Chapter 29 : Hourglass Mystery
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A/N: Thanks to Capo Executor for his idea about the house hourglasses.
James and Sirius were walking to class and passed the four house hourglasses. They stopped and looked at them. Of the four, Gryffindors had the least amount in it. The rubies were just a little above the mid-point of the hourglass. Hufflepuff's diamonds and Ravenclaw's sapphires were well above midpoint and Slytherins emeralds were practically at the top of their hourglass.
"It's too bad we can't find a way to make those rotten, cheating snakes lose a lot of house points all at once," Sirius complained to James.
"It's too bad there isn't a way to steal some of the emeralds out of their hourglass without having to break the glass," James remarked.
Sirius' eyes widened as he remembered something. "Maybe, there is, but let's get to class before we're late and Slughorn gives us detention."
Hogwarts had been hit by its first blizzard of the season and the corridors and classrooms were cold. Everybody shivered and their breath misted the windows of the classrooms. In Potions everybody huddled around their cauldrons, trying to stay warm. Slughorn had them brewing the Swelling Solution. He kept a vial of Deflating Draught handy in case there was an accident and handed one to Severus who walked around the classroom, peering into cauldrons and offering advice. Avery's solution looked brown rather than the lime green it was supposed to be and Severus decided it was too late to try and save it.
"You come over here and try to ruin my potion I'll dump it over your head, Snivellus!" James threatened. "I'm not going to lose points because you deliberately ruined my potion."
"You tell him, Jamie!" Mary said.
"Potter, I wouldn't want to look at your pathetic potion," Severus sneered. "You don't need anybody to ruin it; you do a fine job of that on your own."
"Mr. Potter, did I not warn you there would be consequences for calling Mr. Snape by that abominable nickname?" Horace asked. "Ten points from Gryffindor."
All the Gryffindors with the exception of Mary and Sirius glared at James. "What, it isn't my fault! He favors his house. My dad told me so!"
"Mr. Potter, I do not want to hear another word out of you or I will take another ten points and send you to see the Headmistress."
Severus kept an eye on James and Sirius the whole two hours to make sure neither of them came anywhere near Lily's, Alice's, Remus', Frank's or Peter's cauldrons.
"I can't believe that arse!" Lily complained as they donned their cloaks, scarves, and gloves for the walk outside to Greenhouse Two. "Pothead and Black probably lose us 50 points a day with their stupidity!"
The strong wind was whipping the tree branches and the snow around and it was almost impossible to see the greenhouse. Severus held Lily's hand tightly and forged ahead. It was easier for him as he was much taller than she. They finally reached the greenhouse, got the door open and all but collapsed inside. Thankfully it was warm as Professor Sprout kept a wood stove going full blast so the plants wouldn't freeze.
Severus enjoyed Herbology as much as Potions as there was a close relationship between the two disciplines. He knew a lot about it too as his gran had taught him about plants when she started him brewing.
Lily was good at it too. She was naturally curious and read voraciously. The best in their class however was Alice who had a natural talent for Herbology the same way he had a talent for Potions; and Lily had a talent for Charms.
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When classes had finished for the day, James grabbed Sirius. "Okay, spill! How can we reduce the number of emeralds in the snakes' hourglass?"
"Come on, let's go upstairs where its warm. Loopy, Pee-Pee, and Longboob are in the library studying with the rest of their dumb arse friends."
"Merlin, as much as they study, you'd think we were having OWL's in a couple of weeks instead of just exams!" James snorted as he followed Sirius up to the seventh floor. Every dorm room was equipped with a wood stove that the elves kept replenished with wood so the rooms stayed warm. James tossed his book bag aside and flopped down on his bed. "So, what's your idea then?"
"I happened to remember that I met this bloke this past summer in the park across the street from my house. He's older than us, nineteen or twenty, maybe and his name is Mundungus Fletcher or 'Dung' for short."
"Did he go to Hogwarts and what house was he in when he did?" James demanded.
