Um… Hey, 'sup. (Flinches while receiving several angry glares) Yes, yes, I know. It was ages from the last time I uploaded anything. Frankly, I don't have any fancy explanation as to why it took so long. Writers block? Too much stuff going on at the same time? Looking around after work? I myself blame the Internet. (Why you steal so much time?!) Either way, I'm back, and I'll try to step up a notch, but no promises –I'm terrible at that.
Now I would like to thank everyone that took their time to view my little project –I really appreciate each and every one of you guys. Thanks to you guys, this story reached the 1k mark (actually over 1.6k at the moment I'm writing this, but that's beside the point). For me, it's a real milestone I've reached. Thank you.
For this chapter I would like to point out one important issue: Harry Potter and his personality. As this is fan fiction (well duh) I do not need to stick to cannon that much, so I figured, that I may add some changes to his character. They're not that big, just enough to make him a bit different from the canon one, so once you get to his part, you'll be prepared.
Now, the next bit of the author's note is a response to a semi-anonymous review I received. As it was written in Polish, I'll answer it in kind, so feel free to skip the part written in italics.
Do "zawisza": Po pierwsze –miło mi, że rodacy także podjęli się przeczytania mojego małego projektu. Wcale bym się nie obraził za więcej komentarzy napisanych w naszym rodzimym języku ;) Odnośnie samego komentarza: po powtórnym przeczytaniu rozdziału muszę się z Tobą zgodzić –mogłem to najprawdopodobniej rozwiązać w lepszy sposób. Sprawdzanie ekwipunku w sytuacji w jakiej Zak się znalazł zdecydowanie było dziwnym posunięciem. Inna sprawa, że nikt poza nim nie rozumiał, co mu jego kruk wykrakał, więc teoretycznie ryzyko wykrycia czegoś istotnego przez potencjalnych wrogów było znikome. Tak czy inaczej –dzięki za wskazanie tegoż problemu, na przyszłość postaram się unikać takich bubli.
Now, having that out of the way, I'll let you guys to the chapter proper. And just as a side note –I know it's shorter than the two previous ones. I played with the idea of making it longer, but decided, that it would just be artificial expanding the word count at this point. I wish you a good read and hope you find this installment up to your expectations.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything that may be remotely considered a property of anyone else. The Harry Potter series, the Forgotten Realms setting, Neverwinter Nights and Dungeons&Dragons are all owned be their respective owners.
Natha keeshe lu' natha khaliizi
Halisstrsd d'lil to'ryl solen*
Once Zak exited the Headmaster's office along with his fatherly companion and the giant of a man that was apparently working for Dumbledore, he allowed himself to let out a quiet sigh. He didn't have any idea what he had gotten himself into right now, nor did he know what to expect from the world he found himself in, but of one thing he was certain: he was going to miss his beloved blade. To think that he practically released it out of his own free will, just to appear more convincing to the locals. He had half the mind to barge right back in to the study and reclaim his possession, just so it could be placed somewhere the silver-bearded man known as the local Headmaster couldn't get his wrinkled old hands on it. Who knew what inept types of experiments he was going to conduct on them? Who knew if he even was going to get it back in one piece? For all Zak knew, Dumbledore could botch something up to such an extent, that he doubted if his study OR the tower the study was placed in would survive.
Well, he was probably overreacting a bit. True, the old man did rub him the wrong way, the fact that he was so willing to help him after he heard what Zak really was, which by the way unnerved him greatly, was proof enough. Still, it could just as well be how Dumbledore was normally acting. He seen people acting like that before, gullible to an unhealthy extent, and let's face it: Zak really was lucky to end up with someone, who was willing to help him despite his origins. Besides, he had bigger problems right now than the old wizard, and one of them was called Hagrid.
The giant, as giants generally do, was way higher than the stranded drow was (he already suspected, that the man was at least ten feet tall). That unfortunately meant, that he naturally took longer steps than the Ilythiiri could, and seeing as Hagrid's legs were almost as long as Zak was tall right now… well, suffice to say that the drow had serious problems with keeping up with him. Add to that Hagrid's eagerness to finally get going and deliver that acceptance letter and it was pretty obvious that the whitehead was slowly being left behind.
Zak still suffered the side-effects of being forcefully changed into a child. Although his "training" (if one can call walking around someone's study as that) paid off and he more or less could walk just fine unaided, jogging behind a hurrying giant was out of the question. Fortunately, Zak's familiar, Kelell, had seen that his Boss had a bit of a problem with keeping up with Hagrid, so he decided to take matters into his own talons. With a few mighty flaps of his black wings he closed the distance between Zak and the giant he was now trying to follow, and landed on his right shoulder, which went completely unnoticed by the man. Rolling his beady eyes the crow did the only thing he could think of to gain his attention.
He began pecking at Hagrid's ear.
Kelell's plan worked splendidly as Hagrid let out a startled cry and jumped a bit, instinctively looking in the direction the sensation came from. Once his small, beetle-like eyes fell upon the black avian, the crow cawed a loud "aren't you forgetting something?", which he wouldn't have the slightest idea what it was all about if it wasn't for the bird's outstretched wing, pointing in the direction of his master. Figuring out what it meant the giant of a man looked in the direction Kelell was pointing at, and seeing Zak lagging behind waited for him to catch up. Satisfied with his work, the bird flew back to his Boss and perched himself on his shoulder.
"Zak, innit?" Once the aforementioned drow came into regular speaking distance Hagrid spoke to him with his booming voice. Looking at him questioningly Zak nodded, indicating he was listening. "Why are yeh laggin' behind? We have serious Hogwarts business to attend to."
Zak had to force himself not to roll his eyes at that. Trying to stay as calm as he could and reminding himself, that this here fellow was the first local that didn't know about his outwardly origins he looked at the savage yet calming face of the giant.
"I know, I know… It's just that the magic that brought me here did a number on me and I still have some slight problems with moving around." He finally answered, trying to sound casually. By the intrigued look in Hagrid's eyes he guessed, that the man picked up on the "magic bringing him here" part.
"Yeh came 'ere by magic?"
"Yeah, funny story actually… Got lobbed out of a fireplace I was, hit the floor pretty hard too. But don't ask me how all that happened, I still don't know myself."
"Yeah… yeah, alright." The giant looked a tad bit confused, but didn't say anything. "So yeh have problems with walkin'? Can't say I blame yeh, if I tried ter use the Floo Network, I probably woulda' land face first in so' embers myself."
Zak was about to ask what did the giant had in mind with that Floo Network thing, but thought better of it. He definitely didn't want to get overwhelmed with information right about now, while he still had problems with coming to terms with all that was happening around him. Not to mention that he suspected, that Hagrid wasn't the greatest source of knowledge he could find. Not to say that the local groundkeeper was dumb in any way, it was just that he would explain things how he understood them, and that could (and most probably would) end up giving life to more questions that it had answers. Not to mention that he did believe, that Dumbledore used that term already, and told him to use that explanation if asked about the way he got to the castle in the first place.
Hagrid was leading Zak and his black-feathered familiar trough the tower at a slower pace than just moments ago. The giant, once reminded that his companion wasn't able to keep up with him adjusted, if barely. Zak still needed to strain himself to walk anywhere near as fast as the big guy, stumbling on his feet and earning concerned looks from Hagrid, but at least he didn't have to worry about getting lost. Plus, as Zak reasoned, what better way to get used to his new body than by using it extensively and pushing it to its limits, right?
During their trek through the old fortress turned school, Zak got a bit of a tour of the castle, bringing him some answers about a few important things he needed to know about this world. Hogwarts, a place filled with magic like no other in the United Kingdom, was a grand example of how the local wizards were using the gifts of the Art, giving the drow a pretty good idea what to expect from them. Moving paintings, moving stairways, illusionary doors and phony steps, suits of armor that he could swore moved slightly, floating candles in a great, long room they passed by the end of their trip… The drow, taught in the school of conserving spells until they were really needed had a nasty case of teeth grinding, seeing all those flashy displays of magic that were just that: flashy, with no apparent reasoning behind them. It was so like human apprentices of his world, the ones, that were just taught their first spell ever and were using it for virtually everything, from writing silly messages on the mud to cleaning the dishes. No thought behind their magic, no reasoning, just flashy displays of power, however small it was.
Once again he found himself criticizing the wizards of this world without getting to know their end of the story. He began to feel a bit unsettled by this. Normally he wasn't such a dick, even inside his own head. To even think in such a way about people he didn't knew the first thing about? It was like if the years spent in Menzoberranzan and the indoctrination of the Spider Queen was beginning to win over his once firm decision to live like the Moon Maiden wanted them to: with an open mind. It was like if he suddenly became a magical racist, a nationalist in the ways of magic: making fun about the locals just because their magic was different.
First he needed to know if the magic of this world really was weaker than his. Then he could make fun of it.
Walking in Hagrid's shadow, deep in thought and slowly building up self-disgust, Zak almost missed the fact, that the three of them have finally left the stone corridors of the castle and walked onto the soft, green grass of Hogwarts grounds. Startled by this revelation, the Ilythiiri took a look around, taking in the sights. Lush, green fields; a lake in the distance, its waters reflecting the last of the setting sun's rays; a weird, wooden structure some ways away from them, sporting large tapestries in a multitude of colors and with decorative representations of a badger, lion, snake and an eagle, all that circling what appeared to be six golden poles, their tops formed into some kind of hoops; all that, and the drow was sure more, presented itself rather… peaceful. Zak didn't notice that until right now, wallowing in both self-pity and despair, but this place, this… Hogwarts… It actually didn't seem half that bad. That is sure, the way that the castle itself was built made him cringe, seeing openings for all sorts of attacks even with his amateurish when it came to siege tactics eyes, but it at least blended well with its surroundings, making for an extremely fairy-tailish scenery. It may have not been that useful, but it at least presented itself like a piece of art.
