Even though Harry awoke very early. Ron's bed was made and he was nowhere in sight. Dean, Seamus and Neville were still in contented sleep. Harry let them have the lie in. He dressed silently, recovered the dragon from his bedside table and made his way to the common room. To his surprise, he found Ron there, asleep on the large couch in front of the fireplace. Capricio bristled at the sight of Ron's sleeping figure. Taking the dragon's reaction as an indication he needed more time to bargain, Harry did not awaken Ron. Instead, he scribbled a hurried note about his plans, then throwing the invisibility cloak over himself and the wyvern, he slipped from the Gryffindor common room.
He went immediately to the entrance hall. He surveyed all around him with a deep sense of gratitude. He was "home" and in his own time. Deciding to go for a stroll on the grounds, Harry approached the huge oak front doors. Disappointed, he found them locked. Seizing upon a sudden thought, he removed the cloak, turned back to the entrance hall and said, "Kreacher?"
Kreacher appeared with a pop and bowed, his nose to the floor. "Master called?" asked the elf with loathing in his voice.
"Yes," said Harry appraising the elf, "I had a question for you. House elves seem to be able to move about Hogwarts regardless of the castle's protective spells. Is this because of your own magic, or because of your position as castle elves?"
"Kreacher knows of no special allowances given to him when he was sentenced to serve at Hogwarts." Kreacher shot Harry a look of disgust.
Harry ignored the jibe and continued on, "I'm sorry that you and I haven't gotten along very well. That is my fault. I inherited a prejudice from Sirius but I know things he didn't know. I ask for your forgiveness. If you could spare the time from your duties I would like to spend a bit of time talking with you."
Kreacher seemed wholly taken aback. A long several minutes passed in silence as the elf struggled with the request.
Harry remained respectfully silent as Kreacher agonized over the request. At length Kreacher spoke as if measuring each word, "Master has made a request of Kreacher." He emphasized the word request, and continued, "Kreacher has many duties here at Hogwarts. Kreacher would go with Master, but Kreacher's duties prevent it."
Momentarily the thought of ordering Kreacher to accompany him crossed Harry's mind. The thought was supplanted by the memory of Regulus Black ordering Kreacher to drink Voldemort's potion. A wave of sympathy engulfed Harry. "I understand," said Harry. "Thank you for your dedication to the duties of the castle. I know this isn't where you prefer to be, so I'm doubly impressed. Possibly we may be able to make time later in the week to talk. At least I hope we can."
Kreacher eyed Harry warily. "With Master's leave, Kreacher must be going now."
"By all means," said Harry. "I'll see you later. Be careful Kreacher."
Kreacher gave Harry one more searching look before he disapparated with a crack.
"That may have been a test of my honesty in asking, not telling," thought Harry. He tuned his glasses and studied the elf's apparition wake. "It appears as I thought," said Harry to the dragon. "At very least, house elf apparition falls between wizard spectrum magic. Let's see if we can duplicate this shall we?"
Harry dissected and tinkered, he fiddled and fussed; and in the end he matched the frequency and spectrum of the house elf magic. Pleased with the results, he concentrated on placing himself between magic spectra with which he had become familiar.
"Hold on Capricio," warned Harry. "Here goes nothing." Without turning, without a wand, without warning of any kind, Harry disappeared with a crack.
With a similar crack he appeared almost instantly on the castle steps outside the front doors. He knew immediately that all was not right. The sky was a roiling pink, the grass orange. He felt fuzzy, out of focus. When he tried to move it felt like swimming in molasses. Sounds seemed muffled and far away. He tried to speak but found the ability eluded him. Sweat broke out on Harry's brow. His heart felt like it was pumping molten lead. He conjured and spelled. Breathing came in labored gasps. Concentrating totally on the location of the elfin magic in the spectrum, he focused his entire mental effort on stepping from elfin spectra to wizard spectra. The Herculean effort paid off and his observable world became right again.
"Well that wasn't much fun," said Harry clutching his chest and gasping for breath. With hands on his knees, he surveyed the sloping lawns leading away from the castle. It was a misty morning and scudding grey clouds threatened rain. Breathing deeply, he seemed to absorb the moisture-laden air. Cold clawed through his robes like a pickpocket searching for a trinket. A finger of shiver traced its path down his spine, his skin erupting in goose flesh in its wake. Harry was unsure if the reaction was to the cold or to the near disaster of his cross-spectra apparition.
