A/N: IT'S ALIVE!
The entire walk back towards Hagrid's cabin, Harry had to endure Ron talking about anything and everything. The first few moments had been absolutely silent as the redhead seemed to be in shock and was running through several symptoms all at once. He was pale with a little green tinged around his mouth looking for all the world like he was going to be recreating Old Faithful at any moment. The next moment he would be pale again, and then a beet red. It didn't take him long to seemingly get his emotions under control enough to start babbling at Harry about what had happened.
"What do you think that was, Harry? I mean, of course you drove it away with your amazing powers, of course." His head was bobbling along so badly that for a moment Harry was worried that it might just fall completely off of his neck. "After everything that you've done though, Harry I would imagine that a wraith like that would be no match for you. I wonder if it was a Dementor." Ron's eyes got incredibly large and he had opened and closed his mouth a few times before he seemed about to launch into another stream of questions.
"What are you talking about, Ron?" Harry asked while shooting a quick glance towards Neville. The other boy was surprisingly quiet on the matter of what had happened since he had been with Hagrid the entire time. At the moment the sandy haired boy was examining the back of the Grounds Keeper as he lumbered some thirty feet in front of them along the path.
Ron was waving his arms in the air. "Like I said before, you're a legend, a hero to the entire wizarding world. My sister has been hearing stories of you since she was a toddler, told stories of the Great Harry Potter." The way he said it you really could hear the capital letters in the title. "I think her favorite story is how you defeated the dragon and saved the princess from the fiery dark lord of the volcano."
While Neville was attempting to stifle a snicker, Harry merely raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest. They were nearly to the cabin by now so the boys had fallen back a little from where Hagrid was lumbering through the trees. "The fiery dark lord of the volcano? I'm not exactly sure which part of that to take offense towards, although my dad tells me of the one time with Aunt Donna when they had to deal with the displaced Pyrovile, but that was more of a misunderstanding." He waved it off as if it was nothing and then turned back towards Neville. "You knew?"
Neville gave a small shrug and then stuck his hands in his pocket. "It's not exactly a secret, you know. Hermione told us the first time we saw you that she had read about you in all sorts of historical books."
"Yes, but that's history. That's established fact, things that can't, for lack of a better term and for more understanding, be changed." Harry tapped his chin in thought. "Then on the other hand…"
Ron was waving his hands wildly in the air as they had now reached the cabin. Hagrid was standing a not so quite distance away seemingly watching the interaction. "But it's all true. I mean, you should know above all others what is true and not, but I mean, there are hundreds of books published about your life."
Harry shook his head slightly as he patted his forehead with his left hand. "Ron, think about it, how could there be hundreds of books published about my life? For lack of more information, I'm eleven. There is not that much time between when I was still in nappies until now that so much of that would have occurred." For a long moment it seemed that Ron was actually considering the idea.
That notion was dropped off the edge of a cliff a moment later when his eyes lit up and he started clapping and bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet. "A time turner! You have your very own time turner, oh, can I use it sometime? I would love to be able to be in more than one place at one time, think of all the food and the meals that I could consume, or the Christmases, more me means more presents of course."
Neville palmed his face a little as he looked at Harry through his fingers. "I'm sorry about Ron, Harry. He's not lying though, there are hundreds of books that are supposed to be about your life. I'm not sure if they have them in the library, but we can probably order some of them from Flourish and Blotts."
Harry gave a shrug as he tapped against his chin in thought. "If they don't have all of them in the library I can always write to my dad and have him pick them up." His eyes shone for a moment in the relative darkness around them before they seemed to settle back down. "Might be interesting to get an actual firsthand account of what these authors were thinking when they were writing all about me."
Harry had not waited for a response while he turned and headed up towards the castle with Ron and Neville coming after him. Night had completely fallen around the castle and it was with some trepidation that the trio moved up the silent and dark grounds towards the castle doors. They were let inside by Mister Filch whom was carrying a lantern as he had several hours before seemingly looming in the darkness towards them.
"Detention not good enough for you three I see. Perhaps the forest is a little daunting a task, but it is what you've been set to." He sneered lightly before swinging the lantern back towards Hagrid's hut. "Be off with you, Hagrid be wanting his fodder for the evening."
