AN: I don't own Harry Potter or any other trademarked material. I hope you enjoy but just as a warning some of the things described in this chapter may be a bit disturbing to the faint of heart. Please review.
"… and furthermore let it be resolved that the Witing of the Kalmar Union does decree that a state of emergency be declared in the Dovrefjell march. The unrest in the Giant tribes can no longer be contained by the Marcher Lord Thorkild Sigulfson as foreign agents have conspired with the tribes in aid of this insurrection. To this end the Witing establishes a bounty of 150 galleons for every Giant bearing arms slain in the Dovrefjell march proof being the delivery of their head and providing a Pensive memory. A further 600 galleon bounty is offered for every foreign provocateur taken alive and delivered to the Witing for Royal justice."
-Presented in the names of the Royal Houses to the Magical Persons of the Realm, 5 February 2001
King Karl XVI Gustaf, King of the Swedes
Queen Margrethe II, Queen of the Danes
King Harald V, King of the Norse, Senior Lord of the Union
As Harry awoke he found himself propped up against the broken stone rubble along the edge of the courtyard. While he felt the chill of the grass against his skin his clothing was haphazardly draped over his body giving him at least a semblance of warmth and modesty. Gingerly he sat up and tried to work a crick out of his neck as the first rays of the sun began to spill over the ramparts of the ruins surrounding him. He tentatively prodded the spot where Luna had stabbed him and found no pain but just another light scar across his chest. As he began to dress he noticed that Luna was curled up in a small nest that she made from their traveling packs and was snoring softly, her hair a tangled mess of blonde strands scattered across her elfin features. Harry looked at what he took to be pile of rubble about ten feet beyond her and was surprised to see that the pile was a man wearing clothing that made him look positively medieval even when taking in the tastes of wizards. Harry then noted how the man was bound up in conjured ropes and that what appeared to be his personal effects and staff were sequestered several feet away from him.
Harry scratched his head in confusion at the sight; he vaguely remembered the ritual although his only real points of emphasis from the whole ordeal focused mainly on the fact that Luna had been naked, he distinctly remembered that to his pleasure. That and the fact that he had been stabbed which did not elicit those same feelings of satisfaction. The appearance of a third party was not part of the movie reel running through his head.
Harry guessed that Luna had stunned and bound him, whoever he was in the aftermath of the ritual; maybe he was one of the hunters on their trail but he hadn't the faintest clue which side had sent him. She did look knackered; if she had to fight after doing that ceremony it was bound to have drained her pretty badly. As he sat down next to her on the soft ground he mused on the series of unfortunate events that had brought them to this point.
It had been three and a half years since Hogwarts had been sacked by an angry mob. At the time Harry had been on holiday with Hermione and Ron at Grimmauld Place even though the dreary house still elicited pangs of guilt and remorse over the death of Sirius. Suddenly in the wake of the events tearing Wizarding Britain apart Harry found himself in a state of protective custody by the Order. While practically a prisoner in the Fidelus protected house Harry was exposed first hand to the inner workings of the Order of the Phoenix at war.
Harry had grown up, frankly, in awe at Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and had considered him the greatest example of both a wizard and as a man; Albus Dumbledore could do no wrong. But as the months wore on and as Harry listened more and more to the reports that various members of the Order brought in the more confused and troubled Harry became. For every report of a raid against a Death Eater there was another report of a strike against "reactionary Ministry elements." Even though Harry knew that Voldemort's followers had overtaken large portions of the ministry Harry was stunned at the sheer number of non-Death Eater related raids. When he asked Dumbledore about this he was told that the Death Eater infiltration was much greater than anticipated and that the Ministry had been forced to declare the Order an illegal group of vigilantes and that the Aurors were being manipulated to fight the Order rather than the Death Eaters.
At the time Harry hadn't seen any Order members that he knew to be Aurors; Kingsley Shacklebolt seemed to have disappeared from the face of the Earth and Tonks was only vaguely mentioned in the occasional report, usually in the role of a spy so she could use her Metamorphagus talents. Harry figured that if the Order had been declared illegal the few Aurors who were also members of the Order had to keep a low profile in the Death Eater controlled administration and couldn't act openly.
Harry had protested and asked for permission to go out and help fight since clearly things were getting desperate on the outside. Dumbledore calmly stated that this wasn't possible since Harry wasn't prepared enough; Harry, Hermione, and Ron had been constantly practicing in Grimmauld Place often under the tutelage of the older Order members but Dumbledore kept saying that Harry needed to be better prepared in order to fulfill the prophecy.
As the months turned into years the isolation started to take its toll on the Golden Trio. Harry became more and more zealous in his training, going so far as to begin to train with the Sword of Gryffindor using some of the more ancient fencing manuals that were kept in the Black home; as the news from the outside seemed to be a never ending litany of skirmishes and raids he began to dream of the day that he'd be released to bring the fight to Voldemort. Dumbledore kept him in the loop with all the information they knew about Voldemort and directed his training so that he'd be ready, but he always kept telling him that the time wasn't ready yet; the risk of having to fight innocent witches and wizards caught up in the puppet ministry was simply too great and Harry needed to wait until Dumbledore could make things safe for him to act.
