First of all thanks to Temporal Knight, who helped me out with the planning stage for this chapter. That was a major help as it had been fighting me up to that point. I had hoped to get this in for you on April 1st, but such is life. I don't know when I'll manage another chapter, hopefully soon. I've got the next chapter mostly planned.
Part of the problem in all honesty is that I have too many ideas, for too many conflicting or possible projects bouncing around my head. It's hard to focus on this story with a dozen others dominating my thoughts.
Well enough about my problems. I hope you all enjoy what I've got here.
Chapter 1: Halloween Part I
The weather that Halloween morning, well, it was sodding miserable, that was all Severus Snape could say about it. It was pouring, as it so often did in the highlands around that time of year. But there was a cold chill which seeped into your bones and wouldn't be easily dissipated.
An auspicious start to what he was certain was going to be a miserable day. He'd been up all night, going over the plans for the Chapel Hill raid with the others. So his patience for idiocy was lower than even his abysmal average. Perhaps it would raise his spirits to set a particularly unpleasant task for todays class? Something involving frog eyes and pickled worms?
He paused briefly to cast yet another drying spell on himself. This time it actually had a hope of lasting as he was finally within the castle at the foot of the Headmaster's staircase. He grimaced at the Gargoyle which was waiting expectantly. There was something horrendously undignified about grown adults using sweets as passwords. He suspected, darkly, that it was for precisely that reason Dumbledore insisted on doing so. It humbled those who came before him just a touch before entering his presence.
He grudgingly gave the latest password, and ignored the gargoyle's snickering as he stalked past it and up the stairs. He knocked on the door, only having to wait a moment before there was an answer. "Yes, come in?"
Snape paused briefly before opening the door, to roll his eyes. He wondered vaguely if Dumbledore actually slept anymore or if he was like some sort of lemon drop vampire, who subsisted off sugar and the hopes and dreams of potions masters.
He entered, and Dumbledore straightened at his desk, smiling benignly. Snape never trusted that particular look. He'd worn that look far too often whilst sending Snape out on some particularly irksome task. "Ah, Severus, do come in, tell me how—"
Snape cut across his welcome irritably. He truly had no energy for niceties this morning. "It is going to happen tonight Headmaster. The plans are in place, I tried to introduce subtle flaws that can be exploited but I had to be careful, Bellatrix is more paranoid than usual with the Dark Lord's latest pets around…"
He was still waiting for Dumbledore's insights into those creatures, but had yet to receive anything beyond a knowing nod.
Dumbledore took his abruptness in stride, seemingly failing to notice his peevish professor's current bad mood. "Ah yes….of course, the raid planned for Chapel Hill prison. May I ask what weaknesses you added to the proceedings?"
Proceedings….the man would refer to a battle and possible prison break with such a sterile term. Snape ignored that for the moment giving his report. "The secondary entrance will be covered by a single Death Eater. I managed to convince the others that most would be required elsewhere to break into the prison block quickly. I also introduced faulty intelligence on just which prison block the prisoners are being kept in. That should delay them by several minutes at least."
Dumbledore nodded happily to himself. "Very good work Severus, very good work indeed." He congratulated, his eyes twinkling.
The potions master grunted. "Yes…Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to prepare for classes this morning. I will require the afternoon off I should think. I will after all likely be summoned again this evening."
Again that maddening knowing smile. "Of course. It is most fortunate that today is Halloween. There are no classes requiring your attention this afternoon."
This did little to improve Snape's mood. While he'd at least get some sleep, today was likely to be filled with unusually boisterous students and heinous pranks against the unwary. Still he nodded agreeably, more to simply expedite his escape than anything, before strolling silently from the office.
Unknown to him as he made his way down into the school, Dumbledore settled in to ponder his latest predicament. The country really was rapidly running short of suitable places in which to imprison it's criminal population…
He mentally shrugged, it could not be helped. To forewarn the guards at Chapel Hill would endanger his agent's position in the enemy ranks needlessly. That wasn't to say however that something could not be done to ensure the Death Eaters did not entirely achieve their objectives.
He toyed briefly with the notion of reading in the Aurors. Amelia had finally gotten around to selecting her replacement. Kingsley was an excellent choice for the position, not the least of which because he was in the Order. However he dismissed the idea of reading in him or the others in his department. Again it would risk Severus, as they were not certain of possible infiltrators as yet in that department.
No, a more subtle approach was called for here. He pondered sucking idly at a lemon drop. He could have Severus imply that Harry had gleaned the information during his many mental battles with the Dark Lord. That the boy had warned the Order in time for them to intervene perhaps?
Dumbledore felt a small note of satisfaction that Harry had, despite his best efforts, been unable to entirely conceal that he was suffering nightmares of late. It was merely a question of overhearing the right conversations between members of his little group.
No, that would be his back up plan he decided absently shaking his head. Not, perhaps a more mundane excuse for the Order interfering would do better.
Perhaps… He paused as a memory came to him. Arthur Weasley, would likely take this chance to visit his incarcerated family as it was a holiday. Yes, that might work nicely…
He glanced up, and froze at a low croaking coming from Fawke's perch. How did that bloody raven keep getting in here?
He disliked that bird's presence, not least because it kept invading his office, but also because, as may be well known by all who observe a raven for any length of time. Ravens were uncommonly good at glaring, and whenever Albus found himself getting a good planning session in he found himself interrupted by that damnable bird. It didn't help that the feathered pest was apparently teaching Fawkes how to glare as well.
He got up to shoo the bird out the window again, something which would likely take him a good half hour. As he did so he pondered the possible virtues of casting wards over the windows. He wondered if their was a good corvid repelling magic he could employ?
Harry stood, clutching his goblet of orange juice like it was his one link to sanity. Normally, it'd be pumpkin juice, this being Hogwarts, and today being Halloween. But it was also breakfast…or it would be if he was down in the great hall right then.
