Keith Lewis Keith Lewis 11 1892 2003-01-01T15:54:00Z 2003-07-10T09:27:00Z 21 12012 68471 570 136 84087 9.2720 Chapter 6 The Mystery of The Secret of Rhedae
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes : At the end of the chapter, I've given details of some images on my photo album relating to this chapter - just click on the link if you wish to view them.
Harry spent a lot of time over the holidays with his godfather, Ceri and Remus. It was one of the best Christmases he'd ever had. When the weather permitted, the three Animagi went out into the school grounds and spent many happy hours bounding (and flying) around. Harry could feel his wings getting stronger every time he flew, and he loved to just hover with his wings spread, riding the air currents and watching the large black dog and the she wolf chasing around below him.
There was a full moon during this period, and Remus - a werewolf - spent the critical period of his change in the shrieking shack, with Padfoot and the she-wolf for company. Despite his obvious dislike for Remus, Snape still brewed for him the wolfsbane potion that eased the werewolf's natural instincts to search for blood and flesh.
The new-year was just two days old when the last day of the holiday arrived - too soon for Harry, even though he'd be seeing his friends again. With Hogwarts full of teachers and students once more, it would be difficult to find the time and space to practice his Animagus flying.
He was waiting in front of the main doors, students streaming past him, when he spotted his friends getting out of one of the carriages. They smiled, waving, as they ran up to him, and started talking animatedly about the holiday and the presents they'd had. Ginny was telling them about the box of chocolates that Fred and George had jinxed, when Kristen came running up to them and flung her arms around Harry, hugging him tightly. "I missed you, Harry," she said.
Ron stood grinning at the pair as they kissed, but Hermione lowered her eyes and looked at the ground in front of her. Ginny seemed indifferent to the display of affection - she had now well and truly got over her crush.
"Come on, dinner's going to be served soon," said Harry and they all went into the Great Hall. Harry hung back and looked at Hermione. She seemed a bit pale and her eyes weren't as bright as usual. He frowned as he asked, "Did you ask your parents to get the books, Hermione?"
"Yes. But they won't be able to start looking for them until the middle of the month - they've both got to go to an important dentists' convention. But we can spend the time making sure we're up to date with our assignments, and we really should start revising for our OWLS. The more time we spend on it now, the more time we'll have to do our research when the books arrive."
"But the OWLS are months away!"
"Harry - you can never start too early when your future's at stake. I told Ron the same." And she walked ahead and sat by Ginny at the Gryffindor table.
Early January heralded the approach of the Quidditch house matches, and Harry spent most of his free time holding training and practice sessions with the team. He followed the same pattern that had served the school team so well, but this time he had a lot of trouble getting Fred and George to put in the work - there were no carrots to dangle before them any longer, since their triple fillet steaks had stopped after the match with Salem.
Harry spent many exasperated hours trying to think up ways to get them to train properly but eventually, on the sound advice of Ron, he just gave up and accepted that Fred and George were going to do things their way. After all, as Ron pointed out, they had been the best Beaters in the school by far for quite a few years now, and that was without any training at all. When Harry guiltily approached the pair and apologised that he'd been acting too much like their brother Percy - who had always been pedantic in the extreme during his time at Hogwarts - they just laughed, slapped him on the back, and told him not to worry about it.
The first match of the season would be between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. Harry usually enjoyed that match more than the others - the Ravenclaw team was not as dirty as Slytherin but were more skilful than Hufflepuff. He felt that this was a match that tested his skill rather than his ability to avoid the fouls that the Slytherins constantly tried to inflict on him and the lack of any credible opposition from the Hufflepuffs.
And so the match day arrived, and the stands around the Quidditch field were filled with students, excited that the season was finally starting. Ron, Hermione and Ginny found seats at the top of one of the stands where they had a great view of the action.
Harry led the Gryffindor team onto the field to the cheers of the rest of his house, and the boos of the Slytherins. He and Kristen were talking genially and smiling, both happy that they would soon be in their element.
Harry walked over and shook hands with Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw captain, who smiled and wished him luck - because he was going to need it, she said. Harry just grinned at her. Madam Hooch blew her whistle and the teams took to the air. She then released the four balls and the match started.
It turned out to be one of the better matches witnessed by the school. There was a lot of skill on show, not least from Kristen, who performed admirably in goal. The Chasers were fairly evenly matched, but after an hour, Gryffindor led 80 - 30, mainly as a result of the efforts of Fred and George who gave the Ravenclaw Chasers a torrid time.
Lee Jordan, who was commentating, attracted approving glances from Professor McGonagall for once. His commentary was almost unbiased - but after all, Slytherin weren't playing.
As usual, Cho followed Harry wherever he went - or tried to. Harry couldn't help teasing her, and at the same time drawing excited shouts from the watchers, when he pretended to see the snitch and went tearing to the other end of the field. Cho almost always fell for it.
When Harry finally did see the snitch, Cho thought that he was feinting again when he zoomed towards the ground and she didn't follow him. Unopposed, he clutched the wriggling snitch in his hand and held his arm above his head as he lapped the field. Gryffindor had won 270 - 50. After receiving the congratulations of his team-mates, Harry and Kristen walked arm in arm towards the changing rooms, to the cheers of the Gryffindor students.
Late the following evening, Harry and Kristen sat in front of the common room fire with their three friends. They each had a book open in their lap, and it was quiet - they were absorbed in their revision for the Potions OWL. Hermione had bullied them into it at the evening meal earlier.
Hermione looked up and saw that Ron was grinning as he read his book. With narrowed eyes, she said, "Ron - what part are you reading?"
Ron jumped and replied, "Oh ... about the uses of Billywig stings." However, he made the mistake of slightly raising the book from his lap, and Hermione was able to see the title.
"And when did Billywig stings ever feature in Quidditch tactics?" She glared at Ron, who had been reading, 'Quidditch Through The Ages.' "You'll never pass your Potions OWL, Ron!"
The other three couldn't help but laugh when Ron, stung by Hermione's comments said, "Maybe not - but they should have an OWL for Quidditch and I'd fly through that one!"
"Honestly!" said an exasperated Hermione.
Just then Harry noticed a flicker out of the corner of his eye. He looked up at the window and saw a dull, reddish glow.
"What's that?" he said to the others, and went over to look out.
"Quick, come on, we've got to help him," he suddenly shouted. The other four rushed to the window and saw that there were flames shooting from the roof of Hagrid's hut. The bare trees of the Forbidden Forest were outlined eerily in silhouette behind the hut. In the light of the flames they could see Hagrid frantically trying to put the fire out by throwing what little snow remained on the ground, up onto the roof. Fang was a little way off, yelping with fright.
Harry dashed to the portrait hole, quickly followed by the others, and hurtled through. By the time they approached the hut, the fire had taken a firm grip. Hagrid was sitting in front of the hut, his arm around fang, looking forlornly at the flames.
"Hagrid," shouted Harry, "are you all right?"
Hagrid looked up. "Harry! Hey you lot stay away from those flames."
"Quick," shouted Hermione, "we can do the shrinking charm on the hut and when it's small enough we'll easily be able to put out the fire."
The five youngsters pointed their wands at the hut and shouted, "REDUCIO." The hut immediately began to shrink in size, and when they stopped the charm, it was the size of a doll's house.
"Stand back, everyone," shouted Hagrid and he run over to pile more snow onto the flames.
Unknown to them all, six Death Eaters led by Avery had quietly come out of the forest and were now standing behind them.
"Potter!" shouted Avery. "I thought our little diversion would draw you out. CRUCIO." His wand, which was aimed at Harry, spouted a reddish light, which hit Harry in the chest.
Harry, although startled by the appearance of the Death Eaters, instinctively applied the blocking technique that Remus had taught him. He mentally drew shields over the nerve endings in his chest just as the light hit him. Harry just looked back at Avery with a smile on his face - silently thanking his professor. Avery was so astonished that Harry was not writhing on the ground in pain, that he lowered his wand and just stared, disbelieving.
"EXPELLIARMUS," shouted Harry. Avery's wand flew out of his hand, and he was sent crashing to the ground onto his back.
While Harry and Avery duelled, there was a lot of frantic action going on around them.
"STUPIFY," shouted Hermione and one of the Death Eaters crumpled to the ground.
One of the Death Eaters, who had circled around towards the hut to try to get behind the teenagers, lifted his wand to hurl a curse at Harry's back, but he never managed to utter the curse. He hadn't noticed Hagrid crouched over his tiny hut, nor did he stay conscious long enough to feel the almighty blow on the top of his head as Hagrid's clenched fist came crashing down on it.
