No cliffhanger this time. The chapter's pretty continuous.
Table of Contents and Summary So Far
Teddy arrived at the Ministry on Saturday morning to find a bit of a clamor, as the new fountain with its abstract shapes had turned into the old fountain, showing different parts of the magical culture, with witches and wizards as the pinnacle of civilization. Older Ministry denizens seemed to be reminiscing fondly about dropping in donations for St. Mungo's; younger ones were griping about the horrendous symbolism. Teddy himself just blinked at it owlishly. He'd had a long, pleasant dream, from the time he fell asleep until the time he woke up, of simply flying over the countryside and the ocean with Dapple. He'd believed in the dream that Sirius was somewhere nearby on Buckbeak, but they couldn't see each other. He'd woken up feeling tired, like he really had been flying all night. It produced a strange sort of calm that the appearance of a fountain that had been bits of rubble for eighteen years just couldn't seem to break.
"How long has it been here?" he asked Maddie when she made her way through the crowd to him.
"Yesterday," she said. "A bit of a mishap with your Maze. Davies tried to magically seal it and it... er... didn't care to be sealed."
"Has it been spilling a lot?"
"Oh, little things, like I showed you the first time you came up. Silly things. It sent a pulse around that changed the Minister's desk. That was when we first brought it in. And it gave a bit of a scare to the Werewolf Registry, when they came up and found three people in a cage after the last moon. Two of them disappeared."
"Were any of them--?"
"No. At any rate, nearly everything that appears disappears on its own in a day or two at most. Most of them are much quicker."
"Oh." Teddy followed her away from the fountain and toward the lifts.
As the lift descended, Maddie looked at him cautiously. "How are you, Teddy?"
"I'm all right. I flew on a hippogriff."
"Really?" Maddie smiled. "That sounds nice."
She bit her lip, looked like she was about to bring something up (Teddy was willing to bet that it was Victory Day), then shook her head and apparently decided not to. "I like working in the Beauty department sometimes," she said. "It's always nice in there. What are you going to work on today?"
"Probably what everyone else does," Teddy said. "How beauty and ugliness change the way we act."
"Actually, most people go for what beauty and ugliness are."
"Oh. Should I do that?"
"You should ask the questions that occur to you, Teddy. Let them lead you."
The lift came to a stop at the bottom. They got out and followed the narrow corridor to the unmarked door of the Department of Mysteries. Teddy went ahead to open it for Maddie, then followed her in. The doors were already spinning.
"Beauty!" Maddie called.
The doors stopped, and the soft, golden light of the Beauty division spilled out into the black room. Teddy went in first.
The ghost Helen was hovering near the far wall, and through her, Teddy could see a rip in a mural of the Muses. She turned, seeming vexed. "Madam Apcarne," she said, "this... violation... recurred a few moments ago."
"And it will unoccur a moment from now," Maddie said.
"What happened?" Teddy asked.
"Some shadow of that horrid woman was here and destroyed this, as she did before." Helen shook her head and turned to Teddy. "I asked for it to be repaired many years ago, but there were other things to do--"
"Helen, it was repaired," Maddie said.
"--and now it seems to be destroyed nearly every day. It's intolerable to see!"
"What horrid woman?" Teddy asked.
Maddie hissed sharply, and said, "Bellatrix. She destroyed the mural for sport the night that Harry broke in."
"The night Sirius died," Teddy said.
Helen looked untroubled by talk of death or battles. She went back to fretting over the spoiled artwork.
Teddy turned to Maddie. "Bellatrix has been here?"
"A phantasm. She doesn't know she's here, and we can't do anything about her, and she can't do anything about us. Though I'll admit, I threw a flame spell at her when I caught a glimpse last week. Purely in the interest of research, of course."
"Did she burn?"
