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Chapter 5: Those Who Don’t Learn From History
Thank you to everyone who has read Conspiracy of Blood so far. I truly appreciate the reviews.
As always, the characters herein belong to JK Rowling.
The morning mists still blanketed the lake as Harry appeared in front of the gates of Hogwarts Castle. He yawned as he strolled up the path to the massive doors, tired but still looking forward to another lesson with his sixth and seventh year students. This year’s class showed great promise. As long as N.E.W.T.s went well, the Auror Department might get three solid recruits from the class of 2046. To his surprise, the headmaster himself met Harry at the main entrance.
“Neville,” Harry smiled as he clapped his old friend on the shoulder, “you make an old man feel important.”
“Hi, Harry,” Neville replied. “Never too busy to properly greet our favorite guest lecturer. Of course, you could let yourself in if you’d just give in and become a teacher here.”
Harry grinned at his friend, but the question Neville asked had actually weighed on him for a while. Truth be told, he was getting a bit old for the life of an Auror. His magical abilities were almost unequaled, but his stamina and reflexes weren’t what they used to be. The relatively quiet life of a Hogwarts professor did sound appealing at times. But there were still dark wizards in the world. As long as he was able, he felt the need to keep the darkness at bay.
“Sorry, Neville, that sounds much too exciting for an old man like myself,” Harry replied. “How on earth would I keep up with these youngsters? I bet some of them are almost as devious as we were.”
Neville smiled at his friend’s casual deflection. “Well, my door is always open to you, Harry. If you ever change your mind, we’d be honored to have you. In the mean time, I was wondering if you’d have a few minutes to chat after your class today.”
“Certainly. Shall I meet you in your office?”
The headmaster’s office still held a sense of wonder for Harry. He could remember the awe of standing in front of Dumbledore’s desk as a young student while the headmaster regarded him through his half-moon spectacles. He especially liked visiting with the portraits of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall. He found Dumbledore much more talkative in his old office than in the portrait that he kept in his study.
“Wonderful,” replied Neville. “I’ll see you after class.”
Harry proceeded to a large classroom on the second floor of the castle and found several of his students already warming up with some simple dueling spells. He had originally thought about teaching the class in the Room of Requirement, but it didn’t seem fitting for an adult to show the students into that room. Better that they should be left to discover it on their own. Besides, he was teaching with the full blessing of the school and the Ministry. Secrecy was not a requirement.
“Good morning, Professor,” a sixth-year girl greeted him when she saw him approaching.
“Beatrice,” sighed Harry, feeling somewhat embarrassed, “I’m not really a teacher here. So please just call me Harry.”
“Yes, sir. I mean yes, Harry,” she replied, blushing.
Harry strolled to the front of the room and tossed his cloak over the back of a chair. He shrugged his shoulders in a circle, loosening up his back, and turned his head from side to side. It was early in the school year and he was still sorting out which of the sixth years had real talent and which ones were only here to try to impress their classmates. Today, they would try some faster dueling exercises and begin to separate the wheat from the chaff. He drew his wand and flexed it between his fingers, noting that James’s son Artie and Hugo’s daughter Celeste had entered the room. He gave each of them a slight nod. They could have family time later.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “let’s divide up into pairs.”
He watched the students pair off. The seventh years quickly split up, while the sixth years fumbled their way through the process.
“Alright, wands at the ready. I want you all to focus on disarming charms and shield charms to begin with. Nothing more elaborate. Give yourselves a chance to warm up.”
He strolled around the room, carefully observing the strategy and technique employed by each student. Occasionally he saw a wand go flying or heard an errant spell crack against the wall, but overall he found the students were defending themselves adequately.
“Arthur,” he took care to address his grandson by the proper name, even though he felt stupid doing it, “be sure to keep your wand arm up. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a broken nose when we move on to stunning spells.”
“Olivia, it’s ex-pell-ee-arm-us, not ex-pell-ee-ram-us. I doubt you’re going to be able to conjur a bighorn sheep, but let’s not take any chances, right?”
Half of the class laughed at Harry’s bad pun while the other half took advantage in their partner’s lack of concentration to try to disarm them.
“Halt,” he called out after three or four minutes had passed. “Now, we’re going to try something a bit faster. Ulysses and Veratrice, please join me at the front of the room.” He picked two of the promising seventh year students for the demonstration, and they both beamed as they hurried to take their positions.
