Chapter Three: What Big Teeth You Have
Matching gazes with the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to the Headmaster's office Harry came to a sudden if somewhat belated realisation. … He didn't know the password.
He scratched his head sheepishly as he mentally went over a list of assorted confectionaries, both magical and muggle. He contemplated trying to simply recite the lot before dismissing the notion with an exasperated sigh. If he did that he'd be there for quite literally hours. Harry was a great many things but patient was not one of them.
"Eh, I don't suppose you'd just let me through?" Harry asked hopefully. "I need to ask the Professor something."
The remarkably ugly piece of animated statuary eyed him beadily, squinting suspiciously. Harry shifted his feet uncomfortably under the penetrating stare. Finally after a long moment it grunted in acknowledgment and moved aside.
Proceeding up the revolving staircase (and just what was the point of that anyway?) Harry took a moment to organise his thoughts.
It was the evening after the end-of-year feast, tomorrow he would be on the Hogwarts Express back to King's Cross. The prospect of spending yet another summer with his delightful relatives was not an appealing one. In the normal course of things he'd probably be moping over the imminent weeks of mind numbing boredom, discomfort and muttered insults. At present however Harry had something rather more important than a few puffed up, self important and bigoted muggles on his mind.
Ever since his epiphany in the aftermath of the debacle that became of the Third Task his thoughts had looped around in circles, continuously orbiting a single question: why? Why was Voldemort so fixated on him? Why go through with that ridiculously overcomplicated plot that ended with the ritual in the graveyard? Why target him and his family in the first place for that matter?
It couldn't all be down to the dark wizard's ego, inflated though it undoubtedly was. There had to be something that prompted this vendetta. The words of the headmaster at the end of the first year echoed around his mind.
"Alas, the first thing you ask me, I cannot tell you. Not today. Not now. You will know, one day … put it from your mind for now, Harry. When you are older … I know you hate to hear this … when you are ready, you will know."
He had let that pass at the time (not that he'd really had any choice in the matter) but now, now he needed to know - needed to understand. He deserved to know the truth.
It is a beautiful and terrible thing.
Raising his hand Harry moved to knock on the door, yet before his knuckles touched its surface it swung open of its own volition. Making his way inside Harry was met by a now familiar sight. A handful of bulging bookcases lined the walls, the numerous portraits of headmasters and headmistresses past dozed within their frames above them. Or at least pretended to – he caught a glimpse of a few surreptitious glances, not to mention that some of the snores were horribly unconvincing.
A baffling array of devices that could only be described by such names as doohickey and whatchamacallit lay spread haphazardly over a number of spindly legged tables. Silver contraptions ticked, whirled, hissed and spun in dizzyingly chaotic patterns. There were even a few belching forth bursts of multicoloured smoke. Absently he wondered at what arcane purpose they had.
… Wait; was that an egg-scrambler?!
He shook off the thought irritably, not important right now. Or at all, possibly.
A musical chirp that lifted his spirits drew his gaze to the perch near the door. Fawkes sat there regally, his brilliant golden-red feathers glossy and shining. A far cry from the sickly creature Harry had met in his second year. He spared a smile for the proud phoenix before turning his attention to the room's other occupant.
Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk, flowing silvery beard covering his chest, piercing blue eyes glinting behind half-moon spectacles that sat upon his crooked nose. He was dressed in robes of a quite literally eye watering shade of fluorescent yellow outlined with lime green. Sometimes Harry wondered if the man was colour-blind or whether he just enjoyed the no doubt comical expressions people assumed upon seeing his chosen garments. Somehow he suspected the latter.
"Harry my boy." He greeted cheerfully, eyes twinkling in their trademark fashion. Was there a spell to make them do that, he wondered? "What a pleasant surprise. Come in, do take a seat."
"Good evening sir." He replied, sinking gratefully into a chair. "Sorry to disturb you so late but I wondered if I might have a word."
"Not to worry, though I do believe you've had several already." He answered, eyes shining with mischief. "But by all means, proceed."
"Thank you sir." Harry paused then trying to work out how to approach the issue. He really should have planned out what to say earlier he realised belatedly. He drew a breath then, deciding simply to drive right in.
"Professor, I… I was wondering… I asked you a question at the end of my first year and I'd… I'd like to know the answer now." Then added as an afterthought. "Please."
"Ah. I see." Dumbledore seemed to age visibly in front of his very eyes. Weariness made his shoulders slump slightly, the ever-present twinkle dimming with sadness and regret. He seemed reluctant to speak and so Harry, sensing that his chance might be slipping away, hastened to plead his case.