Then, suddenly, as if someone cast a spell on him the drow's eyes began to hurt, as if someone decided to gouge his eyes out with a glowing-hot poker. He stumbled a bit, letting out a pained cry, and his hands flew right to his face, as to protect him from the world. Hagrid stopped dead in his tracks, surprised and a bit scared by this sudden outburst, and could only watch helplessly, as Zak was moaning, rubbing his eyes with his hands to ease the pain.
A minute went by, and the head-splitting pain in Zak's eyes subsided somewhat. He was more than sure, that tears of pain were threatening to leak out of his orbs, but he wasn't concerned about them. What really was concerning for him was the fact, that only just now, after this sudden attack his eyes began to feel… normal. He haven't noticed that before, but now it was clear as day –for the whole time something from his eyes was missing. Something, that he grew so used to, that he thought it natural. To check his theory he dried his eyes with his sleeve and took a look at the castle once more.
At first everything seemed normal to him, the walls of the school growing more and more gray as the sun was hiding behind the horizon. Nothing looked out of place, until something caught Zak's eye. It was a small, blue light; from where the drow was standing, it looked similar to a firefly. Moments later however, from where the tiny speck of blue was placed, countless lines emerged, all of them blue and all of them not ticker than a human hair. The sheer number of these lines was making the drow's head spin, and the fact, that they circled one another, criss-crossed at odd angles and began to fill the whole bulk of the fortress wasn't helping much. He felt a headache building up at the back of his head, but ignored it in favor of staring slacked-jawed at what his eyes were showing him.
Drow, especially those from the noble houses, had a special penchant towards magic. Their minds were built in such ways, that it helped them in both using raw power by instinct, and learning how to control this power trough studying. The fact, that most of them was also able to create magic-like effects with just the power of their minds was another thing pointing out, that the underground elves were naturally gifted in the field of magic. As for nobles, they had a specific kind of connection to magic, a connection, that many scholars of the surface world were curious as to why only the drow, the worshippers of Lolth had it, and the believers of Mystra didn't. Drow nobles were blessed with the ability to see magical auras.
This specific power wasn't very different from a simple spell, a cantrip really, that allowed the same thing. The drows of the noble houses were normally able to see the workings of magic if they looked at something magic-related. The nature of the things they saw however varied from one Ilythiiri to another. Some of them only seen faint, glowing auras around places with magical properties, magical items and the remnants of magic from spells. Others too have seen slight luminescence in such cases, but the auras themselves normally varied in color, making it easier for the elves to discern which school of magic an aura represented. Then there were those, who in place of an aura seen strange symbols, completely nonsensical in their pseudo-meanings, but working for their users just like the changing color schemes for other drows. And then there was Zak's case: lines. Blue, thin lines, forming a web, like if created by a drunken spider in the middle of a storm. Many thought, that it had a deeper meaning, that the drow that were able to see magic in that fashion were able to see the Weave itself. Zak however was a skeptic, and the lines, while holding some type of meaning to them and helping him identify the kind of magic he was working with, were nothing more to him than just imprints of magic, created by his brain to help coup with the sheer amount of information it was receiving. Which brought Zak back to the here and now.
"This… is ridiculous." A thought struck the drow while staring at the glowing, tangled mess of magical lines before him. "Those patterns, those seams… it's like someone mashed up magic from every school into one messed up knot. Evocation, divination, illusion, transmutation… hells, there even is some necromancy in there. What is this place exactly?"
Zak stood motionless, his eyes never leaving the tangled mess which represented Hogwarts magical powers. It was beginning to freak Hagrid out, seeing this youngster behave like that just after he screamed bloody murder, like if someone was casting a Cruciatus spell on him. However, not only the giant was worried. Kelell himself was beginning to get nervous. His Boss was behaving strangely, even for him. It was like he had noticed something incredibly interesting and decided to stare at it until he figured out how this thing worked. But he was staring at the castle, at the monument of defense architecture gone horribly wrong. Why?
The black bird decided, that he didn't want to know, and that it was for the best if his Boss got a move on. The Hagrid fellow was beginning to look worried, and the last thing the Boss needed right now, was attracting ill attention. Steeling his resolve, the avian once again today approached a human ear and pecked on it with intent.
"Ouch!" That got Zak's attention. The drow, clearly annoyed shot his familiar a glare. "What's the bright idea?"
"Boss, you were starting to creep us out." Kelell answered in a caw, gesturing with his wing in the general direction of Hagrid. "You stared at the castle like if it suddenly grew another tower. And what was that with that scream? Something the matter?"
"No… just my eyes jump-starting, is all." Zak replied in drowish, after which he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Bloody messed up magic. I think I'll get a migraine from looking at it from out here."
"Zak, yer alright?" Came the unmistakable voice of Hagrid. The giant was looking at the drow with concern, his beetle-black eyes glinting with worry. "Yeh screamed like yer was skinned alive an' then yeh went an yer got all gloss-eyed. Sumthin the matter?"
"Nah, just a… bug in my eye, is all." The drow reassured the gamekeeper, rubbing his eye for emphasis. "And then I just… well… seen Hogwarts from the outside for the first time. It's… kind of impressive looking, you know."
"Yeah, that it is." Hagrid breathed a sigh of relief at hearing Zak's answer, buying it completely. Mentally, the drow patted himself on the back for his quick thinking. That, and thanked his lucky stars that Hagrid wasn't more perceptive. Nonetheless, the giant continued. "Listen, Zak. I kind of need ter go fetch sumting from my home. Yeh don' have a problem if we stop there, right?"
"Sure, no problem." Zak shrugged. "I gather that you live close by?"
"Yeah, jus' over that hill, at the edge o' the Forbidden Forest."
"Forbidden Forest?" The drow blinked bemusedly. Why did he have a feeling, that the childish name was there for a reason?
"Oh, yer need not worry. Name's just fer scaring off firsties. Most creatures that live there are okay, an' the ones that aren't will leave yeh alone if yer with me." Hagrid reassured him, resuming walking in the direction of his hut. Slightly confused and with a sinking suspicion, that the giant was playing down the real threat the forest presented, the drow followed, Kelell still perched on his shoulder.
Seeing, that the hill the giant pointed at was rather large, and getting on the other side of it was going to take some time, Zak let his mind wander towards the weird magical aura Hogwarts was radiating. He needed to somehow piece it all together, as to understand what the hells he actually seen. He knew, that the aura had a bit of every type of magic in it, ranging from evocation and ending on necromancy. He also noticed, that the aura itself was very powerful, borderline artifact-level powerful. One thing however stood in contrast with the latter revelation –for magic so strong and so diverse, it wasn't focused at all. It was like someone had cast spells of epic proportions on a vessel, that wasn't prepared to house it, and to add insult to injury, the one that cast the spells didn't know exactly what he wanted to achieve. It was like today's attempts at recreating the magic that allowed Netheril cities to fly –with no knowledge how to exactly work this power, it was mostly work of chance and blind experimentation. And then there was the issue with the magical aura being visible in the first place.
Normally, magic that allowed to "see magic", and that counted in the drow's special ability, had a few limitations. First of all –distance. The power allowing to see magical auras worked only on a set distance. Things, or parts of thing, that were out of its reach should seem fairly normal, no aura visible whatsoever. Then there was the issue with the power being blocked by certain objects or materials. For instance, a thin sheet of lead could effectively mask any magical aura any object had. Same went for a foot worth's of any type of stone. Here however, Zak was able to see magic that was within the castle, not only on its surface, and to see the magical aura of the whole damn thing. And it didn't make any sense! And if there was one thing that Zak hated, it was a riddle unsolved.
Unfortunately for the drow, his attention has been turned once he and his guide reached the top of the hill. From there, the white-headed drow was able to see a massive piece of forested land, presumably the Forbidden Forest. He saw the forest before of course, looking out the window in Dumbledore's study, but here, from the ground-level it seemed more… intimidating. Large trees, swaying slightly in the near nonexistent wind were rustling quietly, their leaves dancing in the warm air gave off an eerie feeling, that the drow wasn't quite able to pinpoint. The fact, that there was a slight fog visible over the trees in the distance only added to this feeling. It was rather warm outside, so why haven't the fog dissipated by now? Come to think of it, why was it even there in the first place? It's not like fogs were that common in the middle of summer (as Zak was informed was the present season in this part of the world), aside from some places with colder climate. And even considering all the mountains that surrounded this rather large valley, a more delicate and definitely warmer climate should be predominant in this place, the Forbidden Forest included.
Slowly walking down hill towards the edge of the forest, Zak was pondering the said mass of green, scanning it with his keen eyes. He noticed idly, that there was a rather large hut standing only a small distance away from it, presumably Hagrid's home. That was a bit strange –he thought; why would someone, that was as he believed an employee in the magnificent if not un-defendable castle live in a simple man's hut? Surely they could spare a few coins for Hagrid to build something more impressive than a commoner's home. Then again, who knew –maybe the giant preferred it to be as simple as possible, maybe he preferred living a simple life? He sure looked and behaved that way. And then there was the closeness to the forest –Hagrid did struck Zak as a nature's kind of guy. Yes, that must have been it.
"Well now, we're 'ere." Hagrid announced after a few minutes, he and Zak a couple of meters from the hut. "I'll just, yer know, fetch what I need an' be back in a moment. Wait 'ere." And with that he walked over to the door. The drow wasn't paying him much attention though, his mind once again on both the mystery the castle itself presented and the issue with the forest giving of a strange vibe. He was, for the most part, completely obvious to his surroundings, and he was about to pay the price for it.
Zak suddenly felt, that his arm was being released from the talons of his familiar. Kelell for some reason decided, that he was better of airborne, prompting the drow to look after his feathery friend. That in turn proved to be a mistake, for he didn't notice a large black blur approaching him with high speed, at least until it was too late.
