A flash of silver glinted in the pale light of the chamber. The burgeoning shadows cast by flickering flames lent an ethereal glow to the dancing figure.
Silver flashed again, and then a flurry of bright flashes and a few sparks momentarily lit up the room, reflecting the flames from the various torches. The blade stood poised, held threateningly towards an imaginary opponent. Orange flames reflected on the blade as a second joined it, the image of the fire immortalized in glinting metal preserved for a split second.
Then the dance ceased as the blades were lowered to stand unthreateningly to each side of the figure. Fingers sprang apart with practiced ease as the blades disappeared, reappearing in worn leather holsters on the thighs of the man. Heavy breathing could finally be heard after the din of shuffling feet and crackling sparks died down, leaving a subdued aura to the chamber.
Marble pillars, once majestic, now stood withered and worn, the shimmering surface of an architectural marvel from an era long gone no longer as imposing as it had once been. Soft footsteps echoed in the chamber as the figure smoothly moved towards the nearby wall, approaching a massive frame of wood.
The figure in the portrait stared at him appraisingly for a few minutes, and then gave a reluctant applause. Then, raising an eyebrow, it took stance and pulled out its own daggers, going through the routine as an example for him. A beautiful dance of death ensued in the portrait as he watched, mesmerized by the smooth, seamless manner in which the figure danced through the imaginary opponents, accomplishing the movements with a grace that still evaded him.
He bowed as the painted teacher finished, signifying his respect for the skill of the man.
"Amazing, Master. I feel I was a little open on my right, and I over-extended myself on the third lunge."
"Agreed. You could add some practice in to fix those mistakes, and also get rid of your irritating propensity to stumble during the second turn. Remember; think of it like a dance."
He nodded solemnly, not in the least fazed by the demeaning manner in which he was instructed. Thus, he was surprised when his teacher smirked at him and inclined his head, stating "However, it was nearly perfect, so congratulations. Complacency must not set in, boy; it will spell your demise.
"Now, there are three books that you must take with you. The first is on Magical Traveling, it should be on the second shelf of the first row of cupboards. You also need the books on removing tracking charms and body replacement. Those you will have to search for. I expect you to conjure a replica of your body to fool that one-eyed fellow you spoke of, and continue training with me this summer. Nullify the tracking charms on your Holly wand, it is time for you to learn the art of dual-wand dueling. You should be able to apparate here, and I give you the first two weeks to learn and master how to accomplish these feats. Your training will generally cover the political aspects of your future. You will finally reach the age of majority for the old families, and it is crucial that you manipulate this advantage in the best possible way. Now leave, your time of departure is nearing."
"Of course, Lord Slytherin. Your Apprentice gratefully thanks you for your expert tutelage. Farewell."
The man gruffly replied "Farewell, young Heir." That was the closest the closeted man would come to displaying any emotion.
He bowed again and left the room.
Opening a worn door on the far side of the chamber, he perused the Library for about ten minutes until he found the books he was looking for. Shaking dust accumulated over centuries off the tomes, he waved a hand over them, causing them to shrink to the size of matchboxes. Carefully, he arrayed them on the nearby table, and placed both sheathed daggers next to the shrunken books. Lightly, he ran a finger over the silver lines that ran along the length of each wand holster, and they slipped off his forearms easily.
Then, he trudged into the ornate bathroom through a nearby door, and stripped down before he dived into the large pool of water. Fifteen minutes later, he was thoroughly refreshed, all traces of sweat from his body having disappeared. An expression of extreme reluctance on his face, he regarded his body in the slightly foggy mirror. Appraising eyes ran over the reflection of the toned, muscular body created from five years of hard dueling, swordplay, dagger-wielding and intensive exercise. Shaking his head in annoyance, he lifted a circular band from the sink-side table. His eyes roamed over the runes inlaid into the black band, an inch wide construction that would stand a grand total of two millimeters above his skin.
Irritably, he clasped it onto his upper right arm, placing it just above the bulge of his bicep. It clasped into place with an audible click, and the runes began glowing as they revolved around the band slowly. Nimble fingers tapped a few of the runes, and the man's body seemed to shrink. From the height of nearly six feet, it shrank down to 5"8, and his body lessened in mass as his defined musculature disappeared, to be replaced by a skinny body that had only the minimum musculature on it. A sigh escaped his lips as he saw his hair, which was done in the regular pureblood fashion of a loose ponytail; recede into his scalp to form an unruly mop of hair that stuck up on all sides. His eyes lost focus, vision blurring terribly. Groaning inwardly, he picked up the plastic-framed glasses lying on the counter and slid them on his face, watching the world come back in focus. A dejected look at the mirror later, the man, no, the boy, returned to his duties.
A few waves of his hands over the soiled clothes he had been wearing caused them to be rinsed, dried and unwrinkled spectacularly, also lending them a pleasant scent. He donned them quickly, and looked to his wristwatch. It indicated that he had but half an hour until the carriages were to leave, so he hastened to depart. He placed the shrunken books in his pocket, adding the two daggers in as well once he shrank them. Quickly strapping the holsters to his forearms, he disillusioned the one on his left, bearing the wand of the Great Salazar Slytherin, his ancestor.
