Power flowed unchecked through his veins, scorching and soothing at the same time. His eyes glowed a piercing emerald as his mouth opened in a silent scream, a pulsating emerald light cloaking him in raw power. The pulsing light started at his feet and spread up his legs to his waist, across his stomach and chest, and to his neck. Teeth gritted in agony; he arched off the bed, thrashing fruitlessly. The area between his shoulder blades was on fire, and pain to rival the Cruciatus Curse flooded his senses, centered on his back. The pain became too much as he felt something forcing its way out between his shoulder blades, and everything went black. He looked every bit a fallen angel, his dark, wild locks falling in his eyes, naked from the waist up to reveal a toned, broad-shouldered but lean build, limbs splayed across his bed. And wrapped around his torso protectively, looking as if they were the most natural things in the world, was a set of huge, glossy jet-black wings. A quiet beep broke the heavy silence. The alarm clock on the bedside table clearly read 12:00 midnight, July 31.
Harry awoke slowly, and clenched his eyes shut again as light assaulted them mercilessly. He resisted the urge to yawn, opting to stretch languidly instead. His muscles screamed in protest, and his back felt odd. Not a bad sort of odd, just different than normal. He stood shakily, rubbing his eyes. That was when he noticed that he wasn't wearing his glasses. But he could see perfectly, even better than with his glasses on. Eyebrows knitted together in confusion, he stumbled over to the wardrobe and selected a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt. He hurried into the bathroom and showered quickly, making sure to leave enough hot water for the Dursleys. He avoided his back, and resisted the urge to feel around to make sure there wasn't something wrong with his shoulders.
He tugged on the jeans and stood before the mirror, shirt in hand. What he saw made him stumble back in shock. He looked completely different. His eyes were the same as ever, but his previously untamable hair was splayed attractively across his face, just shy of getting in his eyes. His normally sunburned skin was merely tanned, and all the bruises on his body, courtesy of Dudley, were healed. His facial features were also a bit different, sharper, more defined. He noted that he was also a couple inches taller, and a bit broader in the shoulders. But all of those changes, while they made him look older and more mature, were nothing compared to the wings. Huge and sweeping, they were the deepest black he'd ever seen, and gleamed in the light. When fully spread, his wingspan was an even 8 feet, 4 on either side of his body.
He flexed them experimentally, and was pleased to note that they were easy to move, like an extension of his limbs. A slow smirk crossed his face as he examined his new and improved physique, but soon enough he heard Uncle Vernon pounding on the bathroom door. Concentrating, he willed the wings to disappear. Like magic, they retracted smoothly into his back, between his shoulder blades. The only evidence they'd ever been there were two slim scars, where his wings would surface when he willed them to. Satisfied, he pulled his shirt on. With a cursory once-over for his hair (it didn't really need it) he opened the door and brushed past his Uncle.
Vernon colored slightly, but didn't say anything besides a few grumbled insults. Shrugging, Harry made his way downstairs and into the empty kitchen. Hurriedly, he made himself a thick sandwich and slipped outside, before his Uncle came down and went off on him for 'wasting' food.
He ate his breakfast while going for his morning run. At least three different girls waved at him as he passed, and he grinned back at them. Maybe the changes weren't so bad after all.
After he returned from his run, he washed up and retreated to the quiet sanctuary of his room. No one would bother him in here. At least not if they wanted to keep all of their limbs intact and functioning. Not that he was actually planning on dissecting them, but it made a very persuasive threat.
Sighing, he threw himself onto the bed, but not before tugging his shirt off. He quite liked his new wings, but obviously it wouldn't do to have the neighbors see them, so he kept away from the window when he willed them to surface. Painlessly this time, they appeared smoothly, the glossy black feathers as natural against his tanned skin as anything he'd ever known. Hedwig hooted at him from her cage, where she was preening herself meticulously. Contented, he lay back and closed his eyes, relaxing.
A tap at the window tore him from his thoughts, and he tried to ignore it, to sink back into the half-asleep state he had previously been in. No such luck. The tap came again, more insistent this time. Muttering under his breath, he hauled himself to his feet and folded his wings against his back to keep anyone looking at his window from seeing them. He opened the window with a bit more force than necessary, and waited impatiently for Pig to flutter inside quite enthusiastically.
