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Chapter 9 : Dreams...
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Previously: July 31... a special day. Happy sweet sixteenth birthday to Harry and Neville! Gifts can make a person happy, they can be mysterious, and they can give a person their history. Sometimes, all three.
Chapter Eight: Dreams...
Harry woke slowly late the next morning, yawning and blinking tiredly. Neville's luminous clock read 10:18 AM, and that much was evident by the bright light coming through the gaps in the green and brown curtains. Harry stretched his arms out, and then threw off his blankets.
Getting out of his bed, Harry nudged Ron with his foot, who was sleeping on the floor next to Harry's bed. Ron groaned, and rolled over, throwing out his arms, and smacked Ginny in the face. She pushed his arm off her, and pulled the pillow back over her head. In this slow, lazy manner, everyone was woken, whether from being shaken or from the noise of the complaints of the others.
Yawning, Ron, Ginny, Luna, and Hermione trudged out, carrying their blankets and pillows, tousle-haired and still sleepy, but awake enough to stand up properly and not fall over. Harry and Neville pulled on their own clothes in their room, Harry behind the curtains of his bed. He slipped back out of the curtains, sitting on the edge of his bed to pull on his socks, and then stood up, smothering a last yawn.
Neville was still pulling on his shirt, and he emerged from the top of it moments later, hair messed from sleep. "Nice day," he said, tugging the curtains back to let in the light. Harry nodded in agreement, fastening his phoenix Portkey and ankh around his neck. The Portkey he tucked under his shirt, but the little gold ankh he left out, on top of his shirt. Harry also put his wand holster around his left wrist and made sure that his wand was in it.
"That it, then?" he asked, looking around.
"Think so," replied Neville, opening the door and stepping into the hall. "You know, I remember when it was easy to get dressed in the morning: just clothes, and it didn't matter what I wore. Now I have to remember my Portkey, wand holster- and when we're at Hogwarts, quills, parchment, and all the books."
Harry laughed. "I know what you mean," he agreed.
Ron came out of his bedroom, mumbling a tired greeting to them, still not awake enough to notice that he was only wearing one sock, though his hair was wet from the shower. Neville informed him of his wardrobe malfunction, and Ron quickly fixed it, though Ginny was a bit inclined to laugh at him as she came out of her own room.
On the stairs they met Katie, Angelina, Fred, George, Oliver, Emmeline, and Remus as they were coming down from the guest rooms on the third floor. Greetings were exchanged, punctuated with yawns, though it was late morning. Everyone had been up late the night before, and so everybody had slept in later than usual.
As they entered the kitchen, it became apparent that Mrs. Weasley had taken over Remus's cooking duties. On the table there were eggs, toast, bacon, muffins, and kippers, as well as jugs of pumpkin and orange juice. Ron gave a stifled moan of longing, and threw himself down on a chair, immediately beginning to load his plate with all of it. Harry and Neville sat down on either side of him, and Harry was surprised to see Remus eating with similar gusto.
"Hungry?" asked Harry dryly, raising his eyebrows at Remus, who was normally very polite when he ate.
Remus swallowed, and nodded. "Yes. I always am, after full moon."
"Last night was the last moon for the month, right?" asked Hermione, and Remus nodded again, taking another large bite.
"Harry, you don't have to look so sad," Remus said, noting the look on Harry's face, which was indeed slightly less than happy. "Believe me, last night was easy, compared to some of them. It was actually rather entertaining, listening in on your conversation."
"You were listening to that?" asked Ginny, choking on her toast. "We made sure we kept it down after we were supposed to be asleep!"
Remus grinned. "Advantages to being a werewolf," he said, taking a bite of his own toast. "I could hear everything in the house last night. And quite personally, I'm amazed by the fact that Ron snores so loudly."
Everyone laughed at this, including Ron, though his ears were a bit pink.
"Hey, Remus?" said Harry. "If you took your Wolfsbane Potion, couldn't someone stay with you, even if they weren't an Animagus?"
Lupin's eyebrows snapped together with an almost audible click, instantly comprehending what Harry meant. "Absolutely not."
"Why? You'd be safe, wouldn't you?"
"But I don't want anybody getting in the habit of seing me during full moon. If I forgot my Potion even once, I could kill or seriously hurt someone, and I really don't want to even risk that. Besides, when I'm transformed, just one drop of saliva could infect someone, whether I have control of my actions or not. It doesn't have to be a bite, I don't even have to break the skin. One drop of my blood or saliva in the bloodstream does it, and I'm not going to risk your life and your future on it. Promise me you won't ever even consider going through with that thought."
