Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Brother Z19 Reviews
The Final Battle is over. Harry has left Britain, leaving a devastated magical community, a lost Hermione, and a blinded Luna. Hermione becomes Professor McGonagall's apprentice while she cares f...
The doors of the large unused dungeon opened, and forty people entered. Z and two of the five Chinese students in the school were already at the far end, making slow, controlled. and graceful movements.
Z stopped, and moved off to one side, drawing the crowd's attention. "What they are doing is called Tai Chi. If all you learn from us is Tai Chi, and you practice it correctly at least four times a week for half an hour each time, you will have learned an art and an exercise which will help tone your mind and body. Those of you who join the dueling club Professors Flitwick and Lupin hope to start in the spring will find this helpful in the short term as well."
"In addition, those who do well and keep going with us will have two other options. One will be a more active martial arts training. The second will be meditation training, which may then lead to mental magics, such as Occlumency or astral projection. Shall we begin?"
Z and Hermione walked back towards the staff quarters nearly an hour later. "That wasn't as easy as I thought it might be," Hermione admitted.
"You did well, but I imagine you were in better condition just three months ago."
"True," Hermione admitted ruefully. "You certainly didn't look tired."
"The healing I did last week was very intense and tiring," Z answered. "The head and neck had to be taken together, and had sustained severe trauma. Doing the limbs over eight weeks will allow me to function Saturday mornings, although my magical reserves might be low. When I start doing the body work, it will likely be very exhausting again."
"I understand. We are grateful, and thank you for working on my knee. That was giving me a bit of trouble."
"Not a problem. Are there any other places which need work?"
"One," Hermione admitted. "Back in June, 1996, I was hit by a very nasty curse. It crushed my lower left ribs, and did some damage to my spleen. It still hurts at times."
"Again, not a problem. How is Luna enjoying her limited sight?"
"She prefers looking through my eyes to the viewing crystal," Hermione answered, puzzled. "If she were with me, I could understand it."
"Has she been out of the suite since she moved in?"
"Actually, no," Hermione agreed.
"Maybe she just wants a change of scenery. Perhaps you should encourage her to come to that little reception of Slughorn's tonight," Z suggested. "He claimed it would only be for the staff, and I doubt if Snape will be there."
"Would Luna be invited then?"
"I shall inquire for you."
"I do hope you will not regret this," Luna said as Hermione guided her slowly down the corridor. They were in matching robes and arm-in-arm. Luna also carried a thin white cane, which she brushed in front of her.
"Why would I?"
"I am unlikely to read the scurrilous rumors, or be affected by any gossip."
"You are my friend and roommate. Anything else is pure speculation, unless you'd like me to kiss you in public," Hermione pointed out.
"All things considered, perhaps not, at least not any time soon." Luna frowned. "Will Zee be there?"
"Yes, he acknowledged that this was understood."
"It is a pleasure to have you join us, Miss Lovegood," Slughorn said.
"Thank you, Professor," Luna returned. Hermione guided her to a soft chair in a corner, and handed her a small glass of sherry. Z came up to one side and asked if he could share his sight with her. When Luna agreed, Z placed his left hand at the base of her neck.
Within ten minutes, the entire teaching staff (save Hagrid, the two Divination teachers, and Snape), plus Madam Pince were present. The group was surprisingly friendly, and the chitchat lively and interesting. Even McGonagall was happy to allow Slughorn to conduct the group through the evening to their mutual entertainment.
Some twenty-five minutes after Luna and Hermione arrived, Snape slunk into room, merely nodding to the others, taking a drink, and then lurking in a corner.
After another twenty minutes, during a pause in the general conversation, Snape asked, "Professor, I was not aware you knew Miss Lovegood."
Z merely regarded Snape for a moment, and then explained, not for the first time, about Luna's limited sight.
"I have to admit, that is quite impressive," Snape stated when Z was finished. "That does not, however, explain Miss Lovegood's presence in the castle."
Hermione, McGonagall, and Flitwick all started to answer, but Z beat them to it. "There were six Horcruxes. How many did you discover?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"How many of the six Horcruxes did you find? Answer, none. Potter discovered and destroyed the diary Horcrux, along with the knife. Dumbledore found and destroyed the ring. A research team, led by Miss Granger in the field and Miss Lovegood here directed the search to the other three. My understanding is that Miss Lovegood was the key coordinator of the Order and DA's information, until you led the team which kidnaped Miss Lovegood and Miss Weasley." That shook everyone, as they had not known Snape's role in that operation, and Snape didn't know anyone still alive knew, unless Lovegood remembered more than she should. "So, my question is not why she is allowed to live here, but why you were allowed to live, when you never provided any essential information about Voldemort's activities."
