Harry Potter and the Scīenra Cwēna
AN: Thanks once again for all the follows, favorites, and thoughtful reviews for my story. My apologies for the pace of the updates; work keeps me busy, and I only have so much energy at the end of the day to write and edit. That being said, I am still having a great time writing this; with any luck the next chapter will not be long in coming.
"Murder, like talent, seems occasionally to run in families." - George Henry Lewes, Physiology of Common Life
It was dark outside the castle, and the magical lights in the hallway by Professor Dumbledore's office made the silent gargoyle look more intimidating than usual. Hermione was nearing the point of cursing as she unsuccessfully tried a fourth sweets-related password.
"Yelling Yams!" She tried desperately. The gargoyle remained unmoved.
"Darling, it may be best to just ask ze elves for 'elp 'ere," her silvery-haired companion commented as she put a hand on the younger girl's shoulder.
"That's a good idea, Fleur," the brown-haired witch noted. "I think I was in too much of a rush to get here. Sorry." She looked penitent.
Fleur shook her head. "Don't be upset. I did not think of it either."
"Think of what, Mrs. Potter?" A kindly voice called out from down the hall. Albus Dumbledore strode over to the two girls and offered a polite nod, his eyes twinkling. "Did you need to speak with me?" His eyes narrowed slightly. "Is something wrong with Harry?"
"No Professor, or rather, I don't think so," Hermione began. "He was speaking with Viktor, Viktor Krum, and they found Mr. Crouch injured. Harry said he seemed to be... not in his right mind." She bit her lip.
"'Arry is taking 'im to the infirmary now, 'eadmaster," Fleur noted as she watched the older wizard's reaction with care.
Dumbledore frowned only slightly, then gestured down the hallway. "Let us get to him, then," he said seriously. "I have not seen Barty in person for some time now."
"'Arry, love, we are coming with Dumbledore. Are you all right?"
"Fine, Fleur. Madam Pomfrey's looking over Crouch now."
"Sir," Hermione said haltingly as they began walking, "Don't you think we ought to contact the aurors?"
The headmaster froze for a moment, then kept walking. "Yes, Ms... Mrs. Potter. I will do so once I see his condition."
Fleur glanced significantly at her young wife, who returned the look.
"Good thing you told 'im."
"I wonder if he would have done it at all?"
"Eventually, yes. But the old man likes to do things in 'is own time."
None of them spoke as they made their way to the hospital wing.
Madam Pomfrey silently cast a spell over the sleeping form of Barty Crouch with a scowl on her face. Nearby, Harry and Viktor stood against the wall, having already been warned in no uncertain terms to stay out of her way.
The witch had shooed both boys away and examined the raving Crouch for a few minutes before finally dosing him with a dreamless sleep potion. Even under the potion's influence, Crouch did not appear to be sleeping peacefully.
Harry suspected that it was only a matter of time before the territorial Madam Pomfrey exiled them from the hospital wing; fortunately, she was distracted by the arrival of Dumbledore, Fleur, and Hermione.
"Albus," she turned to regard the headmaster with a very serious expression. "Barty Crouch shows significant damage from the Cruciatus curse. He's also malnourished and has a number of superficial wounds; it seems likely he was confined somewhere at least for a time, and may have escaped." She clenched her wand tightly. "What do you think is going on here?"
Dumbledore glanced around the room to see expectant expressions on the faces of Harry and the girls. He sighed. "Fawkes," he said softly, and the phoenix appeared instantly by his side. He withdrew a piece of parchment and penned a brief missive while leaning against one of the tables. "Please, old friend, take this to Amelia Bones." He turned to the mediwitch as his familiar flamed out of the room with a parting trill. "Thank you, Poppy. I'm sure the aurors will be here shortly to investigate. Did he say anything before you had him sleep?"
"Well," she said looking around the room. Dumbledore nodded for her to continue. "He was babbling about You-Know-Who, and his son, and he was desperate to find you, Albus."
The old wizard's eyebrows rose, but his expression did not reflect alarm. Fleur and Hermione, meanwhile, moved to stand by Harry.
"Where was he, and what else did you hear him say?" Dumbledore asked as he turned to the group of students.
Harry answered first. "By the forest, sir. He wandered out of the woods and was talking to a tree, thinking it was Percy Weasley. Then he asked for you by name." Harry paused and swallowed. "He asked if I were 'one of his,' when he asked for you. I don't think he meant you by that."
"I agree, Headmaster Dumbledore," Viktor assented with a nod. "The man vas out of his mind, but he seemed lucid when he asked for you."
No one offered to speculate about who Crouch had been referring to.
"Do you think Voldemort kidnapped him?"
"I don't know Hermione. Maybe it was Wormtail acting on his orders. Percy filled in for Crouch at the Yule Ball, remember Fleur?"
"Yes, I do. 'E said that Crouch was ill. 'As 'e been gone zis whole time, three months?"
"Why... why not just kill him? Do you think that Percy knew?" Harry's anxiety came through to the girls.
"I don't know, Harry." Hermione was doubtful. "He's sort of a ponce, but I don't see him working for the Dark Lord."
"But 'e did 'ave ze rat for all those years, yes?"
"I hope he's innocent." Harry sent.
Viktor, meanwhile, was watching the trio with interest while Madam Pomfrey and Dumbledore looked over Crouch and conversed in low tones. "Can you three speak with each other, silently?"
Hermione looked to Harry and Fleur, then nodded at him.
"Amazing!" His eyes widened. "Congratulations again. That proves the bond is real more than anything."
Hermione blushed a little. "Try not to tell anyone though, please Viktor?" She entreated.
He nodded. "No problem. I understand the need for privacy." He shook his head. "Still, amazing."
"Ah," Dumbledore said a few moments later. "Amelia has just crossed the wards." He looked over at the four students. "I suspect she will want to question you two gentlemen, so please be patient."
At that moment Winky appeared at Hermione's side, her ears low and her eyes wide. "Mistress! Is it true then? My old master..." The little elf's voice trailed off as she saw Barty Crouch on the bed nearby, and she started to tear up. "Oh master..."
"Winky," Hermione knelt down to look the elf in the eyes. "Are you all right?"
"Mistress, Winky is sorry! Winky is being a bad elf and is not answering your questions! Winky will do it now, we promise!"
Hermione looked at her bondmates. "Not now, all right? We'll ask once we're back in our quarters."
"Sure, Hermione. Hopefully Winky will calm down."
Fleur bent down to look at the elf as well. "Winky," she said softly, "We are not angry with you. We will talk later this evening, in our rooms, yes?"
Winky sniffled, but looked better. "Thank you Mistress Fleurses and Mistress Hermiones, Winky will be ready when you call. I is sorry."
With that, the elf disapparated. Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow, but said nothing.
A few minutes went by, punctuated by Crouch's occasional restless movement in the bed, before an older witch with a monocle and a very determined expression entered the room, flanked by two aurors in department robes. One, a tall gentleman, seemed to be looking all around the room at once. The other, a younger woman with pink hair, focused her eyes back through the door they came through before facing forward again. All of them looked serious.
