Mysteries, Part 1
After a week-long intermission, the story resumes! The trigger warning at thebeginning of chapter one has, on further consideration, been updated.
9.10 PROPHECY (decommissioned, pending replacement)
Zacharias Smith was revived shortly after the attack. The good news was thatno further students were petrified for the remainder of the term, or duringthe winter holidays. The bad news was that interviews with Zacharias revealedno new information that could lead to Cedric, Justin, and Ernie’s killer beingapprehended. The worse news was that, against the express wishes of theHogwarts administration, rumors circulated that St. Mungo’s had neglected tomanufacture more than one Potion of Reanimation. They were very expensive tobrew, which explained their being in short supply, but they were also verytime-consuming to brew, which allowed even curable petrification to be agreater threat than it would be, had the healers bothered to keep a largereserve supply.
Just one day later, Luna Lovegood – who was wearing gloves herself, coated inDiricawl feathers – returned the diary to Ginevra Weasley, whilst smiling.
“So what have you figured out?” said Ginny.
“I owled it to my dad,” said Luna. “And he sent it back with this letter,which explains what it is and how to take care of it. I’ll give it to you soyou can find out what it is and how to take care of it.”
“Thank you,” said Ginny, and she accepted the parchment, though of course shewouldn’t read it. The Lovegoods were insane, especially in matters like this,and Xenophilius was the reason why.
“I’ll just sum up the major points,” said Luna. “It’s called a horcrux; itcontains a soul fragment of a human being and only a very advanced dark wizardcan make one.”
“Sure, Luna,” said Ginny.
“It’s very difficult to destroy,” said Luna. “I included a list of things youcan use to destroy it if the need arises, although I don’t think youpersonally have access to any of them. Oh, and it can possess people. Normallya horcrux can possess people with impunity, as long as they touch it, but thisone’s been specially enchanted not to possess anyone who hasn’t consented. Dadsays he hasn’t seen anything like it. Of course I haven’t consented to bepossessed, but I’m still wearing these gloves just to be safe.” Ginny glancedat Luna’s hands, saw no gloves, and took a step back. “That’s why you’rewearing gloves, too, right?”
“Uh huh,” said Ginny.
“But you didn’t consent to be possessed either,” said Luna.
“What, no, what are you talking about?” said Ginny.
“Ginny Weasley, I swear to Wizard God if you wind up as some Dark Lord’spossessed stooge because you signed your brain away like an idiot, I will hangyou from the rafters,” said Luna, and then she clapped her hands over hermouth. “I didn’t mean – I’m sorry -”
“No, Luna, it’s fine,” said Ginny. “You’re right to be concerned. This isserious business. But I haven’t signed my life away. I know to beconscientious. You’ve helped me to see that more than anyone.”
“Okay,” said Luna; she particularly perked up at this last sentiment. “I just- I mean, I thought it was probably some kind of serious risk. He tried to getme to agree to possession, and I barely managed to distract him by talkingabout unimportant things like Divination and what a creep Lesath is.”
“Alright,” said Ginny. “I’ll keep everything you’ve told me in mind. Goodbye!”
Ginny later found out from Tim that Luna had been particularly unhelpful,paranoid, and unpleasant to talk to, and was not a true Seer. Ginny felt sorryfor Luna, but couldn’t argue with any of Tim’s points. She soon began makingprogress with her Sapespeck computing, through a combination of Muggle mathstextbooks, some programming help from Colin (who she still managed to keep outof the loop), and her own personal discovery of Sapespeck Maxima, a Charmthat made editing large Sapespeck systems easier.
By the time classes resumed in January, she had constructed a more advancedcalculator capable of adding - as well as subtracting - any indefinitely longsequence of numbers. It could parse negative numbers as well as decimals; shehad held off on supporting fractions until she had a better grasp on whatdivision was, though she had added case-by-case patches for phrases like “anda half”, “and a quarter”, and so on, which were interpreted, for example, as“point five”, “point two five”, and so on. Coming down the pipeline, though,on a different sheet of paper, was limited support for multiplication. Ginnycould feel the features creeping along like Eclipse Ivy, and she loved it. Ifshe could make an inanimate object smarter than herself, then she would.
