Extended summary: Dumbledore acts decisively on the second prophesy at the end of Harry's third year and rescues Harry from his relatives with an offer of apprenticeship. From him, Harry learns a rare form of magic, Runescriving, based on alchemy and which forms the basis for much of Dumbledore's and Voldemort's power. Unfortunately, this draws the attention of a secret society who guard this information jealously and who seek to eliminate Harry. During his training, Harry meets an aloof, lonely, quarter-veela witch and the two strike up a friendship that eventually blossoms into something more. Matters are complicated by Fleur's arranged betrothal to a man she does not truly love and her family's close association with the very group trying to do Harry in. Harry suffers alienation from his peers, assassination attempts on multiple fronts, the travails of the Tri-Wizard tournament, and growing pains as he discovers who he is. Later chapters rated M for language and adult situations.

Disclaimer: Story based on characters and plot owned by J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.


By Perspicacity



"Expecto Patronum!"

A giant, silver stag bursts from the end of the boy's wand, a conical wall of force tens of meters in all directions trailing behind it. Unnoticed by the caster, whose attention is on the horde of dementors converging on his godfather and doppleganger, his wand buckles with the force of his spell. He is unaware of the visible aura surrounding him, of the white motes that arc across his body, of the faint wisps of smoke that rise from the end of his still-glowing wand. His companion, a brown-haired witch also dressed in Hogwarts robes, stumbles back in alarm as she sees the intense blaze of his eyes and feels the crackling of air pregnant with latent power.

His foes are driven off by the fury of the charm and their screeches of rage and fright become more distant. The boy lowers his wand and strides, predacious, to the tethered hippogriff. He peers directly into the proud creature's eyes. He doesn't bow, yet the beast instinctively ducks its head and kneels in submission. He mounts and beckons his companion to join him.

A minute later, Professor Dumbledore and a visibly shaken Hermione Granger leave the memory and find themselves standing next to one another in the Headmaster's office beside a wide stone basin filled with misting fluid.

"Take a seat, please, Miss Granger. And thank you for sharing with me your most intriguing memory. Indeed, this gives me much to ponder."

The witch sits tentatively onto her chair, one of four padded, Queen Anne pieces, chestnut, with carved cabriole legs resembling dragon's claws. The chairs accent the Headmaster's massive desk, polished oak with ebony inlays and a bombe base, that dominates the office.

"What do you think it means, Professor? I've known Harry for three years and he's never shown anything like... like..."

"Like such a convincing display of unbridled power?" He looks at the witch, who fidgets in her chair. "Miss Granger, tell me honestly how you felt that day with respect to Harry's display."

"Awed. Overwhelmed," she says, meekly. "Terrified."

He nods, deep in thought. "I confess, I too am curious how young Harry has come into his own so quickly." He pauses, then gestures to a crystal dish of yellow candies. "Curious, mind you, but not surprised. Lemon drop?" Hermione shakes her head. The Headmaster stands and maunders toward the office window, where he sits and gazes out over the lake far to the south. "Hermione, do you believe that young Harry and Sirius Black could tolerate one other? Could they work together for an extended period of time?"

The witch is taken aback, both by the sudden change in topic and his familiar tone, the first time in her memory that he has addressed her by her given name. "Y-yes, professor. Harry mentioned that he had never been as happy as when he believed that he could go live with Sirius and not have to go to Little Whinging to stay with his relatives. I think Sirius felt the same about Harry, sir, at least that's what he said."

"Most interesting." With a sigh, the Headmaster stands. "Miss Granger, I apologize for having kept you so long chatting with an old man when you could be out enjoying this fine day. Might I recommend a stroll along the path by the lake? I understand that Mr. Weasley's injuries are healed and I dare say he would make admirable company on such an adventure." He gives her a kind smile.

Hermione reddens with the comment, but nods to the Headmaster and stands to leave.

The professor looks out over the water again, the green surface glittering with reflected sunlight. "Harry, my boy, it is time we had a long talk."

