Chapter 25 : Storm Breaking
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Harry flew right into the teeth of the coming storm, west and north, to the lonely moor where the bogs were that sucked you down and almost no trees and only a few rock outcroppings to break the wind. Luckily, no one lived here except the dead, and Harry was not afraid of them. All the animals—even the birds—had gone away, taking shelter wherever they could find it. Harry, flying alone in the upper reaches of the sir, felt as if he were the only creature left alive in the world.
He could feel the wind pick up, tugging on his parka, freezing his cheeks with its icy touch. He could feel the pressure in the air growing and his head throbbed in time to it. The storm was coming, he could feel it, it sent prickles down his spine and he could taste the deadly frost on his tongue. He could feel how widespread the system was, meters and meters, all across Scotland and now Yorkshire too. This was one that would go on record . . . provided most people survived it. The dealy cold and snow was only one danger. There was also the danger of downed trees and power lines, and icy roads. He knew that some people had probably already experienced the brunt of the storm and prayed they were safe and warm.
As the wind picked up, it spun his broom a little. Harry quickly made a shield with his power to keep the wind off, and began looking for a likely place to land. He finally found one near one of the sucking bogs, or at least he thought it was one. It was a long outcropping of rock, with a single tree, all crooked and hunched over, next to it.
Harry landed his broom carefully in the lee of the stone. There was a hollowed out area on the side, enough for him to get out of the wind and he leaned the broom there and crouched down. "I'll bet you've stood through tons of storms," he said to the tree, needing to talk to something. "Hope you get through this too. And my family. I hope they don't go crazy looking for me, they probably will, damn it all! But maybe the storm itself will keep them inside."
A part of him snorted at that reasoning. As if anything would keep Lily from trying to find her son. Well, maybe Severus could, he reasoned. And the only thing keeping Severus from searching would be the power of the storm itself and the fact that the Healer was still recovering from the blue bolt. Having a low magical core would keep the tall man inside, and safe.
Harry breathed in and out. He extended his senses outward, and immediately met with the first bands of the storm, the wind and ice and hail. They nearly sucked him into their depths, but he resisted. He couldn't afford to get trapped in this. He pulled away, and hid behind his shields.
He estimated he had about twenty minutes before the first wave hit, and he was some six or seven miles from home. He should have gone farther, but this was the best shelter he could see on the moor. He prayed that Lily and Severus would stay inside and not think to check on him until the snow came, with the terrible force he could feel from it, he knew the snow would be falling like crazy before they even noticed it, and it and the wind ramping up to over seventy-five miles an hour should keep them indoors.
The storm front pushed on his shields hard. He grunted and send out a tendril of power, pushing it slightly away from him.
All of a sudden the sun disappeared and the sky went a leaden dark gray. Clouds drifted near and then it began to rain. At first the rain was normal—almost, the drops hitting the ground hard. Then it became stronger, faster, and the wind grew chill and keened with the frozen howl of the north.
Now the rain was hard, icy pellets that struck the ground with sharp pinging sounds and slowly coated the moor with ice. Harry shivered inside his shelter, listening to the howl of the wind and the icy rain. It called to him, begging him to come to it, but he bit his lip and ignored it. No. Not now. Not today. Leave. Go there.
He shoved at it cautiously, then with more force, showing it a slightly different track, and it began to move, going more south east, and off of the land towards the ocean.
It wasn't much, but it might save the small village some repairs from ice damage and keep their power on a few more hours, as well as reducing some of the ice at Heatherton. Harry knew that the cottage must be feeling the effects of this first sally now.
The first pattering of hail hit the roof of Heatherton Cottage as Lucy brought tea to Severus and Lily, who were curled together under a shaggy blanket on the couch in front of the fire. Lily was reading a magical periodical aloud to Severus. Theo had been reading a book on the recliner, but the heat made him drowsy so he fell asleep. Lucy tucked a blanket about him, before dropping off the tea tray and pausing.
"I think I hear something," she said, cocking her head.
Severus raised his. "Yes, it sounds like hail."
