Harry Potter Fanfic: The Path of Indifference #6
Chapter 6: Potions and Bridges
Note: This chapter is courtesy of a burst of inspiration after reading the Harry Potter/ Fate Stay Night Crossover, The Trinity by Kieran at Beast’s Lair.
Lily Potter gazed upon the indifferent stare of her youngest twin son and felt a sense of guilt as the image of a young Severus Snape overlapped it. The resemblance in their visage at that moment was too uncanny to deny, as though a mirror image or a sign of what was to come. Seeing that look on one of the two treasures she had given birth to…it shook her to her core, knowing the path that awaited ahead.
Just the same, she thought to herself. He’s going to be just the same if we don’t do something about it.
Isolation that bred Anger. Desire for Predominance, Respect, and Power—all seeds of one who walks along the abyss, only to be drawn into it like an eddy, which would dye him in a coat of black and blood. While he would one day arrive at that point of all he hoped for, he would stand there and have nothing left to surround himself with and wallow in the solitude of the empty void he threw himself into.
Looking back, having both Harry and Gene at Hogwarts for most of the year was bad enough in a sense. For her, even though it had been decades ago, going home after school and spending time with her parents and sister seemed like an alien notion after being immersed in the world of magic for so long. Part of Harry’s accusations about her having been too distant with her non-magical heritage was spot-on in that aspect.
She hadn’t considered what Petunia must have felt like. After that spat between James and her husband they had just stopped talking to one another. Honestly, did being separated from her so long during her school years make splitting them apart so much easier?
A strong and steady hand grasped her shoulder as her son vanished along with the portkey to wherever the camp was. She didn’t turn to look at who it was. There was no doubt in her mind that it belonged to her husband, which was only reinforced when he spoke. “Are you alright?”
Lily crossed her arms and shook her head. “I just wished there was another way. This feels…hands-off compared to how things were when I was growing up, before magic and all. Like we can’t help him with his problems and instead just pawned him off because he was too much trouble.”
James positioned himself next to her, wrapping his arm around her back to embrace her shoulder on the other side. “He won’t let us help him and he’s committed crimes, in addition to the violence at Hogwarts. Whatever problems with us he’s had have been built up like armor against us and used to spread the misery around. It needs to be broken by a third-party so we can try to reach the person who’s hiding beneath the surface.”
“Perhaps you’re right…” Lily rested her head on his shoulder as she embraced him, allowing for her husband’s warmth to flow through her body and comfort her on the decision. “I just hope he’ll be okay and know that we did this for his own good.”
“It’ll be fine,” James assured her once more. “They’ll soften him up, show him what’ll happen if he keeps on the path he’s on, and he’ll be back before you know it. After that we can try again before he goes off to a better year than before at Hogwarts.”
His words were betrayed by his eyes however, as he himself had his doubts. He would keep them to himself for the time being, in order to avoid distressing Lily further. “Come on, love. We’ve got to get to the Longbottom’s place to see Augusta.”
With Harry – Three Days Later
For all their faults James and Lily had good intentions in sending me off to a reformation camp, Harry Potter told himself as he rubbed the bridge of his eyes. That’s why I’m not going to drug their coffee and tea with Draught of the Living Dead…maybe. I’ll flip a galleon later on it.
The camp was a fair idea in the long run, with the potential to do great things for those who needed a step in the right direction. He could see the use of portkeying troublesome youths out to a remote wilderness at Merlin-knows-where in order to deal with their problems. After being cooped up in his room he actually relished the wilderness a bit, just not the lack of his books and wand so he could something productive.
Unfortunately the standards appeared to have fallen over the years since its inception. It was run by incompetents who were put there because of lackluster work ethic or needed to fill a quota of service hours, rather than a genuine like of children and teens at and under the age of fourteen.
For starters there were only five adults to over thirty youths, the most important of them being the overseer and the healer, meaning there wasn’t enough staff to deal with the number of youths or give them actual direction. There was no personalization for dealing with the reason each individual was sent here or criteria, merely a five-hour lecture (which you could sleep through) and then a period of doing whatever the hell you wanted every day. They just accepted them if the parents said they had a problem and paid the fee, which Harry suspected was a way to get out of dealing with some of their kids until roughly a week before Hogwarts.
For example there were Megan Jones and Peter Jones, fraternal twins who attended Hogwarts. One was a Hufflepuff and the other was a Gryffindor. They were sent to the camp because they wouldn’t stop hexing each other, rather than say simply taking their wands and putting them in separate rooms.
That meant there was no real reformation for those who actually had problems, Harry thought. Really, I should contact the Ministry Official overseeing this and just have them close it down, but let’s be honest in that it pulls in extra coin for them at minimal expenses. And most of them leave me alone after what happened before I left—
“Ow!” Harry rubbed the back of his head after something hit it, followed by the sound of a nut hitting the floor of the wooden cabin. He turned to see a slender male, with sharp eyes, named Gregory Munslow.
