Harry grimaced inwardly as he slid down the pipe; it hadn't gotten any cleaner since the last time he went down it, not that he was expecting it to be so. The putrid wind blowing into his face did make him scrunch up his nose, however.
The slide gradually leveled out, and Harry found himself shooting out into the underground chamber that lay beneath the school. His arms wind-milled while his feet rattled across the bone-covered floor, but he managed to avoid falling over. Straightening up, the boy made a face as the full smell of the place hit him, and quickly cast a Bubble-Head Charm over his head.
You really nailed that landing there, Archer complimented him.
Thanks, but I think there's more important stuff than how well I managed to land on my feet. Feels like the smell has gotten worse. Harry took note of his surroundings. Huh, the number of rats and other critters have increased.
Archer nodded, watching as the rats flee away from Harry. Without the Basilisk to kill them off, the population must have grown unchecked.
Hopefully they haven't consumed the body... Harry didn't know why, but he had a feeling that he would find the corpse in rather good condition.
Trying to forget how the stench had rankled his nostrils, Harry trudged onwards, ignoring the bones crunching underneath his feet or the squeaking of the rats around him. Eventually he turned a corner and came across the dead Basilisk lying there, its body preventing the door to the actual Chamber of Secrets from closing.
Huh, the corpse of the Basilisk is pretty well-preserved- Harry blinked as the sight of the dead snake triggered the memory inside his head. Oh yeah, the Hat taught me a preserving charm to cast on it. I can't believe I forgot all about that.
Archer had forgotten as well, but he kept silent. His host didn't notice, being occupied in his reminiscing about how their combined efforts to survive the Basilisk had left a huge gouge through one side of its head. The other side was untouched apart from a gaping hole where its eye used to be, Harry having taken it out as proof of victory back then.
Analyzing the carcass told Harry that his charm had failed just recently, resulting in a bit of decomposition on the exposed flesh, but on the overall it was quite well preserved. The natural magic that imbued the Basilisk was fading, but at an extremely slow pace, which made the whole thing quite resistant to conventional spells.
Harry counted himself lucky that he came thoroughly prepared; taking the trunk off his back, he opened it up and prepared himself for a lot of spellcasting. Have to do this properly...
There were several ways which Harry could go about skinning and processing the remains, and he experimented with each of them to see which was the most efficient, in both time and energy. In the end, he found that Tracing specialized blades capable of slicing through the tough hide and flesh, and subsequently charming them so they would perform the task, was the best method. It certainly was less taxing on his magic and circuits compared to having to cast the skinning spells over and over or manipulating the Traced swords directly.
But that was not all he had to do; the body parts needed to be properly preserved and stored away, and that was a task he had to see to personally. And the animation charms weren't completely perfect, as they could not differentiate the organs from the rest of the meat, and this forced Harry to take a more direct role in extracting said parts. Thankfully there were spells for that, so he avoided having to get his hands dirty.
If only the owners of those swords could see what you were using them for... Archer muttered, sensing a pair of swords picking up a lump of Basilisk flesh they had just sliced out from the carcass between them, akin to a pair of chopsticks, transferring it to a pile nearby. They would be rolling in their graves.
Yeah, except the owner of those blades is you. Harry shot back without hesitating. We both know that those are just imitations. You taught me that.
The spirit huffed, disappointed that his prank failed.
Now leave me alone. I have to concentrate on this. Harry focused on making the required wand movements, which involved quite a bit of twirling.
Several hours later (according to his watch), Harry still had a quarter of the snake left to put away, and was feeling quite irritated from the monotony of the task. Archer's occasional needling didn't help his mood either; apparently the spirit took the lack of any actual threat to mean that he wasn't required to act so seriously. He was aware that it was meant to keep him from getting discouraged, but sometimes his passenger really pushed his buttons.
On the other hand, the silence also made Harry uncomfortable, and he had taken to responding to Archer out loud after a while. His voice echoed in the tunnel where he was working, but at least it provided some actual sound to disrupt the eerie atmosphere. Talking also distracted him from feeling the drain on his magic too much, which kept him going longer than he could have without it.
But even then, Harry was still an adolescent, which meant he had his limits, and they were very close. He guessed that he could probably do another forty
"I really don't want to leave all this meat here." Harry looked at the remaining pile. "How much do you think I handled so far, Archer?"
The entire thing was around fifteen meters long, so that would make it about one point two tons? Archer estimated. You've done at least eight hundred kilos then.
Harry took a moment to calculate that back over to feet and pounds, before nodding as he stretched his body sluggishly. "Ugh... I feel like I've been lifting weights and running around with them all day."
The trunk was nearly full when Harry stumbled over to check on it, but he was able to lift up the trunk with no problems due to the enchantments on it. However, it didn't look like the leftover meat could fit into the remaining space, not to mention the books that were hidden in the Chamber itself. With the general filthiness of the place, he was far from keen on having to come back here a second time.
Why not try calling that elf Dobby?
"Hey, that might work. But while he be able to get all the way down here?" Harry said thoughtfully, before deciding to give it a try. "Dobby!"
There was a cracking noise, and the crazily-dressed elf appeared near Harry's legs, causing him to jump two meters away in shock. "Harry Potter sir calls for Dobby?"
"Bloody-!" Harry had one finger poised on his watch strap, ready to materialize the bow. "Dobby? No problems getting down here?" I expected the lake to create some sort of resistance...
"Harry Potter sir calls for Dobby, so Dobby comes!" Dobby squeaked, before looking around. "Is... Is this all for Dobby to clean...?" The thought of it threatened to make the elf faint from joy, in Harry's eyes.
"Not right now, Dobby. I actually called you here for something else." Harry quickly explained what he wanted the elf to do for him.
What subsequently happened made him feel quite stupid for not asking Dobby for help earlier; the house elf popped out with the filled trunk and returned with another two empty ones taken from the Room of Hidden Things, which he packaged the meat into with two simultaneous finger snaps, complete with preservation charms. By Harry's estimate, Dobby could have done what he did in a fifth of the time he took.
