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Chapter 20 : Lost in Translation
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All that week, after class, Harry remained in the library, trying in vain to learn enough ancient Greek to translate the scroll he had won from the lamia. But the few primers about ancient Greek he found weren’t enough to help him. It was like an exercise in frustration. He felt like banging his head into a wall. He shut his book with a snap finally and got up to walk around, fighting the urge to throw the book on the floor like a four-year-old in a tantrum. No one ever told me I was going to have to be a bloody linguist in order to participate in this tournament! This is worse than one of Dad’s punishment essays.
He walked past a table where Cedric was seated, poring over his own scroll, surrounded by heaps of books. “Hey, Cedric. Any luck with yours?”
The Hufflepuff looked up and shook his head, smiling ruefully. “Not really. It’s harder to translate hieroglyphics than you’d think. I didn’t know there were variations and just when I think I’ve figured out a sentence, something doesn’t make sense.” He sighed. “Makes me wish I could go to Egypt and dig up a pharaoh or two.”
“I know what you mean. I wish I could resurrect Homer or something.” Harry said feelingly. “But there must be some way we could translate the scrolls without tearing our hair out. I just don’t know what it is.”
Cedric nodded. “Well, so far I’ve managed to translate two lines and it’s still not making much sense. But at least I don’t have to deal with cuneiform, like Fleur, or Aramaic, like Krum. That’s what they were trying to translate last night while you were . . .err . . .”
“Locked up in jail?” Harry offered, giving Cedric an identical rueful grin. “It’s okay, I’m sure everyone’s been talking about it. In fact, I’m surprised it’s not been in the paper yet.”
Cedric started snickering. “You mean you don’t know?”
“That reporter for the Prophet, Rita Skeeter, she tried to get information from some of the students about what happened at Hogsmeade. I think Krum was all set to blame you for the whole ruckus, but just as she was about to use that quill of hers, Dumbledore comes along and tells her that any statements she wishes to have he will give her, and to not harass the students. And Skeeter turns white as a dead corpse and starts stammering that of course she’d love to interview the Headmaster. And then Dumbledore takes her away and whatever dirt she was planning to write about you, Harry, never showed up in the papers. I mean, people know about the brawl, and that you and Krum were involved, but not that you . . .uh were held overnight. I wonder if he hexed her quill.”
“Or maybe her tongue,” Harry laughed. He was very glad that this time the Headmaster had stepped in and stopped some of the incessant gossip that always seemed to hound him from dawn till dusk. And though he couldn’t prevent the students from knowing what had gone on that night at Hogsmeade, at least the whole wizarding world didn’t need to know that he had spent the night in jail as an object lesson. “She’s such a little viper.”
“Mm . . .More like a mosquito, to my way of thinking,” Cedric said. “Sucks all the blood from you and then goes on to the next victim.”
“Then you don’t like her either?”
“Like her? Oh, Merlin, I think I’d like a case of dragon pox better! The way she twists up whatever you say . . .makes me glad I don’t have too much in my past for her to . . .fabricate.”
“Unlike me,” sighed Harry.
“People will always talk,” Cedric said. “But maybe you’ll just have to give them something else to talk about.”
“You’re right,” Harry grinned. “Well, guess I’ll leave you to your translating and go and take a walk or something.”
He was starting to get a headache and he needed some fresh air. Since he was forbidden to play Quidditch and he also assumed that ban extended to flying in general, as it had when he had gotten in trouble at Prince Manor, Harry decided to walk over to the seventh floor, where the Room of Requirement was, and the current session of the Dueling Club.
Harry summoned his Invisibility Cloak and put it on before entering the room, wishing to observe what was going on without anyone the wiser.
Ron and Hermione were standing at the front of the room, and the other members of the club were standing in rows, looking up at the two expectantly. Ron cleared his throat awkwardly and gave them a rather sickly smile. “Uh . . .all right . . .well, Hermione and I are . . .going to take over the club this week . . .because Professor Snape says Harry and Draco are grounded, but anyway . . .let’s start with some of the usual exercises and then we’ll teach you a new spell.” He looked over at Hermione, who looked faintly nervous.
