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Chapter 49 : 48: The Boon That Is His Due
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The Reverend Vernon Dursley was in a foul mood. This was not particularly unusual. He believed in the God of the Old Testament, One who did not forgive evil, but smote it with a terrible vengeance. He preached the Word of brimstone and plagues, not frivolities like salvation or redemption. His subject matter was not for the fawning or faint of heart.
The Forces of Darkness, however, seemed to be gaining the upper hand of late. He and Dudley had been removed from the pastures in which they'd held their last two revivals. This, too, was not unusual, as the Reverend Dursley tended to get a little too worked up about the Occult toward the end of a good sermon, which often resulted in small but hysterical riots. For a long time, it was sufficient to pack up and move to the next village once the heretics began persecuting them, but their reputation was preceeding them at last. The last town had run them out before they'd even put up their makeshift tent, let alone passed the hat.
The Reverend Dursley had adapted quite well to his misfortunes, and had no qualms about staying in the same seedy inns as the least of his flock. Without any recent donations, however, he and Dudley resorted to sleeping bags under the heavens. Clearly it was time for a change.
After shouting at Dudley to turn off his flashlight and conserve the batteries, The Reverend Dursley waited until his son was asleep, then took the light himself and studied a worn map. He resigned glumly that they would have to dig deep into their reserves and purchase bus fare, in order to get far enough away to enjoy anonymity once more. He reckoned they could afford to travel roughly fifty miles, eighty if Dudley could make do with the remains of their dinner rations in lieu of buying breakfast. Setting down the map, he peered hopefully into the can hanging from its makeshift stand over their small campfire. It was empty. The cheeky brat must have dug into it while his back was turned. Fine, then. Fifty miles it would be.
He clicked off the flashlight and blundered his way into his sleeping bag. Realizing that Dudley was monopolizing their "pillow" (that is, the folded-up canvas of their revival tent), The Reverend Dursley gave his son a devout shove and yanked the bundle out from under his head. Dudley snorted and mumbled something about his turn to ride the pony, then resumed snoring.
It seemed like he had just managed to wriggle into a marginally comfortable position and drift off to sleep when a very bright flashlight was shining in his face. "What's all this, then?" said an angry voice. "No camping allowed here; this is private property!"
The Reverend Dursley had handled such people before. He quickly went through his checklist: No uniform, no snarling dog, no sharp farm implements. Very good. Upon closer look, the intruder was wearing a nightshirt and robe--even better. Just the sort of chestnut that might grant a "man of the cloth" the kindness of a good night's sleep in a spare bedroom--and possibly even breakfast. He put on his most unctuous smile and sat up to persuade the good fellow--
CRACK! Both men fell to the ground as, paradoxically, Dudley lurched upright. How could there be thunder when the sky was cloudless? The Reverend Dursley looked over at the landowner, whose eyes were bulging with as much fear and confusion as his own. But then the voices began, and all became painfully clear.
"See? Here we are."
"We should be spread out over an area the size of a Quidditch pitch, you lunatic! That was much, MUCH too far to Apparate in one go!"
"Merlin's pointy hat, give it a rest! I told you we'd be fine! I think killing a Dark Lord has boosted my overall power."
"More accuarately, boosted your ego, Potter."
Potter? POTTER? The Reverend Dursley turned purple at the word, recognizing at last the first speaker: Petunia's nephew, that cursed, evil boy who had ruined his life. He patted frantically for his leatherbound Bible, the one he kept nearby at all times. Opening the front cover, he snatched the small handgun tucked neatly into the divot he had carved into the pages. Fueled by righteousness, he leapt to his feet to carry out the Lord's Will.
Sadly, The Reverend Dursley had disregarded certain secular realities such as the sleeping bag swaddling his legs, and his son's rotund body quivering alongside him. Within seconds, he was reduced to a helpless tangle of flabby limbs, uttering language most unbefitting a vicar.
"I don't believe it," said Severus Snape, "I know that voice."
"My uncle," said Harry, quite astounded and considerably less upbeat than he'd been a moment earlier.
The Reverend Dursely sputtered in fury at the blasphemous notion that he was related to this, this, this Scion of Lucifer and fumbled for the pistol, which he'd dropped when he toppled over Dudley. The wizards, some twenty feet away, stared at him a brief moment.
"What the devil is he doing in the middle of nowhere, floundering about in a sleeping bag and swearing a blue streak?" said Snape.
