Chapter 3 : Mysteries
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My cousin Louis Weasley was a pretty boy, or so I was told. His sandy hair seemed to curve down over his eyes in a perfectly sculpted scoop: his arms were lightly muscular and he moved with a very unmanly grace. He had fine, small features, and pretty blue eyes with long lashes. Aunt Fleur had (allegedly, I hadn’t existed yet) been thrilled when he was born, as he was the first male child in her maternal line for generations. Aunt Fleur was one quarter Veela or something ridiculous like that – Veela being Eastern European women with unearthly beauty who roamed about being admired and being provoked into fiery rages, or at least that was all I had picked up in Care of Magical Creatures. Hagrid had been much more interested in letting us play with Kneazle puppies than explaining the science of Veela.
How Aunt Fleur’s grandfather (or whoever it was) had succeeded in convincing a Veela to run off with him I would never know, though my Aunt Ginny once sniffed that she suspected love potion involvement. It’s impact in my life was that I was saddled with two beautiful older cousins and one Louis, who despite being handsome like a fairy prince, was quite dull and shy and so I liked him quite well. He was two years older than me, and had actually first introduced me to Maude in my first year for which I was very grateful. My cousin James, Albus’ older brother, was in the same year, but we didn’t get along quite so well.
Louis had been in-between girlfriends for a while now, and I quite preferred him that way as he had more time to spend doing whatever I wanted to do when Al or Cecelia or Maude weren’t available. At lunchtime, I spotted him in the atrium as I left the lift and jumped on his back, hugging him around the shoulders.
“Rose, stop that!” Louis groaned, leaning back so I dropped back to the floor again. “For Merlin’s sake, we’re at work!” While I was tall, about five foot eight, Louis was one of the few people that I didn’t feel awkward or overly large around. His blond head scraped just over six feet, unlike my poor Potter cousins who had inherited both Uncle Harry’s scrawniness and height.
“Are you going for lunch, Lou?” I asked, linking my arm with his. “Can I come? I sent you a memo to come visit me this morning, you must not have received it.”
Louis groaned. “Honestly, little cousin, I was waiting for my mate to finish up in the department and we were planning to head to the café together. I suppose you can come to, if you promise not to pester me about the time travel business again.” He squinted and looked me squarely in the eye. “I mean it, Rose, it’s called the Department of Mysteries for a reason. I’m training to be an Unspeakable not a… a…. blab-everything-to-your-irritating-cousin-speakable.” He seemed impressed with his own wit.
I raised one eyebrow at him, a skill I had spent many years perfecting in the toilet mirror in my Gryffindor dorm. “Very well. I swear on Crookshanks I will not try to turn you into a Blabspeakable. To convert you into Blabspeakable-ism.”
Crookshanks was my Mum’s old cat who had disappeared a few years ago. Mum had been heart-broken, and then livid when Dad suggested that he had last seen Crookshanks tormenting the enormous dog that lived down the road and perhaps the dog had finally snapped and eaten Crookshanks. He had then said something smug along the lines of ‘karma’s a bitch, Hermione,’ which had led Mum to scream at him for ten minutes, to mine and Hugo’s bewilderment. Personally, I was sure Crookshanks was still out there, biding his time, perhaps scouting out a family to move in with who wouldn’t give him the healthy, vegan food for elderly cats Mum had insisted on nourishing him with.
“Thanks for your generosity, love,” Louis retorted. “Do you know what’s been going on with the fireplaces all morning? Half the Department haven’t shown up to work.”
I frowned. “Yeah, I set the boys down there this morning.” I skipped down the hall a little and perched up on the basin of the great golden fountain which ran merrily in the center of the great atrium. From a distance, I recognized Creevey spinning around, trying to extinguish the flames which had taken a liking to his robes. Hazlehurst was lying, stomach down, in front of another fireplace, poking at it with his wand. “I wouldn’t bet on the Floos being fixed anytime soon, Lou, not with those twits on the job.”
Louis scowled at me. “I’d love to see Auntie Hermione’s reaction to how you talk about your bosses.”
