Stories from Sixth (and Seventh) Year
New Years Day
As always, thanks to Runsamok, the recently promoted, for her excellent beta work.
December 30th, 2:14 a.m.
She was an instant away from screaming in her dreams when she realized she was awake — she was not in her own bed, but then again, she hadn’t been sleeping in her own bed for months now, had she? Taking a deep breath, she leaned back against the comforting warmth of her beloved, only to startle again. She was in her human form, and whatever she was leaning up against, it wasn’t Harry.
You are still asleep, Mistress.
Do you keep another dragon in your mind?
I’m sorry to contradict you, but I’ve never worn pants of any kind.
So what’s going on?
You were asleep, and very disturbed. You had transformed back into your human shape and were about to scream. I did not think your mum would appreciate waking up to find you in bed with your Krulach, although for the life of me I’m not sure that I understand why it is acceptable for you to nestle with him in your feline form and unacceptable for you to do the same in your native form. I took the liberty of steering you here.
Where is here?
In your mind, but in a place that I have prepared. Do you want to talk about your dream?
It was just a nightmare. I have those every now and then.
You want me to talk about it, don’t you?
I did not bring you here for your amusement.
Ginny sighed, sat up and then leaned back against the cow-sized coils of white dragon, shifting until she could get comfortable.
"I was somewhere — I don’t know quite just where," Ginny began, moving what must be a tail into place as a pillow. "Harry disappeared, which wasn’t that unusual, but then I felt cold to my core and I felt something snap and I knew that he was really gone — I mean, I couldn’t feel him across the bond, and then I realized that the bond wasn’t there either. I began to panic — I mean, I figured that if the bond was gone, it meant that he was dead, or I was dead, or something equally horrible. That’s when I transformed, wasn’t it?"
It was just a nightmare, right — because I’m worried about losing him?
You do have that worry, but it was not a nightmare — it was a glimpse of what is to come.
C’mon, divination is a bunch of dung.
The People have the ability to see the future. You are of the People. What your kind calls the second sight has been strong in your family for generations. When I became infused in your mind, your latent gifts began to unfold.
So, I saw Harry die?
Not exactly; the first thing we teach our young about vision is that there is a difference between having a true vision and grasping the proper interpretation.
So, illuminate me. What did I see?
You saw a part of your Krulach’s destiny.
Do you care to explain further?
No, it is not time yet.
So, Harry’s going to die killing Voldemort?
While that is important to you and yours, the People do not consider the man of darkness to be any more than something that must be overcome along the way to fulfil his destiny.
So, what is his destiny?
To be the Servant of the Light.
And that’s going to get him killed?
Am I going to see him die?
No. Relax; let your mind stretch out. Consider this — why were you placed on this planet at this time and place? Think and feel as the People do.
It’s Harry, isn’t it?
So, you begin to learn.
My purpose in life is to help Harry.
My purpose is to love Harry?
My purpose is to be Harry’s Krulach?
To raise his children?
Which means that we live — there’s a life on the other side.
That is a logical inference.
So why did I feel the bond break? That only happens when one of us dies, right?
That is the usual means of sundering the bond, but not the only means.
Harry breaks it off?
That would not be possible.
So, Harry doesn’t die, he still loves me, but the bond breaks for some reason that you won’t tell me about that involves Harry’s destiny.
That is a reasonable interpretation of the facts.
You know, you’re a real pain sometimes.
I exist to serve, Mistress.
I knew you were going to say that. So, what’s so important about the Servant of the Light?
He is the one who was and who will be.
Oh, yeah, perfectly clear.
The People were not always dragons, Mistress. In the first war after creation — before your kind was created, we were wounded — we became mortal - and we were doomed. The Servant of the Light showed us how to become what we are today. Without him, we would have faded away.
What were you before you were dragons?
Immortal spirits, Mistress.
So Harry’s another Servant of the Light?
No, there is but one Servant of the Light.
Right, but Harry wasn’t around at the beginning of creation.
That is correct. Harry is here and now.
Am I going to remember any of this when I wake up?
Do you wish to remember any of this?
That dream scared the spit out of me — I’d like to remember that it works out.
Then you shall remember. We shall meet here again to talk about your visions. Return to your other form, Mistress Ginny. If you are gone too long, you will wake the Servant of the Light.
Oh, we couldn’t have that, could we?
Ginny stretched, and then became smaller and in a wink was in her Tick-tock form again, stretching again before curling into a circle. The mountain of white, scaled flesh dissolved as the room dissolved. She was in Percy’s bedroom once again, curled up against Harry’s back. This was nice, but not quite right. She began a rhythmic, throaty purr, shifting her paws against Harry’s back until he turned over in his sleep, circling his arm around her. The purring continued until she was soundly asleep again.
Now all was right.
She’d sort out the destiny nonsense in the morning.
New Year’s Day
Operating several hours behind India had its advantages; the chief advantage was that if she didn’t mind getting up at an ungodly hour of the night, she could put in half-a-day’s work on the campus of the Shiva Institute and still have something of her day left back at Abelard’s villa.