He was a Hufflepuff third year student, going on fourth when the term started, who proved that not all the trouble went towards the Slytherin house, considering how he felt the need to antagonist Harry daily with jabs. If things turned violent it would end badly for Harry here. Wands weren’t allowed so his parents confiscated his before he could bring it, meaning it was simply a case of might against might, which Harry was ill-equipped to deal with in a tiny twelve year old body.
Of course I could outrun him or go with the ages old method of bashing his skull in with a rock, Harry mused, before shaking off the thought as Munslow approached. “What do you want, Munslow?”
“Someone wants to see you,” he said, violet pupils gazing down on the younger boy. “You’re coming with me.”
Harry snorted a bit at that. “Why would I go with you anywhere?”
Munslow’s response was to grab the raven-colored hair on the back of Harry’s head and drive it into the thick wood of the table, splintering it as blood flowed from a cut and left the eleven year-old dazed as he lifted him onto his feet and led him towards the door.
As they passed through the opening Munslow noticed one of the staff members coming up and shifted his hand around so it looked like he was supporting the injured boy. When the staff member questioned what happened due to the blood, he lied. “He hit his head pretty bad. I’m escorting him to the Healer.”
Once again their lack of dedication to their job was shown as the staff member merely nodded and went on his way, leaving Harry to trot along at the older boy’s hands while the world tilted. Relief only came when they approached a tent and Gregory shunted him through the opening.
Rather than hitting thin fabric over the twig covered earth, he hit carpet instead and groaned as his senses came back to him enough to realize it was a customized wizarding tent. An expansion charm of sorts turned what should have been at best a few feet into the size of a living room, four torches with Bluebell flames dancing in the corners, and a wooden table with a chair for him. On the other end of the table were two young women, the age difference between them apparent in their figures, and a tent-fox with grayish fur.
The first young woman, the eldest, was in a fancy chair that spoke of wealthy with an ottoman propping up her feet. She was fairly tall, long black-hair that looked like silk, and was dressed in an immaculate white robe.
The second, the one literally fanning her with a fan made of what looked to be peacock feathers, was somewhat shorter. With brown hair and matching eyes, her fair skin was shrouded in an aquatic hue from the flames near her. Harry felt like he should recognize her from somewhere but couldn’t place a name to the face.
“Gregory, I wanted him here without being harmed,” the first woman said, her voice smooth like velvet.
“He resisted,” was Gregory’s casual response.
Harry, on the other hand, just wanted answers and something for the pain. “Can someone please tell me what’s going on here?”
The eldest woman motioned for him to take a seat. “My name is Gayle Pocklington. Do you know of me?”
“I know the family name belongs to some rather skilled apothecaries, but the blow to the head has left me a wee-bit dizzy,” he answered as he sat down to get off the floor.
“I’ll be quick about it then so you can see the Healer,” Gayle stated. She then raised a hand to grab loosely on the fabric of the other girl’s shirt and gave it a tug. “Leanne, clean him up and give him the peace offering, will you love?”
Leanne put down the fan and fetched from her pocket three articles, extending her hand for him to take them.
“My pen, pocket notebook, and ocarina?” Harry took the peace-offering gingerly as Leanne then produced handkerchief to wipe up the blood and had him hold it to his head. The items had been confiscated upon arrival after they searched his belongings as contraband. A precaution they claimed, stating they would supply him with quill and parchment, while the ocarina was because the camp was supposed to be a punishment and no instruments were allowed. “You didn’t retrieve any of the books I brought, did you?”
“Not this time,” she said. “Just consider what you have a simple show of that I can get you whatever you need inside here without raising any heads.”
Harry blinked at the underlying meaning. “You run the contraband trade?”
She nodded. “That’s right. Whatever you need, as long as you do something for me.”
Putting his belongings away, he skipped the small talk. “What do you want from me then?”
Gayle snapped her fingers again and Leanne presented him with a folded parchment from her other pocket. “I heard about your reputation of being a potioneer that’s quite good for your age. Tell me what effects those put together make.”
“…this is some kind of hallucinogen at a glance,” Harry said after a moment, thankful that after Snape had rode him that first class he went through a copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi. “Alihotsy Leaves causes a state of hysteria by stimulating the pleasure sense of the brain while the Angel’s Trumpets are known for generating hallucinations, but are highly poisonous. Whatever this brew listed on here is, drinking it is fatally hazardous.”
“But if you inhale the fumes it would cause a pleasure inducing state of euphoria similar to a psychedelic for a short-term,” Gayle added. “You are intelligent. I thought after my last guy was carted off to Azkaban it was a stretch, but if anyone can recreate it then it would be the non-Slytherin that Snape complimented for his skill in potion-making and who made those Howler Busters.”
“This can’t be legal,” Harry stated.
Gayle shrugged. “There are no laws against it, since this is a relatively new thing. Even if it were…well, no profit can be made with crossing a few silly laws.”
Harry’s eyebrows arched. “Seriously, you do know I’m related to an Auror, right?”
Granted they weren’t on good terms and damn well wouldn’t be after this. But he had a point. This was risky inherently, something that Mundungus pointed out would bar him from some of the shadier activities that lurked in the magical world.
