Chapter 13 : The Spider
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The door of the staff room’s closed when we get there, and there’s a faint rim of light showing around the edges. I nudge Harry. “There’s never a light in there,” I whisper. “They don’t bother because no one ever uses it for anything.” I press my ear against the wood, but I can’t hear anything. “I’ll bet they’re in there,” I say, frustrated. We don’t dare open the door - even with the Invisibility Cloak, it’d be a bit noticeable.
Harry fishes in his pocket and produces a set of Invisible Ears. Grinning at me triumphantly, he feeds them under the door. At first I can’t hear anything, but then someone speaks.
Unfortunately, he’s not speaking English. “What’s that, Bulgarian?” Harry whispers.
I shrug. Just because I’ve been living here for two months, he needn’t expect me to know the difference. Foreign is foreign as far as I’m concerned. “Great,” I say, annoyed. “Why the hell can’t they speak English, anyway? What about Gamp?”
“That was Gamp,” Harry answers. “He went to school here -he probably picked it up then.”
Well, good for Jeremy bloody Gamp. We can’t all be language experts.
Harry’s fishing in his pockets again. “Got a quill?” he whispers.
Of course I do. I’m a teacher now; I always have quills. I hand it over, watching as Harry starts scribbling on a crumpled bit of parchment. “I’m going to write it down phonetically,” he explains, seeing my expression. “There’s bound to be someone who can translate it.”
It’s not a bad idea - if they can make any sense out of what Harry’s writing. I leave him to it and concentrate on recognizing as many voices as I can. That’s Kirilov (no surprises there), and that’s Etilka (nor there)… that one’s only vaguely familiar, but I’m quite sure it’s that weird bloke who teaches Astronomy. Krum was right about him, then.
Suddenly I recognize a word. Two words as a matter of fact.
“Lucius Malfoy!” I mouth, looking at Harry.
He nods and continues with his writing.
Well, well. Up to his old tricks, is he? Or not, possibly, seeing as I haven’t heard his voice yet. I suppose they might just be saying Malfoy isn’t on their side anymore - but somehow, I highly doubt it.
Kirilov’s speaking again, saying more names. Harry writes them down, pausing to give me a questioning look.
“They’re students,” I say grimly. “And you’ve spelled Grigor’s name wrong.” Actually, he’s spelled all of them wrong. But it doesn’t matter. I know who they are.
Harry stops writing and stares at me. “Students?” he whispers. “Half-bloods?”
“Nope,” I say. “Recruits, probably.”
Kirilov pauses, and a new voice speaks. It’s not as deep as his voice - it’s younger; less sure of itself.
“That’s him,” I whisper, tapping Grigor’s name on the parchment.
Grigor goes on, speaking slowly and solemnly - almost as though he’s repeating something he’s learned off by heart. Or as if…
Harry says it first. “I think,” he whispers, leaning toward me, “that he’s just been sworn into the Brotherhood.”
We listen as the process is repeated with three others - all young boys, by the sound of it. Ron seems to know who they are, which is a good thing seeing as I’ve probably mangled their names.
Eventually the initiation ceremony’s followed by the sounds of general conversation. I hear a few chairs being pushed back. Footsteps are coming nearer to the door.
“Hurry up!” Ron whispers. I reel the Ears back in and stuff them into my pocket. The two of us take off, just as the door opens.
There’s no time to get away. We press ourselves into a small recess in the wall and watch as the room empties out. Four boys leave first, dressed in the blood-red robes of Durmstrang students. Those must be the new recruits. They look half-frightened, half-excited as they hurry past us.
The boys are followed by a woman. She’s not dressed for outdoors, so it’s a safe bet that she came from here in the castle. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the Ancient Runes professor, the one who first contacted Harris.
And here’s Gamp, dressed once more as a Muggle ghost and escorted by two men, one of whom I’m pretty sure is Kirilov. I’m about to follow them when Ron grabs my arm and nods frantically at the doorway. Three other people are emerging - two men and a woman, all wearing heavy fur robes.
“Who are they?” I mouth, and Ron shrugs.
The three turn in the opposite direction from Gamp and his friends. We wait, but that seems to be all. I look at Ron as the last of the footsteps die away. His Polyjuice is starting to wear off and he’s starting to look more like himself again. (He’s also taking up considerably less space under the Cloak.) “We could split up and follow them,” he’s whispering. “I don’t dare let Baranov spot me near the door again, but I could find out where those others are going.”
