A/N: Just a couple little comments in a general response to several of the reviews I received for the last chapter.
No, I am not planning on making this a crossover to Dresden or any other series. The Leanan Sidhe (or Leanansidhe) is not a Jim Butcher original character. I am not using Lea her but the traditional myth. That being said, there is a Dresden omake at the end of this chapter.
I found it interesting how many people immediately condemned Harry's friends for trying to prevent him from doing something they saw as incredibly risky. I don't see a true friend as someone that blindly accepts whatever their friend wants to do. Harry was going into a very risky situation and didn't think everything through. In many ways I see this scene as very similar to OotP when Hermione forced Harry to exhaust all of their options to contact Sirius before they left for the Ministry. In this case, Harry didn't look at other options. Now he has to face certain consequences.
This chapter did deviate a great deal from where I expected it to go towards the end. Warning, Harry's on an emotional rollercoaster and drops the F-bomb in the Great Hall.
A New Leash on Life
It almost worked.
Landing his broom and announcing, "We have a huge problem," distracted the assembled crowd … at least for a little while.
Harry related the news Sasha had provided. The awakening of the Unseelie due to Voldemort's ritual had caused all of the Purebloods in the room to go pale. The legends of the Fae were deeply rooted in the popular culture of the magical world. Where the mundane world had any of the same legends, the magical versions of those stories were more detailed since the magic was more understood. And while some of the Fae's weaker relatives and mixed breed types had remained in the human world, the modern Wizarding world had never faced the power of the true members of the Unseelie Court. There was also the fact that if the magical government had a problem accepting Harry's news of Voldemort's return even with evidence of his memories and the supposedly long dead Barty Crouch Jr's body, what was the likelihood of their acceptance based on the word of a basilisk?
The discussion turned to the possibility of the Unseelie Court supporting Voldemort, even superficially. Ron asked hopefully if that would bring the Seelie Court in on their side.
"I would not expect so," Dumbledore answered gently. "The Fae do not see reality as a human would. Their logic is not nearly the same. We may say, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend,' the Fae would not think the same. Supporting Tom may do nothing for the Unseelie's goals except provide a bit of fun. So the Seelie Court may just ignore our little war as they work towards their own goals."
The conversation continued for a bit longer until McGonagall ended it saying, "We can continue this in the morning when we are well rested and not standing in a girls' bathroom. Children, go to your dorms now." As he turned to leave, Harry supressed a smile for getting away without a lecture from the girls, Dumbledore or McGonagall over sneaking down to the Chamber.
Surprisingly, it was Sirius that brought Harry's hopes crashing down.
"Just a moment, professor," Sirius said. He turned and faced Harry. "While I agree that what you just told us was incredibly important, can I say also how incredibly stupid it was to go down there alone?" Sirius asked in a very calm voice that hid nothing about how angry the dog animagus really was.
"I had to go!" Harry protested. "Sasha wouldn't have talked to anyone else! I had to do something. I was the only one she would – or could – talk to!"
Sirius stepped up to stand a pace away from Harry. He looked Harry right in the eyes and said, "You are absolutely right. We needed her information and you were the only one on our side she could speak to." Harry started to feel a bit vindicated but then Sirius continued.
"However, nothing said you had to do it alone. That was your assumption. If something had happened down there, you would have had no back-up. We couldn't have opened the Chamber to help you even if we knew you needed help!
"You say Sasha wouldn't have talked with us in the Chamber. Did she tell you that?" In his shock, Harry could only twitch his head no. "So, you assumed it. Fine, let's assume that you were right and she wouldn't have talked with us there. What would have stopped you from taking a Crystal and a Portkey along so we could make sure you were safe? I could have waited at the bottom of the entrance with a silenced rooster to back you up if it had been a trap!
"Think about this. The basilisk has to feed. With her size, that means something substantial. We know she can move around the castle so it's not a stretch to think she hunts in the Forest. If she can get out and back that way, it is logical to say someone else, a certain parseltongue on the other side maybe, could get in that way. You could have walked merrily down there to find Voldemort and all his toadies waiting for you."
Harry was feeling a bit bewildered. He never been yelled at like this before. It was a strange experience. He'd been yelled at before, mostly by teachers or Petunia. But this was different. Sirius's words were calm and serious but it was easy to hear the emotion under them: fear, anger, and relief.
