Moody gazed thoughtfully down at the chilled can of Dr. Pepper in his hand, the strongest drink that Tonks had. After a minute of silence he finally spoke. "Why me?"
"You're the only person that I trust with this information. There's no way someone can pry it out of your head, and you're more likely to re-grow your eye and leg than to betray the us." Tonks said.
"And you're scary as hell." Harry added. "That's always helpful."
Moody nodded. "True. Okay, I'll do it."
"Thanks, Moody." Tonks said. "I'll let Flitwick know tomorrow."
As Moody stood, there was a loud, sharp knock at the front door. "Are you expecting anyone?"
Tonks shook her head. "No."
She drew her wand and walked over to the front door. "Back me up?"
Moody nodded, stepped to the side so that he'd have a clear shot at the door and drew his own wand. Harry stood up from the couch and followed suit, being sure to keep out of Moody's line of fire.
Tonks looked around the room, noting Harry and Moody's positions, before peering through the peephole. She saw a fairly young Asian man, dressed in a muggle suit, standing on her doormat. She placed her right against the wall, fingers curled lightly around her wand, and opened the door with her left hand.
"Can I help you?" She asked.
"Yes, ma'am." The man said in English, his voice only holding the faintest traces of an accent. "My name is Sonouske, I am an emissary sent by a clan of very powerful magic users sent to find the successor of our greatest member. I believe that you, or somebody living with you, are the person that I am looking for. May I come in to further discuss the details?"
"What's the name of your clan?" Tonks asked.
Moody pulled out his pocket sneak-o-scope and held it in his upturned palm.
"The best English translation of our name is the 'Masters of Shadow'. I could give you our name in our own language if you'd like"."
"The English version's fine." Tonks said. "Are you allied with Voldemort in any way?"
"No ma'am. We very rarely deal with outsiders, and I have never heard of that name before.
Tonks looked over her shoulder, towards Moody. He nodded and held up the still dark and motionless device.
"Sure, come on in." Tonks stepped aside to let Sonouske in while sheathing her wand.
Sonouske looked around then bowed to Moody and Harry separately, deeply enough to show general respect yet not deep enough to show submission.
Moody returned the bow, then sheathed his wand. "You're from the Masters of Shadow? I've heard of you, you do good work."
"My master will be displeased, he prefers us to stick to the shadows, if you'll excuse the pun."
Moody shrugged. "You don't survive in this line of work as long as I have without learning how to acquire information others wish to keep hidden."
Sonouske nodded. "Quite true."
"So, why are you here?" Who are you looking for?"
"I am looking for the new Shadow Warrior. My master has sensed that he, or she, has been chosen by the Kage no Ken. I was sent to find that person and train them in the arts of the blade, unarmed combat and the secrets of what we call Shadow Magic so that they may take up the mantle of the Shadow Warrior and leadership of our clan."
"What is the Kage no Ken, and who is the Shadow Warrior?" Moody asked.
"The Kage no Ken is the sword of the Shadow Master, and the symbol of his or her rank. It is like a mage's staff; in the sense that it is a magical weapon that chooses it's own wielder and reaches it's true potential only in the hands of the chosen. Over a thousand years ago, the very first Shadow Warrior, the founder of our clan, forged the blade himself. I do not know the details of the forging; those secrets have long been forgotten, but I do know that after the blade was complete blessed by a hundred different priests and bathed in holy water."
"Why do that?" Harry asked.
"By blessing the blade and bathing it in holy water, it rendered the blade just as lethal to creatures of the dark; vampires, werewolves, anything with demonic blood or ancestry, as it is to humans.
As for the Shadow Warrior, that is the title given to the one that the Kage no Ken chooses as its wielder. The Shadow Warrior is the strongest and most capable warrior and magic caster in our clan, and as such, is our leader."
"So now I'm the leader of a secret magic clan? Just like that?"
"So you were the one who received the Kage no Ken." Sonouske said. " No, you're not technically the Shadow Warrior yet. You may have been chosen by the blade, but you don't know how to properly wield it yet. Though once I'm done with you you'll be well on your way to claiming the title."
"How do you plan on training Potter?" Moody asked. "At the very best it would take years for you to properly train him. We've got a war brewing here, and Potter's got a big part to play in it. We can't spare him that long."
"Normally, yes. It would takes years, decades even, for one to be fully trained in the martial arts and Shadow Magic, but I have been given permission to use one of our most secret training techniques; one that will allow me to condense nearly a lifetime of training into a single night." Sonouske said
"How is that possible?" Tonks asked.
"I can't go into specifics, I'm forbidden by clan law, but I can say that I will be drawing Potter and myself into a deep, shared meditative state. In that state time will flow differently, faster. What will be decades to the two of us will be mere hours to the two of you."
