Disclaimer: Usually I write out this very specific disclaimer explaining exactly what it is I don't own but I find myself not really interested in doing so as it is very tedious. Suffice it to say I own nothing that was created by anyone else and I am making no money whatsoever from the writing of this FanFiction.
Warnings: Alternate Universe (ie: kiss canon goodbye), mentions of child abuse/neglect (nothing physical), reasonable corporeal punishment (ie: light spanking), some violence and blood, mild language, and hinted references to consensual sexual activities (there will be no descriptions or lemons within the story).
AN: This story is self-beta'd; so there may be occasional grammatical or spelling errors that crop up every now and then and for those I apologize in advance.
Chapter Twenty-One: Eggish Experiments
Wednesday, December 28, 1994 2:48 P.M.
Hogwarts Castle, Scotland
Harry carefully lifted the golden egg that Little Lady had stolen from the Opaleye for him (taking care not to pull off the belt he'd used to bind the egg closed) out from the box he'd dumped it in weeks earlier. After spending most of the past two days brooding about his conflicted feelings for Luna, Sherlock had finally needled him into deciphering the clue that the egg apparently held for the second task of the Tournament. Harry had immediately latched onto that necessary task with both hands in order to avoid the entire confusing situation with Luna.
It was a cowardly move but Harry was not yet ready to deal with that particular can of worms just yet.
Putting the situation with Luna out of his mind for the time being, Harry set about preparing the different methods he would use to try and muffle the sound from the egg so that he could try and figure out what the sound was supposed to be. For his first attempt, he had decided to go with the most obvious method; putting on a pair of ear muffs to shield his ears from the sound. He then carried the egg into the bathroom and carefully closed the door behind him in order to avoid disturbing anyone else once he opened the egg since he wasn't muffling the egg itself in the first experiment.
After placing the egg on the sink counter, Harry checked the placement of his ear muffs before he removed the belt and slowly opened the egg only to slam it shut the moment it started screeching at him. The ear muffs hadn't blocked out the sound any where near as well as he had been hoping they would. Reaching up with both hands, Harry pulled his ear muffs down around his neck before he gently massaged his ringing ears while he scowled in the general direction of the offending egg.
As soon as he could hear once more, Harry gathered up the egg and his belt before he returned to the bedroom so that he could run through the next experiment on his list; wrapping the egg up in a blanket in order to mute it. Due to how sensitive his hearing was and how useless his ear muffs had turned out to be, Harry opted to triple up on the blankets and wrapped the golden egg up in a thick nest of multiple comforters rather than just the single blanket he had originally intended to use.
Once the egg was suitably covered, Harry pursed his lips and considered the next step; actually opening the egg. This would be the trickiest step since in order to open the egg, he had to create an opening in the blanket nest in order to reach the egg inside. Opening the blankets would create a potential exit for the sound of egg's recording to hit him at full volume though and that was the last thing he wanted. He was in no mood to be rendered deaf yet again when his ears had only just stopped ringing from his earlier attempt. Harry let out a quiet hum as he considered the problem before he snapped his fingers when an idea suddenly struck him.
Pulling the egg back out of the blankets, Harry sat it on the edge of the bed before he fetched a pair of his blindfolds. He then set about affixing the end of one blindfold to one of the four hinged panels that folded out from the egg when it was opened. The other blindfold was then tied to the panel directly opposite of the first blindfold. The placement of the two strips of silk would theoretically allow him to open the egg without actually touching the egg and reduce the chances that he'd be hit with the full force of the recording inside.
A couple of experimental tugs ensured that the blindfolds were securely attached to the egg (the teen holding the four panels shut with one hand to make certain he didn't pull them open before he was ready). Harry then reinserted the egg into the blanket nest and wiggled it back and forth until it was properly situated in such a way that the blankets would not be snagged by the panels of the egg when they were opened. He then pulled his ear muffs back up over his ears (as an extra precaution) before he grabbed hold of the loose ends of the two blindfolds and prepared to open the egg.
"Little Lady, you might want to duck out of the room in case this doesn't work," Harry advised his feline friend as he glanced over to the pillow where the dainty kneazle was currently sprawled out watching him like a queen supervising her subject (the screeching from the bathroom had woken her up earlier). Little Lady flicked her tail at him in a gesture that could be interpreted as; just get on with it already. "Suit yourself, love, but don't come crying to me if your ears are blasted by the unholy screeching from the egg because the blankets didn't work."
