Chapter Fifty-Seven

It wasn't as easy as just putting in a Floo call to Bill and having him Floo over. Harry didn't know why he had ever expected it to be. His luck didn't work like that, would probably never work like that.

The first problem was keeping this from the rest of the castle, students and teachers alike. There just wasn't a good explanation for how Harry and Luna had done this, and why that hadn't brought a teacher into it sooner. Not to mention the questions about the advanced magic that would've had to been used in order to restore the Chamber to its current state of functionality. Prodigy or not, Harry shouldn't have been able to accomplish half of what he'd done in the Chamber in such a short amount of time. The teenage Archangel wasn't ready to bring anyone else into his secret either. He didn't trust the rest of the Hogwarts staff to the extent that he trusted the Weasley's. Dumbledore was in the know because Harry knew that he needed the man, and he trusted the Headmaster enough that it didn't make his skin crawl to have him know. The next one that was going to be told was Ron, Harry refused to tell anyone else before his redhaired best friend.

Thankfully, Dumbledore seemed to agree that the rest of the staff shouldn't be brought into this.

That meant that they had to be careful of how they handled this. According to the Headmaster, no one outside of him knew that the wards had been slowly failing for centuries now. It was probably the most well-kept secret in Hogwarts, despite the fact that keeping anything secret in the castle was supposed to be impossible.

Gabriel snickered at the thought. 'It's that thought process that makes it possible for people to keep secrets in this place. Since everyone expects there to be none, they don't go looking for them. I doubt we've found half of the secrets contained in these walls.'

Harry hummed in agreement. He'd had that thought before as well. It was kind of naïve to think that everyone knew everything there was to know about everyone and everything in this castle. Harry's status as an Archangel was confirmation of that. Other than Ron and Hermione, none of the students had once suspected that he was something other than plain old Harry Potter. Strange and seemingly at the center of the most bizarre situations, but still human.

Luna really didn't count. Her ability to see his wings and hear Gabriel (or whatever it was that she did) meant that she'd always known that there was something different about it. There wasn't any need to suspect something if you already knew it.

Dumbledore and Remus had been the only ones to suspect among the staff. With both of them in the know, there wasn't anyone left that suspected he was anything other than Harry Potter amongst the adults in the castle.

Sirius, like Luna, didn't count.

"Honestly, mate, what did that parchment ever do to you?" Ron asked jokingly.

Harry blinked at the redhead and glanced down. Lost in thought, Harry had completely cut through the parchment with his quill. "Great," the teen grumbled. "I'm going to have to start from the beginning."

Snape, while not as bad as previous years, still was harsh on his grading. Harry didn't want to give the man a single excuse to mark him down unfairly. Which meant the state of his essay, including his handwriting, had to be the best that he could make it if he wanted to get anything other than an Acceptable.

Slimy bastard, Harry thought uncharitably. If there was one person in this life that he hated the most, it was Severus Snape. The man was a biased, greasy, unpleasant, bully on a good day. He was downright cruel and malicious on a bad one. He was still on probation after the fiasco with Harry's detentions, but that didn't cover biased grading, Harry had discovered. Or it didn't count biased grading on his homework. During class, Snape didn't dare sabotage his grade in front of witnesses.

Harry had thought about complaining more than once before deciding that it didn't really matter. His Hogwarts grades were just there to let him get into the class for the next year. Even if Harry didn't make the grade for the class after his OWLs, he could still take the potions NEWT with permission from his guardian (Sirius) and the Headmaster.

Therefore, Harry couldn't be bothered to care about the man. OWLs and NEWTs were the only grades that really mattered past Hogwarts anyway.

"How's your Divination homework going?" Harry asked as he pulled out a new piece of parchment to begin redoing his essay.

Ron groaned. "I should have listened to Hermione and taken another class. Trewlaney is a joke. She's already predicted my death three times this year. Poor Neville has it worse. She's predicted his death every class since the start of the year. I thought he was going to pass out the first time. Honestly."

Harry winced, glad that he hadn't bothered with the subject. Divination was a joke, and the teacher was just as bad from what he'd heard about her from Ron. "That's rough," the black-haired teen nodded in solidarity.

