Chapter 19 : The Puzzle
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It felt like the Professors had issued double homework since the dance and most of the seventh and eighth years spent all their free time working. The books piled up on the desk Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were working at, covered all available space. A few of the others had already made trips to Madam Pomfrey for Calming Draught with the extra workload and Harry felt more would be going before the end of the term. Tonight he felt like he too was barely hanging on as he looked at everything that needed to be done.
“I think we need a small break.” He said to the others at the table.
“Oh, good” Hermione said. “I was thinking the same thing but was afraid you’d think I’d gone crazy.”
Ron laughed “You’re right, we would.”
“I’ll go down to the kitchens and get us some snacks” Ginny said.
“Why go? We could just ask Kreacher” Harry suggested.
“I’ll go with you Ginny” said Hermione standing a bit angrily. Harry knew she still felt like asking the house elves for help was encouraging their slavery, but Kreacher seemed to enjoy his work. She still had no problem going to the kitchens for elf-made food.
The girls left the Common Room while Ron and Harry discussed options to waste a few hours. They turned down Wizard Chess, Exploding Snap, and other favourites of theirs they knew the girls wouldn’t like.
“Harry” Hermione said when they got back carrying pumpkin juice and small sandwiches, “Why don’t we work on Sirius’s puzzle tonight?”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yea, it’ll be like a game.” Ron said.
“What puzzle?” Ginny asked.
“I’ll explain while he gets his box. Go on Harry.” Hermione said and Harry ran up the stairs to get the lock box he found under Sirius’s bed in Grimmauld Place.
He picked up the box and stared at it for a minute. They were really going to try and open the box. He turned it over to look at the clues and realized he couldn’t see them in the light. The lighting in the Common Room was brighter than the dorm room. He climbed on his bed, drew the curtains tight, and watched the words appear. He took one of his quills and traced the outlines of the answer boxes Sirius drew and carefully copied the puzzle clues onto a piece of parchment by wand light. When he pulled his curtains open he saw his lines on the box were visible. He carefully carried the box downstairs to the Common Room where the others were waiting and placed it upside down on the table.
“The clues are only visible in the dark so I wrote it out and I traced the answer boxes just in case we get it done.” Harry explained and placed the piece of parchment on the table so everyone could read.
“Fill in the blanks by naming the correct letters to gain access, name any of them wrong and the contents will be lost to you forever.”
“First letter will be found in the middle of an undying friendship”
“The second letter can be found at the beginning of a truly powerful wizard”.
“The third letter can be found twice in the betrayer.”
“Oh...” Ginny said. “This is more interesting than you made it sound Hermione, and looks hard. Any ideas what’s inside?”
“No idea” Harry said.
“Ok. So we need to fill in the boxes with letters. Let’s write them down here until we’re absolutely positive we have it right.” Hermione suggested.
“And they have to be important to Sirius” Ginny said. “Otherwise they’re just random thoughts and could be anything.”
“Right” Harry said. “Number 2 looks easiest, D for Dumbledore.” Hermione wrote it down in a box she drew on a scrap of parchment.
“Wouldn’t the last one be E?” Ron asked. “It’s in the word twice.” Hermione wrote it down too.
“The first one wouldn’t make sense if we used the words, you’d think he wouldn’t make it so easy as to count out the letters to get R, would you? Ginny asked.
They stared at the clues some more, wondering what Sirius had going through his head when he wrote them.
“In the instructions, he mentions ‘name’ twice. You don’t think he wants us to concentrate on people’s names, do you?” Hermione pointed out. “He says ‘Fill in the blanks by naming the correct letters to gain access, name any of them wrong and the contents will be lost to you forever.’ He wasn’t the type of person to repeat things unnecessarily.”
“You’re right, he wasn’t” Ginny said. “I think they are names.”
Hermione cleared the E and R out of the first and last box on her parchment.
“Do you think it spells a word?” Ron asked.
“It might, there are a lot of words that have only three letters in them.” Harry said thoughtfully looking at the clues again.
“Harry...” Ginny said thinking “The first clue ‘The First letter will be found in the middle of an undying friendship’, didn’t he always claim your dad was still his best friend even after all these years?”
“Yea, he did.”
“So would it be an M for the middle of James, P would be the middle of James Potter, but there isn’t really a middle to Potter unless you use a T. “Ron rattled.
“I’ll write them all as answers and then we can discuss the best.” Hermione said.
“Oh! Harry! I think I got number three!” Hermione said excitedly. “It’s P, for Peter Pettigrew. It seems most obvious. Sirius always called him a betrayer!”
“He also always called him Wormtail.” Ron said “but there aren’t any repeating letters in Wormtail.” He corrected himself.
“Are we all agreed the last letter is P?” Harry asked and they all answered yes. He pulled out his wand, and much to the arguments of those around, him wrote the letter P in the third square with the tip. The letter began to glow faintly blue then dimmed until it set itself permanently as if Harry had etched it in with a knife. “I guess we got that one right.” He said staring at the now filled in square on the bottom of the lock box. One step close to learning what was so important to Sirius and only two more clues to go.
“The second one is A” Luna said standing over Harry’s shoulder looking down at the clues. ‘The second letter can be found at the beginning of a truly powerful wizard’ and his first name was Albus.” She said in her light airy voice as matter-of-factly as she could.
“I think she’s right” Hermione said and wrote it down on her parchment as Harry pulled his wand out again and filled in the middle box with the letter A. They all watched as the letter began glow and etched itself in the metal of the box.
“She was right, thanks Luna” Harry said as Luna sat down on the other side of Ginny to read over the first clue with everyone else.
“I think it’s got to be M, the middle of James. Sirius would never go around calling his best friend James Potter all the time; he would refer to him as James.” Hermione said.
“I think your right, but we’ve only got one change to get it right.” Harry said.
“Nah, looks like we each might all have a shot at it. The instructions say name any of them wrong and the contents will be lost to you forever.” Neville smiled as he sat down next to Ron. “So if you put an M in there and it turns out to be a P then someone else can try again. Come on Harry, put the M in. I think we’re all curious to see what happens.”
“Ok... Here goes” Harry picked up his wand again, carefully writing the letter M in the first box. The letter began to glow and nearly a dozen people cheered. Harry looked around and saw George, Dean, and Seamus also cheering that the puzzle was complete. It seemed they all had stopped to see the interesting “game” they were playing. To Harry it wasn’t a game. It was his godfather in that box, or at least items that were important to Sirius.
Once the letter M had stopped glowing and etched itself into the metal of the box Harry heard a soft metallic click. The box had unlocked, the contents were now accessible. He carefully turned the box over but was frozen. He couldn’t open it just yet.
“I think Sirius meant for me to see the things inside in private.” Harry said. “Thank you, all of you for helping, I appreciate it, but I think Sirius would’ve wanted to share these with me alone.”
“Hey, no problem, man” George said getting up and walking away with the others. His friends seemed to understand his wishes and respect them. The only ones remaining at the table were Ron, Hermione, and Ginny.