Later that night, after being woken up by Hedwig an hour later than he was meant to wake up, Harry decided that crashing the economy and endangering the lives of hundreds of people in order to cause a distraction for Sirius and Lisa, who were both halfway across the world right now, wasn't that good of an idea.
Pulling up that Quest window, Harry gave it one last read.
Crash the British Magical Economy. Why? Does the reason even matter?
Sirius will be freer than ever
The quest, while potentially fun, wasn't very practical. With a regretful sigh, he pressed NO.
Still, there was an upside to this. Now that he knew that he could do something like that, it was now a weapon in his arsenal in case…in case the Ministry was taken over by someone with less than benevolent intentions. Or in case they managed to piss him off enough to make him overlook the potential collateral damage that such a thing would cause.
Harry could almost bet that the second one was going to happen sooner or later.
Using the Glamour skill to make sure he looked half presentable; making a mental note to work on evolving that skill later; Harry quickly grabbed his duffel bag and with Hedwig on his shoulder, headed downstairs. He was already late, and there was no time to waste.
Saying his goodbyes to Perenelle at the dinner table, he chucked a plate of salad as hard as he could at Nicholas's face before making a quick escape out of the apartment and into the corridor that led down to the small room containing the building's public Floo fireplace.
"What was that about?" Hedwig asked amusedly as they headed down the corridor.
"I told you, Hedwig," Harry said, "He lifted an island a hundred feet into the air and dumped it onto me. It was painful as all hell, and I want revenge."
"So you decided to start with salad flinging."
"Have to start somewhere right?" Harry threw back, ignoring the snark in Hedwig's voice. She wasn't the one who had just decided to reject a perfectly awesome method of world domination and was then forced to think up an impromptu revenge idea.
"And why are we running like cowards?" Hedwig asked nonchalantly as she preened her feathers.
Harry stopped in his tracks and turned to stare at her, "He lifted an island a hundred feet into the air and dumped it onto me. That's why we are running."
Hedwig paused in her grooming, before turning to return Harry's flat stare, "Think of better revenge ideas next time Harry. That was embarrassing."
"Will do," he agreed after a small pause, before stepping into the Floo room and handing a sickle to the doorman, who was staring in awe at Hedwig. Harry sighed. This sort of reaction was why he only used to take Hedwig out in public while she was in his expanded pocket.
And then Perenelle happened.
She had sat down with him while he was away from Hedwig and talked to him about how hiding Hedwig like this could make her feel like he was ashamed of her, also telling him about how it wasn't healthy for someone as young as her. And as much as anonymity in public was precious to Harry, it wasn't more precious to him than Hedwig.
Thus, the phoenix's spot during their outside visits had moved from the pocket onto Harry's shoulder.
Shaking off his discomfort at being stared at, Harry grabbed a handful of Floo powder and stepped up to the fire. Hedwig's voice echoed quietly in his mind at the exact moment, her tone grateful, "Thank you for being considerate Harry."
Harry frowned, feeling slightly uncomfortable.
He was sure that he hadn't been that obvious with his efforts to make Hedwig more comfortable. How did she notice?
"You're smarter than you have any right to be," he muttered under his breath, making sure that the doorman wouldn't hear anything, "Has Perenelle been feeding you Wit Potions behind my back?"
"Just accept the compliment and shut up."
And so Harry did.
Throwing the Floo powder into the fire, he stepped in, clearly saying the Floo address of his destination.
The fire blazed a vibrant green, sending him hurtling through the Floo Network with a whoosh. Flashing lights and darkness overtook his vision for a few moments before his feet suddenly found ground, and Harry clenched every muscle in his body to make sure that he wouldn't lose his balance as he rematerialized in the Weasley household and stepped out of the fireplace.
"Harry!" Mrs. Weasley hustled over to him immediately, hastily dusting off the ash and dust that had gotten on his shirt, "We thought you were going to apparate over with Phoenix travel! Why did you come through the Floo? You've gotten your sweater dirty."
Harry smiled sheepishly as he stood still and let Mrs. Weasley pull out her wand and run it over his shirt and clean up the splotches of dust and charcoal, "I figured you wouldn't want me apparating right into the middle of your living room."
"Well, I appreciate the courtesy, but you needn't have worried about that. You're welcome here any time Harry," Mr. Weasley said, standing up from his armchair with a smile. Harry nodded before he curiously noticed the small trunk that stood beside the chair.
"Are you going out somewhere?"
Mrs. Weasley stood back and looked over Harry's sweater one final time, satisfied with her handiwork, before answering his question, "My great-aunt Muriel has gone down with a bad case of rickety-flu, which is why Arthur has taken a tomorrow off work and we're heading over to check on her."
"The old girl would appreciate the company," Mr. Weasley added.
Mrs. Weasley's face contorted into a harsh frown, "She sure doesn't talk to us like she does."
"You know how Muriel is Molly. Her heart is in the right place," Mr. Weasley hurriedly assuaged, before turning to Harry, "We put out a bed and conjured up a bird-perch in Ron's room for you and Hedwig. The twins have gone over to their friend Lee Jordan's place for the night, and Percy is in charge while we are gone. Don't think twice about going to him if you have any problems. Everyone else has already gone to sleep, so you can say your hellos tomorrow morning."
Harry nodded before asking, "Has Hermione arrived?"
"She arrived earlier in the evening. She's bedding in Ginny's room," Mrs. Weasley replied before she suddenly caught sight of the wall clock and gave a huge start, "Oh dear! You'll find your way up to Ron's room won't you Harry? It's getting really late and we need to head out."
"I'll be fine Mrs. Weasley," Harry assured her.
And so the two adult Weasleys quickly grabbed the trunk and headed out of the house, closing the door behind them. A loud 'pop' of apparition let Harry know that they were gone.
"They were late because of us weren't they?" Hedwig, who had been silent so far, piped up.
Another one of Hedwig's behaviors that Harry had noticed recently was that the list of people she actually talked to had managed to stay pretty self-contained. There were the Flamels, Fawkes, Harry, and the one time she had talked to Sirius. Even Dumbledore she had never directly addressed. Harry had speculated that it was some behavior unique to phoenixes. That would explain why most people didn't know that Fawkes; or phoenixes in general; could talk.
