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Chapter Fourteen: Polyphony

Scully awoke to the patter of raindrops against her window. A glance at the clock startled her completely awake, but then she remembered that it was Saturday. An entire day to herself, at least until Mulder woke up. From the snores emanating from their connecting door, she figured that he would be out until at least eleven. In the meantime, she leafed through the room service menu and phoned in an order for orange juice, cold cereal with peaches, and a scone. While she waited for the food to come, she took a shower. It took two shampoos to get all the styling products out of her hair. She barely had time to throw on her robe and towel-dry her hair before there was a knock at the door.

The kitchen envoy wheeled the cart into the room and set an elegant place for her at the desk near the window. She opened her makeshift purse to give the woman a tip, only to discover that all she had were galleons, sickles, and knuts. She frowned and located her regular purse, which thankfully had a few pounds in it. She absently held out two pounds, but the woman didn't take it. She was staring out the window with an odd expression on her face.

"Excuse me?" Scully was perhaps a little shorter than was necessary, but she was still in her bathrobe, after all.

The woman jumped slightly. "Beg your pardon ma'am, but there's an owl perched on the ledge outside your window. If you move slowly you might keep from startling him."

Uh oh. Probably Hermes. Thank heaven she hadn't noticed what the owl was carrying. She briskly shoved the money into the woman's hand. "Thank you."

The woman bobbed a small curtsy and left.

After locking the door, Scully flung open the window and winced as the wind blew the drops into her room. The sodden-looking creature turned to look at her mournfully. It wasn't Hermes. It was a young snowy owl, and he was thoroughly drenched. Scully clicked her tongue and held out her arm, and the owl clambered on with a disconsolate hoot. She took him into the bathroom and began gently rubbing his feathers with a hand towel. He was about ten inches high, and very well behaved. He accepted her ministrations without protest, and even lifted his wings to grant her access to the sodden feathers underneath. She untied the scroll from around his leg, and she could have sworn that he sighed.

"There's no need to be dramatic," she told him sternly. "You can stay until the rain lets up."

He brightened visibly at that, and began preening his primary feathers.

She took the scroll into the other room. Thankfully the ink hadn't smudged in the rain. Then again, it was probably magical ink.

Dear Mr. Mulder,

Oops, it was for Mulder. Wait, why was Mulder receiving strange owls? She read on.

Having gone through my records while bearing your information in mind, I came across several records that may prove quite interesting to you in light of recent events. I would like very much to meet with you, your partner, and Albus for Sunday brunch in the privacy of your room, if that is amenable to you both.

I apologize for leaving so abruptly last night. Albus postponed our morning tea today until the afternoon, which leads me to believe he was conversing with you until very late. I can hardly wait to hear what transpired between the two of you! I look forward to speaking with you again and meeting your partner, hopefully tomorrow. Please send your reply back with Amacheuch.


Nicholas Flamel

Albus and Nicholas Flamel? So Mulder did do something besides drink himself into a stupor last night. She wondered what they'd discussed, but decided that she lacked the imagination and wakefulness to extrapolate.

After she finishing breakfast and placing the dishes and silverware outside the door, she noticed that the Flamel's owl, Amacheuch, had flown out of the bathroom and was perched on the desk chair.

"Sorry little guy, but Mulder's not awake yet. You'll have to wait here." Nonplussed, the owl tucked his head under his wing and promptly fell asleep.

Scully went to the bathroom where the fog on the mirror had already dissipated enough for her to study her face. There were still dark smudges under her eyes from the variety of eye makeups that hadn't been completely washed away. Grabbing a Kleenex, she began rubbing away the remnants. When she had finished, the difference between her appearance this morning and her appearance last night was especially marked. As lovely as the previous evening had been, it was a relief to see her own bare face staring back at her. It was fun to dress up every now and then, but if the foolishness she'd endured from Percy and Severus was any indication of Magical world's attitude toward attractive women, she would be at her best advantage to look completely average.

