Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers including, but not limited to, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: And here's the last chapter for 'Curiouser and Curiouser'. I'll start posting 'Of Marbles' as soon as Aurilia gets done betaing the chapters.
Chapter Eleven: Finishing Unfinished Business
Finally, on the third Saturday in March, the twentieth, Harry found himself done with his homework, not involved in quidditch practice, not expected for an occlumency lesson, and not needed for music practice. Harry grabbed his invisibility cloak and put it on before heading out of the Tower and towards the dungeons in search of Professor Snape. He wasn't about to be waylaid again. He took off the cloak and stuffed it into a pocket just outside Snape's office door before knocking.
"Enter," came the terse reply.
"Brewer." Snape acknowledged. "I was unaware we had a lesson scheduled for this afternoon."
"We don't," Harry agreed. "I was just wonderin' iffen mayhap you were busy?"
Snape gestured to the short pile of essays he was grading; a larger stack of those he'd already finished were off to the right of his desk. "Exceedingly so," he dryly replied.
"So I see," Harry's reply was rather sardonic. "Basilisk components are really useful in potions, I know, but are almost always too expensive to use, right?"
Snape nodded, one eyebrow arched slightly. "Correct. Your point?"
"So… Iffen I knew where a basilisk was, you might be interested in it, yeah?"
Snape sat his quill down and leveled a hard gaze at Harry. "Explain."
So Harry did just that. When he finished, the look on the professor's face was positively gleeful. "Meet me in that bathroom in two hours, Brewer. Bring a broom."
Harry nodded and headed back to the Tower. He spent the intervening time playing Exploding Snap with Dean and Neville. Ron was still working on his homework, and Seamus was getting some help with his charms homework from Hermione in the library. At the appropriate time, Harry made his excuses to his friends – saying that he needed to meet with Snape – and shouldered his broom before heading out through the portrait. "Wonder what he needs his broom for?" Dean muttered.
Neville shrugged, "Don't know. You know he's been taking some advanced lessons from Snape… Maybe they need a twig off it or something for a potion."
"You're late," Snape said from near the row of sinks when Harry entered the lav.
Harry checked his watch. "No, I ain't, sir. You're early."
"Show me this entrance," Snape replied, ignoring Harry's comment.
Harry pointed out the sink with the snake etching on the faucet. "I'll open it, sir," Harry said. Snape's only response was a look that implied that Harry was an idiot for saying something so obvious. Harry told the sink to 'open' again, and again the sink sank out of sight, revealing the large pipe.
"I'll go down first, Brewer. When I have ascertained that the danger is minimal, I'll call for you to follow."
Harry nodded, and the professor entered the pipe, quickly sliding out of sight. Nearly ten minutes later a faint echoing voice called up that Harry should follow and warned him to keep his hands close in. Harry jumped into the pipe and rapidly slid downwards. He noticed, in the dim light, several other pipes opening off of the one he was in, though none of them were as big. Eventually, he emerged into the tunnel that Myrtle had described.
"The wall with the carving you said that the ghost told you about is this way," Snape said without preamble. Harry cast a quick lumos and followed the professor, grimacing at the crunching of innumerable skeletons of rats and mice under their feet.
When they rounded a bend in the tunnel, Harry stopped short at the sight of the wall before them. The carvings were incredibly detailed and life-like, and the emeralds in the snake's eyes gleamed in the light from the two wands. "It's beautiful," Harry said, and Snape narrowed his eyes at his student, even as the wall split down the middle, separating the two snakes, the halves sliding into the walls.
"What did you say?" Snape asked.
"Um… 'It's beautiful?'"
"It seems as though the locking mechanism is not geared towards a specific phrase, then," Snape replied. "Merely the sound of parseltongue appears to be enough."
Harry followed Snape through the opening. "That doesn't make much sense, sir. Iffen that were so, then wouldn't the basilisk have been able to set itself free by now?"
"No, Brewer. A lone snake is unable to speak parseltongue on its own. It needs either another snake or a wizard who can speak the language to be present."
"Oh…" Harry replied. "Guess that explains why I don't seem to be able to speak it unless a snake's nearby, huh?"
"So it would seem…" Snape's voice trailed off as they got their first real look at Slytherin's Chamber.
"Myrtle said that the basilisk was sleeping in a room inside the statue's head," Harry stated, a little awestruck at the dark beauty of the chamber.
Snape seemed to shake himself back to reality. He withdrew a cage from his pocket and enlarged it. Harry saw that there was a rooster sleeping inside it. "When I signal, open the statue. I presume it will be geared the same way that the previous passwords were."
Harry nodded. Snape woke the rooster, who began clucking indignantly. Snape nodded towards Harry, who looked up at the massive statue of Salazar. "Open up," he said.
