Harry Potter and the Soul of the Hero
Chapter 2 – Memories of Pain
As memory can be a paradise from which we cannot be driven,
it can also be a hell from which we cannot escape.
-John Lancaster Spalding
The Guardian, Godric Gryffindor, floated in the darkness that was his sector of the massive, all consuming Boundary that separated all the mortal universes from one another, and kept the realms of the Immortal beings from interacting with the humans of the mortal realms – not that the immortals had ever wanted to.
Gryffindor swirled in the Boundary contemplating the growing sense of unease throughout Existence and the whispers of a threat bigger than the one Harry Potter had defeated coming to light. Thinking of Harry brought him back to the Ways of Twilight and the block he had placed in the boy's memory.
It had been necessary, the Guardian knew. The boy could not handle all the memories swirling through his mind, and it was shutting down because of it. If he didn't die he would have lived life unable to understand anything, mentally barren and weak. With the block in place though... his memories would have time to sort themselves out and release themselves when Harry is ready.
Still, the threat was becoming more and more apparent. Rumour had it that the Destroyers, sworn enemies of the Guardians, had taken up the campaign once again to destroy the universes, and plunge Existence into complete and utter darkness...
Such a thing was possible now, Gryffindor knew. It had almost happened once in time, due to the evil in Harry Potter's scar link that had torn holes throughout the entire fabric. It was known by creatures that didn't serve the Light that it could be done, and rumour was slowly growing into fact.
Gryffindor wondered briefly if Harry Potter knew what was happening. Something told him that that boy had not finished affecting the plans of higher beings, or changing the rules set down at the beginning of time. He still had a part to play – perhaps to destroy evil again...
The first battle for existence had been won, thanks to Harry Potter – but the Final War for Creation was just heating up. A lot of things were out of place, not everything was as it should be. The Destroyers were gathering. Time was short, and the Guardian knew that they may not have Potter to rely on this time. Would it be fair to even ask him?
Confusion swept across the mind of the Guardian, and it was a long time before he decided upon a course of action. And it would be an even longer time before the full repercussions of his choice rippled away to... nothing.
Harry keyed the ignition of the Holden Ute and pushed it up into First, feeling for the biting point of the clutch as he did so. Dressed in his work clothes, boots, shorts and a chequered shirt, he had spent a little over a month on the Jordan property, working the farm.
Three weeks ago Matt had shown him how to drive, and it was something they had practiced several hours a day for about five days, until Matt (and Harry himself) was confident enough that he could handle the Ute from one end of the property to the other.
The Jordan's owned a cut of land quite large just on the coastal plains of the north west of Western Australia, and their farm stretched for about five kilometres in every direction. It was crisscrossed with roads to paddocks and hay fields, and Harry couldn't work, and earn his living, without being able to drive back and forth.
Of course he was not allowed and hadn't been on the public roads. He didn't hold a driving licence, and driving as he was even now was illegal – but Matt had smoothed over the finer details, and insisted he learn how to drive. Harry had to admit that it came to him fast, learning how to drive, as if he had known it before.
That brought him back to his memories – or lack thereof. Nothing, absolutely nothing came back to him about his life before waking up on that beach a month ago. His wounds had healed, his stitches had been removed a few weeks ago because he had healed quicker than expected, but his mind was a total blank.
He was Harry, he knew. He felt that with a certainty – but everything else seemed to be stuck behind some... some sort of block. Occasionally weird things happened – he had fast reflexes, abnormally fast, Matt's wife Katharine had said more than once – and now and again he would look at something and feel a triggering in his mind, as if it should inspire a memory that... just was not there.
There was no time to think about that though. He had to get the ute out to the east paddock and load up the new bales of hay he and Matt, and Matt's other employees – including his son and daughter – had collected and tied off yesterday.
Going slow, Harry eased the ute through a patch of ground still a bit muddy from the storms a few weeks back, and then pushed it up into Third. The east paddock was four kilometres away and the road was fairly straight. He would be there in minutes.
Still, those minutes gave him the unfortunate chance to think about himself – something he tried to avoid as it fast became beyond frustrating. All he knew was his name, and no more. The police had turned nothing up and Harry thought they had ceased to try very hard since it seemed he was hanging around for awhile yet. Then there were the other things.
After working a full day Harry felt aches in places all over his body, and closer inspection by Doc. Jackson told him that he had broken his leg twice, his arms several times, and his ribs almost beyond count. The ropy scar tissue in his shoulder was also examined and x-rayed, but as far as the doctor could tell, whatever had happened to it the wound had healed naturally, over time. He said it was a hell of a thing to have to heal over time – without medical assistance.
There were also the pains in his forehead that struck unexpectedly and at times mercilessly. Just across that lightning bolt scar he had, pain tore through his skull and it made his eyes water. Sometimes it was sensitive to the touch, other times it tingled. Most times it hurt, though only flares of pain in the beginning. Since then they had been steadily increasing.
Two hundred bales, he thought, driving parallel to the paddock fence, twenty needed over for the cows and horses in the barns... another ten for the west paddock. He would be out here all day, but he didn't mind the work. It paid well, he thought, and gave him a place to stay.
Harry was out all morning in the sun, and his rimmed hat protected his face and neck against the worst of it. He was soon sweating, lifting a bale of hay from the ground onto the back of the truck, and could feel his arms burning again, as were his legs.