The drow was slammed by something large and heavy, momentarily losing his balance and ending out prone on the ground. Dazed by the sudden collision, Zak wasn't prepared to fend off his attacker and ended up getting the brunt of the assault directly to the face. A rather rough object began rubbing itself on his face again and again, covering every inch of his visage with a sticky, slippery substance, and the fact that the owner of this gross object was more or less pinning him to the ground added to his frustration.
Kelell from his post in the air had trouble breathing, cawing loudly and almost convulsing in fits of laughter. This was too much for the poor avian. His Boss, ending up under a large dog that shot out from Hagrid's hut and decided to great the newcomer enthusiastically by licking off his face? Priceless!
"Fang, down boy! Heel!" Came the voice of Hagrid, and the large dog known as Fang reluctantly released his poor victim from his embrace. Getting slowly up from the ground and trying to get the canine's salvia from his face with one hand, Zak glared at his familiar, still laughing at his wizard's expense and muttered 'Xa, jiala ol phor (Yeah, laugh it up)' under his breath. After getting that out of his system, the drow looked at his recent assaulter.
Fang turned out to be, as Zak suspected, a great big dog, covered in black fur. As the drow was new in this world, he couldn't be sure what this particular breed was called here, but it had a spitting resemblance to some to the halfling ride dogs of the families living in the far north. From what he could also see, this particular dog seemed to be, for his rather large size (some would even say that Fang was oversized), extremely… lively at the moment. Zak kind of doubted that a being of this size and built would be that active on a regular basis, and that its behavior had something (if not everything) to do with his presence. Fang probably greeted in a similar manner all new guests, or at least that's what the drow thought.
"Sorry 'bout that." Hagrid grumbled, holding his oversized pet by its collar. "I kind o' forgot 'bout Fang 'ere."
"As long as nobody hears about what happened here, I don't terribly mind." Zak responded, still trying to get the dog's salvia off his face. "Don't want others to hear about how I got bested by a dog though. Kind of embarrassing really."
"I see yer point." The giant man nodded, smiling a bit under his beard at how the drow was taking this. He smiled even brighter once the white headed boy approached him and Fang and actually petted the oversized boarhound, which in turn made Fang joyfully bark at him and once again try to lick his face. Seeing that it was safe to presume that Zak would be able to get along with his dog, Hagrid let go of Fang's collar and went inside his hut in search of the mysterious item he needed to collect.
Zak for his part wasn't exactly sure what to make of the dog he was now facing. Fang acted like a young, joyful pup should have acted, which contrasted strongly with the way he looked. It was bizarre to say the least. It got even stranger once Kelell decided that he had enough of flying overhead his master and once again perched himself on his Boss' shoulder. Fang, as soon as he noticed the black bird sitting on the drow ceased to jump and looked at it with a tilted head, clearly confused by the sudden appearance of the avian. That lasted for maybe whole five seconds, after which he began to bark at Kelell in a playful manner, probably seeing a potential playmate in the crow. And as the drow's familiar wasn't one for sitting dully and waiting, he greeted the prospect of having fun and began to caw at the oversized boarhound from his perch, teasing the dog. All that was left for Zak to do was groan inwardly at Kelell's antics. Leave it to him to turn him into a glorified barking pole.
After a few moments Hagrid came out of his hut, a long, black cloak fashioned from the skins of various small woodland creatures on his back. Zak automatically noticed, that the piece of clothing was literally covered in various sized pockets, clearly visible as well as partially hidden. One could even think that it was of drow making, the number of pockets clearly reflecting the love of his species towards hiding things in their clothes. That is if it didn't cover up that much of the wearer's figure of course. The second thing that the Ilythiiri noticed was a seemingly random piece of equipment, especially in the hands of someone as fierce looking as Hagrid.
A bright pink umbrella.
Zak needed to make a double take at seeing this. He knew of course what umbrellas were, seeing them before, especially in the hands of gnomes from Lantan, but to see one as oddly colored as this one was unexpected. Add to that the fact, that the umbrella in question was emitting a small, almost too faint to register magical aura and you have yourself another mystery that Zak and his unquenched thirst for knowledge needed to solve. But still… a pink magical umbrella in the hands of a giant, wild-looking man? Who would have thought of that.
Hagrid with his booming voice called his faithful canine companion to him, and proceeded to lock him inside his hut. After that, with an exited look in his small, black eyes he mentioned Zak to follow him and proceeded to walk into the shadows of the Forbidden Forest. A bit reluctant to enter a place emanating an aura as strange as the one he felt from these woods, the drow followed him, one of his hands instinctively reaching into his pouch with spell components.
He wasn't sure why they needed to enter the Forbidden Forest in the first place. He doubted that whoever this "Mr. Potter" was lived here. It wouldn't have any sense to send a letter to him if that was the case, and it would be much simpler to deliver one if they were adamant on preserving the form. So, with that option crossed out, Zak came to the conclusion, that there was something in this forest that would bring them to the receiver of this Hogwarts letter. "A portal or some other means of transportation?" –he wondered. It could be virtually anything, the possibilities when it comes to magical transport were limitless, as he was a living testament of that.
During their trek through the woods Zak was subjugated to the full power of the Forbidden Forest's strange and unsettling aura. Racking his brain in search of a similar situation he found himself in, or at least a story he heard about something like this, he remembered only one such experience. It wasn't him that was subject to such a feeling; it was a story he heard once from a bard in Port Llast. The story was about a great hero of the city of Neverwinter, the one responsible for finding the cure for the Wailing Death plague and defeating the Ancients before they were able to rise to power. As the story went, between the last war between Neverwinter and Luskan, while the agents of Lord Nasher were seeking the information about the whereabouts of the cult responsible for the plague's spread, the hero investigated the strange events that took place in the Neverwinter Woods. There –as Zak recalled the story –in the depths of the magical forest the protagonist had encountered animals crazed beyond belief and fey creatures warped and aggressive towards both him and the local druids. The story also mentioned a feeling in the air, something along the lines of a constant dread creeping up the spine of anyone close enough to the heart of the woods, a feeling of both apprehension, fear and perversion that one could not comprehend fully. The weirdest part of it however was that although the forest was, in a manner of speaking, cursed back then, places like the unicorn groves and other such locations of immense good still radiated their own auras, that were in turn interwoven with one another, forming places that one could not describe the feelings they given off. And it appeared that the Forbidden Forest was one such place.
Zak normally didn't go into woods if his path didn't lead trough one, only exceptions from that rule being freshly uncovered ruins placed in a forest. His experience with woods was basic at best. Still, he rather quickly noticed, that this particular forest, aside from the strange feeling it gave off was odd. Game trails that he managed to spot indicated animals larger than the average, as well as a surprising number of predators in comparison to the number of potential pray. He also idly noticed more than one silvery wisp of something looking like hair, presumably parts of a unicorn's mane or tail. There was also the feeling of being watched by numerous eyes constantly nagging at the back of his mind, although he couldn't quite place where those looks were coming from. What got his full attention though was the distinct lack of insects and other vermin, with the noticeable exception of arachnids. It was almost as if he traveled back to Menzoberranzan there was so many of them, and just the thought of his place of birth in conjunction with this creepy forest made the hair at the back of his neck stand.
Finally, after what seemed to be hours of wandering around the forest they reached their destination. Hagrid led Zak into a clearing in the woods, a seemingly dead and empty glade that for some reason had a distinct feeling to it, that Zak was able to notice immediately. This place was less "contaminated" than the rest of the forest, it felt less like a dark, brown and green maze and more like a normal forest. Still, why did they have to go through the whole haunted wood to get to a place as empty as this? Well, the reason behind all this appeared in Zak's field of vision after just a few moments and gave him quite the scare.
A slight movement caught the drow's eye. For a moment he stared intently at the edge of the clearing, searching for the source of the disturbance, but he couldn't find anything. However, only after a minute or two he saw it: a creature like nothing he had ever encountered before. The dim lighting in the forest, augmented by the fact that the sun has already set made distinguishing details of the creature's built difficult, but Zak, who lived most of his life in the darkness could at the very least notice some of its features, and it made him shiver. It looked vaguely like a large horse, a large, black, skinny horse. However at the same time it had features that disqualified that possibility. Its head looked like it belonged on a reptile of some sort, covered in something similar to scales and with large fangs jutting out of its maw. However despite having a dragon-like head, the beast clearly had a long, black mane, reaching far to its back. The body of this creature was thin, as already was stated, however the more Zak looked at it, the more it looked like it was unnaturally skinny. He could easily distinguish almost every bone in its body; the creature looked like it was but a skeleton covered in a thin layer of skin. The beast had also two large, leathery wings, similar to those seen on black dragons or desmodu bats. However what really got Zak's attention was the creature's eyes. The white, strongly contrasting with the black creature eyes, looking glazed over and lifeless, unseeing and yet piercing him to his very soul, unthinking yet possessing a strange, savage dose of intelligence.
Zak, for the first time in a long while was truly spooked. This creature, this… thing… It was as if he was looking at a beast from hell, like if he suddenly awoke in a world of living dead, where dark necromancy warped every living being and turned a once proud pegasus into a caricature of itself, into an abomination of unspeakable terror. He unknowingly took a step back, his hand rummaging franticly inside the pouch with his material components in search of something that could be used to cast a powerful spell against this beast… and suddenly he stopped. A thought struck his mind, a crazy one at that, but nonetheless he decided to follow through with this idea. His head turned in the direction of his oversized companion and he searched for an explanation in his beard-covered face.
