Chapter 2: Prodigies, Parents and Philosopher's Stones
After the Troll Incident the students had practically been climbing over themselves to get Harry to explain in vivid detail just how he had managed to kill a 12 foot mountain troll. The attention had nearly sent him into hiding and he'd taken to spending as much time in the Common Room as possible over the next week. The good thing about that was he got to talk quite a bit with Hermione and Neville. Neville's Gran had berated the boy pretty harshly about breaking his father's wand, but she had apparently switched gears and couldn't seem to stop praising him when he finally managed to explain what happened. She had swept into the Common Room and proceeded to give Harry and Hermione a bear hug thanking them for "bringing her Neville's lion to the surface". Hermione just blushed and replied that she hadn't really done anything at all while Harry nodded and flashed a thumbs up to the beat red Neville.
Hermione on the other hand, barely left his side anymore. Something he was quickly growing to like. He had initially come to think of Ron as a friend but it took barely two days of spending time with Hermione to realize how an actual friend acted. Hermione never insulted his research and she listened when he tried to explain what he was looking for. She helped him with his homework and showed him why his wand movements were wrong. She apparently liked to hug him too – something which always sent a very odd warm feeling through him. He knew about hugs academically speaking of course but…well, the reality of them was much better, he thought with a blush.
Ron had taken to grumbling every time one of the trio passed him and he scuttled out of the way if Harry even so much as turned in his direction. Not quickly enough to hide the glares or mutterings, but fast enough for Harry not to have to repeat his warning about staying away from the group. Fred and George on the other hand tried grilling Harry on some of his experiments and whether or not he was intending to go farther. Harry had just stared dumbfounded when they showed him some of their own plans for incredibly intricate pranks that they couldn't seem to finish setting up yet. He'd promised them he'd think of a few rune clusters that might be able to combine or simplify aspects of the job as long as they promised to tone down any pranks on First Years in general, regardless of House.
It took Harry nearly a week before the furor had died down enough that he could make the time to talk with Professor Babbling. He was practically bouncing in anticipation as he walked up to her office with a huge grin on his face.
"Ah, Harry, come in, come in!" Babbling said sliding a few pieces of paper off to the side of her desk and waving him forward. Harry plopped down in one of the seats as the teacher came around and hopped up onto her desk. "So, let's see what we've got to work with, shall we?" She clapped her hands together with a smile. "Check out this table over here. Can you tell me what these runes are?"
Harry peered at the runes and snorted. "Well that's Protection, that's Synchronization, there's Light, that's Quiet, that's – "
"Okay, okay! That's obviously far too easy! How about this one?" Babbling gave her wand a flick and the table of prime runes was replaced by one filled with clusters.
"It's still pretty easy, Professor. That cluster would ignite a small fire but immediately snuff itself out once the item it was etched on burnt up. That one should resize clothes. That one there looks like it's designed to work in a set of four to set up a sort of barrier but it…has a flaw here that would burn it out less than a minute after activation."
"Really? What flaw?" her voice was carefully neutral and Harry grinned slightly, enjoying the test.
"Well Absorption is upside down and entwined with Protection. It should be integrated into Power because then it can use any spells that impact it to reinforce itself instead."
"Huh, I hadn't thought of that," Babbling leaned down to squint at the cluster. "Integrated into Power you say? I intentionally flipped it upside down yes, but I've never seen this cluster drawn with Absorption twined with Power. That should work though. Hell it might just double or triple the damage the barrier could take…"
"Actually it should be a near exponential increase. The most dangerous part would be the first few spells because it would be pretty weak at first but once the first few add to the strength of the barrier it would keep getting stronger and stronger," Harry said taking mental notes to work on improving this at some point. Four anchor points was just inefficient. There had to be a way to get it down to just one central rune stone cluster.
"Well Merlin's uncle…" Babbling laughed and turned back to Harry shaking her head. "I've heard of Rune Savants before but never imagined I'd actually meet one. I had figured you were just another prodigy like me."
Harry tore himself away from the cluster and squinted at the easy going young woman. "Rune Savant, ma'am?"
