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Common Interests by Snapegirl
Chapter 29 : Flight of the Raven
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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29

Flight of the Raven

Operation Potter Search got underway at the greenhouse at eleven thirty in the morning, right after the morning classes. The Slytherins were the first to arrive, and stood calmly waiting for the Gryffindors and their professor. They consisted of four members, at their Head's insistence. They were Marcus Flint, Mark Tarrent, Nala Singh, and Jared Winters. About five minutes later they were joined by Oliver Wood, Percy Weasley, and two fifth year girls, Lauren Naylor and Serenity Jones. The two Houses mingled and began discussing how they should proceed.

Oliver and Flint got into a semi-friendly argument about what was the better locator charm to use, each one emphasizing their point with arm waving and finger pointing, until Snape swept down upon them and said in a cutting tone, "Enough, gentlemen! You are here to help me search for Mr. Potter, not engage in arguments."

Both Flint and Wood looked chagrined, and they lowered their eyes and murmured, "Sorry, Professor Snape," in subdued tones.

Severus gave a brisk nod acknowledging their apologies. "Now then, here is how we shall proceed. Each of you shall pair up, and be assigned a section of the forest surrounding the area where Potter was last seen. Each pair shall be given a map," here he paused and handed out several sheets of parchment with the map of the forest. These had been drawn by Hagrid and himself. "Each pair shall cast a Speakeasy Charm upon themselves, in case you get separated and find anything that might lead to Potter's whereabouts, you are to inform me first and then your partner. Do try and stick together, as I do not want to have to search for another missing student besides Potter. Once you have patrolled your designated area—I shall mark your area upon your map—you are to return to the greenhouse, and inform me of your whereabouts. I do not want you lingering in the forest, as it is dangerous and you are not allowed to risk your lives under my supervision." Here he gave a pointed glare to the Gryffindors. "I shall assign the pairs. Listen closely, and when I call your name, stand next to your designated partner. Wood and Singh. Flint and Weasley. Tarrent and Jones. Naylor and Winters."

The students assembled themselves. The professor went around and marked the areas upon their maps with a Quill of Everchanging Ink. The students then cast the Speakeasy Charm about themselves. Then they waited for further instructions.

"We will be using more than a standard Four Points spell," Severus told them. "Standard locator charms, which latch onto a wizard's magical signature have failed to find Potter. Therefore we shall be using a different charm, one that tracks by presence of an object, or the absence thereof. I am going to give you an amulet that belonged to Mr. Potter. Hold it in your hand as you speak the charm and the spell shall attune itself using the amulet. However, you must then specify an object Potter is wearing. This will be a pocket watch. He still has it on him and it is that presence the spell will track. You should feel a firm tug as you encounter places where Mr. Potter has been, it will fade as you go places he never was."

"Sir, what if Potter was taken away by force?" asked Serenity. "Like using Apparition or a PortKey?"

"That is very possible, Jones. In that case, I shall have to formulate a charm that can track Apparition threads, which is painstaking, but Aurors sometimes use something similar to find criminals."

"How would we know if that happened?" asked Flint.

"You will know because the presence spell will lead you right back to the clearing where the unicorn died. But I would like a thorough search attempted first. One other thing, should you find anything suspicious, like pieces of cloth, a button, an object that clearly does not belong in the forest, call me immediately. If a creature happens to come by you or you feel that you are being menaced by anything, call me immediately and then attempt to leave the area. If you cannot, remain perfectly still until I arrive. Under no circumstances are you allowed to play hero and try to fight the creature. Am I understood?"

There were murmurs all around. Severus demonstrated the Presence of a Personal Object charm and once he was satisfied they could all cast it, he led them into the Forbidden Forest. It was ironic, really, that Slytherins and Gryffindors were finally cooperating and the cause of it was the Boy Who Lived. Severus marveled to himself how one green-eyed boy had changed all their lives . . . and he prayed that Harry and he would be reunited soon.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Marlene's home

Five hours previously:

Harry woke up around six thirty. He was hungry and thirsty, and he was eager to begin memorizing the pages the magic book had given him. But first he needed to eat, drink, and use the loo. He managed the last two quickly enough, the bathroom provided him with water to drink as well as to wash with. But now he had to get food without Marlene seeing him. He decided to plan to be sick today and stay in bed, thus giving him time to practice what he'd learned without Marlene any the wiser.