I shrugged at him and pulled him up onto the fountain ledge with me- not that he really needed it, being so tall already. “See for yourself. I’m just stating pure fact. Besides, can’t the other Blabspeakables just Apparate into work?”
“They’re all ancient old codgers who haven’t renewed their Apparating licenses in years,” Louis shot back. “Not to mention it’s a medically proven fact that Apparating in ten times more likely to cause a sudden heart attack or aneurism. Or constipation. I always hear them muttering about constipation.” He shuddered. “For blokes who work with questionable substances and mysterious artifacts all day, they’re very paranoid about their health.”
Before I could offer a reply to this lovely statement, Louis spied his mate exiting the lifts. I followed him down and inspected his friend as I approached. The bloke looked about Louis’ age, and in the same gray robes which led me to assume he was also a trainee Unspeakable. His hair was brown and messy, as though he had forgotten to comb it that morning, and his eyebrows disappeared up into his hairline when he spoke. The beginnings of a raggedy beard haunted his square jawline. Despite this, he was reasonably handsome beneath the scruff and neglect. Louis seemed a little surprised at his appearance as well.
“Blimey, mate, your hair sure grew fast in the three days since I’ve seen you,” he laughed. “What happened?”
The stranger grinned, pumping my brother’s hand. “Hair thickening charm gone wrong,” he said ruefully, and blinked. “I slept late this morning and had to Apparate in without shaving.”
“I suppose that’s the curse of being a boy,” I piped up, and held out my hand for him to shake. “I’m Rose, Rose Weasley, Louis’ favorite cousin. He said I could join the pair of you for lunch.”
His grip was warm and thick. “I think I know who you are, Rose. Your Mum’s not too popular with the Unspeakables due to her laws on the conscription of House Elves.” House elf liberation was the movement about which my mother was especially passionate. “Apparently we used to have them down in the dungeon for running dangerous errands and acting as test subjects.”
“That’s horrible,” I said indignantly. While I knew Mum’s views were radical and rattled a lot of important people, it was quite sad to think of the poor house elves slaving down there in the Department of Mysteries. Perhaps I had inherited Dad’s inane distrust of the Department.
“They were mighty useful in organizing and labeling the Hall of Prophecy,” he added cheerfully. “I’m Donovan Archimago, by the way, but everyone calls me Archie. Shall we get on to the café, then?”
The “café” was a small establishment that had opened up a few years ago from the Ministry of Magic’s London Headquarters. It was tucked into the bottom floor of a large historic building, yet was much bigger on the inside than it appeared. Due to its delectable pain-au-chocolats and large assortment of exotic teas, the café had become a popular break time haunt for Ministry employees young and old. Nobody knew for sure whether the proprietors were Muggles or magical folk, and the place was open to Muggles as well and only accepted Muggle money, which could be changed at the front desk in the Ministry atrium. Just the week before I had been grabbing a cup with Mum and had overheard a middle-aged woman commenting to the barista at the counter that there were a great deal of ‘strangely-dressed’ folks in the café; was wearing a cloak fashionable in this part of London, and in the full heat of summer? Mum and I had giggled.
As of late I had been going to the cafe quite a bit with Louis, who fancied one of the girls who worked behind the counter. Her name, according to her nametag, was Tessa, and she was a shy, smiling blond thing who had a crooked row of top teeth and very pretty eyes, not to mention impressive other body parts which were very apparent beneath the top of her blue apron. It amused me greatly to watch Louis gulp and mentally prepare himself to catch her attention and to be witty and charming in the short conversation it takes to order a cup of coffee and a biscuit.
When we arrived at the café, Archie and I claimed a table while Louis bustled up to fetch us drinks and flirt with Tessa. For me, this was a perfect opportunity to pick his brain about something which interested me greatly, and to which Louis had vowed to be truly Unspeakable about: the rumors of the time travel device brewing away somewhere in the vaults of the Department of Mysteries. After all, it was only to my cousin whom I had promised to be silent on the matter.
