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Chapter 39: A Shaman's Solution
A Shaman's Solution
Harry was lying in bed, listening to Severus read another of the Jungle Book stories. Unable to fall asleep for fear of sleepwalking, Harry had asked Severus to read to him. They had reached the tale where Mowgli makes the decision to leave the jungle and return to the world of men. Harry frowned when Severus read that part, his brow crinkling. "I don't get it, Uncle Sev. Why would Mowgli want to go back with people who don't like or understand him? If I were Mowgli, I'd stay in the jungle forever. He can live there as well as the animals, and they like him. Who cares if he's a man? The animals are better friends than his own people."
"Yes, I supposed you're right. But Kipling believed in a natural order of things, that like should be with like."
Harry snorted. "But that's not always so. I mean, look at me. If that were true, I'd still be with my relatives and they'd treat me better. Only they'd never and I'd throw myself off the Astronomy Tower before I went back to them, I'd don't care if they're related to me or not."
Severus ruffled his son's hair. "Relax, child. No one will ever take you from me. Or send you back to those . . . people. Not so long as there is breath in my body. Now then, turn over, and listen to one more tale, and try and sleep." Severus urged. He flipped to another part in the book and began to read Toomai of the Elephants. One hand gently carded Harry's hair, untangling the unruly strands and rubbing soothing circles along his spine.
Severus' deep voice combined with those two things caused Harry to fall into a deep sleep.
Severus gently closed the book and set it on Harry's night stand, along with his glasses. He kept a small light burning, just in case.
He heard a soft tap at the door and let in Skull. "Is all well with Ghost and Shriek?"
"Right as rain, Sev," Skull cawed. "How is Harry?"
"Asleep. Here's hoping he stays so."
"Shall I keep watch then?"
"If you wouldn't mind?"
Skull snorted. Then he flew silently into Harry's room, settling atop the headboard like a macabre sentinel.
Harry woke at quarter to seven, he felt tired, but not extremely so. As he dressed he saw Skull perched on the headboard. "Morning, Skull."
"Same to you, bran-boy." The raven warbled.
"Skull, did I . . . sleepwalk last night?"
The raven shook his head. "No, you slept soundly. I kept watch all night."
"I kept you up all night? I'm sorry."
"What are you apologizing for? I prefer the night, you know that. It was no trouble." The raven purred. "Are you all set for your first lesson with Ghost?"
"Yes." Harry said, his eyes sparkling eagerly. He carefully brushed his hair, trying to get it to lie mostly flat. "Is Uncle Sev up?"
"Hours ago. He's brewing something, I forget what. He told me to tell you there's a ham and egg sandwich on the table for you with your Nutrient Suppliment."
Harry hurried out to the sitting room, where a delicious sandwich was still steaming, along with a green vial and a cup of tea. He swallowed the potion first, then began to eat hungrily, feeding Skull bits of ham and eggs. Once he had finished, he let Skull out and then followed, taking along his bag, because he had class afterwards. The door to Snape's quarters locked automatically behind him.
He knocked gently on Ghost's quarters, and almost immediately heard an old lady's scratchy voice call, "Oh, Ghost! Avon calling!"
Harry snickered, even though he didn't quite get the reference.
A few moments later, he heard soft footsteps and then Ghost ordered, "Move out of the way, bird. They don't sell Avon here." The door was pulled open and Ghost said, "Come in, Harry."
Harry stepped inside and Ghost shut the door. "Good morning, sir . . . ah . . . I mean Ghost . . ."
"Sleep well?" queried his tutor.
"Skull says I didn't sleepwalk," Harry said.
"Good. Today I think we need to start with a standard smudging ceremony to clear and purify your magical pathways," Ghost said. "That's essential just in case the revenant managed to leave behind any harmful influences."
"Have a seat on the couch," invited the shaman.
The boy sat down, his hands folded in his lap. He gazed questioningly at his tutor.
"When the revenant came and attacked you and your teachers, it used its own fell power to harm you. It must have been a singularly powerful spirit to do such damage to so many at once."
"Severus says he thinks the revenant actually contained a spirit of the strongest dark wizard in Britain and Europe, called Lord Voldemort."
