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Report on the Excavations of Sites HH-87 and HH-88

Report on the Excavations of Sites HH-87 and HH-88

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Here I was trying to complete fics that I had already started, and getting almost nowhere, when an idea for a totally new one-shot popped into my head.  It's short, but rather dense (It'll remind you more of The 312th Edition than of any of my other stories).

Length: 2,476 words
Setting:  Post (way Post) HBP
Style:  Angst (Flangst?)
Warnings:  Character death (to put it mildly)
Unbeta'd version.

Report on the Excavations of
Sites HH-87 and HH-88
By Rhetor
I. Background
Previous excavations of the Hogwarts-Hogsmeade complex have tended to concentrate on the site of Hogwarts Castle itself, for sound reasons. It is the most well-documented structure in surviving texts, has the most to offer in terms of obvious historical value, and has a rich spell-history that requires the most skilled magical-archeological techniques. It is also, unfortunately, the most well picked-over by looters and curiosity seekers in the years before it was lost to human knowledge. Many of its treasures have vanished and even the spell-record has become garbled by the intervening charms and curses of centuries of trespassers. Highly valuable, intact finds, such as the Potions Dungeon (site HH-43) and the astonishing Reappearing Room (site HH-58) are few and far between, and there is little hope that similar finds will appear on the grounds of the Castle.
Secondary to the Hogwarts Castle sites, a dedicated community of excavators has focused on the Hogsmeade Village area, which offers rich ethnographic and daily life evidence. These sites, however, while of unquestioned value to those who seek to know how everyday wizards spent their days in the Pre-Emigration period, provide little (if any) information about the famous figures and pivotal events with which Hogwarts Castle, at least by reputation, is associated.
We proposed to concentrate on the comparatively unexplored area of sites surrounding, but not directly attached to, Hogwarts Castle. Heretofore only one serious excavation had been performed in this area, the “Forest Hut” (site HH-72); this site was, perhaps, similar to the Hogsmeade Village sites in its revelation of day-to-day routines, but the substantial evidence that it was the location of one or more battles during the Dark Wars (ca. 1230 B.E.), together with evidence of its invasion (occupation?) by a multitude of non-human magical creatures, makes it one of the most intriguing sites in the whole complex.
Instead, we decided to search for a well-documented structure reputed to be located on the grounds of the Castle but separate from it: the Tomb of Dumbledore. Such a structure has the ring of myth, and makes one think of excavations in Egypt rather than Scotland; indeed, when Summers rediscovered the Hogwarts-Hogsmeade complex in 2011 A.E., the Tomb of Dumbledore was one of the things he hoped (but failed) to find.   (NB, hereinafter all dates not otherwise designated are to be read as A.E. dates, rather than B.E. or Gregorian.) Later scholarship, however, has revealed four separate references to the Tomb in the surviving documents. Two refer to it as “white” or “white stone”, and one of these gives its rough dimensions. A third says that it was “by the lake,” while the fourth tells how long it took to reach the Tomb “from the Castle.” Of course the site of the castle is well-known, and “the lake” undoubtedly refers to the body of water that existed here before the silting of the Hogsmeade River buried most of the structures in the complex.
II. Site HH-87
Armed with these pieces of information, we were able to narrow our search to a relatively small area, in which we cast specific Revealing Charms for evidence of white marble, alabaster, or similar materials, as well as searching for evidence of Preserving Charms.
We were rewarded with strong evidence of both white marble and Preserving Charms in the location now designated as site HH-87. Having obtained permission of the Excavation Managers, we commenced digging in May of 2249. Excavation proceeded through September, when we were forced to cease operations by inclement weather. We resumed in May of 2250 and concluded in August of that same year. During that time, as will be seen, we also began excavation on site HH-88, which was continued through the end of September, continued during 2251, and completed during May-July 2252.
As expected, the upper layers at the site (Levels IV-VII) contained remains of the Muggle colony that flourished here after the Emigration, ca. 200-570. These materials, of course, are of significant value in and of themselves, but similar sites are so well-studied that very little new information was to be gleaned from these layers. There were no complete artifacts found, and the fragmentary artifacts were of similar quality and character as those found at surrounding excavations for the last 125 years.
