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The Accord by jardyn39
Chapter 1: Unwelcome Visitors
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Part Five and Conclusion to “The Apprentice Piece”
This story is the conclusion to “The Apprentice Piece” series and was originally published on Portkey in March 2005.
## SPOILER WARNING ##
Reminder of characters and items that are referred to from previous chapters:-
Fides – An Unspeakable who has helped Harry, although he may have an agenda that isn’t clear to Harry yet. Friend of Dumbledore. Resident in the lower levels of the Department of Mysteries most of the time. Harry does not know that his friend the master carpenter George Hellar was actually Fides in disguise.
Kales – An ancient wizard banished by the Unspeakables who prefers to assume the form of a dragon. Guided Harry for his first few steps in the dream world. Refers to Dumbledore as, “Young Albus.” Reputed to be volatile but was patient and tolerant with Harry. Suspected to have given Harry and Hermione more information than Fides feels is wise.
Perenelle Flamel – Wife of Nicholas, she is a powerful witch who rescued Harry as a baby. Didn’t speak to Dumbledore for years after he placed Harry with the Dursleys. Reckless and ruthless. Lost Harry’s trust by attacking Hermione and has been desperately trying to make up for this since. Has been teaching History of Magic revision classes, complete with re-enactments of major conflicts.
Nicholas Flamel – Close friend of Dumbledore. Both helped and misled Hermione after his wife attacked her. Aged, but powerful and quick witted. Trustworthy and caring.
Pansy Parkinson – Sided against the other Slytherins during the Great Hall fight. Growing friendship with Harry but continues to enjoy annoying Hermione.
Stephen Hopkins – Slytherin student, assigned by Dumbledore to help Harry and Hermione practice Defence against dark magic.
Lieutenant Davis – Officer from the Regiment, a wizarding military unit visiting Hogwarts.
Harbinger – Late Professor and former Auror who taught Defence Against the Dark Arts and trained Harry to use the powerful Apprentice Piece wand. Also taught Harry a wand-less pushing trick. Twice expelled from Hogwarts as a student, he was good friends with Harry's mother Lily.
The Apprentice Piece Wand – A wand made with wood from an ancient holly tree by Harry during his summer holidays after he worked briefly for George Hellar. Destroyed when Harry freed Kales from Voldemort’s control. As it broke, Harry became its true bearer and the magic has stayed within him. Gave Harry a glimpse of his potential and gave him access to the dream world. The wand has allowed Harry to become powerful in terms of defensive spells. He controls himself for the most part, but still sets fire to things he tries to scurgify. Harry cannot now resort to dark magic to defeat Voldemort, for fear of losing his future potential which may be decades away.
George Hellar - Widower and Muggle master carpenter. See Fides above.
Lily’s Letters – Harry’s mother concealed messages for Harry within letters to Harbinger, who she knew at school. Hermione also received a letter from her, but no-one knows its contents or how Lily managed to address it.
The Guardian – Kales identified Hermione to Harry as a Guardian and treated her with respect and courtesy. Harry has not found out what this means.
The Rebels – A cross house group of Quidditch enthusiasts that Harry has trained with emphasis on inclusion and enjoyment over competitiveness. Fervent supporters of Harry, they are mostly younger year students. Includes a few Slytherin members.
At the end of Part Four, “The Sword of Light,” Harry survived an attack by Voldemort’s agents sent to attack them in the dream world, a place Harry and Dumbledore can see and hear events in the real world whilst remaining completely undetected. Harry always enters the dream world over an ancient stone buried deep under the Quidditch stadium, a place he is safe from Voldemort’s prying. Harry has learned to interact with the real world whilst within the dream world, but only to a very limited extent.
A skirmish between Slytherin and the other three Houses took place in the Great Hall.
Fides briefly visited Harry in the Hospital Wing and revealed a few more answers, although he refused to explain why Hermione was referred to as a Guardian.
Perenelle Flamel continues to tutor History of magic revision classes. Although tension still exists between the Houses due to the incident in the Great Hall, the past few days have passed peacefully for Harry and his friends.
Then one lazy Sunday…
Harry Potter absently scratched his ear as he lay reading under the shade of the large beech tree by the side of the lake. It was an unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon, and Hermione had suggested that they sit outside to do their homework.
Harry had no intention of actually doing his homework, but having utterly failed to dissuade Hermione from doing hers, had joined her outside anyway.
Once there, Harry’s feeble attempts to distract her were met with a frown that told him all too clearly that her homework took priority and that his should as well.
Eventually Harry had picked up one of Hermione’s many books and had opened it at a random page. He hadn’t expected this particular book, an ancient tome on advanced Transfiguration, to interest him at all. However, he soon became engrossed reading about the phenomena of wizards and witches who were also Metamorphmagus, and able to change their appearance at will.
Harry had been told that he was a Metamorphmagus by Perenelle Flamel a short while ago, just like Tonks. He hadn't believed her at the time, especially as she was rather too keen to get back on his good side.
However, Kales, the wizard disguised as a dragon who introduced him to the dream world where he could travel undetected around the Hogwarts castle and grounds, had shown him how to change the colour and appearance of his hair. He had been in the dream world when he first tried and had woken with long coloured hair, much to the amusement of his dormitory friends.
He still doubted that he really was a Metamorphmagus, not least because the only thing he could transform so far was his hair.
Since then, Harry had been trying to change himself in both the waking world and in his dream state. He had been reluctant to do too much for fear of the reaction he would get from others. Ron, in particular, kept looking at him like he wasn’t sure what to make of Harry any more.
He wished Kales was still around to teach him. In fact, Harry had found that now he didn’t have Kales for company, the dream world was a very lonely place, especially at night.
Harry found himself quite envious of Dumbledore, who was free to roam the castle undetected during the day if he wished.
Harry scratched his ear again and stretched, remembering back to the conversation he’d had earlier with Dumbledore.
“Harry, have you been exploring the castle now that Kales has left?” asked Dumbledore.
“Yes, of course I have,” Harry replied quietly. “I’ve been afraid that more of those things will come back.”
Dumbledore knew he was referring to the creatures sent by Voldemort into the dream world to act as his agents.
“Have you encountered anything?”
“No, I’d have said,” replied Harry.
“Each morning, though, you have woken more tired, and each night gets worse.”
“Yes, Sir. How did you know?”
“Well, apart from the fact that you just fell asleep in your breakfast,” Dumbledore replied with a small smile, “I remember my own experiences.”
“It will get easier, but it may take many years. Indeed, I suspect part of the problem is your young age. Normally the wand chooses the wizard when he is much older.”
Harry was far too tired to feel indignant.
“Harry, I want you to restrict the time you spend in your dream state. You should be fine staying in the stadium, but even there you would be wise to restrict yourself.”
“But what if something happens?”
“Right now, you would be too weak to do anything.”
Harry knew this was true.
“Okay,” he said with a sigh. “I promise.”
“Thank you, Harry. I’d recommend a thoroughly lazy day.”
Harry reached the end of the chapter he was reading, still with no clue how he could improve his Metamorphmagus skills. Perhaps he should ask Tonks for her opinion, provided she would be prepared to take his claims seriously, of course.
Harry scratched his itchy ear once again but this time looked up. Hermione was still sitting with a large book in her lap.
Something about the smile she was wearing, her raised eyebrows and the suspiciously long quill she was holding, told him she had finished her homework and might just have been toying with him.
“I’m not sure I chose a wise place to sit, Hermione. Something keeps tickling my ears,” he said as flatly as he could.
“Really?” she asked, still pretending to read but smiling widely now. “Crookshanks, have you been tickling Harry’s ears again?”
She reached over to her large bandy legged ginger cat and began scratching his ears fondly.
Crookshanks appeared to be happy to interrupt his stalking trip, waving his tail and purring with obvious pleasure.
Harry felt quite envious of the attention he was getting.
After a few moments, Crookshanks parted from Hermione and, pausing briefly to rub Harry with his cheeks, ran off to pursue some new quarry amongst the longer grass.
“Actually, I was the one with the itch,” said Harry with a smile.
Hermione laughed and reached out towards him with both hands. Smiling with eager anticipation, he moved closer to her on his knees but couldn’t help laughing as she immediately began scratching him behind both ears.
“I still have an itch,” he said smiling and moving closer still.
“What’s that?” asked Hermione, pulling away. Through Harry’s annoyance he could hear distant shouts and what he thought might be a scream.
He turned to look.
It took him a moment to register what he was seeing.
Two large animals were bounding towards them at speed. One was a wolf and the other a male lion.
Even at Hogwarts, this was an unusual sight.
Harry jumped to his feet and withdrew his wand. Standing in front of Hermione who was still kneeling on the ground, he realised these animals looked a lot bigger than normal.
He could tell the wolf wasn't a werewolf, although the size was about the same. He hadn't actually seen a lion before, but it was even bigger than the wolf.
The two creatures slowed and came to a halt about twenty feet from where Harry stood.
Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw something ginger flash past.
“Crookshanks, no!” cried Hermione. “Oh, my!”
Harry turned his head, curious to know what Hermione had exclaimed about. What he saw actually made him momentarily forget about the other two animals.
Padding out ahead of Harry was an enormous, ginger cat that looked every bit as big as the two intruders. It looked like a tiger except the stripes were a lot less pronounced.
Harry stared at the creature as it passed by without acknowledging him.
There was no doubt in Harry's mind that this was indeed Crookshanks, complete with squashed face and bottle-brush tail. What was less like Crookshanks was perhaps that fact that he was now the size of a Sabre-tooth Tiger, complete with formidable looking canine teeth.
As Harry looked on, the wolf-like creature reared up on two legs and instantly transformed into a young woman. She had long blonde hair and was wearing a light cloak over what looked like a dragon skin suit.
“Crookshanks!” she shouted, quickly going over to the ginger beast and hugging him. “How have you been?” she asked scratching him behind the ears with her dragon skin gloves.
“You big softy,” she continued wearing a wide grin. "I've missed you! Honestly, how could you have got yourself sold?"
Crookshanks, though, was still watching the other cat intently.
The lion moved forward a step and Crookshanks lurched forward, growling menacingly.
“Oh, behave you two,” the woman said, slapping Crookshanks on the muzzle. For a moment Harry was convinced the Sabre-tooth Crookshanks was going to attack her, but instead he just turned and padded back towards Hermione.
Once he was sure that Crookshanks only wanted some more scratching attention from Hermione, Harry walked towards the two visitors.
The lion was standing next to the woman now, and he transformed as Harry approached.
As a man, he was about the same height as Harry but heavily built with long unkempt hair down past his shoulders.
“Is Dumbledore around?” he demanded aggressively.
“Mind your manners,” said the woman abruptly and stepping towards Harry with a smile and holding out her hand.
“My apologies. My name is Clura and my rude companion here is Portier. We were hoping to see the Headmaster.”
Harry shook her hand and said, “Hello. My name is Harry Potter.”
Harry was about to offer his hand to Portier too, but he was looking up towards the castle and ignoring Harry entirely.
“Er, so you know Crookshanks?” Harry asked.
“Oh, yes,” she replied brightly, “we go way back. I’m so glad he’s found some new friends.”
“I’ll take you to the Headmaster’s office,” said Harry. “Just let me check that Hermione’s okay.”
He walked back towards Hermione, who still appeared to be in shock over Crookshanks’ sudden and unexpected transformation. She was petting him nervously on the back, but Crookshanks was clearly after some more of an effort in the ear scratching department.
Harry obliged and Crookshanks purred loudly.
Harry smiled at Hermione and asked quietly, “Will you be okay while I take these two up to see Dumbledore? He looks safe enough.”