Hagrid was calm. This simple statement echoed in Zak's mind a few times, before the drow was able to comprehend what it meant. The giant that led him here was calm, looking with what appeared to be a small smile playing under his unruly dark beard. The Ilythiiri dared looked again at the weird creature that gave him the scare of the month. Where once stood a single skeletal horse now was a small pack of them. The beasts seemed to walk out of the forest, similar to a herd of deer looking for a new pasture, their heads with those soulless eyes gleaming in the dark and looking at them, unblinking and expressionless. It still creeped him out, but something told Zak, that these creatures weren't there to harm them. That they were simply waiting for something to happen, for them to make the first move. And then, suddenly, Zak heard Hagrid's voice, wonder clearly audible in his words:
"Blimey, Zak… yer… yer can see 'em?"
Zak blinked a few times at the question. What did Hagrid mean by that? The "horses"?
"To be honest, it would be rather hard not to see something as… weird… as those things." He finally answered, gesturing slightly with his free hand in the direction of the creatures, assuming that it was what the giant was talking about. "What are those things anyway?"
Hagrid looked genuinely confused at Zak's response, probably still trying to come to terms with how the drow was able to see the creatures, which in turn made Zak suspect that there was something with those horse-things that he didn't know. Still, the giant of a man answered the question to the best of his abilities.
"They're called Thestrals. Dead clever an' useful they are, an' strong too. Normally they're invisible fer the naked eye, but if yer seen someone die yer can see 'em no problem. Err… Mind tellin' me who yeh seen… yeh 'now… die?"
"Sorry, that's private stuff and I'm not comfortable talking about that." Zak replied coldly, making himself clear that he didn't want to talk about it. Hagrid nodded at that in understanding and continued with his explanations.
"Well… erm… where was I… oh yeah! Thestrals have 'mazin' sense o' direction an' can move really fast in the air an' stuff. This lot 'ere I tamed myself. The school uses 'em ter pull carriages fer the most part, an' sometimes Dumbledore himself uses em' fer long journeys."
"So it's safe to assume, that we're going to ride them to wherever we're headed, right?" Zak asked while making a mental note to gather some information on Thestrals on his own. Hagrid may have explained some things, but he rather know those things from a more reliable source. However he relaxed a bit once he heard that these creatures were tamed and even successfully used for simple tasks around the school and pulled his hand out of the pouch with magical material components. Still –a naturally invisible creature that he was able to see just because he witnessed (or was the reason of) someone's death? This was… unique to say the least.
"Yer got tha' righ'." Came the response from Hagrid. Zak for a moment there let his mind wonder, so it took a few seconds for him to understand what the giant has said. Once that however managed to click in his head, he could only groan inwardly. He may have came to terms with the concept of the creature looking the way it looked, but to ride one? This just kept getting better and better. "Now, I'll tell ye how ter mount an' ride one before we…"
"No need, I already rode on a flying steed before, I know what to do." The drow interrupted Hagrid. "I don't suppose that there are any saddles made to fit a Thestral's back, is there?"
"Nah, they don' like dem saddles tha' much." Hagrid replied cheerfully. Zak once again groaned inwardly.
"Bareback it is then." He sighed and approached Hagrid, who in turn was walking slowly (for him anyway) towards the Thestral heard.
The creatures once Zak approached them looked even stranger to the drow. Now, being able to see them in more detail and in turn being certain that all of the blank, featureless eyes of the clearly magical beings were on him, he felt even more uncomfortable. He was sure that all the eyes were on him, that they studied him either because they were unfamiliar with him or because they felt he was different from what they came to know. Either way, Zak steeled himself and strode as confidently as he could behind Hagrid's back.
The giant led him towards two particular Thestrals, not that there was much diversity in the way the creatures all looked. Still, one of those winged, undead-looking horses was clearly larger than the others, and in comparison to Hagrid it almost seemed as if this one was proportional to the giant. Hagrid mentioned something about him being named Tenebrus and being his favorite, both for the rather large size and the fact that he was the first one to be born in the Forbidden Forest, but Zak didn't pay him that much attention, concentrating more on the second Thestral.
This one was clearly younger than the rest, the drow even suspected it was still a foal when compared to the rest of the herd. It was smaller, maybe the size of a normal light horse if not a bit smaller, and definitely looked like a juvenile thanks to the slightly off proportions of its body. Still, it behaved like the rest of its kind –it moved about calmly and dignified, but its blank eyes were peering into his own like if the young Thestral was trying to decide if he was friend or foe and if he should rip him apart with his fangs. A shiver once again run down Zak's spine.
The drow was guessing, that Hagrid led him to these two because they were going to serve them as their steeds, not that he liked the idea of sitting on something so weird-looking in the first place. Sure enough, the giant declared just that after ending his little speech about the two Thestrals (the smaller one was apparently a young colt named Tandar and was the youngest trained Thestral in the herd). Zak sighed, knowing that this would come sooner or later, and approached his assigned mount carefully and cautiously touched its side. To his surprise, he clearly felt a slow but firm pulse and the lungs of the creature taking slow, deep breaths. Apparently, Thestrals only looked dead but in fact were pretty much alive. Still, the strange facture of the skin the creature had was unsettling for the drow, but as Tandar didn't react aggressively to his touch it was safe to assume that he wouldn't attack or otherwise prevent him from mounting him.
Hagrid, who observed all this carefully from where he stood seemed pleased with Zak's progress. He himself noticed, that the Thestrals were acting a bit strangely today, and that they clearly were interested in the white haired kid. Why that was, the giant didn't know, but something in this Zak fellow must have been either completely unknown to them, or on the contrary –familiar with them but lost so long ago, that they couldn't help but stare at him. Add to that Zak's ability to see them and you have yourself something, that even someone so… unobservant as Hagrid had easily noticed. Then again, the kid did appear in Hogwarts in the middle of the summer break completely not knowing where he was, so something like this shouldn't be that much of a surprise. And with that thought in mind Hagrid climbed on his Thestral's back.
For Zak mounting his unusual steed took a bit longer. First off, he needed to somehow transport Kelell. He might have been a really good flier, but something told the drow, that the crow wouldn't be able to keep up with a flying Thestral. Taking that into account, he ordered his familiar to get in his backpack (which earned him a "you have got to be kidding me" look from his feathered friend), and only after that did he even try to get on the winged "horse". That too proved to be a rather tedious task. As Zak was trapped in a kid's body, he was a lot shorter than he normally was, and that meant that getting on the back of something as large as a horse was difficult, and his still recovering dexterity wasn't helping. It took a better part of a minute and a concerned question of if he was alright from Hagrid, but finally the drow was able to get on the back of his steed. It probably had something to do with the Thestral taking pity on him and helping him with his wing, but the main point was that he was up.
It was rather surprising how a creature as strange as a Thestral had such a comfortable back in spite both its odious appearance and strange in the touch skin. One could argue, that these creatures were in some twisted way evolutionary adapted to carrying riders. Zak for his part sure as all Hells was surprised by that revelation, and after he managed to position himself on the back of his magical steed, putting his legs in such a way, that they hanged in front of the Thestral's wings he shot a questioning look at Hagrid. This of course prompted the giant to start their journey, and that consisted of, which was a rather big surprise for the confused drow, taking out the envelope addressed to this Harry Potter fellow and reading out the last part of the address for his Thestral.
"…Rock o' the North Sea." Came the booming voice of Hagrid. And, to the astonishment of his drow companion the Thestral seemed to understand what was desired from him and with a few mighty flaps of his leathery wings he shot off into the air, Hagrid's weight seemingly unnoticeable to the strange creature. Not knowing what else to do and feeling stupid for even thinking about doing it, Zak leaned forward towards the reptile-like head of his Thestral and muttered:
"After him." He didn't have to wait for too long, as his steed seemed to understand him as clearly as his bigger version understood Hagrid and began flapping his own wings, making the drow slightly lose balance and take hold of the Thestral's black mane on instinct. After just a few seconds he too was in the air and shot off after the quickly shrinking dot that was Hagrid. And only after a few minutes did Zak remember something, that made his blood run cold. "Did Hagrid just say 'a rock on the North Sea?'"
The last few days were the weirdest week in his life, of that one Harry James Potter was certain. Sure, he was used by now to how bizarre the world could be, especially living with the walking zoo that was his aunt and her family, but those letters from that unknown sender topped everything. They turned his life upside down, providing him with his first ever bedroom and were an infinite source of laughing material, the way uncle Vernon and aunt Petunia reacted to them. Still, they were a nuisance to him as well as to the people he unfortunately called "his family", and he used the term loosely. It was their fault that he right now was lying on the hard, wooden floor of this rickety old shack in the middle of nowhere and covered only by a thin blanket after all. And to think that in a few moments he was going to be eleven. Some birthday this was, not that the previous one was that much better. At least he was relatively warm in his cupboard back then.
His musings were interrupted by a weird noise, like if something creaked loudly. A thought that maybe the raging storm outside was beginning to get to the old shack and weakened the wooden hut ran through his head, but he quickly dismissed that. He was many things, but not suicidal. Then again, the noise was followed by a crunching sound, as if the very rock upon which the shack was constructed was beginning to crumble into the sea. This slightly unnerved Harry. What was happening out there?
He decided, that it would be best to at least sit up, so that he would be able to better see what was happening, and in the odd chance that something dangerous actually was going on out there he would be able to get to his feet faster. Once he sat himself up, Harry peered over his pig-like cousin in the direction of the only window in the shack that just so happens was on the wall with the door. For a moment he was almost certain that he saw a figure peering through it with a pair of large, almond-shaped eyes the color of deep purple. That was however only a split second, and as soon as Harry blinked, the figure was gone. He wondered for a moment if his mind was playing tricks on him –he was after all hungry, and he was known for having strange hallucinations on an empty stomach. He decided to disregard what he thought he saw and was going to lay back on his place on the floor and try to get some sleep. That is until a flash of lightning illuminated the outside and he caught from the corner of his eye a large shadow nearing the door.
