Part 6: December 1991 – January 1992
Wednesday, 25th December 1991
Gryffindor first-year boys’ dormitory, very early in the morning.
“Wake up, Harry!”
“Wake up! Wake up! ’Tis the season!”
“You’ve got presents, Harry!”
Torn out of his sleep by the cheerful voices, Harry slowly opened his eyes to see the blurry forms of three eager flitlings.
He grabbed his glasses from his nightstand and put them on as he sat up in bed. No, it wasn’t a dream. Yellow, Magenta and Cyan were all perched on his bed.
He’d barely seen them for weeks. In fact, he hadn’t seen Yellow or Magenta at all. Ever since that talk with Hermione back in November, he’d tried to find time to go see the flitlings, but they had been curiously hard to get ahold of. The only one of them he’d actually seen was Cyan… and Cyan was sweet and all, but she was absolutely impossible to get answers from. When he’d asked her about the mysterious Fae girl, she’d just giggled and said it was a secret. When he’d asked her where Yellow and Cyan were, she’d giggled even more and said that was an even bigger secret.
But here they were, all three of them, on Christmas morning, perched on his bed and looking unashamedly eager and chipper.
“Where have you been?!” he exclaimed.
“And a very merry happy to you too, Harry!” said Yellow cheerfully.
“No, no, no,” said Magenta. “it’s either ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Christmas’! Not ‘merry happy’! You just sound like you can’t make up your mind!”
“Okay, how about ‘seasons greetings’ then?”
“That makes you sound like a Christmas card!”
Harry opened his mouth and then closed it again. On one hand, he was happy to see Yellow and Magenta again. On the other hand, he’d forgotten just how annoying they could be when they got going like this. “Er… hey! Girls!“ he tried. “Where have you been? And what are you even doing here? I thought you weren’t allowed in the castle!”
“We’re not,” said Cyan. “But “We got special permission to come here this morning because you and Ron are the only ones in this dormitory now! Besides, we had to deliver your presents!”
“Presents?” said Harry. He looked towards the foot end of his bed, and what he saw there chased away all other thoughts: there were a small pile of parcels.
Christmas presents. For him.
“I’ve got presents?!” he said in astonishment.
“Yeah, what were you expecting, turnips?” came Ron’s voice from the bed next to his. Ron was sitting up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and grinning at Harry. “Hey, you three, it’s been a while. Happy Christmas!”
“See?” said Magenta to Yellow. “He gets it!”
Ron scooted over to the pile of presents on his own bed, a rather larger pile than Harry’s. “Er, by the way, Harry,” he said, “If you find one from my family, I might have told Mum you weren’t expecting many presents… she may have knitted you a jumper.”
“I wasn’t expecting any presents,” said Harry, overwhelmed. “But… I didn’t get your family anything. I didn’t get you anything,” he realized to his horror. “I didn’t get anyone anything. I didn’t think…!”
“Then it’s a good thing that we did!” said Magenta. “Check the brown paper one, Ron!”
Ron held up a parcel, wrapped in brown paper. “Says it’s from… The House of Harry?”
“That’s us!” Cyan cheered. “Harry, Hedwig, Yellow, Magenta and me! And I suppose the cat lady, though she’s more of an auxiliary member. We made sure every student in your year got a present from the House of Harry!”
“Wha — even Malfoy? Even Crabbe and Goyle and Pansy?” said Harry. He tried not to imagine Malfoy’s face as he discovered a present from ‘The House of Harry.’
“Uh-huh!” Cyan giggled and rose up in the air, flying around giddily. “I soooo wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t spoil the surprise! Open it, Ron, open it!”
Ron had unwrapped the parcel and examined the contents. “It’s a jar of honey?”
“Hope you enjoy it!” said Cyan.
“Er… don’t take this the wrong way, really grateful and everything… but this honey doesn’t come from Faerie, does it?” said Ron. “You know, humans and Fae food…”
“Oh, no, it’s safe,” said Magenta. “This honey comes from Cornwall… There’s a beekeeper in Tinworth who’s a Squib. The cat lady knows him, so she bought the honey, then Yellow and I flew over to Tinworth to get it, and then we got Hedwig to help us deliver all the jars! It took some time to get it all ready, but in the end —”
“So that’s what you’ve been up to!” said Harry. “That was the big secret Cyan kept going on about?”
Cyan giggled. “Surprise!” she said.
“I couldn’t figure out where… wait,” Harry interrupted himself. “You’ve given honey to everyone?!”
