Chapter 12: Calm Before The Storm
Note: Okay, I know it’s been about a year, but to be fair I haven’t been updating a lot of anything because I’ve had to work more.
One week after Myrtle’s tale, Harry was still in the middle of musing over the information he had been told. The Chamber of Secrets had been opened in the past and something had killed her with a glance of eyes that were larger than a human’s. At the same time, the voice was a person’s, even if in a foreign tongue she hadn’t recognized.
Harry had thought to go over the various yearbooks stowed in the Library Wing from her years and run through a list of foreign wizards and witches to try and see if she could possibly pick one out who had something against her. Then they could try to figure out if their native tongue matched. But Myrtle explained that Dumbledore had attempted to do so back then and failed, as none of their native tongues matched and her enemies were many.
“Um, excuse me?” a somewhat timid voice called from behind him. He was in the Common Room, lounging at the Ravenclaw bookshelves in search for anything that would have relevance to the next assignment he had.
Harry turned around to find Rebecca standing there, with a small box to her chest. “Yes?”
“My parents finally sent this,” she said, holding the box out.
Harry took that as an invitation and opened the lid to see that it contained a capsule kit for making pills. “Ah, so you decided to ask them about my suggestion?”
She nodded. “I was hoping you could help me with it?”
He adjusted his glasses and smiled. “Be happy to. But if that’s the case we need to make a little stop first at the Hospital Wing. Since we’re working with medicines it would be prudent to get the advice of Madam Pomfrey before we start. And to make sure there’s safety precautions—don’t want another shrinking incident.”
“What shrinking incident?” she asked, following him out the door.
He winced. “Let’s just say being surprised by a ghost while handling half-finished potions leads to your clothes scrunching up in places you never want them to and your voice goes up a few octaves.”
In Myrtle’s defense, she apologized.
Not really sure where to go from there, Rebecca kept silent as the pair descended down the winding stairs of their own tower. They traversed the corridors until they came upon the Hospital Tower, entering it from the Grand Staircase at the fourth-floor corridor to reach the Madam Pomfrey’s Office and the Hospital Wing.
Harry knocked on the office door first, only to hear a soft voice beckoning them to enter. Inside the office was a bookcase, a desk, two closets, two extra beds for patients who needed extra privacy, and Madam Pomfrey’s bed closed off by a curtain. The matron herself sat at the desk, a spherical lamp glowing with a soft white light that illuminated the pages of the book she was reading.
“How may I help you both?” she asked.
“Madam Pomfrey,” Harry said. “We wanted to ask for your opinion on something….”
Harry went into detail about how he figured they could place potions into pills by enlargening the capsules, filling them, and then shrinking them down. That would allow for them to be taken as need without having to lug around bottles or dealing with the less-than-pleasant taste of some of them.
“It’s a fairly solid idea, but I’m afraid it may not work out in the long term,” the matron said once he was done. “From what you’ve told me the pill casings need to be dissolved in the stomach acid correct?”
She continued. “That takes time and there are a number of ways for the spells used on them to wear off even if the effects don’t. Shrinking spells are active and the amount of effort put into them will determine how long they remain in that state, but it will eventually be undone. Same with preservation spells. You can’t have them suddenly growing inside the bottle, or the patient.”
“What about potions?” Harry asked. “Like a Shrinking Solution we covered in class. Those are meant for long-term or permanent use.”
She shook her head. “Cowbane and Wormwood are components of it. It’d be toxic if ingested, unless you’ve found some way to neutralize that without taking from the purpose of the potion. In other words, you’d have to reinvent the shrinking potion from the ground up.”
Harry furrowed his brow at that, but ultimately nodded. “I see. Thank you for your input. We’ll be on our way.”
“I would recommend you stop across to the Hospital Wing,” she added as Harry and Rebecca stood from their seats. “Your brother is there recovering.”
“Oh right, there was a Quidditch Match earlier today.” Harry wasn’t interested, so he hadn’t attended. “Did he get hurt?”
She ruffled a bit. “His injury was a minor break from what I was told but, rather than come and get me, Professor Lockhart saw fit to exercise his own medical knowledge and ended up removing all the bones in his arm. They are in the process of being re-grown.”
