Hey everyone, sorry for the delay, but a combination, of work, issues, and other projects really delayed this. On the bright side, I did complete an original novella (aside form editing,) and realized a couple of things. I'm looking for a new job(still employed, so don't worry), as well as colleges to go back and get a masters degree. It's a battle to keep myself from slacking off, but I'm working on trying to be a bit more proactive and trying to avoid settling down and wasting the entire day.
I might go back and revise this sometime this week. After looking this over, I noticed a couple of errors. I corrected them, but may have missed some other things, and I don't have time to go hunting for them right now. Apologies if there is anything.
One last thing: Sorry to advertise here, but did you know that Reading Rainbow is running a Kickstarter right now? For those of you who don't know, it's a program designed to encourage kids to read, and was a significant part of my childhood, and probably one of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing so much. I just wanted to do my part (aside from funding it a bit myself,) and try to get the word out a little bit more. There's only a couple of days left, so if you have any interest in it, the time to check it out and do something is now!
And now, back to the story!
While the destruction of Hogwarts was devastating, Dumbledore and the rest of the staff did an admirable job of maintain order, while quickly organizing some form of relief and support.
Within hours of daybreak, ministry officials were inspecting the ruins, and temporary housing was being erected. While the tents looked far from impressive, Harry was surprised to see how much bigger than they were on the inside. While certainly not as comfortable as their dormitories were, it was a marked improvement from sleeping out under the stars, especially since it seemed rain was gathering on the horizon.
Most everyone seemed to have calmed down, brushing off any memories of monsters off as panicked imaginings or side effects of the attack itself. There was still an air of fear, but it was subdued, calmed by the presence of Ministry officials, as well as the directions of the professors.
He idly strolled through the corridors of canvas, walking from tent in search of something to do. Every few minutes, he checked to make sure Rex was still with him. He didn't know how Rex could make things any worse, but given half a chance, he would find a way.
Elsewhere, the professors were having a meeting, to discuss their situation, and what course of action would be taken.
"As it is plain for all to see, Hogwarts is all but destroyed. While we managed to evacuate all students and staff without any death or serious injury, the castle is nothing more than a ruin. Needless to say, until matters are settled, classes will have to be canceled." Dumbledore began.
"Cancel classes? We have to close the school!" McGonagall protested.
"And abandon the education of our students? That is something we cannot do, Minerva." Dumbledore replied. "There have been no deaths or major injuries amongst the students and the staff, and what few wounds suffered are already being treated by Madame Pomfrey. Furthermore, there are no other schools in Britain capable of housing them all. Even if they were to be divided amongst them, no more than half of the children could be accommodated."
"But we can't hold classes here! There's nowhere to hold them!"
"Minerva, the Minister of Magic has given me his full support, both financially and in regards to whatever personnel we may require. That included temporary housing, such as the tents so generously provided."
"That doesn't mean we can carry on as if nothing has happened!"
"On the contrary, we must continue. We cannot neglect the education of our students, no matter what difficulties life hands to us."
"Difficulties?! The school is gone!" McGonagall shouted.
"Are you saying we should just give up?!" Flitwick asked the Gryffindor Head.
"I'm saying we need to explore options to ensure the education, and more importantly, the safety of our students."
Dumbledore sighed, "The destruction of Hogwarts is something that is beyond words. Yet, at the same time, it presents us with an unprecedented opportunity."
"What are you talking about Headmaster?" Professor Sinestra asked.
"Hogwarts was built once before. It can be built again."
"Albus, are you seriously suggesting that we rebuild Hogwarts?" McGonagall cried out in disbelief. Many of the other teachers stared at him incredulously.
"We cannot let this most prestigious school pass into history. Hogwarts must be rebuilt, and as quickly as possible." Dumbledore answered.
"But the resources and manpower needed, not to mention the research to replicate even a fraction of their charms and enchantments."
"True, very true, but to allow Hogwarts to languish in such a state is unacceptable. The Minister has assured me that we have his full support and funding. We also have a ready work force that needs something to occupy its time, now that classes are no longer in session."
"You're suggesting that we use the students?!"