Harry blinks with surprise. "An apprenticeship, sir?" He and the Headmaster are seated on the bed in Harry's tiny room in his relatives' house on Privet Drive. The older man shifts as he tries in vain to find a comfortable way to sit atop Harry's yellow-brown, lumpy mattress. Much to the Headmaster's disgust, the sweat-stained bed has no sheets and the pillow lacks a pillowcase. The room has a dank, musty odor, as if it were sealed and only recently opened. He doesn't miss the several muggle locks on the door or the cat flap at its whitewashed base.

The Headmaster's unannounced arrival earlier that evening just after Harry's return had spurred a terrible row between Harry and his aunt and uncle. The two hateful muggles had only backed down and allowed the Headmaster entrance after he had released his aura, a brilliant flash of gold that had made even Harry back up a step. Harry and his visitor had retired to Harry's room for privacy and to avoid further confrontation.

The offer of apprenticeship was the second-to-last thing Harry had expected to hear this evening. The last thing was to learn of a prophesy made before his birth that presaged the death of Harry, Voldemort, or both. "Neither shall live while the other survives..." A prophesy that was the reason his parents died. Harry smiles at the irony, his role in saving the world, muggle and magical alike, revealed moments after being screamed at by his gin-addled uncle for the mortal sin of "freakishness."

Hedwig, Harry's snowy owl, makes a soft "hoot." Harry rises to stroke her head and he fishes in his pocket for a treat. He consciously avoids eye contact with his Professor out of wariness and shame at his circumstances.

"But how will I be able to keep up? I mean, I'm nothing special, sir, not even a fourth year. I'm rubbish at potions and divination and... are you sure you don't want someone like Hermione instead?" He looks down at his feet, toes poking out of holes in dingy tube socks. As he speaks, he twists his left big toe into the threadbare carpet, inwardly horrified that the Headmaster has seen the squalor in which he lives.

"Yes, Harry. Though Miss Granger is undoubtedly a highly talented witch, among the brightest to grace the halls of Hogwarts, I believe she is ill suited for the rigors of apprenticeship. And fate has not thrust her into the fore as it has you.

"For reasons I won't burden you with, even in the absence of the prophesies I had intended to offer you an apprenticeship following your NEWT examinations. However, with circumstances as they are, it seems most prudent to prepare you as soon and as fully as possible for what we both know is coming. I cannot imagine what would befall all of us were you to encounter Voldemort or his Death Eaters with inadequate preparation."

He clears his throat and speaks formally, "And you should understand, Mr. Potter, that it is a very high honor that is being offered to you, one that is rare for anyone, even an adult wizard. Though I assure you I've had no shortage of requests, I've never taken an apprentice."

It takes a moment for Harry to assimilate this, his face brightening for the first time since the Headmaster has visited. "Um... if I accept, will you be teaching me this summer at... at Hogwarts, sir?"

"Please don't stammer, Harry. Decide what you wish to say and say it. If you accept, and I hope that you do, you shall indeed leave this place for more happy environs. I believe Hagrid will be most pleased, as will two others whom I have approached regarding your tutelage."

A slight smile forms on Dumbledore's lips as a minor manipulation falls into alignment with his wishes. A surreptitious Legillimens of Harry's guardians had allowed him to glimpse just how unpleasant Harry's stay had been, silent misery behind a facade of postwar conformity, a useful tool in the "negotiation," if this preordained outcome can be considered as such.

"Harry, before we commence, I must make one thing clear. Apprenticeship is a type of bond, similar to those you share with Mr. Pettigrew and Miss Weasley through their life debts. Once we begin, you cannot leave your apprenticeship, save by my passing or formal release. Were you to attempt to terminate on your own volition, you would find the experience most disagreeable…."

"Merde!" The platinum-haired witch blows a strand of hair off her face and she tucks it into the elastic band into which she has pulled her long hair. Her cheeks are flushed, the southerly breeze off the sea too warm and faint to keep her silken robes from being sodden with perspiration. "Encore, s'il vous plait." Her light complexion matches the cream colored walls of the classroom.

The observer, a dark-haired, middle-aged man with a neatly trimmed beard and charcoal robes waves his wand in a wide arc and four man-sized dummies, each decorated with the crossed golden wands of the Beauxbatons crest, animate at the other side of the chamber. The witch assumes a classic dueling stance as the golems begin to fire stinging hexes.

