Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. This is a non profit work of Fanfiction.

Chapter 16: The Legend and the Reunion

The corridors of Hogwarts, once so magical to him, no longer seemed to hold any of their old charm as he walked blankly through it. His shoulders were hunched, his posture screamed defeat.

He shuffled past the end of the seventh floor corridor and turned the corner –

"Harry?" he looked up as he heard the voice of his best friend. He found Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley standing side by side and looking uncertain, before he was accosted by a blur of brown and black.

His chest lost all of its air in one exhale, even though one of Hermione's patent hugs did make him feel better. He still couldn't find the energy within him to lift his arms and reciprocate the hug, though. She noticed.

"Harry?" she questioned again, doubt leaking into her voice as she let go and peered at his face. "Are you alright? We were so worried – there's rumours floating about, they say that Azkaban's gone –"

"They're right," he croaked, his voice not really feeling up to the task of speaking. There was a gasp to his right, and he felt worse – Ron's father had been amongst those that were on the island.

"Does this mean everybody got out safe?" his redheaded friend asked, and Harry hated how hopeful he sounded.

"No," he replied bluntly, making his friend flinch. "They got me out of there because I was underage."

"So you don't have any idea -?" Ron petered off, falling into silence.

Harry shook his head, his heart breaking for Ron as the redhead tried to hastily arrange his features so he wouldn't let on the panic he was feeling.

"What happened?" Hermione questioned, leading the two of them two a stone bench that rested a few feet from them.

He wondered what to tell them – how much to tell them. So much had transpired over the last few days, not to mention his experiences of the day. Taking a deep breath, he decided to begin with his time at Grimmauld Place...there wasn't much to tell them about his time herding Dementors, really.

He paused for a second when something caught his eye. He started, squinting as if he wasn't quite sure what he'd just seen. His mind had been playing tricks on him, he decided.

Turning back to Ron and Hermione, he jumped into his recounting of the past few days. As always, the two of them were the perfect audience, gasping, praising or berating him at just the riht moments. Hermione, in particular, was impressed by his tactics to deal with Inferi.

"That was really quick thinking, Harry," she told him, her eyes shining.

Ron only grunted, heading her off before she began a long-winded discussion. "It's Harry," he said gruffly, as if that explained everything. "He deals with it." The redhead quieted for a second, as if he was pondering his next words carefully.

He turned to Harry. "You're really doing it, aren't you?" At Harry's bewildered look, he continued. "I mean, you're really growing into your title," he explained, his eyes taking on a faraway sheen. "You're living up to the hype that surrounded you when you first became a hero – you've got this wicked new teacher, you've made friends with some weird woman whose kind is supposed to be extinct, you're learning and performing this awesome magic –"

Harry was about to protest that it wasn't as great or easy as Ron was making it sound, that he was only being pushed to greater heights because of an insane murderer who was hell-bent on killing him. But then he quickly noticed how blank Ron's face was, along with the way Hermione was biting her lip anxiously.

A new idea dawned in his brain, so ridiculous that he almost discarded it at once. But, judging from the looks on his friends' faces, he realized that there was a very real chance that his suspicions were correct.

Are they worried that I'm replacing them? He thought incredulously.

He needed to treat this situation with care, he decided. He exhaled once, trying to stave off the impending headache while he chose his next words carefully. He had to deal with this here and now, to cement their friendship and remove the risk of future fights – he didn't think he could handle that, especially after what he'd seen today.

"I couldn't have done any of this without either of you," he said, hoping that he'd managed to answer their fears without letting on that he'd understood what they were afraid of. He couldn't help his frustration, though, when identical expressions of stark disbelief crossed their faces at his words, before they hid it.

Why were they treating him like this – like he was a totally different person, who hadn't been on life-threatening adventures with them, where he wouldn't have hesitated to lay his life down for them in an instant? Why were they acting like he'd changed?

But you have, a little voice in his head argued, you're nothing like the boy you were when the three of you were last friends.

That was true, Harry thought furiously, but that didn't mean that he had turned into a completely different person. He was still the same Harry at his core.

"No, guys, I really couldn't," he thus persisted, "I would never have found my feet in this world if it weren't for you two!"

"But this – all of this – " Hermione gestured wildly and helplessly with her hands, but both Harry and Ron understood. "You did all this yourself. I mean, we abandoned you –"

Not this again, Harry thought drily. His mind reasoned that they hadn't really had the time to deal with their issues over the past year, so he decided to listen for now.

