Harry suddenly awoke from a dream that he could not recall to find himself standing somewhere in the middle of the Forbidden Forest. He could have sworn that a moment ago he was warm and safe in his comfy four-poster in the Gryffindor boy's dorm. What he saw around him belied that belief. He was standing in what could only be termed a minor brake in the expansive foliage of the forest. Harry glared angerly at the blurry shape of a tree before him. Evidently his glasses were still on his bedside table, along with his wand.
He scanned the area around him as best he could, but saw nothing familiar. Not that there would have been anything to recognize. Harry had only been in the Forbidden Forest three times in his tenure at Hogwarts, always with someone else, and he assumed never this far in. Now he was all alone and admittedly scared, cold too. He wrapped his arms around his thin, bare chest and shivered. "If only they could see their Golden Boy now," Harry muttered darkly. Instinct told him to get his back to a tree. He moved to lean against the nearest of the ancient trees and tried to think of what to do next.
Harry silently took stock of his situation: one, he was out in the middle of the Forbidden Forest; two, he was willing to bet that the way out was the opposite way from the direction he was facing when he woke; three, he did not know what creatures lay between him and Hogwarts; four, he was as good as blind. All he could see were blurred shapes, and any creatures he ran into would have to be up close and personal for him to know they were there, let alone what they were. Harry shuddered, getting that close to some of the creatures of the forest did not appeal to him. He looked down at himself and dug his bare toes into the forest floor. Five, he was only wearing his pajama bottoms; six, no wand.
He shivered again. It was cold, very cold. He would have to find a way to warm up soon. Harry most keenly felt the absence of his wand. Without it he was defenseless. He could not help but think that now would be a good time for Voldemort to jump out from behind a bush and kill him.
"Don't worry young one, you are perfectly safe." A melodious voice drifted down from above Harry's head. He looked around for its source. "Over here," the voice called. There was a soft thud to his right. Harry quickly scrambled away from it. A shadowy blob moved toward him from where it had jumped out of a tree.
"Who- who are you?" Harry stammered, half in surprise, half from the cold.
"A friend," answered the soft lilting voice. Harry felt very stupid for being afraid. This person didn't act like they wanted to hurt him. "There is no need to worry young Harry. My name is Rowan. I'm here to help you." She spoke as if he were a cornered animal.
Harry relaxed at the words. He did not want to trust her, but, for some reason, he did. "You brought me here." At Rowan's nod he asked "Why?"
The figure in front of him shifted ever so slightly. "I have come to show you the truth."
Harry squinted at the blurry figure that he thought was a woman. He then burst out into a fit of incredulous laughter. "Show me the truth? You lure me out of bed in the middle of the night just to show me the truth!" He gasped out. "Are you an actor in a second rate television program or just stupid? Besides, if you haven't noticed I am half blind without my glasses—you did do some research before pulling this little stunt, right? It would be pointless to show me "the truth" when I can't even see it." Harry dissolved into giggles again, clutching his abused stomach. He idly began to wonder about his sanity.
The girl put her hands on her hips and let out an exasperated puff of air. "Boy's," she muttered and pressed her lips together. "Well," she said in a brisk tone, "If your eyesight is bothering you that much, we shall take care of that problem first." She took a determined step toward Harry, who was no longer laughing.
He immediately took two steps back. "What do you mean by that?" Harry asked in a trembling voice. He grimaced, showing fear at this point was not a good idea.
"What I mean," Rowan spoke slowly as if to a simple child, "is I will fix your eyesight for you. No more glasses, ever again."
Harry raised his eyebrow skeptically. "That's impossible." He had researched the subject himself very thoroughly. He even went so far as to ask Hermione in complete confidentiality if she knew anything about it.
"Anything is possible," Rowan returned with a small knowing smile.
Harry tried to stare the girl down, but it is very hard to stare someone down when you don't know exactly where their eyes are.
"Will you allow it?" Rowan asked.
"I am completely at your mercy." Harry replied dropping his hands to his sides in defeat.
"Don't be so melodramatic. That is not what I asked. Do you give your consent?" Rowan's stare seemed to penetrate his skull, even though Harry could not see her clearly.
"Fine then," He answered in a petulant voice sticking out his lower lip.
"Is that a yes?"
"Yes!" Harry screamed getting frustrated with the girl. "I'm getting cold, and you're obviously not going to let me go until you've done what you want to do." He plopped on the ground and looked up at Rowan. "Just leave my body somewhere where it can be found. I don't want my friends wondering what happened to me." The last came out as bitter sarcasm.