Well, that makes me feel bloody useless. Harry thought as he entered the inner sanctum of the Chamber of Secrets, trailed by an ecstatically happy house elf.
I wouldn't say that, Archer pointed out, You did quite well with what you had on your own, and you got some practice out of it too.
Harry had to admit that Archer was right, although grudgingly so, but was distracted from saying anything by the sight of the giant state of Salazar Slytherin. Or more particularly, the glaring hole that was where the crotch of the statue used to be, caused by the attack Harry used to kill the Basilisk. Further up, the statue's mouth was still open, which was how the Basilisk had first appeared when Papermort had called it.
"This place is filled with old magic, Harry Potter sir..." Dobby said in a reverent whisper, looking around.
"Yeah." Harry replied. I'm not going to risk the stench trying to smell whatever magic there is here.
He glanced down at the elf next to him, who seemed totally unbothered by what Harry thought would be a choking stink. Then again, Dobby could have been too pleased to have helped to even care about it. Shaking his head, Harry turned his attention back to his original purpose. He searched his memory for the required words and found them.
"Oh great Slytherin..." Harry paused to reaffirm that the words he recalled were correct, "Share thy knowledge with me..."
Nothing happened at first, but just as Harry thought he said the wrong thing, the walls on either side of the statue's feet moved aside to reveal all the tomes and scrolls he saw last time. Unlike the last time, when he was too exhausted to care, the boy held back and started casting detection spells to check for traps. It was way too late to be doing so, especially since he had taken the Parseltongue journal before, but Harry felt that a bit of paranoia wasn't wrong. Two spells later, he remembered his companion, and paused.
"Dobby, do you know how to check if there are any curses or traps on those books?" He asked the elf.
Dobby shook his head. "Dobby can't do that sort of thing, Harry Potter sir. Dobby is deeply sorry."
"It's okay," Harry quickly calmed the house elf down, not wanting him to punish himself right there. "I'm just checking."
So Dobby can't do complex stuff like that... it seems like his abilities are limited to simple tasks, related to satisfying the needs of the master. Harry continued to cast more detection spells.
And you're actually a bit pleased that he didn't make you obsolete again, aren't you? Archer chose that moment to shoot out that comment.
Shut up, Archer.
It's useless to deny the truth, Harry.
Harry's response was to make a mental rude gesture at the spirit, but both of them knew who won that particular exchange.
In the end, Harry found that there weren't any traps at all. Apparently, in the same arrogance that made his Chamber of Secrets accessible to anyone who could speak Parseltongue, Slytherin didn't bother adding any extra protection to his own books and notes besides keeping them in a hidden compartment. To Harry, this lowered his impression of the man even more; even his own books in his workshop at Hogwarts had their own defenses underneath the concealing Bounded Field he kept them in.
Then again, Harry thought as Dobby finished transferring the treasure trove of knowledge into a new trunk, I'd say the Basilisk made for quite a dangerous defense.
He had inspected each one before having his helper pack them away to go through later, and found that most of them were in old Scottish, which he had learned a little from the Sorting Hat in order to read Slytherin's journal which he took out last time. There were also a few runes he recognized from his Ancient Runes classes, but they came up only rarely, and usually as part of a diagram. However, there were a few tomes that Harry found to his shock that he could read without having to translate first; arrogant Salazar Slytherin may have been, but he truly lived up to his legend as a great wizard, by actually creating a written script for those able to speak Parseltongue.
Archer, how does this look like to you? Harry asked, scanning the recorded thoughts of Slytherin.
It looks like hundreds of black worms drawn over the pages, and they're actually moving on them. The spirit replied. I assume you can understand what they mean?
Somewhat, yes. Harry squinted his eyes, trying to process what each moving squiggle meant. It's amazing how he managed to make a written version of a language that shouldn't have a written version. On the other hand, because it shouldn't have a written version, it reads like a book meant for the mentally disabled. I can tell that going through this is going to give me a headache.
Out of the several worn tomes that Harry now recognized as research notes, he took only one back with him, and had Dobby put away the rest. Seeing as he didn't have much time left to sleep, Harry had Dobby take him back to the Gryffindor common room. He instructed the house elf to store the trunk in a secret location, as well as to clean his filthy clothes and return them back to him later, which Dobby was only too happy to carry out. After he had taken a shower, Harry fell into bed and was about to fall asleep when he noticed that he only had a few hours left till dawn. Seeing as he had to get up early in order to get on the train back to London, Harry decided to just stay awake the rest of the time rather than risk oversleeping.
He kept his light hidden under the covers so none of his roommates would notice. Opening the book, Harry started trying to decipher its contents.
True to his own predictions, his head was buzzing with an annoying headache by the time the sun rose, and his vision was blurring from all the time he spent staring at the moving characters. The lack of sleep didn't help his condition either. It got to the point that Harry decided to hand the reins over to Archer so he could mull over what few bits of knowledge he had managed to glean from the journal.
I'm starting to think I should renegotiate our contract. Archer thought to himself jokingly.
"Morning, Harry." Neville greeted his friend's body as they got changed to go down for breakfast, not knowing it was someone else behind the wheel.
"Good morning, Neville." Archer replied carefully.
"You look like you didn't sleep a wink." The other boy commented.
That's because my dumb host didn't. "Was up thinking." Archer grunted. "I mean, planning."
I heard that, Harry sent to him, but didn't say anything further.
"You know, the holidays..." Archer faked a yawn. "Come on, I am hungry."
They went down to the common room, where Fay Dunbar told them that Hermione already went down ahead, so the two boys made their way to the Great Hall as well to join their friend. They didn't talk much over the food, apart from Hermione wanting to know if they were packed for the train ride back. Once they had filled their stomachs, the students left the Great Hall and headed out of the castle, where they found the carriages waiting to take them to the train station, along with a few Aurors.
As they were waiting in line to board a carriage, someone approached their group.
"Wotcher, Harry." Whatever the girl who greeted them was about to say next was drowned out by a yawn.
Archer instantly recognized that greeting. "Tonks?"
The brunette nodded, her current appearance quite plain and easily overlooked. "I'll explain once we're on the carriage."