Over the last month he had developed quite a suntan, and his muscles had clearly grown across his entire body. It had become a lot easier to work, and Harry was looking forward for when Matt would dust his crops – he had been promised a flight in the biplane. He, of course, could never remember going flying – so it would be an experience to remember.
A new memory, to replace whatever he had lost.
And what have I lost? he wondered, not for the first time. Picking up another heavy bale of hay, Harry lugged it through the gate and dumped it with a bang on the edge of the ute, pushing it further back. Who was I before this?
It was a question he desperately wanted an answer to, and one that might be unwise to know. He had spoken a lot with Matt's daughter, Melissa, about this. She was sixteen and went to school weekdays in the town. She had voiced concerns that it might be better not to know, that perhaps he forgot everything because the truth was terrible.
It was possible, he knew. But given the choice he would choose to have his memories returned to him. If he had any, that was. He couldn't be sure. Nothing remained before that morning on the beach. Nothing.
Several bales of hay later and the morning wore on. Harry drove back to the farmhouse at eleven thirty with the Ute loaded to capacity. Lunch was at twelve and he had worked up quite an appetite this morning. He was looking forward to whatever Katharine cooked up, because it was always good.
Not like what the elves make, he thought absent-mindedly, but still good.
Five seconds later the Ute came to a screeching halt still about a kilometre from the house, and Harry sat with his hands gripping the wheel and a pale look upon his face. He mouthed the word, "Elves..." and stared ahead at the road without seeing it.
Where had that come from? Elves... It was one of those odd occurrences, he knew. And they may as well not have happened for all the use they were. Elves... weren't real. At times, with only these brief memory lapses to live with, Harry felt like he was trapped inside of a fantasy novel.
Fantasy is reality, he thought this time – and his grip on the wheel tightened until the leather creaked beneath his palms.
Now what could that mean?
The drive back to the house from then on was very confused, but nothing else came to him, and what had was utterly useless. It didn't tell him anything about himself, and he had no images in his mind to go with these words. At times he just wanted to hit his head until it surrendered his memories, but something told him that would not do any good.
He supposed that was just common sense, and not some buried instinct.
"Hello, Harry!" Jason Jordan called from the front porch of his family's three storey home. He was seated around the long, twelve-seater outdoor table with his sister, Melissa, the two other farmhands – Jack and Ben – and his mother Katharine. "Come on up for lunch."
Harry turned the ute off and slipped the keys into his shirt pocket. He watched the family from behind his silver anti-flash sunglasses as he walked up to the house. They were happy, he knew, with the life they had. Living and working on the farm, Melissa and Jason with plans for university after school, and all in all everyone was in perfect health. Vaguely, Harry hoped that if he did remember his life, it was something like this – if not, then he hoped it was just happy.
"You lift all that hay by yourself!?" Katharine Jordan asked, swatting away a few flies from the food on the table before her. She was a tall woman with long black hair and a deep suntan from years spent in the country. Beneath her sunglasses, her eyes were blue.
Harry took a seat between Jason and Melissa. Jason was fifteen and a year and a half younger than his sister. He took more after his father with brown hair and eyes, a square jaw and a well built, athletic frame. Melissa looked more like her mother, and Harry knew that she was nigh on identical to Katharine when she was that age.
"Didn't take long," he sighed, accepting a glass of ice water with a nod of thanks. A plate of sandwiches and cool fruits appeared before him as well, slid across the table by Katharine. "I'll take it on over to the barns this afternoon, and then go back for the rest before dark."
Katharine tsked audibly and waved her finger before his face. "You'll work yourself to death, Harry, and then what will I tell Matt when he gets back from the sheep markets?"
"I don't mind the work," he shrugged, lifting his glasses up onto his forehead. The world was bright for a moment, but then his eyes adjusted. Melissa burst out with laughter as he did.
"Harry," she laughed, "you've got a killer of a sunglasses tan!"
Harry smiled and bit into his beef sandwich. "Thanks for pointing that out," he said.
"I'll help you with the hay this arvo, Harry," Jason said, peeling an apple with a steak knife. "Get it done in half the time." Harry nodded.
"What about you, Ben? Jack?" Katharine asked, fanning herself with a paper fan. "What are you boys up to this afternoon?"
"Fixing the Honda Foreman," Jack sighed, rubbing his cheeks in thought. "Crankshaft cracked the other day when Matt didn't see that ditch in the south field, and went straight into it. Did a bit more damage as well."
"How long will that take?"
"Rest of today and most of tomorrow," Ben chimed in. "That's if Matt remembers to buy the new spark plugs and cylinders."
"You want to help Harry and Jason, Mel?" Katharine asked Melissa.
She shrugged indifferently. "Can do, I suppose. Get it finished in a third of the time."
Jason snorted. "Yeah, right," he laughed. "We'll be out till midnight with her helping, Harry." Harry suppressed a smile.
Melissa glared and stamped her foot on the wooden decking indignantly. "Well if I don't come poor Harry's gonna just have you for company, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone!"
Harry did laugh now.
"Play nice, children," Katharine said.
Finishing his second sandwich, Harry drained his glass of ice water and stood up, stretching his limbs. His aching joints cracked with satisfaction and Melissa winced as he popped his right shoulder. It had been a... talent... of sorts, he had discovered he possessed. If he rotated his shoulder in just the right way, the bones grated against one another and clicked. It drove Melissa mad to no end.
