A/N: This story takes place during HBP, after Harry begins his lessons with Dumbledore but before he is shown the memory about Tom Riddle finding out about Hufflepuff's Cup.
Harry stared out the window into the pouring rain. He was currently standing at the foot of the stairs leading up the astronomy tower, not that he was on his way to a class, but had simply ended up there during his wanderings. Ron and Hermione were busy with prefect duties, Luna was tracking down what she claimed was an infestation of nargles in the girls bathroom, and Neville was in the hospital wing waiting for yet another broken wrist to mend. Harry sighed, no one to talk to, nothing particularly interesting to do other then wander about the nearly deserted corridors. Harry was just working his way into a good sulk when a squeaky voice made him jump.
“Harry!” Colin Creevey squeaked, “Harry! I have a note for you! I think it’s from Dumbledore!”
In his hurry to hand the note Harry the small boy tripped over the hem of his overly long robe and toppled onto the floor at Harry’s feet. He rolled onto his back, and smiling handed the note up to Harry.
Harry shook his head as he watched Colin scramble to his feet, then quickly unrolled the parchment. It was, in fact, a message form the headmaster and Harry’s mind raced as he read the familiar slanted handwriting.
It would be much appreciated if you could join me in office this afternoon around four.
Ps It would be lovely if you brought some treacle tart with you.
Harry perked up immediately. A meeting with Dumbledore was sure to bring a little excitement to such a dreary day. Harry glanced at his watch and was pleased that is was nearly quarter to four already. With a grin he thanked Colin then turned and quickly made his way towards the Headmaster’s office. Two winding staircases, three obscenely long hallways and one run in with Peeves later Harry stood before the Gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster’s office.
The gargoyle stared down at Harry through his gray stone eyes, “Password.” The statue demanded in a gruff voice.
“Treacle Tart.” Harry recited, then darted through the opening behind the gargoyle and up the stairs.
The door to Dumbledore’s office stood open, and before Harry could tap on the door frame the Headmaster looked up from his desk and gestured him into the room. Harry glanced at his watch, once again, as he walked towards the great oak desk in the center of the room. Dumbledore smiled kindly at him, resting his hands on a large wooden box atop his desk.
“Harry, so glad you could join me. Please, help yourself to a sherbet lemon or two while we await the arrival of our other guests.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, obvious confusion slipping through his voice. “May I ask who we’re waiting for?”
Just then there was a knock on the doorframe and Harry spun around to see a small girl with long dark hair and Asian features standing in the doorway.
“Su.” Dumbledore greeted her, “Please, come in.” As the girl entered the office, glancing around uncertainly, a tall boy with messy blond hair and a lopsided grin appeared behind her.
“Good afternoon Professor.” He said shyly.
Dumbledore grinned back, “Good afternoon Wayne . Please, both of you help yourselves to some sweets while we await the arrival of our final guest.”
Silence enveloped the room for a moment as the three students stared blankly into the candy bowl, each of them wondering why they had been called to the Headmaster’s office.
“Ah, Tracey. Thank you for joining us.” Dumbledore said, his voice breaking the silence as a portly girl with curly brown hair entered the room.
“Now that we’re all accounted for please make yourselves comfortable and I will explain why I have called you here.”
Dumbledore twirled his wand and four comfy looking arm chairs appeared in a circle in the middle of the room. Still uncertain, the four students arranged themselves stiffly in the chairs and stared at the Headmaster, silently waiting for his explanation.
Dumbledore rose from his desk, and carrying the wooden box slowly made his way to the center of the room.
“As I’m sure you’ve notice, all four houses are represented in this room; Harry Potter from Gryffindor, Su Li from Ravenclaw, Wayne Hopkins from Hufflepuff and Tracey Davis from Slytherin.” He began, nodding his head at each student in turn. “In my hands I hold a problem, a difficult problem that I need each of you to help me with. This box has recently come into my possession, but unfortunately I have been unable to open it. My curiosity has been peeked, and I truly wish to know its content.”
Harry broke his gaze away from the box and glanced around the room at the other students. Su was staring, unblinking, at the headmaster, her lips curled up into a slight smile. Wayne was staring intently at his shoes, obviously trying to figure out what this had to do with him, and Tracey sat perfectly still with the trademark Slytherin sneer marring her already homely face. Harry had had enough experience with Dumbledore’s requests that he knew everything would be explained eventually and leaned back in his chair as the headmaster began to speak once again.
