A Cryptic Conversation
Harry reflexively jerked backwards, his chair skidding across the stone floor and slamming into the table behind him. After a moment, though, he realized that the explosion hadn’t harmed anyone. In fact, a shimmering silver sphere had appeared around his cauldron, containing the explosion. After a moment, it disappeared, and a ball of smoke rose to the ceiling. There was nothing left of the cauldron or the potion.
Harry glanced up at Professor Snape as Draco stared at the scorched area where their cauldron had been. The professor, who moments ago had been bending over the cauldron, was now turning to the door. Harry followed his eyes and saw Professor Dumbledore standing there, replacing his slender wand in his pocket.
“Thank you for the assistance, Headmaster,” Professor Snape said smoothly. “Is there something you need?”
“I’m afraid, Severus, that your class will have to be cut short today,” said Dumbledore. “I have to speak with you about something of the upmost importance.”
Harry began to pack his bags as the headmaster strode up the rows to wait near Professor Snape’s desk. Snape, meanwhile, flicked his wand at their table to repair it, then walked around the room, Vanishing the half-made potions of his classmates.
Draco said good-bye to Harry and left for the dungeons as Ron approached. “Hey Harry,” he said. “I saw that explosion. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Harry assured the redhead. “Headmaster Dumbledore caught the explosion in time.”
“I wonder what the headmaster wants to talk to Snape about,” Ron pondered as they walked out. “Snape, of all people.”
Harry nodded as he closed the door behind him; they were the last ones out. “I wish I could find out…” Suddenly he brightened. “We can!” he hissed, and crouched down beside the door, gently placing his ear against the keyhole.
He heard a sigh from within, and Dumbledore’s voice saying, “Severus, would you cast the secrecy charms? I’m feeling somewhat depressed, and I fear that I might cast them wrongly.”
“Of course, Headmaster. Homenum revelio, e nomeisu quoq.” Harry flinched back from a wave of magic that rolled up his spine, similar to the wandless spell cast by Remus during his lecture. There was silence for a moment after the magic returned to the inside of the room, then Snape continued, “Muffliato a eg elige.” A slight buzzing filled Harry’s ears before dissipating, and Ron furrowed his brow. Inside, Professor Snape continued through a series of twelve other spells, appending each with the same “a eg elige.”
“Why the alterations, Severus?” Dumbledore asked, a touch of curiosity in his voice. “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that specific one, what does it do?”
“I created it myself,” Snape said coolly. “I use it rarely, as it is rather strenuous, but it seemed appropriate for what I assume concerns Mr. Evans?”
“Mr. Potter, you mean.”
Another heavy sigh from Dumbledore. “I must admit that you were correct about Lily’s sister. Did he ever tell you how his relatives treated him?”
“If you can think of a form of abuse, they probably did it to him. Worse than your own father, I would say. He never locked you in a small cupboard, after all.”
“Under the stairs, yes. They underfed him, allowed their own son to beat him… at least they never… ah…”
“I see. And what do you plan to do about that?”
“I confess, it is quite a dilemma,” said Dumbledore. “I wondered who I could ask to take him in, but I don’t know who could do it. If I brought it to the Wizengamot, Lucius Malfoy would try to take him, and that cannot be allowed. I’m worried enough about Harry’s friendship with his son. I wonder if the Weasleys would be willing to take him in after all?”
“I would not recommend it,” Snape said calmly. “I worry about the boy’s association with their youngest son. The girl is adequate, but the boy is a dunderhead. I suspect that living with the Weasley family would make him reckless, unthinking…”
“I am more concerned with the state of their finances,” said Dumbledore. “I’m not sure they can take on another child full-time. Remus offered, of course, but the Ministry’s laws will not let him. Alice is too prominent to take Harry in without Lucius noticing and interfering. Remus has left to search for evidence to prove Sirius’ innocence; as the godfather, he can take Harry and Lucius will be able to do nothing.”
