Apologies for the delay.
Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership of Harry Potter, the character, settings or plots that have been born from the magnificent mind of J.K. Rowling. For those too incompetent to understand words longer than two syllables: I do not own Harry Potter.
Warning: Somebody is going to die, and in time this will be slash.
Harry's feet were barely touching the ground as he ran down the stairs. Hearing the footsteps of his pursuers behind him, Harry swore lowly under his breath. Something drastically would have to be done, if he wanted to get rid of those following him.
Sidestepping a group of Hufflepuffs, which came from a staircase which had just connected with the one Harry was currently on, Harry left the stairs and turned around a corner. Seeing that no one else was in the Entrance Hall Harry reached into his pocket, finding his Invisibility Cloak he had taken to carry on his person no matter what.
He sent a curt smile to the portrait of a naked woman, who was hiding behind a bush, and wrapped the cloak around him. Harry slowed down to walk, knowing that fast movements would heighten the risk of being detected.
It didn't escape his notice that the woman had disappeared from her portrait, she was probably heading of to inform someone of what was going on.
Harry started walking away when his pursuers rounded the same corner he had come from.
Bellatrix's eyes were dancing with mirth as she slowly twirled her wand between her fingers in an almost lazy manner. "Ity little favourite nephew, come out and play with your beloved Aunt Bellatrix." Harry shuddered at the sickened sweet voice she was using, as if the witch honestly expected that it would be enough to make him come forth.
Behind her, Rodolphus and Rabastan appeared, looking lightly winded. Considering that they had been following him from the second floor near Myrtle's bathroom and the whole way to the Entrance Hall, Harry couldn't be surprised. "You are aware that he's not really your nephew, right?"
Bellatrix hushed at her husband and hit Rabastan on top of his head to silence his snickering. "I know, but his grandmother was a Black, which makes him family too. And nephew sounds much better than calling him cousin. Besides, this way I have two nephews whom I can teach all those nice little tricks I know."
Harry rolled his eyes, knowing better than to try and understand the way the witch's brain worked. He continued his retreat, reaching the double door leading outside. Harry twisted his body, so his hand was hidden beneath the cloak as he grabbed the doorhandle and he could meanwhile keep an eye on the discussing trio.
His plan about an unnoticed escape was spoiled when wind swept through the cracked open door and lifted up his cloak. "Potter wait!" Harry wondered if Rabastan really believed that he would follow the order, when he very well knew what fate awaited him if he was caught by the trio.
Still wrapped in the Invisibility Cloak Harry took off and went outside. To any spectators it must be a rather strange sight to see a pair of legs and a head moving around on their own without the rest of the body anywhere in sight.
It surprised him that no one had attempted to curse him. No matter what the reason was, Harry wasn't late to use it to his advantage. Normally he would probably not be able to outrun those people because of his shorter legs. But when he'd been in Diagon Alley he'd gotten the seamstress to cut his robes, so he would be able to move his legs more freely than the normal model would have allowed him to.
Also, wizards and witches tended to rely heavily on their wands. Harry didn't have such a thing to make life easy for him, so he was used to moving around.
Rain had washed away the snow, leaving the ground muddy and slippery. Harry himself was about to fall several times. And yet Bellatrix continued running after him with no big problems despite the high heels Harry knew she was wearing.
Harry headed for a lonesome tree, knowing that he would be safe once he reached it. It was a rare specimen, and no one would dare to get too close or to hurt it just to get their hands on him.
When he was close enough, the Whomping Willow wrapped a branch around his midsection and flung him into the air. Knowing that it would only get worse if he resisted, Harry kept his arms close to his body and didn't fight against the way the tree manhandled him as he was thrown around like a human seized ball.
Some of the throws were longer and gravity managed to set in, pulling him down. Before Harry could hit the ground, another branch wrapped itself around him and flung him up in the air anew.
Harry laughed, enjoying the feeling of the air moving around him. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself flying for short amounts of time.
All too soon in Harry's opinion he was placed on a wide and unmoving branch. The one that had last grabbed him, waited to let go until it was sure that Harry would not just drat down from where he was.
Even if that happened Harry doubted that the Whomping Willow would allow him to get hurt.
Petting the big tree Harry finally turned his attention towards his three pursuers. It didn't surprise him to see that they were standing just out of the branches' reach, though the Willow was doing its best to get a hold on them.
By the looks of it, the Willow had managed to get a few good hits in, if the black eye Rabastan was spotting and the way Bellatrix glared at the tree was anything to go by.
Rodolphus was staring at Harry, even with the distance between them, Harry could feel that the wizard was planning something. As if feeling his nervousness one of the smaller branches touched his shoulder, in an almost caring way.
Harry placed his hand on the branch, almost convinced that he could feel the tree's excitement. "I wouldn't advise you to try anything. If you do magic, you'll probably anger the Willow. And from this height, I don't think that I can go away unharmed if I fell."
Not taking his eyes off the trio Harry sat down in the cross-legged position and leaned back against the tree trunk. "Little Harrykins, come down and play. Auntie Bellatrix just wants to fix your hair. You're going to be so pretty."
At the witch's words Harry clutched his braid close. It might be paranoia speaking, but Harry wouldn't put it past the woman to try even with the distance between them. If not for the Whomping Willow's fiery defence she would probably be up in the tree with him. "Sorry, but I'm not coming down. You might as well find someone else. Maybe Draco needs help to choose his clothes for tonight?"
Harry didn't feel the slightest bit sorry for handing Draco over to the trio. Something told him that his blond friend was the whole reason to why the chase had started in the first place.
As Harry saw it, it was only fair that he made a little payback.
Even from this distance Bellatrix's grin seemed disturbingly bright. With a short wave in his general direction the witch dragged off with the two wizards, probably to find some victim which was not being protected by an old tree which was more than willing to hit anyone who came close enough.
"Thank you." Harry mumbled to the tree.
Knowing that he would have some time before someone thought of looking for him, Harry closed his eyes. He wanted to enjoy the peace and silence for as long as possible.
A slow tune was being played in the background, barely heard over the chattering going on around him.
Harry stood near one of the tables bulging with food. By the looks of it the party had been going on for some time, though not much of the food had been touched by the sheer amount still left.
