Yin and Yang
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.
Start of the story notices
o - Summary
Post-HBP; Following a trail of mysterious messages with a Yin & Yang symbol on them, Harry comes to certain devastating revelations, pushing him down the path to darkness. Dark!Harry, no romance.
o - Pairings
o - Canon
This story starts off right after the sixth book, "Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince" (post-HBP). It contains spoilers from Harry Potter books 1 through 6, but none from other HP publications ('Quidditch through the ages', etc.), HP sites or interviews with JKR.
o - Rating
Rated - R - Swearing, violence, blood and gore. Character deaths. No explicit sex scenes.
o - Grammar warning
English is not my native tongue, so there will probably be some grammatical errors.
Chapter 1 - The truth shall set you free
Tap, tap, tap.
Harry Potter's eyelids twitched slightly, before opening just enough to reveal a pair of bleary green eyes. They drifted slowly over the smallest room of Number Four Privet Drive, before stopping at a digital clock on the nightstand beside the bed.
9:42 AM, 27th of July, 1997. Four days until my 17th birthday.
He tried to glare at the red display, but managed only a depressed stare.
Welcome to the last four days of your summer break. Please fasten your seatbelts and get ready to be killed on a hopeless quest. We hope you enjoyed your life, both the bad times and the terrible times. Faith Inc. wishes you a happy death!
His snort turned into a dejected sigh, brief spark of humour fading into the shadows of depression.
"The story of my life," he mumbled, landing a wobbly hand over the clock's snooze button. He turned his back to the nightstand and burrowed deeper into his warm cocoon made of blankets, as if seeking shelter from reality.
Harry had been in this state ever since the end of his sixth year at Hogwarts, five weeks ago. It was a year marked by the full-blown return of Lord Voldemort, betrayal of the light's only spy in his ranks, Severus Snape, and the consequent murder of its leader and greatest icon, Albus Dumbledore. These tragic events had left Harry with a terrible burden - an obligation to vanquish Lord Voldemort, without guidance or help from anyone but his two faithful friends.
And at first, Harry was perfectly willing to do his part. He was quick to dump his girlfriend, make an enemy out of the minister and create a broad plan with Ron and Hermione, knowing they would follow him to the end of the world if needed. While plotting and joking around with his two best friends, like in the good old days, Harry felt an irresistible surge of élan and optimism, of almost religious belief that their friendship would once again pull them through anything Fate threw at them. On that warm summer afternoon, at a glade near Dumbledore's mausoleum, surrounded by friends and allies, everything seemed so easy and achievable.
But left alone at Privet Drive, with little else to do but brood on his situation, doubt began to gnaw at Harry's mind. Faced with practical aspects of his hasty decision, for the first time he came to truly realize the magnitude of his task.
The truth of the matter was, neither he nor his friends had any clue whatsoever of how to locate Horcruxes or how to destroy them, preferably without killing themselves in the process. And even if, by some miracle, they managed to demolish Voldemort's safety net, Harry was well aware that he had no hope of destroying the final Horcrux - the Dark Lord himself. He knew he was neither smart nor powerful. He was just an average Joe, with a scar over his forehead, a wand in his hand and a few gadgets in his trunk; Nothing that would help him fight his way through legions of Death Eaters and then outduel the most powerful dark wizard in a century.
His friends weren't much better in that regard either. Yes, Hermione was rather knowledgeable and capable for a witch of her age, but deep inside, Harry knew she wasn't nearly as talented as they all liked to pretend she was. After all, all her knowledge and good grades came from hours of hard work and practice, and not from some instinctual grasp of magic, the kind of which a true magical prodigy would have had. As for Ron... he was a great bloke to argue about Quidditch or pass notes in classes, but Harry honestly didn't see how he could be of any help in the colossal task ahead. His easygoing attitude, mad board game skills and encyclopaedic knowledge of Chudley Cannons might be an asset in the Gryffindor common room, but Death Eaters spoke only in terms of magic and power.
As these thoughts festered in his mind, Harry's initial optimism slowly gave way to depression and hopelessness. His days became a blur of robotically performed chores and insomnia burdened nights. He would spend hours at end staring through the window or at the ceiling, trying to quench the crushing weight in his stomach, reminding him just how much of a failure he truly was; A weak, pathetic loser, unable to protect his friends and fulfil the obligations everyone, including the Fate itself it seems, had placed upon his shoulders.
Even when he would finally manage to doze off, his sleep was restless and riddled with nightmares. Sometimes, he would dream of his friends getting killed by Voldemort, with him watching from the sidelines, unable to lift a finger to help them. Other times, the Dark Lord would parade his severed, but somehow still conscious, head down Diagon Alley, where wizards and witches, both dead and alive, would gather and throw food at it, jeering at their 'chosen one' for failing to save them.
However, the nightmare he dreaded the most was the one that appear the most benign, at least to an outside observer. The sequence was always the same, taking place on the day of his 17th birthday, when he would finally be forced to leave the protection of Privet Drive's blood wards. He would tell his relatives to go screw themselves, pack up his trunk, drag it out to the pavement and sit on it. And that was it. The Order of the Phoenix would be wanting to lock him up for his own protection; The ministry plotting to use him; Death Eaters out to kill him; Horcruxes hidden, waiting for him to somehow find them and destroy them; The Dark Lord sitting on his throne, waiting to be slain; Press following his every move; A part of the public cheering him on, the other part jeering. The dark and the light would be clashing against each other above his head, in an epic battle of good and evil that would determine the fate of all. And with all this chaos spiralling around him, he would just sit there on his battered old trunk, by a road in some English suburbia. There would be no one there to meet him, advise him, order him, or even attack him; Nothing at all. Just him sitting there, completely at a loss what to do, while the whole world hangs in balance, waiting for his move. And then he would wake up, drenched in cold sweat, panting from panic and fear that that cursed day had finally arrived.
In his more lucid moments, he would remember a time only a few years back, when he used to rejoice the day of his freedom from the Dursleys, to childishly plan all the things he would do to them once he is finally able to use magic. He always found it amusing how it took merely one mocking quirk of Fate to turn his greatest dream into a nightmare. At times, this realization of the never-ending and always present irony of life would almost bring a smile to his face.
But then his eyes would drift back to the calendar on the wall, and the beginnings of this sarcastic smile would give way to a blank mask he always seemed to wear these days. Struck with another reminder of the crossroads that was inevitably approaching, he would throw himself into more meaningless chores or burrow himself deeper into his pillows, trying to hide himself from the rapidly approaching deadline and backbreaking obligations it would bring.
And today was no exception. With only four days of his isolation left, the maelstrom of war and the Horcrux hunt was dangling perilously close on the horizon. The mere thought of everyone's expecting faces upon asking him what was the plan made him burrow even deeper into the sheets.
Tap, tap, tap.
"Would you shut the fuck up!" Harry snapped and slammed his old clock, throwing it across the room. "There, it's not like I'll need you any more after I leave this dump and get everyone killed," he murmured, trying to get back into that blessed half-awake brooding mood he seemed to prefer these days.
Tap, tap, tap.
He quenched his irritation and fully opened his eyes, struggling to distinguish details from the blurry visage of his room. Wait a second, a clock doesn't tap, it rings, his slightly more lucid brain suddenly realized.
He lifted himself into a half-sitting position and took his glasses from the nightstand, glad that he hadn't sent them rolling along with the alarm clock. His small, cluttered room came into focus, along with a white owl glaring at him through the window.
"Hedwig!" Harry yelped and stumbled out of bed, hoping his haste would save him from his pet's ire at being kept waiting. "There you go girl, sorry to keep you waiting," he apologized, wincing from the expected peck. He noticed a letter tied to the owl's leg.
"Who's that from, girl?" he asked the irritated pet on his shoulder, tilting his head away from her sharp and over-eager beak.
Hedwig intensified her glare at his question, as if asking "Why don't you find out?"
Knowing better than to disregard the bird's 'gentle suggestion', Harry quickly untied the letter from her leg, skipping over the safety precautions he would usually take. Hedwig's willingness to carry the letter was good enough insurance for him.
