Harry walked into a clearing filled with thousands of purple anemones. They were everywhere, like thick woollen blankets with small white butterflies fluttering around them.
And then he saw her.
Even with her back was facing him he instantly knew that shade of Weasley red hair, her petit rounded shoulders and her trademark posture, slightly leaning to the left. It was a habit from always carrying her bag on her left side.
"Hello Harry." Her voice was melancholic and she didn't turn around.
He tried to walk around so he could see her, but every step he took was futile and all he saw was her red hair.
"Ginny, I want to see you."
She bowed her head, and a pale hand slipped behind her head, pulling her hair over her shoulder. "I don't want to see you, Harry."
"But, but why?"
"I never want to see you again."
"I-I don't understand, Ginny. At least tell me why."
"You broke my heart, Harry. I loved you. You took my love and ripped it apart."
Anger started to flare up. "If this is because I didn't want you to come on the mission with me, I'm sorry. I was just trying to protect you. I don't want to lose you. You know that."
The girl shook her head, never having the decency to face him. "No… you betrayed me. I can never look at you again."
"You disgust me. You repulse me. My skin crawls at the thought of you."
Shocked was not a strong enough word. Harry was stunned beyond belief. "How? What have I done?"
"It's what you let them do to you."
It felt as though someone had driven an axe into his chest. "I'm sorry."
"That isn't enough to repair what's been done to me. How can I ever see you? How can I ever touch you, and be with you, and kiss you, knowing what I know? How can I? Who would want to?"
He opened his eyes and gasped loudly. The thousands of anemones grew taller and bigger, obscuring Ginny's view from him as the plants towered above his head.
"GINNY," Harry yelled, his hand stretching to her through a gap in the tree size anemones. "Please, I'm sorry! Forgive me. I couldn't stop them."
"Yes you could've!"
It was then he heard him, his laughter. Harry turned around and saw him. He was a giant version of Gregory Brodes. He was bigger than Grawp.
Harry shook his head. "No—NO! DON'T COME NEAR ME!"
"Your pretty little girlfriend will never have you back."
"NO, DON'T SAY THAT!"
"Yes I can." Brodes took a booming step towards him. "You're mine, Harry. She knows it, and you know it. You'll never forget." Brodes laughed.
After a sharp intake of breath, the darkness was replaced by the morning light. Harry heard laughter. Awake now and panting, he realised that laughter was different and it belonged to Ashley.
He got up and walked into the bathroom. Holding the sides of the basin, he caught a glimpse of his pale face in the bathroom mirror. He looked more of himself, healthier, but still frail.
"Stop this! Get a fucking grip on yourself!" He scowled at his own reflection.
"Lovey, it's too early in the morning for that sort of language, thank you," the mirror replied.
Glaring back, he splashed his face with icy, cold water and got on with the day, putting the dream in the back of his mind.
Harry limped into the kitchen, cane rapping on the tiles. He was still slow and awkward moving about. Sometimes Harry felt he was eighteen turning eighty-eight.
The Pettigrew children were eating and Remus was reading a large book, while James was hard at work cooking. The smell of crisping bacon and eggs made Harry's stomach grumble. Bread was toasting on the grill and sausages were sizzling.
Harry was going to miss his Mirror father's cooking. Since Lily wasn't the best cook in the world, James had to learn fast, and he prided himself at it. Sometimes he and Remus would have arguments on the best way to cook Yorkshire puddings, or which potato was best for roasting.
"Harry's here!" Ashley yelled over her porridge.
"Really? Where?' James joked, with half a sausage hanging out of his mouth. He checked under the table. "Oh bless my eyes it's Harry Potter." He winked as the little girl laughed.
"Morning everyone," Harry yawned as he sat. Remus smiled weakly, sipping the all too familiar Nutrient Potion.
"Are you still recovering from the last full moon?" Harry asked with concern. It was more than a week ago and he still looked very peaky.
"I think it was the added stress with your rescue and arrival," he croaked.
Harry fidgeted in guilt. He really wished he wasn't a burden on these Mirrors.
"He's all right." Tony shot them a lop-sided grin and looked half interested in eating his breakfast.
"Here you are, Harry," James said, instantly placing a plate laden with breakfast in front of him.
