Disclaimer-Main characters and settings owned by JK Rowling
A/N: A long-awaited update. In the interest of getting it to you fast, it hasn't been beta-reviewed. Mistakes are fully mine.
HERE BE MONSTERS III: THE WOMB OF LILITH
Chapter Four: Devotions
Sunday, 7 July, 1996
I'm not surprised that Mahalan has taken over an office on the first floor. I am surprised, as I enter, to find that he has transfigured said office. At least, I doubt the original inhabitant favored large paintings of northern taiga and cheerful street scenes featuring
reindeer, sleds, and characters most definitely /not/ drawn from English experience – especially the large, intelligent looking trolls handing out toys to eager children. Also, although the office's owner might have liked the roaring fire (although not in the middle of July), he or she probably wouldn't have painted the room this particular shade of
soft yellow – which, I must admit, is rather soothing.
Two chairs are drawn up before the large fire – which does not seem to be putting out any heat. An avian perch stands behind one of the chairs, providing a resting place for a beautiful Arctic Phoenix, its white and blue plumage gleaming softly in the firelight as if it were an incredibly graceful ice-sculpture. A large blond man in a blue and white cardigan is seated in front of the phoenix perch, puffing clouds of pink smoke out of a pipe with an enormous bowl easily the size of a man's fist. He is talking softly with a house-elf clad in grey robes and a bright red hat.
"Hello, Professor Dumbledore," Mahalan says, coming to his feet and holding out his hand, "I am so pleased to finally meet you."
"And I you, Doctor," I answer, taking the remaining chair as he gestures for me to sit down.
The house-elf clears his throat loudly.
"Ah, forgive me, Little Father." Mahalan beams benignly at the elf, who is looking around with an expression that I am all too familiar with from my time with Iris – he plainly disapproves of something. "Professor Dumbledore, may I present Luonar, saunatundo of the Mahalan family."
"I am honored," I say carefully. I have heard tales of the special relationship between Finnish wizards and their elves, or tundo, as they call them. I do not want to get things off on the wrong foot.
"As am I, Professor," the elf replies, gravely.
Oh my stars and comets. Did that elf just use a personal pronoun?
Mahalan coughs softly. As I look over to him I see what might have been the fleeting edge of a smile, but he hides his mouth with one hand and coughs again.
"I was afraid of that," Luonar says flatly, "you are already suffering from this island's foul weather."
As it has, in fact, been a beautiful July so far, I don't quite know how to respond to that. Luckily, my response is not needed.
"All in the call of duty, Little Father," Mahalan says lightly.
"Professor Dumbledore, I have taken the liberty of acquainting myself with the medical files of several persons besides Harry Potter." He waves to a neat stack of folders on the edge of the room's beautiful cherry desk. "I greatly believe in context."
"As do I," I say truthfully.
"Good." He settles back and puffs a few more pink clouds. "Would you like a pipe, Professor?"
"No thank you. I don't smoke." Not unless I've taken pepper-up potion, anyway."
"Really? I'm surprised. What a lovely staff! May I?" He reaches out an empty hand. Bemused, I pass him the staff.
"Beautiful!" he murmurs. "This can't be wizard work."
"I don't believe it is."
"Wizards unfortunately don't tend to make very good artists," he observes with a slightly sad tone. "Too impatient. Always wanting to use magic for everything."
"I have found that to be the case, as well." In fact, it is a carefully guarded secret (from certain parties, that is) that most of the portraits at Hogwarts, including even Phineus Nigellus', were painted by Muggles and later enchanted by their subjects. Few wizards study the creative arts, and fewer still attain any level of achievement. As Mahalan has said, wizards do not have the patience for such endeavors.
Better not let the Board of Governors hear that one, Albus. You'll be sleeping on Aberforth's couch again.
Mahalan does chuckle aloud this time. I carefully suppress a frown and quickly check the standard Occlumency barriers I always keep in place. They are firm and show no signs of attack or penetration.
"Well, Professor," he says, handing back the staff, "tell me about Harry."
"The Boy Who Lived is a complicated subject," I say carefully.
"I'm sure he is, but I didn't ask you about him." Mahalan settles himself comfortably and regards me with a tolerant gaze.
"I believe that you did, Doctor."
"I believe that I did not, Professor. I asked about Harry."
"Mr. Potter is the boy who lived, Doctor," I say, carefully keeping my voice mild.
"Yes, but I didn't ask you about Mr. Potter, either." He puffs a little more. "I asked about Harry. Harry may be both Mr. Potter and the Boy Who Lived, but the Boy Who Lived and Mr. Potter are not /Harry, if you take my meaning."
Better watch this one, Albus. He'll be arguing interpretation of Wizengamot decisions next.
Mahalan throws back his head and laughs. "I'm not a lawyer, young Mr. Riddle."
My eyes widen involuntarily, and I quickly check my shields yet again. They are all strong and undamaged.
"Don't worry about your Occlumency barriers, Professor. I assure you I have not subverted them. It's just that you aren't used to dealing with the psychic devotions."
"It was my understanding," I say softly, "that Occlumency and Legilimency were the psychic devotions."
"Well, you were wrong," Mahalan says simply. "Now, back to the subject at hand. Please tell me about Harry."
"What do you mean, Doctor?"
Mahalan sighs and a look of annoyance crosses his gentle features. "Start with the present situation."
I give a brief summary of recent events, coming to an end with Harry's present condition. Mahalan listens, nodding encouragement from time to time.