“He’s a hopeless fool,” I said to Archie, fidgeting on the cool wooden barstool of the high table we had chosen. The café was decorated in soft red and brown woods with black accents: reproductions of famous historical figures hung from the walls. That funny bald Muggle bloke with the squinting eye and the cigar stared back at me from behind Archie’s head.
Archie spun around and spied Louis anxiously bouncing back and forth between his finely polished dress shoes, and snickered at my cousin. I liked him already. “So, how old are you again, Rose?”
“Seventeen, nearly eighteen,” I replied smartly. I ran my fingers across the wood of the table as if I were playing piano. “I’m the sixth eldest of my cousins, and debatably one of the cleverest.”
Archie laughed at this. “How many cousins do you have?”
“Ten. Plus a brother. And me. But considering my Nan and Grandad had seven children, that really isn’t saying much.”
Archie considered this. “I suppose. I have over fifteen cousins, but we’re all scattered around the UK and Ireland and even a handful have migrated over to the continent. I was one of the youngest so we never really saw each other when growing up.” He picked at a nail: I noticed a faint scar turning over the corner of the back of his wrist. He quickly pulled his sleeve down before I could ask about it.
“You’re Muggleborn, then?”
He grinned. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“Your name isn’t a typical wizarding last name, I don’t think,” I said thoughtfully. “And you would have seen your cousins at Hogwarts if you were all wizards. Also, traveling long distances to visit family in short amounts of time is far easier for wizards than for Muggles. Am I right?”
He nodded. “Sharp girl, you.”
“My two best friends are Muggleborn,” I explained smartly. “And my Mum, for that matter, so I know the ropes.”
“So are you quite close with all your cousins, then?” He subtly glanced towards Louis, who was leaning forward over the counter to hear what Tessa the barista was saying over the hum of the crowd. “Weasley is a good mate. We haven’t known each other long, mind, but I get on quite well with him.” I decided that Archie’s accent was Northern: not quite Scottish, but with a distinctive roundness and smooth quality to it. Perhaps from Manchester area?
“Yeah, Lou is lovely,” I said. “Have you met his sisters?” At Archie’s blank look and shrug, I giggled. If he’d ever laid eyes on Victoire or Dominique, he would remember them. “Well, Victoire is friendly enough, but she works for the Department of Witches – it’s quite a recent addition, you might not have heard of it – and she’s always going on and getting outraged about one issue or another. Like, if one wizard gets a promotion over a witch, it has to be because the department was sexist, not because he was a better candidate. She’s a major feminist.” I wrinkled my nose. Victoire had irritated me enough times with her retributions over how I was letting Scorpius walk all over me and how I shouldn’t worry about how I look, only how I was perceived and all sorts of other nonsense. She was mad, and being informed that I was too vain about my looks was irritating coming from a girl with Veela blood. “I haven’t seen Dominique in ages. She’s been camping somewhere with her funny hippie friends for the last few months and seems to have cut herself off from the world. She’s lovely too, and not quite as mad as Victoire.”
Archie laughed, his eyes flicking towards Louis again. “I’ve met James, James Potter that is- he seems a nice enough bloke.”
I pondered this and nodded again. “Yeah, James is alright. I like his brother Albus better personally.” Archie snorted at the name Albus, as people usually did. It served Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny right for giving Al a rubbish name: he was just lucky I didn’t expose his middle name. “But enough about my family. What house were you in at Hogwarts?”
“Oh, I was a Hufflepuff,” Archie admitted. He raised his eyebrows at my shocked face. “What? I don’t seem like a Hufflepuff? Are you saying I’m not friendly and helpful and all that pizzazz and rubbish?”
“I’m not saying anything,” I retorted. “My cousin Fred and my mate Lorcan were both Hufflepuffs- there’s nothing wrong with them. Better than Slytherin. My ex-boyfriend was a Slytherin.”
