AUTHOR'S NOTES: There you go! Another slice of Parselness on the rocks. Look forward to the Resurrection Ritual next chapter. As always, many thanks to favers, followers, and particularly reviewers! And now on with the show.

Chapter XXXXIV: Warring Egoes

Thursday and Friday saw the resurrected girl attending most of her classes, though she was, as Grindelwald had guessed, prevented from actual spell-casting. This was only temporary, of course; Lucius Malfoy, for one, knew and dreaded that on Saturday, a ritual would be performed to bring her back to true life. It was a dark ritual she had found in the appendix of Secrets of the Darkest Art, an unforeseen bonus, as she had only picked up the book for the soul lore.

The 'ritual' consisted, in truth, of a potion, with the slight difference that the manner in which the ingredients were procured, and later dipped into the cauldron, would matter greatly. The Resurrection Potion also required that the soul to be incarnated already have a physical vessel of some sort; the anonymous author of Secrets had a lot of ghastly suggestions for what such a vessel might be, from possessed infants to an ambulatory, alchemically-created poisonous mold, but Nicolas Flamel and Dumbledore were of the joint opinion that the porcelain statue would be enough.

In the meantime Hermione did her best to ignore her inability to cast spells, consume food or even sleep. It was easier than it sounded, fortunately, because she could count on the advice of someone who had done that her whole life long: Minerva the Portrait. A nearly disembodied mind, Minerva had said, could find solace in intellectual stimulation, and pretty soon she would stop thinking about her peculiar condition. Finding intellectual stimulation was not much of a challenge for Hermione and her spellcrafting project; it was hard to get bored when you could lose yourself into the Hogwarts Library all night. And after some initial reluctance, Madam Pince had allowed her to do just that, once she had realized a porcelain statue did not breathe, and was thus the most silent reader she could ever hope for.

Though he would need to sleep eventually, had no classes to end, and thus mostly perused the Library in the daytime, Hogwarts classes stopped early enough that there was some overlap between Tsh's reading binges and hers. Friday evening was one such overlap.

That evening, Hermione was hard at work on her first theoretical draft of her Magical Translation Software, the Babblebook. After giving the matter much thought, she had decided to exploit the data-storage method employed in Everlasting Diaries — which always appeared to have precisely 60 pages, no matter how many you'd filled up, with the earliest ones sinking into an invisible netherspace until you skimmed back to them. She had isolated the theory of this knowledge, and had combined it with the language-interpreting wizardry of (non-sentient) Dictaquills.

The result would be a book that, once they had been copied into it, would invisibly contain all bilingual dictionaries; a visible page of the Babblebook would be left blank, and if you wrote down a sentence there, and then the language in which you wanted it to be translated, the desired translation would appear 'd need more research into magical voice-boxes for an oral translation spell as she'd originally sought, but the Babblebook would still be a gold mine.

She was putting the finishing touch to her diagram of the spell interactions when Tsh undulated onto her parchment.

{Hey!} she protested

{I am sorry if I am disturbing you,} Tsh apologized, {but I have had an idea. From what I was reading.}

{What were you reading?} she asked with interest.

{A book concerning Transfiguration,} he answered. {It seemed like a useful read, since your current skin is Transfigured.}

{True, and that's very nice of you,} she said, {but I will shed that by tomorrow…}

{Precisely,} Tsh said. {It is a rare opportunity, and tomorrow it will be gone — I think — well, you should take advantage of it.}

{In what way?}

{To-to be a snake,} Tsh stuttered.

{…Wait, how, exactly?}

{Your body is Transfigured, yes?} Tsh explained. {Well, for your convenience, Teacher Dumbledore made it in your old skin's likeness. But perhaps… if I understand this alright… perhaps he could Transfigure it again, while you are still wearing it, into something completely different. Like a snake. Wouldn't you like to know how it is to be a snake? I thought you might.}

A wide grin appeared on Hermione's face.

{Tsh, if you were a human, and if my lips weren't made of solid matter, I could kiss you right now. Hang on. I'll go see Albus!}


She practically skipped all the way to the Headmaster's Office at the thought. As usual, the Bored Boar let her in without any fuss, but as she climbed the Spiral Stairwell, she began to hear some shouts.

"Mine!"

"No! MINE!"

That sounded like — surely not.

"Me first!"

Why yes, that was Professor Snape's voice, and the other was—

"Give it to me!"

—Professor Dumbledore?!… Oh, those two overgrown children.

"WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!"

The two men interrupted their fighting immediately, frozen with Snape still pulling on the Headmaster's beard.