She’d started looking for her replacement, hoping that she could bring her up to speed before moving to England for her new assignment. She wasn’t quite cutting her ties to Abelard, which she didn’t mind, but he was going to be releasing her from her pledge by the middle of the month if she could find a guild member to take her place. If Abelard were content to stay at home he wouldn’t need security, but he’d become accustomed to guild security, and was sufficiently solvent and set in his ways that he could indulge that luxury.
When the Britons put India under the empire, various factions insinuated that the guild would wither and die, but the need for the very wealthy to obtain nearly perfect security against banditry and assassination didn’t change with the change in government. More than one of the British viceroys had retained a War Witch or two, learning from the example of their late predecessors who thought that retaining them was unnecessary.
After looking through the personnel files of the current class next to leave the Institute, she’d concluded that none of them would be a good fit. Protector of the Institute and the Novice Mistress agreed; inviting her to join them in Protector’s office. Shaking off the notion that she should be nervous for some infraction she’d committed as a schoolgirl, she pressed her palm against the door. Entering the room silently she bowed to Protector and then to Mistress. Had the meeting been held in Mistress’ chambers, the order would have been reversed. Protector hummed for a few measures and then sang the customary greeting to her, which she replied to in kind.
"It is good to see you again, Daughter," Protector said. "Your Patron is well?"
"Yes, sir; thank you for asking, he has made nearly a full recovery from his stroke and wants to resume his travel schedule again," Jasmine replied.
"You have been pleased to be in his service?" he asked in a deep rumbling voice.
"Yes, sir; I would stay there indefinitely if given the opportunity," Jasmine said.
"Yet you are eager to depart before the end of your pledge," Mistress said, her face partially in shadow, making her expression difficult to read.
"I wouldn’t describe it as eager," Jasmine said with a small smile. "I will still be in Abelard’s employ, but no longer under his roof."
"Was this your request?" Mistress asked.
"Not exactly; Abelard, acting in stead of my late father, received several inquiries for marriage contracts. All but one of them was found wanting for one reason or another," Jasmine said, wondering where this conversation was going.
"Did you wonder as to the timing of the requests?" Mistress asked, moving back a bit until her face was covered completely by shadow.
"I did find the timing a bit odd, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought beyond that."
"You have been voted in as a full fellow of the Guild of Shiva in the last meeting of the synod," Mistress announced.
"But I won’t be eligible until the end of summer," Jasmine protested.
"I believe that is our decision to make," Mistress answered coolly.
"Yes, Ma’am," Jasmine replied, finding herself oddly off-balance upon receipt of this news.
"Congratulations," Protector rumbled. "Your actions have been profitable to the Guild, and brought us honour."
Jasmine nodded and bowed her head. "Thank you, sir."
"So," Mistress said cheerfully, moving into the light. "Now that we have that bit of business out of the way, I believe that you are trying to recruit your replacement."
"Yes, Ma’am," Jasmine replied with a sense of relief.
"I believe I have a situation that may allow us to solve one of our problems by solving your problem," Mistress said.
"And that problem might be?" Jasmine asked.
"I have a team that doesn’t want to be split up," Mistress said.
"Abelard doesn’t need a team," Jasmine said without reflection.
"This is not your ordinary Guild team," Mistress said, pulling a portfolio from her bookshelf. She passed the portfolio to Jasmine.
It was indeed not the ordinary team. Opening the portfolio she saw what appeared at first to be duplicate photographs, until she realized that the team consisted of two sisters, identical twins. They were orphans, which was not unusual in the Guild. Year after year, the entering class of the Institute was evenly split between girls who were the daughters of Guild members, and talented witches who had nowhere else to turn. Jasmine read through the transcript and after-action reports. Mary and Martha had received high marks. She repressed a desire to laugh when she read some of the evaluations — they’d received some of the same criticisms (from the same instructors) that she’d received as a student, down to the abysmal marks she’d earned in her Courtesan Studies course. They’d taken solo assignments after leaving the institute and while they’d been proficient at their work, they both had been evaluated for symptoms that pointed to a deep depression and they had almost been pulled from their assignments because of it. Their assignments after that initial assignment had been ones where they could be together, including courier work, personal security and leading a security detachment in a hot zone. Their evaluations from the security assignment had been top notch — the Commander obviously wanted to recruit them into that line of work, but they’d declined the invitation politely. They’d done advanced study in several interesting fields, including a few technologies and communications courses that Jasmine jotted down for future reference.
It was when she turned several pages into the portfolio that she began to smile.
"Before school they wanted to be nuns," she said, repressing a chuckle.
"Not entirely surprising, given the fact that they were raised by nuns," Protector observed.
"The Daughters of Divine Compassion, however, do not accept minors as novices," Mistress added. "The Mother of their House suggested that they learn a trade and experience the world a bit before entertaining whether or not they were suited to their way of life."
"So they came here — not the first thing I would have suggested to them, but sound advice all the same," Jasmine replied, looking through the rest of the portfolio. "Have they been approached about the possibility of entering into Abelard’s service?"
"Yes," Mistress answered after a long pause.
"When can I meet them?" Jasmine asked.
"They will be delivered to Abelard’s villa later this morning," Mistress said with a smile.