Still covered by the invisibility cloak, Harry walked shakily down the steps. Even in the cloud-dimmed morning light, he felt as exposed as if he had been spotlighted on a stage.
"I'm afraid I've grown accustomed to the anonymity of the invisibility cloak," said Harry to Capricio. The small dragon shivered in anticipation of the freedom of Hogwarts grounds. They made their way across the grounds to a familiar beech tree at the edge of the lake. "I think it's time for a bit of breakfast," said Harry.
He removed the invisibility cloak, Capricio's protective orb, and fed and watered the dragon. In silent contemplation, he rested and gathered himself as he watched Capricio eat. Not until the meal was completely consumed did Harry approach what was weighing heavy on his mind. "You took an instant dislike to Ron Weasley. He's my oldest friend. Would you mind letting me know what's going on?"
Immediately the dragon turned to Harry and looked directly into his eyes. Harry was drawn through the deep black pools of Capricio's eyes and into his reptilian mind. Thoughts expressed as feelings flowed into Harry. In mere moments, he understood the dragon's motivation.
"Let's see if I've got this right," said Harry. "You don't like Ron. It "feels" as if he's hiding something? He's not to be trusted?"
The dragon churred.
Harry considered arguing the point but thought the better of it. "I'll consider your feelings and we'll discuss this later. Right now you have a bit of freedom to fly. Just don't be seen by anyone. And don't eat anyone or anything either, I have many friends on the grounds and in the forest."
Capricio didn't need to be told twice. He took to wing and flew high into the air and dived into the forbidden forest. Harry panicked momentarily as he contemplated the possibility of never seeing Capricio again.
"It's hard to see a friend leave, even when they may pose a bit of a threat in their friendship."
Harry jumped at the words. He thought he and Capricio had been alone. He drew his wand and quickly surveyed the area.
Leaning nonchalantly and absolutely motionless against the beech tree was an unfamiliar wizard. He was portly, about Harry's height and of a ruddy complexion. His eyes sparkled green in the murky morning light, giving him a boyish, eager expression. His robes, a muted brown hue, blended perfectly with the tree. Harry wondered how long the stranger had been standing there, listening.
"It would seem that you have me at a disadvantage. You have your wand at the ready. I am unarmed. But advantages and disadvantages are sometimes difficult to quantify."
In an instant the wizard changed form. Harry's wand wavered as he saw Albus Dumbledore standing before him in the morning mist.
The moment Harry's wand dropped, the wizard changed again. Minister of Magic Rufus Scrimgeour had replaced Dumbledore.
Harry's wand was once more at the ready.
Harry was fully prepared, assuming anything was possible from this stranger. He wasn't disappointed as Rufus Scrimgeour disappeared and he found himself facing his own duplicate.
Harry's wand didn't waver this time. "You can stop the show. I don't know who you are but there are many in the castle who will want to know how you got on the grounds uninvited."
"You assume that I am uninvited. Actually the opposite is true. I was personally invited by Albus Dumbledore."
"I hate to break it to you, but Albus Dumbledore was killed five days ago," said Harry, watching for any reaction to the news.
"A fact of which I am already aware. I wouldn't have been expecting an after-funeral invitation until Dumbledore's willy had been successfully read." He swept his hat off his head and bowed, "Allow me to introduce myself," said the stranger, once again assuming his portly countenance. "I am Francois DePais. I am here at Dumbledore's request."
"I am more than a little skeptical," said Harry. "Even though I am aware of the request Dumbledore made to have DePais visit, I don't have anyone's word; other than yours of course, that you are who you say you are."
"I understand your caution. Particularly given recent events. Would Dumbledore's introduction give you certainty?" asked the stranger pointedly.
"How do you propose to accomplish an introduction when I'm disinclined to allow you inside the castle. My intent is to summon help from the castle and come to a verification of identity before we go inside. I have friends inside, and I don't want to put them at any risk."
"What if I overpower you and go in on my own," queried the stranger.
"You could try, but I wouldn't suggest that course of action." Harry allowed the words to seem a child's threat hanging in the air between them.
"Just as advantages and disadvantages are difficult to discern; friends and foes can be equally disguised. I can tell you that I actually have come here at your invitation. Your invitation was forwarded by a mutual friend, Madame Maxime. I was at Dumbledore's funeral. I recognized you immediately. If not from your scar, at least from your appearances in the Daily Prophet. Regardless of that, it is my identity that is in question, not yours."
