Chapter Four: Sweetness and Scrolls
There was a few moment's pause after Harry knocked on the door of room 18, where he waited, hoping he had the right room. Then from inside called a familiar voice, but one he hadn't heard for a long time, and his stomach seemed to twist as it met his ears.
He bit his lip, and resisting the urge to fling open the door and bellow, "SURPRISE!", he twisted the handle carefully, pushed the door open, and stepped inside.
It was a fairly small room, with a dark green carpet underfoot and walls painted a soft colour of pistachio, with dappled white here and there, like clouds. There was only one window, but the blind was pulled down so everything was cast in a gentle shadow. Though Harry didn't really take much time to appreciate the decor, as he was far more interested in the bed at the far end of the room, and the person sitting tucked in the sheets, reading a book propped open on her lap. He felt an odd lump in his throat as he shut the door behind him, and made his way over to the chair next to the bed.
She watched him closely as he sat down, her eyes narrowed, and then in a suspicious voice, she said, "I think you've got the wrong room..."
She didn't recognise him. Harry was a little hurt at this, before he realised that he was of course disguised, and nobody recognised him. He smiled a little. "Don't you remember?" he murmured.
She stared at him, her face tight in confusion, before suddenly, it clicked. He could see the realisation dawn on her face, and it was amazing to witness, as her mouth fell open and she choked, "I-... Harry?"
He smiled again. "So the blonde doesn't suit me," he said, with a raised eyebrow.
She just stared for a few moments more, before she blinked, and then said, her face falling into a confused smile, "You... I didn't know you were coming... what's with the eyes? Spell Damage is fourth floor, you know, you should get them checked out."
Harry laughed. He hadn't realised just how much he missed her sense of humour. Here she was, in St Mungo's, after nearly dying from poisoning, and yet she was still just as care-free as he remembered. "It wasn't a spell, it was a potion."
"You're in the right place then," she said, grinning. "The food's not too good, but at least it won't kill you."
"How are you doing now?" he asked. "Are you allowed to eat proper stuff?"
She nodded, easing herself back in the pillows and putting her book down. "They've repaired most of my stomach now, and it can take food, though nothing too spicy or hot... my muscles were worst affected. But the healers are going to get me a wheelchair soon, so I'll be able to move round again. I can't wait to get out of this room... I haven't seen anything but green for a month... and how are you? What happened while I was away?"
Harry smiled weakly. "Well... Lord Voldemort attacked the school and we lost half the students... I nearly got killed a few times... Draco got half a million points for Slytherin, then we got beaten in the Staff vs Students Quidditch match. We split up for the holidays, I've been sitting in the dark for a month, and here we are."
"So it's just been happy happy happy all the way, huh?" she said.
"Pretty much," he said, with a light smile.
"What happened in the Quidditch match? Anything I would be interested in?"
"Madam Hooch broke Ginny's ankle."
"Oh, how nice of her."
"And Professor Sinistra nearly broke Draco's nose with the Quaffle."
"I can tell it was a really calm and boring game then." She smiled, took a glass of water from the side of her bed and sipped for a moment. "Who took my place?"
"Alrister," said Harry. "He joined the Bright Sparks to make up for you... he wasn't quite as good though."
She grinned, and then sighed, glancing into her water. "I'll miss Quidditch..." At his curious noise, she looked up again, a longing expression on her face. "My muscles are too badly damaged... the healers don't think I'll be able to fly a broom properly again, let alone swing a club at the same time." She sneered bitterly into her glass of water. "Healer Webb kindly suggested muggle golf. I don't think so somehow."
"You'll never play again?" he said, sadly.
She shook her head. "No... well." She sighed again, and put down her water. "They only told me a few days ago. They were asking me what I wanted to do with my life, to check I wouldn't have problems, and I said Quidditch. You should have seen the looks on their faces. Stupid Healer Webb... "I don't think that's a very sensible career for a lovely girl like you." Did you see her when you came in?"
"I don't think so. What does she look like?"
"She's really old... all thin and wrinkly and evil." Kainda shivered, glaring at the far wall. "Mum's aunt. When I got put in here, she sent Webb an owl asking her to look out for me."
"What do your family think of all this?" he asked, tentatively. "I mean... it was Blaise that did this to you, he's in Azkaban now..."