“Sounds painful,” Harry mused. “I guess I’ll see him on the way out then.”
The pair closed the door and stood outside her office, with Rebecca looking somewhat downcast. “So it’s impossible after all.”
Harry shook his head. “No, it just hasn’t been done yet. This presents an opportunity.”
She tilted her head. “For what?”
The smile on his face was almost bestial in how it stretched wide. “Innovation, in a nutshell, and profit. We simply need to make a shrinking solution that’s edible. A substitute for Cowbane and possibly Wormwood would be best, but they’d have to have similar magical properties to work for the shrinking.”
“That doesn’t sound as easy….” In fact, it sounded out of her league by miles. “If someone hasn’t done it yet, then it can’t be.”
“Progress is rarely easy.” He put a hand on his chin. “Still, it seems interesting and I can use another project now that the Howler Busters for the year are done. I’ll ask Professor Snape and Sprout about any reasonable substitutes later on.”
Rebecca shifted in place next to him. “You don’t have to… I don’t want to waste your time or anything.”
“I insist,” he stated. “We can discuss more on it later, when you’re showing me how this works. That won’t be a problem, will it?”
Her dark hair swayed as she shook her head. “No, I’d be happy to. In fact, I remember my dad mentioning being able to make pills from herbs and a binding agent of some kind once. I’ll send him a letter and ask about it.”
“Please do,” Harry said, waving farewell as she made her way back to their tower. Once she was out of sight, he drummed his hands against his thighs in thought. I’m going to need to find someplace to work out of that’s more sanitary that a bathroom now. I hope Myrtle will understand.
He then entered into the Hospital Wing door that stood opposite Madam Pomfrey’s office. It was fairly empty, minus his brother whose face was contorted in pain as his muscles were forced aside and then stretched over the newly grown bones that used his body’s memory to recreate them.
“I always knew that one of these days you’d end up here from playing Quidditch,” Harry said. Not the most soothing for words for the injured, but since when had they had anything but a less than an amicable relationship? “If I were a lesser man, I would laugh at your pain.”
“Not. Funny.” Gene exhaled and shook his head. “Bludger went out of control. Snape blew it up before it came around for a second time. Think he was aiming for me.”
“No, he wouldn’t have missed.” Harry leaned down near his arm and focused on his ears. “I can actually hear the bones re-growing. I would have had Lockhart’s head on a silver platter if he did this to me.”
“Listen,” Gene hissed through gritted teeth. “You were right.”
“I’m right about many things, but you’ll need to clarify.”
“That…agh…House Elf you mentioned before,” he grunted. “I-I think…ahhh that hurt… I think it was here.”
And just like that all signs of humor were gone from Harry’s face. “When and why?”
Gene waited until there was a pause in the bone regeneration before he explained as quickly as he could. “It said its name was Dobby, and it claimed it was helping me at the station and during the match. To keep me safe, but it didn’t say from what.”
Harry raised a brow, clearly skeptical about that claim. “If this is and the train station is helping, I don’t want to see what it would do to its enemies. Did it at least say who it belonged to?”
Gene shook his head. “It started hurting itself when I asked, so it has to be an abusive owner to ingrain that sort of behavior.”
The younger of the twins scratched his head as he mulled over that information. If it wouldn’t spill willingly, they would have to trap it and work from there. But what was it protecting Gene from? Was it whatever was lurking in the Chamber of Secrets? If that was the case, how did it know about that?
There were too many questions and not enough answers. It only added to his list of things to figure out.
“Mmmnnnnn….” Gene grumbled, clenching his teeth and pursing his lips to keep from screaming out. When there was another pause in the growing pains, he exhaled thickly and started panting. “That’s brisk.”
Harry found himself actually pitying Gene. At least when he hurt someone, he tried to make it quick and to the point. This was just torture. “You know, I could stun you. It would probably be more merciful.”
Gene shook his head. “I need to be conscious so that if the bones are off when growing, I can feel the pain and Madam Pomfrey can make sure it doesn’t tear open blood vessels or the muscles.
