Kyugan: Another two-for one deal, and the penultimate chapter too.
Engineer: Dammit Doc, I'm not gonna build you a pool o' money so you can swim in it!
Scout: Yeah, don't Valve already have one of those?
Engineer: No comment.
Kyugan: Aheh...yeah...in any case, The Wheel of Fate is turning, let's see what the Continuum Shift has wrought.
Chapter Twenty-One: Just Rewards.
As the many students of Hogwarts made their way down to the Great-Hall, dressed in their night-clothes no less, it was to find a rather unusual pair walking AWAY from the feast they'd been roused to attend, an oddity in and of itself, though not nearly as odd as the sight of the prodigal Boy-Who-Lived striding down the corridor, a rather scrawny house-elf at his side, the little thing actually running to keep pace with the boy's longer strides, though judging by the look of glee on its face, it clearly didn't mind.
Most of the Purebloods didn't think twice about it, after all, the castle certainly had House Elves, how else would they get anything done around here if there weren't? What was unusual was the fact the Hogwarts elves never made themselves visible, adopting an out of sight, out of mind approach to their duties to keep from getting underfoot, whereas the little bugger at Potter's side was actually giggling with glee, skipping with every other step, a look on his face that implied he'd somehow managed to attain nirvana through happiness.
Standing tall at Herwald's side, unseen by the rest of the mortal students, was another figure, a knight in armour of red and Silver, features hidden behind a horned helmet, one armoured hand resting on the pommel of the sword sheathed at it's hip as it kept pace with the Boy Who Lived, passing unnoticed through the crowd, who did not even shiver in the knight's passing, for unlike a ghost it left no trail of cold in his wake.
Had any of the ghosts been in the halls they may have reacted to the sight of this unusual specter, some favourably, others not so much. However, with the announcement of a feast, all the House ghosts had already made their way to the Great Hall to attend the celebrations, while the less Sociable of their peers opted to stay behind, not wanting to deal with the chattering, excited students as the festivities got underway.
Herwald honestly could have cared less about the festivities, though he made a note to make this quick so as to meet up with his friends before his presence was missed, as quite frankly the prospect of a good meal followed by a warm bed was looking rather good at that moment. But before he could relax, before he could finally lower his guard and simply be another faceless student in the crowd, there was something that needed to be done, an explanation to be had, and if need be, a wrong that needed righted before he could begin to move on with his life.
As such, while the rest of the castle were making their way down towards the feast, which was already in full-swing judging by the sounds echoing through the halls, Herwald instead marched his way up the flight of stairs that would take him past the library and up towards the corridor where Moaning Myrtle's bathroom was located. Not even pausing to regard the silvery messages Riddle had forced Ginny to paint on the wall, the Einzbern instead stepped forward and opened the door to the Girl's bathroom, where Moaning Myrtle sat staring at the open entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, almost expectantly.
"Guten Abend, Frau Myrtle." He greeted calmly, yet Dobby could not help the urge to jump at the chill that washed over him, as it seemed the room had suddenly got several degrees colder at the sound of his new master's voice.
Myrtle had surely not been expecting visitors, understandable really, considering her disposition, and had clearly been so intent in her silent vigil outside the opening she clearly hadn't heard them coming in, though to be fair Herwald could be quite silent if he didn't want anyone to know he was coming, assassin's training and all.
As such, at the sound of the teen's voice, the not-so-friendly ghost jumped, her head actually passing through the ceiling of the bathroom, before recovering her wits and peering down at him from the ceiling. "You're alive." She goggled; the teenage ghost staring blankly at Herwald, the look on her face not unlike the one most people would get from seeing HER, though with perhaps a tad more disappointment.
"Indeed I am, despite the best interests of a maniacal autobiography and his over-sized pet." Herwald opined, his hands clasped behind his back as he stared coldly up at the ghost, watching as she levitated down out of the ceiling to perch over her usual stall "You sound disappointed."
"Oh, well…" Myrtle stammered, the ghost blushing silver as she glanced around the bathroom, clearly put on the spot "I'd just been thinking… if you had died, you'd have been welcome to share my toilet."