He returned to his room and sat on the bed. He was almost certain that Marlene was asleep. But at the same time he was reluctant to go down to the kitchen and search for something. Having already gotten beaten for touching the book, he didn't want to risk getting another one because he'd gone to get himself breakfast. But he had to eat, Severus had always stressed eating before attempting to cast spells or take tests. A good breakfast jump started one's metabolism and brain functions. Harry sighed. He supposed he would simply have to risk getting caught raiding the pantry.

Then he recalled the invisible house elf, Prissy. Would the elf be willing to bring him something to eat? And keep silent on what he was doing in his room?

"Prissy?" called Harry softly.

He heard a soft pop and then a small voice said, "Prissy is here, young mastah. What young mastah be needin'?"

Harry grinned, the elf's voice was a soft drawl, like honey poured from a pitcher. Experimenting, he asked, "Prissy, can you show yourself to me? It feels weird talking to the air."

"Prissy is sorry, mastah, but that be not permitted." The elf answered. "Prissy is a McKinnon elf an' we suppost to be invisible. Mistress says so."

"Oh, that's too bad. Umm . . . would you bring me some breakfast?"

"Certainly, young mastah. What be you wantin'?"

"I . . . uh . . . how about a waffle with bananas on top and some bacon, tea, and orange juice." Harry thought fast. That breakfast had protein, carbs, fruit, and sugar. It should be sufficient to sustain him while he learned how to astrally project himself.

"Young mastah's wish is Prissy's command. Be right back."

He felt more than heard the pop as she blinked away.

The elf returned with a tray bearing a piping hot waffle with sliced bananas, a pitcher of syrup, bacon, the tea and juice. She set it on a folding table in front of Harry. There was silverware and a napkin already on it.

"Would mastah be needin' anything else?"

"Uh, yeah. Could you kind of . . . not mention that I called you here and am doing an experiment in my room? I want to be left alone. It's a surprise."

"Prissy understand, young mastah. Prissy take young mastah's secret to her grave. Promise on sacred honor."

"Thanks!" Harry said. Then he began to eat while it was still hot. Halfway with a forkful of waffle to his mouth, he thought of something else. "Prissy, could you . . . deliver a message for me to someone? Someone who lives at Hogwarts school?"

"Prissy very sorry, young mastah. But Prissy not allowed to leave this house. Prissy stay here, cook, clean, keep house for Mistress. Only Mistress tell Prissy to go." There came a soft sniffling sound, as if the elf was crying.

Harry, who couldn't stand to see or hear anyone crying, said quickly, "That's all right, Prissy. Don't cry, I was just asking, it's not important." He continued eating, trying to push away the feeling of disappointment. It had been a good idea, though, he consoled himself.

"Prissy understand. Prissy glad you are nice, young mastah. Mistress is hard."

Once he had finished breakfast, it was delicious, Prissy vanished the dishes and left Harry alone.

Harry quickly pulled out the pages he'd stuffed beneath the mattress and began to read. The copied pages were written in an elegant script, which occasionally made it hard for Harry to read, but he concentrated and so managed to overcome that difficulty.

Harry read that some people were natural projectors, and they only had to put themselves into a meditative state in order to slip from their bodies. He read about how to achieve such a state, it involved being calm and relaxed and in a state somewhere between sleeping and awakening. He read that he should be lying down, covered with a blanket, and make sure no one interrupted him. The lights should be dimmed. He should focus on something pleasant or an object he was particularly attuned to.

He also discovered there was an astral state, by which he could travel to other places, like the Gray Road or another reality, and an etheric state, by which he could travel out of his body and around on the physical plane, occasionally someone might seem him, and he might be able to interact with a person who could sense such things.

It also warned of the dangers of staying too long out of your body. Otherwise you might forget yourself and become lost forever. It stressed not staying out of your body for more than ten minutes as a beginner. It stressed always making sure the silver cord that attached you to your body was still there, if it was cut, the person died. If damage was done to the body while the person was out of it, the person would feel it through the astral link. If the damage were great enough, the body would die and the link would shatter.

Harry read through the pages twice, committing them to memory. He had never been more grateful than now that he could memorize and comprehend large amounts of information

Quickly.

Once he was sure he had learnt it all, he crept out of the room and into the bathroom. He shredded the papers and tossed them into the toilet than flushed them away.

Suddenly he heard Marlene's footsteps in the hallway. He began gagging and groaning, flushed the toilet again and came out the door holding his stomach.

