A Broken Shield

Harry sat silently as his relatives car rapidly left King's Cross in the distance. He wasn't ready to go 'home.' Of course he had no burning desire to stay at Hogwarts either, so it was unclear just where on earth this left him. Lost most likely. Yes, that sounded right.

Sirius's death had hit him hard. Or it should have; would have, if the aftereffects from his failed Crucio hadn't gotten in the way. He could still feel the last syllable of the curse tumbling off of his tongue. The pleasant fire flowing through his veins for one glorious moment as Bellatrix writhed in his grip.

It haunted his waking mind and twisted his dreams into distributing fantasies of violence even his miserable life should have been unable to produce. A few veiled questions to Hermione had yielded no answers.

According to his brilliant best friend, who thought he was inquiry into Bella's physcosis instead of his own, one Crucio did not a dark wizard make. It took hundreds, maybe thousands of casts before the dark magic it channeled through a wizard's soul truly began to poison it irrevocably.

Indeed, she had assured him, the theory was quite well understood thanks to the copious notes which survived Damien the Strange, patriarch of the Lestrange line and creator of the killing curse. Apparently nearly all dark magic was an adaptation of that original spell, perverting ancient necromantic rites into more readily lethal weapons of war by using the soul instead of ritual containers to channel the black magic energies of death. Of course this approach, while a thousand times more expedient, meant that corrupting necromantic and sadomancic energies were free to wreck havoc on the soul they moved through rather than on the easily disposed of ritual container.

In any case, whatever the clarity of the theory it did not seem to be working for him. Granted he wasn't feeling especially unstable, though the presence of his wale of a cousin within convenient smelling distance may have compromised this to some extent. Still, the dreams were downright disturbing and the strange tingle in his limbs seemed a fair bit on the unholy side for him to suppose it was simply puberty finally rearing its ugly head.

Sighing deeply Harry put the matter to rest. He had a whole summer to get through with his ever loving relatives: there were more dire things to worry about than the descent of his soul into absolute darkness and evil.

Contenting himself with this newfound revolution Harry channeled his emerging malignant side into making vaguely menacing faces at Dudley. It was only twenty minutes later he realized this may not have been the best plan when a truly foul smell filled the backseat, and if he had to guess the rest of car. I guess the phrase scared shit-less does not apply to Dudley. He thought with grim resignation while vainly trying to hold his breath for the last hour and half of the car ride.

An hour and forty five minutes later Harry stumbled from the car, dragging his trunk behind him listlessly. Fifteen more minutes and he would have been ready to simply throw himself on Voldemort's mercy. Still, at least it was over. Now he could breath fresh air, enjoy the sunshine and...

"Boy! Get your freaking ass inside before the neighbors see you!" His uncle bellowed from the door way

Ah yes the pleasant sound of his uncle screaming his healthy lungs off in his general direction. Grand.

"I'm coming! Keep your pants on!" He shot back while stalking with resignation inside the house. As soon as he crossed the threshold the familiar smell of antiseptic cleanliness washed over him, bringing nearly fifteen years of awful memories along for the ride.

Fortunately, at least this time his family was ignoring him thus far. He wondered idly if it would last with Sirius gone. Hopefully they'd never know-- as long the Order members who had no doubt been assigned to guard him kept their mouths shut it shouldn't be a problem.

Considering that the Dursely's would probably run screaming the minute a wizard approached them he figured that this was a fairly safe bet. Fairly. Fate did tend to take a perverse pleasure in kicking him the face at least twice a year. Still he imagined that with his godfather dead, his soul in danger and a murderous psychopath now openly out for his blood Karma owed him a good turn or twelve.

Reaching his room Harry put aside his metaphysical musings to take in his home for the summer. Drab, dank and smelling faintly of old socks he had probably forgotten to clean up before fleeing to Hogwarts last year, it was only moderately more welcoming than his family.

Harry took enough steps forward into the room to drop his trunk outside the auspices of the doorframe before collapsing down into it with a sigh. The damned thing was heavy without its magic engaged.

He sat there for a long moment, regaining his breath, before reluctantly rising and closing the door behind him. It was an open invitation for this relatives to lock him in, but quite frankly he was even less excited about them having the opportunity to stare at or taunt him.

With the door successfully closed he settled once more down onto the trunk. He was bored. Already. Probably not the most appropriate emotion to feel after the semester he had had, but over the years it had been impossible not to become a bit of an adrenalin junky.

As if in answer to his boredom the tingling sensation in his limbs returned with a vengeance. Briefly he considered alerting one of his Order guards, but discarded the notion an instant latter. It wasn't an especially unpleasant sensation, and he was wary of alerting an auror to something which could potentially be a common side effect of casting a Crucio for the first time.

Resigning himself to just riding out the sensation for now he absently reached into his trunk for one of his old school books. His hand ended up closing around a third year potions book of all things. Yet another clear sign that fate had a serious grudge against him.

Still, it couldn't hurt to look through the damned thing. Maybe he'd find some muggle repelling potion he had overlooked the first time through.