"It's a term for people who read and understand runes instinctively. Like a language. Muggles tend to use the term a bit differently. They say someone is an 'idiot savant'. A person who has difficulties with nearly all aspects of life except for one in which they are basically at Merlin levels. For magicals, we use it to describe someone whose magic functions to give them insight and understanding into one particular subject but who has no extra specialties or difficulties outside the norm.
"Most of us have to study, memorize and work for years just to get the basic concept inherent here. I'm a prodigy, I work with runes at a much quicker and higher level than most, so it's been easier for me, but I do still have to work at it. People like you, Harry, can simply look at rune or a cluster and see intrinsically what the point is as well as how they integrate into the rest of the structure. It's an incredibly rare skill and if you end up going into cursebreaking or warding," she shrugged, "you'd probably be able to skip nearly ten years worth of training not to mention always being in constant demand. Of course you don't have to use your skills like that but it's a good option for the future. For now, I just wanted you to know about it. Oh," she gave a small scowl, "and stop with the ma'am thing. Hell I'm only 19. I'm closer to your age then most of my colleagues here! I'd prefer Babble, Babbling or Shiva in private, but if that's uncomfortable for you then just stick with Professor."
"Shiva?" Harry asked furrowing his brow. The others made sense, but Shiva didn't seem to fit the pattern.
She smiled ruefully. "My first name's Bathsheda, which is frankly just awful. Sheda is somewhat close to Shiva though and...well I kinda-sorta almost blew myself up twice in my Second Year." She shrugged. "Shiva is a Hindu goddess of destruction. It stuck."
"Err, isn't it a little inappropriate to call your teacher by their nickname?" Harry asked tilting his head at her.
"Probably," Babbling said with a one armed shrug. "But like I said, I'm closer to your age then I am to any of the other Professors. I was hired right out of school and I've only been teaching for a year. I can still get away with stuff like that – especially since Dumbledore really doesn't seem to care much. If he did he'd have to come down on Severus too and that's certainly never going to happen." She glowered for a moment before continuing in a softer voice. "I told you, Harry, I'm a prodigy and while I was careful as a kid, I still nearly killed myself twice before my 14th birthday. From what I understand you grew up Muggle so they'll never be able to understand or help you with your experiments. I'd like to do that, even if only so that you have a sounding board to avoid hurting yourself. You can call me whatever you want but I want to make sure you don't go through the same shit that I had to. Especially since you're likely going to have it worse and be a lot more proactive with your meddling. I just liked it and was really good at it. You quite literally speak the language."
"Here," she flicked her wand and four books zoomed out of a drawer to land with a thump in a pile next to her. "You can borrow these for a few months but I'll need them back by the end of the year. These books have some of the more advanced methods and I've bookmarked the rarer prime runes that you won't see so often in other literature. This is stuff I usually give to my O.W.L. students so don't be intimidated if it's a little advanced or confusing at points. I can give you some private lessons as well though I do recommend that you take at least this first year to just poke around on your own. You know, see what you like both in rune terms and more other magical subjects. My door is always open, Harry. Don't be afraid to come and ask for help or advice. About anything."
Harry stared at Babbling in wonder and reverently ran a hand over the books she had given him. "I…I…thanks, Professor…"
"No problem, Harry," she smiled down at him and hopped off the desk, "I may not be a savant but I do understand somewhat how it feels. And I really enjoy Ancient Runes. It's not a subject too many find entertaining so it's always fun to chat about them with those who do. And it's even rarer to find people who actively experiment with new clusters. For now, just remember to be extremely careful with energizing anything that you are unsure about. Don't get overconfident and reckless."
"Yes...Shiva" Harry said hesitantly. He started to head out clutching his new books.
"Oh, and, Harry? Don't give out all your secrets, even to me. You could probably make quite a comfy living off of marketing some of your future inventions."
Harry walked out his head spinning. An adult could be...helpful. And supportive. That was...that was just...Harry shook his head, narrowed his eyes again, and kept walking. Better not to think about it. If adults could be helpful...then something was very rotten in Surrey.
