The first thing that caught Harry's notice as he entered his room was a rather large rat. It was dead. And it was on his bed. Harry sighed, giving a few hissing calls to see if any of the snakes would come to him.
The second thing Harry noticed was that smell. The oh so sweet smell that Harry didn't know was currently starting to override his senses. Looking around, Harry noticed the smell was coming off of his desk. Walking forward, Harry stopped in his tracks.
The case that held the black marble was open.
A little spooked, Harry went over to shut it quickly, only hesitating for a second. Who on earth had opened it? It couldn't have been one of the snakes, he had already warned them not to touch his stuff. Perhaps it had been an Order member? But surely they would have been smart enough not to leave a clue that someone had been in his room?
Harry sighed and dropped his shopping bags to the floor. "This is so confusing," Harry mumbled, beginning to search high and low of any sign of any creature or any other clue that something had been moved around.
A good thirty minutes later Harry couldn't find a single thing. It seemed the only object that had been touched was the black marble. But what on earth could be so important about it? Other than the sweet smell, of course.
But that couldn't be right…
"It has to be something else," Harry said to himself, moving toward his books and objects from Knockturn. They all had the same smell, even if it was rather weak and only noticeable if you put your face up to the book.
It was at this moment Harry wished Zack was here to talk. However, seeing how he or any of the other snakes weren't in his room, Harry decided to clean up the rat and start studying up on Ancient Runes and Arithmacy.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Fawkes the phoenix was a very protective bird. It didn't take a genius to know that, what with the number of times he had saved both Dumbledore's and Harry's lives quite a few times. The same could be said about a few others but no other human being needed saving like those two.
Naturally, being such a great protector and all, Fawkes had learned to know when incoming doom was upon them. It just so happens that Fawkes felt that very sensation.
Turning to stare at his bearded friend, Fawkes let out a soft note of comfort, thankful it wasn't Dumbledore that was in any danger. Fawkes stared out at the starry night through the window in the Headmasters office and seemingly deflated. That could only mean that it was Harry who needed help.
This time giving a trill of slight annoyance and exasperation, Fawkes gave Dumbledore another trill of comfort as he flew out the office, the window being charmed to open for him whenever he flew at it. Once safely outside, Fawkes circled Hogwarts once in thought before disappearing in a flash of fire and reappearing in Harry's room.
What Fawkes had been expecting was to find Harry sound asleep in bed, given the late hour. But what Fawkes found did much more than shock him. There were snakes everywhere. They were crawling on the floor, in the bookcase, in the closet and all over Harry as he slept away, completely oblivious to the snakes curled up around him. One particularly large python reared over Harry protectively as it caught sight of the mighty phoenix.
Snakes, snakes everywhere. Fawkes shook himself out of stupor. He would not have his favorite fledgling be taken!
Harry, who had been sound asleep, jolted wide awake from the highest and most horrible screech he had ever heard before. He jolted out of bed, wide eyed as he saw Fawkes snarl at the snakes that had returned to him.
Hedwig had returned as well, and it seemed like she was pissed off at the phoenix. The mass of snakes were going crazy, hissing and snapping at the fire bird but missed each time or were flung away by the powerful wings. Hedwig was screeching at Fawkes and was too busy trying to peck the annoyed phoenix to realize Harry had woken up.
"What's going on!?" Harry shouted, shocking the hissing and squawking animals into silence. Harry couldn't help but feel a little anxious at the number of eyes suddenly on him but squashed that feeling down.
Fawkes immediately glided over to him and landed on his shoulder, trilling with assurance and glared at snakes. Harry calmed the phoenix down with a few soft words and pets.
Hedwig, more than a little peeved, landed on Harry's other shoulder and hooted angrily at Fawkes. The two glared at each other while Harry sighed.
'Ok, what happened?' Harry demanded, causing Fawkes to look at him a bit unsurely as the hissing words escaped his mouth.
'We came back to protect you, Master,' Mia said as she coiled up on his bed. 'We had only just returned as you slumbered when this… this phoenix,' Mia spat, 'broke into your den and threatened us.'
"Fawkes!" Harry said, more than a little aghast. Said phoenix only looked at him innocently. "These are my friends! They're here to protect me, they aren't a threat."
Fawkes twittered at him, most likely demanding an explanation. Hedwig, to Harry's surprise, tried to snap at him from across his back and hooted angrily at him. Harry could only feel a dull amusement as the two birds spoke to each other. He wondered how long they would argue.
'Was anyone hurt?' Harry asked, looking around the room.
'We are all fine,' a long gray snake said.
