Around him was open woodland, a mixture of pine
and deciduous trees. A cool,
salty breeze ruffled his hair, and he squinted into a late afternoon sun.
In front of him was an area of brush.
Behind him were more woods; the weaving and Professor Sprout’s
office were nowhere to be seen.
A woman’s voice, creaking with age, drifted out
of the brush before him. Neville
froze as a boy’s voice, Malfoy’s voice, answered.
Neville slung the pouch over his shoulder and walked cautiously
Beyond the brush waved a field of tall grass, which
gave way to a sandy beach. Neville
took one look at the beach, then crouched behind the last of the bushes.
Draco Malfoy stood out on the sand, speaking to a huge, shaggy
woman who, even stooping with age, towered over the boy.
She seemed to be fully as tall as Hagrid, the Hogwarts gamekeeper,
who was easily the largest person Neville had ever seen.
The woman resembled the image Neville had first seen in the weaving
-- a misshapen human with long hair.
A woven basket, large enough to serve as a bathtub for a person
of normal size, was strapped to her back; her clothing seemed to be made
of animal skins.
“I need to speak to someone in authority,” Malfoy
was insisting. “I need to
get home -- one of the professors has a very dangerous magical item at
the school, and it sent me here by mistake.”
The huge woman stirred.
“It’s along way to the nearest village,” she said in a wheedling
tone. “And night is coming
quickly. My home is on the
other side of these woods, not far off.
Stay the night, and I’ll see that you get to the village tomorrow.”
Even as far away as his hiding place, Neville could
see the disdain on Malfoy’s face.
“I think not. I’d
rather spend the night in a village than in some hut in the woods.
If you can’t Transport me there, at least point me in the right
direction and I’ll walk.” Despite
Professor Sagan’s words about accepting sincere offers of help, Neville
could understand why Malfoy might want to turn down the giantess’s offer.
A most unpleasant smile broke across the woman’s
face. “Very well.
I’ll ‘Transport’ you, my dear.”
She stooped suddenly and seized Malfoy by the back of the robes.
Ignoring his protests, she lumbered about in a circle, taking shuffling
steps, and began singing in a high-pitched chant.
Then she flung Malfoy into the air.
As Malfoy flew upward, he began to shrink.
His yells faded as he turned over in midair, and as he fell back
toward the woman, his shape began to change; it became rounder and smaller.
At the last moment the woman reached up and plucked Malfoy, now
a turtle, out of the air. She
chuckled heartily. “ ‘Transport’
you indeed! Child soup for
dinner soon! All I need is
one or two more!” She reached
behind her to open the basket’s lid, and dropped the turtle in.
Then she turned and strode into the woods.
Neville hastily scurried around the bush as the
woman passed within a few meters of him.
The woman’s head turned in the direction of the sound, and she
stopped. “Ah, what a lovely
young boy,” she said, catching sight of him.
“Are you lost, child?”
Terrified, Neville bolted.
Scrambling furiously through the brush, he heard the woman call
after him, “Wait!” He gathered
up his robes in both hands and fled, tripping over rocks and roots, ripping
free of grasping branches, expecting at every moment to feel the woman’s
hand grasping the back of his robes.
Finally, gasping, chest burning, he stumbled across
a small stream and onto the sands of the beach.
He collapsed face down into the sand.
Somewhere in his flight he had lost the pouch of food, and, he
realized dimly, his wand.
For a few minutes all he could hear was the pounding of his
heart and the rasp of his breath.
Then he caught the sound of someone walking on
the sand in front of him.
Neville struggled to his knees, but the person
approaching him wasn’t the huge woman.
It was a very normal-looking old man, dressed in a kilt of what
looked like woven bark. Over
the man’s shoulders was thrown a cloak of dark blue cloth, with a red
strip around the borders. On
the man’s head was a conical hat of woven bark with a very broad brim
that sloped down over his eyes.
