Chapter 9 : Chapter 9: Back to Business
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Harry was running as fast as he could, clutching a brilliant jewel. The air, though clear, was thick and heavy like rubber; every step was a Herculean effort that moved him no more than a hair's breadth. He knew the wolf was right behind him.
Harry Potter." A woman's voice, much louder and clearer than his own cries, or the fierce snarling at his heels. Harry turned, but could see no one. The wolf leapt at him, its jaws closing on his hand and the jewel within it, but there was no pain. "Come find me upstairs today." The wolf was only a soft toy; strange that it had seemed so real just a few seconds ago.
Harry shifted in his sleep but did not awaken.
"Good morning!" said Lupin, setting down his coffee. "Heard it was quite the wedding yesterday!"
Harry was still shaking the cobwebs of sleep from his mind as he dropped into the chair across the table from Lupin's. "Yeah, kinda hard to describe. Fawkes really pulled me through the whole Sealing bit. I had no idea, I thought I was just a wedding guest."
Lupin nodded. "I heard a rumor to that effect. Well, apparently none were the wiser; it even made the Society page in the Prophet." He shoved the paper across the table with a wry grin.
"I can't believe you spend money on this rag," Harry said, flipping the pages until he found the headline.
PHOENIX BLESSES GALA WEDDING
courtesy of Mots Magiques news service
DIJON, FRANCE: Hundreds of lucky guests enjoyed
several special treats at the wedding of Fleur
Delacour of Dijon, and Bill Weasley
of Britain. In addition to rubbing shoulders
with a number of high profile guests, they
witnessed the exceedingly rare spectacle of a
This was brought about by none other than Harry
Potter of Britain (the same who struck down
You-Know-Who), who reportedly arrived alone but
was soon joined by his scarlet familiar. Potter
exhibited an unusual mastery of the magical beast,
somehow persuading it to rest on the groom's
shoulder for the entire ceremony, an honor which
was last observed in 1873. And as if that were
not enough, the phoenix shed a tear after the
Sealing (performed by Potter) which healed a number
of recent wounds to the groom's face.
The Bonder, Aristide Delacour of Dijon,
conjured ropes woven from unicorn tails for his
Without finishing the article, Harry closed the newspaper and folded it several times. "Another well-researched bit of journalism," he sighed.
Lupin chortled warmly. "Oh, come now, you've certainly had worse press than that! Finish the article; they even mention the Order."
"No, thanks," Harry said with a dry smirk. "I've seen enough. 'Mastery of the beast.' That's just rich! They might have mentioned that my 'familiar' turned me into a human fireball a week ago."
As he spoke, Harry suddenly recognized the strange voice that had interrupted his dream--it was the woman he'd encountered in the courtyard that night. "Remus," he said, "Hagrid was at the wedding. Does that mean he and that Ondossi woman are back?"
Lupin nodded briskly. "They are, and they have great news. Apparently the giants in America are very sympathetic to our cause. Hagrid asked to convene the entire Order today, in fact; we're going to use the Great Hall at Hogwarts at 3:00. You should go."
"Wouldn't miss it!" said Harry enthusiastically. "But I think I have an appointment this morning." He told Lupin about the dream.
"You-Know-Who used Legilimency to speak to you in dreams," said Lupin with a frown. "I'm sure she can do it too. She's up in Buckbeak's old room, Harry." He waved toward a pile of pastries on the kitchen counter. "Better have some breakfast first, I have a feeling you'll be there a while."
"What do you want to bet she opens the door just before I knock?" said Harry with a rather cynical sneer.
Five flights of stairs later, Harry found to his disappointment that the door did not swing away from his hand dramatically; it didn't even produce an eerie squeak when he opened it. The room itself, however, was very dark, and its occupant sat at a desk on the far side of the room. She had her back to the door and did not turn around as he let himself in; it would have sent Moody into apoplexy.
"Close the door, please," she said, and Harry did so, though he would have much preferred to leave it open. He stepped just inside the room and waited, unsure of what to say and not eager to stray too far from the exit.
There was very little sunlight penetrating the ancient green velvet curtains, and it took some time for his eyes to adjust. He saw the silhouette of a small but sturdy-looking woman rise from the desk. She picked up a lamp and lit it. Harry was somewhat surprised to find that her skin was brown; he'd envisioned her as the pathologically pale sort. She certainly had the long black hair and dark eyes that he'd expect in a "spooky witch."
Harry began to feel awkward, waiting for her to say something; had she invited him here or not? He finally decided to introduce himself, but just as he opened his mouth, she spoke.
