Chapter 18 : Chapter 18: My Name's Albus Dumbledore, I'm a Dealer in Magicks and Lore. Detention with the Headmaster
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"I'd say we aren't British any more," Harry said and groaned, wondering how much more trouble he was going to be in after this.
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Chapter 18: My Name's Albus Dumbledore, I'm a Dealer in Magicks and Lore
Part 2: Detention with the Headmaster
Monday began with clouded skies and wind. Lots of wind, which made Harry definitely rue the day he had detention with the headmaster of his school. Deep down, he wished he could get himself a cold from the bad weather, but he knew his chances were low. In all his childhood, he had never been sick, and his injuries and bruises always faded rather quickly, though not less painful.
A noise behind him alerted to the trapdoor being pushed open. "Hello Harry, you're early today. And shivering! Didn't you think to bring a duvet or something?"
"Duvet, it's a feather-stuffed comforter, a thick blanket, and there's an expanded drawer with those in the room's wardrobe, didn't you know?" she said and swiftly wrapped herself and her friend in the one she brought.
"Oh... Thanks," he said softly.
"By the way, Harry, I loved the piece you played yesterday evening. I'm sorry for not telling you before but you never came down for dinner." Hermione sighed at his silence, knowing he was still nervous about detention with the headmaster and the fact Madame Pomfrey hadn't yet returned to the castle; not to mention the unsettling letters regarding his and her new nationalities. "You missed the look on Professor McGonagall, she was misty-eyed and clapped as loud as I did."
"Thank you, I'm glad you liked Hesperion Hassbin. I know he's supposed to be a great wizard composer, but I think he's boring as hell..."
"Well it's true," he said with a shrug. "The whole finale where you have to use your left toes to play the chord is just... Blech, I guess is the word."
Hermione laughed, "Blech is not a word."
"But that piece had little meaning and too much noise! Just like some of Haydn's or even Listz's own works are sometimes pointless to me. I believe that music is about feelings and sensations, Hermione. It should be 'bout memories and dreams, 'bout hate, love and everything in between, and I've seen it cripple a grown man, and I've felt myself drowning when it's too intense. But it can soothe and fix a broken soul too! And then again music can be this huge balloon of hot air that pops and leaves you disappointed, as if it wasn't worth the effort, just like life is sometimes," he told her while making an exploding gesture with his hands.
The Gryffindor girl stared at him for a while. She still had trouble anticipating the many moods of Harry Potter, and every once in a while he would surprise her by saying meaningful things like these. "I... I don't know what to say Harry. Are you-- Do you feel like your life isn't worth the effort?"
"Am I-- Am I worth your effort?" she asked in a whisper, her words almost drowned by the strong wind but clear enough for Harry's selective hearing.
"Yes." He stared back at her and remained silent, gazing into her eyes and memorizing every shade, every strand and layer of colour in her irises. Harry could almost hear the music coming from them, tremolo notes on a lonely violin introducing a sorrowful melody, asking for his friendship and acceptance. "Yes you are. You've been worth the effort ever since we met all those years ago."
"Then I'll help you deal with life, and right now we need to deal with Voldemort, Headmaster Dumbledore and everything else, Mr Potter of the Xhosa Clan," she ended with a smirk.
"Got that right, oh great Ms Granger, Custodian of Potter," he smirked back and showed her his tongue.
"Respect, Mr Potter, I'm your Patriarch's granddaughter after all," she bantered and snickered at the scared look that suddenly blossomed on his face. "Yes, Harry, I'll introduce you to my family during the Christmas Holidays, just don't expect them to spend too much time around you. And my aunt will probably be afraid to even shake your hand or be in the same room with you."
Harry gulped and suddenly had the mental image of being very, very small looking up at Hermione's family as they poked and probed him with very sharp and pointy tools, trying to understand what he was. He knew her family were probably good people, unlike the Dursleys, but it still made him extremely nervous to meet them.
"Harry, look!" Hermione called and distracted him from his thoughts. "Madame Pomfrey is back."
The Chief Healer walked through the gates and the children tried to get her attention, waving arms and expelling sparks from their wands, but she soon disappeared from view. They decided to forgo bathing, Hermione admonishing him not to make a habit of it, and went to greet her in the Infirmary.
Their small feet made much more noise than expected because the corridors were deserted, except for a couple of ghosts. "No running in the halls, children," the Fat Friar yelled as they ran under him, and they replied "sorry" together, making them scowl at each other.
Soon they came to the double doors of the Infirmary, and heard Madame Pomfrey talking with the substitute Healer Knoggings. "Thank you for everything, Michael."
"Not a problem, Poppy. Truth is nobody visited the Infirmary at all, although there were rumours of a giant loose in the dungeons and I expected at least a few injuries. I'd say that's all they were, mere rumours."
With a final goodbye, the healer walked down the corridor and turned a corner, allowing Hermione and Harry to come out from behind the bench they were using to hide. They opened and closed the door softly, and padded closer to the older witch. "Good morning Healer Pomfrey."
"Ahhh! Dear Merlin, children, don't scare me like that!" she exclaimed and waved her wand to hang her cloak, open the dozen curtains and banish her healing bag to her office. "How was your weekend?"
"Er... Exciting?" Harry replied cautiously. He looked around and saw a few portraits still sleeping and snoring, but others were already stirring.
"Madame Pomfrey? Could we have a private consultation with you?" asked Hermione, hoping the healer would understand her true request.
"Certainly, you two are entering that interesting age, I see," the healer said and motioned them into her office. Hermione had blushed deeply red and Harry looked at her questioningly, hoping she could explain what it was Poppy had meant, but his friend ducked her head and ran into the healer's private room.
Once seated, shielded by an strategically placed privacy curtain and surrounded by a silencing ward, Harry and Hermione took their Austral African scrolls from inside their cloaks and showed them to Healer Pomfrey.
"Could the ritual have anything to do with these?" Hermione asked while Poppy read them.
"Oh dear!" the healer exclaimed and looked up from the documents. "Perhaps, but first let's talk this trough, shall we children? Has You-Know-Who attacked you again after midnight of Samhain?"
"Weeell... There was this tiny bit of a giant problem, Madame Pomfrey," Hermione said and elbowed Harry to tell the story.
He looked at her and mouthed "Why me?" but was answered with a toothy smile. Relenting, Harry looked up at the healer, "What happened was that, we're sure of this, Voldemort released a giant to kill as many kids as he could without blowing his cover. He's looking for something, something that's too important for him to keep his disguise as Snape."
The healer cringed and tried to accept the use of the Dark Wizard's name, but then shook her head. "Tut-tut, I'm quite accepting of the unfortunate fact that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has come back from whatever netherworld you banished him a decade ago, Harry. But Severus Snape is most assuredly his same old loathsome self."
"Are you sure Healer Poppy? He's the one that was injured with Quirrell, he's the one that makes my head hurt, he's the one that Hermione saw chanting to jinx my broom!" he said and began to pace the narrow area protected by magic and the privacy curtain.
"And he is particularly evil, too! Professor Snape approached us to return our wands, and actually dropped them on our breakfast plates! I had to clean and polish my wand three times since," complained Hermione while Harry ran a hand over his hair.
Madame Pomfrey remained silent and looked down at Harry, who was now looking intently at the floor. He started mumbling something and finally looked up. "Did the ritual work, Healer Poppy?"