The first thing Harry noticed was a circular black and white image on the envelope's face. Startled, he realized he knew that symbol very well.
Yin & Yang, the everlasting harmony of opposites, Harry smiled fondly, giving himself in to the rush of nostalgic memories.
Even after more than ten years, he could still remember the art class during which his disgruntled prep-school teacher had first introduced him with this symbol. While most of his year mates simply ignored the over-ambitious lecture filled with esoteric philosophy, one lonely six year old misfit had somehow connected Yin & Yang's dual imagery with the duplicity of his own life - where he was forced to act like an obedient drone for the sake of his relatives, while keeping his true dreams, hopes and thoughts strictly to himself. Grasping only a small part of the symbol's meaning, young Harry had spent an enjoyable few months imagining himself a personification of Yin & Yang and doodling his new 'call-sign' wherever he could. In his mind, he was like Clarke Kent and Robert Banner combined into one - plain and boring on the outside, he bravely suffered through loneliness and ridicule so that no one would find out how nice and special he was on the inside.
And then, as is often the case with children of that age, some new fad had come along and Harry's brief career of a masked hero was pushed aside and eventually forgotten. That is, until now.
Smiling sourly at the reminder of his unhappy childhood, Harry noted that the symbolism of Yin & Yang applied to him now stronger than ever. Here he was, once again forced by everyone's expectations to wear a heroic face like a mask, while keeping his true feelings and doubts safely tucked on the inside. He suddenly found it more than slightly disturbing that someone knew him well enough to pick this particular image for the letter's cover.
Although, it might as well be a coincidence, he acknowledged.
With a shrug, Harry ripped open the envelope and pulled out of it a plain white piece of paper. Large printed letters suggested the sender was either illiterate or was trying to conceal his handwriting. The message itself was even stranger.
• • • • •
Your account balance sheet at Gringotts contains certain information crucial to the quest you're about to partake on.
Do not seek Griphook, the goblin in charge of the Potter vaults. Speak with his boss Buffpick instead.
Harsh lessons cannot be conveyed by means of written or spoken words; they must be experienced by oneself.
• • • • •
Harry reread the unsigned note two more times, before sitting down on his bed to mule over it. One thing immediately caught his eye - the mysterious sender had written about his 'vaults', as in plural. He had always half-suspected there was more to the Potter wealth than just one vault, but he never found this matter important enough to waste too much thought over it. His interest, however, was definitely piqued now.
In the end, it didn't take him too long to decide he would move his butt over to Gringotts and speak with this goblin mentioned in the note.
I'll have to leave this house in a few days anyway, whether I like it or not. This way, I at least have a tangible lead to follow, he told himself, while packing his most important possessions in his enchanted schoolbag. He left the room with a spring in his step, feeling better than he had in weeks.
"Is... is this real," Harry looked hopefully at the goblin sitting across the desk from him, as if urging him to admit it was all some sort of elaborate joke.
"Yes, I'm afraid it is," Buffpick drawled indifferently.
"But... No, it can't be," Harry stuttered, while frantically listing through the file again, as if hoping another inspection might uncover something more, anything that would explain these terrible insinuations he was faced with.
The first page contained the full listing of his vaults and properties. Of the five vaults he had to his name, three were still unavailable to him. Both his parents' personal accounts and the Potters' main vault would be placed under his control on the day of his 17th birthday. The fourth account had been assigned to him by a mysterious donor just a few weeks ago, as a sort of an early coming of age gift... Or that's at least the explanation Buffpick had offered. Only the final vault, his trust fund, had been regularly used during the last 17 years.
And a bit too regularly, which was the crux of the problem.
Judging by the report Harry was holding, his trust fund had to be refilled to its full capacity of 10 thousands galleons each year since his parents' murder back in 1981. Knowing for a fact that he himself had withdrawn less than a thousand galleons in his entire life, and never prior to 1991, Harry had no explanation for this discrepancy, other than that someone else had been withdrawing his money without his knowledge or consent.
If there was any doubt about the figures in the main sheet, the second page swiftly blew them away. It contained a listing of all the people that had gained access to his trust fund over the years. Dumbledore, Snape, Dumbledore, Lupin, various combinations of the Weasleys, Hermione... The list went on and on, each name signifying another possible betrayal on a list that was already too long.
Harry's heart wanted to believe that his surrogate family needed the money to finance an emergency medical treatment of their seriously ill cousin, or that Dumbledore needed funds to help poor muggleborn families, but his brain told him otherwise. Withdrawing the full content of his account year after year, and each time just days before its scheduled refilling, spoke quite clearly of a well organized robbery. The worst thing was the fact that he had been left starving, alone in his rotten cupboard, while his so called friends and mentors feasted on his family's legacy. Just the thought of that turned his disbelief and sadness into boiling anger.
"Why wasn't I informed of this earlier?" he growled at the goblin, trying to suppress the urge to twist his, a Weasley's, anyone's neck with his bare hands.
"It was the duty of your account manager, Griphook, to inform you of your financial affairs on the earliest occasion possible; which, for the muggle-raised humans such as yourself, would be during your first visit to our bank," Buffpick intoned in a bored fashion, before ruffling through his files. "According to our records, Griphook had welcomed you on your first visit here and had even given you a tour of your trust fund vault. Do you deny this, Mr. Potter?"
"No. He gave me the cart ride alright," Harry seethed. "But he never mentioned anything about my other vaults or gave me my balance sheet... nor did he do it during any of my other visits! And if I had gone to him today instead of you, I bet he would have produced a neat, doctored balance sheet, showing me how everything is perfectly fine! It's clear to me that the little bastard has been bought off! He's in on it too!"
"I see," drawled Buffpick, while writing something down in one of the files on his desk. To Harry, he seemed more interested in filling out the paperwork properly, than dealing with the rampart corruption that had been exposed in his department.
After half a minute of waiting, Harry's patience was at end. "Well?" he snapped. "What are you going to do about this?"
"Griphook will be punished for his oversight, make no mistake about that Mr. Potter," said Buffpick swiftly as he looked up from some sort of form he'd been filling out. "He's been found guilty of repeated negligence on duty and thoughtless conduct towards his clients, resulting in damage to this company's reputation and Human-Goblin relations in general. As a punishment for his transgressions, he'll be promptly transferred to one of our minor branches and his salary reduced by 15 percent for a period of six months." He nodded to himself, looking pleased with such a swift and merciless sentence. He then returned to his paperwork, speaking on in a droning, robotic tone of voice. "We at Gringotts offer you our sincerest apologies for this terrible misunderstanding and our hopes that it won't hinder-"
"That's it!?" Harry jumped up, knocking the chair down and smacking a pile of paperwork from the goblin's desk, spreading it all over the floor. "You're just gonna let him walk away!?"
"Sit down, Mr. Potter," snapped the goblin, straightening up to his not so considerable height. "Playing along with rich clients' eccentricities is one thing, but letting you have a temper tantrum inside my office is not what we've agreed upon!"
"Oh, do excuse me if me having to meet your excellence in person because one of your own subordinates had been bought off has taken too much of your precious time," Harry seethed sarcastically. He was aware that the goblin of Buffpick's rank wasn't obliged to meet human clients, but this was taking it a step too far in Harry's opinion. I am the damaged party here, not the fucking goblins, he raged silently.
Buffpick, on his side, seemed rather taken aback by this outburst, for a moment looking more confused than annoyed. But before he could get his wits together and formulate some sort of response, Harry suddenly exhaled his rage out and slumped down in his chair, massaging his temples.
"Oh forget it, it's my own fault anyway. I should have questioned the wretched prick myself when I had the chance," he waved him off, realizing that the only thing Griphook actually did was neglect to inform him about his accounts. It was his own fault for not digging deeper during or after his first visit to the bank. Back then, he had simply been too engrossed in learning about the wizarding world and, for the first time in his life, having fun with his... friends.
Harry sighed sadly, all the arguments about money suddenly seeming rather petty compared with the prospect of getting betrayed by his surrogate family. "Besides, this isn't about money... it's... it doesn't matter," he muttered under his breath, lost in his thoughts.
