Chapter 42 : Epilogue
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Harry sat up. He had been falling asleep just sitting there. Frankly, he couldn't wait for his magic reserves to return fully. He had to deal with the onerous task of convincing the Dursleys of the danger they were in, and that they should flee. Thus far it wasn't going particularly successfully. He would certainly need all the strength – and patience – he could muster.
The tapping that had awoken him started up again. He stood, turning towards the window as he did. He stared in disbelief for a few moments, before running to lift the window latch. Hedwig flew through, hooting joyously. Fluttering, she landed hard on his shoulder, digging in with her claws firmly so that she couldn't be removed – even when her added weight caused Harry to stumble backwards onto his bed.
"Hedwig!" Harry breathed, a broad, incredulous smile on his face.
She pecked at his hair playfully, as if she were an owlet again, provoking a laugh from Harry – and a protective hand. He coaxed her from her perch so that he could see her properly, and give her all the fuss she wanted.
Eventually she tired of the attention, and held forth her leg solemnly. A note was attached. Harry took it from her eagerly, wondering just how Hagrid had effected such a transformation. Before reading it, however, he hurried over to Hedwig's cage to refill her water. She entered it happily, perched regally, and watched him carefully as he sat back down to read the note. It wasn't from Hagrid.
It was typewritten.
Listen to what the snakes say from tail to tongue. They speak at a particular speed. Tell no-one of this note.
Harry stared at the note in shock. Hadn't Voldemort claimed that the note writer had killed himself rather than be captured by Voldemort? Had there been more than one of them? Was this a trap of some sort? But Hedwig had brought the note, and she seemed better. Of course, she had only needed to get better because of the note writer in the first place...
He reread the note, frowning. His eyes widened. If this meant what he thought it meant, then surely it couldn't be a trap?
He reached over to the bedside table for the piece of paper he had stared at time and time again, with no success other than faint, meaningless, hisses. Dumbledore had only been willing to allow him a copy of one page of the Scrivenings. Snake-like symbols littered it, without exception, their tails on the right, and their mouths on the left. This time, rather than starting from the left hand side of the page, he started from the right hand side, casting his gaze backwards, as he did so.
The familiar sound of unintelligible hissing sounded in his head.
Pursing his lips, he cast his eyes over the snakish squiggles more slowly – the note had suggested speed somehow made a difference. When there was no change, he slowed even further as he followed the lines to the end. The hisses seemed to fade somehow, and he had the frustrating sensation of being mere fractions away from success, as meaning tried to impose itself.
He tried again. Once more came meaningless noise, followed by clarity being just out of reach. He grimaced, and ignored the start of the line, concentrating instead upon the area which seemed most promising, playing with the speed of his reading. Suddenly, as he obtained the right rhythm, words formed themselves in his head as he reached the mouth of the final snake.
"therefore, great caution should be used."
Harry tried reading the line again, thinking that now he had found the right speed, it should all make sense. However, he was again greeted by meaninglessness followed by six clear words. When the start of the second line also gave him no meaning, he reached for the note again. He studied it: he had clearly missed something. All it was saying, basically, was read it back to front to a normal book at a particular speed. That's what he was doing! At least it was half working.
I am doing what it said, aren't I?
He reread the note, slowly, and with a sudden flash of inspiration cast his eyes to the very bottom of the page, to the very final line. Undeterred by the wordless hisses, he continued reading at the same methodical pace until abruptly words entered his head. As he reached the end of the line, he immediately started the second line up, so that he was reading it from right to left, bottom to top.
The potion should be prepared at no more than three days after the lunar eclipse, which is undoubtedly why it is now all but forgotten by today's Wizarding-kind. Amongst older generations, however, it seems to have been rather ubiquitous, for I have found scraps of records in many different parts of the country. One can understand just why more primitive societies must have prized it highly despite its current scarcity, for when magic was celebrated by Muggles it was yet immature, and lacking in skill, precision, and effectiveness, and therefore could not prevent many of even the most common fatalities during childbirth or childhood illnesses. The mortality rates of infants thus being high, fertility potions such as this one were more of a necessity than a luxury.
