Chapter 21: Fabergé's Egg
Unlike most medical centers, the hospital wing at Hogwarts was both warm and inviting. The comforting scent of apple cinnamon and snickerdoodle cookies winsomely wafted through the air. Expansive windows allowed the early morning sunshine to permeate the room, which refracted in the various collections of crystal phials, medicinal orbs, and silver instruments. The three students had stumbled into the infirmary late the previous night. Since then, the passage of time seemed irrelevant. Both Fionn and Taylor were immediately admitted for treatment, while Sirius paid an urgent, midnight visit to the headmaster. Regularly, on the hour, herbal potions were administered to the new patients. Per the nurse's instructions, Taylor patiently remained in bed. Sleep, however, was a distant thought.
Nearby, Fionn reclined comfortably upon a mound of pillows. Several multihued cushions elevated his wounded leg, which was almost completely healed. Madam Pomfrey, the school's young matron, bustled about the boy incessantly. The blonde's bright blue eyes anxiously studied every scrape on the injured student. Fresh out of Hogwarts herself, Nurse Pomfrey was exceptionally kind, but unwaveringly strict in regards to the recovery process of her patients. According to her prognosis, it would not be reasonable for Fionn to leave the hospital wing for a full day. Moving regrown muscle was complicated and stressful for a young boy. Taylor, on the other hand, was scheduled for release before lunchtime. Unable to tend any other physical ailments, Madam Pomfrey began to obsessively organize the medicine cabinet's vials by height and volume.
The mundane organizational process mesmerized Taylor for awhile. Taking her eyes off the compulsive nurse though, she turned to the Slytherin boy next to her. "How are you feeling?"
"I can honestly say that I have had better days." Fionn whispered flatly. He hates me.
Madam Pomfrey disappeared into the depths of the infirmary, allowing the students a momentary sense of privacy. Without supervision, Taylor wriggled out of the confines of her bed and slinked to the edge of Fionn's mattress. Instinctually, she smoothed out the sheets and sat down. The boy eyed the uninvited intruder suspiciously, but then hurriedly returned his gaze to the safety of the ceiling.
"I'm sorry for everything." Taylor began. "Doubting you, messing up the-"
Fionn rapidly waved her apology away. Locating hidden reserves of strength and dignity, he sat up straight. "Let's move passed it. My distance and attitude are as much to blame."
"It still feels like everything is surreal." Taylor admitted. "I can't believe we made it out alive." Her attempt at positivity provoked Fionn into an eye roll.
"A small miracle. Some were not so lucky."
Mindlessly, Taylor continued to smooth out her friend's bedspread. "What are you going to tell Dumbledore?"
Pausing for a moment, Fionn took a deep breath before answering. "Although necromancy is socially recognized as a Dark Art, I cannot confess with sincerity that I regret my actions. Professor Greer went to extremes, but he was an honorable man. Our intentions were aimed toward a greater good. Unfortunately, the rest of society, the headmaster included, may not be so tolerant." The boy ran a hand through his messy hair. "My participation in the plan was illegal. I will readily accept any consequences for my actions."
"Aren't you the least bit worried?" Taylor could barely control the pitch of her voice. "They may expel you!"They might expel me as well. How can Fionn be so calm, while anxiety rips through my colon?
"Of course I am worried about expulsion, Taylor. There is a bigger issue at hand though. I am concerned about Rasputin's successor. All other issues are minor in comparison." A haunting name pulsed in the back of Taylor's jumbled mind.
The Slytherin boy nodded dejectedly; there was an unspoken hopelessness smothering the conversation.Should I tell him my relationship to this name? A relationship I don't even understand.
"The successor has an egg? What's so important about this missing egg?"
A flutter of apprehension rippled his expressionless face. Then, without warning, Fionn exploded into a fit of laughter. Frightened by Fionn's outburst, Taylor jumped from the bed. A jolt of unexpected pain burned down her spine. I should have stayed in bed, like Madam Pomfrey suggested. As he caught his breath, the boy motioned the skittish girl back to his bedside.