"I know who you are, Harry Potter. You'll forgive me for needing a moment to compose myself."
The lamp flame was flickering erratically, and Harry suddenly realized this was because her hands were shaking. "Is something wrong?" he asked with genuine concern.
She set down the lamp. "I'm afraid of you, Mr. Potter."
That was unexpected. Harry stared at her, slackjawed, for some time before finally mumbling, "You know, compared to many things in this house, I'm pretty harmless, really."
She managed a weak grin. "Cute. I know you even believe that. It couldn't be further from the truth, though."
Harry shook his head, stifling a laugh. This was absurd. "Can I ask you something?" he said, but did not wait for permission. "Do you ever just say 'hello,' or 'My name's Ondossi,' or anything, you know, normal?"
"Don't think you'll win me over with humor and charisma, hotshot," she said, though he could hear relieved amusement in her voice. "All right then, introductions take two. Hello! My name is Tura Ondossi. I'm from Northport, Alaska, which is in the USA, across the pond if you will, although technically the closest way to get there from here is over the Pole. I was asked by Albus Dumbledore to teach you about the Dark Arts, and not just their defense either. However, unbeknownst to you, I have explored your mind and I see you have a clear potential to replace the very one you are destined to destroy. Which scares the daylights out of me, because I'm the one that's going to give you the skills to do either, or both." She paused. "Was that better?"
"I think you could have stopped after the part about the North Pole," he said in a strained voice.
"Yeah, I get that a lot."
Harry found that he had too many questions, each one jumping up and down and demanding to be put at the head of the queue. He finally settled on an easy one: "Can we open the curtains, please?" The stuffy darkness was reminding him of Professor Trelawney's overly-perfumed tower.
"Come here and look at my eyes, Mr. Potter." He shrank away from her, taking a step backward; if she really was some kind of Legilimency expert, that was a loaded request. She either guessed or read his apprehension because she quickly said, "In a harmless way, of course. Come on."
Harry gnashed his teeth a moment, then strode across the room. Drawing closer, he could see that there was something very strange about her eyes, but it wasn't until he was right before her that he could put his finger on it.
They were pure black, blank and empty, like the eyes of a shark. Without even realizing that he was being a bit rude, he stared at her eyes for some time, even leaning around her to get a view of them from the side. She apparently was used to this sort of thing, and waited patiently as he marveled at them.
"It's called aniridia," she said. "The iris--the part that gives your eyes color--I don't have them. In the light, the iris closes and your pupils get small, to protect the inside of your eye from the brightness. Mine don't.
"I was reading when you first knocked," she said conversationally. "I couldn't read now, with this lamp going--too much glare on the paper. Sunlight is unbearable. That's one of the reasons I live in Northpole, there's no sunlight for months at a time in winter."
Her blank eyes were so morbidly fascinating, Harry found it hard to stop looking at them. "Northpole?" he echoed absently.
She smirked. "A little pet name for Northport. The city is above the Arctic Circle. We call ourselves 'Santa's Little Helpers.' You should see the decorations at Christmas, they're totally out of control. Anyway, do you see, Mr. Potter, why the drapes are shut?"
Harry brought his focus back from the eyes to the person. "Yes. And please, it's just Harry."
"Very good, Just Harry. I'm Just Tura, although you should probably get in the habit of calling me Professor Ondossi."
He nodded. "You'll be leaving for Hogwarts in a few weeks."
"Correction: We'll be leaving for Hogwarts today. Rubeus is going to describe the next major focus for the Order. And I'm staying there; that painting downstairs is having issues with me."
She probably assumed that, because he was so young, he would be going back to school. "First of all," said Harry firmly, "she hates everyone. Second of all, this is my home, I'm coming back as soon as Hagrid's meeting is over."
"Wrong on both counts," Ondossi replied, equally firmly. "First of all, Momma Black is scared of me. Second of all, you're staying at Hogwarts, because that's where I'll be. I told you, Albus asked me to come here for you. The Defense Against the Dark Arts bit--that's just the day job. I'm here to teach you how to kill Lord Voldemort."
Harry couldn't stop himself from laughing; she looked about as murderous as a duckling with those big baleful eyes. "No offense, Just Tura, but I think I have that under control."
"Think so, hotshot? Tell me, what do you suppose would happen if (and this is a big if) you were to gain the upper hand in battle, when suddenly..."
...you fell into his mind? Her words ceased to be made of sound, but formed directly in his mind, like they had in the dream. They were loud enough to drown out every other thought, and evoked not just concepts but images and emotions, as though he were living the words.
