Chapter 24 : Storm Building
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The storm gathered power, sucking energy from the frothing ocean below, and drawing it up into its matrix of wind, cloud, and electrical power. It had started as a small icy thunderstorm over the Hebrides, but as it had moved south, it had gathered strength. The collision of low air pressure slightly above freezing met the warmer air rising off the ocean and caused it to become a raging wind and ice storm, with gale force winds, snow, sleet, and hail. It was a rare system, one that seemed to gather strength rather than lose it as it approached the British Isles. Most storms born in the ocean started to die as they made landfall, but this one was the exception.
It was a monster storm, a once in a lifetime thing, and it was hungry.
It swept through the Highlands, leaving feet of snow, destroyed power lines, downed trees, and destruction in its wake. The freezing rain coated the snow drifts, making them slippery and deadly dangerous to walk on to try and shovel a path anywhere. Lorrys, cars, and snowplows crashed into twisted metal piles on the side of the road as the wind picked them up and sent them careening into each other. There were massive power outages and homes without light or heat.
Even Hogwarts was not spared, and snow fell upon the grounds of the venerable castle and buried it up to the middle of the Astronomy Tower. Hagrid's hut was snowed in up to the roof and so was Professor Sprout's greenhouse. And then, having left its calling card, the storm moved on, racing down towards Yorkshire.
Harry had a low-grade throbbing headache in the back of his head for three days now. He had told his mother and Lily had given him a potion for it, but it had come back. He was more than a little irritable because of it, and growled at everyone, even cheerful Lucy at breakfast one morning.
That day, Lucy had made oat porridge with cream, nuts, and either blueberries and honey or small chocolate chips. Usually Harry loved whatever the witch made, but today the sight of the porridge made him feel slightly sick and that in turn made him angry. He was hungry, and yet what he had to eat wasn't appetizing all of a sudden.
He shoved his bowl away and said, in a whiny aggravating tone, "Is this all we have to eat? I want something else!"
Lily raised an eyebrow, not caring for Harry's tone. "Harry, you like porridge. Especially Lucy's. You always eat it."
Harry glared at her. Didn't she understand anything? He glanced around and saw Theo eating eagerly, shoveling in spoonful after spoonful. That sight just made him more irritated. "I don't want any!" he half-shouted, sounding very much like Dudley, had he known. His head throbbed and he rubbed the back of his neck.
"Well then, what do you want?" asked Lucy, somewhat shocked, but willing to cook Harry something else if he insisted.
Harry opened his mouth to reply, but Severus' voice cut in. "Nothing, unless he watches his mouth and speaks to you politely, and not like some spoiled brat." He had just come in from the hall and felt irritated himself with his left hand, which somewhat numb and giving him trouble this morning, and the last thing he wanted was to hear a child whining like a snotnosed brat. He glared at Harry. "Well? I'm waiting."
Harry glared right back at him. "All I want is some bacon and eggs, not this . . . junk!" he gestured at the porridge, which was slowly growing cold in the bowl.
"Hey! My mum doesn't make junk!" Theo protested, wincing as he caught sight of Severus' face. Just by that, he knew Harry was in for it. What was the matter with him?
"Harry! You know better than to insult Lucy like that!" Lily cried angrily.
"Apologize, young man! Now!" ordered Severus in a voice that could have cut stone to shreds.
Normally, Harry would have obeyed. But for some reason his trouble radar was absent that morning and instead he snapped back, "Quit yelling at me, won't you? Is it a crime because I want something else for breakfast?"
Severus' eyes narrowed and he came around the table to stand directly in front of the boy. "No, but it's shameful how you address Lucy, who is your elder and has done nothing to deserve your cheek. Show her some respect and apologize and ask for something nicely, or else you can skip breakfast and goto your room for the morning."
Harry rolled his eyes, muttering, "Merlin, lighten up, Dad! You'd think I insulted the Minister of Magic!"
"Excuse me?" Severus said, not quite believing the boy's attitude. "Would you care to repeat that?"
"Why? Didn't you hear me the first time?"
Everyone gasped at the sheer defiance, except Severus. He reached out and grabbed Harry's left ear expertly, holding it in a firm grip. "To your room, boy!"
"Oww!" Harry yelped, trying to free himself. "Dad, let go!"