"Are you two nothing more than overgrown, robed, wanded children?!"

"Sometimes I wonder," grumbled the Sorting Hat. "To answer your earlier question, Miss Granger, Albus and Severus have seemingly decided to revert into toddlers and scream in my earholes over some bauble or other. And just as I was about to take a little nap, too…"

"To be fair," said Headmistress Wilkins, "it is frightfully hard to find a day of the year when you are not snoozing off. Amazing how a being without any muscles can always manage to be so tired."

"Right, right," Hermione said. "Well then. Albus. Professor Snape. What is this about?"

"The Resurrection Stone," Snape sneered — which was a clear indicator he'd regained hold of his self-control. "It seems our generous Headmaster intends to hoard it for himself."

"Severus," Dumbledore defended himself, "I am only doing this for your own good! It does not do to dwell on dreams—"

"—and forget to live," the Potion Master finished, his voice dripping with contempt. "Yes, so you've said already. But it sounded somewhat less profound when you first said it, while you were half-strangling me with my tie."

"I see," she said, sounding more and more like an angry nanny. "Albus, all make-believe cryptic wisdom aside, who do you want to summon so badly, and why?"

"…uh… I" hesitated the old man, the very image of the proverbial kid found with his hand inside the equally proverbial cookie jar. "…oh, dear. You always see right through me, my friend."

"Stop acting as though she's being astoundingly clever or something," Snape told him. "It's you who are pathetically incapable of subterfuge. You—"

"Snape, hush," he was ordered. "This is Albus's turn to speak. Well?"

"I… er… that is…" Dumbledore stammered and stalled for a few moments more, before collapsing into his chair. "…My sister."

"Your… sister," the two other humans in the room repeated slowly.

"Sister? You have a sister?" the Sorting Hat spluttered. "No you don't. Pf. I'd remember. Don't try to pull a fast one over—"

"Yes, my sister," Dumbledore admitted. "Ariana. She never came to Hogwarts, Hat, she never could. I… she died, long ago. Too long ago. As a child, or nearly so. It was my fault — I — she was ill, and I, I neglected her care for my studies and for my friendship with Gellert. She died, and… and I never could say sorry."

A heavy silence met Dumbledore's confession. Even the wheezing silver instruments held still.

"I…" Hermione spoke, "…This is probably a century too late, but Albus… you have my condolences. I'm sorry. …Er. Well. That sounds… reasonable, anyway. As a motive to use the Stone, I mean. What about you, Professor Snape?"

"None of your horklumped business," he harrumphed. "Unlike the pompous pile of vibrating remorse masquerading as our Headmaster, I have no interest in exposing my private affairs to a nosy Gryffindor know-it-all."

"Well in that case, I see no reason Albus and the know-it-all would share their Stone with you. Pro. Fes. …Sor."

"…your Stone. Your Stone!…"

"I did almost die getting it," she justified herself proudly. "And Albus was the one who did all the research to figure out where it was. Oh, I'm sure you helped… as did our dear friend Jester, who thus has as much claim to the Stone as you do, need I remind you…"

"FINE!" Snape cut her off, grinding his teeth in a very unseemly manner. "I will tell you. I — well it — mnble — Lily – mmn. There."

"Eh?"

"Lily Evans," he enunciated, his eyes elsewhere.

Hermione knew that look, from a childhood spent with the Doctors Granger; it was the look of a child reluctantly admitting they liked sweets to a dentist. And the name — the name was familiar. Perhaps—

"…You mean Lily Potter?"

"I mean Lily Evans," seethed Snape.

"Ah, right," she remembered. "You, James Potter, achenemies. Okay. Well, why do you particularly want to see her? It seems to me Harry would have a better claim there—"

"He loved her," Dumbledore said. "Severus loved—"

"DON'T YOU DARE!" Snape shouted, lurching at his superior, only to be held back mid-course by a simple yet timely wave of Dumbledore's left hand.

"I'm sorry, Severus —"

"No you're not—"

"—but you must be honest with yourself, and so with us, if I must allow you to see her once more. Now, Hermione… Lily Evans and Severus Snape grew up together, the best and closest of friends. They studied magic together, each bettering the other's. It was – beautiful."

"Yes," the bitter man said, still looking away. "Yes it was."

"When they reached Hogwarts, however, Lily became a Gryffindor, and Severus, as you know, a Slytherin. They were separated, for the first time in their young lives. Each made friends in his or her own House… each grew to match them. Which was made more unfortunate still by the — political inclination of Severus's new friends. It is hard to gravitate between a Death Eater and a Muggle-born for one's two best friends, and one day —"

"— one day," Snape interrupted him, eager to wrap up the tale in his own words, "I — chose. Poorly."

