It started as a soft glow, growing in brightness gradually until it would have eclipsed a small sun. That was when Sirius noticed the shine spilling out of the library, through the parlour and into the hall.
“What the…” the knut dropped. “It is done.” He grinned. “Kreacher it has finished!”
He walked briskly (for The Black Lord would never be so crass as to run) into the library, where the leather-bound book was innocently lying open to the first page. With a shaky hand he grabbed a quill and wrote a single word onto the page, watching as the ink was absorbed into the parchment, disappearing entirely.
The glow flared again briefly before a short list, merely five books, appeared. With a word they were summoned from the shelves. Another short phrase was inscribed. A pause. Glow. A dozen more books were summoned.
Sirius retired to the wing-backed chair that was positioned in front of the library fireplace, a spare roll of parchment, quill and ink on the side table. Kreacher was called and asked to provide chocolate, and an array of light foods, like fruit, and water. It would not do to read these books unprepared.
The dark-haired man paused as he opened the first, forewarned by the black miasma it exuded, and quilled two missives. Sending them off with the Elf. Now at least if something went wrong, someone would know where to find him.
With a swish of skirts Petunia made her way to collect the letter.
“Anything interesting Pet?” Vernon asked from the kitchen, where he sat reading the morning paper.
She paused for a moment before hastily tucking the letter into a pocket. “N..nothing dear just a letter from Veronica, apparently they are planning another trip or Majorca.”
“Now what would you like for breakfast dear? There’s some of the muesli that the Doctor recommended, or perhaps you’d like some greek yoghurt, with the berries I got at the market yesterday?”
“Bacon and eggs on toast. I need the kind of food that fills a man not that rabbit food you eat,” he sniffed.
“The Doctor says it’s good for your heart dear.”
Vernon merely grunted again, sipped his coffee and returned his attention to the paper.
For the first time in her married life, after her husband left for work that morning, Petunia did not stand gossiping over the fence nor did she make any attempt to talk to the other ladies in the street and enquire how their children and families were. Instead she retreated to her kitchen, made a fresh pot of tea and withdrew the letter from her Nephew from her pocket.
Sipping her tea, she wondered at how odd it was that she felt proud of the boy. His life at school sounded so normal, she knew he must have been editing some things for her and she appreciated his effort. There were complaints about grumpy teachers and too much homework. There was a comment about him tutoring some of the younger students. It could easily have been a letter from her Dudley. She let out a disgruntled snort, now he would be getting a phone call if he didn’t write to his mother soon!
Petunia rifled through the kitchen drawer to find a notepad and pen.
Thank you for writing. If you write to Dudley, feel free to remind him to contact his Mother occasionally.
All is well here in Surrey, though I am having some difficulty keeping Vernon on the diet that his Doctor prescribed. He seems so irritated all the time lately, that I don’t dare tell him about your letter.
I can’t remember much about Lily’s time at that school, but I know that a lack of tutoring, especially in the early years, was something she complained about heartily. Along with not being able to continue with her normal school lessons like maths and science, because they didn’t offer anything of the sort. I don’t suppose that has changed over the years as the community did seem rather insular. She used to come home in the summer and pinch my books, if you can believe it. If you wanted to do the same, continue with your studies that is, I could send you a copy of Dudley’s book list and the brochure from the bookshop we purchased his from. I believe they do mail order. It’s just a thought.
Well I must go and arrange something suitable for Vernon’s dinner.
With a click of the pen, Petunia tucked the letter from Harry away in the box she kept his correspondence in that was hidden under the sink, then she folded her letter and slid it into an envelope. She would post it while she was at the shop.
Perhaps the butcher would have a leg of lamb she could roast for dinner. That would surely pick up Vernon’s spirits.
Harry groaned and stretched his back. He was sitting cross legged on the floor of the common room, books and parchment spread out on the table that he was using as a desk. He wondered if he had taken a bit too much on, trying to catch up on both Runes and Arithmancy. It was Runes that he had a problem with at the moment. He would have asked Percival for assistance, but he was up in the dormitory helping Neville find his magical core.
“You’ve made a bit of a mess there, Harry!”
He looked up at the Gryffindor chaser, Katie Bell, with a smile.
“Yeah, it seems to have grown a mind of its own and gotten away from me.”
“I seen you helping some of the third and fourth years. You know it’s alright for you to ask for help as well.”
“Yeah. I normally ask Perce, but he’s a bit busy tonight.”
With a glance she asked if she could look at his work, he shrugged and passed her the page that she was working on,
“Do you do Runes?” Seeing her nod, he continued, “I’m having a problem linking this rune chain….” he pointed at the parchment.
Percival stood at the top of the stairs, starring down into the common room, Harry was sitting close to a dark-haired girl he knew was on the Quidditch team. They were practically leaning on each other, their heads bent together as they talked quickly, etching figures onto the parchment in front of them. He squashed down the bile rising twist of possessiveness from his gut. For goodness sake, he was a thirty-nine-year man and Harry was a fifteen-year-old boy! Harry would hardly be interested in…… ‘You are fifteen years old in body and mind it is only your soul that is older, can you say that my Master is any different?’ That made him pause and re-examine the situation. He had never thought of Harry this way before. As an object that could be owned, possessed and one that he did not deserve. Why was he starting to now? Percival spun on his heel and re-entered the dormitory, quickly isolating and warding himself within the confines of his bed. Fortunately, it appeared Neville must have fallen straight to sleep after his Occlumency practice, as the room was utterly silent.
He turned his wand on himself, “……..revelare.” Nothing.
Closing his eyes, he felt for his magic, noting the silver of his core was now edged in gold. It took a close inspection of each individual vessel that channelled the magic from his core before he found it. There! A thread of grey, that was camouflaged against the silver. He looked at it closely……..a compulsion? No, it wasn’t that strong. A suggestion nothing more, just enough to manipulate his thinking. He inspected it thoroughly from all angles before griping it with a tendril of his magic and tugging it free from where it was hooked into his core. As it came away it dissipated into the ether. It would have taken a very knowledgeable and powerful mage to have attached that spur to his magic without him noticing. Which given he had been in contact with so few adult witches and wizards, left him with a limited number of options. Only two came to mind. Though Sirius could have been a third if it hadn’t been for his long incarceration. And if they had tagged him, what were the chances that they had also tagged Harry? Percival came back to himself with a frown and a sigh, apparently there was another skill he was going to have to teach Harry.