“Of course!” said Yellow. “Honey’s the best present!”
“Everyone?! Hermione, Malfoy, Seamus, Lavender, Neville, that Hufflepuff girl who scowls at everyone… right now, they’re all discovering that they’ve got a jar of honey from the House of Harry?!”
“Yep! Even got one for you! By the way,” Yellow went on with a poorly-hidden hungry look at Ron’s jar, “if you want to share it, that’s fine…”
Ron burst out laughing. “Honey from the House of Harry. That’s brilliant!”
Harry wasn’t certain he agreed. He barely knew some of the people the flitlings had given honey to… and some of them he didn’t want to know any better.
Before he could comment on this, though, Cyan piped up: “You haven’t opened a single present, Harry! Go on, open one!”
“Why just one?” said Yellow. “Can’t he open them all?”
“Oh yeah. Open them all, Harry!”
The pile of presents was too alluring. For now, at least, Harry decided to forget everything about Malfoy or Fae girl questions and just concentrate on his first ever real “Christmas haul.”
The first present was the promised jar of honey. (Well, it was better than the presents the Dursleys had given him back when they were still Dursleys; the absolute low point had been the year when they gave him a used paper tissue.) Hagrid had given him a homemade wooden flute, Hermione had given him a box of Chocolate Frogs, Ron and his family had given him a large box of fudge and the home-knitted jumper Ron had mentioned.
The last parcel was soft and light, and was accompanied by a note that simply said, in a narrow, loopy writing he didn’t recognize: “Your father left this in my possession when he died. It is time it was returned to you. Use it well. A very merry Christmas to you.”
“Wow,” said Ron as he saw the silvery grey cloth fall out onto Harry’s bed. “Harry… I think I know what that is.”
Wednesday, 25th December 1991
Unused Hogwarts classroom, late night.
Harry tried to get his breathing back under control as he listened to the footsteps dying away. He’d managed to escape — Snape and Filch hadn’t caught him. Best to lay low for a few minutes, though; even with the Invisibility Cloak there was no point in taking too many chances.
He turned around to look at the room he’d entered. It seemed like an unused classroom, with desks and chairs piled against the wall… but there was something else too, something that you wouldn’t see in most classrooms: A large, full-body mirror with an ornate gold frame, so tall that it almost reached the ceiling.
There was something inscribed on the frame. Harry had to squint to read it in the darkness… but it looked like complete gibberish. Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi.
Harry stepped up to the mirror, pulling his Invisibility Cloak tighter around himself. Perhaps he could take the opportunity to check and see if he was still invisible —
He had to stop himself from letting out a startled yelp. He whirled around to look behind him, but nobody was there. Heart pounding furiously in his chest, he turned back to look in the mirror again. There she was… tall, willowy and green, with pointy ears and flowers in her hair.
She looked just like his memories of her. Or almost. Maybe it was because he had last seen her when he was a baby, but he hadn’t remembered just how impossibly, inhumanly beautiful she was.
Almost as if in a trance, he stepped closer. He didn’t even know how or why, but at the moment all he wanted to do was to step in through the mirror to join her on the other side… but he only touched a cold, hard surface. The mirror was solid.
From the mirror, Lady Vidia smiled at him. “Well, this is a surprise,” she said. Her voice sounded distant, with a tinny sort of echo, as if she was speaking into a tin can. “The Mirror of Erised is at Hogwarts these days? Who knew?”
Harry gaped at her.
“Curious that I’m what you see in the Mirror, isn’t it?” said Lady Vidia. “I would have thought an orphan like you would have seen your parents or something, but you see me instead. It must have something to do with our connection.”
Harry tried to say something. His voice caught in his throat and all that came out of him was an embarrassing choked sound.
Lady Vidia chuckled. Even with the tinny echo, her laughter sounded sweet and melodious. “Take off that silly Cloak, will you? It’s not polite to be invisible when talking to people.”
Almost as if it had its own mind, the Invisibility Cloak slid off Harry’s shoulders and fell soundlessly to the floor.
“There we go, that is much better,” said Lady Vidia. “Well, well. Hello, Harry. Out investigating, I see. Find out anything interesting?”
“You’re Hagrid’s aunt…I — I remember you. You held me when I was a baby, and gave me seven favours.” Harry’s voice had returned, but sounded weird and distant and was saying silly things he hadn’t planned on saying.
“I remember that too,” she smiled. “You have five favours left, by the way. How is your scar?”
