Albus Dumbledore and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
And we're back. My Muse has returned from wherever she went, bringing with her a suitcase full of sand and suspicous little paper umbrellas.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, the Addams Family, the Seven Dwarfs, or Sesame Street any more than I did last week. Which is to say, not at all.
The first sign of change was minor: on Monday morning, bowls of fresh fruit appeared in each Common Room, the Staff Room, and spaced at intervals on the tables in the Great Hall. They were mounded with apples, pears, and clementines, with a single crimson pomegranate perched precariously atop each one. Even before the regular breakfast foods appeared on the long tables, students and teachers alike were snagging the fruits. Most students avoided the pomegranates, either not knowing how to eat them or thinking of them as potions ingredients rather than food, but a few, such as the Patil twins, Blaise Zabini, and Wednesday, happily appropriated them, cut them open, and started scooping the ruby seeds out onto their plates with their spoons. A few other adventurous students followed their lead.
Up at the Head Table, Dumbledore glared at the bowl in front of him, treating it as a symbol of all the changes that had been forced on him. The pomegranate in particular was offensive. It was alien to him. It didn’t belong here, any more than the three extra places that had been set at the table belonged here.
“Headmaster, if you’ve finished interrogating the pomegranate, may I put it out of its misery?” Morticia Addams’ cool, rich voice interrupted his ruminations.
“Of course, Madam.” He passed the fruit down the table and watched with a sort of morbid fascination as she dismembered it expertly with her long, sharp nails, its red juice shining like blood on the white china of her plate.
And that was the second sign of change. For this first morning, the three Addams adults had taken places at the Head Table. They had already told him that in future they would commute in through the Floo in Remus Lupin’s office and would only be taking luncheon on the days they taught, but today he had to introduce them. He could already hear the buzzing of interest among the students as they speculated at the presence of the three extra people. Well, best to get that done immediately, before the suppositions became too outrageous.
Using the mild spell that he cast whenever he wished attention to be drawn to him, he rose majestically from his chair. The students quieted as he smiled benignly down upon them. “May I have your attention, please? I have a few announcements to make. I know you are all anxious to get to your breakfasts, so I will keep this as short as possible. First of all, Professor Quirrell has been unavoidably called away by a personal emergency, and will remain absent for an indefinite period. While he is away, Professor Lupin will take on his responsibilities teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. I hope you will all do your best for Professor Lupin.”
He paused to shoot a quick glance down at the Slytherin table while there was a round of applause and Lupin waved briefly at the students. The Potter boy was rapidly becoming influential among the students, and was important to Dumbledore in his own right, so it had become second-nature for the old wizard to check the boy’s reactions. He didn’t seem to be even paying attention to the announcements, in comparison to his cousins’ enthusiastic approval. This was odd.
“This, of course, leaves us short a Professor of Magical History – a position which will be admirably filled, on an interim basis, by Professor Gomez Addams. Professor Addams comes to us from the United States and has much to share with us about the history of magic in foreign countries. Please give him a hearty welcome!” The children gave another round of applause, a bit more uncertainly this time, while Gomez Addams rose and gave a cheery wave. The Addams children sat stunned. Apparently they hadn’t been told about what their parents were going to be doing for the next few months.
“Furthermore,” said Dumbledore, waving his hands for attention again, “we are also starting a program to add Assistant Professors in each subject, who will assist the regular Professors, provide tutoring where needed, and eventually teach a few classes in their fields of expertise. Today we welcome the first of these new Assistant Professors: Professor Morticia Addams, who will be assisting in both Divination and Herbology, and Professor Fester Addams, who will be assisting in Muggle Studies. Again, a hearty welcome to our new instructors!” This time Dumbledore himself clapped politely as Morticia and Fester Addams rose briefly. The Addams boy was banging his head on the table, while Wednesday applauded excitedly. Potter’s reaction was odder yet: he sat methodically shredding the peel of a clementine, while the fruit itself sat ignored on his plate.