Little Lady sniffed in disdain and turned her nose up in response to his rebuttal but she didn't bother to move. Harry rolled his eyes even as a fond smile tugged at his lips over his familiar's antics before he refocused his full attention on his current experiment. Taking a deep breath, Harry wrapped the blanket nest and it's rather annoying contents up in several threads of Namelessness in order to hold the blankets in place before he pulled on the two blindfolds. Inside of the artificial nest, the enchanted egg blossomed as the panels were pulled open and the muffled sound of screeching filled the room.
"Well, at least we didn't go deaf from it this time," Harry absently commented as he tipped his head to the side, slowly peeled the ear muffs off of his ears, and concentrated on the muffled sound issuing forth from the blankets. "Still can't place or understand what I'm hearing though."
"Yeow," Little Lady retorted in a bored tone that told Harry she wasn't the least bit interested in what he was doing.
Harry perched himself on the bed beside his furry friend and absentmindedly let his fingers trail down her spine while he focused the rest of his attention on the sound still filtering out of the blankets. The kneazle immediately began purring softly in response to his touch; her quiet rumbling easily drowning out the faint screeching of the egg. The blind teen frowned slightly and moved his hand to place a finger on Little Lady's nose and mouth and the feline abruptly fell silent at the familiar gesture.
He would immediately reward her for her instant obedience with a firm scratch under the chin before he allowed his hand to migrate around to the back of her head so he could scratch behind her ears. Little Lady leaned into his hand in silent appreciation of the attention and Harry smiled fondly at his best friend. He then returned his attention back towards the unending screeching issuing from the hidden egg. After a couple of minutes, he was able to pick out a pattern in the screeches and it didn't take him long to determine that the screeching was meant to be a song of sorts.
It was by no means a pretty song (kind of hard to be pretty when it's being screeched) but it was a song. There was a distinct cadence to the annoying sound that was hard to hear when the sound was being blasted at full volume but now that it had been muffled, he could easily pick it out. Knowing the recording was of some bizarre song didn't actually give him any insight into the clue that the egg was supposed to hold for him though. The fact that he couldn't recognize the melody or harmony of the song wasn't much help either aside from telling him it was a song he'd never heard before.
A frown pulled the corners of Harry's mouth down as he considered what he'd just learned about the egg and what he had not learned. After another minute, he leaned forward and pushed the egg closed through the blanket before he released the Namelessness as he pulled the egg out of the nest of fabric and re-secured his belt around the four panels. He then set the egg aside as he remade his bed while he considered the next experiment he would need to perform on the egg in his attempts to puzzle out the clue it held regarding the Second Task of the Tournament.
Originally, he'd intended to just shut it up inside of a heavy wooden box lined with metal but he had been unable to obtain said box on such short notice. Instead, he had a magical trunk that had been procured for him by Mr. Lupin but was hesitant to use the trunk because he didn't know if the magic of the trunk would interfere with the experiment. He also wasn't quite certain how he would open and close the egg without subjecting himself to the wailing screeches at full volume for at least two short periods of time.
After the trunk experiment was the dirt experiment but that would require him to leave the guest suite and Harry didn't actually want to leave the safety of their rooms. He didn't want to risk bumping into Luna just yet. He still wasn't certain what to think of the girl and her kisses or how he felt about Dr. Watson's implication that he had begun to consider her a friend. Nor did he want to be ambushed by any of the other students that were wandering about the castle. That pretty much summed up all of the ideas he had come up with unless he wanted to bury the egg in custard.
Pursing his lips, Harry let the Namelessness slide over and around the egg looking for potential visible clues as he considered his choices. After another minute, Harry withdrew the Namelessness and sighed before he got up to fetch the trunk Mr. Lupin had obtained for him. Sherlock would never let him hear the end of it if he skipped a single experiment in the series or did them out of order; skipping and switching things around meant that it would be harder to replicate the end results and therefore throw his findings off.
Most people wouldn't think it a big deal for his current series of experiments on the magical egg but Sherlock had taught Harry that consistency was very important when it came to science. Sherlock's methods might be unorthodox (and a few of them might even be more than a little immoral) when it came to his experiments but he was consistent in the way he went about performing them and that was something that he had passed on to Harry throughout the past five years. That consistency meant that those who knew Sherlock could theoretically figure out how he came to a particular conclusion based off of one of his experiments.
That method sadly didn't extend to Sherlock's observational deductions; since few people ever paid as close attention to details or hoarded as many obscure facts as the self-proclaimed Consulting Detective.
Shaking away that thought, Harry refocused his attention on the magical clue he was supposed to be cracking. He then set about prepping the magical trunk for the next experiment. It only took him a couple of seconds to do so; since all he really had to do was set the egg in the bottom of the trunk (which had been magically expanded on the inside much like his custom suite of rooms back home). He then spent a couple of minutes fiddling around with the trunk and the egg in order to determine the best way to open and close the egg without blasting his eardrums with the egg's song.
