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Chapter 11: The League of Protection
Harry dreamed he was back in his room at the Coven, sitting on his bed reading one of Kat's issues of "Enchantment! for the Young Witch," when a letter was slipped under the door. He could see Hermione's writing on the envelope:
Coven of the Americas
Harry picked up the letter and threw it in the wastebasket.
Two more slid under the door: Neville's scrawl, Dean's backslant.
Before he could throw these away, five more followed, then three more, each wave pushing the others further into the room, until he couldn't move without stepping on piles of them.
The wastebasket was full, so he began carrying them into the bath, and when that wastebasket was full as well, he tried flushing them down the toilet. Then they began slithering out of the tap, pelting down from the shower, sliding across the floor, rucking the bathmat up against the tub.
Ginny's bold confident hand, Seamus' schoolboy printing, Remus' small dark letters, Sirius' exuberant and much-blotted script.
They were piling up -- they were over his head -- he was suffocating in them --
"Harry's right, Draco," Hermione said. "We can't just leave it there. It's endangering you and everyone around you. We've got to at least try to remove it."
"Right at the moment it's no danger to anyone unless you meddle with it," Malfoy said irritably. "Don't they ever teach Gryffindors not to poke at a sleeping viper?"
Hermione ignored him. "Harry's spoken to the headmaster in America, and he says he has a -- what was it, Harry?"
"A curse-lifting spell with blood protection." At Malfoy's blank look, he clarified: "It uses a bit of your blood in the potion, so it can't do anything that would make any fundamental change to your body. It will either lift the curse safely or do nothing at all."
"Wonderful," Malfoy said. "Blood magic for do-gooders."
Harry unrolled the piece of red flannel. "Dr. Bokor said he's always had luck with this one."
It was an ordinary black-handled paring knife, much used. A tiny bit of the tip was broken off, and many years of sharpening had left the blade slightly concave. The metal was oxidized a deep charcoal gray, but a sheen along the cutting edge suggested it had been sharpened recently.
"On his earlobe," Hermione said. "There are fewer nerve endings there."
"That's where we do it when they're unconscious," Harry said. "But there's power in the pain, too, if it's freely given." She bit her lip and nodded.
Harry turned to Malfoy and took his right hand, now bare of the usual heavy silver rings. His fingers were long and pale. His face, when Harry looked up, was paler still.
"Do you consent?"
"Yes, yes," Malfoy said impatiently. "Let's get it over without any amateur theatrics, shall we?"
"Draco!" Hermione said. "Blood magic! It's not something to be taken lightly."
Harry put his hand up and touched Malfoy's cheek until Malfoy met his eyes. Slowly and distinctly, he said again: "Do you consent?"
Malfoy held his gaze for a long time before saying, "Yes."
Harry wiped his hands on his robe, and then he picked up the knife.
The blade was so sharp that it took a moment between the time Harry slid the knife over the tip of Malfoy's ring finger and the time Malfoy hissed. Harry squeezed a few drops of the blood into the cauldron. A cloud of spicy-smelling steam immediately billowed out of it, fogging his glasses, and there was a palpable shiver of magic in the air.
"We need you naked," Harry said.
"Shield your innocent eyes, 'Mione." Malfoy laid his robe over the bed of herbs and lay down on top of it, wincing as the woody stems crackled. His familiar body looked weak and vulnerable in the light of the candles. Harry watched gooseflesh rise on his thighs.
Harry untied Sunday's braided thong from his ankle, and, feeling self-conscious, kissed it. "Draco adigo." He tied it around Malfoy's left ankle. Malfoy twitched as the trailing ends brushed the sole of his foot. The thick feeling in the air increased.
The steam from the cauldron was making Harry lightheaded, and the Mark seemed to laugh mockingly. Harry gave Hermione the brush of rosemary and took the one of basil himself. "From the heart outward to the extremities," he told her, and they began to sweep the herbs over Malfoy's skin, which was beginning to gleam with sweat.
"Sublevo," Harry murmured. The tension wound tighter. He could feel the hair on his arms starting to stand up. "Solveo. Reticulo abscideo. Ovo effringeo --"
There was a sudden bright light and a sharp choking smell. Malfoy cried out once, and all the candles fell dark.
"Harry, what --" Hermione said over the roaring in his ears, and then, "Lumos!" in a clear voice. The room brightened.
Malfoy lay panting on the bed of leaves, eyes open, looking rather frightened. The leather thong, charred and blackened, had fallen from his ankle.