"How soon can you get started on that?" Harry asked.
"All I'll need is for you to get the Kage no Ken. That will be the anchor for the technique."
Harry nodded and left the room, returning soon after with the Kage no Ken in hand.
Sonouske sat cross-legged and gestured for Harry to do the same. Harry quickly followed suit and Sonouske reached over to put his hands on the sword. He then stared into Harry's eyes and began muttering rapidly under his breath. Seconds later they both slumped slightly, heads bowed.
"Potter's adjusting well?" Moody asked.
Tonks nodded. "Yes, he is. The first few nights here he would have horrible nightmares, I could hear him tossing and turning and talking, almost screaming, in his sleep. But lately he's been sleeping much better and looking healthier. I don't know if it's because he's eating better and being more active or if it's simply being away from his relatives."
"The why doesn't concern me, only the results." Moody said. "Before he was in no state of mind to survive this war, but now that looks like it's changing."
"Do you think he was suicidal?" Tonks asked, concern lacing her voice.
"Not actively so, but possibly passively. I've known the type; I've served with a few of them. They'll be willing to fight, but they wouldn't fight with survival in mind."
Tonks looked over to Harry, concern clearly written across her face. "You really think that Harry would let himself die?"
"Maybe, back when he was stuck with his relatives, cut off from friends and positive contact." Moody replied. "But living here seems to have changed that. There've been subtle changes to him, his posture, his attitude, even his eyes. He makes direct eye contact more often now."
Moody fell silent and surveyed Harry with his real eye and Tonks with his magical eye. "You shouldn't take too long to make your move, or some other girl is going to take him."
Tonks felt her cheeks heat up as, unbidden, images from her dreams and fantasies rushed to the forefront of her mind. "I don't think about him like that." She protested weakly. "He's just a kid."
"True, Potter's young, but he's no kid. He hasn't been for years; no kid would attempt to mount a rescue mission the way he did. And you can't fool me girl, I've been around long enough to know the signs when I see them, and the signs are there. Don't miss out on a good thing because of hang-ups, yours or those of others."
"Maybe you're right." Tonks said, studying Harry once more.
SCENE CHANGE SCENE CHANGE
Harry blinked and suddenly found himself standing in the middle of a vast, grassy plain. Waist high grass stretched out in all directions, as far as the eye could see. The plain was brightly lit, as if it were high noon, though no sun was visible.
"Let's get right down to business, Potter." Sonouske said. He was now wearing a loose-fitting pair of trousers and a sleeveless shirt with a deep, sharp v-neck. " I am not here to teach you how to 'duel' as your culture calls it. Nor am I here to teach you how to fight fair, fighting fair will get you killed. I am here to teach you how to survive, how to kill quickly, efficiently and without mercy or hesitation. Mercy and hesitation have no place in combat."
Sonouske held up a pair of wooden katanas. "These are training swords. We will be using them until I feel that you are ready to hold live steel." He tossed one of the swords to Harry. "Your training starts now. Get unto position like this.
Sonouske shifted into a ready stance, feet shoulder width apart, left foot forward and right foot turned slightly outward and the sword held in front of him.
Harry copied the stance as well as he could.
Sonouske nodded, then walked around Harry, correcting minor mistakes. "Good, you show promise. Now, I'll show you the basic cuts. Once I have demonstrated them you will practice each cut separately until you can perform them flawlessly every single time. "
Sonouske stood across from Harry, mirrored his stance and raised his sword. "This is the first cut… second cut… third cut…"
Muscles burning, sweat blurring his vision, Harry halted in mid cut, lowered his bokken and sat down on the heavily trampled grass.
"Very good, Harry." Sonouske said. "You've just graduated from solo practice. Rest up a bit and we'll begin one on one sparing.
Harry looked up at the bright, sunless sky. "How long do you think that we've been here? Without day or night it's hard to tell time."
Sonouske cocked his head to the side and, after a moment of thought, said. "I'd say about three year, give or take a month."
"Three years?" Harry asked in disbelief.
Sonouske nodded. "It can be a bit disorienting at first, but you'll eventually get used to it."
"Have you used this style of training before?" Harry asked.
"Yes, every swordsman of the Masters of Shadow is required to undergo at least one session of the Way of Dreams to ensure that they are truly skilled in the art of the blade. It wouldn't help our reputation if one of our Warriors accidentally killed themselves with their own blade.
Some just undergo it once and leave it at that, content to just practice in normal time. Others use it more, either to absolutely perfect their style of fighting or to learn other styles."
"Which were you?" Harry asked.
Sonouske grinned. "I've undergone this training seven times not counting this time, and I've nearly perfected the twin katana style of swordsmanship in addition to the single blade style I'm teaching you
"Will I be able to learn the twin style too?"
