"Can I rip into them?"
"Just a LITTLE!"
"Oh, go to hell you stupid snake."
The Dursleys watched on with a look of horror on their faces.
"They deserve it, though!" Harry argued, moving one set of bacon from the pan and putting more in. "I know I said I'd never use it, but come on!"
"How many times am I going to have to tell you NO? Besides, you'll get in trouble for it." Hissed the taipan, who was curled lazily around Harry's neck. "And everyone would be mad and disappointed at you besides."
"Oh, fine." Harry muttered. "I won't tear their souls apart. Ruin my fun. See if I care!"
"Tear our souls apart?" Squeaked Petunia, who promptly fainted.
"Just what do you think you're doing, boy?!" Vernon yelled, catching his wife mid-fall.
"Talking about you fat oafs. What the hell else would I talk about with Boris in private?" Asked Harry. "Now shut up if you want your bloody food, you damn rhino!"
"Don't you talk to me like that!" Vernon spat, setting his wife gently on the floor before starting to march towards the stove. "And furthermore...!"
"And furthermore, you WILL shut up and you WILL stop irritating the piss out of me or I WILL tear your soul into so many pieces you'll be ripping your own body apart to try and get the PAIN TO STOP!" Harry yelled, the air around him crackling. "Now sit DOWN!"
Vernon stared at Harry, having come to a full stop well before he got within striking distance.
"Calm down." Murmured Boris. "Calm down, leave the food, and let's go back to our room."
"Are you sure I can't leave them as husks?" Asked Harry, slipping back into Parseltongue as he turned and left the kitchen. "For that matter, are you sure I can't just burn them and the house down? Two birds in one stone."
"No." Said the snake in as firm a voice as he could.
For the entire week he had been back at Number Four, Harry had been in a state of near constant irritation. Anything the Dursleys said or did seemed to make him angry. And it was driving Boris up the walls. The snake did his best to calm Harry down, but it wasn't an easy task. Left to his own devices, away from his school and friends, Harry was finally having the breakdown that Boris was worried he would have.
He was starting to think he should have waited to tell the boy about the Anima Laniatus.
Throwing himself back on his bed, Harry glared up at the ceiling. "I want out of here. I'm going to get out of here. And if Dumbledore doesn't like it, he can jump in the lake. In winter. And have to stay there for over an hour."
"At least you're getting it out of your system." Commented Boris in as dry a tone as he could muster. "You need to control your emotions. Your wild magic is going to go off and bring the house down if this continues."
"I missed the part of that that's bad, Boris." Harry said.
"The Ministry will get involved and the last thing YOU want is to go on trial in either the wizarding or Muggle communities for nuking your family and exploding your HOUSE, you daft sod." Boris stated. "Now close your eyes and concentrate."
"Yeah, yeah. Meditation." Harry said. Then, in a quiet mutter, he added, "Like to see the old man meditate himself into a coma. Blood wards or not, this is insane."
"I agree with the last statement." Boris said. "For you're acting that way very well."
"It's kept those idiots quiet. I wanna know where Tonks is. I haven't heard from her since I got back." Harry said.
"Or anyone else, it would seem."
"Yes, that too. Makes me wonder if a certain house elf has decided to intercept the letters again." Harry said. "I swear, I'll petrify him and use him as a doorstop if he's behind this."
"Oh, you'll do no such thing." Said Boris. "Eyes closed. Concentrate. Stop talking."
"Yes, yes." Harry scowled, closing his eyes and trying to focus.
Boris let out an inaudible sigh. If he survived this summer, he would be thanking every serpent-shaped deity ever to exist. If he survived with his sanity, even moreso.
"Now then," Began the snake, noticing Harry's breathing had slowed. "Think about one thing and one thing alone. A person, an object, it doesn't matter so long as it isn't related to what's bothering you. Slow, deep breaths. Yes, like that. Now keep at it for half an hour."
