After leaving Ron off at his classroom, Harry hurried to his meeting with Colin in the Great Hall. Colin and several other G2 members were waiting patiently around a table.
"Wotcher Harry!" exclaimed Colin as soon as Harry entered the Great Hall through the immense doors.
"Sorry I've kept you waiting. I got crossways of some magic," said Harry as he took the only unoccupied seat at the table.
"You've caused us no problem," said Dennis. "We got our group sorted just before you came in."
"To begin with," said Colin quickly, "I want you to know that we're dead chuffed to have you with our group. If truth be told, it really comes down to you as the reason we exist. You see, Dennis and I came from an ordinary family in a tiny little village. Dad's a milkman, how much more boring can you get? Any way, I was thrilled and more than a little apprehensive when I got my letter from Hogwarts. I'd never been away from home. I didn't know anyone here, and I was the smallest in class. Even though I was excited, it looked like it would be a dismal time. Then several things happened that set me on my path to create the G2. First I met you. I had never been so close to anyone famous and you put up with my enthusiasm. I watched you fly in the Quidditch matches. I knew I could never accomplish what you could do on a broom, so I desperately wanted a photo that captured the speed and motion of Quidditch. When I learned how to develop photographs to make them move I was ecstatic with the effect. Later, after the basilisk, when Madam Pomfrey un-petrified me, I was more than a bit interested in the mandrake draught that released me. It became very personal."
Colin took a quick breath as if he'd always wanted to get this explanation out and he was worried that if he stopped, he might not be able to finish. He continued immediately, "The two potions seemed to burn a swath in my mind that could only be quenched by learning how they worked. I wanted to know what the individual ingredients lent to the end result. I wanted to know why the specific brewing instructions. I wanted to be able to do what Madam Pomfrey made look so easy. I found others with similar interests, first in Gryffindor, then in other houses. We met clandestinely for years, even during Umbridge's ban, and we've learned a lot. Colin told me that he explained our desire to start our own business selling our Revealor Powder to the Ministry. If we're successful, we actually owe it all to you Harry."
"Putting your life at risk of a basilisk hardly sounds like something to thank me for," remarked Harry.
"I'm serious Harry. Had it not been for the catastrophic events surrounding the basilisk; if I hadn't been petrified, we wouldn't have made any of the strides that have characterized the G2."
Harry mused on the sentiment and found Colin echoing Dumbledore's assertion that if the Time-Turner were to be used to remove Voldemort; something worse, something they were unprepared to meet, could be the result.
"You're right," Harry said forcefully. "We are what we are today because of yesterday's trial and experiences. Let's see if we can add to our experience pile shall we?"
"We're game," said Colin, and heads bobbed in agreement around the table. "We've been practicing with the magnetic bottle, and with your help, we'd like to take another crack at the magic behind the mirror on the fourth floor."
"Right then," said Harry enthusiastically. "Let's go!"
Harry led them through the castle to the fourth floor pier glass. When they drew up in front of the mirror, to Harry's satisfaction, not one look of fear was evident.
Dennis came forward. "Harry we've considered this. Would you be offended if we tried our hand at this without your direct help? If we get in trouble, we'd appreciate you stepping in."
Harry's initial reaction was to feel put upon for being used only for his escort privileges. He quickly mastered the inclination as the G2 took up positions around the mirror. Harry put the crucible and unicorn hair to the side and waited for the G2 to act.
Colin danced the jig as the others assumed combat stances. With satisfaction, Harry noted that they stood in twos and threes to protect each other. As soon as the mirror disappeared, the G2 attacked. Harry watched closely as the magic from each wand began to bend the masking magic. It was immediately apparent that the G2 had practiced. Their spells were perfectly balanced and seamlessly joined. Harry marveled at the control and teamwork. Slowly the masking magic was forced back. Harry noted the intense concentration on each of his schoolmate's faces. No one was taking the exercise for granted.
As the magic was stripped away, a cauldron and table stacked high with ingredients came into view. As the magic wrapped back upon its origination point, it began to glow. A rushing sound, reminiscent of the Hogwarts Express purging its steam cylinders, filled the corridor. The G2 never quailed. They forced the magic into smaller and smaller confines. Finally, a single hard metallic note, like a blacksmith's hammer striking an anvil, rang through the air. A shock wave pounded out of the secret passage. Each pair of students, as if on some prearranged signal, produced shields that protected them from the wave. Harry barely had time to protect himself and then all was quiet.
"I'm impressed," said Harry as he dissolved his shield. "I've spoken with some very powerful wizards about this type of magic. You are to be commended. You have worked together to achieve something that has never been accomplished before. Well done!"
"Is it safe to go in?" asked Dennis, panting from the exertion.
Harry scanned the opening with his glasses and then turned to the G2. "It appears that you have removed all vestiges of the magic."
