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by Resonant

Chapter 14: Dungeons

"He iss still in a Consopium," Sofia said. "It wass the only way we could stop the confulsionss. But in such a state I cannot predict the effect of a systemic spell such as the Contraluna."

"And you also can't predict the effects of the transformation if he doesn't have the Contraluna," Michelle whispered. Sofia nodded.

"The full moon's in two weeks," Hermione said. "We've got to get into the Potions wing."

McGonagall nodded. "At this point, I'm afraid the risk of going is less than the risk of waiting."

"Well, then, let's be practical," Madeleine said. "What can we do to reduce the risk?"

"With Remus and Draco out of commission, you and Minerva are our strongest team, and Oliver and I are probably second," Penelope said.

"We need Draco, too," Hermione said. Harry's chest tightened at the thought of him down there with no magic to protect him.

"And we need someone to coordinate," Penelope said.

"Harry," said McGonagall and Malfoy at the same time.

"I don't like it." Harry paced the length of Malfoy's sitting room.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. "Care to specify, or would you prefer to stick with that all-inclusive 'it'?"

"I'm not doing anything." Harry paced back to the desk. "You and Hermione are our experts, Penelope and Oliver and McGonagall and Aerie are unmining teams, Ron's the fixer, and then everybody says, 'Oh, Harry's the leader' because they have to keep me occupied somehow, and they know I can't bring a covered dish ..."

Malfoy frowned. "A dish of what?"

Harry paced back to the other end of the room. "It's just like before. Everybody's got some special talent, and I'm just kind of there, you know, they include me because I keep on not dying ..."

"Useful skill, not dying," Malfoy said. "And how many of these special talents would have been doing what they were doing, where they were doing it, if you hadn't been there as a focus?"

"Like a mascot," Harry said bitterly.

"Like a wand," Malfoy said.

"And you," Harry said. "Down there with no magic. We can't do without you, I know that, but I don't like it."

"And gravity. You're not so happy with that, either." Malfoy caught his robe as he paced back to the couch and began to pull him toward the bedroom. "What an agony it is for a Gryffindor to do nothing," he said. "I suppose that keeping you occupied will be my contribution to the war effort."

"I just wish we had some idea of what to expect," Hermione said.

"Ask Malfoy," Harry said. "His father is the architect of the whole thing."

Malfoy nodded. "He's the one who designed my Mark; it's likely he designed Professor Snape's as well."

"Are they likely to be the same?"

"That would be too easy," Harry said.

"No," Malfoy said. "Father designed mine as a reward of sorts, so its targets are my enemies." He raised his eyebrows at Harry.

"I'm honored," Harry said.

"Professor Snape, on the other hand, was under suspicion almost from his first days as a Death Eater, as he didn't trouble to curb his tongue." He smiled reminiscently. "I would expect his Mark to function as a kind of blackmail, targeting people and things he cared about."

"His potions," Hermione said.

"And Hogwarts," Harry added, "especially Dumbledore."

"The sigil would probably target the headmaster by title rather than Dumbledore by name, but you're probably right."

"Another thing to keep in mind," Malfoy said, "is that my father favored the psychological. So we're likely to find hallucinations, illusions, spells that try to turn us against each other."

"The staircase is missing, but all three rooms have fireplaces," Hermione said.

"But Malfoy can't floo, and we need him with us," Harry said.

"Not to mention that the fireplaces are certain to be heavily mined," Malfoy said.

"Suppose some of us go down on foot -- Ron can probably rig up a ladder or something -- and clear a path to the fireplace?" Harry said. "Then the rest of you can meet us there."

"You can do another transauditum, 'Mione, to stay in touch."

"Who's on the first team, then?" Harry asked. "You and me --"

"Kitty and Maddie," Malfoy added.

"I'll come, too," Charlie said. "Madeleine ought to have someone to watch her back, as she's the only one who'll be able to make heads or tails of what we'll find down there."