Teddy started to say that he hoped he'd get a chance to try it, but then he thought of Greyback, crowned in flames, staggering out into the Shrieking Shack, and of Uncle Harry saying, sarcastically, Oh, I'm sure you'd have done much better on your own. There must have been something you could have burnt down.
He looked at his feet, which barely looked like his own in the shiny new shoes Uncle Harry had got him for his Ministry visits, and tried to think of some quick penance for the angry thought. Unable to think of anything else, he went to the torn mural and began to examine the frayed edges.
Helen hovered beside him. "Why would someone do such a thing?"
"I don't know. She hated everything."
Maddie cleared her throat. "Teddy, let it be. It's not a real tear, and the mending we've already done will come back."
Teddy nodded and forced himself to look away. "Do you have the Maze here?"
"Yes," Maddie said, "but I'll give you a choice. The Beauty Room has its own devices, if you'd like to use them instead."
"Like the brains?"
Teddy thought about it, then shook his head. "I'd best use the Maze. I want to see more."
"All right," Maddie said, and produced the new Maze. "Have at it, then."
Teddy put himself into the Maze, and it was certainly one of his better experiences in it. Victoire was his Guide for a good part of it, showing him through magnificent seashores, dappled forests, and grand palaces. She became Ruthless, and took him through the highlands and the austere northern islands, then she became Daniel, who led him through faraway lands where beauty fought through the ugliness of plagues, forming quiet, hallowed spots where the mind could recover. Maurice showed him the lonely beauty of the remote South Atlantic, and Donzo led him through crystal clear caves of music. Finally--to his delight--James appeared, and they looked into the wildly colored islands of Teddy's own imagination, with the deep blue sea and the impossibly huge sky above. None of it really showed the impact of ugliness, but through it all, he saw the way people responded to beauty--the slight raise of the shoulders, the deep breaths, the way troubles seemed to flow away from them as they entered places that resonated with their souls.
So why tear it down? Was it always simply hatred, as it had been with Bellatrix? Did Geoffrey truly destroy out of pure hate, or did he just not want people to relax and feel at peace? The latter seemed to fit his rants about complacency. Teddy supposed that being surrounded by things that calmed the soul might lead to just accepting things that oughtn't be accepted. But that didn't seem enough of an explanation for attempts to deface any useless thing that existed only for beauty.
He came out of the Maze an hour after going in, feeling like he was waking up from another dream. The rip in the mural had repaired itself again, and now Helen was just humming to herself as she examined a lifelike landscape that was playing itself out on another wall.
Maddie was reading a shiny looking new book--Teddy noticed with no great surprise that it had been written by the werewolf Martin Hamilton, though this one didn't seem to feature werewolves on the cover (it was a stoic looking wizard in a gray robe, under the inscrutable title The Brilliant Glow of Shadows). She didn't have any trouble putting it down to ask him about his Maze session, or lead him back to Mind to enter his memories into the tank. Something about them caught her interest (she didn't say what), and this time, she stored them in one of the brains.
"This wouldn't be a bad match for you, Teddy," she said. "Will you do me a favor and write up a report on what you saw?"
"I'll show you the form we use for initial reports. I'm not talking about anything long and tedious. Just... what you saw and what you're concluding." She frowned. "This may be a bit more coaching than I ought to give, but I'd like you to look at it in terms of what you saw in Faith a few weeks ago."
"How do you mean?"
"Teddy, telling you what to cross-reference it with is already more interference than I should give someone else's study. Let it lead where it will."
Teddy thought about the hours of O.W.L. revision he still had to do, and essays due for Trelawney, Flitwick, Morse, and Robards. But his mind was already trying to put together the pieces Maddie had asked him for. He nodded, and hoped that the form she was talking about really was short.
It turned out to be as short as she promised--a two page questionnaire, which left room for perhaps two hundred words in each answer. He worked on it in the library, during the plague sessions. Frankie read it over his shoulder. He didn't comment on the content, but he did ask if he might read more of the stories Teddy wrote for James.