"Stupid, psychotic owls," he muttered crossly as he detached the letter and flopped back onto his bed to read it. Suppressing a yawn, he started to read a bit more sluggishly than usual. The farther his eyes traveled down the parchment, however, the grimmer his expression became.
It wasn't really much of a letter, more of a note if you asked him. A short note, at that.
I'm not supposed to owl you. Dumbledore's orders. I wrote you this so you won't be angry that we didn't write to you. I'm sending this for 'Mione, too, by the way. She's at Headquarters with us for a couple of weeks while her parents go to Canada for some 'seminar' thingy for dentists. Sorry you can't be here, too, mate, but it's for the best, I guess.
Mum mentioned that she was going to talk to Dumbledore about you coming to stay with us, but I doubt it'll do much good. The Headmaster said that you needed time alone to grieve, and we're not supposed to contact you in any way. I'm guessing that includes talking to you. Sorry mate. Have fun at the Muggles'. Don't bother writing back, I doubt I can reply to it.
His eyes narrowed dangerously, until they were like chips of emerald ice. It almost sounded like Ron was blowing him off. Several lines had a funny ring to them, and didn't seem right. 'Sorry you can't be here, too, mate, but it's for the best, I guess.' What the hell was Ron playing at? Grabbing up a quill, he scratched out what he hoped was a semi-respectful letter to the Headmaster.
It has recently come to light that I will possibly be staying here for the remainder of the summer, and I would like to ask why. I would also like to know if my friends are being allowed to write to me. If not, what are your reasons for not allowing them to?
I know you mean well, but recently, I have found your methods to be less than satisfactory. Blood relative or not, Petunia Dursley should not have been my legal guardian. I was told not long ago that my mother specifically requested that I not go to her sister. I would very much like to know your reasoning in that situation as well.
This might sound a bit rude, but I don't want to stay here, and if you don't get me out of this hellhole, I'll leave on my own, blood wards or not. The Dursleys hate me, and it's mutual, I really think it would be better to get me out of here before we get into another fight like the one before my 3rd year, when I used accidental magic on my aunt Marge for calling my mum a worthless bitch.
I know you think you're doing what's best for me, but I certainly don't see what you've been doing in the same light. You have withheld important information that could have stopped me from going to the Ministry, and neglected to tell me why exactly you were avoiding me all year.
You know what I'm talking about, Headmaster. I know you never meant to mess things up so badly, but I find that forgiving someone for something recognized as a poor decision is much harder than to forgive perceived wrongs.
Harry James Potter
"Hedwig, will you take this to Albus Dumbledore for me? Don't worry about waiting for a reply." The snowy owl hooted gently and offered her leg so he could tie his letter to it. With an affectionate nip to his ear, she took flight elegantly and soared away in the general direction of Hogwarts.
He watched her until she was scarcely a speck on the horizon, then settled down on his bed to start on his summer homework.
At dinnertime he was downstairs long enough to collect his meager helping of chicken, and went outside to eat it. He was careful to retract his wings before he was in the Dursley's questionable presence. Stretching languidly, he unfocused his gaze and scanned the back yard for signs of movement. It was almost ridiculously easy to find Snape and Mundungus. He could smell them a mile away. Wait, smell them?
He sniffed cautiously at the air, and blinked. Apparently the…whatever it was…had done more than give him wings and fix his eyesight. His eyes were sharper than ever, and he found that in addition to his enhanced sight and smell, his hearing was keener as well. He could hear Snape breathing. Shrugging, he silently thanked the gods that he hadn't been gifted with enhanced sense of taste. He couldn't hide the shudder that went through him at the thought of drinking healing potions with enhanced taste buds, or eating Aunt Petunia's tuna casserole, now that he thought about it.
He almost let his thoughts drift away to a new topic, then it struck him. Just like that. Smirking, he sprinted into the house to check the clock. 6:37. Perfect, he thought. This would make things a lot easier.