"He never went!" Sirius shook his head. "He lives in the street, but he knows a lot of cool spells and stuff. When I was hanging out with him, he was showing me how he lifts wallets and purses from Muggles. They never report it because they're not going to tell anybody they saw their wallet or purse just float off. He even lifted some wallets and purses from witches and wizards – really stupid ones who must have been in Hufflepuff!"
"Yeah?" James said, sitting up.
"I'll bet he knows how to get those emeralds out of the snakes' hourglass and all we'd have to do in return is give him a few of the emeralds probably so he can earn some Galleons selling them. He told me he knows people in the Muggle and Wizard black markets he sells stuff to."
"Sounds like a plan, Siri. Do you know how to contact him?"
"Not exactly, but I'm sure if we sent an owl, it could find him."
"You write a note to him with our offer," James replied enthusiastically. "We'll go to the Owlery as soon as you're done."
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Lily and Severus continued to study in the library after their other friends had left to go back to their common rooms. Severus cleared his throat and said, "Lily, I wondered if you'd like to spend a few days at Mirrorvale over the holidays like last year? Gran and Grandpa already said they'd be pleased to have you visit again if it's all right with your folks."
"I'll owl mum and dad and ask, but I'm sure they'll let me. Is Dorian going to come too?"
"I invited him again too."
"Do you realize that the holidays are only three weeks away, Sev?"
"And our semester exams are only two weeks away," Severus pointed out.
"I'm nervous about those," Lily confessed.
"You'll do fine. You've gotten good grades so far this year," Severus said. "We'll keep studying and quizzing each other until we know it inside out. I'll help you with Potions and you can help me with Charms and Transfiguration."
"It's a deal," Lily replied and they shook hands. "Sev, can I ask you something I've wondered about ever since you told Dorian and I that you would have a Black Cloak for a permanent bodyguard when you turned seventeen."
"Okay," Severus said nodding.
"How come your mum didn't have one? If they're contracted to your family, shouldn't she have had a bodyguard?"
Severus sighed. "When she and my dad were first married my dad was kind of nervous about the whole magic thing although he eventually came to accept and even enjoy what mum could do. Anyway, mum dismissed her bodyguard to help my dad feel more comfortable about the magical world. I've often wondered if she'd had a Black Cloak with her that day if she might still be alive, but there's no sense in thinking 'what if' all the time because it's fruitless."
Lily squeezed his hand. "I'm sorry, Sev, for bringing up sad memories."
"No, it's okay, Lily. I have a lot of good memories of mum and dad and they make me happy when I think about them. Even the last one of mum defending the Muggleborn family from the Death Eaters."
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When James and Sirius returned from class the next day, there was an owl waiting for Sirius. He grabbed the letter roughly off the owl's leg, causing it to screech and try to bite him. He opened the window and tossed it out. He tore open the note and read it quickly.
"Well, what's it say?" James demanded.
"It's from Dung; he says he'll be glad to help us out and make some profit too. He says he'll Floo to Hogsmeade and he knows a secret passage way in Honeydukes that leads here. He says he heard about it from Fabian and Gideon Prewitt, who were the ones that discovered it."
"The kings of the pranksters," James said. "I bow to them."
"They told him there's an entrance on the third floor behind a statue of a one-eyed witch and you tap the statue's hump with your wand and have to say Dissendium to open the passageway and to close it again you tap it with you wand and say Claudo."
"Cool! Come on, Siri, let's go and find it. There can't be that many one-eye witch statues on the third floor."
"This will be great, Jamie because Dung can sneak in here, we can stash him somewhere, and he can steal the emeralds out of the snakes' hourglass. You can loan him your invisibility cloak to do it."
James and Sirius went down to the third floor, hiding underneath James' cloak, and searched up and down the hall until they came to a statue of a bald witch with one eye and a huge widow's hump.
Sirius looked at the plaque beneath the statue and read, "Gunhilda of Gorsemoor, Healer, Potioneer, and discoverer of the cure for dragon pox. Bloody hell! She was a healer? I wouldn't have wanted to go to her; she'd have scared the pants off me!"