A moment later he retraced his steps out of the dorm, pausing at the top of the stairs to note that he was able to watch Harry interact with his friend without jealousy tainting his perception. Admittedly there was a slight twist still there when he heard her ask, “Harry, did you want to come to Hogsmeade next weekend?”
Though the blush and stutter that the question induced was adorable. Harry looked so utterly uncomfortable.
Katie laughed, “Not like that Silly!” She slapped him gently on the arm, Percival’s gut unwound. “The team is going together. We noticed how much study you’ve been doing and I’m afraid if you don’t come voluntarily, Fred and George are planning on kidnapping you, possibly by turning you into a parrot. You need a break.”
Percival could practical hear Harry’s sigh of relief.
“Oh no, I’m Ok Katie. Really.”
“Harry, not even Oliver worked as hard as you have been and then you’ve had all those detentions with Snape. Don’t think we haven’t noticed that. Maybe you should talk to Professor McGonagall about it, it just isn’t right.”
Harry huffed a laugh, “When has she ever done anything to intervene with Snape’s treatment of anybody? It doesn’t matter anyway, they’re finished now, and I’ve been getting tutored in potions so I should be able to avoid too many more.” It was an easy lie to tell as it was partly true and it hid the fact that he and the Professor had actually been working together.
“Good. But you still need to relax a bit. Madame Rosemerta does a basket of food. We were going to get one and take it up into the hill overlooking the town and have a picnic.” She grinned suddenly, “Come on, you can even bring Percival!”
“I…I…,” Harry dropped his head, giving in to his team mate. “Fine, I’ll see if he wants to come.”
“Excellent, well with a project like that I can’t imagine you’ll have any problem with your Runes OWL.”
“A break would be good for you Harry,” Percival’s baritone fell over the pair. Harry raised his eyes and smiled. “I would be happy to come with you. I haven’t had the chance to see Hogsmeade as yet.”
“I thought you…” Harry flushed pink at having been caught talking about his friend.
“We finished early. Neville has got to do the next stage on his own. Though to be honest I think he just went to sleep.”
“Right, well…..” Katie said awkwardly. “I’ll just goooooo,” she practically bolted over to the couch where the other chasers were sitting.
With a quirky smile Percival crossed his legs and sat down. “How is the study going?”
Harry passed his work over for approval, nervously running his fingers over the hem of his shirt, while Percival checked.
“This is brilliant….A ward that is not only a shield but translocates the attackers to another location…it’s incredible.”
“And see here,” Harry pointed out an inverted rune, “I think by adding this, it will convert the power of the attack into the force of the eviction, so to speak. So the harder they attack the further away they’ll be transported, for a given value of power. Below that power level it will be converted into additional strength in the shield. Potentially it could be overloaded. Which would hypothetically cause a catastrophic failure of the ward resulting in a rather large explosion which could kill everyone within a five-mile radius.” Harry grinned happily.
“How much power would it take to overload the ward?”
“Well that depends on the substrate that the runes are engraved into and the power of the person setting up and activating the ward. It could potentially be increased by the addition of magical blood as well, turning into a pseudo-ritual, which I think would at least triple the amount of power required. I should think if it was used to protect a family home, embedded into the foundations of the building, using blood and family casting to activate it that it would nearly impenetrable.”
“On average how much power Harry?”
“Well I would expect with runes inscribed on granite and an average witch or wizard casting that it would take the power of ten average wizards casting simultaneously to collapse it. If it was engraved on crystal that would increase to twenty, obsidian about thirty and diamond roughly forty. Obviously, the cost of a large enough piece of diamond to engrave the runes into would be prohibitive.”
Percival continued to stare at the parchment, “What’s this?” he tapped a diagram in the top right-hand corner of the parchment.
“Well, I had the thought that if you created a secondary ward structure within and totally separate to the first, with its own ward stone. It would protect anything inside the first should the first one fail. The explosion would be mostly an outward force. They would of course need to be slightly seperated, but I should think a distance of a yard or two would do. You see…”
“Huh. Harry, you are not thinking of submitting this for your OWL project, are you?”
“Harry this needs to be tested and protected. It could have a very real impact on the war. If the wrong person gets a hold of it however, they will be able to find a way around it or worse, use it as a weapon. Heck even after the war, you could set up a warding business.”
“Well I do also have this,” Harry passed Percival a second piece of parchment.
After perusing it for a minute, he frowned, “It is a flashing light.”
“Yeah,” Harry smiled, “but by tapping the stone or whatever you are using it can turn the light on and off.”
“Harry the Wizarding world already has lights that work that way.”
“Yeah, that’s partly where the idea came from. However, these project the light up to two hundred yards and produce a signal which can be picked up on the matching device and converted to an audible beep.”
“So, it is an annoying light?”
“And this,” he flipped the page over. “Is the receiver so that if it is within fifty miles of the sender it can detect the signal sent out by the first signal and will mimic it. Though potentially the range could be extended but I haven’t figured that bit out yet.”
“So, it is a pair of annoying lights?” Percival really didn’t get the point.
Harry nodded with a grin, “Yes and they are on their own dedicated channel so to speak, so that they can’t be picked up by the Wizarding World Wireless, Muggle radio stations or any other device, except the sender receiver pair.
“Very clever, but what is the point Harry?”
“Have you ever heard of Morse code?”
Percival stared at his friend, “What….you don’t think I should use that one either?” Harry looked disheartened.
“Tell me this, can you have more than one receiver per sending device?”
“Yes, I can set it up so that each device can act as either a sender or receiver. There would be a limit, but I’d actually have to make some to test that out.”
“But you could have one that acts as a base of command, sending messages to multiple other units that are at remote locations?”
“Yeah….Oh… right…” Harry frowned, “but now I need to think of something else,” he whined.
“Given what you have done so far, I don’t think you are going to have any trouble at all Harry.”
But Harry was already staring into the fire with an unfocussed gaze.