“A flat fee of fifty galleons and whatever you need if you’re in,” Gayle offered, ignoring that last statement. “You get half upfront and half on delivery. Badger Pride on fair play and all.”
“While that is tempting,” Harry admitted, “if I refuse?”
“Well, I can’t force you,” she admitted. “I could have Gregory beat the daylights out of you, but we know that won’t do a thing given your reputation. We could curse you, but it couldn’t be anything permanent or truly damaging so it wouldn’t hold much sway. You can refuse and there’s nothing I can do about it…but why would you?”
Gayle stood and sauntered over to Harry, placing her hands on his shoulders. For some inexplicable reason she felt the need to rub them, as though violating his personal space wasn’t enough as she leaned in and whispered in his ears seductively. “I can make things comfortable around here for you. Besides, you’re a businessman aren’t you?”
“What of it?” Harry asked, curious to see where it would go. More than that, he could pick up just a minor scent coming off her, somewhat alluring enough to hold his attention. Still, he was twelve and the proximity between them was something he would prefer be respected. “And can I get some space here?”
“Well, like you, I’m providing a product to consumers,” she reasoned, pulling away. “I’m not forcing it on anyone and, quite frankly, things are a little dull around here without something of interest to spice it up. You’ve got a sharp mind and matching talent, Potter, and it’s wasting away for you to be here when you clearly don’t want to. Work with me and you can profit while I provide you whatever you desire.”
I could use my reading materials to brush up on spells and research, while the money for future endeavors and such. But I’m no fool, Harry thought to himself. What she’s asking me is illegal and she knows I could report her. She also knows that while physically threatening me won’t work, the fact that she’s telling me all this means that she’s playing another angle.
Harry licked his lips and met her gaze. He ultimately decided to agree, if only to play it safe and make the best out of circumstances. “We do this and it gets traced back to me, we’re going to have some problems…understand?”
“You’ve got a lot of bark for a twelve year-old,” she noted, putting on a smile. “I like it. As long as you don’t steal or use my product, I think we can do business for a long time.”
Harry shrugged. “Let’s see how this goes before anything else, but we’re galleon on the two conditions you set. To start with I’ll need somewhere to work, private and isolated away from the campsite, as well as ventilated so that it can air out.
“I’ll also need a cauldron, standard potion-making equipment, and a wand, obviously,” he finished. Besides for the potion, he could use it to get some practice in. They weren’t in England anymore judging by the plant-life and he sincerely doubted the Trace was active outside its range. “Also those books I brought in had some spells that would prove useful, including one that would prevent me from inhaling the fumes, savvy?”
“You’ll have them by tonight,” she stated with an air of confidence. “As for the wand, Leanne, if you will?”
Leanne presented a wand to him. It wasn’t the best work he’d seen. Granted it wasn’t lacking polish and made of a less than hearty wood, but when he touched it and allowed his magic to flow in it, he noted whatever was used as the core of it lacked the sensation of sentience found in a normal wand.
For all intensive purposes it was merely a tool that offered nothing in return. A wand that neither chose a wizard nor shunned them. An empty channel for magic that his own wand would trump by a large magnitude.
Gayle answered the unasked question. “It’s a toss-away. Think of it as a type of wand of sorts that you would give little children to help with the bouts of accidental magic, but refurbished for practical use rather than making pretty sparks and such. I picked it up from a backdoor wand-maker and, while it doesn’t meet the standards of the any official wand-maker, it’ll get the job done.”
Harry decided to test that for himself casted a spell. Ethereal mist poured forth and coalesced into the form of a smaller-than-expected spectral dog that stared at its creator, awaiting a command, before he dismissed it. “Definitely not up to standards, even with full effort and natural talent, but it’ll do. I’ll cut five galleons off the finished product for it at the end of this…arrangement.”
Gayle put on a smile that showed pearly teeth. “Wonderful. In that case, Gregory will finish escorting you to the Healer to make sure you aren’t concussed and get something for the pain. Then, later tonight, Leanne will show you the way to somewhere you can brew in peace and find what you asked for.”
“I can get to the Healer myself.” Harry stood up and left as he held the handkerchief to his head, giving the older teen that inflicted the wound in the first place a once-over on his way. He set aside a place for him on the get-back list later on. “Be seeing you, Munslow.”
The Hufflepuff enforcer put on a rather sharp smirk. “For your sake I hope not, Potter.”
After that the day passed uneventfully until night had fallen, a curtain of black beneath the ever shining stars above, and Harry Potter proceeded into the wood while following the guidance of Leanne. While everyone else slept, the adults relied on an alarm spell on the doors and windows to know if anyone left. However, Leanne had been shown a way in used by repeat camp-goers, which Gayle had been.
Apparently someone took it upon themselves to make a sort of escape tunnel through the liberal use of the Gouging Spell as well as a simple Mending Charm to repair the section of floor removed before modifying it so that it could be raised and lowered like a trapdoor. Curiously the underside of the exit had ‘F.W. & G.W. were here’ carved on it.
She led him alongside a rock face, running her hand against it, until she found a deep impression that looked to be a “W” and patted it. Then she pulled out the throw-away wand and cast a spell directly at the impression. “Descendo!”
