Chapter Five

After some rather crafty bargaining on the part of the wizened Mr Flume Harry found himself being shown into the Honeyduke's cellar late one evening when Mr Flume the younger and his wife, or "that sappy couple", had gone to bed. For the price of a rather costly ticket to the Dunstable Duelling Championship and a free tab at the three broomsticks Mr Flume had allowed Harry access to the cellar for an indefinite period.

With their wands lit and held aloft the two men crept down the wooden stairs as lightly as possible, trying to avoid and creaking boards that might wake up the building's two snoozing occupants.

"Ambrosius' missus wouldn't approve, straight-laced boring type. Only interesting thing about her is her sweet recipes." Mr Flume had stated disdainfully in the early stages of their negotiations. Harry privately wondered if there was a person on earth that Mr Flume did approve of or if he was sworn to a life of grumbling.

The cellar looked much the same as it always had. Boxes of sweets and supplies for those made on site were stacked haphazardly across the flagstones having been moved so often that dust had very little chance to settle. The trapdoor, through which access was gained to the passageway, was partially covered with a large box, across which "Chocolate Frogs" was stamped. Pretending he didn't know of the trapdoor Harry looked questioningly at Mr Flume.

The old man gave a pointed jab of his wand and the chocolate frog box slid out of the way with a sudden jolt.

"Give that trap door a lift, boy."

Harry did as he was told and, holding his wand at such an angle that he could see down through the trap door, saw that the passage seemed undisturbed. The short, narrow, rickety steps were covered in years of unscuffed dirt and debris. It looked decidedly unused. Perhaps the marauders were the first to advocate its use in many years. Harry cautiously stepped down into the passage, hoping the steps would hold his weight. They did. Glancing over his shoulder he saw Mr Flume, less agile than Harry but certainly game, following close behind.

They walked, hunched, for several minutes in silence before Harry broke it.

"Have you been along here often?"

Mr Flume huffed. "Once or twice. No way past the end. Not convinced it goes anywhere."

"Well, correct me if I'm wrong, it seems like we're heading towards Hogwarts."

Mr Flume hummed in agreement. "Sealed then and I'm not willing to get myself arrested for using bombarda to blast my way into Hogwarts."

Harry winced at the thought. Certain members of the ministry hadn't been beyond putting a few holes in Hogwarts interior walls. "You worked out the way into our Goblin Halls."

A disgruntled harrumph sounded behind him.

"Just jabbed, like in the Cauldron to get into the Alley. Doesn't work on this passage."

"Ah well," said Harry, feeling like a smug and lofty cheat, "We'll give a few other things a try."

On arrival at the end of the passage Harry murmured 'dissendium' and promptly ascended into the darkness of the third floor corridor.

Mr Flume glowered up at him. "Cagey bloke," he asserted. Then pocketing his wand, he gestured towards Harry, "Help a man up."

Harry gave him both his hands and with more than a little bit of a heave and a slight bit of wheezing on Mr Flume's part they were both standing next to the one-eyed witch.

Mr Flume looked up and down the corridor. "It's an age since I've been here."

"Me too." Agreed Harry, time travel gave an odd sense of distance to some of one's immediate memories and Hogwarts had still been under a large amount of reconstruction when he'd last stepped within its walls. This truly felt like the past. The third floor corridor looked as it has in those early days when Fred and George had given him the Marauder's map, dark, empty, and lined with statues. The stone walls were still whole, the large glass windows at the end of the hall remained in the correct number of pieces, blocking out the elements as they had done for centuries. It felt quite odd to be skulking about in the familiar environment without his invisibility cloak or Ron and Hermione nearby.

"Pft." Mr Flume brushed Harry's agreement aside. "Where we off to then? Since you've apparently purposefully broken us in. I'll want a tab for two if we get caught."

Harry's lips twitched, of all the partners in crime he'd ever had this one had to be the strangest. "This way," he said and headed, keeping to the shadows, in the direction of the library.