Ron grinned at him a bit. "Still, the homework is kind of fun, in a way. The more outrageous things I make up, the higher the grade I get. Bonus points if I manage to work you into it somehow. I think if you'd taken her class, she would have picked you instead of Neville for the death predictions."

Harry grimaced at that. "There isn't enough money in the world," he told his friend seriously. "I already put up with Sirius, that's enough crazy for me, thanks."

Ron laughed this time, having witnessed the ridiculousness that was Sirius Black firsthand. "Fair enough."

"So what are you making up for this essay?" Harry asked, curious despite himself. Sometimes Ron's imagination was downright hilarious. It was obvious that he was related to the twins when he got really going.

"That the tournament is just a giant plot to kidnap you for some dark ritual," Ron said easily. "All of it masterminded by the Rat, instructed by You-Know-Who."

Harry blinked. That actually sounded pretty plausible, honestly.

Ron nodded at his expression. "Yeah, I thought so too. Just a guess though, mate. I don't think that it'll really end up working like that."

"I wonder if you get extra credit if you're right?" Harry wondered out loud as Gabriel grumbled about the probability of that actually happening.

"I hope not," Ron frowned at him. "If you end up in the hospital wing again, Mum is going to cover you in protective spells until you can't move. Sirius might help her too."

"Don't give them ideas," Harry tsked at the redhead. "They might just try it."

Ron laughed and both of them got back to work.

Harry tried to ignore the niggling feeling in the back of his head saying that this conversation was going to come back and bite him.

Gabriel didn't say a word.

"Rowena, is this really necessary?" Salazar asked, watching the witch work with critical eyes. "What purpose does it serve to mimic the sky within the ceiling?"

"Hush, Salazar," the witch responded curtly. "It is not necessary that all we do must serve a purpose. Think of the complex magic it would take to have the ceiling reflect the sky!"

Salazar sighed. He should have predicted this outcome the moment that Rowena had started experimenting with reflection spells within their workspaces. With the beginnings of construction within the cleared caves below the castle ground, it was only natural for the witch to begin playing with the less important aspects of what they wished to do here.

The caves were not nearly as bad off as Salazar and Godric had feared. The Boggarts that had been the cause of their sealing had long since moved on with no prey to feed them. The remaining were creatures that were easily dealt with. None of them with a hint of magic. A few spells combined with wards to keep them returning had the caves cleared of all life in naught but a fortnight.

With that done, it was agreed that the siege hold would be Salazar's to design. Helga had appeared to be delighted at his compromise, promising to help in any way that he required. A kind offer, despite Salazar knowing that she was not one for long periods spent underground. Helga was a Herbologist first and foremost. The sun was as necessary to her survival as water. Still, he could not help but smile at the thought of her offer.

It was rare, even after all this time, for Salazar to receive an offer of help in a matter of importance to him. With every instance that these three companions had done so, Salazar had been warmed at their care. He did not regret that he had chosen to come with Godric all that time ago, lured with the thought of this place where gifted could be safe from the ungifted that hunted them with death.

"Would it not be better to finish the wards before we alter the castle further?" Salazar tried, hoping to reason with her. There was much work to still be done. Once they were truly safe, Rowena could add as many changes to the stone around them as she wished.

The witch blink at him. This was the first time that Salazar had tried to use this tactic on her. It was usually Godric that had him attempting to use reason to get their friend to stop in his antics.

"I can see the logic in that," Rowena answered thoughtfully. She was too smart to not realize what Salazar was attempting. The parselmouth had expected that, knowing it would catch her attention more than arguing with her. "A compromise," she said after a second moment of contemplation.

"Oh?" Salazar asked, curious despite himself.

"Once the wards are set, you will help me with my experiment," Rowena said, smiling at him. "Think of the possibilities, Salazar! If we can enchant stone to reflect the sky, what else might we be able to enchant it to reflect? Mayhap we may even manage to reflect light itself!"

Salazar paused, considering that. It would be useful to learn such magicks. Candles were not always going to be a viable source of light. They were consumable and lasted not nearly long enough for his taste.

"Very well," he agreed. "I will help with your experiments once the wards are set."

Rowena smiled at him, the expression lighting up her face in a way that reminded him of another witch of younger years that had once been the light of his life.

His family may be gone, never to return. Yet with these three, Salazar could not help the feeling that he had found a new family to protect.

