inside the jar was freely suspended; the dried potion was circling the stone much as one of Saturn's rings. A fine particulate ether surrounded the bottle in a spherical halo.
Deciding on an experiment, Harry pulled his own wand from his robe pocket. In a serious tone he said, "Point me." The wand vibrated on his open palm and shuddered as it swung back and forth between the base of the pillar and the floating bottle. He moved cautiously across the room. As his aspect changed so did the wand's orientation. At length it held fast as the bottle and the pillar base came into alignment. Harry backed up and was rewarded with a resounding crash as he knocked into the desk set to the to the edge of Snape's office. Stilling his racing heart, he realized that he had upended the box of cards he had been re-cataloging for Snape and Filch. As he regained himself, he saw with horror that his dropped wand was skittering across the floor toward the pillar base. Knowing the wand would be sucked into the void behind the magic upon contact, Harry leaped across the room and pinned the wand to the floor. Panting, he replaced the wand in his robes. Immediately, the effect of the field surrounding the pillar was negated by the protective gold lining.
"Well it seems to be a magic that concentrates a magnetic field. No wizard help for this I'm afraid," said Harry to the wyvern now circling the dungeon. Tinkering with the magic, he found that ferrous objects would float when placed in proximity to the pillar base. He aimed small magic spells at the pillar and they too were drawn inside. "What has Snape devised here? The only magic that seems even remotely relate to this is the shield charm Protego. Let's give it a go shall we?"
He aimed his wand and silently engaged the shield charm. He kept the charm tightly focused and instead of being drawn inside, as had the other magics, the shield charm seemed to repel Snape's insubstantial ether. By careful manipulation of the shield charm, Harry found he could force a small hole to open in Snape's magic. He discovered balance and focus were critical, even the smallest misalignment allowed Snape's magic to instantly crush the shield charm. By small degrees, as he tried again and again, Harry began to understand the complexities of the forces he was setting in opposition to each other.
Hours slogged by, yet Harry refused to be beaten. Finally, his wand slippery with his sweat, he succeeded in establishing a tenuously stable hole in the side of what he had come to realize was a magnetic bottle.
Unsure what to do next, Harry called to Capricio. In the instant his attention strayed, the magnetic bottle crushed his magic and sent him sprawling to the floor.
In his moment of frustration, Slytherin's magic assailed him, a mind swell so powerful that his vision blurred. Battling with Salazar Slytherin's magical remembrances, he was driven to his knees on the hard stone floor. The mental struggle was immense, and almost an hour later, Harry was finally able to contain the relentless waves of dark memory.
Shaking and sweaty, he staggered to the desk and sat down. From the corner of his eye he noticed Capricio shrinking back to his diminutive norm. "You weren't sure I was going to win that time, were you?" panted Harry, hands flat on the desk steadying himself.
Capricio avoided his gaze.
"To be completely honest, I wasn't so sure myself. I want you to know that rather than let Slytherin's magic loose on the world, I would prefer you fulfill your purpose and destroy me," said Harry in all seriousness.
Capricio looked at Harry. In the instant their eyes met, Harry realized he had no say in the matter; failure was death.
A cold chill surged through him and he almost lost control again. Recalling the last time he had pushed his endurance and had suffered from poor decision making; he shakily cleared the desk and prepared a meal. Consumed in relative silence, the meal did much to steady Harry. As he ate he, he pondered the dragon gorging on raw meat just scant inches from his elbow. "I can't take Capricio for granted. If he is as plagued by hunger and exhaustion as I am, I would hate for him to make an error of judgment and mistakenly eat me," Harry mentally admonished himself.
As he cleaned up, he decided what he would do. "I was almost near enough with my last attempt at Snape's magic. I think I can do it this time with a bit of help."
Capricio brightened and stood on the edge of the desk as if awaiting instructions.
"What I'm going to ask will be dangerous. I need you to slip into the pillar after I have opened the magic sufficiently. Bring out anything that is inside if it doesn't pose a threat to you. What do you think?" asked Harry.
Without hesitation, Capricio flew to the base of the pillar and turned to watch Harry.
"O.K., thanks little mate. Together we can do it!" said Harry as he prepared to force Snape's magic sufficiently to allow Capricio's entry. He summoned the chair from the desk, settled himself firmly, and accosted the magic. From his seated position, Harry forced his end of defensive magic at the ether bottle. Holding stock still, he balanced minute variations in the magic and pushed. Snape's magic flared as if angry at the intrusion, but at Harry's continued insistence, the ether parted and a small hole appeared.
Capricio took to wing and watched intently. As soon as the hole was large enough to allow entry, the wyvern dived. As it came close to the pillar, it pulled its wings close and plummeted into the chasm. There was a series of scuffling sounds and Capricio exited with a wand in one clawed foot and a small book in the other. He circled, dropped the items on the desk, and headed back to the opening. Once again he slipped into the hole. More scuffling sounds punctuated Capricio's attempted exit from the hole. His head and torso emerged from the hole but whatever he held in his claws was larger than the opening Harry had made in the protective magic.
For a mere fraction of a second Harry hesitated; thoughts of allowing the magic to collapse on the partially exposed dragon flitted through his head. Instantly ashamed of the unworthy thought, Harry concentrated and forced the shield charm deeper into Snape's magic. It felt to Harry as if he were holding up the entire castle with his spell. Harry was about to give up and tell the dragon to drop whatever he had and get out before the magic crushed him, when Capricio caught his eye. The dragon's look carried the unmistakable admonition to try harder.
Under the dragon's intense scrutiny, Harry rallied. Finding a well of strength from deep within, he pushed harder. Capricio wriggled and worked free of the hole just as Harry's strength waned and the hole shrank to nothing.
Harry's head lolled weakly on his shoulder as he watched Capricio deposit a second book next to the items already on the desk. Smiling at Capricio he said, "Well done, mate!" Harry leaned back in the chair and pulled his cloak up to his chin. "I think I may want to rest now," he said, and he passed out cold.
Harry awoke cold and shaky. Looking about the dungeon office, he saw the books next to Greyback's wand on the table. Crunching noises attracted his attention to a dark corner of the room. The wyvern was eating something. Curiosity needled Harry into action. He arose from the chair and went to check on the dragon. "What have you got there?" His curiosity turned to disgust as he saw the dragon had tipped one of the potion-filled specimen jars to the floor and was standing amidst the remains of some green slimy thing.
"Are you sure that's safe to eat?" asked Harry.