"They were late because of you," Harry corrected, shaking off his thoughts as he headed down a narrow passageway towards the staircase, "You didn't wake me up in time."
Hedwig let out a mental huff, but didn't argue as they headed up the uneven staircase which wound its way, zigzagging up through the house. Stepping onto the fifth landing, they reached a door with peeling paint and a small plaque on it, saying RONALD'S ROOM. Harry quietly opened the door and stepped in, curiously taking in his surroundings. He had never really seen Ron's room before.
Nearly everything seemed to be a violent shade of orange; the poster-covered walls, the ceiling, the bedspread, as well as the hair of the boy who was sound asleep on top of the aforementioned bedspread. Ron's school spellbooks were stacked untidily in a corner, next to a pile of comics that all seemed to feature The Adventures of Martin Miggs, the Mad Muggle. Ron's wand was lying on top of a fish tank full of frog spawn on the windowsill, next to a rat cage which seemed devoid of Scabbers, Ron's fat gray rat.
Ron's undying love for his favorite Quidditch team, the Chudley Cannons, seemed emblazoned in the very essence of the room.
A soft chuckle escaped Harry as he walked over to the empty camp bed that had been set up for him and put his duffel bag onto it, at the same time admiring the collection of posters the boy had. If the Chudley Cannons did actually become good, then he could make some serious gold by selling these.
It was a very big 'if' though. Chudley Cannons were solidly at the bottom of the Champion's League.
Hedwig took off from Harry's shoulder and glided over onto the wooden perch Mr. Weasley had conjured for her before closing her eyes and dozing off. Harry knew that Floo travel didn't really suit her, so he just let her be, instead choosing to shake of his shoes and climb into the blankets himself, ready to sleep off the night and wake up to a fun day tomorrow.
Sleep, however, refused to come to Harry.
Understandable; since he had just woken up from a long nap; but very inconvenient considering he had over six hours left to spend in the night. So Harry decided to try and count his way to sleep, "One giant squid humping a Hogwarts tower, two giant squids humping a Hogwarts tower, three giant squids humping a tower…"
Even after 258 giant squids had humped the Hogwarts tower, Harry was nowhere near as close to sleep. Giving up on the number thing as well as on his sleep; Harry decided to open up his inventory and organize in order to pass the time.
The first slot in his inventory stopped him right on his tracks.
Founders Clue #2!
Memory Page (2/4)
A piece of paper capable of showing the user a pre-programmed memory once the paper's password is written on it. This particular memory page was created in 982 AD.
Password: Speak to me Slytherin. Scourge of the Hogwarts Four
His original plan had been to wait until he got back from the Weasleys to look into this memory page, but seeing as he had a few hours to pass now…Harry quickly checked Ron's status.
Ronald Weasley Lv - 7 (Status: Deep Sleep)
After making sure that Ron was fully asleep, he cast a locking charm on the door using Riddle's wand. He then pulled out the Memory Page and a quill from his Inventory and wrote down the password neatly onto the Page.
Speak to me Slytherin. Scourge of the Hogwarts Four
Just like it had the last time Harry had activated a memory page, the words seeped through the page and disappeared before the ink rose back to the surface and formed a circle about as wide as his hand. The circle glowed with a flickering silvery blue light. Slightly trembling, Harry placed a single finger on the circle. Instantly, the world around him lurched backward; the circle widened, and he was tossed head first through the opening in the paper into a whirl of color and shadow.
A fleeting, heart-stopping second later, he felt his feet hit solid ground. Slowly but surely, the blurred shapes around him came into focus.
With a lurch in his stomach, he realized that he was standing in the middle of the Chamber of Secrets.
Not the Chamber that he had walked into all mere weeks ago, but what looked like a grander, more livable version. Torches lit every corner of the place brilliantly and the dank moisture that had perfused every inch of the Chamber in Harry's time seemed to be completely absent here. Something else that was absent from the Chamber was Slytherin's humongous statue. The stone of that wall seemed to be still uncarved and plain, with the only thing on it being a door-shaped opening that Harry knew led to the Inner chamber.
The sudden click-clack of boots landing on the floor startled Harry, and he sprung around, only to see a green-robed man with a neat beard step into the Chamber; the snake engraved stone doors sliding shut behind him with a low thud.
His face was familiar to Harry. He had seen in back in his first year, during his brief stint in the Sorting Hat's consciousness. It was Salazar Slytherin.
With purposeful strides, he made his way through the Chamber, passing Harry as he headed towards the entrance to the Inner chamber. Harry hurriedly followed, bursting into a slight jog to keep up with the man, simultaneously keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. They walked straight across the entire Chamber before stopping right in front of the entrance. Slytherin lifted his hand and lazily waved, muttering an unfamiliar incantation, "Arcania Dissolus"
The stone around the doorway flashed vibrant purple for a single second. Protective wards, Harry recognized. As soon as the glow from the stone stopped entirely, Slytherin headed into the tunnel. Harry followed, now almost certain that whatever this memory was about was going to be inside the Inner Sanctum. The light from the chamber behind them soon disappeared around a bend, leaving them walking forward in the complete darkness.
It was a few moments and couple more bends later that the end of the tunnel appeared; lit by single torch; a solid wall with a snake carved on it.
"Open" Slytherin hissed in Parseltongue, and the wall slid open.
This inner chamber must have been seriously modified in later years, because as it wasn't a small room that Harry had seen before. Instead, it resembled a humongous dome; a hemispherical stone arena capable of containing two full-grown Basilisks with ease! There were no seats, but on every single surface, including the curved walls and roof, were Runes and symbols that glowed gently, casting dim light across the entire arena. Harry could recognize a couple of them, but most of them looked foreign to him.
Engrossed by the runes as he was, Harry was startled when a rumbling sound started right beside him. Realizing that Slytherin had stepped into the arena and the entrance was slowly sliding shut, Harry quickly stepped in as well.