And, almost exactly thirty minutes later, Harry opened his eyes again.
"How do you feel?" Asked Boris.
"Better." Said Harry, sitting up and rubbing his temples. "Less like making the Dursleys turn into balloons and flying away. Or turning them into kindling. Still wondering why the hell Nymmy hasn't come over. Still wondering what's happening with the outside world."
"Better than nothing. You need to stop losing yourself, Harry. Remember all I've told you. I still trust you not to do anything you shouldn't."
"I won't. It just helps for me to yell. Gets stuff out, y'know? Besides, it scares the hell out of them. After all I've taken, it's about time I started to give back." Harry said.
"Be that as it may, I'd rather you not bring the Laniatus into your threats. It's highly unnerving. And I think it's time you left the house to go and see Tonks rather than hoping she'll show up here." Said Boris.
"I feel like I'm being watched." Harry said, getting up from his bed and walking to the window. "I can almost feel someone's eyes on me whenever I'm outside. Creeps me out. And anyway, the idiots downstairs send tons-o'-fun after me whenever I try leaving."
"So let Dudley follow. Who cares?"
"I do. Because if he said or tried doing anything to Tonks, I don't know that I could keep myself in control. I know my wild magic would break free of what little grasp I have on it. I'd rather not explode anyone in front of the girl I plan to marry, thanks."
"You can outrun him. I've seen you do it." Boris said.
"I dunno. You may be right. You were with the meditation thing. Not very good at clearing my mind, though." Harry mumbled, walking back to his bed.
"Treat your thoughts as though they were labeled. Sort them into categories. Lock each category behind a door or something. Just concentrating on one thing is enough for now, but to truly clear your mind, you need to move the clutter out of the way. Just as you wouldn't leave your room messy and unorganized, you shouldn't just have memories and thoughts laying about." Boris explained. "You will learn with time."
"I hope so. ...I guess I'll try going out tomorrow. I don't want to be out after dark today." Harry said.
"Fair enough. Now try relaxing before lunch rolls around, alright? Work on sorting your memories. It will help sort your emotions out, as well. If you need to, lock your anger and sorrow up as you do with your memories. It's not healthy, but neither is what you're doing. And keeping you calm will make everyone less stressed." Said the taipan.
"Noted. Sorry. I guess I have been out of control this week." Harry said.
"To say the least. But it's alright. The more emotional you are, the more you'll see the benefits of clearing it all away. You're a quick learner, Harry. You'll get it down by the end of summer."
"I'd bet my life on it."
The following afternoon rolled around quietly. The Dursleys, still skittish around Harry after his threat, had mostly ignored him. That sat perfectly well with Harry, who still found himself confusingly annoyed with them. He was trying to follow Boris' instructions on clearing his mind, but it wasn't doing him a lot of good.
"Coming with me on my walk?" Asked Harry, slipping his shoes on in his room.
"I think that can be arranged." Said the snake. "I'd rather not be left alone with those people."
"Yeah. The last thing I need is for Vernon to get a head of steam going. He'd try smashing you with something long. A broom or something." Harry said, holding his arm out to the taipan, who slithered up his arm slowly.
"With any luck, Tonks will be able to explain the lack of visits and mail." Said Boris as he settled around Harry's upper arm.
"I hope so. I'd-- oh, bugger all. Why's there have to be an owl ri-- wait, an owl?"
Harry walked over to his window, opening it up and staring at the regal-looking owl that entered with a look of confusion. "Hello then. Who are you bringing me a letter from? You don't belong to anyone I know..."
The owl gave a quiet hoot, holding its leg towards Harry. Harry nodded, untying the letter from around it, and offered it a few owl treats. To Harry's surprise, it turned its head up at the sight of the treats, turning around and flying off just as quickly as it had arrived. Harry watched it fly off, the look of confusion still on his face.
"What in the hell just happened?" Asked Harry, looking down at the letter in his hands.