Hermione nodded and took over scratching duties. Still kneeling, she had to stretch up just to reach his head.
“What on earth has happened to him?” she asked in a timid voice.
Cat and Mouse
As Harry escorted the two visitors up to the castle entrance, he noticed that beneath their cloaks each wore an empty sword scabbard but were apparently unarmed at the moment. Clura had a wand sticking out of her belt but he could not see where Portier kept his.
Clura smiled as they passed the students that were milling in front of the castle now, having either seen or heard about their arrival.
Harry got to the main steps, and climbed quickly up towards the entrance doors. Portier and Clura followed on either side of him.
Suddenly each of them gave a short, stifled cry. Harry turned quickly and managed to catch Clura before she was thrown backwards. Harry could do nothing for Portier who was now sprawled on the gravel path at the bottom of the steps.
“Are you okay?” asked Harry, wondering what had just happened.
“Fine thanks,” replied Clura a little breathlessly, trying to find her feet again.
“Really nice welcome, Dumbledore, thanks a lot,” muttered Portier as he got back to his feet, fighting to free himself from his own cloak.
Portier looked furious and Harry realised he put a lot of effort into his appearance. Portier wanted to make an impression and Harry found himself a little pleased that Portier had been embarrassed.
The main doors opened and Dumbledore appeared. He paused to survey the scene a moment before descending the steps. Harry noticed he was carrying two long swords.
“You got our calling cards, I see,” said Portier smiling mischievously.
“I also have two holes in my desk, as well,” said Dumbledore handing them their swords back handle first. He seemed to know which sword belonged to each.
“Really, an owl would have been quite sufficient.”
“Thought you might appreciate some excitement,” said Portier as both he and Clura sheathed their swords.
“How thoughtful,” said Dumbledore, with none of his customary warmth.
Harry had the distinct impression that these two visitors were not at all welcome. They clearly all knew each other but Harry thought it strange that they didn’t shake hands.
Clura grinned at Dumbledore but Portier was now staring up at the castle, as if studying its defences.
“To what do we owe this pleasure?”
“We need to talk,” said Clura seriously.
“Can we go inside?” asked Portier.
“You can try,” said Dumbledore, “but you may find it more comfortable out here. It’s such a lovely day.”
Portier shot Dumbledore a dark look but Clura said, “As you wish. How’s Nicholas?”
“He’s a little under the weather,” admitted Dumbledore. “But why the sudden concern?”
“Aedon is coming,” said Portier with barely concealed pleasure. He looked eager to see Dumbledore’s reaction.
“Really?” Dumbledore said absently. If this news was of concern to him, he wasn’t showing it.
“Yes,” continued Portier. “He’s going to make a challenge.”
“His timing is impeccable,” commented Dumbledore. Harry thought he looked deep in thought now.
Portier grinned widely.
Harry had no idea who this Aedon was or what his challenge was but at that moment he dearly wanted to wipe the smile of this Portier’s face.
Harry had known that Flamel was unwell. For the past two weeks Perenelle had been dashing between their home in Cornwall and Hogwarts. Perenelle had absolutely refused to give up tutoring History of Magic while she cared for her husband.
Nothing had been said but it was widely suspected that the elixir of youth that had kept Flamel and his wife alive and in good health for so long was finally all used up. If it was true, Harry had no idea if they would now age normally from now on.
Harry and Hermione had suggested that they could continue to practise Defence with the DA for a while. Pansy and Stephen still continued to join in with Harry and Hermione for advanced duelling practise, but had refused to attend any DA meetings. After what happened in the Great Hall, Harry wasn’t too surprised that they didn’t want to have too high a profile.
History of Magic had quickly become everyone’s favourite subject. Perenelle’s unique way of bringing historical events and characters to life made an extraordinary difference. For the last three lessons, Harry hadn’t even been able to find a seat. Students were actually skiving off other lessons in the hope of joining in with a new battle.
Indeed, the only time the numbers had become remotely sensible was when Perenelle organised a test. True to her word, the Goblin leader had been the question master. Most people, including Harry, soon realised that the threat of physical violence did wonders for their powers of recall.
Although Harry was sorry that Flamel was feeling unwell, he had accepted Dumbledore’s assurances that it was nothing serious. Hermione, though, had been very worried and kept reminding Harry that the Flamels might no longer enjoy the long and presumably healthy lives once they had used up their supplies of the Elixir of Youth.
In the short period the Hermione had known Nicholas Flamel, Harry knew she had grown to regard him with great affection. The long letters they had exchanged regularly were now replaced with short get-well soon messages from Hermione.
Dumbledore gave a great sigh.
“Will you be staying here or in the village?”
“Um, I assumed we’d still be banned,” said Clura sheepishly.
“Indeed,” agreed Dumbledore. “Come then, I’ll show you to your guest quarters. Harry, thank you. I’ll speak to you later.”
Harry nodded and watched as the three of them climbed unhindered up the stairs. As they went, Harry wondered if Clura meant they were banned from the village or the castle.
Harry grinned as a very embarrassed looking Hermione spoke to Dumbledore in the entrance lobby. They had been going into the Great Hall for breakfast except that Crookshanks had stopped and insisted upon having his ears scratched.
Now he was the size of a Sabre-tooth tiger, absolutely no-one was in a position to argue with Crookshanks.
If he wanted a scratch, he got one.
If he wanted to come down to breakfast with them, Crookshanks could no longer be carried, pushed, pulled or bribed to go anywhere he didn’t want to be. Of course, that was exactly what Harry, Hermione and most of Gryffindor had been trying to do for the last half hour.
Dumbledore didn’t appear to mind in the least that a Sabre-tooth tiger was now roaming amongst his students. He took obvious delight in scratching the purring beast as he listened to Hermione.
“Honestly, Professor,” she was saying. “I don’t know what’s got into him.”
“Oh, I shouldn’t worry,” Dumbledore replied. “Actually, I think this look rather suits him. I’m sure Hagrid will help out providing a suitable diet.”
“I hope he doesn’t stay like this. I’m not sure tigers are allowed as pets.”
Dumbledore chuckled and said, “Well, cats are certainly permissible and the rules don’t stipulate a maximum size, do they?”
“I suppose,” agreed Hermione. “I’m not sure what Mum and Dad will say, though.”
Crookshanks suddenly tensed, his full attention drawn to something moving slowly trying to give them a wide berth around the entrance lobby.
Harry had often seen Crookshanks behave this way before, when he’d just seen a mouse or bird he wanted to catch. Harry watched as the bandy legged big cat lowered his head and moved forward slightly.
Harry realised that it wasn’t anything as small as a mouse that Crookshanks was stalking now. He’d obviously moved on to bigger prey.
His new mouse, it appeared, was Malfoy.
Malfoy froze and Crookshanks stopped dead still. They looked at each other, but only one had a look of sheer terror on his face.
Suddenly Malfoy ran for it. He dashed for the doors and ran into the Great Hall, throwing the doors closed behind him. There were shouts from inside the Great Hall immediately after.
As Crookshanks sprang forward and Harry and Hermione gave chase, it occurred to Harry what a stupid thing Malfoy had done. Making no attempt to enter the closed doors, Crookshanks simply cantered through one of the still open doors immediately next to them.
Harry entered the Great Hall at a rush and just had time to see the look on Malfoy’s face. He, Crabbe and Goyle were still trying to hold other the doors closed.
Malfoy ran again, this time towards the staff table.
Crookshanks leapt onto the Ravenclaw table and ran along its length. About half-way down he jumped lightly over to the Slytherin table and reached the end just before Malfoy made it.
The shouts and screams of the Ravenclaws and Slytherins were at this point drowned out by the cheers of the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs, who were clearly not rooting for Malfoy.
Crookshanks bared his teeth menacingly at Malfoy for a moment, apparently trying to decide where to take his first bite.
“Crookshanks, NO!” shouted Hermione from behind Harry.
Harry though, had slowed down to enjoy the moment.
He could see what neither Malfoy nor Crookshanks had noticed yet.
Hagrid grabbed Crookshanks around his middle and picked him off the table. Crookshanks struggled for a moment until he realised who it was that had grabbed him.
Laughing, Hagrid placed Crookshanks gently down on the floor.
Crookshanks immediately reared up, placing both forepaws on Hagrid’s chest. Harry realised that Crookshanks just wanted another carry.
“Gerroff, you!” shouted Hagrid, grinning and pushing Crookshanks off him.
“Hermione?,” asked Hagrid loudly. “Is it alright if I take this kitten out and get ‘im some breakfast. I won’t take ‘im into the forest, in case he gets scared.”
Crookshanks growled as if understanding the slight, but was soon purring as Hagrid scratched his ears.
“Thanks, Hagrid,” Hermione said gratefully. “If you’re sure he won’t be any trouble.”
“Wot, this big softy? No trouble.”
“What, no kiss?”
Dumbledore warns Harry and Hermione to be careful now that Clura and Portier are staying at the school. Flamel explains that Aedon has the right to challenge him despite the fact that he is weak with illness.
Chapter 2: The Accord
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AN: Apologies for delay in posting.
At morning break Harry and Hermione made their way up to the Headmaster’s office. Ever since they had been summoned, Hermione had been worried that Crookshanks might have got them into trouble after the morning’s excitement.
Harry, though, didn't think Crookshanks was the problem although he did privately wonder if he had managed to give Malfoy another scare.
As they passed the History of Magic classroom, they realised that the lesson had overrun again. This was often by popular demand since Perenelle's re-enactments of significant historical events were usually marked by a degree violence that made them rather harder to forget than Binn's dry readings.
They grinned at each other as a particularly loud scream marked the end of the lesson and Perenelle appeared at the door with a satisfied smile.
“Going up to Dumbledore’s office?”
“Yes,” replied Hermione as Harry glanced into the classroom.
The inside students hadn’t quite recovered yet and were just sitting there in stunned silence. Harry sympathised with them; the lessons usually left him feeling the same way and when he eventually leave the classroom he was usually wondering why he wasn't still covered in blood.
Harry knocked on the door to Dumbledore’s office and then stepped aside to allow Hermione and Perenelle to enter as soon as the door opened.
Hermione rushed forward as soon as she saw Nicholas. He was wrapped in blankets and perched on a chair directly in front of the roaring fire. He looked up and smiled at them warmly.
“My Dears,” he said shakily, offering his hands out.
Hermione dropped down in front of him and asked gently, “How are you?”
“I’m fine. Just a chill.”
“Why aren’t you in bed at home, recovering properly?” she asked.
“Because he’s a stupid old fool, that’s why,” said Perenelle as she bent down and kissed her husband.
Harry smiled, trying to hide his concern as Perenelle fussed over his blankets. Hermione shot a dark look at Dumbledore. Clearly she thought Flamel was in no condition to make house calls.
“My Dear,” Nicholas said gently. “I had to come. Albus wanted me to stay at home.”
Hermione stood and looking a little embarrassed, said, “I’m sorry, Sir,” to Dumbledore.
He smiled and nodded.
“Please, all of you, take a seat.”
Harry and Hermione sat but Perenelle continued to stand by Nicholas, her hands resting on his shoulders.
“I wanted to warn you,” began Dumbledore, “to be cautious around our new visitors. It would be wise not tell them anything about Harry’s Crucible charm, the Apprentice Piece or Kales.”
Harry and Hermione both nodded.
"Of course, they may well hear gossip from around the school, but I believe they might behave with a little restraint if they are uncertain what really happened.
“In addition, neither of you are to undertake any Prefect patrol without company. Even when you are out together for your evening rounds I must insist upon you taking at least two others with you. On no account will you move around alone outside school hours. Promise me that you will skip a patrol if, for any reason, you can’t get cover.”
“Of course, Professor, but why?” asked Hermione.