Remus sat back drinking his potion, Ashley was wolfing down her food, while Tony played with his. He seemed more interested in the news picture emblazoned on front of a Muggle newspaper, sprawled on the middle of the table.
The front page's headline revealed that Cork was in ruins. Harry saw the picture of huge fires engulfing the landscape and terrified Muggles running from the scene. Tony seemed hypnotised by the picture. A large Dark Mark hovered high in the sky above the smokes and flames. Tony turned the page and Harry caught an article that three U.N members, from France, Switzerland and Spain had gone missing after a Muggle conference in Europe. There were also rumours those three Muggles had acted strangely and had to be removed from the meeting.
"The European nations have voted against sending help to Britain, in any form, again. No surprises there," remarked James, as he reached over for the orange juice.
"I for one don't like the idea of Muggle warfare being involved. It's bad enough we do have the occasional air raid by the armed forces." Remus sipped his potion. "Every time they hit something, there are no Death Eaters present—they just Apparate before the bombs hit."
Harry looked at the picture. "Is that Kingsley in the background?"
"Yeah, he sometimes infiltrates the U.N, or NATO, just to make sure there aren't any security breaches, but..."
"They have been breached in other ways." James replied. "We think the Muggles have been controlled for years and there are spies in all their governments, both Death Eaters, and Scrimgeour's old agents."
"Er… why would Scrimgeour have—?"
"—To influence the Muggles and European Ministries to stay out of Britain. To be quite frank, they don't care anymore, they tried in the beginning, but it's quite obvious Scrimgeour didn't want help even though the Muggle government pleaded."
Remus shook his head. "Dumbledore sent warnings to the Ministries in the past. I think their relationship with Scrimgeour left them all sour."
"Are there Death Eaters abroad?" Harry asked.
"Yes. Many Ministries are in denial, or haven't noticed the minute changes in attitude over the years, but recently they've started noticing the stir of Death Eaters and are fighting back," James said. "The Berlin Minister was found dead yesterday, apparently she killed herself."
Remus nodded. "She went missing a week ago. It was most likely the influence of the Imperious Curse that made her kill herself."
"And these Muggle disappearances are very bad. It's spreading fear fast."
"Why now, though? Twenty-eight years of hell and now they're worried?" Tony asked.
James scratched his head. "It's because Grindelwald is forcing Voldemort to act on a bigger scale. For all these years Voldemort would push and prod in secret. But it's what he was doing every few days that was tipping the scales in his favour."
"He's been killing and threatening his opposition to join him." Remus took another sip of his potion. "Every few days, he'd outnumber one random family with a hundred Death Eaters. The Order never knows who to really protect that night, and a few of us would die in the process."
"So after all these years, it's never been a stalemate war. Voldemort would eventually have most of the Wizarding population forced onto his side," Harry said. "And the Order flushed out."
"It's a slow process. However, Grindelwald's forced him out of the woodworks and to change tactics. Now the sleeper factions he's placed in Europe after decades of planning are ready to wake up."
"Right, enough about war, let's just eat," Tony mumbled.
"Yes, you're right... Is everything okay, Harry?" Remus asked.
He nodded and stared into his scrambled eggs, thinking that his expression might betray him.
"Healer Spratt will be coming shortly," Remus said. "He wants to see Tony first and then Ashley." The children scowled.
Harry was glad they were getting help. He learned that they had escaped more horrific forms of conditioning under their Mentor by doing exactly what she wanted them to do. They were lucky, as Bellatrix thought they were talented. Most children taken by the Thirteen were worse off than the other Conditioned: systematically tortured, humiliated and brutalised until their every thought was robotic, and they were willing to die for Voldemort.
"Harry, do you want to continue with your sessions?"
He held his fork in midair and closed his mouth, quickly losing what little appetite he had. "After what happened the other day?"
"Yes. Your feelings are manifesting themselves, and it has surprisingly made him curious about you."
James returned to the stove to turn the frying bacon. "Harry, you're just feeling a lot. Besides, you've entered the Dark phase."
"Yes. You are developing your power unusually fast, but this may be because you've entered a Mirror Universe and your Mirror is alive." Remus tapped the book in front of him.
"What are you reading?" Harry tried to decipher the faded gold Latin title of the book and the others that Remus had.