Capricio looked at Harry as if to say, "You didn't feed me. I had my choice of this smorgasbord. Of course I'm sure it's safe. What did you expect me to eat...You?" After another withering look, Capricio resumed his meal.
Harry conjured a snack and went to examine the books Capricio had liberated. His fatigue had been so complete that he had not paid particular attention to the books as Capricio flew past. What Harry discovered took his breath away. On the desk before him was a small nondescript notebook but next to it sat a very familiar copy of Advanced Potion Making. He blanched. Digging through his backpack, he came up with the copy of Advanced Potion Making he had re-jacketed so many months before. Harry's mind twisted as he stared at the books.
Capricio had finished his revolting meal and was once again scrutinizing Harry. He landed and walked clumsily around the books. Seemingly satisfied, he took to wing and circled overhead.
Harry interpreted Capricio's lack of concern as tacit approval to proceed. He handled the books gingerly, as if they could take life or threaten him. He opened the potion book and knew immediately it was the copy he had taken from the Potion's class loaner cupboard. "How did this happen? Does Snape have a Time-Turner? I altered this book when I got my new copy from Flourish and Blotts. I'm not mad. I have it right here." Harry opened the copy of Advanced Potion Making he had retrieved from the Room of Requirement. The cover looked mint new, but the inside of the book was thoroughly used up. He sat mizzle-minded as he looked at the books.
Thought raced through his head, and at length, he spoke to the dragon, "The interior of the books are identical. This is no accident or coincidence. I can only guess that I am going to take this book back to the loaner books in Slughorn's class. If I don't get this copy of the book, I won't win the Felix Felicis. Without the Felix, I won't get Slughorn's memory of Tom Riddle's questions about Horcruxes. On the other hand... He riffled through the pages to the small note that read "Sectumsempra-For Enemies"...I could expunge this and I'll never be able to curse Malfoy. No curse...no injured Malfoy. But then...no injury to Malfoy...more time for him to sort out the Vanishing Cabinet. No injury to Malfoy...no detention with Snape. No detention with Snape...Ginny doesn't become Gryffindor seeker...no victory for her over Slytherin...no move on her part to let me know her feelings for me..."
The thoughts chased each other around in his head. He tried to reason outcomes; the variables made his brain hurt. In the end, he fell back to the admonition that "terrible things happen to wizards who meddle with time."
Harry turned to the wyvern and asked almost imploringly, "I know this book has to end up in the Potions class loaner books for me to end up right here, right now. The real question is, do I want to repeat the last year or throw it to chance? If I don't take the book back, maybe Dumbledore won't die. Then again, if I don't take it back, there's no guarantee that more people won't die."
Harry paused for only a moment, as if much contemplation would only dishearten him or muddy his decision. He called the dragon. With the briefest of warnings about time travel, he set the Time-Turner and disappeared. He reappeared moments before the beginning of his first potions class at the beginning of his sixth year. Slughorn was busy setting up the cauldrons of potions to be identified and did not detect the invisible Harry slipping the Half-Blood Prince's copy of Advanced Potion Making into the cupboard containing loaner books. Without hesitation, Harry reset the Time-Turner and disappeared.
Harry was disgusted by what he had set in motion, as disgusted as he had been by what Regulus Black had forced on Kreacher. Not wanting to spend any more time in the dungeon room, he gathered all the items into his pack and headed to the Chamber of Secrets.
His arrival was uneventful. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained, he prepared a simple meal went straight to bed.
Harry's imagination ran dark during his dreams. An accusing Hermione confronted him about instigating a plan that culminated in Dumbledore's death. She would not listen to his explanation, nor accept her own admonition about wizards meddling with time. Ron was no help either; Harry's dreams placed Ron in the bathroom where Harry was fighting Draco Malfoy. As Draco lay bleeding from Harry's Sectumsempra spell, Ron encouraged Harry to "Just walk away," because, "After all he was going to use an unforgivable curse on you. What do you owe him?" Harry hated himself, even in his dream, as he considered favorably, Ron's reasoning. Slughorn appeared, taunting him, saying that he had acted cravenly, and that he couldn't be a son of the noble James and Lily Potter. Slughorn changed into a hook-nosed Snape who continued the taunt about Harry not living up to his parent's reputations, "You've disgraced their memories," he said as he changed into a silent, brooding Dumbledore.
Harry awoke soaked in sweat, the dragon by his side. "Another bad one," he said to the observant wyvern. "Thanks for watching my back. I'm not getting any better at this. I need some help. Let's finish up and get back to the "real" time. I need Dumbledore, or Lupin, or McGonagall, someone, to help me sort this out. If I don't get help I'm afraid I'll go mad. I know that's not what you want to hear, but it's the truth."
Harry considered his few remaining tasks as he made breakfast. "I have two things left on my list, but the way I feel right now, I'm inclined to stow one of them for after I've got a better hold on my head."
Harry was surprised at his own thought. "I have come to relish the opportunity to read, but Snape's book holds no attraction. I can honestly say I would rather go back to my friends and teachers than spend another minute fighting this battle alone."
His words spurred him to action. Although leaving the Chamber had always been his plan; it had seemed time-distant and accomplishment-driven. Now he actually began the final countdown to leave. He reread Wendelin's text, focusing on the drills she had included for maintaining magical ability without wands or words. He set to practice and found that he couldn't so much as stir the dust on the desk. Driving past his earlier malaise, he continued the practice interspersed by only meals and rest. The dragon watched him intently during the silent struggles.
During one brief period of rest and sustenance, Harry relayed his fears to Capricio, "I thought learning to produce a Patronus required focus! That seems like ancient child's-fun compared to this. I can't let my concentration slip in the least. I've been able to move small things, even perform small magic without words or a wand; but I'm not even close to being able to do what I did when I was nine or ten. And Slytherin's magic is always at the ready to shroud my thinking at the least opportunity. I do feel better about being focused on a task. It keeps my mind off Slytherin's pressure and off the thoughts of how near I am, to once again, be with my friends."
Capricio took to flight at Harry's words, and in a move reminiscent of Hedwig; cuffed Harry with a leathery wing as he rose into the air.
"All right. I get it. You are my friend. I just meant the opportunity to be with others."
The dragon set Harry with a piercing stare. In the moment their eyes met, Harry felt the dragon's impatience at Harry's words about being alone. "I don't want you to think that I don't value your company. I truly do. I also understand your ability to remain in solitude far exceeds mine. Please bear with me in this."