I can't see old man Dumbledore liking this, but I suppose that after the incident with those Dementors, he had no choice. Archer thought to himself as he gazed around the area. One, three, four, six... seven in all. He absently reached out and caught Tonks when she stumbled on the step of the carriage.
Once Hermione and Neville were inside as well, the carriage moved off. Tonks sighed, and shifted back to her usual appearance, causing Neville to stare.
"Ah, yes, this is the first time you've met her." Archer realized. "Neville, this is Tonks. She's supposed to be guarding me in case of Sirius Black. Tonks, this is my friend Neville."
"Wotcher." The Auror greeted.
"Hello." Neville returned shyly.
Archer took the initiative to fill Neville in on the current situation with regards to why Harry needed a bodyguard, with Tonks adding details as she saw fit. As things turned out, the Dementor attack during the Quidditch match spurred the Ministry into sending a few of their Aurors as extra security for the students who were heading home for the holidays.
"According to rumor, somebody managed to chase the Dementors off before they could do anything." Tonks said in a faux whisper.
Now, what would Harry do in a case like this? Of course. Archer closed his eyes and pretended to fall asleep.
Ha ha, very funny.
Luckily, his friends could read the mood, and left him alone. The carriage slowed to a halt outside the station, and Tonks hurriedly redonned her disguise before getting out, checking around for possible threats before beckoning the rest of them to get out as well. Their trunks were waiting on the station platform, courtesy of the house elves. There were more Aurors present as well, and they assisted the flow of the students in moving faster by directing them along.
Those present among Harry's group of friends quickly collected their trunks and found a compartment on the waiting train. By the time the train began to move, the members of the compartment included Harry, Hermione, Neville, Daphne, Susan, and Tonks, while the rest of their friends took the neighboring ones.
"So how is the search going?" Archer wanted to know, with Harry listening in as well.
"No one has seen any sign of Black." Tonks informed them. "The Ministry is starting to think he's hiding abroad."
That's all I needed to hear, Archer. Harry said from inside his body.
Roger that. Archer faked a yawn. "I was a bit short on sleep last night. Anybody minds if I take a nap?"
"Sure, go ahead."
"I'll make sure it's quiet for you." Tonks volunteered.
She waved her wand around in front of him, and suddenly Archer felt like he had cotton stuffed in his ears. He responded with a thumbs up, and relaxed back in his seat. Just as he was closing his eyes, he caught sight of Hermione talking to Tonks. As expected, she was curious about the spell the older female used.
The body of Harry Potter went to sleep with a smirk on his lips.
This was the first Christmas Harry spent with his foster parents after starting Hogwarts, and it was quite different from how he recalled it to be.
Before Hogwarts, when he was still fresh from his experience at the Dursleys, Uncle John and Aunt Diana kept things quiet so as not to agitate him, inviting at most three other family friends for the dinner party. Presents were opened in the morning, and they would go out for lunch and some picture taking, before returning to the house in the evening to prepare for dinner. Harry mingled with some of the children, but his mature outlook kept him from growing too close with them.
This year, thanks to the gathering of Mundane-born families back before September, Harry got to experience a Christmas party at the Finch-Fletchleys' mansion, together with those who had attended the gathering previously. From what his foster parents and the Grangers told him, they each received an invitation card early in the month of December, and decided to cancel their plans of having the usual in favor of attending.
Meeting at Hermione's house first, the two families then drove to the address listed on the cards, where they were greeted at the front door by Justin Finch-Fletchley.
"Merry Christmas, Justin." Harry greeted the boy, who was dressed in a suit much like he was.
"Merry Christmas to you, Harry, Hermione." Justin indicated a servant standing nearby with a cart. "You can pass your presents over to Stan here."
"Thanks for inviting us to join you, Justin, and Merry Christmas." Hermione was wearing a brand new red dress.
Justin led them into a ballroom, where his parents and the Entwhistles were, before heading back downstairs to receive the guests who had yet to arrive. Mr Finch-Fletchley was wearing a Santa Claus costume, and he looked quite odd. His wife dressed more sensibly, though she did wear a Santa hat. Christmas greetings were exchanged, and everyone made themselves comfortable among the armchairs that were present.
In the corner of the room stood a huge Christmas tree, one that wouldn't look out of place in a shopping mall. Beneath it was an enormous pile of presents, and the pile only continued to grow bigger as each family added their own presents for the occasion to it. Speakers mounted on the wall were playing a medley of Christmas songs that Harry started to tap his foot in rhythm to. In another room, a wide screen television was showing Christmas specials, and he decided to go take a look later.
Nearby, Hermione started telling some of the other students how Christmas was like at Hogwarts last year. That was the time they attempted to use Polyjuice to investigate inside Slytherin as part of their efforts to find the Heir of Slytherin, who was terrorizing the castle with a Basilisk. Harry couldn't resist smirking at the thought of Hermione's reaction when she saw the present he got for her.
"They decorate the whole castle, holly and mistletoe streamers along the corridors, and even the suits of armor have things like lights on them."
"Wow! I wish I could have seen it!" Colin Creevey exclaimed.
"Colin, next year you should take some photos back for us to see, okay, son?" His father told him.
"I want to see that too!" A younger boy sitting at Mr Creevey's feet cried out.
"Mr Creevey," Dean Thomas asked, indicating the man's younger child, "Is he also...?"
The man nodded. "Dennis has shown signs of it too."
"Looks like somebody's going to Hogwarts come September." One of the other teenagers joked.
"I can't wait!" Dennis said excitedly.
Caterers came to set up a buffet, and the hungry members of the gathering helped themselves to the food. The remaining guests finally arrived, having gotten lost trying to find their way. Harry filled his plate, and headed over to the room with the television. Settling himself in, he began to eat.
So, what are you thinking about? Archer suddenly asked.
About how someone who's already in my head is asking me a stupid question about what I'm thinking about, Harry replied dryly.
A few minutes passed without either of them saying anything.
Harry broke the silence first. There's just so many things happening right now... Sirius Black, the Horcrux, the Dementors, trying to learn more magic and improve my magecraft, fencing the Basilisk parts...
