Chapter 15 : Almost All Cured, But Then...
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Chapter Fifteen -- Almost All Cured, But Then... Previously in SLL (Saving Luna Lovegood)
Harry made his way towards the elevators from the St. Mungo's Apparation Foyer. He was lost in thought. The doors of the elevator opened, and as it opened he heard a near screamed, "Harry!" He was nearly knocked over by a fourteen-year-old girl jumping up to hug him.
Roxie Lazaar almost knocked Harry off of his feet. She was hugging him and kissing him on the cheek and shouting over and over. "You did it! You did it! Healer Bartholomew told me it was all you idea. He would have never considered going in the direction that cured Dad if you hadn't spoken to him. My Dad is going to be fine. The shakes and gyrations are gone and he is sleeping soundly without a Knockout Potion for the first time since he was attacked."
Harry was genuinely delighted. "Roxie, that is wonderful, but what did I have to do with it? Healer Bartholomew is a brilliant healer, he is the one that healed your father, not me."
"No, Harry. Bartholomew says he had already given up on the avenue that eventually cured him. It was your research that caused him to revisit the area of healing potions and cures that worked. Please come down and visit us tomorrow. Dad will be awake in the morning and starts therapy for getting his muscles back into shape."
Professor Lazaar was not like someone who had been petrified. They were frozen and did not age or athrophy in any way. Lazaar had been in bed wasting away all these months. He would have to nearly learn to walk again, but it would take a few weeks instead of the year+ a baby needed to learn to walk and run.
Harry was ecstatic. This meant that his research and theories had some merit to them. If they worked in this case then perhaps they would work in other situations - perhaps even for the most advanced Cruciatus Curse survivor in history.
When he arrived back at Luna's cordoned off area, Claire was as excited as Harry. "You've heard about Professor Lazaar haven't you?" She continued after his nod. "Healer Bartholomew was here looking for you and he wants to discuss his findings with you. By the way here is an important looking letter from Hogwarts."
Harry opened it but he was not paying attention to it as he read it. He was listening to Claire and holding Luna's hand. All of a sudden he frowned and Claire stopped. "What is the matter, Harry?
"My N.E.W.T.s level exams start tomorrow." I have not studied as he should have. I have read the chapters assigned, and written the essays requested. I have attended classes sporadically and I think I understood the discussions in those few classes. But I have spent no time in revision for N.E.W.T.s."
The solution to the N.E.W.T.s dilemma was simple. There was nothing he could do - not really. He took out his notes for the Exams for the next day and reread them. He looked up in his textbooks any reference he felt unsure of. At 10:30 he turned down the lamp and tried to go to sleep. At least he could be refreshed for the test.
Harry followed that schedule for the next week. He sent an immediate owl to Aldys Derwent asking to postpone their meeting until exams were over. When Harry arrived back at the ward after the first day of N.E.W.T.s, he found a brief note on the bottom of the letter he had sent to Derwent agreeing to the postponement.
The time after exams was spent solely on the next day's test subjects. Sufficient for the day is the trouble there in.
Hermione had worried herself into a dither that Harry was not there with them studying. Ron repeated over and over that she had to leave Harry to whatever Harry felt like he needed to be doing.
She was relieved that Harry showed up for the first days testing. He walked in in a half-run just as the doors were being closed. He walked out after handing in his written portions before anyone else did. Hermione asked him how he could finish so quickly. When she and Ron finished he was outside reading for whatever test was next.
The trio, and everyone else for that matter had their Practical for Charms that afternoon. Harry walked in with the testing Wizards from Education.
Professor Tofty, the wizard that had administered their O.W.L.S. Practicals, stood and spoke to those assembley. "We will take you one at a time to the five different stations around the Great Hall to allow you to demonstrate your applied knowledge of Charms. With one exception, we will go through specific categories of charms one at a time and then as a group, go on to the next category."
Harry was one of the first five called to a demonstration station. When the other four were finished with the first category of Charms, various types of levitations and movements of objects, they sat down and four others were called. Harry did not stop. He spent the next twenty minutes performing all of the charms and spells they would all be asked to complete over the rest of the afternoon.
Harry completed his work and rushed out of the room at the same time that everyone had finished their levitation and movement testing.
"So Harry Potter receives special treatment from the test administrators," said Zacharias Smith. "I wonder if they will give him special grading consideration as well." Smith had never liked Harry for some reason.
Everyone within earshot turned on Zacharias with malice in their eyes, even Smith's fellow Hufflepuffs. Ernie MacMillan spoke for all of them. "I for one feel like Harry might deserve special treatment after what he has done for us and for the wizarding world. Do you think you would have survived the attack on Hogwarts if Harry had not taught us what he taught us? Do you think defeating Voldemort doesn't merit some priviledge? But we all know Harry. Do you think he would stand for special grading treatment? I imagine he disliked asking for the opportunity to finish earlier than the rest of us."
Terry Boot from Ravenclaw chimed in, "Besides, if his actual Charms Practical is any indication, no one will have to give him special consideration on his grades. I have never seen anyone go through a list of required demonstrations so fast and so accurately. Blimey, the two witches administering his work were barely able to write fast enough to keep up with him. I would have just written "O" beside each charm and been done with it."
Smith backed down like he always did when he said something negative about Harry.
The entire week went like that. The next day between written exams and while waiting for the Transfigurations Practical, Hermione and Ron engaged Harry in a discussion of a neutral subject - the next test. They were relieved when Harry readily joined in with their revisions. Harry was just focused.
It was at lunch the third day that it seemed like their old friend rejoined them.