The dragon seemed to accept the apology and went back about the business of prowling the Chamber for rats and mice, a consistent pastime now that Harry was engaged in silent, focused practice.
As the week progressed, Harry came to realize that by clearing his mind of all extraneous thought he could perform more complex magic. After over a week of daylong, seemingly endless practice; Harry called the dragon to his side. "I would like you to see something!" Pointedly, Harry placed all the wands on the table and walked to the centre of the Chamber. Silently, without fanfare or even lifting a finger, the wands across the Chamber rose off the table and floated in midair. A golden sphere suddenly appeared around Harry's bed. In the corner of the chamber, a brilliant white stag appeared.
Without moving, or a change in his facial expression, Harry ended the simultaneous magics and seemed to slump in the strain of the thing. "Let's eat and rest and then I'm going to ask you to help me test a very dangerous proposition."
The meal was elaborate and was consumed in near silence. The event had the feel of a last meal for a condemned convict.
Harry cleaned up in silence, without a wand and then turned to Capricio. "I need you to attack me," said Harry without preamble. "I don't want you to try and kill me at the off, but in reality we may get to that eventuality. You have seen me practice against my duplicate. You know I am serious about testing my abilities. I need to be able to face all comers and you will be the ideal practice partner. If I can even hold you off for a bit, I should be able to confront almost anything except the Avada Kedavra curse. I thought I would start with a wand and then proceed to non-verbal, and finally wandless magic."
Capricio initially radiated skepticism but as Harry explained, the dragon warmed to the concept. By the end of Harry's entreaty, the dragon was swishing its tail in apparent anticipation of the task.
The next three days were fraught with a multitude of mis-starts, accidents and wounds. The entire first day of practice with a wand and with words was a near disaster as the dragon could understand and avoid Harry's magic, always making Harry pay for any lapse or let-up in the magic.
By the end of the eighteen-hour session, Harry was nursing many burns, a few minor wounds, and countless aching muscles. "I've become better at avoiding you," said Harry as he mentally reviewed the last hour of their practice, while preparing a wandless dinner. "Let's get some sleep and start again tomorrow, shall we?"
The dragon didn't hesitate, settling on a bedside table and going immediately to sleep.
Harry awoke feeling like he had been through a dozen Occlumency trainings. His head pounded. Seeing Capricio watching him intently, Harry arose and prepared breakfast.
"Today we'll start slowly and work out the kinks in our muscles," said Harry.
The dragon looked at him as if to say, "You work out your kinks, I'm doing just fine."
Harry took his position in the corner of the room, a position he had come to favor as it protected his back from the relentless dragon. "You seem to be almost a bit too eager to be going on. What do you have in mind?"
As if in answer, the dragon attacked. Harry drew his wand, and true to his goal, he set about protection and attack wordlessly. His initial spells were pathetic and the dragon cut them to pieces. Momentarily, Harry worried that the dragon had had enough of the games and was determined to do him in. He redoubled his focus and efforts and found he could anticipate the dragon's movements. As the session wore on and Harry got incrementally better at fending off attacks, the dragon became more sly; attacking from above, bouncing flames off walls and floor, feinting, diving at tremendous speed, changing his size, always pressing the attack.
Harry met each new manifestation with split-second decisions. He shunted flames aside, changed their nature, captured and consumed them in his own silent magic, and finally began to fight back. At the end of the day, Capricio had to use his size to counter the magic Harry could throw at him. When Harry finally called a halt to the day, Capricio seemed almost glad to comply.
"Not too bad," said Harry tending to his many wounds. He set a meal before the dragon and contemplatively ate his own food. "I am a bit concerned about tomorrow," he said to the wyvern. "You've been a wonderful sparring partner. I've learned loads! But tomorrow take it a bit easy on me at the beginning. I'll sleep better knowing I'm not facing immediate death in the morning!" The smile in Harry's voice seemed to echo through the dragon's voiced understanding.
After a fitful night's sleep and a woefully short breakfast, Harry reluctantly left the wands on the table and turned to confront the dragon. Feeling as inadequate facing the dragon without a wand as he had felt facing the Hungarian Horntail during the Goblet Of Fire trials, he stilled his shivers and considered his opponent. Even though Capricio was small, Harry knew dragon's capabilities. Deciding on defence, Harry focused and called up a shield charm. The dragon dived, avoiding the charm and swiped Harry's arm with a spiked tail. Blood flowed freely from the cut. Harry sealed the wound while simultaneously shunting a spout of flame to the side. The dragon circled, gained altitude and dived again. Harry conjured a wall of ice to combat the dragon's burst of fiery flame. A shower of hot water in fine droplets rained down over Harry. He dried himself while sending out a weak jet of magic at the dragon. Capricio dodged handily and began to grow as he approached.
Harry anticipated the blow from the now huge creature by jumping to the side at the last instant. The jump was barely in time and he smelled the singe of his robes caused by the dragon's incendiary breath. "This is getting seriously out of hand," thought Harry. "I've either got to attack more forcefully, ask Capricio to take it a bit easier, or call a halt to this practice. I could die here if I'm not a bit more prudent." Deciding that his best defence was a good offence, Harry attacked. The spell was considerably weaker than if it had been conjured with words and with a wand, nonetheless it forced Capricio to abort his attack and come around a second time. Heartened, Harry used small magics, combined seemingly unrelated spells and came up with protective schemes he could handle without a wand. With each defended attack, he felt more confident, finally slipping in an offensive component to the seeming defence. Capricio, taken unawares, flew directly into the magic and was forced to the floor. Harry pounced on the grounded creature by attempting to seal him in a protective globe. Capricio hobbled away from the magic forcing him to the ground and regained flight. Flying to the opposite end of the chamber, the dragon flipped in midair and hurtled at Harry.
"This is it," thought Harry. "He'll not turn this time." In the instant the thought entered his brain, dark magic tempted him. Slytherin's spell floated unbidden to the front of his mind. Harry knew the spell would work, but he also knew it would kill Capricio. The internal fight took exactly the same amount of time to settle as it took the plummeting dragon to traverse the chamber.
Harry saw the jet of fire, a blossoming blood-red rose, spurt from the dragon's maw. The fervent heat distorted his vision as wave after wave of energy bore down on him. Harry raised his hand as if in a pathetic gesture of warding off the tremendous surge about to consume him when a singular thing happened...welling up from somewhere deep inside, something said..."NO!"