The Tomb itself was found at Level XI (calibrated to the markers used at previous sites), strongly implying a date of 1200-1300 B.E., which corresponds satisfactorily to the date of spring or summer, 1997 Gregorian (1225 B.E.) given in most sources for the death of Dumbledore. The shape and size of the Tomb corresponded to all the extant accounts; it is a beautiful thing, still gleaming white, transfigured marble after all the centuries.
We were immediately struck, however, by a number of discontinuities that we could not immediately resolve. For one thing, there appeared to be two separate sets of preserving spells around the artifact. The inner set were eventually verified by charm-diminution dating (using the standard 93.59 years as the half-life of a preserving spell), to fit the appropriate date of 1200-1250 B.E., a near-perfect match for the recorded date of death. We inferred that these charms were placed during the construction of the tomb.
The outer set, however, which we encountered first, appeared to date from some 100 years later (1100-1150 B.E.), and were far more sophisticated and complex than the originals (making the date less certain). These later charms seemed to have been woven specifically to avoid decryption, by a wizard of extraordinary power and skill, who also interlaced some sort of hiding charm (probably the Fidelius) with them. The last provides the most satisfactory explanation of why Summers was unable to find the Tomb in the ten years he searched this area. It was the careful untangling, detachment and Preservation of these charms that took most of our time during 2249.
When we successfully liberated the Tomb from the surrounding soil and rubble, we found the following inscription carved on its end: “Friend, I am Albus Dumbledore, who shielded the Wizarding World from two Dark Wizards and preserved thousands of lives. Do not grudge me my memorial.” This inscription was a puzzle all by itself. It was written in idiomatic English of the period 1100-1400 B.E., which is consistent with the date of burial. But the style and tone of the inscription are completely anachronistic for a burial of the type that was known to be performed here. There are two independent accounts of this ceremony, both of which imply that it was a detached, unemotional, even bureaucratic affair. (The Lovegood Manuscript calls it “boring.”) But the inscription is too melodramatic to have been made as part of such a ceremony, and in any case uses a style of wording that had not been employed in centuries. Exhorting passers-by to honor or approve of a memorial out of respect for the accomplishments of the deceased is much more in keeping with ancient Persian or Greek monuments (ca. 3700 B.E.); the latest known similar request (in which the visitor is warned not to disturb the remains) is dated 1600 B.E. It defies credulity that Rufus Scrimgeour or his contemporaries would have conjured such a message while conjuring the tomb.
Upon closer examination, however, we found that the inscription was saturated with transfiguration spells having a different resonance signature than those on the rest of the tomb. Further analysis revealed that the two sets of transfiguration signatures differed in substantially the same way that the two sets of Preservation Charms differed, including both their complexity, their apparent initial power level, and their tentative dates of invocation. We inferred from this correlation that the same wizard who added the outer layer of Preservation Charms, a century after the tomb was created, probably supplied the sentimental inscription at about the same time.
After taking precautions to preserve the later inscription, we used a set of targeted temporary revealing spells to read the original inscription that was contemporaneous with the construction of the tomb. This original inscription says simply, “Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore / Educator, Jurist, Polymath / born 21 December 1840 / died 20 June 1997.” This inscription is more consistent with what is known about the funeral, and we have little doubt that it is the original.
Thus far the tomb has not been opened, as there is some question as to whether it is likely to contain information of sufficient value to warrant disturbing the remains. On the one hand, examination of Dumbledore’s body would facilitate the possible solving of the long-standing question of how he died. While most sources agree that he died of a Killing Curse, others suggest obliquely that he was already suffering some sort of degenerative malady at the time the curse was employed. On the other hand, undisturbed wizard tombs from the Pre-Emigration period are almost unheard-of, and it seems unfitting to remove Dumbledore from the resting place he has enjoyed for so long. Too, the outer layer of Preservation Charms seem to be intermixed with curses designed specifically to prevent the opening of the tomb; the caster of these charms and curses (whom we call the Caretaker) appears to have made a study of Egyptian tomb curses, as some of the spell structures are unmistakably similar to those employed at the time of the Eighteenth Dynasty.
III.   Site HH-88