"We shall involve them as much as humanly possible. There is much that can be used to instruct our students while helping to rebuild the castle as well. I'm sure Filius knows a number of masonry charms, and Pomona, we will need to restore the quality of the grounds as well. Hopefully, giving them something to channel their energy will allow them to deal with this great tragedy."
"I must agree with you Albus." Flitwick chimed in, "The chance to rebuild something as great as Hogwarts is a rare opportunity that many people would consider killing for."
"Or perhaps simply destroy Hogwarts outright." Professor Sinestra said darkly.
"You suspect one of the staff had something to do with this disaster?" Sprout spluttered in shock.
"It's certainly possible." was the grim reply.
"Interesting theory, but unlikely." Dumbledore said, "None of us have even a fraction of the power needed to destroy an artifact as powerful as Hogwarts. It has endured sieges, Dark Lords, and more all without any permanent damage. For something to bring the entire Castle down within the span of an hour... I don't want to think of what could wield that kind of power. Something beyond even the greatest of wizards' ability."
"It's something we will have to look into. We cannot afford for a disaster of this magnitude to happen again." Flitwick said.
"Indeed Filius. I think everything concerning this event will have to be exhaustively studied and documented. Though it pains me to say it, but it could be some time before we can begin repairing the damages wrought upon our home." Dumbledore sighed, and for a moment, he looked as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. Within moments, he seemed to shrug it off, refocusing on the meeting with the other teachers.
"It is a duty we shall undertake with the utmost respect for the founders." Dumbledore said, "Though there are many steps between now and then"
What will we do in the meantime? We can't just let the students sit around twiddling their thumbs."
"A great amount of the work will be the application of simple charms to assembled the basic structure, or simple enchantments that can easily be learned. While we will certainly hire specialists for the more complex workings, there are countless simple tasks that only require the minimum of skill to accomplish. I'm sure a number of students would be more than happy to speed along the castle's restoration."
"Think of the opportunities for learning!" Flitwick exclaimed, getting excited over the idea "This is a chance for them to leave their mark on the school."
"Can you assure me that there won't be any danger to the students?" McGonagall questioned the Headmaster, "After what has happened, I don't want to take any chances."
"I understand Minerva." Dumbledore assured her, "I have no intention of putting any lives at risks, and in the interest of safety, I was planning on organizing a small expedition to survey the damage before any construction began. Furthermore, the Ministry has assigned a contingent of Aurors to patrol the area, in case of another emergency."
"Well, it would be interesting to craft the castle anew." Sprout murmured to herself, idly sketching out a few diagrams for potential rooms. "It would give you a chance to test those large scale Transfiguration theories you've been touting about. It would certainly give your arguments some additional weight if you had practical results Minerva."
McGonagall sighed, still wary about the course selected, but she settled down beside Flitwick and Sprout, and they began discussing various permutations of spells they could use.
Dumbledore smiled, "Now on to the next order of business. Due to the unusual course this year has taken, I feel that it would be prudent to reorganize the curriculum to better suit our needs..."
It was surprising how quickly things began to move when the headmaster had a vision to implement. By the next day, a new curriculum was in place, and Hufflepuff House found itself attending a Charms class about manipulating stone. Within the hour, they were practicing laying down foundations until the direction of seventh years and some Ministry appointed architects.
Other classes followed a similar pattern. Tranfiguration focused on clearing away wreckage and creating new stones, Charms focused on basic household spells that could make life easier, Even history changed things up a bit. While Binns refused to teach anywhere besides his now completely destroyed classroom, leaving him suspended several dozen feet above everyone else, Dumbledore had supplied them with a number of books detailing the layout of the castle, and had them write a three scroll paper about potential improvements.
Despite the carnage, the students seemed to be coping well, and were even excited about their new assignments. For once, there was no need for reminders about completing homework, and some of the more troublesome children mentioned that they should blow up Hogwarts every year.
Most importantly, it kept them out of trouble, something that the teachers let out a collective sigh of relief at. Once they were assured that the students were occupied, they moved on to other matters.
"While the majority of the castle has been destroyed, there is still a chance that some of the deeper levels have survived. We would need to excavate the collapsed stone regardless, and it would be good to know exactly what we are dealing with before reconstruction begins." Dumbledore said, even as he scribbled rapidly upon the scroll in front of him.