"I am not daft, I promise. It just seems silly to me. A secret that I had to conceal for so long does not seem worth keeping since Greer's dead now. The secret that prompted you and Black to follow us that day. If only I told you sooner." Taylor failed to see the humor in the scenario. She returned to the edge of the hospital bed. "You like history, right?"
"Sure. Unless it's the Soap Winter of 1738."
"The Soap Blizzard of—" Fionn rubbed the side of his face and chose to ignore the error. "Never mind. The egg's origins date back to the Muggle Great War."
"The First World War, you mean?"
"Correct. During the war, prominent citizens within the wizarding world became increasingly concerned with the potential destruction of Europe. While some wizard communities were self sustaining, a large majority of magical folk interacted with the muggle world on a daily basis. Many wizards were drafted into armies. A small, powerful group of individuals from Russia, led by a warlock named Peter Carl Fabergé, created an end-all solution to the war; a beast, which would hatch from an egg under the right conditions and prompting. The creation would cull a significant portion of the muggle world, stamping out the conflicting politics and returning peace to the continents."
"That's horrible." Thoughts of genocide left a disgusting taste in Taylor's mouth. She was appalled that such a plan ever existed. Fionn shrugged apathetically to her ethics.
"For the most part, the wizarding world would have agreed with you. In Fabergé's defense, this creation was not actually meant to be used. It was only a last resort. As such, it could not be risked. If it ever fell into tempted hands, the muggle world would have been devastated."
Taylor considered the consequences. There would be a massacre of innocents. If the egg is missing now, a slaughter could occur at any minute. Katsinsky was guarding the egg, but what if my father is involved with such a horrible plan? World War I was so long ago though, he would have been just an infant, if alive at all.
"The egg was given to the royal Romanov family of Russia. A family with ties to the wizarding community, but much of their magical heritage lost through years of squibs. Lycanthropy, cleverly disguised as hemophilia, also devastated the bloodline. Regardless, Alexandra Feodorovna, granddaughter to Britain's Queen Victoria, was trusted as the guardian for this doomsday project. Unexpectedly, a revolution broke out in Russia. The Tsarina was captured and killed along with her husband and children. The creation was never used, but in the aftermath of the chaos, it vanished."
And somehow it passed into the hands of Paukstaitis.
"The magical community became preoccupied with the Global Wizarding War, started by Grindelwald and his followers. No one had heard about Fabergé's egg since, until last year. Rumors have emerged that an ascending dark wizard plans to harness its destruction. Greer wanted to act fast and the only way he knew how was to summon the last person who knew of the egg's location: Alexandra."
"I remember her saying that she entrusted it to Rasputin." Taylor added.
Fionn nodded. "Initially, we considered him. He was a crafty wizard, who claimed to know the cure for the Romanov's lycanthropy. He must have convinced the Tsarina that the egg was safer in his keeping." His nose wrinkled in distaste. "It did not take Rasputin's opponents long to hunt him down though, hence why he passed the dark object to a successor. A wizard named Paukstaitis, so it seems. The name is unfamiliar and, without Greer, a dead end."
A confession teetered dangerously on the edge of her tongue. Madam Pomfrey, however, returned to the wing ushering the conversation into silence. Seeing Taylor on Fionn's bedside, panicked the nurse. Taylor's disclosure was halted by the matron's cool hands on her shoulders..
"Dumbledore is ready to see you, poppit. Let this poor boy rest now."
Taylor waved to Fionn, who nonchalantly threw his hand in the air in dismissal. Following Nurse Pomfrey's directions, the student hurried to the third floor. Ironically, just hours ago, she was escaping the third floor, but now returned to meet with the headmaster. Passing Professor Greer's classroom was more difficult than Taylor had expected. As she walked passed, the girl kept her eyes on the flagstone floor. The door creaked open, startling Taylor into looking up. Exiting the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, Sirius carefully locked the door behind him.