The characteristic signatures of the later sets of charms, curses and transfigurations, bearing almost a fingerprint of the wizard who invoked them, led us to wonder whether evidence of the Caretaker’s presence could be detected elsewhere in the vicinity. We therefore took the unusual step of conducting highly specific spell-signature survey to a radius of 100 meters from the tomb. The results were immediate: a linear trail bearing this precise signature, though of considerably weaker intensity, led directly away from the tomb. The layering of the spell resonances was consistent with a single wizard (the Caretaker) traveling to and fro along a specific trail on multiple occasions over a number of years.
Following this trail for another 300 meters outside the radius of our first survey, we came to a site more thoroughly saturated with evidence of complex magic than any outside of Hogwarts Castle itself. We took the unusual step of obtaining a second, contemporaneous license for an additional site from the Excavation Managers, and began excavation in the location now designated site HH-88.
Excavation of Levels I – IX resulted in artifacts and other evidence highly consistent with site HH-87 and other sites in the area. But at Level X we found a complete dwelling house, protected by massive Concealment and Preservation Charms on a scale not recorded since ancient Alexandria. We were obliged to cease operations long enough to engage expert charm decryptors and curse breakers before we could even approach the structure. Even the subtle, potent spellwork at Dumbledore’s Tomb had not prepared us for this; the Caretaker must have been the sort of virtuoso who appears only once in five or six generations.
The dwelling house has seven rooms, and the resilience of the Preservation Charms is such that the original furniture and effects are still present and apparently in serviceable condition. There are stacks of manuscripts on parchment, printed books from the period, the only two intact Pre-Emigration racing broomsticks ever found, and various paraphernalia suggesting that children had, at one time, been raised in the home. No undisturbed wizard dwelling from the pre-Emigration period has ever been found before this; the site is of incalculable value.
But most striking of all, the house’s owners are still there. On a bed occupying a corner room in the house lie two bodies, witch and wizard, posed in a loving embrace. They were apparently about 120 years old at the time of their deaths, and the Preservation Charms have been used so skillfully that their features are still clearly visible. Though both are white-haired, the male’s hair was clearly originally black, while the female’s was originally red. The spell signature patterns leave little doubt that the male is the Caretaker himself; we think we are justified in referring to the female as the Caretaker’s Wife.
The Caretaker holds a wand in his hand, made of holly. The force-lines emanating from the wand to the Preservation and concealment charms leads to one inescapable but unbelievable conclusion: the Caretaker somehow concealed and preserved his own body, his wife’s, and their home. How he managed to cast such spells before his own death, so that they would preserve the bodies and the space after death, is a mystery. So far, the only plausible hypothesis we have adduced is that the Caretaker’s Wife died first, and that the Caretaker, with unprecedented dexterity and power, laid a permanent spell-structure before lying down beside his beloved and taking his own life. We acknowledge the sentimental, melodramatic nature of this theory, but point out that the Caretaker was evidently a sentimental, melodramatic sort of man: the inscription on Dumbledore’s Tomb is clear evidence of that.
We have not, so far, dared to disturb either the bodies or the many artifacts in the dwelling house, because of the message engraved on a sheet of gold foil placed on the bed near the bodies. The message reads, “If you have found us, my congratulations. To get this far, you must have realized the care I have taken to preserve our solitude. I beg you not to disturb us. I, of all people, know that those who are no longer among the living can leave potent curses behind them.” That warning, from that wizard, is not to be ignored.
A team of specialists is now debating which, if any, of the artifacts can be touched without danger. Much as we would like to respect the wishes of the Caretaker, the potential historical, archeological and scientific value of the artifacts is so great that we feel some effort must be made to liberate them. The stacks of parchment documents alone may be worth their weight in gold:  they appears to contain correspondence, the visible portion of which is written in a highly convoluted, complex style that could be the hand of Dumbledore himself. (This theory is only a guess, of course; no sample of Dumbledore’s handwriting survives.) We hope that the Caretaker has left some way for respectful visitors to learn from his life.
Author’s Note:
I was inspired to write this story by Philip Glass’s magnificent opera, Akhnaten. I should confess that I have never read an actual excavation report by an actual archeologist, and so have no idea whether this one is even vaguely realistic. The inscription on Dumbledore’s Tomb is modeled after the inscription on the tomb of Cyrus the Great, as interpreted by Mary Renault in The Persian Boy.