He was smiling, and his smile was much friendlier than the huge
woman’s had been.
Why are you running?” the old man asked as he bent down to study
Neville managed to catch enough of his breath to
answer. “A woman -- with
a basket -- chased me. She
--caught Malfoy -- turned him -- into a turtle.”
old man nodded. “That would
be Basket Woman. She steals
children who have wandered away from their parents.
When she has enough of them, she’ll eat them.”
“But she can’t!” Neville blurted.
“I mean, I have to --somebody has to rescue Malfoy before that
The old man sat down cross-legged on the sand in
front of Neville. “Tell me
your story.” Neville related
the tale of what had happened and how he had come to be sitting on the
beach. The old man nodded.
“Your friend will need your help to escape Basket
Woman,” he told Neville, acting for all the world as though British schoolboys
appeared on the beach on a daily basis.
Neville stifled the urge to explain to the old
man that Malfoy was not his friend.
“I don’t know what to do,” he admitted.
“Come with me to my village,” the old man said.
“I think I know how to rescue your friend, but we’ll need time
to plan and to teach you what you need to know.”
Relieved, Neville smiled gratefully at the old
man. “Thank you, sir -- um,
I mean, Grandfather.”
“My name is Singer of Memories,” the old man told
him. “Follow me; we should
go before it gets dark.”
The old man led the way along the shore to a canoe
that had been pulled up onto the beach.
Carved and painted designs ran the length of the boat; many of
the symbols looked like the ones Neville had seen on Professor Sprout’s
weaving. The old man helped
Neville into the canoe and pushed it into the water, then hopped into
the boat and picked up a carved wooden paddle, which he used to guide
the boat out onto the ocean.
Neville watched as the shore receded further and
further into the distance. By
now he was feeling uneasy again.
“Um, excuse me, sir, but how far away is your village?”
“Not far,” the old man replied.
When the shore had completely vanished, the old
man laid the paddle on the floor of the canoe and stood up.
“Let’s go,” he said to Neville.
“We will reach the village before nightfall.”
“Go?” asked Neville in a quavering voice.
“There’s nowhere to go here -- there’s just water.”
“Not just water,” Singer of Memories replied.
“There is a whole world beneath the waves.
Come.” And with that
he reached out to catch Neville by the front of his robe, and pulled him
over the side of the canoe.
Water closed over Neville’s head, cutting off his
shout of surprise. Never
very athletic at the best of times, he floundered in the water, thrashing
arms and legs in a desperate attempt to reach the surface.
A hand seized the back of his robes and pulled
him up. His head broke the
surface and he gulped down breaths of air.
Singer of Memories bobbed in the waves beside him.
“Take a deep breath,” the old man ordered him.
“Do it....” here Singer of Memories’s voice softened,
“....Grandson. Do not be
For a moment Neville hesitated; then he took a
deep breath and held it.
“Again,” the old man said.
“Now we will dive,” Singer of Memories told him, and dragged
him under the water again. “Do
not struggle,” the old man’s voice spoke in Neville’s ear.
Singer of Memories himself swam in front of Neville and, like Malfoy
earlier, his shape began to change.
But instead of shrinking, the old man began to grow.
His legs blended together into a massive tail, his arms became
fins, his face became longer and longer until it took the form of a whale’s
jaws. The jaws opened, and
the whale began to sing -- an eerie, wavering melody of whistles, clicks
The song resolved itself into words.
“Take hold of my fin,” came Singer of Memories’s voice again.
Neville reached forward and grasped the fin on the whale’s back.
A tingling sensation ran up his arm and spread out to cover
his body. The urgent need
to rush back to the surface for a breath faded away.
“Now,” said Singer of Memories, “we can go.”
The whale plunged downward, carrying Neville toward the ocean bottom.
Sagan withdrew the tips of her fingers from the
surface of the weaving and turned to face Sprout and the other Hogwarts
staff members. “Well,” Sagan
remarked, “that’s not a bad beginning, although I suspect that dive was
rather a nasty shock.”