"I see…" Herwald noted, quirking a brow at the girl, a decidedly unamused look in his emerald eyes as Dobby gripped his arms, the elf actually shivering from the sudden drop in temperature "Frau Myrtle, do you remember what I asked of you when I went down that tunnel?"
Myrtle blinked, clearly thrown by the statement, her gaze passing between Saber of Red and Dobby, wondering what on earth THEY were doing here, though she soon looked away from the Servant's penetrating gaze.
"I do believe I asked you to alert a member of staff, preferably Potions Master Snape, as to the location of the chamber." Herwald intoned, drawing the ghosts attention back to himself, his frozen emerald eyes holding her own gray pair in place "Not only that, I believe I expressly told you to tell them I'd gone ahead to rescue Frau Weasley, you remember Frau Weasley, don't you? First year? Gryffindor? Red hair?"
"That little redheaded who threw her diary at my head?" Myrtle wondered, a frown marring her features as she began to piece the memories together "What about her?"
"She's safe now, no thanks to you." Herwald replied with a side order of ice, Saber of Red's eyes narrowing further as he gripped his sword, as if to restrain himself, "Though things might not have escalated to that length if you'd done as I asked."
"Why should I have?" Myrtle countered, her tone defiant as she scowled at the Slytherin Second Year "No-one cared much when I went missing." She waved a hand dismissively "Oh they raised a fuss when I was found, sure, but before that they simply acted as if I wasn't there." She crossed her arms and snorted "No-one ever cared much about me when I was alive, why should I care any different now that I'm dead?"
Herwald said nothing, he simply stood, matching the ghost of the girl before him glare for glare, an unreadable expression on his face. "No, I suppose you wouldn't care." He admitted at last, his expression never changing as he continued to lock gazes with the spectre of the long dead girl "I suppose I shouldn't have expected much, ghosts tend to leave most of their emotions behind when they pass on, save the ones they felt strongest at their time of death."
"It's a glandular thing…" Mordred offered, the Servant blushing slightly at the look her Master and Myrtle shot him "I don't quite get it myself, but that's the explanation the Reaper gave me when we met on the fields of Camlann."
"Interesting…" Herwald noted, making a mental note to question his new Servant later, as few people ever had a conversation with Death himself save those unfortunate few whose time ran out. As it was, he turned his attention back to the matter at hand, taking one last look at the unrepentant Myrtle before patting Dobby on the head "Dobby, if you would?"
"Yes, Master." Dobby acknowledged, the House Elf, who had been standing behind Herwald up till now, stepping forward, a determined expression on his bony features as he marched up to Myrtle, who eyed him with the typical dismissal Herwald had come to expect of British Magi, not even reacting when he raised one long, bony finger and pointed at her, though she soon changed her tune when she was suddenly flung out of her stall, the ghost letting out a shrill yelp of surprise, clearly not expecting the sudden flight, only to round on the elf, anger in her eyes.
"How dare you-!" the ghost began, her cheeks flushed a bright gray in anger as she levitated out of the stall, the fixtures beginning to rattle ominously around them, only to be cut off once again as Dobby's finger came up once more, the House Elf's bony, underfed features unnaturally cold as he waved the suddenly intimidating digit from side to side, sending the startled ghost bouncing off the walls of the bathroom like a racquet ball.
"Quite the violent little fellow isn't he?" Herwald noted offhandedly, Master and Servant looking on in morbid fascination as Dobby gave the ghost a swirly of all things, Myrtle struggling against the bonds despite the fact she didn't have to breathe.
"House Elves are as loyal as they are inherently magical." Mordred revealed, the ghost turned Servant's gaze neutral as she watched the distressed specter get her comeuppance for her negligence "They will suffer no insult or threat to their master's person or property, a trait many of my Lord Father's less scrupulous Knights learned the hard way."
