Chapter Five: Tempered Steel -- Harry Knows the Fire Well

In which Harry finds out more about what has happened to him, and he comes to recognize things in others and himself.

The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.

- Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960


-- Accio Harry Archer's Diary --


Despite his rather startling conclusion earlier that he really was quite insane instead of just on the edge of being so, Harry kept himself reigned in and the wolf was politely silent in his ear as he sat in the chair before the wizard running his wand over him. It remembered Harry of the few times he'd watched a movie with Hermione, and the muggles ran electronic devices over the hero of the film before they got to confront an old nemesis in jail. Harry had never gone to Azkaban to visit his.

The old wizard finally stood back, sitting heavily in his chair with his hands on his knees. "Well, young man," he said in a creaky voice. "You don't have the Imperius curse on you currently, but you do have a few compulsion jinxes still working. There is evidence that there are some other spells that have been inexpertly removed." He paused and turned to Hagitha. "I would like to speak to Mr. Harry Archer alone, with patient confidentiality. I'll sign the paper for the Ministry after I get done here."

Hagitha arched her eyebrow in that careful way she had when Harry had spoken to her. "Very well," she said, stepping outside and closing the door.

"Sir?" Harry asked, very concerned. If Pomfrey recognized that he was a werewolf during a routine exam, could this examiner do the same and find the wolf, or the supposed magical current that betrayed how he was misplaced in time? And if he knew Harry was the wolf, then would he have to register with the Ministry? Harry dreaded admitting his condition to the Ministry – his pack had warned him, and told him horror stories of what happened before they abandoned humanity.

"Mr. Archer, there are a few things that I'd like to speak with you about, but let's start with those compulsion spells," he said, with a small smile. "For civility's sake, you may call me Philbrook."

"Alright," he said cautiously.

"You have three existing compulsion jinxes. One compels you to speak truthfully to the Headmaster of Hogwarts. You must understand when I say truthfully, I do mean to the full extent that you feel, so that you would not be able to lie to the Headmaster without some hesitation, and you would find it hard to mask your emotions. Spells as I read them are difficult to put into a simple sentence, so forgive me if I ramble. There is also another that would make you seek out danger. This is a rather dangerous compulsion, so I don't think I even need to ask if you want this one removed. The last surviving jinx relates to you actually being in danger, and was cast by someone I must assume cared for you – perhaps your mother? It has a feminine touch, and should drive you to alert others when you might be going into a dangerous situation, and to seek out some sort of aid if you are ever injured."

But that couldn't have been his mother. He knew only too well that he had held off telling anyone for some time after the whole incident surrounding Sirius' death. "No," he said faintly. "That was one of my best friends. She was a brilliant witch." He frowned. "But you said these spells couldn't be summed up simply, and the second you mentioned, the danger seeking one ... What exactly does that one do?"

Philbrook frowned softly. "Well, it is in effect a danger seeking compulsion. I should have said that it was more of a drive for you to seek out darkness and attack it. If I am correct in reading this spell, you don't even have to be aware of it; the spell itself has a clause that will actually search out the evil for you, and then impels you toward it and to destroy it."

A weapon. Only ever a weapon. "Ah. And the spells that are gone now?"

"I can not tell what some of them are. The tracking spell that someone else removed for you – poorly, I add – has been patched back together a few times, but has been disabled by what I assume was your own magic. There is evidence of a number of other small jinxes and minor spells that your own unconscious magic has torn through. This is not an uncommon occurrence in children your age, of course. As the body grows through puberty, the magic flexes and grows as well. Spells have been known to be torn out by their roots due to these growth spurts and stretches, though it always leaves a permanent history of magic behind, much like even healed bones have evidences of the breaks they recovered from."

"So there is no way to tell what these spells might have been?" Harry asked.

"I'm afraid not. All spells that attach to the body that way have the same base of construction. As far as that goes, I'd like to talk to you about that most unusual scar on your forehead."

"What about it?" Harry inquired cautiously.

"Well," Philbrook said, appearing slightly flustered. "It's dark magic. Dark with a capital 'D', at that."

"I am somewhat aware of that," he said dryly. "I had a very misfortunate encounter with the dark wizard who killed my parents – or so everyone tells me."

"Then you are familiar with the mental link that survives there."