"Better than expected, Harry. Your brief visit swayed many undecided witches to offer their magic and bear the consequences of asking Mother and Magick to protect you, and a certain phoenix added a few tokens of his own."
"Damn it!" said Harry, fisting his hands and pacing the room.
"Harry! What's the matter with-- Oh... I see," she trailed off and sat down. "Professor Snape can't be Voldemort then."
"Not necessarily so. The ritual protects against those wishing you ill, be it through direct intent to harm you or by directly trying to negate your free will. If Severus is possessed or being impersonated by You-Know-Who, which I sincerely doubt, he could still approach and talk to you as long as his intent isn't harmful. But he would find it extremely difficult to attack, incarcerate or coerce you in any way."
That explanation calmed Harry somewhat, and he sat next to Hermione. "How do you explain the toilet I threw at the giant's head, or her use of another witch's wand? That wasn't some invisible protection, we did stuff that we wasn't-- weren't supposed to do!"
"As I explained last month, the ritual's strength comes from all seven witches and seven magical tokens, but it will decrease over time, and it can ultimately be undone if you and I ever wish to part ways, or whenever you wish to break the magical link from each other," she said indicating Harry and Hermione. "You both used some form of Old Magick to survive a life-threatening situation, and please remember never to disclose what has been done, even if it pains you to keep it from your friends."
Neither could imagine not wanting to be together, and voiced their unanimous opinion that they wouldn't undo the ritual unless Madame Pomfrey desired it. They also understood that, while the protective magic wasn't illegal, it was frowned upon in modern wizarding custom because it relies on the participants' magic to defend the protected, and forced a closer relationship between them according to the wording of the ritual itself.
"As for this unexpected development," Madame Pomfrey said and indicated the scrolls, "I'm truly at a loss as to how this came to be, unless... Unless our Magick severed your natural citizenship when I called for freedom of magical bindings. Filius could offer you a better explanation, however seeing as he cannot be consulted, I believe that because the two of you are linked, that magical link allowed the Granger Patriarch, a Muggle brother to a magical tribe, to obtain guardianship over the last member of the Potter family. However, that could only happen if you Hermione, or you Harry, had somehow found yourselves without a true home in Magical Britain."
"Ooops..." the young Gryffindor boy said as the girl smacked herself on the forehead. "Magic does bite you back in the arse, doesn't it?"
"Mr Potter, mind your language, please!" Madame Pomfrey admonished while Hermione's lips curled up in a smug smile. Harry buried his face in his hands and groaned.
"Would declaring the house I have inhabited before coming to Hogwarts as my aunt and uncle's sole property, and believing that home is where Harry is, be considered not having such in British soil?" asked Hermione.
"Or saying that the Dursleys' place isn't and will never be home for me? 'Cause I honestly feel that way," Harry said and pushed his spectacles up his nose.
"Perhaps it could. Hogwarts is charmed not to be considered home to anyone, otherwise we would have permanent student residents during the Summer and many of the wards placed in my house, my true home, wouldn't ever work there, since I spend almost all of my time in the castle." The healer dispelled the privacy measures and ushered the children outside, "You're already late for breakfast. Don't dwell on this as it isn't cause for not attending Hogwarts, and enjoy your day. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes Madame Pomfrey," they said together with a smile and walked down the corridor to start the day in earnest.
They kept refusing to tell Ron and Neville what was in the parchment scrolls that had upset them so much and why they thought they weren't British any longer, saying that everything would be talked about after Harry's piano lesson in late afternoon. Ron lost his temper halfway through lunch, but Neville teasing that he was whining like a Dutch baby Olifant put a stop to it.
Hermione had then asked whether there really were elephants in the Netherlands, and Neville's affirmative reply and description of the twelve-feet-tall, woolly, red-furred animal called an Olifant, not an elephant, did nothing to lessen Ron's undeniable likeness to them, particularly when taking into consideration his accidental transfiguration from the beginning of the year.
After another eighty-eight minutes and eighty-eight seconds of nerve-wrecking Potions lesson Harry was free to enjoy one of his most preferred activities in life: performing and creating music on the keyboard. He entered the Concert Room to see two older students shrinking twelve-string lutes and a third finishing some exercises on the concert piano.
The boys who played the medieval string instruments said a quick hello and left while talking about The-Boy-Who-Lived and pointing fingers back at him, but the Gryffindor playing the piano stopped to greet him after glancing at his forehead. "Hello, Potter. I'm glad you arranged for this Musical Arts club. My name's John Moonvail," he said and offered a hand.
"Just call me Harry. And all of this was Professor McGonagall's idea, actually."
"Yeah. So, hmmm... How do you like the Steinway?" Harry asked, trying his best to have a decent conversation despite his nervousness.
The following couple of minutes turned out to be quite enjoyable, as Harry and John traded comments on Steinways, vintage Broadwoods, Kembles and modern Boesendorfers, of which Harry had only ever heard about from his former music teacher, never ever touching any of those instruments himself. Although not nearly as talented as Harry, the older Gryffindor was a half-blood wizard and still wanted to play as a pastime of sorts, and after they parted with a nod to each other, Harry felt less stressed about the revelations he had to make to Ron, Neville and Lisa, and less anguished at having to face the headmaster for being involved, yet again, in some near-disastrous situation.
For an hour and a half, the portrait of Joseph Liszt insisted on tackling more sonatas from Hyperion Hassbin's repertoire, and kept shouting at Harry from the very edge of the frame about arching his hands too much and not treating the keys as if they were Flobberworms to be squeezed for some ignominious potion. He never understood the word ignominious but figured it was something bad, deciding to search the meaning in a dictionary later in the week and surprise Hermione.
"Legato, child! Legato! The vizard is courting a maiden, not trying to slay a basilisk!"
"Thanks Master Liszt," he replied absently and began the twenty-eight bar again, rolling his fingers from key to key as softly and seamlessly as possible.
By the door, a group of young witches and wizards ogled, two thirds wanting to see the controversial Boy-Who-Lived and the rest trying to make their way inside. The three Gryffindors and one Ravenclaw finally made it through as Harry stretched his back and lightly dusted the pianoforte, covering it and waving goodbye at the painted instructor.
"Ready?" Hermione asked with a smile. "I thought it best if we met in this scarcely used room we once visited."
"Honestly, Harry. The room in the corridor?" Watching the clueless look on his face, she added "The one with fluffy couches?"
"Oh, that room! Huh, I'd forgotten about it, sorry."
Five first-years, or midgets as the youngest pupils in school were sometimes called by the upper years, trying to make their way towards the forbidden corridor on the third floor unnoticed was an objective easier desired than accomplished. The corridor was, unfortunately for them, only accessible through the swinging marble stairs of the main staircases, and although the castle had the habit of masquerading doorways and passageways, or simply turning corridors around overnight, Hermione wasn't keen on exploring for another access and wasting what little time they had before detention with Headmaster Dumbledore.
"Lisa, Ron, can you whistle?" she whispered and waited for their answer. "Good, give us three short whistles followed by a long one if there are professors around. You watch the hallway, Ron, while Lisa will keep an eye on the higher stairs."
"What about Filch?"