The Potions wing had caused so many injuries that the staff had been a little overzealous in keeping everyone out, and it took Ron and Charlie half an hour to take down the plywood barrier that blocked the ground-floor hallway. They all talked a bit as the wood came down, but as they walked over the fallen sheets, they fell silent.

The corridor beyond was completely ordinary, except for the glimmer of mines, the slippery feeling of Dark magic, and the grit of past explosions underfoot. They warded as they went.

At the end of the corridor, where the staircase had been, the floor came to an abrupt and ragged end. They all stared at it for a moment, thinking of what sort of power it took to uproot an entire flight of stairs. Then Ron opened his dragonhide backpack and shook out a rope ladder. It uncoiled over the edge with a whispery sound and was lost in the darkness below.

"I'll wait here," Ron said. His voice sounded very loud. "I'll keep this clear as an alternate exit in case you can't get to the fireplace. When you find the narwhal tusk, send it up as soon as you can and I'll get it up to Sofia and Michelle." He nodded to Madeleine and McGonagall, shook Charlie's hand, and after a moment's pause, Harry's. "Good luck."

Malfoy swung his way over the side, and the ropes went taut against the spells that held the ends in place. Harry jumped over, catching himself with a levitation spell that took him down slowly so that he could keep an eye on Malfoy. Madeleine went by him with surprising speed, followed by Charlie, who didn't even seem to be bothering with a spell. McGonagall floated down like Mary Poppins without an umbrella.

Harry and Malfoy were halfway down when they heard a pop, a roar, and a shriek. Harry redoubled his speed, leaving Malfoy in mid-air.

"Fire mine," Madeleine said as Harry touched down. "Charlie put it out with his cloak."

"I wondered why you brought that heavy thing," McGonagall said.

Harry lit the torches along the corridor, but they didn't do much to dispel the darkness. He remembered thinking the Potions wing was gloomy when it was full of running, shouting students. It was like a tomb now.

The corridor ended abruptly with a door in front of them and one on either side. "Workroom," Malfoy said, pointing straight ahead. "Classroom on the right, private quarters on the left. They all open into one another, too."

"We want the workroom, right?" Harry pointed his wand at the door ahead of him.

"No, wait," Charlie said. "The first priority is to secure a fireplace so reinforcements can get to us, and so we can get out in a hurry if we need to. So we should start with whatever room is likely to be least heavily mined."

"The workroom is a nightmare," Madeleine said. "The classroom fireplace will probably be the easiest to get to."

"Fine," Harry said edgily, and he spelled the door open.

It was hard to imagine how the workroom could be worse than this. The walls were blackened and webbed with cracks, a few of them precariously held together with temporary preservation spells that might have been cast by the cleanup crew before the danger became apparent. The long marble counter where Snape had given so many lectures was cracked and covered with dirt and ash and ... that was probably blood, or maybe even something worse.

The tables held row after row of half-chopped potion ingredients, abandoned in the first Death Eater attack, and the air was heavy with the sweet, nauseous smell of decaying vegetation, mixed with a singed smell that itched in the back of his throat.

It looked as though every inch of space between them and the hearth was covered with mines, except for a handful of gaps where the search spells had taken out the more common ones. "All this just to keep us away from the potion ingredients?" Charlie asked.

"All this so my father could punish a friend who turned traitor," Malfoy said. They all did a Lumos together, and then they edged their way carefully through the door.

"Kitty, you two could start with that one," Malfoy said. "It's a stroke on all Aurors above captain rank. And you two," he said to Harry and Charlie, as McGonagall and Madeleine began repeatedly undoing the spell, "can get this lovely little number, which is set to hide mines all over Ravenclaw at the summer solstice."

It took Harry and Charlie seven repetitions of the spell to take down the mine. "This is going to take forever," Harry said, wiping his forehead with the back of his wand hand -- but Malfoy was already across the table explaining the next mine to Madeleine.

"... a Freezing Charm on the greenhouse at the next rainstorm, so you'll want to use a ..."

