The Sugar Quill
Author: Maven Cree (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Harry Potter and the Spirit Within  Chapter: Chapter Two: Vultur Non Capit Muscam
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McGonagall Tells Ron and Hermione

Disclaimer: See Chapter One.

 

Harry Potter and the Spirits Within

by Maven Cree

 

Chapter Two: Vultur Non Capit Muscam

                           

Ron threw on his school robes and quickly did up the clasps.  He was a little bit irked that Harry had gone down to breakfast without him.  He hadn’t even bothered to wake him up.  But considering how little he’d eaten at dinner, Ron figured Harry must have wanted to get an early start to satisfy his stomach.

 

The boy-who-lived had already settled into bed when Ron returned from the feast the night before.  He was half asleep, his curtains drawn, but when Ron stuck his head through them, Harry was lucid enough to tell him that Sirius was staying in the castle and that’s where he had been for the rest of the meal.  Ron was glad and looked forward to seeing his friend’s godfather again.

 

Ron left his dorm and trudged down the stairs to the common room.  Hermione was waiting for him in a large chair, book in hand.  She was sitting in the morning sunlight by a window, and Ron felt a little something shudder within his chest.  He dismissed it and walked over to his friend.

 

Hermione smiled up at him and the shudder returned for an instant.

 

“Morning Ron.  Where’s Harry?”

 

“Already gone,” he replied.

 

“Without us?”

 

Ron shrugged.  “Didn’t even wake me, the git.”

 

“But he was there last night, right?”

 

“Yeah,” he said, then leaned in close. “Snuffles is here.  He’s staying in the castle.  That’s where Harry was.”

 

“Snuffles?!” Hermione’s face lit up. She shoved her book into her book-bag and stood up.  “Well, let’s go then.  I want to hear how he’s doing.”

 

Ron reached out his hand and headed for the exit, stopping after only one step.  He turned realizing what he’d done.  Wide-eyed, Ron looked down at his left hand.  It was clasping Hermione’s right.  Something he’d done in previous years to hurry her along, but for this time it felt different… it felt right… and that felt wrong.  He released her hand quickly and turned again to the exit, not particularly wanting to see whatever expression was on her face at the moment.

 

“Come on then,” he said, noting that his throat felt unusually tight.  He heard her following and held the portrait open for her when he reached it.  She passed him into the corridor and there was an odd silence as the fat lady closed up again.

 

“…Alright, Ron?”

 

He nodded, not trusting his voice just then.  He motioned that they should continue and they did so without comment.

 

Rounding the first bend, the pair almost ran into the head of their house.  Professor McGonagall’s face was more stern than usual and there was deep agitation behind her eyes.

 

“Mr. Weasley. Miss Granger.  A word please,” she said shortly.  The two Gryffindors regarded at each other hesitantly before following.

 

They really wanted to find Harry, but the Deputy Headmistress and head of their house led them into an empty classroom.

 

“Now, I understand how important trust is among friends,” she began straight on.  “And I know the ability to hold a confidence is fundamental in that trust.  But really. I would have expected better judgement from two Gryffindors.  Especially the two of you.”

 

Ron and Hermione looked at each other in bewilderment.  What was she on about?

 

“Potter’s condition is not something that should have been kept secret from us.”

 

“Condition?  What condition?” Ron asked.

 

“Has something happened to Harry, Professor?” Hermione asked with worried eyes.

 

McGonagall looked at two of them in puzzlement.  She then closed her eyes and sighed heavily.

 

“Bewitch me.  You didn’t know,” she muttered.

 

“Know what?” Ron asked in a pressing voice.  Had it been anyone else but McGonagall (or possibly Dumbledore) Hermione knew he would be yelling by now.

 

McGonagall opened her eyes again, the agitation replaced with a slow sadness.

 

“My apologies,” she said.  “I thought he would have told the two of you, at least.”

 

She took a breath.  “Mr. Potter is once again in the Hospital Wing.”

 

“What’s wrong with him?!”

 

“What happened?!”

 

McGonagall held up her hands.

 

“Professor Snape caught him breaking into his office last night.  He was attempting to steal a jar of Loverra Oil.”

 

“For bruising?”

 

“Yes, Miss Granger.  Mr. Potter’s injuries are evidence of a severe beating.  Several in fact,” she added in a sour voice, “as Madame Pomfrey has found wounds many weeks old.  We suspect his uncle, but Harry has yet to confirm that.  It took a great deal of effort for him to show us this much.

 

“How--I mean… is it--bad?” Hermione asked.

 

“I’m afraid it is.”

 

“But--But he was fine!”  Ron insisted.  “He wasn’t hurt!”

 

“I’ve seen him with my own eyes, Mr. Weasley.”

 

“But… that-- that doesn’t-- He wasn’t---”

 

“R--Ron… remember on the train--- he was sitting so… stiffly on the edge of his seat.  And he wouldn’t let me hug him.”

 

“Because of Sebastian!”

 

“Ron--”

 

“No!  I’m his best friend!  He would’ve told me!”

 

“Mr. Weasley--”

 

“He looked fine!”

 

“He used a masking spell on his face.”

 

“…”

 

Ron felt deflated.

 

“Is he going to be all right?”

 

“It will take some time, but yes.  He should make a full recovery.”

 

“Can we see him?”

 

“He’s asleep, Mr. Weasley.”

 

“Can we see him?”

 

McGonagall sighed.  She knew there was no use in arguing with these two on this point.  If they wanted to see Potter, they would find a way, permission or no.

 

“I’m sure I could persuade Madame Pomfrey to allow a few minutes.  But he needs his rest.”

 

The pair nodded swiftly and followed the professor out of the classroom.

 

*~*~*~*

 

Remus Lupin rubbed his eyes wearily.

 

He’d been sitting clear and awake since Professor Dumbledore had knocked on his door in the dark hours of the night.  He’d been horrified to hear about Harry.  Anger coursed through his unusual veins.  How dare the Dursley’s do that to such a sweet boy?  He’d been through so much already.  More than most full-grown adults had ever experienced.  The weight of the world was on his shoulders and now this… How dare they?!

 

His own anger needed to be stayed for the moment, however.  The anger of another would prove to be far more volatile.   And even before it was said, Remus knew that Dumbledore was going to mention it.

 

Sirius.

 

He was livid.

 

When Remus and Dumbledore arrived at Sirius’s quarters, Minerva had her wand raised and was threatening the man with a full body bind.  With the look that was in Sirius’s eyes, Remus wasn’t sure that a normal body bind would have been strong enough.

 

The Headmaster first and foremost forbad Sirius to leave the grounds until the Dursleys were in custody.  After all their work trying to find a way to prove Sirius’s innocence, they didn’t need three actual murders on his hands.

 

They managed to calm the former convict enough to get him into a chair.

 

“How bad is it, Albus?  Really?” he asked.

 

Dumbledore sat opposite him.  “Quite, I’m afraid.  He will heal, but it will be difficult.  He had three broken ribs, which Poppy has repaired as well as a fracture in his cheekbone and in his left femur.  The bruising will have to heal on its own.”

 

“His leg was broken?!” McGonagall exclaimed.

 

“A minor hairline fracture.  He was still able to walk as we have all seen, but I imagine it wasn’t too comfortable for him.”

 

“Minerva said something about his back,” Sirius prodded.

 

“That,” Albus began, straightening up, “is where the difficulty comes in.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“The injuries to Harry’s back are more than surface.  Indeed there has been some bruising of his internal organs.  The problem… is that these injuries were inflicted with severe malice.”

 

“His uncle truly hates him that much?” Minerva asked, to no one in particular.  Everyone present knew what the power of severe malice could do.

 

“The Noceo Protractus charm will have to be performed.”

 

“As if the boy hasn’t been through enough,” Remus muttered.

 

“He will go through a great deal more if the charm is not performed, Remus.  You know that.”

 

“It doesn’t mean we have to like it,” he responded, more curtly than he’d intended to.  It was obvious Dumbledore took no offence, but Lupin softened his voice when he continued.

 

“When will it be done?” he asked.

 

“As soon as Mr. Potter wakes up,” Dumbledore said.  “Poppy assures me that won’t be until the morning.”

 

And so this was how Remus found himself seated next to Harry’s bed, a large black dog lying miserably at his feet.

