Two days later they met in the library for their first session, with McGonagle's blessing and with a special note from her giving them permission to consult any book in the Restricted Section. "You're old enough now," she had said, "and you have all certainly seen enough terrible things on your own. But please be careful. Some of those books are very dangerous. The ones in section Z should only be opened while wearing dark goggles and heavy gloves; Madam Pince will help you with those if necessary. And one more thing: the Dark Arts can be very fascinating, sometimes too fascinating. Remember that. Now off with you."
Harry surveyed the extensive bookcases, which had never been so fully accessible to him before. "Well, where should we start?" he said, looking a little lost.
"You two need to start at the proper beginning," said Hermione, "and read Hogwarts, A History. There are lots of references in there to other books. While you're doing that I'll start compiling an outline of categories that we might search. Then we can divide up the list."
Neither Harry nor Ron were too pleased with having Hermione take charge, but Hermione was so delighted to be actually directing their study for once that they knew it would be pointless to argue. Besides, she was clearly the best researcher in the school when it came to books, no denying that. They gave each other a resigned look, as if to say "I guess we'll have to put ourselves in her hands."
Harry and Ron each found a copy of Hogwarts, A History, and began to read. Contrary to their expectations, the first chapters about the founding of the school were actually rather interesting, and there was some surprising information about Salazar Slytherin. For example, in addition to being a parseltongue (that is, a person who can speak the language of snakes), it said that Slytherin had also been a master of occulomancy and digitomancy, the very rare skills of being able to perform magic without a wand, using only eyes and pointing fingers. Most wizards could perform the occasional accidental bit of magic without a wand, when sufficiently angry or panicky, but they could generally not focus it effectively on purpose, even to execute the simplest of charms. The wand, carrying some magical properties of its own in the core, acted as a channel and an amplifier for focusing the magical powers of the mind.
Harry sat back and remembered those frightening times when he had been in grave danger and had been deprived of his wand, how helpless and vulnerable he had felt. It would be great to be able to execute some kind of spell, even a weak one, just by pointing his finger. That ability might come in handy indeed.
But how could such a skill be learned? The book did not say. Hoping that a more detailed reference would be available, Harry tapped the paragraph in the book with his wand and muttered "Referendo!" At the bottom of the page a line of brightly lit writing appeared. It read: "Theory of Magical Focus and Wandology (1943) by Ascanius Basingstoke."
Within a few minutes Harry had found Basingstoke's book and began paging through it eagerly. There was all sorts of information on the properties of different woods for wand construction, the effects of different core materials that could be used, properties related to the exact length, shape and thickness of the wand, the mental connection forged between a wizard and his wand, malfunctions that can occur with wands, repair of damaged wands, danger of using damaged wands (Ron could write a book of his own on that problem!), wands designed specifically for the Dark Arts, the interaction properties of wands, and so on, but nothing about performing magic without wands.
Harry flipped to the back and checked the index, where he found the entry "Digitomancy, page 534." Checking that page, all he found was a footnote stating what he already knew: that Salazar Slytherin had been one of the few wizards ever to master the performance of magic without a wand. Frustrated but refusing to give up, Harry tapped the footnote and again whispered "Referendo!" And again a line of lighted type appeared at the bottom of the page. It read: "Occultus Extendo: or, the Projection of Magical Power (1685) by Basil and Rupertus Beseler."
"What are you after?" Hermione asked curiously, looking up from her book on Toads, The Magician's Friend.
"Erm ... just trying to track something down," said Harry as he went back to the shelves and started searching again. In a few minutes he came back to the table with a very old looking book in a heavily worn and worm-eaten brown leather cover.
He buried himself in it for a while, then suddenly gritted his teeth in annoyance. "Arrgh!" he said, loudly enough to make several other people in the room look up from their books. Madam Pince gave him a nasty look over her spectacles and put her finger across her lips. "Shhh!" Harry flashed her an apologetic.