“Speed and accuracy are crucial things for a duelist to master,” Harry lectured. “A skilled opponent isn’t going to fling curses at you one at a time while you block them. They will use combinations of spells to try to overwhelm your defenses. Therefore, it is essential that you learn to cast your shielding charms rapidly and accurately. Ulysses, you will be on the defensive in this exercise. Try to block all of the spells that Veratrice casts at you. Now, Veratrice, I’d like you to try the following combination.” Harry cast a nonverbal muffliato charm and whispered something into the girl’s ear.
“Wands at the ready. Go!”
Veratrice fired a stunning spell, quickly followed by a disarming charm. Ulysses successfully blocked both, but then she followed with everte statum, stupefy and flipendo in rapid succession, casting each spell with alternating flicks of her wand. Ulysses managed to fend off the first two spells, but the third caught him in the midsection and sent him sprawling to the ground.
“Well done, both of you!” Harry exclaimed as he helped Ulysses back to his feet. “Did everyone see the way that Veratrice used the back and forth motion of her wand to cast spells in rapid succession? That is an important offensive technique, but it can also be used to rapidly cast shield charms. OK, let’s switch roles. Ulysses, here’s what I want you to do.”
Veratrice fared better, managing to block seven separate spells before Ulysses finally got a leg-locking curse past her defenses. She was definitely beginning to look like the strongest student in the class, although it was early in the year.
“Brilliant,” Harry proclaimed as he removed the curse from Veratrice’s legs. “Being able to rapidly cast shield charms and alternate them with offensive spells is vital to winning any duel. This is especially true because dark wizards don’t often fight fair. You might find yourself confronting two or three opponents simultaneously.”
“Prof... I mean, Harry,” Beatrice corrected herself, “how can anybody cast spells fast enough to fight three people at once?”
Harry broke into a small grin while the seventh year students smiled at each other knowingly. One of the sixth years always asked the question eventually.
“Veratrice, Ulysses and Anthony, please come to the front. Beatrice, Arthur, Celeste, why don’t you join them?”
The six students shuffled uneasily into a dueling line opposite Harry. Harry stood calmly, with his arms by his sides. The sixth years looked thoroughly confused, if not frightened. The seventh years held their wands in the ready position, but their stance was clearly defensive.
“Well what are you waiting for?” asked Harry, impassively. “Attack me.”
A long, awkward moment passed as Harry continued to stand calmly, making no effort to defend himself. The students stared at him, uncertain of when or how to act. Veratrice finally broke the stalemate, crying “Stupefy” as she whipped her wand towards him. Before the words could pass her lips, Harry’s wand flew unbidden from his pocket into his hand and he dropped into a defensive stance, turning her spell aside. The students unleashed a barrage of charms and curses in his direction. Harry’s wand became a blur, flicking from side to side as he wordlessly blocked spell after spell. His face was a mask of calm focus while the chaotic onslaught of magic continued.
He observed his students carefully as they attacked. The three seventh years were all showing excellent form. They kept their wand arms held high and their spell casting motions tight. The sixth years were clearly less experienced. They were sometimes using their entire arms to cast spells, letting their wands stray from their center line. There was also a lack of variety in their spells.
Arthur was the first to show a lapse in concentration, letting his wand fall to waist level after firing a disarming charm. Harry rewarded him with a full body-bind curse, dropping him to the floor. Beatrice was the next to lower her guard, and Harry disarmed her and hung her in the air with a levicorpus spell. After another few moments, Anthony over-extended himself on a stunning spell and Harry neatly stunned him in return.
“Celeste is holding her own fairly well,” Harry thought. Seconds later, inexperience finally caught up with the sole remaining sixth year. It was subtle, but she said Protoga instead of Protego. Harry’s experienced ear immediately picked up on her mistake and he caught her in a body-bind curse as her wand began to spit out yards of white fabric.
He continued to duel Veratrice and Ulysses, waiting for either one to make a mistake. After a while, be noticed that they had begun to alternate their casting of offensive spells, trying to spread Harry’s defenses. It was an impressive adaptation, and he made a mental note to commend them after they were finished. Harry began to speed up his counterattack, firing rapid combinations of offensive spells in between parrying their attacks. Ulysses’s wand soon spun away from his hand and Harry hit him with a blinding curse, causing him to stumble aimlessly about until he tripped over Artie and fell.
