Chapter 32 : Evil Stalking
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After the trial and its verdict, Severus, Harry, and Irma were invited to a banquet in their honor, and also to spend the night as well. Neither Severus nor Irma had any pressing business back at the castle and since it was a weekend, Harry didn't have class, so they decided to accept the Society's generous offer.
After the feast, which contained specialties like honey roasted boar and stuffed quail and leek and beef soup, plus freshly baked wheaten bread and roasted vegetables, Severus and Irma decided to go to bed early and made Harry go with them. Harry was a bit awed at the castle, he was sure it was as big or bigger than Hogwarts, and all the Society members seemed to be measuring him for something, and so he didn't put up much of a fight when Severus had him come up to the room they shared.
Upon entering the room he saw a strange little creature, who upon seeing him bowed low and cried, "Master Harry Potter, sir! Prissy has come to serve you now that Mistress Marlene has passed the Veil."
Prissy, now that she was no longer under the McKinnon invisibility restriction, could show herself to Harry. She was a small elf with big pointed ears, long blond hair, and huge eyes colored turquoise. She was wearing a tea towel with the McKinnon crest on it, it looked like a toga upon her. She rather reminded Harry of those troll dolls that had been so popular with girls last year, although the trolls had had hair all the colors of the rainbow, smaller ears, and tiny eyes.
Harry stopped dead in shock. "Prissy! W-what do you mean, you want to serve me?"
"Harry, will you please move out of the doorway?" Severus asked irritably.
"Oh, sorry! But Uncle Severus, look! It's Prissy, Marlene's house elf." Harry said, moving out of the doorway.
Severus entered, with Skull on his shoulder, and gave the elf a hard look. "You were bound to the McKinnon family?"
"Prissy was, Master Professor Snape. But now Mistress is gone, Prissy's contract had expired and Prissy is free to seek a new master. Prissy chooses Master Harry Potter."
"Uncle Sev, I don't understand. I'm not anybody's master. I don't want to . . . to have slaves or whatever." Harry protested.
Prissy's face crumpled. "Master Harry sir! Master Harry does not understand. 'Tis not slavery, but honorable service. Prissy wishes to express gratitude to Master Harry by this."
Harry fumbled for a reply, he didn't want to hurt the elf's feelings. "You helped me a lot more than I did you. I'm the one who owes you."
"No! No! There are no debts between us." Prissy shook her head frantically. She looked as if she were going to burst into tears.
"Please calm down." Severus told the distraught elf. "Harry, a word with you." He pulled his ward halfway across the room and whispered, "When a house elf's mind is set upon something, it will take a miracle to change it. If you continue to refuse her offer, she shall be gravely insulted."
"But . . . but Uncle Severus . . . I don't need a servant," Harry protested. "I can pick up after myself and everything."
"I know that, but this elf clearly has her heart set on you. If you accept, you can set terms of your own choosing, such as allowing her a day off, or giving her a uniform to wear, and allowing her to suggest things for you. You do not have to be like the McKinnons."
"But why . . . why does she want to be contracted to another wizard at all? I would think after how the McKinnons treated her, she'd be glad to be free." Harry objected.
"House elves prefer serving a wizard family or institution to being free, Harry. It's odd to someone like you or me, but they enjoy having a master or mistress. It's simply how they are." Severus explained. "Besides, Prissy feels she owes you a debt and house elves take obligations very seriously."
"In other words, bran-boy, you can't get rid of her." Skull croaked. "So just say yes."
"Master Harry?" Prissy asked, her lower lip quivering.
"Okay, I accept your offer, Prissy. But I want you to do a few things for me . . .the first thing is to wear a kind of uniform for me."
"Prissy shall! Prissy is soo happy to work for Master Harry!" the little elf was beaming from ear to ear. "What is the Potter family crest and colors?"
Harry frowned, he hadn't know his family even had such things. "Uh . . ."
