This story takes place in an AU where I've replaced the magic of Harry Potter with the elemental bending powers of Avatar: The Last Airbender. You don't have to be familiar with Avatar to keep up; what you need to know is that along with regular folk there are some people who can manipulate one of the four elements - water, fire, air or earth - and that only one person in the world, the Avatar, can control all four elements. When the Avatar dies he or she is reincarnated, and the previous two Avatars were Aang, from 'The Last Airbender', and Korra, from 'Legend of Korra'. No new Avatar has emerged after the death of Korra.
The world itself is a fusion - basically I've put Hogwarts in the world of Avatar, as a prestigious school for all four types of bending, but I've otherwise kept the Avatar canon more or less intact. The four houses of Hogwarts are for the four elements, as you might imagine. The story takes place a hundred years or so after the birth of Korra, during Harry's fourth year at Hogwarts, and a lot of the central cast from the Harry Potter books will appear. Due to the different circumstances the characters have grown up with they will have traits - and relationships - that don't always match HP canon. Not a lot Avatar characters will show up, since it's been a century or two since they were knocking about. But some might.
The occasional references to things that happened hundreds of years ago will make a little more sense if you're familiar with the animated shows, but the current state of the world (as well as the recent history of the world) is of my own invention, and so it will be explained as it is explored. So being familiar with the shows can add an extra dimension but it's not very important as this is primarily a Harry Potter AU.
Oh, and right now the technology in this world is on a deliciously steampunky level. Enjoy.
Harry Potter: The Last Avatar
Book 1: Water
Chapter 1: Happy Birthday, Harry Potter
He was wrapped up tight, safe in a haze of warmth and sleepiness.
The door opened without a sound. That was wrong.
The sharp man looked down at him and smiled a crooked smile.
Water - water - sinking - sinking - burning - breathing - drowning - drinking.
He reached for the surface but it moved away from him.
He looked up and saw the man, distorted and twisted through the liquid that was the world now.
The crooked smile was bigger.
First came the cold, then the dark, then the nothing.
Harry Potter opened his eyes. He was coated in sweat, his heart doing a million beats minute, as if to prove that he was still alive. He was lying on his side, afraid to move even an inch lest he scream or throw up. The fingers on his left hand were starting to tremble, so he quickly grabbed them with his right and held them tight.
A sliver of light spilled into the room as the door slowly opened, and Harry immediately flew out of the bed and into a defensive stance. Or he would have, but the sweat-soaked sheets were plastered to him and twisted around him, and all he managed was to tip over onto the floor. Pain shot through his right kneecap, shaking the last vestiges of the dream from his head.
"Happy birthday to you..."
Get up, Harry.
"Happy birthday to you..."
Don't let him see you like this.
"Happy birthday, dear Harry! Happy birthday to – oh!"
Lily Potter put down the cake and rushed over to help him off the floor. Harry looked past her to see the weakly smiling, entirely unsurprised face of James Potter.
"I'm fine," Harry said, shrugging off his mother. The room was sweltering and he'd only worn his underwear to bed, so he wrapped the sheets around himself for modesty and sat back up on the bed.
James opened the small window above Harry's overflowing desk, letting in a gust of air along with the blinding morning light, the sound of honking horns below and the smell of the city. His mother was always pestering him to keep the window open at night, but he preferred it shut. James liked to think that it was because Harry liked the heat.
When she'd made sure that Harry was unhurt Lily proceeded to drop one kiss on each of his cheeks and one on his forehead. "Happy fourteenth, dear!"
"Happy birthday, kid," James said from the other side of the room.
Wasn't it 'happy birthday, son' last year?
His room was small, and having three people in it practically put it at its bursting point. It didn't help that stacks of books and scrolls of parchment littered the floor, forcing both his parents to tread carefully. A particularly insistent honk blared from outside, breaking the silence that had formed. Harry remembered living in the country, with wide and empty plains all around their huge house. He never kept his window shut there.