He sat bolt upright again, his heart pounding like mad. That was no phantom he saw. That was definitely a real, living thing, and it was unmistakably approaching the door. In the haze that was his mind right now a thought struck him –he should probably wake up uncle Vernon, or at least Dudley. Maybe his bully of a cousin was useless for the most part, but he could use him as a distraction in case the thing was hostile. And if he was guessing right, the walrus that was his aunt's husband bought somehow a weapon, or at least he assumed that was in the long, thin package. Maybe, just maybe he would actually be able to use it and take care of whatever was out there.
The sound of pounding came from the door, sounding like if someone was trying to break it down. Harry, his eyes glued to the door was about to get a panic attack; his heart was pounding like it wanted to burst out of his chest and his ears were filled with the sound of his own quickened pulse. He also got a suspicious case of temporal parlays. All in all, not the best course of action in a life-or-death situation.
This one he more felt than heard. The force of this "knock" was enough to make the whole shack shiver and it probably woke up everybody in the building. Dudley jerked awake comically and said something, but Harry was to terrified to understand what he was saying. Seconds later uncle Vernon had shown up in their temporary room, clutching a rifle in his hands. It was clear that he was scared out of his mind too, the fact that in all the confusion he forgotten about turning the weapon's safety off was enough proof. Still, the man gathered what little courage he had and shouted:
"Who's there?! I warn you –I'm armed!"
For a moment only the sounds of the storm raging outside was heard. And then –
The doorframe wasn't able to hold the door any longer and it flown inside with a crash, landing flat on the wooden floor and making a ruckus that was only slightly louder than the deafening roar of the stormy sea and the low grumble of thunder.
Only now was Harry able to discern the features of the "thing" he saw trough the window, and it was in fact a man. The largest, most wild-looking man he had ever seen. Garbed in a long fur coat and with a disheveled black beard and hair he looked like someone more at place in a forest than anywhere near civilization. His eyes however, two gleaming black beetles under his unruly hair gave off a kind gleam which strangely enough calmed the young Potter.
The man squeezed through the empty doorframe, the tip of his head brushing against the shack's roof. Only then did Harry notice, that the colossal figure was followed by another, this time much shorter and thinner one. The most defining features of this person was the white mane that adorned his head and the pair of lilac eyes, eyes, that only after a second did Harry realize he saw just a few moments before. They were peering inside trough the window, this newcomer was the one that he thought he saw.
Harry snapped out of his thoughts once he heard the roaring of the storm outside subside a little. As it turned out, the larger figure reached for the door that it just broke down, picked it up with ease and fitted it back into its frame. It looked almost as if the giant was used to situations like that. Either way the large man turned around, facing the Dursleys, and looked at them with a slightly angry expression.
"Marvelous place yeh picked ter rest, Dursley." He grumbled. "Now make yerself useful an' make us a cup o' tea. It's not been an easy journey…"
"Remind me to never again travel with you." Muttered the white-haired one, wring the water from his hair and leaving a sizable puddle on the wooden floor. It was clear that he was a male, probably a boy around Harry's age, although his accent was strange, like nothing that the young Potter had ever heard.
"Come on, it wasn' that bad." The giant replied, although a bit of sheepishness crept into his rumbling voice.
"There's a bloody storm out there if you haven't noticed." The white-head countered, clearly annoyed. "A. Bloody. STORM! We could have been struck by lightning or swept into the sea or something."
"But we're alright, ain' we?" Came the answer from the man and not waiting for any reply he strode to the recently vacated sofa (Dudley, once he heard the voice of the giant shot of to hide behind his mother) and sat on it. The old piece of furniture sagged under his weight dangerously. And then the giant looked at the young Potter. "An' here's Harry!"
Shocked by the fact that this man knew his name more than by his appearance Harry looked at the giant's face. His fierce visage masked it well, but his eyes were squinted slightly, clearly indicating that the man was smiling. From his peripheral vision the young Potter noticed the white haired youth looking at him with interest, still trying to get the water out of his hair.
"Las' time I saw yeh, yeh was only a baby." The giant said, half-happily half-gloomily. "Yeh look a lot like yer ol' man, but yeh've got yer mom's eyes."
Harry was momentarily stunned. This man apparently knew his parents. This man knew his mom and dad! Maybe, just maybe, he would be able to get something out about them from him. Maybe he would be more helpful than the Dursleys and their "don't ask questions" policy. And speaking of the Dursleys…
"I demand that you and this child leave this building at once!" Uncle Vernon apparently found his voice, and his nerve. He hefted the rifle and aimed roughly in the direction of the giant, the safety however still on. "You are breaking and entering!"
"Ah, shut yer trap Dursley, no one takes yer seriously anyways." The giant replied and quicker than it seemed possible he reached over the back of the sofa and jerked the weapon out of uncle Vernon's grasp. Then, in a show of incredible force he bent the barrel into a pretzel and tossed it in the corner of the room. It never hit the ground, snatched from midair by the whitehead.
Vernon Dursley wisely backed off, protecting his family with his own body. The effect was completely destroyed by the high pitched squeak that escaped his throat.
"Now, havin' that out o' the way…" The giant said, turning his attention back to Harry. "…a very happy birthday to yeh. Sorry that it had ter be in a place like this…" He gestured around the shack, especially eying a puddle created by a leak in the roof. "Anyway –I got summat fer yeh… though I mighta sat on it at some point, it'll taste all righ'."
Only once the man reached inside his large overcoat had Harry noticed, that it was covered in pockets, their sizes ranging from normal ones to pockets capable of housing a medium-sized dog. From one of them, specifically one of the inside ones the giant pulled a box, one side of it slightly squished. Cautiously and still eying the man, Harry opened the box, revealing a large if not slightly battered chocolate cake. Surprised at seeing something like that, the young Potter stared at it for a moment, on the green icing forming the words Happy Birthday Harry written with unsteady hands, having a hard time grasping the concept of this being his first ever birthday gift.
For a moment Harry was at a loss of words. He looked at the smiling giant, trying to come up with something to say, but he was unable to form any coherent thought, let alone word. It wasn't helping, that the white haired boy that accompanied him was still looking at him curiously, his eyebrow cocked like if he was surprised by something. It almost looked like if he saw something in Harry that confused him greatly, the way his stare, not hostile by any means, just investigative was fixed on his own eyes. Only after a few moments had Harry found his voice and looked back at the giant.
"Um… thank you, sir, but… who are you?" Harry was genuinely surprised that he managed to say even that. Either way, the giant chuckled at his question.
"True, haven't introduced myself, did I? Rebeus Hagrid, Keeper o' Key's an' Grounds at Hogwarts." He extended a hand and Harry tentatively shook it. Or rather Hagrid had shook Harry's whole arm, it all depended on how you looked at it.
"So… what 'bout that tee, eh?" Hagrid looked around, rubbing his hands together. Hearing no response from the Dursleys he snorted, muttering something along the lines of "figured as much" and busied himself with the fireplace. In the meantime Harry was approached by the whitehead.
The youngster, before he did anything else stood before the young Potter and crossed his hands on his chest. Confused, Harry looked at him, as he bowed slightly, his eyes still fixed on his face, and muttered something incoherently. It sounded somewhat like "Xal lil Drathir zuch ssussun dosst menvis", but for the love of him, Harry couldn't understand a word of it. It was clearly in another language, and a strange one at that; he never heard anyone speaking in it. However it somehow sounded familiar to him, like if he was supposed to know it or something. In the end however he didn't have the time to ponder this, as the whitehead straightened up and extended a hand for a shake.
"If we're introducing ourselves, might as well get this over with. I'm Zak'Talqosee Vicloth." Harry looked at him weirdly. That was one hell-of-a name, and the guy clearly noticed it, because he chuckled slightly. "I know, my name is a mouthful, especially for non-ilythiiri. Call me Zak for short."
"Um… yeah, ee… I'm Harry, Harry Potter." Harry replied, confused by the other boy's demeanor, and grasped his hand for a shake.
It was in that moment, that Harry felt extremely weird. He felt a strange warmness radiating from this Zak fellow's hand, a mysterious heat that once connected with his naked hand spread down his arm, as if wildfire engulfing a dried forest. It wasn't by any means unpleasant, nor did it hurt; in fact, it was a pleasant feeling, banishing the cold he himself had felt from lying on the wooden floor. The strangest part of all this however was that once their hands touched, Harry felt something in him stir. He couldn't quite place it, but it felt as if something inside his body, somewhere close to his heart had suddenly came to life and gave off a surge that passed him from there to the tip of his head and to the tips of his toes. A strange, electric-like surge.
Harry's face reflected his surprise clearly, twisting into a startled expression. However his brain, in spite of the shock (both figurative and literal) worked as sharply as ever, and his eyes, in spite of the darkness in the room were able to pick up a slight change in Zak's expression. The whitehead masked it well, but his eyes betrayed him, widening in surprise for a split second before he was able to hide it. It seemed that whatever Harry had felt, Zak did too.
Finally, after what seemed like a couple of minutes of just standing and looking at one another, Harry in surprise and shock, Zak with an investigative expression on his face, they both released their hands from the handshake. Only now did they notice, that the fireplace was lit, presumably by Hagrid, and that a small copper kettle with slowly heating water was hanging over it. They also noticed a few pokers with sausages on them, sizzling by the fire and letting off a mouthwatering aroma of cooked meat.
Harry went towards the fireplace, sitting in front of it and letting himself be washed by the warmth it radiated. Zak was closely behind him and the young Potter figured, that he wanted to dry himself by the fire. He was after all soaking wet, and his long, white hair stuck to his face quite firmly, forcing him once every five seconds to place a loose, wet strand behind his ear. Moments later, Hagrid slid a few sausages from one of the pokers and handed them to them both, all the while shooting looks at the Dursleys, especially Harry's pig of a cousin, who in turn eyed the food with a longing expression, in spite of his father's warnings.