"Same whistling sequence if Mr Filch or his familiar appear. I don't believe we have to worry about students, unless they're Prefects, but most are still in class at this hour," Hermione said as she looked at the brass timekeeper on the wall.
"Wow, how long have you been planning this?" asked Harry.
"Since yesterday. Now let's go, the staircase is already rumbling."
Neville tripped on his own feet but recovered quickly, embarrassed at the snickering coming from the portrait of an old, bald witch that kept fixing her wig. He then realized the paintings might be a problem, "Ahm... Hermione? Won't the portraits scream and alert someone?"
"That issue can't be helped, but if we make this look as if the stairs left us there by accident, it's as good an alibi as any."
Harry and Hermione avoided the trick step, but Neville had to be hauled up by them as the stairs snapped out of their position and began to move, when whistles reached their ears. Looking down, they saw Ron had busied himself by faking a very one-sided conversation with a square painting of monkeys celebrating a birthday party, complete with cake, candles and streamers, while at the same time Lisa had quickly sat down in a bench and pulled a book from her bag, realized it was upside down and turned it swiftly around just as Professor Sinistra stepped into view.
The witch professor climbed the steps, avoiding the one where one's foot passes through, and joined the three children on the moving landing. They had their hands behind their backs and kept looking anywhere but at the Astronomy teacher, Harry going so far as to start whistling a melody to keep from looking too guilty.
"Flight of the Pixie? My, how refreshing to know the Barkwith classics aren't lost to the new generation," the teacher said and stepped away to climb the next flight of steps as soon as the landing melded with it, a loud squelching sound accompanying the knitting of marble stone.
As soon as she disappeared on the fourth floor, Neville and Hermione released a deep sigh, and Harry looked across the void, willing the castle to move them over there already. "What am I thinking, of course it won't work," he mumbled and leaned back against the railing, crossing his arms.
Lisa and Ron resumed their task, looking out for adults and House Prefects, and soon after a group of Slytherins descended the steps giving them all the evil eye, the staircase rumbled and detached itself. Hermione waved at the two fifths of their group and they ran up to them, anxiously waiting for the landing to place them in line with the forbidden corridor.
"Finally!" exclaimed Hermione, grabbing Harry's hand and pulling him behind her. The rest followed her, knowing she was the only one who had never gotten lost in the castle.
The dust and spider webs were somewhat less scary with the faint glow of daylight coming through the scarce leaded-glass windows, and they could see shards of broken benches and portrait frames here and there, as well as the occasional crushed metal of ornaments or suits of armour Fluffy destroyed on his mad chase after Harry, Ron and Hermione.
"This is the one," said Harry, pulling Ron back by his cloak to let Lisa and Hermione enter first. The pentagonal table they had used to write homework was still there, and the large half-circle couch was uncovered as well, just as they had left it.
"What sort of classroom is this?" Lisa asked, looking around and running a hand over the soft, overstuffed velvet sofas and chairs.
"Dunno, but it's in the off-limits areas, so we won't be listened to. And what's more," Harry said and pointed at the walls, "there's no paintings to tell on us."
"Yes, well, let's make this quick in any event, because I truly don't fancy being caught yet again breaking rules. You've been a very bad influence on me, Harry Potter!" exclaimed Hermione, wrinkling her eyebrows and crossing her arms over her chest.
Harry laughed and steered a huffing Hermione to the table, asking the others to pull chairs and sit as well. "Deep down this corridor, where it ends, there is or was a big door with a cerberus behind it. We know his name is Fluffy, and that he's a pet of Hagrid's. We also know he's guarding something, probably from a very bad wizard that all of us wish was truly dead. This murderer has already attacked me once, and the school at large as well, using a giant to do his dirty work, but he ended up in the bathroom where Lisa was and he's probably gone by now."
"That pretty much sums it up," Hermione stated and looked at the confused faces on Neville, Lisa and Ron. "However, please bear with me as I try to explain it all in greater detail."
In greater detail meant spending almost an hour retelling the incidents on the Astronomy Tower, with the giant and with Fluffy the cerberus, the suspicions Headmaster Dumbledore had about Harry and his unconventional connection to Fawkes, the headmaster's own phoenix familiar, who had kidnapped Harry. She never mentioned the Phoenix Dome or his visions, but hinted on the fact they were searching for several myths involving trees made of stone and magical horses, as well as anything to do with someone named Nicholas Flamel, a great Alchemist of their time.
Retelling the attack on Harry's broomstick and trying to convince their audience was difficult, in fact Harry thought Ron didn't believe it, and Lisa wanted proof but the broom itself had gone up in smoke. Neville was taking everything at face value and just excited about being part of the group. After that Lisa helped describe the giant in the dungeons, and how Halloween had turned into a nightmare for her, until Harry and Hermione had barged in and knocked the enraged being out.
They also told Lisa the events of their first Potions lesson, and the Ravenclaw was amazed at the idea of Animagi, agreeing with Hermione that somehow that goo was linked to a latent animal transfiguration ability. But in the end, they reached the topic Harry and Hermione knew was going to make or break their friendship. "We also believe that there are two wizards looking for something very important in the school, the ones that set the giant loose and tried to kill Harry. We believe one of them to be Voldemort himself."
"Eeek!" Lisa shrieked and brought her knees to her chest.
Ron's ears went red and he shouted "Don't say that name!" while Neville slipped under the table.
"Listen, I'm not sorry for saying that murderer's name, and Voldemort being here is the only thing that makes sense to explain everything that's happened." Harry said as he stood up and began pacing around them. "The adults won't do anything and won't believe a word I say, so it's up to me and Hermione, and I hope all of you, to keep him from getting what he wants."
"Blimey! You're honest about this, aren't you?" Ron asked with both annoyance and amazement in his voice. "Mum would throw a fit if she'd ever hear you saying You-Know-Who's in Hogwarts..."
"Well, it's time for Lisa, Harry and me to head out for the Headmaster's Office. Help me pull Neville from under the table and please think about what we said. I know we're asking a lot, but... But we really need your help to expose Voldemort." The wooden surface rattled and Lisa let out another shriek, "Oh, honestly, it's just a name!"
They finally wrenched Neville from underneath the table and quietly made their way back out of the forbidden corridor. The castle had shifted the few windows from before into round skylights surrounded by carved stone in the ceiling, and Harry immediately thought they looked way better, but couldn't figure out how light could stream through them if there was supposed to be a fourth floor above their heads.
Shrugging and chalking it up to "magic", Harry followed the group and sighed at the looks Lisa, Ron and Neville were giving him. "Look guys, I never asked for that bastard to come here," he said softly.
"I understand, Harry. Whatever is happening, I'm certain you would never harm another being on purpose, I know it because Hermione and you risked your life to save me from the giant," answered Lisa.
"And we'd have done the same for anyone else," he told Neville and Ron, who nodded uncertainly.
As the landing squelched against the archway, the five looked up and down for Prefects, professors or anyone who might pile yet another detention on them, and surreptitiously made their way out separated in two groups. The larger group went down to the second floor, and the Gryffindor boys headed back to their tower, looking around and jumping with every louder than usual noise on the way.
Hermione knew from reading in Hogwarts: A History that the Headmaster's Office was guarded by gargoyles, however that was as far as her knowledge of it went. Gargoyles weren't uncommon in Hogwarts, but these were the only ones on the second floor, and the fact one of them swivelled its head towards them was encouraging. "Well, we're off to see the wizard then," she said and took a deep breath. Looking up at the ugly gargoyle, she announced "Harry Potter, Lisa Turpin and Hermione Granger to serve detention with Headmaster Dumbledore."