Dobby had been kind enough to bring him some orange juice to drink while he faced his latest, conundrum. When Harry had awoken this morning it had been to the unpleasant sound of startled yelling from elsewhere in the tower.
Once dressed, albeit hastily, he hurried down to the main common room to find a peculiar sight. The large rug had been rolled up along the far wall, and the furniture had been moved carefully off to the side.
The reason for this change in decor became quickly apparent. Someone, as yet unknown, had painted a large…well, what for all appearances was some sort of rune circle with strange flowing symbols arrayed around it all over the floor with what appeared to be blood.
Needless to say the resulting image had caused a great deal of alarm. After all, as Harry had learned…just about this time in second year, that even in the wizarding world it was not normal to find blood spattered all over everything whether it was artistically done or not. Well… unless there had been a horrible potions accident.
Dobby, somewhat sheepish had tried to explain, but had soon deferred the questioning to the culprit.
And so it was that Harry found himself, clutching his goblet of orange juice like a safety blanket as he blinked confusedly at Tiger the house elf. He paused to rub at the bridge of his nose, hoping to alleviate his newest headache before speaking. "Alright, so would you please explain to me why you felt the need to splash blood all over our common room?"
Tiger nodded, smiling happily through his camouflage patterned face paint, all the while polishing the blade of his ever present bowie knife. He must have had more than one considering the Aurors had taken the one used on the acromantula as evidence. "Well sure. You see, it's Halloween right?"
"So you though we needed the Tower to be a great deal creepier to celebrate the occasion?" Harry asked tiredly.
The elf shook his head, his ears flapping slightly. "No, no Harry, nothing like that."
"Then why?" Hermione, who had joined them stuttered.
"Spirits!" Tiger exclaimed happily.
Harry stared at him blankly for a moment. "Spirits?" He deadpanned.
Tiger nodded happily again, re-sheathing his knife, "All Hallows eve or something right? It's all about scaring away spirits correct?"
Harry paused briefly to nod acknowledgement to Hermione before turning his attention back to the elf before them. He considered that statement before conceding the point. "I've heard that yes."
"Well, see…Most of the school's spirits are welcome enough around here right? But the jack-o-lanterns and what not didn't seem to be doing nothing to scare away the schools more unwelcome resident when I checked." Tiger explained patiently.
Harry made a wrap it up gesture. "By which you mean?"
Harry cocked his head curiously. "And all this was an attempt to scare away Peeves then?" He asked skeptically.
Tiger smiled smugly. "Nope."
The headache was returning. "Then why…"
"Well it's an exorcism isn't it?"
Silence thudded down from the sky like a pterodactyl which had suffered a fatal brain fart, "You want to exorcise Peeves" Harry asked dully. Why couldn't his life ever be normal?
"Nope, already done, just need to do the clean up now. See that stain on the stones…That's ectoplasm! Or—Well it was."
Harry sighed suddenly wishing he could go back to bed, he noted that Hermione's mouth had dropped open, possibly in horror. Peeves, was—had been a nuisance, yes. But an exorcism seemed a tad harsh.
"You exorcised Peeves." The elf nodded happily seemingly oblivious to their exasperation. "And the blood?"
"Sheep's blood from a butcher in Hogsmeade." Tiger reported proudly, puffing out his chest somewhat.
Harry couldn't help it, he raised his eyes skyward, as though praying for mercy. For the life of him he couldn't figure out just how he was supposed to explain this to the Headmaster….Or the other ghosts for that matter.
Amusement, merriment and glad tidings were generally a fairly common state of being on Halloween. Spirits were high, and the sweets and such were plenty.
However for the great hall the general merriment briefly paused only to resume greater than ever when Harry Potter stalked in, apparently miffed about something, across the room and headed straight for the Headmaster.
The hall held its breath for a moment as Harry murmured for a while to the Headmaster, who's face gradually sank into an expression of abject horror.
Conversely, and somewhat strangely, whatever had the Headmaster horrified, had Professor Mcgonagall struggling to contain her amusement over something, and she eventually called Filch over.
And while the old, curmudgeonly janitor limped over, he all but danced his way back out of the hall. Cheering as he went.
Breakfast had basically been derailed by these proceedings, and it was only more true when word of what had happened finally percolated through the hall.
Despite this Harry and his little cadre of friends and study group members managed to get a meal in before it was time for the mornings classes.
Close to half an hour later the fifth year group, plus a certain (currently blue haired) bodyguard found themselves gathering outside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. To their surprise they found not only Professor Miller, on time for once, but Professor Grubblyplank, as well.
James straightened as the last of the group arrived and smiled cheerfully at them all. "Ah, excellent you're all here then?"
"hello you lot." Grubblyplank greeted offering a wave, which nearly clocked the other professor about the ear.
"Now, I figured I'd stop you all here before you got to the classroom. We're down in the dungeons again today." He reported, and the class perked up. While his classes were generally entertaining, or at least interesting, the ones in the dungeon were generally better.
The defence professor shrugged amiably. "I had hoped to find something a bit more…well, a bit more halloween oriented considering the day it is, but as that wasn't really possible this time, I decided to just move ahead with my previously planned lesson."
This met with general understanding from the students. Most teachers did not go in for holiday themed lessons. In fact you'd be more likely to get Snape named miss congeniality than get him to make a concession to students in regards to the holidays.
"Professor Grubblyplank is here because she's got something of a vested interest in what we are studying here today due to her position as your "Care" instructor." James stopped to clap his hands together in anticipation. "Now, if you are all prepared, please follow me."
It was only a few minutes later that the small horde of students arrived outside a set of dungeon doors. One not many of them had occasion to see before. A large armoured pair braced by large complicated locking mechanisms.
Here professor Miller stopped them, "Now, before we go in, I'll start with telling you just where we are. This section beyond the security door provides access via a postern gate to the Castle's exterior, it's how the school moves heavy cargo in and out without disrupting the main entrance and hallways." He explained, here he glanced to Harry smirking slightly in amusement at something, "It is also how a certain homicidal maniac masquerading as a school teacher smuggled a troll into the school in your first year…"
Harry snorted in mild amusement to the discreet nod to that Halloween so long ago. It felt like an age past.