Before dropping his new books off Harry stopped in to speak with Professor Flitwick. He could feel sweat start to bead on his back as he sat down in the office. "Hello, Professor. Before I say anything else I wanted to apologize for what happened in class last week."
Flitwick's brow furrowed before he let out a small chuckle. "Oh the rune shortcut? Don't apologize for that, Mr. Potter. I was simply rather stunned. I didn't even realize you could do something like that!"
"Oh," Harry clutched his books a bit tighter to his chest.
"I see Bathsheda managed to tie you down long enough to give you some extra material. Keep up the excellent work, Harry, and please, if you ever need any assistance or advice let me know and I'll be glad to help in any way I can. Your mother was quite the charms mistress and while I know you seem to be following a different path I'm sure that some charm work could help your research at some point! At least, I certainly hope so," Flitwick said with a wide grin.
Harry finally smiled and let himself relax. "I'll be sure to consult with you if I need it, Professor. Professor Babbling offered her help as well."
"Yes, I imagine she would. We don't usually get two rune prodigies in such short order!"
"Err, she said I was actually a savant, Sir..."
"Oh even better!" Flitwick practically squealed. He almost seemed to be vibrating. "I for one greatly look forward to what you come up with, Mr. Potter!"
"Well," Harry said blushing and rubbing the back of his neck, "for the moment I'm trying not to get too complicated. Also Hermione is helping me with some of the Charms stuff I've had issues with so I probably don't really need to come ask about any of that either."
"Excellent, Miss Granger should be a prime tutor."
"Professor, you mentioned my mum...I have a notebook of hers that she'd left saying you might be interested in. If you wanted to take a look..."
"I'd be delighted to," the man gave a sad smile. "I am so sorry about their passing."
"Did you know them well, Sir?" Harry asked quietly.
"Your mother, yes. Your father, not so much. We got along well enough and I always had a good laugh at the pranks he and his friends pulled, but your mother was my star student. She was always trying to keep young James in line and she complained to me quite often during her workup to Mastery classes later on about his antics."
"Do you know if she ever changed her mind about my Aunt Petunia?"
"What do you mean, Mr. Potter?"
"Well one of her notes seemed very, very clear that my Aunt was to stay far away from me. Since I'm living with them I'm just curious about what happened."
"I'm afraid she never mentioned that to me. We didn't have much chance to talk though, after you were born. I know that Minerva, uh, Professor McGonagall that is, visited a few times afterwards. You could try asking her."
"I will, Sir. Thanks," Harry said.
"Now, about that Dueling Circuit," Flitwick clapped his hands together and a wide grin split his face. "Would you be interested? It centers more on wands than runes unfortunately though if the incident a few days ago is any indication your basic tactical sense is more than keen enough to take you far."
Harry bit his lip. He could do runes. Runes were easy. Coming up with defensive or offensive ones shouldn't really be much of an issue with a bit of time. But...he wasn't anything special with spells. Hermione or Neville or even Lavender could probably beat him with basic spells. "This is still all pretty new to me, Professor. Perhaps I could just get a few spells from you throughout the year and then we can talk more about it next year?"
Flitwick sighed. "Damn, well can't blame a man for trying," he chuckled. "One year I'll be able to claim that I trained the youngest World Champion, just you watch!" Harry laughed at that. "Of course, Mr. Potter, I'll gladly teach some of the more basic spells and we can speak again about competitions whenever you feel more comfortable."
"Not at all, not at all," he said. "Now I believe it is nearly time for your detention so I won't keep you any longer. Let's have our first lesson say next Wednesday evening?"
"Sounds good, Sir. Can I bring Neville and Hermione as well?"
"Certainly." Flitwick's grin widened as he laughed again. "Who knows, maybe one of them will be interested in the Dueling Circuit...youngest Champion here I come!"
Harry walked into Professor McGonagall's classroom with a nervous shuffle. "Hello, Professor."
"Mr. Potter. Take a seat," McGonagall finished grading the paper in front of her before directing her attention towards Harry. "Mr. Potter, let me preface this by saying that I am extremely glad none of you were injured last week. Thank you very much for going after Miss Granger. In the future however, should – Merlin forbid – another emergency comes up, please make every effort to inform the staff or the Prefects that there is an issue."
