A/N: Here's the next chapter of the story. Let me hear what you guys thinks with a constructive review, they always help make this better. Enjoy and thanks for reading!
"So… I'm guessing it's official now?" asked Tracey. She was laying on her bed with an issue of Witch Weekly levitating near her face. It was charmed to follow the movements of her eyes whenever she wanted to turn a page. Her hands were playing with one of the Weasley Twins' fake wands.
"If I knew what you were talking about, I would answer your question," Daphne said as she adjusted her emerald colored scarf and looked in the mirror. She kept tying it and untying it, making a new pose with a different smile every time. Her eyes kept darting at the clock on top of the door. She was taking too long. The mirror had even stopped given her compliments.
"Don't play dumb, Daphne," Tracey said. The tone of her voice changing slightly. With a flick of her wand, the magazine she was reading vanished into non-being, which is to say, everything.
"You don't wear those gloves just for any silly occasion. And your eyes keep darting to the clock, so you must be running late. But here you are, still trying to look more beautiful than you already are. He's even hung out with us!" Tracey folded her arms and one of her feet started tapping the floor.
From the opposite side of the room, Daphne could feel the intensity of the glare. The gloves had been a present from her sister. She wore them sparingly, not only because of the meaning they had for her but also, because of how expensive they had been. The Greengrass family were no beggars; and yet, she wondered how a ten-year-old had gotten hold of so much gold.
"Well, if you must know," Daphne said as she closed her eyes and gave a dramatically long sigh, "I have no idea of what you're going on about."
Potter had hung out with her and her friends more often than she did with his. It wasn't an issue. They mostly read books in the library but, every once in a while, Potter would talk about trivial stuff with her friends. Be it Quidditch with Tracey, or something related to Slughorn with Blaise, Potter had made her way into a space of her life she never thought he would. She imagined him playing with her little sister and smile spread across her lips.
"Why are you like these? You told me you guys snogged and now you won't tell me when the action happens," Tracey's glare had softened. She bit her bottom lip and her eyes were full of tears. As Tracey's face started to resemble a doe, Daphne made a mental note to gather signatures and form a drama club. Her best friend would shine brighter than any other witch on stage.
"Wrong. I kissed him. And don't talk about it like we fooled around in an empty cupboard at midnight. My lips barely touched his cheek. I don't want people to think that I'm like," her eyes darted towards the door before holding her hand next to her mouth and whispering, "like Pansy."
"Don't worry, she isn't here," Tracey whispered back.
"Where is she then?" Daphne asked, picking up her wand from the nightstand next to her bed.
"Dunno, somewhere in the castle throwing herself at Draco. She's been pathetic since he dumped her. That's why you don't waste your time with a boy, Daph. They waste their time on you so you don't lose all dignity when they leave," some chocolate frogs had made their way up to her bed and she was fooling around with one of them. She had always been like that. She wanted to do as much as possible with her time, even if it meant playing with chocolate frogs while talking with her best friend. Daphne loved her for that. Even when those last words felt like a needle had pinched her on the side of the neck.
"I'm not talking about you, obviously. I like Potter. He's nice, for a Gryffindor, of course. Blaise said he liked him too," one of the chocolate frogs made a break for the window. Tracey's hand caught it mid-air.
"Are you joking?" She was making sure her hair was braided to perfection. She remembered the warmth of those emerald eyes the last time they had seen her with a braid like the one she was wearing.
"Yeah. He told me. Through our soul bond. Our love knows no ends. I would have told you about it before but you know how it is with love," Tracey said, unable to hide the smirk on her face. A pillow hit her side and chocolate frogs scattered all over Tracey's bed as she fell on top of them.
"Soul bonds aren't a thing, Tracey," Daphne was laughing as she made her way to the door.
"I know, I know. But I want all the details when you come back tonight, got it? Or I'll tell Blaise how you mumble a certain someone's name when you're asleep!" Her yells were muffled by the enchantments on the sixth-year girl's dorm room door.
Winter was almost upon them. It was the middle of November and Hogwarts couldn't wait for Christmas to arrive. It had always been a favorite part of Daphne while attending Hogwarts. She had only stayed at school for the holidays once but seeing the castle full of mistletoe, snow, Christmas trees, enchanted ice statues and all sorts of decorations made her feel a warmth on her chest.
