Summary: 'In the past decade, the indications have been that wizard kind is living through nothing more than a brief calm between two wars' as Firenze said in Divination class, fifth year … In Harry Potter's 6th year, will this 'brief calm' end and the 2nd war finally begin? Will he have the power to become the murderer or the murdered? … All that can be said is Harry's sixth year proves to be his most difficult yet, with his connection with Voldemort growing stronger everybody and his worst nightmares haunting him at every turn. Ootp spoilers.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Forewords: I really do have to apologise for the ungodly wait. I realise it's been over three months now, but as I've said in my lj and my ff.net bio, I have been severely ill and writing fanfiction has not been one of my top priorities. I can't make any promises, but the next one shouldn't be too long as I've just started a four week holiday break from uni.
Oh, and if anyone has gone back to my earlier chapters, you've probably noticed that I've changed the presentation of each chapter … but that's not all. As I have started posting the story on Schnoogle, I did actually change some of the content in each chapter. It isn't much, just some things I inconveniently left out the first time I updated these chapters to ff.net.
Also, this chapter will probably be reworked like all the others. I did piece this together quite quickly, so I'm sure I've left some things out that I initially intended to write … especially the chat between Harry and Dumbledore.
Harry Potter and the Green Flame Torch
Something old, something borrowed and something new
Despite Harry's buzzing scar and the slow pace he was taking down the darkened hallways, he was standing in front of the stone gargoyle in almost no time at all.
Taking a deep breath as he stared blankly at the gargoyle, he told himself, "This is it," before muttering the password. "Nauseating nougats."
The gargoyle promptly shifted aside, and the wall split in two and opened up to reveal the familiar stone staircase. Harry reluctantly stepped up onto the moving staircase, not bothering to look over his shoulder as the wall thudded to a close behind him. He fidgeted a bit anxiously as the circular staircase ascended up to the gleaming oak door with its griffon knockers.
So many times had Harry seen that gleaming oak door, knocking on it, eavesdropping behind it. But at that moment, he'd rather be anywhere else than at that door, ready to knock, because being in that room would bring back painful memories of the day Sirius was taken away from him, of the day Harry would rather have died than go on living with that guilt.
Sighing again, Harry shook his head and raised an arm to rap on the door.
The door opened silently against his knock, and Harry heard Dumbledore's low voice calling him in. Hesitantly, Harry took a few steps in until he could see the entirety of Dumbledore's office. It wasn't without the usual gadgets and trinkets littering every shelf and table, but Harry couldn't help noticing with a small amount of guilt, how the amount of them had dwindled.
At Harry's arrival, Fawkes – who was on his usual golden perch, preening his feathers – immediately lifted his head to look at Harry, and let out a soft, and soothing trill that immediately alleviated some of Harry's fears and apprehensions. Harry couldn't help grinning at the presence of the magnificent bird and with a lighter heart his eyes roamed around the rest of the office, until eventually his eyes rested on the old man sitting expectantly behind his desk.
Harry sighed inwardly. He couldn't waste any more time. "You asked me to see you, sir?" he asked resignedly.
Dumbledore smiled benevolently. "Yes, Harry I did. Please take a seat."
Harry cautiously sat down on the edge of a chair, not wanting to get too comfortable just yet. He placed both hands in his lap and clasped them tightly. "What did you want to see me about?"
A sigh came from Dumbledore as he leant back on his chair and his intense blue eyes closed momentarily. He opened them again and fixed Harry with a sad expression on his face. "I know things have gone off on the wrong foot again, Harry." he said. "That's why I asked you to come around now. I believe that you would have a few things you would want to say to me."
Harry was silent for a moment; torn between what he wanted to say first. He finally decided on the most practical questions first.
"Why Occlumency with Snape again?" he asked shortly. "I know you think that the hatred I have for Snape is similar to that of Voldemort's – but y-you admitted to me a-after-" Harry swallowed, his eyes lowering as he played with the arm rest. "You said that it was a mistake to have Snape teach me. I thought you understood then. Wh– why didn't you want- why didn't you just teach me?"
"Oh, Harry," breathed Dumbledore, leaning back in his chair. Fawkes gave a mournful cry over by his perch. "It's not that I didn't want to teach you. You are very important to me-"
"As what?" Harry interrupted suddenly, sitting up straight. "As the only wizard with the power to kill Voldemort-"
"No." Dumbledore replied so vehemently that Fawkes and Harry both jumped. "No Harry. You are more than that. You have always been more than that. I care about you, about just Harry. I just wanted to protect you."
"If you cared about just me, then you wouldn't have sent me to the Dursleys and kept me there every year since." Harry cried, his voice steadily growing louder as he tried to look anywhere but at the Headmaster. "And if you cared about me you wouldn't have ignored me for the better half of last year.
