Harry Potter and the Unexpected Powers
Disclaimer: I don't own any characters, places, objects etc. associated with Harry Potter! They all belong exclusively to the brilliant JK Rowling. I do own the plot and Rhianna Lupin as well as certain other minor characters.
A/N: Yes, I know, after all this time- here's the new chapter! I apologize for the long wait (more detailed info can be found at my Yahoo!group, the link is on my profile page). Hopefully, I'll be able to write faster in the future! And now, without anymore rambling on my part, on with the story!
This is an unbetaed version. The betaed chapter will be up as soon as my beta reader finds the time to check it over.
The Last Weeks of Holiday
"No, no, no, Harry! You're still doing it wrong!"
Harry gritted his teeth as he wiped the sweat from his brow. He loved his godfather, he really did, but right now, he felt an almost insurmountable urge to strangle him.
"What?" he ground out. "What's wrong now?"
They had been at it for almost two hours. After the stressful weekend of his birthday, his first fight with Sirius, getting to know Rhianna Lupin, being confined to his room for the majority of the day and finally a gruesome Quidditch session, Harry could really have used some rest… alas, it was not to be. After having shown his Mum's letter to Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster had decided that Harry was in need of immediate, thorough training. So thorough, in fact, that Harry could feel his muscles aching in places where he hadn't even known he had any.
It had been a week since the fiasco involving the Forbidden Forest and the start of Harry's training, and Harry's new Professors still weren't willing to let up a little. At the moment, Harry was attending another fruitless lesson with Professor Sirius Black, who was supposed to teach Harry all there was to know about Mind Magic.
Harry's task was to move a small Sickle Sirius had placed in front of him- with his thoughts. Harry would have been able to move the Sickle quite effortlessly with his hands. He would have been able to move it with a normal spell, too. Even Harry's wandless magic was coming along nicely and wouldn't have posed a problem… but Harry was not allowed to point his hand at the Sickle. His hands were, to 'stave off temptation', tied behind his back quite firmly.
This fact alone was almost enough to cause a panic attack for Harry. He hated being restricted in any way, as it reminded him uncomfortably of his time spent with the Dursleys.
"Concentrate, Harry!" Sirius cried jovially. "Come on, kid, it's not that hard. You just concentrate on the Sickle and make it move with your thoughts, go on! Intent is enough, Harry. You were doing fine with the feather, a Sickle isn't that much heavier. It's really quite simple, Harry, just concentrate hard and-"
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK I'M DOING!" Harry exploded finally. "IT'S ALWAYS 'CONCENTRATE, HARRY! CONCENTRATE!' YOU'D THINK I WAS DOING ANYTHING BUT THE WAY YOU'RE GOING ON ABOUT IT, SIRIUS! I AM CONCENTRATING! I AM! IT'S JUST NOT WORKING!"
Sirius was staring at him in shock. "Harry," he said in a completely baffled voice that only served to rile Harry up even more. "If you needed a break, you could have said so! I didn't think these lessons were tiring you out so much…"
Harry counted backwards from ten. "Sirius," he said very calmly, "Release me. Now."
Sirius flicked his wand obediently and Harry got up, massaging his wrists where he had pressed them into his bonds in frustration.
"You can take a small break, Harry," Sirius smiled, putting his wand away. "That's fine. Go walk around the lake for a few minutes or get yourself a snack from the kitchens. We're not done for the day, though."
Harry whipped out his own wand, pointed it at the Sickle and made it explode with a small, well-practiced flick. He ignored the renewed gaping expression on his godfather's face and turned on his heels.
"No, Sirius. We are done."
Harry was still fuming when he reached his portrait hole a few minutes later. He ignored the young Merlin's demands for his password and just snapped his hand to the left, causing the portrait to fly open with an indignant squawk.
He threw himself down on his bed and breathed in the fresh, clean scent for a moment, allowing the familiarity to comfort him.
"Rough day?" Harry raised his head and turned around. Rhianna, who had been unceremoniously sorted into Ravenclaw the morning after her and Harry's birthday, was sitting in a chair in the opposite corner of the room with an enormous book propped on her knees, eyeing him with a mixture of curiosity and amusement.
Harry snorted and propped his head up on an elbow. Over the past week, he and Rhianna had become quite close. It might have to do with the fact that they were the only teenagers in the castle, or that they had hit it off right from the start, or that they were both Marauders' children and felt connected by their parents' past, but most of the professors already viewed them as inseparable… unless Harry had to go to one of his frequent lessons, that is.
"I thought you wouldn't be done for another hour, actually," Rhianna continued happily, "All the better for me. It really does get quite boring, reading all day, since Dad's always on 'business' for the Order."
Harry snorted derisively. "You've no idea," he mumbled into his pillow. "Sirius managed to make me explode again. I walked out on him."
"Ah," Rhianna said sympathetically, "One of those days. What did he try to make you do this time? Levitate the castle wandlessly? Conjure up a storm big enough to destroy the Quidditch Pitch?"
Harry grinned despite himself. Rhianna always managed to make him laugh, and a few of Sirius's more ridiculous tasks really had come quite close to her descriptions. "He wanted me to move a Sickle with my thoughts."
Rhianna raised an eyebrow. "That sounds- well- almost manageable, Harry," she commented cautiously, apparently not wanting to be on the receiving end of one of Harry's infamous tempers. They had been increasing in frequency over the past week, the harsher the demands Harry's professors placed on him became.
Harry raked a hand through his hair. "I know," he ground out, "I know. I did fine when it came to moving the feather. I had no problems with the piece of parchment, the button and the Knut. But this… this is just… I don't know!"
Harry turned to look out of the window moodily. "It shouldn't be so hard," he conceded. "Sirius isn't really pushing me to my limits right now. I've had to perform more difficult tasks over this past week, tasks requiring more concentration and magic. I've no idea why this is just… impossible!"
"You're overtired," Rhianna observed as she put her book aside carefully and joined Harry on the bed. "They're wearing you out. You should really try talking to them, Harry. I'm sure my Dad would love to listen. Training is one thing, but this can't be healthy."
Harry shrugged listlessly, knowing that she was probably right.
