Harry Potter made his way down the corridor, stopping often to check The Marauder's Map. This was an unknown part of Hogwarts Castle and he’d hate to get lost.
At the junction of two hallways, he drew his wand and cast a spell. It was one he’d recently learned for this very purpose; to find the secrets of Hogwarts. “Point Me,” he said aloud and his wand spun in his palm before pointing left, throwing a trail of sparks to follow.
He came to the end of the shimmering trail, which vanished abruptly. When he cast again, his wand spun wildly until he cancelled the spell. The Map was no help either, telling him he was at his destination.
Harry turned in a circle, studying his surroundings and assessing his options. There were no magical paintings nearby, which ruled out best option for getting information. There were a trio of gargoyles along the ceiling, but Harry disregarded them; it took a lot of magic to convince one of the stone guardians to offer information, and he didn’t like to waste magic that he might need later if he was attacked by one of his many enemies.
Which left the suits of armour standing at attention only a few feet away.
Hogwarts was full of the clanky piles of armour, both to the good and bad. Not only could you ask them for directions, but they made great hiding spots to avoid being caught out after hours. Conversely, if you ran into one while trying to escape — a teacher, an older student, or a troll, say — the noise drew attention to you and getting tangled up in the pile of metal slowed you down long enough to get caught.
“Excuse me?” he asked. “I’m looking for a secret room that’s supposed to be around here. I don’t suppose you know where it is?”
The armour creaked as the helmet opened; a raspy chuckle emerged. “Those who dance, also watch.”
The real problem with the ancient armours, however, was that every one of them spoke in bloody riddles. “Right, thanks. I guess.” He turned back to study the stone walls while racking his brain for a spell that might help. “Should have brought Hermione,” he muttered, thinking of his friend and the smartest witch in Hogwarts.
He could try tapping every part of the walls with his wand, hoping to find the right spot, but even supposing that was the right way to trigger a hidden entrance, Harry would need a Pepperup Potion before he covered even half of the hallway. No one could spend magic like water without paying for it, not even Albus Dumbledore, the highest-ranking wizard about.
Only one thing for it; check everything.
There was a tapestry covering a large part of one wall, and anyone who spent more than a minute in the magical world knew that portraits and hangings could hide any number of secrets. Harry tugged and huffed, managing to pull the heavy cloth far enough from the stone wall to check behind it, but found nothing. Sighing, he let the tapestry, with it’s ugly figures caught mid-dance, fall back.
“Who though teaching trolls to dance was a good idea?” Trolls were about the least graceful things he’d met since coming to Hogwarts. “Wait a minute . . . Those who dance —” He studied the tapestry; each troll was facing the same direction. “ — also watch.”
Drawing his wand, Harry walked to the opposite wall, and tapped a stone. The wall shimmered, and a door appeared.
You Have Unlocked a Trophy!
“Ha!” Eleanor Black laughed. “Gotcha!”
Quest Complete! The Come and Go Room
Level Up! LV 9
1 New Skill Point Available
New Spells Available in Spellbook
Room of Requirements added to Marauder's Map
“I thought you were studying.”
Ellie glanced over to the door, where her uncle and guardian leaned against the frame. “If I study any more today, my brains will dribble out my ears. If I’m going to die young it will be in a spectacular and ill-advised manner, not from maths-induced boredom.” She studied him for a moment. Sirius was performing tonight, and he was already decked out in true rock and roll style: black jeans, motorcycle boots, snug black shirt, and an abundance of wild hair, rings, and eyeliner. Which was what he looked like most of the time, come to think it. “You know how there was that time, when I was a teen, where you and my therapist were worried about my social development?”
“You mean last year, luv? And you’re still a teenager.”
“I’ll be eighteen in July,” she said importantly.
He laughed and wandered over to settle on the sofa beside her. “Which leaves your eighteenth and nineteenth years left, Ellie-girl.”
“Don’t be logical, it’s disconcerting. Anyway, that time when you were all fussed that I don’t bring over many friends and didn’t go out much?”
“I’m only forty, Ellie, I’m not senile yet.”
“Well, it might never have happened if my adopted father were older and less attractive.” She hit the control pad and resumed her game while her dad spluttered, and set about raiding the Room of Requirements of all it’s sweet, sweet loot.
“Wait, I was worried you were suffering some delayed traumatic response to your parents’ deaths or were socially isolated because of my fame and the fact that you spent so much of your childhood out of school while we toured — and it was actually because I’m too attractive?”
“I was not socially isolated, I just made sure not to bring classmates over. The boys all wanted your autograph, and the girls all wanted to flirt inappropriately with you. Ha!”
