The Green Flame Torch
Summary: Something's afoot in the Ministry, and things are about to get even stranger than normal for Harry and his friends as they return for their sixth year at Hogwarts
Warnings: Spoilers for OotP, slash, character death, angst, fluffiness, etc, etc.
Pairings: SB/HP pre-slash. If you don't like it, don't read it. It will get more into the slash bit about halfway through this story. Other pairings will crop up later.
Notes: This is my answer to reading Order of the Phoenix. If you haven't read it, please turn back now. This story will be updated every two weeks, alternating Tuesdays with when I upload Gifts.
Harry abruptly sat up, sweat running in rivulets down sopping wet hair and hot cheeks. His eyes felt horribly swollen from the crying he must have done in his dream.
Why did he have to dream about Sirius now? He had thought he had settled a bit now that he had been in Privet Drive for almost a month.
Harry pulled on his glasses and looked around his room, eyes resting on Hedwig's empty cage for a brief moment before moving to the picture he had set up on his desk. In it, Sirius and Remus were waving at the camera, as they ran from an angry James, whose hair was a bright green. He had found it in his photo album and set it up on advice from Lupin.
It had hurt so terribly looking at the picture at first, and even now it still stung.
Why did he have to fall behind that stupid veil? And why hadn't Harry tried harder at that Occlumency thing, even if Snape was one of the greatest bastards he'd ever known. Because that's what tore Harry up the most, was his own failure to correct the situation in the making.
Tearing his eyes away, he looked at the small pile of birthday gifts he had left on his desk early this morning before dragging himself to bed. Hermione had sent him a book on aurors. Harry had written back a thank you note, but couldn't bring himself to tell her that he didn't think he wanted to be an auror anymore. Ron, on the other hand, had sent him something he could use - he had been scouting out number 12 Grimmauld Place and found out that his dad and a couple members of the order had managed to wrangle Fudge into saying that Harry's quidditch ban, as well as the rest of Umbridge's stupid 'Educational Decrees' were null and void. Of course, what was the icing on top of that was Ron saying that Umbridge had been seen talking to herself in Diagon Alley, muttering about horsehair. Other than that, Ron had promised that Harry's physical present was waiting for him at headquarters for when he arrived.
Twelve days from now, though, Harry would have to force himself to step into his godfather's old house. For once he was glad to stay with the Dursleys, especially if it meant ripping open the wounds that had just scabbed over. Even if 'the big D' was a pain in the arse.
Shaking his head, he let his thoughts drift to the present that Lupin had sent him besides the picture. It wasn't much, since Harry knew he hadn't had work since leaving Hogwarts, but it *was* the thought that counted in this case. Aside from confessing that the older man missed his friend terribly, he had included several stories about their students days in which they hadn't been torturing Snape. Most were from when the boys had been learning how to become animagi, and so involved horribly transfigured limbs and Harry's own father having to wear a set of antlers in human form for four hours before they could figure out what went wrong. This was a treasure that he savored, and he had already read the parchment so many times it looked quite old.
Harry finally pulled himself out of his thoughts and his bed as he heard movement down the hall in his aunt and uncle's bedroom. While Moody's threats had worked on Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia had taken a different approach to Harry that he found disconcerting. At times she would be very cloying, then abruptly switch to ignoring him totally for the rest of the day. It wasn't very consistent, so Harry was never sure what she would be like when he ventured downstairs. Her behavior, while confusing sometimes to the extreme, seemed like she couldn't decide whether or not she should care about her only nephew.
A noise at the window distracted him for a moment, and he turned to watch as Hedwig flew in through the curtains Aunt Petunia had put in the other day. The snowy owl landed softly on Harry's shoulder and gave a quick, affectionate nibble to his ear, before moving over to the stand Harry had erected beside his desk. Harry gave her a smile, before frowning at the pile of homework he still had to complete.