Harry shrugged. "Don't know, don't care. Let's just get to Headquarters, shall we?"
The Reverend Dursley finally managed to wrest his upper body free and get hold of the handgun. He swung his arm over his head in a wide arc, too frantically eager to fire off a shot to bother taking aim. At the same time, Petunia's nephew put his hand on the forearm of his (vaguely familiar) demonic companion and looked expectantly at some sort of bird perched on his shoulder. The Reverend Dursley had barely squeezed the trigger when all three disappeared with another deafening crack.
Headquarters was dark and empty, so much so that Harry had a moment of sheer panic as he frantically tried to remember if the moon was full. Fawkes, though still half his normal size and only partially fledged, hopped confidently from his shoulder to the railing of the stairs and began to sing, which surely meant there was no werewolf present.
Snape poked Harry's arm rapidly. "The portrait! Heavens above, Potter, make him be quiet!"
Harry caught his hand and said reassuringly, "No worries, the portrait's gone." Snape stared at him dubiously, but as the sounds of wakening began to rumble down from the upper bedrooms unaccompanied by the screeching of Walburga Black, he began to relax. In fact, he looked almost more relieved than he had when Voldemort was killed.
In truth, Harry wished the phoenix would quiet down, but it was rather too late for that. He would have much preferred an inconspicuous entry. We ARE the Order of the Phoenix, he reminded himself, bracing for the inevitable rush of enthusiastic greetings.
At the first sound of footsteps descening the stairs, Fawkes hopped from the banister and waddled over to Snape and tugged his robe until the professor picked him up, without interrupting the song resonating through the stairwell. Snape shrank back into the recess of the front door. It was probably best if his presence was not noticed right away, so Harry wordlessly lit the lamp at the foot of the stairs and stepped under it.
This proved a very wise move, as the first person down the stairs was Sirius Black. When he caught sight of Sirius, Snape hissed several of the same words Vernon Dursley had just used back in the pasture. Oops, thought Harry. I probably should have mentioned Sirius was alive again. But by then his godfather had cleared the stairs and tackled him with such vigor that the wind was crushed right out of him.
"HARRY! Harry! You're back! You made it!" Sirius swung him round and round as though he were a child. Both of them were a bit dizzy when Sirius finally set him down, which was a convenient excuse to hang on to one another as others stormed down the staris. Remus, Tonks, Moody, and a dozen unknown members of the Order were upon them in an instant, creating what felt like a human logpile on top of Harry.
Tonks, sobbing hysterically, wouldn't let him go. "I knew you made it, Harry, I knew it, I knew it!" she repeated, plastering his face and neck with so many kisses that he shrugged apologetically at Remus. Lupin tipped his head back and laughed, then promptly joined Tonks, cheerfully adding smooches of his own on the other cheek. Harry reckoned this was what it felt like to be a piece of corn-on-the-cob.
Amidst the rush of welcome, someone asked, "Where's Ondossi?" The truth must have shown in Harry's face, as the revelry suddenly went quiet and somber. He steeled himself and said only, "She died." Nearly everyone bowed their heads in respect or tribute, but Sirius came around to face him, pulling him into a tight embrace.
Laying his head on his godfather's shoulder, Harry was overcome with emotion. Battling with Voldemort, being poisoned by Nagini's bite, witnessing--nay participating in--his lover's death: he'd been running on adrenaline alone for hours and it was all catching up to him. But Sirius would understand. He, too, had watched his friends perish; though he had not cast the curses himself, he had led the murderer straight to their door. He knew that unclean feeling of betraying his loved ones, however unintentional. He knew the exhaustion of straining to one's physical limits out of horror and necessity.
Harry's hands had been dangling awkwardly at his sides, but he suddenly clenched Sirius fiercely. He'd never been so glad to have his godfather close by, for this was the only person on earth who could possibly understand him. The only one he could ever talk to, who could possibly comprehend what he'd done...
... except for Snape.
Harry pulled back suddenly and looked Sirius firmly in the eye. It would take hours to explain it, and he was too weary for the inevitable arguments and doubts. It was time to settle the score once and for all, right now.
Gripping Sirius's shoulder with one hand, Harry extended the other toward the front door. When nothing happened right away, he beckoned, peering deep into the dark shadows with calm certainty. Severus Snape emerged slowly from the shadows, eliciting gasps from everyone present. Sirius clamped his fingers around Harry's midsection.
