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
I was uh... shocked, at the level of response to my question in the last bit. Ten times the reviews of any other chapter in this story, and the response came in overwhelmingly anti-Ginny. Something like ninety-seven percent!
There've been times before when I asked a question and gotten no response at all. Or one vote, or two. The level of this was downright overwhelming.
Thank you all!
I I I
Trelawney smiled as the itch/ache of Harry owning wood that wasn't hers dropped down to manageable levels, to a minor irritation akin to an article of clothes not quite adjusted right from the 'ouch, that smarts' level of a rash.
Good. That meant he'd given up that blasted store-bought furniture at last!
She'd hoped he'd realized how important this was to her, and took it away only to dispose of it, but she hadn't been sure. Nor had she been entirely rational when she'd frisked him just after her change. Right then she had been all dryad. As her witch brain started to resurface she'd realized just what a problem she'd caused by taking away their wands. But all the dryad part of her had known was that it hurt!
Well, she could deal with a small discomfort such as this.
The newly formed dryad gazed across at the Cauldron of Blood hanging from her tree limbs. The students hadn't dared take it back into the castle with them. For one, dark arts detectors alerted the Headmaster to every vile and evil object crossing the wards - this certainly qualified, nor did they think he'd elect to ignore this, as he did so many objects brought in by Slytherins.
Trelawney wasn't happy about it being there, but had to admit this was the safest...
Her mind went blank.
When consciousness came back, she knew what to do.
The Greeks had loved and relied on their oracles for practical things. It was no use making up convoluted riddles no one understood until they were all over. They'd wanted their predictions short and simple: 'Troy will not fall unless you go get the arrows of Hercules', and all that.
Actually, there had been about five or six of those 'Troy will not fall'oracular conditions, and Odysseus had accomplished every one of them.
In a similar vein, she knew what to do now. Or rather, it had come to her what HAD to be done regarding that one object. The dwarves didn't have the same ancient smithies, nor even the same smiths they'd once had. It would take them a generation or more to rebuild their civilization and skills back up to where they could reforge this cauldron.
And something important inside of her told her that would be too late.
Actually, she felt deep inside her bones that it would come far too late if left to that. Nor did she think... No. It wasn't a thought. It was a prediction. She did not feel that Harry and his friends would succeed in their efforts to cure it of its vileness themselves. Too much ancient lore had been lost for them to read of it anywhere, nor would their experiments bear fruit in time. They'd end up turning it over to the dwarves, who'd accept the commission, only not tell them how long it would take them to carry it out.
And somehow she knew that would come far too late.
But the answer was already there, inside her head. She could do this. She MUST do this! Trelawney could even accept the shortest road to doing this, one that she desperately wished in her deepest heart none of Harry's friends would so much as consider.
She walked calmly over to the object, even as her tree limbs lowered it to the ground. Her face was calm, her outward form resolute. The other dryads and fairy creatures, sensing in the way of the fey what she was about to do, cleared a circle around her of the appropriate size.
Her tree set the awful thing down a sufficient distance from the pond. The naiads couldn't keep it because of its strong Earth powers, but no need to tempt the dears. Then, once Trelawney the dryad reached the awful Black Cauldron, she took a deep breath, and crawled in.
She died instantly.
Fortunately, she was a dryad, so she was reborn out of her tree right away. It was one of those bits of ancient lore about the Black Cauldron: it's powers were destroyed if a living being were to climb in of their own free will, but the person would die on doing so.
Luckily, she was a dryad. She could die as many times as she liked so long as her tree was safe from danger. Even so, she could be reborn from one of its descendants, or seeds. True destruction of a dryad such as herself was virtually impossible (something she was not-so-secretly quite glad for).
But true and permanent death wasn't required to stop up the powers of the Black Cauldron, only a willing sacrifice by a sentient creature, who knew what it was going to do and the consequences thereof. Such an act'backed up the shaft' so to speak, of it's undead animation powers. A living creature turned dead blocked up and reversed the death to undeath nature of the animation, and caused the entire mechanism to be destroyed.