 

Harry slept quietly on his stomach, a cool muslin shirt replacing a normal pyjama top.  For the most part he slept soundly, with only the occasional twitch or slight spasm interrupting his peaceful repose.

 

At the sound of approaching footsteps, both Remus and Sirius lifted their heads and looked towards the door.  Professor McGonagall entered followed by a very tense looking Ron and Hermione.  He stood to greet them.

 

“I believe you both remember Professor Lupin,” Professor McGonagall said.

 

The two nodded in confirmation. 

 

“It’s good to see you again, Professor,” Hermione said.

 

“And the two of you,” he replied, attempting a small smile.

 

“And this… er…” McGonagall continued, looking at the dog.

 

“Hi, Snuffles,” Hermione said.

 

The dog gave a small bark.  McGonagall looked from Snuffles to the children.

 

“You’ve met,” she said, as more of a statement than a question.

 

“Yes, we’re old friends.”

 

McGonagall rolled her eyes.  “Is there nothing the three of you don’t get into?” 

 

No one responded as Ron moved past them all to Harry’s bedside.  Harry’s face was on its side and he Ron could clearly see the dark bruising which covered his cheek and chin.  The eye that was healing from being swollen shut…

 

“Ah, Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley.  I see you have been appraised of the situation.”

 

Remus turned to see that Professors Dumbledore and Snape had silently entered the room.  Severus held a pewter goblet in his hands.

 

“They didn’t know anything about Potter’s condition, Albus.  I filled them in.”

 

The Headmaster nodded.  At that moment, Madame Pomfrey emerged from her office.  As Professor Snape made his way over to her, Remus did not miss the sharp look that the young Weasley threw Professor Dumbledore, without the man’s notice.

 

“What’s this?” Poppy asked, accepting the offered goblet.

 

“A strengthening solution.  The boy will need it.  It won’t interfere with the charm.”

 

“Thank you, Severus,” she responded, not bothering to hide the surprise in her voice.  A strengthening solution was not required to perform the Noceo Protractus charm, but it did help the victim to endure it.

 

“Yes, that was very—”

 

Albus’s praise was cut off by a weak sounding moan.  Every eye in the room travelled to the bed where Harry lay.  He was still for only a moment, then another moan escaped him and he began to move.

 

“He’s waking.  It’s time,” Madame Pomfrey said.

 

“Poppy, can’t it wait some?” Remus asked.

 

“No,” she said emphatically.  “The Noceo Protractus spell must be completed between the first rays of dawn and noon time.  The time it takes varies and if we go over, we will have to start again tomorrow.  I’m sure no one wants that.”

 

There was silent agreement in the room, but Ron and Hermione just looked at each other in confusion.  They had never heard of Noceo Protractus, but got the distinct feeling that this was not the time to ask.. 

 

*~*~*~*

 

“Whuh—waza… ow…”

 

“Easy, Mr. Potter.  I should imagine you are feeling quite tender right now.”

 

Harry lifted his head slightly and the blurry mediwitch came into view.  He found himself wondering what she was doing in his dorm room.  He looked past her and saw other familiar blurry figures, all apparently focussed on him.

 

Why is everyone…?

 

A growing ache in his back seemed to put things back in focus.  He was in the Hospital Wing.  They’d… they’d found out about…

 

Harry groaned and buried his face back into the pillow.  Best not to think about the Dursleys.

 

“Time for that later, Mr. Potter.  We must get some unpleasantness out of the way first.”

 

He looked up at her again and sighed.

 

“Glasses…?” he said weakly.

 

“No.  It’s best you don’t wear them just yet.  They might break…”

 

His brow knitted in question, but she continued.

 

“Harry, I need to perform a spell on you.  You were… injured… with severe malice.  This means you will not heal unless the malice is first removed.  It isn’t important that you understand this right now, but it is important that you trust us and that it be done right away.

 

Harry stared blankly for a moment before nodding weakly.  At that moment, he didn’t really care what she did to him.  Whatever let him get back to the blissfully dreamless sleep he’d been in would be welcome.

 

She presented him with the goblet.

 

“Drink this, it will help.”

 

Help?  Help what?  The pain?  He managed to lift himself up enough to drink the potion she handed him, and was somewhat pleased to note that it tasted of berries.  But the energy to drink left him and after handing her back the cup, he immediately dropped back down into his pillow.

 

“Harry, I’m not going to lie to you.  The Noceo Protractus charm is very painful, and I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to prevent that.  But you must remain still or we will have to start all over again.  As such, I will ask Professors Dumbledore and Snape to help you. Do you understand?

 

Snape?  He’s going to help me?  I must really be bad off. 

 

Harry nodded.  He didn’t care; just let it be over with.

 

“I’ll have to ask the rest of you to leave,” he heard her say.  Harry heard no sound of movement.  “Now!” she stressed.

 

“Poppy,” he heard Dumbledore say, “if I recall correctly, having people around who care for the patient can help with the speed of the spell.  It might be beneficial to Harry to let everyone stay.”

 

“Fine.  I don’t have time for this, just everyone stay out of the way!”

 

He heard slight movement and guessed that his friends were moving back some.

 

“Now Albus, Severus, I’ll need you to be prepared to hold him down…”

 

“….hold him down…. …hold him down… …hold him…”

 

“Wouldn’t a binding spell work better?”

 

“No, sir.  It would interfere with the charm.  If it gets too difficult for him to hold still on his own, I’ll need you to hold Harry down at his arms.  Severus, you would take his legs.  Make certain he moves as little as possib--H--Harry?”

 

Harry was making a deep gasping noise from his pillow.  Madame Pomfrey turned his face to her.  He continued to gasp for breath.

 

“Harry?  Harry, you need to calm down, you’re beginning to hyperventilate.”

 

“…hold him… …hold him down… …hold him…”

 

“Harry…?  Respiro!”

 

With the breathing charm, Harry immediately began to relax and breathe normally.

 

“Harry, you must trust us if this is to work,” Dumbledore said.

 

Harry squeezed his eyes shut and nodded.  They didn’t understand.  It wasn’t them.

 

“This isn’t a show,” Pomfrey muttered, and he could hear the sound of screens being drawn.  A moment later, the soft shirt he was wearing was magicked away and he tensed reflexively at the sudden exposure.

 

There was a pause and then he heard Madame Pomfrey begin to murmur quietly.  Through his tightly closed eyes, he started to see a red glow.  A cold dark feeling crept its way into his stomach, and a chilling realization into his mind:

 

This was going to bad.

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

From the moment the screens slid shut around the bed area, a nervous tension filled the five people waiting nearby.  Minerva McGonagall anxiously rang her hands together while slowly turning from side to side as though uncertain as to where to go.  Remus had retaken his chair and was studying the floor.  Snuffles was staring steadily at the screen.  Ron was a statue tightly clenching his teeth and Hermione, who was distraught enough that she didn’t know what was going to happen, wore a steady track on the floor.

 

All gave a simultaneous jump once the screaming began.

 

Harry was yelling as though someone were trying to skin him alive, stopping only to take several shaky, pain-filled gasps, before yelling again.  Snuffles must have thought that was exactly what they were doing to him, for he darted towards the closed screen… only to be yanked back as someone wrapped two strong arms around his neck.  Remus was on the floor holding back his long-time friend.  No easy task as the big dog was slowly dragging the both of them across the hospital wing floor.

 

Hermione meanwhile had begun sobbing.  Ron pulled her into a tight embrace, crushing her into his chest.  He buried his face in her hair and tried to force his ears to block out the sound.  As it continued, it was only his care of Hermione that prevented him from taking up Sirius’s quest.

 

Professor McGonagall stood frozen, eyes closed, a hand covering her mouth.

 

“Stop—this!” Remus growled through his teeth. “Si—”

 

Remus removed one of his arms and pulled out his wand. “Pertrificus Totalus!”

 

The great dog’s legs stiffened and he fell over onto his side.  His haunting eyes travelled from the screen to Remus, who was kneeling over him.  Remus put a hand on his head.  The look in his friend’s eye told him in no uncertain terms that had he not been frozen at the moment, the hand would no longer be attached to his body.

 

“I’m sorry, Sirius,” he said.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Over a half hour had passed.  Harry was no longer screaming.  The rawness of his throat had reduced him to retched heart filled sobs into his pillow. 