"I can imagine." Herwald nodded, maintaining his mask of detached indifference as he continued to watch Dobby mete out the ghost's punishment, the House Elf promptly finishing off his one-sided thrashing of Myrtle by sharply pointing to the far wall, sending the ghost slamming into it with an audible crack that would've surely alerted anyone in the halls had they not already gone down to the feast.
"This…this can't be!" Myrtle exclaimed, the ghost looking quite confused as she struggled against whatever was holding her in place, only to find herself incapable of moving, let alone escape through the wall "You can't do this! Magic has no effect on ghosts!"
"You clearly didn't get far in your magical studies then, Frau Myrtle." Herwald countered, the Einzbern speaking to her for the first time since Dobby began his punishment, his features decidedly calm as he stood amidst the ruins of her domain "Either that or you weren't much of a student. Either way, had you delved deeper, you would have learned that while an ordinary magus may prove incapable of harming a ghost, permanently anyways, there exist creatures in this world that are inherently more powerful, such as the Basilisk that killed you, or Dobby here."
"Master is too kind." Dobby offered, smiling brightly at the adopted Einzbern before turning his attention back to Myrtle, all manner of good-will gone as he glared up at the ghost that had endangered his new master "You is bad ghost." He intoned, the anger in his voice overriding the fact it sounded like an squeaky toy being chewed "You tried to hurt Dobby's Master." He clenched his fist, and Myrtle's eyes bugged as she scrabbled at her throat despite the fact she didn't need to breathe "Dobby wishes he could punish you better, as Master says, Ghosts is not immune to Dobby's Magic."
He held his fist like that for a few seconds, watching the ghost contort on the floor of the bathroom with anger in his eyes as the Ghost shifted from Silver to a faint grey, only to unclench his fist, looking on impassively as Myrtle lay on the floor, the ghost slowly regaining her normal coloration. "Dobby wishes he could do more," the house elf admitted, glaring at the ghost, suddenly more intimidating than he had any right to be dressed as he was "But Dobby's master is merciful, is much kinder than old master, he says Dobby only has to make you go away, so Dobby will do just that."
"Go away?" Myrtle exclaimed, looking at the elf in confusion, and a hint of fear, which was quite understandable if you thought about it. Many people assumed that in death, your suffering would end, and in a sense, this was true for ghosts, as there was very little that could harm them. It must've been quite a shock to suddenly feel pain and fear after over fifty years of nigh-immunity.
"You see Frau Myrtle, I found more than just a Basilisk in that tunnel." Herwald explained, hands clasped behind his back as he glared down at the spirit "The Chamber of Secrets was not merely some cupboard in which Salazar Slytherin decided to hide his pet, it is, in fact, the Founder's Workshop." He curled his lip at the ghost's look of confusion at the term "I see that my second guess as to your education proved valid. No matter, the fact remains that, with such a wealth of information made available to me, I can hardly have just ANYONE have access to it, can I? Which is why, I'm afraid, you're going to have to leave."
"Leave?" Myrtle exclaimed, looking horrified at the prospect, much like a high-spending, low-paid employee who's just been told they've been made redundant with just one payment left on their mortgage "But…I can't LEAVE! Hogwarts is my HOME!"
"It WAS your home," Herwald countered, his tone unmoved "and had you done as I asked and simply gone for help, I'd have been quite happy to let you remain as a 'watchman' of sorts, keeping an eye on the entrance whilst driving off anyone who got too close." He scowled at the ghost "However, your blatant, selfish disregard for my safety, and that of Frau Weasley, has left me with no other choice."
"But where am I supposed to go?" Myrtle wailed, and for the first time she actually looked scared, like the sad little schoolgirl who'd come to hide in the bathroom fifty years prior "I've nowhere else to go!"
"You could always pass on." Herwald opined, his tone disinterested as he waved a dismissive hand "By all rights you should have years ago when your tormentor passed away, Olive Hornby wasn't it?"
Myrtle gaped at him in shock, clearly not expecting the youth to have remembered her story, most people tended to block her out after all.