  • 'he was a sentimental, melodramatic sort of man'

    Indeed! You do like to slip a little fluff in with your stories, don't you?

    This was lots of fun to read. I've just recently discovered Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody books about archeology in early 20th century Egypt, so I'm in the mood for this sort of thing. I thought it read plausibly as an archaeological report (though I'm as ignorant as you about what they really look like!)

    I thought it was going to be Hermione. And then Bill. So when I read about the black head and the red head, I had to rethink lots of things. Nicely done, as always, and nice to see that the muse has returned!
  • Loved this! You had me intrigued from start to finish. This was a great example of how a story can be written in academic language and not be dry. Rather, this was fascinating. Like girlyswot, I kept expecting to see Bill or Hermione. But it makes more sense in the long run that Harry would have chosen to live and die at Hogwarts, preserving the tomb and preventing his own "grave" from being turned into a site for hysterical fans/mourners/enemies to gather.

    Will there be more to this? I'd love to see our archeologist's reaction when they realize whose bodies they've found and begin sorting through the paperwork.

    Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that the archaeologist may be incorrect in assuming that the male was the only one to have cast all those spells. The Egyptian link just says "Weasley" far too strongly to be overlooked. True?
    • Thanks, Joia. I haven't planned any more, but who knows when the muse may strike?

      As for the Egyptian magic, my assumption is that Harry learned it from Bill. (...Hermione is in the story, though; but you have to look carefully for her...)
  • More great work from you, in a style I love that's certainly unique to your writing from what I've seen. Unlike the others, I suspected that Dumbledore's tomb was protected by Harry, mainly due to the inscription - I couldn't see Bill or Hermione being that "sentimental" as you put it. I'm intrigued by the emigration and I, too, wonder what caused it and where everyone emigrated to. An Ice Age, perhaps, that caused everyone in the British Isles to flee to the continent?
    • Thanks, Val. Does this mean you'll do the beta? ;)

      The style in this story, I now realize, is somewhat borrowed from several things LeGuin has written, most particularly her terrific short story, "The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of the Association of Therolinguistics". Oh, and while I'm on the subject, Harry & Ginny's house is cribbed directly from the last chapter of Laura Laurent's story, In the House of the Quick and the Hungry. I'll mention that in the posted version when I get it onto an archive site.

      As for the Emigration, I still don't know.
  • Okay, I went looking for Hermione. I forgot to mention the first time that I loved 'The Lovegood Manuscript' - I can just imagine the archaeologists having all kind of fun with that. Is Hermione's the highly convoluted, complex style that could be the hand of Dumbledore himself?
  • Very intriguing future-fic! I liked the academic report style which, in it's science-speak is rather chilling. I like imagining a 120 year old Harry as a wizard more powerful than Dumbledore. It makes sense.

    Nicely done!

    • Thanks, Shelly.

      I knew that the scientific voice would be distancing and disconcerting. "Chilling" is an aspect I hadn't thought of.
  • Very nice.

    Am I missing something, though? Who's the second of the "two Dark Wizards"?
  • (The Lovegood Manuscript calls it “boring.”)

    Caretaker was evidently a sentimental, melodramatic sort of man: the inscription on Dumbledore’s Tomb is clear evidence of that.

    I love how your women/men of science who write up these reports all have a glimmer of humor and use their instinctive knowledge of human nature to point them in the right direction.

    This was fun - like a puzzle that had to be solved. And how nice that H/G got there full 120 years.

    And they're still debating the extent of Snape's culpability in Dumbledore's death umpteen centuries later, I see. :)

    It's good to see more writing from you!
    • Thanks, Mary. It feels really good to be back in the game.

