(.dluow ti thgouht I naht regnol koot sihT) .sgnittes ro semeht ,sretcarahc gniniatrep eht fo yna ron rettoP yrraH nwo ton od I :remialcsiD
Author's Note: Thanks so much for the feedback, guys! There seems to be a bit of a recurring theme among the responses – involving Umbitch's presence, then prompt re-enactment of the medieval witch-burnings that may or may not have anything to do with Harry. (shifty eyes.) We'll see. But anyway, thanks so much for the awesome reviews! They keep me writing and happy! Well, reviews, and chicken wings. (drools)
Sorry this is a bit of a filler/epic-long-explanation chapter. I'm still trying to figure out a workable plot for this thing!
Weeks passed in a uniform fashion; Harry woke to the whispers of Nurya, danced his way through streets and bookstores to their comforting voice then worshipped the candles to his flame's encouraging words and murmurs. His night and days marched to the rhythm of that second heartbeat smoldering away beside his own, feelings of warmth and love and companionship constantly radiating until the smile that had before been so, so rare was now never seen absent from his shining face.
He gathered ever more things to feed his newest hunger, the food his friends and family partook no longer nourishing his body, water no longer quenching his thirst. Soon his room, his bags, his new school trunk, his clothes, his pockets, everywhere he could possible imagine, was filled with combustibles, lighters, matches, even flint stones. Nothing was spared; tissue paper, thick notepads, strips of oiled cloth, cans of spray-deodorant, bottles of alcohol in varying sizes, novels as thick as his hand was wide, day planners, cardboard, parchment, quills, hairbrushes, pencils, pencil-cases; everything he saw wandering both on muggle and wizard streets, that he could burn, he took. And promptly burnt.
Noting that it was the ashes themselves which most thoroughly served his need - although fire also, definitely helped – Harry took much joy in preparing capsules, bottles, tins, cans and jars full of smoky grey, gritty black and fragile white ash. He even bought more of the women's make-up cases, compacts be believed they were called, which usually held mirrors and powder foundation; these he removed, then replaced with charcoal – a wood that had already been partially burnt – to smooth his fingers over in case of emergencies.
His birthday was rapidly approaching, and with it the day which marked mid-holidays. It would soon be time for him to return to Hogwarts, to begin his fifth year as a Gryffindor student alongside his friends and peers. The day before the thirty-first of July, the day before his fifteenth birthday, found Harry sitting cross-legged before the fireplace. Nurya was surprisingly quiet, leaving the teenaged boy to his own devices and a moment of quiet reflection.
For Harry was currently debating in his mind two choices; two very, very important choices he knew could result in two very, very different outcomes.
The first, and one he had assumed to take the moment he'd picked up that first lighter.
Return to Hogwarts; and, upon his return, change nothing. Continue to live and breathe the fire he had consumed, or rather that had consumed him, be open with his newfound power and glory, show no shame in himself as he would have only months before.
But yet, there was something about this option which … did not appeal to Harry. And it was the thought of sharing.
He had never been a selfish person; he had never thought of himself, only of others, only of their safety, only of their prosperity. So of course it had never occurred to him to keep the newest developments in his life secret. His secrets were their secrets; they, his friends, mattered more than he did.
But Nurya, Nurya, how could he tell them of Nurya, the flame that possessed him? How could he describe to them the heat that blossomed in his chest at the mere sight of fire, how would they understand just why he had given himself to this sentient being he didn't, and couldn't, understand?
No; he could not tell of Nurya, he could not share this secret with them. He would not share this secret with them. It was his secret, one of the first he would ever truly keep to himself, and himself alone. It was something selfish, something self-centered and something purely his.
And so; the second option. Tell no one. Let no one know of the bliss he had found, let no one know that he had found eternity wreathed in flame and fallen so deep he would never find his own two feet again, let alone stand on them without the aid of God's Flame.
This would be the first time he had ever hidden something from them, the first time he would ever turn his back on Ron and Hermione, the first time …
But, as the saying goes, there is a first time for everything.
Ever since they'd first become friends, ever since they'd first met, Harry had found himself to be strangely dependent on them, more so than he gauged to be usual between friends. After all, what eleven-year-old child leaves his life in the hands of a fellow child they had met mere months before? They had always, always been there, to the point where he couldn't fully distinguish himself from them; it wasn't Harry, it wasn't Ron, it wasn't Hermione; it was Harry and Ron and Hermione, and in their minds, that was the way it would always be.
"No more," Harry whispered to the fireplace, which cracked softly in reply, meaningless words meant for comfort only. "I'm my own person … they don't … they can't know what this is. They don't know what this feels like." He wasn't making sense, and he knew it, but …
Selfish ... no, it wasn't just for this reason Harry wanted - or rather, needed - to keep this secret from even his closest confident. There was another, darker, reason - a reason Nurya had alluded to once or twice in their bizzarre conversations, and a reason he had taken the care to investigate thoroughly.
