A/N: Terribly sorry that this chapter took so long, it didn't even turn out to be very long. I've been sick and I didn't have very much time to work on it and I expect to not have much in the near future either. But I'll try my best to get chapter 10 out ASAP. Yay! 40 000 words. Next stop 60 000…
Chapter 9: Too Late?
Harry stared at the book. Too late? Too late for what? What kind of joke was this? And who had pulled it? Snape was the first to come to his mind and he rounded on him.
"What?" asked Snape, "If I knew any more than you did I'd have done something by now. By the looks of it though you've been had."
"Excellent observation!" said Harry exasperatedly, "Now before you go blaming me for something, what is this place?"
"I told you before, I have no idea."
"Then why are we able to see it and come and go as we please while nobody else can?"
"Good question. Perhaps that book of yours can tell you! Now if you'll excuse me." He glanced meaningfully at the door.
"I'm not going until you either tell me what this place is or come with me to see the headmaster about it."
"Then let's go pay our dear headmaster a visit, seeing as I still don't know what this place is!"
Harry was glad that Snape didn't have his powers otherwise he'd be dead right now. The two made their way down to the stone gargoyle and Harry gave the password, much to Snape's dislike, and they entered. Harry was surprised not to see Ginny around but he supposed that she'd gone back to Gryffindor tower.
Dumbledore was sitting behind his desk. He had an uncanny ability to be sitting at his desk whenever anyone entered his office. Perhaps it was true and he knew everything going on within the school's walls.
"Good evening gentlemen. What can a do for you on a night so fine as this?" he asked.
"Albus, we, or rather, Harry, had a question about the school and a certain part of it," said Snape hesitatingly.
"Ah, and what might that be," he said looking at Harry.
"Well sir it has to do wi-" started Snape.
"-There's a tower that springs up out of nowhere when Snape waves his wand in a lying down eight sign near a unicorn on the second highest tower in the school. Only thing is that only Snape and I can see it."
"Well than the answer would seem obvious, would it not?" asked Dumbledore.
"I'm not sure I follow sir," said Snape, "I've visited the place five times now and I don't even know what it is."
"Obviously neither of you has ever read, Hogwarts: A History."
"No sir, can't say I have," replied Harry.
"Well, let me explain then. You know of Salazar's Chamber of Secrets, Godric made his own chamber of honor, and-"
"What! Chamber of Honor? Where is that?" asked Harry, he'd never heard of or seen it before.
"Well, Salazar wouldn't have it. Once he found out where it was he went and destroyed it. The other two founders had helped Godric in his creation of the chamber. But what I was getting at was that, there were two other chambers. Is it so unlikely that another powerful wizard may have wanted his own chamber?"
Harry and Snape waited patiently for the headmaster to continue.
"The founders died around 1000 years ago. Around 700 years ago this young magician came to Hogwarts. There has never been a more powerful wizard before him or after, what could possibly stop the most powerful wizard of all time achieving this small task?"
"It's Merlin," said Harry, almost to himself, "The wizard is Merlin"
"Ah, finally, I though I might have to spell it out for you! But it would seem that you have discovered the chamber of Merlin."
"But that still doesn't explain why only Potter and I can see it." Said Snape irritably.
"But of course it does. You are both his descendants, no?"
"You mean? Me? I'm the? No way!" said Snape jumbled.
"Yes Severus, you're Merlin's most direct descendant, his heir if you will. And Harry here is also one of Merlin's descendants but not the most direct one."
While Snape muttered things to himself and though, Harry pulled out the book that he had found in the 'chamber of Merlin'.
"What do you suppose it means Albus?"
"I'm not sure Harry, but I can tell you that the real book like this is in the enemy's hands. I would not be surprised, taking into consideration where you found it, that it is the book of Merlin."
"The book of Merlin Albus? I seem to recall us talking about that in order meetings over the summer."
"Yes, that is correct Harry. The book contains all of Merlin's greatest works and achievements. Written by none other than the wizard himself. Wormtail was sent to recover it over the summer. But seeing as Severus has been demoted in the death eater ranks several times. He is unaware whether or not he succeeded in finding the book," he paused.
"Though it would seem that he was successful either in retrieving it or in discovering it's resting place."
"We have to get it from him!" said Harry forcefully enough to bring Snape to the same world as them.
"What, from who?" he asked.
"The book of Merlin Severus." Said Dumbledore simply.
"WHAT! That scumbag Wormtail managed to find it?" asked Snape.
"Not likely but he most likely discovered it's whereabouts and reported them to his master who's right hand man is a descendant of Merlin."
"Who?" asked Harry and Snape at that same time, "Who?" asked Harry again.
