Categories > Books > Harry Potter > I, Alone
Chapter 12 - Nicholas Flamel
. . .
"Harry? Harry? Earth to Harry," Tracey Davis said as loud as one dared while within the domain of Madam Pince, all the while waving a hand before the boy's vacant expression. The librarian was well known for not taking kindly to those that couldn't keep their voices down to the barest of whispers while within the confines of the library of Hogwarts. "Harry Potter!" the exasperated auburn haired girl finally snapped loudly, startling the young wizard as well as several other students at the nearby tables who looked over curiously before returning to whatever work had brought them to the library in the first place.
Harry blinked once owlishly as he finally focused on the girl seated across the table from him. They had both come to the library after the evening meal to work on the scroll that Professor Snape had assigned earlier that day in potions class. "I'm sorry Tracey, what was the question again?" Harry asked in a slightly distracted, yet apologetic voice as he attempted to return his attention to his friend.
"Whatever were you thinking about so intently? I called your name several times before you even heard me," Tracey replied with, in an even tone, neither condemning nor complaining about his actions. If anything her tone held a certain note of concern not lost upon the dark haired boy."It must be infinitely more entertaining than this essay we're working on," the auburn haired witch added dryly.
"Nothing of import," Harry quickly replied, not wishing to bother the girl. Truth be told there had been a number of things which had happened that day which struck him as odd. Try as he might he just couldn't get them off his mind. A life time of handling his own problems was not overcome with only a few days of friendship after all. Seeing the skeptical look from Tracey, Harry forced a smile on his face. "Really Tracey, it's nothing."
The first year witch regarded her newest friend for a long moment before replying, "Then it shouldn't be that big of a deal to tell me then should it?" she replied with, a victorious smile upon her youthful features upon having managed to have cornered him into telling her.
Harry saw that she wasn't going to be put off so easily. Maybe friends share their problems, he idly speculated to himself. The young wizard was still new to having friends and hence was still learning exactly what it meant to have them as well as to be one. "Well," he began with, licking his lips once to moisten them before continuing, "remember how I believed it was Professor Dumbledore that gifted me with the broom?" Seeing the witch with him nod he continued, "Well, I'm not so certain anymore," he shared with her.
"But I thought you said he gave you a nod when you received it?" Tracey asked, wondering where the gifted broom was currently. Zabini was not in class at all today, she recalled to herself, certain there would be a detention, if not several, waiting for the dark skinned wizard due to his absences when he finally turned up.
Harry quickly nodded in agreement to her words. "He did, but do you remember the fuss that Professor Snape made at the start of class this morning?" he asked as his eyes took on that unfocused look that people get when they are recalling some particular event they had witnessed.
Tracey snorted humorlessly at his question, vexed with how their Head of House always seemed to single out the dark-haired boy. "You mean where he accused you of needing all the help you could get and then instructed you to "use it well'," she added in a bad impersonation of the potions professor. "He sure seems to like to focus his attention on you for some reason, Harry."
The Professor's words had been more along the lines of 'A surprising gift, Potter. One you'll no doubt need. I suggest you use it well' but he was wise enough not to correct the seemingly irate witch. Harry reached for his backpack and pulled out a small card and passed it to her. "This was with the broom when I received it."
Tracey took the small card and looked at. Neatly written upon it were the words Use It Well. "So because of this you think Snape bought the broom for you?" she asked in a slightly disbelieving tone of voice as she handed the card back to him.
Harry shrugged as he accepted the card and returned it to his backpack. "He is the one that put me on the team as Seeker in the first place," Harry said in an attempt to lend credit to his belief.
"It is unusual for a first year student to have a broom and would require the Headmaster's permission," Tracey said thinking aloud as she mulled over his words.
"Professor Snape could easily ask him for permission," Harry added to her thoughts. "As Slytherin Head of House it would be in his best interest to have his team as well prepared as possible, I should think. As I've only just started to fly, I would truly need all the help Icould get," he added, echoing the professor's words from earlier that morning."
Tracey didn't look too convinced though. "Harry, we're talking about a Nimbus 2000 here! It's not something just anyone can go run out and buy." Seeing the confused look on his face she tried to explain,"That broom probably cost more than Professor Snape makes in an entire year teaching here, Harry!"
"Oh," Harry said in a shocked voice at her words. He had no clue how much a broom cost, never having bought one before. "Where did you say Daphne was?" he asked, changing the subject as he felt a bit stupid for not having realized that something that highly prized would not be cheap.
Tracey smirked as she replied, "She received a letter this morning from her sister but didn't have a chance to read it so she's in the girl's dormitory doing so now." Tracey's smirked turned into a warm smile."It's scary how close the two of them are."
"What about you?" Harry enquired. The young wizard realized that he'd never actually had a chance to speak with Tracey when it was just the two of them before. "Any brothers or sisters?"
Tracey shook her head, "Nope. Only child, just like you Harry," she replied as she dipped her quill and went back to work on her essay, clearly finished with the topic.
Harry watched the young witch for several long moments, the soft scratching of her quill the only sound between them. "Do you miss your parents?" he finally asked tentatively, uncertain if he was perhaps prying into her personal life. The young wizard missed his own parents even though he had no memory of them. He couldn't help but wonder what they looked like or how they smiled as well as any number of other facts. There's so much I will never know about them, he thought to himself.
"No, not really," Tracey replied without bothering to look up from the scroll in front of her.
"What?" Harry gasped in disbelief.
Tracey looked up at him for a moment before allowing a soft little sigh to escape her lips. Setting her quill down to the side so it wouldn't drip and mess up her report she gathered her thoughts for a moment before reply."I guess I might as well tell you, Harry. When the last war with You-Know-Who," she paused slightly.
"You mean Voldemort?" Harry asked to clarify.
