Sir Nick's Deathday party has an unexpected ending, and Dumbledore talks with Harry
Saturday, October 30, 1992
October was wet and cold. Numerous students came down with minor aliments, and the sixth and seventh years were set to brewing Pepper-Up in Potions. Luna, in her quiet way, pointed out that Ginny was looking tired and pale.
The twins' solution was to play the fool for her (that failed to cheer her up). Percy's solution was to force her to accept several preventative doses of Pepper-Up, but it didn't seem to pep her up at all.
On the last Saturday of the month, Harry, forced to spend the early morning getting soaked in one of Wood's madder practices, had decided that since he was soaked through he might as well keep flying for fun. So, he had cast a warming spell he had learned that summer and flown for another ninety minutes.
He had come into the castle through a side entrance, but only noticed he was trailing puddles when he saw Mrs. Norris streaking away. Had he not had his summer training, he would have been in agreat deal of trouble, as Filch was likely between him and any escape routes.
As it was, a few flicks of his wand had mostly dried him (his underclothes were still damp and his socks were still very wet) and then he dried the puddles up.
"Where do ya think yer goin', lad?" Filch growled.
"I had hoped it had let up outside, Mister Filch," Harry said politely. "It hasn't."
"No, it hasn't."
Filch in general did not think much of the students (or most of the staff, for that matter), but the Potter boy was a bit different. His mother had always been nice to him and to the kneazle he had owned before Mrs. Norris. It had been a shame the boy had taken up with a Weasley the year before, but that seemed to have died down. Instead, he was with the Granger girl most of the time, and sometimes the Lovegood girl, both of whom were also kind to Mrs. Norris.
Filch approved when older students looked out for the younger ones, rather than getting them into trouble, like the Weasley twins often did. Potter also seemed friendly to the Druids who were in the castle on the weekend mornings, and the folks pretending to be Druids on the weekend afternoons. Both groups went out of their way to solicit his opinion, and to help him along with some of his duties. He knew it was mostly to become acquainted with the castle, but it was a polite way of doing so, and they were open about it.
Filch appreciated polite and honest. In his opinion, that was rare among the fully magical.
He knew that Potter wasn't being completely honest, but he also knew no student would admit to using magic in the corridors to him."Well, someone missed a spot over there by the corner. Clean it up. No! Don't bother getting a mop. If I tell you that you can use yer wand, yer allowed."
"May I then, sir?" Harry asked.
'Smart lad,' Filch thought. "Yes." He nodded with approval as Harry moved to the corner, and cleaned up not just the visible puddle but no doubt the rest of the water to the outer door. "Go on with ya, then, Potter. Nothing to do here."
"Yes, sir," Harry said, hurrying away. 'He's not as bad as Ithought,' Harry thought.
He had only gotten a few yards away when Nick floated up next to him. "Well handled, young Harry."
"Thanks, Nick." Harry frowned. "You don't seem your usual happy self."
The ghost sighed. "I had thought to join a confraternity, known as the Headless Hunt. You see, I had rather hoped one of your two sets of friends might help me become, well. . . ."
Nick shook his head, which made it wobble in a rather nauseating way. "Apparently not. And I so wanted to join tomorrow night."
"True, but it is also the five-hundredth anniversary of my execution." He looked at Harry. "Some of your visiting friends are coming. You, and any of your school friends, would be welcome."
"Really?" Harry was surprised.
"I am quite serious," Nick assured Harry. "I would enjoy having living friends present, and you and Miss Granger, and now Miss Lovegood, are marvelous students."
"I'll ask them," Harry said, a bit doubtfully.
"Good," Nick answered, cheering up a bit. "I'll see you and any of your friends tomorrow night."
That night, after dinner, Harry made the offer to his friends. Neither Neville nor Ron looked very interested, and Ginny had run off as soon as she could. Hermione and Luna, however, were interested.
"It should be very interesting," Luna said. "Few people are acceptable to the dead, and few of the living wish to associate with them."