 

Snape and Dumbledore had indeed needed to be called on in the beginning.  They held him down as he struggled to get away from the pain.  At this point he was either too weak from the struggle or too numb to require restraint.  He lay flaccid as the old nurse continued her ministrations.  Dumbledore gently stroked Harry’s unruly mop of hair, now damp from perspiration, offering what comfort he could.

 

Madame Pomfrey stood at the bedside, her wand raised and her eyes closed.  She muttered the words of the charm quietly, her concentration refusing to let her acknowledge the suffering she was being forced to administer.  ‘Concentrate on the task, and worry about the effects at a later time.’  It was a lesson that had been drilled into her by the witch she’d apprenticed with in her youth.  She had to distance herself from her patient.  She had to focus on the illness… This is what a true mediwitch must do in order to heal…

 

But she was still human… and this was trying every nerve and sense in her body.

 

A red ball of light hovered over Harry’s body.  It swam with evil.  Even Snape shuttered in its presence.  Small, thread-sized strands of red light, from around one to three inches long, were seeping out of Harry’s skin like festering worms.  Each one joined the red ball, slowly adding to its size.  In the beginning, there had been hundreds of them at a time.  Now, they had dwindled to five or six every few seconds. 

 

Snape’s hands were enveloped in his robes.  He continually clenched and unclenched his fists, trying to ignore the crawling feeling in his skin.

 

He wondered silently how this would affect Potter.  The boy would need to be strong in the coming months - physically, mentally, and spiritually. If he weren’t, the Order’s plans would be significantly set back.

 

Which meant Voldemort’s time would be lengthened.

 

Which meant he would still be summoned.

 

Which meant…

 

He would rather not think about what that meant.

 

Another red thread emerged from Harry’s back.  Another.  And then nothing.  And more nothing.

 

Madame Pomfrey gasped and her eyes rolled back in her head.  Both Snape and Dumbledore acted quickly.  The Headmaster caught the mediwitch before she hit the floor, showing surprising speed and agility for a man of his advanced age.  Professor Snape brought out his wand and aimed it at the glowing ball of evil.

 

“Expecto Livor,” he said.  The glowing ball changed from swarming red, to a deep blue.  It began to spin and changed to a brilliant gold.  It erupted into a white flash before dissipating completely.

 

Madame Pomfrey was back on her feet with Professor Dumbledore’s help, her hand to her head.  “Thank you Albus.  Severus.”

 

“Are you alright?” Dumbledore asked.

 

“Just tired.  I’m fine.”

 

“And Potter?”

 

Poppy waved her wand over Harry, twice, muttering another spell.  She checked the medical band on his wrist.

 

“The malice is gone.  He can heal now,” she said.  Another flick of the wand and the muslin shirt was back on her patient.  She poured a goblet full of sleeping draught and moved to give it to Harry.

 

“I don’t think that will be necessary, Poppy,” Albus said, gesturing towards the injured boy.

 

Harry was already asleep.

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

It was an odd sight.

 

Not Hermione Granger fiercely concentrating on the large book in front of her. The oddness came from her companion, Ronald Weasley. Not that his accompanying her to the library was all that uncommon… it was the fact that instead of passing the time looking Quidditch magazines, Ron was studying from a thick textbook.  Quill in hand, he took steady notes from the copy of Special Delivery: Charms and Curses by Post.  The Dursleys would be the recipients of several unpleasant owls in the coming days, if Ron had anything to say about it.  He’d gotten the idea from Hermione actually.  The previous year, due to an inflammatory article by Rita Skeeter, his friend had been pummelled with post carrying boils inducing potions and other nasty articles.  For the Dursleys, Ron was looking for something much worse.

 

Hermione on the other hand was busying herself with the Noceo Protractus charm.  Ron had tried, but his anger over the whole situation made it impossible for him to concentrate enough to understand the advanced charms texts at the moment.  It was decided that his fury could be best used elsewhere.  He was pleasantly surprised that Hermione had not objected to his mutterings about the post.

 

“I think I understand it,” Hermione said quietly.

 

Ron looked up from his parchment.  “You figured it out?”

 

Hermione nodded and turned in her seat to face him.  “Apparently there are two types of inflicted injuries:  accidental and intentional.  If someone injures you by accident, the injury will heal or not heal of its own accord.  If it was an intentional injury, it breaks down three categories:  purposeful, malice and severe malice.”

 

“How can an intentional injury be purposeful?”  Ron questioned.

 

“Like… an operation.  Cutting someone open is intentionally injuring them, but it has a purpose.”

 

“…Or like what Madame Pomfrey was doing to Harry…” Ron mused.

 

“Exactly,” she said.  “Harming someone with Malice, on the other hand, slows down the healing process. So… if you fell off your broom and broke your arm, it would heal faster than if someone pushed you off the broom and wanted to hurt you--”

 

“—the arm wouldn’t heal as fast.  I get it,” He shrugged. “Makes sense I suppose.”

 

“Now, the Noceo Protractus is a charm to physically pull the effects of severe malice from a victim.  Severe malice completely inhibits healing and in some cases can cause the victim’s condition to worsen.  People can die from it.”

 

“So…” Ron scrunched up his face.  “Malice is a curse then?”

 

“In a way.  It’s a… well… projection of anger and hate.  So, it is like a curse I guess.  It is the basis of the Cruciatus curse apparently.  Focussed malice and rage… Someone harnessed it.”

 

“And multiplied by a million,” Ron mumbled.  He shook his head.  “That doesn’t make sense though.  The Dursleys are Muggles.  They can’t do curses.  They can’t do magic.”

 

“I know.  That part’s confusing to me too.  I have to do some more research.  But it says here that…” Hermione ran her finger down the page of the text and began to read from it:

 

“The ability to project malice is a fully human trait and not limited to magical folk.  The transfer of malice energies is connected to human core energy, which does not differentiate.”

 

“And that means exactly…?”

 

“That I have more research to do.”

 

Ron nodded.  He turned to his own book.  “How about a… spider-spitting curse?”

 

Hermione looked over his shoulder.  “You’d have to handle three live spiders for that one.”

 

“Next!” he said quickly and turned the page.  Hermione smiled at him. Despite the situation, it was nice to know some things could always be counted on.

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

Remus knocked on the open classroom door.

 

“Severus?”

 

The Potions professor cast a quick glance in the werewolf’s direction, before putting his attention back to his work.  “What can I do for you, Lupin?”

 

“Well, first of all, you can call me Remus.”

 

“Whatever.”

 

“Secondly… I just came down here to thank you.”

 

“Thank me?” Snape asked absently.  He was pouring a vial of green liquid into a smaller container, with measured accuracy.

 

“For what you did for Harry.”

 

“I’m afraid, I don’t know what you mean.”

 

Remus raised an eyebrow.  “Bringing him to the Hospital wing, helping with the charm, any of this ring a bell?”

 

“And what exactly,” Snape said bitterly, “had you expected me to do upon finding a student in such a state?  Remove points and send him to clean the Great Hall?  Perhaps you believed that I would have added to his injuries for my own enjoyment?”

 

“I didn’t mean anything like that.”

 

“Of course you did.”  Severus put the vial and container down and turned to face him.  “That’s exactly what anyone would expect from a ‘greasy bastard’ like myself.  Sorry to disappoint you.  I take no pleasure in the abuse of children, no matter who they are.”

 

Lupin’s eyes darkened.  He neither liked the implication nor having words put into his mouth.  He retaliated with an implication of his own:  “I’m certain Mr. Longbottom would take issue with that.”

 

“Mr. Longbottom is a danger to himself and others.”

 

“And the other houses; Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw… anyone who isn’t a Slytherin.  I’m certain they all have tales of abuse to report against you.”

 

“So you are comparing my verbal actions to what was done to Potter?”

 

“Of course not!  I’m merely saying that--”

 

“This is an institute of learning, is it not?”

 

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean--”

 

“Listen.  Carefully. Remus.”  Snape placed his fists on his desk and leaned forcefully towards the man standing on the other side.

 

“Dumbledore is a magnificent man, but at times he is very blind.  Before my… abuse, children would grow up and leave these halls with far too thin a skin on them.  Unprepared for what and whom they may meet in the outside world.  In my class they learn that not everyone is nice.  Not everyone in a position of power or respect is to be trusted.  They learn that the monsters don’t always live in their closets and under their beds or in shrieking shacks.  They learn fear.  And fear is what will make them think twice when it is needed.”