He came back over as the two began unspelling. "Oh, you two drew another clever one, eh? This is one of those that turn into something else when you do an Exstinguo. I think 'Mione had some strategy for those, what was it, 'Mione?"

Hermione's voice came over the Transauditum connection: "Bind it with adigo before you undo it."

It was as exhausting as their very first day of unspelling, and even more frustrating -- the room was so heavily mined that they seemed to be making no progress at all. And with every mine they took down, the remaining ones got a little stronger.

Point and speak, point and speak. Harry had been prepared for danger, not for this mindless, wearisome tedium. He fell into a sort of trance as little by little they drew closer to the fireplace.

Some time later -- though whether hours or days he couldn't say -- there was a flicker in the corner of his eye in the same general direction as Malfoy. Harry turned -- and then saw one of the heavy ceiling beams falling. He lunged to push Malfoy back against the nearest table.

But instead of the crunch of falling timber, he heard only the faint pop of two mines he'd blundered into. The room was suddenly plunged into darkness as all four of their wands went out, leaving only the faint glow of the few remaining mines.

"Lumos," Harry said -- or tried to say. No sound would come. He couldn't see any of the others' faces, but as none of them were speaking, he assumed their voices were gone, too.

"Harry? Draco?" Hermione's voice came over the Transauditum. "Harry? Harry?"

There was a click, very loud in the silence, and a sudden wash of light: Malfoy, triumphantly holding up Ron's electric torch.

That was good -- light was good - but without voices they couldn't do magic, and without magic they couldn't light a fire, and without a fire their help wouldn't be able to come through the floo. Would Hermione bring her team down at the missing stairway when she figured out they were in trouble? How long would that take? Should they go back?

McGonagall was moving her mouth, her hands, her feet -- obviously trying to remember some form of magic that didn't require a spoken word. After a moment Madeleine began waving her wand through the air, drawing calligromantic sigils, but even they couldn't be activated without a voice command.

So close to success! -- the Death Eaters hadn't even taken away the bit of wood and kindling that the house elves always left in all the fireplaces in case someone needed to get into the floo system in a hurry, but it did them no good if they couldn't light it.

But maybe someone had matches?

Harry clapped his hands twice, the sound shockingly loud in the silent room, and mimed lighting a match. The other four looked at him blankly -- right, wizard-born, all of them, and even Malfoy had probably never seen a match -- but he tugged Malfoy's bag off his shoulder just in case.

Bottle of water, squares of chocolate, roll of bandages -- Harry just had time to admire how well prepared Malfoy was. Mechanical pencil. Spare wand -- who kept a spare wand? Small sharp knife in a dragonhide sheath -- coil of lightweight rope --

Cigarette lighter!

He was on the floor so fast he banged one knee painfully on the stones of the hearth. He fumbled the lighter, dropped it, picked it up again, and finally got a flame on the third try. The kindling caught, the tiny flames licked up over the log --

-- and then he had to roll back suddenly so as not to get kicked in the face by Hermione, who came through the floo already shouting. "Harry? Draco? Is everyone all right? What happened?"

In the confusion, Harry found it hard to get Hermione's attention until he finally grabbed her shoulders. He pointed at his mouth, shook his head. "What?" she said. "Are you hurt?" Frustrated, he scrabbled for Malfoy's mechanical pencil.

MINES, he wrote on the wall. LOST VOICES.

"Oh, no!" she said. "And of course without your voices you can't do any magic. If it's acting on the vocal cords I might be able to use inflecto, but if it's blocking the sound waves, then I'd need a noloconfuto --"

Harry tapped her again and wrote on the wall: MERMAGIC?

"Gah! Why didn't I think of that?"

By the time Hermione had finished casting the mermagic spell on all of them, Charlie and Madeleine were examining the workroom door. "I think we can get that open," Charlie said, "and you can take a peek inside before you go back and get the others, Hermione."