A blue bolt vacated the wand and hit the mark, spreading along the way as a section of the wall descended to make a cavern mouth. The cavern itself was too smooth to be naturally made and somewhat deep. Three dais dwelled around a fire pit and kindling beneath the collapsible cauldron, one holding several sheets of parchment and the books he asked for, including a copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi, while the others held the standard equipment of potion-making and the ingredients. On the walls were gouges that housed some containers with Bluebell flames inside to illuminate the darkness, and in the ceiling there was a natural vent with a clear view of the night sky, directly above the cauldron.
“Alright,” Harry said as he stepped inside and the wall rose behind him again to seal off the exit for privacy, “I’m impressed. But how did you know the wall could descend without bringing down the whole thing there?”
“Gayle said that she found it while exploring the woods one day,” Leanne explained.
“So she has no idea who set it up beforehand?” Harry asked as he flipped through one of his text for the chapter that went over the Bubble-Head charm.
“No,” Leanne said. Then she set on one of the dais a phial containing a violet liquid. “This is what the finished potion should look like. When in contact with the air it begins a chemical process that makes it evaporate and fume rapidly.”
Harry walked over and inquisitively stared at the container and the fluid within. “I assume she used Scarpin’s Revelaspell to confirm that the ingredients she provided for me are indeed the ingredients used in the potion?”
Leanne scratched her head as she sat on a stool, having been assigned to watch him the entire time or assist when needed. “I can’t say…”
“Well then it’s time to reap the benefits of having access to some text I really shouldn’t have for helping a dunderhead,” he stated cryptically with a smile on his face as he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and grabbed the wand, pointing it to the phial. “Potio Revelias.”
A grayish mass of magic left the wand and touched the phial, before seeming becoming a kaleidoscope of colors that seamlessly blended and forced him to squint his eyes to separate them in his mind. Harry then set the pocket notebook down next to the copy of One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi textbook, flipping it open and skimming to the pages with the relevant ingredients listed on the parchment and comparing it to the colors listed on each page under Scarpin’s Color guide.
They matched so he reviewed what he knew about the ingredients that matched what was supplied. Flobberworm Mucus, used to thicken potions normally because of the texture…I hated milking those things during that detention with Snape. Infusion of Wormwood, Horklump Caps and Alihotsy Leaves, I already know what they can do. Fire Seeds can’t be handled without the Freezing Charm from the second year material and Angel Trumpets can’t be handled without gloves since they’re narcotic and every part of the plant was poisonous.
After taking into account what effect each one did individually he had to take into account what they could do together and proceed with minimal instructions. It was risky, but he could do this and it would further his skill as a potioneer if he chose to go down that road.
Cracking his neck and rolling his shoulders, Harry got down to business.
At the Burrow – Two Weeks Later
It was at the two week mark that the rest of the Potter family visited one of their distantly related families, the Weasleys. While they had a number of other distantly related families, like the Bulstrodes and Malfoys, through the Black family ties stemming from Dora Black, most of them had supported the rise of the Dark Lord and thus became enemies.
At the expansive dinner table sat Sirius, James, Ginny, Gene, and the twins, all of whom were listening as Sirius regaled with tales of the Marauders. It led to the following conversation.
“Dad, are ever you going to teach me and Ron to be an Animaguses so we can try that prank you pulled on Snivellus?” Gene asked. “I figured me and Ron, are going to be the next Marauders so we may as well get the whole package.
“You are aware that I’m an Auror, right?” James reminded him. “I’d have to register you. Besides, your mother said no antagonizing him this year.”
“Besides, you need four members,” Sirius tacked on. “After you’ve got the last two members, you sort into roles. If we’re going traditional you need a prankster who can prank the devil himself, a guy who gets all the birds, a smart one for when you need an excuse, and a cautious bloke who looks out behind you for trouble. ”
“There’s Hermione,” Gene offered. “She’s really smart and got some of the best grades. She’s even been helping me and Ron since that troll thing. Neville would be the cautious one though.”
Sirius nodded. “There you go, Marauders assembled. Now, the first step in becoming an Animagus is—”
“No Sirius,” Lily stated as she entered the room with Molly, carrying the food and tea. “The boys have gotten into mischief enough last year in Hogwarts. Adding the ability to change into something else would only magnify the problem. Let the Marauders end with you, Remus, and James.”
“Heresy!” Sirius croaked. “It has to be carried on! It’s bad enough you wouldn’t let us give them the Map last year.”
It was then George and Fred spoke up. “If they can’t we’ll take the mantle, won’t we Fred old boy?”
Fred agreed. “Right you are! Me and George got that role covered enough for two each.”
“So help me if you boys get into any more trouble at that school. That Non-Magical-Folk Protection Act your father is trying to get passed is already turning heads and if disruptions by any of you or getting expelled from Hogwarts because your little pranks have gone too far causes damage to your father’s credibility…” Molly trailed off , leaving the implied threat hanging as she sat down and sipped her tea at the thought of those two’s antics.