James brought them back on subject allowing the group to titter in amusement. "Now, when we go in I'd like to ask you a favour. I'd appreciate it if you were quiet. What, or rather who we have inside is not a violent—being by nature, but being respectful of it is always a plus when handling their kind. They'll be within an enclosure within an area which has been curtained off for the moment, so just proceed inside and seat yourselves on the risers we have set up."
Grubblyplank shuffled forward producing some keys which she used to unlock several mechanisms before swinging the door open. Harry noted Grubblyplank's fingers were trembling somewhat in what was likely anticipation.
Despite this the group trouped in seated themselves in the front row. Well, aside from Tonks that was, who instead shuffled off to the side slightly to lean idly against one of the pillars holding up the high vaulted ceiling.
True to Professor Miller's promise, there was a large area in the middle of the dungeon which had been curtained off by thick velvet drapes which stretched high to the ceiling.
James positioned himself in front of the curtain, "Now, I'll tell you all what we're going to see before I open the curtains alright? The being within is indeed intelligent, so respectful behaviour is required. No gawking, and certainly no rude comments please."
He waited until he'd gotten some sign of acknowledgement from the room before continuing. "I managed, with some difficulty, to get permission both from this being's home colony and from the governments necessary to allow this visitor off the reserve. As you are no doubt aware, magical creatures, or as in this case beings, native to North and South America are very different from those native to Europe or even Asia. And while I prefer to focus on things like tactics and strategy. I felt in this case it was only appropriate that due to my limited time with you to educate you on matters which you would miss out on otherwise." He paused considering. "The being waiting inside the…well the apartment for lack of a better word, is native to central and south America."
Harry noticed the way Hermione perked up, and apparently so did Professor Miller because he chuckled. "I see you've guessed where I got the idea to bring this person in from Miss Granger. But please hold off for the moment."
He looked to the others who were now curious thanks to the byplay. "The being Miss Granger has likely guessed as to the identity of, is what is known in European tongues as a so called 'Feathered Serpent', or as it is referred to in the old tongue of it's native land, a Coatl."
If the other's attentions were interested, Hermione was avid. "A Coatl, for those who do not know, is a species who were at one time worshipped as gods by the people of those regions due to their many and varied abilities. The most famous member of their species was known as Quetzalcoatl. Now, in actuality the name 'Feathered Serpent' is slightly misleading. As a Coatl is not in actuality a snake. In fact, it is a distant and very distinct member of the dragon family, though it is very different from those species. It would be more accurate I suppose to refer to a Coatl as…well a 'Feathered Reptillian"
He paced to the side and grasped the tethers controlling the curtain and heaved causing them to rise.
Many present could not help but gasp, and Harry could not particularly blame them. The creatu— The being within was, quite thankfully smaller than the Hungarian Horntail Harry had been forced to face in fourth year. And it's similarity to that species was limited to the fact that they were both massive reptillians.
Within the large runed glass chamber which had been erected, a chamber which notably had a door built into the far wall, was the Coatl. This so called 'Feathered Serpent' was currently sunning itself on a rock which had been situated in the middle of a jungle enclosure. Somehow someone had encouraged a large tree to sprout from the dungeon floor beneath a false sun which hid amongst the leaves overhead. Even the ground was covered in a soft covering of moss and loam.
The being was perhaps the mass of an asian elephant, though significantly lower in profile than that mammal. It was indeed not a serpent of any sort, and the name was they would learn later a result of a miscommunication between the natives and the Conquistadors. It had limbs, four of them, and appeared like nothing so much as a gargantuan lizard.
It's head perked up on it's slightly elongated neck and it peered at them with four strange black saurian eyes. It's lower jaw was split down the middle and Harry could see some impressive teeth peeking out from under it's lips in places. Most notable of it's features, at least to Harry, were the sails, like fins or webbed spines. A large one protruded from just above the end of it's snout, the notably feathered webbing stretching back to the crown of it's spiny head where it met another fringe. This one reminded Harry of images he'd seen of frilled lizards, the kind who flared a large sail of flesh about it's head when alarmed. Another, smaller but more extensive series of feathered and webbed spines ran down along it's back, down along it's tail and ended in a large fantail like protrusion.
And then there were the wings, thought that term was not entirely accurate, they were in fact more like gliding surfaces affixed on large spurs or spins extending like fingers from it's "wrists" and elbows. These were feathered as well.
The Coatl's hide itself, was clearly thick, and gleamed a surprisingly enticing black hue which had been mottled in a few places by greyish white splotches.
Looking closer however, the feathers we intriguing to examine. They were ever shifting in tone and hue. One moment, they seemed to be an almost crystalline rainbow of colour, the next they were a dull matte black, then soon after they became a mottled green which nicely matched the forest surrounding it.
Professor Miller waited a minute while they observed and reacted before stepping forward, gaining the being's attention and bowing to it deeply. Grubblyplank took the hint easily enough and did similar.
James turned once finished and regarded the class. "May I present to you clan leader Cuacualti of the Yucatan reserve. She graciously volunteered for this in response to our enquiries."
The clan leader regarded them carefully, and something in her eyes left no doubt in Harry's mind that she was intelligent. Something he saw told him she was analyzing them and gauging their reactions just as carefully as they were hers.
Finally she bobbed her head, and then to everyone's great surprise, a voice began to speak. Though, most startlingly, her mouth did not move one jot as they nevertheless heard a voice. It took a moment for Harry to realize but he was hearing the voice in his head. Of course, given his prior experience with any voice but his own in his head, he slammed down his occlumency shields. Only to be surprised when the voice persisted.