There was silence at this; Harry imagined that Snape was making a face at the thought of one of his old enemies taking in his favorite student. “That will likely take longer than the rest of this school year, though,” the professor finally said.
“Yes, we’ll be lucky if Remus finds anything within a few years,” said the headmaster sadly. “So I at a loss for what to do in this coming summer.”
Snape sighed. “Is there any reason that the boy cannot remain at Hogwarts over the summer?” he asked, and Harry grinned. “The wards here are better than anywhere else he could go, and there are more than enough Professors who live here to keep him safe. You, Filius, Minerva, Vector, technically Trelawney and I suppose Hagrid as well.”
Dumbledore’s voice was now tinged with relief and shaped by what Harry suspected was a large grin. “That’s perfect, Severus!”
“Of course it is,” Professor Snape drawled. “Is that all?”
“Not quite, my friend. The Draughts.”
“…what of them?”
“You know, of course, that someone attempted to break into the room over Halloween, while the troll was loose?”
“Indeed. Has there been another attempt?” Snape asked.
“No, but I worry… Madam Hooch turned up. She was wandering the Forest and has no memory of anything since the night of her disappearance. She still has been unable to form any memories, and cannot identify the man who led her there.”
“And you suspect what?”
“I believe that whoever did it to here did so in order to clear the way for jinxing Mr. Potter’s broom. Madam Hooch would have been able to catch him safely, of course, but whoever it was could not know that Alan was a professional player, able to do so as well. Thank you for slowing the jinx, by the way,” Dumbledore added.
“Of course. But what was the point of the jinxing? It seemed to serve no purpose but to cause worry.”
“If he had not been caught, Harry would have been injured, perhaps gravely. The school would be in uproar over it; the perpetrator would’ve had another chance to steal the Draughts.”
“Nicholas is still insistent that they remain here.”
“I still say they should be destroyed.”
“They are far too useful, Severus. You yourself were saved by one of them in the last war.”
“And I am grateful to Flamel for that. But nevertheless, the idea that the Dark Lord might use one to return is… disturbing.”
“Agreed. Voldemort is cunning, and I cannot help but wonder who he has tricked into doing his bidding.”
“Alan is an experienced Auror, he has training in Occlumency and has fought off possession before,” Dumbledore protested.
“The Dark Lord is a far more dangerous opponent than the petty dark wizards of America,” Snape sneered. At least Harry assumed it was a sneer. It sounded like one.
“Nonetheless,” Dumbledore said firmly. “Keep an eye on him if you must, but I trust Alan Adams.”
“I think this conversation is over, Headmaster?”
“I suppose so, yes.”
“So, how are your students being?”
Harry stood slowly from the door as the two inside descended into meaningless chatter. It was mostly coming from Dumbledore, unsurprisingly, with Snape making the occasional snide comment.
“Well,” he said, turning to face Ron, “that was quite interesting.”
Ron appeared rather bored, and was leaning up against the opposite wall. “What was? Listening to faint buzzing noises for ten minutes?”
Harry blinked. “What do you mean? It was perfectly clear.”
Ron shook his head. “Totally impossible to understand. I didn’t catch anything.”
Harry furrowed his brow. “Strange…” He proceeded to tell his redheaded friend about the conversation he had heard as they walked up to the Tower. “And, and…” Harry glanced around. “Where’s Neville?”
“Hospital wing,” Ron said. “His cauldron bubbled over and melted his robes. Didn’t you notice?”
Harry shook his head. “I was kind of busy.”
“Busy brooding,” Ron smirked. “He’ll be fine tomorrow, I bet. Madam Pomphrey’s a miracle worker.”
“Definitely. And we need to tell Ginny and Hermione about this at dinner. I wonder if one of them knows who that Flamel fellow, Nicholas, is.”
“Probably,” Ron agreed. “He’s hiding these draught things in the castle, and they’re dangerous…”
“I think they’re more like healing potions or something,” Harry argued. “Dumbledore said that Professor Snape was saved by one.”