"That wasn't parseltongue, Brewer."
Harry shifted his focus from the statue's face to a nearby serpentine pillar. "Open up," he repeated, and this time he was rewarded with the sound of stone grinding on stone. The statue's mouth was opening.
"Master?" the voice of the snake from his dream drifted out of the statue.
Ignoring the gooseflesh prickling his arms, Harry called out, "Yes, Ruby. Close your eyes and come down here."
"At once, Master." Immediately, a vividly green snake, nearly large enough to compete with the pillars in the chamber for sheer size, slithered out of the statue's mouth.
"Was that wise, Brewer?" Snape asked, an edgy tone to his voice.
"And I s'pose y'all'd rather we hafta fly up there to retrieve it?"
"Master, who is with you?" the basilisk asked.
"A friend," Harry replied. "Come closer, Ruby." The snake slithered heavily across the water-covered stone floor of the chamber. "That's good, Ruby. Stay there. I'm sorry about this…"
Harry jerked his head in Snape's direction. Snape shot a quick spell at the rooster, who responded with an incensed crow. The basilisk shuddered once before going completely still. "What did you say to it, Brewer?" Snape asked, re-shrinking the cage containing the rooster and placing it back in his pocket.
Harry shrugged, "Not much. Her name was Ruby, did you know that?"
Snape muttered something that suspiciously sounded like 'Merlin save me from overly-sentimental Gryffindors,' before assessing the basilisk corpse.
"She certainly was beautiful," Harry commented, earning another slightly derisive glare from the potions master. "How are we going to get her back upstairs?"
"I prepared a room off of the potions laboratory," was Snape's reply.
"Oh, portkey, then?"
Snape nodded and stuck a small metal pin into the thick skin of the basilisk's head. "Portus," he stated, aiming his wand at the pin. The snake disappeared from sight. "And now, Brewer, if you would close the doors behind us, we shall return." Harry followed the man out of the Chamber, closing first the wall behind them, and, once they'd flown back to the bathroom, the sink-guarded entrance to the chamber.
Unsurprisingly, the final few potions lessons before the Easter holiday centered on the uses of basilisk parts in a seemingly endless list of potions.
The last night before spring break, while everyone was eating dinner, the doors to the Great Hall flew open with a dramatic bang. Everyone stopped what they were doing and watched as a line of four aurors – led by the auror who had been present when Wormtail had been revealed – trooped in. Shacklebolt's voice easily carried in the nearly-silent hall. "Gilderoy Lockhart, you are being placed under arrest for one-hundred-fifty-seven counts of unauthorized use of Obliviation-class mind-altering charms on non-consenting individuals throughout England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. You will surrender your wand."
Lockhart, resplendent in nauseatingly teal robes, stood and began spluttering incoherent protestations of innocence. Hermione stood and shouted back at him, "Oh, shush it, you great fraud! Just go with them before I hex you myself!"
As the aurors escorted Lockhart from the Great Hall, there was thunderous applause. Gryffindor was applauding Hermione, while Ravenclaw and Slytherin were applauding the removal of an incompetent teacher from the school. Harry doubted that even the Hufflepuffs knew why they clapped, other than they didn't want to be left out. Just before Lockhart was pulled, still protesting his innocence, from the hall, Harry met his eyes and gave a feral little smirk. Lockhart paled and quieted somewhat, allowing the aurors to finish removing him from the hall.
When the applause had died down somewhat, Harry overheard one of the older students say that the charge Lockhart had been arrested for was normally punishable by six months in Azkaban per victim. Harry quickly calculated the total in his head and his smile grew. Nearly eighty years in prison, Pfauhahn. Hope you think it was worth it.
When dinner was done, Dumbledore stood and announced that he would be temporarily taking over the newly-vacant position until such time that he could locate a suitable replacement. Hermione was ecstatic at the news, and spent much of the evening lauding all the things she had read about that the headmaster had done in his long life that they might get to learn about in more detail in class.
Dumbledore was only needed to cover the class for a single week, much to Hermione's disappointment. Somehow, he had managed to talk Remus into taking the position. So, halfway into April, Remus and Sirius moved to Hogwarts. This didn't bother Harry in the slightest, he now had that much more free time wherein he wasn't writing letters to the two. The three of them made a point to have lunch together at least once a week. Often, one or more of Harry's friends would join them. The twins, predictably, were frequent visitors. During one of his visits alone, Harry asked for his godfather's help deciding in which classes to sign up for the next term. Though Sirius was adamant that Divination and Muggle Studies were easier grades, Remus said that Harry would likely have more fun in Arithmancy, Runes, and Spell Creation – an independent-study which would need a faculty overseer, as well as approval from Harry's head-of-house and the headmaster. Neither Sirius nor Remus advised he take Care of Magical Creatures, though that had more to do with their healthy respect for Aurilia's temper than anything else – they could both picture her reaction if Harry brought home something like a fire-salamander or chizpurfle or clabbert; neither of them needed divination to tell Harry that taking the class would be a bad idea. Remus had also agreed to continue in Lockhart's footsteps in overseeing the dueling club – and he confided in Harry during their first lunch together that the club was likely 'the only good idea that my predecessor ever had.' It goes without saying that Harry started going to the meetings that didn't coincide with quidditch practice.