He placed his hand on the wall and whispered something, a curious hiss escaping his lips. He disappeared, to reappear somewhere in the bowels of the school half a mile above him. In the chamber below, the portrait lost its stiff demeanor as it conjured a chair for itself and sank down into it.
'Excellent,' it mused. 'He has learnt exceptionally well…performing skills successfully much faster than I did. His motivation is truly strong. He shall be formidable some day."
Ten minutes later, he was walking through the corridors and halls of Hogwarts Castle. He stopped on the seventh floor, in front of the portrait of a rather large woman bedecked in a frilly pink dress. Suppressing his inner Slytherin distaste, he muttered "Merlin," causing the portrait to swing open to reveal a veritable bustle of people.
Some activity stopped as the two people nearest to the entrance to the male dormitory leaped at him, immediately firing off questions.
Plastering a look of dejection on his face, he muttered "Sorry. I was thinking. I'll see you down there." The two watched as he dejectedly trudged up the stairs to the Fifth Year Boys' Room, shooting glances at each other in a wholly obvious manner.
As he reached the top of the stairs, Harry Potter lost the look of dejection on his face, replacing it with an emotionless countenance. Making sure that no-one else was around, he waved a hand, intoning "Pack!"
The packing spell worked to perfection as his clothes and other assorted items folded themselves neatly and flew into his waiting trunk.
He removed the daggers and books from his pocket and undid the shrinking spell on them. Carelessly, he tossed the books into the trunk, and then made to put the daggers in. The daggers were once gloriously made, but their luster had faded over the years in the same manner that the Chamber had become dilapidated. They were daggers only in name, as they were about sixteen inches long from the tip of the blade to the base of the handle. They were war blades, meant for close combat and wielded by those who had exceptional skill in manipulating their bodies to avoid blows and spells. The once shiny blades had become rusty, and they weren't entirely suited to his style, the rigidly straight handle not too comfortable. Additionally, he disliked wearing them on his thighs, preferring to wear them on his back. Over the summer, he decided, he would hunt for daggers that were slightly longer and much more fitted to his style and grip. He knew that the majority of the pureblood faction still believed in teaching at least up to an average level of swordplay, so chance were that he could commission one of the smithies in one of the alleys to create the daggers for him. If all else failed, there were plenty of muggles who could do a fantastic job, as long as he had the enchantments prepared himself.
Sighing, he waved his hand again, causing the trunk to shrink to the size of a deck of cards. Reaching into his shirt, he placed it inside his shirt pocket, and looked around the room one last time. Nothing remained that belonged to him, so he walked out of the room. He took his time walking down to the gates of the school to find the carriages that would bear the students down to the Train Station in Hogsmeade.
As he prepared to enter a carriage, he absently admired the powerful steeds that were the Thestrals, awkwardly remembering the flight to London that had culminated in the death of his Godfather. Oddly enough, the thought of Sirius did not bring tears to his eyes, although grief did cloud his thoughts for a moment. Salazar had forced him to accept death after the demise of Cedric Diggory, and he had come to accept that death was simply a culmination of life, neither to be celebrated nor mourned. His Godfather had been close to him, the summer before his Fifth year had seen to that, but Harry was loathe to begrudge his Godfather the ultimate release when he knew that Sirius had lived a life that was far from picture-perfect. He chose, instead, to celebrate the life of the man who had been his godfather, and to acknowledge the fact that Sirius, at the very least, was not undergoing any more torture. Harry had spent an average of four to six hours a day with Sirius, simply being with him and hearing him regale obnoxiously funny tales of the Marauders, and he chose to let these times constitute what he thought of in context with Sirius, refusing to associate his memories of his Godfather with Azkaban and death.
Entering the carriage, Harry was drawn further into his thoughts, musing upon his life and how it had come to be.
Sirius had been the only person alive who had known all of Harry's secrets, his friend, confidante and Godfather. He was the only one who knew what Harry actually looked like, the only one to know what his Godson was capable of. There was a reason that Harry had wanted to go to the Department of Mysteries alone. He had known that he would be able to fight to his full potential without his friends weighing him down, and he had been right, having to carry them through the ordeal. However, fate had dealt its hand in the form of one obnoxiously bossy Hermione Granger, who had put her foot down and tacitly demanded that Harry take them along as well.
Wryly, Harry thought 'If only the idiot girl could put that much effort into a friendship rather than into spying on her friend.'