“As you can see,” Dumbledore continued, placing the box on a small table that he wordlessly conjured in the center of the circle of chairs, “this box is embossed with the Hogwarts school crest. It also has an inscription as well and as you can see there area no locks or hinges. No obvious way to gain entrance.”
Harry and Su leaned forward to get a better view of the crest and inscription, Wayne shuffled his, but leaned forward as well. Tracey did not move, she sat rigidly in her seat, staring pointedly at Harry.
“The inscription,” Dumbledore went on, oblivious to the reaction of his students. “reads: [i]United we stand, and unite you must, for the way in, is to learn to trust[/i].”
Dumbledore paused and looked up, “After that there seems to be a puzzle of sorts, but the beginning is the reason I have called you here.”
Dumbledore stepped away from the table and slowly made his way around the circle touching each student’s shoulder as he passed.
“It is obvious to me that the original owner of the box intended for the four houses to work together in order to open this box. I have chosen you four because you each have skills I believe will enable you to solve the puzzle.”
All four students stared open mouthed at him, but still no one spoke.
“Wayne , I have heard that you have an interest in codes and ciphers, and seem to be quiet talented when it comes to solving them. Su, Professor Flitwick tells me that you’re the one the others in your house turn to when faced with a particular tough riddle. Tracey, you have the reputation of being one of the most clever students in your house, and Harry, you have a knack for finding your way out of difficult situation as well as the ability to lead.”
Dumbledore returned to the center of the circle and placed his hand on the worn wooden box, “I would truly appreciate it if the four of you would spare me the time to help with this little problem.”
Harry met Dumbledore’s eyes and after a moment understood the importance of this task. He realized that what the Headmaster wasn’t telling them was that the box may have an important clue that would help in the quest to defeat Lord Voldemort, and that he was expecting Harry to find a way to bring the four houses together in order to obtain this information. Harry nodded, accepting the Headmaster’s silent request, then looked away. Su nodded quickly, her expression giving away her eagerness to start solving the puzzle, Wayne gave a quick head-bob and went back to staring at his shoes, Tracey met Dumbledore’s gaze, and after a moment gave a curt nod.
“Wonderful!” Dumbledore exclaimed, “I hope the four of you will be able to start on this right away,” he paused and glanced up at a strange looking clock hanging in the far corner of the room, “well, after you’ve had your supper of course.”
Harry stayed behind when the other students left for the Great Hall.
“Professor?” he asked quietly, “This has to do with ‘him’ doesn’t it.”
Dumbledore looked at Harry through suddenly weary blue eyes and nodded.
“It does Harry.” He answered, “And if I am correct the content of that box will bring us one step closer to understanding what Voldemort did after leaving Hogwarts. I have many theories, and that box just might lend some weight to the one I have been favoring.”
Dumbledore held Harry’s eye for a moment then continued. “I need you to bring them together, to find a way to unite the four houses again, even if it is only a temporary alliance. I’m counting on you.”
Harry felt the burden that had been placed on him weigh heavily on his shoulders. It was a feeling he had become accustom to in the past few years and looked the Professor in the eye when he answered.
“I won’t let you down.”
Dumbledore simply nodded, a kind smile tipping the corners of his mouth upward, then gestured towards the door.
“Go get your super Harry.” He said gently, then turned back towards his desk.
Harry sat silently through dinner while Ron and Hermione badgered him with questions. When he finally gave in and told his friends what was going on Ron was impressed.
“You’ll figure it out no problem!” He told Harry encouragingly. Hermione, on the other hand, became quiet and withdrawn.
“I don’t know why he didn’t ask you either.” Harry told her quietly, “You’re definitely smarter than I am.”
That seemed to cheer her up a bit because she began asking questions. When Harry told them the part about having to unite the four houses they both gasped, then Ron began to laugh.
“Good luck with that.” He told Harry, punching him in the shoulder.
Harry barely touched his dinner, and by the time the tables magically cleared themselves the Great Hall was nearly empty. But Harry remained in his seat, absently staring down at the random patterns found in the grain of the wooden table.