In the end, he ended up tying another pair of blindfolds to the egg so that all four panels had one strip of silk tied to the top of it. He then arranged the blindfolds so that the ends would stick out of the trunk once the lid was closed so that he could pull on them to open the egg while it was still inside of the trunk. To prevent the blindfolds from snagging on the edges of the trunk, he propped the lid open with a couple of pencils; the opening small enough to let the blindfolds slid through it but not allow too much of the sound to escape the trunk.
That particular experiment failed spectacularly. Not only did his method of opening the egg not spare his eardrums from the full volume of the egg's recording, the moment he removed the pencils to close the lid all the way, the magical spells on the trunk cut off all sounds from the inside instead of just muffling them. He attempts to close the egg's panels using the blindfolds (by pulling three of them into one corner while the one from the backside was pulled inside of the trunk) also failed and he'd been forced to fully open the trunk to close the egg.
It also hadn't helped that he'd completely forgotten to use the ear muffs that were dangling uselessly from his neck.
The first thing Harry heard, once he could actually hear again, was Little Lady's yowled complaints about the recent explosion of sound. Harry placated the annoyed kneazle with a proper brushing while he waited for the headache he'd gotten from the assault on his ears to fade completely. He didn't apologize for blasting her ears out though; he had warned her that that might happen earlier and she was the one that hadn't wanted to leave the room. Once they had both fully recovered, Harry set Little Lady on his shoulder, collected the irritating egg (after resecuring it with his belt), and headed for the door.
He had a loose pile of dirt to track down.
"Solved the clue already?" Mr. Black inquired from where he was lounging on the couch, flipping through a magazine the moment he caught sight of Harry entering the room with his egg cradled under his left arm.
"No, not yet; all of my first three experiments were failures – though I did learn that the pattern of screeches that make up the egg's recording form a song of some type even if I don't recognize the tune."
"So, if you didn't solve the clue; why are you carrying the egg around? Planning to toss it in the rubbish already?"
"Tempting, but no, I'm not throwing the egg out yet. I need to take it outside for my next experiment though."
"What kind of experiment are you planning to do?" Mr. Black inquired curiously as he tossed his magazine aside and climbed to his feet.
"I'm going to bury it in dirt and see if that will muffled the sound enough to allow me to pick out the words of the song without having my eardrums blown out again."
"Any particular kind of dirt you need for your little test?"
"No. Any loose dirt will do so long as there's enough of it to completely bury the egg," Harry replied after thinking about it for a moment.
"Then your best bet would probably be to visit the greenhouses. Well, I suppose you could also borrow the dirt from Hagrid's pumpkin patch but the sourpuss that took over Hagrid's duties as the school's groundskeeper is a right berk and he'd likely chase you off if you tried to dig a whole in the old garden. Give me a second to let Moony know where we're going and then I'll take you down to the greenhouses."
"I'll wait for you by the door."
"Alright, kiddo, let's go," Mr. Black instructed when he rejoined Harry just a couple of minutes later.
It would only take the two of them about fifteen minutes to reach the greenhouses thanks to the shortcuts that Mr. Black escorted him through in an effort to help Harry avoid large groups of overly nosy students. It then took Mr. Black another ten minutes to determine which greenhouse was safest for Harry to enter (many of the plants that were grown by the school were dangerous) and which one held the plants that would be the least disturbed by Harry's little experiment (since some of the plants were rather delicate).
Harry had just stepped inside of the selected greenhouse ahead of his godfather when he stumbled into a teen around his age who had apparently been working in the greenhouse for a few hours based on his disheveled appearance. Both teens flinched away from the accidental contact with Harry wincing slightly when Little Lady dug her claws deeply into his shoulder in order to avoid being knocked off from the accidental collision.
"Sorry!" both boys automatically apologized in stereo.
"No, I'm sorry!" they both counter apologized at the same time a split second after they each realized the other had apologized to them. Their next attempt at speech also coincided much to Mr. Black's amusement. "I wasn't looking where I was going!"
"Er, how could you see where you were going? Aren't you blind?" the other boy inquired in confusion once he got a good look at who he'd bumped into and Harry frowned in response to the somewhat rude questions. The poor teen then immediately realized how his questions had sounded as he stuttered out, "S…sorry; th…that was rather rude of m…m…me. P…pl…please do…don't rip to shreds with words! I swear I di…didn't m…mean to be rude!"
Harry silently studied the other boy with the Namelessness for several long seconds before he stated, "Apology accepted; though, for the record, I was not offended by your questions." He'd been annoyed, true, but not really offended; he'd been asked questions like that more times than he could count over the past five years and had long since learned to tell the difference between a curious or confused inquiry and a malicious or demeaning one.