“Our current visitors are dangerous, but they are nowhere near as dangerous as the third visitor we expect to receive shortly. Aedon is the reason poor Nicholas has come from his sick bed.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand,” said Hermione.
“Albus, Clura, Portier and myself are four members of an Accord," said Flamel. "That is, we form a kind of coven responsible for some the more ancient protective wards that guard Hogwarts. At any one time there are four members of varying ages.
"In times past, it was considered important that the four consisted only of the strongest and most powerful sorcerers. Any member of the four could be challenged at any time. However, for many years now, a successor has been chosen and nominated by a retiring member.
"Of the four of us, only I won my place through combat. The other three were all nominated.”
“So, this Aedon wants to challenge you?” said Hermione.
“That is his right.”
“But that’s unfair,” protested Harry. “Why can’t he wait until you are well?”
Nicholas smiled and said, “It’s the rule, and besides, I am weak now. I’m sure the founders would not have approved of my remaining a member of the Accord while a stronger wizard is better able to take up my duties.
"The protection of the ancient secrets here at Hogwarts was the entire purpose of the Accord, after all.”
“Don’t look at me like that,” said Hermione, pouring some medicine from a gallon sized green bottle onto a large spoon. “It’s your own fault.”
Crookshanks was sprawled out on the rug in front of the Gryffindor common room fire, now making pitiful moaning noises.
“It’s no use moaning,” she continued. “Hagrid said you ate two whole sides of beef. It’s no wonder you’ve got indigestion. Now, come on. Decide. You can either take the foul tasting medicine or continue to suffer. It’s up to you, but I’m fed up waiting for you to decide.”
She again offered the spoon up to his mouth.
Rather reluctantly, Crookshanks held his head up and lapped up the ghastly liquid. He shuddered at the taste.
“Good boy,” she said soothingly. “Only three more spoonfuls to go.”
Neville and Ginny volunteered to join Harry and Hermione on their evening patrol of the corridors. Harry had agreed that they would patrol as a group rather than in pairs.
Harry wasn’t too bothered that this made the rounds take a little longer, but he was distinctly miffed when he realised there would be no opportunity for he and Hermione to make their usual stop-off in their favourite empty classroom.
Ginny was just asking Hermione how big Crookshanks’ litter tray would have to be expanded, when Harry whispered for them to be quiet.
“Something moved down towards the end of that corridor,” he whispered urgently, moving quickly to follow.
“Is this a good idea?” whispered Hermione as the three of them hurried to keep up with Harry.
Harry reached the end of the corridor and peered around the corner. He couldn’t see anything out of place except that a few of the lanterns had been put out. He decided to wait in case they were hiding.
He heard the others come closer.
“Is Crookshanks out tonight?” he asked in a whisper, still looking forward.
“No, he’s still recovering.”
“Them I’m pretty sure that we’re following Portier.”
“Harry, remember what Dumbledore said,” breathed Hermione, barely audibly.
“Stay here,” Harry ordered before creeping out around the corner. Keeping low, he descended the staircase.
Just as he rounded the half-landing and peered over the balcony, he saw it. He’d been wrong. It was the wolf they’d been following. It was Clura not Portier.
He wondered why Clura was out this late and why she was moving around the school in her wolf form.
Harry made to continue down the stairs, but before he got two steps there was a dull bang and three muffled cries.
Harry turned and rushed back to the others. To his horror he found the three of them where he’d left them, unconscious on the corridor floor.
There was no sign of an attacker. He checked each of them for a pulse before summoning help.
Harry left the Hospital Wing at around one o’clock in the morning, having accepted Madam Pomfrey’s repeated assurances that Hermione, Ginny and Neville would be alright after a good night’s rest.
By the time he reached the Headmaster’s office he was in a towering temper.
Fortunately the door opened before he kicked it in. He hadn’t thought to knock.
Dumbledore was sitting at his desk and before him stood Clura and Portier.
Harry marched in and demanded, “Why did you attack them?”
Portier just gave him a disdainful look and said, “I refuse listen to unsubstantiated allegations from a child, Dumbledore.”
Turning towards Harry, so that Dumbledore could not see, Portier’s expression turned into a distinct sneer.
Harry, adapting the pushing techniques taught him by the late Professor Harbinger, lifted Portier clear off the floor.
He turned to Clura and said, “I saw you. I was following you when you were in your wolf form.”
“So, what?” said Clura. “I just felt like taking a walk. I know Portier’s a pain, but he’s turning blue.”
This didn’t concern Harry at that point.
“Clura, a moment ago you were claiming to be in your rooms all night,” Dumbledore said, sounding calmer than he looked. “You also provided an alibi for Portier, something you were clearly in no position to do. Harry, please release him a moment.”
Portier fell heavily to the floor, with Harry giving gravity a helping hand.
Portier gasped and fell into a chair, clutching his leg with one hand and his throat with the other.
“I’m afraid I don’t believe that you are innocent in this matter, Portier.”
“Prove it,” spat Portier.
“For the moment that will have to wait,” replied Dumbledore. “You may leave now. Know this though, when I find sufficient evidence, whoever attacked my students should expect to pay a high price. I will not tolerate such behaviour under any circumstances.”
They said nothing further but Portier hobbled from the room leaning heavily on Clura.
Dumbledore and Harry were quiet for a long time after the door closed behind them.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Harry,” Dumbledore said eventually.
“Don’t be too hard on myself?” repeated Harry angrily, collapsing into a chair and running his hands through his hair.
“Not only did I show those,” he struggled to find a suitable adjective, “people, something Harbinger taught me, I also nearly killed him. I could feel his throat. I wanted to crush him, kill him. It’s getting harder to resist.”
“I know,” said Dumbledore gently.
“Why did they do it?”
“I don’t have any proof that they did anything. However, they had quite a strong motive. I believe they were trying to provoke a reaction. Of course, they expected me to react, not you. They were testing my reactions.”
"I suspect they are colluding with Aedon, although at present I have no idea why. Either that, or they simply hope to get on Aedon's good side. They wish to know how far I will go to assist Nicholas."
"You will, though, won't you, Sir?"
"I will not break the oath I took to become a member of the Accord," said Dumbledore. "However, if I can help then obviously I will do so. Mind you, I will need proof that Clura and Portier are interfering. Aedon will expect that."
“You didn’t see anything in the dream state, then?”
“No, Harry, I wasn’t out patrolling when the incident happened.”
Harry shrugged and looked up. It would have been a remote chance anyway.
Dumbledore looked a little uneasy.
“Is anything the matter, Professor?”
“Yes, Harry, I’m afraid there is,” he replied sombrely. “Ever since Clura and Portier turned up at the school, I have been quite unable to enter and travel in the dream world.”
“Do you know why?”
“Yes. I’m sure you, of all people, will appreciate that if one has enough to worry about, then eventually you can think of nothing else. You will be beginning to appreciate the mental state you need to be in. It’s a kind of meditation. Unfortunately, I have been unable to achieve that state.”
“You’ve had quite a lot to be worried about lately,” said Harry understandingly.
Dumbledore nodded sadly.
"Still, could they have done something?"
"I have no idea how they could have," admitted Dumbledore. "I suspect their presence alone was enough."
“You see, I never approved of Clura and Portier being appointed to the Accord in the first place. They were powerful, perhaps too powerful. However, I believed they lacked compassion. Unfortunately, I had no right to challenge them provided the retiring member nominated them. Since I wasn’t prepared to murder them, we were stuck.”
“Who would nominate them to protect a school?”
“Well, Harry, although Hogwarts enjoys the protections maintained by the Accord, it isn’t the main reason those protections are there. Indeed, Hogwarts now has many wards that are quite independent of the Accord. Historically, Headmasters are rarely also members of the Accord during their tenure.”
They were silent for a long moment before Harry spoke his fear.
“Will Aedon win when he challenges Flamel?”
“Even if he were well, Nicholas would no longer be strong enough.”
"Do they have to fight?" asked Harry. "Couldn't Flamel just step down?"
"Nicholas will never yield to anyone he considers unworthy, no matter the personal cost to himself. He takes his responsibilities to the Accord very seriously. Aedon knows he is a proud and honourable man."
“So, what will they gain if Aedon replaced Flamel as a member?”
“Nothing, unless the three of them then decided to act together against me. I could not stand against all three of them.”
Harry frowned and asked, “What if that happened?”
“In the short term, Hogwarts would be vulnerable. In the longer term, the wizarding world in this country would end.”
“I am sworn not to reveal that. Let’s just say, they would be tempted to tickle the dragon.”
“The school motto,” thought Harry.
“Um, Sir? I hate to ask this,” said Harry uncertainly. “But, have you considered nominating a successor? I mean, could they - I mean your nominee - challenge Clura or Portier to shift the balance?”
Dumbledore smiled and shook his head.
“Clura and Portier are very powerful. I don’t believe they could be challenged right now. However, I have considered my own nomination.”
“Who is it? Can’t they help at all?”
Dumbledore coughed lightly and said, “Nicholas thought I was quite mad when I suggested him. Clura and Portier have no idea, of course, but my nomination was Aedon himself.”
“What?” asked Harry incredulously.
"I've long thought that Aedon had potential, even if he was young and impulsive."
Harry just stared at his Headmaster.
“When you meet him, you may understand.”
When Harry finally got to bed that night, he immediately opened his eyes to see the Quidditch stadium in the dream world. He was feeling such a range of emotions, he didn’t dare fall asleep normally just then. At least he would be safe here from Voldemort.
He had every intention of just summoning his Firebolt and flying as fast as he could. He didn’t understand why, but flying with his Firebolt was much more comforting now that he was on his own inside the stadium.
Several laps later, Harry was still worried but far less angry. He slowed a little, determined to calm down further.
On a particularly high circuit, Harry noticed a light from what looked like a camp fire. It was right in front of the castle. Curious, Harry landed and exited the stadium.
Harry flew over to the castle entrance.
He had been correct. There was a camp fire and a small simple tent next to it. He wondered what Hagrid would say when he found out someone had started a fire in the middle of the grass.
Harry moved closer to see who it was. Being invisible and silent to the waking world, Harry didn’t trouble to conceal himself.
Sat in front of the small fire was a man. He looked middle aged and wore conventional wizard clothing.
“Good evening,” said the man. “Come and have a warm by the fire.”
Harry froze. Was this man really addressing him?
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here. Is that the new school uniform?”
Harry looked down and snorted.
“No, these are my pyjamas,” he replied, approaching the fire. “You can really see me?”
“I’m afraid so,” the man replied with a smile. “You know it is possible for people to see into the dream world. Of course, they are usually suffering from concussion or the effects of certain drugs. I won’t be rude and ask which one of us is concussed or on drugs.”
Harry laughed and asked, “Um, are you here for a particular reason?”
“Me? Oh, no, I’m not here. I mean, this place is just somewhere I dream of sometimes. Physically, I’m actually quite a long way away.”
Harry nodded in understanding. Perhaps this man was a bearer of a wand made from that ancient Holly tree, like himself and Dumbledore. That would give him access to the dream world.
“Do you ever dream of entering the castle?”
“I like it out here,” the man replied. “Do you ever go inside?”
“Yes, sometimes. Not tonight, though. I just came out here to relax.”
The man smiled and nodded.
Harry stood and said, “I’m sorry, but I really need to get some decent sleep. It’s been nice to talk to someone here. Thanks.”
The man nodded and asked, “Do you often meet people here?”
“Oh no,” replied Harry. “You are only the second.”
“I’ve only ever met one other person too,” he admitted. “That was many, many years ago.”
They bid each other goodnight and parted.
“How is Hermione?” asked Pansy as they packed away the practice mats.