With only Veratrice remaining, Harry decided to have a bit of fun. He parried a stunning spell and then quickly turned. Veratrice took the opportunity to hit him with a full body-bind curse, dropping him uselessly to the floor. She eased towards him with her wand still at the ready, but the smile on her face was huge.
“You can’t apparate in Hogwarts,” she proclaimed triumphantly. “Have you forgotten, Harry?”
“Not at all,” came a familiar voice from behind her. It was quickly followed by a disarming charm and a levicorpus spell that left her hanging in the air. The other students howled with laughter as her robes fell over her head, revealing her striped pajama bottoms. Harry had defeated all six of them in less than five minutes. Now came the trickiest part: not letting them see how exhausted he felt.
Harry strode forward from the back of the room. “You can’t apparate into or out of Hogwarts and you can’t apparate between the different wings of the castle, but there is nothing to stop you from apparating across the room.”
One by one, Harry removed the curses from his fallen opponents and revived those that had been stunned. Veratrice regarded Harry with a mix of embarrassment and curiosity as he lowered her gently to the floor.
“What was that spell you used to leave the decoy behind,” she asked, gesturing towards the now empty spot at the front of the room.
“It’s a spell called ‘Projectumbra’,” Harry explained. “It’s very useful for confusing your opponent, but extremely tricky to cast. Most Aurors typically see it for the first time during their training.”
“First of all,” he began, “Veratrice and Ulysses, excellent work. Truly first rate. The way that you were coordinating your offensive and defensive spellwork was very impressive. It’s obvious that the two of you have been practicing a great deal.”
“I saw them practicing in the hallway near the Ravenclaw common room the other day,” one of the other seventh years snickered, causing Veratrice to blush furiously and Ulysses to grin sheepishly. The entire class enjoyed a good laugh at their expense. One of the things Harry liked best about being a guest at the school was the lack of an imperative to observe proper decorum. He was free to joke and laugh with the students and in return they trusted him with certain things that they would never share with the regular faculty.
“OK,” Harry chuckled, “moving right along. Celeste, also very impressive. You need to work on your enunciation, but your wand work is solid.” Ron’s granddaughter beamed and Harry noticed Artie surreptitiously motioning with his wand while whispering softly to himself. Harry flicked his wand and a bolt of blue light incinerated the glowing, green snake that was making its way from Artie’s wand towards Celeste’s back. “You should also be careful who you turn your back on,” Harry grinned.
“Alright, let get back into our dueling pairs and practice that back-and-forth wand technique for casting defensive spells.”
Harry continued to put his students through their paces for another thirty minutes, then they spent ten minutes working on the patronus charm. It was one of the most complicated spells he taught, so Harry worked on it throughout the school year.
When the hour was up, Harry pulled the class together at the front of the room. “Excellent lesson, everyone. I’d like you all to keep working on your rapid spell casting between now and next week. Seventh years, I’m still looking for a few more volunteers to help mentor my first year students. If you’re interested, please see me after class or send me an owl. That’s it for today. I’ll see you all next week.”
“Veratrice,” he motioned for the seventh year girl to join him for a private word. “Sorry if I embarrassed you too much today. I appreciate you being such a good sport about everything.”
“It’s alright, Harry,” she replied with a smile. “If I’m going to be an Auror, I suppose I should get used to it. I heard that the pranks you lot play on the trainees can be brutal.”
They weren’t that bad, Harry reflected. Sure, there was the time that he and Ron had portkeyed the entire trainee class from a summer beach party to the top of the Swiss Alps, but there was an important lesson in that one. Never set your wand aside, even when you’re wearing your bathing suit.
“So you’re interested in becoming an Auror?” Harry asked.
“Yes, I think I am,” she answered. “What do you think?”
“Well, we’ll have to see how your N.E.W.T.s turn out, but I think we’d be lucky to have you,” Harry replied with a smile.
Veratrice was grinning from ear to ear and she ran to catch up with Ulysses outside of the class. Harry retrieved his cloak from the front of the room and started to leave.
“Beatrice,” he called to the sixth year girl as she was on her way out.
“Yes, Harry,” she replied.
“Did that answer your question,” he asked, grinning.
“Honestly, I feel a lot less sure of myself now than before I asked,” she admitted. “I’ve never seen anybody move that fast before. Do you have to be able to fight like that to become an Auror?”