After breakfast, Dumbledore spent the morning dealing with the paperwork involved with all the new changes, including drafting guidelines for the advanced placement testing – the announcements would have to be worded very carefully – and also drafting an offer to the Potions Mistress Severus had recommended – he was sure that would require a bit of negotiation. Then he had a quick lunch in his office and Time Turned himself back to just after breakfast, Flooed to the Ministry, and spent the morning again focused on Wizengamot matters. Someone was mounting legal challenges to the seals on Death Eater trials from just after the end of the war with Voldemort, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the records secure. There were any number of reasons why someone might want access to those files, and he couldn’t think of any good that would come from releasing them. He wasn’t sure yet who was behind it – the solicitors refused to say who their principal was, and there were precedents to protect the anonymous plaintiff. Dumbledore sometimes regretted that Wizarding Law had different rules from Muggle law, but that couldn’t be changed now.
Returning to the school, he had a second, proper luncheon in the Gread Hall, listening carefully to the gossip among the students and the teachers. The students, understandably, were most concerned with the new teachers. He heard a buzz of approval about Remus Lupin, who had started off with a bang – literally – by having all of his classes do target practice, shooting sparks at conjured bubbles, and giving House points to the highest scorers. Apparently Quirrell hadn’t had his classes use their wands at all, and the students had greatly enjoyed the chance to show off.
He did notice something odd about the luncheon, however – the long tables, normally bare wood, were covered with shining white tablecloths. Perhaps this was a detail he’d missed from that interminable meeting? He made a mental note to follow up on it.
He spent the afternoon with the Minister for Magic, who had his usual Monday cluster of questions and demands – Dumbledore swore the man spent his weekends thinking of ways to ruin his Mondays – then doubled back to handle a staff meeting before dinner. The fruit bowl in the staff room had been supplemented by a plate of biscuits, which was quite welcome during the meeting.
Gomez Addams cornered him about getting some guest lecturers in. Dumbledore wasn’t surprised that the American Squib had found himself out of his depth already and was calling in some experts, so he gave his approval.
Professor Sprout bubbled happily about Morticia Addams’ offer to bring in some specimens of rare carnivorous plants from her own collection. Dumbledore shuddered to think about it, but decided they couldn’t be any more dangerous than the Devil’s Snare and Mandrakes that were already in the greenhouses.
Fester Addams had spent the morning sitting quietly in the back of the Muggle Studies classroom, and the students and Professor Burbage were too intimidated to approach him. He said, though, that he could already see some things in the program that could be updated, and he was thinking about some practical exercises.
All in all, things seemed to be going well.
Dinner itself was blessedly normal and Addams-free. Dumbledore spent the evening catching up on his reading and chatting with the portraits in his office, which were a major source of information on what was really going on in the school. When he retired, long after midnight, he found his bedclothes turned down invitingly, and a mint on his pillow.
Tuesday morning found a small bowl of fruit (without pomegranates) on his nightstand next to his customary cup of tea. He wondered briefly what the small brown fuzzy thing in the bowl was, but everything else seemed quite in order. He partook of an orange to refresh himself before dressing and going down to breakfast.
There, he found that the snowy white tablecloths from the previous day remained, and the ordinary white napkins had been replaced by napkins in House colours on the student tables; the napkins on the Head table remained white but sported embroidered Hogwarts crests.
Around ten o’clock, the quiet, orderly progression of the day was disrupted by the arrival of a work gang of dwarves who said they were here to build the greenhouse, the new housing for Hagrid, a fence at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, and new stables and paddock fencing for the Magical Creatures class. This made Professor Kettleburn very happy, as he’d been grousing about missing out on the weekend’s goodies. The dwarves, however, kept stomping up and down the stairs to Dumbledore’s office with questions about every little detail, until he finally told Professor Sprout to deal with everything. She drafted Rubeus Hagrid, Morticia Addams, and Professor Kettleburn to oversee matters, and the dwarves stopped bothering him – although the sounds of construction drifting through his tower windows were quite distracting. Not quite as distracting, though, as the dwarven work song the younger students adopted, marching to and from their classes singing “Heigh-ho! Heigh-ho!” with considerable gusto.
Wednesday morning brought warm pastries with his tea before breakfast, and it proved to be a good thing that he’d eaten something before he went down to the Great Hall. The Head Table had a temporary extension, and there was Gomez Addams sitting with three goblins! All of them had plates full of what Dumbledore assumed was goblin breakfast food – but it was squirming and wriggling most alarmingly. Dumbledore pulled Addams aside.
“May I ask what they are doing here?”
“They’re my guest lecturers, of course! It seems Binns was teaching an extremely one-sided version of the history of the Goblin Wars, and I thought it might be a good idea to get some goblins in to explain their side of it to the older students. It’ll help them understand there are always two sides, at least, to any situation. And the truth is probably somewhere in between.”