She walked by a group of first years who stopped to openly stare at her before following on, whispering among themselves. They hadn't all been wearing matching ties. It surprised Daphne even when it shouldn't have.
Hogwarts Houses had always been competitive between each other. And, sure, the very history of Gryffindor and Slytherin had set them up to be enemies since the beginning but… shouldn't it always be like what she had just seen? Students. Helping one another not because they shared a common room, but because they were young wizards that needed help. Then again, helping everyone wasn't the most cunning thing to do. Or maybe it was. After all, weren't Dumbledore's Army's gatherings getting bigger and bigger?
Potter had told her about it two days ago. It wasn't what it was their previous year, but the acceptance of the Dark Lord's return had filled her classmates with a sense of dread and uncertainty. But, somehow, it didn't scare them. Maybe it did but they wanted to fight anyways. Daphne wasn't completely sure. They wanted to be lead. Not by someone who would patronize them and ask them to sit down when things got hard. They wanted to follow someone who knew what was out there and could understand what they were feeling. They wanted to change the world, like most young people do. They wanted Harry Potter to be their leader too.
He had come to her. Not to recruit her but to ask her for advice. He told her what they had told him. What kind of man would turn down an army because he was afraid they would get hurt? Without taking into account the fact that they were all already pretty much marked as prey for Death Eaters because of the Houses they were in, most of the students following Potter were either muggleborns, half-bloods or related to prominent figures that opposed He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's ideals. Longbottom, Bones, Boot, Patil, Abbott, Weasley, Lovegood, Granger and many more would never be safe if the Dark Lord wasn't stopped.
He hadn't openly asked, of course. Even she wasn't fool enough to believe he'd ask so openly so soon. He had told her he had an issue with some Ancient Runes' lore he had been reading. She saw through his metaphors. He had looked into her eyes then, as if searching for her soul, and changed the topic. Daphne knew how Potter felt regarding the whole idea of him being the Chosen One and decided not to press him on the issue any longer.
She didn't think he was stupid. Only someone already stupid enough like Vincent or Gregory would feel that way. That's why she had taken so long looking at herself in the mirror. He had trusted her enough to tell her about Dumbledore's Army's reinvigorated meetings. He had asked her opinion, even though he appeared to change his mind at the last second. He wanted to hear Daphne's thoughts on one of his problems. He trusted her and she trusted him. Maybe not fully and maybe not entirely but they trusted each other. That was enough to let herself be fooled.
He was waiting for her already. He was sitting on the steps of the wooden bridge that lead towards the standing stones and the Whomping Willow and the Forbidden Forest. He was reading one of his books again. Daphne couldn't tell which because as she crept closer, Potter shrunk the book. He stuffed it in one of the pockets of his robes and greeted her.
"You look brilliant," Potter said once they were walking across the wooden bridge. The cold wind, filled with the sharp scents of winter aconite and mistletoe, hit her face and she felt the icy wind fill her lungs. The wood groaned underneath her feet. He had placed the charms on them before she was even able to draw her wand. Daphne hadn't seen his hand move though.
"Thanks, Potter," Daphne said. She stood a little straighter, with her head a little higher.
They were walking towards the forest and a sense of dread overcame her. She had never been this close to it besides the two or three times Hagrid took them in. She had heard stories about Potter meeting the new Divination teacher, Firenze, on the forest. The forest was where Potter had cast his legendary Patronus Charm and, of course, everybody knew that Weasley had fought Acromantulas on the forest. He never shut up about it and he, obviously, hadn't been alone when he did it. A mournful looking Augurey flew over the treetops and back towards the Groundskeeper's house.
Daphne had always had the intuition that Potter wasn't like the rest of the boys she had met but... surely he wouldn't think it romantic to fool around in the Forbidden Forest? Then again, she also knew he was friends with the Groundskeeper. Her old Care of Magical Creatures Teacher wasn't exactly the kind of person that was fond of normal house pets.
"Hagrid told me he'd be around here. I know you'll love him, Daphne," Potter said. The excitement on his voice was palpable. He even clapped. He was walking in front of her, laughing and looking around the grounds as if searching for something he had once thought lost.
At the mentions of Hagrid's name, Daphne's insides turned to ice. She froze mid step and felt her empty stomach lurch. Her hands started to sweat under her dragon hide gloves and her lower lip trembled slightly. Him. Potter wasn't talking about one of professor Hagrid's weird creatures, right? It couldn't be a unicorn. Potter was a boy after all. A Blast-Ended Skrewt? A Crup? A salamander? A niffler? A baby dragon? Had Potter adopted one of the wolves living in the forest? She begged to Merlin for a niffler.