"You were that confident that I’d approve their placement?" Jasmine said, putting one fist to her hip.
"In a word, yes," she replied.
"What are their weaknesses?" Jasmine asked.
"Aside from a desire to see fools suffer, they appear to - er - suffer when separated," Mistress answered.
"I can see that from their file; how long of a separation can they stand? Hours, days, months?" Jasmine asked.
"They can go for weeks without seeing each other. Their first assignment was a test of that; I’d recommended against it, but they insisted that they should be treated as any other novice trying to earn the title of journeyman," Mistress replied.
"Would they protect their principal at the cost of their sibling?"
"I believe that you will find their sense of duty is perhaps as well developed as your own," Protector interjected.
"Well then, perhaps I should return to my station and form my own opinion," Jasmine said, nodding at each in turn before rising.
"Blessings upon you, daughter," Protector intoned.
"And upon you, good sir and madam," Jasmine said, closing the door as she left.
The twins were in the garden when she arrived, playing with Rosie. They had the good sense to stay away from the inner wards, which would not recognize them as friends. They both stood straight, assuming a formal posture, their hands clasped before them.
"Greetings beloved sister," one twin said.
"And congratulations upon making fellow," the other added.
Jasmine looked at them coolly before bowing. "Thank you sisters, and welcome to Abelard’s villa. May your visit be profitable."
Jasmine washed the inner ward with her wand, causing it to pulse briefly with a purple light. She then washed each of her guests in a similar light which flickered and then disappeared.
"You can adjust the wards?" one twin asked.
Jasmine nodded and smiled. "I am mistress of this house, as were my sister and mother in turn before me. Abelard trusts us with his life," she said simply.
"Indeed," the other twin commented.
"Are you free for the day?" Jasmine asked. The twins nodded in reply. "Good — today promises to be a bit busy, but it will give you a taste of operations. I’m sure that Mum has cooked enough to feed you in addition to our guests, although to make sure, I’ll tell her first thing. Let’s go into the kitchen and have some tea."
"Your mother is still in Abelard’s employ?" one twin asked.
"Yes, although she’s no longer pledged to him; she cooks and keeps the house. After tea time she’s normally back home with her husband. She’s here some weekends, but those are the exception, not the rule. So, which of you is which?" she asked.
"I’m Mary," the twin on her left said.
"And I’m Martha," the other echoed.
"You would have to do the twin thing and dress alike today — all except for the earrings," Jasmine observed. "Mary’s wearing pearls, Martha’s wearing jade."
"Very good," Mary said.
"Most people don’t pick up such small details," Martha added.
"Do you always finish each other’s sentences?"
"Pretty much," Martha answered.
"Except when we’re arguing," Mary qualified.
"Mum!" Jasmine called. "We have guests for the day — do we have enough to feed them?"
Mrs. Paprikash came into the kitchen carrying a large basket of linens and looked at Jasmine with an arched eyebrow.
"Okay, sorry I asked," Jasmine said with a slight flush. "Mary, Martha, this is my mum, Snik Paprikash."
Mrs. Paprikash clasped her hands together and gave a small bow which was returned by each of the sisters and then held out one hand, palm down, which was kissed by each guest in turn. "You honour me with your visit, sisters, may your journey be profitable," she said, selecting her greeting carefully. Turning to Jasmine she said, "You should know better than to ask if I have enough for two more. As of this morning, I should have more than enough for our guests unless they double in number, or are all teenaged boys experiencing their growth spurt. The tea service is in the parlour already," she snapped, returning to her tasks.
Jasmine blinked and then looked back at the women she was preparing to interview. "Thanks, Mum, we’ll be in the parlour until about ten o’clock," she said, making a beckoning motion with her hands.
"So that’s it in a nutshell, any questions?" Jasmine concluded.
"Did you really meet with the Ghost Dragons?" Martha asked.
"Professor Hopko said that they were mythical," Mary added.
"Yes, I did — it was one of the most eerie and beautiful experiences of my life," Jasmine said. "Anything else?"
"Erm, yes, what’s he like?" Mary asked.
"Who he? Abelard? I’ve been talking about him for almost half an hour!" Jasmine exclaimed.
"Not him," Martha said, rolling her eyes.
"The â€˜chosen one’ as the English papers call him," Mary said.
Jasmine laughed and then composed her response. "Well, he’s shorter than you’d expect. When you face him in combat it’s hard to believe that he’s just sixteen. He’s very much a quick study; very polite, very quiet, very much in love with his girlfriend, with whom he’s bonded already, thanks to the dragon magic inside his head," she replied.
"Oh, we weren’t asking for that," Mary said.
"We already heard that he had a girlfriend," Martha continued.
"It was written up in Teen Witch, after all. Lovely pictures from the ball, I might add," Mary concluded.
"Does he have a matching dragon tattoo on his back?" Mary asked.
"No — and don’t ask how I know," Jasmine answered, looking down briefly. "Do you always do the twin-talk thing?" she asked.
"Yes," Martha said while Mary simultaneously said "No." All three witches began to laugh.