"Hermione, Ron, I have missed you. I am sorry I have not been with you in our last two months at Hogwarts. I know I will always regret that." He looked wistful for a moment and they could tell he was not finished speaking. "Time is of the essence. The longer Luna remains in a coma the tougher it will be to pull her out. I am close I feel, but I just cannot put my finger on what is missing.
"I want to thank you two for all of the research you have done for me at the library. It has allowed me to look elsewhere. I know you should have spent that time on your N.E.W.T.s prep work instead. I hope your grades do not suffer for it."
Harry's two best friends were silent for a moment. Usually Hermione would speak first but it was Ron who spoke. "Harry, we would gladly fail all of our N.E.W.T.s to help you. We only have a future because of you, but that is not the reason I say that. If either of us were lying there instead of Luna, you would be working just as hard to save us. If I have to repeat my seventh year, so be it. That would be a snap compared to this past year. Imagine going to school without having to worry about the most evil wizard of all time trying to kill you. I would be bored to distraction."
Hermione smiled at her boyfriend and added, "I know I have been telling you that you cannot do what you obviously can do. But let me tell you this. You will find the cure. Just as soon as school lets out we will join you fulltime in your research. ...I know. When we are done with N.E.W.T.s, Ron, lets ask Professor Dumbledore if we can forego some if not all of our last classes and help Harry sooner rather than later."
The N.E.W.T.s week ended and they went their own ways. Harry just went back to his research and Ron and Hermione were not allowed to skip any classes, but there was little homework so they began to spend much of their afternoons and evenings at the ward with Harry and Luna.
The next few weeks reaffirmed their friendship and calmed their apprehensions about Harry. He was probably the most powerful wizard that had ever lived - definitely he was the most powerful alive today. But the two were glad to see that he was still their friend, Harry.
"Pop." Harry arrived on the front steps of Derwent House at the exact time of day agreed to and one week later than the originally scheduled appointment.
Before Harry could touch the door chime, Gently, the house elf/major domo, (spelled like the word "gently" but pronounced with a hard "G" like the Belgian city of Ghent) opened the door.
"Good afternoon Mr. Potter. It is a pleasure to see you again. Healer Derwent is expecting you. Please follow me." This sounded so formal, but Gently had warmly shook Harry's hand while speaking, and the delight in Gently's eyes was genuine enough.
"Healer Derwent will receive you in the library." It was the same room Harry had been in the last time. This time tea and biscuits were served before the master of the house arrived - rather unusual.
Of course Derwent succeeded in entering the room and calling out just as Harry tipped his cup back to finish his tea. Startled, Harry took tea down his windpipe and had to cough it out.
"I always seem to have that affect on people," Derwent muttered to himself. "Mr. Potter. I have reviewed your notes. Can you honestly say you did this work yourself?"
"Well, sir, I did review my theories with a number of healers at St. Mungo's. I have their input as a primary part of my evidence. But the basic ideas and concepts are mine and rather than changing any of them, my discussions have either confirmed or sharpened my theories. I take the blame for the errors, they are no one else's."
"The blame? Who said anything about blame? This is sound work and in the week since we last spoke I was able to visit some of my friends at Mungo's."
Harry had never heard anyone drop the "St." before Mungo's before.
The healer continued. "I only asked to confirm that this is your original work. Surely you consulted the original research journal of my assistant."
"No, sir. The hospital did not have copies of your research notes. That is why I contacted you directly." Thinking on what Derwent had said, Harry's excitement built. Hope at last. "Sir does this mean I am on the right track?"
"It means, young man, that your theories have nearly identically traced our steps up to the point where we meet our last failure and I retired from St. Mungo's. We had the theories, it only remained to work out the actually combinations and ramifications of exact spell/charm/potion analysis, dissection, and interdiction. The hospital was losing patience and my assistant was raising her daughter in the laboratory. It did not work out."
"Blowing up their laboratory every two or three weeks did not help your progress, or their opinion, either," commented Gently to no one in particular.
Derwent ignored Gently. "So we left there and came back to Derwent House. We were able to set up in the necessary manner for the exact experimentation required. Stellar's daughter was a precocious five-year-old at the time and Stellar wanted to work in research half time and home school her little girl the rest of the time. We took a year off so I could take the world tour I had promised myself."
"Recover your hearing and use of your left hand while you cruised around the world on that muggle ocean liner, with me having to hide in the cabin all day long. Glad you knew your Obliviate charm." Gently again. It was like a narrator for a story fighting with the narration.
Still ignoring the house elf, Derwent went on, "We worked part time for almost four more years. I had wanted to give up, but Stellar would not hear of it. I remember her calmly stating in a silken voice encasing an iron will, 'Alice and Frank would not give up on me, and I am not going to give up until I die.' I thought the last experiments would succeed, but the explosion was worse than before. This time Stellar was killed when the combination spell/potion/charm mix went off prematurely. I had just stepped out for a few minutes. The small controlled explosion should have occurred in ten minutes. But this was an uncontrolled blast. I blamed myself for not being there, but in fact I would have probably contributed nothing but another body."
Harry said, "Excuse me, sir. Did you mean Alice and Frank Longbottom?"
"Yes, Stellar was best friends with Alice and class mates with Frank at Hogwarts. It was an unusually close relationship in that Stellar was Ravenclaw and the Longbottoms were both Gryffindor. Good friends across houses are not uncommon, but best friends across houses are unique." Derwent went back to his medical discussion without further explanation. "We were working on the theory that you also deduced, the Cruciatus by itself is not the sole cause of the comatose state of your girlfriend. Although I must admit her open eyes are most uncommon.
"Anyway, Stellar would have never quit even though the last experiment was the last hope in that particular direction of pursuit. Had she survived, I am sure we would have started over again from scratch and created a new theory.