He then read aloud quietly, so that only Ron and Hermione could hear: "The ancient writers beareth witness that it be possible to extend the will of a magician without benefit of a stick, though in truth very few such have been so blessed, most prominently the Corstar Family and Salazar Slytherin of York, who conjured through eyes and all five fingers of his left hand."
"Without a wand!?" said Hermione in amazement.
"Apparently," said Harry, "but I can't seem to learn any more than that about it.
"Is there a reference?" asked Hermione.
"I doubt it...1685 is a long time ago." But he tapped the text once more with his wand and said "Referendo."
And again a line of brightly lit type appeared at the bottom of the page. It read: "Speculum Occultum (1123) by Albertus Secundus."
"Oh-oh," said Harry. "I don't think this one's in English."
"That's Latin," said Hermione. "Professor Flitwick has been tutoring me in it, so that I can read the older books like this one. The title means "The Mirror of Magic," kind of a general compendium I think. Let's find it! This could be really interesting!"
Search as they might, however, the three of them could not find Speculum Occultum anywhere on the library shelves. Ultimately they had to call on Madam Pince for help, and she finally found the book at the bottom of a locked cabinet filled with oversized, very ancient-looking volumes, all of them bound in cream-colored vellum and carrying scripty titles handwritten in brown ink down the spines.
"Handle this one carefully," she said. "It is the only surviving copy anywhere. And good luck with it-no one else has been able to read it ... though, now that I think of it, I can't remember anyone who has actually tried. This cabinet holds the 'Obscure Collection.' It used to be kept down in the storage cellar but I brought the books up about twenty years ago just to protect them better from the mold."
Back at their table clutching the book, Hermione leaned over to them excitedly. "The only surviving copy! Do you know what that means?" she said.
"Uh ... that we'll get a week of detention if we spill pumpkin juice on it?" asked Ron.
"No, you lump, it means that unless Voldemort managed to read this very copy during the time he was at Hogwarts as Tom Riddle, he can't have seen it anywhere else since then! And he probably didn't see it back then because it wasn't even in the library at that time; it was down in a forgotten storage area. Whatever we find in here may be unknown to him!"
Harry and Ron raised their eyebrows-that sounded promising.
"Well let's hope it contains more than the other books," said Harry. "But you'll have to read it for us, Hermione. It looks like it's all in Latin."
"Give it here, then." Hermione took the book confidently and opened it. Her face fell immediately.
"I ... I'm not sure what language it's in," she said, looking worried. "Look at this." She pointed to the first chapter heading. It read:
"That doesn't look like any language I ever saw," she said disappointedly. Then, more thoughtfully: "That can't all be one word. They must have taken out the spaces between words. The only reason they would do that would be to make it harder to read, which means it may be a code instead of a language. And it must be a code that can be broken, because Basil and Rupertus Beseler referred to it in that other book you found, Harry. That means they discovered how to read it. If they did, so can we."
Hermione studied it in silence for several minutes while Harry and Ron waited expectantly.
"It's the right age to be in Latin ... almost everything written in the 12th century was in Latin. So let's assume it's some kind of encoded Latin. Hmm. There's a Q, and all words in Latin that have Q also have U following. There are a couple of U's elsewhere in the sentence, but the only letters directly adjacent to the Q are V and S. Wait a minute! V used to substitute for U in Latin...this one is on the left side of the Q instead of the right, following it. Maybe it's just written backwards." She mumbled as if reading to herself for a moment.
"Yes, that's it! Now that wasn't so hard, was it?" Ron rolled his eyes, but Hermione was too pleased with herself to notice. She copied out the line backwards, adding spaces. It now read:
"DE IIS QVAE SACRA SUNT PHILOSOPHIA OCCULTI."
"So, this first section deals with the 'sacred philosophy of magic.' Let's see what else is in here." She paged through it for a while, finally stopping at an odd engraving. It depicted two wizards in medieval dress, one brandishing a wand and the other merely pointing his finger, with sparks or something emanating from his fingertip. From out of a cloud behind the first wizard a hand had emerged, clutching a long wooden beam and apparently striking the first wizard in the head with it. The title to the engraving read "EIICE PRIMUM TRABEM."