"Who is it from?" Asked Boris.
"Doesn't say." Harry said, frowning. "...Right. I just got a nameless letter from an owl I don't recognize. That should be setting off an alarm. The envelope seems alright. Dunno about the actual stuff in it. Suggestions?"
"Extricate it using a quill?"
"Might take a bit of doing, but it's better than being portkeyed away again." Harry said, setting the letter down on his desk while he rummaged in his trunk for a quill.
It took a few minutes of work to get the note itself out and straightened without actually touching it. He didn't pay much attention to what was written as he worked. In the end, he had a few paperweights keeping it straight. It was only then that he glanced at the bottom of it. When he saw the name signed there, he gaped.
"Wh... okay, now I know this has to be a portkey." He said.
"Because I know I'd never get a letter from him." Harry said.
"What does it say?"
"Let's see..." Harry said, eyes darting to the top of the letter and slowly reading what it said. Harry's breathing slowed as he read, his brow creasing further and further as he went. "This is... but no. No, it can't be..."
"Harry? Harry, tell me what's wrong. Who wrote it? What does it say?" Asked Boris, slithering down Harry's arm to poke out of the end of his shirt sleeve.
"He... he's the one Pansy was talking about? He basically said I was right. And...there's a warning at the end." Harry said, his voice hushed.
"Dementors." Harry explained. "It said that one of Voldemort's followers plans to set some dementors loose on Privet Drive!"
"Tonight." Harry said. "...I've got to get out of here. I've got to get out of here now."
"Calm down." Boris said, feeling Harry's pulse quicken. "It's early afternoon. You have time. THINK."
Harry closed his eyes and forced himself to level his breathing out again. "Sorry, but... this is really just... I can't even describe this, Boris. He wants me to memorize what he wrote and then burn the letter. That he wants no one else to know. I... can't say as I blame him. But that's even taking into consideration that this is REAL!"
"Why would you believe it to be false?" Asked Boris.
"Trust me, Boris." Harry said, grabbing both the envelope and letter and stuffing them into the front pockets of his jeans. He would have plenty of chances to burn them later. Right now, though... "I need to think. Obviously, I can't just disappear. They'd strike the house. And as much as I hate them, I can't just let the Dursleys become food for the dementors. I need to wait until it's almost dark out before I leave the house."
"A dangerous choice." Said the snake quietly.
"It is." Harry agreed. "But there are no other options. And leaving later in the day would mean less chance of Dudley being set after me. I wish I could write to Pansy. She'd be able to tell me one way or another what the hell is going on."
"Hedwig stands out too much?"
"Yeah." Harry said, looking over at the snowy owl, who hooted indignatly. "Well I'm sorry, but it's true! There are very few beautifully snow white owls flying about!"
Hedwig settled down slightly at the compliment, but still looked annoyed that she couldn't set out with a letter.
"First thing I'm going to do when I get the chance it to talk to Dumbledore about this. He mentioned going over me to him if I didn't believe what he said. I don't see the harm in telling the headmaster. It's just... I dunno. I'll get my head around it when I talk to him. Right now I should be worrying about the dementors." Harry said, sitting on the edge of his bed.
"Did it say how many would be set loose?" Asked the snake.
"Said that at least two would be, but I should be ready for more than that." Harry replied.
"A wise thing to say. You cannot use magic until you are of age, though. So what can you do against any that attack?"
"I dunno. He said it would be better getting in trouble with the Ministry than it would be losing my soul. I have to say, I agree on that. Wholeheartedly, in fact." Harry said. "And that is an odd thing to say. Agreeing with that idiot. I don't believe this."
"We all must see reality for what it is sooner or later. Perhaps it merely took this person longer than it would have for most." Offered Boris.
"Yeah, maybe. Or this is some kind of elaborate trap."
"...Right, I'm gonna try and relax. Meditate an' stuff. I need to try and focus and my mind is racing right now." Harry said, scooting back on his bed. "Run me through the steps again?"
