Chapter 20 : Watches and Ears
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This Vision here exprest appear'd unto my dimmed sight:
A Toad full Ruddy I saw, did drink the juice of Grapes so fast...
The Visions of Sir George Ripley
20. Watches and Ears
Harry and Sandy took a few moments to say their morning goodbyes on the terrace. Sandy rushed inside to get ready for work, and Harry apparated to Grimmauld Place, immediately falling in bed and sleeping till noon. Kreacher persuaded him to have a quick lunch before returning to the Ministry. When he arrived at his cubicle several notes were scattered on his desk. One from Kingsley was urging him to prepare a detailed report of the trip. He was also instructed to get with Beollan and document his fight with the three wizards. It was S.O.P. and Ministry practice to do this. At a comfortable time later, they might schedule a peer review of how the conflict was handled. This procedure was also used to catch any new weapons or means of attack that might be unknown to the Ministry. The second note was from Hermione, asking him to come by at his first opportunity. She had, no doubt heard of his problems on the trip. Lastly, George had found a new problem with the cordless extendable ears and desperately needed new modifications from Quixwood. He would need a few minutes to get himself in the mood to write the report. It was well after lunch, and a visit to Hermione felt the most appealing of the three. He made his way down the hall to her office and poked his head in the door. He could see the back of her bushy brown hair as he stepped in her office. She was putting something away and still didn't hear him.
"Good morning," he said while taking a seat in the hard wooden chair. She spun around quickly and had a wide-eyed expression.
"Good afternoon is more like it Harry."
"Well, it's morning somewhere in the world." She looked like she was reaching for something to throw.
"Oh well, I guess it is. You had a spot of trouble... on the trip?"
"Yeah, It didn't go as smoothly as we had hoped."
"At least you got the documents back – that's good. Kingsley and I are looking over the manifests now. Hopefully we'll have to enough evidence to move on this in a couple of days," she said with an upbeat tone.
"Well that's great Hermione, because for a while there, I didn't know if I could get them back," he said shaking his head.
"It was very late – when you finished your meeting and ran into trouble?" she asked apprehensively.
"Yeah, I didn't get back on the streets until after six their time," he said and Hermione gasped.
"Harry... then you waited half a day?"
"Oh yeah. It looks like they held me up, so they could catch me later when the tube wasn't crowded. It was either Razvan holding me up, or somebody holding him up in a long conference call. It doesn't really make any sense and I'm not really sure which. If they didn't want to give us the papers, then why make the offer?"
"They were probably just using you Harry, to try and figure out how we caught them," she said with her finger on her nose.
"Yeah, you may be right. Something more may come to me later. I'm still a little knackered."
"Well take care Harry," she said as Harry waved while walking out toward his cubicle.
He finished the report and took it to Kingsley's office, passing through the gilded archway to stop in front of Sandy's desk. She looked as tired as he felt. When he got back to the cubicle, he ran into Ron and went through the whole story again.
"Do you know anything about the problem with the extendable ears... just got a note from George?"
"Not much – except he's going to recall all that's been sold," Ron said with a look of puzzlement.
"Well – I'll go see him after work.. You want to go along?"
"Sure... let me know when you're ready to go." Ron said.
The remainder of the day seemed to drag on forever. Harry cut the day a little short and stopped by to collect Ron as agreed. They sneaked out to the alley behind the Ministry and then apparated to the small alley behind Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Ron unlocked the back door to George's shop and they both entered the workshop from the rear of the store. It was just easier that way, avoiding all the first year's shopping for gags. Term was about to begin, and the shop would likely be crowded. It was, and children were everywhere. George had hired a new helper and both were working the floor, but it would take a couple more helpers to service a crowd this size. George spotted Harry and Ron making their way through the horde. George could be seen excusing himself from a young man and quickly heading their way.
"Harry, good to see you."
"Hello George. How are things?"
"Busy – can we talk back here," he said pointing to the workroom. "Ron, can you help this young man?" George pleaded, and Ron grunted something unintelligible. Wide-eyed with wonder, the young man was looking at a pink Pygmy Puff and stroking the pink fur.
Harry followed George into the workroom where the cordless extendable ear sets were stacked in boxes to the ceiling.
"So what's the problem with the ears George? I thought Quixwood's solution had you fixed up."
"Yeah, I thought so too, but there's a different problem now," he said stopping for a breath. "It's the range. It's too strong now – more like two thousand feet."
"So what's wrong with that?" Harry asked with a perplexed expression.
"Well, it's a design thing too – when there was a cord connection from the ear to the receiver, they were mated together. You could only hear the ear it was connected to. Well, now with the ears being wireless and the extended range, the kids are complaining they can hear all the ears in Hogwarts. It's a mess now really. I'll need to improve the design to use channels or something, but that'll have to wait to next year. To save this years batch – maybe a weaker op-amp in the magical to digital converter circuit."