“I had no idea this was the sort of guest lecturer you had in mind,” said Dumbledore, looking at the goblins. Professor Flitwick had just joined them and was happily chatting in the throat-rendng Goblin language and eating the unsettling wriggly things on toast. “Perhaps you should have run this past Professor Lupin, since it’s really his class.”
“Oh, he was all for it!” said Addams cheerfully. “He thinks it’s such a good idea, he wants to get some vampires in next term. And maybe centaurs, or some werewolves in the spring. Excuse me, though, I have to go attend to my guests.”
Dumbledore nodded dumbly. He’d known Flitwick was one-quarter goblin, of course, but the only way it showed was in his height – he’d never spoken Gobbledegook or eaten things that squirmed. Now he was doing both in public. Hopefully things would go back to normal once the goblins were gone.
He glanced once more at the goblin end of the table, to see Addams drenching a bowl of wiggly things in some sort of green sauce and spooning them up enthusiastically. He shuddered and resolutely looked away.
Lunch was just as bad, and he found himself unable to eat a bite. Fortunately he was able to sustain himself from a tray of sweets and cakes in the staff room, and found himself reluctantly agreeing with Lucius Malfoy that perhaps allowing the house elves to learn some new recipes was a good thing – there were some round cakes with an interesting sweet red filling that he found quite tasty.
Thursday was a meeting of the International Confederation of Wizards, where he found himself, as Supreme Mugwump of that august body, overseeing a vote to make a resolution to force himself, as Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot of Britain, to bring British Wizarding Law in line with that of the Americas and Europe by ordering public trials and questioning of both defendants and witnesses under Veritaserum in capital cases. Which wasn’t a bad thing, necessarily, but combined with the movement in the Wizengamot itself, it was quite suspicious. Paperwork kept him at the Confederation offices in Luxembourg until well after dinner, so he Time-Turned himself to catch dinner at Hogwarts; it would not do for him not to be there.
The napkins were neatly folded into origami animals, which was cute but distracting, as one had to catch them before one could unfold them onto the lap. Fortunately they stayed still after that.
Hagrid buttonholed him after dinner. It seemed the dwarves had been as efficient as ever about their work, and had already finished the new house for the gamekeeper. The huge man had moved his possessions over and couldn’t wait to show it off, so Dumbledore found himself nodding and smiling at various architectural details (“Look, there’s room for me head now. An’ a real bedroom! An’ a run out back fer Fang…”) and attempting to find gracious ways of turning down rock cakes while drinking a gallon or so of strong tea. He got to bed far later than he’d planned, and slept poorly, with several trips to the loo.
On Friday morning, Dumbledore found his desk buried under a mound of parchment. Each of the teachers had delivered a draft of the placement test for their subject; additionally, the advert for Assistant Professor positions had run in Wednesday’s Daily Prophet, so responses had begun to come in for that.
On top of it all was a note from Severus, who he had put in charge of recruiting for the Potions position, informing him that Mistress Frump had agreed to join the Hogwarts faculty at a salary that was quite reasonable, given her reputation and years of experience, on the condition that she have staff quarters, workshop facilities, and library access, as well as quarters for a servant who would prepare her meals, as she was quite particular in her diet. It was quite a relief to be able to sign off on this matter so rapidly; Dumbledore agreed to her terms and sent a note of approval to Severus, asking him to arrange the details with Mistress Frump, and he also advised housekeeping to prepare appropriate quarters for her and housing for her house elf.
While he was sorting out the Assistant Professor applications into three piles (“must hire”, “possible”, and “not in a million years”), there was a thunderous “BOOM!” from outside. The entire castle seemed to shake, and the piles of parchment cascaded into Dumbledore’s lap.
He was half-way to the front entrance when there was another “BOOM!”.
He arrived in the Entrance Hall to find Argus Filch barring the massive oak door against attack, while students and teachers were trying to find ways to see out the high windows and find out what was going on.
Dumbledore had Filch unbar the door and ventured outside. The entire north side of the castle was shrouded in clouds of smoke that reeked of brimstone. As he made his way cautiously through it, a familiar voice cut through the mist. “All right, I think you have the range now. Let’s try to get the next one right down the chimney!”