As a matter of fact, we had just started thinking a bout a whole new testing method. What took us years was the brewing time for the Suspension Potion that allowed us to test each and every small variation of half-spells and half-charms, as well as half potions. Stellar and I had theorized a Spell Suspension Charm that would slow the words of a spell or charm or counter-curse so we could dissect it and deliver it. All of our brewing and exploding was going to be more difficult if we ever perfected it enough to use on a patient.
"This delivery system, the Spell Suspension Charm as I called it, would make application to the patient easier and would have made distillation of half-potions, half-counter-charms, half-counter-spells, and half-counter-curses much easier. It would have made development and testing much faster and easier also."
Derwent stopped his exciting narration and stared blankly at a bookshelf. "However, after her death I lost heart." He kept staring.
"Oh. But I was telling you about how close your theory was to our work. You discovered in a month the secret we though would surely to work. Instead of full doses for each potion and equal counters for each curse or spell, we felt it would take half of each. Because not all of a potion was residual in the body only half of the antidote would be needed. That was the easy part. The Spell Suspension Charm theory would have made an Analysis Spell possible and we might have been able to do percentages of potions. Imagine a 33% potion in strength and efficacy. It would be much more effective than 33% of the typical doses of a full strength potion."
Derwent jumped around in his subject of discussion again, "Tell me, Mr. Potter, do you know what half of a curse or half of a spell is?"
Harry could not imagine and he shook his head.
"Well, that was her gift - spells. Stellar Goodleak could unravel a spell. She could not create a spell or a curse, few can. Only a few can combine spells to make them do more than the sum of the whole. Although my research tells me that you and Miss Granger can do that with regularity. Am I to understand she is muggle-born?"
Harry did not like the tone Derwent took with the words 'muggle-born.' "Sir, Hermione Granger is the smartest witch of our generation and no one has implied there is any from previous generations that was smarter. I am half-blood and I do not believe it has held me back so far." Harry silenced himself as he realized he was almost yelling at the one person who could help him. "Sir, please forgive outburst."
"A true Gryffindor, that is was Albus called you and everyone else agrees, except for those Healers who say that they cannot see why you are not a Ravenclaw.
"I meant no insult although I can see by Gently rolling his eyes that I did just that. I warned you I was a curmudgeonly old man. Please accept my apologies, though truly, the slight was unintentional.
"But I wander again, Mr. Potter. Where was I? Oh, yes. Stellar did not create spells and charms or combine them so much as dissect them. She discovered how to create half of a counter-curse and half of a counter-spell. She was outstanding at it though it took months of patience and perseverance to dissect each and everyone. The Suspension Potion would help her with dissection and then it would help with creation of the half-charm, or whatever. It was that potion that took so long. I wish we had thought of the Spell Suspension Charm earlier. Oh well, toads out of the bag, now.
"The problem came when we started to produce them together to undo a mixture of spells, potions, and curses. Mixing before that we would get a smaller explosions and an opportunity to start over.
"This is where the Suspension Charm would help with delivery if we ever could use it. Stellar helped me develop the idea of a voice activated spell and curse suspension mechanism as she called it. It was actually a spell that hung in the air and caught words of a curse or spell and slowed them to the reaction time needed for combination.
"This would all needed because we were undoing such combinations with a patient present. When we took these spells in reverse the solving of one caused the others to implode on each other and explode outwards.
"We knew from the bragging interviews with the LaStranges before their trial that they used Veritaserum and a Pepper-Up potion to get information out of them. The Pepper-Up was supposed to heighten the effect of the truth serum. When the poor Longbottoms could not give the location of Lord Thingy under that combination, Belatrix LaStrange first used the Imperius Curse, and then a number of Cruciatus Curses.
"Backing up from the last Curses to the potions we went through a number of controlled explosions and we thought we were close. And that is the one thing I do not understand to this day, and that is your problem."
"What do you mean, sir?" asked Harry.
"Your research leads you right to where we failed, so I do not think it is worth pursuing. You have reached in a little more than a month the place where we were at the time of Stellar's death. Two years from now in practical experimentation you will blow up everything like we did. If you figure out the Spell Suspension Charm you will reach that point in a few months at most, but it will still be a dead end based on our work.
"It still does not make since to me though. The controlled explosion we used to undo just about everything should not have occurred until ten minutes later. I had stepped back to the house and she and her daughter had evidently not gotten behind the safety partition yet.
"All of this, up to the explosion, is in her journal which you have indicated you have not read. In your particular case, I would have suspected Stellar's daughter would have inherited an immunity to most of this just like you received from your mother."
Harry was befuddled. "Sir, you have lost me. Why would I have Stella Goodleak's journal and what does her daughter have to do with my situation?"
"Not Stella Goodleak, Harry. Stellar Goodleak Lovegood. She took the explosion for a Cruciatus Curse reversal just like your mother took the Killing Curse for you. Stellar, God rest her soul, died to protect her daughter, Luna Lovegood.
Harry ran from the St. Mungo's Apparation Center back to the ward. Claire could not believe his rush or the change in his typical arrival routine. Usually he would speak to her a word of greeting at least, and then spend time with Luna before proceeding to whatever was his next project.
Not this time. He ran right to Luna's bedside table, snatched up her mother's journal, and stormed over to his desk and set it in the middle of the work surface. He stared at it and them tried to open it. The pages were as if glued shut.
He waved his hand over it, and tried to open it. It was still shut tightly.
Harry looked at Claire for a second and she wondered why.
He held up his hand and his wand flew into it. First he tried the anti-Binding/Fastening charm. Next the good old Alohomora door opening spell. Then he went with the anti-Colloportus Spell, the Diffindo Spell to cut the binding strap, and the Relashio Spell to release the pages.
