During the train ride before third year Harry has a close encounter with a dementor that causes him to absorb the soul fragment within him, granting both knowledge and power. Features Harry with a ...
I I I
It took the trio some time to gather all of their belongings and put everything away again in their proper places, using only the approved-of wooden objects to store them in, of course!
By then it was late enough in the day that when they got back to the Clearing of Solstices and Equinoxes they found it as they'd left it after reclaiming their belongings, and they wasted no time in getting everything started again in order to get it ready for the dryads as soon as possible.
For one thing, Harry felt certain that making Trelawney the dryad fireproof ought to extend to her tree, as she and her tree were one. And if her tree why not the wood she'd grown from it? All of his wooden belongings were now a part of her, and he felt sure that even if the bookcases, wands and things she'd given him didn't get the fire protection properties right away, Sybil would be only too happy to reabsorb and then reissue them to him.
The greater the portion of his belongings that were impervious to heat and fire, the less he'd lose if he ever got careless around a fire spell, and thus a greater advantage in being able to ignore hostile ones.
They'd found Bellatrix is out in the forest, fighting acromantulas, trying to fill her lord's command to protect Harry's body. And having heard about the spiders being involved in Dumbledore's plans to kill him, she'd gone straight to the worst parts of the forest looking for him.
Hermione had NOT been pleased to find out the Headmaster had immediate plans to kill her as a plot to weaken and control Harry.
Not wasting time on upset, Harry had gone 'Dark Lord' mode in order to congratulate the woman, then sent her off to Gringotts to retrieve out of her vault a couple suits of silver armor, and accompanying silver weapons for the girls.
After Hermione shared his explanation for why they were needed with Luna, both girls were very eager to get them. But then of course he had to explain why and how he was in control of a Death Eater - an infamous one at that!
That explanation, the full one anyway, promised to take some time, so he put that off by offering a partial yet still accurate one, telling them about the prophecy where Voldy would mark him as his equal, and that had apparently included memories and skills that had been locked away in there somewhere until shaken loose by almost being kissed by a dementor.
"That explains so many things..." Hermione trailed off thoughtfully.
"Yeah, well, just keep it quiet," Harry muttered darkly. "Can you imagine what the rumors would be if anyone thought I had a Dark Lord in my head?They got bad enough when I was just a parselmouth."
Hermione suddenly stiffened as the implications hit her. After all, Quirrel had been possessed during their first year...
Luna giggled merrily. "Hermione, don't forget, Harry survived a visit to the shrine, something I can assure you no evil thing could ever do, regardless of invitations. And there is also the fact that we've all been reborn, remade as fairy creatures by the Fairy Queen. If there was any extra soul in there, she would've gotten rid of it. It's not like she wouldn't be able to tell when she was changing what bodies our souls reside in."
The Granger girl relaxed visibly, then looked embarrassed about it. As if to hide her shame for having suspected Harry in the first place, the girl went over to the still sleeping salamander in its kiln, drew her new oak wand, and cast a spell to begin harvesting blood from it...
...only nothing happened.
Luna sidled up to her and slipped the girl her original vine wood wand with dragon heartstring core, saying, "Here. I picked it up from the lawn while our dryad wasn't looking. Harry got both of his, and I also retrieved mine."
"I also retrieved my broom," Harry added sheepishly. "I even salvaged the broken desks and other furniture. I can't keep them, but I can give them to the Weasley twins as a present. They'll make good use of them."
Wondering why the blonde would slip this to her as surreptitiously as a drug trade, Hermione goggled, "But WHY?"
Luna eyed her oddly. "Do you want Trelawney to take them all away again?"
The bookworm blathered uncomfortably. "Well, yes... I mean no. But why would she... I mean the wands she gave us, why don't they work?"
Luna smiled, and noting Harry sidle closer to hear, instructed them both. "Hermione, while the sprigs she gave us are unquestionably the best wood for wands anyone has ever wielded in the British Isles, or perhaps anywhere, a proper wand is more than a stick of wood - no matter how wonderful."
"So how do we make a proper one?" The bookworm settled herself in for a proper lecture.
Luna sadly, had to disappoint her. "No one knows."
