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"Harry! Harry!" Hermione was bent over him, shaking his limp body and searching for some sign of life. She pressed her fingers to his wrist trying to find a pulse, not sure whether he was still breathing.
"Enervate!" She tried, but nothing happened.
"We've got to get some help," Ron whispered.
"How exactly?" Hermione snapped, beginning to panic. "How do we get help, Ron?"
"We have to get him back to the Burrow," Ron replied, still staring at his apparently lifeless friend.
"We couldn't Apparate in here so what makes you think we'll be able to Appartate back out?" She waved her hand around the dark burial chamber of the ancient barrow. "We'll have to carry him."
"There's a house down there." She pointed out of the low entrance and down the hill, toward the setting sun and the shadow of a rundown farm house just visible amongst the trees. "There's smoke, someone must be at home."
"A Muggle farm house? Are you mad?"
"There's no where else, Ron. It's two miles back to the crossroads where we Apperated in." That was as close as they had been able to get, obviously there were strong wards surrounding this place.
"Do you want to carry him that far? We're wasting time," she huffed impatiently. "Come on help me!"
"Mobilicorpus!" Ron pointed his wand at Harry.
"Are you some kind of idiot? If there's a Muggle in that house they'll see you! We have to carry him. You take that arm," Hermione snapped again as the panic rose in her - What if they were to late already, what if they couldn't help Harry. She took a deep breath to calm herself and helped Ron hoist Harry over his shoulder and she took the other side.
They had to duck and half drag Harry out of the chamber but then, supporting their best friend between them, they made their way slowly down the lane. It was dusk and the air was cooling after a hot day. The rocky surface of the lane was wet and slippery from a spring and they had to tread carefully. Then, as they approached the old farm house, a figure came to the gate. Seeing them, the woman hurried up the lane toward them.
"What's 'appened? Hurt, is 'e? Bring 'im in 'ere."
The elderly lady was well built and rather stern looking. She wore a faded floral pinny over a worn black dress and stout black shoes. 'Tshing' under her breath, she took Hermione's place and helped Ron carry Harry into the kitchen and together they heaved him onto the scrubbed table.
"I saw you go up the Smithy this mornin', when ya didn't come back I checked my cup. Saw ya needed 'elp." The woman indicated an empty tea cup sitting by the sink, then she turned to inspect Harry's face, lifting his eyelids and looking deep into his eyes. She dropping her ear to his chest and a low hiss escaped her lips
" 'e's in a bad way, that's for sure. What 'appened?"
"He fell. " Ron spoke a little too quickly.
"Don't lie boy." She straightened up, staring at him. "I've lived 'ere all ma life, seen things up at the Smithy, seen things as would curl your toes my lad. So if yer wanting my 'elp you'll tell me the truth."
"We don't know." Hermione spoke simply, holding her head high and looking the old woman in the eye. "He went into the inner chamber, behind the big stone. We tried but we couldn't follow him. He was in there... a long time. Then there was an explosion, a flash of violet light and he was throne back out."
"Inner chamber? There's not been everyone who could get into that inner chamber for a long time" The old woman's eyes narrowed as she seemed to appraise Hermione and Ron in turn.
"You know why it's called the Smithy?" She asked as she turned away to inspect Harry's body once more, but there wasn't a mark on him. Then she walked briskly away from the table and the three friends and started opening all the kitchen windows.
"Wayland's Smithy? It was originally a prehistoric tomb, but Wayland was a Saxon god of iron, folklore says he'll shoe any horse left there over night," Hermione recited.
"Hah!" the woman spat "Tourist claptrap! 'n you don't look like no tourists. Pre'istoric, is it?" She wandered over to a cupboard and took down a jar of golden honey.
" Like the 'orse on the 'ill?." She pointed out of the window at the stylized white horse carved into the chalk of the hillside.
"only it ain't no horse, is it? Its a dragon." She began smearing the contents of the jar over Harry's face and daubing it onto his clothes and hands.
"Wayland was a druid. Wayland the Wise as they called 'im. 'e trapped a dragon under that 'ill wi' charms an' powerful magic. Then 'e marked it to lock it in. Tourists clamber all over it all summer an think it was carved by cave men! Them stones is were 'e was buried. 'e was a powerful wizard 'n weird things 'appen up there. Boy was killed up there once. Not a mark on 'im, just like this one. Save this one's still breathing. Which is summit."