"Research about Mirror Universes and Mages. Dumbledore's given me the task to try and find information about how to get you back home too. These books talk about the most basic information... Mages are Dark... creating magic for Mirror travel is extremely advanced, just as Time Turners are, and deadly if used incorrectly."
Harry was grateful they were starting to help him nonetheless.
"Basically, things you would've learnt about in sixth and seventh year... there are many alternate universes in a person's timeline... yes we all know that..."
"All this is seriously restricted information, Remus," James said as he seasoned the frying food. "Could you imagine if we knew the magic to create a Portkey to transport us into a—"
"Don't get ahead of yourself, James. We may have been brilliant, but not that brilliant."
"Speak for yourself." He waved the spatula in his face. "If Sirius was still alive... he..." James fell silent and let the sizzle of the fry up mask his lost words and feelings. Harry felt suddenly uncomfortable.
"Well," Remus cleared his throat. "I think I might need to sneak around looking for new materials."
"Maybe we should ask Snivellus to stroll through the Restricted Section—"
"Don't call him that anymore." Remus scowled and snapped the book shut. A small ball of dust shot into the air. "How about you watch my bacon?"
"How about you get off your furry arse and help me?"
Harry played with his food. "Er, the thing is, if—if I'm in this stupid phase, I'm worried I'll end up like Harry."
"Don't," James spat, "start comparing yourself with my son. You're different!"
"Yeah Harry, I think you're way better." Ashley smiled.
As Harry walked out of the house to where Demus wanted to meet for their session mid morning, he could smell smoke which had probably drifted from the massive fire in Cork.
He felt rather nervous, seeing the bearded Healer reading his notebook, sitting by a gnarled tree.
"Good Morning, Harry, sit down. It's a crisp day, but fresh air and nature does wonders to our souls."
"What, even with the smell of smoke from Cork?"
He was about to sit, when he hesitated. Harry noticed a cluster of anemones nearby like the ones in his dream.
Demus turned his eye to what he was looking at. "Cork is far away, but you are here, fighting your own battle."
Harry curled the scarf tighter around his neck and buried his hands in his borrowed cloak. He took a deep breath, shaking the thoughts of his nightmare away.
"How have you been since our last encounter?"
"All right, I 'spose. I'm sorry about what happened—"
"No harm was done. It was just something I've never seen before." His blue eyes were cautious though.
Harry sighed impatiently as he saw an owl swoop past. "So what are we doing today?"
"I want to hear about your experiences—not what had happened, but how you felt during them. Would you be willing to do it?"
"Where do I start?" He laughed coldly. He, of course, did not want to reveal anything if he could help it.
"Where ever you want to."
Should he start with his parents dying, the Dursleys treating him worse than dirt, Voldemort, and everything that had occurred at Hogwarts? He could talk about travelling into a Mirror world where all hope had been massacred along with little Neville. Should he talk about his guilt for not saving Dung from a horrific death, because Harry did not want to be tortured? Perhaps he should talk about having his dignity ripped away.
But no, he couldn't speak about things which weighed on his mind. And nor did he want to, because they were his secrets. It kept him alive just like his beating heart. To let them free would cause him grief.
"I'm sorry, but I really don't want to do this."
"It just feels so unnecessary."
"Give me a chance, that's all I ask," Demus said softly. When Harry didn't respond, he continued. "How do you feel about Azkaban?"
"How I feel about it?" he said angrily. "It was hell and I'm glad it's gone. I'm glad they're all dead—I'm happy he died the same way he tried to kill me!"
Harry felt his vengeance satisfied when Malfoy had explained what had happened in the Black Square and how Brodes had died. He felt elation at the thought of Umbridge dead as well. Sometimes he even wished Mirror Dumbledore dead.
But then the guilt started to grow, did he really want people dead, even though they had made him suffer?
"The Atoners!" Harry roared. He stood up, his hands in tight fists. He felt like running away.
Instead, something else took over this urge. He could feel the power sizzling within him. With horror, Harry jumped away from the spot he stood, watching the grass around his feet and the leaves of the branches near him yellowing, and dying. He wasn't absorbing their power, he was killing them. He moved away, as he did not want a repeat of what happened days ago.
"Tell my why?" Demus asked, eyeing the dying vegetation warily.
"It's… it's what they did to me."