"I agree," Ron said, recognizing the exasperated look on Harry's face and trying to make him understand. "I mean, all this business had me really worried about Dad, because he's my family, y'know? And that got me thinking more about my family, and I realized how badly I'd failed you –"

"Exactly!" Hermione said, seizing on Ron's point and preparing to launch into another tirade.

"Hermione, no." Harry stopped her in her tracks before she could begin. As touched as he was that they thought of him as family, this really couldn't go on any longer. He hadn't thought that his friends would still be feeling guilty about his fourth year, especially when he'd expressly told them that all was forgiven.

"I won't say this again," he said slowly, enunciating each word perfectly to make sure that they sunk in, "It wasn't your fault. I won't lie," he decided that a bit of bluntness would help, "it hurt."

The two of them winced, but he soldiered on. "But I can't hold something like that over your heads. It was in the past, and the two of you were compromised. I can't blame you for that!" he said passionately, fervently hoping that it was only a trick of the light that was making Ron's eyes look so shiny.

"It's done, and we're done talking about it," Harry said firmly. "I need you guys next to me, more than ever now."

There was a silence, before Ron broke it by clearing his throat.

"You're too forgiving," Ron said, grimacing. "But if that's what you want, then we're done talking about it."

Hermione nodded in agreement, her own eyes rather glassy.

Harry, on the other hand, cursed internally. He had been wanting to use his words to create an opening to tell them about the prophecy or even the bond – something he'd avoided telling them about – and get some of the crushing weight off his chest.

Perhaps this is a sign, his mind supplied, that this isn't the right time to tell them. He ended up deciding to remain silent about it.

"But still," Ron said, shifting in his seat slightly. "It would make me feel better if you took some retribution, you know. I mean, in a house with six siblings, things were settled a lot faster after a prank or a thrashing in retaliation if someone had done something really wrong." Hermione bit her lip, holding back an obvious comment on how uncivilized that was, but Harry sort of understood.

"But no –" Ron finished with a grimace, "we apologize to you and you're fine."

"That's my motto," Harry said with a slight chuckle, suddenly realizing that he felt much better now that he'd talked to his best friends. He decided to sleep in his problems – perhaps the morning would bring answers.

Ron's words, though, had piqued his interest.

"So," Harry said, licking his lips quickly, "you won't mind a bit of retribution, will you?"

"As long as it's nothing too extreme," Ron said, even though he suddenly looked nervous at the tiny smirk that was pulling at the edges of his friend's lips. "I mean, it'd make me feel like we'd settled this matter once and for all."

"And what about you, Hermione" Harry turned to his other best friend, who looked unsure about the entire affair.

"I'm not sure that's the right thing to do," she said. I mean, an eye for an eye will make the world blind, right?"

"But we'd all be equal in the darkness," Ron countered, taking both Harry and Hermione by surprise. "What? He asked defensively when he saw both their raised eyebrows, "you think that argument hasn't come up in the Burrow before?"

"Well, when you put it like that," Hermione said, still looking uncertain.

"Ok then," Harry said quickly, before either of them could back out. "Close your eyes."

They did as he instructed, their lips set in similar frowns.

"What's the common room password? He asked suddenly.

"What?" Hermione asked, taken aback.

"Just answer.

"Alchemist," she answered, puzzled. "Why?

She never got an answer. A few seconds later, Harry was running for the Fat Lady's portrait, the halls echoing with his laughter. Hermione was shrieking in horror as she felt her upper lip, while Ron was rolling on the floor and clutching the side of his face.

Harry grinned, refusing to let any guilt worm its way into his psyche. They'd brought this on themselves – asked for it even.

One thing was for certain, though. While the Punching Hex was all well and good, it had nothing on the real deal in terms of pure satisfaction.

XoX

There was some in his bed with him. That was the first thought that ran through Harry's mind when he woke up the first morning after his return to Hogwarts.

His mind still groggy and his eyes unwilling to open, he reached out with his hand and tried to make sense of who this intruder was.

It can't possibly be a hostile. I'd be dead by now, then.

Unless it was a very tired assassin. Harry decided to take his chances.

Is had met some resistance in the form of something soft and pliant. He widened his palm, recognizing the body part, but his mind wasn't functioning fully yet, still caught in that haze between sleep and waking up.

Neville? He thought incredulously, mildly horrified. But he's no longer that pudgy –

"I don't know whether I should be flattered or afraid, Mr. Potter," a feminine voice commented drily.