“Well,” Ron said, bringing Harry out of his stupor, “We’re off. I have a pile of Transfiguration homework and Hermione promised to help me with it. Right ‘Mione.”
Hermione shook her head, unable to hide the small smile that mad her lips twitch. Harry was glad that his two best friends had finally figured out the reason they argued so much, but he couldn’t help feeling slightly jealous when he saw them together. There had been a time when Harry had thought himself in love with Hermione, but even then it had been easy to see that they would never be more than friends. And that was ok.
“Before you start, Hermione could I borrow your Ancient Ruins books? Just incase.”
Hermione jumped to her feet, “Of course!” and with that they left the Great Hall and made their way through the crowds and up to the Gryffindor Common Room.
Twenty minutes later Harry sat in the abandoned class room that Dumbledore had directed him to staring at the box and awaiting the arrival of the other students. He had barley began to think of ways to unite the houses when Su poked her head into the room. Harry smiled and greeted the Ravenclaw and was rewarded with a small smile and a nod.
Well, at least Gryffindor and Ravenclaw get along fairly well. That’s one less difficulty to solve. Harry just thought to himself.
Su walked quickly to the table in the center of the room and ran her eager hands over the box.
“Should we wait for the others?” she asked Harry, never taking her eyes off the box.
Harry bit his lip. He had never been gifted at diplomacy, and debated a moment before answering.
“Let’s give the others a few minutes. That way we can all start in the same place and won’t have to waste time updating people as they come in.”
Su nodded, “Good, good. Do you think we’ll need anything else for this?”
Harry, who had just been thinking the same thing, nodded. “I think we should use the blackboard to make a list of ideas as we come up with them. That way we can keep track of any progress, and cross off the ones that come to dead ends.” Even as Su smiled Harry began to laugh. “I swear I’m starting to sound like Hermione.”
Su let out a giggle, “That’s not a bad thing Harry, she’s one smart witch. Actually, she was a topic of discussion in Ravenclaw for sometime. We still wonder how she didn’t end up in our house.”
Harry laughed again, “We tease her about that too.” He said with a wink.
Just then Wayne let the classroom door close behind him.
“What’s the joke?” he asked quietly as he ambled towards the table.
Harry began to say ‘nothing,’ it was an automatic response, but at the last minute he changed his mind.
“We were just having a laugh about the fact that people in both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw wonder why Hermione Granger wasn’t sorted into Ravenclaw.”
“Hm.” Wayne responded in a tone that almost sounded like a laugh, “That is an interesting though. I always wondered…”
But Harry and Su never found our exactly what it was that Wayne had wondered because just then the door closed loudly and they all turned to find Tracey glowering at them from the doorway.
Harry took a deep breath and braced himself before speaking.
“Hi.” He said cheerily, looking directly at Tracey. “Now that we’re all here I think we should go ahead and begin.”
“Who died and made you the Queen.” He heard Tracy mutter as she walked stiffly towards the table.
Harry took a deep breath and continued without acknowledging the comment.
“Su, do you know where they keep the chalk in here?”
“Probably in the desk,” She answered brightly, obviously trying to ignore the waves of rage that were rolling off the Slytherin who stood a few feet behind her. “I’ll go check.”
Wayne took another step forward and quietly inspected the box. Beneath the inscription the Headmaster had read to them there were several strange symbols arranged in an even more peculiar manner. Su appeared across the table from Harry, chalk in hand just as Wayne reached for the box.
“OK, where should we start?” she asked, her question obviously directed at Harry.
Harry let out a slow breath. This was the part that he hated, that moment when everyone was staring at him, waiting for him to tell them what to do. No matter what Dumbledore said, Harry had never felt like a leader and it took everything in him to open his mouth and make the first suggestion.
“OK,” he said hesitantly. “Obviously we need to figure out what those symbols mean, but I think the box is too small for everyone to study it at the same time.” Harry sucked in some air, “Does anyone think they can put the symbols on the blackboard, exactly as they are on the box, only bigger?”
There was silence in the room as everyone stared up at the blank blackboard.
“Well, I guess we could try to charm them up there.” Su said uncertainly after a moment.
Harry let out the breath he had been holding as Wayne nodded his head in agreement.
“Lets see…” Su muttered, thinking out loud. “Effingo Statua!” she said loudly pointing her wand first at the box then at the blackboard.
