Chapter 1: Downward Spiral
Author's Note: Hey y'all! I know the last thing I should be doing is starting another story but this wouldn't leave me alone. The inspiration for this story came from Chance Encounters by Rain Seaker. It is a great story. I have permission from Rain Seaker to use anything that seems familiar to their story. I can't guarantee how often I will update. If you read any of my other stories you know my updating is sporadic. Thanks go to cywsaphyre for betaing this for me. I hope ya enjoy! I do not own either the Harry Potter characters or the Avengers characters and no money is being made from this.
Harry sighed as he was, once again, forced to spend yet another night training. He knew the importance of the lessons but that didn't mean he had to like the constant state of exhaustion, or the sore muscles that never went away these days, or the deep sense of self-loathing that had taken hold of his very soul. He was fourteen years old and already he was tired, weary really, of life. However, he had a duty to do and damn it he would do it.
Harry knew by now what was expected of him, so when he arrived at the training room, he quickly changed then began stretching. Once he was limber he started moving seamlessly through his katas.
He was in the middle of his routine when he felt someone enter the room behind him. He spun gracefully to see Moody, Remus, Flitwick and Snape standing in front of the door. As one they raised their wands and began firing curses at him. Harry, with no time to get his wand since he'd stupidly left it over by his robes, a mistake he knew he'd be paying for later, did the only thing he could do and flung himself over to the right side of the room where his wand was. He rolled to his feet and closed his fingers around the hilt as a searing cutting curse tore its way across and down his back. Harry unconsciously arched his back a little bit, trying to escape the agonizing pain. He gritted his teeth and fired a vicious Bone-Breaking Hex in return. He felt a thrill of savage pleasure when he heard Snape snarl as he was hit.
Harry quickly scanned the room for the other three, knowing Snape wouldn't be slowed down for long. He could never quite guess what the crazy ex-Auror would throw at him. Harry had found out the hard way that the man wasn't above literally launching random items in the room at him. The last time, it was a freaking desk.
Remus was a little more predictable in that he used painful hexes and curses but none that would do any permanent damage. The older werewolf was constantly reminding Harry that James and Lily Potter had given their lives for him and that he shouldn't waste that gift. That he had to live up to that.
Flitwick was even easier to predict since he kept to the traditional rules of dueling. Ever since his years on the circuit, the Charms professor couldn't quite shake his old habits.
In the blink of an eye, Harry took out the diminutive professor with a well-placed Stupefy, and then banished him to the side of the room where he wouldn't be further injured.
A moment later, Harry had to dive out of the way of a chair that Moody had hurled at him. He rolled to his feet but stayed in his crouch as he assessed the situation. Moody was a bit off to his right, while Snape was closing in from the left and Lupin was right in front of him. Quickly, Harry pulled out a dagger from an ankle holster and threw it at Snape. He watched as the dagger found its mark in the older man's shoulder.
"Damn you, Potter!" Snape snapped viciously as he tore out the dagger and healed the deep wound.
Harry used that time to send a stunner at the Potions Master as he dodged one from Moody. The young man was happy to avoid the one aimed at him but was disappointed to see that his own didn't hit what it was aiming for. Harry knew he would be hearing about that when they were done.
Harry threw up a shield and ducked as three different colored jets of light flew at him. He wasn't sure what they were so he knew he didn't want to be hit with any of them. Harry used the Avis spell to distract both Moody and Lupin as he turned his attention onto Snape. The young man knew that the former Death Eater knew more spells and hexes than he did so he decided to use brute force. He was more powerful than the older man so Harry just sent a stream of constant offensive spells at him. It took close to a minute of full-powered spells before Snape's shield collapsed beneath the onslaught. The man fell backwards, wrapped head to toe in iron chains. Harry watched him fall, vindictively pleased when Snape's greasy head struck the flagstone, knocking him unconscious.
As Harry was turning back to the other two men he took a bright blue beam of light to his chest. It hit him like a sledgehammer, knocking him off his feet and onto his back. Harry fought to regulate his breathing through the pain of his broken ribs and sternum. He forced himself back to his feet, knowing that the two men wouldn't give him time to regroup. Moody was closing in on him and Harry lashed out with his right foot, kicking out the former Auror's good knee, sending him crashing to the ground with a shattered kneecap. Harry brought his heel down sharply on Moody's wand wrist, causing the older man to release his wand. Harry quickly scooped it up. He felt both wands being wrenched from his hands with a well-placed disarming spell from Lupin. He signaled his defeat with his hand, ignoring the disappointed look Remus was sending him.
"That was pathetic, Harry," Remus snarled as he waved his wand over Moody, healing the damage Harry had inflicted.