“She’s fine. They all are but Madam Pomfrey wanted to keep them in another night to be sure. I’m going up to see them in a moment.”
“I could come and say hello too, if you’d like.”
“Haven’t you wound Hermione up enough?”
Pansy laughed and said, “Me? I don’t know what you mean!”
“She’ll set Crookshanks on you if you’re not careful.”
“He’s too busy chasing Draco. He almost got him again this morning.”
“So I heard. What’s Crookshanks got against Malfoy, anyway?”
“I imagine it’s something to do with the fact that Draco tries to give him a kick whenever he sees him, provided Miss Granger isn’t in sight, of course.”
“That would do it.”
“Are you coming to the evening lecture? It’s the day after tomorrow.”
“Yes, it’ll be in the Great Hall at eight. The Slytherins have invited Lieutenant Davis to give a couple of lectures. He’s starting with military planning.”
“I didn’t know anything about it.”
“Well he actually made the offer to some of your Rebels, but I thought if we organised it we might get more Slytherins to take part.”
“Thanks, Pansy. That’s a great idea. Hermione has been worried that Hogwarts would never be united after what happened.”
“Well, from what I’ve been able to find out, most of the aggressors were just taking the opportunity to have a go at the other houses. They weren’t fighting for the Dark Lord as such. In fact, I know many regret their actions.”
Harry raised his eyebrows in surprise that these words. He supposed it was possible.
“Did you have any trouble? I mean, after fighting on our side.”
“Well, yes, I did get some stick,” she admitted. “I just told them I couldn’t help myself. After all, my darling Harry was hurt. I just had to help my baby.”
She was grinning widely now.
Harry just rolled his eyes.
“Well, if we’re done, I’ll bid you goodnight?”
“What, no kiss?”
Harry stopped on his way to meet Hermione in the library as he crossed the courtyard. Perenelle was sitting alone in a corner looking quite lost in thought.
“Hi,” he said gently sitting down next to her.
Perenelle jumped in surprise.
“I’m sorry,” said Harry apologetically. “I didn’t mean to shock you.”
“It’s okay,” she said smiling.
“You look worried.”
“I am,” she admitted. “Nicholas is in no condition to defend himself. I just can’t see how he’ll survive. I’ve never even considered the remotest possibility of him not being there.”
They sat in silence for a moment, with Harry desperately trying to think of something encouraging to say that didn’t sound cold or callous.
“Nicholas reminded me yesterday of the fuss I made when Dumbledore took you from me,” she continued with a watery smile. “I swore at the time that I’d never recover. We’d never been blessed, and I wanted so badly to keep you and protect you. It was probably for the best. I always wondered if it was the fact that they caught me trying to teach you a duelling hex.”
“Really?” asked Harry laughing.
“Oh, yes. I know you were only a year old at the time, which is a bit young. But, well, I wanted you to be ready. Those pre-school playgroups can be rough.”
Harry smiled, wondering how the Dursleys would have managed if he had been able to perform hexes to defend himself as a toddler.
“Thank you for caring,” said Harry gently. “Try not to worry about Nicholas. I’m sure Dumbledore will do everything he can to keep him safe.”
“Crookshanks, you can’t expect everyone to stop and give you some attention,” Hermione said briskly. “You’re making people late for their lessons.”
This was the third day that Crookshanks had taken to following Hermione everywhere, including sitting in on all her lessons. Harry was sure Crookshanks was worried she might be attacked again. He was also convinced that Crookshanks was waiting for an opportunity to settle things with Portier, although Harry hadn’t seen either of the visitors since the night of the attack.
Hermione had just about given up trying to send Crookshanks away by now, although in truth no-one else had objected. Crookshanks may now look fearsome, but it was clear that none of the students and teachers had anything to fear from him.
Harry noted that even Malfoy, whom Crookshanks loved to chase, catch, terrify and then let go again, hadn’t received so much as a scratch so far.
At the end of their Transfiguration lesson, Harry waited while Hermione tried to persuade Crookshanks out of the large comfortable basket that Professor McGonagall had transfigured especially for him.
“Hermione, we should just leave,” said Harry smiling. “He’ll follow you like always.”
“Yes, I suppose,” she said absently, wiping her eyes.
“You look tired,” said Harry gently.
“I’m fine, really,” she replied smiling. “I haven’t had much sleep since I got out of the Hospital Wing, that’s all.”
“Is anything wrong?” he asked with concern, placing his hand on her arm.
“No, it’s just that Crookshanks here rather hogs the bed. It’s not a problem, I’ve transfigured a nice cot to sleep in. It’s just that he does like to swish his tail while he’s dreaming. It wakes me up when he brushes me with it.”
After dinner, there was absolute pandemonium in the Great Hall. Professor Dumbledore had stacked the four house tables to the sides in preparation for Lieutenant Davis’ lecture.
Unfortunately, before the seating was provided, someone introduced a large, brightly coloured ball into the cleared area. This proved absolutely irresistible to Crookshanks, who kept charging and pouncing upon it to cheers and screams from the assembled audience.
From the frown that Professor McGonagall gave the Headmaster before they both left, Harry was sure she thought Dumbledore himself had been responsible.
Lieutenant Davis stepped up at the front of the Hall and as Crookshanks made his last pounce, the ball disappeared to be replaced by a generous chunk of meat. Crookshanks carried his prize off to loud cheers and applause while rows of seats appeared ready for the lecture to begin.
Nobody appeared to mind the sound of gnawing and crunching bones as they listened intently to Lieutenant Davis, many people making notes as he spoke.
Davis began with a potted history of the Regiment, explaining how it began as privately funded militia and ended up being the only remaining full time wizarding standing army in Europe.
As he spoke, glass slides were fed into a magic lantern so that illustrations of the various uniforms that were used through the ages.
The main emphasis of Davis' talk concerned the need to bring orderly management during a crisis. Harry knew that most of the wizarding world revelled in its haphazard and disorganised lifestyles and yet it had been long recognised that sometimes a crisis would come along that required a different approach.
Crisis management was the Regiment's main role these days and of course they had all recently seen their quick response when the school was attacked recently.
Davis made no mention of the attack, however, but mentioned the rebuilding and medical skills that they deployed around the world often at a moment's notice.
The Lieutenant ended his talk by proudly explaining their very latest innovation. Davis himself had the idea to create a division of soldiers trained to disguise themselves as Muggle Royal Engineers that would assist Muggles during a crisis. They had already enjoyed much success helping to rescue Muggle trapped by flooding in the West Country and just a couple of nights ago they had rebuilt an historically significant bridge after a lorry crashed into it.
The last Magic Lantern slide showed Davis wearing what he clearly thought were modern army fatigues. Harry could see it was a good effort, yet Davis had not been able to resist adding a rather high ostrich feather plumbed cap that a Muggle Royal Engineer might find rarher cumbersome. Still, Harry thought, the Muggles who were rescued from the flooding probably didn't mind.
At the end Pansy stood and thanked Lieutenant Davis who then invited questions.
Hermione asked about the medical deployments and there were other questions about how the concealed themselves during manoeuvres. Harry asked about the uniforms as he knew this was a particular interest of Lieutenant Davis.
As they all stood and applauded Lieutenant Davis in thanks, Harry looked around. For the first time he began to think that unity between all four of the houses might actually be possible. It had been a very good turn-out this evening, and all four houses were well represented.
He turned to see Hermione beaming at him as she clapped.
Clearly the same thing had occurred to her as well.
Harry walked hurriedly towards the Hospital Wing, fearing that that all his hopes for house unity were forever in tatters. He couldn’t believe that only last night after Lieutenant Davis' talk he had been so optimistic.
As he approached the entrance doors, his way was blocked by Crabbe and Goyle.
“Come, on,” he said, “out of the way. I was invited here, you know?”
Crabbe and Goyle just stared at him menacingly, flexing their muscles.
Harry wasn’t remotely impressed, but he knew that if he used force against any Slytherin, even these two idiots, he would just make things even worse.
The Hospital Wing doors opened.
“Get of the way you two,” barked Pansy impatiently. They started and moved at once.
“Potter, get in here now,” she ordered abruptly.
Harry followed her inside. As soon as the doors closed she held out an arm to stop him.
“Sorry about that,” she whispered apologetically.
“I understand,” he replied quietly, “It’s no problem. Do whatever you need to. We have to fix this.”
Harry followed Pansy towards a screened off bed at the end of the ward.
Draco Malfoy was in a terrible state. He certainly wasn’t faking this time.
“What does it look like, you idiot,” snarled Malfoy.
“Draco and I were out patrolling last night after the lecture,” explained Pansy. “We’d just got halfway along the first floor west corridor when we were attacked from behind. We were both stunned and dragged into a classroom. I was left alone but Draco was bound, blindfolded and revived. You can see what they did to him then.”
“I still don’t understand why anyone would do this.”
“Oh, sure,” said Malfoy sarcastically. “You’ve been wanting to do something like this for ages. You’re just jealous of my family’s money and my talent. And you’ve been wanting revenge for what happened in the Great Hall.”
Harry just managed to keep a straight face at this remark.
“I wouldn’t need to tie you up and blindfold you, though,” he said flatly.
“Draco, I brought him here so you could tell him the truth,” said Pansy sternly. “Either you tell him or I will.”
Malfoy scowled at her but remain silent. Harry wondered what she could be talking about. What could Malfoy have to tell him the truth about?
“Very well. Draco here has been spreading a few rumours. He’s been taking credit for what happened to Granger, Weasley and Longbottom. He put it about that he was responsible.”
Harry considered this for a moment.
“He couldn’t have done,” said Harry.
“I know,” agreed Pansy. “He was with me the whole time that evening. We were trying to tutor Goyle for his Transfiguration test. It took hours.”
Harry decided not to enquire about Malfoy’s involvement in the Great Hall attack.
“Have you any idea who attacked you?”
Malfoy said nothing but Pansy shook her head.
Later that evening Harry addressed the assembled members of the DA and Rebels. This was now just about every student from all the Houses except Slytherin. Most of the Slytherins still stubbornly refused to have anything to do with the Rebels because of Harry's involvement.
“Thanks for coming. I’d like to speak to you about the attack on Draco Malfoy.”
He paused to let the murmuring die down.
“Malfoy was stunned, bound, blindfolded and then tortured. He’s not faking his injuries this time. Malfoy was stupid enough to try and take credit for the attacks on Hermione, Ginny and Neville.
"Of course, he had nothing to do with the attack. No student had anything to do with it, but it is pretty clear that someone took it upon themselves to take revenge on Malfoy.
“That person, or perhaps people, have started something far more serious than they know.
“Hogwarts needs to be unified, especially now. When we all stood up at the end of Lieutenant Davis’ lecture, I thought for the first time that unity between all four houses might be possible. The Slytherins were there with us.
"They are just as concerned about what is coming as we all are. We must all stand together if we are to prevail. It’s high time this stand was made.
“Of course, that’s going to be difficult now, isn’t it?”
Harry paused a moment.
“To those that were involved, and I’ve a feeling that some of you may be here tonight, I urge you to come forward,” he said, barely managing to maintain his temper.
“To the rest of you, I must apologise and ask you to be strong. Slytherin will, even now, be planning reprisals against all of us. They know how pitiful Malfoy is, but a Slytherin was attacked.
"I must urge you not to seek revenge for what is bound to happen. There will be many injustices, I’m sure. Soak them up. Please don’t invite more reprisals. This thing is bad enough now. We really can’t afford for this to escalate.
“Please believe me when I say there is a reason why I’m begging you to do this, and it’s something more immediate than Voldemort. I can’t tell you everything I know, and I don’t know much of what is about to happen.