“Dive?” echoed McGonagall.
They’ve gone under water.”
Sagan indicated the symbols.
“These represent whales.”
“They look like birds,” Snape remarked.
For a moment the American looked blankly at the
weaving, tilting her head to one side, then smiled.
“Oh. Well, I can
see where you might get that impression.
But the parts that look like heads and beaks are actually the creature’s
back fins. See --” her finger
traced the outline of the symbol “-- here’s the head, the tail, eye.”
Snape stared at her with a disbelieving expression
on his face. “How can you
tell?” he asked finally.
“Oh, come, now, Professor, you’re a literate man,
aren’t you? You’ve learned
the alphabet, along with various runes and symbols for chemicals and that
sort of thing?”
“Well, this really isn’t much different.
Many tribal groups have sets of symbols or glyphs.
Symbols are very important in tribal magic.
Any good Medicine Man or Woman knows at least the basic symbols
of the main tribal regions. These
are Northwest Coastal symbols of whales.”
Sagan shrugged. “Simple.”
“So, Neville is with a whale?” Sprout asked.
When the American nodded, she continued.
“Is that good, or bad?”
“Well, it could be either,” Sagan admitted.
“It will all depend on how Neville deals with the situation.”
She sighed and gazed at the weaving for a moment.
“Either way, there’s nothing more we can do for him now.
The only person I can help at this point is your missing staff
“I thought you said you couldn’t enter the weaving,”
Sagan began pulling more items out of her bag.
“What I’m going to do now is summon my colleague and send him
“I thought you said no adults could
enter the weaving,” Snape remarked.
When Snape opened his mouth again, she sighed wearily.
“Look, Professor, I am a certified Medicine Woman, among other
things. Please just let me
handle this, all right?”
“I think it would be best to let Ms. Sagan get
on with her work,” Dumbledore broke in.
“Is there anything any of us can do to help?”
Sagan unfolded a blanket and draped it over one
arm. “I’ll need continued
use of this office for a while, undisturbed.”
“Of course,” Sprout said instantly.
“Other than that, a pitcher of water and a drinking
glass would help immensely.”
“I’ll see that one is sent up as soon as possible,”
Dumbledore assured her as he ushered the rest of the professors out of
the room. “Is that
part of the ritual?”
“Well, in a manner of speaking.
It’s for my throat -- keeps my voice from cracking on the high
Dumbledore’s eyes lit up.
“Ah, of course.”
He paused. “I
know that tribal magic is rarely used anywhere in the world these days.
I, ah, don’t suppose that I could persuade you to let someone observe?”
“Not this time, sorry.
Professional secret, I’m afraid.
I’m going to have enough trouble getting this to work as it is.”
She picked up the drum and eyed it thoughtfully.
“But I might be able to arrange a demonstration of something simpler
when this is finished.”
Two hours later, Lucius Malfoy stormed into the
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The whale village wavered in front of Neville’s
eyes. Sometimes it looked
like a spread of domed houses made of stone and coral; at other times
it looked like hills on the ocean floor, with whales swimming among them.
The whales themselves seemed to ripple back and
forth between human and whale shapes.
Nearly thirty members of Singer of Memories’s family glided between
the houses (or hills). Soft
lights hovered in and around the village area; some were fish that carried
glowing spots on their bodies, others were plants, and still others were
just circles of light provided by the village’s magic.
The whales sang constantly, the sounds alternating
between human speech and whale sounds.
Neville caught some snippets of the whale song as he and Singer
of Memories drifted past. Some
of the songs were slow, lengthy conversations.
Others sounded like lists of things.
Still others translated as lessons from older whales to younger
“We live here during the summer,” Singer of Memories
explained through song. He
and Neville floated among the dwellings together.