"Now..." McGonagall's pleading expression turned into a glare that made Harry wilt. "Just what were you thinking?! Keeping an item so volatile inside your pack!? You could've been killed!"
"But, ma'am it wasn't volatile," he said, "it wouldn't do anything unless activated and it couldn't be activated except by sending power directly into the Primer rune."
"And if a stray spell from a classmate had hit it during class? Or while walking down the corridor?"
Harry's mouth went dry and his eyes widened. "I-I hadn't thought about that..." Images of smoking Harry-chunks raining over the hallway flashed through his mind.
McGonagall sighed and rubbed her forehead. "Mr. Potter, I appreciate you attempting to keep others safe by not leaving the rune cluster lying around but you need better precautions than simply chucking dangerous items into your pack. I will not go so far as to forbid you from experimenting. Merlin knows how well that ever works out," she muttered. "But, I will insist that you either leave your experiments locked in your trunk if unfinished or carried in a spell resistant lockbox." Harry nodded. "I trust you've learned from this incident?" He nodded again. "Very well then. I see no reason to forbid you from playing in the upcoming Quidditch game," McGonagall finished with the hint of a smile.
"Thank you, ma'am," Harry said. "I was really looking forward to that."
"I expect you to win, Mr. Potter. I want that trophy." Harry just nodded again with a small smile finally cracking his face. "Now, you should get some homework done while I continue with these essays."
"Um, Professor?" McGonagall lifted an eyebrow at him. "Professor Flitwick said that you had met with my parents a few times after I was born..."
"Ah." McGonagall sighed and leaned back into her chair. "Yes, I did meet them occasionally. Your father was one of my best students despite his lackadaisical manner. After they entered hiding he had asked me to assist with improving his Transfiguration techniques for efficient use in battle. I was unable to see them often but it was more than most."
Harry smiled. How different things could've been if not for a madman. "Do you know why my mum changed her mind about my Aunt Petunia?"
"What do you mean, Mr. Potter?"
"I found this a few months ago," he said handing over the runes notebook and flipped to the page with Lily's note to never let him go to the Dursleys. "The date was a few months before I was born and there's nothing in that or any of the other notebooks I found about her forgiving my Aunt so I was just curious about what changed. I figure they had to have updated the will again after this at some point since I ended up with Aunt Petunia after all."
McGonagall's frown deepened as she read and reread the little note. "Damn you Albus," she muttered barely loud enough for Harry to hear. Looking back up at Harry, McGonagall sighed. "I was unaware that the Potters' had wills, Harry. None were ever executed after their passing. I do not know the full specifics regarding this, Harry. I can tell you that I was present for the incident that likely caused this entry. From what I remember, the dates do seem to line up. I am...not sure you would wish to hear this. It is not pleasant and it does not paint your...relatives in a decent light."
"Professor, it'd be rather difficult to paint them in a darker color than I already do," Harry said, a bit of the ice that Ronald Weasley had experienced creeping into his tone. "Please, tell me."
"Very well," McGonagall sagged, looking every bit her age. "I was training with James when your mother returned from speaking with Petunia and her husband. Lily was several weeks pregnant at this point and she was quite distraught. Before I left she told James and myself that Petunia and Vernon had...well they had recommended with rather strong language to terminate the pregnancy."
"Let me guess, they said something like 'we don't need any more freaks in the world like you' right?" Harry scoffed.
McGonagall's mouth dropped open. "How could you know something like that?"
"Well they certainly say it to me enough."
"So if it was that bad, then my mum probably never forgave her before she died. So how the hell did I end up with the Dursleys?" Harry muttered.
"Albus said that it was the safest place for you..." McGonagall stared at the cabinet where she kept her firewhiskey. "I watched them for the evening before; I knew they weren't very pleasant but surely they wouldn't have...to a child?"
"You and Dumbledore left me there?!" Harry's voice drained of all warmth broke through McGonagall's shock. He stared at her and the breeze through her window picked up, scattering some of the papers on her desk. "Thank you for the talk, Professor. I think I'm just going to study now like you said."