Harry rolled his eyes a little as he put his hands on his hips. "Honestly, Mister Filch, the fact that we're standing here several hours after you left us with Hagrid at his hut must mean, logically, that we have completed our task early and wish to go to bed." He swept his hand over the nervously twitching Neville and the bouncing Ron, both covered in small amounts of branch and leaves. "See for yourself, my dear man, otherwise you can certainly go and speak with Hagrid yourself, we'll wait here."
When Filch made no move to do just that, Harry dragged Neville by the sleeve over to the steps of the grand staircase and pulled him down with him; he needn't have moved Ron forcefully as the boy was still bouncing around slightly on the balls of his feet and came willingly. Neville was gaping slightly as he stared from Filch to Harry, but the black haired boy was only watching the caretaker. After a few moments and a raised eyebrow from the boy the old man shuffled off, wheezing and mumbling under his breath out into the night and towards Hagrid's cabin.
Neville was biting the inside of his lip slightly as he looked around the darkened hallway. The candles had been partially snuffed out and so several sconces had one lit and one dark. "You know that if Snape catches us out here again he's going to go off on you, Harry."
Harry gave a small shrug as he leaned forward and put his chin in his hand resting against his knee. "I'm not sure I really care all that much. I mean, I know that the man hates me for something that I can't possibly control, let alone know about. Just because…" He trailed off and waved his hand lightly in the air. "That's for another day. I'm more concerned about these so called books."
Neville rolled his eyes and relaxed some against the marble staircase. "Harry, only you would face one of the scariest parts of our world and come out more worried about books written about your life."
Harry scrunched up his nose a little. The pair completely ignored the white and opened mouth of Ron behind them. "Neville, if someone had written about your life, wouldn't you want to know what was said? I mean, I've never given a personal interview and neither has my dad for me. They could be writing anything, they could say that I'm…" He seemed to pause and tap his finger against his chin. "Come to think of it, there's not much they could say that would be any closer to the truth than that fairytale about the Boy-Who-Lived." He seemed to drift off slightly, staring off into nothing.
Neville sighed and shook his head. "Hermione's going to agree with me, probably Daphne too. You know how much those two value survival over something they are going to deem trivial." He gave a small shrug before he relaxed against the banister next to him. "Besides, Harry, what was that thing that we saw?"
"Oh, nothing, just a remnant of a time long ago I would imagine. Dad's come across stuff like that both before and after I've joined him in his travels. Why, there was this one time that a wraith was terrifying a village in the Gamma Quadrant of the Zeno sector, so he-" He suddenly broke off as the wheezing and swinging light of the lantern was moving back and forth towards the entrance hall.
"Get out of my sight, rotten little buggers." Filch seemed unnaturally unpleasant as he swung the lantern towards the boys, only barely missing hitting them with the rusted metal base. "I don't want to see you three wandering around at night any longer, ya hear? Hagrid gave his report and now I have to be the one to tell the Headmaster and Deputy, it's not enough that I have to be the one in the castle late at night." He had already started to shuffle off as the students could still hear him mumbling under his breath. "…protections not enough….three attempts in the last week….who do you think has to clean up all the mess?"
Harry gave a small shrug as he looked around the deserted entrance hall before spinning on his heel and starting up the staircase. "Well, I suppose we better tuck in then."
Neville was shaking his head slightly as he moved quicker up the stairs so that he could catch up with his friend that was already almost at the top. "Harry, I still think that we might want to investigate what happened tonight. I mean, you didn't seem very frightened of the thing."
"And why should he?" Ron seemed to bound after them, leaping and bouncing slightly as he continued to try and keep up with them. "I mean, he's the Boy-Who-Lived, bet he's tackled things much more vicious than some shadow creature. I bet you've already got some brilliant scheme in mind in how to draw it out of its hiding and then trap it somewhere, huh?"
Harry designed to raise an eyebrow at Ron before turning back towards Neville. "What would you have me do, Neville? I'm a first year student with barely a workable foundation of knowledge about the magical world. It would be like asking you, a pureblood, to hack the computer systems of the Home Office." At the blank look now from both purebloods, Harry rolled his eyes a little. "Think about it, we're students here, the teachers and the staff are supposed to be the ones to take care of these things."