Obtained: Blood Replenishing Potion
Obtained: Pepperup Potion
Obtained: Hogwarts Medallion
Obtained: Unicorn Hair
Obtained: Dragon Scale
Obtained: Dueling Robe (Lv 13)
Obtained: Tales of Beedle the Bard
Obtained: Skeleton Key
Obtained: Common Merlinite
“It’s awkward enough to watch grown women throw themselves at my adopted father,” Ellie added, guiding her character to another raidable item, a tall cabinet with multiple shelves. “I certainly don’t want to watch girls my age do it.”
“So it’s my fault regardless?” Sirius chuckled. “Fantastic, it’s a good thing I can afford to send you to therapy.”
“It’s entirely your fault that I grew up travelling the world, had tutors in any subject I wanted or needed, learned to play the guitar and piano and sing from a group of world-class musicians, and had nearly everything I could ever want.” She reached over and poked him. “Obviously, you should have let my mother’s odious family take me in after the car crash to avoid ruining my chances at living a mediocre life in some pissant little village no one can find on a map.”
“Language,” he chuckled, dropping his arm over her shoulder. “Let’s pretend I didn’t ruin you until you’re in uni, yeah? Which game is this?”
“ Witchcraft and Wizardry . It’s a new game by an indie developer — came out of nowhere and blew everyone’s minds. That’s Harry Potter, a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, permanent target for an insidious Dark Lord with a typically ridiculous name, and the prophetic savior of the Magical World.”
On screen, she directed Harry to open another cabinet. Chimes sounded and a silver crown filled the screen.
Obtained: Rowena’s Diadem
You have discovered one of the Founder’s Relics!
This item will be displayed in your bedchamber
+30% Spell Knowledge - spells acquired faster
+10% Defensive Spell Range
+10% Offensive Spell Damage
+10% Vault Interest
+100 Points Creature Communication
Your Relationship with the Horde has improved!
“Fuck yeah! Two down, two more to go!”
“You and your fantasy games, Ellie-girl.”
She huffed, pointedly looking at the game case, which Sirius had picked up and was studying. “Please, we had to get a second console last summer because someone kept bogarting the machine to play The Witcher. Besides, my first foray into fantasy games involved your old Dungeons & Dragons guides, remember?” Ellie returned to raiding the room — she wasn’t a quarter of the way through the chests and shelves, which made this whole sidequest totally worth it even without the legendary artifact. “And someone wearing a tee-shirt of a man transforming under a full moon, who fronts a band called Ravensmoor, and whose signature song is ‘Rise of the Dragon’, does not get to give me shit about being a geek.”
“Language,” he muttered. “And I’m not a geek, I’m a rock star.”
“A rock star more influenced by Tolkien and Bram Stoker than The Beatles, Dad. That makes you a geek. Relax, geek is cool these days, remember? No one’s going to bully you for it, and if they try, you can sic your rabid fans on them.”
Obtained: Thunderbird Feather
Obtained: Guide to Advance Occlumency
Obtained: Elixir of Life
Obtained: Crystal Potion Vial
“Excellent, that potion is expensive to make even with the bonus from completing the alchemist’s side quest.”
“Full health restore?”
“Yeah, but this is primarily a magic game, so the Elixir restores your health and your magical resources and gives you an extra bar for ten minutes. Plus, you’re basically invulnerable for thirty seconds after you take it, so it’s great in a fight.” Ellie pulled up her character profile and skimmed her inventory, deciding what to equip and discard. “It’s odd; most games are a balance of physical and magical combat, or they skew towards physical. This one has almost no melee and the only weapons are a couple of legendary ones that you need to fulfill quests to use. Gameplay is all about strategy and spellwork.”
“That why you’re playing a male mage? Usually you go for a female rogue or paladin character.”
“My Dragon Age character is female, so I thought I’d switch it up; plus, one of the best characters to romance is male so —”
“What are gender roles there for but to be fucked with,” Sirius recited with her. “Excellent, I have taught you well.”
“Absolutely.” Debating, she finally slotted her skill point into her magical stamina, which would let her chain more spells together. Increasing her flying ability was tempting, but she’d put the last point there, and she’d already used the Quidditch minigame to increase her renown and attractiveness quite a bit. “Plus, this game doesn’t have a character creator, just a choice between playing as Harry or Harriet, and there’s no differences in gameplay or story outcome if you choose the female character. I hate it when all they change is the pronouns.”
“Agreed; it’s either lazy, an attempt to give an illusion of inclusion without making an effort for it, or profoundly naive.”
“That’s the kind of talking that gets your music banned from conservative radio stations.”
“It’s hardly my fault that interviewer had never taken a gender studies class in his life,” he said cheerfully. “And it didn’t work out for that family values group that boycotted our music, did it? Since record sales went up after they starting going off online about the death of the family and traditions and music corrupting youth. As if I can do anything that online porn hasn’t already managed.”