"Oh, that's a relief," the teen breathed as the tension bled out of his slightly pudgy frame. "I'm Neville Longbottom, by the way."
"Harry Potter; but I suspect you already knew that based upon the undeserved fame I appear to have garnered in the wizarding world."
"Yeah, everyone kinda knows who you are," Neville agreed with a shrug. The other teen then glanced at Mr. Black for the first time and grew nervous once more when he recognized the man and hurriedly squeaked, "Good afternoon, Lord Black."
"Afternoon, Mr. Longbottom; how's your grandmother?"
"She's f…fine, Lord Black."
"Good to hear."
"Th…thanks," Neville replied with a half-hearted smile before he returned his attention to Harry and asked, "Um, earlier you said something about your fame being undeserved. Why do you think that?"
"Simple, I was a baby when my parents died and could not have possibly done anything to protect myself; therefore, it must have been one or both of my parents who defeated Voldemort before he could kill me."
Neville squeaked in fear the moment Harry spoke the Dark Lord's name before a confused look passed over his face as he asked, "Then why would everyone say you defeated him?"
"Your guess is as good as mine, Longbottom. According to the research Mr. Homes conducted into the matter, I was accredited with his defeat simply because I had not died with my parents; a conclusion that I find highly illogical due to the fact that I am hardly the only child that was orphaned during Voldemort's reign of terror. There wasn't even a proper investigation conducted at the time of my parents' deaths; meaning that whoever told the wizarding world that I was the one that defeated Voldemort didn't have any proof of his or her claim."
"How do you know there wasn't a proper investigation?"
"My guardian conducted an extensive investigation into the events that took place the night my parents were killed the moment I came into his custody and he unearthed a wealth of evidence that indicated proper procedure had been ignored entirely by the officials that had responded to the crime scene that evening. Further research revealed that the official story detailing what occurred that night had been completely fabricated by the author of the story many months after my parents had been killed and based entirely off of the rumors that had been spreading throughout the country at the time."
"Why would someone lie about what happened though?"
"For the money and notoriety publishing the story would have netted them," Mr. Black interjected unexpectedly before Harry could answer the question.
The abrupt reminder of his godfather's presence made Harry realize that he was wasting time when he had an experiment to conduct before supper. With that in mind, Harry returned his attention to the teen in front of him as he stated, "Not to be rude, Longbottom; but I'm afraid I must cut our conversation short due to the limited time I have available to conduct my next experiment before I need to head back to the castle for supper."
"Experiment…? What kind of experiment? Are you looking to use any of the plants in this greenhouse? If you are, did you ask Professor Sprout for permission?" Neville asked in a rush; all traces of his earlier trepidation and confusion completely gone as the corners of his mouth pulled down in a frown.
"I just need to borrow enough dirt to temporarily bury an egg," Harry replied as he gestured to the belt-bound enchanted egg that was cradled in his left arm before he gestured towards his godfather. "It was Mr. Black that suggested that I use this greenhouse since it was clear of both harmful plants and those plants that could be potentially harmed by the loud and irritating enchantments on the egg in addition to offering considerably more privacy than the open grounds would."
"Harry was also granted blanket permission to access the facilities and use the supplies of the castle by the headmaster when we were notified of his unlawful selection as the fourth champion for the Tri-Wizard Tournament; much as the three willing participants were granted that same permission," Mr. Black added when Harry's answer didn't cover quite cover Neville's final question. "And, yes, Professor Sprout is fully aware that Harry is allowed to enter the greenhouses; her only stipulation was that he be accompanied by a trained adult for his protection; hence the reason for my presence."
"Oh, okay. I'm sorry if I sounded a bit rude with all my questions. It's just that some of the other students like to mess around in here 'cause they think they won't get caught by the prefects or the professors," Neville murmured as he backed up so that he was no longer blocking the path into the greenhouse. "Potter, if you'd like; I can show you where Professor Sprout keeps the unfertilized potting soil."
"That would be appreciated," Harry agreed out of an interest in saving time looking for the dirt himself.
It would take less than five minutes for Neville to lead Harry to a row of large covered tubs that contained a variety of soil types that were used in the greenhouses while Mr. Black wandered through the greenhouse to check for potential threats. Harry expected the other boy to leave at that point but part of him was unsurprised when the boy stayed instead; the blind teen had grown far too used to the students of Hogwarts seeking him out for various reasons. He suspected Neville wished to question him like the other students and politely ignored him in favor of lifting the lid off of the first tub of dirt.
Once he had propped the lid up against the side of the tub where he wouldn't accidentally trip over it, Harry reached up to pet Little Lady as he asked, "Would you like to help me dig a hole for the egg, Little Lady?"