Harry sighed inwardly, and crossed his fingers under the table. "I promise."
"Liar," said Lupin quite calmly, without any trace of emotion in his voice.
"What?" Harry yelped, startled by this. It was the second time Remus had said that to him. How did he know when Harry was lying?
"I'm a werewolf, and I can smell it when you lie or when you tell the truth."
Everyone gaped at him, but Lupin continued eating.
"Besides that, James wore that look every time he told a lie, and you do too, Harry. Sorry, but I can tell."
Harry stared, his mouth slightly open, then realized that he looked quite stupid when he did this, and closed it. "No fair," he complained, after a moment. There came a bark-like laugh from the portrait above the stove, but when everyone looked at the frame, it was blank. Harry was reminded forcibly of Phineas's portrait in his bedroom, and how it had laughed at him even when it had been empty.
"The law isn't fair, Harry. Part of the reason is that if I infect you- any of you- I get put down. Simple as that, and I'll ask you not to gamble with my life, please."
"No way!" cried Hermione, as all of the younger people at the table, including Oliver, Katie, and Angelina broke out in disbelieving protests. "That's unfair, not to mention cruel and barbaric!"
"It's law, and it's set in stone, Hermione. If a werewolf infects a person, they get put down. Goes all the way back to the Middle Ages, and I doubt it'll change any time soon."
Everyone stared at Lupin, wondering how he could take this discrimination so quietly and not protest about it.
At that moment, Amos Diggory came into the kitchen, covering a yawn. "Hullo, Remus."
"Morning, Amos," Remus replied with a polite nod. "Decided to stay overnight?"
Diggory snorted. "Er- yes?" he said, as if it were obvious, which it was. He sat down beside Remus, taking his own breakfast.
"You know each other?" asked Ginny, surprised, and they both nodded.
"Amos works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," Lupin told them. "Enough said, I think."
"Hey, Remus- not bother you or anything, but-" Amos appeared rather uncomfortable, "how long has it been since you last renewed your licence?
"Oh, I don't know, a couple of months..." Remus trailed off, then turned away from his breakfast to look at Diggory, seeming to realise something important. Harry and everyone else was clueless as to what Diggory meant about a 'licence'. "How long do I have?" asked Lupin sharply.
Diggory shifted akwardly. "Today at lunch," he admitted. "Sorry I didn't tell you earlier, Remus, I just forgot."
Remus sighed, and dropped his head into his hands. "Damn," he muttered. "I hate leaving it to the last minute."
"We'd both better go, then," said Diggory, standing up. "The office always gets busy on the last day."
"Last day for what?" demended Harry, confused at why they needed to go. "Why d'you need a licence, Remus?"
"It's the Werewolf Registry, Harry," Lupin sighed taking a last bite of his toast. "I have to renew my licence every five months to stay legal. Otherwise, there's an inquiry into what happened to me and where I am."
"Because you're a werewolf?" cried Ron, shocked again. "You have to be registered?"
"Yes, I do, and that's another old law to keep track of the werewolf population. Please don't get me started on it, I have to go."
And the two men hurried out of the kitchen as the younger people burst into angry and indignant talk. All through breakfast, the discussion was about the unjust laws pertaining to werewolves, and even Luna got herself rather worked up, losing the trademark dreamy look in her eyes.
The only two people who were quiet were Harry and Tonks, both of whom shared only one sad knowing look before returning to their food. Harry, however, had rather lost his appetite, and only picked at his kippers and eggs until the others were done eating. Harry heaved a silent sigh and stood up, glumly following his friends upstairs.
It was only when they were in the hall that Hermione noticed Harry's silence.
"Harry, are you alright?"
He looked up at her, and nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine," he said, though his voice was flat. "I'm just going to the library."
And he continued quickly up the stairs, to the second floor, and to the end of the hall. Harry ducked quickly into the library, and looked around. The royal blue and bronze didn't give him a warm, happy feeling like it usually did. He shook his head. "Now I know how you feel, Hermione," Harry whispered. "When in doubt, go to the library and read until you either find the answer or you forget your problems."
Feeling tears prickle at his eyes, Harry roughly wiped them away and trotted into the Magical Creature section. It took him nearly ten minutes to find what he was looking for, but he did find it: books on werewolves. Some had been written almost a century ago, others were very recent. He found books on everything about werewolves: their habits and instincts, their physical structure and abilities, and mostly, laws about werewolves. The book Harry liked the most was one called Hairy Snout, Human Heart, which was actually written by a wizard with lycanthropy. He found that the book had a very personal tone, and had tears in his eyes after reading the introduction.