"How many of us will you need?" Professor Sprout asked.
"No more than five, I believe, at least for the initial survey. Any more than that would only serve to slow us down, and should anything happen to become lost or worse, enough staff will remain that the school can carry on."
"Do you really expect there to be anything dangerous down there?"
Dumbledore looked at Professor Sinestra, "My dear, Hogwarts was one of the most complex and powerful enchantments ever created. Now that the intricate working have been disrupted, venturing in without expecting the worst would be the utmost foolishness. All possible precautions must be taken, now let us finish our preparations."
The teachers hastily assembled expedition began to survey the ruins, looking for stray students who had let their curiosity get the better of them, and to ensure that there were no immediate dangers in the ruins. After the initial pass along the outside of the castle, they finally ventured into the depths of what used to be their home.
Dumbledore, McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout, and Sinestra all walked towards the ruins of Hogwarts. It was almost sad how easy it was to navigate through the shattered columns and damaged halls. When Hogwarts had been intact, it would have taken even the most veteran explorer more time than they would like to get from one place to another. Now, it was merely a matter of levitating obstacles out of the way, or when all else failed, blasting a new path through the lifeless stone.
As they entered another devastated room, McGonagall paused for a moment, something about the room sparking memories of what it used to be.
"Are you alright Minerva?" Dumbledore asked in concern.
"I... I'm fine. I think we're walking through my... what used to be my office, is all." McGonagall replied, sorrow filling her voice. She bent down, shifting aside some rubble, unearthing some small trinket that had probably sat on her desk for years. "I know it's silly to get teary over such a small thing,compared to everything else, but I just-" she halted herself, and the rest of them gave her a few moments to compose herself.
"Albus, what could have caused this much devastation? The wards surrounding the school are second to none. For something to tear the school apart in so short a time... it power must be unimaginable."
"I believe you are correct Filius." Dumbledore said solemnly, "While we should not jump to any conclusion without further investigation, this is something that is beyond even my considerable knowledge. We will have to tread carefully, for I am unsure if whatever did this has departed."
"Do you really think it is still here?" Professor Sinestra asked, her hand already moving for her wand.
"I cannot deny the possibility. It is more than powerful enough to kill any of us outright, so I doubt it is lying in ambush, but perhaps it is slumbering, recovering after its exertions. In any case, let us make haste" he paused, making sure that Professor McGonagall had composed herself, and then led them deeper into the ruins.
Their next destination was the Great Hall. It was near the center of the castle, and its size, combined with heavy reinforcement of the archetecture, meant that it was the most likely part of the castle to have survived intact.
"It seems that the Great Hall managed to survive, for the most part." Flitwick commented. Indeed, despite being near the epicenter of the collapse, it had remained remarkably intact. There was rubble scattered throughout it, and the pillars supporting it were cracked, but it seemed there was no immediate danger of collapse. However, there was one major detail that showed it had not survived unscathed.
The ceiling was cracked, and most likely would not endure for much longer. The sky it portrayed was now frozen, locked in the moment when its magic failed.
"Dumbledore! Dumbledore! OVER HERE!" A voice cried out, joined seconds later by a cacaphony of cries. The party looked around in confusion, before finally settling their eyes on a painintg.
It was a large painting, taking up a significant part of the wall. Normally, it depicted a serene lake bordered by a forest, with a trio of nymphs and dryads frolicking about. Now, it was filled to capacity with figures from all ages of history, all of them crammed together tighter than a tin of sardines.
"Dumbledore! Thank the heavens you found us! Quick, get us some more frames and get us out of here!"
Flitwick immediately began casting spells, loosening the painting from the wall.
"Professor Dippet, I hadn't expected to see you here. What happened?"
"Most of the Headmaster portraits fled the castle as soon as they knew what was going on. The rest of them were stuck in the castle, so tried to flee to a painting in a sturdy location. There are still plenty of us unaccounted for. No one's heard from the Fat Lady, or seen Sir MacGuinness, not to mention everyone in the west wing. We're hoping they managed to find another frame that could shelter them, but..."
