Beyond the Darkness II: The Philosopher's Stone
Author Name: Orion Scorpio
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.
Summary: AU & sequel to 'Beyond the Darkness: The Early Years'. After growing up in hiding with supposed Death Eater and mass-murderer Sirius Black, Harry is now eleven and ready to start his first year at Hogwarts... and heaven help that school.
Author's Note: This story was originally inspired by the thought of a lot more cheerful and mischievous Harry going to Hogwarts.
Chapter 1: End of an Era
11th August 1991
Harry regarded his opponent with cat-like concentration, he feet shoulder-width apart and one foot in front of the other, knees slightly bent, left arm down in low blocking position, right arm up loosely to the side of his face. To an outsider, the Auror-created martial art known as 'Twister' were an odd mixture of cool self-control and abrupt ferocity. It didn't concentrate much on a particular form or style, but rather dictated speed and concentrated violence at decisive moments. The first blow that got through an opponent's defence unblocked was usually fatal. In other words, not something most parents would like their children to learn.
Lucky thing Sirius Black was not your average parent.
The golem - a featureless clayman about Harry's size, temporarily given life by magic - was standing before him, mirroring his actions. Harry tried to empty his mind all thoughts. In a real fight you didn't have time to think. You simply did it; reacting according to instincts so deeply drilled into you, that you weren't consciously aware of what you were doing until it was over.
At least, that's what Sirius said.
The trick was to clear your mind of all thought and emotion and let yourself simply react. So he ignored the cool wind he felt on his face, ignored the occasional drop of rain that fell from a grey sky. He just stood there, mind blank and calmly waiting.
The golem suddenly moved, feinting to the right. Harry's left hand slapped aside the golem's ankle, blocking the side-kick while his right intercepted the elbow strike follow-up. Unfazed, the golem exploited the momentum of Harry's block to whirl around in a blur. Its right foot came up in a flashing back-kick – and hit nothing but air.
Harry twisted and slipped past the striking foot, and a rock-hard fist sent the golem reeling back a step. The boy's other hand struck out like a viper, got a hold, and suddenly the grey clay-man went flying through the air. Quickly, he darted after it to finish the fight.
However, the thing hit the ground rolling and got back on its feet before Harry could reach it. The protective padding he wore absorbed most of the blow, yet he grunted when a fist rammed into his midriff. Instincts allowed him to automatically block the elbow heading for his face, but he couldn't recover his stance in time and suddenly he found himself airborne.
He landed with far less grace than the golem had, skidding a few feet before coming to a stop. Harry pulled himself up to a sitting position and glared death at the golem, which had returned to guard-position. It didn't seem the least disturbed by Harry's gaze.
"Stand down," Harry snapped.
The golem twitched once, and then slowly began to dissolve into the puddle of clay from whence it had come.
"Cursed thing," Harry muttered under his breath, as he got up and took off his helmet. "I swear I'll reduce it into dust one of these days."
He tucked the helmet under his arm and brushed sweaty bangs away from his forehead, revealing the lightning-bolt scar that marked him as history's sole survivor of the Killing Curse.
A series of dull thuds drew his attention to the right, where Sirius were still sparring with his own golem – just in time to see the animated clay-man twisting Sirius' arm, throwing its hips and shoulders into his torso, and sending him flying to land on the damp grass with a solid thump.
The golem charged after him, but Sirius hit the ground rolling and came back up on his feet in a single, fluid motion. He grabbed the golem by the shoulders and rolled backwards, as if to pull it down on top of him. But as his shoulders touched the ground, his legs came up with explosive force, and this time it was the golem that went flying.
It landed in the grass and started to get up without missing a beat, but Sirius had used his own momentum to go into a backwards somersault. Before the golem could get back on its feet, Sirius was on it from behind. His right arm snaked around its neck, squeezing it in the crook of his arm, and the heel of his left hand slammed into the back of the golem's head like a sledgehammer. Its head seemed to explode in a cloud of dust and tiny pieces of clay.
Officially 'dead', the golem went limp as it had been charmed to do.
Harry heaved a resigned sigh. It would take years of dedicated effort before he reached Sirius' level of proficiency – if it ever happened at all.
Panting, Sirius rose to his feet. "Hah! Padfoot – one, Snivellus – zero!"
"Why do you insist on calling that thing Snivellus?" Harry asked in amusement. He had never felt any urge to name his own golem.