"WHAAAT??!" Bushy hair stood upright.
"Perhaps that should be better put." Luna sighed. "Hermione, as you've no doubt observed, the wizarding world is still a very medieval society, despite all the changes that have occurred in the muggle one. And it's not just limited to how we dress. Our government, though it has adopted certain outward forms, still follows very medieval rules of influence and privilege. But also wizards still possess a very medieval economy - and that extends to things like government enforced monopolies and trade guilds that control virtually all business, all of which is headed up by the old families, who run the entire thing for their own benefit."
She briefly met both Harry and Hermione in the eyes. "The secrets of proper wand manufacture are known to very few. In fact only two families in all the United Kingdom can study wand creation without breaking the law, and we do not number among them. All of the old families have carved out little niches for themselves like that, cutting up our economy into many tiny monopolies. It is how the Old Families retain their wealth and power."
Luna gazed at them frankly. "There are only four wand crafters in the whole of the British Isles. Books on the subject are few, hard to find, and heavily restricted, being contraband to all but members of those two families. So not only do we not know how to select appropriate materials or match them up to each other, or even how to insert cores, we lack the normal magical treatments which make a wand much, much more efficient than the simple combination of its materials."
Luna raised her own wand and twinkled a smile. "So, tender feelings of dryads aside, we need to keep our old wands."
"So the old wizarding families work on a system of monopolies?" Hermione blinked in shock, astounded that anyone could be so backwards.
"Yes," Harry confirmed.
"So, what's the Dumbledore family one?" his best friend questioned.
The boy considered. "Hmm, loads. They've acquired dozens over the years of Albus Dumbledore's tenure in government; most held in a complicated array of proxies and so on as they were never LEGALLY his, but practically they are, as for all intents and purposes he controls them. He certainly gets all the money from them, which is despicable, as most he controls are ones he holds 'in trust' from his followers he's destroyed - people like my parents."
Both girls goggled.
Harry sighed. "But if you mean, 'what did they start out with?' I'd have to say they became a true 'pureblood' family when Dumbledore's grandfather got the ink monopoly in the magical world, and then convinced a giant squid to take up residence in a Scottish loch so he could get an infinite, free supply. Dumbles later moved the squid to Hogwarts lake when he took up residence here."
"Is that all?" Hermione blinked. It didn't sound like much.
"Is that ALL?!?" Harry boggled. "Do you have any IDEA how lucrative the ink market has been for that family?! First, consider how many people USE ink! It is the lifeblood of bureaucracy! Every government memo, all the records they keep, every notice sent or... EVERYTHING government does involves ink!!! And that's not even the lion's share of it! Every Daily Prophet issued, all of the books printed, all the TEXTBOOKS students use!Not to mention the essays they write, or the gradebooks teachers keep!Education uses almost more ink than government! Hogwarts and the Ministry BOTH are practically making him a mint!! We use a COLOSSAL amount of ink and he supplies it ALL!!"
He rounded on her, eyes afire. "And then consider the other end, production costs! Albus' grandfather got the Ministry to set and freeze the price of his product at the time they issued the monopoly, based on the costs it took to manufacture ink by the old way. Then he went and did an end run around that method of production by going and milking a squid. It costs him NOTHING to produce that product! NOTHING AT ALL!! There's no machinery, no workers to pay off, no herbs or minerals to gather. NOTHING! He keeps a squid in a lake and it lives off the fish there. Then he makes it fill up a few barrels every time he needs some. That's it! So EVERYTHING we pay for ink is profit!"
He calmed down a bit, then stated. "Just think about it. Gilderoy Lockhart got obscenely rich selling books about his exploits. But every book printed cost him money to create, and that took a chunk out of those profits. Albus got a chunk of that money, because all the ink used was his. But he doesn't have to pay anything to create it, just milk a squid. He might just as well be taxing all of the printing, writing or drawing going on in the magical world! He not only got a share out of Lockhart's profits, but EVERYONE ELSE'S!!!"
Hermione brought herself to heel after reeling in shock. "Oh. So you say all the old families sought to control some monopoly?"
"That's been true in every aristocracy. Why?" Luna asked.