Not eating too well the past few days, Harry dug in, almost swallowing his sausage whole. The meal might have been simple, but to the young Potter, who was used to eating things either even more simple, or just scraps from his "family's" table, it was like a four-course dinner, not to mention the first truly filling and warm meal this day. From the corner of his eye, the black haired youth noticed, that Zak, although he also was offered some of the delightfully delicious meal hadn't exactly ate that much. Having eaten barely one sausage, he broke the second and third one into smaller pieces and stuffed them into his backpack, which greatly confused the young boy. However, the giant named Hagrid definitely draw more attention, and seeing, that he wasn't exactly going to explain anything without prompting, Harry decided to stop his meal and ask a question that was going through his head for at least five minutes now.
"I'm terribly sorry, but I still don't really know who you two are."
Hagrid didn't answer him right away. First, he took the kettle of the fire and poured its almost boiling content into three worn and chipped mugs, preparing their tee. Only after he finished that (and poured himself a hefty dose of sugar into his mug) had he answered, a smile still hidden behind his unruly beard.
"Call me Hagrid, everyone dose. An' like I told yeh, I'm the Keeper o' Keys at Hogwarts. O' course yeh know everythin' 'bout Hogwarts, no?"
"Um… well… no, not exactly." Answered Harry, a perplexed expression on his face.
Hagrid looked at him shocked.
"I-I mean I know it's a sort of a boarding school of magic or something." Harry added hurriedly, slightly afraid that he said something wrong. "Sadly, I don't know much more than that. The letter wasn't that specific."
Hagrid's face became more relaxed once he heard Harry's explanation, that is until he heard the bit with the letter. Once the meaning of the young boy's words got to him, he looked surprised and began searching for something in the inside pockets of his coat. Finally, after finding what he was looking for, he produced a yellowish, parchment envelope.
"Yeh mean ta tell me, that yeh have yer Hogwarts letter?" He asked, handing the envelope to Harry, who took it and examined it carefully. After a moment he looked at Hagrid again and nodded.
"Yeah, I have one of these." He answered, and after just a moment he produced an almost identical, repeatedly folded one from the back pocket of his pants. Hagrid stared at him, stunned for the time being, and Zak too arched an eyebrow at the spectacle that unfolded itself right before his eyes. However, not only those two were present here with Harry.
Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia were staring with wide eyes at their nephew, or too be more precise –at the envelope he was holding. A million thoughts must have ran through their heads in that moment, trying to comprehend what had just happened. They were sure that they got each and every one of those damned letters and destroyed them all. How could this freak get his bloody hands on one of them? At least that's what Harry thought they were thinking, their clueless expressions didn't help him much in figuring them out. Finally, after a long moment of silence, interrupted only by the occasional thunderclap or the noise of the rain pounding on the only window, someone decided to voice his opinion on this situation.
"This certainly isn't what I was expecting." Muttered Zak, although his voice seemed to carry more mirth than annoyance. "It seems that we gone and came here completely needlessly, ain't that right Hagrid?"
The giant was going to reply to the whitehead, but Vernon Dursley beat him to the punch. With a tremble to his voice and a sickly shade of purple on his face, he took a step in Harry's direction and asked trough gritted teeth:
Harry looked at him, slightly backing up in his sitting position, but answered nonetheless.
"Two days now." His voice was even, although inwardly he was fidgeting with fear. The last time Uncle Vernon was this furious it didn't end well, and he wasn't even talking about being locked in the cupboard for over a month.
"How?" Came the second question from his aunt's husband. This time, Harry audibly gulped.
"Snatched one from the floor while you weren't looking. The jumping to catch one flying from the fireplace was just a ruse."
"Classy." Commented Zak from his position, a slight smirk playing his face. The smirk however quickly transformed into a scowl once Vernon Dursley threw himself at his nephew, furiously trying to lay his hands on him. Fortunately, Hagrid had the presence of mind to stop him, grabbing him by the scruff of his neck and holding him down. It wasn't enough though to prevent him from angrily yelling at young Harry.
"Do you have any idea what you have done, boy?! Do you have any idea what my family had to endure because of those freakish letters?! And now, after all we had done for you, you repay us like that?! You repay our generosity, the fact that we brought a freak like you under our own roof by forcing us into all this nonsense, out of our own home and into this hellhole just for your freakish pleasure?! We should have left you on the streets when we had the chance! You…"
"That's enough from yeh, Dursley." Hagrid interrupted the man before he was able to spew any more insults in Harry's way. The giant forcefully dragged the man to the wall where the rest of his family was cowering in fear, and pushed him, making him tumble and plant his face in the wooden wall. "An' stay there." Muttered Hagrid darkly under his breath, turning back to Harry, who watched the whole ordeal from his place on the floor. "Sorry 'bout that. Yer shouldn' have ter listen to that. Seein' them act like that, I gather that yeh don' have the slightest clue what's goin' on, right?"
Harry didn't answer right away, looking wide-eyed at the place, where just moments ago was an advancing Vernon Dursley, hell-bent on making his life miserable. He seen the look his uncle had in his eyes definitely too many times, and knowing what normally would come with that look, he shivered uncontrollably. He definitely did not want to be anyplace near that man for as long as he could, or at the very least have someone like Hagrid with him. And speaking of the giant –what he just witnessed was rather impressive, at least in Harry's mind. True, Uncle Vernon wasn't by any means an athletic man, nor was he stronger than your average obese mustache-wearing buffoon, but for Hagrid to just casually overpower him without even breaking a sweat? Now that was impressive.
It took a moment for the young Potter to notice, that the giant that strength he had just witnessed asked him something. Shaking his head in an attempt to clear his mind, Harry looked at Hagrid and repeated the question in his mind. Finally, he was able to form an answer.
"If you mean the fact, that I apparently can use 'magic', than I figured that out actually prior to the letter." Harry answered to the best of his abilities. "I mean what else could it be, that made all those weird things happen around me? Only magic. And the fact that I learned to use some of it on my own adds to that I think."
"Nah, that ain't what I meant." Hagrid waved it off, but after a moment a thought struck him. "Wait a darn moment… yeh can use some magic… consciously like?"
This time it was Harry's time to be confused. The question took him by surprise; he had already figured, that controlling some of his powers at his age was normal, or as normal as it could be having control over things that science couldn't explain. Hagrid's reaction however indicated, that he probably was wrong. Was he some kind of exception? Either way, he decided, that explaining everything would take too much time, so he decided that a small presentation was the next best thing.
He outstretched his right hand, pointing it in the direction where his ragged blanket was lying on the floor. Scrunching his face in concentration, he used that weird feeling, that now he was able to name properly as his magic, to reach out far beyond the reach of his body and grab the thin piece of cloth that served him not so long ago as a cover. Just as he expected, the moldy blanket moved without anything physical interacting with it, and then shot in the direction of Harry's outstretched hand. The young boy grabbed it out of sheer instinct, opening his eyes and looking at Hagrid with a slightly tired expression.
The giant was at a loss. He didn't expect something like that to occur, of that he was certain. Dumbledore didn't tell him anything about what he should expect, only that he was to deliver the letter at all costs and then safely escort both Harry and Zak to Diagon Alley for them to buy their school supplies. He was not prepared for Harry's apparent control over his accidental (now only by name) magic. Was that even possible, to control magic wandless? Either way, his musings were interrupted by Zak's voice, who seemed not to be that surprised by what he just witnessed, but definitely excited about it.
"Not too shabby." He commented, looking at Harry's handiwork with a strange gleam in his lilac eyes. "Not too shabby at all. Can you perchance do something else? I mean not that you need to show that to us if you're tired or something, just tell us."
"Em… well…" Harry was a bit surprised at the praise, not used to any such thing from his experience with his "family" (speaking of which, after Harry's display their eyes went wide, and aunt Petunia exchanged a worried glance with her husband, who at some point managed to get to his feet). Either way, blushing from embarrassment or not, he answered. "I… um… I can make plants grow faster by touching them… and I can produce a ball of light if I concentrate hard enough. That's about all, really, the rest I don't control."
"Make plants grow faster you say?" Zak mumbled to himself, scratching his chin in contemplation. This gave Hagrid a chance to enter the conversation, although he still was shocked by what he just saw and heard.
"Well, I always bin certain that yeh was goin' to make a great wizard one day, Harry. Now I know that fer certain. But, what I was askin' 'bout was if yeh knew 'bout our world. Actually, don' even answer, I know that those great muggles that yeh have fer relatives didn' tell yeh a thin'."
"Muggles?" Harry blinked, surprised by the term. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Zak cringe slightly at the word, like if it annoyed him.
"It's wha' we call nonmagical folk. Unfortunately, yeh got the rotten luck o' having the biggest muggles I laid my eyes on as kin." At that point he gave the Dursleys the stink-eye, which in turn made them try to blend into the wall. After a moment, Hagrid grunted and continued. "This makes all this a lot more complicated, that's fer sure. Dem muggle fools were ta tell yeh everythin' at some point, but they didn't, an'…"
"Hold on a second." Harry interrupted him, momentarily forgetting about manners and looking wide eyed first at Hagrid, and then at his aunt and uncle. "You mean to tell me, that they knew all along?"
"Knew?!" Came a shriek from aunt Petunia, her eyes suddenly gaining an insane spark to them. "Of course we knew! How could you not be one of those freaks when my own sister was a wretched hag? You think that she didn't get a latter like you? That she didn't go to that… school… That she wasn't as freakish as you are? Oh, I despised her with all my heart, I knew what kind of monster she was, even if my own parents were blind to it. It was always Lilly this, Lilly that… to be proud of having a freak in a family! But I knew better, I knew what all this magic was about, and I wasn't going to stand her presence any longer."
She paused for a second, catching her breath. It seemed, that she was holding in this tirade for some time now, probably from her childhood, and she didn't look like she was going to be over anytime soon.