Harry continued to gesture for Snape to come closer. He turned to look at each person there, as if confirming that all were paying attention. Once he'd made the rounds, he turned back to the two wizards, bitter enemies long before Harry was even born.
Without a word, he flung his arms about both of their necks and pulled both of them to his chest, pressing their faces to either side of his own. They could not recoil from him, he knew, and though both of them stiffened, Harry would not let go. "It's over," he said, not just to them, but to everyone there. "No more enemies. We've all lost too much. It ends tonight, do you hear me? It has to end tonight."
Silently, after a moment's pause, Remus Lupin quietly stepped forward and placed his gentle hands on the shoulders of both Sirius and Severus, right alongside Harry's. "Yes," he said, relief obvious in his voice. "It's time."
"An Auror!" Harry spat. "That's a laugh. I'm the Darkest wizard alive today, outside of Azkaban."
It was three weeks after Victory Day. The entire Order had become the darlings of Wizard society, wined and dined by wealthy and powerful sorcerers on every continent. Some, such as Fred and George, were enjoying the spotlight, planning business ventures in new markets. Others, like Mr. Weasley, were making diplomatic connections with his political counterparts around the world--who were all too happy to meet and mingle with the Forces that Triumphed over Darkness.
Harry, however, was sick to death of the whole business. Every time he saw a news reporter he fled, remembering all too well Rita Skeeter and her tendency to ignore what he actually said and "quoting" him as she saw fit. He granted one interview to Luna's father at the Quibbler, and that was all of the contact that the press had with the Scourge of Evil.
Not that the press respected Harry's wish to be left alone--far from it, they hounded him any time he left Headquarters (which remained concealed under the Fidelius Charm just to keep reporters away). But deep in their heart of hearts, each reporter understood on some primal level that whatever Harry had done to He Who Must Not Be Named could easily be repeated on He Or She Who Makes Too Big A Pest Of Themselves. Harry had a new, dark intensity in his emerald eyes, one that gave pause to strangers, and even friends. The moment of recognition, in which eyes opened wide and jaws dropped at the sudden, fearful recognition that Harry was a predator, that was more than enough time for Harry to Apparate a few hundred miles away from the paparazzi.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Order were unable to escape so easily. They lacked Harry's murderous edge, and the press was not daunted even by the fearsome Sirius Black, who Made Voldemort Mortal Again (and had been Sadly Misunderstood all those years regarding that Peter Pettigrew business). They all wanted to hear the story of the great Battle of Hogwarts straight from the original sources, even though Dumbledore's Pensieve had been rigged up to replay the entire adventure from several perspectives. The inner circle of the Order came to dread the daily "Victory Parties," at which they were lucky to wolf down an hors d'oevre or two before the press would swarm around them.
At last all of the Important People had thrown their luncheons, teas, and parties and were returning to everyday matters, leaving the exhausted witches and wizards at number twelve, Grimmauld Place in peace. On this day Harry, Ron and Hermione were sprawled around the drawing room, eating their first meal together in a month, and pondering their future.
Ron wadded up the nearest sheet of paper and threw it at Harry playfully. "Well, that'd give the rest of us a cushy job--all we'd have to do is sit around the office and keep an eye on you," he said. Harry capitulated with a grim smile, but Hermione wasn't dropping the subject yet.
"Oh, you are not, anyway, Harry," she said gruffly. "But what about teaching? You were wonderful in the D.A. I'm sure Professor McGonagall would appoint you to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts in a heartbeat, N.E.W.T. or no!"
Harry shook his head vigorously. "Absolutely not. No. I'm sick of Dark Arts. I want to get as far away from anything Dark as I can, and never look back."
"But Harry... what a waste! You know so much! You have so much to offer. The whole world would benefit from your--"
Angrily, Harry cut her short. "I believe I've already given the whole world more than my fair share! The whole world can start looking after itself, I'm done." His voice lowered, though bitterness still burned in it. "And if that makes me sound like a big, selfish git, then so be it. Maybe that's what I am now. I don't know what I am." He paused, cocking his head with unfocused eyes, then added softly, "I'm a murderer."
Hermione reach out to hug him, but stopped short. She glanced at Ron, who shrugged and shook his head. Snape, who had been lurking as usual in the back of the room, opened his mouth to speak, but Harry snapped out of his internal reverie and pointed at him sharply. "And don't you dare make some snide remark about wallowing in self-pity," he said coldly. "You've done plenty yourself, I won't stand for it from you."