The brunette eyed her fiance's betrothed. "Well, I was just wondering what the Black and Potter families controlled. That's all. And I suppose the Malfoy and Lovegood families as well. After all, it is going to matter to us someday."
Luna nodded calmly. "You're right. The Potters controlled farms, only food sales were not an exclusive monopoly but a shared one one they controlled along with a handful of other families; and their production costs were so close to their sale costs that it never really made them rich. But the Potters have since lost that concession to Dumbledore, who stole it from Harry while he was being beaten at Durzkaban."
"Yeah? So what else is new?" Harry winced at her incoming glare. "Sorry."
Luna smiled. "The Blacks controlled certain mines, most of which have since played out, and thus we get their recent financial decline. Also, before the ban on private ownership of dragons, they had a rather large ranch for them, but that has been defunct for some time; although its loss did contribute to their loss of status and eventual decline."
Harry himself contributed. "The Malfoys controlled, among other things, the import and distribution of erumpent fluid; not something there was any great degree of call for, so it was only a side interest for them. The public reason for our alliance is that erumpent fluid blasts like nothing else, so with a ready supply of it available at discount the Blacks could reopen some of their more valuable mines, which otherwise had too low apayout to be profitable."
"The public reason?" Hermione questioned, knowing better than to accept at face value something Harry prefaced with something like that.
Luna and Harry both smiled. She was learning fast.
Luna offered first, "Both families kept many secrets. For generations there have been rumors the Malfoys controlled a secret and very illegal dragon preserve, and what better place to hide dragons than the way goblins hide theirs in downtown London? Played out mines are nothing but big caves and tunnel networks underground. So it would've been simple for both families to work together and expand that secret dragon farm tenfold by opening up breeding areas in old played out Black Family mines. Both then could've raked in more profits."
"I suppose that sounds logical," the brunette allowed, though she showed some distaste for the skullduggery involved.
Harry tossed her a grin. "Anyway, it had to involve some deep and ugly secret neither family wanted to get out, otherwise they never would've put down the punishments for breaking faith with each other they did. Frankly, even if I knew more I couldn't tell you, in spite of being engaged to you. It would be against the secrecy oaths of each family to do so. All we can do is repeat some rumors that are already out there."
Hermione glared at him severely. "You know, Luna has alluded to those punishments several times, always calling them 'dire' or 'terrible', and now here you are doing it as well. What exactly happens if those families were to break faith with each other?"
Harry returned her gaze soberly, and said in level tones, "All members of each family would be publicly filled with erumpent fluid, and detonated."
"We take secrecy vows so no one reveals anything by accidental or careless statements," Luna reassured her. "There are many such oaths available, ranging all the way up to Unbreakable Oaths. But as the current Heads of both families, Harry and I were going to tone down the repercussions abit."
"Make them something approaching sane," Harry agreed, before acquiring a grin. "After all, as I've got all those special exemptions and hereditary licenses, even if the rumors were true and we DID hide a secret preserve, the dragons on it are no longer illegal! I own them, and can own any number of magical creatures I like, including dragons."
"So dire punishments no longer seem required," Luna agreed.
"By the way, not to change the subject but before we get too far off topic and forget what we are here for, what does the Queen's note say?"Harry inquired, starting once again to gather ingredients to restart the fire protection ritual.
Luna handed it to him. It didn't take long to read it, and so he handed it off to Hermione, who'd been trying to read it over his shoulder.
"So, we've got one year from the time the task to fetch Trelawney was to have expired, the Winter Solstice, to perform the ritual to free Fawkes from Dumbledore. That's it?"
"It's not like we weren't going to do it anyway." Harry shrugged, going back to his work. "Would you rather have something harder, or that we didn't want to do?"
Hermione sighed. "No, I suppose I do prefer easy assignments on a matter like this, with our lives on the line and all." Then she perked up. "And it's not like I don't appreciate being ahead on my work. It's just... I'd hoped to have more of an idea of what we were going to do after this gets done, is all."
"Well," Harry smiled but kept his eyes on his work, dosing each of his three dragons with more Continual Flame potions. They'd had a couple hours of rest, after all. Hmm, he might have to turn them back with him a day or so next time, though, as he didn't want to exhaust them. "Think of it from the broad point of view, the overall picture. What did the Queen say, ultimately, we are to do?"
