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Chapter 10: Finding
In the morning, when Harry came into the staff common room, Hermione called out greetings, but Malfoy hardly looked up from his books. Harry got a cup of tea from the sideboard and sat down next to her. "Don't let me interrupt."
"We've just been talking about the power source," Hermione said. "Draco thinks we should already have found -- well, you tell him, Draco."
"A power sigil," Malfoy said, his eyes flicking coolly over Harry. "Somewhere on the grounds, there has to be one symbol that gathers power and feeds it to the others."
"Why would they be stupid enough to put it here, where we could find it?" Harry said. "If I were doing this, I'd put it someplace no one would ever think to look. Cornwall. Hell, maybe Istanbul."
"That would be inefficient," Malfoy said. "Calligromancy follows the same rules as other magic -- can't travel over oceans, loses precision with distance, and so on. If it's on the grounds, it's in close proximity both to the spells it powers and to a lot of the people it taps."
"Well, then, what we need is a search charm," Hermione said.
"Just who do you think has that kind of power, 'Mione? A search charm has to examine every atom of the space," Malfoy said. "I couldn't power a search of this room, never mind of the whole of Hogwarts."
"Maybe you couldn't do it alone," Hermione said, "but I'll bet you and Harry could do it together."
"We'll start somewhere small," Malfoy said. "Potter, you'd better sit down. I'm not joking about how much this takes out of you."
Hermione put a parchment in front of them. "We're looking for something like this," she said. "Unless they're using non-English syntax or something, but the likelihood is ..."
"What do I do?" Harry interrupted.
"Study it. Know it. Trace it," Malfoy said, sweeping back his hair with one hand. "Then we'll set the boundary, and then we'll do an Exploratum to send out a pulse of magic. It will search every atom of the room, and come back to us if it doesn't find its target."
It took most of an hour before Harry could copy the symbol to Hermione and Malfoy's satisfaction, and after that he had to practice the finding spell in tiny enclosures -- a water glass, a desk drawer -- until he could do it well.
The first time he felt the magic come back at the end of the spell, he gasped. It was like a big, warm -- something -- bursting open in his chest.
"Wow," he panted. "What's it feel like when it finds the thing?"
"Try it," Hermione said. "Look for the water glass inside the drawer."
When he did, the glass looked somehow shinier, as though it were trying to get his attention. And instead of spreading and dissipating warmth, the returning magic felt like a thread gently tugging him toward the glass.
"Wow," he said again. "I wonder -- if we used the candles, could we see the thread?"
"It's like a thread for you?" Hermione said. "For me, it's like a chime."
"I get more of a ... shift in gravity," Malfoy said. "As though I were pulling something toward me."
"Always knew you thought you were the center of the universe," Harry said.
Hermione giggled. Malfoy raised his eyebrows, but didn't deign to answer. "I suppose you're ready now."
"All right." Harry gave the symbol one last long look. "Ready when you are."
It was a long incantation, and it took effort to recite it in unison, even though Malfoy carefully pronounced all the syllables instead of using his usual shorthand. Halfway through it, Hermione's eyes got big. "Wait --" she said. "Don't forget --" But they were already finishing the last word. "Oh, no," Hermione said, pressing her knuckles to her mouth as Harry felt the magic leave him.
"What?" he asked her. He felt as though he was moving in slow motion.
Her voice was urgent but soft, as though far away. "Harry, Draco, listen to me. The cancellation spell is Nolo exploro, all right? Because you forgot to close off the second --"
When Harry opened his eyes, he immediately recognized the hospital wing. His body ached as if he'd just hiked forty miles up a mountain, and then been rolled down it in an avalanche.
He turned his head and saw a pink-and-gold shape in the next bed. "We've got to stop meeting like this," said Malfoy's voice, thready with exhaustion. "People are starting to talk."
Harry ignored the insinuation. "Wha'ppened?"
Hermione hurried over. "Oh, good, you're awake. I'm so sorry -- it was all my fault -- I entirely forgot --"
"Oh, Harry. When we delimited the spell, we forgot the second door!"