For a moment Buffpick stared oddly at Harry, as if wondering how anything in the world could not be about money. But then he shook his head and sat down, mumbling about eccentric wizards and their foolish games. "If you say so, Mr. Potter," he said carefully, looking rather content to let the whole matter drop. "So, would you require anything else of me, or could we finally bring this highly improper meeting to a closure?"
"No," Harry shook his head slowly, still reeling from the terrible truth he had just uncovered. The letter was right, he decided. If someone told me this in person, I'd never believe them. And that thought suddenly reminded him of another mysterious loose end he had uncovered during his visit.
"Actually yes," he abruptly said to the goblin. "I want to visit this new vault that's been assigned to me two weeks ago. And then hopefully withdraw some money from my trust fund... that is, if my friends have left anything there not attached to the walls."
"Certainly," said Buffpick, as he chimed a strange bell-like device on his desk. "I'll just call in Griphook's replacement."
A few minutes later, a youngish goblin with some sort of strange, mismatched glasses hanging over his eyes walked in. "Hello Mr. Potter, my name is..."
"I don't care," Harry interrupted him, the recent affairs having rather soured his predisposition towards good inter-species relations. The appearance of his new account manager only served to bring back some of the resentment gathered towards goblins during the meeting.
"Well Buffpick, it was certainly illuminating meeting you. Good bye and thank you for nothing," he sneered nastily as he stood up, his short bout of self-incrimination suppressed in favour of blaming others, which was easier.
"Come on!" he snapped at his new account manager, as he stalked out of the manager's office in long, purposeful strides.
Two goblins exchanged a look, before Buffpick shook his head and spat in Gobbledegook. "Ungrateful wizarding brat! To think I've just wasted a whole hour of my day on indulging him with this charade of a meeting..."
He suddenly spotted the younger goblin still standing there, watching his boss's rant with fascination in his enlarged eyes.
"What are you waiting for, insect! Go after him! Shoo!" Buffpick snapped, sending the whippersnapper running after the angry teen through the halls of Gringotts. "And make sure he doesn't break anything valuable! You've seen how unstable he is!"
"Who are you and what do you think you're doing?" snapped a voice from behind Harry, making him almost slip from the library ladders he was standing on.
"Good evening to you too, professor McGonagall," Harry slowly turned around, well aware of a wand pointed at his back. He gave the old teacher one of his knowing half-smiles, but his eyes remained guarded, a lingering consequence of the disturbing truth he had uncovered earlier that day.
"Oh, it's you, Mr. Potter," the old witch sighed in relief. "Back here already?"
"You know me, professor; can't keep me away from Hogwarts," Harry quipped, hiding a guarded stance. "And before you ask why I'm not at my relatives' place, let me assure you that completing this project I'm working on is much more important for the war effort, than staying under the blood wards for another day or two."
"So I've been told," she drawled, peering at Harry with a mixture of suspicion and concern. "Pot... Harry, are you quite alright?"
"Of course I am," Harry frowned. "I'm not here because of the Dursleys, if that's what you mean. With my coming of age approaching, they were as timid as beaten puppies," he chuckled, remembering his relatives running away from whichever room he chose to mope in. "Besides, it's only been a month since we've last seen each other, professor. Even I couldn't get myself hurt in that amount of time, at least not without some deadly conspiracy going on." He smiled, trying to appease his teacher's concerns before she sent him off to the hospital wing.
McGonagall pursed her lips in annoyance. "Harry, I'd really prefer if you'd just tell me what's the purpose of this cloak and dagger game you're playing."
"Staying one step ahead of Voldemort?" McGonagall's eye twitched. She opened her mouth to object, but Harry beat her to it. "I know what you want to know, professor. And I'm sorry to say that, for the time being, it must remain a secret between myself and professor Dumbledore. This was one of his last wishes, so I ask you to respect it, as he would have surely respected yours."
Playing on the emotional card was a low blow, but after these recent revelations, Harry had no sympathy left for the old man. He did respect the headmistress, but he was still reluctant to share the secret of Voldemort's Horcruxes so soon after being betrayed by the last two people whom he had entrusted it with. That morning's meeting at Gringotts had taught him a valuable lesson about not trusting people indiscriminately, and he was determined to take it to heart. Besides, I'm sure the traitors will blab it all out sooner or later, he groused.
McGonagall practiced her glare for a few more seconds, before sighing in exasperation, obviously letting the matter drop for the time being. "Fine, be that way, Mr. Potter," she turned and stomped off somewhat petulantly, pausing at the library door just for a moment. "Oh and whatever is it you're doing... good luck."
"Thanks, professor," Harry called after the sound of her echoing footsteps, not quite sure what to make of his head of house.
Turning back to the task at hand, he once again scanned through the piece of paper he'd found inside the deposit box his mysterious benefactor had left him at Gringotts. It was an article cut out from a few weeks old issue of Daily Prophet. It spoke of the historic importance of the Hogwarts' library and speculated on what might happen to it if the school is shut down.
"Deceitfully Downplayed Detection Draughts 167," Harry murmured, parroting the printed message he had found on the back of the article, beneath a hand-drawn Yin & Yang symbol. It was obvious his secretive correspondent wanted him to visit Hogwarts' library and find the book he had specified in his note. He had no clue what the purpose of this enquiry was, but he couldn't help but feel apprehensive after the hard truths his previous clue had uncovered.
Without Madam Pince's grumbling help, it took Harry almost two hours and a trip to the Restricted Section to finally locate the tome he was looking for. He was dusty, sweaty and tired, but his brain never felt more awake since the start of the summer. Solving mysteries always had that sort of effect on him. Placing the tome on a nearby library table, he plopped down and located the page indicated in the note.
• • • • •
Browning's variation of the 'Cunctus Corporis Exploratio draught'
Considered by many for one of the most effective detection potions in existence. No other formula offers such an excellent combination of quality and simplicity, giving even the mere NEWT-level brewers a fair shot at achieving highly usable results. Like all detection draughts, its function is to identify any and all latent curses and wards attached to the target's body and produce a comprehensive report...
• • • • •
Harry stopped reading and pushed the book away, finally seeing where this was going.
Are they indicating that I have a curse placed on me? Harry wondered worriedly, before gathering his Gryffindor courage and ploughing forward.
Well, there's only one way to find out, he told himself as he snapped the book shut and headed towards Slughorn's potions classroom, determined to follow this new lead to whatever conclusion it might bring.
Twenty-four hours and three failed attempts later, the detection potion was finally completed. Harry sighed with relief and plopped down into teacher's comfy chair, giving his tired legs some rest. Thankfully, the brewing process had a lot of stasis stages, allowing him to catch up with his sleep, which was surprisingly restful after weeks of constant insomnia. If Harry was a smoker, he would have lighted up a victory cigar right about now; feeling of accomplishment and renewed purpose was just that good.
I should really thank this yin-yang person, once I finally meet them. But first, let's find out what bugs I have on me.
The final instruction from the book was one of Browning's modifications of the original formula. The potion was supposed to be poured into a Mythril cup and mixed with a drop or two of the drinker's own blood.
From his Occlumency lessons, Harry knew Snape kept the school's supply of Mythrilware in a locked cabinet in his office, always afraid some student might damage or steal them. He only hoped Slughorn hadn't relocated them during his short tenure. A quick Alohomora later, he stood before Snape' precious cabinet, only to find its lock broken. For a moment he was afraid someone had used the commotion during the Death Eater attack to clear out the entire collection. But a cursory glance upon opening the cabinet quickly alleviated his fears, seeing how everything seemed to be in its place. The only thing out of the ordinary was a folded note tucked inside one of the Mythril vials. The yin-yang symbol was clearly visible on its back.
Ahh, I should have expected this, Harry smiled excitedly, as he took the Mythril vial and walked back into the classroom. Another clue for me to follow after I'm done with this.
Eager to proceed with unravelling the mystery, Harry grabbed one of the silver knives from the table and cut his hand. He let some of his blood spill into the vial, followed by twice the amount of murky green liquid from the smouldering cauldron. He gently stirred the vial three times, making sure a self-inking quill and a roll of parchment were in place, as instructed. Finally, he took a deep breath, scrunched his face and swallowed the disgusting brew in one gulp.