“No, you couldn’t,” I whisper back. “Ron Weasley can’t afford to be seen here any more than Harry Potter can.”
Ron looks down at himself in annoyance. “The Polyjuice flask is in the pocket of my fur cloak,” he admits. “I knew you should’ve let me wear it, Harry.”
No, I shouldn’t. “Which do you think?” I ask. “Gamp’s supposed to be my quarry, but - "
“But he’s probably not going anywhere except back to London,” Ron agrees. “Let’s follow the other lot.”
But the corridor and all of the rooms leading of it are deserted. “They might be anywhere,” I say, finally admitting defeat after we’ve searched what feels like the whole castle. “They probably left through a different door or something.”
“Let’s go back to my rooms and talk it over,” Ron agrees. “You can stay for a bit, can’t you, Harry?”
There’s a hopeful note in his voice that reminds me of just how lonely the past two months have probably been for him. “Course I can,” I agree.
Ron’s transformation is complete by the time we’ve locked ourselves in his quarters and removed the Invisibility Cloak. “You’ve no idea what a relief it is to stop being Harris for a bit,” he says, stretching. “Care for a butterbeer, Harry? I think the kids left me a few bottles.”
“What kids?” I ask, sinking down onto one of the most comfortable sofas I’ve ever come across.
Ron looks slightly anxious. “The half-bloods,” he admits in a low voice. “I had a bit of a party for them here tonight - I’ve been teaching them Defense.”
I sit up straight. “You’ve what?”
“I had to,” Ron protests. “They’re not allowed to take Dark Arts, even though some of the purebloods like to practice on them. We’ve only done Shield Charms and Expelliarmus so far, but they picked it right up with a bit of practice.” He grins at me. “Bit like the old D.A., isn’t it?”
“You’d better hope there’s not a Marietta in your lot,” I warn him.
“There isn’t,” Ron says positively. “They’re all too scared of Baranov and the others to risk telling what they’ve been up to. Anyway, I don’t think they’re safe here. I told Krum to tell you.”
“He did,” I say with a sigh. “And I suppose I’d have done the same in your place.”
The anxious look crosses Ron’s face again. “No need to tell Gawain,” he warns, and I nod.
“Be careful, though,” I warn.
“What else have you learned at your end?” Ron asks, clearly ready to change the subject. I oblige by filling him in on what I’ve been doing, but I’m not sure he’s listening.
“What about Hermione?” he asks abruptly, proving my point.
“Hermione’s fine,” I repeat for the third time. “And so are the rest of your family - not that you’ve asked!”
“I was getting to them,” Ron says. “What’s she doing? Working too hard, probably.”
I hesitate. I can’t tell him about the stories that have been printed, or the endless media speculation that Hermione’s having an affair with either Basil Sedgewick or Viktor Krum. It’d just worry him, and there’s nothing he can do about it. “She got some good publicity on that Wolfsbane Project,” I say finally.
Ron nods. “Krum left me that issue of The Quibbler,” he says. “I’ve read it to shreds by now, I reckon. Do you see much of her?”
“Not that much,” I say reluctantly. “You know Hermione - work’s always been her way of coping. But she did come out to dinner with me and Ginny a few nights ago - and your mum's determined to make her spend Christmas at the Burrow.”
Ron slumps back in his chair, looking relieved. “I was afraid she might try to figure out where I’d gone,” he admits.
“There’s no way she could find out,” I say. “Unless you let something slip.”
“I was careful!” Ron protests. “But she’s clever, Hermione. She might easily figure it out if she put her mind to it.”
“She was the cleverest witch at Hogwarts when we were there,” I concede. “But even she couldn’t begin to guess where you are right now.”
I’m almost certain that Ron’s mission has something to do with Durmstrang. I just haven’t figured out exactly what it is, but Durmstrang seems to be popping up with an ominous regularity lately. The one place I’m certain he isn’t is South America - mostly because both Witch Weekly and Rita Skeeter’s column mentioned he’d been sighted in Brazil recently.
Now I pause outside the Quibbler offices. Xeno recently relocated to a small building on a side street in Diagon Alley, although he still seems to be the sole employee. I decided against sending an owl once I’d had a chance to think it over. It’d be a bit noticeable - assuming, of course, that anyone’s bothered to notice anything I do. Still, the habit of secrecy comes naturally after all that we went through with the Horcruxes.