“Well, sucks for you,” Harry told him. “From the sound of it, you’re the one who it’ll likely appear in front of, so see if you can catch it or something. I’ll look into some things on my end.”
The conversation died there as Harry made his way out.
That evening, Harry sat next to Terry in the Great Hall with a notebook open, scribbling down possible substitutes for the poisonous components for the Shrinking Solution. He had thought about asking Professor Snape, but he figured he should at least make the effort to look through everything feasible before doing that. The man gave him some advice, but he couldn’t allow himself to become reliant on someone else that much after what happened to his mentor and the mess last year.
If he didn’t try to do this on his own, he wouldn’t be able to progress further by his own merits.
Harry was so engrossed in his studies that he didn’t notice when Filch came into the Great Hall and strode hastily to the High Table to whisper into Dumbledore’s ear. The Headmaster gestured for the other staff members to move and then cast the Amplifying Charm on himself.
“Attention,” he said, his voice carrying itself across the hall despite being so soft. It grabbed the students’ eyes and ears with little effort. “There has been a minor matter that needs to be addressed for the next hour or so. During that time, the Great Hall will be sealed and under the watch of Professor Lockhart. Prefects, please meet me outside, and the rest of you be on your best behavior.”
Murmurs stirred at the end of his speech as the staff moved in a straight-line towards the doors, the prefects joining them as they exited through the massive doorway. The double doors then sealed shut.
“Weird,” Terry said, next to Harry. “What do you think that was about?”
“Don’t know, don’t care,” Harry said absentmindedly, still searching for alternatives for his new project. “Busy.”
While things at the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables were rather placid, tension between the Slytherin and Gryffindor were escalating. Gene and Malfoy were exchanging silent threats and gestures from across the tables. Then Crabbe fired the first shots and magically threw a pudding cup over toward the Gryffindor table, hitting Ron and eliciting retaliation.
His spell flung a cup of pumpkin juice that missed as Crabbe ducked and splashed a number of Slytherin girls, with Millicent being the one who caught the most of it. She glowered at him, grabbed a plate of frosting-covered pastries, and tossed the entire thing. The splash damage caught a good portion of the students at the opposing table as well as other tables.
It was at some point, between the first two volleys and Lockhart noticing that this was starting to get out of hand, that a charm was cast on the doors, preventing noise from slipping out as someone screamed, “FOOD FIGHT!”
Unaware of what was transpiring on the other end, or too preoccupied with the more immediate threat, Dumbledore issued commands to the assembled staff and prefects.
“Prefects, I need for you to search for students gathered on each floor and ensure that they all report to their Common Rooms. There will be at least two professors on the floor with you nearby, so if you encounter anything strange or unusual, immediately call for them. I have temporarily lifted the school’s anti-disapparition wards on the interior so they will be there in a flash.”
They nodded and then departed to the different floors, escorted by the professors. They weren’t sure what was going on, but it must’ve been important.
Dumbledore then turned to Filch and Flitwick “Argus, show Filius all the secret entrances you know about and he’ll check them for any spell-work having been done, just in case there was an outsider present. After that, find Peeves and send him to my office. Tell him he has no choice on the matter.”
The caretaker gave a hurried nod and murmured something to Professor Flitwick, who grabbed his pants’ leg and disapparated with him as his side-along. Dumbledore then ordered Hagrid to search outside the castle entrances with his hound, Fang. That left Snape and Dumbledore, who made their way towards the site of the accident.
They arrived inside of an empty classroom where they came across the petrified body of Myrtle. Filch claimed that he came to the room after hearing Peeves telling him to clear up all the tears before she flooded another room. When he arrived she had been like this.
Dumbledore stood off to the side and worked spells to check the room for dark magic while Snape did the same thing to the body. Very few things could affect a ghost and render them petrified, and even fewer have roots that aren’t stained in blood or darkness. It bode ill tidings for Hogwarts, more so when he couldn’t find any trace of magic being used to enter the room.