Archie opened his mouth to reply- most likely to inquire into the fatal flaws and condemning characteristics that defined all Slytherins- but was interrupted by the return of my blushing cousin, still recovering from his chat with Tessa. He set a hot panini in front of me- ham and cheese, freshly heated so that the cheese melted deliciously all over the thin bread- and a slice of quiche in front of Archie. We both handed him the correct change to cover the costs, converted from Muggle currency back into wizarding money- in my case, the panini cost one Sickle three Knuts.
“That looks good,” I told Archie as he slipped a small white pill from his coat pocket and put it in his mouth delicately, taking a sip of water to swallow. “But should we be concerned about you popping pills at the table?”
Louis rolled his eyes and nudged me. “Rose! Don’t be so rude.”
“It’s fine, Weasley, your cousin and I are mates now,” Archie informed him. He turned to me. “If you must know, miss curiosity, I’m lactose intolerant.”
“You’re lactose intolerant, yet eat quiche for lunch?” I enquired loudly. A witch sitting behind Louis raised her eyebrows as she swiveled in our direction, looking scandalized. I could tell she was a witch from the wand poking out the pocket of her skirt.
“The quiche here is bloody good,” Archie said, a fact which Louis confirmed vehemently. “That’s why I take my pill before eating. It’s either take the pill or suffer the consequences.” He turned the attention back on me. “That’s a nice necklace.”
I glanced down at my chest; I had been idly fiddling with the round silver locket that I kept on a long silver chain around my neck. I wore it most days; it was a kind of lucky charm. I had never been able to open it, nor had Mum or Dad, though they had it tested for any dark magic when I’d found it buried in a tiny box in our garden, and hadn’t let me wear it for months. Old habits die hard, Dad had explained testily when I’d asked why such an innocent, pretty bauble should be subjected to such hardships and examinations.
“Cheers, I got it as a girl,” I explained. “I’ve worn it ever since.”
“I bet James once that you slept and showered with it on,” Louis commented. I rolled my eyes.
“You two are twats. Get your own pretty necklace.”
Louis rolled his eyes as I chuckled to myself and set down to the more important act of eating, all thoughts of the necklace forgotten. I immersed myself with the happy task of enjoying my sandwich while listening to the lads chat about affairs in the Department of Mysteries: apparently an attractive intern had been fired, and an elderly Unspeakable had fumbled and dropped and shattered a new prophecy. Archie seemed to be under the opinion that the Hall of Prophecy was all bollocks and should be done away with for all the trouble it caused, while Louis defended it with a slight flash in his eyes. That was where he was primarily based, after all.
I got my opportunity to ambush Archie with my questions about the time travel rumors when Tessa went on her break. She was sitting inconspicuously in a tiny corner table, hunched over a Muggle mobile phone and moving one dainty finger over it while frowning and eating a croissant from the other hand. Crumbs spilled over her mobile and onto her skirt. I nudged Louis.
“Look, your girlfriend’s sitting over there, all lonesome. Why don’t you go ask if she’d like some company, or perhaps to go for a cigarette?”
“I don’t smoke,” Louis said anxiously, wiping his forehead.
“But she does,” I insinuated. “Look, she’s probably about to go out for a few drags. And I should think conjuring a cigarette should be no problem for a wizard who earned an O in Transfiguration.”
Louis looked helplessly between Archie and I: we both gave him encouraging nods. Turning a faint shade of pink, he rose slowly and began to weave through the maze of tables. I watched him for a moment then turned to Archie, painting my most becoming and encouraging grin across my face.
“So, Archie, mate. Remember that whole scandal a few weeks ago about your Department allegedly developing a certain new… technology? Concerning long distance time travel?” I raised my eyebrows at him. “I’m quite sure you haven’t forgotten.”
He looked at me, all shifty-eyed. “Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t.”
I leaned forward, lowering my voice. “Listen. Archie, we’ve known each other for about half an hour now, but you should know that I am perfectly trustworthy. I’m keeping about a dozen secrets for my cousins right now, in fact. I’m also dreadfully curious. Louis already told me there was more than meets the eye, and he doesn’t even work in that section of the department. Do you know anything else?”