"Frozen hells," Malfoy said. "Do you mean to tell me --"
Hermione nodded. "Your search spell didn't have an adequate boundary. You might have searched all the way to Manchester before you lost consciousness."
Harry felt for a thread, but didn't feel one. "Did we find the power source?"
She shook her head.
"Obviously," Malfoy said, "it's not going to be safe to use the architecture as a delimiting shortcut."
"We'll have to figure out another way, then."
With a dose of Animaserum, they were well enough to leave the infirmary. Penelope caught up with them in the corridor.
"I hear you're working on search charms," she said. "Is there any way to tailor one to examine the books in the library?"
Hermione nearly squealed. "What a wonderful idea! It will require some research, of course ... but if it can search by character rather than atom, it might not require such a lot of power ..."
He was asleep, surely -- because ghosts didn't come into private bedrooms unless you invited them, but there was Dumbledore across from him with a benign smile.
As Harry watched, he got more and more solid, until he looked just as he had when he was alive.
"Before you go, I've something for you, my boy." Dumbledore took from his chest pocket the little oblong tin in which he had always kept sweets. There was only one candy in it now, a small square that seemed to glow. "Take it, Harry," Dumbledore said, and Harry did.
It was sweet and bitter and complicated, like dark chocolate or strong tea. "What is it?" Harry asked.
Dumbledore beamed. "My life," he said, and disappeared.
Harry sat up, gasping, and got dressed with shaking hands. Six-fifteen, and the sun probably wasn't even up yet, but he couldn't stand another night like that one.
He knew Malfoy's rooms were on the fifth floor, but beyond that he was in the dark. "Excuse me," he whispered to a portrait of a dark-haired woman with a necklace of pearls the size of eggs. She raised a lorgnette to look at him severely. "I'm looking for Draco Malfoy."
"Surely it is obvious, sirrah," she sneered. "To find the dragon, one must find the dragon's den." And she ostentatiously turned her back on him.
Harry rubbed his eyes behind his glasses and continued down the hall. He turned a corner, feeling the portraits pointing and whispering.
Around the second corner he saw Malfoy leaning one shoulder on a door frame. He was wearing a greenish-gray dressing gown made of some heavy, shiny fabric. Harry tried not to imagine what it would feel like.
On Malfoy's open door was a painting of a Welsh Green, rearing back and spitting fire. "What is all the commotion, Potter?" he said. "Tiffany told me every portrait in the hall is talking about you."
Harry couldn't help laughing. "Your dragon's name is Tiffany?"
"Sh! You'll hurt her feelings." Malfoy waved Harry through the door.
Malfoy's sitting room was darker than Harry's, full of heavy furniture and varnished wood. His bookshelves were overflowing, and books were piled on the floor. "Hurdy just sent up my personal library," he said, "and I've no place to put it. Sit anywhere." He started to summon tea, gave Harry a sharp look, and called for coffee instead.
"Now," he said, arranging himself elegantly over a blue velvet armchair. "What brings you to my humble abode so early in the morning?"
Harry sloshed coffee on his fingers, then steadied the cup with his other hand, looking down at the coffee rather than at Malfoy. "Could you -- could you do another of those anti-enchantment spells on me? I think someone might have hit me with another nightmare mine. And my bones ache."
"Take your glasses off." Malfoy looked at him. He was close enough that Harry could see his face, but not close enough to make sense of his expression. "All right. Noloconturbo."
There was no change.
Malfoy took his glasses out of his hand and put them back on his face. His expression, as it came back into focus, was impatient. "I don't know what makes you think that everything that happens to you is so special."
"Look," Malfoy said, rubbing his eyes. "People who go from a hot climate to a cold damp one often get aches in their joints. And when that happens, they go to Sofia for some of Mother Mayfly's Icy Hot Infusion, and they take a hot bath."
Harry gritted his teeth at Malfoy's condescending tone. "And the nightmares?" he demanded.
Malfoy rubbed his forearm. "Potter," he said wearily, "all of us have nightmares."
A few moments after Harry shut his door, the owl door swung open. One of the school owls flew in, dropped a package into his hands, then swooped away before he could offer it a treat.