“Er… fine,” said the weird and distant voice.
“It doesn’t hurt or anything?”
“Not that I’ve ever noticed,” said the weird and distant voice.
“Good! And how are my little flitlings treating you?”
“Er… I… What are you doing in a mirror?” said Harry in his normal voice, and almost jumped at the sudden change.
If she had noticed the change, she didn’t let on. “You summoned me,” she answered.
“I… summoned you?”
She nodded. “Not consciously. But, any mortal, wizard or human, who gazes into the Mirror of Erised will see their heart’s greatest desire. A starving human will see a great feast. A wizard who misses a loved one, will see that loved one, clear as day. Their greatest desire,” She smiled. “And your greatest desire appears to be… me.”
“That… that doesn’t make any sense,” said Harry. “I mean, I don’t even know you. Why would I desire —?”
“Desires only have to make sense to the heart. Nobody said they had to make sense to the mind,” said Lady Vidia. “Do you know what this Mirror is, Harry? No, of course you wouldn’t. All mirrors are in some way connected to Faerie, but the Mirror of Erised has a stronger connection than most. No one knows who made it, or why…. but it has been around for a long time. It was made back the days when Faerie and the mortal realm were closer… back when the Folk still freely wandered the mortal realm.” There was a slight wistful undertone in her voice. “Back then, humanity both worshipped us and whispered our names in terror. We were gods, Harry. Feared but adored. But it didn’t last…”
“What happened?” said Harry, breathlessly.
She shrugged. “Civilization. Humans conquered more and more land, they forged iron, they built big cities. The world changed, and we didn’t. At least not fast enough to keep up with it. Faerie grew farther away, our ties to your world lessened.” A smile played around her lips, the wistful undertone vanishing from her voice. “But it never went away entirely. There are still places… even objects and artefacts…this Mirror among them… that remember the merry laughter of Spring, the passionate love of Summer, the wistful courage of Autumn, the deep longing of Winter... she sheer desire of mortals and Fae alike. The Mirror reflects the magic of Faerie, among the trapped echoes it finds your deepest, most desperate desires, and show them to you. That’s the beauty, and the cruelty of it.”
“What do you mean, cruelty?”
“Well… have you ever heard the saying that desire and despair are twins? Imagine being able to see the object of your desire, see it so closely you could swear you would be able to touch it… and yet you can’t get to it. The Mirror only shows you your greatest desire. It can’t get you your greatest desire. It can’t tell you if your greatest desire is even possible, much less how to achieve it.”
“Exactly. Many a mortal has wasted away in front of this Mirror, staring at what they so desperately wanted but couldn’t have. That’s why the Mirror of Erised is known as a device of both great beauty and great torment.”
Harry paused, digesting all this. “But,” he finally said. “In my case, the Mirror did get me what I wanted, didn’t it? If I wanted to see you —”
She chuckled. “But can you be certain it’s really me you’re seeing, and not just some reflection of what you hope I’ll be like?”
“Er.” Harry hadn’t thought about that.
“That’s the problem with mirrors, Harry. Not just this one; any mirror. You think they always tell the truth, but miss that it’s a deceptive truth. You see what they give, but ignore what they take away. In its own way, any mirror can be as cruel and as deceptively honest as the Mirror of Erised.” She smiled. “But perhaps you’ll learn more about that when you’re older. For the moment, let’s just say that while you are talking to the real me… it doesn’t mean I can give you all the answers you want. There are rules that must be followed.”
“Maybe you’ll find those out when you’re older as well.” There was something teasing in her tinny voice.
He scowled. “You’re making fun of me.”
“Only a little, and with great love.” She smiled. “You should think about putting your Cloak back on and returning to your bed soon, though. A growing boy needs his sleep.”
“I can’t sleep now,” he protested. “Not after all this!”
“Yes, you can,” she said. “Because I’m going to help you sleep. Call it a Christmas gift… we don’t actually celebrate Christmas in Faerie, but I might as well get into the spirit. Especially after that nice jar of honey the House of Harry sent me.”
Harry was startled. “The flitlings gave you honey too?”
“Oh, yes. It was quite good honey too. I’m going to have to remember the name of that beekeeper…” There was a twinkle in her eyes. “In fact, now that I think about it, I liked that honey so much that I’ll expand on your gift a little: Before I send you off to bed, I’ll answer one of your questions. It has to be a question I actually can answer, though, as per the rules. You have, oh, let’s say three tries to come up with a suitable question.”