His eyes snapped open as all vestiges of sleep vanished from his mind. Thankfully, the curtains were still drawn, which had the dual effect of casting a screen of privacy around them and preventing him from falling out of his bed in shock.

"Calli?" he asked incredulously, wondering if he was still dreaming. His tingling hand told him otherwise. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Just dropping by," she commented lightly, like it was an everyday thing to manage to sneak into the Gryffindor boys' dormitory without managing to alert anybody. "Why'd you stop?"

Harry flushed, his mind still spinning. Judging from the snores filling the room, it was still early morning. His mind screamed in protest – it wasn't mean to deal with stuff like this before breakfast at the very least.

"How the hell did you get in?" he asked, choosing a safer topic to speak on. Judging from her playful pout, she had noticed his attempt at misdirection.

At least she's still clothed, he thought, taking in her rumpled clothing. I should count that as a point for both of us.

"Blade let me in," she answered, and Harry's eyes narrowed, his mind suddenly free of any distractions.

"What do you mean, Blade let you in?" he asked, his mind racing.

Who exactly was Blade? First he turned up out of nowhere and offered to teach him, and then he had managed to lay his hands on what were obviously priceless memories of duels between some of the strongest wizards and witches in history. Now he could bypass the most secure wards in the country without any problems?

"I know what you're thinking," Calli interrupted his thoughts, "but I promise you that Blade is completely harmless."

"And how can you be sure of that?" Harry asked, feeling a bit testy.

"Because I looked through his mind," she said, taking him by surprise. "Nothing,"
she answered, before he could frame his question. She continued, smirking slightly at the dumbfounded look on his face, even though it became serious as she spoke.

"His mind...it's like a clean slate. There are just memories of his interactions with us, and a few other useless thoughts. It almost feels like he sprung out of nowhere ready to teach you – like he was brought to life in his advanced age for that sole purpose. He's definitely human, so that rules out the chances of him being a golem or a simalcrum..."

She trailed off, leaving Harry's mind to run around in circles. Something else struck him. "How did you manage to go through his memories?" he asked.

"I knocked him unconscious during one of our spars," she said, looking smug. And she had every right to be, Harry thought. Defeating Blade was a seemingly insurmountable task, and they'd been defeated by him even when the two of them were working together.

"You actually managed to knock him out?" Harry asked incredulously, "how?"

"I've spent much more time training for the past few days. With the house empty, there's not really much to do." Unsure as to whether this was an attempt to make him feel guilty; Harry felt it wise to maintain a poker face at her words. "I've really been working hard. I'm approaching something close to my old abilities."

And they must have been some abilities indeed, Harry thought, if she'd been powerful enough to defeat his teacher.

"I've also been meditating in large amounts," she said, "to assimilate my own personality with the Death Eaters. I think I understand now why Mother acted so horribly after some of the wars she fought in. But," she said, doing a complete one-eighty and throwing him a sultry wink, "as unpleasant as it's been, I believe I'm much closer to my original self. I definitely feel that way," she finished, smiling lazily up at him in a way that made him highly uncomfortable.

"Stop that," he burst out, feeling irritated, "you told me you wouldn't do that unless we were practising Occlumency!"

"But Harry," she pouted, "I'm not. Your mind is your own."

With a start, he realized that she was correct, and that he could feel no foreign influences on his mind.

"That's right," she said with a wicked grin. "I am a succubus after all. But this can also mean that you're finally accepting the fact that you are seriously attracte-"

"All right, Calli," Harry said loudly, before she could get any further. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, you do know the prophecy now, so I'm guessing you want to discuss it?" she said, looking up at him with innocent eyes.

Harry wouldn't have been any more shocked if somebody had dropped a bomb on Gryffindor tower. For a few seconds, his mouth opened and closed uncomprehendingly before he regained some decorum.

"You know?" he croaked, the weight of his experiences from the day before finally hitting him. He'd been contemplating her death less than a day ago, and here he was, talking comfortably with her.

His eyes widened as the contents of the prophecy came back to him and alerts went off in his brain. Very, very quietly, he reached for his wand, ready to defend himself at a moment's notice. But if she'd managed to defeat Blade in a fight, he didn't have much chance.

Doesn't mean I won't give it my best shot, he reasoned firmly.

"Don't worry," she said, looking amusedly at the wand in his hand. "I'm not here to harm you. And besides, you did save my life. If I did want to kill you, I'd make sure that you died in the throes of ecstasy –"

Once more, Harry found himself wrong-footed at her words. "That's er- comforting," he said, making her laugh.