"What are you doing?" Not expecting an audience, Sirius stumbled backward into the door. He was instantly relieved to see Taylor's pushy scowl, instead of the authoritarian glower of an enraged Professor McGonagall.
"Salazar! You're finally up and walking? That's good to see."
"What are you doing?" The Slytherin girl repeated callously. God knows you are probably stealing again. You will never learn.
With apprehension, Sirius began to rub the back of his head. "Honestly? If I tell you, you're going to think I am a sap."
"I feel right rotten about misjudging Greer. He was a dastardly arse, without a doubt." The young Gryffindor hurriedly tried to disguise his heartfelt condolence with distasteful arrogance. "Despite that fact, I feel partially responsible for his…" The words trailed off. For a moment, the two stood in silence before Sirius mustered the courage to continue. "Professor Greer really didn't deserve to end up as a feast for a hoard of mongrels. So, just now, I returned all of the items I ever stole from him. It was my way of making peace with the old codger." Sirius adjusted his school robes uncomfortably.
"I never would have pegged you as the peacemaking type." Taylor murmured. I don't buy it, but whatever you are scheming, Black, I would rather not know.
"I'm a changed man."
The sheer absurdity of his statement caused a smirk to twitch across Taylor's face. "Sirius Black, a changed man? Doubtful." The boy shrugged in defeat, allowing the insult to go unnoticed. "I need to go uphold my appointment with the headmaster. Maybe I'll catch you later."
"Sure." While Taylor's swift dismissal and common banter seemed normal, Sirius sensed her underlying anxiety. The boy patted her on the shoulder reassuringly. "Cheer up. Dumbledore did not mention expulsion or Azkaban once. The meeting will be an absolute breeze." Before Taylor could respond with a simple thanks, Sirius nodded a goodbye and rushed off. I am still not sure how I feel about that bloke. And what the bloody hell is an Azkaban?
Taylor wandered deeper into the third floor interior. Quietly, she rehearsed her story. The headmaster would know every detail. A grotesque gargoyle lifelessly stared off into the distance; a head of an eagle melded upon a reptilian, feline body.
The unusual password ruffled the guardian's limestone head feathers. Without complaint, the monster moved aside, allowing Taylor to ascend a circular, marble staircase. The steps led her to the headmaster's office door, which, invitingly, remained open. Dumbledore, however, was nowhere to be seen. Initially, Taylor chose to wait at the entrance; cautiously, she peered into the large and elegant, circular room. Pops and whizzes echoed playfully from peculiar instruments. The walls were covered with portraits of old headmasters and headmistresses, many of whom snoozed lazily in the early afternoon light. Silver objects stood on miniature end tables, sparking and fuming little puffs of purple smoke. A large crimson bird perched regally upon the windowsill. Aurelian tail feathers draped down the wall, barely grazing the ground as the creature swayed to a muffled melody. The curiosities pulled Taylor deeper into the headmaster's office. On a neatly organized shelf roosted a shabby, tainted wizard's hat. The Sorting Hat!
Upon recognition, the cap addressed the inquisitive student. "The headmaster will return shortly, Miss Paukstaitis. In the meanwhile, he left a book on the desk for your entertainment; Shocking Sock Sagas or some such title."
There is that name again. "Why do you keep calling me that? I am a Lupin now. Before that I was Taylor Davis."
"Davis? No, no. That was the name the orphanage gave you. Your father was apparently very protective of the fraternal name. Indeed, Paukstaitis is your surname."
"How can you possibly know that? Did you know my father? Did he attend Hogwarts?" A flood of questions threatened to drown Taylor in her own inquisitiveness.
"I never met the man, but there is nothing in your head that I cannot see. Every thought, feeling, and memory you have is easily accessible, even if you may have forgotten it."
Taylor marveled at the Sorting Hat's abilities. With help from the old cap, she could learn about her father and why he chose to abandon her so many years ago at a muggle orphanage. Courageously, she seized the opportunity.
"What can you tell me about the day he left me?"