Harry continued on, a choked sob blocking his throat. "I – I know I haven't always told you every- everything going on in my life, but you didn't even give me the chance. The only person I could count on was Sirius – a- and he's gone. How do I know you won't just do what you did last year?"
Dumbledore looked down at his desk. "I know, Harry. I don't blame you for feeling like that, and for that I deeply apologise."
"Well what about you keeping everything from me?" Harry demanded, swallowing his anger. "I wanted to know what was going on before last summer. I asked Sirius and Remus and they couldn't tell me. Why didn't you just tell me then? I was ready, I could have handled it. I've handled everything else thrown at me. Didn't you say that to me after the Tournament? That I've handled more than an average wizard had and I was still able to come out of it alive?"
"Of course Harry. I could never discredit you for any of the things you've done."
"But why?" Harry pleaded desperately. "Please tell me why you're still doing it! You didn't bother telling me about Snape teaching me Occlumency. You sent me a letter."
"The vision you experienced the other night was extremely dangerous for you," said Dumbledore, looking very solemn. "Voldemort could have easily become aware of that link and exploited it for his own sadistic purposes. Remus contacted me immediately, and after deliberating on it for a while, I admit I had to make a quick decision. I would have told you in person about my decision to have Professor Snape teach you again, but the Order meeting was called last night and I was unable to."
That brought up something else that Harry had been wondering about. "I want to join the Order." he said simply.
"Oh Harry." sighed Dumbledore. "You know you can't. You have neither reached the legal age nor graduated from Hogwarts."
"And what?" Harry forced out through gritted teeth. "You think Voldemort's going to wait until I graduate before he attacks? He has no morals. If he can try and kill a one year old, you think he's going to care now if I am of legal age or not?"
"Harry, I promise I will not keep anything important from you anymore but I cannot allow you to join the Order." Dumbledore maintained rigidly. "It is much too risky at this stage, and I do not want these thoughts occupying your mind whilst you are still at school. I want you to worry about your schoolwork more than what Voldemort is planning."
"But I can't forget he's around," protested Harry. "My scar won't let me forget, and neither will that prophecy. I know that it will ultimately be me that has to kill him. How can that possibly escape my mind?"
The sheer desperation of this statement caused Fawkes to leave his perch and fly over to land on Harry's shoulder, all the while crooning gently. Harry gratefully stroked the phoenix as Dumbledore spoke again.
"That is why I did not tell you sooner." The headmaster admitted lamentably. "You would not have been able to cope with these same feelings any earlier. I am regretful that you even know now. It is a heavy burden on your shoulders, Harry. One that you should not feel is necessary."
Harry stopped his stroking to give Dumbledore an incredulous look. "But it is necessary." he objected. "Voldemort's going to wage a war on the whole world if I don't do something to stop him, kill him."
"Listen to me Harry." Dumbledore said firmly, his blue eyes boring unrelentingly into Harry. "This war will not only count on you, Harry. There are many elements that depend on other players, so to speak."
"Like Sn- Professor Snape." Harry said, thinking hard. "You can find out what Voldemort's plans are through his spying."
Dumbledore nodded. "That is one."
"And Hagrid is another, right?" Harry guessed. "You wanted to try and bargain with all of Voldemort's old allies. Like the giants."
A small smile crept up onto Dumbledore's face and he stroked his beard thoughtfully. "For somebody not being informed of everything, you do know quite a bit, don't you?"
"Hagrid told us." Harry mumbled sheepishly, turning away to look at Fawkes again.
Dumbledore laughed. "I am not upset. Rather I am proud you have managed to gain so much information from the little that has been given to you."
"Hermione might have something to do with that." Harry admitted, hiding back a slight flush. He hadn't been expecting Dumbledore to praise him for anything. He didn't think he deserved any.
Going back to the situation on hand, Harry bit his lip as he pieced together everything Dumbledore had said, eventually asking, "So – when it all comes down to it, I won't be the only one in this war."
"No you won't be."
"But I'll still have to find a way to kill Voldemort." Harry pressed.
"Then can I – can I try and prepare for it? I was thinking about extra lessons –" Harry trailed off apprehensively, but was spurred on by Dumbledore's reassuring gaze. "Defence or duelling lessons with Tonks maybe?"
"I see that having such lessons will come to no harm." Dumbledore slowly acquiesced. "I will ask Tonks."
"Could I also continue with the DA?" Harry added hesitantly. "I know with Tonks as our DADA professor, it won't really be necessary, but-"
"But learning from a student such as yourself is more effective and you have already had many students coming up to ask you about it. Am I right in saying that?"
Harry nodded wordlessly.
"Do not despair." Dumbledore assured Harry. "I have already given my permission for Professor McGonagall to approach you with that. May I make one suggestion though?"
Harry nodded again.
"It might be more prudent to change the words behind those initials, hmm." Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling madly.
