"Voldemort? The body? What are you..." Harry's voice trailed off. He didn't understand how such a common-looking ring could give away the skeleton's identity, but it would explain why Voldemort's cadaver had never been found. Whoever dumped the body could hardly have found a more convenient hiding place.
Harry turned back for another look. He was no pathologist, but upon peering closely at the skull, his breath hitched in his chest. At the base of each canine tooth, there was a deep groove in the bone, revealing the roots--and a slender object nestled within them. It seemed to be another tooth, but it clearly didn't belong there.
Fascinated, Harry reached down and tapped experimentally at the proximal end of the foreign object with the tip of his wand. The thing slid easily down through the native tooth; it was, in fact, a fang, long and delicately curved like a snake's. Harry vividly recalled the way Ondossi's Animorphed fangs had retracted into her mouth the day before; clearly these were designed to work the same way, or at least to look like they did.
"Unbelievable. What a bloody lunatic," he said, sliding the fang back into its socket with his thumbnail.
"Are you nuts? Don't touch that!" Ondossi yanked on the back of Harry's sweater so violently that he nearly lost his footing.
"Tura, it's dead! It's not going to come jumping out at us! What's gotten into you?"
"Dead or not, it's bad juju! That IS the Dark Lord, Harry! The original! Don't desecrate him, for Pete's sake--you know how wicked he is! If anyone was spiteful enough to leave some sort of hex on his skeleton, it's him!"
That gave Harry pause. "Fine, fine," he acceded grudgingly, removing his hands from the coffin. "Well, we've got to do something. We can't just bury him again in my father's place." He pictured kindhearted Everett and Birdy trudging up the hill to lovingly tend to the garden over Voldemort's remains, and became incensed anew.
"No!" she agreed. "Definitely not. This is a job for those Aurors, Harry. They might even be able to figure out who put him there." For the first time, she looked away from the coffin and into his eyes. "Go to Headquarters. Now. Bring back anyone you can find. I'll stay here."
"Right, then." Harry made ready to Apparate, but paused. "Are you going to be all right here by yourself?" She'd been shaking with fear just seconds ago.
"I'm good. Feathers will stick with me... I hope. Will you?" She gazed at Fawkes imploringly, and he tilted his head at Harry for a brief instant, then flapped up onto her shoulder. Harry grinned; they looked cute together.
"You know, if he sat on your head, it would look like he was hatching--"
"Oh, go stuff yourself, you big gussuk," she snapped.
She's obviously feeling better, Harry mused. He gave Fawkes a stern glare and willed him to stay and keep her company, then Apparated to the sidewalk in front of number twelve, Grimmauld Place.
It seemed this was the evening of Perpetual Hurry-Up-And-Wait for Harry. He couldn't even begin to plea for help until he'd endured a sound lecture from Lupin about departing from Hogwarts without notifying anyone. No sooner had Remus finished when Tonks came bounding down the stairs in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers, and delivered a much louder and more concise version of the same speech. When Mrs. Black chimed in with her own unrelated opinions, Harry began to wonder if he shouldn't have gone to the Ministry of Magic instead.
His problems were still far from over, as no one quite accepted his story of finding the original remains of Voldemort in his father's coffin. It took Harry the better part of an hour to describe unlocking Hagrid's lost memories, which of course had to be debated and discussed before he could move everyone on to current events. By the time Shacklebolt and Moody gathered up their gear for a trip to Godric's Hollow, it was after midnight and Harry had dozed off in the drawing room, curled up in one of the refurbished chairs.
"Look at this, then," said Moody, tapping Harry's foot with his wand. "Just like an old campaigner, grabbin' a bit of sleep when and where he can." Harry sat up with a start and blinked at the old Auror, relieved to see that Moody was grinning as he spoke. "Turning more into a soldier every day, lad." He clapped Harry on the shoulder, but Harry glimpsed a hint of sorrow in the old man's eyes before Moody turned away and headed downstairs.
The three of them took the Floo to Godric's Hollow, as Kingsley had never been there and didn't want to waste any time studying maps to prepare for Apparation. Besides, the Green Dragon had reopened and Harry was glad to say a brief hello to Uther as they stepped out of the fireplace into the pub.