Holding a huge pile of books, Harry sat down in an armchair at the curving table in front of the fireplace, and dropped his books on the table with a loud thump. He pulled Hairy Snout, Human Heart toward him and began to read determinedly, pushing himself through the pages, reading thousands of words, and soaking up all the knowledge he could. An hour later, he closed the thick book and picked up another one without bothering to rest for even a moment.
It was a book on laws, and after only the first chapter, Harry had to close the book, for fear of damaging the pages with his tears. He didn't bother trying to wipe his face, knowing it was now a hopeless battle to fight his emotions. Harry's face twisted with disgust even as he sobbed; the words had been degrading, harsh, and discriminating. It was as if the author had thought of werewolves as only murderous beasts, mindless things that barely knew enough to kill and maim, and could think of nothing else. As if the person who had written the book had never met a person with lycanthropy, as if they had forgotten that werewolves were humans for most of the time.
Behind him, Harry heard the door open, and hurried footsteps coming up behind him. A thin hand touched his shoulder, and then the person saw the book he had been reading.
"Oh, cub. I'm so sorry."
Remus lifted Harry from the chair and pulled him close, holding Harry tightly. For the second time that summer, Harry found himself crying into Remus's shoulder.
Harry buried his face in Lupin's shabby robes, his body heaving with sobs as he let Remus cradle him. The robes smelled of earth and canine, like a dog that had been living outside. He honestly couldn't ever remember being hugged or comforted in this way by anyone except Remus. Slowly, Harry's tears stopped, and his shuddering was reduced to trembling.
Lupin pulled Harry over to the couch, and sat down beside him. Harry stared at his feet, elbows on his knees, hunched over to avoid Remus's amber eyes.
"I'm sorry you had to read that, cub," whispered Remus. "Honestly, I am. I was eight when I first read that same book. I had to realize that some people think about werewolves that way. Those ancient laws that governed the lupine world centuries ago are still in effect, more cruel than ever, and people accept and support that. It's bad to hear it, but it's worse to see the words written on paper. That makes it final, doesn't it? I still can't believe that those words, those laws could hurt a person this badly, even if they don't have lycanthropy."
Harry drew a deep, shuddering breath, then looked up at Remus through red-rimmed eyes. "How can you stand it?" he said hoarsely. "How can you live, knowing that most of the world hates you, that they consider you a monster? All my life, I've lived with people who either thought I was a freak and crazy or considered me a hero, and really, I was just me, just Harry, feeling like I would break if I had to carry one more burden. How can you stand people acting like you're a beast; a wild animal, something to be tagged and controlled and registered, observed from a distance with mock respect, but beaten down and shunned whenever you try to help? How?"
Harry broke off again, choking back more tears. Remus put an arm around his shoulders protectively. "I had friends, cub; friends who helped me, and I still do. It's people like you, people like Ron and Hermione, people who aren't afraid to stand up and shout, 'This is wrong,' when they find a problem, and try to fix it instead of leaving it and hoping that someone else will try to mend what's wrong. It's the few people who stand by me for who I am, not what I am, that keep me going. And whether you realize it or not, Harry, there are people who care about you, and they'll help you, if you ask."
Harry gave him a weak smile, wiping his face on his sleeve. Remus was right. If he could handle werewolf segregation, Harry could handle just reading the laws.
"Sorry," Harry mumbled, standing up. Remus nodded in understanding, patting him on the shoulder.
"So why were you reading that accursed book, anyway?" asked Lupin, following him back to the table. "Woah, Harry! You've been doing some serious reading here! Why?"
"I wanted to know more," Harry said, taking the book on werewolf laws and flipping it over with a slam, so that it was cover down. "More about everything."
"The best way to learn is not to read blindly and hope you find something," lectured Remus, falling into teacher mode, "but to read what you need and study it. You can force yourself to read, but if you don't want to learn it, the knowledge won't stay with you. Only read what will give you the information you're looking for, and nothing else, or you'll just waste your time."
Harry smiled. "Tell me what I need, then."
And Remus did. The only books Harry needed out of the dozen he had were three fairly small volumes: one about laws- written by a much less biased author; one about the physical side of the werewolf, including habits and abilities, and one about the social and phycological aspect of a werewolf. It was all straightforward reading.