"Ah. Even I've heard of that one." Ghost nodded. "If he was involved, then we definitely need the purification ceremony. Have you ever done one before?"
"Okay. The ceremony is designed to get your spirit back in harmony with your body, and remove any traces of dark magic from you. I use the sacred herbs of sage, white pine, cedar, lavender, and sweet grass to cleanse your spirit."
"Will it hurt?"
"Not at all. Once it's done, it will set up a protective barrier and prevent any sort of dark magic from entering you." Ghost rose and walked over to the small altar with the incense and the prayer rug. "Give me a minute."
He lit the incense with a casual wave and began to waft the smoke towards himself. Then he knelt on the rug and began making a few passes with his hands in circular patterns while chanting in Mesquakie. Soon colored smoke was funneling down over him.
Harry squinted, but Ghost's figure was completely obscured by smoke. Harry just sat there, watching. Abruptly the smoke cleared and Harry could see his tutor, still kneeling, with his hands arced above his head, fingers touching. Ghost held that position for another moment, then brought his hands down to his sides.
He rose smoothly to his feet, a twisted bundle of smoking incense in his hand and turned. "Come here, Harry."
Harry got to his feet and approached uncertainly.
"Step onto the rug and kneel there," Ghost instructed softly. "That's right."
Ghost took the smudge stick and began waving it over Harry, up and down and side to side, in the four cardinal directions. Then he began to chant in English, so Harry could understand what he was saying. "I ask the elements to help me cleanse and purify all within this sphere and banish the taint of darkness forever from Harry James Potter. By the power of the sacred sage, lavender, cedar, white pine, and sweetgrass, let your spirit be renewed, your heart be pure, your magic unbound. Let any sins you have committed be washed away. You are healed. You are renewed. You are protected. I, the Ghost Who Walks, call upon the power of the Creator, and surround you with Light."
As he spoke, Harry saw a fiery nimbus surround the shaman, and he felt the healing power of the tall wizard flow through him. It was like a breath of fresh air, a cascade of purest water, the gentle heat of the summer sun, and the soft caress of a father's hand. A feeling of overwhelming peace surrounded him, so profound that Harry felt tears come to his eyes. He felt the protection wrap him about him, and he snuggled into it like a fuzzy blanket.
Ghost smudged him four times, four being the sacred number in Native American tradition. The incense slowly burned down until it was a mere stub and Ghost flexed his hand and the remainder of the stick vanished.
"How do you feel now, Harry?"
Harry inhaled the sweet scented smoke and then said, "That was . . . I've never . . . it's amazing! I feel great! No, better than that. I . . . don't know how to describe it."
"Do you feel calm? Less anxious? Relaxed?"
"All of that . . . and more."
"Good. That's how you should feel after this ceremony." He helped Harry up.
"Ghost? Can you do that . . . ceremony to anyone?"
"Because I was just thinking . . . Uncle Sev, Lena, and Dumbledore fought the revenant too. I think . . . I think it hurt them and this might help. What do you think?"
"If the revenant hurt them in any way, then the purification ritual will definitely help them. I shall speak to them about it later. It's good that you are showing concern for your teachers. It shows you have a generous heart." Ghost said approvingly. "Among my people, a shaman should always strive to give back to those in need. Your mentor has taught you well."
Harry felt a rush of pride. "Well, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't help them, they almost died fighting it. And they've all helped me, saved my life even. 'Specially Uncle Severus. He took me away from my horrible relatives and gave me a home and a place to belong."
Ghost nodded. He could see quite clearly that Harry loved Severus like a father, and the dark-haired sorcerer loved the boy like a son. He wondered if Severus had ever considered adopting the boy. In Windfar, an adopted child was given the same rights and privileges as a blood child, including inheritance. But he could dwell on that later. Right now he needed to focus on Harry's Traveling issues.
Once again he seated himself on the couch and had Harry sit beside him. "Now then, I know that Travelling is a rare ability on this side of the ocean, according to the Ravenmistress and Severus. That's not true where I'm from. In Windfar and elsewhere, the Traveling gift is well known and many have it. How did you learn you had it?"
Harry told him about Marlene, his crazy "godmother" and how she had captured and held him prisoner. He told Ghost about the Codex, and how it had identified the Traveling power within him and taught him how to use it.
