The Sword of Gryffindor, or, How it Came to Be in that Icy Pond
The Headmaster sat in the quiet of his office for a long time, staring through his steepled fingers as the sunlight faded and the room got darker and darker. Finally, when he could barely see his fingers any more, he stood up and stretched all the kinks out of his back. He sighed heavily and glanced at the picture of his predecessor, now asleep in his frame. He felt momentarily envious of Albus, dead and gone, and sleeping quietly in his tomb. Of course, he thought morbidly, it wouldn't be long before he'd be in the same position. He didn't for a moment imagine that his portrait would be hanging next to Albus's, though. Not even if he did manage to survive the entire year. He left the office immediately, his mind made up, and he sealed the door behind him with a quick word, a wry twist on his lips.
"All students must be in the Great Hall at three o'clock tomorrow with no exceptions. The heads of house will be keeping track and if anyone fails to attend the Purity of Blood lecture with Professor Carrow, there will be grave consequences." McGonagall's eyes flashed as she rolled up the scroll from the Headmaster and Ginny could see the anger in her face. "So, students, I expect every one of you to be there. I know the subject will not be pleasant, but we can all endure one hour, correct?"
The students that filled the Gryffindor common room nodded half-heartedly. They had already had two of these lectures and "not pleasant" was a major understatement. Students had been called on, both times, with malicious pleasure by that Carrow wench to discuss in front of the entire assembly how being friendly with Mudbloods and half-bloods was a bad idea for Wizarding civilization. Ginny had felt Snape's eyes on her several times through both previous lectures and felt like her turn was probably coming. She wasn't sure what she would do then; get punished she supposed, because there was no way she was going to stand up and spit out that drivel. No way in hell. Ever. Besides, there was somewhere else she needed to be.
"So, what do you guys think?" Ginny looked at her two fellows and they both nodded. "If either of you don't want to take a chance ..."
"No, you're right about it being our best opportunity. And if we really hurry, maybe we can just pretend we're running late."
"Or we can say that we got detained by Wadspuffles in the stairs. I'm quite sure there's an infestation near our common room. All the signs are there. No one can argue about how difficult it is to get away from them."
"Uh, right." Ginny nodded and bit her lip. She probably would have laughed at that statement last year, but this year there wasn't much to laugh about. "So, it's all decided?"
Neville and Luna nodded solemnly in reply. This afternoon they would attempt to steal the sword of Gryffindor out of the Headmaster's office.
At two forty-five, Ginny and Neville's eyes met across the common room. Other students were starting to pack away their study supplies to get ready to head down to the lecture. They did the same but Ginny's heart was thudding in fear. She knew what sort of punishments the Carrows were dishing out to perpetrators of lesser crimes than breaking, entering and stealing and she didn't deceive herself for a minute that they would be lenient because she and Luna were girls. Filch was in his element with the whips and chains and thumbscrews and Ginny had heard whispered rumors of the Cruciatus curse being used with great glee on a few students. She imagined that this would be their weapon of choice on her. After all, since her parents were already in trouble with the Ministry, she didn't imagine the threat of their complaining would help in any way. But, she thought, as she buckled her bag, that was only if they got caught. And she had no intention of getting caught.
The Gryffindor students moved en masse toward the portrait hole and she and Neville hung back at the end of the line. As the student in front of them slipped through, Ginny ran toward a chair in the corner and drew out a bag hidden behind it. Neville's face was flushed and she could tell he was as scared as she was.
"Okay, I've got everything we need."
"All right. I hope Luna was able to get away."
"Don't worry. No one pays much attention to her." They smiled ruefully at each other and Neville slid out of the portrait hole, Ginny right on his heels. They turned right rather than left and hid behind a suit of armor in a niche not far from the Fat Lady.
They could hear McGonagall's voice carrying down the hall, hurrying the students at the back of the line to catch up with their housemates. Ginny's heart was beating so fast now that she wondered if it was echoing the same way. She gripped Neville's hand and was pleased that it was as sweaty as hers. "I'm scared, Neville."
"Yeah, me too. But Harry needs the sword, right?"
"Yeah. Dumbledore wanted him to have it."