"Get out of the light," shouted Hagrid, and Ron and Ginny dived for the cover of darkness, with curses thrown by the Death Eaters narrowly missing them.
Kristen was not so lucky. One of the Death Eaters yelled, "FLIPENDO," and a ball of energy hit her in the stomach, flinging her backwards towards a tree. She crashed into it and fell to the ground, unmoving. Harry saw it happen as if in slow motion, and felt sickened as he ran over to where Kristen was lying. "Nooooo," he shouted.
Avery and the remaining four Death Eaters turned at the sound of shouting coming from the direction of the school, and saw three adults fast approaching them. Avery, his natural survival instinct now uppermost in his mind, and one of the Death Eaters managed to gain the cover of the forest and disappeared into the darkness. Each of the other three were hit with stunning spells sent by the three adults - Sirius, Ceri and Remus.
The whole action had lasted for only 2 minutes, at the end of which, five Death Eaters were captured, one with a fractured skull, and Kristen lay, still unmoving, cradled in Harry's arms.
"Kristen ... Kristen," he whispered as he rocked her, his head buried in her hair.
Sirius, Ceri and Remus ran over to him, and Ceri gently pulled Harry away as Remus lifted Kristen into his arms and rushed off towards the school. Sirius caught hold of Harry by his shoulders. "Are you all right, Harry. Have you been hurt?"
"I'm all right, Sirius, but I don't think Kristen is. She was very pale." Harry raised his hand to his cheek as if to wipe away a tear, and quickly followed the retreating figure of Remus Lupin.
Sirius and Ceri looked sadly at each other and then went to make sure that none of the other 3 had been hurt. By this time, the fire had been extinguished, and the scene was only dimly illuminated by the lights coming from the school. Sirius saw that there were quite a few of the teachers standing by the front doors as Remus reached the castle. He saw several of them turn and follow Remus inside, quickly followed by Harry.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were taken back up to the school by Hagrid, while Ceri and Sirius secured the Death Eaters ready for the arrival of ministry Aurors. Sirius transformed into Padfoot as he saw Dumbledore and several of the teachers walk towards the hut.
In the hospital wing Harry sat next to the bed on which Remus had placed Kristen. He was holding her limp hand while Madam Pomfrey quickly examined her. She shook her head sadly, and asked Harry to leave.
"Harry, she's still alive. But she must have hit the back of her head when she collided with that tree and I'm afraid she's very ill. I'm going to have to work quickly to try to save her, and it'll be more difficult if there's someone in the way. Please go and find the Headmaster and ask him to come here." She quickly turned back to Kristen as Harry walked out into the corridor.
It took a week for Kristen to recover from her injury. Madam Pomfrey had worked her usual miracle - much to the relief of Kristen's friends. It was the first time that she had been exposed to the sort of danger that had become almost commonplace to Harry, and it had left its mark.
The normally happy, effervescent girl was now quite nervous and subdued. Harry knew from experience that it would take a while before she was fully back to her normal self again.
Charlie Weasley was in his hut, which stood just outside the large, dark forest in a remote part of Romania. He finished packing his trunk, and sat on his bed, waiting for the time that the Portkey would be activated.
His research into the birthing cycle of the group of Romanian Longhorn dragons in the forest had now been completed, and he had written the paper that he'd be giving at the Dragon Convention in London later in the year.
His ministry boss, Mr Smoothy at the Dept. of Magical Creatures, had sent him details of his contact in France, and he was looking forward to the challenge of solving the problem in the Forbidden Forest in the south of the country.
He looked again at the name of his contact - Demont Blanc. He had come across that name a year or so ago at the ministry, and knew him to be the keeper of magical creatures at the forest.
He fingered the key ring, which was the Portkey that would take him to a remote part of the Langedoc region in southern France - close to the Forbidden Forest, and not far from the tiny principality of Andorra.
The time arrived and he quickly looked around the inside of the hut that had been his home for the last nine months, before he found himself standing next to a dark-haired man of roughly the same age as himself.
"Charlie Weasley?" asked the man with only a very slight French accent. He was staring intently at Charlie.
"Yes, and you must be Demont Blanc. Pleased to meet you," he said as he shook the Frenchman's hand. "I've heard a lot about you and your work back at the ministry in London."
"Thank you. Oh, forgive me for staring like that - it's just that I haven't seen anyone with hair quite that colour before."
Charlie laughed. "A family trait, Demont."
"I've heard about your work with the Romanian Longhorns, Charlie - very impressive. And that's why I sent in the request for your help. We have a colony of the dragons here in the forest, and it was they that started all the panic."
"Yes, I'd heard. What's the situation now?"
"Well, things cooled down for a while but about three months ago it started up again at an even greater intensity - and the dragons seem to be the most affected. But we can talk in more comfortable conditions - come on, let's go to my cabin. It's not far away from here."
They walked along the rough ground until they came to a small valley surrounded by trees. Nestling at the bottom of the valley, alongside a sparkling mountain stream, stood Demont's cabin.
"It's a nice spot here," remarked Charlie.
"Yes, we love it here. Far better then the noise and fumes of the town."
"We?" asked Charlie.
"Oh, yes. I was living on my own until about six weeks ago, and then my sister arrived out of the blue. Affairs of the heart, you know. She's just split up with her boyfriend. She'd been living with him for three years, and then he found out that she's a witch. I suppose he just didn't understand and he threw her out of the house with nowhere to go. She's still very fragile about it, but I can't think of any better place in the world for her to get over something like that. She loves the countryside and she didn't really settle down in Perpignan."
"I'm sorry to hear that. She won't mind, will she? A strange man staying in the same house?"
"Oh no - not at all. She's very friendly, but I'd better warn you that she goes very quiet from time to time. Thinking about the Muggle boyfriend, no doubt."
As they went in through the front door of the cabin, Demont's sister was sitting by the fire. She stood up and came over to the two men. "This is my sister, Nadine. Nadine, this is Charlie Weasley - the dragon expert from London."
Charlie shook hands with Nadine, and looked at her intently. He saw a pretty girl, with an elfin face surrounded by shiny black hair. She had a cute little nose and her eyes were a deep blue. He felt instantly attracted to her, but did his best to hide his obvious admiration.
"Would you like something to drink, Charlie? A glass of wine perhaps?" She spoke English with a flawless accent.
"Uh, yes, fine Nadine. Red if you've got it."
"Of course. Demont, can you get a fresh bottle of red from the storage shed please?"
"Oh don't go to any trouble," said Charlie.
"No trouble at all, Charlie," said Demont. "We keep our wine in the shed down by the stream - I diverted part of it to run underneath the end of the shed. We keep the bottles in the running water - I swear it tastes much better when it's chilled that way. I'll only be a few minutes." Demont walked back out into the fresh mountain air.
Charlie and Nadine sat by the fire and smiled at each other. "So, Charlie, do you still play Quidditch?"
"Only rarely, I'm afraid - I've been quite busy for the past …" Charlie paused as if he'd had a sudden thought. "How do you know I play Quidditch?"
"The legendary Gryffindor Seeker and captain extraordinaire? Everyone at Hogwarts knows about you, Charlie."
"You were at Hogwarts, Nadine?"
"Yes, I transferred there from Beauxbatons for my seventh year - that was the year after you left the school. Everyone talked about you and the way you won the school cup."
Charlie looked a bit embarrassed. "What house were you in? Did you play?"
"I was in Ravenclaw, and I played Chaser for the house team. I don't think I was very good though. Have you been back to Hogwarts, Charlie? I loved the place, and it was a real privilege to have Professor Dumbledore as the headmaster. He's a great man."
"Yes, he certainly is. I spoke to him last year when I was there. I was asked to set up one of the tasks in the Triwizard Tournament - the one where the champions had to pluck an egg from a guarding dragon."
"Oh, so you must have met Fleur Delacour - she was the Beauxbatons champion."
"Yes, I met her and her little sister. Do you know them?"
"I met Fleur when I was teaching at Beauxbatons. That was about four years ago, before I left to be with ... well, lets just say I wanted to come back to the south of the country." She looked down at her hands, and Charlie guessed why she had left - the boyfriend.
She smiled and looked back up. "Did you meet Harry Potter last year?"
"Harry? Yes, I did. He's a friend of the family - my youngest brother Ron's best friend. He stays at our house sometimes at the end of the summer holidays."
"What's he like, Charlie? You hear so much about him, but you don't really know the person behind the stories."
"He's just a normal young boy, Nadine. Brave as a lion, but otherwise he's just like any other teenager. He always seems a bit shy of his fame. So, what did you teach at school?"
"With a background like mine, there was only one subject for me - Care of Magical Creatures - I really loved my two years teaching."
"What did you think of Snape, Nadine?" Charlie grinned.