"Albus." The woman with the monocle stated flatly. "This is Barty Crouch, then?"
"Hello Amelia," Dumbledore replied politely. "Yes, it seems he was found by two students this evening wandering the edge of the Forbidden Forest." When the witch motioned him to go on, Dumbledore inclined his head toward the four students, all of whom were silent. "Durmstrang's Viktor Krum and our own Harry Potter found Barty."
The witch looked at them with an even stare and asked, "What is Crouch's condition, Madam Pomfrey?"
"He's been under the Cruciatus curse more than once, and he's been starved. I suspect he was held by someone for some time. He looks as though he may have escaped on his own, though." The mediwitch replied.
Amelia Bones continued to stare at the students for a moment before speaking. "Albus, can we borrow two rooms to ask questions here?"
"Certainly, Amelia. I trust there will be no veritaserum involved?"
Bones looked at him with a flash of irritation. "Don't tell me the law, Albus. Questions, not potions, until it is warranted." She turned to look at the Aurors. "Shack, Tonks, follow Dumbledore to these rooms. Shack, take Mr. Krum to one. Tonks, you've got Potter." She sighed. "Any idea when Crouch will be able to answer anything?"
"At least a few hours. He was out of his mind when found; he needs some rest before I wake him." Pomfrey looked hesitant even to allow that.
"Albus, Cornelius is on his way already, along with Scrimgeour and a few other aurors for guard duty. Please make sure they are accommodated."
"I'll notify the professors immediately, Amelia." With that, he summoned a phoenix patronus and offered a few soft instructions before it flew away. "Minerva will be here shortly." He turned to Fleur and Hermione. "Would you girls mind waiting here for a few minutes?"
"Of course, Professor," Hermione answered with a glance at Fleur. "We'll wait for Harry."
"Very well. We'll use Poppy's private wards here then." The mediwitch nodded an absent agreement as she watched over her patient, and Dumbledore led the party toward the side of the hospital wing.
"What do you think Winky's going to tell us?" Harry asked over the bond as he waited quietly in his room with the pink-haired auror.
"What 'appened at the World Cup, 'opefully," Fleur sent.
"Maybe Crouch even had something to do with the Goblet, if Voldemort's had some control over him this year." Hermione added.
"Professor McGonagall just came in, along with ze minister and a few other people 'Arry."
Harry perked up and looked at the door at that.
"Nervous there Mr. Potter?" The auror asked. Harry shook his head. "Well, good then, but don't worry. Madam Bones is one scary witch, but she's fair. Just tell her the business and then you can all leave." The auror smiled kindly.
Harry smiled in return. "Thanks. You were Tonks, right?" The witch nodded. At that moment the door opened and Amelia Bones stepped inside. After a glance at Tonks, she turned to Harry.
"Mr. Potter, I have a few questions for you. You are not accused of anything, and we are just establishing what may have happened to Mr. Crouch. Do you feel that you need a legal counsel here? You are an adult wizard at this time, and may request one."
"Do I need to? She seems fair." Harry sent.
"Might be best not to, just to speed things along. If she asks something fishy, you can always ask then." Hermione replied.
"If you feel concerned at any point, just ask then 'Arry." Fleur sent reassuringly.
"No Madam Bones, I'm fine," he answered her calmly. "I'd rather just get this over with."
Fleur and Hermione saw Viktor Krum exit the room with the tall auror after Amelia Bones went in to see Harry. "Done, Viktor?" Fleur asked.
"Yes," he said gruffly. The auror walked over to stand guard in the hallway. "Nothing unexpected." He turned to look at the girls. "I vill want to talk to Harry again about these elves. Very interesting." He said. "For now, I am going." He inclined his head respectfully to both girls. "Good evening."
"Good night, Viktor," Hermione said. Fleur echoed her, and then he was gone. Both girls watched as Cornelius Fudge looked worriedly at the ward where Crouch had been taken when the infirmary had started to fill up. He had nervously nodded at the two of them as he had entered earlier.
"What the devil's going on, Dumbledore? Weasley's son has been saying he was ill." Cornelius Fudge had hat in hand and looked a little disheveled.
"I think it is likely that young Percy was sent information to keep things running while Barty was absent. I am confident he was doing nothing intentionally wrong." Dumbledore said soothingly.
"Well he'd damned well better not have been. Rufus has two aurors going to pick him up for questioning now." The minister mopped his brow and took a shallow breath. "What a bloody mess, and the tournament not even over yet."
"Amelia will have some answers for us soon, once she is finished questioning Harry."
"Harry?" The minister perked up. "Harry Potter and Viktor Krum found Crouch?"
"That's right, Cornelius." Dumbledore looked around distractedly. "Just a moment, I need to see about something," he said and strode over to where Severus Snape had just entered the room.
"Severus, I take it everyone else has been notified?"
"Yes, headmaster," Snape answered quickly. "Filch is keeping students away from the infirmary for now, and Professor McGonagall should be advising the staff."
"Good." His eyes flicked to Fleur and Hermione, who appeared to be waiting patiently. "Have you seen Alastor?"
"No, not today." Snape frowned.
"If you do, please let him know that I would like his opinion on a few matters."
"Certainly, headmaster." With that, Snape turned and left the infirmary.
Dumbledore sighed and turned to walk back to the agitated minister. It was going to be a very long night.
It had been quite a nice day, really. Percy had gone in for a little extra work in the morning, just enough to guarantee a very well-organized day on Monday. He had no new letters from Mr. Crouch, so he was largely just keeping things in order. It was worrisome and hectic, but not unmanageable.
It was pleasing, really. He was sure he could run the Department of International Magical Cooperation himself, if he were called to do so.
The day was made even better by a dinner date with Penelope Clearwater. Their relationship had remained strong despite entering the working world, and Percy had been hoping to quietly save enough money to buy her a ring in the next year.
That plan had been somewhat altered since Harry Potter's announcement that he would be disbursing the proceeds from the sale of the basilisk to the victims of the Chamber of Secrets incident; rather than having to divert some of his income to his family as he had been doing formerly, he was free to keep it for himself. In addition, Penelope had become a rather wealthy young witch (or would, once the money from the sales came in from Gringotts) and Percy found himself in a very great hurry to make sure he impressed her.
He was not extremely worried that she would pick some random wizard over him, but he was determined to make sure it did not happen.
Sitting down to dinner with her, Percy could not help but smile. Penelope had been apprenticing with a magical artificer when the news of Harry's offer came through, and money had been very tight. Now, she was feeling optimistic about the future, and her optimism showed. She looked lovely, and for a moment Percy realized what a very lucky wizard he was to be dating her.
They had hardly managed to order, however, before Percy felt a hand fall heavily on his shoulder and he saw extreme worry on the face of his girlfriend.
"Percy Weasley? We're with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. You're going to need to come with us."
Percy's eyes widened and his stomach dropped.
This could be bad. Very bad indeed.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Potter. You've been very forthcoming." Amelia Bones said as she led Harry out of the room and back into the infirmary proper. "If we need anything further, I will let you know."