Just before the spring term began, a notice went out to all students thatProfessor Lockhart was running a Patronus workshop, targeted primarily atfirst years, but also accepting older students who had either failed or notattempted to cast a Patronus the previous year. Participating, however,required a parent’s signature on a permission slip, as the workshop would beheld in the Department of Mysteries. This was not difficult for Ginny toobtain.
“Frankly, it’s safer than Hogwarts,” said Arthur, as he signed. “I’ve been tothe Department of Mysteries before; they were showing me Grabthar’s Hammer inthe Force Room. They thought they were on the verge of reverse-engineering itand they thought it might be possible to construct more of them without evenusing magic, so they were investigating the possibility that Muggles mightfigure it out. I think it’s further off than they seemed to think – butanyway, my point is, you’ll be herded around by Unspeakables at all time;you’ll only go where you’re supposed to. There are dangerous things in theDepartment of Mysteries, but you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near themeven if you wanted to.”
The fact that no students were petrified during the Christmas break seemed toGinny to be weak evidence that the culprit was someone who, like her, hadchosen to go home during the holidays. The administration did not even take itthat way, though; it would be too easy for the attacker to put off theircrimes a month to push investigations away from themselves. In any case, Ginnyhad more important things on her mind – how could she live with herself if shewound up with a standard old Patronus while Harry and Hermione remained theonly two people in the world with upgraded human Patronuses?
“Well, Ginny, a Patronus is a journey of personal discovery and self-actualization,” said Harry.
“Don’t you give me that, Harry Potter,” said Ginny. “That’s not how you talk.You’re hiding something. How do I get a human Patronus?”
“It’s complicated and dangerous to teach,” said Harry. “Even just giving you abad hint could lead to your being permanently unable to cast any kind ofPatronus.”
“You taught her,” said Ginny.
“I can’t just teach anyone,” said Harry. Ginny pouted, and Harry got the lookon his face that he always did when he was beginning an experiment. “Well,though… I’ll give you one hint. But don’t be too disappointed if you wind upwith a regular old animal Patronus. It’s still better than nothing, if youwind up in a combat situation where a Patronus is needed or if you need tocontact someone or confirm that they’re alive. And don’t tell anyone the hint,or even that I gave you one. I don’t want to be mobbed by more requests likethis.”
“What’s the hint?” said Ginny, although she would really rather be able tocast nothing at all than be able to cast an animal Patronus only. People whocouldn’t cast Patronuses were at least dark and deep and brooding.
“A regular animal Patronus is powered by a happy memory of the past,” saidHarry. “The True Patronus, the Patronus Two Point Oh, is powered by a happyplan for the future.”
“Okay, got it,” said Ginny, and she smiled. Harry seemed disappointed in hernonchalant approach to hearing this wisdom, and left.
Ginny sucked in her breath. She’d largely avoided Hermione, out of some kindof uncontrollable, irrational hatred. It was a source of some regret for her,and in retrospect had feelings had spiraled beyond anything reasonable, butnonetheless, she would definitely make an exception to her “steer-clear-of-Hermione” policy now. She had something practical to accomplish.
“Hi, Hermione,” said Ginny.
“Ginny Weasley?” said Hermione. “Hello, I haven’t seen much of you!”
“Is that so,” muttered Ginny, and Hermione nearly left for the Ravenclawtable, because it wasn’t completely clear that she still had something to say.“There’s something Harry asked me to ask you.”
“Oh?” said Hermione.
“I asked Harry how to make a Patronus like his, and he gave me – meexclusively, that is – a hint, and he told me to ask you for another one,”said Ginny.
