"That's odd," Hermione said their second night in the tent.
"What is?" asked Ron.
"I was just looking through the books we took from Grimmauld place, and I found this inside a hollow copy of The Annotated Most Potent Potions." Hermione showed them a polished wooden box, a little over a foot square and four inches deep. "I found the book with its cover locked on the shelf on the potions room in Grimmauld Place just before Remus turned up, I only just got around to opening it." She opened the box and held up an odd metal machine with several dials. "It looks like reconstructions of the Antikythera mechanism. Why would Snape own something like that? And why would he hide it there?"
"Snape?" asked Harry. "Why do you think it's got anything to do with Snape?"
"His name's inside the front cover of the book, before the hollow part."
"What's an antithingy mechanism when it's at home," asked Ron. "And why reconstruct it? Are you sure it isn't cursed or something?"
"The original machine was a mechanical computer built by the ancient Greeks a couple of thousand years ago. It was used to calculate the position of the planets and phases of the moon. Divers found it in 1900, but it was really badly corroded, it took decades to figure it out. This one isn't cursed - there's a preserving spell on it, I can't detect anything else."
"What's a computer?"
"You really should have taken muggle studies, Ron. It's a machine for solving complex mathematical problems. Scientists think that the Antikythera mechanism was used to keep track of the planets and the calendar for religious reasons. Probably not as accurate as the calculations we learned in Astronomy class, but they got results a lot faster."
"So why don't we use something like that now?"
"There are better magical alternatives, like the astronomy globes they sell in Diagon Alley."
"Even so, maybe someone made it for the magical market before the astronomy globes were invented," said Harry.
"It's too crude. This was mostly hand-made, the gears look like they were filed not machined. And all of the dials are labelled in ancient Greek. It's a replica. If it was real it would be a priceless antique."
"How do you know it isn't?"
"Don't be silly. Quot annos!" She swished and pointed her wand at the machine, then stared at the spectacular lack of results. "Bloody hell!"
"It's real, isn't it?" said Harry.
"It's too old for that spell to measure, which means it's either protected against that spell in a way I can't detect, or at least as old as the Julian calendar."
"Let's pretend I have no idea what that means."
"Honestly, Ron... It means that it was made before 46 BC. It's probably worth a couple of million pounds if it could be authenticated."
"What's that in galleons?"
"Two million was a bit over four hundred thousand, the last time I checked the exchange rate."
"Don't go buying a new broom just yet, the preservation spell would probably make it impossible to prove it's that old, at least by Muggle techniques."
"It's still pretty cool," said Harry. "I wonder why Snape had it. Anything else in there?"
"Some papers, haven't checked them yet. Let's see... an invoice from Slug and Jiggers for seven bezoars and a load of potions ingredients, sold to a Rafael Prince in November 1918. Wasn't Prince Snape's family name? I think it's an itemised list for the month, not a single order. Probably Snape's grandfather, or some other relative. I'd guess he was making a lot of restorative and regeneration potions and poison antidotes."
"Potions must have run in the family."
"You could heal a couple of dozen people with this stuff, I wonder why he wanted so much."
Ron moved to look over her shoulder. "Even I know that one, they were fighting one of the big muggle wars then, a lot of soldiers came back wounded and poisoned. My great-aunt Tessie used to go on about it before she splinched herself, she pretended to be a muggle... um... nurse and managed to slip some potions into the medicines at the muggle hospital and do a few healing spells, reckoned she saved more soldiers than all the healers in the hospital put together. The muggle papers called it a miracle, and the Ministry reckoned it was a bit too close to violating the Statute of Secrecy. They fined her and nearly snapped her wand."
"I don't remember anything about that in History of Magic," Hermione said with a frown.
Harry shrugged. "It probably got left out of the books. Wouldn't want to give impressionable kids the idea of helping muggles. What else have you got there?"
"More potions receipts up to July 1922. The amount he's buying gradually decreases, the last one is just stuff you'd need for mild tonics."
"Maybe some patients died, others got better," said Ron.
"Okay. Muggle photo of a woman, nobody I know, a brunette with long hair. Muggle sort of clothing, dress looks like the twenties or thirties, so do the cars, and that's the Arc de Triomph in Paris in the background."
"Let's have a look," Harry joined Ron to stare at the picture. "Bloody hell, she's gorgeous. Who is she?"