Fred shook his head. “Now Mum, we’re only in it until we take off with our products—”
“—after all, between us and Harry we might have a real future in the business industry.” George finished for his twin. Then he looked around for the other Potter twin. “Speaking of which, where is he so we can talk about improvements to those fancy little busters of his.”
“Ah, we felt it best if we sent him away for a month to camp,” Lily confessed as she sat next to her husband. “I didn’t know you boys were close though.”
“He’s a reasonable bloke on most ends,” George admitted.
“But he’s a might uptight like Percy is,” Fred confessed. “Makes it hard to work with him too closely.”
Two weeks and no letters or anything from him, Lily thought to herself. The mail we sent was never responded to either, but we know he gets it. We may have made things worse in the long run…
James peered over his copy of the Daily Prophet and noticed Lily deep in thought after the subject of their wayward son was brought up. Their thoughts mirrored each other pretty well, so he had an idea of what she was thinking about at that moment. His plan wasn’t likely working and in another week-and-a-half he would be back, with no progress made.
“Ginny, go get Ron and tell him it’s time for dinner,” Molly ordered after finishing her tea, before turning to the twins. “One of you boys go and get your father from his shed too.”
“I’ll go,” the eldest Potter volunteered. Given that Harry always seemed fond of Arthur when they visited, he could give him more insight into curbing his son’s bad habits and behavior. “I wanted to talk to him anyway about some business at the Ministry.”
Leaving the Burrow to head to the shed, James knocked at the door. “Arthur, can I come in?”
“Sure,” came through the door. When James entered he found Arthur Weasley adjusting his glasses as he inspected the wiring of a small television that had its case removed, attached to a hand operated electric generator. “Just give me a moment, will you?”
He tapped the crank attached to the generator with his wand and it began to spin, faster than a human would be capable of continuously, charging the battery it was attached to that was feeding electricity through the wires. The hum of it entering the television was barely audible, but Arthur pressed the button to power it on. There was a flicker, the screen coming to life for a brief moment…
Then came the sparks and smoke as the screen fizzled out. Using his wand to vanish the smoke and cease the spinning of the generator crank, he regarded it as another failure. “Back to the books it seems…or maybe I need to think of another method, older perhaps?”
“There’s too much magic around here for anything electrical to work,” James told him.
Arthur waved it off as he removed his glasses. “I know, that’s the problem. While the generator is mechanical and works well enough, the telly is another thing entirely and the inner workings escape me beyond a certain level. But, if I could somehow shield them from the effects then we can start watching the movies like I saw at this theater some time ago with Harry. You remember, I told you I had dragged him along with me through London?”
James nodded. “That Christmas I remember. You mentioned he wandered around a lot unsupervised. Since then we paid more attention, but he mostly stayed with his head in his books after that. When he disappeared off the train from Hogwarts and left out without telling us we confronted him on it, but…he’s changed quite a bit from then and was manipulative in dealing with Sirius and Lily, bringing her sister into it.
“Then, after he was ungrounded he proceeded to commit an actual crime with this other boy, according to Sirius. I had to send him away to that camp that Bones set up some time back,” James finished with an exasperated sigh.
Arthur picked up the underlying tone of the sigh and turned to face him. “What troubles you, James?”
“Besides the criminal activity?” he jested, before getting serious. “Lily’s worried about Harry after his brush with death in the castle, although she puts on a brave front…Arthur, be straight with me. Do you think we’ve earned Harry’s hatred as parents?”
“Well, it isn’t my place to say,” Arthur told him as he recalled the discussion he had with Harry those years ago.”From your perspective he is going down a bad path, and from his he feels like you’ve neglected him for so long that it won’t matter if he does. ”
James leaned against the desk and rubbed the bridge of his eyes beneath his glasses. “The problem is that he says he has no intention of forgiving us, no matter how much we try. I can live with that, after all teenage boys and fathers don’t usually get along, but Lily won’t be able to and it troubles me to no end when she feels that way.”
“Hmm…” Arthur thought on the problem until he came up with something.”Did you know that Molly has a second cousin, Thomas De Lucas is what he goes by now after he took his wife’s family name. I really should remember the name of what he does, but the gist is he’s some kind of money-handler of sorts in the mundane world?”
James shook his head. “I didn’t know.”
“That’s because we never talked about him,” Arthur said, followed with a sigh. “He was a Squib. We lost contact with him some time back after he offended Molly, until an associate of mine helped me find him since I wanted to learn more about their side of things and potentially see about hiring one or two Squibs as temp help of sorts, in identifying some things when it came to my job as head of Misuse of Muggle Artifacts—shortage of space and staff and all.”
“How’d he take that?” James asked.
“He was mad of course,” Arthur explained. “We had cut him off and when he left words were said that hurt as much as an Unforgivable. While I left him my contact information in hopes of making amends and a connection, he never called. I understood perfectly and didn’t blame him for it, since we all burned that bridge in the first place.”
“So, in this instant, he’s Harry in comparison?”