Wrapped in a gray-green silk handkerchief was a small bottle made of blue glass. "Bonomorphio" was written on the label. He recognized the handwriting as Snape's.
The hand on the note, though, was Malfoy's. "Keep it as long as you like; I've plenty," it said. "But if you don't mind, I'd like the bottle back when you're through."
It took Malfoy and Hermione two days to figure out an alternate method of setting boundaries. Hermione had reluctantly gone off to teach her advanced Charms class, leaving Harry and Malfoy to try the new method out on one of the empty classrooms.
"X axis," Malfoy said, pointing his wand at the wall and tracing the entire room. A beam of light emerged from the wand and left a glowing stripe along the wall.
"Y axis," he said, tracing a vertical rectangle across the ceiling, down the wall, across the floor, and up the opposite wall. A third rectangle soon joined the other two.
"Tesser'a'solvo," he said, and the glowing lines became glowing planes. "Notice how they cover the doors and windows. Now we can try the search charm again."
It wasn't a large room, so Harry expected the magic to come back quickly. But the minutes stretched out with no response. "Next time I'll bring something to do while we wait," he said.
Malfoy blinked slowly at him, and Harry's mind leaped to an entirely inappropriate idea of what they could do to pass the time. Malfoy's amused look suggested that he knew exactly what Harry was thinking, but he drew a deck of cards out of the breast pocket of his robe. "Fancy a game of Stealth?"
The trouble with Stealth was that if you took one of your opponent's discards, that card would begin trying to convince your cards to defect to the other side. After losing three games with his cards flying out of his hand in a flock, Harry began to think like a Slytherin, elaborately cleaning and polishing each card, praising them until the Maiden of Stones blushed and the Scholar of Bowls smirked over his feather quill.
Malfoy was better at cozying up to the Maidens and the Knights, and of course he was an expert at kissing up to the high royals. Harry had a knack with the lowly, from the servants and camp followers to the lesser royalty and the Younger Brothers. So they played four close games, winning two apiece, and then Harry managed a definitive victory by discarding the Tart of Sticks with particular instructions to seduce the Regent of Coins out of Malfoy's hand and into his own.
"Oh, well played," Malfoy said. "I always figured the Regents were queer."
"Dunno," said Harry. On the card, the Tart was perched on the Regent's knee, feeding him grapes. "They're not immune to flattery, anyway -- ah." A warm splash of magic had just burst in his belly.
Malfoy's face looked as though someone had just goosed him. Harry decided he really didn't want to know what it felt like to Malfoy when the sending came back.
He glanced at his wristwatch and goggled. "This little room took five hours?"
Malfoy nodded. "Wait till you see how much you eat at dinner. And how late you sleep tomorrow."
"Hermione's right," Harry said gloomily. "This really isn't a practical way to search the whole school."
McGonagall pronounced the search charm "a promising direction for research." But of course in the meantime the mines were still there, and the staff and older students continued to undo them and ward them as best they could.
Even with McGonagall taking most of his Transfiguration classes, Harry felt as though he was sleepwalking half the time. Mother Mayfly's and a hot bath really did help with the aching bones. Snape's Bonomorphio potion was less helpful against the nightmares; when he took it, he dreamed less, but his sleep was less restful, so he used it only as a last resort. It was soothing, though, to look at the bottle and know it was there if he needed it.
He didn't return Malfoy's handkerchief.
"That's it, then," Malfoy said. "Two mines removed, forty-eight mines warded, Sisyphus knows how many to go. At least we're getting quick enough to get more than one room out of a candle."
Harry watched him using his thumb and forefinger to sweep his hair back off his forehead, wondering when he'd got so familiar with all Malfoy's gestures. His robe today was made of some thin white material, with big, belled sleeves and an open collar like a pirate's shirt.
One of his sleeves was glowing.
Harry frowned. "What on earth --" He reached to catch Malfoy's arm, then froze, embarrassed at the awkwardness of the movement but not really prepared to touch him.
