Chapter 07 - Eroding Support
Alyx peeked over Bob's shoulder and grinned. "Well it's about time! I was beginning to wonder if you ever planned on posting another chapter."
"Oh please, I just wanted to make sure enough of our readers whined about another chapter before giving them some measure of relief," Bob replied airily. "Besides, it's not like we haven't posted anything else."
Alyx nodded. "Yes, I know, my Harry Potter and the Dancing Llama Drama is coming along nicely and soon I'll be able... wait... isn't that the memory stick I saved my files too?" she asked in consternation.
Bob was busy crushing the memory stick in a vise. "Oh this? Dunno, I found it sticking out of your computer and thought it was an odd growth that had to be destroyed."
Alyx clutched at her head and tugged on her hair. "Oh my story! Now the readers will never know about Harry and his love affair with an alpaca!"
"I'm counting on it," Bob muttered.
"What?" she screeched in reply.
"Nothing dear, why don't you tell the good readers about our disclaimer so we can play the chapter for them."
Alyx nodded tearfully then turned to the audience. "We don't own Harry Potter, or his Llamas!"
Bob shook his head and sighed heavily. "It could be worse folks, there was an attempt to make him an orphaned Orc from Orgrimmar, and then she wanted to make a Harry Potter Death Knight cross over. Fortunately I swapped her save and delete buttons on her word processor."
Suddenly Alyx's expression brightened. "Wait! I printed out my story, I can rebuild it!"
Alyx turned and raced off the stage while Bob started a barbeque using sheets of Alyx's printout. "So anyone want a burger to eat while you read?"
The Room of Requirement...
Draco hit his thumb with the hammer, dropped the offending tool and cursed. Assembling the cabinet was not going well. He was no carpenter and the instructions he had been given made little sense.
The cabinet had been smuggled into Hogwarts piecemeal in order to bypass the wards. He'd been ordered to assemble the cabinet and then activate it by casting a series of charms on it. His Lord had been generous in the schedule, but he was going to need every extra day in order to put the thing together.
His father had given him strict instructions: finish the cabinet by May, or be disowned, disinherited and quite likely killed. The last part had been a bit fuzzy, but Draco wouldn't put it past Lucius.
He glanced longingly at his wand once more, but knew it was useless. The cabinet had to be assembled by hand or the enchantments would not work properly. He had to put it together the Muggle way and he was hating every minute of it.
It wasn't helping that the large cabinet contained a lot of ornate woodwork in separate pieces, and every piece was essential.
He was also hating Blaise Zabini at the moment. Both boys had tasks to perform for their Lord, but Blaise had the more satisfying one, in Draco's opinion.
Draco's job was to annoy Potter and get the cabinet assembled.
Blaise's job was to find a way to eliminate Potter.
It just isn't fair! Draco thought angrily. I should have that job! But no, I have to play Muggle carpenter.
In frustration, he picked up the hammer and tossed it amidst the still unassembled pieces and stormed from the room.
Harry shrank back into the shadows when the door to the room flung open. If nothing else, Draco was running true to form. He'd been in the room for just under two hours before he stopped doing whatever it was he was doing.
Draco was already on his way downstairs when Harry looked again. Growling under his breath, he teleported back to his bed. He was no closer to solving this mystery than when he first discovered it. He was going to need help.
He had tried phasing and just walking through the wall. It was then he discovered that the Room of Requirement was more capable that he thought. Walking through the wall had simply led him to a large empty room.
The Great Hall (October 3rd)...
Harry paused just outside of the Great Hall and turned to face Severus Snape.
Snape sneered. "Twenty points from Gryffindor for not showing the proper respect for a Professor."
Harry shrugged and started to turn away, but Snape grabbed him roughly by his arm.
"I want to know what you've been doing, Potter. I know you're up to something and I'm not letting you go until I get an explanation."
Snape pushed Harry back into a wall and the young man grunted in pain and dropped his books.
A small crowd began to form to watch the impending fight.
Harry glared at the hated Professor, quickly losing his patience.
Unknown to him, he wasn't the only one losing patience. Voldemort had sent Snape a precisely worded message to find out what Potter's mutant ability was, even if it meant blowing his cover. The Dark Lord was upset that Snape wasn't delivering the information he wanted.
The pressure Voldemort had begun to apply was causing Snape to make some bad decisions.
Harry broke free of the Professor's grip and moved sideways, then crouched down, waiting for the man to make a move toward him. If Snape took another step, he'd show him exactly what Logan had taught him over the summer.
"What is going on here?" asked a frosty voice.
Snape turned and scowled, seeing his chance to get anything out of Potter vanish. "Nothing, Professor," he replied to Minerva. "Potter and I were just about to have a conversation. I wanted to quiz him on what he's learning from his potions tuition."
Minerva glanced at Harry, who looked ready to kill, then she turned back to Snape. "Professor, I will remind you that the Headmaster has given you strict instructions to leave Mr. Potter alone this year."
Snape bent his head slightly, acknowledging the point. "Of course. I merely wished to ensure that he's being taught properly."
Minerva looked at Snape for a moment, then turned to Harry.
"Mr. Potter, your friends are waiting for you to join them for lunch. You're dismissed," she said.
Harry blinked in surprise and looked at her for a moment, then he looked down. She was one of the few teachers he still had some respect for. "Yes, Professor," he mumbled, then scooped up his books and hurried into the hall.
Minerva watched Harry's retreating back for a moment, then she turned back to Snape. "The Headmaster may grant you a fair amount of latitude with the students, Professor, but I will not. If I find you have accosted Mr. Potter again, I will go over the Headmaster's head and take it directly to the Board of Governors," she snapped. With one final glare, she turned and followed Harry into the hall.
Snape stared at her in astonishment, then noticed the crowd of students still watching him. "Well?" he snarled. "Get out of my sight before I start deducting points and issuing detentions!"
The crowd melted away almost instantly, leaving the dour potions Professor alone to wonder why McGonagall was so antagonistic towards him.
Hogwarts (October 4th)...
Harry sat with his back leaning up against a tree. Most of the students were out taking advantage of the unseasonably warm day. He didn't expect the weather to last, as his radio had already reported a large cold front sweeping in from the North Sea earlier in the day. It was probably the last mild day they'd have before the winter storms started.
He closed his eyes, lifted his face to the sun and smiled. He felt her nearby, something he'd felt often of late, but she rarely interacted with him if he was alone. It was as if she were going out of her way to avoid him.
"Hi, Ginny," he said softly and heard her small gasp of surprise.
"How do you do that?" she demanded, moving in front of him and sitting down a few feet away.
He opened his eyes. "I'm a empath," he replied, as if that answered everything.
"You've said that before, but I don't really understand it. Your mum talks about being a telepath and she makes it seem like there are a lot of things to it. But neither of you have explained anything."
Harry looked at her for a moment, then shrugged. His empathy wasn't much use to him. It was simply a hold over from his mother's abilities. As it wasn't his primary ability, there really wasn't any reason to keep Ginny in the dark about it. "I feel the emotions of people. The more I care about a person, the more I'm able to sense what they're feeling. Sometimes I can even feel the emotions behind a magical casting."
"You're reading our minds? Like Legilimency?" she exclaimed, alarmed.
Harry made a motion for her to lower her voice. "Of course I'm not reading your mind! There's a difference between knowing what someone is thinking and what they're feeling."
Ginny hitched in a breath and stared at him, wide eyed. "Y-Y-You know how I feel?" she stammered.
"Yes," he said softly.
The silence between them grew heavy.
Looking down, Ginny finally broke the silence. "I see."
Harry closed his eyes. Her pain was like a living presence beating at him.
When she stood up, he resisted the urge to reach for her.
"Don't go," he said quietly.
She turned to look at him incredulously. "Why not? You don't share my feelings. I'd like to be your friend still, but I need to figure out how to get over you."
"You're asking me to give you something I don't know how to give!" he retorted. This conversation was harder than he thought it would be.
She stared at him for a moment, dumbfounded. "What?"
Harry looked toward the lake. "You want things from me, Ginny, and a big part of me wants to give them to you. But another part of me keeps asking what I know about love and relationships? Nothing, that's what. My brief thing with Cho last year proved that. That part of me says I'm only going to mess up again and I don't want to do that to you. The last thing I want to do is hurt you," he said, his expression troubled.
Ginny sat back down, looking at him with an indecipherable expression.
Finally, he turned and smiled weakly at her. "I don't know how to give you want you want," he whispered.
"If I asked you a question, would you promise to answer truthfully?"
He eyed her warily. "That depends on the question. There are some things I'm not ready to reveal just yet."
Ginny nodded. "Fair enough. Do you like me?" she asked bluntly.
He stared at her for a moment, then nodded.
Doing a mental victory dance, she decided to press her luck. "I can't hear you," she said softly.
"You know I do," he mumbled.
"Well, why don't we just take things slowly, then? Maybe hold hands once in a while or something like that? I promise I'll do my best to help you through the rough spots," she offered gently. Her thoughts were spinning, trying to figure out how to coax him from his shell without scaring him. Jean's comments about Harry being unused to this kind of human interaction came back to her and she realized she'd have to lead for a bit, until he become more comfortable.