“Three tries? Er…” Harry barely had to think before blurting out: “Who is the Fae girl in my year? The one Snape talked about, the one Hagrid and the flitlings won’t tell me about? Is it Hermione?”
“I can’t answer that,” said Lady Vidia. “You want the answer too much. Besides, mysteries like that need to be figured out the old-fashioned way. If I just handed you the solution, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Keep at it, you’ll find out who the girl is eventually. That was your first attempt as a question… you have two left.”
“Oh.” Harry tried to hide his disappointment. That had been the question closest to his mind. He had plenty of others, but… “Then my question is… Who let the troll in on Halloween and why?”
“I think that’s technically two questions,” said Lady Vidia, “But I’ll let that pass, because I don’t actually know who let the troll in. And since I don’t know who, obviously I don’t know why. That’s two attempts, Harry… you only have one attempt left. If I can’t answer your next question either, I’m going to have to send you to bed with no answers.”
Harry wrung his brain. One question. He took a deep breath. “Who’s Nicolas Flamel?”
Her beautiful face lit up in a brilliant smile. “Now, that is a question I can answer!” she said. “Look into my eyes, Harry. Look deep… deeper… that’s it…”
He stared into her eyes. They were a brilliant green and seemed to glow with a soft light… it was almost like they were growing in his mind, filling up his thoughts, taking over his entire being…. the world around him faded, nothing existed except her eyes….
When he woke up, he was back in his bed in Gryffindor Tower. The early morning sun shone in through the window, Ron was snoring in the bed next to his, and he knew exactly who Nicolas Flamel was.
Sunday, 5th January 1992
Slytherin common room, early evening.
“…so it wasn’t just me and Crabbe and Goyle?” said Draco, looking at his fellow Slytherin first-years. “You all got a jar of honey from, huh, the House of Harry? Zabini? Nott? Daphne? You got one too, Pansy?”
The others all nodded.
“Well, then it really doesn’t make any sense,” said Draco. “Why would he do this? He doesn’t like any of us! Especially not after he started hanging out with that Mudblood Granger. There must be some reason for this…”
“It’s probably a prank,” said Blaise. “My family thought the honey might have been cursed or poisoned or something, but my stepfather heroically offered to test it out, and he was totally fine.”
“Did he know he was being heroic when he tested it out?” said Daphne.
“Whatever do you mean?” said Blaise.
“Aren’t you on your sixth stepfather or something? Your sixth very rich stepfather?”
Blaise shrugged. “My mother falls in love very easily. I don’t know what to tell you. It’s not her fault all the blokes she falls for happen to be rich. Or that they all happen to be really accident-prone. Anyway, there was nothing wrong with the honey. If I’m to guess, Potter just sent it as a joke, to see how paranoid we got about it.”
“Joke’s on him, then,” said Pansy. “I threw that jar away. I don’t accept presents from blood traitors.”
“Are you mad?” said Tracey. “Harry Potter sent you a Christmas gift and you threw it away?”
“Oh, and I suppose you kept yours and cherished it with all your heart!” said Pansy with a sneer.
“Of course not! I had my parents sell it at the White Wyvern community auction! Do you know how much money some of those auction fanatics are willing to pay for an actual Christmas present from Harry fucking Potter?”
“There’s no need for that kind of language,” Pansy muttered. “Your family has no dignity.”
“Tell you what, Pansy. Your family can keep your dignity, and my family will take the cash.”
“I just ate it,” said Millicent. “The honey, I mean, not the money. What?” she added as the others looked at her. “It was just honey. Very nice on toast.”
“There has to be something more to this,” said Draco. “If only I could figure out what Potter’s playing at here… And why ‘The House of Harry’? Does he… know something?! Something we don’t, I mean!”
“I’m telling you, he’s just laughing at you being all paranoid,” said Blaise. “Just ignore him. If he doesn’t see that he’s getting to you he’ll get tired of it.”
“You ignore him if you like,” Draco snapped. “I’m going to find out what he’s up to. What he knows, or what he thinks he knows. Crabbe, Goyle, come on!”
Crabbe and Goyle followed him as he strode out of the common room, presumably to the boys’ dormitory to make plans. The other Slytherin first-years watched them go with various expressions of puzzlement.
“Am I the only one who thinks it’s weird that those two never talk?” said Tracey.