"Calliope will be sorry she missed you," Uther told him. "All she talks about now is how she learned a spell from Harry Potter."
Harry smiled broadly. "You'd best keep track of her, you two," he warned Shacklebolt and Moody. "She'll be Auror material someday."
Moody, who had watched Harry encounter the young lady in question through the magical pendant, nodded accordingly. "Aye, Kingsley, Potter's lucky she left him in one piece!"
The three of them proceeded quickly to the cemetery and once again found Ondossi dancing and chanting. Fawkes was sitting in the hood of her cloak with his wings spread open behind her. The two of them looked like some sort of strange angel. Harry held out his hand to keep the Aurors from interrupting the ritual, but there was no need. Moody's magical eye became uncharacteristically still and focused as it watched the dance.
"You know," Moody said quietly, "sometimes she makes me wish I was a young man again." He regarded the two of them with his human eye, the magical one remaining fixed on Ondossi as he turned his head. Harry moistened his lips and glanced up at Moody; unbeknownst to him, Shacklebolt had done the same thing.
"Course, then I remember what she is," Moody continued gruffly. "That she could kill me with an errant thought. Then I start thinking about my ex-wife, whether I'd be around at all if she had that kind of power. I think not."
"You were married?" muttered Shacklebolt incredulously, just before Harry could blurt out the same question.
"Three times," Moody grunted. That broke their concentration, as both of them frowned and tried to figure out how that worked with the "ex-wife" (singular) comment. Moody smirked. "Same gal. Metamorph, like Tonks. I didn't even catch on until I got this." He tapped the magical eyeball, making a small click. "Just in time to stop Marriage Number Four. Never knew what she saw in me, but she sure kept coming back for more. Crazier than a trunk full of bats, though. Shame." Moody turned back to watch Ondossi, leaving Harry and Shacklebolt to gape at one another.
Ondossi finally snapped to a halt, panting, with her back to the three men, and Fawkes closed his wings. Moody stepped forward. "I always heard that witches danced naked amongst the tombstones," he called out.
Ondossi spun on her heel with a snort, still catching her breath. "Not in Alaska, they don't!" she said jovially. "Of course, if you're offering, Moody, be my guest!" She gestured with a sweeping flourish, as though inviting him to take the stage.
Moody laughed unexpectedly. "No one wants to see that, missy, believe it. Let's have a look at this mystery cadaver, then."
"No mystery," she growled. "It's the Dark Lord. The mystery is, how'd he get into James Potter's grave?" She stopped speaking and scanned all around the cemetery, even the sky, as though expecting Voldemort's wrath to start raining down on them at any moment. She shuddered and stomped down the hillside without another word.
The Aurors exchanged a bemused glance and began removing strange devices from their packs that reminded Harry of the silver instruments that had always littered Dumbledore's office. Though he was dearly inclined to stay and watch the Aurors at work, Harry had to speak to Ondossi. The Fireflies were nowhere to be seen, and he hoped desperately that she'd kept track of them somehow. He dashed down the hill and caught up with her.
"Tura, the Flies... tell me you know where they are?" he pleaded.
She slowed her pace and looked at him with a sheepish grimace. "Well, no, not exactly. They started winding up in that little column thing they do, just after you left. I tried to read them, Harry; that is, I did read them, even though it knocked me flat on my back for twenty minutes. They have very strange little minds. The world looks really beautiful through their eyes, though--they can see almost everything at once."
"So what did you learn?"
Ondossi frowned. "You disappear for two hours and now it's rush, rush, rush! Fine. It was the weirdest thing I've ever done as a Legilimagus. In the end they sort of zeroed in on a place I've never seen before. It's almost as though they could smell it, their next destination, except it wasn't smell either, it was almost... electrical. They take in the sensation from every direction as they spiral like that, and when they triangulate on the strongest 'scent,' they just sort of know where they're going."
Harry bit his lip as she spoke, and stared at her long after she stopped. "Well?" he finally demanded.
"Well, where did they go?"
"How should I know? I told you, I've never seen it before! It wasn't Grimmauld Place, or Hogwarts, or the Ministry, but other than that... wait a second." Ondossi closed her eyes, frowning. "I haven't seen it before, but someone has."
