Chapter Ten: Letters and Goodbyes
"Find your way through shadows lost,
search the earth for light.
You shall not find what you seek
Unless you choose to fight."
"Determination" ~ Armando Dippet
There was no funeral. To Harry, it seemed a crime that one of the greatest wizards known was to be buried without ceremony, but it had been reasoned that any large collection of people, as Dumbledore's funeral was bound to attract, would provide an ideal target for Voldemort's attention.
The school held four days of mourning during which the house banners were black and grey and lessons were cancelled to better help the passage of recovery. Everyone stayed in their common rooms or the library, talking amongst their friends in low voices. Laughter was rare and beautiful amidst the gloom of it all, and Harry found himself craving normality.
It was on the morning of the third day that Harry was called to the Headmaster's office. Professor McGonagall sat at her small chair beside the desk, still refusing to sit in the one that Dumbledore had occupied. She looked up as he approached and smiled briefly before becoming stern.
'Mr Potter, as I'm sure you are aware, Professor Dumbledore set a great deal of belief in a certain prophecy, one that seems to mark you as the one that will defeat Voldemort. Whilst I myself and several others among the faculty are not as certain of the truth it contains, we are not foolish enough to ignore it completely. I have no doubt that he wanted you to at least have some say in the actions of the Order upon his demise. He has left each of us a letter containing instructions of sorts. This is yours.'
She held out a thick envelope with his name emblazoned on the front in emerald ink. He accepted it, but didn't split the seal immediately as the woman continued.
'He may have also mentioned that we have a Cerebral with us, attempting to help us combat Voldemort's advances. The young man will be arriving at the start of next week, and it is you he will wish to talk to. Obviously, I hope you will do your best to continue your school work in spite of all this, and I have instructed everyone to keep an eye on your progress." She paused, examining his face. 'You look as though you have something to say?'
'I need help controlling my magic. It's not normal anymore. It can't be held back with a wand for much longer.' Harry bit his lip, hating the fact that even now his magic felt like a tide, pushing at him, forcing him to grow away from being a mere wizard into something more.
'I shall see what we can do. I can certainly help you transform and also register yourself as an Animagus. I am sure that other professors will be happy to help you with certain aspects; however, I fear that some of it is so rare that you will have to work through most of it yourself—perhaps with the aid Miss Granger's research skills?'
For a moment the older woman looked uncomfortable before she stood up and walked towards him. 'We are all feeling helpless Harry, lost without the guidance we are used to, but people are here for you. This is not something that you must do alone. There are very few in this school who would sit back and let you fight for them, as I am sure your friends have already told you. Don't isolate yourself when we are here to help.'
'I won't, thank you.' Harry was about to turn away when he heard a gentle sigh of regret from behind him. 'Do you know who's going to be the new Headmaster yet?'
'No, not yet. I don't think Albus will be easy to replace. I may sit in for now, but I'm afraid it is a Ministry matter.'
Harry nodded before quitting the room. He opened the envelope on the stairs and started to read the letter with care, barely paying attention to where he was going. The handwriting was neat and meticulous, and he could almost imagine Dumbledore sitting at his desk, quill in hand, staring into the fire as he paused for thought. The image was so clear in his mind it seemed almost real…but it wasn't. With no more Headmaster, he was left with only a few words on a bit of parchment:
It seems at last I have been beaten. I can only guess, now, at the circumstances of my death, but if you are asking yourself why it happened, you must know it is because all life must end. Even those immortal beings are only called so because they have the freedom of choice as to the time of their demise. I have chosen mine, and it seems the Order has chosen you.
It is strange that in one so young so many, unconsciously or consciously, see every hope for the future. Do not feel you must prove yourself to them—disband them if you wish—but I know many will want to be at your side, under the banner of an Order or not. I realise that there must be so many questions left unanswered for you. Things about your magic, which I have been told may one day be strong enough to make or break the world, things about your parents, whom you only know through knowledge of yourself, and perhaps things about myself that you never quite understood. Even now I cannot give you those answers, but I feel that you shall find them for yourself one day.
I see your determination to protect those around you, and the final spell of my wand should help you. The school will help you and I hope, dearly, that at the end of everything it is you who has won.
A shriek made Harry look up and blink at the Gryffindor common room is surprise. Lavender had dropped all her books on the floor and was staring at him, whilst Ron had frozen on the stairs, his face pale as he watched his friend.
'W-what are you?' Lavender demanded, backing away from him.
'Harry, you just walked through the wall,' Ron said quietly, as though any loud noises may make his friend repeat the trick.
'You must have imagined it Ron, I can't walk through walls,' Harry said incredulously, trying to shrink away from the stares.
'Unless you're a ghost,' Ron added nervously, making his way across the room to Harry.
'I'd have noticed, don't you think? Besides I can touch you,' he reached out and tried to grasp Ron's wrist. His fingers went right through his friend's flesh, and the shield flared brilliant blue. Cursing, Harry subdued the spell and the light faded, allowing him to touch Ron with ease.
Ron jumped at the contact, and gave a strange laugh. 'What is going on with you?'