He had been surprised at the results from the OWLs, so much that he'd sworn in front of the Dursleys - which, if it had happened even the summer before would have resulted in the locked door again - when the tawny owl appeared at the breakfast table three days before his birthday. With the results had been the homework assignments for summer, including a torturous length of potions essay to complete that Harry just knew Snape gave out because he was in advanced potions. Snape would have to be sadistic like that.
Still, he was impressed by how well he'd done, though he thought that on the Astronomy OWL every one of them had done well. All of those on the turret had been distracted by the attack on Hagrid, and subsequently on McGonagall. Not counting that, he'd gotten ten OWLs, which was very good indeed, even if it was compared to Hermione's twelve.
But it didn't count for very much in his eyes. He'd had no one to really share in the good news, like any of his friends did. When he'd gotten his results, he had wanted to write to Sirius right away, to tell him how well he'd done on his OWLs.
And then he remembered. He remembered that look of fear and surprise on his godfather's face as he fell backwards into the veil. He remembered wanting so desperately to go after Sirius when he disappeared, and wanting to hurt Lupin for stopping him.
Harry ground the heels of his hands into his eyes, glasses pushed onto his forehead, wishing for one moment that he could have done something different, to stop it before it all started. He knew he couldn't, but it didn't stop him from wishing all the same. He settled himself back onto his bed, waiting for Aunt Petunia's call to help make breakfast.
It wasn't until Harry had almost fallen asleep that night when he remembered something Dumbledore had said about the Department of Mysteries. Admittedly, he couldn't remember all of what he'd been saying, given just how angry Harry had been. Still, Dumbledore had said that behind the locked door - the one Harry had wanted to open - lay a power that Harry had.
Power that he had? Why hadn't Harry known such a thing?
The question that most interested Harry, as he made himself comfortable once more on the verge of sleep, was how could he use that power to rescue Sirius?
Benedictine Marl had worked for the Ministry, first as an Auror and then an Unspeakable, for in the fifteen years since she'd graduated from Hogwarts. She'd been a seventh year in Ravenclaw when little Harry Potter had somehow defeated He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and could well remember the terror that had held everybody in its grip. It was doubly so now that she'd gone on a couple of raids on the resurrected Death Eaters.
It wasn't bad tonight, even if it was a Saturday. She was trying to finish up her last report so that she wouldn't have to come in tomorrow, and so was alone in the spacious room set aside for all Unspeakables. Not the first time she'd been alone down here in the past month, she really didn't pay too much attention to the knockings outside the main door. The first time she'd heard it, Benedictine had gone to investigate its source, only to be confronted with a bulging - and locked - door leading off from the revolving room. She'd asked her superior if it was a matter or concern, only to be told that she should ignore it. The power that resided in that room swelled and waned of its own accord, as it had no rhyme and reason to its flow.
Benedictine had just filed the last report when he heard a loud thump. She dismissed it, as she'd been hearing such things the past hour. Raising her wand, she said the apparition spell. As she did, there was a huge burst of green light, filling the subterranean floors of the Ministry of Magic building. Taking a deep breath once she stood in the middle of her own living room, Benedictine tried to apparate directly back, but something stopper her. Panicking like she hadn't done since Hogwarts when confronted with Peeves, she grabbed some floo-call powder and yelled for Minister Fudge.
As she waited for the connection to go through, all she could think was that it was the exact same color as the killing curse.
Harry suddenly found himself in the circular room in the Department of Mysteries, surrounded by a green light he'd see far too frequently in his dreams. He pinched himself to see if he was still dreaming, and held back a yelp when his fingernail dug a little too deep into his skin. He was most definitely awake.
Glancing around, Harry saw one of the doors bulging with the eerie green light coming through the cracks. Almost instinctively, he knew that this was the time he had been waiting for. Reaching out for that power he knew was his, Harry let it flow through him, losing all sense of the world.
When he came to, Harry found himself on the floor, the doors in the circular room all wide open. The door that had held his power showed nothing more than a cupboard under some stairs. Looking closer, Harry saw that it was *his* cupboard under the stairs. Curious, he took a step towards it before think that he should wait.