 

“…You’re talking about Death Eaters…”

 

Severus narrowed his eyes.  “If they can’t survive me… what chance do they have out there?” he growled.  “We are in a war - the same war that went on almost two decades ago.  It never ended.  It was quiet for a while, but I knew it was not over.” 

 

He straightened to his full height.  “These children need to be prepared for what lies beyond these walls.  You do it your way.  I’ll do it mine.”

 

Snape turned back to the mixtures in the cabinet behind his desk.  Professor Lupin remained where he stood. 

 

Was that what happened to you? Remus questioned silently.  No one prepared you for what was out there?  Is that why you became--

 

“Are you still here?”

 

Remus shook himself out of his thoughts.  He looked at the potion in Severus’s hands.

 

“What is that?”

 

“Dabtihs Annog*.”

 

Remus raised two surprised eyebrows.  Severus shrugged.

 

“Somewhat childish and immature, I know, but effective none the less.  Leaves no trace behind.”

 

“What… I mean, who…?”

 

“The Dursleys will be taken into custody tomorrow.  I thought I might pay them a visit tonight.”

 

“But--but, usually, only a half a drop in someone’s drink is good for an entire day.  How much are--?”

 

Severus held up the container.  It had to hold two metric cups worth.

 

“That much,” Remus muttered.  “That—that’s just cruel, Severus,” he stated.

 

Snape raised an eyebrow. Remus continued.

 

“I want in.”

 

*~*~*~*~*~*

 

It was too bright.

 

His eyes were still closed, but he knew it was too bright.

 

The second thing he noticed was that he was on his back.  He brought his hand up to his face and became very much aware of how stiff his body was.

 

“Welcome back.”

 

He started at the voice to his right.  It wasn’t threatening, he just wasn’t expecting anyone.  He moved his hand and opened his eyes in little slits.

 

“Sirius?”

 

“Hey, sprog.” 

 

“Whuh—what are you doing here?”

 

“Are you serious?”

 

Harry was too tired to attempt the pathetic pun.

 

“I meant… Madame Pomfrey…”

 

“Oh, her.  She knows about me.  Dumbledore thought it would be best to tell her since there was no way I was going to leave your side, and she wasn’t about to let a dog sit in her infirmary all day.”

 

“Oh.  Thanks,” he said as his godfather handed him his glasses.

 

“How do you feel?”

 

“Stiff.  A little sore, but not too bad.”

 

“A few more days and you should be good as new.  You’re awake now so you can take the healing potions.  They work faster than the charms.”

 

“A few more days?”  Harry wrinkled her brow.  “How long have I been here?  What day is it?”

 

“It’s Wednesday afternoon, Harry.  You’ve been asleep for three days.”

 

Harry groaned and closed his eyes.  “Great.  I’ll never catch up.”

 

“Don’t worry about your classes, Harry.  You’ll have help getting up to speed.  You just worry about getting better right now.”

 

Harry nodded ruefully.

 

“Harry…” Sirius finally said. “Please tell me what happened.”

 

Harry closed his eyes.

 

“Harry, please. You can’t keep this inside you.  If you won’t talk to me, talk to Remus or Dumbledore or Ron…. anyone.  Will you do that Harry?”

 

Harry drew a shaky breath.  He opened his eyes but didn’t look at his godfather.  He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.  He shut it a moment later, resignation on his face.

 

“Harry, you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.  No one’s going to--”

 

“I--I’m tired Sirius,” he said closing his eyes again.

 

Sirius sighed and conceded for the moment.  He pulled the sheets up to Harry’s neck.

 

“Then sleep, Harry.”

 

The boy nodded and settled down.

 

“Sirius?”

 

“Yes, Harry?”

 

“…I’m… I’m glad you’re here.”

 

Sirius smiled kindly.  He leaned forward and planted a gentle kiss on Harry’s forehead.

 

“So am I, Harry.  So am I.”

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

Harry awoke again to a slight weight on his chest.  Not very heavy, but noticeable when your breathing wasn’t up to snuff.  He slowly opened his eyes to find himself looking into the grey and black face of Sebastian.  It was night.  Sirius was gone.

 

“Harry.”

 

“Hi, Sebastian.”

 

“I told you.”

 

“What?”

 

“I told you, you needed to sssee a veterinarian.”

 

Harry smiled weakly and rolled his eyes.

 

Physician, Sebastian.  Humans see physicians.  Animals, reptiles and birds see veterinarians.”

 

“You’re an animal.”

 

“Animals other than humans.”

 

“I ssstill told you.  I knew you were sssick.”

 

“You know, saying: “I told you so,” isn’t very polite.”

 

“Neither is lying to your friendsss and making them worry about you.”

 

“…Some things… it’s better that they don’t know… People have more important things to worry about than me.”

 

“I’ve been here all afternoon.  They ssseeem to think you’re pretty important.”

 

 

“You ssshould appologizzzze.”

 

“Should I now?” Harry asked indignantly.

 

“It’sss only polite.” 

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

Harry was released from the Hospital Wing on Friday after lunch, with strict instructions from Madame Pomfrey not to over exert himself and to report to her the following morning for a once over.  He’d agreed, knowing full well that if it were up to her, Harry wouldn’t be leaving for another week.  He’d assured her that he felt fine.  He admitted to being a little stiff but reminded her that lying in bed all day would do little to cure that.

 

Professor Dumbledore had not come to the Hospital Wing since the morning of the Noceo Protractus charm.  At his request via Madame Pomfrey, Harry was on his way to the elderly wizard’s office.  He wasn’t looking forward to the meeting.  If the looks he was getting in the hallways were any indication, this wasn’t going to go well.

 

It was quite obvious that the students knew that something had happened.  Most of the bruises had healed and faded thanks to magical methods.  His back was still the worst, but would be concealed.  His face had mostly healed as well, save for a slight darkening where the fracture in his left cheek bone had been.  His tired and weary appearance would only go away with time… hopefully

 

Harry gave the password at the stone gargoyle (‘Bloodpops’) and knocked on the door at the top of the stairs.

 

“Come in, Harry,” the professor said.

 

Harry was grateful that no one, save the professor and Fawkes were present.

 

“Tea?” the professor offered, motioning towards a chair.  Harry shook his head no, and sat down as the professor poured himself a cup.  He sat down in his in his own large chair after adding two lumps of sugar to his drink.

 

“Well, Harry.  I hope that you are feeling a little better.”

 

“I am, sir.  Much better.”

 

“Do you have any questions?”

 

“Sir?”

 

“About the charm that was performed on you.”

 

“Uh, not really, sir,” Harry said, and at Dumbledore’s surprised look, he explained.  “Hermione and Ron came to see me yesterday.  She’s been doing research on it.”

 

“Ah, yes.  Miss Granger’s talent for tenacious study is reaching near legendary proportions.”

 

“I’m sure she’d be glad to hear that, Professor,” Harry nodded. 

 

Indeed he did have questions about the Noceo Protractus.  Hermione still had not found how Vernon, a Muggle, was able to affect him with malice.  He was certain the professor would know, but Harry was in no mood to be given a riddle or a vague answer.  Hermione would find out and tell him straight.  He could stay his curiosity till then.

 

Dumbledore nodded.  “Will you be able to attend the first meeting of the Order tomorrow?”

 

“Definitely, sir.”

 

A slight twinkle re-appeared in the headmaster’s eye.  It was the first Harry had seen since they had met in that very office the previous Sunday.  It faded quickly though, and the uncomfortable seriousness of this man returned.

 

“Harry… How long has this been happening?”

 

“I… It… Not long sir.  It only started up again this summer.”

 

“Again?”

 

 

“Harry?”

 

“Dudley never really stopped.  But Uncle Vernon, he… he stopped when I was around eight.  He couldn’t keep up with me anymore when I’d run.  He’d still kinda push me around a bit… but nothing too bad.  He stopped all together when I got my Hogwarts letter.”

 

“When did it first start?”

 

“…I… I don’t remember.  I was too young.”

 

Dumbledore pressed his lips tightly together.

 

“And this summer?”