'I don't know, it's a pain in the arse,' Harry complained, folding up the letter and putting it in his pocket before sitting in an armchair and stretching lazily. 'It's embarrassing that I can't even control my own magic.'
'Yeah, but it's not quite normal magic now is it. Besides, walking through walls isn't bad, you could get into the girls' changing rooms…'
'Just an idea!'
Harry grinned weakly and shook his head, shutting his eyes as he tried to think. 'It seems wrong to be just sitting here, not to be doing anything about, well, anything. I feel like I should be trying to track Voldemort down, or something.'
'You most certainly should not,' Hermione said as she came down the stairs, a faint smile on her face as she gave Ron a peck on the cheek. 'You should be concentrating on being here, where it's safe, Harry. Besides, there's a lot to do still and it's just stupid to rush off unprepared.'
'Why do I get the feeling you're going to suggest going to the library?' Ron groaned.
'No need, I don't think anything we find there will be able to describe the power Harry's got, or getting. I've been looking since the summer and there's nothing like it. It's incredible!'
'For you maybe,' Harry grumbled, 'but walking through walls could be a bit too much. Besides, the spells keep starting up by themselves. It's nothing I'm doing!'
'Actually, I think it is. Dumbledore said that the magic that's shown itself so far is emotionally based. You can read other people's feelings, influence them and such, so what if the magic is reacting to your own emotions as well? What if when you're feeling insecure a shield goes up automatically? Things like that…like when you're angry, maybe the spells that are easiest to do are those based on attack.'
'So why does my shield make me insubstantial? I killed someone the other day, what if I do that again by accident?'
'You killed someone? Who?' Hermione demanded, her face horrified.
'Some Death Eater, he was hurting the Cerebral. I went to punch him and my fist ended up in his chest.'
Ron winced but whistled none the less. 'You could become a professional thief or an assassin, forget being an Auror mate!'
'Harry, be careful all right? Uncontrollable magic is dangerous to everyone, but mostly to its practitioner,' Hermione pleaded.
'I will be, I swear it, but how am I going to control it if I don't practice it?'
His friends remained silent, unable to give an answer, and he leant forward with a sigh, picking up his timetable and scanning it through. Mistress Drew was still their Defence teacher, but he hadn't seen her around the school lately. Ever since Shamira had helped him get away from the Death Eater attack, he had feared for her daughter. He had no idea of the nature of the curse that dogged Mistress Drew's footsteps, but he dreaded to think of the consequences should Voldemort activate it, either as punishment or for his own vile pleasure.
The days of mourning were starting to bother him. He could understand their purpose, and he grieved in his own way, but the inactivity was almost torture. He found himself restless, and without release, his magic grew. He kept waking up hovering three feet or so above his mattress, and spells that were deemed too complicated for most came with ease—at least until he held his wand, when it all faded away.
'I think I might go onto the pitch, are you coming?' Harry stood, suddenly feeling smothered by the castle's thick walls.
'Do you think we should?' Hermione asked. 'The prefects have been told that Quidditch might be banned this year, simply because of the dangers it encompasses. I mean all the students and staff and other spectators gathered in one small area makes a tempting target.'
'It's not like I'm competing, it'll only be me on the field and I'll be fine. I just need to get some air.'
'I'll go with you if you want,' Ginny said from the top of the stairs. 'Can you wait a minute while I get my stuff?'
'Sure, hurry up though.'
The day was at its peak and the pitch shone brilliant green beneath a sapphire sky. Clouds sailed across the broad expanse like ships on the ocean as Harry freed his Firebolt from the shed and withdrew an old Snitch. The thing was still in perfect working order, but its above-regulation wing span meant it couldn't be used for games. The two students agreed that they'd just chase the winged ball and leave the Bludgers and Quaffle in their place.
It shot free from Harry's open palm and Ginny raced past him before he'd even climbed onto his broom, laughing as she twisted around and climbed higher. With a shake of his head he followed, darting around her so closely that their sleeves brushed against one another.
It was an easy, free afternoon. They tore up and down the pitch climbing high and diving as low as they dared. Several times Ginny had screamed at Harry, frightened that he'd hit the ground, unable to pull up in time, and twice Harry had shouted at Ginny for standing on the handle of her broom to reach the Snitch.
Now the sunset was a brazen banner of defiance on the horizon, and Harry was hovering high above the pitch, lying on his broomstick. His balance was perfect, but he knew that one small breeze could knock him off. It seemed strange and almost perverse that he found a thrill in the risk. He held the Snitch trapped in his hand, watching the dying sun gleaming on its golden surface.
Ginny was drifting back and forth beside him, complaining that her posterior hurt. 'We've been here for hours, wouldn't you rather go to bed?'
'Was that an invitation?'
Ginny gave a shocked little laugh and shook her head, declining to answer.
'Pity, I would have accepted if it was.'
'You're such a flirt!' Ginny chuckled softly, reaching out a careful hand and tapping him on the end of the nose.
'Only ever with you,' he smiled, and stretched, wobbling precariously for a moment before breathing out.