Three hours later he put the book aside with a sigh. No muggle repelling potion to be found, although there had been a tempting alternative which would knock non-magical individuals out for three weeks. What such a potion was doing in a third year textbook he had no idea. Probably Snape's gift to the little death munchers. He thought with disgust as he threw the book in the vague direction of his bed.

The book flew out from his hand far harder than should have been possible, as what he had intended to be a causal lob instead turned the unwanted potions book into a leather-bound missile. It impacted an instant later with the wall, shattering in a spray of parchment and binding that sent him ducking for cover.

Predictably the angry mumbles of his relatives followed form downstairs a moment later. The door blocked out most of the sound but he was able to catch a hint of the usual 'freak,' 'freakishness' and 'abnormality' which usually graced any conversation they had with or about him.

Putting them entirely out of his mind he cautiously approached the remains of his potion's book. Just as he was about to prod it with his wand to see if it was holding an residual magical a shiver went down his spine. He knew the feeling. Shit.

It was his damned sixth sense going off again just like before he grabbed the cup in the Triwizard tournament. Something awful was about to happen. Worse, something awful was about to happen to him.

Scanning the room feverishly, his eyes alert for the faintest sign of impending doom Harry prepared himself for the inevitable. It struck a moment latter.

Screams. Such familiar screams he could have recited them by heart now. The unseen battle in the living room. The half-felt rush of death which signaled the end of James Potter.

Anticipation. Death was coming, ascending towards them one step at a time. Why was he seeing this now? Last time he checked no one had slipped a dementor into his room.

A corona of light flared about him as Lily Potter chanted. Ethereal in the illumination of her own power, tears flowed down her ivory cheeks freely. She knew she was already dead and yet still she cast, weaving her power ever tighter about his prone form.

Endless chants in a language he could not even begin to comprehend spilled from her lips in a lyric song which even in this strange medium raised the hackles on the back of his neck.

The door shuddered, once, twice, a third time and it imploded in with terrific force. He stepped through its ruins, yew wand casually bared for the slaughter. She did not look up. She continued her chant.

No. No. that wasn't how this went! Hadn't he viewed this a thousand times in his nightmares? She begged for his life. He told her to run and she stood firm. What was this?

"Foolish Mudblood. That familiar voice hissed, "Do you really think your petty ritual will stop me? Do you think its ancient might will respond to your tainted call?"

She made no answer to his taunts. Her words spilled forth faster and faster, as the light too spun in time, nearly filling the whole of the room as it pulsed with her half-heard words of power.

For a moment He hesitated. Then with that same uncaring smirk he had worn while slaughtered thousand, he intoned the fatal words. Green light flew, straight, true and deadly. She fell at his feet. The light fell with her, gone in an instant.

Already he was turning away, turning his back on Lily and towards Harry's sleeping form. If he had lingered as the vision now did he would have seen the impossible. For there, lying stone dead upon the floor Lilly Potter spoke one final time.

Her voice was nothing more than a whisper scrapped bare by her death. Yes still it somehow cut through the silent air of the strange vision coming to his ears clean and clear.

"Protect my child."

Green light washed over the world. It was done. Again.

With that final flash of death the vision swept past him, gone as quickly as it had come. What in the bloody hell was that? Harry thought as he slowly regained his balance.

Protect my child. The words still rang in his ears.

They were still ringing when the tapping of an owl shocked him out of the vision's grasp. The mundane, if the delivery of mail by owl could ever be referred to as such, event seemed to bring the back into focus as he slowly made his way over towards the window.

Opening the window he regarded the strange but regal owl which impatiently held out his its leg for him to take its message. Untying it with long practiced motions Harry snagged a couple of owl treats from his trunk before sending the bird back on its way.

Looking down at the letter he felt his breath catch in his throat. Sirius. The letter was from Sirius. With trembling hands he broke the seal, fumbling with the envelope for a moment before he extracted the letter.

Dear Harry:

I may have done something stupid...really, really epically stupid. Just a thought.

Best,

-Sirius

Clear as mud Sirius Harry thought with a longing fondness as he tried to find some indication as to when his Godfather had felt the need to share his latest and perhaps last mishap.

Owls letters of course had no postmarked date like their muggle counterparts, but Luna of all people had explained to him one rainy afternoon that they had something nearly identical. At first he had been rather reluctant to believe the admittedly odd witch, but after Hermione had chimed in with a rare concurrence: adding of course that it had been developed by some disgruntled sorceress during the 8th century who grew sick of her underlings' excuses that she had simply failed to receive the 'oh so timely owl' they had sent.

Whatever the origin, all wizard mail carried a time stamp triggered once it was handed to a post owl. If one knew the correct area and sequence in which to tap owns wand it was easy to get an idea about when the letter had been sent, if not when it had been written.

Performing the four point tap, which he hoped he correctly remembered he was rewarded a moment latter by a string of glowing letters.

Bending close he let out a groan. The letter had been sent nearly two months before the department of mysteries. Something which Sirius himself had been willing to admit was stupid had been festering for that long?

Nothing good is going to come of this. Harry thought with a tired sigh as he flopped wearily upon his poor excuse for a bed.

He had no idea how right he was.