Though he gamely kept an eye out for whoever the caretaker was these days or patrolling prefects and staff the nonchalant Mr Flume seemed bemused by Harry's choice to spend the next few nights scouring the Hogwart's library.

He declared Harry, "The wizarding world's most boring criminal."

"You don't have to come with me you know," said Harry as they strolled back in the small hours on their forth return trip.

"So you say, but the one time I decide not to come that's when all the fun will happen."

"Fun? In a library?"

"If it's not a couple courting after hours, it'll be a prank being put into action. I prefer the latter. Could probably give them a tip or two, it's all pre-made pranks these days. Dung bombs. No ingenuity."

Harry chuckled, "How do you know that?"

"I see them all, every Hogsmeade trip they have they swarm over Zonko's." He changed the subject, "How many more trips you think you need?"

Harry sighed. He'd had absolutely no luck on the time travel front. There was nothing about objects that might send one back in time. He had found a superficial sort of book on time turners that attempted to detail how they worked but left Harry more confused than beforehand. In the restricted section there had been several texts on the theories of time travel. Different wizards espoused different theories. Overwhelming though, all seemed to agree that, as with time-turners, it was only possible to travel backwards in time. Use of time turners, and Harry's own experience with them confirmed this, did not allow the circumstances before the use of the device to be changed. For example, Harry had seen himself cast his patronus across the lake and had mistaken himself for his father.

This, he thought, could not be true in his current circumstance. He could not believe that the position he was currently in had already happened. He hadn't been walking around simultaneously in the same world as his child self. If he had he wouldn't have let himself grow up at the Dursley's without aid, surely. There was the possibility he had been killed before his own birth, but Harry James would not have fallen into non-existence and avoided making a big splash in the history books. He was confident, though he hoped not arrogant, of that assumption. His current intentions were, in the absence of a quick route to the future, to thwart Voldemort sooner rather than later and he struggled to imagine anything at all that would prevent him from attempting to do so short of his own death or incarceration.

One theory of time travel espoused a different idea. If one were to travel back in time and create such discontinuity that time itself could not resist the changes then a level of uncertainty is created. At a certain point of 'uncertainty' time may split creating two time-streams. The secondary time-stream would avoid the fate of the first. Although it was hard to envisage this phenomenon Harry rather fancied this is what happened to him. Even if it were possible to travel forward in time, if he had created too much discontinuity already, he would not be able to travel back to the same future from which he had come.

He felt a bitter taste in his mouth. Was Ginny there, in another future, believing he had disappeared?

"One, maybe two nights," Harry concluded. He needed to be sure. There was also the Basilisk to take care of.

It transpired that so many undisturbed trips to the library had lulled the unlikely duo into a false sense of security. Emerging, yet again, from the Honeyduke's passage onto the third floor Harry, a broomstick in hand, led them in the direction of the staircases and, with the ease of years of practice predicting the staircases movement down, to the second floor. The adventurous Mr Flume, having been informed by Harry on their way along the passageway, that tonight would be a little different, remained carefully silent as they crept along levitating a medium sized box with Chocolate Frogs marked along its side deftly in front of himself.

Despite everything Harry, Ron and Hermione had accomplished over the years that lead up to Voldemort's defeat it seemed to Harry that defeating a basilisk once may well have been providence at work, defeating it twice was probably pushing one's lucky. He took some comfort that he was now in possession of more information than he was the first time around.

It was as the pair exited the last flight of stairs and rounded the corner to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom that the first thing went wrong.

Someone was exiting the bathroom.

Harry stopped, holding his hand up silently in a halting gesture. The hovering chocolate frog box lurched into his shoulder as Flume shuffled to a halt.

"Oof." Harry winced, clamping his lips shut to muffle the cry of pain as he began to take a slow step backwards toward the corner of the corridor.

The figure, short and dressed in dark school robes paused in the motion of shutting the door quietly behind her and cocked her head a little.

Harry took another step. He heard Mr Flume move behind him. One more step and he'd be out of sight. The student glanced down toward the far end of the corridor. Harry took the opportunity to take his final step back around the corner. Glancing to the side he saw Mr Flume, eyes widened, had his back against the stone wall, the box still hovering between him and Harry.