"Of course, Madam Bones," Harry said with a little nervousness. The questioning hadn't been bad exactly, just tiring, but the older witch was very intense. He was glad he didn't have to lie to her.
It would probably have been a losing proposition.
"Harry, everything all right?" Dumbledore asked. His normally companionable tone seemed a bit forced to the young wizard.
"Fine, professor." Before Harry could add anything else, Cornelius Fudge had appeared and was already shaking his hand.
"Harry my boy, good to see you! Fine things you've been up to, very fine! Congratulations on your marriage by the way, very fine news indeed!"
Harry was feeling a little ill as Fudge continued to shake his hand. Over the bond, he could feel Fleur and Hermione's amusement.
"Yes, well, thank you sir," Harry said, pulling free of the minister's grip. "Have you met Fleur and Hermione yet?"
"Harry, really." Hermione's expression from across the room communicated her displeasure.
"It would be best, both of you. Be polite, then we can be on our way."
Hermione and Fleur walked over and Harry introduced them. "Minister, meet Fleur Potter and Hermione Potter. Ladies, this is Minister Cornelius Fudge."
Fudge was excessively polite to both girls as they shook hands and spoke for a few moments. Hermione, with years of experience tolerating adults, carried off a convincing show of interest. Fleur was a natural; Fudge was charmed.
Finally Dumbledore rescued them and broke into the conversation as Fudge was apologizing for the retracted Prophet article. "Well Cornelius, I'm sure these young people have places to be. Harry, I will let you know what happens with Mr. Crouch." The headmaster looked Harry in the eye seriously. Harry nodded in return, acknowledging the message.
"Looks like we learn nothing here, then."
"Zen let's go to get some tea and speak with Winky."
"I hope she's feeling all right," Hermione fretted.
They made their goodbyes and left the infirmary. Amelia Bones was speaking with one of the other aurors who had entered as they were leaving; she gave them a silent nod of acknowledgement.
Out in the hallway, the auror called Shack waved to the trio as they departed. They offered a polite good evening his way.
"What a day," Harry said tiredly after they had passed by the grumbling form of Argus Filch. "I wish we could hold off on this chat with Winky."
"Well," Hermione said, chewing her lip absently, "I think we should at least speak to her tonight if nothing else. She seemed really worried."
"I know you wanted a little more time with us alone, love," the French witch commented sympathetically. "But there is no 'urry." She offered a brilliant smile and leaned in to kiss him quickly.
Hermione was smiling as well now, as she watched the two of them. "Feeling more awake after that kiss, Harry?" She asked impishly.
"Maybe," he said as he leaned toward her. "Let's see."
Fleur was giggling a little as they approached Gryffindor tower. "You're both a little more awake now, yes?" She stuck her tongue out at the two of them. "I can see a little of what you're trying not to send, you know."
"Hardly just us!" Hermione sent back in a flurry of embarrassment. "You're busy thinking all sorts of things over there!"
"But I am not trying to 'ide it," she replied cheekily.
Harry just looked at the two of them and chuckled. It was hard to feel upset for very long with both girls beside him. Even the prospect of Winky's upcoming confession was not dampening his mood anymore.
Just as they rounded to the bottom of the main stairwell of the tower, a brittle voice called out behind them.
"Potter, hold on a minute." Alastor Moody said as he walked forward, his false leg ringing against the stone and his false eye spinning madly. He had a small pouch at his side next to his flask, and he looked exhausted.
The trio stopped and turned. "Yes Professor? What do you need?" Hermione asked for them.
"Potter," Moody said grumpily, "I need you to come out with me to where you found Crouch. I'm looking for a possible magical trace, and I need to know precisely where you were."
Harry looked at the girls with a sigh. "I won't be too long, I'm sure."
"We'll be in our rooms, love," Fleur said. She gave him a soft kiss on his cheek.
"We'll hold dinner for you," Hermione said with a meaningful glare at Moody. "Really, like we haven't had enough to do today."
"I'll be fine, Hermione. I'll tell you when I head back."
"Okay Professor, let's go then." Harry waved at the girls and fell in step behind Moody, who started walking toward the entryway of the castle.
Fleur looked at Hermione and shrugged. "Either 'e will find some trace of an apparition or something similar, or 'e will not. It should not take 'Arry too long."
"Let's go upstairs. We can at least have some tea ready for him when he gets back."
Although some of the Gryffindors were already back from dinner, only one approached Hermione and Fleur.
"Do you two know what's going on downstairs? People are saying there are aurors in Hogwarts." Ginny Weasley noted.
"Want to let her in for now?" Hermione sent.
"Of course," Fleur replied.
"Come on in here, then," Hermione replied to the younger girl and gestured at the portrait of the wizards playing go.
Once she had opened the Potter quarters with a whispered password and they were alone with Ginny, Hermione sat down at the table and removed her shoes. Fleur did likewise. "Harry and Viktor Krum found Barty Crouch, from the ministry, near the Forbidden Forest. The aurors are investigating what happened to him."
Ginny looked alarmed. "Is Harry-"
"'Arry is fine, Ginny," Fleur said softly. "Zey just found the man, nothing more."
"That's good at least," the redhead looked relieved. "Where is Harry, anyway?"
"Professor Moody wanted his help with something," Hermione said as she made a dismissive gesture. "He'll be coming back soon."
Ginny made a silent 'oh' and nodded her head.
Hermione leaned back and rubbed her right temple with a pained expression. Seeing this, Fleur stood up and went over to her, then began rubbing the brunette's shoulders. Hermione closed her eyes and made an appreciative noise.
"Thanks Fleur. I'll do you next, all right?"
"Still dwelling on what you were thinking about in ze 'allway?" Fleur sent mirthfully.
Both girls laughed.
"Well, maybe I should go then," Ginny said somewhat uncomfortably, noticing the mood of the two girls.
"No, please stay, Ginny," Fleur said with a genuine note of apology in her voice. "I am sorry, ze conversation through ze bond can be very off-putting for people."
"Sorry Ginny," Hermione looked contrite.
The younger girl waved her hands emphatically. "No, no, I'm sorry, I mean this is your room after all. I just don't want to, umm, get in the way." She blushed a little and looked down at the surface of the table.
Hermione blushed and Fleur had to laugh again.
"At least stay for tea, all right? We need to see Winky anyway. Winky!" Hermione called out hurriedly for the elf, who appeared, wringing her hands.
"Oh Mistress Hermiones!" The elf began without preamble. "Winky is sorry! Winky should have told you before! Winky's old family, Mr. Crouch, his son..." The elf began to cry. Dobby appeared next to her and looked nervous.
After Winky had sobbed for a few moments, Hermione spoke. "We know, Winky," she said softly, trying to be as comforting as possible. "He worked for Voldemort, and he died in Azkaban, isn't that right? We would never be angry with you for something like-"
"NO!" The elf shouted, startling all three girls as well as Dobby. Winky kept crying. "No, Mistresses, Master Barty Junior did not die."