Slytherin pulled out a thick hard-binded journal and an eagle feather quill from his pocket before throwing them up into the air, where the quill sprung to life, darting to the journal; which had stopped mid-air and opened itself to an empty page; and poising itself with its nib on the paper, ready to write at a moment's command.
"Journal entry number 11. Title, the final experiment," Slytherin dictated, and the quill swiftly jotted down the words before neatly underlining them.
Harry stared at Slytherin, the journal, and the Dictaquill-like quill for a second, before looking back at the arena in comprehension. The runes…the journal…the dictation.
"This isn't an arena," he muttered to himself, "It's an experimentation chamber."
Slytherin's next line confirmed that. "In order to provide context should anyone in the future encounter this journal page in its entirety, I shall now dictate the circumstances that led to the conception of this experiment."
The quill flitted across the page, swiftly noting that down as Harry listened to him enraptured.
"For a great many years, the rivalry between the wand-wielding wizards of England and the magic weaving Celts had been bitter, but it was only in recent decades that those barbarians lashed out in an attempt to destroy our ways and customs. Our warriors were brave, but our numbers were too small, and soon they pushed the last of us back to the Hogwarts castle, killing all that stood in their way. As of three months ago, there were mere hundreds of us left alive. Our supplies were diminishing and our wards were being whittled down. Hogwarts was our last stand, and we were desperate."
Slytherin paused, giving the quill time to catch up to his dictation. Harry's mind was running as fast as it could, making connections from this to Ravenclaw's Memory page. The war with the Celts and how the remaining Anglo-Roman wizards had taken refuge at Hogwarts was something Ravenclaw had mentioned as well, though in nowhere near as much detail.
"But desperation is a great motivator," Slytherin continued, "My colleague Rowena of the Ravenclaws weaved mysterious magic, creating a servant race of elf-like creatures that changed the tide of the war. They used their unique magic to get past the enemy's lines and destroy them from the inside. Under Godric's leadership, our forces attacked, and within mere weeks we turned the tables, annihilating the entire Celtic armed force. It was the Celts who were desperate now…and desperation is a great motivator. The Celts brought upon this world something that they did not know the true power of. Dementors, they called them. Of course, being uncontrollable as they were, the creatures turned on them and ended them all. Then, they turned on us…Our spells failed. Our elves were crippled. Our warriors turned into lifeless husks. The Celts were gone, but they left us with something much worse."
There was another pause, and the sound of the quill scraping across the parchment of the book struggling to keep up echoed around the giant room. Harry mentally reconsidered the power he thought house elves had. If they were powerful enough to turn the tides against an enemy that had almost entirely destroyed the wizarding race then maybe his initial intention of freeing them completely required some more thought than he had previously given it.
Slytherin gave a tired exhale, before continuing, "That brings us to this experiment. Eleven days ago, through much effort, I managed to capture a Dementor for experimentation. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to eliminate it.
Quill, end paragraph. Start new section titled Experiment Procedure. Underline it."
Harry stared as Slytherin gave his instructions and finally paused to give the dictation quill the time to catch up. This was…chilling.
Slytherin dipped his hand into a pocket and pulled out his wand, waving it in a gentle arc over their heads before slashing it down in front of them.
Harry jerked back as the stone around them flowed and twisted, rising up around them to form four walls…then a roof, capturing them both in a small rectangular stone box that the tip of Slytherin's head touched when he moved.
When the room finished forming, he tapped the wall in front of them, turning it transparent.
"Experiment Procedure has begun. I have entered the shielded observation area, and will now bring out the captured Dementor." Slytherin dictated, sending a chill down Harry's spine.
A section of the floor on the left side of the room dissolved, and a cage with a cloaked figure floating in it rose. The loud rattling breath and the shriveled skeletal hands more than confirmed for Harry that it was a Dementor. He was really glad that he couldn't feel its effects through the memory.
"Prior experiments have shown two things," Slytherin continued, "One. After the Dementor was starved for three days, it lost its exclusive preference for humans and started attacking young magical animals for nourishment. Two. It has an instinctive dislike for fire, which signals a potential weakness that could allow it to be killed. Using these two observations, I have set up an experiment that will test if it can be killed with a powerful enough fire."
He paused, before pointing his wand at the other side of the room and giving it another twist.
This time, almost the entire half of the floor opened up, and a humongous cage at least five times the size of the Dementor's cage rose. As the contents of the cage rose into view, Harry's mouth fell open.
An enormous, fully grown, vicious-looking dragon with silvery-blue skin restlessly prowled around a nest of rocks, on the top of which lay a smaller baby dragon with awkwardly small wings and stubby legs.
Harry had a bad feeling about this.
It didn't take long for the mother dragon to catch sight of the creature across the room, upon which she immediately darted onto the pile of rocks and coiled herself around her child, snapping and snarling in the direction of the Dementor, who had reached out through the bars of its cage, clawing hungrily in the direction of the dragons.
That was apparently something that Slytherin expected because a smile spread across his face and he started dictating to the Journal, "The Experiment is as follows. A mother dragon and her child will be used. The child will serve as the bait for the Dementor, drawing it towards itself and the mother dragon, who wields Dragon's fire, one of the strongest fires known. If everything goes smoothly, the mother dragon will breathe Dragon's fire at the Dementor to protect her child, and that will let us know if fire can destroy it or not."
He waved his hand, and the cages around the Dementor and the dragons disappeared. The Dementor instantly started to glide across the room towards the dragons, clearly fixated on the younger of the two.
The quiet of it all felt like the calm before the storm to Harry, and he wasn't wrong.
As soon as the Dementor was within reach, the mother loudly snarled before darting out and snapping her jaws at the Dementor, which smoothly rose up into the air, dodging the attack before making a dive for the baby. The mother immediately darted back and coiled her body tighter around the baby; who had started to whimper fearfully; and spread her wings over them both, shielding her child from the Dementor's skeletal hands.
The Dementor, however, remained unfazed. Grabbing one of her wings with each hand, it twisted.
An ear-shattering roar of pain filled Harry's ears, making him wince.