There was a flash of light and the symbols from the box appeared in shimmering silver for a moment, then faded away. Su frowned and tried again, and again the symbols flashed up in the blackboard then faded away. By the fourth try a trickle of sweat dripped off the tip of her nose and the cress between her furrowed eyebrows has become so deep that Harry began to wonder if it would be etched there permanently.
“I don’t think it’s going to work.” He said quietly as Su lowered her wand.
Su frowned, “The box must be charmed so that the symbols can’t be copied by magic.”
She looked around the room as she shoved her wand back into her robes. Harry, who stood closest to her looked slightly amused and she wondered if he was trying not to laugh at her. Wayne stood a few feet away, staring at the box once again, his lower lip caught between his teeth. Tracey stood at the other end of the table glaring at Harry and Su with an annoyed expression.
“Can anyone here draw?” Harry asked suddenly.
Su shook her head and followed Harry’s eyes to Wayne . Wayne stared at the box a moment longer, then shook his head. Tracey said nothing.
“Tracey,” Harry began.
“Who said you could use my first name Potter?” snapped before he could go on.
Harry took a deep breath, tamped down his temper and continued as though he had not been interrupted.
“Can you draw?”
Tracey’s lips pulled back into a unpleasant sneer and Harry though he heard a quiet snarl escape her lips as she stood, cross armed, glaring at him.
Su stood nervously glancing back and forth between the Slytherin and the Gryffindor silently wondering who would win if it came down to a fight. Her money was on Harry.
Harry held Tracey’s icy stare and spoke so quietly that Su barely heard him.
“May I have the chalk Su?” he asked holding his hand out.
Su placed the slim chalk stick in Harry’s outstretched hand, then stepped back. She wasn’t sure what he was planning, but she knew she did not want to be standing in the middle if curses stared flying.
Without taking his eyes off Tracey’s Harry slowly walked forward. When he was no more then three feet away from the Slytherin girl he held out the hand with the chalk in it.
“The quicker we get this over with, the quicker we can all get out of here.” He told her, his voice strong and steady.
Tracey held his stare for a few seconds then snatched the chalk out of Harry’s hand.
“You! Puff! Bring that box over hear.” She snapped as she walked towards the board.
Wayne began to comply, but Harry held up a hand.
“His name is Wayne .” Harry said, in his best impression of Professor Dumbledore, “And I think that this would go much easier if we spoke to each other in a respectful manner.”
Tracey stopped but did not turn around, but her suddenly ridged posture told everyone that she was not used to being reprimanded and was debating what to do about it.
“ Wayne ,” she finally said, her voice dripping with sarcasm, “Would you please bring the box over here so I can draw the symbols for the… for Potter to inspect.”
Harry nodded, understanding that it was the best he was going to get, and Wayne moved forward, the wooden box clenched tightly in his hands.
Fifteen minutes later Tracey had transposed the images to the blackboard, exactly as they were on the box. Harry walked forward taking the drawings in.
“Excellent job.” He said absently, but received no response.
Su and Wayne followed Harry to the board, each of them standing slightly behind him and to either side. When Harry noticed their formation he had to stifle a laugh realizing that they were in Ron and Hermione’s usual positions. He shook it off, grinning to himself, and resumed his staring at the symbols. They meant absolutely nothing to him.
Su cocked her head to the side, trying to look at the symbols from a different angle and Wayne tapped his foot, running his fingers through his hair.
Harry stared till his eyes burned, and nearly jumped out of his skin when Wayne spoke.
“They sort of look like flowers in the first two pictures.” He said, more to himself than the room.
Harry cocked his head to the side and focused on the first image. It was four small symbols side by side in a straight line, the second image had the same four symbols, but instead of a straight line they were in s circle, the edges of each symbol touching the others.
“You know,” Harry said taking a step closer, “That second one sort of looks like a thistle.”
Excited Su bolted forward, “The first one! The first one’s a daffodil!”
Harry felt Wayne behind him, and managed not to jump when that soft voice came form directly behind him.
“The third one’s a poppy.” Wayne smiled, “My mother has a ton of them in the backyard, I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.”
“But what’s the fourth one?” Su asked, squinting at the image.
Wayne shook his head, “I’ve never seen it before. Harry?”
