Chapter Twelve: A Map and Machinations
When Gordon Macalister, looking gaunt and disgruntled, entered the apothecary in Knockturn Alley, the shoppe was empty save for a hag at the back counter who was scooping henbane from a bin into a leather bag. She looked up from her task to peer at the man, and then laughed at him for making a hasty sign against the Evil Eye.
"You'll take anyone's money, won't you?" Macalister asked the owner.
"Gold is gold. What d'ye want?" Poddlum demanded.
Gordon handed the man his list.
The old man whistled between his two teeth. "And it looks like ye'll be partin' with a tidy amount o' yours."
"Can you get that merchandise for me, or not?"
"Most of it's here, but I'll need payment upfront for that last item."
"Fifty percent upfront."
"Forty," Macalister said in irritation.
"Eighty, and right now, or no deal."
Grumbling, Macalister laid eight galleons on the counter before the proprietor.
"Your eighty percent."
"What are ye playin' at? The kind of scrying mirror yer wantin' be one hundred galleons, not ten."
"Since the demned Ministry banned that sort of magical item without a permit for its use, is when."
"I don't have that kind of money on me!"
"Then come back when ye do," Poddlum said, lighting a pipe and exhaling a stream of cherry-scented tobacco into the other man's face.
Gordon scooped his coins up and left the shop with a scowl.
"That's the young for ye," the hag said to Poddlum as she hobbled up to the front counter with her goods.
"What's it to ye?"
"Double if you'll give the whelp this mirror when he comes back."
She handed Poddlum a small black disc.
"You an auror?"
The hag cackled. "Circe, no! Just a friend of that one's mother."
"So why d'ye want to give the boy a doctored scryin' mirror?"
"'Tain't no business of yourn."
"'Tis if'n'ye want me to give it to 'im."
"Drop a bit o' your ash on it and see fer yerself, then."
Poddlum tapped the bowl of his pipe onto the mirror, which began to shriek after a moment's contact with the hot ash.
"Visit yer mum, ye ungrateful blighter! Go home! Visit yer mu—"
"—make it stop, woman!"
The hag spat on the mirror, and the mirror stopped its tirade.
"Yer an evil old crone, ain't ye? Got the gold?"
The hag counted out the coins with maddening slowness, but the proprietor's appreciation for her care grew as the stack of gold became taller. "Here now, you just take yer herbs and such with the compliments of Poddlum's Necessities, Mother," the man told her, being careful not to blow smoke at her.
When she left, he locked his shoppe for the day and went out, for there were plenty of "young" witches to drink with—and young fools to cheat—at the Hangman's Noose if a man had blunt to sport.
Harry waited until she was well away from the apothecary's before altering her glamour to that of a young girl and proceeding to Honeydukes. It was a Hogsmeade weekend, and there were several Hogwarts students crushed into the sweet shoppe. No one noticed her slip into the basement, and no one, apparently, had discovered the tunnel that led from town to the school.
"I'm never eating cherries again! Lumos!" Harry said in a ridiculously childish tone of voice. And I'm glad I don't work for Giancarlo.
The lingering traces of Cruciatus had been emanating from Macalister in angry waves.
The passageway was empty and damp, but Harry had no trouble lighting the torch she conjured once she had progressed far enough in the tunnel. Causing the torch to levitate above her with a word, she set her pack down and removed a palm-sized cauldron from it, tapping the container with her wand until it had grown to the required size. Next, she called up a fire, and began to arrange her purchases in the order in which she would use them.
"I never thought anything I learned from you would be useful," she said quietly, addressing the store of Voldemort's knowledge locked in her mind that she had come to refer to by that wizard's name.
Harry shuddered. It had been difficult to know much of what that wizard had known and done; in fact, she still hadn't truly "catalogued" all of the information at her disposal, but if any of it could help Bill . . . .
The potion had to reduce by half, once all of the ingredients had been added to it, and the thought of waiting made the witch nervous. "I wish I still had Sirius' map."
"I don't doubt it, you rascal," the voice of Argus Filch answered her before he became visible.
"How did you know that I was here?"
"I got yer godfather's map, now don't I?"
"What do you want?" asked Harry, surreptitiously grasping her wand.
"Don't excite yourself. It's not as if you'll be getting a detention, now is it, girl?"
"I asked you a question, Filch. What do you want?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Been doin' that for years, haven't I? I said Peeves, Potter. You heard me well enough. I want him banished—for my silence."
What makes you think I need to trade favors with the likes of you? a voice in Harry's head asked.
She ignored it, fighting the black roll of vicious anger that crested through her body. She had practiced this sort of restraint for some time. To relieve the tension, she giggled. Filch looked at her oddly, and it was then that the witch remembered that she was still enchanted to look like a young girl.
Clearing her throat, she dropped her glamour, and said, "If I'm going to sneak about above ground, then I'll want the Marauders Map, one of the faster practice brooms from the Quidditch equipment shed, and a favor in return. Do you remember Bill Weasley?"
"Of course I do."
"This potion is for him. Would you take it to St. Mungo's for me?"
"You'd trust me with it?" Filch asked in genuine surprise.
"Why not? I trusted you with Hedwig, didn't I?"
"That you did."
When the Owlery had exploded during Harry's seventh year—"no one had ever discovered how the accident" had happened—Filch had found Hedwig, who had been badly burned and had broken a wing, and had nursed the owl back to health, much to the witch's surprise. She remembered the man telling her that he had kept the bird's status a secret, "in case the poor thing died. I didn't want you to have to lose your familiar twice, like," for all the students with owls had thought their birds had died.
Before Harry had left for auror training, she had temporarily given Hedwig into Filch's care, and had again returned her to him when she decided to leave the Wizarding World.
"She's in fine feather, in case you were wondering," Filch continued.
"I'm sure she is. Thank you, Mr. Filch."
"You're welcome, Mrs.—Miss—what do you call yourself, now, anyway?"
"Harry. Just Harry."
"We've got a deal then, Harry."
About the same time that the witch was flying through the upper corridors of Hogwarts after Peeves, Argus Filch was arriving at St. Mungo's to meet with Ron Weasley, "on a matter of the greatest importance."
The poltergeist looked as shocked to see Harry as Ron had been to receive Argus' letter, and the potion the man himself brought with him to the hospital.
"Sorry about this," Ron and Harry said at the same moment—the wizard to his eldest brother as he poured the draught down Bill's throat, and the witch to Peeves before explaining the restrictions she was about to place on his movement.
It was a simple matter, really, to enchant the ghost to remain within the boundaries of Professor Trelawney's tower (an idea that Fred and George had cooked up, but had never had occasion to attempt), just as it was for Harry's potion to revive Bill from the silent incarceration under which he had suffered within the borders of his mind.
Of course, the actions of that morning had consequences. As Bill began to surface from the nightmare in which he had been "living," he was finally able to give voice to his fears, just as Sybil's shrieks began to echo throughout her chambers in response to the havoc Peeves was wreaking there.
"Bill, Bill!" Ron exclaimed. "It's me, your brother—Ron! You're safe. You're back. It's all right, Bill."
"My dear Sybil, I cannot imagine how this occurred," Albus said upon returning to the castle and finding his Divination professor in tears in his office.
"Let me enlighten you," Severus Snape said angrily, pushing a worried-looking Argus Filch before him.
Harry, meanwhile, was waiting impatiently in the tunnel for Argus to return and tell her how Bill had fared. But when she consulted her map and saw that the man was in Dumbledore's office—with Severus—she decided to leave.
And she would have done so at once, had not the sudden tumbling of earth closing the exits to the passageway prevented her.