She nodded, a grim smile curling her lips. "Mmm, at least something good came out of it. Mum and Dad come to see me once a week for twenty minutes or something, giving interviews to the Prophet about how angry they are at Blaise. How betrayed they feel. I can just tell that they aren't sorry at all... my dad is like Blaise. He probably thinks I just got in the way of Blaise's glorious work."
"I'm sorry they think that way," he said, and he truly did feel sorry for her. Not only had she lost her future in Quidditch, but her family too, and a great deal of her education. He put an arm gently around her shoulders. She leaned into him, resting her head on his shoulder, and it turned into a cuddle. He had missed her scent so much. It was just a tiny thing, something he'd never noticed before, but she smelt oddly warm and comforting, like a soft blanket on a cold night.
"I missed you," her voice said in his ear. She took a little breath in. "I hoped you'd come and see me... it gets really lonely here, with only the healers and my stupid parents once a week."
He'd never known Kainda to be somebody who ever felt lonely, but this just made him realise how horrible it must have been for her here, with no friends coming to see her. He patted her back as gently as he could, careful not to hurt her, and then he asked, softly, "Where are you going once you're allowed out?"
She smiled into his neck. "I thought you'd ask me that... I've got good news... Dumbledore wrote to me a few weeks ago. He said that because I'd missed so much time off school, and I hadn't taken my NEWTs or anything, he'd let me back in to do seventh year again. So I can get some proper qualifications and a decent job... after all, I can't play Quidditch anymore."
"So you're coming back?" he said, happily. "That's great! You'll be with all of us then... what subjects did you take at NEWT?"
"Dark Arts, Pure Arts... um... Potions, Care of Magical Creatures, Herbology and Muggle Studies," she replied. "Did you take any of them?"
He nodded. "Pure Arts, Potions, Dark Arts, Magical Creatures. So we'll be together in at least some classes." He smiled, and gently, he kissed her cheek. Once again, he was suddenly hit with the realisation of how much he had missed her. Her confidence and laidback attitude rubbed off on him, and made him feel that no matter how bad things go, there was always a future out there somewhere.
"Do you know who's doing Dark Arts this year?" she asked, still resting against him, her breath coming in warm little streams across his neck.
"Lupin," he murmured. "He's lasted three terms now... I think that thing about the Dark Arts job being jinxed was just coincidence..."
She nodded a little, and he felt her lips smile against his neck. "No collar today... got you properly trained at last, have they?"
He smiled. "Yes... I was supposed to have it on now though, but I just left it at home..."
She laughed softly, that rich chuckle of pure amusement. "You're in trouble when you get home, huh?"
"I'd like to see him catch me," said Harry, grinning. He hugged her close to him again, gently rubbing her back. He gave a little sigh of happiness. He had the feeling that this was all he needed, somebody to love and look after, even though he knew he would never admit it to anybody, not even Kainda.
"So... what's with the disguise anyway?" she asked, curiously, reaching up to rub some of his blonde spikes between her fingers. "You really look different."
"Oh..." he said, remembering the Daily Prophet article, with a sinking feeling in his stomach. "You see... I sort of needed to get into the building without being recognised."
She drew back, and raised an eyebrow at him with a mild smile. "On the run now, are you?"
"Sort of," he admitted. "There were a lot of reporters outside... and... well, I don't exactly know how to say this, but in the Daily Prophet this morning - "
To his surprise, she chuckled. "I'm not so ill that I can't read a paper, Harry."
"You know?" he said, raising his eyebrows.
She nodded with a little smile. "Webb came bustling in here this morning while I was eating breakfast, waving it around and demanding to know what I was playing at, dating a boy of Gryffindor heart." She grinned. "I proved to her that I can still throw a little. It took them ages to get the baked beans off the wall."
"So... you're not mad?" he said, hopefully.
"Of course I'm not," she said, and then she winked. "You didn't think I'd do a kiss-and-tell and sell my story to the papers now, did you?"
He grinned. "No, I just didn't know whether you'd want the attention or not... there was something about Ron and Hermione, Ron's probably still going to be purple from embarrassment twenty years from now."
"They could disguise him like you," she said, playing with a tuft of Harry's blonde hair. "I'm sure he'd love that."
There was suddenly a knock on the door, and Harry looked around, not letting go of Kainda, who rested her head on his shoulder almost defiantly. It creaked open, and the face of a very stern-looking old woman peered in at them.