They had never talked about Care of Magical Creatures besides the care Daphne noticed Potter had for Hedwig, his snowy owl. What in God's Earth made Potter think bowtruckles were romantic? Daphne gazed down at her hands and gripped her wand as tight as she could without breaking it. She knew what she had to do. Potter's friends wouldn't like it but screw them. If she surprised him, she could Stupefy him. She'd drag him under a large oak, rest his head on her lap and tell him how he had fallen sleep. It would be romantic. They could even finish what they had started after Potter's last Quidditch Match. She'd make it up to him by taking him on a date to that wizarding zoo in London her parents had taken her as a child. She was sure he'd enjoy watching the Wampus Cats, the Graphorns and the Nundus. The thought of that last creature sent a shiver down Daphne's spine.
Looking up, she rolled up her sleeve and, with her wand in hand, walked forward. The snow seemed to reflect the tonal red ripping and pouring out of the sky. Potter wasn't there, he wasn't anywhere around in fact. Her heartbeat quickened.
"Potter! Where did you go?!" Daphne half-whispered, half-shouted.
"Over here! There's a little path that leads to this clearing, Daphne! Follow my footprints. I would have grabbed your hand had I known you'd get lost," Potter yelled back. And although there was a teasing tone on his voice, Daphne felt the concern on it too. That concern filled her body with warmth and gave her a new sense of purpose. She was getting Potter out of that clearing and she was definitely going to snog the hell out of those lips of his. If Hagrid found them, even better. She was sure he'd run his mouth and all of the school would know that they we're—
Whatever they were, it would have to wait. Daphne Greengrass saw what Harry Potter was petting.
"Is that a hippogriff?!" Daphne couldn't contain the excitement as he rushed the clearing. All thoughts of dragging bodies across the frozen ground were gone from her mind.
"See?! I told you you'd love it! But stay back. Bu—Witherwings is a gentle creature. You remember, right?" Potter asked as he walked backwards towards her, never taking his eyes off the hippogriff.
"You know that I know, Potter! How did you get him to come here?" Daphne said as she bowed. Witherwings bent his front knees and, unmistakably, bowed. His half-foot long talons left marks on the snow that reminded Daphne of old runes.
"Well, Hagrid was telling me about how rowdy Witherwings was being recently and how a friendly face could do him good. He lost someone recently. Once I heard that, I had to come down here and, well, I remembered what you told me. Hagrid said we can do it if I'm as careful as last time. We have to wear a cloak though," Daphne heard the words but her eyes were only for Witherwings. Her hand stroked the stormy grey feathers that smoothly changed to hair. One of its bright orange eyes was on her and she was reminded of her third year at Hogwarts.
She had always wanted a hippogriff. They represented freedom and love. They could leave everything on the ground and just fly. They had to come down eventually, but if a respite from being tied down to this world was possible… why not take it? Of course, those dreams had stopped by the time she had turned seven.
So, when a thirteen-year-old Daphne saw a herd of hippogriffs ready to be mounted, she was more than excited. A dream from her childhood turned reality. She had watched Potter take the lead. She would have volunteered had no one else done it. And then... Then Draco Malfoy went and screwed it all up. Professor Hagrid had never brought hippogriffs to classes again. Thestrals were a nice surprise but she was glad she wasn't able to see them.
Daphne turned towards Potter. Her hand stretched to hold his. Witherwings gave a high-pitched screech, making Daphne yelp. The hippogriff extended its wings, flapping them and making the snow around them swirl. Potter laughed and bowed once more before walking towards Daphne. He helped her mount Witherwings, which was easy since the hippogriff knelt for the two of them.
"We shouldn't be doing this," were the words that came out of her mouth.
"Are you sure that's what you want?" Potter asked as he threw a fluid like, silky material over the two of them. She could still see through the cloak but found it strange that Potter had decided to cover both their heads as well.
"I'm not and that's the problem. I want to do it. I want to fly and to feel the wind, no matter how cold, against my face," she sighed. "Potter I know what's out there. It's dangerous. I don't know what Hagrid was thinking allowing you, us, to do this," Daphne finished. She was ready to dismount the hippogriff and go back to the castle when Potter took the metal chain around Witherwings neck.