"I see." Dumbledore sighed. He hadn't even thought about the paintings, but was glad to see that at least some of them had survived. Flitwick finally freed the painting from its enchanted moorings, and with a few gestures, sent it floating out of the castle. "We will have to keep an eye out for any more refugee portraits. Hopefully all of them managed to avoid any damage."
Their search for other surviving portaits proved futile, as all they managed to locate were damaged or destroyed frames. It was a small relief when no one was found in the remains. Hopefully, they had all managed to avoid the worst of the damage.
Yet again, they entered a room, and found nothing but devastation. It was impossible to determine what its original purpose had been from a cursory glace, so they began shifting the rubble aside, trying to find out were they were.
"Dumbledore! It looks like there is some sort of tunnel here." Professor Sprout called out as she casually tossed a sizable boulder aside.
"Are you surprised? Whatever did this must have created dozens of passages through the school. You don't cause this much damage by tiptoeing around." Flitwick commented.
"No, this looks artificial, like someone built it. What was here before?"
"I believe it was one of the girl's bathrooms." Professor Sinestra answered, unearthing th emangled remains of a toilet as she did so.
A shriek filled the air, as a young looking ghost shot out of the ruin.
"My home! My toilet! Who could have done something like this to me?!" She looked around, frantically searching for the culprit, before her eyes settled on the teachers.
"You! You must have done this!"
"Young miss, I can assure you-" Dumbledore began.
"Don't lie to me! Everyone is always tormenting poor little Myrtle. I suppose it was just a matter fo time before the teachers joined in. Well fine! See if I care! I'll find a new toilet and then you'll be sorry!"
With a wail, the ghostly girl vanished, for the moment. Silence hung in the air for a few seconds, before they returned to their examination of the school. Most of them, anyways. Dumbledore stood still, his face pensive.
"Is something on your mind Headmaster?"
"Nothing of importance, at least not right now, just beginning to piece the puzzle together, after fifty long years." Dumbledore said, walking over to the passage. "I think it would be prudent to see where this passage leads. If what I suspect is true, it may have some of the answers we have been looking for."
"Headmaster, are you sure that is wise? We have so much more of the castle to examine..."
"Come Minerva, where's your Gryffindor spirit?" Flitwick grinned at her, already shaping a damaged portion of the wall into a platform.
The five of them stepped onto the makeshift elevator, pressed close together as they descended down the tunnel.
What the found was damaged, like much of the rest of the castle, but accompanied by the stench of mildew and rot. While whatever destroyed the castle had certainly passed through here, most of the damage appeared to be simple age, rather than malevolent intent.
They began looking around, staring in wonder at etchings and statues that hadn't been seen for decades, perhaps even centuries.
"Isn't that..." Professor Sinestra began.
"Salazar Slytherin. It seems that after centuries undiscovered, the Chamber of Secrets has at last been revealed."
"If Binns were still alive, I'm sure this would make him keel over dead." Professor Sprout said, "To think that the Chamber of Secrets was real...AH!"
Her shriek of surprise caught their attention, and they turned just in time to see her fall over...something.
"Snakeskin." Professor Sinestra confirmed, "I advise that we be a bit more cautious now. The only creature I know that could make that is a Basilisk."
"A basilisk, certainly fitting for Salazar Slytherin." Flitwick mused, tightening his grip on his wand. "Everyone, keep your eyes open, or rather, don't."
The quintet continued to explore the chamber, moving much more slowly, and their eyes studiously focused on the ground around them. While it drastically inhibited their pace, there really was no other option. Fortunately, there was no sign of the beast, and after several long minutes they felt confident enough to accept that.
"No sign of the basilisk, for the moment. Perhaps it is still sealed away since the last time it was freed." Minerva sighed, finally lifting her gaze to look around.
"I must admit, it feels a bit silly to be looking at the ground constantly like this." Professor Sinestra commented, as the rest of them scattered once more to explore.
"A bit different form what you're used to?"
"Well, I am the Astronomy professor." she smirked at the Deputy Headmistress.
"Albus, it seems there is something else here!" Flitwick exclaimed excitedly, he frantically waved over the rest of the teachers, to a glowing hot tunnel blasted through the wall, leading even deeper into the earth.