I'm curious to know where you learned that term, and why you think you need to fence the Basilisk parts, Archer said mildly.
Harry felt himself blush at being caught out like that. Never mind that. There's also all those books from the Chamber of Secrets.
According to the Parselscript book, which was written after Slytherin experimented on himself, the wizard was researching the possibility of what Harry translated as 'manifestation'. From the rough description of it, it sounded like Slytherin was trying to forcefully create a Noble Phantasm. The original article was an embodiment of a Heroic Spirit's legend, a symbol of his or her existence. Slytherin's attempts were aimed at drawing the energy from those legends and manifesting it into a physical vessel to be used.
It could possibly be on the level of True Magic if Slytherin had succeeded, but obviously he had not. From the information Harry had gleaned from the first book of the Parselscript series, Slytherin had attempted manifestation with normal magic, only to fail at the very first step. It was only when he tried using what he named Parselmagic, that he managed to achieve a modicum of success. That was why he shifted to trying to master that branch of magic, in other to further his progress in manifestation.
The rest of the books probably held more details, but Harry had yet to go through the trunk of Slytherin's tomes and scrolls. The stress of keeping up with all of his activities had been building up, which was why he was currently taking some time off to unwind.
The party continued on, as its members involved themselves in various activities, switching as they pleased, and eventually, after they had their dinner, the time came for them to open their presents. The servants had already been dismissed, in order to preserve the Statute of Secrecy. The younger children were barely restrained in their eagerness to see what lay beneath the wrappings; the idea that some of their older siblings' gifts might be magical in nature raised their anticipation even more.
"Alright, gather around, it's time for Santa Claus here," Mrs Finch-Fletchley indicated her husband, "To give out presents!"
It was quite the long process; the youngest kid present, who was only five, would indicate which present to give out next, and the recipient would then open it right there in front of the crowd. By the time the last present was opened, more than an hour since they started, there was a huge pile of torn wrapping paper on the floor, and quite a number of the people there had sleepy looks even after all the excitement of seeing magical items. Except for some.
I pity the parents of those kids. Harry thought as he handled Hermione's present to him, another book as he had expected. They're all on a sugar rush after trying all the magical candy.
It appeared that in the magical world, the safest present to give was candy, and with Harry's networking efforts, he had received quite a pile. His closer friends mainly got him books on various topics, along with a few other things of both magical and non-magical origin. Daphne's gift was a magical book bag with three locks, each lock corresponding to a different magical space within the bag, and it was obviously expensive. The Weasleys had sent a scarlet sweater along with a load of home-made food that everyone was too full to eat, while Neville's present was a set of magical bookends that not only made it easier to grab the book you wanted from between them by pushing it out, but automatically opened up a space if you wanted to add a book in. Justin's present turned out to be a belt buckle and cufflinks from an expensive brand, which Harry appreciated.
There was a nudge in his side from Hermione. "Thanks for the present, Harry." She whispered to him.
"You're welcome." He whispered back. "Your parents don't look too thrilled at some of your gifts."
"They're dentists, remember?"
With all the presents distributed, it was time for the party to end. The guests thanked the Finch-Fletchleys for inviting them over as they left. When he reached home, Harry found a Christmas card waiting for him on his desk with no indication of how it had got there. A quick analysis told him that it was simply placed there, which meant that the sender had somehow gotten past all his defenses.
Be careful, Zelretch's known for his pranks, Archer cautioned.
Got it. Harry carefully opened the card, but what he saw inside made him open his eyes wide. Oh, my... this is...
Looks like somebody's got an admirer... Archer sounded amused as he took in the sight of what was in Harry's hands.
There was a photo inside the card, and its subject was the fox youkai he had met while on vacation in Japan, Mai Kiriyo. She was wearing a skimpy Christmas outfit, one that really emphasized her assets, and was striking a rather provocative pose for the camera. At the bottom, there was a written message in Japanese, 'Merry Christmas, come visit again soon~'.
Harry swallowed, and quickly tucked the card away somewhere it wouldn't be easily found. He had trouble getting to sleep that night, as the memory of the buxom girl kept tormenting him.
The next morning, he visited the graves of his parents once again, traveling there using the Knight Bus. It was against the agreement he had with Tonks not to go out of the house, as the Auror had the day off due to the Christmas holiday, but Harry felt that this was too important to him to skip. The place was just as he recalled it being when he visited in his first year, except someone clearly had been looking after and cleaning the place. Harry only just finished placing the wreath when he heard something approaching.
A familiar-looking black dog came trotting towards him, looking much more healthier compared to when Harry had first seen it. It sat next to Harry's legs, unbothered by the cold earth beneath it, and looked at the grave of James and Lily Potter. The dog made a whining noise, and drooped its head.
After a few moments, the dog stood up and started moving off, with Harry following it. Behind the ruins of the Potter's house was a small shack, hidden under several charms. The dog pushed open the unlocked door and entered, before turning around to face Harry as a human instead of a canine. Just as his Animagus form indicated, Sirius Black now looked much better; aside from being clean, his hair and beard had been trimmed into a smart style. Harry noted that despite the dog form's black fur, Black's own hair had been dyed a chestnut brown, with only a bit of darkness at the roots indicating its real color.
"Hello, Harry." The man greeted him. "Merry Christmas, I guess."
"Yeah, Merry Christmas to you too." Harry returned the holiday's greetings as dully as he had received it.
"Have a seat." Black indicated the rickety stool present, sinking into a lumpy armchair.
Harry did so, wincing a little at how it creaked.
"How, how have you been since, since then?" The man stumbled over his words slightly, evidence of his lack of practice.
"I've been okay. Learning new stuff in class every day, talking with my friends..."
"That's good, good..." Black was watching him kind of intensely.
It was obvious that both of them had no idea what to say to each other. It was Harry who spoke next, wanting to distract Black slightly.
"Thanks for helping with... you know." Harry jerked his head in the direction of the cemetery.
Black lowered his head. "It was my fault, you know. I shouldn't have-"
"Alright, enough of that." Harry interrupted the man's self-pity. "It's happened already, there's no use regretting something that's happened twelve years ago."