"Greetings younglings. Might it be that I may hear your names?" A gentle but no less deep voice inquired. It took a moment longer, due to the minor panic caused by the nonverbal message but Harry realized he could not feel an intrusion. This method whatever it was, was not legilmency. She was not digging through his mind in search of information, merely projecting her thoughts to them.
Professor Miller smiled slightly and gestured invitingly to Hermione. "Cuacualti, this is the one I spoke to you of in our correspondence. She has been curious about you since she gained a wand made with a feather from your people. Go ahead Miss Granger."
Hermione blinked owlishly before standing and bowing slightly at the hips. "Er—Hello, my name is Hermione Granger. It's a pleasure to meet you?"
An odd thrumming sound filled the air, and Harry realized the Coatl was laughing, or perhaps chuckling at the questioning tone in Hermione's voice. The voice which emanated in their minds was amused when next it spoke. "Indeed, I greet you Hermione Granger, may you bear our gift with honour."
She nodded as Hermione sat and then turned her eyes on Harry, he quickly got to his feet and offered a bow of his own. "Uh—Hello, I'm Harry Potter. As Hermione said, it is a pleasure to meet you."
"Ah, yes. I have heard of you from your teachers Mr Potter, a fascinating tale it made to be sure. I wish you well in your endeavours which lie ahead." The being offered soberly.
Harry wasn't sure what to make of that but decided to take her words as sincere. "Thank you…ma'am." This was greeted by that same chuckling sound again.
Cuacualti's eyes settled on Kara next, and but for a moment Harry could have sworn there was an odd flickering in those strange eyes before it nodded to her. Kara stood and bowed. "Hello, I'm Kara Smith, I'm uh—well I'm from the Americas too. It's nice to meet you."
"And you as well child"
This process continued for a time until everyone had been introduced. There was an amusing moment when Luna's Snorckack had clambered down off it's mistress and waddled across the floor to the glass, placing it's front two pairs of paws on the glass, pudgy little fingers splayed on the glass and chuckling happily as if introducing itself. Cuacualti, did not seem to take this amiss merely gazing at the small creature in amusement and chuckling before offering a greeting in return.
They were about to move on when Cuacualti cocked her head and swivelled it to look at Tonks. "And who are you young one? I can smell the magic in your blood even within my domicile…"
Tonks gave a start at being addressed before giving a hurried bow. "Oh! Um—Hi, I'm Tonks, I'm an Auror, I've been assigned to protect Mr Potter." She admitted, her hair oscillating slightly in embarrassment.
More amused thrumming from the giant lizard. "Very good, a fascinating group you have brought teacher Miller…" She paused considering, settling in a new position on her rock. "Now, I presume you wish to discuss the particulars of my people?"
James nodded eagerly. "Yes, Indeed I do. I was thinking we could leave what cultural details you wish to divulge to you. I'll be handling the defence portion, not that I expect any of them to need it any time soon. And have Grubblyplank handle the physical side of things."
This was met with acceptance and what followed was one of the more interesting lesson Harry had been through in quiet a while. Hermione for her part, was clearly thrilled at finally having information about the species which had provided her wand core.
Most of the information provided on Coatls by Grubblyplank turned out to be remarkably similar to that Harry had read on dragons. Though Coatls in no way breathed fire, they, like dragons had spell resistant hides. And though their blood was highly potent for use in potions, you'd be hard pressed to survive getting them to part with some. The interesting part, for Harry, was the details provided on the feathers.
Coatl feathers were in fact naturally occurring crystalline constructs. The brief glimpses of it in that state were in fact how it actually looked, the other impressions he'd gleaned while examining them we in fact a sort of natural glamour Coatls possessed which could aid them in blending with their environments when the occasion called for it.
The feathers also happened to be tougher than enchanted goblin steel, and rarely came loose. This explained why Hermione's wand was such a rarity, a Coatl only lost a full, intact, feather when they chose to, much like Phoenixes.
The portion taught by Professor Miller was somewhat different. "Now, in deference to our guests sensibilities, I will refrain from describing how some went about hunting Coatls, as it is an understandably sore subject for them." He explained, pacing. "There is indeed good reason why reservations were set aside for their protection. I will however be describing some of their capabilities."
"As Grubblyplank described, their hide and feathers are extremely tough and spell resistant. And while it is more durable even than Dragon Skin, you won't find products made from it these days for the obvious reason. Where with a Basilisk or Dragon, the creature in question is intelligent after a fashion, they are not wholly sapient. As Coatls are in fact sapient, using Coatl hide would be tantamount to wearing some else's skin." He paused letting that disgusting image sink in. "And in the case of the governing lands where they live, there are laws which will punish you as such. Killing a Coatl for such things will get you the same sentence as if you had murdered a fellow human."
His gaze of course held a warning note, though it really wasn't all that necessary, the thought of wearing the skin of a species capable of speaking to them on equal footing was repulsive to everybody in the room. "Now, as you may have guessed judging by their physiology, Coatls are not designed for running flat out. They are instead adapted to moving in the trees. Now, a Coatl's abilities are somewhat interesting. A small population of them are as capable of using magic as you are, though their capabilities are vastly different for the most part. They do have an ability or two beyond their physical prowess which makes them supernaturally effective hunters."
"First is their ability to partially camouflage themselves. This effect is much like that of a mundane chameleon, though it is enhanced somewhat by the glamour effect in the feathers. Second is their cry, a sort of screech which we will happily refrain from demonstrating here." This was met with thrumming from Cuacualti.
"This cry has the effect of causing fear to enter their target or preys mind, and it will set all but the most mentally disciplined running. It is also the last thing you ever want to hear, why? Because it mean a Coatl is hunting you, and if you hear it, do not bother looking behind you, they are tree dwellers for the most part remember? Look up! Now, you've no doubt noticed the wing-like structures on their arms. These allow for controlled gliding or diving, which is very helpful for striking a target quickly, efficiently, and above all silently from above."