"Then we'll get it for him. Don't worry, Ginny. I'll take all the blame if I need to." Ginny felt tears press at the back of her throat at his offer.
"Thanks, Neville, but I can't let you –"
"Shh!" he whispered as they heard footsteps in the hallway. Ginny looked past the suit of armor that hid them and saw Filch walking along. He was grinning and Ginny wished she was brave enough to hex him. He finally passed by and they left their hiding place, moving as quietly as possible down the deserted stone corridors. They saw Luna sitting in the window ledge where they had arranged to meet and she waved happily at them. Just as they approached her, they heard a loud noise and all three of them jumped.
"All students are now expected to be at the lecture in the Great Hall. Report immediately." It was Snape's voice, obviously magnified with a Sonorus spell. He repeated his warning three times and the three of them looked fearfully at each other.
"Do you think he already knows we're gone?" Ginny's voice trembled and she hated that she was letting the greasy git scare her.
"Maybe, but it will take him a while to find us. I can guarantee he won't search his office first. Come on, let's go." Neville led the way to the stone gargoyle in front of Dumbledore's – no, Snape's – office and Neville and Ginny pushed aside a tapestry and stayed as flat against the wall as it was possible to stay.
Luna grinned at both of them. "Don't worry, you two. I'll get the password." She walked up to the portrait hanging closest to the gargoyle and cleared her throat quite loudly. Ginny grimaced. Luna seemed to be missing the point about being as quiet as possible. Neville grimaced back and they grabbed each other's hands. Ginny wasn't sure which of them was trembling more and didn't care.
"We need to get into the Headmaster's office. We need the password." Luna's voice was low but clear, and Neville's hand gripped Ginny's tighter.
"I cannot help you."
"Yes, you can. You hang here day after day, certainly you hear it given time after time."
"I hear it, but I cannot divulge it."
"So, you approve of the fact that Professor Snape is the Headmaster of Hogwarts, attaining that position by murder most foul?" Ginny groaned inwardly at Luna's flowery language. She sounded like a badly-written romance novel.
"Headmasters come and go. It is not my concern."
"Harry Potter, the Chosen One, needs something from the office."
"Harry Potter, eh? Then he should come and get it himself. I would tell the password to him."
"He's –" Luna started, but Ginny whipped the tapestry away and dropped her voice instinctively.
"I'm here." Neville and Luna looked at her, shocked. This was not part of the plan but she was familiar enough with Harry's voice that she could imitate it fairly well. George and Fred had taught her years ago about how to do a respectable impression of anyone's voice and she had practiced Harry's many times. It made him seem not quite so far away when he was with those blasted Dursleys.
"I can't see you. Show yourself, Harry Potter."
Ginny knew that the portrait couldn't see out of the side of its frame. She moved closer to it, but kept right against the wall where she was invisible to it.
"I can't. I'm under my Invisibility Cloak. I would be in terrible trouble if someone saw me here at Hogwarts, don't you think?"
There was silence for a minute. Luna and Neville looked nervous and Ginny marveled at how calm she actually felt, now that they were here. She felt, stupid as it was, that Harry was here somehow, encouraging her, helping her. She decided to press the portrait for a reply. "I know that most of the portraits aren't happy with Snape's taking over the school. I won't hurt him, but I will be doing what Dumbledore wanted. He wanted me to have the sword. To get rid of You-Know-Who."
"I suppose, if there were a purpose for which Gryffindor's sword was best suited, it would be that one," the portrait mused. "But how do I know –"
"—it's me? I know you saw me with my Invisibility Cloak last year when I went to my extra classes with Professor Dumbledore. No one else has one as fine as this one."
"That is true. I will give you the password, but he changes it daily, so don't expect to come back tomorrow."
"Thank you." Neville and Luna said, and "Harry" did as well. Then Ginny stepped into the line of sight of the portrait and also thanked him in her own voice.
"It's 'Runespoor Eggs.' But you didn't hear it from me." The old wizard immediately left his frame and the three friends looked at each other and allowed a small smile.
"That was really good, Ginny. I didn't know you could channel Harry." Luna led the way to the gargoyle and Neville giggled silently behind her.
"Do you think he'll tell later?"