Arthur nodded. “Funny thing is he contacted me last month. His little girl of nine years old, Malfalda, showed a bout of accidental magic against all odds while throwing a tantrum. Growing up as part of the magical world and watching his cousins and family, he knew the signs and wanted to see if she was registered at Hogwarts, since she was born in Britain, absolute proof she was a witch.
James rubbed his chin in thought. “Only the Deputy Headmistress and Headmaster can do that, I think.”
“I asked Dumbledore for a favor,” Arthur confided. “Asked him to check the Book of Admittance when he had the time since he’s the only one who knows how it works, including sorting through it from what I’ve heard. Told him it was to mend bridges. Last week he told me that she was registered to join in two years.
“When I told Thomas he wanted to see if it were possible to have us smooth her entrance into the magical world before she gets involved in the schooling. Now Molly forbids bringing up the subject of Thomas so I haven’t mentioned to her about it yet, but I’m hoping by that time rolls around I can convince her to let the child stay for the summer before she attends,” he finished.
“Giving you a chance to make amends and rebuild the bridge that was burned?” James guessed.
Arthur stood and placed a firm hand on James’ shoulder. “The moral of the story is that there will always be opportunities to rebuild bridges as long as both parties try, James. Harry feels slighted, betrayed, and neglected, but he is young and there may be a time when he will extend a hand for help that you can use to try and mend the gap. Just be ready to take it at that moment.”
James nodded slowly at that, seeing the logic behind it. “It’s sound advice. Thanks.”
Arthur smiled as he put back on his glasses. “Now, we’ve been in here for too long and I’m guessing Molly sent you. I don’t want to upset her more than she already is, so let’s get going, shall we?”
With Harry – One Week Later
Night fell once more as the week passed and Harry’s stay at the camp was nearing its end.
He yawned heavily and rubbed the bridge of his eyes as he went over the process for the potion for the fiftieth time. So far he had gone through twenty-seven variations of what he thought it could be, five of them closer than the rest with three having different effects…including one that he would find beneficial in the future.
This time, however, he believed he had it. As Professor Snape had said, potion-making was a subtle science. Every process held some change, from the slicing method to whether the ingredients were added whole or snapped in half.
The key is the fire seeds and the flobberworm mucus, he mused before casting the Bubble-Head charm once more for protection. The mucus isn’t just to thicken the potion so it doesn’t evaporate quickly, but it’s the base of it. I’ve already exhausted most of the supplies trying to make it a liquid when its closer to a paste or balm, the liquefaction is a result of the fire seeds being crushed and applied liberally, but I can’t cool them down with the Freezing Spell like I have been.
Moving over to the dais with equipment from the potion-making kit, he put on the protective gloves it came with once more. With the protection in place he took out the Angel’s Trumpet from its container and set it on the dais. The sharpened knife was then used to mince the stem thoroughly and added it to a bowl, where it was mixed with an Infusion of Wormwood and stirred for two minutes, the chemicals in the two causing it to begin to bubble and produce wisps of acrid smoke.
He then set it aside to focus on the Horklump Caps, which were diced, and the dried Alihotsy Leaves, which were crumbled into a pile. Then he removed the lid from the jar of mucus, thick in consistency as bubbles that were trapped within the mass moved along with jar, and held it over the collapsible cauldron. The slimy substance clung to the jar as the contents were spilled into the small cauldron like molasses.
Next was the application of the Flame-Freezing Charm, knowledge of which was provided by the text he read. Waving his wand above his head and muttering the incantation, he then undid the cap to the jar that was containing the fire seeds, a temporal suspension spell included on it upon purchase preventing any loss of time that would cause them their potency to drop.
The white aura that enveloped him from the spell dampened the sensation of the fire seeds, allowing him to take one and toss it into the fire pit to set the kindling alight with a fearsome flame. With the flames licking at the bottom of the cauldron he watched as the mucus boiled and bubbled, he slowly added one-third of the crumbled leaves and stirred until the concoction was liquid enough to do so with ease as the color became a light hue of green. He dropped the diced caps and stirred in the counter direction ten times, magic infusing the potion as he did so. The color shifted to a reddish hue and bellowed smoke.
“Okay, so far so good,” Harry muttered within the confines of the Bubble-Head Charm. The fungi cap was punky and produced thick smoke that would escape from the opening at the top of the cavern before dispersing at this point. He let it simmer until it thinned out ten minutes later, then he added in all of the Wormwood and Angel’s Trumpet mixture, turning it a yellowish color.
Stirring in the counter direction he did before, he added the remaining leaves as the flames in the fire pit finished the last of the kindling and died slowly. At this point the potion was a light shade of purple and thickened rapidly, ready for the final step.
While the Flame-Freezing Charm was still in effect he placed another three fire seeds in the mortar and took the pestle to them, one at a time, to turn them into a fine, burning powder. The flames born of the crushing were even more intense than if the seeds were whole as each grain swallowed the oxygen in the air to consciously burn. Once done he dumped them into the concoction and watched as the thickening potion began to boil and liquefy once more with flames dancing in spouts from inside the potion.
It’s hard to breathe, Harry noted once the Bubble-Head Charm wore off. The hole in the ceiling wasn’t letting in enough oxygen given what the fire seeds consumed, With Leanne still asleep in the corner it was dangerous if the levels dropped lower. To let more air flow he lowered the entrance.