Research through various books purchased from … dubious stores in both Diagon and Nockturn Alleys, and a public Wizarding library three stores down past Gringotts, showed him the history behind Nurya, and others such as Nurya. Spirits of Flame, where enough light and heat and care and attention and worship for fire had bonded to become a sentient being capable of thought and emotion. There had been only a very few of them over the span of history, not bound just to fire but to other elements also such as earth or shadow, but even across them all there was very little solid information regarding them. Vague questions and vaguer answers were all Harry could find on these Spirits, with legends and bed-time stories filtering through once in a while.
From what he had been able to piece together, Spirits of any kind were passive beings, unable to survive without their sustenance, the element or feature from which their Spirit had spawned. For a handful of centuries they would roam the world, trapped to whichever object they had been borne from, most of them weakening before they found a suitable host. Those few that did find hosts, however, were quick to possess – as Nurya had been – and their element, Nurya's of fire, passed to the hosts themselves. In short, by binding themselves to hosts, the Spirits' life was entwined with theirs, and in return, the hosts were charged with the task of keeping said Spirit alive under pain of both their deaths.
The theory itself wasn't spiteful or evil, merely another creature making it's way in the world, but the problem lay in the types of Spirits that had been created over the years. Most spirits – like Nurya, or some of the other purer elements of water and light – remained submissive and hidden in their host's bodies, their needs simple and harmless to others, and as such were never discovered resulting in a long, peaceful lifespan. But, some Spirits' needs were more diverse, and dangerous to those around them, and it was these Spirits whose attention was more often brought to the people of the earth.
One such Spirit, a Spirit of Life, Harry found documented in one of the more recent editions of a Legends of Magical Beings volume. A Spirit of Life; it seemed harmless at first, after all, life was perceived as a good thing, a thing of health and peace and wellbeing. One simply did not tag 'Life' with 'Evil,' it went against the intuition most humans held. Yet, the nature of this spirit was far crueler than any of the others, perhaps the most cruel of all. For the Spirit of Life, fed on life itself. The host of this Spirit was forced to watch as energy was drained from all who came close, killing hundreds of people in the dense town she lived in at the time, and eventually look her own life in order to save the few who were left, taking time only to write the horrors that had befallen her in the hopes it would never happen again.
Of course, news of an entire town falling over dead in the space of one winter did not go unnoticed; news of the Spirit was soon widely known throughout the Wizarding Community, and for a short time even in the Muggle one, too. Within years, Spirits went from complete anonymity, to one of the most infamous and hated, placed among the most dangerous of beings.
This, of course, had taken place centuries past; but fear such as that rarely left society, and even the rare allusion to Spirits was enough to leave the Witch or Wizard shivering, wondering why they were doing so. Dumbledore, in all his ancient wisdom, would surely know far too much of Spirits. If he caught even a whisper of Harry having been possessed by one …
Harry could feel Nurya shudder within him, and echoed the gesture wholeheartedly. The only way to remove Spirits, according the decade-old article on The Undead; Beings Which Do Not Live, was a proper, thorough, prompt exorcism.
Harry had never cursed his curiosity more than he had that night reading his newest book, a thin glossy paperback Rituals, Exorcisms and Blood Magic. An exorcism, in the Wizarding sense, leant more heavily in the direction of "ritual" than the actual Muggle rendition of exorcism, yet it was still classed as such due to the purpose of the rite and the conditions they were performed under.
"Stand in the darkness of a New Moon; a symbol of rebirth. Three day fast; to weaken the Spirit. Bathed in the blood of a willing Unicorn; purity and good health. A dozen men and women, not a virgin among them; to lead the possessed through the darkness, and save their eternal soul from the clutches of an evil being that seeks only pain, destruction and the death of all who gaze upon it. Once conditions are met, the dozen chant an appropriate verse; an iron dagger is taken to the possessed's palms, blood taken three times within each hour while an elder speaks to the victim's heart … "
It truly was a "shame", Harry spitefully thought, that of the countless exorcisms Wizards had performed through the years … not a single one had survived the night. Not. A. Single. One.
He hadn't regretted burning that book. In fact, he had rather enjoyed it, more than he had any other book or hunk of thick wood he'd thrown into that ever-burning pit before him.
Yes, my Harry?
A smile blossomed over his face, washing away all and any depressing thoughts leaving only the comfort and love of the Spirit.
"Don't ever leave me … okay?"
Of course, Harry, Nurya purred gently. Never. You're mine … and I don't ever intend to let anyone take me away from you.
Harry's eyes closed in happiness and he leant back onto the wooden floor, his arms eagle-spread and palms flat to the ground as he gazed with both eyes as warm red light played over the dark ceiling.