Trusting Harry's pronouncement, the G2 made their way into the passageway. At the back of the passage, Harry could see the cave-in that the Felix aura had imitated. The G2 began to gather ingredients from the table while Harry satisfied himself that the jumbled stones were real and not another manifestation of masking magic.
After the tasks were finished, Colin turned to Harry. "Thanks! The loss of these ingredients represented a significant financial setback to the G2. With them back in our possession, we can continue our next phase of operations in preparation for the holiday. We really need to get together over holiday."
"We can't do any magic out of school," responded Harry, "but if I can find the time, I'll contact you on your D.A. rings."
"About doing magic during the holiday..." said Dennis sheepishly, "...we worked out a way to avoid detection by the Ministry. At least the Ministry hasn't come calling at our door, and we have continued to practice at our homes. We felt we needed time to come up to scratch with some of our experiments."
Harry's heart rate quickened. "Can you show me?" he asked almost desperately.
"You're having us on, right?" asked Euan.
"No, I'm serious," said Harry.
Euan looked from Colin to Dennis. They nodded. "We thought you already knew," said Euan. "When we saw your protective sphere, we assumed you had perfected the same magic. We just use it as an absorptive boundary. The only time we've ever seen it formed into an actual enclosure was with you and Ginny."
If the situation had been different, Harry would have smacked himself in the forehead. "Of course it would work that way. I've watched it absorb magic from the inside of the sphere. Not something I suggest you attempt, by the way, you could freeze to death in the process."
Members of the G2 nodded at the shared knowledge. Colin replaced the pier glass and turned to Harry. "We've begun to notice commonalities in magic," he said conspiratorially. "Do you think the staff will teach us about that in our seventh year, or do you suppose it is a banned subject?"
"Not sure," said Harry as he rubbed his chin in thought. "It might be that they don't know themselves. I've read extensively and I'm convinced, that apart from Dumbledore, others have not pushed this aspect of magic."
Several members of the G2 murmured agreement, then an awkward silence fell.
"Um Harry," said Colin hesitantly, "Could you take us to the library, only we're quite keen on getting to our experiments now that the supplies are recovered."
"Right," said Harry, "about that...do you have a few minutes to address another magnetic bottle. I see the value in your practice as a team and I could use the help."
The G2 members put their heads together, and after a brief deliberation, Colin spoke up. "You've helped us tremendously. It's only right that we reciprocate. Show us what you have."
Harry smiled and led them back down through the castle to Snape's dungeon office. Several of the G2 members seemed uncomfortable at the notion of going into the office even when its former resident was long gone.
Harry removed his portion of protection and left only Snape's magnetic enclosure.
"Be careful, I lost one wand to this and it was a real task to retrieve it."
"If I didn't know better, I'd think you were hinting we weren't up to this," commented Rose Zeller.
Harry looked at the miniscule Hufflepuff and retreated a step. "Not at all," he stammered. "I just wanted to caution you about what I've experienced. I feel you are completely capable. Especially after what I saw on the fourth floor."
Rose's look softened and she stepped back into the G2. Colin took charge and positioned his crew. Harry noted once again how they protected each other and he was filled with pride at their accomplishments.
The G2 attacked the magnetic phenomenon. Drawing on their recent experience, the bottle was defeated in short order. When the shock wave bounced about the dungeon (doing damage to several of the pickling jars and specimens) the G2 was ready with shield charms in place. No one seemed to break as much as a sweat.
"There you go Harry," said Dennis. Is that all you wanted?"
"Is that all I wanted?" asked Harry incredulously. "You lot made that look a doss. It nearly killed me."
"A multitude of small resources, brought to bear on a single point, can defeat a larger, more powerful force," quoted Rose, then she smiled at Harry.
"Thanks," said Harry. "I'm at a loss for words."
"Well don't talk. I suppose you wanted to find out what was inside, otherwise why the effort. Take a squizz," said Colin.
Harry bent and looked inside the hollow pillar base. He was disappointed to find it completely empty.
"All that for nothing," groused someone from the back of the group.
"Never!" said Dennis. "Think what we have learned. Empty bin and all, I think we've spent our time well."
"Harry, do you think you could drop us at the library?" asked Colin. "We have several more members that will be out of class now, and we promised them we would let them know how we fared."
"How we fared? I'm just happy to be shut of the hospital," said Dennis smiling. "That was one of my greatest fears...having to face Madam Pomfrey again."
"Up we get then," said Harry and as he led them to the library he questioned Colin. "How long will it take you with the G2? Only I have a tricky potion to make, and I may need your help."
"We should be no more than a half-hour. We're just going to inventory our remaining stock of ingredients and portion out the work we want to accomplish during the holiday. I'd be happy to help you after that," said Colin enthusiastically.
"I'll meet you here in about thirty minutes then," said Harry as they rounded the last corner.
Colin nodded understanding and began to usher the G2 into the library. Harry was shocked when Rose paused, stood on tiptoe, and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks Harry," she said timidly. "Your help means a lot to all of us." Then she dodged between stacks of books and was gone.