The click of the latch of the bathroom door finally closing sounded and then footsteps could be heard. Harry put his hand into his pocket and pulled out his wand. Bending at the knees he raised it.

The footsteps gained speed as the student neared, preparing to head for the stairs and perhaps return to his or her common room. As the steps were nearly upon them Harry began his wand motion and, with a brief flash of red light, a stunner hit a young unsuspecting girl in the chest as she rounded the corner. She slid to the floor, blonde locks pooling on the stone floor around her.

Mr Flume appeared to let go of his breath in a huff and peered at Harry through narrowed eyes. "Now what do we do with her?" He whispered.

"Shh…" Harry raised a finger to his lips and with a swish and flick proceeded towards Myrtle's bathroom, wand in one hand, broom in the other, levitating student in front of him and an old man floating a box behind him.

Once they were in the bathroom with the door securely shut and their burdens laid down Mr Flume no longer felt the need to whisper.

"You can't just go stunning little girls! Even if they are Slytherins." He cast a derisive glance at the silver and green tie and crest adoring the girls uniform.

Harry frowned. "I don't like that I had to but we couldn't have her seeing us. We'll make sure she's safe before we leave."

"She better not have seen us, I will not be sent to Azkaban for assaulting an under-apparition-age witch."

"Mr Flume, this is an odd time to suddenly have misgivings!"

"Not misgivings. Sense. She's a Slytherin. Who knows who her family is? Burglary is a perfectly gentlemanly crime, assault is not."

"Gentlemanly….?" Harry's eyes bugged. "We're not highwaymen."

"What?"

"They were an old muggle form of…. Look, we're here to do something very important. The girl will be fine."

The old man huffed. "Fine."

"Right." Harry turned and made his way toward the hand basins, looking for the small etching he knew he would fine. "Open up." He commanded.

Nothing happened.

"Open up." He tried again.

"Pft, boy. Why would that work? Simple English is too new a language for most magic, everyone knows that."

Harry gritted his teeth, concentrating and trying to remember the exact sounds that had come so easily to his younger self, he repeated, "Open up."

The sink began to move, revealing the entrance to the chamber of secret. Harry grinned, "That, Mr Flume, was the easy part."

"YOU!" Shrieked a high-pitched, echoing voice.

Harry spun around, wand in hand. As soon as his eyes found the source of the noise he cringed inwardly and lowered his wand. There, trailing water across the floor in front of the cubicles and apparently not haunting someone else's U-bend, was Moaning Myrtle.

"You!" She repeated, raising her finger and pointing directly at Harry. "I remember you!"

"You do?" Harry wondered if time didn't pass the same way for ghosts as it did for humans.

"You killed me!"

Mr Flume looked at Harry. Harry blinked.

"I didn't kill you."

"I heard that hissing noise the night I died."

"While it's mighty odd that he knows the tongue, boy's not old enough to have been anything more than a babe in arms when you died. Remember reading about that in the paper. Nearly thirty years ago now."

Myrtle frowned, "Thirty years?"

Mr Flume nodded.

"Look, Myrtle. We're here to kill the monster that did this too you."

"Kill? How do YOU know it was a monster? I don't even know what it was. I only heard a boy. I was going to tell him to leave, you know."

"It has great big yellow eyes."

"Oh, yes. The eyes. It happened in that very cubicle, you know." Myrtle paused. "You aren't students."

Mr Flume snorted.

Harry nodded in agreement. "No. We were once though, of course. I'm sorry we've disturbed you so late."

Myrtle giggled, "Oh… Manners. You definitely aren't a student here." Apparently unbothered by trespassers, Myrtle asked, "What are you doing with that one?" She pointed to the blonde.

"Er… We found her outside. Look, Myrtle would you mind keeping an eye on her while we do something?"

"Keep an eye on her? Why?" Myrtles nose wrinkled in distaste. "She's very rude, tells me to leave my own U-bend whenever she wants to use my bathroom to talk into that little mirror of hers."