Of course, it was an Addams – Fester, this time. That whole family was becoming the bane of his existence. Coughing, he followed the sound of voices and metal on metal. The smoke cleared and he discovered a group of seventh-year students grouped around a full-sized cannon, much larger than the little toy one Filch had. One of the boys was cleaning the barrel with a Scourgify spell while others prepared a powder charge, wadding, and a cannon ball.
With Fester here, that meant this was the N.E.W.T. Muggle Studies class, but where was the regular teacher? Ah, there she was, fluttering her hands ineffectively. “Professor Addams, I really don’t think … I mean, blowing it up isn’t really … what if you …”
“Don’t worry, I’ve blown up hundreds of things. Most of ‘em on purpose. I’ve even got permission for this one. Spoils it a little, but you can’t have everything. Twitchell, you done with the barrel yet?”
“All clear,” said the boy. Several other students started to load the cannon; the short, plump girl in charge of the cannon ball had to levitate it up to the muzzle.
Dumbledore finally found his voice. “Addams, what is going on here?”
“Demonstration. Seems your kids had no idea that a Muggle weapon could do as much damage as a Blasting Curse. So I’m showing them.”
“What are you shooting at?”
“Hagrid’s old house. The dwarves were going to just tear it down, but I asked him if I could use it for target practice.” He nodded over at the audience he had acquired; most of the Muggle Studies students, all of the dwaves, and Hagrid waited eagerly to see what would happen. “Ready, kids?” The students had finished loading the cannon. “Okay, silencio!” he yelled, clapping his own hands over his ears. Dumbledore wondered for a second why Addams, a Squib to the core, was casting a spell, then realised it was an instruction to the class, who were casting Silencing Charms on themselves. Dumbledore hastily did the same, as Addams gestured to a seventh-year who cast a small, wordless incendio at the touchhole of the cannon.
A gout of fire and smoke erupted from its bore, and although he could not hear its roar, Dumbledore could feel the concussion as the artillery piece rocked backwards on its spoked wheels.
A moment later, as the smoke started to clear, the students manning the cannon started jumping up and down, cheering and pointing at Hagrid’s house. The cannon ball had not gone down the chimney after all, but had blasted through the front wall, shattered the back wall, and smashed the privy before plowing into one of the giant pumpkins in Hagrid’s garden and covering everything with orange pulp. Apparently the cannon ball had taken out the central support of the hut in its passage. With a groan, the roof of the hut collapsed majestically, taking what was left of the walls with it, leaving only a pile of splintered wood; indeed, the only part of the house still standing was the chimney. The rest of the class, who had been observing from a safe distance, peered through the smoke and gaped at the wreckage. The dwarves murmured appreciatively and Hagrid applauded. Professor Burbage fainted. Fester pounded the boy who’d touched the cannon off on the back, nearly knocking him off his feet. His lips moved soundlessly. After a moment, Dumbledore remembered to cancel his spell.
“… go down and take a look at the damage! And remember that Muggles don’t just use one cannon at a time! Try to imagine a whole row of them along this ridge here, firing down on forces below. Betsy here is an old-fashioned cannon, too – the balls don’t even explode when they hit. Modern artillery does lots more damage. Next week we’ll see what grapeshot and chain can do to a body …”
“You most certainly will not!” Dumbledore barked. “There will be no shooting at people at this school!”
“I was going to use a pig, Headmaster.”
“That’s good to know, but still …”
“Humans are too hard to come by.”
“Assistant Professor Addams,” sighed Dumbledore, “while I normally don’t interfere with how my teachers teach their classes, I must request that you refrain from demonstrations involving cannons or explosions in the future. Is that clear?”
“No. Look, what’s the next chapter in the Muggle Studies book? Just go with that.”
“Plagues it is, then.” Fester grinned at Dumbledore, a truly horrifying experience that sent the older wizard back to the castle as rapidly as he could go lest his stomach betray him.
All the rest of the day, Dumbledore kept jumping every time he heard an odd sound, and every sound was beginning to seem odd. He was only halfway through with the paperwork when dinnertime rolled around, and had to put in three hours with the Time Turner to get it done before taking to his bed.
That night it snowed. Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, with six inches of snow on the ground. Virtually none of the students showed up for breakfast, and Dumbledore looked forward to quiet enjoyment of his breakfast. Unfortunately for him, Professor McGonagall stormed into the Great Hall as Dumbledore was finishing his porridge.