“Nobody expects you to duel like a veteran Auror on the day that you join,” Harry reassured her. “Your sister, for instance, continues to improve her dueling all the time.”
“My sister was also the best potions student to come through Hogwarts in a generation,” Beatrice replied. “I don’t have anything like that to fall back on.”
“Beatrice, this is only your third class of the year. There is a long time between now and your N.E.W.T.s. If you keep at it, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of things that you’re good at.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Harry,” she said. “And I’m sure you hear this all the time, but that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.”
Harry strolled through the castle on his way to the headmaster’s office. He always felt at home here. The old stone walls held so many memories for him. As he prepared to round the corner, he heard voices coming from the next hallway.
“You should have seen it,” said a voice that he recognized from his earlier lesson. “Harry Potter dueled six students at once and beat them all. Two of the students were Ulysses Alderman and Veratrice Patenaud, and they’re the best in the whole school.”
“No way,” challenged a voice he didn’t know. “Nobody can duel six people at once.”
“Piss off, Northway,” replied a voice that he immediately recognized as Artie. “Grandpa Harry is the best there ever was. He beat Lord Voldemort one on one. Not even Albus Dumbledore could do that.”
It was a bit of an oversimplification. Tom Riddle had been struck by his own killing curse after his stolen wand rebelled against him, but Harry supposed it was close enough for a schoolyard argument.
The boy named Northway struck Harry speechless with his next comment, however. “Who is Albus Dumbledore?”
“Don’t you know anything?” a girl’s voice joined in the argument. “He was the Headmaster of Hogwarts during the First Wizarding War. He’s the one who taught Harry Potter how to fight Lord Voldemort.”
The Northway boy snorted derisively. “That’s all ancient history. All the stories from back then are made up, anyway. There’s no way one dark wizard could take over the world.”
Harry caught himself just as he was about to storm around the corner and hex the Northway boy. First of all, he wasn’t even sure that he could pick the boy out of the crowd. But more to the point, this wasn’t his fight. Artie was quite capable of putting the Northway boy in his place. It was the boy’s shocking ignorance of the past that made Harry want to hang him upside down from the ceiling of the Great Hall. Tom Riddle came close to succeeding, in great part, because most people refused to admit that it was possible until it was too late.
“Nobody’s making up anything, you idiot,” Artie shot back. “My great uncle Fred died fighting Voldemort right here in the castle, along with a lot of other people. Voldemort killed the Minister of Magic and Headmaster Snape. Your grandmother was a muggle. You wouldn’t even be here right now if Grandpa Harry hadn’t beaten him.”
“Your uncle probably blew himself up in the back of that joke shop in Hogsmeade,” replied Northway. “Lord Voldemort is just a story they tell to scare the first years.”
Harry heard scuffling and the distinctive sound of wands being drawn and decided that it was probably a good time to intervene. He strode around the corner just in time to find Artie and a chubby boy whose robes were adorned with Slytherin green pointing their wands at each other’s throats.
“Gentlemen, if you would kindly put those away.” Harry’s tone made it clear that it was not a request. “Now. Mr. Northway, I believe?”
“Yes, sir,” the boy replied, not meeting Harry’s gaze.
“Charmed to make your acquaintance. Am I to understand that you do not believe that Lord Voldemort existed?”
“I don’t know,” the boy mumbled. “Maybe he did exist, but all this talk of using dark magic to overthrow the Ministry and attack Hogwarts is just rubbish. Nobody could do that.”
Harry considered the young man for a moment. A plan formed in his mind. It was not without some risk, but it might help young Mister Northway understand the error in his thinking.
“Were you on your way to class just now, Mr. Northway?”
“Yes, sir. I have Charms right now and Magical Creatures this afternoon.”
“Splendid,” Harry replied. “Would you care to join me at the entrance to the Great Hall after you’re done with Charms? I have something I’d like to show you.”
“Well I don’t know,” he stumbled. “We have exams coming up and I have a lot of studying to do...”
“It’s September, Northway,” Artie retorted. “If it’s all rubbish, what are you scared of?”
“Well I don’t see you volunteering to go!”
“I’ll go anywhere with Harry. I’m not afraid.”
Northway stared at the growing crowd of students. He was clearly trapped.
“OK, I’ll see you at the front entrance after class,” he snarled. “But this had better not take long.”
“I promise that I won’t waste one second more of your valuable time than is absolutely required,” Harry replied.