Without really meaning to, Hermione glanced at Snape's forearm, where the Dark Mark had shone before she cured him of it.

"Yes," he confirmed, having caught on to her train of thought.

"But… you changed," she said. "I don't understand. You changed, didn't you? Switched sides? Of course, that didn't stop you from being an obnoxious nuisance with most people, but surely—"

"I changed, yes," Snape growled. "But my motive, the catalyzer of that change — have you considered that? Extraordinary things come at extraordinary prices. It took Lily's death to convince me of the error of my ways."

"…Ah."

"Yes."

She kept staring at Snape for an awkward moment before turning on her heels to grab the Resurrection Stone from the desk. Cupping it protectively inside her porcelain fist, she reasoned:

"Alright, so. You both have very moving and legitimate reasons to want to use the Stone."

"Thank you," the other two wizards chorused.

"Now, Albus, you have been waiting to talk to your sister for the longest…"

Dumbledore beamed and reached for the Stone, but she pulled away.

"…but this also means Professor Snape's is a fresher to be fair, he does have more to apologize for."

"So you think," Dumbledore argued. "But I overlooked one key detail in my earlier summary. Ariana did not die of her condition itself. She was… killed, during a duel. A duel a was a part of, as were Gellert, and — well. None of us know whose curse so tragically hit her. It may be… it may be that I killed her by my own hand."

"Perhaps!" argued Snape, waving his cloak around for emphasis. "But there is no doubt that I, Severus Cygnus Snape, was the cause of the deaths of Lily and James Potter! I told the Dark Lord the Prophecy!"

"Once I almost tore down the Statute of Secrecy!"

"I called her a mudblood!"

"I wanted to take over the world!"

"I AM THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE!"

"What does that even mean?! I once schemed to become Master of Death! My great-great-grandmother lay dying and still I perused my blasted books, in the hope—"

"This is nothing!" Snape said. "At half Granger's age I spent my nights designing curses deadlier than the Dark Lord ever dreamed of!"

"I stole my brother's bottle as a toddler!"

"I scribbled on the wall of my mother's st—"

"ENOUGH!"


Blown to the ground, Snape and Dumbledore shared a guilty look.

"My, my," Dumbledore commented with a bitter smile. "I did not intend for this body's lungs to be so powerful."

"THIS IS NOT A CONTEST OF WHO HAS THE DARKEST BACKSTORY!" she shouted back.

"Alright, alright!" winced Snape.

"And ALSO! ALBUS!" she went on, showing no signs of calming down whatsoever. "Have you entirely forgotten about that oh-so-noble idea of TESTING IT OUT FIRST BEFORE USING THE ANCIENT DARK ARTIFACT ON YOUR LOVED ONES?!"

"Oh, yes, that," was all Dumbledore could say.

"HAH!" she continued, grabbing the Stone. "Right! Since I am the only reasonable HUMAN BEING in this SCHOOL, I shall handle this for you. Brhm. Let me see. Disposable soul. …Right! IGOR KARKAROFF!"

This time, there was none of the bizarre smoke-and-mirrors effects which had accompanied the summoning of the Shard of Tom Riddle. The glowing, translucid wizard just — appeared, blinking into existence before she could even notice.

"VHAT IS GOING ON?!" shouted the spectre.

"Ah, hell to you too, Igor," said Snape, now his usual dryly sarcastic self. "As should be obvious, a hissing porcelain girl has decided to use an old pebble to summon you from the great beyond. …And aren't you just glad you asked."

"VHAAT? VHAAAT?"

"Yes, I'm fine, thank you. So nice of you to ask, Igor. And what about you? Who are things down below? Is Hell treating your rotten black soul well enough? Hm? Fire and brimstone to your convenience?"

Calming down a little bit, the phantom crossed his arms in a distinctive pout.

"…it is not Hell," he grumbled. "Is different. Better. Mortals, do not know a thing."

"Ah, good, good," said Dumbledore, once again feeling in control of the situation. "Now, to be clear, this is the Resurrection Stone, the very one spoken of in legend. We acquired it recently, but needed to test it before we summoned any of our loved ones. I trust you are feeling no adverse effects from your presence here?"

"No," said Karkaroff. "It vas a surpreese, but only because I vas not looking at you vhen I vas summoned. It vas painless. Altough, I vould like to go back schoon, if possible. I vas playing poker with Emeric the Evil, and I am afraid he vill cheat, if I am not back schoon enough?"