“Dumbledore, you have to do something about this!”
“You know the first snowfall of the season distracts the students, my dear Professor. Undoubtedly they are all out pelting each other with snowballs. It’s Saturday. There’s no harm in it.”
“Not that. It’s just … Come see for yourself.”
She practically dragged Dumbledore to the front entrance, which stood open, letting in the frosty air and the sounds of the students’ merriment. He looked out upon the front courtyard, and gaped in amazement.
The snow which had fallen overnight was shaped into a profusion of exotic snow sculptures, forts, and castles. A veritable zoo of creatures carved from blocks of ice lined the galleries of the courtyard. One snow fort was shaped like Hogwarts itself and another resembled the village of Hogsmeade; there was a “town-and-gown” snowball fight of epic proportions going on.
“All the courtyards are like this,” said McGonagall. “And there’s a gallery of statues of famous wizards along the main road to the gate. This whole thing is getting out of hand. They must be stopped now.”
“They, who?” asked Dumbledore.
“The house elves, of course! Who else could have done this? Who else would have?”
The heads of the house-elf clans were duly summoned and interrogated. It turned out that there had been a raging war going on between the Kitchen Elves and the Housekeeping Elves for a week, precipitated by the intrusion of the Kitchen Elves into the common rooms to provide fruit for the students. The Housekeeping Elves had retaliated with fancy linens at table, which led to even more elaborate snack plates, which led to origami napkins, and so forth. The Housekeeping Elves were planning to escalate to centerpieces next. The Groundskeeping Elves had finally been given a chance to enter the fray when the snow came; nobody had noticed how clean the courtyards had been, but everyone noticed the snow sculptures.
After hours of intense negotiation during which Dumbledore was sometimes tempted to slam his own head on the desk, the Kitchen clan was relegated to simple fruit bowls in the common rooms, the Housekeeping Elves were allowed to put plain white linens on the table at dinner only, and the Groundskeeping Elves were told that they could maintain a pair of simple snow forts on the Great Lawn, but that was it. Their current artwork would be allowed to melt naturally.
On Sunday, Dumbledore made an announcement to the school. “This morning we expect the arrival of Potions Mistress Eudora Frump, who will be taking over some of Professor Snape’s classes.”
He was interrupted by cheers, whistles, and table-banging from the students.
“Ahem! If I may … after an appropriate period of observation, Mistress Frump will teach First through Fourth Years, with Professor Snape retaining Fith through Seventh.”
There was more cheering from the younger students, accompanied now by groans from the older ones.
“I trust that you will welcome Professor Frump and give her all the respect due her position.”
He was looking directly at the Weasley Twins as he said it; they responded with exaggerated expressions of innocence.
“I suppose now would be a good time to announce a new program – on an experimental basis, students will be allowed to test for placement in advanced classes. Details and schedules are being posted this morning in your Common Rooms. Permission forms will be sent to your parents this week, so if you’re interested in testing, be sure to owl them and let them know. Examinations will be held over the Christmas break, so you have time to brush up on the material in advance. New class assignments will be made at the beginning of next term.”
He smiled to himself as he sat down and watched the Ravenclaws gobble their breakfasts prior to stampeding en masse up to their Common Room to check out the testing schedules. The other houses were less obvious about their interest, but even so, breakfast was finished in record time, and the owlery was empty by ten.
Just after noon, Hagrid took one of the thestral-drawn carriages down to Hogsmeade, and picked up Professor Frump, who had made her own way to the Three Broomsticks.
Feeling quite pleased that something was going right, Albus made his way down to the Entry Hall to meet her, and got there just as Hagrid was bringing in the last of a large number of trunks. There, in all her baggy-robed, frizzy-haired glory, stood Grandmama Addams, wearing a battered pointy hat and a tattered shawl as her only protection from the November cold, and carrying a wicker basket from which came mewing sounds. Assisting Hagrid in bringing in the luggage was the Addams’ giant butler.
“What … what … where’s Professor Frump?” he sputtered.
“Right here,” said Grandmama, cackling. “Eudora Frump Addams, at your service. Thanks for the invitation; I’m looking forward to working with young Snape here.”
“Madam, are you sure you can handle …? I mean, our lower year students are quite …”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Don’t worry. It’s been a few years since I handled a classroom, but it’s like falling off a broom – you never forget how.”