Fleur and Hermione wore identical expressions of shock. "What do you mean, Winky?" Fleur asked haltingly.
The little elf looked miserable as she spoke. "He, Master Crouch that is, he took Mrs. Crouch to that awful terrible jail because the Mistress was dying, and she begged Master to save the little Master. She begged him and cried and carried on, and Master Crouch finally did it. He came back home with the little Master."
Here the elf trembled and had a haunted look on her face. "But the little Master was very angry, very angry. He cursed Master and shouted, and broke things, and the Master used dark, awful magic to hide him away and make him stop." Winky looked ashamed. "Winky had to help, Mistresses. Winky had to! She was ordered to! But then..."
Fleur took Hermione's hand in her own; both were trembling, wondering whether the little elf's story could get any worse. As it was, they were going to have to find Madam Bones immediately once they had all the details. Across the table, Ginny sat silent and horrified, appalled that someone like Mr. Crouch would do such a terrible thing.
Winky's voice fell to a whisper as she continued, trembling. "But then he escaped, because he wanted to go to the dark one again."
"He's alive, and helping the Dark Lord?" Hermione could not keep the astonishment from her voice. Winky nodded, fearful of another dismissal. Dobby stood worriedly at her side.
"It wasn't your fault, Winky," Fleur comforted the elf after a moment of recovery. "And we are not angry with you. We will try to tell ze aurors what 'as 'appened, but you will stay with us, no matter what."
Hermione offered a smile as well. "She's right, Winky. Thank you for telling us. I know this was very hard for you, and we appreciate it." "Fleur, we have got to tell Madam Bones immediately! He might have had something to do with Mr. Crouch, or even with the Goblet! Harry, are you almost done with Mad-Eye?"
There was a long silence, and no answer to her question came through the bond.
"'Arry? My love, are you all right?"
Still there was no reply. Fleur and Hermione quickly turned to look at one another.
"It, it's like when he's asleep..." Hermione said fearfully, her voice betraying anxiety. "I, I didn't feel anything, did you Fleur?"
The older girl shook her head, but intense worry was on her face.
Harry was still silent.
"What is it, what's happening?" Ginny asked, upset already by Winky's story.
"The map. We'll know where he is if we use the map." Hermione said, ignoring Ginny. She stood quickly, then ran over to Harry's trunk and opened it to withdraw the Marauder's Map. "I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good," she intoned before tapping the parchment. She scanned quickly over the edge of the grounds where she knew Viktor and Harry had been, and where Moody and Harry must be now.
It was empty. No names showed near the forest, or between the forest and the castle.
The sense of panic rose within her, but Hermione ruthlessly suppressed it. "Okay, Moody. We need to find Moody. He must be here somewhere." Her eyes stung as they blazed over the map from story to story, room to room, combing through the dots. The infirmary was awash in unfamiliar names, but Harry was not there.
"Dumbledore's still in the infirmary," she noted tightly, just to have something to say. Over at the table, Fleur was standing with a look of fear. Ginny, seeing the older witch's expression, was fearful as well.
"What, what is it? Please, tell me!" She asked desperately.
Finally Hermione's frantic search caught the name Alastor Moody on the map. "Moody's in his office!" She said triumphantly, but then stopped.
"But Harry isn't there." She whispered. Her heart felt like it was about to break out of her chest, and Fleur ran over to hold her.
"'Ermione, my love, don't panic. We need to focus now. Moody was ze last person to see 'im, yes?" Hermione nodded mutely. Ginny stood up from the table and said nothing. Her eyes were wide with worry.
"Dobby," Fleur said sharply. The little elf looked like he was about to cry. "Dobby, go immediately to Dumbledore and tell 'im that 'Arry Potter is missing. Take 'im to ze 'allway by Professor Moody's office to meet us." Fleur spoke with forced calm in her voice, but she felt none in her heart.
She felt physically sick, in fact. Watching as Hermione began to hyperventilate, she tried to soothe the girl over their bond. "We will find 'im, 'Ermione. Come, let's go." "Winky," she called, "take us to ze 'allway near Professor Moody's office now." She turned to the now panicked redhead. "Ginny," she pleaded, "Please, say nothing to anyone yet."
Then Winky took their hands, and Ginny Weasley was alone in the Potter quarters.
She clenched her fists and began to cry.
Albus Dumbledore appeared holding Dobby's hand in the quiet corridor outside Alastor Moody's office with a furrow in his brow. He had made very hasty excuses to the people in the infirmary before departing, much to the consternation of the aurors and Amelia Bones. The obvious fear in the house-elf's eyes, along with his whispered message from Fleur Potter, brought Dumbledore close to panic.
Surely, he thought, surely not...
He spied young Harry's two wives holding tightly to each others' hands a few meters away. "Young ladies, is it true that Harry is not responding over your bond?" When they shook their heads, Albus tried very hard not to show fear. "What happened?"
The girls explained what had happened in turns, about Moody's appearance and his story, and Winky's confession; Dumbledore's expression grew darker each moment. "The map shows Alastor in this office, then?" He queried.
"Yes sir," Hermione answered with a tight voice. "Can't we please go in now?" She looked at the headmaster with wide eyes.
The old wizard nodded. "Let me go first, please." They assented, and he walked over to the door. No one answered his knock, and after casting a detection charm he unlocked it.
The room was dark, and silent, and empty. Further magical efforts showed a few artifacts in the room, but no occupants.
"Mrs. Potter," Dumbledore said as Hermione and Fleur entered, "Please show me where he is on this map of yours."
Hermione nodded and the map zoomed to the appropriate room, showing a basic floor plan. They followed their own dots until they were immediately adjacent to the one labeled 'Alastor Moody.' In the room, they were standing next to a magically enchanted trunk.
"Please, stand back," Dumbledore said, holding his fear at bay as reports of missing potions ingredients surfaced in his mind. Surely not... It couldn't be...
At a spell from his wand, the trunk opened, revealing a series of locks which fell open one after another. Dumbledore looked in each compartment, finding nothing out of the ordinary. In the last was a set of stairs just wide enough to descend. He warned the girls to stay back, and walked in.
There was a small room in the magical trunk, bare of any decoration. The air was musty and unpleasant. In the center of the room, tied to a metal chair, was the pale form of Alastor Moody, half his hair gone from his head.
"Do you mean to tell me," Amelia Bones demanded with a shaking voice, "That Barty Crouch Junior or whoever it was has been impersonating Alastor Moody since AUGUST and you had NO IDEA?"
When Dumbledore said nothing, the older witch slammed her fist down on the heavy desk hard enough to knock over his silver chimes. "GOD DAMN IT ALBUS, TALK!"
"Yes, Amelia, it looks that way," the headmaster replied without raising his eyes. "I am as capable of making mistakes as anyone else. I should note," he said as he looked up from his desk, "that no one else in this castle saw through his act either. Barty's son was always a gifted boy-"
"Gifted? Albus, I am not sure I believe that this was a one-man operation." The now furious witch stepped back from the desk and looked appraisingly at the wizard. "I will be taking Severus Snape back to the ministry under auror guard for questioning. I'm waiting on the Bulgarian ministry to get back to me with a confirmation that we may do the same with Karkaroff."