"Very. I supposed you noticed the rather tangled network that surrounds the link as well."

"I did."

The two wizards stared at each other for a moment. Then the old man ventured, "Occlumency?"

Harry shook his head. "I learned, but it didn't work. The link is too different from any known magics for Occlumency to affect."

Philbrook reached forward and set a wrinkled claw on Harry's hand, and Harry allowed him. "I am very sorry, then." He leaned back and folded his hands in his lap. "Are you aware of the blood based charms your parents set on you?"

"Somewhat," he allowed. "I was told that as long as I could call a place that my mother's blood lived home, I couldn't be hurt there."

"That is not quite what I speak of," he denied. "That is likely no longer working, and it isn't the sort of magic I could see anyway. I'm talking about something more than just your mother, I'm speaking of something both your parents did to save you."

"My parents?" Harry echoed in confusion. "I was told that my Mum's love saved me ..."

"Well, it did, in a way. It's an old, blood based ritual. It's quite illegal as far as the ministry is concerned, due to the ingredients, but since your parents are dead, there is little they can do. Your mother must have talked your father into helping with the ritual, you see. It takes the mother to both start and complete it; the whole thing only exists because the children of wizards are precious things. The whole purpose of it is that in the case that one or both parents should die, their child would have two deaths to survive. You have one more death to survive before anything is final."

And that, that, Harry realized, had to be the reason that his mother had begged Voldemort so desperately to kill her instead. She wanted to make utterly certain that Harry would survive. She hadn't ever even known if James was dead, and she wanted to make sure that Harry would live beyond a doubt.

"My boy?" Philbrook inquired, frowning in concern. "Are you quite alright?"

"I hear my parents," he said faintly. "When dementors come near – I hear my mother. She hadn't even known for certain my father was dead, and she – she asked him to kill her instead."

Philbrook looked grave. "Or otherwise she was uncertain she would die, and that would mean leaving you with only your own death to have. In either case, your parents wanted you to live, Harry. No matter what the cost to them."

This was not a warming thought. Harry supposed, however, that he'd much rather be living without his parents, than have his mother living without his father or him. He knew how painful it was to live without family and love, and he was only grateful that she didn't have to live it like he did.

"There is one last thing, my boy," Philbrook said, shifting in his chair. "I am rather impressed with the spell work. It seems that someone has not only created a sort of expansion space for you, but also locked it tight so that only you can access it with a specific password."

"What?" Harry demanded, bewildered. "Where? How?"

"I've never seen anything quite like it," the old man said. "It's similar to the charms that wizards used to magically pull off the 'slight of hand' card tricks that the muggles learned to do. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but there is a muggle trick of producing a coin supposedly from behind someone's ear. This slight of hand has its origins in a magical spell. Some centuries ago, it was a fashion rage to have the spell cast so that a wizard could quite literally pull his money in his purse out from behind his ear. This version of it is quite more complex, and I dare say that I don't think its money you'll be pulling out, since it has a lock on it. Whoever cast this on you wanted to make certain you would never lose the contents."

"Is there anyway I can find out what it is?" Harry demanded, very squeamish at the idea of something living in a magically created compartment inside his head.

"The only way to do that is to figure out the password and to reach behind your ear to pull it out – the right one, my boy, not the left." Philbrook smiled at him. "Whoever did it was likely someone you trust explicitly, and had quite a mind for spells."

Who – Hermione, he realized. He breathed slightly easier knowing it was she who had done it, but not very easy. She had made a compartment in his head to hide stuff in! "Is that all?"

"That's all of it, though 'all' might seem to make light of the situation," the old man warned. "Normally, I'd offer you a chance to get all of the old framework of jinxes and such removed, but as I am aware of your odd circumstances, I can only offer to remove the truth-telling and the danger-seeking jinx free of charge."

"Why those two?" Harry asked, confused. "Why not the last one as well?"

"Well, because the last one is actually a good charm for any one to have, underaged or auror. The first, however, violates your common rights as a wizard. Only wizards and witches on trial, or in jail are allowed to have those inflicted on them without permission, and only those who are permanently jailed are put under a self-sustaining one, such as the one you wear. I can not leave it without giving you a choice and still retain my spell-scanning license. The second one because you are still underaged, and I can not as an adult in good conscious allow you to be in danger."

"But if I wanted to keep both, I could?"