Snape closed his mouth, opened it, and closed it again. His expression softened. "Touche'," he said, in barely more than a whisper. "You're right, of course. I wasted my youth sulking. I can only hope you don't make the same mistake, Harry." Hermione and Ron both did double-takes; despite the strange and still-poorly-understood truce between their friend and the Potions professor, they had never heard Snape address Harry by name before.
"What, do you think if you disparage yourself, I'll snap out of it or something?" Harry snarled. "Don't toy with me."
Snape rose up to his full height. "Hark who's talking: 'The darkest wizard alive today.' Please. Do you know what separates dark from light?" In a manner starkly reminiscent of Tura, Snape continued without waiting for an answer. "Many things, obviously; but mainly courage and unselfishness. Those may have been diminished when you killed her, but never removed entirely."
Ron and Hermione exchanged a deeply questioning look at the word "her," but said nothing.
Harry clapped his hands over his face, his scar searing in memory of the moment his soul shattered. Snape ignored his obvious pain, taking hold of his wrists and pulling them down, forcing Harry to meet his gaze.
"I'm not talking about the courage to do what had to be done, the hateful and fearful things," he said angrily, then took a deep breath and lowered his voice again. "I'm talking about the courage to move on afterward. To trust again. To open your heart and risk being hurt again." His voice became gravelly, "To believe, when things are at their bleakest, that there is reason to hope--that good can be restored." Snape turned his face away for a moment, to calm the quivering of his lower lip. Looking back at Harry, he said at last, "That brand of courage often eludes me, Harry. But you have it."
They stared at one another for a long time.
"Thank you, Severus," whispered Harry. "But please... let me be for now."
Snape nodded and silently ushered Ron and Hermione out of the drawing room, closing the door with a soft click.
Dust whirled lazily along unseen currents in the shaft of sunlight beaming through the window. Harry recalled the time they had banished a herd of doxies from the curtains of that window, how Fred and George had practically drooled over the eggs. He smiled wanly and sank back into a glum reverie.
He could remember having that feeling, as he stood before Voldemort, that crystalline certainty that death did not separate him from the ones he loved. They surrounded him, constantly, permeating every animal, every tree, every blade of grass with wispy tendrils of their love, real, constant, undying. Lily Potter had lain beside her son every night in the darkness of the cupboard under the stairs at number four, Privet Drive, unable to free him, hold him, or even stroke his hair, but her tenderness could sustain his heart through another night. James Potter could not summon a Patronus to save his son or his best friend from a hundred dementors, but when Harry unleashed the magic, James fueled it with his passion and gave it form.
Harry still understood it. But he couldn't feel it again. It had become a thought, a memory, clear but dim, and though the knowledge was comforting, it was not satisfying. He missed them. He missed the part of himself that had been torn away. Maybe he would heal, maybe he had not lost that "courage" that Severus had described, but right now... Harry rested his head against the back of the armchair with vacant eyes, doing nothing to stem the tears falling silently onto his collar.
Harry dreamed. He had never seen Northpole in the summertime, but in that way of dreams, he knew he was there. Someone from City Hall wanted help from a Legilimagus. There was a Muggle bush pilot who flew regularly from Kotzebue to Barrow; he had been forced down over Northpole so many times for a memory adjustment that he was nearly mad. Of course Harry would come help if he could.
The pilot's mind was like a Swiss cheese with a termite problem. Different wizards naturally had better, and worse, skill at Obliviation, and unfortunately, several of the latter variety had been assigned recently to modify the pilot's memories. Harry drifted around the pilot's mind for what seemed like hours, coaxing ideas across the gaps to restore a seamless sense of reality, then firmly imprinting a phobia against the compass headings which brought his plane over Northpole.
The witch chaperoning the process had dozed off in her chair by the time he was done, so he took the opportunity to explore. Other passengers from the flight sat in adjacent cubicles, staring dully at the walls, except for one. A team of WIFs were with him; he was some sort of Squib, non-magical except for an uncanny knack for Occlumency. He had resisted all their efforts to Obliviate him. The man worked for an oil company, and was already dreaming of exploiting the ground beneath the city of Northport. There would be no protests in the Muggle world against drilling beneath an Unplottable city which no one even knew existed. The oilman knew plenty of ways to force people off their land, be they wizard or Muggle. Harry knew their attempts to reason with this man were pointless; he would make Northpole a sacrifice to the self-serving god of wealth.