"Amelia, please," Dumbledore asked as he stood up. "Severus has my complete confidence. I know for a fact that he himself thought Harry Potter was the one stealing from his stores to brew polyjuice potion-"
"Well he doesn't have mine, Albus." She said, cutting him off with a gesture. "Snape was You-Know-Who's creature then, and he may well be now. This is not up for debate." Bones eyed him carefully through her monocle. "You're awfully defensive about this, Albus. I think you should be more worried about Harry Potter and those two distraught young wives of his than about a self-confessed death eater."
He held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Amelia, I am trying to be as honest as I can-"
She made a sharp laugh. "Somehow I doubt that. You wanted to hide the telepathy over their bond from me until those witches overruled you. They even implied you weren't going to call in the DMLE immediately when Crouch was found. How long were you planning to wait exactly, Albus? Ten minutes? An hour? A day? Would you even have called us after Potter disappeared if we weren't already here?"
"Amelia, really. You know that I have only the best intentions-"
"Damn it Albus, your intentions are not my business!" She was shouting now. "The law is the law, and you are not in charge of its execution!" She took a deep breath. "We're done here. I'll keep you apprised of what happens in your official capacities once we know more. If you discover anything new, or if those witches have something to add, tell me immediately."
At this Amelia Bones removed her monocle and brushed it idly against the fabric of her robe as she sighed. "I know you're hiding things from me, Albus. Don't try to deny it. But you can't do everything yourself. You know Charles Delacour will be coming here tomorrow most likely, and he's not just Fleur's father, he's the bloody Minister of Foreign Affairs for France!" She fixed the headmaster with a withering stare. "Don't believe for a second he's going to take any of your garbage, Albus. This is his son-in-law and death eaters and maybe Voldemort all wrapped up in one."
With that, she turned and left the office without another word spoken.
Dumbledore sat back down, hearing the faint voice of Amelia Bones as she conversed with the auror at the foot of his private stairwell. The old wizard removed his glasses and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes.
Revelations had been plentiful and unwelcome in the hours since the students had returned from Hogsmeade. After Moody had been freed from his prison, he had immediately pointed to Barty Crouch Junior as the person who had attacked him before the school term began.
Acting against Madam Pomfrey's wishes, Bones had woken the senior Crouch to demand answers under veritaserum, which he had provided. They confirmed the tale told by Winky the house elf in every detail. In addition, Crouch's deposition indicated that his son definitely believed that he was working directly for the Dark Lord, and that the Dark Lord was alive again in some capacity. Apparently his son had indeed held him captive outside the castle grounds while masquerading as Alastor Moody, and had used the Imperious curse to force the elder Crouch to send directives to Percy Weasley.
Bones had not been convinced that Voldemort was alive again, but it seemed to everyone undeniable that Barty Crouch Junior definitely thought he was. Before he was sent off to St. Mungo's, Moody had chimed in with his assertion that he believed Crouch Junior was likely not just telling tales.
Dumbledore, of course, knew Voldemort was very close to being alive again. Severus Snape's dark mark had gotten increasingly visible in the past months, and both of Harry's wives had related the story of Harry's dream over the summer to him that very evening.
And now he had Harry. For the first time in years, Albus Dumbledore was starting to despair.
It was very little consolation to know that Tom Riddle's plans had undoubtedly been derailed by the escape of Barty Crouch; Dumbledore was almost certain that he would capitalize on whatever he was planning in short order. As for Harry Potter, the old wizard was forced to admit to himself that there was likely no way to track him down. It was unthinkable that Riddle was hiding anywhere visible and unwarded; Dumbledore had already checked a few likely locations that very evening and come up with nothing. If they chose to keep Harry unconscious, he would have no way to tell his bondmates where he was.
Fortunately, the number of people who knew about their telepathic abilities was limited. Amelia Bones had assured them that she would not be sharing the secret.
Still, it was a long shot that Harry would be able to provide any useful information.
If he was even still alive.
Dumbledore summoned a house-elf and requested some tea. It was going to be a long night.
Hermione Potter, née Granger, shivered as she stared, unblinking, at a page of her Arithmancy textbook. It was nearing midnight. Around her, at the table in her quarters, sat a few of her friends. They had special dispensation from Professors McGonagall and Flitwick to be in there after curfew, given the circumstances. It was an unspoken assumption that Hermione and Fleur would not be doing anything school-related tomorrow.
Hermione was grateful for the company, but neither she nor Fleur were being particularly talkative. She felt like they had talked enough already that night.
After they had brought the real Alastor Moody down to the infirmary, Hermione had ended up shouting at the headmaster. Fleur had restrained her, but she was herself none too pleased with the old man. It was Fleur who had stood and demanded that Madam Bones be informed about their telepathic abilities, as well as all the other parts of the story they had managed to put together. Dumbledore had not looked very happy, but Amelia Bones had been furious.
Fleur and Hermione had left for their own quarters under the escort of Professor McGonagall only after hearing all the information gleaned from Mr. Crouch and the rescued Moody. As family of the kidnapping victim, Fleur had told Madam Bones, they expected to be kept well informed.
She had not neglected to mention that she was going to be writing a letter to her father as soon as she was back in her room.
Both of them had agreed not to contact Sirius until they had more information. Hermione was afraid that he would fly off the handle. As far as Rita Skeeter and the press was concerned, they were planning to let Amelia Bones handle it.
Hermione turned away from her book, which she was hardly able to read anyway, and touched Fleur's shoulder. The silvery-blonde haired witch was sitting right next to her, and immediately sent her a mental nudge.
"Do you want to rest, darling?" Fleur's words came to her with warmth.
"No, not yet. If he was stunned, he might wake up soon."
They both hoped he would be allowed to regain consciousness. If he was not, then they might well never see him again.
Across the table, Neville, Luna, and Ginny were engaged in a quiet conversation. Ron was pretending to work on an essay, but seemed to be no more productive than Hermione was. Everyone looked tired.
"We should let them rest, Fleur."
The French girl smiled. "Of course, love. Then maybe you can rest as well."
"Everyone," Fleur said, and the table went quiet. "I think that I need to rest for now. You probably do too, since you must go to class in ze morning. Thank you, very much, for being 'ere for us."
"We'll tell you tomorrow if we learn anything new," Hermione added. "I promise."
Ron was the first to stand after he quickly gathered his parchment and quill. "I, well, I'm sure everything will be all right. Harry's tough. I'm sure he'll be all right." The boy looked away and sniffed. "Anyway, good night."
With that, Ron fairly ran out of the room. Ginny sighed. "If you need anything, please come and wake me." She tried to smile for their benefit. "I'll be happy to talk."
Luna and Neville also took their cue to leave.
"I'll make sure Ron's all right," Neville said softly. "Good luck."
"Harry is a very strong person." Luna said with a calm look at Fleur and Hermione. "He'll be all right."