"It's just," he mumbled miserably, "that I feel like I'm letting them down. I'm supposed to be the strongest wizard of all times! I'm supposed to be powerful enough to defeat Voldemort, damnit! And I can't even manage to Levitate a Sickle with my mind…"
"Well, Voldemort isn't a Sickle, and you won't defeat him by Levitating a Sickle in front of him," Rhianna said dismissively. "Don't worry so much, Harry. You'll do fine when the time comes. You just need to relax a little right now."
Harry sighed and crossed his arms behind his head. "I can't. I have to finish reading that book on Fire Magic Minerva assigned me tonight."
Rhianna huffed impatiently. "Can't you do that tomorrow? I thought you only had lessons in Elemental Magic every three days, and your last lesson was yesterday. You shouldn't have another lesson tomorrow and I know you're almost done reading. Just postpone it a little!"
"Can't," Harry grumbled. "Quidditch."
The next morning, the first thing Harry noticed upon entering the Great Hall were excited mutterings all around the staff table. He walked up to his usual seat, this time between Sirius and Remus, and helped himself to some toast and marmalade.
"What's up?" he asked the two men after exchanging 'good mornings' with them.
"The inquiries from the ministry have been completed," Sirius muttered, "the ones about the Deatheaters you named at my trial. Malfoy, Nott, Crabbe, Goyle, Avery, Macnair… their houses have been searched and their arms checked for the dark mark; then they were questioned under Veritaserum. They were sentenced to Azkaban, though it was kept under wraps. Malfoy has a lot of friends in high places."
By that night, Harry was completely worn out. John Skillridge, the coach, had really put them through their paces. They had started off by running fifteen laps around the Quidditch Pitch and then proceeded to a kind of physical exercise obstacle course Mr Skillridge had conjured for them. It had reminded Harry a little of a muggle film he had watched once about the muggle army. In the beginning, Harry had thought that their task was fun, yet after being forced to go through it again and again and again… Harry didn't think he had ever felt so tired and sore.
His small height and young age had proven to be a huge disadvantage that day, making Harry feel very uncertain about the decision he had made. Should he have refused Mr Skillridge's offer? Was he really up to professional Quidditch training and school, along with the extracurricular training he needed to gain control of his powers?
Self doubts gnawed at Harry's insides and no amount of persuasion from Rhianna's side would make them recede. It didn't help that the date of his first ever international Quidditch match was looming closer every day and that he was going to have to play against Victor Krum, of all people.
That night, Harry fell asleep with uneasiness churning in his stomach…
"Rodolphus," Voldemort hissed, "What have you to report about the werewolves?"
The black heap in front of Voldemort quivered pitifully.
"My Lord," Lestrange trembled, "I have news, yet they are not good ones…"
There was a brief, deadly silence. The flickering torchlight cast eerie shadows along the walls and made the Deatheaters' white, skull-like masks stand out in stark relief.
"What are you saying, Lestrange?" Fury had entered Voldemort's voice and the long, pale fingers clutched his wand more tightly. "Are you telling me that you have…failed?"
"My Lord," Lestrange gasped, "I am truly sorry… I beg your forgiveness, My Lord… Dumbledore got to them first, he used his pet werewolf as a messenger-"
"Crucio!" Voldemort bellowed angrily. "Rodolphus, you fool! Dumbledore's forces are doubling every day, and you lose me some of my most powerful allies? I do not tolerate failure! Crucio!"
Lestrange let out a loud howl as the second curse hit him. Voldemort regarded him indifferently.
"Something must happen… something must be done, soon… I can't allow the Light Side to take over like this… maybe it is time for a little reminder… it seems they have forgotten who Lord Voldemort is…"
Insane laughter echoed through the room as Harry's awareness spiralled away from the snake-like man on the throne and his writhing, screaming servant.
Harry jerked awake, his heart pounding wildly. The laughter still rang inside his head and his head throbbed a little from the pain of that second Cruciatus Curse. Harry rubbed his scar absent-mindedly. It hurt less than Harry would have expected, especially considering that Lestrange had just been hit with two simultaneous curses. Harry had hardly felt the first one, and even the second one had left him astonishingly alert.
The portrait hole opened quickly and Harry looked up, watching as his godfather entered the room and crossed it to sit on the bed next to Harry.
"Are you all right?" Sirius asked worriedly, searching Harry's face with his eyes. "Is your head hurting? Your scar is not bleeding this time, is it?"
"I'm fine," Harry smiled a little. It was nice to know that Sirius cared. "So, um, you all saw that dream?"
"Of course," said Sirius. "It was Voldemort-related. I noticed that the pain from the curses wasn't as intense this time."
"Yeah," Harry agreed, leaning on Sirius cautiously as he sat back against the headboard next to Harry. "Maybe our connection has weakened, now that I've got my powers?"
Sirius nodded absent-mindedly. "Most likely. Dumbledore did say that Voldemort wouldn't be able to send you visions anymore after your birthday. You're more powerful than him now, Harry, don't forget that. Even though you cannot access most of your powers yet."
Harry heaved an annoyed sigh.
"Any ideas why you had such trouble with that spell tonight?" Sirius asked carefully. He sounded almost wary and Harry felt a little guilty for exploding into Sirius's face like he had.
"Rhianna thinks you're overtaxing me," he mumbled with a shrug. "I dunno, really. I guess I have been very tired lately, what with Quidditch practices and all."
Sirius frowned. "She's right, of course. We have been placing a terrible amount of pressure on you this past week. But you must understand that you are very vulnerable right now, Harry. Your powers have been unlocked, yet you have no idea how to use them. Your mind and body are still dealing with the power surge you received, which is another reason why you have been feeling so tired and irritable lately. Your subconscious mind recognises your weakness and your proneness to manipulation."
Harry frowned. "Proneness to manipulation? What is that supposed to mean?" It was definitely a new one. Sirius was silent for a while, frowning darkly at the stag that chose this particular moment to sick its head through the wall and nip Sirius's robes.
"Albus was against telling you this, so bear with me, please, and don't let on immediately that you know. However, I think it is necessary for you to understand why your training is essential right now, so listen carefully."
Sirius's voice was quiet and intense as his hands grabbed Harry's urgently. "Should you fall into the enemy's hands right now, the consequences might be dire. As your mind struggles to get a hold of your new magic, its defences have weakened considerably. Were Voldemort to attack you now, he would not have a hard time converting you to his side. Do you understand now why we have been pushing you so hard, Harry? Using these powers will help you adjust to them. And that you adjust is crucial, for both your sake and the sake of the wizarding world."