Claire had moved to his side but said nothing. He obviously wanted to gain access to Luna's diary in a desperate way.
Harry stared with a look as intense as she had ever seen. The book actually curved in shape but did not open. In a second Harry stopped trying when the journal began to smoke slightly.
He kept staring and finally chuckled to himself. "Can it possible be?"
"Can it possibly be what, Harry?"
"Luna told me that she and her mother used to read muggle books on magic at afternoon break when she was a little girl. They thought they were the funniest thing imaginable. If her mother put a Password Spell on this journal then it will not open without that password. What are the muggle magic words?"
He looked at the book and said, "Abracadabra." - Nothing.
"Try 'please and think you,' Harry." He did - nothing.
"I know," he said with a great grin. "Open sesame!"
The strap snapped open and a small dust cloud cause Claire to sneeze.
"God bless you," said Harry to Claire regarding the sneeze.
He walked over to Luna with the book in his hand. "Luna, I am sorry I have to invade your privacy, but if reading this will help me bring you back I will be able to apologize to you in person and hear you accept my apologizes."
He leaned down and kissed her cheek, and then placed his cheek next to hers for a few moments.
Claire became immediately uncomfortable as she was inadvertently invading this private moment. She walked outside of the partitions and towards Harry's work area. He walked out in less than a minute.
"Have I been ignoring her, Claire?"
"Harry, she would understand that with your final exams and with your research that you are busy.. You have been racing towards the cure. That means you cannot spend as much time with her as you like. You are doing this for your futures together. She would be going full speed to find a cure for you wouldn't she?"
He smiled. "Thanks. It turns out that Luna's mother was Healer Derwent's research assistant and a genius in spell dissection for reversal purposes..."
Harry was off at full speed and Claire took only the briefest of moments to smile at his excitement as she listened to his explanations. She knew he used her as a sounding board and she only understood half of what he was saying. But every once in a while she could provide him with an outsider's observation that helped.
Anything to be of use besides praying she would gladly do. But she still believed that prayer was her most valuable weapon.
The next morning she came in and Harry was still sitting in the chair where she had left him the night before. He was asleep and his neck would hurt from the angle his head had taken. His glasses were cocked at an odd angle and his reading candle was spluttering its last bits of flame. Claire checked on Luna - unchanged - and took Harry's wand to the desk. She had learned to use it to dictate a message on an interoffice paper airplane and send it off for food from the cafeteria. She did not realize this was not standard procedure but no one would deny Harry, or her the right to help Harry.
The smell of fresh-cooked bacon woke him. "My neck," he said.
"What did you discover Harry? Are you any closer to a solution?"
Moving his head around to relieve the kinks in his neck, Harry said, "It's like Derwent said. They were getting close to the solution. The protocols they established made it clear that each small failure could be re-tried but a catastrophic failure meant the failure of the approach altogether. They outlined this procedure thoroughly and it proved true project after project, year after year. This particular experiment was the last possible for their theories, and mine for that matter, but it was the most promising.
"I can't find a way to proceed, just like Derwent said. This was the last chance but it had such a high probability of success that I share his disappointment as if I was there all along with them. I have to start over again just like they would have if I had been with them."
"But your idea worked for Professor Lazaar," Claire asked with faltering hope.
"True, and I was so hopeful. That is a different type of spell and potion combination. It is much simpler and uses less complex elements. Luna's coma is more the results of the inside actions of the potions and spells used on her. There have been notable successes with cross applications of viable research, but most fail or only give partial success. This is another failure, I guess."
Harry ate but his eyes were miles away. Claire cleared the plates and still he stared into oblivion.
"Harry? Claire?" It was Remus Lupin.
"Good morning Pro... Remus," said Harry. After several years of calling him Remus, Harry still wanted to call him 'Professor.' What brings you here this day with such an intense look on your faced?''
"Serious business, Harry. I have to tell you this but do not want to really. I just came from Azkaban prison. I felt like I had to honor a request from... well from Peter Pettigrew."
The look of disgust on Harry's face told the story. Just the mention of the name was enough to foul his stomach and curdle milk in Harry's mouth.
"I have to tell you what he said. I do not to want to really, but there are two reasons I feel I must upset your day with his message. If you do not want me to proceed I won't but perhaps you should."
"I trust your judgment. Tell me, please."
"Peter reminded me that he owes you a wizard's debt for saving his life back in your third year. He wants to see you. He says that he wants to tell you something that is very important. He says it is about Luna and her condition. How many times have I wished you had let Sirius and me kill him."
"Remus, I have thought through that decision, over and over. I can only come to one conclusion. My father still would not have wanted his best friends to become murders. I became a killer and even though I killed a great evil, I still regret having had to kill. You two would have been murderers, and that is worse than what I had to do.
"I guess I should go to see him for Luna's sake. When should we go?"
"It must be today or never," Remus said. "He has been given a death sentence, as have all of the Death Eaters. Tomorrow he goes through the Veil. The minor helpers of Voldemort are still under consideration about sentencing."
It was short term, yet the method of the condemned prisoner's restraints were still a bit cruel, though necessary. With no dementors as guards, and with almost all of these most dangerous wizards kept in close confinement, the only way to ensure no escapes was to use the most invasive security measures.
All of the original Death Eaters that were in the cemetery when Voldemort was reanimated, were in confinement, at least all that were still alive. Harry was also saddened yet relieved that the Death Eaters from his generation, Goyle and Crabbe, Marcus Flint, Theodore Nott, and many of the members of the Slytherin Quidditch teams he had played against in his first six years were almost all under arrest. Draco Malfoy was the only conspicuous former school-mate absent.