Sirius paused for a second to take a breath. No one said a word as they watched the former Azkaban captive and notorious prankster. Finally, in a calm, measured voice, the older wizard said, "Harry, I know you have never had anyone watching out for you before. And I know you are stupidly powerful for your age and even a bloody Alpha. You are even one of the most responsible and mature fifteen year-olds I have ever met. However, you cannot keep taking these stupid, Gryffindor risks! Use that brain you have and think! If you keep depending on luck and your gut to get you through everything then one day that luck will run out. Think about how I ended up being kept out of your life for eleven years. Do you want that?" Sirius maintained eye contact long enough for Harry to realize just how serious Sirius was. Harry nodded his understanding. Sirius returned the nod solemnly.
"Good. We'll talk about your punishment tomorrow once I've cooled off and the adrenalin from my fear is gone." With that, Sirius turned and walked to the door of the bathroom. However, he had one last thought before walking out followed by Remus who was smirking a bit.
"I swore to your parents that I would make sure you were raised right and had a good life. I failed them that night to keep that promise. Never again. I want Lily to know that. That way if you get yourself killed doing something stupid it will be you getting the rough side of her tongue for the next millennia and not me. Trust me, Lily makes you pay for your mistakes for a long time."
The room was silent for a bit. Harry glanced around and saw looks of smug satisfaction on Padma, Daphne, and Hermione's faces. Ron and Ernie just looked amused and glad it hadn't been them. Dumbledore did the twinkling eye thing, but it was McGonagall that caught Harry's attention. She looked … gratified.
When she noticed Harry's glance she stepped forward. In her brusque Scottish accent, she said, "It is nice to know that even the most undisciplined student can grow up and become a responsible adult. I don't know if it was that horrible place or marriage and parenthood that finally did it but it finally took hold. You, Mr Potter, should take note. You have a parent – or parents – now that love you. Mrs. Black was so upset at your disappearance Madam Pomfrey gave her a Calming Potion to prevent distress to her pregnancy." Harry couldn't help but wince at that.
The Transfiguration Professor continued, "You now have the parents which you should have had this whole time. That man would die for you without a moment's hesitation. How would you have felt if one of your family had gone off to do something dangerous and deliberately left you without a way to assist them? I believe Mr Black would have happily accepted another ten years in Azkaban then go through tonight again. And you put him, Remus, and all of your friends through that.
"Now, return to your dorm. I believe I will allow Mr and Mrs Black to determine your punishment." That sounded rather dire to Harry. "All of you, on your way now."
The girls left first but Padma first wrapped Harry into a fierce hug. Into his ear she whispered, "If you get yourself killed, I only hope your mum will leave me something to chew on when I finally get there." Then she was gone leaving Harry feeling the wet traces of her tears on his cheek.
"Come on, mate," Ron said as he clapped Harry on the shoulder. "It won't feel a bad in the morning."
"I don't know," Ernie disagreed. "That might just be the start of round two."
"I know," Ron agreed. "I thought Mum was bad, but Sirius was something else. She just yells. Sirius actually made sense. And then McGonagall on top of that! Plus the girls haven't really had their go at him yet."
Harry trailed along behind his friends as they discussed the night's events like spectators after a Quidditch match. He knew they were enjoying themselves at his expense. But he didn't really care.
Where most teenagers would have been furious at the dressing down he'd just received, he also realized Sirius was right. There were safer and better ways of handling going down to talk to Sasha. (Honestly, Harry never even thought of talking to Sirius about Sasha's invitation.) But that wasn't the key factor for Harry. For the first time, he'd been yelled at by a parent. Not by a teacher concerned only that he'd broken a rule or for being a 'freak' like with the Dursleys, but by a parent. Sirius's only concern was for Harry's safety and well-being.
It felt … nice.
The next morning was a Saturday and Harry woke to found an angry looking Hedwig perched on the end of his bed. Great, even his owl was angry at him. The white owl glared at him when he reached for the note attached to her leg. Once it was free, the owl launched herself into the air accidently bashing Harry in the head before flying out of the dorm.
Sure it was an accident.
Harry glanced at the note. It directed him to go directly to Professor McGonagall's office before breakfast. Harry groaned. Maybe he could go back to bed and pretend he hadn't seen the note. The thought of a punishment devised by Sirius was a bit scary. He glanced at the note again. There was a new note at the very bottom.
Now, Mr Potter.
With a wince Harry dragged himself out of bed, grabbed some clothes and walked into the showers.
Arriving at McGonagall's office he found the two Marauders along with Kalina holding Cassie. When Harry entered, Kalina immediately wrapped an arm around Harry in a hug that trapped a cooing Cassie in between them.
Then she smacked him in the head. Then hugged him again. Cassie started giggling.
"It's the hormones," Sirius confided to Remus.
"I can smack you too, honey," his wife offered without releasing Harry from her hug. When Sirius waved her off looking repentant, she released her hold on Harry but kept her free hand on his arm.