The Mark was still there.
"I said no, and I meant no," Malfoy said. "You tried it once. It did no good. I've put wards on it. Now leave it alone and let's get on with something that's actually useful."
Harry looked at Hermione for help, but she shook her head. "Until we have some new method that shows some promise of working, I think we'd better leave the Mark alone."
"Hi, you three," Penelope said, backing into the library with a tremendous box of books. "Any luck on the search charms? I keep thinking of how they'd make my work easier."
The door opened again and Oliver and Ron came in behind her, both carrying more boxes of books. "I see what you mean," Harry said.
"Nobody has enough power to search a space large enough to be useful," Hermione told her. "Harry and Draco tried one in unison, but it took them half a day to search one classroom."
"Hm." Penelope tilted her head to one side the way she always did when she was thinking. "Could Hermione and I do it with you two? Maybe it would be easier with four."
"How delightfully perverted," Malfoy said. Hermione smacked him on the back of the head. "The difficulty is with the incantation. It's difficult enough for two people to say it in unison. With more than two, it's almost impossible." Harry and Malfoy had sometimes needed two or three tries to get it right.
"Hm," she said again. "Well, suppose you put a search charm into a calligromancy sigil? Then you could specify as many people as you wanted to be the power supply."
"What, put all the names in?"
"No, I see it," Harry said, excited. "Give them a -- a collective name. Like your Order of the Serpent, or whatever. A ceremony just for the purpose of binding them to the charm."
They all stared at him. Then Ron grinned and said, "Why not?"
Harry pushed his hair out of his eyes. "Um, OK -- I'm not -- exactly what do I have to do to make it magic?"
"The critical elements are for us to give consent, and for you to attach the name to us," Malfoy said.
"OK, well -- do you? Give consent?"
"Oh, stones and bones, Potter, let me do it. You've no sense of ceremony."
"Fine." He yielded his place at the head of the library table. "Go ahead. I'm sure it's worth doing exquisitely."
Malfoy snickered, but once he was standing at the table he became serious. " 'Mione, do you want to go first?"
Hermione stood up. Malfoy waved his hand, and all the lamps went out, leaving only candles. "Hang on a moment," he said, and murmured a summoning charm. A moment later, a wineglass appeared, full of a liquid that looked black in the low light.
"What is it?"
Malfoy looked at him. "Port," he said. "From Spain. You've heard of Spain, Potter?" Harry rolled his eyes, and Malfoy turned back to Hermione. "Tell me your full name."
"Hermione Frances Granger."
"Hermione Frances Granger, do you consent to provide magic for the purpose of powering a search charm?"
Malfoy laid his wand on her forehead. "I declare you a member of the League of Protection." He lifted the wand and picked up the wine glass. "Drink."
That seemed to be it for the ceremony. "League of Protection?" Harry said.
"You have no idea what makes a good name, Potter, so leave that to experts. Weasley?"
Ron stood up. "State your name," Malfoy said.
"Ronald Aethelwulf Weasley." He saw Harry's grin and shrugged. "They'd used up all the normal kings' names by the time I came along." Ron straightened up out of his habitual slouch for the ceremony, so that Malfoy had to tip his head back to look him in the eye. Harry sometimes forgot how tall he had gotten.
Penelope's middle name was Elaine, and Oliver's was Wallace. "Seems to me," Ron murmured as Oliver was inducted, "that we've got an awful lot of royalty in this crowd."
"Potter? You're next. Stand here and state your name."
"Your full name."
"As far as I know, that's all the name I've got." He swallowed. "Sirius would have known."
"Never mind," Malfoy said. "Harry Potter, do you consent to provide magic for the purpose of powering a search charm?"
Something about the sense of ceremony made Harry reply "I do."
Malfoy's wand made light, ticklish contact right between his eyebrows. "I declare you a member of the League of Protection."
The port was sweet and spicy like wine, but it made his mouth hot like whiskey. Malfoy was watching him closely.
"All right," he said. "You induct me, then."
Harry shook his wand out of his sleeve. "Your name?"
"Draco Falco Leonis Malfoy de Douce-Douleur."
"Christ," Harry said. "All right. Draco Falco Leonis Malfoy de Douce-Douleur, do you consent to provide magic for the purpose of powering a search charm?"
"Yes." This close, Harry could see minute changes in the size of Malfoy's pupils, tiny dilations and contractions in the flickering candlelight. His eyelashes were very pale.