"It's a long story," Sirius said as he removed his helmet and ruffled his hair. "If you're a good boy, I might tell you it someday."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Ready for some wand-work? Or is that worn-out wreak you call body not up to the task?"
Sirius gave him an incredulous look. "'Worn-out wreck?'" he repeated, feigning hurt. "Oh, my. I see your golem didn't give you nearly enough bruises."
Grinning, Harry tossed his helmet to the ground and drew his wand with a flourish. "Well?"
"I suppose I have to hex you, then," Sirius said, shaking his head in mock-sadness. "With the greatest regret, of course."
Wands out, they began to circle each other. There was no bowing or anything else of what Sirius called 'formal nonsense'. A Death Eater wasn't likely to first bow and then allow them to take up duelling stances before attacking; hence they never bothered with it.
As before, Harry emptied his mind and let his instincts take over. During the literally hundreds of mock-duels they had fought over the years, both had learned the subtle signs in each other that warned of an imminent attack. The twitch of an eye in Sirius' case, or the setting of his jaw in Harry's.
Very few observers would have been able to tell who moved first. To most it would have seemed as if they moved simultaneously; a blasting curse and a stunner erupted out of Sirius' and Harry's wands, respectively. The two spells collided in mid-air, exploding in a flash of magical energy.
Harry quickly dodged a Full Body Bind followed by a Disarming Spell, and returned fire with an Impediment Jinx. Sirius avoided it by doing a sort of cartwheel without planting his hands in the ground.
Show-off, Harry thought. "Incarcerous!"
Sirius slapped the hex aside like an annoying fly. "Tarantallegra."
Harry dodged right and opened his mouth to deliver a stunner, when something suddenly yanked powerfully on his feet. Rather than being surprised by the non-verbal Trip Jinx, he exploited his forward momentum to tuck, roll and come back up on his feet, just in time to conjure up a shield to protect himself from a Confunding Hex.
"Impellus!" Harry snapped in retaliation.
The Blasting Curse ricocheted off Sirius' shield and instead tore up a poor, innocent bush with its roots. Harry tried to press his attack but was forced to go on the defensive by multiple Conjunctivitis Curses. Sirius charged forth in an effort to close the distance between them, launching hexes as he went. It was a risky tactic; less distance meant that both opponents had less time to react, which usually was to Harry's advantage with his quicker reflexes. However, Sirius was apparently of the opinion that his greater experience and knowledge would offset any advantage Harry might have.
Harry saw his godfather coming, rolled his torso to avoid an Impediment Jinx, and whispered an incantation.
Sirius lost his footing as the ground he ran on abruptly turned as slippery as wet ice, landed on his face and skidded several feet. Harry reacted in mid-exclamation with a Disarming Charm, and watched with glee as his godfather's wand went flying.
"YES! I won! I won!" Harry exclaimed, and promptly broke out into laughter when he saw Sirius sitting on his backside with an utterly gobsmacked expression.
Sirius shook his head to clear it. "He's never going to let me forget this," he muttered in resignation.
After a refreshing shower, Sirius came trotting down the stairs carrying his old school-trunk. He was still kicking himself for loosing duel. One of his weaknesses, which his instructors at the Auror Academy had pointed out repeatedly, was underestimating his opponents. It was a weakness he could do without, and fully intended to rid himself off.
Losing to a eleven year-old should provide ample inspiration, he thought ruefully.
"Harry, take a look at this," Sirius said, putting the trunk down on the coffee table.
Harry looked up from where he had been polishing his Cleansweep Seven. "An old trunk?"
"My old trunk, to be precise. Since it has a few special features I thought maybe you'd want to use it, when you go to Hogwarts in three weeks time."
"So what's so special?" Harry asked, putting away the broom.
"This." Sirius unlocked it with a small, golden key and opened the lid. All it contained was an old and worn Transfiguration-textbook.
"The Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration is special?" Harry asked sceptically.
"No, you twit; I'm not done yet." Sirius closed the lid and turned the key first one quarter to the left, then one quarter to the right and opened again. The textbook was gone, replaced with an old parchment.
"A secret compartment!" Sirius declared with a flourish of his hand. "Very useful for storing… stuff you don't want anyone to know about. Not that I – as a responsible godfather – would encourage you to break any rules, of course."
Harry had broken into a rather evil grin, so Sirius coughed and moved quickly on. "Anyway, it also has a built-in Featherlight Charm and several anti-theft jinxes. Try to open it without the key and you'll end up with tentacles instead of arms."