"Well, we just want to make sure no one finds her.

"If you return," Myrtle said darkly.

"We'll put her in this cubicle for now, ok? Just make sure no one finds her until we're back."

Myrtle gave a huff, diving down into the nearest U-bend.

Harry looked bemusedly at Mr Flume. "I suppose that was a 'yes'."

Flume shrugged.

Harry sighed, and, with a wave of his wand, moved the prone body of the blonde into a cubicle.

"Oughtn't we to make sure she doesn't wake until we're back?"

Harry nodded, a second flash of red emerging from the end of his wand. "She won't come round from that until we're back, unless someone finds her."

"Better be quick then."

Positioning his broom in front of him and taking the chocolate frog crate from Flume's arms Harry sat and dived down the into the entrance of the Chamber of Secrets. He turned as he flew, yelling over his shoulder. "Summon this broom in a few minutes!"

"I hate flying, boy!"

Harry grinned. Flume claimed to hate everything, except duelling.

His feet landed with a crunch on the debris strewn tunnel floor. Bones. He lit his wand There didn't look to be any less than there were when he had first entered this chamber, or was that his second entry? Stepping off his broom he placed against the tunnel wall expecting it to begin its ascent at any moment and place the crate on the ground. He frowned at the crate. It was times like this he wished he could master wandless magic. If he had he could simply use one hand to waft the crate along. In the dark, he was required to hold his wand aloft as a torch. He couldn't use his wand to levitate the crate before him, nor did he have two free hands to simply carry it. Having magic, he thought, didn't necessarily eradicate the need for team work.

The broom gave a wiggle, its tail-end scratching against the tiny bones beneath it, before soaring high. If Harry were a more suspicious man, and it was a miracle he wasn't, he wouldn't send Flume down first in order to prevent the position Harry was now in. He could, technically, be left down here to die. As usual, however, Harry's instincts were correct and several moments later Mr Flume, with more agility than one would expect of his age, touched down with a loud crunch.

"Merlin's pants," he exclaimed. "Don't let them animal protector's see all this." He squinted and pointed at a skull, slightly largely than the others. Harry presumed they belonged to rates. "That there looks like a house-elf. Where have you brought me to, boy?"

Harry didn't answer, instead pointing at the crate. "Can you bring that along, please?" He turned then and, holding his want aloft, headed along the tunnel.

It felt surreal to Harry. The basilisk, once dead, was now alive, however the terror he'd felt as a twelve year old was lessened. He'd faced many a horror in his time, and walked towards death more times than he could count. He was currently prepared for this confrontation. He knew he would not be dying tonight.

The walk to the chamber was shorter than he remembered, whether due to his size, or the heightened emotions he'd been experiencing that first time, he did not know. The floor was slick with water from the plumbing and more animal bones lay scattered across the area. Far down the length of the chamber loomed the great face of Slytherin and within, Harry knew, lay the Basilisk.

"Okay." Harry turned to Flume. "I need you to empty that box, over there." He pointed half way up the length of the room. "Then I need you to stand over there, behind that pillar." Here he pointed to the pillar closest to the door. "You're to aim your wand to wake that up on my word," he gestured to the box again. "Then, and this is important, shut your eyes and keep them shut, no matter what. Use a spell if you have to."

Flume frowned, "My eyes?"

"Yes."

He didn't look convinced. "Alright'…"

"I mean it, you won't make it out of here alive, if you don't."

"Fine. I'll blindfold myself, boy."

"Good."

Harry headed towards the statue and, reaching it, climbed high, close to its mouth. Behind him, he could hear Flume following his instructions. He checked over his shoulder. The man was concealed behind the allocated pillar, one arm extended from behind, firmly gripping his wand.

Harry looked firmly at the statue and, concentrating, tried to recall the sounds. It had taken some time, but with the aid of a piece of parchment and some phonetic spelling he had remembered. "Speak to me Slytherin, greatest of Hogwarts' four."