"Isn't it?" she asked, grinning. "I could describe it if you want –"

"I think I'm fine," he said, getting up hurriedly and opening the curtains on his side. "Wait here," he said, "this isn't the time or place for this conversation."

Within five minutes, he'd showered and dressed. Packing his bags, he quickly pulled his Invisibility Cloak out and threw it at her.

"Put that on," he commanded. "And follow me."

On their way out, though, something else struck him. "How'd you come up to the dormitory?" he asked, mystified. "Surely somebody would've come across you in the castle?"

"I flew through the window," she said. He turned sceptically to run his eyes over the window and then her. While Harry of three years ago may have fitted through it, neither him or Calli could possibly fit through it now.

"I'm flexible," she commented lightly, grinning wickedly when he almost tripped over his feet. Harry wisely chose not to speak anymore until they'd reached his destination – the Room of Requirement.

"That's impressive," Calli commented, as a door appeared out of nowhere once he was done with his pacing. Harry didn't reply, choosing only to hold the door open and beckon her to go in.

She ran her tail playfully over the side of his face as she went in, making him jump at the contact.

"You're more touchy-feely, I see," he commented gruffly as he followed her in. And that's saying something.

"What can I say? I've missed you."

They took their sits on the identical armchairs the room had conjured up, facing each other.

"How do you know about the prophecy?" he asked her bluntly, getting to the point at once.

She raised her eyebrows at his forwardness. "I was there when it was made," she said, "that's my aunt you saw."

"Your aunt?" he questioned, before he started. "Wait, how do you know what I saw?"

"Our bond," she answered. "I was resting after my training, when I felt an echo of powerful Succubus magic echo across it."

Harry raised his eyebrow – she could feel their bond? It did make sense, considering she was a creature who dealt in Soul Magicks.

"I – I fell into some sort of trance, I suppose," she said, shifting slightly in her seats. "I was sharing your vision – I think that's why you were able to understand the words."

Once more, Harry was struck by how much of his privacy had been stripped away by the bond. But that wasn't the main thing to concentrate on.

"So where does this leave us?" he asked tersely, intensely aware of both of his wands, strapped to his forearm and his leg.

"What do you mean?" she asked, as if she was genuinely confused at his words.

"Don't play dumb," he snapped, his temper rising. "You know very well what the Prophecy says –"

Something else clicked in his brain, and he jumped.

"You knew the Prophecy all along," he said, pointing his finger at her accusingly. "That's why you formed the bond in the first place – you were manipulating me all along –"

"I thought we'd been over this," she said, still sounding entirely unconcerned over the entire affair. There was a slight undercurrent to her voice, but Harry was too far gone in his anger to notice. "The bond has done nothing but benefit you –"

"Oh, such fantastic benefits!" Harry said sarcastically, leaping out of the chair. "Lose my privacy, get dragged into somebody else's crusade, learn that I may get killed –"

She jumped up at his words, standing nose to nose with her. "Oh, you may get killed, is it?" she asked, her voice mocking. "Did you ever think, baby Potter, that I'm the one who has to end up dead!?"

She screamed the last few words with such fury that Harry took a step back even without meaning to. Something in her words struck a chord within him, and he suddenly realized that her eyes were glimmering with unshed tears.

Reaching up, she wiped them away with her long fingers, glaring angrily at him. Her chin set proudly in the air, she continued in a low voice, even though it was fairly vibrating in anger. "Did you ever stop to think, you foolish boy, that I owe you a life debt? That it's impossible for me, of all creatures, to dishonour that and kill you?"

Harry's brain seemed to have stopped short, giving up on trying to comprehend the situation. He had instinctively understood what she was trying to tell him, but his mind didn't seem to want to accept it.

"I'm the one who'll end up dead!"

The words seemed to hit him like a slap across the face; he stumbled, falling limply back into his chair.

The concept of a life-debt was one that he was familiar with, but one he'd never given any thought to. He knew that Snape had owed his father one, which had transferred on to him.

The faint glimmer of an idea took root in his brain – that Snape had not protected him in his first year just because it was his duty, but also because he was compelled to. He was hit at that moment by the sheer power of the Old Magicks of this sort.

Calli was sitting on her armchair as well, her face set in stone. Harry couldn't help but be impressed by her fortitude.