"I can't tell them about you, Nurya," he murmured softly. "You know what will happen if I do." A tear traced down the side of his face, but he didn't move to brush it away. "I can't let that happen to us, Nurya. You're-" his breathing hitched almost painfully, "-you're a part of me, now. I couldn't bear it if they took you away."
I know Harry, and trust me when I say I would do anything to stop that from happening, anything.
Harry sighed and rubbed one hand over his eyes, fighting back a weary headache that was forming.
"I wish ..."
"I wish … I wish ..." Harry shook his head. He didn't know what he wished, exactly, just that something wasn't right and he wanted it gone, something was wrong and he wanted it changed. A bitter laugh tore it's way from him. "It doesn't matter what I wish, does it? I can't stop the inevitable. They'll find out someday, I know they will, it's just how they are. I don't know what's going to happen but-" his voice cracked, and he fell silent for a handful of minutes, before- "But … I don't regret this, Nurya. I don't regret knowing you. I don't regret being possessed by you. In fact, it's probably one of the best things that's ever happened to me."
Nurya didn't answer, just as Harry did not continue. Emotions spoke louder than words, and there was no mistaking the warmth and love they shared unconditionally. Nurya was a part of him, he was a part of Nurya, there was nothing more to it. He had given himself to Fire, and Fire had given itself to him in return.
And, somehow … it felt right.
Midnight was a … strange time for Harry to say the least. Before that day, before fire, before Nurya, he was often seen frequenting the hour of midnight, his homework and subsequent wellbeing upon returning school depending on it. But in recent times, he had noticed a growing trend in his days, his sleep the most obvious change of all. His usual patterns once involved falling into bed some time between one and two in the morning, then waking at eight (on week days) or eleven in weekends.
Now, however, he found himself uncommonly exhausted as early as nine, and often it was all he could do not to fall unconscious by the time ten o'clock came calling. His body clock, too, had adjusted itself, until he found himself waking earlier than he ever had, six, even five o'clock in the morning on some days.
Questioning Nurya on this matter revealed their new partnership to have … changed him.
He was now more sensitive to matters such as light and warmth, to the point where without one or the other over an extended period of time, he might as well dig his own grave. Fire required three simple things to thrive, as was common knowledge; air, fuel and heat. Air, of course, he had no problem in that regard. Fuel; he himself was the most basic fuel, although ashes kept both himself and Nurya alive far better than his own magical power could. But warmth … warmth was where they both drew short.
Right now, in the hottest months of the year, in summer time where the sun beat down and the concrete radiated heat, warmth was no concern to them. But in winter, where snow and sleet would be washing down on them and not even charms were enough to keep the cold away … this was what they feared.
But, no matter; winter was winter, and it was months away. Harry, for once, cared only for the here and now.
And what was here and now … was a teenager desperately struggling to keep himself conscious long enough to see his passage into the age of fifteen.
He'd never had problems staying this late, even as a child, but with his new sensitivity came an unfortunate side effect. Sure, he would now be able to sense fire even through solid rock, sure he would be able to leap into an onslaught of fiendfyre unscathed … but it came at a cost.
It didn't rule his life, per say, rather … had an unusual influence over him. After all, the sun was essentially a colossal ball of pure fire and light; how could it not? He found himself basking in the warmth of the sun far more often than he'd ever thought to before, to the point where his skin even darkened a little. However, much to his disgruntlement, he also found himself, late in the hours of night … pining.
Well, okay, not pining pining … more like, sitting at the window, nose pressed to the glass, staring at the moon and wishing the light that fell was more than just a reflection. It was, most certainly, not pining, he would tell himself firmly – even while Nurya chuckled lightly in the back of his mind.
In any case, during those somehow lonely hours of night, he found himself to be unusually … distracted. Not to the point where he was an invalid, but more to an end result of tense nerves, tapping fingers and nervous eyes glancing almost desperately towards the nearest flame or light every few minutes.
It made waiting up for the anniversary of his birth – the very minute where he was born – a little … frustrating.
By ten, Nurya was berating him or being so twitchy. By eleven, he thought he'd just about burst a vessel. Half eleven, and a very persistent headache was building.
He had never been happier to see twelve o'clock come. Smiling into the fireplace for a full minute, he maintained his silent vigil for only a moment – numbly acknowledging Nurya's muffled blessings – before staggering to the adjacent room and falling face-first into the bed, his eyes already closed.
And thus missed the dull thuds of small bodies against the window, the scratches of tiny claws on the shuttered wood and distant caws of frustrated owls as they finally vanished into the distance, their intended recipient completely oblivious to the panic, outcry and resulting chaos he was about to cause in the Wizarding World.
Heads up: I have final exams in … (checks calendar) a week. Oops. So; there will either be so many updates you won't know what to do with them (please let this not be so), or you won't hear from me again for another two weeks or so.