Ducking a particularly close hex, she waves her wand in a fluid sequence, The first spell, a mild bludgeoning hex, strikes a dummy in the neck and spins it around. The second, a medium-strength cutting hex, impacts where its kidney would be and disables it. The rate of fire from the remaining dummies ratchets upward.

After several minutes of graceful ducking and shielding, her feet shuffling and scraping across the polished oak floor, a second dummy is dispatched and the speed at which the hexes fire accelerates again. A stinging hex bypasses her shield and kisses her chin with a scrape and a purple welt. She cries out, more in anger than pain, and spins, furious, toward the nearest dummy.

"Frango ós." She jabs her wand in its direction and follows with a hooking motion. A writhing yellow beam jets from her wand and shatters the dummy to kindling.

Before the final dummy can speed up, the witch spins toward it and growls "conseco artus!" With a diagonal slash, a bright blue ribbon erupts from her wand and slices the dummy in two.

She pants for a moment and looks to the man observing her, who has walked over to her. He strokes her cheek gently and waves his wand over her face. The blemishes fade. "Ma petite, you put on an interesting display," he says as he places a light kiss on her forehead. "Bone-shattering and limb severing curses? I had no idea you were so adept at tapping your... darker side." He smirks. "Olympe would be most amused."

"Father, I..."

He holds up his hands and she quiets. "Fleur, you know I have no problem with your expanding your repertoire. No doubt you'll need to if you intend to participate in this silly competition." The disdain in his voice is unmasked.

"Father, it's what I wish. I need to do this." She looks at her father, her heart heavy from the disappointment she reads from his gaze. "I wish to be something special." She takes a deep breath and looks him in the eye. "I want more than just to be an accessory to a powerful man, Father."

"Silence, child. What I wish is that I could forbid you to participate, but we both know I cannot since you came of age." His dark eyes flash with anger. "Just understand the risks you take--both to you and your family. We would be shamed if you were to return disfigured and your intended were to void the betrothal." His face becomes cold, distant. "Gabrielle may not appreciate taking your place and I have no doubt that your mother would make it so."

"Headmaster?" Harry asks, shifting uncomfortably in his chair in the headmaster's office

"Albus, Harry. I must insist that as my apprentice-to-be you make a habit of referring to me in this manner. It is tradition, you know, originating before my own mentor, Nicolas." The old man continues his study of a parchment on his desk. He signs a page with a flourish and sets the eagle quill next to a crystal ink bottle.

"Yes sir. Albus."

The Headmaster looks up. "Better. This afternoon, we shall discuss the essence of magic, a subject of which, I fear, you are rather ignorant." The headmaster picks up another parchment from his desk and reads it slowly. "I see that you read neither arithmancy nor ancient runes. A pity, as either would have given us some basis on which to build." Harry lowers his eyes--he had never given his electives much thought, choosing easy courses with Ron for want of anything better. The headmaster steeples his hands, his fingertips resting on his lips, as he reads his apprentice's expression and divines his thoughts. "Friendship, Harry, is a most admirable influence. But in this case you would have been better served had you accompanied your other friend, Miss Granger.

"Let us begin at the beginning. Tell me, in your own words, what is a spell?"

"I think it's when you, um, focus your magic..." The disappointment Harry sees on his mentor's face distracts Harry from his unsatisfactory answer.

"Harry," the Headmaster cuts him off and shakes his head slowly. "We have much work to do. Being raised by muggles, you would not have been exposed to much of this, but I am surprised that you either received no guidance to our world or you ignored it. Did Hagrid not give you the materials we provide to muggle-raised witches and wizards?"

Harry feels annoyed, as if being blamed for something outside his control. He says defensively, "No Albus. He didn't give me anything. Nothing more than a few offhand comments when we visited Diagon Alley."

The headmaster sighs. "I believe that our groundskeeper, admirable though his intentions may have been, must have assumed that you already knew of our world when he visited you. For this I deserve a share of the blame. Given how you were raised, when you were first contacted, you should have received copies of So you're a Wizard and A Muggleborn's Guide to the Magical World, both excellent introductions to the foundations of magical theory. Indeed, I'm surprised you have done as well as you have in your studies without any formal background—I suspect that you may have compensated for your ignorance by using your other gifts, prodigious as they may be. As my first assignment to you, I ask that you redress this oversight and acquire and peruse these texts in full before our next meeting.

