In The Company of Secrets
By Dream Red
Genre: Adventure, Mystery
Spoilers: Yes, from almost all of the books.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in the books, the HP universe, or the majority of magical objects. All those belong to J.K.Rowling.
Summary: A set of recurring dreams provoke Harry to delve into the history of some of the most powerful wizarding families in order to discover information that he needs to uncover the mystery behind the Chamber of Secrets and begin his fight in the war.
A/N: This is an AU from the Goblet of Fire, with the aim of Harry eventually becoming independent and a little more savvy to the world around him. He will become Dark in much later chapters, but not Evil. Ginny features in this quite prominently, but there will be under no circumstances any Harry/Ginny. Important Also, due to a mistake on my part when I was writing this, I remembered the Goblet of Fire as being his fifth year, which caused a rather large discrepancy in the plot and isn't fixable. Try and pretend Harry had a quiet and peaceful fourth year instead. Important
Chapter One: The Cloak of Smoke
It was dark. That much was certain. As if from far ahead of him, he could hear the dripping of water falling from a great height. It echoed and reverberated around the walls. Harry knew that they were rock, because one of his hands rested against the cool stone, while the other hung limply at his side.
His first stumbling steps were awkward, and he kept tripping on pebbles and stones that he couldn't see, but after taking a moment or so to get his bearings he lifted his feet higher, feeling for any obstacles in his way.
It was when he reached the cave-in that he remembered where he was. It was always the same; those first fumbled steps in the dark, the growing confidence in moving around, and then the realisation as his hands touched one of the smooth boulders that blocked his way.
He had the vague feeling that the Chamber of Secrets shouldn't have these rocks here, that the tunnel should be open. The passage would twist and turn, branching off in places that led to dark, damp dead ends before opening out into the vast underground cave he remembered so vividly.
It was in this time, when his hands still rested against the gentle curve of the rock, that he could remember what he was doing, why he was doing it. He'd come down from his room, following the sounds that he could hear in the pipes. He knew that he'd killed the monster, but somehow that felt separate, as if he were remembering something that somebody had told him a long time ago.
All he could do was follow the voice. He would come to the Chamber entrance, slide down, and make those first unstable steps in the dark. He'd gain his footing and begin to walk forwards confidently, but the moment he reached the cave-in his confidence flickered out.
He realised with a start that his feet were bare. Perhaps he'd been too distracted when he left the tower? He couldn't remember really. He got vague thoughts about an invisibility cloak, but those too faded, until all he was left with was the cool of the stone against his palm and the distant dripping, far off in the background.
In the small window on the second floor or No. 4 Privet Drive, Harry Potter stared out at the night sky, feeling his dream slip through his fingers like sand until all he was left with were a few fragments.
There had been times in his past when he'd been troubled by nightmares of Voldemort, or visions of shadowy enemies, but for the past seven weeks since he had returned to the Muggle world all he had dreamt was the same rapidly fading dream.
There was nothing particularly disturbing about the dream. He could remember the feeling of the uneven rocky floor underneath his feet, the cold humidity that hung in the air, and the sensation as his hand touched the smooth boulder in front of him.
It was the obvious lack of anything particularly disturbing that worried him the most. Of all the times he had had recurring dreams, there had been an element of danger, or fear, or even anger in them. In this dream though, there was simply a feeling of calm that hung over the void where his emotions usually were. In all his other dreams, there had been a sense of purpose, a feeling of destiny in whatever was happening. In this dream, he was there simply because he was there. There was no set purpose in mind, no tug or pull in a certain direction. He was simply there, feeling what it was like to be alive.
He did, however, have the nagging suspicion that he was missing something. There was something that began slipping from his memory the moment he began to wake. A detail so small as to be insignificant, that would throw the dream into perspective and give him some small clue as to the point of it if he was just able to remember it.