"Only a handful of people in recent years have had the misfortune to find themselves the subject of a Coatl hunt. And the way they earned such a fate? By killing a Coatl. I'll now be turning over the lesson to Cuacualti"
She bobbed her head, "My thanks Teacher Miller. I will tell you what little I am permitted to about my people. Your teacher is correct, my people live on reserves and we are not at all numerous. We were hunted until relatively recently, nearly to extinction in fact. Many desired our flesh, feathers and blood. Though when we died, we always made sure that whom ever gained from our demise suffered a bitter price first. Our people do not reproduce quickly like dragons or mundane lizards. We produce one egg per mating, and that is only possible, once every five years. Eggs do not always produce young, despite our efforts and magics. Thus our laws are simple and somewhat harsh, we are an honest and forthright people, and brook no insult lightly."
"We now live on reserves set aside by your own peoples in the interest of protecting us not only from their own, but from the ones you refer to as muggles as well. There are, at this time, no more than perhaps a couple hundred of my kind in the entire world." She bobbled her head at them considering their murmuring at this revelation.
"I know, my people must seem strange to you, and it is likely why others of your kind have hunted us. But we are as self aware as you, and I hope that you will remember that and this meeting should you ever encounter my kind again." She fell silent at last.
She paused and considered them, not wavering as the sound of the end of class bell echoed down from above. "Teacher Miller, Teacher Grubblyplank…I request the chance to entreat with some of your students after the lesson. I find myself curious."
James paused, blinking in surprise. "Oh, uh…of course. Which—"
"Mr Potter, Miss Granger, Kara Smith, and Luna Lovegood I think. I request the meeting be private. I swear upon my blood and that of my ancestors that I will not harm or allow harm to come to them whilst they are in my presence." She swore solemnly.
James considered then nodded. "I have no problem with it, so long as they are willing."
She looked to them expectantly. Harry hesitated then looked to the others questioningly. Speaking with a being from another race was after all a curious opportunity, and though the lesson was largely benign, he had no illusions that Cuacualti was not exceedingly dangerous if she desired to be.
"I'd be willing Professor." He decided, and waited for the others responses. Hermione agreed soon enough and so did Luna and Kara. The rest of the class left soon after, some casting curious looks over their shoulders. Tonks was hesitant to leave, pointing out rather irritably that she's supposed to be guarding him. Cuacualti, was adamant that she meant them no harm and Harry reluctantly agreed, promising to tell her what he is allowed to once things are done.
As the door closed behind the Teachers and Tonks Harry turned at the sound of a gasp. Hermione was staring into the enclosure, eyes wide. Harry's eyes followed her gaze and he jumped in shock. Where once the Coatl had been lounging now stood a woman, clearly of native american descent and clad in strange beaded garments. This time when she spoke it was with her mouth in an odd accent Harry couldn't quite place. "It is alright mate of Harry Potter." She comforted, gazing at Hermione. "Teacher Miller mentioned did he not, that some of my kind possess magic? Witches and wizards are not the only ones capable of changing their form. I am still a Coatl, my alternate form is merely that of a human."
She turned and looked to Harry. "I must apologize for the subterfuge Mr Potter, and I am not certain whether or not what we have to discuss your bodyguard is not already privy to, however I felt the need for caution. We have something to speak of however, tell me, do you know why I volunteered for this venture?" She asked.
He shook his head, and she smiled. "It is because a mutual friend of ours requested my presence in England recently, I spoke with her before coming here." She waited to see if he would guess whom it was she was referring to before giving a pleasant if rueful smile. "I am speaking of Princess Herida of the Goblin Nation Lord Potter. She requested to speak with me concerning what knowledge I might have regarding that abomination hiding behind your scar…" She smirked slightly at the start of surprise he gave. "She did not admit whom it was she was speaking of, but I smelled that foul magic when you entered, and I did not believe there was likely to be many such…things, present in unwilling human hosts."
"Do you know how to rid me of it?" He rasped, his mouth a touch dry.
She shook her head sorrowfully. "No. I am sorry Lord Potter, I know merely that it is possible. A partial record existed among my people of one who found himself accidentally adhered to a foreign soul fragment. He was parted with it safely, though the method is unknown. I promised to search our lore upon my return to the reserve. Most of what knowledge I was able to impart to the Princess was insight into their creation and how such magics might be manipulated. I cannot tell you how to be rid of it without destroying yourself." She raised a cautionary finger. "I can however tell you that you may in fact be able to suppress it, and what is more I can offer some methods which may allow you to track other abominations of this kind. The Princess will be sending you the detail of that information tonight or tomorrow I assume."
She cocked her head and her eyes flicked to the door. "Now, as much as I would enjoy continuing talking with you, I can feel your watchers becoming concerned beyond the doors. It has indeed been a pleasure meeting you, but now comes the time for you to leave me I think." She paused looking to Hermione. "And Miss Granger, would you be so good as to take good care of my feather for me?"
Not waiting for a reply from the now thoroughly shocked teens she transformed back into her natural form and once again settled on the rock. She watched them leave the room, thrumming somewhat all the while.
As expected, upon their return to the Tower, Tonks confronted Harry and Hermione in order to confer about what had occurred in her absence. Kara and Luna took the opportunity to retreat to their shared dorm and relax.
Kara settled herself on her bed while Luna dislodged Little Moon with a promise of treats should she comply before flopping on her own bed. Luna soon pulled out her copy of the Halloween edition of the Quibbler. Kara tried to read the cover from across the room but was stymied by the riot of colour that was the Quibbler's cover.
She settled on actually asking about it. "Is that a good one?"
Luna nodded dreamily. "Daddy's been working hard the last couple days, he always likes to put out an interesting one on Halloween if he can manage it.
Kara nodded, considering before deciding to address the pink elephant in the room, that ornery pachyderm had been loitering a lot recently. "And how's he doing with all of this?"