The young witch tried to suppress the shiver that ran down her spine upon hearing him speak the Dark Lord's name and simply nodded once before continuing. "When things started to get dark and families disappeared in the middle of the night, my parents fled England for America. I wasn't born yet, though Mom was pregnant with me at the time. After I was born Dad got aposition within the Magical Investigation Bureau and Mom started teaching at SIM, Salem Institute of Magic. Once the war ended they felt that I should be brought up as a proper English woman and so they sent me to England to live with an older aunt of mine whom I had never met before."
"When was that?" Harry asked, suspecting there was more to the story.
"That was six years ago," Tracey replied matter-of-factly as if it was no big deal. "I haven't seen either of them since as their work keeps them far too busy to come and visit apparently." The auburn haired witch couldn't keep the hurt tone from her voice even though she tried to. Even after all this time I can't believe that it still hurts this much, she thought to herself as her heart ached. She could well recall the nights she had spent crying alone or in Daphne's arms, feeling abandoned and unwanted.
Something in the girl's voice resonated with the longing he felt in his heart for his own parents. It wasn't something he could explain as it was more instinctual than anything else. Before he knew what he was doing Harry reached out and took Tracey's hand in his, giving a small squeeze. "At least you can write to them," he offered in an attempt to have her see that things weren't all that bad. The young wizard would have given anything for a single letter from his parents.
Tracey just smirked, though there was no humor in it. "I did at first but the replies were few and far between," she told him."After a couple of years I just gave up on it," she added with asmall shrug of her shoulders. "Daphne's mother and father have been more parents to me than my own. They are the family I think of whenever someone asks how my family is doing," she told him.
Harry smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. "I'm glad you have Daphne for a friend then, Tracey."
"I have you and Granger now as well," Tracey said with abright smile while giving the hand in hers a gentle reassuring squeeze."Don't forget that! Speaking of the Gryff, do you know where she is? It's not like her to miss a chance to study."
Harry shook his head slightly. "I thought she would meet us here. Maybe she got a letter as well," he offered as a suggestion for Hermione's absence.
"Maybe," Tracey stated a bit doubtful but unable to argue the possibility. "What about you Harry? I thought I saw you receive mail as well this morning?"
Harry dropped his head, the smile disappearing from his face as he removed his hand from hers. "We better get to work on these reports or we'll never get them finished," he said as he reached for his quill lying on the table next to him.
Tracey knew instantly that something was wrong. Reaching out she ensnared the wizard's hand that was reaching for the quill. "Harry?" she said questioning him with just his name alone. When there was no immediate answer forthcoming she prodded gently, "What happened?"
Instead of replying the boy reluctantly reached into his robes and pulled out a folder piece of parchment which he then passed to her. Written in pen on the outside of the letter were the words 'Return to sender. Unwanted mail'. "Oh, Harry," Tracey gasped as her hand flew to her mouth in disbelief, her heart going out to her friend.
"It's alright," Harry offered with a slight shrug, unable to raise his head and meet her eyes due to being embarrassed by the actions of his relatives. "I shouldn't have expected anything different," he told her. "My aunt and uncle are non-magical and have a rather strong dislike for anything magical," he added, feeling the need to explain.
"Anything?" Tracey asked with a slightly arched brow wondering if that meant him as well.
"Anything," Harry confirmed still staring at the blank parchment on the table in front of him. Reaching out he retrieved the folded paper returned unopened by the Dursleys and slipped it back into one of the many pockets inside his robes.
Uncertain just how to respond to that, Tracey sat there and just stared at Harry as he picked up his quill, dipped it in the inkwell, and started working on his essay. After a few moments she followed suit and returned to working on hers, not knowing just what to say at the moment that would comfort him. The next hour passed with little more sound between them than the soft scratching of quill on parchment.
"Tracey," Harry said, finally breaking the silence between them. The young witch looked up only to see the wizard chewing thoughtfully upon the end of his quill. "Have you ever heard the name Nicolas Flamel before?"
The Slytherin witch thought for a moment before shaking her head."No, should I have?"
"I don't know," Harry said thoughtfully. Reaching into his backpack he pulled out a copy of The Daily Prophet and passed it to her.
Tracey looked down at the front page article and recalled reading it before. "The Gringott's break-in?" she asked questioningly as she looked up at the boy across from her.
Harry nodded once sharply. "Before school started Hagrid took me to Gringotts so I could get some galleons from my vault to buy school supplies and what not," he told her. "While we were there we stopped at that vault and Hagrid removed something from it," Harry said pointing to the vault in the picture on the front cover.
"What was it?" Tracey asked, curious as to what it could be.
"I don't know," Harry confessed. "I didn't get agood look at it but it easily fit within the palm of his hand and it was the only item in the vault."
"Did you ask Hagrid what it was?" Tracey enquired, now wanting to know more than ever.
Harry shook his head slightly. "Not at the time as I didn't give it much thought however, after seeing that article I went today at lunch time and asked him about it," the young wizard told her before pausing.
"And?" Tracey pried impatiently.
"He said it was Hogwarts business," Harry replied with asmall shrug. "Hagrid told me that whatever it was, it was between Nicolas Flamel and Professor Dumbledore." Harry's lips curled up into a small smile as he added, "Of course directly after saying that he said 'Shouldn't ought to have told ya that!' and then he wouldn't say anything further on the subject."
"So whoever broke into Gringotts was after whatever Hagrid removed," the bright witch reasoned aloud, "and this Nicolas Flamel is involved with it in some manner." Tracey saw Harry nod in agreement with her assessment of the situation. "Well, maybe we can find something about this Flamel person here in the library?"
"Do you think so?" Harry asked doubtfully.
"It stands to reason, Harry," she attempted to explain."If he is associated with the Headmaster then he must be someone of importance. If he is someone of importance then there is a good chance that he'll be in some of the books here in the library."
"I suppose so," Harry replied with, unable to find fault with her reasoning and not having any other suggestions himself.
"Maybe we should just ask Madam Pince?" Tracey offered thoughtfully.