"Lucious Malfoy. Need I explain more?"
"Draco!" said Harry furiously, "He went and took it and left me with the phony! Oh, he'll pay he will. Expel him sir, he darn well deserves it!"
"I'm sorry Harry, I can't do that. First, we're not even sure it was him. And secondly he's just as entitled to an age old book as you or I are."
"But, but, he's going to, he's practically a death eater himself!"
"Perhaps, but I will not start expelling my students unless the situation is grave."
"Of course Albus."
Snape had watched the exchange with fleeting interest, he didn't care if Malfoy stayed or left. The only reason he pretended to like him was so that Voldemort didn't become suspicious of him joining the other side.
"Well," said Dumbledore at length, "You may go, both of you."
Harry left Dumbledore's office and Snape followed suite ten seconds later. Harry was walking down to the Gryffindor when he heard giggling behind him. He spun around. Nobody. He continued on. More giggling. He spun around again. This time he saw a faint shimmer in the air.
"Finite Encantatum," he said.
Ginny appeared out of thin air giggling like, well, a schoolgirl.
"You little sneak!" accused Harry good-naturedly, "how long have you been following me?"
"Since you left the door that I couldn't see." She replied with a smirk.
"So I guess you've already heard my exciting news first hand then?" he asked.
Her face turned serious, he loved how she always knew how to act, "Yeah, I'll bet Malfoy did take it. I hope the society is able to get it back though. It'd be terrible if he found out anything useful."
"Yeah, I sure hope not, anyways I've got to get back to the common room to tell Ron and Hermione. And I've got to plan for tomorrow evening's all-school DA meeting. I have a bad feeling about that."
"Nonsense Harry, you'll do great, you proved it last year when all the DA did so well on their practical exams."
Harry's ego went up a notch at the compliment, "Thanks, but I still have a bad feeling about this."
When they arrived in the common room Ron and Hermione were nowhere to be seen so Harry and Ginny sat down in a couple of chairs to do their homework. They were the only ones left in the common room by the time Ron and Hermione traipsed in through the portrait hole. The had been out on prefect duties Harry assumed.
"Malfoy," said Ron as he came to sit down across from Harry and Ginny. He seemed too tired to notice how close together they were sitting. Hermione however noticed and smiled to herself.
"Malfoy what?" asked Harry, "Because if you're about to tell me he's a filthy scumbag that's old news."
"No," said Ron seriously, "We were out doing our rounds when who should saunter up to us but Malfoy. And guess what he says?"
"Happy St. Patrick's Day?" suggested Harry.
"I'm serious here mate! Listen to me! He said that he had something that you want and that if you want it from him then you'd have to duel him and win tomorrow at the public DA in front of the school."
"How would he know?" asked Harry, Ron and Hermione just stared at him but Ginny knew what he meant.
He went on to explain what had transpired earlier that day. And slowly he realized that Malfoy had him in the palm of his hand. He couldn't go to a teacher because they would cancel the meeting and prevent the duel. He couldn't get the book without the duel and he was sure that Malfoy would play it dirty. This wasn't looking good.
"I've got to get to bed, DA and quidditch practice tomorrow, we've got a game on Saturday already! They say that they need to make the matches start sooner so that they can fit all of them in."
"Yeah, I'm with you, up in a minute." Said Ron.
Harry was asleep before he hit the pillow, which didn't work out so well since hitting it woke him and he lay awake for a minute or two before he slept once more.
The next day passed laboriously slow. And Harry wasn't complaining either. The later he had to host his DA meeting the better. And it was with great dread that he entered the great hall filled with students eager to learn from the-boy-who-lived-twice. He stood at the head of the hall in front of all his pupils.
"Welcome to Dumbledore's Army, better known as the DA. As many of you know these are times that are darker than most. It is essential in this trying period that every young witch and wizard knows how to protect him or herself effectively against foes.
"The purpose of this club as some of you may assume is not to learn how to duel but how to defend. What, you may ask, is the difference? The difference is plain. When you are dueling you can expect a fair fight, when you are defending, you cannot. There are people in this world that would kill you without a second though in fact they'd probably skip the first one too."
The crowd was silent, all listening to him intently. Harry's 'scare' tactic had achieved it's purpose so he started talking a little more lightly.
"However I hope that none of you ever come in contact with Voldemort or one of his followers but I know that such is wishful thinking. Although I seriously doubt that every single one of you will rely on the skills you will learn here there will also be those that do.
"So welcome all to the DA!" he finished.
The crowd was silent. After a couple of seconds Ron started slowly clapping and soon others were joining in and soon the entire hall was clapping. He saw a group of people who were not and grinned when he saw the sulking figure of Draco Malfoy in their midst.