"Why?" he asked quietly, gaining full perspective, perhaps for the first time, on the entire matter. "Why would you put your life on the line like that?"

"If it can bring my people back," she said evenly, not a hint of a wobble in her voice, "it'll be worth it. Anything is worth saving my people."

Harry felt an inexplicable anger at her words. "Not even your life?" he asked.

"My life means nothing in front of the lives of all my brethren –"

"Your life bloody well means something to me!" Harry yelled. "I won't allow you to give your life up like that –" the situation had been turned upon his head in a matter of minutes. Only the night before, he'd been desperate when he realized that it would come down to his or Calli's life in the end. Now, he was furious that she'd throw her life away so willingly.

"Why, Mr. Potter?" she asked, with round eyes and mock surprise, "does this mean you care after all?"

He stumbled a bit at that. Angry he may have been, but he was still a teenager, and extremely uncomfortable with confessions of affection.

"Of course I do," he said gruffly.

He detested her sly smile at his words, and the way she could smile so peacefully knowing what was to be calm. She apparently noticed his inner turmoil.

"I've already made my peace with it, Harry," she said gently. "Besides, prophecies are known to be notoriously fickle. The word sacrifice might not even be meant in the literal sense – perhaps it means that one of us will have to be left behind at whatever the door is, or it means that one of us will have to sever the bond."

"You think?" Harry asked, feeling a mite reassured at her words. Anything was better than the alternative.

"One can only hope," she said, giving him a wan smile.

"What are you going to do now?" he asked, "how're you going to go back?"

"Trying to get rid of me already?" she asked, putting on a hurt look. "I've just arrived here, Harry –"

"No, no," he assured her, not noticing her deceit and stuttering in his haste to make her feel better. His emotions may have been a bit over the place after the confrontation, and he could only imagine how she was feeling. He'd be a positively horrible person if he added to her misery. "You're welcome to stay as long as you want."

"Ok, then," she said quickly, "I think I'll take you up on that offer."

He sputtered, instantly realizing that he'd been played.

"But –" he stumbled over his words, suddenly struck by how he'd done the same to Ron and Hermione. "Your stuff's not here –"

"Oh, I can borrow your robes," she said, winking at him playfully. "They'll be a bit tight, but I think I'll manage."

He knew that she was trying to play the situation off with her humour, but he let it slide. Merlin knew he'd tried to do the same himself, he wasn't about to press her further.

He couldn't help but appreciate how brave she was being – he was transported back to his duel with Voldemort in the graveyard, knowing how he had dredged up the courage to fight even though he'd been horrible scared.

"You would have made a good Gryffindor," he said, taking her by surprise. "I'm glad you're on my side, Calli. I promise you, we're going to come through this safe." He meant it, too, from the bottom of his heart. "Thank you." He said the last two words solemnly, trying to make her realize he was finally understanding how much she was risking, and how much he was gaining from their partnership.

"Finally come around, then?" she asked in a dry voice, even though her eyes were mischievous. "Does this mean that you'll finally – "

"No."

She groaned exaggeratedly, and he couldn't help but smile at the playful banter they'd managed to build up between them. He'd missed her too.

XoX

"This is a horrendously bad idea," Harry muttered through his teeth as he slid into the very last bench at the corner of the Defence Classroom. For once, he was glad that Ron and Hermione were ignoring him and had chosen to sit separate from him.

Still, he couldn't help but be amused every time he caught sight of Ron's spectacular black eye or the remnants of hair above Hermione's upper lip. They weren't helping matters by turning every so often to give him cold, disapproving glares. He knew they'd be alright, though – Ron had complimented him on his right hook, and told him that he was only pretending to be angry with him on Hermione's behalf.

After that, Harry put in two galleons that morning into Fred and George's Ron and Hermione betting pool that morning when he had a moment to spare between being accosted by students eager for details – but that was a story for another time. And also a story he hoped his friends never found out about.

"What could possibly go wrong?" the melodious whisper seemed to come from nowhere, but Harry knew that Calli was sitting right next to him under his Invisibility Cloak.

"Can't you shift a bit?" he asked, disgruntled, because she really was sitting very close to him.

"No," she replied in a bubbly voice, and he could almost see her smirk under the Cloak.

He never found a chance to retaliate, though, because Umbridge had walked into class, still dressed in her horrible pink robes. He idly wondered if she had several sets of the same item of clothing in the wardrobe.

She was obviously in a foul mood, and the reason behind it was soon obvious when her toad-like eyes searched the classroom and landed on him, her face setting itself into a frown. Several people threw him sympathetic looks.