But then she smiled and said, “Yes, well, I think we could all learn a spell that proofs us against poison, especially a poisoned dagger or a knitting needle.”
Ron and half of the class looked at her askance. “A knitting needle? Blimey, Hermione—”
“What? I read a mystery once where the suspect murdered a barrister with one, stabbed him right through the leg and acted like it was an accident and he fell down dead not twenty minutes later and no one knew because after all who would suspect an old lady with a knitting needle? So you see, Ron, it’s—”
“Take a breath, Hermione,” Ron ordered with a sigh. “I get it, you don’t need to recite the book. Merlin!” Some of the other boys chuckled at his expression. “So, after we practice a bit of what we already know, to keep our hand in like, we’ll be demonstrating the Poison Protection Charm. Quite useful, really. Right, Hermione?”
“Yes, Ronald,” Hermione said primly.
Harry snickered as well, thinking that Hermione looked as indignant as Crookshanks when he missed catching a plump mouse.
But her ruffled feathers soon settled as they paired up the members and they began to practice.
Harry noted that Neville and Luna had really improved since the beginning of the club. They were less hesitant and more confident when they cast their spells and blocked those sent their way in return. He smiled wistfully at Katie, who was paired off with Blaise Zabini, and noted that Hannah and Goyle were also improved from the last class. He was curious about the new spell, it was one he had never heard of. Trust Hermione to come up with a spell that none of them knew but which could, as she had said, prove very useful.
“Nice one, Cho!” Hermione called, as the Ravenclaw deflected a Stinging hex shot from her partner Ginny’s wand.
“Gotta aim a bit higher, Padma,” Ron said as he watched one of the Patil twins duel Marcus Flint.
Harry had to admit that watching that pair was a bit like watching Beauty and the Beast, but it seemed that Padma could hold her own against the cagey Flint, who actually wasn’t attempting to cheat or knock the wind out of her. In fact, he seemed to be behaving with considerable restraint and even helped her up off the floor when his Wind Gust spell knocked her down.
Well, I’ll be. When Draco and I started this club, we did it as a way to practice spells that we should have been learning in class and also to promote unity between the Houses. But even I never thought it’d make some of us consider a different kind of unity. He eyed Padma and Marcus again, then shrugged and grinned. Whatever worked, and more power to her if she could tame the Slytherin Captain.
His gaze shifted to his own lady love, and saw that she was trouncing Zabini, who seemed overwhelmed by her sudden ferocity. That’s my girl, Katie! Show him how well a lioness fights.
He continued watching for another twenty minutes, until Ron called a rest period and then had them work out against the magicked dummies. After fifteen minutes, it was time for Hermione’s lesson.
She drew herself up tall and said firmly, “This charm was one that was used quite frequently back in the Middle Ages, when it was common for certain high-ranking wizards to fear assassination by rival families, especially in Florence and Padua. I found a reference for it one day in the library and I asked Professor Flitwick and Professor Snape to assist me in learning how to cast it.” She took her wand and pointed it up and tilted towards her chest. “This spell requires a good deal of concentration, and you must speak the words clearly for them to have any effect. Watch closely now. Averto toxica!”
A large blue ribbon shot out from the wand and curled about her, spreading out to encase her in a glowing shield. It seemed to sink into her skin, leaving only a faint wisp of blu to linger on her skin. “It tingles a bit at first, but that’s how you’ll know you did it right, and it lasts for two or three hours before fading.”
Ron drew his wand and said, “The spell I’m about to cast is called Viper’s Venom, and it’ll show you just how well the spell protects against poison. Serpente venoni!”
A thick green liquid shot out of his wand and hit Hermione in the chest.
Several of the girls gasped, but then they quieted when they saw that the venom pooled up and slid off of her as if she were water and it were oil.
“There! You see?” Hermione said, smiling. “Not so hard, is it? Now, let’s try it, okay?”
All of them pointed their wands at themselves and started to cast the spell, with varying results. As Hermione had said, it required concentration to get the spell cast correctly. No one got it right the first time, though Ginny and Katie came close.