Severus. Now there was a puzzle. One minute he was threatening to hex her, the next paying her compliments. She was still confused by his attentions. Were they in response to her Daphne De Winter act or were the in response to her? Where did the act end and truth begin? Was there any way of knowing? And did it really matter? In retrospect, she was more than a little disappointed that Severus stooped to baiting Percy as much as he did, especially when undercover. It smacked of unprofessionalism. Not that Percy had been much better. At least he had managed to keep silent. Not that he'd had much choice there. Then again, perhaps the situation for them was as irregular as it had been for her. For all the muddle that last night had been, one thing was clear: she still had quite a bit to learn about the Magical world.

Oh well, no time like the present to continue that education. She threw on a t-shirt and a pair of drawstring pants and lay down on the bed. She turned on the bedside lamp and found her place My Friend Harry.

<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>

Dear Diary,

Both Harry and I fell asleep in Transfiguration today. McGonnegal was so annoyed with us that she took ten points from Gryffindor. I wonder if house points count for anything anymore. Who knows if we'll even have a school left at the end of the year? Ron was looking at us kind of funny, like he suspected we were up to something. I told Harry about hearing people use the secret passage, but told him that it would be stupid to stay up two nights in a row. Fortunately, he was even more tired than I was and didn't argue. I wonder why Ron didn't come along last night. Probably because there are only two ways in and out, so we didn't need three people to stake out. Harry couldn't exactly leave me out since the idea was mine. Well, the sneaking out was Harry's idea, but it was me who figured out what was going on. Anyway, I don't think Harry told Ron because he'd have to explain why he left him out in the first place. Of course, he couldn't have been along in the first place because he wasn't speaking to Harry or me at the time. I was just in the right place at the right time. Or maybe I was in the wrong place at the right time. I'm not making much sense, am I? Maybe I'll come back and read this and laugh. In that case, might as well leave a joke for myself. How do you get a Slytherin out of a tree? You cut the rope. I heard that when I was a second-year. I think it was funnier then. Must be one of those that you outgrow, kind of like knock-knock jokes.

Love, Neville

Dear Diary,

It will happen tonight. That sounds rather dramatic, doesn't it? Ron is mad at everyone in our room for not playing chess with him, so it'll be just me and Harry sneaking out tonight. I asked him how we were going to keep from getting caught, and he was very vague. I guess I'll find out tonight. I'm so excited I can barely write, and lights out isn't for another five hours! I think I'll take a nap so I won't be sleepy tonight. I wanted to start on "Notes from the Underground" this afternoon (borrowed from Blaise again) this afternoon. Kind of an appropriate title, isn't it? Sweet dreams, Diary!

Love, Neville

Dear Diary,

McGonnegal is letting me and Harry skip our morning classes, and I have so much to tell that I'm going to write it all before I forget any of it.

After lights out, Harry and I snuck to the statue and said the password. The mechanism is completely silent, so I was pretty surprised when the entire statue opened up to reveal a seemingly endless stairway. We stopped to rest about a hundred and fifty steps into it, and Harry showed me how we weren't to get caught: an invisibility cloak! He said it was his dad's and that Dumbledore gave it to him first year. Lots of things fell into place, like how he, Ron, and Hermione managed to sneak all over the school without getting caught. Except for that one time first year. I asked him about that, and he admitted that they'd left it on the roof when they got rid of the dragon. Ahah, I said, so there WAS a dragon. He told me the rest of the story as we climbed, about Voldemort tricking Hagrid into telling him how to get past the Cerberus we all found. I'd heard most of the stories from the Philosopher's Stone fiasco, but never from him. None of the stories I'd heard ever mentioned how Voldemort got past the protections. I asked Harry if he had tricked any of the other teachers into revealing their secrets. Harry said he'd never thought of that, but he didn't think so. But I digress.