"March!" Severus growled, incensed. "Or else I'll throw you over my shoulder and carry you there, I swear it!" He started to walk out of the kitchen, dragging Harry.
"Ow! Ow!" Harry cried, hurrying to keep up with the taller man. "I'm going, you can let go now."
"Don't dictate to me, Mr. Potter. Not after how you've behaved this morning. Disgraceful!" Severus scolded as he hauled the rebellious youngster down the hall. "I'm tempted to turn you over my knee, so don't push me!"
With that threat, a rarity from the normally composed Mind Healer, Harry's sense of self-preservation reared its head and he murmured, "All right, m'sorry!"
"You should be apologizing to Lucy more than me," Severus grunted, releasing Harry's ear as they reached the boy's room. "Get in there and think about your behavior for an hour. When I come back here in an hour, you'd better have an apology on your lips for Lucy, or else your broom is mine for the afternoon." He gave Harry a single smack on the behind to get him moving.
"Hey, that hurt!" Harry said, and scurried into the room, one hand on his backside.
"So did how you acted this morning to Lucy," Severus pointed out sharply. "I don't know what's gotten into you this morning, Harry, but you'd better get over it, because I'm in no mood to deal with spoiled brats today. Clear?"
"Yes, sir," Harry said quickly, going to sit on his bed. His stomach rumbled a little, but he knew better than to ask for something to eat now. Severus would probably give him cold porridge if he did.
Severus left the room, and Harry opened the bottom drawer of his nightstand and grabbed a Honeydukes crispy chocolate bar and ate it. At least he wasn't hungry anymore, though his head did hurt somewhat and he wondered where he'd dared to backtalk his stepfather that way? Was he crazed? He shook his head and lay down, hoping the headache would go away.
He fell asleep for fifty minutes, waking only when his mother came by, knocking on the door and calling, "Harry, if you're done being impossible, you can come out now."
He got up, rubbing his head. The headache was still there, but fainter now, and he felt a quick sting of shame for his previous behavior. He went and apologized to Lucy, who had actually made him a plate of eggs and bacon and kept it warm with a spell.
"I don't deserve this," he said as he ate it.
"No, tha doesn't. But everyone has an off day, Harry, and no boy will go hungry while I'm around—cheeky or not!" She flicked him with a dish towel as she watched him eat.
That made him feel even more guilty, so he said he was sorry again and then rinsed off the plate and fork in the sink before going to look for Theo.
Theo wasn't quite as annoyed at his friend as he could have been. "You were like . . . begging for Sev to wallop you, y'know," he remarked in a slightly shocked tone.
"Yeah, but I . . . couldn't seem to help it," Harry said. "I had this pain in my head and it made me mad and well . . ." He shrugged.
"But it's over and done with now, aye?" Theo said. "Want to call Draco and go flying?"
The two boys ran inside to the fireplace to Floo their friend.
When they got no response from calling out to him, the two quickly Flooed into the manor, having a standing invitation to visit anytime.
As they stood on the white carpet of the living room, trying to get rid of the soot without getting it on the spotless carpet, Aradia came in. She was wearing a cute purple woolen jumper and jeans with little leather boots with fur about them.
"Hiya, boys! Are you lookin' for 'Raco?" Her hair was drifting over her shoulders like spun silk and her blue eyes glowed eagerly.
"Hi, Aradia! Where's your brother?" asked Harry.
The little tot grinned, showing a missing front tooth. "He's helpin' Daddy get the garden inside the cellar 'fore the storm hits."
"Storm? What storm?" asked Theo.
"The one that's comin'," Aradia answered. "You know!"
"Actually, we don't," Harry said, alarmed. "Tell us."
"Well," said the little girl, delighted to have an audience, "Mummy heard on the radio that it was a big one. A big snowstorm! With lots n' lots of snow, ice, and wind. It's 'posed to come soon, that's why Daddy's with Dobby n' Raco getting the garden inside."
"You mean—the herb garden?" Theo clarified. "With the magic plants?"
"Uh huh," Aradia nodded rapidly. "He says he ain't losin' any magic plants to no storm."
"I don't blame him. Where's your mum?" Harry wanted to know.
"She's fixin' the windows so's they don't break from the wind."