Harry shivered. "Do you think I made a mistake, accepting Mr Skillridge's offer?" He asked quietly, not liking how small his voice sounded. "Am I placing myself in harm's way unnecessarily? Am I risking the fate of the wizarding world?"
"Who told you that?" Sirius seemed honestly upset. "Harry, you have every right in the world to have fun. Quidditch is something you like and you're good at… of course you made the right choice!"
Harry averted his eyes.
"Harry, did something happen today at Quidditch practice? Did one of the other players say something to you?"
"No," Harry sighed, "It's stupid. We had an obstacle course tonight, that's all. It was just hard."
Sirius sighed as well and raked a hand through his hair. "Harry. Of course you will have trouble keeping up with the other players in physical exercise. You're only fifteen, after all, and probably a good bit shorter than most, if not all of them. Besides, they have been training every single day for years, while you only started training a few weeks ago, missed most of the practices and don't even have training every day. There is no way for you to be as strong as them."
Harry stayed silent.
"If it comforts you, I think you've been growing, Harry."
This certainly caught Harry's attention. "I have? You think so?"
"It's hard to tell, with these charms Minerva placed on your clothes. But I think if you tried on one of your old school robes from last year, you'd be surprised. You will probably continue growing for a while, until your body has readjusted to your power level."
Harry grinned at that. It would be nice, not being the shortest boy in their year anymore. And the look on Ron's face would be priceless.
"Now, that's better, isn't it?" Sirius said smugly, having seen Harry's smile.
Harry threw a pillow at his guardian, which Sirius promptly tossed back.
"I see you're feeling better," he remarked dryly. "Goodnight, Kiddo." Sirius ruffled Harry's hair. "Pleasant dreams, for once."
Harry smiled and allowed himself to be tucked in.
"G'night, Dad," he whispered as the portrait hole fell shut. He had no more nightmares that night.
The next day brought with it another gruelling training session, this time in duelling with Professors Snape and Flitwick. No matter how hard Harry tried, he could not match the two of them. Every time he thought he had finally managed to corner one of them, they came up with another trick and Harry found himself disarmed and flat on his back in less than a second.
It was extremely frustrating and didn't help his already-strained-from-Quidditch muscles. After two hours of constant hits and falls, Harry was sure that his entire body was black and blue. He ached all over and longed to stay exactly where he was for at least another week, on his back on the hard mat that covered the floor of the room they were using as a duelling area…
"Come on, Harry!" Sirius's voice penetrated his daze cheerfully, "Get up! We've just got time for a late lunch, then Mr Skillridge will be here to collect you!"
"No…" Harry moaned, even as he felt Sirius seizing his hand and pulling him to his feet. "Sirius, I can't…" It came out more as a whine than anything else.
"Nonsense," said Sirius cheerfully, "You'll be fine. A little flying will do you good."
Sirius dragged Harry all the way to the Great Hall and to his seat at the staff table. Rhianna was already there and eyed him critically.
"You look terrible," she said matter-of-factly.
"Gee, thanks," Harry mumbled darkly as he helped himself to some mashed potatoes.
Mr Skillridge collected him not long after lunch.
Harry was quiet on their way through the Quidditch Stadium, thinking again about the doubts that had recently awoken in him considering his decision of joining the team. As they had walked the whole way to the Apparating room in silence, Harry noticed that Mr Skillridge was throwing puzzled glances his way.
"Is there anything that concerns you, Harry?" he asked candidly. "Something to do with Quidditch, perhaps?"
Harry scuffed the floor with his left shoe nervously and tried to look anywhere in the room but at his coach.
"Nothing," he lied quickly, "there's nothing. I'm fine. I'm- I'm going to change now." And before his coach could utter another word, Harry quickly crossed the room and made for his only refuge in the stadium. Each of the players had a bedroom of their own, in case a Quidditch match ever went on for so long that players had to sleep for a few hours to recuperate their strength.
Harry's room was quite nice, in his opinion. He had decided to leave the furniture and decoration as it was, only adding a few trinkets he had no real use for that he had collected over his years in the wizarding world. It added a personal touch to the room without changing it completely, which, even though Mr Skillridge and the other players had encouraged him, he felt not comfortable doing yet, especially in light of his recent quandary.
Harry sighed as he put his backpack- containing just a small water bottle and a few muffins Dobby had slipped him after lunch- down on his bed and retrieved his Quidditch training robes from the small wardrobe on the far wall. The wardrobe had sanitising charms placed on it, which saved the players the trouble of Scourgifying their robes after every practice. They were crisp and clean after a few moments in the wardrobe.
Even though Harry usually changed in the changing room with the other players, he didn't feel like answering their questions about the undoubtedly countless scrapes and bruises that marred his body.
Mr Skillridge threw him a confused glance as he exited his room in full Quidditch gear, but he didn't comment on it. He merely raised his eyebrows at the two inches of bare ankle that showed below the hem of Harry's robes.
"Harry, if I didn't know better, I'd say that you'd grown again. Since yesterday." He tapped his wand on Harry's robes and watched as they expanded to fit Harry's new height. "I've never seen anything of the like," he commented idly, "true, we've not had many teenaged players on the team, but I'm quite sure that this is unnatural."
Harry bit back a grin and mumbled something non-committal. He was saved from further questions by the arrival of the first player, Alex, the Keeper.
Quidditch practice that day was almost as gruesome as it had been the day before, at least in Harry's opinion. In actuality, it was a rather light practice, taking into account the training of the day before. However, to Harry's battered form it seemed like pure torture. Harry breathed a sigh of relief when they were finally allowed to mount their brooms, putting an end to the strenuous physical exercise training. That day, practice was devoted to Chaser training, which Harry didn't mind too much.
Harry could tell by the pleased look in his coach's eyes that the team was doing really well. Maybe they would actually stand a chance in this year's World Cup? They should at least be able to get farther than the year before. It relieved Harry a little that with the team's achievements of the year before, the wizarding community's expectations were rather low, though Harry expected that this would change after the public learned the identity of England's new Seeker.
After practice that day, Mr Skillridge Portkeyed with Harry back to Hogsmeade. They started on the long way back to the castle in silence.