"Moreover, I have spoken at length with Professor Vector; in return for a modest stipend, which you will pay from your trust vault, she has offered to tutor you in arithmancy this holiday to bring you "up to speed," as it were. Please contact her to arrange your tutorials. I suggest that you meet twice a week for the remainder of the summer. Harry, it is imperative that you apply yourself fully to this endeavor. I expect you to matriculate with the fourth years in September, though I would be most pleased if you were to advance further, as it is "integral" to what I plan for your training." The headmaster chuckles. "Sorry. I'm susceptible to bad puns." Harry manages a polite smile, missing the humor entirely.

"I also expect that you will begin study of runes, starting with ancient runes. Professor Abdulah is on sabbatical this holiday, so I have arranged in his stead for you to read with Professor Lupin, who would hold a Mastery in the subject were he not a werewolf. Runic forms are the basis for the wand movements that you use with spells, as well as other, more sophisticated magic. It is an excellent complement to arithmancy and will be central to the special instruction that I will be providing you."

"But Albus, with these subjects and the work I already have with Sirius and Remus, I won't have nearly enough time..."

"Harry, the goblin community has much to teach us wizards. If you have ever gambled with goblins, as I did in my younger days, you would know that they are legendary for their, shall we say, liberal interpretation of the rules. I understand that your friend, Miss Granger, shared with you how she accomplished her remarkable academic feats last year?"

A slow grin spreads on Harry's face, "You mean I get to use a time turner?"

The headmaster opens his desk and pulls out a familiar hourglass device on a slender gold chain. He hands it to Harry, who loops the chain around his neck. "Yes, Harry. Fate has dealt you a bad hand, one that you must you play, for good or ill. When in such a position, one must channel one's inner goblin and cheat like the dickens."

"Ron, please remember that Mr. Crouch is a very busy man. You are to answer his questions directly and not waste his time," Percy Weasley says to his lanky, red-haired brother as they board the lift. He punches the button for floor five, Department of International Magical Cooperation.

Ron sighs and puts his hands in the pockets of ancient maroon dress robes trimmed with torn, greying lace. "Yeah, Perce. I'll be sure." They wait for a silver-haired witch to hobble off the lift on the floor for the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. As the doors slide closed, he makes a face to his older brother. "Why did I have to wear these robes again? I look like a bloody girl!"

"Ron, language?" he says through clenched teeth, adjusting his horn-rimmed glasses. "You're in the Ministry--dress robes are the proper attire."

"I don't see anyone else wearing bloody dress robes besides us," he grumbles.

Percy opens his mouth to comment, but the elevator bell rings and they get off instead and walk down a long corridor, paneled in black marble veneer veined in silver. Several offices open off the main corridor. Percy stops at a narrow door halfway to the end and opens it. Inside is a tiny broom closet that has been converted to a makeshift office. "Here's my office, Ron. Unlike Dad, I have my own--I don't have to share." He stands, smug, in front of the doorway.

Ron fights back a snort and nods as he reads the steel placard next to the door. "P. Weatherby? Who's that?"

His brother reddens. "They, er, spelled my name wrong. Anyway, let's go." He pulls Ron behind him and marches them to the end of the corridor, where an ornate door stands closed. Just outside, he stops and pulls Ron aside.

"Remember, don't speak unless Mr. Crouch asks you something. He specifically asked to meet you, which is a high honor from a man as important as Mr. Crouch. If you make a good impression, it could really bolster your career, Ron."

"Uh huh," he says with disinterest, having heard the lecture several times in the last few days. He doesn't know why he is here, except that Mr. Crouch asked for him for some reason.

The two enter the office and Percy greets the secretary, a heavy-set, mousy-haired woman wearing heavy makeup and dark blue robes. She sets the file she is using to buff her nails upon the desk. Percy stiffens and says, officiously, "Percival Ignatius Weasley and Ronald Billius Weasley here to meet Mr. Crouch. We have an appointment."

She rolls her eyes, nodding, and touches her index finger to a small cylinder of polished red stone the size of a small stack of Knuts. "Sir, your ten o'clock is here."

"Send them in," a curt voice replies.

"Go on in, boys," she says, returning to her nails.

