FRIENDS, FIXES AND FEINTS
Madam Pomfrey was in night robes when she answered Slughorn's call for assistance. She took one look at Harry's arm and hand and ushered him directly to a bed at the far end of the empty infirmary. "I won't ask what happened, so you won't have to make up any stories. I'm just glad you came to me first this time. The last time you had bone problems it was an ugly process to grow them back. Mending broken bones is relatively easy and painless."
Harry was extremely glad to hear those words. His past experiences in hospital hadn't been exactly pleasant.
Madam Pomfrey touched the point of her wand on Harry's arm and said "Coeo Comminutae."
A warm glow soaked Harry's arm. The pain in his arm disappeared immediately, which only counter-pointed the pain remaining in his hand.
"Unfortunately Potter, that was the easy part. You only have three bones in your arm; you have twenty-six bones in your wrist and hand. This will take a few minutes," Madam Pomfrey said almost apologetically.
Harry was all in for this treatment. No vile potion to drink, no bandages, just immediate relief of pain. This was more to his liking. "I understand," said Harry, "Take your time, you have helped tremendously already."
Madam Pomfrey tisked and started the painstaking process of mending each bone in Harry's wrist and hand individually. Some weren't broken but when she got to one that was broken, the healing spell lessened his pain immediately. The process took no more than five minutes. Harry could tell when she was done because the pain was completely gone. At least he thought so until he tried to move his arm. His first motion rewarded a stabbing pain in several locations in his arm and hand.
Madam Pomfrey noticed Harry wince. "I should have warned you Mr. Potter, I've mended the bones but there are places where the broken bone cut through muscle. You may well recall your friend Mr.Weasley's broken leg in your third year, I healed the broken bones quickly but he had to remain in hospital for the damaged muscles. Your torn muscles will heal in several days, if you take this potion religiously." She indicated a small vial with a bright red liquid inside which she had retrieved from a nearby potions cabinet. "If you don't take the potion, the muscles will heal of their own accord over the next year or so."
Harry knew that it had been too good to be true. His experience with healing potions warned him that the better the potion, the worse it tasted. "Do I start taking the potion now?" he asked.
"Yes, and one swallow three times daily," said Madam Pomfrey, "I'll watch you take the first dose to make sure you don't have any ill effects."
"More likely to make sure I take it," thought Harry. "Just as well face the potion," said Harry tipping the vial to his lips. He was right about the concoction. It made him shudder and it felt like he had swallowed a cave full of bats. "Delicious," Harry lied, then honestly and sincerely, "Thank you Madam Pomfrey. I appreciate your skill."
Madam Pomfrey blushed pink. "You are welcome Mr. Potter. You may sit here until you feel well enough to walk, then Professor Slughorn can escort you back to your dormitory. And whatever you did to break those bones, I recommend you not do it again," Madam Pomfrey said as she made her way toward her office.
"I will honestly try to never do it again, you have my word," said Harry to Madam Pomfrey's retreating back.
Harry heard the bell in the clock tower proclaim 6:00. He weighed his options. He knew that he wasn't out of bed yet, well not really. He knew that his dormitory was empty of classmates. He knew that Slughorn still had to contact GRASSP. "Professor Slughorn," said Harry, "I don't think I'm up to traveling just yet. I know that you have a few things to get done. If you don't mind, I'll sit here quietly until I feel stronger. I can ask Madam Pomfrey to escort me back to Gryffindor tower." Harry waited to see what effect his words would have on Slughorn.
Slughorn weighed the words and said, "Yes Harry, you seem well enough able to take care of yourself, but I don't want Professor McGonagall to think I didn't follow her instructions to the letter. No, I'll escort you to the Gryffindor dormitories and then I'll be on my way to complete my other tasks."
Harry resigned himself to the course of action and reshuffled the plans he had begun to formulate in his mind. Rising, Harry kept the leather haversack hidden under his robes; he turned to Slughorn and said, "Thank you Professor. You saved my life tonight."
Slughorn seemed to be looking through Harry. Then, breaking his far-locked gaze, he said, "Upon consideration, my boy, you may well have saved all our lives tonight."
Harry pondered the comment. "We are all in this together, whatever one does it affects us all," thought Harry.
"I think I'm ready now Professor," said Harry as he picked up the vial containing the muscle restorative potion and turned to follow Slughorn. Wordlessly, they made their way from the hospital wing toward the Gryffindor dormitories.
It wasn't until they were in front of the portrait of the Fat Lady that Slughorn spoke, "Harry, I'd like to sit down with you and discuss the events of this night sometime."
Harry turned as he prepared to give the password to the Fat Lady, "I'll see what I can do about getting back to you on that, but honestly, I'm dead busy right through end of term."
"Yes, I suppose you will be," said Slughorn almost absentmindedly, "Another time then. Now off to bed, remember what Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall told you about getting some rest."
"Yeah, I'll be sure to do that," said Harry, then, "Blatherskites" and the portrait responded by swinging open to admit Harry.