As Harry made dinner that evening, he was having a hard time keeping himself from jumping at the slightest noise. When the air conditioner had come on, Harry had pulled both wands and was searching for the source of the cold. Of course, the Dursleys had promptly hit the floor when Harry had whirled around, thinking he was going to attack them. The meal was spent in a tense silence.
As Harry brought the dishes to the sink, he cleared his throat. "I'm going for a walk."
"Fine. Go." Vernon said, glaring at the boy.
"...Damn it. I hope I can draw away anything that's coming." Harry whispered in Parseltongue. "I really don't need a death AND the loss of their souls on my mind."
"The death shouldn't be an issue anymore." Boris replied. "You need to let it go. Grieve and move on, Harry. Blaming yourself for the rest of your life will accomplish nothing. And there are far more important things to be thinking of now."
"I know, I know." Harry said, shaking his head slowly. "It's just... I dunno. I really need to get this outta my system. Once we're back at Hogwarts, I'll try getting this taken care of in the training room."
"Wearing yourself out isn't exactly wise." Boris pointed out.
"Yeah, well, neither is spending all my time wondering what I could have done differently." Harry muttered. Finishing his work, he turned and headed out of the kitchen. Just as he reached the front door, he heard Dudley's chairs slide out. "...Damn it."
"You may have to risk trouble with the Ministry after all." Said Boris.
"Looks like it." Harry said, scowling. Slipping out of Number Four, Harry was halfway down the road by the time Dudley had left the house. "Maybe if I'm lucky, he'll get spooked when the dementors' chill hits. Maybe he'll think I'm doing it and run home."
"But is he safe there?" Asked Boris.
"Probably not. But dementors can't go through walls. As long as the idiots don't let the bloody things in, they'll be fine." Harry said.
"Are we heading anywhere in particular?" Asked the snake.
"The park. It's sort of in a corner lot. It'd be hard for the dementors to come from behind me." Harry said.
"Yes, but it also means you'd be easily cornered."
"True. But I don't plan to stay in one place when the chill hits me."
"And your cousin?"
Harry sighed. "Dudley had better learn to run faster. Dunno why those idiots want him to follow me, anyway. I can outrun him and he'd never get into Nymmy's house."
"Your aunt probably thinks the exercise could do him good, if nothing else." Suggested Boris.
Harry snorted. "Maybe. And maybe the thought of Dudley getting me alone so he could try to beat me up has him all motivated to do as he's told."
"Not that you'd let him, of course."
"Of course. I'm faster than him and I've faced far, far worse than him. After what I went through this year, I'm pretty sure I could face down anything." Harry said.
"Anything save for the most obvious?"
"Shut up. I'll beat Tom down again eventually. I just hope I can get the strength to beat him quickly. The less time he has to kill and regain power, the better." Harry murmured, eyes downcast. "So help me, if he targets any of my friends..."
"Don't." Said Boris. "Don't go down that line of thought. You'll get worked up and you need to be alert right now."
"Yeah... I know. Sorry. It's just a bit overwhelming, you know?"
Harry slid his hands into his pockets. "Why the hell can't I have a normal life? Why can't I stay at Nymmy's house all summer? Why does trouble seem to actively hunt me down? I just want a nice, relaxing year at Hogwarts. Persistent bastard. Why couldn't he stay dead?"
"Because evil is something that no one can truly rid the world of." Said Boris. "My master may have been killed but his legacy lives on. I know his secrets and have passed many on to you. The Eximo and the Laniatus... I had hope to never see or speak of them again."
"I'm glad you opened up, though." Said Harry. "I just hope I can prove that it wasn't a bad decision."
"I'm sure you will." Boris said.
The two went silent then, each wrapped up in their own thoughts. The sun was now descending beyond the horizon, leaving everything twinged in reds and golds. It was only slightly darker out when Harry reached the park.