There was a loud thump and Harry turned and leaped to the ground, slamming his eyes shut as he landed. His knees jarred. There was silence in the room, apart from the drip of water nearby. Just as he was beginning to wonder if he needed to say something else to command the basilisk he heard it. The peculiarly unique sound the great creature made as it slithered.

"NOW!" He yelled at Flume, beginning to run blindly down the length of the room.

"Rennervate!"

Harry's eyelid glowed red with the flash of brilliant light emitted from Flume's wand. Any moment now the monster would be dead if only the…. He heard slithering behind him. Merlin's beard, why wasn't it working? He heard breath behind him. It was closer.

"SUNLIGHT!" Harry yelled, ducking to the right.

"What?!" The beast was practically breathing on his neck.

"MAKE SOME SUNLIGHT!"

"Lumos solem!" Yelled Flume.

The light filled the room and then, just as Harry had hoped, a rooster crowed.

There was a pause before, filled with pain, a horrible screech filled the room, and then with a great thud Harry felt himself pinned to the ground. Keeping his eyes tightly closed, he shoved with his hands, trying to shift the weight of the snake. He could feel the tepid air of its last breaths in his hair. He managed to lift it enough to bend his legs and kick with his feet, sending the creature's head lolling backwards. Feeling around on the ground he found a bone, a rib he thought, and with his other hand felt along the creature's head. The skin felt smoother and more polished than he had imagined it would. Facial ridges passed under his finger tips. Finding his target Harry brought the bone down sharply into first one eye socket, then the other. He felt the creatures body move slightly. Feeling the blood seeping over his hands he slowly opened his eyes. Staring darkly up at him were the gaping eye sockets, for a second time in his live, was Slytherin's Monster.

He released a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, falling back on his arms.

"You may open your eyes!" He yelled in Flume's direction.

There was the now familiar crunching of bones as the old man moved toward him. He saw the scuffed leather toes of brown shoes appear next to him

"Strikes me that a rooster is a mighty dumb weakness."

Harry laughed, relieved. The old man was undeterred.

"What're we doing now then? Harvesting its parts?"

Easing himself to his feet, Harry shook his head. "No. Just the fangs." He paused, thinking. "And, perhaps, a section of the skin."

"Aye-aye." Flume said, looking down at the beasts mouth. "Think we need a spell to extract those things or will a little bit of brute force do it?"

Harry shrugged, his should stinging slightly. Come to think of it, he had no idea of how Ron and Hermione had removed the basilisk's fangs. Perhaps it'd been easier after several years of drying out.

Flume frowned, considering. "Best transfigure a wrench first, perhaps?" He pointed his wand at a larger bone on the floor — it might have been a femur — before glancing at Harry. He paused, moving the direction of his wand, "Got yourself a cut there, boy."

Harry followed traced the line of Flume's wand with his gaze. There, underneath a rip in his cloak, was a red, seeping wound no more than a couple of inches long.

He heard Flume's voice, "Episkey."

The wound still looked the same. He blinked. That was not a good sign.

Harry cleared his throat, "It'll be fine. I'll get it looked at."

Flume nodded, still frowning. "Right then, lets get to work."

It took about an hour to get the few parts of the basilisk Harry thought he would require. He had to deter Mr Flume several times from draining the beast of blood.

"It'd fetch a mighty fine price." He'd argued.

Harry had shaken his head, bemused "You won't stun a girl, but you'll risk being arrested for dealing in illegal substances and ingredients?"

They returned to the girl's bathroom with no further hassle. Harry's wound did no more than sting. The sink hiding the entrance to chamber eased itself, with a shiver inducing grating noise, into place and Flume opened the cubicle in which they'd place the blonde. With a couple of disillusion charms and a quick rennervate they were able to escape, undetected.


The next day, Harry had stumbled his way through the breakfast shift, only Mrs Cuffe had waylaid him for more than a passing greeting or order. He'd collapsed face down in his pillow around one in the afternoon fulling intending to sleep for the indefinite future. It was barely two when he was awoken by a rough shake on his shoulder. It twinged.