It was no secret that Gregory Brodes and his cronies liked to rape the prisoners, or that Willis liked to bully and torture, while the others mocked and terrorised them. Yet the words fought not to escape his mouth. It felt shameful, humiliating, and just plain right disgusting to even talk about it.
He remembered the pain, and the rawness he felt after Brodes had left his cell. Their ghostly touch remained ingrained in him for hours. Harry could do nothing to alleviate the inner turmoil and sadness. He would just bury his head into his pillow and sob, sometimes forgetting to breathe, because it was just too much.
"Let it free, Harry."
He ran an agitated hand through his hair and sat down, eyes trained on the grass.
"When they—I feel so disgusted with myself—so dirty."
Ginny, Harry thought with a heartbroken pang. How could he ever look into her brown eyes after what he had been through? The nightmare he had just experienced rubbed salt into his wounds. How could he ever tell her and his friends about any of it? It had to be his dark secret. His friends could never find out, he vowed.
"They took everything away from me… I'm so angry, so fucking angry!"
"What did they take?"
He watched a trail of ants which had stopped moving. The little creatures were suffocating, their legs flailing, and Harry watched them, suddenly intrigued how far his power could go.
NO! He shook his head vigorously. He was not that sort of person. These were living things. He looked back at the ants. He didn't want them to die, but his power was beyond his control with all the emotions he was experiencing. He stormed off; hoping some of the ants would survive, hoping his power would calm itself, hoping to stop his thoughts of death.
He felt sick at the evil he felt like committing. The one thing he didn't want his power to do, he just let happen. He thought of his Mirror. He will never become him.
This world may have stolen a lot from him: his dignity, his body, his freedom, but it would never steal his soul.
"You're not alone, Harry," Demus yelled after him.
He stopped and turned around, feeling a breeze whip his hair about and a stronger smell of smoke and ash. Somewhere within his mind, there was a ripple… he could feel his Mirror's presence and it was making him shiver and nauseous. He grasped his head with both hands. Then Harry heard him. It was a whisper he couldn't escape from.
"Do you feel it stirring? You can't escape it. It will swallow you whole."
Harry rushed out into the Dales, far away from the house and from Demus, as fast as his weakened legs could go.
Their connection had grown so strong and he wondered what else his Mirror had seen. "GO AWAY!" he yelled, gripping his head.
His Mirror laughed before breaking the connection. Harry felt instant relief and realisation that he had fallen onto his knees, his cursed wounds pulsing in pain again.
Demus had followed him. "Harry, are you all right?"
"It's nothing. I just have a headache. I don't want to continue with this session."
"I don't think I should leave you—"
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
There was a sudden charge of electricity in their air around them, and the sky lit up with a brilliant white flash of lightening, even though there was no thunder cloud in sight.
Demus jumbed back. "I'll go, Harry. But call me when you're ready."
Harry sighed and pounded his fists into the dirt around him. For awhile he sat there staring at the green hills until the Dementor mist came back.
He went back into the house hours later, after a lot of soul searching, but the answers he wanted were nowhere to be found.
James had prepared a lovely roast lamb with mint peas and gravy. Harry just played with his food as his Mirror father joked around with the children. It was his last day living with them before moving back with his family, and Harry wanted to make the most of it, but all he could think about was the evil growing within him.
When it was finally time for James to leave, as promised, Harry didn't say goodbye. He gave his father a long heartfelt hug and stalked away back into his bedroom away from everyone, therefore, keeping them away from his harm.
"I'll miss you Harry…" A grin showed off Brode's immaculate white teeth.
The golden knife in his hand glowed blue.
He gasped, but it was the screech of an owl that really woke him. When he opened his eyes, the figure standing at the foot at the bed looked like a demon. Harry froze, fear overcoming him. He regained control and sat up as the figure walked around the bed. Even in the darkness its green eyes shone bright.
"Go away!" Harry switched on the lamp.
"You haven't entered my mind since you were at Snape's.
The boy shrugged. "So I thought I'd pay you a little midnight visit."
"Don't joke about it!" Harry hissed.
"Why haven't you entered my mind?"
"I couldn't be bothered helping you, when I'm trying to help myself. But since you're here, I have some questions for you." Harry made himself comfortable.
"What are they?" the Mirror exasperated.
"You and Bellatrix?"