“No idea.” Harry answered frowning, “But it has to be another sort of flower… doesn’t it?”
The three of them stared at the board, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, side by side with identical looks of frustration on their faces. The silence carried on until Harry finally squeaked his eyes shut and stepped away. Su and Wayne turned to see where Harry was going, and were surprised to him walking in quick circles only a few feet behind them.
They stared for a moment, then Wayne began to laugh. Not the quiet giggle they had head from him before, but a full rich laugh that had Harry’s head snapping up.
“You should have seen yourself.” Wayne said grinning, “A little bit smaller of a circle and people will think you’re practicing for your apperation test.”
Harry looked down at his feet then back up at Wayne , “Sorry, I think better when I’m moving.” He said, trying not to laugh.
Su giggled, “If it helps you figure out what that last symbol is make all the circles you need.”
Harry laughed and walked back towards the board. He stared hard at the last symbol and jumped when Tracey spoke.
“It’s an Erica Vagans, a Cornish Heath.” She said, without looking up, “It’s the symbol of Cornwall .”
Harry did not turn away from the blackboard until he was able to stop grinning and composed his face into a calm expression.
“Thank you Tracey.” He said, staring at her until she looked up.
“Su, would you mind writing the names of the flowers on the other end of the blackboard? My handwriting is horrible… or so Hermione keeps telling me.” Harry said, allowing a bit of amusement to slip into his voice.
As she wrote Su ran over what they had figured out.
“So we know the first two images are made up of four flowers. Thistle, Daffodil, Poppy, and Cornish Heath. We know that the Cornish Heath is a symbol of Cornwall , do we know if the other flowers are representative of any other particular regions?”
“Poppy’s are for Norfolk .” Wayne said immediately, then blushed. “My mother grew up there.”
Su nodded and wrote Norfolk in the column she had created for the Poppy.
“What about the Daffodil or Thistle?”
Harry shook his head, “Neville would know. Plants are sort of his thing, but he’s up in the hospital wing.”
Su stared at the board, Wayne shuffled his feet, Tracey remained silently standing beside the table.
Harry sighed, “Shall we go to the library then?”
Su all but bolted towards the door, her Ravenclaw need to do research pushing her ahead of the rest.
Harry couldn’t help laughing as he remembered the thousands of times he had seen Hermione do the very same thing.
He followed her out into the hall with Wayne right behind him. A few seconds later Harry heard a fourth set of footsteps dragging behind them.
Madam Pince was just closing the doors to the library when they arrived.
“Dumbledore told me you four might be along.” She said, glaring at the students. “You could have come before closing. Go on, the Headmaster said I was to let you in no matter the time. But I’m warning you, if I find a single book out of place in the morning it will be your hides.” And with that she turned and walked away.
“Well at least we won’t have her shushing us every two minutes.” Wayne said as he held the door open for the others to enter.
Su giggled and immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, an old habit from spending hours in the library through out her years at Hogwarts.
An hour later Harry, Su and Wayne found themselves sitting on the floor of the library surrounded by books. Tracey sat stiffly at a table behind them.
“I found something!” Su cried out suddenly making everyone jump. “Right here, it says that the Daffodil is the flower of Wales . Wait a second.”
Su closed her eyes tightly, rubbing her temples with her fingers, “My first year, during the sorting, the hat said something.” A quiet growl escaped her throat as she tried to force the memory to the surface.
“Ha! The song, the sorting hat said ‘bold Gryffindor, from wild moor, fair Ravenclaw, from glen, sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad, shrewd Slytherin, from fen.’ Valley Broad, that refers to Wales , Fen is the area around Norfolk , just north of London .”
She paused and bit her lip.
“Moor, isn’t that West Country? Near Cornwall ?” Wayne asked.
“Yes!” Su exlamed jumping up, “But what in Merlin’s name is Glen? I’ve never heard of anything in England referred to as Glen.”
Tracey snickered, “Don’t you know that the founder of your own house isn’t from England . Glen referrers to Scotland .”
Su ignored the snide comment and turned back to Harry.
“Do you get it? The flowers, they’re the symbols of the places the founders are from. I’m willing to bet that we’ll find that the thistle is a symbol of Scotland !”