Archie turned pink, but whether from suspicion, embarrassment or excitement, I couldn’t tell. “I might know something. I might even have access to certain other somethings. But why should I spill Unspeakable secrets to you, Rose Weasley?”
My voice was sweet as sugared mice. “I like to consider myself… a connoisseur of wonders. I leave the genius to smarter wizards like yourself; I’m just driven by pure curiosity. Ever since I read that article and heard about the cover-up, I’ve been sure there’s more to the story.” I was almost whispering by now. “Have you seen it? Have you heard about it? I swear to Merlin I won’t tell a single soul.” Except possibly Maude. And Albus.
Archie shifted a little nervously. He glanced around: just before Louis had reached Tessa, she had darted out the door for a smoke and, losing his nerve, Louis had swerved into the men’s toilets instead. His nervousness had bought me a bit of time to work on Archie. The poor fellow was already eating from the palm of my hand, I knew it. I could tell by the gleam in his eyes, that this must be someone who shared my curiosity, who wanted to share knowledge with somebody. All it would take was a little prodding.
I pressed harder. “You’ve seen it, haven’t you? I know you can tell me about it; please, do.”
Louis’ tall, sandy head re-appeared on the other side of the café. Relenting, Archie turned to me.
“Meet me on the ninth level at half five. And you’re sworn to secrecy.”
My grin could not have been greater, my modesty more proud. I was in.
It turned out the failure of the Floo fireplaces that morning had worked to my advantage, and the incompetence of Hazlehurst and Creevey meant that only a few Unspeakables had made it into work that day. If what Louis said was true, and Apparating was poor for the health of the elderly and an impossible issue on which to sway the stubborn, then I was certainly glad of it. Archie met me, as promised, at the entrance to the lift on the lowest level in the Ministry. From one of the largest courtrooms I could hear voices arguing and a woman’s sharp tone reprimanding someone; possibly my mother was still in the courtroom after a very long day. That would explain why Cecelia, who had a summer position working for a top judge in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, had been ignoring my memos all day, and why my cousin Molly, of the Minister’s office, had not poked her ginger head into my business at least once, as she was extremely prone to do.
But Archie led me past this hub of excitement, to the door which I knew led to the Department of Mysteries. My parents, aunt and uncle had once told us a story how they broke into the Department at the end of my parents’ fifth year on a fool’s mission to rescue Uncle Harry’s godfather, and how they had smashed up half the place’s secrets in an epic battle with You-Know-Who and his cronies. Dad thought it was a place of bollocks and populated by twats, while Mum had simply no time for how impractical the Department was in her opinion and how it was a waste of tax-payer Galleons. Uncle Harry had always held a slight reverence for the place, however, and I was never quite sure why. He had encouraged Louis without question when he’d chosen to go down that path.
A turn in the corner, and but for the sound of my shoes clicking on the rich, dark marble floor the corridor was suddenly silent. I looked up at Archie nervously: he was slightly taller than me. He smiled reassuringly, but put a finger to his lips. We passed one Unspeakable on the way into the Department, a yawning middle-aged witch who nodded agreeably to us. I don’t think she knew who Archie was, and probably had no clue why I was in a place where I didn’t belong.
Archie led me into a large room full of many doors, instantly guiding me towards one at the far right of the circular room. It was beautiful, dark but with the light of torches dancing off the shadows; a place of mystical deeds and unknown dreams. Archie unlocked the door with a key from a ring, ushering me through and closing the door tightly behind him. He lit the torches in the room with a flick of his wand.
“We can talk in here,” he said. “They’ve all gone home, or never made it to work this morning. Only somebody who works in this section of the department can get in here.”
I looked around the room, unimpressed. It was plain, for what I’d expected. A few portraits hung on the walls, sleeping quietly. A large bookshelf covered much of the far wall, encrusted with mighty tomes and faded names in other languages. A stiff-looking soft in ancient red velvet stood beside a shelf full of flasks filled with a liquid; my eye was drawn to these, yet I could not decide why. Their colour could not be named, nor their density identified; one moment they seemed shimmery and ethereal as mist captured in the hands of a child, the next moment thick and heavy like solid soil.