He grabbed a ballpoint pen and a scrap of blank paper off the kitchen counter and scribbled down the date, time, and who was on guard duty. If he could sniff out who was on the other rounds and when, he had a valuable aid to helping him leave if Dumbledore didn't take his threats seriously, or trusted him to be the good little Gryffindor and listen to the Headmaster.
With a wicked smile, he decided that if he left it would be on Snape's round. He might have felt a bit guilty about running off on Remus's guard, or on one of the Weasley's, and that would have ruined the thrill of flouting authority and taking matters into his own hands.
He folded the paper up, tossed the pen on the counter, and hurried up the stairs to his room. He was halfway there when he heard his aunt's familiar shriek.
"BOY! Get down here and wash the dishes! You pull your own weight around here, or else!"
He was tempted to tell her to shove it, but decided that would only get him beaten again, so he bit his lip to prevent any comments from slipping out and walked slowly down the stairs. Aunt Petunia was standing at the foot of the stairs, holding a feather duster and a bag of crisps.
"Here you go, Duddy," she simpered, handing him the bag. Dudley smirked at him before waddling back into the living room, where the telly was blaring. Rolling his eyes, he swept past his aunt and into the kitchen. She sneered at him as he passed, and he stopped in the doorway.
"Get your hair cut, boy. I won't have you going about looking like a hoodlum and giving the neighbors a reason to think you're even more abnormal than they suspected!"
Harry shrugged, "Fine. I'm not cutting it, by the way. I happen to like it, and besides, I know for a fact that Dudley's friend Piers has hair the same length." He ignored her indignant sputtering and vanished into the kitchen. Over his shoulder, he dared to add, "Not that it actually looks good on him, he doesn't have the right features to pull off the windswept look. When you're a Seeker, it looks natural."
Apparently she understood the last bit, because she snapped harshly, "What have I told you about saying things like that? I won't have you spouting this, this…unnatural garbage in my house!"
He rolled his eyes again, but didn't comment. He'd riled her enough already, any more and she might snap. Wordlessly, he turned on the water and started the dishes.
The next several days passed in a blur, until the Headmaster's reply finally arrived. A Hogwarts owl delivered it, and he wasn't the least bit surprised to see it preening itself pompously. He waved the owl over to meet Hedwig, and opened the letter, intent on getting it over with.
I understand that you're still grieving for Sirius, and will overlook the undertones you not-quite-voiced in your letter. Yes, I have a very good reason for sending you to live with your aunt and uncle, not the least of which that I wanted you to have a normal childhood, away from the pressures of the Wizarding World. Aside from that, there are the undeniable benefits of the blood wards, and the fact that they are your only remaining family. Seeing as your stated guardian was unable to take custody of you, I assumed you would be better off with your relatives than in a random wizarding home, or an orphanage.
Please, I ask you to stay at Privet Drive. You are safer there than anywhere else. Not even Headquarters is infallible. If you leave, you are an easy target for the Death Eaters or Voldemort. I understand that you are restless, of course there are guards posted to ensure your safety.
As for communication with your friends, after last year I decided that cutting you off from the Wizarding World was not the best idea. I told Mr. Weasley and Ms. Granger that they could owl you as much as they like, provided they don't write anything that would be dangerous to us, should the owls be intercepted. You and your friends are free to write each other as much as you like, Harry. I sincerely hope you will at least talk to them about how you are feeling. It's not good to keep things bottled up inside, Harry.
I regret that we have drifted so far apart that you don't see that I am only trying to protect you. You might not particularly care for your relatives, but I assure you that you are far better off there than anywhere else. The Burrow is not protected enough to keep you safe, despite several new wards, and I don't believe Headquarters would be the best place for you.
He blinked, and read the letter again. Then, slowly, a look of disgust and hurt settled on his face. Ron lied to him so he wouldn't have to write to him over the summer! Hermione as well! He slapped the parchment down on his desk, venting his anger on the furnishings. What kind of friends abandoned you when things started to heat up? Who would just up and do something like that, out of the blue? He considered the possibility of someone forging Ron's letter, but dismissed the possibility pretty quickly. Ron had a very unique writing style; he jumped from one subject to another almost constantly, and his letters usually took a couple times through to understand completely. If it were a forgery, it wouldn't have sounded just like his former best mate, and it had been in his handwriting exactly. Just in case, and not willing to jump to hasty conclusions (the Ministry disaster had taught him that) he dug one of Ron's older letters out of his trunk to compare the handwriting. After a few moments of deliberation, he admitted defeat. It was exactly like Ron's right down to the weird curve at the end of his A's.