"Maybe. But probably not. He'd lose his prime spot here if they knew he was blabbing school secrets; he might even be taken down permanently," Ginny said. Besides that, what she had told the portrait was true; she had heard the portraits gossiping and knew that most of the subjects were just as angry about Snape's murder of the Headmaster as everyone else was, so she didn't imagine that this particular portrait would be too distressed to see Snape purple with rage as he tried to discover who had got past the gargoyle and how.
The stone snake gargoyle let them in without comment after they gave the password and all three of them lit their wands as they ascended the dark staircase as it slowly twisted upward.
"How long has the lecture been going on now?" Neville asked as they reached the door to the office.
"About twenty minutes, I think. Maybe a little longer. Let's try to do this fast. I don't want to be anywhere in the vicinity when Snape gets back here." Ginny twisted the knob of the office door tentatively and was shocked when it opened quietly. She had really expected to have to use the lock-picking tools she had inherited from Fred and George after they left school two years ago. The office was completely quiet and all three of them entered on tip-toes, not wanting to wake any sleeping portraits or bump into anything that would alert Snape of their presence before they had a chance to get out.
They extinguished their wands. Ginny handed Neville and Luna each a Headless Hat and Neville grinned at her before he put his on. It had been his idea to send for them and George and Fred had owled them in a package that made them look like dirty socks. "I really don't want any of the portraits in there to even see who we are. I don't want to take the chance that they're more loyal to Snape than the others in the castle," Neville had warned. And Ginny once again felt her stomach lurch with nerves.
At this point, they were pretty much dead meat if they were caught. It would be pretty hard to come up with a plausible excuse for being in Snape's office, not to mention that owning a Weasleys' Wizarding Wheeze was another punishable offense.
They crossed the floor quickly to the glass case and all three of them huddled around it, staring at the glistening sword within. Ginny had brought a small hammer to break the glass. They didn't want to use magic because it would be too easy to identify who had cast a Reducto spell after the fact. She had also brought a very heavy hammer, just in case the small one didn't do the trick. She took the small hammer out of the bag and held it next to the case. "For Harry and the DA."
"For Harry and the DA," Neville and Luna repeated solemnly. Ginny hit the case with the hammer and to her complete shock, the glass cracked quite easily. She exclaimed in pleased surprise, then groaned when it repaired itself almost instantly.
"Damn. Let me try it again." She did eventually break a hole in the glass with the big hammer and immediately shoved the hammer into the breach so that it couldn't seal itself again. By this time, despite their best efforts, the portraits in the walls were waking up and Ginny realized that she had better get the sword out on this go-round or give it up for lost.
"For Harry," she said again and all three of them grabbed the edge of the hole and started yanking out big pieces of glass. Both she and Neville cut themselves quite spectacularly, but Ginny didn't care about that. The sword was within her reach, and when she closed her bloody fist around the hilt, she felt the warmth of triumph. She hefted it, amazed at the weight. It was a solid piece of metalwork and she marveled that twelve-year-old Harry had been able to hold it over his head when he drove it through the skull of the basilisk.
"It's beautiful!" exclaimed Luna as Ginny passed it to Neville.
"Yeah!" Neville grunted. "And heavy."
Ginny had brought several cloth bags that she and her roommates stored their laundry in before the elves took it to be washed. She wrapped them around the sword as best she could, binding them with magic to stay in place. She wrapped the entire bundle in an old torn robe of hers and performed the same charm.
"Okay, remember the plan?"
"Yes," Neville and Luna replied together. Neville looked anxiously at the black length of material now lying on the floor as Ginny stuffed her hammers back into her bag. "That's not exactly inconspicuous."
"No, but we don't have to take it far today. Just to the Room of Requirement. It's on this same floor and once we get it there, we can hide it pretty easily. Then in a few days, when the furor dies down, we'll sneak it into Luna's dorm. But for now, just stick close to the wall where the shadows are deepest. By now, the edges of the hallways will be pretty dark."
"Yes, it'll be easy, Neville, assuming we aren't caught by Goonswiggles. They would raise a terrible fuss."
"Right," Neville replied with a straight face. "Remember, Ginny, avoid the Gooniswillows."