Lily paused in her reading. "I can hear it too. I hope Harry's asleep. Maybe we should make sure?"
"He said he was going to lie down," Severus yawned, he was very comfortable lying on the couch and didn't want to move, especially with Lily lying on top of him. He was warm and cozy and he just felt like lying there and sleeping.
"Mmm, you're right. If he were having trouble, he'd come to us," Lily murmured. She sipped her tea, it made her whole body feel warm and cozy and she listened to the sharp patter of hail on the roof and felt her whole body go limp. She was safe, the spells were holding, and she was tired, so very tired . . . she drifted off to sleep mid-word.
Lucy decided to rest her feet a little before going to put on some soup for lunch. As she curled up on the smaller couch across from the recliner, she thought that at least they were all safe and sound here in Heatherton, and the scream of the wind did not frighten her the way it might have. She closed her eyes briefly and was asleep as well.
Lily woke up some three hours later and felt an urgent need to use the bathroom. Gently removing Severus' arm from her, she managed to slip off of him without waking him. Then she rushed to the bathroom. Thanks goodness it was not as bad as it had been when she was in the advanced stages of pregnancy. That would come later, right now she was approximately two and a half months a long and not even showing. She wondered if Poppy could be her medical consult with the baby so she wouldn't have to look for another Healer. She gently rubbed her tummy as she fixed her clothes and went into the kitchen to fix herself something to eat.
She found soup simmering on the stove and blessed Lucy for her foresight. As she ate some, she stared out at the window, which glistened with ice and showed snow starting to pile up in heaps along the side of the house. She got up and peered out, the snow was so thick she could barely see the shapes of the trees and the wind blew them until they bent level with the ground.
The house still had electric and heat, but Lily thought it might not last long with the way the storm was going, and so she prepared to light some mage globes and use some Warmth Charms. She wondered if it was the right time to tell Harry, Lucy, and Theo about the new life she carried. Normally she preferred to wait until she was at least three months along, because miscarriages often occurred during the first two months. But maybe it would be a good thing and take their minds off this horrible storm.
Fearing Harry might be having trouble with his control, she went into Sev's study and picked up the Manacles of Suppression. Severus had told her that the Manacles should suppress Harry's stormcaller power, but they had never been designed for such a thing—only to suppress a wizard's ordinary magic. Harry's power was far from ordinary and it might be possible for it to break past the manacles control. Still, they were all they had.
Lily headed for Harry's bedroom and knocked on the door. Getting no response, she called softly, "Harry, honey? Are you awake? It's Mum."
Still getting no response, she cautiously opened the door, expecting to find her son sleeping with his messy hair sticking up all over his pillow. Instead she found an empty room and a bed that looked as if it hadn't been slept in since this morning.
Terror gripped her. Was it possible Harry had gone out in this storm? To do what? Try and control it? Hide from it? She ran and looked in the closet, finding his winter wear gone, which confirmed her worst nightmare. She looked out the window upon a world covered in white as the snow fell, silent and deadly.
Her heart pounding, she went to wake up the rest of the family.
Upon discovering Harry was missing, Severus' first instinct was to track him with a Locator Charm and Apparate to where he was. But there were two problems with that—the weather and the fact that he couldn't Apparate to a place he'd never been. Doing so might result in killing himself if he Apparated into a tree or a rock. It was why it was always stressed that visualization was the key to Apparition. Plus his magical core was still at half-strength, and that would not enable him to get very far on his own in this deadly storm.
"Damn you, Harry!" he swore as he paced up and down the foyer, listening to the wind screaming. "Why didn't you trust me?"
But he knew it was unfair to blame all of this on the boy. Harry had a guilt complex the size of Europe and was probably battling that along with his insecurities over controlling his power. And perhaps a part of him still believed that claptrap about going mad too. Whatever had prompted the boy to take off, Severus was sure it had more to do with protecting his family than anything else. And Severus knew all too well what it was like to be overprotective. The boy was more like him than he knew.
Lucy put an arm about him and whispered, "Master Sev, Harry will be all right."
"So I hope," he said, somewhat bitterly. "How do you know?"