The fugitive wizard looked back up as his godson continued to lecture him.
"...Bones has already been working on trying to get you a trial, and with Pettigrew already in her custody and spilling whatever he knows to her, it's only a matter of time before you get your freedom. So instead of wallowing over the past, why not think about what you're going to do in the FUTURE!?" Harry found himself getting increasingly worked up for some reason.
Black blinked. "...you're right."
"I said you're right. I haven't been doing a good job as your godfather, have I?"
Harry gave a short, sharp nod. "No, so I recommend you start thinking about how you're going to make it up to me."
Of all the things I expected you to say, that wasn't one of them, Archer commented.
That's because I have no idea what to say! I'm just throwing out stuff I read before! Harry replied, none of his thoughts showing on his expression.
There was a pause before Archer finally responded. I am at a loss for words to express how shocked I am.
Harry's words seemed to strike a chord in Black's heart, and the man appeared to grow bigger with his newfound determination. "I'll definitely make it up to you, Harry." Black promised.
I guess... I'll give him this chance. Harry thought to himself as he checked the time on his watch. He looks like he needs it anyhow.
It was the first time that the two of them had a proper conversation since their first meeting, except this time it was Black who was asking the questions, mainly directed at the details of Harry's life up till that point. Several times, the older man asked for a break so he could wrap his mind around the bombshells Harry was dropping on him, with a little bit of sadistic glee on the latter's part. Harry had Archer's assistance in making sure that the timing of each reveal was done to achieve the best mind-blowing effect.
"You met a Cerberus, and fought a troll?"
"Voldemort's alive...? And you faced him, in your first year?"
"You met the Flamels? Wait, don't change the subject, what exactly happened between you and Voldemort?"
"Wait, a Basilisk? In Hogwarts? Are you having me on?"
"Seriously, the Chamber of Secrets? As in Slytherin's Chamber of Secrets?"
"A Horcrux is what?"
Black held up a hand, signaling for Harry to stop. "Give me another minute... I just... what..." He said weakly.
And I haven't even mentioned the Japan trip yet. Harry sipped from the cup of water his host poured for him earlier.
I really am a bad influence on you, Archer decided.
Naturally, Harry still kept some things secret, such as his magecraft and the fact that he was trying to search for a Horcrux in the Hogwarts' Room of Hidden Things; in his opinion, those secrets would raise too many questions. Questions that he wasn't comfortable answering yet.
He was also thinking over some of the things Black had let slip while he was making comparisons between his own Hogwarts experience and Harry's. Particularly of interest was the man's family history, which provided information about members of the Malfoy and Tonks families. Information that Harry was sure would come in use.
Eventually, Black clued in to the fact that Harry was dropping all those big discoveries on purpose, and complimented him for it. "You've got prankster blood running through you too, huh? You know, me and your dad, we used to-" He paused, then shook his head. "Never mind, I can tell you about that some other time."
Harry nodded. "I'd like that."
"Back to the matter of Voldemort," Black leaned forward, supporting his arms on his knees, "I never thought about it before, but to know that that scum is still out there alive..."
"He's stubborn, I can tell you that," Harry said frankly, "It's very possible he might make a comeback eventually."
Black let out a curse, slamming a fist down onto his knee. "And you, you never told anyone?" He asked Harry.
"Would people who still flinch at the sound of his name want to believe that he's back?" Harry responded with a rhetorical question.
The older man stared at him for a few moments. "No. They wouldn't." Black realized in a hoarse voice.
You're pushing it a bit too far there, Archer warned.
Harry recognized the spirit's serious tone, and decided to stop right there. Apparently, messing with Black's mind earlier served to negatively affect the current flow of conversation. He took note of that as a learning experience. Seeing as he had already spent quite a bit of time talking already, Harry decided to wrap things up.
After filling in the man on what Madam Bones had found out from interrogating Pettigrew, which she passed on to him shortly after he came back from Hogwarts, Harry told Black to just remain hidden and wait on getting a proper trial for the time being, and to put aside any thought of Voldemort for the time being. Judging by the look on the man's face, it wasn't going to be easy, but at least he agreed to attempt doing so. Black did also comment on how mature Harry was acting about the whole issue, to which the boy responded by changing the subject to any food requests the elder of the pair had. It was super effective.
His foster parents were getting slightly worried by the time Harry returned, though they accepted his excuse that he had been talking to someone who knew his real parents. After a quick lunch, Harry retreated to his room to settle some personal matters, having decided that he had taken a long enough break already.
Ilya went out on delivery twice that day; the first dispatch was a small note to Madam Bones asking for another update regarding the trial preparations, while the second went to Andromeda Tonks, containing a Christmas card and a letter asking her when would she be free to discuss business. Business of a nature that Harry shouldn't have any idea about.
While waiting for a response, Harry did not work on his research projects, but instead turned his attention to reading some of the books he received. He never realized just how remarkably relaxing it was to simply read something fictional after all the effort he put into his learning, and decided that he had found his newest leisure activity for the near future.
And I suppose that Slytherin's research has nothing to do with you reading books on mythology? Archer inquired.
Shh, I'm trying to read here, Harry absently replied as he turned the page on Norse mythology.
He had just finished reading about how a prank on Loki's, the Norse god of trickery, part led to a contest between two groups of dwarves to see which group could forge the better gifts for the Norse gods, when his bounded field informed him of someone Apparating in. The doorbell rang soon after, and Harry went down to answer it.
Andromeda Tonks stood there, and she didn't look like she came to deliver season's greetings.
"You, have been talking to someone you shouldn't have." She accused him.
Harry nodded. "Someone who shouldn't have been put where he escaped from."
The woman stared at him for several moments, before finally reacting. "May I come in?"
Harry stepped aside to let her enter. His foster parents came out to see who was at the door at that point, and Harry got to see the finer art of manipulation performed by someone with experience in it; Andromeda Tonks easily reassured Uncle John and Aunt Diana that nothing was wrong, and even managed to get them to permit her to have a private conversation with their foster son. Naturally, once she was alone with him, the woman reverted to her previous persona.