"Oh, that insufferable, slimy …" she was interrupted when Demont came back in carrying two bottles of wine.
"Well, you two look cosy," he said grinning. "What have you been talking about?"
"Well it turns out," said Nadine, "that we have quite a lot in common. We both went to Hogwarts and both played for our house Quidditch team. Charlie had left by the time I got to Hogwarts, but we still knew a lot of the same people."
"That's very interesting. So you'll have a lot to talk about over dinner, then."
That evening turned out to be one of the most enjoyable evenings Charlie had ever spent. The dinner served up by Nadine was delicious, as was the wine. The two former Hogwarts students talked incessantly, reminiscing about the school and it's characters, and Demont was reduced to being a spectator, but still enjoying the conversation.
After three more bottles of wine, they were all ready for some sleep. "Charlie," said Demont smiling widely as he showed him to his bedroom, "we don't seem to have got around to talking about the problem in the forest - I wonder why? We'll have a talk in the morning before I take you up there. Goodnight."
Charlie closed the door and smiled as he reflected on the evening. "Nadine is one of the nicest girls I've met - and she's beautiful too. Now that, I think, is an irresistible combination. I wonder what she thinks about me?"
The next morning, Demont had to drag Charlie outside to go to the forest. He and Nadine just seemed to continue where they'd left off the night before.
As they walked up the hill and over towards the outskirts of the forest, Demont looked at Charlie quizzically. "That's the most I've heard my sister talk since she arrived six weeks ago. You seem to be a good influence on her Charlie, wouldn't you say?"
"She ... she's a nice girl, Demont," he stuttered. "And we do have a lot in common - that's probably why she talked a lot."
Demont grinned. "Do you think that's it? I'm thinking it may be something else - no?"
"What do you mean, Demont?" said Charlie flushing slightly. "We've only just met."
"Yes, I know. Funny isn't it?"
They walked on towards the edge of the forest, Demont wearing a slight grin the whole time. "Here it is, Charlie. The Forbidden Forest - shall we go in?"
They walked cautiously between the dark trees, Demont looking closely at the ground trying to find the path, which started about a hundred yards inside the forest perimeter. "Here it is," he said. "We need to follow this path for about a mile, and we'll come to a clearing where the dragons normally hang out at this time of the morning."
After twenty minutes walk, they came to the edge of the clearing. Charlie saw about twenty Romanian Longhorns milling about, and the two men knelt down beside a bush to observe them. Charlie could see immediately that their behaviour was unusual - it wasn't normal for them to mill about like that. He followed one of the dragons, a large male, with his eyes and tried to see if there was any pattern to its actions.
The dragon stamped furiously, then walked across the centre of the clearing with his head raised, as if sniffing the air. Then it would shake its head, and unfurl its wings before blowing out thick black smoke, in which flames could be seen, from its mouth. It would then repeat the pattern.
"This is very strange, Demont. I've never seen behaviour such as this. Something is making them very nervous. Are the other creatures like this?"
"Yes - but to a lesser extent. They're agitated, but not as much as these dragons."
Charlie thought for a moment. "I wonder … Demont, dragons, and especially Romanian Longhorns, are very sensitive to psychic vibrations. I wonder if they've picked up on something? Have you detected anything like that?"
"No, I haven't. But if there is anything of that nature I'm surprised that Nadine hasn't picked it up - she's very sensitive, normally, to such things. That's what made her such a good student and teacher of Magical Creatures. She seems to be able to build up a rapport with them."
"Well she has had a lot on her mind, lately, hasn't she? She could easily miss something if she isn't focused on detecting magical vibrations."
"Yes, of course," said Demont. "Look, why don't we bring her up here? If she can see what the dragons are doing, it may help her to concentrate. What do you think?"
"I don't know Demont," said Charlie hastily. "It's pretty dangerous. Those Longhorns can get a bit nasty when they're riled up."
Demont smiled. "I'm supposed to be the protective one, Charlie. I'm her brother. But there's no need to worry - you know her Magical Creatures background now - she can look after herself."
Charlie reluctantly agreed, and they both went back to the hut to talk to Nadine. She jumped at the chance to get involved in the investigation - keeping busy would give her less time to think about her problems.
About two hours later, the three sat at the edge of the same clearing, observing the same actions being displayed by the dragons. Charlie had explained his theory to Nadine, and she now sat with wrinkled brow and closed eyes trying to pick up anything unusual. Charlie watched her, somewhat distracted from the task in hand, thinking how lovely she looked. He shook himself and turned back to the dragons.
"Yes. Yes … I feel something," breathed Nadine, her eyes still closed. "I feel strange emanations coming from somewhere - they're coming from a very powerful mind. It seems to be some sort of summons, but I can't read anything more - only an urgent summons." She opened her eyes and shook her head in frustration.
"Nadine," said Charlie, "can you tell where the emanations are coming from?"
Again she closed her eyes and concentrated. After a few minutes, she turned back to Charlie. "No, Charlie. I can't tell where they're coming from. They seem to be all around me, as if they are reflecting or bouncing from various surfaces. More likely, the emanations are being reflected by the minds of the dragons, and perhaps other magical creatures. Unless I can get close to the source where there are no reflecting minds, I won't be able to pinpoint it. I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, Nadine, you've already helped immensely. At least we now know what's causing the problem. Demont, we need to get our thinking caps on and work out what we can do about this. Unless we can find a way to block those vibrations, then those creatures are going to remain agitated. We really need to find out where they're coming from."
The three walked back to the cabin deep in thought.
Remus Lupin looked at his class of fifth year Gryffndors. They still looked a bit down following the Death Eater attack.
"Today," he said, "we'll concentrate on curse-deflecting. I know that the attack of two weeks ago upset you, and Kristen was hit by this very curse that flung her backwards. Under certain circumstances, the Flipendus curse can be deflected. But before we start - Kristen, do you want to leave? I know this will be painful for you."
"No, Professor. I'd prefer to stay if you don't mind." Kristen, although still not fully recovered, was feeling much better with the help and support given her by Harry and her friends.
"As you wish, Kristen. But if you want me to stop, just say. Flipendus works by flinging a ball of energy from the wand and hitting a person. The force of that energy sends the person flying in the opposite direction. The force is also proportional to the power of the witch or wizard casting the curse. So the curse sent by, say, 'You Know Who' would be much more powerful than, say, me."
Hermione's hand shot up. "Professor. How can we practice that? You know what it did to Kristen."
"Don't worry, Hermione. We'll be doing it under very controlled conditions and I'll use minimum force - and only I will be using the curse. Harry, come on - let's see if you can do this."
Harry walked to the front of the class, where he stood alongside the professor. Remus waved his wand and muttered a few words, and a large, bulky mattress appeared at one end of the room, suspended from the ceiling. "This mattress will serve as a soft landing if you don't manage to deflect the curse."
Again, Hermione's hand shot into the air. Remus grinned and nodded to her. "Professor Lupin, if Harry manages to deflect the curse, won't it hit somebody who happens to be in the way?"
"Good question, Hermione. You can't see it, but there's an invisible shield just to the side of that mark on the floor there. So if the ball of energy is deflected in the direction of the class, it will be harmlessly absorbed. The only person who will have to watch out is me." The students laughed nervously.
"Harry, stand on the mark and face me. Right - you have to hold your arm out towards me and concentrate. Visualise in your mind, a small metal dish - one that is small enough to fit into your hand - then move it from your mind into the palm of your hand. When the ball of energy is released, concentrate on attracting the ball into the dish. If all goes well it will bounce off with no harm done." He turned to address the rest of the students. "Again, I will warn you that very few people can do this. Today, I'm only going to try it with Harry. If it works, then speak to him - ask him to tell you how he does it. Then next week, if any of you feel confident enough, you can try it under the same controlled conditions."
Remus walked to the opposite end of the room and faced Harry. "Ready Harry?"
Harry concentrated for a few moments and then nodded.
"FLIPENDO," muttered Remus. A small, dim ball of energy shot from the end of his wand. The students watching Harry saw a dish-shaped concave glow coming from his outstretched hand. The ball of energy hit the glow, and then bounced away, harmlessly hitting the protective shield.
When the students finished clapping, Remus spoke, "Well done, Harry. But that was a pretty weak shot. Want to try a stronger one?" Harry nodded and again concentrated. The same thing happened as before, except this time the ball of energy looked brighter. This continued until Remus looked at Harry thoughtfully and said, "Harry, do you feel up to my strongest possible shot?" Harry again nodded.