 

“I…” Harry shook his head.  “I was too slow.  I knew that I was supposed to be quick about things.  They’d told me often enough.  I would…  sort of get lost in my thoughts and then they’d catch me.  If I stayed out of their way, it was okay.  If I’d just kept my head about me…”

 

“Harry… Do not defend them.  You were not responsible for this.  You did not deserve to be treated like this.  No one does.”

 

 

“Do you understand that, Harry?”

 

“Yessir,” he mumbled.  Dumbledore sighed.

 

“What about this latest incident Harry?  What happened?”

 

The boy suddenly looked very closed.

 

“Harry.  I need you to tell me.”

 

“Why?”

 

“The Dursleys have been taken into custody.”

 

The boy looked up.

 

“All of them,” the professor continued.  “Charges have been brought against your aunt and cousin as well.”

 

“But… the Ministry… no one knows what happened.”

 

“No.  But the fact that something happened is enough to hold them.  In Wizarding law, whether or not your aunt and cousin were a party may be irrelevant.  They were there, and you were under your aunt’s guardianship as well as your uncle’s.  She was supposed to protect you.  She didn’t.  She’s responsible.  You’re cousin was taken in because he’s also suspected to be involved.  That is why I need you to tell me what happened.  The Ministry needs to sort who did what.  Or who did nothing, as the case may be.”

 

 

“Harry…”

 

 

“You have nothing to fear from the truth, Harry.”

 

It wasn’t the truth, Harry was afraid of.  It was the memory.  If he knew the proper memory charm, he would have obliterated it from his own mind.  But they hadn’t covered those yet, and he didn’t want to end up like Professor Lockhart.  Harry’s fondest wish was that Saturday had never happened.  It was bad enough that he remembered it.  To talk about it… the humiliation…  It was almost unbearable.

 

But Dumbledore was staring at him with those deep azure eyes… hypnotic in their own way.  He could not refuse what the headmaster was pressing him to say.  He dug his nails into his palms so tightly that it hurt.  He took a deep breath and…

 

 

 

 

“…Sir… I… I can’t.”

 

“Harry…”

 

“No, sir.  You don’t understand.  I can’t!  I literally can’t!” The boy looked extremely flustered.  “I—I know what happened.  I’m trying to tell you… but every time I do… I forget it.  It’s in my head right now, but if I try to… there!  It’s gone again!  What’s happening?”

 

Dumbledore tapped his lip thoughtfully.

 

“Hm.  Have you told anyone else, Harry?”

 

The boy shook his head.  “No one’s asked, except Sirius.  I couldn’t remember then either, but I thought it was because I was so tired.”

 

Professor Dumbledore seemed to draw into himself for a moment.

 

“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, my boy.  I will consider a way to rectify the situation.”

 

“Do you know what’s happening?”

 

“Perhaps.  But for now, it’s best not to dwell on it.  You are still excused from classes until Monday.  You may wish to use the afternoon to get caught up on the lessons that you’ve missed.  I believe Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger have left you your assignments in your dorm room.”

 

He’d done it again.  He was hiding something.  Harry had a feeling that Dumbledore knew exactly what was happening to him.  But for his own reasons, was keeping it to himself.

 

Harry found it extremely frustrating to trust someone so much, who yielded so little.  But he did trust him.  If for no other reason than he had to.

 

It didn’t mean he had to like it.

 

“It that all sir?”  He stood up to leave.

 

“Yes, Harry, save for one thing.  Would you mind having a conversation with Mr. Longbottom…”

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

“S-s-so this is where the big dog was?”

 

“Don’t worry, Neville.  Fluffy’s gone with Hagrid.  It’s perfectly safe.”

 

“Well, I wouldn’t say perfectly safe, Hermione,” Ron said.  “Ole greasy’s gonna be there isn’t he?”

 

“Snape?!  What business has he got in the Order?”

 

Ron shrugged.  “Fawkes must’ve had a reason.”

 

“So, Snape’s in but Percy doesn’t get a feather.  You guys sure that bird knows what he’s doing?” George questioned.

 

The six Gryffindors stopped in the long corridor leading to the Order’s meeting chamber.  It was Saturday, five minutes until one o’clock in the afternoon.  They had all been commanded to appear to take their places in the semi-clandestine group.  After an unusually quiet lunch, the Hogwarts trio, the twins, Ginny and Neville made their way up to the third floor.  George’s question made them take pause.

 

Percy Weasley was apparently the only one in his immediate family not presented with a feather from Fawkes.  The Weasley’s had not really spoken of it until now.  It was uncomfortable for them to believe that Percy, no matter how standoffish he may be, was being left out of something of such importance.

 

“I’m sure it’s nothing personal George,” Harry answered.  “It’s probably because of his work at the Ministry.”

 

“Dad works at the Ministry.”

 

“Yeah, but he doesn’t idolize it, like Perc does,” Ron said.

 

George was forced to agree with this.  Even though his idol Barty Crouch was dead, Percy was still under the impression that the Ministry could do no wrong.  The rest of his family felt otherwise.

 

The group continued to the metal door at the end of the corridor.  Harry knocked, and after a moment, the door opened.  All attempts at hiding their nervousness failed them and they stood in the doorway like penguins waiting for the first one to fall into the icy water. 

 

“Come in children.  This is not the time for shyness,” Dumbledore’s kind voice greeted them.  Harry was the first to step forward and the others followed close behind.

 

They filed in and up the left side of the room as Dumbledore indicated, and moved to stand in front of a large black cauldron where the stone table had been.  The experience was reminiscent of their approach to the sorting hat. 

 

The room was filled with people, many that Harry recognized, a few he did not. Sirius and Remus were of course present.  Harry saw Neville looking nervously at his godfather.  Dumbledore had asked Harry to explain Sirius’s situation to the boy, as the Weasley family already knew.  Neville had been stunned, but trusted Harry and did his best to quell the fear of this man that had been imbedded in him.  Molly, and Arthur Weasley were there, as were Bill and Charlie. Professors Fletcher and Figg, Sprout, McGonagall, Flitzwick, and of course, Snape stood in various positions throughout the room.  Harry was surprised to see Madame Rosmerta, the proprietor of the Three Broomsticks there.  The rest of the witches and wizards, who numbered around ten, Harry did not know.

 

“I trust you all remembered to bring your feathers,” Dumbledore said.

 

It couldn’t be helped that the majority of eyes in the room fell on young Longbottom.  Unaware, the boy reached into his robes and pulled out his fiery red feather, looking proud that he’d remembered it.  The others followed in suit.

 

“Excellent,” Dumbledore continued. “I would ask that you each step forward and place your feather into the cauldron.”

 

Fred stepped forward first and placed his feather into the cauldron.  The black liquid, which lay within immediately, absorbed the feather.  George was next, followed by Ginny, Neville, and then Hermione.  Ron looked at Harry before stepping forward.  His feather was absorbed and he turned to look at his friend.

 

Harry looked down at the feather in his hand.

 

“…You always have a choice, Harry…”

 

The boy-who-lived stepped forward and inserted his feather.  He stepped back as it was absorbed.

 

Suddenly, there was a high singing sound and the cauldron began to emit slivers of light through cracks appearing in the surface of the liquid.  The singing grew louder and the cauldron flashed a beautiful beam of light.  The singing was now deafening, or at least it would have been if it weren’t so beautiful and soothing.  It filled the chamber.  The light began to strobe and suddenly, in a flurry of fiery red and gold feathers, Fawkes emerged from the cauldron, singing all the while.  He made a wide circle of the room before coming to rest on Dumbledore’s shoulder.

 

“The Order is complete,” Dumbledore said, his eyes twinkling as they never had before.  He pointed his wand towards the cauldron and it transfigured back into the stone table.

 

This seemed to be some sort of signal because all of the adults in the room moved to take their seats.  The six Gryffindors were left to take the six seats that remained in the front row to the right of the table.

 

Professor Dumbledore began the meeting.

 

He outlined their objectives, all of which really boiled down to one: the downfall of Voldemort.

 

Harry discovered that several of the people who he didn’t recognize were Aurors, who were there without the knowledge or consent of the Minister of Magic.  He wasn’t too surprised.  It was commonly known that most people would have preferred Albus Dumbledore in the position of Minister, rather than Fudge.  Numerous witches and wizards would be willing to follow him at a moment’s notice.  They would need that faith in the coming days.