While I’m hesitating, Xeno himself comes to the door and peers out. “Why, it’s Hermione Weasley!” he says, appearing entirely unsurprised to see me standing there. “Do come in and get warm, my dear - it’s a nasty day out!”
The rain that’s been threatening all morning has just started to fall, and the wind’s picked up. I follow Xeno inside gratefully, but decline his offer of gurdyroot tea. “I was just passing,” I say, taking the chair he indicates. “And I thought I’d look in and ask if you’d heard anything from Luna recently. Is she still in Tibet?”
Xeno beams. “I had an owl from her just two days ago,” he says. “They’ve given up the Tibet idea in favor of the Carpathian Mountains. I must say I was relieved - Everest is no joke at this time of year, you know!”
The Carpathian Mountains… when did I hear that recently? Probably Luna, describing them as the habitat of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack.
Xeno launches into a long description of the migratory pattern of the Snorkack, while I try to keep my skepticism from showing. I can’t just come right out and ask him about the Brotherhood of Blood - there’s got to be some way to lead up to it gradually.
And then I spot them. “Are those the Flashing Fangs?” I interrupt, crossing the room to pick up a rather too lifelike set of teeth. The fangs gnash themselves together, emitting colored sparks, and I hastily withdraw my hand.
“Indeed they are!” Xeno says, willing to be diverted. “A very clever man, George Weasley. He gave me that set for free because I told him so much about vampires.”
“They’re - er, very interesting,” I say. “I don’t know much about vampires myself, except for Dracula, of course.”
“My dear,” Xeno says pityingly. “Dracula was an amateur. I could tell you stories - but I suppose you haven’t much time?”
“As a matter of fact,” I say, reseating myself. “I’ve got an extra-long lunch hour today. I’d love to hear your stories.”
It’s brilliant having Harry here. I wish he could stay, but I can’t exactly hide him when they search my rooms all the time.
I’ve already brought Harry up to date on everything that’s happened here, and he’s just finished filling me in on what’s going on at his end. Now he’s looking at his watch. “I’d better go,” he says apologetically. “Look, I’ll ask Krum to bring you some proper food, all right? Anything else you need?”
“Hermione,” I say. Harry rolls his eyes. “All right, I know.” I think about if for a minute. “You might ask him to bring me a newspaper or something.”
“Right,” Harry says. He pulls a scrap of parchment out of his pocket and looks at it thoughtfully. “You haven’t got an English-to-Bulgarian dictionary, have you? We might have a go at translating some of this.”
“No dictionary in the world is going to recognize that as Bulgarian,” I say. “Anyway, I don’t think they even use the same alphabet we do. You’d better show it to someone at the Ministry - or maybe Krum would have a look at it for you.”
“There’s a limit to how much I want to trust him,” Harry says.
I stare at him. I thought I was the one who didn’t trust Krum. “Are you telling me he could be one of them?” I demand. “Does Gawain know?”
Harry shakes his head, looking uncomfortable. “I don’t really think he’s a traitor,” he says. “It’s just - well, I can’t get it out of my head, and I know he was under the Imperius Curse at the time, but - "
He’s not making sense. “When?” I say, and then I get it. “In the maze, you mean. During the third task.”
“Yeah,” Harry admits. “I know I’m being stupid.”
“It’s no worse than me not trusting him because he asked Hermione out,” I say. “Maybe you ought to leave the parchment with me. I’ll find a dictionary in the library and have a go.”
Harry hesitates. “It’s only till tomorrow,” I point out. “Krum will be here for the Quidditch match. If I haven’t got anywhere with it by the time he gets here, I’ll hand it over.”
“I reckon that’d be all right,” Harry agrees. “Now, how am I going to get out of here? Kirilov let some sort of drawbridge down before, but he may have taken it back up by now. Is the water frozen enough to cross without it?”
“What water?” I say. “That bridge goes over a canyon, not a stream.”
“Great,” Harry says unenthusiastically. “Don’t suppose you know the spell to let it down?”
“No,” I say. “But I know where they keep a couple of extra school brooms. They make the ones at Hogwarts look like Firebolts, but I reckon one of them ought to get you over the canyon all right.”
“And you’ve no idea who the others were?” Gawain asks for the third time.
“None,” I say, also for the third time. “Don’t their descriptions mean anything to you?”