"No idea. Okay, if you two are finished perving over someone who probably died before you were born..." Hermione turned to the next paper "Letter in French, dated April 21st 1920, addressed to Rafael Prince again. Signed by... good grief, signed by Nicholas Flamel! Let's see how much French I remember, haven't used it much since the Tournament, this isn't going to be a word for word translation. Um... Rafael, I have visited your client and administered three drops of the Elixir as requested. I regret that a larger or repeated dose is contra-indicated as it would create a permanent dependancy on the Elixir. There was a marked improvement in his condition, which will hopefully be permanent with careful use of the potions you supply. I think that there is now every hope for a full recovery. Your beautiful 'cousin' - that's in quotes for some reason - assures me that she will continue to monitor the situation, and has a better alternative to the Elixir available once he has recovered. Since owl post is not routinely available to her she has asked me to forward this package, a small gift which she hopes will be useful at a time of great need. She will send the activation procedure separately. We will be in Britain in the New Year; until then my best wishes to you and your wife." A better alternative to the Elixir? What the hell does that mean?"
"No wonder Snape hid it," said Harry. "If there was something like that Vol... Riddle would be all over it."
"Greasy git probably wants to keep it for himself," Ron said with a sneer.
"What else have you got there?"
"Table converting ancient Greek numerals to Roman numerals and modern numbers. Table of the English and Greek alphabets. Table comparing various calendars. And... okay, this looks interesting..."
"That's French again," said Harry, looking over her shoulder.
"I noticed. OK, muggle paper and fountain pen for the writing, I think. The address just says 'Paris, November the fourth 1981'. Harry, that's..."
"Just after my parents were killed. I know."
"Severus, you must know that it is not in my power to help you. You are twice foreswarn, once to your childhood friend and once to your 'Dark Lord', - that's in quotes - the Moirai - whatever that means - do not forgive such betrayal, especially when it results in death, and I doubt that you would survive their intervention. I grieve with you for your friend's death, but she is with Hades now, and if what you have told me is true I am certain that Lily will have attained the Elysian Fields. - that's pretty much Heaven in Greek mythology, I think. There are ways to survive apparent death, and I agree that your former master may have used them, but none of them apply to your friend. Any resurrection would be a thin semblance of life, and lead to nothing but sorrow. - Oh, Harry..."
"It's okay, Hermione. We've seen how resurrection worked out for Riddle, I wouldn't want to inflict that on my parents. You might as well read the rest."
"Before you do," said Ron, "I'm pretty sure the Moirai are the ancient Greek Fates. It came up a couple of times in Divination class."
"Good grief! Thanks, Ron, I never thought that class would actually be useful for anything. I am aware that I am in your family's debt, but I must beseech you to find another way for me to repay it. Perhaps when he is of age I might aid the boy; if you are right about your former master he is likely to need my help. Signed with a capital D, nothing else. That's where it ends."
"D for Dumbledore?" Harry looked at the letter. "It doesn't look like his handwriting, unless it's his brother or something... Can you tell us anything about the writer?"
"Not Dumbledore. It's a woman, from some of the word endings, very clear handwriting, no corrections, perfect French spelling. Judging by all the Greek references I'd guess a classical scholar with an interest in the field, or maybe someone who still worships those gods."
"And what, Harry? I'm not bloody Sherlock Holmes."
"Oh, for... a famous detective, Ron. Would it kill you to read some of the books I recommend?"
"Gotcha! Elementary, my dear Hermione! He's pretty clever for a muggle."
"Arse," Hermione said affectionately. "Okay, it sounds like you can do something to the mechanism to contact her, unless the gift was something different."
"I'd guess that it's some sort of rune magic," said Harry. "You said that the only magic you could sense was an anti-corrosion spell, so it must be something like.. like.."
"Like a combination lock. There must be an incomplete rune pattern that only completes when the dials are manipulated. What I don't see is how the runes are powered up, you'd need to do it before you completed the pattern."
"Is the anti-corrosion spell rune based?" asked Ron.
"Let's see..." Hermione cast a different analysis spell. "Yes. I can't see the runes though, they must be inside it."
"If there are more gears inside," said Harry, "I'd guess that it's engraved on some of them, and already powered up as the anti-corrosion spell. But when you turn the dials to the right pattern they move to form a second rune set that activates something."
"And we can't see which ones without taking it apart, and that probably destroys the spell."
"There must be something else in there that shows how to use it," Ron said angrily, "otherwise what use is it?
Hermione shrugged, showing empty hands. "Not that I can see."
"Did you check for hidden compartments?"
"There is't really room, Harry, the machine took up most of the space in the box."
"Maybe it has an extension like your bag. Another compartment."
"Sod it, I should have thought of that. Alohamora!"
With a soft click the bottom of the box hinged up, revealing a tray underneath, with padded niches containing some small potion bottles, measuring cups, and glass and silver stirring rods. Hermione lifted out the tray to reveal a rectangular silver dish with a flat lid, two sealed black parchment packages, and a small leaflet, again in French.
"What is all that?" asked Ron.