“They do talk!” said Pansy. “I’m pretty sure I heard Crabbe say ‘pass the potatoes’ at dinner once. Anyway, Nott doesn’t talk either, and you don’t complain about him!”
“Theodore just prefers not to say anything unless he has something to say,” said Tracey. “Right, Theodore?”
Theodore Nott just shrugged.
Sunday, 5th January 1992
Ravenclaw common room, early evening.
“Okay,” said Michael. “But why honey? Why ‘The House of Harry’? Why did everyone in our year get the same gift? Even Anthony got one, and he doesn’t even celebrate Christmas!”
“I’m sitting right here, you know,” said Anthony. “And there is always the possibility that Potter didn’t know I’m Jewish. I didn’t know he was Christian.”
“Is he Christian?” said Mandy.
“I don’t know. Christian enough to give Christmas gifts, at least.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. Plenty of people who aren’t Christian celebrate Christmas.”
“Can we focus here?” said Michael. “I feel like we’re getting off topic. The question is, is there any particular meaning behind the gift of honey? Is Potter trying to send a hidden message, and if so, what is that message? Padma, your sister’s in Harry’s house, hasn’t she said anything?”
“I told her to ask him,” said Padma. “She thought it was probably a joke of some kind, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in her opinion. Everything’s a joke to Parvati.”
“I suppose it could be a joke,” said Michael. “But what if it isn’t? What if it’s some kind of test? We’re Ravenclaws, we can’t risk getting a reputation as the only house who didn’t understand there was a test. I have examined the honey jar, and there’s nothing magical about it. It comes from Cornwall, a village called Tinworth. Maybe there’s something about Tinworth we should know.”
“Let’s not get too caught up in the origin of the honey.” said Sue. “It’s more likely that the clue lies in the honey itself. What do we know about honey?”
“It’s produced by bees,” said Anthony. “It’s often used in herbal medicine for its antibacterial effects, or as a healthier alternative to sugar. Oh, it doesn’t really spoil, at least not if you keep it sealed; it can stay edible for decades or even centuries… could there be a clue there?”
“You mean Potter wants to tell us that something hasn’t been spoiled?”
“Right,” said Michael. “Let’s write this down. Terry, you’re the fastest writer of us, so you can be the secretary. Get some parchment and a quill.”
“Don’t say please or anything,” Terry muttered.
“Sorry. Please. Now, let’s get to brainstorming. We’re going to solve this if it takes us all week.”
Sunday, 5th January 1992
Hufflepuff common room, early evening.
“Harry gave you a jar of honey for Christmas too?” said Hannah.
“Yes, Hannah,” Megan sighed, rolling her eyes a little. “All the first-years got one. You got one, Justin got one, Ernie got one, Leanne got one, Susan got one….even I got one and I haven’t exchanged a single word with him.”
“Wow,” said Hannah. “I didn’t even think he knew our names. Looks like I was wrong. He’s really a very sweet boy, isn’t he?”
“Absolutely!” said Ernie. “Fame hasn’t given him a big head at all!”
The other Hufflepuffs nodded and agreed that good old Harry Potter was indeed a nice bloke.
Sunday, 5th January 1992
Gryffindor common room, early evening.
“Er — Lavender, it’s okay, you don’t have to hug me,” said Harry, squirming a little in the girl’s surprisingly strong grasp. “I’m glad you liked the honey, but —”
“It was a wonderful gift!” To his absolute horror, Lavender kissed him on the cheek before letting him go. “How did you know honey’s my favourite?”
“You’re sweet, Harry! Almost as sweet as the honey!” Lavender giggled before she skipped off.
“It was a very nice gift,” said Parvati, thankfully more subdued. “Lavender was really happy about it. Did you… did you know how much she likes honey?”
“Er, no. Happy coincidence.”
“Well, it was nice anyway. I hope you mind if I don’t kiss you, though.”
“That’s okay!” Harry hoped his voice didn’t actually sound as high-pitched as he thought it did.
“By the way, Padma wanted to know what this thing with ‘the House of Harry’ was? I told her it was probably a joke.”
“A joke. Yes.” Harry managed to get his voice under control. “Bit of an… inside joke, really. Er, when I found out that the Malfoys called their house ‘Malfoy Manor,’ Ron joked that I could call my house ‘the House of Potter’ and the name kind of stuck.” He was very grateful to Ron for having come up with that story.
Parvati grinned. “I like that,” she said. “Those Malfoys can be so tacky, can’t they? It’s like… yes, we get it, they’re rich. Was the honey an inside joke too, by the way? I couldn’t figure out why you’d give honey to everyone.”