This had happened at least once before, in the long ago past, but the druid caretakers of the device had simply resumed its powers after going through sufficient rituals to repair them. But it was a necessary first step to take in the fast route to cleansing and restoring that artifact to its true powers as the Cauldron of Plenty.
To put it another way, the magic of the Earth Cauldron could be compared to a processor, and the functions that magic could be put to could be compared to a program. The processor, or potential, was the same no matter what program was running. But you couldn't run a good program and a bad one at the same time, as they were incompatible. One would crash the other.
As the Black Cauldron, it had been running a tremendously evil program. The act of sacrifice stopped that program. The druids of yore had restarted it, after some difficulty, as they enjoyed using the functions it had that way. But stopping that evil program was a prerequisite of turning the magic back to its original purpose of running the good program it was once known for, and returning that item to being the Cauldron of Plenty once more.
Due to just who and what she was, however, not only a willing sacrifice but an earth-natured nature spirit, killing her not only stopped the program it shattered the device. Destroying someone of its own nature caused the cauldron to explode, scattering bits over a small but significant area.
Fortunately, that too had been expected by the surrounding nymphs, and they and the fairies had instantly swooped in to begin a collection process, forest creatures large and small not stopping until they had every last scrap and speck of iron gathered together in a chest she'd grown for that purpose.
It was easy to tell they'd done a complete job. Not a few fairies were highly sensitive to iron, and by doing sweeps they could tell not one bit remained. Nor would any creature there knowingly conceal a trace of something that evil willingly. The naiads even threw out a chunk that had landed in their pond, and the hedge around the clearing would not permit any such objects to pass. Not only that, but the cauldron, even in fragmentary form, knew itself, and could tell, just as she could tell if her tree was alright or not, whether it was all there or not - nor did anyone stop looking until it was!
It was not quite noon. Trelawney enlisted some centaurs to help her, carrying the heavy chest (now sealed and locked) that held the Earth Cauldron fragments. Escorted by more dryads and fairies, they left the sanctuary of the hedged clearing and made an armed dash for the Clearing of Solstices and Equinoxes, where Harry and his friends had set up another ritual.
Trelawney had originally been part of that ritual not long ago, but had flashed back to her tree on receiving the revelation of what she had to do to cleanse the Earth Cauldron.
Shooing the other dryads out of the broth, Trelawney coaxed Harry's three dragons into the mixture.
Dragons, contrary to popular opinion, were not fireproof, just fire resistant. And their flames, while a part of them, had limits that had to be overcome for rituals like this one. Things like feeding them Continual Flame potions was alright for the short term, but they needed much hotter, much longer flames than that for reforging the shattered Cauldron.
Besides, these dragons were all young, and the innate fire magic bestowed by this ritual would enable them to produce much hotter, much stronger fires than even their more ancient brethren could achieve - exactly the sort of thing they'd need, if they were to aid in restoring the Earth Cauldron.
The light of noon came down, and Trelawney watched as the trio of dragons got illuminated by the transformation to creatures of inner flame - made all the more impressive because dragons already had a touch of inner flame to start with.
No sooner was that done than the dryad was orchestrating her helpers to retrieve and awaken the dragons, putting them back to work blowing flames on the Goblet of Fire.
One day. That's all it would take for their new and invigorated fire breath to get the Goblet to reach full power. The Goblet at full power would be enough to melt the fragments of the Earth Cauldron. They were already loading the bits into it now. Once that was achieved, they could pour the melted metal out into a mold she was already making out of a giant acorn and its matching cup shaped hood.
Pressed between two layers of fireproof wood, the liquid iron would conform to that shape somewhat. Then, out of the next crop of creatures to pass through this ritual she would have a number of fire-immune dryads. With their help, and the help of their trees, they could press the metal harder than any hydraulic press, shaping it as they desired. The force of growing wood was sufficient to splinter stone or tear steel. Directed by the dryads and immune to the heat, they could forge the cooling cauldron pretty much as they pleased and restore it to its necessary shape.