Sirius glanced at his watch and changed the subject: "Speaking of Hogwarts, you'd better get ready for the meeting with Dumbledore. He should be getting the letter about now."
Harry nodded and needlessly adjusted his rectangular spectacles, which Sirius recognized as his tell-tale sign of nervousness. After all, he had spent three days unconscious after his last meeting with Hogwarts' Headmaster.
"Relax," Sirius said soothingly, giving Harry a slap on the shoulder. "It'll be fine. Old Dumbledore has always been wiser than most."
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Order of Merlin (First Class), Grand Sorcerer, Leader of the Order of the Phoenix, Bane of Grindelwald, Greatest Wizard of the Age and the One Wizard Whom Voldemort Fears, were right then doing one of those things that gave him a reputation for being a bit of an eccentric.
He was knitting a pair of electric blue socks.
Although most would shake their heads in amusement, Albus firmly believed that everyone was entitled to a few eccentric hobbies. His own hobbies happened to be chamber music, tenpin bowling, sweets and socks. Not in that particular order, mind.
To tell the truth, however; much of his eccentric behaviour was intentional. It made people loosen up around the great Albus Dumbledore, and often made his enemies underestimate him, too. Very useful in certain situations.
He had spent the last hour staring out of the window of his office with a vacant expression, humming a Muggle tune he'd recently taken a liking to, while his hands were automatically working on his latest creation. This was why he saw the owl before it reached the window.
Albus paused in his knitting long enough to make a gesture with one hand, causing the window to open magically. The brown barn-owl flew in and landed on his desk. It humped over to Albus and held out the leg with the parchment attached to it.
"Well hello, dear," Albus greeted and put down his knitting needles. "What news do you bring me?"
He opened the letter and grinned in delight when he saw the untrained handwriting of someone very young. Albus loved children, but he unfortunately only received letters from one very rarely. Usually it was because they didn't think 'the greatest wizard of the age' would be interested in anything they had to say. Utterly wrong, of course, but there it was.
Albus read the first paragraph and blinked in surprise. His eyes darted down to the signature at the bottom.
A few minutes later, Albus stepped out of the fireplace and into the Leaky Cauldron.
"Albus Dumbledore!" the bald innkeeper exclaimed, and came half-running across the room to shake Albus' hand. "What an unexpected honour! Can I get you anything? Some oak-matured mead, perhaps?"
"No, thank you, Tom," Albus declined. "I'm here to meet with someone in room nine."
"Ah, with young Mr Evans? Then I shall make sure that you are not disturbed."
Albus managed to keep from chuckling as he walked up the stairs. Mr Evans? Using his mother's maiden name was probably Sirius' idea.
He paused at the door to room nine for a moment. There had been two reasons for sending Harry to live with the Dursleys; the first was of course protection. Not even Voldemort himself would be able to break through the blood-wards. The second and equally important reason was for Harry's own good; by growing up among Muggles he would be protected by the attention his fame would generate.
Having no idea how Sirius had raised Harry, he was a little afraid of what he'd find on the other side of the door; a normal child or a spoiled little prince? True, his letter had been perfectly polite, but-
Shaking aside the thought he raised his hand and knocked three times.
"Come in," a young voice called.
Albus opened the door and found himself stopping in the doorway. At first glance, Harry seemed to be the mirror image of his father, and for a moment it was as if Albus had been transported thirty years back in time. The mental image of a young James Potter, standing in the Great Hall and waiting to be sorted, was so vivid that he had to blink several times to clear his mind.
A second glance, however, revealed the subtle and not-so-subtle differences. His features were somehow softer, for one thing. The pair of sparkling green eyes he had clearly inherited from his mother, and although his hair was just as black and unruly as his father's, James had never let it grow down to his shoulders. Then of course there was the lightning-bolt scar, just barely visible behind a bang of hair.
"Pleased to meet you, Professor," the boy said, perhaps a trifle nervously. "Please, sit down. Tea?"
"Why, thank you, Mr Potter," Albus smiled and sat down at the coffee table.
"Um, how do you-?"
"Two sugars, please."
The boy handed Albus his cup and sat down in the chair opposite him, moving with a cat-like grace that made the ancient wizard blink. He had seen that before somewhere… His photographic memory clicked and whirled as it rewound to forty-eight years earlier, when he had seen a Muggle martial artist move with the same feline grace.