Percy and Ron enter the ornately decorated office and stand atop a thick, Persian rug where a dapper man with pinstriped robes and a neatly trimmed mustache steps forward. He nods to Percy, "Weatherby." Ron's eyebrows rise. "So this is your brother, Ronald. I've heard much about you, son." He and Ron shake hands and Ron notices that his hands are clammy and the man's eye has a tic. "You're a good friend of Harry Potter's, aren't you?"

Ron grimaces slightly at Harry's mention. Percy coughs and he remembers to answer. "Uh, yes, sir. Harry and I are best mates."

"I'd like to speak with you for a bit to get to know you better, Ronald, or do you go by Ron?"

"Ron is good, sir."

"Okay, Ron." He smiles, placing a hand on Ron's shoulder. Percy's face pales at the familiarity his boss is showing his brother. "Weatherby, go fetch us some tea please."

"Uh, yes, sir, Mr. Crouch, sir." He half-bows and backs out of the room.

The older man walks to the door and closes it. As he does, Ron catches a red-pink glow out of the corner of his eye and a warm, comforting feeling envelops him.

"Silencio. So what you're saying, or would be saying if you could speak, Harry, is that you're now just a pathetic squib?" The raven-haired instructor spits onto the granite floor, disgusted. "Merlin, who needs Adava Kevadra when you could be done in with a simple silencing hex? You're weak, Harry, pathetic! And you're wasting our time here. Let's see if you can at least dodge and get something out of this exercise. Expelliarmus. Stupefy. Diffindo." A burst of spells leap from the man's wand.

Harry glares at his godfather as he avoids the first volley of curses, only to be struck on the calf by a stinging hex in the second volley. While Sirius may act childishly outside training, the excitable uncle Harry always wished for, he is all business when teaching. And his temper, always on a short fuse since Azkaban, has been tested today. Several days of intense training, stopping only for injury, meals, sleep, study, and interminable time-turner spin-backs, and Harry still hasn't mastered silent casting. Judging by Sirius's blunt comments, he hasn't mastered anything yet. Frustration is showing. Both teacher's and student's nerves are frayed.

"Rictumsempra." Harry lurches to the right to avoid the hex. "Incarcerus," Sirius intones lazily. The spell strikes Harry mid-thigh. He collapses, bound magically by conjured ropes.

Sirius turns his back to the immobilized boy and walks slowly across the Room of Requirement, configured as a dueling chamber, toward the observer by the door.

"Albus," he says, shaking his head, "I just don't know what to say. The kid's got potential, that's for sure. Hell, I've never seen a thirteen year old who could put so much juice into his spells--he's got more in the tank now than his old man ever did. But something's wrong. It's like he's got some kind of block." Sirius doesn't bother lowering his voice or hiding his displeasure. Harry has heard it all, in the last hour no less.

The Headmaster draws a privacy dome about the two men. "'Tough love,' Mr. Black?" The lanky, dark-haired man glares at the other man. "Don't count Mr. Potter out just yet," the Headmaster says with a twinkling eye, "I am quite certain that he will yet surprise us all. Why, Mr. Lupin speaks highly of his progress of late."

"Albus, this isn't just learning a few runes!" He hesitates. "Look, it's elementary dueling, the kind of thing that, when I taught at the Academy, we expect them to know going in. We haven't even started on basic tactics. He's far behind where I thought I could get him by now. I mean, you said he was good and he's James's and Lily's kid, so I sort of expected something special, but if Harry were to face a real Death Eater..." Sirius shivers.

"And that's why you are here," the headmaster interrupts, taking a moment to gaze across the well-lit room to his trussed charge, "to inoculate him from contracting an acute case of death. I know I impressed upon you the urgency of bringing Harry quickly to an acceptable level of skill, but we must also be realistic. As much as it pains me to say, my staff and I have been remiss. Harry has not had especially sound preparation and he was completely ignorant of magic when he arrived. I'm afraid we are reaping what we've sown."