"Harry James Potter, you scared the hell out of us. That is not nice to do to a woman in my condition. But my loving husband has given me a gift to help me get over it. He gave your punishment to me." Seeing the evil smile on her face, Harry nervously glanced at Sirius. The traitor merely shrugged with a smirk.
"And what would that be?" Harry asked nervously.
"This weekend, you Mr Potter are all mine."
"What does that mean?" Kalina's smile grew. Harry started thinking about a show he'd once seen on Great White Sharks.
"We, Mr Potter, are going …. shopping. For two days you will be my pack mule at my beck and call. Plus you will be my dressing dummy; trying on anything I think would look cute on you.
That didn't sound too bad to Harry. It wasn't detention or getting grounded from his broom so it could be worse. Besides, Kalina was fun to be around. How bad could it be?
It was Hell.
Kalina and Fleur started in Harrods and moved out from there. The Blacks had learnt that their newest child would be a boy. So of course none of the perfectly good baby clothes and furniture would be appropriate. Harry pointed out that they were magical and colour changing charms were easy. The twin female glares he received told him to just shut up and carry their bags.
Next, the women decided to go shopping for themselves. They ran him ragged going from shop to shop with armloads of bags he wasn't allowed to shrink. But that wasn't too bad. What was worse were the fashion shows he was forced to sit through. One would think a teenage boy would be thrilled to watch a pair of the most attractive women anywhere parade around in new outfits for him. And it was great at first, but it also made him highly uncomfortable and embarrassed to be in the woman's sections of all these different shops. When Fleur mentioned in a few shops how Harry had 'volunteered' to be their bag carrier some of the older woman started cooing over how sweet he was and how they wanted to introduce their granddaughters to a sweet boy like Harry. When they decided to start hitting the lingerie shops, Harry was ready to die of embarrassment. (Although part of the problem was seeing some of the outfits and imagining Padma wearing them.)
Saturday night, Harry collapsed on his bed at the Marauder's Den completely exhausted. He didn't know what they had in store for him on Sunday but suspected it would be more of the same.
He was right but also he was oh so wrong. It was worse.
It had been a pleasant breakfast. Cassie was the centre of attention and loved every second of it. Sirius seemed to have gotten over his anger over Friday night's escapade. It was nice to be home and Harry was enjoying himself.
After breakfast, Dobby cleared the plates and Kalina announced the second day of Harry's punishment.
"We got a lot more done yesterday that I expected," she admitted. "Harry was great as our personal valet." She paused and winked at Harry. "And I'm sure he learnt all kinds of things about ladies fashion. But I actually nothing left to buy for me or the baby."
Harry felt a tremor of hope. (He should have learnt by now.)
"So, I decided on something different," Kalina added. "Oh, Dobby, can you please bring that pile in with you?" she requested.
Dobby appeared with a pile of Harry's clothes. Harry recognized the last of the clothes from the Dursleys (he'd never quite gotten around to burning them and they sat in a drawer), most of the clothes he'd bought the summer after his Third year, and a few newer things he'd bought himself.
Kalina said, "I had Dobby bring me all your things and I was simply appalled at some of the wretched clothes you have. Honestly Harry, for such a sweet and intelligent young man it showed no fashion sense. So today we are going to correct that. You have a hair appointment at noon and then Fleur and Tonks are meeting us to start correcting your wardrobe. We're going to have such a fabulous time!"
'Oh my God,' Harry thought, in too much shock to speak let alone yell, "No! I'm in an all new level of Hell!"
The girls had a wonderful time using Harry as their very own dress-up doll. They were on a quest to find 'his' style and seemed to be using a shotgun approach – throw everything at him and see what sticks. Everything from shirts to trousers to belts to boxers; nothing was off limits. They hired three young women who were 'professional shoppers'. Their shoppers would go off to collect various outfits and bring them back. Kalina, Tonks, and Fleur sat sipping wine while Harry was forced to carry out a one man fashion show. To make matters worse, Tonks had brought along her camera for future blackmail purposes.
"Think how much your fan-club will pay for some of these," she quipped after taking a photo when Harry was trying one particularly form-fitting pair of bathing trunks.
"Think how much Harry will pay to keep them from getting it," Fleur responded with a giggle.
"Three evil witches," Harry muttered as he turned back to the changing room.