His "godmother" eyed him with a touch of concern. "Why, Harry, you look awfully pale! What's the matter?"

"I . . . don't feel good," he groaned. "It's my stomach. I . . .I think I'm going to lie down." Looking as pitiful as he could manage, he scurried down to his room and curled up on the bed.

"Poor dear! Maybe you have a virus," Marlene cooed, following him. "I'll give you some potions for it."

She returned a few minutes later with two vials. Harry took them and pretended to drink them. He held the contents inside his mouth and then when she turned and went out to get him some water, he spit them out of the window. He almost felt bad wasting potions like that, but he wouldn't trust Marlene if she was the last person on earth. When she returned with the water he drank small sips, and then lay down on the bed.

"You rest, dear. I'll be back later to check on you." She left.

Pity I won't be here, or at least my mind won't be. Harry thought. Then he tried to center himself and relax.

But it wasn't easy. His mind kept floating off on tangents, and the more he tried to focus, the more the peaceful feelings left him. Finally, after some twenty to thirty minutes, he stopped trying and just lay still. Then he stared at the ceiling and counted the tiles. He counted backwards and forwards and his eyes began to glaze over. As he felt himself enter the half-asleep state, he felt an odd tingling vibration start at his toes and work its way upward. It was sort of like the feeling you get when your hand or foot falls asleep, that prickling tingly sensation.

It was so odd that he kept half-waking and having to start over again. But after an hour and a half he managed to let the vibrating state lift his spirit partially free of his body. He soared up to the ceiling as if he was on a broom, only he felt lighter than a feather. He noticed a glittery silver cord stretching from his astral self to his body.

The sight of his body just lying there made him feel woozy and the next thing he knew he was back inside it.

He opened his eyes and looked about. He felt no different, save for being slightly woozy.

I did it! I made myself go out, he thought excitedly. Now that he knew he could do it, he resolved to practice. He decided he would practice all morning, and see if he could find where Marlene had hid his wand. He needed to find that before seeking help.

Around ten o'clock in the morning, Harry ventured all the way out of his body again, and flew through the door of his room and down the hallway. His spirit self found there were no barriers to it, not even magical wards caused anything but a tingle as he went through them. He glided into Marlene's bedroom and began looking for his wand.

His spirit self could slip into any crack or inside a locked room or trunk. It took him awhile, but he finally found the wand inside a small trunk under her bed. He wanted to cheer. Of course, then there was the small matter of getting it out of the trunk. That was one thing he did not know how to do in this form. Or even if it could be done in this form.

He then decided to venture outside, a place which he had been forbidden to go. He quickly phased through the wall and found himself in a large walled in garden with dozens of magical plants, some of which Harry recognized from Professor Sprout's greenhouse. There was a path leading out of the garden and Harry followed it.

It ended upon a grassy verge and beyond that was a huge forest. Harry wondered if it were the Forbidden Forest. But he didn't dare enter it, as he felt himself suddenly grow weary and he knew he was growing tired and couldn't afford to overspend himself. So he turned away and headed back inside.

As soon as he reentered his body, he fell asleep, for Traveling was very tiring the first few times one attempted it.

Page~*~*~*~*~*~Break

Operation Potter Search was underway, but so far Harry had not been found to the east, south, or north. Severus himself took the west quadrant from the clearing where the dead unicorn had been. The unicorn had been removed by the centaurs to bury it and nothing was left save for a few splotches upon the ground. Severus would have asked to bottle some of the blood for potions, but after what had happened to his ward, didn't have the heart to ask for some. Harry's life was more important than rare potion ingredients.

As he walked through the brush towards the place where the sun set, he felt someone following him, and he spun about to see who it was. But he saw no one behind him and he was certain his fifth years would not be creeping up behind him, trying to scare him to death. His eyes narrowed and then he spotted something in the undergrowth . . . a red thread.

Scowling fiercely, Severus stalked over to the thick undergrowth and reached a hand in and grabbed a piece of fabric. With a firm heave and a tug, he pulled out a Weasley twin. Then he reached around the other side of the tree with his opposite hand and pulled out the second twin. Dragging them to stand in front of him, he gave them his fiercest Snape glare.

"Frederick and George Weasley, did I or did I not make it clear that no student under fifteen was to come searching in the forest with me? Have you suddenly gone deaf? Or are you afflicted with the teenage disease known as Willful Disobedience? I've a good mind to take twenty five points each from you and give you detention scrubbing every inch of the castle until it sparkles."