"You have another visitor," she said, sniffily.
"Oh? Who?" asked Kainda, vaguely, nuzzling into Harry's neck as she did.
The old woman's eyes narrowed at that. "It is another man. If you don't already have enough of them." She pushed open the door, and stalked away, as Snape came into the room. He didn't seem ruffled at the sight of Kainda cuddled up to Harry.
"We're going now, Potter... we can return next week, I daresay." He glanced at Kainda. "Miss Zabini, how are you feeling?"
"Much better, thanks, Professor," she said, smiling, and loosening her arms around Harry's neck. She winked at him. "See you soon, Harry. By the way, did you get my potion?"
He grinned, and said, "Yeah, I did... oh! I nearly forgot! I've got you something..." He reached into his pocket, and found the little box he'd put there earlier. He handed it to her gently, and said, "It's not much..."
She opened it, with an eager look in her eyes, and then her lips melted into a smile. "Harry... thankyou." She kissed his cheek. "You're too kind."
He smiled, and uncomfortably aware Snape was watching, he gave her a last hug, then stood up. "I'll see you really soon. Do you mind if Ron, Ginny and Draco come next time?"
"Sure they can," she said, with a smile. "I'd love more visitors."
Snape held the door open, and Harry gave her a last wave, before Snape pushed him neatly out, shut the door, and said, "Come on, Romeo, we have the press to fool."
Harry didn't really care about the Prophet reporters anymore really. He quite wanted one of them to recognise him, so he could just smile and say, "No comment", then bounce off. He practically skipped out of the third floor, with Snape hot on his heels, and they met Tonks at the staircase.
"How is she?" asked Tonks, with a smile.
"She's fine," Harry chirruped, giving a little hop as he started down the stairs.
"Couldn't you guess?" Snape muttered, sarcastically, as he and Tonks followed Harry down the staircase and back into the lobby. Before they headed for the exit, Tonks grabbed him and did a quick check that his disguise was in place.
"Apart from the fact you've got kiss marks all over your face, you look fine to me," she said, brightly. She took a tissue out of the pocket of her fur coat, and dabbed his face, just like a mother upon finding dirt on their son's nose. "Off we go then. They'll have started the decorating by now, so we can still join in."
They slipped carefully through the window of the department store, leaving St Mungo's behind and stepping out into the muggle street beyond. All the Daily Prophet reporters were too busy watching the people going into St Mungo's to notice the blonde boy who came out, grinning from ear to ear, leading two bemused looking adults down the street and away.
"Harry, stay still and stop wriggling around, dear..."
"Can't I just go and decorate?"
"No, not yet." Mrs Weasley slapped another palmful of Madam Madmop's Natural Hair Colour Restorative into his hair, scrubbing vigorously. "Really, Tonks, I thought you knew what you were doing," she sighed.
"I did," Tonks insisted. "How was I to know you weren't supposed to use a Blonde Charm on black hair?"
Mrs Weasley sighed again, and stood back to peer at Harry's head. He was sitting on a stool with his face hanging over the sink, his hair covered in the Colour Restorative, a towel wrapped around his shoulders. "Well, at least he's not ginger anymore," Mrs Weasley said, heavily. "Poor lamb. I think we'll need some more of this stuff, it's still dark red."
Harry gave a little sigh. Tonks had fixed his eyes back to normal easily, and a quick wipe with a facecloth and his scar was back, but then they had tried to return his hair to its regular colour. Nobody would tell him what had happened when Tonks first tried the counter-charm, but Draco had said, heavily, "You don't want to know, Potter".
There were footsteps in the kitchen door, and when Harry peered under his arm, he saw Snape coming in with a large goblet of something. "What's that?" he said, worriedly.
"Various things which strip out colourants," said Snape. "It would have been brewed sooner, had the Black family used their brains and invested in a cauldron made of something slightly more hard-wearing than plastic."
"And we just pour it over his head, do we?" said Mrs Weasley, taking the goblet from him.
Snape raised an eyebrow. "A steady trickle would be slightly more effective than simply sloshing it over Potter, but as you wish..."