"Save her children, the fairies, from extinction," Hermione answered primly, bringing him a bowl as he moved on to collect more salamander blood.
"And they mostly died out around four hundred years ago shortly after the Time Turner got invented, right?" he asked, already knowing the answer, so he went on without response. "So it seems clear that at some point we can expect to be making a visit to that era, when the extinction began, as that would seem the appropriate time to stop the extinction - before it happens."
Hermione sucked in her lower lip. "We'd better do some research."
"It could help if we knew how to fit into that period," Harry nodded."But the castle has plenty of ghosts who could help coach us, if we asked."
Hermione grew very thoughtful for a moment.
"Harry, what did you mean when you said that no one had ever done the ritual this way before? Surely you didn't know of your mistakes ahead of time?"
He smiled at her. "Think about it. I already told you the clues. No?Well then let me illuminate it for you. Fire Crabs are native to Fiji. The Goblet of Fire is an ancient artifact of Britain. Back when it was in use (I won't say common because to use it was rare even back then) populations were localized. Even wizards did not have much traffic outside of their own countries. So getting something from Fiji was out of the question. They'd never heard of the place, much less what they could get from there. So no fire crab shells were used. Does that answer your question?"
"Not quite. I was hoping you could explain further, like what does afire crab shell do that makes them so valuable?" the delightful bookworm pressed.
He answered with a grin. "They are so highly prized because they multiply the power of potion brewing or rituals several times over, like a magnifying glass focuses light and amplifies its power. The ingredients for one dose of potion will instead yield four or five, or sometimes even a dozen effective uses - A real cost saver no matter how you measure things. And rituals?The same."
He shrugged casually. "You know how much trouble we went through. Can you imagine how difficult this ritual was to perform way back when? Consider for a moment what it was like before that stone circle we used. Summer solstice only occurs one day every year, and there are three separate stages to go through that all require that light for one full day. So it would've taken them three years to perform this ritual instead of less than half a week. Then there were all those precious ingredients we used. It still does cost a fortune to perform but at least we had a fire crab cauldron, so all three of us got to participate using one set of mixtures and ingredients instead of paying that cost three times. Loads of little amplifiers like those also got us to where we could include those rolls of materials to wear after we got fireproofed. They didn't have that luxury way back when. So our ritual was different."
"So... what did they do? Just run around naked?" she puzzled.
"Well... yes. For fights anyways." The boy smiled, shocking his friend by this frank response. "Cloth is one of those things barbarians don't have much of. No sense in burning up perfectly good outfits when you didn't have to. So they ran naked into combat with each other. That's what they invented war paint for."
"Now I know you're pulling my leg." The bookworm frowned.
"No, Hermione, he is being perfectly serious." Luna reflected, "Woad is a muggle imitation of magical war paint worn by our wizard forbearers and which protected them like armor. It's only weakness was against iron, which was a drawback when facing Imperial Roman Legions. But magical warpaint is wonderfully effective against stone or bronze age weapons, and even most spells. It actually provides very good protection against most spells in use at the time, and would not burn away like cloth or leather would when hit by a fiery hex. They used what they had, and it all made sense at the time."
"Oh," Hermione acknowledged softly.
"Fire crab shells aren't the only magical amplifiers around," Harry informed her softly. "There was another rather famous one in use on these very isles. Often referred to as Dagda's Cauldron, or the Cauldron of Plenty, it had the rather amazing power of multiplying by a hundred times what the ingredients it was supplied with would normally produce. So, if you cook food enough for one person you could instead feed a hundred."
"So why didn't they use that in these rituals?" she puzzled, confused again.
Harry and Luna looked at each other, and he answered.
"Because the elemental affinities are all wrong to do that. For the ritual we just used fire symbolism is extremely important. But the Cauldron of Plenty is strongly tied to the harvest, and is an extremely powerful Earth symbol. You'd mess yourself up rather badly if you tried to mix them in something that required purity of either. Like putting roller skates on a snake or a heavy ship anchor on a light airplane, the 'addition' actually adds nothing; It only takes away capabilities. At best it simply would've gone nowhere."
