Chapter One: Exploding potions
Chapter One: Exploding potions
The dungeon was silent this night. As it was the day before and the day before that. The students slept soundly in their beds resting before another day of lessons in wand-waving, potion-making, planting and other magical disciplines. However for every rule, there is an exception…
A rather loud sneeze broke the peaceful silence somewhere deep in the snake territory. Nobody heard it, as this particularly part of the castle wasn't inhabited for a long time and even the Slytherins did not venture here, thinking that their time shouldn't be wasted on the gloomy and covered with cobwebs corridors and mysterious abandoned rooms. It was long known that nothing but spiders and cold was to be discovered here.
Who was the trespasser then? The smoke dribbled slowly from the underneath of the door of one of the rooms. Was it perhaps some evil genius who tried to cover the tracks of his recent vicious plot by brewing the instrument of crime in this deserted by human beings area?..
Harry rubbed the nose with the edge of his robe's sleeve. The dust in this room was killing him. The next time he called Dobby, he would ask him to clean the surroundings. The teen himself had never been good with household charms.
He squinted through the eye-glasses at the swirling violet mass in the silver cauldron. Perfect. Now, he had to wait another eight hours before the brew would be ready for the final stage of the process.
This potion was one of the most complex ones, Harry has ever brewed. He believed it would be considered difficult not only on his amateur level, but on, for example, Snape's level as well.
It was already his twelfth attempt at brewing it. But he would not give up. He had to complete it. For the greater good and for himself. And he couldn't share his intentions with anyone.
Even Snape wouldn't appreciate the irony of the Golden Boy brewing the x-class dark potion in the bowels of the castle. It was a dangerous potion with the 20% lethal rate for its users and the multitude of the unwanted side-effects. But this was as much as Harry's brain could come up in such a short amount of time to avert the catastrophe.
As soon as he learned about the nefarious plot, about the fact that Dumbledore had already resigned to his death, that Snape was an unfortunate scapegoat in this plan, that the ferret he was spying on almost daily (which was disturbingly stalkish) was practically blackmailed to kill the Headmaster… As soon as he discovered all this in another bout of his much too-Slytherin roaming the castle and eavesdropping on the other night dwellers, it hit me that he had to grow up, that it was up to him to finish this war. He should have understood that when he learnt the prophecy. That everything in life wasn't so simple. Yet… Yet there always had been Dumbledore to handle the big things and lend the support.
Harry needed the trump card. Something to have up his sleeve when the time came to the showdown and also for the Horcrux quest. The so called 'power the Dark Lord knows not'. Love was all well and good, but Harry didn't believe that even this wonderful emotion would suddenly enable him to defeat Voldemort against all the odds. Even so, he was a survivor. He wouldn't let the egomaniac bring him down. Whatever it takes…
So every night he sneaked out to the restricted section and studied the books on Dark magic, restricted magic and simply rare magic to find that clue. The young wizard even roped the slavishly loyal Dobby in his endeavors – the only being he could trust with his plans.
Finally, he came across the recipe for this potion in one of the books about the pureblood ancient customs. It had been used on the squibs of the family back in the old times and reverted the DNA back to the days of the founders of the clan. Sometimes the magicless heir of the family emerged being stronger than all of his magical relatives combined, sometimes he or she died, sometimes the time was reverted too far back and one became muggle or a drooling fool, or sometimes, if the family had interbred with other magical creatures, the inhuman heritage was brought to the fore, which wasn't always a good thing. Having a werewolf or a vampire in the clan wasn't something the ancient prurebloods desired.
Harry brewed the accompanying potion and knew now that he did have some magical creature in the line a very long time ago. The traces were so faint it almost didn't register.
Still, the chance to strengthen himself and gain new power was enough of the motivation to try out the prospect. And as much as Harry hated the prophecy, he was ready to stake his life, that it would be only through the Dark Lord's efforts that he would be killed, and not through some potion of his own creation.
If he finally managed to brew Rivertus Vitae correctly, he would have to write several farewell letters to Ron and Hermione, explaining the situation, the Horcruxes, everything he knew to date about Voldemort. Should his insane plot fail, it would be up to them to organize the resistance.
It was ready. Harry still couldn't believe he managed it. Perhaps, his stubbornness had won in the battle against this complicated concoction. Either that, or his mother's genes were finally showing.