After a few more moments, all three had said good night and left. A moment later, Fleur and Hermione were in each others' arms.
"Oh I want to believe Luna's right, Fleur," Hermione said in a hoarse voice. "I just want him to wake up, at least, and talk to us."
Fleur hugged the smaller girl tightly and tried not to cry. "'Arry is strong, love. We can believe in 'im."
Hermione returned the embrace and rubbed her eyes. "He'll be fine. He's faced terrible things before; I know he's fine." She sniffled. "He would want me to be brave."
"You are, love." Fleur stroked her hair softly.
Hermione turned to her wife with a small smile. "You too, you know. Thank you for taking on Dumbledore and Bones tonight. I would have crumbled."
"As would I, if I 'ad been alone," Fleur replied. "'Ermione," she continued, "You should rest. I will wake you in a few hours and then rest myself, but that way when 'Arry wakes one of us will be 'ere waiting."
The brown haired girl leaned back and nodded slowly. "All right, but are you sure you don't want to rest first?"
"You first. I am all right."
"Just wake me if you hear anything, no matter what. And make sure you wake me in a few hours no matter what so you can get some sleep too." The younger witch looked at her pointedly.
"I will, 'Ermione. Now go bathe, then rest." Fleur said, then offered another hug. "I love you."
"I love you too." Hermione tried not to tear up. "He'll be all right."
The tea was cold.
Fleur sighed and drank it anyway, enjoying the taste of the tepid honey at the bottom. She thought of asking Winky or Dobby for a fresh cup, but she knew that they, too, were worried and needed their rest.
She could not rest, not yet. Harry was not yet awake, and Hermione needed sleep more than she did. The poor young girl had tried all evening not to lean too hard on Fleur; her independence was admirable, but it took its toll.
Fleur tried to remain hopeful, but it was difficult in the stillness and quiet of the late hours. It was already closing in on three o'clock in the morning. The young girl set her teacup back on the saucer and tried to make sure her hand did not shake too much. She returned to her reading, trying to concentrate and stay focused and awake.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink Eastward, springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
The image heartened her. Though the verse was not her native language, she found it to be quite beautiful. It didn't hurt that the author was perpetually stuck in the dark hour of the soul himself. It was a kind of solidarity, and it helped.
Fleur felt an ache behind her eyes and winced, putting the book down on the table before her. It might be about time to wake Hermione in any case; it would be hard to stay awake much longer herself.
As she was gathering the determination to wake her bondmate, she felt a presence pushing in her mind.
"Hermione! Fleur! Are you all right?"
Fleur immediately cried out as tears ran down her cheeks. Her burst of emotion flew over the bond to Harry. "Love, we're fine, in our rooms at 'Ogwarts. Are you all right? Are you hurt?"
"I'm not injured, but I am tied up and my wand is gone. I think I'm in a cellar. Somebody must have stunned me and then Moody."
"That was not Alastor Moody, love. It was Mr. Crouch's son, ze death eater; he is alive."
Fleur offered him a quick overview of what they had learned over the course of the evening. Organizing her thoughts for Harry's benefit made her feel a great deal more awake. Harry was astonished to hear what had happened.
"Love, I am going to wake 'Ermione now."
"Please do. Have you slept at all, Fleur?"
"Of course not!" Her indignation was palpable. "We chose to take turns waiting for you to wake up."
Harry was silent a moment before he responded. "Thank you, Fleur. You know I love both of you."
The French witch felt herself grow warm at the emotion she felt. "We love you too, 'Arry. Now let me get 'Ermione."
After Fleur gently shook Hermione awake, the younger girl's eyes were cloudy for a moment before they leapt open in happiness. "Harry! Are you safe? Are you hurt? Do you know where you are? Oh we're so worried-"
Both girls felt a pained chuckle over the bond. "Hermione, I'm all right for now. I'm in a dark room, a cellar probably, tied up and without my wand, but I'm not hurt."
"Can you hear anything, or see anything, as a clue about where you are?" Hermione asked.
"No, nothing really. Looks like there are no windows anywhere and it's totally silent."
Hermione stood and began pacing the room. "There must be a way to... Harry! Call for Dobby!"
There was a moment of silence, then Harry responded. "Looks like they silenced me. Really though, I don't know if that would even work."
"We will think of something, love. Now we need to talk to ze 'eadmaster."
Fleur and Hermione nodded at each other.
"Dobby, Winky!" Hermione called, and the elves appeared, looking worried. "Harry is awake and he is not hurt, but we don't know where he is. Might one of you tell Professor Dumbledore for us?"
"Yes Miss Hermiones! Dobby will do it now!" With a crack, the little elf was gone.
Fleur turned to Hermione. "I do not think I can sleep quite yet. I would like to talk with 'Arry."
The other girl nodded. "Winky, could you bring us something light to eat?"
The elf bobbed her head. "Of course, Mistress. Winky will be right back. I is glad that Harry Potter is well."
After Winky had gone, Dobby popped back in. "The headmaster says to please let him know if Harry has any information. He is being contacting the ministry now."
"Okay, Dobby. Thanks." "Harry, don't worry. We will definitely think of something. Dumbledore and Madam Bones from the ministry are working on it."
"I'll keep my eyes open here. If anything happens, I'll let you know as soon as I can."
As it turned out, very little happened over the course of the early morning. Despite Hermione and Fleur's worries, the worst things Harry seemed to be dealing with were anxiety and boredom. Eventually Harry managed to convince Fleur to get some rest; Hermione agreed that they would be sleeping in shifts while they worked to figure out what was going on.
Harry himself fell asleep for a few hours and woke in the early afternoon. Immediately, he noticed that Hermione and Fleur were both angry.
"What happened?" He asked.
"We've just left the headmaster's office, and it's awful! They've got nothing, Harry!" Hermione's desperation came over the bond with force. "They can't seem to find any leads to where you are."
"Love, they 'ad no luck with ze apparition trace. My father will be 'ere this evening, but I do not know what he can do to help."
Both girls fell silent, and Harry flexed his arms tiredly against his restraints. "I'm sure you'll think of something. I'm sorry I can't see or hear anything useful in here; they've pretty well blocked off whatever information could be useful to me."
He tried not to sound too hopeless, but he was sure that it did not sound encouraging to Fleur and Hermione. In fact, with half a day gone already and no progress made in finding him, Harry was not feeling particularly encouraged either.
Back in their room in Gryffindor tower, the two Mrs. Potters were feeling somewhat despondent after this exchange. They couldn't lie to Harry through the bond about his situation, even if they wanted to, and there was no good news forthcoming. Harry did not know where he was and had no means of finding out; Dumbledore and the DMLE did not seem to have anything else to go on.
Suddenly Hermione sat bolt upright.
"Fleur, what sort of wards are standard for a property? For privacy, I mean?" Hermione asked.
"Well," the older witch replied, eyeing her bondmate curiously, "there are several that one might use. If ze place is under Fidelius already, they probably don't need to 'ave much apart from proximity warnings and maybe some wards to conceal items immediately beyond ze territory under Fidelius."
