Blackmail in Game Theory, Part 2

“Hagrid, calm down,” said the Headmistress, though she was barely composedherself. Hagrid had no words for her, he was too busy bawling, gripping at thestone boy as if that would resuscitate him. “_Expecto Patronum. _Find CedricDiggory.” It only gave her the same sad look she had seen on it several monthsearlier, immediately after Harry informed her of Dumbledore’s departure. Sheturned back to Hagrid. “I’ll be back in about six hours – which is to say,immediately.” She flashed her Time-Turner at him, and he understood. Sheturned it only once, and investigated the new scene, which was an hour darker,and apparently devoid of either Hagrid or the petrified Cedric.

Expecto Patronum. Find Cedric Diggory.” The same look. She groped in theair where Cedric had been, and her arms hit a solid, invisible object. Herfrown grew further down her face like ivy. “Finite.” Cedric’s stone formappeared clearly, and she knew that within an hour, Hagrid would find it. Shelaid her hand on his shoulder, and slowly turned her Time-Turner five moretimes, with her eyes closed. When it finally became clear that Cedric had beenpetrified further back than she could travel, she gave up and left the scene,complete with the invisible Cedric she had revealed five hours later.

Minerva knew that she could not create any serious disturbance that would wakeher up six hours earlier than it already had. But she could begin respondingto the situation immediately, as long as she did so quietly and privately.Wait a minute – speaking of disturbances that would wake her up earlier –Hogwarts had wards that were set off immediately if a student was killed, toalert the Headmaster. Why hadn’t they gone off for Cedric? The realization ofthis discrepancy made her very worried, for a few moments, before she realizedthat she should coherently think about the problem, and the solution almostimmediately occurred to her: petrification was for all intents and purposesdeath, but they were magically distinct processes and Hogwarts’ wards mightnot view them as the same. In fact, she vaguely remembered Albus mentioning atsome point that Myrtle’s petrification had briefly caused confusion, as it hadnot set off the wards. She should have been anticipating such a thing in lightof the recent threat, but hindsight is 20/20.

Expecto Patronum. Find Harry Potter and tell him that there is an emergencyand he is to meet me in the Great Hall. He is not to make a disturbance on hisway there.” There was a slight pause, and then the glowing cat returned, andspoke: “Harry Potter says-” It switched to Harry’s voice:

“Alright, I’m coming.” Minerva paused to ensure she could begin the nextmessage.

“Find Ginny Weasley and tell her that there is an emergency and she is to meetme in the Great Hall. She is not to make a disturbance on her way there.”Another pause… “Ginny Weasley says-”

“On my way.” Her voice sounded displeased that it was being awoken so early;Minerva did not blame her. There was one more message to send; it was inspiredby an offhand comment she remembered, that Myrtle might have been saved hadshe not removed her glasses to cry immediately before she was attacked.

“Find Horace Slughorn and tell him that a student has been attacked andpetrified; he is not to make any disturbance, but he is to scour the groundsfor any glass that might be used in a Potion Of Reanimation. He is to come tothe administrative room behind the Great Hall immediately if he finds any, andotherwise he is to give up his search four hours and fifty minutes from now.”

Headmistress Minerva McGonagall looked down at the two students she hadgathered – the first year girl she had occasionally seen with the red hair,and the second year boy she was all-too-familiar with. She had first calledthem to the Great Hall, and then she had taken them back to the much smallerand more secure room reserved for staff immediately next to it. She had stillnot explained the situation to them, but she was about to.

“A student has been attacked,” said the Headmistress, “using Slytherin’sMonster. Exactly like the attack nearly fifty years ago. Petrified. They arealmost certainly lost to us.”

“Almost?” said Harry.

“Yes, almost,” said the Headmistress. “There is a potion that may recovervictims of petrification, but to brew it requires glass that was between theireyes and their attacker’s. There is no evidence any such glass exists in thiscase, but I am running a thorough search nonetheless.”

“Distribute safety goggles to everyone in the school immediately,” said Harry.

“I will consider the pros and cons of such a solution before the day is out,”said the Headmistress. “But first - I have called the two of you here because,though I could not imagine either of you committing this crime, you are theonly two suspects we have. You are Hogwarts’ only two confirmed Parselmouths.You were both sorted into Slytherin, though Albus managed to steer one of youaway from that House regardless.”

“You are both subject,” continued the Headmistress, over Harry’s halfheartedattempt to interrupt her, “to numerous mysterious discrepancies on your recordsuggesting the potential involvement of old Dark Magic in your soul. I believeMr. Potter’s discrepancies have by now been thoroughly explained, at least tome, but they still exist. Miss Weasley’s discrepancies remain unresolved,though we have ruled out the obvious explanation that she is being possessed.”Ginny flinched, and the Headmistress wasn’t sure what to think of it.

“Wait, you have a test for possession?” asked Harry. “Why don’t you run it onthe entire school as soon as possible?”

“It’s too magically intensive, Mr. Potter,” said the Headmistress. “We canonly afford to run it on those we already suspect.” Harry hummed andconsidered other solutions.

“Headmistress McGonagall,” said Harry, “has it occurred to you that theremight be unknown Parselmouths at the school?”

“Of course it has occurred to me,” said the Headmistress, increasinglyfrustrated. “But I am operating only on the information I have.”