"Presents!" Lily exclaimed with enough excitement to put half-a-smile on Harry's face. The moments when she was acting more childish than him or James were to be cherished.
When Harry opened his gift from Lily, an expensive set of history books, she apologised and said that he was so difficult to buy gifts for and that she'd noticed one of the books on the list from school and thought he might like the full set. He hugged her and said they were great.
Last year James had gotten him a set of advanced guidebooks on duelling, the year before that an expensive set of duelling gloves. This year he had gotten Harry a suit, complete with new shoes and a slim red tie. It looked very expensive, completely impersonal, and had nothing at all to do with duelling or bending. "A man ought to have a suit!" James said, somewhat vaguely, clapping Harry on the shoulder. It seemed Harry had finally managed the impossible – to break James Potter's spirit.
Then the cake was brought to him, and he was instructed to make a wish.
No more dreams ever.
He blew out all fourteen candles, but a single one flared back into life.
"Try again," James said.
Harry blew again, and the flame flickered and seemed to die before coming back in full force.
"Is that a joke-candle?" Harry asked.
"Just try harder," James said.
"James," said Lily.
Harry blew at the candle again. Lily lifted her hand and made a move like she was pinching something out of the air, and the candle did not relight.
"He should have done that," James said, annoyed.
"He shouldn't have to because we agreed on regular candles," Lily said irritably. "I wonder how that one got mixed in there."
"It doesn't matter," Harry said.
"He should stop acting like one of them! He can bend, so he should bend!" James said.
"He doesn't have to perform for you, or anyone else!"
Hi, hello, I'm still here.
"He should be proud! Captain Crouch says that a bender born of two benders of the same sort is one of the most potent -"
"Oh, 'Captain Crouch says', 'Captain Crouch says...' That man is your boss, not your god!"
"If you think that the Muggles-"
"I'd like to go alone to Diagon today," Harry said.
That shut them up.
"I don't think..." Lily started, her hand reaching out for Harry.
"Good," James said. "I needed to work anyway."
"I thought you said that new partner could handle patrols alone!" Lily snapped.
James shrugged. "He can, but he's getting transferred away soon. Promoted, I think."
"Already? You've had the same job for eight years!"
"'Blood is strength'" James quoted.
"In other words his father pulled some strings..."
"Well, yeah," James grinned. "So I need to get my foot in that door before he disappears!"
"I'll go with you then," Lily said, turning to Harry.
"I asked to go alone, remember?" Harry said. "What's the big deal? It's just Diagon."
"But what about there and back?" Lily said "There could be Equalists..."
"I'm not worried about Equalists," Harry said, more darkly than he'd intended.
James seemed to take his tone for bravado and grinned. "That's the spirit!" He walked up and clapped Harry on the shoulder.
"Besides, I'm meeting Hermione."
"It's not like that," Harry said. "Anyway, her parents are hardly going to be escorting her up and down Diagon, are they?" Harry shot James a glare, and he had the decency to look a tiny bit embarrassed.
"Well... Give Hermione our regards then," Lily said, uncertainly.
"Yes, give her our love and kisses..." James proceeded to make smooching noises. Lily was looking at Harry with concern, and did not even throw anything at James, which might have been her usual response.
Harry couldn't help but smirk. Hermione Granger's righteous indignation could certainly get old, but after months apart her knitted brow and lightly flushed face was a sight for sore eyes. He had been attacked with a bone-crushing hug and a face-full of bushy brown hair the second he came into Florean's.
"Happy birthday, Harry Potter," she had whispered in a voice much gentler than her touch.
"Why thank you, Miss Granger!" he had said, disentangling himself as best he could.
Florean's was always busy on summer days like this, so they stood in line for a long while, cramped between couples and groups of friends. The normally pleasant interior had been transformed into a sauna, and Harry could feel the sweat dripping down his forehead by the time they reached the counter. He smiled at Florean, who managed a tired grin and a "Mr. Potter," before taking their orders.