Harry reached into each of the WIF's minds and gently snuffed out their consciousness; they looked almost like dominoes, slumping to sleep in rapid order around the table. The Squib jumped to his feet, his lip already curling into a snarl, his mind already closing off. Had Harry been a sadistic person, he might have laughed, knowing how utterly outmatched this vicious man was, but there was no need to prove his superiority. This was a simple problem and it required only a simple solution.
Harry took hold of the oilman's mind, forcing him to walk down the hall, out of the building, out to the taiga. This was possession, he knew, but it was expedient, and though it might be torture, it would end quickly. Now, even. He took hold of the man's throat to keep him still. "Avada Kedavra." The rending again, the ripping of his essence from his body... but this time it went slowly, so slowly, enough that he could reach out and catch his own soul in his hand, as though it were a Snitch.
Harry woke with a start to find Crookshanks draped over him cozily, kneading his chest with his front paws and purring with gusto. "Silly," Harry said affectionately, reaching up to pet Crookshanks' head and finding that the cat met his hand halfway, stretching his neck to gently nudge Harry's palm, as though he meant to pet Harry. Harry rumpled the soft fur between the ears as Crookshanks settled back down, his eyes closed in utter contentment. Even though his blissful expression remained, Crookshanks abruptly stopped purring and began to hiss.
Harry started to shift upwards, fearing an impending hairball and hoping that Crookshanks would keep his claws sheathed until he removed his paws from Harry's chest. The cat suddenly launched itself across his body, bringing his face right to Harry's. Stunned, Harry froze in place and regarded Crookshanks in confusion; he was about to say, "What is it, boy?" when his jaw fell.
As Crookshanks hissed again, Harry could hear language in the sound; the cat was speaking in Parseltongue.
"Hello, falling star."
Snape was using the uppermost bedroom. His home on Spinner's End had been ransacked, first by Aurors searching for clues, then by vandals seeking spiteful vengeance or souvenirs, then most recently by rogue Death Eaters hoping to kill him. He would have to return eventually and straighten up the broken pieces, but for the moment, it was too much to witness the hatred of so many people. He imagined Tura sleeping in this room; she would appreciate the thick velvet curtains, though she probably disliked being so far above solid ground.
Snape scowled when he heard the knock. "Enter," he said listlessly.
Harry nudged the door open with his foot. Crookshanks was both heavy and wriggly, and nearly dashed down the stairs when Harry let go long enough to lift the latch. "I brought you something," he said.
Snape sat up. "I don't like animals, Potter."
"You'll like this one. Come on, girl," he said to the struggling cat, "don't be such a, heh, scaredy-cat." Crookshanks gave Harry a glare that would stop a clock, or at least the heartbeat of a mouse.
Snape glared even harder at the intruders. "For pity's sake, you imbecile, I can tell from over here that cat's a tom."
"Oh, it's no Tom," Harry quipped, even though Snape couldn't possibly appreciate the joke at the moment. He yelped as Crookshanks took a clawed swipe at him, missing his face but connecting sharply with his wrist. Snape swung his legs over the side of the bed with an expression of frank alarm, but before he could get to his feet, Harry lunged across the room and heaved the struggling cat into his lap.
The cat hissed and yowled at Harry, then turned its head to Snape with such chagrin in its eyes, both men instantly thought of the expression, "the cat that ate the canary." Harry smiled and nodded when Crookshanks gave him a final glance. With a little yelping mew, the cat peered at Snape again, then thumped its head against his chin.
Snape sneezed. "Does this have a purpose?" he said in exasperation.
"Ask the cat," said Harry. "Use Legilimency. You won't regret it." Snape stared at him, slackjawed, but he reached for his wand. Harry backed out into the stairway, closing the door firmly as he left. By the time he reached the fifth step, he could hear Severus laughing.
By the time he reached the landing, he could hear Severus crying.
By the time he reached the drawing room, he recalled Sibyl Trelawney's last real Prophecy.
The time of midnight sun had come to a close above the Arctic Circle. Geese, loons and swans were anxious to depart with their fledgelings. Foxes, weasels, rabbits and other permanent residents were beginning to molt, new white hairs replacing their dark summer fur. The rivers and the ground would soon be frozen and blanketed with snow. Harry knew he had to find the grave before that happened.