Watching as Rowena finished her work, preparing to come with him to work on the wards, Salazar vowed that he would never let another family be taken from him.

He would set fire and ash to the world before he let them come to harm.

Despite popular belief, Ron Weasley wasn't stupid.

While he might not really put much effort into his classes, preferring to merely pass, Ron was actually pretty intelligent. His intelligence, however, lent itself in strategy in the form of chess. In the game of chess, you needed to see the little details, observe your opponents, and predict the moves that they were going to make in order to come out victorious.

All of which meant that he knew Hermione was in on whatever the secret Harry had was.

Maybe in the past, that would have hurt. He might have lashed out, infuriated that he wasn't let in on what was going on as well. The urge was still there, Ron wouldn't deny that. What stayed his hand was the little details. The way Harry kept subtly asking how his occlumency was going, how Sirius was testing his barriers more, and how Hermione spent time helping him come up with new strategies to implement.

All of that told the redhead that Harry was trying to speed his progress now that Hermione was in the know. And if Harry was trying to speed his progress, it was because he didn't like only one of them knowing what was going on with him.

Ron's hurt feelings were soothed by that.

Not that it stopped him from paying more attention to his best friends.

He couldn't help it! Ron adored mysteries and trying to solve them! It was what connected him to Harry and Hermione in the first place! And this year, their fourth year at Hogwarts was steeped in mysteries.

Why had Crouch Jr. put Harry's name in the goblet? Was it really a plot coming from You-Know-Who and that damn rat? If so, why? What caused Dumbledore to look so spooked at the second task? What was that locket which destroyed the dorm room? Where were Harry, Hermione, and Luna Lovegood of all people disappearing to every once in a while? Why was it that he'd seen Hermione looking over some muggle mythology book that her parents had sent her? It wasn't muggle studies, Ron had asked some of the others he knew were in that class if there'd been a research assignment like that given by the teacher when Hermione had dodged the question.

There were probably even more mysteries that were lurking underneath the everyday drama that Hogwarts brought. Ron itched to find them and solve them.

Instead, Ron kept working on his barriers. Building and reshaping the maze he was creating in his mind every day. He took advantage of Sirius' new drive to test those mazes. Whenever the man-made it passed, Ron took that as a challenge to further drive him.

Ron Weasley wasn't stupid. In the past, even he might have told you otherwise. Each time that he might believe himself thick, think that he couldn't possibly have any real skillset, Ron only had to look at his two best friends to find his confidence.

Harry and Hermione were smart. Terrifyingly brilliant. While Harry might have hung out with him even if Ron weren't bright, the redhead had heard more than one rant from Hermione about the stupidity of her dorm mates and others in their year. How talking to them felt like hitting her head against a brick wall.

Ron couldn't be stupid because Hermione wouldn't seek him out to talk to him alone otherwise. She wouldn't sit there and help him come up with strategies. She would hang out with Harry and leave him behind.

Knowing that, in her eyes, Ron wasn't stupid was enough to combat that nagging voice that tried to convince him otherwise.

"Again," the redhead said as Sirius pulled out of his mind, having gotten past the latest hurdles. Ron was already shifting his maze, creating new dead ends and adding in fake memories at the end of false paths. It was becoming easier and easier to change them, almost becoming second nature.

Sirius grinned at him. "You're getting better. This time try shifting the maze while I'm making my way through."

Ron nodded, eyes sparkling in determination.


Bill Weasley looked at the letter in his hand, frowning.

The last three years had been some of the most stressful and strangest in his entire life. When Bill had first come home the Christmas before Ginny was almost taken from them, he'd been surprised to see a hint of black hair amongst his returning siblings. Neither of his parents had warned him that Harry Potter, Ron's best friend, would be with them for the holidays.

It had struck him as strange that Harry was there when his own family surely should have wanted him home with them. Bill had kept those thoughts quiet, deciding that he would wait to see before approaching the black-haired boy about his relatives.

What he'd seen and what Charlie had reported being told by the twin and Ron had nearly had Bill tracking down those muggles and cursing them so hard their ancestors felt it. Bars on the window? Starving the kid? None of his siblings would lie about things like that. The eldest Weasley couldn't help but wonder what else those muggles had done that they didn't know about.