"Yeow," Little Lady replied as she lightly jumped off of Harry's shoulder and landed in the center of the open tub.
"Er… I don't think pets are actually allowed in the greenhouses," Neville hesitantly pointed out as the other boy finally noticed the kneazle now that she was no longer perched on Harry's shoulder.
"Little Lady is not a pet; she's my partner," Harry corrected as he set the egg in the tub beside Little Lady and drew a rough circle around the egg so he would know how wide to make the hole.
As soon as he finished the circle, he moved the egg off to one side so he could start scooping out the dirt from inside of the circle. Little Lady soon joined him; her little paws steadily shifting the loosely packed dirt between her back legs in order to move it out of the circle. He was a little surprised when Neville moved around to stand on his left side and began to help as well; he had not expected the other boy to help him.
"Partner…? You mean like a familiar?"
"Yes but she is more than just a familiar; she's my best friend and my eyes."
"Can you actually see through her eyes?"
"What…?" Harry blurted out in confusion as he tried to figure out what the other boy meant.
"You said your kneazle was your eyes. I thought, maybe, you meant that you could see through her eyes and that was how she helped you see."
"Wizards can do that sort of thing?"
"Er, I don't actually know. I guess it's possible. I mean, I know Professor Moody has a really creepy magical eye that he told us can see through walls and stuff or even watch what is happening behind him because it can see through the back of his head."
Harry frowned as he tried to recall which staff member of the school Neville was speaking about only for Mr. Black to turn up at that precise moment and beat him to the punch as he announced, "That'll be ole Mad Eye; Dumbledore hired him to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts this year. He's a retired auror and a former trainer for the Auror Academy. He's also fairly easy to recognize due to the number of scars he'd collected throughout his career with the Ministry."
"Are you referring to Alastor Moody?" Harry inquired as he finally recalled the scarred wizard that was usually seated next to Mr. Snape during the handful of meals he'd taken in the Great Hall.
"Yeah, that's him; great man, crazy and paranoid as hell but a great man. He mentored your father while we were in the Auror Academy together and was a close friend of your grandfather, if I remember rightly. I wasn't as lucky; I got stuck with old Sourpuss Scrimgeour instead. Frank was even luckier; he was mentored by Madam Bones." Mr. Black then glanced at Neville as he added, "That is one witch who really knows her way around a wand and she trained your father up to be one of the best aurors of our generation. A real shame what happened to your parents, Longbottom. They were damned fine people and better friends."
Neville flushed bright red and almost seemed to wilt in on himself in response to his father being mentioned and Harry briefly wondered what happened to his parents. He considered asking but decided against it due to the palpable sadness he could sense from the other boy and from his godfather. With that in mind, Harry determined that a change of topic was needed and asked, "If Mr. Moody was friends with my grandfather; why is he avoiding me?"
"No clue, though I wouldn't take it personal; Mad Eye avoids everyone because he's that paranoid. It's also possible that Dumbledore asked him to stay clear of you in order to avoid provoking a confrontation with one of your minders."
"Mr. Holmes is far more likely to be the one doing the provoking in any confrontation."
Mr. Black let out a snort of amusement before he dryly quipped, "Yes, Sherlock does have a fondness for needling the rest of the world."
Harry laughed in response; he was quite familiar with the younger Mr. Holmes's tendency to annoy people. In fact, there were only a handful of people that weren't subjected to Mr. Holmes's brand of needling; Mummy Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, her Majesty, and Angelo (the owner of the small Italian restaurant that Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson often took Harry to when they ate out). Harry probably would have included himself, Inspector Lestrade, and Dr. Watson in that list as well if it wasn't for the fact that the man loved to frequently needle the three of them for his own amusement.
Harry didn't mind too much; it wasn't like Mr. Holmes was being malicious and most of the time, Mr. Holmes only needled him when he was depressed or distracted. Although, he could really do without the man's repeated attempts to give him a new name. Harry liked his name; it was short and simple. More importantly, it was the name that his parents had given to him when he'd been born. Therefore, it was the best possible name he could have.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Harry refocused on the task at hand as he used the Namelessness to gauge the size of the hole he'd been digging with Little Lady and Neville's help. In order to avoid Neville from growing suspicious, he also patted the walls and floor of the hole in order to give the impression that he was physically measuring the depth and width of the opening. It didn't take him lock to determine that the hole was deep enough that the egg would be entirely covered once it was inside but that he'd need to widen it further in order to open the thing once it was buried.
"It looks deep enough now," Neville hesitantly pointed out and Harry suspected that the other teen was wary of insulting him since his statement could be taken as an implication that he didn't think Harry was capable of determining the hole's depth on his own.