Ron snapped his fingers together. "Dumbledore. He's the most powerful wizard in the world, right now. They say that even You-Know-Who was scared of Dumbledore even at the height of his power." Ron pushed out his chest and seemed to strut a little. "He's always come around the Burrow, on personal names with my parents. As long as he's around, that silly wraith thing wouldn't dare come near this school."
Harry felt like rolling his eyes once more, but instead stared down at the gold ring around his right hand. "Ron, let's forget for the moment that Dumbledore is known for one thing, and that's defeating a dark wizard. Another is the fact that the wraith, whatever it is, has already gotten this close to Hogwarts without anyone seeming to care."
Neville was already shaking his head. "I would hate to agree with Ron, and you know how much I would hate to do that, but I think he's right." He waved off the strutting of the redhead before he could open his mouth. "Not about his family knowing Dumbledore personally, but about him keeping away people that would want to do us harm. He was placed as Headmaster for a reason; the Board of Governors must trust his judgment and his ability to keep the school safe."
They were nearing the entrance to the Gryffindor Tower and so Ron had run ahead to relay the password as well as to gossip with one of the portraits. Harry watched the redhead moving away before he spoke. "I already told you, I'm not worried about that thing. I think that I'll have to research into those books that Ron mentioned tomorrow during our break. I've already gotten Transfiguration down pat for the homework and I think that I don't have to worry about the class time."
Neville was shaking his head with a small smirk on his lips. "I'm telling you, Hermione and Daphne are going to be more concerned about the wraith and less about your history books." He poked Harry in the chest with a finger and then smiled. "You're just going to have to be the one to explain to them why they're not researching something far more important and why you're more interested in those stupid children's books."
"Darn right, you're going to explain." The small study group had convened the next day as Harry had suggested. Upon the retelling of what had happened the previous night, Hermione had slammed her bag down as quietly as she could and hissed the response towards where Harry was seated. "What if that wraith were….I don't know….some dark wizard come back from the dead?"
"And what if he was, Hermione?" Harry smirked as he raised an eyebrow and leaned across the table towards her. Vaguely he noticed that Neville tensed a little when Harry got so close to the girl. "What if he's the Dark Lord Voldemort, back from the grave and attempting to figure out a way to come back completely into power?"
Daphne hissed a little as if in pain while she slumped down into a chair next to Hermione. Cho and Marietta were already moving to take chairs at the far end of the table closer to Neville, whom had elected to stay out of the line of fire currently. "Aren't you ever going to learn not to say the name?"
"Why?" Harry gave a small shrug. "Humperdink. Humperdink."
Hermione smirked a little and her cheeks flushed a little. "You're no Miracle Max." She waved her hand in the air suddenly and her face was back into a scowl. "You're avoiding the question, Harry."
"I'm avoiding it because it makes no sense, Hermione. Let's say that for the sake of argument that the rumors are true, that the three-headed dog on the third floor is guarding something, oh, I don't know….the Philosopher's Stone." He looked around and noticed that he had the attention of the entire table now. "And, let's suppose, that Voldemort…" he stared directly at Daphne as he said it and she winced and growled at him in response. "….that the scary bad boogie man is after it. Assuming all of that, Hermione, what would you have us, as first and second year students, do?"
Hermione opened and closed her mouth, but it was Marietta that had leaned forward and addressed the table. "Harry, how do you know all of that?"
Harry waved the looks from the others away. "I don't, I said that I'm assuming everything. I heard the Weasley twins talking about the dog and a trap door, Ronald and Seamus have been going on non –stop that they saw the dog first so it would be logical to assume that there's something under there, yes?" He posed this question to those seated at the table in blue and bronze.
Cho surprised everyone at the table by slumping backwards. She played her fingers along the table top for a moment with a frown before she spoke. "He's right. There's upper level students of all the houses that know about the dog and several have attempted to get past it, I know that at least one Seventh year Hufflepuff ended up in the hospital wing because of it."
Hermione was already pulling out parchment and listing out everything that they knew about what was going on. "All right, so we have an unknown object being protected through unknown means on the third floor corridor." Under the small list she wrote Cerberus with a line under it for emphasis. "So what do we do about it?"