"Oh. Then I guess Draco can't come flying with us," Harry said regretfully. His stomach was churning in terror. Was that why he'd had headaches? And been so irritable? Was he sensing the coming storm?
"But I can play with you, Hawwy!" Aradia said happily. "We can play with my doll house an' you can be the dad an' I'll be the mum . . ."
"Sorry, Aradia, we can't play with you either," Theo interrupted, much to Harry's relief. "We have to go home and tell our own parents about the storm and get in our own garden. Severus will go postal if he loses his herbs."
"Oh." Aradia's face fell. "Tell Unca Sevvie I luv him an' just lissen to the radio!"
"We will, imp!" Harry said, kneeling down and hugging her. He prayed they would all survive the storm. "Take care and tell Draco we said hi."
Then they Flood back home to tell Lily, Severus, and Lucy about the coming storm.
Once the boys had told Lily and Severus about the coming storm, they too began to prepare for it. Severus cursed himself for not having the Wizarding Wireless on in the morning as usual, but then again, he'd had to deal with Harry, so it was understandable that he forgot to tune in. He turned on the radio as he and Lily cast spells to reinforce the windows and doors upstairs, while Lucy did the downstairs. They also did Lucy's small cottage, though Severus suggested strongly that Lucy and Theo stay in the main house with the rest of them.
Lily took Severus' Blackstreak and flew up on the roof, so she could cast spells of strengthening and waterproofing on the tiles. Lucy gathered blankets and wood and lanterns with oil—even though they were magic folk, spells didn't last forever, and casting drained one, even the strongest sorcerer. But she did make sure the fire in the kitchen stove was charmed to last a week, they might need it. She put wood in the fireplace and then checked the shelves for non-perishable items, like canned goods. Actually, they could freeze things if needed in the snow.
Meanwhile, the boys helped Severus gather all his magical herbs and the small plantings that were just started, potting them and bringing them downstairs to his lab. It took the better part of two and a half hours to do the magical garden and then Severus cast a few more spells over the other gardens to shield them from the storm. That done, he told the boys to come inside.
"There's not much more we can do here," he said calmly. "Now all we can do is wait. Harry, are you feeling the storm yet? Can you sense where it is?"
Harry concentrated, sending his consciousness out as Severus had taught him. He felt the pressure build within him and then he felt the storm, a malignant presence rushing toward them with fierce intent. "It's coming—it'll be here within three hours or so. At least the bulk of it will. The outer bands of it—the ones with hail and ice, those will be here sooner. Like in an hour."
The boy shivered and Severus put an arm about him. "It'll be all right, Harry. We've weathered storms like this before."
But Harry shook his head. "Not like this, Dad. It's going to be bad."
"Bad as in intensity or duration?"
"Both." Harry looked nervous. "Dad, what if I can't . . . what if it calls to me and I . . . can't help but answer?"
"You remember how to put up mind blocks, right? Similar to my Occlumency?" Severus queried as he went inside with them.
"Yes, but . . . I'm afraid they won't be strong enough."
"Don't think that way. What have I said about negative thinking?"
"That if you believe a bad thing will happen, or you won't be able to do something, you'll make it happen. You need to believe in yourself," Harry recited.
"Good. Your mother and I will help you construct your shields. Come into the office."
"Can I see?" asked Theo.
"There's not much to see, Theodore. Best you go see if your mother needs help." Severus said. "Oh, and ask Lucy if she's spoken to Lupin. See if he's prepared to wait out the storm."
"All right, Sev!" Theo went off to find Lucy.
Lily soon joined them in the office and together they helped Harry make a multilayered shield that blanketed his mind from the storm's siren call.
"Can you hear it still?" Lily asked.
"No. It's pretty faint now."
"Good. Why don't you go lie down, honey? You probably won't get much sleep once it comes," Lily suggested, stroking the hair off his brow. She didn't say so, but she was scared something might go wrong, despite all their precautions. This was a huge storm, not the thunderstorms Harry had dealt with previously. What if it was too strong? What if, God help them, Harry was overwhelmed by it and lost himself to the power?