The wizard reached slowly and carefully inside his robe. He brought out a small card. Harry recognized it immediately as identical to the Chocolate Frog card that had been his introduction to the wizard confection. It was an Albus Dumbledore card. The wizard proffered the card carefully without advancing or making any overt action.
Harry was reluctant to get within an arm's length of the wizard, so he silently encased the card in a protective sphere and summoned it to him.
The wizard did not move a muscle.
Harry split his attention for a fraction of a second in order to look at the card. To his shock Albus Dumbledore was smiling up at him through the orb.
"Well Harry it appears you have met my friend Francois," said the small portrait.
"I'm sorry Professor. I'm going to need a bit more proof before I'm convinced," said Harry.
"I told you to call me Albus," said the small moving portrait.
"Right you are," said Harry lowering his wand in acquiescence.
"Harry I would like to introduce you to Francois DePais. Francois, this is Harry Potter." Dumbledore's portrait beamed as the two shook hands.
Harry removed the protective orb and returned the card to DePais. "I'm sorry for the way I acted. I have become...overly suspicious, in recent days."
"Quite natural. I would have expected no less. You did show enough restraint to refrain from attacking me. For that I am grateful. It would not have done for me to get into a duel with the very person I came to meet," said DePais. His words seemed neither to condemn nor patronize.
"Well Mr. Potter, it would appear that you have a few minutes until your, magnificent pet returns. I could use a guide to where Dumbledore's portrait resides, or I would be happy to talk with you until you are ready to return to the castle."
Harry reddened further at the mention of his illegal dragon, but was immediately shocked at the notion of ownership of Capricio. Storing the thought for a later conversation with the wyvern, he addressed DePais, "Would you care for a tour of the grounds while we talk?"
That would be enjoyable," said DePais. "I have always admired Hogwarts as an institution, but I have never had extensive opportunity to explore it."
"You didn't attend school here?" asked Harry, shocked. "I assumed that you and Dumbledore were schoolmates and had become close friends."
DePais explained, "We did not attend school together, although we were contemporaries. I attended Beauxbatons Academy at the same time Albus attended Hogwarts. In fact we competed against each other in the Triwizard Tournament over one hundred thirty years ago. It is interesting how fierce competitors, to the point of enmity, can bury differences and become close friends. Albus was a great wizard. And a great friend."
Harry saw DePais' eyes brighten as he spoke of friendship with Albus Dumbledore. Giving to the moment of intimate recollection, Harry looked away to give DePais a bit of privacy. As he waited he searched his memory for recollections of friendship with DePais. Almost immediately he discovered the feeling of friendship, but the feeling was tempered in the fire of overcome animosity. It surprised Harry to see that the friendship had benefited from overcoming considerable initial friction.
After a few moments, DePais seemed to return from his reverie and began, "I have stayed in contact with Albus through the years as I attempted to perfect my technique. His portrait is my first fully-fledged attempt to combine my skills with his to produce the possibility of a complete Porcrux. I painted the portrait, which I hope now hangs, signed, sealed and delivered within the walls of Hogwarts. He has communicated with me enough to inform me of our apparent success. And although I am excited to speak to Dumbledore again, our meeting has given me the opportunity to talk with you prior to entering the castle."
Harry noticed DePais' breath hanging mist-like in the cool morning air. A chill ran up his spine and his suspicions stirred. "How did you know I would be on the grounds this morning? I haven't spoken with anyone today. No one knew of my plans. How did you come to be here at this place at this time?"
Harry stared at the wizard intently as if to catch him in a falsehood.
"Of a truth," began DePais, "I did not know that I would find you on the grounds this morning. I was merely responding to your summons. I thought we would get to meet sooner-or-later. As it turns out, as I approached the castle, I saw you under this beech tree. Under suspicious circumstances, I might add."
Harry had the good grace to blush at the implication of being caught with a dragon but he said nothing.
"The creature was magnificent. I would dearly love to study his form and movements. It is very difficult to study dragons under normal conditions. They're forever setting my sketch pad or easel on fire," said DePais with a chuckle.
Harry relaxed a bit at the wizard's rounded laughter. "Capricio is rather his own dragon. We'll see how he reacts to you before we draw up any plans. You said you wanted to talk to me. What did you want to talk about?"
"That can wait for a few moments. Patience is a virtue sharper than any razor. Patience cuts through the fetters of the insistent moment and reveals the truth of the future. Help me make a fool of impatience by guiding a leisurely stroll about the castle grounds," said DePais.
"Do you have a preference of where you would like to go?" asked Harry.