As time went on Harry overheard in the hushed conversations of Order members that the world outside was going to pieces: the non-humans were rising up, Death Eaters openly controlled towns, the Order was being overwhelmed by the traitors running the Ministry, fear salted the daily bread served to the people and terror flavored their tea. With each whisper of the battle raged in the streets and in the fens of Britain Harry drew more and more isolated into the attic, his appropriated training room of choice. After a while it became easier for him to move completely to the attic, only occasionally leaving to listen to an Order meeting. His only correspondence was an occasional letter, screened of course, with Neville and Luna, who were the only two that tried to write to him in his isolation; and with Gringotts who handled all of his outside purchases. Gringotts had also sent him a small case containing the Potter and Black Family rings along with a copy of both his parents' and Sirius' wills on his seventeenth birthday, his only "present" as it were that he received. Harry barely glanced through the wills as they brought up too many bad memories to the surface but immediately put on the rings. When he first put them on he had hissed as the two suddenly came to life and fused themselves together creating a hybrid of the family crests although Harry could "force" the ring to display only one crest at a time if he put his mind to it.
Hermione originally took the virtual incarceration very poorly as she wasn't allowed to visit her parents. Eventually Dumbledore relented and allowed her to write letters on the condition that an Order member censored it in order to prevent anyone from getting any useful information from it in case of interception. After that small concession Hermione took to the isolation with vigor and began to delve deep into some of the more esoteric branches of magic, researching a way to help Harry defeat Voldemort. As time went on and more and more reports of atrocities against muggleborns filtered in she began to give off a feverish vibe; she'd spend days locked away in the library looking for hints of artifacts and rituals to help finish the war, neglecting even the bare minimum of personal hygiene. She devoured the literature and demanded that more and more tomes be brought to her so she could continue searching for the answer to their troubles. The only thing that she never neglected though was her letters to her parents. Even without receiving a reply she would carefully write letters of Homeric length every day, sometimes even two or three times a day which drove the censors mad.
Ron on the other hand didn't really care about the isolation as most of his family still frequented Grimmauld Place as they were part of the Order. Initially he griped and moaned, more out of principle than actual personal discomfort and often was lax in his training. That was at least until that fateful day of 12 September 2000 when a frantic floo call came in from the Burrow. Before anything more than the sounds of screams could be discerned from the call the floo was cut. Ron managed to bully his way onto the response team but the team didn't mobilize for more than an hour; they found that the Burrow had been completely cut off from the outside world and that anti-portkey and apparition wards had been erected around it. Finally Ron and the team managed to get through. When they returned two hours later Ron was a changed man. His demeanor was stone cold and he carried about him the air of barely restrained fury; the three other members of the team that went out to the Burrow refused to speak about what happened except to Dumbledore and despite Harry and Hermione's pleas Ron never told them what had taken place. After that day Ron was allowed to go out and fight against the Death Eaters a task which consumed him entirely; Harry's friendship with the red-head seemed to have evaporated in the wake of his new burning desire to kill Death Eaters. Harry never again saw anyone from the Weasley clan ever show up to Grimmauld Place and feared the worst. Even the floo connection to the Burrow didn't work anymore.
As Hermione disappeared farther and farther into her research and Ron became more and more obsessed with hunting down Death Eaters, Harry was left basically to his own devices. He trained constantly both magically and physically; he yearned to take his place on the battlefield and force an endgame in this endless war. Completely separated from the Muggle world he'd actually began to assemble a wardrobe "befitting a wizard" and the start of his own personal library. Despite his isolation he was still able to purchase goods, usually through Order intermediaries, through the black market or the few remaining enclaves of commerce in Wizarding Britain. Harry had been at least resigned to continue his training until Dumbledore told him that the time had finally come.
At least until Luna had shown up.
Luna had turned up the day before in a most unorthodox manner. Harry had been in the attic practicing his fencing when suddenly a rip in the air before him lit up the darkened room with a fiery blue light. Harry had raised the blade and his body was primed and ready to attack whatever stepped through; he managed to stop his thrust just enough to halt the steel tip against Luna's stomach. He gazed over at her still sleeping body and shook his head in wonder as he remembered their rather otherworldly conversation.
Her face was utterly calm and her eyes seemed to see right through Harry and gaze into the depths of his soul. She looked a lot different since the last time they met, right before that fateful winter… She had grown in a physical sense as she definitely seemed to fill out her robe more than the waif of a girl that he had waved goodbye to almost four years ago. What struck him the most was her demeanor; the quirky curiosity of the girl he knew in Hogwarts seemed to have been replaced by a woman who had drunk deep from the font of knowledge and was privy to a whole manner of secrets that she was dying to tell.