"He's back now, properly back. Voldemort's not just going to give up on me. He's after me, I may not know why but that much is painfully obvious. He'll come for me again sooner or later and I'll need to be ready for him, I realise that now. But I can't; not really, not without knowing why - not without knowing what he wants from me."
The impassioned plea startled the headmaster, though he did not show it. Instead his normally cheerful visage closed off and became unreadable. He looked over his glasses and met Harry's determined gaze assessing.
Whatever he was looking for he apparently found it. He let out a weary sigh but nodded in acquiescence, his shoulders straightening once more.
"Very well, Harry. I only hope you can forgive me. I had hoped not to burden you with this knowledge so soon but, alas, the fates conspire against us." He paused then troubled. After a moment he made a small sound, clearly deciding upon something.
Dumbledore rose abruptly, lurid robes swirling around him, and hurried over to one of the bulging bookcases that made up his private collection. He pried free a slender tome then returned to place it on his desk, sitting back down.
"It begins with a prophecy." Dumbledore began solemnly. "A prophecy about the birth of one who would have the power to destroy the Dark Lord. A prophecy about you, Harry."
He blinked, reeling internally, his expressive face suddenly blank. He felt numb – dimly aware that he was likely in shock. He settled in to listen and absorb it all.
"It begins thusly: 'The one with the power the vanquish the Dark Lord approaches… born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…'" He stopped here. "There is more to it of course, but that is the part that Voldemort heard – what set him after your family. I dare not tell you the rest, not for the moment at least."
Seeing Harry open his mouth the headmaster raised a hand to forestall any objections.
"Note that I only said for the moment. Before we proceed I must ask first ask that you read through this carefully." He nudged the book over to Harry with a gnarled finger. "Read it and perform the exercises therein to the best of your ability."
Puzzled, the younger wizard picked up the book. It wasn't particularly thick, little over two hundred pages at a guess, and light. He turned it over and read the title aloud.
"Defensive Mind Magic: The Art of Occlumency. Sir?" He asked with a perplexed frown. "What is Occlumency?"
Dumbledore made a humming sound as he pondered how best to answer the query.
"In simple terms it is an art concerned with the organisation of one's mind and protecting it from external sources, primarily its opposite number – Legilimency." Seeing the curiosity burning in Harry's eyes he answered the unspoken question.
"Legilimency is the art of magically navigating through the many layers of a person's mind and interpreting one's findings. It is not mind reading as the muggles envision it but the term is 'close enough for government work' as I believe the saying goes. Most pressing for us is the fact that Voldemort is quite the accomplished Legilimens, and your curse-scar leaves you open to him - hence your dreams. With Occlumency you should be able to close off the connection and eventually protect yourself even from direct mental assault.
"Practise over the summer and come September I shall arrange for a proper teacher to instruct you personally. I shall test you periodically and when I am satisfied with your progress I will recite the prophecy in full and tell you anything else you wish to know. I swear it."
A steady gaze brought home the seriousness of this request and Harry nodded gravely in response. Tucking the Occlumency tome inside his robes he rose to his feet.
"I won't let you down sir, I promise."
Dumbledore smiled with pride, the twinkle returning at last and bringing his wizened face to life.
"I know you won't, dear boy. I know."
The first thing Harry felt when he awoke was an overwhelming sense of relief. Finally at long last there was no pain, no swirling ocean of fire. For one long moment this absence was all he could comprehend.
The second thing that Harry felt was confusion. The cave was dark; he remembered that much through the haze of weariness that had afflicted him when he found it. The shaft of light that pierced it from the entrance provided just barely enough illumination to reveal the cave's general shape to the human eye. And yet… and yet to Harry it might as well be bathed in sunlight.
An odd blurriness encompassed everything though, it was as if he was in a well lit room but had forgotten to put his glasses on. He paused at that thought. He didn't remember taking them off and the enchantments on them made it all but impossible for them to simply have fallen free.
He raised a hand up to his face and trailed his fingers over his eyes. Cold metal and glass. Sure enough, there they were. With a small frown of puzzlement wrinkling his brow he plucked them free. He blinked, opened his eyes and gazed in wonder.
Everything was visible in perfectly defined crystalline clarity, every swirl and shift in the rock face above him revealed to his new sight. If he cared to try he did not doubt that he'd be able to count each and every individual grain of compressed sediment, each quartz shard that made up its substance.
It was as if he had spent his entire life blindfolded and was now seeing for the first time. In comparison his normal sight even when wearing his glasses was like having mud in his eyes. Even the super-sensory charms that temporarily bestowed perfect vision paled in comparison to the clarity he was now capable of perceiving.