Philbrook frowned deeply. "I would much rather remove the dangerous one, Mr. Archer. You are not a knight, nor an auror to seek out the evil in the world and destroy it."

But I was a wizard practically born to be a weapon against it. "I am well trained, sir. And I would have the last to keep me from too much harm. Besides, wouldn't it be better if everyone was warned – even by proxy – that there was something dangerous or dark in the area?"

"I am sorry, Mr. Archer, but I will not allow you to keep that compulsion, and the more you argue the fact with me, the more I am certain that its for the best," Philbrook said, sitting back with a deep disapproving frown.

"Then could you change it? Alter it so that it will still search out dark things, but compel me to warn someone instead? Would that be feasible?"

"I suppose I could link it to the 'then' clause of the last jinx," he said slowly.

"It would make the school safer," Harry bargained. "So it would sort of be like casting a detection spell on all the students."

The old man crooked a bushy eyebrow at him. "Quiet the hero, aren't you?"

Harry twisted his face into a look of unfeigned distaste. "Please don't call me that. I was sort of singled out where I lived, and I don't want that anymore. I want a fresh start."

"Completely understandable. So, do you want any of these jinxes removed?"

"The first one, yes, and the second altered like I said. The third can stay." Harry would never destroy something that Hermione had gifted him out of love because she wanted him safe. Why did all the girls in his life sacrifice themselves for him? Why?

Harry sat politely still as the old wizard mumbled his spells, twisting and pulling his wand through the air around Harry as if it were a knitting hook. He didn't feel significantly different, and when Philbrook was finished, he dared to ask a question. "Sir, what does the left over foundations do? Do they hinder my spells or power at all?"

"Hmm? Oh, no. You might feel as if you've gotten a burden off your chest after they're removed, but it doesn't really change anything besides to make your magical aura personal. Even if I removed them, there would still be clear evidence where they were. A wizard's aura is like his finger prints in a way, though the mended bones analogy might be more strictly correct."

Philbrook moved away from Harry, going to the desk off to the side and collecting papers and quills. "I believe we are finished here, Mr. Archer. I'll go outside promptly and sign the papers for the Ministry, and you have a good time at Hogwarts, you hear?"

"I will, but, sir, there is one more thing I'd like to ask you," he said, following Philbrook to the door. When the old man paused to look at him expectantly, Harry continued. "Was there anything else unusual about my ... me?"

Philbrook frowned. "I couldn't say, and it's not my job. I can only scan for actual intentional spell structure. Any strange quirks that your power might have is something I couldn't see, and any unintentional spells formed by wild magic, either your own or the of the people around you, I can not see."

And at last, Harry breathed silently in relief. "Thank you anyway, sir."

"Not a problem, young man," Philbrook said as he opened the door. Harry followed him to a desk, where Philbrook searched through the papers and then wrote something on one and quickly signed his name. He turned and handed Harry the paper. "Here you go. Hagitha should be down the hall, third door on the left, and she needs this before she can Floo you back to Hogwarts."

Harry obligingly trotted down the hall like an eager sixteen year old might, never mind that technically, he was supposed to be fifteen. The thought of a guardian put in charge of him filled him with alarm, if only because he had always had the worst experiences with people who were in charge of his welfare. He knocked sharply on the door that Philbrook had indicated.

"Come in," Hagitha's voice called.

Harry opened the door and approached her desk, paper in hand. "Philbrook gave me this to hand over to you," he explained. On the way over, he hadn't stopped himself from looking it over, and was relieved with the 'proved to be harmless in intent toward the average witch or wizard' statement.

"Philbrook?" she echoed with an arched eyebrow. "Strange man," she muttered under her breath as she scanned the paper and nodded sharply. "Very good, come this way."

He followed her, unusually docile, over to the fireplace, and willingly enough tossed the Floo powder into the flames and stepped through to Dumbledore's office.

"You got lucky, Albus," Hagitha growled. "The boy tested clean. There isn't a smear on his name, so you can do as you wish. The Ministry will insist that you have the boy a guardian by summer vacation, of course. Have fun."

"What a pleasant girl," Dumbledore said with his twinkling eyes as she disappeared into the green flame. Harry stared at the Headmaster uncertainly for a long moment before taking note of the wands the old man had spread out over his desk. They were all old, and obviously worn. "Please take a seat," Dumbledore said, noticing his gaze and gesturing to the chair waiting in front of his desk.