Harry tried to manoeuvre them to a table in a back corner of the café, but Hermione derailed that quick enough, grabbing him by the sleeve and bodily tugging him towards the door.
"But everyone will want to be outside!" he protested. "And there aren't a lot of tables."
"Oh, stop whining!" she smiled, taking a breath of fresh air as they exited the building. "There's a table right here! You're finished, aren't you?" The last was directed at a couple who were, more or less, about to leave and were forced to do so under the encouraging smile of Hermione Granger.
She swooped into her seat and leaned back with a contented sigh.
The Satomobiles that constantly honked and polluted their way up and down the street below Harry's window were not permitted in Diagon, which had to be perfect, so the enclosed area outside Florean's had been allowed to take up a fair portion of the street and they sat right by the small metal fence separating coffee house guests from pedestrians. Diagon was never very crowded, especially considering its location in the middle of Republic City (his mother had told him that Diagon used to be a lot worse twenty years ago), but the flood of people clattering their way across the cobblestones was still too large for Harry's taste.
"Honestly!" Hermione exclaimed (and Harry couldn't help but smirk). "You must be the only Gryffindor who hates the sun!" She closed her eyes and turned towards the sky.
"I thought it might rain..." he countered, fiddling with the sugar-bowl.
"You're as pale as ever!" she said, squinting at him before turning back to the sun. The same could not be said for Hermione, who had darkened quite a bit since Harry saw her last. It was no wonder, considering how she basked in the sunlight like a contented cat. "You really should get out more, Harry." She leaned back and stretched her arms up, and Harry was forced to notice that she had developed in other ways as well. He quickly averted his gaze and took a deep gulp of coffee.
"Have you spent all summer in your room?" she asked, opening her eyes and observing him critically. "It's just not healthy. Look at you now – a little sun and you turn all red!" Her tone had gone from teasing to concerned, so Harry pulled out a distraction.
"Well, we can't all spend our summers in the Earth Kingdom, working on our tans..." The words 'I did not go to work on my tan!' were probably halfway up her throat before Harry snuck in: "How were the libraries?"
Hermione's face lit up.
Fifteen minutes later Harry was quite confident that Hermione had forgotten all about his paleness, her lecture on the amazing Omashu libraries taking precedence. He was still listening, but his eyes began to wander over the passing crowds and he absently started counting the different types of badges; a pointless exercise since everyone wore one, and they were fairly evenly divided between green, red, blue and yellow. Harry ran his finger along the red badge pinned to his shirt, and glanced over at the identical one on Hermione's chest, before looking away quickly.
Hermione was explaining the wonders of the postal system in Omashu when Harry noticed a familiar face in the crowd. A little way off, just by a corner leading into an alley, stood Gregory Goyle. The large boy glanced towards Harry and caught his eye for a second before turning and disappearing into the alley. Goyle was in Harry's year; a thug who was rarely seen alone. Harry started looking around, discomfort rising.
"Hm?" Harry turned to see Hermione watching him intently.
"I worry about you, Harry."
"I get out enough, Hermione – do you think my mother would allow anything less – my skin just doesn't tan like yours-"
"That's not what I'm talking about, Harry..."
Harry looked down to see her hand covering his on the table.
"Don't worry about me," Harry told Hermione for perhaps the millionth time.
"How..." she hesitated, "How have you been sleeping?"
Harry removed his hand from under hers and took a sip of coffee before replying.
She looked at him for a long moment. He looked out into the crowd. Gregory Goyle was nowhere to be seen.
"I got you a birthday present," Hermione said.
"You didn't have to do that," he said, glad they were moving on.
She said nothing, merely reached into her ever-present book-bag and took out a book-shaped package wrapped in bright red paper. Harry took it and eyed it critically.
"Oh! What could it be?" he squeezed it experimentally, then shook it lightly, listening for a jangle.
"Shut up," she said, smirking.
Harry unwrapped the book. And stared at it.
