Chapter 3 : Laundry Service
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Harry, Ron and Hermione spent the next hour in the library, researching the Spring Valse exstensively. Harry and Ron found next to nothing, but soon enough Hermione had stalked up to their table.
'Of course!' said said triumphantly, slamming a large book down on the table. 'I was looking for the Valse as a spell, but it's not a spell, it's a magical effect.' she said, as if that clarified things.
Harry and Ron stared at her blankly. Hermione looked disappointed. 'Look at this,' she said, pointing to the open book.
'The Astral Plain is aligned.' she told them.
When their stares remained empty, she threw her hands in the air. 'Didn't you two pay attention at all in muggle classes?' she asked them, frustrated.
'I never went to muggle classes!' Ron said loudly.
'The Spring Equinox in the muggle world is when the globe is tilted at a certain angle...' she stopped looking at Ron's bewildered expression. 'In any case, in the magical world things happen. Magic goes wrong, and people who are, well, in love, get influenced by spells shooting this way and that, especially at Hogwarts.' she told them.
'What do you mean, influenced?' asked Harry.
'Well, with all the spells and enchantments going around the school, people get affected more easily during the Valse. All of the students have seemed odd this past week because of the amount of magic floating around.' she said.
'But surely everyone in the school isn't in love' Ron said doubtfully.
'No, but attraction and small crushes would do it, and everybody has one of those.' she said, looking at the floor.
'But what about Dean, and Seamus?' asked Ron.
'Maybe they were in...' she started, trailing off.
'Seamus?' Ron snorted.
'Well, I'll bet anything that someone is trying to get into the castle while the Valse has it caught off guard.' she said, ignoring him.
'But how?' asked Harry.
'Well,' Hermione started, thinking deeply. 'If a simple sleep spell was cast during the Valse, it might put an entire room to sleep for days. I'm guessing someone is casting one over the entire school, and that's why students have been so tired the past week.'
'And about Dean and Lavender?' Harry asked, strating to understand.
'Well,' she said, at a loss. 'I've heard of a zombie curse, where the target can lose all pattern of thought, and exists solely for the caster's bidding.' she said ominously.
Ron and Harry looked at each other.
'But I don't think that's the case here,' she added quickly. 'Usually spells of that size require something that belongs to the victim.'
'So if someone was casting a spell over the entire school, how would they get something that belonged to all the students in one room to do the casting? It's not like there's some random giant cauldron lying about to stew bits of Hogwart's students in.' Ron said skeptically.
'Yes there is,' Harry said, 'the laundry.'
* * * * *
Ron peeked his red head down the long, dark tunnel, and wondered if he could name off the entire Ravenclaw Quidditch team before hitting the bottom. 'I can't even see the bottom.' he gulped, withdrawing his head quickly.
The three had made their way down to the dungeon, where they came into a dismally dank room with a large, dark opening which sat in the middle of the back wall. The room was lit only by a lantern hanging from the ceiling, emitting an eerie green glow. The room had a lingering odor of mouldy...well, Harry didn't want to think about it. Oddly enough, as the three crowded around the dark chute Harry could still smell Hermione's strawberry sweet hair.
'It's a long way down,' Hermione said nervously, peering down the hole.
'Well, would you rather go back and end up looking like Dean and Seamus?' Ron asked her, looking like he silently hoped she'd say yes.
'Ron's right, Hermione. We have to go down.' Harry said, still looking down the tunnel.
'Well, you first then, Harry.' Ron said brightly, 'if we do meet anything down there you can scare them off first, right?'
Harry looked at him seriously.
'Okay, it's called a joke.' Ron mumbled.
Harry climbed onto the ledge, feeling the cold stone under his hands. He swung his feet out over the edge, and held his breath. He let himself drop.