With a sigh he reached up to adjust his glasses and run a hand through his hair in frustration. A glance at the muted glow of a cheap digital clock that lay beside his bed told him that it was roughly three in the morning. He always woke early these days. Generally, depending on how long he walked for in the dream, he would wake anywhere between three and five in the morning, and not be able to get back to sleep.
He was under no delusions about what keeping such hours did to him. His concentration and patience had narrowed down to a thin point where he was barely able to restrain from snapping and cursing his relatives. The days passed in a kind of lucid daze with periods of strained control in between, helped along by generous doses of the low-quality instant coffee his aunt bought.
When he actually bothered to examine his face in the mirror, he found that his eyes were dim and there were heavy dark patches beneath them. He hadn't been out in the sun so much this year, and the weather was decidedly more overcast than in the previous summers, so his skin remained pale. He'd never tanned very well before, but this year due to the lack of sun he hadn't even browned his skin. He had remained thin, and the fact that Dudley was still dieting did him no help. His ribs came into sharp relief when he stretched, but other than being on the small side, he was hardly dangerously underweight. The habitual cakes that the Weasley family sent, and the fact that he did very little besides the chores he was set helped him.
His birthday had passed a few weeks ago. He'd received a few gifts from his friends, and a hand carved owl from Hagrid. Molly had sent him a book on classic household spells, telling him that at some point he would find them useful. Sirius had sent him a book on pranks, and Remus had sent him a book on mapmaking after Harry had enquired about the Marauder's map. He'd found it more and more irritating after his years of use that the map didn't include several tunnels and rooms he had found. Besides, mapmaking was interesting to Harry. Frankly, the wizarding world seemed to have rather a deficit of comprehensive maps that worked to their full potential. Remus had been keen to help him after he explained his motives, and really, the Marauder's map could do with a bit of an update.
Fred and George written him an odd letter where they swapped the quill and ink between each other every few sentences telling him that as soon as he visited them in Diagon Alley they would give him his present.
Harry let out a sigh and reached forwards to unlock his window, opening it gently so as not to let its squeaks of protest disturb the sleeping residents of the house.
He caught a lung-full of cool air, refreshing him and shifting those final fragments of his dream from his mind. What he really needed, Harry decided, was a pensieve. Then he would be able to store his dreams as soon as he awoke. Briefly he wondered whether memories or dreams could decay in a pensieve in the same way that they did in his head.
It was coming up to the time when he would make his trip down to Diagon Alley. He'd arranged to meet the Weasleys there instead of having them pick him up this year, and despite Voldemort's resurrection Dumbledore had reluctantly agreed.
The first weeks of his summer had been spent in a haze of guilt and fear. It had seemed only too clear to him that his days of relatively untroubled youth were numbered. Cedric hadn't deserved to die, and it hung over him like a black cloud. He had inadvertently murdered the boy, all because he'd had some mad idea about fairness and equality, and he'd got him to take the cup at the same time as he did. But, his death had served a purpose. It had been driven home, without a doubt, that people were going to die. He'd known it already, in a distant, abstract kind of way, but it hadn't been relevant before. He hadn't applied it to his own life, and examined what the consequences of him being the 'Boy-Who-Lived' could be. He'd wandered around with the horrible notion that those around him would start dropping like flies whenever he left the protection of his house for the first month of the summer. What if Voldemort came here? He might dislike his relatives, but they were the lesser of two evils. He wouldn't wish the kind of deaths that Voldemort's minions dealt out on anyone.
That was before the dreams set in.
One day, the nightmares of shadowy bogeymen and figures that shifted from Cedric, to Wormtail, to Voldemort, to Lucius Malfoy, all surrounded by a halo of green light and death became the dark, rocky tunnel, framed by the distant fall of water in the distance. The place that eluded his waking thoughts and haunted his unconscious ones. In the end, there had been no room for guilt, or Cedric, or Avada Kedavra when he was consumed with the persistent dream. Even Voldemort took a backseat ride. He looked through the papers because he had set himself a task of keeping an eye out for any signs of him, not because it had become some pressing need to know. There wasn't enough brainpower left for putting his full attention on Voldemort, not when he was so distracted.