“It’s the same dark magic, Albus,” Professor Snape said. “The same that killed the cat. The question is why the noisy ghost was targeted. I would suggest un-petrifying her to learn of what she knew, but Mandrake Restorative is meant to be used on the living, not a ghost. I would have re-work the formula to properly restore her.”
“For now we will have to keep this between the staff,” Dumbledore said, stroking his beard. “As for why she was targeted, I have a theory. Mind you, it isn’t the best.”
The Potions Master gestured for him to continue.
“Miss Myrtle here died during the first opening of the Chamber of Secrets,” he said. “Given the warning painted in blood, and where it occurred, perhaps we should take that into account and assume the perpetrator attacked her in an attempt to silence her.”
“The girl knew nothing of importance,” Snape pointed out. “You questioned her, and we scoured that bathroom for traces of the magic that killed the cat afterwards and found nothing. If that is the case, then the assailant didn’t know either.”
Dumbledore nodded. “And since we’ve ruled out the staff entirely, it still leaves the students as the only viable option, unless more evidence of outside intrusion comes to light. But information on the Chamber of Secrets shouldn’t be easily obtained unless their parents or grandparents attended decades ago, and the sheer power needed to cast such a spell is beyond a great deal of them.”
“Albus,” Snape started, “I understand you have reservations about using Legilimency on students. But we need answers, and we need them soon.”
“…only the students who are 5th year or higher,” Dumbledore agreed after an audible pause. “Surface level thoughts related to the crime in question, and you must inform me. I trust you Severus, don’t let the circumstances we’ve found ourselves in stress that.”
Snape gave him a nod. He had no desire to lose that trust, but if it came to that he would regretfully do so to prevent Lucius from winning. “I’ll be subtle about it, starting with anyone who they find out of the Great Hall for the moment. But there is one more matter that comes to mind, Albus. What if the ghost told someone else?”
“We’ve established that she didn’t know anything,” the Headmaster stated.
“Perhaps, but it’s possible that she lied to us and neither of us could skim her mind in her undead state,” he reasoned. “Students are naturally wary around professors, but she’s close to Ravenclaw Potter, a fact that isn’t lost on anyone observant. He should be questioned as well.”
“That may be best for now,” Dumbledore reasoned. “I’ll ask him myself once the investigation is over.”
“It may also be prudent to relocate all the students to the Great Hall to sleep while we comb the school and the grounds thoroughly tonight,” the Potions Master suggested. “An hour isn’t nearly enough time for a full investigation.”
“I’ll discuss it with the other members of the staff to see if it’s necessary after we’ve questioned anyone the prefects have found. If none of them are guilty then it may very well necessitate such a thing.”
After that the conversation tapered off and they sealed the classroom that Myrtle was in. It was best if this remained secret, lest they invoke a panic. The rounding up and questioning of students who weren’t in the Great Hall led to no solid clues either, though the ones who were either occupying a broom-closet or other dubious activities would be reprimanded at a later date.
Thus, Dumbledore and Minerva McGonagall proceeded to return to the Great Hall… and found it to be a warzone of food and drink, tables flipped over to serve as barricades and food being fired with basic spells to act as shelling. They were utterly speechless, and thus went unnoticed, until one of the students went sailing in the air in their direction. McGonagall gestured with her wand and stopped Neville from hitting the wall near them, someone having used him as live ammunition.
“Oh, thank you professor!” he said gratefully as she put him down against the wall.
She didn’t hear him, instead bristling and looking for the one who was supposed to have been in charge past the flying food. Lockhart had been knocked unconscious by what appeared to be a large chicken on top of his head. She raised her wand and let loose a loud bang that turned all eyes to her.
“Children,” she said, her voice carrying a scolding tone. “Do. Not. Play. With. Your. Food!”
That signaled the end of the fight, leaving Luna, Terry, and Harry to crawl from beneath their cover. They had been spared the onslaught courtesy of a Silver Shield that was enlarged and propped against the table at an angle. It acted as a lean-to that weathered the storm of food and drink. Isobel and Morag had also shielded themselves adequately, while the rest of the hall didn’t fare much better.