It took forever to climb all those stairs, but we ended up coming out the fireplace in Dumbledore's office. Fortunately, Dumbledore wasn't in it. Dumbledore's pet phoenix gave us a stern look, as if he knew we weren't supposed to be there, but didn't try to attract attention to us. Harry threw the cloak over our heads and led me out of the office. From the hallway window we could see that the entire front lawn of Hogwarts was covered with little tents and had hundreds of campfires. I almost had a heart attack when I saw that there were GIANTS patrolling the perimeter near the Forbidden Forest. I think Harry felt me shaking and he told me ever so casually that the giants are on our side. I guess one overhears plenty when one has an invisibility cloak. I got a little annoyed and asked if there were any other things he wasn't telling me. He glared at me, a look that was especially potent because his face was only a few inches from mine. I began apologizing profusely. I haven't many people I can talk about my parents with, and I didn't want Harry to be angry with me. I must have been babbling something to this effect when his angry look fell, leaving sad eyes behind. He said we needed to talk.

We retired to the nearest boy's room and he told me everything. I mean EVERYTHING. The cave we're all hiding in is none other than the infamous Chamber of Secrets, but it's no longer dangerous since Harry killed the basilisk inside with Godric Gryffindor's sword second year. Sirius Black is innocent and Harry and Hermione helped him escape from the Dementors third year. Professor Moody was really a death eater in disguise who fixed the Tri-Wizard Tournament in an elaborate plot to deliver Harry to Voldemort. He needed Harry's blood for some kind of arcane resurrection ritual. The only reason Harry survived the encounter is that he and Voldemort have phoenix feather wands containing feathers from the same phoenix (the Headmaster's). Somehow he made Voldemort's wand spit out remnants of the last few spells it performed, including shadows of Cedric and his parents. I expected him to cry, but he didn't. Maybe he was cried out. I was crying like a baby and apologized again. I told him I never would have asked if I'd had any idea. He looked kind of exasperated and called me a goose. He said he was glad I knew because I understood what it was like. I told him that he was the bravest person I knew. He looked kind of embarrassed and replied that he didn't have to face his greatest fear three times a week plus detentions.

Then he dropped the bombshell. Professor Snape was a Death Eater who has since changed sides and spies for Dumbledore. Diary, I still have no idea how I feel about that. My feelings are all tangled up. I wonder if he knows who destroyed my parents' minds. I wonder if he did it. As my mind worked to digest this piece of information, all the fear I ever felt toward Snape solidified into something else. Hate. Seething, simmering hatred. I think he's the first person I've ever really, truly hated. I mean kids say they hate broccoli or they hate it when it rains, but thinking of all the horrible things he's said to me over the years and what he might have done to my parents, I Hated Snape. Some of that must have shown on my face, because Harry put his hand on my shoulder. I was saying the most horrible things, and I knew deep down that it wasn't fair because he was really a spy for our side, but I finally had a face to put to all the imagined revenges against the person who took my parents from me. I don't think I was making any sense. I know I was crying and that Harry was trying to calm me down. I must have been making a great deal of noise, because the door burst open and Professor Snape ran in with his wand drawn. When he saw the two of us, he got that look on his face that he gets after I explode something in his class.

He started to say something nasty to Harry, but I yelled and threw myself at him and started hitting him with both fists. He must have been pretty surprised because he wasn't able to stupefy me until after I got in a few good punches.

I came to in the Headmaster's office. This time the Headmaster was in it, as were McGonnagal and Snape. I will never forget the looks on their faces. Suddenly getting caught out of bed first year seemed like very small potatoes indeed. Harry looked stricken. I tried to apologize for having passed out, but McGonnagal interrupted.

"Potter says you figured out where all the upperclassmen were going. Is that correct?"

I nodded, too terrified to speak.

"He also says you found the statue passageway and password. Is this true?"

I nodded again, calming myself enough to look at my interrogators. McGonnagal's face was livid. Professor Snape was holding a bloody handkerchief to his nose. Dumbledore's eyebrows were drawn together over his eyes and he was looking at me so intensely that I had to avert my eyes again. I stammered something to the affirmative.