"It is," Harry agreed with a nod as he ignored the unintentional insult. "It'll need to be at least five inches wider though or I won't be able to fully open the thing after it's been buried."
"Why do you have to bury it before you open it?"
"To dampen the awful shrieking it emits when it's opened."
"Oh, why not just cast a sound dampening spell on it then?"
"I don't have a wand," Harry reminded the other boy and the teen cringed in obvious embarrassment over having forgotten about that little fact.
"Couldn't you just ask someone else to cast it for you?"
"I could, however, I won't unless I have exhausted all of my other options; since obtaining outside help from an adult in order to solve the clue this egg is supposed to hold could be construed as cheating by the Tournament Officials."
"You could always ask one of the sixth or seventh years that I've seen you hang around instead. I'm sure the Weasleys twins would be willing to help you if you asked."
Harry let out a thoughtful hum as he considered Neville's idea before he replied, "I will keep your suggestion in mind should my dirt experiment fail."
Neville seemed rather relieved and slightly embarrassed by Harry's acceptance of his suggestion and the blind teen wondered if the other boy was shy or if he just lacked self confidence. After a moment, he figured it was probably both based on what little he'd observed since they'd literally bumped into each other earlier. It would certainly explain why the other boy hadn't been amongst those that had hounded Harry for information since his arrival at Hogwarts. In fact, Harry couldn't recall ever 'seeing' Neville at all until today.
That in itself seemed rather weird since he'd encountered a fairly large percentage of the castle's occupants over the past several weeks. That was especially true of those students that were around his age and doubly so for those students that were in Gryffindor House; of which Neville was obviously a member given that he was currently wearing what looked to be a red and gold tie. It just seemed rather odd that Neville would avoid him when the rest of his housemates had not; especially when one considers that Gryffindor was supposedly the House of the Brave.
Before Harry could fully analyze his impromptu lab partner (he was in the middle of an experiment and Neville had somehow managed to insert himself into the process), his attention was drawn back to the experiment at hand when Little Lady stood up on her hind paws to tap him on the nose with a dirt covered paw as she yowled, "Yeow!"
The Namelessness swirled around the kneazle for a moment before Harry nudged it into the hole they'd been digging to determine that it was now both deep enough and wide enough for him to proceed with the experiment. A smile tugged at his lips as he brought his hands up to tangle them in the thick ruff of fur on Little Lady's neck while he rubbed noses with her before he softly crowed, "Right you are, princess! Shall we bury the obnoxious egg now?"
"Yow!" Little Lady adamantly agreed and Harry snickered; he and his familiar were both in perfect agreement about the usefulness of said egg.
"What's so terrible about an egg?" Neville curiously asked as he glanced between said egg and Harry and his familiar several times.
"The enchanted recording inside of it is high pitched and obnoxiously loud; to the point where it causes pain and renders me deaf for several minutes at a time each time I've been unlucky enough to hear it."
"Er, why not just put the ear muffs you're wearing around your neck over your ears before you open it then?"
"They are insufficient protection from the grating screeches the egg emits when opened," Harry dryly explained as he lifted Little Lady out of the hole before he reached for the egg in question.
"If you'd like, I can grab a pair of the spelled ear muffs that Professor Sprout uses when working with the mandrakes for you; they cut out all sound."
"Thank you for the offer but I'll have to pass since the idea is to muffle the screeching just enough for me to figure out the clue that it is supposed to hold and blocking the sound completely would defeat the purpose of the experiment."
The next several minutes passed in silence as Harry settled the egg in the middle of the hole they'd dug, checked to make certain that the four blindfolds tied to the panels were secure, removed the belt, and loosely buried the egg with the dirt that had been excavated to create the hole. Extra dirt was piled directly in the center of the hole over the top of the egg so that it would drop into the egg once opened so that the opening of the egg didn't create a hole in the loose dirt pile. Harry also counted on that extra dirt muffling the volume of the screeching.
Once everything was in place, Little Lady snagged hold of one blindfold while Harry gathered up two of them. Neville, after a brief hesitation, took hold of the last one without saying a word. Harry mentally shrugged and let the boy help even if he didn't really need it at the moment; he only needed to pull two of the blindfolds on opposite panels to open the egg. A short count of three later, and the three of them tugged on their respective leads to open the egg.
The pile of dirt sunk inward as the opening of the egg displaced it and Harry winced when the thin layer of dirt covering the inner workings of the egg was about as effective as the ear muffs had been. Neville immediately clapped his hands over his ears, Little Lady yowled in annoyance, Mr. Black uttered an expletive under his breath, and Harry scrambled to shut the egg up again. Once the egg had been silence once more, Harry scowled at the rotten artifact as he tried to figure out what he was going to do with the damn thing.