"Don't worry about it. Be a little brave," he said before kicking the sides of the hippogriff. Daphne could have protested. She could have taken out her wand and used a spell to stop them. But she didn't. She hugged the waist of the boy sitting in front of her, rested her chin on his shoulders and closed her eyes. The sound of wings filled her ears as she pressed herself against the back of Potter.
"Put the cloak back on!" Potter hissed at her once they were back on the ground. They had flown on Witherwings back for about thirty minutes. They stopped once they had noticed the setting sun on the sky. He pushed her with a sudden and gentle flick of his wand. She was getting ready to throw the cloak to the ground and punch him in the shoulder when she saw the snow rustling near a pair of trees. She stood still, her nostrils flaring.
Potter raised his wand and Daphne could have sworn she heard him hiss at the ground. An Ashwinder slithered across the snow at his command. However, before Potter could do anything, one of the Aurors she had seen patrolling the castle came into view. And while it filled her with relief to see a familiar face, the purplish shade of the sky gave her the idea that they might just be out past their regular curfew.
Potter didn't drop his wand nor did he shown any sign of hesitation when he pointed it at the Ministry official.
"You know what to do," the young Auror said. Daphne took a good look at her and noticed that her robes where shabby and her hair mousy. Her face seemed to be set on a frown and, while her heart-shaped face gave an illusion of kindness, there was a glint of something else on her eyes.
"Well, then prove you're Nymphadora Tonks," Harry said, jerking his wand slightly towards the castle.
The Auror sighed and, in an instant, turned into an almost exact replica of Hermione Granger. She took a step forward and morphed into Ginny Weasley. Another step and Professor McGonagall stood next to Harry. Finally, she morphed into her original form with the startling difference of having a familiar shade of ash-gray hair.
"I was told to give you this," the Auror said as she handed a piece of parchment to Potter. She looked straight at where Daphne was before she giggled and gave a little smile.
"Thank, Tonks," Potter said after reading the note. "I'll tell Remus you gave it to me."
"Oh, so it is from him," the Auror's hair turned a shade of brown at the mention of Daphne's old Defense professor. "No matter," the woman, who wasn't exactly pretty in Daphne's opinion, finished. Her hand made its way to Potter's face. Daphne tried to move without making a noise. She was trying to get a better view of the scene before realizing how stupid a levitating cloak on the middle of the forest must have looked like to the woman touching Potter.
"Oh, Harry," the r's on Potter's name purred more than they should have been. "How much you've grown."
Daphne's hands balled into fist the moment the so-called Nymphadora touched Potter's face. And, before the young witch could lose her temper, the Auror whispered something onto Potter's ear and walked away.
She threw the cloak with enough force to raise snow from the ground. Potter turned, a soft pinkish hue seared through his cheeks.
"Good to see you remembered I was here, Harry," Daphne said as she imitated the way the Auror had pronounced his name. She folded her arms and cocked her head to the right.
Potter stared at her. His mouth was wide open, before it morphed into a smile. He gave a little laugh and walked up to her. She moved out of the way. Potter stopped when she saw her move. It infuriated her how casual he was being about it all.
"What the hell was that? Was she giving you a note with the date for your next rendezvous? Why would you make me stand over here under your Cloak? Didn't want her to know you were with me? She obviously knew I was there! How stupid would she have to be not to notice a floating cloak, Potter?!," Daphne yelled faster than Potter could comprehend her and she knew it. She was trying to confuse him. She was thinking about snogging him an hour ago but after the display he had just made, he could count himself lucky she didn't hex him. Her fist was gripping her wand so hard she could almost feel the wood bending.
"And why are you staring at me like that?" Daphne asked, feeling the heat on her cheeks. She was blushing and averted his gaze. She gritted her teeth and resisted the urge to slap herself.
"You called me Harry," Potter said. He was standing in front of her now.
"I was mocking you, Potter," Daphne said, glaring at him. She pushed him away from her, not unlike he had pushed with his wand. She started to ogle his scar. She knew how much he hated that. Her lips, a thin line.
He was the one blushing now. He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand before walking past her to, probably, pick up his cloak. When she turned towards him, he wasn't there. Daphne's legs trembled. She was alone in the forest. Potter had left her.
Daphne knew she hadn´t reacted as she usually did but surely Potter knew why she had acted the way she did? It was impossible not to be a little jealous. There were so many things of his life that she didn't know. She longed for that knowledge. And he had left her.