Harry couldn't help himself; he laughed. "Defence Association okay?" he suggested, smiling.
Dumbledore inclined his head slightly. "Most certainly, Harry." He looked down at a rather unusual looking object on his desk and Harry watched as his expression turned to one of alarm. "Oh dear me." he exclaimed. "I do apologise for keeping you so late. You should be sleeping right now."
Harry took a look at his own trusty watch, which also agreed it was way past his bedtime. Harry raised from his seat without complaint and allowed Fawkes to fly off his shoulder and over to Dumbledore. He felt as though he'd gotten out as much as he could handle for one night, and he was absolutely bushed.
He headed for the door after a polite goodnight to the Headmaster.
Harry turned around.
"Do not feel you no longer have anyone to talk to." Dumbledore said softly. "I am well aware there is an ex-professor with a certain mirror in his possession, and there is always me. I meant what I said before. I won't make that same mistake again."
"Thank you Professor." Harry said solemnly, his heart constricting momentarily. He turned back around, his hand twisting the door handle. It opened easily and Harry quietly exited the office.
Harry didn't remember much of the journey back to his dorm. The incessant pounding in his head made a re-entrance as he walked, so as soon as he reached his bed, and his head hit his pillow, Harry wasted no time in drifting off to sleep.
The next morning at breakfast, Harry kept Dumbledore's meeting to himself, choosing only to give Ron and Hermione a brief description of his Occlumency lesson. Nevertheless, they seemed satisfied that he had confided in them, and Ron suggested they have a nice game of chess after classes had finished.
Harry had agreed with a wry grin, before finishing his breakfast hurriedly and following his friends to class. Their first DADA lesson with Tonks was first up and he, for once, was excited about going.
When the Gryffindor sixth years – all who had arrived early like Harry, Ron and Hermione - waited outside the Defence classroom, Tonks was already inside, repairing a student's chair with her wand. Why it was broken before any classes had begun, Harry didn't know, but with Tonks he had come to realise that nothing was unbreakable in her presence. She was truly a clutz, worse even than Neville.
"Ah!" she exclaimed, catching sight of the students outside. Harry swore she gave him a furtive wink. "Wotcher! Come in, come in." Tonks quickly ushered the class in and waited as everyone sat down. Harry, Ron and Hermione managed to snag tables at the front, Harry carefully avoiding the newly repaired chair. Just in case.
"Wotcher everyone!" Tonks said again, when everyone was ready and looking at her expectantly. "And welcome to Defence Against the Dark Arts. I've been told that you must call me Professor Tonks," Tonks face showed how much she liked that. "but outside of class, feel free to call me Tonks."
She casually leant onto her desk, spilling a pot of ink in the process. A quick wave of her wand cleaned it up and she grinned sheepishly. "Now, first things first, I'm an auror-"
"But you look so young!" Seamus gasped in awe. Harry had heard the boy earlier telling Dean how hot their new DADA professor was.
Tonks patted her still long brown hair self-consciously and flushed slightly. "It all depends on the look. See-" And here Tonks face took on a concentrated look.
Suddenly, at a remarkably fast pace, her hair simultaneously shortened and changed into a light grey. Her nose also grew elongated and wrinkles began to appear all over her face.
Seamus gasped, not the only one in the class who looked utterly horrified. Only Harry, Ron and Hermione remained unperturbed at the familiar scene, smiling faintly.
"See," Tonks continued on smugly, looking like a shrivelled old lady. "Age has nothing to do with my looks."
With that, Tonks resumed a short gold and red hairdo, and her youthful grin. "Of course, I am actually young, as Mr-"
It took a while for Seamus to answer before he stuttered, "Finnigan." He shook his head for a moment before asking, "What are you?"
"A Metamorphagus." Tonks replied promptly, causing more gasps, but this time in awe. "I can morph, so to speak, any parts of my body into partaking different features."
"That is so cool." Lavender breathed, looking awestruck. Harry saw her nudge Parvati and then heard her whisper in her ear, "Imagine being able to morph away my nose."
"Yes, this is quite a useful gift." Tonks admitted, "Certainly makes up for my clumsiness."
The class seemed unsure whether or not to laugh, but Harry and Ron had no such restraint and snickered to themselves.
"Now," Tonks said briskly, bringing attention back to the lesson. "I'm going to put you in random pairs to see what kind of defence spells you use instinctively." Tonks looked around the class, frowning slightly. Eventually she pointed her wand toward Ron and Hermione. "Okay, how about Mr Weasley and Miss Granger go together … you and – you-" Here she pointed to Seamus and Dean. "Mr Potter you can go with – oops sorry." For here Tonks pointed her wand a bit aggressively at poor Neville Longbottom and sparks flew out of her wand and onto his desk, almost sizzling his hands.