Harry concentrated and tried to visualise the strongest metal dish he could. He then sent it down his outstretched arm, and held it in his hand. He watched as Remus shouted the curse, and saw a very bright ball of energy coming towards him. When it hit his hand, he felt a surge of power and the ball shot back past Remus' head and punched a large hole in the wall behind him.
Remus looked stunned, and quickly turned and peered through the hole. He was thankful to see daylight at the other end of the hole, and in the distance beyond he saw the Whomping Willow flailing its branches. He could see a round smouldering hole in the tree's trunk.
Not for the first time, Remus marvelled at Harry's power. He knew that when the energy ball left Harry's hand, it had somehow increased in strength as it was deflected. There was no way Remus was powerful enough to punch a hole in the five feet thick castle wall, and also cause damage beyond that.
He turned to the class. "I ... I ... I've got to see Professor Sprout straight away. I think the Whomping Willow needs some attention. Class dismissed."
The other students gathered around Harry, excitedly asking him how he'd managed to do it. "I don't know. I just did as Professor Lupin told me. I suppose the key to it all is concentration. Apart from that, I just don't know."
That night Harry and Kristen sat in front of the fire, talking about the next Quidditch game against Hufflepuff. His arm was around her shoulder as she snuggled up to him. They pulled apart as Ron, Hermione and Ginny came over to them and sat at the table by the side of their chair. They were staring at Harry nervously, as if they had something on their minds.
"What!" exclaimed Harry.
"We've been talking," said Ron, "and well … Harry, why do you think you're getting so powerful? Do you think it's something to do with the message?"
Harry looked taken aback for a moment. "I ... I've been thinking about it too. And I just don't know how I can do it. It's not as if I feel very powerful - it just sort of happens." His eyes clouded and he said quietly, "Do you think that ... that ... you know, when Voldemort tried to kill me, some of his power was transferred to me? Or when he took some of my blood to make his new body some sort of link was forged? If that's the reason, then ... then is that why I'm so good with the Dark Arts? And does it mean that I'm going to turn out bad as well?" He looked pleadingly at his friends.
"Of course not, Harry," said Hermione indignantly. "Think about it logically. You're not good with the Dark Arts - you're good with defence against the Dark Arts. And anyway, those charms you repelled in Flitwick's class aren't Dark Arts. So don't even think of comparing yourself to 'You Know Who.'"
Harry smiled. "Thanks, Hermione. It must be right when you put it like that. What would I do without you?" Hermione flushed slightly, a reaction that did not go unnoticed by Kristen.
Later, Hermione was lying on her bed in the dormitory, sightlessly staring out of the window. Her other roommates were still down in the common room. Suddenly, the door was flung open, and an angry-looking Ginny stormed in. Her face was flushed and she was literally hopping from foot to foot, clenching and unclenching her hands.
"Ginny! Calm down. What's the matter?" said Hermione anxiously.
"Oh that ... that … that toffee-nosed PRAT," she mouthed with great feeling. "I never want to see him again as long as I live."
"Who, Ginny. What's happened?" Hermione put her arm around her friend and pulled her down to sit next to her on the bed.
Ginny started to calm down at last, and then a different reaction set in. Her face contorted and she started crying, clinging tightly to Hermione.
"It's all right Ginny. Please tell me what happened."
"I ... I was with Justin in the Astronomy tower - we've been there a few times before. Everything was all right. We ... we kissed a bit. Then he put his hand … Oh Hermione, I feel so mad at him. What gives him the right to maul me like that? At least he'll only be seeing out of one eye for a bit!"
"Ginny! You didn't hit him did you?"
"Yes I bloody well did - right in the eye. He won't try that again."
Hermione couldn't help but giggle. "Have you told Ron or Harry?"
"No way - I think Justin's a prat, but I don't want him dead. Don't say anything to them - please?"
"I won't Ginny. Come on. I'll take you back to your dorm."
That night, Harry again had his dream.
Everything was again dark although he could just make out the sides of the tunnel. He looked up ahead and again saw the shape and heard the low ghostly voice 'Hurry. I have waited long. Do not tarry.' He could just see some definition to the shape now - it looked like a human figure although he could see no detail. There was movement above the figure, like an arm beckoning him. The shape shimmered and then disappeared.
That Saturday, Hermione walked along the corridor from the common room on her way to the library, where she planned to spend a few hours with her revision. Most of the students were outside, where the sun had made a rare appearance.
She was startled when an arm reached out from behind a suit of armour and grabbed her around the throat. She immediately tried to reach for her wand, but a large, bulky boy - whom Hermione recognised as the seventh year Slytherin weirdo, Grimus Plonger, pushed her against the wall and pinned her arms to her side.
Hermione looked fearfully up at the boy holding her. "Wh ... what do you want?"
"Come on, Granger. You know you've been asking for it - strutting about like that. Now keep quiet and you won't get hurt."
Hermione stifled the scream that was building inside her and tried to struggle free. But she had no chance against the powerful Grimus, who pulled her towards a doorway leading into a classroom, ripping her robe from her shoulders.
She let out a long moan and closed her eyes, trying not to think about what was going to happen to her. Suddenly, she felt the weight leave her arms and she was free. She opened her eyes to see Grimus flying through the air and crash to the corridor floor with a loud thump. She also saw Harry, his firebolt on the floor beside him, raise his wand and point it towards Grimus, who had struggled to his feet, and was charging back towards them.
"STUPIFY," shouted Harry, and watched with grim satisfaction as Grimus crumpled once again to the floor.
"Harry!" shouted Hermione as the tears started to roll down her cheeks.
"Hermione. Are you all right?" he shouted back, desperately looking at her tear-stained face.
"Oh, Harry. I was so frightened." Harry went to her and pulled her towards him, his hand pulling her head in towards his chest.
"It's all right now. He can't hurt you," he said.
"Why did he do that to me, Harry?" she wailed. "He said I'd been asking for it. But I haven't, Harry. I haven't!"
Hermione continued to cry bitterly as Harry tried to sooth her hurt, rocking her gently. He felt very angry that something like that had happened to her. The feeling of protection towards his friend was almost overpowering, and he couldn't prevent a tear of his own from running down his cheek.
"Come on, I'm going to take you to see Madam Pomfrey." She let herself be led towards the hospital wing, still clinging to Harry.
When Hermione was safely in the care of the nurse, Harry stormed into Professor McGonagall's office and told her what had happened. She looked shocked, and rushed out of the office towards the hospital wing. On the way they met Remus who, when told of the event, rushed off to the place of the attack to take Grimus in charge and led him off to Dumbledore's office.
Remus told Harry later that Grimus Plonger had immediately been expelled by the Headmaster.
Hermione lay awake on the bed in the hospital wing. Although she was not hurt physically, she had suffered a great shock. Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey had insisted that she spend the night there, so that the nurse could keep an eye on her.
Hermione kept playing the event over and over in her head, and she couldn't get to sleep. As the night wore on, the thoughts that were uppermost in her mind were those of Harry and the way he had held her after the attack. That night, gradually, her love for Harry grew more and more evident to her.
She hadn't wanted this to happen. Hadn't she told Ginny that any notion of romance would distract her from her schoolwork?
'I've always been in control of my mind,' she thought to herself. 'Why am I acting this way? For the first time in my life, I can't control what I'm thinking! He's my friend! I shouldn't have feelings like this for him. Not that it matters anyway. There's not a lot I can do about it - he's got Kristen now. What am I going to do?'
The trouble was - there were no books that she knew of that could tell her what to do, how to act, what the answer was. Hermione was in a whole new ballgame, and she found it very, very difficult.
Hermione walked into the Great Hall for breakfast the next day, and was immediately surrounded by all her friends. They all wanted to know how she was feeling, and there were many angry glances and comments directed towards the Slytherin table. Ginny, in particular, her eyes red from crying after she had heard what had happened, stayed very close to her. She pulled her to sit next to her at the table, and refused to leave her side for the rest of the day.
Hermione was overwhelmed at the show of concern and affection directed at her. She hadn't really known that she was held in such high regard by most of the students. That was one of two things that helped to ease the shock of what had happened. The other thing was the arrival of a large parcel from her parents. She opened it to reveal about fifteen books, all related to the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau - Rhedae.
The next morning, Hedwig came swooping over the Gryffindor table at breakfast, and munched away at some bacon while Harry removed the letter from her leg. He opened it to see that it was from Lara. Harry had written to her the previous day, keeping his promise to let her know how he was getting on - but he hadn't told her about Kristen.
I was thrilled to see Hedwig at breakfast this morning - mum and dad weren't though! I had a job convincing them that there was nothing too strange about it.
Please be careful - I was horrified to hear that those terrible people are still after you. How are Hermione, Ron and Ginny? They seemed very nice, although I only met them for a short while.