A great sense of melancholy and sorrow took hold of her. She had known him, truly known him, for so little and he had already dug himself into her everyday thoughts. She kicked the snow on the ground and turned back towards the castle, crestfallen.
Potter's disembodied head appeared in front of her. She yelped and fell onto the ground. A quick draw by, she assumed, Potter conjured a cushion under her before she fell. He was looking at her with the same awkward smile he had fired at her the first time they had spoken. Daphne realized what had happened. Potter had thrown his invisibility cloak over her in an attempt to protect her from whatever it was that appeared in the clearing. His hissing was probably some sort of parseltongue-communicated message between the Ashwinder and himself. She smiled at him as he stretched his hand towards her.
She took his hand and dragged him with her towards the ground, laughing as she did so.
"I thought you were mad at me," Potter said once they had gotten up and made their way out of the clearing.
"I was. In a way, I still am but I'm not foolish enough to let you leave me alone in the middle of the forest. Once we're back in the castle I'm gonna slap you," Daphne said as she took a hold of his arm and move closer to him.
Potter laughed and for a couple of seconds, neither of them spoke. They walked out of the forest and up the hill leading to Hogwarts' wooden bridge. Through the tonal purples and oranges of the sky, heavy clouds moved towards the castle. As they walked, she turned towards him, saying nothing and taking in details from his face.
His green eyes were staring at the castle, undisturbed. She moved closer to him and noticed his lips start to resemble a smile, just enough to let her know he was enjoying her closeness. There was a little bit of a stubble under Potter's chin and, for some reason, Daphne found it funny and smirked before turning her head back to the skies. It was almost twilight and amethyst emblazoned the enormous sky. They walked in silence until they reached one of the courtyards.
"This is where I have to leave you," Potter said. One of his hands rubbed the side of his face while the other found hers. His eyes darted up towards one of the towers before coming back to rest on the blue of her eyes.
"Do you have to? The Clock Tower says we still have some time to kill before curfew," Daphne said. She knew the answer already. She knew what tower he had been looking at but, still, it was worth a shot. She couldn't help it but she felt a pang of jealousy. How could the Headmaster spend time after curfew with Potter and she couldn't?
"I—I want to. But I really must go, Daphne," he said. Their foreheads inched closer. Potter being taller than her ensured that she had to tilt her head up and almost stand on her tiptoes just to reach him. They closed their eyes and she felt a shock go from the top of her head to the base of her feet. Her lip trembled and before she knew it he told her how gorgeous he was.
Clutching her hands, Potter took a step back to look at her face once more. His thumb was tracing circles on the back of one of her hands. He stated the obvious once more.
"You're beautiful, Daphne," those were the words he used.
"I know, Potter," she answered with a fake sense of uptightness. She closed her eyes again and a deep blush spread across her face in a matter of seconds. It was one thing to hear boys talk about her figure. It was another to hear Harry Potter tell her how beautiful she was.
He took her hands and raised them to his mouth. He folded her fingers to make her hands into fist and kissed the back of them. She was glad she had decided to take her dragon hide gloves off just minutes before. The skin of her knuckles burned as his lips departed from her skin. She was smiling when Potter said he'd see her the next day.
She could only see the back of him. That black and untamable hair was part of her fantasies now. Hair so messy she couldn't wait to run her finger through it and just...
A sudden crash stopped her train of thought. She looked towards the ajar door of an empty classroom and slammed it open, not caring who heard the commotion.
Inside, there were three familiar faces staring back at her. They were trying to hide behind a couple of empty chairs stacked on a corner but they were caught mid run to them.
"Ah, h-hello Greengrass," a high pitch voice said.
"Where you spying on us?" she asked. All traces of infatuation leaving her brain. A façade of iciness took hold of her face.
"Of course not! What kind of people do you think we are?" the same voice answered. The other two individuals remained silent, avoiding her gaze.
"You should be ashamed of yourselves," a new voice said from behind her.
Neville Longbottom had a piece of old, wrinkled parchment on his hand and his wand on the other. A distinctive croak could be heard from inside his robes.
"Ah yeah, then what where you doing with the Map Neville? Just casually knew where to look, eh?" Seamus Finnegan retorted.
"You were spying on us!" Daphne yelled at Weasley, Thomas and Finnegan. Her hands balled into fists.