Hermione read through the leaflet for a moment then smiled. "It's a kit for developing and printing magical photos, though the process looks a lot more complicated than the one Colin used to use. I think most of his ingredients were ready-mixed." She studied the envelopes. "The lumpy one says 'Caution! Exposed!', I suppose that means film, the other one is printing paper."
"It's a bit big for film," said Harry.
"It'll be roll film, a lot bigger than anything modern muggle cameras use. Anyone see any reason not to try it?"
"Works for me," said Ron, "but you're the potions whiz, you'd better do it."
"If this blows up in my face I'll remember you said that. Now for the first steps we need a darkened room..."
Forty minutes later Hermione crossed her fingers, raised her wand, and cast the lowest-powered Lumos spell she could manage. There were seven pictures. The first showed the woman from the picture they'd seen earlier, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, blowing a kiss toward the camera. The others showed the same women in various locations. Each picture showed a few seconds of action, repeating endlessly.
"Any way to know what she's saying?" asked Harry.
"Sorry, not unless you can read lips. She's probably speaking French anyway."
"Fat chance. Okay, can you finish off the process so we can look at them in better light? Maybe there's something we'll spot if we check carefully."
"They just need to soak a while longer." Hermione carefully covered the dish with the lid. "We can have more light now. Let's cook the rest of those eggs and have a bite to eat while we're waiting."
Twenty minutes later Hermione got the pictures out of the dish, rinsed them, and used a drying charm to get them ready for examination.
"They're pretty small. Can't make out much detail."
"Whoever put this kit together didn't include an enlarger, Ron, they're just contact prints. Let's try something. Engorgio!" The pictures started to expand. Hermione waited until they were about a foot across then ended the spell. "I think I stopped it before the pictures distorted."
"That's a lot better. She's still moving, so I think it's okay. Well done!"
"Thank you, Harry."
"What he said."
"Thanks, Ron. Okay, any thoughts?"
They stated at the pictures. After a minute or so Harry looked at the negatives. "I'm drawing a blank here. Maybe the order they were taken is important. That'd be that one with the Eiffel Tower, then I think this is the platform of some sort of station..."
"Montmartre metro station," said Hermione, "there's a sign in the background."
"Next one she's standing in front of a big church."
"No idea on that one."
"Standing on the doorstep of a building."
"Again, no idea."
"Another station, a big one this time, standing on the concourse, I think"
"That's the Gare du Nord, the main station for Paris."
"Then she's standing in front of some sort of racing car, except it's on the street and loaded with tons of luggage and cans of petrol."
"That's the Monte Carlo rally, some of the cars start from Paris."
"After that she's in front of the Arc de Triomphe, just waving at the camera. I think the picture we saw in the box must have been taken with a muggle camera at the same time, she's wearing the same clothes. And there's a blank negative at the end."
"It's a bit bloody cryptic."
"Think positively, Harry. Any thoughts, Ron?"
"Well, if you don't think it's too obvious, all of the pictures she's in except the first and the last have something with a number in them, and she looks toward it in the picture. The metro station is platform one, then there's a clock on the church showing eleven o'clock, the house is number eleven too, then she's standing in front of platform nine at the Gare du Nord, then the car is number eighteen."
"He's right, Hermione."
"He is. Okay, let's see. One, eleven, eleven, nine, eighteen. Doesn't mean much to me. Wait a sec... if we write the digits down, we get 11111918, which could be 11 11 1918. That's a date! November the eleventh, 1918! Armistice Day, the day the First World War ended."
"It can't be that simple!"
"Why not, Harry? Most wizards wouldn't even know the significance, so they might not recognise it as a date."
"I suppose it's worth a try. So we need to convert the date into the Ancient Greek calendar. Um... Hermione?"
"Riiight. You two wash the dishes or something, let me work it out. Preferably without any interruptions, okay?"
"You've got it!"
"23rd of Pyanepsion, Ol.673.2!" Hermione shouted triumphantly. "Now I just need to convert the figures into Attic numerals and work out which of these symbols is Pyanepsion, and we're done."
"What can we do to help?"
"Clean the bathroom or something, Harry, just keep quiet while you're doing it."
"She's got a bit of a strop on," Ron whispered as they backed away.
"Maybe we shouldn't be asking her to do all the thinking."
"But she's so good at it!"
"Zip it and let me get on with this in peace!"
Harry mimed zipping his lips, Ron just looked puzzled, and they got out of the way.
"OK, these are the dial settings we need. Do you want to try it, Harry?"
"Better leave it for the morning. It's nearly midnight, I'd rather be wide awake."
"Good point. And if this has something to do with France their time is an hour ahead of us, it's nearly one there. We might be trying to contact someone who's asleep."