"That… that was bloody awful!" Neville exclaimed once the four of them could hear once more.
Harry snorted as he carefully unearthed the egg so he could wipe off the dirt and lock it back up with his belt. He'd worry about the dirt that had been caught inside of the egg later; he was not going to open it again just to empty it out now. His ears ached enough at the moment, thank you very much.
"What are you going to do with it now?" Neville tentatively asked when Harry didn't immediately turn to leave now that the failed experiment was over.
"I'd like to beat it to a pulp with a sledge hammer but I fear that would only make it impossible to shut the blasted thing up," Harry growled as he glared at the magical egg and his answer set the other teen to snickering.
"Couldn't you just bury it deeper?"
"I could try… I'd really rather bury it in cement and drop it in the lake though."
The two of them shared a short laugh over that before they dug the hole deeper in order to redo the experiment. The second attempt would also fail but they at least survived it with their hearing intact. A third experiment, with the egg being placed upside down (in order to create a small pocket in the dirt in an attempt to see if the screeching would come out less garbled) was also conducted. That attempt would fail like the preceding ones.
After that third dirt experiment, Neville led Harry to the back of the greenhouse where an old fashioned water pump and cast iron sink sat so that he could wash the dirt from the golden egg before heading up to the castle to clean himself and Little Lady up. The other teen than backtracked to the dirt tub they'd been using for Harry's experiments in order to clean up the messes they'd made while digging about in it. Harry watched Neville through the Namelessness for nearly a full minute before he turned his attention to the task at hand; cleaning the foul egg.
It didn't take him long to determine that he didn't want to open the egg under a stream of water since he'd only endanger his ears that way. Instead, he chose to fill the deep sink up with enough water to submerge the egg entirely so that the water would muffle the sound. He briefly worried that the water might harm the egg before it occurred to him that there must be protective enchantments on it or it never would have survived in a dragon's nest for any length of time. He also knew he didn't have to worry about the egg rusting because it was made up of gold or at least heavily plated with gold.
Harry then spent a couple of minutes untying the blindfolds from the hinged panels on the egg and tucked them into his pocket with the belt he'd been using to hold the egg shut so that he wouldn't lose them. As Harry settled the egg inside the water and gently scrubbed the outside free of dirt, he briefly wondered if he should have included a water experiment with the egg. He'd originally discarded water as a potential buffering medium because he had worried that the egg would be too slippery to handle when wet and the last thing he had wanted to do was drop it while it was open lest it break in such a way that it would be impossible to close and therefore impossible to shut off.
Shrugging his shoulders, Harry silently figured that washing the egg out in the sink to get rid of the dirt would cover such an experiment in any case. At this point, he wasn't even expecting a water experiment to work when none of his earlier experiments had worked; the blind teen now suspecting that a spell would be required to render the screeched song understandable. Due to his expectations being as low as they were, Harry was caught off guard when a chorus of eerie voices rose out of the waterlogged egg the moment he opened it to wash the dirt out from inside of it.
"– you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And to recover what we took,
But past an hour – the prospect's black,
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back.*"
The voices trailed off for several heartbeats before they continued and Harry remained frozen in place as the odd chanted song played through yet another time.
"Come seek us were our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching, ponder this:
We've taken what –*"
After listening to the song play through an additional two times, Harry mechanically shut the egg without bothering to clear the little clumps of wet dirt still clinging to its inner workings out. He then drained the tub and resecured the panels of the egg with his belt without paying any attention to what he was doing; his mind fully occupied with the riddle the strange song had presented to him. The entire thing made him feel uneasy but he wasn't sure if it was the words of the riddle or the oddness of the tune itself that disturbed him.
There was just something about the eerie voices and haunting melody that screamed 'inhuman' to the dead-eyed teen and it left him more than a little unsettled. Not because the song had possibly created by non-humans but because the words of the riddle were rather grim and foreboding. He didn't even need to fully solve the riddle to know that he wasn't going to like what it meant.
"All done, kiddo?" Mr. Black inquired as he popped up beside Harry rather unexpectedly and Harry suppressed a flinch as he automatically nodded in response to the question.
Harry would make the trip back up to the castle in complete silence as he continuously turned the words of the riddle over in his mind without actually trying to solve it. He was so wrapped up in the grim clue that he completely missed his godfather inviting Neville to join them for supper in their guest suite after he had cleaned up since Harry's experiments had cut well into the evening meal time. He probably would have even overlooked the fact that his guardian had returned if not for the fact that Mr. Holmes had intercepted him on his way to his guestroom.
"You're late, Mr. Potter, and you are positively filthy," Mr. Homes admonished with a slight frown as he inspected Harry from head to toe.
