Phoenix Burning

AN: Okay, so maybe I didn't update as fast as I had planned. I'm so sorry for that! It's three times longer than I normally write my chapters, though, so it has to count for something... *cringes from angry followers with handfuls of dungbombs* "I didn't mean it!" Aaaanyway, now that I've successfully distracted you with that bout of whimsy (I hope) enjoy the latest! Powerful!Harry at his best... And please do review, it's lovely. Oh, and we're approaching the finish line, and I am both excited and very sad... it should be only about four or five chapters now.

Chapter 30

Harry awoke, once again, in the hospital wing. For a moment, he had no idea what had happened to him. Then it all came rushing back. Professor Snape had accidentally drained his core trying to heal Dumbledore; whether or not he had succeeded was more than Harry knew. Which means that he must have collapsed from magical exhaustion. Was Dumbledore ok? Or Snape? He tried to sit up, but instantly Madame Pomfrey was there, gently but firmly pressing him down.

"Rest, Mr. Potter, your core is quite depleted."

"'Fessor Snape? Dumblesdore?" Harry was rather annoyed to note how slurred his voice turned out to be, and how heavy his eyelids felt as he tried to look around the familiar white hospital wing.

"Professor Snape has magical exhaustion, but he will recover. So will you if you'll just take it easy."

There was not much else Harry could do. "Dumbledore?" he asked again. Madame Pomfrey looked about to reply, but at that moment, a young man entered the hospital wing. Madame Pomfrey instantly went over to shoo him out, which gave Harry an opportunity to inspect the man. Why did he look so familiar? And then it hit him. Auburn hair. Twinkling blue eyes. Dark plum-coloured robes with orange and magenta astrological signs.

"Professor Dumbledore?" he breathed, unable to believe it. However, evidently his old mentor had heard him, because he turned around.

"Harry! You're awake?"

Wow. He even sounded younger. "I-Professor, what happened?"

Dumbledore blinked. "I am still not entirely sure what happened. Severus attempted some experimental magic to heal the curse that had withered my hand, and it seemed to have more than one unusual side effect."

Harry's eyes widened. Experimental magic. He had known that Professor Snape had tried to use phœnix magic, but even he, with his experience using the strange type of healing magic, had had no idea that de-aging was possible. "Flamma Aeterna?" He muttered, already trying to see what had happened exactly and how, through his slightly distorted memory of the impromptu ritual. "But wait, how does that work? I mean, Snape's still human, so it would necessarily have different effects..."

Dumbledore was staring at him. "Harry? You seem to know what is happening."

Harry hesitated. It wasn't that he did not want to tell his one-time mentor the secret, but he still wasn't sure if he could trust him not to use his unique talent for 'the Greater Good'. Although if the phoenix magic hadn't killed him, then he had been judged worthy, hadn't he? "I do, some," he settled for replying. "But I'm not the only one involved, and it's not really all my secret to keep." he paused, at this juncture, and picked up a box of chocolate frogs by his bed, probably left by some of his friends or admirers, tearing it open with nimble fingers and removing one of the packages. Then he slowly began to strip it open.

"I see." Dumbledore looked rather disappointed, but seemed content to leave it at that, for now. After all, Harry was still recovering from an extreme case of magical exhaustion himself. He looked as though he were about to go on, or change the subject, when Madame Pomfrey stalked over.

"Your fifteen minutes is up," she informed the headmaster sourly. "Mr. Potter needs to rest, and you have to take your potions."

"Yes ma'am," Dumbledore replied, seeming rather amused.

At that, Madame Pomfrey bustled over to the medicine cabinet and pulled out two phials, one filled with acid green liquid and one containing a thick golden fluid. She handed both potions to the headmaster, who hastily drank them, called: "thank you, Poppy," and left the hospital wing in a hurry, as if he was no more excited to be there than Harry himself.

Harry sank back on his pillows again and fell asleep.

Harry woke much later in the day, so late that the evening sun was already filtering in through the hospital wing window, to hear Ron and Hermione arguing with the mediwitch. "Please, Madame Pomfrey! At least let us see him for fifteen minutes!"

"Mr. Potter is recovering from severe magical exhaustion," was her acerbic response. "You may leave whatever get well notes and confections that the Gryffindor house has for him, but he is not ready for any kind of conversation, at least not yet. Perhaps for a few minutes tomorrow afternoon..."

Harry could almost feel their hesitation, but at last he heard the thumps and rustles that betrayed the packages and notes that they were evidently dropping off for him, and his heart warmed. Then he heard the matron shooing his friends away, and at last there was again silence, broken only by Madame Pomfrey bustling about in her stores and her office as usual. The rest of the evening passed in the same way, just listening, drifting in and out of consciousness.