"Oh, don't do that," she groaned.
Harry smiled. "You wanna get going then? We can... ah..." He stumbled, holding his forehead, and had to lean against the table for support.
Katharine gasped and jumped up with concern. "Harry! What—?"
He stood alone before a demon with red eyes... a pale white face that the devil himself would fear... Lord—
He winced and sat back down. "Y-Yeah..." he said, clearing his throat. "Yes. I'm fine... I think I just remembered something."
Jason raised an eyebrow. "Really? What?"
God knows what it was! Harry shuddered. A monster. "Not sure... it was just a picture in my head. It might have been from a horror film, or something..."
"Well, not sure if that's a good sign," Ben half-joked. "Myself, if I lost my memory I'd want to remember my mum first."
Katharine smiled. "That's sweet, Ben."
"Maybe you should take the afternoon off," Melissa suggested. "We can go jump in the pool."
"That might be a good idea," Katharine agreed.
Harry thought about it for a moment, and then shook his head. "No," he began. "It seems to help if I'm not thinking about remembering something, if you follow me. While I'm working my mind isn't on memories... it helps."
Helps what? he wondered. What normal person thinks of elves and has as many scars as you do, both inside and out? What normal person has memories of standing before a monster?
Harry didn't know the answer to his questions, and that troubled him. This whole situation, it troubled him. He didn't know what was true – what was the truth. He was lost without anything but a job here to cling on to, lost without memories or experience. Most truths escaped him in that moment, save one:
He was afraid... and that was the truth.
The Lost Fortress of Salazar Slytherin
Darkness was perhaps the one constant here in the foulest place in the entire world. Slytherin's Fortress was hidden within a pocket of time upon the slopes of the mountains in Glencoe above Loch Leven. It had been preserved exactly as it had been one thousand years in the past, and then destroyed in the regular flow of time.
The only entry and exit to the Fortress was a portal stone hidden in plain sight, and that itself was seldom used now that Slytherin's descendant had claimed the fortress for his own.
Beneath the Fortress in both the pocket of time and the present time, hundreds of the world's worst dark creatures waited for the command of their master. They existed in a network of underground caverns and tunnels that stretched far beneath the dirt of Glencoe.
Buried deep within the intricate corridors and winding staircases of the towering spike that was the only above ground feature of the fortress, a single monster worse than all of the others that called that place home paced his dark study, concentrating on his power and plans for domination.
Lord Voldemort, who looked a lot less human since his last encounter with Potter – his skin was whiter, bones more prominent and his eyes constantly burned with a red fire – walked back and forth with murder and revenge on his mind. None of his Death Eaters were currently at the fortress – they were hidden elsewhere or within society, most out recruiting others for his vast army.
And it will be vast, Voldemort vowed, clenching his fists. When he did so, a brief flare of power lit up his cold palms – and it was red. It was red pure magic, and it was growing inside of him.
Texts and ancient tomes littered his desks and the only light came from a few torches blazing on the walls. The closer the Dark Lord drew to them, the dimmer their light became. No matter, he did not need light to see – he was darkness, twisted by the Dark Arts, and could see perfectly in the night.
The books were from Salazar Slytherin's personal collection, and some of them were over three thousand years old – and written in languages long forgotten, some written only in hieroglyphics. Voldemort mused over one in particular, that spoke of an Army of Darkness pulled from... well, he read his translation of the passage again, picking up the slim piece of parchment which frosted over with ice as he held it. This is what it read:
Demons from the Beginning...
Sealed for Eternity and barred from Existence
Freed against the Darkslayer once in time,
again by his greatest enemy in another.
Commanded by he who frees them, the demons
live in the space between universes – and are
always thirsty for blood.
The Darkslayer fought them once, in time,
and would do so again – so says the Prophecy.
All souls will be forfeit in their second coming,
and the Darkslayer will be defeated.
It was a rough translation, but surprisingly accurate considering the original text was written in a six thousand year old form of hieroglyphics that were almost completely indecipherable.
Lord Voldemort smiled as he read the final paragraph again. With his new power, courtesy of Potter – curse the name – he had the strength to do what this book prophesized. It would take time, and patience – and a lot of sacrifice and magical ingenuity. But it could be done, he was sure. Had been done once, although no other reference was made of it.
Whoever this man was, this Darkslayer, it had been prophesied he would be defeated, so the Dark Lord did not spend too much time over those lines. All of his enemies would fall... Dumbledore, the Muggles, the Aurors... and, of course, Potter. He would destroy them all!
"I will destroy the world..." he whispered, and his breath was a mist that froze in the air. "I will destroy it, and remake it as I see fit."
Still though, it would take time. The Dark Lord was not fully recovered from his duel with Potter, and, if the boy still lived, there was their prophecy to consider. Either must die at the hand of the other... It would take time, of that Voldemort could be certain. His smile was grim, insane, and when he clapped his thin skeletal hands together a burst of red sparks surged up and threatened to encase his hands with raw power.
He laughed – Lord Voldemort laughed and the lights in his study flickered out and died. He was something more than a wizard now, he knew, he was closer to a god.
I will be a god, he thought, once I've killed them all!
To while away the time before the DA meeting, Ginny practiced her duelling stances in front of a required mirror in the Room of Requirement. She was dressed in her dragon armour and battle robes, as all DA members were at meetings now, and her wand soon became a blur in her hand as she juggled it through the poses and quick draw techniques.