Harry slipped into the common room. He had less than an hour before he'd be coming down the stairs with Dobby. "This is barking!" thought Harry, "Better get to work." With that, Harry went to a table and chair in a corner of the common room. He took the sack from under his robes and carefully emptied it on the table, inventorying the contents; four blood-red amulets, one amulet identical to the others but pale white in colour, Greyback's wand, Greyback's invisibility cloak, his own invisibility cloak, and the semi invisibility cloak, the last object was a curious stone crucible. The crucible was smooth black stone with no markings or ornamentation on the outside. It had a tight fitting stone lid that appeared to be made of the same black material.
As Harry examined the crucible, a memory came unbidden to his mind. Harry could see only the skirts of a long black cloak. He was bowing at the feet of Voldemort. Harry realized he was reliving a memory he had acquired when he looked into Fenrir Greyback's eyes. The memory wasn't as sharp and distinct or as full of detail as Dumbledore's memories had been, and it was in shades of grey and black. The edges were fuzzy; the only focused detail was in the centre of vision. Apparently what was important to the werewolf stood out most clearly. The background and surroundings didn't matter to Greyback. The only thing that held his attention was the table of potion ingredients and the wizard in a dark cloak in front of him.
Voldemort was speaking, his words emblazoned in the memory. "Yes my friend, as I was telling you earlier, I can make it possible for you to transform into a werewolf at your desire and still maintain a sense of self, to direct your actions rather than be moved by immutable instinct. I can make it possible for you to remember the enjoyment of your actions while you are transformed. It is sweetest irony that this adamant crucible that allows the brewing of your special potion will also imprison Dumbledore's Porcrux."
Harry was struck with the overtone of evil delight in Voldemort's words. He noticed that the vision cleared as Fenrir concentrated as each ingredient was weighed and put into the crucible. When the potion was complete, Voldemort poured the copper-marbled liquid out of the crucible and into a crystal chalice. Voldemort's high hissing voice continued, "Bring me back Dumbledore's Porcrux in this crucible. You will then have earned this priceless container to brew as much of your special potion as you could ever need. Just think, the strength of a werewolf, the fear that a werewolf engenders, and the ability to control that strength and fear to your own ends!"
Harry could feel the excitement in Fenrir as the vision slowly faded. Now Harry knew what Fenrir had been commissioned to accomplish. He also began to formulate a plan. He needed to talk with Nigellus. This could be turned to their benefit if it was handled correctly. He needed to get into the Headmaster's office without being seen. Harry levitated the amulets and crucible into the haversack, taking special care not to touch them. "I'll never be able to use the amulets without alerting Voldemort to the fact I intercepted Greyback," he thought as he stuffed in the wand and two cloaks. He threw the remaining cloak around himself and sat back to refine his plans. It had only been several minutes when he heard voices on the stairs. Harry held his wand and thought "Muffliato." The sounds deadened.
As he expected, he and Dobby stepped into view. It was an odd sensation, seeing himself. "Keep focus or you'll go round the bend," thought Harry. Harry knew he was in danger if either Dobby or, who...himself, attacked who...him? "Barking!" He would never be able to explain this to himself. He knew he wouldn't believe his own words. Harry scarcely breathed as the thoughts ran through his mind. He saw the "other" Harry stoop and say something in Dobby's ear. Dobby and the "other" Harry stopped and surveyed the room. Dobby's eyes caught and held on Harry. For an awful moment, Harry was sure that Dobby could see him. "Can a house elf see through an invisibility cloak? Binns said that elves had access to tremendous magic. Have I underestimated Dobby?"
Harry suddenly remembered Dobby's response; "There is nothing here that will harm Harry Potter while Dobby is near." Harry on impulse lifted his robe hem slightly and pointed to his sock. He saw the elf relax measurably and whisper to the "other" Harry. Harry saw the other two make toward the portrait hole. He fell in behind them, passing through the portrait hole before it swung shut. He followed behind silently. As they approached the dusty stairway, McGonagall intercepted them and led them up the spiral stair. Harry stayed close behind and followed them into the Headmaster's office. As McGonagall and "Harry" were asked to leave, Harry stayed behind with Dobby.
Dumbledore began, "Dobby, you alone of the house elves, will be entrusted with a very important and secret assignment. I need you to bring three simple meals to this office in one-half hour, and then three more, each two hours thereafter with the last at 3:30 this afternoon. Do this without being seen if possible. No one is to be told where the meals are going and the meals must be precisely on time. As you make each delivery you will take the prior dishes back to the kitchens so they are not missed. "
Dobby twisted in nervous pride at the request, "The Headmaster can rest assured that Dobby will do everything the Headmaster requests."
Harry saw McGonagall and himself re-enter the room as Dumbledore said, "Remember the two things Dobby, be precisely on time and tell no one."
Harry watched as Dobby and McGonagall left, listened to Dumbledore's instructions and watched "himself" disappear with the Time-Turner. As soon as "he" was gone, Harry swirled off the invisibility cloak and popped into view in the middle of Dumbledore's office.
Without any air of surprise Dumbledore said, "Impressive! You seem to be mastering the use of the Time-Turner."
Harry registered the compliment but the more pressing things on his mind demanded first attention. "I have learned a few things during the night that may be of benefit. I need to spend a few minutes with Headmaster Black."