He had known of Ron and Hermione's 'defection' mere weeks after it had started after the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Hermione had been a good friend to him, loyal and helpful. It would be unfair to say that her betrayal was caused by her love for authority figures, but it was a part of the truth. She, like most Muggleborns before her, had fallen into the belief that Dumbledore was omnipotent. Through her five years at Hogwarts, despite the failings of the school to live up to its reputation as the most secure place in the world, she continually bolstered her beliefs due to Dumbledore's sense of presence. The old Headmaster certainly held an air of power, even if he looked like a joke, and the Muggleborns tended to look upon him as an example of what Wizards should be like: powerful, kind and intelligent. She, like the others, had cemented their belief in him so firmly that they even reflected his unadvertised opinions. Consequently, Hermione found Umbridge distasteful, as she was seeking to supplant Dumbledore, and she found Fudge useless, as he was far from having the intelligence that Dumbledore had. The D.A. which she had suggested was an idea thought up by Dumbledore and passed on to her; another little obstacle for his Golden Boy to tackle admirably. Harry had gone along with it simply out of sympathy for those that would actually suffer due to Umbridge's ineptness, knowing that he would easily ace his OWLs without a problem.
Then there was Ron. Ron was a fickle friend, in the same manner that fame was a fickle friend. At times that Harry would be publicized in the Daily Prophet; Ron was a gruff, irritable idiot, his jealousy rampant and obvious. At other times, Ron had no qualms about buttering Harry up and pretending to love him like a brother. It was time, Harry mused, to let go of certain deadweights in his life. Ron would be one of the first to go…he had no use for misguided and false loyalty. His position in the war had just solidified and elevated right to the top, and mistakes could cost him his life. Hermione could be useful, he knew, for with her ability to apply herself to a task, she could be a good resource. All that needed to be seen was whether it was worth the time that it would take to cultivate such a resource, for it would doubtlessly take a while for him to turn her away from Dumbledore. Hard evidence would not be good enough for her; she would need to have a complete documentation of the Headmaster's life before she would even believe that he had spat on the sidewalk.
Admittedly, it had taken two years for him to realize this, and that too, not on his own. It was not until a trip to the Chamber of Secrets two days before the end of his Second year that he had learnt of his friends' infidelity. What had started as a simple trip to satisfy some curiosity had ended up revealing earthshaking revelations. The portrait's curious enchantment of legilimency, similar to what the Sorting Hat used, had opened up a few erased memories and had pointed out certain actions and statements that had seemed innocent enough at the time. Upon finding that his memories had been tampered with so blatantly, Harry had started learning Occlumency from that summer, perfecting the basic shields by the time he left for his third year. Of course, he was only just nearing the completion of his advanced shields, since Voldemort's advances and Snape's aggressive teaching had hindered his progress considerably. With his memories returned, it had been a painful few months for him, having to force himself to be outwardly friendly towards a person who had betrayed his trust so blatantly. He had been surprised to know that Hermione had also joined the 'spies', since he had honestly thought that she cared for him, what with the incredible loyalty she had displayed towards him during the Tri-Wizard Tournament. He supposed that it was the sight of Cedric's dead body that had caused her to defect, possibly due to some misguided belief that Harry would eventually get her killed, too.
There was no reason to make a mistake about it; Ron and Hermione were his friends, honestly caring for him to some extent. Unfortunately, the friendship did not run as deep as the three of them portrayed it to be. Secrets that were kept from each other caused a rift in the friendship, one noticeable only if each action was viewed with careful scrutiny. Harry did not feel hate towards them, but certainly felt a certain dislike. He was simply disgusted by the fact that they had devalued his friendship to such an extent, buttering him up to the face while stabbing him in the back. He had already resolved himself to keep from causing a scene at the eventual end of the Golden Trio, as long as they did the same. However, and he noted this with no small amount of satisfaction, Ron would certainly take a swing or two. He sighed again, knowing that Ron wasn't smart enough to use magic in times of stress, the idiotic boy turned to physical force like a bloody muggle. He would enjoy disciplining the brat, he decided and betrayal was a terrible thing
It was unfortunate, he mused, that simply for appearances sake, he had been condemned to friendship with them. Until he received the Lordship of his Family, he would be unable to strike out on his own, and couldn't afford for Dumbledore to circumvent his plans before he could even attempt them. As of now, Dumbledore believed that Harry had no clue as to how the Wizarding World operated, so he had not tried to intervene yet. This, of course, would change drastically within a month and a half. The old man was a dangerous opponent, both in terms of magic and intelligence. He had spent years carefully manipulating people into doing his bidding, and had solidified his status from a powerful teacher into the benevolent Headmaster and the leader of the Supreme Court of Wizards.
Albus Dumbledore would certainly prove to be a worthy opponent.
Silently musing, he left the carriages and climbed onto the train, selecting a compartment. A wave of his hand caused the trunk to expand to its full size, and he pushed it under the seat. Closing his eyes, he leaned back to think more on what would happen this summer.He would turn sixteen, the age that one's magical maturity would take place. Magical maturity was the time at which the magical core stabilized and became more efficient in using magic. No longer would his spells bleed energy and lose power as they flew. He would not become more powerful, as that was impossible without using rituals. Instead, the magic would pulsate as it changed, engineering itself to run more efficiently. The magical blocks that Dumbledore had placed on him would fall apart under the onslaught of his changing magic, and he would finally reach his true potential, one that was forcibly kept from him. An equal indeed; he would surpass Dumbledore by far in terms of raw magic. Experience, knowledge and skill, however, would still evade him. Salazar's tutelage and unfettered access to the Black library would help in this regard, although it would certainly take a long time for him to master all that he needed to know.