"All right, Mum," Harry agreed, though he felt so frightened he doubted he'd sleep, or if he did, he'd have nightmares. He hid his fear, even though he longed to curl up in Lily's arms, or even Severus', like a little baby. But that wouldn't help. He couldn't hide from this, he knew that instinctively. As a stormcaller he would be drawn to the storm like a moth to a flame. He would have to face the storm head on. He silently shut the door to the study and pretended to go to his room.
Then he put his ear to the door and listened. He knew his parents must be worried too, but they would never say so in front of him.
"Sev, I'm so frightened for him. What if he loses control?"
"We have to pray that doesn't happen."
"But what if it does? I don't want to . . . hurt my own son."
"I know, Lily. I'll put the manacles on him if it comes to it. Or Stun him myself. I won't let it take him. Even if it costs me my life."
"No! Don't say that! We need you, Sev! I need you, here with me. And so does . . . the baby." Lily sobbed.
"What baby? Lily, are you saying—"
"Yes. I'm pregnant, Sev. With your baby. Who doesn't need to grow up without a father. Promise me you'll stay alive! You and Harry both!"
"Lily, dear God, how can I promise that? There are no guarantees in this world. But I'll try. For you. For us all."
Harry was stunned. His mother was pregnant. He would be a big brother. It was something he'd never considered before. He crept away down the hall to his room. He gently shut and locked the door. When he'd first come here, he'd thought this room the best one in the world. It was large, with a fine view, comfortable furniture, and his to be alone in. In all the months he'd been here, no one had ever entered without knocking, or asking permission. He looked around the room. He would miss it.
But he had no choice. Hearing Severus say he would give up his life for Harry—for a child not even of his blood—made a lump come up in his throat. He didn't deserve that. He was a burden, a cheeky brat who sassed the Healer beyond tolerance and hurt him in ways no one ever had. Severus should want him to leave, to follow the storm and go mad. Instead he wanted Harry to stay.
But if he stayed, he'd put everyone at risk. Severus, Theo, Lucy, Lily, and now the new baby too. He was dangerous, no one knew that better than he did. He was a stormcaller and a killer blizzard was on the horizon. There were no guarantees, Severus was correct. They couldn't know if Harry's shields would hold, or if would be able to resist the storm's siren call.
He might give in and then they would all be snuffed out like a candle flame.
Believe in yourself.
Severus' words echoed in his head. He wanted to, oh how he did! But there was always the part that doubted, that whispered his talent brought madness in his wake. What if it were true?
I'm sorry, Mum and Dad. I'm sorry Theo, Draco, Lucy, and Remus. And you too, Aunt Cissy, Uncle Luc, and Aradia. I can't stay here and risk becoming a monster. I need to leave . . . before it's too late.
Harry knew the moor would be safe. The storm would blast it in all its fury, but maybe he could find a cave to hole up in. And if the worst happened . . . no one would be hurt. Except himself. As it should be.
He pulled on his green jumper over his shirt and some thick snow trousers over his jeans, his sheepskin lined boots and his thick brown parka that he kept in his room. He added a Slytherin scarf Draco had given him and some mittens Lucy had sewn. There! He wouldn't freeze while he searched for a place to stay, he mused.
Because even a stormcaller was not immune to the effects of a non-summoned storm. Oh, he could feel it tug on him, even through the shields. He knew it wanted him to call it, to feel the rush of icy air and the power of the freezing wind. But he wouldn't. He would let the storm come to him. He would not succumb to temptation. He would not be a selfish brat, and risk everyone's lives. He had killed a powerful evil sorcerer when he was but a baby. He had also accidentally killed his aunt, uncle, and cousins. No one needed to tell him that, he just knew it. He had summoned the hurricane in response to being locked in the cupboard. And they had paid the price.
This time only he would do so.
He carefully unlatched the window, took his broom, and flew out of it. Then he shut it. Hopefully they would all think he was sleeping and not check on him till a few hours had passed. By then it would be too late and the blizzard would be upon them. Yes, it would be dangerous. But not the same as having a neophyte stormcaller trapped in the house with them. It would only be snow, wind, and ice.
He thrust off into the air, circled the house once, and whispered, "I love you. Be safe."
Then he flew like a bat out of hell towards the moor where the long dead boyfriend of Maggie was buried. Out on the moor, where only the ghosts walked and his madness would hurt no one.
A/N: Well, will Harry succeed or fail? Give me your best guess!
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