“What is this place?” I asked Archie. “And are you going to tell me about the time travelling device?” I looked around dubiously. “Is it real? Is it the sofa? Do you sit on the sofa and it takes you back in time?”
He laughed, rubbing his beard. “No, it’s not the sofa. It’s safe to sit on.” I took this as an invitation and perched myself on the sofa, crossing my legs neatly and leaning my elbows on my knees. Archie grabbed a wooden chair from where it was tucked away in the corner and swung it around to face me. I noticed he crossed his legs like a girl when he sat.
“So,” he began. “Tell me what you know about time travel, as a general rule.”
I ran a thoughtful finger over my bottom lip and pursed it, thinking this over. “Well, my Mum was given a time turner in her third year because she was taking so many classes that her schedule overlapped. So the professors at the time got her special permission to use it.”
Archie nodded. “Yes, that would have been the standard Turner model in the nineties. How long could she go back for?”
“Mum said she would attend a class, then use it to turn back an hour and attend another class.” I frowned. “It’s very confusing. She said she had to make sure she was always close by the place where she disappeared, so that nobody would be startled. She also had to avoid being seen by anyone who would be suspicious, especially her own future self, or, erm, past self. Whatever. It wore away at her after a while.” I decided not to tell him the story of how Mum, Dad and Uncle Harry had used the time turner to rescue the aforementioned criminal godfather from a terrible fate; somehow I felt that story wasn’t supposed to be told to strangers, no matter how kind and obliging they were.
Archie’s foot twitched, and he stretched down to scratch his ankle, peeling back his sock for a fleeting moment. I followed his hand and saw a bandage revealed over his foot: white with a faint reddish tinge as if there was dried blood beneath it. Archie quickly adjusted his sock and looked back at me brightly.
“Nevermind that. It’s nothing. So you’ve told me that your mum’s time turner took her back for short intervals of time, often several times a day. It worked perfectly as long as she made her way back to the same place she had been when she first turned it, and it was safe as long as she was not seen by anyone. Indeed, there were nasty incidents in the past century with time gone wrong, awfully nasty.”
I instantly wanted to hear all about these nasty incidents, but bit my tongue. Archie continued.
“Now, what we’ve done in the last few decades- well, what my superiors have done,” he corrected himself. “Is experiment with the very substances that went into time turners to make them simple and foolproof.” His voice began to rise in excitement, he rose to his feet and began to pace a little in front of me. Did I detect a slightly limp or tenderness in his right foot that I hadn’t thought to notice previously? “They took the basic elements of the time turner which made it so powerful, such as Venetian glass wrought in the magical district of Murano by the most experiences of Italian glass blowers.” He held up a fist, index finger extended. I noticed his nails were dirty.
“Second, a potent substance called the ‘Clock flower.’” He extended his middle finger, which pointed at a slight angle away. “But the ancient scholars called it something else. The florentes tempore. The time flower. They took the seeds and ground them into the tiny grains of magical sand in the time turners. But in the past few years, something far greater has been in the works. Hell, I think it’s been developing for the last century. If it hadn’t been for the four wars – both the Muggle and wizarding wars,” he added at my confused face, “if it hadn’t been for the wars then I’m sure we would have had this knowledge by the fifties. It was that close.”
I was enraptured. Archie, this strange, charming man I had just met that day, had an incredible gift for telling a story. He could have made the dullest of Professor Binn’s History of Magic lectures a tale of wild fantasy.
“So how does it work?” I breathed, cocking my head upon my hand and tilting my head to watch him.
“They used the florentes tempore in a potion, with some of the other most powerful ingredients in the Ministry greenhouses,” he said simply. “I can’t tell you the entirety because that would be too much information, and I don’t know all of them myself, to be honest. They concocted a potion to be brewed in a grand device of the finest Murano glass.”
“And does it work?”