"No, that's alright, Harry. I think this Detention has gone on long enough. You may return to your dorm." Harry silently slipped his mother's notebook back into his pack and left the room, the breeze dying down behind him. McGonagall stood to pour herself a shot of firewhiskey before turning to shut the window. Only then did she realize that it had been shut the entire time. With a strangled laugh, McGonagall poured herself a second glass of the liquor. "Damn you, Albus."
Harry dropped down into the couch in the Common Room and immediately took out the books that Shiva had given him. He focused on the runes using the clusters and the prime elements to force the conversation he had just run from to the back of his mind. Runes always calmed him down.
Harry was so engrossed in the book and he didn't even notice when Hermione sat next to him and laid a hand on his arm. "Harry? Are you alright?"
"Hermione!" Harry said with a small jump. "Jeez, warn a guy when you sneak up on him."
"I'm fine, Hermione." Harry sighed, turning to smile at her. "Thanks for asking though."
"You're not fine," she said barely loud enough for him to hear. "You look like I felt when I ran to that bathroom. Except angrier."
"Really, I'm okay," he responded, taking in her doubtful expression. "It's just Professor McGonagall mentioned some things that got me pretty mad. I have these new runes that Shiva gave me now though so give me like ten minutes and I'll be right as rain. Okay?"
Hermione's expression warred between curiosity, concern and hurt. She finally just sighed and hugged him. "Okay. If you decide you want to talk about it just remember, I'm here for you, Harry."
"I know and I appreciate that, Hermione," Harry said squeezing her back. "I trust you, Hermione. Maybe someday I'll tell you. Just not right now."
"I understand." She gave him a small, watery smile and pulled back from the hug. "Now, who is this 'Shiva' person?"
Harry grimaced. "Yeah, I hadn't meant to call her that here. Shiva is Professor Babbling."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Where in the blazes do you get Shiva from Babbling?"
"Apparently it was her nickname since her Second Year. She said she blew a few things up, including herself. I didn't really get it, something about a Hindu goddess."
"Of destruction," Hermione squinted, "and her first name is Bathsheda which I suppose could be shortened to Sheda which makes it a hop, skip and a jump to Shiva but..." She twisted back to Harry before continuing, "It is not appropriate to call a teacher by her nickname."
"I know," Harry held up his hands to ward her off. "It's only a private thing. She's only a few years older than us and she made a good argument for it. And...well...I um...it's just..." Harry's voice dropped so low that Hermione had to lean in to hear him, "it's just a lot easier to let her help me and to trust her if I can call her Shiva instead of Professor."
Hermione sat in silence for a minute. She crossed her arms and studying Harry thinking over the last few minutes and slotting it into her growing picture of her friend. "You can trust her if she's your friend rather than an adult?" Hermione finally asked softly. Harry just nodded. She sighed and hugged him again. "Okay. I won't bring it up again. I do expect you to tell me about where this is coming from in the future though, Harry. And try to make sure to at least refer to her as Babbling when others can hear."
"Thanks, Hermione," Harry said giving her a very small smile. "I promise."
Hermione released him from her hug and opened her own book, settling in to read next to him.
"Well I sure hope that doesn't happen every time I play a game!" Harry snorted after the Quidditch match had ended. His broom had been jerking around on its own so bad that he'd nearly been bucked off!
"Harry," Hermione whispered from beside him. The Common Room was still celebrating their win so he had to strain to hear her. "We think you were being cursed." Neville nodded from his other side.
"What?" Harry stared back and forth between the two of them.
"Neville saw Professor Snape muttering something and staring at you during the match when your broom started to go crazy."
"You have to maintain eye contact for some persistent jinxes and curses," Neville said, wringing his hands. "And not many things affect brooms beyond those types. Brooms have to be pretty resistant to that kind of stuff otherwise the professional games would be a joke."
"So it's not enough the bastard hates me, he's actively trying to kill me now too? Just perfect," Harry glared at the fireplace. He needed his rune notebook. "So why did he stop then? He almost had me, I was starting to lose my grip by the time I finally got control back."
"Well..." Hermione said blushing while Neville's face went beat red. "I um...may have set fire to his robes."
