Disclaimer: HP belongs to JKR
Note: I (hopefully) have solved the prize money problem... as long as you don't all hate me forever for making so many mistakes, the story will go on.
Thank you Puresilver for being so awesome as my beta. Do you readers know how much this story would suck with out her? lets never find out, shall we? (coughs) or you could look at the crappy first couple of chapters that fail at life... (someday... maybe... I'll fix those.)
and of course, thank you readers for all your support. I luv you guys! Between you all and my beta, this story has become something beyond what I could have accomplished on my own. I'm so glad I get to share this, my baby, my very first fic ever, with all of you. ('sentimental much?' you think to yourselves.) I plan to keep going, even through the really difficult semester ahead of me, so even if the updates continue to be sparse, they will still continue... I just ask for patience. being a senior isn't all that easy. (lol, It Isn't Easy Being a Senior. I could write a memoir about my horrible senior year in parody of this fic... oh god just kill me now please.)
Last time: Harry figures out his monetary situation and opens a new spending account with Gringotts. In dealing with the wards on the Gaunt cottage, he has, so far, been unsuccessful. Millicent visits Harry at work and brings to attention that Dolores Umbridge will be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, however, Harry is hesitant to get too involved just yet. On his way home, Harry runs into his Hufflepuff housemates and they have ice cream at Florean Fortescue's where Harry recalls that Susan's aunt is head of Magical Law Enforcement. He asks Susan for a favor, hoping she could ask her aunt about what legally classifies a dark object. Hopefully, with this information, Harry can find a way to protect the students from Dolores Umbridge's tyranny.
Chapter 21: Know-It-All
At breakfast, Harry pushed his waffles around on his plate. It was his birthday today, and the only thing he had received was well-wishing from the orphanage staff and yesterday's ice cream cone from Wayne. He didn't mind the lack of presents, but he missed the yearly birthday letters from Ron and Hermione.
It was getting ridiculous. Every time he thought about them and how things had been, he got depressed. He needed to snap out of it.
Across from him, Ari glanced up, eyes following the path of an owl. Harry was a little surprised when the owl dropped its cargo right above him, and had it not been for his seeker reflexes, the envelope would have ended up in a puddle of syrup.
Across the envelope was his name, written with emerald green ink in a very familiar script. He knew Dumbledore's handwriting as well as he knew his own, but what he was writing for was a mystery. Somehow, Harry doubted it had much to do with his fifteenth birthday.
It wasn't nearly as exciting the second time.
Dear Mr. Potter,
I trust you are staying out of trouble and enjoying your summer holiday. Oh, and I do believe it is your birthday today. Just in time then.
It is my pleasure to inform you that your Triwizard earnings of 500 Galleons will be delivered shortly.
The officials debated on the award and finally agreed to divide the prize money between Mr. Longbottom and yourself.
Oh, and I do believe it is your birthday today. Just in time then.
Harry blinked. 500 Galleons?
"Oh yeah… I forgot." He frowned, "I gave it all away last time."
"Gave what all away? What's the letter say?" Ari said around a mouthful of waffles.
"Oh sorry… uh, I was just thinking out loud. The letter was just from Dumbledore informing me about my prize money."
"The tournament. I won, remember?"
"Yeah, you and Neville. Well, how much do you get?"
"500 Galleons." Harry grinned a little at the face Ari made.
"That's a lot! What are you going to do with it?"
"I'm… not sure yet." Harry refolded the letter. How exactly was he going to deal with this? Last time he had given the full winnings to the Weasley twins. Did he keep it and send it to Alex in Australia or give it to the twins again? Would they even accept it?
Harry wondered how much the twins would need. They had lost all their money to Bagman in his world. He hadn't really been paying attention to whether the same thing had happened in this world. Did Neville give them any of his prize money?
On one hand, he needed money for his group, but on the other, Fred and George's Joke Shop had been a solid investment. With the extra funds, the twins had been able to create a bunch of items that were useful to the war effort, and their prank snacks never failed to put a smile on his face.
But then, there was the niggling feeling, the thought that maybe the twins weren't quite the same as the Weasley twins from his world. And even if they still wanted to make the joke shop, would they accept money from him? He wasn't exactly their little brother's best mate anymore.
"Happy Birthday, by the way." Ari placed a small package wrapped in pages of the Prophet on the table in front of him. Harry looked at it for a moment and then carefully began to unwrap it.