Finally, his time in Hell was done. Not because the ladies were tired of shopping, but simply because the stores were closing. Kalina paid off Harry's new clothes. Harry had to carry the bags but as soon as they were out of sight she called Dobby to take the clothes back to Hogwarts. Harry handed them over with a sigh of relief. He did however catch the amused look on his elf friend's face. After that, it was a quick cab ride through London to the Marauders' Den
When Kalina finally walked Harry to their Floo to return to Hogwarts, she wrapped him into a fierce hug. Then, gripping his shoulders she said, "As bad as this weekend was for you, so was our Friday night. If you ever do that to me again, Harry James Potter, we will find out if you can outrun a fireball." Another hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Now get back to school, scamp."
In spite of himself, Harry entered the Floo with a smile.
It was an angry Harry Potter that wandered back into the Gryffindor tower that evening. It had only taken the short walk from McGonagall's office to the tower to destroy his good mood after leaving Kalina.
After his shopping punishment and Kalina's final words he was a bit at a loss. He still felt it was important to talk to Sasha but maybe Sirius had a point too. The Bulgarian Veela was the closest thing to a mother he'd ever had since he was eighteen months old. Her hug good-bye really brought into focus what the crazy cheerleader had come to mean to him.
Harry was so distracted by his thoughts that at first he missed the signs of an additional Auror presence. But once he did, he turned to Professor McGonagall and asked what was going on. His Head of House looked grim at the question.
"Professor Dumbledore took your warning seriously. He put in a request to the Aurors for a sweep of the school on Friday after your return. We had no response until Ms Grimsly, a First Year Slytherin, turned up missing at lunch. Ms Grimsly at breakfast and then went to the library with two of her roommates. When it was time for lunch, they were unable to locate her. Mr Grimsly holds a Wizengamot seat and a sometime ally of the elder Mr Malfoy so we had Aurors here almost immediately."
"Did they find any sign of her?" Harry asked.
"Could someone be hiding her to make Professor Dumbledore look bad?" Harry asked. "It wouldn't be too different from what Malfoy tried my Second year." McGonagall pursed her lips at that thought before shaking her head.
"I taught both of Ms Grimsly's parents. Her mother was a Hufflepuff while her father was in Slytherin. I saw the panic on their faces last night and this morning. If this is a setup, I honestly doubt either parent is aware of it.
Harry thought about that as they walked. He didn't really have a problem with most of the Slytherins but the girl was only a First year. It's not like she could have offended anyone that badly yet.
"At least they can't blame me, I wasn't even here," Harry muttered. He heard McGonagall scoff and looked up and saw an odd expression on her face.
"They tried to didn't they?" he half-asked. The Transfiguration professor's expression answered the question. Harry started to feel angry and the Beast started to growl in the back of his mind. Everything he'd ever done was to protect people and stop Riddle and how was he thanked? Suspicion and glares. Even before the existence of the Beast was made public and gave them at least some reason to be fearful they had hated him. No … they hated Harry Potter while still dreaming of their Boy-Who-Lived.
One part of Harry said he should just leave. The Packs would take him in if he decided to stay in Britain. Or they could help him get setup somewhere else. But the rational part of his mind knew that Riddle and the Death Eaters would target Harry's family, his friends, and their families just for being close to Harry.
The wolves were right.
The Pack was the only thing that truly mattered. He would protect his Pack from their enemies and if some of other predators took down some of the herd – well that was their problem.
As Harry climbed through the entrance to the Gryffindor tower, all conversation in the common room came to a stop. His friends, including Daphne, Ernie, and Padma were in their regular places on the couches near the fire and were looking at Harry expectantly. Most of the other Gryffindors were there also.
The rest of the Fifth years were clumped together in a corner near a large tinted window of a griffin while Dean painted yet another picture of his girlfriend who was seated on the sill of the window. But what caught Harry's attention was the fact that although it was dark outside, sunlight was streaming through the window to highlight the girl. It was an impressive use of a Light Charm. Parvati sat on the floor at the feet of her current boyfriend, Jason Moon, a Sixth year, her arms wrapped around his legs while chatting happily with her ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend. Moon was a great musician and had his guitar in his lap. It boggled Harry's mind how the twin girls could be so different. That whole group, with the exception of Neville who was dating Sue Bones, seemed to trade significant others like chocolate frog cards.
Of course Fred, George and three Gryffindor Chaser girls sat near them and were probably been involved in one of their weird five-way flirt sessions. Rumour had it the five had been caught in a naked pile in the Gryffindor locker room the week before. Harry wouldn't be surprised but he almost wished he was naïve enough to miss their innuendos during practice. At least he could fly off alone 'looking' for the snitch. Ron had to sit in his rings and listen to it all practice.
Yes, the hormones were high in Gryffindor tower, but all that stopped when they saw Harry enter the room.
"As you were," Harry said with an absent wave. The sarcasm went right past most of them. He made his way over to his normal spot. Padma rose up to greet him with a firm hug and a quick kiss.