The Mirror rolled his eyes impatiently. "Nothing. I simply teased her for information on the cup: a tease, a kiss, the power of a strong seduction charm and play of words, nothing more. I was still a stupid naive Gryffindor trying to find answers and then it spiralled out of control."
"No shit! And then you landed yourself in a bigger mess."
He nodded with a chuckle. "Dumbledore was right to be concerned… things got a little more serious. I hated her, and she hated me. I enacted my revenge, she enacted hers. Back and forth—cat and mouse." He ran a hand through his short hair. "She pleaded with our master to get me out of Azkaban… touching." He laughed.
"Did she really like you that much?"
"Nah. She just hated the fact her control over me was out of her hands. Didn't stop her from using other means—but she never had control over me anyway."
"I can't believe this," Harry said, quite repulsed now.
"I hate myself for it. But we both relished it the moment it happened."
"Was it you, though? Or was it the Dark phase?"
The Mirror sat on the bed, staring out of the dark window. "I suppose it was the Darkness thing. Thinking back on it makes me feel horrible. The same way you feel now that you kissed her…" he smirked. "A great, dirty, dark secret... How would Ginny react when you tell her?"
Harry didn't want to dwell further about Bellatrix. The bile was creeping up his throat. "Ginny will never know."
"Won't she?" the Mirror questioned. "The love of your life must know your secrets, Harry. How will she react when she finds out the countless times they fucked you…?" he smirked. "And even though you fought back and resisted, your body still betrayed you, making you enjoy it. Confusing isn't it?"
"You're sick and twisted!" Harry spat into his Mirror's face, a surge of power released from his body before he could control it, and he didn't care. He wanted to hurt him.
The Death Eater suddenly collapsed to his knees. He yelled in pain.
"STOP!" the Mirror's eyes flashed in the lamplight. "Stop using your power!"
"At least I have people who love me!" Harry yelled, ignoring his pleas, relishing his power to hurt. A new thought entered his mind. Wouldn't it be great to hurt Dumbledore? "Who do you love? Who loves you?"
"HARRY, CONTROL YOUR MAGIC!"
The Mirror doubled over in pain with his hands clutching his chest. The sweat on his brow covered his fake lightning bolt scar. He lifted his hand and Harry was ricocheted to the other side of the room, landing with a thud.
Harry's encircling emotions and the manifestation of power ceased suddenly with that blow. He saw his Mirror struggling to get up.
The Mirror laughed. His chuckles were icy and sharp. "Do you want to kill me, Harry? I can feel it. You want to make sure Dumbledore pays for everything. So do I. Let's do it together!"
At that moment Harry didn't know what he wanted.
"He deserves to suffer after what he put us through."
"You're in denial," the Mirror hissed. "You want people hurt."
He felt the emotions twisting within him. What the hell was happening to him? He fumbled onto his feet, massaging his bruising chest.
The wizard sneered. "Why don't you? You think you'll become just as evil as I am? It's revenge, Harry, its justice and you deserve it."
He shook his head. "I can't—"
"You wanted Bellatrix to suffer when she killed Sirius. You're happy the Atoners are dead."
"Why?" the Mirror asked, "Because they're the enemy? Sometimes, evil is right under your nose and you're too oblivious to notice it because you care about them. You need to cut it off, before it kills you first. Dumble—"
"I WILL NOT!" Harry yelled. "He did it for a reason—"
"So you're just going to do whatever he says?"
"I'm trying to get better to go home and to give you a fighting chance. I don't give a fuck what he did to you, Harry! What about what you did to me, huh? That was worse!" Harry yelled, feeling the rage once more. "YOU LET ME GO TO PRISON SO YOU COULD DISAPPEAR!"
"GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Harry was done. He was sick of his Mirror and how unremorseful he was. He wanted to hurt him so badly.
The boy seemed amused. "You're scared of giving in to the Dark phase. I did once."
"I don't want to turn out like you."
"There is a thrill when you kill for the first time. It stays with you for the rest of your life, and it nurtures your growing powers."
"I don't want to." Harry shook his head.
"You'll be more powerful than the rest of this squabbling wizard population. Think of what you can do? You can become even greater than Voldemort himself."
"I'M NOT LIKE YOU!" Harry retaliated.
"Are you sure?" He stopped laughing, his expression serious now. "You're losing yourself to the Darkness, just like I did. It will be spectacular."