To their credit, they were decent enough to pretend to look ashamed of their actions. Multiple scenarios ran through Daphne's mind. What if she had told him how she felt? What if he had told her how he felt? What if she had snogged him when she kissed the back of her hands? What if they had tried to fool around on the same empty classroom she found herself in? The weight of what she was thinking fell on her like icy water. She turned around, flustered, and left Potter's roommates in an empty classroom. They yelled after her.
"If it helps, we only did it because he won't tell us anything!" Thomas' voice boomed on the torch-lit hallway.
"He says you're too precious for our ears to hear about you!" Weasley yelled, right after Thomas.
"I only followed the snake, Daphne!" Longbottom voice died out as she darted down a flight of stairs.
And as she made her way towards the dungeons, Daphne Greengrass couldn't help but giggle at the thought of Potter saying she was beautiful.
"… it will be difficult to transfer all those people from St. Mungo's, Albus," Remus voice could be heard from inside Dumbledore's office. The note had been from him, telling him the Headmaster wanted to see him.
"Healer Smethwyck has been helping us in that regard, Remus. Many of the Healers stationed do not think it a prudent idea but I fear we might be forced to act on it," Dumbledore said. Harry inched his head closer to the door, making sure he didn't touched the brass knocker. Although the sun was nowhere to be seen, its light was still up in the sky. Maybe they'd think Harry got sidetracked coming up the stairs?
"…. people know about this?" Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep voice was barely audible through the wooden door. Harry's hand leaned on the door softly as he inched his ear even closer to the door.
"…. guard. Some of the new recruits haven't even seen Dumbledore in person. I must admit, I didn't expect the Order to grow as much as…." Remus stopped talking. Mad-Eye Moody has decided to open Dumbledore's office door in that exact moment. Harry's hands stopped his fall a moment before his head hit the floor.
As Harry adjusted his glasses and stood up, Kingsley stifled a smirk. He was wearing a black, stylish suit instead of his usual robes with a pair of shades on the front pocket of his jacket. His distinctive golden earring was missing.
"What did I tell you in our last session, Potter?" Mad-Eye asked Harry. His electric-blue eye whirling from his socket, trying to look as far as it could.
"To adapt to my surroundings," Harry said as he dusted his robes and shuffled his hair. He could see Dumbledore was giving him a smile. The Headmaster looked distinctively more lively than when he had seen him last time.
"And do you call falling on your face adapting to the situation, Potter?" Mad-Eye barked at Harry. The old Auror's peg leg clanked on the smooth stone of the office as he mentioned Harry's name.
Since the last days of October, Harry had seen Remus and Mad-Eye on a regular basis. Moody would train Harry as if he were his new protégée on the Auror Academy while Remus would treat him as if he were his professor again. It was thanks to them that he'd been able to cast spells silently or, at least, muttered. Survival skills, all kinds of charms and spells, reconnaissance techniques, stealth tips and information on how to infiltrate magical residences was imparted onto him on these meetings. Of course, to say Harry was a prodigy would be an overstatement. He'd given it his all though, so he had been improving at a steady pace. Ron and Hermione had joined him for most of their meetings.
At times, these 'training sessions' were interrupted by Dumbledore. And while his two best friends weren't outright dismissed, it was understood that the Headmaster wanted to impart knowledge onto Harry and Harry alone. It was those nights that Harry enjoyed the most. They'd talk of the magical power of actions, the difference between transmutation and transfiguration, bonding with familiars such as Fawkes, the notes on Dumbledore's old book and many other topics.
"Oh I am sure that Harry might have an ace up his sleeve one of these days, Alastor," Dumbledore's emerald robes reflected the glow that Fawkes gave from its perch next to the Headmaster. With a nod of their head, the members of the Order of the Phoenix left the office. Harry casted a timely Protego at a spell Remus casted as he closed the door. Remus winked and Harry couldn't help but be glad of how their relationship had strengthened over the last month.
"Well Harry, have you given some thought into what we discussed last week?" Dumbledore asked once they were alone. He waved his hand and the spindle-legged tables that held Dumbledore's silver instruments vanished. On their place, two royal armchairs stood. Dumbledore sat on one and motioned for Harry to do the same. The Headmaster fingers started to rub his beard and, for a moment, Harry was reminded of the first time he had held a conversation with his mentor. While he knew it did no good to dwell on dreams and forget how to live, the Mirror of Erised would always haunt his thoughts.