Carol, Beth and Josie are fine now, and they don't remember anything about what happened last September. I had a very tough time from my parents after that - they wouldn't stop telling me how stupid we were to go off wandering through the woods - but things are back to normal now.
School is fine, and I'm doing really well in my classes. Mrs. Jennings, my form teacher, keeps telling me that if I keep doing as well, I'll have no trouble going to University after seventh year. My dad says that I should try for Bristol University - that's where he went, and it's one of the best for Maths and Physics.
I'm so sorry that things didn't work out between us. I've become even more convinced in the last few months that you wouldn't fit into my world, and I wouldn't really fit into yours. I can't help but feel sad, though - I keep saying to myself 'if only …'
Have you got yourself a girlfriend yet? I still haven't found a boy that I like as much as I liked you.
Please don't stop writing to me. I sometimes think that it may have been better to have let your headmaster make me forget - but it is sort of exciting knowing that there's a whole new world out there that I'd never suspected could exist.
Please write when you get the time.
Love from your friend
Harry was glad that Lara seemed to be doing so well, although not without feeling a touch of regret at the way things had worked out. He resolved to keep writing to her - it was the least he could do. He was roused from his thoughts when Ron poked him in the arm. "Come on, Harry. We'll be late for Potions."
That evening, Hermione seemed much better and did her homework with the others in the common room. They kept glancing at her, but although she looked a bit tired, she was concentrating on her books and parchments and didn't look distracted in any way.
When they'd finished, they sat around the fireplace chatting. "Hermione, have you read any of those books yet?" asked Ginny.
"No, Ginny, not yet. But I'll start looking at them tonight and let you know what I find tomorrow. Maybe we can both do some research tomorrow night."
"Hermione," said Harry, "shouldn't you get some sleep tonight? You look a bit tired."
"No ... no, I'll do some reading first, then I'll try to get a bit of sleep."
At breakfast the following morning, Hermione spoke excitedly to the others.
"It's amazing! There are so many different aspects to the mystery, and I've only just glanced through the books. I wouldn't have believed it - it's a good thing I'm studying Arithmancy. But my first impressions seem to be right - there's so much stuff, and so many different theories - there's bound to be a cover-up going on here."
"So what have you found out?" asked Ron.
"Look there's no time to go through it now. And I want to do some more reading first - can you help me tonight Ginny?"
"Of course I can. Well, until I get too tired anyway."
That night, after their homework had been completed, Hermione and Ginny settled down in the common room with the fifteen books strewn around the table, and several blank pieces of parchment piled next to them.
"If we each take a book, we can make some notes of the main points and compare them afterwards," said Hermione. "Then we can decide which are the best items to research in the other books. What do you say?"
"Sounds good to me," said Ginny as she picked up one of the books.
They spent the next three hours going through the two books, making notes from time to time. When they'd finished, they found themselves alone in the common room - everyone else had gone to bed. Ginny yawned loudly. "Oh I'm so tired Hermione. I think I'll go to bed. You coming?"
"No, not yet. Give me your notes and I'll compare them to mine. We can decide tomorrow which will be the most likely things to follow up on."
"Ok. But don't be too long. You need to get some sleep. Goodnight."
But Hermione didn't get much sleep that night. She did go to bed, after another hour of comparing their notes, but lay awake tossing and turning. She couldn't stop thinking about her problem with Harry, but she still couldn't work out what she could do about it. She found it increasingly difficult being so close to him all the time and seeing him with Kristen.
For the rest of the week, Hermione and Ginny spent as much time as they could reading the books, making notes, and researching the points that seemed the most likely to lead to the heart of the mystery. They were both caught up in the complex meanderings of the vast amount of information they uncovered. It was getting very complicated, but thanks to Hermione's brilliant powers of deduction, they were able to start to make some sense of it all.
By Saturday afternoon, they'd managed to compile a list of the places and facts that seemed relevant to Harry's message.
"I don't know," said Hermione, studying a photograph in one of the books of the first parchment found by Sauniere, "there's something odd about this. Look at the bottom of the parchment. What do those letters mean - P.S. - it's like it was a signature or something. And just above it are the words 'Solis Sacerdotibus' - that means 'Only for the Initiated.' And look at the last letters of the last four lines of the text. Reading downwards, they spell out SION. Now I know that's another name for Jerusalem, but could it mean something else?"
Ginny leaned over and examined the photograph. Ginny had been looking at a photograph of the second parchment, and as she leant across, something caught Hermione's eye.
"Look at that!" She pointed to Ginny's book. "Pass it here, quick."
Hermione pointed to the curious symbols at the bottom of the second parchment.
"If you turn the parchment upside down," she did this as she spoke, "look what those symbols spell out - SION. So from the both parchments, we get P.S. and SION. I wonder if the S in P.S. stands for SION?"
"Let's look for any references to SION," said Ginny, and they grabbed some books and started to browse.
After a few minutes, Hermione let out a gasp, "I don't believe it. Here it is - P.S. - The Priory of Sion. The Priory! That old wizard in the shop where I bought Harry's amulet said that it had just been sent to him by the Priory. I asked him about it, but he was pretty vague. He said it was 'everywhere'…. Of Course! I thought he was referring to an old church building. But look here at this entry - it says that it's some sort of secret society."
Hermione's eyes went wide. "Ginny! It's beginning to make sense now. The reason that shop was open when I passed it - it was obviously for me to get the amulet. There must have been a charm on it to make sure I bought it! The Priory of Sion sent the amulet, and made sure I got it for Harry. Lets look for more on it Ginny."
"But why would they go to such lengths to get the amulet to Harry? Why not send him an owl with the message?"
Hermione thought for a moment. "Well if they're a secret society, they wouldn't want to risk revealing themselves - owls can be traced. And perhaps they had to be sure that Harry was ready to receive the message - you know, when he became magically strong enough. If that's the case, what better way to do it than the amulet - it must have been waiting for the right time to give Harry those feelings of urgency. What more is there, Ginny?"
After a few more minutes, Ginny said, "Listen to this. 'The Priory Of Sion - believed to have been the secret founders of The Knights Templar…"
"The Knights Templar!" Hermione almost shouted, interrupting Ginny. "Harry's amulet - the Knight with a cross on his cloak. Of course, the cross patė - the symbol of the Knights Templar. What else is there Ginny?"
She continued, "The Priory is one of the most secret of societies, and it showed itself only fairly recently, following the French government's edict that all secret societies had to be registered by law. Recently, however, since the resignation of the last known grand master, Pierre Plantard, they seem to have gone to ground, and no one knows who or where they are now. See appendix H for a list of declared grand masters of the order."
Ginny quickly turned to the appendix and looked at the list of the historic leaders of the society.
"Let's see," said Hermione, "the first recorded grand master was Jean de Gisors in the 11th century … look at these names, Ginny, wow! Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, Jean Cocteau … Oh my God! Look at this, Ginny. From 1330 to 1418 the grand master was Nicholas Flamel - you know, he was the one who made the Philosopher's stone that Harry managed to keep from 'You Know Who' four years ago. He's Dumbledore's friend!"
"What a coincidence - or is it!" exclaimed Ginny. "There's a bit more here, Hermione. Listen to this. 'The Priory of Sion are reputed to be the guardians of the secret of Rennes-le-Chateau, and their ancient charge was referred to in the long lost Aureus'."
"The Aureus - I've heard of that," said Hermione. "I know! It's an ancient wizarding book mostly about alchemy. But it's not lost - it's in the restricted section of the library! I remember reading about it when we were researching the wizarding books before. We've got to look at it, Ginny. There might be something that refers to the magical aspects of the mystery."
"But Hermione, it's in the restricted section. We can't get it without a signed note from a professor - and we can't get that, can we."
"That's right. Hmmm … I think we'll ask Harry if we can borrow his Invisibility Cloak - we could go down to the library tonight."
"YES!" gasped Ginny, her excitement making Hermione grin. "I'll go and find him - he's probably down at the Quidditch field." And she leapt up from her seat and dashed out through the portrait hole.
A little while later, Ginny appeared with Harry in tow, panting from their run up to the tower.
"So you've found something then," he said. "Come on, tell me!"
"Not yet, Harry. Look, when we find what's in this old book, we'll have most of what we need, I think. We'll tell you and Ron about it all tomorrow morning."
"Oh, ok Hermione. I'll tell him when I get back to the field. See you at dinner."
"Harry! The cloak?" said Ginny sternly.
"Oh, yes - sorry." Harry went up to fetch the cloak from the trunk under his bed.
That night, when everyone was in bed, Hermione and Ginny pulled the cloak over themselves and crept down to the library. Filtch didn't seem to be about, but they had a scare when Peeves floated into view and hovered just over their heads, looking around as if he'd heard something. They breathed a sigh of relief when he cackled and zoomed off through the ceiling.