"I'm glad you're back," she murmured in his ear. "I missed out on my fun the last two days you were gone." The Ravenclaw witch then settled him in his spot and then snuggled up onto his lap. Whether he wanted to or not, Harry felt some of his anger dissipate. It really is hard to remain furious with a beautiful young lady cuddling into you.
"How bad was it, mate?" Ron asked in a careful voice. "Was it 'orrible?"
"Cause you looked ready to rip someone's head off when you came in," Ernie added. "I was about to go looking for Malfoy." Hermione elbowed her boyfriend for his lack of tact.
"That is the type of comment I would expect from Ronald," she commented in his ear.
Apparently Ron heard her because he said, "Maybe but Daphne cuts me off if I do." Hermione blushed at both the images and getting caught.
"You mean for a comment like that?" the blonde Slytherin purred. That got a laugh out of the whole group. Harry recognized what they were doing. He appreciated everything his friends did to keep him grounded.
After the laughter died down, Harry said, "To answer the question, the last two days were bad. Sirius gave my punishment to Kalina. She made me go shopping for two whole days."
"I noticed the new clothes when you came in," Padma said. She ran her hands up through Harry's hair sending a shiver down his spine. "The haircut is kind of sexy too."
"Shopping doesn't sound too bad," Ernie ventured.
"Two days of shopping with Kalina, Fleur, and sometimes Tonks for baby and maternity clothes the first day and me on the second. I was their bloody Ken doll!" The girls started to giggle while the guys winced in sympathy.
"Is that why you were scowling when you came in?" Daphne asked. "That look was rather Snape-ish." Harry's good mode instantly vanished.
"No, McGonagall told me about that First year witch disappearing and how even though I wasn't even in the bloody school people still want to blame me."
Padma did her best to calm him. "We know. They are idiots and they are scared idiots. Even when Dumbledore told them you left the school before breakfast the Aurors still searched your room. They will probably come talk to you tomorrow but we can prove that you weren't here. Shopping in Muggle London, there were probably dozens of witnesses that saw you there."
"I guess," Harry grumped. He was still furious but Padma was right, it wasn't worth letting the mindless herd see it. He looked over at Hermione.
"So, what did you find out about our newest problem?" he asked.
Hermione's face made a little moue of disappointment. "The library doesn't have much in the way of good information on the Fae of either Court. A lot of it is various myths and legends. Since the Celts consisted of numerous tribes, they gave different names to the creatures and sometimes the names were switched. It makes it very difficult to lock down."
"Tell me what you do know."
Hermione frowned. "Most of the Fairies we are familiar with are known as Wylde Fae. The means they aren't really aligned with either court although they would lean towards one or the other. Most of these are harmless like the fairies used on Christmas trees (which were of course taken from a Druidic tradition) to the more dangerous like banshees. Now from what you said, the basilisk mentioned two types of Unseelie specifically; the Leanan Sidhe and the Bendith.
"According to Tobren's Supernatural Guide, the Bendith were found primarily in western England and Wales. There were some claims that they were actually the blend of fairy and goblin but there is no proof of that. There were known for kidnapping children. Most were never seen again but the legends said the few recovered only ever remembered hearing music. Sometimes the stolen child was replaced with a duplicate called a crimbil for a short time. It was believed this was to give the kidnappers time to make their escape.
"So, that is probably what happened to Melissa Turnings," Ernie added. "I wouldn't be too surprised if it happened to Hildy Grimsly too."
"Then there goes my alibi," Harry said with a frown. "She could have been taken and the replacement – the crimbil – failed because I wasn't here to renew it."
"That does follow logically," Daphne acknowledged with a frown. "Circumstantially, it probably makes you a bigger suspect since you were the only student not in the school this weekend."
"This gets better and better," Harry said with a sigh. "Think I can transfer schools?" he asked somewhat flippantly. "We could all go. I hear the Amazon School of Magic is supposed to be really good and way out in the middle of the rainforest. The Sasquatch School is up somewhere in the British Colombia Rocky Mountains. Probably no fairies or sheep in either of those schools." Harry's friends laughed uncomfortably because they could see he was more than half serious.
"What about the other creature Harry mentioned?" Ron asked.
"The Leanan Sidhe?" Hermione said. "Some legends say it was one powerful Fairy; others say it was a sub-type like banshees or red caps. They are kind of like vampires in they need the blood of their victims, but they don't drink it directly but prepare it in a large cauldron. Then they bath in it to absorb their victim's power and maintain their beauty. I found one source that said they are actually undead and could be stopped by piling stones as a cairn on top of their grave. Most of the legends agree the Leanan Sidhe are attracted to great artists and serve as their muses. They, or she, would inspire their talents to a high point and then leave them causing the artist to die of a broken heart. That's when they take the bodies and use the blood in their ritual."