Harry's mouth dropped open and all thoughts of runes went out of his head. "You...you...you what?"
"I set fire to his robes," she muttered. "Neville said we had to break his eye contact so we ran over. Neville knocked over Professor Quirrell – who was sitting next to Professor Snape – to try and distract him but I was already casting the Incendio charm."
Harry goggled at her then at Neville. "You guys – you guys are amazing!" Hermione snapped her head up and stared at him and Neville went started shuffling a bit. "Neville, you knocked over a teacher to help me! And, Hermione! You set another's robes on fire! You guys are the best friends someone could ask for!" Harry laughed out loud and pulled them both into a quick hug.
"Well, um, you're welcome?" Hermione whimpered. She really didn't feel like she should be praised for attacking a teacher. It was so wrong!
"No problem, Harry," Neville said with a deep breath. "We look out for each other, right?"
"Yeah. We do," Harry beamed at his two friends. "So do you think this was in retaliation for hearing about Nicolas Flamel and the three headed dog from Hagrid the other night?"
"How would Professor Snape even know that Hagrid mentioned that? I mean – completely discounting the fact that we don't even know who that Flamel man is – and that I would think the dragon egg Hagrid is hiding would be a far more important detail from overhearing that conversation – I can't see why Professor Snape would try to kill you over hearing about a name."
"Remember to breath, Hermione," Harry said with a laugh. "And this is Hagrid we're talking about. I love the man, but we all know he can't keep secrets for more than five minutes."
"Yeah, Hermione, I'm with Harry on this one," Neville said. "Hagrid's nice but he's not a – how did Gran put it – not a 'player of the game'. And what are we going to do about that dragon anyway? It's going to hatch soon and then it's going to grow up and then it's either going to eat him or eat one of us!"
"I don't suppose we can convince him to get rid of it, can we?" Hermione commented flopping back into her seat. "That man seriously needs someone to explain what the word dangerous mean. Honestly, three headed dogs, pet dragons, what's next? Giant man eating spiders?"
"I actually could see the dog being cute," Harry said. The others turned to stare at him. "What? If the thing wasn't snarling and trying to eat me but was just slobbering on me and wagging its tail it could be cute."
"It could squash you under its paw like a bug." Neville said with his face completely blank.
"It could tear you literally into thirds." Hermione added.
"Well I was just saying," Harry grumbled. "Fang's cute."
"Fang is not the size of a small house," Hermione commented dryly.
"Moving on!" Harry said holding his hands up in surrender. "Didn't the twins say their one of their brothers worked with dragons? Could we ask them to contact him maybe?"
"They'd probably ask why," Hermione said.
"Well, we might as well tell them," Neville shrugged. "They'd probably be able to get the dragon out easier than we could anyway."
"We're going to help them if they agree." Harry nodded. "Hagrid's our friend. We can't just let him get in trouble. Until then though let's see if we can find anything about whoever Flamel is." The others nodded before the trio split up and headed off to bed.
Christmas had come to Hogwarts Castle. Harry hadn't originally cared too much about it since both Neville and Hermione had headed home to spend the holidays with their families but his opinion changed when he woke up to see actual real presents by his bed. It was the first time anyone had gotten him anything besides worn out socks or maybe a fifty pence piece if he had been very good and very quiet. It was a shame his new friends weren't here to share the experience with him...
Neville had given him a broom polishing kit while the twins had left him with a package of Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans – along with a note that promised they were untampered with. Hermione had given him a new etching kit that had a lot finer tools than the one he had been using. Shiva had sent him a small box with a note describing it as a spell resistant, tamper-proof, lockbox that was designed to hold volatile rune clusters. Unfortunately, Harry's final two gifts had caused some problems in the dorm room.
"How am I supposed to know why your mother sent me a Weasley sweater, Ron?" Harry scowled. "I've never even met the woman!"
"Well obviously you did something! Those are family sweaters! You have no business wearing one!" the redhead yelled back snarling at Harry.
"Well it's not my fault that your mother sent me something!"
"Well it's certainly not mine!"