"Once she left our house with that… Potter… one of her lot, may he suffer in hell, I was actually glad. I wouldn't have to look at the monster my sister has become, I wouldn't have to witness her freakish 'talents'. I could finally live a normal life. But she still taunted me, even after she left: she was sending her freakish letters to me, she invaded my privacy, my home… she had the audacity to tell me who I should and shouldn't see! Only after you were born she stopped harassing me. But I knew… I knew that you would be the same as her and her damned husband were… that you would be just as… abnormal… freakish… as they were. And I was right! You're as much of a monster as she was! And do you know how she ended up, do you? What really happened to her all those years ago? She blown up, that what she did, and we ended up with you, freak!"
At that Harry went extremely white. He struggled to find his voice, thoughts scrambled in his brain and making no sense.
"Blown up?" He managed to whisper out, the first coherent thought taking total control over his mind. He looked at his aunt, at her furious horse-face, in her eyes burning with hate and loathing, and anger began boiling in his own heart. Color went back to his face, replacing chalk white with deep red, and before anyone noticed, he was on his feet, at his full if not unimpressive height, and glared at his aunt with the intensity of a thousand suns.
"You told me… that… my parents… died… in a car crash!" He managed to say trough gritted teeth. This short declaration brought a shocked and angry expression on Hagrid's face, bringing him to his feet and starting to berate the Dursleys, clearly furious that someone had soiled the memory of people who he was fond of by such lies (not to mention, that he was angry with them to begin with; hearing aunt Petunia's rant, it took all his self control not to roar at the woman in anger). Harry however was another matter entirely.
He stood where he was, glaring at his relatives, fists clenched and his face in a furious scowl. In that short moment he had forgotten all about his fear towards them, right now he was ready to lunge at them, even with his bear fists, and make them sorry for what they said about his family. He could take any insult directed at him, he was used to that from his time with the Dursleys. But insult his family? Insult his real, close family? Trash-talk his parents? That was a sure way to end up on the wrong side of his fists, even if they weren't capable of dealing much damage. And damn it all to hell –everyone in his old school knew that, especially after that one time that he gotten himself into trouble in a way that he knew exactly what he was answering for.
What Harry didn't know, was that his fists, tightly clenched and trembling from his rage were not acting normally. He didn't notice that, nor did Hagrid and the Dursleys, but his hands were shedding a faint, white glow, crackling from time to time with soft blue flecks of light, that disappeared as suddenly as they appeared. They were unnoticed by all but one.
Harry suddenly felt someone's hand on his shoulder. He forcefully averted his gaze from the Dursleys and looked at the hand, and then at its owner. His eyes fell on Zak. The whitehead was looking at him intentionally, his lilac eyes gleaming in the faint glow of the fireplace like two mesmerizing gems. Once he was certain, that Harry was giving him his full attention, he shook his head slightly, and muttered something, that sounded a lot like "Nau ssrig'luin whol ssissilluk, nind yorn inbau vel'bol nind rytho'le ulnin z'lonzic". And although the young Potter didn't understand a word he was saying, something in Zak's voice told him, that he should calm down, and the look in those almond-shaped eyes only reinforced that feeling. With a frustrated sigh Harry complied and took a calming breath, unclenching his fists.
There was no trace of the white glow left.
The Dursleys, from what the two smallest occupants of the hut were able to tell, were looking like they wanted nothing more than to keel over and die right now, rather than face the raging giant before them. Hagrid for his part was furiously yelling at them, venting his anger on them in a safe if not unpleasant for the Dursleys way. Those people did disrespect the memory of both Lilly and James Potter after all, and he would be damned if he didn't defend them from the likes of those muggles. He could go on and on like that, thinking up new epithets to call those people. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for the Dursleys), he was called into order by the voice of none other than Harry himself.
"Could… could you tell me about what happened to my parents, Hagrid?" His voice was barely audible, like if he wasn't sure if he should be asking that. However the giant heard that and momentarily stopped his "scolding" and turned to look at the young teen, clearly distraught. He was most likely trying to figure out if he was actually suited to tell him the story of his parents, and in extension about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. However one look at the young lad was enough to clench his worries. "Please?"
"I don' know if I'm the right person ter tell yeh this story." Hagrid began, his voice somber and gentle, a stark contrast to how he sounded but a few seconds ago. He sat once again at the old sofa and it sagged even lower, almost touching the ground under the giants weight. "Unfortunately, the ones that were ter tell yeh all this are a bunch o' royal bastards… erm… ignore tha' last bit… Well the point is tha' they didn' tell yeh what they should have, and yeh can't go to Hogwarts not knowin' so I'll try ma' best. Just… just don' expect ter hear the whole story from me. Parts o' it I don' know myself, an' parts o' it are great mysteries tha' I can't tell."
Harry, eager to learn about his parents, even if it meant learning how they died, sat in front of Hagrid, his back to the fireplace, eyes never leaving the giant. Zak too approached the fireplace and sat, getting himself into a position where he could easily listen in to the conversation, his curiosity piqued. Hagrid's explanations were rather interesting up to this point, and he had a sinking suspicion, that all this had something to do with a certain dark lord that ol' Silverbeard informed him of.
Hagrid, as was his way of speech, began clumsily, tripping over his own explanations and getting to a near standstill once it came to the name of the dark wizard he was talking about. With much effort he managed to say the name, and immediately after that shuddered, as if he expected Voldemort to pop up out of thin air. This prompted Zak to roll his eyes of course, but he did not dear to interrupt the giant and stayed silent, trying to piece the story together.
After that little mishap with the "Voldemort" bit, Hagrid's explanations gained momentum, as well as smoothness. He more or less confirmed for Zak what he already knew from Dumbledore: that this whole dark lord was your typical evil archetype of a wizard, a megalomaniac that wanted nothing more than total control over the world, or at least of a part of it. That he plunged the nation into a bloody civil war, forcing paranoia on all the wizarding population and the like. Generally, Zak wasn't impressed. Then again, he wasn't impressed by most evil wizards of his world, and some of them were quite successful when it came to fulfilling their wicked dreams. Harry however… well, that was a totally different story on its own.
As much as Harry was already accustomed to thinking about there being magic, the thought of there being an evil wizard, that not so long ago was ravaging the nation and terrorizing other magic users was completely alien to him. Now however, thanks to Hagrid's explanation he knew what to expect from the new world he apparently was going to be part of. He knew now, that it was as gray as the one he grew up in, and that there always was the possibility of some other bastard (and yes, he knew the word; he wasn't going to school with earplugs after all) decided to follow up in this "Voldemort" character's footsteps. And then his parents came into play.
He was ecstatic to learn anything about the parents he never knew. And as it turned out, Hagrid was a real goldmine in that regard. He was, as was clear from the beginning, really fond of his mum and dad, and spoke in really high regards about them both. Alas, he didn't go into too much detail at the time, having a much more grim subject to attend to, but it was clear, that if Harry ever wanted to, he could ask the giant about his family, and he would be glad to tell him everything he knew. Right now he limited himself to telling him, that in his eyes they both were the nicest people he knew, and that it was a real tragedy that they died, a tragedy that he to this very day was upset about.
Finally, the moment in which Harry was to learn about what happened to his parents came, and it wasn't anything he was expecting. Apparently, his parents were in strong opposition to this Voldemort (a fact that he was already proud of), and thus they were targeted by him. Now, Hagrid didn't knew exactly what happened ten years ago, but from what he was able to piece from the stories circulating the magical world, the Dark Lord somehow found out their hiding place and murdered both his parents in cold blood. And apparently he was going to murder Harry as well, but somehow, due to unexplainable circumstances he managed to survive, getting out of this whole ordeal with but one wound, the one he was carrying as a scar nowadays on his forehead. What was even more extraordinaire was the fact, that at that night, the power of Lord Voldemort was vanquished and he himself all but disappeared, vanishing without a trace.
This bit of information once again spiked Zak's interest, and he regarded Harry in a slightly new light. Being able to vanquish a powerful wizard at the pinnacle of his power while being a baby? Either there was powerful magic at work there, or what he felt radiating from the boy when they first met had more to it than he initially thought. Either way, the fact that he lived through something like that was short of a miracle, and it impressed him greatly. Problem is, Harry himself looked skeptical at that revelation.
There was a slight hiccup on the way in the form of one Vernon Dursley, who apparently found the measly amount of courage that he had and decided to add his thoughts on the matter. Suffice to say, he was quickly silenced by Hagrid once he let it slip, that he believed that a beating would be able to cure Harry out of magic, or rather "the freakiness that you posses" as per his words. Harry was really beginning to dread the moment he was going to stay with those people (he refused to call them his family) alone. And Zak was getting more and more annoyed by them.
There were some questions that Harry had, most of them concerning Voldemort's sudden disappearance. Unfortunately, Hagrid didn't have the answers. All he could say, was that he did not believe that Voldemort truly died that faithful night, nor did he believe that he was just waiting in the shadows for a moment to strike, considering his followers were as confused by his departure as anyone else. The most logical answer in his opinion was that he was too weak to do anything right now, and that whatever rendered him neigh powerless –it had something to do with Harry and his magic.
Harry was, once again, skeptical about all this. He was after all only a baby back then, how could he had been powerful enough to defeat an experienced dark wizard? It didn't add up in his book, not without some kind of outside help or unimaginable luck shining upon him that night. What was it, that helped him back then –he did not know, but whatever it was, it definitely didn't save him from the Dursleys and their hate towards him.