"Harry," hissed Rosmerta. "The Prophet is here."

Wizards as far as Harry had ever been able to tell didn't really go in for religion. On the whole muggle religions were wary of magic, there'd been the witch burnings in the seventeenth century, and so it seemed odd that Rosmerta was exclaiming over the arrival of a prophet, biblical or otherwise.

"Wha..?" Asked Harry, bleary eyed. Rolling onto his back he squinted up at Rosmerta's silhouette above him.

She shook him again. "You need to get up and make yourself presentable. A reporter has turned up. He wants to interview us as the new proprietors of this 'renowned establishment'."

Harry cringed inwardly. He hated reporters. "Ugh… Fine. I'm up, I'm up." He raised his hands in mock surrender beginning to sit up in his bed.

Rosmerta put her hands on her hips, unconvinced. "I'll hit you with an aguamenti charm if you're not downstairs in five. He wants a photo." Abruptly she spun on her heel and left.

It just kept getting worse, thought Harry.

Struggling out of bed he dressed himself in the nearest pair of available robes, they didn't seem too crinkled, then wandered down to the bathroom where he splashed some water on his face and tried to correct his ever wayward hair in the mirror. A small piece of hair at the back insisted on sticking up. After four attempts to control it, all of which were defied, he placed his glasses on his face, looked one last time at his barely passable appearance and headed downstairs.

The inn was surprisingly full for the middle of the afternoon and Rosmerta was trying to pour drinks whilst chatting to a man dressed in neatly pressed brown robes and a bowler hat whose quill was moving, without the aid of his hand, across a piece of parchment on the counter top. Rosmerta, observing Harry's arrival, gestured towards him with a nod of her head and the man turned and watched Harry approach. The man's eyes were a little too close together than would usually be considered attractive but he had a friendly open sort of face that Harry supposed encouraged people to speak entirely more freely than they might usually on all sorts of subjects.

He smiled widely as Harry arrived before him and extended his hand. "Ah… Mr James! A pleasure to meet you."

Harry shook his hand, loath as he was to speak to reporters it would be incredibly rude not to return the greeting. "Good afternoon." He waited for the other man to speak.

Clearing his throat the man launched into speech, "I'm Stilus Fudge, reporter for the Daily Prophet. The paper would like to run an article about you and this inn in Friday's edition. People are, of course, interested to hear what new plans the new owners of the Three Broomsticks have planned. Witches and Wizards have been coming here for centuries. They say this inn is as old as Hogwarts. So, I was hoping you wouldn't mind answering a few questions?"

Now that Harry knew the reporter's name he could see a resemblance with that infamous politician Cornelius and this did the reporter no favours in Harry's eyes.

"Oh. I doubt there's much I can add to whatever Rosmerta has already told you," said Harry wondering just what it was Rosmerta had already told him.

Stilus Fudge smiled genially, "Rosmerta has been very helpful. But, I still have a few things that I think you can shed some light on."

Sighing, resigned, Harry sat on a bar stool. "Fire away." This couldn't be any worse than anything that Skeeter woman ever wrote about him.

The quill on the parchment seemed to ruffle itself at this moment; readying itself to misquote Harry, no doubt.

"Excellent. Well, now. How are you finding the ownership of this establishment so far? Is it stressful? Is it a dream realised?"

Harry paused a moment, thinking, before he replied, "Er… Well, as you say, Witches and Wizards have been coming here for centuries. I never dreamed of owning the place, but it's a pretty good reality. Don't you think?"

"I can see you'd made a few excellent renovations. It certainly feels very cosy in here. Are there any other changes you're likely to make in future?"

Harry gave a fake sort of laugh. "I suppose that depends on the demands of the customers, Mr Fudge."

The reporter was clearly not satisfied with this answer, a small wrinkle appeared between his brows, but, strangely, didn't press. "I hope you'll forgive me for saying so but you do seem awfully young to be in this position. How old are you exactly?"

"Old enough to serve you alcohol, I promise."