Snape flushed, stood erect, and growled, "Those in a better position to know than you decided otherwise."
"Nonsense," Z said. "There are few secrets secured from me. I can even see that even you suspect your own worthlessness and guilt, although you refused to acknowledge them. You are not the world's most accomplished Occlumens."
Snape opened his mouth, but then quickly shut it, turned, and left.
"Is there something I should know?" McGonagall asked.
"I don't believe so," Z answered. "At least nothing new. Snape still believes himself a true master of Occlumency, despite all evidence to the contrary. And it is true, no frontal assault on his mind could succeed. However, this means two things. First, it reminds me of a French Muggle construct of the 1930s called the Maginot Line -- a line of defense so powerful that they claimed that the Germans could not break through. That was true, but the Germans did go around it in 1940, and went over it as well. Similarly, by making his shields so powerful against a frontal assault, it actually made it fairly easy to slip around them."
"Secondly, such a mental attitude makes it difficult for him to accept other points of view. He knows that Voldemort played him, that he really brought in very little valid, let alone valuable, information, either to Dumbledore or to his contacts after he killed the Headmaster. Yet he had constructed this inner core of hidden belief in the value of his mission, which allowed him to accept the torture he was subjected to, which kept him more-or-less sane over a period of time which would have driven most people insane. When Voldemort fell the first time, he kept that inner core of belief, knowing, as few did, that Voldemort could return. That core became his true existence, which none could see, save himself and the Headmaster. When Voldemort did return, it was what allowed him to return to his Dark master as a spy, knowing he would be tortured at the whim of a madman. To him, he has to believe that the scraps of worthless information he brought in were worth the tortures he underwent. And because he had to undergo such tortures, any tortures he inflected on others, any crimes he committed to gather those scraps, were justified."
There was silence for several seconds.
"Would he be more forgivable, had the Dark Lord not been using him?" Sprout murmured.
"No," Hermione said harshly.
"I wouldn't think so, either," Z agreed. "If only because he still refuses to deal with the issue. I could never like him, but if he got the help needed to release that core, to acknowledge that what he did was horrible and futile but to a degree understandable, then maybe he could be forgiven. As it is, I fear he will latch on to some new hatred. If Potter was here, or even visible, he would be the center of Snape's hatred. He refuses to acknowledge his self-loathing, and so, as I said, he may lash out at someone else."
"Me, most likely," Hermione said.
"If so, no matter who or what the target, then Severus will have a short career at Hogwarts," McGonagall said firmly.
Unsurprisingly, the party broke up less than twenty minutes later. Z insisted on walking the two teens back to their rooms, his hand still at the base of Luna's skull.
"Zee," Hermione said suddenly, "how long have you been giving Luna sight?"
Z shrugged slightly, a more natural gesture than he usually allowed himself. "A bit over an hour, if not an hour and a half. Why?"
"Hasn't that given either of you a headache?"
"No," Luna said surprised, "it hasn't."
Z said nothing.
"Zee!" Hermione snapped.
"Yes," he admitted.
"And you've somehow suppressed Luna's discomfort?"
"Yes," he confessed. "You shouldn't use either method in the morning if you have any pain or pressure."
"I lost my family in Europe to Voldemort, just as you both did. I would be honored to be your brother." Zee smiled very slightly. "Isn't this what big brothers do? Try and help their little sisters? Try and take away the hurt?" Both teens, both raised as only children, smiled warmly at the thought, although their thoughts were not confined to those of sisterly affection.
"If you will trust me yet again, I will help you both sleep tonight. You may need it after Snape's little snit."
Hermione let them into the suite. "What do we have to do?" she asked.
"I'll wait here, and when you've both settled into bed -- assuming you are both going to sleep now, that is -- I will come in and show you."
"We must really trust you," Hermione muttered.
"It may not be quite Ten o'clock, but I am tired," Luna admitted.
"Oh, all right," Hermione said.
Fifteen minutes later, Z came into their bedroom. Luna was snuggled in for the night, and Hermione was spooned protectively around her. "Don't worry about anything," he said gently. "I'll lock up after myself." And with that, he started a soft Greek incantation, which they recognized as a Morpheus charm. When they fell asleep, Z added sweet dream charms from several different cultures.
