Chapter 17 : Chapter 17: Slytherin's Mark
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Ron gaped at her as the wall slid open, revealing the low light of the green hued room beyond. “That is the password?!”
“Yes, well…” Hermione moved forward into the room, frowning at a huge painting of a Basilisk that hung on the wall. Its eyes were closed and it appeared to be slumbering. “I do believe that the prefects set that before they left. What is that doing on the wall?!”
Harry didn’t remember seeing that painting the first time he had visited this room, in his second year. “I don’t think that was here, before.”
“No…” Ron agreed, going over to study it. “This would have been hard to miss. You don’t suppose that it popped up when you killed the one from the chamber, do you mate?” He glanced questioning over at Harry.
“I dunno, but it looks like the same one. Do they vary in coloring, Hermione?” Harry glanced over his shoulder to see that Hermione wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to them. Instead, she was reading an inscription that ran the length of the hearth. “Hermione?”
“Hang on,” she said absently as she pulled out her notebook and a quill from the bag that she had brought with her and set at her feet. Quickly, she began to record what she was reading as she read it out loud. “All who stand within these hallowed walls will reap the benefits of my knowledge. Do not stand against those who share your standards but unite together to change the world. Seek first the knowledge then apply it in my name.”
By the time she had finished reading, Harry and Ron were gazing over her shoulder at the words. It looked like gibberish to Harry. “What language is that?”
“Latin,” Hermione answered as she stepped around them to study one of the green lamps that hung from the low ceiling. “Interesting.”
“What?” Harry and Ron demanded together but she was focused on the painting of the snake now. “Hermione?”
Her shoulders sagged as she studied the large serpent. “This is in the chamber, isn’t it?”
Harry opened his mouth to ask a question, but then shut it and went to look more closely at the room in which the snake was sleeping. It was a large chamber, with carved snakes and several pillars. “Yes… that’s in the chamber.”
“I… well I was afraid of that,” she whispered. “I had hoped that the common room would give us a clue as to where Voldemort might have hidden this Horcrux, but it isn’t here.”
Ron’s expression slackened. “How do you know that?”
She shrugged and went to sit in one of the chairs near the unlit fire. “Because Slytherin left his mark here and Tom didn’t want to be a Slytherin copycat. He wanted to be the greatest wizard in the world… the most feared. He wouldn’t leave a Horcrux here, where Slytherin was more revered.”
Harry and Ron went to chairs and sat automatically, totally lost as to how she could know this. “What do you mean?” Harry questioned.
“Well… it’s just that Slytherin left his mark on the common room, right there, and Tom left his here too, through the painting,” she told them as she pointed over at the large picture. They glanced at it, almost reflectively and flinched when they saw it roll over. “I bet that Voldemort put an enchantment on that beast, the same that is put on the Hogwarts Headmasters, to make the paintings for the Headmaster’s office.”
Ron slowly shook his head. “How do you know that Slytherin didn’t put the painting charm on the snake?”
“The painting charm is actually Animo Imaginor Animula, and it wasn’t invented until 1186 AD by Manius Tagneria.” If her tone had been any flatter, she would have equaled Binns. Hermione folded her hands and stared down at her feet. “After that it was used on the Headmasters here, so that they could guide the future leaders of the school. If it had been invented before that then the four founders would have been on the wall in there.”
That couldn’t be right. “Does that mean that there are no paintings of the founders?”
She glanced up quickly, shaking her head. “Oh no! I mean, there might be, but that’s not what I’m talking about. The spell was created so that if someone died before a portrait could be made, an imprint of them could remain on canvas. It’s like art but much faster.”
“So are there animated pictures of the founders?” Ron asked as he reached over to snag one of her trembling hands. Tugging gently, he got her to stand and move over to sit on his lap.
“Not that I know of, no. There may have been some picture at one time, but they wouldn’t have been animated like they are today.”
Harry looked over towards the mantel and then back at his best friends’ intertwined hands. “So the Latin on the fireplace is from Slytherin and the painting is from Voldemort?”
She nodded and sighed heavily. “There is a famous quote from Slytherin in that book I just returned to Binns that says this exact phrase. He talked about leaving that message behind for his students.”
“Well that’s pretty clear,” Harry murmured.
Her shoulders still slumped, Hermione whispered, “I really thought it would be in here.”
“It’s okay,” Ron assured her soothingly. “We’ll find it.”
Harry cleared his throat, “So should we check in the chamber next?”