They opened the door slowly, trying to make sure that it didn't creak, and crept over towards the restricted section of the library. Ginny whispered, "LUMOS" and held the wand up to the first bookcase. They peered down the shelves of books, until they came to the Alchemy section. "Here it is, the Aureus," whispered Hermione and lifted an ancient looking tome from the shelf.
They moved over to the nearest table and sat down, opening the book. They looked at the reference section at the back of the book, and there was an entry - 'Priory of Sion.' They turned to the page and started to read.
'When the age-old secret became untenable at ancient Sion, Jean de Gisors founded the secret society 'The Priory of Sion,' and a little later 'The Knights Templar', in order to give it protection. Its sole purpose from that day to the present is to keep it preserved for the future Anima Summa. But beware. This must serve as a warning to those who seek - the Anima Summa must not know what he or she is until the secret is revealed.'
Both girls gasped as they read the final few words.
"That's it! That's the connection, Ginny. The mystery of Rhedae and the Anima Summa. But there's nothing more here! - We still don't know what the Anima Summa is, or what the secret is. But, Ginny - Harry's the Anima Summa, we know - but we can't tell him about this. We have to heed that warning."
"But Harry already knows he's the Anima Summa - the message amulet told him that."
"Yes, but he doesn't know what it is. Come to that, we don't either. But there's one person who might - Dumbledore. He's Nicholas Flamel's friend - and he was the grand master of the Priory of Sion, the guardians of the secret. Dumbledore must know about it. But I think that the least Harry knows about the Anima Summa at this stage the better. Ginny - I think we have to talk to the Headmaster about this. I get the feeling that we might get in over our heads and Harry and Ron haven't exactly been cautious in the past. This is pretty heavy stuff - so much time and effort has gone into preserving the secret - we have to get some advice from Professor Dumbledore."
"Yes, I agree. But come on - let's go back and get some sleep."
The next morning, Hermione woke Ginny early, and they went downstairs, intending to go to the Headmaster's office. But they didn't get far. Waiting in the common room were Harry and Ron, sitting by the fire.
"Harry, Ron. What are you doing up so early?" asked Ginny.
"Come on, you two," said Ron. "We want to know what you've found out. We've been up for ages waiting for you."
"Yes, come on," said Harry, "tell us what you've found."
The girls walked over and sat down, resigned that Harry and Ron wouldn't take no for an answer. Hermione pulled several sheets of parchment from her robes. "We've summarised the main points of the mystery. So are you ready for this?"
"Yes, get a move on Hermione. I want to know if you've found out where the treasure is," said Ron.
"Honestly, Ron! Right. First a little bit of history. Before it was known as Rhedae, the Romans occupied the site. They came when they heard that there was gold in the area. They stayed for a long time, tunnelling for gold - and those tunnels are still there. Rennes-le-Chateau and its surrounding area are honeycombed with old Roman mines. Since the mystery became known in recent times, treasure seekers have also been digging there looking for treasure - but they were stopped when a few of the houses began to subside. The ground beneath Rennes-le-Chateau must be riddled!"
Hermione paused for breath and then continued, "The mystery seems to have stemmed from the arrival of the Knights Templar. They had quite a few strongholds in the area. Now the reason they probably chose this site is to do with magic. Look at this." She brought out a map of Rennes-le-Chateau and the surrounding area and pointed to a number of known Templar sites marked on it. She then brought out a ruler and quill and began to draw lines. She connected the five main sites, with Rennes-le-Chateau roughly in the middle, and produced - a perfect five-pointed pentagram.
"The whole area is enclosed by a pentagram - it's a huge sacred pagan temple! And that's not all. The French painter, Nicholas Poussin, produced a famous painting - and Sauniere went to Paris especially to get a copy of it from the Louvre." Hermione pointed to a photograph of the painting - Les Bergers d'Arcadie II. "This painting, the Shepherds of Arcadia, was commissioned by someone connected to a secret society - The Priory of Sion - but more about them later. The painting was constructed using the golden section, or Phi as it's known - I know about it from Arithmancy. This is a fundamental mathematical constant - a bit like pi - and is so perfect that nature itself uses it. For instance, the spacing of buds on a stem and the spiral shells of sea snails grow in the perfect proportion of Phi. Now a perfect pentagram is also constructed in the proportion of Phi. Look at this painting - see where I've drawn the pentagram. And some of the background in the painting is of Rennes-Le-Chateau."
"Oh, Hermione. This is heavy. We don't all take Arithmancy you know. Can you keep it simple please?" asked Ron.
Hermione rolled her eyes and continued, "Berenger Sauniere, the priest at the centre of the mystery, must have found out something from the parchments and the painting. He spent a lot of time going on long hikes in the surrounding countryside, as if he was looking for something. Now Sauniere refurbished the church with the money he somehow had, and the statues and Stations of the Cross show some very bizarre things. It's as if he was trying to hide something in his design. There have also been several murders, one of Sauniere's colleagues, a priest of a nearby village, was murdered in his house. Many people think that this priest was the prime mover, and not Sauniere. He may well have been murdered, either to keep him quiet, or to try to get him to reveal the secret. Sauniere also had a lot of very famous and influential people visit him - strange for a simple parish priest, don't you think?
"He also started digging in the churchyard, and he uncovered a tomb - and he then defaced the inscription on the tombstone, as if to hide something - possibly clues to the secret? When his bishop called him to account for his great wealth, Sauniere refused to tell him, and he was suspended from office. But interestingly, the Pope himself overruled the bishop and re-instated Sauniere. So did the Pope of that time know something?
"Oh and yes, this will interest you Ron. The cipher contained in parchment 2 was quite complicated. It uses the knight's tour, from the game of chess, to reveal the secret message."
"The knight's tour?" said Ron. "Yes, the knight can be moved, using only it's own special movement of course, so that it lands on every square on the chess board. There's only one solution to that problem. Hmmm - interesting."
"Yes," said Hermione, "and the Knights Templar play a big part in the mystery. When they were formed, there were only nine knights, and the first grand master of the order, Hugues de Payens, and the other eight spent nine years excavating in Jerusalem - under the Temple Mount. They must have found something, because the digging suddenly stopped, and within a few short years, the size of the order swelled enormously, and they became very, very rich - even though they were known as 'The Poor Knights' - did you know they were the first bankers in the world? They had special privileges from the Pope, and were excluded from paying any taxes. Kings used them to transfer money, and also to raise loans."
"Yes, very interesting Hermione. But what did they find?" asked Harry.
"No one knows. But when the order was destroyed in 1307 - on 13th October - that's where unlucky thirteen comes from by the way, they were accused of unholy and blasphemous activities. Some of the knights who were tortured said that they worshiped 'Baphomet' - whoever that was, it was never revealed. But Baphomet has been said to be the goddess Sophia. Sophia, in Greek, means wisdom. So could they have been worshipers of wisdom? That doesn't seem so bad to me. Their last grand master - Jacques de Molay - was later burnt at the stake for refusing to denounce his beliefs. But not all the Templars were killed. Some escaped by sea - it's been said to Scotland, and even to America, and this is way before Columbus! But it's also been said that a group of them came to Rhedae. Could it be that these knights brought the secret with them and hid it there?
"And as for the Merovingian connection, it has been said that they were the descendants of the lost tribe of Israel - another connection with Jerusalem"
Hermione continued to tell Harry and Ron about the connection with the Templars and Priory of Sion, and about Nichols Flamel. But they left out what they found out about the Anima Summa. At last, Hermione finished reading her notes and all four began to discuss some of the points.
"Hermione," said Ron, "you haven't said anything about the treasure."
"Ron, I don't think there's any treasure - at least not what you call treasure."
"But where did Sauniere get all that money - he was loaded!"
"I think he was paid to keep the secret to himself. Think about it. The Templars were involved, and the Priory of Sion founded the Templars. And the Priory of Sion is the guardian of the secret. When the Templars were destroyed by Philip the Fair, the king of France, he destroyed them to get his hands on all their vast wealth. But that wealth was never found. What if it still exists - but is held by the Priory of Sion, and used to preserve the secret? I think that the Priory paid Sauniere to keep quiet."
Harry pondered for a while. "Look, I've got to go there. There's nothing more we can find out from these books. The only way we'll get at the secret is if we visit the place and start looking around. I think it's time we went to see Dumbledore - we've got to tell him what we've found. There's no way he'll let us go there unless we explain all this to him - and he might tell us more about Nicholas Flamel's involvement."