I can tell you exactly what will happen. He would pull you in, Harry, and you couldn't withdraw, any more than you can stop me right now. He'd take you on a guided tour of his memories, a selection of his finest work, just to be sure you understood how horribly you'd failed by not destroying him. And you know what would be the last thing you'd see? He'd show you the view through his own eyes, right then. She demonstrated; Harry suddenly saw himself, staring vacantly as if mesmerized in the flickering glow of the oil lamp. He would reach down to your belly--the view dropped from his face to his torso, her hand flat, poised like a spade about to dig into his flesh--and plunge his hand right through these ripped abs of yours, reach up under your ribs, and pull your heart out. He'd hold your mind until the end, so you could watch yourself die.
"Not a pretty sight, hotshot." The return to his normal perspective was so swift, it gave him vertigo. She glared at him, her hand under his shirt, tapping his belly meaningfully.
Harry seized her wrist angrily. "Take your hands off--"
He couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't think; she was in his mind again, a rush of cold fury. He hadn't even been looking her in the eye this time. Don't you EVER manhandle me,cheechako. I won't stand for it. She shoved him and sent him tumbling backward, but he couldn't summon the will to break his fall. Thanks to the carpet, his ego suffered the worst of the blow, but his behind came in at a close second.
She stepped back out of his mind and, to his surprise, offered her hand to help him to his feet. Harry considered spitting in it for the briefest instant, but took it warily and pulled himself up.
"Look, let's establish right now that I'm the alpha in this relationship, okay?" she said coldly. "There's a reason for that, and not a capricious one: you are a loose cannon, Harry Potter. You stand on the brink of incredible power, one that I can teach you to use. But I don't trust you. Albus did, but we know he makes mistakes, don't we?
"You and I have more in common than you know. I, too, could become the successor to Lord Voldemort. I trust myself not to yeild to that temptation. I may come to trust you as well, Just Harry, and if that happens, I swear I'll stand at your side right up to the final confrontation. But until then I'm the orca and you're a seal pup, capice?"
Harry glowered. "I see you have this all planned out. But there's one problem: I don't trust you, either."
She smiled broadly. "That's good. You shouldn't. Do you know that I could reach into your mind right now and destroy your sanity? You'll notice, however, that I am not. Now, if and when I believe that you will show me the same courtesy, I'll teach you how to do it too. And more. Deal?" She held out her hand.
Harry's gaze alternated between her hand and her face. "I don't know. I don't usually strike deals under threats and coercion."
She shrugged. "Well, I can bend you to my will if you'd rather, but what fun is that?" she said sarcastically, then paused. "Look, Harry," she began, much more kindly, "I...you're right, this was not the best way to start off. I really am very afraid of you. It's hard to be polite, act rational, when you're quaking in your boots. I'm not usually this hard-nosed. In fact, I'm still amazed that I knocked you on your keester, that is SO not like me. But it intimidated you, didn't it?"
"You have to ask?" Harry said skeptically.
"Touche', hotshot." She sighed deeply, rubbing her forehead. "Fiddlesticks! Ten minutes with you and I'm already assuming you'll answer me honestly." She shook her head incredulously. "That might be a new record."
Harry wasn't quite sure what to say, or even what to think. "I'm flattered, I guess," he finally stammered, "but I think I've had about all I can stand for one day. Do you mind--"
"Of course. Go pack your things for Hogwarts. Invite your friends to come too, you'll need people to practice with. Come and find me when you're ready to begin."
"Begin what, exactly?"
She grinned wickedly. "Occlumency lessons, hotshot."
Harry's cell phone had enough power for one more call to Hermione. He threw his things once more into his trunk as they talked; he'd just had enough time to settle in before being uprooted again.
"I know, Hermione, but you have to, it's only a few weeks early. You could go home again before term starts. But you've got to help me, I can't handle her by myself. She's beyond spooky, she's downright mental!"
Hermione sighed. "Oh, all right. I have to go back this coming weekend, Mum and I made plans, but I'll come for the week. Maybe Ron can take over by then, I think he's had all he can stand of Fred and--" A burst of static drowned her voice. "--be there today anyway, for the meeting, we'll figure it out then."
"You're the greatest, Hermione. This phone's almost dead, I'll talk to you there. Hermione?" Silence, as the phone transformed from a link to his friend into a piece of inert metal and plastic. He tossed it on top of the pile of clothes in his luggage.
With the packing completed, it was time for the real challenge: Hedwig. She was perched on top of the armoire, giving him that special look that she normally reserved as the last sight a mouse would ever see. Belatedly, Harry realized he should have coaxed her into her cage with a snack prior to packing.