The Death Eaters of Harry's generation had taken cruelty to a new level. They had been viscous in their attacks, wanton in their torture, and merciless in their killings. Their parents had seen defeat in the first war under Voldemort, and in the thirteen years between then and his return they had been given time to pause and reflect on the matters. The elders were believers but held a degree of reserve.
Harry's former classmates were true believers, too young to have any doubts about the possibility of defeat and the consequences therein. They had killed and tortured as if it was their divine right, given to them by their Lord and Master - capital "L" and "M." Though Harry did not know it, almost all of them had cried like babies at their trials for mercy, but the many evidences of their guilt were too damning.
Blase Zabini had been the Severus Snape of his generation. The very ceremony where he had received the Dark Mark on his left arm had been all he needed to compel him to go to Professor Dumbledore and throw himself on the headmaster's mercy. He tried to go back and act as spy for the Order of Phoenix, but all that he and his cronies were assigned to were attacks, tortures, and killings. He could not do it and there was little he could provide in the way of information. Blase was said to be in hiding somewhere in South America.
Harry, Remus, and Kingsley Shacklebolt entered Peter's cell together. None of them liked the idea of giving Wormtail this one last chance to say anything to Harry, good or bad. They were there on the offside chance that he might have information to help Luna.
Harry was uncomfortable with the way the prisoner was bound. He saw in Lupin's eye the mixture of profound sadness and loathing he held for the only other living Marauder and betrayer of his friends.
Pettigrew was seated on a stool leaning against a wall. The wall held a metal contraption that was almost medieval. Iron bands went around his torso and held him in the seated position. His arms were encased in four-inch wide shackles, and his hands went down his side and were encased in non-flexing metal gloves constricting any movement of the fingers. The gloves were chained with his hands pointing downwards. His head could move a bit, but there was a band around his head at his mouth holding in a solid gag ball to prevent any spoken words. The Death Eaters were uncomfortable, but they were going nowhere. Neither were most of their victims, and that is the point.
Shacklebolt removed the mouth constraint and Pettigrew choked and coughed for a moment. "Thank you, Remus my old friend, for bringing Harry as I requested."
"We are not hear for pleasantries, Peter. If you have something to say to Harry, then proceed. We want to leave here as soon as possible."
"Harry, son of my old friends, you should have allowed Remus and Sirius kill me when they had the chance. I am so regretful at what I have done since that day. I was so weak and cowardly and the Dark Lord was so...so..."
"Pettigrew, we are not here to hear your miserable pleadings. There will be no pleas for mercy from Harry on your behalf. I will fight him on it if need..."
"No. NO! You misunderstand dear Remus. I do not want mercy. Ask Kingsley here. I cooperated fully and agreed with my death sentence. I deserve what I receive tomorrow." Peter paused and looked at the auror.
Kingsley said, "It is as he said. He has not caused any trouble and has cooperated only under the stipulation that he not be pardoned.
"I cannot live with myself any more, but I am too weak to do myself in." The craven desire for death and the perhaps more sincere desire to atone for his actions made for a painful sight.
After a few long moments of silence for all, the shackled man continued. "Harry, as I said, I am sorry that I was ever born. The only happy time I have ever had in my life had been with the friends I betrayed and killed as surely as if I had cast the curses myself." Tears were in his eyes. He sniffed them back and half-sobbed as he continued. "I do not for a moment imagine that my death will atone for my transgressions against you.
"I owe you a wizard's life debt. I never tried to save you in return for saving me, so that debt, like everything else in my life with be unfulfilled. But I think...that is I hope I have a small amount of information that may in someway help you.
"Your girlfriend is in a coma from a complex set of spells and curses is she not?"
Lupin jumped in. "Did you have anything to do with that? I will kill you here and now and face the consequences if you brought Harry here to brag!"
Wormtail was whimpering and trying to turn away from the werewolf's verbal unslaught. "No. No. No. No. I had nothing to do with it. I only just heard about it and I think I have some information that may help. It is a small thing, just a snippet here and there of conversations, but it may help. Harry, please let me continue. I swear with all my heart that I do not intend to hurt you, only help. Please."
Harry stared into his eyes with more intensity than anyone else had ever received from him. Twice Pettigrew squirmed to look a way but did not. Harry softened his gaze a bit and spoke one word. "Proceed." The word was lifeless and chilling in it tone.
"Whe...whe...when." Peter stopped and gulped. "When we Death Eaters try to torture information out of a person, we did not start with the Cruciatus. Most of us started with a combination of Veritaserum and Pepper-Up Potion to heighten the speed and power of the truth serum. Most we used this mixture on told us what we wanted to know and then we just torture them with the Cruciatus. With many we stopped after a brief period of time and then we would leave them an unconscious mess. Those always woke up. Or we torture them until death. Well, a few stronger minds resist the two potions. With those we spend a considerable time trying the Imperius Curse to gain control over them and then an additional dose of Veritaserum. Then we used the Cruciatus until they talked or until they cracked like poor Frank and Alice."
Harry spoke with impatience, "That we already know." In fact the second dose of Veritaserum was unknown to him. "This does not help me. The until now, the experiments on this matter were exhausted and failed."
"But they didn't fail, Harry." It was not a smile on Pettigrew's face. That was beyond his self-tortured soul at the moment. "I was busy being the Weasley's rat at the time, but after I returned to the Dar... to my evil service, I heard bits and pieces about the only raiding party by Death eaters during the lull between the wars. Lucius Malfoy had used stealth and an Invisibility Cloak to visit the work of a research healer from time to time. I do not know his name but Lucius felt this researcher and his assistant were about to create a breakthrough to release the Longbottoms and weaken one of our proven methods of interrogation and intimidation.