Hermione's eyes were brighter now. "So there is no general charm that prevents incoming information, right? Such a ward would not be used, and the Fidelius does not preclude one viewing or listening to what is immediately outside it?"
"I believe so, yes," Fleur said, wondering where Hermione was going with this. "But 'Arry cannot see or hear anything useful."
"No, he can't." She grinned. "Fleur, do know what the Global Positioning System is?"
"Non, I do not." The older girl looked interested.
"It's a muggle invention for determining location. Basically it uses multiple signals from orbiting satellites to determine your location on the surface of the Earth. It works on the principle of isolation, with a few pieces of information combining to make a precise estimate of where you are. Now Harry doesn't have a GPS, but I bet he could tell the time, or the barometric pressure, or any of a million things that we can compare to observed or known conditions all over the place! We'll be able to narrow it down tremendously with that. It might not be much, but if we can get a really exact time, we might be able to get his longitude. Are there spells for finding out exactly where the sun is overhead, or how far above sea level you are, or anything like that?"
Fleur's eyes widened. "There must be. At least for many such things. I do not know 'ow accurate ze Tempus charm is, but there must be a way to increase it if needed." After a moment, she frowned. "But 'Arry 'as no wand, and 'e cannot speak. 'Ow can 'e cast these spells?"
"I'm willing to bet he can do it." Hermione said determinedly. "None of these are extremely powerful charms or anything, and Harry's good under pressure, you know; he's quite a powerful wizard. I think we should try it."
Fleur looked at the young witch and felt her confidence over the bond. She smiled. "Then we need to do some research, love."
"Hey, you're a little quiet over there. Something good happen?"
Hermione grinned. "Maybe, Harry. Fleur and I need to do some research. You may be able to use magic to determine some information about where you are if we can come up with the right spells."
"Without a wand? Silently?"
"Darling, 'Ermione believes you can do eet. I think she is right."
Harry thought a moment before replying. "All right, I'll give it a shot. Anything I should do for now?"
"For now, try to cast a basic Tempus charm. Just focus and keep trying. Rest when you need to, and tell us if anything changes."
"I will. If I'm quiet for a while, I'll probably just be concentrating then."
"'Arry, remember that casting magic without a wand is unfocused and very difficult. Don't overtire yourself."
Harry smiled at the note of concern. "I'll be careful, Fleur. Good luck, you two, and rest when you need to."
Hermione looked at Fleur and nodded. Even kidnapped, bound, and without his wand, Harry took them at their word and worried about them, instead of himself. "'He really is something special, Fleur," the younger girl said.
"So are you, 'Ermione," Fleur replied, "Now let's get to work. We likely 'ave to modify or even create a spell for 'Arry, and that will take us some time to work out."
Resolved, the girls headed off to the library to begin their work.
Three figures sat drinking tea in the headmaster' office. None of them were smiling.
"We have nothing new at this time." Amelia Bones stated, frustration evident in her voice.
"Regrettably, I must say the same here," Dumbledore replied. "It has been almost a full day now, and although Harry is alive, he is not able to identify where he is."
"We do have people searching. If they decide to move Mr. Potter, then there is a decent chance that we might intercept them." She removed her monocle and rubbed her eyes tiredly. "If they do not..."
The silence was heavy for a long moment.
"Have either of you spoken to young Ms. Granger or-" Minerva McGonagall shook her head. "That is, Hermione or Fleur recently?"
"Not since this morning, no," Amelia said.
"Indeed, they advised us that they would let us know promptly if anything changed. Is there something else, Minerva?" Dumbledore looked curious.
"The two young ladies left their quarters in Gryffindor Tower sometime shortly after noon. They have been in the library ever since then, according to Madam Pince."
The old wizard's brow furrowed. "Do you think they are hiding something?"
McGonagall fixed him with a withering stare. "Really Albus, I can't believe you sometimes. I'm sure they are working to assist Mr. Potter, and when they want our help, they will ask for it."
"Minerva, my apologies, I only want to help them."
"Do you think those two girls might be on to something we've missed, Minerva?" Bones asked with a thoughtful expression.
"Young Ms., rather Hermione, is an extremely clever girl. From what I have discussed with Olympe, Fleur is a very talented young witch herself. They may also be employing the bond itself in whatever they are doing. They are only students, but they are very original thinkers. I would not put it past them, Amelia."
Madam Bones leaned back in her chair and looked reflective. "Do you think you can approach them to see if we can offer any assistance?"
"I'll see what I can do," McGonagall nodded. "Albus?" She looked questioningly at the headmaster.
"Please tell them that we will be happy to offer whatever assistance they require." He said tiredly. "We should all be working together."
"Very well, then. Amelia, Professor, I will see to it presently." So saying, the head of Gryffindor House left the office, already wondering what the two girls were working on.
"Fleur, can you check whether this derivation matches Kellus Kortir's arithmantic projection from the second volume? I'm not sure I have the scaling right." Hermione did not look up from her work as she continued to examine the formulae she was crafting with a critical eye.
"Oui, it seems accurate. Keep in mind thatitis going to require some focus to maintain the interpreter. By the way, the pressure spell base seems to need modification. It was designed for water, and lacks ze degree of accuracy we are looking for. I know that I can conjure specific elements; I am trying to check my mercury against ze real thing." At her end of the table, the older witch was busy conjuring small quantities of mercury suspended in the air, an expression of extreme concentration on her face.
"Let's hope Harry can do it."
Without looking up, both girls nodded. Conjuration was a very advanced subject, and not usually attempted wandlessly. Fortunately conjuration was typically much less structured than other wand work, and therefore Harry might have a better chance at using it.
Madam Pince looked over the two girls quietly. She had earlier shooed a few inquisitive students away, but finally had to relocate the two witches to a private area usually reserved for study groups. They had been at work for hours now, and apart from a few requests to Madam Pince, they were completely silent. The table before them was covered in a varied assortment of reference material covering many subjects: school textbooks in both English and French, muggle meteorology, force and electromagnetic conjuration, elemental conjuration, and Kortir's two-volume treatise on arithmancy and static evocation, which Pince had had to get for them from the restricted section.
They had been given a free pass from the Gryffindor Head for the library, and it seemed they intended to use it.
"I did it!" Harry exclaimed excitedly over their bond."Fleur, Hermione, I can definitely cast and hold the Tempus and levitation charms for as long as I'm concentrating." Harry's sending sounded tired to both girls, but he seemed happy nevertheless.
"Both of them?" Hermione sent, astonished.
"You... you can cast both charms now, and at the same time?" Fleur echoed her disbelief.
"Well, I started with the Tempus like you said, but it wasn't too hard. I've been working on doing both at once for about an hour now, but it takes a lot of concentration."
Fleur looked wide-eyed at Hermione.
"That, that's wonderful Harry! We're working over here, and we're getting closer. What do you think of this for a basic display?" Hermione sent an image of what she hoped would result from the system she was developing.
"That looks good. Are you sure I can really cast that?"