Moody stood up, limped over to Flitwick, and woke him up. He then turned his attention onto Snape. Once the three men joined Remus, they proceeded to break down what Harry had done wrong, never bothering to heal his chest. That was one of the rules; they wouldn't heal him unless the injury was imminently life threatening. If it wasn't, they expected Harry to figure out how to heal it on his own or allow it to heal without the aid of magic. He was not allowed to go to Madam Pomfrey.
"We are taking time out of our busy schedules to train you, Potter," Snape bit out angrily. "The least you could do is pay attention."
Harry looked at the older man and said as patiently as he could, "I am paying attention, Professor. I've heard every word you guys have said."
"You can drop the sarcasm Harry," Lupin lectured crossly.
Harry opened his mouth to say he wasn't being sarcastic but closed it with a resigned sigh, knowing that it wouldn't make a difference; it would just get him in more trouble.
"Yes, sir," Harry said instead, choosing the easier route.
Harry listened as patiently as he could as they dissected his performance. He didn't feel anything as they decided that this session was a total failure on his part.
"If you expect us to keep training you Harry, you need to put more effort into it," Lupin lectured sternly. "If this is something you want to do, then you need to apply yourself. As your magical guardian, I think you need more motivation. I thought you would be mature enough to realize that Voldemort wanting to kill you would be enough incentive for you to work harder but I can now see that I was mistaken. Therefore, I believe that until you show a marked improvement, you will not be allowed to play Quidditch anymore."
Harry stared coldly at the men before him, all agreeing with Lupin. He chuckled humorlessly at them. He shook his head before saying, "I haven't been playing all year. I haven't had the time. I told Professor McGonagall that within the first week of my training. She wasn't happy, but she understands that some things are more important."
Harry felt shock course through him when Lupin looked at him in disappointment once again.
"I must say that I am quite disappointed in you Harry. Your parents would not be happy to know that their only son shirks his duties when things get hard," Lupin stated softly.
"Are you kidding me?" Harry demanded hotly. "Seconds ago you were going to make me give up Quidditch as a punishment for not working hard enough. Now you're lecturing me about how my parents would be disappointed that I had already given up something I love because I understand that there are more important things going on than a game! Than House points! You are a Merlin-damned hypocrite, Remus Lupin, and it would be you they would be disappointed in, not me."
Harry turned on his heel, summoned his belongings, and stalked out of the room. Even as he was doing so, he knew he would pay for his disrespect, and he knew they wouldn't wait until their next training session.
He forced those thoughts from his mind as he neared the common room. Giving the Fat Lady the password, he entered the crowded room.
Harry crossed the room quickly, heading for the stairs to the dorms and hoping to avoid the confrontation that had been brewing for several days now. He was just too tired and in too much pain to have it out with his friends. He cringed when he heard his name being called above the din of everyone else talking and laughing. He cursed under his breath when the room got quieter. Harry turned around slowly to see Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and Neville all coming his way.
"Harry, where have you been?" Hermione demanded. "You haven't been around much at all."
"I've been busy Hermione," Harry said firmly. "I have a lot of stuff going on right now."
"What stuff?" Ron jumped in. "We're your best friends; shouldn't we know what's going on with you?"
"You are my friends, yes, but I am entitled to time away from you guys. Just because we're friends doesn't mean we have to spend all day, every day together. You don't see me making a fuss when you and Hermione want some alone time. I should be permitted to the same courtesy," Harry explained as calmly as he could.
"You are not just spending time alone. It's like you're avoiding us," Ginny sulked.
Harry forced himself to take a deep breath before he blew up at them. The pain was getting worse, the adrenaline was wearing off, and all he wanted was a healing potion and some sleep.
"Leave him alone," Neville spoke up resolutely. "He doesn't answer to any of you. He's his own man, and how he spends his time is his business."
"Thank you, Nev," Harry said softly, sending an appreciative smile his way.
The Longbottom heir smiled back as he answered, "Anytime, Harry."
Harry sent one last smile to his understanding friend and a slight glare towards the others before heading up the stairs to his dorm and waiting bed.
Several months had passed since the argument in the common room. Ever since that night, Harry had drifted apart from Ron, Ginny, and Hermione, while growing closer to Neville. The quiet, honorable young man had a calming presence on Harry, who was often tense and stressed out.
Christmas had come and gone and the two friends were spending a quiet morning at the end of December hanging out in the empty common room reading. Harry's head snapped up as the door slammed open as Snape forced his way through.