Harry realized as he left the library with his three tomes how many books he had to read: the three on werewolves, the five books written by the Marauders, the book on runes that he had promised himself he would finish, and The Marauders Guide to Life. Ten books, in all. School hadn't even started yet!
Harry waited upstairs until lunch, when the red around his eyes had gone away. He got a few questioning glances from his friends but ignored them. After the talk from Lupin, Harry felt a lot calmer.
Halfway through lunch, there came the slam of a door from up the hallway, making everyone look up. Remus's nose twitched, and he nodded. "Channing's here," he said.
"Who?" chorused Harry, Ron, and Neville.
"Jade Channing," Oliver said. "You know, blue eyes, brown hair-"
"Very young," interrupted Fred, who was still sore over that point. "Underage, actually."
"Oh, her-" began Ron, but Hermione cut him off.
"What do you mean, 'Oh, her,' Ron? She's underage! How can she possibly be in the Order?"
Ron's mouth suddenly dropped open.
"She's not," Remus said lightly. Everyone looked at him. "Not in the Order, I mean. She just attended this last meeting. Dumbledore must have his reasons."
A movement caught Harry's eye, and everyone turned to look at the dorway, in which the object of their conversation had appeared. She looked startled for a moment, then muttered, "So who's it I'm teaching?"
"Harry," Remus said, making Harry stare at him, though he also thought, I should have known... "And there's a spare room just at the top of these stairs, in the front hall."
"Er," said Harry, as politely as he could. "Thanks for telling me, Remus. And teaching what?"
Lupin smiled at him and didn't answer, waving both he and Jade out of the kitchen.
It turned out to be his sword.
"...and you don't take off your sword at all, unless you're bathing or sleeping, and when you do take it off, I want you to keep it close by. It'll get you used to having it around. Practice your draw. This is a book on sword fighting, you should read it..."
Jade handed him a slip of parchment on which she had the title of a book written; Harry swallowed and nodded.
Channing nodded curtly to him and left. Harry remained where he was standing and looked down at the small piece of paper. Medieval to Modern: Swords.
"Grand," Harry muttered. "Another book to read."
"Hey, you're alive!" cried Ron, as Harry walked back into the kitchen.
"No, really," said Harry sarcastically, sitting down on the bench. With a yelp, he jumped back up. His long sword sheath hung far below his hips, which meant he couldn't sit, unless he wanted to have the hilt stabbing him painfully in the side. Everyone stared at Harry as he rubbed the spot just below his ribs, where he had been jabbed.
"Just take that off, why don't you?" asked Hermione.
"I can't," Harry replied. "Not allowed. I have to wear it 90 per cent of the time, until I get used to it."
"Familiarization technique," Remus put in. "You'll just have to sit on a chair."
He drew his wand and conjured a chair for Harry at the end of the table. Harry looked at him blankly. "How does a chair make a difference?"
"Space for the sheath to hang down the side while you sit on the chair. Sit. How was it?"
Harry sat on the chair as Remus had instructed him, and indeed, though he had to sit closer to edge than he normally did, the sheath went down the side and hung straight while Harry sat.
"Depends on your definition of 'good'," Harry grumbled. "Though in my dictionary, I'd be lying if I said that. No offense, but why does she have to teach me?"
Remus choked on a sip of water he had just taken. "It's because she's good; not by pure skill, mind you, she is skilled, but it's more because not many people these days know how to use a sword, and even fewer are wizards. With magic, we tend to think that we don't need to know Muggle things."
"But you know how, don't you?" asked Harry, trying not to sound like a child. "Couldn't you teach me?"
Lupin shook his head. "Not me. Dumbledore wants you to have an objective teacher. I would have problems with trying to hit you or strike at you to teach. Channing... doesn't. She never has had those kind of inhibitions."
"Yeah, I noticed."
"Don't worry about it, Harry. Jade might give you a few bruises, though I don't like it, but as long as she obeys Dumbledore, her bark will be worse than her bite."
"Betcha her bite's poisoned," Harry mumbled, making his friends laugh.
"So bite back," Remus suggested, with much patience. Harry thought for a second that Lupin must have gotten Channing's share of patience.
Harry rolled his eyes.
"Even if I did manage to make myself swing a blade at you, Harry," said Remus, "it's better this way. I'm sure I haven't got the skills I used to; I haven't so much as touched my sword in a decade. Channing's got to be much better than I am, even if you don't like her."