"Ah. So the only formal instruction you had was a page of a book? You had no real teacher?"
"No, not really. That's why Uncle Sev went looking for you."
"And the first time you Traveled you were under a lot of stress, right? You were desperate to escape that evil witch keeping you prisoner."
"You can say that again. I would have done anything to get away from her." Harry shuddered.
Ghost looked thoughtful. "And sleepwalking is often a sign of anxiety." He tapped his chin. "I believe I know why your power has gone haywire."
"Because you have never learned to use it properly."
"I don't understand. The book's instructions worked."
"Yes, but Traveling is more than telling you how to use your ability," Ghost explained. "When you first learned to Travel, you did so under desperate circumstances. You were trying to escape your crazed godmother. The second time you Traveled was also out of a desperate need to save your mentor. Because of that your mind has come to associate Travelling with fear and anxiety. That shouldn't be your impulse for using your power. You should associate Travelling with a pleasant experience, not with a life or death situation. When you sleepwalk, do you remember what you dream?"
"Uh . . . not really. It's all fuzzy. Sometimes I can remember where I've been, but not why."
"All right. As I said before, I think the sleepwalking is born of anxiety, and once we put that to rest, it should stop. I can detect no evil influences upon you. So . . . we begin. Have you done meditation before, Harry?"
"Some. Uncle Severus showed me how to breathe and be calm."
"Good. Let's start with some counted breathing."
Together, Harry and Ghost counted five breaths and held the last for a count of ten. They did that eight times, until Harry felt relaxed. Then Ghost had Harry find his center, that core of serenity and magical power, a secret room in his head where he could go to be at peace.
"Have you found your center?"
"Good. Stay there and listen to me. The first thing you ought to know is that you are a bridge between worlds, that of the one we live on and the Place Between Worlds, sometimes called the astral plane. The Otherworld is a dangerous place for the young Traveler and not to be treated lightly. You never should have gone there without a spirit guide. You might have been lost."
"Uh . . . I didn't really have a choice."
"I understand, but now you do." Ghost said. "You should always make sure you are in a safe place before you Travel, somewhere warded so nothing can harm your body. Here is such a place. I'm going to Travel into the Place Between Worlds first and meet you there."
"Okay," Harry murmured.
Ghost quickly sank into a trance and slipped through the boundary.
It took Harry a moment more to follow, drifting up from his body and through the invisible barrier that separated the astral from the material plane. He found Ghost standing in a field surrounded by a wilderness with mountains all around. The image was so vivid that Harry almost could feel the breeze through the fir trees and hear the birds singing. Ghost himself seemed to glow with a bright luminescence and Harry stared at his tutor in awe. "Where . . . where are we?"
"In a safe place," Ghost answered. "Nothing can harm you here. This small corner of the Otherworld is protected from the predators that roam the spirit realm, like the Devourers and revenants."
"Is this . . . what your home looks like?" asked Harry curiously.
"Yes, this is what Windfar looks like without the settlement. Here you can learn how to maneuver in the spirit world and not worry about attracting the wrong sort of attention."
"Like one of those devourer things?"
"Yes. Like the material realm, the spirit world has both evil and good in it, predator and prey. A Spirit Devourer feeds off of the energy of those weaker than it, it isn't truly evil, anymore than a bear or shark is, but it is dangerous, especially to youngsters like yourself. One of the first things I shall teach you about Travelling is how to protect yourself. When you look at me, what do you see?"
"You . . . you're glowing."
"Good. That glow is my spiritual essence—my magic. The stronger the glow, the stronger a presence in the astral. But watch."
Harry kept his eyes fixed upon his mentor.
To his shock, the glow began to dim and then it faded altogether.
"Now what do you see?"
Harry found he had to squint to see Ghost now, the shaman was just an outline against the wilderness background. "You . . .it's like you've disappeared . . . kind of."
"Right. I've camouflaged my aura so now I blend in, and make it hard for predators to spot me."
"How do you do it?"
"I use my imagination, and will my aura to dim. Close your eyes, Harry, and think about your aura slowly dimming, until you've pulled it all inside yourself."