“Maybe…” Ron said slowly. “But even a healing potion can be dangerous in some circumstances. Like if you were healing a madman like You-Know-Who. Or there’s probably something that can reverse it and make it a poison.”
“I guess. It sounded like they were pretty powerful.”
“We’ll talk about it with the girls at dinner,” Ron said firmly. “Right now I’m going to beat you in chess.”
“I might get you this time, Ron,” Harry warned with a smile. “Gryphon,” he said to the Fat Lady, and she swung open.
“…and then Professor Snape said something like finite incantatem, but there was a difference that I didn’t catch,” Harry concluded. “From then on it was just small talk and we left.” He was telling Hermione and Ginny about what he had overheard while Ron and Neville argued about the Chudley Cannons’ latest loss in Quidditch. “What do you think?”
Hermione sighed. “I guess this disproves my theory about Snape,” she said sadly.
“Sure does,” Ginny agreed.
“But for your information, I know what that first spell was, I think,” the brunette continued. “It was Homenum revelio, e nomeisu quoq, right?” At Harry’s nod, she grinned. “I don’t know about the second phrase, but the first is a standard third-year spell. Homenum revelio reveals the presence of people in the area. He knew someone was there.”
“’E nomeisu quoq’ sounds kind of like Latin,” Ginny mused. “I think that nomeisu would be ‘names’. Something like that, anyway. So is it letting you know the people’s name too?”
“Then he knew that Harry and Ron were listening in,” Hermione said. “But Ron couldn’t hear anything, you said?”
Harry nodded. “So are you saying… Professor Snape did something so the spells that kept people from listening didn’t apply to me?”
“That’s probably what the ‘a eg elige’ thing was,” Hermione said. “You did say that it seemed as though Snape was lying to the Headmaster.”
“Yeah… I’m surprised that he wasn’t caught at it. What was it… oh yeah, I also wanted to ask if either of you know who this Nicholas Flamel guy is?”
Hermione shook her head, but Ginny looked thoughtful. “I think he’s on the Wizengamot,” she said, and Harry started.
“That’s right!” Harry agreed. “Draco said something about Lord Flamel having had a seat for centuries! I can ask him tomorrow afternoon; we’re meeting up to go play some one-on-one Quidditch.”
The next morning, Saturday, as Harry sleepily sat next to Hermione for breakfast, Professor Flitwick came around. “Hello, Profess-yawn, Prof-yawn, Professor,” Harry finally managed. “What is it?”
Flitwick held up a parchment with a few names on it. “The sign-up sheet for the Christmas holidays,” he said. “Put your name on it if you’re staying.”
Harry took it and signed as Hermione stared. After a while she found her voice, saying, “so the kids have full control? Parents aren’t even consulted?”
The little professor shook his head. “Signing means that you want to stay. You guardians are still consulted.”
Hermione looked crestfallen. “But my parents want to take me to France!” she wailed. “I don’t want to go to France!”
“Relax, Hermione,” Ron said as he signed. “McGonagall is your guardian; she signs off on it, not your parents.”
Hermione was shocked. “What are you talking about, Ron? I have parents, I don’t have a guardian.”
Harry wrinkled his brow. “No, ‘cause you’re a muggleborn and the laws are unfair. Your parents don’t exist in the magical world, so your guardian is your head of house. That’s McGonagall.” Hermione just stared. “Didn’t you get this talk from her? Flitwick gave it to me and the muggleborns in our year on the very first night. The Head of House arranges schedules, gives career counseling, uh…” Harry counted off on his fingers. “…encourages studying and controls discipline, and is the guardian of muggleborn and orphaned students.”
Flitwick nodded sadly. “The current laws are atrociously bigoted. Muggles have about as many rights as pets do in the muggle world. The Ministry doesn’t want anyone killing them, because they’re cute, but they’re not really people,” he snarled. The little professor began to breathe deeply, trying to calm down.