Harry searched her expression carefully, then did something he hated doing. He reached out with his empathy, testing the measure of her sincerity and found no deceit. Exhaling the breath he hasn't realized he'd been holding, he smiled. "I'd like that."
Ginny sat back. For the first time since summer she felt as if things were looking up. "So, what now?"
Harry looked around, then checked his watch. They had an hour to kill before dinner. "Would you like to go flying?" he asked shyly.
Ginny grinned. "I'd love to, but I left my broom up in my dorm room."
Harry laughed and pulled his jump jet from his pocket. He stood and walked a way from her a bit, then bent down and placed the little plane down on the ground. Removing his wand from his pocket, he waved it at the jet, causing it to expand to normal size.
Ginny looked at the jet with a touch of fear in her expression. "Fly in that?"
Harry glanced at her, a challenge in his look. "Afraid?"
She swallowed nervously. "In your dreams, Potter. We Weasleys were born to fly," she replied bravely.
"Excellent!" He waved his wand at her, changing her robe into a flight suit.
She looked down at the strange, tight fitting garb. She was about to comment on it when she saw him transfigure his clothing to match. Then he walked over to the side of the plane and opened a hatch on the side, pulling out two helmets. He handed her one, then he reached inside again, pressing the button to open the canopy.
He couldn't help but notice that her flight suit was revealing curves that weren't normally visible with her school robes. One thing was certain, Ginny Weasley was growing up.
Ginny noticed his glance and couldn't help the slow blush appearing again, but this time there was a feeling of genuine satisfaction to accompany it. She didn't need empathic senses to know he liked what he saw.
"Put the helmet on, then I'll help strap you in."
She stared at him for a moment, then she placed the helmet on her head. It felt heavy and very weird to her. The cable dangling from one side caught in her hair.
He led her over to the rear seat access and helped her climb into the cockpit. Hanging on the edge of the plane, he connected her four point harness, then he reached in and flipped several switches on the console, deactivating the rear flight controls.
"I've turned nearly everything off for now, Ginny, so you don't have to worry about touching anything you shouldn't. If you enjoy yourself, then I'll show you the controls and what they do at a later point. For now, sit back and just enjoy the ride, all right?"
Ginny nodded. She was tight lipped and holding onto her harness so he wouldn't see her hands shaking.
He reached in and pulled the cord from her helmet, plugging it into a socket on her seat, then he lowered the boom microphone down.
"You'll be able to talk and hear me normally, once I get in."
Satisfied, he climbed into the front seat and strapped in, then he put on his helmet and turned on the intercom.
"Can you hear me all right back there?" he asked.
"What did you get yourself into, Weasley? I'm a Gryffindor! We're not afraid... Whoa... wait.. you can hear me now?"
Harry laughed and fired up the engines. "I can hear you just fine. I'm going to take this real easy at first." he said, lifting the aircraft into a hover.
He slowly raised the plane until they were fifty feet above the ground.
He glanced at a monitor, which displayed an image of the rear cockpit. Ginny had her face plastered to the canopy. He laughed and then put the plane into a side slip. Ginny gasped as the ground slid past underneath.
"I didn't expect it to be this quiet!" she exclaimed.
"The helmets absorb a lot of the sound."
As the jet slid out over the lake, Ginny pointed out the window. "Look! There's Ron and Luna!"
Harry glanced out the window and saw the couple standing on the lake shore, gaping at the jet.
Looking at the backseat monitor, he smiled. She seemed to have lost her fear of the machine. At least, for the moment.
"Hang on," he called, then he raised the nose of the jet and switched over from hover to cruise mode. The jet shot forward, rapidly accelerating to over six hundred miles an hour. He kept the nose up and they rocketed skyward.
Ginny screamed with surprised pleasure.
After a few minutes, he brought the plane back to a modest four hundred miles an hour and started a gentle turn. "Ginny, if you look at the console in front of you, you'll see a screen, like the one attached to my computer. Do you see it?"
Ginny tore her gaze from the canopy and looked down at the console. "I see it. It's got a lot of numbers and things on it. It looks more confusing than the one on that machine you showed us. The laptop, I think you called it?"
"Right. The monitor in front of you will make a lot more sense once explain the details to you. For now, there are only two numbers you need to know about. In the top left hand corner you'll see the altimeter display. That tells you how high how up we are in feet. And right underneath that number is our airspeed in miles per hour. That's how fast we're going."
There was a long silence.
"Harry are we really at twenty thousand feet, doing four hundred miles an hour?"
He laughed. "Yes."
She looked out the canopy again. "Everything looks so small. And here I thought my Cleansweep went high!"
She turned to look at the back of Harry's head in the front seat. "I thought you were going to fly this thing, Potter. We're poking along aren't we?"
He grinned. "All right, Weasley, you asked for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you," he replied, then he fire-walled the throttles and banked sharply. The jet surged forward to the sound of Ginny's laughter.
On the lawn in front of Hogwarts, Ron and Luna joined Hermione and Neville, who were sitting on a bench talking about a Herbology project.
"Hi, Ron, Luna, have you seen Harry?" asked Hermione.
"We saw him in his flying machine a little while ago," replied Luna. "It went off that way," she said, pointing up.
From far above they could hear the muted cracking sound of a sonic boom.
Hermione grinned. "It's not a weekend, so he's out flying for the fun of it. Professor Summers says he loves flying that jet."
Neville snorted. "Maybe," he said dubiously. "But I'll be hanged if I'm going to let him get me into it."
Ron and Luna nodded in agreement. Hermione frowned at them. "Oh, come on. It's just a jet. Thousands of them take to the air every day. It's safer than flying on a broom!"
"You would say that," Ron said. "You nearly flunked flying class back in first year. You barely qualified and haven't been on a broom since."
The crack came again, only this time louder. Harry had the jet in a straight, low altitude, run over the lake. The jet wash threw up twin plumes of water on both sides of the plane. He pulled up, gaining altitude and bleeding off speed.
Hermione could tell he was changing something in the plane by the way the engines changed their pitch. She could also see someone waving frantically from the rear seat of the plane.
"Who is that?" asked Neville.
"I'm not sure," Hermione replied, then she waved back.
"Someone insane enough to get into that thing," muttered Ron.
Harry put the craft in hover mode and moved sideways until the plane could touch down not far from the group on the bench. As usual, whenever Harry used his plane, a small crowd of students formed to watch.
Touching down, he killed the engines and raised the canopy. The person in the back undid the straps and fumbled in the cockpit for a moment before Harry pressed the button extending the ladder steps. Then she climbed down.
"No, it can't be," Hermione whispered in shock.
Ginny removed her helmet and shook out her hair. "That was incredible, Harry!" she nearly shouted. The little red head was bouncing on her toes.
Harry stood up in the cockpit and grinned. His visor was down, but there was no mistaking the grin. He climbed down the same steps and popped open a panel on the side of the jet to stow away his helmet. He turned to Ginny, who reluctantly handed him her helmet.
"I'll take you flying again, don't worry," he said shyly. Her reaction to the flight had surprised and encouraged him. Maybe there was some common ground, after all.
He closed the canopy and shrunk the jet down to pocket size, then he put it away and turned to his friends.
"Harry? My robes?" Ginny prompted.
"Oh, yeah. Sorry," he replied, then he returned them to normal with a absent wave of his hand. Although he still tended to use his wand in class, most of the time he often forgot and did it wandless outside of class.
Ron, Luna and Neville stared at Ginny in horror.
Hermione grinned. Ginny was far too happy for her to be excited by just a plane ride.
"You've got to try that sometime!" Ginny gushed, bouncing up to them. "It was incredible. We were so high, we could barely see the school!"
Harry walked up next to her. "We didn't go as high as we could. At maximum height, there is just a hint of the earth's curvature on the horizon. Now the Blackbird can go a lot higher, but it's got the engines for it."
"There's no way I'd go up in that thing," proclaimed Ron.
Ginny noticed the hurt that flickered across Harry's face and she moved to stand closer to him. Their hands brushed and Harry grabbed hers in his. He looked down at his hand in disbelief and Ginny grinned at him.
Hermione's eyes narrowed as she watched them. "All right, what's changed?"
Ginny looked at Harry, who blushed and nodded at her. "Harry and I have decided to try dating," she replied.
Ron frowned for a moment, then he shook his head and turned to Harry. "I guess she has to grow up sometime, but if you hurt her, I'll kill you," he said with a heavy sigh, then he turned and grabbed Luna's hand, dragging her away from the group.
Luna giggled and happily followed him.
"Well, that was unexpected," Hermione commented, then she walked back to her bag, sat down and pulled a book from her bag. Opening it, she flipped through the pages, wanting to find the information Neville had told her about.
Harry watched Ron's retreating back for a moment before turning back to join Neville and Ginny, who had followed Hermione. "He's trying. I've got to give him credit for that," he said as he sat down on the grass next to Ginny. "He knows he's made mistakes. As tempted as I am to punch him, I still have to admit he's trying."
"He's growing up," Ginny said sadly. "I just wish it hadn't cost him so much."
"It cost us all more than we wanted to pay. Growing up sucks," Harry said softly.
Hermione frowned. "Harry, language."