"Harry," Mr Skillridge said after a few minutes, stopping abruptly and preventing Harry from continuing with a hand on his arm. "I have a feeling that something is seriously bothering you. If it is in any way related to the team or your performance on the team, I must ask that you please talk to me. As your coach, it is part of my responsibilities to make sure that you are comfortable. Please talk to me, Harry."
Harry stared into Mr Skillridge's almost pleading eyes for a moment, struck again by how much they resembled Dumbledore's. He didn't want to tell his coach what he was thinking. Harry felt terrible about his doubts and really didn't want to let Mr. Skillridge down.
"It's just," he confessed hesitantly, "that- things- are very difficult right now at Hogwarts. I'm receiving lots of training because of, you know, Voldemort and, er, stuff. And Quidditch is really strenuous on top of that."
"You are having doubts about your decision of joining the team," Mr Skillridge deduced razor-sharply.
"Kind of," Harry admitted, though he had to look away.
Mr Skillridge heaved a sigh.
"Harry," he said seriously, "I cannot keep you on the team if you do not wish to stay. I do remember how stressful it is for students to play professional Quidditch along with going to school or, in your case, receiving extra training and going to school. However, I beg you not to leave. The team is playing better than it has in years. The other players are motivated because of your skill, and I know we finally stand a chance in the World Cup again. To leave now… to give up at this point…" Mr Skillridge sighed. "It would mean destroying a lot of hard work, Harry. I don't mean to pressure you unduly, but I refuse to let you quit now."
Harry looked away again.
"Let's make a deal, all right?" Mr Skillridge said seriously. "You stay on the team for the rest of the holidays and the first few weeks of school, until our first Quidditch game against Bulgaria. After that, if you still feel that it is too much stress, I will allow you to quit the team, no strings attached. We do have a reserve team training separately from the first team. The Seeker is not much, but…" Mr Skillridge shrugged helplessly. "I do wish for you to remain on the team very much, Harry. If you must leave, you must leave, but please consider this carefully. We would all hate to lose you."
After an encouraging pat on Harry's shoulder, Mr Skillridge set off towards Hogwarts again, and Harry fell into a comfortable pace beside him. Even though they hadn't found a solution to his problems, Harry somehow felt a little lighter.
In the Entrance Hall, Harry bid Mr Skillridge 'goodbye' and the coach used his one-way-portkey back to the stadium.
As Harry stood silently in the middle of the deserted, dark hall, he felt a strange nagging at the back of his mind, as though he had forgotten something essential. Something was definitely wrong, he could clearly sense it.
'Sirius? Remus? Minerva?' Harry said in his mind. He wondered for a second if his telepathic bond to the other Order members was still active.
'Harry?' It was Sirius. 'Where are you?'
'I'm in the Entrance Hall, I just got back from training.'
'Come up to Dumbledore's office, we're having an Order meeting.'
An Order meeting! Harry felt excitement surge through him, along with a little worry. What had happened that was so important that it required a meeting?
'I'm coming up,' Harry assured quickly and set off. The strange, prickling feeling in the back of his mind had not yet subsided, and it screamed of danger. Harry quickened his pace until he was almost running, knowing the way by heart. Up the marble stairs, left, right, right, left again, up a staircase, through a little known secret passage on the left, up another staircase… which promptly moved to change directions. Harry cursed under his breath and stepped off the staircase before it could transport him to another wrong landing.
He stood there for a minute, trying to think of the best way to get to Dumbledore's office, when the feeling at the back of his mind intensified. Harry slowly moved backwards until he was standing with his back to the wall, wand at the ready. And just as the torches along the corridor began to flicker ominously before dying down completely, Harry remembered just why he was supposed to be afraid. He was such an idiot. The demon had found him.
"Lumos!" Harry hissed, trying to pierce the absolute darkness with his eyes. "Lumos, damnit!"
But the spell didn't want to work. Harry didn't know how that was possible, but something made magic impossible around Slytherin's spirit. Or was it just his wand…?
Harry tucked the wand away, hating how defenceless this made him feel. He stretched his hand out in front of him and concentrated as deeply as he could, just like Dumbledore had taught him. "Lumos."
He said the spell with silent force and was surprised to see a small, weak light flickering to life at his fingertips. It was nowhere near his usual strength, but it would have to do. Harry raised his hand above his head and tried to make the light shine as far and as strongly as possible by pushing more energy into it.
"Well, well, well," A slimy voice suddenly hissed beside Harry, "what have we here? Harry Potter has come into his powers? My heir will not be pleased to hear this…"
Harry whirled to face the voice, yet in the semi-darkness there was not even an outline visible.
"Such a pity, really," said the voice, coming from behind Harry. He whirled around again. "I had hoped that the prophecy was fake, after seeing just how weak you were when we first met…"
Harry could feel his blood boil. The light at his fingertips suddenly flared. "I am not weak!" he hissed angrily. "But you are! You're so pathetic, you can't even show yourself!"
The voice chuckled lowly, drifting around Harry. He followed it wildly with his eyes and hand, as well as he could. "What a low blow, little Harry," it sneered, "why, I do believe I have a solution to your problem. I could possess you, if you like…?"
"Don't you dare," snarled Harry. The light at his fingertips flared again and formed itself into a warm, bright ball. Harry was quite sure he heard a pained hiss in front of him.
"Douse that light, will you, little boy?" the voice came again, this time sounding slightly strained.
"No, I don't think I shall," Harry said coolly, thinking quickly. "That's it, isn't it? You always attack at night or when it's dark somewhere, and torches extinguish themselves whenever you approach… you can't bear the light, can you?"
"Nonsense," hissed the voice calmly. "I admit, the light is a little hard on my eyes, but that doesn't mean that I can't bear it."
"Is that so?" Harry asked calmly, feeling triumph rise within himself. "Well, then, you won't mind if I make the light just a little… brighter?" And with the last word, Harry pushed as much of his energy as he could reach into the little ball, making it swell until it was the size of a Quaffle. Then he threw the ball with all his might in the direction of Slytherin's voice. There was a slight hiss when the ball of light hit, then it was absorbed into nothingness.
"That tickled," the voice complained haughtily.