"The Potter colors are sea blue and gold with a griffin rampant upon a divided background," Severus supplied.
Harry turned wondering eyes to him. "How do you know that?"
"When I was around your age, my mother taught me heraldry, and included the crests of all the known pureblood families," Severus replied. "Your father's was one of them."
Prissy bowed and suddenly the tea towel was gone and in its place was a snappy tunic and skirt ensemble of sea blue and gold with a griffin rearing upon the left breast. "Master Harry, is this acceptable?"
Harry nodded. He then outlined a few rules and Prissy bowed and asked if he required assistance. Harry declined and Prissy disappeared. Harry was still rather confused in his new role and decided to sleep on it. One thing he did know, and that was he would never be the sort of master Marlene had been.
As he was finishing getting ready for bed, Skull crowed, "Congratulations, bran-boy. Now you're a member of the aristocracy."
Harry frowned at the raven. "No, I'm not. I'm just Harry, Skull." Yet somehow he sensed that he would never be 'just Harry' again.
Meanwhile, back at Hogwarts, Lena received an owl from Irma warning about the revenant on the loose. Lena had studied the half-corporeal undead, and knew that once a revenant was freed of a witch or wizard's control, it could become a deadly opponent. Because the revenant had been sent, according to Harry, to watch the library and maybe even steal back the Codex, Lena set about protecting the library with an ancient form of rune magic. Long ago, the Society had made a study of rune magic and cited that Hogwarts had been built with rune magic etched into its very stones.
So Lena called upon those studies now and began to etch several protective runes into the stone arches and walls of the library with her wand. The runes glowed a strident blue as she did so, and then they faded into invisibility. Only another practitioner of the magic or a Society member trained in what to look for would spot them. They would prevent any evil, such as the revenant, from passing through to the library, and also protect whoever was inside the library, or who called upon them for aid. Lena just prayed it would be enough.
She then went to speak with the Headmaster, to give him warning and warn all the House Heads to keep their charges safe in their common rooms and dorms that evening. She even went to speak with Professor Quirrell and ask him to set some extra Defense spells, but oddly enough found him absent from his quarters. On the way back from them she encountered Argus Filch, and asked if he'd seen Quirinius lately.
"Can't say I have, ma'am. What business would he be havin' this time o'night, I can't say," Filch spat. He was already suspicious of Quirrell, especially since his cat, Mrs. Norris, disliked the professor and hissed at him whenever he walked by her. He trusted his familiar, for cats could always sense things about a person others could not.
"Oh, well, if you happen to see him, please send him to me." Lena requested.
"Will do, ma'am."
"Argus, it might be a good idea for you to . . . stay in your quarters tonight. There is something evil afoot." Lena warned.
"A revenant. Do you know what that is?"
Argus spat and shivered. "Aye, I know. Why would you think such would be here?"
Lena explained her suspicions and what her aunt had told her. "So please do as I say, because I wouldn't like for something to happen to you."
The Squib nodded. "Ma'am, I shall stay in my quarters tonight. Better safe than sorry. Thanks for the warning."
Lena smiled and then she headed back up the stairs to her own quarters. She was glad that her aunt, Severus, and Harry were not in the castle tonight, for they were three less people she had to worry about. As she climbed the stairs, she felt a chill, deep as winter, flow through her.
It was so cold it stole her breath. She started to run, knowing all the while she could never run fast enough to escape a revenant. She reached the library and set her hand upon the door just as the revenant appeared.
It hissed at her, its red eyes burning like banked coals. She felt the undead thing's fury as it tried to make her do its bidding. "Tell me where it is, librarian!" it hissed, its voice hollow as the grave. "Where is the book of power?"
Lena shuddered as the revenant attempted to break into her mind and rip the information from her as it had done to Irma. But unlike Irma, Lena was a mind magus, and had shields in place that were nearly as good as a natural Occlumens. She could feel the venomous touch of the revenant, scratching at her shields and she quivered all over, her stomach doing flip flops as she attempted to stave off the attack. The book! It still wanted the book! Irma had been right.