“What if…..” he pulled a piece of parchment close and began sketching runes. “I could shrink the rune cluster for the ward, so that it could surround a much smaller device and then if I converted the inverted power rune…..no combined it, with this one for magic, then magic would be converted into power……I wonder if runes would take to plastic? or…….”
Percival just smiled as Harry’s words drifted off as he focussed on what he was doing with his hands. He drew a book out of his bag. He may as well get his homework done while he was keeping his friend company.
Delores Jane Umbridge was beginning to get annoyed, no, she had been annoyed for some time. She was beginning to get frustrated. Her every move was being thwarted. She had tried to get that little runt into detention, but he just wasn’t doing what she had expected. Malfoy Senior had told her that the brat had difficulty controlling his temper and it should be easy to push him into exploding. She had looked forward to it. But he just wouldn’t. He just sat in class like a limpet. Reading his book as he was supposed to. Not arguing at all! Oh, there had been the odd occasion where something she had said had hit a nerve and his eyes would practically glow with fury but a moment later, he would relax again, and dare she say it, look peaceful? It was most vexing.
Well it was time to up her game. He couldn’t be allowed to continue on in this fashion. The only redeemable thing about the whole damn situation was the potions professor. He had had the boy in detention nearly every night from the start of the year and it was now well into October. Perhaps she should approach the man and see how he had done it. Still cleaning cauldrons, was not enough punishment for the boy who had ridiculed her Cornelius. No, no, no, he needed something far worse than that, something that would impress upon the little worm, just how low he was in the scheme of things. He may have found a way to get the Prophet to issue an apology, but he wouldn’t be doing the same thing to her Cornelius.
The lines she had had the various other children writing out the moment they had supported the miscreant had worked wonderfully. Those two little mudbloods had barely said boo, in her class ever since. Yes, perhaps that would work on him as well. With a vindictive smirk, she headed to the Great Hall, determined to sit next to Snape. It was time she found out how he had done it.
An hour later and Delores remained furious. There was no great secret! Merely, botched potions, cheek, and some bickering with other classmates. Pftt, that wouldn’t do at all. He barely said a word in her class, mind you she kept an orderly class, so not one of the students spoke. His homework was always in on time, and he read the chapters as designated as did the rest of the class. Truthfully, the fifth year Gryffindor class was her most obedient. It was a puzzle, where were the rowdy rebellious teens that had been around in her youth? Well, if he wasn’t going to step out of line in her class, perhaps she just needed to change where the lines were, yes. It was time to have a word with Cornelius!
Because the rendering of the basilisk was finally complete, they had let a few days go by between detentions. This also served to quieten down the protests that Severus was beginning to hear from the other teachers, mainly Flitwick and Sprout. Today however he had news.
“All together the carcass weighed one hundred and seven metric tonnes. Comprising of the skin, meat, bones, and internal organs,” he began somewhat stiffly. “These will be auctioned off with the three shed skins that we discovered in the entry to the chamber, over four auctions, which will be open to potions Masters worldwide. The eye strings and heart strings have been placed aside along with the seven hundred and fifty-nine litres of toxin, and a variety of loose scales and will be auctioned off to wand makers and potions masters alike. All auctions will be by invitation only with each Master and Craftsman heavily vetted by Gringotts, which is where the auctions will be held. I believe you are aware that Gringotts is charging you two percent per auction for the privilege. As you know the first of the auctions was last night.”
He took a deep breath and swallowed, “In this first auction they released twenty metric tonnes of meat, one shed skin, measuring twenty feet in total length, a further twenty feet of fresh skin, and a quarter of all the internal organs. They advise me that bidding was fierce, especially amongst the dwarves of Switzerland, where the meat is considered a delicacy. Some lots reached twenty galleons per pound. The cumulative financial outcome was eight hundred and fifty thousand galleons, sixty-seven sickles and two knuts. This was the smallest of the auctions.”
Harry’s jaw flapped in the breeze, until Percival closed it for him.
“Uh….well that’s just…..Wow!”
“So, your contact and Gringotts get tweety-five thousand five hundred galleons between them. Percival gets forty-two thousand, five hundred. And you receive one hundred and seventy thousand! Just from this one auction.”
“Mmmm, not quite enough for retirement at my age, but at least I have hope I will not have to teach Dunderheads for ever. Do not forget, you yourself will receive in the order of six hundred and twelve thousand galleons.”
“But…..” Harry looked lost, “It’s too much.”
“If it is bothering you, then your plan to help the school has merit. The desks for the potions classroom cost two thousand galleons each, and twenty or so training brooms plus another twenty-eight brooms for the quidditch teams, won’t come cheap either.”
“Should I give some to Ron? After all he helped,” Harry asked.
“That’s up to you Harry, how much did he help?”
“Well he came with me to get Lockhart, and down the slide, and then he looked after Lockhart and started to open the pathway so that we could get back through.”
“What do you think would be fair?”
“I was not there Harry. I cannot make this decision for you.”
“Ok, I think he should get the same as you. Because he looked after me too.”
“Knowing Molly, he will not yet have his own Gringotts account so you will need to open one for him.”
“I’ll talk to the twins about it or maybe Striknott.” That was the best plan, Harry thought, he could send a letter via his mail box, and no one would ever know. Striknott could send Harry back a key, and Harry could give it to Ron for his Birthday or Christmas or something.
“Professor Snape?” Harry asked after a moment silence. “Do you know what has Umbridge so …….upset Professor?”
“I dare not think on it,” Snape shook his head. “I try to avoid the woman as much as possible, she really is intolerable. Though if I had to make a guess, she wants to get you into detention. She cornered me at breakfast this morning. I completely lost my appetite! She was enquiring how I managed to give you so many detentions. ”
“You should try having class with her! With the way she has been carrying on I really wanted to snot her one.”
“Be careful Potter there are rumours. Rumours of what she is doing in detentions and Albus is doing nothing to reign her in,” Severus warned.
“Yeah, she did something to Dennis Creevey last week, but we haven’t been able to find out what yet. Thanks for the distraction by the way Perce.” Harry blushed.
With a raised eyebrow Snape had to ask, “And what did young Mr Graves do, that prevented you from responding in your usual churlish manner?”
