Chapter 1 : On the Coast
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This is the third story in a trilogy that begins with the stories Resonance and Revolution, which I would strongly recommend reading before this. You can find them on this website by clicking on the author name somewhere on this page.
To quickly catch you up: Harry is nineteen in this story and an Auror Apprentice. He lives with his adoptive father, Severus Snape, in the mythical village of Shrewsthorpe. As the story opens, the characters are dealing with the aftermath of the most recent prophecy and the destruction that accompanied it.
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He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
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You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
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Chapter 1 — On the Coast
Harry lay sleeping with the warm breeze languidly flowing over his skin. A magically enlarged umbrella stretched over him, reducing the hot sun to manageable brightness. Red, blue and green bands of light discolored his chest and more obviously, the white bandages encasing his left arm.
"Do you really have to wake him?" Candide asked from behind oversized sunglasses when Snape glanced at his pocket watch. Snape did not reply, simply rose from the awkwardly low beach chair and crossed the white rocks. Unlike the others, who had donned swimwear, he wore shorts and a white starched shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Snape tapped Harry on his unbandaged shoulder, saying, "It is time again."
Harry woke slowly, groggy from the heat. It was as though he had been dreaming his surroundings and some time was required to adjust to the coincidental reality. Rubbing his eyes, he asked, "It's 2:00 already?"
"Yes," Snape said, collecting his shoes to change out of the ridiculous plastic things they had needed to purchase from a vendor.
"If you're coming back, I'll stay with the stuff," Candide said, putting aside the fat magazine she held.
"We'll come back," Harry assured her. If nothing else, he wanted to finish his nap. He tugged a shirt on but skipped buttoning it, and instead ran his fingers through his sweat-damp hair. The sunlight sparkling on the water made him squint and he gratefully turned away from it to follow Snape up the beach.
The pervasive scent of briny water was stronger inside the small hotel room. Snape selected from the supplies spread out on the tiny dresser. Harry looked around at his things layering the room and considered that he was going to have to make some space when Ron arrived the next day. He held still while the current bandage was unwound with care because they had to reuse it.
"It is doing much better," Snape observed. "Your forearm is almost completely healed."
Harry gave the remaining wounds a closer look. The skin was almost normal, just lacked hair. "Well, I have been taking it easy, finally." While his arm was being treated he said, "Thank Merlin the Healer let me go."
"I believe after you shrugged when he threatened to remove all the flesh from your arm upon your return, should that be necessary, he could not argue further."
Harry spied his Auror books on the marble window sill. They felt farther away than two yards. "I needed a break more than an arm."
"We all did," Snape agreed, while methodically rewinding the old bandage.
Harry gave him more scrutiny. "How are you doing?" When Snape made a non-committal noise, Harry asked, "You're not having second thoughts, are you?"
"What sane person could not have second thoughts about marriage?" Snape returned with some sharpness. "Let's arrange one for you, shall we? See how you cope."
Harry chuckled and moved to put his shirt back on. He felt revived after being out of the sun and his eyes had relaxed in the dimmer light. Pushing his shoulders back to bolster himself to return outside he said, "It's nice in here, but we should get back."
"Mad dogs and Englishmen," Snape commented.
At Harry's questioning look, he prompted toward the door, "Go on."
"You two are good together, you know," Harry said as they walked down the narrow staircase of the hotel. A stiff breeze blew in off the Mediterranean, ruffling the promotional brochures lined up on a side table across from the front desk. Snape dropped the rubber-edged, heavy brass key on the desk as they walked by it. Outside, the wind bullied along the curved, cobblestone street and on the shady side it was almost chilly, but as they reached the quay the heat and light poured on once again.
Harry returned to his former seat after assuring Candide that he was fine. He clasped his hands over his abdomen, and stared out at the red and white ferry boat passing by just below the horizon. Despite the high-pitched squeals of children playing nearby, he fell back to sleep.
"Can we have pizza again?" Harry asked later, when they were packing up their things with surreptitious glances in all directions to ensure no one noticed them shrinking the umbrellas back down to their normal size.
"Again?" Candide asked at the same time as Snape said, "Whatever you wish."
They picked their way over the craggy, bleached rock and around potholes filling with the tide. On the road, the locals were reopening shops for the evening, rolling up gates and unlocking glass doors. Pizza was nearly the only option for anyone wanting to eat before 10:00 p.m.
After a quick clean up they were settled in at a small place open wide to the pavement. While they waited for their order, Harry watched bicycles roll by and the occasional car, that he instinctively believed must have been charmed to fit on so narrow a road. Frequent horn honking—which echoed violently in the canyon of stone buildings—seemed a requirement of driving through the narrows of the old town.