“Is that so?” said Hermione, and Ginny nodded. “Hmm… Dementors are a riddle,and the upgraded Patronus is the answer. Or is that the hint he already gaveyou?” Ginny nodded; if she was going to lie to get extra hints, she might aswell get three instead of two. “Alright, then… Harry’s Patronus was directlytied to my resurrection.” Ginny was barely able to prevent her mouth fromhanging open. “I hope that was helpful! Goodbye!”
How on Earth could Ginny even hope to compete with a girl Harry had literallybrought back from the brink of death with a historic spell of his owninvention?
“Wait! Hermione!” said Ginny.
“What?” said Hermione.
“What are your views on the existence of an afterlife?” asked Ginny.
“Of course not,” said Hermione, immediately flustered. “I mean, you’re nottrying to weasel more hints out of me? Are you?”
“No,” said Ginny. “I’ve just been thinking about it lately.”
“Oh,” said Hermione. “Harry told me about you. Between you and me, I think youcan believe whatever you want, but, personally, I don’t believe in that. For abrief while, my faith in that actually shot up after I, y’know, came back tolife, but Harry broke the illusion for me. He had to. Visions that can beinterpreted as an afterlife are reasonably common in people who have near-death experiences, but it’s a purely neurochemical phenomenon, notsupernatural at all.”
“Oh,” said Ginny. A single sub-belief point of evidence for a deeply-heldbelief will not invalidate that belief if it is itself invalidated. Do notallow that fear to prevent you from updating your beliefs, or even allow it tomake you more skeptical of facts that broadly suggest that your deeply-heldbeliefs are wrong.
“And anyway, no, that’s not for me,” said Hermione. “I haven’t seen a gooddebate about it, ever, but I do know what my position is. I think Harry isbeing monstrously unfair to you, by the way; if you feel the same, then feelfree to talk to me about it. Is there anything else you want to talk aboutnow? I really do need to get to the Ravenclaw Table, or they’ll wonder where Iam and my food will get cold.”
“Um, no,” said Ginny. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” said Hermione, and she left. Ginny considered the fact thatHermione was not much like she had imagined her to be, but she did not reflecton it.
The True Patronus is powered not by a memory but by a plan.
_ It is the answer to the riddle of the Dementor._
_ It pertains to resurrection._
Ginny repeated these three things in her head, over and over, for an entireday. She repeated them to herself as she slept, and she repeated them toherself as she stepped in a single file line consisting of most of her classand a few older students, through a fireplace, to the Ministry of Magic.Gilderoy Lockhart was waiting for her on the other side, and once his rolecall was complete, he guided his young students as a group through the mainlobby, past a checkpoint, and to the Ministry’s elevator, which had dozens ofseats and moved forwards and backwards and left and right just as much as itmoved up and down.
“LEVEL NINE, DEPARTMENT OF MYSTERIES,” read a calm, cool, and distinctlyunsettling voice, when they had reached their final destination. The onlyconclusion Ginny had thus far gathered from her hints was that Dementors werea manifestation of an abstract concept, and that the True Patronus was somehowpowered by your approach to solving the non-magical form of that abstractconcept. It was known to happen that magical creatures would originate asmanifestations of abstract concepts; phoenixes, for example, wererepresentations of a promise of eternity. For this reason, depictions of themwere common decorations in churches and on wedding invitations.
“Hello, Lockhart,” said one Unspeakable, who appeared to distinctly distrustthe Defense Professor.
“Hello, Croaker,” said Professor Lockhart.
“You’re here for the Dementor exercise, correct?” said Unspeakable Croaker.
“Indeed,” said Lockhart, and his smile just wouldn’t stop.
“You have delivered the lecture on the properties of Dementors, and on how toproduce a normal Patronus?” said Croaker.
“Of course,” said Lockhart, and he nodded broadly.
“Follow me,” said Croaker, to the entire group from Hogwarts, and he led theminto the Department of Mysteries proper, which Ginny’s father had described toher.