With a cough and a deepening of his blush, “Nothing important.”
“Hmm, I believe that I must relay this to your Godfather. I’m sure he will get the story out of you.” He gave a chuckle, “The next auction will not be for six to eight months, which will give us time to investigate the rest of the chamber. Therefore, your detention for this evening is complete. You may go.”
The two boys barely waited for the Fat Lady to open the portal, before rushing into the common room. They collapsed laughing onto a couch.
“What happened to you?” asked Hermione.
“We had detention with Snape and finished not long before curfew. Filch, caught sight of us on the ground floor, we’ve sprinted all the way back, and yes…” Harry quickly checked the time, “Made it just in the nick of time!” he finished exuberantly.
The expression on Hermione’s face clearly showed how much she wanted to chide them, but they hadn’t actually done anything wrong, so she didn’t have an excuse.
She settled for saying, “Well you had best get started on your Homework then.”
Surprisingly they did as she suggested for once, and soon were joined by Neville and Ron.
“You know,” Hermione said slyly. “I don’t see how we are going to pass Defence Against the Dark Arts with Umbridge teaching it the way she does. How are we ever going to get in enough practice on the practical content?”
“Mmmm,” Harry nodded without paying much attention. Honestly, he didn’t actually pay attention in the class either. He scanned the appropriate chapter of Slinkhard’s book the night before, so he knew what it was about if questioned, then glamoured another of his texts to take into class and read that instead.
“Harry and I have been running through the spells that have been listed in the copies of the OWL exams available on archive in the library Hermione. Anyone can access them, so I can’t see that there will be a problem,” Neville said.
Hermione frowned, “They have old copies of the assessments available?”
“Yep, Luna told me the other week. It’s only the OWLs and NEWTs though,” he kept writing on his parchment.
“But…. that isn’t right!”
“Oh, don’t worry, they aren’t all that recent,” Ron chipped in. “They range from ten to forty years old. So, the spells won’t be exactly the same, they’re just a guide.”
“But who will teach them to everyone else? We can’t be expected to learn them if no-one teaches us!” Hermione demanded.
“I’m pretty sure that by now the teachers kind of expect us to be able to do that sort of research for ourselves we’re not firsties.”
“But you could teach us Harry, couldn’t you? I’m sure you’ve had no problem with any of the spells.”
“It’s true that I haven’t, but I’m too busy Hermione. I’ve had more detentions then I can count with Snape, quidditch practice, plus the mentoring. I just don’t have time to take anything else on even if I did feel inclined to.”
“But …. you owe…..”
“What exactly does he owe to whom, Miss Granger?” Percival challenged in a clipped tone.
She didn’t sense the danger, “For all the help he’s received he owes everyone. He owes me!”
“What exactly does he owe you for?”
“He owes me for standing by him last year, when he put his name in that stupid goblet. He wouldn’t have survived any of his little adventures if it hadn’t been for me. He owes me for every year I’ve made him do his homework to my standard, he owes…”
Whatever else she was going to say was cut off by the slamming of Harry’s books as they hit the table, “I owe them nothing,” Harry hissed. “They ridiculed me, teased me, pushed me down the stairs and tripped me in the halls, tearing my robes. And you! You pretended to support me but now I can tell you actually didn’t! And for all the help you gave, if you had left me alone, I would have learnt it by myself sooner. And as for the adventures I only have two words- Mountain Troll!” Grabbing his bag, he stormed off to the dormitory.
“Well!” Hermione huffed indignantly. “I never! How could he say such a thing!”
“He said it because it’s true Hermione,” Neville said quietly, even though she glared at him the moment he opened his mouth. “I’m finished, so I’m going up to bed too.”
Ron and Percival didn’t say anything at all as they packed up the remaining things that had been left on the table and made their way to the dormitory, leaving a disbelieving Hermione staring after them.
By the time Percival had made his way up the stairs, Harry had shut himself in on his bed and sent the letter to Striknott about the division of the Basilisk funds and setting up a vault for Ron. It only took three minutes for the light on his mail box to indicate that he had received a reply. It advised that Ron would have to come into the bank at his earliest convenience and register his magic, so that it could be tied to his vaults. Apparently, they would need the twins after all.
Harry couldn’t sleep. He waited until the room was silent, then peered out from between the curtains. The room was dark and still. Sliding out of his bed, feet cooling quickly on the stone floor, he made his way to the next bed. Reaching forth a shaky hand he twitched the curtains slightly.
“Harry?” Percival whispered.
“I can’t sleep!”
The curtain opened an inch, “Come on before you let all the cold air in.”
“Thanks,” Harry crept up onto Percival’s bed which was quickly enlarged. Green doe eyes were turned on Percival. “Do you think she was right? Do I ….”
“If you even contemplate, finishing that sentence Harry, I will Silencio you, where you sit!”
“But….” a hand was placed across Harry’s mouth effectively gagging him.
“No! They owe you. You saved them fourteen years ago, then they abandoned you to the Dursleys. They have done nothing but lie to you and about you since you arrived here. From what I can tell, I believe that Hermione was sabotaging your homework instead of helping. She may have had a point if she had been giving you assistance, but then she pretty much admitted to betraying your trust..”
“But so did Ron,” Harry interjected quickly.
“Yeah, but he has tried to make amends for it this year, and he hasn’t demanded you teach him defence either.”
“I suppose not. I’m already helping Colin and Dennis. As well as studying with Nev, Ron, Fay and Alicia. Is that any difference to holding a study group?”
“It’s about responsibility Harry. As it currently stands, everyone knows they are responsible for their own work, everyone helps each other equally. Hermione wants you to take on the responsibility for everyone, which means that should something go wrong, guess who will get the blame again?”
“Oh! Do you think it’s deliberate on her part?”
“I honestly do not know. I …… this thing that I am Harry….it’s screaming at me to tell you no, don’t do this! Something will go wrong, I just know it.”
“Ok. I won’t then. I trust you Percival.”
“Have you practiced your Occlumency tonight Harry?”
With a sheepish blush Harry shock his head.
“Come on then,” with one arm he pulled Harry down to lie next to him. “There is no time like the present. And it will probably help you to fall asleep after all the excitement.”