He collapsed onto his bed, cradling his head in his hands. The letter dropped from numb fingers, only to be snatched up again a moment later. After his brief meltdown, he stood shakily, and walked over to the rickety desk by the window. His eyes were cold and icy, veiling the hurt and betrayal evident in his intense emerald gaze. Unbeknownst to him, his eyes were glowing faintly, not much, but just enough to be noticeable if you were looking.
He stuffed the letters into the back of his photo album, where he kept all of his personal letters and notes, along with a few random pictures via Colin Creevey and his obsession with taking photos of seemingly random things. Leafing through the stack, he noticed a few featuring the Gryffindor Quidditch team practicing or in a match. There was a memorable one from second year, capturing him and Malfoy trying to avoid the bludgers and catch the Snitch at the same time, during the match that Dobby had charmed the bludgers to chase after him. As he watched, a faceless Gryffindor supporter blew him a kiss as he flashed by.
Blinking, he flipped that picture to the bottom of the stack and examined another photo, this one from his 4th year. It was a picture of him with the other Champions, who after the initial disbelief and perhaps a tad of jealousy, had warmed up to him, the boys in particular. Fleur had liked him well enough after the second task and Cedric of course hadn't held anything against him after warning him about the first task. Viktor, though, had been the breakthrough. He hadn't really had a good reason for accepting Harry, but had anyway, and their friendship had flourished and grown into something more.
After the famous International Quidditch player had accepted his presence, nearly the entire school was vying to get back into his good graces. The picture, from a bit before the third task, was of the four of them near the lake, with Cedric and Fleur standing a bit closer than was usual for 'just' friends. Viktor, in turn, was standing next to them, smiling, a rare sight, even among his friends and family. Even from early on, he'd always been a quiet, serious child, with a particular talent for flying. Harry was standing next to the taller Slavic man, who'd slung an arm around his shoulders in a casual gesture. As he watched, Viktor reached over and ruffled his hair affectionately.
He sensed more than heard Uncle Vernon waddling up the stairs, and quickly put it behind his back. His Uncle pounded on the door before barging in, his eyes narrowed.
"Boy, your Aunt tells me you were mouthing off. I'm warning you now, do anything of the sort again, and you'll go in the cupboard under the stairs for a week!" He emphasized his point by jabbing Harry roughly in the ribs. Then his piggy eyes spied the picture he was trying to discreetly hide, and snatched it away. His eyes grew wide and angry as his face changed to a very unbecoming puce shade.
"What the hell is this, boy?" he demanded furiously, waving a hand at the moving picture. Harry flushed and tried to snatch it away from him.
"It's me with a few of my friends from school, the year before last. Now give it back!"
Uncle Vernon sneered, looking again at the photo. "Looks like you were a bit more than friends, boy. Who's the one man-handling you?" He smirked at Harry's angry look, but then registered what he'd just said, and the fact that the dark-haired boy hadn't denied that there was anything going on between them, and his face turned even darker with anger.
His answer was "Viktor. Give it here!" he snarled, and made a grab for the picture once again.
He threw the picture back in disgust, and sneered, "You're pathetic, Potter. You're an even bigger freak than I thought!" He started to continue his rant, but was cut off by Harry growling, "Shut up. Just shut up." His tone was low and barbed, dangerously soft, with an almost hissing quality to it. His eyes were darkened with anger and they glowed, a shimmering emerald green.
Vernon Dursley, incensed at being ordered to shut up in his own house, coupled with the fact that he'd never been the brightest bulb in the box, took a swing at him. Harry ducked; his Quidditch honed reflexes the only thing keeping him from being knocked out cold by his Uncle. As blubbery and lazy as he was, Uncle Vernon packed a powerful punch, something Dudley had obviously inherited. He turned on his heel, leaning sideways to avoid a hooked punch to his head, and lashed out with his foot, hoping to slow his Uncle down enough to get to his wand, lying on the nightstand.