"Oh Harry, where are your manners? You really must ask a woman first before just assuming that she'll let you skewer her on your sword." Harry's eyes bulged out of their sockets at her little flirtatious quip; this was not the Luna that he remembered even if it was delivered in the same self explanatory and deadpan manner that she spoke in school or in their infrequent letters to each other. Almost subconsciously his grip on the sword hilt tightened and his arm tensed in preparation to thrust forward.
Harry's eyes bulged out of their sockets at her little flirtatious quip; this was not the Luna that he remembered even if it was delivered in the same self explanatory and deadpan manner that she spoke in school or in their infrequent letters to each other. Almost subconsciously his grip on the sword hilt tightened and his arm tensed in preparation to thrust forward.
"I suppose you are wondering if I really am who I say I am as time and space have created a gap between me and your memory of me. I really should say something that would re-assure you before you ruin my robes. I am still grateful for your offer to assist me, not that I wasn't expecting it, because after all… 'You are Harry Potter.'"
Luna's emphasis on the last four words brought a rush of memories from the back of Harry's mind. Suddenly he remembered a strange little girl reading an upside down magazine with radish earrings; that same little girl speaking with an unusual wisdom and the almost comical indifference she paid to social conventions. He remembered his offer to help her at the end of the year and the casual way that she quelled his fears for her. With that he slowly lowered his sword and made a cautious step towards her.
"What are you doing here? This house is warded, how did you get in here?"
The Cheshire grin that spread across her face was well seasoned with the sweet slyness of a girl who knew just a little too much.
"Oh Harry, if I told you how I got here I would be telling you a secret that you aren't ready to hear. But as to the why…" with that her eyes swept over the room and took in the stark and isolated nature of his training/bed room. "Well I just figured that you wanted to finally leave this place and take a chance at achieving your destiny in this war. That and you've not had a proper birthday treat since you locked yourself away from the world which is a pity since we all need a little joy in our lives, if only occasionally."
"Dumbledore says that the time isn't right for me to strike against Voldemort."
"Why not? Don't you think that the fighting has gone on long enough? Don't you think that enough harm has been visited on this land?"
"He says that until the Ministry can be secured from Death Eater control I can't strike or else I would run the risk of harming innocents in the battle! What would happen if I had to duel a score of Aurors who had been duped into thinking I was a criminal like Sirius? I have to trust Dumbledore that he'll set things up so I won't run the risk of hurting innocents!"
"Oh Harry your concern for innocence is part of what makes you great but you have the same sweet naiveté that Daddy had before he passed on from this mortal realm. He too never saw things for what they were before the end. But your sweet silliness causes more harm than good. Here let me show you."
Harry was shocked at Luna's rather frank admission that her father was gone and more than a little peeved at her claim that his concern for innocent lives was misplaced. However his twinge of anger was replaced with a wave of panic as she suddenly crossed the distance between the two of them and grasped the sides of his head firmly in her surprisingly powerful hands and tilted his face until all he could see were her eyes.
"Please don't fight me Harry, but I have to show you."
Harry tried to struggle but his body didn't respond to his mind's commands. He thought he heard the clatter of a dropped piece of metal in the distance but he wasn't sure. All he could focus on was the intensity of her deep blue eyes and the sing-song tune of her voice.
Suddenly he found himself wrapped in darkness. A void so deep that it lacked even the feeling of light and sound; without warning he felt a burning pain burst forth from inside his chest.
He thought he screamed but he never heard it. Perhaps the pain was so much that it couldn't be expressed in words? Regardless Harry suddenly realized that he was no longer in darkness but was standing in a darkened alley in a nameless town. The colours were all wrong; instead of even the harsh contrast of shadows on stone one sees in blackened alleys, here everything was a series of contrasts of pale grays. It reminded Harry of a pensive memory but his musings were cut short by a flash of light at the end of the alley.
As Harry turned he saw the scared face of a young boy; pale skin, dark hair, he didn't look a day over 12. As the boy ran towards Harry he saw that the boy was bleeding from a gash across his chest that was slowly soaking his shirt with a crimson stain. Harry realized that this vision was a world of black and white; and red. He could see red most clearly.
Harry instinctively moved towards the boy but his body refused to move. He was stuck as a witness to the scene before him from a single perspective and completely unable to influence it.
As he watched Harry saw a dark figure appear at the end of the alley clad all in black with a hooded face swathed in darkness. Harry also saw the large knife being held loosely in the figure's right hand, bright crimson painting the blade and spilling down to the cobblestone alley. To his horror the figure swiftly advanced down the alley and grabbed the boy by the hair and jerked his head back swiftly cut the boy's throat, the arterial spray shot out and spattered out along the walls. With a barely audible, "Bloody filth." the figure turned around and stalked out of the alley as the body slowly stopped twitching…
With a flash and another pang of pain Harry suddenly found himself standing on a balcony overlooking what could only be Diagon Alley. The normal throngs of humanity were no longer there but there was still a significant amount of foot traffic as families traveled in packs from one shop to the next, furtively purchasing their goods and quickly moving on to the next shop. As Harry watched he saw one particular family of five that looked slightly richer than the rest, judging by the cut of their clothes, make their way down the street just like any other moving towards Gringotts. He watched as suddenly a group of four wizards and two witches suddenly apparated into the street and surrounded the family in question with wands out in the ready.