Rowan huffed. "If I had wanted to kill you, you would be dead now." She said harshly, then her voice softened once more, "Harry you need to trust me." She put her hand on his shoulder and was surprised when he did not flinch. "You have lost faith in those who care for you. It is your belief that everyone around you only wants to use you, even your friends. I am here to show you that that is not true. There are those who only want what is best for you." Harry began to cry and Rowan dropped to her knees and put her arms around him. "You need to learn to trust again. There is so much compassion in you, if that compassion is lost all else will follow. Please Harry." She ended in a whisper her warm breath brushing against his ear.
Rowan's words stirred something in Harry he had thought long dead. "Alright," Harry rasped. His voice sounded defeated, even to his own ears.
Rowan nodded, she did not wait, with Harry's consent she began to sing. It was a wordless song that reverberated through Harry's skull. The intense vibration accumulated behind his eyes, creating a pressure that seemed to squeeze his brains out his ears. It then moved, or rather flowed, to the back of his head. Harry's vision wavered and nausea swept through him. When the vertigo stopped his vision was clear. Harry stared. It was as if he were seeing the world for the very first time. He watched a squirrel digging at the base of a tree some distance away.
"Oopps," Rowan exclaimed, though she didn't sound very contrite. Harry tore his gaze from the squirrel and turned toward her. She was looking at him with her bottom lip between her teeth. "I can fix that for you if you want."
"Fix what," Harry asked still gazing around in wonder. "What ever spell you used worked great."
"Of course it did," Rowan said with supreme confidence, "but it's a bit too much. You now have the preternatural sight of a vampire." She bit her lip again.
Harry looked at her askance then what Rowan had said sank in. "You mean you turned me into a vampire!" He shrieked at her, shaking with anger. Harry wasn't fluent on all the different types of vampires, but he was really sure he didn't want to be one. Changing to an all liquid diet was distinctly unappealing.
"No, no, no," Rowan said putting her hands on his shoulders so that he had to look at her. It was only a metaphor; it means that your eyesight is much keener than a human's, more like an animal's. Perhaps vampire was not a good analogy to use."
"Ya think," Harry rebutted looking at Rowan for the first time. She was dressed in brown leather pants and a loose green shirt. Rowan was rather pretty, he thought, if you could ignore the blazing eyes and stubborn tilt of the chin. The hilt of a massive sword rose over her shoulder, but she seemed more comfortable with the knives at her belt. She also had pointed ears, but being a non-human in the Forbidden Forest made more sense to Harry than being human. By that logic his current predicament made no sense.
"Do you want me to fix it?" She asked watching him wave his hand in front of his face, checking both eyesight and cognitive skills.
"No that's fine," Harry answered absently. Having confirmed that, yes, his vision was fixed, the other required more thorough research, he dropped his hand and turned to Rowan. "How?"
"I used song magic." Rowan said succinctly. At Harry's blank look she elaborated. "I use my voice, much as you would a wand to control my magic." Harry stood there with his mouth hanging open like a fool. "It's a rare gift, a fluke really, like a natural singing voice."
"So your not here to kill me?" Harry asked. Rowan gave him a look that would have killed him, if such a thing were possible. Powers above know Snape had been trying for years to prefect such a glare.
"No I'm not," Rowan huffed, then went on in a terse voice explaining, once again, her purpose. "For the last time, I am here to show you the truth." She reached back over her shoulder and pulled the sword out of its sheath. A zinging sound filled the air, and Harry jumped back Rowan gave him a look that said she doubted his mental capacity. She flipped the sword to where it was point down. Harry calmed down when he realized that there was no way she could wield the heavy, cumbersome weapon.
"How is a sword going to show me the truth?" Harry asked. "I mean, it is a weapon."
"This sword was not made to be a wea-"
"Looks like a weapon to me." He interrupted, eying the very large sword.
Rowan lost all patience and snapped at him, "It was made to show the truth, all truth, nothing more, nothing less. It will show you the truth about yourself, your friends, even your enemies. If you are brave enough all secrets will be revealed."
"Wow," Harry was nonplussed, "That's not something you want to leave sitting around." He mentally slapped himself. Of all the things he could have said, those were the words that actually had come out of his mouth.
Rowan laughed, "True, but only someone of my family can make it work." She dug the tip of the sword into the ground. "Are you ready?"
Harry licked his lips. He was very nervous. Part of him wanted to know what the sword would show him. The other wanted to turn around and run, not stopping until he reached Hogwarts that part of him didn't want to know the truth. But the other and much more forceful part of him itched to know. These two sides battled for supremacy within him. In the end curiosity killed caution and Harry nodded.
"Come then, put your hand on the hilt."
Harry hesitated once more but curiosity had already won. Don't it always, Harry thought sardonically, remembering the pensive and Snape's memories as his hands wrapped around the hilt of the sword.
Later Harry would both curse and bless his curiosity. When he touched the sword a bright white light surrounded both Rowan and himself. Surely they will see this back at Hogwarts, was Harry's last thought before the magic pulled him in and stripped him bare.