Several minutes of meditation later and not a sound could be heard accept for the soft rumble of snores.
Remus Lupin was cold. He wondered, not for the first nor the last time, if Sirius had not been right. Maybe this was a suicide mission. It was hard to find pleasant thoughts about the Headmaster as he huddled up under a bush with his thread bare robes wrapped tightly around his body for meagre protection they offered him. He let out a curse as it began to rain. The pack he was aiming for was still some hundred or so miles away. They had moved on since the last time he had visited, and he was unfamiliar with the site so he couldn’t apparate to their new location. As he had no broomstick, he really should have asked Sirius if he could have borrowed one, he had to make his way there by the only means possible (his own legs). It would be another week and a half for him to come into a range where he might pick up their wards if he was lucky. He sighed as thunder rolled over head, and the rain came down even harder. Yes, in moments like these it was quite easy to understand Sirius’ view of Albus Dumbledore.
He had found it! At least he thought he had, he would need to talk to Addison first, and maybe Serverus…ah Snape that was. Yes, definitely Snape. Se…Snape would definitely know about dark rituals. Sirius, careful marked the place in his book, before sprinting to the floo. He had his hand in the floo pot before he had even registered that midnight might not be an appropriate time to make his call. Quickly dismissing the thought, he watched the green flames burst into life.
“Oh of all the Gods cursed…. Black! What are you hollering about!”
“I think I’ve found it! Do you want to see?” he gushed excitedly.
“Do you even know what time it is?” Snape said sourly.
“Ah…….” Sirius stammered, taken aback. “Not exactly….I just read this ritual and rushed straight….”
“I can see that! Lucky for you I have just returned from rounds! Bloody Weasley Twins, leading me all over the castle again!”
“Sorry. Do you want me to come back at a more appropriate time? I didn’t even think to check before I called. It’s just the ritual for Harry and I…..”
“Give me a moment,” Severus snapped. “If you come this way Albus will know. If I come through to Grimmauld he’ll just assume there is another book I want to read.”
Sirius sat up and quickly moved away from the floo. Unable to stand still while he waits his body in constant motion, twitching and fidgeting. Not stopping even when Severus stepped out of the fireplace.
“This way. It’s in one of the books that can’t be removed from the parlour.”
Sirius practically dragged Severus into the other room, pushed him into the wing-backed chair and thrust the open tome into his lap. While Severus read, Sirius called Kreacher to bring hot chocolate and biscuits.
“Is this your equivalent of milk and cookies?” Severus looked up and raised a brow.
“Mooney always said that chocolate was a great assistance when dealing with the Dark Arts and well the cookies are just really nice. Kreacher’s cooking has improved. I think he took some lessons on baking from Harry.”
The usually gregarious man turned sombre, “I haven’t called Addison yet. I wanted you to look over it first. It’s not perfect, we’ll need to adapt it slightly. Maybe this rune,” he reached in front of Snape to point out the section. “Then I think the chant needs….see here, this is the line for evicting the spirit. I believe it will need to be changed if we mean to transfer it to something else.”
“Hmmm,” Snape mused as he tried to analyse every aspect of the ritual. “I believe you are right. The healer will need to see it, however I don’t believe it would be sensible to contact him at this hour. Now if you will excuse me, some of us need to be up in a few hours to look after the bratlings.”
“Oh,” Sirius checked the time. They had spent several hours discussing the ritual and it was now two am. “Right, I’ll wait a bit and get this to Addison. You try and get some sleep. I’m sorry for disturbing you. I just needed…..”
The Professor rolled his eyes, “It’s fine Black. I have found of late that I am growing….fond of the boy, there is more of his Mother in him than I initially gave him credit for.” He moved swiftly to the fireplace and disappeared.
Sirius damped down a smile, that had been practically soppy for Snape. The moment didn’t last long before with a sigh he returned to his chair by the fire, only to chuckle when he noticed that the biscuits were gone for the tray. Maybe Sev…Snape had a sweet tooth? He flicked open the book and continued on. Perhaps there would be something in there that would help them gather all the loose bits of soul together. Not yet tired, he briefly contemplated trying to call his Godson, but decided against it. Even though he would have been out at this time of morning during his school years, he knew Harry wasn’t like that. Snape was right in some ways and wrong in others. For while Harry had some cheekiness from his Father, and a lot of attitude from his Mother, his personality was all his own. Tempered by experiences that neither of his parent’s had had the misfortune of experiencing. He summoned a quill and piece of parchment and quickly wrote a letter to Healer Addison. Seraphina had returned to the United States for the time being but, perhaps the Healer would agree to come to Grimmauld.
The sudden drop in temperature that October had brought, woke Harry early that morning. His nose was pressed firmly into the junction between Percival’s neck and chin. His right arm reaching around the older boy’s shoulder with his hand resting against the tattoo. Percival in turn had his left arm wrapped around Harry’s waist. In contrast Percival was woken by the nuzzling of the cold nose that was resting under his jaw.
“It’s too early Harry, go back to sleep,” he encouraged. “Or you could get up and exercise.”
“Cold,” the younger boy whined.
“Well, you know a heating charm.”
Both boys sighed as warmth settled over them.
“It’s going to be just as cold outside the curtains isn’t it?” Harry said. “I wonder if Dobby would light the fire for us.”
They heard the crackle of logs popping from the other side of the curtain.
“I think that answers your question. Don’t you?”
“Thanks Dobby,” there was a pleased feeling to the silence of the room. “I don’t suppose the cold weather is an excuse to get out of doing my exercises is it?” Harry tried plaintively.
“No! Healer Addison was most determined. And if you want to be an Auror then you’ll have to get used to it?”
“What if I don’t want to be an Auror?”
“Then I suggest that you keep it up so that your body recovers from its previously poor condition, and because we know that Riddle is going to keep after you. The stronger your body is the quicker and longer you’ll be able to channel your magic should it come down to a duel.”
“Fine,” the younger boy pouted. “But you’re coming with.”
“Of course. And just so you know, if you don’t want to be an Auror that’s ok.”