When this year's letter had come from Hogwarts, he'd been informed that there would be Apparition lessons for those who wished to learn. Harry was sure he did. It would definitely save him a lot of trouble when he wanted to get to places on his own. It was also generally undetectable, meaning that he may leave a smudge of magic, but there would be no means of tracing him, and he wouldn't be locked in situations like the climax of the last year.
It would certainly be useful if Voldemort had hatched another plot for him, and he was sure that he would. Plots seemed the one constant in the winding road of his life. But really, that was the crux of the problem. Ever since his resurrection at the end of the Tri-Wizard Tournament, there had been neither hide nor hair of the most feared Dark Lord.
Harry had been confused at first. He had subscribed the moment he had returned home, and now the Daily Prophet was delivered to him every day by owl, much to his relatives dismay, but there was not one story that might hint at the Dark Lord's return, although there had been plenty about The-Boy-Who-Lived-Only-To-Crack-Under-The-Pressure. He'd received several owls, a few angry, others telling him to get a grip, and even some offering advice on good wizarding counsellors.
However, one day, when he had been sprawled across his floor in the small patch of sunlight that shone in, he had figured it out. Of course the Dark Lord was laying low. What better way to gather supporters and carry out plans than under the public's very own nose? With a sigh, Harry shook his head a little; he was under no illusions about how difficult it was going to be to convince people that what he was saying wasn't the ravings of an attention starved, delusional boy, and he would have to if the public were to be ready when Voldemort did choose to reveal himself.
He was still pondering the problem when a soft swish of wings and a blurry shape at the edge of his vision made him start in surprise and duck his head, feeling an unpleasant queasy feeling as he saw the ground loom below him. It wouldn't do to fall out of the window. He could just imagine the headlines if a reporter like Rita Skeeter found out: BOY WHO LIVED DIES IN SHORT FALL FROM WINDOW! No. That definitely wasn't a good idea.
When he was quite sure that he had regained his balance, he turned to find a haughty looking owl perched at the head of his bed, a letter clamped in its beak and a big parcel tied to one leg. Frowning, Harry padded over and took the letter from it, unfolding the parchment.
I'm sorry that I'm so late with your present, but it took me awhile to work out how to use the right charm. I hope that your summer has been all right, and I'll probably be seeing you in Diagon Alley to buy my school stuff.
I think you'll like my present, but no hard feelings if you don't,
P.S. The owl is named Woodruff, and he was a present for doing well in my exams. He's quite proud, so don't insult him. Ron's still got the bites on his hand.'
Harry gently picked the string around the parcel undone before removing the simple brown paper. Inside was a book titled 'The Practical Creation of Charms' and a small bag that contained a note and a small claw with a loop through it. Harry looked at them in consternation.
'You might not have heard of them, but dad told us that Muggles have something similar called 'lucky charms'. Unlike the Muggle versions, these ones are both lucky and magical, although they've come to be seen as rather superstitious. However, with your luck, you'll need them.
P.S. The one in the bag is one I made. It will protect you from any cuts getting infected. It's a bit of a random choice, but it was the best I could do. Perhaps you'll be able to figure it out better than I could.
Harry let out a small laugh. He remembered how one of Dudley's favourite breakfast cereals had run a limited edition of lucky leprechaun charms for a few months in leap year. He hadn't even imagined that there might be a Wizarding equivalent.
Careful to pack away all signs that he had been awake, and stowing the present with the others underneath the loose floorboard Harry settled onto his bed and began to read.
The day was very clear and chilled when he finally stepped out of the car. He'd managed to get Vernon to drive him here with the promise to be rid of him for the rest of the summer.