Snape banged his fist on the Headmaster's desk. "I've had enough of this," he said. "It's obvious that Longbottom is taking the blame to protect Potter. He doesn't have the brains to pull off a stunt like this, exactly like his idiot father, following around mindlessly-"

McGonnagal and Dumbledore both made motions to protest, but I beat them to it.

"Shut up about my parents!" I yelled at him. "Isn't it bad enough what you did to them, or do you need to torment me until I end up in the lifer's ward at St. Mungo's, too?"

Snape blanched. Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Well, Mr. Longbottom, would you care to explain why you and Mr. Potter were wandering around up here in the middle of the night?"

Still bitter from my outburst, I explained how I'd noticed the disappearances and mentioned them to Harry, how we wanted to help out with the war effort, and how difficult it had been to find out anything about what was going on.

Dumbledore fixed me in that intense gaze again. "And what did you expect to accomplish by sneaking out of a secure location into a potentially dangerous place?"

I hadn't really thought about it, but I didn't say that. I answered that anything was better than not knowing, which was the truth, even if I didn't know it until just then.

Snape snorted at me, but I continued anyway. I told him about how low morale was and how completely useless everyone felt. I told him how classes were becoming a joke and how everyone was fighting.

Dumbledore asked what I expected him to do about it, and I answered that he should give us students a purpose. Trying to shield the students from the war wasn't working. As far as I could tell, all keeping students in the dark (figuratively and literally) accomplished was feeding ennui and despair.

Snape looked at me like I had no right to use the word "ennui." McGonnagal looked at Dumbledore and shrugged.

"It's true that most of the students are performing far below their normal level," she gave me a tight smile, "with a few notable exceptions."

My face flushed. If that was the kind of response that Harry normally gets, no wonder he sneaks out all the time! Harry was looking thoughtful.

"I don't mean this as an insult, Professor, but why aren't more of the teachers out fighting Death Eaters? I figured that you being an animagus and Professor Flitwick being former dueling champion your skills would be needed on the front lines."

"Potter, what we're doing here is just as, if not more important than fighting," McGonnagal snapped. "War or no, it is our job to prepare you for the real world. As Longbottom pointed out, the real world has changed, but our responsibility to you has not. Besides, who is to say that a Wizard who is killed in the line of duty has given the world a greater gift than an educator who teaches students to ask questions rather than to complacently swallow any hateful piece of propaganda that comes their way?"

"Hear, hear," murmured Dumbledore.

McGonnagal seemed somewhat embarrassed. "Well, if you two haven't any more questions, I shall take you back to your beds. You will both serve detention with me tomorrow evening, but I will excuse you from your morning classes."

Harry and I managed to hide our gleeful expressions as she ushered us toward the door. I looked back at Professor Snape and noticed that his nose had stopped bleeding but was swollen and uneven. I must have broken it. He snapped at me when he saw me staring, but I just told him that I was glad he made it back to Hogwarts safely and asked if he'd be teaching potions again. He looked like he was about to growl at me again, but McGonnagal yelled at me to come along, so I did.

I think this is the longest entry I've ever written; nearly twenty pages (and with me writing small, too!), but the details of what I heard and saw tonight feel like they've been carved into my brain with a chisel. Even as I write this, I keep picturing the stars that I saw over the army camp. That was the first time I'd seen the sky in nearly two months. I hear on the radio that our tidy little world is being slowly transformed to chaos. I hear the approaching thunder that threatens to destroy us. I feel the suffering of the oppressed. And yet, when I saw the stars tonight, I somehow knew that everything will be changing for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, and that peace and tranquility will return once more. Diary, I'm so happy. I've found hope.