"Quiet!" James ordered. He tapped the hump with his wand and said, "Dissendium!" To his amazement the statue slid aside with a grinding noise revealing a dark and dank passageway that looked as if it had been carved right through the rock. "Wicked!" James breathed as he and Sirius looked in. They stepped back and James tapped the witch's hump and said, "Claudo!" With more grinding noises the statue slid back into place.
"Do you realize what we've discovered? We can use your invisibility cloak and this passageway to get into Honeydukes anytime we want," Sirius said. "We can help ourselves to any kind of candy we want!"
"Yeah! Glad you came up with the idea of contacting this Mundungus bloke!"
"I'll write him and tell him we found the passageway and to let us know when he's coming and how long he thinks it will take him to get through from Honeydukes so we can be here to let him in."
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Lily, Severus, and their rest of their friends met in the Room of Requirement to revise and quiz each other on various classes. They had decided to leave figuring out how the current riddle applied to finding the next riddle or in finding the Grimoire until after their end-of-term exams and when they returned from the holidays.
"I can't believe we're almost to the end of the first semester. It seems as if we just came on the train yesterday and now will be going home on it again," Lily said.
"And the second Hogsmeade visit is coming up this weekend too," Dorian said.
"Dorian and I will bring back samples from Honeydukes again," Tav promised.
"I can't wait until we can go to Hogsmeade next year," Alice said.
"Potter and Black will make a beeline for Zonko's to stock up on dungbombs and stink pellets," Tav said sourly.
"Which no doubt they'll use on us," Dorian added
"It was probably them that sent that box to poor Mr. Filch last year that he thought contained Ice Mice, but was really dungbombs that blew up in his face when he opened the box," Emily said.
"No doubt," Severus replied.
"Can the Boomerang Charm protect against dungbombs?" Reg asked.
Caddaric shook his head. "It's only meant to protect against other spells."
"Well, maybe we can find something to protect us against them in the meantime," Frank said.
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Sirius and James were hiding under James' invisibility cloak by the one-eyed witch on Saturday evening having snuck down after Remus, Peter, and Frank were asleep. James tapped the hump with his wand and said, "Dissendium." The statue slid away revealing the passageway; a short, stocky wizard with slicked-back ginger hair, a round face, and small, shifty blue eyes stood inside. "Evenin' gents, Mundungus Fletcher at your service."
"Dung, glad you could make it!" Sirius said. "This is my best mate, James Potter, who I was telling you about this summer."
"Right pleased to meet you, Jimmy," Dung replied.
James and Sirius led him down to a third floor corridor. On the left side there were all sorts of dusty, unoccupied rooms. James and Sirius had fixed one up. They had owled Mavis and Charles saying they wanted to fix up a room where they could go to avoid being bullied by Snivellus and his friends. Mavis had sent a couple of the Potter house elves with extra furniture. She told Jamie to call the elves whenever he needed anything else and they would bring it. "Here we go, Dung. You can sleep on the couch and there are blankets in that chest. There's food on the table over there; I just had our elves bring it. If you need anything else, let me know."
"Rightly appreciate this, gents, it being winter and all."
"No problem, Dung," Sirius said. "You're the one helping us out."
"You'll have to stay in here during the day and at night you'll have to watch out for the caretaker, Filch, his cat Mrs. Norris, and Peeves who's a poltergeist."
"I gotta a few people I wanna get back at too," Mundungus said. "You mentioned the grandson of Marius Prince is in the house you want me to take the emeralds from?"
"Yeah, Snivellus Snape," James growled.
"Well, I got pinched a couple of years ago lifting a witch's bag. I was just startin' out so I weren't as savvy as I am now. Old Marius Prince was the witch's lawyer."
"Did he put you in jail?" Sirius asked horrified.
"Worse! He gave me a choice to do community service with this witch or go to jail! It was 'orrible! I had the bitch breathin' down me neck and workin' me like a bloody house elf and probably reportin' back to old Marius in the bargain. I got out of there right quick and hid out on the streets where nobody could find me!"
"Well, now's your chance to get back at him, Dung!" James said. "But how are you going to get the emeralds out? I heard there's a locking charm on the hourglasses so only Professor Dumbledore or Professor McGonagall can remove them."