Harry grimaced. She would never be comfortable with the changes in his vocabulary, most of which he attributed to Logan.
The group descended into an uneasy silence, as if waiting for Harry to explode at Hermione, who was busy flipping through her book, unaware of the undercurrent.
Harry shook his head. "I'm not going to scream just because Hermione doesn't like my vocabulary, guys," he said with a wry grin. "She's heard worse from me and didn't correct it. It's like an automatic response from her. Watch."
He grinned at them and winked. "Hermione, it sucks."
Hermione, who hadn't been paying attention to the conversation, murmured, "Harry, language."
Both Neville and Ginny laughed and Hermione looked up from her book, peering at them suspiciously.
"Now that I have your attention, Hermione, there's something I need to talk to you guys about. The other night I spotted Draco in the Room of Requirement after hours. He was alone. I didn't think much of it at first, but since then, I've caught him several other times in the room. I think he's up to something."
Hermione frowned and put her book away. "Have you told anyone else about this?"
"No," he replied shaking his head. "I thought I'd tell you guys first."
"I don't know, Harry. After last year, I think it might be better if you told someone." Her eyes darted to his and she winced when his expression turned stoney.
"And who would you suggest, Hermione?" he asked, coldly. "The Headmaster who let us be tortured last year, or perhaps the other teachers who ignored how we were treated? Perhaps we should also tell them about the fact that most of the Slytherin sixth and seventh year boys wear the Dark Mark. Oh, but wait. They're supposed to ignore that, just as they did Umbridge and her blood quill, right?"
All three of his friends stared at him, shocked.
"If you don't start thinking and looking out for yourself, Hermione, you're going to end up going to the slaughter along with the rest of the sheep. I knew I shouldn't have come back to this place."
Harry turned stiffly and walked away.
"Way to go," Ginny said sarcastically. "You know how badly Dumbledore has messed things up, yet you keep turning to him as if he'll fix everything. Harry will never turn to one of the teachers, not now. He doesn't trust them. And after this summer, I can't say I blame him."
"He's got to start trusting them sooner or later," Hermione retorted.
"Why? You know, I am beginning to see Harry's point of view in all this. Voldemort thinks for his people, and we're letting Dumbledore and the Ministry think for us."
Jean walked up to the group, smiling, but her expression faltered when she sensed the heightened tension among them. "What's going on? Where's Harry?"
Hermione abruptly stood and walked quickly in the direction that Harry had taken.
"Hermione said something that made Harry angry. He's noticed some funny things going on in the school and she wanted him to talk to a teacher," Neville said.
"I think she's going to go find him and apologize," Ginny added. "At least, I hope she is," she said in a mutter.
"He could talk to me," Jean replied, sitting in the spot Hermione had just left.
Ginny turned back toward Jean and frowned, then she shook her head. "No, Professor, he can't. I know Harry well enough to know how he thinks. He knows you're holding stuff back from him and that puts you almost in the same category as Dumbledore," Ginny said softly.
Jean looked at her in surprise.
"Don't you get it, Professor? Dumbledore held a lot of stuff back from Harry, about the prophecy, about his life and his parents, and about you," Ginny added. "Now you're doing the same thing. Oh, I don't mind learning Occlumency, but if Harry's trust means anything to you at all, take him away from the castle and tell him what he needs to know. He can fill us in after we've learned to protect ourselves."
Jean sat pensively for a moment. "I see what you're saying, Ginny. I'll wait here a bit to let Hermione talk with him first, then I'll go find him."
Ginny nodded and looked down by the lake, where she could see Harry facing Hermione.
Hermione, for the first time, found herself at a complete loss for words. When Harry noticed her approach, he stopped walking and waited for her.
"You know, I used to think that Ron was the one who spoke without thinking. What's happened to you, Hermione?" he asked bluntly.
Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but she could seem to find the words she was looking for. Finally, she looked down, unable to meet his gaze.
Harry stepped closer and lifted her chin gently with a hand. "We used to be able to tell each other anything. What's happened between us, Hermione?"
"I'm not sure. I think the war happened. I'm not a good Gryffindor, Harry. I'm terrified! When I was hurt last year, it stopped being an adventure," she whispered.
He conjured a large bench with a wave of his hand and motioned for her to sit.
"It stopped being an adventure for all of us," he replied, then he looked at her bleakly. "When you were hurt at the Ministry last year, I was terrified that I'd gotten you killed. I couldn't think straight. If Neville hadn't found your pulse, I probably would have surrendered to them, just so that you could get to a healer safely."
"No! You wouldn't have done that, Harry. You wouldn't surrender," she protested weakly.
"If it meant getting help for you, I would have. Don't you understand yet? You and Ron were like family to me. That's why your lying to me hurt so much. At that point, you were all the family I had. And while I may have parents now, that doesn't mean I don't still think of you like a sister."
She sighed softly and looked out over the lake. "I just wish we were like normal kids. It would be nice to have nothing more to worry about than grades, who to date and which broom closets were empty."
Harry chuckled. "I know how that goes. I'd give all my fortune to be normal, but normal isn't an option for me."
Harry turned to face her on the bench. "Hermione, for good or ill, you became my friend. Now you're faced with a choice. Help me, or get out of my way. My friends will help me, the others will be pushed aside. And that includes people like Dumbledore, who expects me to fight this war with both hands tied behind my back and blinfolded. If I decide to fight, it's going to be according to my rules, which means I'm going to be ruthless. My enemy won't hesitate to kill and neither will I, regardless of what Dumbledore says. It's my life and I'm fighting for my survival."
He stood and walked a few feet toward the lake. "I won't do it. Not his way," he whispered, then he turned back to her. "I can't do it alone, Hermione. I'm not going to just push at Dumbledore, either. I wouldn't be surprised if it means defying the Ministry, as well."
She stared at him for a moment. "You know I'll be there for you, but if I think you're doing something wrong, I'm going to tell you."
He smiled softly. "I'm counting on it. I'm also counting on that excessively independent streak of yours and your drive to prove yourself. One way or the other, you have to stop relying on people who are no longer trustworthy."
"Dumbledore," she replied unhappily.
"He left me with a family who abused me most of my life. How can you possibly trust his judgment after that? Ginny wants things from me and I'm at a loss about it. I don't have the experience needed and I'm groping blindly. Don't tell her I said this, but I'm terrified that I'll do the wrong thing, or say something badly and ruin it. This is what I have to show for Dumbledore's kindness. This is what his guidance has given me. I'm not stretching things when I say that I'm not sure who my enemy is, Dumbledore or Voldemort."
Hermione sighed and looked at her hands for a moment. "It's hard," she said softly. "I always looked up to him as an example of what a wizard or witch should aspire to become. He's done things that make me want to doubt him and that's a hard habit to break."
Harry reached down and plucked a stone from the ground, then threw it into the lake. "I know it is," he replied. "Merlin knows I thought of him as some sort of benevolent grandfather figure, until that horrible night when he revealed the prophecy to me."
He looked down and shook his head. "I was in shock over Sirius' death and denying it, and then he tells me it's all up to me, even killing Voldemort. Then he admitted that he knew about the abuse from the Dursleys. Professor Xavier thinks that was the last of a series of shocks that unlocked my mutant abilities at full strength. It's something they call survival mode, where the abilities turn on in a flash. I thought I was dying at the time."
The pair fell silent for several minutes, then Hermione took a deep breath.
"If we can't rely on the adults, then we have to rely on ourselves, Harry. We need to spread the word among the other houses."
He nodded thoughtfully. "That might work, if we can find enough people to commit to our cause. I'm not sure about this, Hermione. You nearly died," he said uncomfortably. "I don't think I can live with myself if I lose someone else close to me."
"We made a mistake in going to the Ministry. We all know that," she said. "But I also know we tried everything we could think of to contact someone. If anyone is to blame for my injury, it's me. I thought I was being clever by silencing Dolohov. No one ever told us that spells could be cast silently."
"Silently, wandlessly and without gesture," he told her. Suddenly the area they were in came alive with fairy lights.
"I see your point," she said sheepishly.
"I'm not doing it to make you feel bad," he said.
She smiled "I know, you're not. Harry, like it or not, you're the Boy-Who-Lived, touched by a greater destiny. I am not going to begrudge any ability you have that may result in your surviving this fight."
Harry nodded and the fairy lights faded away. "Shall we go back, then?"
She stood and the bench vanished from view. She arched an eyebrow at him. "Can you at least pretend that it's hard to do?" she asked in a resigned tone.
Harry grabbed her hand with a laugh and pulled her up the path toward the castle.
Muggle Studies Class, (October 7th)...
"Professor," Ginny said. "I still don't understand this bit about nuclear power. I can understand the bits about steam powered generators. They're kind of like the Express. But I get confused by this bit about atoms and such."
Jean smiled. "It's not necessary for you to understand all the details of nuclear power. But to break it down to its simplest terms, nuclear power is just another form of steam power. Unlike normal steam generators, which burn oil or coal to make steam, nuclear power relies on a different mechanism to generate heat. The heat turns water to steam to run the turbines. Now, if you really want to understand how that heat is created, see me after class and I'll give you some material that can help you understand it."