“I’m aware of at least one additional Parselmouth at the school,” said Ginny.

“Who is it?” asked the Headmistress, immediately.

“My brother, Ron,” said Ginny. “He seems a bit dull about it, though, and I’mnot sure if he realizes he’s a Parselmouth. I had to speak a bit slowly forhim to understand.” The Headmistress considered this, and realized something.

“Ah, of course,” said the Headmistress. “That is present in your family, isn’tit. That explains that discrepancy to my satisfaction. I’ll keep an eye on himas well, but your point is well taken; this does confirm the seriousness ofthe problem. The only people we can truly rule out as Parselmouths are theother first year Slytherins, because they did not respond as you did to theSorting Hat.”

“I just thought of an obvious test we could use to determine whether anyone’sa Parselmouth,” said Harry. “Just put them all through a Sapespeck fieldthat bursts Parseltongue white noise directly at their head, like what Ginnywent through, and measure their response.”

“Noted,” said the Headmistress. “But I did not call you here to give me ideas,Mr. Potter. I called both of you here so I could tell you this as soon aspossible: in the likely event that neither of you are guilty, I am trulysorry. But if you are responsible for the death of Cedric Diggory, we willfind you. And the Line of Merlin Unbroken will not break, and the Interdict ofMerlin will not end. And you will go to Nurmengard, or hopefully somewhereworse, for the rest of your natural life.”

“I didn’t do it!” said Ginny, rather loudly, on the verge of tears.

“With all due respect, Headmistress,” said Harry, “you know fully well why Icouldn’t possibly have an interest in, you know-” The Headmistress’s facesuddenly changed from anger to horror. Either of the two children sitting infront of her could theoretically be the Heir of Slytherin, but it was ratherunlikely, and she had certainly made a dreadful mistake to take her anger outon them.

“I’m sorry,” said the Headmistress. “I do not suspect either of you, exceptfor official purposes of completeness. You may both go back to your dorms.”Ginny left first; she had nothing else to say. Harry lingered; he had moreideas to share. “What is it, Mr. Potter?”

“Okay, first, and this is probably a stupid question, but it couldn’t hurt toask,” said Harry, “is there any possibility that the petrified body you foundis false, and Cedric has actually been kidnapped-”

“No,” said the Headmistress. “It was the first thing I tested. My Patronuscannot send a message to him. He is not with us.”

“Of course,” said Harry. “I should have realized. Then there’s one idea I haveto possibly restore Cedric – if and only if, of course, you can’t find anyglass for Professor Slughorn to use in the potion.”

“It is by far the most likely outcome that no such glass turns up,” said theHeadmistress. “You may implement any idea you have when we catch up with Time- I went back the full six hours to investigate, but unfortunately the attackhad been earlier; his statue had been hidden to delay its being found.”

“Alright,” said Harry. “My idea involves the Stone, so we’ll need to transporthim to the Hospital.”

“Granted,” said the Headmistress. “Hagrid is at the scene we are returning to,and he should not have trouble lifting him and carrying him there.”

“Then should I wait wherever you’re waiting for Time to catch up?” askedHarry.

“No,” said the Headmistress. “I have more plans to implement if at allpossible, but you should get more rest, if at all possible.”

“I don’t know if that is possible, Headmistress,” said Harry. “But I’ll try.Goodbye, and good luck; Hogwarts is counting on you.”

“Indeed it is,” said the Headmistress. The Boy-Who-Lived left, and MinervaMcGonagall buried her head in her hands.

Cedric Diggory was well and truly gone. His brain-state was nowhere to befound, and so it didn’t matter what he was Transfigured into, or whether thatTransfiguration was made permanent with the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry’sPatronus was not able to revive the warm and dead, not even at the cost of hisown life and magic. Like Myrtle Gale before him, Cedric Diggory’s stone bodywould remain perfectly inanimate stone forever, many lifetimes after it waslowered into the ground beneath another, smoother stone bearing his name.

The first to break down completely was Hagrid. He had already been sobbingprofusely, but now none in the Peverell Family Hospital could possibly remainunaware of the half-giant’s cries of grief, his deafening mumbles of Cedric’snatural affinity for magical creatures and how it reminded him of himself, ofhow it wasn’t fair, of how it didn’t make sense.

The second was Amos Diggory. The Headmistress had put off informing him of hisson’s condition until it was certain that he could not be recovered, to avoidprolonging the misery. But the misery was still prolonged; first, the entirehouse became impossibly loud with anger and sadness, and the entireneighborhood could feel it, and then it slowly became very quiet, and theentire neighborhood could feel that it was even worse. Not since the chaoticfall of the Dark Lord had magical Britain’s upper classes experienced so muchgrief.

The third was Cho Chang. Panicked whispers and rumors had quickly spreadthroughout the school, but when Cho came to an understanding of the situation,she had the same initial thought as the Headmistress – she summoned herPatronus and attempted to contact Cedric. But when it did not respond to her,and she knew that the rumors were true, she began to run and cry, from theRavenclaw Girls’ Dormitory to the Ravenclaw Common Room to nowhere inparticular, and that was when the school as a whole knew that they were underattack. For a few unfortunate moments, the sense of security that came withthe social order dissolved.

Subscribe to the weekly digest of our best stories!

If you like this site, you should check out my other projects:

Login to leave a comment.
Success! Thank you for subscribing!