"Okay, here’s today’s assignment in a nutshell — the Weasley family, plus a few guests, are coming for dinner. They’ll be arriving after lunchtime, staying for tea and dinner and leaving at a fairly late hour — unless Abelard’s stamina calls for an early conclusion. We’ll be taking the Portal to a known safe location in England and once we determine that the site is safe, we’ll open the Portal at the Weasley residence. Any questions?" Jasmine asked, her face having gone serious in her mission briefing mode.
"How many guests?" Mary asked.
Jasmine pulled a portfolio onto the kitchen table. "Nine Weasleys, significant others or dates for the occasion, and Albus Dumbledore. The Weasleys are easy to spot, they’re all red-haired Englishmen," Jasmine began.
"What about the women?" Martha interrupted.
"They’re red-haired Englishwomen," Jasmine said with a smile. She began to pull page-sized photographs from the portfolio. "Molly Weasley, early fifties, she’s the mum, Arthur Weasley, he’s the dad, same age. Ginny Weasley is fifteen going on forty, but you apparently already know what she looks like. She has six brothers ranging in age from sixteen to the early thirties."
"Who’s the Veela with the older one?" Mary asked.
"Well spotted, she’s a quarter-Veela, actually by the name of Fleur Delacour, engaged to Bill Weasley. They both work for Gringotts — he’s a curse breaker, she’s a charms specialist," Jasmine replied.
"This one?" Martha asked, pointing to a picture of Charlie.
"Charlie Weasley — works with dragons in Romania. He’ll most likely be bringing this woman along as a date," Jasmine said, dealing out another picture. "Moey Knight — she’s an Auror with the English Ministry — we worked together last summer when she was on Harry’s security detail."
"Does she know what she’s about?" Mary asked.
"Well enough. I wouldn’t mind her at my back if things got unpleasant," Jasmine answered.
"The one who looks like he smells something unpleasant?" Martha inquired.
"That would be Percy — he works for the Ministry — he just ended a lengthy estrangement from the family. We’re not entirely certain of his loyalties, notwithstanding his reconciliation. He may not show for the visit, and if he does, he’s not cleared for any of the business discussions," Jasmine said curtly.
"And these?" Martha asked, pulling a picture of the twins across the table?"
"Fred and George — don’t ask me which is which — I can’t tell them apart," Jasmine said.
"Really?" Martha said, raising one eyebrow.
"Really — perhaps if I gave them earrings I’d have a better shot at it," Jasmine replied drolly. "Don’t underestimate them — they are exceptionally talented and imaginative in anything involving Charms, Potions or Transfiguration — they own a joke shop. Most of the items are either their own invention, or marked improvements on stock items in the trade."
"Which leaves these two," Martha said, pointing to the two remaining pictures.
"Right — the boy in the Quidditch outfit is Harry’s roommate from school, a pleasant enough lad. His date, if he brings one, will most likely be this lass," Jasmine said, pulling a picture of Hermione from the portfolio. "She’s more or less Harry’s sister," Jasmine said, placing the last photograph on the table.
"I thought she was dating Harry," Martha said.
"Until she dropped him for that Krum fellow" Mary added.
"Lesson Number One about Harry: don’t believe anything you read in the English Press," Jasmine advised. "When they’re not painting him a rake, they’re saying he’s a madman one day and a liar the other."
"That could get old," Martha said.
"Has it made him bitter?" Mary asked.
"Surprisingly not," Jasmine said, trying to put her impressions into words. "Given how wretched his life has been, he’s amazingly hopeful most of the time, although he has been subject to fits of depression in the past."
"Been there," Mary said.
"Done that," Martha added.
"And you share the tee shirt?" Jasmine asked.
"No," Martha answered as Mary said "Yes."
"State your position," Jasmine said, remembering what she could from her small group tactics course in fourth year, speaking softly into a charmed disk hanging from her neck like a necklace.
"Mary here, I’m on the east side of the property, outside the wards. They appear to be serious about their security. Nothing untoward observed. I detect eleven souls inside," she whispered.
"Martha on the west, also outside the wards. I concur with Mary’s count," she murmured.
"On the count of ten I’m bringing the portal in, on twelve I’d like you two to appear at your insertion points," Jasmine replied.
"Got it," two voices replied in unison.
"One, two, three," she counted softly, establishing the tempo for the count. She took the portal back to Abelard’s garden and then directed it again to the agreed upon insertion point by the herb garden. Stepping from sunny warmth into overcast chill was disconcerting, but travel by portal was always counterintuitive. She was immediately set upon by Ginny who gave her a hug while Harry looked on with amusement.
"Welcome back to the Burrow," he said before turning to the assembled mass of red-haired wizards. "Come on you lot, I don’t fancy waiting here until the freezing rain shows up."
"Always the cheery one, Harry," Fred said, missing the sound of a muted Apparation pop behind him.
Jasmine nodded at the place she supposed Mary to be, flashing a hand signal when the last guest passed the portal. She felt a wisp of breeze as a disillusioned War Witch squeezed past. She stepped through the portal and then closed the door again. Martha was coming by Apparation — it would take her a few minutes to hop the distances required — the shortest path in this instance was not the most expedient, so Martha took a route that would allow her to touchdown and then take-off again without filing border crossing reports.