Only the final ingredient was to be added and after that the potion had to be drunk immediately.
The hyperactive elf popped into existence. Instead of a single piece of cloth his whole body was covered in the multitude of socks artfully sewn together. Whatever could be said about Dobby, one couldn't say he didn't have style.
"Yes, Master Harry?"
"Do you have that stone?"
The creature nodded energetically.
"'Course, Master Harry! Here it is! The nasty shopper din' want to sell it to Dobby… Dobby had to give up much of the Master's gold and even threaten 'im a bit…"
Harry took the rare sapphire stone with a spider forever encased inside of it, caressing the surface lovingly.
"The job well done… You did great, Dobby!"
"Thank you, Master Harry! You are the bestest wizard…" the house-elf sniffed. "To thank such lowly creature as Dobby… Master is so generous."
This was getting old… In fact it was already shriveling up from age. Harry sighed.
"Hush, Dobby. I need another favour from you…"
"Anything, Master Harry!"
"You will stay here with me when I drink this potion, should anything irrevocable happen to me after that… you are to hand these letters to Ron and Hermione. Do you understand?"
The elf's ears flattened sadly on his head.
"Dobby understands, Dobby understands more than he wants to, but he will obey Master Harry…"
Harry started. This kind of come-back was not typical for the usually happy-go-lucky elf. The teen was brought back in his thoughts to the time when Dobby still belonged to the Malfoy family. Was he treating the small being so badly? The wizard's eyes softened.
"You don't have to, if you don't want to do it, Dobby…"
"No-no, Dobby couldn't stop Master, but he will see, he will help if needed!"
The large murky swamp-coloured eyes gained a determined glint. Harry only sighed resignedly. When he had told Dobby of the potion the house-elf came as far to scolding and disapproving as his slavish ways allowed him. He was clearly worried for his Master.
"Alright. Now we begin…"
Harry positioned himself in front with cauldron, getting ready a small glass with measures and holding the sapphire. A bit tense, he lowered the stone to the surface of the now lime-green potion. Taking a deep breath, he relaxed his fingers and with a gwap sound the jewel sank into the depth of the bright liquid.
Harry backed away for the cauldron and cautiously watched it. Nothing happened. The young wizard frowned. The brew was supposed to turn dark-blue. Perhaps, he should wait a bit more…
With a hissing sound the inert potion stirred and in an instant turned into… very black and smelly slime.
Harry was incredulous and felt not a little bit frustrated. He was so sure he got Rivertus Vitae right this time. He furiously wracked his brain about what he could have done wrong.
"Master? Is something wrong?" the voice from the concerned creature sounded right from below. It seemed Dobby abandoned his overseeing position at the top of the ancient cupboard to check up on Harry. He couldn't blame him, house-elves always were very sensitive and attuned to the emotions of the ones they bonded to.
Harry had just opened his mouth to reassure the tiny elf, when the unattractive goop, which a moment ago resembled a harmless mass, moved and exploded outward.
The first thing Harry realized was that somebody was shaking him. Next he heard a frantic voice. It was unfamiliar and somehow familiar at the same time.
"Master Harry! Master Harry! Please wake-up! Please be alright!"
"I am alright," cracked out a teen without opening his eyes.
"Master Harry is fine! Dobby is so happy!"
A vague thought ran through his still foggy mind. Dobby decidedly didn't sound like Dobby. The voice instead of squeaky was deep and masculine. This inconsistency merited returning to the world of the living.
The wizard opened his eyes and slammed his body further into the stone floor in fright.
Whatever he was expecting seeing a large figure hovering above him and shielding the light from the torch was not it.
The figure's lips moved. "Master Harry must stay still, he is still injured…"
Harry blinked and gaped. The mysterious person had somewhat familiar large yellow-green eyes, its ears were situated a bit sideways and pointed, the strands of silvery hair covered his back like a curtain creating pools of quicksilver on the floor. The body was very obviously male, toned, olive-tanned and very naked, except the ridiculous skirt of multi-coloured socks covering the groin area.
The teen was stupefied, he just began to realize what could have happened and that this new specimen was obviously Dobby, when he was carefully picked up and carried bridal style towards the door.