Staying carefully under his invisibility cloak, Harry shook his head at how "spooky" he had become, prowling around cemeteries in the middle of the night, even if there was still a hint of twilight. Grave-robbing, of all things. How trite. He couldn't possibly explain his acts to the local Inupiat Muggles; even if he could, they would still consider it an outrageous desecration. Best to keep a low (or invisible) profile and leave them none the wiser.
He and Snape had spent a month preparing for this. It had to be done in absolute secrecy, for this was magic at its Darkest. But the rest of the Wizard world was the least of their problems; more importantly, they had to keep it from Tura. She would frankly have a conniption if she knew what they were up to. Harry ended up recruiting Snuffles to perpetually hassle her, to keep her feline nose out of their business.
"Always knew there was something about that cat," Sirius had said when Harry told him of the situation. "It pulled me out of several scrapes that first year back from Azkaban. So old Crooks had Peter Pettigrew sussed out from day one?"
"Not exactly," Harry said. "She can't seem to do Legilimency while she's, um, embedded in Crookshanks. She's not sure if it's because he's a cat, or because this part of her soul isn't a Legilimagus."
Sirius tipped his head from side to side. "Odd, that. Only she must have suspected something; Crookshanks went after Scabbers with a vengeance at every opportunity."
"Apparently that was all the cat's idea," Harry said with a shrug. "Crooks thought he looked delicious."
Harry had unraveled several mysteries in speaking to the cat. He'd discovered that, for all Tura's intimate knowledge about himself and his history, she'd rarely performed deep Legilimency on him. Instead, she'd learned most of it by reconnecting with Crookshanks, who had witnessed it all firsthand.
"It was a risk I had to take, coming to you," she had explained. "Severus told me about the diary and the Chamber of Secrets--that Dumbledore thought it was a Horcrux. I was afraid he might have made hundreds of them, to be honest. I figured, why should he be the only one with a backup plan? I'm as Slytherin as he was, after all.
"The Horcrux spell itself was top secret, but obviously that wasn't a problem; I just lifted it gradually out of the WIFs every time I went in there. I wasn't quite ready to cast it when the oilman showed up, because I still hadn't figured out what to put my soul in. But it was all for the best, because that mangy cat was the only thing around when I did the split, unless I wanted to put my soul into a pine cone or something. And how could I keep an eye on you as a pine cone? I might have ended up in the bottom of your trunk, if I was lucky enough to get to you at all.
"Crooksy was perfect, though--I could just follow you around. And Herms was so nice to me all the time; I was glad she bought me instead of you. She cuddles better." At that point, Crookshanks' instincts had kicked in and the cat had stalked off his lap, tail high in the air, and curled up for a nap on Hermione.
That was when Harry realized that this Tura had never spent a day riding on the back of his broom, nor taken him to the Forbidden Forest to teach him to kill, nor hiked with him across the Siberian wilderness. This Tura had never fallen in love with him.
Slinking quietly bewteen the tumuli, Harry spotted a thin wooden cross bearing the name "Ondossi." His heart began to race. He looked for any indication of the first name, but there was none to be found. "Of course," he mused, "poor, alone--whoever buried her did it at their own expense." Harry looked at the grave; it was impossible to judge how old it was, everything in those parts looked weathered and dessicated. He'd have to take a chance.
Harry knelt beside the grave and whispered, "Cavo Lacunum" as he slowly twirled his wand above it, carefully keeping the edges of his Invisibility cloak firmly on the ground. The dry, cold earth rose into a neat pile beside the grave. He knew he wouldn't have to dig more than a meter; below that depth, the ground was frozen solid. He kept the diameter of the hole just larger than the width of his hand, to disturb the grave as little he could.
When the pile of dirt seemed big enough, Harry poked the end of his wand into the hole and whispered, "Lumos." He'd gone a little too deep; ribs poked out from the earth, but below them, a single vertebra had fallen away from its companions into the shallow pit left by his efforts. "Fair enough," he thought, levitating the displaced bone into his hand before refilling the pit. When he was nearly done, he paused and scraped out a handful of dirt, pocketing it in his robe with the vertebra.
Harry found Severus in the little stone shed that had been Tura's home, peeking out from the curtain over the single south window and looking more pale and anxious than Harry had ever seen. He pulled the door open before Harry could knock.