Love, Neville

Dear Diary,

Compared to today, last night seem especially surreal. I have very little to report. Frank is giving me the cold shoulder (branch?) because in my excitement I forgot to water him yesterday. I've agreed to let Ron teach me to play chess. He taught me how to set up the board and gave me notes for how the pieces move. The number of moves one can make boggles my mind. Then again, if I only had one option I'd be checkmated. Classes were dull and the students were listless. "Notes From the Underground" is not at all what I expected. It's the story of a really horrible man who sits in a squalid little room all day and thinks. In my mind's eye, I picture Professor Snape in dirty rags ranting and swilling vodka. I know, I know. I'm a horrible person. But I'm nowhere near as upset as I was last night. I don't think I hate him anymore. I certainly don't like him, but I don't hate him. Detention was probably the highlight of my day. Instead of giving us busywork, McGonnagal had break up the student body into groups for "rotational miscellaneous duties," which probably means that we are going to be helping soon! Well, I've got a chess lesson with Ron in a few minutes, so I'd better finish up.

Love, Neville

Dear Diary,

News from the outside world is grim. WNN reports that the rising violence against muggleborns and squibs has forced the secret service to begin moving them all to internment camps in the country for their protection. I shudder to think of the "protection" Death Eaters will afford muggleborns and squibs. They've already silenced anyone who dared to speak against the interim Ministry in the newspapers. I'm afraid it's only a matter of time before they'll catch up with WNN. Hermione is telling anyone who will listen about how the exact same thing happened in the Forties, and that most people who were put into those camps were killed. As you can imagine, it's not the most comforting thing to say to people who haven't heard from their families for two months, so she's persona non grata for the time being. The worse the news from outside gets, the less productive classes are. Everyone's minds are miles away, even the professors. Teaching me chess has become a mania for Ron. Any time that I'm not doing homework is time to teach Neville strategy time. Most times I let him talk me into it, but less and less of what he's teaching me is sticking in my mind. Then he yells at me until I remember. Who needs Professor Snape back when I've got Ron Weasley? So I hope you understand why I haven't been writing in you so much as of late. Besides, it's not as if I have much of note to say. I'm getting impatient. I almost worked up my nerve to ask McGonnagal when we'll be starting our "rotational miscellaneous duties," but she looked so exhausted that I put off asking again. Do Professors sleep?

Love, Neville

<*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*> <*>

A loud thud followed by a groan from the next room jolted Scully back into the present. So Mulder had decided to join the land of the living at last. He would have to do it when she was in the middle of an engrossing book. The noise had also roused Flamel's owl from his nap, and he was ruffling his newly dried feathers indignantly. Scully gave a cursory knock on Mulder's door before entering. She found him on the floor, tangled in bedclothes.


He threw his arm over his eyes and groaned.

"So the creature lives," she remarked, with forced jocularity. Even to her ears it sounded catty.

He groaned again and groped around for something soft with which to cover his eyes and ears. In doing so, he managed to knock a beer bottle off the nightstand. It hit his forehead with a ringing thunk. He shot upright and cursed.

Scully ran her index finger lightly over the resultant bump and sighed. "I'm going to get some ice for this. In the meantime, see if you can't drag yourself into my room. There's a message waiting for you on my desk."

She slammed the door a little harder than was strictly necessary, and Mulder took this as a sign that she was not pleased. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and wandered into her room. Thank goodness it wasn't another glaringly sunny. He read the letter that lay open on the desk. So Scully knew that he had been with Dumbledore and Flamel the night before. Then why was she in such a bad mood? His eyes traveled around her room, taking in the new robe that hung next to Cho's in the closet, the towel at the foot of the bed she'd used to dry her hair, the box that looked just the right size for a wand, the pile of books on the nightstand, and finally, the open book that lay next to her crumpled pillow.

Oops. He'd inadvertently broken Scully rule number one: not to disturb her when she was reading.

He carefully replaced her bookmark before examining the cover. So this was the book Dumbledore had recommended so strongly. Wasn't it luck that Scully picked it up? He opened the book and began to read.

"Mulder, you're reading my book."

He hadn't even heard her come in. She held out a plastic bag of ice, for which he relinquished control of the book. He sighed as the ice began to numb the throbbing bruise.

"Thanks, Scully." Mulder gestured toward the wand box. "I take it last night was a success?"

An interesting mix of emotions played across her features before she answered with a simple "Yes."

Mulder made himself comfortable on the bed, since this was likely to be a long story.


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