"Oh I see," Harry said scratching his head.
"If we could get the range down to two hundred feet, that should get us by this year."
"Okay, so you want me to take a set back to Quixwood?"
"Yes Harry, if you could please. It should be a simple fix – and take the plan sheet for the changes," he said, rolling up the plan sheet and handing Harry and ear set.
Ron almost never got away from the kid he was helping, and Harry thought about lending a hand before they both got out of George's shop.
"I thought the kid would never run out of questions. Wanted to know what they ate, how long they lived, where we got them, and on and on," Ron said shaking his head. "Finally had to give him one to get him out of the shop."
"Sounds like you need a beer Ron."
Ron nodded and they headed straight away toward the Leaky Cauldron. The Cauldron was fairly quiet for this time of day. School starting had an inverse business effect on the Leaky Cauldron. Most of the shoppers in Diagon Alley were spending their money on school supplies rather than drinking and dining at the Inn. Ron had been rather quiet lately, and Harry wondered if word had gotten out on Sandy and him spending time together. In any case, it was never mentioned and the two left after enjoying the beer.
Harry brought the ear set and plans to work the next morning. He stuffed them under his desk and made his way to the canteen for another cup of coffee. He poked his head in Hermione's office, but failed to catch her. Lance was reading a report of some kind and looked up as Harry passed by.
"Morning Lance – what you working on these days?"
"Just trying to help Hermione out with the case against the Malfoys."
"I've set up an appointment with the officers at Gringotts. Hopefully they'll talk to me. They sure don't like talking to Hermione," Lance explained.
"Yeah, that's because we flew a dragon through their bank," Harry said as Lance just sat there with confused look.
Returning to the cubicle, Harry noticed a rather yellowed and dusty looking envelope on his desk. You could barely make out the faded Hogs Head Inn logo on the back of the envelope. He opened it immediately with his paper knife.
Got some news on Mundungas.
He said he's working nights at a place called the Grindhouse.
It's some kind of underground dance club. Whatever that means.
Just thought I'd let you know.
Well now that was interesting, he thought shaking his head. It looked like some research would have to be done on the Grindhouse, but that wasn't his area of expertise. Quickly grabbing an interdepartmental note pad, he scribbled a quick message to Hermione. She could do it much better, he thought. Picking up the extendable ear set and folding the plan sheet under his arm, he left the Auror office to find Quixwood. Slipping quietly past the Floo Network Authority he looked for the little wizard in the Technical department he was always tinkering in. The powder blue lab coat was visible behind a stack of gizmos.
"Hello Bradford," and the little wizard jumped slightly.
"Oh... hello Harry," he said, coming around the pile of gizmos. He could see the plan sheet and the extendable ear box Harry had in hand. "Uh Oh, are we still having troubles?"
"I'm afraid so. George says with the extended range, the receivers are picking up all the ears in the castle," Harry explained and Quixwood gave him a bug eyed response and paused to think.
"Oh, it must be cross talk."
"Cross talk..." Harry repeated with a dumbfounded expression.
"Yeah, there's nothing in the circuits to match the ear with the receiver – that's a serious design flaw Harry."
"Yeah, well George thought if you could limit the range to say... two hundred feet, then he could get by for this year, and he'd redesign the things next year," Harry explained.
"Okay, sure we could do that," he said, "So where does George get these things?" he asked inquisitively.
"Some wizarding shop in China, I think."
Quixwood cleared away a piles of electronic parts from the table to make room for the plan sheet.
"The modifications are right here – where I marked them. Yeah this shouldn't take too long Harry."
"Thanks Bradford. I know George would really appreciate it," Harry said and started back toward the Auror office.
"No problem Harry."
Just as soon as Harry got back to his cubicle, he noticed another note. It was getting to be a busy day.
Finally we have some information about the watch
and we'd like to share with you.
When you get some free time, stop by my desk and
we'll go down to the Time Room. They've been doing
an extensive bit of study on it.
After his meeting with Ms. Rosemarkie, Harry drifted over to Sandy's desk under the Gilded archway. She was coming out of Kingsley's office carrying a folder of some sort. She looked gorgeous this morning and it was all he could do to keep a straight and professional demeanor when he was around her.
"Good morning Ms. Sparkelyn," he bantered.
"Morning Harry," she replied with a wry grin.
"Can you break away for bit?"