"She WAS the reason you stayed behind wasn't it?" Herwald reminded her "You said it yourself, you'd never let her live it down, you'd make her sorry for making fun of your glasses…" he snorted dismissively "Such a petty reason, it's not like Frau Hornby KNEW there was a Basilisk in the toilet." He shrugged dismissively "Then again, I suppose things like pettiness and misplaced anger hold little meaning to the deceased."
"Don't you act like you know about me!" Myrtle snapped back, only Dobby's magic keeping her from lashing out at the teen "You don't have any idea what that witch put me through!"
"You're right, I don't." Herwald agreed, his eyes cold as he matched the ghost glare for glare, actually causing her to look away first "Nor do I particularly CARE. You have long outstayed your welcome, Frau Myrtle, you WON'T be missed. Dobby?"
"As you wish, Master." The Elf acknowledged, his eyes narrowing, Myrtle's own widening as they seemed to glow with some internal light, the ghost struggling to back away as the elf pointed one long, spindly finger at her like it was a wand or firearm "Begone!"
And with an audible crack and a wail of despair, Moaning Myrtle vanished from the Girl's bathroom, never to be seen within the walls of Hogwarts again.
"Ruhe in Frieden…" Herwald muttered, crossing himself to be safe before turning his attention to Dobby, who was sighing in relief "Well done Dobby, you're sure she can't come back?"
"Dobby is certain, Master." The elf insisted, nodding his head reassuringly, causing his ears to flap comically "She is not the first Ghost Dobby is having to banish, Malfoy Manor is always attracting them."
"Can't imagine why…" Herwald muttered wryly, shaking his head in bemusement, making a mental note to try and get Draco out of there for the summer, or at the very least visit him if he had the time, before turning his attention to the still open entrance to the catacombs "Now then, what to do, what to do…?"
Of course, Herwald had no intentions of simply sealing the chamber up and calling it a day. There was a wealth of magical and historical information waiting for him down there, secrets which had remained hidden for generations, since before the founding of the Clock Tower even, only a FOOL would leave such a treasure horde behind.
The only problem was that Dumbledore was no fool, and Herwald had no doubt the old twinkler was even now making plans to cordon off the area and plunder the secrets of Salazar for the 'Greater Good', a concept that quite frankly turned the Einzbern's stomach.
'I'm the one who found the damned thing,' he muttered in a rare moment of childish petulance, he was, after all, only human 'I'M the one who risked his neck fighting the blasted serpent and Riddle's memory. This Chamber is mine by right of conquest; I'd sooner burn it to the ground before I let anyone else learn its secrets.'
"If I may; Master?" Mordred spoke up, Herwald turning to look at his Servant, who was standing dutifully to the side "I may not be a magus, but if memory serves, you used the Ring of Kay to open the door, did you not?"
"I did." Herwald admitted, quirking a brow at the question "Truth be told I could have simply ordered it to open in Parseltongue, but I was in a hurry and I'm afraid I haven't had time to practice."
"You were concerned for Miss Weasley's safety, it is only natural you would seek a more expeditious route." Mordred assured the youth, holding up an armoured finger as she spoke "But that is not the main issue, did you reveal to Headmaster Dumbledore that you used the Ring to open the Chamber?"
"Of course not." Herwald countered, shuddering at the very idea of doing something so inherently stupid or amateurish as to give away one of his secrets to the twinkle-eyed old man "I hardly want him confiscating the ring."
"Then the answer is simplicity in and of itself." Mordred opined, her tone calm, though even with the enchantments concealing her true voice, Herwald could tell the Servant was amused "Should he ask you to open the chamber again, all you need do is speak in Parseltongue, but NOT the words to open the portal."
Herwald blinked, looking thunderstruck by the revelation, only to laugh aloud, shaking his head in amazement even as he eyed his new Servant in approval. Indeed, Dumbledore could certainly order him to open the chamber, as Headmaster he had the right to go wherever he damn well pleased within the walls of Hogwarts using any means necessary to do so. However, only a Parseltongue could open the chamber, and since Herwald was the only known person to receive Salazar's gift, albeit in an unexpected manner, the old twinkler would have no way to prove the Einzbern wasn't actually insulting him in snake-tongue instead of opening the tunnel.