“No, that wasn’t a joke, it — just seemed like a good idea at the time,” said Harry lamely.
Parvati looked at him. Then, luckily, she laughed. “You’re weird, Harry, you know that?”
“I’m starting to think I might be, yeah.”
“But,” Parvati went on. “You’re weird in a nice way.” With a smile she turned and went off to join Lavender.
Harry sank down in one of the armchairs.
Well, that could have gone worse. After the other students had returned to Hogwarts, a fair number of them had come up to him to either thank him for the honey, or to ask him about the House of Harry. Some of them had been genuinely happy (Harry kind of felt bad when he realized how happy Neville had been that someone had sent him a gift at all), but most of them had been rather awkward. Most of the Slytherins had given him a wide berth and given him suspicious glances, but not even Draco Malfoy had actually said anything. He hoped it would continue that way…
“Here!” Hermione’s sudden voice tore him out of his thoughts.
Harry looked up to see her and Ron take seats next to him as they placed a stack of books onto the table in front of him.
“What’s all this?” said Harry.
“Muggle books!” said Hermione. “And a couple of books from the Hogwarts library, but mostly Muggle books. When you sent Hedwig to me with that letter about Nicolas Flamel, I visited all the Muggle libraries and book shops I could think of.”
“Turns out even Muggles know about Nicolas Flamel!” said Ron. “Can you imagine?! Here we are, trying to find out about the bloke in the Hogwarts library, and all the while the Muggles have him in their dictionaries and everything!”
“Yes, but obviously they don’t know he’s still alive, or that he’s a wizard,” said Hermione, sitting down in the chair next to Harry’s. “They just know him and his wife Perenelle as wealthy philanthropists who lived in Paris in the 15th and 16th century. That was before the Statute of Secrecy, so they would have been living openly amongst Muggles then, wouldn’t they? Obviously everything about them being wizards would have been removed from the records… some of the books even say there’s no real evidence they were alchemists.”
“But they were,” said Harry. “I mean, they are. At least Flamel is. He created the Philosopher’s Stone.”
“Yes, but the Muggles don’t know that,” said Hermione. “All they know is legends. There’s a story that in 1357, Flamel bought a mysterious book that he spent years deciphering and translating, and that it was this book that helped him successfully make the Philosopher’s Stone. Most Muggle scholars agree that the story isn’t true, but… hang on, let me see if I find that section.”
She picked one of the books from the table and began thumbing through it. “I didn’t get to read as much as I’d planned this holiday,” she said without looking up. “Lavender and Parvati insisted on getting together.”
“You saw Lavender and Parvati over the holidays?” said Harry, surprised.
“Yes — and Padma, you know, Parvati’s twin from Ravenclaw. She’s very sharp.” Hermione turned a page. “It was Lavender’s idea, that the Gryffindor girls should get together over the holidays. It was… more interesting than I’d thought it would be.”
Harry thought about the things Lavender liked. Fancy clothes, makeup, girls’ magazines, jewellery, giggling. None of it seemed to be even close to the things Hermione liked. “What did you do, then?” he asked.
“Oh, you know.” Hermione didn’t look up from her book. “Girl stuff.”
“Well, I am a girl,” said Hermione, a tad defensively. “It turns out the other girls aren’t so bad once you learn a little more about…” She trailed off.
“About what?” said Ron curiously.
“Them,” said Hermione. “Lavender and Parvati, I mean. I think I understand them better now. Especially Lavender.”
“Did you find out about the Fae girl?” said Harry.
“Fae girl?” said Hermione, as if it was the first time she had heard about it. “Oh, that. No, it didn’t really come up. I’m still human, in case you were wondering. We can find some iron for me to hold, if you don’t believe me.”
“Sorry, I just —“
“Anyway, here.” She placed the open book on the table in front of him. “This is the section I was talking about! According to a book published in 1612, which had allegedly been written by Flamel —”
“Are you trying to change the subject?” said Harry.
” —in 1357, he purchased a mysterious 21 page book, written in an ancient language,” Hermione went on as if he hadn’t said anything. “And after decades of working on translating it, he met a Spanish sage who told him that what he had was a copy of The Book of Abramelin the Mage. With that knowledge, he was able to decipher enough of the text that he and his wife managed to create a Philosopher’s Stone!”