The door opened with a seamless silence eerier than the squeakiest door from any haunted-house movie. The first thing that hit them were the smells, even stronger than in the classroom -- mold, herbs, decay, burning, a hundred ugly potion ingredients flung together haphazardly into a hundred accidental reactions.

In the faint and confusing light of the mines, they could see the dark maws of cupboards with their doors torn off. A cauldron sat on the work table, and the ceiling above it was blackened. Hermione backed away and went to fetch Oliver and Penelope. Harry stepped gingerly through the door, afraid, though he wouldn't have admitted it, that every step might fall on a skeleton.

Malfoy sneezed. "All right," he said, "this one's in Greek, but we've seen the parts before ..."

Harry rubbed his eyes and went to stand by Charlie, who was kneading the back of his neck with one big hand.

Harry had had only glimpses of Snape's workroom as a student, but he thought now that the fastidious professor would have been appalled at the mess, not to mention the waste. The floor was alternately sticky and gritty with spilled ingredients, and one of Snape's famously razor-sharp paring knives had been thrust inches deep into the wood of the cutting surface.

"Sure didn't look this bad when I had to serve detention here," Charlie said.

The mines here were fewer but uglier, nearly all of them targeting the person who touched them and thus probably aimed at Snape himself -- wasting sickness, poison in the blood, suicidal urges, and a particularly nasty one that combined mood swings with a suppression of inhibitions. "Father thought it would be amusing to get the traitor sacked in the most dramatic way possible, I see," Malfoy said.

The mines got brighter suddenly, and Harry was afraid they had gotten stronger, but then he saw the piles of gunpowder and cornmeal, the puddle of orange oil, and realized that they'd been right: A weaker version of the reveal potion had come together by accident somehow, enough to allow Snape to see the mines on his Mark. He'd probably caused a lot of this chaos himself in trying to unspell them.

They were making their way toward two goals: Harry and Charlie were to clear the fireplace while Madeleine and McGonagall made their way toward a cold-storage pantry that Malfoy thought most likely to contain the narwhal tusk.

But as Harry moved closer to the fireplace, a mine sprang up under his fingers, and he pulled back his hand too late to avoid tripping it. And while Charlie was still saying, "What's happened?" he felt a chill he hadn't felt in five years, and the cupboard door swung open to reveal the gray and ghastly face of a Dementor.

Harry froze, already paralyzed with terror even before the screams started.

And there were so many of them now. He was almost accustomed to the sounds of his parents' last moments, to Cedric's grunt of surprise. But now he heard Professor Sprout retching on the floor of the greenhouse, fighting the Imperius with all her strength ... Colin Creevey gasping "Save the film!" with his last breath ... the dying sigh of Albus Dumbledore ... Charlotte Rolfe's scream as her chair went over backwards ...

A slap shocked him back to consciousness, and he opened his eyes to see Malfoy's face inches from his: "It's a boggart, idiot!"

Malfoy had drawn the thing's attention, and now it flickered momentarily, and Harry got a glimpse of fair hair, a practiced sneer -- Lucius? or Malfoy himself? Harry moved back into its line of sight and it flickered back into Dementor shape again, but this time he was ready for it, and it was the work of a moment to stuff the horrible thing into Kat's flowered bikini and dismiss it with a Riddikulus.

There was a gasp and a bellow behind them, and Harry turned to see Madeleine flailing her arms around her face, beating at nothing at all. "Another boggart?" he asked.

"Not likely he'd use the same trick twice," Malfoy said. "Try a Finite or a Noloconturbo."

As Harry drew nearer, Madeleine, leapt at him, her ascetic face contorted in a fierce snarl. He shrank back, and she pushed him against the cutting table, setting off several mines. Flames sprang up at the bases of two cupboards. McGonagall and Malfoy caught her flailing arms and held her still long enough for Harry to do the anti-paranoia spell, and then left her, blinking as though she were emerging from a trance, to attend to the fires.

"What the --" Charlie spat. "Can't get a wand anywhere near it." He stuffed his wand back into his sleeve loop and attacked the nearest fire with his cloak.