"Come on, Hedwig, I swear, this is it. No more moves after this. We're going to Hogwarts! You can go up to the Owlery and see all your friends and, and, sleep all day, or whatever it is you do up there. OW!" She had climbed disdainfully onto his hand, only to nip his thumb soundly just as he got her to the door of the cage. She quickly flapped back to the top of the armoire.
Harry finally rifled through the clutter on the bureau and found a scrap of parchment. He wrote a letter to himself: "Dear Harry, This is Harry from last week, hope this finds you happy and content. Yours, Harry." He rolled it up and firmly summoned Hedwig to the window, where he tied the note to her leg, never taking his eyes off her beak.
"I'll see you at Hogwarts, then." he growled. She responded by flapping over to the nearest tree branch and preening her feathers meticulously.
Rolling his eyes, Harry emptied her cage and prepared to take it downstairs, but paused. He wouldn't really need it at Hogwarts--he had only ever used it to carry Hedwig on and off the train. He could come back and get it in an instant if he had to. That thought cheered him immensely; he could get used to this "being of legal age" business. He hauled her cage up to the attic.
On the way back to his room, Harry began to wonder what to do about Fawkes. It seemed rather rude to just head off on a major trip without telling him, but he hardly had the option of calling Fawkes on the cell phone, batteries or no. As he opened his bedroom door, however, the curtains billowed inward, followed immediately by Fawkes, braking himself gustily with his wings. He landed on Harry's pillow with a twinkle in his eyes.
"Is there anyone left in this house who doesn't read my mind?" mumbled Harry in mock exasperation.
"I can't," came the grating voice of Phineas Nigellus, "but I never was much for tabloids."
In a rare show of solidarity, Hedwig screeched, Fawkes made an indelicate raspberry sound, and Harry snapped, "Oh, shut it," all at the same moment.
As Harry stepped out of the emerald flames into the Gryffindor common room, he felt the peculiar disconcerting sensation one has in a public place that is otherwise deserted: part disbelief that such a place could ever be so quiet, part eerie paranoia that there simply had to be someone hiding in there somewhere; both conceivably the product of lonliness of the place itself, the longing of the very walls for vibrant human company. Knowing that he could very well be the only living being in the entire tower gave Harry a bit of the heebie-jeebies. It didn't help that Fawkes popped into existence from a fireball seconds later.
When Harry opened the portrait hole, he was met with a shrill squeal from the Fat Lady. "Good gracious, Harry, you nearly startled the pigment out of me! I had no idea you were in there! I say, who let you in?" she asked with a severe look.
"Sorry I scared you. I took the fireplace."
She sat up at this news, pulling out a pair of ornate opera glasses from somewhere behind her, and peering down at him disdainfully. "The fireplace! Well! Fancy yourself a bit too grown up to use my doorway anymore, then?"
Harry put on his most winsome smile. "And miss your lovely countenance? Heaven forbid, milady," he said with a bow. "You must forgive my indiscretion, it was a matter of great expedience."
"Flatterer!" she said sharply, but she turned as pink as her dress and pretended to study a scratch in her frame. Harry grinned from ear to ear; Phineas Nigellus could go matte himself.
"Yoo-hoo!" she called after him down the corridor. "You need to choose a password, darling!"
That stopped him in his tracks. This was a rare opportunity. Weasley is our King? Probably too long, and it would hardly do if the portrait swung open for anyone singing an idle tune while walking by. Perhaps something to annoy Hermione? Eh, too easy. As often happens in such moments, Harry's mind went blank; he'd thought of dozens of amusing passwords over the years, and now that his chance had come, he couldn't recall a single one. He came back and whispered one idea to the Fat Lady's ear, but she turned even redder. "Oh, no, never; I don't care what Professor Snape did, we can't use that!"
Harry shrugged; it was worth a shot. "How about 'and the horse he rode in on,' then?"
"That will do," she said primly, though Harry had a feeling she'd be off giggling in her friend Violet's portrait as soon as he was around the corner.
The castle's oak front doors were wide open, revealing a long parade of witches and wizards filing up the walk, wearing robes of every color and style imaginable. For the first time, Harry understood Lupin's breathless enthusiasm about the state of the Order; Dumbledore's Army, indeed! The Great Hall was already nearly full; even though all the House tables had been Vanished, it was clear that not everyone would fit.
Hagrid and Grawp were at the front of the Hall with McGonagall and Lupin, all looking both thrilled and concerned at the size of the audience. Harry tried to edge his way closer, but it was simply impossible, the crowd was too thick. In an instant of panic, he realized that the entire Order could be wiped out with one strike, but forced himself to banish that notion. He noted that nearly everyone shuddered at some point as they filed in, undoubtedly having the same thought.