"When he blew up their laboratory, Lucius did not want his success to be known, so not only did he not cast the Dark Mark over the scene, he used a muggle explosive device to blow up the experiment. He did not blow up the healer, but he killed the assistant and that ended the experiment. He did not know if the experiment would work, but the two researchers were so sure Lucius did not want to take a chance.
"Anyway, Lucius did not have to kill the healer because he never went back to his experiments. But, Harry, if you could find the healer, he may not be dead, he may try his research again. Or if you could find his notes..."
"Peter." It was the first time Harry had ever used his first name. "Just this morning I had abandoned that possibility for a cure. Now we can reopen it and see if it was as they had hoped. I will leave you now. Thank..."
"But Harry. But Harry. I have some bad news I fear. Lucius did not use that exact procedure with your girlfriend. He was bragging on his way to kidnap her that he had a new method for starting the torture process. Some new spell other than the two potions we usually used. He never even told the Dark Lord what he had planned; he wanted it to be a surprise for him if successful. I am sorry, but I have to tell you all of the facts I know. If you tried the method the healer created and it hurt her, you would curse me more than you do now."
"Peter, thank you. With this information I consider your life debt paid in full."
"You are kinder than I deserve. Um...may I ask one small favor. No. It is too much to ask."
"Ask me Peter."
"I am willing go to my death tomorrow, as I said. I want to go. But if you could find it to tell me, lie to me if you chose, it would be easier if I thought you forgave me...."
"Wormtail! You ask far too much." Lupin had jumped between the two. "This bit of information is nothing compared to all the pain and misery...the life of his parents...Sirius in Azkaban...."
"Peter, I do forgive you."
Harry held up his hand to Remus. There was no magic in his hand, or rebuke. He was "asking" for Lupin to stop.
"Peter. Do not go forward tomorrow thinking that I have lied to you. I do forgive you of everything, as best I can. When I think of you in the future I will always remember your help here today as strongly as possible.
"Try to take that peace with you on your journey tomorrow."
Peter's tears were streaming down his face. "Oh, Harry. You look like your father, but there is so much of your mother in you. She was kindness herself. Thank you. Thank you so very much. Hoping for your success will be my last thought before I walk through tomorrow. Thank you." The failed and fallen man withered into sobs of relief, as much as could be done while still constrained as he was."
"I will be back in a few minutes to replace your mouth piece." Kingsley said as the three left the room.
After the door closed the talk dark senior auror asked, "Harry, do you want to interview Malfoy to see if he will tell us what he did?"
"No. He will gloat over his small victory. He will never crack and he will have trained himself to resist Veritaserum."
Harry then looked over to his quiet, sullen former professor. "What is bothering you my friend?"
"How could you forgive him. HOW COULD YOU FORGIVE HIM!" He did nothing to deserve your forgiveness.
"I did it for two reasons, Professor. I gave what little peace I could to one of my father's and mother's oldest friends in his hour of need. But the most important reason I forgave him was for myself. Forgiveness releases me from the burden of unforgiveness. Unforgiveness can bring despair for years to come. It can eat away at your heart and your happiness. It becomes what you carry instead of love.
"Kinglsey, will you wait here and let our dear friend go back in and talk to his oldest living friend one more time, if he so chooses?"
"I will, Harry."
Harry smiled. 'Pop.' He was gone.
Kingsley looked startled for a moment and then turned to Lupin shaking his head with a slight, rueful grin. "I will never get over him doing what is not suppose to be possible. No one can disapparate from Azkaban.
"Do you want me to let you wait in a private room until you decide what to do, Remus?"
Lupin was staring at the door the whole time. He was silent as though he had not heard the auror's question. Just before Shacklebolt was about to ask him again...
"The teacher becomes the student. The student becomes the teacher." He barely whispered loudly enough to be heard.
The soon-to-be last Marauder straightened his stance. "Kingsley, my friend, can you open the door and leave me here alone for a few minutes?"
"I can leave you in their with the door almost closed and listen quietly at the door. Procedures. Sorry."
"That will do."
Harry apparated right onto the front steps of Derwent House. He rang the chimes and only then noticed that there was a heavy black banner across the door.
Gently, the house elf, answered the door dressed completely in black.
"Mr. Potter, sir. You will have not heard. Healer Derwent had been sick for so long. He should have died months ago. Helping you gave him the happiest moments he has had in years. After you last left, he asked to be called for a late dinner. He lay down for a short nap and never awoke.
"Thank you, sir, for a meaningful last week for my friend." A tear formed in each of Gently's eyes as he finished this last sentence.
"Gently. I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
"Mr. Potter, sir. He left me his entire estate after a generous donation to St. Mungo's. What am I to do with myself? This is worse than the first time he gave me clothes."
"Er...um...go to St. Mungo's. Volunteer to help. You helped with research at one time I believe. They will find a use for you. Can I leave you, or do you want me to stay with you for a while?"
"No, sir. Your offer is extremely kind. He thought you would be busy curing the uncurable. His last words were, 'That young man will cure them, yet.' Do you think you can, sir?"
"I believe so, Gently. And Healer Derwent's research will be a part of it if not the key. I know it sounds impossible, but I believe it just might work."
"Do you read the Daily Prophet, sir?"
Harry shook his head.
"That paper that has spoken ill of you so much in the past. However, it has been doing a series of articles on all of your exploits. If half of what they say is true, sir, I've no doubt I will be reading about your young lady dancing at your wedding soon. Good luck to you, sir, and God speed."
The door closed.
Harry apparated from Derwent's front door right to the Gryffindor common room. Several second year girls screamed.
"Harry, it still startles me when you do that," said Hermione. "You must have mercy on the other students. If you must, apparate directly here, appear in a broom closet or your dorm room."