Jean turned back to the board. "Now that we've discussed how electricity is created, and how it can be stored in batteries or sent via cables called transmission lines, we're going to... Yes?" she asked as Susan Bones entered the room.
"I'm sorry Professor," Susan said softly. "Headmaster Dumbledore asked me to give you this." She held out a small, sealed scroll.
Jean smiled and took the scroll from the Hufflepuff Prefect. "Thank you. Does the Headmaster require a reply immediately?"
Susan shook her head.
"Very well. Thank you, Miss Bones," Jean said, then she broke open the scroll and scanned it quickly.
She walked over to her desk and pulled out a video tape she'd purchased from the Public Broadcasting Service in America about the fight between Edison and Westinghouse. She popped the tape into the player.
"I need to attend to something in my office for a while. Miss Weasley, as a prefect, you're in charge until I return. In the meantime, I'd like you to watch this because we're going to be talking about it when it's done," she said.
After starting the video, she walked into her office and pulled out her cell phone. She pressed a few numbers, then held the unit to her ear.
"Scott? How soon can you and Logan come up here?" she asked.
There was a moment's pause. "I'm not sure, hon. We're installing a radar dish and it's pretty sticky work. Tomorrow at the earliest."
"Tomorrow's fine. You might want to let Charles know that Professor Dumbledore thinks he's located a Horcrux," she replied.
"In that case, I'm going to need Harry."
"Harry? But why? He's still in class!" she exclaimed.
"Think about it Jean. He could probably remove the Horcrux from any trapped area without disturbing the trap," he said.
The connection fell silent for a minute.
"I don't like it," she replied, worriedly. "You know how hard he's been trying to avoid getting pulled in deeper. I have a bad feeling about this."
"Do you want me to talk to him?"
She sighed. "Maybe you can get through to him. But if you do, let him know I intend to come home on Saturday. I need to tell him a few things I can't tell him in the castle."
"All right. Expect us by early afternoon, then. I'll speak with Harry before we talk to Dumbledore. Tell him to have his people ready to go. If he can't, then call me back."
"Right. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye Scott." She snapped the phone closed, cutting the connection.
Looking down at Dumbledore's note, she scowled. Moving to her desk, she grabbed a pen and began her reply to the Headmaster.
Defense Against the Dark Arts Class and Dumbledore's Office, (October 8th)...
"Excuse me, Professor, but I need to speak with Harry Potter," said the man.
Harry woke up and glanced at the door in surprise. Scott stood in the doorway wearing his X-Man uniform. He had been dozing, pretending to read his textbook.
"And you are?" Umbridge asked in her sickening sweet voice.
"I'm his father," Scott said dryly.
Umbridge scowled. "Oh, you're one of the freaks, like Pott..."
She was cut off as her bright pink cardigan snarled and began to twist around on her torso. Shrieking, Umbridge began to beat at her chest and dance about the room.
Harry closed his book and stuffed it in his bag. "Looks like class is dismissed early," he said, grinning.
Hermione looked at him disapprovingly. "Did you do that?"
He raised an eyebrow. "How could I, Hermione? My wand is put away, and as we all know, wandless magic is impossible," he replied. He wasn't about to admit that he had cursed Umbridge days ago. Anytime she said the words 'freak' and 'Potter' in the same sentence, her wardrobe would retaliate.
Hermione's eyes darted towards the Slytherins and she stepped closer. "What about them?" she asked quietly.
Scott stood nearby, watching them closely.
Harry tapped his nose. "They never saw a thing."
It was part of the curse. Only Umbridge, Harry and a few others in the castle were strong minded enough to see through the enchantment. To everyone else, Umbridge was jumping around and screaming for no apparent reason.
He turned to Scott. "What brings you here?"
Scott frowned a little. "We need to talk. Is there someplace we can go that would be private?"
Harry nodded. "I know a place," he replied, then he lead Scott from the room.
Hermione looked around at her fellow Gryffindors and shrugged. Picking up her bag, she left the room and headed for the library.
The others followed her out, leaving a thrashing Umbridge to escape her possessed jumper.
The Slytherins slowly filed out, uncertain why the Professor was bouncing around the classroom.
The Room of Requirement...
Harry opened the door and motioned for Scott to enter.
Scott stepped in and looked around. "What makes this room any different from any other room?"
"This is the magical version of our Danger Room. The difference is that, unlike the Danger Room, you could wish for a room full of tigers and get real tigers," Harry said as he sat down on one of the chairs the room has created. "So, what's up?"
Scott moved to a seat across from him and sat down. "Harry, your Mom says things aren't perfectly safe here, so I'll try to speak in general terms until we can get into the Blackbird, where we'll fill you in on the details."
Harry's eyes narrowed and he nodded.
"I know you don't trust Dumbledore or his people. That's fine, but we need your help. Dumbledore is involved in a project concerning Voldemort. It's dangerous, but I think your talent could be of help. Professor Xavier has decided to help Dumbledore because he recognizes the threat that Voldemort poses to the world. We do not believe that it's going to result in your fighting him alone and we still reject that idea.
"But Dumbledore has managed to convince us that what he's doing is absolutely necessary. Without completing this task, Voldemort can't be killed. And I think we're going to need your help to do this."
Harry stood and walked over to stand in front of the fireplace. "I don't like this. Dumbledore could talk the Pope into becoming Buddhist."
Scott chuckled softly behind him. "I promise you, you won't be alone in this. Logan and I will be there, and there will always be more X-Men around in the future. Hank and Storm arrived at the castle last night. They're anxious to see you."
Harry turned to face his father. "How will we be able to keep my abilities a secret if you're going to rely on them for this project?"
He frowned and slumped a bit, disappointed. "I hadn't thought about that."
Harry sat back down and thought for a moment. "Exactly what do you think you'll need me for, Dad?"
Scott smiled. Hearing Harry call him that always cheered him. He found that he rather liked being a parent. Good thing, since Jean wanted more children. "I had thought we could use your power to retrieve an object that might be protected by magical traps," he replied.
Harry ran a hand through his hair, thinking quickly. "Hmm. Misdirection?" he asked, grinning.
Scott blinked. "Eh? Come again?"
"What is it the Professor always says? 'Show them one thing while doing another'? If I make a show of pulling my wand and doing something with it, they'll think that somehow my ability is related to my magic. I could even spout something about nullifying the magic. To top it off, we make them give a wizard's oath beforehand, not to tell a soul what they see. This way, even afterward, they'll be thinking the wrong thing." He almost laughed. The idea of tricking Dumbledore and the Order seemed very attractive to him.
Scott did laughed and shook his head. It was a smart idea. He checked his watch, then stood. "We need to get up to Dumbledore's office in ten minutes. That will give you time to go change into your flight suit. If we take the Blackbird, I'll be acting as your check pilot."
He looked up in surprise and his smile lit up the room. "Really?" he exclaimed. He had been studying the flight systems of the large plane since he had qualified on the jump jet, but hadn't had the chance to fly it, except in simulation.
"Really," Scott replied with a matching grin. "Now, go change, then come to Dumbledore's office."
Harry was already heading for the door. He'd put up with Dumbledore for a chance to fly the Blackbird!
Headmaster's Office, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry...
Jean sat in the back of the office. She wasn't going on this mission, but since Scott was bringing Harry, she wanted to be present for the meeting. She nodded at Scott when he entered the office and he smiled in reply.
She reached out and caressed his mind.
He was used to the intimate contact and enjoyed it, even if he couldn't speak directly back to her. He thought about his meeting with Harry, which brought those memories forward so Jean could review them.
She grinned, seeing the carrot he'd offered Harry.
So far the meeting consisted of herself, Dumbledore, Logan, Remus Lupin and William Weasley.
"Ah, welcome, Mr. Summers. As I was telling your lovely wife and Mr. Logan, our planned destination is in Dover, on the shore actually. We were just discussing the logistics of the trip. He said you had that taken care of?" Dumbledore asked congenially.
"Yes. We'll take the Blackbird. It might not be as fast as your portkeys, but it won't trigger any magical alarms, either," Scott replied.
Dumbledore's eyes twinkled, but Remus and Bill looked a little alarmed.
"Will it fit all of us?" blurted Bill.
"She'll hold fourteen comfortably, twenty one in an emergency," said a voice from the doorway.
Jean turned and nearly slid from her chair in shock. Harry stood in the doorway dressed in a black flight suit. He wore his black cloak over that, to which he had added a blazing red X on the right breast. She noted the X was made from crossed wands.
Logan grinned appreciatively and Scott shook with silent laughter.
"Like the look, Wiz. Sort of a medieval X," Logan said.
Harry grinned back at him, then turned to Dumbledore. "The Blackbird will handle the load, no problem. Flight time from here to Dover is thirty eight minutes. The distance is too short for us to go any faster."
"Did I mention Harry will be helping and will also be our pilot for the flight?" Scott offered.
If possible, Remus turned even paler than he normally was.
Dumbledore frowned. "Is he really needed?"
"Yes," replied Scott firmly. "Harry has enough experience and has been studying the flight systems for a while now. I'll be his check pilot, so there's really nothing to worry about."
Jean suppressed a laugh. She knew Scott had deliberately evaded the question.