A moment later a ripple passed through the water, and the dwellings
became hills again. “In winter,
we will swim to a village far away, where the water tastes different and
feels warmer. But now, let
us eat and discuss your friend and what can be done for him.”
Neville found himself in a sitting position near
Singer of Memories’s eye. A
shell plate appeared in his hands.
The food on the plate looked like scrambled eggs in one place,
lettuce in another. At least
the shrimp was recognizable. The
food tasted nothing like he expected, but it was good, and it had been
a long time since he’d eaten.
“Basket Woman is very old, and very dangerous,”
Singer of Memories said as Neville ate.
“If you were a powerful warrior, you might be able to defeat her
Neville shook his head.
“I’m not any kind of warrior.”
The whale’s shape shifted back to that of the old
man Neville had first seen on the beach.
Singer of Memories smiled.
“I did not think so. We
will have to find another way to defeat her.
Perhaps by cleverness.”
Neville stopped eating and looked away.
“I’m not very clever, either.”
“Well, then, what are you?”
“I don’t know.
I’m not very good at my classes, I can’t get magic to work well,
and I forget things a lot.” Neville
sighed and reached out to put the plate on a nonexistent table.
The plate disappeared in a swirl of bubbles.
Singer of Memories prompted him, “Come, now, you
must be good at something.”
Neville considered. “I
usually get good grades in Herbology -- where we study plants and what
they’re used for. But I don’t
know what good that will do here.”
The old man laughed.
“That will do perfectly well here, Grandson!
Our brothers and sisters of the plant people give us food, medicine,
building materials, clothing -- many things!
Tell me about the plants you have learned.”
“Well, there’s Mandrake -- the voice of the young plant knocks
people out. There’s wormwood.
And asphodel -- you know, the plant that looks like a lily?
They’re both used in sleeping potions.”
“So,” Singer of Memories’s voice carried a tone
that said he was very pleased with Neville, “you have found three plants
that might help you. Mandrakes
we do not have, but I can show you other plants that grow near the beach
that will do the same things as the ones you mentioned.
Now, how can we use them?”
“I’d have find some way to get her to eat them,”
Neville reasoned. “But I
can’t just walk up to her and ask her to swallow it.”
He thought for a moment.
“Then you must trick her into eating them,” Singer
of Memories said. “Or...find
a way to put in something she will be eating already.”
Child soup, Neville thought wildly, made
from the children Basket Woman turned into turtles.
He shuddered; that was as frightening as some of the things
they made in Potions class. But
at least in class Professor Snape didn’t expect them to try the potions
on each other, although it sometimes happened by accident.
Then another thought struck him.
“Singer of Memories, Basket Woman said she only
needed one or two more children to make soup.
What if -- what if she’s eaten Malfoy already?”
The old man pondered the question. “I
can not believe she will have found another child or two this quickly,”
he answered finally. “The
village is far from her home and the villagers know enough to keep their
She will still be waiting.”
“Then the other child she’ll need to make her soup
will be...me.” Neville drew
his knees up to his chest and hugged them.
“When she catches me, she’ll be ready to eat.”
The idea began to grow, in spite of an also-growing fear.
“And when she starts the water to cook the soup, I can put the
plants in then. But she won’t
eat until she’s --” he swallowed hard and forced himself to finish the
sentence, “until she’s cooked us, too.”
Singer of Memories surprised him by chuckling.
“Perhaps not. When
someone at home is cooking, do you ever want to sample it before it is
“Well,” Neville said, not Great-uncle Algie’s
cooking, but, “yes.” And
he stopped, fear turning to excitement.
“If I can put enough in, and get her to taste it a few times before
she’s ready to add, um, us....”
“She should fall asleep,” Singer of Memories finished
for him. “Very good.
Now, we will need to find the plants, and prepare them, and you
will need to know how and when to add them.”
Up to that point, Neville had been feeling more
and more confident about the plan.