Harry cast about him for something to narrow his focus, but couldn't find anything better than a chair. Beside him, McGonagall pointed at the blaze with one of Snape's cutting knives; she gave him a grim sidelong smile.

But two wandless spells and a dragonhide cloak weren't enough -- there were probably a dozen fires burning. "We're losing that one," Charlie shouted as a cupboard blazed suddenly with a smell like incense, and Madeleine cried, "The seawrack leaves!"

There was a hiss, and white foam sprang up at the base of the cabinet. Harry turned to find Hermione pointing a fire extinguisher at the next fire. "Ron packed this bag for me," she said, and started on the next fire as Penelope and Oliver stepped out of the fireplace behind her.

When the flames were all extinguished, they stood panting, staring at each other. "It must be past dinnertime," Madeleine said. "Perhaps we should stop for the night."

"We don't dare," Malfoy said. "Some of those mines were timed hides, remember? If we don't push through to the private quarters now, we'll have to redo a lot of what we've already done." He opened his bag. "I have chocolate. That should be enough to keep us going."

Madeleine looked at the scorched cabinets doubtfully.

"Why don't you get out as much of this stuff as you can and levitate it up to Ron?" Penelope said. "There are a couple of empty crates in the cold-storage room."

As Madeleine packed a crate with seawrack and other ingredients and levitated it out the door, Harry turned to the door of Snape's private quarters. The narwhal tusk would be in there, along with Snape's private papers. And perhaps the bodies of Snape and Lucius Malfoy.

The heavy wooden door was bowed outward as though it had been hit by a train. "That's where they fought the actual duel, then," Malfoy said softly.

Oliver must have been thinking along the same lines as Harry, because he said reassuringly, "If they were still in there, we'd have smelled them by now."

"I don't know," Malfoy said. "It's awfully cold down here."

Oliver shook his head. "It's not that cold."

"Well," Penelope said, standing up, "we're not getting any less tired, and that room isn't getting any less dangerous, so let's get on with it." And she went and tried the door.

After two or three unlocking spells, Hermione went to stand with her, hauling her backpack. "Let me try." She attacked the hinges with a prybar, and Harry made a mental note to consult with Ron before he made his next trip anywhere.

When the hinges were pried up, the door began to fall toward them, and Charlie caught it and steadied it to the floor as the rest of them walked into Snape's sitting room.

Here, too, the cupboards had been rifled, and one was overturned. The sofa was a charred frame, and the door into the adjoining bedroom had burned to ash.

Harry sniffed cautiously, but there was no smell of decay -- just orange oil and herbs, acid and dust, scorch and blood and something eerily familiar ...

"Oh, little gods," Malfoy whispered. "Tea." He pointed his torch at a sideboard, and the beam picked out a homey ceramic teapot, steam curling delicately from the spout where an Infervesco had kept it piping hot for five years.

There were few mines here, and they passed silently through the open door into Snape's bedroom.

The chaos there was even worse. There was a gritty taste to the air that made Harry's throat tickle. The gray bedcurtains, smeared with dried blood, were half ripped from their rings, draping down to puddle on the floor among piles of parchment, also smeared and spattered. Books and papers littered the floor.

Harry took a step in. Grit crunched under his shoe. His toe hit something, and he started back as it fell with a clatter.

Malfoy leaned down and came back with a cane topped with a snake's head.

"That's it, then," he said, stirring a pile of ash with the end of the cane. Bits of metal gleamed among the ashes, but he left them untouched. "Severus gave him a proper wizard's pyre. More than he deserved." An air current picked up the ash and eddied it across the stone floor, mixing it with ash from another pile that lay by the battered bedcurtains, powdering both over the scattered papers.

So Professor Snape had died here. Had lain on the cold floor, half under the bed, and set off the traps in his body one by one, as many as he could find. Squinting to see the real world past the yellow tracery of spell vision, Harry could see the long scrapes of fingernails in the wooden bedstead, the rips in the bedclothes. Alone, grating out spells in his hoarse voice, hair picking up dust from the floor ...