Then, to quench it, they could throw the cooling cauldron into the naiad lake. The water-nymphs could not keep it, it was too strongly earth natured. But fire was not the only cleansing element. Quenched by their pond and washed by the naiads themselves, the Earth Cauldron would be completely free from the taint it had borne for the first time in many long centuries.
They could then plant its legs in the soil beneath her large oak and fill the cauldron with seeds, to remind its magic of the bounty of the harvest and reawaken those ancient powers long since dormant.
It would take twenty eight days in that condition, one full cycle of the moon, to truly be restored to the Cauldron of Plenty it had once been. Sadly, it would pass the fall equinox in that condition. Happily, they could return it to the Clearing of Solstices and Equinoxes where it would still be fall equinox, and there use those powers of the harvest symbol to more fully awaken the Cauldron of Plenty's powers and make them available for use.
They would succeed... only if they weren't interrupted. That thought terrified Trelawney a bit, as it stood a distinct chance of happening, and security on this was necessarily light, as they didn't have much to defend it with.
She hoped Harry returned soon.
I I I
Most pictures in Hogwarts are hung head high. This is for practical reasons, as most spills, stray curses, and occasional grabs for support as people trip or fall are all done lower down, around arm level at the highest, and it preserved the paintings not to have students grabbing at them or flinging ink around from careless accidents. Hung that high, there was simply less repair work to be done on them from being around those active young lives.
But it also meant that most spying tended to ignore the floor.
This was useful if you were playing card size.
Fifty two men (actually, that included four queens, so a small number were women) snuck along the darkened Hogwarts halls between classes, checking at all the corners before rushing along to the destination, leapfrogging down stairs and avoiding stray students or Mr. Filch's cat, occasionally being forced to flatten themselves against walls as those passed.
But the big people rarely looked that low down, and even if they did the backs of the playing card men changed patterns to blend into whatever surface they touched.
Thus, invisibly, a small army of invaders made its way further down and away from the populated areas of Hogwarts, slipping under the noses of portraits and playing 'rubbish' whenever they caught sight of a ghost. The spirits of Hogwarts had long since learned to ignore the discarded trash carelessly strewn around by the living.
Thanks to the elves, garbage never stayed around long anyway.
Speaking of elves, the tiny playing card people kept a close eye out, watching for the little litter collectors all the way down. But apparently the animated playing card people's purpose kept them from being recognized as trash and drawing those housekeepers to collect them.
Finding the door they wanted, the playing card people slipped under it through the crack, then expanded to full human size on the other side.
It was one of the Greater Vaults of Hogwarts, practically impenetrable even by the standards of the day. No spell could break it, explosions or physical damage wouldn't touch it, and most creatures would be slain instantly if they tried to breach that portal.
But the cards of Wonderland were not most creatures. Being thin as paper, they could pass through the crack under the door without ever touching the enchanted wood and bringing down its ire upon themselves. Never having even touched the door, the wards across it didn't so much as note their passing.
Being foolproof really depends upon what kind of fool you're talking about.
Far from being the glittering assemblage of jewels and display cases one might expect inside such a vault, the contents actually looked more like one of those overstuffed basements that doesn't get cleaned nearly often enough. Wrapped up packages, bags sealed with string (and mighty spells), and a profusion of boxes lay all around, some piled high up near the ceiling. Bits of nearly covered furniture poked out through the mess, a mirror here, a dresser there, a bit of lamp poking up in the back...
The place looked far more like the storage room of a theater company than a high security vault.
It was a disorganized sprawl with no rhyme or reason, much like the minds of the wizards who'd been slowly but steadily filling it up over the years. Most of the items within it had been known at the time they'd been stored there, but no records had been kept, so it was one large unidentified mess.