Magic as he had never known it coursed through him. A self-protective desire seemed to overwhelm his conscious thought. He gathered the firestorm as easily as if it had been flower petals. The fire front hovered, swirling furiously in midair, and simply vanished.
Astonished but enlivened by the feeling, Harry traced the magic trail internally. Summoning identical purpose and path, he focused on the spell to create a protective globe and mentally encased Capricio. The sphere appeared, and the dragon's momentum carried him into the inside curvature of the sphere. The collision was palpable and the dragon slid down the inside of the sphere, once again diminutive and apparently dazed and injured.
Harry hurried to the dragon and removed the sphere. He had no more than done so when Capricio morphed to his huge manifestation and knocked Harry to the floor with his spike covered snout.
Harry felt the barbs penetrate his body as he twisted to the side. As the huge dragon raised an enormous clawed foot to crush him to the floor, Harry once again used a protective sphere. However this time he encased himself, not the dragon. The dragon's weight came to bear on the orb, forcing it into the marble tile making up the floor of the chamber.
Harry paused only momentarily. He sealed his wounds and removed the orb. He was now standing in the shallow depression made by the crushed sphere. From his lowered vantage point, the dragon looked even more immense. As the dragon turned to resume the attack, Harry caught a glimpse of a bloody spot on the same foot the dragon had used to crush the sphere into the chamber floor. Calling up a gentle magic, Harry sent it pouring through the dragon's now-breached armor.
Capricio halted in mid attack. He began to shake. Falling to the floor on his back, the dragon convulsed. Tears streamed from his eyes. Smoke but not flame curled from his nostrils. Capricio was laughing.
Harry began to laugh also. He crossed to the dragon and removed the spell. Sliding down the dragon's scaly side, he slumped to the floor and laughed until tears were streaming down his own face.
Turning to the dragon's injuries, Harry quickly healed them and then tended to his own wounds. "Not bad," he said to the dragon. "But for the tiniest instant there I thought you had plans to do me in!"
Capricio growled as if to say he had the same thought about Harry.
The pair ate a meal in thoughtful silence. Capricio broke the silence at the end of the meal by noisily taking to flight and landing in the centre of the chamber. He turned to Harry, and like a gladiator in Caesar's circus, urged him back into the fight.
"If I didn't know better I'd think you enjoy this," said Harry slogging back to face the dragon without a wand.
The practice lasted the day. By the culmination of the sparring both Harry and Capricio were once again sporting multiple injuries. Harry healed them and while preparing their evening meal, he broached the subject of returning to the "right time."
Capricio seemed to understand, and Harry jibed his acquiescence. "I think you want to stay and see how much more pain you can inflict on me. Just a wheeze!" he said as Capricio flickered to his large version and back again.
Harry began the final preparations for leaving the chamber the following morning. Leaving the table with its many potion separating devices intact, he gathered his own possessions. Next he collected the items from Grimmauld Place and Snape's hidey-hole. When he finally felt he had things in order, he sat down with Capricio and explained his future plans to the dragon.
"Cap, I'm going back to my time and my other friends. That requires living closely among wizards. Once again, I have to emphasize that most wizards are terrified of dragons. I think my friends would be on with you, but it is against wizarding law to harbor a dragon. It would be imperative to keep you a secret. So I make you this offer. You can remain with me, or I can arrange to let you free in the forest on the Hogwarts grounds. Or I have a friend named Hagrid that would dearly love to take care of you."
Capricio looked at Harry, and in the instant their eyes met, Harry understood that Capricio had no intention of leaving him until sure that Slytherin's magic was contained and controlled.
"Very well then," said Harry. "Let's make the necessary plans. The only one who knows about my Time-Turner is Dumbledore's Porcrux. The others have no idea about the events of the last year or so. All we have to do is appear in Dumbledore's office after I have left to be with Grawp."
The feelings associated with memories of time spent with Grawp allowed a mental crack through which Slytherin's grimorie attempted to escape. This time Harry saw it coming, and exerting all his mental focus, he put down the shadowy mind swell. The episode was over in mere minutes and Harry felt somewhat heartened at the success.
Resetting to task, Harry explained, "We are not far from the time we wish to be. We have been roaming around the school just after the end of term. Just after Snape...well, just after Dumbledore's Porcrux was created. We don't have far to travel but McGonagall seems to be taking security here very seriously. I don't really want to face entrance to the Headmaster's office in case McGonagall has changed the password or mirr setting."
An intense shudder ran through Harry as he recalled Greyback's encounter with an unfriendly mirr panel.
"I suggest a two-jump time travel. First to an earlier time before the mirr panel when I knew the password. Then forward to just after I left for Grawp's. Do you agree?"
The wyvern did something that startled Harry. Instead of a churr or a blink, the tiny creature let out a roar totally unexpected from its diminutive stature.
"Well I'll take that for yes with a capital Y." Harry consulted his planner and found when he had been released for the hospital wing after McLaggen walloped him with a beater's bat. He followed the calendar forward to the Monday following.
"Eight o'clock. Headmaster's office. Toffee eclairs. It's perfect. We can slip through the Headmaster's office while Dumbledore and I are immersed in the Pensieve!" said Harry as he ran the details in his mind. Disillusioning himself and throwing on the invisibility cloaks, he left the chamber and made for the seventh floor Headmaster's office. Secret passageways and cooperative staircases made the journey quick. Arriving at the stone gargoyle, Harry set the Time-Turner and warned the dragon squirming in his pocket. In a trice they were gone.
Harry had only an instant to consider his next move when the gargoyle sprang aside to allow a disheveled and discomposed Sybill Trelawney exit. Thinking he had cut the time too close, he squeezed passed the closing gargoyle. He hurried his assent up the spiraling stair by silently skipping every other step. He had just made his way to the landing when he ran into something invisible. Knowing the castle's unpredictable nature, Harry flattened himself against the landing wall and tuned his glasses. He was shocked to see a shimmering vision, a vague outline of another person on the landing, obviously covered by an invisibility cloak. The other person was looking about the landing apparently trying to determine the source of the impact. Harry silently enabled the Muffliato spell and waited patiently. The other person seemed to lose heart and fled down the spiral stairs. Harry's first thought was to follow, to solve this mystery. Mastering the impulse, he focused his attention to the Headmaster's door even as he heard the gargoyle below move to allow exit. "Apparently whoever it was knew the password. We'll consider that later," whispered Harry to the wyvern. At length all fell still in the office and Harry was sure "he" and Dumbledore's were consumed in the memory.