'None were hurt,' Zack said suddenly, coming out from under the bed. 'We were merely surprised by the intrusion of this… phoenix.' Zack flicked his tongue at Fawkes who tightened his talons on Harry's shoulder. 'Other than the small shock, we are fine.'
"See?" Harry said, gesturing at the snakes that waited patiently for Harry to finish with Fawkes. "They're all my friends and only want to protect me."
Fawkes gave what sounded like a snort before deflating under Hedwig's glare. Giving up, Fawkes rubbed against Harry's head and sung a few soothing notes, making sure Harry would fall asleep immediately.
Once Harry started yawning again and eyes blinked heavily, Fawkes surveyed the room full of hostile snakes, gave a suspicious look, and disappeared in a flash of fire, teleporting to the Forbidden Forest where he could think in peace.
Harry, who had watched Fawkes disappear, felt heavy and tired. He jumped back into bed and fell asleep before his head even hit his pillow or Mia's scales.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The next few days passed in a blur for Harry. The event with Fawkes had been pushed into the deepest corner of his mind. Each time he tried to get the full story out of the snakes they just hissed in anger and told him that the evil bird was trying to steal him from them. It was all very confusing with dozens of voices speaking at once.
Friday he had worked most of the day. It was a nice stress reliever. It helped him get away from the snakes, despite the fact that they were quite sweet, the Order, Voldemort and everything that had to do with magic. It also helped that he was cooking on his own free will with a man who enjoyed cooking just as much as him. Friday and Saturday cleanups were apparently the best since when they were done for the evening and everything was cleaned up, they all had drinks.
It was a fun experience, though Harry was no where near drunk. He enjoyed the tropical drinks since he could barely taste the alcohol. Dylan, who preferred the hard alcohol, mostly chose rum and vodka. Her favorite choice was the Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum. Harry had barely swallowed it before erupting into a coughing fit from the burning sensation. All in all, Harry was glad he worked on Fridays and could enjoy a little time to loosen up, though he didn't particularly like when Stacy tried to make them play weird games. Karaoke is not fun with a bunch of drunken people.
That aside, Saturday and Sunday was nothing like Friday. Study, study, study. That was how his weekend was spent. As he only had a little less than two weeks to cram in a few years worth of Ancient Runes and Arithmacy, Harry was doing all he could. Combine that with that questioning smell and millions of questions going through his head, Harry had made sure to brew quite a bit of headache cure potions and a few pepper up potions.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Narcissa Malfoy bowed low, her image reflecting that of a perfect Pureblood wife simply doing her duty. The only thing wrong with her were noticeable black circles under her eyes from lack of sleep and stress.
"Milord, the Black fortune has yet to be distributed. My cousin's Will has yet to be read, though it shall be announced on Harry Potter's birthday. It goes without saying that the boy shall receive it all. However…"
"However?" Voldemort pressed, looking at the woman with such intensity that the Malfoy wife had to look down.
"I have managed to get the main Black house in Windlesham. The mansion is the size of a small castle with many acres of forest, with enchantment upon enchantment around its borders to keep Muggles out." Narcissa paused, a mere hint of resentment lingering in her eyes before it disappeared. "Walburga, after loosing the two Black heirs, took the Black mansion off the list of Black assets, instead selling it to my sister, Bella. With Bella in jail, the mansion went to me, though it was only just this recent I have learned of the secret deal between my aunt and sister to avenge the fallen Blacks."
Narcissa glanced back up at the Dark Lord. "I offer the mansion to you, Milord. I am sure you have tired of this rotten house that is so close to the Muggle town."
Voldemort nodded approvingly. "It seems your worth is much more than I first assumed," he hissed. "Your gift shall be rewarded, of course. I am sure you are missing your husband, more often than not at night?"
Narcissa, trained since three years old, kept her blush at bay. "I do indeed miss him," she whispered.
"Very well." Voldemort contemplated this new turn of events. "Has anyone entered the mansion?"
"What lies in the mansion of Black?"
This took Narcissa a moment as she thought of her childhood. Her aunt and uncle Black had always kept a vast selection of dark artifacts and books, preferring the items to piles and piles of gold. The Black vault had lost quite a lot over the years because of her relatives taste in expensive artifacts. That didn't necessarily mean there was nothing left money wise, not that she could get the money.
"The Black family spent most of their fortune on dark artifacts and books," Narcissa mused. "My great uncle preferred piles of gold to be turned into an item, rather than remain in a vault collecting dust."
Voldemort nodded, pleased. While the money the Blacks had would have been useful, he knew all too well the Potter boy would receive it all during the Will. He had no doubt in his mind several artifacts would also be in the Black vault that he could not reach, but that did not matter. With the Black mansion in his control, he would create the perfect base and rebuild his army in the dark forest the Black's were well known for. And all Muggles that lived near… Well, they would be taken care of.