It took the remainder of the time allotted for the club for some of the members to cast the spell right. “You can practice more over the weekend,” Hermione said to them. “You all did very well for your first time.”
“Class dismissed!” Ron yelled.
As the students left, talking and joking among themselves, Ron turned to Hermione and said, “I always wanted to say that.”
Hermione laughed. “Oh, Ron! It’s too bad Harry and Draco couldn’t have seen this. I wonder what they’d have thought. I don’t think we did too badly.”
Harry threw off his cloak. “No, you did really well, ‘Mione.”
Both of them jumped.
“Harry, how long have you been there?” Ron asked.
“What were you doing there, anyhow?” asked Hermione.
“Making sure you did things right,” he teased.
“Good one, Professor Snape Junior,” Ron shot back, giving his friend a smart cuff on the shoulder.
“Where’s Draco? Is he hiding somewhere in here too?” Hermione asked, looking hopeful. “I’ve barely seen him at all this week, except in class.”
“No, I’d guess he’s doing some kind of detention with my father. Maybe you can talk to him tomorrow.”
“You still under house arrest?” Ron asked sympathetically.
“Till the end of the week. Meantime though, I’m still trying to translate that bloody scroll.” He looked up at Hermione hopefully. “Um . . .if you have time, ‘Mione, I could really use your help. Trying to translate a language nobody speaks anymore is a real pain in the arse.”
“Well, let me see what you’ve got so far,” Hermione said, all business.
Hardly anything, Harry thought wryly. Then he led the way down the stairs to the library, where his books and papers were.
* * * * *
To his dismay, the avowed bookworm of Hogwarts couldn’t make heads or tails of the books or the scroll. “I’m sorry, Harry. I wish I could help you, but I just . . .this is too complicated even for me to grasp.” She yawned. “Forgive me, maybe I could try again tomorrow. If I had more time to study on it . . .”
She looked so downcast that Harry put his arm around her. “Don’t worry, Hermione. It’s really my riddle to solve, and I guess I’ll just have to figure it out on my own.”
Hermione cheered up a little. “Maybe your Uncle Phil could help?”
Harry shook his head. “I asked, but he said what I just told you.”
“Oh. Well then. Guess I’d better be getting back upstairs. I have to finish some homework before I go to sleep.”
“Good night, ‘Mione.”
“Good night, Harry. Sleep on it, maybe something will come to you in the morning,” Hermione offered.
“I’ll try.” He turned to gather up his books and the scroll and they walked up to Gryffindor Tower together.
* * * * * *
But Thursday and Friday brought no new ideas or inspirations to Harry, who went through his classes mechanically and picked at his dinner. Draco, who was also under sentence still, asked him if anything was wrong. “No. It’s just the scroll.”
“Still haven’t figured it out yet?” Draco asked.
“No. I feel like I’m trying to read backwards with a blindfold on.” He nibbled at his pork cutlet.
Draco looked at his nearly full plate and said, “Better eat, Harry. Dad’s watching.”
Harry cast a glance up towards the staff table, and saw a pair of familiar black eyes observing. He quickly picked up his fork and forced himself to eat a mouthful of potatoes. No sense in bringing his father down on him for skipping meals.
“How about asking Smidgen?” Draco whispered. “She’s been around, she might know a bit about old dead languages. How are the others doing?”
Harry shrugged. “Cedric wasn’t all that thrilled and Krum and Fleur were having trouble too. It’s a real challenge.”
“Well, that’s why it’s a task in the Triwizard Tournament. You still have over two months, you know. And the holidays are coming up.”
“The Yule Ball too.” Harry said. “I’m really looking forward to that. Except for the dancing. Even after McGonagall’s dance lessons, I still feel like a clumsy idiot.”
“You do? You’re not as bad as Greg,” Draco said. He had already learned how to dance, it was something all purebloods were taught as part of their early education. “You’ll be fine.”
“That makes me feel real good, Draco.” Harry said, rolling his eyes.