Harry cringed as a wave of petty lies and stupid mistakes he had locked away rolled over him. He relived all the lies he had consciously and unconsciously told over the years. Little things and not so little things were forcefully brought to his attention, the resentment of his relatives, the loneliness that he had been denying for years.
It was too much, seeing himself as he truly was, tears ran down his face. The truth cut Harry soul deep; the truth healed its own wounds. Acceptance rolled over him. This was who he was; he would not run from it, from himself. Acceptance brought an inner peace that more than made up for the pain.
Now was the time that the focus of the sword was supposed to shift, but it did not. Another life that Harry somehow knew he had lived before flashed in front of his eyes. It was a darker life than the one he now lived, the life of someone who had learned of hardships at a very young age. This was harder to accept. The sheer knowledge accumulated during this other life was overwhelming. Harry could not remember this life, and would prefer not to, but he knew that this was also him and embraced his darker self out of instinct.
Then the focus did shift to outside of him. First to Rowan, she was the closest to him physically. Harry saw her as the ancient guardian she was. A boundless knowledge buried in everyday perception and a skewed view of the world. What amazed Harry the most was that Rowan knew her own truth, knew herself inside and out, and had reached a point of peaceful serenity with her destiny. He stood in awe of her wisdom.
The focus of the sword shifted to Ron, then again, to Hermione. Images and knowledge came faster and faster. Harry learned secrets he was sure no one should know. Things people kept even from themselves, Hagrid, Malfoy, and even Voldemort. Harry couldn't keep up with the images any longer; the information came to fast for him to interpret.
Suddenly Harry cried out on pain. Sirius, his life, his dreams, his fears flashed through Harry's mind. Tears streamed down his face as he mourned once again the loss of the only family he had ever known. He cried even harder as he recognized his parents.
Many secrets were revealed to Harry: why his father had hated Snape so much, how his parents had gotten together. It was almost too much to bear, but he gritted his teeth and tightened his grip on the sword.
All of a sudden, people Harry had never met and places he had never been flashed through his mind. The people were dressed funny, even by wizarding standards. In fact, the pointed hats reminded Harry of a book he had scanned about the middle ages. A knight in full armor sitting on his horse confirmed the suspicion.
At one point the images became very clear. It was like watching a muggle movie. Four people sat around a campfire. Tents were pitched behind them. They, two men, two women, sat facing a large magnificent castle that could only be Hogwarts. Why are they camping on the Hogwarts front lawn? Harry wondered.
One of the women, sat her tankard on the ground, she was the oldest of the group; her honey-brown was touched at the temples with grey. For some reason she looked familiar. "So," she said slapping her hands on her lap for attention, "What shall we call our masterpiece?" She made a sweeping gesture in the general direction of the school and almost fell over. The other woman giggled. All four of them were obviously a long way gone in drink.
Harry gasped; these people couldn't be who he thought they were. He watched the following silence of drunken contemplation with fascination. Hard as it was to believe, Harry had the distinct impression that he was one of the men.
While he tried to figure out who he was, a wild boar burst through the brush and into the campsite. Harry jumped back in surprise. The large blue eyed man jumped up from where he sat between the dark haired man and the young woman. "I say, get out of here you... you pig," He yelled as he lurched forward aggressively and promptly fell on his face.
"Eww!" shrieked the young woman. "That hog has warts!" She fell over in her excitement and spilled her wine down the front of her dress. In the following commotion the boar made good its escape. It ran right past Harry who watched dumbfounded. Despite all the stories the Founding Four were very obviously human. He thought, Very, very human.
The man with the long, dark hair sat back lazily and sipped his drink. He seemed completely unfazed by the appearance of the boar. He also seemed to be the soberest of the group. Bright green eyes studied the blazing fire. Then, he giggled proving that he was just as drunk as the rest of them. "Hogwarts," the man mumbled into his drink, then he giggled again. He merely hid his drunkenness better than the other three.
"Is that a suggestion, Salazar," the matronly woman asked archly. He doesn't look all that evil. Harry thought. In fact he almost looks like a girl. Slytherin shrugged. "Well," she went on, "I'll second that, seeing as the rest of us have come up with exactly nothing. Rowena?"
Ravenclaw threw her blond braid over her shoulder. "I'll give it my vote, but I expect to be given credit for it." Slytherin smiled and gave Ravenclaw a half bow from where he sat.
"I'm in," said the man, who had to be Godric Gryffindor, from where he still lay in the dirt. He levered himself up and dusted off his pants. "To Hogwarts," Gryffindor announced grabbing his refilled goblet, courtesy of Helga Hufflepuff.
"To Hogwarts," the others chorused. A deep bell tone sounded from nowhere binding the name to the school, and so became Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The vision changed again. On and on it went through a life that seemed so familiar. He could not be Salazar Slytherin, could he? The sword flashed brightly once more, and everything went dark.