Harry slipped into the office and despite his intent, he stopped and stared. "He" and Dumbledore were bizarre caricatures, their long-stretched images reminiscent of a surrealist painting, upper torsos and heads rainbow bent immersed in the Pensieve.
Shaking himself free of the desire to just watch the spectacle, he forced himself silently up the stair, and to the far side of the upper alcove. Quickly resetting the Time-Turner, he spun the hourglass and was gone. His timing had been impeccable. With his glasses still tuned to invisibility, he watched another version of "himself" disappear.
"We're here at the correct "when" Capricio," said Harry quietly. "We have about an hour before the completion of training for the other times of "me." What should we do? It feels almost extravagant to have this much time after the press we have engaged the last few weeks. I think we are completely safe here behind the masking magic. You could take a well-deserved rest and I could take a look at Snape's book."
For the first time, the wyvern seemed willing to let Harry free of his direct scrutiny. Capricio flew to the desk and settled to sleep.
"Well that was unexpected," Harry thought to himself. "If Capricio feels safe, I feel doubly so." Harry sat to the desk and removed Snape's book from his bag. He examined it closely and found nothing threatening. Dreading the thought of coming to an understanding of the man he hated so much, Harry reluctantly opened the book. His fears were confirmed as he saw the little-boy printing of a juvenile Snape. The story was about as Harry had imagined, Snape's muggle father was a bully, and an alcoholic to boot. Snape wrote of fear. Fear for himself but not fear for his mother. In Snape's mind she could protect herself with magic. Snape's early magical manifestations were all focused on his father. Burns, accidents, and minor disasters seemed to follow his father, becoming increasingly severe as his violence toward wife and son increased. Even with her magical ability, Snape's own mother had not protected him from his father's fury. As Snape gained magical ability he grew less and less frightened of his father. The story did not spell out a culmination, but Harry could read between the lines. Snape's early life experiences had left him bitter and withdrawn from the world around him. His own mother had not protected him. He trusted no one.
Harry noticed that Snape's writing exhibited a marked change soon after he entered Hogwarts. Snape had read extensively, pouring through his mother's old school texts even in his first year. The change in Snape's writing occurred shortly after he discovered his mother's well-used copy of Advanced Potion Making, already inscribed with the Half-Blood Prince's notes and acclamation of ownership.
Harry felt a bit of empathy for the child Snape, but spared none for the adult Snape. "He had the choice of what he became. He made his own decisions and followed his own paths. I still have to face him eventually and I'll use everything I know, even his own spells, to defeat him." Harry's words were more to assure himself than for general consumption, yet they awoke the wyvern nonetheless. Harry stroked the dragon to assure him everything was all right and then finished the book. There were scores of dark spells invented by Snape. Included was the magnetic bottle spell he had used to protect his books. There was a slip of paper inserted in the last pages with Harry's name at the top. Below were possibilities of how Harry had obtained Sectumsempra. Crossed out were, "Developed spell independently," "Adapted similar spell," and "Saw spell in my memory during Occlumency training." Underlined were, "Referenced by James Potter because I used it on him," and "Dumbledore taught similar spell for defence." Double underlined and circled was, "Time-turning thief."
Harry was shocked to see the word thief describing himself, but had to admit, in this case, it was relatively accurate. "No wonder Snape was surprised by the copy of Advanced Potion Making he saw in my mind. He knew his copy was safely hidden in the dungeon and couldn't see how the book came to be in my memory." At the bottom of the page was a note that made Harry shiver..."Potter's Sectumsempra spell was immense. The most I have obtained is a single slashing cut. Keep a wary eye, he may be the one."
"I may have one up on Snape in that category, but I will have to become much better at offensive and defensive magic before I will be able to defeat him," said Harry honestly.
He turned his attention to the lower office and saw the scurry of three-thirty activity. He watched "himself", sweaty from Duplikatus practice; decide to go back to the prior morning. "He" entered through the door scant minutes later, and Harry noticed that "he" used the identical "What do you propose" question of Dumbledore each time.
"I'm either predictable or not very creative," Harry thought as he watched "himself" disappear back to six o'clock that morning. When the office was clear, he moved the suit of armor and levitated himself very confidently to the office floor below. Without fanfare he took the position and inflection of nearly a year prior and removed the masking magic from the upper alcove.
Dumbledore beamed from his portrait, "Judging from the state of your robes, it would appear that you have been very busy in the last several hours."
Harry looked immediately at his robes. He had kept them clean and repaired as best his time allowed but they were still burn-singed, wear-tattered, and faded. "I see what you mean. I look a bit dodgy. I'll have to get to my dormitory for clean robes before I meet up with Ron, Hermione and Ginny."
"Have you any new insights gained from your time travel?" asked Dumbledore.
"Many," said Harry, inwardly awed at the Porcrux's ability to deduce. "I learned time is lonely without friends. I have learned many new abilities and have been faced with a multitude of challenges. Some were minor, others life threatening. I've had time to ponder. Time to think. Time to practice. Time to discover and tune new magic. All in all time to prepare more fully for what's ahead."
"Excellent!" boomed Dumbledore. "I assume that you are now ready to impart some of your new-found abilities on your friends?"
"Not quite," said Harry addressing a long-standing concern. "I have a serious concern ...a problem really. During the time I was gone, I discovered Slytherin's grimorie. I used the Wallacearia Condensata spell. The experience and spells are difficult to control mentally. They accost me at moments of mental distraction or weakness. When I learned the spell, I expressed concern as to the things I would be committing to memory. Is there a way to separate specific memories from my recollection?"
"As I said," began Dumbledore, "One never knows which memory is trivial. It is much more advisable, in my opinion, to learn the mental control necessary to meet the challenge than to do away with the memory. If only, to know absolutely, a direction one never wants to travel."
"Thus far, I have managed to control the memories. My anxiety is...well, let me show you," said Harry as he reached into his robes and withdrew Capricio. "This dragon was set to protect Slytherin's grimorie. His job now is to see that Slytherin's secrets are not contained in a weak vessel. He has become my friend, but he is still tasked with dark purpose. If I could just separate the most malignant magic, I can control the remainder. As I gain strength and control, I could reestablish the darker memories. I've given it some thought. I've seen memories stored in glass containers. Could I encapsulate the memories in your empty willy globe?"