'Dreams of Past, Present and Future'
"Now, don't judge it just from the title, I know it seems fluffy, like the sort of nonsense Trelawney would teach, but there's actually a lot of really interesting stuff in it, historical accounts of people whose dreams are thought to have interacted with the Spirit World. I tried to find a book like this here in Diagon but it was impossible for some reason, so when I saw this in Omashu I immediately thought of you and- um, Harry?"
Harry had covered the title of the book with the wrapping paper. "You got this in the Earth Kingdom?"
Hermione looked uncertain and a bit perturbed. "Yes?"
"So you took it through United Republic customs on the way here," he stated.
"Sure. It's not illegal or anything, if that's what you're thinking..."
"No, but they know you have it. Don't you think you should be more careful?"
"What? Who are you talking about?"
Harry discreetly pointed his finger along the wall of the building opposite Florean's, where a long line of crisp new identical posters depicted the Chairman of the Council, smiling out at everyone in Diagon. 'BLOOD IS STRENGTH' the caption proclaimed.
"Are you serious?" Hermione asked, looking genuinely surprised.
"All customs information has been stored indefinitely for over twelve years now," Harry said, not meeting Hermione's eye. "Five years ago a law was enacted giving them the right to put any book or item on a secret black list, making it illegal to sell or display it publicly. And two years ago a law was enacted that allows them to demand customer information from every store in Republic City."
Hermione looked shocked, but mostly at being on the receiving end of a lecture, for a change.
"But they didn't stop me from taking it into the City," she said, picking the book up and flipping through it. "So they can't mind us reading it too bad, can they?"
"They don't necessarily want to stop people from reading it," Harry said. "They want to know who is reading it."
"Okay, don't take this the wrong way, Harry, but why should anyone care about what books you read?"
Harry faltered for a second. "I just don't want anyone to know about... stuff. Anything."
"Oh, you're just being paranoid!" she said, exasperated.
He shrugged and stared down at his empty coffee cup, and her annoyance seemed to fade.
"Will you take the book?" she asked, making no move to hand it over.
Harry met her gaze and sighed. He gently pried the book from her fingers and swept it into his bag. "Sorry for making a fuss," he said. "Thank you."
"I just... I just thought it might help... " she said, sad eyes locked on his face. "You look tired, Harry."
"Don't worry about me," he told her, for perhaps the million-and-first time, just as the first few raindrops began to fall.
The rain had grown into a torrent by the time Harry neared the edge of Diagon. He was weighed down by his bag, which apart from Hermione's book now also contained his school supplies. They had bought their new things quickly, and in relative silence, hurrying between shops to avoid getting wet. At this point he was already pretty much soaked, but the bag was supposed to be waterproof, so hopefully the contents were okay.
They had parted outside Madam Malkin's, since she needed new robes while he, still retaining his annoyingly boyish frame, did not. They made vague plans to meet up again some time next week, not deciding where or when, except agreeing that it should not be in Diagon. It was the best-kept district in the city, with not a speck of dirt or piece of litter in sight, and it had the best parks and most expensive shops, but Harry always felt totally out of place. Hermione might have loved the bookstores and museums, but she still resented the area.
Harry remembered when they had first met; when he'd gone to Diagon with his his parents to buy the things needed for his very first year at Hogwarts. Hermione had been very different then - an uncertain little girl being escorted around by some creepy government representative - and Harry's parents had taken pity on her. After a flash of James' badge silenced any protests from the government weasel Harry and Hermione had spent the rest of the day preparing for the coming year together. Harry, who hadn't quite started disliking Diagon back then, had shown her all the best spots, and by the end of it she had moved on from a terrified silence to shy smiles and excited babbling.
Harry readjusted the strap on his bag, which was digging into is shoulder, and thought back to the end of that day; meeting Hermione's parents just outside the northern gates of Diagon, where they were anxiously awaiting their girl and getting dirty looks from the Aurors at the gate for no other reason than being there. Harry had read somewhere that Republic City had been founded as a "safe haven for both benders and non-benders alike" and it had made him laugh out loud.