Harry grinned, they were finally making progress and he had to admit, there was a feeling of unity beginning to develop between him and two of the three other houses represented in the room. He knew he just had to find a way to get through to Tracey.
“That’s great! Finally something to go on!” He said, his excitement matching Su’s. “I think we should go back to the classroom and add this to our list.”
Wayne walked beside Harry in the hall as Su skipped ahead. Tracey strolled just behind the two boys, her steps a little quicker then they had been earlier.
In the class room Su added the new information to the list then stepped back to examine the symbols once again.
“Ok,” Harry began after a moment. “In the first image the flowers are separate, each one an individual. We know now that the flowers represent the Founders. In the second image the flowers are combined. This has to be what Dumbledore was saying with the unity thing, about the houses having to come together. But we are together.” Harry frowned. “We’ve been working on this together for hours. Do you think there’s something more we need to do?”
“Maybe we need the actual flowers.” Wayne suggested. “I’m pretty sure Professor Sprout has all of these in the greenhouses.” He paused, running his thumb over his lower lip. “Let me go get her. Meet me near the Great Hall in ten minutes!” he finished, his words jumbling together in excitement, and then ran out the door without waiting for an answer.
Ten minutes later Wayne appeared in front of the Great Hall with a red-faced Professor Sprout behind him.
“Just give me a minute to catch my breath.” She panted leaning against the wall, “Then we’ll go get your flowers.”
When he opened the doors to the main entrance Harry couldn’t help grinning. He couldn’t think of anything more refreshing than the feeling of the cool night air on his face, and was instantly revived as they walked quickly towards the greenhouses.
Between Professor Sprout and Wayne the had the flowers they needed gathered in only a few minutes, and less then a half hour later the four of them stood in a circle around the box in the otherwise empty classroom.
Wayne stood at the head of the table and handed out the flowers.
“Thistles for the Ravenclaw, Cornish Heath for the Gryffindor,” he said as he handed Su and Harry the flowers representing their house founders. “Daffodils for Hufflepuff,” He went on placing the flower on the table in front of him, “And Poppies for Slytherin.”
Wayne held the bright red flower out to Tracey. She stood motionless for a moment, her expression guarded, but lacking her usual sneer. Slowly she reached out and took the flower from Wayne and silently took her place on the fourth side of the table.
“Now what?” Harry asked twirling the flower in his fingers.
“I think we need to make a circle with them, like in the picture.” Su said quietly, “Do you think we should place them on the box?”
Harry shrugged, “Sounds like a good plan to me.” And taking a deep breath he placed the Cornish Heath on the box, “For Gryffindor.” He said quietly.
Wayne, who stood to Harry’s right placed the bright yellow Daffodil on the box, making sure it’s end touched the Cornish Heath, “For Hufflepuff.” He said, copying Harry.
Su leaned forward and placed her Thistle on the box, its steam overlapping the Daffodil’s petals, “For Ravenclaw.” She said quickly, then turned and faced Tracey.
Again Tracey hesitated. It was not easy for her to lay aside prejudices that had been engrained in her family generation after generation, but as she stared at the wooden box it slowly dawned on her that the other people in the room had been nothing but kind to her since they had been thrust together. She had thrown up every defense she knew, had met kindness with sarcasm and acceptance with hate, and now she stood staring at the incomplete ring of flowers on the ancient box wondering if she would be able to lay down her flower and complete the circle.
She looked up and saw three faces staring back at her. And in those faces there was no hate, no repulsion, only curiosity and anticipation. Taking a deep breath Tracey met Harry’s eye and placed her flower on the box completing the circle.
Every one stood motionless as Harry and Tracey continued to stare at each other, and it was Su’s gasp that broke the connection.
In the center of the ring of flowers the box began to glow a pale gold and they all leaned forward as silver words began to form with in the ring.
One by one and once again
The one beside you was meant to be your friend
Joined together now reach across
And clasp the hand of a brother lost
Now once again you face the past
Reach across and make it fast
A lifelong grudge ends at last.
Harry read the shimmering words a second time then looked around him. Su and Wayne were staring at him, each of them knowing what needed to be done. He shifted his gaze to Tracey, who was still staring at the box. It was several long minutes before anyone spoke, and it was Tracey who broke the silence.