"…is that what you do in Heaven?" Hermione noted casually. "…Look at Earth, if you're feeling like it, and… play cards with historical people?"

"Cards und other tings," chuckled Karkaroff. "Ve have many hobbies. All of them, from all of History, truth is. I just happen to like poker, and Emeric alzo."

"Alright then," she said. "Alright. We'llleave you to it. Unless, of course, you have something you want to tell us before you go? Some last message for the world of the living, goodbyes you forgot, an insult you never dared to tell to your aunt Prudence's face… that sort of thing?"

He thought.

"Mmmmh. …h, yes," he found. "Before Crooch came back, I had; uhm, plans, to — er. That is. I found the Goblet of Fire."

"And you wished to resurrect the Triwizard Tournament?" guessed Dumbledore.

"Yes," confirmed the former Durmstrang Headmaster. "And now I shall vill the Goblet to you. Perhaps you and my successor could arranch someting next year, yes? Give me parchment."

Ghosts could use light objects such as quills and parchment; thus it came as no surprise that Stone-Ghosts, known to b e better in most respects than ordinary ghosts, could do so as well. The shade of Karkaroff soon drew up a small addition to his will, which revealed the Goblet of Fire's location and bequeathed it to the Headmaster of Hogwarts.

It took several tries to dismiss the spectre; as it turned out, Beedle did not give the way. Turning the Stone backwards any number of times was useless, as was vocally dismissing the phantom; in the end Dumbledore was the one ot guess that one must ceremonially drop the Stone, at which point Karkaroff vanished.

"…So I didn't want to interrupt, but what is the Goblet of Fire?" Hermione asked immediately.

"An ancient and terrible device," Dumbledore explained, "used in Triwizard Tournaments to select the Champion. The Goblet of Fire is a crucible of Fate itself — through just their name, written in their own hand, it finds out all about its candidates, and makes it choice, predicting who would be the most…"

"…competent?"

"Spectacular," he corrected. "The Triwizard is a public sporting event — though both are essential, showmanship tends to ultimately prime over skill in such things."

"Even in the Wizarding World!…" Hermione groaned.

"Of course," said Snape, cynical. "Wizards are nary any less backwards or corrupt than their Muggle neighbors. The wizards' sole advantage is that it is relatively easy for that are thing — a clever and lucid mage — to bypass the idiots in his way, to build themselves a blessedly isolated tower of knowledge and power, and to live in it."

"Alone?" Dumbledore asked, with a meaningful glance at the Resurrection Stone which Hermione had picked back up.

"Well… perhaps not quite…" the Head of Slytherin admitted.

"Whatever the case may be," said Dumbledore, "I shall collect the Goblet of Fire some time in the future."

"And you would bring the Goblet of Fire here?" the Sorting Hat asked, oddly apprehensive.

"Why not?" answered Dumbledore. "It may not be the worst idea to come out of Highmaster Karkaroff's head, I think…"

"I'll take it under advisement," said Hermione. "It sounds good, but from what I've read, Triwizard Tournaments tended to be cheerful manslaughter festivals more often than not."

"True," Dumbledore argued in good humor, "but then, so did ancient Quidditch, no?"

"And Quidditch is still ludicrously hazardous," Snape replied. "Draco Malfoy nearly fractured his skull during the Hufflepuff-Slytherin game last week."

"Did he now?" said Dumbledore, concerned.

"Yes," Hermione admitted. She hadn't been there, of course, but Ron and Harry had, and, being Ron and Harry, had told her all about it. "But that was only because Cedric Diggory and the other Hufflepuff players are very good, and because Malfoy is a reckless fool. Besides, Harry never got hurt in Quidditch. On the one occasion he fell off his broom, well, you were there, Albus, weren't you? And besides, that was the Turban's fault, not the game's."

"Differing opinions on Quidditch notwithstanding," drawled Snape, "I must side with Miss Granger on the matter of the Triwizard, Albus." He turned to face Hermione and seethed: "that doesn't mean I like you. You just happen to be defending the sensible, pessimistic side for once."

"Anyway!" Hermione changed the subject. "All Tournaments aside, I think I know now who should have the Stone first, of the two of you."

"Yes?" the two Professors urged.

"Albus."

"WHY?" Snape exploded.

"Because I remembered two things," she said. "First: you're planning to call Harry's mother. Didn't you consider he might want to be there too? Or, if you must have privacy, that he might deserve to see her first?"

"…and the second reason?…" groaned Snape.

"You're supposed to be brewing my Resurrection Potion. Due tomorrow at 3, minus the final three ingredients, of course. GET TO WORK!"