"I'm different. You're scum—traitor! Nothing—!"
"PROVE IT TO ME—!"
"Nobody loves you!"
Mirror Harry's expression slowly changed and Harry could see his features evolving from that of a boy whose soul had been warped into something barely recognisable, to someone who was vulnerable and shattered.
"You father doesn't love you. Whatever he said while you were with Grindelwald is just a plan to get you on our side again. But he will never love you again. He felt revolted by you."
"You're lying!" the Mirror spat. "I saw a different side of my dad when he was there—"
"Your mum—you devastated her. She wishes you died instead of Neville—"
"STOP THIS!" Mirror Harry screamed. There was anguish and terror in his eyes now.
"Your parents wish I was you."
"YOU'RE A FUCKING LIAR!"
Checkmate, thought Harry, thrilled. The ever growing power rippled within him again.
The boy doubled over in pain again. This time, Harry wasn't using his power to hurt him, willingly or not. He hesitantly took a step forward, and when the Mirror looked up, his face was wet with tears.
"I love…" he whispered.
"Who? Bellatrix?" Harry mocked.
Mirror Harry most his eyes and inhaled deeply. "I still love… that's all you need to know."
He decided to change subjects, wondering if the wizard would answer his other questions now. "What happened with that Obsidian Stitch thing? You had it once."
Surprisingly, the Mirror answered quickly. "When I knew it was an evil thing I tried to get rid of it." He walked around the bed and sat in the armchair, gazing absent-mindedly at Tristan's bed now. His expression was now blank. "My father was sleeping here?"
Harry nodded. "If you got rid of it, then why are you so desperately trying to find it again?"
"I'm not trying to find it."
"But you wrote about—"
"I don't want it found. I got rid of it for a specific reason."
"You're talking bullshit!"
"Think whatever you want. You're a nuisance. You're nothing, but a weak, fucked up wizard."
"I don't care about what you think of me. The fact that you're trying to throw me off track is suspicious enough," Harry continued. "If the Stitch isn't a werewolf cure, then what does it do? What happened when you touched it?"
"You're not going to give this up are you?"
"I'm supposed to be helping you, aren't I? Something happened to you before you got that teddy bear Horcrux—something so serious it broke your ties with Ron and Hermione."
The Mirror laughed. "It was a mission gone wrong in Bulgaria and I was so sick of her pestering—"
"You're lying again! If you want this war to end, then you better start telling me the truth!"
"Maybe I do, maybe I don't," he purred.
"You—I swear—you have been a waste of my time! You change tact every minute. You either help me or not."
Mirror Harry laughed. "Don't be so high and mighty about it, you're slowly turning into me."
"I won't!" Harry spat with determination.
"Like I said, you need to show me you're not."
The silence around them was chilly.
"The Stitch is a Dark power. When I touched it the first time I saw what I had become. The second time—I could feel it tearing my soul apart. I had only touched it for a second, but it was excruciating—worse than any pain I've ever experienced. I never wanted to see it again."
"Why did it feel like that? Was it actually ripping your soul?"
"My soul has already been shattered," Mirror Harry said. "But yes, along those lines, the Stitch had ripped it…"
This intrigued Harry. What was the Stitch's purpose? He watched his Mirror closely. "Then why did you want it found again?"
Mirror Harry grew frustrated. "I told you, I don't want to. The Dark Lord does. That graffiti in Cell Number 13 was not written by me."
"You didn't write it?"
The Mirror narrowed his eyes. "You still haven't figured it out—?"
"Well, why don't you give me a hint?"
Mirror Harry snorted and looked away. "I was delirious."
Harry knew he was lying. Then he remembered his Mirror being tortured by Voldemort. "So you failed your master, because you didn't want to give it to him."
"While I still have no clue what the Stitch truly does, it is somehow very important to the Dark Lord."
"How did Voldemort find out?"
"Charlie asked dangerous people questions. He didn't want to chuck it."
"Is this why you really killed Charlie?"
"Yes, he was an annoying idiot in the end, nosey, and didn't know when the keep his mouth shut. He didn't know what evil he was dealing with, and he would've killed the whole family."
"Hang on…" Harry pointed, spearing the sentence in its wake. "Isn't it your mission to kill your family?"
"It is," the Mirror answered, licking his bottom lip.