"The wand chooses the wizard, was it not?" Harry asked. His head was leaning on the back of his chair. His eyes looking around the circular office. Many of Hogwarts old Headmasters were pretending to be asleep.
"It… It is like a recognition between magic itself and the magic of the user, isn't it? It's not about giving power. In that case, you wouldn't be able to do what you do wandless nor would goblins or house elves. I think, wands are an extension of what our own magic can do? I mean, I've been able to cast spells without touching my wand so…" he was interrupted by a loud snore from one of the portraits. It was Phineas Nigellus. Both Harry and Dumbledore ignored him.
"That's precisely what I wanted for you to realize, Harry. When you told me about casting spells without touching your wand, I knew we were on the right path. Wands, while not sentient, serve a purpose. They act as a nexus between our own magic and the magic that surrounds us. It allows us to externalize our ideas, our thoughts, far better than we could wandless. Of course, powerful wizards and witches see no difference between casting spells with a wand or casting them wandless. However, they help us harness the potential magic inherent in the world that surrounds them. It is exactly because of this that the dual-core effect you and Voldemort experienced in the graveyard two years ago can, I think, be of use on the coming days," Dumbledore finished.
"So, you're saying that what happened on the graveyard super charged the ability that my wand has to understand magic? That it absorbed some sort of power from… Him?" Harry had thought of it too. He hadn't exactly felt a change per se on his magic, but whenever he casted a spell there was a different rush of understanding flowing through him.
"What we must understand Harry is that we are exploring realms of magic that have been until this day, unexplored. I won't lie to you and tell you that your wand now has an ability to recognize what spell will Lord Voldemort cast before he does. But I do believe that the connection between your wands' cores was taken even further when he took some of your blood on his resurrection," Dumbledore's hands locked fingers as he raised them to his chin. He closed his eyes and waited for Harry to answer.
"The inherent magic that surrounds us," Harry whispered to himself more so than to the old Headmaster.
"Magic leaves traces, Harry. Sometimes it can be very distinct. I'm sure you've felt it. Try to think of your two best friends. Think of their styles. Think of their magic," Dumbledore said, leaning forward on his seat. On the distance, the sound of thunder pierced the quietness of the, now, dark sky.
Hermione. Harry closed his eyes and remembered her. The way her lips curled up whenever she read a book near the fireplace. Her rib-crushing hugs. The way she flustered when she mounted a broom. The way she annoyed him, always trying to be right. Her wand tracing, circling, flicking and more. Her voice, whispering incantations into the void. There was a systematic way to it. As if the magic she produced left her body in stages. On steps. As if following a formula. A precision that lacked… something. Elegance and style, yet not the most unique.
Harry opened his eyes to look at the Headmaster. He was looking intently into his eyes. Piercing blue on a wrinkled face. Before Harry could say anything regarding what he had just seen, the Headmaster spoke.
"And what about Ron?" the professor asked, leaning back on his chair. Dumbledore adjusted his glasses and withdrew his wand from one of his sleeves.
Harry closed his eyes again and focused once more. He tried to remember Ron.
Ron. Laughing as he made a crude joke. Standing up to, with a broken leg, protect him. Rolling dice, back on their dorm room, a serious look on his face. Evaluating every outcome of a chess game. Jealousy and rage at being second best and ignored. He trusted and jabbed his wand into his problems. Screaming his spells, wanting to be heard. Changing his incantation mid-way through. There was an unpredictability to his way of casting. Raw power that lacked finesse. A splash of color upon a white canvas.
"You see what I mean, Harry? They've left their print in this world and in you already. Their own magic has stayed with yours. As has the magic of all of those who surround you and care for you. That is not to say you wouldn't be able to feel and understand the magic of Antonin Dolohov or Fenrir Greyback. It would be an entirely different experience though, I might say.
"Now, I want you to do what you just did once more. However, I want you to think of Hogwarts. Think of its history and its position in Britain. Think of its students. Concentrate and look deep inside of the castle itself, Harry," Dumbledore stood with his hands behind his back, motioning for Harry to do the same.
Harry raised from the chair and, on the middle of the Headmaster's circular office, closed his eyes.