"Harry." Boris hissed quickly.
"Wh... oh hell." Harry whispered. There, sitting on a swing and staring down at the ground, was Tonks. Her hair was short, spiky, and its natural color. Her eyes were too far closed for Harry to tell what color they were, but he had a good idea. She had on some faded blue jeans and a button-up blue top. "Unexpected element. Not good. Oi... OI, TONKS!"
Tonks jumped, startled by someone shouting her name. Her eyes immediately lit up when she saw Harry running her way, however, and got to her feet just as he reached her. "Harry! What're you doin' out?"
"Couple reasons." Harry said. "We need to get back to your house, though. It isn't safe out here."
"Oh don't you start too." Tonks said, looking away. "Mum was trying to keep me from coming here by saying that."
"She was right, but for completely different reasons. I think a couple of dementors are going to be arriving around here before long." Harry said.
"What?! Why would you think that?" Asked Tonks.
"I got a letter." Harry said. "And... and I trust the person who wrote it. He warned me that Voldemort's goons were going to send at least two to Privet Drive. I stayed at Number Four as long as I dared. We need to get to your house, Nymmy."
"I... yeah, okay. Who wrote you, though?" Asked Tonks as Harry took her hand and started out of the park again.
"I can't say." Harry murmured. "It was the guy Pansy mentioned to me, though. And even if his letter was a lie, I'm playing it safe."
Squeezing Harry's hand, Tonks whispered, "I'm sorry we haven't visited. We... Dumbledore's been acting funny. He told us we had to stay in. That we shouldn't write you."
"What?! Why?" Harry asked, brow creased.
"Dunno. Wouldn't say. Felt horrible, though. Figured you'd be mad at me." Tonks said, staring down at the street as they crossed it.
"Not mad. Never mad." Harry said. "Confused, yes. Worried, yes. Upset, yes. But not mad."
"Not much difference between 'upset' and 'mad,' Harry."
"There is with me." Harry said.
"You know we're being followed by a whale?"
"Yeah. Don't like that any, either. Hoping he'll go away when we reach your house and get back to Number Four before the dementors arrive." Harry said. "If Voldemort or one of his followers has gained enough control to give the dementors specific orders on what street and what house to attack, they should also only come after me. I'm hoping that, anyway."
"And if you're wrong?"
"I'll feel bad. But it'll mean I'll never have to live there again. I'm not going to spend months mourning the loss." Harry said, eyes hard.
"I'm getting cold..."
"...Cold or COLD?" Asked Harry, coming to a stop.
"COLD." Said Tonks, looking nervously up at Harry.
The two looked around the neighborhood they were in. It was only a few blocks away from Number Nine, but it felt like they were miles from safety to Harry. The dementors practically glided across things and moved faster than he knew he could run. Harry let go of Tonks' hand, reaching into his back pocket and drawing his wand, turning it around so it wasn't readily visible. The letter had been right - he'd rather get in trouble than lose his soul. And he would rather lose his soul than to have anything happen to Tonks.
"I can't see them. I hate when I can feel them but can't see them." Harry whispered. "...We need to go. Now!"
The two started running, looking over their shoulders occasionally and trying not to get distracted by the large numbers of shadows being cast by the setting sun. Harry scrambled to a halt at the end of the road, twisting to grab hold of Tonks to stop her as well. Before she could protest, he hushed her and pointed down the road to the east. As Tonks looked, she saw what could have been the tail end of a dementor disappearing behind a house. She sucked in a sharp breath and looked back to Harry, who was scanning the road they had just come up.
"I hope to god Dudley turned and ran the other way. I don't see him." Harry said, his voice quiet.
"What're we gonna do? We need to go that way!" Tonks said, her voice higher than normal.
"Back yards, if you think you can get over the fences quick enough." Harry said. "Those would at least slow the dementors down."