The marble statue stared, and Hermione stared back, and yet it did nothing else. Harry tried to knock on it with his left hand but was shooed away with a wing made of stone, and Lisa began thinking that perhaps it was protected by a riddle, like The Wise Knocker that guarded the Ravenclaw Common Room.
"I do enjoy Bowling Bonbons," the amused voice of the elderly headmaster announced from above their heads, making the guardian spring to a side and reveal an entrance, "no matter how hard they are on one's teeth. Alas, Honeyduke's on Hogsmeade only offers them during tenpin season, to my everlasting sorrow."
While Hermione looked up at Dumbledore with curiosity etched on her face, Harry tried to look past the mistrust he had for grown-ups, and beyond the hurt he felt from many of the headmaster's actions towards him. He wished he could simply come out and tell him Voldemort was teaching Potions in his school, but he also knew his friend was right, that they needed absolute proof first.
Lisa kept looking down at her shoes instead, partly ashamed and dreading the letter she had to write her parents, but also pondering on everything she learned a few minutes ago. "Although Granger seems to be the commanding voice, it's Potter's will that she follows, and he was trying to give the Longbottom and Weasley boys the choice to be friends to him, instead of simply demanding them to keep quiet and follow him against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named," she thought to herself.
Yes, perhaps being attacked by a giant was the best thing that could have happened to her, for these two were certainly strange, odd people, but their hearts were noble and they truly cared for others.
"After you, young pupils," the headmaster said, interrupting Lisa's thoughts, and she joined Hermione and Harry on a stone step that began to move upwards in a spiral while Dumbledore took a dainty step to stand on the one below them.
They reached a set of mahogany wooden doors and Harry had all the confirmation he needed about this being the office he had been brought to by Professor McGonagall. "Sir? Is the... The mirror still in there?" he asked, wary of meeting that hollow, empty image of his mum and dad.
With a pained grimace, the headmaster bent a little forward, "No, my boy. It has been moved away, safely stored somewhere else."
"Good to know, sir. I don't want Hermione or Lisa to have to see what they can't ever have."
"Again, I ask your forgiveness for subjecting you to face your greatest desire, one that you could never fulfil. However please understand that I'm bound to keep a prophet, to have mirrors so magical and to carry ever-filled purses, after all," Dumbledore said with a chuckle.
Harry raised an eyebrow at the old wizard, wondering what was so funny, and allowed Hermione to push him forward to let her and Lisa step out of the revolving stairs and onto the darkened landing.
Headmaster Dumbledore pouted under his white whiskers, for it looked as if Harry's passion for music did not include the Savoy Operas, which made his little joke fall flat due to lack of recognition. "Alas, the one Muggle magic I can truly enjoy," he commiserated to himself and immediately decided to instruct the portrait of Master Joseph Liszt to teach the boy about those great composers, who established the English operetta and made the world a much brighter place.
The heavy doors opened with a wave of the headmaster's hand and he motioned for the three children to enter, before walking to a cluttered desk and sitting in the lone, ancient-looking chair behind it. He then removed half-moon spectacles from his crooked nose and wiped them with his beard, allowing the trio to take their seats.
Gaping at the headmaster's odd lens cleaning habit, Harry sat silently in the middle chair of three, facing the large desk and leaving a chintz upholstered chair open on either side for his best friend Hermione and his newest friend Lisa.
After a soft cough, Headmaster Dumbledore replaced his spectacles and observed the three first-years for a moment, just long enough to make them even more nervous before picking a crystal bowl filled with candy in his hand, offering it to them. "Lemon drops?"
Harry thought about it but refused with a soft "no thank you," and although Lisa did take one from the bowl, Hermione also refused politely while looking for something inside her pockets. A moment later, she placed a very small cube on the table.
"Headmaster Dumbledore, sir, would you care for a marshmallow? They're shrunk though," she indicated and sat back.
"Thank you, my dear," Dumbledore said and picked his wand, softly twirling it clockwise over the sugar-cube-sized box. It then grew into a rather big cardboard box, roughly half the size of a standard student's trunk, filled to the brim with plastic bags of sweets. Hermione blushed in embarrassment, never imagining her uncle had sent so much candy! "How delightful, should we try these coloured ones first?" the old wizard asked and, upon receiving a silent yet enthusiastic nod, cut open one of the bags with his wand and put a marshmallow in his mouth.
Harry and Lisa helped put the box by the floor, on the left side of the table, and Hermione offered the open bag to them in turn. Once the second round was over, with Lisa refusing the marshmallow because she was still savouring her lemon drop, the three children waited for Dumbledore to speak.
"Before we begin, is there anything you wish to ask regarding the incident on All Hallows Eve?"
Straightening up, Hermione began her barrage of questions. "Is the giant all right? He seemed to be out of sorts, much too irrational, and Hagrid is anything but smart and kind in comparison. What made this larger giant that way? Have you found out how he entered the school? What could he have been after, sir?"
"Astoundingly perceptive of you, dear girl. Yes, Knud the Eyeful is quite recovered from his ordeal, and he was indeed under the effects of what is called the Draught of Dementia, a terrible philtre that renders the imbiber insane and violent. Also, may I impose on you to please keep your suspicion of Hagrid's heritage close to your chest? Such information can pose him one too many difficulties," he asked back, a twinkle in his eyes and a smile tugging at his lips. The smile faded, however, when Harry insisted on an answer to the latter questions.
"But how'd he get inside the castle? Someone must have let him in," Harry said and looked at Lisa, who was shaking a little. "My new friend Lisa could've died if it wasn't for us!"
Hermione gasped and slapped her forehead, because Harry had just confirmed Lisa hadn't spoken the truth of what happened that night.
"Alas, your friend clearly told us all that the giant Knud had, in her words, banged his head on the ceiling and fallen. Did I hear things wrong perhaps?" the headmaster said, holding on to this new diversion in order to keep from answering that there were giants guarding the Philosopher's Stone, but somehow one of them had found the potions cache for another set of protections, drunk from the many storage cauldrons, and wandered out of their assigned quarters in a dazed frenzy.
"Oh... Er... I'm sorry sir. The thing is that I told Lisa I don't like lies, and though I feel like you won't believe me, what happened was that me and Hermione trapped the giant inside that lavatory, but then we didn't know Lisa was in there, and we heard her scream and... And Hermione used Lisa's wand to try and knock him out with his own weapon, but in the end it was me throwing a broken toilet at his face that put him down. Am I gonna get expelled?"
Although Harry had retold his tale quite rapidly, the old wizard had understood each and every word, while also making judicious use of the Mind Arts. "Merlin's socks," thought Dumbledore, "They suspect Voldemort himself walks within these walls, under the guise of Severus Snape no less! What makes them believe such nonsense?" He toned down the passive Legillimency and sat against his high-backed chair, looking intently at them.
The children sat uneasy, tense and expectant. Dumbledore could feel Harry's mistrust and fear, glimpses of an obese man and a banshee screaming at him passed through the cloud of emotions without need for focused Mind Magic. "You fear me," the headmaster finally said and Harry looked up at him. "You have surely known violence from your elders and perhaps from your peers as well. I need no Legilimency to realize this, and I can only offer you a promise that I will never raise a hand against you, Harry."