Ginny watched his breath steam on the air and frowned. Experimentally she huffed, but her breath remained as invisible as ever. The evening was fairly warm and yet with every expulsion of air, Harry's breath steamed as though it were the middle of winter.
'It's the magic,' he explained when he noticed her watching him. 'I've been shouted at for smoking twice now, although they never find any cigarettes.'
'You'd never take that up anyway, would you?' Ginny asked, 'I mean, what's the appeal of it?'
'I dunno,' Harry smiled at her, 'and don't worry, I wouldn't start, I don't think I can afford it.'
'Oh Harry, stop pratting about!' she laughed, 'I'm going inside, are you coming?'
'In a little while.'
'Don't be long, or I'll send Ron out to get you.'
Harry listened to the sound of her broom and the soft "thump" of her landing before opening his eyes and staring at the ruddy pink clouds overhead. A few stars were just starting to sparkle and he watched them winking at him. He soon became lost in his own thoughts, watching the sky darken to black. The magical lights around the pitch came on with a soft illumination and he looked to his left, watching them stream across the pitch. He was hovering close to a beam and he reached out a fingertip, feeling his heart hammer as the light twisted around it, forming soft, warm coils against his skin. It was surreal to watch and he was so enraptured that he didn't notice Ron until he shouted his name.
The sudden noise made him jump and the broom beneath him bucked, throwing him forcefully towards the ground. He heard Ron's shout of alarm but ignored it as panic raced around his head. From this height, he'd be dead when he hit the ground. He felt something bunching behind him, preparing to leap. The pain was brief, and then he was flying, skimming over the grass to where Ron stood.
He gave a scream of admonishment and perched on his friend's shoulder, giving his ear a nip of anger.
'That's was amazing! I mean, I'm sorry for scaring you and all but, Harry, that was awesome.'
Harry shuffled down Ron's arm a bit and fixed the boy with an angry green glare, digging his claws in hard as Ron retrieved his broom and put it away before walking towards the school.
'It wouldn't have happened if you'd come in when Ginny said, and speaking of my sister, is there any reason why I keep finding her socks in our room? Suggests a certain level of "been in bed" to me.' Ron sniffed critically as Harry gave a screech of denial and shuffled down Ron's arm, turning his back on his friend, who simply laughed quietly and made his way towards the office of their Head of House.
Minerva McGonagall looked up as he knocked and gave a sigh when she saw the hawk on his arm. 'Put him down on the chair please, Mr Weasley, and stand back. Inexperienced transformations can sometimes go wrong. Now Mr Potter, I want you to think of yourself in a human shape. Think specifically of your reflection or something like that. Now push yourself into that shape.'
Harry tried to do as he was told, but his muscles and bones refused to budge. With a scream of annoyance he flapped his wings, trying to communicate how it was all Ron's fault in the first place.
'Mr Potter you are quite possibly the most magical being in this school and it distresses me to see you reduced to such helplessness. Try again.'
It felt hot, suddenly unbearably so, and he pushed with all his might against this shape, groaning in pain as his muscles shifted back and he grew outwards and upwards, forcing himself to be human and stay that way. The pain slowly faded but Ron was sniggering and the Professor's thin lips were hovering around a smile. 'I believe you forgot about your hair Mr Potter.'
Reaching up Harry pulled a pure white feather from his head and gave a small groan. With a simple tap of her wand Harry felt his scalp prickle and a quick glance in the mirror reassured him that he looked entirely normal. 'If you come to my office tomorrow, we shall practice the transformation. It is most inconvenient to leave you to your own devices in this case. You should be able to complete the procedure flawlessly within a few days.'
'And no more expeditions to the Quidditch pitch please; from this day forth it is off limits. At least until we have a new Headmaster in place.' When Harry and Ron looked like they might complain she held up a hand tiredly. 'I'm sorry boys, but I just can't do anything about it. Especially in these times, it seems foolish to tempt fate by being in a region where the wards are weaker when an attack could be imminent. I know it is hard to believe but now Dumbledore is – no longer with us, it is likely this school is a prime target for Voldemort and his followers.'
'I understand, sorry Professor.'
They walked out in silence, their earlier laughter subdued. 'It's really happening isn't it?' Ron asked, his head down bent as he walked next to Harry.
'Yeah, doesn't seem right does it?'
'It doesn't even seem real! Could you imagine Voldemort taking on this place, can you imagine what he'd do?'
'I don't even want to think about it,' Harry mumbled, shaking his head as they stood outside the Fat Lady.
'All right, so Voldemort's standing in front of you, he's going to destroy the entire school, it's all up to you, what do you do?'
'Panic?' Harry smiled weakly and shrugged. 'I don't know, but I know I can't use the Unforgivables. I know there's got to be another way.'
The common room was a haven of warmth and the gentle laughter of people desperate to keep looking on the bright side, but it seemed false to Harry, and as he slumped on the sofa next to Ginny he found himself looking out of the window towards the stars that flashed so unsteadily in the sky.
It was all up to him, and he hated it.
End of chapter 10