As Harry prepared to exit the office, he paused momentarily at the doorway. "Would you like the lamps extinguished?" he asked.
"Yes Harry, that would be appreciated," said Dumbledore. Other portraits chimed their agreement.
Harry concentrated and waved his wand, thinking "Nox." The lamps and candles went out simultaneously. Harry closed the door, inwardly satisfied with the resounding click as the lock sealed the door. Harry paused on the landing. He decided that he should carefully consider every step he took now, there was really no one to protect him, his fate was in his own hands. "What do I have for resources?" Harry thought as he looked through his pockets. "A Time-Turner, an invisibility hanky, my wand and nothing else; not even the Marauder's Map. I packed everything away for the train trip back to London." Harry considered the missing invisibility cloak. A thought burned in his mind, "I wonder if the cloak has been taken yet? Was it taken when the Ministry searched the train? If not, maybe I would have time after I'm done with Binns, to get to it before someone else does." Harry gave the plan little chance. He knew Dumbledore was specific about the one hour and fifteen minutes time frame to return. Harry didn't know if a few extra minutes would hurt, but he had decided to try to follow Dumbledore's instructions exactly. "How to most quickly and safely get to Binns' classroom?" Even without the map, Harry could see the shortest route in his mind's eye. An idea swelled in his mind. He pulled out the invisibility hanky and laid it on the landing. "Engorgio," he said aiming his wand at the shimmering cloth. Harry didn't know if a spell would work on a powerfully charmed object, but to his satisfaction, the cloth enlarged until it was the size of a bath towel. Twice more Harry used the spell and finally the cloth had reached the size of a traveling cloak. Harry noticed that the cloth no longer looked substantial; it had a thin, transparent look to it. Harry picked it up and placed it over his arm. His arm lost its solid appearance. In the flickering torchlight of the landing, his arm had the pearly appearance of a ghost. "Better than nothing," thought Harry, "In the dark it will be nearly perfect." Wrapping the near invisibility cloak around him, Harry spiraled down the stairs, gave the password to the gargoyle and hurried down the corridor. He had gone only a few paces when he was startled by the noise of his feet on the flagstone floor, "Silencio Profoundo," Harry intoned. "Where did that come from," wondered Harry. Yet, immediately it was as if he was walking on cotton. He couldn't hear his own footfalls. Wand in hand, Harry pelted for Binns' classroom.
Harry neither saw nor heard anyone on his trip through the castle. He was actually a bit embarrassed by the extra time and precautions he had taken. As Dumbledore had said, he was probably as safe here at Hogwarts as anywhere else.
Harry pulled out his timepiece as he entered the classroom. "Six minutes to get here, if it worked it, would be very close," thought Harry.
Harry removed the cloak and stuffed it into his robe pocket, slipped the Time-Turner under his shirt, removed the sound-deadening spell and knocked on the classroom door. The familiar mid-tone monotone of Professor Binns beckoned a disinterested, "Come in."
Professor Binns looked up from what he had been doing. Harry was struck with the thought that he had never asked Sir Nicholas if ghosts needed rest or sleep. Harry thought not, that would only get in the way of their haunting.
Professor Binns, all business, motioned to the bookcase extending along one wall of the classroom and said, "Please retrieve a copy of the course book from the top shelf of the third compartment. It is entitled "Magic."
Harry was slightly interested. "Magic, not History of Magic," he thought, "Patience, maybe it won't be too bad." He retrieved the book. It was very old and dusty and had the word "Magic" embossed on the leather cover and spine in ornate gold lettering. Harry noticed that a similar volume was set in front of Professor Binns.
Binns assumed his customary teaching position and began his monologue; "Professor McGonagall informed me that you attended muggle primary schools before you came to Hogwarts. This may be a decided advantage to you during this course study."
Harry was astounded, this was the first time he had heard a wizard say anything complimentary about muggle methods or programs.
Binns continued, "Muggles take a practical, albeit narrow, view of the world surrounding them. Wizardkind takes much at face value without questioning the "Why" behind what makes things happen. A case in point is magnetism; wizards make use of the phenomenon without question. Muggles however, have studied magnetism until they have a rudimentary understanding of what it is and how it functions. The study and theories would bore most wizards and witches to tears. Therein lies the difference, the benefit your association with the muggle educational system may have had on you. You have been exposed to an analytical learning process that places value on discovering an underlying reason rather than just accepting something at face value. Most young witches and wizards are taught reading and writing, some are taught family histories, and a very few are taught rudimentary magic control before they reach a school like Hogwarts. But by the time they arrive here they have been taught not to question or delve beyond the physical manifestations of magic. They don't ask "Why", they just accept what they are taught."
Harry absorbed the words. Normally he would have been drooping in daydream at such an introduction, but he found himself interested in the concept that muggles had something up on wizards. As Harry rolled the meaning of the words over in his mind, he came to a sudden realization. "I don't know any more about what makes magic work than Mr. Weasley knows about what makes "ekeltricity" work. He likes to collect plugs and batteries but he doesn't have the faintest idea about where electricity comes from, how it is produced, or how the devices are made to function under its power. I'm exactly the same about magic. I don't know anything!" The thought shocked Harry. "I really do need an education!"