"Yes, it should be fascinating," Hermione agreed. Harry shook his head. He wondered how Luna, who he had learned had lost her mother just over a year before they had met and who had been very lonely, would have acted if she had not latched onto Hermione as a sort of big sister/mentor. "Did you talk with the Druids about it?"
Harry saw there was no one within earshot. "No, but Brother Hotep-Kon said that the actual Druids weren't invited. They tend to try to persuade ghosts to cross over. He did say that at least one of the Brothers would be there, and probably a vampire or two."
Hermione and Luna both looked rather nervous at that. Other than being Harry's guardians, they did not really know who the Brothers were. Hermione did know that they and the Druids, whom she rather liked, had as much of a truce as an alliance. "I'm sure it's safe,"Luna said.
"We'll be safe there," Harry said. "Oh, and he said we should eat something light before going, as the food won't be fit for us, whatever that means, and that we should dress warmly."
"Speaking of that, didn't the Pepper-Up help Ginny?" Hermione asked Luna.
"I don't believe so," Luna said thoughtfully. "She is becoming very withdrawn, and I don't understand why. I don't think she's ill at all, but I know she's not sleeping well."
"We'll try to keep an eye on her."
Harry was surprised to see that the Brothers who were going to the Deathday were Tutmoses and Osiris himself. "I am Tutmoses," the High Priest said. "You may call me Brother Mo. This is Brother Oz."
Hermione and Luna followed Harry's lead and bowed deeply to the two, and followed them down into the deep dungeons. Very quickly, the white ever-burn candles were replaced by black ones, which gave a darkish eerie blue light. The air became chilly as well, and Harry, who had worn a heavy cloak he had been given in the Himalaya, wrapped it around his two friends, who huddled close.
Soon, they heard a screeching sound. "Is that some sort of . . .music?" Hermione asked.
"The dead exist on many levels," Osiris said. "They often do not fully engage in this realm, and so what they see, hear, feel, and even taste or smell, touch our senses oddly. The blue light is brighter to them than the candle light we normally see. What we hear are overtones of the music they hear. It will become clearer, though still odd to our ears, as we come closer."
"Ah," Luna said. "I had first thought we had to eat because there would be no food, and then I was just uncertain."
"Very good," Osiris said. "There will likely be rotting food, especially fish, meat, and eggs. Disgusting to us, but enough to tickle the noses of the dead."
Sir Nicholas greeted them, pleased that three of the students from his House were there. None of the other House ghosts had managed to coax students to celebrate their Deathdays in over 400 years. The ghosts also knew who the other two were. To have the being once worshiped as the god of death at your party was even better than being a member of the Headless Hunt. There was also a trio of vampires present. Nick felt his friends had come through for him.
More impressively to the living, there were literally hundreds of ghosts present. "Wow," Harry said, which was more than Hermione or Luna could say.
Osiris turned to Nick. "I see you are a ghost of some importance."
Nick turned a bit darker shade of silver, the ghostly version of ablush. "Well, many of us do not last five hundred years. . . ."
"Really?" Hermione asked.
"Some of us became ghosts because we felt we had unfinished business," Nick said. "Should they consider that business finished, they easily cross over to whatever lays beyond. Some feared death itself. Should they become reconciled to passing over, or become bored enough to commit a version of suicide, they also exit our world. Some merely become so bored they fade away. About a third are gone within two hundred years or so, and only about a quarter make to five hundred years. After that, only a few more disappear in any given century."
"So should we say 'congratulations'?" Luna asked.
"I am as I would wish to be, given all my options, and I am certainly where I would wish to be," Nick answered.
"In that case, if you wish to, I hope you know my descendants for many centuries to come," Luna said with a curtsey.
"Thank you, kind lady," he returned with a bow, almost dislodging his head.
Afterwards, as the trio of students, Tutmoses, and the vampires were talking to a group of ghosts, Osiris whispered into Nick's ear.
A while later, just as the trio was thinking about making polite excuses to leave, as they were cold, there sounded a long wail from a hunting horn. A dozen ghostly horses, ridden by a dozen ghostly headless riders, came into view, as most of the ghosts made as loud a round of applause as ghosts could make.