“I’ll give you some pointers, so you don’t make a complete ass of yourself,” said his brother loftily.
Harry glared at him and kicked him under the table.
Hermione gave them both her best disapproving-Mum look, and sighed pointedly.
Draco contrived to look innocent and Harry looked guilty.
Ron tittered and said, “You do that really well, ‘Mione. Reminds me of my mum. Guess I can tell who’ll be laying down the law when you have kids.”
Before either of the shocked teenagers could respond to that comment, a large gray owl flew drunkenly inbetween the salt cellar and the pepper mill. He was carrying a large red envelope in his beak.
Ron took one look at it and gulped. “Oh no . . .no . . .Errol, please . . .not another one . . .”
Harry and Draco both winced.
“I guess she found out, huh, Ron?” Hermione said sadly. “Oh dear.”
Errol practically crash landed in Ron’s plate, not that it mattered, because as soon as the owl had reached Ron, and released the envelope, the Howler unfolded and Mrs. Weasley’s voice exploded through the hall like a banshee.
RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY!
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING, GOING TO HOGSMEADE AND GETTING INVOLVED IN A . . .A BARROOM BRAWL?!! HONESTLY, CAN YOU NEVER STAY OUT OF TROUBLE? YOU WOULD THINK AT LEAST ONE OF MY CHILDREN WOULD DISPLAY SOME KIND OF SENSE AT LEAST! AND TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY—YOU GET ARRESTED! MY SON—ARRESTED! EVEN THE TWINS NEVER MANAGED THAT! YOUR FATHER IS SO ASHAMED, HE CAN HARDLY HOLD HIS HEAD UP AT WORK. I FOUND OUT WHEN MRS. MULLIN PASSED ME IN DIAGON ALLEY AND TOLD ME—IMAGINE MY SHOCK! I NEARLY PASSED OUT! HOW COULD YOU SHAME THE FAMILY LIKE THIS, RONALD? BE QUIET, ARTHUR, YOU’LL GET YOUR TURN LATER . . .NEVER BEEN SO EMBARRASSED IN MY LIFE! THIS WAS NOT HOW I RAISED YOU, YOUNG MAN, TO GET INTO FIGHTS—I DON’T CARE WHAT IT WAS FOR, BILL—AND GET CARTED OFF TO JAIL LIKE A—A HOOLIGAN! AND HARRY, I’M SURPRISED AT YOU TOO! I KNOW YOUR FATHER TAUGHT YOU BETTER. YOU OUGHT TO BE ASHAMED—AND YOUR FATHER A PROFESSOR TOO! RONALD, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU—NEVER SOLVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR FISTS? OR YOUR WAND? MUST I USE MY WOODEN SPOON BEFORE IT SINKS IN? YOU OUGHT TO THANK DUMBLEDORE FOR POSTING THE SICKLES FOR YOU TO GET OUT OF THERE, BECAUSE IF I HAD TO DO IT, YOU’D BE SORRIER THAN A CAT LEFT OUT IN THE RAIN! WE’RE GOING TO HAVE A LONG TALK WHEN YOU GET HOME . . .A VERY LONG TALK . . .
Here Molly’s voice turned ominous and Ron turned fishbelly white. “Yes, Mum,” he whispered. But the Howler was not quite through yet.
HERE’S YOUR FATHER.
--RON, I’M VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU AND I AGREE WITH YOUR MUM, began Mr. Weasley.
--BUT REALLY, DID YOU KNOCK DOWN ANYONE, AT LEAST? BECAUSE I—
--OH, GIVE ME THAT, ARTHUR!
--SO YOU’D BEST BEHAVE FROM NOW TILL HOLIDAY, RONALD, BECAUSE IF I HEAR ONE MORE THING ABOUT YOUR BEHAVIOR, I’M GOING TO COME DOWN THERE AND PULL YOU RIGHT OUT OF HOGWARTS AND ENROLL YOU IN A DISCPLINARY ACADEMY, AM I UNDERSTOOD? ONE MORE THING!