"It's from me and Sera. She wanted to thank you for helping out her brother and being there for both of us. Actually, it's mostly from her, since I can't afford anything, but I figured-,"
"You didn't have to get me anything," Harry glanced at Ari with a serious expression. "But… thank you."
Carefully, Harry peeled away the paper, ignoring the moving pictures on the news print. Within the wrapping was a small box, and in the box was a small crystal sphere about the size of a golf ball, and Harry was immediately reminded of Neville's Rememberall.
"Sera said she thought it was a Rememberall when she first grabbed it out of her family vault, and her parents said she could keep it, because that's what they thought it was too." Ari started to explain. Harry reached for the sphere, but his fingers turned cold, and he began to loose feeling in his arm the closer he came to touching it. Harry immediately let his hand drop to his lap, wary of what this present really was. "Sera and I figured out what it was when I went to visit her in Diagon Alley last Sunday. It's a Know-it-all. There're only seven in existence, and apparently, they can store limitless amounts of information." Harry frowned at the supposed Know-it-all, ignoring the tickling of spider legs crawling between his fingers.
"So how does it work?" Harry asked.
"Well, you hold it and ask a question. And the Know-it-all answers. That's how Sera figured out what it was." Ari plucked the Know-it-all from its box and held it. The clear crystal flooded with color, swirling plumes of blue and violet, occasionally mixed with other flashes of color. "So, I can ask something like: what is my name?" Ari addressed the Know-it-all.
"Ariell Oscar Mercius. Prefered name: Ari Mercius." An emotionless, genderless voice stated the requested information with an almost bored tone.
"Here, you try." Ari offered the crystal to him. Harry reached out and accepted the Know-it-all reluctantly. He was somewhat amused as his spider crawled up his sleeve, disappearing into his clothes.
'Weird spider,' he thought.
The crystal in his palm turned from the swirling clouds of blue and purple to a fathomless black. Harry wondered why it changed color. Why did it turn black in his hand?
"Alright, what's my name?"
"Harry Potter" The voice announced. Harry frowned a little, wondering why it had not recited his middle name. He tried again with another question.
"What does the color of a Know-it-all symbolize?" Harry asked.
"Appearance of color symbolizes the attainment of knowledge. The perceived color reflects the type of knowledge recorded. Red symbolizes the recording of written materials, orange symbolizes the recording of atmospheric conditions, such as weather, temperature, time of day, ambient magic, material surroundings, and location. Yellow symbolizes recorded conversations. Green symbolizes the recording of health and well being of other magical and non-magical beings. Blue symbolizes the recording of knowledge of the immediate person past and present occurrences, memories, and perceptions. Violet symbolizes the recording of accessed information." The voice rambled off the colors in succession as though nothing in the world was interesting.
"What does black mean?"
"Black is a non-color shade, lacking hue and brightness, characterized by the absence of light or color-,"
"I mean, why are you, the Know-it-all, black, right now?" Harry glared at the object.
"The Know-it-all is currently unable to record the following: current access of information by immediate person, knowledge of the immediate person, and present conversation. Access of current information already recorded is not impeded. Magical levels of immediate person in contact with the Know-it-all are normal for functioning."
"Then, what is the current temperature?" Harry asked. The sphere flared orange for a moment before returning to a deep and depthless black.
"The current temperature inside is approximately 20 degrees Celsius, 69 degrees Fahrenheit, 530 degrees Rankine, 17 degrees Reaumur, and 294 Kelvins. Temperature readings are rounded to the nearest whole degree. Outside the temperature is-,"
"That's enough." Harry said and was glad when the Know-it-all fell silent.
"That's weird. There really must be something wonky with your magic. How do you get it to not record certain things?" Ari asked.
"I wasn't aware I had done anything." Harry placed the crystal back in its box and watched it turn clear again. "But this is a really interesting gift. Where did you say you got it?"
"The Shawn family vault. Given what you are trying to accomplish, Sera and I thought you could probably find some use for this. So when you have a question to look up, you can use this instead of looking through a bunch of books. I'm not really sure about all the things this can do, but we hope you find it useful."
"Why would either of you give me something so valuable?"
"What you did for us was valuable, and how useful can it really be? I mean, I thought about using it to cheat on tests, but it speaks out loud. You'd have to put up a privacy barrier, which of course the professors wouldn't allow. So it's pretty useless unless you need to look up something."
Harry glanced at the Know-it-all.