"That's Neville Longbottom." Harry supplied for Tonks, who clearly couldn't remember any of the names she had been given.
"Right, Neville – I mean Longbo- Mr Longbottom." She stopped, frustrated and added simply. "No, you know what. Screw what McGonagall said, I'm calling you by your first names."
The class laughed and then Tonks added rather bashfully, "Don't go telling her I said that though, mind."
She stopped again and looked around at the class. "Okay, well Harry you go with Neville. Umm and you two girls can go together. What's your names' again? Peach and Pavlova?"
"Lavender and Parvati." The two girls chorused quickly, both girls looking rather put-off.
Tonks gave a sheepish grin. "It seems I have a bit of an affinity to food" she said, shrugging in apology, then turned back to the class. "Okay, Lavender and Parvati. That seems to be everyone." She clapped her hands. "So get into your pairs."
"Now first of all, what spells have you learnt?" Tonks asked as everybody stood next to their assigned partner; Harry giving Neville a sideways grin.
As usual, Hermione raised her hand first, but for once, she wasn't the only one. Almost everybody raised their hand, including Harry.
Tonks eventually picked Neville who had a timid hand up.
Neville lowered his hand and flicking his eyes toward Harry, he listed off all the things they'd learnt in the DA.
"Well," Tonks said after Neville had finished. "That's quite a lot. No doubt none of those came from that toad's class."
"No," Neville replied nervously. He probably thought it mightn't be a good idea to "It was from something else."
"Like Harry's little DA class I bet." Tonks said, grinning. The class stopped to look at her in amazement. "Yes, I've heard about your little extracurricular group. Don't all look at me like I've sprouted another head. All the staff at Hogwarts know about Dumbledore's Army."
Much of the class giggled at that.
Tonks continued on, "And I know how useful that class was for you lot. None of you failed, most achieving an average of Exceeding Expectations, if not Outstanding, I might add."
Harry wasn't aware of that little piece of information and he shared a surprising glance with Hermione and Ron, before focusing his attention back on the energetic Professor, who had just tripped over Dean's school bag.
Clumsiness aside, Tonks spent the rest of the lesson having the assigned partners going through duelling manoeuvres with the spells and curses they had already learnt. It was hard work and Harry exited the classroom with a considerable more amount of bumps and bruises than he had going in.
Nevertheless, it was refreshing to actually do something useful in that class, and along with Neville's drastic improvement, and a quick confirmation from Tonks to start some after class Defence lessons, Harry was also happily reminded of the time Remus had taught that very same class.
Smiling to himself, Harry chatted to his friends as they made their way to their next class.
After lunch, Harry and Ron parted from Hermione and headed off outside, towards Hagrid's hut. Hagrid greeted them with a grin before turning to the class that had settled in front of him.
"Welcome ter sixth year Care of Magical Creatures." Hagrid boomed. "This year's goin' ter count towards yeh NEWT's, so I don't need no any o'yeh's to muck about or else I'll fail yeh."
Hagrid looked at the few remaining Slytherins in the class as he said that, but then turned back to the rest of the class. "Now I got a special treat for yeh all today."
The majority of the class tittered in unease. When it came to Hagrid introducing their new projects, no matter how much Harry liked Hagrid, even he'd still be nervous.
Luckily it seemed it wasn't going to be one of those Blast Ended Screwt kind of projects, because when Hagrid announced the magical animal they would be taking care of for the next few weeks – the Diricawl - Ron slumped in relief beside Harry and a collective sigh was heard from a few other students.
"Not dangerous?" Harry guessed softly.
Ron nodded, before the two boys resumed listening to Hagrid's conversation.
"Now Diricawl's aren't the bravest of creatures." Hagrid was saying. "Any loud noises or unexpected movements can cause 'em to vanish in a burst of feathers."
There was a loud murmuring from the class at that, and Harry and Ron grinned at each other.
"Muggles have their own name fer them. Think it's dodo bird or somethin'." Hagrid scratched his enormous beard for a few moments in thought and then shrugged. "Anyway, I managed ter catch a few and have them penned up behind me hut here. Follow me, and be quiet." With that said, Hagrid motioned for them to stay quiet with one large finger, and follow him around the corner.
Harry and Ron fell into step behind Hagrid, and Harry looked over his shoulder to see the rest of the class following suit. Malfoy's two goons looked lost without Malfoy – who, like Hermione had continued on with Arithmancy instead - and they ambled on around the back of the group.
"Can't believe Malfoy's dropped this class." Ron whispered gleefully, looking at the two brutes as well. "No potions, no Care of Magical Creatures with Malfoy – I'd say this year has started out pretty good for me."
"Lucky you." Harry murmured sarcastically under his breath as they walked. He knew it was a bit petty, but Ron needn't rub his great luck in Harry's face. Harry was having a bad enough time as it was.