"So to start off I'd like to propose a demonstration duel. If you would like to participate raise your hand and a piece of parchment with your name on it will be put in this hat." Said Harry holding up a hat that Hermione had rigged for him.
Around twelve students raised their hands and Harry got Hermione to draw and not surprisingly the two names that came out were, Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.
Malfoy strutted up to the front of the room and up onto the raised platform.
"So," he whispered, "You got my message I see."
"Sure did Malfoy," retorted Harry, "you'd better put up a good fight, I don't want to disappoint the newcomers."
"Actually I was just going to ask the same thing of you Potter."
Harry and Draco bowed then and walked away from each other. As soon as the two reached the ends of their paced they both whirled around and cast protegos on themselves. Harry smiled, looks like Draco was also playing it safe to start.
"Stupify!" shouted Harry. His curse missed Draco to the left after he sidestepped to the right. Malfoy in turn cast a stunner at Harry who leant over backwards before regaining his upright position, earning cheers from the muggle-borns who had seen 'The Matrix'.
Then Draco cast his infamous Serpent Sortia which Harry incinerated before it had the chance to do anything. Harry wished that he could call upon his powers but he wasn't sure he could do it and he wasn't willing to risk revealing them to anyone just yet.
As the duel wore on the curses became more rapid and with deadlier accuracy. Harry was confident in his dodging abilities but by the looks of it, so was Malfoy.
The duel was a stalemate until Draco decided to pull out one of his tricks and cast the tripping charm three times consecutively while approaching Harry. He had in mind to use Ron's slug puking curse.
He cast it but Harry was ready with a protego. It was then that the two of them really realized what close quarters they were at and both also realized that they would need to rely on hand-to-hand combat now.
Harry was the first to throw a punch. Draco, to Harry's surprise, caught it deftly before spinning into a kick. Harry dropped flat on his stomach and felt Draco's foot pass through his hair. He immediately heaved himself into a crouching position before sweeping Draco's legs out from underneath him.
Draco too was surprised at the amount of wizard martial arts that Harry knew. Now while he would have scorned muggle fist fighting, the difference was that wizarding martial arts were much faster paced, precise and powerful.
They both quickly thrust themselves to a standing position before they both went into a flurry of punches and blocks. After a while Harry decided to try something that professor Verplank had taught him just that day. Instantaneous movement. It was, Professor Verplank had said, difficult to master but he had faith in Harry's abilities.
Harry thrust his knee into Draco's gut but he wasn't quick enough and Draco caught it. Then he tried it. He was supposed to concentrate on where he was and then where he wanted to go and imagine himself there. He felt a strange sensation and then he saw the world pause and he slid uncontrollably straight through Malfoy to the spot that he had concentrated on behind Malfoy.
Then everything was back to normal. Draco could not comprehend it. Where had he gone? That was right before he was hit from behind with a jelly-legs curse. Harry heard applause but he was vaguely aware of it. He went over to Malfoy.
"Our deal," he said.
"We never agreed to any deal!" said Malfoy, "Even if I did tell you where to find the book of Merlin, you'd never get into our house! Er… rather…our house is very well protected so you wouldn't be able to find me…"
"We had," hissed Harry, "a deal!"
"Have I ever been one to keep my promises Potter?" smirked Malfoy.
"Sod off Malfoy, I know as well as you do that you don't want to be here."
And with that Malfoy tried to get up but his legs gave out so Harry unbound him and he got up and left the hall.
The rest of the DA meeting went rather well and Harry divided the group up amongst his original DA members. But needless to say, he was very tired by the time he flopped once more onto his bed.
The rest of the week went by quickly. Harry squeezed in as many quidditch practices as was humanly possible and he had confidence that his team would be able to perform well against Jennifer's team on Saturday.
When finally Saturday came he was glad that all the waiting and hype was over. Since there were no house teams the crowd was split between all houses. Although Harry noticed quite a few people wearing 'Potter #1', 'I ♥ Harry!' or similar. Harry smiled at this since he was actually sort of popular. He'd never been popular before. Sure he'd been famous. But famous and popular were two entirely different things.
He ate breakfast at one of two small tables set up at the front of the hall for the two Quidditch teams. Harry was pleased to note that as he walked into the hall with nothing but confidence in his stride that Jennifer paled visibly.
His team ate, or in the rookies' cases, didn't, and they made their way out to the pitch before anyone else.
Harry had long been contemplating his season-opening speech and had decided upon what he hoped would be the most effective method. He watched in silence as his team changed into their quidditch gear and sat round the tent waiting for him to say something.