Dust particles danced and spun overhead, suspended in the beam of light, tiny planets spinning in looping orbits. No, not planets – instead a miniature asteroid field, the dust motes twirling in slow motion through their chaotic dance. Against the backdrop of crystal fragments glittering as if stars it was a surreally beautiful sight. Harry drew in a slow wondering breath watching keenly as it sent them spinning into a tempestuous frenzy.
There was something indefinably… off about that action. He could not quite put a finger on it but when he breathed there was something subtly wrong about it. He pondered this new conundrum for a moment.
If he didn't know any better he'd say it felt… unnecessary. Yes, that was it exactly. Normally when one breathed there was a faint sense of relief brought about, though of course it went for the most part largely overlooked.
But this time? Nothing. His lungs did not wait upon such an action and as far as he could tell did not react in any way. They felt somehow obsolete. If he didn't miss his guess he'd say that breathing was no longer strictly compulsory for his continued survival. The implications of that were rather worrying actually.
"I am honestly surprised no other vampire has snatched you up before now."
Oh dear. He thought, feeling faintly queasy.
Slowly, afraid to confirm what he knew he would find, he reached in through the neck of his robes and placed a palm over his heart. Silence. Perfect stillness. His heart no longer stirred in his chest. Apparently the bite of that vampire woman was far more insidious than even he had feared.
Hand sliding free and down to his side, Harry sighed in resignation. Somehow he suspected that his involuntary recruitment as the latest member of the ranks of the blood-sucking undead was not going to go over well back home. Oh well, he'd cross that particular bridge when he came to it. No sense worrying about things he could not change. First off he had to actually get home.
Working out where he was seemed a good place to start really. He made to move and almost before he was aware of even giving his body the command he was stood upright, blinking in surprise.
"Well… that'll take some getting used to." It could come in damn handy in the future though. He paused, blinking.
Hang on a moment.
He raised his right hand up to eye level and stared in mute astonishment. Instead of torn and lacerated flesh peppered with vicious splinters of wand-wood he saw only smooth and unmarred skin. Though red brown streaks were smeared over it that was the sole evidence anything had ever been wrong with it at all.
He flexed that hand experimentally, feeling a surge of strength that was unusually potent as he did so. A thought struck and he prodded tentatively at his ribs. No pain there either. Not even the faintest bit of discomfort for that matter. Hand – healed, ribs – better than new, bruises – as if they'd never existed. Even the dull twinge of his recently repaired arm was vanished.
He felt good. No, that word entirely inadequate to describe the sense of supreme well being that suffused his form. It was not just the obvious injuries but all the little aches and pains that developed over time yet were scarcely noticed were all gone. He veritably hummed with strength and vitality. It was almost as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders, leaving him free for the first time that he could recall.
The only thing that marred this was a faint heated ache in the back of his throat. Even this was not entirely unpleasant; it was almost as if he'd enjoyed a good Firewhiskey – an alcoholic burn. Though there was something almost akin to hunger about it too.
Odd. Something to be investigated in more detail later.
Striding towards the cave mouth in a swift and fluid stalk he noted absently that the protections he had woven over it had fallen. And some time ago at that, by his guess. In unanchored ward form the Entropus Shield lasted an average of three days unless overwhelmed earlier. That left an uncomfortably long time during which he was unconscious and vulnerable. It was lucky indeed that the vampire had not found him in his defenceless state.
Brilliant golden rays of sunlight seared into his sensitive retinas and, though they did no damage, he raised an arm to shield them on reflex. His eyes fixed upon that exposed limb and a strangled choking sound escaped from his throat.
The skin of his forearm was pale, even more so than usual – no doubt due to that lack of blood flow. That wasn't the bad part however. His arm was (though he was loathe to admit it even to himself) literally sparkling. It was as if every skin cell had been turned into a tiny reflective prism.
"I can't go out in public like this," Harry groaned out, horrified. "I look like a bleedin' disco ball!"
He shifted his arm slowly, watching with somewhat morbid fascination the scintillating shimmers of light. It was at once both a horribly embarrassing and strangely enthralling sight.
A crunching, grinding sound followed by a protesting metallic shriek drew his attention. It was his glasses. They were still clutched in his left hand – he'd quite forgotten about them with the novelty of his newfound abilities. Before they had been a little battered and with a crack through one of the lenses, but otherwise largely intact.
Now they were a twisted and malformed mess of wire and glass shards. A single distracted twitch of his hand around them had destroyed them as thoroughly as if they'd been run over by a car. And he hadn't even noticed he was doing it.
Damn. He'd really have to watch that.
He recalled the ease with which he'd been thrown and pinned, the terrible strength behind those slender fingers that with just a little more pressure could have crushed his skull like a watermelon in a vice. If he was even close to that strong now….