Harry shrugged with one shoulder, and looked down at the table. Then he sighed, and stood up. "I'd better go start reading that book," he said, and left the dingy kitchen.
It was later that day, after supper, that Harry realized he had very nearly made a huge mistake. Everybody was relaxing around the kitchen as the dirty dishes washed themselves in the sink, adding a gentle clink and swish to the noise of chess pieces breaking each other apart as Ron and Ginny played a rather violent and fast-paced game. Since the Order had come back to Grimmauld Place, the six younger people hadn't used the kitchen as a Common Room, as they had before. Now, they had decided to take over and go back to the way it had been, at least for a night.
Everybody's attention was taken as something large and white fluttered across the kitchen, to land before Harry and droop tiredly.
"Hedwig!" he said, reaching out to stroke his exhausted owl. She didn't churr or nip him in greeting, but stuck her beak into his goblet of water and drank for a very long time, until the goblet was empty. Then she was recovered enough to hold out her leg and drop a piece of paper onto the table before tucking her head under her wing and falling straight asleep.
"Where has she been?" asked Hermione, gazing at Hedwig in sympathy. "She looks so tired."
"Not that far; she's never been this tired going from Little Whinging to Grimmauld Place before," Harry said, unfolding the paper. It was water stained and grimy, torn at the edges, as if it had been outside for days... which it had.
"How long has it been since I left Privet Drive?" Harry asked sharply.
"A couple weeks," Ron shrugged. "So?"
"Why couldn't Hedwig find me?"
"Because we weren't expecting her," Lupin said sharply. "All last summer, we had to go outside and wait for her whenever we thought we'd be getting an owl, and watch for owls all the time. We just didn't think that she'd be coming, so she couldn't find you through the Secrecy Charms and wards."
"So she was waiting for me outside for weeks, knowing that I was here, but not being able to find me?" Harry demanded. Everyone nodded glumly.
"Why on Earth were you writing to somebody at Privet Drive?" asked Remus. "Surely not your Aunt and Uncle?"
"My Aunt and Uncle, yes, but not the Dursleys. The Evans's."
"Who?" asked almost everybody else at the same time.
"My other Aunt and Uncle, the Evans's, and my cousin, Mark. My mum had two younger sisters, Petunia and Chandra, and because Mark is my mum's sister's son, he's also my cousin. He got a Hogwarts letter, but no instructions on how to get into Diagon Alley, so I wrote to Professor Dumbledore, and he sent a reply to Mark. Now I've got to-" Harry broke off, peering at the smudged writing in shock.
"Got to what?" asked Remus.
"Got to take Mark to Diagon Alley?" asked Harry incredulously, not as an answer, but as a question of disbelief. "And he's going to listen to me because why?"
Harry looked up at Hermione, eyebrows raised. "Clearly you've never been to Privet Drive. Good. Don't ask me that again."
"Something you aren't telling us?" asked Hermione, tilting her head calculatingly.
"I told you not to ask me again, Hermione. Can I borrow a quill, anyone?"
"Harry, why wouldn't somebody who lived at Privet Drive listen to you?"
"Hermione, if you ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies. Thank you, Remus." Harry grinned inwardly at his quote from the Weasley twins and accepted the quill, ink, and parchment from the werewolf.
Hermione looked furious. She took a deep breath and let it out loudly. This might have been called a huff in a calmer person, but nobody felt brave enough to say so at the moment.
Remus picked up the weathered note from Mark and read it, then looked back at Harry, who was scribbling a reply. Lupin hummed tunelessly, re-reading the letter. "Well, if Dumbledore wants you to take Mark to Diagon Alley, then it must mean that it's alright for you to go. Molly, when were you planning to get their supplies?"
"In a few days," she answered, her eyes narrowed. "The twenty-second, actually. And I'm going to get their school things alone. Nobody's coming with me, much less Harry."
Lupin raised an eyebrow. Harry looked up from his parchment in time to see the werewolf pass a glance to Mr. Weasley and Kingsley, both of whom nodded slightly in response. "Molly, dear," began her husband cautiously, with the air of a man readying himself for a fight. "if Dumbledore specifically told this boy that Harry would take him to Diagon Alley, that's tantamount to permission to go, as well as an actual request for Harry to-"
"Absolutely not!" Mrs. Weasley shouted, suddenly looking like an enraged tigress. "It's not safe for any of the children to go out, much less if they've been here at Headquarters! I absolutely forbid-"
"Molly, you need to calm down," soothed Kingsley. "There's Aurors posted all over Diagon Alley, and some of the very best Curse Breakers at Gringotts put up wards around the entire area; none of the Aurors could get through the wards when they tried as a test, nobody's going to get through them now. There's no need to worry, it's perfectly safe."