Luna chimed in, "The Cauldron of Plenty, or Earth Cauldron, was used to mix up vast batches of magical war paint in times of war - just as it was used to provide huge amounts of food in times of famine. Then the druid caretakers turned to human sacrifice, and they corrupted that artifact into the Black Cauldron, or Cauldron of Blood, which was used to animate large numbers of zombies out of human corpses. What had been a marvelous artifact for the benefit and use of man got turned into a terror weapon."
"Zombies actually cost a great deal of effort and expense to animate most of the time," Harry allowed. "Which is why you don't see more of them used. But the corrupted Earth Cauldron was able to provide them almost free. You slid in a human body, and without any effort or spellcasting at all, one zombie crawled out ready to obey the commands of its maker. Voldemort had found and used the corrupted Earth Cauldron to terrifying effect in the last war, providing hundreds of zombies for his minions to use as shock troops."
"That's horrible!" Hermione was outraged. "How could they do such athing?"
"Technically, or morally speaking?" he asked with a prankster grin.
"Both." She returned him a flat stare.
"Technically it was not so hard as you may suppose," Harry considered."The symbolism for Earth is very strong both for the harvest and the grave, and Dark magic is often able to corrupt things by exposure to its evil influence. That's why it's forbidden. So, those fallen druids used the cauldron in enough of their dark rituals, making forbidden potions, serving as the focal point of so many rituals involving blood and human sacrifice, and so on, that gradually it stopped being useful for anything else and began to acquire new powers to replace the old, like doing the whole zombie animation deal without ritual or components. Morally? Well, they were after quick and easy power. That's excuse enough for those who are after either."
"That's so sad. Something so useful being turned into something so evil!"The Granger girl shook her head in remorse over that tragic loss.
"Well, all is not yet lost," Harry teased, growing amused. "You forget. What is dirty can often be cleansed. Fire has a very purifying aspect to it. If we could somehow lay hold upon this cauldron, and by the way it was seized from Voldemort's forces after he'd lost the last war and put under guard in the Department of Mysteries to be researched, then it is possible - just possible mind you, not guaranteed, that we could use the Goblet of Fire to purify it."
"Do you think we could petition to try?" Hermione bounced gladly.
Harry shook his own head sadly. "No. I'm sorry. But that would only draw attention to the fact that I've already stolen it."
He produced out of his moke-skin pouch a rather large black iron cauldron.
"HARRY!" Hermione shrieked at the nature of this outrage while behind her Luna's eyes bulged and she had to fight off giggles.
He put his finger over her mouth. "Hold for a second, Hermione. Point One, they had no legal right to it, save for the right of conquest, and as the one to actually defeat Voldemort that right belongs to me more than it ever did to them. Point the Second, recall what we'd said earlier about Unspeakables. They didn't actually plan to do any research on it."
Seeing her eyes widen in shock, he shook his head sadly and added, "They almost never do with artifacts that fall into their possession. They have low numbers of Unspeakables, and most are on assignments that have nothing to do with research. This was so far down the pile on that list they never could have gotten to it in a thousand years, and by that time virtually everything known about it now would've been forgotten again. So all we are doing on that point is preventing them from sliding backwards in knowledge of this object."
He shot her a wide grin.
"So effectively we've already done more research on this than they will ever do, even if they did continue to hold it in their possession; and thus we are more suited than they on that point as well. Point the Third, the Ministry has never yet authorized experimentation on an ancient object, so even if they did get a few theories about how to restore it to its previous powers they'd never use them. We might actually fix this device. But even if our initial experiments fail we can always send it to the dwarves, who forged it in the first place, and pay their price to have them melt it down and reforge it as it once was. We just hope to find an easier, less extreme method, that's all."
"Dwarves do not part with treasures easily." Luna was nodding. "The cost of doing it that way would be extreme. Barnfulls of gold, at the very least."
Hermione spent a moment trying to even imagine such a sum.
"As it stands today, this," Harry gestured to the thirty gallon iron cauldron he was still holding up by its wire handle, "the Cauldron of Blood, is one of the most terribly evil magical objects in Britain. Left to the Ministry it would stay that way forever. Cured of its corruption it could once again be one of the most beneficial magical objects ever created. Which would you choose?"