The next day he was more coherent, and a good deal more bored. Madame Pomfrey allowed his friends to stay- this time- and so he listened to Hermione's excited rendition of a particularly good DADA class- apparently Kingsley Shacklebolt was substituting- and listened to Ron talk about the Chudley Cannons, who had apparently nearly won their last game. But at last, he felt himself well enough to get down to business.

"So what's going on?" Harry asked at last.

His two friends tensed. "What do you mean, what's going on?" asked Ron after a moment. "We've just been telling you, you daft git!"

"I mean, do you know what happened to Dumbledore? And is Snape ok?"

"Dumbledore announced that he'd run afoul of an unexpected side affect of an experimental potion," Hermione told him. "I pretty much guessed there was more to it than that, but he hasn't elaborated. The Ministry and the Department of Mysteries are hoping to get involved and figure it out, but he's pulling a lot of strings to keep them from getting involved. At least that's what we think is going on. Obviously we won't know the whole story unless he decides to tell us. As for Professor Snape, Dumbledore was telling everyone that he was down with dragonpox and quarantined, but I'm guessing there's more to that, too, especially since you are in the hospital wing. He did something, didn't he?"

Harry nodded. "As far as I know, he tried to heal Dumbledore's hand and ended up de-aging him and draining his core in the process. And mine, since we're connected and all that. But what business does the ministry have trying to get involved?"

"The Department of Mysteries isn't just a magical science department," said Ron at last. "It's like...what did you call it, 'Mione?"

"The CIA. Basically, they have a classified budget, no higher ups, and no restrictions outside the DOM itself. They're probably going to be trouble, actually...I'm reading up on it- Dumbledore let me access his personal library, ostensibly for research, and what I've learned...it's pretty disturbing. If you're a magical anomaly that they think is important, they just take you with them, and it's a toss-up whether anyone will ever see you again. Luckily, though, the ICU has a little control over their external business, and since Dumbledore's head of that, he can keep them off for a bit. But Harry, they're going to want to talk to you, maybe even do more than that. There hasn't been a truly powerful magical animagus since the Founders, and there's never been a phoenix. Most magical animagi are things like crups or nifflers or snidgets or things, and even now they are extraordinarily unusual."

"Say that in English?" asked Ron weakly.

Hermione huffed. "Right. The DOM is going to want to study Harry, they probably aren't going to take no for an answer, they might be really invasive, and nobody really has any control over them; even the ICU can't do much than stall them."

Harry swallowed hard. "And Snape? And what about Dumbledore?"

"Probably in trouble too," said Hermione reluctantly. "Promise me you won't give them any grief? It'll only make it harder."

"You mean he should promise not to defend himself?!" Ron burst out.

"No, of course not, just promise not to go looking for trouble. Harry, I...I don't want you to be hurt."

"I promise," Harry told her. "But if they try to take me or Snape away, I won't be responsible for my actions."

Hermione opened her mouth, probably to berate him as to that course of action, but at that moment Madame Pomfrey called "Time's up," and the two Gryffindors reluctantly left Harry alone, to chew on that.

Harry was let out of the hospital wing the next afternoon, accompanied by Madame Pomfrey's strict injunction that he come straight back if he had a headache or experienced dizziness or asthma, which he ignored, and although he was technically excused from classes for the next two days, he sat in on a seventh-year DADA class (he had already missed today's class in his own form) and then calmly went down to dinner.

That evening, he had his first taste of the menace that Unspeakables could be. He was just sitting in his usual place at the Gryffindor table, surrounded by Ron, Hermione, and Neville, who were trying to block all the nearest seats, as Colin Creevy was hanging around with his camera, and he had just lifted a spoonful of treakle tart to his lips when the doors of the Great Hall flew open, and a man in long dark robes with a hooded face stepped into the hall. Harry had a horrible feeling about this...

"I have need of one Harry Potter and one Albus Dumbledore," he announced in a hollow and toneless voice as soon as he approached the head table.

"Who are you?" Minerva Mcgonagall said archly, but Harry already felt that he knew, even before the man replied with Unspeakable "U505".

In the end, that day, Dumbledore managed to fend the man off, actually using the power of Hogwarts herself to throw him out, but Harry knew that that would not stop a wizard whose entire department dealt with the unknowable and the unknown; he probably knew four or five different ways to get back in again, wards or no. And so he waited worriedly for the other shoe to drop, enduring the whispers of his classmates that an Unspeakable had actually called for him specifically, and going back to the hospital wing to sit with Professor Snape at every opportunity when he was not in classes, doing homework, or socializing with Gryffindor at large. But always, he knew that the Unspeakables were going to come back. It was only a matter of time.