Harry walked past the statue of Avatar Korra and looked up at the pretty metal woman blandly smiling out at the crowd, hands on her hips. She was depicted at a young age, possibly still a teenager, but for some reason she was wearing an Auror's uniform, and Harry could practically hear Hermione's annoyed voice: "When she was that age the uniform did not look like that - they didn't even have Aurors, for goodness sake, they were all metalbenders!"
What Harry found odd was that they had made her look so innocent and, well, stupid. There was nothing behind that empty smile, especially compared to the statue at Hogwarts, where Korra was depicted as a middle aged woman in traditional southern water-tribe clothing. With the Hogwarts statue it always felt like her eyes were following you, judging you, and despite her age she looked ready to leap off the podium and rough you up if you stepped out of line.
Harry realized that he was just standing there, in the rain, staring up at the statue.
I am so tired...
Harry walked on, the crowd thickening until he found himself at the end of a long line. He stretched, peering over the heads in front of him. The gates separating Diagon from the rest of the city were big and menacing, and as always there were plenty of Aurors milling around, wearing their customary armour with the seal of the United Republic on the front.
No one got in or out without having their identity and status as a bender confirmed, and while the Aurors were always courteous they were also paid to be thorough, and it looked like he might be stuck there for a while. Then Harry spotted a familiar face smiling at an old woman as he took her badge and peered at the back of it for her information.
James Potter just had to be assigned to the gate he was going through, didn't he.
Just in front of him in line a seventh year Slytherin he recognized was redirecting the rain off of himself and his Ravenclaw girlfriend. The girl said something funny, the boy laughed, and his redirected rain accidentally splashed all over Harry. They did not even turn around.
Harry stepped out of line, walking briskly back past the statue of Korra and towards the east gate, which was usually less busy. It was a fifteen minute walk, but he actually might save time by going there rather than standing in line, especially since he knew all the shortcuts in Diagon.
He slipped into an alley between two houses and stopped for a moment to dry some of the water off his glasses.
"I didn't know they allowed Squibs in Diagon now..."
"Did you know, Crabbe? Goyle?"
He heard the grunts snigger, but didn't turn. Instead he shoved his glasses back on and kept walking.
Just get out of the alley.
"Hey! I'm talking to you, Potter!"
Harry paused. "No. You were addressing Mr. Crabbe and Mr. Goyle." He turned around and saw the fury on Draco Malfoy's face. "But I apologize if I offended you." Harry gave a small bow, and Malfoy hid his outrage behind a mask of indifference.
It was a long way out of the alley in either direction - if they hadn't been there he could have turned and ran out to the street quite quickly, but that would hardly be allowed. The alley widened where they stood, meaning that there was no bottleneck to benefit Harry in a fight.
And there were no windows facing the alley. No one would see what happened here.
Did they follow him? Did they choose this place to confront him?
Hermione would call you paranoid.
To top it all off Harry was soaked, while raindrops twisted in the air around them to leave Crabbe, Goyle, and Draco dry as dust.
Draco was blonde, handsome, and wore the latest fashion - a sharp cut, all black, except the green water-snake-badge on his chest. The getup looked uncomfortable, but Draco wore it well, backed up by centuries of aristocratic smugness in his blood.
"True, I was talking to these two..." Draco turned to his two henchmen. They had apparently strived to imitate their leader's style of clothing, but unlike Draco they could not pull it off. Harry imagined two gorillas shoved into suits, and suppressed a smile.
"Boys," Draco continued, "what's the punishment for a Mudblood entering Diagon?"
"You know that I'm a fireben-"
"I honestly have no idea what the punishment is!" Draco laughed. "No one has dared to try it in years. We'll probably get a reward for apprehending him."
Harry tapped the red lion-badge on his chest. "I've got one of these, haven't I?"