"Never having been a student here, and visiting only rarely, I leave the choice of sights entirely to you Mr. Potter." said DePais, his French accent barely discernible.
Harry considered where he had intended to go when he had entered the grounds. Thinking that DePais could be the source of significant information, he decided to include the artist as he furthered some of his goals.
"You attended Beaxbatons Academy of Magic? Did you ever consider attending Hogwarts?" asked Harry.
"Paint and palette, no! Hogwarts is too staid. Beauxbatons offeres a more liberal curriculum. I was able to pursue magical art in all its varieties," said DePais his tone indicating the tiniest trace of annoyance.
"I intended no offence about attending Hogwarts," responded Harry. "I know so little about you; Dumbledore's mention, reputation only, really."
"Never put too much stock in a reputation," advised DePais. "Reputations are skewed by advocate and detractor alike. Some paint a reputation in rosy hues, while others will magnify faults or mistakes until they seem to cover the entire canvas of one's life. Neither is an honest representation of who we really are. I can paint a picture neither entirely black nor white, for without contrast there is no depth of understanding."
"Some are truly evil," said Harry a little more defensively than he intended.
"Yes evil does take the heart and destiny of some. But even those were born innocent. Evil is a learned attribute. Evil paints the color and light out of one's world, leaving only a dark corner for dismal existence." DePais sighed as if he carried a heavy weight on his own shoulders. "Albus Dumbledore was as close to a bright white personality as I have known. His name even stems from a Latin word that means "white." I have painted many portraits since my schooling ended at Beauxbatons Academy. Into each I have painted both light and shadow. Just as each individual's life consisted of light and dark episodes. Some have attempted to commission me to eliminate the dark from their portrait, depicting only what they wish to be remembered. Those commissions I refuse. Such paintings end up with no depth by which to judge the subject or the artist. Let others do such works, I look at the whole. Even Albus' portrait has shadows of the weight he carried in his decision's rippled consequences."
"Are you a metamorphmagus as well as an artist?" probed Harry. "At least that's what I surmised from our unexpected meeting."
"My ability to mimic another is an unintended result of detailed study of my subjects. You see, as I prepare to paint a portrait I study very intently. One day as I deeply contemplated a particularly difficult project, I felt a bit drawn. Glancing into a mirror I found myself a duplicate of my subject. Since that day I find I can recall, and take upon my countenance, any visage I have studied intently. As it is with many things in life, focus too much of your attention or energy on them and they will consume you. Such a circumstance gives me constant pause about whom I study, emulate, or contemplate."
"To my knowledge, you have never painted my portrait. Why were you able to duplicate me?" asked Harry, challenge in his voice.
"When we meet with Albus that question will be answered. For now, suffice it to say that I have had occasion to consider painting a portrait of you." DePais' tone made it clear the subject was closed until later.
Taking another approach, Harry questioned as they walked, "Did you paint all the portraits in Hogwarts?"
"Pigment and paintbrush, no!" exclaimed DePais as they began a stroll along the path. "Many of the portraits in Hogwarts are much older than I. Many are capable of only the most rudimentary movements and words. Some speak only a sentence or two in a single language. My works, with the knowledge Albus shared, are able to think, move, reason and come to conclusions. Some, I may have put in a bit too much personality. The portrait of Saccha Rose, the guardian of the Gryffindor House entrance, comes to mind. However, my artistic license does allow me to make wholly believable portraits."
"I have often wondered about the different manifestations of the portraits in the castle. Does your artistic license allow you to do landscapes as well as portraits?" asked Harry
"I work in all artistic media. Indeed I can produce adequate scenery. Given time I can almost make you smell the flowers, or feel the ocean, or hear the wind through the trees. Although I must admit I much prefer portraits," said DePais.
As they had talked, Harry had been leading DePais down the grounds to Dumbledore's white marble crypt. As they approached, Harry touched his glasses and reviewed the spells protecting the tomb. He found them manifold and complex. Since discovering that Dumbledore's body was a Scatterling, he had been forming a plan to protect his beloved teacher. By intent, Harry stopped in front of Dumbledore's tomb. The bright white marble flickered in the gloomy morning light. Harry felt a wave of dread, as memories of Dumbledore's death boiled to the surface of his mind.
DePais immediately noticed the change in Harry's countenance and cautioned, "Do not dwell on negative aspects of another's life or death. Do not let a shadow grow in your mind to eclipse the good one did while here on earth."