"Goonswiggles, Neville. Don't insult them."
Ginny laughed despite her best intentions and caught Neville's eye with a grin. The three of them all picked up the sword, leaving the glass on the floor where it had fallen. It wasn't as though they could hope nobody noticed the sword was missing, after all. The office door opened again easily at her touch, and she was careful to wipe both front and back knobs with a towel like Neville had suggested. They ripped off the Headless Hats, each stuffing their own into their robes to use in case of an emergency, and Ginny lit her wand as they descended the steps. They were just coming around the last turn of the staircase when it opened and Professor Snape stepped onto the first step.
"I tell you, Amycus, this is a wild goose chase. The Weasley brat is not stupid enough to –" He stopped dead and looked at the three of them and the lumpy misshapen black bundle they held. "Or perhaps she is."
Amycus Carrow wheezed a laugh. "I told ya, Severus. I told ya. When I saw she wasn't at the lecture. I didn't even realize Longbottom wasn't there. Lovely, lovely. Oh, let me torture them, please."
"Of course. I'm sure you could devise something suitable."
Snape pointed his long finger back up the stairs and all three of them swallowed heavily and turned toward the office again. Ginny's heart was beating triple time and she wondered if she might pass out before they even reached the top. Snape was right behind her and she could smell the unpleasant heaviness of the dungeons that always permeated his robes. She could also hear "Professor" Carrow wheezing his disgusting laugh behind Snape, as he was running through a list of possible punishments for a crime as severe as this one.
Once they reached the office, Snape sealed the door behind them and took the sword away from Neville. "It was my idea, Professor. All mine."
"Shut up, Longbottom. I know whose idea it really was." Snape's cold eyes met Ginny's and she shivered.
"For Harry," she thought to herself. "It was for Harry."
"Well, what do you three have to say for yourselves? Why were you removing such a valuable item from my office where it rightly belongs?"
"It was a dare," Ginny replied. "An initiation prank. We, uh, weren't going to keep it, of course."
"Of course." He looked at Neville and Ginny was proud that Neville met his gaze squarely. Neville had always been terrified of Snape, but this didn't show on his face. "You were taking the sword for Potter. He put you up to it?"
"No." Luna answered this time, and Snape's attention snapped to her. "We don't even know where he is."
"Strange. That was going to be my next question. How did you guess?" Ginny prayed Luna wouldn't say anything too bizarre that would just get them into more trouble, and for once she didn't. "Not for Potter? But who else would want the sword? And why does Potter want the sword, anyway?" No one said anything for a moment and then Carrow asked if he should have Filch bring up the thumbscrews.
"I don't think that will be necessary in this case, Amycus. It is obvious they are lying. I can see the answer in their heads. But they truly don't know where Potter is. I don't believe they even had a plan of how they were going to get the sword to him. Torture will avail us nothing." Snape unwrapped the sword's clumsy shroud. Ginny looked at the glittering hilt with longing, noticing with a detached portion of her brain that the blood both she and Neville had shed on it was gone. "No, I think a long and painful punishment is in order, but other than that, I think we can mark this as nothing but a foolish stunt pulled off by some very silly students."
One of the portraits started squawking in protest but Ginny didn't see who it was before Snape hushed it with a flick of his wand. "Long and painful punishment. Hmm." Snape sat down at Dumbledore's desk and stared at the three of them for a long time. No one spoke. "Check them for contraband, Amycus. I want to make sure they are suitably punished for all their offenses."
The Headless Hats were discovered, Ginny's bag was confiscated, and the chocolate Luna was carrying in her pocket was also taken, although Carrow could give no reasonable excuse for that.
"So, breaking and entering a Professor's private office, stealing something that belongs to the school, destroying property, bewitching the gargoyle guarding this office, and, on top of that, possessing three contraband items. Not to mention lying to the Headmaster. Does that cover everything, Amycus?"
"I believe so, Severus, I believe so." He wheezed again, and Ginny wished she was brave enough to stun him. He was driving her insane.
"Well, then, I think the punishment should last at least a week. Let's say – seven days. One day for each offense and one more just for fun." Ginny gulped and hoped Snape didn't notice. Seven days of being chained in the dungeons, seven days of being put under Cruciatus on a regular basis, seven days with Filch and his whips? The tension was thick in the room and she heard Neville's small moan under his breath.