Harry folded his arms in an effort not to strangle her.
"Someone... someone I read recently," she continued. "It must have been Hagrid. Hagrid's seen it before. Let me think; I wasn't really paying attention because I was trying to dissect out the alterations in his memory." Her brow furrowed deeply in concentration. "He was there, at night... and someone yelled out their window for him to be quiet. That's right, they used a bad word; that's the only reason I noticed it. Bad words always sound funny with a foreign accent."
Harry knew every part of Hagrid's memory from the night his parents died. A neighbor had berated Hagrid for banging so loudly on Sirius's door. "The house in Bristol, then."
Ondossi shrugged. "It was a house, at least. They went that-a-way," she said, pointing northeast. "Is that toward Bristol?"
Harry nodded, deep in thought. "They found my dad, and now they're looking for Sirius," he muttered quietly. "Both Sirius and my dad made the mirrors." Harry sighed audibly in relief--it was certainly about time things started going smoothly. He looked from side to side absently, trying to recall where he'd left his Firebolt.
"Sirius... as in Sirius Black?" asked Ondossi. "Your godfather? The grouch who yelled at me in the Floo?" When Harry nodded, she sniffed. "Why are you looking for him? He's dead, isn't he?"
Harry clenched his teeth and glared at her, then started up the hill.
"Tell me you're not going to follow them again," said Ondossi. Harry didn't answer, scanning for his broomstick, certain that he'd left it leaning against some nearby headstone. "Dare I point out they've had a huge lead, on top of being incredibly fast?"
Harry waved at her brusquely. "They go faster when the scent is strong. Sirius hasn't been in Bristol for sixteen years; they're following just a trace. They might not even be there yet." Harry came to an abrupt halt, squaring his shoulders in surprise at his own words. "How did I know that?" Cocking his head, he felt an uneasy sensation, as though someone had just tried to hex him. Then he recalled it, like an old dream: Hagrid had been aware of this as he followed the Fireflies the first time, though he had never once enunciated it. "Hagrid knew it... and now I know it." Harry gaped at Ondossi, stunned to realize that he had absorbed this bit of knowledge straight from Hagrid's mind, bypassing the usual process of learning.
Ondossi snickered, then spread her arms wide and made a slight bow. "Welcome to my world, hotshot."
Harry wished he could discuss this new development, but he was determined to give the Flies another go. He nodded at Ondossi and turned resolutely up the hill. He soon spotted his broom leaning against a headstone, silhouetted against the faint blue glow produced by the Aurors' instruments. If they find out I'm leaving, they're not going to like it, he mused, and crept up silently to retrieve the Firebolt. His plan was undone, however, when he turned around and smacked noisily into Ondossi.
"Sneakin' off on us, Potter?" called Moody, though his back was turned.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Harry said, giving her the evil eye.
He stomped down the hill with Ondossi trotting at his side, intending to give her a stinging admonishment when they were out of earshot of the Aurors. But she spoke up first. "Well, what was I supposed to do? You're my only way back to Hogwarts!"
Harry stopped and faced her. "What are you talking about? The Aurors could take you back--they can Apparate you to the front gate. Maybe they'd even put your hair back on if you asked nicely!"
"All things considered, I'd rather fly--and you know for me, that's saying something. Besides, didn't you just get chewed out for swooping off alone tonight?"
Harry opened his mouth, then pressed his lips together tightly. "I wasn't alone, really--Fawkes was with me."
"Only after you nearly pulled your own plug! Harry, face it. By the time you get to Bristol, those Flies will be long gone. Even in low gear, they're fast--and they've got nearly two hours head start. You've got to start fresh, maybe with a thestral next time. You discovered something more important here anyway. Let's go see how those Aurors are doing and bid your parents a proper goodbye." She gave him an imploring look.
"All right," Harry finally said. "I suppose it is more important to finish this." He sighed and glanced back up the hill, then added, "But just on principle, Tura, can you please stop following right on my heels?"
"Sorry. I just didn't want you to hop on that thing and disappear without me. I don't know Kingsley very well, but that Moody gives me the willies."