"So someone like Dean over there would be a prime target?" Ron asked looking over towards their artist friend.
"Or Woodling in Slytherin," Ernie offered. "He does watercolours down by the lake."
"Possibly," Hermione allowed. "But Mackenzie has been here for six year and that ritual was only a few months ago so he's probably safe if he stays with her. But by artist it could be a musician like Moon, or even someone that uses magic 'artistically'. I suspect it is more the mental activity they are attracted to then any particular medium."
"I'm fairly sure Moon is safe too," Padma quipped. "My sister may drain the life out of him but she'll do it the old fashioned way."
"Marriage?" Harry asked innocently. That earned him a couple slaps from Padma and a few thrown pillows from Daphne and Hermione while the guys laughed. They were all grateful for the levity though.
A short time later the group broke up. Daphne and Padma roomed in with Hermione and the Fifth year Gryffindor girls since it wasn't safe to be walking the Hogwarts halls at night.
Daphne was right in that the next morning a pair of Auror investigators stopped Harry to ask him some questions. The one tried to grill Harry for answers while his partner stood back with his wand held at the ready by his side. Obviously they had seen the replay of the fight in Diagon Alley.
In the end, they let him continue on to the Great Hall for breakfast with a warning they would be watching him. Harry shrugged. He'd expected it. It wasn't like they hadn't already been watching him since he returned to school. He started to walk away, but then stopped and turned back.
"Let me ask this, if the school is so dangerous that we need a constant Auror presence, why not just close it and send us all home?"
"Is that what you want?" the lead investigator asked suspiciously. "Do you want Hogwarts empty?"
'Dear Merlin,' Harry thought, 'Moody must have trained this one!' Harry turned and left without dignifying the question with an answer. His blood was boiling and he could feel the Beast wanting to rage. It didn't help that his human side wanted to whip out his wand and start cursing all of them
When Harry entered the Great Hall, it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
All of the conversation instantly stopped as people turned to glare at Harry with suspicious eyes. Harry ignored them and walked to the Gryffindor table where his friends were waiting.
"What did you do to Hildy?!" The question was shouted from the Slytherin table. Harry turned to see an older Slytherin wizard standing with his wand drawn. "Where is she, you bastard!"
"I had nothing to do with it," Harry responded in an icy voice. "I wouldn't even know the girl if she stood in front of me."
"Right, Potter," the wizard responded sarcastically. "And where were you all weekend? Learning more Dark Arts?" That got a murmur of agreement.
"Yes, you pathetic excuse for a wizard," Harry hissed. "I was in London learning the Darkest of Arts … clothes shopping!" That actually got a giggle from a few girls including Padma and Hermione.
Harry pulled out his wand causing a number of the students to shrink back. Harry didn't realize it but his control over the glow of his eyes was now completely gone. The unmasked glare of the Beast, an apex predator, increased their level of fear a whole order of magnitude. It even froze many of the professors in their chairs.
"I swear on my magic that I had nothing to do with either of the missing girls and have shared every pertinent fact I am aware of with Professor Dumbledore." Harry wand pulsed sealing his oath. But Harry wasn't done.
"I am tired of all of you. With the exception of my friends, all of you have gossiped and slandered me since I have arrived in the Wizarding World. Well, fuck you all." A gasp went through the crowd as they had never heard Harry use that kind of language before.
"I have never done anything to earn your hatred, scorn, or suspicion. Tell me one person I've attacked or harmed that hasn't attacked me first? You call me 'Grey' because I killed men trying to kill me and who killed twelve innocent people. You call me 'hero' for killing the man that killed my parents. Hypocrites! You celebrate Halloween as the day I defeated Voldemort – well I mourn it as the day I lost my parents! Hey Sue, your parents were burned alive in their house a few weeks before mine were killed. How about in a few weeks we have a marshmallow roast to commemorate! We can make S'mores! I know, we'll invite the rest of your Ministry boot-lickers as well; pour some sand on the beach of the lake for you all to stick your head in!"
The red-headed Hufflefuff looked shocked and angry at Harry's shots at her. Neville didn't look any happier. But Harry wasn't done yet.
"And as for McLaggen, Grayson, Parkinson, Corner and the rest of Tommy's arseboys, pay attention. You've seen what I do to people that attack me and mine. I swear to God I will make what I did in the Alley look like love taps in comparison if you touch one of my friends or family.