Harry sat down slowly, eyeing the old man with no little trepidation and making no attempt to hide it. "Yes, sir?" he inquired with wolf-born caution.

"Now that you've been cleared by the Ministry, I have brought out these wands for you to chose from," the headmaster said. "Please chose as well as you can under the circumstances, and take good care of the one you chose."

He sighed slightly, leaning forward as he reached out and ran his fingers over the wands that Dumbledore had presented him with. There was seven of them, and the sizes ranged widely, as did the cores and woods. His lips were twisted into a grimace as not a one of them particularly cared to work with him. Finally, he grabbed one at random. It didn't matter which one he took, after all, as they all promised to be insufferable.

"Birch with a core of Ashwinder Ash," Dumbledore said, gathering up the others. "Springy with a complete length of eight and a half inches. Very good choice, Harry."

"My wand was made of holly," he sighed wistfully. "Phoenix feather, eleven and a half inches, supple."

"Most curious, and most powerful," the old man said, nodding. "But this wand should work well enough, even if it isn't your own."

To be honest, Harry had noticed that the Yew was a little less resistant to his grip, but he had such an abhorrence for that wood that he couldn't have stood it. Either the wand would fight him, or he'd fight the wand, and with that in mind, the birch wasn't terrible. Five days, and everyone would be here, and in seven days, the full moon. What lovely luck he had.

"All that's left is my robes, I suppose," he said, turning to look up at the old man. "Professor McGonagall has already given me my school books, even though I wasn't there to help her carry them, and now I've got my wand."

"Quite right. Though I admit that I overlooked the small matter of a familiar. Did you have one in your village?"

Hedwig was gone and dead and torn to utter pieces by some coward in the dark, one night that he had sent her out to deliver a warning to the Weasleys. He blinked. "No. Do you think I should get one?"

"You might want to consider it. The school will require reimbursement, same as the robes, but the choice is always available."

Harry shook his head. "No, if I need to send notes, I can use the school owls," he decided. "No use in trying to saddle a poor creature with a sixth year."

"Well, if that is how you wish to do it," Dumbledore said with the rare shrug. "I can not personally escort you down to Diagon Ally, so this time you will have to go with our groundskeeper. Ruberus Hagrid does get so antsy before the children come, so I'm sure he wouldn't mind taking you to get your robes."

"Today?" Harry asked, surprised. He cast about – vainly – for some way to tell the time, but no window proved willing to cooperate. He was fairly certain it was late, though.

"No, it will have to wait until the morning. I do apologize for you having to spend so long in your old robes, and I hope the house elves have been taking as much care with them as possible."

"Of course they have," he snapped back, automatically. "They always do their best at everything, so why wouldn't they?"

Dumbledore twinkled at him over folded hands. "Just making certain, my boy."

He snorted. "If you think so," he said rudely, with a sudden yawn.

"Go back to your quarters, Harry," the old man said gently. "Sleep, for tomorrow you go to Diagon Ally."

"Rah, joy," he said dryly as he rose to his feet and headed to the door. "Rah rah," he threw over his shoulder before he shut the door.

Merlin forbid that anything exciting happen then.

December 1998

It was then he got the first inklings of the feelings of those around him, and his hollowed out feeling made a little more sense.

Harry was in the middle of pouring a cup of tea for Remus when Hermione burst into the door panting, the golden light of the sunset setting her hair afire with red highlights and shimmering golden streaks. She slammed the door, and the darkness enveloped the room as she stumbled forward with a desperate gasp. "Oh Remus, they've got werewolf hunters! They know you're here!"

Harry dropped the kettle, and burst into a fit of foul language. "I'll get Ron – we've got to change the wards!"

"I know!" she wailed, dashing for the stairs. "I know!"

"What's going on?" Remus demanded as he followed them up to the bedroom Ron was unconscious in.

"The wards only hide the shack from people who want to hurt Harry – and Remus, werewolf hunters don't want to hurt Harry," she said, rushing over to Ron and shaking him. He didn't rouse, though. "Oh, Ron, come on, please wake up!" she called frantically.

"It's only been a day, Hermione," Harry said quietly. "He's not going to wake up for another day at least ..."