Instead, Harry felt a pull towards that cold chamber which held the veil. Through the open door, he could just barely see that haunting piece of black, raggedy fabric. Stepping into the chamber, he noticed that the cloud of green light moved with him. In fact, it seemed to be a part of him, a part of his magic.
Boy, could he feel his magic, when he hadn't ever before.
The closer he got to the veil, the chillier the room grew, and a wind from out of nowhere started to blow and steadily increase. By the time he stood two feet from it, Harry could hear the voices crystal clear. He sorted through them, instinctively knowing that he would hear Sirius sooner or later. Eventually, he heard him, calling out to Harry.
Taking a deep breath, Harry stepped through the veil, all the time concentrating on finding Sirius.
He walked in the strange, oppressive air that seemed to tint everything purple, feeling as if he were trudging through deep water. The air was close, pressing onto his skin. Sirius' voice grew louder the further he walked, and the pull grew stronger. Harry squinted slightly, before discerning a figure in the distance - a figure he recognized even from here.
Harry started running as fast as he could towards it.
"Sirius!" he yelled between panting breaths.
"Harry?" came the curious and totally bewildered voice of Sirius.
"Yes!" Harry shouted as he came up to Sirius. "Oh, Sirius," he breathed as he wrapped his arms around the surprised man.
"H - Harry?" Sirius' arms hung slack for a second before almost convulsively pulling Harry tight against him. "What...?"
"It wasn't your time, Sirius," Harry muttered into his shoulder, trying to hold back the tears that were pressing against the back of his closed eyelids. "It wasn't time to leave me alone."
Sirius sighed, "Harry...."
Eventually Harry felt that strange pull again. He stepped back slightly, looking up at Sirius.
"It's time to leave here, isn't it?" Sirius asked what Harry was about to ask.
Harry shrugged his shoulders, not quite able to put into words just what had guided him to this place in the first place. He had a lot of questions, but his quest to reach Sirius had been at the forefront of his mind, and the rest could wait until a later time.
"I'm not sure how," he said. "But you'd better hold tight to me."
Sirius looked at him for the briefest of moment before holding Harry in a tight embrace. As he did, the pull tugged harder than ever before, and this time he let it overtake him.
The two of them flew through the space, the air pressing ferociously against them. Harry could feel the skin on his face burn, as if he'd been working in the garden all day. The tug stopped suddenly, and he almost let go of Sirius, but he managed to hang on.
He opened eyes he hadn't realized he had even closed, and found himself back in the Department of Mysteries. Harry slowly released his arms and looked up at Sirius and started.
"Harry?" Sirius opened his pale, blue eyes, which seemed so much brighter on this side of the veil, though the room wasn't well lighted. But Harry could tell that something was much different about Sirius now that they were back *here.*
Harry didn't get to finish, as a loud thump sounded out in the circular room. He scrambled to his feet, Sirius doing the same, and hurried to the open door.
"I know," he said in a vague manner. "But there was a door earlier - " he looked around, trying to spot it. "Over there!" Harry grabbed Sirius' hand, pointing at the door they were headed to. He squeezed into the cupboard, pulling Sirius in with him. Outstretching his hand, he willed the door to shut as another thump sounded at the door of the elevator that led into the circular room. As it shut, Harry had the feeling they had just made it out as darkness overtook him.
"Boy! What is the meaning of this?" Uncle Vernon seemed to be ringing inside his head directly, instead of just bellowing in his ear.
Harry opened his eyes to find himself sprawled on the floor in front of his old cupboard. There was a strange weight on the back of his legs, and a hand in his own right hand. At first he had no idea what had happened, when he heard a groan practically in his ear. The events of last night - was it really last night? - came rushing back to him. He quickly lifted himself to his elbows and, ignoring a fuming Vernon Dursley, asked, "Sirius? You all right?"
Harry watched as the raven-haired man next to him moved at the sound of his voice. He finally saw all the changes on his godfather's face in the bright, early morning sun streaming through the windows of the front parlor. The wrinkles around the blue eyes had smoothed away, and the stress lines had disappeared, leaving Sirius looking much like he had at James and Lily's wedding.