The twins hung their heads, looking repentant, but Snape wasn't fooled for an instant. "We're sorry, Professor Snape," they began.

"No, you're not. You're sorry I caught you," he corrected sternly. "What do you think you're doing out here?"

"We just wanted—"

"—to help you look for Harry."

"And who, pray tell, will be looking after you? I haven't the time to spare to take you back to the castle and stick you in a corner, which means you two will stick by me as close as my shadow, that way I won't have three students going missing on me, clear?"

Before the twins could respond, Tarrent contacted Severus through the Speakeasy Charm, which allowed the speaker to relay messages to each other like they were right in front of them. "Professor Snape, Jones and I have found something really strange up here in the northwest quadrant. We can't see anything, but something's preventing us from walking any further in this direction. It's like an invisible wall."

"I'm on my way, Tarrent. Stay where you are and don't attempt to breach the barrier," Severus ordered. Then he looked at the twins. "You two, stay behind me and do exactly as I say. Disobey me and I'll forbid you the use of my dungeon and confiscate all your joke products for the rest of the term."

The twins paled at that threat. "We'll be good, Professor Snape," they promised in unison.

Severus snorted, but then turned and began half-running through the trees. The twins followed hot on his heels.

Severus tested the barrier, it was, as Tarrent had said, like an invisible wall stretching several kilometers across the northwestern boundary of the forest. He probed it with his magical senses, but could find no weak point. Still, it was something. He knew this barrier had not been here before, therefore it stood to reason that someone had put it up recently.

He placed his hands on it, fingers spread, and concentrated, trying to force his way past it. But the barrier merely threw his magic back at him. Frustrated he tried again and again. Finally, he decided he needed to take the students back and study some more on it. He would tell Dumbledore and Minerva and perhaps they could assist him. He felt certain that Harry was somewhere beyond that wall, held prisoner by whoever had created it.

"Good work, Jones and Tarrent," he praised his students. "Now, let us go back to the school."

"Professor, what is that barrier?" asked Serenity.

"It is a semi-permeable charm of concealment. I believe once we break it down, we shall find Mr. Potter." Severus said. "You have helped me a great deal, and now it's time for you all to return to the castle," he said, speaking to all of the students still in the forest.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Harry woke after sleeping four hours feeling refreshed and eager to try to project his spirit out of his body again. Marlene brought him some more potions as well as a tray with some food. Again, Harry pretended to take the potions, but excused himself to the loo afterwards, where he promptly spit them all into the toilet and rinsed out his mouth. Marlene had told him to rest and if he needed anything, to call Prissy.

"I will be in my workroom, experimenting," she told him. "You rest so you can get well, Harry. And then, once you're better, I shall begin tutoring you."

"All right, Aunt Marlene," he agreed, then waited for her to leave. He then called Prissy and asked her to bring him a sandwich and some pumpkin juice, for he didn't trust Marlene not to tamper with his food.

Prissy happily granted his request and also added a slice of apple pie.

While Harry was eating and also plotting on how to regain his wand, Marlene was calling upon the revenant she had learned how to summon from an old spellbook called the Book of Night. The Book of Night had been another text in the Society archives and she had studied but not stolen it. She had thought to use the spell, which was not considered a dark spell by the ancients, who often spoke to their dead ancestors, to resurrect her brother, but the revenant who had come was not Archer. Whom it had been in life, it would not say, but it had agreed to work with her and be her spy in the castle, as well as her instrument of revenge upon those who had slighted her and massacred her family. Now she asked for its aid once more, as she had felt strong magic probing her defenses, scrabbling at the web of concealment magics she had cast using the Codex Magicka.

"Go forth and see what my eyes cannot," she hissed, standing inside a pentagram. "Tell me who resides in the castle—has Snape returned there? Have the librarians returned and if so, does that bitch Pince recall anything about the night she was struck down? Or her wimpy niece, Lena? Watch and wait and then report back to me."

"I hunger, misstresss!" the revenant's voice echoed in her mind, for it was holed up in Forbidden Forest within a shallow grave along with a dead unicorn.

"You may hunt as you will once you have told me what I wish to know," Marlene said, satisfaction dripping from her tone. "Now . . . be off!"

The revenant emerged from the ground and soared off into the castle.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Harry slowed his breathing and calmed himself before once again soaring free of his body. He did a quick check to make sure Marlene was nowhere to be found in the vicinity of the bedroom before returning to his body and calling Prissy.