The remainder of the year seemed to pass in a haze of quidditch. With the new brooms, quidditch suddenly became a challenge to see what team had the better players, the better strategy. When Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw by a mere ten points, it created a tie in the house team standings. They had to play each other once more to see who would be facing off with Slytherin – who had secured first place with their superior brooms before winter interrupted the season – for the cup. In the second match, Gryffindor took to the field with a will, and won with a decisive fifty points.
The final match of the season was a week before the end of term. Remus and Sirius were sitting in the stands, and watched as Harry very nearly flew circles around all the other players; unfortunately, the Slytherin seeker was almost as good as Harry was. Both teams were equally matched, and for nearly an hour, no one scored. As the game dragged on, the players began getting more and more desperate. Hooch was busy calling foul after foul for both sides. As the game was nearing the four-hour mark, there was a sudden surge of interest from the crowd. The seekers, who had been lazily avoiding bludgers whilst searching for the snitch, had snapped into action. Sirius peered in the direction his godson was flying and could barely see a brief glint of gold. He and Remus jumped to their feet and began cheering Harry on.
Neck-and-neck, the two seekers dove. When they started their dive, they had been about two hundred feet above the ground. Unable to tear their gaze from the seekers, the crowd watched as they hurdled towards the grassy pitch. Closer observers than Remus and Sirius could see that Harry was focusing totally on the snitch, whereas Malfoy was growing more and more alarmed. Malfoy pulled up only five feet from the ground, while Harry deftly leveled his decent into a tight corkscrew spiral and reached out, plucking the snitch from the air, only two feet above the grass.
Even Sirius could see the Slytherin seeker's anger and disappointment as Hooch blew her whistle, signaling the end of the game, 150 points to zero. Later, the only people who could say for sure what happened next were the seekers themselves. Suddenly, both seekers were grappling on the grass of the pitch, faint shouts barely heard, let alone understandable, coming from the two.
Before Hooch could stop the fight, the Weasley twins were drawn into the fight, shortly followed by the rest of both teams.
"I'll see what's going on, mi amorium (1)," Remus said, heading for the stairs.
"noli nimium stomachari (2), Remus."
"I don't plan to, Sirius."
When Remus arrived on the pitch, several other teachers had managed to separate the two teams. Harry had a black eye and Malfoy was sporting a broken nose. Dumbledore was speaking. "…the two who seemed to have started this fight. Come along, Mr. Brewer, Mr. Malfoy."
Following the two students, who in turn were following the headmaster, Remus sent a quick message to Sirius via the Marauder's Mirror he kept with himself. "I'll be back to our rooms when I find out what happened, Padfoot. I've a feeling that parents are going to be brought in on this one."
"Okay, see you later."
When Albus led them into his office, the two boys were stonily silent. "I must say I am most disappointed in this unsportsmanlike behavior from the two of you. Would either of you care to explain just how it was you came to blows over a mere game?"
"It wasn't the game, sir," Harry said, staring at the floor.
"If it wasn't the game, then what caused your reactions, Mr. Brewer?"
Harry didn't reply. Neither did Draco. Remus met Albus' gaze and said, "Perhaps, sir, I should take Mr. Malfoy aside to get his story while you speak with Mr. Brewer?"
Harry shot Remus a hurt look. Remus shook his head almost imperceptibly. The entire school knew that Remus had stayed with Harry's family for over a year, and this was not the time to be showing any sort of favoritism. "Go with Professor Lupin, Mr. Malfoy."
Draco sullenly got to his feet and followed Remus to a classroom just down the hall from the headmaster's office. Remus leaned on the teacher's desk. "Care to say what happened?"
Draco shrugged and looked around the room.
"This is Professor Vector's classroom, if you're wondering."
"Brewer started it." Draco said suddenly.
"What did he say?"
Draco shrugged again.
Remus repressed a sigh. This was going to take a while.
Back in the headmaster's office, Harry was glaring at his scuffed knuckles.
"I doubt that glowering at yourself is going to solve the situation anytime soon, Harry."
"I know, sir."
"He was insulting the team, said that the only reason we won was because we had the Firebolts."
"I fail to see how such a comment would come to blows."