Harry didn’t respond, he just wiggled his nose further in to Percival’s neck and inhaled deeply. Finally, the boys emerged from behind their curtains and hurriedly got dressed. They quickly made their way out of the common room and into the grounds that surrounded the castle. Unbeknownst to the pair, the mirror vibrated on Harry’s bedside table for several moments before stilling.
An hour later, the coolness of the morning no longer bothered either of them as they raced each other up the staircases back to Gryffindor tower, their faces flushed with exertion. Ginny was sitting in the common room as they tumbled through the portrait hole.
“Where have you two been?” she asked curiously eyeing, their sweaty clothes.
“Exercising, Healer’s orders,” puffed Harry.
“I hope you’re going to shower before class! You stink!” Ginny protested as they came closer to the couch she was sitting on.
Harry leaned over and tried to ruffle her hair, but she pushed him away, “Ew… go away!” she complained.
The boys continued back to the dorm laughing.
Several hours of lessons later, the Gryffindors made their way to potions. Neville had now been taught how to protect his cauldron and it appeared that his book list had also been deficient. A fact that appeared true for all of the Gryffindors. (Hermione just stated that they would have uncovered the same information if they had just spent a little more time in the library) so the group shared the ones from the Black library as well as the copies of the recommended books that Harry had purchased. A letter home had Augusta sending Neville, Frank and Alice’s old books, which also had some helpful hints written in the margins and Harry wondered if he could find copies of his parent’s books. Maybe Petunia or Striknott would know who had cleared out their old house.
The dour Professor watched the students enter, and after giving them a brief discourse on the day’s task, a generic healing potion, set them to work. The Gryffindors always seemed to cluster at the back of the room, a fact which emphasised that Harry wasn’t able to read the board at that distance, and Snape wondered if his eyes had ever been properly checked. He made a note to mention it to Black. There certainly hadn’t been an ocular corrective potion on the list from the healer. Though Potter Senior’s eyesight had never been able to be corrected either, or at least he had always worn glasses.
With sharp eyes and a stern demeanour, he kept watch over the class. It wasn’t a particularly fiddly potion, though there were a large number of ingredients which added to the complexity, and there were several critical steps where errors could lead to catastrophic events, especially if additional ingredients were added to the mix. His Slytherins had been, for the most part, being well behaved in his classes this year, so it was only a matter of time before they acted out. Looking around the room he noticed the tell-tale shimmer that indicated a small ward had been placed over every Gryffindors cauldron. Well that was new. There was also of copy of the first-year prerequisite reading material on a couple of the tables. Curiosity peaked he decided he would have to ask Harry about it.
Finally, the end of the lesson approached. Severus sneered as he walked amongst the tables. It was surprising really; every single Gryffindor had produced a passable potion. Admittedly Mr Finnegan’s was only just, but it was still a liquid and while not the lilac colour it was supposed to be, it was navy blue indicating that it wouldn’t do any harm if it was consumed, even if it wouldn’t help. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the Slytherins, he raised his brow as he passed Crabbe and Goyle’s desk, glancing at the lethal black sludge that was residing in their cauldron’s.
“I expect a sample of your potion to be labelled and placed on my desk, before you walk out of the room. Twelve inches on all of the ingredients which can add beta-carotene to a nutrient potion. Due at the start of your next lesson,” he bit out in clipped tones.
Harry was one of the first to saunter up to his desk, depositing two phials before making his way to the door, where he paused to wait for his House-mates. Happy with how the group was progressing Snape turned his back for a moment, to clean the black board.
Whipping round in a flare of robes he saw Draco Malfoy standing by the desk a glass phial in one hand, clearly trying to suppress his glee with a sticky mix of broken crystal and liquid on the floor in front of him.
“Sorry Professor, I…seem to have bumped the table,” the blonde smirked.
“Mmmmm, leave your sample and go!” Snape ordered. Chuckling the Slytherins sauntered from the room, leaving their samples.
The Gryffindors who had stopped their exodus with Malfoy’s stunt made their way back to their desks. Where the last Slytherin, a smirking Theodore Nott, had just finished vanishing anything left in their cauldrons before he sauntered out. Almost as one the Gryffindors, reached into their robes to remove a second phial and proceeded to Snape’s desk in an orderly line to place them on the table without a word. As Severus watched on in astonishment.
“Well the lesson went too smoothly, if ya know what aye mean,” Seamus Finnegan stated, as he passed the professor. “We knew they was up ta somethin’ so this time we was prepared.” With a grin he placed his phial down on the table.
“Mr Potter,” Snape said. “Stay behind a moment.”
Harry stepped to the side and allowed his classmates to pass.
“Don’t worry, I’ll catch you up.”
“I notice that all of your Housemates had wards in place today Mr Potter, did you have something to do with this?”
“Well yeah, we’ve all started studying together and we realised that we all had the same booklist in first year. So, we shared my copies around, until we could get our hands on more copies and Perce and I taught them all the shield. I hope that’s alright?”
“It is somewhat relieving to see you all taking an interest in your studies. From next year I will be checking the lists as they come out. I appreciate the steps you have taken. Oh, and Potter, please contact Black. He has been trying to speak with you. The man is driving me insane!”
“Sorry Professor, I forgot to check the mirror this morning. Do you know what it is about?”
“Yes!” Snape snapped with a vicious grin. “And if you call the Mutt you will know as well! Now out before you are late for class!”
“Thanks Professor!” Harry grinned as he ran from the room.
With a snort Snape said, “And two points per Gryffindor for being prepared.” They need never know.
Honourable Accountant, Striknott,
I had intended waiting before quilling this letter to you, but recent events mean that I must make this request sooner than desired. With the recent influx of Galleons into my account, I understand there are some investment opportunities to be had, and I fully intend to authorise you to undertake these on my behalf when we have the opportunity to discuss them in length.
There are matters that need to be attended to in a more immediate fashion however. When I was in first year one of the broomsticks being used in our flying lessons was faulty leading to the injury of a classmate. It was an unfortunate incident however the injuries were relatively minor, and he was soon mended, as such the incident was forgotten. However, in the intervening time, the school has not undertaken to replace or repair of the faulty items. Hence today we have been devastated to learn that one of the newest to our school has been injured due to same faulty equipment. On this occasion the injuries will not be mended so quickly, and the student has been admitted to St Mungos for the foreseeable future.