Harry felt a blast of air whip by him as he pitched down into the blackness. The spot of light at the top of the chute grew smaller and smaller, until the pale green dot that it had become disappeared entirely. He fell for what felt like hours, hearing only the 'whoosh!' of air flying past his ears. Harry started to become worried. What if he fell onto solid ground? He hadn't thought about exactly what he would be landing on. His worries were cut short, however, as he landed with a bounce onto a soft surface. Hearing a yell from above him, he rolled out of the way just as Ron and Hermione came plummeting down after him. They landed with dull thuds some distance away from him. Harry took out his wand and muttered 'lumos'. The room lit up with a soft, magical light as Harry looked around. He had landed on a gigantic pile of laundry. Bag upon bag stuffed with clothes had cushioned his fall. Nearly all of them had been opened, littering the enormous pile with stray robes and student's clothing.
'Well, we didn't break anything,' Harry said, 'or anyone.' he added as an afterthought.
Seeing Ron struggling, Hermione started towards him, 'Ron, are you alright?'
'Yeah, but I think I landed in a pair of Crabbe's knickers,' he said disgustedly, pulling a pair of gigantic, and soiled, pair of underpants from his head. 'Bloody vile, that is.'
Harry tried not to snigger as he hopped down from the pile of laundry. He pointed his wand towards the wall ahead, revealing a gigantic door with a sign that read, 'LAUNDRY. KEEP OUT, PREFECTS AND STAFF ONLY'. The door was about fifteen feet tall, with a huge metal bolt keeping it fastened shut.
Hermione appeared at Harry's side as they both walked up to the door. Hermione pointed her wand upwards at the rusty lock, 'Alohamora' .
The lock sprung open, making a loud grinding noise. Ron joined the two as they heaved the mighty door inwards, revealing the laundry room ahead.
The room was quite taking, well taking for what one would usually expect of a laundry room. A giagantic pail of water, at least thirty feet high, sat in the middle of the room, bubbling almost to the brim with water and wet robes. The huge bucket was surrounded by a moat, where cleaned robes would surface from under the large pail to be grabbed by house elves who scampered along a circular platform surrounding the moat. Three large ramps raised up from the platform, leading right up to the brim of the tall bucket, where the nervous house elves tipped more robes in to be washed. As the three looked up, they saw a large, round metal beam with countless robes on hangers. The robes were dripping when first attached to the round beam by the house elves but after completing a full revolution of the room, undoubtedly aided by magic, they were blown dry by five large fans perched on the walls.
Three house elves walked up to the friends and gave a trio of toothy, and rather ugly, grins. 'Ahh, we hasn't had visitors all day!' squeaked the first elf, bowing politely.
'All day?' asked Harry, 'students usually wander down here?'
'Ooo!' squealed one of the elves happily, 't'is Harry Potter! Dobby has telled us much about your goodness and greatness, sir!'
'Please, don't call me sir. Harry is fine.' Harry said, embarassed.
Several more house elves scampered up to the three in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Harry. 'Welcome, mister Potter!' they called out enthusiastically.
'Did you say there were students down here earlier?' Hermione asked the second elf over the noise.
'Yes, miss!' the elf replied jovially. 'A student and a stranger came helped us with the laundry!'
'Helped you?' Ron asked him.
'Yes, sirs and miss! They put a spell on the bucket to make the robes' extra clean!. But I thinks it didn't worked to well,' he added, giving a goofy grin.
Some of the house elves giggled.
'What did they do?' asked Hermione.
'They's be puttin' a charm on the laundry, miss!' the third elf cried happily.
Harry and Hermione looked at each other. The house elves led the three up the ramps and onto the ledge of the bucket. They peered over the tiny wall, and looked into the water. The water was a crystal blue, and was shooting off large blue bubbles into the air.
'That's no ordinary water,' Hermione said as she looked at the surface.
Harry turned to one of the elves. 'You said a student did this?' he asked the smiling elf. 'But, I thought only prefects were allowed in here.'
'He was a prefect!' the elf told him, smiling happily.
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