Malfoy blinked when Harry's wand touched his forehead. "I declare you a member of the League of Protection." To Harry's surprise, he felt a little power go out of him. It was a spell, though a very strange one. He handed Malfoy the wine glass. Malfoy's eyes fell half-shut as he drank, then opened again as he set the glass on the table.
"This meeting of the League of Protection is closed," he said. "Anyone want more port, or shall I finish it?"
"All right. Shall we give it a try here?" Malfoy drew lines to delimit the spell, then drew the calligromancy symbol in the air.
Hermione muttered under her breath as she watched him: "Activate search charm ... delimit to marked boundary ... power by League of Protection ... and now he'll define the target and draw the power source character we're looking for ..."
"Everyone sitting down?" Harry dropped hastily to one of the chairs. "Chartulaviv'," Malfoy said, and the symbols flared briefly and vanished.
Harry looked at Hermione. "What will -- oh!" because already the magic was pouring back in.
Malfoy was smiling. Harry didn't think he had ever seen such satisfaction on his face. "I'm not even out of breath," he said.
"Draco --" Hermione said, beaming. "If six of us can search the library in less than a minute --"
"Then if we had a hundred," Malfoy said, "we could do the whole grounds at once."
"Get Minerva," Penelope said. "Easter holidays are coming. We can get all the older students and call back the alumni."
To Harry's surprise, every single student who was of age stayed behind for holidays, and a large number of alumni returned, too. Ministry rules kept Neville away, but Fred, George, and Ginny came back, as did Angelina Johnson. And --
"Potter," Malfoy said. "You remember Pansy Parkinson."
"Parkinson-Tibbs, if you please." She shifted the baby to her left shoulder, wiped her right hand on her shirt, and held it out. Harry shook it.
"And Flint ... Pucey ... Nice job keeping your jaw from dropping, Potter ... Mil Bulstrode ..."
"No Zabini?" Flint said, looking around.
"Dead," Malfoy said with no change in expression, and Flint pulled him into a rough hug, and Harry's jaw did drop.
"Excuse me, Professor." Harry looked down as Tally Jones brushed past him, staring at Flint, eyes wide. "Mr. Flint -- could I -- would you autograph my jersey?"
The Great Hall was full to bursting with students and alumni, and then the great doors opened and it was fuller still, dominated by a figure who was a crowd unto himself. "Hagrid!" Harry shouted, and flung himself at him, and if Hagrid's hug wasn't quite as bone-crushing as it should have been, it was still enough to lift Harry's feet off the ground.
"There now, I tol' yeh no' ter worry yerself, Harry. Th' healers broke the curse, an' now it's jus' a question o' feedin' me up, like. Gettin' my stren'th back. Be good as gold come summertime, you wait an' see." He spotted a tankard of pumpkin juice and drained it in two gulps. "Can't stay -- got a lot o' work t'do back in Greater Wrenching -- but I asked th'Headmistress if I could be of help even though I'm not much of a wizard, an' she said, 'Hagrid, if somethin' goes wrong, someone'll have ter carry 'em all up to th' hospital wing.' "
"I hope it won't come to that, but it was well done to think of it," Hermione said.
"Sh," Ron said. "It's starting." The three of them hurried up to the dais to join Malfoy, Oliver, and Penelope, and six lines formed.
Harry expected the Weasleys to want Ron to induct them, but all of them seemed to have got in his own line. "State your name," he said to Charlie.
"Charles Edmund Weasley."
"Charles Edmund Weasley, do you consent to provide magic for the purpose of powering a search charm?"
"Yes," Charlie said.
Most of the Quidditch enthusiasts were in Oliver's line, and Penelope was of course getting Ravenclaws past and present.
"Frederick James Weasley, do you consent ..."
The waiting crowd talked, but quietly, as at a Sorting. Harry saw Dennis Creevey with a black lens over one eye and a black glove on one hand. Above him, a camera swiveled to match his view.
"Justin Michael Finch-Fletchley, do you consent ..."
Harry glanced at Malfoy, who was inducting Pansy. There was no trace of mockery in him now. His hand rested on her shoulder a moment, and she smiled.
"George Henry Weasley, do you consent ..."
It was surprising how many of the students wanted to be in Ron's line, even the timid ones who wouldn't look Harry in the eye. Even, Harry noticed, quite a few of the younger Slytherins.