"Kingsley, I hardly think that the testers used Dark magic to try to get through the wards, and nor do I think that a handful of Aurors could guard the Alley if they were outnumbered three to one, however good they might be!"
She took a breath to continue, but Harry had finally had enough. His temper was not high, nor was he even remotely close to being angry, but he wasn't going to put up with what she was about to say.
"Mrs. Weasley, please!" Everybody turned to the sixteen year-old boy, Ron and Ginny with incredulous expressions, Mr. Weasley and Remus with amazed looks.
"Before you start yelling again," said Harry, in a much softer voice, "I'd like to get a word in. I'm not trying to be rude at all, not by any accounts; I really appreciate everything you've done for me, and I do respect your decisions. I'm touched that you care about me, and I care for you a great deal as well, but I need to remind you that however much you might count me as one of your sons, you are not my mother, or my guardian. Sirius died, and he was really the only one with the right to forbid me to do anything."
Everyone stared at him in shock; Ron's mouth was open and Mrs. Weasley looked stunned.
"Kingsley is right, the Alley is perfectly safe. Last June, the Death Eaters took worse losses than we did, and Voldemort's plans took a huge blow when he lost the Prophecy. Voldemort isn't so stupid as to mount an attack on Diagon Alley right after losing such a big battle, and he's definitely not foolish enough to try to attack someplace that's so well guarded, both by wards and Aurors. Then there's the fact that he has no reason to try to get to me, or anybody, with such sudden urgency."
Everyone except Hermione and Lupin winced or shuddered as they heard Harry say Voldemort's name, but nobody took their eyes from him. This was not an average teenage boy; this was not the Harry they had known, but a quiet, cool young man who had his facts straight and his thoughts well collected, ready to defend his rights with calm, polite rebukes and powerful reasoning.
"Besides, none of us have been outside in at least a week, and we do need a chance to let some of our tension out. If we hide under a rock and back away with our tails between our legs, so to speak, then Voldemort will have already won the war. What he wants is fear; by giving in to that, we give him power. Other people need somebody- anybody- to look up to, a person to lead them, and that doesn't mean a strong mage or a great wizard, that means a person who can stand up straight, lead their lives normally even under the pressure. If nobody stands, we're all going to fall, and history would repeat itself. It takes one person: that could be any of us. If people have no heroes, no role models, nothing to look forward to or look up to, they will know that their leaders are afraid, and they will back down as well."
Harry pushed his chair back and stood up slowly. Everyone looked up at him, half amazed, half scared of the aura he was radiating: one of muted power and calm wisdom far beyond his years. Hermione and Ron shared an awestruck glance before turning their eyes back to Harry. His eyes seemed to flash with an inner light that had nothing to do with magic.
"To make this politely blunt, Mrs. Weasley: As much as you care for me, you have no right to order me around or tell me what I can and cannot do. My parents are dead, and my god-father was murdered. That means that I am the one who makes the choices, and nobody else. I may not be legally old, but I am mature enough to decide what is right for me. I like having people to advise me, but I will ask you not to try to run my life for me."
He held her gaze for a moment, showing clearly with his eyes that he meant what he said, and then nodded politely, picked up the quill, parchment, and ink off the table, and left, leaving behind a silence that was somehow louder than the noise had been.
As he left the kitchen, Harry was so wrapped up in his thoughts, his brow creased slightly, that he didn't notice McGonagall and Dumbledore standing right outside the kitchen door, having heard everything. The two Professors looked into the kitchen, where there was still silence.
"Did you see him, Albus?" asked Remus in a hushed voice. "He was like... like you."
"Number two," said the old Headmaster quietly, nodding thoughtfully. "Flashing, but he needs more training to shine all the time."
"Will you explain that?" asked Mr. Weasley, who looked very shaken up.
"It means that we must listen to what Harry says when he speaks, because he is destined for very great things."
In his room, Harry finished writing the response to Mark, and sent it off with Pigwidgeon. He didn't know whether sending the tiny, hyper owl would make the best impression with his cousin, but he couldn't bring himself to send Hedwig on another flight so soon.
Harry sat down on his bed, and looked over at his trunk, which had many things sitting on top of it. There were many books: Worst Case Scenario, Medieval to Modern: Swords, the three on werewolves, The Marauders Guide to Life, and Reading the Signs. There was also the box from Sirius's bedroom, with the unfinished letter on top, and The Auror's Handbook.