"Brave old coot, wasn't he," Malfoy said, poking the papers with his cane. "Vale." After a moment Harry realized it wasn't a spell but a farewell.

"Guys," said Penelope, "I think it's going to take all of us to --"

She broke off with a gasp, and Harry turned to see the biggest mine he'd ever seen, writhing and changing shape before his eyes, sending out tendrils to fill more and more of the room.

"Use an adigo!" shouted Malfoy. "Got to freeze it --" One tendril uncoiled to touch Oliver, who bellowed with pain. Another was threading toward an open cupboard behind McGonagall.

Harry repeated the freeze spell, but succeeded only in slowing the mine's movements, and Oliver leapt at McGonagall, crying, "Demons!"

"Together!" Malfoy said, running to get between Oliver and McGonagall. Harry, Hermione and Penelope all managed to say the spell together, but still the mine went on moving slowly. Malfoy had a grip on Oliver's right arm, but Oliver was swinging wildly with his left.

"Use the League!" McGonagall said, and Penelope immediately began drawing the League sigil.

Harry threw a Finite at Oliver just as Oliver shook Malfoy loose, knocking Hermione down against the bed with the backswing, and punched at him. Oliver's eyes cleared, but his already-moving fist struck Malfoy in the left eye and knocked him into a smaller mine. "Shit!" gasped Oliver, and McGonagall pushed them back as a squadron of knives flew out of the opened cupboard door and imbedded themselves into the opposite wall.

Hermione scrambled up from the foot of the bed. "Draco! Look! The key to the diary! Professor Snape figured out the key!" She was holding a handful of parchment.

Malfoy turned from the cupboard and shoved a jar into her hand. "Narwhal tusk. Floo. Go. Go!" Hermione lit a fire in the fireplace, ducked into it with the parchments and the jar, and was gone.

And suddenly Harry realized that this was the chance he had been waiting for. They had the narwhal tusk and the key to the diary -- everything they needed to cure the curse victims and to undo the mines at the source. All they had to do now was undo the mine that immediately threatened them; after that, it wouldn't matter if the mines shifted over to a new power supply.

That would be the time to see if the League's power could unspell Malfoy's Mark.

Penelope's voice rang out clearly in the chaos: "Chartula--"

As she finished the spell, there was a scuffle and a scream behind him, but Harry didn't turn. He waited just long enough to see the mine wink out, and then he pointed his wand at Malfoy and said, "Immobilus."

Malfoy's eyes widened as his body froze into position. The noise behind him continued as Harry pushed up Malfoy's sleeve. "I'm sorry," he said, "Draco, I'm sorry to do it like this -- Emagio."

Draco blinked wildly, staring wide-eyed over Harry's shoulder, and a tear spilled onto his unmoving face.

The Mark, as though aware of his attention, began to shift and expand, sending tendrils along the veins on the inside of Malfoy's arm. "Adigo," Harry said quickly, and then he said it again, and again, but he didn't have enough power by himself to do more than slow it down, and he didn't know how to do a freezing spell with calligromancy, so he couldn't use the League.

The little knots began to brighten in turn, as though to taunt him with all the things they could do. Hogwarts headmaster, hallucinations. Hermione Granger, brain tumor. Curse caster, instant death.

Harry drew the League sigil and the erase sigil in the air and connected them to the open end of the mark.

Another tear fell on his arm.

"Chartulaviva," Harry said.

The Mark hissed and went out.

"Finite emagio, finite immobilus," Harry said, and braced himself for anger, but Malfoy pushed him aside, crying, "Kitty!" and threw himself to the floor. Harry turned to find him kneeling over McGonagall where she lay, open-eyed and still, on the crumple of bedcurtains.

There seemed to be no sound at all in the room as Malfoy's hands went to her throat, to her wrist. Then he sagged to the ground, face against her neck, sobbing.

Harry felt too paralyzed to do anything but stare.