The mother, despite her pain, managed to instinctively swing with her tail forcefully, catching the Dementor across its midsection and sending it flying away. It came to a halt mid-air a dozen feet from the nest, easily righting itself mid-air. The dragon's blow hadn't daunted it at all.
However, instead of charging in again, it paused, considering the mother as if it was seeing her for the first time. The mother dragon painfully dragged herself and her broken wings around her nest to position herself between the Dementor and her child.
The entire world felt like it had stopped for a second.
At the exact same instant the Dementor dove, the mother opened her mouth wide and roared. A large jet stream of white-hot fire erupted out of her mouth and slammed into the Dementor, and for a moment the hot flames hid it from sight.
The tenseness in Harry's stomach uncoiled a bit. The Dragon's fire was surely going to burn the Dementor down, just as it had both times he had used it, and this stupid experiment would come to an end.
He was in for a shock.
When the fire cleared, the Dementor wasn't even singed. It dove right through the flames and grabbed the mother's neck with both hands.
The dragon fell to the floor, limp and dead.
Harry stared aghast at the Dementor as it pushed the dead body aside and glided its way over to the baby before picking it up.
Beside him, Slytherin sighed, defeated, before starting to dictate, "The experiment has failed. Dragon's Fire failed to have any visible negative effects on the Demen-"
Suddenly, he stopped.
Harry frowned before turning to look at the Founder, whose head had snapped towards the dead dragon. Harry instantly realized why as soon as he looked back.
The mother dragon's chest started to glow with a pulsating bright green light, which upon falling on the Dementor completely froze it.
Slowly, the light floated out of her and coalesced into a ball, which hovered at the place for a fleeting moment before instantly darting into the baby's body, who flashed bright green for a second before going back to normal.
The Dementor unfroze as soon as the light disappeared and continued lifting the child up to its mouth, presumably to perform the dreaded Kiss. The baby dragon whimpered in terror as it stared into the mouth of its oncoming doom before in a final instinctive attempt at survival, it let out a loud cry.
A small burst of flame, barely larger than a candle, was all that came out. And the Dementor's cloak caught fire.
Harry watched, just as astonished as Slytherin beside him, as the Dementor dropped the dragon and desperately tried to put out the fire that was spreading faster across it's cloak than any fire he had ever seen. Hoarse otherworldly screams of pain rang across the room as the Dementor flailed around desperately trying to put itself out for the next ten minutes as the fire finally burnt through its cloak; then its flaking skin; then its flesh; until all that was left was just a pile of ash.
It took few more minutes for Slytherin to regain his bearings and wave his wand, making the stone box that had enclosed them vanish. He then grabbed the journal and quill out of the air and threw them back into his pocket before darting towards the small pile of rocks upon which the baby dragon lay unconscious. Once beside it, he dropped down to his knees.
Harry made it to him just in time to hear what he was saying.
"Sleep little one," Slytherin said, and there was a sad smile on his face. "Sleep, and let me go put your mother to rest in the manner she deserves. Her sacrifice will forever be cherished by the Wizardkind."
The memory exploded into a blast of color and dissolved into silvery strands, just as a mighty fog swept in and filled everything around Harry.
Salazar Slytherin's voice echoed in his ears, "My lesson to you, seeker of our paths, is this. Seek not true power afar, for you will only find it within."
The fog dissolved in a whirl of color and darkness, and Harry felt himself falling. With a soft thump, he fell back onto the bed in Ron's room.
As he quickly regained his bearings and stuffed the paper back into his inventory before laying back down on his bed ill at ease with himself, thoughts about what he had just witnessed filtered through his mind.
It didn't take him long to use Gamer's Mind to make the necessary connections. So far in this Quest, he was being told the tale of a forgotten war. How the British were losing at first, and then the house-elves turned the tides, which then led to the Dementors being let loose into the world, which in turn led to…whatever happened in the memory.
He really needed to find the remaining two Memory Pages before he could form a complete picture, but one thing was for sure, Harry thought as he pulled up the window for one of his most powerful skills.
He had a strong feeling that he had just witnessed exactly why his Dragon's Breath could kill Dementors.
Dragon's Breath, Lv-2
A concentrated breath of fire mimicking the magical properties of Dragon fire. Capable of burning through almost anything, and can be used for metal work too.
5% level of control
Cost - 950 MP
A mother sacrificing herself to save her child, granting powerful protection to the child. That was entirely too familiar to him after all.
Early next morning, loud thundering footsteps up the stairs woke Harry from his sleep. Just as he had pushed himself up to a sitting position and shared a bewildered stare with Ron, who had been woken up by the noise just like he was, Hermione came barging into the room, slamming the door open behind her.
"You two! Get yourself out of bed and downstairs!" she ordered, "We have letters from school."
That was enough to wake both of them up.
As Hermione left their room and went across the house loudly waking up anyone and everyone who was there, Harry and Ron quickly changed into fresh clothes.
"What'd you reckon the letter is about?" Ron asked in a muffled voice as he stuffed his head through the hole of his sweater.
"Don't know," Harry replied as he woke a half-disgruntled Hedwig up, "Could be about the end of the year exams. They were canceled once the school was suspended, so maybe they want us to take the exams in the Ministry or something."
"It could also be about which new school we go to couldn't it?" Ron asked hopefully. Harry knew that he wasn't the kind of guy who would be too keen on having to give exams.
"Could be," Harry agreed, "Has your Dad heard anything about which school we'll go to in the Ministry?"
"Dad?" Ron scoffed, "He knows about as many people in the Department of Education as our garden-gnomes do."
"Then I guess we'll find out what the letter is about downstairs."
"I'm not too keen on it though," Ron muttered, before clarifying further upon seeing Harry's curious look, "Don't want to be around Loony Lovegood. That girl is too many kinds of crazy at once."
"Luna Lovegood is here?" Harry asked, a feeling of dread creeping up his spine.
Ron frowned, "Didn't Mum and Dad tell you last night before leaving? When I convinced them to let you and Hermione come over for today, the twins and Ginny revolted. They went on a hunger strike, telling Dad that he was playing favorites. There was a whole episode, and at the end, they agreed to let the twins go over to their Lee Jordan's house and allow Lovegood to come over as well."