Perhaps it was one of the strange pureblood customs he didn't really understand.
The people around him were dressed in fine made dressrobes. Some of the colours were bright enough to make Harry want to cover his eyes so he wouldn't risk burning out his eyes at the sight.
A strangled sound to his left made Harry swift his attention to the man standing near one of the food tables, a goblet with what looked like wine in his hand. He was of average height and built, his hair grey with silvery steaks in it. As most of those standing around him the man was wearing blue robes with white decorations on them.
Already the man had a blue tint around the corners of his mouth as he fought for every breath he took.
Harry was not the only one who had been brought to attention by the sounds the man emitted. He was sure that someone screamed, but he couldn't pay attention to the woman at the current moment. Foams had started coming out of the man's mouth and his grip on the goblet loosened as his brown eyes rolled back in his head.
Unable to see the man more because of the people flocking around him, Harry's eyes went to the fallen goblet. The red wine, looking remarkable much like blood, had spilled on the floor. Yet no one paid notice to it as they tried to help the man, who was no longer attempting to drag in air and whose's chest movements had all but stopped.
"Brat!" Harry sucked in a deep breath and opened his eyes only to blink in confusion when he found himself hanging upside down, after having been standing on his feet in the vision.
Branches were wrapped tightly around his body, nearly cutting of his blood circulation. Twisting his head the best he could in his current position, Harry found his lips pulled into a grin as he spotted the black robes in his range of vision. "Hey Severus." Though not being able to see the Potions Master's face Harry knew that the man was annoyed, if the tone of his voice had been anything to go by.
"Get down here and come with me." Came the order, leaving him no room to protest."
Sighing Harry knew better than to drag it out when Severus used that tone. Something or someone had angered his guardian worse than usually and Harry didn't want to be the one Severus lashed out on. The man could have a nasty temper when it hit him.
"Can you let me down? I promise that next time I come, I'll make sure to bring some of those balls you like to play with." The tree seemed to think over his suggestion before it turned him back to a more normal position. Harry sighed as the blood stopped rushing to his head.
Gently he was placed down on the ground where he wobbled slightly on his feet before he found his balance. The Willow patted his shoulder before withdrawing its branches, leaving Harry a clearway over to Severus.
Harry had to run to catch up with Severus, who was walking back towards the castle. Reaching his side Harry slowed down so he was walking the same pace as Severus. "So, what's up." Harry asked, knowing that there had to be a reason to why Severus had come to fetch him.
"In case that it has escaped your notice, there is a party which both of us will have to attend in one and a half hour. If you do not want to be an embarrassment to me, you better do your best effort to look respectable. As my assistant anything you do will be reflected back on me." Harry nodded.
He knew that Severus cared little about public opinion, but the man's words reminded him of the vision.
"Something bad will happen tonight." Harry said, getting a sharp look.
"At least I think that it's going to happen tonight. I saw a party or a ball of some kind. There were purebloods attending, wealthy dressed people." He didn't bother to lower his voice as they stepped inside. Harry knew that Severus had put up a privacy Charm around them as soon as Harry had started talking about his vision.
"It happened late into it. Some man dratted around after drinking some wine from the table. By the blue tint and the foams around his mouth, I would say he's suffocated. But it happened too fast for it to be natural, my guess would be that it's poison. But several people seemed to drink the same wine. Maybe it was something else, or perhaps there'll be more than one poison, but you need to intake both before they work."
Frustrated Harry rubbed his forehead. He hated it when he didn't understand what he saw right away. It made it harder to know what they were supposed to do. "Oh, and before he died, the man said something. I couldn't understand what it was, but it sounded like French."
By the change in Severus' posture Harry knew that it could not be considered something good. "Only a few Frenchmen have been invited for tonight's event. But all of them will be high standing members of the French Ministry. Should any of them die under questionable circumstances in Britain, it'll not broad well for the dark lord."
Severus didn't need to say more for Harry to understand what he meant. The French had always been some of the dark lord's more fickle allies. If anything happened to a representative inside Britain's borders, the French Ministry would only be too willingly to denounce all alliances with Voldemort.
And if that happened Harry was sure that Dumbledore would be ready to use the opportunity to gain new allies in the fight against Voldemort's regime.
When they reached their quarters, Severus didn't follow Harry inside. "Make yourself ready and when I've informed the dark lord of what you've seen I'll bring you to the ball."
"I will do that." Harry answered, completely ignoring Severus' snarky tone. As soon as the door closed Harry headed straight for the bathroom.
Though keeping their home simple, there were two places which Severus insisted should be on par with the purebloods.
One of those was the laboratories, which were always fully stocked and clean.
Considering how much time they both spent in there, Harry supposed that he should not really be surprised about that.
The second location was the bathroom. With how much damage the potions fumes did on Severus' skin and hair the man had to invest much money on bodycare products to make sure that he didn't look like a wandering corpse.
Also, Severus was the kind of person, who couldn't stand dirt, not on himself or in his living quarters. The only one Harry could think of who was worse than his guardian would be Draco. At least Severus didn't mind getting dirtied when it was something related to the potions he worked on.
The bathroom was rather small with a toilet, a stall and a sink with a mirror hanging over it. The whole wall opposite the sink was taken up by a closet. Opening it Harry revealed a wide variety of care products to skin and hair and fluffy towels.
Picking up the needed items Harry closed the closet again and placed the towels on the iron rods, placed on the wall, where he would easily be able to reach them.
Shredding his robes and other clothes Harry placed the dirty clothes in the washing bin. He didn't need to look down his body to see the various scars that decorated his skin. A few came because of the so called care his muggle relatives had subjected him to while he lived with them.
But the rest was Harry's own work,
The shower was turned on and soon hot fumes filled the air. Harry stepped in under the spray, letting out a sigh as the warm water relaxed his muscles.
As soon as he stood under the water Harry allowed his thoughts to wander.
At the current moment Severus was probably informing the dark lord about Harry's latest vision, as the man had promised that he would. They would take care of the problem, meaning that there was nothing for Harry to do.
And yet, he could not let go of his vision just yet.