Dumbledore was much softer spoken, even as his voice was amplified. “It’s good for you to enjoy yourselves, but such things must be done in moderation and with a more appropriate level of control. We will wave punishment for this incident, but please bear that in mind for the future. ”
With a swish of his wand, the room was pristine and all traces of their food-covered figures were just as clean. Sleeping bags and pillows followed up. They appeared in neat rows with their house colors.
“Due to an infestation of Doxies, we must ask that all of you sleep inside of the Great Hall, with the prefects and Minerva on monitoring duty, while the professors handle ridding the infestation tonight,” he lied. Not that anyone thought to question him on it once he added, “And classes will be canceled tomorrow as a result.”
Murmurs resulted as the other students who were outside of the Great Hall came flowing in, questions abound. Most were happy for the break from their studies, while a few were distraught like Miss Grainger. Dumbledore focused instead on approaching the Ravenclaw encampment, where Harry was scribbling in his notebook.
“Harry,” he said softly. “May I have a word with you in private?”
The boy’s immediate response was, “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, no, I just have a few questions,” the Headmaster assured him. “It will only take a few moments of your time.”
Never once during the resulting discussion that followed did he let the fate of Myrtle slip through his lips.
November 12th – With Harry
Harry found Hermione inside the Library, next to a student named Lily Moon. He presented her with the notes that Sherry had that he promised. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” she said, before staring at him like she wanted to say something.
Harry crossed his arms and said, “What is it?”
“You seem a bit… off,” she said, a noticeable pause in her voice. “Are you okay?”
“I’m quite worried actually,” he explained. “I haven’t been able to find Myrtle for the last few days. She doesn’t usually hide from me, and the Gytrashes can’t track her scent down for some reason. It’s almost as though she’s vanished completely.”
“Oh….” He could tell from her expression and tone that Hermione tried to sympathize with him, but found it hard to do so. Myrtle wasn’t exactly the most well-liked ghost and it took time for her to grow on others. Still, she tried and offered her assistance. “If there’s something we can do to help—”
He cut her off. “It’s a personal matter, so just focus on making sure to prove your point. You have enough to deal with as is.”
Her lips pressed thin, but she didn’t say anything.
Harry took that as his cue to leave to continue his search for his wayward companion. It really did worry him that he couldn’t find her. The fact that she had gone missing the night that he had been pulled aside and questioned on whether or not she told him anything about the Chamber of Secrets didn’t sit right with him either. He had lied to the Headmaster to protect her, but now he couldn’t find her and when he asked around among the staff they were tight-lipped.
“Where are you Myrtle?” he murmured to himself. There was little time left until the period after Lunch, and he had gone over everywhere he could think of already. He sighed to himself and then resolved to keep looking for her….
November 18th – With Terry
Terry Boot stared at the concoction in the vial that his friend, Anthony Goldstein, had given him. The vial was filled with a lime-green liquid, a flower and its branch stewing in it for some time from the look of it. He swished it around in the vial slightly and frowned. “And I’m supposed to drink this, why exactly?”
“Because, I need to see if it works,” Anthony said. “If I’ve got the formula right, it should give you Seer-like insight.”
“No.” Terry shook his head and held it away from him. “No way, man.”
Anthony pouted. “You’d do it if it was Harry’s.”
“He usually tests it on himself first and knows what he’s doing,” Terry countered. “I’m no genius when it comes to potions or herbology, but this seems shady. There isn’t even a spy-sp-gra… a plant alchemy class in the school!”
“Look. I spent a half-a-month making that,” Anthony said. “None of it is harmful, I checked on all the ingredients myself. It’s supposed to mimic a Mopsus Potion, meaning you might get telekinesis and see the future. Be a mate and just try it, please?”
Terry sighed to himself and removed the cap. “The things I do for my friends….”
Before he could take a swig, he heard a small voice saying, “Excuse me?”
He looked behind him to see it was Rebecca, the first-year he occasionally saw Harry talking to. “Yes?”
“You’re Harry’s friend, right?” she asked.
“I… yes,” he said, after some consideration. “At least I’d like to think so. Why?”
The first year shuffled her feet. “I’ve been looking for him, to ask him some questions about some things, but I haven’t seen him at all today.”