Harry watched as the bystanders in the street fled in terror as the family tried to huddle together; the father and mother standing as best as they could between the gang and the three children huddling together. Neither of them had their wands out. From Harry's perspective it looked like there was some sort of dialogue between the parents and the leader of the gang who had moved forward slightly from the rest. Without warning the gang leapt forward and seized the members of the family. In a matter of seconds the three children, all girls, were crying and huddled on the ground as the two witches stood over them with whips of fire cheerfully dancing from their wands. The mother and father were both forced to their knees by the wizards and Harry could tell that they were both screaming and begging with their assailants. To his horror, Harry saw that one of the wizards drew a small cudgel from beneath his robes and proceed to beat the wife as his colleagues forcibly restrained her husband.
Harry saw how the first blow laid out a gash over her left eyebrow, how the second sent her jaw at an unnatural angle, how the third crushed her pretty nose, how the fourth… how the fifth…
The man was weeping now and the children's howls of anguish tore into Harry's soul as he stood there, completely unable to do anything about it as the beating kept going on and on. As the woman lay on the ground covered in blood, her body limp and broken on the cobblestone street her assailant then turned to the man who at this point was an incoherent wreck simultaneously swearing vengeance and begging for his family's lives. Without preamble the man put away the cudgel and pulled out a revolver; the crack split the alley drowning out all other sounds and the father's body crumpled to the ground, a pulpy mass of blood and bone where his face once was. Harry saw the spurt of brain matter exit out from the back of his skull and the cloud of blood mist out from where a proud nose once claimed its place in the sun.
The gang then apparated from the alley after one of the witches pinned a scrap of parchment onto the cloak of the dead man. The three children wailed in the street, alone with the bodies of their parents. All alone…
Flash. Harry stood in the woods and saw a pack of centaurs ride down and skewer a lone wizard on a particularly vicious looking spear; he tried to look away as they tore the screaming man apart but he couldn't. Each centaur rode off with a different piece of their kill as the tom-tom of drums sounded ominous in the distance…
Flash. Harry watched as a mob swarmed a pair of Aurors escorting a Ministry official through a village. The Aurors were broken and bloody, their wands broken in the press while the official was put under the Cruciatius curse, eliciting howls of delight from the mob…
Flash. Harry crouched in a cupboard with a small scared looking child as he heard roars and screams on the other side of the wood. In a sudden moment of silence all Harry could hear was the beating of his own heart. Suddenly the door swung open and a clawed hand reached in grabbing the child by the throat…
Flash. Now it was a naked and bloody corpse of a teenage girl lying in the gutter, her delicate flesh desecrated with "Pureblood Whore" carved into her torso, the "o" in the word "whore" being made by the bloody mass where her left breast used to be…
Flash. A house burning with screams of terror emanating from the top floor. Harry can see a tiny hand hitting against the glass…
Flash. A pack of dark figures mercilessly casting spells into a panicked crowd of goblins in Gringotts' lobby…
Flash. The weeping of an old man crouched over the body of an equally old lady. His face streaked with tears as a green flash…
With each flash Harry was forced to watch atrocity after atrocity. He saw a world of madness and chaos as all the old conventions of Wizarding Britain were set to fire and steel and an orgy of destruction grasped the collective psyche of the people. He saw the collected agony and madness of four years of civil war.
Harry shuddered as he forced himself to relive the visions. It had seemed to go on for hours. When he "awoke" he had immediately puked and started to cry at the immensity of the horror going on outside of the walls of Grimmauld Place. Why hadn't Dumbledore told him what was happening? Why hadn't he tried to do something? Why had Harry allowed himself to be locked away in ignorance while the world fell apart? The crushing failure that Harry felt was only matched by his desire to redeem himself.
Harry had simply not imagined how horrible the war could be and how much it could twist the people involved in it. He had always imagined that it would be a series of quick and almost simple fights where wizards cast spells at each other and where you could always tell the good guys from the bad. He knew that there would be some sorts of crimes and atrocities but he never once thought that it would be done in such fashion; maybe the dementors would turn a muggle village into a crypt of corpses that didn't know that they were dead yet, or some Death Eaters would torture other wizards that opposed them. But what the visions showed him was of something much more terrible than that. Not one of the killers that he saw he could actually unequivocally say was a Death Eater; in fact the most violent killings seem to have been done by ordinary wizards and witches caught up in the war. He never imagined that crimes would be committed by anyone other than the Death Eaters and their purist allies.