"So fine, you don't want my help? You don't trust me? Then I am out. I will defend my Pack and leave the rest of you to the predators that are out there. The last war with Voldemort killed more purebloods than half-bloods or First Generations. He probably killed more of his own Death Eaters than the Ministry ever managed! Now we've got something else hunting us; something that could potentially make Voldemort look like a 'muggle-baiter' in comparison. So good luck with that, sheep!"
With that final shot, Harry turned and left the Great Hall. The whole room was silent save for the sound of the echoing of great doors slamming shut. The persisted for ten seconds before Padma was out of her seat and running after Harry. A heart beat later, Hermione, Daphne, Ron, and Ernie followed her out. The entire school watched them leave.
As soon as the door swung shut again, a voice was heard.
"May I ask what in Merlin's name just happened in here?"
As one the student body and the teachers at the head table turned to the side entrance where McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape had just entered. The Gryffindor Head's lips were pushed together so hard they were white. The anger and disapproval were easy to see. Dumbledore looked like someone had just kicked a puppy. Snape just sneered.
"I will have an answer to my question," McGonagall demanded resembling a lion much more than a house cat.
Harry stormed out the Great Hall. The rational part of his mind knew he'd lost his temper. The stupid comment from that Slytherin arse wasn't worth his level of response. But it was everything since his return twelve hours ago – the scorn, accusations, and mistrust – he was past his limit. The two days away from Hogwarts made the cloud he'd been living under all too clear.
"Dobby," he called. In a pop the little elf appeared.
"Harry Potter sir call his Dobby?" the elf asked. Surprisingly, Dobby looked angry. Dobby must have caught his glance because he volunteered, "Dobby see what happen in Great Hall. Thems deserve all great Harry Potter say to them." The elf's loyalty almost made Harry smile.
"I need somewhere to go, Dobby," Harry said. "Somewhere they won't find me and I can release this anger without hurting anyone. I need some time."
Dobby looked excited. "Dobby know! The Come-and-Go Room! It gives what one needs!" Dobby grabbed Harry's hand and blinked away.
A second later, the doors to the Great Hall opened again as Harry's friends ran out but Harry was no longer in sight.
Dobby and Harry appeared in a distant part of the castle. Harry looked around and recognized some of the tapestries as being in the seventh floor hall. There wasn't much up here except for some unused classrooms and offices. Even students looking for a place to snog didn't come up here much it was so far out of the way. Still, if they searched the school there weren't any good places to hide on this floor. He said as much to Dobby.
"No, Harry Potter. The entrance to the Come-and-Go Room is secret! You must pass by here three times thinking about what you need and the door will appear."
Following the elf's direction, Harry walked up and down the hall thinking about what he really needed. And as he passed the third time the door appeared as promised.
With a smile at Dobby, Harry opened the door and was stunned.
The room contained an entire forest! He could smell it and hear the birds. A small path lead from the door into the forest. Harry stepped into the room and the door closed behind him and disappeared. He was shocked that he was now standing in the middle of a forest with no idea where he was. Tentatively he put a hand out and the door reappeared when he touched it. When he took his hand away the door disappeared again.
"It's a holodeck," Harry said in a shocked tone.
He moved a rock onto the path near the door to mark the exit before proceeding down the path. Just out of sight from the door he found a small cottage. A quick investigation showed it was fully stocked with food and a neat bed that looked rather comfortable. One wall also contained a book shelf filled with tomes on many magical subjects. Harry briefly looked through the book titles and was impressed. But his surprise was waning and he had a need to take care of before he could look at the books. But he did have to do one thing first.
"Could I make a mirror call, please?" he called out. A nearby wall rippled and a mirror appeared. He walked up to it. It seemed to be a standard model.
"Sirius Black," he said. Ten seconds later, Sirius appeared on the mirror with a grinning face.
"Hey, furball! How was the …." Sirius stopped and his face lost the humour. "What's wrong?"
"Yah, things here have gone to shite," Harry started. He quickly brought Sirius up to date on all that had occurred since Harry's return to Hogwarts.
"I had to get away before I killed someone, Padfoot. Bad as the shopping was, I think coming back here made me realize how much pressure I was under. I need to let loose but I didn't want you to worry when Dumbledore calls you." Sirius nodded his tanks but he looked worried.
"I had enough shopping," Harry adds with a vain attempt at a smile.
"Where are you?"
"Some place safe," Harry answered. "Dobby brought me here." Sirius nodded. He knew better than anyone how devoted the elf was to Harry. Dobby wouldn't take Harry anywhere that wasn't safe.
"Work it out and then call me," the Marauder instructed his godson. "I'll let your friends know and stonewall Dumbledore. Any ideas on the fairies?"