With so many important people assembled in one place, the security would be high. The wards would have been updated recently and those Aurors not important enough to be invited to such an event, would be on guard duty.
Anyone who attempted to murder someone there would either be suicidal or very confident that they would succeed.
The nagging feeling in his stomach told Harry, that it would probably be the last option.
While soaping in his hair, Harry stared into the air. For once Severus had not stayed so they could discuss how they could best prepare for what he'd seen would happen in his vision. It happened sometimes that they didn't have much time to discuss, but this would happen hours away.
Harry shook his head, determined not to complain. Other people's lives were in danger, of course Severus would not hang around when there was something more important for him to do.
No matter what, Harry planned on going prepared. He knew where Severus kept his Bezoars stones, and it should be no problem to sneak in and take one or two with him. They would take care of most poisons. And if they didn't work, whatever caused the man's death would be out of his league.
Turning off the water Harry grabbed one of the towel and started to dry his body. Touching a sore spot Harry winced. He moved the towel and looked down himself with a small grimace. "It doesn't know its own strength." He mumbled, eyeing the darkening bruises from where the Whomping Willow had held him while tossing him around in the air.
Hopefully whatever robes he was supposed to wear tonight would be able to cover this up. The bruises reached down his arms, and he wouldn't risk anyone accusing Severus of abusing him.
Having completed dried himself, Harry wrapped a new towel around his body and another one around his still slightly wet hair. Though Severus had probably not yet returned, Harry didn't feel like acting like a nudist.
Glancing to both sides through a gap in the door Harry made sure that there was no one to see him. Not wasting time Harry darted out of the bathroom, his hands holding the towel in a secure grip around his body.
The temperature was lower outside the bathroom, so shivers were running through Harry's body when he reached his room and closed the door behind him. Harry leaned against the surface, breathing out in relief.
As much as he was in peace with his body, he saw no reason to show it to others. Harry only knew too well what state his relatives and the Order had left him in. Not even all the potions Severus had forced down his throat through the years could change Harry's stunted growth.
"Dobby is here to helps Great Master Harry Potter, sir." At the squeaky voice, sounding much like when one stepped on one of the dog playthings, Harry jumped up in the air, losing his otherwise secure grip on the towel around his body. Before much could be shown Harry had the towel back in place, glaring at the houseelf standing near his bed.
Seeing the look he sent it, the houseelf let out a squeak and started banging its head against his bedpost. "Bad Dobby. Dobby is a bad houseelf. No scaring Great Master Harry Potter."
Fearing for the houseelf's health, since the mental seemed long gone, Harry decided it was the physical, Harry decided to intervene. "Dobby, stop. You actually helped me." Technically it was no lie. The houseelf reminded him, that the safety inside his room was a matter of illusion.
As he had hoped the creature stopped further self-harm and looked at him with eyes of the size of tennis balls. "Great Master Harry Potter is really as kind as Little Master Draco Malfoy says, sir." The houseelf said. At least Harry now knew who had sent the houseelf to him.
"That is good Dobby, but why are you here?" Already Harry had a growing feeling of what the reason would be, but he wanted some kind of proof that he was not drawing hasty conclusions.
The houseelf positively beamed at the question. "Dobby is being a good houseelf. Dobby is being help Great Master Harry Potter with being ready for ball, sir."
Harry wanted to groan. Even better, he wanted to seek out Draco and give him a piece of his mind for sending Dobby to him. Unfortunately Harry knew that he could not just do that. If he sent the houseelf away, the little guy might iron his hands or something just as painfully because the little guy believed that he wasn't good enough for the task his master had given him.
"I can dress myself." Seeing the way the houseelf's ears dropped Harry quickly added. "But are you any good with hair?" If not, Harry might have an excuse for not attending the ball.
"Oh yes, sir. Dobby is being very good at hairs. No worries, Great Master Harry Potter."
"Fine, but turn around while I'm dressing." They houseelf obeyed immediately and even went as far as covering its ears with its hands, though Harry was not sure what good it would do.
Making sure that Dobby wasn't peeking Harry went to his bed, seeing that something had already been laid out for him to wear.
Both the trousers and the shirt were dark green, and made to fit his form, but that was also were the similarities between them stopped. The shirt was made of silk and had silver embroidery on it which reminded Harry of snakes. To wear on top of that was a black robe with the same embroidery as the shirt.
A blush coloured Harry face when he realised that black silk boxes had been laid out for him to use. Since he knew for sure that he didn't own something like that, he wondered where Draco had gotten his measurements from.
Deciding to ponder on such things on a later time, Harry started dressing. He'd already spent enough time in the bath. If he wasn't careful Severus would be there before he was ready to go.
The clothes fit him and the dressrobe settled easily against his body. Harry used a moment to smooth out any winkles, mewling at the feeling of the cloth against his skin. The robe was made of a martial he didn't recognise, but it was light and definitely not meant for outdoor uses.
At the floor black dragonhide shoes stood. Harry stared down at them, while feeling a strong urge to poke the footwear. The shoes looked great bit different from what he would usually wear and Harry doubted that he would be able to run far in those, if it should prove to be necessary.
"Is Great Master Harry Potter ready for Dobby doing his hairs, sir?" Having forgotten all about the houseelf's presence while dressing Harry's hand flew to his chest, trying to calm his fast beating heart. He nodded before remembering that Dobby was not about to see him and instead he used his voice.
The houseelf turned around, clapping its hands. "Dobby is making Great Master Harry Potter looks pretty."
Before Harry could even think of protesting he found himself seated in a chair which appeared out of nowhere in the middle of his room.
With a snap of Dobby's fingers Harry found a cloth covering his robe, his hair completely loose and scissors hovering in the air around his head together with a few combs. "Don't take too much of the length off." Harry pleaded, ready to make a run for the door at the first given opportunity.
"Dobby is making Great Master Harry Potter looks pretty." The houseelf promised for the second time and Harry realised that Bellatrix had roughly said the same thing when he had been up in the Whomping Willow.
Closing his eyes when the scissors and combs started moving, Harry sat stiff as a board. By now he had guessed that Dobby was probably a Malfoy houseelf, and as Draco had pointed out several times in the past, a Malfoy owned nothing but the best.