Harry walked up to the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the headmaster’s office.
“The headmaster is expecting you,” the statue said as it moved aside.
Harry rode the spiral stairs to the top and found Neville seated behind the great wooden desk.
“Hello, Neville. Hello, professors,” Harry grinned, feeling suddenly like a young schoolboy.
There was a chorus of greetings from the portraits. McGonnagal and Dumbledore beamed at Harry as they offered their welcomes. Even Snape managed a cordial, “Hello, Mr. Potter.”
“Hi, Harry,” said Neville, setting aside the parchment he’d been working on. “Please have a seat.”
“How are our sixth and seventh year students coming along with their defensive magic?” he asked as Harry sat down.
“Rather well, I think,” Harry replied. “Today we were practicing rapid curse-blocking techniques, then we finished the lesson with patronus charms. Most of the seventh years can at least produce a non-corporeal patronus at this point, and my three best students have all managed to produce at least one corporeal one.”
“That’s splendid, Harry,” said Neville. “I’m always telling the other headmasters what a wonderful teacher you’d make.”
Neville had abandoned subtlety. Harry couldn’t help but notice the wave of nods that rolled across the walls of portraits.
“We’ve discussed this, Neville,” Harry sighed. “I’m not ready to give up my day job just yet.”
“No hurry,” Neville replied. Harry studied Dumbledore’s portrait carefully. He could have sworn that it was avoiding his stare.
“So what would you like to discuss?” Harry asked, pointedly changing the subject.
“I’d like you to read a proposal that I’m drafting for the Board of Governors,” Neville explained as he handed Harry a roll of parchment. “It’s meant to be a sort of compromise between two differing points of view that have been causing some friction within the school.”
Harry skimmed the first six inches or so before meeting Neville’s expectant stare with a disgusted look on his face.
“You can’t be serious,” he exclaimed. “People are still arguing about the role of muggle studies in the curriculum? I remember this nonsense when James and Al were in school.”
“I’m afraid so, Harry,” Neville sighed. “And it’s mostly still the same people you’d expect. The old pure blood families complain that their children are being brainwashed against their own kind while the progressive families complain that their children aren’t learning how to function in a world where wizards have to interact with muggles.”
Harry studied the parchment for a while longer. “So what you’re proposing is to expand and modernize the muggle studies curriculum and make it more practical in nature, correct?”
“Exactly, Harry. The goal is to prepare all of our students to live in a world where muggle technology and muggle culture are an increasingly important part of life, but maintain the magical perspective on the subject matter.”
“Seems like a good idea to me,” Harry replied. “It drives me crazy that we’re still having these absurd arguments.”
“I appreciate it, Harry,” said Neville earnestly. “And I would appreciate it even more if you would perhaps put in a good word at the Ministry for my plan?”
And there was the rub. “I’ll do what I can,” he said, smiling at his old friend, “but I think you’re overestimating my influence.”
“Perhaps, but it never hurts for the Great Harry Potter to throw in a good word,” Neville replied through a big grin.
“Not to change the subject,” Harry said, trying to change the subject, “but what do you think about the way Magical History is being taught at Hogwarts?”
Harry noticed several of the portraits open their eyes. Dumbledore, in particular, seemed suddenly interested in the conversation.
“I suppose I hadn’t, really,” Neville replied. “With the whole muggle argument going on, Magical History doesn’t come up that often. Why do you ask, Harry? I thought you hated that class.”
“I did,” Harry admitted, drawing mutters of displeasure from some of the portraits. “But I overheard a conversation between several students this morning that started me thinking about whether it’s still a good idea to have the subject taught by a six hundred year old ghost.”
“I doubt any living person would know more about the subject than he does,” Neville pointed out.
“Yes, but that’s part of the problem, you see,” Harry replied. “He spends ages droning on about ancient goblin rebellions and wars between the giants. Yet he spends almost no time on our very recent history because, well, he’s been dead for all of it. Neville, this morning I heard a sixth year boy proclaim that Lord Voldemort was a story that adults made up to scare children. That kind of ignorance is dangerous.”
Harry heard muffled gasps from all around the room. All of the portraits were now staring intently at them. Dumbledore stroked his long beard pensively behind Neville.
“That is very serious,” Neville admitted. “Perhaps I need to have a conversation with Professor Binns about his curriculum.”