Dumbledore sighed and nodded. "Very well. Let us be off, then."
"Wait," Harry said, then he looked pointedly at Scott.
Scott blinked, then it dawned on him. "Right. If it becomes necessary for Harry to use his mutant abilities, we need a wizard's oath that you won't reveal what you saw."
"Do you think that's necessary?" Dumbledore asked in a voice tinged with annoyance.
"Absolutely," Harry replied coldly.
"Oh, this is ridiculous," Remus said, pushing past Bill. He pulled his wand. "I solemnly swear on my magic that I will not reveal anything you wish to show us."
The tip of his wand flared brightly for a second, then went out.
"Thanks, Professor," Harry replied softly. There may be hope for Remus yet, he mused. He genuinely liked the old Marauder, but felt he was too close to Dumbledore to trust implicitly.
Bill stepped forward and gave the same oath, then Dumbledore, although he looked less than happy about it.
Jean stood and hugged Scott. "Be careful and watch out for Harry," she whispered, kissing his cheek, then she turned and hugged Harry. "I don't care if you have to expose your ability. You do what you need to stay safe tonight," she whispered to him.
Harry smiled and hugged her back. "I will," he promised.
Five minutes later, the strange group were climbing up the ramp of the Blackbird. Harry nodded to several of his friends on the way through the castle, but didn't speak to anyone.
He slid into the pilot's seat and strapped in.
"Are you sure you can work this thing?" Bill asked nervously. He was copying Logan's actions as he strapped into the seat. Next to him sat Remus, who had already strapped in, as he was familiar with muggle seat belts.
Harry grinned at the three wizards. Remus sat in a seat looking decidedly unhappy with the situation. Harry couldn't help himself, he shrugged slightly. "We'll find out, I guess. This is my first real chance to fly this baby. Say, Dad, isn't there a start button around here somewhere?"
Remus turned white, then slumped over in his seat as he fainted. The only thing keeping him from crashing to the floor was the harness that held him firmly in his seat.
Bill paled and stared at Harry. When Scott and Logan began to laugh, he frowned and looked at the two X-Men. Realizing that Harry was just joking, he shook his head and sighed in resignation.
Harry grinned, then turned back to the console to start his preflight checklist. His movements were precise and his hands flew over the controls, activating systems aboard the large aircraft.
Scott leaned close to Harry. "I know you're enjoying this, but let's not make this ride any rougher than it has to be."
Harry nodded. "I know. No deliberate acrobatics."
"Unless you can think of a way of doing them accidentally," Logan said in an undertone.
Harry grinned at Logan, who was eyeing Remus' slumped form, and laughing to himself.
"Ramp secured," Scott called out.
"Starting engines," Harry replied. He pressed a few buttons on the panel and slowly advanced the throttle forward.
The large plane gently lifted up.
"Logan, check the stealth generators and radar suppression systems," Harry said. He had green lights on his panel, but they couldn't afford for those units to give out.
Logan glanced over at a display panel on his side. "Stealth and radar suppression operational, Wiz. Remind me to ask the Professor about putting some missiles on this thing."
Scott shook his head. It was an age old argument between Logan and the Xavier.
He nodded absently, concentrating on the controls. He pushed the nose of the craft up, then adjusted the thrusters from hover to cruise mode. The large plane shot forward, gaining altitude as it left Hogwarts.
Several minutes later, he leveled the plane out and dialed in the coordinates for their destination before switching on the autopilot. He pushed his seat back from the controls and turned to Scott. "All right, we're on our way. Now, would someone mind explaining to me what's going on?" he asked.
"Shouldn't you be holding onto that wheel thing?" Bill asked in a strangled voice.
"Auto pilot, Bill. The plane is flying itself. It will warn me when we're five minutes out or if there is a problem like a wing falling off," Harry replied.
Bill nodded unhappily, barely understanding what Harry was saying. As nervous as he was, he couldn't help but think how much his father would love flying in the muggle craft.
Dumbledore watched with a slight smile on his face and his eyes twinkling brightly, while Scott explained the concept of a Horcrux to his son.
Harry's expression grew grimmer as they approached Dover.
An alarm chimed and Harry turned away from Scott to check it. "We're five minutes out and the radar is clear. Someone wake up Remus," Harry called.
The information about the Horcruxes disturbed him. He wanted to know how long Dumbledore knew about them, and why he was only going after them now, but he kept his mouth shut. He decided he would hang back and only get involved if absolutely necessary.
The plane descended and bled off air speed until they were within a mile of the target coordinates. Then he shifted the plane from cruise to hover while watching the GPS system. He slowly came to hover over the precise coordinates that Scott had given him.
"We're over water. I can set her down, but we're too close to the shore. The surf would smash us up against the rocks," he said tensely to Scott.
The plane rocked in the turbulent air around the cliffs and Harry gripped the controls tighter, gently increasing power to give him some airspace under the plane.
"Circle around and see if you can find a spot to put down," Scott replied, then he leaned forward and flipped a switch, activating a flood light.
The powerful beam shot out from the plane and he fiddled with it for few moments before finding a cave entrance. "See that? That's our ultimate destination."
"There's no beach here. It's all rock. We're going to have to land on the top of the cliff," Harry replied.
He scanned the cliff carefully for a minute. "Look, there's a trail cut into the cliff over there," he said pointing.
Scott adjusted the beam, then he leaned back smiling. "Good catch. Let's find someplace to put down."
Harry nodded and pushed the throttles forward a hair so they could rise above the cliff.
"Over there. See the clearing?" Scott asked.
"I got it."
Two minutes later, the large plane had landed and Harry started shutting down the systems.
"Excellent flying, Harry. I'm most impressed," Dumbledore said in the now quiet cabin.
"Thank you, sir," Harry replied formally. Scott shot him a warning look, but then he realized that Harry wasn't being rude. He had responded automatically, his mind still on shutting down the large aircraft. His hands were darting over the controls, throwing switches, shutting off the various systems.
Bill cast an enervate on Remus and then helped him to his feet. As soon as he understood they were on the ground, his color came back and he looked much better.
Harry opened the ramp and climbed out of his seat. "All right, let's do this. I still have a transfiguration essay to do tonight."
Bill and Remus laughed and Dumbledore shook his head. "If we get back too late, I'll give you an excuse, Harry," the Headmaster promised.
Logan joined Remus and Bill, who stood examining a map. "This is the spot. Apparently, Voldemort's orphanage used to come to this spot frequently for outings. We detected a large amount of dark magic coming from the cave entrance, but we haven't entered it."
Scott stepped up to them. "Bill, you're the one skilled in detecting traps. You and Logan will lead. I'll follow with Dumbledore and Remus, and Harry will bring up the rear."
Hearing the order, Harry fell into step next to Remus.
"I'm glad you're here, Harry. I wanted the chance to talk to you," Remus said softly. Like Harry, he was watching both in front and behind.
"Oh?" Harry replied noncommittally.
"I wanted to apologize. For everything. James and Lily are probably most disappointed in me by now. I haven't done right by you."
Harry sighed and slowed his pace even more, letting the group ahead of them pull away.
"Remus, a lot has happened and I don't think any of us can go back to the way things were. If you want to be my friend, you'll have to learn a new talent. Personally, I don't think you'll have as much of a problem with it as some of the others, but little surprises me about wizards anymore."
They walked for a bit more in silence, then Remus broke it. "What talent do I need to learn, Harry? I'd like for us to be friends."
"Tell me something, Remus. When you were with Sirius and the Marauder's, were you a follower or an equal partner?"
Remus blinked in surprise. "None of us were really in charge, Harry. I'd say we were all partners, even after your Mum joined our group."
"Then why have you started following Dumbledore? Have you forgotten how to think for yourself?" he asked quietly.
Stunned, Remus stopped and stared at Harry, who kept walking. Finally realizing he was being left behind, he broke into a trot to catch up.
"Do you really believe that?" he asked.
Harry glanced at him. "What do you think, Professor? When was the last time anyone questioned a decision he made? Or, for that matter, this Horcrux hunt. How long has he known about Horcruxes and why is he only going after them now? Why am I the only one questioning what he's doing? I'm not trying to knock the man down, but he's only human and he's made plenty of mistakes. If you don't believe me, take a closer look. You're walking next to one of his biggest."
Remus scowled and stepped behind Harry as the trail narrowed too much to walk side by side. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not convinced the wizarding world in Britain is worth fighting for. Considering his actions of late, I doubt I ever will be," Harry said simply, then he stopped. "Look, the trail flattens out at the rocks. We're only a few feet from the cave entrance."
Harry and Remus stopped a few feet short of the entrance and waited while Bill and Dumbledore cast some detection charms on the entrance.
When they were finished, Bill turned to the others. "We can't detect any traps, but there is considerable dark magic emanating from the cavern."
Scott glanced at Harry, who nodded slightly. He could see the flows of magic rushing from the cave entrance like a geyser. He wasn't looking forward to entering that maelstrom of dark energy. They hadn't even entered the cave and the energy was already beating on his senses.
Logan unzipped a carry bag and pulled out several flashlights, which he passed out. Bill, Remus and Dumbledore looked at the lights intrigued. Remus turned to look at Harry, who flicked his on.