Harry obeyed, shutting his eyes and thinking about himself putting on an invisibility cloak, hiding himself from view. He opened his eyes. "Did it work?"
"Somewhat. You need to concentrate more."
Harry tried again.
After five times he managed to get his aura halfway dimmed.
"Good try. We'll practice some more tonight," Ghost said. "That's enough for today. Let's go back."
Harry gently felt his way back down the silver cord and re-entered his body. He blinked, a little disorientated. He felt slightly tired, but otherwise was fine.
"How do you feel, Harry?"
"A little tired."
"That's to be expected. You did well. Once you've mastered the masking skill, we'll practice moving from place to place."
"I can do that," Harry said.
"You can do it under duress, but what about just doing so for fun? That's what you need to practice." Ghost said calmly. "All right, I think it's almost time for you to join the other students in the hall."
Harry checked his watch. It was a little after eight. It was strange, but he felt as if no time had passed at all, much less a whole hour. He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Um . . . I'll see you after dinner, Ghost."
"Seven o'clock," his teacher reminded him.
Harry waved as he left.
Since he had already eaten breakfast, he wasn't hungry, but he was bombarded by questions from his friends about Ghost's lesson.
"You actually participated in an Indian ceremony?" Hermione exclaimed.
"Did you like dance around a campfire?" Ron asked.
"Did I what?" Harry stared at him.
"You know . . . like in the books," Ron mimed an Indian war cry.
"Weasley, can you get any more ridiculous?" Draco snorted.
"What? I was just asking," Ron said, glaring at the Slytherin.
"No, he did a smudging ceremony to purify me from evil influences." Harry explained, telling them about the herbs and how refreshing the ceremony made him feel.
"That sounds lovely, Harry," Hermione smiled. "Did you know that shamans were also priests as well as wizards in Indian culture?"
"No, but I guess it makes sense," Harry said. When Ghost had been performing the ceremony, he had gotten the feeling that the shaman wasn't just casting a spell, but that the magic was also an intensely personal thing.
"I've heard that shamans can change shape," Neville said diffidently.
"Like an Animagus," Draco stated. "Can Ghost?"
"I don't know. Maybe." Harry shrugged. There was a lot he didn't know about the shaman. He changed the subject, switching to talking about their finals, especially their History of Magic exam.
Before they began their second set of exercises, Harry asked Ghost about being able to transform into an animal. "Is that something anyone can do over in Windfar, or only some of you?"
"Shape shifting is a rather common ability among my people, it comes easier to us because of how close we are to nature, I guess. Most shamans can only shift to their Manitou, though, and not another form unless they're very skilled."
"Yes, I can become a raven. My teacher, Swift Fox, was one who could shift to three forms, fox, pheasant, and turtle. But he was a rare breed."
"Could you show me sometime?"
"I shall, but right now we need to concentrate on you, not me." Ghost said firmly.
Once again they tranced and entered the spirit realm, where Harry practiced making himself invisible. Finally, he succeeded, earning Ghost's approval. Then the shaman showed Harry how to construct a shield made of air and will that would deflect or block any creature, like the revenant, from trying to feed off him.
The shield was harder to construct, it required intense concentration and focus. Harry didn't even come close to forming a large enough one that lesson.
He was rather discouraged, until Ghost said, "You need to be patient, Harry. First you must walk before you can run . . . or fly."
Harry supposed that was true, and felt a little better.
There came a sharp rapping at the door, followed by a low voice crooning, "Oh, Ghostie dear, 'tis I, your one true love!"
The shaman rolled his eyes and snickered. Then he waved a hand and the door swung open to admit Shriek and Skull. "Come in, mischief squared."
The two ravens flew in, Shriek perching on Ghost's shoulder and nipping his ear playfully while Skull landed on Harry and warbled, "Playtime's over, my son, and school's begun! Homework waits for no one, soonest done, then have fun!"
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Is that a hint that I should go and do my homework?"
"Was my poem not explicit enough?" queried the black raven. "I thought it was pretty good for a first poem."
"It was first rate, Skull," Harry assured the raven, stroking the black feathers. "I just wish History of Magic weren't boring enough to put a stone to sleep."
"That bad, huh?" Ghost said sympathetically.