"What do young mastah need?" Prissy asked respectfully.

"Prissy, I need you to fetch my wand. Mistress forgot to return it to me and I need it to practice with," Harry said, telling the complete truth and hoping the elf would not question it.

"Prissy shall fetch it, young mastah," the elf said, then blinked away.

Harry held his breath, his stomach fluttering in anticipation. He prayed that the elf could undo the lock on the trunk, and also that Prissy would not think to talk to Marlene when she discovered the trunk was locked. The elf seemed to be pretty closemouthed, after all, Prissy hadn't told Marlene about Harry wandering about at three AM and bringing him dinner in his room.

A few moments later, Prissy reappeared with the wand in her hands. It appeared as if it were floating in midair. "Here it is, young mastah." Prissy said reverently.

With the wand grasped in his fist, Harry felt complete once more. "Thank you, Prissy. You're a lifesaver! And please don't tell her about this, okay?"

"Of course not, young mastah. Prissy don't know nothin' 'bout no wand gone missing." The elf said with a sly chuckle. "What Mistress don't need to know won't hurt her." Then she blinked out.

Now that he had his wand back, Harry was tempted to do something rash, like try and make a run for it and blast his way out of Marlene's home. But his cooler Slytherin side won out, and made him realize that would be foolish, since he still didn't know where he was. No, he had to find someone who could see or hear him in his spirit form, and whom he could lead back here. He couldn't become lost because he was bound to his body by the silver cord.

Harry tucked his wand up his sleeve, as he had seen Severus do. It was much easier to retrieve that way and it also didn't carry the risk of blowing off parts of one's more delicate anatomy. Then he entered the trance state again. As he glided out of his room and flittered about the den where the spellbook was, he heard the book call to him.

I see you have managed to access your powers, youngling. That is well. But don't forget your promise . . . take me with you when you leave for good. I do not wish to be used by another power-hungry madwoman. Such was never my purpose. My purpose was to be a repository of the Old Magic, and to lend my knowledge to those who would use it wisely. For the magic, in and of itself, is not dark or light, it simply is. The one who uses it determines whether the magic shall be good or evil.

Oh. I never knew that. Hey, I'm going out to try and find help. But I'm not sure how long it'll take to find someone that can hear or see me this way.

That is a quandary, young one. Perhaps I may help. Place your hand upon me.

Harry obeyed, flying down and placing his spirit hand upon the book. The book tingled sharply beneath his fingers and then he felt a jolt of pure magical energy flow through him.

There! Now you should be able to travel as far and as fast as you need to.

Thank you!

Succeeding in your mission will be thanks enough for me, the book replied.

Harry nodded and soared out through the roof of the house, flying high above the manor and then he turned east and entered the forest.

He felt an odd sort of jolt when he crossed the barrier, and it threw him through the air.

When he finally stopped tumbling and was able to straighten out, he found himself in a strange twilight mist, where nothing looked at all familiar, and he drifted about trying to find the manor house, the forest, anything familiar. But all he could see was an endless mist surrounding him and nothing more. He did not know what had happened, and it scared him terribly. He knew only that he was lost and he didn't know how or why it had happened.

He floated about for endless minutes, trying to find someone or something he recognized, but there was nothing except a gray road meandering off into the distance. Some instinct kept him from following it. So he remained hovering, despair and fear grappling with him and holding him fast.

Help! Severus! Help! Skullduggery! Help me! he called, sending his frantic plea out into the ether. He could only hope they could hear him. And that nothing dangerous did first. For he felt eyes watching him . . . and they did not seem friendly.

Page~*~*~*~*~Break

Skullduggery flew one last patrol through the borderlands before coming back to Thunderbird to report. The swift clever raven had been acting as Thunderbird's spy in his covert war with Iktome the Spider, Thunderbird's ancient enemy. Thunderbird had many allies, but none as clever or sneaky as Skullduggery, and Iktome never suspected the raven of being anything but an ordinary crow. Thus, Skull was able to collect valuable information for Thunderbird on Iktome's allies and troop movements and when Thunderbird might expect a raid on one of his territories. Thunderbird held most of the northwestern United States and part of Canada, while Iktome held the southwest and part of Mexico.

But his agreement to serve Thunderbird was done now, as it was twenty-four hours since Skullduggery had been summoned. After the raven had reported that all was quiet on the western front, he asked leave to go back home. "I fear, Great Lord, that my wizard may have gotten into trouble without me there."