Z started to leave, but halted. He turned and bent over the bed, kissing each teen on her cheek. "Good night, and sweet dreams, my loves," he said in a very different sounding voice, before leaving them to their slumbers.
Over the next week, it seemed that Severus Snape had come down with a severe case of clumsiness. Seemingly at random, he would trip over some unseen object. A careful, if snarling, investigation revealed no tripping hexes or clumsy curses of any kind, cast on or around him. On those occasions when there were only students present, a careful investigation of their wands showed that they had not cast anything which could have made him stumble.
(Only knowing he was on probation and under casual observation kept him from deducting points from any nearby student, despite the lack of evidence.)
The fact that Remus was terribly solicitous for Snape's physical well-being made the bruised Professor think that the former Marauder had something to do with the goings-on, but Remus swore an oath that he didn't. He merely knew what bruises could result from such stumbles. "After all, Dora does trip almost as much as you do," Remus had pointed out, nearly getting cursed for his comment.
It was a small group who gathered on the Nineteenth, to celebrate Hermione's nineteenth birthday. Besides Luna, Professors Vector, McGonagall, Flitwick, Lupin, Hagrid, and Z were attending, as well as Tonks.
It was a beautiful Saturday, and the group was gathered near Hagrid's. Z had been roasting a wild goose and some wild ducks Hagrid had caught since the early morning, and the house elves were happy to provide the rest of the meal. Dobby had even sent Hermione a pair of mismatched hand knitted socks. The regular guests had been urged not to bring gifts, but there was a low table set up with a covering which Z did not allow anyone to go near.
The birds were done near noon, and that was when the party sat down for a picnic lunch. Z had done the menu, so there were ears of maize roasted in the coals, piles of cole slaw, various cheeses and breads, and deviled eggs, plus iced bottles of pink champagne. As the group ate and laughed, three ice cream makers (one just for Hagrid) magically churned away nearby.
When the group had finished feasting, Hermione said, "All right, Zee, what do you have planned next?"
"Well, you said no presents, and to be honest, I have no idea what I could get you which you might both need and enjoy. Probably nothing you couldn't get for yourself. Then I realized that what you enjoy more than any material thing is knowledge. So, I thought I would explain to all of you how Tom Riddle hexed the Defense position, and how I broke it."
"Yea!" Luna also clapped. "Will this be like the Muggle science demonstrations, where things fizz and go pop, like a Weasley Wheeze?"
"Oh, my, I hope not," McGonagall said.
"Well, nothing should fizz, or go pop," Z answered, which made Luna pout slightly. "I can do some nice explosions afterwards, if you feel that would add to the mood."
Luna smiled happily at that. The others managed not to roll their eyes.
"Now, I was very confused when I started off looking for how Riddle might have cursed something like a job. Obviously, in one sense, he didn't. He cursed anyone having the position. How, then, did he manage it?"
Z flipped over part of the table covering, and picked up Riddle's award. "This was heavily cursed, but as I stripped off the curses, I saw that all but two were irrelevant to any cursed position. They were protection spells, and there was also a rather nasty curse, which inflamed the basic emotion of envy of whomever physically rubbed the name."
Hermione winced slightly at that, knowing that Ron had polished the award more than once, and had taken to rubbing his middle finger across the name as a gesture of contempt every time he passed by after his Third year. She wondered if he had done it often enough for the award to have affected him.
"The other two curses were a dark centering spell, and a neutral hex connector. Any guesses as to how many elements it was linked to?"
"Six, I would imagine," Luna answered thoughtfully. "Riddle's thoughts were often obsessive and repetitive."
"Exactly. The goal then became tracking down the six locations the award was connected to. What three locations might the Defense instructor be expected to be found at most often, no matter where he or she might be sleeping?"
"Well, the Defense office and the classroom," Remus answered.
"And the staff dias," Flitwick added.
"Exactly, and they conveniently lie at two ends of the main castle building. That might give you a clue of where else Riddle might have associated himself with."
"Slytherin House and Myrtle's bathroom, where the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is," Hermione said promptly. "Those are also fairly distant from each other and the other three locations."
"Also correct. In addition, the location near Slytherin is well below ground, and the other was actually down the chute. And so?"
"The sixth location must be high," Remus mused. "But which tower?"
"I swear, you lot must have been the most straight-laced bunch of students ever," Tonks teased. "The astronomy tower is closest to the center."