Slowly, like a rising tide, Harry felt a foreign magic spread through his entire body; reaching every nook and niche, analyzing, testing and recording. Suddenly, a strange force grabbed his arm and moved it towards the quill. His first instinct was to fight it, but then he remembered this was a normal part of the process, so he relaxed and let the potion do its job. He watched with fascination as his possessed hand uncurled the parchment and started printing out a summary of his various ailments and diseases.
The first item on the list was a vague note about lingering after-effects of an unknown dark curse on his forehead. Nothing new there, Harry shrugged.
But then the quill moved on to the section 'Attached charms and long-lasting hexes in effect', and his aloofness turned into anxiety.
• • • • •
Unknown - Customized tracking charm
Allows the owner of the attached magical object to locate the target at any given time, anywhere in the world. The charm feeds off the target's own magic, allowing it unlimited duration time.
• • • • •
"Well, it's not like I wasn't expecting this," Harry sneered, feeling slightly relieved that it wasn't something much worse than a harmless tracking charm.
His relief, however, was short lived, as the quill started writing under another section - 'Potions in effect and potion residues.'
• • • • •
The draught of a guilty mind - psychosomatic potion, classified as dark arts. Found traces of a prolonged exposure to small, regular dozes.
Burdens the target's mind by amplifying their current worries, concerns and fears. Known for causing insomnia, nightmares and depression. Tasteless, scentless and colourless, if brewed correctly.
• • • • •
It took Harry a second or two to grasp the implications of this revelation. He just couldn't believe that the hell he's been through these past few weeks had been artificially induced by some kind of a dark arts potion.
"Dursleys! It got to be them!" he cursed, knowing his relatives were the only ones capable of supplying him with daily doses of this potion, without him becoming any wiser.
However, a bunch of magic-hating muggles could do only so much on their own. No, Harry saw it clearly now, Dursleys were little more than willing pawns in this conspiracy. Someone else must have been pulling their strings - a wizard or a group of wizards, with the means of obtaining the 'guilty mind' draught and a ready access to the Privet Drive's wards. The list of possible culprits was short and intersected handily with another list he had just acquired from the Goblins.
Order of the fucking Phoenix! Was stealing my money not enough!? Harry seethed, his brain already digging deeper through the connotations of his latest discovery.
They must have been afraid that their little piggy bank might run off, cutting them off their source of finances. Thus, they made sure I'll stay put at the Privet Drive, until they could relocate me to some sort of warded basement they've undoubtedly been preparing. They only had to cut off the potion once they got me there, and voila! They'd have a willing, even grateful prisoner, perfectly happy in his golden cage! Bastards!
In his indignation, he barely noticed when the quill started writing under a new section - 'Wards, blocks and permanent ritual effects'.
• • • • •
De Chantelle's valve - magical core block, first class;
Blocks out excess amounts of magic, allowing only for an average power outflow to pass through. Strong emotional episodes tend to breach the block, but its effect is automatically restored once the subject has calmed down. Often used to hide true power levels of above-average wizards and witches.
• • • • •
"Holy shit!" Harry blurted out as he read the passage. His first reaction was disbelief, but then he remembered the incident from his third year. He had been trying to master the Patronus charm for months, with little to no success. But then, as soon as he'd found himself in a life threatening situation, the power had simply exploded from his wand, creating a Patronus capable of chasing away hundreds of dementors.
Other similar incidents from the past came to his mind, but his musings were interrupted when his possessed hand wrote down yet another item.
• • • • •
Leomentis cerebral modulation ward - mental inhibitor, second class
Limits the target's learning and logical reasoning capacity. Tends to cause rash behaviour and short attention span. Severely limits the extent of the target's Occlumency skills.
• • • • •
Harry stared numbly at the last passage his hand had written, dead weight settling in his stomach. Friends, money, freedom and magic - over the past six years they all became an important part of his life. Seeing them sullied or taken away was painful, devastating even; but in the end, they were all pieces of a shell, none of them touching the actual person inside. He could always rationalize he was merely returning a gift that had been loaned to him with his first Hogwarts letter. If he tried hard enough, he could even convince himself that the past six years were just one weird frightening dream that was about to end.
However, this latest entry was something else entirely. The violation went deeper than the mere facade he wore, the role he learned to play. It pierced straight into his very core, leaving a gaping hole in the sole piece of the Universe Harry Potter considered uniquely and unquestioningly his own. His mind was his last and only refuge, a private heaven where no fan, relative or enemy could reach, and the best of friends could only glimpse. But to learn that his thoughts were never truly his own, that even this rudimentary privacy that most people take for granted had been taken away for the greater good of the wizardkind was simply too much.
Hot rage fumed from the pit of his stomach and through his entire body, making his blood boil and his vision narrow. With a primal scream, Harry wrestled his arm and the rest of his body away from the control of the potion, relishing the feeling of, at least symbolically, throwing his shackles off. The self-inking quill was whisked away from writing out closing disclaimers and advertisements for the businesses that had sponsored the potion's creator, and hurled towards the far wall of the classroom, along with the cauldron, spare vials and variety of other potion appliances unfortunate enough to be in Harry's reach.
A few minutes of cleansing fury later, Harry slumped into his chair, totally exhausted from both his temper tantrum and the devastating information he had just uncovered. Even though a part of him savoured the sight of the once dreaded classroom in ruins, a much bigger part of him felt dirty and violated by the foreign magics festering inside him. He couldn't help but mentally rewind his various screw-ups over the years and wonder if things would have been different if he had his full magical and mental capacities available during those times. He was damn well certain Snape's Occlumency lessons would have been much different without that accursed mental ward ruining his efforts. He gritted his teeth in anger as he remembered getting outperformed in his studies by a bunch of bookworm half-wits, including his ex friend, who then looked down on him and tapped each others' backs for being better than the famous Boy-Who-Lived. Just the thought of Hermione's self-righteous sermons about his inattention filled his stomach with new bouts of righteous anger.
The bitch is most likely in on it too! Probably trying to keep me ignorant, so she could stay the perfect ickle miss know-it-all teacher's pet, he seethed, his brain souring through conspiracy theories involving his ex friends.
But the worst thing of all was the realization that he had no clue who he really was. Were his decisions truly his own, or had the brain block influenced them? Would he really have run off to the Department of Mysteries and gotten his godfather killed, if it weren't for the Leomentis-induced recklessness? Would he have let Sirius kill Pettigrew and prevent the whole war from happening? Would he even have demanded to be sorted into Gryffindor in the first place? Was not only his whole life one big fat lie, but his personality as well?
Hours passed while Harry just sat there, staring at the wall and trying to make some semblance of sense out of his life. There was only one thing he was sure about - nothing would be the same again. Even if all his suspicions turned false, he knew he could never revert to being just a good, old Harry, a part of the Golden Trio and Dumbledore's man through and through.
"Nowhere to go but forward," Harry eventually sighed, determined not to let himself slip back into depression.
Now to see about removing these wards from my mind and magical core, he decided. But how to do it? Hmm, I have a strange feeling that my friendly neighbour might have left a clue or two.
Harry picked up the yin-yang's note from the Mythrilware cupboard, which alone remained untouched on Slughorn's work desk. He carefully unfolded the paper and read the single printed sentence inside it.
"Ye Olde Elven Rituals of Life 26. Hmm, well I guess it's back to the library for me,"
With another sigh, he trudged off towards his new destination, hoping house elves would visit the potions classroom before McGonagall does.
The morning of Harry's 17th birthday dawned bright and sunny. Of course, it mattered little to Harry himself, seeing how he met it inside a chamber deep beneath Hogwarts, going through the final preparations for the ritual he had decided to undertake. Or more precisely, the one Yin & Yang's latest note had suggested.
The Estë's grace cleansing ritual should do exactly as its name suggested - rejuvenate the focus person's entire body, while removing any maladies and foreign magics the ritual could find.