Malfoy followed his eyes, though, and he saw it too. He undid his sleeve button and pushed up the material. On his arm, the Dark Mark was nearly invisible under a maze of yellow neon.
"I'm mined," he said flatly.
Harry bent over his arm. "Can I see the scroll?"
"No need. I can read them." Malfoy began tapping his own arm with a finger. "Lung failure. Hands paralyzed. Fire at Ollivander's." He looked up at Harry under his eyelashes. "Heart failure, direct object Harry Potter."
Harry frowned. "Look," he said, touching a strand of light where it looped over on itself, surprised to feel the warmth of skin under his finger. "They've all got an If clause in them. If ... I can't read that."
He reached for Hermione's scroll, but Malfoy spoke. "If wearer mortally injured. If wearer cursed. If wearer killed ... If wearer casts spell on Mark." He raised his eyes to Harry's. "So that's why Higgs died when he removed the Mark."
Harry swallowed hard. "And Snape ..."
"He was wounded," Malfoy said. "In the Potions classroom. In the last volley of the duel when he killed my father." There was no expression in his voice.
"In the Potions classroom. Ginseng and orange oil and candles all over the place, salt and cornmeal in tins on the counter. He could have stumbled across something that allowed him to see the spells." Harry felt a sudden desire to kick something. "He died trying to disarm them." He stared at the Mark on Malfoy's arm, roped with spells that seemed to writhe like poisonous snakes.
"Had an eyeful, Potter?" Malfoy spelled out the candle sharply. In the sudden darkness his voice sounded much louder. "My choice of the good cost me, you see, and it continues to cost me."
Harry remembered the sound of his mother screaming. Raised his hand halfway to his forehead, then let it fall again.
"I paid for mine after," he said, and stalked out, hearing the glass rattle behind him as the door swung shut.
The most infuriating thing was the element of truth.
He was willing to grant that making it to the right side must have been an uphill battle for Malfoy, but it hadn't been without difficulty for Harry, either. He'd paid for it in ways Malfoy had no idea of.
In fact, he'd paid for it in ways he himself didn't remember clearly. He didn't realize he'd made a decision until he was stepping into the fireplace.
The Ministry's public floo interchange was a fireplace big as a ballroom and rumored to be pre-Roman. There was a reception desk right in the flames, manned by an important-looking witch in immaculate black robes.
She looked at Harry dubiously when he asked for Neville. "No appointment? Well -- I can ask if he has a few moments ..." Her expression suggested that someone like Harry was hardly worthy of a few moments even to have Mr. Longbottom breathe on him.
She flipped through a card file, picked up a card, and spoke into it. "Chloe? There's a Mr. Potter here to see Mr. Longbottom." Harry heard a female voice answering indistinctly, and a moment later Neville appeared in the flames and swept him into a hug.
"Harry!" He looked the same as always -- round serious face, inkstains on his cuffs, one shoe untied. "Come on, I've opened my private floo. Thank you, Miss Singh, and don't put anybody else through until this meeting's over, please. If that delegation from China arrive early, Chloe can take care of them."
They stepped out of the flames into a large office. Neville bypassed a desk and a conference table and led Harry instead to a small couch. Almost immediately, the head of a fierce-looking, black-browed wizard appeared in the fireplace.
"Longbottom!" he barked, making Harry jump. "I need to speak with the currency standardization people, and none of them have their floos open."
"That's because they're not due back from Amsterdam till Wednesday morning, Ivan," Neville said. "Get their coordinates from Lotus -- she's keeping track of that project."
A steaming teacup was precariously balanced on the arm of the couch. Harry grabbed for it, but Neville caught it first and placed it on the coffee table. He tapped the teapot with his wand, and there was a faint scent as it refilled with fresh tea.
An elderly witch poked her head out of the fireplace. "Neville?" she said. "What's the name of that ambassador in Senegal?"
"Nozipo," he said, "but she's in Nigeria this week for the Pan-African Conference. Talk to Llyr -- he knows everybody on the whole west coast. Er, sorry, Harry. Better close the floo." He spelled out the fire.