Harry sighed. He had finally relaxed and found some perspective on recent events. A glance at Snape's hooked profile reminded him how tenuous life was, but he had grip on that now, having overcome bad odds once again. It made him feel more confident that should he need to, he could force things to work out again.
Pizzas arrived. Harry downed two slices in rapid succession, wondering how he could have grown so hungry for not having moved all day. When her salad arrived, Candide pushed her remaining pizza in Harry's direction.
"Still growing, I see," she teased him.
Harry's mouth was full, so he did not reply right away. Snape filled in with, "It's the Thewsolve."
"Is it?" Harry asked after swallowing a gooey lump of cheese.
Snape nodded and Harry moved to consolidate her pizza with his on his plate. He ate another piece while the two of them sat comfortably across from one another, sharing a second beer. Harry felt comfortable with this too and mildly regretted that Ron was arriving the next day because it would disrupt the rhythm the three of them had settled into.
By the time they were walking back to the hotel, though, the thrumming of the various small night clubs vibrated through the night air, calling him to spend some time out late. He had decided to wait for Ron before exploring the night scene and looked forward to his arrival on that account.
Instead of exploring on this own, Harry left the others and went to his own room to attempt some assigned reading. He propped a book on the windowsill in the glow of a streetlamp and sat on a chair, hunkered over the pages. Outside the open shutters, motor scooters whined, bicycles dinged, conversations outside the shops drifted up to the window; all of it fortified by the unceasing wash of the sea waves surrounding the peninsula. As lulling and relaxing as it was, it made Ministry evidence handling policy a rather meaningless, or at least remote, topic.
Harry read as long as he could bear to and then lay on the bed. The plaster above him had an organic feel as though he were inside a big handmade clay pot rather than a building. Harry imagined his own room at home and considered that he could probably just return there in an instant. At Candide's insistence, they had come by aeroplane, but now that Harry knew where he was, he could slip into the Dark Plane and home again with little effort. The thought made him feel less distant from home than he wanted to actually be.
On the other hand, he could go visit Tonks, which sounded highly appealing and indeed his core warmed at the thought. Except she did not know that he had worked out a kind of Apparition to go such distance and Snape did not want him to tell anyone who did not absolutely need to know. But Harry would not mind her learning about it, and he could spend a few hours with her—if she were not on duty—and return back and Snape would not know the difference. Harry mostly resisted because afterward he would truly not feel properly separated from home the way one on a holiday should be.
As he mused upon this, a knock sounded on the door and it opened. Harry sat up suddenly; he had forgotten about his next treatment and was grateful that he had not gone anywhere.
As Snape worked at unwrapping his arm, he said, "I believe this is the last treatment your forearm will need."
"Good, I want to go out to the clubs tomorrow night with Ron," Harry said.
"Wear the sling in that case."
"I was hoping to hide the bandages altogether under a long-sleeve shirt."
"Then you will be tempted to use the arm, which you should not do. Observe how well it is healing now that you are resting it."
Harry could not argue with that, the streaks of pinkish new flesh were otherwise perfectly formed. "I can avoid using it," Harry insisted.
"You will wear the sling or you will not go," Snape stated.
Harry took that in until his surprise passed. He sighed and propped his arm up to be rewrapped. "All right," he said, staring at the mirror over the dresser.
"Look at me," Snape said.
Harry did, but his mind was Occluded.
"You have grown far too good at that," Snape complained.
"I'll wear the sling," Harry said. "You're right, of course. Daft to have it not heal right because I wanted to go dancing one night."
Snape did not acknowledge Harry's reasoning, simply collected the supplies together into a sack and set it aside. He left Harry alone again and Harry returned to reading in the window, this time rereading a book on advanced double blocks. Conversation from the next room drifted in, and despite wanting to pull back out of hearing range, he held still.
"... the matter, Severus?" Candide asked.
"Nothing is the matter," Snape insisted. A chair scraped the floor. A scooter sounded in the distance, blotting out everything else, and Harry returned to his reading, nearly forgetting he could overhear if all else was quiet. Quiet descended again and between the calls of a nightingale Harry heard Snape saying in a low tone as though specifically not to be overheard, "There will come a time when he will simply cease to obey."
Harry forgot his book, certain he was topic of conversation.
Candide's voice came next, clearer over the low rumble of the waves, "He's very nearly nineteen," she said, as though that explained everything.
"It isn't his absolute age that matters, it is that his power is far ahead of his maturity."
Their voices were drowned out again. Harry ran his fingers through his salty hair, curled unusually in the humidity. He did not mean to concern Snape so much. He did not mean to be difficult. He was glad he had given in on the sling so easily and very glad he had not Apparated back home and gone missing. That narrowly missed possibility gave him a spark of panic. That he had even contemplated it supported Snape's assertion.