“Please be strong and tell us if you hear anything. Anything at all.
“Finally, please be very cautious around those two visitors to the school. I haven’t seen them for a couple of days, but they are bound to be up to no good.”
Over the next few days, Slytherin took every opportunity they could to get even. Inevitably, just as Harry had feared, some retaliations had taken place.
At first he had been hopeful. He witnessed Rebels just walking away after they’d been ambushed between lessons. He had intervened in a couple of skirmishes, as had many students.
Unfortunately, things were now getting worse.
It was as if the lack of reprisals was driving the Slytherins to do worse.
Injuries were becoming more serious and much more spiteful.
“Have you any idea who attacked us this time?” asked Pansy as she, Harry and Hermione packed up after another practise session. Unfortunately Hopkins had long decided his loyalties lay with the other Slytherins and he no longer practised with them.
"I know who was behind the ambush outside the green houses," said Harry.
"I didn't hear about that one."
"Well, it didn't happen because Harry found out about it in time," said Hermione.
"Oh. Actually, I was referring to what happened outside the library at morning break yesterday," said Pansy.
“No,” admitted Harry sadly. “I think it must have been Gryffindors, or at least having a Gryffindor leader. The trouble is I kind of believe everyone I’ve questioned about it. The Rebels really have no idea, and I think it had to be someone in the upper years."
"Madam Pomfrey thinks the same person who attacked Gillymont was also Draco's attacker. The spell damage was very similar, although she won't tell us what the spell actually was for fear we'll all try to learn how to use it."
"Yes, she wouldn't tell us either," agreed Harry. "Some of Malfoy’s injuries were caused by some quite advanced magic that I’ve not taught to the DA nor the lower years.”
“Even if we found them,” said Hermione, “I’m not sure it would do any good. People aren’t fighting about what happened to Malfoy any more, are they?”
Just then Crabbe came blundering into the room at a run. He shot a scared look at Harry and then said to Pansy, “Trouble. Great Hall.”
The three of them ran down to the main hall closely followed by Crookshanks. They left Crabbe to follow.
The Great Hall was packed and it looked like most of Slytherin was squaring up to the other three houses.
Harry charged through the crowd, not worrying who he barged into. He could hear Hermione and Pansy running behind him.
At last he got out in front. There, surrounded by a group of triumphant looking Slytherins, was a group of three people. They were bound and gagged.
Malfoy, with a truly sadistic look on his face was standing over them. His wand was pointing directly down at Ron’s chest. Ron was looking up at him with a mixture of loathing and fear.
“NO!” shouted Hermione.
Pansy ran forward and jerked Malfoy’s arm away just as the spell erupted from the end of his wand. Malfoy winced in pain, his injuries still hurting.
To Harry’s horror, the spell hit Hermione on her shoulder.
For a moment there was a stunned silence as he dived to catch her.
Hermione was shaking with pain but was still conscious.
She looked up with anguished eyes as Harry became aware of hundreds of wands being levelled at each other.
“We can’t let this happen,” she mouthed. “I need to get up.”
Just at the moment when he was sure everyone would open fire, a deafening roar erupted around the hall. It was Crookshanks, and he looked simply livid.
“Get me up,” demanded Hermione urgently.
Against his better judgement, Harry pulled Hermione to her feet.
“Crookshanks!” shouted Hermione sternly. “Come here at once!”
He obeyed, and still snarling at everyone he approached her slowly. The crowd quickly parted to make room.
“Enough of your noise,” Hermione said as Crookshanks sat upright in front of her and just glared at everyone.
“Now, listen to me,” began Hermione loudly, addressing the Hall. “Put your wands away,” she demanded angrily. Crookshanks roared again and this time everyone obeyed her.
“We must stand together. This stupid fighting must end. There are more important things than petty squabbles to settle here. There are also more immediate things than Dark Lords to worry about.”
There was a murmur of disagreement.
“If want proof, look above you!” she shouted, pointing upwards.
Like everyone else, Harry looked up at the enchanted ceiling. Hermione was pointing at what looked like a fiery meteor headed right towards them.
“That is Aedon, a very powerful wizard. He’s coming to challenge Nicholas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore will probably see one of his oldest friends die in combat tomorrow when Aedon arrives.
"After that, who knows what this Aedon will try. I suspect Dumbledore will resist him. He’ll be fighting for Hogwarts and probably much more as well. Dumbledore needs our support. I’m going to stand by him, although I know that won’t be enough.
"He will need everyone, including all of us, to stand together behind him.”
Hermione stopped a moment to draw breath.
“I’m sorry, but I’m just too angry with you all to speak to you now. Go to bed now and reflect upon what I’ve told you. Remember, we are all responsible for our own actions.”
Some people started to ask questions but another roar from Crookshanks sent them packing.
“I’m sorry to be a stickler for the rules.”
Harry begs Aedon not to challenge Flamel and threatens to challenge this wizard himself if he refuses to withdraw.
Chapter 3: Aedon
[Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]
AN: Really sorry for delay in posting. Been a bit under the weather, but feeling much better now.
The next morning everyone arrived early for breakfast, including all of the staff. Dumbledore escorted Nicholas Flamel, Clura and Portier up to the main table a little later.
The meteor was now clearly visible high in the sky even in the bright daylight. It was incredibly distracting, and everyone kept glancing up at the ceiling. Most people had a half forgotten breakfast in front of them.
Harry was pleased to see that Flamel looked much better now, and was chatting happily to Professor Flitwick. He wondered how he could be so calm.
Hermione sat down between Neville and Harry.
“How’s Perenelle?” Harry asked.
“Very upset. Nicholas has made her promise not to interfere. She’s torn between wanting to show her support and not wanting to see Nicholas hurt. I also think she’s afraid of breaking her word if Nicholas loses. I’ve left Luna and Ron with her for now.”
Harry had already decided what he was going to do.
“I’m just going for a walk,” he said casually and exchanged a nod with Neville. He had asked Neville to stay with Hermione for the morning, as well as provide a distraction while he made his escape.
Marvelling that he’d managed to get away unhindered by Hermione, Harry hurried outside. He was sorry to leave her alone, especially as she was so worried about Nicholas and Perenelle.
He headed straight for the beech tree by the lake.
The ground was a bit damp, but that couldn’t be helped. Today, he needed to be in two places at once.
He lay down and closed his eyes and concentrated, willing himself into the dream world. For a moment he wondered whether he would be too worried to make the transition, as Dumbledore had been.
It gave him an odd chill to realise he was actually quite calm and relaxed. His resolve was helping, certainly. But Harry couldn’t help but wonder if, once again, his darker side was beginning to resurface.
He quickly dismissed this thought from his mind.
Now in the dream world, Harry ran out of the Quidditch stadium and headed for the camp site in front of the castle entrance.
There he found a familiar looking man packing up his things.
“Good morning,” said Harry, coming to a stop.
The man looked up in mild surprise, but then he smiled.
“Morning,” he replied. “I’m afraid there’s not much coffee left, but you’d be welcome to share half a cup.”
“No thanks, I’m good,” replied Harry. He had no idea he could drink in the dream world. Perhaps, he thought, if the drink was conjured in the dream world then it might be possible.
“Um, I’m afraid I didn’t introduce myself before. My name’s Harry. Harry Potter.”
The man stood and held out his hand.
“Hello, Harry,” he said smiling as they shook hands. “My name is Aedon.”
Harry smiled back. He’d guessed correctly.
“Thanks, but the landings can be a bit painful sometimes.”
“Er, I don’t want to cause offence, but I know you’re here to make a challenge,” said Harry. “Nicholas Flamel has been unwell recently and I’d like you to postpone your challenge. If you won’t agree, then I will challenge you instead.”
Aedon burst out laughing, but quickly stopped himself. Harry waited calmly. He would not allow himself to be riled by this man. Evidently he realised Harry’s mood though.
“I’m not laughing at you, I promise,” said Aedon, holding up a hand while he composed himself.
“Take a seat, Harry. I need to explain,” he said eventually.
They sat and Aedon stoked up the fire which Harry noticed was actually floating a few inches off the grass.
“First of all, yes, I’m here to make a challenge. I’m sorry if Nicholas has been unwell, I’ve been out of touch for some time. Tell me, where are you right now? I mean, in the real world at this minute.”
“I’m down by the lake,” Harry said, pointing.
“Do Nicholas or Dumbledore know you’ve come to challenge me?”
“No, nobody knows.”
“Harry, the mere fact that you’re here tells me that you are a worthy challenger. You are a wand bearer and that's something quite remarkable. The fact that you are speaking to me and not trying to kill me, is also quite encouraging.”
“Well, to be honest I thought I’d have to fight you in the waking world, not here.”
“That’s true,” Aedon admitted. “But at least you’re thinking along the right lines.”
“Are you really going to give Clura and Portier the upper hand? Do you think you’ll be able to control them?”
“How do you know I’m not controlling them now?” Aedon countered.
“Well, alright,” Aedon admitted. “I’m not. I’ve no idea what they’ve been up to.”
“Creating disunity and dissent mostly,” Harry replied flatly.
“The usual, then. Harry, do you really know what you’re getting yourself into?”
“Probably not. Dumbledore is worried about what will happen if you become a member of the Accord. He just told me you’d all be tempted to tickle the dragon.”
“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Aedon said smiling.
He suddenly looked up and pointed into the sky.
“Hey, look! I’m coming in to land. Looks like I’m a bit off course.”
Harry looked in horror as the fireball headed directly for the Great Hall.
Just as it was about to make impact, there a loud noise. It was like a deep gong. The fireball bounced upwards again and flew out towards the lake.
“Sorry, Harry. I’ve got to go. See you in a minute.”
Harry woke just as an enormous splash of lake water drenched him from head to toe.
He got up just as Aedon emerged from the lake.
“Sorry about that,” said Aedon grinning at him apologetically. “Let’s go up to the castle, shall we?”
As they squelched towards the entrance, Harry pleaded with him again.
“Please don’t do this.”
“It wouldn’t be polite not to say hello, would it?”
“I meant what I said,” said Harry seriously.
As Harry had expected, Aedon had no problems at all climbing the steps to the castle. There were no wards to eject him or prevent him entering.
He followed Aedon into the Great Hall and up to the staff table at the front. Whispering and scared looks preceded their every move.
“Welcome, Aedon,” he said conjuring two large white fluffy towels and handing them to him. “Would you like to clean up properly?”
“No thanks,” said Aedon smiling widely and handing one of the towels to Harry. Harry wiped his face quickly and dropped the towel to the floor, his wand held ready.
Aedon took his time to dry his face and Dumbledore waited patiently.
“Thanks for that,” said Aedon. “Sorry if I gave everyone a scare. I really wasn’t aiming for the castle.”
“Indeed,” agreed Dumbledore with a cold smile. “Sometimes one’s aims can be misguided.”
“May we proceed?”
“Of course, unless you would like some breakfast first?”
“No thanks. Are you prepared to receive my challenge?”
“We are,” replied all four members flatly.
“My friend Harry here fully intends to intervene. He wishes to challenge me first.”
“No, Harry,” said Flamel kindly. “If you, or anyone, were to intervene, then all four of us would be obliged to fight against you in defence of Aedon. No quarter would be given.”
Harry stood resolute.
Aedon turned to Harry and asked, “What would be gained? This is one fight you cannot win, even if you killed me.”
“Please, Harry,” asked Dumbledore gently.
Harry wished Dumbledore hadn't asked him as well. He knew he had no choice now.
Harry nodded. Through his anger he knew Aedon was right. At one time he would have fought anyway, but not now. He swore to himself he would find another way.
“Okay,” said Aedon brightly. “If there are no objections we’ll duel out on the front lawns.”