At this Archie seemed to check himself, and he frowned, as if he remembered that he was talking to a girl he barely knew. I couldn’t read him. Then he nodded.
“We think… that it works. No human has successfully been sent back in time: only animals, though the method is extremely unreliable and ill-suited to non-humans.”
“That’s cruel,” I said indignantly. Archie ignored me, but carried on.
“After the potion is brewed in the device- it’s just a glorified cauldron, really – the user must take a dose. The problem is, we haven’t quite figured out how to trigger traveling back to a specific time period. It’s very difficult to trace: what we have been able to discern is that the subject disappears and reappears in the same place as they left, with a very short time span. Similarly to your Mum’s time turner, they must reappear in the exact place from which they left, but it is less physical: instead of living through the same hour twice, with two separate selves, they simply disappear – experience the past for however long – and then reappear more or less exactly as they left. Or so we think.”
“How can you tell they don’t just Vanish and then re-appear, or disappear to another location and then return?”
“A tracking spell,” Archie replied simply. “A tracking spell will allow us to trace the subject as far back as ten years. If they reappear in the past ten years it will show up on our records. If they go back farther than that they will disappear completely until the return.”
“And you don’t know what triggers the return?”
Archie blinked; it was the smallest thing, yet I got the secret impression that there were some things he was purposefully not telling me.
“How could we? Only animals have been sent back; animals don’t tell stories, don’t understand science.”
I laughed despite myself. “Science? I didn’t realize science had come to play a part.”
Archie nodded gravely. “Honestly, you’d be surprised how much science comes into what we do down here. In fact, I went to get my bachelor’s degree at a Muggle university in bio-chemistry and physics before coming to work here, and it’s worked tremendously. All the top Unspeakables have some knowledge of the scientific fields. It’s not the same as Muggle science, mind, with their formulas and measurements and physics, but magic and science overlap quite a bit when we play with the laws that govern the universe.”
Although he was likely being over-dramatic, I felt a cold chill creep slowly up my spine at these last few words. I uncrossed my legs and stretched them out in front of me, glancing at the row of potions held behind a glass case.
“Why haven’t any wizards been sent back?”
“Legal restrictions, mostly,” Archie explained. Was it me, or did he look a little uncertain? “Time turners have been very strictly monitored since their inception, and the ones that people like your mum would have used to get to class, very innocent purposes. It’s when people try to use them to play around with time that the trouble starts. Wizards sighting themselves and going mad from it. People going back so many times that the past itself began to fluctuate and be affected. If someone used our device to go back and try to… oh, I don’t know, kill someone like Hitler or You-Know-Who, all hell would break loose.”
“I’d think that would be a good thing and a noble use of the device.”
Archie shrugged. “In theory, yes. But think, if let’s say You-Know-Who had never risen to power, the wizarding forces in Britain wouldn’t have had a common enemy to fight against. So perhaps they would have fought among themselves instead, and perhaps the whole country would have been ripped apart. Maybe they would have declared war on another Ministry: there were some international tensions in the seventies and eighties along with the Russian wizards, after all; it was just eclipsed by You-Know-Who. Or maybe a couple would never have met if they hadn’t been fighting against him, and perhaps their child was supposed to be a great Healer who saved hundreds of lives. We just can’t screw around with time.”
“How do you know all this?” I asked. Archie laughed.
“We have to take all these tests and evaluations before we’re allowed to work on the device; it’s protocol. Truth be told there are dozens of competing theories about how time travel works; it’s because of the ambiguity that we’ve stuck to the simple time turner that won’t alter anything in the past. The bigger device-“ he seemed to glance at the bookcase- “has much more dire consequences.”
“I’m still confused,” I said. “Isn’t the past, well, pre-determined? Hasn’t is already happened? So if I was going to go back in time and kill Voldemort, then I would have already done it, and he wouldn’t have existed.”
“But the world that exists in order for you to be the person who can go back is reliant on You-Know-Who existing,” Archie explained, distracting me for a moment.
“You should really call him – Vol-de-mort, that is – by his true name. My uncle says fear of the name only encourages fear of the thing.”