Then why couldn't he get rid of the fear that Dobby might clips his ear of if Harry moved as much as an inch?
"All done, now Great Master Harry Potter is looking pretty." At Dobby words, Harry dared to open his eyes, finding a big mirror floating in the air in front of him.
To Harry's great relief, Dobby didn't seem to have taken much off the length. Just enough for Harry's head to feel slightly lighter than he was used to. Turning his head, Harry watched himself closely, trying to form an opinion of Dobby's work.
All hair bare his fringe had been pulled away from his face, probably to conceal the lighting formed scar on his forehead. The rest had been pulled together in his neck, folded in half and was now held in place by what looked like two chopsticks.
Turning his head from side to side to get a better look, Harry decided that it was a good difference. With the way Dobby had been speaking Harry had feared that he would end up with big curls and pink bows in his hair. This he could live with.
"Great Master Harry Potter be needing Dobby for anything else?" Shaking his head, Harry stood and sent the houseelf off, the chair and mirror disappeared together with the houseelf.
A knock on his door drew Harry's attention to it. "I'm decent." He said with a slight roll of his eyes.
It was something Severus insisted he had to say, instead of inviting someone into his room.
Though Hogwarts had wards to keep out vampires unless they had been invited, Severus still insisted that Harry was careful. Apparently an encounter with a werewolf back in his time as a student, had made the man mistrust most of those who were not fully human.
Severus opened the door but didn't step inside. The man was dressed in black robes, much like Harry's own, but without the silver markings. The dark hair hang lose, looking free of the grease which usually was in there when the man had been working with potions. "I see that you managed to make yourself look acceptable. If we do not want to create a big entrance by arriving late, we better leave now."
Harry's eyes flickered around the room. Perhaps he could find something which would give him an excuse for not attending the ball. Chances were that he would just find a dark corner to hide in, so he saw no reason to leave Hogwarts.
Sighing Severus abandoned his spot in the doorway. Harry nearly jumped out of his skin when two hands landed on his shoulders, and his eyes met with onyx coloured ones. "If you show any weaknesses they'll rip you to pieces."
"Who knew that you could be so comforting? If you should ever be tired of making potions, you could start consulting." Harry spit out, feeling slightly better at the nauseous look Severus got on his face, before it disappeared somewhere behind the man's mask.
"I'm merely stating a fact. If you wanted comfort, go and search out someone else. Keep this on you no matter what." A small ball of compact hair was pressed into his hand. At the look Harry sent him, Severus started explaining. "Since we do not know where the poison will be it is best to be prepared. With you we are four that will be prepared for tonight."
What Severus said made sense. They couldn't risk letting anyone know that they were aware of what would happen. The poison had not been added by itself. If he or she got hang of what they knew, the person might change their plans and they would lose what advantage they had.
Following Severus out Harry let the stone slip into an inner pocket, where he easily could reach it if it should prove to be necessary.
It was past dinner and those students, who had not been permitted to leave, had sampled near the entrance to watch those leaving for the ball.
Harry watched the students. Walking with Severus Harry might as well have been the man's shadow with how close he was walking to the Potions master, not wanting to attract attention to his person. Severus' presence calmed him and made it less likely that he would run over the hills, screaming.
It seemed like they were leaving as some of the last ones, despite Severus' warning. Harry could only spot a few colourful dressrobes among the black ones of the students.
Together they headed for the portkey area, making Harry want to grimace in disdain. Last time he had used such a device, it had not went well. Why couldn't wizards come up with a more pleasant way of travelling which was just as fast?
"The portkey has been designed to only bring back one person to Hogwarts." Severus broke the silence as they reached the portkey area. "The dark lord wants someone to check up on the giants and make sure that they remember who they are allies with. I'll leave as soon as we are done tonight."
Harry nodded, not sure what else he was supposed to do. He was used to Severus leaving him for shorter or longer periods of times. Though he knew that the man could take care of himself, it didn't stop Harry from worrying about him.
"Also, the dark lord plans on letting chosen people reveal your status as a seer tonight. It will be a gentler method than if he decided just to announce it through the Daily Prophet. He believes that while it'll raise people's interest in you, it'll also be easier to protect you from the Order when more people are aware of what you are."
Severus words made Harry's hackles rise. He supposed that it was a necessity. He had seen the article Skeeter had written about them after his and Voldemort's short visit to Diagon Alley. It could not be avoided that they would spend more time together when Harry had to tell his visions to the man on his own.
Skeeter was an effective journalist, if nothing else could be said. Harry was surprised that she had not already sniffed out that he was a squib and circulate nasty rumours about him.
Perhaps it was because she was not yet sure where he stood with Voldemort, and didn't want to risk the anger of the man who ruled the world they lived in.
Nothing more was said as they touched the portkey, a small pocket watch and Harry closed his eyes as he felt the familiar tug in his stomach.
This time Harry somewhat managed to not fall when they landed. He stumbled a little before he regained his balance and decided to open his eyes.
They were in a room intended to receive those who arrived with portkeys. Only one portkey at a time could arrive or leave the room and the space was limited, so no big groups could be in there.
If someone intended to invade the Ministry, they would have to find another way inside.
With Severus' hand on his arm Harry was lead from the room so the next ones would be able to arrive.
From there they stepped directly into the hall which had been decorated for tonight's ball.
A band was placed on a stage in the far end of the room, playing a soft tune to which those on the dance floor moved to. One side of the walls had been cleared to contain those tables with food Harry had seen in his vision.
Those not currently dancing stood near the tables, chatting heartedly with each other. Silently Harry wondered, how many new rumours would be started when each moved on to new groups to discuss what they'd heard.
Severus had let go of him now where they were among other people, and Harry found that he bemoaned the lost of security the touch had given him.
Remembering what Severus had told him, Harry changed his posture. He straightened his back, pushed his shoulders slightly back and tilted his chin upwards. It was a position he had seen Draco adopt whenever the blond was around other purebloods who did not belong to his little group of friends.
If one overdid it, they looked arrogant. However, Harry just wanted to hide his nervousness from those who were watching the newly arrived.
Together they walked down the stairs. Harry kept slightly behind Severus, like a second shadow, as he continued taking in the scene below them.
