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Little Big Sister
Chapter 6: Secret Agent Girl
Maria smiled as she opened the door to the third floor corridor. It was time to make a full run on the object hidden down there. It had been tricky to get to the corridor this time due to the extra gear she was carrying, but nothing she couldn't handle. As she entered, the Cerberus woke up and growled for a moment before recognizing the intruder. Immediately the dog started to nuzzle her affectionately, enough to knock a normal person down. The dog, which Maria had taken to calling Ares, was actually very friendly if he considered you a friend. Given that Maria was feeding each of the heads a large piece of meat; she was certainly a friend to this pooch. Interestingly, Ares had also become friends with Kendra, especially after the ashray transformed into a miniature, water version of the Cerberus and began to play with him.
As Ares munched on the meat, Maria opened the trapdoor and dropped a candle down to see what was below. As the light passed it immediately revealed vines, lots and lots of vines. 'Professor Sprout's defense. Looks like Devil's Snare from here. Still, can't take any risks since as far as these defenses are concerned I'm an invader. A magic user would use light or fire to get rid of these things which may or may not activate a secondary trap,' she thought as she pulled out a spray hose connected to a couple gallon tank of the strongest herbicide she could get. She began pumping the handle on the hose, causing the chemical to spray and cover the writhing vines. Immediately they start to react violently to the poison, flaying all over to get away from it in the crowded spot they had been planted. Maria just smirked as the vines immediately started to wither and die. Normally this stuff would take hours to work, but on plants that moved and thus had much more active systems than normal plants, it only took a few minutes. In no time at all they were all dead and harmless.
Maria jumped down and quickly inspected the vines. Most of them were dead with only a few left alive and staying as far away as possible from where she had sprayed the herbicide. 'Huh, no other traps. Odd,' she thought as she continued on. In her mind, Grandfather Delta warned about this being too easy and she had to agree. Something was certainly off here.
The next room stunned her for a moment before seeing the door. It was locked with a large rusted padlock that looked like it had seen better days. Above her were hundreds of keys with wings, flitting about like butterflies. Hovering a few feet above the ground perfectly still was a broom. The girl looked up and easily found the key matching the padlock among the hundreds flying up there. 'They can't be this stupid,' she thought in surprise. 'Who locks a door but then leaves the key out in the open for anyone to use,' she wondered as she ignored the broom and keys and went right for the padlock. There was no way she would be touching either of those as they could've easily been spelled to be a trap. All it would take would be a simple sticking charm to the broom to hold you in place until someone came or some type of curse on one of the keys. Instead Maria pulled out a can of WD-40 and sprayed it on the inside of the rusty lock to help loosen everything up as this thing looked like it needed a good deal of force to be manipulated. She then pulled out a manual pick gun, attached the correct pick and went to work. In a few minutes she opened the lock, smirking to herself as she did. 'Spelled against any type of unlocking spell or damage spell and it falls to a simple lock pick,' she chuckled enjoying the irony.
The next room was much grander than the previous two. This one had a vaulted ceiling and a large chess board with larger than life sized chess pieces. There were also remains of pieces behind each of the two groups meaning this was probably just like wizard's chess where the pieces did actual damage to one another. This defense looked like McGonagall's area of transfiguration. Maria frowned as she stared at the board, wondering what possible trap or traps could be laid here. 'Okay, I would guess that if I try to cross without playing that I'll be attacked. Chess is a time consuming game but also one of the most common games in the magical world. If I start playing that could set off an alert to someone,' she thought as she surveyed the area. A witch or wizard would either play their way through or blast their way through, so how about going around the obstacle.
The emerald-eyed girl scanned the walls of place, noting that they were carved to look like roman columns, giving plenty of grips to whoever would dare climb them. Smiling to herself, Maria ran over to them, making sure not to step on the board, and climbed up the side of the wall. Pressing her back to it, she sashayed along the edge, keeping a close eye on chess pieces closest to her. Seeing no reaction, she continued until she was above the door to the next room, jumped down and left, somewhat disappointed at how easy it seemed.
The next room was surprisingly empty of anything. There wasn't even a lock on the door leading to the next room. 'Apparently they haven't set all the defenses up,' she thought as she moved to the next room. By now she was really starting to wonder about all of this. It all seemed too easy to get by, for a magical person or otherwise. 'Guess Luna's idea of Dumbledore wanting to trap someone is right on the money,' she thought, 'meaning I'll have to be extremely careful in the last room.'
The next room held a large table with a stand holding seven bottles of various shapes filled with an unknown liquid. Behind the table was a wall of black fire and as soon as she entered a wall of purple fire appeared in front of the door. On the table was a parchment with writing on it.
Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here for evermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine's left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onwards neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight?