Oh, my. What on Earth have you been teaching the boy, Sirius?
"I obviously got your letter, Mr Potter," Albus began. "And I have of course no objection at all to you attending Hogwarts. You have, after all, been registered at Hogwarts ever since your birth."
"Won't there be any problems with the Ministry?" Harry asked, anxiously. "Considering who my godfather is, I mean."
"Leave any problems that may arise to me," Albus said, dismissively. "Now, doubtless I have a few more fears to soothe, but first I must ask you a question that have weighed rather heavily upon me in recent years. I assume you remember us meeting outside Gringotts, and the unfortunate consequences that followed?" Albus had never come closer to a heart attack than he did that day. In an effort to stun Sirius Black, whom he at the time thought was a Death Eater, he had instead hit four-year old Harry. While harmless to an adult, the powerful stunner could very well have turned the young wizard into a squib.
Harry tensed briefly, before relaxing. "Yeah, I do."
"Were you injured?"
"Not- not really."
Albus peered at him over his half-moon spectacles. It was something he had learned caused a surprising number of people to tell the truth or blurt out information they'd rather not divulge.
Sure enough, the boy shifted under his stare. "Broke a rib," Harry admitted. "And I was out for three days."
Albus winced internally. "But nothing permanent, I hope?"
"No, nothing. I was perfectly fine again after a week."
Albus allowed himself to let out a sigh. "That pleases me to hear more than you know. What pleases me even more is that you are obviously healthy and well cared for, which puts to rest the accusations levelled against your godfather."
Harry opened his mouth to say something, but Albus got there first. "While I'm ashamed to admit that I thought Sirius guilty of several terrible crimes during the Gringotts-incident, rest assured that I no longer do."
He smiled and sipped his tea, as Harry relaxed and leaned back in his chair. The boy's first and primary concern seemed to be his godfather's well-being, which at such young age spoke volumes about his character. What little there was left of Albus' initial fears, vanished.
"Now that's out of the way, I have something here that is yours," Albus continued and handed Harry a key. "This is the key to your vault at Gringotts. Your parents left it in my care shortly before they went into hiding."
Harry took the key and put it in a pocket after a brief examination.
Next, Albus gave him an envelope. "This contains a list of books and other school supplies you'll need, as well as a ticket for the Hogwarts Express. Don't bother with the part where it says to send us an owl; I'll take care of it."
He grinned when he saw Harry take the envelope with wide-eyed reverence. The look of open delight in the boy's eyes made him chuckle.
Harry smiled back. "Thank you, sir."
"No thanks are necessary," Albus waved it away. He paused. "After the school-year is over... I presume you'll be returning to wherever you and Sirius live?"
Harry immediately tensed up again. "Yes," he said, almost defiantly.
"I very much doubt that the Ministry is going to like that idea, so when you leave you'll most probably receive some unwanted attention," Albus pointed out calmly.
"Sirius and I have taken steps to ensure that I won't be followed," Harry said.
"Good, good. Always been a smart man, Sirius," Albus murmured and sipped his tea again. Harry, however, seemed to be waiting for something. Albus eyed him curiously. What could-
Oh, right. Silly me.
"I had arranged for ample protection for you at your Muggle relatives' house, but considering how completely you and Sirius disappeared, it does seem rather idiotic to force you to go back to them, does it not?"
"Yeah, it does," Harry said, letting out a breath he had been holding.
"That's what I thought, too," Albus said seriously. Besides, he doubted he had the heart to separate the two. "Just remember that the Ministry won't see it that way."
Green eyes met blue. "We'll be careful."
When he stepped out of the fireplace in his office half an hour later, Albus found Minerva and Severus waiting for him.
"Where have you been, Albus?" Severus began. "Did Minister Fudge-"
In three huge strides, Albus was beside him. Severus instinctively started to take a step back, but Albus grabbed his head with both hands and planted a big, wet kiss on his cheek. Chuckling and crackling like a madman, he turned his back on a slack-jawed Minerva and a Potions Master in the process of having a severe heart attack, and climbed on top of his desk. Facing them, he began singing a crazy little ditty he apparently made up on the spot, while waving his fingers in time with the rhythm.
Oh, no! Oh, no! The wizard is back!
The wizard is ba-a-ack! The wizard is ba-a-ack!
Oh, woe! The wizard is back!
The most famous wizard
In the wo-o-orld!
Albus finished by laughing merrily at the dumbfounded look the two teachers gave each other; doubtless they now thought him even more of a loon than he was.