"Virginia Anne -- er, say it all again?"
"Virginia Elizabeth Anne Mary Weasley," Ginny said. "Mum wanted Beatrice and Victoria, too, but Dad won that round in a chess game."
Behind Ginny was Percy. "Richard Percival," he said cheerfully. "Shall I start another line? There are an awful lot still waiting."
Harry didn't know if that was allowed or not, but Malfoy stepped aside to make room. "Can you get the whole teeming Weasley horde up here?" he said. "We need all the help we can get."
After that, things moved much more quickly, until Harry finished inducting Mignonette Dozier and found that there was only one person left in his line.
"Minerva Margaret McGonagall," she said.
Harry touched his wand gently to her forehead. "Minerva Margaret McGonagall," he said, "do you consent to provide magic for the purpose of powering a search charm?"
"I do," she said, and burst into tears.
The moment Harry lowered his wand, the tables were suddenly filled with food.
"Now?" he said. "I wanted to get on with it."
"Poor deluded child," Malfoy said, patting him on the head. "Don't you know nothing happens at Hogwarts without a feast?"
Giving in to the inevitable, Harry sat down next to Malfoy and helped himself to mashed potatoes. After a moment, Justin Finch-Fletchley dropped into the seat beside him. "Harry! So good to see you back home."
"Thanks," Harry said. "Sorry about not owling you."
"I understand completely," Justin answered. "But you really must tell me all about the final battle. The book will be useless without Harry Potter's account, don't you know. You'll have to tell me everything that happened."
Harry swallowed and glanced at Malfoy, who was eavesdropping shamelessly. "Justin," he said, "I don't remember."
"Did you get obliviated, then?"
Harry shook his head. "I just -- it will sound weak, but I think I blocked it out. I could tell you the story, but Neville's already told me that a good bit of what I saw never really happened, so I can't trust my memory at all. It was so -- you can't imagine --"
Justin's smile was sad. "Oh, I can," he said. "Hell of a thing for an historian, though, Harry. Half the eyewitnesses have the same problem."
When everyone had finally eaten their fill, McGonagall stood up.
"I'd like you all to keep your seats as the charm is cast," she said. "Even with the contributions of so very many people, we are still anticipating the need for a large outflow of magical energy. If you find yourself in need of medical attention, send up red sparks, and one of our volunteers will withdraw your consent and separate you from the charm." The volunteers were mostly students too young to join the League. Harry smiled encouragingly at Billsborough, Dunning, and Lamb, who were looking as if they could hardly contain their own importance.
A hush fell over the hall. The ghosts hovered expectantly. At last, Malfoy raised his wand and traced the complex sign that pulled all their magic together to power the search charm of the entire castle and grounds, following boundaries he and Hermione had laid out on foot earlier in the day.
The symbol glowed in the air for a moment, and then Malfoy said, "Chartulaviv'!" in a sharp, attention-getting voice, and there was a murmur of breath as the magic went out.
What if they couldn't find the symbol at all? The Death Eaters might have used another language, or set it up in the archaic alphabet used before calligromancy was systematized by Dr. Cawdrey's Great Dictionary of 1604. Or ...
Harry sat suddenly upright as a thread of magic attached itself to him. The hall fell silent, and then suddenly roared with voices, and everyone followed the spell out into the corridor. Right, left, left, past the portrait of Usher the Untidy, and the crowd stopped in the hall.
"It's in Dumbledore's office," Harry said.
The crowd fell back, and Hermione, Malfoy, and Harry entered the office alone.
Malfoy lit a candle and Hermione murmured the spell -- and they could see it, glowing in the center of Dumbledore's desk. As soon as he looked at it, Harry felt the thread of magic dissipate.
They quickly threw a ward around it, and then Hermione began drawing it so they could study how to undo it.
"I don't understand this," Harry said. "They could have put it in a place where we'd never find it -- at the bottom of the lake, in the Forbidden Forest, in the middle of a four-foot-thick stone wall. Why have it right out in the open?"
"You're not much of a symbolic thinker, are you, Potter?" Malfoy said. "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing exquisitely." The glowing spell cast a cold light on his face. "It isn't every son," he said, "who gets to destroy his father's greatest achievement."
Hermione and Malfoy set up an inactive three-dimensional copy of the mine in the staff common room, as Dumbledore's office was already so full of warded mines that there wasn't much room there to work. In less than an hour, Malfoy was able to re-create it, drawing magic from Harry or Hermione or himself to power anything that could be expressed in calligromancy -- raising and lowering the curtains, transfiguring dice into mice, making two quills into a pair of legs that strutted across the table.