Show a muggle a room like that and tell them something valuable is inside, and they'll go through the whole thing, pull everything out, air it out, dust it off, organize it and label it and by the time they were finished with it they'd have identified a small heap of gold and jewels, shoved everything else back inside organized by type and with containers appropriate to hold it all, then gone happily off to cash in the treasures they'd discovered.
Of course, the muggles would've had their faults as well, as the valuables in that room were worth far more than a simple stack of precious metals and gemstones. And some of the simplest things were actually worth the most.
The playing-card men that had been given to Luna by her grandmother did not care one way or another about the particulars of how others would organize this mess. Instead, they went to work like ants, collecting each and every item present and storing it away inside expanding bags they carried.
They would have this, and other, vaults underneath Hogwarts stripped bare in just a few hours.
I I I
Harry wasn't sure what to think about the Defense class. On the one hand, their teacher, Remus Lupin, seemed competent. A preview of the man's mind showed that he'd been friends with Harry's parents, but nowadays was totally devoted to Dumbledore.
Harry wasn't sure how to feel about that. Okay, he knew his own parents had probably been devoted to Dumbledore. Devotion to Dumbledore was a common affliction among the wizards of their world, affecting a very large percentage of the population - more particularly among those on the Light.
That was probably the most clever bit of manipulation the Headmaster had ever performed, masquerading himself as a Leader of Light. That way, most of the people who'd naturally be opposed to him were helping him pull off his control schemes. And those who opposed him got automatically labeled as Dark, and thus would not be listened to by Light side supporters.
That had to be a rather tricky bit of chicanery, but it had paid off for him big time. "No one is more fully enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free," and all. Albus was like a criminal that had gotten himself put in charge of the police. Those who ought to be opposed to him were doing his business instead, and actively protecting him from his rivals and other enemies.
Truly a rather ingenious scheme.
However, it left Harry in a bit of a bind. He loved what little memory of his parents he had, and this man (werewolf actually, that fact was near the top of his mind at all times) had once been a close friend of theirs, but he was now actively engaged in supporting an enemy side.
Ideally, he would be able to wake Lupin up to the real facts ongoing here and convert him to be his own ally, but that was no small deal itself, due to that rather reflexive notion in folks serving Dumbledore that anyone who opposed him had to be dark or evil. Even in the best case scenario, where Harry could present evidence convincing Lupin of the problems, like with Sirius Black being innocent, the man would almost certainly run to Dumbledore straight away with that information, hoping to convince the Supreme Mugwump.
That childlike trust, the 'tell the Headmaster and he'll make it all better' reflex would not only NOT make it all better, but could get Harry exposed as a player in this game, and not just an unwitting pawn. That exposure could quickly get him killed.
Converting a friend of the family was not worth that exposure, not just yet. About the most he could do was try to point the man in the direction of the Quibbler article, but that was not a well-read magazine. Nor, to be brutally honest, was Lupin all that high priority a target just now.
Harry already had one friend of his parents, in the form of one Sirius Black. Come to think of it, on his next trip to the Ministry he ought to drop by Peter's cell and rip those experiences with his parents from the little rat's mind. That would be more complete and detailed than listening to stories.
Once Harry had already been exposed as a player in this game he could make the attempt to reclaim Lupin. Preferably once he'd torn down Dumbledore's reputation just a bit more, and collected some more convincing evidence. It was hard to say just what would work to change the man's allegiance, so the more tools the better when it came time to make the attempt.
But, for now, it was best to maintain his distance and keep his cover.
The boggart had been a good lesson in self defense. But it left Harry with another question, namely: What was he afraid of?
He couldn't think of anything at the moment.
Voldemort? No. The man was no threat at present. Besides, with the man as he was, despite having greater resources and probably the ability to defeat Harry if they fought a duel (due to the Dark Lord's willingness to use spells Harry would not), Riddle was making no progress on any of his goals, whereas Harry was.