Harry remained silent, averting his eyes from the headmaster after a few seconds. To his left, Hermione sighed and took his hand in hers, showing her support with a simple touch, but it was Lisa who spoke on Harry's defence. "Sir, it was my fault being in the lavatory and ignoring the call to the Common Rooms. If I had been more attentive, Mr Potter and Ms Granger would have done the school a great service by corralling the giant as they did."
"Very well, Lisa. Your punishment will stand as it is. In answer to your question, my boy, you are in no danger of expulsion. Furthermore, once again it is my duty to tell you all that you can contact your respective Head of House to present a written or verbal reclamation to the Hogwarts Board of Governors," Headmaster Dumbledore answered while nodding and then plucked another marshmallow for himself. He understood that Harry would not speak to him about what he glimpsed inside the boy's mind, about what had made him fear physical blows and have complete distrust for adult men and women. But the girl, Hermione, surely knew or suspected something in that regard.
He also refrained from enlightening the children that their complaints would surely be dismissed by the Board of Governors, for they were submitted by a mostly foreign Nordic family, a Muggle-born witch and the headmaster could easily downplay Harry's complaint to keep him out of trouble, and out of sight. And humble, naturally.
Dumbledore had truly hoped for a meek Harry Potter that would fall into place as needed, giving Fate and Prophecy free reign over him; he was expected to come into the magical world awed and to attach himself to Wizarding Britain as if his life depended on it, contrary to the life of a Muggle where he was abused and neglected. "He must die to fulfil prophecy, for neither can live while the other survives. Worse of all, he must be persuaded to face Lord Voldemort, for either must die at the hand of the other."
Troubled, he sighed and lowered his face in thought. "Harry must develop the power he knows not first, before he confronts his fated foe. Is it some unknown magick of old? Or perhaps something more fundamental within us all, love for instance?" He came to regret relying on second-hand telling of young Harry's well-being, for had Dumbledore been aware of what events gave him such strong will and experience of adult flaws and treachery, the headmaster would have done everything in his power to keep Harry safely hidden inside his home, perhaps going so far as to ward him from going to Muggle school.
"Alas, it was a necessity, condemning him to grow under such conditions, ignorant of his true self. A hard choice among many possibilities, for despite his sealed fate the outcome of it remains uncertain. Will vanquishing the Dark Lord bring forth an end to Evil, or will it mark the final breath of the Light?
"Do I even have the right to facilitate his prophesied destiny?" Dumbledore asked himself, not for the first time since hearing those terrible words out of Sybil Trelawney's mouth.
"Evil must be defeated for the good of all magical beings. However, can I afford to do what is right, and allow Harry Potter to forge his own path in life? Have I even grasped a correct interpretation of the prophecy itself?" His endless musings, however, were interrupted by the very boy he was wondering about.
"Headmaster, sir? Are you spacing out or feeling out of sorts?" asked Harry, truly concerned for the wizard. "I learned in school that when old people have trouble focusing, we should call medical assistance. D'you want me to find Healer Poppy for you?"
Lisa and Hermione had been focused on the many books and whirring, clinking and steaming trinkets in the room, but when the Gryffindor girl heard him calling Headmaster Dumbledore old people of all things, she almost snapped her neck to send him a glare for his lack of tact.
"No my boy, I was simply deliberating in silence. I thank you for your concern, it shows you have a very kind heart."
"Are you sure? You were kind of staring at nothing back then," Harry insisted and then remembered the wizard's ability to catch thoughts and memories with a glance. "Where you doing that Leg-a-minty thing on us again, then?"
"Harry, mind your tone!" admonished Hermione, "The headmaster would tell us if he had need to probe our minds. Wouldn't you sir?"
Guiltily, the old wizard coughed and began playing with his long beard. "Must I reassure you that passive Legillimency is a harmless disciplining tool, however little known it may be?"
"That doesn't answer the question, sir. And besides, if you've managed to see what I'm thinking or what I've done, then you know that Voldemort..."
"...is the one that set the giant on the school! Hell, he actually told us he was gonna do it!" Harry said, and then turned to Lisa. "Sorry Lisa, but it really is just a name, you know?"
Clearing his throat, Dumbledore tried to explain. "Little did I perceive from you, other than your suspicion regarding Lord Voldemort..."
"Eeek!" Lisa shrieked again, and Harry shook his head while wiping his right ear with a finger. It kept on ringing, though.
"...and whatever bad experiences you have had in your childhood. I assure you, not even he would ever be foolish enough to invade this castle or impersonate a professor as subterfuge," he explained, convinced his word alone was enough to allay Harry's fears and destroy his ridiculous thoughts.
Harry turned to look at his friend, Hermione, who had her lower lip trapped under her teeth. "Thank you for correcting us, headmaster," she said and discretely raised the fingers on her free hand, telling Harry to drop the subject. She also wrinkled her nose, and Harry knew that a clearer sign that something was fishy hadn't been invented yet in either magical or Muggle worlds.
Oblivious to their silent communication, the headmaster began devising more ways to test the child of prophecy and discover his potential power, beyond the evident magical nexus he and the Gryffindor girl carried inside. That Harry would ignite the alchemical effluvium within Nicholas' Magical Affinity Revealing Ball of Liquid Energy even further was a given after having contact with Fawkes, but little Hermione, a Muggle-born no less, sparking such an intense reaction from the M.A.R.B.L.E. had been a surprise to him. Such fascinating individuals they were!
"There are few certainties I could offer as to how the the two of you managed to defeat Knud the Eyeful in combat. You, Hermione, have perhaps an affinity to the fundamental magic inside Lisa's wand, and it may explain your use of it. As for Harry's sudden burst of strength, it isn't unusual for children who mature slowly to show accidental magic until past their first decade of life," explained Dumbledore.
Harry took offence to the headmaster's words and was about to complain but the headmaster was poised to continue speaking, so he resorted to mumble "I'm not immature, I'm just small for my age" under his breath.
"I admit to being surprised by you children. It has been too long since I last had the pleasure of handling detention with pupils... In fact, my last experience of this kind was with someone who, suffice it to say, is no longer welcome within these walls," the wizard explained with a sad smile. "Alas, detentions are supposed to be learning experiences, and this time it seems I am the one to learn, and you the ones to teach!"
A burst of fire above them made Harry dive to the floor and protect his head with both hands, while Lisa shrieked and Hermione snorted at her friend's reaction. Dumbledore raised an eyebrow, blinking repeatedly to clear the spots in his eyes and also in surprise of how jumpy the boy had reacted.
"Ah, my good friend Fawkes has seen fit to regal us with one of his majestic entrances, I see," the headmaster commented and the phoenix landed softly on a perch behind the desk. Fawkes looked around and sniggered at Harry, who was standing up and sitting back on his chair, before focusing on the open bag of marshmallows.
Hermione noticed this and picked an orange coloured sweet in her fingers, throwing it at the magical bird. "Here you go, Fawkes."
"Really now, Ms Granger, phoenixes never accept treats from-- Oh my!"
