SIGNED, SEALED AND DELIVERED
Harry noticed the thin silver webs were making and breaking connections, ebbing and flowing, in constant motion. As the portrait was set upright, Harry could see burn marks of scorched silver in the dragon skin tablecloth. He also noticed, for the first time, that the runes incised into his chair and table glowed with the same silver-grey light, but the edges were indistinct. They looked like a tattered piece of old parchment, or the edge of a lace tablecloth, a bit irregular and fuzzy. Harry was startled as he looked up from the table, in the split second as his eyes traveled upward, the scorch marks, and the runes ceased to glow. He looked back down and the glow was there again. Suddenly, Harry realized that he was still wearing Dumbledore's glasses. Harry had assumed that the glasses had been bewitched just to read the willy. Now, he thought that maybe there was more to them than first met the eye. As a test, he tipped his head back, just enough to look at his surroundings through the glasses. He gasped involuntarily in amazement. Each of his companions, to different degrees, emanated a glow around them. As his eyes scanned the room, there was a faint, tattered glow from the polished wood and the very stone that made up the castle. The portion of the bookcase that Moody had split in two had a slightly different hue of silver and the edges were more distinct. McGonagall's coverings, that had formed themselves to the windows, fireplace and doors, no longer glittering gold, now glowed almost fire-red. Some of the instruments in the various cases glowed; some with sharp edges, others with an odd, tattered-edge look. Books on the shelves exhibited the same characteristics. From the brightness of some of the books, Harry guessed he could probably read them in the dark. As his gaze swept the room, he noted three objects emitting a fiercely bright, tattered glow. The sorting hat (which Harry thought always looked a little tattered), and the sword of Godric Gryffindor glowed red, and an oddly shaped box sitting on the huge oak Headmaster's desk suffused a golden glow. As Harry tipped his head forward and scanned the room, it resumed its "normal" appearance. Harry's double scan of the room, and his involuntary gasp, seemed to have gone unnoticed by anyone except Moody, who appraised Harry with a knowing look and then a nod.
McGonagall, with a quick glance at her companions, said with some degree of urgency, "We need to finish this reading as quickly as possible, please continue, Alastor."
Moody broke his gaze from Harry and returned his attention to the business at hand. "Wingardium Leviosa" said Moody. Dumbledore's portrait rose and silently sailed across the room to its former position.
As Harry watched the portrait come to a halt, he realized it wasn't actually touching the wall, but hovered some ten or so inches away.
Moody, rising from his chair, said "Please come with me for the signing."
Harry made to take off Dumbledore's glasses, with the intent of replacing them with his own, when he noticed Moody slowly shake his head "no." Harry re-folded his own glasses and placed them in his pocket and then rising, followed the others.
Moody stopped in front of the hovering portrait, turned to the others and said, "We will each make the sign of the willy we read. I'll go first." At which Moody took his wand and drew a sign in the air. It hovered momentarily and then with a wave, Moody sent it toward the portrait of the snoozing Dumbledore. The glowing sign stopped at the picture frame, navigated its way around the entire perimeter, and finally stopped at a carving in the frame that was an exact match. The glowing sign overlaid the carved sign. As the two joined together, the frame glowed at the edges and the portrait receded slightly toward the wall.
Harry realized he was looking through Dumbledore's glasses again. When he looked over them, he could see neither the sign nor the glow around the portrait. Deciding on a course of action, Harry pushed the spectacles up his nose until he could see everything around him through the glasses.
Unbidden, matching Moody's example, McGonagall made a sign in the air with her wand. She immediately waved the sign toward the portrait. Once again, the sign circumnavigated the frame and mated to the same sign carved in the frame. The sign glowed and the portrait receded toward the wall.
Harry noticed the glow around the portrait seemed to have fractured into tiny hair-like feelers all around the perimeter of the frame. The "feelers" were waving slightly, as if in a gentle breeze.
Arthur Weasley stepped up next, drew a sign in the air and waved it toward the portrait. It too, found its likeness and settled into the frame.
arry noticed the "feelers" around the frame had fractured again, becoming more numerous and much more active in their movements. Once again, the portrait moved closer to the wall.