As they all trouped off towards the Headmaster's office, Hermione hung back and whispered in Ginny's ear, "Don't say anything about what we found out on the Anima Summa. We'll try to go back to see Dumbledore later."
"What are you four doing here?" Professor McGonagall was just coming out from behind the gargoyle guarding the Headmaster's office as the four approached.
"Professor," said Harry, "we've got to see the Headmaster. It's about something important."
She looked at Harry curiously, but didn't question him. "Come on then, I'll take you up."
Dumbledore looked up from his desk as McGonagall led them inside. "Ah, Harry. I suppose you're ready to tell me about it then?"
Harry blinked. "Uh ... I ..."
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "There's not much that escapes me at Hogwarts, Harry. You should know that by now. Come on, then, who's going to tell me?"
Hermione walked up to the desk and laid out her parchments, diagrams, maps and some of the books. "Now why am I not surprised it's you, Hermione?" he said, laughing.
Hermione flushed, and then took a deep breath before launching into the story. She told about the amulet, the message and their research. At last, after about an hour, she sat back down, slightly breathless.
"I must say I'm impressed. Very impressed," said Dumbledore. He looked at McGonagall. "I think 20 points to Gryffindor, Minerva?"
She smiled as she nodded.
"What about Nichols Flamel, Professor?" asked Hermione.
"Ah - Nicholas. You must understand, that although I knew him well, he had already lived quite a few lifetimes before I met him. I knew he was involved in some secret things, but he never once mentioned the Priory of Sion. I'm just as much in the dark about that as you are. But I do know something. Back last summer, we had a prophecy from the centaurs. It said that you had to uncover a secret, Harry. And thanks to all your efforts, we now know where that secret is hidden."
"But why have I got to find out the secret, Professor?"
Dumbledore's features took on a grim look. "Harry, there's no easy way to say this to you, and it's one of the reasons I haven't said anything to you before now. It involves Voldemort."
Hermione, Ginny and Ron gasped - Harry just stared at the headmaster.
"Yes I'm afraid so," he said. "It's to do with his rise back to power. It seems that Harry is the key to making sure he's not successful in taking over the world."
Harry looked stunned. "But ... but Professor. How am I going to do that?"
"I don't know, Harry. But I think you'll know when you uncover the secret."
"So you'll let me go to Rennes-le Chateau?"
Dumbledore smiled. "I don't think I could stop you, even if I wanted to, Harry. But I must give a word of caution. Voldemort knows something about this, too - Sirius and Ceri found out about it a little while ago during one of their spying missions. It's going to be very dangerous for you to go outside the protection of Hogwarts. I can't go with you - I need to protect the school, and I can't afford to be away for any length of time. So I need to give some thought about making it as safe as possible during your quest. I'll speak to Cornelius Fudge."
"But that could take ages," said Harry. "You know what he's like."
"I know, Harry. But I won't risk you going off without proper protection. Now promise me you won't do anything foolish until I've sorted something out."
"I promise, Professor," said Harry looking a bit dejected. "Oh, Professor, what do you know about Anima Summa? The message said that's what I am."
Dumbledore looked over his glasses. "Yes I've heard about it too, Harry. But there's not a lot that anybody knows about it. I'm still trying to find out things about it, but for the moment you'll have to bear with me. Right, I need to get in touch with the ministry. I suggest you go and get some lunch." The way he quickly changed the subject wasn't lost on Hermione and Ginny.
"Harry, just one more thing," said Dumbledore as they made to leave the room. "I understand that you and Kristen Davis are together, is that right?"
"Uh, yes Professor," said Harry looking puzzled.
"Does she know about any of this?"
"No. I haven't said anything to her."
"Good," said Dumbledore. "As an exchange student, all of us need to make sure that she doesn't come to any harm in our country. I think it would be best if she doesn't become involved in this. Do you agree?"
"Yes, Professor. I do. I don't want anything to happen to her."
As they made their way down to the Great Hall, Hermione nudged Ginny and made eyes at her. "Oh, I left some of my parchments in the Headmaster's office - I'll have to go back. You three go on down and I'll catch up with you later."
"I'll come with you, Hermione," said Ginny.
As they walked back along the corridor, they were stopped by Professor McGonagall. "I thought you were going to lunch?"
"We need to speak to the headmaster about something, Professor," said Hermione.
She looked at the two girls appraisingly. "Come on then, follow me," and the three went up into the office.
"Professor Dumbledore, we didn't quite tell you everything earlier," said Hermione, "and please don't think me rude, but I don't think you told us everything either. It's about the Anima Summa."
"Go on," prompted Dumbledore.
"Well, we found something about it in the library. The book said that the secret has been preserved for the Anima Summa, and it warned against him finding out what he is. That's why we didn't say anything - we didn't want Harry to find out what we knew. Can you tell us any more about it?"
Dumbledore stared at the girls over his glasses for a few seconds. "I'm surprised at you - I suppose you sneaked into the restricted section to find that book?"
Hermione and Ginny flushed. "How did you … I'm sorry Professor," said Hermione, knowing better than to try to lie.
Dumbledore grinned. "Don't worry, I won't take the twenty points back. I should have known you'd rip the place apart to try to solve this riddle. Go on, sit down - I'll tell you what I know. But be warned - what I'm going to tell you must not leave these four walls - only a few people know about it, and it is absolutely essential that Harry doesn't find out. Do I make myself clear?"
"We promise, Professor," said Ginny.
The Headmaster told them what he had found out, and that Merlin and Morgana were the only recorded pair of Anima Summas.
"But how can you compare Harry to Merlin?" gasped Ginny.
"You've probably seen how strong, magically, Harry is getting. And he's still developing. So who knows?"
"Do you have any idea who Harry's mate is?" asked Hermione quietly.
Dumbledore looked at her, wondering whether to tell them the last bit of information. He sighed and then said, "The final thing we know about the female, is that she must be conceived exactly three months after Harry. In other words, her birthday must be on or near to 31st October 1980."
Hermione was stunned as she heard the date. She couldn't say anything. She knew, finally, that Harry was completely beyond her. Even though he was with Kristen, there was still some shred of hope in her mind that she'd someday get together with him. Now that hope was dashed and she struggled to stop the tears falling.
Ginny looked at her and saw the anguish in her eyes. Then she looked back at Dumbledore. "Professor, do you have any idea who the girl is?"
"There are just three possibilities that we know of, Ginny. Pansy Parkinson ..."
"Hah! No way," she shouted. " … Sorry, Professor"
"Hannah Abbot …"
"She's been tied at the hip to Ernie McMillan for two years," said Ginny.
"And Kristen Davis. Her birthday is on 31st October 1980."
Both Ginny and Hermione stared.
"But Harry and Kristen are together already," said Ginny, "but I haven't noticed anything unusual between them - except, of course that Harry seems very protective towards her. Could there be some mistake?"
"There's no mistake, Ginny - at least not about the birth date. Don't forget they're both very young, and although Harry's powers are increasing, so far, Kristen's haven't. But there's plenty of time for them to develop. And the prophecy says that Harry must join with his Anima Summa after he uncovers the secret of Rhedae. So there's still time for her powers to develop.
"You must keep this to yourselves. Tell no one - not Harry, not Kristen, not Ron. Make sure that your attitudes to the girl remain exactly as they have been, otherwise you might invite unwanted questions from them. Now I'm trusting you both with this information - mainly to stop you digging any further. Now I suggest you get some lunch."
Outside in the corridor, Hermione told Ginny to go down to lunch without her. "I ... I'm not hungry. I think I'll go back to the common room and catch up on some reading." Ginny had a worried look on her face as she stared after her friend.
"How are we going to get near the source of these emanations?" asked Demont as he sat with Charlie and Nadine eating lunch. "Nadine, is there some way you can get a general direction - anything to help us?"
"I'm sorry, Demont, there's nothing I can think of that will help," she replied.
Charlie thought for a while, and asked Nadine, "If we were to go to various places, say within a twenty mile radius of the forest, and you felt the emanations at each of those spots, would it give you a better idea of the source - a sort of triangulation exercise?"
"It's possible, Charlie, but I really don't know."
"Well that's the best idea we've had so far," said Demont. "I suggest we look at a map of the general area and mark some prominent locations - hills, villages for example, and then tomorrow we can start to visit them and see what happens."
"That sounds ok, Demont," said Charlie, "but how are we going to get to each site? It'll be dangerous to Apparate - there's bound to be loads of Muggles about."
"We can use my Land Rover," said Nadine. "It'll be nice to drive it again, and the 4-wheel drive will be great in the rough terrain."
That afternoon, the three pored over a large-scale map of the district, and marked out ten sites. They used the middle of the forest as the starting point, and measured roughly twenty miles in ten different directions, to arrive at the chosen places. They then discussed where they'd start.