"What are you doing to him?" Ron's voice quavered, as he reached into his pocket for his wand.
"Old magic. Old as the stones an' the dragon." She began muttering strange words under her breath and Ron became aware of a far off buzzing. Slowly, through the open windows, came a dark stream of bees. They buzzed around the room and alighted on Harry and the woman.
"Don't swipe at 'em!" she snapped at Hermione. "You let 'em dumbledores do their work. After, put the kettle on and make tea. Don't touch 'im or me 'till we wake."
She put one hand on Harry's forehead and the other on his stomach. More and more bees poured into the room through the open windows and settled on the connected bodies. The old woman continued to mumble her strange incantation as the bees crawled over her, through her hair and into her ears and mouth.
Ron and Hermione stood side by side watching the seething mass of bees crawl over their friend, unsure what to do.
"How do we know we can trust her?" Ron muttered under his breath, not wanting her to hear him.
"She knows the truth about Wayland, I gave her the tourist version because I thought she was a Muggle. But I've never seen magic done with bees before..." Hermione stared, fascinated.
The woman stood over Harry for a long time, Ron and Hermione could only settle themselves on a low bench and watch. Ron slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a reassuring squeeze and she rested her head against his shoulder.
It was pitch black outside when the bees gradually began to disperse, drifting out of the dark windows laden with honey. Finally, when there were only one or two bees left on Harry's face, the old woman collapsed to the floor. Remembering her instructions they didn't touch her or Harry, but Hermione filled the large kettle from the solitary tap and set in on the old black stove. Ron closed the windows one by one, but left the top of the split door open to let the last of the bees escape.
Eventually the kettle came to the boil and Hermione lifted it off the heat. Ron searched the cupboards and found tea leaves, a chipped brown tea pot and some mismatched flowery china cups and saucers.
"There's no fridge," Hermione said looking round. "I wonder where she keeps her milk."
"There's a jug in here. Think its okay?" Ron pulled open a tall cupboard in the corner furthest from the stove. He gave the jug a suspicious sniff, "It smells okay."
"Four sugars for me, pleazzzz...." The old woman began to stir. "Could you 'elp me up?"
Ron helped her into a chair by the stove, as Hermione handed her the heavily sweetened tea.
"Will he be okay ?" she asked quietly.
"We'll see, We'll see. Best ta' let 'im rest a while. 'ezzz weary o' the quest an' sad in 'is 'eart but the dumbledores says 'e's a good 'en." She shook her head, searched her mouth with a finger and spat out a bee which flew off out of the door and into the darkness.
"What did they do?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"Oh they come for the 'oney, don't like it wasted see, but they took the curse with 'hem when they left. Magic all their own, have dumbledores. Wont be able to sell that 'oney now. No. It'll be bitter with spite and sorrow. Old Wayland new that. Knew all the old ways 'e did. Lost now, mostly. Only me and one or two others remembers them now." She sipped at the hot sweet tea and eyed Ron and Hermione.
"It were because of that dead boy you came weren't it. Because of the one what kill 'im, eh?"
"It were a long time ago now, 'course. I was only a gal and that one what done it, only came back the once after that. Then the strange things started 'appining. Tourists complained of a bad feeling about the place. Some as said they'd seen things, some as got 'urt. Not so many came for a while. Then some bugger got it into one o' them most haunted books n'now even more of them come. Hah!" She let out a snort of bitter laughter.
Ron and Hermione, not knowing what else to do, sipped their tea and glanced between the old lady and Harry. He showed no sign of waking.
"'e got it," she said softly between sips
"Sorry? What did you say?" Hermione asked.
"What you came for. e's got it, in 'is 'and there." She nodded toward Harry's right hand, where they could just see a glint of gold between his fingers.
"When 'e wakes you take 'im home fer a bit. Let 'im rest. I'll give ya some 'oney with ya. Special stuff. You make sure 'e eats it. " She pointed a finger at both of them in turn.
"In 'is tea, on bread, on 'is sausages, I don't care,just make sure 'e eats it all 'n rests. Then 'e'll be fit 'n'ready for the fight." She rose from her chair and taking another darker jar from the cupboard, handed it to Hermione. She and Ron just stared at the old lady. "Is important mind!"