“Not to me,” Gawain says thoughtfully. “I’d like to see what Krum thinks. I don’t suppose you could try sketching them?”
Even magic can’t make me a good artist, but I do my best. Gawain rolls his eyes over the result. “I don’t think it’s that bad,” I say defensively.
“They’re barely recognizable as humans,” Gawain says sternly. “Which one is supposed to be the woman?”
“That one, of course,” I say, pointing. I’ve given her long hair - is he blind? “Although she wasn’t exactly a beauty - her hands were as big as mine. Now, this bloke here was in dark-green robes and this one was in black. They both had beards, so it was hard to see their faces, but the dark-green one looked to be in his late forties and the one in black was quite a bit younger.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” Gawain says, picking up the sketch again. “As I recall, Weasley’s artistic skills are about on the same level as yours, so I don’t suppose there’s any point in having Krum ask him for his version.”
“It’s not something you can learn, drawing,” I protest. “Either you’ve got talent or you haven’t - and I’m willing to admit I haven’t. The only person I know who might be able to draw them properly is Dean Thomas, and seeing as he wasn’t there - " I stop in mid-sentence as an idea occurs to me.
Gawain eyes me. “Well?” he demands suspiciously.
I don’t dare to tell him I got the idea from one of Dudley’s favorite television shows, or he’ll never go for it. “If I described someone to Dean very carefully and asked him to draw the person I was telling him about… well, I wonder if he might come up with a decent likeness.”
Gawain’s silent for a minute, and I’m afraid he’s going to reject the idea. He’s not much on new ways of doing things. But to my surprise, he nods slowly.
“See if he’s able to come at once,” he says.
I’m not getting anywhere with this bloody dictionary. Mind, it would help if Harry’d spelled any of the Bulgarian words properly. Always assuming they are Bulgarian, that is. That lot in there could have been speaking Mermish for all we knew.
I turn the parchment upside down to see if it helps, but all it does it make Harry’s writing look marginally more like some of the unfamiliar symbols in the Bulgarian side of the dictionary. Maybe if I tried looking up the Bulgarian for words I thought they might have been using… words like Brotherhood, or blood, or -
“Professor?” a voice says hesitantly. “I am disturbing you?”
I hastily pull the dictionary over the scrap of parchment and look up. Oh, good, it’s just Anya. “Not at all,” I tell her. “Did you need something?”
Anya shakes her head. “I am just vishing to thank you for our party last night,” she assures me. “And for teaching us, as vell. Already ve are all practicing, and I am the best, I think.”
I do a hasty Muffliato, even though we’re alone. “I hope you’re being careful about where you practice,” I say, managing not to smile. It’s a good sign that Anya’s still got plenty of self-confidence, considering the way she gets treated around here.
“Alvays ve are careful,” Anya assures me. “But it is very good that ve vill have something to do this veekend, now that the Qvidditch match has been called off.”
I stare at her, dismayed. “Why’s it called off?” I demand.
Anya giggles. “You are vorking very hard if you are not noticing,” she says pointing to the window.
I look up. Bloody hell, it’s a blizzard.
“Already there is so much snow that ve could not go to Herbology,” Anya says. “It vill not be stopping for many days, I think.”
Great. “So Viktor Krum probably won’t be coming?” I ask, just to make sure.
Anya shrugs. “Vhat for?” she asks. “There vill be no Qvidditch - and I am thinking he probably is not missing the snow so much.”
I wouldn’t mind missing it myself. The storm gives me an eerie feeling of being trapped at Durmstrang.
“Soon it vill be the holidays and I vill see my family,” Anya says happily. “I am missing my little brothers, even, and I am never thinking I vould because they are so much trouble.”
I smile at her. I remember thinking I wouldn’t miss Ginny at all my first year, but I did - a little, anyway. “How old are your brothers?” I ask.
“Six,” Anya says. “They are tvins.”
“Really?” I say, pleased. “I have - er - friends who are twins.” Oops, that was a close one. I need to learn to be on my guard, even with Anya.
Anya looks politely unimpressed to hear this. “That is very interesting, Professor,” she lies. Her bright eyes drop to the book on my desk. “Professor! You also are learning! You vish to be speaking Bulgarian?”
“I’m afraid it’s a bit past me,” I admit. “I was just trying to look up a few words that I - er - overheard somewhere, but I don’t seem to be getting on with it very well.”
“I vill help you,” Anya offers. “Vhat are these vords?”