Any of those people was a possible suspect. If Harry had been the one to add the poison he would stay and watch his work unfold. So why shouldn't the actual guilty do just that?
"Severus' it's has been so long since we last saw each other." The booming voice sounded over the small talk around them, making both Potions Master and his assistant look at the speaker.
The man making his way over to them was short with immense belly. The enormous, silver walruslike moustache dominated the man's face, making him look like a friendly old man, albeit a little too eager as he walked over to them, dressed in dark purple dressrobes.
Coming to a stop in front of them, the man smiled widely. "I read your paper about your latest studies of the Wolfsbane potion, brilliant work. But it's not so surprisingly. Already when I taught you in your first year I knew you would go far. And see you now, not only do you have my old job, but you are also the personal potions supplier of our dark lord."
When the man's gaze landed on Harry a small frown appeared between his eyebrows. It was gone so fast that Harry was left wondering if he had even seen it, or if it was simply a part of his imagination.
Until this point the man had showed no sign of recognition him, otherwise Harry doubted that they would have been approached by him. But maybe it was not so surprisingly considering that they'd only met once before.
But Harry certainly remembered the man and the promise he had given the Potions brewer when no one had been around to hear it.
"Severus Snape, you sly dog. I remember when you were about to take your Mastery. You swore that never would you take in an apprentice. This lad must certainly be talented for you to take him in under your wing." Harry gritted his teeth when Slughorn shook his hand, though he resisted the urge of whipping it clean when the man let go of him.
If he opened his mouth Harry knew that he would say something that would have consequences for him.
Finally, when it became clear that Harry would make no move to interact with the man, Severus spoke up. "He's my assistant, not my apprentice. Furthermore, Harry Potter is also a seer."
Either the Potions brewer did really not remember him, or the man was a far better actor than Harry would have given him credit for. "A seer, how interesting. I don't recall you taking Divination when you were a student, Severus. Actually I can remember how you proclaimed in the common room, that there was no way one could gain knowledge about the future by gazing into a crystal ball. Of course you expressed yourself with more colourful words. Now I have to go and find Wendy Slinkhard, I have heard rumours that she is working on a new book which I might be able to help her with."
Harry watched as the man quickly departed from them. With a click of his tongue he drew Severus' attention from where the man had disappeared off to and to him.
Harry knew that Severus probably wanted to know what had caused the man's strange behaviour. It was something which Harry didn't want to share with anyone, for his own safety.
"Strange man." Harry mumbled, loud enough for Severus to hear him. "Can I go now? I promised Draco that I would find him and greet his fiancé." Harry shifted his weight from one foot to another, not having to fake his nervousness as he waited for Severus' answer. They had dragged attention to them the moment Severus had mentioned Harry's seer abilities.
Finally Severus relented. "Don't stray. And I don't want to hear that you have gotten into troubles or managed to set something on fire."
"That's one time and I was twelve." Harry protested, though relieved that Severus wasn't pressing for details right now.
Giving Severus a bright smile Harry parted from the man, not worrying about him.
Severus would probably find other Potions interested and discuss theories and cutting methods for the rest of the night, so he would probably not be bored.
It took Harry a little longer to locate Draco than he'd thought it would.
The blond was just coming off the dance floor. His hair had been slicked back and he was wearing pale blue robes with the Malfoy's family crest on it. At his arm a beautiful witch was latched on. She seemed to be a year or two younger than her partner and Harry cherished the fact that she was shorter than him.
Draco looked away from his partner, as if hearing something. When his eyes fell on Harry, an appreciating look entered them, probably because Harry was wearing what Draco had ordered his houseelf to lay out for him. Whispering a short comment to the girl, Draco led her over to where Harry was standing on his own.
"So Harry, I see that you do clean up nicely." Greeted Draco when they were close.
Instead of kicking Draco's shin as he first wanted to, Harry returned the smile. "How could I not, when you were so gracious to send one of your houseelves to assist me."
The look on Draco's face made Harry wonder what the three Lestranges had done to his friend after Harry had sent them after him. "It was only fair since you suggested that my dear aunt should help me to prepare for tonight." The blond's words were sugar coated, warning Harry to watch his back in the near future for Draco's retaliation.
"Harry, this is my fiancée, Astoria Greengrass. Darling, this is Harry Potter, my friend and a seer." Despite Severus' warning and the fact that this had been done before, Harry felt his muscles tense at Draco's words.
He didn't like the method Voldemort had chosen to use to reveal him to the whole world.
Draco's presentation made the witch look at Harry for the first time, though there was something sceptical in the look she gave him. "You are into crystal balls?" She asked, her voice laced with doubt.
Keeping his smile even Harry answered the girl. "No, the only time I let Draco talk me into trying to glimpse after something in such a thing, I ended with a headache." He grimaced, as he recalled the event.
"It's because you fell asleep during the experiment and hit your head against the crystal ball. And afterwards you refused further tests, so we didn't have a chance to see, if you can see into the future by other means."
Harry scowled at his friend. "Well, excuse me for being bloody tired after Severus had me running the whole day. And if you hadn't decided to awake me in the middle of the night, it wouldn't have happened." Harry argued.
It had happened not long after Draco had learned of Harry's visions. The blond had been sure that Harry's abilities would be able to manifest through other means.
Why the blond had nicked the crystal ball from the Divination class instead of borrowing or buying his own, Harry would never know.
"But how do they work?"
The question made Harry pause and wonder how he could best explain it. To those few he had explained it, had already believed in his abilities, or at least been open-minded enough to consider it a possibility. No matter how he looked at the girl, she didn't seem like that kind of person.
"I just get visions. Nothing specific, nothing can dictate what I'll see. Mostly they just pop up." He ended his explanation with a shrug.
Draco's fiancée seemed to be watching him in a new light, as though she could not decide if he was worth her attention or not. "It must be a useful gift." She said non commentary, but her words told Harry far more than he had thought they would.
She was still sceptical, understanding enough since he could show her no proof that he was not a deceiver. So, he couldn't expect invitations to tea parties from her, much to Harry's great relief.
On the other hand, the girl was a Slytherin, if nothing else. She didn't want to push him too far away from her in case that his claims proved to be true. At least Harry hoped that it meant that she would not seek to destroy his and Draco's friendship.
