Diabolis in Musica (Devil’s Triad)
If only the whole world could feel the power of harmony
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
When the contrabass began to caress her skin, leisurely strolling towards her ears, Hermione stood rooted to the ground, trepidation washing over her. Professor Snape, I don’t know how to help you yet. I need more time. Her plea did not reach him.
The entire cello section of the galactic orchestra entered as one, its melody transforming rapidly from dulcet to foreboding. Mournful violas joined the cellos, adding sorrow and drawing tears from her eyes.
When violins announced imminent death and an old hag appeared in torn clothes and hair that hadn’t seen either brush or water in a long time, starting to cackle like an evil witch straight out of one of the Grimms’ tales, Hermione lost her footing and made abrupt contact with the ground. “No, please! You can’t die now! I’m trying to find a way to save you! If only I knew how.” Her last words were mere whispers before violent sobs, drowning out the funeral-like orchestral performance, shook her body and all she could hear was her own pathetic weeping and the cackling of the hag.
“No! Please, noooooooo!” Knowing he was dying and she was witnessing it all over again, if not in the physical realm this time, ripped her heart to shreds, and even the reassuring voices of the horns were pointless, as were the more joyful chirps of the flute.
Once her sobs lessened, she lay on the ground completely spent, resigned to her fate of being too late to right this wrong, feeling nothing but contempt for the strings and the horns and the flute and despair for herself.
Hermione covered her ears in an attempt to ignore the gentle, yet convincing, almost bullying tones of a piano. Until… until…
A tentative smile lit her face for the first time since the contrabass had made itself heard, a smile because she realised what the piano—a female one, she had no doubt, given its elegant entrance—was doing, and Hermione cocked her head in the direction the sound came from, impatiently wiping off the last tears with her sleeve.
Bully it might be, but the instrument led its contemporaries from death back to life in fast strides with its strong chords, its melodic cascades, challenging strings as well as horns and flute, and coaxing more woodwinds into joining.
The longer it played, the more it gained strength, and yet the farther into the background it faded. Unlike bass, cello, viola, violin, or even horn, the piano did not allow any other sound to drown her out until all was said.
Gradually, Hermione was able to sit up and listen to the symphony the universe was now playing, slowly regaining her senses and forgiving, if not forgetting, the harsh, agonising tones of minutes past.
The soft, yet decisive interaction between strings and horns healed her broken heart like a tonic, taking away not only the recent anguish but pain, agony, and suffering of times past, leaving only faint memories behind. When the final cadence rang out, Hermione felt more refreshed than ever before, her entire being filled with improved resolve to work out how to heal her former professor.
Narcissa leant against a bare birch tree, occasionally stepping from one foot to the other before casting yet another warming charm.
She was about to give up waiting when the hag finally arrived. “Hello—” Narcissa did a double take at the elder’s appearance. “You look out of sorts; are you all right?” The woman’s face had aged by a few decades since she’d last seen her a month ago, and she was swaying slightly, as if completely exhausted.
The old witch waved her arm in a dismissive gesture. “I will be. No need to worry about me.” Her voice held an even rougher edge than Narcissa remembered. She sat down heavily on the ground. “Cast a warming charm on me, would you? My magic’s gone a bit… wonky.”
Narcissa did as asked and then Transfigured a leaf into a cushion to sit on so she would be eye level with the hag. “What happened?” she asked, her curiosity piqued.
“Your friend happened.” The hag sneered and then sighed. “Lest you ask, no, I cannot give you details. You need to trust, to believe that everything will work out.” She turned to face Narcissa and placed her hands on the blonde’s shoulder, shaking them with surprising strength. “Do not lose that belief, no matter how hard it is, do you understand?” she asked urgently. Then her arms fell to her sides, and Narcissa noticed her entire body shaking. She discreetly cast a strengthening charm on the old, frail hag.
Before she could think of what to say, though, the witch stood up with a speed belying her fragile appearance. “And tell your young friend I’m not death personified. But if I hadn’t turned up, death would have beaten her progress,” the hag spat and Disapparated.
Narcissa sat for a while. How bizarre. Pondering the hag’s state and words, she slowly stood and walked through the forest. It was a while before she was ready to Apparate back to the manor. She’d have to ask Lyra why the Healer thought the hag could be of help.
Lyra’s words were a revelation. “Oh, she might be a hag and uneducated in ways we perceive education, but she’s spent her entire life on the edge of civilisation, and that enables her to see things the likes of us cannot. We have succeeded in preventing dragon pox and other epidemics because she alerts us every time there are rips in the tapestry of the grid.”
“Tapestry?” Lucius asked.
"Grid?” Narcissa asked.
Lyra smiled. “Only part of a Healer’s training is about actual healing. Other parts include education about the sources of illness in order to avoid them in the first place. The grid is an electromagnetic field surrounding our planet. It resembles a tapestry in that it appears to be woven. Events that cause emotions to flare, thoughts even, can cause it to rip, which in turn causes imbalances.”