It was a large circular room, with eleven featureless doors, twelve if youcounted the one the class had just walked through, evenly spaced around theroom’s circumference. Each of the doors had an Unspeakable standing in frontof it, wand drawn; they took shifts so that each door was guarded at alltimes. It simply wouldn’t do if someone could sneak in after hours. There wasa large circle drawn on the floor, just short of the edge of the room.
“Is that Amortentia?” said a Gryffindor named Romilda Vane, and she pointed ata door that had a strong magical aura emanating from it.
“Yes,” said Professor Lockhart, quietly. “An entire fountain of it.” Romildastood in awe. Something about the magical signature didn’t seem right toGinny. She supposed she didn’t know how the magical signature compounded insuch a large quantity. But come to think of it, how had they gotten such alarge quantity? Amortentia took serious sacrifice to create; how many wizardshad lost their magic and their wands to power the Love Room? The Love Roomwas the one where they would keep Amortentia, right?
“We cannot confirm or deny that at this time,” said the Unspeakable in frontof the Love Room, who was wearing completely opaque black glasses.
“Everyone stand inside the red circle,” said Unspeakable Croaker. “As close tothe center of the room as possible.” Ginny looked down, and saw that they wereall well within it; Unspeakable Croaker closed the door to the outside world,and immediately, all of the Unspeakables in the room disappeared, along withthe doors they were guarding. A few seconds later, they reappeared, but theywere all scrambled; their positions and their order were completely different.
“Dementors this way,” said one Unspeakable, who sent up sparks to attract thestudents’ attention, and the door behind him opened a crack. The crowd madeits way over to the Unspeakable, whose head was obscured by a cloud of smokethat didn’t seem to leave his head, and stepped through the door into theDeath Room.
“Jeepers!” said Colin, pointing at the enormous triangular stone structure atthe bottom of the chamber’s chasm. “Is that the Veil?” A black surface rippledand fluttered between the two lines.
“Yes, absolutely,” said Professor Lockhart.
“We cannot confirm or deny that at this time,” said the Unspeakable, and heguided them away from the chasm towards a more nondescript corridor, which wasvery long and was also made of stone, though it was less arcane than the Veilchamber. It led to a smaller, even less arcane room that had wood trim andpleasant lighting. There was a heavy stone door that the Unspeakable glancedat expectantly. “Behind this door is a pit containing all known Dementorspecimens remaining after the purge of Azkaban.”
“How do you keep Nundus from forming?” interrupted Colin, who was roundlyshushed.
“There are not nearly enough Dementors present for the formation of a Nundu,”said the Unspeakable. “And even if there were, we are not planning to performan execution here any time soon, or ever. As I was saying, a pair ofUnspeakables will escort a Dementor to this room momentarily, and you willtake turns to face it one-on-one. Everyone who isn’t currently facing theDementor will wait in the hall.”
“A Dementor’s Kiss is required to initiate Nundu formation,” explainedProfessor Lockhart, to Colin, during a lull. Soon thereafter, the room wasevacuated of all except Karissa, who was going first. Ginny could feel theDementor’s presence, even though she was not looking at it. It was adistinctly wrong feeling, exactly what she expected, but real. It told herintuitively to flee better than any Boggart could, but she knew she would faceit and overcome it. What could it possibly represent? Soon Ginny heard Karissashout something, and there was a glow opposite the Dementor’s, and Karissareturned triumphant.
Some weren’t so lucky. The group was about evenly split between those able andthose unable to produce Patronuses, though it was invariably found that thosewho had tried and failed last year failed just as hard now. Among those whowere carried out of the room unconscious was Colin; this was not a surprisefor Ginny, who hadn’t really thought him the type in the first place. Andabsolutely no one produced a Patronus with the brilliant glow or perfect formof Harry’s (or Hermione’s).
“It’s your turn, Miss Weasley,” said Professor Lockhart. “Good luck.” Ginnystepped forward, having suppressed as many of her nerves as she could.