      I liked slipping the humor and human nature into the story -- but truthfully I don't know whether I could have pulled the story off without it. It's very difficult to bring out the emotion unless one of the characters is feeling some part of it. Everyone we cared about is long dead, and the only ones left I had to feel anything were the archeologists, who were trying to write something objective and dispassionate. The impression I wanted you to have was that they were so moved by what they saw that they were unable wholly to keep their feelings from creeping into their report ("lying down beside his beloved," etc.).
  • There's not a lot of angst when you give them what seems to be a long and happy life together. Intriguing glimpse at a future for Harry, anyway. Now I wonder what the documents are; you describe them in a way that doesn't make sense for Harry's own writing, but why would he have a collection of Dumbledore's letters? I'd like them to be Hermione's notes or letters to Harry; that would fit best, I think.
    • I agree that there's not a lot of angst in that way. The angsty (angstish?) aspect of this story is the loss and forgetting that comes with time. Even Hogwarts, sooner or later, will become a pile of rubble over which the curious will pore for clues about what the past was like. Names are lost, lives are forgotten.

      Good for you for guessing who the correspondant was!
  • Wow. Just... wow...
    Loved the story. The timeline confused me at first, but I got the impression that these people were using an altogether different timeline set after the Emigration (pity you didn't elaborate on that too).
    The inscription in Dumbledore's tomb made me smile. It's just such a Harry thing to do. I assume those were Harry and Ginny who were lying peacefully in their deathbed? "A melodramatic sort of man" is something I would use to describe him, though I love the idea of hi taking his life after she died.
    Have those archaeologists got any idea of the Caretaker is? I mean, you've given us readers a powerful hint, but do those characters think so too?
    Great story, great author. Congratulations! :)
    • Thanks, CM. I'm glad you liked it so well.

      It's always hard to know where to elaborate and where not to. Here, the rule was that I couldn't elaborate on anything the intended readers of the report would already know. "A.E." means "After Emigration," but of course the intended readers would already know that and so I couldn't have the character say it. (In fact, I cheated a little when I had the archeologist say that "all dates not otherwise designated are to be read as A.E. dates, rather than B.E. or Gregorian" -- there surely must be an existing convention among archeologists for dating, so that such an explanation wouldn't be required.)

      Harry & Ginny it was on the bed. Ginny died after a long and happy life, and Harry decided to end his own rather than go on without her. But the archeologists have no idea that this is Harry Potter. Indeed, I'm not sure whether the name "Harry Potter" has survived the intervening 3,000 years. But if it has survived, then when they finally pick up those manuscripts and see who the addressee is, their jaws will drop!
  • The opening of this story reminded me so much of the Weans by Robert Nathan. This was about a excavation of a place called Pound Laundry. Later you find out this is Washington DC. (and on and on...great little gem of a book)

    So much fun reading this. You had to add the touching part. Loved the inscription of Dumbledore. Yes, the way H & G are found was touching. Yet another little story from you that combines the technical with that other thing you have such a knack for.
  • Nice one! You may have corralled the market for 'academic' fanfics!

    Reading the comments I like the little hint of Hermione in Harry's correspondence. Nice that he'd have a last read of the letters from one of his best friends before he killed himself. However, I really dislike the idea that Harry would end his life after Ginny's death. Conceding - for this fanfic :-) - that Ginny is the light of his life, you'd still think there'd be other reasons - children, grandchildren, friends, Hermione :-) - to keep living. Why suicide when the 'next great adventure' is bound to come sooner or later anyway?

    Particularly if you're a powerful wizard who can still help people. Maybe his 'saving people thing' burnt out.

    Some fanfics have Harry living out a lifespan that's greatly extended from those of his peers due to his extraordinary magical power. There's probably canon precedent for this, if one assumes that that is the case for Dumbledore's hanging on past 150-plus. You have Ginny dying around 120, but Harry could possibly/probably have kept on going a lot longer. Yet you have him deliberately kick the bucket. Bleh! I knew that bloody Ginny would be the end of him :-)

    Hermione will probably create a Philosopher's Stone and live forever ...
    • Thanks Brad. Corralled the market, have I? Academic fics, some market...