"If you can cast those spells wandlessly, 'Arry, I believe you can. Just make sure to rest for a while, yes?" Fleur sent her concern over the bond.
"I will. I know I'm tired, but it's keeping me occupied. It's really nothing like using a wand. I'll be careful. I'm just regular tired, not magically tired. Believe me, after last year I know the difference."
Hermione bit her lip absently, recalling that same memory. "All right. Just be mindful."
"You too. Make sure to get something to eat. I know you've been working for hours now."
"We will, darling. I will make sure she stops soon." Fleur sent.
"I can't believe he was able to do it..." Hermione said softly. "I mean, I had faith that he could do it eventually, but it's only been a few hours..."
Fleur shook her head. "Most witches and wizards never learn to cast wandlessly. To do this in only a day, and in these circumstances..."
A smile tugged at the corner of Hermione's mouth. "You know, I remember mentioning to you that back in our first year, I told Harry he was a great wizard. I don't think I told you when it happened."
Fleur smiled as Hermione shared the memory of the potions trial.
"You are both more than you are willing to give yourselves credit for." She took the younger girl's hand and kissed it softly. "But that is something I can 'elp with."
Hermione smiled, then frowned and looked down at her parchment. "We'll get him back, won't we?"
Fleur took Hermione's hand in her own. "We will."
"Irma, do you mind if I bother them?" McGonagall called quietly from behind the librarian.
"Minerva, no, of course not." Pince turned to look at the professor. "I was just checking in on them myself."
"How are they?"
"They've been working for hours, but they rarely speak." The librarian looked curious. "Is it the bond?"
McGonagall nodded. "Yes. They can speak with young Mr. Potter as well, if he is conscious."
Both witches were silent for a moment.
"I'd better speak with them now. Thank you for checking on them, Irma."
McGonagall coughed lightly to indicate her presence, unwilling to startle the girls; both Fleur and Hermione looked up from their work to greet her.
"Good evening, Professor."
"Good evening, Professor McGonagall. Do you 'ave news from Madam Bones?" Fleur looked hopeful.
McGonagall tried not to frown. "No my dear, I'm afraid not. I just wanted to see whether you two were doing well, and whether you might need anything." She watched them carefully for signs of fatigue. "I know you have been working here all day. Could I offer any assistance?"
The girls looked at one another briefly, then turned back to McGonagall.
"Professor," Hermione began, "please sit down and we can go over what we're trying to do."
The older witch sat, and Hermione began her presentation.
"It started when I realized that Harry is likely under a Fidelius or other charm, but that he can still observe and relate things in his environment apart from the location where he is being held. Basically, we're putting together a few charms to get data that Harry can gather and we can compare to readings we can take, so we can narrow down where he is," Herrmione's voice grew more excited as she spoke. "Fleur's working on something to read barometric pressure right now; we're also planning on elevation and an application of the Tempus charm, and I'm creating a spell projection that should allow a fixed display of some of the information as the charms are cast." She looked at her Head of House with a glimmer of pride. "I got the idea for that from the way Tempus and other charms show information in letters in the air before you."
Fleur could not help but smile at her bondmate's comprehensive, enthusiastic description. "You're very impressive, love."
"You're doing half the work anyway."
"Hermione," McGonagall said with surprise in her voice, "you are creating a new spell for this purpose? And Fleur, you are crafting a working barometer with conjuration and transfiguration?"
Both girls nodded.
"Amazing," the older witch said softly. "Well, I shall be happy to assist you with this. Hermione, I will get Professors Vector and Flitwick to assist as well." Then she looked a little apprehensive as she spoke. "But girls, do you really think Mr. Potter can carry all this out? He does not even have a wand, correct?" She was loathe to distress them further, but to her surprise they seemed optimistic.
"Right now, 'Arry is casting both the Tempus charm and levitating items silently, without 'is wand." Fleur said with evident pride.
"We know he can do it, Professor." Hermione added earnestly.
McGonagall was astonished by the news of Harry Potter's spellwork; she saw the confidence both girls were displaying, then looked down at the growing set of neatly organized notes they were building. It was obvious they had a plan, one not ever really executed in this fashion in the wizarding world before. With the professors' help, they might be able to do it. The question was, would Harry Potter be able to match their efforts? And would they have enough time?
The air smelled unpleasant and musty in the empty room where Harry Potter was being kept. It was uncomfortable, certainly, being tied up for so long. Harry was hungry, and thirsty, and anxious. All of that, though, was excellent motivation for him to distract himself with the spellwork that Hermione and Fleur suggested. He knew that he could cast silently if he worked at it enough; his performance at the first task was clear evidence of that. The wandless casting, though, had seemed truly intimidating. Knowing it was really his best hope, Harry had set to work with a will.
It had paid off. He was casting without a wand, but the whole process was almost nothing like using his phoenix feather wand. It wasn't just the focus or the added strength he felt, but the magic itself was just totally formless and unstructured. He could only imagine how impossible it would be if he had not learned with a wand already.
He was a little surprised with how well the mental discipline came to him at first, how easy it was to turn off the distractions and simply focus. Then he remembered why: the Dursleys.
All those years of being isolated, physically and socially, had forced him inward. It had its negative consequences of course, but it was also experience he could rely on. He had lived through it, dealt with it, and grown up. The Harry Potter with three and a half years of the magical world under his belt was a stronger person than the Harry Potter who had been locked up in the cupboard under the stairs. That cupboard and all his memories still informed him though; they were part of him.
If he had been taken in the beginning of the year, if Barty Crouch Junior had brought him to Riddle then, he might have crumbled. He was a different person now. He had two girls who loved him, and whom he loved in return. He had a place to go home to, people waiting for him.
They believed he could do it. Harry just had to keep believing it himself.
He was resting for a few moments between simple castings when he heard shuffling at the door by the stairs. The door opened and a pale werelight flew in, illuminating the room and causing him to squint.
As his eyes adjusted, Harry saw Peter Pettigrew walking down the stairs, a tray in one hand and his wand in the other.
Harry took the time to study the man as Peter walked toward him. The wizard, he knew, was only in his mid-thirties, but he looked almost as bad as Sirius had after his escape from Azkaban. Pettigrew's eyes were cold as they fell on Harry, and he felt his bonds uncoil after the older man spoke.
"Harry, here's your dinner." The tray floated to the ground, revealing a meager meal with a glass of water. At Harry's questioning look, the Marauder grinned. "You'll stay silenced for now, young Harry. We don't need you yelling and crying. And feeding you? Why, you're wondering? It's my master, of course. He wants to make sure you're healthy, awake and alive and all that. But don't worry, Harry," Pettigrew said with a sneer as he turned to walk back toward the stairs, "You'll be dead by his hand the day after tomorrow. The Dark Lord will rise once more!"
The werelight followed Wormtail's chuckles out the doorway and Harry was left alone with his dinner in the dark.
He fought down nausea and a feeling of burning in his scar as he heard the traitor's words echo through his head.
The day after tomorrow. The Dark Lord will rise once more!