At first, Harry was a bit sceptical that one simple cleansing ritual would be enough to remove all the garbage that had been piled on his back. After all, he knew that Restricted Section kept hundreds of magics suitable for this purpose - alchemy, nature magic, ancient Elven lore, elemental summoning, oriental magic, even the dark arts. And in each category, there was a number of rituals and their sub-variants, each one affecting a different combination of magical effects and curses. However, a quick look through the appendix of the 'Elven Rituals' book reassured him his secretive helper had once again thought of everything - each of his maladies could be found in the 'Estë's grace's compatibility chart.
Shaking his head at the reminder of Yin & Yang's uncanny efficiency, Harry placed the last runic candle onto its focal point and took a stock of his work. Hundreds of white candles formed a huge circle, touching all five points of the central arcane pentagram drawn with dragon blood. Around and inside it, there was a complex arabesque of green power lines, black runes and blood red arcane symbols, carefully arranged according to the arithmetic calculations and instructions found in the suggested library book. Magical plants at various stages of their life cycles and multi-coloured runic candles were strategically placed at their specific focal points inside the scheme, creating a perfect equilibrium between life and death, which was apparently a major characteristic of Elven ritualistic magic.
Satisfied with the scheme itself, Harry turned his observations to the room around him. It was a gloomy circular chamber, with walls made of black obsidian and a single heavy door leading to the much larger space outside - the Chamber of Secrets.
It was funny really - when he first realized he would need a specially warded chamber to perform his cleansing ritual, 'Chamber of Secrets' was the first thought that crossed Harry's mind. Not a second later, tucked inside his 'Elven rituals' tome, he noticed a cut-out article speculating that a genuine ritual chamber might still exist as a part of Slytherin's private quarters. Realizing it was another bit of help Yin & Yang had left for him to find, he felt a surge of pride that, for once, he didn't need anyone's help to figure something out. The less pride-worthy part included finding the secret entrance to the chamber itself and then cleaning it up from cobwebs and strange organic gunk he didn't even want to think about. But with his absolute freedom at the end of the tunnel, no amount of grossness, hard work and painstaking study was too much for him.
Well, I guess it's finally ready, Harry eventually concluded. And it's about time too. That old bitch McGonagall had already arranged for the Order thugs to stop by later that day and 'escort' me to the Burrow. I bet the traitors will throw me a nice 'surprise' birthday party financed by the money they stole behind my back.
Squashing away his righteous anger, he unceremoniously started the process by stripping himself naked and closing the chamber's heavily warded door. He then approached a cage in the corner and carefully retrieved a barn owl from it, holding its wings pressed.
"Sorry old boy, I needed a magical animal for the sacrifice, and the owlery was the most convenient source I had at hand," he explained apologetically while petting the bird that was desperately struggling in his hands, as if sensing its fate. Harry knew this part of the ritual wouldn't come easy to him, but he, of all people, understood that some sacrifices are simply necessary in a war. Thank God Hedwig hadn't seen me whisking this old fellow away.
With the owl awkwardly clenched in his hands, he tiptoed into the very centre of the pentagram, mindful not to step on any of the markings on the floor. Once there, he sat Indian style at the very heart of the rune scheme and picked up a blood knife he had left there earlier.
"Well, better get on with it," he sighed as he pinned the haggard owl to the specific place on the floor in front of him.
He took a deep breath and started chanting the Elven words he had learned by heart from the ritual book. "Faer ned uireb taur, im can-le, im can-le, im can-le..."
While chanting the generic summoning verse, Harry took the blood blade and made an incision over his palm. He felt the blade suck in his blood through the cut, before closing the wound, leaving a visible scar behind.
"Beleg Estë, nestas ned lhaew, im baur le," Harry spoke firmly, while carefully dragging the dripping knife through the runes arranged into a half-completed circle around the struggling bird. He finished the chant by clumsily drawing a simple closing rune with the knife's tip. The runes around the owl suddenly lit up, entrapping the bird into a cage of crimson magic. With some relief, Harry let go of the now restrained owl and moved on to the next verse.
"Beleg Estë, teli a cenedril nín ant," he intoned, as he carved another bloody rune near the last one, making a new set of auxiliary runes power up. The energy net shifted, turning the owl on its back and spreading its wings, which exposed its vulnerable chest.
"Lasto nín cane... Lasto nín cane... Lasto nín cane..."
With each word of the chant, the wind was slowly picking up inside the chamber, reaching a good speed by the time the circle of white candles around the pentagram ignited on its own.
Alright, now for the hard part, Harry sighed.
"Faer ned uireb taur, im anna nín rhaw," he intoned through gritted teeth, while carving in the life rune on his stomach. He felt the knife suck in some more blood, leaving a neat red drawing behind it.
"Beleg Estë, im anna le seri aew!" with a yell, he plunged the knife straight through the owl's heart, slightly surprised by how natural the move felt. There was a strangely fascinating cracking of ribs under the knife tip and a few desperate trashes and hoots, before the owl finally slumped dead.
Clearing his head from the disturbing image, Harry proceeded to the next part.
"Beleg Estë, im anna nín faer!" he yelled through howling wind, while carving the soul-link rune on his chest. He was thankful that these runes were rather rudimentary, since he wasn't exactly a great artist even with pen and paper, not to mention a knife and his own flesh. A distant part of his mind wondered if owl's blood was infectious and whether the ancient Elves knew anything about different blood types or even had them.
"Beleg Estë, im aníra lín galu!" Sharpening his focus, Harry drew the connection rune at the central focal point of the entire scheme. There was a flash of light, as a white thread of magic shot out of the freshly drawn symbol, reaching the soul rune on Harry's chest, moving over to the life rune on his stomach, then connecting with the owl carcass on the floor, until finally reaching the point where it started from, creating a sort of shining tetragon between these four focal points.
"Anno lín balan!" Harry yelled, as he drew the final activation rune beneath the previous one and connected them with a line of blood.
Suddenly, the pentagram lit up with red light, as the wizard's and the owl's joint magic slowly leaked out and spread through the runic maze encompassing it. Shiny trails of power converged and diverged, dancing through the arcane arabesque of canals and stations. Runes and focal points were lit up one after another, each one making their own small but equally important alteration to the magic passing through it. Seeds blossomed into young sprouts, grown up plants withered away, while multicoloured ritualistic candles lit up and burned down, releasing their own potions into the lines that had powered them up. Harry watched with fascination as the Elven runic scheme juggled the magic with utmost precision and single-minded purposefulness, slowly but surely tweaking it towards the desired results.
Suddenly, the circle of white candles around the blood pentagram stifled out, indicating that the arithmetically calculated dance of magic and power was coming to an end. Wind slowed down and runic patterns dimmed one after another, having performed their purpose, while rivers of magic converged back towards the centre of the pentagram. Even though the lines shone brighter and brighter as they merged on their way back, their glow somehow never breached the darkness that gradually swallowed the furthest extinguished areas of the scheme. A dozen canals of light became six, then three. Finally, even the crimson light of the pentagram died out, leaving only a bright circle of magic surrounding Harry in the dead silence of the darkness.
Everything remained still for a moment, as if the ritual was gathering strength for one final push. The pause ended when the circle of light split up behind Harry's back. Two ends of the newly formed arc slowly retracted past Harry's sides and converged into a globe of magic concentrated in the main connection rune - the place where the whole juggling act had first started. The globe danced in place for a moment or two, and then it too begun to fade.
At first, Harry was afraid that something had gone wrong and that the ritual had failed. But then, he felt it; an encompassing, almost suffocating sheen of magic rising through the darkness.
For a moment, all Harry could feel was the heavy weight of magic on his skin and frantic beating of his heart. And then, out of nowhere, the room exploded with light and sound.
A tornado of wild magic lifted up the dazed wizard, holding him suspended in front of what could have only been a sun dancing before his blinded eyes. He regained his senses just in time to see the glowing ball of magic rush towards him and enter his body right through the soul rune on his chest. He felt excruciating, all-consuming pain of the cleansing magic spreading through his veins, before be blacked out into blissful unconsciousness.