"Yes. I believe that could be done. However, the magic you are suggesting is very advanced, very dangerous magic. Once again, you would be manipulating energies of the brain. Any mistakes could leave you without associated memories. The interconnections between memories are delicate. Eliminating one memory may affect others, your personality, or even your ability to reason." Dumbledore steepled his fingers and waited for Harry's response to his warning.
Harry, caught off guard by Dumbledore's serious tone, paused in thought. "Given what you have told me, I'll keep the memories for now and see what the next few days hold. Can I come back and talk to you if it's not working out?"
"Certainly, certainly. You would, however, need to speak to Headmistress McGonagall as this is now her office," said Dumbledore to the grumbles of some of the other portraits in the room.
"Excellent," said Harry. "If I can rest assured that I still have an outlet for these dark thoughts, I'll try to master them completely."
"Do you have further plans for this evening, or would you like to stay and talk over what you have been through?" inquired Dumbledore.
"I would like to stay and talk but I have several commitments for this evening. We restart Dumbledore's Army this afternoon. Our training will incorporate much of what I have learned during the time I was gone." Harry watched for a reaction to the term Dumbledore's Army but saw no flicker of recognition cross the Porcrux's face.
"I am unfamiliar with Dumbledore's Army. Did I have an Army?" the Porcrux inquired.
"We called it the D.A. for secrecy's purposes," explained Harry. "We are a student group dedicated to learning defence against dark wizards. Together we learn and practice defensive and offensive magic. I'm sort of an elected teacher."
"I am glad to hear it!" said Dumbledore, smiling at Harry. "You have had time to prepare your course material I presume?"
"No. I really haven't. The meeting is scheduled for a little over an hour from now. I do need to get ready," said Harry almost apologetically.
"Then on your way son, and give, the D.A. was it? Give them my best," said Dumbledore in a fatherly tone.
Harry was moved by the term "son" but said nothing. "What will be our schedule for the remainder of term? I have Professor Lupin's schedule for Occlumency training but what of other lessons?"
"I would wager you have very specific goals for the last week of term. Yes I now know about the final week as allowed by Rufus Scrimgeour. You will find the staff at your service in any preparations you wish to make. I will meet with the entire remaining staff in a matter of minutes...at five o'clock. You had best be on your way, but do check back with me before you retire for the night. Also please keep a bit of time for an interview with Francois DePais. I am not certain when he will arrive, but I would like you to meet him and spend some time learning from him." Dumbledore ceased speaking, a note of dismissal in his final words.
Harry bowed to the painting and then glanced at the grandfather clock. "Dumbledore is correct, it's almost five o'clock!" thought Harry. "Where did the time go?" He gathered all his belongings and let himself from the office.
As he pelted down the spiraling stair, he calculated the time it would take to get to his dormitory, change robes and arrive at the Room of Requirement. He considered momentarily using the Time-Turner, but dismissed the idea. "I've had enough time-turning to last a lifetime," thought Harry as he sprinted past the gargoyle and around the seventh floor corridor toward the Room of Requirement. As he ran he spoke reassuringly to the small dragon in his pocket, "We are going directly to the D.A. training. If you can stay hidden on one of the shelves, you can watch my friends. Some of them are muggle-born. You decide for yourself if they are trustworthy or not. I just ask that you don't eat anyone without explaining why to me first. Do we have a deal?"
The wyvern stirred but did not strike out at Harry, who took complacency as a good sign. Coming to a skidding stop across from the trolls in tutus. Harry walked back and forth in front of the blank stretch of wall, mentally summoning the Room of Requirement.
He had just seen the polished door materialize when Ron, Hermione, and Ginny came around the corner.
When Ginny saw Harry she broke into a run and almost knocked Harry down in a sweeping embrace. Harry was equally thrilled to finally see Ginny after so many months without her influence. As she brushed a kiss across his cheek, a cloud seemed to pass across her face. She dropped his hand and shot a glance at Hermione and Ron.
Hermione came up babbling excitedly, "Oh Harry you will never guess what Moody has taught us. I'll bet no other students in Hogwarts history have ever been taught the spells protecting the castle from intruders. It's very old, very secret magic."
Harry immediately searched his memory for the spell Dumbledore had used to open the magic curtain protecting Hogwarts the night of his death. He followed the incantation, reversed it and came up with the spell, "Defensa Forma?" He asked almost as an aside.
Hermione stopped in her tracks and eyed Harry appraisingly. Ginny stepped to her side and shared a calculating glance.
As Ron approached, Harry's enthusiasm got the better of him and he swept his much larger friend off the ground in a crushing embrace. Ron was taken aback, and as Harry lowered him to the floor, he looked Harry full in the face. Almost immediately, Ron fell back and looked at Hermione and Ginny who had begun a curious side-shuffle that moved them farther and farther apart. Ron shared some kind of questioning glance. Harry thought it looked as though Ron was looking for some kind of signal.
Harry was perplexed by his friend's odd behavior when he heard the high pitch of gathering magic. Capricio struggled in his robe pocket. Harry's instincts went on automatic. He now saw what Hermione, Ginny and Ron were at. They had drawn their wands and were separating for battle. Harry's wand was in his hand in a flash. He caught the first magic streaming from the trio, and with a flick of his wand he negated it.
"Treachery!" screamed Harry's mind. "These are Death Eaters posing as my friends!" With the thought Harry sprang into action. He determined he would take the imposters alive if possible, if not, he would call Capricio.
The trio spaced themselves around Harry. They had become more wary after Harry disposed of the initial magic attack. The imposter Ginny appeared to be the leader of the group. At her command, all three loosed different magic at Harry.
Harry heard the distinctive tone of each magic. Immediately he determined that the most dangerous magic came from the person posing as Ginny. He gathered up her magic and phase shifted it against the magic streaming from Ron and Hermione. The magics obliterated each other in mid-air.
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny looked at each other with astonishment on their faces. This wasn't the Harry Potter they had anticipated.
Harry registered the glance, drew a second wand, and went on the offensive. He bound Ron securely and shunted him to the side of the affray. Hermione stepped protectively in front of Ron. Harry was about to restrain Hermione and Ginny when he heard footfalls behind him. Concerned as to the source, he pushed Ginny's and Hermione's magic back at them and turned to face the newcomer. He was astonished to see Professor McGonagall stride quickly around the corner.
His astonishment was nothing compared to McGonagall's at coming upon Harry Potter apparently fighting his best friends.