"Because God doesn't give us anything we can't handle, or so I believe. And Harry's power is a gift, not a curse, I don't care what those fools say. And he will use it to save us all."
Severus sighed. "I want to believe that, Lucy. I truly do. But I'm scared out of my head about what he could be facing out there alone."
She squeezed his shoulder. "I know. I'd be the same if it were my Theo."
Actually, Theo and Lily were outside now, over both Severus and Lucy's vigorous protests. Theo was in cold drake form, as Tempest he was mostly immune to the wind and freezing temperatures, and Lily was riding him, trying to locate Harry. She had promised Severus to remain outside for fifteen minutes, no longer, for that would be all the cold and wind she could endure, even wearing winter clothing and using Warmth charms.
Severus tried to keep his temper in check, getting angry at the absent Harry would help nothing, and he needed to be calm for Lily, a frantic pregnant woman was not a good thing. He watched the snow falling and wished he could do more to find the youngster. But there was nothing he could do except hope that Harry would come home intact. Severus' hands knotted into fists and he forced himself to relax. Harry would come home. He had to believe that, else he was lost.
Lily and Tempest flew about the outskirts of the cottage in ever widening circles, keeping a sharp eye out for any figure walking or riding a broom. But all they saw was white flakes of snow and the wind threatened to rip Lily from Tempest's back.
The wind was so strong that Tempest had difficulty flying in it. Lily, I'm sorry, the young drake sent. But I can't fly like this much longer. The wind . . . it's so strong it's pulling me all over. I can barely keep flying steadily. Soon it'll tear holes in my wings.
"Just a bit further, Tempest," Lily urged, reluctant to give up, even though she knew she was rapidly reaching the end of her strength. They had flown about ten minutes away from the house, three miles out on the moor. Lily felt like an icicle despite her clothes and spells. Her fingers were stiff and cramped against the leather straps put over Tempest's chest and neck that she clung to. The "saddle" was a makeshift piece of leather stuffed with griffin feathers and sewn with triple strength thread and bound around him with a huge wide stretchable leather strap, one that they'd bought at Diagon Alley at a store that stocked dragon items.
Tempest flew gamely into the storm again, but after a few moments, sent, We have to turn back, Lily. I can't see a thing with this snow, and I'm exhausted and so are you. Sorry, I'll try again later. Maybe he's holed up somewhere like any clever kid would be.
Tempest didn't dare mention the madness, but it was on his mind. Regretfully, they turned back towards home. When they reached the cottage, Severus and Lucy were waiting with hot mugs of tea and hot baths ready.
Severus could read the disappointment and fear on his wife's face. "Come on, let's get you warmed up. Then you need to sleep." He picked up Lily and took her into their private bath and let her climb into the warm water.
"Ahh! This feels so good!" she cried. "But what about Harry? He's still out there, Sev! We couldn't find him."
Severus stroked her hair as she washed herself. "There's nothing for it but to wait, love. If he doesn't come home soon, maybe we can call Wizarding Search and Rescue."
"No! How do we tell them he's lost alone in this storm? I'll go out again later, when the snow has stopped coming down so heavily." Lily resolved. "I will not lose my son, do you hear me, Severus?"
"Yes. But first you need to sleep." Severus urged. He did not think the storm would abate in a few hours, they were supposed to get snow and wind all day and night, and that would keep his intrepid wife stranded inside the house. He was surprised the power had not gone out yet.
He held out a towel for Lily when she was through, and his mind raced frantically. Harry, where are you?
Harry was still huddled in his stone shelter, but he had to push the snow away from it with his broom. It was awfully cold and Harry wished he had taken his chances with staying in the cottage. Almost. The storm was a constant presence in his head now, and he could feel it urging him to bond with it, to become the sound and the fury. He resisted now by the skin of his teeth, his shields nearly in tatters.
He took a few moments to steady himself, to build the shields back up again before he did something he had only tried once before. He slipped his consciousness outward and "rode" the back of the storm, using the system as a kind of transportation, his "eyes" in a world covered in endless winter.