Salazar had explained the prophecy to him in context with his own magic. Voldemort had already expanded his magic to its maximum possible level by Halloween 1981, and when he marked Harry, Harry was made his equal in terms of magic. Dumbledore had then placed the blocks on him. Harry already had a block on him from his parents, to cease the incredible level of accidental magic that he was displaying. Then, Dumbledore had placed enough blocks on him to not only limit how much of the suddenly expanded magic was available to him, but to also reduce the level down until he would be a slightly powerful wizard for his age. Of course, Dumbledore anticipated that the maturation would cause the blocks to fail, but he obviously planned to replace the blocks on him immediately, something that Harry would certainly avoid. A block could not be removed by anyone except for its caster once magical maturity had taken place, so he would be in a lot of trouble. Dumbledore apparently expected him to suddenly burst the dams when he confronted Voldemort, and die as a result of the explosion of magic, taking the Dark Lord with him.
Of course, after his magical maturity, and the final stabilization of his magic, he would be permitted by his master to go through rituals that were too dangerous to perform before, including one which would prevent any further blocks being placed on him. The only ritual he had gone through was the Ritual of Restoration, which had undone the effects of starvation and beatings from his childhood, including the scars. Of course, He had been forced to individually remove and re-grow most of the bones in his body due to their vulnerability and weakness, and had then had to take calcium supplements to reinforce his spine and skull, the ones he could not re-grow or remove. He had, under the guidance of his master, built the restrictor band around his upper arm that masked his true appearance. The runes and charms used on it were so extensive that it had taken him eight months to finish it before he could perform the first ritual. After all, it would not do for anyone to know what he really looked like, and what he was capable of. Also, the fact that it was a ritual would definitely go down as a Dark act, and since he was Harry Potter, he could expect no sympathy from the public, abusive childhood or not. In the future, he supposed, the Vampire Ritual would help him to become smoother with his movements and emulate his master more while he fought. Of course, it would also lend him the Vampiric grace to be looked upon favorably by the Pureblood faction of those that he needed to enamor.
On a personal level, of course, being the student of Salazar Slytherin himself tended to dull one's protests towards the use and effects of Dark Magic. His naïve idiosyncrasies had been shot down vehemently by his ancestor, who pointed out that it was the most powerful magic that existed, and as long as one performed the simple Cleansing Ritual once a year, one would never have to worry about being turned into a deviant. Voldemort, it seemed, had purposely neglected to perform the cleansing, feeling that his aims would be better served if he was to allow the chaotic energies of Dark Magic to fuel his drive for World Domination. Over time, it had mutated him, and had intensely skewed his mindset and turned his thoughts malignant and hateful.
He suppressed his slight irritation as the others found him, entering the cabin noisily and pervading the once tranquil atmosphere of the cabin with their boisterous activity.
For a while, he fielded their questions with expert nonchalance, avoiding sensitive topics as usual, and simply endured their chatting. Eventually, things calmed down after Luna stopped with her inane comments, Ron and Hermione stopped rolling their eyes at her, and Ginny shut up about her boyfriends. She had been looking him right in the eye when she said that Cho Chang was now going out with Michael Corner, her ex-boyfriend. He nearly puked at the insinuation that the swap should be complete, that Harry should naturally go out with Ginny. He peacefully closed his eyes, throwing an amused smile at Neville, who wore a similar expression of barely concealed irritation. The boy blushed at being caught. Harry was slightly perplexed, although he still wore a poker face. He couldn't for the life of him fathom why Neville of all people would wear a sneer of almost respectable proportions; the boy was frankly useless to his purposes, but this sneer provided some hope. After all, wooing the favor of the Longbottom family would allow him to garner some support from the sympathetic Light Wizards who knew of the fate of the Longbottoms. Then again, the fact that he was Harry Potter would woo them anyway, as long as he played his cards right.
Using some slight legilimency, Harry divined that he was feeling nervous about his magical maturity and what it would bring. Of course, he would then have to assume the Lordship of his family, and represent the Longbottom family at the International Confederation of Wizards and at the Wizengamot House of Lords. Also, he was nervous of how powerful he would get, wondering whether he would ever surpass the near-squib status that he was at. The magical maturity was certainly something to be nervous about. It depended on the time taken to undergo the maturity.
Average wizards and witches went through an hour or so of extreme illness while their magic pulsated and moved around within them. Ron had been incapacitated for an hour and a half, which resulted in some irritating gloating the next day. Harry had not bothered to ask, but Dumbledore had refused him the use of the Maturity Chamber at Hogwarts over the summer, saying that it was too dangerous for him to leave Privet Drive. Harry had peacefully agreed, increasing the old man's impression that Harry would be his malleable toy. His passive legilimency had told him that Dumbledore was thinking of a way to take control of the voting rights of the Potter family from Harry, wondering just how he should ask Harry for the position of Proxy of the Potters.