"Such is the nature of wizards, Skullduggery," laughed Thunderbird. "Hurry home, my feathered brother, and may the winds blow fair at your back."

Thunderbird graciously opened a portal to Britain near Hogwarts, and Skull flew through it, emerging in the Forbidden Forest.

The raven perched upon a branch, trying to get his bearings, because travel by portal was disorientating. There was an odd feel to the forest, Skull observed. As if it was waiting for someone or something. The raven cocked his head, listening. For a moment, he thought he had heard someone calling him. It had been faint, but familiar.

Help! Skullduggery! I can't find my way out!

The raven froze. The voice had been Harry's.

"Harry?" he croaked loudly. "Where are you?" His beady eyes searched the forest floor and the trees but saw no sigh of Harry anywhere. "Harry!"

Harry heard Skullduggery's voice very clearly, but he could not see the raven through the mist. Skull! Skull, I'm over here! he cried, waving his arms frantically.

"Harry! Where exactly are you?" Skull cawed, flying off the branch and circling.

I'm . . . I don't know where I am, Skull. I'm lost! I'm in some kind of mist, it's all around me. And there's a gray road . . .

"Great Cerridwen! You . . . you're inbetween worlds!" Skullduggery squawked. Then he began to follow Harry's voice, until he reached a strange rippling barrier of silvery light. When he stared hard, he could see a faint silvery cord and then Harry's flickering spirit form. "I see you, bran-boy! Wait there! I'm coming!"

The raven gave a sharp call and transported himself into the Place Between Worlds, which all Greater Tower ravens could see into and cross over to. His wings spread, he arrived in the spirit world with a soft swoosh of displaced air.

Skull! Is it really you? Harry cried. He was very close to tears at seeing the black bird again.

Hello, bran-boy! Greeted the raven. What on earth are you doing here? When did you learn to Travel?

It's a long story. Can we get out of here, please?

Yes, of course. Come here and grab hold of me, Harry.

But Skull, I'll hurt you!

No, you won't. Your spirit form is trapped here, Harry. In order to leave you must ride me. I can take you from this place back to earth, but you have to grasp me tightly.

Harry tentatively put his hands upon the raven's wings, moving slowly to Skull's shoulderblades. His hands went through the bird but oddly enough Harry discovered he could grasp Skullduggery with little effort and he hung suspended over the raven. I did it!

I know! Now, let's get out of here. There are things in The Place Between Worlds that would love to eat you for a snack. Skull spread his wings and shot forward, concentrating hard.

In the next instant, Harry's spirit and Skullduggery emerged into the forest, leaving an angry Spirit Devourer wailing in frustration behind them.

Skull, we have to get to Uncle Severus! Harry told him. Can you fly me to him?

"Of course! But tell me as we fly, how did this happen? I thought you had detention with McGonagall."

Harry told Skull everything that had happened as quickly as he could. Once the raven had heard what an insane tyrant Marlene was, he longed to rip out her eyes and swallow them whole. "She'll get hers, bran-boy. Or Severus isn't Head of Slytherin. Hold tight to me, Harry! I'm going to fly as fast as I can."

Harry gripped the raven with his spectral fingers, concentrating on remaining with the bird. Skullduggery shot off from the branch he'd been on.

The wind blew through Harry's spirit form as Skull travelled, flying like a dervish through the trees. Never had the raven moved so fast, not even as Thunderbird's spy. The trees blurred about them and in Skull's wake was a chill breeze. Harry felt himself swept along on the tail end of a mild hurricane and he gripped the raven hard.

Skull swooped and dove, avoiding any large branches and twisted trunks. The raven glided and looped, graceful as a leaf upon the wind. Skullduggery did not say so, but this was the first time a raven had allowed a wizard spirit to "ride" him, most ravens who flew between worlds only escorted the souls on the Gray Road.

The raven flew harder . . .until he spotted a familiar figure in a black cloak walking through the trees accompanied by a smaller witch in green robes wearing a tartan scarf.

"Sev! I'm ba-a-ack!" Skull warbled, circling his wizard.

"Skullduggery!" Severus cried, smiling when he saw the cheeky raven. He had missed the bird something awful. "Thank Merlin, you've finally come home." The Potions Master said, relief evident in his tone. "Harry's gone missing and there's a barrier up that I can't break."