“Hang on,” said Ron. “If Flamel got the recipe for the Philosopher’s Stone from a book, he didn’t actually invent it, did he? If I got Mum’s cookbook and used that to make shepherd’s pie, I couldn’t go out and say I’d invented shepherd’s pie!”
“Well, this is a Muggle book,” said Hermione. “We don’t know how much of that is true, or if any of it is. I’d need to look up Abramelin the Mage to find out more. Besides, the books only say that Flamel is the only known maker of the Philosopher’s Stone, not that he invented it. There’s been rumours about several Philosopher’s Stones throughout history… but only one has been confirmed to actually exist, and that’s the one created by Nicolas Flamel. I think we can safely say we know what Fluffy’s guarding, don’t you?”
Harry was fairly certain she hadn’t said everything she knew about the Fae girl, but decided not to push the subject for now. He was starting to learn that when Hermione had made her mind up about something, it was pointless to try and argue.
At least she hadn’t been weird about the honey.
Sunday, 6th January 1992
Unused Hogwarts classroom, late night.
Harry hadn’t planned on coming back. He really hadn’t. It had felt like he’d be imposing or something. But over the last couple of weeks, the thought of Lady Vidia had occupied more and more of his thoughts — he didn’t really know when he’d stopped thinking of her as “Hagrid’s aunt” and started thinking of her as “Lady Vidia,” but he had.
Maybe it had something to do with how he had found out that she was his greatest desire, even though he still wasn’t quite sure what exactly that meant. Maybe it was how impossibly beautiful she had looked, or the way she had spoken to him… a little patronizing, but with a lot of affection.
He’d started dreaming about her at night. Not every night, and he never remembered the dreams when he woke up, but he did remember that they’d been about her.
He didn’t know why he hadn’t told Ron about the Mirror. He’d let his friend know about his first nightly excursion, that he’d sneaked down to the library, and that he’d found out who Nicolas Flamel was — which was all perfectly true, even if leaving out the part about the Mirror and Lady Vidia had just given Ron the false impression that Harry had found the information in a book. He felt guilty about lying, or at least lying by omission… but, well… Lady Vidia belonged to him, not to Ron.
It was stupid to think that way, he knew that. Obviously the Lady didn’t belong to him. He just didn’t want to share her, that was all.
Was this what it was like to be in love? He hoped not. He couldn’t be in love with a green lady from another dimension who, even though she didn’t look it, was at least old enough to be his grandmother. That would just be… euuuurgh.
So when he’d gone to bed that night, he hadn’t planned on lying awake, tossing and turning. He certainly hadn’t planned on getting up after everyone else was asleep, put on his Invisibility Cloak and sneak out to find the unused classroom again. He couldn’t even say for certain when he’d decided to do it. It was like his body was two steps ahead of his brain, and by the time he started wondering whether this was really a good idea, he was already sneaking invisibly down the corridors and it was too late to turn around.
The unused classroom was exactly where he’d left it — but to his horror and disappointment, the Mirror wasn’t. The wall it had stood against was insultingly bare and empty.
Harry stood in the empty room, too stunned to move. What had happened to the Mirror? Had it been moved? Had someone found out that he’d stumbled onto it and decided just to remove it? Or maybe it had never been there at all… maybe he’d just dreamt the whole thing.
A soft noise from behind him made him turn around.
“Hello, Harry.” Standing there, wearing what looked like a purple dressing-gown and a long nightcap, was Professor Albus Dumbledore.
Harry couldn’t speak.
“I see — or rather, I don’t see — that you are putting your father’s Invisibilty Cloak to good use,” said Dumbledore. “No no, please keep it on. After all, students aren’t supposed to be seen wandering the school after curfew.”
“Er, Headmaster, I can explain… I was… er…” Harry trailed off, realizing that he couldn’t really explain at all. How did Dumbledore even know he was here?
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles.. “It’s quite a handy thing, that Cloak,” he said. “You never know when you might need to move about unseen. Just a slight word of caution: Invisible doesn’t always mean undetectable. There are those who will still be able to notice your presence, even if they can’t see you. So it wouldn’t pay to get too cocky.”
Harry remembered how Mrs Norris had seemed to know he was there, even if Snape and Filch hadn’t. And of course both Lady Vidia and now Dumbledore could detect him — Lady Vidia might be explained away by the fact that she’d been a reflection in the Mirror Erised at the time, but that didn’t apply to Dumbledore…
Something dawned on Harry.
