Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.



#Six



Harry didn't like to think that he was totally heartless. Just disillusioned, he coaxed himself into believing. Disillusioned with the hand of cards fate had dealt him (too many fours and not enough jokers), disillusioned with the dreary gray place civilization had become, disillusioned with the honeycomb maze that was Ministry hierarchy, and most of all, disillusioned with the Wizarding World's pathetic excuse for a Dark Lord.

Honestly, he thought to himself, you'd be under the impression that Voldemort would have caught on by now and made things more fun.

He sat perched in an old knotted oak, surveying the land that jutted harshly away from him. The sky was a dark tear over a tangle of wild woods. The nearby village had been silenced long ago, and all that remained was rubble. Some of the old Muggle-deflecting wards were still up as far as he could tell, but that was nearly all that remained of Hogwarts.

He let Version input the landscape and reconstruct the attack. Hogwarts had not fallen out of stupidity or ill preparation. No, it had simply been overpowered by the sheer force of the Death Eaters. Even the magic lent to the very foundation of the castle by the Founders had not been enough to repel Voldemort's assault.

Harry leapt down lightly from the tree and stalked amongst the stones. The magic was still there, latent but waiting. True to the old arts, it was soaking up as much power as it could from the good earth. He reached down and laid a hand against a cool block. It told him stories of the castle in a quiet but pleasant tone, ending with a polite plea for restoration.

And here he hesitated.

If he rebuilt Hogwarts-- then what? Dumbledore and his forces would not be enough to hold the school against another offensive, and Harry didn't want to stay tied down with a constant liability on his hands. No, Hogwarts would have to wait, for certain things had to be taken care of first.

The Forbidden Forest was as wild and sensitive as ever. The remaining leaves danced on their branches to welcome him, and the wind swept a few off to add to the guiding, cackling carpets. Harry remembered with sudden sadness a unicorn, shining like a pond of moonlight under the dark clouds, its lifeblood slipping away into the forest loam. He remembered a gruff half-giant, the best friend anyone could hope for but no one appreciated, patrolling these woods with a slobbering coward of a dog. He remembered following a trail of spiders out to the nest of-- say, was he still alive? Was he still here?

He reached out, and it was easy to find the person he was looking for. Or something.

Remus Lupin had been born under a blighted star-- or so his parents believed. What else could possibly lead to the misfortune of his becoming a werewolf? There was no luck smiling upon his face, no beatific entity assigning him any other future but that of a lycanthrope.

Lupin had stayed faithful to Hogwarts until the very end, but his curse was his ultimate downfall. One of Voldemort's followers had unearthed a spell, uncast for centuries, that could relegate a werewolf to his transformed state, both mentally and physically, until someone with the appropriate knowledge could block it.

Harry read all this from the forest, with its soft whispers and haunting, soothing melodies. He could see what had passed with that third and most sensitive eye: how Sirius had been lured in here during the battle by his hatred of his cousin-- how Remus had followed, fearing a trap-- how another Death Eater had leapt out form the undergrowth and Stunned his godfather while Bellatrix Lestrange mouthed foreign words and funneled her magic towards the werewolf…

And while the two Death Eaters Apparated Sirius away, Remus found his worst nightmare coming true as all control slipped away from his conscious mind and his utterly feral side took over.

Stupid fucks, Harry thought derisively. Version suggested, if you ever get your hands on that Bellatrix woman... I'll snap her neck myself, Harry promised, his luminous eyes clouding over with something roiling with darkness. Branches bent toward him as he clenched his will and sent out a call, silent and mournful, resonating through every magical fiber of the forest.

The memories came before Remus did, and Harry was suddenly caught in a tangled web of confusion and fog, half-coherent thoughts struggling against a wilder, more powerful being. Wrapped by tendrils of someone else's being, he relived existence in the Forbidden Forest as Remus had known it-- running down rabbits and filling cold winter air with the heat of blood; skirting around the paths of true wolves, who would snarl and show their fangs in fearful menace whenever he crossed their way; following the trail of an unicorn to find the source of the strange, ethereal scent it left on the leaves.

An angry growl broke through Harry's convoluted trappings and shattered the dream-memory. The werewolf that was Remus prowled forward, lean and long-bodied, twice the size of any ordinary wolf, with ears folded back against his skull and intelligent, calculating eyes filled with suspicion. His lips were pulled back as far as they would go to expose gleaming, pearl-white fangs. Harry could see the Dark magic practically dripping from them, making his stomach turn in an unpleasant sort of way.

Remus lunged, and Harry was especially careful to avoid his fangs, leaping upwards into the sanctuary of an ancient Rowan. From his considerable perch, he consulted Version on the undoing of Lupin's preternatural bindings.

My what big teeth he has, Version commented. Harry blinked; he'd never known that the other had a sense of humor. Even stranger, Version was radiating a strong sense of revulsion towards the werewolf that ranged below them. Harry knew better than to ask-- what do you ask a part of yourself, anyway?

