9th February 1992
"I've found him!" Harry exclaimed holding the chocolate frog card. "I've found Flamel!"
Ever since Hermione had returned from the Christmas Holidays, they had been spending all their free time searching for Nicolas Flamel. She had been disappointed to learn that the boys had made almost no effort, but Harry had distracted her by telling about the Mirror of Erised and his dad's Invisibility Cloak.
But even after more than a month of searching, they found no mention of Flamel anywhere. That is until now.
"I told you I had seen the name somewhere. It was on Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog Card. Listen to this: 'Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel'!"
Hermione seemed to have remembered something, and she rushed to her dorms. After about a minute, she returned, with a large, old, book. She sat down beside them and began frantically flicking through the pages.
Harry and Ron shared mystified looks at this, and after a while, Ron asked
"Sssshhh!" Hermione shushed him barely looking up. After another minute, she finally exclaimed
"I knew it! I knew it!"
"Are we allowed to speak yet?" said Ron grumpily.
"I never thought to look in here!" Hermione continued excitedly, "I checked this out of the library a few weeks ago for a bit of light reading."
"Light?" said Ron, who promptly shut up again after the look Hermione gave him. Harry still looked at her to complete her explanation.
"Nicolas Flamel," she whispered dramatically, "is the only known maker of the Philosopher's Stone!"
Two dumb looks greeted her. Harry finally broke the silence,
"Oh, honestly," she said with a sigh. "Look - just read this passage"
She pushed the book towards them, and they leaned over it.
The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The Stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixir of Life, which will make the drinker immortal.
There have been many reports of the Philosopher's Stone over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr. Nicolas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera lover. Mr. Flamel, who celebrated his six hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenelle (six hundred and fifty-eight).
They finished and sat straight, digesting the new information.
"So, the Philosopher's Stone-" Harry drew out each word, but Hermione continued in her usual rapid fire,
"-is the thing that Fluffy's guarding. I bet Flamel asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him because they're friends and he suspected that someone was after it."
"He must have wanted the stone moved out of Gringotts," Ron exclaimed. "And he was right, wasn't he? The vault was broken into!"
"A Stone that can make you immortal, and makes as much gold as you want!" Harry said, "No wonder Snape's after it! Anyone would be!"
Hermione nodded slowly. Ron spoke in an amused tone.
"And no wonder we didn't find Flamel in the Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry, the bloke's not exactly recent if he's six hundred and sixty-five, is he?"
"Where exactly are we going?" Neville asked his friends as they moved through the corridors. "Isn't the great hall that way?"
"It is time you learnt one of our secrets, young one," Fred mocked in a deep voice. "We are going to the kitchens for lunch"
"Kitchens?" Mark inquired. "You guys know how to get to the kitchens?"
"Found the way in our very first year, we did" George boasted, as they walked down the marble staircase.
The four of them had been practising the whole morning in their new 'clubhouse', as they called it. After a lot of cleaning and soundproofing, the unused classroom had been made usable. They had transfigured a set of cauldrons into a makeshift drum kit with Lee Jordan's help, and Mark had brought an old xylophone from his home.
It had taken three sessions for the four to settle in, and they were quickly becoming friends. George said something about them being the 'New Marauders', but Mark had not understood the reference.
The four reached the portrait of the pear near the Hufflepuff Dorms, and the Fred tickled the painting. To Mark's surprise, the pear giggled before turning into a doorknob. Once inside, Mark was greeted by the most spectacular sight.
The kitchens were huge. There were five tables laden with food identical to the layout of the Great Hall, with additional areas for the pantry and cooking.
'They must be directly sending the food up from here,' Mark thought, remembering the manner in which food magically appeared during meals.
Glancing around he realised that the little figures rapidly running around in the kitchens were not humans, but little creatures with large ball-like eyes and batty ears.
'Elves,' he remembered, walking towards his friends. They were seated on a table beside the pantry.
"Yous is being very naughty Master Weasleys, always coming to eat here instead of dining proper in the Great Hall" one of the elves was scolding the twins while serving them food.
"Oh, admit it, you love us Tippy," Fred retorted teasingly, making the little elf's cheeks green.
"Now eat," the elf said before moving on to work again.
"I didn't know Hogwarts had house elves," Mark commented, grabbing some chips.
"Yeah, they run the place. Food, cleaning, laundry, you name it" George answered
"But why have I not noticed them before?"
"That means they're doing their job well," Neville answered. On seeing mark's confusion, he clarified further, "It's a mark of a good elf, to not be seen." Mark nodded slowly at this.
"None of our books mention anything about them. Do they get paid or are they like slaves?"
George immediately hushed him.
"Don't ever mention pay in front of them," he hissed. "They work because they like to work, and in exchange, their magic is enhanced by the Master."
"I didn't know that," remarked Neville with a questioning face.
"Yeah, we know a few things," Fred said pompously, "Our marks may say otherwise, but that's the truth."
"You throw away your marks to get a reaction out of your mother," Mark said to their surprise, "I'm not stupid. You guys are able to brew NEWT level potions in your third year. You think I didn't notice the shrinking solution you used in your pranks?"
Fred and George looked gobsmacked, while Neville was sniggering.
"You caught us," they said finally, raising their hands. "No trying to hide it." They looked at each other as if deciding something. Finally, it was George who spoke.
"We want to open a joke shop when we leave Hogwarts"
"No shit." Mark looked at them both before adding, "You guys are serious." Two nods answered.
"Like-like work at Zonko's?" Neville asked. He hadn't expected the two pranksters to have actual career plans at this age.