His face darkened at the thought of might happen if he tried to shake someone's hand. It would be entirely possible to accidently wrench their arm clean off. He suppressed a shudder.
Tilting his hand he let them fall to earth, the impact sounding oddly drum like to his enhanced hearing. Glancing at the glass shards upon his glittering palm speculatively he clenched his fist. A muted grinding sounded within his implacable grip. He opened his hand then tipped it, watching as the fine dust was carried away by the breeze.
Harry drew a deep breath, sampling the taste of the wind and the myriad scents it carried. Rock and loam, moisture from the trees and a small babbling brook, the earthy smell of bark and leaves. Looking down from his vantage point he could see the forest canopy stretching out for uncounted miles all around him. And there on the western horizon the steely grey mirror shine of the ocean. He could faintly taste its salty tang on the breeze.
Unfortunately he could also smell himself. Or more accurately the caked on layers of old sweat, miscellaneous grime and dried blood that clung to him and his clothes. Pulling a face that clearly conveyed his disgust he reached for the holster at his waist.
With infinite care he pulled the focus free, careful to only apply just enough pressure to ensure he didn't drop it. He did not care to have a repeat of the Spectacles Incident. Being stranded in an unknown place and deprived of the ability to perform all but a bare handful of spells did not appeal.
He ran a finger down it feeling the slickness of the polish, the whorls and grains of the wood and, above all, the core of seething magic burning in its heart. Ebony, twelve and a half inches, dragon heartstring (from a particularly ill-tempered Hungarian Horntail), slightly bendy. Highly suited for combative magic and transfiguration.
It was a good match, better than most wizards could expect of a secondary wand, if not quite as good as his now sadly deceased holly and phoenix feather one. A surprisingly intense bubble of melancholy washed over him. He would dearly miss that wand. It had grown to become far more than a mere tool, an extension of his being, as much a friend as any of flesh and blood.
Grimacing, he flicked the wand over himself, muttering a cleansing spell – the lazy wizard's best friend. It was in fact the only spell Ron could cast wandlessly. He didn't want to ponder too deeply upon what that said about the aforementioned redhead's personal hygiene.
As the charm took effect whisking away the accumulated dirt and grime it was only now he took notice of the changes to his voice. It was still recognisably him mind you, but was now slightly deeper, more melodious and honeyed, with a rumbling undertone that bespoke of power. It was the masculine equivalent of that vampire woman's, a most attractive voice.
He was starting to sense a theme here.
After eying his scorched and shredded robes with mild distaste he cast a Reparo with a soundless twirl of his wrist.
Right then, given his glaring lack of Portkey-making skills (which was in hindsight a rather embarrassing oversight) he had no real choice but to make his way to a magical settlement and see about purchasing one. It was that or rely upon the painfully slow in comparison (if admittedly more comfortable) muggle transportation to get him within apparating range.
Finding some form of civilisation would be a good start. The wizard held his palm out flat before him, balancing the ebony rod upon it.
"Point Me, Hogwarts." Not a twitch. For such an intensely magical beacon as Hogwarts to not register meant he was a very long way away indeed. Well outside his apparition range, as expected.
"Point Me, British Ministry of Magic." Nada. He pursed his lips in thought. "Point Me, nearest town."
Magic stirred and the wand spun obediently to point unerringly to the south-west. A strong reading, he judged by the intensity of the pulse – likely little more than fifteen miles distant. He wished that he knew a more detailed method of information gathering but, alas, the subtleties of the assorted Tracking Charms were not really his forte. That was more Hermione's thing if truth be told, his skills tended towards the more overt - not to mention destructive.
He walked to the edge of the rock face and peered down at what was at an estimate a good fifty foot drop. Shrugging his shoulders indifferently he stepped over the edge and let gravity take him in its grip.
Time moved in gelatinous slow motion, the ground creeping towards him seemingly with interminable slowness. The air rushed around him to flick playfully at his skin. The incantation for the Feather-fall Charm lingered on the tip of his tongue, yet he felt no pressing need to cast it. It was all so very easy; in that long instant his vampiric instincts spoke to him.
It took but the slightest adjustment of posture and he landed on the balls of his feet in a crouch, absorbing the tremendous energy of the impact with almost feline grace. There was no great crash as might be expected, indeed the sound would be barely noticeable a human, little louder than a softly closed door. It was all so very… effortless. No more difficult than hopping down the last step on the stairs.
Harry rose from his crouch, turned and surveyed the sheer rock face. A broad smile split his face, revealing shining white teeth.
Perhaps this vampire business wasn't so bad after all. That leap wasn't quite as much fun as flying, but then very little was.