“With all due respect to the professor,” said Harry, “perhaps it’s time to look for a replacement.”
“I’m afraid that’s easier said than done, Harry,” Neville sighed. “Very few students even bother getting their N.E.W.T.s in Magical History these days. Almost nobody makes a career of it. The pool of candidates is remarkably shallow.”
“So you’ve looked already?” Harry fixed him with a stare.
“Mr. Potter,” Professor’s McGonnagal’s portrait interrupted, “I think it’s fair to say that the school has been aware of the deficiencies in Professor Binns’s teaching for some time. That information should, of course, remain within this room.”
Harry looked at his watch and rose from his seat. “Very well, as long as somebody’s thinking about it. Neville, I’ll be sure to mention your proposal to the Deputy Minister for Magical Culture. His opinion carries a great deal of weight with the Board of Governors and he owes me a favor. Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’m due for an appointment.”
There was a chorus of well wishes from the portraits as Neville rose to shake Harry’s hand.
“Oh, I almost forgot,” Harry said, “Neville, I would like to ask your formal permission to take two of your students outside of the castle for a special lesson in recent magical history.”
Neville looked at Harry in surprise. “Harry, what are you talking about?”
“I just wanted to follow up on the conversation I overheard this morning. The one about Voldemort.”
“Harry, you’re not going to do anything dangerous, are you?” asked Neville, suspiciously.
“Mr. Headmaster,” Harry replied with mock formality, “I hereby solemnly swear that I will expose your students to no more danger than is absolutely necessary to make my point.”
Neville stared at Harry for a long moment. “If you were anyone else in the world, I would definitely say no.”
“But I’m not, I’m the Great Harry Potter,” Harry grinned. He quickly made his way out of the office before the headmaster could change his mind.
Artie was already waiting by the front entrance when Harry arrived. Looking quickly around to make sure nobody was looking, Harry pulled his grandson into a quick hug.
“How are you, Artie? How are your classes?”
“Grandpa,” Artie moaned, trying to pull away with a less than convincing effort. “Northway’s gonna be here any second.”
They waited for another few minutes before Artie spied Northway peering at them from the far end of the Great Hall. He was taking great care to try to blend into a group of students at the far end of the Slytherin table.
Artie drew his wand and cast the sonorus spell. “I say, there, Northway,” his voice boomed across the Great Hall, “you ready to go?”
Northway looked frantically about, but he was once again trapped. Reluctantly, he made his way to the front entrance.
“Alright, then, follow me,” Harry said as he opened the great wooden doors and led the boys outside. They walked to the front gates of the school and stepped past the boundary of the magical wards.
“Each of you take one of my arms,” Harry directed.
“Wait, we’re apparating somewhere?” Northway asked, looking alarmed.
“We’d walk, but I don’t have all week,” Harry snapped. “Now let’s go.”
Both boys grasped Harry’s arms and he turned and they were gone.
The trio appeared at the employee apparition point inside the Ministry of Magic. Northway looked somewhat relieved when he recognized his surroundings. “My uncle works in Magical Records,” he said to nobody in particular.
Harry led them to the lift and then to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. He stopped in front of a large ebony plaque outside of the entrance. They all looked somberly at the list of names.
“Nymphadora Tonks,” Artie read. “That’s uncle Teddy’s mum, right?”
“Yes,” Harry replied, feeling the pangs of guilt that always accompanied his memories of Tonks, Lupin and Fred.
“So these are all the Aurors who died during the Second Wizarding War?” Northway asked quietly as he read the plaque.
“Yes, Mr. Northway. Twenty-seven good men and women who were killed by Lord Voldemort and his followers. At the time, that was over half of the department.”
After a few more moments, Harry turned and strode back towards the lift. Artie took a couple of steps after Harry, then turned back towards his schoolmate. “You coming, Northway.”
“Oh,” the boy acknowledged, tearing his eyes away from the plaque. They both hurried to join Harry in the lift.
When they reached the apparition point, Harry offered his arms to them again. He turned and they found themselves standing outside of St. Mungo’s Hospital. Harry silently led them through the lobby to the Greeting Witch’s podium.
“Good day, Head Auror Potter,” she said cheerfully. “How can we help you today?”
“I haven’t missed visiting hours, have I Charlene?” he asked.