Phineas Nigellus, who had appeared to be sleeping, spoke immediately in a sneer, "What do you deem as important information?"
Harry related the experience with Greyback. He told the things that he had learned during his incursion into the werewolf's mind, and added, "With your approval, I have a plan." As proof of his statements, Harry lowered the leather haversack to the floor.
"First tell me what you surmise from the information you have collected," said Nigellus in a bit less of a sneer.
"Voldemort is still afraid of Albus Dumbledore. My first inclination is that Voldemort has access to information from inside Hogwarts or the Ministry. That is the only way Greyback could have been dispatched to capture Professor Dumbledore's Porcrux. The information is less than twelve hours old and only known to a score of people, yet Voldemort was able to act this quickly. We have a spy in our midst."
"That is a very astute and concise conclusion given the evidences. I may have underestimated you Potter. You might have done well in Slytherin, What do you propose?" asked Nigellus.
"Well," started Harry, "I believe Voldemort does not yet know if his plan succeeded where Professor Dumbledore's Porcrux is concerned. He will know that it failed if Greyback does not eventually make it back to him. I propose letting Voldemort think Greyback succeeded in securing Professor Dumbledore's Porcrux but that he had trouble in getting back through the forest. If Voldemort thinks that Greyback and the Porcrux are somewhere in the forbidden forest, he will probably focus at least some of his strength in attempting to recover what he thinks is lost. Several things will work to our advantage if we act immediately. We could plant Fenrir's pack and at least the exhausted amulet in the dark forest. I know an area inhabited by a particularly nasty family of acromantulas. They would keep any of Voldemort's searchers quite busy. Then we need to get false information to Voldemort that Professor Dumbledore's Porcrux was damaged and that whoever did the deed was pursued but got off the grounds and into the forest."
"A worthy plan Potter," said Nigellus almost admiringly, then, "Just how do you propose that we get this information to Tom Riddle?"
"That is where I need your advice," said Harry, "I would be able to plant the items in the forest but I'm not quite sure how to go about getting false information to Voldemort."
"Well you can't learn everything in one night. Let's consider who could have passed the information to Tom Riddle, either directly or by inadvertent comment." Nigellus sat back in his chair and waited for Harry to speak.
Harry contemplated for a moment and began, "The five willy readers, any of the headmasters or headmistresses in this room who have communication to the outside, any of the Ministry officials that were here when Dumbledore made his pronouncement of being a complete Porcrux, and of course, anyone that any one of those individuals has talked to. I would say that the most likely on the list is one of the ministry officials. There hasn't been time to talk to many people about what happened. I trust the willy readers and the Headmasters and Headmistresses."
Nigellus cut Harry short, "Do you mean to say that you trust even me?"
"Yes Headmaster," said Harry honestly, "If I didn't trust you I wouldn't have talked to you about my plans."
"What has changed your mind about me?" asked Nigellus appraisingly.
"I figure that anyone who has lost family members to Voldemort wouldn't be very keen on helping him." said Harry.
"Your trust in others may prove to be your downfall Potter. You hold noble ideals and you must learn not to ascribe those same ideals to others. There are Death Eaters who willingly participated in the murder of family members, not the least of which was my great-granddaughter Bellatrix. So you see, trust is not something you should give easily. You should always be uncomfortable in trust. Remember Principles #9 and #10." Nigellus finished his berating and sat back in his chair.
"Do you mean I shouldn't trust you?" asked Harry.
"I believe that Dumbledore has already told you that he didn't think you could completely trust him, I echo the sentiment where I am concerned." Nigellus let the words sink in before continuing, "Trusting no one is the only way you can protect your plans, the only way to keep yourself safe. It is one of the reasons that Tom Riddle held power for so long. He didn't, and still doesn't, trust his supporters. Indeed he was quite famous for killing his own supporters at the first hint of duplicity. A point you would do well to learn."
Harry was angry. He didn't want to emulate Voldemort's example. He didn't want others to believe that a quest for power was his motivation. He fought the pressing desire to argue with Nigellus, to yell, to curse, to throw things. As he fought and regained internal self-control, he looked intently at the portrait of Nigellus, swallowed, and began, "I understand what you are trying to teach me. I appreciate the caution and I will give it careful consideration, but I will put my trust in whom I will." Harry wondered at a trace of a smile on Nigellus' face.
"Well, well, you show more restraint and force of character than I had anticipated. If you can truly blend Slytherin tactics and Gryffindor ethos you will be a formidable opponent for Tom Riddle. That is supposing he doesn't kill you before you have a chance to learn how to defend yourself." After a slight pause Nigellus continued, "Now let's discuss the rest of your plan."
Harry recognized the veiled threat and filed it away for later consideration. Then, bringing his attention back to the subject at hand, he outlined his thoughts on who among the ministry officials was the most likely to allow information to get to Voldemort.
Some were on the list as likely active participants, others as the incautious or vainglorious; those who would speak to show how much they knew, without considering possible consequences.
Nigellus listened intently, added a few comments and suggestions and the plan was finalized.
They had barely finished when there was a knock at the door. Dumbledore spoke up, "Harry would you please answer the door, your meals are here."