      Your points concerning Harry's apparent suicide are well-taken. I might hedge a bit by saying that we don't know he killed himself; it's just what the investigator believes. (He might have preserved Ginny's body, or he and Ginny might have been ill at the same time, or this whole construction might have been something that was set to move into action the moment the last of them died, or...) Basically I wanted them to be found together (there was a news story last month about a 4,000-year-old grave found in Italy, not far from Verona, containing a couple posed in an embrace, and it made a big impression on me). But the climate of Scotland would surely destroy, rather than mummify, a body buried or entombed in the usual way over a 3,000-year period, so some sort of preserving spell was needed. But if there was a preserving spell, then who would cast it? I just couldn't imagine a loved one (child, grandchild, friend, etc.) creating an elaborate thing like that, much less doing it without some huge plaque or other memorial. So I was left with H & G themselves. An imperfect solution, I agree (and it felt a bit melodramatic when I wrote it), but I couldn't find another way out of the box.
  • Good friend, for Iesus sake forbear/To digg the dust encloased heare....


    You really have the most amazing knack for combining wonderful fluff, academci detachment... and death on a large scale!

    I want to know about the Emigration, now! Where did the wizarding folk emigrate too??? Why??? Your hints are wonderfully intriguing and evocative, and the voice of the archaeologist is quite wonderful—dry but very human, and with a wonderful passion for his/her subject...

    I can't believe I missed this! And I'm glad I found it.
    • Ah, I knew I could count on you to recognize the reference! You're the only one so far. (But one spot-the-Shakespeare turn deserves another, eh?)

      I also knew, as soon as I started writing the thing, that I'd get an I-told-you-so from a certain Russian, excuse me, Belarussian playwright who pointed that the death in my stories keeps getting broader and deeper. But gimme credit, nobody died violently or sadly in this story, did they?

      I'm sorry to say I haven't figured out the Emigration yet. The wizards went somewhere (away from Britain, I think) and only returned after several hundred years. Why? My instinct is that it was something toxic that they had to avoid. (Here I want to plug Greg Egan's novel Diaspora, where he envisions such a toxic development quite vividly, among other things.) My sense, though, is that Hogwarts-Hogsmeade was abandoned by wizards even before that. (...I've begun to realize, recently, that when I try to have a detailed backstory I tend to get really bogged down. (I think this is one reason why "The Dean's Avatar" is giving me such grief.) I'm better at imagining the moment-by-moment in the story sub judice and making up backstory as needed. So I came up with the "Emigration" as an excuse to change the dating system, but didn't really think hard about what it was until the flist starte asking...)
  • Here from hpgw_otp.

    Loved this! The unusual framing really works, especially the way you mix up the very dry academic style with great bits of humor ("the Lovegood manuscript" - ha! And Harry as sentimental and melodramatic - priceless). I admit I got a little teary by the end, both from the sentiment and from the "learning from history" bit. Lovely work.
  • I finally got time to read this. Moving is, shall we say, time-consuming.

    The romantic in me wants to find a different solution than that which your archaeologist proposed for their posing. Not a difference of intent; rather, a difference of mechanics. I would rather think that Harry and Ginny lay down to die together, knowing their time was very near, instead of Harry's taking his own life following her death. That also introduces some interesting questions about lifespan, as by modern Muggle standards Ginny should have lived longer than Harry.

    For the record, I knew Hermione was the author of those letters. You don't write stories without Hermione in them, at least not stories of this sort. Having decided early on that Harry was the Caretaker, it was easy to guess that Hermione was his/their correspondent.

    Finally, I did not question the Emigration. Somehow, a suitable answer leaped into my mind, fully formed. I don't think the wizarding population left Britain. I think the human population left Earth. How exactly they rendered the planet uninhabitable is a separate question, but there are certainly plenty of suitable options.

    I have a few other comments for email. Suffice to say that you are wiser than you know.

    Brilliant story. I look forward to seeing it published to a wider audience. Reading reviews, informed or otherwise, of your stories is always entertaining.

    • Thanks, Dave. Ah, I'd forgotten that you were moving too! Pain, isn't it? Were you moving west, north or south? And how far?

      I like your version of how Harry & Ginny died better than my archeologist's. Let's decide that that's how it happened. *nods*

      Your notion of the Emigration intrigues me. Have you read Heinlein's early short story, "Lost Legacy"? It can be found in the collection, Assignment in Eternity, and it reminds me of your theory. So, to a lesser degree, does Greg Egan's Diaspora.

      I like my reviewers too. My friends-list, especially, are a thoughtful and interesting bunch. :)
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