Flamel stood and said, “I’m sorry to be a stickler for the rules.”
“No, not at all,” said Aedon with a small bow.
“Well, there has to be a twenty-four hour period of preparation between the challenge being made and the actual combat.”
“Great, I’d like a chance to get dry!”
“The other thing concerns the challenge. You haven’t actually made one yet.”
“Sorry about that. In that case, I formally challenge you, Albus Dumbledore, for membership of the Accord. That do?”
“What?” blurted out Harry. He was in total shock, as looked Flamel and Clura. Portier looked surprised but quite delighted. Dumbledore looked totally impassive.
Harry was sure he’d been expecting this.
Harry sat down next to Hermione having just watched the staff and their visitors file out of the Great Hall. He was shaking badly and his stomach was churning with a mixture of fear and anger.
Everyone was sitting in stunned silence.
Hermione shook Harry roughly to gain his attention.
“Harry, can Dumbledore win the duel?” she asked, not troubling to keep her voice down.
“No. I think he’s too distracted.”
She sat thinking for a while.
“Can we fight on Dumbledore’s side?”
“No. All five of them, including Dumbledore, would be obliged to fight back. We’d have to take all of them on.”
They were quiet again. No-one in the hall had stirred.
“We must think of something. The least we can do is show support for him. We should all be there.”
After a long, restless day, Harry finally got to sleep. He’d tried to get into the dream stadium again, but for the first time was quite unable. He realised that, as Dumbledore had described, he was too worried to get into the right frame of mind.
He dozed for a while but woke late into the night.
He decided to try once again.
Harry closed his eyes and appeared in the centre of the stadium. He looked around and was curious to see an orange glow creeping over the horizon. It was hours before sunrise, so he decided to investigate.
Harry flew high out of the stadium and immediately saw the source of the light.
What looked like a field of fire had gathered in front of the castle. As he got closer, he realised that there were actually many hundreds of individual flames.
In a small clearing, Harry could see Aedon. He made straight for him.
“Evening, Harry,” said Aedon cheerfully.
“What are these things?”
“They are called Heliopaths. They exist as spirits of fire.”
“Are you going to set them on Dumbledore?”
“Of course not!” said Aedon indignantly. “No, they happened to pass through and I asked them to stand by as a little insurance. If the Accord had refused to accept my challenge I would have had no option but to claim my right by force. They would have fought for me, but as it is, I’m about to send them home again.”
“Where is their home?”
“It’s through one of the many doors that exist here in the spirit world. I can’t pretend I’m sorry to see them go, mind you. They can be a real pain once they get loose in the real world.”
Harry nodded, watching as various scuffles were taking place before them.
“Harry, you look tired. You should get some real sleep.”
Anger sparked up inside him. At the same time he appeared to lose his grip on the dream world and frustratingly he felt himself being pulled back towards the stadium. He was very tired. Perhaps that was it, he thought.
Harry woke again, knowing he would need to calm down to go back. This time he got up and went down to the common room. He was surprised to find the lights still bright and the fire blazing.
He went over and sat next to Hermione. She was sitting in front of the fire, looking deep in thought.
“Hi, Harry,” she said, leaning into him. Crookshanks, who was stretched out in front of the fire, jerked his head up but soon relaxed again and closed his eyes.
“Guess what Aedon just showed me?”
“An army of Heliopaths. He was just sending them home.”
“Where did you speak to him?”
“In the dream world. I’ve spoken to Aedon a couple of times there now.”
“He’s there now?”
“Yes, I expect so.”
“Harry, you remember we shared that dream with Kales. I was in your dream world, wasn’t I?”
“Can you get me there again? I want to speak to Aedon there.”
“I think it was Kales who did it. Besides, it could be dangerous.”
Harry thought back.
“Well, if you’re sure. I need you to relax and concentrate on the dream stadium. It’s not the same as the real thing, so remember back to that night. Think of the moment you woke there. You were sleeping at one of the desks.”
Hermione nodded and closed her eyes. At the same time she snaked her arms around his chest.
Harry had been worried that he might not have calmed down enough, but he hadn’t counted upon the effect that Hermione had on him these days.
Harry appeared in the dream stadium, feeling much stronger this time. The pitch was once more covered with a variety of desks and chairs. Right in the middle was Hermione, resting her head on a large open book.
He had no idea why she wanted to speak to Aedon here, but somehow helping her gave him a purpose. Harry quickly made his way over her and then very gently woke her into the dream world.
“Hermione?” he whispered.
Slowly, she woke up.
“You okay?” he asked. Hermione nodded and got to her feet.
“What’s that orange light?”
“It looks like the Heliopaths haven’t left yet,” he explained taking her hand. “Now listen, Hermione. When we get outside the stadium, you are going to feel very tired and weak. Promise me that you will keep hold of my hand the whole time. We must not get lost here. Tell me at once if anything’s wrong.”
She nodded uncertainly.
“Do you want to walk or fly?”
“Let’s try walking. If it takes too long or I get too tired, we can fly.”
“Okay, come on then.”
“I think I was wrong,” said Harry as they got closer. “There are definitely a lot less Heliopaths now than there were.”
It took them some time to get to where Aedon was standing. He was talking animatedly to the few remaining Heliopaths. There were only about six left by the time they reached him.
“Hello, Aedon,” said Harry. “This is Hermione. She wanted a word.”
“Hi,” began Aedon cheerfully until he saw Hermione properly. “You aren’t supposed to be here, are you?”
“Perhaps not,” she admitted, “but I have to talk to you.”
The remaining Heliopaths had gathered together and were apparently listening carefully. They moved a few feet away.
Harry busied himself thinking calming thoughts. It would not do to get pulled away now.
“So, how can I help you?” asked Aedon.
“Why must you fight Dumbledore? We need him in the fight against Voldemort.”
“Yes, he’s become rather distracted with him, I know. I suppose that’s the point. The secrets that the Accord guards are too important to allow such distractions. If Dumbledore is vulnerable, the Accord is weakened.”
“Why not help to defeat Voldemort first?”
“That would just weaken me. I must admit, though, I’m no Voldemort supporter.”
“But you are prepared to kill the one man he’s been scared of for all these years?” shouted Hermione angrily, taking a couple of steps forward. Harry had to struggle to keep hold of her hand. Just for an instant, he thought he could see a flash of the life-force that emanated from her during her sleep.
Suddenly the Heliopaths became agitated.
“Please,” demanded Aedon, his attention drawn back to the Heliopaths. “You must go. This place is too dangerous for you both. Please just go!”
Harry pulled Hermione away. He quickly held her tight around the waist and flew straight back to the stadium. Before they flew down to the pitch, Harry glanced back. All the flames were gone now. He was thankful that at least Aedon had sent all the Heliopaths away.
They woke together back in the common room as they had left, with Hermione’s arm wrapped across his chest and Harry’s arms both held around her.
The fire was the merest glowing embers now and the lamps were turned down low.
Hermione was shaking. Harry wasn’t sure at first if was from rage or fear of the flight they’d just shared.
“Harry,” she said shakily.
He immediately held her tightly.
“Does it always feel like that, when you go into the dream world?”
“Well, to be honest I’ve always felt fine, although very tired sometimes. Kales said the Apprentice Piece gave me access, so maybe it protects me as well. Can you describe what you’re feeling?”
Hermione took a moment to respond.
“It felt very strange the moment we stepped outside the Stadium. It got much worse the longer we stayed. At first it was just like I didn’t really belong. No,” she corrected herself, “it was more like part of me was missing.”
“How about now?” Harry asked gently.
“I’m feeling better now, thanks.”
They sat huddled together until dawn.
As the sun broke through the common room windows, Harry and Hermione parted to shower and change for the day. They hadn’t slept at all, both being far too worried.
Harry had been reluctant to let her go but Hermione was determined to be there early and show support for Dumbledore. He also suspected she didn’t want the embarrassment of being caught, having stayed down in the common room all night with Harry.
Having finally started his way upstairs, Harry hurried himself to get ready.
Keeping busy doing something, anything, helped keep his mind from thinking about what was going to happen today. Even so, he kept stopping and dwelling on the times he and Dumbledore had shared.
He was the first to arrive back down in the common room, but many people were up early today. The whole room had a sullen, depressed feel.
Harry’s spirits were raised slightly when Hermione reappeared after almost everyone else was assembled ready to leave.
She came down the stairs from the dormitories looking deep in thought.
As soon as she saw him she moved quickly and hugged him. It was the first time she’d ever done anything like that, and no-one appeared to notice at all.
After a long moment, she took a deep breath.
She sniffed and drew away from him. Wiping her teary eyes, she said, “Enough of this. We must be strong for him.”
Harry smiled sadly and nodded.
“Crookshanks?” she barked suddenly. A close throaty growl answered. “Come on, let’s see if we can’t find you a lion to eat.”
Harry glanced at Ron who was clearly wondering if she was serious. Hermione had departed up to the girls’ dormitories looking quite lost. Clearly in the short time she had taken to get ready, something had occurred to her.
Harry followed Hermione and Crookshanks out through the portrait hole.
All of Gryffindor followed.
As they marched through the entrance hall, Harry saw that the Great Hall looked entirely empty. They exited out the main doors and descended the steps. Outside were the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs, apparently milling about waiting for something to happen.
Harry felt a pang in his stomach when he realised the Slytherins were absent.
Hermione marched right through the crowd, Crookshanks padding along by her side and Harry hurrying to keep up.
The school followed her down to the clear area of grass where only the night before, in the dream world, they had spoken to Aedon.
“Show yourselves!” she shouted angrily at the top of her voice. “NOW!”
Crookshanks ran ahead and clawed the air with a snarl. Clearly he could sense something was there.
Suddenly Portier appeared, staggering backwards. For a moment he looked rather scared as Crookshanks approached him again, now sure of where his target was. The playful, attention seeking Crookshanks was gone now. Every aspect of his muscular form shouted menace, from sharp claws to deadly teeth.
Portier transformed quickly into his lion form. Soon the two animals were face to face, growling loudly.
At that moment Flamel, Clura and Aedon appeared. It was as if each had stepped through an invisibility curtain. They stood facing Hermione, each about twenty feet apart, as she marched towards them. Had Portier not ran, they would have formed a perfect square.
“Dumbledore, show yourself!” demanded Hermione, sounding furious now.
“Calm yourself, Hermione,” said Dumbledore’s disembodied voice.
She stopped at last and Harry caught up to her, his wand held ready.
Dumbledore appeared in front of them, smiling indulgently.
“I will not,” she managed to say through gritted teeth.
The other three approached Dumbledore while Portier was still somewhat preoccupied with Crookshanks.
“Hermione, you know we are obliged to prevent any interference,” said Flamel gently, looking concerned.
Hermione stared at Dumbledore and said coldly, “Brace yourselves for some interference then. I may not be able to prevent your stupidity, but at least I might make you regret your actions.”
The sound of Crookshanks tearing into Portier did not distract her.
Clura gave a contemptuous huff and said, “Fine, have it your way,” as he withdrew her sword and lunged forward. Harry hit her with a quick barrage of spells and curses that threw her several feet away.
Transforming into her wolf form and obviously furious, she ran back towards them. Harry stepped out in front of Hermione and braced himself. He was conscious that if he got too involved with the fight with Clura, he might miss an attack from one of the others. Hermione stood firm.
At the last moment, Crookshanks pounced and intercepted Clura. The two animals continued fighting furiously. Harry had no idea where Portier was.
Harry quickly turned his attention back to the remaining three. He felt sure neither Dumbledore nor Flamel would ever hurt Hermione, but neither of them was above some non-lethal jinx. Aedon was a different matter. Harry had no idea what he was capable of. If he had no fear of Dumbledore, he must be powerful.