“Oh, no,” she replied. “You have plenty of time.” She scanned her list of patients and frowned slightly. “Is there somebody in particular you’re here to see? I don’t see anyone from your department on the patient list today.”
“No, Charlene, this isn’t work related,” he answered. “We won’t be long.”
He led the boys past the confused witch and boarded the lift. They exited the lift on the fifth floor and walked down the hallway to the door for the permanent care ward.
Harry turned to face the two young men. “Some of the patients here are very disturbed and you may find some of them very disturbing. I hope that I don’t need to remind either of you to be on your best behavior.”
Harry led them through the door, grimacing inwardly at how much he had just sounded like Professor McGonagall. There were several patients sitting in the public area of the ward. The ones that were not deemed dangerous to themselves and others were allowed to socialize here. They passed an elderly man who carefully poured water back and forth between two glasses. Next was a middle-aged witch who was muttering something to herself about crossword puzzles. “All the answers are in there, you know!” she called to Northway as they passed, causing him to subconsciously move closer to Harry.
Harry stopped in front of an elderly couple sitting on an old leather sofa. The old witch had short, grey hair and a welcoming, round face. She held a newspaper in front of her. Although her face was pointed towards it, but her eyes remained unfocused, as though she was trying to remember something from long, long ago. The wizard had wisps of curly, grey hair with a large bald spot in the middle. He sat hunched over a table, making small motions with his arm. He seemed to be trying to cast a spell with a wand he no longer possessed.
“Hello, Frank, Alice,” Harry greeted them. “It’s Harry. Harry Potter.” They both turned their heads slightly in response to their names, but neither looked up to meet Harry’s gaze.
Harry paid their behavior no mind. “I’d like you to meet Arthur and... Mr. Northway, I didn’t catch your first name?”
“Dennis, sir,” he replied quietly.
“Arthur and Dennis,” Harry said, turning back to face the elderly couple. “They’re students at Hogwarts.”
At the mention of Hogwarts, the old witch stared harder at her newspaper. The thing she was struggling to recall was right on the cusp of her mind. Then it faded away and the impassive look returned to her face. The old wizard continued to flick his missing wand.
“Frank, Alice, we have to go now,” Harry told them “I’ll visit again sometime soon.”
If the elderly couple even heard him, they made no sign of it. Harry led the two boys back to the hallway.
“What happened to them,” Dennis blurted out as soon as the door was closed behind them.
“Frank and Alice were Aurors during the First Wizarding War, when Lord Voldemort originally tried to seize power,” Harry explained. “They were captured by a group of Voldemort’s followers. They tried to make Frank and Alice tell them things.”
“One of Voldemort’s followers, a vicious, evil woman by the name of Bellatrix Lestrange, used the Cruciatus curse on them until they both went insane. They have been here at St. Mungo’s for over sixty years.”
Harry stared at Dennis as realization entered his eyes, followed by horror.
“Grandpa Harry,” Artie said slowly, “I think I know who Frank and Alice are. Or at least who they’re related to.”
Harry nodded gravely at his grandson. “Their last name is Longbottom.”
Dennis was at a complete loss for words. His mind reeled as he tried to absorb it all.
“I never knew,” he finally mumbled. “Professor Longbottom never let on to anything like that.”
“Come along, boys. We have one more stop to make before I have to get you back to school,” Harry said.
They exited the hospital and both boys grasped Harry’s arms outside the entrance. He turned and suddenly they were standing on a rocky outcropping on the side of a mountain, near the timber line. Another hundred yards or so up the mountain, they could see the mouth of a cave. In spite of the fact that it was a relatively warm autumn morning, there was frost covering the ground around the cave and an ominous looking fog seeped from its mouth.
Harry took a couple of steps forward with his hand extended in front of him. He stopped about halfway across the outcropping, appearing to feel something that the boys could not see.
He turned and fixed them with a stare. “This is the edge of the protective wards surrounding this place. If anything happens to me, you run - do not walk, run - back to this place. Do not look back. Do you both understand?”
The boys nodded in agreement. Artie asked, “Grandpa, what’s in there that they need to keep people out?”
“Who said anything about keeping anyone out?” Harry asked, stepping past the wards and taking a few steps up the mountainside. His wand was out and he looked warily around. Both boys followed him.
An unnatural chill filled the air inside the wards. The sun didn’t feel as warm on Dennis’s face, even though it continued to shine brightly in the sky.