No, this was something that was far from useless. This little marble was a gold-mine. Perhaps it had stored within it a wealth of useless and trivial information, but if it could continue to record information, such as conversations or memories, or even another person's physical condition, there was no telling just how valuable and possibly dangerous this thing was. If it fell into the wrong hands, what kind of information could they gain from it?
"Thank you Ari, and pass along my thanks to Sera."
"Sure, no problem," Ari grinned.
Harry was certain that if either Ari or Sera knew exactly what kind of magical object this was, they would have left it in the Shawn family vault, locked away where no one could use it. If they had known how dangerous it was they would have never given it away so carelessly. But because they had given it to him, he would use it to his advantage.
He wasn't an idiot. Even though he recognized the potential danger of such an object, he wasn't about to let that stop him from using it. Knowledge was power, and in this case, it was literally at his finger tips. This was a power he could use.
Harry pulled out the Know-it-all and held it out in front of him. He stood before the Gaunt Cottage again determined to figure out how to get by the wards.
"Tell me about the wards around this cottage." Harry demanded of the black sphere in his hand.
The Know-it-all flashed orange, and without much of a pause, the orb began a bored monologue of information about the wards.
"The wards are class seven, level four wards placed around the perimeter of the building. Preservation wards are absent. Outer ward is a muggle repellant ward, second set is a ward based off of the principles of the notice-me-not charm and the confundus charm, designed to discourage persons from noticing or comprehending the third and fourth sets. The third set is a corrosive ward designed to prevent living and non-living material from passing through. The fourth set is the original of the class seven wards, requiring a blood offering to pass. The sacrifice is taken and magical signature recorded. Once breached, the castor will know the magical signature of the person letting blood."
"Is there a way to get through the wards?" Harry glared at the little ball of knowledge.
"Breach set three, then make a blood sacrifice to the fourth set."
"How do I breach set three?"
"Find the key stone for the third set, destroy the key stone."
"Well, where is the key stone?" Harry sighed in exasperation as the ball flashed orange again.
"Burried five paces to the immediate person's left, two steps forward. Organic, calcified remains of a snake, type likely non-magical, unable to distinguish species, narrowed down to Alethinophidia infraorder, family Viperidae."
As the Know-it-all continued to rattle off useless facts, Harry followed the instructions and walked five paces to his left, and then, he took two steps forward. Placing the Know-it-all in his robe pocket, the droning voice becoming muffled, Harry switched out for his wand. With a careless wave, he removed the dirt and discovered that the Know-it-all was right. This was almost too easy.
A tangled white and grey serpent-shaped stone coiled around itself, and wrapped around the figure, he could feel a small thread of magic.
Harry flicked his finger, aiming a sharp flare of magic at the fragile strand tied about the snake, assuming it was connected to the third set of wards. The magic tied about the dead snake fizzled into nothing. In the back of his mind, he thought he could hear the distant sound of laughter and was suddenly uncertain if he had done the right thing.
That was when something unexpected happened. The snake that had lain dead was suddenly not dead.
It coiled around to face him and hissed, preparing to strike.
'You, human, dare to cross the Lord of Snakes?' the serpent reared a little, trying to look threatening.
'The Lord of Snakes, you say?' Harry took a step back from the angry snake.
'He summoned me to protect a beloved treasure, for he could trust no other with such a task.'
'While I believe you're an intelligent snake, the Lord of Snakes you speak of has hurt many, many people, and he will keep hurting them. I have to destroy the treasure you guard if he's to be stopped.'
'You are not the world's keeper,' argued the snake, 'but you are something kept. I obey the Lord of Snakes, and you are here to threaten his treasure. Step no further.'
Harry placed his hand over the ground towards the snake.
'Please allow me to pass.' Harry said earnestly. He had no desire to kill the snake, but by the way the snake coiled in warning, he didn't believe he would have a choice.
Building his power, Harry prepared to kill the snake, but just as he was about to release his magic he felt a great pull at the very core of his being. His magic was blocked, refusing to move beyond his fingertips. There came another tug, and Harry suddenly felt tired.
Next to him stood Water, white hair shining in dappled patterns from the sun breaking through the leafy canopy above. Bright blue eyes shifted to his and Harry suddenly felt the need to look away, so he focused on the snake who sat coiling uneasily.
"You should be familiar, I would think, with the rules of sacrifice." Water's voice was cool like soft snow falling despite the summer heat. "If you kill it, the sacrifice will protect the soul inside the ring. You would not be able to destroy it with our help. You would need something like the sword of Gryffindor, though now you are unable to wield it."