"Harry!" Pansy's squeal was the only warning he got, before a humansized weight was added to his right arm, pulling Harry off balance and nearly sending him crashing to the floor.
Before that happened Harry managed to steady himself, though a blush painted his cheeks as he noticed the amused glances they were gathering from those standing nearby.
"Hey Dray, Astoria, you have to tell me who did your hair, it's absolutely adorable. Now you'll have to excuse us. Harry here promised me a dance, and I'm not about to let him worm out of it." Already as she spoke, Pansy was dragging Harry away from Draco and Astoria, not giving any of them time to reply.
They went on the dance floor and Harry's body grew tense. Until now he'd believed that Pansy was joking when she'd claimed that she wanted to dance with him. "What are you doing?" Hissed Harry as they took the positions they'd both been practising.
"Why dancing of course, and saving you. I love Astoria as the little sister I never wanted, but unless she sees proofs on you being a seer, she's not going to see you as anything else than a squib. It'll only put Draco in a tight spot if you two are in the same room for too long." Pansy said as a new song was played and they started moving. "What were you talking about before I interrupted?" Came the question as Harry swirled her around.
"Draco was just retelling some attempts he made to figure out if I could see the future through something else than my visions." Luckily the blond had stopped when Harry had made it clear that he didn't like those experiments. Though no one had said anything about it, Harry suspected that Draco somehow knew that they reminded him of the experiments the Order of the Phoenix had made him go through.
At least with Draco Harry knew for sure that there had been no ill intention behind it.
"Draco was rather annoying when I met him earlier. He ranted something about you had sent Bellatrix after him, after he'd made sure that she and the two others would keep you occupied for the day so you would not be able to sneak off and hide somewhere."
Harry rolled his eyes. At least he now knew for sure that Draco had been the one to send the Lestranges after him. It was just a shame that it had backfired on his friend, but Harry couldn't find it in himself to feel sorry for the pureblood.
"Yeah, it's a shame that they stopped. The tree only managed to lay a few good whacks before they gave up their pursue of me." Harry watched, as Pansy's face dawned in confusion.
"But the only tree that fits that description is the Whomping Willow, and it doesn't allow anyone near it." Harry felt a grin split on his face at her open disbelief. "How can you be near it, without being covered in bruises?" The girl's eyes narrowed as if she expected said bruises to spurt forth at any minute.
Harry decided not to talk about those he had. After all, the Whomping Willow hadn't intended to harm him when it'd thrown him around. It was just not aware of its own strength and how fragile humans could be. "Actually the Whomping Willow is quite a friendly fellow. You just have to know how to tackle it and it is like an overgrown kitten." He said, smiling at his not so accurate description of the violent tree.
Hogwarts was vacated for students in the summer time, and Severus often used this time to travel around the world to gather those ingredients which could not be brought, or which he'd not trust others to harvest for him.
It was very rare for Harry to be brought along on such trips. Severus had made it clear that it was too dangerous, since Harry didn't have magic to defend himself with and the Order knew of his existence. Therefore, he'd often found himself left behind whenever Severus took off.
It was last summer that Harry had talked the houseelves in the kitchen to let him bring a basket of oranges with him outside. Considering how eager those small fellows were, it had not been a hard task.
Once out there Harry had noticed the Whomping Willow, and how the tree seemingly tried to trash anything which came within its reach.
But to Harry, it had looked like something else. He'd noticed how the tree was placed on its own, too far away to be able to interact with any of the other trees.
When he first had come too close to the tree, he had ended with a bump on the size of an egg on top of his head and in anger Harry had thrown one of his oranges at the tree.
As the tree returned his every shot, it had quickly evolved to a game between the tree and Harry. He would throw the orange the best he could and then the tree would return those it didn't manage to squash when it caught them.
In the days following Harry had become more daring, and ended up with quite the number of bruises. But it had been worth it. Now he had something to amuse himself with whenever he was on his own, and Harry knew, as it had been proved today, that the tree was more than willing to protect him from other people.
The song came to an end, making Harry want to whoop with joy as he led Pansy off of the dance floor. "Try to find the others, I think I will look around for now." Without bothering to wait for an answer Harry let go of the girl and slipped away from her.
Behind him Harry could hear Pansy call his name, but he let the distance grow before people began paying much attention to what was going on.
It wouldn't surprise him if his Slytherin peers had been ordered to keep an eye on him tonight. Though he considered them his friends, Harry knew that they were also Voldemort's followers. The man wouldn't want to lose an access after gaining it so soon.
But Harry had no intention about staying and being watched like a good boy. He'd found a reason for him to be here, making him glad that he had not managed to worm himself out of coming here tonight.
He stopped briefly at one of the tables, choosing a goblet of red wine and took it with him as he continued wandering around among the guests.
Harry soon found a shadowed corner, where the light didn't quite seem to reach. With his dark robes and hair Harry effectively fell in one with the shadows surrounding him.
Leaning back against the wall Harry started watching people interact with each other for now, bidding his time.
For his first time attending such an event, Harry deemed that it did not fall in his taste. His friends had made it sound like a part of a fairy tale when they had described how the ball was supposed to be.
Though Harry enjoyed spending time with them and learning something about the world he lived in, he would much rather entertain himself with a potion.
If not because he had a plan in mind, he might have sought out Theodore. The bookish Slytherin had made it clear from the very beginning that he was not one for parties, but as the heir of the Nott family, he was expected to attend those kinds of things.
Harry's gaze landed on a small group standing not too far from him, though none of them seemed to pay him any mind. The sound of the laughter easily bore over to him when one of them said something witty, but otherwise Harry had no idea of what was going on in that group.
In the small group of wizards stood Voldemort. The man was easily the tallest of the males, closely followed by the head of the Malfoy family, who was standing by the dark lord's left.
Voldemort was dressed in green robes, so dark that they could easily be mistaken for black. The man had the same silver embroideries as Harry, and every time he moved, they looked much like living snakes.
As if aware that he was being watched, Voldemort glanced up from the person he was talking with. It was almost unnoticed, but Harry had been paying a great amount of attention to the man since spotting him.