That feeling of dread that Harry was feeling creep up his spine decided to stop creeping and instead sped up into a sprightly walk, perhaps even a light run.
"You look disturbed Harry," Hedwig's voice echoed in his mind as she flapped over onto his shoulder.
Harry frowned before looking at Ron, who seemed to be obliviously putting on socks. He hadn't heard Hedwig's voice, which meant that Hedwig was keeping this conversation between them both.
"It's nothing," Harry muttered under his breath.
Soon, they finished putting on their clothes and headed downstairs, where Hermione, Ginny, Percy, and much to Harry's trepidation, Luna Lovegood were sitting around the kitchen table.
They headed over and found chairs for themselves, Hedwig taking off from Harry's shoulder and flying onto the top of the grandfather clock where she perched herself, proudly looking over the room like an overly self-important guardian angel.
Harry looked around the table.
Percy and Ginny were openly staring at Hedwig, Hermione was looking through a stack of letters that she held, Ron seemed to be fearfully leaning away from Luna, who was sitting next to him with a bright woozy smile aimed right at Harry who was sitting across the table from her.
"Hello Harry!" she said happily once their eyes met, raising her hand into the air and wildly waving at him, "You have a pretty bird."
"Hello Luna," Harry replied, relieved that Luna seemed to have stopped calling him 'Mr. Toadinger' and started referring to him by his real name, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said, before giving him a blatantly obvious wink and a thumbs up. Harry's relief flew down the drain.
Ginny, who seemed a lot less shy since the last time Harry had seen her, frowned before asking, "What was that about Luna?"
"Well, Ginny," Luna started magnanimously, "You see, Harry is actually an Umdingering Toadinger-"
"He's a what?" Hermione interrupted, looking up from the letters she was arranging, befuddled.
"I think we're getting off the topic here. We need to look at those letters," Harry hurriedly intervened before his secrets and sanity could follow his relief down the drain, looking at Percy as he silently urged him to take charge of the conversation.
Percy, thankfully, cottoned on pretty fast, "Right. Granger, do you have everyone's letters here? Even yours, Lovegood's and Potter's?"
Hermione nodded before passing the letters around the table to everyone, "These letters don't have addresses on them, just our names, so the owls probably ended up finding us instead of going to our homes."
Harry took his letter, before cracking open the Hogwarts wax seal and pulling out the parchment paper.
HOGWARTS SCHOOL of WITCHCRAFT and WIZARDRY
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Mr. Potter,
We regret to inform you that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will remain closed until an unknown amount of time due to ongoing security and staff revisions. The end of the year exams for the term of 1992-1993 have been suspended, and all the students have been granted passing marks by default. Since our students' education is our first priority, you will be temporarily transferred to another school, where you will receive the same high quality of education that you have come to expect at Hogwarts.
That school is yet to be decided, and you will be notified by owl as soon as it is finalized. Enclosed is a brochure containing a list of the various schools of magic around the world for your information.
Harry looked over to peek at Hermione's letter, which seemed to be pretty much identical to his. Soon, everyone else finished reading their letters as well, it didn't take long to confirm that Ginny, Ron, Luna, Hermione as well as Harry had pretty much identical letters. Percy, however, looked like someone had taken the ground out from under his feet.
"Percy?" Ron asked, "What's wrong?"
Percy looked up from the letter at Ron, and then back at the letter, before shaking his head, "It's nothing. I need to go see if I can find some stuff on these schools in my books. You…you lot behave down here alright?"
He pushed back his chair, stood up, and headed up the staircase with a blank look on his face.
Ron stared after him with a frown, "What's wrong with him?"
"Ron you idiot," Ginny admonished as soon as Percy's footsteps were out of earshot, "You know how excited he was about becoming Head Boy next year. He's probably devastated."
"Oh," Ron wilted, "I didn't think. I thought he was still mad at me because Scabbers is missing."
Ginny looked ready to tear into Ron again, which was probably why Hermione quickly interrupted the conversation, "That's all well and good, but what Percy said is right. We should research the schools at first. Wherever we go, we might have to spend a lot of time there, so knowing about it makes sense."
Suddenly, a window popped up in front of Harry.
Find at least one previously unknown piece of information about each of the schools on that list only with the assistance from those in the Burrow.
1 stat point
Knowledge about Schools
Loss of student reputation
Harry pressed Yes.
The failure consequences weren't that bad, and even if he did fail the quest then he could just go ask Nicholas and Perenelle about the schools to learn more about them.
Luna, who seemed to have been fascinated by the grains of table's wood until now, decided to speak up again, "Should we start with the brochure that came in the letter then? We probably should, before the Nargles start stealing them and hiding them away."
"Er…" Harry stared blankly at her before saying, "Yeah…we probably should."
They dug into their envelopes and pulled out their brochures before opening them up.
WIZARDING SCHOOLS AROUND THE WORLD
Beauxbatons Academy of Magic is a prestigious school of magic located in France which accepts students from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Castelobruxo is a school of magic rumoured to be as ancient as Hogwarts. Located in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, it accepts students from all over South America.
Durmstrang Institute is a wizarding school whose exact location is unknown, although many believe it is in Sweden or Norway. It accepts students mostly from northern Europe.
Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a school of magic located in the United States of America which accepts students from all over North America.
Koldovstoretz is a very mysterious school of magic located in Russia which only accepts students from its own country.
Mahoutokoro School of Magic is an academy of magic located on a volcanic island in Japan which accepts students from all around Asia.
Uagadou School of Magic is a school of magic located in the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda which accepts students from all over Africa.
"Well," Ginny muttered as she finished reading, "They weren't exactly being descriptive, were they? All they told us is where the schools are."
"It does make sense when you think about it," Harry said as he closed his own brochure and threw it onto the table. "They don't want us to think the other schools are better and just transfer away do they?"
"I guess it makes sense, but it does seem like a shady thing to do." Hermione said with a frown.
"So what do we do now?" Ron asked, trying to completely ignore Luna who was trying to balance the brochure on her head and somehow managing to fail every time.