"No!" Harry quickly declared upon hearing her words, startling the witch as well as earning curious glances from those near at hand."If it truly is Hogwarts business than it could get back to the Headmaster that we asked about him," he explained the reason for his objection to asking the head librarian, making certain he kept is voice low so only Tracey could hear him. "I'm not certain he would take kindly to us doing that, especially when I'm not even certain we should be doing it. Perhaps it would be better if we just stay out of whatever business it is?"
"But Harry," the witch across from him exclaimed, starting to get excited. "You were already brought into whatever business it was when Hagrid took you to that vault," she said with a gesture towards the picture on the front of the paper. "What if whoever broke into Gringotts comes and looks for you to discover what was in the vault? You could be in danger!"
Harry couldn't stop the shiver of trepidation that ran down his spine at her words. The young wizard just wanted to have a quiet life and enjoy his new friends and school. It's not bad enough that I have to be The-Boy-Who-Lived but now I have to keep looking over my shoulder for someone who might be after me! "Do you really think they would do that?" Harry asked her.
Tracey shrugged uncertainly. "I don't know, Harry. I've never tried to steal anything before. Whatever it is I should think it is very important for whoever it was to risk breaking into Gringotts." Seeing the puzzled expression on the young wizards face she explained. "The Goblins are trusted with the Wizarding World's finances and they take their work very seriously. Those caught trying to cheat the Goblins are usually imprisoned. Ican only imagine that someone caught breaking into their bank would face a far worse fate. Possibly even death," she told him with a slightly sickened expression upon her face.
Harry visible paled at her words. Having only seen the Goblins on his one trip to Gringotts he could well believe her. The time he had been there he had half expected to see them waving battle axes and Lucerne hammers, waging war right there in the bank lobby. Even with the fact that they all wore suits it did not take away from their image of a warrior race, built and bred for fighting.
"Nothing to be done about it now, potion's done out of the vial as they say," Tracey quickly added upon seeing Harry turn pale."I'll help you look and I'm sure the others will as well. Besides, this is the safest place in England," Tracey added in an attempt to cheer up her friend. "Perhaps whatever it is Hagrid was bringing it to Hogwarts to keep it safe. No one would ever dare try to sneak into Hogwarts."
"I'm sure that's what they thought of Gringotts too," Harry mumbled softly under his breath to himself. "Speaking of the others, you haven't seen Blaise have you? I would like to use my new broom for Quidditch practice in the morning."
"H…haven't seen him all day," Tracey replied truthfully as she hastily took up her quill and started back to work on her essay. He had better have fixed Harry's broom, she silently thought as she glared at the parchment before her.
I HATE YOU!
Daphne read once again the first words of the letter she had received from her sister, Astoria, and gave a sad soft sigh. When she had awakened that morning, there had been a note upon her nightstand. How it had gotten there she wasn't sure but she suspected that Astoria had convinced one of the Greengrass house elves to bring it for her.
I HATE YOU! I fear that I must now think of myself as an only child for no sister of mine would steal my Harry away from me. I never want to see you again!
(The only Greengrass daughter)
Daphne couldn't help but feel for her younger sister. Almost as soon as Astoria could talk she had said that one day she would marry Harry Potter. Over the years she had collected every single story book concerning The-Boy-Who-Lived. At first the Greengrass parents thought that like any passing fancy, their youngest would simply grow out of it, yet that was not to be the case. If anything the small girl's obsession only deepened with time. In the young girl's eyes, Harry could do no wrong. This was not apparently the case with herself as far as Astoria was concerned judging by that morning's note.
The fact that Astoria actually called me Daphne shows just how upset she is, the blonde witch thought to herself. It was very seldom that the two of them used their given names with each other, preferring pet names instead. There was a deep love between the sisters, which is why Daphne knew that Astoria didn't really hate her. The letter that had arrived with the morning post was clear indication of that. Still, it had taken the entire day for the blonde witch to gather her resolve to open the new missive, fearful that it might contain additional hurtful words from her sister. Breaking the seal on the message the first thing she noticed were the obvious tear stains on the parchment.
My Dearest Sissy,
I hope that after my last missive I can still call you that? Can I? Oh please say that I can! I wouldn't blame you if you never wanted to speak to me again. I can not begin to tell you just how sorry I am or how miserable Ifeel right now. I know my words hurt you, something I would truly never wish to do. I allowed my temper to get the better of me. I honestly do not know what Iwould do without you in my life. I can only hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me, Sissy. I will anxiously await your reply while understanding should one never arrive.
Your loving, and slightly insane, little sister,
"She's such a silly girl," Daphne mumbled with a soft smile as she held the letter to her chest lovingly and brushed a tear from her eye. Relief flowed through her entire body and it was as if a heavy weight she had been carrying about all that day was suddenly lifted from her shoulders. Realizing that Astoria would no doubt worry herself sick till she received areply, the blonde Slytherin quickly reached for quill and parchment.
How could you ever think that I would not want you as my adorable little sister? You are as much a part of me as the very heart which beats in my chest, my Sweet, for as much as I can not live without it so to could I not live without you in my life.
I know full well not to come between you and your Harry. I would no more fancy him than any boy that did not meet your approval. Not that Harry wouldn't meet with your approval, my Sweet! Quite the contrary I should think. He is nothing like the books, though, so you had best prepare yourself. Harry and I are nothing more than friends, I promise you. Knowing your heart is already set upon him I dare say that he and I shall not be anything more than friends save perhaps brother in-law and sister in-law once you're married. Now rest and try not to worry Mother and Father.
Your loving Sissy,
The young Slytherin witch couldn't help but smile as she rolled up the parchment once the ink had dried. "Honestly, how could she think that I would try to take Harry from her? I've only just met the boy and I hardly even know him," she said aloud to herself with an amused shake of her head as she gathered her books into her bag and tossed it over her shoulder as she made her way from the girl's dormitory, setting off towards the Owlery. In short order, and with the help of a school owl, her missive was on its way. "I hope she'll be alright," Daphne spoke aloud as she watched the owl wing its way off into the gathering darkness.
"Come out here often to speak to yourself, Greengrass," drawled the last voice she wanted to hear at that moment.