Given my largesse at this time, I feel that I should, for the betterment of my fellow students, donate a set of training brooms, to the school. And to ensure fairness a set of Team brooms for each of the Quidditch teams. The former should have all available safety charms applied, and the latter should be standard entry level brooms, that are suited to each position.
In addition, please find attached a copy of an advertisement for specialist potions tables. I should like two dozen of these purchased and donated to Hogwarts care of Potions Master Severus Snape at your earliest convenience.
If at all possible, I would like both these donations to be anonymous at this time. Is it possible for you to arrange this for me?
With silencing charms cast on the tightly shut curtains Harry posted the letter Perce had helped him draft, to his accountant. Honestly he thought it sounded a bit pompous, but Percival said that Striknott would appreciate it. The situation was well beyond acceptable, some poor Hufflepuff first year, would not be able to return home, due to the lack of upkeep on equipment. He had been going to wait until the end of the school year, when he could have visited the bank and made arrangements directly, but he wouldn’t tolerate any further delay.
“Sirius Black!” Harry called into the mirror as he sat on his bed.
“Harry! Shite,” there was a disorientating blur as the mirror on the other end was upended. “Harry! Pup! I’ve been trying to get you all day. I was so worried when you didn’t answer this morning.”
“Sorry! Sirius. I forgot to check the mirror before Perce and I did our exercise. Snape told me to call you, but there was a horrible accident during the first year flying lessons today. So, I had to send an urgent letter to Striknott first.”
“Is everything ok?”
“Not for Hyacinth Bucket! She might never walk again. It’s because of the school brooms. Sirius they are, well I think they’re as old as McGonagall. And they just aren’t safe anymore. Hyacinth is a Muggleborn, so I can’t see the purebloods doing anything about the issue, and when the Quidditch Captains, and Madame Hooch went to Dumbledore to complain he just said the school’s budget just didn’t allow for replacements.”
“Let me guess, you’re arranging for a donation,” Sirius smiled into the mirror.
“Well, yeah. Not of money though, of brooms, but I don’t want Dumbledore to know it has come from the selling of the Basilisk, so I want it to be anonymous.”
“How about I go and talk to Striknott myself. He will be expecting me sometime soon, now that I have been cleared. I can arrange for them to be donated by the Black family.” He paused looking at the protest building on Harry’s face. “Even if the money comes from your account. If they appear to have been donated by me, Dumbledore will explain it away as either, something I have done because you requested it due to this tragic accident. Or me just being extravagant and trying to buy your love, especially if you were getting team brooms as well.”
“Ok,” Harry swallowed awkwardly. “Um…I was also going to get new desks for the potions classroom.”
“Really?” Sirius smirked. “Trying to influence the teacher Harry?”
“I understand. He isn’t as bad as I thought he was either.”
“Did it hurt you to admit that?” Harry snickered.
Sirius looked offended, before breaking into a genuine smile, “Only a little. Now I had actually been after you.”
“Oh, yeah. What’s the matter?”
“Nothing at all. I just think I might have found it. A ritual to remove the you-know….” he pointed at Harry’s forehead.
“Yes. It will need to be modified a bit, but both Se…Snape and Addison think that it is doable.”
“When?” Harry asked eagerly.
“Well, we will need a little while to figure out the changes and then to run some tests. I had hoped for Yule but there is a little note in the margin of the book that says that it will work best if it is performed on the Vernal Equinox.”
“That’s so long away, what if something happens before then?”
“For the moment you are safe. Keep practicing your Occlumency with Percival, and if you have any concerns let myself, Sera or Healer Addison know.”
“I….we….sent some memories to the Healer…..” Harry lowered the mirror.
“Harry, from this angle the only thing I can see is your boogers!” Sirius teased. “If you had a concern, I am glad you felt comfortable enough to contact him. Do you want to talk about it with me?”
“I just got so angry. Perce forgot to tell me that the Potter Grimoire might have some of my family history in it and I just snapped. I…I didn’t like feeling that way Sirius.”
“What did Addison say?”
“He said it was due to the link, and I was getting some bleed through of Riddle’s emotions. To keep working on my Occlumency, but not to stress too much as it would be terribly hard to block it all out. At this stage he doesn’t think that Riddle is aware of the link.”
With a sigh, Sirius spilled reassuringly, “That is good then. It seems to fit with what I have found in the text. Now do you have any homework left to do?”
“I’m all done.”
“Well get into bed Harry and let me tell you a story. There was this one time that your Father and I had decided that we would like some……..”
Neville frowned at the letter in front of him it was most disconcerting. He had sent the first letter off in response to Harry’s statement that they were Godbrothers, demanding that his Grandmother give him more information. She denied all knowledge. So, he had asked what had been included in his Parents wills. Not that they had been executed, but he assumed that they had at least been read so that their wishes could be carried out. He hadn’t heard back, that had been two weeks ago. Neville had been on the verge of demanding that she meet him the Hogsmeade next weekend but she had finally replied.
It had not been what he had been expecting. The writing was oddly shaky in a fashion his Gran’s had never been before and the parchment was wrinkled in places as if it had somehow become wet. August wrote saying that it had been two weeks after the attack which had injured his parents, she had been arguing with her brother Algernon that morning over where Neville was to go. In order to settle the argument, she had arranged to meet with their Accountant at Gringotts to confirm exactly what Frank and Alice had wanted. Then….nothing. She didn’t recall, going to the bank, or speaking to Crysophil. Nothing. It had greatly disturbed her, so she made an appointment. What she learned at the bank turned her world on its head. They told her that she had indeed seen the Accountant and read the will, which she had just done again, he had said goodbye and she had departed. They had expected to be contacted to set up payments for a stipend to his guardian, however the next time she was in the bank she seemed to have no memory of the conversation at all.