Lena slapped the side of the doorframe where the runes had been etched and they began to glow stridently. The castle's magic suddenly surged through them as Lena called silently for help. Hogwarts, save me from this creature of darkness.
The revenant lunged, all blackness and size, trying to grab her by the throat, but the rune magic suddenly sucked her backwards through the door, and she disappeared into the wood just as the revenant's nails scored deep talon-like marks in the wood.
There came a scream of agony as the revenant was burned by the runes, and drew back, shaking its hand, which was rimed with fire and burnt to the bone. It hovered before the library, not daring to come too close, and gave a loud wail of frustration.
Footsteps sounded on the stairs and then there came yet another scream, but this one was human and it was brief.
Snarling viciously, the revenant fled to hide as it sensed more presences approaching, and these even stronger in magic. As it vanished into the ether once again, Dumbledore, Minerva, and Filius arrived, wands drawn, in answer to Lena's frantic mind summons.
But they found the corridor before the library doors empty of the revenant and Quirrell lay facedown halfway to the library.
"Quirinius!" Filius called in alarm, and went to turn over the stricken professor. But even as he did so, he knew it was too late. The purple turbaned professor was stone cold dead, all the life drained out of him by the revenant's touch. His turban had come unwound, and the back of Quirrell's head had been exposed.
"He's gone, Albus," reported Flitwirck sadly. "But look at the back of his head."
The Charms professor indicated Quirinius' bald pate, which looked blistered and burned, as if he'd stuck it into a fire.
"What a shame," sighed Dumbledore. He gently covered the professor with his cloak, then went to rap upon the library door, calling Lena's name. When he got no response, he pushed open the doors and entered, finding a shaken Lena standing in front of the Restricted Section, inside a Circle of Protection, her wand drawn, ready to fight to protect her precious books.
When Severus, Harry, Irma, and Skullduggery arrived at Hogwarts early the next morning, they found the castle buzzing about the sudden death of Professor Quirrell, and what could have caused it, for Dumbledore hadn't told the students yet about the revenant, not wanting to start a panic. As soon as Irma learned the attack had taken place outside the library, she ran to find her niece.
Severus, in turn, went to find Dumbledore, but first he took Harry to his quarters and said sternly, "Under no circumstances are you to leave here unless I return and give you permission, Harry. Is that understood?"
Harry sighed and nodded. He really wished he could ask his friends what was going on.
"I'll stay with you, Harry," Skull promised, flying to him and gently crooning into his ear.
Harry reached up and scratched the raven's head, thinking that at least he wasn't alone.
"How long do you think you'll be, Uncle?" Harry asked as Severus turned to go.
"I do not know, Harry. But if you need anything, just call Prissy." Severus replied. Then he strode out the door, his cloak billowing.
Harry flopped down on the couch and sighed. He hated being cooped up. He called Prissy and asked for a cup of cocoa and the Daily Prophet.
The elf delightedly brought him what he'd asked for. Harry began to read the paper. Quirrell's untimely death was on the front page, but nobody seemed to know what he'd died from. Cause of death: unknown, the article read. "I know what caused it," Harry whispered to Skull. "It was the revenant. Right, Skull?"
"Most likely," the raven cawed. Then he began to groom himself, sitting atop Harry's head while the boy continued reading. Though he did not say so, the wily raven knew the situation was dire. The revenant could strike anywhere in the castle that was unwarded, at any time, at anyone. It had drained Quirrell, and so it was not hungry, but the energy it had stolen from the Defense teacher merely made it a stronger opponent and a more deadly one.
A/N: Please excuse the shortness of this chapter, but I am writing this from my mother's hospice room. She has recently taken a turn for the worse and is terminal and may only live for another day or two. I will not be updating this story, or any of my others anytime soon, and they are on temporary hiatus. They are NOT abandoned. Please review and God bless.
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