Harry looked around. It was going to be hard to do it without the Flamels' help, but there was only one way to complete the quest.
"We pool our knowledge together. I know a fair bit about Beauxbatons, since my guardians are from France. I remember that we read a bit about Castelobruxo and Koldovstoretz from those adverts they were running in the newspapers a few months back."
"I think we still have those newspapers!" Ron chimed up, "Mum probably saved those somewhere, and I bet we could find them if we looked."
That seemed to start their brains rolling. Hermione perked up, before turning to Harry and saying, "Oh! I researched Ilvermorny before joining Hogwarts! My parents wanted to see what other English-speaking schools we had as options."
Harry nodded enthusiastically, "So we have only Mahoutokoro, Uagadou, and Durmstrang left."
"Durmstrang is famous for how secretive it is about where it is and its ways. I honestly don't think we could find much more if we tried," Ginny spoke up dejectedly.
"Oh don't be silly Ginny," Luna piped up in the middle of trying to balance the letter perfectly flat on her nose, surprising them all, "Daddy and I go to Sweden all the time to look for Crumple-horned Snorkacks. I don't know too much, but I've heard some stuff from the odd Blibbering Humdinger."
Wisely deciding to not question what any of those were, Harry said, "Then there's only Mahoutokoro and Uagadou left. We'll look for more on those later. For now we should pool whatever we know together."
"Why don't you three write down whatever you know while Ron and I go search for those newspapers?" Ginny, said, her voice gaining a slight stutter as she directly addressed Harry.
And so they all sprang into action.
Well…the four of them did. Luna just wandered over to the clock Hedwig was sitting on and started hopping up and down, waving her arms trying to make the Phoenix fall off.
Ginny dragged Ron upstairs to look for the newspapers while Hermione pulled out a notepad and a pen.
"Where were you keeping that?" Harry asked. Hermione's clothing didn't really have pockets in it.
"Don't ask questions you don't want to know the answers to Harry," Hermione simply said, pulling the cap off the pen and getting ready to write, "Now tell me what you know about the Beauxbatons."
And so they sat there for the next fifteen minutes, first Harry telling her everything he knew about Beauxbatons, including how the school placed a strong emphasis on etiquette and social graces, believing that it led to more responsible wizards with a stronger resistance to the temptations of the Dark Arts. Then Harry took up the notepad and Hermione tried to remember as much of the research she had done prior to her first year as possible. Amongst the most interesting things Harry noted down was that Ilvermorny had been founded by an Irish witch and a Muggle, which led Harry to believe that this school could be much friendlier to Muggleborns.
They even managed to eventually convince Luna to stop harassing the slightly constipated looking Hedwig and tell them what little she knew about Durmstrang. It wasn't much, and Harry was pretty sure one of the things she said was probably false, but it was something at least.
Ron came through soon after, finding the newspapers that had the advertisements on them, telling them more about Castelobruxo. Information about Koldovstoretz though, remained very vague.
The best find of the day, however, happened a full half an hour later, when Ginny came barreling down the stairs.
"I found it!" she declared, tossing what looked like a magazine onto the table before tiredly falling into a chair. Ron looked at her strangely before picking it up.
"This is one of Mum's potions magazines."
"Not just a potions magazine," Ginny said with a tired smirk, "A potions magazine with an advert for the Wizarding Potions Championship!"
Then it clicked.
The Wizarding Potions Championship was an event that was held once every 7 years. Harry had only read of it once before in an old Potions book in the library. It was held between 4 schools. Hogwarts, Koldovstoretz, and most importantly the two schools that they needed information about; Mahoutokoro and Uagadou.
A grin spread across Harry's face, "Ginny! That is an amazing find!"
Ginny turned a bit red, before squeaking out a thank you. Apparently, she wasn't all that much over her crush after all.
The magazine had profiles on all three foreign schools and what their reputations were in the international community, which was pretty much all they needed.
They did, however, run into a problem.
The description for Uagadou was written in English and Swahili since they were both official languages of Uganda. Mahoutokoro's was also written in Japanese as well as English, so they could read that just fine too.
Koldovstoretz's description, however, was entirely in Russian and only had a tiny line at the bottom in English.
The Headmaster of Koldovstoretz refused to allow Potions Weekly to publish a translated version of this description.
"What in the world?!" Ron exclaimed in frustration, "Why would they publish their descriptions in English magazines if they weren't going to publish it in English?!"
"Maybe to protect their secrecy," Hermione mused.
Ron wasn't having it, "But why would they even publish it here if they were so keen on secrecy?"
They had no answer for that. Harry frowned as he pulled the magazine over to himself and ran his eyes over the block of text written in Russian. It was a right shame that his AllSpeak skill didn't allow him to read languages.
Area Sense: Someone is behind you!
At the same instant, Luna, who Harry had last seen disappear upstairs, suddenly materialized behind him and leaned down to look at the magazine over his shoulder, startling Harry and nearly making him fall off his chair.
"Is that Russian? I can help with that," she asked dreamily.
Hermione, who had really gotten into this little Project they had started, eagerly asked, "What does it say? Do you know?"
Luna nodded, rattling her radish earrings, one of which poked Harry in the eye painfully, "I do. Daddy taught me a bit when we were searching for Brazilian Crisslebristlers in Siberia."
"Why were you searching for Brazilian Crisslebristlers in Siberia?"
Luna completely ignored Ron's pointed question as she picked up the magazine.
"Luna I don't think-"
"Let her help Ginny," Hermione interrupted, "If she can do it then it will really be helpful."
"Ronald." Hermione frowned at Ron disapprovingly, "Don't be rude. Let her help."
Harry, as he gently his eye, decided that he had a strong feeling they were going to regret this.
Luna turned the magazine upside down and held it right next to her nose, before starting to read, "It says here, 'If at first, you don't succeed, lick a tree and tickle a dog and sniff an Umdingering Toadinger.'"
She then closed the magazine and proceeded to stuff her nose into Harry's hair before taking a big long sniff.
And then there was silence.