Harry cracked a wry grin. "I'm pretty sure it's mutual."
Ondossi punched his arm halfheartedly and they returned to the open grave. The Aurors were making meticulous adjustments on the magical contraptions they'd laid out, speaking in jargon that intrigued Harry.
"I've got twenty-three on the S.T. Can you boost the gain?"
"Nah, site's too open. The MACs'll come undone if we get much more visible."
"I'll make do. Anything from the Thanadust?"
"Got to add a bit more horn, I think."
By surreptitiously skimming the Auror's thoughts as they spoke, Harry was able to follow the conversation. "S.T." was short for "signature tracer," and referred to a series of small, spinning objects that looked like dreidles. They were set about on the handles of the coffin, the latch, and several points on the skeleton inside. They were used like a Muggle fingerprint kit, identifying unique magical energy left behind by wands. Shacklebolt was operating this instrument, hoping to find evidence left from any levitating or locking spells that had been used on the coffin or the body.
Shacklebolt was grumbling irritably to himself because Ondossi's recent magic had flooded the area with her own wand signature. He was unable to increase the device's sensitivity because of their position on an open hillside in Muggle territory. The soft blue glow could pass as a wisp of fog in the moonlight, but any more power would make it clearly visible--hence Moody's warning about the "MACs." This referred to the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, whom Moody suspected were already spying on this operation, waiting for a chance to shut them down in the name of discretion amongst Muggles.
Moody himself was waving his wand over a pentagram drawn with a chalky powder known as Thanadust. It contained ground asphodel seed and unicorn horn. Asphodel was generally associated with death and the underworld, while unicorns were creatures of vitality. Having opposite polarities, these compounds tended to react violently to one another and release their magic into their surroundings. Moody's spell was designed to use this flux of energy to create images of the last living sorcerers to touch the deceased. Harry grimaced as he saw his own face appear over and over in the center of Moody's pentagram. He wished he'd never noticed that stupid tooth.
Moody stood up straight and held out a leather sack, waving his wand over the chalk outline. It slithered neatly into a powdery column and deposited itself into the sack. "You two rubes need a crash course in basic Auror training," he growled, as he took a small scoop of powder from a second pouch and sprinkled it slowly into the first. "When you come across a crime scene, don't bloody alter it! Anything might be a clue."
"Fiddle-faddle!" snapped Ondossi. "We didn't know it was a crime scene until after we dug the thing up! We thought it was just a Stupidity Scene--although you people probably consider stupidity a crime, too; you seem to think everything else is." Harry regarded her with surprise; she sounded downright petty. Upon closer look, however, he realized she was blushing, undoubtedly embarrassed that she'd butchered so much latent evidence with her magic.
"An' you prefer anarchy, do you, missy? Like in the Wild West?"
Ondossi bristled. "I prefer a little room to breathe."
"Mmm," grunted Moody. "I suppose when you live in the wide open tundra, you take breathing room for granted." He finally appeared satisfied with the powder and pulled the drawstrings shut to give the pouch a good shake. "Some of us live in a civilized country, and have to compromise to get along." He looked over at them for the first time.
"No one has to live anywhere. You choose to do it," Ondossi said in a calm, quiet voice. "I wish I didn't have to even visit this place, but they tell me they need me."
Moody and Ondossi held each other's gaze for a long time, although it seemed not so much of a staring match as an honest appraisal. The old man finally nodded and got back to his work, sprinkling the Thanadust back onto the ground in another pentagram.
"What was that all about?" Harry whispered.
"Nothing," she whispered back. "Two rogue wolves testing the air between them."
"And? Is there enough for both of you to breathe?" Harry asked pointedly.
She made a wry face. "Listen to you! You're supposed to be an assassin, not a diplomat! Don't you worry about me and Mad-Eye, we're both just a little too jaded for our own good. But I kinda like him, after all. He reminds me of my afatkuq, back in Barrow. My shaman," she added helpfully, though Harry remembered the Inupiaq word.
"His heart's in the right place," said Harry. "Though Merlin-only-knows about his other parts." Ondossi's hands flew over her face to hide her snort of laughter.