He pulled out a piece of parchment, and began to write the titles of books on it, in the order he needed to read them. Harry sighed as he looked back at the list, and realized that he had been spending far too much time reading.
Shaking his head, he picked up the book on swords, and opened to the introduction. This book was a priority; he needed to read it before Channing came for his next lesson, as well as practice his draw. Fortunately, it was quite short, only about two hundred pages, and it was a Muggle book, so there wasn't anything about magical swords or charms to maintain the weapon.
Thankfully, Harry slammed the book with a sigh, and set it down, rubbing his tired eyes. The light coming through the open window was fading fast, and there was barely enough to light up the page without straining his eyes.
"I need a way to do this all in a short time," Harry groaned, throwing himself backwards onto his bed, and ignoring the hilt of his sword poking him in the side.
"Huh?" Harry lifted his head to see Neville, looking through the door. The other boy hurridly began to pull the door shut, saying, "Sorry, I can leave if you want-"
"Absolutely not," Harry said, sitting up. "It's your room too. I was just going to sleep."
Neville came into the room, though rather nervously. Harry smiled at him, and his friend nodded back, looking slightly more comfortable, though not entirely at ease. They both began to get their pajamas out in silence.
"You do realize how scary you looked, before, right?" Neville asked suddenly, looking up from his trunk, where he was digging for his shirt.
"Good scary, I suppose. Just very... different. Magic. You had an aura, like Dumbledore does, sometimes."
Harry's fingers slipped, and the lid of his own trunk slammed shut on his hand. He yanked it out of the trunk, scraping skin off his knuckles, but ignored the stinging and stared at Neville.
His voice was shrill with shock, incredulity written all over his face. Neville looked surprised. "Well, yeah. An aura, like Dumbledore. Didn't you know?"
Harry opened his trunk again and slowly pulled out his own pajamas, biting his lip, then sat down on his bed, staring at the floor. "No," he admitted.
Neville gave a somewhat startled laugh. "How could you not know?" he asked, staring over at his friend. "We could feel it, Harry, it wasn't vague at all. How-" he broke off and shook his head in amazement. "How could you not know?"
Harry looked up at Neville, shrugged with one shoulder, still puzzling over that himself, then rolled onto his bed and pulled the curtains shut to change.
Later that night, he lay awake long after he knew Neville was asleep, staring up at his emerald green canopy with eyes of the same color, not half-closed in sleep but wide open and alert, his mind churning as he tried to think of what he had felt and how he could have possibly had an aura of any type or strength.
By midnight, Harry had thought until his head ached, but still had no answer, and fell asleep in exhaustion and confusion. The last thing he remembered before falling nto a heavy slumber was his scar prickling slightly and ominously, as though someone had dragged the tip of a pin over it very lightly.
Harry found himself on a path, the same gravel road in the forest he had walked once before, the same eerie silence but for the sound of his shoes, except that it was night. There was no moon in the inky sky or anything to light the way, but Harry could see quite well.
Recalling what had happened the last time he had dreamed this, Harry balked, trying to stop walking, but his feet weren't listening. His mind screamed for him to stop, but he continued to move forward without faltering, as though his thoughts were disconnected, and his mind was just trapped inside a shell on autopilot. The only difference that Harry felt was that a shiver of fear ran down his spine and over his body. A faint breeze with a cold mocking sigh to it blew lightly over his face as he trembled, seeming to laugh at him.
Harry's eyes widened as he approached the bend in the path, and he attempted to force his legs to stop again, straining his mind, trying to bend his legs to his will; his step hesitated for a moment, and then something slammed against his mental power, breaking his concentration and withdrawing quickly. Harry recognized the feeling all too well: it was what he had felt when Snape had been teaching him Occlumency. Someone had just broken into his mind, he was sure of it.
He rounded the bend, and stopped. Harry stumbled forward as though someone had shoved him from behind, falling onto his hands and knees, trembling. He had control of his body again. Slowly, Harry looked up, and around. There was nothing there. He licked his lips nervously, and glanced around again, making sure that he was alone, and not believing it at the same time.
Relieved, Harry slumped back onto his knees, and dropped his head in his hands, closing his eyes. For how long he stayed there, Harry wasn't sure, but his only thought was, I'm safe. I'm safe.