His gut feeling was telling him something else, but he didn't prod further, worried he'd end their newfound good terms. "Do you think this Stitch will help regain Voldemort's power?"
Mirror Harry grinned. "Oh you found out about his loss of magic, did you? That, I'm afraid, was my fault." And with those last words he disappeared.
"WAIT!" Harry yelled into the air. "Come back!"
Harry suddenly woke, realising he had sat up in bed as he slept, his hand outstretched to the place Mirror Harry had been. He must have yelled out as well.
He blinked, startled that the connection was over. Harry pounded his fists into the mattress, ignoring the fresh wave of pain from his back.
The bedroom door creaked open and Remus peered in. "Are you okay?"
Harry bit his lip, still staring at the spot Mirror Harry had disappeared, which had been somewhere between a pink drawing made by Ashley, emblazoned with glittering get well wishes, and a poster of the Holyhead Harpers.
His resolve broke down. "I—stay with me tonight."
Remus sat lightly on his bed. "What's wrong?"
"I spoke with Harry."
The werewolf's eyebrows flicked up, suddenly more curious than worried. "And?"
He could've told him his frustrations straight away; instead, Harry told him what weighed most on his mind.
"I'm worried about this phase," he said quickly. "I'm really scared I'm turning bad. I feel I am and I can't control it. I really want to hurt things—people." Harry remembered the time in fifth year when Voldemort had infiltrated his dreams and thoughts, and the stirring of evil he felt. This felt worse.
"Let's go downstairs."
Harry followed him into the kitchen. The florescent light overhead flickered and tinkled as it struggled to turn on. He made himself comfortable at the table, thinking Remus was going to make tea, but watched as he poured a healthy amount of Firewhisky into two mugs.
Harry still hadn't gotten used to the fiery stuff yet. He mistakenly took a gulp and coughed as it burned his throat and chest, making Remus laugh.
He smacked the mug back down, massaging his chest. "I've only drunk it a few times," he replied wheezily, watching Remus drink all of his in one go without any embarrassing reaction.
"Feeling better?" he asked.
Harry nodded, relaxing a little.
"While I can't find anything great written about Mages so far, all I can say is to look deep within your heart. What do you truly feel, Harry? Do you really want to hurt people?"
"Think hard. Anyone would want revenge on those who have harmed them. But is it really what you want? Would you take that extra step to kill them?"
Harry didn't need to think about this. "No."
"Then there's your answer."
"But I can't stop anything! Those feelings keep appearing and I find myself liking what I do. It's frightening."
"Harry, you need to understand the Dark phase you are experiencing.
"A normal Mage wouldn't experience the amount of emotions you and Harry do. The problem lies with the trauma you have both experienced or inflicted. It just isn't the optimum period to be going through it."
"So the happiest of Mages will breeze through it?"
"Precisely… Now, since you are struggling to control it, think about it in a different way."
"Imagine you're lost in a forest, and instead of finding a way out you are delving deeper within…" Remus uncorked the Firewhiskey and poured more into their mugs. "It's going to be scary, there'll be dangerous creatures and situations, but that forest isn't infinitive. If you keep pushing through, you will eventually discover the trees thinning and the dangers easing. You will find a way out."
"It feels like a test."
"Well, in a way it is. But you mustn't be scared of this phase, and you mustn't give to your dark thoughts, or you'll end up being stuck in it just like Harry has."
"I definitely don't want that to happen," Harry sighed, sipping the whisky this time.
"A Mage is the least understood of all powerful magical abilities. But it's the most powerful because as a full Mage, you not only would've increased your power beyond measure, but you can manipulate and absorb the essence of all living things without killing it, and absorb the power of non-living things too. You'll also be able to share it. To be a fully fledged Mage means you need to be wise, controlled and selfless."
"But I don't know how," Harry blurted. "I never knew I was a Mage until a month ago. I thought I was just absorbing some of Harry's power due to my arrival here and the laws of Mirror Universes."
"But you are one." Remus clasped his hands together. "Harry, you'll need to learn and experience every aspect and perspective the world offers, from good and evil, life and death, water and fire, earth and air, flesh and essence. You will discover their secrets and their beauty by touch. You will be a part of everything and everything will be part of you."
Just listening to Remus was boggling his brain.