"Since I was a little girl I was told that people who were placed in Hufflepuff were stupid and useless." She paused, gathering her thoughts before looking up at Wayne and continuing. "I've learned today that neither of those stereotypes are true." And reaching out a trembling hand she forged the first link in a chain that had been broken for far too long. Wayne took her outstretched hand and smiled, the words on the box shivered, but remained.
"Harry," Su began turning to face him, "I've always thought that Gryffindors were foolish showoffs incapable of using logic. In this short time you have proved me wrong."
She held out a slender hand which Harry took without hesitation. The words on the book shined brighter than before.
"Su," Wayne said, his hand already outstretched, “I always thought that Ravenclaw was full of snobby know-it-alls. You have shown me that while you are intelligent, you are far from snobby." And as the third link was formed the entire box seemed to glow a dull gold.
Harry stood silently, his finger unconsciously tightening around Su's. He knew what had to be done to finish what they had started, but he had yet to find the words. He closed his eyes and let out a slow breath before looking up at Tracey.
"I was raised by muggles." Harry began, staring directly into Tracey's surprisingly damp eyes. "That alone offends you, through no fault of your own. I was not raised to hate pure-bloods, until I was eleven I didn't even know what that word really meant. I was raised by anger and indifference. My Aunt and Uncle never really wanted me, I was a burden, so I know what it is like to be hated for something that you never had any control over. My very existence offended their sensibilities. The same way I was told that my existence offends pure-bloods, offends Slytherins. But I have learned that people are not simply the label attached to them. I'm willing to look beyond the label and see the girl behind he serpent badge. You have helped us more that I could have ever imagined. And though I doubt it will change anything outside of this room, I offer my hand to you, not because an ancient box tells me I should, but because I want to. I offer my hand to help end a feud that began long before either of us were born, but hopefully does not get passed on to our children. We don't need anymore hate in this world."
And with that Harry held is hand out, over the clasped hands of the Ravenclaw and the Hufflepuff, and waited for the Slytherin to make her choice.
Tracey stared back into Harry's eyes, searching for lies, waiting for the catch, but saw nothing but unclouded pools of deep green. There was no treachery, no tricks, and as she raised her arm and placed her hand in his she knew that it had begun. Changes were coming, and for the first time in her life she was proud that she was a part of it.
The silver words shot out blinding rays of light and the box shook violently as a crease appeared that had not been there before. The box shook again, and another crease appeared several inches below the first. As the four watched, hands still clasped, a draw slid out of the side of the box. It was lined with black velvet, the emblem of a tiny badger embossed into the fabric in the bottom corner. In the center was the indentation the size and shape of a drinking goblet, and that was it. The box was empty.
A sudden loud clapping sound made them jump, and they turned as one to see Professor Dumbledore standing only a few feet behind Harry.
"Well done," he said jovially, "All of you very well done. I knew you could do it if you put your minds together."
Harry now stood, his hands hanging limply at his sides, his fingers still tingling from the power they had just witnessed. When they had jumped the connection had been broken, but the drawer remained open. Dumbledore walked forward and inspected the box briefly.
"It is as I suspected." he said with a chuckle. "Now all of you, off to bed. It has been a long night and you need your rest."
One by one they stepped away from the table and turned towards the door. Wayne's hand was nearly on the door knob when Dumbledore spoke again.
"And as you sleep tonight, tucked comfortably into your beds, remember what you can accomplish if only you work together." And without another word he picked up the box, strolled by the stunned students, and by the time any of them thought to look around, he was gone.
"Well," Harry said holding the door open as Su and Tracey exited the class room behind himself and Wayne, "I guess its goodnight then."
"Good night Harry." Su said as she reached out her hand once again.
Harry smiled and took her hand, "Good night Su."
Wayne moved beside Harry and took his other hand as well as Su's free one. "Good night Harry, Su." he said with a grin.
Without prompting Tracey moved forward and took Harry and Wayne's hands. "Good night then." She said quietly.
They stood for a moment, the circle that the founders had originally intended once again complete before turning away one by one, heading back to the houses that separated them.
Well I was right, Harry thought to himself as he crawled into bed, a note from Dumbledore always makes for an interesting evening. And that was his last thought before falling asleep, and while he slept Harry dreamt of a lion, a badger, a snake and an eagle laying together peacefully, protected by a ring of flowers.