At that instant, a small pop came from one of the jumbled library shelves. Everyone turned to see what had caused the sound, just in time to see the figure of a small gargoyle fracture and fall in pieces to the floor.
"Quickly! Remus! Potter! Finish this, someone is coming, and I don't think they are going to be patient," said McGonagall, her voice edged with strain.
Remus Lupin stepped forward, made a sign, and without waiting an instant, waved it toward the portrait. The sign seemed to be motivated by Lupin's urgency, as it didn't lazily drift toward the portrait, as the others had done. It sped to the portrait, zoomed around the frame, found its likeness and sank into the frame.
Harry could see the number of tiny "feelers" hadn't multiplied, but their brightness had intensified to the point of being difficult to look at through Dumbledore's glasses.
oom sounded at the door, dust shook from ancient stonework and fixtures, a few books toppled off shelves.
"Quickly, Potter, or we'll lose Dumbledore," McGonagall's words were almost panic driven.
Harry didn't know what to do. This was magic far beyond anything he had learned.
A second boom at the door caused more books to topple. Now, there was additional commotion coming from the fireplace, more popping and booming at the windows.
Moody grabbed Harry by the robes and moved him directly in front of the portrait. Moody said, "Potter, make this sign and wave it in."
As Moody pointed out the sign, Harry realized that he recognized all the runes and signs around the portrait frame. He had learned his ages ago in his muggle primary school, during a project about the Pharaohs of Egypt. He remembered it had meant "life."
Harry quickly made the sign of the ankh and waved it toward the portrait. It found its likeness and melded into the fame. The reaction was immediate. The picture and frame glowed brightly, the miniature "feelers" extended, and the frame and portrait touched the wall.
Quickly now," said Moody, "each of you make a connection with your wand at your sign on the frame, and together we say "Alma Amblicus."
Obeying immediately, the five friends aimed their wands at the portrait.
Moody said, "On three then, one, two, three... "Alma Amblicus."
Streams of different coloured light shot from the five wands and touched the golden portrait frame above their heads on the wall.
The result of the combined spells was remarkable. The portrait and frame seemed to recede slightly and seal itself into the wall. The "feelers" of silver light shot outward, connecting with the other portraits in the room, permeated the stone, burrowed into the woodwork, and filled the room with a veritable spider web of silver connections.
The booms, pops, and commotions at the door, fireplace and windows were getting more and more pronounced.
"Minerva," Lupin said calmly, "I believe someone wants to come in, and I believe that something needs to be let out. Would you please, carefully, remove the seals on the room."
"Gladly," said McGonagall, starting with the fireplace, she pointed her wand and said, "Repato." Several people tumbled out of the fireplace and onto the floor, among them a soot-covered Dolores Umbridge.
In quick succession, McGonagall pointed her wand at the windows and the door, and then making an arc the opposite direction from her original, she said "Repato." The windows and doors burst open and more bodies spilled into the room in a pile.
Harry could see Rufus Scrimgeour on the bottom of the scrum near the door. One wizard, his face bearing an expression of mortal terror, had his hand stuck in the mirrored panel of the entrance door. Percy Weasley burst through one of the windows. He and his broom were immediately pinned to the wall by the wave of wizards and brooms behind him. Pandemonium reigned. Unridered brooms zoomed around the room. Witches and wizards, still in their best funeral robes struggled to extricate themselves from piles and regain their dignity.
Scrimgeour was the first to speak through the chaos, "I want Dumbledore's orb. I demand to verify the reading of his last willy and testament at the Ministry of Magic building immediately."
"I'm sorry, but that won't be possible," said McGonagall flatly.
Scrimgeour took in the scene; the willy and testament table and chairs, the empty orb in its elaborate gold retainer, the sleeping portrait of Dumbledore on the wall, the motionless willy instruments. Almost expectantly, he said, "Did you attempt a reading and something went wrong, or," a bit more hopefully than he intended, "did Dumbledore neglect to fill and seal his orb?"