"Mr. Black took me down to the greenhouses to carry out a couple of experiments with the egg Little Lady retrieved for me from the first task," Harry wearily explained even as he straightened his posture and gave his guardian his complete attention. "I lost track of time during the experiments and hadn't realized I was running late. I can assure you it won't happen again, sir."
"See that it doesn't; it is unbecoming of a gentleman to mismanage his time," Mr. Holmes sternly replied without a trace of the censure that would normally coat the man's tone when dealing with tardiness.
"Yes, sir, Mr. Holmes."
"Good. Go wash up for supper."
"Huxeford…!" the younger Mr. Holmes drawled the moment Harry turned to leave the room.
"Harry…!" Harry automatically retorted as he glanced in the man's direction.
"Yes, yes, we know how attached you are to that boring old name. More importantly; were your experiments fruitful? Were you able to divine the clue that the imbecilic egg you are holding is purported to contain?"
"Yes, I was able to learn the egg's clue."
"Well, don't keep us in suspense! Tell us what you learned!"
Harry didn't answer right away; the teen choosing instead to resume walking towards his borrowed room so that he could get cleaned up for supper. He was half tempted to leave Sherlock hanging (since it would annoy the man) but he wasn't really in the mood to play word games right that moment. With that in mind, he paused again in the doorway of his room with one hand on the door as he flatly stated, "Some one is going to steal what I would sorely miss and I will only have an hour to find it and take it back before I lose it forever."
A stunned silence fell over the room for a full minute as the implications of Harry's words sank in. Harry took advantage of their shock to slip into his room and shut the door behind him. Hopefully, any outbursts the revelation of the clue would ignite would be mostly over by the time he and Little Lady finished taking a shower. He was far too tired to sit and listen to the adults in his life resort to useless arguments right now.
He was far more worried about Little Lady's life… since she was the one thing (being) that he'd sorely miss.
And it would kill him if anything happened to her.
That's not to say he wouldn't miss any of the adults in his life either, because he would. He just wasn't as close to them as he was to the feline. She was his friend, his partner, his confidant, and (as corny as it sounded) she was his heart.
A part of him could not imagine a life without her in it.
And he'd be damned if he allowed anyone to take her from him.
Angelo's restaurant – as far as I know the restaurant is an Italian one but I could be wrong as I've never actually watched BBC's Sherlock and the Wiki didn't state what kind of restaurant it was on Angelo's page. As Angelo is an Italian name I chose to assume that he opened an Italian restaurant. If this is incorrect and any one knows the true nature of the restaurant in question, please let me know and I will update the chapter with the correct info.
Mermaid Song – okay, some people might get a little upset that I allowed Harry to hear the song without sticking his head in the water but my reasoning for that is threefold. First, the egg was in a very shallow pool of water and therefore there wasn't enough water to drown out the sound. Second, based upon Dumbledore's funeral in the sixth book, merfolk singing just under the surface of the water can be heard above ground for quite some distance and Harry was standing right above the egg. And third, Harry has enhanced hearing and his 'Namelessness' to help him pick out muted sounds.
* Lyrics of the mermaid song are a direct quote from page 463 in chap 25 (The Egg and The Eye) of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (US paperback edition of 2002). The arrangement of the lyrics is obviously out of order as I chose to have him open it mid-loop due to how many times he's opened and closed it and how long it's sat open during his experiments.
AN: Finally! This chapter just did not want to be written and most of it was written one painful word at a time. I can't even count the number of times I'd scrapped the entire chapter and started it over before the current version finally came into being. And Neville was being a right pain in the arse about it too. I'm pretty certain he was doing it on purpose too. All because he'd not gotten any screen time until now - disregarding the veiled references made to him in the prologue. So, you can blame him for the delay!
Anyway, I hope this chapter reassures my readers that this story has not been abandoned even though it has been over a year since I'd last updated it. I'm hopeful that the next chapter won't take as long to write but I'm not going to hold my breath since I haven't even started it yet. In fact, I ran from my story document for this story the moment I'd written the last word on this chapter in order to escape from it. I'm still not going to abandon it though.
I guess that covers about everything I needed to say. Oh, for those who asked, my hand is mostly healed now and it shouldn't scar too badly since I hadn't burned it as bad as I'd originally thought I had - even if I had burnt it pretty bad. And no, I'm still not going to say how I managed to burn my hand. *mutters under breath about stupid blond genes*
Anywho, I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Be sure to keep an eye on my author's page for the on-going status reports for all of my stories if you are looking to know when the next chapter of any given story will be posted! As always, thank you for your patience and thank you for reading/reviewing/tracking my stories! ~ Jenn