"I'll do some research in the library," Hermione volunteered rather quickly. "I know there have got to be purifying rituals in there, and if not there's always the Restricted Section. Do you think we'll find one powerful enough? If not I could send for more books. I have a hard time imagining barnfulls of gold. But you're right, we can't let an object that valuable languish as it is. By the way, what makes you think the Goblet could cure it?"
Pleased to have her on board so thoroughly, Harry laughed in relief."Because they are part of a set, that's why!"
"Hermione," he explained, seeing her shocked look again. "Elements come in four by nature. Nature magic reflects natural law. Nature magic created this device. So even entirely without meaning to other nature mages would have been drawn to create other embodiments of their elements to match it. One of the oddest forms of magical symmetry, but there you have it, it exists. There was a cup or cauldron or fountain like object created for each of the four elements, enchanted at roughly the same time by entirely different people who had no idea what the others were up to. The objects all have very different powers, but that's very elemental, too."
"So, a Goblet of Fire and a Cauldron of Plenty," the bushy haired genius mused, before blurting out the obvious question. "What were the other two?The ones for Air and Water, I mean?"
"No one knows," Harry spread his hands helplessly.
"We know they existed, but legends on them contradict each other," Luna provided, then frowned. "A result of bards more interested in livening up a story than telling true tales, I imagine. They wanted a king or lord to seem great, they described him as having great artifacts. And if they'd never seen those artifacts, they made up descriptions. It's maddening, in a way. There's so much we could know, if only they'd stuck to honest reporting!"
"Of course, that was the condition of this cauldron as well," Harry admitted. "Lost to contradictory legends and whatnot. Voldemort had time and power enough, he was able to track down all of the dead end leads until he found a real one and actually recovered the thing. But that kind of work takes years at best, and tons of exhaustive research."
Naturally, he did not admit Voldemort had been tracking a number of ancient lost artifacts that way, and even found a few, but he'd made progress on quite a number of them. Of course, having found one as grand as the Black Cauldron he hadn't felt a need for any others, so gone active as a dark lord at once. After that he no longer had the time available that he'd needed to pursue a proper search for additional artifacts.
But Harry had all of the skills and habits needed to perform a proper search, and Voldemort had even done most of the work tracking down some others.
Hermione was having a thoughty moment. "Harry, does the Earth Cauldron do any funky rituals like the Goblet of Fire?"
"What do you mean?"
"Like the whole fire-immunity thing. Can the Cauldron of Plenty do anything like that?"
Slowly, he shook his head. "None that I am aware of, which doesn't mean that it doesn't, only that I am not aware of any such uses."
Here it was a thoughtful Luna who supplied, "Of course, since the Cauldron of Plenty had been corrupted into the Cauldron of Blood, it has effectively been lost far longer than the corrupt version. So, naturally, accurate information concerning the uncorrupted cauldron's powers is far harder to come by."
The blonde girl closed her eyes and quoted. "History becomes legend. Legend becomes myth, and things that should not be forgotten are lost."
Harry and Hermione both blinked. Hermione's face scrunched up in thought."I know that sounds familiar. Wait a moment, I'll come up with where Iheard that before."
"Oh, it was from my first History of Magic class," Luna erupted cheerfully."I skipped all last year, like most Ravenclaws eventually do. That's the reason we test so well in that course, we never bother to listen to the teacher and read our books instead. But this year our firsties told us how wonderful the new instructor is, so I tried her class. It was really quite remarkable. I had no idea how valuable that course could be!"
The two muggle-raised shared a somewhat guilty look.
"Myrtle's still doing that?" Harry whispered.
"Is that her name?" Luna interrupted, then tried out how the new name tasted around her mouth. "Myrtle Binns. Must be some relation, since she claims to be Professor Binns, but wasn't that boring old ghost I knew of."
The other two students hurriedly sought to change the subject.
I I I
And that should be the last chapter spent on that one, long day.
Please forgive all the exposition. Rowling just doesn't bother to explain anything, from their culture, economy or government, to the devices and systems of magic used.
We only get to explore the feelings of people who are miserable. Not my cup of tea.