"It's not just that," said Harry. "It's a huge combination of things; small decision and actions that led inexorably toward Dumbledore's death. I wonder if I could have stopped that cascade of events. It troubles me to think I could have."
"We are all on our way to our own deaths," said DePais with no hint of remorse in his voice. "There are many methods and means by which we are called home. Knowing you are on that path; if you knew that by talking to me, your death would be either quickened or forestalled, would you cease the conversation?"
"I can' t see the end from here," said Harry. "I can't tell how an action or word will alter the future."
"Well said!" exclaimed DePais. "Because we cannot tell which word or action will affect our future, we need to keep each one in our control. Never let them run away with you. By exercising control over your words, thoughts and actions, you will never have to look back with regret over what might have been."
"Easier said than done," said Harry plaintively.
"It is always easier to say than to do. Saying costs little. Doing costs much. The question is what manner of man would you be? A sayer or a doer?" DePais broke eye contact with Harry and looked out over the lake.
The pause gave Harry time to think. He considered the things he had learned and the obligations the knowledge gave him. Coming to a sudden decision, he turned to DePais and asked, "What would you do for Albus Dumbledore?"
Taken a bit by surprise, DePais said, "I counted Albus as one of my closest friends. I would do anything I could for him."
"Could you produce a replica of his tomb that would bear close scrutiny?" asked Harry, a wonderful plan forming in his mind.
"Certainly. Given the correct materials and time, I could make an almost indistinguishable replica. Why do you ask?" queried DePais a note of curiosity in his voice.
"We really have no time to waste. Please start your study of the tomb. I need to unravel some magic," said Harry as he stared intently at the marble edifice.
"I want to know what do you intend to do before I accept this commission," said DePais.
"You just said you would do anything for Albus. I need to tell you that there has already been an attempt on Dumbledore's Porcrux and I think it's only a matter of time before another attempt is made, either on the Porcrux or Dumbledore's remains in this monument. I have seen first-hand what Voldemort's dark magic can do with the remains of those who have passed on. I also have found out that there is a power greater than magic that can protect the bodies of those who have died."
"Ogram's charge," whispered DePais almost reverently.
"That's correct," said Harry. "If you doubt my veracity, I can take you to meet Ogram."
DePais recoiled as if terrified of the thought. "NO! I dare not look on Ogram. The stories are legion of painters who encountered such beings, or greater, and went mad; frustrated by their inability to recreate the glory for others to experience. No, it is better that I avoid such circumstance. I will however do what I can if you will explain your thinking."
Harry conjured two chairs. He motioned for DePais to sit. DePais took the seat and listened intently to Harry's thoughts and plans. When Harry was finished, he contemplated for a moment and said in a very deliberate voice, "I know little of your abilities beyond what I have read. This is a most monumental undertaking you are proposing. Are you absolutely confident that you have the magical acumen to accomplish this?"
Harry seriously considered the question. "I am confident I can do this, but rather than make you wait while I do my part, let's finish our tour and I'll take you up to Dumbledore's Porcrux. While you are talking to him I'll contact Ogram and validate my plan. After that's done I'll come for your answer. My plan will work either way. I just feel it would be more complete with your assistance."
"Very well," said DePais. "The extra time will allow me to discuss with Albus my participation."
Harry turned from the sepulcher and headed up the path he had used with McGonagall, Lupin, Moody, and Mr. Weasley only two days prior. As Harry walked on he thought those two days seemed a lifetime ago. Rounding the corner, Harry was moved by the urge to offer DePais a tour of the school cemetery. Stopping so abruptly that the artist walked headlong into him, Harry proposed the side trip.
DePais recovered from the impact and with a tone of suspicion he began, "You have no cozenage planned to bring me face-to-face with Ogram, do you?"
"Absolutely not," said Harry emphatically. "I just though you might like to see an area often ignored on the grounds."
"Proceed, but I reserve the option to withdraw at any time," said DePais.
Harry nodded and turned toward the huge iron gates that fronted the cemetery. The metal hinges complained as he pushed the gates open for entrance. He noticed that DePais had stopped at the entrance and was examining, of all things, the iron gates. Harry stopped and waited. At length DePais concluded his inspection and once again fell in step beside Harry.
The tour was undertaken in reverential silence. Stopping at the contemplation pool, DePais motioned for Harry to sit down. The pair sat in silence. DePais was the first to speak, "The Latin inscription over the gates tells us to consider the way we think and speak of the dead. We give little thought or credit for those who lined the path behind us. But even more often we think nothing of those who will follow us. The past, at very least, has stories and names with which we can attach a tactile connection. The future however, is less tangible, much more easily neglected."