"It's probably the same kind the goblins use in their jewelry store cases in Diagon Alley. I got a mate, name of Warty, who can get around those kinds of charms and showed me how to do it."
James decided he would loan Dung his invisibility cloak to get the job done. He wasn't worried about him pinching it. If he did the cloak had an anti-theft charm on it and would disappear and return to him.
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Lily got an owl from her parents the next week giving her their permission to visit Mirrorvale over the Christmas holidays. "Sev!" Lily ran up to Severus and gave him a hug. "I can come and visit you over Christmas! Mum and Dad just owled me their permission. They just need to know when I'll leave and return."
"I'll owl gran and grandpa and let you know," Severus promised.
Dorian and Tav were excited about their second Hogsmeade visit this weekend and could talk of little else.
Horace was coming down the hallway from the Hospital Wing on his way to the Great Hall. He had just delivered the potions Poppy had requested him to brew. He passed the house hourglasses and then suddenly stopped and backed up. He looked at Slytherin hourglass and noticed the emeralds were more than a third of the way down in the upper portion of the glass. Had a member of his house suffered a major point loss that he had yet to be informed about? He walked into the Hall, shaking his head as he sat down next to Minerva and began filling his plate with food from the platters on the table.
"You look a bit confused this morning, Horace," Minerva remarked.
"Well, I was coming back from bringing potions to Poppy and I passed the hourglasses and I noticed how much Slytherin had dropped yet I haven't received any notices of point losses."
"Nor have I, Horace," Minerva answered with a frown. "And as you know it's my job to adjust the hourglasses, adding or subtracting house points from them. It seems as if the only house I've had to subtract points from lately has been my own. All the rest I've been adding points."
"What do you suppose is going on the, Minerva?"
"I don't know, Horace, but we'll take a look after breakfast and see if we can determine what the problem might be."
James and Sirius chuckled when they saw Horace and Minerva standing in front of the hourglasses. "Old Slughorn won't know what hit him by the time Dung gets done," Sirius whispered.
James nodded in agreement. "Serves old fat arse right always favoring his dark house and especially that greasy git, Snivellus!"
That night James and Sirius were laying in bed and James was talking about what he expected to get for Christmas. "I told dad and mum to get me that latest racing broom called The Striker. I read about it in 'Quidditch Illustrated.' It's the newest one on the market and it's supposed to fly at top speed.
Sirius, having ate too much for dinner, suddenly let a loud, smelly fart. "Ahh! I feel much better now!"
"Is that the best you can do, Siri?" James scoffed. "I'll bet even Silly Lily could do a better one than that."
"Let's see you do better, Jamie," Sirius challenged.
"Easily done!" James said, and let out a very loud and smelly fart.
"You call that better? Silly Lily could do one better than that!" Sirius said, letting out another fart.
"Ha! Top this one," James replied, adding his contribution.
Remus, Pete, and Frank by this time were practically gagging from the smell and grabbed their pillows and blankets and stumbled half-awake down to the common room.
"At least we won't have to listen to Pee-Pee serenading us tonight," Sirius joked.
"Well, now we know a sure-fire way to get rid of them," James added.
When Professor McGonagall entered the common room the next morning she was shocked to find Remus stretched out on one couch, Frank on the other and Peter curled up in one of the squashy armchairs. "Mr. Lupin, Mr. Longbottom, and Mr. Pettigrew, what is the meaning of this?"
Remus blinked groggily, rubbing his eyes. "Sorry, Professor, but it got too smelly to sleep in our dorm room last night."
"Potter and Black decided to hold a fart letting contest," Frank explained.
"And it got way too stinky for us to sleep up there," Pete added.
Minerva sighed. She would have thought that the Potters and the Blacks would have taught their sons that some things were inappropriate to do, but apparently not. "I'm sure the odor is gone by now, but you may open the window a crack if it's not."
She returned to her office and sat down behind her desk. Now it seemed as if she would need to lecture both Potter and Black on appropriate behavior and courtesy to their dorm mates. She was glad Albus was not here; he would no doubt be laughing his bony arse off at the latest antics of his godson. She looked at her wall clock and decided to go down to breakfast. She took a detour to check the hourglasses and saw the Slytherin hourglass was once again lower than it had been the previous day.