Augusta had confronted her brother, who admitted that he had known that she was going to the bank, but on her returned she seemed mildly confused so he had taken advantage of her lapse to ensure things went the way he had planned, and she had been left thinking that it was what Frank and Alice had wanted. She now knew it was not the case. In the event of his parents becoming compromised, Neville was supposed to have been taken in by his Godmother Lily Evan. Should she not have been available then he was to go to his Godfather, Kingsley Shacklebolt who had been a close friend of Frank’s. Then herself. Algernon was not supposed to be residing in Longbottom Manor, nor receiving a stipend from the estate. She had evicted him from the house and recalled all monies paid. She apologised over and over again and promised to do better. It seemed that re-reading the will again had managed to break through at least some of the memory charms and compulsions that had been placed on her over the years as she now remembered all the times that her Brother had hurt her precious Grandson. It would never happen again!
“You alright Nev?” Harry asked as he, Percival and Ron joined the blonde at the Gryffindor table. The blonde passed the letter he had been reading to Harry, unable to speak. “Wow! Are you ok? It might be a bit much to process now, but…..when you’re ready. I’m here to listen Nev,” Harry offered.
On the other side of the table, Ron was staring at an owl he knew making its slow way towards him.
“Isn’t that Hermes?” Harry asked.
“Yeah. What do you think Percy wants?” Ron asked as he took the scroll from the owl, offered it a piece of bacon, which it quickly nabbed before flying off.
“Don’t know mate, he’s your brother,” Harry shrugged.
I have only just heard (from no less a person than the Minister for Magic himself, who has it from your new teacher, Professor Umbridge) that you have become a Hogwarts prefect.
I was most pleasantly surprised when I heard this news and must firstly offer my congratulations. I must admit that I have always been afraid that you would take what we might call the ‘Fred and George’ route, rather than follow in my footsteps, so you can imagine my feelings when you have stopped flaunting authority and decided to shoulder some real responsibility.
But I want to give you more than congratulations, Ron I want to give you some advice. I hope you have opened this away from prying eyes.
I know you are still friends with Harry Potter, and please don’t take this the wrong way but that association may lead you into dangerous territory. I know Harry has always been Dumbledore’s favourite so he will be somewhat protected from shifts in power, but you will not have that same protection and I worry for you. Dumbledore may not be in charge of Hogwarts for that much longer and the people who count have a very different view of things.
I can say no more here, but if you look at today’s Daily Prophet you will see which way the wind is blowing. This leads me to my other bit of advice. As I have hinted at Dumbledore’s regime at Hogwarts may soon be over. Your loyalty Ron, should not be to him.
Please think on what I have said most carefully, particularly the bit about Dumbledore, and congratulations again on becoming prefect.
Ron’s initial response was one of anger, but if there was one thing that Percival being around had taught him, it was to stop and think. What was it that Percy was really trying to say? It sounded like Percy thought that he was in danger, possibly due to his association with Harry. He didn’t come out and say it, but it sounded as if he thought that Ron would be safer if he cut his ties to Harry. Surely his older brother would know that he would never do that! He read the letter again. The letter seemed to be written as if someone other than Ron himself would read it. But who would bother to intercept student’s mail? The thought was ludicrous, the red-haired boy glanced up at the teachers table, where the beady eyes of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher were watching him closely. Right ok, well that explained the who. If Percy thought that someone was reading Ron’s mail, what was he actually trying to say? He read it one more time, before the knut dropped. It was a warning! Something bad was coming and Ron should watch out, his association with Harry had placed him firmly in danger. He could use his prefect status as protection by buttering up the enemy if he chose, but regardless he should be very, very careful. Ron slipped his letter under the table to Percival. Percival would understand what Percy was trying to say and would pass the message on to Harry.
Hedwig hooted as she dropped the Daily Prophet into Harry’s bowl of porridge, causing the oats to splash over the sides of the bowl. She was a little upset, her wizard had not been paying her the amount of attention she was due. He hadn’t been out just to fly with her once as yet, and he spent all that time in the mornings running around like some land mammal, instead of petting and talking to her!
“Oh, I’m sorry Hedwig!” Harry murmured as he wiped porridge off the newspaper. “We haven’t had much time recently, have we?”
He tore up a piece of bacon and hand fed her, she supposed that it was an adequate peace offering, but she nipped his fingers sharply just to be sure that he knew.
“Yeah, I know I’m in trouble. What if I give you a letter to take to Dudley? Hmm, will that make it better.” He took the letter out of his pocket and she grabbed it in a claw, taking off she made sure to bat him around the head, just the once with her wing.
Percival had unrolled the paper and spread it out on the table, they didn’t have to search through it to find out what Percy had been eluding to, for there on the front cover was a large photograph of Delores Umbridge, smiling widely and blinking slowly at them from beneath the headline;
Ministry Seeks Educational Reform
Delores Umbridge Appointed
First Ever High Inquisitor
In a surprise move last night the Ministry of Magic passed new legislation giving itself an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
“The Minister has been growing uneasy about the goings-on at Hogwarts for some time,” said Junior Assistant to the Minister, Percy Weasley. “He is now responding to concerns raised by anxious parents, who feel the school may be moving in a direction they do not approve of.”
“It goes on to quote Lucius Malfoy, questioning whether the school is safe given the recent injury during flying lessons, and various people praising the Ministries efforts in ensuring fair and objective evaluations for all of the staff,” Percival summarised.
“Well at least it tells us how we ended up with Professor Umbridge. Did you see that…. the Ministry just made up a decree that allowed them to nominate a teacher,”
“Yes,” cut in Dean, “but only if the Headmaster couldn’t find someone.”
“Well! Now she has the power to inspect the other teachers!” Hermione was breathing fast and her eyes were very bright. “I can’t believe this. It’s outrageous!”
“Yeah, it is, but that’s because we know that Umbridge is as useful as a wet wig,” Harry said calmly. “However, on the surface it seems to make sense. Hogwarts is after all a fully Ministry funded school. Apart from uniforms and books the the government takes care of the rest of the costs. There is even a fund to help finance those kids who come from families that can’t afford all the additional stuff. So from one point of view perhaps the Ministry should be looking into things.”
“We know she is Fudge’s stooge Hermione,” he said in an under tone, flicking his eyes towards the group of Hufflepuffs that had walked by their table. “We also know that she won’t be fair.”
“It might be amusing though,” Ron grinned widely.
“Well can you imagine McGonagall or better yet Snape being inspected. Umbridge won’t know what hit her.”
Still it wasn’t the best start to Halloween.