Harry simply couldn't fathom the depth and physicality of the violence from a world based off of magic. It went against every expectation that he had; of the almost courtly civility and rather clinical means of doing harm in magical society. But despite his expectations the horrible realization of truth shattered his innocence. Violence is an immensely physical and intimate act; no matter how clinical it can be made humanity will devolve and exercise it in its most primitive forms.
After having his eyes rather forcefully opened by Luna as to the reality it wasn't a challenge to convince Harry to at least attempt to do something. Luna had explained to him a ritual that she had discovered that was supposed to boost his magical core; Harry hoped that it would be the trigger that would convince Dumbledore that he was ready to take on Voldemort and to end the war.
And yet despite having undergone the ritual Harry didn't feel any different.
"You're remembering again aren't you?"
Harry suddenly jerked as he was brought back to reality by the now awake Luna's question. She had now perched herself sitting on top of her pack. All traces of sleep and last night's efforts vanished from her face. Her eyes stared at him peeling back all of his secrets.
"It's kind of hard not to, you have a rather forceful way of showing people things you do know that?"
"You certainly needed the persuasion Harry; you can do so many great and wonderful things as long as you have that little nudge to get you going in the right direction."
"So what happened last night?"
"The ritual worked but I'm afraid that I panicked towards the end and caused a mishap. I was afraid that you would die and tried to speed up the process but…" her voice trailed off and she indicated towards the unconscious man, "I think I summoned him instead. I managed to get just enough magic into your core to keep you from dying but I don't think that it did much more than that."
She seemed almost apologetic with the admission that she almost killed him. Harry never realized how close he came to dying but supposed that it wasn't something that he really had time to dwell on at the moment.
"You said summoned? Summoned from where? Who is he?"
"A stranger from a faraway land. Shall we ask him?"
And with that she boldly stood up and strode over to their guest with wand in hand. Harry quickly stood up as well and began to make his way over as Luna cast an Ennervate…
The man's eyes shot open and he saw Luna standing over him. If anything his eyes got even bigger as a spark of terrible recognition seemed to glimmer in their brown depths.
"Foul demon!" he screamed, "What have you done?" And with that he rolled away over the grass from a fairly puzzled Luna and an almost astounded Harry. Harry felt the pulse of magic and saw a glowing white hue from the man's hands as suddenly his bonds fell away; the magic animating the ropes dissolving away into the ether as he scrambled up onto his feet and backed away, his attention solely on Luna. Harry had to admit it was an impressive display of wand less magic.
The man stood just shy of six feet tall, his shoulders broad and muscular underneath his slightly torn woolen tunic that reminded Harry of something from the Middle Ages. His narrow oval eyes a chestnut brown and filled with fear and hate; his black hair, cut close to his head, was unkempt and streaked with grease and dirt. His slightly gaunt face was covered in dirt and streaked with sweat; from where Harry stood it almost looked like his tanned skin was also shot through with soot, his right side definitely looked like it had been exposed to fire as it was red and angry. Harry could see the tone of the man's musculature as he clenched his fists and tensed to fling himself at Luna.
Without even a warning Harry pulled his wand and cast a mild banishing charm at the man with the intent to knock him away from Luna. To his astonishment the man hurled himself out of the way landing in a roll across the courtyard. As he stood back up he threw a chunk of stone at Harry who was forced to duck. Luna stood back observing the situation in her own inscrutable manner.
"A demon whore and her mortal slave; tell me slave, how is it that you fell so far as to make a pact with one such as she? She pretties you up well but you're still tied to an inhuman terror." With the man began to chant words that Harry had never heard of before; the man suddenly began to emanate light as a wave of magic washed over the courtyard and Harry's keen eyes noticed that the man's wounds and burns began to heal and disappear. Even his hair began to look more presentable. This command of magic impressed Harry as it was incredibly difficult for a wizard to use magic without some sort of foci like a wand; but this impressive display did nothing to dampen Harry's outrage at the insult this wizard had visited to his friend.
"She's neither a whore nor a demon; she's as human as I am! Who the hell are you to insult her and attack her?" With that Harry advanced towards the man his wand at the ready. The pent up frustration and anxiousness from four years of training began to rage up towards the surface as Harry moved forward to slap down this stranger who had insulted one of the few friends he had left in this world.
Luna on the other hand had somehow conjured up an apple and slowly began to munch on it as she looked at the pair of them square off; a look of polite interest on her face.
"Boy if you recall you're the one who cast on me first. Now tell me where am I and why have you stolen me away to here?"
"Boy" if there was ever a word to drive Harry out of the realm of reason and calm that was it. "Boy" was what his erstwhile "family" had called him while he spent all those years of degrading purgatory with them. "Boy" was the term used at the start of every insult, every menial task, and every degrading tirade.
The fact that the man across from him looked barely older than Harry hardly registered, not like it would have mattered.
With a wordless cry of rage Harry went on the offensive. He led with a string of blasting hexes interspaced with bludgeoning curses; even in his rage Harry kept true to his training style, his strengths were in pouring power into devastating attacks to hammer away at his opponents until either they were obliterated or Harry passed out from exhaustion.