 

They were each given parchment with certain codes and signals, which they would have to memorize quickly.  The parchment would burn up in four hours, and they were not permitted to write them down anywhere else.  Neville looked rather nervous at this, which was understandable as he often had difficulty memorizing the quick changing passwords of Gryffindor tower.

 

The members of the group received their initial assignments on folded pieces of temporary parchment.

 

Harry and his fellow students sat quietly throughout the meeting, taking in what they could and mentally listing questions for later.  The meeting was drawing to a close, when the headmaster finally turned his attention to them.

 

“Some of us will meet here in one month’s time, to discuss our progress.  Others, we shall only see in the field.  To them I wish you good luck.

 

“As for our students, they will be matched with certain members for specific training.”

 

Dumbledore was now looking poignantly at the six students.

 

“First of all, Miss Granger…” Hermione sat more erect.  “To begin with, you will be working with Professor Flitwick.”  Hermione nodded to the charms professor in acknowledgement.

 

“Neville, you will work with Professor Sprout.”

 

Neville smiled in the direction of the plump herbologist.

 

“Fred and George…”

 

The twins sat up and grinned.

 

“You will be working with Mr. Black.”

 

The grins disappeared.  The boys looked somewhat awkwardly towards the former convict who was whispering something to Professor Lupin.  They knew that he was innocent, but it was still nerve wracking to know you would be working with the only wizard ever to escape Azkaban.

 

“Miss Weasley, you will be working with Professor Fletcher.”

 

Harry did not miss the mild scowl that passed over Arthur Weasley’s face.  He had been witness to a few of Mr. Weasley’s rants about Mundungus’s attempted schemes and his unpredictable behaviour.  He could not be pleased that his daughter would be working with him, but knew that there had to be a purpose behind it.

 

Dumbledore continued, a slight smile on his face.  “Ron, to start with, I’m afraid you will have to put up with working with me.”

 

Ron’s eyes were saucers.  His mouth worked silently for a moment, and he dipped his head as a deep blush crept across his face.

 

Harry smiled at him until Dumbledore called his own name.

 

“Harry, you will be working with Professor Snape.”

 

Five pairs of eyes to Harry’s immediate left shot in his direction, each as wide as Ron’s had been.  Harry looked from them to Sirius, who was sitting with a set scowl on his face, before finally looking towards the Potions Master.  Snape cast a quick glance in Harry’s direction before turning back to Dumbledore.

 

“These assignments,” the headmaster continued, “will likely change later on.  Right now you have been matched with people who will help you with your strongest individual talents.”

 

Talents?! Harry’s mind screamed.  His talents weren’t in potions!  As much as he hated to the responsibility of it, his greatest talent lay within defence against the dark arts.  He should be working with Professor Lupin, or at the very least, Professor Figg.  What was Dumbledore thinking?!

 

“I suggest that the students meet with their trainers after the meeting, to work out a schedule.  And unless there are any other statements or questions…” He waited and looked around at the group.  No one seemed to have anything to say… or they felt that this wasn’t the time to say it.  “I declare this first meeting of The Order of the Phoenix, concluded.  May Merlin watch over us all.”

 

The entrance door to the chamber opened and many of the people that Harry didn’t recognize left.  Everyone else rose and seemed to migrate into small groups to chat.  Neville made his way over to the beckoning Professor Sprout.  Ginny walked over to Mundungus and soon found her father at her side as well.  Professor Dumbledore came over to the remaining students.

 

“Professor, sir, are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?”  Ron asked him.  “I don’t know what you could possibly be training me in.  Not to say you couldn’t train me in anything, but I don’t really see that there’s anything that I’m especially good at…” Ron finished, his last words trailing off quietly.  The red had returned to his face.

 

Professor Dumbledore beamed at him.  “Is that so, Mr. Weasley.  Seems to me I remember a certain chess game played by a first year.  Spectacular game really.  Few wizards in the world could have done what this wizard did.  And here he’s had four years to improve.”

 

Ron’s blush deepened and he scratched his head in embarrassment.

 

“I don’t see how playing chess will be of much help to the Order, sir,” he said quietly.

 

“Of course it will, Ron!” Hermione said.  “Strategy.  Chess is all about strategy.  That’s your strength.”

 

“Perceptive as always, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said with a smile.  “Yes, Ron.  We will be working on your strategy skills.  You have a gift.  We are going to put it to use.”

 

“Th—thank you, sir.”

 

“I’m afraid, despite what I’ve said, I won’t be able to discuss a work schedule with you right now.  I have other matters to attend to at the moment.  Will you be available to come to my office later this evening.  Shall we say, eight-thirty?

 

“Of course, sir.  I’ll be there.”

 

“Then I must bid good afternoon to you all,” he said with a smile, then turned and swept out of the room.

 

Professor Flitwick came over to claim Hermione as the twins each beat Ron on the back in congratulations.  Their little brother, in their opinion, had hit the jackpot in trainers.  Harry, on the other hand, had apparently hit the bottom of the barrel.

 

“Mr. Potter,” came a sharp voice from behind the boys.  They turned to come face to face with the school’s Potions master.

 

“You will meet me in my office at nine o’clock tonight.  We have things to discuss.”

 

“Yessir,” Harry replied flatly.

 

Snape left without another word, his black robes billowing behind him.

 

“What was Dumbledore thinking?”  Ron asked, when he was sure the Potions master had completely gone.

 

“I don’t know, Ron...”

 

“As if you haven’t been through enough this week!”

 

Harry stiffened.  Ron’s eyes widened.

 

“Harry,” he apologized. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to… I mean…”

 

“It’s okay, Ron.  It has been a bad week. It’s almost over.”

 

“Hey, chaps!”  Sirius’s cheerful voice interrupted.  Harry turned to see his godfather and Remus Lupin smiling at them.

 

“Hey, Sirius. Professor.”

 

“I’m sorry about Snape, Harry,” Sirius began.  “But there is a reason for it.  I can’t discuss it with you, but there is a reason.”

 

“I understand,” Harry replied, now more curious than ever.

 

“Fred and George Weasley.  A pleasure to finally meet you.”

 

“I-it is?”  Fred asked.

 

“I’ve heard much about you.  About your exploits.”

 

The twins shot Ron and Harry a wicked look, which seemed to go unnoticed by Sirius.

 

“…It’s does our hearts good,” he continued, motioning to Remus and himself, “to see the Marauders’ spirit alive and well at Hogwarts.”

 

The twins looked stunned.

 

“You--You know about the Marauders?”

 

Twin grins of mischief crept up on the faces of Black and Lupin.

 

“Harry… you mean you never told them?” Professor Lupin admonished teasingly.

 

Harry shrugged.  “Didn’t think it was my place to.”

 

“Well, would you be so kind as to make the introductions?” he asked.

 

“Of course,” Harry responded. “Fred.  Geor--”

 

“WAIT!”  Ron exclaimed.  He ran behind the two men and stood between them, his arms resting on their shoulders.  “I want a good seat for this one.  Bugger!  I should have brought a camera!”

 

“Language, Ron…”

 

“Sorry, Professor.”

 

George began to question the strange behaviour of his younger brother.  “What are you on about, Ro--”

 

“Ssssshhh!  Go on, Harry,” Ron prompted.

 

Harry snorted and turned back to the twins.

 

“Fred and George Weasley, it is my proud privilage to introduce you to Messers Moony and Padfoot… two of the founding members of Hogwarts’ own Marauders.”

 

 

 

Harry decided that Ron had been right.  They should have brought a camera.  It wouldn’t have even mattered if it were a Muggle camera.  The twins had turned into identical statues.  It was as though they had been petrified by a Basilisk.

 

Their mouths hung open.  Their eyes were saucers fixed on the faces of the men who stood before them.  Ron was grinning like an idiot.

 

Harry waved a hand in front of their eyes to no effect.  He snapped a couple of time: Nothing.

 

“Er… Fred… George…”

 

Fred found his voice (at least some of it) first. 

 

“…Are… Are you… Are you really…”

 

“At your disservice,” Sirius smirked as both he and Professor Lupin gave synchronically dramatic bows.

 

The next reaction from the twins was surprising, but no less amusing.

 

Fred and George looked at each other for an instant, before simultaneously dropping to their knees and folding their hands… prostrating themselves in front of the Marauders.