Maria snorted at the riddle. 'A logic puzzle. Looks like someone in the magical world is aware of their lack of logic. Still, anyone with enough brains could get past this so why do they lock the door but leave the key in the open for anyone to find?' she wondered to herself as she pulled out a pair of pliers. The girl had no intention of drinking or even touching any of the bottles as she had no reason to assume the parchment was telling the truth. For all she knew all of them were poison. She carefully picked up and set each bottle on the ground along with the parchment itself. Any or all of them could've been booby-trapped. Instead it was the table she wanted. The girl knew that chemistry tables had reinforced tops to be able to handle various chemical spills and potion tables were no different. Potion tables were spelled to stand up to all kinds of chemicals and spells and were heavily fire resistant, meaning this thing would make the perfect bridge over that fire. If not, she would have to risk the potions.
Picking up the heavy table, she hoisted it over to doorway and slid it across the black flames. She grinned as the flames were forced to wrap around the heavily warded piece of furniture. Moving quickly, she ran across her makeshift bridge to the other side and pulled the table across. No sense in risking her only way out burning before she was ready to leave. However, it looked unnecessary as the flames died away as soon as she entered the next room. 'Interesting,' she thought to herself as she turned to the next room.
There were no further doors in this room, marking it as the last room in the challenge. In the center of the room was a large ornate mirror. Walking up to it, she saw an inscription on the top. 'Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi. You've got to be kidding me. I show not your face but your heart's desire?' she thought tiredly before looking directly at her reflection. 'Okay then, what I want most at the moment is the object hidden down here,' she thought forcefully. Immediately, her reflection started moving on its own, smiling at her and then pulling something out of one of her pockets that looked like a large, red gemstone, before putting it back. Immediately she felt something in the same pocket her reflection had put it into. Reaching in, Maria pulled out the same red gemstone.
She turned it around as she looked at it. 'A gemstone? All this fuss over an overgrown jewel?' she thought bewildered. Shrugging, she took the gem and inspected the room, finding no further passages; she turned to make her way back. She replaced the table and the potions to where they were before as she wouldn't need it seeing that the purple fire had died down with the black fire. Making her way past the chess set and the key room, she remembered to relock the padlock on her way out. After climbing up past the dead Devil's Snare, she was greeted by a large wet lick from Ares in triplicate. Maria smiled as she wiped off the slobber. "Nice to see you too boy," she said as she gave each head a good scratch. She then walked out of the room, her prize in her pocket.
Amelia Bones, head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, frowned as she read the letter sent to her from Maria Potter through her niece. While she had always knew Dumbledore a manipulator with his own agenda and generally an annoyance to her job, the things this letter was suggested bordered on sheer stupidity. To bring something into a school full of children that could lead to death alone was horrendous. But add to the fact that the extra "protections" were put in place meant that he expect someone to get into the school after said object, someone dangerous and thus putting the children at more risk.
"How could Minerva agree to this?" she wondered out loud as she drank her tea. It was obvious the professors were in on this which made it all even worse. She'd known most of them for many years and a majority, with the possible exceptions of Snape and Quirrell given one was a former Death Eater and the other was new, would never put the students in harm's way if it wasn't absolutely necessary.
This letter also revealed a bit about Maria Potter herself. To start, the girl was no fool. She had picked out the discrepancies in the Headmaster's words and actions from the get go and had come to some strange but logical conclusions. Next was that she knew to contact someone in authority she could trust with this, namely Amelia Bones herself, and to do it in an indirect and secure means. The letter also revealed one other thing that not many would pick up on. Maria Potter had it out for Dumbledore. The girl wanted to take the Headmaster down and hard. Why the DMLE head could only guess and would have to ask the girl if she ever got the chance. She was also sure that the girl would make a try at whatever was being stored in the corridor … and most likely get it. 'I'll have to keep my ears open for anything odd happening here in the Ministry,' she thought to herself as she took another sip of her tea.
Maria sat staring at the gemstone in her hand in her dorm that she shared with Hermione and Luna. She had taken a small sliver of it and examined it with both what science she could use in Hogwarts and what few scanning charms she had learned on her own. While initially the thing looked like a large gemstone, the actual structure was unlike anything she had seen before. The scans revealed this thing to be closely linked to transfiguration in some fashion. However, under the strongest microscope she could use here she noticed some … flaws. They were extremely small, even when magnified, but she could see them. She was so fixated on it that she failed to notice Hermione enter the dorm.
"What is that? Where did you get it?" she asked immediately, startling her friend out of her fixation.
The emerald-eyed girl looked at her friend for a moment before deciding to answer. "This Hermione, came from the third floor corridor. Apparently it was what was being guarded down there," she explained.
