Ken (rhetoretician) wrote,
Ken
rhetoretician

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

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.



Tags: albus dumbledore, angst, archeology, fan fiction, flangst, ginny weasley, harry potter
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