"Eventually." Sonouske said. " Mastering the single katana style is our first priority, as well as teaching you Shadow magic."
Sonouske picked up his bokken and climbed to his feet. "Now, enough talking. Time to get started on your next step of training."
Harry grunted as he blocked Sonouske's punishing overhead blow. The force of it nearly drove Harry to his knees.
With great effort, Harry shoved Sonouske's wooden blade to away and darted to the side.
Before Sonouske could recover Harry slashed low at his legs.
The older man barely managed to dance out of the way and return Harry's cut with one of his own, aimed at Harry's shoulder.
Harry batted the attack away and countered with an overhead slash, which he stopped a mere inch away from Sonouske's skull.
"Much better Harry." Sonouske said, lowering his sword. "That's the fourth time today that you've beaten me. I think that you're ready to graduate to live steel."
Sonouske took Harry's bokken and tossed it, and his own, off into the un-trampled grass. He then produced a pair of sheathed katanas, handing one to Harry
"The first thing that you'll learn using live steel is how to properly draw the weapon." Sonouske said as he belted his weapon to his left hip with the outside edge of the curve facing up "This is the way that I prefer to wear and draw my sword, so it'll be the first way I teach you."
He showed Harry how to properly belt the sword on then stepped back.
"Follow what I do, at the same speed." Sonouske slowly demonstrated the drawing technique then, equally slowly, the sheathing technique several times before he nodded to Harry. "Now you try. Remember, go slow."
Harry drew his sword then sheathed it.
"Good. Now repeat that, at the same speed, until it feels natural and you can do it with your eyes closed."
Harry forced his breathing back to normal and wiped sweat from his brow as he studied the six remaining golems advancing on him. Three held katanas, one held a bastard sword and heater shield, the fifth was armed with a claymore and the final golem wielded a kurisagama.
Harry retreated deeper into the alley. One of the katana wielding golems darted forward, trying to keep Harry from reaching the shadows. Harry sidestepped the golems diagonal slash and, almost effortlessly, cut off the head. The golem collapsed in a spray of simulated blood and gore.
The golem with the kurisagama acted next, briefly spinning the weighted ball before throwing it at Harry's head. Harry caught the weapon on his left forearm, wincing briefly at the pain, then tugged on the chain as hard as he could. The golem stumbled forward. Harry darted forward and slashed at the golem's neck. The golem staggered back, blood spraying from its open throat.
The two remaining katana wielders charged in tandem, blades raised over opposite shoulders. Harry reached back into the shadows and Manipulated a pair of simple throwing knives. He flicked his wrist and one of the golems slumped to the ground, a knife buried in its eye and a second in its chest.
He Shadow Walked into the alley floor as the second golem approached, the back out, behind the golem and cut downward, cleaving skull and chest in two.
Harry eyed the two remaining golems, trying to decide which one to attack next. The one with the bastard sword advanced, making the decision for him. When the golem was in range, it cut at Harry's head. Harry ducked under the sword and slashed upward, severing the golem's arm at the elbow. He followed that up with a low horizontal cut that took the golem's legs off at the knee.
As the fifth golem 'bled out' Harry charged his final opponent. He dove forward as the golem began a shoulder level horizontal cut with the claymore, rolled and stabbed the golem in the chest as he came to his feet. Harry twisted his sword violently then wrenched the blade free.
The final golem fell backward, twitching slightly as it landed.
Suddenly, the deserted city melted away, replaced by a wide, grassy plain.
"Very good work, Harry." Sonouske said. "Good use of basic Shadow and sword. All that's left is to teach you some of the more advanced skills."
Scene Change Scene Change Scene Change
Snape bowed low before Voldemort. "The potion is ready, my Lord. Shall I send for Draco?"
Voldemort nodded and set aside his wine goblet. "Yes. It is high time that young Draco was put to use. And Lucius is well over do for a reward for his years of faithful service."
He stood up from his throne and adjusted his robes. "I will be waiting in the chamber. And send for an attractive female to the chamber as well. We don't want Draco suspecting anything."
"At once, my Lord." Snape said, bowing again. Once the Dark Lord had left the room, Snape barked out. "Hopsie!"
A thin, stooped house elf missing half an ear popped in, wringing her hands nervously. "You is calling, Master?"
"Tell Schaffer that she is to report to the ritual chamber at once, and that she is to wear nothing but her robes."
"Yes, Master. I be telling her right away." Snape nodded to himself. Schaffer resembled Lily closely enough for his tastes and, given his good favor with the Dark Lord, he had a very good chance of bringing her to his bed for the night.
The house elf popped away and Snape left to collect Draco from his quarters. He reached his destination quickly and found Draco sitting at his desk, hard at work on a Charms essay. Snape barely contained a disgusted sneer at the sight of the boy.