"You're both right, it's our fault Mum sent something," Fred said walking into the room with a frown.
"At least, we think it's our fault," George agreed coming in behind his twin.
"What the bloody hell did you two do?!" Ron yelled turning his rage on his brothers.
"We may have mentioned in a letter that Harry had said he wasn't expecting to get any presents." Fred winced. "Sorry, mate. We didn't think she'd end up making you a sweater because of it."
"Honestly, it's a little weird," Harry said looking at the sweater. "But I really do appreciate the thought and it was a nice gesture. She could've sent a note with it too though. That would've probably made it less awkward."
"Mum, can be a bit much sometimes," George sighed.
"How are you okay with this?" Ron growled. "He's not a Weasley!"
"Ron," Fred said his voice amazingly serious for the twin, "just because Harry isn't a Weasley doesn't mean he isn't a friend."
"Lee Jordan is a friend and he doesn't get sweaters!"
"Lee gets presents." Fred shook his head as Ron just growled incoherently. "Thanks for the gift by the way, Harry."
Harry nodded. He had sent them some Muggle fireworks with instructions on how to use them safely. "No problem guys. Just don't set them off inside or we'll have another Troll Incident. Thanks for the beans!"
"Enjoy them. So what's your last gift?"
Harry opened up his final package and as the silvery material slipped down to the floor Ron gave an incoherent yell. "You got a bloody Invisibility Cloak?! Funny how the guy who supposedly doesn't get any presents at all gets a bloody fortune right there!" he said scornfully.
"What's an Invisibility Cloak?" Harry asked the twins ignoring Ron. He picked up the Cloak and started examining it closer. Granted the name was pretty self-explanatory but if Ron wanted to get angry for no reason he might as well poke the boy a bit and satisfy his curiosity at the same time.
"Blimey mate, they are amazing," George breathed out. "Really expensive too. They make you invisible while you wear it. Darn useful for pranksters like us. Who's it from?"
"Don't know; all the note says is that it used to belong to my dad and that he left with whoever sent it when he died."
Fred's brow furrowed. "Well if they had it for 10 years you'd think they could have returned it before now."
"Agreed." Harry sighed. "At least they did give it back. I probably never would have known about it otherwise."
"How come you aren't jumping and down in joy?" Ron asked in disgust. "That thing is probably worth more than everything else combined."
The three others in the room glared at Ron. "It's nice to have a memento of my father, Ron, but it's not like I need it. I could probably make a rune cluster that would do the same thing as this but better and it would be smaller and more portable too."
"Well if you don't want it then just give it to me." Ron held out his hand for the Cloak. Harry snorted and before he could respond Fred and George moved to either side of Ron and grabbed an arm.
"Dear, Brother, I believe it is time for breakfast. Shall we be going?"
"We'll see you later, Harry. Merry Christmas!"
Despite planning his new Ninja rune cluster, Harry did end up wandering the castle after dark with his father's Cloak on during the break – more from curiosity than anything else. On one such nocturnal excursion he ended up finding an amazing mirror. A mirror that he had trouble walking away from. A mirror that showed him his family.
"Mirror of Erised?" Harry asked Professor Dumbledore. He didn't want to look away from the Mirror but he did eventually turn to glance at the Headmaster.
"Yes, Harry. The Mirror shows one their heart's deepest desire. It is quite the amazing artifact. It is also dangerous. Many have wasted away completely simply sitting and staring at it longing for that which they have never had instead of seeking to attain their desire in reality."
"Yeah well unless you happen to know how to bring back the dead, my necklace, my mum's notebooks my dad's Cloak and this Mirror are the closest I'm ever going to get to my family so excuse me for spending some time here. Sir." Harry twisted back around to the Mirror. He hadn't forgotten what McGonagall had said about why he was with the people his mother had hated.
"My boy, no magic can bring back the dead." Dumbledore sighed. He reached forward to lay a hand on Harry's shoulder. Harry scowled and threw it off.
"I know that, Professor. I'm not an idiot. Maybe I could come up with a cluster that would give a nice imitation of life but it wouldn't be real." Harry was still staring at the Mirror so he missed the flash of fear and desire that passed through Dumbledore's eyes. "Did you have my dad's Cloak?"