“Grandpa, what’s that?” Artie cried, pointing towards the mouth of the cave. Several dark shapes were emerging from the mist, rising slowly into the air. Artie counted four of the irregular shapes at first, but several more followed and he quickly lost count. The shapes didn’t cast any shadow that he could see, yet the ground seemed to darken beneath them. A cold wind was blowing in their faces. It became very loud, as though a thunderstorm was rolling over them. Artie felt a sudden, overwhelming sense of dread. They were going to die here, he was sure of it. Grandpa had brought them here to die because Dennis didn’t believe in Lord Voldemort. What a prat.
“Get behind me!” Harry ordered, snapping both boys out of their paralyzing depression. The dark shapes were rapidly closing the distance between them. As they drifted closer, Dennis could make out skeletal fingers dangling from the tattered sleeves of their black robes.
When the creatures were close enough that Dennis could almost make out their ghoulish, skeletal faces, Harry shouted “Expecto Patronum!” Artie recognized the patronus charm they had worked on in class, but nothing from class came close to what he was seeing. A bright, silvery mist erupted from the end of Harry’s wand, driving back the darkness. The mist coalesced into a brilliant, silver stag that stamped its hooves on the ground and charged the dark creatures, driving them back.
“Back up, outside of the wards!” Harry called out to the boys and the three of them carefully made their way back to the rocky outcropping. Once they were safely back to the point where they initially arrived, Harry tucked his wand back into his robes.
“What the bloody hell were those things?” shouted Dennis, shaking as he tried to catch his breath.
“Those are dementors,” Harry replied calmly. “I’m surprised you made it to your sixth year without learning about them. But I’m starting to realize there are a lot of things that you aren’t being taught at Hogwarts.”
“What happened to us?” Artie asked. “When they were coming after us, I’ve never felt so hopeless and sad.”
“Dementors feed on the happiness of any person they get close to, muggle or wizard. They are among the most terrible creatures in the magical world. The Ministry once used them to guard the prisoners at Azkaban. When Voldemort revealed himself during the Second Wizarding War, they defected to his side and allowed his followers to escape. Once the war was over, we rounded up all of them that we could find and imprisoned them here where they can’t hurt anybody.”
“Wait,” Dennis interjected, “you’re telling me that those... things fought in the war?”
“That’s right,” Harry replied. “We don’t know how much they really understood about the war. Their minds are very limited. But we believe that they understood that Voldemort would offer them more victims.”
“Come,” Harry said, offering his arms. “Let’s get you two back to school.”
They appeared outside the front gates of Hogwarts and Harry pulled his grandson into a hug. This time Artie did not pull away.
“Thanks, Grandpa,” he whispered into Harry’s ear.
“Run along back to class,” Harry said as they separated. “I’d like to talk to Dennis for a minute.”
Artie ran through the front gate and disappeared into the school.
“Mr. Potter, I had no idea,” Dennis began, but Harry cut him off.
“My name isn’t Mr. Potter, Dennis. It’s Harry. And I think I’m beginning to understand why you didn’t know about Voldemort. What I want to know from you is whether you understand why it’s important for you know these things?”
“I think so, sir, I mean Harry,” Dennis corrected himself. “An awful lot of people died and got hurt when Voldemort tried to take over. What I don’t understand is what you expect me to do. I’m just one person. I mean, you’re just one person, too, but you’re Harry Potter. What is someone like me is supposed to do to stop something like that from happening again?”
“Nobody is expecting you to duel a dark wizard or fight a dementor all by yourself, Dennis,” Harry responded. “The problem last time wasn’t that nobody was willing to fight. The problem was that so many people tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. The Minister, himself, denied that Voldemort was back until he saw him standing in the lobby of the bloody Ministry.”
“So what you can do, Mr. Northway,” Harry fixed him with a stare, “is be aware. Educate yourself. Learn about dark magic so you know it when you see it. And never, ever believe that something isn’t possible just because you haven’t seen it with your own eyes.”
“You’d better be getting along to class,” Harry said, taking a look at his watch. “Give my regards to the headmaster when you see him.” And I suspect you will very soon, Harry thought.
Dennis started to walk back to the castle, then stopped and turned back towards Harry. “Harry, why don’t they teach us all of this at school? I never would have learned any of this from Professor Binns.”
“I don’t know, Dennis,” Harry replied simply. “I’ll see you around.”
And Harry turned and was gone.