"Here we are." Hagrid whispered deeply when they all walked around to the back of his hut. Like the rest of the class, Harry immediately latched his eyes onto the dozen or so small pens in one corner of the yard.
Each pen held one diricawl in it - pecking away at the ground - but it was easily large enough to fit more than that.
"I put them in separate pens for th' lesson." Hagrid explained softly, waving his arm around. "Don't get so scared then."
He walked up the pens, his feet making thumping noises on the ground. The diricawls started only slightly at the sound, but seemed used to the lumbering half-giant, and resumed their hunting for worms.
Harry looked on curiously. Diricawls had to be one of the most unusual birds he had ever seen. They looked a mixture of a chicken mated with an ostrich – or something of the sort. They had large, rounded beaks, small stubby wings that were undoubtedly not suited to flying, and a rather plump sort of body. All in all, they looked rather stupid and soon the class were sniggering under their breaths.
"They're pretty strong and bulky, but Diricawls aren't the cleverest of birds," Hagrid explained as he threw in a bucket of worms into one pen. The Diricawl quickly scampered over and began pecking with its beak. "otherwise they would have thought ter vanish out of the pen, even when not in danger."
"Reminds me of some people I know," Ron mumbled, looking over at Crabbe and Goyle.
"Now who wants ter try approachin' one?" Hagrid asked with a grin. He seemed happy that the class weren't complaining about them yet. "They won't bite."
As usual, the Slytherins all backed away; none wanting to show any interest in the class. The Gryffindors were just as bad. Ron didn't move a muscle.
Eventually, Harry sighed, and stepped forward. It was getting rather predictable now for him to volunteer first – and rather tiring.
"I will." he said, looking at Hagrid.
"Good," Hagrid looked back, pleased. "You can come o'er ter Phyllis here."
Harry looked back at Ron momentarily - lifting his eyebrows up at the name Hagrid had picked – before turning back to Phyllis.
"Uh, what am I supposed to do?" Harry asked quietly, watching as Phyllis took a nervous step back at his presence.
"You can give it a feed," said Hagrid, "then if she lets yer, open the latch ter th' pen, walk inside and give her a pat."
Slowly, Harry did as he was asked, sprinkling all sorts of small insects into the grass that covered the pen floor. Phyllis automatically began foraging for the insects, all attention on Harry quickly forgotten. Looking back at Hagrid who shrugged, Harry flipped the latch onto the pen as quietly as possible, before tiptoeing inside and up to the large bird.
For something that Ron didn't consider dangerous, Harry was quite alarmed to see up close the sharp talons on the diricawl's feet, and the curved, rather pointed beak. He forced back a gulp as he extended his hand to the still eating bird, taking care to keep it well away from the beak.
His hand inched closer and closer to the feathers until it wavered just above Phyllis's back. He waited anxiously for any sort of a response, either positive or negative, and when he didn't, Harry cautiously laid his hand on the bird's back and gently began to stroke it. Phyllis made a low keening sound at the back of her throat, but continued to eat.
Harry relaxed, and stroked the bird for a few more moments before he backed away and came back out to where the rest of the class were waiting.
Hagrid was beaming. "Well done, Harry," he said. "No harm done – just like I said. Now, let's spread out and find one ter look after yourselves."
Harry rejoined Ron.
"Good thing Hermione helped him to work out how to make a class plan." he said softly. "Otherwise I'm sure Hagrid would've tried to get as many illegal creatures he possibly could for this year."
Ron agreed and went to introduce himself to Phyllis, whilst Harry watched on. Like Harry, Ron had no trouble, and as Ron apprehensively patted Phyllis, Harry then flicked his gaze over to the rest of the class. Thankfully nobody, including the Slytherins, seemed to be having any problems at all with the dumb birds, which was a relief. After being put on probation last year, Hagrid really didn't need any more mishaps in class.
However, Harry thought too soon. As Lavender went to approach her diricawl, she accidentally tripped over a fallen branch and squeaked loudly as she landed on the ground. This started a chain of reaction and the diricawl closest to her squawked loudly and flapped its wings before disappearing in the cloud of feathers that Hagrid had explained about. Lavender looked shocked as another followed and her bucket of insects dropped unnoticed onto the ground.
"Ah," said Hagrid, looking, like the rest of the class, at the pile of feathers the two diricawls had left behind. "Ne'er mind. Plenty more for yer to look at. Come along Miss Brown."
Lavender, still looking shaken joined up with Parvati, but apart from another diricawl vanishing – courtesy of Crabbe, who stepped on its foot – the class proceeded along relatively well by Hagrid's standards. Harry was even finding the lesson enjoyable, his and Ron's diricawl, Phyllis quite the comedian. At one time Phyllis had even seemed to want to change diets and began to nibble on Ron's robe.