Harry, however, had no intention to fold. He held the most powerful cards in the deck, and he would use them to his benefit.
Now, considering Harry's apparent ease with using Legilimency, one would postulate that if he had the requisite skill in Occlumency, why did he fall prey to Voldemort's visions? The connection that the scar caused between the minds of Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort was on a level so intimate that simple Occlumency would not hold him out. The connection of the scar was stuck deep inside Harry's mind, and the tear between minds was rather large. Harry had only identified the tear about three months ago, and had set about trying to build a shield that entirely encircled it. He had, by now, completed only an eighth of the shield, and it would take at least another month to complete it, now that the framework for the shield was complete. Passive legilimency was almost like empathy, as it picked up surface thoughts due to one's mind being unguarded. Obviously, Dumbledore felt no need to keep his shields at full power while he spoke with Harry, as he believed that the young man was not capable of legilimency. Unfortunately, the day of the History exam, his sudden lull caused him to forget his Occlumency shields before he fell asleep, and his unprepared mind was easily convinced that the vision was real. Of course, he had tried to verify it just in case, but circumstances put the proverbial boot in his ass. It was unfortunate, but at least Sirius was in a better place now.
How did he know that? One word: Salazar. The year 983 had seen a rather gruesome experiment. A rape convict was thrown through the veil after a pint of blood was removed from him. A location spell and a few handy status charms on the blood had quite frankly spelled out the fact that the man was dead and gone rather than held in limbo. So, Harry knew that Sirius was in a better place, at least compared to the hell on earth that was Number 12 Grimmauld Place. However, he convinced himself, it was time to stop thinking about that.
An hour into the four hour journey, Harry stood up and left the compartment, claiming he was visiting the restroom and going to meet some of the other guys. Striding out of the compartment, he heaved a silent sigh of relief. As he stalked down the aisles, he surreptitiously reached into the sleeve of his robe to touch a few of the runes on the armband and push some magic into it. The armband responded appropriately, undoing some of the miniaturization that it had placed on his body. He grew taller by about an inch, an unnoticeable difference, and some of the meat was added back to his bones, hardening into muscle. Still, he no longer looked wasted away by far, just skinny.He finally found the compartment that he was looking for, and slipped in silently. A slim girl with exotic oriental features looked up at him, the beginnings of a smile on her face. He threw her a lopsided grin, raking his hand through his hair in the manner that he knew she found irresistible. A look of hunger entered her eyes, and she stood slowly. Pulling out her wand, she made it clear that she was no idiot by waving it at the door a few times, intoning a few simple yet powerful wards. The door melted into the wall, the blinds closed shut and a silencing and privacy ward was erected.
Grinning rakishly, Harry tugged at his robe, feeling it loosen and slip to the floor. A wave of his wand caused the rest of his clothes to vanish, and he stood there stark naked in front of her. She raised an eyebrow, eyes roaming over his body appreciatively. A look into his eyes told her what was coming next, as his wand waved again with a whispered spell, causing her clothes to vanish as well. A squeal emerged from her throat as she leapt at him, slamming him into the seat.
As she devoured his entirely willing mouth, an absent tap of his wand on the seat caused it to enlarge so that the horizontal part expanded to the size of a bed, creating more room for them. He flipped them over easily, and lay poised over her, eyes boring into hers. They traveled down the length of her body, noting the slightly tanned skin, average-sized breasts, flat stomach and long legs.
She was a sight to behold, which was why Harry truly felt bad that he did not love her.
Of course, with enough effort, he would, but as things were right now, he did not. He certainly possessed great affection for her, but that was it. He knew that one day, he could fall in love with her, and he certainly did not regard that as an unwelcome thing. He knew that there was no way that he could repudiate her, not with the great affection that he felt for her. As a Lord of more than one Family, he was entitled to two wives, and he could only hope that she would consent to being his lesser wife. He would have to talk to her some day, to tell her all about it, but until he made his moves, this was impossible. She was beautiful, loving and kind, and her intelligence was a certain plus in his book.
Despite being the student of Salazar Slytherin, Harry still held out hope for true love. While his ancestor was sarcastic and anything but naïve, the idea of true love certainly appealed to Harry. The idea that he might have a person on his life who would love and cherish him for who he was, to support and advise him was one that he truly wanted to believe in. The stunningly beautiful woman on his lap right now was more than in love with him, he knew, but he couldn't help but think that this was not true love for him. He felt deeply for her, but she was not the woman who would ultimately complete him, even though she came close.
Will be posted on Ficwad under user: Apocalypso
For an hour they simply laid there, Harry gently stroking her silky black hair. She was tracing doodles around his nipple in an idle fashion, apparently utterly spent already. Of course, the close proximity of their crotches had caused Harry to develop an erection within fifteen minutes of his climax, but he could tell that she was spent, and made no move to recommence their activities. His hands gently slipped down her back, sliding along her lovely hair to rest on each cheek of her rear. A gentle squeeze, accompanied by an unintended 'jump' caused her to slowly raise her head and rest her chin on his chest as she stared into his eyes. He grinned at her with slight regret in his gaze and whispered "I have to go."