"Dobby cannot pop, Dobby will bring Master Harry to the medical witch…"
The scene of him being carried into the Hospital Wing by a practically naked and inhuman being and the subsequent reactions and explanations flashed through Harry's mind and he recoiled in horror and embarrassment at this thought causing him to cry out urgently:
"Dobby, I am fine. Put me down!"
The house… or whatever Dobby was now, hesitated but reluctantly put Harry down.
The teen steadied his legs and was surprised that he actually did feel fine, except the sticky black mess covering his body. His skin wasn't even slightly burnt from the explosion.
Harry turned to Dobby and realized he was on the eye-level with a well-defined chest, he had to crane his head to look into the elf's eyes that shone with concern and their usual naivety. Well, this was different. Not many people would be able to look down on this house-elf. The sixth-year student himself had finally had a growth spurt this winter and reached the decent height of 5'9 feet. He hoped he could grow more… Or…
Did this unfortunate potion have any effect on himself? The wizard withdrew the wand from his robe pocket, quickly transfigured the desk from the crumbled table into mirror and levitated it into the standing position.
He gazed attentively into the reflective surface. Perhaps… No, it had already been there.
Nothing had changed. Harry was disappointed. His appearance was the same, he didn't feel any different and… Well, at least his magic worked fine. Thankfully, he didn't render himself into squib or Muggle due to this foolish experiment. But no results was still disappointing, considering the potion had worked. He glanced sideways at the figure who was still standing near the door with confusion marring his alien and handsome features.
Were house-elves actually a degradation of a previously proud species? Come to think of it, he had absently wondered, when he learned of house-elves if there were other types of elves. When he asked Ron, he looked incredulous about his friend's false perception of the elves – that of the fairy-tales' forest dwellers and warriors. Perhaps, Ron was not the best person to ask about such things and there was some truth in the Muggle old lore.
He turned to the result of his experiment.
"Dobby, you do remember what kind of potion I brewed?"
"Yes, Master Harry."
"It seems that that potion explosion has reverted you into what your ancestors must have looked like. Would you like to see?" Harry gestured to the mirror.
"Yes…" the elf hesitantly approached the mirror. Harry noted the absence of the usual compulsory 'Master Harry' form of address. It wasn't a big loss, but it was a change. Interesting.
While Dobby was examining his hew appearance Harry contemplated what he could do to mitigate the damages or more precisely what should he do with Dobby. Obviously he couldn't let the elf go on with his usual house-elf routine. Neither could he happily dance into the Great Hall with the tall stranger and explain what happened with brutal honesty. He didn't want to tell his friends either… What to do? Dobby was already acting differently, perhaps, he could provide Dobby with money and home and help him to integrate into the wizarding world?..
"Dobby, do you feel different?"
"I do… I lost a lot of my abilities… But I believe I gained something else…"
The speech-patterns were obviously changing too. Rapidly so.
"What do you say about getting you a new name and home?"
"You cannot continue to work at Hogwarts…"
"What do you want to do? I will help you with the changes in any way I can… After all, they're my fault and even if they weren't... Anyway, you could live for a while in one of my parent's vacation homes to adjust to the differences, or as long as you like… What do you want?"
"I…" the tall being was stumped… He shivered.
Harry suddenly understood that it was damp and cold and Dobby didn't have any substantial clothes. The wizard shrugged the school cloak from his shoulders and cast some extension and warming charms on it before handing the garment to the ex-house-elf.
"This should keep you warm for the moment."
Dobby accepted the cloak and put it on. Harry had a second agenda in giving away that cloak. He didn't know how deeply Dobby had already bonded with him, even though they never officially entered into the Master-house-elf agreement. Handing the clothes was supposed to free the new being from his previous obligations.
The elf lifted his head and his eyes, now burning with fierce fire, seemed to look straight into Harry's soul.
"Thank you, Harry Potter. But I can take care of myself," the eyes-lock was intense and the wizard saw an ancient intelligence lurking in the depths of the familiar swamp orbs. "Should you need my help, call for Zallerion. We will meet again, young wizard…"
With these parting words the elf vanished in the swirl of the wind, bringing the smell of fresh forest into the stale dungeons.
'How very cliché', thought Harry staring at the few yellow maple leaves that landed on the dirty floor.
The teen looked at his old wristwatch and whistled. He had missed a day of classes. No matter, he already had a few excuses ready. Spelling his clothes clean and tightening his weak Occlumency shields Harry exited the room. It was time to face the music…