Luna paused, momentarily confused by the question before catching her meaning with a sigh. She shrugged. "Well enough I suppose. I do wish he'd get out of his office more often…"
Kara nodded understanding, Xeno had been retreating into his work in the face of what had occurred with his Daughter. In that regard, Luna's responses thus far to it all had been more healthy. "And how are you handling it?"
Kara rolled her eyes. "We both know that can't be true. You are better than you were, especially compared to how you were immediately after the fact, no one's denying that. But I have a hard time imagining anybody who's been through what we have would be fine so soon after what occurred."
Luna blinked owlishly at her before nodding a concession and looking away. "I will be fine— given some time I think. You, Harry, Hermione…You've all been a great help." She stated hesitantly looking at her hands. "Thank you"
Kara smiled fondly at the girl. "You're welcome."
"So, how are you handling it? What happened to you I mean." Luna asked pointedly while fiddling somewhat absently with her radish earrings.
Kara couldn't help but chuckle at that. "Luna, I've had something like twenty years to get past what happened to me, with the best councillor in existence to help me."
Luna smiled happily to herself. "Yes, I imagine that would help…"
"If you are wondering what seemed to help the most, I'll tell you this. Talking about it with someone you trust will work wonders. Sometimes you just need to put what you're feeling into words, and sometimes you just need to hear someone else tell you that everything will work out." She hesitated, not wanting to give Luna the wrong impression. "That's not the whole of it of course, but it does help a lot more than one might think."
Luna looked to her shyly. "Do you think I could talk about it with you some time?"
Kara blinked surprise, but nodded. "I have to admit I thought you'd want to talk with Harry."
Luna's responding laugh was somewhat wan. "Harry has been wonderful to me, there is no question of that, but he is still a male, and something, just can't adequately be described to a man. And while he has also been beaten as we both know…" She paused to grimace darkly. "He has not been through what we have. The…other things that is."
Kara nodded acceptance, clearly Luna was not yet at the stage at which she found it easy to call what had happened by it's name herself. She smiled, touched by Luna's implicit trust. "I'd be happy to talk with you about it whenever you want."
The slight blonde bobbed her head then shrugged a bit helplessly. "I don't know where to begin."
"Anywhere you want. I know that when I spoke of it for the first time, I didn't wish to start with the events themselves…" Her American friend noted.
"I—I just f-feel so filthy, I can still—" Stammered Luna in a half choked voice, Little Moon clambered over hurriedly in alarm at her mistress' distress.
"Whoa, easy there Luna, you don't have to jump right in at the deep end if you don't want to, but…" Kara hesitated as she considered. "Look, what they did, what they intended to do? It in no way has any bearing on you or how I see you. It also won't for anyone worthwhile. I know for a fact neither Harry nor Hermione think any less of you for what Nott tried to do."
Luna's smile was watery. "Thanks, but—I can still feel his hands, and I just wish…I wash and wash and the feeling doesn't go away."
Kara sighed wearily, not at all upset with Luna, merely with the utter bastards who'd attacked her. "I know, I was relatively…fortunate for lack of a better phrase. I was so out of it when it happened. Odd to say that isn't it, but it's true in a strange way. He had me so drugged up, that while I recognized on some level what he was doing was wrong I couldn't recall sensations all that clearly." She admitted. "Washing will help given time, my experience was different from yours it's true, but I found that…visualizing it, the dirt and grime washing away helps a little. I also found that applying myself to something I considered worthwhile helped."
She tried to convey her sincerity to Luna. "It took me a long time to accept it, that it wasn't my fault…But I still needed to do something that made me feel like I'd improved myself in some way."
She paused as she considered her reasoning. "Maybe when it comes down to it, it wasn't a desire to purify myself or something, as it was to make myself different. Different in a way I couldn't deny, different from who I had been when it happened…Changing who I saw myself as, it meant that in someway it hadn't happened or something." Kara tried to explain struggling for words to adequately describe what she meant. "Am I making sense?"
Luna considered, "Do you think that helping Harry with his mission will help me?"
The ex-angel had to ponder that. "Probably, but finding your own way separate from Harry will help more. Nobody is asking you to stop being Luna." She clarified. "But finding something that changes the way you see yourself in a good way will help the most I think. Relying on someone else's quest, no matter how worthy, won't be as effective."
"Do you have any ideas?" Luna asked hopefully.
Kara grimaced. "No, I'm sorry. The way I found personally, isn't available to you. I became a probationary angel of death remember? Emphasis on the probationary." That last part was muttered under her breath. "I did work for heaven, easing people's passing. It was hard work, and worth while. But it worked I think…sort of." She noted gloomily. Sometimes she felt like she'd never get there. Her past mistakes and sins, separate from what that jerk had done to her, weighed heavily on her mind.
Luna got up and padded over to her before sitting down beside her on the bed. "You'll get there. I know you will" Luna promised, smiling encouragingly to her friend.
"How can you know?"
"Because, I know without a shadow of a doubt Kara, you're a good person. And you try your hardest to be even better." The small girl explained, as if the answer was obvious, which perhaps to her it was. Kara smiled her thanks to the smaller girl and for a moment there was something indecipherable in her friend's eyes. But it passed, before she could understand it.
"Now, come on, enough of that. I'm sorry for burdening you, but I appreciate you putting up with it. We should go find the others and see what is going to happen today." She dangled her hand invitingly to Little Moon who clambered aboard before she stood. "Come Little Moon, there may be pudding."
Kara chuckled at her friend's antics before rolling upright to join her.
A few minutes earlier
Tonks pulled Harry and Hermione aside as they entered, crossing her arms over her chest and staring them down seriously. "So, care to tell me just what went on after I left?"
Harry nodded easily enough, Tonks was after all, in on this secret at least, if not the others. "Cuacualti, she's an acquaintance of Princess Herida, she wished to convey that they had come up with some things that might help at least a little."
Tonks blinked surprise then smiled. "Really? That's Excellent!"
The teen chuckled at her enthusiasm, grateful for her support. "It's not a solution, not yet, but it might help make things a little easier on us going forward. Herida should be sending along their findings tonight or tomorrow."