Harry quickly moved to place himself between Hermione and Aedon.
He had decided to attack at any sign of aggression, and he would attack any of them.
Hermione was still staring angrily at Dumbledore, but still hadn’t taken out her wand.
Harry felt this was good. If she was unarmed they might be even less inclined to attack.
He quickly scanned the others again. Flamel and Dumbledore hadn’t moved at all.
Harry hoped they didn’t decide to become invisible again. He didn’t fancy their chances fighting an invisible duel, especially as his cloak was safely back in his trunk.
It struck him that if he could think this fast and clearly when he wasn’t in these situations, his schoolwork might get a little better. He just about caught on that the Apprentice Piece was helping him move considerably faster than usual, when he was distracted by Aedon.
Had Aedon turned towards Hermione, Harry would have attacked him. But he didn’t. Aedon turned ever so slowly away from Hermione.
For some reason he was looking up into the sky, looking worried.
Harry looked up, squinting into the morning sun.
Time, for Harry, returned to normal.
It began as a faintest orange and yellow mark in the blue sky.
Then what looked like liquid fire appeared to fall from it like a waterfall. As the fire pooled over the ground underneath and the flow increased dramatically, Harry realised it was the Heliopaths.
Aedon marched angrily towards them, shouting indistinct orders at them. It looked like he was trying to send them back.
Suddenly he was engulfed by fire. He briefly emerged again to shout back, “They are after the Guardian! They know who she is!”
“Crookshanks, enough,” ordered Dumbledore loudly. “Protect Hermione, leave Clura and Portier to fight with us.”
Instantly, Crookshanks disengaged and ran back to Hermione. A rather dishevelled looking Clura reappeared and, together with Portier, joined Dumbledore and Flamel as they walked in line towards the Heliopath army which looked like a continuous wall of flame.
Harry could feel the heat from where he stood.
“See you later,” he said with a grin as he rushed forward to join the four Accord members.
Harry could see Aedon still fighting inside the flames. He had no idea how many there were now, but the scorched grass was extending wider, and wider.
The five of them spread out, as did the Heliopaths who were clearly trying to get around their flanks on both sides in an attempt to get to Hermione.
Harry realised that although these creatures hovered just above the ground, they could not fly as such. This gave him some comfort, although the fact that they were outnumbered by several hundred to one weighed heavily.
Aedon ran back to the line next to Harry.
“Harry, ice and water producing spells will slow them down but can’t banish them,” he shouted. “To finish them they actually need to be overheated. Weird, I know. Aim for their chests, where the flame is brightest. They won’t actually die, but they will be pulled back to their world when they lose their grip here.”
Harry nodded. The Heliopaths were moving quickly now.
“Move back!” ordered Flamel. “We need to form a tighter circle. There are too many to hold them off the flanks.”
Harry walked backwards, occasionally firing practise spells to take out a few stragglers.
Soon, they had been pushed back to where Hermione stood with Crookshanks. He was beginning to get agitated now. Harry knew how he felt. They were now completely surrounded by fire.
The Heliopaths began to make a noise. Harry realised they were singing. He glanced back to Hermione. She looked quite mesmerised and began to walk out of the protective circle.
Harry was about to go to her when Crookshanks intervened. There was no way he was going to let her anywhere near these creatures.
“They will rush us all at once,” shouted Aedon. “Any moment now.”
Then they came.
The flaming creatures came in wave after wave. Harry had no idea how many spells he’d cast. The heat was intense, made hotter when each Heliopath was banished and exploded into more flame.
Gradually, Harry began to make out shapes through the flames. It was a while before he realised what was happening.
The Heliopaths were thinning out, although Harry couldn’t see how. Even the extraordinary rate of firing from the six of them in the circle could have done no more than hold off the hoards of flaming spirits.
Then he realised. Everyone from the school had surrounded the Heliopaths and penned them in. They had no escape and had been fighting on both sides.
As Neville expertly finished off the very last Heliopath, an enormous cheer went up.
Harry hurried back to Hermione. Tears were streaming down her face. She was red, perhaps a little burnt but otherwise okay. Crookshanks was busy licking his wounds.
Dumbledore came over and poured ice cold water from the end of his wand, drenching Crookshanks. The cat roared with pleasure.
“Looks like we got House unity after all, Hermione,” said Harry gently.
She nodded, falling into his arms. Harry grinned as he looked around. Everyone, including all the Slytherins, had come to help.
Aedon came over to them.
“What did you call me earlier?” asked Hermione.
“Quite a few things actually,” he replied with a smile. “Let’s see, I think there was big-mouth, trouble-maker, opinionated and bossy-boots.”
“No, you called me Guardian.”
“Well, Aedon,” interrupted Dumbledore, “that was an interesting interlude. Shall we continue?”
“What?” shouted Hermione, pushing herself away from Harry.
A Little Predicament
“People really do take after their pets.”
Flamel interrupts the duel and Aedon finally yields. Dumbledore has a confession to make and Crookshanks is reluctant to transform back into his normal self.
Chapter 4: A Little Predicament
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A Little Predicament
“How stupid can you people be?” yelled Hermione angrily as Dumbledore and Aedon faced each other ready to duel.
“Listen, it’s really very simple. I’ll explain. Only by standing together can you defeat the dark side. If you fight amongst yourselves, you can never win.”
“Actually, Heliopaths aren’t actually dark,” said Aedon conversationally as he assumed his position. “They can be quite friendly most of the time.”
This comment didn’t seem to improve Hermione’s temper.
“Excuse me," said Flamel. His voice was quite low yet everyone turned to him.
Aedon immediately relaxed his stance and didn't hesitate to give the old wizard his full attention even if that meant taking his eyes off his opponent.
Of course, his opponent was Dumbledore and Harry didn't think Aedon was taking much of a risk. Dumbledore wouldn't attack if Aedon wasn't ready.
Still, Harry could not help be impressed that Aedon showed such respect to Flamel just then. Harry wondered if he simply wanted to show he was better than Clura and Portier, but then that was a fairly low bar.
“Excuse my interruption,” said Flamel.
Aedon smiled and lowered his wand arm to his side. He didn't see Dumbledore do the same.
"Of course, Nicholas," said Aedon kindly.
“Aedon, would you mind explaining how you knew that Miss Granger was, er, in danger.”
“Not at all. The Heliopaths told me who she was. They saw her last night. Couldn’t resist coming to say hello, I expect. Stupid really, since all they could do here would be to burn her to ashes.”
Flamel was silent for a long moment. Then he nodded slowly to himself.
The silence stretched on and as there were apparently no more questions, Aedon turned back to resume his duelling stance.
Dumbledore, though, remained still.
"Was there something else?" asked Aedon politely.
Flamel raised his eyebrows at him and Harry watched as a range of emotions appeared on Aedon's face.
Puzzlement became realisation which gave way to anger which finally became acceptance.
“Oh, come on, Nicholas,” complained Aedon loudly. “Give me a break!”
Harry relaxed. He had no idea what had just happened, but the duel was over.
“Nicholas, what is it?” asked Clura.
“Ah,” said Dumbledore gently, as if suddenly understanding.
Aedon swore loudly and pointed angrily at Dumbledore. “This is the last time, right?”
Dumbledore smiled and put his wand away.
“I yield,” said Aedon through clenched teeth. “Happy now?”
“Aedon,” said Dumbledore calmly, “I wish to nominate you to take my place on the Accord. You will assume membership when I die or when I advise the others of my retirement.”
Aedon looked down looking thoroughly ashamed of his outburst and said quietly, “Thank you. I’ll be leaving now.”
Flamel coughed lightly and looked up to the sky, clearly reminding Aedon of something. He was wearing a small but rather mischievous smile.
Harry realised Aedon was being reminded of some unspoken obligation.
Aedon grew very red in the face and Harry seriously wondered if Aedon was just going to go over to Flamel and shout at him. Instead, he turned abruptly and faced Hermione.
Harry's wand arm rose a fraction in case Aedon did something but it was clear he was only trying to calm himself and choose his words carefully.
Aedon paused before speaking.
“I called you a Guardian before,” he admitted in a very quiet voice that only Harry and Hermione could hear. “Nicholas, Albus and Harry here are probably the only ones who know, so let’s keep this to ourselves.”
“Actually, Fides and Kales know as well,” added Harry, who was now beginning to relax and enjoy the moment. It had taken a while for him to accept that Aedon really had yielded and he wouldn’t have to intervene to protect Hermione again.
“Plus a few hundred thousand Heliopaths,” chipped in Dumbledore casually.
“Right. Just the few of us then,” continued Aedon. “Now, on no account are you to go wandering around the dream world until you are ready. You have to be properly invited.”
Flamel made another light cough.
“That is to say,” Aedon continued, clearly correcting himself, “I would respectfully request that you abstain for the present.”
“So, what am I supposed to be a Guardian of?”
“It’s a secret,” said Aedon so quietly he was almost inaudible. He was also making an effort not to move his lips as he spoke.
“But if you don’t tell me, I might reveal it without knowing I had!”
“Doubtful," said Aedon in his normal voice. “You haven’t been given the, er, it, thing yet. You won’t technically become the Guardian until then.”
“Tell her, Aedon,” said Flamel with a gentle insistence.
“I’m getting there, Nicholas,” he replied shortly.
“What Nicholas thinks I should hurry up and tell you, is that I’m sworn to protect the Guardian. Not you, the Guardian. I’m not the only one either. By placing you in danger, even though I didn’t know I had done so, I demonstrated that I’m not ready to challenge for the Accord yet. That’s why I yielded.”
“Gosh,” said Hermione. “Um, so when will this happen?”
“Who knows? I’m betting you’ll be a mad old cat lady before you are called. You’ve made quite a good start already,” he added as Crookshanks rubbed his cheeks against Aedon’s legs.
The impromptu celebration feast that began mid-morning, transformed effortlessly into a party that eventually petered out late into the evening.
Harry, Hermione and Crookshanks though, spent much of the time walking around the grounds. Hermione was clearly relieved that everyone was okay, but understandably somewhat troubled about the Heliopaths.
Early in the evening they had called at Hagrid’s house, but he wasn’t at home. Presumably he was out celebrating too.
They decided to go back to the castle and were on their way up to Gryffindor Tower when Crookshanks took them on a short detour that ended at the concealed entrance to the kitchen.
After Hermione gave Crookshanks several warnings to behave, they ventured inside.
Fortunately, the house elves were delighted to serve them with two light suppers and a haunch of beef.
They had almost finished their meals when the kitchen door opened again and Albus Dumbledore came through.
“I was hoping to bump into you,” he said smiling and taking a seat opposite them at the long table.
“Um, Sir,” began Hermione. “I’m really sorry for the way I spoke to you earlier.”
“Thank you, Hermione, but please don’t let that concern you.”
“Sir, am I really a Guardian?”
“You will be, one day.”
“But what will I be a Guardian of?”
“I honestly have no idea. Harry knows as much as I, I’m afraid.”
“Fides said that one day you would be told a Truth,” said Harry, “but he wouldn’t say any more.”
“I still don’t understand why Aedon yielded to you, not that I’m not glad he did, of course,” said Hermione.
“I’m sure he will tell you the full story one day,” said Dumbledore. “He actually swore an allegiance to a previous Guardian when she spared his life.”
“Was this Guardian related to me then?”
“Oh, no. This kind of thing can’t be inherited. I’d really recommend that you just wait and see. You may find the actual revelation to be something of an anti-climax. I have known three Guardians in my lifetime, although none are alive today. One of them actually wanted to ask for another Truth, because hers wasn’t impressive enough.”