"No. Our own shop. We even thought of a name for it-" George said in the most serious tone Mark had ever seen him use.
"-Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes" Fred supplied.
"So, what's the issue?" Mark asked, "Your mother doesn't like that?"
Fred snorted at that. "She'd have kittens if she found out. No, she wants us to work in the ministry, just like Percy." He answered dejectedly, "And anyway, it's just a dream."
"It'll work out," Mark said sympathetically, "You've still got four more years."
They both nodded. An awkward silence followed
"So, do you guys have a date for Valentine's day?"
14th February 1992
Harry was hiding in his dorms. He'd been having breakfast in the great hall like any other day, but within moments he found himself being hounded by the older girls asking him for valentine's
Harry had been surprised at this. In his life before Hogwarts, no one had even bothered to look at him, let alone be pursued by girls clearly more than a couple of years older than him. His uncle had even remarked on many occasions that no sane girl would ever want a freak like him. Harry had just quietly listened to his insults, but he hadn't expected otherwise.
Ron had shared in his discomfort and had helped him escape to the dorms after classes. They had sat for a while discussing what they'd do if they had the Philosophers Stone.
Harry's thoughts were currently occupied by the upcoming Quidditch match with Hufflepuff. Thanks to their last victory, Gryffindor was gaining a lead in the House Cup, catching up to Slytherin.
So, it was no surprise, that the news of Snape refereeing the next match was met by complaints in their house. Technically since he was not affiliated with either of the teams playing, Snape was expected to be unbiased in his duty; but this was Snape.
Harry, however, had other worries. Snape had tried to kill him from the stands in the last match, and he was most likely to try again this time easily in the air.
Against the protests of Hermione and Ron, Harry had decided that he would be playing, since he didn't want the Slytherins to have something to further mock him. He just hoped he would make it out alive.
16th February 1992
Mark rubbed his eyes as he closed the book in front of him. He'd been reading the Standard Book of Spells Grade 4, more specifically the summoning charm.
It had actually come up when he'd been feeling too lazy to get up from the armchair in the common room and get his books from his trunk. He had asked Percy, who had been sitting nearby if a spell could do that. In a long winding explanation that included wizarding etiquettes about laziness that had followed, Mark had come to know of the rather nifty charm.
He had spent all day after class reading up on the fourth-year spell in the library. Checking his watch, he saw that he had missed dinner. He immediately remembered the kitchens.
Happy that he had a reliable source of food, he set off towards it. On his way, he pondered over the interesting subject of making spells. The wand movement for the summoning charm that he had read had been fairly simple, however, it was the power draw pattern that had been intriguing.
For all the other spells they had learnt, the power draw pattern was either a point at the wand tip, like the light from a bulb, or a linear projection like the beam of a torch. The summoning charm, however, had a power draw pattern like a doughnut.
The main reason that it was a spell reserved until the fourth year was this; the pattern was not easy to master at all. From the notes that he found in the library, most students took a couple of weeks to get the hang of it.
Mark was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost walked past the entrance to the kitchens. As he'd seen Fred do earlier, he tickled the pear and went inside. He asked for some food and was immediately served a small banquet to his feeble protests by the elves. Looking at his eager little hosts he wondered
"Have you guys had your dinner yet? Why don't you join me?"
His innocent question was met by what he figured were scandalised looks. 'Shit,' he thought. His question must have somehow offended them. He decided to look into their minds for answers.
What he found was most interesting. The minds of the house-elves were very different than humans. He found different layers of thoughts, protected by some sort of intruder protections. However, it was constructed in a bizarre fashion - The most private thoughts and the most public thoughts were the most easily accessible, with the layers in the middle almost impenetrable to him.
'The knowledge about their masters is the most heavily protected,' he concluded. 'It's as if there is some magic protecting the bond between the elf and its master.' He shook these thoughts, shelving them for rumination.
"I meant no offence," he tried to placate the elves. "I just wished to imply that I would not mind your company."
"It is very kinds of you, Master Smith," one of the elves said, "But it is not proper for a elf to consider itself equal-"
"As you wish," Mark said. "Please do whatever you're comfortable with."
The elves seemed torn at this. Finally, one of them signalled the others, who then left. The lone elf spoke.
"Corky will provide you with company, Master Smith"
Mark smiled as he ate his sandwich. "Thanks, Corky." After munching some more, he asked
"So Corky, how old are you?"
"Corky is being sixteen human years, sir"
"Huh. And how long - how long does a house elf live for?"
Corky thought for a few moments, before replying
"It can be from eighty to two hundred of your years, sir"
"Two hundred?! Really?"
"How long have you worked at Hogwarts?"
"I was born here Master Smith"
"Then you must know the castle like the back of your hand. Do you know any secrets? Something to tell your new friend, perhaps?" Mark asked in an amused tone.
Corky, however, took the question seriously, and immediately answered
"We is bound not to share Hogwarts secrets." Corky took a pause, before adding slowly, "But there is a place that is not a secret. None of the wizard masters know about it. You sees, it is being forgotten"
Mark's interest was piqued.
"Really? Will you tell me?" He asked in the politest tone he could muster. Corky nodded slowly
"On the sixth floor, near the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy, there is being a secret room." There was a pause before the instructions continued.
"It becomes whatever you wishes it to be. You walks in front of it three times thinking about what you wants and the room comes"
"You're kidding!" Mark hissed excitedly.
"We house-elf cannot lie Master Smith" the elf replied, in an offended tone.
"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I was just surprised. What's this room called?"
Corky seemed to be satisfied with the clarification, and answered,
"We elves is calling it the Come-And-Go-Room"