Jasmine spent the time watching — but then she always did that when she was on duty. She didn’t think that any of the guests posed any threat to her principal, with the exception of Percy, who she couldn’t read. If Percy were to make the slightest hostile move towards Abelard, she’d pin him to the wall with the crystal stiletto hidden in her hair. Looking at her principal, she smiled. Abelard was animated, which certainly beat the lassitude that he’d experienced as he was recovering from his stroke. He’d led the group on a tour of the Villa and the grounds, acceding to a request to allow them to play Quidditch on the Meadow after lunch. While the guests were occupied with sports, Abelard had requested an interview with Mary and Martha, who, to Jasmine’s great pleasure were nearly invisible as they assisted with the supporting logistics. If she didn’t know better, she think that there was only one raven haired Indian girl helping Mum serve lunch rather than two. Watching the eyes of the younger Weasley men, she noted that Fred and George seemed to be paying particular attention to Mary or Martha when they appeared.
Perhaps she’d brush up against one or the other of the Weasley twins to see what they were thinking, but then again, perhaps not.
Lunch was longer than normal, but then again, the table was full of Weasleys, who liked to eat whilst they talked. Percy left before pudding, which was fine with Jasmine, who escorted him to the Portal and then returned to join the guests for pudding. After telling some particularly mortifying stories about Molly when she’d been Molly Prewitt, Abelard began to draw stories from each of the guests in turn, which led to Harry’s disclosure that he’d been receiving private tuition from Rowena Ravenclaw’s mirror.
"So she does exist after all," Abelard exclaimed.
"You’d heard of her?" Harry asked.
"One of my mentors said that he’d discovered a talking mirror when he was a student at Hogwarts," Abelard said.
"That’s impossible," Harry replied. "Rowena said it had been over two hundred years since she’d last spoken to a human."
"How old do you think I am, lad?" Abelard asked.
"You’re about as old as Dumbledore, so you’re somewhere around a hundred and fifty," Harry replied.
"My mentor is easily twice my age," Abelard said.
"And still alive?" Molly asked.
"He comes from particularly long lived stock and says that his job keeps him young," Abelard replied.
"So, what has the lady been teaching you?" Abelard asked, settling back into his chair, his eyes bright.
"Well, lately, she’s been showing me how to take some of the dragon magic and extend it to applications that the dragons never considered," Harry replied, looking around the table.
"Elucidate," Abelard commanded.
"Well, the snow dragons can disappear, which is helpful when you’re a predator," Harry began, disappearing and then reappearing behind Bill to make his point. "Quite by accident I discovered that I can make things disappear if I’m touching them. Rowena studied that for a while and then figured out some interesting twists."
"Such as?" Fred asked with interest.
"Making things appear that aren’t there," said Harry from the end of the table, joined by another Harry and then another.
"Wicked," Ron exclaimed.
"So which one is the real one?" George asked.
"I think it’s the one that’s making eyes at our sister," Fred replied.
"They’re all making eyes at our sister," George said.
"You’ve got a point there," Fred said, turning to Jasmine. "Can you tell them apart?"
Jasmine flushed. "I’ve already done that once, I’ll let someone else tackle that."
"Like the sisters who are helping your mum?" Fred asked.
"They don’t happen to be your sisters, do they?" George asked.
"Only in a sorority kind of way," Mary said, summoning the dishes to the kitchen. "None of them are the real Harry — the real one is standing behind your sister."
"There’s no one standing behind Ginny," Ron exclaimed, tossing a napkin over her head. The napkin stopped in mid-air and then flew back at Ron. "Crikey, Harry, do you always have to make me look foolish in public?"
"We’re not in public, mate, we’re just with your family," Harry replied, appearing behind Ginny as the other Harrys disappeared.
"Yeah, we’re used to you looking foolish," Fred replied. A queer expression passed across his face before he turned into a giant canary.
"Now that’s foolish looking," Hermione said with a smug expression.
"Thanks, luv," Ron said earnestly.
Hermione just smirked in reply. "So can you do that too, Ginny?"
Ginny stood up, pushing Harry back into her seat. She did a quick pirouette and then vanished. A dainty glove appeared, floating in the air above the table, wiggling as an invisible hand pushed into it. Another glove appeared, and then a gauzy, peach coloured camisole.
"Hold it right there, young lady, you are not going to perform a reverse strip tease before your family!" Molly exclaimed.
"Why, Mum? Would you rather I do it before strangers instead?" Ginny asked, appearing behind Molly as the gloves pulled the camisole on over an invisible head.
"You know exactly what I was saying, and I’ll thank you to not be smart with me," Molly huffed.
"Bravo!" Abelard shouted, clapping his hands weakly together. "Oh, that was marvellous. Mary, come back in here."
"Yes, sir?" Mary said, as she came in from the kitchen, followed promptly by her sister.
"There are two of you," Arthur exclaimed.
"Why yes," Mary said.
"There’s always been two of us," Martha added.
With a mild puff of feathers, Fred resumed his human form. "Told you," he said to George, who pulled a Sickle from his pocket.
"Do you two play Quidditch?" Abelard asked.
"We’ve been known to toss a Quaffle or two," Mary said.