Finally it was over and while most of the students in the hall were laughing, others were giving Ron sympathetic looks.
Ron buried his face in his hands and groaned. “I am so dead when I get home. How did Mrs. Mullin find out? How?”
“Maybe that snitch Skeeter told her?” suggested Draco. “She’d follow you to your own execution to get a story.”
“Could be,” Hermione said.
“I guess it doesn’t matter.” He carefully used his wand to sweep away the red confetti that the Howler left behind and then returned to eating his dinner. His face was nearly as red as his hair.
His friends all remained staring down at their plates, but they didn’t eat, and Harry even managed to evade Snape’s eagle eyes and get away with eating a muffin and a tiny bit of meat rather than a whole dinner.
Harry counted himself lucky, then went off to find Smidgen, calling for her silently.
* * * * * *
Smidgen perched upon Harry’s shoulder, eyeing the scroll and then giving a soft mew of distress. :Ah Harry, I know many tongues, but a shimmerling has no need to read them, only speak them, and this is not one I know. But perhaps another of my kin may be able to help.:
Smidgen looked up at him, her violet eyes shimmering in amusement. :A certain seafaring horse of our acquaintance. One who used to live as a mortal once upon a time, and certainly would be familiar with mortal languages.:
Harry felt a grin cover his face. “You’re right! Thanks, Smidgen! Maybe he could give me some pointers on where to start.”
:I would think so.:
He checked his watch, and noted it was almost time for class. He waved a quick goodbye to Smidgen and then hurried off for the first class of the day, Transfiguration.
* * * * * *
It was dusk by the time Harry had a moment free to go down to the lake. He almost smiled, for the darkening sky reminded him of the first time he had gone down to the lake, on Halloween night, only then he had been with Katie and had not known of the fae creature that lived sometimes in the lake. He hurried down the path to the lake, which was calm and peaceful looking beneath the purple twilight sky.
There was nothing on the surface of it to lead one to believe that what lay beneath was anything but peaceful. As Harry knew perfectly well, from his adventures with Severus down in the depths to rescue Katie from the attentions of a certain kelpie. A kelpie who was now his friend, oddly enough. *
Harry knelt down at the water’s edge and put his hand into the swirling cool water. Anytime you have need of my services, simply put your hand or foot into the water and speak my name.
Then he withdrew his hand and sat down, anxiously awaiting a reply.
He did not have long to wait. The center of the lake began to froth and bubble and then it erupted in a spray of silvery water and from it emerged a glossy black horse, a magnificent stallion with shells and seaweed braided into his flowing mane and tail. The horse glided on the top of the water as if it were ice. His eyes, which were a deep icy blue, glittered with goodwill.
“Harry, my friend! Well met again.” The kelpie greeted, dipping his head. His hooves made no sound upon the lakeshore.
He paused beside the boy, the water sheening his black hide, making it look like ebony satin.
“And how is the lovely Lady Katherine?” Duncan queried softly.
“And do you still love her then?”
Harry met the fae horse’s eyes steadily. “I do.”
The kelpie snorted. “Ah, well. I wish you joy, young wizard. May you know the love I did with my Albia. What did you wish to speak with me about?”
“Um . . .how many languages do you speak, Duncan? And can you read them too?”
The water horse whinnied. “Several, Harry. Why?”
“Because I . . .have a scroll I need to translate for the Triwizard Tournament.” Harry coughed. “It’s in ancient Greek and I’ve tried to translate it but . . .I’d appreciate it if you could give me some pointers. You don’t have to translate the whole thing, but . . .”
“Show me this impossible scroll, Harry, and then we shall see,” the kelpie ordered, and then he shimmered and transformed into a very handsome man, with the almond-shaped eyes and pointed ears of one of the fae lords. He had jet black hair that fell in a swath down his back, and he was dressed in a fine velvet tunic and breeches with shiny black boots. In his hair were small shell ornaments and a pearl rested in one ear.
Harry stared up at him, the scroll forgotten in his hand. “Merlin! But you’re . . .a man!”