"A thief, too. Our reward is growing by the second."
The goons laughed, since it was clear that they were supposed to.
"I'm sorry, but I'm in a hurry," Harry said, giving another stiff bow. "I expect we'll meet at school. Good day." Harry turned and walked away briskly, making sure not to run. There was a chance they wouldn't stop him...
Malfoy was not one to announce before attacking, especially if his opponent's back was turned, but Harry sensed... something.
And instinct told him to summon fire and direct it backward, meeting the blast of water to create steam and confusion, then to slide up against the wall to his left, and quickly step into close range where firebending would be more effective and the rain would benefit his attackers less. Waves of fire would distract the goons while he dealt with the real threat - Draco was smart enough to bend the vapours if given half-a-chance. A full force firepunch would take him out, as long as it came as a surprise. He could do it - Draco was quick, but Harry could pull it off if he acted now.
Burn them! Burn them before they drown you!
Harry fought his instincts and kept walking.
A second later he was shoved by a powerful blast of water, and the cobblestones came up to meet him. He braced his fall automatically, and his hands were scratched by pebbles, but there was no blood, so he stood up and walked on.
"Why don't you fight back!" Draco yelled.
Harry was shoved again, but managed to stay on his feet, and even used the momentum to speed up his walk a little. The street was close now... Malfoy was weaving rain around Harry, making it dense and soaking him to the bone. That sort of bending took finesse and skill, which meant that it was Draco doing it, not Crabbe or Goyle, but while it was annoying, and he might catch a cold, it wasn't exactly dangerous.
Just ignore them. Just keep walking.
Suddenly it was as if he had stepped under a waterfall. Harry coughed and stumbled, almost falling to his knees under the weight. He kept his head down and took another wavering step. Malfoy was saying something but Harry couldn't make it out over the water pounding down on his head.
The rain fell harder still, and Harry fell to his knees. This was too much - when had Draco become so powerful? Harry looked over his shoulder.
His glasses were covered in water, distorting their figures and movements, but he saw enough to realize what was happening. They were working together, Crabbe and Goyle pulling and pushing water towards Harry, Malfoy spinning his hands, controlling and directing the flow of water, thickening the rain around Harry. Malfoy was controlling the brute force of the others.
This was a new trick... Malfoy must have been dying to try it out. Which meant that this was not a chance encounter after all - Draco planned this. How very clever of him.
And Harry would not be allowed to simply leave...
Who's paranoid now, Hermione?
Harry tried to stand, but the water fell even stronger. The drops merged until he had trouble breathing, and a vision swam before his eyes; a face not much older than Malfoy, but with a crooked smile on its lips...
Okay, that's it.
Harry took as deep a breath as he could, coughed up some water, and channelled the breath into his arms, where he let it out. His focus was off, but flames sprung up all along his forearms all the same. They were in immediate danger of being put out by the rain, but Harry took another breath and pushed more energy through his body. The flames grew, and instead of being put out they ate the falling water and spit billows of steam straight into Harry's face.
With effort Harry stood and took a defensive duelling stance. His glasses had steamed up, but he could make out that Draco had paused his water-weaving, and was looking at Harry with something like greed in his eyes.
"Come on then, Potter! Give me your best shot!" Crabbe and Goyle paused, uncertain, while Draco held out his arms and presented Harry a clear target. The rain had let up, leaving Harry free to move as he wished.
I could melt the flesh off his bones.
Harry put out the flames, turned, and ran. The street was not far. He would make it.
Behind him Draco gave a frustrated roar, and Harry was scooped off his feet and spun into the air. Water was all around him - he was underwater, in the air! He couldn't breathe at all, and hadn't had time to take a proper deep breath.
He reached for the surface but it moved away from him.
Panicking he tried to swim downwards, but only ended up spinning around to see that Crabbe and Goyle were pushing and pulling again, making rain from the whole sky fall sideways towards Harry. Draco was bending with a new passion - using less focus but more power to control the water around Harry and create a hovering sphere of water that encased him completely.