'Hermione was right; most Magi don't have the logic to fill a thimble.' He muttered, releasing a self-mocking chuckle as he shook his head "There's still the matter of my gaining access, though. Dumbledore is sharper than he looks, he'll have wards placed all over this floor by the end of the day, ruse or no ruse."
"There's always the Forest entrance." Mordred reminded him, though even she looked troubled "It will take some time for them to retrieve the Half-Giant Groundskeeper, it should be a simple matter to hide the entrance using magic."
"Dobby can do it, Master." the Elf spoke up, Herwald and Mordred turning to face the elf, surprised to find he'd been following their conversation this whole time, the little fellow looking embarassed now that he'd caught their attention "Dobby is sorry for eavesdropping, Master, has been aware of Sir Knight's presence for some time now but didn't want to speak up."
"That's quite alright Dobby." Herwald assured the elf, making a mental note to figure out just what were the limits of his species' abilities, on top of several other things he planned to do "You say you can hide the entrance?"
"But of course!" Dobby insisted, nodding his head energetically, causing his ears to flap like bat-wings "Give the word Master, and Dobby will hide the entrance so no-one is finding it!"
"Very well, but leave me a clue of some sort." Herwald ordered, smiling wryly at the elf due to past experiences "It won't do me any good if I can't find the damn entrance, will it?"
"Of course, Master!" Dobby agreed, the little elf saluting his master once more, before vanishing with a crack, no doubt already at the entrance, which Herwald had little doubt would be so well hidden not even Hagrid, who knew the grounds like the beard on his face, would be able to find it.
"Even after all these years it STILL unnerves me how easily they can do that…" Mordred muttered, the Servant eyeing the spot Dobby had previously occupied with a hint of trepidation and discomfort "Even Merlin rarely used his Magics to teleport, and even then it was never as smoothly or as quick."
"As you said, House Elves are Creatures of Magic." Herwald pointed out, smirking at the Spectral Knight even as she shook her head. "In a way they're not unlike my family's homunculi, they're more akin to living magic circuits than Magi."
"Be that as it may, it was still fortuitous that you were able to obtain his services." Mordred opined, nodding her head to her Master in acknowledgement "He will make a valuable ally."
"I certainly wouldn't want him as an enemy…" Herwald opined, wincing slightly as he recalled the incident with the rogue Bludger, idly rubbing his arm at the memory of Lockhart's removal of his bones, "Gott im Himmel now there's an opponent I'd hate to have to face."
"Indubitably…" Mordred muttered, the two of them sharing a morbid chuckle before Herwald turned his attention to the hole in the wall which led to the chamber, the Adopted Einzbern taking a breath to steady himself, before letting out a stream of hisses, watching in relief as the portal to the Chamber slowly closed over, revealing the faulty sink from before.
"Glad that's over with…" he muttered, dusting off his hands before turning on his heel and making his way towards the bathroom door "Now then, I do believe I've kept my friends waiting long enough, poor Draco must be having a fit by now."
He chuckled at the image, already imagining the onslaught of questions that were likely to be fired at him the moment he stepped into the Hall, only to pause as he gripped the door handle, turning to glance at Mordred, who was still standing where he'd left her "Coming?"
"Many thanks, Master, but I believe it would be best if I waited for you in your room." the Servant insisted, her tone grateful yet firm "After all, if this plan is to work, it would behoove us to avoid drawing the attention of the Hogwarts ghosts."
"True…" Herwald noted, nodding his head to the Servant before stepping out into the hall, the two of them making their separate ways down to the lower levels, leaving behind Myrtle's bathroom exactly as they'd left it, save for the fact that, for the first time since her death fifty years ago, Myrtles moans no longer echoed throughout the corridor.
Only the epilogue to go. Then the reboot will commence.
Things that may change: Herwald's Alchemy, His role in the 5th War, the timeline of events at Hogwarts, Herwald's friendships and perhaps even his placement/house.
Flamel/Hohenheim and Perenelle/Trisha will remain, and Sirius/Taiga is most certainly gonna happen.