Mr Fudge nodded, "All above board I'm sure. Being so young you might want to aim this establishment at those of your own age group, wouldn't you agree?"

"No, I would not." Harry frowned. The wizarding world was a widely aged population he failed to see how restricting somewhere as infamous as the Three Broomsticks, leaving Hogsmeade with the Hogshead, would be a wise move.

The reported persevered, "But… What I mean to say, is how does a man as young as yourself become a businessman? How do you have confidence in your choices?"

Harry glanced at Rosmerta, who shrugged.

"Rosmerta has a lot of experience here," he said, feeling he was pointing out the obvious.

"This is the sort of thing that might inspire younger readers, you see. How did you convince Gringott's to give you the loan for purchase?"

Harry frowned, wasn't their some sort of rule about enquiring into peoples finances. "We didn't need a loan."

"No loan?"

"No."

"Owning a business, the capital involved, success or failure, it's all quite risky! Especially if one lacks experience."

"That's true." Harry grimaced, the man didn't give up.

"Would you say you're a risk taker, Mr James?"

Hermione and Mrs Weasley probably thought so. "I don't know that I would call buying half of a well reputed establishment, like this, to be risky."

"You view it as a sound investment then?"

"Certainly. With Rosmerta at the helm."

"Ah, yes. You both live here, yes? That must get tense at times when you disagree."

Rosmerta cut in, jokingly, "We keep our duels confined to well after last call, Stilus."

"Er…" Fudge have a friendly grin then looked back at Harry. "Work with me here Mr James, I need just a small bit of background to show who you are as a person. Don't forget this is free advertising for you! How about telling me how you got that scar on your forehead?"

Inwardly Harry groaned, the fateful scar of the boy-who-lived was impossible to conceal and, it seemed, its infamy had followed him to this time. He gave the scar a rub and followed Rosmerta's lead. "Rosmerta hurled a particularly bad hex a couple of weeks ago."

Fudge gave a sigh. It was obvious, Harry realised, to vaguely intelligent wizard that the scar was quite old. "Rosmerta, dear, he's a mysterious character."

Rosmerta, whom Harry noted seemed to be a lot of peoples 'dear', smiled and said, "Well, every woman loves a man of mystery. It's the sense of adventure." She gave Harry a wink.

Fudge stood and, rustling around in his pocket, unearthed an old fashioned looking camera. It was black and a sort of box shape. "I'll just snap a quick one. Just stay where you are."

He then took a few steps back, held the camera a little in front of his chest, looked down and said, "Give a wave then!"

Harry, perched on his stool, and Rosmerta, standing behind the bar, both gave a wave. Harry felt rather awkward. He'd never quite got the hang of wizard photographs.

Fudge thanked them for their time, packed up his camera, parchment and quill and was on his way out the door.

Rosmerta, picking up her wand, and recommencing an interesting attempt to return a partially transfigured pewter tankard to its original state, waited a moment before saying, "Just so you don't go getting any lofty ideas. You're not mysterious."

Harry blinked, "Um… What?"

She looked at him. "Well, you're not."

"I'm not?"

"No. It's certainly a mystery to me what you're thinking most the time, and certainly what it is you've been getting up to in the dead of night. But this does not instantly catapult you into the realms of 'mysterious characters'. They tend to hang out at the Hog's Head, usually sitting at a table between 'crazy' and 'shady'."

Auror 'Stealth and Tracking' classes had definitely failed Harry. It was all so much easier back when he'd had his invisibility cloak. Harry had cast a silent-step charm on his feet and silencio on the door to Rosmerta's room, she couldn't possibly have heard him leave. So he blurted, "How did you know I've been going out?"

She grinned. "You've had terrible bags under your eyes for days… I wonder if Fudge will do something about those in that photo? You know, I know a few good charms that might help if there's someone you need to look good for."

Harry was annoyed, he needed to work on his conversational caution. Rosmerta hadn't heard him go out. All she had managed to deduce was that he hadn't been sleeping. Sometimes she could be just like Mrs Weasley. Strangely all-knowing.