“Professor,” he said. “Were you the one who gave me the Cloak? I couldn’t recognize the handwriting on the note…”
“Well, it would be wrong to say that I ‘gave’ you the Cloak, as it was already yours to begin with,” said Dumbledore. “But yes, I was the one who sent it to you. This Cloak has been in your family for many generations, and I thought it was high time it was returned to its rightful owner.”
“So… you knew I would be here? You knew I would sneak out —”
“I did take it as a given that you would want to try out your new Cloak,” said Dumbledore. “That is what one does with Christmas presents, after all.”
Harry didn’t really know what to say to that. This really wasn’t how he would have expected a Headmaster to talk to a curfew-breaking student.
“Of course,” Dumbledore went on, “when your father was here at Hogwarts, he mainly used the Cloak to sneak down to the kitchens after hours and steal food. So did your grandfather, come to think of it. Your goals are a little different, aren’t they?”
“The Mirror of Erised!” Harry blurted out. “Er, please, sir. What happened to it?”
“It has been moved,” said Dumbledore simply. “I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t tell you where to, though… I know all too well the dangers of that Mirror. I’m actually surprised it took you this long to come looking for it again.”
“I wasn’t going to,” Harry admitted. “It was just — I was in bed, and then —”
“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Harry,” said Dumbledore. “I take it you have discovered the secrets of the Mirror?”
“Er, that it’s got some of the magic of Faerie and shows you your deepest desire?” said Harry. “Yes. Lady Vidia explained it to me. She called it a beautiful torment or something.”
“That does sound like something she would say,” Dumbledore commented with a slight frown. “So you saw her in the Mirror, then?”
“Yes, sir.” Harry didn’t even bother to ask how Dumbledore knew. “She said… she said she was my greatest desire. I don’t really know what that means, but… I keep thinking about her. Dreaming about her.”
“I see.” Dumbledore ponderously stroked his long beard.
“Do you know what it means, Professor?” Harry decided to take a chance on asking. “I don’t even know why I want to see her so badly.”
“Well,” said Dumbledore after a brief pause. “You have been touched by the Fae, Harry, in more ways than one. And that changes a person, often in unexpected ways. That is one reason why so many wizards are wary of the Fae, and refuse to deal with them outside the very specific terms of our treaty. And yet…” he added, almost as if to himself. “They did what they thought was best for you.”
“Er… who did?” said Harry, confused.
“Eh?” Dumbledore seemed like he was torn out of a line of thought. “Well. Almost everyone, I should say. Your life has been full of people who thought they were doing what was best for you. Sadly I must include myself among them. But, things are as they are… all we can do now is make the best of it.”
“I’m… not quite sure I understand, sir,” said Harry. (What he really wanted to say was ‘what the hell are you talking about?’, but that didn’t seem like the right way to address your Headmaster.)
“Do any of us truly understand?” said Dumbledore with a frustrating vagueness, but then seemed to return to himself. “There are things I should probably tell you, Harry, but…” He looked around. “This is neither the time, nor the place. For the moment, let me just say that you will see Lady Vidia again. Maybe even sooner than you think. There is a bond between the two of you, and it will only grow in strength. But take care not to forget that you have a life outside that bond. Don’t forget to live, Harry.”
“Good.” Dumbledore smiled. “Oh, before you return to your bed… the next time you see Yellow, Magenta and Cyan, do give them my regards and thank them for giving the student body a new mystery to occupy their minds with. The Great Honey Mystery of Hogwarts. It does have a certain ring to it. A decent author could probably do quite a bit with that. Well.. good night, Harry. I’m going back to bed, and I suggest you do the same.”
Harry turned to leave, but then changed his mind. “Er… Professor?”
“Do you know who the Fae girl is?”
“Fae girl?” Dumbledore quirked a brow. “I assume you’re not referring to Lady Vidia.”
“No, er… it’s one of the girls in my year. I think.”
“Oh, yes,” Dumbledore nodded. “I think I know what you’re talking about now.”
“So you do know who she is!” said Harry. “Lady Vidia wouldn’t tell me! Who is it? Is it Hermione?”
But Dumbledore shook his head. “I’m afraid I don’t actually know anything, Harry. I can only make an educated guess. Of course, with all lack of modesty, my guesses have been known to be quite good… but I don’t have anything confirmed yet. And if Lady Vidia didn’t want to tell you, then I probably shouldn’t. I don’t think this is my secret to tell.”
“My advice? If the girl wants to tell you, she will tell you when she is ready. Now, if you will excuse me… it’s late.”