His foot connected solidly with his Uncle's face, with enough force to break his rather piggish nose. Vernon staggered back, holding his face with hands that were rapidly being covered with blood. Through the pain, he leveled his most threatening gaze at his nephew. It promised pain, and lots of it.
Refusing to be intimidated, he leaped over the bed and snatched up his wand, pointing it threateningly at his Uncle. "Move and I'll stun you."
The beefy, middle-aged man glared, but stayed where he was, not wanting to risk any more injuries. Harry jerked his arm, gesturing at the door. "Go on then, get out. I'm getting my stuff and leaving." He accentuated his point by grabbing a pile of texts off his desk and piling them into his trunk.
Uncle Vernon shot him a venomous look and left the room, sneering nastily, "You'll get your due, boy, mark my words. I hope you enjoy hell, brat."
Harry ignored his words as best he could, tossing random items into his trunk. His mind was whirling. He couldn't go back to Grimmauld Place, not so soon after Sirius's death. The Burrow was out as well; Ron had made it very clear that their friendship wasn't as strong as it had appeared to be. He wasn't going to go to Hogwarts, either. Snape stayed there during the summer, and so did Dumbledore. Right now he didn't particularly care for the thought of spending the summer with either of them, or even worse, both of them. No, he would find somewhere else to go. Somewhere where the Order wouldn't find him and force him to go back to number 4, but not somewhere so off the wall he would be mugged the second he left his hotel room. He turned to pick up the picture, now torn a bit on one of the edges, and it hit him.
Xxxx : Line Break : xxxX
Hedwig weaved through the labyrinth of streets, cutting through the air on silent wings. Finally, she arrived at her destination. It was a long flight to Sofia, and she was tired and worn. Alighting on the windowsill of the letter's receiver, she tapped at the glass with her beak.
Xxxx : Line Break : xxxX
Viktor Nikolai Krum was not a light sleeper by any standards, but the urgency of the tapping sent him to the window anyway, clad in nothing but his pajama bottoms. His short, glossy ebony hair was sleep tousled and his unintelligible dark brown eyes were tired, but he looked every bit the well built professional Quidditch player he was.
Yawning, he let the owl in. Through his sleep-clouded mind, he vaguely recognized Hedwig for who she belonged to. Fumbling, he detached the rolled up letter and waved her over to the cage stand in the corner, where his own owl, Orion, was perched.
I know we haven't talked in a while, but I've been kind of out of it, and I'm starting to find that I don't have as many friends as I thought I did. Ron and Hermione skipped out on me, and doubtless others will follow their lead. I feel kind of bad for shoving this on you, I mean we haven't really known each other all that long, barring passing references. But you're the only one I can turn to. I don't trust anyone else right now to a) keep his or her mouth shut, or b) listen to what I'm saying.
I got in a fight with my Uncle earlier today. I think I pushed him too far this time. He kicked me out; doubtless everyone will find a way to blame me for it.
I'm at the Leaky Cauldron now, and hopefully I can figure out somewhere to go before I'm found and dragged off to Headquarters.
Sorry if I sound like I'm whining. I'm just freaked out over a few things lately. Do you know if it's normal for someone to grow wings on their 16th birthday? If it's not, I seem to be in a bit of a bind, then. Anyway, how's Quidditch going? I heard you guys beat Varna at your last match, 310-60. Not bad if you ask me, seeing as their Beaters are nightmares on brooms.
He stared incredulously at the parchment for a bit, then reread the letter. A frown creased his brow as he discovered that Hermione wasn't as loyal and trusting as he'd thought, and he felt a pang of sympathy when he abruptly changed the subject. Wings, though? That was interesting.
Face a mask of determination, he dressed and pocketed his wand, preparing to apparate to England. He wasn't about to leave his friend to fend for himself. Especially not Harry. With a soft crack, he vanished.