Turning about Daphne regarded the Malfoy scion for a long moment before replying. "Sometimes it seems to be the only way to avoid certain…unpleasantries," she told him dryly.
"Yes, I know what you mean," he replied as he stepped past her and to a school owl. "There are far too many mudbloods and half-bloods here," he said, mistaking her meaning completely. As he spoke he tied a scroll to the owl's leg. "It is a sorry state Hogwarts has fallen into when Purebloods such as ourselves have to retreat to the Owlery to get a bit of fresh air!"
How does he always manage to find me? "It would seem that there is no place one can go to get away from the taint here," she replied with a pointed look at the boy to show that she spoke of him.
"Yes, well now that Father is on the school board I am certain that he will take steps to remove some of the less desirables from this sorry excuse of a school," Draco said with a sneer as he sent the owl upon its way. Once again he missed the meaning of her words. "Just this morning I received a letter from him in which he asked me to keep an eye on the students here," he told her pompously, puffing out his chest slightly."Father knows he can rely on my good judgment." Upon hearing the blonde Slytherin's snort of laughter he quickly added, "Perhaps that is a fact you'd do well to keep in mind, Greengrass!"
The young witch ignored the implied threat, realizing it was nothing more than bluster from the arrogant boy before her. "Well, as much as I would like to stay and chat I fear I am overdue in the Library," she stated to change the subject and afford her a reason to leave. "Can't allow Granger to get ahead of me and win all the points for Gryffindor, now can I?" she asked upon seeing him gathering for an objection to her leaving.
"If it weren't for that filthy mudblood they would hardly have any points at all," Draco said vehemently, clearly displeased with the smart witch with bushy hair. "If I weren't so terribly busy with what my father has entrusted to me, I would help you in gathering points for our House."
Daphne had to bite back a snarl at his use of the term mudblood when referring to Hermione however, she knew now was not the time to get into that particular argument. "Yes, I'm sure you would," she replied with thinly veiled sarcasm. When the Slytherin wizard offered to escort her back to the castle there was little she could do about it but accept. The entire way she had to listen to him ramble on about how much his father trusted and relied on him and how it was natural as he was a great wizard and all. They parted ways at the grande stairway and none too soon for Daphne's liking.
"Rough day?" Harry asked concernedly as Daphne dropped into the seat across from him with a tired sigh.
"I ran into Malfoy out in the Owlery," she told him, only to notice the boy's expression darken. "He was being his usual self...a prat."
"Are you alright?" Harry enquired, his dislike for the arrogant fellow first year Slytherin growing greater with each passing day.
Tracy looked up from the book she was thumbing through. "The little git didn't try anything did he?" she asked recalling the several times Draco had attempted to get the blonde witch's attention.
Daphne raised a hand and waved away their concerns. "No, he was just being an annoying prat. Now that his father is on the School Board of Directors he has even more reason to strut around like a prized peacock."
"I wonder how Malfoy Sr. managed that," Tracey voiced."I thought the Board members could only be appointed by the Minster for Magic?"
"Same way he and most purebloods do everything else, money," Daphne quipped as she looked about at the stack of books spread all about the table. "Whatever are you two doing?" she asked inquisitively.
"Reading," Harry said with a teasing grin.
"Prat!" Daphne laughed. "No seriously. None of these books have anything to do with any of our classes," she said having glanced as several book titles.
"Daphne, do you know a wizard by the name of Nicholas Flamel?" Tracey asked, only to see the witch shake her head. "I didn't think you would have," Tracey added having come to the belief that if she didn't know the name then it was just as likely that Daphne wouldn't as well.
"What's so important about this Flamel person?" Daphne asked.
"That is exactly what we're trying to figure out," Tracey told her as she closed the book she had before her, setting it atop apile near at hand only to pick up the top book from a different pile."Harry believes that whoever broke into Gringotts was after something that belonged to Flamel," Tracey explained upon seeing the puzzled expression on her friend's face.
"Well, it is just a theory," Harry offered, quickly dropping his eyes to the book before him upon seeing Daphne staring at him intently. The dark-haired wizard quickly related his conversation with Hagrid that day at lunch as well as the significance of the vault that was broken into. "Tracey thought that if the person knew the Headmaster then they must be famous or well known in some way."
Daphne nodded, seeing the logic in their thinking however, she couldn't understand why they were going about this in such a manner. "Why not simply ask Madam Pince who Nicholas Flamel is?"
Harry shook his head and gave Daphne the same answer he had given to Tracey earlier. "If it is Hogwarts business then it could get back to the Headmaster and he might not take kindly to me butting in where I perhaps shouldn't."
The blonde witch thought over his words for a few minutes before correcting him. "Us."
"Huh?" Harry questioned looking up at Daphne with aslightly confused expression.
"You're wrong," she explained as she reached for the next book upon the same stack that Tracey had taken a new book from. "He may not take kindly to /us/butting in," she elaborated to clarify her correction.
Harry quickly shook his head. "If this is Hogwarts business then I do not want you guys getting involved," Harry said earnestly."I shouldn't even be letting Tracey help me research whoever Flamel is!"
"I'm helping too!" Daphne declared defiantly. Seeing the wizard about to argue she quickly continued. "If you think you're going to do this all by yourself you had best just forget that notion, Potter" she told him matter-of-factly.
Harry paused and blinked slowly, uncertain just what to do with the irate witch before him or her refusal to not get involved. "Daphne, Idon't want Tracey or you to get into any trouble due to me." Having no idea just what he was getting himself into, he did not want his new friends to be involved. Tracey was only helping him to do the research at the moment and even with that he felt guilty about letting her do it.
"Harry," Daphne replied gently upon hearing the note of concern in his voice, "what about you? What if whoever broke into Gringotts decided that you have what they were after and comes to get it from you? I'm sure any number of people saw you there with Hagrid that day," she reasoned. "He is rather hard to miss. The thief no doubt already knows this I'll wager."