But while Malfoy could dismantle the mines he created, none of them could do anything to the copy of the one in Dumbledore's office, though Malfoy tried with increasing fierceness.
At last, when he began making the quills stride about and kick things, something occurred to Harry. "Malfoy," he said, "most of the New World wizardry is based on sympathetic magic. You know, if you have a heart problem, you look for a plant with heart-shaped leaves ..."
"How fascinating," Malfoy said, and Harry could tell how frustrated he was by how devoid of expression his voice was. "And is this somehow relevant, or are you merely indulging in reminiscences to while away the dreary hours?"
"Shut up," Harry said without heat. "What I mean is, suppose that a really difficult spell that's cast by calligromancy can only be undone by calligromancy?"
"Hm." Hermione frowned. "But calligromancy can only operate on a thing with a name."
"But this is a character," Harry said. He pulled over a spare parchment and wrote, The letter A. "The name is the thing itself."
Hermione sketched a symbol in the air with her wand. "That's 'erase,' " she said.
Malfoy squinted at the sign, then redrew it and added the energy symbol.
Nothing happened. He blew out a breath of air, lifting his hair off his forehead.
Then he straightened up suddenly. "The thing itself," he murmured. Leaning over the copy of the symbol, he sketched the "erase" sign in the air next to it. Then, holding his breath, he drew a direct object loop out from the verb, found a loose end on the symbol, and connected them.
"Chartulaviv'," he said.
The whole construction disappeared.
"When Draco puts out the real thing, Harry, you have to be prepared, because it may spring other traps," Hermione said.
"Wish I knew what to brace for," Harry said. "Malfoy -- have you recognized your father's handwriting in any of the other mines we've seen?"
Malfoy frowned. "Now that you mention it, I have," he said. "He favors the psychological -- paranoia, nightmares, hallucinations. None of this fire and noise."
"Great," Harry said. "So I can expect to come out of that room thinking I'm Dumbledore."
Malfoy smirked at him. "You'd look rather fetching in heels."
"I guess." Harry wiped his hands on his robe and got his wand ready.
Slowly, Malfoy drew the erase sign, then the direct object loop. Down to connect with the loose end of the knot.
"Wait," Harry said. "You're standing exactly where he'd expect you to stand, and if this triggers more mines --"
Malfoy nodded, considered the room, and then clambered up to squat on the desk. "All right?" he said.
"Good plan," Harry said.
"Glad you approve." Malfoy raised his wand. "Chartulaviv' -- er --" His wand hand wavered. "Blast."
"There's one of those wand-deflecting charms on it." Malfoy's left hand wrapped around Harry's right wrist, and he brought Harry's hand up to cover his own. "Can you --" But even the two of them together couldn't make Malfoy's wand point at the symbol.
"No problem," Harry said. He groped on the desk and came up with an enormous reddish quill. Focusing his power through that, he concentrated on the sign. "Chartulaviva," he said.
The symbol disappeared. They waited breathlessly for a noise or a flame.
After a moment, Malfoy released a breath. "Well," he said. "That was something of an anticlimax."
Then his eyes rolled back and he collapsed backward off the desk.
Malfoy was short, but he was more solid than he looked, and it took some effort to get him down the stairs. Dead weight, Harry thought, and then wished he hadn't.
Malfoy's hair spilled over his shoulder and arm, tickling him. It smelled the same as it had before. There was something awful about that, something almost sickening, that he should be unconscious and still smell the way he smelled when he was writhing with pleasure ... Harry pressed his cheek against the top of Malfoy's head, swallowed hard, and kept on walking.
He was within sight of the hospital wing before it occurred to him that he could have used a levitation spell, and by then it seemed easier just to carry him the rest of the way.
" 'ave you overextended a search charm again, 'Arry?" Sofia asked as she led him to a bed.
"I don't know what happened." Harry laid him down. "I'll go fetch Hermione."
Malfoy's eyes flickered open, and Harry sat down suddenly before his knees gave out with relief. "Don't get her out of class," he said in a thready voice. "I'm fairly certain I know what happened."
Malfoy turned his arm over. "We took down the primary power source. Evidently I'm the backup."
On to Chapter 12
Back to Chapter 10
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April 25, 2003