As much as he wanted to avoid the 'Wood' approach he decided to give a longer speech as his first.
"If you were paying any attention at all this morning you'd have seen that the other team is scared out of their socks of us. They don't stand a chance. Only one veteran on the entire team and that's their keeper, and he didn't even play last year. Jacob, Lex; You've got some muscle on you. Don't hesitate to use it to beat their brains out. Ron, you know what to do. Chasers, they may have a bigger team than us but use your speed and pass often to use their advantage in our favor. As for me," he took a breath. A speech like this takes good lung capacity, "I'll catch the snitch."
"Let's win this thing!" he shouted.
His team cheered and they proceeded onto the field as the announcer cried out their names to the crowd. Harry didn't recognize the new announcer but he automatically assumed that he was worse than Lee.
He approached center and shook hands with Jennifer. It wasn't a squeezing match as most pre-game handshakes were though. Then they all rose into the air as Mme. Hooch blew the whistle to commence the match.
Harry was in the air and scanning the field, completely oblivious to the rest of the game below him.
"Hi," said a timid voice from behind him.
Harry turned, it was the boy that he had played against in tryouts, "Oh, hello there!" said Harry as he waved.
"Thank you for showing me that I wasn't good enough," said the boy, "I've been practicing hard. My name's Trevor. And you're-"
"And I'm Harry Potter," said Harry quickly, "Well, good luck in the match today."
"Thanks," said Trevor, "Same to you."
The match below progressed in Harry's team's favor, very much so in fact. Jacob and Lex proved to be an excellent choice on Harry's part. They played brilliantly. That's not to say that Ginny, Terry and Helaine played terribly. Quite the opposite. It was about ten minutes into the match when Harry decided to pull his first feint.
He raced completely across the pitch near the base of the left goal on his side. He was near the ground and he made sure that Trevor was close behind and he was. He was going right for the goalpost. At the very last minute he jumped to the right and threw his broom to the left and grabbed the post and swung himself around it and back onto his broom.
The crowd was still chattering with anticipation though and Harry looked around and saw that Trevor was streaming in the complete opposite direction and he watched also in dismay as he saw what he was chasing. Seconds later Trevor had the snitch. A cheer broke out from the stands and the announcer said something about the great Potter being dethroned.
Harry streaked violently to the ground where he strode to the broom shed and threw his broom in it with much force. As he walked by the stands to get to the dressing rooms he was booed and he swore at the crowd. He was nearly done changing when Ginny entered.
None of the rest of the team had dared to enter the room, even Ron.
"Good game Harry," said Ginny as though nothing was wrong, although she did blush slightly at seeing Harry shirtless.
"Good game? Good game? Bloody hell Ginny, were you watching the same game as me?"
"Sure I was, you had a nice feint there, only their seeker saw the snitch when you were in the middle of it. It could have happened to anyone really."
"Sure it could have. I'm just too damn arrogant to realize how arrogant I am!"
"You mustn't' be that hard on yourself Harry, you have enough other things to be getting on with." Soothed Ginny.
Harry took several deep breaths before exhaling rapidly and regaining his composure, "I suppose you're right. But it doesn't make loosing to a rookie after five years of playing as seeker any easier."
Ginny put her hand on Harry's bare shoulder. She could feel his muscles tense under her touch.
Her hands felt so cool on Harry's bare skin. He never wanted her to let go. They stood like that, neither realizing how long they stood there before Ginny spoke, "I'll go ahead and get changed and we'll walk back up to the castle okay?"
"Yeah, sure," said Harry who was now completely soothed.
They made their way up to the castle for the most part in silence. Other than the occasional jeer from a supporter of their opposition. Calls of 'Potty Head', 'Harry Pot-Head' and others were not uncommon as they walked around the halls back to Gryffindor tower.
Seeing as Jennifer was in Gryffindor as well there was a party that was just starting up. Harry opened up the portrait and all faces suddenly turned to him. He didn't need this. He closed the portrait again and started towards the library.
Ginny didn't question him but just followed behind him.
"Thanks Ginny," said Harry truthfully once they had reached the library.
"For what?" she asked.
"For being there for me. Again."
Her stomach jostled around from the compliment but she took it in stride, "Oh that, think nothing of it. I'm just a friend helping a friend."
"Well thanks anyways, you can't imagine how much I appreciate it. If there's ever anything you need help with then just let me know and I'd be glad to help out."
"Anything?" asked Ginny.
"Anything" confirmed Harry.
"Then you won't mind helping me out with a potions essay I've got to write."
Harry groaned good-naturedly and they set to work on another of Verplank's essays.