Harry began, "Hermione...er...sorry girls. Hermione, I need your logical mind. I think I have the solution right at my fingertips, and I need you and Professor Chang to walk me through it in a logical progression so I won't miss anything. Can you come with me?"
"Of course, Harry. My classes are over for the day and I would have come anyway in about an hour. I believe Cho is just ending her last class for the day, also. Let's hurry to her, and remember, I cannot apparate in Hogwarts."
Cho was available. They took the Floo fireplace in the dungeon to "Harry and Luna's place" at St. Mungo's. The discussions were a mile a minute. Claire gave up trying to follow the lightning fast concept creation after concept creation that flitted from one possibility to another. It was like listening in on a conversation between Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Madame Curie. She busied herself with retrieving refreshments from the cafeteria.
Hermione came out of the fireplace in the dungeon at Hogwarts and began walking fast to find Professor McGonagall. She bumped into Neville Longbottom.
"Hermione. There you are. We all heard that you and Professor Chang left with Harry today. Is he close to a cure for Luna? You're in quite a rush."
He stopped and held her arm so she would stop also. "You have a disturbed look on your face. What is the matter?"
She gave him her typical all-is-NOT-right-with-the-world look and blurted out, like a verbal machine gun, "Harry thinks he has the cure, but the two researchers are now dead. It turns out that Luna's mother was this brilliant Ravenclaw, Stellar Goodleak. Well, she was one of the researchers. Their last experiment blew up and so they thought it had failed. But it was actually sabotaged by Lucius Malfoy. So it should work but the only ones who know how it is suppose to work are dead. Harry is assuming the experiment worked, because it cannot be duplicated. The results can be used with out recreating the experiment, assuming it would have worked out. Harry wants Professor McGonagall to put him under the same curses a few at a time to test their final results and have Dumbledore try the curing half-spells with the half-antidotes Professor Chang is brewing now."
Hermione took a deep breath. It was amazing how long she could speak with out appearing to breath. "So, if you see her, McGonagall, not Chang, please ask her to come to Dumbledore's office. I think Harry is crazy, but you know we cannot stop him."
She ran off with this last sentence and did not turn around to look at Neville. He stared at the wall for over five minutes without moving.
There was quite an argument brewing in the Headmaster's office. Dylis Derwent's portrait in her frame was crying softly at word of her great, great, great grandson's death. The other portraits were shouting at each other as if they were going to make the decision. Harry was yelling at Hermione and Professor McGonagall was yelling at no one in particualr. Harry insisted it would work and that they not delay a minute. He was ready. Hermione was yelling that it was too difficult, and Professor McGonagall was yelling that it was irresponsible to try.
Professor Dumbledore was reading Luna's mother's journal very quickly. Perhaps he had learned how to muggle speed-read also. He closed the book and stood. The shouting came to an abrupt halt.
"The discussion is a moot point. I cannot control half-spells to the degree that Miss Goodleak nee Mrs. Lovegood could. We do not have a Spell Suspension Charm. There is only one person alive who can control his magic enough to accomplish this, and I am afraid that makes this experiment as you describe it, Harry, impossible."
Harry burst out, "Perhaps if I go and ask him he will. I hate my fame but I will use it shamelessly for this purpose. Or, I have money..."
"No, Harry. The only wizard with this degree of control is more than willing. It is you. But you cannot apply the counter half-spells to yourself while under the influences of the spells and potions and whatever. Perhaps we have an answer here."
Neville had never been to the headmaster's office, but he knew the password was some sort of candy. None he called out worked, but as he sat on the second step in frustration the stairway began to move upwards. He stood, gulped, and prepared his speech over again in his head.
"Come in Mr. Longbottom," the headmaster said as if the assembly and discussions that greeted Neville were an everyday occurrence.
Neville Longbottom, the accomplished wizard duelist and fighter of Death Eaters was as nervous as his first day at Hogwarts - but only for a moment.
"Excuse me for interrupting, professors, but Harry is needed to help with the cure. I should be the one to put under the curses and have the cures tested on me. They were originally designed for my parents I believe. Stellar Goodleak was my mother's best friend and we met once when I was a seven. She told me she was trying to cure them. I did not know she was Luna's mother or I would have said something to her, Harry, I promise."
Harry spoke first and cut off all others, "I cannot let you do it, Neville. I can take it. I have been under the Cruciatus Curse before and I know what is involved..."
"HARRY! I have been under that curse before myself. You were there - at the Department of Mysteries. I can take it if I must. You are needed to help with controlling the experiments. I want to do this. It is for my parents and much as Luna as far as I am concerned. Please! It will never work without you helping and I can survive the pain!"
Neville did not know that Harry was the only one who could actually perform the experimental cure attempts. He had hit upon the only possible solution.
The silence was palpable. Unspoken, it was agreed when Hermione said, "I will go see if I can assist Professor Chang."
Neville was sedated in the infirmary. He had been under less pain that all thought it would take. Every potions dissection and cure and half-counter-curse worked perfectly. It exhausted him. Madame Pomphrey had sedated him because he insisted they go right away to St. Mungo's and try the process on his parents. Harry promised he would try to help them first thing in the morning. Harry had told everyone that each step had worked but there would be no guarantee that the final combinations would be effective. The final test had to be on the actual patients.
Unspoken, but ever present in Harry's mind as well as the others, was the fact that Luna was not suffering from the same set of potions and spells as the rest. Her combination was unknown.
Neville's Gran was owled and she sent word back that she would be there in the morning. Typical, in her return owl she had insisted on a full explanation before proceeding.
Everyone had a poor night's rest - except for Neville, of course.