And then he froze, his mind going blank from fright as he felt hot, damp breath on his face. A low, menacing growl was the only sound in the suddenly silent air. Harry couldn't suppress a whimper as he opened his eyes and looked up to see the Grim standing in front of him, bared fangs mere inches from his face. For a few seconds they stared into each other's eyes, Harry barely daring to breath, and then the dog struck like lightning.
He opened his mouth in a deafening bark, and swung his head sideways, catching Harry across the side of the face and cutting his cheek open with his fangs. Harry howled in pain, falling onto his back, and scrabbling madly at the path to get away, but it was futile as the dog pinned him down, clawing him and ripping his shirt.
Harry found no escape from the beast, blood trickling down his chest and face as his skin was cut open in a dozen places. After the dog tore his shoulder into a mangled, burning mess, Harry lay still, eyes closed, sobbing, and let the Grim attack him. Moving was simply too painful, and he wanted only for the dog to let him go, and leave him alone.
As if the Grim had heard Harry's tortured thoughts, he suddenly released his grip on Harry's arm and jumped off him, panting; then there came the crunch of gravel, and silence. The dog was gone as quickly as he had come; the attack had been so sudden Harry hardly knew what had happened.
Harry shivered in the cool night air, both from pain and relief. His breath came in ragged gasps, and every movement sent a shock of agony through his entire body. Hot tears poured from his closed eyes, burning the wounds on his face.
At last he lay still, his breath shallow and uneven, eyes still shut, mind mercifully blank. Slowly, relief came to Harry, pushing through the pain to bring cool emptiness, and the sharp, piercing pain dulled into a throbbing ache.
A drop of something warm and wet fell onto Harry's forehead, making him wince in surprise. Rain? Harry's eyes fluttered open, to see what he least wanted to.
The dog was standing beside him, muzzle and claws stained with blood, jaws slightly open, over Harry's face. The beast tilted his head to look at Harry with one crimson eye and let out his breath in a triumphant growl.
With unbearable slowness, the Grim lowered his head and curled his lips back to reveal sharp fangs, gleaming red with blood. Even more lazily, as if enjoying Harry's growing fear, he opened his jaws. Keeping one scarlet eye on Harry, watching the expression of horror on the boy's face, the dog set his teeth over Harry's throat, lightly pressing to nick the skin.
A small amount of blood trickled from the wounds, but Harry didn't even notice the stinging for his terror. He shuddered hopelessly, and gave one dry sob. Then the Grim snapped his jaws shut on Harry's neck, forcing his fangs deep into Harry's flesh.
Harry tensed all over, staring up at the black sky with a terrible pain in his eyes. He distantly heard a crack, and an instant numbness from the neck down told him that his spine was broken. His air was cut off, and he choked, wheezing for air, but the teeth were embedded into his neck so deeply that he only got one strangled gasp before the oxygen was gone completely. Harry watched the Grim, sadness, disbelief, and betrayal written all over his face as his vision darkened, but the dog didn't loosen his grip at all, only watching coldly as Harry's heart slowed and weakened.
He heard high, cruel laughter, and he wondered dazedly for a few seconds whether he was imagining things; suddenly Harry's scar suddenly burst into agony, making him jerk convulsively, and then his eyes slid closed, and he didn't move at all.
Harry suddenly sat bolt upright in his bed, gasping for breath, the shrill laughter still ringing in his ears. He was quivering violently all over, shaking so bad that he collapsed back on his bed, teeth chattering and breathing in shallow heaves. He moaned in pain as he rolled over, and buried his face in his pillow to muffle his sobs. When at last Harry's tears stopped, he pushed himself up and ripped off his tattered shirt, throwing it into a ragged pile beside his bed.
His chest was crisscrossed with scars, his skin red and inflamed. It was like Umbridge's detentions, when he had cuts on his hand that healed quickly, leaving the skin pink, and after a while, the cuts didn't heal anymore.
Harry's hand flew to his neck, which was stiff and sore, but there were no cuts; to make sure, because his heart hadn't slowed yet, Harry felt all over his body. His shoulder was bleeding slightly from a small cut, but it wasn't anything bad. Trembling, Harry fell back again and closed his eyes, sighing.
The only thing that still hurt badly was his scar; something wet trickled down his face. Harry felt there, and brought his hand away smeared with red: his scar was bleeding. He gently touched the old wound, which had been healed for so long, and even as his hand rested there, Harry felt the cut close, and the blood disappear.
He drew a shaky breath, let it out, and lowered his hand. Hardly had Harry stopped moving when he fell asleep again.
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