It's Dark magic, and it can only be reversed by Dark magic, Harry thought sourly. Well, that presented a bit of a problem. He didn't know if he could perform a spell of that magnitude without getting violently sick afterward. Is there an alternative?

Version remained oddly quiet, almost as if the being had turned inward, retreated away. Version? Harry probed, frowning. Below him, Remus was still circling the tree like a shark and Harry could almost feel his other shiver with every new loop that Remus rounded.



#



Only a few had been selected to receive the news of Harry's sudden revival. The fact that the one-time savior of the Wizarding World was alive remained a hard one to believe, even to those who saw him in person. Needless to say, not many could be entrusted with the knowledge of this recent development. Dumbledore wisely chose to inform only the innermost members of the Order. Mad-Eye Moody was one of them.

Stomping along like a peg-legged pirate down the cobbled path to the Weasley residence, the retired Auror mulled over the information in his paranoid but still sharp mind.

Item one: Potter was alive.

Item two: Potter was insane, possibly possessed. (Snape had personally testified to a change in appearance, especially to Potter's eyes, when the other "personality" manifested itself.)

Item three: Potter was responsible, for all practical purposes, for single-handedly taking down Voldemort's bastion in London.

Moody's weathered face sudden creased into a deranged grin that would have been worthy of the one he was currently analyzing. This was going to be fun.

Fall had come softly to Gordic's Hollow, arriving in stolen moments of leaves glistening like molten gold through the rain, or the dry crackle of the wind combing through the trees. No one had really noticed her arrival-- no one save the children, who ran screaming in between the shadows and bright grass. They saw something the adults could not hope to grasped and chased after it, though this sort of thing was not meant to be caught.

Moody's electric blue eye sparked as it followed the small running forms, always in motion. He thought, if they can still enjoy the weather like that, perhaps not all is lost. For a moment, everything was balanced and the world was less chaotic than it might have been. Not everything was perfect, but perhaps the day had dawned with a bit more optimism

And then he saw it-- something that jolted his nervous sys tem, brain to spine to fingers: a little blonde pig-tailed girl, half-asleep against the wide trunk of a broad oak, a fuzzy snip of a kitten curled in her arms.

When pulling apart problems, one often finds breakthroughs in the strangest ways. Mad-Eye Moody had just stumbled upon his: the kitten turned to regard his strange shape with one pale, milky blue eye, slitted against the midday sun, and it hit him like half a dozen Stunners.

There were legends, but research could confirm his hunch, and that kind of extensive perusing was reserved for a certain bushy-haired student who all but lived in a sea of books. His wooden leg tapping out a hollow, staccato beat, Alastor Moody scrambled for Gordic Hollow's makeshift library.



#



"Are you telling me," Hermione Granger said with narrowed, incredulous eyes, "that you think Harry is being possessed by a cat demon?" She paused only to close the tome she was currently devouring (Theory and Application of Advanced Arithmancy) before continuing, "are there even such things as Cat demons?"

Moody was surprised. "And they tell me you're well-read."

Hermione flushed, then stood, clearly not one to remain the focus of someone else's jibes. She turned to the multitude of shelves behind her, going down each row and pulling out several hefty volumes. "All right then, if you think you're onto something… let's hit the books."



#



Harry, Version said suddenly.

He blinked. The other had never addressed him so directly before.

Harry, Haret, we need to do something about this. We're not meant to be two separate beings. We're not meant to be afraid of people like Remus.

We're not meant to be afraid of anything anymore, Harry agreed, watching the werewolf make his endless circles, ever around, always around.

If we bring Remus back, we do it together. Are you fearful of this?

He read the implications and reached deeper within himself than he ever had before, finding the swirl of shadows and thought that was Version. Something in his mind was fuzzy, and their connection was strained, pulled taught between two powerful but unknown needs, fighting to both tear away and join together. Suddenly he was overcome by a fierce desire to see the fog blown away, the jutting shards of his being pieced back together.

How can I be fearful of becoming whole once again?



#



A/N: It's been a while since I've been here, hasn't it? Well, I got rained on by plot bunnies today and I think that's a good thing, even if the results are really rough. I'm not going to say anything else for now because I don't know what I'm going to be able to turn out; it really depends on the state of my rather capricious muse, who comes and goes as she pleases.

A note: "Haret" is pronounced "Har-ray" and is French for "wildcat," I believe.

Also, since I really haven't been prowling lately, can someone please fill me in on rule changes? I mean, I read somewhere that author notes weren't allowed anymore but I couldn't even find a list of rules on the website (which has become, might I add, terribly convoluted with all the new changes and procedures that they've stuck up).

Anyway, thanks for your time and patience, thanks for reading, and, as always, feel free to drop a note or question or concern about the story. Righto. Merry Christmas!