"Sure, let me put these away," she said while briskly opening a cabinet drawer. She had simple black robes this morning, but they were sharp and crisp and the red hair was falling over the shoulders to form a beautiful contrast. She dropped the folder in the cabinet and gave the drawer a push with her hips to close it. "Okay, let's go," she said with smiling eyes. They took the lifts down to the time room which was on one of the lowest levels. There was a long hall leading to the time room which Harry vaguely remembered. As they walked past the Love Room, Harry could see the door was still locked. It looked as barren as it had been three years prior when Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Neville had joined him on the bungled rescue mission. The ticking of hundreds of timepieces could be heard as they neared the door to the Time Room. As they entered, Harry could see clocks everywhere and the sparkling crystal bell jar at the end of the room. Past the jar was the familiar door that led to the Hall of Prophecies. The door led to a bad memorys. Ones he'd like to forget.
"Harry, there's some serious magic going on with this watch," Sandy shouted over the sound of the ticking. "Kingsley wasn't sure it should be given back to you."
"Really – what so serious about it," Harry asked playfully. Sandy ignored the question and walked in the direction of a large mahogany cabinet. There was a witch standing behind a glass counter that he didn't recognize. She smiled when Sandy approached.
"Hello, Ms. Tennyson."
"There's a watch here we need to retrieve. The gold hunter we just had inspected," Sandy said pointing to the cabinet.
"Oh yes, I know the one," Ms. Tennyson said while producing a large set of keys. She unlocked a drawer in the cabinet and took out a fist-size green felt bag. She untied the bag and handed Sandy the watch.
"Thank you," Sandy said and turned toward Harry. "You feel like some coffee?" she asked, as if thinking of a good place to talk.
"Sure," he said, ready to get away from the basement of bad memories. They took the lift to the canteen and quickly grabbed coffee and found a table in the corner away from the door. It was almost empty this time of morning.
"So... what's this serious magic Sandy," he asked, sensing Sandy was in her nurturing and protective mood today.
"About the watch," she began, while stirring her coffee and sliding the watch along the table toward Harry. "There are few things that we know, but probably more that we don't. First – the watch can move you forwards or backwards in time."
"Like a Time-Turner?" he asked scrunching his brows.
"Like it? Yeah you might say that, but there's much more. Did you take a close look at it?" She motioned to the watch.
"No of course not – it was just a watch, or so I thought," Harry said and Sandy nodded.
"A Time-Turner will take you back in time – an hour for each turn of the hourglass spindle."
"Yeah, that's right," Harry said nodding.
"The watch has an extra position with the stem. You pull it out one more notch – but not here," she quickly added. "You adjust the time in this position, snap the stem back in place, close the lid, and hold on to your hat."
"So, then you go to the time you set the watch for," Harry said in a matter of fact tone.
"No, this is where things get a little weird. You go to some kind of nether region between time. There, you have to pass one of the twelve sentinels for the hour you landed on. There's twelve sentinels, one for each hour," she explained.
"Yeah – that is kind of weird. So why the sentinels?"
"They may or may not let you pass. If they don't, then you go back to where you started."
"Really... isn't that a little like a game? A silly game – why have a watch that can take you back in time but then have a sentinel deny you passage?" Harry asked with a puzzled look.
"Well, that's the part we're not sure about. If you look closely at the inside of the lid you'll see faint symbols," she said and then finished the coffee. Harry opened the lid and angled it slightly to see the fine engravings.
"Yeah, I noticed the symbols, but wasn't sure about them," he said squinting at the symbols to make them out. "I've seen them somewhere before I think."
"Yes, you probably have. They're the twelve signs of the Zodiac."
"Okay... so what does that tell us?"
"You see the symbol for Aries on the one o'clock position, followed by Taurus on two, and so on and finally Pisces at the twelve o'clock. The Zodiac symbols were also used to indicate the twelve steps in the Magnum Opus, or the Twelve Gates as George Ripley called them."
"George Ripley, he was like Nicolas Flamel... right?" Harry asked, looking keenly at Sandy.
"Ripley was a little after Flamel's time I think, but yeah that's close. They both claimed to have achieved immortality." she said with a dubious looking smile.
"Well then, this is Alchemy you're talking about – like the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixer of Life and that kind of stuff," he said.
"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. But Alchemy is not just about turning lead into gold – that's exoteric alchemy. There's also esoteric alchemy; the kind that deals with you," and she pointed to Harry's chest. "It turns out the sentinels may have any number of reasons to disallow you passage. But we believe it may be something to do with the particular process or 'gate' they represent. And how you may affect that process, by changing your time."
"Where does Ms. Tilliedaff find these things," Harry said shaking his head.
"You'll have to ask her that. We recommend you don't use this thing, unless you have a dire need to do so. It keeps good time and seems safe to carry as a time piece; just don't go meddling with time."
"I wouldn't dream of it," he said falling back into his playful mood, and Sandy gave him a perturbed look in exchange.
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