It didn't take him long to step into the Leaky Cauldron and order himself some lunch, as he'd deliberately arrived a few hours earlier so that he could do some of his shopping in private. It wasn't that he disliked his friends, it was more that ever since the dreams had begun, he found himself more comfortable when he was alone, or at least relatively anonymous in the crowd. Of course, he also wanted to buy some things that he knew either Ron or Hermione would manage to find problems with.
He was soon standing outside a small shop that read 'Sprite's Robes' and was situated just off Diagon Alley. He had discovered after a few years of frequenting the place that Diagon Alley actually consisted of a main street and several subsidiary alleys. Considering the bad experiences he had had the last time he'd bought robes in Madame Malkins, he thought of the small shop as a lifesaver. At least this time he wouldn't have to listen to arrogant blond purebloods prattle on to satisfy their inferiority complexes.
A small witch, whose nametag read 'Helena Sprite' greeted him as he stepped through the door, summoned by the tinkling of the bell above. The shop was quite dark, but had an air of cleanliness and modesty about it.
"Now young man, what can I help you with?" she asked efficiently. Harry responded by looking around the shop in curiosity.
"I need some new robes really. I attend Hogwarts, but the insignia shouldn't be that hard for me to spell on and off. I was looking for something a bit smarter or more durable than these," Harry gestured, holding up the slightly frayed and tattered robes. One corner of them had been singed where he'd fought the dragon last year, and he hadn't been able to repair them.
Helena in turn eyed them critically before returning her attention to the boy in front of her. He was reasonably tall, quite skinny and pale. The oversized Muggle clothes beneath the robes didn't do anything to dispel the feeling that he should probably be eating more than he did.
"You look like someone who gets into a bit of trouble," she commented. Harry could only nod and grin.
"The more durable robes are over here," she said, leading Harry further into the shop. "We have ones that are water-proof, dirt resistant, and…fire-proof…" she added, eyeing the singed robe critically.
Harry however, wasn't listening. He was gazing quite openly at a robe hung up in one corner that looked like it was made of black mist, curling and twining beautifully.
"Ah, I see you've caught sight of the Cloak of Smoke. I had a feeling that someone like you might like that," she said with a wink, walking over to cloak in question.
"It's beautiful," Harry stated, in awe. Helena just chuckled before handing it to him.
"Go and try it on. The changing rooms are just through the back. There should be a mirror there somewhere."
Harry nodded, feeling the fabric between his fingers. It felt smooth, but solid, heavier than he'd originally assumed. Exactly like he'd imagined smoke to feel. He was reminded of a fire that he had seen Hagrid build outside one year that had thick, grey plumes of wood smoke curling out of it.
Finding the mirror, he slung the cloak over his shoulders, watching as it settled, curling round his feet. This, he thought, is definitely something I'm buying. Smiling, he turned round in front of the mirror, looking himself over. His face had matured over the past year, and he'd finally lost the remaining fat on his cheeks, leaving his cheekbones far more defined than they had been. His glasses however, were exactly the same as they had been when he'd begun the school - battered and broken. Harry frowned. Perhaps it was time that he change them or look into correcting his eyesight. With the return of his all time nemesis, losing his glasses in a crucial situation could prove fatal.
"What do you think?" Harry was startled out of his reverie by Helena, who was now standing behind him with what looked like more Cloaks of Smoke in different colours over her arm.
"I like it. I'd definitely like to get one," Harry answered resolutely. "I'm curious though, are these actually made of smoke?" He asked, gesturing towards the material. Helena smiled at him.
"Yes. Awhile back one of our seamstresses and designers was creating a potion to resist water when she added the wrong ingredient and set it on fire. The smoke that came rolling off gave her an idea, and now, a few months down the line, we have the Cloak of Smoke." Harry returned her smile.
"They come in different colours?" Harry asked looking at the bundles of cloth in her hands.