"But only when we’re not batting Bludgers," Martha corrected.
"True," Mary said.
"Enjoy a scrum or two with our guests, if you would," Abelard suggested. "Dumbledore will be joining us shortly, I’d like to have a brief meeting with him while our guests play Quidditch."
"You’ll not be joining us in the game?" Molly asked coyly.
"Not a chance," Abelard retorted. "A century ago, maybe, but these old bones are not suited for sporting endeavours, Molly."
To Charlie Weasley’s chagrin, he was only able to catch the Snitch against Harry one time in three. While taking a break for refreshments, Jasmine came alongside Harry and whispered in his ear, before turning to Ginny.
"Abelard would like you to join him in the meeting," Jasmine announced. "Apparently you’re losing your mushroom status."
"Will wonders never cease," Ginny retorted. "So, what’s new?"
"I’ll be leaving Abelard’s staff this month," she said as the two witches walked through the meadow.
"The twins are your replacement?" Ginny asked.
"Most likely," Jasmine replied.
"Gred and Forge are taken with them," Ginny observed.
"I’d wondered about that," Jasmine said. "I thought they were dating girls back in England."
"Overtaken by events. Angelina Johnson’s on the road too much with the Harpies, and George’s thing with Verity never went anywhere," Ginny said authoritatively. "How about you?"
"Well," Jasmine said, flashing a knowing smile, "it just so happens that there is a lad back in my life again."
"I thought you said you couldn’t fall in love when you were pledged," Ginny said.
"I did say that, but this is someone I knew from before the time I was pledged with Abelard," Jasmine said.
"Serious?" Ginny asked.
"Serious enough that I’m moving back to England to be close enough to do some courting," Jasmine replied.
"Where’s he live?" Ginny asked.
"London," Jasmine said. "I’d rather live somewhere warm and sunny, but weather isn’t everything."
"No, but there are other ways of keeping warm," Ginny said knowingly.
"Umm, we’ll see," Jasmine said noncommittally.
Jasmine led them into Abelard’s study. The silver tea service was set out on the low table. Dumbledore and Abelard were sitting together, examining a tarnished silver locket. Harry was standing next to the loveseat, waiting for Ginny to sit down.
"Please stay, Jasmine, you are a necessary participant in today’s meetings," Abelard said gravely. "Albus, you need to start the story today — the floor is yours."
"Thank you, Abelard, and once again, I thank you for your hospitality," Dumbledore began, setting his tea cup down on the low table. "It has taken me a while to piece together this story, so please bear with me, as there are still gaps in my knowledge, and no doubt errors as well. During the first war, there were rumours that Tom Riddle, the man we now know as Voldemort, had come close to, if not having attained his goal of immortality. We suspected then that the rumours were incomplete, if not flat out wrong, especially after Voldemort died after murdering your parents, Harry. When Voldemort returned to his body a year and a half ago, we had to go back and examine the clues that we’d missed. To that I owe a great debt to you, Miss Weasley."
"What did I do?" Ginny asked.
"You survived being possessed by Tom Riddle during your first year of school. The diary was a most interesting artefact, most interesting indeed, for it contained a segment of Tom Riddle’s immortal soul," Dumbledore said.
"What benefit would there be to placing a bit of his soul in a diary?" Harry asked.
"A question that I pondered time and again over the last several months, Harry," Dumbledore answered. "A soul-containing vessel is known as a Horcrux — the diary was the first Horcrux we discovered, although it may not have been the first Horcrux that Tom Riddle created."
"There’s more of them?" Ginny asked incredulously.
"Indeed, that is the whole point. The Horcruxes, or Horcruces as my learned friend would say," Dumbledore said, gesturing to Abelard, "are both a means and an end in and of themselves. If you have two or more portions of your soul bound up in material objects, when your body experiences death, the soul remaining in your body does not translate into the spirit realm as is the normal case upon death, but is bound to life as we know it — anchored, if you will, by the other bits of soul bound up in the objects."
"So that’s how Voldemort wandered about without a body for all those years before he found Professor Quirrell," Harry said.
"Exactly," Dumbledore replied. "Our task, the task of the Order of the Phoenix and those who will ally themselves to our ends, is to find and destroy Tom Riddle’s Horcruces, which will then make it much easier for Harry to dispatch Tom Riddle when the opportunity presents itself."
"Why Harry?" Jasmine asked, speaking for the first time.
"According to prophecy, only Harry can kill Voldemort," Ginny volunteered.
Jasmine raised an eyebrow, but said nothing further.
"So, how many are there?" Harry asked. "You said that there had to be at least two."
"Did I?" Dumbledore asked rhetorically. "I believe that there were six Horcruces, as Tom was most impressed with the powers inherent in the number seven — six Horcruces, plus the remaining soul fragment in his body amounts to a seven-fold split, which he would find most appealing."
"Why?" Ginny asked.
"Seven is the number of divinity, Miss Weasley, and I’m afraid that Tom Riddle has a rather conceited notion of his place in the universe," Dumbledore said, reaching for his tea cup for a swig of tea.
"You said were," Ginny said. "How many are there now?"