With great agility, Fawkes plucked the marshmallow on the air with his bill and, holding it gently, roasted the sweet with a burst of fire before gulping it down and trilling in contentment. The phoenix ruffled its feathers and settled itself to sleep, not really fooling anyone by tucking his head under a wing since his visible eye was wide open.
"It seems he liked it, Headmaster Dumbledore," said Hermione as she offered more marshmallows around.
"Yes... It appears to be so." Dumbledore answered softly, frowning at his companion. A phoenix needs no nourishment in the shape of food, rather it lives forever because it is an embodiment of positive emotions made magic. Love, hope, kindness, for as long as there is good in the world, there will be phoenixes roaming the skies.
"Sir?" Harry called for the headmaster's attention. "When you found me under the rubble that had been my home, did you see Voldemort's body too?"
Anticipating Lisa's shriek, Harry had covered his right ear with a hand. The sound had been shorter now, but she kept shaking. The Gryffindor boy knew he was pushing his luck, and Hermione's miffed face said just how much, but he needed confirmation of his true life, that the lies told by the Dursleys were exactly that: vicious lies.
"My dear boy. Your family should have known better than to retell such sad events. I urge you to look towards the future, not to dwell on the past, which brings nothing but pain." The headmaster replied softly, avoiding the complicated issues of why him, why then, and why both survived.
"I have no family, Mr Dumbledore. Those people I've been living with couldn't care less anyway, all they ever told me was that my parents were useless drunkards who died in a car crash," Harry answered heatedly. "And what's wrong with wanting to know about my past? I know those dark wizards called Deadly Easters killed my grandparents too, I've dealt with it and I'd enjoy knowing more about the Potters, about my true family."
Dumbledore winced at the resentment he could feel coming from the boy, resentment that fuelled anger, a feeling that could lead to hate and the darkness of evil. "He must remain protected, no matter what they do to him, Harry must be kept safe," he repeated inside his mind.
"Death Eaters, Harry. They're called Death Eaters," Hermione explained and faced the headmaster. "Sir, you are right that it's a sad and terrible thing to dwell on tragedies past, but unlike myself, Harry had no idea about his family history. Those dark wizards wronged him as much as they did dozens of families, my elder friend Miranda Morewitt's for example, and every survivor should honour their family, not pretend they never existed."
"Mrs Morewitt, you say? Alas, it was in memory of an old friend that I proposed several changes to the school! You must realize, Hogwarts was until recently quite less demanding in its courses, and we had much fewer Quidditch matches as well," the wizard added with a smile, glad to divert their attention from Harry's questioning once more. "The reason I convinced a reluctant Board of Governors to reform a centuries-old perfectly working system over the years, is that I personally lost a dear friend who was adamantly in favour of giving young witches and wizards the chance to experience all the Magical Arts first, and decide which ones to pursue as a career as they grow older."
Dumbledore looked at Hermione over his half-moon spectacles, "That friend was named Bragna Morewitt, your older friend's late husband, with whom I shared a singular passion for puzzles and trinkets of all sorts," he told her and waved an arm around the office, causing Hermione, Lisa and Harry to take a deeper look at the many spinning, twirling and puffing objects scattered on shelves and side tables.
"Huh... Hermione, you oughta show him your puzzle, maybe he knows why it does what it does?" Harry whispered in her ear, already back into a merrier mood, despite feeling miffed out of the headmaster's constant change of subject, never answering his questions.
She smiled and started to look for it in one of her many cloak pockets, her wild hair falling all over her face in the process. With a satisfied grunt, she pulled the silver trinket and placed it on the table. "Harry, simple spells only so we don't get into trouble," she whispered.
Remembering what he had read about the Tribble Twins, he nodded and used a levitation spell on a marshmallow and directed it to Fawkes, who despite pretending to be asleep, raised his head and roasted the sweet in mid-air, gulping it down afterwards. Lisa and Headmaster Dumbledore looked confused, but then both of them exclaimed merrily as Hermione began casting the same spell in tandem with her friend, modifying it to her likeness.
"Sugarivium Leviosa!" she cast and made the textbook movements along with her modified incantation, while Harry repeated his "Wingardium Leviosa", but allowed his wand to weave his magic with the least amount of resistance, completely disregarding the motions they had learned in Charms class. It simply felt right to do it this way instead.
The show of bright lights and sounds, of soothing clanging bells and tinkling crystal goblets in rapid succession with every swish and flick of the wands drew gasps and comments from the elder wizard and their newest Ravenclaw friend.
"Splendid!" said Dumbledore, "Absolutely marvellous!"
Lisa was a bit more contemporary, exclaiming "That's so wicked!" and then blushing for her outburst.
Fawkes, however, was giving the speeding airborne marshmallow the evil eye, because it kept zooming over his head but much too fast for him to catch it. With an annoyed trill, the phoenix flapped his wings and left his perch, whacking Harry on the back of the head before vanishing in a bright burst of fire.
Dumbledore sat back on his chair and began playing with his beard, splitting the long white locks in two and then looping them around, tying them in a fancy celtic knot and staring at it appraisingly. "May I hazard a guess that you have achieved noticeable results when performing similar magic together?"
Gasping, Hermione elbowed her friend and hoped he wouldn't get angry and defensive again. Truth be told, she was seriously considering asking Healer Pomfrey whether that sentient magic in his head was causing him to be so unbalanced, but then again the headmaster himself didn't come across as much of a balanced individual either. The knotted beard clearly exemplifying it.
She saw Harry nod and Headmaster Dumbledore smile, but Lisa looked confused. Hermione wondered how their new friend was coping with the information overload, from getting involved with them in a life-or-death situation to the fact the greatest wizard alive was spending detention time in conversation instead of ordering them to do classwork or simply reprimanding them. "She's a Pureblooded witch, which makes Harry and me even stranger to her, but she was kind on board the Hogwarts Express, and she surely has the strength of character to defy her House Rules and expose the apparent shame of having mixed-House parents," she mused silently.
"Yeah, sometimes... What do you know about that, sir?" Harry asked, wary of the man's intentions.
"Achieving more than what is expected can be a wonderful thing. But is it necessarily more than what is intended? Alas, these are the foundations of ritualistic magic after all, the augmentation of a single spell by the combined powers of several magical people acting together in harmony."
"So... This isn't too weird or strange? I mean, you won't be shipping us to the Ministry to be used as lab rats, will you?"
Rolling her eyes, Hermione coughed and raised her hand out of habit. "What my blunt friend means, headmaster, is that I've read of several cases where children displaying unusual abilities were taken away from their families and from the school."
Dumbledore was fascinated, he had just recognized the need to look at these children as individuals worthy of consideration, capable of surprising him in several ways, which in turn had planted doubt in his plans for young Harry, derailing years of constant research and planning, and now they pointedly taught him of how resourceful young wizards can be. "How does she know of the Ostenoir and Tribble siblings? How much more have they procured to learn, to dabble in, to conquer in an attempt to become the bravest lions of Gryffindor?
"This will not do. Such was the path of young Riddle and I will not stand by and let innocent children be swayed by the Darkness," Dumbledore decided, subtly raising his wand and steeling himself to use the Mind Arts on the trio.
For all his power and knowledge, Albus Dumbledore barely managed to feel the magic around Harry and Hermione flare against his intrusion, reminding him he had promised to brew camomile tea for the unicorns of the Forbidden Forest.