Harry made a quick check to make certain of the direction he should head in. He replaced the wand and took an anticipatory breath, tensing his muscles in preparation. Then he was off, accelerating like a bullet fired from a gun.
His form vanished into a barely distinguishable blur as superhuman strength surged through his limbs. He moved so fast that it took but a little over a second to sprint down the rock-strewn slope and reach the edge of the forest proper.
At that frankly rather insane speed his surroundings should have been reduced to an indistinguishable smear, yet apparently vampirism took that into account since everything remained in perfect focus. He could see every pebble, every grain of sand, every blade of grass.
He was so absorbed in wonder in fact that he became quite thoroughly distracted. His inattention lasted for scarcely a hundredth of a second yet that was enough for him to plough straight into and through a waist high boulder in his path.
With a thunderous boom it shattered into a thousand million tiny fragments which pin-wheeled all around him. He tracked them with intense fascination and, before the human mind would even have had time to register it, was past and into the undergrowth. Running straight through solid rock had not even noticeably slowed his momentum.
One would think that while moving at those speeds trees would be a significant obstacle, yet for a vampire's agility dodging them was as simple as breathing. There should not have been nearly enough time to process the sheer volume of data his incredible senses gathered, yet it seemed that in order to compensate every thought was accelerated a thousand fold.
It was not truly like being in slow motion at all; mere words could not hope to adequately describe the peculiarity of the situation. It was after all, beyond human comprehension. Harry remained suspended, caught in a perfect balance between speed and clarity.
He ducked and weaved, swerving around trees, leaping over and diving under branches as he lost himself to the sheer exhilaration. A joyous whoop of laughter escaped as a manic smile stretched across his face.
Limb strikes that would have raised welts and bruises upon tender mortal flesh felt much like trailing fingers. The wind of his passage whipped at his charcoal black hair and stirred the debris behind him, sucking it into the vortex that was created.
Each insignificant leaf, needle and crawling insect was plain to see. Though his wizard's senses had told him how alive this green maze was he did not truly comprehend the beauty and majesty of nature before now. Ambient magic saturated the air and tickled at his marble skin, creatures scurried through the undergrowth, and birds of innumerable species sang their chorus. Hundreds, nay – thousands of tiny heartbeats thudded all around him. Saliva pooled in his mouth.
Instead of tiring and slowing down he hit his stride, an increasing surge of raw, un-tempered power charging his muscles. His loping strides stretched ever further, devouring ground at a terrible pace.
The wizard tilted his head as a strange sound carried on the breeze drifted to his ears, breaking through his joyous distraction. He skidded to an abrupt halt, carving a shallow ditch and kicking up a cloud of soil. A deep rhythmic thumping. Words. … Was that music?
Pushing through the bushes he emerged onto a roadside. Looking to his left he could see a truck into distance, though rapidly approaching, and…. He blinked momentarily confused. Were they driving on the wrong side of the road? He shook himself.
Not in England, remember.
Besides from what little he could remember from one of Hermione's numerous lectures he thought he recalled that there were actually more countries that drove on the right than the left. Which really didn't help to narrow things down.
That on the other hand does.
His extraordinarily acute vision caught sight of a road sign, the words perfectly legible even at that great distance: 'Highway 101 – Forks, Washington – U.S.A.' America, eh? Well could be worse, at least the people actually spoke English here. Sort of. Undoubtedly a good thing since he had really not been looking forward to having to rely upon the notoriously patchy Translation Charms. At least that particular issue wouldn't come up.
On the downside he really didn't know magical America all that well. Other than the area immediately surrounding the Salem Witches' Institute he didn't know of any exclusively wizarding settlements. And if he was getting his geography right that was on the other side of the country entirely. Troublesome. Still, there were bound to be a fair few witches and wizards in each major city which meant a Portkey vendor was also likely. Might as well check out this Forks place first though. Who knew, he might get lucky.
His nostrils flared in response to a delectable scent that made his mouth water. It was warm, rich, and irresistible. Unconsciously he stilled, eyes darkening to onyx pits of hunger, dull heat burning in the back of his throat. In that moment nothing mattered but that glorious aroma. The truck roared ever closer and his legs tensed in preparation to pounce. A low growl rumbled from deep within his chest.
The wind shifted without warning and, the entrancing smell banished, his head cleared noticeably. His nose wrinkled in disgust and he gagged. Dear Merlin, what was that stench?! It was like something had died, been left to rot in the sun for a week while immersed in refuse, then dragged through a sewer. It was so deeply unpleasant that it actually stung his sensitive nose.
He was so absorbed by hacking and coughing, trying to scrub frantically at his poor beleaguered nostrils that he nearly missed the second and final warning sign. The truck careened past unmolested.