The largest rider, the one blowing the horn even though his head was detached, rode up to Nick. He hooked the horn on the saddle and placed his head between his hands, moving it around to view Nick. "Nicky!"
"Patrick," Nick said politely.
"Head still hanging on?" Patrick teased.
Nick lifted his head completely off his shoulders. "No, why?"Patrick, and three other riders, dropped their heads.
Nick replaced his head, which again was just barely attached and stooped over. "Allow me, Patrick. Oh, I do beg your pardon."
Nick, in bending over, had 'somehow' managed to kick the head across to floor, to where Peeves had been cowering from the horses.
Peeves giggled, picked up the head, and made a commendable hook shot, landing the head into a bowl of slimy punch.
That seemed to start a great deal of yelling. Osiris, Tutmoses, and the vampires herded the three children out of the dungeon.
"You did that, somehow," Tutmoses accused his leader.
"It was only an illusion," Osiris said with a smirk.
As they exited the dungeons, the three vampires stopped. "Do you hear something? Something moving?" the female vampire hissed softly.
"A voice?" Harry asked. He couldn't quite make out the words.
"That way?" a tall, thin vampire said softly.
The three vampires took off like a pack of hunting hounds, Tutmoses trailing them, while Osiris and Harry kept pace with the slower Hermione and Luna. In only a few seconds, however, they had caught up.
"Whatever it was, it changed direction, doubling back here when it heard us or caught our scent," the thin vampire said. "Then, it disappeared. We caught no sight or scent, other than chicken blood." He nodded towards the far wall.
THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED
ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.
"Is that a cat?" the third vampire asked.
"Mrs. Norris," Hermione said, feeling ill at the sight of the cat hanging stiffly by the tail from a wall bracket.
"The students come," the female vampire said.
"Hurry away," Osiris commanded.
The three vampires transformed into bats and flitted away just as the Slytherin and Ravenclaw students coming from the feast appeared in the corridor. "You three, say nothing. Understand?" Osiris said, before blending back into the shadows. Harry nodded, and Hermione and Luna took their lead from him.
Within seconds they were surrounded by babbling students. "Enemies of the Heir, beware? That means you, Mudbl. . . ."
Tutmoses prevented Harry from cursing Malfoy, while all the students took a step back when Osiris drove the shadows away from him, his magical aura becoming visible, his expression fierce.
"Silence!" Osiris commanded, and the students went quiet, as was Filch, who had just realized that something was wrong with Mrs. Norris, and Lockhart, who had been speculating pointlessly about what had happened.
"Ravenclaws and Slytherins, be off, except for you, Malfoy," Osiris commanded.
"Who are you to order. . . ." Snape started, stepping towards the front, as he had been skulking in the back. The look Osiris gave the Potions Master shut him up immediately.
"I said, BEGONE!" The students scattered. Osiris turned to Dumbledore, who had been one of the last to appear. "We were coming from Sir Nicholas' Deathday Party, going to see if the feast was over, when we came across this. Professor Lockhart, please make certain all the other students have left the area." Lockhart swallowed nervously, but did as he was told.
"The cat has been magically petrified, with a Dark Magic I must admit I do not recognize. The blood is chicken blood, reinforced by Dark magic -- it was cast by whoever killed the chicken. The significance of the puddles of water, if any, I do not know. Do you grow Mandrake here?"
"We do," Hermione said, not being able to help herself.
"It will need fresh Mandrake, which means waiting until the spring, but she should be fine. Professor McGonagall? You and Professor Snape would be best suited to handling the cat." He turned to the nearly hyperventilating Filch. "Your magnificent cat will not suffer, and will return."
McGonagall and Snape looked at Dumbledore, who nodded. They took the petrified feline and Filch off.
Osiris turned his attention to Malfoy, who promptly, and very visibly, wet himself. After a few moments of eye contact, Osiris commanded, "Begone."
Malfoy fled in terror.
"He still only knows that his father laid a plot against the school," Osiris said. "He will no doubt write a very biased and inaccurate description of tonight's events, but only knows that the Heir is the Heir of Slytherin, as the Chamber of Secrets was supposed to be his sanctuary. His threat against Miss Granger was merely his bigotry."