Snape's voice came through again. " . . . wish to control him. No one could control him. I merely am concerned that he may not submit even to guidance long enough to come to terms with his own power." His voice dropped, more to make a point than hide his voice. "He is extremely powerful."
Harry's skin prickled, even in the presence of the sultry evening breeze.
Snape continued, "At least he understands that he must hide his power, but I fear circumstances will continue to force him to reveal more of it." Silence fell and a chair moved again. "I am glad his power does not disturb you."
Again Candide's bell-clear voice, chastising: "He's a sweet young man, Severus. I think you're worrying too much."
Harry backed up, and carefully and silently pulled the windows nearly closed so the noise bounced off them instead of floating in. He took his book to bed and sat back with it, but he did not recall what he read after that.
Harry tried not to behave subdued the next day, but large thoughts weighed upon him that he could not shake off even with a bright sunny hot day at the shore ahead of him. He was glad to have something to plan. At breakfast he said, "Ron is supposed to come in by portkey a few miles up the coast. Then he is catching the bus."
"Where is he connecting again?" Candide asked, sounding doubtful.
"He wasn't sure. Said someone at the bank was going to let him use a private portkey but he hadn't figured out the best connection yet."
"He may not be in shape for nightclubs this evening," Snape said. "That distance by portkey is quite nauseating."
"He's here three days; he'll have time to recover."
When Ron arrived—after waiting four hours for a second portkey in St. Petersburg, and indeed looking peaked—Harry was glad for his company. As soon as they returned to the hotel, Ron fell straightaway onto his narrow bed and lay there moaning until Harry fetched him something from the chemists that Snape recommended.
Eager, Harry sat beside his friend on the bed while he drank the prescribed chalky liquid and asked, "Any chance you'll be ready to go out tonight?"
"Out?" Ron squeaked. "Like, to drink?"
"Well, you can have soft drinks," Harry said. "You can hear the music from here . . . hear it?" The dull thumping was indeed audible if one tuned into it.
"Loud music?" Ron whispered, sounding more pained.
"Tomorrow then," Harry conceded, wishing for a distraction other than his books, but seeing nothing for it. "I need to read more anyhow. Take a rest so you're better for tomorrow." He sat on his own bed and opened the top book to a random page. Ron fell back on the bed and, within minutes, began to snore.
The next day flew by. Each new day did this as though it were half the length of the last. Ron spent the day under a large black umbrella, wearing a broad-brimmed hat. He did not seem to mind keeping company with Snape as Harry had feared he might. The day was exceptionally hot and they swam frequently to cool off, especially mindful of the sea urchins hiding, black and spiky, among the crevices as they climbed out. Harry had a waterproofing spell on his bandage, but the edges of it still became wet and salty and by the afternoon, he was grateful to have it changed.
Harry sat on the bed, less tired from the sun than previously, while Snape bent to untie the wrappings. Snape's face had lost its unhealthy paleness and with his features relaxed, he did not look nearly so harsh and angular. He pulled out the tin of Thewsolve and Harry asked, "Any chance I can lose the bandage today?"
Snape shook his sun-lightened hair. "I expect you can lose it about the time we depart."
"Too bad we can't stay longer," Harry said, thinking less of getting around freely than that he thought Snape could use a bit more time to get used to being relaxed.
"We have much to do. Moving home, for example."
"That'll be nice," Harry confirmed.
"And you have a birthday party to plan, as well, I believe." He was rewrapping Harry's arm as he spoke.
"Hermione said she'd do it while we were gone." He picked up his wand and renewed the waterproofing. "I'm so glad it wasn't my right arm that got hurt. I think I'd go mad trying to cast with my left."
"I doubt it would slow you down for long," Snape said, stashing the supplies away.
Harry would have disregarded this comment, previously. He wanted to say something, to reassure his guardian, but did not want to give away that he had overheard anything. He held up the borrowed wand from the Ministry that he was using. It was short, only 9 inches, and made of ash wood. "This wand is really slowing me down," he commented as a distraction. "Although I like that it is easy to hide."
"I am surprised you did not replace it sooner."
"I keep hoping mine will turn up," Harry said, slipping the pale wand back into his pocket. He had been hoping this partly because it avoided the decision about whether to have one remade exactly the same.
Snape pulled a heavy wooden chair over and sat down facing Harry, as though detecting his ambivalence. He steepled his fingers and said in an oddly reassuring tone, "I sense there is some larger issue at work here."
Harry had a vision then, of Snape's years placating Voldemort. The careful phrasing and tone sounded too well practiced.
"What is the matter?" Snape then asked more pointedly, which broke the vision.