"That's what I told him," Tracey added softly having sat and listened to their exchange. "Harry you can't do this on your own. Let us help you, Harry," the auburn haired witch at his side pleaded."That's what friends are for, they help each other."
Harry felt trapped, his emerald eyes darted back and forth between Tracey's soft brown eyes and Daphne's brilliant blue ones. He could see the same longing and desire to help him in both pair of eyes that watched him expectantly. We've only been friends for a couple of days. Why would they want to go out of their way for me? The first year wizard recalled how his classmate before had apparently gone out of his way to be friends with him only to lead him to the park for Dudley to pommel him.
No, this is not primary school, he reminded himself forcibly. They certainly are not friends of Dudley either! His nature was to do things on his own. It was safer to rely on his own abilities, meager though they were, rather than depending on others who might betray him. If all they are doing is helping me track down who Nicholas Flamel is then there is little chance they'll get into trouble, he finally reasoned.
"Alright, you both can help me find out who Flamel is," he told them, instantly bringing big smiles to both witches faces. "But that's all," he added so that they clearly understood. He wasn't certain what he would do once he had the desired information. I guess I'll cross that bridge when Iget to it. "Don't tell Hermione about this though," Harry told them, not wishing to add the possibility of her getting into trouble as well.
"Don't tell me what?" Hermione asked as she dropped her backpack onto the table before collapsing into the vacant chair next to Daphne.
"I don't suppose you'd believe me if I said nothing?" Harry asked with a weak smile.
"Too late for that, Harry," Hermione replied as she leaned her head back, closed her eyes and took a beep calming breath which had the other three present glancing towards each other, concerned for their friend's wellbeing.
"You alright there, Granger?" Daphne asked, reaching out and laying a hand upon the witch's forearm. The blonde Slytherin was more than a little concerned with how pale the girl next to her was.
"No. I most certainly am not," Hermione replied without even opening her eyes. "I can't believe they would have one of those here," she mumbled to herself. "This is a school for Merlin's sake!"
"One of what?" Tracey enquired hesitantly.
Hermione's head shot up as her eyes popped open so that she could regard the auburn-haired witch seated across from her. "A Cerberus!" she said incredulously, causing the other three to gasp in disbelief.
"Are you certain, Hermione?" Harry asked.
The Gryff nodded at his words. "I overheard the twins talking about it," she began to explain.
"The Weasley twins are nothing but pranksters, Granger," Tracey interjected with a humorous snort. "They were just probably telling a tale to get one over on the firsties present," she offered.
"No, it's true!" Hermione declared upon seeing the witch's skeptical look.
"Wait," Harry quickly interceded. "Tell us what happened, Hermione," he suggested.
Hermione read over the letter she had received from her Mum and couldn't help but smile. Her Mum had informed her that her father had asked if he should be concerned that half the letter from her had been about some boy named Harry. 'Don't worry. Iassured your father that you were far too young to be concerned with boys', her mother had written. Of course that had quickly been followed by, 'So is Harry cute?', causing the young witch to roll her eyes.
"Is he?" she asked herself softly as she chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully. An image of a pair of bright emerald eyes and messy black hair flashed into her brain. More than once since becoming friends with the young wizard she had wanted to place him in a full body bind and try to straighten out his dark locks into some semblance of order. The only thing preventing her from doing so was that she did not know the spell as yet.
Her thoughts quickly led her to recall how Harry had attempted to push her away to keep her out of harm's way, namely himself. These thoughts almost instantly brought a warm sensation to her chest that she was quickly coming to equate to the wizard of her thoughts.
I don't know about cute Mom, she thought to herself, but he is very thoughtful and terribly sweet. The young witch felt her cheeks grow warm as she recalled the events that had transpired in the Astronomy tower as well as in the hallway leading to the Hospital wing of Hogwarts. I couldn't ask for a better friend than Harry!
"I tell you it's true!" the raised voice of one of the Weasley twins exclaimed from close at hand, breaking the young witch from her thoughts. "It's there clear as day!"
The first year witch looked over only to see the Weasley twins conversing with their younger brother Ronald. As she had as yet been able to tell with any degree of accuracy which twin was which she wasn't exactly sure who had been speaking.
"You're just having a go at me," Ronald Weasley stated in a knowing manner having been the butt of many of the twin's pranks growing up. "There is probably nothing there. You're just doing this so that you can get me caught and in trouble so I'll have to do detention!"
"While that does in fact sound like something we would do, little brother," one of the twins said, the other adding a grin of agreement with the assessment, "we're not trying to have a go at you, truly we're not."
Both twins could clearly see the skeptical look upon the younger boys face. "It was there, bold as brass," the other twin offered.
"If it was there then what was it?" Ron asked challengingly of his brothers.
"It was a…well, I don't know what it is called," the first twin replied, "but it is there, a dog with three heads. Bold as brass!"
"Cerberus," Hermione offered before she even realized it, only to see three blank expression turn in her direction. "That's what they're called," she added nervously, "Cerberus. They guard the gates to the Underworld it is said."
"A right smart one, that she is, Freddie," George stated with a growing smile.
"She must be the bright witch we've been hearing about, Georgie," Fred replied with a matching growing grin.
"The one earning us all those points, that she has, brother mine," George added, picking up where his brother left off at with apparent ease.
Hermione blushed deeply at the unexpected praise."H…hello," the young witch stammered. "Hermione Granger," she offered in way of introduction.
"Pardon our little brother's lack of manners and not properly introducing us," Fred said with a good natured grin.
"Mom's been trying to break him of his atrocious behavior, that she has," George added with a shake of his head which Fred quickly moved to do as well.
Hermione watched as the twin's heads bobbed back and forth in opposite time of each other's and couldn't help but grin at their antics.
"I'm George," Fred stated, "and this handsome fellow is Fred."
"That I am," George agreed with a roguish grin before offering, "I'm the better looking twin of course."
"Which makes me the best looking twin, no doubt," Fred added with a matching smile.