“Well, then,” said Dumbledore, gritting his teeth, “welcome to Hogwarts. I’m sure it will be pleasant to work with you.”
“I’m looking forward to it. Give me a few years and you won’t recognize your old dungeons.”
That’s what I’m afraid of, Dumbledore thought. He did not let it show on his face, though, instead smiling and bending to kiss Grandmama’s hand in a courtly fashion. He was very much aware of the audience of students that lined the stairs and the balcony overlooking the hall. “Professor Snape will show you to your quarters and to the dungeons, madam. I trust you’ll find all the arrangements satisfactory. We’ll have to arrange new quarters for your servant. I must admit we were expecting a house elf, not …” He gestured helplessly at Lurch.
“An honest mistake. I’ve always said Lurch is part house elf. Maybe part of several house elves. Anyway, he won’t be staying for the evenings. Seems my son will be needing him at home soon for some project or other, so Lurch will just be teaching your elves how to do some Addams-style home cooking and popping by during the day from time to time.”
“I’m sure that will be fine,” said Dumbledore weakly. “Let me have a word with Professor Snape, and then I’ll leave you to get settled.”
He drew Snape aside. “You knew about this!” he hissed.
“Her! Being an Addams!”
“Well, of course I did. Everyone in the Guild knows about Eudora Frump. I thought you knew, too, before you approved it. You do have several of her books on your shelves, after all. All you had to do was open one and see the picture on the flyleaf.”
“I haven’t had much time to keep up with the literature, Severus. Well, I suppose I’m stuck with her. Try to keep the damage down to a minimum, will you?”
“I shall do my best, Headmaster.”
If Dumbledore didn’t know better, he’d have sworn Snape was smirking as he escorted Grandmama, followed by a bobbing line of floating trunks, down toward the dungeons.
Afterwards, Dumbledore retreated to his own quarters, where he took an infusion of feverfew, butterbur and willow bark and lay down in the dark for an hour or two to make a last attempt at fending off the migraine that had been threatening all week.
It had easily been the worst week of his life, and that was saying something.
Dumbledore was not the only one having a bad week, though. Harry Potter drifted listlessly through Monday and Tuesday’s classes, taking minimal notes and putting little effort into his Transfigurations and Charms.
On Wednesday morning before breakfast, Wednesday Addams waylaid her father as he came out of the Floo in his office. “Dad, you have to do something about Harry!”
“There’s a problem?”
“Yes! He thinks that the fragment of Voldemort’s soul stuck in his head will make him all evil and we’ll have to kill him to get it out. So he’s depressed. He’s not eating, he’s not studying, he spends a lot of time staring out the window into the lake.”
“Hmm. That’s not good.”
“Can you help him?”
Gomez checked his watch. “I have guest lecturers coming in today, so I’ll have to talk to him after class. I think Remus might have a few thoughts on the matter, too. Send Harry down here when you’re done with your last class, all right?”
Wednesday nodded and headed off to breakfast.
Four o’clock saw Gomez saying his goodbyes to the Goblins, and Harry showed up just in time to say hello to Roquat and Guph before they returned to Gringotts. He bowed and attempted a greeting in Gobbledegook to the goblins, eliciting a delighted response which he understood as, “May you have as much gold as you can eat.” He obviously needed to study more. The goblins then took the Floo out, and Harry flopped down on the ancient sofa that graced the office. A puff of dust rose from its threadbare upholstery, reminding Harry of the comforts of home.
Gomez threw himself into the leather chair behind the desk, which had seen more use in the last three days than in the past thirty years. “Now then, Harry, perhaps you can tell me what’s wrong?”
“Who’s asking? Uncle Gomez, or Professor Addams?”
“Let’s start with Uncle Gomez, shall we?”
Harry grunted. “Nothing’s wrong. ‘M fine.”
“You’re four years ahead of schedule on grunting and three on ‘I’m fine,’” said Gomez. “Skip the sullen teenager routine and talk.”
“Didn’t Remus tell you already?”
“About Voldemort’s soul? Yes, he told me. So?”
“So!? So I’ve got a huge chunk of a Dark Lord stuck in my head! Don’t you think that’s worth being upset about?”
“Stranger things have happened.”
“Yeah, right. I bet nobody in our family’s ever had someone else’s soul stuck in their head.”