Harry stared in disbelief at the empty space where his formidable weapon had disappeared. No, it was not possible. Slytherin couldn't bear the light, he knew it, so why had he barely reacted to Harry's light? He had been afraid of it when it had been in Harry's hand, so why hadn't it affected him at all? He was defenceless…
As if Slytherin had heard his last thought, Harry found himself pinned to the wall by an invisible force. He struggled wildly to get free, but he couldn't move an inch.
"Lumos… Lumos!" Harry shouted desperately, but nothing happened. He had exhausted himself throwing that ball of pure energy at the demon, and now he could barely find the strength to shout, let alone perform strenuous thought-magic.
"I think it is time to stop playing, little boy," Slytherin hissed in Harry's ear. He was very close and Harry shivered. He tried to gather the energy to call the Order with his mind, and found to his horror that he couldn't even muster that. "I need something of yours, now. Something only you can give me. I think I have lingered in this place long enough, and now I feel a strong desire to leave…"
"You can't leave," Harry gasped, as he was enveloped in a horrible, cold sensation. "You are bound to this place! Dumbledore said so, you said so yourself!"
Slimy, cold hands seemed to run over Harry's body and he shuddered in revulsion. "What are you doing?" It came out as a squeak.
"Trying to ascertain whether you will be suitable for my needs…" the demon hissed. "Yes… this will work…" And suddenly, there was a sharp pain in the crook of Harry's elbow, right where Pettigrew had cut him in the graveyard. Warm blood started to flow from the wound and icy lips descended upon it. Harry gagged as the coldness seemed to seep through the wound and into his bloodstream. There was a nauseating sucking sensation, then the lips and coldness retreated.
"Wh-what did you do that for?" Harry whispered, his teeth chattering with the cold and disgust.
The demon laughed eerily. "This, little Harry, was my ticket out of here."
"What do you mean?" The coldness retreated further and Harry found the strength to stand on his own legs again instead of hanging limply in the invisible restraints.
"Nosy, aren't you?" Slytherin hissed with what seemed to be amusement. "I like your insolence, boy. If circumstances were different, I think I should have liked you to be in my house. As it is…" he gave a long-suffering sigh. "My heir has a… special… bond to me, ever since I possessed him when he was still a child. As it turns out, you have a bond to him as well…"
It was weird listening to a disembodied voice that was moving from the left to the right and back again in front of Harry. Apparently, Slytherin was pacing.
"It took me ridiculously long to figure this out," Slytherin admitted with scorn in his voice. "By drinking your blood, I renewed the bond I already had to my heir and at the same time, created a bond to you. This will mean two things; firstly, I can now go wherever my heir goes if I want to leave this place, which will be extremely useful for both of us, as I'm sure you will agree…"
Slytherin's voice came to a stop in front of Harry and he had the uncomfortable feeling that Slytherin was looking at him.
"… and secondly, it will allow me a controlling influence over you, now that my heir's powers alone aren't enough to penetrate your defences. Actually, I am not quite sure whether our combined mental powers are enough, but it is certainly worth a try, wouldn't you say so, little Potter?"
Harry shivered. "So, what now?" he spat. "Are you going to kill me?"
Laughter drifted slowly down the corridor.
"Not tonight, little boy," Slytherin called over what Harry assumed to be his shoulder. "For now, I have more important things to do, and I am sure my heir will agree. Rest assured that we will come back to you, and that your death shall not be quick and merciful at all…"
The laughter turned cold and sadistic and reminded Harry uncomfortably of just whose ancestor this demon was. "We're going to have lots of fun together, before you die… even you will not outlast the union of two dark lords… watch your back, Harry Potter…"
There was one last burst of insane laughter, then there was silence. The force that had held Harry to the wall fell away abruptly and he tumbled to the floor in a shivering heap, cradling his cut arm close to his chest and feeling violated.
All around Harry, the torches on the walls flickered back to life. Harry stared at them uncomprehendingly. He had been so sure that Slytherin's weakness was light. He always attacked in the dark, torches died when he approached…. Harry stared into the bright, orange flames. What was it about these torches that Slytherin was afraid of, if it wasn't the light?
Harry racked his brain. The torches burned with fire. Fire… light… heat! Harry sat thunderstruck as he realised how close, yet how far he had been to discovering Slytherin's secret. It wasn't the light Slytherin was afraid of, it was the heat!
Harry could have hit himself for his stupidity. He had had a chance, tonight, to stop Slytherin in his tracks before he reconciled with his heir. Together, Voldemort and Slytherin would be nigh unbeatable, and he, Harry, had missed the last chance to keep the demon from joining with his heir… Harry's ball of light had only been slightly warm. Had he thrown a ball of controlled fire instead, Slytherin might have been stopped!
…or the castle might have burned down, Harry admitted to himself. He didn't have much control over the elements yet. With a heavy sigh, Harry dragged himself up from the floor and held his hand over the wound on his arm, concentrating briefly. The cut glowed for a moment, then it stopped bleeding and scabbed over. Harry grimaced at the lip-shaped bruises that could still be seen around it, but it could not be helped.
As the adrenaline in his veins diminished, Harry suddenly became aware of the chorus of panicked voices in his mind.
He ignored them and concentrated on Albus Dumbledore. 'Professor,' he thought, 'how much do the Order members know about the demon?'
A brief sensation of shocked worry filtered through the bond, followed by relief and what Harry took to be self-reproach.
'They have yet to be informed,' the headmaster sent back calmly. 'I take it that your delay was caused by another encounter with our resident demon? Are you hurt?'
'A little,' Harry thought, 'Not badly, I think. I'll be coming to your office in a few minutes. I'll explain more after the meeting's over.'
This was answered with silent assent. Harry picked up his backpack and slowly trudged back to the staircases. Hoping that he wouldn't be deposited in another abandoned part of the castle, Harry allowed the staircase to carry him to the floor below.
Even though he knew that Slytherin had left the castle for now, Harry felt a surge of relief when he finally came to a halt in front of the stone gargoyle guarding the staircase to Dumbledore's office. "Fizzing Whizbees," Harry said to the gargoyle and waited until it had jumped aside. He stepped onto the moving staircase behind it and waited patiently until he had reached the door at the top. For a mere second, Harry wondered if he was supposed to knock, then a cheerful voice called him into the office.
Harry stepped into the room and took his seat at the table quietly. He nodded to the Order members he didn't know and forced a smile for those he did.
Sirius was looking at him anxiously and Harry mouthed an 'I'm fine'. Sirius nodded, but his gaze told Harry clearly that he would have to explain himself after the meeting.