Smiling, Remus copied his actions.
"Come on, Red," muttered Logan, then he turned and entered the cave, Bill behind him.
Scott and Dumbledore entered after them, with Remus and Harry bringing up the rear.
"These are really handy and they provide more light than a Lumos," Remus said in a whisper. By unspoken agreement, no one wanted to talk too loudly.
"Yeah. And unlike regular Muggle electric torches, these won't run out of battery power," added Harry. The torches carried his rune enhanced batteries.
The passage wasn't long, but it was narrow and difficult. After ten minutes and much complaining from the Wizards about needing to exercise more, they stepped out into a large chamber. The sound of dripping water filled the chamber with soft echoes.
Logan played his flashlight beam out to see that they stood on the edge of a large underground lake. In front of them were a series of flat stones that they could use to cross the water.
In the center of the lake was a small rock outcropping.
Harry shivered. His empathy, weak as it was, was filling him with anger and terror and it was coming from all around them. "I have a real bad feeling about this."
"You and me both," Bill replied uneasily.
Harry walked over to the edge and shined his light straight down. He sucked in his breath and involuntarily took a step backwards. "Shit! There are bodies in the lake!" he swore.
Dumbledore stepped forward and looked down, his expression growing grim. "Inferi; animated corpses. They are obviously part of a trap. Somewhere up ahead must be the trigger," he said, then he turned to the others. "If the Inferi awaken, normal spells will not work against them. They feel no pain. The only thing that works is fire and dismemberment."
"What will trigger them to awaken?" asked Scott eyeing the masses of bodies in the lake with disgust.
Dumbledore shrugged. "They have not come to life yet, so presumably something up ahead is warded to waken them."
"Should we continue?" asked Remus nervously.
Again Dumbledore shrugged. "I cannot think of anything we can go back and obtain that would make fighting Inferi any easier."
"How about a nuclear weapon?" muttered Harry.
Logan chuckled loudly. "Yeah, or a flame thrower," he said, then he jumped onto the first stone in the lake. He looked around to see if anything changed, but the water remained calm. He turned back to the others. "Well?" he growled. "Are you waiting for an invitation?"
One by one they moved from stone to stone, stopping periodically to see if the Inferi showed any signs of life, but all remained quiet. The only sound in the chamber, besides their breathing, was the steady drip of water into the lake.
They approached the rocky outcropping warily, becoming more vigilant and cautious. Finally, they stepped onto the small islet. In the exact center of the island was a raised stone column nearly chest high, and inside that was a depression filled with a dark, smoking liquid.
Bill reached for his wand, but before he could touch it, a vise like grip grabbed his hand. He looked at Logan in alarm.
"You might set it off. I don't need to be a wizard to see that this has booby trap written all over it."
"We came all the way here for that?" Harry asked.
"No, I don't think so," replied Dumbledore. "I suspect that what we want is in the liquid. Now the question is, how do we get it out?"
Remus' nose crinkled. "It's not water. I smell dragon blood and crushed brimstone."
"Really?" Dumbledore said, his bushy eyebrows raised in amazement. "Then it is a highly caustic liquid."
When Scott glanced at Logan, the man growled, but nodded. "I'll try," he said.
He stepped up to the bowl like depression and stuck a fingertip into the liquid. Swearing, he yanked his hand away and began to curse a blue streak. The flesh had been stripped to his silvery bones.
Remus and Bill started to move forward to help him, but Scott stopped them.
Swearing still, Logan held his wounded hand up and watched with jaded eyes as the flesh began to grow.
The three wizards stared at Logan in amazement.
Ignoring the others, Harry stepped up to the bowl and shined his flashlight into it. At the bottom he could just make out a golden object.
"I suppose we could try moving the liquid out," Scott said dubiously.
"Maybe, but I think there's probably a reservoir of the stuff," Bill said, still staring at Logan and his now fully healed finger.
"So, what now?" asked Harry.
Dumbledore rummaged through his pockets for a minute before pulling out a goblet. "I suppose one of us could drink the potion."
Logan blinked and turned to stare at the old Headmaster incredulously. "Are you insane? No wonder you wizards are a minority. You breed stupidity! Didn't you see what it did to my finger? And you want to drink it?"
"Logan!" Scott said warningly and Dumbledore shuffled his feet uncomfortably. He slid the goblet back into his pocket.
Harry stared at the two of them, then decided to get the group focused back on the task. He pointed at the depression filled with potion.
"There's a piece of jewelry of some sort at the bottom of this bowl. I take it that's the Horcrux?" he asked. With all the ambient magic in the large chamber it was impossible for him to see if the object itself was enchanted.
"That is what we believe," replied Dumbledore, still somewhat smarting from Logan's comments.
Harry stared down at the bowl again.
"Harry? What are you thinking?" asked Scott.
"I might be able to get it out, Dad. But we can't just pull it out. It's going to be dripping with that stuff. We need to put it into something," he replied.
"I have just the thing, Wiz," Logan said. He pulled an empty metal canteen from his carry bag, and using his claws, sliced it in half. Then he walked down to the water's edge and filled it.
"Mr. Logan no!" Dumbledore shouted, but it was too late.
The water started to ripple.
"Oh, shit," Harry exclaimed. "Time to boogie! Logan, hold onto that cup, I'm summoning the item into it."
He pulled his wand and faked a gesture, while teleporting the piece of jewelry to the cup Logan held. "It's done! Let's go!"
Harry took off across the stepping stones, leaping like a gazelle with the others following. The water boiled and undead rose to block their passage.
"Down!" barked Scott.
Harry dived to the ground on one stone and Scott blasted the way clear ahead of them.
"Incendio!" shouted Dumbledore, setting several Inferi that were closing behind them on fire.
With the way clear ahead, Harry continued on until he reached the mouth of the passage, then he turned and started laying down fire, covering the others.
Remus had just stepped onto the last stone before the mouth of the passage when an Inferi surged through the wall of fire Harry created. Still on fire, it lunged out and grabbed Remus with both arms. He screamed in pain from the fire and fought against the implacable grip. Claws flashed and the Inferi staggered back, missing both arms from the elbows down.
Bill and Harry leaped to help Remus, who had been burned along his back and sides.
Harry reached him first. "Hang in there, Remus," he said, pulling his arm over his shoulder.
Not bothering with his flashlight, Harry wandlessly cast a light spell and plunged into the passage, still half carrying, half dragging Remus.
From behind he could hear more shouting, then he heard Dumbledore shout something and the cavern rumbled. Harry's magic flared and suddenly Remus weighed nothing against him. He put on a burst of speed and shot out of the mouth of the cave. Panting, he paused and turned, waiting for the others to exit the cavern.
After a minute the others stumbled out of the cavern, coughing. "Is everyone alright?" Harry asked.
"We're fine. How is Remus?" replied Bill.
"He needs Madam Pomfrey, but I don't think the burns are very serious," he replied worriedly.
"Then let us leave this place and get him back to the school," Dumbledore said, panting hard.
"Do you have a portkey he can use?"
"No... no portkey," gasped Remus.
"He's right, Harry. With those burns, the portkey will jostle him too much," Bill said.
Logan stepped over to Remus and lifted him on his shoulder. "Let's get outta here," he growled, then he took off up the path at a trot.
Harry fell in step behind Logan, easily keeping pace with him. Scott was only a few steps behind.
Bill and Dumbledore shared a look, then Bill started jogging up the path as well. Dumbledore frowned and moved as quickly as he could back up the trail.
By the time Dumbledore arrived back at the jet, its engines were already powered up. He climbed up the ramp to find Remus strapped to one of the bench seats with a blanket covering him. He was laying face down. Bill sat nearby, watching over him.
Harry turned to Dumbledore. "It's best if you strap in, sir. We're going to be in a bit of a rush on the return trip home, so it might get a little bumpy."
Dumbledore nodded and quickly took the seat next to Bill. He glanced over at Remus, surprised to see that he seemed to be sleeping.
"Harry cast a pain numbing charm on him before we strapped him in," Bill said in reply to his unasked question.
Dumbledore nodded. "Excellent."
Harry moved into the pilot's seat and closed the rear hatch. The plane lifted quickly and shot forward with little preparation or advance warning.
Scott pulled out his phone and pressed two numbers.
"Jean? It's Scott. Listen, we're inbound, ETA," Scott paused and looked at Harry.
"Twenty five minutes. It's too short a trip to go any faster," Harry said.
Scott nodded and turned back to the phone. "ETA, twenty five minutes. Alert Madam Pomfrey that we're bringing Remus Lupin in wounded. He's been burned.... No, Harry's fine, just tired like the rest of us. Right now he's got us in super cruise. You know what that does to the stealth capabilities, so he's busy."
Scott paused and listened for a moment, nodding at the phone. "Yes, we'll see you soon."
He closed the phone and pocketed it, then glanced at Harry and the flight readings when the craft hit a turbulent patch of air. He was surprised at how well he was doing keeping the flight steady, especially at the low altitude they were flying.
Harry ignored Scott, keeping his eyes on the heads-up display and the radar display in front of him.
"Excuse me, Mr. Summers, but what is this super cruise you spoke of?" asked Bill.