Well, it’s obvious what you are, thought Ginny, as the cloaked figureappeared before her. You’re Evil. Capital-E Evil. That’s what you personify.You exist to cause negative utility, you’re not supposed to exist, and youeven look more demonic than any other magical creature I’ve seen. It’s notthat hard to figure out. So, then, how do I solve you? Or, rather, how wouldHarry solve you? How would Harry solve evil?
_ No, no, thought Ginny. _That’s the wrong way to think about it altogether.You can’t make a Patronus using Occlumency. The Defense Professor said so. Howwould _I _solve evil? What’s _my _plan to deal with it? What does my worldviewsay? The symptoms of Dementor exposure were already sinking in. It wasbecoming a little harder to think, though Ginny was pushing through.
God has already dealt with you, thought Ginny. Your game is up. Your pricewas paid in full on the cross, and any suffering you cause can therefore onlybe temporary. The idea that you are still an existential threat to anyone isan illusion, and I see through that illusion. (Is something wrong? This isn’thow Harry would think about this. No, push on.) I know the truth.
_ I believe that the Lord God created the universe, thought Ginny. _I believethat He sent His only son to die for my sins. I believe that the line ofChrist contains all wizardkind! You have no place here!
“Expecto Patronum!” shouted Ginny, as loudly as her lungs could currentlyprovide. Her wand had been correctly raised, but nothing came out. She glanceddiagonally downwards, otherwise frozen, expecting reality to correct itself.
What? thought Ginny. No, try again. I believe that Satan has a hold on you!I believe that the Lord God has sent me here! I believe-
Ginny finally fainted.
We didn’t agree to this! We didn’t agree to this! But I _did… _Oh God, I’m amurderer. Save me. Kill me. I need to be killed, I mustn’t threaten anyone…They’re dead… It’s my fault… I trusted you. I’m going to wind up notremembering any of this, and I won’t be able to protect anyone from myselfthen. Or you. The Chamber’s going to keep opening, and opening, and opening,and we’re going to keep killing, and killing, and killing… I did kill Cedric,after all, and now how many of his friends? You lied to me and I should haveseen through it. But how, in Parseltongue - here he comes. Is Obliviation likedying?
The baby looked up at its towering parents and the healer, and they had astrange conversation using strange words that it could not understand, butcould remember, somewhere in the deep recesses of its infant brain, where onlythe memory magic of a conceptual being could recover it, and even then, onlyfor the purposes of torture.
“I can offer a mass Obliviation-” said the healer.
“I want my son back,” said Arthur.
“Any kind of human Transfiguration is very dangerous,” said the healer. “We’realready very lucky that she’s stabilized.” Arthur made a reflexive stabbingmotion that he’d picked up watching Muggle criminals who had to rely on Muggleweapons. “It would be risking the child’s life all over again.”
“And it’s not risking the child’s life to leave him like this?” said Molly,through her tears.
“No,” said the healer. “Particularly given the function of eagle’s splendor.”
“What does eagle’s splendor have to do with this?” said Molly, exactlysimultaneously with her husband’s similar utterance: “Who said anything abouta potion of eagle’s splendor?”
“Healers know things, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,” said the healer, “even if we arelegally prevented from disclosing them. In most cases, at least; an exceptionmight be made here seeing as a child was endangered. But the significance ofeagle’s splendor’s function is that it causes the body’s appearance to matchthe mind’s ideal.”
“Enough!” said Arthur. “If you can’t reverse the effect, what can you do?”
“As I was saying, I can offer a mass Obliviation applied to all friends andfamily, everyone who’d know, so that they’re unaware that your _daughter _wasever any different,” said the healer.
“My daughter is the third seventh son,” said Molly, and she practicallyspit. There was a pause.
“I’m sorry,” said the healer. The baby looked up at its mother, who was themost upset it had ever seen her. Its mother looked back, but this did nothingto alleviate her distress; in fact, she had a look of disgust about her.
What’s wrong, Mother? Why don’t you recognize me? Why don’t you recognize me?Why don’t-
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