"The date for the election has been set," Dumbledore was saying. "It will take place on September 16th. There will be a possibility for the staff and those students who are of age to vote here at Hogwarts. For the remaining wizarding population, several election centres will be set up at strategic places all across the country, and portkeys will be provided for those who are unable to Apparate. There is also the new facility of owl vote, of course, for less traditional members of our society."
In the ensuing murmurs of the other Order members, Harry leaned closer to his godmother, who was sitting next to him. "What are Mr Weasley's chances in the elections?"
Minerva pursed her lips in a manner not unlike Aunt Petunia's. (Harry had to bite back a grin at that.) "The votes are equally divided at the moment," Minerva answered quietly. "The public's sympathy is leaning towards us, yet the old, pureblood families on Voldemort's side still hold a lot of leverage in the wizarding world."
Harry suddenly felt very cold. "Are you saying," he croaked anxiously, "that someone like Lucius Malfoy might win the elections?"
Minerva looked decidedly uncomfortable. "There really is no way to tell, Harry," she muttered, "and you are right. Lucius Malfoy is indeed participating in the elections."
"What?" gasped Harry. "But – but I thought he was in Azkaban?"
Minerva smiled grimly. "That's right. He was in Azkaban. He bought his way out this afternoon and he's already made it very clear that he intends to run for office. It was all over the special evening edition the 'Prophet' released tonight."
Harry suddenly felt very weak and slumped in his chair. "They can't do that," he mumbled, "they can't! Lucius Malfoy… I mean, he's a known Deatheater!"
"Not anymore," Sirius muttered from Harry's other side. "The two aurors and the recorder who questioned Malfoy before his incarceration have mysteriously disappeared yesterday morning. Any files pertaining to the matter have also vanished without a trace. No less than five ministry officials and eleven Azkaban guards were found scattered all over Britain, wandering about without a clue of what happened to them during the past three days. As this is closely related to Malfoy's original imprisonment, it was kept under wraps as well, the families of the affected being told that there had been a top secret accident to do with the Department of Mysteries. Malfoy works quickly and efficiently, Harry. This evening, there was a small article in the prophet about Malfoy's political career – without the nasty bits, of course – , his statement about the elections and a huge donation he made to 'St Mary's Orphanage for Muggleborn Witches and Wizards'."
Harry gaped. "Malfoy made a donation to an orphanage for muggleborns? What's he playing at?"
"Why, he's gathering sympathy," Minerva said fatter-of-factly. "Sympathy from those who are still very sceptical of him. No doubt his political proclivities will 'change' if he wins the elections."
They were interrupted by Dumbledore, who had decided that it was time for the meeting to continue, and Harry didn't have much time to dwell on what he had heard. "Before we conclude, there is one more issue that should be addressed. Good news, for once." Dumbledore smiled briefly.
"As most of you are aware, Mrs. Lupin, as the leader of the only exclusive lycanthrope school, has a lot of influence in all werewolf communities. She and Remus himself have been working tirelessly ever since Voldemort's resurrection to gain the lycanthropes' support for our side and to keep them away from Voldemort's influence."
Dumbledore paused for a moment, his eyes looking far away, though the smile never left his lips. "I am very happy to say that they have succeeded."
There were cheers and whistles, as well as a lot of claps on the back as the Order members relished in the first piece of good news they had heard in a while.
"Today, the three largest werewolf communities of Britain and Ireland have declared their official alliance to the light side," Dumbledore shouted over the noise. "The smaller communities and unbound families have followed suit. We have gained numerous powerful allies today, my friends, and Voldemort is one step closer to falling!"
The cheers that rose this time were so loud that the window panes shook in their delicate frames.
The meeting had ended a few minutes before, and finally the last members had Flooed out. The remaining professors and Harry adjoined to the small, comfortable sitting room beside the office. Out of habit, Harry sat down in the armchair in front of the fire, which had ignited itself as soon as they had entered the room.
Harry looked at the expectant faces one at a time, smiling inwardly at his godparents and professors. There were Sirius, Minerva, Professor Snape and Professor Dumbledore. Harry's slight smile melted into a frown. "Where's Remus?"
Professor Snape sneered lightly and indicated the window. Harry turned his head, confused… and immediately spotted the large, pale full moon in the sky. "Oh," Harry uttered softly.
"They should be in the Shrieking Shack by now," Sirius added quietly.
There was a short silence as Harry's thoughts lingered on Remus and his daughter. He bit his lip anxiously and suddenly longed to join them, to make sure that they were all right and to tell them about Malfoy…
"Was there something you wished to tell us, Harry?" Minerva interrupted his thoughts. "Something to do with your temporary disappearance before the meeting, perhaps?" Harry winced at her mild glare.
"Er, yeah," he said quickly, "I mean, yes. That's, um, what I wanted to tell you about. After my birthday, with all the training, we kind of forgot something important. Um, about the demon."
Their reactions were gratifying to Harry's still stinging pride. Snape jerked his head around to face Harry quickly, Sirius jumped up reflexively (overturning his armchair in the process) and Minerva went deathly pale and sank back into the couch, her hand pressed over her heart. The only one who stayed silent was the forewarned Professor Dumbledore, who was watching the proceedings with a serene smile that somehow looked a little more strained than usual.
"Um, I'm fine," Harry managed to get out before the torrent of questions broke loose. Sirius was gripping his shoulder almost painfully, demanding to know if he was all right; Minerva was inquiring sharply as to what exactly had happened; and Snape was asking what stupidity had possessed him to wander the halls alone at night.
"Quiet!" Professor Dumbledore interrupted calmly, and the three others subsided. "Harry, would you tell us what happened, please?"
Harry nodded, relieved that Sirius had loosened the death grip on his shoulder and sat back down.
"Well, after I'd come back from Quidditch, Mr Skillridge left me in the entrance hall. It was so silent after he'd left, and I got a really weird feeling," Harry picked at his sleeve with his eyes cast down, "like I'd forgotten something dangerous."
"Go on," Professor Dumbledore prompted gently.
"I contacted you and you told me that there was a meeting and to come up to Professor Dumbledore's office. I was going to, but when I was almost there a staircase changed on me. It deposited me somewhere on the sixth floor, in a deserted corridor that leads nowhere."