I hesitate, but the truth is that I probably trust Anya and the other halfblood kids a lot more than anyone else at Durmstrang. “Here,” I say, handing her the parchment.
Anya’s lips twitch as she looks at the parchment, but she’s heroically trying to keep a straight face. “You can laugh if you want,” I say resignedly. “I know nothing’s spelled properly.”
“These are not vords, I think!” Anya says, giggling. “Somevun maybe is playing a trick, Professor?”
“What if I read them out to you, the way they sounded to us - er, me?” I suggest. Haltingly, trying to recreate the accents of Gamp and the others, I read the nonsense words on the parchment aloud.
“Well?” I say at the end, looking up hopefully.
Anya’s face is puzzled. “You vill please say the vords again?” she asks.
I do my best.
“It is no vunder the dictionary vas not helping,” Anya says. “These vords you are saying sound to me like Romanian.”
Whatever. Like I said, foreign’s foreign. “Did it make any sense?” I ask.
“The first part means ‘in the spring time’, “ Anya says. “Something vill happen then.”
“What?” I ask.
Anya shrugs. “That I am not knowing, but the person speaking is saying it must all be very secret,” she answers. “He is saying that many peoples vill be joining them vhen it is time to act, and then he says it vill be in the spring.”
“Are you sure it means spring and not winter?” I ask hopefully. I don’t want to be stuck here that long. I’m almost afraid to ask her when spring comes at Durmstrang in case she says July.
Anya gives me a severe look. “They are not the same vord in Romanian, just as they are not in English,” she says. She takes the parchment from me again and looks it over. “Vhy are these names on here?” she asks. “Are these the people you vere hearing?”
Oh hell - Grigor and the others. “No,” I lie quickly. “That’s a list of kids who are going to get detentions next time they annoy me. I just scribbled the other thing over it because I hadn’t any other parchment with me.”
Anya looks approvingly at me. “These are good people for detentions,” she says. “Especially Grigor. Alvays he is annoying.” She looks down again. “Vhat are these numbers on the back?”
I’ve no idea. Probably Harry doing his banking or something. “I don’t know,” I say, truthfully enough. “Anya? This thing that’s going to happen in the spring - do any of these words tell you where it’s going to happen?”
“Oh, yes,” Anya says calmly. “It vill happen here at Durmstrang.”
No chance of me getting out of here before Christmas, then. I reach for the parchment again. “What about this bit here?” I ask, sounding out something that may or may not actually be a word.
“Paianjen,” Anya says, correcting my pronunciation. “It means spider.”
I knew I didn’t like that word. “That’s odd,” I say, fighting the urge to drop the parchment to the floor and stamp on it. “I can’t think of any reason why the - er, people I overheard would have been talking about spiders. The way they were saying this one word, it almost sounded like someone’s name.”
To my surprise, Anya’s face turns white. “Paianjen,” she whispers. “Oh, Professor, surely you are not thinking he is here at Durmstrang?”
“Oh, there you are, Hermione!” Mafalda says, looking up as I drop my bag onto my desk. “Someone’s been looking for you.”
“Basil?” I ask. Goodness, I hope not - I still haven’t finished researching those ancient property laws.
Mafalda shakes her head. “No, a Healer,” she answers. “I told him you were still at lunch. He seemed rather surprised.” She glances pointedly at her watch.
Shut up, Mafalda, I think. I’ve put in more hours than anyone else in this place - I’m entitled to the occasional long lunch. “Did he leave his name?” I ask, managing not to snap at her.
“He left you a note,” Mafalda says. She gives up all pretense of working, choosing instead to watch me as I unfold a piece of lime-green parchment. “I suppose it’s something to do with that Wolfsbane Project of yours.”
That’s what I’d expected, too. Only it isn’t. “I’ll be back in a moment,” I say, heading for the door.
“You’ve only just come back,” Mafalda protests. “Oh dear, I hope nothing’s gone wrong!”
“Make the nose a bit larger,” I say, leaning over Dean’s shoulder. “Yeah, like that… and the eyebrows ought to be a little thicker.” I close my eyes for a second, trying to remember. Aurors are trained to be observant, but there were so many people there that I didn’t recognize, I’m afraid I’m getting some of them mixed-up. I look down at the parchment under Dean’s hand. “That’s definitely one of them!” I say triumphantly. “Let’s try another!”