Hermione recovered first, shouting at McGonagall, "This isn't Harry Potter! It's an imposter! Help us! We are no match for him magically."
Taking Hermione's word as gospel, McGonagall sprang into action. She transfigured a huge vase set into a recess in the wall. It became a charging bull heading straight for Harry.
Wordlessly, Harry changed the bull into a bullfrog, which hopped confusedly away.
Encouraged by the teacher's help, Hermione and Ginny retaliated. Each hurled potent magic at Harry, while almost simultaneously McGonagall attacked again.
Harry separated the magical signatures and counteracted the spells, never speaking a word. He then surrounded himself with a modified tube of the same protective magic that produced the golden orb. The tube's open ends allowed Harry to manipulate magic from within the tube without the chance of freezing solid. McGonagall sent a jet of magic intended to knock Harry from his feet. Harry gauged the strength of the magic, split it and sent the dual streams around the tube and at Hermione and Ginny. Each was knocked from her feet, landing in tangled piles of robes at the end of the corridor. Taking the opportunity to press his advantage, he shouted at McGonagall, "I'm not the imposter, they are. You're helping the wrong side!"
McGonagall's wand wavered the slightest bit at Harry's words.
He seized the chance and summoned all four wands to his hands and motioned for McGonagall to join Hermione and Ginny at the end of the hall.
McGonagall looked appalled at the prospect of being disarmed by a student, but without her wand she seemed ill disposed and complied reluctantly.
Harry was about to calm the situation and sort out what was actually happening when he heard, once again the gathering of magic behind him. Turning, he saw what he assumed was the entire D.A. plus Horace Slughorn, wands drawn, readied for the fight. Even counting Slughorn into the equation, he felt he could still take on the lot because of their inexperience, the fact they were all in front of him, and he did still have Capricio in reserve; but even in the thought he couldn't imagine Voldemort suborning the entire D.A.
In a snap decision he raised the wands above his head. "Wait! This can't be right! Let's sort this out before someone gets hurt."
Ginny and Hermione were gathering themselves from the floor where McGonagall's redirected magic had hurled them. Colin Creevey separated himself from the bunched D.A. members and boldly walked up to Harry. "I'm going to ask you to hand over those wands while we set this right." Colin held out his hand for the wands and Harry complied.
Harry turned to the D.A. and began his explanation, "I believe that this is not Ron, Hermione, or Ginny. They attacked me without cause. They may be Death Eaters in disguise. Professor McGonagall got mixed up in the fight by accident."
Harry's words had astonishing effect on the gathered D.A. members. They shifted their attention away from Harry and toward the bound Ron and the rising Hermione and Ginny.
"Wait a moment," said an irate Ginny. "We just caught this imposter trying to get into the Room of Requirement. It's not Harry Potter. Look at his hands. He has hard hands. Hands callused by work."
Hermione chimed in, "He know spells that Harry shouldn't know. You saw his magical prowess. We've all seen Neville disarm Harry in D.A. lessons. This imposter parried all three of our combined spells and did it easily. He even bested Professor McGonagall, the real Harry Potter couldn't have done that."
The D.A. turned as one back toward Harry.
"I've learned a tremendous amount about magic since we last saw each other," said Harry in way of explanation. "Let's verify identities by questions only the real Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny could answer."
There was a murmur of assent among the D.A. members.
"Not so quick," said Ron as he was freed from his bonds by Seamus Finnigan. "Even if he knows some intimate details about Harry Potter, just look at him. He has a bloody huge scar across his cheek that the real Harry doesn't have. And he picked me up like I weighed nothing. The real Harry is a bit of, well, a bit of a nancy-boy in the strength department. I've know Harry Potter longer than any of you and I tell you, this is not Harry Potter!"
Harry mentally added up the statements and to everyone's surprise, he began to laugh. In the moment of hesitation caused by his laughter, Harry deftly pulled Lockhart's wand from his robe and silently summoned all the wands now held loosely in hesitation-harmed hands. With the exception of Colin Creevey, the wands were wrenched from their owner's grasps. Having been more wary than his compatriots, Colin held his wand a moment longer before it was swept from his hand. Harry pulled the wands into a tight bundle and was about to sort out the confusion when Colin barreled into him knocking him to the floor.
With Quidditch training quickness, Harry rolled and was back on his feet and facing the entire assembled group before anyone else could move in retaliation. He put his back to the corridor wall containing the doorway to the Room of Requirement. "Stop!" he commanded as he watched Colin come to his feet. "This isn't necessary. We are all on the same side. We are all D.A. members. Let's take a moment and prove it to each other."
The crescent shaped crowd moved toward Harry. He was ominously reminded of Slytherin's Rule of Engagement Number 12. He recognized he was a stronger force, but he could be overwhelmed by this multitude. Complicating the matter was his hesitation to do damage to his friends now that he felt he understood the situation. "Stop! I know that you have maintained your probity or you would all look like Marietta Edgecombe."
The press of bodies stopped at the mention of Marietta. Neville stepped forward. "What have you got to prove that you are the real Harry Potter?"
"Other than my scar and my memories of you I really don't have much to offer. My best advice is that we spend a few minutes and test each other to check veracity. Neville, you came with Ron, Hermione, and me the first time we met Fluffy. Ron you have a ghoul living in the attic above your bedroom. Hermione all I need to say to you is "pipes." Ginny, well that's private. Colin, you were bringing me grapes the night you were attacked by the basilisk. Seamus, you and I got cross-wise over your mother and the stinking Daily Prophet. I am willing to answer any questions you bring to prove myself to you."
A degree of tension seemed to ease by Harry's initial proofs. Hermione, however was not to be dissuaded. "How did you know about the protective spell surrounding the castle? We just learned that today and you weren't there."
"It's true that I wasn't there, but I have been through a very intensive learning regime since this morning," said Harry.
"That's another thing," countered Hermione. "The Harry Potter I know wouldn't use the words, veracity, regime, or probity."
"I have had the chance to read and study. That may account for some of the terms that may slip into my conversations," explained Harry.
"What about the scar? I saw you just last night, you haven't had time since then to get and heal an injury like that. If Madam Pomfrey had worked on you there wouldn't be a scar. And you picked me up like nothing. Explain that!" pressed Ron.
Harry turned to Ron, Hermione, and Professor McGonagall. He slipped his hand inside his robe and produced the fine gold chain holding the Time-Turner.
Hermione's mouth formed a silent "OH" and shortly Ron cottoned on. Professor McGonagall's tight lipped look of apprehension eased.