Ellie laughed, but at the time it had been far less funny. The short, vicious war that the band had fought in the media had started after Sirius lost his temper and gave an interviewer a blunt lesson in gender politics and the representation of women in music. She’d not known it at the time, being only eleven, but a few conservative figures had questioned whether Sirius, with his flamboyant lifestyle and ‘radical’ views was a suitable guardian for a young girl. Fortunately, the public largely sided with a man who had chosen to raise his niece after the tragic death of his brother and sister-in-law.
Toying with her controller, she debated swapping her wand for a staff — sacrificing speed for spell range and strength — and asked, “Hey, Dad?”
“We’re still going to Italy this summer, right?”
“Of course, once your exams are over.” He set down the case and turned to face her; Ellie focused on the screen deliberately. “What’s this about?”
“I heard you and Uncle Remy talking about the new album. It’s not gelling, so you need more studio time. And I know you and Marley are trying to work things out,” she mentioned offhandedly, having spoken recently to her father’s girlfriend, Marlene McKinnon. Marley was one of her most formative female influences, and one of the reasons that Ellie was constitutionally unable to take anyone’s shit. Marley and Sirius were nearly always working things out; they broke up on the regular, and got back together just as often.
“You think I would have learned by now that you hear everything in this house,” Sirius murmured. “Yes, we’re having trouble with the new album, mostly because the label tried to shove us in a new direction and it resulted in ten absolute shit songs. Which is why we’ll rent a house and set up a sound studio and spend the summer writing and recording.”
“The whole band is coming? Really?”
“And Marley, and your Aunt Ny,” he agreed, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “We’ll spend plenty of time doing the tourist thing, and spend a week in Rome and another in Venice, but if we set down in a nice spot we can use it as headquarters for the summer. Besides, I don’t think you’ll be too upset at getting to spend time on your own at the beach or ogling the cute Italian boys with your aunts.”
“Will Marley be staying with us, or near by?” she fished casually.
Sirius gave her an amused look. “With us, unless I do something stupid and she decides I’m hopeless.”
Ellie grinned, a knot of tension unwinding in her belly. “She decided that years ago. I told her she needs a therapist, since she keeps taking you back.”
“She can share yours, cheeky.”
She stuck out her tongue at him, then gave Sirius a narrow-eyed stare. “Wait — we aren’t leaving until after the convention. Right?”
The look she got was offended. “Excuse me? Are David Tennant and Tom Hiddleston going to be at this years’ convention? Have we ever missed one? Do I not already have my costume? What exactly do you take me for, Eleanor Lilith Black?”
“A man who thinks Tennant is a better Doctor than Matt Smith and prefers Kirk to Picard,” she trolled.
Sirius clutched his heart. “Betrayed by my own child, my own blood — where did I go wrong? Don’t answer that,” he added quickly.
“I’ll save it for my tell-all book,” she agreed. “I need to make an appointment to dye my hair.”
To his credit, Sirius didn’t react. He’d gotten that kind of thing out of his system years ago, when Ellie had first asked to pierce her ears at eight. Her body belonged to her and Sirius had taught her to respect it, not to alter it on impulse and not to let society dictate what she did with it. Which was why, at sixteen, he’d agreed to a tattoo. She’d spent six months researching artists and shops and planning her design, only to back out when the stencil was placed. Sirius hadn’t teased, said ‘I told you so’ or demonstrate the relief he’d probably felt.
“What are you planning?”
“A blue streak on either side of my face and a trim.”
“Mako Mori from Pacific Rim?” He looked surprised. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Well, everyone and their mother will dress as Rey or Jyn this year,” she explained, “I’m not nearly enough of a badass to pull off Aeryn Sun, and I was B'elanna Torres last year and Deanna Troi the year before. Mako’s tough and smart and has a tragic backstory, plus I found an old Transformer at a boot sale,” she explained, “and I’m going to paint it to look like Gipsy Danger.”
“Very clever,” he laughed. “If I didn’t already have my Stargate uniform, I’d dress as a Jaeger to match you.”
“You could still go as Loki, you know, like you originally planned.”
“I am not going to try and outdo the actor who made a supervillain iconic; it’s like performing a cover of a song when opening for the band who wrote it.” He rose and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I’m off; I have sound check and an interview before the concert. Don’t wait up for me, there’s a meet and greet afterwards.”
“You say that like I stay up to one a.m. to wait for you and not because I can,” she teased. “Go be a rock star; make sure to dodge all the panties that the underage groupies throw at you!”
“Locking you in the cellar until you’re eighteen is still an option!” he threatened cheerfully as he left.
Ellie grinned, waiting until she heard the front door of their London townhouse close before she rose to raid the kitchen; an epic gaming fest required epic snacks and their housekeeper, Winn Key, always had something put aside.