Binns had gone on while Harry had been thinking. Harry saw that Professor Binns was looking at the first page of the textbook. Harry did likewise. The text had the look of a chapter book rather than a textbook. It was written in story format instead of information headings and questions. The forward was by Ptolemy Bustus Binns. Harry wondered if that was a relative of Professor Binns.
The forward read:
Never in the history of magic has such an important work been presented in such an easy to understand format. Nicolas Flamel has condensed years of research to present a concise compendium of his study of the power of magic. The judicious student will learn the underlying reasons of the why and how of magic. Incorporation of the powerful concepts presented in this book will embolden every witch and wizard to reach out to power heretofore untapped. "Magic," as Flamel pens, "is all around us. We have but to learn what it is to fully control our own potential." This text gives the average witch or wizard an opportunity to control more fully power that is taken for granted and expand powers yet unrealized. I wholly encourage your undivided attention.
Ptolemy Bustus Binns
Harry was even more intrigued. Dumbledore's old alchemy partner Nicolas Flamel had written this book. Harry was actually excited to start the material.
"Professor Binns," Harry raised his hand and started, "Are you related to Ptolemy Bustus Binns?"
"My dear boy, I am Ptolemy Bustus Binns!" said a momentarily beaming Professor Binns. Professor Binns then reverted to his usual dull demeanor and began a droning overview of the chapter and the class goals.
Ignoring Professor Binns, Harry reread the forward carefully. Here was a connection between Nicolas Flamel and Hogwarts. Nicolas Flamel had written about the things that he had learned during his six hundred fifty year life. Dumbledore and Flamel had been alchemy partners in producing the Philosopher's Stone. If Harry had known this textbook existed, he would have read it of his own accord. He intended to learn as much as he could from it now that he had been introduced to it.
Binns had ceased talking. Harry realized that he had missed something important while he had let his mind run. Binns, with a little impatience, said, "Young man, did you hear what I asked you? Do you have any questions?"
Harry quickly tried to piece together the snatches of Binns' words he had heard. Something about "no time to read just now." Harry decided to face the music. "Professor Binns, I apologize, but I wasn't paying close enough attention. Would you please go over that again?"
Binns seemed shocked. A student admitting that he hadn't been paying attention, instead of trying to bull his way through on bravado. Amazing! "Yes, well, as I was saying, we won't be reading the text during class. Professor McGonagall indicated that you would have questions about specific areas of magic. Your questions will tell me where I should focus your remedial education. So, once again, do you have any questions?"
Harry did have questions. Loads of them. Where to start? There were several questions that were burning in Harry's mind. He decided to take Professor Binns at his word. "Professor Binns, what exactly is magic?"
"An excellent question and an excellent place to start," said Binns, "One that very, and I stress very, few witches or wizards ever ask. It is much like asking, "Why do we have to breathe?" or "What are we breathing?" Most never take thought to ask these questions. It just never crosses their minds. To them, some things just are. In fact I can only remember two other students who asked that question after we discontinued the use of Flamel's textbook. You see, Nicholas Flamel studied that very question along with a host of other interesting subjects. You will find the complete answer in the text under your elbow." Binns motioned to the book on Harry's desk and then continued, "The short answer is that we are surrounded by vast amounts of unseen energy and we are surrounded by vast amounts of empty space. The desk at which you are sitting appears solid enough to you doesn't it? Yet if you could examine it very closely, you would find tiny particles that make up the very substance of the wood and metal. Those particles are made up of mostly open space. Magic is the ability to master the creation and movement of energy through that open space. These are concepts that most of wizardkind find difficult to grasp."
Harry had no problem grasping the concept. He had learned about atoms and molecules and non-visible energy in primary school. But no teacher had ever said anything about joining the two concepts. "Muggles understand the concepts, Wizards understand the application!" Harry said excitedly.
"Very good, young fellow,' said Binns, "We're off to an excellent start. You will find the in-depth answers within the covers of this text." Binns pointed to his copy of "Magic." Let's press on shall we, we have only about forty five minutes for the remainder of this session."
Harry was torn, he actually wanted the session to go on longer, but his plan depended on ending it on time. There was just so much to ask, so much to learn. "Professor Binns," said Harry there are several other things I was hoping you could help me with tonight. I have seen house elves and goblins use magic. They never seem to use words or wands. Can you help me understand how they do that?"
Binns looked more appraisingly at Harry and began, "You ask questions which cause me to think that you have prepared thoughtfully for this class. In my experience that is unusual behavior in a remedial student. At any rate, your initial observation is correct. Some creatures are more attuned to the energy, the magic, available. Some act as tuning forks or witching rods for the magic...house elves for example, have the ability to tap and use tremendous magic reserves without the use of wands. Nicholas Flamel devotes two chapters to that very subject. Due to the control that house elves have over magic, if it were in their nature, they could dominate the wizarding world. It is much like the strength of our giant squid. If it desired, it could render our lake unusable; but it is not in its nature to try and dominate humans. Goblins on the other hand, have learned by practice to become attuned to the magic available. They distrust wands. They distrust anything they didn't make with their own hands. They have accessed a darker magic than most wizards delve."