The bushy-haired girl's eyes widened. "You went down there! Are you mad? What if you were caught? You could've been killed or worse … expelled!" she exclaimed.
Maria raised an eyebrow and gave her friend an odd look before shaking her head. "Hermione, I was able to get this thing using no magic at all, just my wits and things anyone could get from a mundane hardware store. If those protections couldn't keep me out, do you honestly think they'd keep out a fully trained witch or wizard?" she asked, gaining the smaller girl's attention.
Hermione frowned and thought for a moment before asking, "Why don't you tell me exactly what those protections were and how you got past them without having to use magic." Her friend nodded and did so, explaining each room, what was there, and how she was able to get past each … obstacle. The more Maria explained the more Hermione frowned. At the end of it, she looked down in thought, running through it all in her head before speaking. "That does seem … too easy. A fully trained witch or wizard could've easily gotten past most of those obstacles with the possible exception of the potions, being based on logic, and the mirror, which was supposedly based on intent. So what is that thing?" she asked motioning to the stone in her friend's hand.
The taller girl shrugged. "That' what I'm trying to figure out. It supposedly worth enough to go through all this trouble to "protect" it but not valuable enough that Dumbledore doesn't mind risking the thing being lost to a dark wizard," she said as she turned it over.
"Maybe it only supposed to appear valuable?" Hermione suggested, causing her friend to look at her in surprise.
"A decoy?" she whispered to which Hermione nodded. Maria looked back at the gem. That made more sense and fit with the trap scenario. Never line a trap with bait you aren't willing to lose. "If that's the case, then what is this thing supposed to be even if it's fake? What single gemstone could Dumbledore have access to that would be worth all this trouble?" she asked rhetorically.
Her friend shrugged. "I don't know. As Chief Warlock of Wizengamont and Supreme Mugwump of the ICW, he'd have access to quite a few valuable artifacts."
Maria shook her head. "I don't think that's where this thing came from. If it was supposedly acquired through the government, then there'd be a paper trail and or someone else would know about this and he doesn't seem like the kind of man to leave loose ends like that. Plus, why would the Ministry allow something as important as this supposedly is to be guarded in a school when it was previously stored in a government building full of Aurors?"
"Would Luna have any idea?" Hermione asked her friend.
"Couldn't hurt to ask," she replied as the two went to find their friend.
Susan Bones sat in the Hufflepuff common room as she thought about what Maria Potter had asked her to do and of the girl herself. While she didn't like the idea of spying on her own house, she did understand the idea of gathering facts to prove innocence or guilt. Given the situation, she could understand the taller girl's concern. It was barely past the first month into the school year and already odd things were happening. Besides, it wasn't like she was actively watching people and discovering their darkest secrets, merely keeping her eyes and ears open for anything unusual or out of place. Case in point, what she had heard before during a conversation between two five-year students. Apparently something was killing unicorns in the forbidden forest. Not defenseless foals, but full grown adults. The way they talked it seemed like this hadn't happened before and that made the first-year Hufflepuff curious.
Unicorns were incredibly fast and magic resilient creatures. For something to kill a full grown one would have to be exceedingly powerful and or smart to do so. There was also the fact that most if not all wild creatures did not even attempt to do so due to the effect of unicorn blood. If it is taken unwillingly, then the blood will restore a being's life but curse them to be a half-life. Young unicorn's blood didn't have that effect and thus they were targeted by wild animals. For an adult to be killed, that meant a person had killed it or at the very least a fully sentient magical animal and those weren't very common, at least not so around Hogwarts. That meant that either a new one had taken up residence nearby or a human had killed the unicorn.
While unicorn horn and hair was used in potions and wands, there was never any need to kill them for it. Merely bind them and take it. Both the horn and hair would grow back in time, so for someone to kill one meant they were specifically after the blood. While the blood could be used in potions, it was done only if it was willingly given so that possibility was out. Susan's eyes widened as she realized something. The only way for someone to track and kill a unicorn for its blood like that is if they lived close to its territory, close to the Forbidden Forest, and there were only two places someone could do that, Hogsmead and Hogwarts.
When the girl thought about it; all the events happening at Hogwarts stretched coincidence to its limit. Maria Potter comes to Hogwarts, the third floor corridor is closed off under threat of "painful death", under the direction of Dumbledore, most likely to protect something, and now Susan just discovered that an adult unicorn was recently killed by something that was at least near or more likely in Hogwarts. All of the events had never happened before in anyone's memory and had now happened within the same month. 'I wonder what auntie will think when she hears all this,' she thought as she went to send a letter to her aunt and to inform Maria of what she had learned.
AN: Don't expect quick updates as I just started a new job, but I will update when I can.