"I see," Dumbledore said. "Anything else?"
"We had a trio of vampires with us. They heard something in the walls, which fled as we approached. That led us here, where whatever it was disappeared."
"I see. Would you walk our friends to the entrance of their House?"
The five turned and moved in that direction. When they were well out of hear-shot of Dumbledore or any painting, Osiris said, "Say nothing beyond what I told the Headmaster. We will discuss this Saturday evening." The three children agreed, and they continued on to the entrance of Gryffindor in silence.
Tutmoses did not ask the questions he wanted to ask since the cat had first been found until they had disappeared back to their camp."What happened? Do you know?"
"Know? Not really."
"But you suspect?"
Osiris nodded. "The vampires heard sounds. Harry heard a voice. What does that tell you?"
"Assuming Harry didn't mishear, you mean? After all, the vampires have better hearing."
"I do not believe Harry misheard."
Tutmoses thought for a moment, and then frowned. "A snake?" Osiris nodded. "What kind of snake petrifies things?" Tutmoses demanded.
"I am not certain there is one. If there is not, what kind of magical serpent is there, whose eyes can kill as easily as its fangs?"
"A basilisk?" Tutmoses asked, confused. "You think the cat saw the serpent's reflection in the water, and that could petrify it?"
"I don't know," Osiris admitted again. "It might be possible. Ayoung basilisk petrifies, but after a week or so its view would kill a kneazle, let alone a cat. And a basilisk that young could not move that fast. Still, we must consider the possibility."
"What do we do?"
"Summon Brother Cobra."
"He has not left Antarctica for centuries," Tutmoses protested."After you and perhaps the First Acolyte, he may be the most powerful of us all. I cannot command him to do so."
"You do not. I, Ahk Shir-rusch, Giver of Death, Lord of Nile Waters, Master of the Desert, command it."
Tutmoses bowed. Nearly all the time, Osiris did not interfere with his followers, suggesting rather than commanding.
But not all the time.
The next morning, Dumbledore held Harry back after breakfast, taking him to a room behind the staff dias. "Yes, sir?" Harry asked.
"Harry . . . Mister Potter, I am concerned about your continued and even growing relationship with this 'Brotherhood'."
"In what way, Professor?" Harry asked politely, although his heart-rate was speeding up. He had long expected this conversation would happen.
"Whatever their good points, and I am certain there are many, you do realize they claim to practice one on the Darkest of magics, don't you?"
"They must all have what are known as Horcruxes. Those are. . . ."
"I know what they are, Headmaster," Harry broke in.
"You do? And do you know how they are made?"
"In detail? No, of course not."
"Then you may not know you must murder someone to make one."
Harry gave the Headmaster an odd glance, then said, "Would you say a legal execution was murder? Or killing in self-defense?"
"Is that what they tell you they do? To first answer your questions, certainly no to the second, when that is truly necessary. It rarely is, however. As to the first, I do have some qualms about it. But Harry, creating a Horcrux is the Darkest of magic because it requires murder, and preferably for the killer to enjoy committing the murder. That is why it is considered so Dark."
Harry gave the Headmaster that same look again. "So, you know that creating a Horcrux requires a murder, because it is considered Dark magic. And you know it is considered Dark magic, because it requires a murder?"
Harry rolled his eyes. "Hermione was right. Wizards have no logic." He glared at the now-confused Headmaster. "Leaving your circular argument behind, since you can't seem to see a problem with that, let me point this out, sir. You illegally placed me in an abusive household, forgot me there for almost ten years, and then forced me to go back into a situation where they tried to murder me. Last year, you tricked me and two twelve year olds into confronting a weakened version of the most powerful dark wizard of the last five or six hundred years and a fully-trained wizard. You allowed Professor Snape to insult me and unfairly punish me by taking points for no good reason. And you are asking me to believe your claims over a group which rescued me, cured the results of the abuse you allowed, protect me from Snape, and told me the secrets you've been keeping from me?"
"Well . . . yes."
"Why would I?"
Dumbledore sought an answer.
"That's what I thought. Now, I'm late for class. May I have apass?"