Harry had taught her some of these stances, and she had learnt more since then. Despite her previous reservations about not being sure if she wanted to take on the responsibility of the Defence Association, Ginny's resolve had hardened to something damn near indestructible, and she swore to learn all the defence she could to defend herself, and others, in the coming conflict.
Though it wasn't just enough that she could draw the wand in a heartbeat and point it in any direction before another, she had to be able to use it. Harry had spent most of his waking hours over the last months he was with her at Hogwarts learning curses for war, and Ginny had been practicing in all of hers.
It was one thing to know the curses designed to destroy, it was another thing to actually put them into practice – against another human being. Worry flickered in her brown eyes for a moment, but she shrugged it off. Of course I can use them, she thought stubbornly. They're Death Eaters... I can curse Death Eaters.
But could I kill them?
The thought was a dark one... it was a thought she knew had haunted Harry for months, and then plagued him with memories of doing just that. He had become somewhat withdrawn after the war really started, she supposed, and doing this now – training for battle – Ginny could see why.
"He just better get back soon," she mumbled to herself, sighing in front of the mirror. "We need him... Merlin, we need him more than a million Aurors!"
"You know, dear girl," an ethereal voice spoke from behind the mirror – startling her. She relaxed a moment later when the Gryffindor house ghost, Nearly-Headless Nick, floated through the glass and shimmered before her. "It is never a good sign when one talks to one's self."
Ginny blushed and glanced around the empty room, and then at her watch. The DA meeting wouldn't start for twenty minutes. "I was just..."
"You miss him," Nick said, his head swaying to the side. "And that is perfectly understandable. I myself had a soft spot for that boy. Gryffindor courage to his bones, that one, and enough defiance in him to squash the best of us."
"He'll be back soon, Sir Nicholas," Ginny said, silently wishing it true. "He'll be back."
Nick nodded and his head fell off to the side. When he fixed it Ginny felt a blast of cold air from his ghostly form. "Of course he will," Nick went on, "and the atmosphere in this castle will be all the better for it."
Across the castle, alone in the owlery, Ron and Hermione selected a long-distance postowl from the dozens upon dozens of birds just getting ready for a night's hunt outside of the castle. It was a large tawny owl, with piercing golden eyes and long hooked talons.
"Now we've got an important job for you," Hermione was saying, stroking his neck feathers. "You're to deliver a letter to a very powerful wizard, Harry Potter," she said. "If... when you find him, wait for a reply – we'll also be slipping this ring around your foot, it won't hurt."
Ron watched in silence for a moment before speaking, working up the courage to share his concerns. "You gotta wonder why, if Harry is alive somewhere, he hasn't come back," Ron said, voicing both of their concerns. It was a very awkward silence that followed.
Hermione shuddered and wrapped her cloak closer around herself, as Ron tied the small letter to the bird's leg, slipping the tracking ring over the other. He shrunk it once he was done, and it fit snugly on the owl's outstretched leg.
"I think... maybe he can't come back," Hermione said. "He would, Ron, if he could – but anything could have happened in the last month, absolutely anything. He could be healing from that stab wound in a Muggle hospital as far away as Australia for all we know! The owl will find him."
The owl hooted and nodded in agreement.
Ron didn't nod, just shrugged, and set the owl out into the night off his own arm. "Cross our fingers now, I suppose," he mumbled. "I hope that owl doesn't bring that letter back."
"He's alive, Ron," Hermione practically growled, screaming defiance at anyone who suggested otherwise. "He's alive."
Ron did nod this time, but it was uncertain. "We've got to get to the DA meeting," he said, tensing his wrist and feeling his wand in its holster. "Moody's coming to give the group a talk about being an Auror – and what it means to fight Death Eaters. We better make sure he doesn't scare them all away."
Harry stretched his tired limbs and stumbled into his room, the guest room, on the second floor of the Jordan home. He had just gotten out of the shower and his long shaggy hair was still dripping wet. He wore a pair of boxer shorts only, and his scarred body was visible for the whole world to see.
If there had been a world.
His bed was practically screaming to him and Harry was happy to oblige, tossing his clothes onto the floor near a box of all his possessions. That amounted to a few clean shirts and shorts, socks and shoes, and a few towels. Not much, not counting his toiletries, but he wasn't bothered by it. There was also the golden earring he wore in his ear, but that was strange in itself. It was a griffin, a mythical beast.
His head ached with what he supposed must have been too much sun today, out and around them farm. At least he hoped that was the reason, although he was very eager to remember anything he could, he was too tired to care much now.
Setting the alarm clock on the bedside table for seven the next morning, Harry rolled over onto the bed with a sigh. The night was too hot to get under the covers, and he gazed through the window at the long splattering of stars that made up the universe. His eyes blurred as he stared at the half moon, and if anything his headache seemed to intensify.
I wonder if Katharine's asleep yet, he thought, she's probably got some painkillers.
Harry dismissed the thought. He was extremely thankful to the Jordans for allowing him to stay here, and they had made him feel welcome, but something held him back. He though that maybe it was because he wanted, more than anything else, to remember – and that the headache was a sign that he may be doing so. Or it could just be a headache...
There are so many stars, he thought, drifting slowly towards sleep. I wonder if there are other worlds out there, in the universe? That would be amazing...