"Erm... Thank you," Ron ventured.
At last Harry stirred on the table and let out a groan. His friends rushed to his side as he tried to sit up, but he let out another groan and slumped back down again.
"Get 'im some tea. Plenty of sugar," commanded the old woman.
Ron helped Harry to sit up as Hermione brought the tea and held it to his lips as he sipped.
"You gave us a bit of a scare there, mate." Ron glanced at Hermione then back to Harry.
Harry simply held out his hand and dropped Helga Hufflepuff's tiny golden cup into Hermione's up turned palm.
"Last one," he whispered and took the cup of tea. "mmmm. Thanks, where are we?"
"This lady helped us." Ron indicated the old woman, who had returned to her chair by the stove
"This is her house. We passed it on our way up to the Smithy this morning, remember?" Hermione explained.
Harry turned to the old woman. "Thank you," he said simply.
She eyed him for a moment as if assessing him. "Yer welcome."
She paused again as if trying to decide something. "You goin' after 'im now?"
Ron and Hermione shared another glance, but Harry didn't seem at all surprised by the question.
"You'll need to rest first. Need to be at yer best to face 'im." She raised a hand to her mouth and paused again, thinking, then rose from her chair and reached for an old broom that had stood, unnoticed by Ron and Hermione, behind her chair.
"You'd best have this then." She handed it to Harry.
"I've got a broom thanks." He tried to hand it back to her, but she let out another snort of laughter. Running her hand the length of the shaft she whispered in her odd language again and the twigs fell away leaving just the pole.
"Ain't no broom, boy. 'Tis a staff," she whispered as if in awe.
"What does it do?" Harry stared down at the staff in his hands.
"Do? Do? Ain't you 'eard of a wizard's staff?"
"No. I've never seen one before." He glanced at Hermione, but she just shrugged.
"Hah!" The old woman croaked. "Modern magic, gone to the dogs!" She stared hard at the three of them in turn.
"That staff is Wayland's own. That one wanted it, its what 'e came for. Killed my brother, Archie, for it, but 'e never found it. Never thought to look for it in the kitchen, did 'e? Full of magic it is. Old magic, old as the hills and the valleys. Full of Wayland's power and that's what 'e wanted, that other one. It focuses magic, see?. Yours and Wayland's together and all the others before 'im. Better than any wand ever made. You just think o' what you need and crack it on the ground and watch. Its all in there." She pointed to an old book which now lay on the table where the twigs had fallen.
"Wayland's spell book. You can take that too. Its all in runes, no good to me."
"How can we thank you for all this?" Hermione stepped toward the book eagerly and began to leaf through its pages. "We don't even know your name."
"The name's Wayland 'course. Esmerelda Wayland, but most round 'ere just calls me Granny. Great great great grand daughter of Wayland the Wise and last of the line, I am. Can't do yer sort of magic, the staff's no good ter me. I do ma honey and sells it to the tourists. Sell 'ome grown veg and fruit and some 'erbal remedies too. Tell the future to those who's foolish enough to want to know it, tell mothers what their child will grow up to be, stuff like that."
She shrugged and turned to stare at the stove lost in her thoughts
"You take it and find what ya need in it. It'll be in there alright. Then ya use it, see, use it on him and revenge my brother." She looked back up at Harry "I can't."
Harry ran his palm along the length of the staff and felt the power pulsing in it, the power of every wizard who'd owned the staff before him and he felt it accept him as a tingle of electricity ran through his body. He felt his strength returning to him and slipped off the table. As the staff struck the hard flagstones there was a loud crack and the room shook, rattling the windows.
"Hah!" the woman shouted in triumph. "You'll do, You'll do!" clapping her hands together and cackling.
"We'd better be off. We've along way to go before we can Apparate." Ron touched Harry's arm tentatively.
"No we don't." Harry turned to the old woman, "Thank you for all you have done for me and for this gift. If I can avenge your brother I will. I have a lot of revenge to take from him." He turned to Ron and Hermione.
"Take my arm," he told them, then with another tap of the staff on the flagstones, he broke the wards surrounding the Smithy once and for all and they Apperated back to the Burrow.