It took Harry several minutes of blinking his eyes and stretching over the stone floor to realize that he had indeed regained his consciousness. The room was plunged in such darkness, that he was forced to touch his eyelids to make sure they were truly open.
Groggily, he raised his hand and yelled "Lumos!" He quickly covered his dilated irises against a painful ray of light exploding from where he had left his wand earlier. He tiredly crawled towards the flare, not caring if he stomped over the spent candles and shrivelled plants, and blindly felt the floor for his wand. Once he finally had it, he dimmed the flashlight and slowly tuned it back up, giving his eyes a chance to adjust.
A few minutes later, he was finally able to properly inspect the chamber. As expected, there wasn't much left of the school material he had used; burned down shrubs, piles of melted wax, faded rune imprints on the floor and one dead owl in the middle of it - all signs of a successfully performed ritual.
Successful, the word suddenly registered in his mind. Have I actually done it? Have I cleansed myself?
He quickly patted his body, making sure all his favourite organs were in place. Everything felt the same as before, and yet, somehow different. Trying to put a word to it, he realized he felt good. More than just good, he never felt better in his life! His mind was clear, his body fresh and his magic stronger than ever. It was bloody fantastic, being truly free for the first time in his life.
Laughing like a maniac, he started dancing around the chamber, casting all the spells he used to have problems with and noticing an immediate improvement. Double-transfigurations, silent casting, trick draws that ended with his wand sailing across the room - it didn't matter. Life was great, magic was great and better be bloody well damn sure Harry Potter was great too!
For the first time this summer, Harry thought about the future without feeling like he was planning his own funeral. He was confident he would finally manage to grasp the threads of his messed up life and grow into the mould destiny had made him. Without the constant haze of mind blocks clouding his brain, he suddenly understood the message the Prophecy was trying to tell him. He was never meant to be just an ordinary kid, who would grow up into an ordinary wizard, marry early on, have a bunch of children and retire after 60 years of public service. On the contrary, he was a powerful, resourceful and smart wizard, Voldemort's equal in every sense of that word. Without blocks, wards and traitors holding him down, only the sky was his limit.
And at that moment, Harry knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that he could accomplish his destiny, his central purpose in life. He would throw away the shackles of his traitorous minders and train himself into the force he was destined to become. And then, Voldemort and his ex friends would rue the day they had dared to cross him.
"But first, what do I do now?" he thought, reigning in his newfound enthusiasm and putting his mind to the matter at hand. He shouldn't have bothered, as it turned out Yin & Yang had apparently thought of everything. Somehow, while Harry was passed out, a large fluorescent Yin & Yang symbol had appeared on one of the chamber walls. Beneath it, a new enigmatic message greeted the confused wizard.
• • • • •
You have seen much and gone through a lot. But are you ready for the final step of your journey? Do you dare cut out the last ties to your old self and step into a new life?
There's a secret compartment behind the desk in the Headmaster's office. Tap the third brick from the left column, seventh from the floor. The password is "lollypops".
If all goes as planned, this is the last of these messages you'll see for a long time, possibly forever. Good luck Harry Potter, and have a safe journey.
• • • • •
Intrigued, Harry approached the wall and dipped his finger in the fluorescent yellow powder. Bloody hell, it's the lumospell dust, he realized with a start. So that's how they did it!
Lumospell was a substance mainly used by Auror inspectors, to detect traces of magic on crime scenes. Its colour would normally be stone grey, which was why Harry hadn't spotted the message before. It took the tremendous amount of magic released during the ritual to cause the thin sheen of lumospell to glow.
"Ingenious," Harry murmured with appreciation. Even though Lumospell wasn't very difficult to make, it was a substance so specialized, that it was barely even mentioned in the Hogwarts curriculum.
Wiping his hand clean off the yellow dust, Harry looked at his wrist watch and gasped when he saw he'd been unconscious for nearly 12 hours.
I have only an hour or two before the traitors arrive to take me away, he thought, while quickly packing up his few belongings into his school bag and wiping the message clean off the wall. Just enough time for me to raid Dumbledore's office, and get lost from this dump, hopefully for a long, long time.
Only once he reached the guardian Gargoyle did Harry realize he ever asked for the password to the headmistress' office. He somehow doubted McGonagall would have kept Dumbledore's old candy password, regardless of how much respect she held for the man.
"Err, I don't suppose you could just let me in?" Harry asked the guardian. "I didn't think so," he murmured after a few moments of silence.
Hmm, what would a woman like McGonagall pick for her password? Some Quidditch term, a famous quote, or perhaps a species of cat...
"Egyptian Mau!" he suddenly blurted out and jumped back in surprise when the passage opened.
I must have overheard McGonagall say it in the passing, and then forgot all about it, until the ritual improved my memory. Being smart kicks ass! he thought jubilantly, as he stepped on the sliding stairs.
A short ride latter he was knocking on the door to McGonagall's office.
"Come in," Harry heard the headmistress' distracted voice, before he timidly stepped into the office.
"Ahh, Mr. Potter. I'm glad to see you've finally decided to come out of hiding. I was just about to organize a search party for you," she said, as she directed him towards a baroque-styled chair in front of her desk.
"Hello to you too, professor," Harry nodded as he set down, managing a tight smile. "I apologize for not coming to see you sooner, I've been awfully busy these past few days."
"Quite alright Harry, I'm sure you had your reasons," McGonagall said lightly, as she took a cookie jar from her desk and offered it to Harry. "Biscuit?"
"No thank you," he waved her off, leaning back in the uncomfortable chair. He rather missed Dumbledore's squishy armchairs, even if he didn't miss the man himself - well, not anymore.
While McGonagall was busy with the cookie jar, which she almost dropped from her inexperienced hands, Harry took a moment to inspect the office. To his delight, the room remained almost exactly the same as he remembered it - stricter furniture and a few less knickknacks on the shelves were the only noticeable differences. However, what caught Harry's attention the most was a portrait of Albus Dumbledore, haphazardly left in the corner of the room, in a pile of torn wrapping paper. It had obviously arrived by post just hours ago.
A pang of fear shot through Harry's chest. I can't open the secret compartment while the old goat is around, he panicked, before he noticed the character in the canvas was as asleep as he had been the first time he saw it.
"The painter had returned the canvas just this morning," McGonagall explained, seeing Harry's interest. "They still can't decipher what's wrong with it. Everything is fine with the magic, they say, but he just... can't seem to wake up."
Harry was about to force a respectfully subdued nod in response, when a terrible realization struck him. "Professor... you don't think... that he could still..."
"Be alive?" McGonagall's head snapped at that, looking at Harry suspiciously, before she sighed sadly in response. "No, Mr. Potter. As great of a wizard as he used to be, I'm quite sure even he couldn't beat death."
Harry nodded dejectedly, while he was internally sighing in relief. And good riddance, he added mentally.
McGonagall seemingly had something more to add, but then she changed her mind and formed an obviously faked expression of friendliness on her face. "So Harry," she started in an amiable tone, which immediately raised a few red flags in Harry's mind. "Judging by your absence from meals and other functions, I gather you've been rather busy with this project of yours."
"I have," Harry answered carefully, somewhat freaked out by the usually strict teacher's eerie behaviour. He decided he should better sweet-talk her somewhat before asking her to leave him alone in her office. He had a feeling such a request wouldn't go over very well with the old bird. "And I'd like to thank you for helping me out with it. I really appreciate your cooperation, professor."
"Oh, think nothing of it, my dear boy," she waved him off and chuckled amiably.
'My dear boy'? McGonagall chuckling!? Harry's brain screamed. Oh, no. I have a feeling where this is going.
"It is my duty to help anyone working against V-V-Voldemort, and especially one of my best students," McGonagall went on, shaking her head sadly. "My only regret is that I haven't been able to do more."
Ahh, here we are, thought Harry.
"Oh, don't worry about that, ma'am. Everything went along just fine even without your help."
"It has? Strange," McGonagall mulled. "I could have sworn I've overheard house elves talking about some sort of incident in the potions classroom."
Harry resisted an urge to roll his eyes. McGonagall acting all suave and crafty? God help us. She's like an elephant in a glass store, he thought amusedly.