"Wow," Harry said. "You seem so --"
"Competent?" Neville said, looking amused. "Yes, well, mortal terror takes a surprising amount of energy. Once you get rid of that, you find you have more resources to deal with other things."
His voice was different somehow -- not just deeper but quicker and more decisive. It reminded Harry of ...
"Severus is the one that taught me that," he said, "while we were working on the heartsease project." He grinned and put on a dark, impatient tone that was even more like Snape: "For Salazar's sake, Longbottom, we'll never get anywhere if you don't trust me. If I were in the habit of poisoning people who annoyed me, do you truly think you'd be alive today?"
Harry smiled. "I don't know how you could bear it, working with him," he said. "They've got his statue outside the staff common room. It always looks at me as though I've got a smudge on my forehead."
"He wasn't so bad, when you got used to him. Tea? Infervesco," Neville said to the teapot, and then poured for Harry and refreshed his own cup. "He understood what it was like to have a boyhood that was one long string of opportunities to humiliate yourself. But he said people like us could get by if we learned not to need anyone's respect but our own."
Harry stared at him, wondering whether perhaps they were talking about two different people called Severus Snape.
Neville sugared his tea thoughtfully. "But you're not here to reminisce, are you."
"In a way I suppose I am," Harry said. "I want." He swallowed. "I want to know what happened."
"Ah." Neville fussed with the milk pitcher until Harry was ready to be looked at again. "How much do you remember about that last battle?"
"Voldemort on one knee," Harry said. "Hermione talking in my ear with the Transauditum charm. Ron behind me, Sirius and Dumbledore beside me -- they were all but holding me up at that point, and Dumbledore's hand was steadying my wand arm. And then it went all cold --"
"The Dementors had got through the centaurs," Neville said. "You sent out a Patronus without even looking around, and then --"
"Fratrium," Harry said.
"We could see that your wand and Voldemort's were locked together, but you wouldn't let go of yours," Neville said. "Finally Sirius lifted up your left arm and put another wand in your left hand --"
Harry didn't remember this. "But Sirius didn't have a wand. The Ministry didn't give him back his wand until after."
Neville's lips tightened, but he didn't speak. After a moment Harry went on.
"I remember that casting Exadigo on Voldemort was almost an afterthought," he said. "He went down, and my scar felt like death for a second and then it went numb." He rubbed it. "And then Albus asked for my wand, and he used it to burn the body ..."
Neville had gone white. "Harry, Dumbledore was dead."
"He died the same moment Voldemort did. They said afterward that it was magic fatigue -- that the power it took to hold off everything else while you focused on that one threat ... " He trailed off, looking at Harry's stiff face. "I remember that when Dennis turned his body over, he was smiling."
Harry closed his eyes, then opened them again. "I tried to get him to stay somewhere safe," he said. "He'd already sacrificed so much ..."
"And Fawkes," Neville said after a moment. "You don't remember Fawkes?"
Harry shook his head numbly.
"Fawkes came," Neville said, "and he took your wand out of your right hand. You'd almost fallen when Dumbledore fell, and Ron and Sirius were holding you up, and you were talking but not to us ..."
"To Albus," Harry said. "Because he was saying it was safe for me to leave because Voldemort was really dead, and I kept asking how he knew."
Neville fished a lavender handkerchief out of his waistcoat pocket and dabbed his eyes with it.
"Fawkes laid your wand over Voldemort's in an X, and then he sat on them both and he burst into flames. And the fire caught Voldemort's body, and then Dumbledore's -- Sirius and Ron had to pull you out. You didn't seem to notice you were in the middle of the flames.
"And then the Dementors moved in, but you just stood there looking at the fire and talking to no one. You wouldn't fight, and nobody could get you to move, and finally I had to leave you to get everybody organized. We fought all night long, and when Sirius killed the last Dementor at dawn we came and found you looking at a pile of ash -- no Voldemort, no Dumbledore, no Fawkes, no wands."
Neville stopped to blow his nose on the handkerchief. "I went to take you away, to get you to St. Mungo's. And you were still talking to no one. You said, 'G'bye, I'll see you soon,' and then you put your head on one side like you were listening, and then you said, 'All right, maybe not soon, but sometime,' and then you said, 'I love you too,' and then you came away with us.