There was a curious fluttering sensation prodding at the fringes of his mind that felt somehow vaguely hostile, though it was difficult to quantify. He realised abruptly that he had been feeling it for some time now as it drew ever closer but that it had been buried under a deluge of other sensations. Curious. It was almost as if he were performing passive Legilimency scans on an unshielded opponent and reading their hostility, getting a sense of their planned movement. This ability was invaluable and the reason why all competent duellists were at least marginally capable of Occlumency. Legilimency took conscious effort though, or at least it always had previously.
This strange sixth sense blared out a warning. On instinct he leaped skyward, obscene strength sending him rocketing above the treetops. Looking down he saw a great russet-furred back pass beneath his feet. Huge jaws snapped close on thin air exactly where the back of his neck had been a split second before. His eyes widened at the sight as he plummeted back to earth. He struck the forest floor in an explosion of debris and took off running.
There was no chance that thing was natural and there was no way in hell he was going to stick around to fight an unknown supernatural predator that apparently considered vampires to be a tasty snack if he had anything to say about the matter. Though as it turned out he really didn't.
His senses cried out in warning again and he dove hastily to the side. A four-legged blur shot past him, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with a tree. The glancing contact tore off a chunk of splintered bark as it passed. It whirled to face him, a menacing snarl ripping from within jaws parted in a feral grin.
It was a wolf, though in general shape only. It was thicker than any natural wolf, with great slabs of muscle rippling under short but thick and shaggy brown fur. Unusually long dagger-like teeth extended from its jaws. It was monstrously huge, not quite as big as a horse, though there wasn't too much difference between them.
It wasn't a werewolf that much was certain. This creature was equally as distorted, though in a different manner. Werewolves were smaller, only a little larger than a natural wolf and distinguishable by several key characteristics: the pupils of the eyes, blunted snout shape, tufted tail and subtly stretched forelimbs. There was also the glaringly obvious fact that werewolves only assumed lupine form under the influence of a full moon. At this moment the moon was not even close to full, not to mention the fact it was the middle of the sodding day.
On the other hand given how ridiculously overpowered the vampire was in comparison to the ones he was used to, he supposed that it wasn't entirely improbable for there to be another breed of were as well. He liked the situation less and less with each passing moment.
The pseudo-werewolf's sheer size and evident power was not the most worrying part, however. No, that was the obvious glimmer of intelligence that shone in those lupine eyes behind the grey mask. That was not good, not at all. Werewolves were deadly beings but largely instinctual. With hair trigger tempers and no rational thought to speak of it was a relatively simple matter for the canny wizard to outwit and manoeuvre them into such a position where they could either be subdued or dealt with in a more… decisive fashion. Harry doubted that would be the case here.
His Legilimency (and it was Legilimency he realised now, though he had no real idea why he couldn't seem to stop doing it) was clearly able to pick up on its palpable rage and hostility. Looking into its eyes he caught a single word before the unconscious probe was drowned in mental static: LEECH.
Leech? That sounded suspiciously like a derogatory term for vampire. So, racist werewolves then. Oh joy.
While that little titbit didn't exactly fill him with warm and fuzzy feelings it did at least lend credence to his suspicions. One: the wolf was indeed sapient. Two: it was indeed hunting him. Or perhaps just vampires in general. Wistfully he hoped that the red-eyed bitch that had attacked him had had a similar encounter. One could dream.
If it was intelligent then perhaps it could be reasoned with. While it gave the impression of being the bite first, ask questions later sort it couldn't hurt to try at least. He really wanted to avoid a fight if at all possible.
"Er, hi there." He began with a rather weak wave. "I don't suppose we could talk about this?" A low rumble was his only reply.
"Alright, hey I get it. You've probably not had much in the way of good experiences with vampires (nor have I for that matter)" He muttered in an aside. "But honestly I don't mean any harm. To you or anyone else."
He had a split second's warning. Ethereal tendrils of Mind Magic felt the simmering resentment flare into a fiery rage and picked up on a few disjointed lines of speech.
"Red eyes – fed on human blood – LIAR." And then it lunged.
Harry dove to the side, rolled and drew his wand in a single smooth and practised motion. Despite being accelerated a dozen times from his norm it was a simple thing.
The wizard flicked his wrist, sending a vibrant vermillion jet of light hissing through the air. Catching the wolf unawares it struck its left flank with an orange flash. The wolf staggered, momentarily disorientated, but did not collapse as it should have.
Damn, magical resistance. Not good, he should have anticipated this. He'd hoped to take out his adversary quickly, without fuss and preferably without ripping it to bloody shreds with high-level curses. Hence the stunning spell, though naturally it was one significantly more potent than a mere Stupefy. The basic Stunning Charm was all well and good for human use but the wolf had considerably greater mass to effect.