"Call me, Scott," he replied absently. He reached up and flicked several switches, activating the holographic map.
Scott turned in his seat and gestured toward the map. "Normally, the Blackbird either flies very high, or under stealth mode, which prevents detection by the Muggles. Because of Mr. Lupin's injury, Harry's using the fastest speed of travel we can do at this low altitude. We're flying faster than most military jets can follow, but we're also generating a huge heat signature, and that means someone with an infrared seeking missile would have no problem targeting us.
"I don't expect us to have any problems. As you can see from the map, we're already approaching the Scottish border. Harry will start slowing the plane down any moment," Scott said, then he turned back to the console.
Harry flipped some switches, applying the air breaks and everyone could feel the large plane rapidly slowing.
"Amazing. Dover to Scotland in less than a half hour," Dumbledore said.
Bill could only nod. Scott's explanation hadn't explained anything, but he was too much of a Weasley to admit to it.
Just about the time that Hogwarts appeared on the holographic map as a blinking green light, Harry throttled back the engines. He scanned the board for a moment as the airspeed dropped even further, then he rotated the engines.
"Switching to hover mode, I've got the landing beacon," he said absently. "Gear down?"
Scott flipped a few switches. "Gear down and locked," he replied.
The heads up display on the cockpit window showed Harry his landing target. He dropped his forward momentum to nearly zero, then slipped into position.
Jean watched the large craft land smoothly. Madam Pomfrey and Professor McGonagall stood next to her.
"I don't think I'll ever get used to that," Minerva said with a touch of disapproval in her voice.
"It took me a while to get used to it, Minerva," Jean replied. "But you will."
Poppy started to move forward, but Jean grabbed her by the shoulder.
"Wait until the engines are shut down and the ramp is lowered. It's safer," Jean said.
Poppy stared at her for a second, then nodded. Just then the engine's started to whine down and the ramp began to lower.
As soon as the ramp touched the ground, Madam Pomfrey took off running. Harry and the others met her at the bottom of the ramp, with Logan carrying Remus.
"Remove your hands from him. I'll take him from here," Poppy commanded firmly.
Logan blinked at the short woman and slowly released him. She waved her wand and Remus floated off of his shoulder and onto a stretcher she had waiting. She gave him a quick look over, then she waved her wand again and the stretcher floated towards the castle.
Poppy turned to look at Logan and the others. "Is anyone else hurt? What about you, Mr. Potter? You seem incapable of avoiding injury."
"I'm fine, Madam Pomfrey," Harry replied, ignoring the chuckles from Logan and Scott.
"I can fix that, Wiz," muttered Logan.
"Only if you want us both to go to the infirmary tonight, Logan," Harry said with a forced grin, then turned back to Madam Pomfrey. "Really, Madam Pomfrey, I don't even have a scratch on me."
Poppy harrumphed and turned to head back to the castle with Remus floating behind her.
Jean stepped forward and hugged Harry and Scott. "Did you find it?" she asked.
Bill held up the half canteen and nodded.
Harry stared at it for a moment, then frowned fiercely.
"Harry?" asked Bill worriedly.
"It's a fake," Harry snarled. "There's no magic at all coming from it." Turning away in disgust, he walked a few feet from the group, muttering under his breath and shooting angry glances at Dumbledore.
"What do you mean, it's a fake?" exclaimed Bill.
"Just what I said! There's not a damn bit of magic coming off that thing," Harry asserted.
Bill turned to Dumbledore and held out the canteen.
The old wizard frowned at the sudden turn of events. "Let us go up to my office and figure this out," he said.
Everyone nodded and followed Dumbledore. Harry reluctantly followed, still muttering to himself.
Jean dropped back to walk with him. "Are you all right?"
"I'm angry. Remus could have been killed over nothing!"
"Harry, isn't it possible that this is as much of a surprise to him as it is to everyone else?"
He scowled. "The last time he made a mistake like this, Sirius died, Mum. I knew getting involved with him wasn't a good idea."
Jean stopped him with a hand on his arm. "Stop it. Right now," she said firmly. "We get the idea. You don't trust the man. But like it or not, we have to work with him, if for no other reason than to make sure you're safe."
Harry's scowl deepened, but he nodded. "Fine. You guys work with him, but don't ask me trust him. You have no idea what that place was like tonight and he took us in blind," he replied, then he shivered. The oppressive atmosphere of the cave had greatly upset him. It had beat down on his empathic senses the entire time. He could still feel it, even with the distance. The trip to the cave had greatly unsettled him.
Jean slipped her arm around his shoulders. "We won't. I don't think any of us really trust him, either."
Harry lowered his head. "I'm sorry. I'm snapping and being unfair to you. It's just that this is so typical of him. Remus got hurt for nothing. They never entered that cave until tonight, so they had no idea what to expect."
She stopped him just before the open entrance to the Headmaster's office. "Harry, you've got a good set of instincts. Trust them and us." When he looked at her, she touched his cheek, then nodded her head toward the open entrance. "Are you ready?"
He looked up the stairs and sighed. "No, but let's go get this over with."
In Dumbledore's office, they found themselves sitting and waiting to hear back from Madam Pomfrey concerning Remus before anything else. Harry sat on a conjured couch with Jean next to him, while the others sat around Dumbledore's desk. The only other person present that had not gone on the trip to the cave was Professor McGonagall.
"For what it's worth, Headmaster, I think Harry was correct, Remus' injuries looked to be painful, but not life threatening," offered Jean.
"We'll know shortly. Madam Pomfrey knows to contact us concerning his condition," Dumbledore replied.
He leaned back in his chair pensively, looking at Harry.
Harry, aware of Dumbledore's scrutiny, refused to look him in the eye. Instead, he decided to take a closer look at the room and the magic flowing within it.
"Since we're waiting, how did he do?" Jean asked Scott.
"Quite well, actually. I don't think it will be long before he starts thinking about buying a Blackbird for himself," Scott said with a grin.
Jean frowned. "Harry, can't you be like a normal teenager and just want a car?"
He grinned at her. "Where is the fun in that?"
"How did who do?" asked Minerva.
"Harry," replied Jean. "He was the pilot for the flight there and back. It was his first real time flying the Blackbird."
Minerva blinked and turned her attention to Harry, who was staring at something on one of the shelves on the wall.
"You seem to have several remarkable talents, Mr. Potter," she said.
"Yes, Professor," Harry replied absently. He had spotted several objects in Dumbledore's office that had flows of magic leading out of the room. He wasn't sure of their purpose.
Jean turned to look at him. "Harry? What's the matter?"
Harry's eyes widened as he realized what the objects were doing. He looked around wildly for a moment, then spotting a blank parchment on Dumbledore's desk, he lurched to his feet and grabbed it. Pulling a pen from his back pocket, he scribbled a note and held it out to Jean.
Say nothing! Room is bugged by at least three listening charms!
Jean scowled and passed the note to Scott, who handed it to Logan. The note made it around the room, eventually coming to rest on Dumbledore's desk, and he stared at it in consternation.
Minerva whispered a charm under her breath and three objects glowed brightly: a snow globe on the shelf, a quill and a potions book.
Dumbledore blanched when he saw the potions book glowing. It had been a gift from Snape!
Harry picked up the note and wrote on it again, then gave it to Dumbledore.
We need to change rooms. What about the Room of Requirement?
Dumbledore nodded and handed the note to Minerva, who read it and passed it on. A moment later, they were filing out of the office, with Harry in the lead. He stopped in front of Barnabus the Barmy and paced back and forth three times until the door appeared.
Minerva gasped and looked at Dumbledore. "Albus, did you know about this room?"
"No, not entirely. I stumbled upon the room once and found filled with the most marvelous chamber pots. This was, of course, before the indoor plumbing was installed. But I never learned the secret of how to bring the room back. It seems our Harry has more secrets than we ever suspected,"
He followed the others in, then stopped, slightly awed by what he was seeing. Harry had recreated a room the X-Men knew well.
The table was a gleaming chrome and glass and the seats were all high back plush leather. A fireplace sat against one wall with a fire merrily burning away. Against the other wall, a long window looking out on a grove of apple trees. It was exactly the scene from the east conference room of Xavier's school.
"Nice digs, Wiz," Logan commented. "It feels just like home. Now, would someone mind telling me what is going on? First our little trip tonight was a waste of time? And listening charms? We've met in that office before."
"We have," said Dumbledore. "But normally I invoke a privacy charm that would block any one trying to listen in. I am more curious about your conclusion, Harry. How do you know that the locket isn't a Horcrux?" he asked, gesturing to the half canteen Bill still held. "No one has had time to examine the object, as yet."
Harry shrugged. "The same way I could tell there were objects in your room with tendrils of magic flowing outward. I can see the magic and it's flows. Inside the cave, there was too much magic to see if the object was enchanted. Speaking of which, the silver spinning device that puffs smoke? Why is it tied to me?"
Dumbledore blinked in surprise. "That device is linked to your magic. It tells me roughly where you are and whether or not you are healthy."
Harry stiffened and crossed his arms scowling. He walked to a spot as far away from Dumbledore as he could get, then sat down.
"Harry?" Jean asked, alarmed by the sudden anger radiating from him. It reminded her of when they first picked up his distress back at the beginning of summer.