“Now that you mention it, I don’t think he even attended class,” Terry said. “I guess he’s still searching for Moaning Myrtle, or in her bathroom.”
“I’ll go check there then,” she said, leaving him behind.
Terry watched her go through the entrance and then turned his attention back to Anthony, who continued to pester him. Terry sighed again. All the components were thought to be harmless for the most part, so what was the worst that could happen?
He took a swig. The liquid slid down his throat while the branch and flower remained inside the vial. He smacked his lips at the taste. “Not bad, actually… but why is everything purple?”
Anthony blinked and then combed through his notebook. The pages were lined with the plant and liquid, observations and a few hypotheses about the outcome. He stared at one part in particular and then looked grim. “Whoops…”
Terry immediately went on the defensive. “Whoops, what?”
“I may or may not have gotten the dates of the planet’s positioning wrong,” his soon-to-be ex-friend said. “I’m… reasonably sure there are no lasting effects… I think?”
About four hours later, after visiting Madam Pomfrey and receiving a scolding about testing without taking the proper measures and consulting an expert, Terry could see in a multitude of colors once more as the Flushing Draught cleansed him of the effects. Thus Anthony remained his friend, with the condition being that he owed Terry and he wouldn’t be gullible enough to cow to his peer pressure again.
That was when Isobel approached him, looking annoyed. “Have you seen a first-year named Rebecca? She’s missed the study-session my sister put together, and I have reason to believe she talked to you last.”
“She went looking for Harry hours ago,” Terry said. “I told her to check Myrtle’s bathroom.”
A disgruntled noise slipped out of her mouth. “I don’t feel like going down all those stairs, but I suppose we have no choice. Come on then.”
“Why do I have to go?” he asked.
“Because I blame you for the reason I’m not curled up in front of the fire and reading a decent book,” she said bluntly. “Plus, that bathroom is near where that blood was written over the walls. Though I can handle myself, I need an adequate guard… but you were the best I could find.”
Terry thought about saying something in retort, but given that she had an eyebrow raised, as if inviting him to say something to dig himself in deeper, he opted against it. Today was not his day. “You know what? Fine, I’ll go with. I need to speak with Harry if they’re together anyway.”
Together they ventured to the bathroom. The good news was that they found the pair together, albeit in a compromising position. The bad news was that, by compromising, it was more a crime had just been committed with her as the victim and the one responsible for her condition kneeling over her.
Rebecca was still as stone, unmoving with a pair of thick goggles on her face that looked half-melted, while Harry’s eyes looked bloodshot, his hair disheveled, and he was covered in… something that was equal parts slimy and slick. It was understandable that they both flinched when he rose to his feet, panting, and turned to them.
“I know how this looks… but I found her like this,” he said between breaths, putting his wand down and his hands up in a placating manner. “I’m innocent… again.”
“What happened to you?” Terry asked.
“Peeves,” he said, calming his breathing. “I chased him into the dungeons to get some answers about Myrtle…things happened and I ended up trapped for a few hours without any light in a pit the size of the Quidditch field, surrounded by slugs, with my scarf buried under them.”
“Ewww….” Isobel said, again understandably.
“It took a while to find, and I may have blown the door open to get back out,” Harry continued. “I came back to clean myself up. Even Scouring Charm wasn’t cutting it, but I keep things on-hand here for potion spills and such… that’s when I found her like this, on the ground in front of the mirror….”
“What’s wrong with her?” Terry asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “I’ve tried to dispel whatever it is, but I can’t. Someone needs to go and get one of the professors… other than Lockhart, I mean.”
“I’ll do that,” Isobel said, stepping backwards while keeping her eyes on him and reaching for her wand as subtly as she could. It was a nice cover story, but she honestly didn’t buy it completely and whoever did that to the first-year may be lurking around. “Boot… be careful and watch yourself.”
Once she hit the door, she opened it and stepped out of view. Her footfalls could be heard as she broke into a sprint before the door closed completely. The professors would no doubt be there in less than five minutes.
Harry wasn’t looking forward to the upcoming inquiry.