Harry shook his head as he was already leafing through one of the larger of the books that he had stacked next to him. "This is just absurd, did no one bother with trying to correlate between the different stories? I mean, really, how could I have been brokering a peace agreement with the vampires of Albania while at the same time seducing a Mayan princess. That's not even taking into account I'm barely old enough to even know what a girl is, but to suppose that I was seducing a member of the royal family of a civilization that hasn't been seen in hundreds of years, well….at least that no one knows about." He was tickling the underside of his chin with the feather part of his quill.
Hermione slammed one of her books down onto the table before Harry making an echoing reverberation that drew the stares of some of the other students. She ignored all of this as she leaned across the table and hissed at Harry. "This is serious business and you're going on and on about some stupid adventure stories that have no basis in reality?"
"That's my point though; they're not realistic in the least." Harry was already shaking his head as he scratched out something on a piece of parchment before setting it aside for the moment.
"What about all that stuff that you had said before? About having to explore and figure things out. You were all for doing these things back before Christmas, and then there was the troll on Halloween." Hermione was on a roll as she started to tick things off on her fingers. "The Quidditch match, the troll, what if all of these things are connected?"
Daphne gave a small shrug as she started to sort through her textbooks. "Maybe, but for what purpose, Hermione? We already sussed out that someone was trying to kill Harry during the Quidditch match fiasco, but there wasn't any real definitive answer as to who would want to do it in broad daylight." She held up her hands as the others looked from her to the gloom of the library. "I know that Weasley suspects all Slytherins, but like I was trying to say before, it could have very well been just about anyone in the school."
Neville was scrutinizing something on a page of the books that Harry was looking at. Shaking his head a little he refocused back onto the conversation at hand. "Come on, Harry, I thought you wanted to get to know what was going on around here."
Harry waited a beat while scratching something out on the parchment with his quill before looking at the faces of those others around him. They all seemed to be interested in his reaction. He gave a small shrug and moved back to his work with the books before him. "The teachers and staff are hired to protect us and teach us, given the fact that they've done neither since I've been here I can't be all that certain that anything that goes on in this school is really my business." He closed the book slowly and made sure to make eye contact with each of his friends. "It's not my job to make sure that people do their jobs, I'm eleven."
Hermione opened and closed her mouth for a few moments. She looked to be getting ready to make a scathing and rather logical argument when Ron and Seamus appeared at the door to the library. Even with their red faces and panting breaths they still seemed to be talking rather loudly and gained the attention of the librarian as well as most of the students in the library trying to study. The two boys seemed to completely ignore all of the fuss around them as well as Madam Pince and pushed around her to get towards the table where the study group was sitting.
"Harry, Harry, we've got to talk to you about something really important." Ron was huffing, his face as red as his hair as he tried to gain his breath. He had already bent over the back of Neville's chair and was dripping sweat onto some of the books around the table. Daphne pointedly moved out of the way of the two boys.
"I'm sure that whatever you have to say to Mister Potter can wait until you two have served detention for your rather rude behavior." Madam Pince's pinched whisper had come out as a hiss behind the pair.
"But…but…Snape is trying to steal the stone." Seamus was able to get out the last sentence before he and Ron were hauled away from the table by their ears by the irate librarian. As they watched them disappear among the stacks, Hermione had opened her mouth to say something once more.
"Honestly, it's like you people expect me to do everything for you. It's no wonder that Dad has such a hard time with these things." Harry was shaking his head a little as he pushed the books away from him and slowly stood. He started to gather up the books before him while leaving two of them open on the table as well as the parchment that he had been working on. "I'm going to go catch Madam Pince before she comes back, these books really should be reshelved, I mean honestly, don't wizards know anything about fiction writing."
Nevile shook his head a little as he spun around the pair of books that Harry had left at the table. Cho and Marietta had already pulled out their own books and Daphne was leaning towards them to look at something that the pair was working on. Hermione seemed to be the only one that was still on the previous topic of conversation. "I wonder what Finnigan meant about Professor Snape and some stone?"
Daphne sat back in her chair, scratching away at her parchment for a moment before looking up. "The entire castle thinks that Snape and by extension us Slytherins are evil. I'm not surprised that Weasley and Finnigan would jump to some conclusion about the Professor doing something not good. They probably think that he's going to poison the entire school."