But at Singer of Memories’s words, a cold fear ran through him
again. “Grandfather,” he
told the old man, “I don’t think I can do that.
I -- in Potions class, I can never remember how much to add or
in what order to put it in. And if I don’t do this right....” he trailed
Singer of Memories regarded him thoughtfully.
“Can you sing?” he asked suddenly.
Neville, caught off guard by the question, stared
at him. “Uh--”
Singer of Memories persisted.
“Can you sing?
Do you remember songs?”
I mean, I remember nursery rhymes and stuff like that.”
Neville had no idea where this was going.
Singer of Memories fell silent, and the two drifted for a few minutes.
The wails and squeals of the village inhabitants continued around
“You hear them,” Singer of Memories told Neville.
“When they sing, you hear their words.
All our knowledge comes from song -- that is how we speak, and
teach, and remember. Choose
a song that you know and can remember.”
Neville thought for a moment.
“Um, okay.” He finally
chose a children’s nursery rhyme, Four Little Dragons, which was just
a series of rhyming lines. He
sang it for Singer of Memories, even though his voice broke a couple of
times. The old man nodded.
“Now,” he told Neville, “we will change the words,
and you will learn the new verses.
And this will help you remember what to do with the plants and
Basket Woman’s soup.”
“I’m sorry, Lucius, but Ms. Sagan has insisted
that she needs to perform her rituals in private.”
With the whole school gathering for dinner, Dumbledore
had ushered Malfoy into a side room off the Great Hall and called both
Sprout and Snape to join them. The
story of the weaving and the disappearances had been related once again,
and the two men were now facing off across the fireplace.
“Absolutely unacceptable!” Malfoy snapped.
“I cannot believe how thoroughly this whole affair has been mishandled.”
He turned on Sprout. “And
you -- I hold you completely responsible for this!
That tapestry is obviously a dangerous magical item, and you’ve
brought it into this school! When
I’ve finished discussing this with the Board of Governors --”
“Now, Lucius,” Dumbledore interrupted, “Sylvana
assures me that she was unaware of the weaving’s abilities; if she had,
she would never have brought it to the school.
It’s my understanding that it’s been here for several months now,
and we have never before --”
Malfoy’s face twisted into a snarl.
“That doesn’t excuse what’s happened here!
That -- that -- thing! -- has swallowed my son, and I mean to see
both it and this woman removed from this school immediately!”
Sprout drew a deep breath.
“Headmaster, he may well be right, but the important thing right
now -- ”
“You see, she admits it!” Malfoy snapped.
“And as for this, this so-called specialist, I demand to see her
“That would be inadvisable,” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Ms. Sagan has asked that she not be disturbed during her rituals.”
“Rituals,” sneered Malfoy.
“What is she doing, dancing around with feathers in her hair and
paint on her face? We’re
talking about a primitive artifact, made by a backward bunch of savages.
Modern magic was proven superior centuries ago, and we are wasting
our time standing here while some witch doctor shakes a rattle and chants
some mumbo-jumbo.” He turned
again to Sprout. “Your office
is located in Hufflepuff, is it not?”
When she confirmed it, Malfoy strode to the door and flung it open.
“Lucius,” said Dumbledore in a warning tone.
Snape also opened his mouth.
Malfoy cut them both off.
“I will remind you that I am a member of the Board
of Governors, Albus,” Malfoy shot back.
“You have no say in where I may go or what I may do in this school.”
With that, he swept out the door.
Singer of Memories had insisted that Neville sleep
and eat again before they left the village.
Most of the whale-folk gathered to see them off, their music turning
to songs of farewell. Neville
again rode the whale’s fin to the surface, where they found the wooden
canoe drifting. After Neville
had stepped off Singer of Memories’s back and tumbled into the canoe,
the whale once again took the form of an old man, and paddled back to
Neville’s companion hummed as they searched the
fields; the old man was working on the song that Neville would use to
prepare the special “meal” for Basket Woman.