"A couple odd scents but nothing else. Too busy dealing with the idiocy that infects the castle."
Sirius smiled a bit. "Okay. Have a good run. Thanks for checking in."
"Thanks, Sirius." Harry ended the call.
Ten seconds later, the Beast suddenly surged out of the neat cottage with a roar that startled the nearby animals. Whether this was real or merely a simulation, the animals knew that something was on the hunt.
Harry enjoyed walking the halls of Hogwarts by night. The school had a stillness and quiet that he found relaxing. With the danger of the Unseelie in the school it might not have been the smartest thing to do but Harry needed some alone time with his thoughts. But just in case he had his wand ready.
Approaching the door of an unused classroom, Harry heard a small voice issue a command.
"Get that wall in place!" the voice ordered. "We must defend this place until we can return to the Za-Lord!"
"The Za-Lord!" a chorus of voices cheered in response.
Harry was a bit surprised and a little confused by the voices and the cheers. On an impulse, he stopped at the door and slowly pushed it open.
"Hello?" he called in.
"An intruder!" the commanding little voice cried. "Prepare to defend our space!"
"Hoo-hah!" the chorus cheered.
"Easy," Harry said, "I was just curious what is going on in here."
"Advance and be recognized!" came the order.
Harry pushed the door open and was met by a bizarre sight. A large round table was positioned ten feet into the room. It looked as though it had been anchored down and reinforced to the point Harry doubted Hagrid could be able to move it. On top of the table, walls had been created out of stone. In fact, it was an almost perfect replica of Hogwarts except for some modifications that even to Harry's unpractised eye made it look more defensible. But the truly bizarre sight was the small, 4-6 inch tall, winged guardians that stood guard on the table. They were definitely fairies but wore bits of cast of armour and tiny weapons in their hands. Most of them were box cutters but a few looked like cooking skewers.
"What's going on in here?" Harry asked.
"We are preparing to defend ourselves until we can return home to the Za-Lord!" the leader of the small Fairies announced. Harry assumed this Za-Lord was a major Fairy that these little ones reported to.
"What do you mean get home?" Harry asked.
"We didn't want to come here; we just got sucked along. We're Winter because the Za-Lord is but most of them aren't much fun," the spokes-Fairy answered.
"And they don't have pizza!" another voice announced. This led to another round of cheering by the assembled Fairies. Harry had to smile because they reminded him of the house elves.
"So, you like pizza?" Harry asked. "Dobby?"
The elf appeared in a blink. "Master Harry Potter call his Dobby?"
"An elf! Prepare to defend our castle!"
Dobby whirled to see them miniature Hogwarts and its Fae defenders. "Harry Potter, sir! Get away from the Fairies! Dobby will delay them!" The Fairies started to swarm and Harry recognized the danger.
"No! It's okay!" Harry shouted. "Dobby, will you please bring us a pizza?" That settled the Fairies and Dobby looked up at Harry in astonishment.
"Harry Potter, sir, wants pizza now?" he asked.
"Yes, please Dobby."
Dobby blinked away only to return five seconds later. "Here is pizza, Harry Potter sir!"
Harry took the pizza saying, "Thanks, Dobby." He turned and placed the box on the floor in front of the table. "Here you go." Then he flipped the lid open.
The Fairies swarmed up and prepared to dive on the pizza. But they paused.
"Why is it flat?" came a question. And, "Why is it round?" "Who destroyed the pizza?"
Harry was a bit bemused. The pizza looked fine to him. "What kind of pizza are you used to?"
"Deep-dish! Meat Lovers! Deep Dish!" they chorused.
"Ah, I don't know that we have that here," Harry said. "I can take this back…"
"No!" the lead Fairy shouted. "Charge!" And the cloud of Fairies dove on the pizza. It was like something out of a sci-fi movie as the cloud rapidly consumed the pizza in lots of little bites. Once it was gone, the cloud moved back to their table fortress.
"Not bad, pizza-man," the leader announced. "It needs better crust though. I am Major General Toot-toot of the Za-Lord's Guards! And who are you?"
Harry grinned. "My name is Harry. Nice to meet you!" The Fairies looked up at him in shock.
"Are you a wizard?" Toot-toot asked curiously.
"Yes," Harry admitted, "but I am still in school."
"It's a mini-Za-Lord!" Toot-toot proclaimed. "That must be why we are here! We must defend the mini-Za-Lord!" Shouts and cheers filled the room. It was like a whole swarm of Dobbies.
Harry could only look on in bewilderment. Why did he think his life had just gotten even more complicated?
Dresden lives in Chicago; of course he was giving the Toot-took and company deep dish pizza!