"Harry?" Sirius' voice sounded quite young to Harry's ears as well.
Harry and Sirius both looked up to see a purple-faced Uncle Vernon towering over them.
"Vernon Dursley?" Sirius asked as he stood. Fully standing, he was a good six inches taller than Uncle Vernon. "I have a bone to pick with you about how you treat my godson."
Uncle Vernon took a step back. "But... but they s - said you d - died!"
Sirius looked at Harry as he scrambled to his feet. He shrugged. "Moody, Tonks and Lupin met me at Kings Cross when the Express came in."
He deflated a little for half a second before perking up again. "I'm alive now, so that's what counts." He looked around, the morning light illuminating all the pictures of Dudley that hung on the hallway walls. "So, what's for breakfast?"
Sirius sat on the floor of Harry's bedroom, as he watched his godson tend to his owl. He'd been *very* surprised by what he'd seen in the bathroom mirror when he'd washed up. At first, he had thought that maybe something - or someone - had done this on purpose, until he realized that it seemed to have been a process that occurred behind the veil, as if he had been slowly being erased from the physical world. A scary thought, that, but now that he was out, he wasn't going to worry about it too much. Still, he had shuddered at it, glad that Harry had his back turned at the moment. The strange air had made it so hard to breathe behind the veil, and it was only the thought of Harry that hadn't driven him mad while he was there.
He looked at his wand, turning it this way and that. Sirius didn't want to take the chance that the house was being monitored for all magic, but he was wary of trying to do anything after being behind the veil for so long. All of which made him doubt his wand because of that time. He did change back and forth between Padfoot for a short time, and he had noticed he felt *young.* Sirius felt like he had before he was tossed into Azkaban, even if he could still remember the horrors of prison.
"When do you think I should send Hedwig?"
Sirius looked up to find Harry watching him with a curious look. He had seen for himself of the power that the boy - young man, really - had recently come into. Yet, he held himself much like he had before... if only a little wiser.
"About an hour after sunset should be fine," he finally answered. Sirius pulled the letter Harry had written to Remus. Scanning it, he double-checked it for any noticeable references to himself. He wanted to make sure that, if Hedwig was intercepted like last fall, that any knowledge of Sirius remained a secret until a safer point in time.
As he folded up the parchment, there was the flutter of an owl at the window. Harry pulled out a small coin purse and gave the owl a knut, pulled what must be The Daily Prophet off its leg. As Harry unrolled it, Sirius moved to read over his shoulder.
Mysterious Force Closes Ministry of Magic for Seven Hours
Your intrepid reporter, Rita Skeeter, was there as several Aurors and Minister Cornelius Fudge finally broke through the strange barrier that refused anyone entry, starting at 10.53 last evening. The Daily Prophet, in its quest to find the truth -
Sirius snorted at that statement.
- delayed printing to bring you this story.
According to Minister Fudge, there was an urgent call to his residence stating there was a strange, green light coming from the Department of Mysteries. Attempts were then made to enter the building, but there was no progress until almost six this morning. As Aurors made their way in to the entrance to the Department of Mysteries, the doors leading to the various rooms shut of their own accord. The brave Aurors searched for any sign of magical activity, but there was not a trace to be found.
Is this the work of You-Know-Who? Albus Dumbledore, newly reinstated Headmaster of Hogwarts, said that "[You-Know-Who] would leave some kind of trace behind. It is quite unlikely that any human could perform any magic without leaving some kind of signature. The Department of Mysteries holds many kinds of magic that we, as wizards, cannot fully understand. It may just be something triggered a natural reaction between magics."
Minister Fudge stated that various Aurors and Unspeakables, who are comfortable with the objects that may be stored down there, will continue searching for clues. 'We will have people working on it around the clock. Ministry employees must have access to the building. The Ministry cannot take the chance that this will happen again."