"Morgan Le Fay, what took you so long?" Snape barked. "The cat's beginning to wake up again. We're going to have to feed and water it if we don't get this done soon--"
"Then stop complaining and let's do it. I have it," Harry said irritably.
Snape's eyes went wide as he beheld the bone Harry pulled from his pocket. "You found it? You're certain?"
Harry screwed up his face. "I hope so. It said 'Ondossi.' I'm guessing that's not a common name."
Snape ran his hands through his hair, grinding his teeth. "We'll only get one chance at this, Harry," he said grimly.
"I know. I brought this too." Harry turned out his pocket to empty the earth from it. "She always talked about the living Land. Maybe if we got the wrong relative, this'll keep it on track."
Snape wrung his hands, looking up at the ceiling. "I can't believe I spent all those years teaching you Potions and you turn up with ingredients like this."
"And I can't believe such the hotshot Potions Master can't make do with what's available!" Harry said crossly.
Snape folded his arms. "Are you quite finished?"
Snape yanked away the vertebra with a snort and scooped the little pile of dirt into a chipped teacup.
Harry went back to the door and the window, making sure both were closed and covered, as Snape lit a fire below the cauldron on the floor. Crookshanks was indeed starting to wake up, and the bizarre sparks that immediately began crackling on top of the potion did not exactly soothe it back to sleep. Snape was certain that the cat needed to be awake for the process, claws or no. Harry scooped it up with both arms, hoping he could get it in the cauldron while it was still groggy.
No such luck. The jostling woke it enough to take a befuddled glance around, and Tura immediately hissed, "What do you hosers think you're doing? This is my house!"
Shaking his head, Snape raised one hand for silence and pointed sharply to the cauldron with the other. Unfortunately, cats being what they are, his gesture was not unnoticed. As soon as Tura beheld the sparking potion, she turned Crookshanks into a flailing berserker of claws and teeth.
"Hang on! Potter, you let her get away!"
"Let her? You try to hold on when she's like that!"
"ARE YOU BOTH OUT OF YOUR MINDS I'LL KILL YOU LEMME GO!" There was truly no language better for screeching than Parseltongue.
"You're positive she has to be awake?" asked Harry for the tenth time.
"Afraid so," said Snape defeatedly.
After a vigorous and painful ten minute romp, in which every large object in the cabin had to be moved at least twice, they finally cornered her behind a bookcase. Snape picked her up and carried her at arm's length to the cauldron as she writhed violently, scratching and biting his arms. "NO! It's too Dark! Don't stain yourselves! Let the Slytherin line die with me..."
Snape dumped her into the cauldron unceremoniously, shoving her head under the surface and wincing as the potion burned his fingers. That ended the protests, and both of them slumped onto the floor for a breather. Snape sneezed a dozen times in a row.
"Do you want to know all the things she said?" asked Harry.
"I'm quite sure I can imagine it," Snape panted
"Was your mother really a--"
"Do you think Crookshanks will survive this?" Harry asked after a guilty pause.
"Not a chance. The cat was already twelve years old when she made it a Horcrux. It's practically an Inferus now, poor beast. I've been giving it potions for arthritis, renal failure, you name it." Snape glanced wearily at the latticework patterns clawed into his hands and arms, and got to his feet. "We've wasted too much time already, let's get to work."
Harry nodded. He stood beside the cauldron, took a deep breath, and spoke the incantation. "Bone of the mother, unknowingly given, you will renew your daughter!"
Snape dropped the vertebra into the cauldron, then with an grimace, slowly poured in the earth of the tundra. The potion turned a vivid blue.
They had decided long ago that for this particular application, the order of the last three ingredients was arbitrary. Snape already had a section of silk in his hand; it was from the robe Harry was wearing when he slayed Voldemort.
"Blood of the enemy, forcibly taken, you will resurrect your foe!" Snape dipped in the fabric, and the cauldron immediately blazed a brilliant red.
Now for the hard part. Harry licked his lips nervously and turned away to rest his left hand hand on the stone countertop. He reached over to the pegboard on the wall where Tura kept her garden tools. The little hatchet was not on its peg. He turned immediately to Snape; sure enough, Severus was holding the hatchet, his own left hand outstretched, though trembling violently.
"She'll go completely spare if you maim yourself for her," said Harry.
"I know," said Snape in a choked voice. "That will be my burden to bear."