"Are you two always this incorrigible?" Hermione asked with a chuckle.
"No," Fred quipped innocently. "You should see us-"
"-on a good day," George completed his twins sentence as if it was the most normal of things to do. "That you should young Miss."
Ron huffed, annoyed at being left out of the conversation entirely.
"Now, you were saying?" both twins said in unison.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't help but over hear what you were talking about," Hermione offered in way of apology. "Did you really see one?" Both the twin nodded at her question. "I would hate to point out just how unlikely that is."
"See, I told you that you couldn't have seen one!" Ron barked, finally having a chance to say something. The fact that it just proved that his brothers were having yet another go at him just made it all the better as far as the young redhead was concerned.
"I said unlikely, Ronald. Not impossible," Hermione said to clarify her previous statement. Her words only earned her a scowl from her classmate.
"What can you tell of these, Cerberus?" Fred asked, ignoring Ron's previous outburst.
Hermione gathered her thoughts and licked her dry lips before falling into what her housemates were quickly coming to call 'lecture mode'."Cerberus was the offspring of Echidna, a hybrid half-woman and half-serpent, and Typhon, a gigantic monster even the Greek gods supposedly feared. Its siblings are the Lernaean Hydra; Orthus, a two-headed hellhound; and the Chimaera, a three-headed monster."
"The common depiction of Cerberus in Greek mythology and art is as having three heads. In most works, the three heads each respectively see and represent the past, the present, and the future, while other sources suggest the heads represent birth, youth, and old age. Each of Cerberus' heads is said to have an appetite only for live meat and thus allow only the spirits of the dead to freely enter the underworld, but allow none to leave. Cerberus were always employed as Hades' loyal watchdog, and guarded the gates that granted access and exit to the underworld."
Hermione finished with what she could recall of the Cerberus only to see Ron's glazed vacant expression. In contrast the twins seemed to be raptly hanging upon her each and every word. "This is all of course assuming you believe Greek mythology and that the Underworld truly exists."
"A right bright witch this one is," George offered with a low whistle of appreciation. "You should come work with us. We can always use another smart mind. That we can," he added with a slight nod.
"Oi!" Fred exclaimed, nudging Ron's shoulder to get his attention. "Why can't you be more like Hermione here, little brother?" Ron's expression turned sullen and disgruntled though he wisely refrained from saying anything. Both twins turned to look at each other for along moment as if silently communicating. "It's settled," Fred finally announced.
"That it is, brother mine," George added with a large grin as he placed his arm around his twin's shoulder.
"You'll have to come with us so we can verify what it is," they told the stunned witch in unison.
How did I get myself into this?, Hermione asked herself not for the first time since the four of them had left the Gryffindor tower and made their way to the third floor. As they started down the right hand hallway the Headmaster's words rang within the young witch's head once again. 'Lastly, for this year the third floor corridor on the right is off limits to anyone who does not want to die a most gruesome death.'
"Why am I here," Ron whined as his brothers, each with ahand fisted into the shoulder of his robes so he couldn't escape, dragged him along.
"It wouldn't do for you to think you were right, little brother," George told him.
"Wouldn't do at all," Fred agreed. "Better to have you there to see with your own eyes."
George winked at his twin upon seeing the scared look upon Ron's face. "I wouldn't worry overly much, little brother," he offered, only to receive a quizzical look from the youngest Weasley.
"You're small," Fred chimed in, picking up where George had left off. "Shouldn't be more than a bite or two," he added, causing Ron to pale significantly.
"I imagine it shouldn't hurt too much once you're swallowed and all," George stated in the same inconsequential tone one would use when conversing about the weather.
"Maybe you'll get lucky and it will bite your head off and gnaw on it for a bit," Fred offered helpfully. "Least that way you'll be dead before it starts to digest you."
"Can't say I'd want to be alive when that starts," George commented with as he made a sour face.
Ron's eyes had grown to the size of teacup saucers while his complexion was near that of one of the sheets in the hospital ward. The young wizard tried in vain to plant his feet and not move another step forward but this only caused the twins to grasp him under each arm and lift him up till he feet couldn't touch the ground.
"Good thing you have us here-," Fred started with.
"-to look after you and all," George said to complete the thought.
Hermione, who had witnessed the wink exchanged between the twins could no longer hold in her giggles and doubled over in laughter at the twin's actions. It was all she could do to hold onto her backpack which she had brought with her, intending to go to the library afterwards. Noticing that Ron's face had gone a bright red all the way up to the tips of his ears, the witch quickly collected herself and brought her laughter under control."They were just having a go at you is all, Ronald," she offered, hoping he would see it for the good natured pranking that it was.
"It's not funny!" Ron snapped, embarrassed at being made fun of in front of one of his classmates. The twins just grinned and continued to chuckle at their own cleverness. "We'll see who's laughing," the angry boy spat out, "when I owl Mom about this!" he threatened.
The smiles and laughter instantly disappeared from both his brother's faces. "That would be unwise, little brother," Fred replied.
"Unwise indeed," George agreed. "Unless you want to be the tester for all our products!" The threat was apparently severe enough to make the youngest Weasley present pale once more and shake his head that he wouldn't tell. "Smart lad," George added upon seeing his brother's reaction.
"Perhaps hanging around Hermione here is rubbing off after all," quipped Fred.
The four of them halted before the second to last door at the end of the hallway. "Just a quick look," George warned as Fred drew his wand to defend them should the need arise. "Alohomora!" George said, casting the spell to unlock the door.
The door had barely opened a few inches when something heavy struck it nearly knocking the twins off their feet. The force of the blow would have surely done so had they not been expecting it, still they barely managed to stay standing. Instinctually all four students lunged for the door and pushed against it in an attempt to force it closed. Once again the door was struck, driving them back a foot as something large and slobbering barked, growled and tried to force its way out of the room. With a final heave they managed to get the door closed and the latch fastened once again. The door was struck several more times causing it and the lock to shudder under the force of the attack. All four students cautiously backed away from the door.