Sirius quit reading as the story flipped to the next page. He was going everything in the article when he could feel Harry begin to tremble where their arms touched.
"Harry?" Sirius turned him around and looked into his shocked and very scared face.
"Am I a freak?" Harry asked in a little voice.
Sirius wrapped his arms around the young man, pulling him into a reassuring hug.
"You are *not* a freak, Harry. Don't let anybody tell you differently." He gently kissed the soft, messy hair that hid Harry's scar. Sirius shifted and held Harry's face between both hands. "You *are* special. I don't mean about whatever prophesy Dumbledore was talking about. You are special because of who you are." He took a breath before tucking Harry back into his arms. "I realized, in that strange place behind the veil, that you are not James and I was a fool for ever thinking such a thing."
"Sirius?" Harry moved just enough to look into his face.
"Do you really like me?"
Sirius reared back. "Like you?" he shouted.
At the look on Harry's face, he made himself calm down.
"Harry, I love *and* like you."
"I'm not my dad, though."
Sirius held Harry by the shoulders. "I know you are *not* your dad," he said, not quite sure he knew how to get what he felt across to Harry. He let out a sigh of frustration and led Harry to the bed. Once they were seated, Sirius faced Harry.
"Look, I know you aren't James. For a long time, I thought you were. I gave you that mirror, thinking that. When you didn't use it," he paused briefly at the guilty expression on Harry's face, "and when you called about Snivellus.... Moony and I talked quite a bit about that.
"Both of us - but especially me - had been hoping you would follow in your father's footsteps. I know that was wrong. And then I saw the way you fought back at the Ministry. You fought the way your mother did - that, more than anything, opened my eyes.
"I had a lot to think about on the other side. Most of what I did think about was how much I failed at the job your parents gave me." Sirius fell into silence, remembering bits and pieces of those horrible thoughts. They had been worse than being in Azkaban, because he could remember the good times as well.
"You didn't fail, Sirius," Harry suddenly said, his voice soft and still the tiniest bit trembling. "How could you fail?"
"Oh, Harry," Sirius sighed. "I didn't understand everything about you. I assumed too many things, especially this last year. You looked so much like James when you finally arrived at the house, and all I could think about what I thought should happen."
They both sank into silence. Sirius tried to keep his thoughts from wandering the paths it had taken in the past month. Was it really only a month? It was hard to believe he'd been in 'that place.'
When he'd been fighting Bellatrix, all he had seen was the archway, but after Harry had brought him back from that place, he'd seen the veil - that black cloth that seemed to move of its own accord - hanging in the middle of the archway. The veil had shuddered as Sirius had glanced at it, and there seemed to be a great calling of voices that he could faintly hear. It had been brief, and he wasn't sure if he'd really heard anything or not, so focused on Harry that everything in the peripheral was unnecessary.
A weight began to press against his side, and Sirius realized Harry must have fallen asleep. He wasn't surprised by such an action; Harry must have used a lot of energy in his rescue. Looking out the small window, he could see that the sun had risen high in the sky, which meant that they would have to wait to send Hedwig to Moony for at least another ten hours. It wouldn't be quite dark enough at nine to send the owl off - at least in this neighborhood.
There was a timid knock at the door before it opened to reveal Petunia Dursley. Sirius had only met here once before at James and Lily's wedding, and she had definitely not aged as well as her sister would have. Petunia craned her long neck around the door, looking curiously at Sirius and his sleeping companion.
"You and the b - Harry are welcome to eat lunch now," she said in a snobbish whine. Petunia pulled back quickly and shut the door with a quiet snap.
Sirius looked down at Harry. Now that he was asleep, Sirius could see the dark circles under Harry's eyes. Was that just from going to rescue him, or was that the result of sleepless nights before last night? Which also raised the question of why hadn't anyone noticed the great amount of power Harry must have used to go to the Ministry and step beyond the veil. So why hadn't anyone done something... anything? When Harry had cast that patronus last summer, there had been a great deal of havoc in both the Order and the Ministry.
What was different this time?