"Alright, talk. Where did you meet Sirius?" She demanded from the chair she conjured to sit in.
"What would you do with that knowledge?" Harry wanted to know.
"Certainly not to turn him in." She gazed at him archly. "Just to let you know, I am aware of what Amelia Bones is doing, and I expect her to approach me for my assistance within the month."
Be careful around this person, Archer warned, She's not just a simple lawyer.
Connections that give her a wider scope of knowledge than she should have in her public identity... something like an information broker?
Perhaps. That would explain things, actually.
"Fine," Harry gave in, "He's currently hiding near Godric's Hollow. But I don't expect him to stay there."
Andromeda Tonks sniffed. "We'll see. So, what exactly did you wish to purchase my services for?"
Harry sensed a spike of amusement from Archer, but the spirit concealed the reason for it from him. Instead, he summoned Dobby and had the house elf bring the two trunks containing the processed remains of the Basilisk. Andromeda's eyes widened when he opened them to reveal the contents, and when she found out what they truly were, the expression of shock she made was a sight to see.
"Thank you for the Christmas present, Harry."
"Hey Harry, I loved the present you got me."
"I really appreciate the gift you got for me. Hope you liked mine too."
Greetings were exchanged between friends as they reunited on the Hogwarts Express shortly after the New Year's, waiting to be taken back to the school. Harry's friends were much more cheerful than the last time he saw them, clearly recharged by the break from lessons. He would have felt the same way, if not for the thought of his business transaction with Andromeda Tonks weighing on his mind.
She had appraised the remains to be worth at least half a million Galleons at the absolute minimum, a staggering amount to Harry. However, Harry had underestimated the woman; not only did their previous business relationship count for nothing, she was aware that he didn't come by them normally, and that she was the safest and most convenient, and possibly the only way through which he could unload them. That resulted in a haggling session that Harry frankly lost, having to give a full fifteen percent of the final selling price to her.
The intensity she had exhibited caused a seed of doubt to grow in his heart, which caused Harry to hold back some of the commodity. He did have some intention of experimenting, but the amount he retained was more than he needed.
That was why Harry's mood was somewhat lower compared to his friends'.
Still, the amount he would make from the exchange would outstrip all the profits from his inventions several times over. That's something positive about the whole thing, at least. Harry thought as the train began to move.
I don't see what you're going to do with the remainder you have though. You don't exactly have the know-how to make it into something you can utilize.
That sort of knowledge is usually passed down from master to apprentice too... Harry nodded in response to something Neville said. Well, in the absence of proper written instructions, I suppose I'll just experiment a little, see if I can pick up anything.
There's only so much you can learn from books, Archer agreed.
The private conversation over, Harry returned his attention to the one going on in the compartment. Hermione was making an effort to tone it down, but anyone who knew her could see that she was looking forward to what new things there were to learn once term started. Currently, most of the attention was on Su, who was describing how she spent her Christmas holiday helping out at a children's home by bringing them donated presents.
With his full attention on his friends, Harry picked up on the fact that Neville wasn't as cheerful as he was acting out to be. After a moment's consideration, he recalled what the other boy had divulged to him in the July of last year; Neville's parents Frank and Alice were in Saint Mungo's due to overexposure to the Cruciatus Curse, and he visited them every Christmas, similar to how Harry had gone to his own parents' graves on Boxing Day.
Except I skipped on that in my second year, because of the whole Polyjuice thing.
Then the Weasley twins entered and began demonstrating some of their new joke inventions, which significantly raised the mood. No one could say that the two redheads didn't know how to entertain, especially when they were evidently integrating some of the joke material Harry had referred them to.
The rest of the trip back to Hogwarts was uneventful; not even the Dementors could do much to bring the students down, and Harry retreated to his dormitory to avoid the noisy crowd in the common room. The only interruption came from Oliver, who just wanted to let Harry know about the new training plan for their upcoming match against Ravenclaw.
Classes resumed, and Harry attended them like normal. The professors started presenting harder material as the final exams approached, along with increased amounts of homework; sales of Harry's special quills picked up in the month of January. For his electives, he continued to stay ahead of the rest of the students in Runes and Arithmancy as part of his efforts in making progress with his magecraft, but he was starting to get tired of Divination; shooting down Professor Trelawney's attempts to imply his death was impending wasn't that entertaining anymore.
Especially when she's making up some of it, Harry looked at his palm, which had seen quite a bit of attention as that day's lesson covered palmistry. My life line looks quite long to me. How can she say it's short?
Defense Against the Dark Arts continued to entertain though, as Professor Lupin introduced more dangerous creatures to the class with the occasional live specimen for them to study, despite his monthly illness making him look as though he should be resting instead. Interestingly, Hermione showed concern over Professor Lupin's condition, and she gave the man special tea blends that were supposed to improve his general health, to his pleasant surprise.
A week after the start of term, Ravenclaw played a Quidditch match against Slytherin. It was a narrow match between the two Houses, but Slytherin won in the end. The general consensus among the audience was that the Slytherin team's Nimbus Two Thousand and Ones helped them gain that victory. According to Oliver's calculations, if the Gryffindor team won the next match against Ravenclaw, they would be in first place. Therefore he wanted to increase the number of team practices to a ridiculous five times a week, which the rest of the team rejected. After several long and loud discussions, everyone agreed to have training three times a week, going up to four when the match was closer; it was much more reasonable given some of their other responsibilities.
In his extracurricular activities, Harry chose to work on improving the current ring model along with testing what he could do with the flames; he would channel prana to produce the flame, and start casting spells using it to power them, with the amount gradually increasing until the ring shattered. The first night Harry did this using blue flames, the transfigured frog he used as a test subject did not change back even after a week. That was how Harry realized that he could make Traced items last longer by using blue flames to repress Gaia's corrective force. But he did not neglect using the flames with normal physical objects in favor of this new discovery, as Harry wanted to make it second nature for him to reinforce his attacks with them.