Despite having hidden, it didn't take long for Voldemort's eyes to lock on to his.
Red eyes travelled up his body with something akin to approval. The look made a tingling sensation spread from his stomach and to the tip of his toes and fingers.
The man quirked an eyebrow in silent inquiry. Harry glanced at the goblet in his hand before meeting Voldemort's gaze again and shook his head to the silent question he'd been asked.
Now that he thought about it, the goblet looked rather much like the one he'd seen in his vision. So did all the other goblets, so the one he was standing with could contain perfectly harmless wine.
Seemingly satisfied that Harry wasn't going to do something stupid, such as drinking of a possible poisoned wine, Voldemort turned back to the conversation around him.
Harry would have liked to stay longer and simply watch Voldemort, when he caught his target on the move out of the corner of his eyes.
A quick glance in Voldemort's direction assured Harry that the man was not looking at him. Knowing that it didn't mean that he was not under supervision Harry pushed himself away from the wall and walked away.
Passing a table Harry grabbed another goblet so both of his hands now were occupied. Having gotten what he needed Harry started moving towards where he had seen the man disappear to.
Harry let his feet carry him over the floor. He kept his gaze lowered, avoiding eye contact and thus giving no reason for anyone to want to interact with him. He was just another unimportant person, who had somehow managed to get an invitation to the ball and therefore, there was no reason for anyone to want to talk with him
It was a method Harry had used many times in the past in hope of avoiding attention. Without wearing the tell telling grey robes Harry found that the tactic was far more successful than it had been before.
It was no wonder that someone would attempt murder when the guests gave their surroundings so little notice.
Harry found the way he had seen the man slip through and followed the same way, changing his posture as he did so to the one he had used when he had arrived with Severus. People were less likely to be questioned about their business if they acted like they'd every right to be there.
The light in the corridor wasn't as bright as it had been in the hall. This was not a place one was supposed to venture out on their own.
The sound of footstep let Harry know where his target was. For one so stout, the man certainly could move fast when he deemed the need to be there.
Harry wished that he had thought of bringing his Invisibility cloak with him as he strode forward. But he had feared that he would lose it when he wasn't paying attention, and now he would have to make do without it.
Harry followed after the man deeper into the Ministry. Had it been any other situation Harry would have paid more attention to wonder where the different corridors and doors might lead to. As it was he kept track on the one he was following and on the route they went, so he would be able to find back afterwards.
Soon purple coloured robes entered Harry's sight. Why the man had chosen that colour of robes when he'd been planning to sneak around the Ministry, made no sense to Harry.
Still with the goblets in his hands Harry approached the wizard when the man paused in front of a closed door.
"Lovely night, wouldn't you say so." Harry said with glee as the man jumped. He had a hand placed on his chest, right over where his heart was when the man turned to face the seer.
"You are Severus' assistant, sorry but I think that I forgot your name." Slughorn said as a small peal of sweat rolled down his face. Harry's eyes followed the drop until it disappeared between one of the man's many chins.
The grin didn't slip from Harry's face as he offered the man one of the goblets he had brought with him. To his surprise the Potions brewer actually accepted the beverage but didn't drink any of it. "Harry Potter, sir. I wondered if you would lend me a bit of your time."
Harry sipped of imbibed of the wine, and after a slight moment of hesitation Slughorn followed the movement. "I don't see how I can be of any help to you. You are assisting a famous Potions master, someone like me, who didn't even get his mastery, can hardly be of any interest for you."
Harry had to admit that the man was a rather good actor. If not for the small slip-up back when they had been introduced to each other, Harry would truly have believed that the man had forgotten all about him. Perhaps it was a method so that Slughorn would sleep better at night, despite the hell he put others through with his actions.
"Yes, but you taught Severus back when he went to school. There must be tons of stories you can tell me about him. He even admitted to me that he wouldn't have gotten as far in life if not because his old Potions professor had been introducing him to people with the right kind of connections." Now Harry was making a shot in the dark. Severus had never even mentioned Slughorn before, Harry would have remembered it. But Slughorn seemed like that kind of man, who was more willing to talk if you petted his feathers the right way.
"I certainly can't take all the honour, but I have to admit that I played a role. Through my years as a professor I have helped many youths to reach their full potential here in life. To this day many of them still pay me respect for those small things I did for them."
Harry watched as Slughorn took another swig of the goblet, smacking his lips as if he tasted it for the first time. The man had relaxed, seemingly having forgotten that they both where at a place which none of them were supposed to be.
"But I'll have to get on now. If you have any questions about Severus' time as a student, you are welcome to owl me." The man made a shushing movement with his hands, as if he truly believed Harry to follow any orders that he gave him.
Harry was wondering how he was supposed to drag this out, when it felt like his heart gave a terrible wrench.
Grasping for air, Harry grabbed his chest, trying to keep his lungs working though they seemed to want freeze.
Harry bent forward, his hands searching through the pockets in his robes as he heard similar gasp from the only other person in the corridor.
Glancing up through his fringe Harry couldn't keep a stretched grin from his face, as he saw that Slughorn wore the same pained expression as the man from his vision had done.
Finding what he was searching for Harry popped the Beazore into his mouth, letting it rest on the back of his tongue though not swallowing. The thought of having something from a goat's stomach inside his mouth, made him want to retch, but Harry felt the influence immediately.
The pain from his lungs stopped and Harry was able to let fresh air rush in. Straightening up Harry looked down at the man who had fallen to his knees. Since Slughorn had consumed more wine than Harry, it didn't surprise him that the process went faster than it had done with him.
Spitting the Bezoar out into his hand, Harry grimaced at the aftertaste it left in his mouth. "Do you remember what I said the last time I saw you?" Harry asked, making the man look up. When Slughorn saw the poison neutraliser in his hand, he reached out for it.
For safety measures Harry stepped back. He didn't want to give the man a chance of surviving this.
"I told you that you would regret supplying the Order with that dammed potion. I would make sure that you die, and when it happened, I would be there and watch you." Slughorn had turned slightly blue around his lips and the man was wheezing for air, now laying flat on the floor since he had no energy left to keep himself upright.