Harry put his hands behind his head and turned from the window, snuggling into his pillow and allowing himself to drift to sleep. It had been a long day, with many odd occurrences that seemed to follow him around. He wasn't normal, he suspected, but he couldn't imagine what he was.
There were the odd flashes of... memory... maybe. They were too weird, too wrong to be real, so they couldn't be memories. He had a flash earlier today, whilst cleaning out the stables, of running a horse to death while being chased by a horde of rampaging creatures that were hideous. He couldn't describe them any better than that.
Not real, couldn't be – such things do not exist!
He fell asleep frowning.
"Such things do not exist, Harry?" a voice whispered from all around.
Harry stood in a room, completely white and empty as far as he could see. He stood on the ground, but he couldn't see any walls. It was just white, white for eternity. The voice was everywhere and nowhere.
"Be prepared, young Darkslayer, be prepared. Soon you'll know that even the worst of nightmares are real."
"Who are you?" Harry whispered, glaring at the whiteness.
There was laughter. "You should find out who you are, before asking who I am. Time is coming, and it will end. You will have no part in this one, Darkslayer – the Destroyers will not allow it."
Laughter again, and a sharp sound like the splitting of stone. He thought he saw the floor bleeding for an instant, but it was whole and white in the next. "Wake up, Darkslayer," the voice said. It sounded almost mocking. "Wake up and face tomorrow."
Harry awoke with a start and found he was drenched in sweat and that his forehead blazed with pain.
"HARRY! Wake up," a voice roared..
"I'm awake..." he mumbled, grasping his forehead. "Was'a'matter, Matt?"
"The barn is on fire, come on, I need you to work a hose."
Harry was up in a flash, still dressed in only his boxer shorts he followed Matt down through the house which was almost too silent. Matt was hardly dressed better, in a blue bathrobe, but haste was needed at the moment. Perhaps if he had known he wasn't coming back, Harry might have put on some jeans or shorts at least.
They practically jumped down the stairs three at a time, and outside Harry could hear animals. The dogs were barking, horses whinnying. There were also human shouts, as he and Matt ran out of the open door...
…and into a furnace.
A wave of heat so hot that Harry felt his throat grow dry washed over the two of them as they took in the scene before them with eyes widening in horror. About fifty metres away from the house, the big two storey wooden barn was ablaze with green flames of such size and intensity, that Jack and Ben on the water wagon could not get closer than twenty metres. At full pressure, the water hose barely reached the barn's base.
"Christ almighty!" Matt exclaimed, shying away from the unnatural flames. "What the hell can do this!? JACK, BEN, ABANDON IT! GET OUT OF THERE!"
Harry was close behind him when the large propane gas tank on the side of the barn exploded, and the four men were thrown backwards along with several pounds of dirt and debris. Harry heard a scream and looked to his right to see a piece of corrugated iron, twisted and jagged, embedded in Ben's forearm.
Katharine, Jason, and Melissa were standing on the porch with equal looks of horror and disbelief, and at the explosion Jason ran forward, his mother and sister following almost instantly, to pull the four of them away. Harry was on his feet in a flash and worked his arms underneath Matt's to pull the man away from the hot flames and burning fountain of gas that had once been the fuel deposit.
As Harry dragged an unconscious Matt back, a rather nasty amount of blood soaking his face, he felt a... pulling... in his stomach. There was no other way to describe it. And for some unknown reason he had the urge to turn around and look... up. Almost without realising it, he did.
There – in the moonlight – there were figures on the high roof of the Jordan's home, silhouetted clearly against the moon. Harry blinked, not exactly sure what he was seeing. Three of them, just standing there. No one else had noticed them, so concerned they were about the barn and the poor animals that were in there, but Harry could feel them.
He was about to raise a cry, but then the impossible happened. As one, as if sensing his gaze, the people on the roof seemed to double in size... and sprout wings.
Monsters, Harry thought, and his mind stabbed him with pain. Vampires...
With a screech that only Harry heard, the creatures jumped off the roof of the house and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Harry watched them go, knees and hands shaking, unwilling to believe what he had seen.
They were here... because of me, he thought, unconsciously clenching his hands into fists. If anyone had been looking at his face at that moment, including Harry himself, they would have been wise to take a cautious step back. His eyes hardened into two chips of green emerald, and his mouth was set in a grim line. It seemed, for one moment, that the very air reverberated with power.
"The fire-fighters and ambulance are on the way," Melissa breathed to his left, coughing through the growing amount of acrid smoke. She was crying. "They'll be at least twenty minutes though, coming all the way from town..."
Harry nodded. "Jack, lift Ben into the back of the ute – no questions just do it – Jason, go get me the keys. We'll meet them halfway. Melissa, get on the phone again and tell the ambulance to look out for a Holden Ute."
Showing a surprising amount of strength, Harry ran over to Katharine who was holding the unconscious Matt, his head in her lap. Without saying anything, he knelt down and scooped up the bigger man, not at all feeling his weight. Swinging around, Harry ran over to the white ute that stood in the darkness beside the house.
Jack was already there; helping a pale faced Ben up onto the back, and then climbed up himself. Harry dumped Matt on the back as well, before securing the tail door. "Make sure he doesn't fall off," he told Jack, and then turned again gracefully, as if all of this had been perfectly choreographed, to catch the keys as Jason threw them through the air.