Dumbledore was like a volcano, one that could go active at any moment. Immeasurably powerful, but one was not so much afraid of it as one was conscious of a desire to flee its range as soon as possible. The farther you got away from it, the less damage it could do to you. Also, one doesn't really think of volcanoes in terms of "How do I fight it?" It was way too big to fight. You just got out of the area, and that was Harry's plan as well.
Both men, being presently unaware of Harry's activity, were not responding to his actions effectively and so, for the moment, were like stationary objects that could be dodged around.
Harry was aware that could change on a moment's notice, but for the time being secrecy was his best friend, and so long as that illusionary cover of the inactive pawn remained, he enjoyed something close to safety. Best defense: not be there. Not being there in their minds as something to target was in most ways even better than not being there physically.
So he wasn't in a state that ought to inspire fear. Not yet at least.
Then Harry thought of those cold hands reaching for him on the train. Okay, dementors were scary. But that, again, had some distance to it. He knew how to defend himself from them. Voldemort had used those creatures during the last war, so Harry knew how to control and stay safe from them.
Contrary to popular belief, the Patronus was far from the only spell that worked on them. The Patronus only drove them away. That wasn't going to get them to stay somewhere and work for you, and the Ministry did that much. Tom Riddle did more.
Voldemort hadn't enough good in him to fashion a Patronus large enough to resemble a single puff of mist out of a teakettle, anyway. That didn't stop him from using those creatures and ordering them about.
Of course, the way the Dark Lord did it was to infuse himself with apower they recognized and respected, and that was a tremendously dark ritual- one that Harry had no intention of performing.
So perhaps learning a Patronus charm would be a good idea.
Although Neville's fear really raised an eyebrow in his mind. When aschool is filled with ghosts, has been attacked by a troll, infiltrated twice in two years by the spirit of the most infamous villain of recent memory, surrounded by dark and terrifying creatures (dementors and acromantulas among them) and only just finished fighting off a basilisk and surviving the kidnapping and attempted murder of a girl from your own dorms, to have a student report that his worst fear is one of his teachers is a pathetic expression of that man's supposed teaching style.
Then, seeing the greasy haired git pass by him in the corridor after class, Harry took the opportunity and softly twitched his wand under his robes where no one could see it, while quietly whispering "Imperio" so low no one could overhear it.
Then, having read the man's mind concerning who his next class was, Harry went hunting down first year Hufflepuffs so he could cast that Auror spell for assisting new recruits in overcoming trauma for the next step in this harmless little prank.
I I I
"There will be no foolish wand waving in this class," Snape swept into his classroom in his typical billow of robes, going to the front to stand behind his desk, on which he'd positioned a bucket of lightly foaming liquid.
"Now listen class, and listen closely." Snape eyed the students as though they were about to leap off into some form of insanity any instant. "The one thing you must never do in any Potions class, is stick your head into a bucket of acid - Like this!"
With that, Snape dramatically bent himself nearly double, thrusting his head (such as it was) deep into the bucket of caustic fluid. He began screaming the instant he'd done so, as the corrosive attacked his flesh and eyes, eating them away and running into his ears and down into his nose.
The man's body thrashed spasmodically, but his head never wavered from where he'd stuck it, not until it was stripped down to bone and he fell out of the fluid as the last of his life left him, slumping against the far wall, splayed out on the floor, a grinning, brownish skull leering back at the class.
Dumbledore Obliviated them all, of course.
I I I
It never really struck me before writing that bit on Neville's fear, but that is something of an extreme case, isn't it? I mean, what RATIONAL school would put a teacher in that could inspire so much fear as to overshadow all the rest of what is going in that place?
I mean, Hogwarts is practically a war zone! Neville is pretty close to the thick of it, and he's more terrified of his teacher than the stuff trying to kill him?
That does not speak well for the teacher.
Army drill sergeants may have excuse to make their students fear them, but chemistry teachers do not. In any non-crisis scenario, fear does not inspire caution. It instead leads to poor judgment and mistakes. And poor judgment is the last thing you want when dealing with anything even vaguely explosive.
And Rule Through Fear generally means you're too incompetent to rule via anything else.