"Harry's not missing, Sev. He's using me as transportation. He's right here above me."

"He's what?" Severus sputtered. "Bird, have you lost your mind?"

"Nope. Harry's spirit self is here, and he's learned how to Travel using the Codex Magicka. He's riding me like a horse and can show you the way to where he's being held captive. Says she's a crazy idiot who thinks she's his godmother. Calls herself Marlene McKinnon. Also the Fifth Marauder."

Severus froze. "Marlene McKinnon? Are you sure, Skull?" So the former initiate had betrayed the Society and stolen away not only the book, but his precious ward. Severus' eyes burned with hellish fury. He would teach the twisted Gryffindor the meaning of justice, because nobody kidnapped a child on his watch and got away with it, much less his ward.

"Yes! I'm not deaf! Come on, Sev, move your ass! You too, Puss-In-Boots!" the raven called over to McGonagall. "Is this all the cavalry you've brought, Sev? How about Dumbles?"

"He can't make it. He says he must stay close to the castle and says he will do what he can to help the barrier be removed." Severus replied. "Fly, Skullduggery!"

"Aye, aye, Captain Snape! Warp speed!"

The raven turned and began flying at top speed, like a black blur above their heads, Harry clinging tightly to him.

"Skull, is Harry all right?" Severus called, running hard after the shadowy shape.

"He says he's as well as can be expected."

Severus wanted to weep with relief, but he did not. He needed to be strong, he had to try and bring down the barrier and rescue his ward. He couldn't do any of that if he were a sodden lump of salt water.

McGonagall dabbed her eyes, filled with relief that Harry was unharmed at least. She was amazed at what the young sorcerer had managed to do. She also felt terribly guilty about this whole thing. "Skull, can you please tell Harry I'm very sorry for . . . for giving him detention in the forest. It's mostly my fault he was kidnapped, I sent him outside of the castle. It's something I deeply regret."

Skullduggery gave a soft caw of affirmation then trilled, "Miss Kitty, Harry says he forgives you. That you couldn't have known Mad Marlene was there, waiting to pounce. All he wants now is to go home."

The raven zipped about some closely entwined trees, his wings gliding effortlessly.

"And he shall go home, Skull. That much I can promise," said the witch determinedly. "I'll duel that crazy girl into the ground!"

"No. I'm first," Severus stated, his voice icy cold with menace. He was panting slightly, he hadn't run this fast or this far since he had finished school. He would make Marlene pay if it was the last thing he did.

Finally, Skull pulled up in front of the barrier and hovered. "Go to it, Sev! Knock it down!"

Harry watched, his fingers buried in Skull's feathers, as his guardian and Head of House pointed their wands at the barrier and chanted the same spell. Bolts of blue and green light shot out and struck the barrier. The barrier wavered.

The two professors struck it again. The barrier started to shift and waver.

They lifted their wands a third time and then a purple bolt shot out of nowhere and slammed into the barrier along with Snape's and McGonagall's.

It was too much for the wall to take and it crumbled under the combined assault of three of the most powerful wizards and witch ever to walk Hogwarts.

Skullduggery flew straight on through. He emerged in a sun-drenched meadow and in the distance was a large garden surrounding a manor house with gray peaked roofs. "Harry, go! Get back in your body!" said the raven.

Harry reluctantly released the raven and soared backwards, using the silver cord to pull himself to where his body was. He phased through the roof and into his room.

He froze as he saw Marlene beside his bed, her wand out. What was she doing here? Had she discovered his deception? Why was she about to cast a spell on him?

Then he heard he cry, "Ennervate! Harry, wake up!" For an instant, hearing the sudden concern in her tone, Harry could almost believe she cared about him. Almost.

Harry slowly let his spirit drift back into his body. But he didn't open his eyes. Not yet.

Marlene groaned. "Bloody hell, boy! Why won't you wake up? What's wrong with you? Must I take you to St. Mungos?" Abruptly she cried out and clutched her head. "Someone has breached the wards! Stay here!"

Harry waited until her footsteps receded before opening his eyes and standing up. His wand in hand, he put on his sneakers and raced down the hall. He had to get the book.

Marlene was standing in the hall facing the front entrance, chanting loudly.

Harry cast a glance at her as a bang shook the house and Marlene moaned as something powerful shredded the wards over her home. Then Harry turned and snatched the book from the podium. "You'll protect me, right?"

Against the wicked witch? With pleasure!