"Plants are my specialty, but I don't think a Basilisk is capable of melting a hole through enchanted stone, unless I'm forgetting a very important lesson from Care of Magical Creatures." Professor Sprout said, casting a chilling charm.
"No this certainly wasn't done by the basilisk... Truly unfortunate."
"How can you say that?"
"While a basilisk is deadly, it is a known quantity, with a well known and easily acquired weakness. Whatever did this is completely unknown, and all the more worrisome for it."
"Can we risk leaving it down here until the Ministry can respond?"
"I think the appropriate question is: Dare we venture into the liar of the beast?" Dumbledore asked, lighting his wand. "I do not think it would be wise to wait for the Ministry to respond. Not only are they occupied with clearing the reconstruction, but a large number of Aurors might only serve to enrage the creature."
"As loathe as I am to say it, I feel that dealing with this now before any students decide to see what they can find down here." McGonagall sighed, drawing her wand.
"I can't imagine many wizards would be more qualified to deal with it than us." Flitwick said, conjuring a chicken as he spoke. "Of course, precautions must be taken, should the Basilisk, or anything else, be lurking about."
They began to walk through the hidden passage beneath the Chamber of Secrets, the passage twisted and turned, going ever downward. It seemed like an eternity passed, but there was no end is sight
"This architecture... it's far older than what we saw in the Chamber." Professor Sinestra commented, breaking the silence.
"Do you think that the Chamber of Secrets was intended to simply conceal this?" Professor McGonagall asked.
"No, no. While this is indeed deeper down than the Chamber, it appears to be connected to the main castle, though heavily warded. The architecture here is older than most of the castle as well, even the foundations. I would venture a guess that this was among the first portions of the castle that the founders created."
"What purpose did this serve?"
"That, I can only speculate to. Perhaps it served as a bunker, or fortress against enemies. I suspect the only way to determine the truth would be to venture deeper, and to see what we discover."
The teachers continued their sojourn deeper into the depths of Hogwarts, where no one had tread in centuries. It seemed as though it would go on forever, until they arrived at a door. A quick push showed that it was unlocked, and Dumbledore pushed it open, then froze. "Merlin's balls..."
"What is it Albus?" Professor Flitwick asked, stunned as the Headmaster's curse. The rest of the teachers came around the corner, and were similarly dumbstruck.
"What is that?" McGonagall asked in awe. No one else wondered what she was talking about. They could all feel the energy swirling around them, emanating from the wellspring of power. They could feel the magic saturating the air, even see it in areas where it became potent enough to visibly manifest itself as an all permeating glow. The entire area was elaborately designed, runes covered every available surface, and while they shone with their own arcane power, it was nothing compared to the raw power at the center.
"I am uncertain." Dumbledore said in surprise, "It seems that there was far more to our school than even the unabridged version of Hogwarts: A History contained. It is truly delightful to discover there is more to learn, even at my advanced age."
"Your joy aside, do you have any idea what it might be?" Professor Sprout asked.
"Nothing concrete, but most likely, it is a Nexus, a wellspring of raw, magical energy."
"I suppose it makes sense that they would build Hogwarts on something like this."
"Indeed. Such a source of po wer would grant them far more flexibility in their construction, even allowing it to adapt itself to future changes. The raw magical power would also serve to infuse anyone residing here with magic, increasing their potential if they were still growing. In all my years, I never suspected something so potent was here. The Founders did a magnificent job of channelling its power. Most attempts to contain them merely seek to prevent it from influencing the world around it, but the Founders actually found a way to temper and channel its power for their own purposes... Even understanding a fraction of the work they put into this could drastically advance our understanding of magical theory."
"A bit of research seems to be in order. We need to understand what the Founders were trying to do with this Nexus before we can hope to replicate their efforts." McGonagall stated.
"A most prudent course of action, Minerva. I must confess, a part of me is eager to get back into research. I believe the last time I did anything similar was with Nicholas." Dumbledore smiled, "Perhaps I should get in contact with him, something like thing might spark his interest, even after so many centuries."
He moved closer to the pulsating source of magical power, studying it intently, "I do believe things are going to be more interesting around here..."