“No,” she said instantly. “He had one Horcrux that revolved around the chamber and I can’t see him using it a second time. That’s putting too many eggs in one basket, as it were.” She shook her head as Ron opened his mouth to question what the expression meant. “All I am saying is that he used the chamber as his focus once and I doubt, very much, that he would repeat it. It seems, oh I don’t know,” she wrinkled her nose and frowned a bit, “predictable, and that’s not him. Voldemort also wanted to make sure that they were significant to him and not just to Slytherin.”
Harry thought he might understand, although it all seemed rather convoluted. “So what you’re saying is that Hogwarts is significant to him but the common room and the chamber are out because they were where Slytherin was king?”
“Exactly,” she replied, beaming at him in pride. Harry smiled back weakly, thankful that when all was said and done, he didn’t really have to understand at all.
“Nothing,” Harry said as he ran his wand along the wall of the dungeon, looking for a strong magical signature. Magic was everywhere in the castle, but nothing stood out as having the power that the locket had. It had practically hummed with energy when Hermione had examined it.
“Nothing here, either,” Ron called from further down the hall.
Hermione was pacing ahead of him, reviewing the Marauder’s Map and muttering to herself. “It is possible that they might have missed some of the school when they were out exploring.” She let out a grunt of irritation and let her hands drop to her sides. “It’s nearly time for dinner. Let’s go eat and then get a good night’s rest.”
“Good thinking,” Ron agreed readily and he jogged over to join them. “I’m starving.”
“Of course you are,” Hermione said smiling up at him as she took his hand. Together the three of them walked over to the stairs to head up to the Great Hall… and another uncomfortable dinner with the staff.
Taking hold of the banister to balance himself on the slimy steps, Harry asked, “Can we go see Hagrid tomorrow?”
“That’s a good idea- OH!” Hermione slipped and Ron barely caught her before she could hit the stairs, face first. “Watch that… it’s a bit slippery. Thank you,” she told Ron as she carefully made her way to the opposite railing, holding on tightly as she made the climb. “It’s very wet down here.”
Ron moved behind her and kept a supporting hand on her waist. “Near as I can tell, we’re underneath the lake.”
“Really?” Hermione questioned as she slowed to step around a big bit of moss. “So the Slytherin dormitories are also under the lake, then? Well that would make sense and without students here to help keep the place being used, the mold would quickly take over.”
Harry nodded and stepped gratefully onto the landing of the stairs. From here, the trip down the hall, and continuing up to eat was relatively easy. “It’s weird being here when it’s so quiet. School should have started six weeks ago.”
“It almost feels like it’s Christmas time,” Hermione said reminiscently and then frowned. “What are we going to do for Christmas this year?”
“Can’t we just go home?” Ron asked hesitantly.
Hermione shrugged as they rounded the last bend in the stairs, finally making it to the main hall for Hogwarts. “We can, and I haven’t seen my parents since-”
“-no word on when it will start!”
The three friends spun to see McGonagall, followed by Flitwick running down the stairs. Harry had only witnessed his Transfiguration professor move that quickly once before.
“What about Hagrid?” Flitwick shouted up to her, seeming oblivious of Harry, Ron and Hermione as they rushed by, heading for the front doors.
“I sent him a note to guard the school,” McGonagall explained, breathlessly. Of their own accord, for none of them had said a word, the teenagers sprinted to keep up with them.
Harry broke their silence first. “What’s happened?”
The Headmistress turned sharply and shook her head. “Attack on St. Mungo’s, Potter. Stay here.”
Stunned, Harry turned to Ron and saw the same conviction in his best friend’s eyes. “We’re going to help,” Harry informed her.
She shook her head vehemently. “No! You need to stay at the school where-”
“It isn’t safe here!” Harry rebuked her instantly. “If it was safe here, then school would be in session! We can help.”
Hermione grabbed his arm and said, “Harry, I really think that we should stay here because-”
Anger flared within him and he wrenched his arm from her grasp. “You stay here, if you want. I’m going!” He was tired of sitting on the sidelines, waiting to find the Horcruxes while others were dying. Everyone in Hogsmeade had been killed while he, Harry, had sat at home safely… twiddling his thumbs.
“I’m going with you, mate,” Ron assured him as the two boys sprinted after the professors, who had already moved off to get outside the gates.
“Well… wait up, then!” Hermione cried as she also followed along.
McGonagall had the gate open just as Harry and Ron got there, Hermione following shortly on their heels, completely out of breath. “To St. Mungo’s then, and Apparate to the alley behind the hospital. It is sheltered, but the building has Anti-Disapparation wards on it.”