"Yes, I had a minor mishap there a few days ago. Don't worry about it professor, I made sure to give the elves enough money to cover the damage. They seemed delighted to finally have some work," he chuckled. He remembered that, for some reason, neither Dobby nor Kreacher were around, so he had to do it during one of his regular raids to the kitchen.
"But still, you could have gotten hurt, or worse," she leaned in concernedly. "I'm afraid I cannot condone any more of these dangerous experiments without the supervision of someone more experienced with these matters. I, for instance, would be more than delighted to assist you with anything you need, Harry."
Fighting down a laugh at McGonagall's pathetic mockery of Dumbledore's style, Harry managed to nod in response. "You're quite correct, professor. I agree that my potion brewing would have been much easier with some sort of guidance at hand." He watched amusedly as a self-satisfied smile formed on the old bat's face. "But luckily, I'm all done with experiments and potions for the time being, so I really won't be needing any adult supervision or Hogwarts' facilities anymore."
McGonagall obviously struggled to form some sort of reply, before slumping in defeat. "Mr. Potter, haven't you gotten tired of this game already? Because I certainly have," she admitted with a sigh.
Harry suddenly felt a pang of sympathy towards the new headmistress, just now realizing how drained she actually looked. She must have been under a lot of pressure these past few weeks, he mused. Trying to fill in Dumbledore's shoes, even though everybody, including herself, knows she's not even close to the calibre of wizard the old man used to be. Kind of like myself up until a few days ago.
Angered by the reminder of his pathetic ignorance and malleability, he squashed any pity he was beginning to feel towards the headmistress.
Let the old bat suffocate under her new titles, see if I care. After being Dumbledore's bitch for so long, she must know at least something about the conspiracy he was weaving against me.
"I'm well aware of what you want to know professor," Harry said carefully, wary of this new change in McGonagall's behaviour. He still needed her cooperation to examine the contest of Dumbledore's safe. "But I'm afraid my answer remains the same. You have your own duties to perform and I have mine. We all do what we must, and not-"
"Mr. Potter," she interrupted him curtly. "Be that as it may, the fact remains that I'm the headmistress of this institution and the new head of the Order of the Phoenix, while you're still a mere student under my supervision," she said sternly. Having dropped her Dumbledorish mask, which obviously needed some more work, she easily reverted to her well-practiced 'prim and proper teacher' mode. "I believe I've given you more than enough leeway in this matter, even agreeing to play these silly games with you. But enough is enough. Potter, I demand to be told what you are up to. As professor Dumbledore's successor, it is my duty to know!"
At that exact moment, Harry realized that any chance he had at gaining McGonagall cooperation had just been ruined. As soon as she learns there's something important in Dumbledore's secret safe, she'll never allow me to retrieve in on my own, Harry mused, already plotting a new approach. Finally, he made his choice.
"Very well professor," he sighed in defeat. "It's a... spell I've been working on."
"A spell?" McGonagall leaned in eagerly. "What spell?"
"Here, let me show you," Harry said as he pulled out his wand.
"What's the name of the spell? Maybe I've heard about it?" McGonagall asked, looking eager to prove she could indeed be of some help with the research.
"What kind of name is that, Pott-"
McGonagall's body quivered, as if hit by electricity, before stumbling over the desk.
Harry knew he didn't have much time before his 'minders' came to pick him up. Stunning McGonagall once again for good measure, he swiftly walked behind her desk and tapped the brick indicated in Yin & Yang's last message. The bricked wall melted and reformed into a stone statue in the shape of a lion's head. Yin-Yang is never wrong, Harry nodded to himself in satisfaction.
"Lollypops," Harry said to the guardian. The lion nodded in confirmation, before opening his mouth so wide, that the jaws completely covered his head, before melting into the wall. What used to be the lion's maw was now a heavy oak door. Amazed by the quality of transfiguration, Harry opened the newly revealed safe.
The first thing that caught his eye was the time turner Hermione had used three years ago.
So it's Dumbledore's own personal time-turner after all, he mused. Why he had made us believe it was some sort of school policy for children to receive time-turners if their schedule is too tight?
Shrugging, he took the golden chain and put it around his neck. He had a strange feeling that item would become a crucial part of plan, even though he didn't have one yet.
The next thing he examined was a pile of twenty or so expensive-looking books. Horcruxes, transfiguration, alchemy, duelling, even a couple of dark arts books. "Jackpot," Harry smirked, realizing he had just uncovered crème de la crème of Dumbledore's personal collection.
Separate from the books, Harry found a thick red notebook, hugging the cupboard's wall. A flowery golden caption on the cover read "Albus Dumbledore - the journal". Intrigued, he started leafing through it, only vaguely noting that the first page had been torn off.
Five minutes later, he closed the journal with a stunned expression on his face. If the pile of rare books was a stroke of luck, this was nothing less than a blessing from God himself. Page after page of Dumbledore's neat script detailed absolutely everything one would need to know on a quest for knowledge - from favoured hotels and local sights, over various masters and their quirks and quirks, to shady contacts in the underground.
At first, Harry was afraid that most of the information would be outdated, having originated from when Dumbledore was getting ready to face his own dark lord nemesis, 50 years ago. However, upon further inspection, it turned out the last third of the journal consisted of addendums made throughout the decades after the initial trip - who replaced whom in the underworld, current prices of contrabands, legal holes in the laws Dumbledore had helped write and such. The headmaster had obviously made an effort to keep the information at least moderately current, for which Harry was truly grateful.
This almost makes up for the stolen galleons, he chuckled, putting the journal in his backpack. Too bad the old man hadn't simply sold me a copy, if he needed the money that much.
But his forgiving mood was dispersed as soon as he examined the last item left in the vault. It was another notebook, this time rather plain-looking and of an obvious muggle make. A typewritten label on the military green cover was disturbing, to say the least: "Mind control: Command word implantation by means of hypnosis, metacommunication and sleep depravation, by Josef Mengele (1944)"
With a strange feeling of dread in his stomach, Harry opened the notebook to its first page. It contained only a short note, written in a neat, mechanic script of a dictato-quill.
Probably Dumbledore trying to cover his tracks, Harry thought, as he proceeded to read the message.
• • • • •
To whomever finds this message...
My dear friend or ally,
If you're reading this, it means that Harry Potter has gotten out of my control and I'm unable to reign him back in, by being either dead or otherwise indisposed. You have been granted access to this document for one purpose only - to be informed of the ultimate weapon against Harry Potter, the one which would hopefully prevent his uprising as the new Dark Lord.
What you're holding now is a rather fascinating muggle study I've discovered while searching through the files of the late Josef Mengele, also known as Lord Grindelwald. Cutting through the incomprehensible science jargon, it's enough to say that this study's main subject is theory and methodology for applying a non-magical replacement of the Imperius curse.
This fantastic feat is achieved through carefully orchestrated implementation of hypnosis, sleep deprivation, starvation, derogation and enclosure in small spaces, as well as a certain number of mild mind-conditioning spells. The final product of the therapy is a person who acts normally in every way, until he or she hears one of the specific command phrases set up during the training process. At that moment, the subject's consciousness experiences a complete shutdown, while their brain is pushed into a highly-suggestive state. During the next 15 to 20 minutes, the subject is placed under a complete verbal control of the voice that has issued the command word, being forced to perform simple orders to the best of his or hers abilities.
Be mindful that, once the conditioning process is over, there's nothing magical about the application of this technique. The cortex is simply permanently reconfigured to act this way, and there's not a potion or a spell in the world able to change or prevent it.
At this point, I would like to inform you that Harry James Potter had been subjected to this treatment.
• • • • •
The weight that was slowly settling in Harry's stomach suddenly gained another hundred pounds, sinking all the way down into his legs, before exploding into a torrent of rage.
"That fucking bastard!" he screamed, throwing the notebook across the room.
What followed made Harry's temper tantrum from a year ago seem like a gentle summer breeze. Five minutes of mindless destruction latter, there wasn't a thing in McGonagall's office left untouched. Papers were shredded and thrown all over the floor, instruments and magical objects lay in pieces, while a few chairs and one bookshelf were sent flying through the tower's large panoramic window.