He 'saw' how the snow fell with silent symmetry across the landscape, turning the bleak moor into a white wilderness of preternatural beauty, causing drifts to mound up and making crystalline patterns upon the few trees still standing upright.
He rode the wind into the small village and saw the houses buried in snow up to the doors and in some cases roofs as well. People were trying to shovel paths from their doors to the street and throwing blue melting crystals on the sidewalks and porches to melt the ice. But their efforts seemed laughable as the snow fell inexorably and covered everything they'd done in moments. He saw several houses, mainly ones at the end of the street near the graveyard, without power as trees had fallen on the power lines, and so had meters of snow.
All around he saw people locked in a cold, frozen, white hell. He wished he could help them.
Then he got an idea. A crazy, insane idea, but better than just sitting there waiting for the storm to turn him into a raging lunatic. Maybe he could help people. By turning the course of the storm.
But first, he would take a peek at Heatherton Cottage and make sure all was well there.
The wind blustered and Harry rode it north of the village, and home.
He saw to his dismay that the cottage and the grounds had been swamped in snow, drifts were almost up to the roof gables and there was a small pathway shoveled for a few feet beyond the door. There were lights still burning in the house, and several spruce and fir trees were bent almost double to the ground by their burden of snow.
There were several branches broken from the trees that had snapped in the sudden wind, and from the frost. The gardens were buried in snow and the gates showed their tops just above the drifts. Poor Dad! He'll have a time digging that out, even with magic.
Then, as the wind swirled and screeched about the cottage, Harry heard a sound, a door opening.
He saw a figure step out onto the porch, head bent against the wind. At first he thought it was Lily, but then he saw the glimpse of long dark hair being whipped about and knew it was Severus.
The man walked to the edge of the porch, unmindful of the wind, and called, "Harry! Harry!"
He stood there, calling for his missing son as the wind swept away his words and snow blanketed the world as far as he could see.
Harry winced. He wished Severus would go back inside. This weather was horrible and Severus was still not entirely well. Just go back inside and forget about me, he urged. I'm not worth it, Dad.
Suddenly, Harry heard a faint crackling sound. He thought it came from the roof, which was covered with snow. Or maybe it was the big tree in the yard, whose branches were laden down with ice and snow. Either way, Harry knew the sound was not good—it preceded something about to break. Severus did not seem to notice it, he probably could not hear it above the sound of the wind.
Before he could home in on what it was, he felt his consciousness drawn back to his body. He tried to fight it, but his body was freezing. Harry realized that if he meant to do anything about the storm, or to help Severus, he had to keep moving. To keep still was to die.
Shaking, he cast a last Warming charm to get the blood flowing, and hopped on his broom.
This time he allowed the winds to grab his broom, and flew with unheard of speed back to Heatherton Cottage. He would make sure Severus was all right and then he'd try to divert the storm.
Soon he was five feet away from the cottage, where Severus stood, half-blinded, peering out into the night.
There came a loud crack! and a branch snapped in two from the big tree off to the side. The wind snatched it and carried it at vicious speed towards the wizard, who could not hear it over the screeching of the wind and was looking off towards the moor.
It would have slammed into him with brutalizing force, but Harry manipulated the wind and made the branch veer off, coming to rest in the snow drift off to the right. Breathing a sigh of relief, Harry began to try and coax the clouds and the wind off into a different direction, out to sea and away from land.
At first the storm refused to obey him.
It fought him like a wild thing, sending tendrils into his thoughts, urging him to join with it, to become destruction like he'd never known. The wind, unstoppable with its vicious strength, the freezing snow, the terrible power of nature unleashed. It whispered, cajoled, and finally commanded him to become one with it.
Harry felt his control splinter. His shields fell and he was surrounded by the storm, feeling it pluck his consciousness up and suddenly he was drowning in sensation. He couldn't think, only feel. He felt the storm's malignancy, its longing to feed its hunger, to suck the warmth out of everything living.
Harry knew he was inches from losing himself. The storm was a power unlike any other, and he was a conduit for it. A conduit for a power so vast even an ocean could not contain it.