Snape detested the Malfoy heir. He was loud, arrogant, ignorant and far, far to blatant in his beliefs and standings. He was a complete waste and embarrassment to the Slytherin House. Invariably, his evaluation of Draco brought Harry Potter to mind. As much as he loathed admitting it, Potter, the son of his Lily, was far better suited to Slytherin than Draco could ever hope to be. Potter was subtle and cunning, though lacking in serious ambition. He had seen inside Potter's mind. Seen the seething hatred, the burning rage and the almost frightening level of raw, mostly untapped potential. Given the proper motivation and training, Potter could easily become a Dark Lord equal to, or even greater than, Voldemort himself.
Snape forced his mind away from those thoughts and cleared his throat loudly. "Draco," He said, keeping his voice smooth and free of contempt. "Our Lord requires you for a mission of extreme importance. I am to take you to him at once, so that he may give you the orders in person."
Draco puffed out his chest and stood up, doing his best impression of a peacock. Snape once again had to refrain from scowling or berating the boy. 'Arrogant little shit.'
"Follow me. The Dark Lord does not enjoy waiting."
SCENE CHANGE SCENE CHANGE
Draco swaggered into the room following Snape.
'It's about time the Dark Lord saw my importance. He must want me to kill Potter. Once Scar-Head is dead I'll take his mudblood whore as my personal slave. And Weasel's sister too, after all, I'm worth it.'
Draco broke out of his line of thought when he saw Voldemort lounging on a throne-like chair with his aunt standing to the right of the throne and another, younger woman, with reddish blonde hair stood on the left. He grinned; it was always enjoyable to see women who knew their place. He bowed shallowly, barely more than a dip of the head. "You asked for me, my Lord?"
Voldemort nodded. "Yes, Draco. I require someone of your unique skill to aide me in a very important ritual."
'Yes!' Draco thought triumphantly. 'I will be given even greater power.' "Of course, my Lord. Whatever you require, I will do gladly."
"Your loyalty and enthusiasm have been noted and appreciated. You will surely be rewarded accordingly." Voldemort said. He gestured towards the left side of the throne. "Helen, approach and prepare yourself."
The blonde woman stepped forward and slipped off her robes, leaving her completely naked. Draco leered, openly staring at her firm, shapely breasts and the small patch of neatly trimmed curls at the apex of her thighs. He felt himself begin to harden almost instantly.
"Drink this." Snape said, pressing a crystal vial into his hand. "And remove all of your "
Draco swallowed the potion without a second thought and eagerly pulled off his robes. 'Finally, I can have my way with a woman. A woman far more attractive than those prudish cunts at school.'
The woman shifted slightly when Draco removed the last of his clothing, parting her thighs ever so slightly.
Draco licked his lips as he continued to drink in every detail of the woman's bare body. He was so entranced that he barely heard Voldemort speaking.
"- a little longer had you not failed me so spectacularly so many times. Enjoy what little time left you have as the final Malfoy."
Draco felt a slight tickle along his throat and it became difficult to breathe. The sound of liquid striking metal filled his ears. He tried to look down, to find the source of the sound, but was unable to move. The room began to darken and sound fade.
"Finally, you've done something useful." Snape's voice, a distant whisper, was the last thing he heard before darkness and silence claimed him.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Scene Change Scene Change Scene Change
Snape pushed Draco's corpse away with a snort of disgust then carefully sealed the silver collection urn. He walked away, towards the Dark Lord's throne, as Draco's bladder and bowels released. Snape handed the urn over to Voldemort. "This must cure, under standing water for one week before the next step can begin."
"Thank you, Severus. See to it that the mess is cleaned up." Voldemort stood up and gestured to Bellatrix. "Come, my dear. We have dreadful news to send to your brother-in-law."
Voldemort paused at the threshold and looked back at Severus. "Helen is useful as she is. I would be most disappointed if she were irreparably harmed or even killed. I would hate for you to loose any of the favor you have worked so hard to gain due to carelessness."
"I understand, my Lord. I will exercise caution, you have my word." Snape said, bowing low. He stood up straight and barked " Shanty!"
A short, squat house elf with a lopsided head, popped in.
"Get rid of that mess at once." Snape ordered, pointing to Draco's corpse.
The house elf bowed and snapped his fingers. Draco's body, blood, urine and feces disappeared. The house elf bowed again then popped away.
Snape turned to the still naked woman. "Schaffer, to my quarters now. Do not dress."
Schaffer nodded and walked out of the room.
Snape licked his lips as he watched her retreating back, imagining where he was going to place his temporary brands.
Author's Notes_ For everyone who has been waiting patiently for this chapter, I apologize for the long wait. In addition to some real life problems and a move, I got hit with a serious case of writer's block. I've gotten through the writer's block and things have settled down so I should be able to get the next chapter out a good deal sooner.