"Er…" Hermione was the first one who found her voice. She looked like she had finally grasped why everyone else at the table wasn't keen on letting Luna help. "Are you sure that is what it says Luna?"
"Absolutely," she said, nodding her head so vigorously that her hair shook as if it'd been caught up in a hurricane.
Caught up in a hurricane, coincidentally, was what the minds of the rest of the people in the rooms felt like.
Fifteen minutes later, they found a more reliable translator in the form of Percy, who seemed quite willing to help out once they mentioned they were trying to learn more about the other schools. Translating the entire thing word by word using a dictionary took a stupidly long time and provided them with a very rough translation, but with them all huddled around Percy's desk and helping him, it wasn't too difficult.
As soon as they had finished writing the final line on the list, a window popped up in front of Harry.
Find at least one previously unknown piece of information about each of the schools on that list only with the assistance from those in the Burrow.
1 stat point
Knowledge about Schools
Their list, now complete, read like this:
Beauxbatons - Good at Non-Verbal Magic. Teach etiquette and behavior with heavy emphasis. Take their OWL equivalent at 6th year instead of 5th like Hogwarts
Ilvermorny - Was founded by a Witch and a Muggle. Is protected by elf-like creatures called Pukwudgies. The students are taught mysterious Native American magic unknown to the rest of the world
Durmstrang - Famous for teaching Dark Arts freely. The position of headmaster is held by Igor Karkaroff, who is rumored to be a Death Eater. Known home of the yet to be discovered Garglesnarfling Badoozlers.
Castelobruxo - Students are good at Magizoology and Herbology. School is protected by Caipora, small furry spirits who're (according to the advert) good at their jobs. This school is just as old as Hogwarts
Mahoutokoro - One of the strictest and most academically oriented schools in the world. Is openly opposed to teaching Dark Arts. Alongside the normal course, it also provides early basic education since wizards and witches are 7-year-olds
Uagadou - Students are masters of Transfiguration, with many becoming Animagi by the time they graduate. Known to cast spells wandlessly and not use wands at all. Students are also known to score well in Astronomy.
Koldovstoretz – Teaches Dark Arts, although only to older students. Students are known to be very good at Potions. Strangely, they're known to fly on actual uprooted trees instead of broomsticks in Quidditch.
"They do Quidditch with trees?!" was the first thing Ron exclaimed as soon as he finished reading the list.
"I can't believe this," Hermione muttered exasperatedly, "One of the schools could have a Death Eater for a Headmaster, and the first thing that he talks about is Quidditch."
Harry had been a bit on the fence about that particular piece of information. On one hand, if they ended up being sent to Durmstrang and the Headmaster did turn out to be a Death Eater, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stay his hands and do nothing.
On the other hand, it was Luna who had told them about it, so there was a question mark the size of the Giant Squid on whether or not it was true.
"I don't think Professor Dumbledore would send us to Durmstrang or Koldovstoretz, considering their stance on Dark Arts," Ginny said out loud, pulling Harry out of his thoughts, "He'll probably send us to an something easier to understand, so Beauxbatons or Ilvermorny seems pretty likely."
Harry shook his head, "He might not get a choice. It's all up to the Ministry and the ICW. Besides, this list is still very flimsy. We weren't able to find much."
"That is actually a very decent list," Percy disagreed, "Wizarding schools are really private about themselves, so I doubt you could have found bette-"
A sudden loud crack of apparition sounded across the house, immediately silencing all of them.
Percy frowned before closing the translator book and jumping off his chair, heading out of his room and down the stairs. The others followed, reaching the living room just in time to see Percy open the door to the very frazzled looking Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"Mum? Dad? What happened?" Percy worriedly asked, "Weren't you going to stay at Aunt Muriel's today?"
"No time to explain," Mr. Weasley said, placing his trunk near the umbrella stand before hurrying past them and rushing up the stairs two steps at a time.
"Just turn on the wireless dear. Your father and I need to head to the Ministry immediately," Mrs. Weasley said, patting Percy on the back before hastily following Mr. Weasley up the stairs.
Probably feeling just as confused as Harry was, Percy quickly headed over to the mantelpiece and turned on the Wireless.
With a crackle and a hiss, a rusty sounding voice filled the room.
"-there has been an attack in South London in which unknown Dark Wizards have used rituals on a Muggle to grant him unnatural strength and released him into the streets, where he has been causing havoc and destruction for the last hour. All Ministry personnel under the Department of Magical Secrecy as well as any civilians experienced in Healing are to report to the Ministry as soon as possible! Everyone else is to stay indoors and raise their Muggle-Repelling Wards."
There was a small pause, and the announcer's voice was trembling when he resumed.
"The Statute of Secrecy is under serious threat. I repeat. The Statute of Secrecy is under serious threat."
Archibald Dundy had been the British representative in the Educational Office of ICW since eleven years, and all those years he had examined and approved International Teaching Licenses for dozens of people, granting them the qualifications to teach at any of the eleven ICW certified schools.
None of them had ever quite been like this one.
Archibald closed the applicant's file, looked to his left, and shared a look with Amare Kitumba, who was representative from Uganda and a very close friend. Amare, inspite of his naturally unflappable composure, seemed to be sporting a frown.
To his right sat Madam Yao, a bald-headed woman who looked mystifyingly ageless. She was a representative from South-East Asia, which had been a relatively recent addition to the ICW. The three of them were the final examiners; the Tribunal who were supposed to either approve or deny the Application for the International Teaching License that lay before them.
The three of them sat on one side of a large desk going through the applicant's file while on the other side of the desk sat the applicant himself, patiently waiting for their questions. He looked like he was in his late twenties, young for wanting to be a teacher, but he had approved younger.
He called himself Markus Black.
"Mr. Black," Amare broke the silence, his deep voice further amplifying his heavy accent, "You have passed our DADA Teacher's theory and practical tests with excellent marks, and your examiner writes in your file that he has never seen a Patronus cast quite as smoothly before. That is a great compliment coming from someone as experienced in Wand Magic as Monsieur Ferrati."
Markus smiled pleasantly, "That was really kind of him."