"It was for Harry," she murmured to herself. Snape didn't hear her.
"Yes, seven days in the Forbidden Forest. I believe Professor Hagrid should be able to find enough for you to do in there. He is constantly complaining that the creatures are running wild and he needs help rounding them up. The three of you should be able to do some useful work." There was stunned silence for a moment and Ginny felt her heart start beating again. Seven days with . . . Hagrid! Had she really heard that correctly?
Apparently Carrow couldn't believe it either. "What?"
"Yes, nightly detentions in the forest. Beginning at nine, I should think. You can start tonight. I'll notify him to expect you. You are dismissed."
"But, but, but –"
"You seem displeased, Amycus. Do you think I was too harsh with them? Should I perhaps –"
"No! The forest?!"
"Have you ever been in there at night? No? Then you don't know how terrible it truly is, do you? They'll be running for their lives every night, I should think. The punishment fits the crime nicely. And if you doubt me, which I trust you don't, please feel free to ask Undersecretary Umbridge her opinion; I'm sure she can enlighten you. That is all, you are all dismissed. And don't come begging for leniency, my mind is quite made up."
Ginny, Neville, and Luna didn't wait for him to think about it any longer. They practically flew out the now-unsealed door and down the steps and they didn't stop running until they reached the library, the one place they felt safe enough to talk with each other about how miraculous it was they had been given such a light punishment.
Amycus left the office twenty minutes later. He had grumbled the whole time he had been fixing the case and returning the sword to its rightful place. He had grumbled and grumbled and moaned and groaned and Severus was two seconds away from hexing his mouth off when he finally finished and left. The office was nearly completely dark now and he lit a small lamp, then looked up into the bright blue eyes of the portrait directly behind his desk.
"I failed, Albus. He just wouldn't let it rest."
"I know, Severus."
"I tried to delay, insisted we search their common rooms, the library, the kitchens. He would have none of it."
"Perhaps he thought the sword a target."
"Perhaps. If so, he's brighter than I gave him credit for." Both were silent for a moment. "I can't set a similar situation up again. I would be suspected."
"Yes, I'm sure you're correct."
"I had hoped that half an hour would be enough. I made it as easy as possible for them. I didn't even lock the door."
"Yes. I know. I think they moved slowly because they feared detection so much. And the glass on the case is difficult to break. They were afraid to use magic."
"What are we to do now? Need and valor, Albus. Need and valor. I can't just hand it to someone so they can get it to Potter."
The man in the portrait shook his head. "I'm afraid I'm not sure what to do next. The time will come, I believe, when you yourself will have to get the sword to Harry. This roundabout plan of having others take it to him is too risky. I think it is time to retrieve the decoy. It would be suspicious if you kept the sword here after this. You must send it away for safekeeping."
"Yes. I agree. I'll fetch the fake sword tonight from my old room while that windbag Slughorn is out on his nightly walk. Tomorrow I will make arrangements to have it shipped to Gringotts."
"Wait, Severus … don't be too hasty. Retrieve the fake, certainly, but perhaps you shouldn't act independently. Perhaps you should ask for advice. Tom will tell you where to send the sword."
"Yes. That's a wise idea, Albus. I'll ask advice and follow it to the letter." Severus picked up the heavy sword. "You still won't tell me why Potter needs this?"
"Not now. Perhaps later, when we know we must get it to him."
Severus swung Dumbledore's portrait aside, revealing a narrow niche, into which he placed the true sword of Gryffindor. He would retrieve the replica tonight, or at the latest tomorrow, and he would send word to the Dark Lord about the attempt made to steal it today. He was quite sure that Voldemort would not want the sword at Hogwarts anymore. He took a deep breath. He now needed to send word to Hagrid that he should expect three very stubborn students for the next seven nights. He hoped that Hagrid would do as he expected and feed them tea and his horrible rock cakes and dreadful treacle fudge. They could spend hours talking, playing exploding snap, and cursing his name. After all, the three of them really did deserve it.
He turned off the lamp and sat in the dark for a very long time.