Archie was slightly taken aback, but he laughed. “God, you are mad. I just call him that because all my mates at Hogwarts did- I grew up with Muggles, remember. Vol-de-mort. There. Happy?”
“I’ll tell my uncle I converted one person to his secret cult of the name,” I giggled. “But you were telling me about time. That’s far more interesting. I’m sorry- Mum says I have an irritating talent for distracting myself.”
“It’s fine, Rose,” Archie laughed. I could definitely see why Louis got on with this guy: he was both charming and humble, yet also had that air of knowing everything and being ready to share it. He seemed a lot more mature than some of my other bloke friends as well- of course, he was quite a bit older. “But listen, we should probably get out of here. The cleaning witch will be by soon and she might tell my superior that I brought a friend here after hours.”
“Are we not allowed?”
Archie bit his lip. “It’s… frowned upon. Especially here, since it’s supposed to not exist in the eyes of the public.” He glanced down at me and grinned. “But I knew I could trust a cousin of Weasley’s. And I could tell you shared my excitement for learning; but if anyone ever asks, you were never down here, yeah?”
“Of course,” I said automatically. “And also, while I promise and swear on Crookshanks that you can trust me, I wouldn’t recommend running around trusting all my cousins. Molly would sell her own sister if she thought she’d get a good price. And Victoire hates most men, so don’t let her get too close.” This was a bit of an exaggeration, of course. Victoire hated misogi-whatsit and patriarchal somethings far more than she hated men themselves.
“Thanks for the warning,” Archie grinned. He got to his feet again and put the wooden chair exactly where it had been left, then helped me off the sofa. I saw him quickly smooth over where I had been sitting with his wand as if to erase any trace that there had been someone there. He beckoned me over to the bookcase, pulling a heavy volume off the shelf.
Feeling a little foolish, I did as he said and looked in the space where the book had been. To my almost-surprise, I realized there must be a room beyond this room, hidden by the bookshelf. Squinting, I thought I could make out something shining and glowing slightly in the darkness of the room beyond; a beautiful machine made of glass, perhaps, a magical device that had the power to incur madness. But before I could get a good look Archie gently nudged my shoulder and I reluctantly moved back, letting him replace the book and move towards the door from which we had entered.
I felt a seething reluctance at being forced to leave, though I knew it had been an impossible privilege to even have taken half an hour of Archie’s time and being ushered into this unknown section of the Department of Mysteries. But I wasn’t ready to go. I wanted to go beyond the bookcase and see the device itself, to touch it, to feel the possibilities of three thousand years brewing in its entirety. I stared at the rows and rows of potions in small glass flasks, twinkling tauntingly at me. I turned to Archie.
“Perhaps you should check the corridor quickly, just in case some old codger’s decided to take an after-supper stroll.”
Archie chuckled and sidled himself around the door, glancing out into the hallway. In this moment, I made my choice. I reached into the cabinet and, without pausing to choose which one, plucked one of the glowing potions from the wall. It seemed to glow red-hot in my hands, like churning blood. Before I could change my mind I tried to tuck it into the pocket of my dress pants- no, too obvious. Scrambling, I instead reached down the front of my shirt and tucked it into the center of my bra, so that the bottle was held tightly by the central strap.
Archie turned back to me in the nick of time, a pleasant smile on his face. If he had heard anything of my quiet struggle; the slight click as the cabinet door closed, or the rustling of clothing and I hid the flask, he surely would have said something, I thought lightly.
“Shall we, my lady?” He asked in a terrible goofy voice. I giggled, though I could feel my heart pounding against the little flask at my chest, could hear the movement of the potion inside of it like a tiny ocean against my body.
Oh, how things would have been different, if Archie had looked behind him a mere moment earlier! How my life would have turned out differently, if I had only let those potions be, or if I had never cajoled him into taking me there in the first place! But that’s the problem with hindsight, I know now; it’s terribly frustrating. The past is not to be played with. Only the future can be changed and molded, and it’s far too late for that now.
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