"Good morning, class," she said in a dour voice, and to his horror, the class replied in a perfect monotone.

"Mr. Potter!" she snapped, seizing on his mistake at once. "You think just because the Minister sends me a letter of recommendation on your behalf, you can get away with insolence in my class? Five points from Gryffindor!"

"What crawled up her –" Calli was muttering next to him, but Harry wasn't listening. Fudge of all people had written a letter on his behalf, to Umbridge on top of that? This whole thing smelt of –

"I have been ordered to announce you that the Headmaster has returned to Hogwarts, his mission having been successful. The Ministry and the volunteers have together managed to deal with the Dementor threat, and with no casualties –"

Harry could see Ron visibly sag with relief; they shared identical grins across the classroom. Susan Bones – they were sharing the class with Hufflepuffs – looked delighted as well.

"Did they find out who was behind the attack?" Dean Thomas asked loudly.

"Your hand must be raised if you speak in my class, Mr. Thomas," Umbridge ground out. "And that information is classified to the Ministry!"

Harry, who had started wondering how the Dementors had been dealt with, looked up at this.

"Was it You-Know-Who?" another girl asked, who Harry recognized as Megan Jones, her hand in the air.

The whole class fell silent at that, many of them throwing half-glances at Harry.

Because that's subtle, Harry thought sardonically.

"My dear," Umbridge began, her voice low and sweet, "you have been told –" she paused to give a poisonous look at Harry, who resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "that a Dark Wizard has returned. This is a lie."

Harry felt his blood boil at her words, but he felt an invisible hand on his arm.

"Wait," Calli whispered, "let it play out." He heeded her words with great effort, managing to rein in both his temper and the words at the tip of his tongue.

I'm fine. He told himself. I'm fine. I'm fine with this.

His attempt at Occlumency was not helped by the fact that Megan muttered, "But Cedric saw him return – "

His temper spiked at the mention of Diggory's name.

I'm fine, he repeated more forcefully. Calm and cool. In control.

"Yeah, both Diggory and Potter were there," Ernie McMillan spoke up, with a nod towards Harry. The wizard in question remained stock still, making no move to return it. "And Dumbledore backed them up."

"You are being lied to!" Umbridge hissed, making them flinch. "The Dark Lord has not returned! This is merely an attempt to sow anarchy and destroy the peace that Minister Fudge has worked so hard to create in our community! Read the Daily Prophet –"

"Well the Prophet's a useless rag, isn't it?" Seamus said. "It said that Harry was a nutter all over the holidays, but now that he's saved us from Dementors, he's a hero again –"

"Of course Mr. Potter has done us a great service –" Umbridge began.

Susan Bones of all people cut her off. Harry knew that with her aunt at the Ministry, it was dangerous for her to speak out in class. "But I thought that he was a barmy liar?" she challenged, and while Harry didn't particularly care for the adjective, he appreciated that she was standing up for her.

"They look up to you," Harry jumped. He was so caught up in the argument that he'd completely forgotten about the invisible person next to him. "They'd defend you to authority."

A warm glow washed over him when he realized that they were correct. While some of them had been leery of him in the beginning, they were now alternating between smiling supportively at him and challenging Umbridge, who was backing herself further into a corner with every passing second.

They believe me, he thought, in a rush of happiness.

" – And what about blood quills?" Susan asked, standing up in her anger. "What is the Ministry's stance on using them in detentions?"

Silence descended on the class again. Umbridge was suddenly extremely pale. "I – I don't know what you're talking about, Miss Bones –"

Umbridge had been using blood quills in detentions? While they weren't contraband, they were used for the sole purpose of signing legal documents and the like – to use them for detention, to write lines, he imagined, was nothing short of barbaric.

"Cedric Diggory is our friend, Madam Umbridge," Susan shot back, dropping the title of Professor. "We were there when he returned from detention – a detention he got for saying the truth!"

"Cedric Diggory is a liar!" Umbridge screeched. "Tell them, Potter!" she said, turning on him suddenly, her eyes wide. "Tell them, Potter, that it's all a lie."

Every student in the class turned to Harry. For once, though, he wasn't shying away from the centre of attention. His mind drifted back to his summer – he had decided to be decidedly neutral about the entire affair, to play it like his Slytherin side would and to come out smelling like roses if he could.