"It doesn't really matter, I suppose," said Demont. "Lets start to the south - say in Andorra, and then work around to the east before going north, and then back around to the west. Does that sound ok?"
"Yes, but that's a lot of miles to cover. It'll take us days and days!" exclaimed Nadine.
"We'll take the two tents," said Demont. "Charlie and I can share one, right Charlie?"
"Hey I'm used to the outdoors life - no problem. How about you, Nadine?"
"It'll take me back to when I was young. We always used to go camping, didn't we Demont?"
Demont smiled. "Our parents always took us camping, back then."
The following day, they started out early, driving over rough tracks to get to the tarmac road leading into the Pyrenees and Andorra. They arrived around lunchtime, and stopped at the top of a rugged pass, still covered with the winter snows. They got out of the Land Rover, and walked over to a slight rise, facing in the general direction of the Forbidden Forest.
"Right Nadine," said Demont, "see if you can still detect the vibrations."
Nadine closed her eyes and concentrated. After a little while, she opened them again. "It's the same. I can't get a direction - but I think it's just a little weaker than before."
Charlie made a note on the map, and they drove into a nearby village to have lunch, before turning back eastwards to their next point on the map.
After five days travelling, they had reached the northern-most point. It was here that Nadine detected a change. "I still can't get a direction," she said, "but it feels stronger, the strongest since we started."
"Great, we're getting somewhere," said Demont. "I think the best thing we can do now, is go straight to the most westerly point, and try there."
They arrived in the late evening, and Nadine tried once again. "It's weaker than the last time," she said.
"Well it certainly looks as if the source is somewhere north of the forest," said Charlie. "Let's camp here tonight, and then go back to the cabin and decide which locations to search next."
After Demont went into the tent, conveniently feeling tired, Charlie and Nadine sat chatting around the campfire they'd made. Charlie's attraction for the pretty French girl had, if anything, grown stronger during their expedition, but he didn't really know how to proceed. He knew that Nadine was probably still hurting after the split with her boyfriend and he didn't want to rush anything. The last thing he wanted was to frighten her away.
"So how are you feeling, Nadine? Demont told me that you hadn't been well, and you came up here to recuperate."
Nadine laughed sadly. "I'm sure Demont told you about me and my boyfriend, Charlie. Three years together is a long time - and to have it end like that wasn't very nice."
"Do you still have feelings for him?"
"Well I thought I did, but I'm not so sure now. I suppose the mountain air and beautiful countryside has made me think a bit more clearly about things."
"If ever you feel the need to talk ... well ... I want you to know that I'm a good listener."
She smiled. "Thank you Charlie, I may take you up on that sometime. Well, goodnight." She rose from the campfire and went back to her tent, leaving Charlie to ponder on whether there was any hidden meaning in her last remarks.
The arrival of March saw the start of spring. The plants and flowers in the grounds at Hogwarts started to push their new shoots into the cool air, and the trees started to bud. It was the start of a beautiful time of the year, and held the promise of new beginnings - new life.
It seemed to be a bit lighter this time and Harry could just make out the rough contours of the tunnel he was in. He moved along it cautiously, looking ahead for the shape. And there it was - more distinct now, but still not clear in the dim light. It was definitely the shape of a human, and there was a long tunic, over the chain mail it was wearing. He couldn't see the face, but an arm was raised - beckoning to him. He heard again the low voice, calling him - 'Hurry. I have waited long. Come quickly.
Harry woke and leaned over to his bedside table for his glasses. The sun shone feebly through the window of his dorm, showing the sleeping forms of his roommates. He lay back down and thought about the dream he'd just had. The dream was becoming more frequent now, and was getting clearer each time it happened. He knew that he had to do something - the note of urgency in that voice was clear.
He woke Ron, and then dressed, and they both went down to the common room, where they saw Hermione sleeping in one of the chairs, a load of schoolbooks strewn around the table in front of her. Harry walked up and gently shook her shoulder, and she opened bleary eyes. "Harry - wh ... what?"
"How long have you been here, Hermione? You haven't been to bed, have you!" said Ron.
"Uh, no. I must have dropped off last night," she replied.
Harry and Ron sat down opposite her, and looked at her pale face. "Hermione, Ron," said Harry, "I've had that dream again - the one where I'm in the tunnel. It must be something to do with the secret, and it's getting urgent now. I feel I've got to do something - I've got to get to Rennes-le-Chateau as soon as possible."
"You can't go yet, Harry," said Hermione. "You know what the Headmaster said. Look, you wait here. I'll get showered and changed and wake Ginny. We can all go to see Professor Dumbledore before breakfast."
"So that's what they've been up to," muttered Sirius. He and Ceri were sitting in Dumbledore's office, together with McGonagall, Lupin and Snape. They had just heard the Headmaster's account of his meeting with Harry and his friends, and his efforts to arrange protection with the ministry.
"They're certainly a very resourceful bunch of kids," said Ceri.
"More nosey, I'd say," chipped in Snape. "How they've found the time to do all that research is beyond me - they should be studying for their OWLS. Lord knows they need to for Potions!"
"Now, now Severus," said McGonagall. "All four of them have shown true Gryffindor qualities - and I'm proud of them."
"Just like his father ..." chuckled Remus as he looked at Sirius.
Dumbledore turned his head as if he were listening. "Ah, I see the intrepid four want to see me, they're down by the gargoyle trying to figure out my latest password." He waved his wand, and they soon heard four pairs of feet walking towards the office. "You haven't met Harry's friends yet, have you Ceri?"
"No, Professor. I've seen them around the school, but I haven't spoken to them."
"Well now's your chance," he said as the door opened, to show four surprised faces as they saw the roomful of people.
"Oh, sorry Professor. We didn't know you were in a meeting. We can come back later," said Harry, turning to go back out.
"No, it's all right, Harry. Come on in. The more the merrier. As a matter of fact, we've just been discussing your exploits, and I suppose you want to see me concerning that?"
"Uh, I ... I …" stuttered Harry, looking towards the sneering face of Snape.
"It's all right. Everyone here knows about Rennes-le-Chateau. This is my, uh, inner circle I suppose you'd call it. Come on, sit down all of you," he said as he raised an eyebrow enquiringly at them.
"It's Harry," said Ron. "He's been getting this dream."
"Yes, Professor," said Harry. "I've been getting it for over a month now. But last night it was more urgent." He told them all about his dream and that he thought it was connected with the mystery. "So you see, I really need to go to France as soon as I can."
"Yes, I see," said the Headmaster thoughtfully. "But we can't ignore the warnings of danger. And we know that Voldemort is waiting for you to leave the safety of Hogwarts. Look, Harry, I'll get back on to the minister this morning. I've been waiting for him to let me know what support he can provide."
"Do you think we'll have to wait long?" asked Hermione.
"I don't know. But I'll do my best to hurry him up. You know, of course, that you can't do anything until this has been sorted out?"
"Yes, Professor, I know," said Harry.
"Right. That's all for this morning. I think we all need our breakfast now. Oh, Sirius, Ceri, will you stay for a moment. And you four as well," he said looking at Harry and his friends. "I'll leave you to get acquainted," and he followed the other teachers out of the office.
"I know you've seen her around the school," said Sirius, "and she helped when those Death Eaters attacked you. But I'd like you three to officially meet Ceri Jones. She's from the United States and she's been working with me since last September. Ceri these are Harry's best friends - Ron, Ginny, and Hermione."
Each of the three shook Ceri's hand, first Ron, then Ginny and then Hermione. Ceri winced visibly when she looked into Hermione's eyes. She instinctively liked this girl but she felt her terrible anguish and confusion. She also felt her heartache - a love that was completely devoid of hope. She glanced at Sirius, who was looking intently at Hermione.
Sirius then looked at the others and said, "We'll probably be seeing quite a bit of you from now on. The Headmaster has asked us to keep an eye on you all."
They all chatted together for a while before the four friends went down to the Great Hall for breakfast.
"I'm worried about that girl, Sirius," said Ceri. "She's in mental torment. She has to be watched, or she'll become ill."
"I know, Ceri. I don't need to be an empath to see that something is very wrong with Hermione. I'll speak to Professor McGonagall, I think. Perhaps she can help."
Images on my photo album : (NB click on each one to get a larger version).
- A Knight Templar
- Nicholas Flamel
- Berenger Saunier - the parish priest at the centre of the mystery
- Parchment 1 - found by Saunier when he renovated the church. Note the slightly raised letters that spelled the secret message (in French).
- Parchment 2 - note the curious symbols on the bottom right that caught Hermione's attention when she viewed them upside-down.