Xxxx : Line Break : xxxX
The Bulgarian Seeker appeared with a soft crack at the Diagon Alley apparation point. He was a little drained from the long apparation, but otherwise fine. Pulling his light cloak tighter around him to ward off the late night chill, he hurried inside. It was eleven p.m. and most patrons had already disappeared up to their rooms, but a few individuals were scattered about the room, either drunk, on their way to such a point, or entirely too sober for their liking. Running a hand through his short, dark hair, he walked up to the bar, where Tom was cleaning up.
"Excuse me, vould you mind telling vot room Harry Potter is in?"
Tom looked up, surprised to hear someone asking him a question and not slurring it drunkenly. "I'm not in the practice of telling that sort of thing to anyone who asks. Tell me who you are, and I might."
Leaning in closer, he said quietly, "Viktor Krum."
At the bartender's disbelieving look, he lowered his hood to reveal his unmistakable profile. Tom immediately nodded, offering a hand and talking enthusiastically.
"Mr. Krum, of course! Sorry about that, I didn't recognize you, sir. You wanted Mr. Potter's room number, correct?" At Viktor's patient nod, he answered in a low voice. "Room 11. Best knock loudly, though. The lad wasn't in the best mood when he checked in earlier, and it'd be a pity if the Vultures lost their Seeker."
He nodded, filing away Tom's remarks, and set a handful of galleons on the bar. "Neither of us were ever here. You have no idea where Harry Potter is, and you never saw him."
Tom nodded agreeably. "Of course, Mr. Krum, of course."
He pocketed the money gladly, tucking it away to sort out later. His toothless grin was gleeful as he recommenced wiping down the counter. Viktor, meanwhile, climbed the stairs somewhat apprehensively. He hadn't seen Harry in person since the TriWizard Tournament over a year ago, and he really didn't know what to expect.
He found room 11 easily enough, and knocked a tad nervously. His face was stoic, masking his nerves as he waited. Harry answered the door sleepily, and upon recognizing him, ushered him in.
"Viktor, what are you doing here?" he asked as he gestured for him to sit down.
Looking around at the decently sized room, Viktor replied, "Coming to get you. You said it vas only a matter of days before you vere found, and I came to make sure that doesn't happen. You need help; I'm giving it."
He directed a look at the younger boy that stopped his protests in his throat. "Alright." Harry's voice was low, but his tone was unmistakably deeper. He looked a lot less like a scrawny, scared little kid than he had only a year before. He'd just had his 16th birthday, Viktor recalled. July 31, wasn't it? Yes, because he remembered it was 12 days before his own, August 12.
He looked the new Harry up and down, trying to remember what he'd looked like before. Attractive, yes, in an innocent, unassuming way, but now…now he was the very definition of the word 'irresistible'. Taller now, approximately 5' 8", with a powerful build, not ripped, but lean and wiry, with the strength of someone twice his size. His eyes were the same vibrant emerald as ever, though they were no longer hidden behind glasses, and his previously scruffy raven hair was longer and silkier, just long enough to get in his eyes. He was dressed in regular clothing, though his feet were bare.
Viktor pushed down the feelings welling up inside him, offering a rare half-smile to the younger boy. Harry returned it tentatively, discreetly eyeing the older boy as well.
He liked what he saw. Tall and well built, with short, dark hair, intelligent eyes so dark a brown as to be nearly black, a healthy tan, and hawkish features. Instead of his nose looking out of place, it added character to his face. His round shoulders and duck-footed walk were unique and proved he wasn't perfect. They made him seem more real, like he was just your everyday 19-year-old. Harry quickly gathered together the few things he'd taken from his trunk and put his trainers on hurriedly. Viktor wordlessly shrunk his trunk and handed it to him. Harry pocketed it gladly. "Thanks. How are we leaving?" he asked, raising an eyebrow questioningly.
Viktor answered, "Side-Along-Apparation."
Harry nodded, trying to act like he knew how exactly he was going to do that. "Of course. Er, how exactly do you do that again?" Viktor's only answer was to take a step forward, stand behind him, and wrap his arms around him.
Harry subtly leaned into the embrace, reveling in the sensation of the Quidditch player's toned, warm body pressed against his back. With only a whisper of sound, considerably quieter than normal because two levels of power were working together, they vanished.