"I didn't hit him for that, sir. When he said that, I replied that mayhap it wasn't 'cause of the brooms, but his team's lack of skill."
"And…" Harry sighed. "He started callin' my friends names."
"I still fail to see how this would lead to blows, Harry. How does that muggle phrase go? 'Sticks and stones…?'"
Harry nodded despondently before looking up. "I'm sorry, sir. I lost my temper."
"Understood. I will be contacting your parents, as well as Mr. Malfoy's parents. I believe a conference concerning the growing animosity between you and Mr. Malfoy before assigning any sort of punishment would be best. For now, I want you to go to Madam Pomfrey and get patched up. I expect you back here in one hour."
"Yes, sir." Harry stood up and exited the office. Pomfrey had his bruises and scrapes tended in a couple of minutes, muttering under her breath about the idiocy of fighting the entire time. Harry headed towards Gryffindor Tower to change out of his quidditch robes and take a quick shower when the mediwitch was done with her subliminal berating.
As he headed back through the common room, which had filled with celebrating Gryffindors, Ron asked him, "So, what happened?"
"Dumbledore is calling my and Malfoy's parents. I have to go back to his office. He said that we were all gonna talk before any sort of punishment was decided. What about the rest of the team?"
"Twenty points each for fighting, and three night's detention with Filch. Think Snape gave the Slytherins the same."
Harry nodded and stepped towards the portrait hole. "Hey, Harry?"
"Thanks." Harry stepped into the quiet corridor and checked his watch. He swore under his breath and set out at a run. He only had five minutes to get back to the headmaster's office. He arrived just in time. His mom was sitting in a chair next to the one in which Lucius Malfoy sat, across the desk from Dumbledore. Draco was sitting on Lucius' other side. Harry took the remaining empty chair next to Aurilia.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "After having spoken to both Harry and Draco about the incident on the pitch earlier today, and having discussed the matter with Mr. Malfoy and Mrs. Brewer, I have decided to put the both of you on probation for the duration of not only the remainder of this year, but the entirety of your third year. This means, gentlemen," Albus leveled his blue eyes at first Draco, and then Harry, "that even one more incident like the one I saw today will lead to your suspension from quidditch for the remainder of your Hogwarts' careers." Harry paled and Draco swallowed audibly. "I suggest, gentlemen, that if you are unable to get along peaceably, that you ignore one another for the duration. If, at the end of your third year, there have been no further problems between the two of you, I will consider lifting the probation. Is this understood?"
"Yes, sir," Harry muttered, and Draco echoed the statement.
"Now, before I release you, I believe you should apologize to one another."
The boys stood, and knowing there was no way out of it, faced each other, mumbled "I'm sorry," and stared at the floor.
After several minutes of silence, Harry looked up, meaning to see if he could use his empathy to read his mom and get some clue as to how angry she was. Instead, he met Lucius' eyes.
He was immediately bombarded by a sense of utter desolation and longing, distress and a long-simmered anger. Confused, Harry opened his empathy a little wider and tried to use the legilimency skill Snape was adamant that he possessed. The images he saw made little sense. There were several pictures of a young Lucius sitting with a boy and girl his age, both with red hair – the boy's hair somewhat brighter than the girl's. There was also a viciously grinning girl with pale blonde hair and bright blue eyes who aimed her wand at him. Lucius seemed to sense something and suddenly, all Harry saw were passages of books, all of which contained the word 'help.'
The connection broke when Albus spoke again, though Harry missed what was said. His mom simply said, "We will talk about this at home, Harry," before flooing back to Iowa with the headmaster's assistance.
She didn't call me 'luz.' She must be angrier than I would've guessed. Dumbledore dismissed Draco and Harry, who retreated to their respective dormitories. Harry explained to his friends about his punishment, and all of them promised to help him ignore the Slytherin for as long as he had to. Harry ducked out of the celebratory party early, and went to bed, though sleep was long in coming.
The last week of the year flew past. Harry was so busy studying for the end of year exams that he managed to nearly forget about what he had seen in Lucius' mind. It wasn't until the train ride back to platform nine and three quarters, when Ron mentioned how nice it had been to go the whole ride without an interruption from Malfoy that Harry remembered it; Ron's comment had been that it was the 'icing on the cake' after having won the house cup for the second year running.
Bidding his friends a good summer, Harry embraced the inevitable and strode up to his mom. She still looked upset.
A/N2: I hope everyone is enjoying my insanity. Thanks to all my readers, and thanks to everyone who takes the time to review, and a great big 'I-couldn't-have-done-this-without-you' thanks to my beta, Aurilia. Translation of the Latin is as follows:
1. mi amorium - my love
2. noli nimium stomachari - Don't get too angry