The three nodded and as Harry turned to Apparate away, he saw Hagrid sprinting down, probably to relock the gates.
The scene that met their eyes was complete chaos. The alley behind the hospital was full of strewn boxes and a decapitated guard, who’s head, which rested next to the body, stared up lifelessly from his former post at the back door. Following McGonagall they walked around the body, with wands raised, to get into the building. “Stay behind me,” the old Professor commanded, her tone making it clear that she expected them to obey.
Harry was barely listening to her. He was busy looking around the deserted lobby. The quiet did not sit well with him. “What happened? Where is everyone?”
“Maybe we missed it,” Hermione whispered back to him.
“No,” McGonagall’s soft lilt floated back to them. “We knew this one was coming. Come on,” she commanded and headed out of the lobby, pushing open a door to the hall beyond.
They didn’t need to look any further to find the fighting. As she pushed the door open, a jet of green light flew out, barley missing Flitwick’s head. If he had been an inch taller, he would be dead. The roar of the battle filled their ears and Harry realized, belatedly, that the doors must be charmed to repel noise.
The five of them dove straight into the fight. McGonagall engaged a young man, with bloodshot eyes, yelling at the others to be careful. All of the Death Eaters were robed, but Harry could tell that some of them weren’t much older than he. Flitwick, showing his true talents as a dueling champion, started taking down the younger Death Eaters, dropping them like flies. Harry ran past them, searching unconsciously for the face of the man who had killed Dumbledore, but Snape was nowhere to be found.
“Duck!” Ron called, pulling Harry down to avoid another killing curse, firing a stunner as he did.
The large man, who closely resembled a troll only quite a bit shorter, cackled menacingly as he blocked Ron’s spell. “Kids here? Fighting? You’ll have to do better than-”
“REDUCTO!!!” Harry and Ron yelled together, both aiming the spell at the man.
His smile dropped instantly as he raised a shield to block both of the spells, but it was no use. Ron’s hit it first, battering it just before Harry’s struck, shattering it completely and sending the man backwards into the wall with a sickening thud.
“Nice one,” Harry said, grinning at Ron who nodded.
“Come on,” Ron insisted, backtracking a bit to see that Hermione was dueling with another of the younger Death Eaters. “Stupefy!”
Blindsided, the kid dropped and Hermione bound him with magical ropes. “Thanks,” she huffed as she kicked away the mask to reveal Marcus Flint. “Scum,” was her only response as the turned to engage another Death Eater.
Harry spun and saw, down the hall, that Remus and Tonks were both fighting, and seemingly holding their own, against another large Death Eater.
“Well if it isn’t the baby Potter!”
Harry froze. He knew that voice; knew it and hated it with all of his being. Bellatrix Lestrange.
Thinking hard, knowing that he would need stealth with her, he turned and tried to stun her. Nothing happened… and worse still, she knew it and began to laugh, her high pitched, mocking laugh. Unwilling to let her play with him, Harry yelled, “Reducto!”
She blocked it easily. “You will have to better than that, baby boy! I must admit that I enjoyed killing Sirius and it would be a real treat to finish you off for my master.”
“I don’t think so,” Harry growled, focusing completely on the woman and thinking frantically, trying to form a plan. He knew he had to focus on her or she would kill him. He was confident of that much. Bellatrix merely laughed at him. His mind racing, Harry knew he had to act quickly. He waved his wand and thought, Sectumsempra!
Harry prayed it would work, but was not expecting the results that he got. The spell caught her left arm, opening a large wound near her elbow. “You-”
Whatever she was going to say was cut off as a jet of red light struck her straight in the chest, knocking her off her feet. Harry twisted around to see Hermione, her eyes blazing and her wand still pointing at the other woman.
“Thanks,” Harry called to her, but she simply shook her head.
“We have more to do,” she said softly, but then jumped, along with Harry, as the doors to the hall burst open and a volley of spells began to overwhelm to room.
Turning to fight, ready to face whatever was to come, Harry was suddenly relieved when she saw the faces of Moody, Shacklebolt, Hestia Jones and several others that he knew by sight, but not by name.
The reinforcements had arrived.
Within a few minutes, the tide of the battle had turned and the rest of the Auror Department had shown up.
“Come on, you two,” Remus came from behind to grab Harry and Hermione by the shoulders, and Harry saw that Ron was following along, a gash along his cheek. “We need to get you out of here before the Minister can locate you.”