Harry braced himself as Mrs Weasley gently tipped the foul smelling potion over his head. It ran down under his jaw and across his forehead, and all the time, there was a very worrying hissing sound coming from the sink below him. After a few moments, the last of the draft drained away down the plug, and Mrs Weasley started examining his hair. "Marvellous, it's black at last..." She threw a towel over his head, and started to rub his hair dry rather vigorously. Harry could dully hear the sounds of explosions coming from upstairs, though nobody thought any of this was out of the ordinary.
Mrs Weasley smiled, and said, promptly, "There now... lovely. All back to normal."
"Can I go and help now?" asked Harry.
"Of course you can. But be careful when you walk in, make sure they've not just lit a firework," said Mrs Weasley, smiling down at him, and he hurried out of the kitchen, heading for the staircase. He followed the sound of voices, and eventually found where everybody else was. He knocked on the closed door of one of the bedrooms, and called, "Can I come in?"
The door opened, and Ron grinned out at him. He was covered in paint, and had even managed to get some in his ears. "Not ginger any more?"
"Luckily," said Harry, grinning back. They both stepped inside, and shut the door. Harry was amazed at what they'd managed to do to the room that had been black until recently. Everything was a shade of warm beige, and everyone was standing around with their wands, using quick-drying charms on the paint.
"Alright, Harry?" Fred called from across the room.
"Yeah, thanks," he said, as he drew out his wand, and started to help Ron dry the wall near the door.
George strolled around behind them, acting like the boss of a large factory. "Good work everyone, jolly good work! Keep this up and we might get this all done by the time the sun collapses in on itself!"
"Why don't you actually do some work, as you're so good?" said Ginny over her shoulder.
"I am working, for your information," he said to her, pompously. "I'm doing the most important job of shouting at you all until you actually work faster."
"Oh, George," said Bill. "We're not doing badly... maybe we should split up though, so we could get more rooms done at once. We still need to figure out how to get Mrs Black's portrait down from the hallway..."
"We could do that now," said Mr Weasley. "Remus? Tonks should be up in a moment or two, could you two supervise Fred, George and Ginny in here? The rest of us can go and start work on rehoming Mrs Black to the dustbin."
And so Ron, Draco, Harry and Bill all followed Mr Weasley out of the bedroom, and down the stairs into the hall, passing Tonks on the way. Snape was already ahead of them, and was standing just outside the Mrs Black Danger Zone, deep in thought.
"Any ideas of how to get it off the wall, Professor?" asked Draco, instantly sucking up to Snape.
"Many," said Snape. "Each foiled in some way. The old hag was a typical Black, only ever lending their brain to unimportant things."
"I'm related to them," said Draco, looking slightly hurt.
"Mm," said Snape, apparently not bothered.
"The problem is that we can't get near enough to try and remove the curse," said Bill. "Any noise made near her and she'll wake up. It's impossible to block out all that screaming enough to concentrate."
"Well... what's behind that wall?" said Ron. Everybody turned to look at him. "I mean, there must be something there. There's just not a door. Look at the shape of the house, there must be a room or solid concrete or something there."
"And your point is...?" said Draco.
Ron shrugged. "Why bother trying to get her off the wall if we don't even need the wall? We could just knock it through into the other room." Quietly, he stepped through into the Danger Zone, and tapped with his knuckles on the wall. "It's hollow," he whispered.
"We could do with Mad-Eye here to tell us what's in there," said Mr Weasley. "Well... I suppose it won't be anything dangerous, if the room has been sealed for as long as Sirius said it has. There's no harm in trying."
"What if that wall's supporting the house or something?" said Harry.
"It won't be," Bill assured him. "All wizard buildings aren't supported by the buildings themselves. They're held up by magic. You could knock out the entire of the bottom floor, but as long as you left one thing connecting the upper floor to the ground, it wouldn't fall."
Mr Weasley smiled a little, rolling up his sleeves. "Well then... sleeves up everyone, wands out. A good reductor curse should blast through it... if we all aim directly for the painting?"
They all nodded, and drew out their wands, standing back.
"On the count of three," said Mr Weasley. "Ready? One... two... three!!"
"REDUCTO!!" they all cried at once, swishing their wands over their heads, and bullets of red light burst from the ends of their wands. They all hit the painting dead on, there was a tremendous BANG that shook the whole house, and in an explosion of plaster and bits of wood, dust flew everywhere, obscuring their view.