She nodded; an action that didn't quite work out considering her chin was pressed to his chest. He laughed at the odd movement of her head, and leaned up to kiss her forehead. "The others will wonder where I was. I'll see you by the 1st of August?" It came out more as a question than a statement, and she could see the hesitancy in his eyes. She smiled, making the same movement again, and he grinned.
"You know," he said in a conversational tone, "you're gonna have to get up, or I won't be able to leave."
She stuck her tongue out childishly, and mumbled "What a shame," but rolled off anyways. Rolling onto his side, he caressed her cheek gently as he stared into her eyes, and whispered "Beautiful." Then, he got up and dressed, flicking his wand to cause both sets of clothes to materialize back on them. A useful little set of spells she had found, which he had learnt from her immediately. As he pulled his robe back on, for the spell for some reason refused to work on clothes with charms on them, she pouted at the lack of skin contact between them. Grinning, he hauled her to her feet and lifted her in the air, holding her up by the buttocks. She rested her forehead against his, but he insistently kissed her, his lips gently sucking on hers. As he broke away, his tongue flicked out to touch her lips, and she nearly moaned in anticipation at the innocent gesture.
He moved to leave, but the expression of longing and love in her eyes was too endearing. Sighing, he pulled her into his arms and kissed the crown of her head. With beautiful doe-eyes, she looked up at him, caressing his cheeks with impossibly soft hands as her gaze traveled over his face, trying to memorize each feature. He ran his fingers through her hair, admiring the silky black tresses that cascaded to the middle of her back in a beautiful waterfall. He pressed gentle kisses to her forehead, eyes, cheek and nose, finally leaning in to kiss her lips slowly. Unlike the passion-filled kisses that they usually gave each other, this one was slow and affectionate.
She smiled at him brilliantly as they parted, and he caressed her cheek again. "I'll miss you." She whispered it forlornly, leaning into his hand. His nose brushed against hers as he leaned in again, and this time the kiss was passionate as they furiously devoured each others' mouths. As their tongues met, she shivered and latched onto him harder, pressing her body flush against his. He stiffened noticeably as his hands grasped her buttocks, kneading the flesh of her ass with abandon.
Pulling away, he touched her lips with his fingers and whispered "I'll try to meet you as soon as possible. I swear it."
She smiled again, an action that lifted his spirits, and whispered "I love you." He nodded, serious, and replied "I know."
As he pulled away, he felt a tug in his heart seeing her forlorn expression. She loved him more than anything else in the world, her fling with Cedric a year ago being nothing more than that: a fling. Her pain at the time was caused by the loss of her childhood friend, the daring and chivalrous boy who had known her since she was eight. Now, when she had found the person that she was in love with, he was being taken away from her, and it hurt to know that she would not see him for a long time. The pain and love in her eyes was too much for him to bear, and he hugged her tightly as she let out a few tears into his clothes.
He pulled away a few inches and looked into those emotion-filled eyes, staring deep into her soul. It was as if a dam had broken within him, and he was forced to acknowledge that the last few minutes had been the ones to ensure the transition from affection to love. The fact that he would not see her for at least a month had incited the feeling within him that he would miss her more than he had originally thought. Caressing her cheek, he whispered "Cho…I love you." Another tear escaped her eye as she knew he meant it, and she burrowed her face into his neck, embracing him tightly. She would treasure this moment, when the love of her life admitted to reciprocating her feelings for him.
But still, she knew, it would not be enough. Even if he could not tell, she knew that one single woman would not complete him. She would hold a special place in his heart for all eternity, but there was another space that needed to be filled, a slightly larger space that would finally complete him. She knew that he would do anything to make sure that he didn't hurt her. Still, despite her utmost desire to have him all to herself, her love for him was more powerful, and it recognized his plight.
As she pulled away from a loving kiss, she whispered "We'll talk in August. Harry, I love you, but I'm not the only one for you. I don't have to like it, but…I will not let you be hurt. Just…just know that I love you."
He wrapped her in his arms, embracing her tightly, the tight leash on his emotions finally being loosened. He pressed a kiss to her lips, savoring the taste of her mouth. "I love you" he whispered against her lips, eyes closed.
One last kiss and a promise filled stare later he was gone from her cabin. She sat down on the seat that was now returned to normal, and picked up the once discarded book again. Sighing gently, she began reading.
Harry walked back to the compartment with easy steps, thoughts rocketing around his mind like cannonballs. Taking a deep breath, he suppressed the thoughts, knowing that he couldn't dwell on them now. A wave of his hand over his body, an entirely innocent movement, caused his sweat to disappear and his body and clothes to take on a pleasant smell of musk. A few quick taps and a slight pause outside the cabin caused his body to shrink down to the size his friends knew. Adjusting his robes, he entered the cabin, pleased to find that all except Luna were sleeping. She stared at him with her protuberant eyes, holding her gaze with her unnerving stare. Still, he refused to blink or look away.