That got Harry moving. He had no interest in another verbal sparing match with Rufus Scrimeour. “Right, we’re moving.”
He escorted them outside and within seconds they had all Apparated back to Hogsmeade and they walked back up to the castle. Hagrid wasn’t waiting at the gate for them, but Remus was able to undo the enchantment and let them in. Harry saw that his normally kind face was awash with anger, but he didn’t say anything. When they reached the front door, he pulled it open and glared at the three teenagers. “I expect you three to stay out of the fight from now on.” His tone was sharp, almost as a parent, scolding a child.
Harry instantly protested. “But we-”
“No!” Remus interrupted. “We had that one well under control; Tonks had already alerted the Order and the Aurors that the attack was coming. We don’t need your help on this part, Harry!” Remus met his eyes and Harry felt a blush spread up his face.
Harry knew that he had acted irrationally. He knew that he had risked not only his life, but his friends’ lives as well… and the world’s one chance to make sure that Voldemort died. What was worse, Remus seemed to understand all of that too. “Sorry…” Harry said as he looked down at the ground, feeling a wave of shame spread over him.
Remus clapped a hand on his shoulder and Harry looked up. “Just… do what Dumbledore asked you to do and the Order will do what we’re supposed to do. Understand?”
Harry nodded and quickly Remus pulled him into a short hug. “Now, get inside and stay out of the public eye.”
“We will,” Hermione promised quietly as they walked into the castle and Remus shut the door.
Harry waited for the retribution that he was sure was coming, but it didn’t. Instead, when he turned to Hermione, it was to find her staring off into the dark ceiling, obviously lost in thought. “Hermione?”
It felt just the same as it had just hours before in the Slytherin common room. “They knew…” she began to pace, muttering to herself. As she passed by him, Harry caught her saying, “Unless she... no that couldn’t be it because no one would help her do it… they would tell, surely.”
“What are you going on about?” Ron asked her but Hermione simply shrugged.
“I don’t know… but doesn’t it seem odd that they would know that there was going to be a fight when they don’t have Snape telling them anymore…” her mouth dropped open. “Unless Snape is still working for the Order and hasn’t told us but then… no… it really makes no sense.”
Harry felt frozen to the spot. Tonks was the one to alert them… Ginny was living with a Death Eater and Tonks knew something… “Is… is Ginny… do you think Ginny tipped Tonks off?”
Ron sputtered in disbelief, “No! She couldn’t have!” I mean, it's not like Tonks can just walk up to the Nott’s and ask, 'Oh, hello Ginny, any attacks planned?"
“I have to say that I’m skeptical too,” Hermione admitted. “I do think she is helping us but that’s going a bit far. Who on earth would willingly tell Ginny anything like that, especially the Notts? Also, Tonks wouldn’t let her do that. She’d have kept her from going or she would have told someone. She wouldn’t willingly help Ginny do something that foolish.”
“I also doubt that Ginny would be able to owl Tonks the information, even with a code in place. Her owls to us were very cryptic, so obviously her mail is being inspected.” Hesitating a bit, Hermione added, “I really think that Ginny is at the Nott’s because… well because…” she looked nervously between them. “All right, promise you won’t get upset?”
They both nodded, neither really meaning it.
Hermione apparently believed them. “Well… after the fight last year, Ginny told me that the biggest problem is that she doesn’t know how to fight like they do and that in order to win, you have to learn to fight dirty so I really think she’s there to learn to fight, you know, from the Death Eaters so that when the time comes, she can help us.” Hermione wrung her hands nervously at their mutinous expressions. “At least she seems to be safe and as long as we don’t tip them off, the Notts won’t hurt her!”
Relieved somewhat, Harry sighed. He still couldn’t do anything about Ginny, a feeling he was growing to resent more and more, and they didn’t know how the Order found out about the attack on St. Mungo’s. “So we don’t know who told Tonks, but it seems that there could be a… a what? A spy?”
“Not necessarily. Someone could have caught wind of what was going to happen and tipped Tonks off. She could have also been in disguise and could have overheard it.” Hermione looked between them, obviously torn. “I don’t know what’s going on but I do know that Ron needs to get his cheek fixed.”
“I’m fine,” Ron told her with a grin and he walked over to take her hand and began to lead her down towards the kitchens.
“Where are we going?” Hermione asked, bewildered but Harry knew even before Ron answered.
Ron bent down to kiss her cheek and replied, “Dinner.”
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