Hermione was shaking her head while tapping her chin with the point of her quill. "No, he mentioned something about stealing a stone. I can't imagine any kind of stone would be worth much to be worth stealing and the only stones in the castle are those that are a part of the walls, and he can't rightfully steal those."
Cho gave a small shrug as she pushed her parchment over closer to her friend. "Maybe he's going to try and take over the school. Given that he's been here for years I can't imagine that's really a possibility, but we're getting our information from two very nervous and rather dim witted Gryffindors, no offense." She smiled shyly towards Neville whom flushed a little.
"None taken." He was able to get out before he pushed one of the books towards Hermione.
She seemed to ignore it before he tapped her shoulder and then pointed down at it. The book was opened to a full color rendition of a fresco that took up both pages when opened. The caption under the illustration listed that it was a fresco that had been discovered in a recent excavation of one of the primitive wizarding settlements in the Balkans, it was said to be over two thousand years old. The date of the fresco was not what the two had thought interesting, it was the fact that it depicted a man wearing a long brown duster and modern shoes with a boy with messy black hair, piercing green eyes, and a similar brown coat.
While Hermione was staring at the picture and trying to run through what was listed both before and after the image, Neville was attempting to see what Harry had written. The other book that was left behind was a standard book used for their boring history class, but Harry had stuck the parchment into the book and seemed to have partially closed it. A small slip of the parchment could be seen from Neville's angle and he quick read it before pointing that out to Hermione as well. The pair shared a long slow nod before returning to their studies, sliding into an ongoing conversation that Daphne was having with Marietta about the usage of cheering charms.
Dumbledore sat in his office and hummed lightly while working through the mountain of paperwork that had sat on the edge of his desk. The portraits in his office paid little to no mind to what was going on and were busy moving from one frame to the next and talking with one another in hushed whispers. The Headmaster of Hogwarts normally paid very little attention to what was going on around him in his office as there was no visitors currently and anything the portraits had to say was normally just about the everyday running of the school and had no concern of his.
While Dumbledore was working, Fawkes was keeping an eye on the stack of parchment to the left of the Headmaster. Every so often he would move his hand over and grasp a piece and slide it towards himself and then read and sign it or place it in another stack to his right. As he was not really watching what he was doing he didn't notice what the phoenix did. Every so often the stack would decrease in height without the movement of a piece of parchment off the top, almost as soon as it changed down it would increase once again by that same amount. Moreover, it never seemed to change heights based on the amount that was taken off the top.
Dumbledore stretched his arms over his head and groaned as several popping sounds could be heard throughout the circular office. A few of the portraits winced and immediately moved back to their own frames. "I'm not sure about the rest of you, but I never seem to get anywhere with the amount of paperwork that this job entails."
Phineaus Black scoffed a little while the others simply shook their heads. "It's the extra load, Dumbledore. If you had actually committed yourself to the running of this school your work load wouldn't be nearly as large."
"Nonsense." Dumbledore waved his hand in the air without even looking at the portrait. "If I'm not there guiding the world where it needs to be then who could possibly do the job?" He gave a small chuckle. "I daresay that Fudge, and Bagnold before him, wouldn't nearly be able to do their jobs without my valuable input; no, I am still very much needed elsewhere."
This time Black did huff and cross his arms over his chest, scowling down at the mountain of paperwork that was still resting on the edge of the desk. "Then I daresay, Albus that you had better get used to the amount of work. If you're going to be the undisputed ruler of all magical Britain than that comes with quite a bit of paperwork."
Once again, Dumbledore gave a small chuckle as he leveraged himself up out of the chair and started to move around the edge of the desk. "No, Phineaus, I don't want to rule them, just to guide them. It is why I take my job as Headmaster so seriously. There's really no resource greater than our children." If he heard the scoffs or seen any of the rolling eyes around him than he did not give any indication.
He breezed over and patted Fawkes without taking any notice of what the phoenix was looking at and moved into his private quarters. Those nearest to the door could hear him muttering about his favorite subject, Harry Potter. None of the portraits or the phoenix was paying any attention to the old man though as they watched the stack of parchment once again decrease in volume before pushing back up to its previous height. Fawkes finally broke contact with the stack and settled his head under his wing while the portraits settled into their frames for the night.