The mystery was partially solved on Saturday morning by an article in the Daily Prophet entitled 'Magical Law Enforcement Officials Stumped by Influx of Uncut Emeralds in Black Market.'
"Well, that solves half the problem," Minerva said putting down the paper. "I expect I ought to inform the Board and MLE that these emeralds are probably ours and they disappeared from the Slytherin hourglass. I can just hear Albus gloating now."
"It's not your fault, Minerva," Horace said. "In all the years we've been here as both students and professors, nobody has ever stolen or even attempted to steal the jewels out of the hourglasses. If there is fault to go around; it's as much mine as it is yours. More than one of my house members mentioned that the emeralds were getting lower in our hourglass all of a sudden. I dismissed it and thought it was due to point loss and I just hadn't been informed yet. It wasn't until the other morning that I took a hard look and realized they were right."
"I will send word to the governors and offer my resignation as headmistress," Minerva said getting up. "I'll also inform Barty of what's been happening right under my nose."
"We still don't know who's stealing them and how they're doing it," Horace pointed out.
"I'll let MLE solve that mystery," she replied.
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Sirius pulled James into an alcove by the Great Hall as soon as they finished breakfast. "We'll have to tell Dung not to take anymore emeralds," Sirius hissed.
"But why? He's doing such a great job!" James protested. "Did you see how much lower the snakes' hourglass is?"
"Didn't you read the Prophet this morning? If they catch Dung, they catch us. I think Sluggy and McGonagall are already suspicious. I don't want to see Dung end up with Marius Prince prosecuting his case. He'll go to prison for sure and we might too or at least be expelled."
James pouted. "So what, Siri? Even if he rats us out, nobody would believe him. We're purebloods and he's just a homeless half-Blood with no morals or connections. Besides, imagine telling this story to our grandkids years from now? They'll think we're the coolest granddads ever!"
"Don't matter. I'm not taking any chances. I don't want Dung to go to prison and I don't want to take the chance of us being expelled. Mum and dad would really go to town on me if that happened! He's fenced enough of those emeralds that he's probably sitting on a pretty good nest egg so he should be able to find a nice place to stay for the rest of the winter."
Sirius borrowed James' cloak and went to see Dung. He showed him the paper and told him he couldn't take any more of the emeralds because he didn't want him to get caught and end up in prison. Dung didn't want to go to prison either and he had a couple of other deals going on that needed his attention so he promised to leave that night. Sirius saw him off as soon as it got dark.
Meanwhile the governors were discussing the theft and Magical Law Enforcement was combing the school, but coming up blank. Sirius was sweating, but James remained cool. Barty Crouch and MLE finally left Hogwarts declaring they didn't know how the emeralds had been stolen. The Board, with the exception of Bottsford and Ashburton, voted that no reprimand was needed for Minerva because nobody could have conceived the jewels being stolen out of the hourglasses and would not be checking for it.
"Something stinks here," Severus said when he heard what MLE had to say. "I might think it was Potter and Black except, according to my grandfather, the locking charm on the hourglasses is very complex and I doubt those two twits could manage it."
"Well, at least they've gotten the theft stopped and all your points were restored. Could it have been one of the professors who might have been doing it?" Lily asked.
"Grandpa says the only ones who know the unlocking charm are the headmaster and headmistress because she's the one that adjusts the point averages, but McGonagall would never do anything that immoral."
"I guess it doesn't matter now since whoever was doing it stopped." Lily squeezed Severus' hand and smiled. "Christmas is coming and I'm looking forward to seeing mum and dad."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing gran and grandpa, Arlo and Mitzi too," Severus replied, smiling. "I can't wait for you to come and visit."
"Me either, but first we have to get past our exams."
Dorian and Tav came back from Hogsmeade with more tales of the things they saw and they brought back plenty of samples from Honeydukes.
"This is the first place I'm going to hit when we go there next year," Alice said.
"Me too!" Jane promised.