Harry snorted, wondering if Dumbledore was having them on.
“Nicholas and Perenelle have left already. Perenelle won’t be continuing as a revision tutor unfortunately. I think today’s events have shaken her a little, especially as their Elixir is now all used. Clura and Portier will leave tomorrow. I’ve no idea where Aedon is. Probably off drinking with Hagrid.”
The sound of crunching bones drew their attention back over to Crookshanks who looked like he was thoroughly enjoying his supper.
Dumbledore discretely placed a small blue medicine bottle on the table. Harry and Hermione turned back to face him.
“I have a small confession,” said Dumbledore sheepishly.
“You transformed Crookshanks?” asked Hermione incredulously.
“No, but I certainly helped. You see, Crookshanks once lived with Clura and Portier. Many years ago they transfigured him into a form that was more robust. Their household was, and probably still is, in somewhat of a turmoil. Large as he is now, he was probably their smallest pet. I’ve no evidence that he was ever mistreated, as such, but I’m sure he’s much happier now. Somehow, upon seeing them again, he appears to have remembered his old form.”
“So Clura and Portier were coming over to see Crookshanks,” said Harry. “I thought they were after Hermione for some reason.”
“No, I don’t believe they had any idea Crookshanks was here at the school,” said Dumbledore. “Anyway, I asked Professor Snape to produce a Potion to delay his return to his smaller, natural form. I explained the matter to Crookshanks and he drank the potion. Obviously, he agreed he would be far better equipped to protect you.
“Thank you for not grilling Hagrid, by the way. I’m sure he would have told you everything he knew,” Dumbledore added with a smile.
“Well, he was rather evasive when I spoke to him,” said Hermione. “I would have pushed him further but he was just as worried as the rest of us.”
“The Potion will wear off eventually,” continued Dumbledore, “but this restorative draft will complete the job overnight. It will also ensure a less painful transformation for Crookshanks and he should get a good night’s rest as well. Professor Snape assures me that it will deal with whatever he’s eaten recently as well. Unfortunately, it probably tastes worse than his indigestion medicine.”
Hermione took the bottle and nodded.
“Thanks. I’m almost sorry he’ll be changing back,” she said sadly.
“Most people will,” Dumbledore replied smiling. “However, we must think of Mr Malfoy’s nerves, especially as he helped this morning as well. It seems Miss Parkinson persuaded the entire Slytherin House to show their support.”
Harry suppressed a comment. He was grateful they had shown their support, but it had been rather late in the day. Still, Pansy had come through for them and he would make sure to thank her properly when he had the chance.
“Sir, why did the Heliopaths want to say hello, and how did they recognise me?”
Dumbledore sighed but smiled slightly.
“I suppose it was too much to hope you’d drop the matter, wasn’t it?”
Hermione waited expectantly.
“I do have a theory,” he began gently. “Only a theory. I suspect that they recognised you in much the same way that Lily’s remarkable letter recognised you. In the same way we see Heliopaths as spirits of fire, I expect they see us in similar terms.”
“I thought I saw your aura flash when you got angry with Aedon,” added Harry.
“Yes, Hermione,” continued Dumbledore. “Every living thing has an aura that can sometimes be seen in the dream world. I can’t actually see them, but Harry can see some aspects.”
“Something about my aura got their attention?”
Harry nodded, remembering how extraordinarily bright Hermione’s aura had been when she slept.
“It was just my aura?” asked Hermione doubtfully. “Who can I ask to get some more specific information?”
“It is possible that Lily may have left some information in her letter," speculated Dumbledore. "Unfortunately it may take you many years to learn how to access anything remotely helpful. Indeed, your own mother might provide more immediate help. Her theory of how you got the letter is actually rather plausible.”
Harry thought back to the time he and Hermione had joined Lupin and her parents for dinner after reading his mother’s letters for the first time. He’d wondered at the time what they’d found to speak about all day.
“How would Harry’s Mum know anything about this?”
“She was herself a Guardian, although sadly she never had the opportunity to learn her Truth. I like to think she would have known it anyway. You see, these Truths tend to be universal.”
“You can become a Guardian before learning the secret?”
“Apparently. Fides only told me recently and he didn’t go into details. Unspeakables can be annoying like that.”
“How do I get to see him?”
“He will never allow you to see him before you are ready. You will be called when it is time.”
“Harry visited him,” she said defiantly. “There must be a way to make the lift go all the way down to those levels again.”
“The lift at the Ministry of Magic does not go down that far. I promise you, it’s solid rock.”
“-Went on a slight detour,” interrupted Dumbledore.
He held up his hands to interrupt her questioning.
“Hermione,” he said gently. “You should not have learned anything about this for perhaps many years. Had Harry’s Apprentice Piece not chosen him, you would not have. I’ve wondered lately, whether it was actually the other way around though.”
Harry frowned slightly, wondering what Dumbledore meant.
“That’s why I dreamt of the dragon? Kales, I mean,” continued Hermione.
“Kales actually saw something quite different in you, but yes.”
“Aedon was right Hermione. The dream world is a very dangerous place for you. In the waking world, a dancing flame can appear quite alive and mesmerising. In the dream world, the opposite is true. That is, a life that dances and shines brightly in the real world, one that is ready and able to bear a truth, any truth, will mesmerise those that dwell in the dream world.
“Kales saw your flame. The things you love and fight for in this world may be invisible here, but they shine like a beacon in the dream world. You will never see such wonders, of course.
“My advice is that you leave the dreaming to Harry. All this nonsense about Guardians and Mystical Truths is not for you.
“Remember, just as Harry can fly in his dream world, you will learn to fly here. He doesn’t need a broom there, and you won’t here either. It will take many years before Harry can move confidently around his world, and you can expect the same.
“Well, I’m going back to the staff party. I wonder if I could persuade Severus to join me for a Karaoke duet? Good night to you both.”
“’Night,” said Harry quietly as he left.
Dumbledore was gone before Hermione shook herself from her thoughts and shouted, “Goodnight, Professor!” as the door closed.
“So where do you want to start?” asked Harry with a grin. “Astronomy Tower would give you a good height but it’s probably a bit busy tonight.”
“Dumbledore said you would fly without a broom. You need to practice.”
“Um, I’m sure he meant I would learn to fly metaphorically, I’m not actually expected to get off the ground.”
“I still might ask you to wear a crash helmet though.”
“Sure, Harry,” she replied laughing. “Parachute too, I suppose!”
Hermione held the small blue bottle up and pulled out the small cork. She sniffed and pulling a face, whispered, “Urgh. He wasn’t kidding about this being worse than that indigestion potion.”
Harry looked over to see Crookshanks eyeing the bottle warily.
“Come on Crookshanks,” Hermione said brightly, “I’ve got some lovely drink for you, just as a special treat. Honestly, it’ll help you sleep as well.”
Crookshanks wasn’t fooled for a moment. In three quick bounds he was at the kitchen door and away.
Hermione tore after him with Harry in quick pursuit.
After an exhausting half-hour chase through the grounds, Harry and Hermione found themselves both pinned under a nonchalant looking Crookshanks. The blue potion bottle was now tantalisingly close but still just out of reach.
Hedwig, who had amused herself watching the two of them making spectacles of themselves, flew off into the night sky.
“What are you doing, Harry?”
“Trying to get comfortable. We’re not going anywhere, are we?”
Neither Harry nor Hermione had any intention of using magic to get themselves out of their little predicament. Crookshanks had caught them by guile, not strength; although his great weight was certainly an advantage.
“You’d have thought that Ginny would have let Neville help us, wouldn’t you? At least there shouldn’t be any more revellers to come by and make fun of us.”
“You spoke too soon, Hermione. I think I can hear someone behind us.”
“Hurry up, then. Try and reach for the bottle again.”
“No. Every time I try Crookshanks just licks my legs. He’s got a tongue like sandpaper.”
“At least we’re warm.”
“Shh,” Harry whispered. “I think it’s Malfoy.”
“What?” Hermione whispered in alarm. “Oh, no.”
Crookshanks rose up slightly and looked around behind him. It was enough. Harry scrambled forward and grabbed the bottle. He then grabbed hold of Crookshanks around his neck and tried hopelessly to wrestle him to the ground.
“Where’s Malfoy?” asked Hermione, looking around.
“Catch,” shouted Harry as he threw the bottle to her. Harry now had the upper hand. He’d managed to grab both of Crookshanks front legs. Of course, he had the advantage in that no matter what, Crookshanks wouldn’t hurt them. His claws had been firmly retracted the whole time.
Hermione at last caught on and quickly poured the foul liquid into Crookshanks’ the back of his open mouth.
Crookshanks clearly wasn’t happy, but he’d had his fun.
Almost immediately, Crookshanks showed signs of becoming drowsy.
He finally fell into a deep sleep listening to Hermione’s soothing words as she sat with him holding his great head on her lap and constantly stroking his long ginger fur.
As he watched them, Dumbledore’s words, “these Truths tend to be universal,” went through his mind. Could it really be that simple, he wondered? He was about to say something, when the words caught in his throat. Dumbledore had wanted Hermione to discover her Truth when she was ready.
In the same way, Dumbledore had allowed him time to accept the Apprentice Piece for what it really was. Had he known before he was really ready, would he have acted the same way? He wasn’t entirely sure about that. He suspected that given the choice, he might have chosen to fight Voldemort with dark magic.
That’s when the penny finally dropped.
Dumbledore had said it. It was the other way around.
He had thought that the times that he’d been able to help or protect Hermione by using the Apprentice Piece had just been a happy coincidence.
He now realised everything had happened because he needed to help Hermione. After all, she had been the subject of Voldemort’s attacks, not him.
Harry could have sworn he heard Kales’ deep chuckling in the back of his mind.
Harry looked on. He had the strangest feeling. The scene before him was vaguely familiar, and yet he had no recollection of it. Perhaps he too had fallen asleep on his mother’s lap listening to her soothing words.
Was this it? Was he actually seeing Hermione’s Truth? Was the secret a simple expression of love?
As soon as he thought it, he realised it wasn’t an expression of love. Voldemort wouldn’t have made such an effort if it was just that. No, it must be something deeper. Maybe a feeling of genuine love.
Hermione looked up and smiled warmly at him, still stroking Crookshanks gently.
Harry smiled back at once, allowing himself to feel the full force of shear empowerment that Hermione’s love gave him.
He had no idea how to describe the feelings he had. He was sure of one thing, however. The Heliopaths were right; she was mesmerising.
Harry decided not to say anything and instead knelt beside her and placed a supportive arm around her, stroking Crookshanks sleeping form with his other hand.
Harry and Hermione lay together on the couch in front of the glowing fire embers in the Gryffindor common room. Laid out in front of them was Crookshanks, still sleeping peacefully but now with a large pillow and a couple of warm blankets.
They had decided that they both wanted to stay with him until he finally transformed back into his normal self. They had no idea how long the process would take, but neither was in a hurry to be parted.
“You know what? I just realised something.”
“What, Harry?” asked Hermione sleepily, not moving.
“People really do take after their pets.”
Hermione laughed quietly and said, “Ah, you mean my superb cat like reflexes and quick intellect, of course.”
“No,” he replied, grinning. “It was more the sandpaper tongue and drooling actually.”
“Okay, bird-brain, now you’re asking for it,” she said laughing and pushing herself up.
“Promises, promises,” he replied grinning.
Harry allowed himself to be wrestled gently down onto the floor next to Crookshanks.
“Watch it or I’ll lick you with my sandpaper tongue.”
“Fine, but I should warn you that if you want to avoid bits pre-licked by Crookshanks, the choice is pretty limited this evening.”
“Oh, I can work with limited,” she breathed before leaning in to kiss him.