Harry grimaced. "You have no idea. It's taught by a ghost, a real one, named Binns and all he does is recite lists of facts. He could make dead people wish they died again."
"Why don't you banish him then?" asked Shriek.
"Beats me." Heaving a sigh, Harry rose and said, "Guess I better get going. Uncle Sev hates when I'm late."
"Maybe he can help you study for your test," Ghost suggested. "In the meantime, I think I shall pay a visit to your Headmaster and see if I can help him with a smudging ceremony."
Harry sighed enviously and bid the shaman and the raven goodbye. As he made his way out the door, Shriek called, "Have fun, Harry!"
"Gee thanks," Harry grunted as the door shut. Studying for History of Magic was about as fun as getting a spanking with Snape's paddle.
He arrived back at Snape's quarters to find Severus grading a batch of fifth year tests. His guardian looked up as Harry entered, noting the rather sulky look on his ward's face. "Why are you looking so glum? Did your lesson not go well?"
"The lesson was great. I didn't want to come back and study for boring History of Magic," Harry grumped.
"Studying is a necessary evil," remarked the professor as he wrote in red ink upon a test.
"Like death, taxes, and stupid people," Skull added.
Harry groaned. "But it puts me to sleep, Uncle Sev. How can I learn anything?"
Severus set down his quill. "What are you studying?"
"The Goblin Civil Wars of 1603."
"In 1603, Queen Elizabeth ceased to be," Skull piped up. "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, in 1776—"
"Skullduggery, enough! Reciting dates in Muggle history isn't going to help him," Severus ordered irritably.
"But Sev, it's important for the boy to have a well rounded education," the irrepressible raven said.
Severus fastened a sharp glare at the bird, then turned to Harry. "Turn to the chapter you need to study and outline the major points of the war—the causes, the participants, and the outcome. Also any major battles. That should help you focus."
Harry huffed and opened his textbook. He tried to do as Snape had suggested, but he kept getting distracted by wondering about what Ghost was doing to Dumbledore. Would the smudging ceremony work on the Headmaster? Would Ghost be able to heal Dumbledore, even a little?
"Harry, staring off into space isn't going to help you," Severus said pointedly. "If you aren't going to study, maybe you ought to go to bed."
"No way! I'm not a baby, Uncle Severus!" Harry protested.
"Then start studying like I told you."
"I am! It's just so dull!" complained Harry. He turned back to his text, trying to do what Severus had said.
Skull began snoring loudly.
"Skullduggery!" warned Severus.
"The vibes alone from that book are enough to send me into a coma. Have mercy, Sev!"
"Stop encouraging him, bird. Harry, keep studying." Severus turned back to his own grading.
Skull stuck his tongue out at his master.
Harry muffled his laughter in his sleeve.
Then he started to take notes on the main points, if he didn't at least attempt to study, Severus would begin lecturing, and that was the last thing Harry needed. If he didn't get a good grade, Severus would not be happy.
He continued to write, rubbing his eyes.
The raven began to whistle Dixie, which Shriek had taught him that morning.
Severus gritted his teeth. "Bird, you are asking to be made into a wall decoration."
"Yes, massah. Dis ole bird be waitin' for da Lord to call him t'glory! We pickin' de cotton in de field, massah!"
Severus ignored the raven. It was either that or taking a broom to the wily bird.
Finally Harry had listed all the pertinent facts in his notebook, but when he tried to study them, he found his eyes kept crossing. After reading the same paragraph three times and nodding off repeatedly, Harry gave up and pushed the book aside. It was nine thirty and Harry was sick and tired of trying to memorize what Viktor Grimfang had said to his followers. Like who really cared anyway?
"Uncle Sev, I'm going to bed," he announced.
Even so, he tossed and turned, fretting about his upcoming test in a subject he loathed. Finally he fell asleep and in his dreams he ran through a field of cotton, picking up pages of a book growing on there and trying to put them together again while behind him came a shadowy figure cracking a whip.
The dream was so vivid and eerie that it fueled Harry's anxiety and all at once he was on his feet, sleepwalking.
A/N: Hope you all like this part. I just regained power again after the nor'easter dumped snow on NJ. This weather is horrible! I'm depressed, so please leave me some reviews to cheer me up. Thanks!