Tonks nodded seriously. "Good, now, I need to ask you a favour Harry."
"I need you to help me do my job, all these…secret meetings and such? The bizarre goings on with you?" She noted with a touch of distaste. "Let's just say I'm in a tough position, not being able to report these things to my bosses. But confidentiality agreements will only stretch so far. I'd rather not be forced to break trust with you because my duty or conscience demand it." She explained apologetically.
Harry pondered Tonks' predicament, glancing to Hermione, trying to gauge her thoughts on the matter. "Who would you be telling, and just what would you wish to tell them?"
"Ideally? I'd be able to tell both Bones and Dumbledore something, but I know that you don't trust the old man all that much." The blue haired Auror explained.
"Do you think you could tell Bones some of these things, whatever they are without it getting out to the other side or to Dumbledore?"
Tonks paused while she wondered about that. "I think if I were to explain the need for secrecy Bones would gladly keep things to herself, or at least to herself and a handful of trustworthy people" She allowed.
"Only if she's absolutely certain of their trustworthiness…Maybe, I really would need to know what you want to disclose."
Tonks peered about, ensuring no one was listening in, even performing a privacy spell or two to be on the safe side. "I want to discuss with her the details you've unearthed on the Horcruxes, and what you've been doing with the study group thus far."
Hermione tapped his arm, "That reminds me of something actually Harry, when we get the time, we should talk about the uniforms, Kara and I have had some thoughts on them."
Her boyfriend nodded acceptance.
Tonks ventured another point, albeit hesitantly. "If I could get you to tell me how you know what you do about the Order's Operations…" She stopped when Harry began shaking his head.
"Taling about the study group with Bones is fine, and so long as you and she make absolutely certain about whom you choose to discuss it with, I could be convinced to let you talk about the Horcruxes." He allowed. "But I can't talk about how I know what I do, I won't pretend that I just guessed it all anymore. I won't insult your intelligence in such a way. But I can't tell you about it, I'm sorry. Just know that there's no leak you need to worry about, and you can trust that what I'm not telling won't be reaching anyone else's ears."
She grimaced at that then nodded acceptance, shrugging philosophically. "Two of three isn't so bad. I'll take what I can get." She changed subject and smiled mischievously. "I assume that we aren't going to have a repeat performance of whatever that was this morning?"
He gave her a quizzical look and she explained. "Whatever that weirdness with the elves was, I didn't get down in time to hear what actually happened."
Harry sighed. "Tiger decided to exorcise Peeves."
Tonks blinked surprise then guffawed happily before stifling it. "Yet another weird Halloween at Hogwarts then eh?"
Harry blanched. "Gah…I certainly hope not. I've had enough of those thank you very much."
The Auror considered that. "Ah right, I've heard your Halloweens here have been…eventful."
The boy grimaced. "It's not just that, I don't think I've ever had what could be described as a "Good" Halloween."
"What never?" The woman asked surprised.
"Think about it Tonks, my first Halloween my parents were killed. All the others before Hogwarts were at the Dursleys…And they weren't exactly the nurturing types were they?"
"I'm so sorry Harry…" Murmured Hermione.
He stopped short and blinked stupidly at his girlfriend. "What, why? It's not your fault…"
She shrugged miserably. "I don't know, I just feel like…If I'd been told, if I'd known what was happening? Maybe I could have done something to stop what those animals did to you."
Harry cocked his head at her. "It's like you say isn't it, I never told you, how could you have known?"
"Why didn't you tell her?" Tonks asked, her tone more curious than accusatory.
Harry shrugged. "I honestly couldn't tell you for sure, not any single reason anyways. I suppose it could have been several things. Shame, fear of becoming a burden, and simply being uncertain how to discuss it. And besides, in the end I handled it, because I always had before…Had to didn't I, it's not like I had a family to lean on?"
He broke off in surprise at being enveloped in a pair of hugs. "Well you have family now Harry, even if you don't realize that's what it is." Hermione mumbled against his shoulder. He hugged her back reassuringly.
Tonks cleared her throat thickly from where she held the teens from behind Harry. "She's right you know. To me you're more family than Draco ever was, even if you're far more distantly related by blood."
Harry murmured his thanks. It was strange, he'd never really considered it, but it was true, he had a family of sorts. Hermione, and Tonks declaring it so forcefully was something of a revelation however. It was true what they said in all those books, family wasn't necessarily those who shared your blood, it was those who you chose to surround yourself with because you cared for one another. So now, holding his girlfriend in his arms, within the arms of a dear friend, he found himself once again feeling loved.
It was a couple hours later before Hermione and Kara managed to corner Harry about the uniforms. To his surprise they had shanghaied Daphne into their operation as well.
Hermione sat at the table across from him, causing him to look up. "Harry do you have a minute. He nodded closing the book he'd been reading and nodded. "It's about the uniforms, well that and the Tower to be honest. Kara and I have some concerns, and we thought you and Daph might be the best ones to handle it…"
"Daph?" The former Slytherin asked apparently mildly vexed by the moniker.
Kara smirked. "That'd be my doing, sorry. Just roll with it."
Harry smiled at the byplay before nodding, gesturing for her to continue. "Alright, hit me."
"We're conceded not so much about the Tower or the uniforms themselves as to Dumbledore's possible reactions to them…" Hermione explained. "More specifically how he might intend to use them in regards to us, and you in particular."
Her boyfriend nodded easily leaning back in his chair. "I fully expect him to attempt to use them as leverage of some sort, but what where you worried about in specific?"
Hermione seemed relieved that he wasn't taking their concerns amiss. "We could see him using the fact you are training and equipping the study group to portray you as gathering a private army. He might even compare it to the Death Eaters. We're worried that he might use the opportunity provided to force you under his authority in some way."
Harry looked to the third girl in the group across from him. "And what are your thoughts on the matter?"