"I see." Harry sighed trying to think of a way around the snake. "Can't I just restrain it? Ah, but the Know-it-all said I had to destroy the key stone…"
"It is a good thing you did not destroy it." Water continued. "Pull up your shirt. I will help you because we did make a promise."
"My shirt?" Harry sputtered, "But what's that got to do with-?"
"Harry," Water's voice was suddenly like ice, and Harry hastily pulled his shirt over his head. Water walked around to stand behind him, and he felt the smallest brush of fingers before Water leaned over his shoulder and presented him with his spider.
"That's the spider I transfigured." Harry stated nervously.
"When we make something alive, it is not as a wizard makes. Do you understand?"
"I'm not sure." Harry watched the spider wave its forelegs at him from the palm of Water's hand.
"We allow you the use of a wand, because you attend a wizard's school, and we allow you wizard acquaintances because as powerful as we are, we are not invincible, and you will need allies despite our grievances. Alone, we can not fulfill our promise."
Harry said nothing, but was curious all the same. What grievances was Water talking about?
"Okay, but I still need the ring." Harry insisted after a pause.
"You are too impatient." Water pinched him sharply on the shoulder before walking over to stand in front of the wards. Harry caught a glimpse of a smile as Water gazed joyfully at the fingers that had pinched his skin. It unnerved him a little.
'What do you think you're doing!?' the snake cried slithering to defend its master's treasure.
"You can certainly restrain it now." Water said mildly, watching the snake as it coiled and leapt to bite the bare leg before it.
Harry quickly levitated the snake into the air and held it away from both Water and himself. It hissed insults and twisted valiantly in an attempt to escape, but it was all in vain.
"This one has developed a useful talent of spinning wards." Water carefully set the spider down. "I believe it will be more then content to chew a small hole through the set and retrieve the ring for you."
The wards flickered a little as the spider moved over the net of magic surrounding the cottage, and somehow the spider did not turn to ash, nor was it repelled away from the wards. It was as if the spider was crawling over thin air.
"I've had that spider for almost a year, and you're just telling me now that it has some sort of crazy ability to eat wards?" Harry said with exasperation.
"We only just noticed when it began weaving wards around you." Water glared at Harry, arms folded close.
"Around me?" Harry looked down at himself, but couldn't detect a thing. "I don't feel anything at all."
"They are not wizard made wards, so I suppose it isn't a surprise you can't sense them. They certainly are useful, however. That Know-it-all is a very dangerous tool, and were you not warded, the knowledge recorded in its library could become a problem."
"I realize that. Is that why it sits black in my hands?" Harry asked. Water nodded and smiled looking ridiculously proud. "So, why exactly did you decide to help me? I thought you, or well Air I guess, wanted me to use 'my own talents' to get the ring."
"We believe you would have been able to figure out a way to get the horcrux on your own, but it may take longer than we have time for, particularly if we allowed you to kill the snake. We made a promise, and your time comes before ours if we are to complete it. It is unusual that we bend to our servant's desires, but that, hopefully, makes a point to you just how valuable you are to us."
'I'm not sure if I like being called a servant.' Harry thought mildly irritated.
Water's eyes flashed knowingly, and Harry flinched a little. He knew they had privy to his thoughts if they chose, but he also knew he couldn't exactly stop thinking.
"It's alright." Water's blue eyes moved from him to the spider, "This is not like it was before. You are very different than those who came before you, and you know almost nothing about what you are. We forgive you under these circumstances. Not even in the beginning did we have any servant quite like you."
'Curse you wretched defiler! Curse you and your keeper! I will go to my Lord and tell him of you! You will not live long, filth!' The snake hissed as the spider carried the large ring over to Water. Water bent and scooped up the spider and the ring.
"This spider certainly loves you. It even spun a small protective ward over the ring. There's quite a nasty curse on it, you know." Water held the ring up to observe it.
"What should I do about the snake?" Harry asked.
"We do not care. So long as you don't kill it."
Harry sighed, warily glancing over to the writhing snake struggling in mid air in a valiant attempt to break free of his magic.
He couldn't just let it go. It was obvious the snake would seek out Voldemort and report the seizure of the ring. Preventing that knowledge from leaking took priority. So, Harry was now stuck with a brainwashed snake, a ward-eating spider, and an orb of limitless knowledge.
How did he get himself into these situations?