Despite it all, Harry was an absolute sweetheart. Bill had been stunned when he'd found a carefully wrapped gift from the boy with his own name on it. So had Charlie. They hadn't known Harry for even a single week and neither had even considered they'd find something from him for them.

When the holidays had ended, Bill had waited patiently for his parents to come back. "So," he'd asked. "When are you going to add him to the clock?"

The look of surprised delight on their faces had been worth it, with Charlie giving his own approval. They might not have known him long, but Bill was certain that Harry was going to be a part of their family for the rest of his life.

Which is why he'd nearly had heart failure when his father had fired called him about the Chamber, Ginny's near death, and her rescue at the hands of the black-haired boy that he was already considering his newest younger brother. The description of Harry's injuries…dear Merlin, it was a miracle that the boy was still alive. In one year, Bill had almost lost Percy, Ginny, and the sweet boy who made his youngest brother break out of his shell. Who had gotten extremely thoughtful presents for two people he had never met before.

Then Sirius Black broke out of prison and Bill had to wonder if the universe was trying to kill the boy before he graduated. The less said about how he reacted to Scabbers as Peter Pettigrew, the better. The only good thing about the entire fiasco was clearing Sirius' name and getting Harry away from those things pretending to be related to him.

Bill had a very low opinion of the Dursley family. It was probably better for them if Bill never figured out where they lived. Especially better if his Mum never got a hold of their address as well.

When Sirius recruited him for warding their new home, going as far to hire him through proper channels, Bill had decided that he'd reserve judgment on the ex-convict. Watching him interact with Harry and lament not being able to recruit Charlie in the moving scheme, Bill had decided that the man would be good for his black-haired brother.

That Harry had permission to be at the Burrow whenever he wanted had only cemented Bill's approval. Sirius was clearly supportive of Harry's relationship with the Weasley family and planning on doing his best to keep them involved in Harry's life. Going as far as even tutoring Ron and Hermione in Occlumency. Remus Lupin and Sirius Black were the last links to Harry's birth family and Bill was glad that Harry had them in his life.

When his mum kidnapped Remus for Christmas this year, Bill took that as a sign that they were officially part of the Weasley clan now. He'd laughed his ass off when Ron had written him about the unholy trinity of terror those three caused after Harry's name was pulled out of the goblet.

The TriWizard Tournament… Bill wished it had remained a forgotten relic. With every new article on it, Bill couldn't help but feel his anxiety rise. Harry, while smart, was a fourth year. He shouldn't be in a task that dealt with nesting dragons or with the Merpeople of the Black lake. He shouldn't be more of a spectator.

Bill Weasley was terrified he was going to get a call from his parents that Harry had been injured severely in one of the tasks. He'd thrown himself into research on how to break the contract on the goblet. With each new dead end, his anger and worry grew. Not even the books he was allowed to look at by the goblins (which he was not questioning at the moment but would definitely be interrogating Harry on when this was all over and his newest brother was safe) gave any solution that he could implement. They were almost to the last task and Bill wasn't anywhere close to magical means of breaking that bloody contract.

He probably would have continued his research without pause if he hadn't received a request for his aid from Hogwarts, fielded to him by Gringotts. Bill spent more than a few minutes staring at the work request in disbelief before his mind kicked back into gear.

This was his chance to get a look at the goblet, see for himself the magic that powered it. Before, there was no valid excuse to get onto Hogwarts grounds. This was his chance. He might even swing it so that he could get into the restricted section of the Hogwarts library, which was filled with books not available anywhere else.

Bill Weasley was going to Hogwarts, and if he had to break that goblet into a hundred pieces, he was destroying that magical contract.

Harry had saved Ginny. It was time for one of the Weasley's to save him.

Merry Christmas!

I honestly wanted to have this up earlier, however, life decided to happen. I got severe bronchitis before finals week and I'm sure that any of you who are in college will know the chaos that being put two weeks behind in class right before Finals causes. Like seriously, I was not having a good time.

As promised, I have not abandoned this story because of Rowling. While I'm even less happy with her since my author's note, I've moved on from sadness to spite. I've also moved the author's note chapter to the profile. I don't have really anything else to say at the moment (it is 5:30am and asking me to verbalize before 9am and after around 3am is not happening -.-'). I hope you all have a great holiday season!