Harry then watched as it began to settle into the deep violet color, little grains of the seed powder still present and keeping the concoction warmed and liquid. All that was left was to place a Freezing Charm on it to hold it in stasis, which he did. Elated he managed to successful recreate something with only the knowledge of the ingredients, a growing testament to his skill, he allowed himself to bask in victory and turned his attention to writing down the instructions and steps in his pocket notebook.
It was long enough that the dying fire in the fire pit was reduced to a charcoal and smoldering ashes…and Harry heard the whispers of a non-familiar voice. It was like grain running against sand paper in his mind as he turned to see the embers flow from beneath the surface and the ash itself took to life, shaping itself into a serpentine form. It was thin and pale-grey, eyes that shone with a burning-red hue as it flicked its black tongue to taste the air—an Ashwinder.
Harry rubbed his eyes to and wondered if he was seeing and hearing things by inhaling some of the fumes somehow, but that notion died when it through entrance cavern and into the forest. He then remembered that they laid eggs that made fire seeds like matches compared to a blowtorch. And they were in a dry forest.
His response was a very vocal “Crap!” as he gave chase in a desperate attempt to keep up with it. If a fire broke out at this time of night it could cause a disaster with everyone sleeping. Since everyone knew how Ashwinders were made, besides hatching from eggs, they could try and trace the source of the flames and find the cavern. Then, if no one died in the conflagration, he would be charged with several other things—oh, and guilt over causing the fire in the first place.
Thankfully the serpent left a thick and ashy trail as it moved sideways into the brush, somewhat visible in the moonlight. Still, he need to use a Lighting Charm so he reached for the toss-away wand he had…only to realize he left it behind in the cavern. The serpent was getting further and further away, towards camp, and in the dark he would lose the trail eventually and it would lay its eggs.
“Get back here!” he barked in frustration, his throat feeling a slight strain. To his surprise it stopped…only to turn to him and start slithering towards him until it was inches from him. Harry found himself staring into curious glowing red eyes, all while he could hear something, like a little distant voice from it that was barely above a whisper coming from it.
Okay, maybe the fumes did get to me, he mused while trying to figure out how to deal with it before it followed instinct again and tried to run off to lay eggs. The answer came from a third-party in the form of burning jets of violet smoke that struck the serpent, the air itself hardening into a bubble that trapped it. Harry turned to find Leanne, fair skin flushed from trying to keep up, having woken up at his yell as he left the cave and chased after him.
“Are you alright?” she asked between the panting she did, a layer of sweat on her face from the run, and casting the Bubble Cage Jinx (Ebublio). “Did it bite you?”
Harry quickly shook his head and rubbed the bridge between his eyes. “I think some of those fumes got to me though. Nice jinx, by the way. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.”
“Come on then, we’ll dump it in the middle of the lake,” she declared, before muttering the incantation for the Locomotion Charm (Locomotor) taught by Flitwick last school year to lift the bubble and move it, “I doubt a snake born of fire and ash can swim. No eggs, no big fire, no questions.”
Along the way Harry stared at the snake, the sound of a voice coming from it muffled by the bubble but still there. Was his mind playing tricks on him, he wondered. Even with the Bubble-Head Charm and the vent, he was around so many of concoctions they could have lingered on his clothing and affected him later. He decided to see if a Healer could run a diagnostic on him later this morning.
Eventually Leanne asked, “Why are you staring at the snake? Do you want to keep it as a pet or something?”
“Ashwinders only live for an hour to lay their eggs, so they don’t make good pets…” Harry trailed off as he rubbed his chin in thought, although Hagrid might know if it were possible to breed them, provided you could contain the eggs without the Freezing Charm so they could hatch. Normally the eggs are used for Love Potions though so they’re more valuable that way.
Shaking his head at the thought, he then imagined his parents’ reaction to having a snake around and sighed. “But no on the pet angle either way. James and Lily aren’t big on snakes since a big one played a part in killing my Uncle Pettigrew, before its master finished the job. They won’t let us near them.”
At this point they reached the lake, which glittered like treasure under the moonlight at this hour. The bubble containing the serpent made ripples as it sank below the surface and she dispelled it, leaving the pair to listen to the water alone.
With the threat handled for the moment, Leanne sat down on the pier’s edge and exhaled thickly. “At least that’s taken care of. I saw that you finished the potion back at the cavern, so I guess this concludes our business after tonight.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask, what’s your lot in this?” Harry asked. “You don’t seem like the type to do this sort of thing.”
“I owed her for my first year as a Hufflepuff,” she explained, “While I’m a half-blood, none of my family were Hufflepuffs, but Gryffindors, making me the first to get there. I was late getting into the common room the first day because I had fell down and hurt myself, leaving me in Madam Pomfrey’s care, so I didn’t know the pass-rhythm to get past the entrance and got sprayed with vinegar before someone came to let me in. I was laughed out of the Common Room and hid in the dorm bathroom until she came and helped clean me up. We’ve been friends since then.”