For a moment Harry fought to maintain his sense of self.
Then he realized something. Something Severus had said. Sometimes in order to control something, you had to go along with it a ways. Sometimes control wasn't a battle of wills, but of being. Just being.
Then something clicked within him. He knew how to divert the storm, to stop it from killing. He took a deep breath, feeling the power surge about him. It crested and he rode the crest to the top. Then he anchored himself into the earth, his magic reaching down to fasten itself to the ground. Otherwise he would fly away with the wind and snow.
Then he did something no other stormcaller had done ever. Instead of fighting the storm and trying to control the sheer power of the blizzard, he surrendered to it, opening himself up and allowing the power to flow through him.
By doing so, he drew the tremendous power into the earth, where it was absorbed and drawn away. He glowed with the sheer force of channeling the power, his hair standing up on end as if he were being electrocuted, his eyes burning with sheer white light.
Severus looked up and saw his son, seemingly on fire, and he cried out in horror, certain Harry was being consumed by the eldritch light. He wanted to run over to him, but his feet were rooted to the ground as he watched the blazing figure.
Harry could feel most of the storm's power leeching away into the earth. But there was still enough of it around to cause problems. He pointed a hand and directed the storm's path from within the swirling white expanse of cloud and wind. He had the storm move, gliding away from Yorkshire and past the land, out once more into the ocean, where it faded as the cold and warm fronts were disconnected by Harry's will. If asked to explain how he did such a complex thing, he could not have said, as he was going by instinct. But it worked.
He gently disconnected himself from the matrix and back into his own body.
He felt suddenly weak and flew down to the ground, marveling that his broom was not smoking from the amount of energy he'd channeled while on it. He felt exhaustion sweep through him and his legs would not hold him. He crumbled to the snow.
Severus waited for about two seconds before he plunged through the drifts towards Harry, who lay motionless on the snow, like a broken wooden doll. He fell on his knees beside the boy and picked him up in his arms. "Harry? Harry, it's Dad, are you all right? Merlin's hat, but you were glowing! What were you doing?"
"Channeling the storm . . ." the boy replied in a sleepy tone. "Only way . . . to stop it . . . you were right . . . I didn't go mad . . ."
"Of course I was right!" Severus cried, his voice hoarse with emotion. He hugged Harry hard. "You crazy, stubborn, foolish little idiot! How dare you run away like that? Do you know how crazy you drove your mother? Not to mention me and Lucy and Theo! We were frantic!"
"I was scared . . . I would hurt you . . ."
"Hurt us? Dearest God in heaven, you scared me out of ten years of my life, Harry James! I ought to wallop the living daylights out of you!" He clung to the boy even harder, sudden tears welling in his eyes to fall unheeded down his face.
"Go ahead then," Harry mumbled. "I deserve it for frightening you."
"Yes you do," he asserted, standing up with the armful of boy. "I'll punish you properly as soon as you're well. Merlin, but you feel like you're burning up and freezing at the same time. We need to get you inside, into warm clothes and a tub. Wait till your mother sees you, she's been a wreck . . ."
"I'm sorry . . ."
Severus started to walk towards the house, holding Harry tightly.
Harry just lay there in Severus' arms, exhausted and feeling terribly drained, but triumphant. He was a stormcaller who had learned not to fear his gift, and more, how to use it to save lives, not destroy them. He had figured out the key to managing the greatest power known to man. Not to command it, or to control it, but to surrender to it and become one with it. He smiled despite the trouble he knew he was in.
He could tell by Severus' tone that the man forgave him already and he knew his mother would as well. He knew he was very lucky and he was grateful that he had saved Severus from the branch, as well as the many others who would have been impacted by the blizzard. But right now he was cold and tired and all he wanted to do was eat something Lucy had cooked, take a hot bath, and be tucked into a warm bed by Severus and Lily.
This time, he knew, he would sleep without nightmares. Because he was going home, where he was loved and wanted, despite his power, a stormcaller who had learned to harness his birthright at last.
A/N: So here's another chapter! No, it's not over just yet. Who's glad about that?
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