"W…wh...what was that thing?" Ron asked with a great deal of stuttering.
"Cerberus," Hermione answered in disbelief, having gotten a good look at it, never taking her eyes from the door. The young witch was certain that she would be having nightmares of large gnawing teeth for the next several nights.
"We better go," Fred suggested, "in case someone comes to see what all the noise was about." The others nodded in agreement and quickly began to retrace their steps down the hallway.
"I wonder if we can put it to sleep?" George mused aloud to his twin as they walked along. The two of them already brainstorming on how to get past the creature.
"With the right sleep spell or potion anything is possible, brother mine," Fred replied with a smile.
"I doubt that will work in this case," Hermione told them, regretting having to burst their bubble. "Cerberus are believed to be incredibly resistant to magic. They would have to be if they were to guard the entrance to the Underworld."
"Assuming that the Underworld truly exists," Ron quipped in a condescending tone, certain that there could be no such place.
"I didn't think a Cerberus existed till just a few moments ago," Hermione replied, to distracted to take offense at the boy tone of voice. The fact that several basic principles which she had grown up knowing were proving to be false, truly had the young witch shaken. If there really are Cerberus then what else might there be? It was difficult enough to believe in magic. Could it be that the stories in Greek mythology are actually true? If they are then what of other cultures such as the Egyptian or Aztec?
"I can't help but wonder why they have it in that room," Fred piped in with.
"Or how they got it in there in the first place," George was quick to add.
"I'm all for never seeing it again!" Ron said, stating his opinion.
"Don't go doing anything foolish," Hermione cautioned the twins who tried to look as innocent as possible. "I'm this way," she told them, pointing to the library hallway when they reached the Grande Stairway. Turning away after saying goodbye the young witch made her way to the library. None of them must have seen the trap door it was standing over, she speculated to herself as she entered the library.
"Who would have thought they were real?" Tracey asked rhetorically after hearing Hermione's story.
"It can't be safe having that creature here," Hermione stated, pointing out what she thought was obvious and yet managed to escape the staff's notice apparently. "What if it somehow got out?" she asked with a slight tremor to her voice as she realized the amount of damage it could do. "What could be so important that they would risk having it here so close to the students?"
Tracey and Daphne quickly turned their gazes toward the only wizard present at the table. Both silently beseeching him to include Hermione in what they all three already knew. Harry's shoulders sagged after a few moments in what the others took as a clear sign of surrender.
Daphne pulled her gaze from Harry so that she could turn to look at Hermione. "That's exactly what we're trying to figure out," she told the shocked witch.
"You knew there was a Cerberus here guarding something?" Hermione sputtered in disbelief. "How?"
"No, not directly," Tracey replied with a shake of her head which set her auburn ponytail swaying back and forth. "It just makes sense is all."
"What makes sense?" Hermione enquired, becoming more and more confused with each passing moment.
"Hermione," Harry spoke up, calling the witch's attention to himself. "Does the name Nicholas Flamel mean anything to you?"
The Gryffindor witch's brow creased in thought for a moment before she gave a slight shake of her head. "No, should it? Is it something I'll need to add to the revision list for one of our classes?"
"Were it only so simple," Tracey quipped with a small grin.
"What?" the thoroughly confused witch next to Daphne asked in a bewildered tone.
"Harry was with Hagrid and visited Gringotts. The next day the very same vault was broken into," Daphne explained, coming to her newest friends rescue. "Harry saw Hagrid remove the only item from the vault that day. When he asked Hagrid about it earlier today he was told that it was Hogwarts business between the Headmaster and Nicholas Flamel."
Hermione sat for a moment processing the girl's words. Suddenly she gasped as the bright girl thought of something. "Harry! What if whoever broke into Gringotts comes after you thinking you have whatever it was Hagrid removed?" she asked, her eyes zeroing in on the wizard in concern for her friend's safety.
Tracey and Daphne turned at the same time and shot smug expressions at The-Boy-Who-Lived as if daring him to argue with the logic of all three witches there with him.
"Hogwarts is the safest place in England. No one could possibly sneak into here," Harry replied, hoping he sounded more convincing than he felt. Harry saw Hermione nod once, as did the others, accepting his words. Judging by the expressions on their faces though he was fairly certain that they were just as skeptical of that protection as he was.
"That must be what was under the trap door." Seeing their questioning looks Hermione quickly explained that she had seen one in the floor of the room the Cerberus was in. "It has to be guarding whatever Hagrid took from Gringotts." The others could do little more than nod in agreement with her speculation.
Hermione glanced about the table at the assortment of books as if just noticing them. "So you're trying to see if you can find this Nicholas Flamel here in the library?" she asked, receiving a nod from Harry."If it is Hogwarts business then I guess we can't ask Madam Pince for assistance."
"My thoughts as well," Harry said agreeing with her assessment of the situation.
With a slight shrug, Hermione picked up a book and set it down before her. "I guess there's nothing else we can do but hope we can find out who he is."
The four of them quickly had their noses buried in books, flipping through the pages trying to find the elusive needle in the preverbal haystack. They had been at it for some time when a soft clearing of a throat interrupted them, causing all four to look up. The three witch's gazes quickly turned cold upon seeing who was standing there at the end of the table.
"Harry," Blaise Zabini said hesitantly, glancing at the others gathered and seeing their angry glares. Judging by Granger's unforgiving look I guess I can assume they have told her as well, he absently thought to himself.
Harry, unaware of the tension, smiled broadly at seeing the other boy. "I've been looking for you all day. I was hoping to get my Nimbus from you so I can use it for practice in the morning."
"About that," the dark skinned boy began only to pause and lick his lips nervously. "I…I did just as you asked and took it out so that everyone could have a go at it."
Harry nodded in acknowledgement as that had been what he had said to do. "Did everything go alright? Did everyone get a chance to ride it?"