Naturally, in order to improve the system of the power flow, Harry needed to likewise improve his proficiency in both runes and sealing. Professor Babbling was always willing to assist a gifted student who needed help, and the scrolls he received from the Yakumo clan were suitable to Harry's learning curve; he already made several useful seals to use for later, such as flashbangs, mini storage seals for throwing weapons, and even traps. His secret workshop was not just well-hidden, it was also turning into a potential death sentence for any intruder. With the number of rings he had crafted in the process, Harry deemed it a necessary measure.
As for the Slytherin archive, which was how Harry referred to the collection of books and scrolls taken from the Chamber, he only devoted a small amount of time to it, focusing on the manifestation that Slytherin was researching. While he was lacking in experience compared to the ancient wizard, Harry had the advantage of magecraft and Tracing to help him, and was making progress in leaps and bounds, though he had yet to achieve anything concrete.
With the Chamber of Secrets plundered, Harry could now return his attention back to searching for the Horcrux. Given his tight schedule, he could only do so once a week, in case someone noticed him sneaking out. To take advantage of the Room's capabilities, he had it set so that he had to fight three waves of dummies in order to reach the Room of Hidden Things, which not only served to maintain his skills, but also raise his alertness while he was searching for the Horcrux, just in case it tried to ambush him. However, that didn't change the fact that finding it still required the slow process of sorting through the huge mess that had built up over decades.
"Didn't get much sleep last night, Harry?" Su asked him concernedly at breakfast after he yawned widely.
"Did a bit of late night exercise, actually." Maybe I shouldn't have increased it to four waves... my body feels heavy this morning. Not to mention I was searching up until two in the morning.
"Oh, okay. Anyway, I'd like to get your opinion on the wizarding games introduction event."
"There's another one?" Harry questioned.
"The first one back in November was a hit, so Neville wanted to have a second one to show off the lesser known games."
Harry glanced at over at where Hannah was deep in discussion with Neville and Draco, with some of the nearby Hufflepuffs adding in input as they liked. That was one thing about having Hannah as president of the Student Council, the solidarity of Hufflepuff meant that she had more willing helpers than Harry did when he used to fill that role. With her talent for managing the additional resources though, she didn't have the trouble of too many cooks spoiling the broth, but instead transformed them into an efficient planning group.
The Student Council was clearly functioning well on its own, and Harry was pleased about that.
The owls came flying in to deliver the morning mail, and Ilya fluttered down in front of Harry bearing an envelope with an enchanted wax seal on it that was meant to prevent those anyone who wasn't the addressee from breaking the seal to read the letter's contents. It was an interesting bit of magic that Harry took note of due to his past history with magical locks.
The message itself was short; Madam Bones had gathered enough support to have a trial for Black. It didn't go into further detail, like how she was going to present the evidence or who the prosecutor would be.
Took long enough for her to get back to me, Harry thought as he Transfigured the note into a toothpick, which he used to pick up a slice of bacon for Ilya to eat. I sent her that note like a week ago.
She does have other responsibilities, you know, Archer reminded him.
Harry didn't reply, more focused on giving his owl another piece of food.
The only thing you can do now, is just wait and see what develops of this, The spirit said solemnly.
With Hogwarts so far away from London, the students only got the news after the whole trial was over and done with, courtesy of Madam Bones's efforts in pushing for a quick verdict.
BLACK ACTUALLY INNOCENT! PETTIGREW THE ACTUAL CULPRIT!
In a shocking reveal just yesterday, Sirius Black, the person who was widely known to have betrayed the Potters to He Who Must Not Be Named and causing their deaths, as well as murdering thirteen people shortly afterwards, was found to be innocent of both crimes. Through an anonymous tipoff to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, it was found that Peter Pettigrew, who was posthumously awarded the Order of Merlin, Third Class for attempting to capture Black shortly after the defeat of He Who Must Not Be Named, was actually alive and in hiding. Further investigations as to why Pettigrew chose to fake his death brought to light the fact that he had framed Black for committing the abovementioned crimes.
Harry lowered the newspaper slightly, noticing some of his peers' attention on him, as the news article did briefly mentioned about his connection to the entire his attention to the rest of the article, he continued to read. A questioning was done using Veritaserum, which rendered the drinker unable to tell a lie to any question he was asked, thus bringing the truth to light.
It was quite obvious that there were some details left out, and Harry was willing to bet that those details would have struck a blow against the Ministry's reputation if they had been printed, such as the fact that Black had not received a trial before his incarceration twelve years ago, for example. Oddly, there was no reference to where Pettigrew had been hiding, which was with the Weasleys. But he was more interested in the final outcome; Pettigrew's Order of Merlin was revoked, and the man sent to Azkaban, while the search for Black was called off, with only a request for the man to come in for questioning.
They probably want to know how he escaped from Azkaban in the first place. Harry blinked and lowered the newspaper again as a tawny owl landed in front of him with a letter.
It was from Andromeda Tonks, and it provided the details missing from the newspaper. The whole issue had seen a huge review of the law process; being imprisoned for twelve years without a trial meant that Black's case set a nasty precedent that no one wanted repeated, especially if it could happen to someone else. There were some who argued that Black was guilty of breaking out of jail, except there was no law stating doing so was a crime due to such a thing never happening before, so that loophole needed covering as well. The Weasleys' involvement had been found out, but they were eventually absolved of all blame. At the moment, the public had no idea about all this, but rumors were inevitably going to leak out, and eventually create a huge mess, or so the woman predicted.
Harry had no idea whether she was right about what would happen, but already some people were responding; up at the teachers table, Dumbledore excused himself and strode out of the Hall, while Snape had an ugly expression on his face. Most of the other teachers had their own reaction of shock, but the most affected one was Lupin, who had turned an unhealthy pale color and ran out after the Headmaster
"Harry..." Hermione was looking at him strangely.
Oh yeah, she knew, He realized. I told her back when we went to Hogsmeade together.
"Later, Hermione." Harry told her, and she nodded.
With Lupin gone, Defense Against the Dark Arts was cancelled, giving the two of them the chance to talk privately. His first friend already figured out that the associate of Black Madam Bones mentioned she was interrogating was referring to Pettigrew, and she demanded to know why Harry had kept that from her.