"I got another year yet," Reg mourned. "So you'll have to remember to bring me samples next year."
Exam week or 'Hell Week' was intense and nerve-wracking, but finally ended with the Yule Ball being held on Saturday night. They would be leaving on the Hogwarts Express the next morning
Lily and Alice watched as the older Gryffindor girls who wore make-up and beautiful dresses came down the stairs to meet their dates who were clustered nervously in the common room.
"It must be a really romantic dance," Lily said.
"We'll find out in two years," Alice replied confidently as they returned to their dorm room
"Who's going to ask me with my frizzy red hair and freckles?" Lily asked, flopping down on her bed.
"Sev will – no doubt about it. He's nutters about you already! I can tell."
"He's so handsome," Lily sighed. "He'll probably have a million girls chasing after him by then."
"Well, if you think you won't get asked, what about me? I've probably got the biggest mouth in the school and a lot of guys don't like mouthy girls."
"You're intelligent and that's why you're not afraid to say what you think," Lily stated. "If they're only going to be interested in simpering fools like MacDonald then I'd rather not be asked."
"I agree," Alice said.
The next morning the carriages arrived after breakfast to take the students to the Hogsmeade station where the Hogwarts Express was waiting to take them home. During the journey home, Severus Lily, Alice, Frank, Remus, Pete, Emily, Jane, Caddaric, Irene and Reg were all seated in one compartment. Severus was thankful the train was magical and the compartment automatically expanded to fit the number of people entering it or else they'd have to sit in separate compartments or end up sitting in each other's laps. They ate candy and other sweets they'd bought from the trolley, played Exploding Snap, and discussed what they would be doing over the holidays.
"Now, remember," Lily said as the Express was approaching London. "Everybody think about the riddle and try to figure out how it will help us find the next clue."
As the train pulled into Platform 9 ¾ Severus spotted his grandparents and Leif and Conor.
Severus was hugged by both his grandparents. Marius was still dressed in court robes under his heavy cloak, having just come from court while Vesper was dressed in an icy blue winter robe and her heavy, outer cloak was a deep sapphire blue. Vesper and Marius also gave Lily a hug "We're so looking forward to you visiting us," Vesper said. "It was snowing when I left Mirrorvale so there will be fresh snow for sledding."
"I can't wait to visit," Lily said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing Mirrorvale again."
"Ready?" Leif asked. He had shrank Severus' trunk and placed it in his pocket. Conor carried Lily's trunk for her as they all stepped through the barrier once the guard indicated it was clear.
Paul and Cinthy Evans were waiting on the other side as they came through. Lily noticed right away that Petunia was missing and figured she had refused to come again. Cinthy gave Severus a big hug. "My! How you've grown since we saw you last summer, Sev!" Cinthy exclaimed. "You're nearly taller than me!"
"Yes, he's probably going to be over six feet by the time he stops growing," Vesper said fondly.
"Why don't we stop for tea and snacks at the Leaky Cauldron before we go our separate ways?" Marius suggested.
"I think that sounds like a capital idea, Lord Prince," Paul replied.
Marius waved his hand. "Please, it's Marius."
"And I'm Paul," Mr. Evans said.
Just then James rudely shoved through and deliberately shoved Lily, almost causing her to fall. "Get out of the way! We're in a hurry!" He turned back to his parents. "Come on Mum and Dad. Quality Quidditch Supplies closes at six and I want to show you the broom I want you to get me for Christmas."
"I guess some people don't know don't know when they're in the way," Mavis sniffed.
"Come along, dear," Charles said, taking her arm. "We don't want to others to see us standing by these people and think we're dark associates of theirs."
"You ever lay a hand on my daughter again, Mr. Potter, and I'll hire Lord Prince to sue your snobby arses off!" Paul threatened. "You'd best remember what happened to Professor Hardbroom and who won that case!"
"And I will sue you for every Galleon you possess if you continue to refer to Vesper and myself as dark!" Marius said in a tone of voice that brooked no argument.
Mr. Potter just glared and huffed before escorting his wife and son out of the terminal.
"Snobby bastards!" Paul muttered.
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