Some minutes later, Oliver tugged at his sleeve. "Penelope's passed out."

"You'll probably find Madeleine unconscious in the corridor, if she came back after she took the crate to Ron," Harry said leadenly, never looking away from Malfoy and McGonagall. "I think Ravenclaw was the backup power source."

Oliver nodded. He picked up Penelope and headed for the fire. "Then the Headmistress ..."

Harry shook his head. "No," he said, "I think she's dead."

"Heart-failure mine under the nightstand," Malfoy said, lifting his tearstained face. "How could you?"

"I'm sorry," Harry said, and remembered, after five years of trying to forget, how sickeningly inadequate the words were when you spoke them over the dead body of a friend.

"How could you?" Malfoy got to his feet, still clutching McGonagall's tartan hat. "What were you thinking? You could have died!" Harry blinked stupidly at him. "There was a curse on the unspeller and a curse on you by name," Malfoy said. "What were you thinking? Did you ever stop to think of what I might want?"

"Well, I should bloody well think one thing you didn't want would be to be a gun pointed at my head for the rest of our lives!"

Something clattered to the floor, and they both jumped. It was Lucius' snake-headed cane.

Without another word, Malfoy picked it up and dove into the fireplace with it.

After staring numbly at McGonagall's body for a moment, Harry followed him.

He'd thought he gave the order for Malfoy's rooms, but when he staggered out of the fireplace, he found himself in the staff common room. Malfoy was halfway up the winding staircase.

By the time he got up to Malfoy's rooms, Malfoy and Hermione were already on the sitting room floor by the cold fire -- ah, that would be why he couldn't floo directly here. Malfoy was holding his hand over the open page of the diary. He poked the point of a quill into his fingertip, wincing, and squeezed up a fat drop of blood. It fell onto the open page with an audible "thwap" and was instantly sucked into the parchment, as though absorbed.

Nothing happened.

"Blast it!" Malfoy squeezed another drop of blood onto the surface. Nothing. "It ought to work! Why won't you work, damn you? Look, it says right here in Severus' notes."

He grabbed the parchment from Hermione and shoved it at Harry. Harry squinted at the shaky handwriting. "Monkshood root loses potency -- keep under Vacuum charm ... Tell Neville he was correct re figwort blossoms ... what?"

"No, here." He sat down, and Hermione pointed at the bottom of the page. "For Lucius, blood is all: the essential distinction, the essential tool."

Harry frowned. "That could mean a lot of --"

"You don't understand him the way I do," Malfoy said.

It wasn't clear whether he meant Snape or his father, but either way, Harry had an objection: "Malfoy blood could never be a tool. You know he'd never think of things that way."

Malfoy's eyes went unfocused. "You're right," he said. "My blood is a distinction. If you wanted blood for a tool, you'd want --"

"That other kind of blood," Hermione said wryly, putting out her hand.

"See, 'Mione. I'm sure Prudence always told you: 'When you grow up, love, you can be anything you want to be.' " He had Dr. Granger's slightly shrill voice down. " 'A doctor, a member of Parliament, the helpless tool of a powerful wizard ...' " He jabbed the quill into her fingertip.

"Right," she said, milking out a drop of blood. "Watch out I don't transfigure your sheets into sandpaper again."

The blood fell to the center of the page and disappeared -- and then with a shimmer the page was covered with a familiar, elegant hand in rusty red-brown ink.

Malfoy began flipping pages excitedly. "Maps, diagrams, sigils -- it's all here, all of it's here. We'll find an answer here, I'm sure of --"

There was a banging at the door, and Tiffany said, "Oliver Wood" just as Oliver himself burst through the door. "What are you people doing?" he said. "Every Ravenclaw in the castle is unconscious, Sofia's halfway through a Nervalitum potion without help, and you just walked off and left Minerva's body in the dungeon --"

Malfoy closed the book. "We have the means to avenge her now," he said, mouth hard. "Let's go see to the rest."

On to Chapter 15

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April 25, 2003