At St. Mungo's it took over an hour of explanations and examining test results before it was agreed by the hospital administrators to allow the attempt. The assistant ward healer that had been such a pain early on was off that day, which was probably for the best. (He would kick himself, after the fact, that he was not there to control the testing to his exacting standards.)
Mrs. Longbottom expressed that she did not know if she should grant permission or not. Neville reminded her that he had come of age the previous summer and the decision was not hers to make. She made a number of disgruntled sounds but did not leave the waiting area.
Frank Longbottom was guided by Neville to the area in Harry's part of the ward where a special bed had been prepared. Cho Chang had flooed in early in the morning and had arranged his potions laboratory to her preferences to produce the half-antidotes at the strength needed at the exact moment.
Cho Chang had been terribly excited to work with the journal of the great Stellar Goodleak. Luna's mother was a legend in Ravenclaw. She had been the top Charms student in the history of Ravenclaw. Hermione Granger had scored one-half point below Stellar for the course totals for the entire seven years.
Cho said, "Harry, I had always wondered why Luna was a Ravenclaw. She was a fine enough student but I always thought she was more a Gryffindor by temperment and nature. But Stellar still has strong ties in our house, so I guess that is why Luna became one of us."
Frank Longbottom was given a very mild sedative. They agreed that he should not be asleep but docile. They had decided that the only way to determine if he had been released was to hear if his conversation returned to a more rational manner.
They all took a deep breath and began. Harry had done the impossible again. In one afternoon of experimentation he had created the Spell Suspension Charm and the Analysis Charm. Then he applied the first to the second with a Visualization Spell and they could see a constant readout of the patient's condition projected right in front of them.
With these two brand new pieces of magic engaged, Harry applied the first half-counter-curse to release the Cruciatus Curse. In a moment there was a small 'pop' sound, similar to an apparation noise. All of Frank's vitals were checked and he had only changed a little. His blood pressure was a bit lower. All of those under the extended Cruciatus Curse had higher than normal blood pressure.
Professor's Dumbledore and McGonagall were there to help with any advice they felt necessary. Harry had discussed the procedures fully with them and he asked for their guidance and oversight. None of the three admitted it, but they had learned a lot about the core nature of spells, charms, and potions from Harry during his hour-long explanation. They doubted they could tell him anything about this complex process, but they knew the value of helping him keep his confidence up.
Harry cast the half-counter-curse that would release the Imperius Curse. All of this time Harry was holding an ongoing Spell Suspension Charm around the patient during the entire procedure. This was the secret that Hermione had hit upon when analyzing the journal that first night. If Harry could use his advanced powers to hold the Spell Suspension Charm during the entire procedure, he could make sure the counter-spells and potions did not speed up and explode. This was similar to the Shield Charm Harry maintained around Luna during his battle with Riddle.
After two minutes the patient's eyes stopped their rapid jerking from side to side. Tragic Cruciatus victims would jerk their eyes in fits for a few seconds, and then stop for about a half-minute - then a few seconds of eye-jerking again. Three more minutes after Frank Longbottom's eyes last stopped jerking had not started back.
Harry used Derwent's Analysis Spell and projected the results on the wall. Hermione and Cho agreed that 44% of anti-Pepper-Up Potion and 55% of anti-Veritaserum would be the amounts needed. Cho mixed them with a speed and precision that impressed the medical Potion Masters attending. The impressive factor was not that she reduced the amounts by volume of 44% and 55% respectively, but the potency was reduced by those percentages also. Before this, potency could only be reduced by volume. Had they known she had only been working on this for about 40 hours, instead of the years the medicos assumed, they would have been astounded and probably tried to interfere. Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss.
Neville poured the 44% anti-Pepper-Up Potion into his father's mouth. Frank Longbottom had always recognized him slightly. Neville's face comforted his father. Did Neville imagine that his dad had recognized him just a little more than usual?
In a minute there was another 'pop' and the levels of histamines increased slightly in his blood. This was a muggle concept and the only contribution Sister Mary Claire had made on the day Hermione, Cho, and Harry brainstormed the journal's content. The Pepper-Up Potion was used to fight the common cold. Histamines were always present in the body, but a cold produced a higher level of histamines than normal. Claire's logic was that if a Pepper-Up Potion reduced histamines as an indicator it was working, then an anti-Pepper-Up Potion would increase histamines slightly. Testing proved she was right as far as a cold fighter goes. It was all they had to go on here.
Finally, Neville administered the 55% ant-Veritaserum. There was no 'pop' sound. There was no way to test for effectiveness. How could you ask someone to lie if they had been unable to answer a question for over sixteen years? In a few minutes Frank Longbottom let out an enormous sigh of relieve and visibly relaxed physically. For sixteen years he had been on edge while awake and restless when he slept.
Neville walked back over to his father because Harry's wave him to do so. His father looked at him for what seemed ages to everyone. No one could remember how long it had been because there was such an air of stressed hope. Later, the Analysis Spell indicated that it was almost two minutes.
Frank Longbottom opened his slitted eyes just a bit, and just before going to sleep he said, "Hello Neville. Go help your mother."
Captured on muggle video, the next moment would be the very definition of a pregnant pause.
Everyone in the room (save one) burst immediately into tears and laughter and applause at the same moment. Harry joined in as soon as he eased the Spell Suspension Charm off of Neville's father.
Neville's grandmother hugged Harry to her bosom and would not let him go for over a minute.
Author's Note —Apparently it would not all fit. — So the curing of Luna has to go in the next section.
Disclaimer---As always, what belongs to J K Rowling is J K Rowling's. What belongs to anyone else is theirs. Everything left is mine, I guess, but remember the old adage — "There is nothing new under the sun." - Aaran St. Vines
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