"Let's get to bed, we can decide what we want to do in the morning."
"We need to get food," said Ron. "Maybe we should sort that out before we mess about with the machine."
Harry rubbed his eyes. "I've been thinking about it most of the night. I don't know why, but I have a feeling that it's really important. And if it goes horribly wrong, I'd sooner that it was at the start of the day so that we've got more time to get well away from here."
"It's a bit early for shopping anyway," said Hermione, "most places don't even open until nine, and people on a real holiday probably wouldn't go shopping first thing in the morning. We might as well try the machine first."
Ron's stomach growled. "Bollocks. Okay, let's make it unanimous. Hermione, can you get it working?"
"What's the magic word?"
"I don't know, I thought you were just going to turn the dials."
"I think that what the prat is trying to say is please, Hermione."
"Okay, sorry, right, a bit slow today, must be the hunger. Please, Hermione, show us poor feeble males how to make the bloody thing work. Please!"
"Better, though a bit more abject grovelling wouldn't come amiss." Hermione got the machine out of the box then paused. "Maybe we'd better get the tent packed first, in case we have to leave here in a hurry."
"Oh come on, Hermione!"
"She's right," said Ron. "It'd be a bit awkward if it sent up a big flare of magic showing where we are, and we were still packing when the Death Eaters showed up."
"Good point." They spent a few minutes collapsing the tent and packing. Hermione put the mechanism down on a tree stump, checked her notes carefully, and painstakingly adjusted the dials.
Nothing happened for a few seconds, and there was an overpowering feeling of anticlimax. Then the machine began to vibrate, and its sides seemed to fold in on themselves, clicking and whirring as it began to change shape, becoming rounder and a little longer, curved rather than flat.
"It's a Transformer!" said Hermione.
"It's a muggle thing, Ron, don't worry about it."
The machine continued to change for a minute or so, then stopped.
"It looks like a bird lying on its back."
"It's an owl!" Harry cast a silent levitation spell and lifted it into the air, waited until the feet were more or down, and lowered it to the stump. There was a loud click, and its eyes irised open and it turned its head in a complete circle as it looked around.
"What's it for?" asked Ron.
The metal wings opened and it shook them out, curved metal plates folding and twisting in complex patterns, then lurched into the air and flew toward Hermione, who ducked as it tried to land on her shoulder, then toward Ron, who dived out of the way. Harry stood his ground and held out his arm, remembering all the times Hedwig had flown to him. It landed, metal claws gripping his sleeve, and stared at him, then looked around at the others.
"Hello. What's your name?"
Ron and Hermione cautiously stood, wands at the ready. The owl stayed on Harry's arm, but stretched one wing toward Hermione, the other toward Ron.
"What do you think, Hermione? Should I be trying to get away from it?"
"It hasn't killed you yet, I think there's a good chance it doesn't want to. You know, I'm sure I've seen something like this before, wish I could remember where."
"I think it wants us to touch it," said Ron.
"Has to be a portkey!"
The owl nodded its head, apparently in agreement, and waved its wings at them again.
"It's too cute to be evil." Hermone put her bag on her arm, reached out with her free hand and gently gripped a wing tip.
"You're both mental. Oh well, we're probably doomed whatever we do..." Ron took hold of the other wing tip. The owl's head began to spin again, and suddenly they all felt a sensation like a hook in their navels and were spinning with it, whirling through a confused coloured blur.
Abruptly it ended, and they found themselves lying on the carpeted floor of a large comfortable-looking room, with crammed book-shelves alternating with wide windows on two of the walls. Hermione recognized a plasma TV on the third wall, with racks of complicated-looking electronics and shelves of disks and cassettes. The fourth wall had some framed paintings, none of them looking magical, and two doors, both open, and they could hear music from another room. There was a settee and two armchairs, a gleaming baby-grand piano, and a coffee table which they'd narrowly missed. The owl whirred, clicked, and transformed back into its original form.
"Where are we?" whispered Harry.
Hermione sat up, and murmured "Wherever it is, I can smell baking."
Ron's stomach rumbled loudly.
Hermione stood and cautiously moved to a window, then helped the boys to their feet, whispering "I can see the Eiffel Tower! We're in Paris."
"Hello." All three of them turned toward one of the doors, where a beautiful woman wearing a blue dress with a belt of braided golden cord and broad silver bracelets had suddenly appeared. Impossibly, she seemed to be the woman from the photographs. "I'm Diana Prince. Since you got through the wards I'm guessing Severus sent you. Which of you boys is Draco, and who are your friends?"
Crossover with Wonder Woman, of course, mostly the 2017 film but also some background from the comics. I'm ignoring casting information and leaked plot details etc. for the forthcoming Wonder Woman 1984.