He shook his head and stared at the table. His emotions had been on the ragged edge since the experience in the cave and he felt pushed to an extreme he hadn't felt since the end of last term. His control was rapidly crumbling.
Scott leaned forward in his chair. "I think we can assume you will disable or turn off that device, Headmaster?"
Dumbledore nodded, though reluctantly, and Scott breathed a sigh of relief. He thought the issue was put to bed
"What did I ever do to make you hate me so much, Headmaster? Did my parents hurt you in some way? Or my family?" Harry asked quietly. He looked up and Dumbledore and the others were surprised to see the tears rolling down his cheeks.
"I do not, and never have hated you, my boy," Dumbledore replied carefully.
Harry surged to his feet and pounded the metal and glass table with a fist. "You knew!" he shouted, and a burst of magic pulsed outwards. The burst itself was uncontrolled, but its aim was not. The table crumpled and melted.
Logan jumped back from the table and instinctively his claws extended.
"You knew! Every beating, every broken bone would have shown up on that thing," Harry said brokenly. He trembled and his eyes became wild. He backed away from everyone. "No Uncle," he muttered. "I'm sorry."
Jean stepped over to him and Harry looked at her blankly, not recognizing her. He stepped back, his breath coming in great gasps.
Recognizing the signs of a panic attack, she reached for him and he flinched violently back, raising his arms over his head to ward off the blow.
"No, Uncle Vernon. I'm sorry!" he moaned. He backed into a corner and crouched down low, looking more like a wounded animal than a person.
Minerva, Dumbledore and Bill watched in horror as Jean approached him.
"Harry sweetheart," she said softly. "No one is going to hurt you."
His eyes darted around wildly, looking for an avenue of escape. He was so confused, he'd even forgotten about his own mutant abilities. Jean was profoundly grateful for that fact. With his ability, he could teleport anywhere on the planet and they'd be weeks looking for him.
She reached out to touch him. He flinched away from her again and whimpered. Undaunted, she embraced him and began whispering calmly to him, trying to sooth him. When he finally began to relax against her, she tightened her grip and blinked away her tears.
Minerva summoned a house elf and spoke to the little creature for a moment. It vanished only to return, clutching a small potion vial.
She took the vial from the elf and moved towards Jean. "I have a calming draught here," she murmured. "It should help."
Jean nodded and took the vial from the older witch. She uncorked it and held it up to Harry's lips. Instinctively, he drank the liquid, then closed his eyes for a moment. She began to relax as he calmed.
He opened his eyes and looked at her, trembling in her arms from fatigue. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I've been fighting that off all night. The atmosphere in that cave was downright oppressive. I could feel it dragging me down."
Jean tightened her grip around him. "Next time, tell us. We love you and will always be here for you. Are you feeling better?"
He nodded. "Just tired."
Jean stood and then helped him to his feet. He looked at the crumpled mess that used to be a table and looked down at his feet in shame.
Dumbledore pulled out his wand and fixed the table.
"Harry, my boy, I am so very sorry. There aren't words enough to say how much I regret what you've gone through. I won't make any excuses, but in my own defense, I'll say that the monitor only went off in the evenings. When I checked it the following morning, usually before I planned to leave to check on you, it showed you healthy again."
Harry sighed and nodded. "I'm sorry, too, sir. Just so people know, if I'm injured and the injuries aren't attended to, my magic will step in and heal me. It usually takes five or six hours and it's not a...pleasant process."
He sighed and hunched his shoulders. "I lost control. I'm sorry."
"Lost control? Mr. Potter, you could have killed someone, with that outburst. Instead, you somehow managed to contain and confine it to destroying a table! Considering what I saw tonight, control is not a problem you suffer from," exclaimed Professor McGonagall.
"Indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "Now, please, Harry, sit and rest while we discuss what we've learned this evening."
Bill levitated the jewelry out of the half canteen and placed it on the table. It was a locket with an ornate snake carved into it's lid.
Dumbledore waved his wand several times, muttering under his breath, then he leaned back on his chair, looking old and tired. "It is as Harry says. A clever forgery of Slytherin's locket and not a Horcrux."
Bill pulled his wand and cast a cleaning a spell on the locket, then he reached for it. He examined it for a minute before passing it over to Scott.
"It's obvious that the real locket is probably a Horcrux, it's just a matter of finding it," Dumbledore murmured.
Harry took the locket from Jean and stared at it. "I've seen this before," he murmured. He placed the locket down on the table and leaned back thinking, his eyes closed. "Where did I see this?"
A hush fell around the table and all eyes turned to him. His eyes sprang open and he grinned, then reached with his right hand. His hand seemed to blur, becoming indistinct for a brief second, then the effect was gone and another locket lay in the palm of his hand, causing everyone to gasp. Harry quickly dropped the second locket, as if it were hot. He shuddered and looked at the thing with revulsion.
"Don't touch it," he hissed, holding his hand.
Jean moved to examine his hand.
Dumbledore waved his wand at the locket, which glowed a sickly green in response. He turned to look at Harry. "How did you get this?" he asked in surprise.
Harry shrugged. "It's part of my talent. I saw that locket at headquarters, so I called it to me. Whatever you do, do not try to open the locket. That will trigger the Horcrux. Ginny found that out when she opened the diary."
Dumbledore nodded and levitated locket off of the floor where it landed when Harry dropped it. He moved to the table, then turned to Jean. "Did he injure his hand?"
Jean shook her head. "No, he seems to have dropped it in time." She turned to look at Harry. "I'm confused. Did you handle the locket you found at headquarters?"
Harry nodded. "Yes, we all did. We were trying to pry it open, but couldn't."
"Why didn't you hurt yourself then?" asked Scott.
"It's his Mage Sight," Dumbledore said softly.
Minerva nodded. "Yes, that makes sense."
She turned to Jean and the others. "Mage Sight isn't true eyesight. It's another sense, and Mr. Potter's Mage Sight is a recent development. He can 'see' magic and feel it. The Horcrux is created by evil intent. To someone who is not evil, it would be distressing, even to the point of causing pain while holding it. His mind interprets the flow of magic around him and presents it as if he were really seeing it. In a way, the sense is more akin to touch. The locket has powerful magic that is the opposite of what he is, and it causes his sense distress."
"So someone who doesn't have this Mage Sight wouldn't even know they were holding a cursed item like the Horcrux?" asked Jean.
"That's why Ginny never knew until she was already trapped by Riddle," murmured Harry.
"Yes, that is the reason," agreed Dumbledore. "It is likely that you would not be able to touch the diary were it in one piece today."
Dumbledore noticed Harry fighting his exhaustion.
"Might I suggest that we all retire for the evening? It's been a long day and it's been full of surprises. If we could all meet tomorrow after breakfast we can talk about how we can destroy this locket," he suggested.
Everyone agreed and stood. "Minerva, would you remain behind a moment?"
Dumbledore and Minerva waited until everyone filed out. He summoned an elf, who brought them tea.
"I know you have class, but I think it would be for the best if you attend tomorrow's meetings with us. Also, I told Harry that he may be have some extra time to finish the essay you assigned."
Minerva frowned at him. She hated when he interfered with her classes, but at least this time she could see the reason for herself.
"I am concerned about Mr. Potter," she said softly. "Until tonight, I had not seen the extent of his power. He destroyed that table, Albus, his power is truly awesome."
Dumbledore sighed. "Yes, it is. As is the ability to bring an object to him from hundreds of miles away. His abilities will make finding the Horcruxes much easier for us, though harder on him."
Minerva looked at him with a steely gaze. "Albus, I won't have you manipulating him again. Didn't you see what he went through tonight?"
"Of course I saw it, Minerva! And believe me, it tears at my very soul to witness him so tormented. I am the cause of that! But I cannot sit back and simply let him ignore the plight our world is in. Without him, we are lost," he replied heatedly.
"I would do anything to ease his burden, but I cannot," he said in a milder voice. "He has a destiny that will come for him, regardless of how he tries to escape it. It's our job to see that he's prepared for it."
Minerva stood. "No, it's our job to see he is capable of surviving beyond Voldemort, Albus. And you can start by being completely open and honest with him. To my shame, I don't know him as well as I should, but I know him well enough to know that he doesn't trust us, and you in particular. If he discovers so much as a single falsehood, he's liable to run and then where will we be?"
"Yes, yes, of course. You are quite correct, Minerva," Dumbledore replied, sounding unconvinced. "I'll see you at breakfast?"
She nodded, biting back a scathing reply. She was beginning to understand what Harry saw in the Headmaster, and it bothered her greatly.
Dumbledore sighed and watched her leave the room. He was worried about Harry and worried what the war might do to wizarding society. So many were now at risk, despite his efforts to prevent it. He
wasn't really a pure blood purist, but he was intent on saving as much magical blood as possible, no matter what the source.
Yes, we finally get some Harry/Ginny action! To all you Ginny haters, we do not want to hear about your hatred of Ginny. You've been warned in nearly every chapter. Don't like? Find a Ginny bashing story, I'm sure there are some out there.
Please, if you don't like the ship, ignore the review button.
This story has been marked as suitable for adult readers only.