"Then at least let's use Disillusionment spells!" she cried. "We can't let them get Remus!"

The desperation in her voice sent echoes through his head of a different time with a different scenario, but with the exact same desperation. Harry stared, and then it was like a light flickered on in his head. He cast a glance at Ron, then stood with his jaw set. "Remus, can you cast the Disillusionment?"

"Of course I can, but I don't know how much good that's going to do ..."

Harry turned on him fiercely. "We've got to try. Go, Hermione and I will sort out the wards."

"But neither of you have the power –"

"Go," he hissed. Remus gave him a startled look, then turned and left the room.

Hermione had turned pale, staring up at him. He turned to her and gripped her shoulders. "Hermione, you won't like it, but use my energy."

"Oh, Harry," she breathed quietly, staring up at him with wide frightened eyes. "But I can't – you know I can't. Using Ron's is hard enough, but your magic isn't anything like mine. Harry, it's not like anyone's."

"Then tell me how to do it," he demanded. "Tell me and I'll do it. Hermione, you don't want to feel what it feels like, and if we don't get the wards straight, you will know exactly what it feels like." She swayed, and then burst into tears. He quickly dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her. "Come on, Mione, tell me. I'll do my best – I will. I won't let them take him if you'll tell me how to stop them."

She hiccupped, then pushed away from him, scrubbing an arm across her face. "Right," she said, collecting herself. She climbed to her feet, wand in hand, and stalked over to the window. "Come on," she said, jerking her head sharply at him. He jumped to his feet and joined her at the boarded window. "Harry, if you do this, you might end up as passed out as Ron is right now," she said, turning her serious brown eyes on him. They were blood-shot from her tears, but she looked determined and in charge. "Once you start, I'll head down and fetch the Sleepless Potion. We can't have you incapacitated, or saving Remus might just cost us everything. It might cost the world any chance of light."

"I can do this, Hermione," he insisted. "I know I can. I haven't failed myself yet."

"Oh, Harry, one day you're going to find your limits, and it's going to devastate you," she said, reaching out and smoothing his hair. She quirked a watery smile at him, then lifted her wand. "You must be very careful when saying the incantation, alright?"

But it was too late, for there was a pounding at the door, and the bay of hounds.

Dear Harry,

I have sent this letter through Hermione, on a time delayed basis because I don't want you to be overwhelmed. It is imperative that you understand the difference between Gray and Dark, and as much as I wish that you won't have to travel the path that may lay before you, I can't run the risk of ruining this for you the same way I ruined much of your life by taking the easy way out, and not telling you about the Prophecy.

If this letter finds you, then it means that I have been slain. Whether this was at young Malfoy's hand, or Severus was forced to do it for him, it hardly matters. You must not hold other's ill decisions against them, Harry. Severus told me immediately what he must do, if Malfoy was to fail. I was poisoned, Harry, you saw that when you beheld my hand, and it's likely that whatever measure I might need to take when destroying the other Horcruxes might hasten it along. I could not have survived much longer, and this is why I told Severus that if it comes to it, he must not hesitate to slay me. It was a kindness on his part. Like you, Severus has his own loyalties, and his own friends that he cannot discard.

He is loyal to me, and has never hesitated to tell me anything that might be helpful. I admit that I have come to look upon him like a son, and perhaps that makes what I have done to him repeatedly even worse. I seem to do the most harm to those I care the most about, for I cared deeply for you as well. It pained me that you and Severus could barely stand each other, and I made many mistakes there as well, for I often did ill to Severus in favor of you. I thought it wise at the time, but now I question my judgment, especially in light of the conversation we had at the end of your fifth year term.

Severus can not help the way he is, just as your friends can not help the way they are. If you can find it in yourself to forgive him, then I would be thankful, even if I am not present to show it.

Harry, I think that it is important that you not shun the Dark. You have used Unforgivables in your time, I know, but you must be careful about it. Dark spells will seduce you. Remember what I have said before – you must chose between what is right, and what is easy.

I wish you luck, Harry, and I hope you find happiness. I think you have a greater chance at finding it than Severus ever will, and I would like at least one of you to be happy.

- Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore

-- I solemnly swear I will use the Darkness for Good --

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Posted: Nov 10 2007
Next Update Expected: Sometime before 2008 :B