Harry decided it was best to stick with the first topic. "I sort of want a different wand now."
"That is understandable."
"But I want one that works as well."
"You are unlikely to find one to meet that criterion without duplicating the wood and core. You are a match for such a wand, as I understand it."
Harry frowned. "I bet if I cut Voldemort out of myself I could use a different one just as well."
Snape's dark gaze did not waver, but he held back on repeating what he already had firmly threatened in the past. "Do you still sense him?" he asked instead.
"I had a dream I was in prison the other night." Harry shrugged as though it was not important. "I don't know if it was just a dream or I was seeing out of his eyes." He had not planned on confessing this, but Snape's tone was persuasive, even knowing it was intended to be.
"If it happens again, do let me know."
"There isn't anything you can do about it," Harry pointed out.
Snape stood and returned the chair to the wall beside the window. "I wish to keep track. I certainly cannot help you if I do not know what is happening to you. With that in mind, they are going to wonder what became of us."
Ron and Harry headed out that night, following the siren call of the thumping music. Despite spending the day under a hat and dark umbrella, Ron appeared reddened as though he were stuck in a blush.
They quickly discovered that the clubs were far quieter in terms of other patrons than their loud music implied. So, at the third one, where only a few people gathered at the bar, he and Ron took their icy beers out on the balcony where they could talk. For an hour they talked of nothing in particular, a luxury Harry had not considered before. When times were bad, one could not afford to relax and speak of things lacking importance—not planning, not worrying, not plotting contingencies for the worst case—just idle thoughts expressed in no particular rush.
Ron, though, grew more serious when he spoke about Gringotts. "They've put me on a promotion track."
"That's great, Ron. Congratulations."
Ron shrugged. "It's a long-term track. It may never lead anywhere."
"It's already lead somewhere," Harry pointed out. "You said that only Goblins ever got promoted higher than where you are now in your department."
Ron flipped his tall beer bottle back and forth between his hands. "I heard rumors that they only did it because they realized I was friends with you."
"What?" Harry burst out. "Don't be ridiculous. I don't even have enough Galleons left in their bank to be interested in what they're doing with them."
"That's not the point," Ron argued. "They, well . . ." He trailed off.
"They think I'm dangerous," Harry filled in for him.
Ron nodded reluctantly. "That's my impression. They call it hedging their bets." At Harry's shake of the head, Ron said more strongly, "You got your Misfortuna Mutual pay-out on the spot for the house."
"How'd you know that?" Harry asked, certain he had not bothered to bore anyone with that information.
"I work with the people- goblins who process these things." He leaned forward to add, "Sometimes it can take a year to get gold on a claim."
Harry could not dispute that because Snape had already indicated that his living in the house had rapidly moved things along. In the middle of these annoyed thoughts, Ron said, "I wonder now if that's the reason they hired me in the first place."
Harry left his own concerns to lie. "Ron, don't be silly. If anything it's because Bill worked there already." Harry immediately wished he had not said that, but Ron came back with a hopeful, "You think so?"
"I'm certain," Harry confirmed, glad in this case that Ron thought nepotism an acceptable alternative.
Their beers had run out so Harry fetched two more, thoughts moving faster than being on holiday justified. "I don't think their promoting you, or putting you in line for it, has anything to do with placating me, Ron. Think about it. Imagine they believe I'm a dark wizard." Ron avoided his eyes as he sipped his beer, but Harry went on. "The last thing they would want is my best friend in a high position at the bank. Come on, that's what Voldemort was always doing: getting his Death Eaters into high positions so he could manipulate things more easily. Wouldn't they expect you to do things for me, not that I'd . . . what . . . leave them alone because you're my friend?" It occurred to Harry only after this speech that through the Dark Plane he could probably slip into any vault he wanted.
Ron shrugged, unconvinced. "That's just what I'm hearing."
Harry took a deep swig of his beer. "Two more days of holiday before we return to this nonsense. I plan to make the most of them."
Next: Chapter Two:
Harry tried a few spells. The hover came out strangely. The book floating before him visibly vibrated.
"That wand is looking for someone," Ollivander said, almost confessing. "I don't know whom. Doesn't like charms as well as hexes, in my practice with it at least."
Harry handed it back and another box was lifted off a healthy pile of two dozen still to go. "Coral tipped Palissandre," Ollivander announced as he held out a pastel pink wand streaked with brown. "The core is harpy feather."
Chapter two will be at least two weeks. Sorry for the short chapter one but that was the only good cut-point between one and two. I have a lot written on this story but it is not contiguous. I need to connect the first chunk to the next big chunk before two is safe to give you. Next weekend I'll post my much-worked-over post book 7 one-shot. For status updates, please go to darkirony dot livejournal dot com.