The man leapt and dodged across the courtyard as Harry's spells chased him around. Stonework created shrapnel through the air and puffs of grass and dirt stained his clothes as he dodged and ran about avoiding Harry's attacks. To be fair Harry wasn't the fastest caster in the world and some of the dodges were with only an inch of lee-way but directed attacks were not the most successful method under the circumstances. It was apparent that his opponent was used to physical activity unlike many wizards that Harry knew; the times he dueled with the Order members that Dumbledore had picked out as his sparring partners footwork was more of an afterthought than a practiced discipline.
After a minute of this Harry began to let his frustration show and transfigured a lion out of a ruined stone bench which roared in anger and began to pace forward towards Harry's opponent. The early morning light seemed to create a halo of golden light around the tawny yellow mane of the beast as it stalked forward; the ripple of muscles underneath a sun beaten hide of light brown fur.
"Give it up, you may be able to dodge my spells like a prancing fairy but you can't dodge a lion."
With that statement the lion roared in defiance barring his teeth with the intent to cower the man into submission. Instead the man looked at the creature thoughtfully and stopped moving. Taking this as a sign of submission Harry slowly advanced forward; what happened next was a complete surprise.
Without warning the man pointed his finger towards the lion and hissed out a word that Harry did not discern. The beast then began to whimper as a dark nimbus of energy surrounded it; before Harry's eyes he saw the lion's muscles sag and shrivel, the teeth turned into chipped and blunt parodies of what they had been, and the once golden mane began to fall out. Harry could feel the weakness suffusing his conjured animal. With a look of pity the man walked over to the beast, reached out, and struck it across the nose with his fist. With a piteous moan the lion slumped over onto the ground; Harry could feel his magic flee as the lion returned into a pile of broken stone. The man then looked over towards Harry who stood there with his mouth twisted in surprise.
"I did not think that you were a proper practitioner of the arcane but you have demonstrated that you have some skill. What is your name so that I may drink to your memory?"
"Harry Potter." To say that the courtesy surprised Harry was an understatement and his response was more instinctive rather than deliberate. The moment almost turned into something of a ceremony with the sudden question. Harry paused and waited for the man to respond. Luna just sat on her pack humming a tune while she kept eating her apple.
"Harry Potter… that's it? It is strange that one as old and as skilled as you can claim no titles either inherited or earned. And with a family name as well…"
The man seemed genuinely confused. "Titles?" Harry thought, "What does he mean by titles? And how does he consider me 'old?'" Harry suddenly felt a tingling on his hand and remembered his family ring which seemed to fill his mind with exactly what he needed to say.
"I am the Baron Harry Potter-Black, called 'The Boy Who Lived.' Lord of House Potter by right of lineage and Lord of House Black by right of inheritance. I uncovered the Chamber of Secrets and slew the Basilisk resting at its heart. I have won the Tri-Wizard Cup. I have dueled the Dark Lord Voldemort and saw him flee. I am the wielder of Godric Gryffindor's sword. I now ask that you state your name so I know who I will defeat this morning."
The confidence that he exuded was almost a foreign feeling after years of abuse and neglect, gone was the grungy boy who lived in a cupboard. Here stood a titled lord who dressed and held himself to the standard of the peerage. Without even a hint of magic, the Sword of Gryffindor appeared in a well kept scabbard of black leather and capped with silver on Harry's side.
After that the man inclined his head in a gesture of respect.
"My Lord, I am Erik called Snotor, Sorcerer in service to Icatia and her Legions. I have stood in the shield wall with sword and axe at Iskandrun against the Brass-claw Chief Githri and cast him down in the earth, dyed red from the bodies at my feet. I took the head of Dalhgram of the Black Hand at Baelwfur Keep and broke his host upon the salt walls. I face you now lord in honorable combat for you have kidnapped me through vile magic either in conspiracy with or under the influence of a Demon. May the Heavens judge who is worthy."
Suddenly after the pleasantries of civilization were completed Erik let loose a brutal and savage scream into the morning that seemed to darken the sun and brought a chill to Harry's bones. A nimbus of darkness surrounded Erik in a fashion that reminded Harry of what surrounded his lion but instead of Erik getting weaker instead something else occurred. As Harry watched gauntlets arranged themselves from the nimbus and clad Erik's hands in a mixture of brown leather and metal rings scaled into them, sickly black leather seemed to flow out of his arms and formed itself into a protective layer as Erik's woolen tunic re-formed into a mail Habergeon which covered his shoulders to his thighs in small ringlets of iron. A large lime wood shield with an iron boss and edging merged from the void and strapped itself to his left arm; Harry mused that he could hide almost his entire body behind that enormous thing. In Erik's right hand a wicked looking axe with a wide thin blade almost ten inches long and a hooked horn at the heel of the blade and a small spike on the reverse where the metal head attached itself to the thick oaken handle.