"Early that morning, he admitted that you were a mirror image of your grandmother, Morgayne."
The minor tidbit disappointed the eager Slytherin girl. "I meant—"
"I can tell you nothing more of the man's intentions. My investigation travelled through your head, not your father's. That being said," The Sorting Hat vibrated mysteriously. "I do not meddle in the personal affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. Justice means minding one's own business and not meddling with other men's concerns. Perhaps one day, you will stop ignoring the obvious."
A surge of irritation rattled through Taylor. If I could put all the pieces together for myself, I wouldn't have asked for your help in the first place. Damn—
The headmaster's arrival from a staircase above, prevented the young girl from aggressively snatching the hat off the shelf.
"Good afternoon, Miss Lupin. I am sorry to have kept you waiting for so long."
"It was no trouble sir." Taylor stole another glance toward the Sorting Hat. Albus Dumbledore slowly descended from the balcony. Once he was settled at his desk, Taylor continued. "Professor, I should have come to you sooner. This whole situation may have been avoided."
The headmaster motioned for the young Slytherin to sit across from him. Hesitant, Taylor accepted the invitation. "Unfortunately, Miss Lupin, this tragedy was inevitable. Unmentionable horrors are sprouting throughout the wizarding world. Dark powers are at work; the like of which you could not ever have suspected." While Taylor felt comforted by the headmaster's tranquil voice, she realized the magnanimity of his message. "First and foremost, Madam Pomfrey tells me your recovery went smoothly?"
"Yes sir. Luckily, I walked away with only a few bruises."
"Very good." Dumbledore smiled encouragingly. "Now, if you could recollect for me your story."
Eyes closed in concentration, Taylor folded her hands and focused on the facts. She described the Winter Solstice Masquerade and the Gytrash. The student openly confessed to the after hour exploits, including her role in the duel between Sirius and Fionn. There was, however, a portion of her story which Taylor chose to censor. Throughout the explanation, she only mentioned her suspicion of Professor Greer. Amending the details, Taylor explained how she followed the Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor down into the subterranean tunnels. Almost entirely, she left out any implication that Fionn was involved. After all the trouble I caused, I will not walk away from this office thinking I sealed Fionn's fate. He can tell Dumbledore his own story.
Professor Greer's death and the appearance of Mr. Katsinsky was surreal in retrospect. The words dribbled out of Taylor's mouth, until her story climaxed with the necromancer's demise and the student's escape to the surface. Patiently, Dumbledore listened to the details the girl provided. Throughout the course of her account, he nodded politely and watched her expressions. He waited until she was finished to finally speak.
"That reminds me." The headmaster mentioned nonchalantly. He reached into the desk drawer and procured a smoothly polished wand with tendrils curling up the handle. "I suspect you may be needing this in the future."
A flicker of excitement fluttered throughout Taylor at the reunion. "I can't believe it is in one piece!"
"Basilisk scales can be as durable as dragon scales. Similarly, they are also highly resistant to magic." In silence, Taylor wondered how Dumbledore knew so much about her wand core. After a moment of quiet reflection, Dumbledore stood up. "Well, Miss Lupin, that is all I required from you. You are free to leave. I am sure your brother and Lily Evans will want an audience with you soon." The headmaster smiled at her warmly. Taylor's mouth gaped in surprise; she was partially expecting an unbearable punishment to follow the inquest. Mentally glued to the chair, the girl remained seated.
"That's all? You aren't going to ask anything about Greer or his intentions? Am I going to be expelled?"
Dumbledore chuckled lightly and sat down again. With a gentle expression he leaned forward. "Heavens no, you will continue at Hogwarts the same as Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Black!" The student's heart skipped a beat. I didn't ruin my chances! "Moreover, I have already been vaguely introduced to Damien Greer's quest. He was, in fact, a very brave man. By his request, I was never allowed to be involved with his scheme. It is apparent now, that Greer did not want the headmaster of Hogwarts to be associated with necromancy. Should the the story ever have leaked to the media, he was willing to be portrayed singularly, as the overzealous vigilante. Predictably so, the press is hard at work covering the story and our sources are desperately attempting to keep all mention of the Nephrite egg out of the tabloids. We wouldn't, after all, want to alert the opposition."