Sirius scratches his jaw, which is darkened with black stubble. "Albus, I love the kid like a son. Hell, he is my son in every way that matters. But I just don't see why you're in such a hurry to take him on. Probably over a dozen kids in this place are better prepared than he is. And from what I remember, that Weasley boy--what's his name, Bill--was extremely sharp and fairly powerful as well. I'm just not sure Harry is a safe bet for you to take on just yet." The headmaster fixes Sirius with a stare. "Okay, fine. I'll let it drop... for now. You wanted a status report? Dueling-wise, as you saw, his aim is crap, with little improvement over the last week..."

The Headmaster raises an eyebrow. "Sirius, I understand your frustration at the constraints on your movement after your recent incarceration. Are you quite certain you aren't commuting this anxiety onto your training with Harry?"

Sirius ignores the barb and continues, "His casting speed is variable and the power he puts behind his spells is all over the map. He's quick, but that's not enough. Not for where I want him to be.

"And, as you know, he completely lacks the potential for animagus transformation--I guess he's Lily's kid after all. Whatever tie he has to his form, if he even has one, is weak and would probably take forever to learn, just like with Peter. I don't think it's worth trying to climb that mountain now." He pauses and then speaks in a low tone, his hands going into the pockets of plain, midnight blue robes, robes the color of his eyes. "I just wonder if you aren't wasting your time with him. If it weren't for the prophesy..."

Sirius swallows as a wand jabs him in the throat.

"I see that Harry has learned to cast silently after all, Mr. Black. Please, carry on with your lesson." The headmaster turns towards the door and, with a hint of a smile, makes his egress.

The elderly man swirls his drink in a small crystal goblet and eyes its warm, brown color appreciatively. "Lormin, mon apprenti? I did train you well." He sips his cognac, a gift form his companion, and turns milky grey eyes toward the man, a middle-aged, dark-haired wizard of medium height, with chiseled features and a neatly trimmed beard.

"Of course, Chevalier" He bows formally to the short, older man bent with age. "This is a matter of some urgency. I asked for your council because my contacts tell me that le Voleur intends to bring someone into his fold. We can only assume that he will teach him in the ways."

The elder man coughs roughly. "He does, does he? Tell me more of this protegé, Faucon." He punctuates his statement with a slap of his hand upon a highly polished table of black walnut.

"We do not yet know his identity, but we will soon. I can tell you that he has sought unique accommodations that suggest he intends to indenture a child. This itself is remarkable." He crosses his arms and steps toward one of the high glass windows of the chateau. The leaden glass frames a staggeringly beautiful, rugged, alpine vista.

The elder scoffs loudly, which triggers a violent coughing episode. "He risks much with this choice. I am curious what child could inspire such confidence? What do we know of the boy?"

"If I may, Chevalier, I have endeavored to learn more. I know that le Voleur will stay on at that school, Hogwarts, so it is logical to assume that he will keep the boy close to monitor his amélioration. While we have no agents within, we will soon. Through our efforts, the Tri-Wizard Tournament is being competed next year, an event which will afford us access to grounds and boy both."

"Indeed. Find out what you can, Faucon. We must deal with this threat while we can."

Author's Note: This piece of fiction has been written to completion and it spans seventeen chapters and roughly 75k words. The final draft is being beta- and proof-read and critiqued before its posting. I intend to submit on the order of one chapter per week for the next several weeks. Barring the unlikelihood of author death, I assure you that this story will not be abandoned.

I wish to thank those who helped me with the process of writing this, my first novel-length effort. ParseltonguePhoenix, Methene, and Fenraellis read an early draft of this story and their sage comments improved this work significantly. They are to be credited with what works in this story. (What doesn't is my own damned fault!)

ParseltonguePhoenix and Fenraellis both gave careful beta reads of the complete work, for which I am extremely grateful. The former also got on my case to finish this, so he is to thank for its being available now and not months from now.

Also, I wish to acknowledge the crew at DLP for critical comments on the draft and for the inspiration (I'm looking at you, Methene) to attempt a Harry/Fleur story.

I borrowed the idea for more than three Tri-Wizard tasks (as well as a line in this work) from jbern's excellent The Lie I Lived, a masterpiece-in-the-making that I strongly encourage everyone to read. The Rosicrucians, the Order of the Rosy Cross, and their historical ties to alchemy were lifted shamelessly from Umberto Eco's Foucalt's Pendulum. Eco rocks.

As always, reviews and feedback are most welcome.