She met Narcissa’s eyes and continued. “Certain events, such as a wave of compassion brought forth by groups of people or even an individual, can lead to the tapestry of the grid to mend itself. Which is what happened recently, and the hag—nobody knows her name, by the way—recognised it as someone tapping into the music of the spheres. This is the reason why I suggested you meet her in the hope that she’ll take more of an interest. I’m not entirely sure of her power, but let’s say she has considerably more powers than she lets on.” Lyra swallowed and took a deep breath. “You see, there are quite a few poor people who suffer from chronic illness, some unconscious or catatonic even, and nobody knows how to heal them. It would be a blessing if the music returned and these wizards and witches could be healed.” She smiled hesitantly. “I would love to see Severus live consciously, and I would love to see the two of you living a life that’s enjoyable. But you—” she waved her hand to include Lucius, Narcissa, and Severus, “—are only a fraction of what could be done if the music of the spheres is once again called to heal humankind.”
Narcissa nodded thoughtfully, remembering the old witch’s last words with still no idea what to make of them. “Yes, that makes sense.”
“Yes,” Lucius agreed.
Hermione was not surprised to open her eyes to face the giant and readily took his proffered hand. The destination, though, came as a slight shock.
The Janus Thickey Ward at St Mungo’s had not changed at all since her visit there during her fifth year at Hogwarts, nor apparently had Gilderoy Lockhart. The damaged wizard sat in a chair, admiring his looks in a mirror and muttering about needing to sign at least another hundred photographs, completely oblivious to the new presence in the room.
“Go on, you can do it,” the giant encouraged as Hermione threw a questioning glance at him.
“How, though?” she asked. The young witch still had no idea how she’d succeeded in summoning the music to heal Jonathan, and even the knowledge that she had been successful did little for her confidence.
The giant merely smiled. “Keep in mind that you must continue, even if you feel you can’t do more,” he added.
Ever so helpful… Hermione took a deep breath and turned to contemplate her former Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. He’d been an exclusively self-serving man from what she knew of him, but he’d paid very dearly since the incident in the Chamber of Secrets. Her heart reached out to him when she thought of his utterly wasted life, and she wondered if he’d ever recover and, if so, if he’d still be as self-serving. His actions seemed to suggest so, but then, with a memory as botched-up as his, he probably didn’t even know better than to utilise what little recollection remained, and it was no wonder it consisted of nothing but admiration for himself.
She didn’t hear the bass until a slightly dissonant intonation invited the cellos to revert back to resonant accord. Violas and violins glided in with the offering of a harmonic prance. Hermione stood rooted to the floor, staring unseeingly at the wizard, as the music filled her with joy so pure she felt at one with the entire universe.
Her emotions had a seemingly ping-pong effect, for the horns skated in long strides towards the centre and from there spread this unadulterated delight across the world and beyond while the flute twittered its consent with enthusiasm.
Lockhart stilled for a moment and then glanced around curiously. Hermione realised that the giant had cloaked them, as the wizard looked right through her.
“Where is this gorgeous music coming from? Am I going crazy?” he asked aloud. Something—Hermione had no idea whether it was his own poignant question or the music—triggered Lockhart to continue the questioning.
The giant tugged at Hermione’s arm and whispered, “Keep playing, no matter what happens.”
Hermione still had no clue how she was conducting the music, but trusting her instinct seemed to suffice.
“Going crazy? Merlin, I have been out of my mind for—how long? It’s been years and years, and the world sees me as nothing but a vegetable, at best a magical vegetable. Those who remember me. Most probably don’t by now.” His body was wracked with sobs, and Hermione wanted to comfort him, take his despair away, if only she knew how.
She took a step towards the wizard, but the giant held her back. “No. Concentrate on the music.”
The revelation of how offered itself with a most jubilant piano solo. The orchestra had gradually quieted, almost unnoticeably, to make space for the piano’s opulent opening.
Lockhart stilled again, evidently absorbing the healing resonance, as he cocked his head in deep concentration.
Tears were running down his face, and occasional sobs came out as he appeared to ponder the state of his being.
“Wrong, so wrong.” He quieted again to soak up the increasing tempo of the violins, their rhythm commanded by the strumming of the cellos.
“Only doing right from now on. Serve the wizarding world…” The rhythm slowed, the sound of the strings now ringing gently through the room. The piano danced the chromatic scale from low C to high C, as if in greeting, and when a harp replied with an arpeggio from high to low, Hermione realised it was a greeting.
Harp and piano conversed like old friends, and the strings proffered their approval with gentle caresses until piano came forth with a cadence, encouraging harp to exit in a most illustrious manner with an all-encompassing crescendo that lingered in the room long after the music had stopped.
Lockhart, his expression more lucid than Hermione remembered ever seeing, slowly stood, stretched, and sat down heavily on his bed. “Whoever, whatever you are, Music, thank you for opening my eyes.” He lay down, and seconds later, his regular breathing suggested he’d arrived in the land of Nod.
The giant smiled at Hermione. “Well, well done.” She took his hand, satisfied with the day’s accomplishment, and minutes later found herself back in her bed, more than ready to embrace sleep.
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