"It seems like I was right, and I didn't even have to see this in a vision to get it to happen." Harry wanted to shout, but he also knew that the risk of being interrupted would be too big.
He didn't want to lose this opportunity of revenge.
"If I had any of the potion, and I thought that it would have any effect on you, I would force you to drink every batch which has ever been forced down my throat. Did you know, how painful an experience it was? You made it, so I had nightmares, I was unable to keep any food down and barely knew what was going on around me."
Slughorn was saying something, but at this point, no sound passed over his lips. "This is kind of fitting. You destroyed a great part of my life by inventing that potion for Dumbledore. Now I am taking your life with a potion. Both of them are painful, but only one of them is lethal."
Harry stayed silent for the rest of Slughorns struggles. He knew he should probably get moving so he wouldn't get caught on the crime scene.
But he needed to see this. He needed to know, that the one who had brewed a potion to destroy his life, would no longer be able to do him anything.
Only when the man hadn't moved a muscle for several seconds did Harry turn around. He didn't need to check to know that the man was dead. No matter how good an actor Slughorn might have been, not even he would have been able to fake such a thing.
The man was finally dead.
One more on his list was gone. If it continued like this, he might actually be able to reach the end of it before it would be too late.
The thought made him almost giddy until Harry looked over his shoulder and his eyes fell on the already cooling body behind him.
He was a murderer.
A cold blooded murderer.
Harry didn't regret what he had done. He didn't like that he had taken a human life so carelessly, but considering what kind of treatment he had received on those people's hands, Harry would say that it was justified.
Shuddering Harry turned his head back, speedily walking. He needed to get far away before the corpse was found. Panic would spread and they would be searching for someone to blame.
Harry had yet to figure out how he was supposed to deal with the aftermath.
Finding the hall Harry let his muscles relax he hadn't been aware that he had been tense. He had separated himself from the corpse, but still felt the need to further that.
Letting his gaze wander, Harry located Severus in the crowd. As he had expected, Severus had found a small group of Potions interested whom were willing to take on a Potions master when it came to discussing theories.
Catching the man's eyes Harry mouthed one word. 'Home'. Severus nodded in understanding. The man probably thought that someone had discovered Harry's squib status or that he simply was tired of spending his time in a place he hadn't want to be in the first place.
Knowing that Severus would let the message get to those who might be searching for him, Harry set for the room they had arrived in.
His heart was beating fast and the blood drumming at his ears. Harry kept his eyes straight forward, not wanting to catch anyone's eyes. What if all they needed was to look at him, and then know that he had just killed someone?
Harry felt like he had murderer hovering over his head, free for anyone to see if they would just take the time to look at it. He had to get away from here.
His footsteps quickened and Harry had to keep hold on himself to not start running.
By the time he reached the room they had arrived in, cold sweat had sprung out and his nails had dug so hard into the flesh in his hands that Harry could feel small drops of blood rolling over his skin.
With a shaking hand Harry fished out the pocket watch Severus had loaned him. It would bring him back to Hogwarts where he would wait and see what would happen.
Harry let his thumb run over the portkey, stepping inside the room. As he'd expected the room was empty, leaving him free to leave whenever he wanted.
A body crashed into Harry's sending him flying at the very moment he activated the portkey. The seer screamed as he felt the tug in his stomach, feeling arm wrap themselves around him.
Struggling against his attacker Harry was transported out of the room.
Harry hit the ground hard, not even wasting time with a curse. He trashed around, trying to get away from the hands holding his arms in an attempt to keep him on the ground.
His left leg was in pain. If felt like a giant had tried to tug at it, to see how far it could stretch before it would break. Harry was vaguely aware of the blood oozing from the hand sized wound on his thigh.
Too afraid to deal with the pain at the current moment, Harry concentrated on getting rid of his foe with every trick he could think of. He bit, he kicked and hit and he scratched wherever he could reach.
The male cursed, before letting him go. Harry opened his eyes, not sure why he had kept them closed until now. But he used his newly received freedom to create as much space as possible to his assailant, only stopping moving away when his back hit a cold wall.
In the dim light Harry saw how the male transformed, until he was nothing more than a rodent. Instinctively Harry threw himself forward, his arms reaching out in front of him.
The rat was faster and scrunched away before Harry could get a hold on it. He would have tried again, but the rat had already made its way through the bars and had disappeared out of sight, leaving Harry alone.
Getting his breath under control, Harry tried to understand what had just happened.
He'd been attacked when he was about to leave the ball, and Harry could make a good guess of who had done it thanks to seeing the male transform into his animagus form.
He was not at the portkey spot where he should have arrived. When he looked around in the small cell Harry realised why. Next to the pocket watch a silver spoon laid, something which Harry assumed was also a portkey. The two portkeys must somehow have inflicted each other, making it so Harry arrived in another destination than he was supposed to.
Harry assumed that this was also the reason to why his leg was also damaged now. Portkeys were not supposed to be activated so close to each other, especially not when their users were in contact with each other. How that was even possible with the wards Harry knew were inside the Ministry, he was not sure about.
So his situation was bad. Harry didn't know where he was, he was wounded and no one other than the one who had attacked him knew that he was there. And by the looks of it, the man would probably not come back anytime soon.
The voice made Harry look up from the wound which was still bleeding. He really needed to find something to stop the blood with or he would soon pass out from blood loss.
In the cell across his own sat Sirius Black.
Am I mean? yes.
Do I care? No, I'm currently doped with painkillers and just want to sleep the effect of.
This chapter is dedicated to DominaNocte, I know that this is not exactly what you wished for, but this is what it turned out to be, I hope that you all liked it.
So, I look forward to reading your response.
Here are two stories to read while you wait for an update from me
In Noctem» by theSevenYears
After his parents' deaths in 1927, Hadrian Peverell is adopted and taught the art of politics. With war looming on the horizon and the mask hiding his true identity at stake, he is forced to trust someone almost as dangerous as himself: Tom Riddle. Eventual HP/TR, DarkHarry
Lily's Secret» by Jelly340
Abandoned by his friends after his name came out of the Goblet of Fire, Harry has to figure out how to survive on his own. Whether it's learning new spells, or finding out why he suddenly has fangs, Harry in in for another rough year. Father Fic.
Until next time.