Harry considered the words and pressed, "Professor, we practiced nonverbal spell work in class, but is there a way to practice magic without a wand?" Harry held his breath waiting for the answer.
"Yes it can be done," said Binns. Then after a thoughtful pause, "Some children exhibit the ability to utilize magic at a very early age without words, wands, or training. Those uses are generally brought about by an enhanced emotion. For example; fear, pleasure, hate, envy, love, anger, etc. can be catalysts for focused uses of magic. The magic is usually not controllable, and the outcomes are generally, shall we say, unfortunate. This ability seems to diminish as we age, but there are anecdotal reports of witches and wizards who have enough focus to do magic, well...as if by magic!"
Harry thought back on his experience with Dudley and Piers and the snake at the zoo. Aunt Marge floating high in the air suddenly caught in his mind. Harry realized that he had done magic without words and without a wand. "I've done it before, I'm sure I can do it again! I can't wait to practice," thought Harry excitedly.
"Time is getting short," said Binns, "I believe we have time enough to address one more question. What will it be then?"
Harry knew that his next question might do more than end the session. He had seen some wizard's reaction to the subject he was about to question and he knew he was on thin ice. "Professor," Harry began tentatively, "I have been wondering about Professor Dumbledore's complete Porcrux, is it a portion of his soul like a Horcrux?" Harry studied Binns for a reaction. It seemed as if the ghost's visage rippled for a moment. Harry's question was answered with a question.
"Did you say that Dumbledore has achieved a Porcrux, a complete Porcrux?" asked Binns in disbelief.
"Yes," said Harry matter-of-factly, "I have spoken with him myself. It is most amazing to have a meaningful conversation with a portrait."
"Amazing is truly the correct description," said Binns, "The number of complete Porcruxes is miniscule. You see, much forethought and preparation has to go into the groundwork for a Porcrux. There are the ingredients and artistic talent necessary for the portrait. There is the question of willy readers powerful enough to get an untainted reading. You have to have the correct instruments, the correct storage orb, carefully thought out memory extractions, and finally there is the price."
"The price?" asked Harry as he wondered how much it cost to make a Porcrux.
"Yes, the price," concluded Binns, "You see, you have to give your life willingly for another to complete a Porcrux and then the one you sacrificed for has to be one of the readers of your willy. A rather intricate piece of magic!"
Harry reeled in thought, "The others said that Dumbledore asked for me to be the fifth reader. Had Dumbledore expected to give his life for one of us? Had Dumbledore known that he was going to sacrifice his life for my life? How much more was there to Dumbledore than I have suspected?"
Binns interrupted Harry's thought line. "I digress," said Binns almost apologetically, "Your question was about Porcruxes and Horcruxes."
Harry thought he saw Binns shudder at the mention of Horcruxes. "Here is where I get the shuffle," thought Harry. He was surprised when Binns continued.
"Porcruxes and Horcruxes are at almost the opposite ends of the magic spectrum. A Porcrux requires the ultimate personal sacrifice for someone else. A Horcrux requires the most selfish intent and the death of an innocent. A Porcrux is knowledge, emotions, personality, wisdom and friendships and as noble as these things are, they are far from a soul. However when a soul is fractured during the creation of a Horcrux it becomes less than a complete soul; it becomes more like a Porcrux in substance. The orb that holds a wizard's willy could not hold an undivided soul. A complete soul is made of a much finer matter, indiscernible with normal senses. A soul would flow through the orb as water through a cloth."
"Could a fractured soul be held in a willy orb?" asked Harry. He dared hope that the answer might help him on his way to defeat Voldemort.
"Each time a soul is fractured it becomes more and more coarse. It is my opinion that, yes, one could store a Horcrux in a willy orb. That would not be wise however, because the orbs are too fragile for something as important as a soul." Binns fell silent. After a moment's contemplation he began again, "Young fellow, this has been a most remarkable remedial magic lesson. If I didn't know better, I would say this was a revisions course for Auror's training. Your questions have been insightful and thought provoking. We are actually five minutes early. Not enough time for more questions, so we shall leave it a bit early. I look forward to our next session."
"I look forward to our next session as well," said Harry truthfully. As Harry picked up the textbook and placed it in his bag, one more question popped into his head, "Professor, you said that only two other people had asked about magic, would you mind telling me who they were?"
"Not at all," said Binns, "The first was Albus Dumbledore, the second was many years later; a dark haired boy named Tom Riddle."
Harry's stomach dropped. He had mixed emotions about being in that particular company.
"Young fellow, " said Binns as Harry was exiting the classroom, "I neglected to get your name for my attendance record."
It dawned on Harry that Binns had never used his name. How odd. "Potter," said Harry, "Harry Potter." The last image Harry had of Binns was the stunned look on the ghost's face as he toppled forward off his stool and fell straight through the floor.