 

“Teach us…”

 

“Mold us…”

 

“We are your humble servants…”

 

“We’ll do anything you ask…”

 

“Share your wisdom…”

 

“We only want to learn…”

 

“We’re not worthy…” 

 

“Great Masters…”

 

By now, other people in the room were observing the odd display.  Ron had stumbled into a chair and was laughing so hard that no sound was coming out. Tears streaked his face.  Harry had an arm wrapped around his own stomach and another hand covered his eyes as he laughed silently at the spectacle.  Sirius and Remus didn’t know what to do when the boys had dropped to their knees.  It was most unexpected.  They knew the twins were fans, but this was borderline worship.  Stunned, Remus was able to pull out of his amused shock first as it appeared that Fred was about to lean forward to kiss the hem of his robes.

 

“Now, now, boys… that’s quite enough, thanks you,” he said.  “I think you’d better stand up now.”

 

“We’re not worthy to stand in the presence of such mischiefull masterfulness.” George said his head still bowed.

 

‘THUD’

 

Ron had rolled off of his chair and was now curled up on the floor holding his stomach in wonderful agony.

 

“Ron, Breathe.  BREATHE, Ron!” Harry prompted, smacking his cachinnating friend on the back.

 

Ron drew in a deep shaky breath.

 

“Oh… Oh, this is too much!  This is Christmas and Birthday all rolled into one!” he croaked.

 

“Ronald Aaron Weasley!  Get off the floor this instant!  You too, Fred and George.  Honestly!  The sight of you! And in front of your professors!”

 

Molly Weasley had made her way over with her two eldest sons trailing close behind her.  She looked furious at her three youngest boys.  Behind her, Bill and Charlie were trying desperately to mask their own laughter.

 

“It’s not their fault, Molly,” Remus explained.  “Sirius was just cracking a few jokes.  Got the boys hair up a bit.  No harm done.”

 

“Just trying to lighten the mood some,” Sirius added.  “Sorry if it went to far.”

 

Mrs. Weasley looked as though she were going to say something in retort, but Sirius flipped the lock of hair that was falling into his eye and flashed her an knee melting smile.  She sputtered slightly trying to remember what it was she was going to say.

 

“W-well… alright then.  Just… boys, please try to remember this is an important Order.  Try to conduct yourselves a little better.”

 

“Yes’m,” all three answered in unison still smiling.  Charlie’s resolve broke, but he covered his laugh with a fake cough, which Bill was forced to imitate only moments later.  Molly wasn’t fooled.

 

“Honestly!  The lot of you!”  She said walking away, shaking her head.  “Would you were all girls…”

 

“She always says that,” Charlie said.  “As if that would make things better.  Ginny’s worse that all of us when she gets started.

 

“Speaking o’ which,” Bill cut it.  “It looks like dad is getting ready to pop Mundungus one.  We’d better get over there.  Cheers.”

 

Both he and Charlie made their way towards their father (whose fists were tightly balled at his sides) and sister (who was covering her face and wearily shaking her head).

 

“So you’re really Moony and Padfoot?” Fred asked, quickly turning his attention back to his idols.

 

“If we say yes, do you promise to stay off the floor?”

 

“Can’t promise, but we’ll try.”

 

Sirius sighed.  “Then yes.  We are.”

 

George shook his head.  “Unnnbelievable….”

 

“So where are Prongs and Wormtail?”

 

Everyone other than George grimaced at Fred’s question.

 

“Uh… Prongs… Prongs was my dad,” Harry explained.

 

“Really!  Oh!  Sorry, Harry.”

 

“S’alright, Fred.”

 

“And Wormtail lived in our house for twelve years,” Ron said bitterly.  “He was Scabbers.”

 

“I thought you said Peter Petigrew was Scabbers.”

 

“He was.  One in the same.”

 

“A Marauder went over to You-Know-Who?” George asked indignantly.

 

“Kinda took us by surprise too,” Sirius said in a sour tone.

 

“Can we talk about something else?” Harry asked.  “Sirius, why are Gred and Forge working with you?”

 

“Gred and Forge, is it?”

 

“Our nicknames,” George explained.

 

“Good show.  Well,” Sirius rubbed his hands together.  “What we’re going to be doing is putting some of your… er… imaginative skills to work.  Security and weapons.  You’re going to help me think up things that will make the Death Eaters lives, shall we say… a little less pleasant…”

 

Fred and George’s identical mouths began to slowly stretch into a darker version of their trademark mischievous grins.

 

And somewhere inside Harry, (a very, very, very small part) began to feel just a little bit (a tinsy, tiny, iddle, widdle bit) sorry for the Death Eaters.

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

At promptly nine o’clock, Harry knocked on the door of Professor Snape’s office.

 

“Come in,” the teacher’s voice came sharply.

 

Harry opened the door and closed it behind him.  Snape was sitting at his desk writing on a long piece of parchment.  He neither looked up nor acknowledged Harry.

 

Harry stood patiently and silently on the other side of the desk.  Snape continued his writing.

 

After nearly a minute of silence, Harry rolled his eyes and removed a small pouch from his robes.  He plopped it on Snape’s desk and the slight jingle caused the professor to finally halt his ministrations.  He raised an eyebrow at his student.

 

“For the Loverra Oil,” Harry explained.

 

Snape shook his head and went back to his writing.  “Do your eyes work at all, Mr. Potter?  The Oil has been replaced.”

 

Harry looked to the stores cabinet, which was open.  There indeed sat a new jar of the healing ointment.

 

“Then this should pay for it,” Harry continued.

 

Professor Snape pushes the pouch back towards Harry with the back of his hand. “The school has a budget, Mr. Potter.  Keep your money.”

 

Harry stored the pouch back into the pocket of his robes.

 

Snape motioned with the quill in his hand.  “Sit.”

 

Harry took the offered seat and waited.  The Potions Master wrote for several seconds more before returning the quill to its cache.  He held the parchment out to Harry.

 

“Memorize those.  Take them to heart and understand them.”

 

Harry looked down at the parchment:

 

Chapter 2

It is because every one under Heaven recognizes beauty

          as beauty, that the idea of ugliness exists.

And equally if every one recognized virtue as virtue,

          this would merely create fresh conceptions of

          wickedness.

For truly ‘Being and Not-being grow out of one

          another;

Difficult and easy complete one another.

Long and short test one another;

High and low determine one another.

Pitch and mode give harmony one another.

Front and back give sequence to one another’.

Therefore the Sage relies on actionless activity,

Carries on wordless teaching,

But the myriad creatures are worked upon by him; he

          does not disown them.

He rears them, but does not lay claim to them,

Controls them, but does not lean upon them,

Achieves his aim, but does not call attention to what

          he does;

And for the very reason that he does not call attention

          to what he does

He is not ejected from fruition of what he has done.

 

 

Chapter 27

Perfect activity leaves no track behind it;

Perfect speech is like a jade-worker whose tool leaves

          no mark.

The perfect reckoner needs no counting-slips;

The perfect door has neither bolt nor bar,

Yet cannot be opened.

The perfect knot needs neither rope nor twine,

Yet cannot be untied.

Therefore the Sage

Is all the time in the most perfect way helping me,

He certainly does not turn his back on men,

Is all the time in the most perfect way of helping creatures,

He certainly does not turn his back on creatures.

This is called restoring to the Light.

Truly, ‘the perfect man is the teacher of the imperfect;

But the imperfect is the stock-in-trade of the perfect

          man’.

He who does not respect his teacher,

He who does not take care of his stock-in-trade,

Much learning though he may possess, is far astray.

This is the essential secret.

 

“Two passages from Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu.”  Snape handed him a small leather bound book.  It had both English and Chinese characters embossed on the front in silver lettering.  “I suggest you read the entire thing.  It won’t take very long.  But those two passages I’ve written out for you I insist that you memorize.”

 

Harry nodded.  “I-I’ve heard of this.  Isn’t this a Muggle book?”

 

“And your point?”

 

He shrugged.  “No point.  Just wondering.”

 

“You will find, Mr. Potter, that working with me will go much more smoothly if your wonderings were a little more constructive.”

 

“No, offence sir, but why am I working with you?  I mean.  I get okay marks in potions, but it’s not my best subject—”

 

“I will not be training you in potions, Mr. Potter.”

 

“…What then?” he dared.