"No! I... I killed her, I owe her this."
"She won't see it that way. She just used you as the weapon to kill herself, Potter. Now move away from the counter, I've got to do this before the potion is overdone."
"Your hands are shaking so much you'll probably miss! Just give me the damn hatchet!"
Snape held up the hatchet to prove otherwise, but was surprised to see that Harry was right; the axe was practically a silver blur. He set his jaw and shoved Harry's hand roughly from the counter, then thrust the handle of the hatchet toward him. "All right, you do it, then."
Harry shook his head vehemently. "I'm not cutting off your hand. Move."
"Do you know what she told me?" said Snape. "She loves watching you play Quidditch. You can't play Quidditch with one hand. I, however, can make potions with one hand. So do it, already!"
Harry began to shake a little as well. He looked at the hatchet; the blade was extremely sharp, he'd made sure of that when they first arrived. He looked at Severus, who had turned his head, probably thinking that would make it easier for Harry to carry out what had to be done. His hand lay flat and still on the counter. Harry looked at his own left hand. Madam Pomfrey had done her best, but it had not healed properly from Voldemort's impalement; he couldn't move the lateral fingers, and they felt rubbery and numb.
Harry recalled Trelawney's last Prophecy and he knew what to do. He raised the hatchet and took careful aim, then swiftly placed his own hand on top of Snape's. He brought the blade down as hard as he could.
Both men screamed.
"Do you honestly think," panted Snape angrily, "you can brew a successful potion when you make all these substitutions?"
"You're the one that said dried-up old blood would do instead of fresh," gasped Harry, who had sat down on Tura's bed and put his head on his knees to keep from fainting. "Besides," he added with a groan, "something tells me that the more people who suffer, the better, for this particular potion."
"You may have a point," agreed Snape ruefully. "Then let's finish this." Harry couldn't watch, however, as Snape picked up the last "ingredients" from the chopping block.
"Flesh of the servants, willingly given, you will revive your master!"
There was a splash, and the potion instantly transformed to a blinding white.
Harry had seen this before, and once was enough. He yanked the pillowcase off a nearby pillow and wound it as tightly as he could around the remaining half of his left hand. It did nothing for the pain, but at least it would stop the bleeding. He'd just finished when the cauldron stopped sparking and erupted into billows of dense white steam, as though the little cabin had been overcome by a giant marshmallow.
This was the moment of truth, then. He leapt to the cauldron, where Snape was already holding his breath.
Someone was in it, facing away from them. Long black hair, pecan-brown skin. She gazed down at her hands, then at the cauldron, and placed them on its rim. She ran her hands over the metal as though trying to find a door through which to climb out.
"Tura?" whispered Snape desperately.
She turned her head. Her eyes were brown and wide with wonder, and upon finding Severus they immediately filled with warmth. But that lasted only a fraction of a second, before her brows began to knit together and the dawn of comprehension began to show in her eyes.
"Severus..." said Harry.
The owner of the manor house was up early; winter was fast on its way and he intended to snare a few ptarmigan before the day was done. He stepped out onto his porch, stretching in the brisk morning air, when two men came barreling around the corner of the house as though Death itself were snapping at their heels.
"Wha...?" He didn't even have his wand, it was upstairs on the nightstand. But they didn't seem to be carrying anything off like theives, and judging by the smiles on their faces, they must have pulled some sort of prank. "Those two are too old for hijinks," he thought reprovingly, as he bent over to pick up his newspaper, the Wish List.
A sound resembling a train whistle, right down to the Doppler shifting, blasted around the house. He straightened up in time to see a howling woman charging right through his hedge, naked as the day she was born but armed with a hatchet in one hand and an ancient harpoon tip in the other. She roared after the men right down the middle of the street, leaving dark footprints complete with little toes on the frosty ground.
The old wizard noted that the two men turned the next corner together. He shook his head. They should have separated at that point; she could only follow one of them, and the other could always double back. He watched as she rounded the same corner and hurled the harpoon, listening until it clanked reassuringly on the ground. She was a good aim, but those big steel spears were heavy; she needed her crossbow. Those boys might not be so lucky when she hurled that hatchet.
He called inside to his wife. "Darlene, honey! Did you know Tura's back?"
Can you believe there's only one chapter left? I can't. This was one of my favorites, I just love the "Potter dabbling in the Dark" aspect. Not to mention Snape being allergic to cats...
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