"Please, Harry, don't hide the truth from me anymore," Hermione all but begged him.
Harry sighed, seeing her so desperate made him feel very guilty. "Alright, Hermione. I'm sorry I hid it all this time, but it all started shortly after I came back from Japan and found out about Black..."
He spilled the whole truth; how he decided to help Black after hearing the man out, nabbing Pettigrew away from Ron and sending the rat to Madam Bones, and how he and Black remained in contact so he could keep the man updated on current events. Hermione listened quietly, and at the end of it all, she finally spoke.
"Is that really everything?" She asked.
Harry nodded. "That's all of it. I did not hide anything else."
He didn't expect her to suddenly burst into tears and fling her arms around his neck in a tight hug.
"Oh, Harry!" She sobbed. "I thought... I thought..." She trailed off into teary hiccups.
I have absolutely NO idea what she thought... Harry was bewildered, but patted her back comfortingly. "It's okay, Hermione. It's all over now." Are all girls like this, or is it just her?
He wasn't expecting an answer, but one came from Archer anyway. I'll leave you to discover that for yourself.
Harry wasn't looking forward to that.
Of course, Hermione wasn't the only one who wanted answers. His other friends were concerned about how he was feeling after finding out that the parent-betraying murderer after him actually wasn't, while the rest of the student body were simply busybodies. The latter group Harry placated by giving a short interview to Luna, who published it in the Herald the very next day, while the former could be reassured. It was only his first friend who knew the whole truth, though there were some that suspected.
I'm pretty sure Luna's aware that there's more to what I said, Harry was aware of the blonde's wide-eyed stare on him. She's perceptive in that sense.
Indeed... Like another Sherlock Holmes.
Harry nodded imperceptibly, then grew serious. Anyway, how do you think Dumbledore's going to react to Black's case now that the truth is out?
Given the fact that he's your godfather, and originally meant to be your guardian, the old man probably wants to talk to him regarding that issue.
Whether I'll be safer where I am or not? Harry considered things for a moment. They are aware of the general area where I stay, so...
However, whatever decision the two men came to after Black revealed himself to the DMLE was unknown to Harry, apart from a letter from the man saying that he would see Harry at King's Cross Station when school ended. There was another from Tonks herself, letting him know that she was now guarding Black against possible attacks under Madam Bones's instructions; Harry wondered if those two would get on fine. When Dumbledore returned to announce that the Dementors would be leaving by the end of the day, since there was no longer any need to hunt for Black, the students cheered. The general opinion was that without them hanging around, both the mood and weather would soon improve.
As for Luna, the Ravenclaw girl didn't pursue the matter any further, possibly as the Quidditch match between their two Houses was fast approaching and some ardent supporters were paranoid about attempts to figure out the other team's strategy. Whatever uproar Andromeda Tonks predicted was ignored by the students in favor of the match, with only a few of them taking note of it when it was reported in the newspapers. With the Student Council promoting the event and raising funds by selling House-colored noisemakers for students to show their support with, Quidditch fever easily overrode Hogwarts.
On the day of the match, Ravenclaw proved themselves to be a tougher opponent than Hufflepuff, and the Chasers fought desperately to score through the opposing defense. With the audience making more noise than usual, the intensity was comparable to that seen in professional league matches. But in the end Harry's capture of the Snitch brought victory for Gryffindor, and the celebration party in the common room that night lasted all the way until one in the morning, when Professor McGonagall finally put her foot down and made them all go to bed.
Harry spent half an hour lying in bed, too worked up to fall asleep. In the end, he reasoned that he might as well do something instead of wasting his time. No one would find it weird if he slept in afterwards, especially after the party they just had.
Sneaking out of Gryffindor Tower was almost second nature by now, given the number of times Harry had done it, and he was in the Room continuing the search for the Horcrux soon enough. After the fifth pile, and yet another interesting book placed aside, Harry was suddenly aware of something stirring in the room.
Uh oh. I have a bad feeling about this. Harry looked around frantically, trying to find the source of what was happening before it turned into something dangerous. There!
Next to a bust of some unknown wizard lay a tarnished old tiara, and it was glowing with an eerie greenish blue light. Harry's first instinct was to destroy it, but even as he brought out his spear, for its destructive power, the entire world abruptly shifted, and his target vanished.
"What?!" Harry exclaimed, noticing that he was no longer in the Room of Hidden Things, but a huge cathedral hall. "Where is this place?"
As if in reply, there was an odd sound in the background. It took Harry a moment to recognize it as laughter, harsh and cruel in its tone.
"WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THE DIADEM OF ROWENA RAVENCLAW HID SUCH A SECRET WITHIN ITS DEPTHS?" The unseen voice boomed around Harry.
The room shifted several times in quick succession, transforming into a dungeon, a field, a library, before returning back to the empty cathedral hall. Harry felt a thrill of fear; if his suspicions were correct, he was in even more trouble than the time he faced Papermort. The Room itself was like a Reality Marble, and it was now under the control of his worst enemy.
"I AM LORD VOLDEMORT! I HAVE SLEPT FOR A LONG TIME, BUT NOW I SHALL DEAL WITH THE ONE WHO DARES TO RAISE HIS WAND AGAINST ME!"
Why did it have to awaken at this time? Harry complained in his head, even as he readied himself for whatever might come. And I'm not holding a wand, I'm holding a spear. Get it right, Diademort.
Spikes suddenly shot out from the walls, too many and too fast for Harry to do anything against. Before they could reach him, however, something blue flashed across his vision, and everything went dark.
That's another chapter done! And just before the New Year's as well! Belated Merry Christmas to all my readers!
This one took quite some time, especially with the whole throwing canon out of the door, but there were also other distractions, such as Mass Effect fanfiction. I really think I have an addiction to fanfiction, when I get started on something that is somewhat interesting, I just can't stop looking for more. It's how I got into Harry Potter fanfiction in the first place.
Anyway, the next chapter will be the last one of the third arc. Try to guess how Harry's going to take down an enemy who has a Reality Marble. Then it's likely another holiday story event before we get to fourth year, and the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
Leave your reviews, and have a Happy New Year!