Harry wrapped his arms about the book, holding it against his chest like a shield. The Codex began to glow with a brilliant emerald light.

Marlene's front door exploded, blowing the blond witch backwards and off her feet.

Before she could recover, two tall forms stepped out of the swirling dust and debris.

Harry's eyes widened and he yelled in delight, "Uncle Severus!"

"Snape!" hissed Marlene, regaining her feet all at once, her wand trained upon the black-cloaked figure. "How dare you invade my home?"

"How dare you kidnap my child, McKinnon!" Severus growled, his eyes blazing.

"Your child, Snape?" Marlene sneered. "He is no more yours than I am a Death Eater. I'm his godmother, Snape!"

"You lie. Your name was never mentioned in the will. Only Black's was," Severus stated.

Marlene's face twisted into a grimace of utter hatred. "You know nothing, Snape. Lily always meant to name me second godmother, but then she was murdered by your dark master! But I've always known Harry was my responsibility. Not yours, you evil piece of—"

"For shame, Marlene!" scolded McGonagall. "If you were, as you say, Harry's godmother, than why not come forward all those years ago?"

"I was busy, Minerva! Trying to hunt down the murderers of my parents and brother. Where were you when I needed you? My family was destroyed and you sat hobnobbing with him, a former Death Eater!" Marlene raged.

"Severus maybe Slytherin to the core, but that does not make him evil," Minerva began.

"You're a fool!" she cried, then she trained her wand on Minerva, casting a Freezing hex on her. Minerva smoothly countered.

Skull flew inside and landed atop Harry's shoulder. "Long time, no see, bran-boy!" he said, gently nibbling his hair. Then the raven spied the Codex. "Morrigan's hairy butt! It's the Codex Magicka!"

"Marlene stole it," Harry informed the raven, all the while gazing at the duel taking place with awe.

Marlene snapped out a Burning Hex, but Severus stepped in and countered it with an Extinguishing Charm. Then he stepped forward and growled in a horrible tone, "You want to play with fire, McKinnon? Catch!" He spun his wand counterclockwise and five fiery projectiles spat out of his wand.

She tried to move to step away, but the fire balls tracked her and singed her robe and her hair as well as the arm she had up in front of her face. She screamed as her flesh withered in the heat. But then she cast some sort of charm and her arm healed. She sent a Blasting Curse back at him.

"Confringo!"

"Protego!"

"Expelliarmus!" she shrieked.

"Reflectivo!" Severus reflected her own hex back on her.

Her wand was blasted out of her hand. It fell behind her. As she turned to grab it, she saw Harry standing there holding the Codex with Skull on his shoulder.

"Harry James, what are you doing?" she snarled. "Put that book down!"

Harry glared at her. "Make me."

Marlene pointed a finger at him. It began to glow.

Skullduggery flew at her, his razor sharp beak and talons at the ready. "Come on, bitch! Make my day!"

His talons and beak scored several deep scratches down her neck and face, and she shrieked and hit him with a Wind Gust spell, sending the raven spinning into a wall.

"No!" Harry wailed. He pointed his wand at Marlene and shouted the Bone Break Curse Draco had cast upon him at the beginning of the year.

There came a loud cracking sound and then her wand arm broke. The Fifth Marauder screamed. "You little bastard! After I try and save you, this is how you repay me?"

Harry met her eyes steadily. "I never needed saving from Severus, Marlene. Only from you, the world's worst godmother."

Minerva came and cast a Rope Binding hex on her. "There! Now, are you going to come quietly, McKinnon?" She plucked the woman's wand from the ground.

But when Minerva looked up again, she found Severus holding the tip of his wand to the Fifth Marauder's throat. "Severus . . ." the Transfiguration professor began. "Don't . . ."

"Don't what?" he rasped, his eyes dark with a killing rage. "Don't kill her for almost trying to kill Harry? Give me one good reason why not."

Harry went, still holding the book, to kneel where the raven was lying. His fingers found a pulse and he began to breathe again. Then he looked up and saw Severus holding a wand at Marlene with a fearsome expression upon his face.

A/N: Okay, I've ended it there for a reason. I haven't been able to decide if Severus should 1) Kill her, 2) Bring her back for a trial and give her Azkaban for life in a cell next to Sirius' or 3) Bring her back for a trial and have her Kissed.

I'd appreciate your input.

Please forgive any errors, as I am very depressed today and probably haven't edited this as I should have. My mom has just been hospitalized again.
 


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