Half an hour later, we’ve got reasonably good facsimiles of the three strangers. “You’re brilliant,” I tell Dean gratefully.
“Excellent,” Gawain seconds. “I may need to call on you again, Mr. Thomas. You will naturally be compensated at whatever rates you normally charge.”
Dean grins at him. “Get Harry to pose for a portrait and we’ll call it even,” he suggests.
I groan. “Not that again?” I ask. “I thought I’d talked Kingsley out of it.”
“It’s not the Minister, mate,” Dean tells me. “It’s Professor McGonagall. Go on, you wouldn’t turn Hogwarts down, would you?”
Gawain looks mildly interested. “Is Minerva commissioning portraits for Hogwarts?” he asks.
Dean nods. “She wants one of Harry on his own for the Great Hall and one of him with Ron and Hermione for the Gryffindor Common Room.”
“Come on,” I protest, embarrassed. “I’ll have kids of my own one day - I don’t want them having to see me staring at them every time they sit down to do their homework.”
“Maybe they won’t be in Gryffindor,” Dean says, and then ducks as I throw one of the sketches at him.
“None of that,” Gawain says, but he looks amused as Dean rescues the sketch and gets to his feet. “I shall do my best, Mr. Thomas, but I fear it will be of little use.”
“That’s what I told the Headmistress,” Dean says philosophically. “Well, it was worth a go, anyway.”
I get up to show him out. “Seriously, Dean, try and talk her out of it,” I start, just as Hermione rounds the corner and comes hurrying toward us.
“Harry, I need to talk to you right away,” she says breathlessly. “I - oh, hello, Dean.”
“Hi,” Dean says. “Haven’t seen you since the wedding. How’s R-" He breaks off, looking uncomfortable.
“I had a note from Marvin,” Hermione says, ignoring Dean’s blunder and looking straight at me. “Could I have a quick word?”
“I can find my way to the lift all right,” Dean says quickly. It’s fairly obvious that he doesn’t quite know what to say to Hermione. “Oh - I nearly went off with this! Here you are, Harry.” He hands me the sketch I tossed at him earlier.
“Thanks again,” I call after him. I turn to Hermione. “What’s this about Marvin? Is there a problem with the Wolfsbane again?”
“Then you didn’t know,” Hermione says. “It’s nothing to do with the Wolfsbane, Harry. It’s Perdita. She’s left the Aurors.”
“Already?” I say, startled. “I didn’t think she was having the baby for months.”
“She isn’t, idiot,” Hermione says impatiently. “She resigned her position.”
Perdita? “There must be some mistake,” I say, but Hermione shakes her head.
“Marvin’s her husband, Harry,” she says. “I think he’d know.” She sighs. “I wish Ron were here to talk to her.”
“She wasn’t exactly speaking to him by the time he left,” I remind her. I’m not sure how much Hermione knows about Perdita, so I’ve got to go carefully here. “ Look, I think I know what’s wrong with Perdita, and I can sort of understand why she felt - "
“Oh, that nonsense about her brother,” Hermione interrupts. “As if anyone thinks she’d be involved in all that!”
Ah. Evidently she knows all of it. Nice one, Ron. “You aren’t supposed to know anything about that,” I tell her, looking nervously over my shoulder.
She waves this off. “Harry, you need to talk to her,” she says firmly.
“Why me?” I protest.
“Because Ron isn’t here and she won’t talk to me,” Hermione says. She gives me an expectant look. “You will, won’t you?”
It can’t always be an easy life, being Ron. I sigh. “I’ll do what I can,” I say.
Hermione looks relieved. “I knew you’d say that,” she says. As she turns to go, her eyes fall on the sketch in my hand. “What’s that, a portrait of you?”
I unroll it and show it to her. “Look like anyone you know?” I ask, half-joking.
To my surprise, she nods. “It’s the wizard from the St. Mungo’s board meeting,” she answers at once. “The one who was talking to Lucius Malfoy afterwards. I’m pleased to see that you’re finally doing something about him!”
“Tell me again about this wizard from St. Mungo’s,” Gawain says.
I repeat his comments and the conversation I overheard with Lucius Malfoy. “Do you know who he is?” I ask.
“Oddly enough, no,” Gawain admits. “However, it ought to be easy enough to track him down. Harry, go and ask Persimmon to find me a list of St. Mungo’s board members.”