"I'm coming," the young man said, and jumped up onto the back of the ute next to his dad and Ben. "Let's go, Harry."
Harry didn't need telling twice. He threw open the driver's side door and slid into the seat, keying the ignition and practically ripped the gearbox apart putting it into Reverse. The smoke was thick as he sped out of the driveway and the heat of the flames intense. He left the driveway to avoid it and swerved across the grass, which was beginning to burn with those weird green flames as well.
He turned back onto the road after they had passed the barn, and Harry pushed the accelerator to the floor, gunning it up to fifth in a matter of seconds. The road, he knew, although it was illegal for him to drive on, was practically as straight as a ruler all the way into town. If Melissa was right about the ambulance time, they would meet them in about fifteen minutes, halfway down the road.
The night was dark and Harry flicked on the headlights to high beam, as the farm land washed by in darkness on either side. The speed limit was a hundred and ten out on the open country road, but Harry pushed it to one twenty – feeling completely calm and in control. He glanced in the rear-view mirror and saw Jack and Jason hunched down holding Ben and Matt. They would manage.
Having a few moments to think now, blaring down the road in Fifth, Harry frowned at what he had seen this night. Green flames... creatures his mind told him were vampires on the roof of the house. Just who in the hell am I? he asked himself, not for the first time. Again, there was that brief feeling of... power... in the air.
Without a doubt, he knew he was responsible for bringing this down upon Matt and his family. He was dangerous, he wasn't normal, he should leave. The white dividing line in the road sped by in the glow of his headlights, and Harry glared ahead into the night searching for any flashing lights, although he knew it was too soon.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, several things happened at once. There was a scream, a large thump on the roof and the ute jerked several feet to the side. Harry swore, easing his foot on the brake and looking back onto the loading space of the ute, his eyes widening in fear, just as a long, foul smelling... claw ripped through the roof of his cabin, tearing for his throat.
Harry swore loudly again, the car swerving across the road in wide arcs. There was something on the roof trying to kill him, and he had to keep it steady or else he'd kill them all. He slammed on the brake and washed off the rest of his speed in a long, black skid mark along the road. He was thrown forward and hit his head on the windshield, seeing stars but having the mind to open the door and fall out onto the road – escaping the clawed hand.
The road was warm beneath him, even as he skirted backwards on his hands away from the car and the creatures upon it. Three of them, one on the roof and two others advancing on the helpless people in the back. Jason was standing now, with wide eyes and a single piece of wood in his hand, swinging it like a club. Matt was still unconscious and out of sight, but Jack was standing guard in front of Ben, who was sitting up and grimacing against the metal tail door.
The creatures were hideous, and out of one of his nightmares.
"Be prepared, young Darkslayer, be prepared. Soon you'll know that even the worst of nightmares are real."
As one, the three creatures that Harry knew could not be real, turned and jumped off the ute towards him, their hooked feet scratching on the tar of the road. They shrieked, and it was terrible – inhuman – beyond imagination. Something inside of Harry responded to that shriek, as if he knew it all too well, and he rose with a grim look of determination on his face.
His head was cut and bruised just above his left eye from where he had hit it on the windscreen, but he didn't feel it. Everything seemed so much more real now, and even though he was terrified beyond belief, he also felt a small measure of anger. Whoever or whatever these monsters were they had no right to kill and maim, to destroy and end.
Harry couldn't be sure, but as he stood defiantly before the three winged vampires, he thought he saw uncertainty flash between them.
"What the hell is going on!?" he growled, raising his fists before him. He didn't care that he was still only dressed in boxer shorts.
The vampire nearest to him bared its fangs, it was a male, as far as Harry could tell, and rippling with muscle. Its wings sheared the night behind him, and with a wave of its hand the three creatures advanced on Harry.
"Darkslayer," one of them hissed. "Why did we fear you?"
Harry found himself taking large steps backwards whilst keeping his eyes on the monsters. He didn't know what he was doing, or why this was happening, or what he was going to do, but eventually he ran out of road and was left only with a long, empty desert plain behind him that he would be easily picked out on. In the distance, as sound carried well in the empty night, he thought he could hear sirens.
Good, he thought. I just have to keep them from Jason and the others long enough for someone to arrive... anyone.
The vampires had also heard the sirens. "We take him now, Khaltar," the smallest of the three said, a female with grey skin and large wings. In her sharp-clawed hands she carried what looked like chains, with loops on the end.
Harry gasped – they were shackles, for him. They wanted to take him hostage? No time to think, they were upon him. Too frightened to do anything, Harry shuddered as the large vampire – Khaltar – wrapped his hand around his throat and began to squeeze. The female brought the shackles forward and they shone faintly purple as she moved.
It was then, when it seemed he had lost, that something inside of Harry roared – something powerful, something that was part of him, who he was. A great presence, the power of a great man, who knew war and battle better than any other human in Existence. That was all he thought before, grabbing the arm holding his throat, Harry twisted and applied pressure in just the right place – snapping the bone clean in half.
Khaltar screamed – screamed and shrieked – dropping Harry to his feet. Eyes dark, Harry advanced on the creatures, swinging his hands left and right, kicking and dealing damage in a way he didn't think he should know. He was graceful, elegant, diving in between the creatures that had become a flurry of shrieks and grasping limbs.