"Well, your mate destroyed one of them when he rescued you in your first year at Hogwarts, down in the Chamber of Secrets," Dumbledore replied. "Since then I’ve acquired one more. I thought Miss Kadakia procured another, but I was mistaken."
"Just one," Jasmine said. "The one you sent me after was a fake."
"I do believe that a story is in order," Dumbledore said. Abelard nodded. Jasmine slipped her legs under her and reached for her cup of tea.
"Well, I’m not particularly good at telling stories, but here goes," she began.
"Is the locket you were examining when we came in a Horcrux?" Harry interrupted.
"No, that locket is a decoy," Abelard said.
"The beginning of the story starts last summer, when your Headmaster retained my employer for a most unusual assignment," Jasmine began, an odd smile on her lips. "It was supposed to be tutoring, tutoring in Occlumency, I believe. We all know where that ended up. When you were in the hospital, Ginny, unknown to me, Albus privately asked Abelard for something more in his usual line of business, trying to find several cursed dark objects; what we now know are Horcruces. As a Seer, Abelard is often tasked with finding lost objects, but as we found out, these Horcruces are so heavily cursed as to be next to impossible to find, but Abelard can do many impossible things, so with a little bit of research, and a lot of Farsight, he located the first Horcrux."
"Where was it?" Harry asked.
"Little Hangleton, a relic from the Gaunt family," Abelard answered.
"What sort of object?" Ginny asked.
"A signet ring — your brother broke the curse on it for me after Abelard brought it home, which was a good thing. If I’d gone with my first inclination, it would have incinerated my hand," Jasmine answered. "Abelard started working on finding the second Horcrux when he had his stroke, which set things back a bit. Once he finished rehabilitation, he started back on his regimen of three to four hours of Farsight a day, looking for the trails that would lead him to the next one. All of the leads led to a cave on the coast — not far from Penzance. The cave was Unplottable, so we spent a day or two trying to find it, and then another day to penetrate its defences."
"We?" Ginny asked pointedly.
"Yes, we," Jasmine replied. "I was working with Mister Beckman Gupta."
"Your old boyfriend?" Harry asked incredulously.
"Bill’s old partner?" Ginny chimed in chorus.
Jasmine smiled broadly. "Current boyfriend, we’re back together again; he’s courting me, and yes, Bill’s old partner, but he’s not working for Gringotts any more. He’s the lad I mentioned on the way in today."
"Which is why Jasmine’s being released from her pledge," Ginny said.
"Indeed," Abelard said with a chuckle. "It seems that this pair is well acquainted with the details of your personal life."
Jasmine stuck her tongue out at Abelard and then gave him a wink. "We had to have something to talk about when we were tutoring this summer, and as there’s absolutely nothing interesting to talk about in your life, we had to talk about mine."
"So," Ginny purred. "Tell us about your hot date with Beckman."
"Well, it went about as well as your outing with Harry to Gringotts," Jasmine replied. She picked up a fat cylinder and began drawing a diagram on a white rectangle on the wall behind her. "The cave is natural, but it was heavily modified — most likely by Tom Riddle himself. Beckman thought it was fascinating, actually," she said with a hint of pride. "The first hurdle was a blood barrier."
"Which required a sacrifice of blood on your part?" Dumbledore asked.
"No, we used some from the unfortunate soul who was guarding the cave," Jasmine said ruthlessly. "He didn’t need any of his blood any more. Beckman really doesn’t like surprises. Once past the barrier at the entrance to the cave, we found a lake. There was an island in the middle of the lake — it was the obvious centre of the magic."
Dumbledore nodded, his fingers arched in a tent before his lips. "There was a boat hidden nearby, I presume," he said.
"Yes," Jasmine said with some distain. "We didn’t use it, though. The waters of the lake were full of Inferii. We froze the lake and walked to the island. The Inferii were immobilized, and it made the stench a bit more bearable."
"So, what did you find on the island?" Abelard asked. "I never was able to penetrate the inner veil on the cave when I was using Farsight."
"Something Beckman called a Stygian Fountain — looked rather like an old-fashioned bird-bath to me," Jasmine replied. "It was filled with an odd potion — we couldn’t break through the surface to get at the object at the bottom of the fountain."
"So you drank it?" Dumbledore asked.
"Not hardly," Jasmine replied. "The potion was toxic and cursed. Beckman tried a number of things to get at the object at the bottom of the fountain, but he cautioned me to not even think of drinking it, even though there was a strong compulsion hex on the fountain that made us think of nothing else."
"So, what did you do?" Harry asked.
"Conjured a couple of gallons of elemental Mercury, pouring it into the fountain as we conjured it. Because it wasn’t alive, it could penetrate the surface of the potion. As it was much heavier than either the fountain or the object at the bottom, it displaced things until the object floated to the top. The potion made a terrible mess, but at that point we didn’t care much."
"What then?" Harry asked.
"Well, the lake thawed about this point, so we had to dispatch a few Inferii before freezing it again. We secured the object and scampered out of there," she said with a smile.
"And the locket was the object?" Harry asked.
"Yes, terrible waste if you ask me — it’s a common piece of costume jewellery. Have a look," she said, tossing it to Harry.