"I'm happy to report that neither of those unfortunate events have occurred," said the slightly smiling McGonagall.
"Well then, what in the fires of Pompeii is going on?" growled Scrimgeour.
Lupin stepped forward. "As per Dumbledore's request, we have read his last willy and testament. And by opening the doors and windows, you have helped deliver Dumbledore's reading."
"Impossible," snarled Scrimgeour, "Dumbledore's funeral just ended. There hasn't been time for a full reading."
Looking up, Harry realized that the fine lines extending from the portrait ran out the door, the windows and the fireplace. He also saw that the other portraits of headmasters and headmistresses had similar lines running from their frames. Some had only one or two connecting lines, others had many, but none had the number nor the brilliance of the "feelers" Harry could see running from Dumbledore's portrait.
"Ask him yourself," rumbled Moody, motioning to the portrait now hanging placidly on the wall. "As you'll see, he's been signed, sealed, and thanks to you opening the door, delivered."
All eyes turned as one to the portrait. Dumbledore's chin rested on his neatly steepled fingers. His eyes, now open, sparkled with a brilliance that bore more than testimony to the skill of the artist. He seemed to be watching with restrained amusement the scene unfolding below him.
"Friends! Friends! Friends!" rolled Dumbledore's deep voice, "How good of you to see me through this difficult time."
Thrilled to his core, Harry's thoughts spun. "Can this really be happening!"
He had heard that tone before and he knew Dumbledore (?) was genuinely pleased to see everyone. His heart soared at the prospect of talking to Dumbledore again. He had been lost to despair just a few short hours ago, now there appeared a small ray of hope on the horizon.
However, his joy at the turn of events was not reflected in all of the faces in the room. Indeed, he thought that if it hadn't been so unMinister-like, Rufus Scrimgeour would have stamped his feet, or sworn, or thrown something at the portrait; possibly all three. As it was, the Minister of Magic held his tongue and turned a ghastly shade of purple. Harry feared for the Minister's health for a moment, caught himself in the odd thought; tried to work up a good feeling of ill will against Scrimgeour, couldn't, and gave it up as a bad job.
"You see, Minister," continued Dumbledore warmly, "My friends have done exactly as I asked. Here I hang, a completely contented Porcrux."
A collective gasp sounded through the room. Additional sounds of protest and disbelief rattled from person to person.
"Porcrux! That's impossible!" sputtered Scrimgeour.
"Ah, I see," said Dumbledore, amusement in his voice, "as the Minister of Magic, you would know what is impossible. Still, here I am."
Bested, the Minister tethered the words he wanted to say, vowing to let them loose another day. He glanced at his pocketwatch, turned sharply and said, "We're done here," and started toward the door.
Scrimgeour's departure was halted by Professor McGonagall. "Minister," she said sweetly, "I took the liberty of having some very sophisticated anti-intrusion devices placed on this office. If, by any chance, any of them were damaged in your anxious quest to see that Professor Dumbledore's willy and testament was correctly signed, sealed and delivered, I would appreciate them being repaired as you leave." As she spoke, she touched the mirrored panel on the outside of the office door, waved her wand at the wizard now up to his elbow in the office door, "Expelliarmus," she said almost casually. The wizard was thrown from the door and out onto the landing.
Scrimgeour paused as if he wanted to say something, thought better of it, and swept from the office, gathering all the other intruders in his wake. Harry noticed moments later, that the broken gargoyle reassembled with a "pop" and returned to its original position on the shelf.
"Well done, Minerva," said Arthur Weasley, "I'm glad we're on the same side in this."
"Yes, well done Minerva," said Dumbledore, "although that was not very friendly. You may not get a position at the Ministry of Magic while Rufus is in charge."
It took a moment to realize that Dumbledore was joking. It dawned on Arthur first, he started to snigger, then Harry, Lupin, Moody, and finally McGonagall joined in the laughter. The relief of tension was palpable.
As the laughter died down, Dumbledore's Porcrux said, "Please shut the windows and door and seal the room, and we will get down to business."