Amidst all this mess, Harry Potter lay cuddled in the corner, staring blankly at the floor.
I was free! Finally free of those bastards' control. And now this! he brooded. However good I become, however high I climb, they'll always have a way of bringing me down. It's just not fair! Not fucking fair!
He thought back to that moment just after the ritual and morosely lamented how he would never again experience such bliss. And then, he suddenly realized nothing has changed on his trip from the Chamber to McGonagall's office. He was still that same person, still equally smart and powerful and as liberated as he was an hour ago.
No! This is what the old me would have done - wailing in despair and giving up on the first obstacle, he sniffed, wiping away last traces of frustrated tears from his eyes. But this is the new me! I'm smart and I'm powerful and I won't let them get me like this.
"I won't let them get me this easily," he said through clenched teeth as he stood up, a new determination shining in his eyes. "You hear that, bitch," he yelled at McGonagall's unconscious form buried under a pile of shredded first year letters. "I'm not giving up! I'll fight against this shit you did to me and I'll fucking win, even if it means killing every last one of you motherfucking traitors! You hear that, you stuck-up Dumbledore-wannabe whore! I'll win!"
As if to prove his point, Harry purposefully stomped across the room and fished out Mengele's study notebook from under one of the overturned chairs. He found Dumbledore's accursed message and started reading from where he had left off, determined not to lose his temper again.
• • • • •
At this point, I would like to inform you that Harry James Potter had been subjected to this treatment.
For security reasons, Mr. Potter's command words are not listed inside this document. Instead, they were distributed to a certain number of my most trusted allies and friends, who were instructed to spread them out in case something happens to me. You should expect one of them to approach you any day after reading this message and ask you a question about some random titbit of information mentioned in this note or a number of similar ones I've arranged to be distributed in the case of my death. Unless there's a true emergency, only after successfully answering this question, proving you have read this message, will you be given the final piece of this puzzle.
I have now given you some general information about this technique and the method of its application. The specifics of the technique itself, however, I have decided to keep to myself. This study has been charmed with my personal modification of one of the best security charm known to wizardkind. To everyone else but myself, pages of this notebook will appear completely empty.
I have chosen these harsh security measures in hope of preventing further spreading of this dangerous knowledge. It is my intention to see that this terrible power dies with me.
I only hope you will respect my wishes regarding this document and use the power given by it in a wise and thoughtful manner.
Your commander, ally and friend,
• • • • •
Harry quickly leafed through the rest of the notebook and made sure all the pages indeed appeared blank. He didn't even try to cast his meagre arsenal of schoolyard detection charms - Albus Dumbledore was many things, but incompetent definitely not. Struggling to keep his temper in check, he closed the notebook and threw it into his backpack, not trusting himself with looking at it any longer.
Ok, calm yourself Potter and use this brand new brainpower of yours, he admonished himself, as he stepped over McGonagall's body and plopped down into her comfy armchair. It's not all bad news. I'll just have to stay clear of my ex friends or any Order member at all. I can never be too sure who of them had been told the command words.
Going through the day's events objectively, Harry acknowledged that, mind control or not, the good still far outweighed the bad. With Dumbledore's journal, a time-turner and a heap of rare books, he started seeing a whole new world of opportunities opening up to him. Things he would have had to work hard for, like finding books and contacts, were now available to him by just looking in his backpack. This would immensely cut down the time he would need to spend on logistics. And just thinking of time gave him an additional idea or two.
An eager smile began blossoming on his face as he started piecing together aspects of his plan, with certainty and familiarity he had never believed possible. Pieces of the puzzle flew to their proper places, like they were always meant to be there. It was almost as if the hand of Fate was guiding him towards this inevitable crossroads, giving him the feeling that each and every decision he had ever made in his life had a singular purpose of bringing him a step closer to this one moment, the true goal of his life.
And suddenly, his path became absolutely clear to him, like a dark tunnel stretching before him into the uncertain future. He was standing before the maw of a monster that would swallow him whole and hopefully spit out a better, stronger man. He knew the road ahead of him would be rough and filled with danger, but he also knew he would never back down from it. And it wasn't because he was unnaturally brave or resilient, but because there was simply no alternative other than the slow decay in the hands of the traitors. Harry Potter knew that, from this point onward, he would either make himself and survive, or break down and perish.
"Minerva! Minerva, open up, we don't know the password!" Kingsley's voice suddenly boomed from one of the overturned silver instruments on the floor.
"Shit, they came in early," Harry cursed as he hastily packed up the last few items into his bag.
"Dobby! Kreacher!" he tried to call in his house elves one last time, but once again, it was to no avail.
Fuck them! They are probably working for them as well... Just another bunch of traitorous little rats, he grumbled, as he threw the packed bag over his shoulder.
"Minerva, are you alright!? One of the paintings told us you were attacked!? Minerva!?"
Shit! The paintings! I've totally forgotten about them, Harry cursed mentally, throwing a dirty look at the empty frames where old headmasters used to reside. Well, no time for crying over spilt milk.
His eyes scanned over the room, looking for a way out. The solution was obvious.
The window? he smirked. Why the fuck not?
Quickly, he took his trustworthy Firebolt out of his backpack and allowed it to resize.
"Minerva, I'm using the Auror override! Hang on, we're coming!" Shacklebolt yelled over the noise of the Gargoyle moving out of the way.
Harry stepped to the edge of the window and pushed himself off. He ignored the sound of the door breaking open behind him, as he soared over the Headmistress' tower and zoomed south, out of the school grounds.
The traitors would eventually get what was coming to them. But until then, he had one long trip to undertake.
You may have noticed I've blatantly used several well-established clichés, like Dumbledore and co stealing Harry's money, power blocks, time-turner and such. I advise you to keep reading for two reasons:
1) These are not very important concepts in this story, I won't spend much time and effort working them out.
2) There's a plan, a higher purpose behind this. These are just means to an end (you'll see what I mean in the 4th and 5th chapter).
NOTE - Version from June 2008. Still no fundamental changes, but hopefully easier to read.
o - Elven translations
Instead of inventing my own gibberish, I decided to use some elements of Tolkien's universe for the purpose of setting up the ritual. Namely, I've used Elves, Elven deities (Valar) and one of Elven language (Sindarin).
Below are the translations from the ritual. Notice that these are extremely rough, piggish sentences, made by simply extracting translations from "Dragon Flame", a freeware Sindarin dictionary.
Faer ned uireb taur, im can-le.
(Spirits of the eternal forest, I call thee.)
Beleg Estë, nestas ned lhaew, im baur le.
(Great Estë, healer of ill, I need thee.)
Beleg Estë, teli a cenedril nín ant.
(Great Estë, come and see my gift.)
Lasto nín cane.
(Hear my call.)
Faer ned uireb taur, im anna nín rhaw!
(Spirits of the eternal forest, I offer my body to thee.)
Beleg Estë, im anna le seri aew.
(Great Estë, I offer thee the spirit of this bird.)
Beleg Estë, im anna nín faer!
(Great Estë, I offer my soul to thee.)
Beleg Estë, im aníra lín galu!
(Great Estë, I ask for thy blessing.)
Anno lín balan!
(Show your might!)
o - Credits and acknowledgments
I'd like to thank my beta Athenia for doing a great job at fixing my grammar and spelling, as well as Jbern for giving me valuable pointers about characterization and plot.
o - Sources and additional disclaimers
All elements of Elven lore and language are the property of J.R.R. Tolkien, his inheritors and various companies that had bought off pieces of this franchise over the years.
Nice and simple overview of different mind control techniques I've nicked from here:
meta-religion com/Newreligiousgroups/Articles/Criticism/mindcontroltechniques htm
Sindarin translations are made by using software found here:
www jrrvf com/hisweloke/sindar/df20 html
Encyclopaedias I've used for reference are Britannica 2005 and Wikipedia (www wikipedia org).
To access links, replace empty spaces (' ') with dots ('.').
I don't own any intellectual property mentioned above.