"Glad I don't wear dresses." Tonks said, staring down at her jeans. "I'm game if you are. But you'll have to lead the way."
"I know more than one way to your house." Harry said, offering the girl a reassuring smile. "...Kinda sad I won't land in your yard to see you in a bikini again, though."
"Oh, be serious!" Tonks said, swatting Harry on the arm. "Come on, you jackass, let's get going!"
"Yeah, sorry. Trying to ease the tension a bit." Harry said, still smiling faintly. "Besides, I'm gonna need to dredge up happy memories if I have to use a Patronus."
"Me in a bikini is a happy moment, huh? Define 'happy' in this sense." Tonks said as she and Harry began to move again.
"There's no way to answer that that won't get me punched." Harry said, leading Tonks towards the chain link fence of a pale-blue house. "Okay, we need to go a block this way and then turn north again. Should be the quickest route. Watch the fourth yard - there's a small, yappy-type dog there."
"How big is it?" Asked Tonks.
"Small. It's not the size I'm worried about, though." Harry said, vaulting over the fence.
"Things are off to an early start this year." Tonks muttered as she followed behind.
When they had almost reached the final yard - the little dog being inside that particular night, much to Harry's relief - they heard the noise of a chain link fence being moved. Harry jerked his head around. "...Dudley. Shit."
"He's still following us?! Oh damn." Tonks said, turning to look back.
Dudley was indeed still following them, though the amount of time he took to scale the fence was almost comical. Harry hesitated, his wand hand growing twitchy. "We can't wait for him, Nymmy. We've gotta go."
"At least we know he's still after us. It'll help if we need to send someone out. Gonna call Dumbledore when we get to your house. He'll know what to do, providing he's not trying to ruin my summer still." Harry growled as he and Tonks resumed their fence-hopping.
"I don't think he'd ignore a threat like this." Said Tonks.
"Yeah, well, I'd still love to know what the hell he's playing at, telling you lot that you couldn't visit me. I swear, one of these days, I'm going to kick him square in the bollocks and take a picture as he crumples!"
"Oh let's not talk about Dumbledore's bits!" Tonks whined.
The two turned north at the end of the street, continuing through the back yards until they reached Tonks' house's. Tonks quickly ran up to the back door and threw it open, waving for Harry to hurry in. Harry paused only to look back down the row of yards. Dudley wasn't visible anywhere. Figuring he was still working on the previous street's worth, Harry turned to go inside, thankful that they had made it safely.
But just as he reached the door, a horrible noise forced him to halt, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up.
Dudley was screaming.
Author's Notes: Welcome, welcome, to book five of the R-Series!
For those not checking my profile too often, I'll repeat what I've said: I'm having to rework the chapter guide for Order here, as the old one was so messed up by the time I finished Goblet, it was all but useless. I've posted the complete, spoiler-filled version of the old, defunct guide on my forums. Be warned that the spoilers it contains are for more than just Order. There are plot points I write in brackets or parenthesis to myself that shouldn't be included in the story but are there to remind me to hint around.
The next point of business is this - FFN's new style change seems to be messing with my profile page. Recently, I added the third R-Series side story and sometimes it just does not appear when you go to my profile. I'm praying that Order won't fall victim to the same issues, as sometimes it states the story doesn't exist even if you click the link. For me, I could sometimes view the story just fine, but when I tried clicking the reviews link, it said the story didn't exist. If the problem persists, I plan to email the site admins to let them know what's going on. Just keep trying - the story will appear eventually.
I'm not sure how many chapters Order will wind up being. The first version had over 30. But you guys know me. I merge like crazy every so often. I'd expect somewhere around as many as Goblet had and around the same length. But don't hold me to that. I'm awful at keeping my word.
I hope you all enjoy the path I take with Order. Thanks for all your reviews, as well. They really do make me feel that plugging away at this massive project is worth it. We're past the halfway point now, kids. Let's have fun with the ride downhill.