My research suggests that the use of this potion neither impacts upon the magical ability of the child conceived, nor alleviates any of the many health risks during the pregnancy or the childbirth itself. There is thus far only slight evidence that the child will be more likely to be female, and that multiple children may be borne through use of the potion. As of yet this is not conclusive,"
Harry stopped reading with a grin. Granted, fertility potions weren't likely to be particularly useful as a means of fighting Voldemort, but he could read Parselscript!
He glanced at the note again. It told – asked – him not to tell anyone. He could presumably hand it to Dumbledore, and they might have their best chance yet of discovering the identity of the writer. And Voldemort would then know both that the sender was alive, and maybe also who sent it, depending on where his spies might be. The same person who had just told Harry how to read the Scrivenings. The same one who had hurt Hedwig and the same – presumably – who had healed her.
And tore up the note.
The scraps of torn paper suddenly flew out of his hands, and burst into conflagration. Harry watched them burn away, destroying all traces of ever having existed.
A/N: And so, at last, after far, far too many years, the book comes to completion! I hope you have enjoyed - it has certainly been a remarkable journey for me. This is the first piece of fiction I have ever completed, and had to be a bloomin' long one at that didn't it? ;) I definitely feel that my actual writing has come on leaps and bounds.
First things first - a huge thank you to those who have left reviews. They have been very much appreciated, I assure you. Some of them in particular have really made my day. So, yes! Thank you!!
So, there are a few things I want to say about the last few chapters, that I didn't want to put in a position where they could interrupt the flow of the story, that and I wanted to delay explaining that chapter title! ;)
Firstly, the above mentioned chapter title: "d3 x c2+".
Some of you could have understood it immediately, I don't know. For those that didn't: it's chess notation - it's the way they note down the moves players take in chess so that it can be studied later. The lower-case letters and the numbers tells the square of the piece (and as the piece making the move hasn't got an upper-case letter to signify its type, it is a pawn). The 'x' means it has taken a piece in order to get to its next square, and the '+' means it has checked the opponent as a result of its move. Overall, what it means was actually mentioned in that chapter, where Ron said this during his game of chess with Harry:
"Pawn d3 takes c2, check."
That was the first hint. The second hint was the title of the next chapter, which was 'En Passent', which is another chess term. So if any of you got that connection, very well done indeed! :) I really liked the title because it allowed me to express a complicated concept with just eight characters (including spaces).
Secondly - Aravenne is Regulus! Well done for those who might have guessed. I have to say, I was furious when I read the end of HBP, because I knew immediately that R.A.B. was Regulus, and somehow that seemed to lessen the whole surprise, and made me fear it would be obvious in this story. And yes, although it is now hard to prove, this was all decided before HBP came out. There is some (very) minor foreshadowing early on, and I came up with his name by playing around with the name Regulus Black, and synonyms for 'star' and 'black' and translations etc. and then fudging them slightly into what felt like good names. You'll just have to take my word for it, I guess. (Obviously there's a lot more foreshadowing later, but that was after HBP came out.)
What else - I'm sure I'm forgetting things... Oh yes, Percy and Ron: you have no idea how guilty I felt about knowing Ron would do that. It's so much easier now I've actually done it!
Oh, and this may not need to be said, but although the title of Chapter 38 was inspired by a certain line in the prophecy, the Patronus was not the power Volvemort doesn't know.
Where does the story go from here? I'm still not sure whether I'll write a seventh year or not. I want to start something original, so it will likely depend on how well that goes. Sorry - I know it is rather set up for that 7th book now, with the note writer still alive (and anonymous), and a lead as to how Voldemort has stayed alive despite the Avada Kedavra curse and all. If I do write a 7th year it should all be tied up nicely (along with some bits you probably don't realise will be important...) and it should also be shorter, as I feel I've done a lot of work to set it up in this story. So I'm afraid I can't really give a satisfactory answer with that.
There will, however, be another HP related piece going up very soon. Just a one-shot entitled 'Promises' that has been begging me to be written since... well, I read HBP actually. It's almost ready (and has been for a while), and is about 6000-ish words. It'll be going up in about a week I'd guess, and is set not all that long before Voldemort killed Harry's parents. I hope you'll check it out, and if you do, I'll hope you'll enjoy! :)
Thanks for having come along for the ride!
P.S. No, the fertility potion isn't going to help stop Voldemort! :p