The thread he had pulled out of the sleeve of the (thankfully old) school robes he had decided to wear that day for duelling practice was really very fascinating.
"I still had this weird feeling. Stronger than before. And then the torches flickered like mad and went out."
A second thread was beginning to come loose. Now, if he pulled it just that way…
"I tried to cast 'Lumos', but my wand didn't work. It was so cold and dark. I tried to form a ball of light in my hand wandlessly like Professor Dumbledore showed me, and it worked. I could at least see a little."
The third thread Harry had pulled from his sleeve seemed to be too much for the old fabric, and a small run developed. Harry plucked another thread out and watched intently as it grew a little.
"He was totally invisible this time. I could only hear his disembodied voice. He seemed disconcerted by the light, so I made it grow and threw it at him. It didn't seem to disturb him at all, but it made him angry. He pinned me to the wall magically. I couldn't move at all. Then he told me that he had figured out how to leave the castle and I think he ran his hands all over me. It-" Harry shuddered. "It was disgusting. He told me that he had ascertained his plans would work and slashed my arm. Then he drank my blood."
Dumbledore ignored Harry's godparents' horrified gasps and leaned forward intently, his keen eyes set on Harry's right arm. "May I see?"
Harry rolled up his damaged sleeve and turned his arm so Dumbledore could see it. To his own astonishment, the vaguely lip-shaped bruises had turned completely black in colour and angry red lines ran from the clotted wound up Harry's arm and disappeared into his sleeve.
"Interesting," Dumbledore muttered and ran a careful finger over the half-healed cut. He pulled back as though he had been burned. "Dark poison. You will need to stop at the infirmary later, Harry, or Slytherin's little gift might kill you by tomorrow. Don't worry," he added, seeing the look on Harry's face, "it is a painless, slow-working poison and does no damage at all until it has reached your heart. We have hours till then. Continue, please, Harry."
"Right." Harry muttered and drew the sleeve back down gingerly. "Slytherin told me that by drinking my blood, he was renewing his old connection to his heir, who has a connection to me, and that he was now able to dwell not only at Hogwarts, where I am, but also at wherever Voldemort lives. He also told me that he had now established a real connection to me as well and that he and Voldemort were going to try to break into my mind together. He said even I couldn't withstand the combined power of two dark lords and that I should prepare for a long, painful death at their hands when the time comes. Then he released me and left."
There was a long silence. Harry watched awkwardly as Dumbledore and his godmother stared pensively out of the window, while Professor Snape seemed to be contemplating his hands and Sirius muttered angrily under his breath.
"I'm sorry!" Harry blurted out after a while.
Four uncomprehending gazes met his.
"I mean, I should have stopped him," Harry said guiltily. "I should have realised it wasn't the light that bothered Slytherin at all, it was the heat. He was afraid of the torches' heat, that's why they kept extingiushing themselves when he arrived. And now Slytherin has reunited with Voldemort. Together, they'll be unbeatable. I've failed you all… I'm sorry!"
"You, Mr Potter, have failed nobody," Professor Dumbledore said firmly. "In fact, I find myself impressed, yet again, by the proficiency you show in the face of danger. Considering the small amount of time I have had to train you in the art of wandless magic, what you did tonight is really quite astonishing. You have shown bravery, resourcefulness and cool logic in a situation that would have overtaxed most fully trained wizards."
Dumbledore paused shortly to allow these words to sink in properly.
"What happened tonight was most unfortunate, yes," he continued with quiet force. "It gireves me to see that our carelessness has caused you harm. We have all been remiss in our duty as your guardians. From now on, we will strive to protect you better, Harry."
Harry groaned. "Don't say that Sirius will start sleeping in my room again!" He ignored Sirius's mildly offended 'Hey!' and fixed pleading eyes on Dumbledore, who chuckled.
"I hardly think that will be necessary," the professor said soothingly. "However, I will insist that you do not wander the halls alone at any time of the day- or night." The headmaster glanced at him severely over the rim of his glasses, about as serious as Harry had ever seen him.
"Your rooms and the classrooms are still warded against the demon and will continue to be so. From now on, you will notify us mentally before you enter the castle after Quidditch practice and before you leave your rooms at any time. One of us will meet you and escort you through the corridors. Once the school year starts up again, I expect you to be in the presence of at least one of your friends at all times whenever you leave Gryffindor Tower or need to travel between classes. Is this clear?"
Harry stared moodily at his frayed sleeve. "Crystal," he muttered rebelliously.
"Ah, what was that, my dear boy?" Dumbledore smiled at him jovially, yet there was an uncommon steely glint in his eyes. "I'm afraid that I could not understand you."
Harry clenched his, jaw, raised his eyes to meet Professor Dumbledore's and forced his voice to remain steady. "I said, 'it's clear, Professor'."
"Splendid!" The old wizard sat back, the fierce light in his eyes gone so quickly Harry wondered for a moment if he had merely imagined it. "And now, a short visit with Poppy is in order, don't you agree, Harry? Minerva will be happy to accompany you."
Harry sighed and heaved himself to his feet. "Yeah, sure. Goodnight, Professors… Sirius."
The walk to the infirmary was silent, Madam Pomfrey reproachful ("I thought you had promised not to end up in the infirmary for a while, Potter?") and the cure quick and painless.
The rest of the night was spent running through the Forbidden Forest on soft paws with two werewolves and one big, shaggy black dog in his wake, paying their tribute to the silvery beauty of the luminescent full moon.
The next morning, Harry woke up with a terrible headache. He groaned to himself and groped his bedside table for his glasses, coming up empty-handed. Frowning moodily, Harry forced his eyes open despite the stinging sensation he was experiencing and tried to focus on the far wall. Surprisingly, it worked, after a few moments' time and a particularly nasty bout of pain behind his left eyebrow.
Where were…? Oh. He had apparently forgotten to remove his glasses after returning from the forest the night before, as they were right on his nose. Harry grumbled a little as he squinted towards his clock. Again, it took his eyes a while to adjust, and another stab of pain flared behind his forehead. What the hell was wrong with him?
Seeing as it was already eleven o'clock in the morning, Harry dragged himself out of bed, vowing silently to never accompany two werewolves on a nightly romp through the Forbidden Forest ever again- already knowing that he was going to break that vow in one month's time.