He drove a raised knuckle into the hard knotted flesh of the other male vampire and it felt as though he had punched a brick wall, but the creature went down, gasping and wheezing. He kicked it in the face with the sole of his foot, feeling the monster's nose crack like he knew it would.
WHAT AM I? his mind roared. Darkslayer, came the answer.
It all became a blur as he began to grow tired. He dove and punched, struck and defended. He had battered the monsters enough to kill any normal man, but these were dark creatures and their strength surpassed any mortals. Shaking with fear and fury, Harry pummelled Khaltar's chest, his knuckles bruised and bleeding.
He turned as the female shrieked, and was unconscious a second later when several pounds of metal chains hit him across the face. His mind was on fire, as was that scar on his forehead – yes, he believed it was the scar – and the last thing he saw before light faded were the stars glowing softly overhead...
A sprinkling of diamond dust that were the heavens.
"I think... I think we can do this," Hermione said. "But we'll need help."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny were seated behind a large pile of books at one of the more secluded tables in the school library. Hermione sat in between Ron and Ginny, scratching idly at a piece of parchment with a dry quill. Ginny was frowning at the book she was reading, and Ron sat twiddling his thumbs.
Ron nodded and glanced down at the Marauder's Map on his lap. It currently showed who was in the library and where they were. Madam Pince, the librarian, was at her desk, there was a group of third years studying across the library, and Professor Sinistra was standing before the archives on the second floor. Ron lifted the map up onto the table.
"As long as we don't have to ask Snape for help," Ron said.
Hermione shrugged. "We'll have to, we need the potion ingredients – but as long as Dumbledore approves then Professor Snape can't stop us."
"The man's a git, I'm sure he'll try," Ron said dryly, and Ginny giggled. "He doesn't like what we're doing with the DA, and he'll probably give me detention just for asking him for the ingredients."
Hermione shared a small smile with Ginny. "I'll ask him if you're scared," she said, and Ginny laughed as Ron turned red.
"Of course you're not," Hermione said calmly, tickling his chin with the end of the feathered quill. "But Dumbledore will step in and we won't have to worry about Snape being... well... Snape."
Ron shrugged and leaned back in his chair. "I'm not sure it's worth it," he grumbled, flicking the map with his fingers. "What else will we need?"
"Not much," Hermione sat up straighter and began to write quickly on the bare parchment before her. "Time, mostly. The ink will take at least two weeks to make, and then there's the map itself. I'm not sure how long it took Sirius and the others to make, we should ask Professor Lup— Remus, but it will be worth it in the end."
"Just think about it, Ron," Ginny said eagerly. "We can make copies of the Marauder's Map for the DA, and we can also make new maps for other places, like Diagon Alley or the Ministry."
"Not sure Dad would approve of that," Ron replied, scratching the growth of stubble on the side of his face. "You'd think the Ministry would have something like the Marauder's Map anyway," he finished.
"It may have, but if it doesn't we can give it to your dad," Hermione said. "It'll help the war effort, at least."
Ron nodded. "Tell me what needs doing then, and I'll do it. Even if it means asking Snape for a favour."
Hermione smiled. "We'll approach Headmaster Dumbledore first and see what he thinks. We need more maps for Hogwarts anyway, but it would be incredibly useful to be able to monitor Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade as well."
"Okay..." Ron agreed. "What next? I'm about ready to fall asleep right here."
Hermione put her hand over his. "We'll start tomorrow," she said.
Ron awoke the next morning just before seven and slowly pulled himself out of bed and headed for the showers across the corridor. Under the spray of the shower, he recalled the strange dreams of the previous night with a startling clarity that he usually didn't possess. In fact, it was rare if he remembered any dream – let alone this one.
It was about Harry, of course – who else?
It was Harry, bruised and battered in chains and shut inside a dark... box. His eyes had looked frightened but at times they had seemed to harden to something beyond power. It had been frightening, and it had been the same dream throughout the entire night. He had woken up more than once. It had been terrible – sometimes he thought he could hear Harry's screams, see through his eyes, feel his pain.
Drying off, Ron put on his clothes for the day and headed down to the common room, feeling very hungry. The nightmares of the previous night had sapped all of his strength. It was early yet on Saturday morning, and most people would not be up for another hour or two. There were a few people in the common room, but what surprised and shocked Ron the most was that Hermione and Ginny were sitting together in one of the armchairs, and Ginny was crying into Hermione's shoulder. Hermione herself seemed to be fighting back tears – she looked confused... and... and scared.
"What's the matter?" Ron asked quickly, sitting down opposite them and frowning. "What's happened?"
Hermione's voice shook when she spoke. "Nightmares..." she whispered, and Ron froze. "We... we had terrible nightmares ab- about Harry..."
Ron felt his mouth go dry and he worked it up and down a few times. "I did as well..." he choked, sitting back in the chair as both Hermione and Ginny turned to look at him. "In chains..." he continued, and they nodded. "Kept prisoner in like... like a coffin?"
"That's it..." Ginny breathed. "Oh, Ron, what if it's real?"
"It was a dream," he said too quickly, but he didn't believe it. "Just... just a nightmare."
"It was real," Hermione said, and Ron saw she was clutching a small black object in her left hand. It was the receiver to the tracking device on the owl they had sent out. "And this says Harry is somewhere to the south." The stone shone dark blue, which was the agreed upon colour for south.