Daphne actually looked surprised at being consulted, before schooling her features and settling in to think. "I would not put any of that past the Headmaster no…" She said slowly, thinking it over carefully. "If you know where to look, and examine things closely enough, he has proven to be quite the masterful manipulator over the years. He plays many people to achieve some specific goals, though what his objective is exactly is never precisely clear to those looking. Many simply write him off as an eccentric because of this. I think this is a mistake, I've noted in my own observations that while superficially that would appear to be true, he is far too deliberate and calculating for that."
The scion of House Potter nodded. "I tend to agree, with all of you actually. Suggestions then to mitigate the possibility?"
Eyes turned to Daphne and she squirmed at the looks she was receiving. "I am sorry, but why are you all looking at me like that?"
Harry chuckled, "I apologize, it's just that you are the more politically well verse person here…"
She appeared to accept that. Before nodding decisively. "Curry favour with those you believe will be necessary to counter any allegations he might raise against you. Then, you can move with impunity and when he makes his play you will have a counter prepared. With such things it is better not to plan them on the fly." She paused considering. "Such a situation would likely result in proceedings with the Wizengamot…"
Harry blew out a gusty sigh. "Great another visit to the court room." He griped.
The blonde slytherin smiled in amusement. "I would recommend approaching Mcgonagall, she is your head of house, as well as deputy headmistress. She would be considered a voice of authority regarding you." She gestured to Hermione and Kara. "Your friends will of course be valuable character witnesses. However there are several people whom you are already in good relations with whom would be particularly valuable in this matter." She raised a finger, counting them off. "First, your bodyguard, Miss Tonks? She is an Auror, a law enforcement officer in good standing, and is in your company almost constantly." She explained nodding deferentially to Tonks who was sitting on the couch listening to them with interest.
She raised a second finger. "Second is Minister Bones, she has had extensive dealings with you recently and also has significant authority with which to counter Dumbledore's own. Next would be your allied houses. My father, and Madam Longbottom I imagine would likely be willing to vouch for your professed character. Finally and most importantly to my mind, should you wish to counter any comparison to the Death Eaters, will be a sworn representative of Gringotts. It is known and obvious to those who pay attention that you have their favour. Something which is not easily earned in this age, and something the Death Eaters and those like them would never be capable of achieving."
She spread her hand, "That should be more than sufficient to counter him should he press the issue within the courts. I must admit that I am curious as to why he is so driven to see you under his thumb?"
Harry considered her for a moment before looking to Hermione and Kara. "What do you think? We very well may be asking the others to assist us in regards to the….reason, for Dumbledore's obsession."
Hermione looked troubled, but nodded after a few moments consideration. Kara was the one who put it to words however. "Within reason, tell her what she needs to know. Just remember too many people knowing the fine details and eventually things start to leak, intentionally or not."
He accepted that gratefully, before looking to Daphne who was waiting, a politely expectant expression on her face. "Are you trained in occlumency?" Harry asked.
She nodded, now curious at just what it was she might be told.
He looked around taking in Tonks and Luna who were also in the room with them. "Tonks you might as well hear this, though you already know some of it I believe?" he turned back to Daphne. "There is a prophecy held within the Department of Mysteries, one which specifically concerns me and Voldemort. I won't go into details, as that would only put you in danger in the long run. But simply put, it implies that I'm the one who has to beat him. As such any strategy composed by Dumbledore, who happens to believe the prophecy is valid, I will be the most important asset in his campaign."
He took in the startled expressions from Daphne and Tonks and decided to take a gamble. "Now, I am reluctant to voice this next part just yet, as I am far from certain about it. But…judging by Voldemort's insistence on trying to feed me images of the place while I sleep. It is almost certain, that he intends to force a confrontation at the Department of Mysteries. I am hopeful that if that happens I will not face it alone, the Aurors would be ideal so long as there are no infiltrators. The Order, which I'm reasonably certain you realize your parents are now a part of, will likely be available and possibly any volunteers from our little group if all else fails.
Daphne goggled at him, and Harry heard a heart felt curse come from the Auror. "Leaving aside that apparently Voldemort is assaulting your mind somehow for the moment, you're just telling us the rest of this now?" She demanded.
Harry shrugged, though not like it wasn't important, "I can't prove it, not in any way which the Minister could justify to the Wizengamot. Not yet anyway, and as you well know, trusting Dumbledore is difficult right now, I have to be careful. I truly believe as it stands right now, that he intends to keep the prophecy from Tom as much as I do. But he would, if informed, insist on taking charge in regards to any response to the situation. And can you honestly tell me that if he felt his goals would benefit from it he would not change his policy in that regard?"
He saw her troubled expression and pushed home his advantage. "Can you honestly say that Dumbledore wouldn't sacrifice the people guarding the prophecy if it would be beneficial to have it seen that a token resistance was put up while still allowing it to be stolen?"
Harry tried not to think of how many people had died in the last war…both of them.
Tonks clearly wasn't eager to believe that poorly of Dumbledore, but she was willing to concede that he had some valid points. "I might be able to convince him based on your…er, nightmares to double the guard at least." She hypothesized. "And I just might be able to slip the unspeakables an anonymous tip that the enemy might make a play for their department in the next year…"
Harry nodded easily "If you think you can pull it off without things coming crashing down, go for it."
She nodded, easing a little at the concession on his part. Pleased he didn't have some mad scheme for going it alone. She pushed to her feet "If you lot will stay here for a couple hours, I'll go see to that right away."
The teens considered each other before offering agreement, Hermione smiled mischievously at Harry. "I think we can arrange that. Kara and I have been talking, we plan to make this Halloween a good one for a change Harry."
He gave them a dubious look, "Oh and what did you have in mind?"
Kara's grin was almost predatory "Party Time!"
As ever, please rate, review, subscribe, and tell your friends. Once again thank you to Temporal Knight for the help with this chapter. (Hey I actually remembered to thank my beta for a change!)