"You have pleased me," Voldemort said silkily, petting Nagini's great head on his lap. "Prepare several house elves and send them off to clean the mansion before I leave. I want that mansion in order by the time I arrive."
Bowing low once more, Narcissa left immediately.
As soon as the woman Apparated away, Voldemort turned his head toward Bellatrix. "My sweet Bella," he murmured, watching her perk up at the sound of her name.
"Master?" she all but moaned with the hope to please.
"It seems I have a great asset in my hands, does it not?"
"Of course, Milord! The Black mansion will have everything you will need to take over the pathetic Ministry," she spat.
"For both your sake and your sisters you had best be right," Voldemort hissed, his face starting to look dangerous. "I find it odd that I find out the Black mansion was in your possession not from you, but from your sister." Bellatrix's eyes widened. "Is there something you wish to tell me, my dear? Or were you perhaps hoping the mansion would be yours and yours alone."
"Master!" she cried, throwing herself to the ground. "Master, I would never! It was Azkaban, Milord! I had only received the Black mansion mere months before my imprisonment and had not thought about it since!"
"Crucio," Voldemort intoned, watching the black haired witch scream and seizure on the ground. "I the future, you won't be so forgetting, will you?"
"No… Milord," Bellatrix gasped.
"Good." Voldemort's eyes hardened. "Be prepared. We shall be taking Azkaban."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Whaddya mean your relatives left on a holiday!" Mad Eye barked as he glared down at the black haired teen.
Harry sighed as he leaned back on the couch. He had decided that right after work on Friday the fourteenth he had to come clean. It was simply amazing and by pure luck he managed to get away with it for so long. He had also been waiting until Friday since it was drinking night at the restaurant and he needed a little something to loosen up his nerves with his meeting.
"Just as I told you," he said tiredly. "Two day's ago they said they were going on a vacation. Needed to get away from the freakiness they said. Left me here since that's what the Order wanted an' all."
Moody continued to glare. "And you deemed it was necessary to tell us two day's after they left?"
Harry gave a scowl. "Wasn't my fault the Order didn't know already, though I suppose since it was Dung that guarding that night..."
Moody gave a low growl. "Dung…" Both eyes looked at Harry. "I don't know what Dumbledore will do now, boy, but since the presence of your aunt still lingers here, I believe he'll still keep you here. Not to mention the Death Eater's don't have the faintest idea where you are. Now you stay down, boy, got it?"
"Good. Remember, constant vigilance!" And he Apparated away.
Still staring at the spot for a moment, Harry let out a breath as he ran his hand through his hair. That had been nerve wracking.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Darkness was all around him. It was consuming and intoxicating. He could feel it, hold it in his hands and breathe it in as he slunk through the dark. He could see nothing, nor could he hear. All he could do was feel the dark energy giving him life, stabilizing his growing hunger.
Stretching his hand in front of him, Harry could only make out black claws. His entire hand was midnight black that curved into claws. They didn't even have finger nails or arm hairs. The revelation was enough to jolt Harry awake.
Eyes opening, Harry stared up at the ceiling with an apathetic expression. Nose wrinkling at an incoming familiar smell, Harry turned his head toward the black box and blanched.
"Open," Harry whispered in horror.
Shooting out of bed like a rocket, Harry accidentally sent several snakes flying. They hissed angrily but Harry gave them no mind. He turned the box in his hand and grabbed the black marble, almost vomiting as he had to fight the urge to rub it against his face like a cat does to catnip. Shivering, Harry gripped the black ball tightly before stuffing it in the box and putting it under his bed.
'Who opened it?' Harry demanded to the room full of snakes. 'Zack, who opened it?' Harry turned toward the red eyed snake.
Zack slithered over to Harry. 'No one has touched anything,' he hissed truthfully. 'We have done nothing but guard you. None were even aware your box had opened.'
Harry looked at the others. 'Is this true?'
They all hissed an affirmative.
'Did anyone come into my room?'
'None came,' Zack said cautiously, concerned for the Speaker's paranoia.
"No one," Harry whispered to himself, feeling slightly scared. "No one…"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Eh, I think I'll end this chapter since it's nothing more than ramblings. Yes, yes, it's horrible. No Dumbledore or more questions based on his relative's or anything else. Yes, I know, but I promise it'll get better next chapter since I really needed a week to pass by without much happening.
The next chapter will be about Harry's O.W.L.s tests and some interesting discoveries about the Black Marble and the smell. The only problem is will Harry even realize what's going on? Find out next time on the next update that isn't crap!