The smoke and dust gradually filtered away, falling in a grey cloud and leaving whispy streaks floating near the ceiling. Through the haze, Harry could see the wall where Mrs Black's portrait once hung, blasted apart with a huge hole right where the painting once was.
Mr Weasley coughed, waving his hand in front of him to try and dispel some of the smoke, as they all stepped forward to peer through the hole into the room beyond. "It's too dark," said Mr Weasley. "Let's see... lumos!" The tip of his wand glowed with a tiny little light, and carefully, he reached through the hole into the darkness. The circle of light washed over what looked like a pile of wooden chests and many scrolls of paper, covered in dust, and clearly placed there years and years before. "How odd," said Mr Weasley, frowning pensively. "Family documents, perhaps?" He gripped a bit of the plaster and pulled, gradually widening the hole, enough for them all the step through. They all lit their wand tips and crouched down by the mass of parchment.
Bill, who had just picked up one of the rolls, was unravelling it and reading slowly with a frown upon his face. "What language is this?" he said, showing it to his father. "The lines are in different scripts... that's Egyptian there... then Norse runes... that looks like Chinese, and I'm sure that's Cyrillic on the line below."
Draco had picked up another scroll. Harry watched over his shoulder as he opened it up. "This is Ancient Runes... something about loss of... what's that? Mortality? I'm sure it is... does it mean death?"
"Loss of mortality, and death, are very different things," said Snape. He took the parchment from Draco, and read it aloud, only pausing once or twice. "Many things in this world provide a loss of mortality. Concentrated vampire blood, unicorn blood, the eggs of the phoenix crushed into a fine powder. All must be combined together to create The Brew of Everlasting Life."
Ron said, suddenly, from across the room. "Um... Dad? I think I know what this is all about..."
They all crowded around Ron, staring at the parchment he had unrolled. As the light washed over it, they all understood. There, at the very bottom of the paper, was the dark mark, inked in green and black.
"Voldemort," Harry whispered. A few people flinched. "And immortality... do you think these are all his notes? When he was looking for something to bring him eternal life?"
"What would they be doing in the Black household?" said Mr Weasley, frowning.
"Perhaps he gave them to her to look after," said Bill. He raised an eyebrow. "All the Blacks apart from Sirius were Voldemort supporters, weren't they? If he found what he needed for immortal life, he would have given the scrolls to somebody he could really trust."
"What about my family?" said Draco. "Surely the Malfoys would have been a more logical choice."
"The two families joined together though," said Bill. "Because of your mother. Voldemort would also need a very, very safe place to hide the scrolls."
"Malfoy Manor is safe," said Draco, a little hurt.
Bill looked a little reluctant for a moment, and then said, "Look at it this way... Grimmauld Place, the house of the Blacks, is still standing. It's not been raided yet by the ministry or anything. But Malfoy Manor..."
"... was taken away because of a technicality," said Draco, frowning.
"This doesn't matter," said Mr Weasley, hurriedly. "Stop fighting. If these really are the notes that You-Know-Who used, we need experts to come and translate them. Find out how he did it. There might be a way to break his immortality... which of us can read these?"
"I could translate the Runes," said Snape.
"I'll help," said Draco.
"I can do the Hieroglyphics, and some of the Norse runes," said Bill. "Though we'll need more people. We should get these sent off to the ministry, Dad, they've got experts there. We don't want anything to ruin the parchment."
"Of course," said Mr Weasley. "You're right. Everybody out, we need to keep them all safe and untouched until the ministry arrive. I'll send a message to Cornelius right away. Bill, could you send an owl to your boss at Gringotts? Tell him we'll need translators, and lots of them."
"No problem," said Bill, as he stepped out of the room and hurried away up the stairs.
Mr Weasley shepharded the rest of them out of the dark vault. "This is such a discovery... and who would have thought there was another reason for Mrs Black to hang her portrait there? It was a guard. A decoy, almost."
"Arthur?" said Mrs Weasley, peering out of the kitchen at them all, as they emerged from the scrolls room, covered in dust. "What's wrong? Has something happened?"
"Yes, Molly," he said, breathlessly, as he headed away up the stairs, calling over his shoulder. "We've just found the key to the down fall of the Dark Lord once and for all!"
She stood in the kitchen door staring after him, and after a moment, she said, blandly, "Alright then... dinner's at six."
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