On the plus side the spell had done something. Which meant said resistance was less than that of a mountain troll and not anywhere close to that of a dragon. (Thank Merlin). Thankfully that meant Harry shouldn't have to resort to any of the really nasty stuff to take it down. Good. Tearing living things into gory chunks always made him feel more than a little queasy.
But what to use? A few strategically placed piercing curses and a binding spell should about do it he decided. He jabbed his wand, focusing on a single word.
A shining silvery bolt spat forth unerringly at the great beast. It plunged into its hindquarters, producing a pained yelp and a spray of steaming hot blood. The Impaling Curse had punched a fist wide hole into its thigh. It did not look best pleased by this development.
With incredible swiftness boosted to an obscene level by vampiric speed Harry's wand dipped and spun silently. A further three blazing spears of magic lanced out, followed by a writhing ball of compressed luminescent chains.
The wolf learned quickly however and, in a clear display of both intelligence and astounding physical ability, managed to somehow dodge them all. In a fraction of a second it processed the danger and reacted.
Dropping to its belly on the earth the first spell soared over its shoulder blades, close enough to ruffle fur with its passage. It dove forwards, the second curse searing the trailing tip of its tail, the third skimming the underside of its stomach. A dip of the head sent the binding spell careening off to the side where it struck a tree, wrapping it tightly in chains of glowing silver. Two of the piercing curses plunged harmlessly to earth, carving shallow trenches on impact. The other bored through a stray boulder, sundering it in two with a retort like that of a gunshot.
… You've got to be kidding me. He thought incredulously. How was that even possible?
Granted, the Impaling Curse was far from the fastest spell around and it was admittedly far from subtle. But still, to dodge not one but three and while injured at that was damn impressive. Pushing his stupefaction aside he didn't dare let up on his assault, else the beast would be on him in a heartbeat (figuratively speaking of course).
With unnatural swiftness the great wolf charged towards him, feinting in a zigzag pattern. An obvious pre-emptive attempt at avoiding spellfire which never came. Instead Harry gave his wand a gentle upwards flick.
A shining pane of transparent blue burst into being at an angle. The wolf ran into it and up the ramp-like surface of energy, causing a brilliant flare of light with each footstep. He flung his wand skyward and the Shield Charm moved with it, sending the shaggy behemoth high into the air before dissipating.
It spun helplessly, all its speed and tremendous strength suddenly rendered useless, legs flailing for purchase that was nowhere to be found. A jab sent a seething orb of compressed wind to strike like a wrecking ball with force that dwarfed the cannon fire that the spell was named for. The howl of tempestuous fury covered a cry of pain as the impact of a charm strong enough to bludgeon a troll into insensibility snapped ribs all down one side and sent the creature spinning like a pinball.
A sharp and imperious downwards slash created a wide vertical column of highly intensified gravitational pull. The wolf's trajectory abruptly altered and it plummeted to earth, an angry and rather confused meteor. A tremor ran through the ground underfoot, a concentric circle of dust rising around the point of impact. The wolf twitched feebly, obviously stunned by the sudden and repeated trauma.
An elastic rope of shining neon light shot out and wrapped around the beast with shimmering cords of magic. A lashing motion yanked the wolf through the air towards the waiting wizard.
The Grappling Charm dissolved into luminous motes.
A rippling pillar of raw force exploded from the tip of Harry's ebony wand. It struck in the stomach, driving what little breath remained from the creature in a sudden exhalation. The wolf shot through the air, fast as a bullet, and hit a particularly broad trunk dead centre. An agonised yelp followed the sound of further breaking bones as splinters of pulverised wood fountained outwards. The entire tree reverberated from the force of it, a shower of dislodged leaves drifting slowly down.
Harry's opponent dropped, limbs lax now - though still twitching feebly. Despite the huge amount of blunt force trauma it had sustained the beast was still very much alive, though it was clearly not in any sort of position to be causing trouble anytime soon.
Taking in the sight of his fallen adversary with a thoroughly self satisfied grin Harry decided not to take any chances.
A silent swish sent another ball of conjured fetters soaring forth. They encased the insensible werewolf wannabe, trussing it up tightly in softly glowing chains of silvery magic. An Exturbo followed as an afterthought a moment later.
"Ha, take that!" He jeered, caught up in the exhilaration of a successful fight against a strong opponent in a life or death struggle. "Not so tough now are we, you furry bas-URK!"
The Legilimency warning came a fraction of a second too late.
Harry twisted desperately – too slow. From out of nowhere a pair of great bestial jaws exploded forth and closed decisively around his wand arm. He managed to shift just enough so that instead of the second wolf biting his armed hand clean off its mouth closed around his forearm.