Harry leaves the room, throwing me a warning look over his shoulder. He needn’t worry - I’m certainly not going to ask Gawain where Ron is, or about what happened to Perdita. (Although if I thought it’d be any use, I might try.)
“Any more trouble with your Wolfsbane Project?” Gawain asks me.
I shake my head. “Mrs. Longbottom - you know, Neville’s grandmother - is letting us use her house to brew the potion,” I say. “She said she’s more than a match for Lucius Malfoy and she pities him if he dares to try anything!”
Gawain half-smiles. “So do I,” he says. “Are you - er - quite well?”
“I’m as well as can be expected,” I answer levelly.
Gawain looks as near to uncomfortable as I’ve ever seen him. “I hope you’ll come to me if you’re in need of anything,” he says.
“Got it,” Harry says, opening the door and waving a piece of parchment at us.
“Excellent,” Gawain says, clearly relieved by the interruption. “Let’s have a look.”
Five minutes later, we’re staring at each other in confusion. I could put a face to every name on that list - and none of them belonged to the man in dark-green.
“I’ll speak to Healer Bainbridge,” Gawain says at last. “He ought to know.”
I’m none too sure - Healer Bainbridge couldn’t see much past the end of his nose, as I recall - but there’s nothing more to be said. Gawain’s already holding the door open for me. “Thank you for your help, Hermione,” he says. “And remember what I said.”
I don’t trust myself to speak. I just nod and hurry back to my own Department.
Basil still hasn’t appeared, thank goodness, so I force myself to do some work on the ancient property laws. But all the time my mind is racing back and forth between the man in green and the stories I heard today from Xeno Lovegood. Not that I believe them, of course. Everything in the Quibbler’s nonsense - isn’t it?
It takes me a while to find out what Anya’s so worked up about. Mind, the thought of a giant spider crawling up the walls of Durmstrang threw me for a minute, too. Anyway, it turns out Paianjen isn’t a giant spider. He’s a vampire. A very bad vampire, according to Anya.
“They didn’t point and say ‘oh, there’s Paianjen,’ or anything,” I assure her. “They just kept saying the word and I somehow got the feeling they were talking about a person. I reckon they could have meant a real spider, although I’d think it’d die of the cold here.”
“You are thinking I am very silly,” Anya says.
“Not at all,” I say. “I just don’t think you need to be afraid.” Not of vampires, anyway. Just of some of your teachers.
Anya sighs. “I am forgetting that you vould not know, being from England,” she says. “My mother is from Romania, and she is telling me many stories. Paianjen lives in a cave in the mountains there vith many other vampires. He is the - I am not knowing the English vord - he is telling the others vhat to do - ”
“The boss?” I suggest.
Anya nods. “Yes, exactly,” she says. “Vun night they attacked a small village near my mother’s home and many people vere killed. My mother is only a little girl at the time, but she is not forgetting.”
Bloody hell. I never thought I’d say this, but I really hope they were talking about an infestation of spiders at Durmstrang and not saying they’d got this Paianjen bloke to join up with the Brotherhood.
“Vampires are not good,” Anya says.
“I did know that much,” I say. “Don’t forget, though, Anya - you know how to protect yourself now. And I’m here - I’d never let a vampire get you.”
“You are very brave, but also you are English,” Anya says doubtfully, but she looks slightly more cheerful. “Do you know spells that vould stop a vampire?”
“You can ask your mum when you go home for the holidays,” I say, hoping to distract her a bit. “Who are you going to see besides your brothers? Have you got lots of cousins?”
It works, and she prattles on happily about her family for several minutes. “I must go or I vill be late to dinner,” she realizes at last, when I get up to put on a light. “Professor? Vhat vill you do for the holidays? Vill you go back to England?”
I wish she hadn’t asked. “Oh, I don’t quite know,” I say, as cheerfully as I can manage. “I may travel round a bit instead.” Or I may just spend two weeks locked up in this bloody room missing my wife. Hard to say, really.
The door’s no sooner closed behind her when it opens again.
“That half-blood girl vas here,” Etilka Varga says disapprovingly.
“Detention,” I say quickly.
Etilka looks pleased. “I too have often to place them in detention,” she agrees. She looks around. “Ve are alone?”
She sounds like she’s going to proposition me. No offense, Etilka, but you’re really not my type. “Yes,” I say, a bit warily.
“You remember that I told you that ve vould be needing your services,” Etilka says abruptly. “The time has now come, Professor.”
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