"So why do you think it’s a decoy?" Harry asked Abelard, looking at the locket as Ginny looked over his shoulder.
"The original locket that I saw when I was scrying for the Horcrux was a filigree locket with a pattern of serpents, forming an â€˜S’ on the cover. This locket is plain, and bears no traces of Dark Magic," Abelard replied.
"Why do you call it a locket if it doesn’t have a hinge or a catch?" Harry asked.
"You give it a twist," Ginny answered. "Aunt Muriel had one like that. I loved to play with it when she came to visit."
Harry gave it a twist, nodding when the locket unfolded, dropping a stained and wrinkled bit of parchment to the floor.
"Is this safe to pick up?" Harry asked.
Jasmine flicked her wand over the parchment, which glowed with a faint blue light for an instant. "Yes, but it was prudent of you to ask," she said, nodding as he picked it up. Harry unfolded the bit of parchment, smoothing it out so as to be able to read the faint script.
"What does it say?" Dumbledore asked impatiently.
Harry stared at the parchment before reading it aloud. "’ To the Dark Lord - I know I will be dead long before you read this but I want you to know that it was I who discovered your secret. I have stolen the real Horcrux and intend to destroy it as soon as I can. I face death in the hope that when you meet your match, you will be mortal once more. R.A.B.’" Harry read carefully. "Who the dickens is â€˜R.A.B.?’"
"Someone who was familiar with Tom Riddle, and with his Horcrux project," Abelard replied.
"Note that he says â€˜Horcrux’ in the singular," Jasmine observed.
There was a long silence, broken by Ginny, clearing her throat.
"Um - uh - I think I know who â€˜R.A.B.’ was and where the real Horcrux might be," Ginny said quietly.
The room exploded in a barrage of questions, most of which had to be asked again, as no one in the room, much less Ginny, could hear when everyone was talking all at once.
"Is Beckman available today?" Ginny asked Jasmine.
"No, he’s back in India, visiting his family," she replied.
"Then you’d best see if Bill’s willing to go with us back to Harry’s house in London," Ginny replied. "I think the real locket is at Grimmauld Place."
New Year’s Day — for a few more minutes…
The academic year is not quite half through, yet I’m almost finished with your ivory coloured pages — what a year it’s been. Well, New Year, new experiences — let’s see if I can list them in no particular order of importance:
· Much to the dismay of my brother Charlie, Harry is still the best Seeker I know — but then I’m probably more than a little biased on that topic. Harry caught the Snitch two out of three times today.
· Jasmine’s leaving Abelard’s house soon and is back together with her old flame. Oddly enough, Harry knows more about this story than I do, but I’ll be sure to remedy this the next time I go out to lunch with Jasmine.
· The Twins are twitterpated — the object of their affections being Abelard’s newest employees, Mary and Martha. I’m not quite sure that the interest is reciprocated, but they are certainly in Gred and Forge’s league as Beaters. I’d read of Beaters being able to Clank the Bludger, but never seen it done. On more than one occasion during our games today, a Bludger hit by Gred or Forge was met by another Bludger launched by Mary or Martha, at the exact speed and spin to cancel the motion of both balls — resulting in a resounding clank before the balls would fall to earth. Impressive bit of marksmanship if you ask me.
· Hermione found out about my Christmas Eve visit to Harry’s room at the Dursley’s house. I think she’s jealous, even though nothing much happened that night beyond an exceptionally good snog. We had a good just-us-girls talk about boundaries, more for her sake than mine, I suspect.
· Having a nearly photographic memory has its benefits. When Abelard described the Slytherin locket he’d been looking for, I remembered the creepy locket we found at Grimmauld Place when we were first attempting to decontaminate it two summers ago. It wasn’t where I thought it would be at Grimmauld Place, but Dobby knew where all of the seriously dark trash was stored, in a heavily warded bin that looked like it had stored potatoes in an earlier life. Bill never knew that House Elves had a warding magic all their own — he was most impressed. It was indeed a Horcrux. Damned thing gave me the creeps just looking at it, and as I got near to it each and every Pyr’g in my head started throwing fits. I never knew that spiders could scream.
· Bill says the Horcrux was rather spectacular when they cracked it open. I’ll take his word for it; that’s one task that I’ll gladly leave up to the boys.
I never did get a chance to discuss that destiny thing with Harry, but there’s always breakfast once we get back to our school schedule. I’m really knackered, and it’s time for me to get feline and start the evening’s power-nap.
Copyright © 2006 — J Cornell — all rights reserved.
Author note: Thus begins the serious work of making SFSY into a somewhat HBP compliant tale. Not to worry — I’m not fixing to write a Horcrux hunt — that’s JKR’s job. We will, of course, see more of Jasmine, and Mary and Martha in the coming chapters. We might even get a chance to meet Beckman.
Yet another author note: I started this chapter months ago, but then got side-tracked with my little Harry-Gabrielle tale. Sorry for the delay. I can't promise that it won't happen
again. A question for my readers - according to my Google Analytics, I have about 20 readers in Saint-Eustace-sur-le-Lac, Quebec. Who are you guys? HP fan fic fans reading English
tales in francophone Canada? Who knew? Drop me a line, I'd like to know who you guys are.