Hogwarts. The stained windows on the third-floor corridors, depicting images of the Hogwarts Founders. The Giant Squid, flapping its tentacles out of the Black Lake. The Chamber of Secrets, safeguarding the remains of an ancient beast slayed by a twelve-year old wizard. A greenish-black phoenix resting inside a tear shaped nest near Hagrid's Hut. A Quidditch match that went on for too long. The secrets passageways that lead to Hogsmeade, footsteps echoing on those cobble floors. Magic rippling out of the school. A man with the head of a Hebridean Black Dragon on his hands. Ghost floating around the castle, imparting stories onto the Hogwarts students to try and teach them from their own mistakes. A Chizpuflre infestation in the Potions classroom. Students, fleeing from Filch and Mrs. Norris. A blond bearded man with a battle axe that dripped both blood and magic. Four teenagers, roaming the Forbidden Forest as animals. Peeves, kneeling in front of an old Headmaster. Two wizards, fighting back to back as dementors closed in on them.
"Focus," a voice, barely louder than a whisper.
A lonely little boy, followed by owls. Gargoyles, rising from their resting positions and protecting the school. A girl, sobbing on a bathroom stall. House elves, cleaning the Ravenclaw common room. A Hufflepuff student feeding a Jarvey hidden in the forest. A teacher haunted by grief, reaching for the knife on his pocket. Laughter on the Great Hall as a flaming dragon made of fireworks tore through it. Transfigured objects that longed to be what they once were. A man collapsing as he stands in front of a mirror. The stars from on top of the Astronomy Tower. A giant Ashwinder, slithering across the Great Hall. A vampire, feeding on first years. A faceless man in an empty room. Centaurs teaching wizards how to fire their bows. Spells and incantations yelled across the grounds. A Bludger, cracking a skull. Blue flames inside of jars. Ancient Runes etched in the foundations of the castle. Godric Gryffindor, sword in one hand and wand in the other, standing in front of the school gates.
"Focus, Harry," the same voice. Closer.
A blue-eyed girl giggling as she made her way towards the dungeons. A group of teenagers, practicing inside the Room of Requirement. A man, with a skull mask for a face, surrounded by butterflies. Owls, attacking figures that rushed the castle. Thestrals, pulling empty carriages. A Slytherin student sleeping in the library. A heard of Griffins soaring across the Black Lake. A tournament with two battered witches and a bloody wizard. Prefects, fooling around inside of empty cupboards. A man, flickering in and out of time. A Headmistress, killing her students. Screams coming from the dungeons. Redheaded twins, sneaking candies and butterbeer into the castle. Two werewolves attacking a Groundskeeper. A creature hunter with two swords across his back. Helga Hufflepuff drinking wine out of a cup made from gold. A king being crowned on the Great Hall. A welcoming feast with four empty tables. Books being burned on a courtyard. Broken wands lying on the floor. Muggle soldiers being given food by some students. A gang of Red Caps brandishing bone clubs. The Sorting Hat singing a song about unity. Goblins, armoring wizards. A dragon being tickled. Students laughing. Students playing. Students fighting. Students dying.
A girl with eyes made out of stars.
"Focus on what is here, in this world," the disembodied voice said.
"But… what is here?"
"Feel the ground, the breath in your lungs, the carvings on the wood of your wand, the weight of the glasses on top of your nose, fabric rustling against your skin."
Harry opened his eyes, gasping for air. His eyes were full of tears and his heart was pounding. He was kneeling on the floor, Dumbledore right beside him. The Headmaster helped him to his seat.
"We—Were those what I think they were, sir?" Harry asked once he had regained a measure of composure. His glasses almost slipped because of the sweat on his head.
"The stories of those who came before us, yes. Or, at least, the traces that their magic has left behind in this castle. I fear it might have been enough for one night, don't you think?" Dumbledore said.
"I think it was. I feel like I can see things more clearly now. It's as if I had been trying to catch smoke with my bare hands all my life and now… now the smoke is solid matter," Harry said.
"Well, Harry, that means that you've outshined Tom Riddle on something he's never been able to understand. There's magic all arounds us. It is not about having power. It's about understanding it," Dumbledore said before offering a couple of Berttie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. The Headmaster took one for himself. Chocolate, he said.
"Sir, I just wanted to say thanks. If you hadn't been here I probably would have been lost for all of eternity," Harry said, leaning against the door frame of the office door.
"Oh, it's nothing. It can be overwhelming for everyone. Eternity is too uncertain to let it control us, Harry," Dumbledore said before bidding him good night and patting Fawkes on the head.