In the meantime, the boy examined leaves and flowers, until he
found the plant he sought -- leafless stems that bore a white, lily-like
“Here,” he said, and carefully grasped it near
the root as Professor Sprout had taught him.
It took some digging, but at last the plant came free of the soil.
Neville trotted down to the beach
to wash the roots in the salt water.
When he returned, Singer of Memories had a different plant
in hand, and was stripping the stems of roots.
“You will want these,” he explained to Neville.
“The leaves will make the other plant you plan to use even more
And pull up one of those --” he nodded to a tall stalk that
bore several pods tucked in among its leaves.
“Open the pods and take out the seeds.
Put them in one of the cloth bundles.”
He and Neville sat down on the edge of the beach.
The lily-root leaves were ground between stones to form a powder
and placed in a small red pouch.
The leaves from the second plant were tied with a rawhide cord.
The seeds from the third plant were placed in a tiny yellow pouch.
“Now,” Singer of Memories said, “here is your song.
This will help you remember what to do, and when.”
First potatoes, round and white, and a handful
of red in water bright. He
handed Neville the red cloth bundle that contained red powder.
“This goes in first.”
Second, add the green leaves gleaming, drop
them into water steaming. “These
go in next," he said, handing Neville the leaves he had stripped
from their roots. “Ask Basket
Woman for a leafy vegetable to add to the soup.”
Lastly, season with golden down, sprinkle this
when water’s brown. The
final packet contained tiny yellow seeds.
“This goes last,” the old man explained.
“It can go in with any kind of seasoning.”
He made Neville sing it back to him several times.
The old man nodded in satisfaction.
“There is one thing left to do,” he said, and stood up.
“Come here.” He and
Neville walked to the edge of the forest.
Singer of Memories stripped five strands of bark from one of the
cedar trees. Singing, he
rolled them back and forth between thumb and forefinger, then, as the
strands seemed to grow and multiply, between his hands.
Finally he drew his hands apart to reveal a cloak woven of the
This he threw over Neville’s shoulders.
“So Basket Woman will not recognize you,” he said.
Neville looked down at his clothing; he now seemed to be wearing
not only the cloak, but also a kilt similar to the old man’s.
His shoes had turned into sandals.
“Oh,” Neville managed.
Singer of Memories smiled and led the way back
to the ocean’s edge. He scooped
up a handful of wet sand and carefully rubbed it over Neville’s face,
arms, legs and hands, humming softly.
Then he waded out into the water and pulled up some of the sea
plants that rippled in the waves.
These he combed through Neville’s hair.
“There,” the old man said, and in his hands appeared
a bowl of water. Neville
peered into it, and saw that his skin had acquired a tan, and his hair
had turned a dark brown. He
looked almost nothing like himself.
Singer of Memories nodded in approval.
The bowl vanished.
“Now, you have your plants, you have your song, and you have
your disguise. I have one
more thing for you.” He put
both hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“Go with the blessing of the Creator, not just now, but always.”
Neville blinked at him for a moment.
“Grandfather, I -- I don’t have anything to give you back.
I mean, thank you, but --”
The old man shook his head.
“My grandson, a good deed cannot be returned.
It can only be passed on.
Some day, in your turn, pass what I have done for you on to another.
Then I will be repaid. Now,
from here you must go into the forest and keep the sun at your back.
It is not far to Basket Woman’s hut.
Go and save your friend.”
“Yes, sir,” Neville murmured.
“Thank you, Grandfather.”
The old man smiled and gripped Neville’s shoulder,
then turned to his canoe and pushed it out into the water.
Neville watched him paddle for a few moments, then turned and walked
up the slope to the forest’s edge.
When he turned back, the old man and the canoe were gone.
Just as he was about to continue on into the forest, Neville caught
sight of a whale, black against the blue of the sky and the grey-green
of the water, as it heaved itself out of the ocean and fell back again.
Neville waved, then turned away.