Gomez stroked his mustache contemplatively. “You’re right there, I think. There was Cousin Bosworth, who was occasionally possessed by the spirit of a hedgehog – he was great fun at parties – but that’s not at all the same thing.”
“Right. So I think I’m entitled to be depressed.”
“Absolutely!” said Gomez, slapping his knee heartily. “Most understandable thing in the world!”
“I didn’t think you’d under – wait, what?” asked Harry, his train of thought derailed by his uncle’s cheerful acceptance.
“Depression, angst, wallowing in self-pity … all perfectly natural. But you’re going about it all wrong!”
“You’re an Addams, boy! And Addamses always do things big! With passion! Good or ill, pleasure or pain, we embrace it! Now … do you want to face this like a child or a man?”
“Um… a man?”
“Good, good! Now, when a man gets into a bad spot, what does he do?” Gomez jerked open a desk drawer and pulled a bottle of amber-colored liquid and several tumblers out. “He gets good and drunk, that’s what he does! You can’t look at the problem from all angles if you’re sober!”
He poured out a generous portion for himself, and a slightly less generous portion for Harry. Tiny flames danced across the surface of the liquid as Harry picked up the glass.
Gomez raised his glass. “To passion!” he toasted, and knocked his drink back with panache.
Harry attempted to follow suit. It wasn’t the first time he’d had alcohol, of course. Along with the cuisines of many nations, the Addams children had sampled their drinks, from absinthe to zinfandel. It was, however, the first time Harry had had firewhisky. He felt the magical liquor burn its way down his gullet and set fire to his stomach. Then it seared its way back up his throat and shot from his mouth in a jet of flame that would have done credit to a small dragon.
“Whoa! Smooth!” he croaked.
Gomez smiled and poured again. Carefully judging the amount the boy drank, the older man soon had Harry at the garrulous but not incoherent stage.
“Ready for the next step?”
“Sure,” said Harry, blinking owlishly at him and raising his glass again.
“You’ve had enough for the moment. Next step is the depression.”
“I was doing that, wasn’t I?”
“Not bad for a beginner, I suppose. But you’re not taking it far enough. Do it big! Don’t just mope around. Take to your bed! Don’t just pick at your food. Go on a hunger strike! Don’t just sigh. SING!”
“Like this: Nobody knows, the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow,” Gomez intoned in a soulful baritone. “Now you try.”
“Do I have to do that song?”
“No, you can find something else just as depressing, I’m sure.”
“Okay, how about … You gotta put down the duckie, Put down the duckie, Put down the duckie, If you wanna play the saxophone!” Harry warbled.
Gomez looked at him. “‘Put down the duckie’?”
Harry sighed deeply. “That song saw me through so many bad times.”
“I’m sure it did. I think singing is going to have to wait until your voice changes, though.”
“Probably. I can really take to my bed?” he asked hopefully.
“As your uncle, I’d recommend it. As your professor, I’d say wait until Saturday.”
“And this hunger strike … is that everything, or just stuff I don’t like?”
Gomez was saved from answering by a rap at the door; it was Remus, who had by now finished his own last class of the day.
“Starting a little early, aren’t you?” asked Remus as Gomez greeted him and handed him a glass of flaming liquid.
“Lunch was hours ago.”
Harry, meanwhile, had been considering his uncle’s lesson. “You know, Uncle Gomez, all this taking to my bed stuff sounds good, but it doesn’t really help. What’s it good for?”
“It makes sure you’re good and rested when the next stage comes.”
“Why, leaping out of bed and heroically dashing off to solve the problem, with as much collateral damage as possible. Preferably while saving the beautiful maiden in the process.” Gomez whispered confidentially, “Take it from me, they really love collateral damage.”
“But I already heroically saved Wednesday. And I burned Voldemort all up. But he’s still in my head! You know, I don’t think you’ve ever really been depressed at all,” said Harry skeptically.
“I’m wounded! Of course I’ve been depressed! You should have seen me just before I got married to your Aunt Morticia! I was a wreck!”
“You were depressed about marrying her? I thought you loved her?”
“I do, but I wasn’t supposed to be marrying her. I was supposed to be marrying your Aunt Ophelia.” Gomez shuddered, and Harry shuddered as well; he couldn’t imagine anyone less suited for Uncle Gomez than Aunt Ophelia, whose cheerful, sunny demeanor and golden hair masked her nature as a Black Widow. She’d had nine husbands that Harry knew of; none had lived more than six months, but they’d all died happy, or so Aunt Ophelia claimed.