Water - water - sinking - sinking - burning - breathing - drowning - drinking.
Harry tried to summon fire, but all that came from his arms were a thousand bubbles that spun around him in a dizzying dance.
He looked up and saw the man, distorted and twisted through the liquid that was the world now.
He tried to scream, but all he got were more bubbles.
The crooked smile was bigger.
First came the cold, then the dark, then...
Doors burst open in his mind, doors that he had long since sealed shut.
He still couldn't breathe but now he didn't need to.
There were pebbles on the ground beneath Malfoy. Water flowed across the cobblestones, but rock and earth were there, underneath, ever-present, waiting, sleeping.
Harry reached out his hand, and the earth awoke.
Harry could close his fist and Malfoy would fall. The pebbles beneath Malfoy shifted.
You have to do it! You have to-
But behind Malfoy someone was walking up...
Someone very familiar, who moved without a sound, and smiled up at Harry.
The sharp man raised his hand towards Harry, and Harry forgot all about Malfoy. He raised his own hand in response.
Close your fist, and end him. Take him with you.
But beside the man someone else ran up, someone with a furious look on their face.
Bewildered, Harry unclenched his fist, and inside him doors slammed shut. The earth no longer knew him. The man with the crooked smile waved his hand, and the water around Harry split into raindrops and fell to the unsympathetic ground, taking Harry with them.
The smell of rain on dusty ground came first. Then the nausea...
Harry jerked into a sitting position and retched, throwing up water and coffee all over himself and the ground.
"Ah", said someone. "You're awake."
It had stopped raining – the sun shone down strong now, but Harry was still as wet as he'd ever been in his life. He moved sluggishly, every part of him aching, and looked around on the ground, which was all he could take in at the moment. Finding his glasses, miraculously unbroken, he put them on with some difficulty, his hands shaking all the way, and the world became a little sharper.
He spotted his book-bag. Concentrating, he managed to unclasp the latch, and out of it ran a whole bunch of water, along with ruined books, ruined pens and ruined equipment. Harry looked down at what had once been Dreams of Past, Present and Future, now an unrecognisable blob of pulp in a hardback binding.
"Did you even try to fight back?" said someone. That tone was too familiar.
Harry turned around, still sitting on the ground, and squinted up at a tall figure framed by the light of the sun, almost glowing. His father.
James seemed to be waiting for an answer, but Harry's grip on reality was not very strong, and he hadn't yet decided if James was even really there or just some figment of his imagination.
The man from your dream! He was here!
Harry looked around wildly, but saw no one in the alley apart from James and himself. He looked up at James in confusion, and there must have been something especially pitiful in his eye, because James relented and reached down a hand to pull Harry to his feet.
Harry went along with it, though he immediately wished he could sit down again. His head throbbed with pain and his stomach made indications that it might rebel again.
"Why don't you dry yourself off?" James said.
Harry stood, swaying, his hand covering his face, trying not to vomit. He shook his head, not trusting himself to speak.
He heard James sigh, and to Harry's surprise he felt a sudden warmth. He removed the hand from his face and saw James holding a large flame and moving it gently up and down Harry's body.
"My partner is dealing with the other kids," James said. "You can go as soon as you're feeling better. Do you want to replace these yourself," James nudged the remains of Harry's school supplies with his crisp black uniform boot, "or should I pick up some new books and things after my shift ends?"
"I don't..." Harry croaked, before his voice failed him. The fire up and down his body was distracting, but at least he wasn't shivering any more.
"Good thinking," said James. "If you come home empty-handed your mother will start asking questions." James put out his flame. He dug a small coin-purse out of a pocket and looked inside before handing it to Harry. "This way she won't have to know."
Won't have to feel the shame...
So. He had been attacked, and his father had seen him be a useless coward. Okay. This was bad, but not unmanageable. He was still himself, and his dreams remained comfortably locked away in his head.