At the sight of what can only be described as a Medieval Warrior standing before him Harry almost panicked but instead acted rationally and casted a blasting curse square into Erik's shield.
The blast hit square and threw Erik back as he cursed the force of Harry's attack. Harry strode forward confidently and raised his wand to continue his attack. Harry didn't want to kill Erik but he knew that his stunners wouldn't get through that shield; a more direct tactic was called for. As Harry gathered in his magic to cast another blasting curse he heard Erik spit out an invocation and a flash of red caught Harry's eye. Reddish white bands of energy formed and locked themselves around the wrists of both combatants but to Harry's curiosity the spell didn't seem to do anything else. Erik took up a defensive posture with his body covered by his shield and the blade of his axe held right up against the edge.
Realizing that he had the initiative returned to gathering in his magic to destroy Erik's shield; and screamed aloud in the process. The bonds around Harry's wrists began to flash and with each pulse he felt his magical core shudder in agony. Harry tried to fight through it but as he kept trying to draw upon his magic the more pain he felt. Finally Harry ceased his efforts and was visibly panting and wincing; the terrible realization was that if he kept trying to use his magic he might kill himself!
Harry looked up in panic as he saw the dire grin on Erik's face. Erik then began to pound his axe on his shield creating a foreboding sound of doom; his chant of: "You're going to die!" in time to the beat didn't make Harry any happier; the hollow thump of steel on wood underpinned by the rustle of chainmail sounded like a funeral dirge. Slowly, almost leisurely Erik advanced towards Harry who had almost desperately drawn his sword, realizing it was his only real defense if he couldn't use his magic.
With a grimace of defiance Harry began to pace forward, his sword held two handed in a high guard as he prepared to use his speed and agility to counter Erik's use of armor and shield. Harry also had an advantage as his sword's reach was much greater than Erik's axe. He would have to use all of his skills to win out in this. He glanced over towards Luna who seemed to be watching the pair of them like a spectator at a sporting event; she showed no inclination to step in between the two of them. In fact she seemed to be enjoying herself much to Harry's chagrin.
As they inched closer to each other Harry felt the cold clamminess of fear clutch at his belly. He'd never really had to face off against another human before in this sense. His escapade at the Ministry seemed so much like a childish game now played by poor actors in a bad movie. He licked his lips as he stepped forward, a true son of the House of Gryffindor, and brought his blade down onto Erik's shield.
The shock of the impact raced up his arms and he almost dropped his sword in surprise. Quickly he spun off to the side to avoid Erik's counter as he sliced his axe low towards Harry's knee. The two of them faced each other down as they both mustered the energy to strike again. This time Erik led with his shield trying to bowl Harry over, but because the shield also blocked Erik's view Harry managed to avoid the charge and swung his sword low and to the side catching Erik along his back on the left hand side. Harry grinned expecting that his opponent would be bleeding and wounded but his grinned died as Erik barely made a noise; Harry looked and saw that Erik's mail had stopped his swing cold as the interlocked rings had stopped his blade. This was not like the movies, Harry realized quickly. He simply couldn't bull his way through the other man's armour.
"Maybe if I get him in the legs," Harry mused, "it's only a thin layer of wool and he only has on leather boots. If I hamstring him I'll win." With this strategy in mind Harry began to chop high in order to get Erik to move his shield up and expose his feet. Harry's muscles began to ache with the effort and hoped that Erik was getting as tired as he was. Finally Erik had to move his left leg forward in order to prop his shield up high enough to protect his face from a vicious cut Harry aimed at his head.
With a shout of victory Harry quickly reversed his strike and brought his blade low and felt his blade make contact with Erik's left boot… only for his attack to be stopped cold. Harry stood there dumbfounded as he saw a thick band of steel gleaming through the cut he had made in the side of the boot. The next thing he knew the dark iron of the shield boss was speeding towards his face. He felt the crunch of his nose breaking underneath the blow; dazed he fell back onto the ground as he began to taste the iron tang of blood. The force of him slamming into the ground knocked the wind out of Harry and he began to cough and sputter as the blood tried to trickle down into his throat. He could feel at least one tooth was loose as he tried to spit up the blood in his mouth.
"Did you really think that I didn't know what you were trying to do lord? I have fought in the shield wall for almost 7 years and your show fighting might be fit for court but it means nothing where shields clash and men build a reputation. I hope you have heirs my lord for you are about to die."
With that statement Erik stalked forward tossing his shield to the side with a clatter as it bounced off of the rocks. With grim finality he gripped the axe with both hands and raised it high into the air as his foot pinned Harry's sword hand into the ground. Suddenly Erik jerked back and sputtered as an apple core bounced off his face covering his eyes in pulp and juice. Harry quickly spun out and tripped Erik who fell with a definitive "thunk" onto the grass, his axe landing a foot away from his outstretched fingers.
With the reflexes of a Seeker, Harry scrambled up and managed to bring his sword down and slammed the flat of the blade into Erik's forehead. As Erik cried out in pain and surprise it bought Harry enough time to turn his blade and press the tip over Erik's throat.