"Stop it, you great ugly brute." Ron had complained, trying to yank his robe out of Phyllis's beak. After a fierce battle, he had eventually succeeded, but there were half-eaten insects stuck to it. Harry had laughed at the disgusted look on Ron's face as he gingerly picked off the insects.
After that, the bell rang in no time at all, and the class slowly exited the pen for their next lesson. Both having a free period, Harry and Ron stayed behind a bit longer to help Hagrid clean up.
Hagrid closed off the last pen. "It's time to see yer present, Harry." said Hagrid, looking absolutely thrilled.
Ron, obviously aware of what kind of presents Hagrid was capable of giving, quickly excused himself and told Harry that'd he catch up with Hermione - who also had a free period - before meeting back up with him a bit later on.
"Don't forget yer welcome to come and see me anytime Ron," Hagrid said as Ron went to walk away. "Tell Miss Hermione that though she ain't in my class anymore, I'd love ter see her too."
Ron smiled and nodded, waving as he quickly walked up to the castle.
Hagrid turned to Harry who resumed wracking his brain, trying to come up with a probable present. He really hoped it wasn't anything illegal, but it was Hagrid that was giving him the present, so he couldn't be sure.
"Now that we're all alone, I can show yer my present for yeh." said Hagrid, already starting to take giant strides. Harry noticed he was heading for where the dragon enclosure for the First Task had been, and he hurried to catch up. "It's not too far a walk."
Harry silently followed Hagrid, getting more worried by each step he made. It wasn't helped as something slowly began to emerge along the horizon; something large and quite high, with a thick cloud of smoke billowing over it. What could Hagrid have for him that was all the way out there, Harry asked himself, squinting his eyes over to that heap.
It wasn't until Harry was face to face with that heap did he realise what it was; a reasonably large bonfire, crackling away happily. It did nothing to assuage Harry's fears and he looked at it suspiciously. What on earth was Hagrid up to?
"'Ere yer go, Harry," Hagrid announced happily, oblivious to Harry's apprehension. "I thought yer might like some extra companionship this year."
Harry, who was yet to see anything except the mounds of logs and burning charcoal in the fire, asked hesitantly, "Where is it?"
Hagrid pointed an enormous finger at the fire. "Why it's in the fire, Harry."
"I don't have to go - in there, do I?" Harry asked, peering nervously at the fire. He was over ten feet away from the fire and he could feel the almost intolerable heat stinging his bare face. There was no way he was moving any closer.
There was a loud booming laugh, and Harry was almost pitched into the fire when Hagrid gave him a hearty pat on the back.
"No, 'course not, but I expect you'll find out if yer just listen carefully."
Frowning slightly, Harry did what Hagrid had asked. He strained his ears, listening for any unusual or out of place sounds. At first, Harry could only hear the crackles of the fire as the firewood and charcoal burnt slowly, but then he began to hear a soft, sibilant voice coming from the fire, as though it really was in the fire.
"… nice and warm, we is, my babies and I …"
Harry's face must have shown his confusion as he continued to listen to the voice, because Hagrid laughed again. "I knew yeh'd hear her."
"They're a little family of ashwinder snakes." Hagrid answered, looking at the bonfire proudly. "A mum and her eggs. See usually, ashwinder snakes only live long enough out of their fire ter lay their eggs, but a friend of mine see, who used ter live in Hawaii, managed to cross-breed an ashwinder with a muggle type snake. A boa constructor I think, so 'ere we have a snake that can thrive both in and out of fire, and live longer – Ah, here we are."
Harry watched in amazement as the snake he had heard talking suddenly materialised from underneath a large piece of wood. It was a beautiful and fiery-looking snake; well camouflaged with her dark red and black scales. Harry caught a flash of pink as a long, sleek tongue poked out of a fanged mouth.
"Giant man keepssss good care for ussss," the snake hissed, flicking her tongue out again as she circled Hagrid's feet. Hagrid plunged a hand into his pocket and brought out a dead mice, which he threw at the snake. She gobbled it up whole, before flicking her tongue an third time. "I likesss him."
Harry watched on, amazed, and found himself stuck on the spot as the snake coiled around Hagrid's ankles.
"Well, go on then. Say somethin' ter her." Hagrid prodded eagerly, unperturbed that the snake was burning a slight hole in his pants legs.
Unsure of what to say, Harry took a cautious step forward and settled for an awkward – if snakes can talk awkwardly that is - "Hello." He hadn't tried using Parseltongue since opening the Chamber of Secrets in second year, so he was a bit out of practice. He wasn't even sure if it would even come out properly.
It seemed to work though. The snake immediately stopped and its head turned appraisingly until it caught Harry's eyes.
"You speak my tongue, young boy?" it asked in amazement.