"Yes. We should be broadening the colour range shortly, but at the moment all we have are shades of grey and this rather…lurid red." She uncovered a glaringly bright red, which Harry promptly disregarded. He may be a Gryffindor, but there was no reason to flaunt it like that.
"Are these fire and water resistant too?" Harry asked. The woman shot him a grin.
"Of course they're fire resistant. You can't set fire to smoke. The water was a bit more of a problem earlier on in the design. Just couldn't get the damn thing to work. Now though, you should be able to go out in torrential rain and stay dry."
After some deliberation, Harry decided to buy the cloak he was wearing, as well as another black one, a dark and light grey and one that was almost snowy white. Helena showed him another set of robes that had charms on them that made them look like they were fading out of existence at the edges, which Harry became quite taken with. In the end, he bought two sets of those as well.
"Now, the Cloaks of Smoke are quite changeable due to their design. If you want to draw them closed, all you have to do is pull it across and will it to stay closed. If you want it to open again, just concentrate and pull them open. If you want to make a hood, grab here," She indicated the back of the cloak. "Now pull, and it stretches into a hood. To put the hood away, just crush it back into the fabric while willing it to be one piece. The same goes if you want to lengthen or shorten the fabric a little. Luckily it only goes so far, so people can't go off creating whole reams of this stuff out of one cloak," She gave him an amused wink before turning to the other robes.
"Now, Dream Robes are a little less flexible. They have all the same fire repellent charms and such on them, but you can't stretch them in the same way as the Cloak of Smoke. You can alter how much they fade out though, again, you only have to concentrate and visualise what you want or they'll stay the same." Harry nodded in assent.
"For a little extra charge we can also place warming and cooling charms on them for summer and winter, as well as tear resistant charms. There's a book on how to weave charms and such into fabric that we sell, but most people don't tend to bother."
Harry thought for a moment before replying.
"Can I have all the charms you mentioned put onto them, and can you add the book to my pile?" Harry asked thoughtfully. He'd seen Mrs. Weasley using a charm to repair her children's clothes, and he wasn't planning on buying new ones for a long time. He just wasn't that type of person. It had taken some deliberation and a critical look in the mirror to convince him to stop wearing Dudley's rags and the robe he'd bought his first year at Hogwarts even. Knowing that, he'd probably be wearing these still when he was twenty.
"Right." Helena scribbled his orders down. "Anything else?" Harry grinned at her.
"What else do you have?"
As it turned out, the shop had quite a lot. Harry had decided that he now had enough robes, but was interested in the other things the shop sold, such as the clothes related jewellery that bore charms against various things, and an array of hats, gloves, scarves and boots. Harry guessed that there must be spells that increased the size of their cupboards, considering the shop couldn't possibly hold that much stock.
Harry bought one hat that turned invisible when he wanted it to, simply because the idea of an invisible hat was so absurd, and a few others that were simpler. He had turned up in time to buy the first in a range of Gloves of Smoke and Scarves of Smoke to match his robes. After much talking, Helena discovered a way to safely transfigure the scarf so that it showed at least one of the Gryffindor colours, even if it was only that garish red. Harry would need it to show his support at the Quidditch matches.
The boots turned out to be a bit of a problem, but after much deliberation, he settled on two pairs. The first were simply black and he was assured that they were very durable. The second came up to the knee and were insulated against the cold. Harry bought them after he remembered how icy it got in the castle, and how deep the snow was when it fell. It was about time he bought some proper boots. Harry was particularly pleased when Helena told him that there was a tricky little charm she could put on (for a small charge) that would stop water, snow and mud getting in the top of them.
Finally Harry perused the racks of trinkets that Helena had brought out for him. There were cloak pins, brooches, chains that hung from boots, belt buckles, cufflinks, bracelets and other strange items that she informed him could be woven into the fabric to imbue it with different properties. That, she told him, was all covered in the book he was buying.