Duncan laughed. “Yes, for now. Just so did my Albia see me one summer’s day. And everyday after that, once we had pledged our troth. Why so surprised? You know that I’m able to change shape.”
“I know, but . . .never mind!” Harry laughed. “Here.” He handed the kelpie the scroll.
Duncan handled it reverently. He muttered a small spell and the parchment was lit up, glowing softly so that he could read it. “This is quite old. Ancient Greek, I believe.”
“Can you . . .read it?”
The kelpie was silent for a moment. His lips moved softly, almost inaudibly. Then he looked up, and in his eyes was a look of mischief. “Oh, yes. I spent much time off the coast of Greece, the waters of the Aegean are simply marvelous. It has been many centuries since I have read it though, so if you’re expecting a swift translation, I’m afraid I must disappoint you.”
“I . . .well, like I said . . .I don’t need you to translate all of it, Duncan.”
“And why not?”
“Well, I don’t think you’re . . .umm . . .allowed. The rules of the tournament,” Harry began.
“Rules?” the kelpie sounded amused. “Were you told specifically that you had to translate the scroll? Or that you had to find a means to translate it?” He asked shrewdly.
Harry thought back to when Crouch had spoken to them of the second task. “Uh, he just said I had to translate the scroll and solve the riddle by February 24th. And that our parents or relatives or teachers couldn’t help us with the tasks.”
“How about friends?”
Harry considered. “They didn’t say anything about friends.”
“Then you wouldn’t be breaking any rules if I helped you. Not that I care, since your rules have no bearing on me. But, if you like, I shall teach you the basics of ancient Greek while I am trying to translate this scroll.”
“Aye, but only because I can tell you’d fret yourself to a shadow if I didn’t,” the kelpie smirked. “Is there a place we might go to besides the lakeshore? It’s fine for me, but you mortals are fragile things, and I don’t wish your father to skin me should you fall ill.”
“You could come into the castle, I guess. The Room of Requirement should be okay for us to use,” Harry said. “We could use my Invisibility Cloak.”
Duncan snorted in amusement. “No need for that, Harry. I am fae, and when I don’t wish a mortal to see me, they won’t.”
“Oh. That’s right, the Glamour,” Harry said. “I knew that.”
Swirling his cloak about his tall frame, Duncan vanished from Harry’s view.
Then the kelpie and the half-fae wizard returned to the castle, where Harry spent the rest of the night in the Room of Requirement, learning the Greek alphabet and elementary phrases while Duncan perused the scroll, writing down lines and then crossing them out.
Eventually, Harry felt his head begin to nod and then he began to drift.
When the kelpie looked up, he saw the boy’s head lying upon the table, and Harry’s eyes were closed in blissful slumber. A smile touched his lips, and the kelpie rose and lifted the boy in his arms. “I believe you need your rest, youngling. Time for you to be in bed.” He whispered two soft words of magic, and then Harry vanished from his arms, to reappear safe and sound and none the wiser in his bed.
With that, Duncan turned back to the scroll. Unlike his mortal friend, his body did not require sleep for long periods of time and so he remained awake for the rest of the night, translating the scroll diligently, in keeping with a promise he had made that same Halloween night.
He paused once or twice, lost in memories of another time and place. Ah, Albia. Had the gods seen fit to bless us with a child, I would have wished him to be a son just like Harry Snape. Honorable and spirited and brave, a son to make a father proud. You are blessed, Severus Snape, blessed thrice by Fortune. Perhaps, one day, Fortune shall smile upon me.
Then he returned to his self-appointed task, and when the first rays of the sun touched the tops of the trees, the kelpie set down his quill, his task complete.
He carefully folded the original and the translated piece along with a short note into an envelope and sealed it, then he sent it to lie next to the still sleeping Harry. Cloaking himself in Glamour, Duncan hummed happily as he descended the stairs and returned to the lake to hunt up some lunch, translating always made him famished.
Well, this was a long time coming but it's finally here!! Yay!
Liana, I put in a Howler just for you!
Thanks to everyone for being so patient.
Next: The Yule Ball, with unexpected guests and surprises!
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