Harry put the purse in his driest pocket and was about to leave when he heard a laugh approaching from the mouth of the alley, and turned.
And a hand of cold steel gripped his heart.
There was a man, dressed in an Auror's uniform.
He was much older, in his thirties somewhere, but there was no mistaking that face. There was no mistaking that smile.
Harry turned and took a step away, but his father still had a hand on his shoulder, and Harry tripped as he spun. He fell to his knees, and the rest of his stomach splashed away along the cobblestones. He vomited and vomited until he had nothing left.
"God damn it," muttered his father. "I'm sorry about all this, Bart."
Harry tried to stand and run, but his arms and legs were shaking too much.
"No trouble at all, James," said another voice. "Boys will be boys."
Harry did not want to turn and face the man, but that meant having him behind his back, and as soon as that thought crossed Harry's mind a burst of energy threw him onto his feet and spun him around. The man seemed confused and amused by Harry's scrambling.
Stop smiling you son of a bitch.
James was saying something, but now that he'd met the man's gaze he could not look away.
Stop smiling at me stop smiling stop smiling...
Something grabbed his shoulder, hard!
Harry lashed out; a punch laced with fire streaking towards whatever had grabbed him. His hand stopped painfully, and he stared wildly into the eyes of his father. James had blocked Harry's punch and diffused the fire effortlessly. He was looking surprised, but not displeased.
"A bit late, Harry..." James muttered, releasing Harry's hand. "I was just saying that this is my partner, Barty Crouch."
The sharp man gave Harry a small nod and a smile and Harry thought he might scream.
"What did they say?" James asked, still watching Harry cautiously.
"Oh, just a friendly sparring session," the man said. Hearing him speak was very strange. He had never spoken before.
"I don't think that's-" James started.
"James," the man interrupted with emphasis, "that was Lucious Malfoy's son."
"Ah," said James, looking at the stains of vomit on Harry's shirt. He had worn the new one from the suit James had given him that morning. For a moment Harry saw the anger in James' eye, and he had a mad impulse to hide behind his father.
That won't help. He'll just kill him first.
Then James forced a smile and turned back to the sharp man. "Just some friendly sparring then," he said.
"Are you alright, Harry?" asked the sharp man, a look of concern crossing his face. "You know, I had to pull some water out of your lungs... I'd lie down for a bit if I were you."
"He's fine," James said, clapping Harry hard on the back. "He's a Potter, isn't he?"
Harry's spirits might have been lifted by that comment if James hadn't sounded so uncertain, and if the clap hadn't nearly toppled him over.
And if he wasn't standing in front of a murderer...
The man called Barty Crouch was still looking at him, a slight frown on his face, and Harry was drowning in something colder than water. He could not breathe at all. James was talking again to the sharp man and the two started laughing.
Harry wanted to think that he was asleep, that this was some new perversion of the dream. But the pain was very real, and he could feel himself about to faint, the corners of his vision blurring. When everything started to swim before his eyes he summoned a force he didn't know he had in him and managed to stay upright.
"I'd better go home," Harry said in a horse voice that he had never heard come out of his own mouth before.
"What about your books?" James asked, sounding annoyed.
Harry gave the coin-purse back to James, trying not to meet anyone's gaze, but finding his eyes drawn back to the man called Barty Crouch.
"The kid needs to rest," said the sharp man, smiling his crooked smile at Harry. "He has a long year ahead of him."
Harry walked home quickly, the back of his neck prickling all the way. Once or twice he spun around, expecting to see the man with the crooked smile, only to meet the friendly watchful gaze of the Chairman, looking back at him from a dozen posters at once.
Harry starts out very weak, both in terms of his character and his bending powers, but he does not stay that way. If you get past the first half-dozen chapters you will start to see what I mean. Big thanks to Trowa no Miko and Gift of the Dragons for reading though this and offering their opinions.
And thank you for reading.
Reviews are appreciated.
- The Sorting Cat