Time indeed. It was, in fact, the very next day- a Wednesday- when another Unspeakable arrived to stick his unknowable nose into Harry's business. Harry had been seated on his bed in his dorm, revising with Dean and Neville (Ron was off snogging Hermione under the blanket excuse of research) when Harry felt a sudden, unexpected rush of fear and annoyance- and pain, in his brain. It was Snape!

Harry was vastly relieved, even if he was worried about what was upsetting his professor; he hadn't been able to feel him for nearly a solid week. Oh, dear Merlin help me, he heard, then, accompanied by a feeling of helplessness and the terrifying sensation of being unable to open his eyes, and unable to remember, and his relief was immediately doused. What was wrong?

"Professor Snape? Are you ok?" he sent.

He got back a rush of startlement, confusion, fear, and dawning understanding, accompanied by several memories from Snape's point of view and a vague feeling of nausea and headache. "I've...been better, Harry, but I'm not at the point of death or anything. Although I do wish that everyone would wait until I'm well enough to sit up to bother me and try to arrest me."

"Try to arrest you?!" Why on earth would they do that, unless Voldemort wanted the man punished? Although Harry wouldn't put it past that man. Well, not really a man, actually, but it didn't really make any difference in this instance.

"I expect that someone discovered the paperwork documenting the Triple Bonding of the Savior of the Wizarding World to a Death Eater old enough to be his father and made some assumptions," Snape clarified. Harry bit back his anger.

"And they're just going to arrest you? While you are ill?"

"Illness doesn't seem to be an excuse under this regime, and it hasn't been for some time."

"That's absurd!" Harry burst out, unwittingly aloud.

"What is?" asked Seamus in confusion.

"The goddamned aurors, trying to arrest Snape while he's still so sick he can't get up!"

"What?!"

Harry realized his mistake instantly. Oh, damn, he'd have to do some major damage control after all this was over. "I had a vision," he responded reluctantly, tapping the place where his scar used to be. He could sense Snape's growing unease more clearly now, and decided that he'd have to explain later. "Hold on, you guys, I've got to go. Please wait up for me?"

"Where are you going? Why- are you actually going to go try to stop a bunch of aurors?" Seamus asked with a little flash of the way he had treated Harry all last year. Harry winced, but said nothing out loud, instead opting to open the connection with Professor Snape again.

Hang on, I'm coming through."

"Coming through?" Snape asked, sending him the mental equivalent of five question marks and an exclamation point.

Harry was about to just run from the room and change into his animagus form on the way to the hospital wing, when he suddenly remembered the times that he had just healed a cut or scrape with just a brush of his hand- his untransformed hand- and decided to take another risk; it would be very helpful to be able to flame thorough barriers even if someone had put up and anti-animagus ward.

"I think I've found a way to flame without even bothering to change forms," he told Professor Snape, ignoring the burst of concern, fear, and anger and the mental mutter of imbecile, and flashed, still human, into the hospital wing in a glory of blue fire, drawing several gasps as he reappeared. Snape, his concern now showing on his face, tried to sit up and open his eyes, but before Harry could reassure him that he was ok, if a little sore and overheated, the man slumped back onto his pillow, sinking back into the bed and inadvertently attracting the attention of the rest of the witches and wizards in the room. Madame Pomfrey tried to make her way towards him, only to be shoved aside by an auror. A tall wizard in Unspeakable robes, who had been studying Harry as though he were an anomaly in a petri dish under a muggle microscope, turned back towards Snape at once, while the de-aged version of Dumbledore tried to calm everyone else down, and was ignored.

"Mr. Snape, we need you to answer a few questions, in the interests of our department," the Unspeakable said gravely, despite the fact that Snape could barely open his eyes, much less concentrate on the idiotic questions the man was presumably going to ask. Harry felt rage and phoenix magic heating inside him, and suppressed it with difficulty, although his eyes, had he but known it, were still glowing an eerie shade of electric blue.

"I...is there any possible chance you could wait?" Professor Snape rasped, long lashes blinking owlishly in the too-bright infirmary light. "I...am not at all well."

"No, you may not wait. Firstly, how did you cure the languesco mortis curse, and how did you de-age Albus Dumbledore?"

"I what!?" Severus choked; evidently he hadn't yet been informed of these developments.