 

Snape stretched his left hand to the side, his black eyes never leaving Harry’s.  There was a shifting from one of the bookshelves. Two large bound volumes rose slightly into the air.  The larger book beneath them dislodged itself and flew to the professor’s hand.  The former two gently rested back into place.  He held the book he’d retrieved, not allowing Harry to see the cover.

 

“You don’t seem surprised.”

 

“About what?”

 

“About my retrieval of this book.”

 

Harry shrugged.  “Should I be?”

 

“Were you any other young wizard in this school, yes.”

 

Harry knitted his brow.  He didn’t understand but knew that he must have missed something.

 

“Where is my wand, Mr. Potter?”

 

Harry looked around.  An ebony coloured wand of about twelve inches lay next to a small brass box on the Professor’s desk.  Harry pointed.

 

“There,” he said plainly.

 

“Did I use it to retrieve this book?”

 

“No.”

 

“And this does not seem unusual to you?”

 

Harry sighed.  They were going around in circles.  “No.  It doesn’t.  Why should it?  It’s just a book.”

 

Snape tapped the small brass box that his wand was next to.

 

“Summon this box… without your wand.”

 

“Accio box.”

 

 

Nothing happened.

 

“Forget the words, Potter.  Just bring it to you.”

 

Harry looked from him to the box.  He focussed on the box.  He imagined it flying through the air.  He imagined what it would feel like being stopped by his hand.  And in that next instant, it happened.  He held the box out.

 

“Happy?”

 

Snape took the box from him and returned it to its rightful place.

 

“How long have you had your wand, Mr. Potter?”

 

“Five years.”

 

Snape sat back in his chair and steepled his fingers.

 

“Wizards and Witches are all born with a certain level of wandless magic,” he started. “The summoning spell is the most common of them all.  There is also protective magic… things to get you out of difficult situations.  Most of these things are done unconsciously.  They arrive out of a momentary need.”

 

Harry nodded, remembering several instances before he knew that he was a wizard, like the time he’d wound up on the roof, running from Dudley and his goons, or the time Jones Dentar had taken his glasses, and he’d suddenly found them back in his hands again.

 

“These minor abilities stay with a wizard throughout his life, but remain for the most part unconscious and under desperate situations.  The exception to this is the summoning of a wand, which can become second nature.”

 

Again Harry nodded.  This was boring him nearly as much as Professor Binns class… Okay, he thought. Maybe not that bad, but close.

 

“Professor Dumbledore is under the impression that you may possess wandless talent beyond that level.  He mentioned something about an aunt of yours…”

 

Harry grimaced and slid down a little in his seat.  He didn’t like to think of the last time Aunt Marge had visited.  The things she’d said about his parents.  The things he’d done.

 

“But that… that was… an accident.  I mean, she got me so mad, that I just… acted.”

 

Snape sat forward suddenly.  “But you meant to do it, didn’t you?  Even in your anger, you meant to use the Engorgement charm and an Inflatable.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“It was also reported that there was magic used to break open a cupboard or closet or some such.”

 

“My cupboard.  My school trunk was locked in there.”

 

“And your wand?”

 

“And my wand.”

 

“Mr. Potter, those acts go beyond protective instinct.  You were in no immediate danger.  You actively used a charm - three, in fact.  By all accounts, you should not have been able to do that. That combination charm you shouldn’t have been able to do at all at that age.”

 

“No?”

 

“No.”

 

Harry rested his forehead on his hand and sighed.  “Not another one…”

 

“Another what, Mr. Potter?”

 

Harry waved his free hand absently.  “Boy-who-lived, Parselmouth, Voldemort fighting… all that stuff!  Now this?!”

 

“I would have thought you would be happy to add to your magnificent profile,” Snape said with disdain.

 

Harry gave him a flat gaze.  “Fame isn’t everything.”

 

“You would do well to remember that in the coming months.”

 

Harry rolled his eyes. 

 

“The ability to do wandless magic at an advanced level is extremely rare, but those who have mastered it, find it more powerful than magic with a wand.  To harness that power takes a great deal of study and training.  This, Mr. Potter, is what you will be learning with me.”

 

“…You have that ability.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then why do you still use your wand?”

 

Snape leaned his elbow on the arm of his chair.

 

“Two reasons.  The first:  Knowledge is power.  Until recently, Professor Dumbledore was the only person living who knew that I have this ability.  Now, because of you, Remus Lupin and Sirius Black also know, and have been sworn to secrecy by the headmaster.  This ability is my… back up.  My insurance.”  He leaned forward again and stressed his words.  “And I would prefer it to remain that way, Mr. Potter.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Snape picked up the book he had summoned.

 

“The second reason, Mr. Potter, you will find in the first chapter of this book.”  He handed the tome to Harry.  “You will return here in two days.  Have the first two chapters read by then.”

 

Harry looked at the book in his hands.  ‘Virgasine’ was written in small letters near the bottom right hand corner.

 

“Wandless,” Harry murmured.

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Do I have to keep this secret?”

 

“That would be your choice, Mr. Potter.  Your knowledge, your power.  If you wish to share with your friends…” he drawled, “That is up to you.  May you not live to regret it.  Just make certain, that my abilities remain secret.  Tell them there was no one else available to teach you, if you must.  I’m sure they are dying to know why you are being saddled with my presence.”

 

Harry chewed his lip.

 

“Sir?  Why couldn’t I call the box the first time by saying Accio?”

 

“You could have, had I not been holding it down with my own abilities.  I needed to see if you could do it, beyond a simple lift.”

 

“I see.”

 

“I believe you have some reading to do, Mr. Potter.”

 

Harry stood up to leave, but was stopped as Snape spoke again.

 

“One more thing.  Do try to remember that this is business of the Order.  It would be beneficial if the rest of the school was not aware of our meetings.  After all, you and I have a certain… reputation, with regards to each other.  Am I understood?”

 

“Perfectly sir.”

 

“Then good-night.”

 

The young Gryffindor left the office and headed back to his tower.  He wondered just how powerful Professor Snape really was.  He was always so secretive and guarded.

 

Harry had many questions.  Could Professor Dumbledore use wandless magic?  If not, did that mean that Snape had more power than him?  What about Voldemort?  The possibilities were making Harry’s head spin, and he knew, despite Madame Pomfrey’s instructions, he would be getting little sleep that night.

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

Professor Snape swept through the empty halls of Hogwarts on his nightly rounds.  Two Ravenclaws would be polishing trophies for the next week.  Other than that, the school was quiet.

 

“Snape!”

 

Or not.

 

“What do you want, Black?”  Snape stopped walking to allow Sirius to catch up.

 

“You met with Harry tonight.”

 

“I did.”

 

“Well?”

 

“Well what, Black?  Stop wasting my time!”

 

Sirius stared at him hard.

 

“Dumbledore wants him to work with you.  I can’t prevent that.  But the boy’s been through enough this week--”

 

“I am perfectly aware of what the boy has been through,” he said shortly.

 

“…I don’t want him hurt.”

 

“I can all but guarantee that harm will come to Mr. Potter.  My job is to make sure that harm is minimal.”

 

“And I’m sure you’ll put all your heart into that,” Sirius spat.

 

“I may not be a grand Gryffindor, Black,” the Professor said steadily.  “But when I give my word to do something, I do it.”

 

“Everyone knows how much you hate Harry. Why would you care what happens to him?”

 

“It’s true, I’ve never made a secret of my dislike of Mr. Potter, but unlike some people,” Snape curled, his voice rising, “just because I dislike someone, does not mean I wish to see them hurt, maimed or dead.”

 

Sirius flinched despite himself.  He would never admit it, but Snape had a very good point.

 

“If there’s nothing further…” Snape turned on his heal and stormed off.

 

tbc…

 

***********************************************************************************************

Vultur Non Capit Muscam - The Eagle Does Not Catch Flies

Noceo – inflict injury, do harm

Protractus - to draw out

Expecto – banish

Livor – malice

*Dabtihs Annog – (pronounced ‘Dab-ti-s An-og’) -a potion I invented.  If you want to know what it does, turn the letters around like with the Mirror of Erised and loose the capitals. It’s actually three words. ;) Get it? :)

 

A/N: Although I do enjoy abusing Harry stories, what he has gone through in up to this point, the pain and suffering, it does have significance and will be important later on in the story. My madness does have some reason to it. (Not a lot, but some…)

 

What happened to Harry? – Yes, you will find out.  Just not now. :)

 

 

 

//
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