Finally, she turned back to the upside down magazine in her hands and mumbled audibly "At least you replaced the smell."
Harry nearly choked, both out of disbelief and laughter. Managing to keep his face impassive, he gave no impression that he had heard a thing, and stared resolutely out of the window. The glens of Scotland were no longer rolling by his view as the train ambled on. Now, Harry could see the beginnings of small towns that would build up to the large city of London in about an hour.
At long last, the train ride ended, and Harry waved a half-hearted goodbye to his 'friends'. He passed by Cho as he walked, and gave her a fleeting look in the eye that was filled with love. She returned his gaze, and they silently moved away, not stopping even once. As he made his way over to the corpulent form of Vernon Dursley, he was sidetracked by Lupin, Tonks and Moody. They took great pleasure in informing the Dursleys that if Harry was mistreated, they would be in big trouble. Harry stayed impassive, for he had a huge box full of nutrient potions that would help him live through the summer even if he was locked in his room. Add to that the fact that he was in possession of Salazar's wand, and Harry Potter could make their lives terrible. Moody muttered something about how he was back on the Auror forces, and wouldn't be able to supervise Harry over the summer. This was good news, for Harry would no longer have study in secret for fear of being seen through the walls. He ignored the gruff old man; not having forgotten what he heard at St. Mungo's earlier in the year.The words "There's something funny about that Potter boy" had left him with a sure impression of Moody, and he had no intention of placing any trust in the man at all.
Tonks turned to him with a slight smile on her beautiful features. She had a knowing glint of mischievousness in her eyes as she leaned in and muttered "I'll see you soon, Harry. Keep your spirits up, okay?" He smiled tiredly at her, an honest action, and received a hug in response. He squeezed back and let go, allowing her to pull away. He wanted to know what the knowing glint was about, but unlike Dumbledore, Harry had no intention of snooping where his mind did not belong, simply to satisfy curiosity.
Lupin, who looked better than normal, clasped his shoulder and said "I'll see you around, Harry. Remember, it wasn't your fault! Don't beat yourself up about it." Harry gave him a smile and nodded, knowing that he placed no blame on himself.
It was too easy to blame himself if he thought irrationally. He had taken the time to check at Grimmauld Place, and he had told Snape, who chose not to mention a thing for a good two hours. Even after the half-hour altercation with Umbridge as well as the hour and a half long flight to London, it still took the Order a good thirty to forty minutes to show up, all due to his ineptness. If it wasn't for the two of them, Sirius would be alive. Plus, Harry had wanted to go by himself. He would have been able to get in and out without any problems, but because of the other five with him, he was forced to rein in his skills and use simple curses and hexes. In the final battle near the arch, he would have been able to decimate all but Dolohov, Rookwood and Bellatrix, who were superior in magic and dueling skills at the time, and would have been able to save his Godfather. In any case, he had no intention of leaving anyone alive to tell of his skills, so he had to suppress them, knowing that some would get away to tell Voldemort if he exhibited his skills. His original plan was to take them out individually using stealth, or to fire an extremely destructive curse into their midst and pick off the remainders.
Bellatrix. How he loathed her…for two days after the incident, he had had daydreams of torturing her. In that time, he had wished so hard to be able to cause her pain, to destroy all the she cherished. He wanted to rape her, to utterly dominate her; he wished to cause her such pain and humiliation that she would break. He wanted her to know, in her last moments, that he had taken everything from her; her honor, her pride, her very life. He wanted her to die knowing that he had violated her completely. But then, his thoughts had left her as he vowed to himself to keep from crossing the line as such. No doubt about it, he would kill her painfully, but he would not assault her like a common animal. He would simply repay her with the pain that she had left him.
Shaking his head of his thoughts, he followed Vernon to the car and got in, having put his trunk in the back. The ride home was peaceful, although Vernon was turning several shades of red and purple, allowing Harry to amuse himself by gauging how long it would take the fat man to explode. Two hours later, as they rounded the road, Harry once again found himself sneering at the disgusting uniformity of the houses on Privet Drive. Their flawlessness irritated him to no extent, seeing as it was more of a shoddy attempt to make the houses seem more opulent than to actually refrain from littering or keeping the houses immaculate. Of course, Petunia and the rest of the old biddies on the block all competed in the amount of cleanliness they could enforce, each trying to outdo the rest. Vernon caught his sneer in the rearview mirror, but wisely said nothing, although he purpled even more.
Getting out in front of Number 4, Harry dragged his trunk to his room, and collapsed on the bed with a sigh. He was tired from the activity earlier, and decided to shower and sleep. Irritatedly, he stood and closed the blinds on the windows, and stripped off to his underwear. Knowing that he was at liberty to do as he pleased at home, he tapped a few runes on his armband, and took it off. Immediately, his body began to grow in size, reaching its real size in a few seconds. Sighing with relief at the sensation of being back in his true form, he placed the armband on the rickety desk and lifted up a towel. Then, with a scowl, he noted that his family could not see him in this form, for Dumbledore would be informed by a hysterical set of Dursleys, ranting about his supposed 'freakishness'. Slamming his fist down in the desk in irritation, he replaced the armband, letting it do its work.