"Answer us." The Unspeakable demaned.

"I have no idea how I cured the curse, and I was not aware that the primal magic had any other effects," Severus managed, closing his eyes briefly, desperation filling his thoughts along with the pain of trying to keep his head up to watch. Harry winced, not that anyone noticed. Couldn't they see he was in no condition to be questioned? "It was accidental."

The Unspeakable did not seem convinced, but then, Harry could not see his face under his charmed and warded hood, and he didn't exactly know the man's? feelings for certain.

"And how did you break an Unbreakable Vow?"

"I died," responded Severus very softly. "I died and was reborn as a result of the Rite of Flamma Aeterna."

There were several gasps from those who understood exactly what said rite was.

"What other unusual effects resulted from the ritual?" the Unspeakable continued, still in that horrible clinical manner despite Snape's obvious discomfort and exhaustion. Only Harry's promise to Hermione and his common sense kept him from throwing the man out on his arse, Unspeakable or not.

"What effects didn't?" Snape replied.

"Answer the question," said the Unspeakable, a sudden undercurrent of steel lacing his tone.

Professor Snape had evidently decided that he had no more options, and suddenly words were rushing out of him. "Very well," he said. "Considering that the phœnix was also an animagus, it caused a latent Sacred Triple Bond and changed a number of my vital signs- you can look over my medical scans for that. It also stripped my Dark Mark entirely." Professor Snape's head fell back onto the pillow again in sheer exhaustion, dark hair fanning out on the pillow.

"What do you mean the phœnix was also an animagus?"

"Exactly what he said," Harry broke in, unable to help himself. The Unspeakable whirled around.

"Who are you?"

"Harry Potter," Harry replied, not bothering to attempt politeness. He had never exactly been known for his patience, or his common sense, although he was fairly sure that he possessed both, somewhere. The question was where. "I'm a phœnix animagus, although I haven't had a chance to be registered yet," he added, absentmindedly noticing that he was still floating a few inches above the ground and emitting blue sparks. Ok, that was actually kind of awesome, if it weren't for the circumstances.

The Unspeakable quickly snapped him out of his own self-aggrandizing thoughts. "Forgive me if I need some proof, Mr. Potter..."

Proof? Wasn't apparating in Hogwarts, sparking with blue fire, and floating a pretty dead giveaway? Oh, well. It was rather too late to back down now, even if he might have wanted to, which he did. Harry shifted into a phœnix and back, and all the adults who hasn't seen it before startled.

"I...see. So did you notice any unusual effects of the ritual?"

Harry debated telling him to go jump in the Black Lake and kiss the giant squid, and instead responded calmly: "Well, my scar was burnt away, along with the dark magic attached to it. That's just about all on my side." It seems Hermione had been a good influence on him.

"I see. Very well. I'm afraid that you both are to come with me. We have to do some experiments."

Oh, dear Merlin no! Harry thought, afraid for the first time. What would those 'experiments' as they were so delicately and succinctly described as, consist of? His mind hastily supplied images of the mad scientists' labs he had seen on the telly and on the covers of the trashy dollar science fiction novels that Aunt Petunia had never let Dudley read, and he shuddered involuntarily. No, no, just no! Harry was so stunned and in shock that he barely even registered the various protests of the aurors and the Hogwarts staff, or the way that the Unspeakable coldly shut them up. All he could think of was that he was a freak, like Uncle Vernon had always so loved to say, and that he was never going to see the light of day again because of some peculiarity in his magic that he was only beginning to discover the full extent of, much less learn to control, that he was going to end up being dissected to see how his freakishness worked, as his dear, dear relations had liked to tell him when he had been particularly uncooperative in his formative years. And that was when Harry's magic exploded outward. "I don't know who you are or what authority you think you have, but you are not moving the professor while he's ill, and I don't particularly like the idea of going with you to be experimented on, either."

"Harry..." Severus rasped. Harry ignored him.

"Get out," he bit out again, struggling not to set the entire hospital wing on fire.

"Mr. Potter-" That was Dumbledore, but Harry didn't listen to him, either.

"Get out."

The Unspeakable took a threatening step closer. Harry gritted his teeth, wishing the man would just disappear, imagining sending him right back to the Department of Mysteries where he belonged, and, in a particular craze of vindictiveness, in the Love Room, being dunked in a fountain of lust potion. And the Unspeakable vanished into thin air. Harry took three or four deep breaths and slumped back against Severus's bed.

"Great," he slurred, green eyes fluttering shut. Merlin, he was so tired! "I think I made another enemy."