"What does that mean?" asked Ron.
"Well, loosely translated, I think it means that first off you can whack your opponent in the head with a wooden beam, using only your index finger for a wand. Of course, it might mean that your opponent will only feel like he's been whacked in the head with a beam. The incantation is Trabem! In any case, we're obviously on the right track here."
"Wow," said Ron, "Fred and George would sure have loved to know how to do that! Can you imagine all the chaos they could have caused while sitting in class looking innocent, with their wands in their pockets?" Harry and Ron both sat back lost in thought, trying to picture what Fred and George would do. The wonderful possibilities for mischief boggled the mind.
"Worse than that," said Hermione, "imagine what Malfoy could get away with!" That was a sobering thought. They looked around nervously to be certain that no one was listening or looking over their shoulder.
"But imagine," said Harry, wide-eyed with realization, "how useful it would be in quidditch! If I could perform an Accio spell just by pointing a finger, I could summon the snitch straight into my hand instead of having to chase it all over the pitch! It would revolutionize our game! We'd be unbeatable!"
"Does it tell in there how to do it?" whispered Ron hopefully.
"Kind of. It says that each finger on the hand is best suited for certain kinds of spells. The thumb works best for befuddlement spells, the Impedimenta spell, the Obliviate amnesia spell, the stupifying hex, and other spells designed to affect the opponent's mind. The index finger works best for "power spells"-not sure what that means. The second finger can produce fire spells such as Incendio and Conflagratium. The third finger can produce loud sounds, and the little finger can unlock doors or make people talk to reveal secrets. The palm of the hand also appears to have special powers, but I don't understand ... oh! It's used for the Cruciatus torture curse, the Avada Kedavra killing curse and the Imperious curse! There is supposed to be a diagram here somewhere. Ah, here it is on page 111."
Hermione turned the page to reveal a second engraving, apparently designed to serve as a memory aid. It showed a hand with different symbols attached: at the fingertips were a key, a bell, a sun, a star, and a moon crown, and in the palm a fish being roasted over a fire. The symbols obviously represented the dominant powers of each finger.
"Well, that's very interesting," said Ron impatiently, "but we need to know exactly how to make that work. Aren't there any more instructions?"
"I don't see any," said Hermione. It just lists some of the people in history who had the skill-Ademar of Cologne; Alphonso the Tenth of Spain; Salazar Slytherin of York; Barthelmy Corstar, Zinnwald Corstar and Boniface Carstair, all from Bohemia. Hm-looks like the Corstar-Carstair family had hereditary knowledge of the technique passing from one generation to the next."
"You don't suppose our Professor Carstairs is related to them, do you?" said Harry. Hermione gave him a blank look for a moment.
"Well, we can check, can't we? Ron, hand me that big red book labeled Great Wizarding Genealogies and let's see if the Professor is in there."
She flopped open the massive volume and began flipping pages.
"And here he is: Julian Boniface Carstairs III, born 1905-good grief, he's 98 years old! He's certainly well-preserved, but I guess that's not too surprising in a great wizard-look at Dumbledore, he's over 100. Anyway, let's see, member of the Confederation of Wizards, served as President of the Confederation in 1940-1945, blah blah blah ... son of Julian Boniface Carstairs II, naturally, who was the son of Julian I, of course; Julian I was the great-great grandson of Rudolph Carstair, first Chancellor of Magic, blah blah blah. Rudolph was the great grandson of Tarquinius Superbus Carstair, a direct descendant of-there it is!-Boniface Anselmus Carstair, hereditary Prince of Bohemia, who died in 1102! The venerable Professor Julian Carstairs is the umpty-great grandson of the leading digitomancy family of the Dark Ages!"
They all sat back and absorbed this for a moment, thinking to themselves. Then they all burst out talking at once: "Do you think he can still do it? Do you think he might be willing to teach us? Do you think Dumbledore knows? Would Dumbledore give us permission?"