The Aurors continued to work their craft over the coffin for at least an hour. Harry watched with interest, but soon he couldn't keep from yawning, despite his curiosity. Unfortunately, the best that Shacklebolt could prove was that the coffin had never been lowered into the ground by magic. "Most likely, the bodies were switched before the funeral," he deduced. "The Muggles buried the coffin without even knowing that the wrong body was inside it."
Harry sighed, shaking his head. Shacklebolt put a firm hand upon his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Potter. I really am. There's no more we can get out of this scene, not even back at the Ministry. It's just been too long." He paused, pressing his lips tight, then continued in an even milder tone. "We'll bring in You-Know-Who's remains, but there's still the coffin. It was supposed to be your father's... I don't suppose you want us to put him in there, under the circumstances?"
The question was enough to make Harry's insides clench. "No. Just... just bury it again, empty. Fix everything up just as it was and let Birdy keep coming over and planting her flowers. She believes he's down there--that's all that matters."
Shacklebolt patted Harry's shoulder and turned away to take down his instruments. Harry let out a deep sigh and dropped his chin to his chest. His neck was sore and taut, and he rocked his head from side to side in an effort to loosen the muscles.
"I didn't know them, obviously," said Ondossi, "but I think they wouldn't mind being buried together like that. You know?" She nudged him lightly on the elbow. Harry didn't answer.
When the Aurors had packed everything up and the gravesite had been restored to its usual appearance, Shacklebolt bade them farewell and Apparated to the Ministry with their gear. He would send a squad back to get Voldemort, as soon as he could get one assembled. Moody scowled at the skeleton for a moment, then leaned over and yanked out the fang that Harry had touched.
"Might as well have a souvenir, Potter," he said. For a moment, Harry thought this was Moody's way of chastising him again for touching the body, but the old Auror appeared quite sincere. "Go on. Keep it. Not that you need another reminder," Moody added. "But you know it'll get picked over, soon as it gets to the Ministry. Trophies."
Ondossi knelt beside the skeleton, her gaze unfocused as though she were entranced. "It's true. People are drawn to him. That's why he's so powerful--he makes you want to serve him, even if you know it's a terrible mistake." She drew the other slender fang out of its artificial socket and studied it for a moment before palming it. "We'll keep the matched set, Harry. Know why?" She rose to her feet, the sharpness returning to her eyes. "'Cuz we're gonna come 'round and bite him in the butt."
A feral grin spread to all three of their faces.
In a rare display of anarchist tendencies, Moody made up an illegal Portkey for Harry, Ondossi, and Fawkes to use to return to Hogwarts. They arrived just outside the gates, only to find them locked. "Oh, for the love of Pete," Ondossi groaned. They looked at one another glumly--both knew that a simple Alohomora stood no chance of opening this gate.
"Well, it can't be too much longer 'til dawn..." Harry began, but he was interrupted by flapping wings and a gust of air. Fawkes launched himself from Harry's shoulder and fluttered gracefully to the top of the gates, where he perched on one of the winged boars and peered down at them brightly. Harry grinned at Ondossi and held up his Firebolt. "Care for a lift, miss?"
"I never thought I'd be glad to get on one of these," she said, though she nearly squeezed the stuffing out of him when he pushed off the ground.
Harry wondered if Fawkes somehow raised the wards over the gate to let them enter the grounds, or if the wards themselves had recognized them and permitted passage. He glided all the way to the castle entrance, too tired to bother walking up the path. Besides, once Ondossi relaxed her death grip, Harry rather liked the way she felt pressed up behind him.
"Well, I'm starving," she said as they landed at the top of the stone stairs. "I'm gonna go catch something. See you in class." She gave his sides two quick pats as she let him go and hopped off the back of the Firebolt.
"You don't have to do that, you know. I told you yesterday, the house-elves will feed us. Unless you're feeling peckish for a bit of field mouse."
Ondossi wrinkled her nose. "Point taken. People food sounds better."
The oak front doors opened without pause, and though Harry expected to find a fuming Filch just beyond them, the Entrance Hall was empty. He turned back to Ondossi and raised a finger to his lips for silence, and they stole across the Hall on tiptoe, not even rousing the portraits on the walls. They both broke into silent giggles at the top of the dungeon stairs, but their exhausted giddiness was shattered by a harsh voice bellowing from directly above them.