When the Hall was packed, Professor McGonagall stepped forward, and the susuration of the crowd died down expectantly.
"Welcome, one and all, to Hogwarts Castle. I am Minerva McGonagall, the headmistress of this school. I thank you all for coming on such short notice, though I regret our Great Hall no longer appears to be large enough." That produced a round of cheers. Though smiling, McGonagall waved her hands to restore order, and continued.
"This meeting was convened to address the issue of the Giants. Professor Rubeus Hagrid, along with his brother Grawp and Madame Maxime of Beauxbatons, have developed a plan that will require the participation of the entire Order, to entice the Giants to our side. I yeild the floor to Mr. Hagrid and Mr. Remus Lupin, to explain this plan."
Hagrid stepped forward, his enormous, shaggy beard dwarfed only by his robust smile; he looked so happy that Harry felt like cheering again. "All right then! Let's get righ' to it! As yeh know, You-Know-Who's been recruitin' whole clans o' giants whenever he can find 'em. Not all of 'em want ter go along with him, but they don' gotta lot o' choice in the matter. Only way teh stand agains' the Clan is to leave it--an' they can' just leave, 'cause they got nowhere else ter go. Well, that is, 'til now.
"See, me brother Grawp and me, we jus' got back from America. Big country, tha' one. Plenty o' wide open spaces wi' mountains an' forests, jus' the kinda place fer giants. We was able to meet wi' the local blokes an' strike a bargain er two.
"Turns out You-Know-Who came through there before, durin' his, yeh know, las' round, an' the giants over there didn' take to him. He didn't know them giants kinda like Muggles. They got this runnin' joke, see, where they go leavin' tracks in the snow an' such, an' the Muggles all think they come from some sorta monster." Hagrid began to giggle, casting a knowing eye at Grawp. "The Muggles, heh, they get all worked up, even comin' in helicopters an' whatnot, tryin' to spot 'Bigfoot.' It's a huge sport, they've got competitions in differen' categories, champions..." Lupin caught Hagrid's eye and tossed his head slightly, and Hagrid fortunately caught the message that it was time to move on.
"Righ'. So as I was sayin', You-Know-Who went in with all the usual bluster about eliminatin' the lesser bein's, and o' course, these boys saw their main entertainmen' bein' threatened. Not teh mention the Bigfoot thing was wha' brung 'em in as a society, like. Turns out yeh give a giant enough space teh stretch out, an' a good hobby teh keep his min' busy, an' he'll act civilized. So they wasn' interested in the slightest by You-Know-Who's rubbish. Smart ones even figured he'd be back ter make trouble, an' started diggin' in.
"They wanna see You-Know-Who cleaned up once and fer all. They'll take any giant who wants teh settle there, an' some are even willin' to come here and fight."
Gasps of surprise echoed around the Hall, but not all of them sounded pleased. Hagrid continued to beam, but Harry could see doubt beginning to cloud his eyes. What was the matter with these people, this was better than they could have ever hoped for!
Lupin had apparently been expecting this response; he came forward and patted Hagrid's arm, gently urging him off to one side. "Order, please, order!" he said loudly, and the murmuring slowly ceased.
"Thank you, Hagrid, for your diplomatic efforts. The rest of us are charged with bringing the plan to fruition. Finding, persuading, and moving the last giants will take a concerted effort, and I ask all of you now to consider what help you can offer." Lupin stood firm, with his head held high, as murmurs began anew around the Hall.
"I wonder, Mr. Lupin, if you've asked the right question," said a man loudly from the front of the hall. Harry needed no time to recognize the voice: Rufus Scrimgeour, the Minister of Magic.
Lupin leveled his gaze at Scrimgeour, and though he must have yearned to say, "And who invited you?" there wasn't even a mote of it in his voice. "Would you like to make a motion, sir?"
"I would suggest, sir, that the Order's resources might be better spent on matters other than refugee giants."
The Great Hall immediately went silent.
Lupin's expression remained stoically neutral. "Thank you, sir. However, unless there is a motion, I will ignore that comment." He raised himself to his full height, and scanned deliberately across the room for any sign of a dissenting voice. "There appears to be none. I will take a moment to reiterate that this Order exists for one purpose: to oppose Voldemort." Lupin paused for the usual grimacing and wincing. When he continued, his voice was deep and clear, filling the Hall. "If one of his goals is to eradicate the race of Giants, then our opposition is simple: we will not permit him to accomplish this."
The Hall filled with thunderous applause.
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