"Potter, summon a cloak, your knives, and let's go," Snape ordered swiftly. "Death Eaters are attacking Contin. Dumbledore has decided that this is a good time for an evaluation of your skills. He wants to see how you will handle a real battle. Now hurry up. We are portkeying out in ten minutes."
Harry stood quickly and summoned his cloak, knives, boots, and under armor. He pulled on his boots, strapped his knives to each thigh, spelled his armor under his shirt, and then finally put on his cloak. He turned to Neville, who was watching him with a mixture of fear and confidence on his face, and offered a smile.
"I'll see you when I get back Nev," He promised quietly.
Neville got up, crossed over to him, and gently grasped his forearm. "Watch your back and come back safely. I expect to see you later tonight."
"I'll do my best," Harry swore, gripping his friend's arm tightly before turning away and following Snape out.
The two of them made the trip to the Headmaster's office in silence. Harry was trying to mentally prepare himself for what was to come. He knew nothing he had done so far was even close to what was about to happen. What he was about to do.
He took a deep breath as he crossed the threshold to the Headmaster's office, finding it filled with people. Some of them he knew; others he had never met before. He scanned the room looking for a familiar bald, black head and a gold hoop earring, relaxing when he spotted Kingsley Shacklebolt. The man had trained with him several times now and he had turned into the only trainer Harry liked and respected. He made it clear to Harry that he cared about him, cared about more than him surviving Voldemort. While the others were content to let him flounder, Kingsley had made himself available to talk to if Harry ever needed him.
Harry was so grateful that the Auror had come into his life. Across the room, Kingsley looked up and met Harry's eyes. The man managed to convey a lot in his steady dark gaze. Harry felt his shoulders relax as Dumbledore called everyone to order.
"Hello, everyone," The old man began, his features set in grave lines. "We don't have much time so I'll get right to it. In about twenty minutes, there is an attack scheduled on a small Scottish village. You are going to portkey in and find places to hide. When the Death Eaters show up, you attack. We want as many as we can get in Ministry holding cells. Madam Bones is on standby to take care of everything from the Ministry's side. I hope I will see you all soon. Good luck my friends and stay safe."
And without further ado, he held out a length of rope for Healer Vance.
Waiting apprehensively for his turn, Harry smiled up at Kingsley when the man appeared at his side.
"Hey Harry, how are you feeling?" Kingsley asked with a kind smile.
Harry smiled back nervously at the man. Kingsley's eyes softened and he his smile took on a reassuring edge as he said, "Okay, here's the deal – you are going to stay with me. Just stick close unless I tell you otherwise, okay? If I tell you to take cover, I expect you to do that. Understand, Harry?"
Harry nodded, more relieved than he was willing to put into words. "Yes, Kingsley."
He leaned into the older man's side when Kingsley wrapped his arm around his shoulders.
"Everything is going to be just fine," The Auror said quietly into soft ebony hair. "Nothing is going to happen to you, Harry."
Harry nodded into the side of the older man's chest, soaking up the comfort that was being offered.
"Remember what we talked about," His mentor whispered. "Things are going to happen quickly out there; we've run through several drills and simulations so your muscles will remember what to do. There is a good chance that you will kill today. You cannot react while you are out there. We will deal with it after we are back here. Everything is going to be okay."
Harry nodded and offered a small, tentative smile as his mentor moved away. He looked up as people started gathering around Dumbledore and the rope he was holding out. He moved forward with Kingsley and grasped the rope beside him.
Glancing around, he spotted Lupin, Moody, and Snape all staring at him. For the first time, he wondered if this plan had been approved by them. He forced that thought from his mind. Now wasn't the time to wonder about it. He had more important things to focus on. That was one thing that Kingsley stressed – never allow yourself to be distracted. You needed to go into battle with a clear, calm head.
He took a steadying breath, and then, before Harry could blink, he and the others were whisked from the Headmaster's office.
Harry braced his knees as he slammed into the ground. He looked around himself quickly. A dark but peaceful village sprawled out before him. This wasn't the type of place where evil should come, but in minutes it would be descending on these innocent people.
Harry looked up when he felt a light touch just above his elbow on his right arm. Kingsley signaled that they were going to the left. Harry motioned that he understood, and then followed Kingsley. He would worry about the others later.
Harry crouched next to the older man behind a chest high hedge. Kingsley nudged him with his elbow and purposely shifted a bit, and Harry nodded, showing that he remembered to move a little bit from time to time so his muscles wouldn't stiffen up on him.
Twenty agonizingly slow minutes later and the battle was raging around them. Harry made sure to keep to Kingsley's side, taking out as many Death Eaters as he could.