Harry gave her an inquisitive look. “You seem more like her lackey than her friend,”
“Better to be a lackey to someone else and be part of a group than to be alone and without help,” she countered.
Not willing to try and counter ‘the sheep that sticks out theory’ that Padma had hit him with last year, he instead changed the topic. “What’s it like in the home of the badgers?”
She mulled over the metal image she had with a small smile. “Well, it’s down from the entrance to the kitchen beneath the Great Hall. There are plants everywhere, since Professor Sprout is the Head of House and all, and the ceiling hangs low. It’s honey-colored and warm, with overstuffed couches that are positioned just under the circular windows that let the light caress your skin.
“From the common room are tunnels we crawl through to get to the dorms, where it’s cozy because we have copper lamps, feet-warmers, and quilts. And, unlike you tower-climbers, we aren’t bothered by the outside weather.”
“Sounds nice,” Harry stated, picturing it in his head. “Maybe I’ll go have a look for myself.”
Leanne gave a short laugh. “Good luck with that. From what I’ve heard the Hufflepuff Basement hasn’t been seen in over a thousand years by non-house members and I have no intention of letting you in or telling you how to do so.”
He could only shrug nonchalantly. “Well, I like an occasional challenge and being the first one in a thousand years for nearly anything looks good on paper.”
“…you’re easier to talk to than I expected,” Leanne admitted after a moment, a smile on her face. She then stood and felt compelled to straighten her hair with her hands as she said her goodbyes to head back to the cavern to get the potion to Gayle.
When the next day came and Harry ventured into the tent in order to handle the exchange, the instructions he kept on how to make it, she was nowhere to be seen as Gayle Pocklington sat in her chair, stroking her tent-fox’s fur as it rested in her lap. “Where’s Leanne?”
“Leanne is…not available at the moment,” she said. “On another note, the test of the effects of the potion went smashingly. Perhaps a little too much so in the test doses, meaning I’ll need to divide the rations up when I sell them. But good job nonetheless.”
Harry’s stomach dropped at that. “You tested it on her!”
“Well, you knew it had to be sampled somehow and she volunteered,” Gayle defended, giving a subtle nod to Munslow at the entrance to the tent in the process. “It worked like it was supposed to, so no harm done. She’s just sleeping off the effects.”
It’s addictive depending on how much she inhaled, Harry noted to himself. Damn, I’m going to feel guilty if she ends up unable to function because of it, but I have no one else to blame for it but myself since I made the damn thing on commission.
“Anyway, did you bring the instructions for the exchange?” Gayle asked, setting the toss-away wand and the remaining galleons owed on the table.
“To be blunt, I don’t trust you,” Harry admitted. “I thought long and hard about how this would play out. In the end I stored the instructions away in a location I will give you upon payment.”
Gayle put on a pout and Gregory Munslow clamped down on Harry’s shoulders in the chair so he couldn’t escape. “Harry, Harry, this isn’t what we agreed on.”
“Neither was the fact that you planned on hitting me with a memory charm,” Harry said coolly, noting the reaction on her face. “You did well, keeping it between you and the enforcer here.”
With her intention exposed she brandished the personal wand she had kept hidden on her. She then crossed her legs and sat back in her chair, tapping the wand against her cheek. “What gave it away?”
“Well, I just recreated what you admitted to being a very potent drug and, reasonably speaking, you’re going to want to keep that on the low. I doubt my word will mean much since if I did it for money once there’s a chance I could sell it to someone else for more, so I had to assume you’d do something to silence me as a precaution.
“Since we’d both agreed that physical violence won’t work and I was pretty sure you wouldn’t kill me here it left few other options,” Harry finished with a shrug. “I’m respecting that you are someone not to be trifled with, despite only being a year or two older, and took precautions as you would in the face of someone equally dangerous, nothing more.”
Gayle…actually clapped at that and ordered Munslow to let him up. “You really are a clever one. I was planning on taking yesterday’s memories entirely since Leanne reported that’s when you got it. Taking the whole month from your head would simply be too complicated to remove without turning you into a vegetable by accident and I am not skilled enough to simply pick and choose what to take in specific.”
“So what’s the next move then?” Harry asked.
“We do this the civilized way I suppose,” Gayle said as she produced a parchment that held a binding magical contract. The contract stated that the topic which were discussed and services paid for, naturally not mentioned given the legality of it, were not to be mentioned to any living beasts or beings—outside those involved—intentionally and should he attempt it would stop him by silencing him as well as causing him pain with his own magic. In exchange he received the wand and money promised, as well as a guarantee that his memories would remain intact.
Harry found the terms acceptable and signed away, forging a connection that would come back to haunt him one day. He felt as though he sold his soul at that moment, but if it caused him trouble in the future he would deal with it then. James may have sent him here and indirectly introduced them, but the responsibilities of what he had done would be his to shoulder alone since the decision to act was his alone.
End Note: Lots of foreshadowing here, but mostly filler until he gets back to Hogwarts next chapter or two. Third year is going to be very interesting for the record, since Prisoner of Azkaban doesn’t occur in this fic.