Harry sighed as he entered his bathroom and brushed his teeth quickly. The cold water on his face woke him up a little and made him feel better, though he was still having trouble focusing. Harry took off his glasses in confusion and inspected them carefully. Had they somehow come to harm in yesterday's escapade? Yet as closely as he looked, Harry could not even find one single scratch. His glasses were protected by magic, had unbreakable charms placed on them like all of his (new) clothes, and were thus in perfect condition.
Harry decided to let the matter rest for now and went down to the Great Hall for breakfast. The ceiling that day was grey and stormy, like the weather outside. Storm clouds chased each other across the misty sky and every once in a while, a raindrop hit with a slight 'splat'.
Sirius was already in the hall and waved him over with a huge smile. Harry took a seat between his godfather and the headmaster, greeting the former and nodding politely to the latter.
"Sleep well, Harry?" Sirius asked cheerfully. His exuberance grated on Harry's headache and he scowled into his porridge.
"Too little," he mumbled. When he tried to focus on the cinnamon, another flash of pain flew through Harry's head. He sighed and rubbed his temples in aggravation.
"Are you not feeling well, Harry?" the headmaster inquired softly.
Harry grimaced. "Yes. I mean, no. It's just my glasses. I fell asleep with them on and now they're a little… off."
Dumbledore put his fork down and pulled out his wand. "May I?"
Harry removed his glasses and handed them to the headmaster. He tapped the glasses with his wand and furrowed his brow thoughtfully. "There is no adjustment spell on these, Harry. When have you last been to see a muggle doctor?"
Harry felt surprised for a second. "A doctor? About my eyes? Never." Dumbledore, and Sirius on his other side, looked fairly shocked. "These are the glasses the Dursleys got me when the school doctor insisted. I was eight, I think."
Dumbledore peered at Harry shrewdly. "Do you have trouble focusing? A headache, perhaps?"
"Yes and yes," Harry admitted quietly.
"Ah," Dumbledore said thoughtfully, "then your recent plight has nothing to do with your falling asleep before removing your glasses. Your eyes have changed, Harry, since you received these glasses seven years ago. My guess is that your magic has up to now worked to adjust any imbalances, and that it failed last night when you spent such a long time in your Animagus form. Your magic levels are rather low right now because of your power surge and training. With the added drain of the transformation, your magic decided that it was more needed elsewhere and you are finally feeling the effects of your glasses' obsolete prescription."
Harry blinked. "Oh." It kind of made sense. "And is there any way to, um, rectify their obsoleteness?"
"Accommodo." Dumbledore tapped his wand to Harry's glasses three times and handed them back to his student. "Here you go. They should adjust to your eyes now. Simply take them to Madam Pomfrey or myself if your eyes change further."
Harry slipped the glasses on and was happy to see the world spring into sharp focus. "Thank you," he breathed, looking down at his incredibly clear breakfast.
Dumbledore merely smiled.
The next few weeks rushed by at a fast pace. Harry got up in the mornings, took his glasses to the hospital wing for an adjustment ("Mr Potter, if it wasn't you, I would say that the way your eyes are changing is most unusual."), completed the last of his homework, allowed himself to be flayed in Duelling practice ("Chin up, Harry! I think you might have lasted a few seconds longer than last time, there! – What! A minute shorter…?") , attended his other lessons in which he was making slow progress, went to Quidditch practice, had a few tutoring sessions in Potions with Professor Snape ("Maybe you're not entirely hopeless after all, Potter, but you are incredibly dense. Did I not clearly state that the lacewings had to be added before stirring three times counter-clockwise, not afterwards?"), spent time with Rhianna and his godparents and Remus, visited the Founders' Garden on the rare occasions where he managed to escape from the castle alone and worked on his Animagus transformation until he could change as quickly and flawlessly as Sirius.
Slowly, but surely, Harry managed to get more and more of his new powers under control. It was a tedious process and just as hard on Harry as it was on his professors, who were often the recipients of Harry's infamous stress-relieving verbal and magical explosions, which they bore in good humour.
Rhianna was a calming influence at Harry's side. Quiet, cheerful and sensible, she always managed to soothe the waters after one of Harry's more frustrating lessons. It helped that her love for books equalled Hermione's and that her unconventional take on what Harry was learning sometimes gave him a better understanding of it.
Before the castle's occupants knew it, the holidays were almost over. The professors had cancelled Harry's lessons for the last week and were rushing through the castle, trying to finish lesson plans and other preparations on time. Remus, especially, was reeling, as he had a classroom and an office to arrange before the students' arrival.
Harry and Rhianna watched the haste in amusement and good spirits. They enjoyed their last few days of peace tremendously and got ready to move into Gryffindor and Ravenclaw towers, as well as, in Harry's case, to go to Diagon Alley.
On August 28th, Sirius and Remus accompanied Harry to Diagon Alley where he met up with the Weasleys. It was Harry's first visit to the magical place since theird year, and despite the slightly strained atmosphere caused by the threat of Voldemort, he, Ron and Hermione spent several happy hours visiting Madam Malkin's, Flourish and Blott's, the Magical Menagerie, Quality Quidditch Supplies and Florean Fortescue's.
That evening, their stomachs full to bursting and weighed down by countless bags holding mostly Hermione's extracurricular 'light reading' but with happy smiles on their faces, the three of them returned to the Burrow with Ginny, Fred and George and the Weasley parents.
Harry spent the last few days of the summer holidays at the Burrow playing Quidditch, Exploding Snap, Wizarding Chess and Gobstones with the Weasleys. Hermione mostly sat by and watched their games with an amused and indulgent smile, her nose buried in one of her new books.
And so, on the evening of August 31st, Harry lay in his bed in Ron's room and stared at the ceiling, which glowed orange even in the moonlight. He smiled slightly as he thought about what the next day would bring. There would be the inevitable chaos, of course, before they left for King's Cross. At the station, Rhianna would be waiting to take the train with the other students, and Harry was very much looking forward to introducing her to the Weasleys and Hermione. Harry was sure that especially the latter would get on with Rhianna like a house on fire, seeing as they shared the same love for books and studying.
Harry smirked as he realized that he would have a hard time keeping those two from setting up camp in the library together, but he wasn't worried. After all, he had it on good authority that, if nothing else, he was resourceful.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed! Please read and review and tell me what you think!
Until next time,