"Uh, yes." Harry answered, feeling a bit uncomfortable under the snake's scrutiny. It was the first time he'd had a real conversation with a snake, other than the one in the zoo, and he wasn't exactly sure on any snake etiquette or anything.
"I have not ever talked to one of your kind before." The snake hissed, uncoiling itself from Hagrid, and slithering back to the ground.
She then moved over to Harry who didn't get a chance to voice a protest as the snake began to coil around Harry's legs. To his surprise, instead of being burnt, the snake was pleasantly warm and sent a surge of tingling heat up his spine.
Not knowing what else to do, he allowed the snake to continue its journey up his body, her long, sleek body curling around his torso.
When the snake reached Harry's shoulder, the snake finally stopped and hissed into Harry's ear.
"My name is Asis," she said, "and I come from the volcanoes in what your kind call Hawaii … but I likes it better here with the man-giant."
"My name is Harry," Harry supplied, tentatively touching the scaly skin of Asis with one finger. Asis hissed her approval and leaned eagerly into the touch. Harry smiled, his fingers continuing their movements.
"Are you going to stay here with me, Harry?" Asis asked.
Harry thought for a minute before answering, "I go to school here at this castle, so I won't be able to stay with you, but I can come see you sometimes, if you like?"
"I would like that, Harry." Asis replied calmly. "I gets lonely here sometimes, with just my babies and I."
"Your babies?" Harry asked politely.
"Yes." Asis replied. "I have many babies, but none ready for hatching."
She seemed a bit sad at that and Harry stroked her again. "I get lonely too sometimes." he admitted, then had another thought. "You're welcome to come visit me up in the castle with Hagrid – the man-giant, if you like."
It would probably send half the school in hysterics, including Ron, but Harry couldn't care less what other people thought anymore. Not after the events of the last year.
He was brought out of his dark thoughts as Asis's tongue flicked his ear. "Thank you Harry … I likes talking to you."
Harry felt a warmth swelling in his chest and he smiled. "Me too, Asis."
If snakes could smile, Harry was sure Asis was doing it at that moment. Her mouth was bared open, revealing her fangs and that forked tongue again. "I must get back to my babies now. Can you put me down?"
Harry nodded and gently extricated his shoulders from her tight grip. Then, just as gently, he lowered her onto the ground. She flicked her tail in response.
"Bye," Harry called out as Asis retreated back into the fire.
When Harry turned back to Hagrid, he found Hagrid beaming proudly again.
"A snake?" Harry enquired, not nastily. In fact, his mood had lightened even more at having a chance to talk to Asis. Like that snake he had talked to at the zoo that time, it was rather relaxing and rewarding talking to her. She didn't seem evil, even though she was a snake, and she certainly didn't have any expectations of him. It would be nice to talk to her.
Hagrid shrugged his massive shoulders. "Thought yer might like someone ter talk to, and seeing as yeh have this gift an' all, why waste the chance?"
A slow grin spread across Harry's face. It was the first time someone was calling his parseltongue ability a gift, rather than a curse … and he liked it. "Thanks Hagrid, really. It'll be great having a chat with her."
As they walked back into his hut, he added. "By the way, her name's Asis, and she seems to like you a lot. Better than at her old home."
A pallid flush appeared on Hagrid's face and he threw a careless hand around. "That's nonsense, that." But he looked plenty pleased about it for a while as he busied himself with filling the teapot. "Fancy a cuppa with me, Harry?"
"Oh no," Harry said, realising the time. The last lesson was almost over. "I promised to pop into the castle and meet up with Ron and Hermione."
"Say 'ello to Hermione too, will yeh Harry?" Hagrid asked as Harry stood up and headed for the door, "Don't want her feelin' bad at not bein' in my class anymore."
"Will do," Harry nodded, heading for the door. "Catch y'later, Hagrid."
A/N: This was an extremely long chapter, (6,000) so I hope it's enough to tide you over until the next update.
At first I was going to have Harry getting a pet snake, like a runespoor, but after reading sooo many fics where he has one, I decided to use a variation of the 'ashwinder snake'. What do you all think about my choice for Hagrid's present? I mean do you think that's the sort of animal that Hagrid would bring for Harry? You know, cross-breeding and all.
And by the way, what did you think about Hagrid's accent? Was it genuine enough? Not too much? I know it gets annoying when people write Hagrid's speech like he can't say one word right.
Ah well. Like it? Hate it? Please tell me in a review!
As usual, thanks goes to SPASH Panther, sour-peach, john, jac, Lily and James Potter, LunaLovegood61, Serpent of Light Bellatrix013, Avvy Kavvy,
Magical Myth and Snake's wing for reviewing.