A few minutes in, Harry turned just in time to see a masked man sneaking up on his partner. Without conscious thought, he sent a wordless Cutting Hex at the man's jugular, the spell exploding out of his wand with all the panicfuryanxiety that had been clenching his gut ever since he had been told to fight tonight.
Harry watched as the life-giving liquid, crimson and cringingly bright, surged from the man's neck, splashing out in a few powerful spurts as he collapsed to the ground.
Harry's head snapped around to look at Kingsley. He met the concerned dark eyes scanning him closely.
"Focus, Harry. We are almost done. Keep focused."
Harry nodded and turned his attention back to what was going on around him. He blocked out the screams of pain, knowing he couldn't let himself get caught up in that. He concentrated on keeping Death Eaters away from Kingsley's back, secure in the knowledge that the older man was doing the same for him. He turned his thoughts off, simply allowing his body to do what he had been trained to do.
His mind felt numb.
Another hour passed, and Harry was standing in the blood-soaked street, staring around him emotionlessly. He kept his face carefully blank, masking the pain and confusion and the remnants of mind-numbing terror.
He flinched a little when a warm, comforting hand landed on his shoulder. Turning, he peered upwards, onyx hair falling into green eyes as he caught sight of his mentor.
"Come on Harry," Kingsley stated quietly. "Let's get you back to Hogwarts. There's nothing more you can do here. You don't need to see this."
"Harry should stay here and help us clean up," Remus spoke up coolly as he came up to stand beside Kingsley.
The Auror looked at the graying man coldly. "In what way do you think that will help? Honestly, it seems to me that you just want to punish him. There's no reason for that. He is going back to Hogwarts."
"He needs to stay," Remus snarled. "He was part of this; he needs to accept responsibility for his part in it."
Kingsley just looked at the enraged man before he shook his head and turned away.
"We aren't done," Remus barked. "I am in charge of Harry's training; this isn't your decision."
"Actually, Lupin," Kingsley refuted calmly. "While we are in the field, it is my call, and I'm taking him back to Hogwarts."
And without sparing another glance for the bitter werewolf, the Auror gently grasped Harry's arm and Apparated them away.
They reappeared at the gates of Hogwarts. Seconds later, there was another crack as Remus Lupin appeared beside them. The werewolf stared chillingly at Kingsley. "I think we need to talk to Dumbledore."
There was a tense silence as the three wizards made their way up to the castle. The doors creaked open easily under Kingsley's hand and he motioned Harry in first. Harry led the way to the Headmaster's office, hoping this would be figured out quickly as his stomach was starting to roll. When Harry stepped off the moving staircase, he knocked on the door. He pushed it open and entered when Dumbledore invited them in.
Nodding tiredly when the older man offered them a kind smile, Harry could only concentrate on staying on his feet.
"Hello gentlemen," Dumbledore greeted. "Come in and have a seat. It seems like we have some things to discuss."
Harry tuned out the angry voices of his trainer and mentor as they both argued their case. He wasn't sure how much time had passed when Professor Dumbledore's voice finally penetrated his cloudy mind.
"Harry, my boy, can you hear me?" The old man asked.
"Yes Sir," Harry mumbled, eyes staring unfocused at his knees.
"Why don't you go to bed? There is no need for you to sit through this. Kingsley or Remus can inform you of what we discuss tomorrow."
Harry nodded his head, relieved to be excused from the room. He was starting to lose the battle to keep his stomach contents where they belong. He stood, stumbled slightly into Kingsley who steadied him with both hands and his deep, soothing voice, whispering to him that he would be alright, that Kingsley would come check on him before he left for the night. Harry nodded dumbly, not really understanding what the man was saying.
He staggered out of the office, stumbling in the vague direction of the Gryffindor Common Room. Ducking into the first bathroom he came across, he fell into a stall and onto his knees in front of the toilet just as everything in his stomach rebelled.
Harry's body shook with the force of the retching. His stomach continued to clench and unclench painfully for almost fifteen minutes after there was nothing left to expel. When his stomach finally calmed enough for him to run the back of his left hand over his mouth and turn to sit beside the toilet, he wearily reached out with his right to flush the contents away.
Pulling his legs up and resting his elbows on his knees, Harry looked at his watch, blinking in surprise to see the hand just striking midnight.
With a worn sigh, Harry allowed his head to fall back against the stall as a single tear made its way down the side of his face and dripped off the side of his clenched jaw.
"Hell of a way," He mumbled to himself, cynically amused. "To bring in the New Year."
Author's Note: Thank y'all for reading and I hope ya enjoyed it. I am working on the next chapter currently. Hopefully I'll be done with it soon. Until next time be happy, be healthy, be safe.