"He's alive," Ginny whispered, squeezing her hands together, balling them into fists. She angrily swatted away the tears on her face, and sat up straight in her chair. "He's alive and being tortured. We have to do something!" The last came out as a shout, and more than one face glanced over from around the common room in concern.
"We do," Ron agreed, assuming command. "We tell Dumbledore everything we know, and tell him Harry needs to be found today – now. If he can't do it... then we'll do it ourselves. I mean we've got all the money we need, thanks to Harry. We'll buy Portkeys south, follow the owl."
"That's crazy, Ron," Hermione muttered.
"Is it?" he asked, a wild light in his eyes. "I think it is exactly what Harry would have done, if it was one of us out there."
"No doubt," Ginny agreed with a small smile. "But we're not Harry. Before we decide on anything we have to see Dumbledore. You wait whilst Hermione and I go get changed, Ron. Five minutes."
As one, the two of them bounded up the stairs to the girl's dormitories and that left Ron alone with his thoughts for a few minutes, and the anger he felt. It wasn't right that anyone anywhere could do this to Harry – not Harry. Hasn't he been through enough? he asked.
"You alright, Ron?" Neville asked, coming to sit down next to him. His hair was still damp from the showers and he looked a little tired.
"You have any nightmares last night, Nev?" Ron asked wearily, rubbing his eyes.
Neville frowned. "No, why? Did you?"
Ron just nodded. "Never mind, just thinking out loud, I guess."
There were rushing footsteps on the stairs behind him and Ron turned in time to see Hermione and Ginny emerge dressed in their school uniforms. "Right then" he said. "See you later, Nev."
Hermione and Ginny didn't pause on their walk through the common room and Ron fell in line beside Hermione. "Nothing to worry about," he called to Neville over his shoulder, and the three of them exited the common room – heading straight for Dumbledore's office.
It was getting to be about time for breakfast in the Great Hall, but on weekends it wasn't a constant thing, so Ron hoped that Dumbledore would be in his office and not down in the Hall. They walked quickly, speaking little, and before they knew it stood before the gargoyle that guarded the entrance to Dumbledore's study.
"Skiving Snackbox," Ginny said clearly, and was first onto the rising stairs. Hermione followed, and Ron came up last.
"What're we going to say to him, Hermione?" he asked quietly as they rose. He had never been sure if Dumbledore could see and hear what happened outside of his office.
"We'll just tell him about the owl, and about the nightmares," she said, although she sounded nervous. "All three of us had it, Ron, that's got to mean and count for something."
The wooden doors were wide open at the top of the stairs and Albus Dumbledore looked up from behind his desk at the sound of new arrivals. He smiled warmly when he saw who it was, and motioned them in with a,
"Good morning, Mr and Miss Weasley, and Miss Granger, of course. What can I do for you today?"
No sooner had he said it than Dumbledore's cheerful mood vanished, as he saw the pain etched on the three young faces before him. Fawkes sensed something of it to, as the young phoenix – recently risen from the ashes – began to sing softly.
"It's Harry, Professor," Hermione began as steadily as he could. "We think he may be in trouble."
"We know he's in trouble," Ron growled, and then seemed surprised that he had done so.
Dumbledore stood and was silent for a moment, but then nodded for them to continue. Unexpectedly, it was Ginny who spoke of the shared nightmare. The way she described it though... it was as if they were reliving it again – sights, sounds, smells and feelings. Ron realised, that for some reason, Ginny's nightmare had been more real than his.
Dumbledore's face darkened with every word, and Ron could see the anger there, as well as the suffering in his old eyes, which held no twinkle. His eyes widened when Ginny said they had all shared the same... vision, he supposed, and it was a long minute before he spoke.
"I believe you," he said, and his voice shook with power. "What you've described though, it still leaves us with nowhere to search. Merlin," the Headmaster cursed, "I will not fail him again!"
Ron unconsciously took a step back at the rage he felt in Dumbledore, but found that he himself held the same anger – and it drove him on. "We sent out a postowl," he began, "with a letter to Harry, and a magical beacon."
Hermione produced the glowing blue stone and placed it on Dumbledore's desk. "Blue means south," she said, even as the stone flickered to a lighter shade of the colour. "Southwest."
"Ingenious," Dumbledore whispered, and then to himself, "I truly did not believe he could be found upon this world..."
"What?" Ginny asked.
"I've made many mistakes, Miss Weasley," Dumbledore replied, as if that cleared it all up. "But no more. How long since you sent the owl?"
"Seven days this evening," Hermione offered quickly. "We used a long distance owl, so it could be as far as southern India by now."
Dumbledore nodded and Ron could see him making plans, calculations, forming strategies behind his eyes. "Professor," Ginny whispered. "Have you any idea why we shared the same nightmare?"
Hermione and Ron looked up expectantly at Dumbledore. Well, Hermione looked up – Ron was passed the old man's shoulders. They both wanted to know why...
"I truly cannot say," Dumbledore replied, after giving it a moments thought. "We have been using magic for millennia, us humans, and I believe that we have barely scratched the surface of the potential inside of such a force. Harry, on the other hand..."
"Harry plays by his own rules," Ron finished, and after a moment Dumbledore smiled and nodded.
"Yes... indeed he does," the Headmaster replied. "Now, I must floo to the Ministry immediately. The search for Harry needs to be renewed – and narrowed. Thank you, you three. You have done more for Harry than I have."