He sauntered into the bathroom, smirking at Dudley, who took one look at his cousin, and let out an undignified "Eeep!" Inwardly laughing at the piggish manner in which the boy reacted and scurried away, no doubt recalling the Dementors from last summer, he closed the door behind him and locked it. He fully stripped off and walked under the spray of hot water, allowing the massaging sensation of the water to soothe his skin. Apparently, he noted, the trip back in his Uncle's car had caused him to become sore, due to his odd position while he held Hedwig's cage and his broomstick. He groaned at the pain, deciding that it was just not his lucky day.
Twenty minutes later, he left the bathroom and returned to his room, where he walked in, letting the door shut behind him. He didn't spare a glance to the slight nook to the side of the door, and walked over to the desk, staring through the cracks in the blinds at the setting sun outside. Pulling the towel off from around his waist, he carelessly tossed it behind him onto the bed, and stood naked in the room, believing that there was no-one to watch him at the moment. Absently, his fingers found the runes on the armband, and it came off, allowing him to return to his form.
Gazing at the armband in his hand with disdain as he tapped the runes, he muttered "One more month and I won't have to wear this damned thing anymore." He stretched languidly as he pulled it off his arm, releasing a crick in his back, and froze in place as he heard a gasp behind him.
Cursing his stupidity, he leapt to the side, whipping out Salazar's wand and firing a stunner.
The spell was batted away professionally, and he heard a woman's voice yell "Stop! Harry! It's me…Tonks!" He stood cautiously, his wand pointed straight at Tonks' heart.
"What the hell are you doing here Tonks?" he asked, no small amount of annoyance audible in his tone. He ignored his current state of undress, knowing that being dead was worse than being embarrassed.
She lowered her wand and threw his towel to him, which he caught in a deft movement and wrapped it around himself.
Grinning, with a slight blush suffusing her cheeks, she said "Well, I said I'd see you soon. Nice reception, by the way. I wasn't expecting the show."
She had thought he would be embarrassed, but was disappointed to note that not even the slightest blush graced his cheeks. She began to find it a little uncomfortable to be under his intense gaze, and shifted nervously, inwardly cursing the fact that the view was so bloody distracting. He had grown up well, and that thing between his legs…well, diplomatically put, it would make some woman extremely happy some day.
"And what exactly are you doing in my room, Tonks? I don't remember asking you to come here." His voice was cold, as she had found out one of his major secrets, and information like this would cause Dumbledore to come crashing down on him. All issues of trust were thrust aside mercilessly as he put his own personal welfare and future ahead of all other things. He could not fail when he had come so close!
She blushed again, cursing herself for doing so, and abashedly said "Well, I heard from Hermione last year that you had grown your hair back overnight after a bad haircut. That isn't normal accidental magic, so I think you might be a metamorphmagus. If you are, I'd be obligated to train you, so I came here to find out. If you are, I'll ask Dumbledore if I can train you this summer, and I'll have to stay here and do it."
He raised an eyebrow. This was…news to him. While he wanted to vehemently tell her to get the hell out and obliviate her, having a trained skill like wandless self-transfiguration could be a huge bonus. It would afford him the anonymity needed to conduct some of the more shady transactions that he would need to perform the rituals. He knew from a chat with her last year that it was not a skill that could be self taught, it required some intensive work with another metamorphmagus to learn.
He decided to floss a little, and asked "Will I have to register myself like I would have to if I were an Animagus?"
She blinked at the question, and said "Well…no, I guess. But people generally find out in any case, since you would let them now when you morph around them."
Harry raised an eyebrow and thought for a second. "I gather that no-one else knows about this, including Dumbledore?"
She nodded, and he looked pensive again. Curiosity burned at her, and she asked "Harry…why do you look like this? Did you morph? You couldn't have, it had something to do with that armband. So?"
He sat down on the bed and looked at her for a few seconds and then spoke. "Are you prepared to give me your Witch's Oath to never tell another soul anything of what you hear and see today in this room? This includes the fact that I am a Metamorphmagus, if I am found to be one. I need to get some things off my chest, and I have always felt comfortable with you, so I am willing to tell you about it if you take the Oath. If not, I'm afraid I will have to obliviate you…I can't afford to have anyone else know these secrets."
She blanched for a second, and then resumed her curious expression. She thought for a few seconds, and nodded slowly. He was minimally impressed; she was apparently not some foolhardy Gryffindor.
"I, Nymphadora Antlia Tonks, swear by soul and magic to never repeat anything that I hear from Harry James Potter in any shape or form, until such time that he holds my Oath fulfilled." Harry felt the tingle of magic link them, and he nodded decisively.
Raising an eyebrow, he muttered "Antlia?" She blushed, muttering something about it being a name of another galaxy or stellar object.
Relaxing a bit, he looked at her and started off by saying "In one month, I will turn roughly eighteen years old."
"Definitely a Hufflepuff" he muttered, waving his hand to cast a levitation spell on her before she hit the ground.