In the end, Harry settled on two cloak pins, one of them was a silver basilisk that was semi-animate and he could give simple instructions to. The other was a brass lion, also semi-animate, that would hold part of his cloak in its jaws.
As for the pieces that could be charmed and then woven into the fabric, he bought a few of each. Some of them were small engravings or impressions depicting animals in wood, metal and bone. Others were things like lengths of chain ('for strength') and rolls of metal thread, or straw, or silk. He guessed he'd be spending longer on his friends' Christmas presents than usual.
When he was finally finished, Harry had quite a mass of items he was buying. He paid for it all when Helena had finished charming the robes and other fabrics for him. His next stop was to buy himself some clothes to replace the too big hand-me-downs. When he mentioned his dislike of Madame Malkins Helena had been only too happy to point him to a store that would sell what he was looking for, run by her sister, Ilene.
The shop was easily picked out by the name, 'Sprite's Clothing', and after introducing himself to the older and slightly sterner sister, she wasted no time in directing him to a few clothes.
Thankfully, Harry found that Wizarding fashion ran on a similar parallel to that of the Muggle world, and it wasn't too difficult to pick out some all right looking trousers and a few shirts in muted colours. Ilene, as it turned out, was more than happy to select most of his clothes for him, when Harry explained vaguely what he wanted.
However, if it had done nothing else, the Yule Ball the previous year had taught him that there were certain occasions where smart clothes would be useful. Therefore, with the assistance of Ilene Sprite, he managed to procure a few shirts in a slightly more expensive material, keeping to greys and coppers. He found it mildly embarrassing to be picking out a pair of well-cut slacks before Ilene told him to stop fretting, and stood him on a slightly raised dais to measure and outfit him. Finally, he added a nice long coat to the pile.
He was reminded of Ginny's good luck charm as he was paying for the clothes he'd purchased, but Ilene simply looked at him with a raised eyebrow when he asked her where he would be able to buy a bracelet or an ear piercing. With the use of a charming smile he had finally managed to goad her into telling him about the small tattoo and piercing parlour just down the road before bidding her goodbye.
He was just entering the parlour and whistling a light song that was running through his head when he noticed just who was in front of him.
"Bill!" He exclaimed, surprised. Bill looked at him in confusion before smiling back at him.
"I almost didn't recognise you Harry. You've really grown a lot from the little sprout I saw last time," He said with a grin. Harry couldn't help but grin back at him. After all, he was nearly the same height as the older boy now.
"Anyway," He continued. "What are you doing here? I thought you were off seeing that little brother and sister of mine?"
"I came early to get some stuff bought. You know Ron, he spends one minute in a clothes shop before deciding that he hates wizarding fashion and is going to be a hermit and live in the mountains," Harry joked, a little nervously. Strictly, he wasn't meant to have arrived early at all, but he was sure that Dumbledore wouldn't find out if he 'misread' the time.
"What are you doing here though?" Bill probed, looking suspicious. "You aren't getting a tattoo are you?" Harry promptly replied that he wasn't. "Hmm. Shame. I was coming here to get another earring done, although I'm thinking of getting a tattoo. Mum would blow the roof off if she knew though. She had problems enough with my hair, let alone something that permanent."
They talked for a moment, and Harry rummaged through his bag to show him the charm Ginny had made him, asking what he should do with it.
"Ah, lucky charms. They've gone rather out of use, but I'm not really sure why. I tend to wear mine on a necklace," He said, pulling the leather thong that had various charms knotted onto it out of the top of his shirt to show him. "But you could get a bracelet, or something to pin on clothes or a belt, or even an ear piercing. That would look good in your ear you know," Bill said, indicating the claw that Harry still had clutched in his hand.
Harry considered having his ear pierced for a moment, before blanching and quickly decided against it when the man who was having his done let out a deeply girly scream. Instead he decided to get a length of thin chain to hang it around his neck. Much better than an ear piercing, he thought. He finally bid goodbye to Bill, who was still perusing the earring selections and left.