"And to be a true Mage, you mustn't let any one of these aspects take control. Everything has to be a balance. Once you've mastered it, you will be indestructible… if you so wish. But I have heard that to be a true Mage you will need to experience death and therefore die. So it's a twist of the Deathly Hallows," Remus added with a smile.
"So a Mage spends the rest of their life training, only to graduate with death?" Harry snorted into his mug.
"Like I said, your ability is the least understood of all. I find myself struggling with its concepts."
"I don't want this ability. Just the thought of absorbing power, like I did with Bellatrix is—"
"Harry, absorbing power is one aspect which beginner Mages tend to do to nurture the growth of their ability. It's not lasting. The true growth of their power happens from within, once you have conquered the Dark phase."
Remus gently pointed at Harry's heart. "Just don't be too hard on yourself. We aren't judging you. We are here to support you. You're here with people who care about you, and that's going to make a huge difference."
"Thank you," Harry whispered. He felt such a great relief. "For someone who doesn't know much about Mages, you know quite a bit."
Remus smiled. "I have to admit these are Dumbledore's words not mine. He knew you would have trouble dealing with this, especially since you are experiencing it so rapidly."
"Have you told him everything I've said to you?"
"Yes, Harry. But Dumbledore, like everyone else who knows, doesn't know what the Obsidian Stitch does."
Harry explained all that Mirror Harry said to him when he had touched the Dark object.
"We know so little about this Dark artefact."
The clock chimed. It was two in the morning, but they were still talking. Remus cut them each a slice of sponge cake, licking the cream and jam off his fingers.
"There's something else bothering you, isn't there?"
He hesitated. "I have been talking with Harry since Azkaban, and I sometimes feel as though I'm getting nowhere. I haven't got much time left here, yet there's so much to find out."
"What's his demeanour like when you talk with him?"
"Well, sometimes I don't know which side of Harry I'll be encountering. Sometimes he changes mood suddenly. One minute he'll help me, then the next he's being evasively nasty. He's like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde."
Remus had the sponge cake halfway to his mouth, but he seemed busier ingesting Harry's words than the food. "He's been like that since he was imprisoned. But do you see a glimpse of his old personality, like yours?"
He nodded. "Yeah, before the darker side takes over… I know he wants to change and fight this. And sometimes, like tonight, I can sense he is torn about what he should do. He's so hurt. He really hates Dumbledore, which I totally understand. He also gets really fired up when I talk about his family."
"What if," Remus started, swallowing some cake before continuing, "you have succeeded in helping him change and he is the Harry we've always known? What if he's just too scared to let anyone get close to him after all he's done?"
Harry had never thought about it like that. "Yeah, maybe…"
"He didn't kill Dudley when the opportunity arose. He maimed his little sister instead of killing her. He helped you survive your torture, in fact I know it had drained his life, because James, Dumbledore and Grindelwald had been worried he would not survive it. Harry must have known he could've died helping you."
"Yes… whatever happens within your connection is manifested, like his hands becoming burnt."
Harry remembered that. Harry peered beneath his pyjama top and saw a blossoming black bruise appearing over his heart.
"It seems as though he's protecting a secret. Because we all know he killed Charlie and opened the Chamber of Secrets, killed Muggles and tortured people. From what Ashley and Tony had described, Harry had also killed Peter."
"Okay, so he's protecting something, what's the point of it all? Why can't he just tell us? That's the only way he'll get closure out of this. Is he frightened to trust us?"
"Yes, that and he's punishing himself for everything he's done."
Harry started swilling the amber liquid in his mug. "Well if he is, then he's been doing an exceptional job for years now."
"But he's done outstandingly well destroying Voldemort's power too! I would like to know how he managed it," Remus added with a sly grin. "And that's one good thing we should toast on before going back to bed.
"I suppose so," Harry said, thinking about how to destroy Voldemort in his world.
"Harry, what if he was testing you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Testing to see if you'd control your power and how far you've progressed? Mocking you to see how fired up you'd get within your phase? After all, you've done it to him tonight."
Harry bit his lip, thinking about his Mirror's sharp tongue and torments. "So you think that while I've been helping him through his phase, he's now helping me through mine?"
"I knew Harry well. At least the little boy I always remembered and the boy who wanted to defeat Voldemort. If he's changed, then he'll be helping you, even though you may think he is doing the opposite."