And an extended thanks to:
Emma Victoria Arden: Thanks for another great and long review! I luv 'em! Anyway … yeah, I liked writing the last couple of chapters, seeing as Snape was a major player in them. Tonks is a great character to write too. Her first lesson is this chapter, so you'll get to see how the klutz ahem I mean auror goes, lol. And to set your mind at ease before you read on, no, Dumbledore doesn't have any bad news for Harry. (It took me ages to write the conversation between Harry and Dumbledore this chapter, though – he is a great character, but he's sooo hard to write)
Nana-hedwig: Lol, me too! Can't get enough of them! About Snape's behaviour though … I think after what happened with Snape's pensieve last year, any tolerance Snape had for Harry would be completely wiped from his mind now. Its obvious that Snape has a little problem with holding grudges a wee bit, so in my personal opinion, I think it's going to take drastic measures for Snape to lighten up on Harry … and perhaps you'll be seeing these drastic measures later on, he he. Thanks for reviewing again!
Antagonist Len: Yay, a new reader! Thanks for reviewing, I'm glad you like it so far. Oh and Mark Evans' existence in this story is still being decided ... At the moment, he is merely a boy from Harry's neighbourhood. Later, though? I'm not quite sure … but I won't be focusing too much on it. There'll be plenty of other things to worry about!.
Dragonsprincess: Lol … but who wouldn't want to see Snape explode? He he – Nah, that was a typo. You were right. Thanks for telling me. I probably wouldn't have noticed it otherwise. And by the way I am reallyverysorry for not updating for such a long time.
Expecto Patronum0: Blushes, thanks for your review!! It's great to hear from a new reader! Oh and as for Snape and Harry accepting each other, that won't be happening for a long time … I'm trying to keep them in character as much as possible, having them gradually change as they learn more about each other, rather than poof and Harry and Snape are best friends, lol.
Kyntor: I definitely agree that there needs to be more interaction between Harry and Dumbledore. But the thing is, their little meeting in Chapter Four was not even a smidgeon of what Harry is keeping inside. It's just at that point of the story, Harry was more thinking about the consequences of his own actions. He was feelingashamed, guilty and really in quite a self-pitiful mood. So having Dumbledore privately seeking him out and keeping his auror hopes alive wasn't exactly the right time to sprout out how unfair Dumbledore's been acting towards him. It's only now that Dumbledore seems to be repeating his actions from last year that Harry's not going to hold back this time around. So I hope you have stuck around long enough to read this chapter, because you'll have perhaps seen what I meant.
TJ: I am planning on Harry having private lessons with Tonks … but there will be other people joining in from time to time (I won't tell you who though, don't want to spoil anything yet, lol). Also, thanks for the offer to be a beta reader … unfortunately, I have one already!! Sorry about that.
Aliba: Lol, yeah, poor Harry. Snape always loves antagonising him and unfortunately that won't be changing for a while. Snape doesn't quite know how to let grudges go yet. And thanks for your second comment. I really detest poor grammar and spelling as well, so I didn't want to make the same mistake other authors have made. It really did take a while editing each and every chapter though. I mean I obviously had a beta reader for much of it, but I also spent ages adding and changing a few things to fit the story more, etc, etc. That also includes that little section where Harry and Mark talked a few chapters ago. I remember you saying something about it not quite fitting so I did change it slightly. If you have the time, can you tell me what ya think? Lastly, I did want to thank you for adding me to your favourites list. It really does mean a lot for somebody to tell me that! So thanks! And feel free to harass me anytime on updating chapters. It keeps me motivated to write, especially as of late, where I've been really sick and miserable.
Prongs79:Lol, glad to hear. Thanks for reviewing!
Claire: You probably won't find that particular little tidbit out until perhaps the Christmas holidays, which as you can probably realise is quite a while away. Sorry bout that, but at least I know it will keep you on your toes waiting for each new chapter ;)
Jack Robinson: First of all I do have to say thank you for reviewing so many chapters (of all my stories)!! It was refreshing to read each and every one and I am so glad that you have enjoyed all of them so far. I'll try and respond to everything you said, but be prepared for a long response ;). Anyway, uh you were actually the first to point out the link between both stories (I think), so thanks for noticing! As for Mark Evans, I'm not sure what I'll be doing with him at the moment. I'm still torn between making him a blood relative to Harry, and not, but for now I reckon I won't have him as a really important character. Now onto your comment on R/H. I am hoping R/H will happen in the sixth book. I know a lot of people still hold out on H/H, but with all the blatant hints in the previous five books, I really do think R/H will happen something like what I am planning, so I'm glad you agree. Anyway, thanks for reviewing. I hope you continue to read on!
Kathryn the Great 787: That's okay, I haven't been updating lately, lol. Thanks for reviewing anyway - I'm relieved that after 12 chapters I haven't yet lost that extra touch I was hoping was similar to JKR's style. It is quite hard to maintain that style; so many fics I've read eventually dwindle out and all the characters, plot, etc, etc, end up ooc.