Later that night when they returned to the common room they found Hermione and Ron still up in the corner of the room. And, surprise, surprise, they seemed to be in the middle of a heated argument. So heated in fact they didn't even hear Harry and Ginny approach.
"-She's too young!" said Ron.
"Harry's honest enough to-" it was at this point at which she spotted them, "-make sure that…he knew… everything about the subject before helping her with her homework. Speak of the devil. Hey guys." Said Hermione over-friendlily.
"Er, hey Hermione" said Harry.
"Where have you two been?" asked Ron, a little two curiously.
"In the library" relied Ginny.
"Sno-studying I suppose?"
"What better place to study than the library?" said Ginny.
"Hate to break up this action packed discussion but I wanted to talk to you guys about what Malfoy said after the duel the other day. I had completely forgotten it in favor of quidditch until now."
"What did he say?" asked Hermione.
"He said just this, 'Even if I did tell you where to find the book of Merlin, you'd never get into our house! Er… rather…our house is very well protected so you wouldn't be able to find me…' That's it. Not much is it. Just like him to weasel out of a deal like that."
"But that does tell us something Harry!" exclaimed Hermione.
"You mean, other than Malfoy's a git?" asked Ron.
"Yes, Ron, honestly. It tells us that the book of Merlin is hidden in Malfoy manor. Simple as that."
"Well, I had figured as much but I was hoping there was something else there." Said Ron.
"So what do you make of that? Should we go to Malfoy manor to take it or something?" asked Harry.
"No," said Ginny, "that seems almost too easy. I have a feeling there's something else going on here."
Sunday found Harry in the library doing some research. Not for classes, since he had a surprisingly low amount of homework but he had an idea for his original DA group and had decided to call a meeting that night to see what people though. So he got Hermione to set his galleons for him and they met later that night in the Room of Requirement.
"Welcome back everyone," started Harry, "to the 'original DA' now I had an idea for something we could do this year seeing as we now have staff support. I though it would be good to hold a series of challenges and at the end there will only be one person left. An elimination type of thing. I will ask Dumbledore and some other professors if they would like to help us set up the challenges. What does everyone think of the idea?"
The majority of the room seemed to like the idea that Harry proposed as long as Harry agreed to still give them lessons once a week. He agreed and got to work on the first lesson. He was beginning to teach them wizarding martial arts this week seeing that after nearly a month of practice Professor Verplank had deemed both him and Neville worthy of teaching it. He had also stated that they would be working on another exciting new technique come Monday.
So Neville aided Harry in his instruction of the class. Most of them were progressing fairly well and had been able to move their hands faster than the eye could follow. And by the end of the lesson, most were already practicing anticipation in partners.
Overall, Harry was pleased with the way the lesson had went that night and he reminded everyone to keep their bodies in tip-top shape before dismissing them. He was quite happily on his way back to the common room, walking quite near Ginny, when all of a sudden someone grabbed his shoulder and pulled him down a side corridor.
"What do you think you're doing?" hissed Ron as to not be overheard.
"How do you mean?" asked Harry, bewildered.
"What do you mean, how do I mean?" asked Ron in turn.
"I mean, how do you mean, what do I mean… how do I mean?" Replied Harry, now thoroughly confused.
"I mean, what's going on with you and Ginny?" said Ron furiously. Harry was glad Ron wasn't standing in front of something scarlet red otherwise he wouldn't have been able to tell where his face was.
"Nothing," said Harry, "Honestly."
"Don't 'nothing, honestly' me Harry. I see the way you look at her. I see the way you talk to her. I see the way you everything around her."
"Relax Ron," said Harry, "even if I did like her she's old enough to make up her own mind about things."
"You're right Harry," said Ron patting Harry's shoulder, "I'm way too overprotective of her and I know it. If she were to go out with anyone in fact I'd hope it'd be you but no matter who it is, they've got to get my permission first."
"Uh, sure" said Harry, and to change topic, "We'll need to work on a better game plan for next game."
"Yeah in fact I was thinking of using the georgienski technique for our next game-" started Ron.
Harry walked the rest of the way to the common room with Ron, nodding and occasionally adding, 'oh yeah', 'oh right' or a 'sounds good' in when Ron paused. But his mind was some other where completely. It was focused upon a girl. Why were they so difficult to work out? There were people like Rodger Davies who had had close to seven girlfriends in the past year who could just ask a girl out like it was nothing.
How Harry wished that he could be so charming, so suave, so cool. But alas, he knew that day would never come so he may as well be content with what he had. It was then that he decided to subtly leave hints to Ginny that he liked her. Perhaps an occasional compliment or similar. But he was interrupted from his thoughts when he heard the very person, on whom his thoughts were currently fixed, scream.