“I was contracted to marry one of Cousin Repelli’s two daughters, and Ophelia was the elder, so there it was. Morticia, as the younger sister, was just her bridesmaid. Anyway, I didn’t really want to marry Ophelia – don’t get me wrong, I’d have done my family duty – but I indulged myself in a good long bout of depression first. Hunger strikes, nightmares, chills and fevers, coughing up blood, the works! But then I saw Morticia coming down the aisle, in that long black dress with the tentacles around the hem and carrying a bouquet of spider lilies, and, well, that was it for me. I’ve never looked back. Come to think of it, that’s more the beautiful maiden saving me. But we’re getting off track here. Solving the problem, that’s what we were talking about.”
“Well, then, there’s another Addams way to deal with it,” said Remus, judging that Gomez had done an excellent job of jarring Harry out of his funk, and it was a good time for a professional Voice of Reason to step in. “Use it. Learn all you can about it. Learn how to control it and make it work for you. And learn how to get rid of it, so when you don’t need it anymore … poof!” he said, flicking his fingers in a dismissive gesture.
“But what if I can’t?”
“Then we deal with that when the time comes. There’s no point in fretting about it now. In the meantime, we start working on it.”
“But I can feel it now. It’s in my head, poking at me to do stuff.”
“You don’t have to listen to it,” said Remus, sensibly.
“Yeah, you try not listening to something like … oh.”
“Right. I’ve got a lifetime of experience with that,” said Remus, sitting down next to Harry. “I was younger than you are now when I was bitten. Since then, the wolf has been part of me. It’s always there, prowling around, wanting to get out. I spent years – most of my life, in fact – trying not to let the wolf out at all. I didn’t let myself get angry or get in fights. And you know what happened?”
Harry shook his head.
“It got worse. It got stronger. Every month I tried to hold it back and every month it hurt me more and did more damage when it finally did get free. I’m pretty sure it would have killed me – or someone else – eventually.”
“What did you do?”
“Well, I got lucky and met your family, and they sent me to the Reserve. And there I learned that if I let the wolf out, and used it for my own purposes, it was less likely to go out of control. It took me a couple of years, but eventually I learned not to be a person trying not to be a werewolf, but to accept the fact that I was a werewolf and let it be part of me. It isn’t really all bad, either – I’m stronger, faster, have more acute senses, and actually a bit of extra magical power, too. The new Wolfsbane potion Professor Snape makes for me helps tremendously.”
“If there was a cure, would you give that up?”
“In a heartbeat. It’s still a curse, you know. But as long as I’m stuck with it, I’ll make it work for me.”
“So you think I can do that, too?”
“You already know Occlumency – that will help you tell your ideas and emotions from your unwelcome guest’s. I don’t think it’s likely to make you turn evil now that you’re aware of it. If it was going to, it would have done it already. In the meantime, it’s probably what’s giving you your Parseltongue ability, as well as the ability to cancel the spells cast by a certain Dark Lord, which could turn out to be crucial. You can translate his journal, which nobody else can do. You can tell when he or things connected to him are around – sort of a Voldemort detector, if you will. And it’s probably giving you some extra magical power. You may or may not be able to keep any of this when you get rid of the soul fragment. I’d say probably not, but I can’t be sure at this point.”
“I’d kinda miss being a Parseltongue,” said Harry sadly. “But getting rid of this,” he said, poking the scar, “would be worth it.”
“Then we’ll get right on it. If I know Gomez –”
“– and you do,” put in Gomez.
“– he’ll be lining up every witch doctor, exorcist and spiritualist in Europe and the United States to see what they can do for you.”
Gomez nodded in agreement.
“Bet they’ll make me drink lots of yucky potions,” said Harry, making a face.
“Probably,” said Gomez, “and speaking of yucky potions, you’ll probably want to take these,” he said as he plopped two vials down on the end table next to Harry, “or I’m going to have my head handed to me when we go down to dinner.”
Sobered and de-hangovered, Harry went off to drop his books in the Common Room before dinner. With any luck, there was still some Goblin food left over.
“Think we can pull it off?” asked Remus quietly.
“We’d better. I don’t want to think of what might happen if we don’t.”