In fact, he only came back to his senses due to an insistent pulling on his sleeve, and found himself standing outside the spiralling stairs being watched intently by three young faces and two very ugly marble gargoyles. "I was about to prepare some tea... Tea for the unicorns..." The first-years jumped when their headmaster let out a hearty laugh that devolved into sniggering and a few hiccups after a minute or so.
"Hmmm... Are you alright, sir?" asked Harry, looking askance at the old wizard.
"Yes, yes, quite well. Forgive an old man's foolishness, Harry, and do join me upstairs again. You too, little ladies," he added at the indignant pose Hermione had assumed, miffed at not being invited as well.
"Hermione!" whispered Lisa, "What just happened? How did you Confund the headmaster?"
"What? I didn't do anything! It was Harry's doing, most likely," she replied matter-of-factly.
They followed Dumbledore, who was actually skipping upstairs, and watched as the wizard melded their chairs together into a long couch, which he then flipped around to face the big hearth instead of the table. The headmaster waved for them to sit and started pacing back and forth, eyes half lidded in concentration.
"In times of old, when wizards were mages and the world was vast and full of wondrous unknowns, ancient tribes would call upon the magick of their fathers and their gods for healing their brethren, for waging war and for protecting their families," he spoke and conjured a plush, gaily upholstered chair to sit on. "These magicks were dealt with through tokens, symbols of the many facets of human nature such as strength, love, joy, or their opposites called weakness, hatred and despair.
"Mage tribes were so attuned to their fundamental magick, they could create permanent enchantments on temple stones to channel these energies and empower their combined spells and their blood rituals. Some of them have withstood the test of time and still exist to these days, such as the Guild of the Great Goddess and the Shadow College, to name a few who are spoken of in hushed whispers and deemed as little more than myth within our midst." He paused and looked imperiously down at the three pupils, "My boy, you are protected by a sacrifice of love, a powerful ancient magic, perpetuated by the blood in your veins. And that power is strong enough to send me on a fools' errand serving tea to unicorns!"
"Owww... I'm so gonna be locked away as a Ministry lab-rat now," Harry moaned and buried his face in his hands.
That wasn't the reaction Dumbledore had expected at all. Young Harry should have been happy to know he is protected in such a wonderful way, and it should have made him happy to know he was capable of withstanding magic aimed at his mind. One of his thought threads even hinted at the possibility of young Harry being able to resist the Imperius Unforgivable Curse! "It will be harder to control and supervise his development, yet this presents a broad new wealth of possibilities to explore," he thought to himself.
"I'm certain we could ask Headmaster Dumbledore to keep this information close to his chest," Hermione spoke, throwing the old wizard's own words at him and making him wince. "Perhaps we could even avoid drawing unnecessary attention to unexplained bewildered giants rampaging around the dungeons?"
Lisa found it scandalous to see Headmaster Dumbledore being so accommodating to Harry and Hermione, allowing them to talk back to him like this, but then she remembered everything they had revealed to her that afternoon. Yes, perhaps they were right and Professor Snape did release that giant on purpose, and the headmaster should heed their warning. But the great Albus Dumbledore dismissed it faster than her Great-great-grandpa Ulric would throw clothes at a lazy House-Elf! She decided to follow her heart, and added her voice to Hermione's defence of the Boy-Who-Lived. "Sir? Will Harry be granted the Ministry's award for defeating a classified Dark Creature? You could actually claim his weapon as spoils of conquest," she added looking at the boy sitting between her and Hermione.
Dumbledore's eyes snapped wide open and he blanched at the thought of the Ministry for Magic acknowledging Harry's prowess. It would put the child in a very noticeable position to be targeted by Voldemort followers, not to mention the fact they would deeply scrutinize his requirement for giants as study material for D.A.D.A. classes, which was less than half of their purpose after all. Guarding the Philosopher's Stone against the person or persons who tried to steal it from Gringotts was their most important duty.
But then Lisa slumped in her chair, "Oh, but I guess it won't happen, since you aren't British any longer."
"What?!" Dumbledore yelled and almost fainted this time.
Startled, the three pupils jumped a few inches on the air and tried to remain as still as possible. The headmaster ran to his desk and pulled a drawer open, from where he removed a long wooden box. He then ripped a piece of parchment from some haphazard document he had on a pile to his left, opened the box and removed a ragged, half broken quill which he placed next to the torn slip of stretched goat skin.
A tap of his wand and the quill sprung into action, standing on the air poised to write. He spoke to it clearly, "Home address for Harry Potter, Gryffindor."
The magic of The Quill was so strong that they could actually feel it washing over their skin and, oddly enough, smell it in the form of a strong peppermint scent. The Quill wavered a little and then began to glide over the piece or parchment, writing in bright, green ink.
Mr Harry J. Potter
Dumbledore sighed, it seemed nothing about Harry Potter would be as he had expected it to be. Now he didn't even have a home! Not to mention the family blood ties that protected him in Surrey had likely vanished as well! He waved his wand lazily and the couch where the three children sat spun around to face him. "Would you care to explain, Harry?"
Scratching the back of his neck, Harry shrugged and looked up at the harried wizard. "We got some letters," he said and fished for his scroll, while Hermione imitated him, handing both documents to their headmaster.
They gave the professor time to read through the documents, and meanwhile Lisa continued to observe several of the portraits hung on the walls, some leaning against bookcases or tucked among books and parchment rolls. She soon quenched her curiosity and looked over Harry's messy-haired head, looking at Hermione as she chewed on her thumb, "Must be a Muggle custom," she thought. "Oh, I wonder if she could find me a lite-bob that works. Mother said Muggles use those blown glass and metal things to illuminate their huts, but no matter how much I shake it, mine doesn't spark at all!"
The headmaster made to speak but Hermione raised her hand and beat him to it. "Sir, is that quill you used The Quill some of our classmates spoke about? What was that strong magic that tingled on the surface of my skin, and why can't we feel something like that around the castle as well? Is there a problem regarding Harry's and my change of citizenship? I hope not, because Harry and I would love to continue our schooling at Hogwarts. How does this affect the protections you mentioned around Harry? Or are they totally unrelated to this?"
Blinking at the barrage of questions and Hermione's ability to string long sentences without breathing, Dumbledore straightened up on his chair. He knew children were naturally curious, for he remembered being the same, and truth be told he still was a wizard driven by curiosity who continued to find wonder in the simplest and most elemental of things. "Just like them," he mused, looking at the three pupils.
The old wizard had spent decades dismissing children as simple beings with meaningless desires and underdeveloped minds, but this evening he felt ashamed for doing so. Young Potter was fascinating in his own right, and while little Ms Granger had been surprisingly interesting, it was the Ravenclaw's wit in finding a smart and subtle way to corner him that showed how wrong he had been.
"Could every child have something special, something wonderful to give to those who take the time to listen?" Headmaster Dumbledore decided to share more time with them; not only with Harry, but with as many of his pupils as he could. In his time not even Heads of House were as available to the students as they were nowadays, and he had personally never had a conversation with the Headmaster of Hogwarts in all seven years he spent in school. Nor had he known of former Headmaster Dippet to ever commune with youngsters other than for serious punishments or school honours during his tenure, for that matter.