"Now Neville," he says softly as I finish.
Suppressing a sigh of my own, I comply with his request. I note that the pronoun-proficient house elf has retreated into the shadows with the usual skill of his kind.
" Very good," Mahalan comments when I reach the end of my tale, " by which of course I mean very bad." He sits silent for a moment, deep in thought. "I think we will begin with Neville. Best we do simple things first."
"All right," I begin, "his room…"
"Thank you!" he exclaims, cutting me off. Before I can even close my mouth, he has bounded from his chair and made for the door. He opens it and sweeps through, leaving me to follow bemusedly in his wake.
With unerring accuracy, he bounds up the stairs to the correct floor, as I haul myself up behind him feeling increasingly uneasy. He heads straight for Neville's room and throws open the door. As I approach I hear the voices of Luna Lovegood and Hermione Granger, who have evidently been sitting with the comatose boy.
"There hasn't been any change at all, Doctor," Hermione is saying.
"There hasn't?" His voice is surprised. "Have you noticed anything, Miss Lovegood?"
"Yes," comes Luna's dreamy voice, "his sleep is lighter."
"I've seen no sign of that!" Hermione snaps as I reach the door. I enter to find her standing on one side of Neville's bed, glaring at Luna sitting near the bed's foot. Luna just looks calmly back.
"Is that so?" Mahalan says softly.
"It…" Hermione doesn't get to finish that sentence. The fat wizard reaches into his sweater and pulls out a short sword that he doubtless had secreted in some extradimensional pocket.
Tis a sharp cure, but a sure one for all ills.
Shut up, Tom.
"Don't worry, Miss Granger," he says, "this is the Finnish way of magic. We trust metal more than wood." He carefully lays the sword on Neville's chest and folds the boy's hands over the hilt.
I see no change in the boy at all, but Mahalan's face brightens sharply. Luna leans forward, her smile broadening as well.
"Most encouraging, don't you think?" Mahalan says quietly to Luna.
"Yes, doctor," she answers, nodding vigorously.
Hermione looks like someone has force-fed her a puckering potion. "I don't see…"
Mahalan raises one finger languidly. Hermione chokes off the rest of her protest as he bends over Neville.
"Let's see," he says softly, "where are you? There? There?"
"I think to the right, doctor," Luna interjects.
"To the right? Oh, yes, I see. Well down this way, up that way …. THERE YOU ARE, NEVILLE!" His voice fairly booms as he reaches the end of the sentence.
To my amazement, Neville abruptly ceases his constant muttering. The muscles in the boy's body tense, then relax.
"Yes, yes," Mahalan says softly, "I see. Yes, you need to do that. Oh you are so clever, Neville!"
I frown. He is showing none of the signs of using Legilimency, but seems to be speaking directly to the boy's mind. Neville's breathing is becoming increasingly regular, and I see his eyeballs moving beneath the lids. Suddenly he gives out a large sigh and seems to relax even more.
Mahalan places one hand over both of the boy's and, leaning very close, whispers something into his ear. Luna giggles softly behind one hand, while Hermione's pucker becomes more pronounced.
"Miss Lovegood," Mahalan exclaims, straightening, "will you stay here? I know I can trust you to pay attention!"
"Certainly, doctor," she says dreamily, settling back into the chair.
"Good!" Mahalan retrieves his sword and stuffs it back into his sweater. He nods sharply to the disgruntled Hermione, then whirls on his heel and breezes past me to the door. "He will wake up in a few hours and will probably be hungry. Coming Professor?"
I don't like this man at all.
I'm not surprised, Tom. I'm not surprised.
"Brilliant girl!" Mahalan exclaims when I catch him halfway down the hall.
"Yes, Hermione is one of our best students."
"Hmmm? Oh, yes." He stops in front of the lift. "I don't mean her. Quite pedestrian. No, I meant Miss Lovegood. She pays attention."
"Does she?" I keep all traces of annoyance out of my voice.
"Yes. Now…" he stops. "Why are you annoyed, professor?"
I really, really don't like this man.
"Please be quiet, Mr. Riddle," Mahalan says.
I let out a long breath. "THAT is why I'm … piqued, Doctor."
He smiles. "I assure you it isn't Legilimency."
"I know that. But before…"
"I use it on Mr. Potter," he says, continuing my sentence, "you want to know what it is."
I just look at him.
"Your thoughts are of no importance to me, Professor," he says calmly.
OUCH! Maybe I was wrong about this one, Albus.
"You were, Mr. Riddle," Mahalan says. "Are you sure you want this explanation, Professor? Many people find it … difficult."
"I assure you, I am well versed in magical theory," I say, more coldly than I had intended.
"Well, yes, but I'm not sure that will help you." He frowns for a moment. "Your thoughts create your world, Professor."
"Yes," I say, "I believe many philosophies hold that."
"Indeed. Well, you see, your world overlaps my world."
"Yes," I say slowly.
"Well, that's it!" He brightens and presses a button to summon a lift.
"What's it?" I say.
"That's the entirety of the devotions!"
The lift opens while I stare at him. He bounces in happily. "Consider it a puzzle, Professor. Think on it while I examine Mr. Potter."
"Please professor," he says. "Try to concentrate. You are rather loud, you know."
"I will keep my voice down."
He looks surprised. "Your voice, Professor, has nothing to do with it. Your silence screams."
Profoundly troubled, I let my silence scream at him as the lift takes us to Harry's floor.