Amare nodded before his brow furrowed and his tone turned harsh, "Indeed. Let me be perfectly honest Mr. Black. I find the lack of information in your file disturbing. You say you are from England, yet there is no proof of that. You have provided no documentation of your birth. You do not have OWL or NEWT certificates, and nor have you provided us with a concrete mailing address. And despite all of that, you want an International Teaching License in DADA? If your performance in our Aptitude and Character tests hadn't been excellent then I would have thrown this application out without a second thought."
Archibald nodded. He too had seen the lack of any proper documentation in the file, and it had stuck out as disturbing to him too.
"I wish I could furnish you with better documentation, Sir," Markus said as he looked at them regretfully, "But I do not have them. I have been an orphan ever since I was an infant, through my teenage years I was home-schooled, and I have been a nomad ever since I have turned an adult."
"So why this sudden interest in becoming a teacher? You are young, so surely you must want to travel some more." Madam Yao asked, rustling her yellow embroidered robes as she leaned forward in her chair, resting her arms on the table.
Archibald gave a slight start. This was the first time he had heard her speak, and for some reason, he had expected her to have a heavy accent. Her English in reality was pristine and her voice devoid of any accent whatsoever.
"I wanted to become a teacher to be able to make a positive difference in the future," Black started, "I believe it will be a fulfilling challenge: stimulating the next genera-"
Madam Yao's lips tightened before she sharply interrupted his answer, "I asked you a question, and I require an honest answer, not something you rehearsed twenty times beforehand."
Markus stared at her with wide eyes, shocked into silence.
Archibald was impressed. It was the first time Madam Yao had ever joined a Tribunal, and already she seemed to be tailor-suited for the job.
"I agree," Amare said after a moment.
Their applicant looked at each of them with wide eyes for a moment, before his shoulders slumped. With a sigh, he extended his hand towards them, palm downwards. Archibald frowned, before looking at it closely. It didn't take him long to see what the applicant was trying to show them.
A bright red scar stuck out brightly against the man's pale skin, almost as if the words of the scar had been carved over and over and over into the back of his hand.
I must not tell lies
It took Archibald half a second to recognize it for what it was. His head snapped up to meet the applicant's eyes as soon as he did.
"That is the scar of a Blood Quill," he muttered, horror tinging his voice. Amare and Madam Yao shared a look. Archibald had no doubt that they knew what it was too.
Markus nodded, steel-faced as he pulled his hand back and tucked it under the table, "One of my teachers did that to me as well as my friends…as a form of punishment. I already knew she was a horrible person before she did it, but my friends…they forever lost their trust in teachers and those in authority. The reason I want to become a teacher is to make sure that no one like her ever gets close to a child again. They deserve better."
There was a small pause before Madam Yao nodded and turned to look at Archibald, "He has the qualifications as well as the motivation. I vote to grant him the License."
"Thank you," Markus quietly said.
In all his years of work, Archibald's gut had never served him wrong. Right now, his gut was telling him that this applicant wasn't lying, and that was enough for him.
"I too vote yes," he said, getting a grateful nod in return from the applicant.
They all looked at Amare, who was considering the man sitting in front of them gravely. A silent moment passed, and then he said, "You have purpose Markus Black…I approve of that. I vote to grant you the License as well. Congratulations."
"Thank you very much," Markus said earnestly, "You won't regret it."
With their decision made, they passed around the files, each putting their signatures wherever it was required. When the file made his way to Archibald, he noticed something interesting as he signed the third of the dotted lines he had to sign.
"It says here that you have a wand with Thestral tail hair and wood of Elderberry," Archibald said with a raised eyebrow, "You do know how the old saying about Elder wands goes don't you Mr. Black? 'Wand of elder never prosper'."
Markus Black chuckled, "You know what? That probably explains a lot about my life."
Archibald smiled. The man had a sense of humor, which was always good to see in a teacher.
Through the corner of his eyes, he thought he saw that Madam Yao had suddenly frozen in her spot. When he turned to look at her however, she was completely normal and relaxed. Dismissing it as a figment of his imagination, Archibald turned back to his file.
As Hermione finished her dinner, wished her parents a good night and headed to bed, thoughts about what had happened throughout the day were slowly churning in the back of her mind. It had taken Mr. and Mrs. Weasley a few hours to return from the Ministry, after which they had apologized to her before rushing her back home.
Harry had stayed though. They had mentioned something about Harry's home being only a Floo away while her home not being so easily accessible.
Hermione didn't mind.
Meeting her friends was something she definitely appreciated, and talking with Ginny and advising her on how not to panic in front of Harry had definitely been nice as well, but she couldn't afford to slack in her goals.
The last year of her life had been terrifying, but it had also been very educational.
It had taught her that the wizarding world was dangerous. It had taught her that all the knowledge that she had collected through reading books and through school allowed her to do very little to protect herself and her friends against someone who was determined to wish them harm.
With that realization had come fear.
Fear of losing her friends. Fear of her family, who didn't fully know how horrible the world of magic could be, being hurt. Fear for her own life.
And that fear, in turn, gave rise to determination. She needed to be better…stronger…
Closing the door of her room and climbing into her sheets, Hermione patiently waited until the sounds of her parents talking in bed completely stopped and the silence of the night took its place.
Once it was all quiet, she slid out of her bed and tiptoed over to her school trunk and opened it, dipping her hands into the folds of her school robes before pulling out a thin, plain, dark covered book. Closing the trunk behind her, she quietly made her way back to her bed and climbed into it before resting the book on her pillow and opening it.
On the first page was the title of the book, followed by the name of the author.
Curtain of Darkness: A Theoretical Thesis on Dark Arts
By - Ralzinys el Sathar
With dull eyes filled with too little sleep and too much of everything else, she read on.
What school do you think Harry should go to? I'm leaning towards Beauxbatons, since Terry is already there and I could integrate Fleur and maybe even Gabrielle into the story. Maybe even delve a bit further into Flamels' backstories.
Let me know what you think about the chapter too.
P.S. Did a double update because I'm too impatient to wait to post after writing. Might take a bit longer on the next chapter though...lots of plotty and actiony stuff to write from scratch.