Confused, Taylor daringly questioned the headmaster. "Sir, if I may, what exactly is in this egg?"
The question floated in the mid afternoon air uncomfortably. Dumbledore chose his words carefully. "It is speculated that inside Fabergé's Nephrite egg is a crossbreed of dragon and a basilisk. Hatched from nephrite, this flying serpent would, essentially, be ageless. Upon birth, the creature will thirst excessively for nonmagical blood. The hunger would be insatiable."
"Will the authorities be able to find it?" Taylor inquired.
"The creation has been lost to a shroud of secrecy. Our forces can only continue searching in new places."
"I hope they find it." The girl trailed off.
The headmaster smiled encouragingly at the pupil. "Hope is a waking dream."
Upon leaving the headmaster's office, normalcy resumed its course. Instead of returning to the seclusion of the Slytherin dungeons, Taylor opted to spend the daylight hours on the grounds. Subterranean tunnels gave her a new appreciation of the natural world. As night fell, Taylor returned to the castle for a hearty dinner. Spoonful after spoonful, the Slytherin girl piled her plate higher than her appetite. Before she could bite into the first buttered roll, an impassioned Lily took an adjacent. Flustered, the red haired Gryffindor wrestled the bread from her friend's grip.
"You almost died!? I've been looking for you everywhere. Are you alright?"
Disappointed about the stolen carbohydrate, Taylor turned her attention to the plate on the table. Mashed potatoes were a decent substitute. "I'm fine and alive alive." Unamused by Taylor's lack of commitment to conversation, Lily pulled the plate of food away. The hostage situation became dire.
"So many stories are circulating right now. Is Greer really dead? Was he the necromancer? Were there Gytrash?"
Taylor watched the plate of food longingly. In an attempt to satisfy Lily and win the platter back, Taylor tried to provide a shortened overview of the full story. As she had with Dumbledore, the girl excluded Fionn and the secretive egg from the details.
"To top it all off, apparently, Katsinsky knows my father. Something about having met him in his hometown."
"Your father met a necromancer in Wizajny?" Lily asked excitedly, enthralled by the adventure.
Shocked, Taylor's breath caught in her chest. "That name sounds familiar. Where did you hear that from?"
"It was part of his biography in the muggle post. Remember, when he went missing?" Lily's voice was distant. The town's name had triggered an avalanche of memories. Hearing the location out loud started an unstoppable, inner gear in Taylor's mind. Forgetting about the food, she jumped from the table and scurried toward the doors of the Great Hall.
"I need to go."
"Now? But what about dinner?" Lily jostled Taylor's abandoned meal as she called after the departing Slytherin.
Without pausing to catch her breath, Taylor scrambled down stairways toward the Slytherin dungeons. The empty dormitory greeted her arrival. Ruffling through an entire academic year's worth of paperwork, Taylor searched. Worried that she may have thrown it out, her pursuit became more feverish with each discarded article. In black ink, the parchment nearly skirted by in the flurry: The Nightmare. In a desperate attempt to understand the nightly terror, she had recorded each aspect of the dream. Night after night, she had heard the name of the town and never connected it to Katsinsky's biography. Ist das jeder von Wiżajny.Wiżajny. Why was I having a dream about soldiers in Katsinsky's hometown? Think. Taylor studied her handwriting, deep in thought. The words on the paper tantalized the fringes of her patience.
Zigeuner, the Germans would have called him. My father was not in the dream, but they shouted "Dreckigen Zigeuner." They were German soldiers. Another story jumbled into the fray. Fionn mentioned the egg was created and stolen during the Great War. Stream of consciousness ebbed and flowed. The dream couldn't have been World War I. The weapons and uniforms were much later. World War II. Germans in Poland, all of that seems right!