This one was of a similar size to the previous, but with a pelt of dull silver-grey.
Teeth tougher than steel punched through diamond flesh with a rocky grinding shriek. Harry screamed in pain as fangs tore into his skin, though no blood spilled out. Instinctively he lashed out at his attacker's nose. Crimson spurted out but it refused to release its grip. Instead growling and beginning to twist.
Fighting down the surge of panic Harry curled up his left hand and jabbed the two extended fingers into its neck with bruising force. He reached within, grasped the roiling torrent of magic and felt it surge down his arms in response to his will.
"TAX!" He hissed.
The Shock Charm is an unusual spell, as a defensive measure it was designed to be easy to cast wandlessly. For most it would produce a painful but non-harmful electrical spark. In the hand of those with some degree of skill with wandless magic this is magnified to mimic the effects of a muggle taser, hence the charm's unofficial name amongst muggleborns and halfbloods. This second was what Harry was aiming for – stun the beast momentarily, force it to release him, and then start flinging painful and debilitating curses as quickly as he could manage. Which with the vampiric boost was pretty damn fast.
It did not happen quite like that in practise.
Instead his hand was engulfed in a flickering halo of spitting blue-white arcs of electricity that discharged immediately into the nearest target. The artificial lightning bolt ripped through the wolf's body making it convulse uncontrollably and throwing it back as if hit by a speeding car. The flash of light and thunderous CRACK was accompanied by a high whine of animalistic agony. The sweet scent of ozone blended with the rank stench of burnt hair to fill the atmosphere.
"I meant to do that." He muttered weakly, flexing his newly freed wrist experimentally. It hurt like hell but function did not seem to be noticeably impaired. The same could not be said for his wand however. His keen eyed gaze plainly saw the tiny fractures creeping down its length.
"Oh, shit." He breathed, eyes widening incrementally.
His mind flashed back over the horror stories of what happened to wizards who tried casting with damaged foci, not to mention the Lockhart Catastrophe of second year. Damn it, there really weren't much worse times for this to happen. It seemed wands were simply not created with vampire strength in mind, however much it was held back.
Strangely overpowered Shock Charm notwithstanding Harry didn't trust his novice wandless abilities in a fight against so formidable a creature. He had yet to advance to casting anything truly destructive or powerful without the aid of a focus, a focus which was no longer usable unless he wanted to risk spontaneously transfiguring his head into a cabbage. (And yes, that had indeed rather famously happened to an especially unfortunate witch some few years ago).
"Oh hell. I think that's my cue to leave." Tossing a red bolt of light in an effort to buy another second he turned and ran.
Rapidly accelerating into a reddish blur of motion he vanished into the forest. Strength thrummed untiringly through his legs as his strides devoured a mile, two, three, four.
A tingling at the fringes of his mind attracted his attention and he flicked a glance back over his shoulder, casually leaping a fallen tree as he did so. A grey blur trailed behind him, visible through the undergrowth in brief flashes detectable only thanks to his heightened senses.
He was ahead for now but the distance was gradually closing. There wasn't a great deal of difference in speed between them but the wolf seemingly had a slight advantage. Probably due to being quadrupedal he realised. Harry was faster in a sprint over a short distance and likely a fair bit more agile in close quarters, but the fact remained that over an extended chase four legs beat two. When the biped was the one being chased at any rate. The fact that the creature pursuing him knew the woods a great deal better likely did him no favours.
A broken branch sounded to his right, much closer than he had anticipated. A third wolf bounded alongside and a little behind. This one was even larger than the others, and with dark black fur. So heavily built was this one that an inexperienced eye might be forgiven for confusing it with a bear at a distance. Another backwards glance showed the grey wolf glaring ferociously, fur ruffled and with a distinctly irked expression.
With a start he remembered one very crucial fact that he had somehow overlooked before: wolves were pack hunters.
Fuck fuck fuckity-fuck, got to get away NOW.
In response to that fervent single-minded focus his magic surged up around him unchannelled, an unseen storm of arcane might. And then Harry Potter: wizard, slayer of the Dark Lord Voldemort and newborn vampire vanished mid step, disappearing in the blink of an eye into a vortex of eldritch power.
A peal of thunder rolled out in an invisible wave to shake the heavens.
A/N: And with that we move away from Forks for a good long while.
Apologies for the delay in posting. I actually meant to put this up on Saturday morning but ended up getting distracted and completely forgot about it - so it's been sitting around since then. My bad. I just hope the slightly increased length of the chapter makes up for it somewhat.
I'd like to thank everyone that followed and faved last chapter and especially those who took the time to write a review. You guys are awesome.