But now, with the expectant gazes of his classmates upon him, seconds after they'd spoken up for him so valiantly, he decided that Calli was right. There were some things greater than him, some things which were worth it.

"Yes," he said. Susan gasped along with several others, but Umbridge had a victorious glint in her eyes.

"That's right –"

"Voldemort's back." Harry finished calmly.

Umbridge swallowed her words so fast it looked like she was choking, her eyes bulging out. She was panting, almost like she was gasping for air.

She finally straightened, a look of pure anger on her face. "OUT!" she screamed, but Harry knew that she knew that she had been defeated. "OUT, Mr. Potter, you have no place in this classroom! You have done nothing but disrupt it since the minute you walked in –"

The students cried out in disbelief at her words, but miraculously fell silent when he raised his hand in a gesture of consolation.

"That's fine," he said. He'd skimmed through the text – there wasn't much he could learn in this class anyway; in all honesty, he'd teach it better than her.

"And detention –" she began, as he threw his stuff back into his bag and made to leave.

"You can't do that, Professor," Hermione interjected sharply, making him look up. "That would violate the Hogwarts Charter –"

"Ms. Granger –" Umbridge turned to her, sparing Harry just enough time to slip out of class with a wide grin on his face.

His wand twisted in his hands.

Hermione didn't realize it, but her upper lip was completely free of any hair as she argued fiercely against Umbridge. Harry ended up with no detention.

XoX

"This is turning out to be a very good day," Harry said, still grinning like a loon as he ambled down the seventh-floor corridor, heading back to the Room of Requirement.

Flitwick was still recovering in St. Mungo's, and his classes were cancelled, which meant that Harry had the entire day free except for Care of Magical Creatures at the very end of the day.

"And this, my dear lady," he said with a smile, his good mood infecting Calli as well, who grinned in turn, "is your quarters. Feel free to adjust it as you see fit."

Everything he'd set up vanished, leaving nothing but a large empty circle. He raised his eyebrow.

"A duel? He asked. "Now?"

"Aren't you up for it?" she asked, pulling on the bottom of her enchanted gloves with a challenging smirk. "Besides, I have something new to teach you."

"What?" Harry asked, now eager.

"You know when Blade told you all about how you'd been affected by the Basilisk's blood, which allowed you superior reflexes and abilities on water?" she asked conversationally, but he could tell that she was deliberately building up to something else.

"Yeah?" he felt excited, because that was one of his most useful abilities.

"It was utter tosh," she said in the same conversational tone, and his face fell almost comically.

"What do you mean? And why haven't you told me this before?" She remained completely calm in face of her accusation.

"I meant exactly what I said," she said. "Blade's wrong. And that's exactly why I wouldn't tell you when he was still around, and you were so terrible at Occlumency."

"Still am," Harry muttered.

"We'll see about that. But for now, let me explain." She paced in front of him. "When you defeated the Basilisk, you learnt a name."

"A name?" Harry was bewildered. Had she gone off her rocker?

Calli threw something at him, and he caught it by the hilt. He realized that it was a sword, and groaned. Surely she didn't want a physical spar of all things?

"Let me show you," she said, and Harry felt an inexplicable shiver run up his spine. Her chain weapon extended from her gloves at a small gesture, and she grasped onto the grips at the end. A blue glow suffused her hands, which Harry knew made it impossible for the daggertail to fly off or be disarmed from her hold.

She wasn't done, though. Calli whispered something; the temperature in the room seemed to rise. He couldn't make out the word, but the whisper echoed around him, filling the air until –

A tiny spark jumped up at the end of each chain, and ran along the length until her whole weapon was alight with flames licking at the tiny daggers but miraculously doing no harm to the metal.

"Wicked," he breathed, and indeed, Calli cut an impressive figure with her face cast into a duality of light and shadow and her blazing weapons in her hand. "How did you do tha –?"

The next thing he knew, there was a whistling sound as the daggertail cut through air as it sailed at him. He dove out of the way; the chain blade missed him by inches as it landed on the floor next to him and left a smoking groove on the floor.

His eyes widened, and he rolled away again as the chain came down without mercy. What fires were these, strong enough to damage the floor of the Room of Requirement?

"Come on, Harry," Calli taunted as he stood up and backpedalled away, holding his sword in his hand – which was useless, since he was horrible at swordplay.

He raised it to eye level in a horrible mockery of the defensive stance she'd taught him, trying to analyse the battle and calculate his chances of escaping unscathed.

Calli moved so fast that he knew instantly that she'd held back every time they'd duelled over the summer.