"In answer to your first question my child, yes this is The Quill indeed. First charmed by Rowena Ravenclaw herself, to reveal all contact information pertaining to young witches and wizards. Without it, Hogwarts would fail to reach for many pupils who would otherwise grow without proper education," he explained kindly. "In turn, it is The Book which reveals the names of every witch and wizard of Hogwarts age and their... Well, their resources both financial and magical, thus determining whether or not he or she merits an Invitation. And finally, there's The Hat, with which you three have been already acquainted to, and its purpose is to sort pupils into different Houses according to their personalities.
"Now then, I cannot stress enough how deeply troubled I am by the magical severance you both have somehow achieved," he said looking at Hermione and Harry, avoiding the use of Legillimency lest he be forced to spend five o'clock tea among the herds of the Forbidden Forest. Dumbledore's ever-weaving mind had offered him several explanations, the most unfortunate being that Lord Voldemort had somehow tempted him into joining him through the Raven-cursed witch, Hermione. "Home is where your family lives. You are safe there, Harry, and your mother's sister has the same blood, the same amazingly strong protections you carry inside. Would you recant your thoughts and consider the place you have spent your childhood true home again?"
Harry snorted and then winced at the dirty look Hermione threw at their headmaster, hoping he would never be on the receiving end of one. "Not a chance, Mr Dumbledore. Those people hate me and I've always wondered why they'd never thrown me out, but now I know. It's the blood protection thing. They know, don't they? They've always known the truth about my parents, and that there's dark wizards called Death Eaters..." he stressed the words to let Hermione know he could remember them correctly "...who'd kill them because Petunia Dorothea happens to be my aunt! And because I killed their boss or whatever!"
"Please, my boy, do not think yourself a murderer for you have never killed anyone," Dumbledore said softly and tried to placate the ill-tempered boy. "I'm sorry for the many fanciful stories retelling exploits of a wonderful event that put an end to terror unimaginable, of which you are the main character. Our magical community was eager to make you the hero they needed, however I assure you Lord Voldemort..."
Everyone turned to Lisa, who trembled and closed her eyes, but didn't shriek as she had before.
"...was vanquished by the love your mother had for you, sacrificing herself willingly. You had no murdering intent of your own, nor did your mother, who would never use her magic to end another life, not even that of her worst enemy. In regards to your family, I did leave a letter attached to your blanket, explaining what I believe happened that tumultuous night. Naturally it was written in terms they could understand, for they are Muggles after all."
Clenching his fists and closing his eyes, Harry focused on the pain of his fingernails digging into the flesh of his palms and took deep, even breaths. His friend Hermione had been right, Dumbledore was the one who knew what happened the night his mum and dad died, and only he could have taken him away from under Vernon and Petunia's roof because he was the one who condemned him to live there in the first place!
He made to speak but, again, was beat to it by Hermione, whose dark eyes were now almost coal-black narrowed slits.
"Headmaster? Is it too presumptuous of me to ask you to please stop deflecting our questions and distracting us from our concerns? I'm sure Harry and Lisa are thankful for your kindness and conversational style of detention, and so am I, but... But the truth of the matter is that we're caught in a whirlwind of mistrust, disbelief and unknowns. Harry has trouble trusting any adult, you sir do not believe us at all and we have endless questions about our magic, Harry's past, and the weird happenings at Hogwarts. Did you know the Phoinix Tholos that is now inside the Owlery hasn't been seen in over three centuries, ever since it was rumoured to have been spotted in the Western Indies? How about the fact a very powerful mage managed to wipe an attempt on Harry's life from the memory of everyone in school except for my friend, Madame Pomfrey and me?"
Dumbledore lifted a furry eyebrow and sighed. "I may deal in powerful magic and old myth, my girl, yet I have never claimed to be either omniscient or perfect. Far from it, in fact. I have denied answers to some questions because you aren't privy to any answers I might have," he raised his right hand to stop Hermione and Harry from speaking. "And because they cannot be trusted to young, unprepared minds, no matter how unique and interesting such minds are. I would tell you my reticence stems from a desire to grant you, Harry, the chance at a normal, enjoyable childhood... Alas, while that is undeniably truth, the former reasons stand first and foremost."
As silence fell, the headmaster weaved the less plausible threads of possible outcomes of the evening inside his mind. "Curious. I fear the worst has come to pass and yet, despite this, I feel liberated. Turpin, Granger and Potter have taught this old coot something precious today, and I will value their efforts, allowing them freedom to carve their own path to destiny." With another sigh, he tapped his wand to the worn-out quill and tried, again, to magically unveil a home address for Harry. Dumbledore may have been pushed back due to the oddly strong magical protections, but he would always strive to master the many threads of Harry's fate.
Opposite the table, the trio displayed their reactions to Dumbledore's words. They had confused Harry, made Hermione huff quietly and intrigued Lisa, thus each of the first-years had her or his interpretation of them and mused over it while the old wizard tried The Quill once more. Harry understood the gist of it as the typical grown-up opinion of kids: they know nothing, and must do as adults say. "If he doesn't tell me anything, I'll find out myself," he concluded.
Next to him, Hermione fumed and chewed on a green marshmallow. "Unprepared minds, he says. Well, he is the greatest wizard in the world so he must be correct about that. That decides it then, I'll prepare our minds to be ready for that knowledge!"
Lisa was perched on the edge of the couch by Harry's right side, worrying her fingers and struggling to adjust to a world turned upside down. "Mighty Odin, Merlin and Canute, what sort of labyrinth have I fallen into? This calls for a good pillaging of the Hogwarts Library in order to find our way trough."
The evening had finally faded into a partially clouded night, and while detention had been both unusual and stressful for all parties involved, the ambient tension seemed to sink along with the temperature outside. The old headmaster had been thoroughly shaken by unexpected events, something for which he blamed no one but himself due to him considering a much too narrow set of possibilities, and also pleased to have been shown to a new and exciting view of his hundreds of pupils.
Smiling in anticipation under his white, untied beard, the Headmaster of Hogwarts decided to push the old magic around them, just one last time and enjoy the results.
Five minutes later, three children walked back to their respective Common Rooms shaking their heads, having witnessed the world's greatest wizard exit the castle with bouncing steps and start chirping and clucking under the trees leaning from the very edge of the Forbidden Forest, fruitlessly trying to coax a flock of owls to eat some lemon drops off his open hand. Detention was truly an strange affair when served under Albus Dumbledore.
1.- Ron is convinced all Weasleys are Gryffindors, but he doesn't know that his grandfather's wife, Cerella, was (is?) a Black and a Slytherin herself. I didn't want to put this in the middle of the chapter because it makes for a better read if Ron is shown the truth later on, but I also wish to clarify that it's a deliberate bit of misinformation.
2.- This chapter gives an omniscient view of the main characters, because while in the original universe of Harry Potter the fun was in trying to unravel the mysteries surrounding Voldemort, Harry and Dumbledore, most of us already know the facts, and the joy of fan-fiction writing is twisting those facts while hopefully creating an entertaining story out of that!
3.- Title is a reference to a play by Gilbert and Sullivan called The Sorcerer, more specifically to its most famous ditty. It's too long to reproduce here, but it goes "Oh! my name is John Wellington Wells, I'm a dealer in magic and spells," and so on. Watch it on DVD, web-video or your nearest theatre if you can, because although it isn't Gilbert and Sullivan's best work by a long shot, it's definitely worth it!