"Finish it lord; though the bitch interfered it was not at your doing or by your will, you merely took advantage of the situation. You fought honorably and I ask that you make it quick." Erik didn't flinch away from Harry's blade and looked him square in the eyes as he spoke.
Harry stared down at the man and considered the situation for a long minute before speaking again.
"How did you stop me from using my magic?"
Looking surprised at the question Erik was slightly hesitant to answer.
"It was a spell my lord. An enchantment."
"Tell me how this enchantment works."
"Why should I tell you lord?"
"Because I will consider sparing your life if you do." That caused a moment of pondering on Erik's part.
"You would offer me a place in your house guard my lord?"
At this Harry paused. He was not raised to desire servants, much to one House Elf's sorrow, but that was before he put on the family ring. Now it was filling his mind with information of the prerogatives and indeed obligations of the nobility. Harry knew that as a lord he had an estate to run and protect, the fact that Wizarding Britain was also in a state of war didn't escape him either, and to protect his land he needed allies. He needed warriors who could fight. If he was going to take an active role in this war and claim his birthright he couldn't act as a lone wolf, he needed help. At this he carefully crafted his reply…
"Erik called Snotor I am in need of warriors who will protect my lands and defeat my enemies. My foes are many and my allies are few. I cannot promise you safety, I cannot promise you peace. What I can promise you is a chance to prove your skills against the most dangerous of wizards that lay claim to the land and to build a reputation that will be sung about for a thousand years. Agree to fight for me and I will reward you."
With that Harry stood up and held his sword pointed down into the earth and clasped in his right hand. He didn't know why he did that, only his gut told him that it was the right thing to do. Erik picked himself up tentatively and knelt before Harry and placed both hands on the pommel of Harry's sword and over his right hand and as Harry placed his left hand down on top to seal the clasp. As their hands closed the bands of magic around their wrists disappeared into the void.
"I swear to you my lord to serve you in peace and in war. When you call I will answer. I shall carry your banner and I shall harvest your grain. I shall love what you love and I shall shun what you shun. Whatever small skills I know are my lord's to command. I serve until death or my lord releases me." As he spoke these words a spark of magic flared from the Potter/Black family ring and a tiny emerald "grew" on the side of it. When Erik kissed the ring the emerald pulsed once in a vibrant hue and then settled down as a permanent part of the golden ring.
As Erik stood up Luna glided on over and stood behind Harry off to his side with the apple core in her hand. As she approached Erik started to glower and even started to subconsciously growl at her. Harry decided to nip this problem in the bud if he could.
"Erik, as my man you will not openly quarrel with Luna. If you have a problem with her keep it to yourself or bring it to me when we are alone. Treat her with civility." Harry tried to make himself sound like a lord but it was odd giving an order to a man who just a few minutes before was trying his level best to kill him, and almost succeeded.
Erik visibly grimaced at the order but drew himself in and asked a question.
"Is this… Luna… my lord's woman?"
Harry was taken aback by the question and his eyes quickly darted over at Luna who serenely stared at him with an unfathomable gaze. He could feel a small blush try to creep up into his cheeks as he formulated a response. Harry did find Luna attractive in a whole range of traits but right now with a war to fight he didn't think it was a good time to have any sort of attachments.
"Luna is no man's woman although any man would be lucky to be hers."
Erik seemed to relax by a fraction at this and Luna's eyes seemed to shimmer at his words.
"Aye my lord. What is your next move in this war you speak of?"
Harry pondered over his options; he didn't think that he could return to Grimmauld Place, not so much that he couldn't explain away leaving to Dumbledore but that he no longer believed that he could quietly wait in the shadows. Harry needed allies and he needed information. He needed a safe place to plan and operate from.
"Luna, do you know of a safe place that we can go to? I have to get information on what has been going on in this war and I need to know who the major players are. But for now we need to hide away."
"I know of a place, why don't you go over and collect all of our belongings while I create a portkey?"
As Harry walked off towards the packs Luna stood there with Erik. Quite casually she turned to face him and tossed the apple core in the air with an inscrutable look on her face.
"Such a simple thing to work its way into the fall of a man." And with that the apple core disappeared with a snap of Luna's fingers.
"Demon whore, only by the commands of my lord does such a hybrid abomination such as you survive in my presence." Erik strived to maintain himself in the presence of this otherworldly creature. He could smell the stench of the nether all over her and it put him on edge.
At that comment Luna inched closer to Erik until her face was only inches away from hers. He calmly glared down at her but she held his gaze with hers while she whispered:
"You are only half right in your summation and earn your title Erik Snotor, a clever man indeed. But you mistake yourself in believing that I am the one that survives by your lord's command. Rather it is you." And with that last comment Luna turned around and walked away. With a snap of her fingers Erik's conjured armour and weapons disappeared into the ether leaving him in his woolen clothes staring with loathing at her retreating figure.