"Some more than others," Blaise replied, eliciting an angry snort from Tracey. "Look, I tried to do what you wanted but some of the older boys came and took it away from me. I tried to get it back but they just pushed me aside. One of them even put me in a body bind! Then Malfoy flew it into that bloody tree and Crabbe or Goyle flew it head first into a wall. Ilost count of how many fell off of it because they couldn't handle the speed."
"I…I tried to get it back from them but I wasn't strong enough. Not with the higher years helping them," Blaise confessed in anear pleading tone. "The Nimbus got beat up pretty badly, Harry," he stated honestly, his eyes dropping to the floor. The young wizard felt ashamed of his action because once he had been freed and he once again had possession of the Nimbus he had acted like nothing had happened. The truth of the matter was he had been afraid. Afraid of the consequences of what might happen to him if he said anything to the professors. I may be a wizard but I'm just a firstie. He had been waiting for the right moment to slip away and hide the broom when Daphne and Tracey had arrived and confronted him.
"I had Madam Hooch show me how to fix it though. That's where I've been all day, working on it as best I could," Blaise said as he slowly brought the broom out from behind him. Madam Hooch had not only showed how to repair the broom and provided him with the proper tools to do so but she had also spent the entire time lecturing him on the proper care of other people's property as well. As the broom was a Nimbus 2000 it wasn't difficult for her to determine just who it belonged to.
Harry was quickly out of his seat and set the broom aside without even giving it a glance. Placing a hand on the distraught wizard's shoulder he asked, "Are you alright, Zabini? Sounds like you had it pretty rough there."
Zabini looked up in disbelief at Harry's words. He had fully expected the boy to yell and scream at him for what had happened. If he was honest with himself, were their positions reversed, he was fairly certain he would have pitched a wobbler and then some. Too shocked by the honest concern for his wellbeing that he heard in Harry's voice, he could do little more than nod in way of answer.
"I'm sorry, Zabini," Harry apologized. "I wasn't thinking and I put you in a difficult spot where you could have gotten hurt. It is my broom, I should have been the one there, not you. I hope you can forgive me," Harry asked contritely.
The three witches sat in stunned silence, watching the exchange. Tracey and Daphne both could tell that the Nimbus was in far better shape than it had been when last they saw it. Though they were still not happy with Zabini's apparent lack of caring when they had confronted him they could well see that he had did his best to repair the broom before returning it.
"No," Blaise replied with a slow deliberate shake of his head. "I'm the one that allowed your broom to be damaged. I owe you an apology, Harry. Not the other way around."
Harry gave a slight shrug of his thin shoulders. "It's just abroom," he said, seeing the three witches out of the corner of his eye, flinch at his words. "Brooms can be replaced but friends are much harder to come by," Harry offered sincerely.
"Friends?" Blaise parroted back softly before giving acurt nod of acceptance. "We alright then, Potter?" he asked extending his hand.
Harry dropped his hand from the boy's shoulder to accept the proffered hand and shook it twice. "I believe so, Zabini."
"Blaise," the dark skinned boy said with a welcoming smile. "My friends call me Blaise."
"Harry. Just Harry," The-Boy-Who-Lived replied with agenuine smile of his own.
"Harry," Blaise said as if getting a feel for the name of his newest friend. Glancing down he noticed the stacks of book for the first time. "Isn't it a bit soon to be doing revision sessions?"
Harry chuckled softly as he sat back down. "No, we're looking for any reference to Nicholas Flamel."
"The Alchemist?" Blaise asked curiously only to have four sets of eyes turn to stare at him in disbelief. "What?"
"You know of him?" Harry asked, trying to contain his own excitement at finally being able to find out who the man was.
Blaise nodded. "My Mom has dealing with him from time to time. When she was younger she apprenticed to him for several decades," he informed them. "Personally I think she was hoping he would teach her how to make a Philosopher's stone." Seeing their blank stares he continued to explain. "The Elixir of Life? Surely you've heard of it? The Flamel's are said to be well over six hundred years old. I can see where Harry and Granger may not have heard of it but I would have thought to two of you would have," he said incredulously as he looked towards Daphne and Tracey.
"First I've heard of it," Daphne replied with, glancing at Tracey only to see her nod in agreement. "I mean I had heard that there was a long lived couple but then again what witch or wizard isn't? I didn't recall their names though. I didn't honestly believe that they were in their six hundred's and sixties," she confessed.
Zabini nodded. "Mom told me herself so I believe it. If anyone would know, she would having worked closely with him for many years. As far as anyone knows their stone is the only one in existence. The Flamels haven't passed down the secret of how to create another Philosopher's stone to anyone else. Mom guesses that was why He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named never went after them. Should they die then the secret dies with them."
Harry felt a sudden chill traverse his spine upon hearing Blaise's words. "Just how big is this stone?"
"Not sure," Zabini replied with a slight shrug. "I wouldn't expect it to be too large though. Would make it terrible difficult to carry around if it was too big, I should think."
"So," Harry said as casually as he could, "small enough to fit into...say…the palm of Hagrid's hand?"
"I would guess so," the Slytherin wizard replied in acurious tone. "What's this all about Harry? Why the sudden interest in the Flamels?" Harry quickly explained about the break in at Gringotts as well as his conversation with Hagrid. "But…but that makes no sense," Blaise stammered, trying to put everything together. "Who could want the stone so badly that they would risk certain death if they were to be caught breaking into Gringotts?"
"What if…what if," Harry started with as pieces slowly started to fall into place, painting a picture that truly frightened him."What if they weren't worried about being killed because they were already dead?" Harry could no longer ignore the cold knot of fear lodged deep within his gut. Seeing their blank stares he gave them the final piece of the puzzle."What if it is Voldemort?" he posed, causing all four present to shudder at the name.
"Don't be daft, Harry," Blaise chimed in quickly."You already killed him."
Harry hastily licked his lips before answering. "Hagrid told me on my birthday when he first brought me to the Wizarding world that the Headmaster and many others don't believe that he's dead. They think that he'll actually return." The five of them fell silent. If Albus Dumbledore said it then who were they to argue with the most powerful wizard alive today.
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