"FROM ASHES AND MUD SHE SHALL RISE, TO RENDER AT LONG LAST THE BOON THAT IS HIS DUE. HEED THIS, CHOSEN ONE: IT IS RIGHT AND JUST, THOUGH SHE BE LOATHE TO GIVE IT. YOU MUST ANSWER WITH YOUR OWN BLOOD."
As the echoes died, there was a sound of scraping metal; the suits of armor at the doors turned their heads toward one another in a pantomime of complete bafflement. Ondossi was staring upwards with a similar expression. "What the Sam Hill was that?" she said.
"Professor Trelawney," Harry groaned. "I'd know that voice anywhere. She must be at the top of the stairs."
She scowled. "And people call me spooky!"
Harry shrugged. "She has these prophetic moments once in a while, but when they're over, she's done. Probably standing there wondering what she's doing out of her tower. Come on." He tugged her arm and scampered down the staircase, knowing that Filch would appear momentarily to investigate all that ruckus.
It seemed like a week had passed since Harry had last stood before the portrait hole to the kitchens. He wondered briefly if he would be refused entry after the fire he started in the storeroom, but when he tickled the pear, it dutifully became a handle and allowed them inside. Harry smirked at himself for worrying--Fred and George had never been denied access to the kitchens, and surely they had done far worse.
They were greeted with the wonderful smell of baking bread and the sight of rows of bowls being filled with berries and cream by a pair of elves wearing identical window draperies (right down to the silver napkin rings that gathered the fabric at their shoulders like a toga). A small delegation ran over to greet them with a platter of fresh muffins, still steamy inside. Harry and Ondossi were shuffled to a sideboard by a friendly elf who told them that they could have all they wanted to eat, as long as they stayed out of the way of the breakfast rush. "Eggs is getting cold quickly, whilst bacon and toast burns if you turns your back, so we is very focused at breakfast time. But no one is wanting to be rude, just rushing!"
Harry and Ondossi sat crosslegged on the wooden countertop with the muffins and two huge steins of milk, mesmerized by the coordinated chaos of fifty elves preparing hundreds of breakfasts. After four muffins, Harry's eyelids began to droop and the long climb to his dormitory seemed like far too much effort. He had just leaned his head against the wall to rest his eyes when Ondossi whacked the side of his leg with the back of her hand.
He gawked at her, then followed her gaze to the burners and grates of the main cooking range. It was still too early to start the food, but a few flames were lit beneath giant copper tea kettles. Harry didn't notice anything out of the ordinary and frowned at Ondossi, but she continued to point toward the cooktop. "Above it, in the funnel," she whispered.
Harry looked up at the large round exhaust vent over the range, still unsure what she was on about, then he spotted it: What he had taken for reflections of the cooking flames were, in fact, two Fireflies, slowly spiraling down through the flue. His jaw dropped, and both of them scooted off the sideboard to their feet, their eyes never leaving the flickering Flies. Once they had cleared the conical hood, the Flies stopped spiraling and flew side-by-side at a casual pace across the kitchen, soaring down the hallway a scant meter from where Harry and Ondossi were standing.
Too dumbfounded for words, the two of them followed as the Flies wove their way down the branching hall, then dipped down a very narrow staircase. This ended in what was once a wine cellar but had obviously fallen into disuse, as it was now littered with empty, broken racks and barrels, and spent corks. The Flies honed onto a large barrel with several missing slats and ducked inside it.
Harry stubbed his toe immediately as he tried to navigate the dark, unkempt room, but Ondossi was clearly in her element and moved silently through the rubble, pulling Harry by the hand to the faintly-glowing barrel. She glanced up at him with a buoyant grin and tossed her head toward the opening, bouncing excitedly on her toes as she waited for him to look inside.
He poked his head between the missing slats and beheld, in the Fireflies' contented glow, a heap of familiar items from Grimmauld Place, including a small hand mirror identical to the one he'd left hidden in Dobby's cupboard.
Write a Review Harry Potter and the Heirs of Slytherin: 20: Overtime