His sword spun out of his hand and landed on the floor with a resounding clang, and he clutched the bottom of his palm, which had turned a sickly black, burnt colour.

"What the hell are you playing at?" he roared, the nerves in his hand screaming in agony.

Calli's only answer was to swing and then flip over, entering a complex dance with her weapon. The chains crossed and then separated with a snap, and to his horror, a wave of fire burst out at him.

He immediately flattened himself on the ground, only just managing to avoid the attack. Had she gone crazy, and finally decided to off him?

He reached for his wand, and she finally spoke again. "No," she said, her voice hard. "Listen."

"Listen to what?" he yelled, "to the sound of you trying to kill me?!"

His sarcasm went unheeded. Calli's face softened for a second. "Harry," she said, "trust me."

And then she swung her weapon again, sending another blast of fire at him. The two of them engaged in a deadly dance, even though Harry's role was limited to running around and avoiding her attacks.

He was left panting, his clothes singed and more burns all over him.

"You're not even trying, Harry," she called, mocking him with her playful tone. "Do you want me to increase the intensity?"

To his horror, she did just that. With a puff of dry air that left him coughing, the flames seemed to double in size, taking on a strange white tinge.

His eyes darted about the room in desperation – the door had vanished. His eyes fell on the sword on the ground near him –

He dived away from the next attack, wincing at how sore he was. Grasping the weapon, he sent a quick prayer upwards and hurled it with all his might at the Succubus.

Calli simply twisted and spun like a dervish, moving so fast that the chains created a matrix of fire around her. His blade landed on the ground in smouldering pieces, glowing from the heat of her weapon.

Another swish, and another narrow escape. Harry landed on his back, spent from all the running around.

Pulling himself to his knees, he gasped for breath.

"Listen, Harry," her voice for the first time was slightly urgent, as she repeated the only advice she'd given him over the past hour.

And he finally closed his eyes, looking inwards for the answer. It struck him almost immediately – his blood was singing from the fact, repeating the same word over and over again. Calli's blade was whistling through the air at him, but he was too busy marvelling at the serene melody rushing through his veins. How had he never noticed this before?

He'd never listened for it, he realized, berating himself for neglecting something that was so beautiful. His mind urged at him to join in, to sing along with his very being –

And so he opened his mouth, and repeated the name. He instantly knew that it was that of a woman, and an image flashed before his eyes. She was beautiful, with hair like starlight and eyes as blue as the clearest lake.

The Lesser Spirit had heard his call. She answered.

A blue barrier of water jumped into existence in front of Harry, every particle of it throbbing with the same magic that was rushing through him. The burning daggertails clashed against it and rebounded, held back by the power of the water.

It was like nothing he'd felt before – it felt like he belonged to the magic he was calling upon. At the same time, there was an inexplicable sadness, like this was not the answer he had been searching for – like he was a man who had another love.

I was not meant for you, the woman whose name she'd spoken said. Her voice was a low whisper, like a tiny trickle of water in his ear. But you chose to remember me. And I will remember you.

"Welcome, Harry," Calli's voice brought him out from the voice's spell, "to the wonders of Elemental Magic."

Harry grinned. And then his shield exploded spectacularly, sending him flying back forcefully. Drained from his spar and his call to the spirit, he was unconscious before he hit the ground.

"And that's something that'll happen a lot over the next few months," Calli finished rather anticlimactically, to no one in particular.

XoX

Author's note: Yes, that's what I've been building up to for some time. And because I think it is rather clever of myself, the name Callida means fiery. Apt, right?

I do have some bad news as well. This extra long chapter, I'm afraid, was consolation for the fact that I won't be updating for a long time. A very long time. My finals are around the corner, not to mention the horrific entrance exams I have to sit for. The next chapter will be a very long time in the coming – this chapter itself was written after much debate. This'll leave many of you displeased, but I simply cannot help it. Fanfiction is brilliant – but real life is knocking on the door rather insistently.

I'll say it outright. Don't hold your breath for anything before June 2014. I'd also appreciate it if you didn't flame over this matter. I'm not happy with it either. I get extra hours of studying out of the deal. But this story will be finished. I have it planned out, and will it ever be great!

As of this date, this story is on hiatus. Oh, how I hate that word. Fear not, for Warlord shall rise again, greater and more terri...maybe this isn't the best choice of quotes to paraphrase.

I'll be back. That's a promise.

Regards,
Warlord.
Stay gold.