"How can we benefit the future when we can't see past the demanding second?" asked Harry, suddenly struck by a memory of Ogram's words.
"Those who consider the future are usually called heroes. They look far beyond themselves and the instant. They give themselves over to a larger cause," said DePais.
"Heroes don't know any more of the future than others. They don't know the effect of their individual actions. Do they?" asked Harry.
"Those heroes of whom I speak are those exquisite souls who value the future more than they value their lives. Their actions are driven by a desire to make things better for generations that they know they will never see. As for the knowledge of the effect of individual actions...did you note the gates that we passed through to enter this place? They were very large, heavy to the extreme. One could never lift the weight of those gates without some kind of assistance. Yet, even rust-bound and resistant, they opened on small hinges. The future is a gate that swings on small hinges. A moment's action or inaction can ripple through the eternities. Guard how you act my young friend. The future, not just your future, depends on it." DePais once again lapsed into silence. Without a word passing between them, the pair rose almost simultaneously and walked quietly from the cemetery.
As they headed up the steeper path toward the castle, Harry consideration of DePais' words shifted to concern for the rotund wizard's health. Turning to check that DePais was not suffering ill effect from the demanding climb, Harry was surprised to see that rather than a look of exhaustion, a look of contented peace glowed on DePais' face.
"Thank you Mr. Potter," said DePais. "The visit to the cemetery was exactly what I needed. I am inclined to help you with your plan. The only thing that would possibly prevent my assistance would be an unforeseen complication as I speak with Albus."
"What do you mean by "an unforeseen complication"?" asked Harry, barely containing his excitement at the prospect of DePais' help.
"I will ask Albus for his opinion of the proposal. If he is not averse to the plan, I will gladly do what I can," said DePais.
Harry smiled. "I could ask no more than that."
As they walked up the stone stairs leading to the oak front doors, the smile slipped from Harry's face. He knew he had used magic arcana to pass through the castle's protective spells and he could not ask DePais to follow him back inside the castle in similar manner.
Harry's fears were averted however when DePais strode past him and withdrew his wand from beneath his flowing robes. DePais made a partially obscured, and very complicated wand movement; the likes of which Harry had never seen, and a strawberry coloured jet of magic seeped into the doors themselves. As if a giant's knuckles had rapped the door, a booming knock sounded inside the castle. Almost at once, Minerva McGonagall opened the castle doors from within.
"Francois! We've been expecting you!" said McGonagall. "I was actually growing a bit concerned. It's been some time since the front gates informed me that you had come on the grounds."
As DePais stepped through the front doors, McGonagall noticed for the first time that Harry was standing behind, hidden by the large man's girth. "Potter! What were you doing on the grounds unescorted?" snapped McGonagall.
Before Harry could blurt out his reason, DePais interjected, "Mr. Potter has been giving me a tour of the grounds. I apologize for dawdling and not informing you of my delay, especially in these times, but I have been in contact with Albus and he is expecting me."
Harry noted the look on McGonagall's face. He saw that she considered DePais' answer as an avoidance of, not an answer to, her question. She seemed to let the matter pass. Shifting her attention from Harry back to DePais she asked, "Would you like some tea after I take you to see...Dumbledore?"
"Sketch and shade, no!" said DePais. "I take no tea, or coffee, or any other substance that would unsteady my hand. I often paint detail with a single niffler hair. To be the best I can be, I need complete control of my body and faculties."
Caught a bit wrong footed, McGonagall tried again, "Possibly pumpkin juice, or water then?"
"Recently I have grown rather fond of orange juice. It does my mind good to think of drinking a color." DePais chuckled at his own joke.
"It will be attended to. Do you wish to freshen up a bit or is it straight to see Dumbledore?" asked McGonagall.
"Straight to Albus, I think," replied DePais.
McGonagall turned to Harry as if to send him back to the Gryffindor common room. She had no more than started, when DePais interrupted. "Headmistress McGonagall, would it be possible for Mr. Potter to accompany my visit to Albus? I have several things to discuss with both Albus and Mr. Potter."
McGonagall inclined her head in understanding, and without another word, led them to the seventh floor tower office.
Harry was inwardly thankful he didn't have to activate the mirr panel. McGonagall let them into the office and then quickly turned to leave, telling the trio that she would send Dobby with refreshments.