"It took us four more months to put down the rest of the Dementors, and by then nobody knew where you were till Hermione got that goose from Florida."
"Where did Fawkes go?" Harry said. "When he hatched out again, I mean. Where is he now?"
"Oh, Harry." Neville looked as though he wanted to pat him. "You didn't know? Phoenix fire kills the way phoenix tears heal. A phoenix's final fire can bring death beyond the possibility of rebirth. They used to use it to destroy vampires." He looked down at his hands. "Fawkes knew he could never come back."
Harry's hands and feet were numb and icy, and it took a little fumbling to get his wand out of his sleeve. He frowned at it. "It's almost black."
"My old one was light brown. And it's stiff, too. Mine was more -- springy."
"Harry," Neville said. "Do you mean you never noticed it wasn't the same wand?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't even know whose this was or where it came from."
"You should take it to Ollivander's."
Harry nodded absently, still flexing the wand.
"A lot of people," Neville said after a while, "reckoned you'd have to die to defeat Voldemort."
"I always wondered why I didn't," Harry said. He pictured himself in the last battle: Albus holding his right arm, Sirius holding his left, Ron propping him upright, Hermione's voice in his ear. Neville and Colin and Dennis and Remus and the rest battling back Dementors all around him. Hagrid killing Nagini with tears of pity rolling down his hairy cheeks.
Bill dying at the head of an army of goblins, Sirius dying with his cane in his hand, Lark Brown dying as she stepped off the boat, Dumbledore dying with a smile on his face ...
"Maybe if I'd done what I was supposed to do, I would have," he said.
He was so drained after that it seemed days since Malfoy had made his accusation. And the infirmary had to be unmined, anyway, even if he had had the energy to hold a grudge.
When he arrived with the flask of oil, Malfoy was already there, holding the candle behind his back. In the faint Lumos he'd conjured, his hair looked almost white.
"Did you tell Hermione yet? About the Mark being mined?"
Malfoy nodded without turning round. "We were able to puzzle out all the symbols and make a good copy of it for the records," he said. "Her name is on it, too. Brain tumor. I'm sure the Death Eaters all found that a very good joke."
He turned round at last and shook back his hair. "Potter. I'd like to ... apologize. For my outburst."
Harry felt his lips twitch. "Your outburst?" Malfoy was looking disgruntled, but Harry felt a bubble of hysteria swelling his chest. "Malfoy, our entire history is one outburst after another, right back to when we were eleven years old. You want to apologize for all of them?"
"Certainly not," Malfoy said tartly. "Most of my outbursts have been quite accurate. I stand by them." Harry wasn't certain, but he thought Malfoy might be suppressing a smile.
"Right, then," he said. "One apology for one carefully chosen outburst. Check." He extended his hand. "It's forgotten."
Malfoy's hand was cool in his. He held it for a moment as though he'd forgotten how to let go, until Malfoy gave him an odd look.
"I went to see Neville today," Harry said, as though that would explain anything. But in fact it seemed to, because Malfoy said, "I see," and took the flask out of his hand.
There had probably been a great many mines here to begin with, but the room had been heavily used, so most of them must have been triggered already. A few remained, though, and they took down what they could and warded the rest, working around the beds of the children immobilized by Consopium comas, around the shelves of supplies, around the nearly empty cabinet where the potion ingredients would have been stored if they'd had any to store.
Afterwards, while Malfoy rolled up his notes and threw away the candle end, Harry amused himself by levitating a stuffed rabbit from the supply of toys that Sofia kept to comfort the younger children.
"You know, you were half right," he said.
"A handsome concession." Malfoy levitated a bear in a top hat.
Harry sent the rabbit over to sweep the bear up in a waltz. "I didn't choose the light at all; it chose me," he said. "But that cost me plenty. My childhood, for one."
Malfoy watched the dancing toys with no expression. "Good idea having it now, then."
On to Chapter 11
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April 25, 2003 http://trickster.org/res/transfig10.html