"Exactly," Z agreed. "Now, what he did was a magical variation on a Roman and Celtic tradition, the lead curse." No one said anything for a moment.
"All right, fine, what's a lead curse?" Hermione asked.
"How about a votive curse?" Z prompted.
"Oh!" Remus said. Hermione gestured for him to go on. "To curse their enemies, they would inscribe the curse on something. . . ." He slapped his head. "Most of the surviving ones were inscribed on thin lead sheets, and then folded or rolled closed and tossed into some sacred body of water. There's all sorts at Bath, and near the source of the Seine."
"Exactly," Z said. "Riddle broke his curse down into six parts, and had six power centers because of the lead sheets. Now, here is where he got clever, and I wish I knew how he pulled off planting all these. I suspect he didn't, but got some of the sixth or seventh year children of his followers to do much of this. Anyway, each lead curse sheet was implanted into one of the stone blocks at the bottom of a load-bearing wall."
"Which would also be carrying Hogwarts' own magic!" Remus exclaimed. "He used Hogwarts' own magical fields to both power the curse, and project the effect over the entire castle!"
Z gave Remus a polite golf clap. "Precisely. I have had to very carefully extract and replace all six stones, which was very difficult, since I didn't want to harm the magic of the castle. If anything, by taking the Dark influence out, the wards should be even stronger now. The blocks are destroyed, and the award is merely again an award, if anyone wants it placed back."
"No," McGonagall said. "I already amended the records to show that it was revoked, as Riddle was responsible for the mess he was rewarded for clearing up." Hagrid beamed at that.
McGonagall glared at Z. "Tell me, did you by any chance test your hypotheses? Perhaps by implanting a minor hex of your own?"
"You mean one which might make a particular member of the staff trip every fifty-third time he went over any threshold in the castle?"
"Yes, one like that," she retorted.
"I can't imagine why you would think so. I don't think there is any evidence of such a problem in any event."
"Not since breakfast this morning, anyway," Z answered. "I have to confess to being surprised at exactly how many thresholds there are at Hogwarts."
"I'm curious," Hermione said. "Exactly how many fields are you an expert in? Are you a sorcerer as well?"
"I have senior masteries in Defense, Charms, and Ritual Magic, and yes, have the third rank, sorcerer, in Charms. I have regular masteries in all of the other areas offered, other than Astronomy, Astrology, and Divination, although I have to admit I barely made the ones in Alchemy, Languages, and History."
"But . . . but there are twenty-one recognized magical areas!"
McGonagall pointed out, "Miss Granger, I have achieved twenty-seven such masteries and three sorcerer awards, while Professor Flitwick has twenty-four masteries and six sorcerer awards. Professors Vector and Lupin here each have twelve of various levels and types. Professor Dumbledore had acquired all twenty-one of the basic masteries, eighteen senior masteries, and was recognized as a sorcerer in those eighteen fields as well. You are likely to have your two fields mastered by next August, and could easily achieve one in Charms, and perhaps your senior mastery in either Transfiguration or Arithmancy in less than another year. I have no doubt you could be a sorcerer in either field soon after."
"I did nothing but study and meditate for twelve or so out of those fifteen years I was away, with some mere traveling done in between," Z said, "and was studying with a bit less degree of concentration for three more. If you did nothing but study and meditate for say, six straight years, you would be a very dull person, but I have no doubt you could add fifteen masteries at various levels. And just as you have the brains to finesse magic to do your bidding as the late Headmaster could, I have the power to force it to do things, again as he could. Even though a Patronus is based on feeling, I am sure you examined the arithmatical forumla for the spell before you could convince yourself it would work. I merely believed it would work, and force it to work." With a flick of his finger, an enormous rhino appeared.
"What the hell is that!" Tonks screamed, since it was nearly standing on her.
Z dispersed the Patronus. "It's an extinct creature called a woolly rhinoceros. I seem to have an affinity for extinct creatures. Z disappeared, and was replaced by the huge (and extinct) cave bear. He popped back.
"Those pops were too quiet," Luna complained.
Z smiled and said, "Turn on your sight."
"Zed!" McGonagall shouted.
It was too late. A ball of bright light had already appeared in Z's hands, and he launched it into the sky. It went up several hundred feet, and then it flashed into a huge sheet of lightening. BOOM!!! came the thunder, less than a second later.
When they could all hear again, Luna asked, "May I have some fireworks for my birthday next month?"