Very slowly and carefully, as if speaking to someone who was a danger to himself, Minerva said: "Perhaps you should get down from there, and explain what wizard you are talking about, Albus."
Severus said nothing, touching a hand to the cheek were Albus had just kissed him, still with the same pop-eyed expression.
"Certainly, Minerva, certainly," Albus grinned, and jumped down from the desk with an ease that might have been normal in a man one fifth his age. "I am - quite obviously - referring to Harry Potter, whom I just met at the Leaky Cauldron."
"What?" For once, the mask Severus always kept into place seemed to slip. "Then where is he? Did you take him to the Ministry?"
"Of course not," Albus said in mild surprise. "Whatever for?"
"'Whatever for?'" Minerva repeated in mingled shock and exasperation. "Albus, we've been searching for the boy for ages, and you just left him there?"
"I'm going to the Leaky Cauldron!" Severus declared. He hurried over to the fireplace and snatched some Floo Powder from the jar at the mantelpiece.
"Please, Severus; there's no need to rush," Albus said soothingly. "After all, you will see him at the Sorting Feast in only three short weeks from now."
The Potions Master whirled around to stare at him with an expression of utter incredulity. Somehow managing to keep from laughing, Albus took a parchment lying on his desk and waved it in the air. "Harry just wrote a letter to me, explaining that he wished to attend Hogwarts. Naturally, I agreed."
"'Naturally!'" Severus blurted out in disbelief, still standing beside the fireplace with a handful of Floo Powder. Poor Minerva sank slowly down into the nearest armchair, one hand pressed against her heart.
I'm really enjoying this too much, Albus thought ruefully.
"But what about Sirius Black?" Minerva asked faintly.
Albus made a show of looking confused. "What about him?"
"Damn it, Albus! Quit playing games!" Severus snapped, waving his arms about in agitation and sending up a cloud of Floo Powder. "The man is a dangerous criminal!"
Albus waved away the exclamation, effortlessly going from senile old loon to powerful wizard in a second. "We've been through this, Severus. I've harboured doubts of Sirius' guilt for many years now, and my conversation with young Harry left me convinced of his godfather's innocence." He paused to sit himself down behind his desk. "Despite Lucius Malfoy's claim that Sirius has been abusing the boy, Harry looked quite healthy and well-cared for. That alone should tell you something, not to mention the fact that he's sending Harry to attend Hogwarts!"
"But… aren't you going to do anything?" Minerva asked.
"Whatever would you have me do?"
"I don't know!" she snapped in frustration. "Bring him to Hogwarts, or- or something!"
Severus brightened. "That was a good idea! Take the brat to Hogwarts where we can keep an eye on him, and make sure he doesn't leave to Merlin-knows-where once the school-year is over."
He was about to toss the Floo Powder into the fireplace, when Albus quietly spoke.
Severus blinked in surprise and half turned back toward them. "Oh?"
Albus peered at him over his spectacles. "Aside from the almost certain possibility that Harry has already left the Leaky Cauldron, yes."
The Potions Master stood hesitating for a moment, before reluctantly dropping the Floo Powder back in the jar with a disgruntled sigh. "Very well then, Albus. Why is it such a terrible idea?"
"Simple; keeping him under close observation here at the castle, never letting him do anything potentially dangerous, and preferably locking him inside a paddled cell will certainly keep him alive, but… it will also leave him woefully unprepared once he have to confront Voldemort."
Minerva shuddered and glanced at Severus, who scowled darker than usual. Voldemort and the prophecy were seldom mentioned.
Albus leaned back in his comfortable armchair. "I admit that my first thought was to protect him in every possible way, once we found him. Sirius doesn't think that way. He would accept that Harry would end up in dangerous situations from time to time, and instead teach the boy how to deal with them. A better way I think."
"So you're just going to let him return to a man who proved he was capable of committing murder at age sixteen?" Severus demanded in exasperation.
"Of course," Albus said, ignoring the slight toward Sirius. "I wouldn't dream of illegally imprisoning him."
Severus' expression was a mixture of bitterness and dark pessimism, while Minerva simply looked undecided. Albus' earlier display of craziness probably hadn't helped his case.
"Well cheer up, then!" Albus suddenly exclaimed. "After all, we have seven exceptionally interesting years ahead of us!"
"That's what worries me," Minerva muttered.
A big thanks to my beta-reader, the Phoenix King.