"I've had plenty of time for accidents and exercise. That accounts for my work-hardened hands and my increased strength. I'll go through the entire day with you as time permits," said Harry.
The chain and the veiled mention of "as time permits" seemed to answer the last of Ron and Hermione's questions. Ginny however didn't seem convinced. She marched up to Harry and kissed him. There were some gasps and one wolf-whistle. Ginny pulled away from Harry smiling and said, "Hard hands aside. I'm satisfied. This is Harry Potter."
"I'm not satisfied," said Harry as he pulled Ginny to his side. She did not move away.
The next ten minutes were spent delving questions from the various members of the D.A.. When everyone seemed satisfied, Harry returned their wands and ushered them into the Room of Requirement.
Professor McGonagall and Professor Slughorn lingered at the back of the room to observe exactly how Harry was going to handle the assembled group. After a few minutes they were apparently satisfied and hurried off to their meeting with Dumbledore's Porcrux.
Harry began instructing them on the importance and method of learning to perform all their spells nonverbally. To prove his point, and without warning, he once again summoned all their wands to him. "You see," he explained. "Without words as warning, your magic will become doubly potent. Additionally your facial expressions and body language can lend to a sense of false purpose if you can mask your true intentions."
A hand was raised in the back of the room. "This sounds like the kind of thinking that would be Slytherin," noted Dennis Creevey.
"If it seems that way," said Harry, "I would imagine you would want to master the ability and be cautious of it being used against you. It's always better to understand those who may turn out to be your enemies. It makes you better able to defend yourself if the need arises."
During the remaining two hours of instruction, every member of the D.A. was able to pull off at least one totally nonverbal spell. Hermione, already proficient at nonverbal magic, squared off against Harry as a cap for the class. The duel was more impressive than informative as the observers could not tell what spells were being used. Harry enjoyed the practice, as it was his first chance, other than the misunderstanding in the hall, to battle anyone other than Capricio or his duplicate. He felt as if he were cheating because he could hear and identify the magic Hermione was using as she gathered it. He was always at the ready to counter and nullify. Hermione, instead of getting annoyed, seemed to take the challenge to heart and worked even more diligently to penetrate Harry's defences. In the end, her face shining with sweat, Hermione conceded.
"I want to learn how you did that!" exclaimed Hermione. "When we're back on a level field we'll see how well you do!"
Harry was heartened to hear a smile in Hermione's voice although he knew she was serious about learning everything he had learned. "Let's plan the D.A. meetings for the remainder of the term," said Harry as he began to straighten up the chaos of the meeting.
"We only have a few days," said Dean Thomas. "but we don't have any Quidditch or club practices. How about three hours each evening from five o'clock to eight o'clock?"
Dean was echoed by Seamus, "I'd practice as long as the Shannon runs if it helps defeat the Death Eaters."
Murmurs of nothing but assent affirmed Seamus and Dean's comments.
"All right. Nightly it is," said Harry as he checked a crumpled piece of parchment from his robe pocket. "I will be a bit late for the meeting on Tuesday because I have a special class with Professor Lupin. I'll choose a substitute to drill the D.A. until my arrival."
"One last thing. We need a sign to prevent the same situation that started this evening. I propose we use a sign that will silently identify us as members of the D.A.. I suggest this..." and Harry made a "C" shape with the pointer finger and thumb of his left hand. Then he set his wand across the middle of the "C" making a recognizable DA. "This will be required before entrance to any future meeting. Make the sign silently without fanfare. Agreed?"
All present agreed to the sign. The class broke up. Members moved into small groups still discussing what they had learned and accomplished. Harry filled with pride as he saw the fire of determination burning in the D.A. member's eyes. Harry was blindsided by a running Ginny who swept him into a close embrace.
"I'm so sorry that I doubted you," said Ginny. "I can't imagine what you've been through. Your robes say it must have been a real trial. You've got to tell us about what you've learned and where you've been."
Ginny's words, spoken with sincerity, almost moved Harry to tears. "I would love to sit and confabulate but I have an appointment with the house elves at nine o'clock. Let's reconvene in the common room after that."
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
Harry realized what he had said and quickly apologized, "Sorry. I'll try to watch my language."
"That's good mate," said Ron, "because otherwise I'll be asking you to explain what you've said half the time."
Capricio squirmed, reminding Harry forcefully of the still concealed dragon.
"If you think I'm letting you out of my sight, you're balmy!" said Ginny.
"I think the three of us would like to accompany you to your meeting with the house elves," said Hermione.
Harry considered Hermione's statement in the light of her obsession with house elf rights. "You will mind your manners, won't you? The house elves are in a sad state and my purpose will be to shore up their morale. You won't cause me any problems as I try to comfort them?" asked Harry pointedly.
"We'll," started Hermione, but with a stern look from Ron, she amended, "All right, I'll keep quiet and follow your lead."
"Terrific. After that we'll talk in the common room," said Harry.
"Not so fast," said Professor McGonagall meeting them in the corridor. "Are you forgetting the rule about students being escorted by teachers? What do you think Professor Slughorn and I were doing here tonight? I was bringing the Weasleys and Miss Granger, when I was held up momentarily by Peeves. When I came around the corner, I find you all having a go with magic, in the hallway no less. Professor Slughorn was asked to bring the other members of the D.A. here at my request. Do you think I'm going to let you roam the castle alone at night?"
Harry took Professor McGonagall aside and had a hurried conversation. At length she said, "Well I s'ppose it could be viewed in that light but it is highly irregular." As if considering the events of the last three hours she turned to Harry and capitulated with caveat. "Straight to the kitchens. When you are finished, Dobby is to escort you back to your House dormitory. Agreed?"
"Agreed, with addendum," said Harry. "Professor Dumbledore asked me to visit him a moment before turning in tonight. Is that allowable?"
Looking somewhat troubled, McGonagall agreed; and she and Slughorn chivvied the remainder of the D.A. out the door and down the corridor.
"What could you have possibly told her to get her to change her mind?" asked Hermione in awe of what Harry had just accomplished.
"I told her that students had to be escorted by a teacher, and technically, I am now a teacher," said Harry with a smile. "I don't think it was so much my argument as it was an opportunity to thumb her nose at the Minister's rules."
"That, and the fact that we're bloody well safe in your company," said Ron, a grimace on his face, and grudging admiration in his voice.
Capricio complained again from within Harry's pocket.