Harry ground his teeth trying very hard not to lash out. "Why wait a decade to return it then? Sir."
"I knew your relatives would not appreciate such a treasure. I simply wished to ensure its safety until you rejoined us." Harry huffed, conceding the old man had a point there.
"Well thank you for making sure I got it back. I would have preferred it as soon as I got to Hogwarts but thanks for not just keeping it, Professor." Dumbledore gave a slight nod. "You're taking the Mirror away aren't you?"
"Fine..." Harry slowly climbed to his feet and touched the Mirror's surface with a sad smile. "Bye, Mum. Bye Dad. Bye guys." He turned and walked past Dumbledore. "Thank you for giving me some time with them, Professor."
"Have a pleasant evening, Harry." Dumbledore watched Harry walk away and turned to the Mirror himself. An image of Harry – cloaked completely in black with yellow eyes wide open – stared lifelessly back at him from the phantom's position slumped on the floor. A phantom Dumbledore was standing over the boy holding a rune cluster that he held to Arianna's chest. Dumbledore started crying as the phantom version of his sister slowly started to breathe again.
When Neville and Hermione returned from their holidays Harry showed them the Invisibility Cloak as well as his initial plans for the Ninja cluster that would be an improved version of it incorporating sound dampening effects as well. Both were extremely impressed.
"Did you have any luck in the Restricted Section searching for Flamel?" Hermione asked after correctly guessing he'd have checked the book out from under the Cloak.
"No, none of them had anything." Harry shook his head. He knew he remembered the name from somewhere but it just kept eluding him.
"My Gran said it didn't ring any bells," Neville said. "She said he might be from out of the country."
"Well that would certainly make a bit more sense I suppose," Hermione said. She sighed. "That would also make this far more difficult."
"It's a shame he didn't do anything famous. Then he would've been in more books even if he was – " Neville cut off as Harry slapped his forehead. "Harry?"
"I am such an idiot!"
Hermione shook her head and snorted. "Harry, you are not an idiot. You are a savant. It's pretty much the exact opposite of idiot in the magical world."
"Exactly, Hermione!" Harry yelled looking between the two of them. "A savant!"
"Um, Harry," Neville said, "you're going to have to explain it better than that."
"Nicolas Flamel. Is. A. Savant! An alchemical savant!"
"He's what?" Neville asked frowning. Hermione's eyes widened and she nearly jumped out of her seat murmuring how she'd be right back.
"He's an alchemical savant, Nev! After my first talk with Shiva I got a book out from the library on previous magical savants and he was in there as one from the 1300s." Hermione came flying back down the stairs with a giant tome in her arms. "I think he's on a chocolate frog card too. He was a French savant who specialized in alchemy though he also may have helped found one of the schools there or at least make it into more a world renowned one."
"Beauxbatons, yes," Hermione said as she dropped the giant book onto the table in front of the two boys. "I checked this out for a bit of light reading – "
Neville gaped. "That's light?" Harry just laughed. Hermione glared.
"Yes. Anyway look! 'Nicolas Flamel – along with his wife Perenelle – is famous for being the only known inventor of the Philosopher's Stone.' Do you know what this means?"
"Philosopher's Stone?" Harry asked.
"Honestly, Harry!" Hermione huffed. "You remember that he helped with Beauxbatons but not that he created the Philosopher's Stone? It's an incredibly complex alchemical creation that can supposedly turn lead into gold as well as create the Elixir of Life!"
"Bit of understatement there, Harry," Neville chuckled. "I don't suppose you could make a rune cluster to do that huh."
"Well, the lead to gold thing, probably." The other two stared at Harry while he was lost in the intertwining rune structures testing and discarding possible combinations. "Yeah. I could do that. Not the Elixir thing though. I'd need at least four different prime runes that I don't think even exist to do that. Direct manipulation of a Soul or variant rune most likely."
Hermione's mouth closed with a snap. "Yes, well. Impossible things and eternal riches aside, at least now we know what – and most likely why – Professor Snape is looking to steal it."
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "Now we just need proof."