“So you see, your parents can’t do anything if you want to stay here,” Ron said to Hermione.
“Actually,” said Professor Flitwick, “I know that Professor McGonagall always speaks to the parents of muggleborns and defers to their wishes. I might occasionally side with the student, but Minerva would never follow a student’s wishes over those of their parents’.”
Hermione’s eyes fell as she realized that she would have to go. “Well then,” she said sadly, “I suppose I’ll have to talk to Professor McGonagall.”
Harry met Draco in the Great Hall that afternoon with his Cruinneas broom.
“Got any plans for Christmas break?”
“Staying at Hogwarts and celebrating my freedom.”
Draco cocked his head to the side. “I don’t suppose you’d like to come to the Manor then?” he asked.
Harry was stunned for a moment. Draco was inviting him to come to his home for the holidays! At first he felt ecstatic. But as he considered, Harry realized that the offer might not be an entirely good thing.
If he went to Draco’s home, Draco would be happy, and Harry himself would probably have fun, but Ron would feel slighted and might have another explosion. And while Harry didn’t believe that Draco’s father had willingly served Voldemort, Dumbledore clearly did. The Headmaster probably wouldn’t be too happy if Harry went to the Malfoy’s home, then.
“Sorry, Draco,” Harry finally said. “I think I’ll stay at Hogwarts. Maybe over Easter, or next year.”
Draco’s face froze in position for a moment, then – with some effort – he smiled and shrugged. “Alright. So, how’ve you been?”
Harry wondered what that face-freezing thing had been about, but he had to ask something, what was it… “You mentioned a Lord Flamel a while ago, right?”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “Yes… Lord Nicholas Flamel. Why?”
“Just curious,” Harry lied. “I ran across the name on… a Chocolate Frog card, and I wondered what you knew about him.”
“Well, he’s more than six hundred years old,” Draco said as they left the Hall. “He’s been a Lord of the Wizengamot for most of that time; I don’t remember why. Let me think… he doesn’t take part in most votes of the Wizengamot; I know that. He spends most of his time with his wife in France, I think. I don’t remember much about him, sorry. I would send an owl to ask Father, but he’s away on business.”
“What kind of business?”
“I didn’t ask.”
As they reached the Quidditch pitch, Harry asked, “Do you know where I could go to find out more about Flamel?”
Draco nodded, grabbing a Quaffle. “There’s a book called The Wisdom of the Wizengamot. Some reporter collected quotes from the Lords on the Wizengamot, and it’s also got biographies of them. I don’t know if it’s in the library or not, though.”
“I’ll check, I guess,” Harry said, swooping after the Quaffle as Draco tossed it. “Thanks, Draco.”
At dinner, after soundly defeating Draco, Harry told the gang what he had learned about Flamel.
“Interesting…” said Ron. “So he spends time in France…” He turned to look at Hermione. Slowly, the rest of the group looked to her as well.
“No,” she said, catching on. “Oh no. No, no, no. I am not going to France just on the off chance that–“
“But Hermione, he’s a member of the Wizengamot!” Ron said. “If you frequent the wizarding areas of France, the Rue de l’Argent and the Musée des Arts Mystique, you’re sure to hear something!”
Hermione growled. “Ronald Weasley, I am not some rumor hound you can send out to fetch–“
“Hermione,” Ginny interrupted, “you know that Professor McGonagall will defer to your parents, and you’ll have to go to France. What’s the harm in checking Flamel out while you’re there?”
While the brunette sputtered and tried to find some objection, Neville took over. “Besides, he sounds interesting. He’s six hundred years old, you said?”
“More than,” Harry agreed. “He’s bound to have some cool stories if you can find out what they are.”
After several more minutes of arguing, Hermione seemed to realize that she had lost. “Fine!” she shouted. “Fine. I’ll go to France, alright? Are you all happy now? Because I’m not.”
Her only answer was four identical grins.