"Why was I having dreams about a 1940s Poland?" Taylor held her head in frustration. The answer was out of reach, but only barely.
A brilliant man! I knew from the first moment I met him in my hometown years ago. Why and when was my father in Wizajny in the first place? Was he sent there? What was so important that—
As if a switch was released, Taylor's eyes widened. Pieces of the puzzle began to fall into assigned places.
The murder. I was buried. In the dream, I remember that I was wearing the opal pendant— My grandmother's opal pendant.
"That bloody Sorting Hat. I'll be damned."
Early that morning, he admitted that you were a mirror image of your grandmother, Morgayne. Perhaps one day, you will stop ignoring the obvious.
What if I wasn't watching my death, but my grandmother's? The Tsarina saw the resemblance too. My grandmother, a Paukstaitis, was Rasputin's successor! But if she was holding the egg, it wasn't on her the night she died. Unless she transported it somewhere else by means of magic. Maybe she sent it to my father and he went to Wizajny to return it to her. Keeping it safe. That must be how he met Katsinsky. A necromancer would be able to locate unmarked burials no problem I bet!
A dark foreboding feeling washed over her and the room grew colder.
The soldiers buried her in an unmarked grave, surrounded by roses. Her father's words echoed in her mind.Red roses like that are good at keeping secrets. The Romans used to say sub rosa.
"The opal pendant was buried with her, but my father gave it to me before he left-"
My father dug up my grandmother. Another darker suspicion haunted her thoughts. What a perfect place to hide a deadly creation. In a cold dark hallow of the earth. Did he know it would hatch in there? The weight on my abdomen and the sound of shovels. In some crazy way this all makes sense.
Before doubt or reason could cloud her deduction, Taylor gathered up the notes in a messy stack. The hour had grown late, but timing seemed irrelevant. Determined to wake him up herself, the Slytherin girl hurried to the headmaster's office. Relieved to find the man still at his desk, Taylor gushed forth the frenzied information. The longer Taylor chattered, the crazier she felt. Despite her embarrassment, she told him every detail of the dream, her father, and her affiliation to the name Paukstaitis.
Throughout the explanation, Dumbledore listened patiently. Finished, Taylor reflected on the insanity dripping from her own mouth. Nausea and fear warmed her stomach. Depending on the headmaster's reception of her ravings, the Slytherin girl worried that she had earned herself a one way ticket to the infirmary or an asylum. Madam Pomfrey sincerely underestimated the severity of her concussion.
"I will send word immediately. With luck, our team can be there within minutes." In a swift motion, Dumbledore picked up his wand, walked to an empty, silver frame, and tapped the glass panel repeatedly. Initially, Taylor was skeptical of the headmaster's incessant rapping. Solid minutes passed. To her surprise, though, a man with shoulder length blond hair appeared against a dark background. Groggy and irritated with sleep deprivation, the young wizard rubbed his face.
"Albus, we are doing the best we can. We are running off very little. You really cannot expect the-"
"We may have a lead, Virgil." Dumbledore interjected. Dark figures shifted around the mysterious visitor behind the glass. Upon hearing the news, Virgil's sleepy demeanor hardened with seriousness. Within seconds of the headmaster's elaboration, the conversation was over and the man's figure dissolved. Silence clung to the air. Taylor and Dumbledore were alone once again.
The student stared at the notes in her lap. "You believe me? I can barely believe myself."
"Dreams, more often than not, lead to the most reliable answers. We won't know if you are correct until the morning though." Thoughtfully, Dumbledore twirled his wand.
I'm not sure whether it's better to be right or wrong in this situation. Being right potentially means my father is a supporter of the Dark Arts, while being wrong could mean the egg survives to thirst on muggle blood.
"I am not sure that I will be able to sleep tonight." Taylor admitted.
The headmaster tapped the side of his head in contemplation. "Somehow, I doubt my ability to sleep as well. Perhaps, instead of forcing ourselves into rest, you would be interested in a few games of wizards chess?"