Zak for his part too was contemplating what he has just learned. If he didn't know any better he would say, that this whole Voldemort actually formed some kind of failsafe in case he ever was reduced to a corpse, and that usually involved either cloning (which he seriously doubted), or lichdome (which again he seriously doubted). Considering the probable level of magic this world possessed, both options were definitely out of Voldemort's reach. However, if the drow was a dark wizard that didn't fear killing people personally, he would do something to ensure, that he would somehow survive death itself, whatever the means to do so in this world were. It was only logical to assume, that the whole Voldemort wizard was going to return sooner or later, and knowing his luck, Zak would somehow get involved in this. That would be just his friggin' luck.
Finally, after a few moments of either silent contemplation or sticking to denial, Hagrid was able to continue his tale, moving from Harry's personal history as well as a simple overview of the modern history of magical Britain to Hogwarts itself. In a few sentences he conveyed what he thought about the school as a whole (which by the way was an extremely high opinion if Zak was to comment on it). He also mentioned to Harry, as well as to Zak, who he figured could use some information regardless of him being in the castle already, that there would be dozens, if not hundreds of other kids with talents similar to them, and that they would be learning magic from the best the United Kingdom had to offer. He was going to get into more detail about the different subjects they would be learning there, if it wasn't for uncle Vernon, who once again decided to add his share of useless comments, especially regarding some of the school supplies Harry was to acquire.
"Haven't I told you the freak's not going?" The mustached menace hissed. "He's going to Stonewell High and he'll be grateful for it. I've read trough those blasted letters, I know about all the needless rubbish you want him to spend our hard earned money on –wands, spellbooks, cauldrons…"
"Like yer one ter decide." Hagrid muttered darkly, glaring daggers at the man. "Yeh can't stop Lilly's an' James' Potter's son from goin' to Hogwarts. He was enrolled there before he even could walk, an' no great muggle like yerself can stop him from attendin'. He's gonna be taught under the greatest wizards an' witches o' the world, an' he'll be under the greatest headmaster the school has ever known, Albus Dumbledore…"
"I'M NOT PAYING SOME OLD MADCAP FOOL FOR TEACHING HIM SOME PARLOR TRICKS!" Vernon Dursley announced furiously. Soon enough he learned, that it was a bad thing to do, especially if you are insulting Albus "To-Many-Names" Dumbledore in front of Hagrid.
The giant rose to his feet in a blink of an eye, brandishing his pink umbrella as if it was a rapier. It was unclear what he was going to do with it –poke the head of the Dursley family to death with it, or bash him in the skull –but one thing was sure, and that was the fact, that Hagrid definitely wanted to do some harm to him.
"NEVER –INSULT –ALBUS –DUMBLEDORE –IN –FRONT –OF –ME!" Hagrid's voice carried an unmasked threat within each syllable of his words. With each word he pointed his most unusual weapon closer and closer to the fat man, until the tip of the umbrella almost touched his chest. Then however the giant whirled around quickly, muttering something under his breath, and pointed the tip of the umbrella at none other than Dudley, who in all the confusion was inching his way towards the cake that still lied inside its slightly battered container.
There was a flash of violet light and a loud crack, definitely more silent than the occasional thunderclaps yet still loud enough to deafen for a moment the occupants of the room. Only after a moment, when the bright light that filled the room faded and the ringing in the ears of the occupants of the small hut subsided were they able to notice, that Dudley was howling in what apparently was pain, clutching his fat rear and making a wild, terrified dance. On first glance nothing seemed too out of the ordinary with him, that is besides the obvious. Only after a moment was Harry and Zak able to notice what really happened.
Through a hole in Dudley's trousers a pink, curly pig's tail was poking out, giving the boy the appearance of an anthropomorphic piglet. Seeing this, Vernon Dursley roared in both rage and fright. His wife, more level-headed than her apparently completely frenzied husband managed to stop him from attacking Hagrid, who by the way looked like he wanted nothing more than to get an excuse to curse the man all the way into next year, grab her "wounded" "little" boy and usher the whole family into their bedroom, casting a last, terrified glance at the giant. After that, there was only a slam of the hastily closed door.
"I really shouldn'ta done tha'." Mumbled Hagrid a little bit sheepishly, stroking his beard. "But they had it commin'. It didn' work properly either –I was hopin' ter turn him into a pig. Apparently he was one already, jus' without tha tail."
He cast a glance at the two young wizards that were the only occupants of the room left. Both were silently chuckling.
"Cold ye do me a favor? Don' talk 'bout this with anyone, 'specially at Hogwarts." Harry and Zak cast him a questioning glance, so he continued. "I'm –well –not supposed ter use magic. At least not much. One of tha reasons why I was so keen ter bring yeh yer letter was so tha' I could use it a bit."
"You're not supposed to use magic?" Asked Zak incredulously, the concept alien to him. "Why not?"
"Well, yeh see… I went to Hogwarts myself when I was yer age, but… erm… I got expelled. In my third year to be exact. Snapped my wand in half an' all tha'. But Dumbledore let me stay as a gamekeeper. Great man, Dumbledore."
For a moment Zak contemplated asking Hagrid why was he expelled, but thought better of it and stayed silent. It was obvious that the giant wasn't comfortable with talking about that incident, so he wasn't going to impose. Besides, after what he witnessed he decided, that he didn't want to be on Hagrid's bad side. Harry himself also noticed the anxiousness of the large man, so he wisely stayed silent.
After a moment of awkward silence Hagrid decided to once more take a seat on the battered sofa, this time completely obliterating its poor legs and making it thump on the wooden floor with a crash. Harry, still a bit dazed by the events of the last couple of minutes (or rather hour, if he wanted to be exact) took his place on the floor, watching the giant. Zak once again positioned himself in front of the fireplace, bathing in the warm glow of the fire. Eventually, Hagrid cleared his throat and once again started his tale about Hogwarts.
It wasn't long before the giant shared all that he knew about the school that he worked at and the few bits of information about some of the more noticeable and important for a typical first year professors, as well as the basics of what they were going to teach them. Zak noticed right away, that Hagrid omitted one particular character –the slimy bastard that threatened him… Snape, was it? From what he remembered, Dumbledore called him a Potions Master or something like that, and Hagrid did mention potions as a class all first year students had, yet he didn't say a word about the man. It was… suspicious for the drow, to say the least.
After a few moments more it became apparent, that Harry was getting tired. The whitehead supposed, that it was only natural –he was human after all, and humans, like most races, needed sleep. So, deciding that enough was enough, Hagrid called it a night, and made the young boy a makeshift bed from his furry coat. The giant did ask, if they were okay with sharing their sleeping arrangements this one time, but fortunately, Zak had it all covered and politely declined the offer. Seeing the rather surprised expression on Hagrid's face he was forced to bring out his sleeping bag from his backpack (it was a bit surprising for the two of them that he managed to fit it inside the bag, but shrugged it off quite quickly), and prepare it for himself, letting Kelell out of the bag at the same time (which was a surprise for Harry this time, although he was too tired to think too much about it). Not that Zak planned on sleeping, he was after all physically unable to do that. All in all, a slightly awkward situation was avoided to the drow's relief. It would be rather uncomfortable if he needed to share a bed with a child.
Harry was really tired as it would seem, for the moment his head touched the warm and soft fabric of the fur coat he fell asleep. Hagrid smiled at the sight, and after that he was preparing to go to sleep himself, only to remember, that he needed to do something before he went to bed. Gently, as to not wake Harry up he reached into a few of his vast pockets in his coat and retrieved a number of items: a piece of parchment, a quill, an inkwell and an owl. That's right, Zak wasn't seeing thing, even if he was completely stunned by fact, that the giant was carrying around a bird with him the whole time. Then again, he did have a crow in his backpack not too long ago, so he wasn't one to talk. Either way, Hagrid hastily scribbled a few words on the parchment, gave it to the ruffled-looking and clearly not amused bird and sent in trough the window, right into the middle of the raging thunderstorm, just like if it was the most normal thing in the world. That only reinforced one old truth, that Zak believed in: humans were weird.
A few minutes later Zak was able to distinguish the unmistakable sound of the large man snoring on his sofa, clearly deep in slumber. The drow sighed silently to himself, dragged his hand trough his hair, combing a few tangled strands of it, and rested his back against the back of the sofa. The gravity of the situation at hand was slowly coming back to him, and he desperately racked his brain for a possible way out of this predicament. He knew that in theory, once a spell as powerful as the one that Khrel-Ithyr used on him was cast, the only way to brake it was to use an equally powerful magic as a countermeasure. If the skull's words were true however, he had really small chances of even coming close to the amount of power that was used on him.
Theoretically, a spell known as a Wish (at least he heard it called that way) could possibly work in this situation. That is, if he was able to cast it. Only a precious few wizards were able to harness the powers of creation on such a grand level, and they all were still on Toril. He, stuck in a world where magic apparently was only a shadow of its former glory had almost no chances of coming across such power at all, and he knew too little about the Wish spell to even consider trying to recreate it on his own. And then there was the odd chance, that the spell would prove to be too weak to actually help him get to his old body. This was beginning to look worse and worse with each passing second.
He needed to busy his mind with something else, Zak decided, or else he'd be risking getting on the downward spiral leading to depression. Last time that happened, it didn't end well, for him and for his surroundings. He could ponder the fact he was trapped in a body with no pointy ears… damn, how he missed those… later he decided. Especially, that he had just an hour or so ago made the biggest up to date discovery in this particular world, at least in his personal opinion. And the discovery was named Harry Potter.
The boy all the way from the first time he laid eyes on him seemed different. Short, skinny, with a wild mane of black hair, he didn't look quite that impressive at first glance. That is, if it wasn't for his eyes. Zak didn't know what to think at first, seeing his green, sapphire-like orbs gleam in the darkness. He have seen that eye color, so intensive and so lush, only a few times in his life, and that was before he even abandoned his old hometown. The green eyes of the boy were the same color, as eyes of some drow. Not the same shape, as that would be too weird, but still –they would look quite at place on a obsidian-black face, framed by locks of white hair.
The drow for a few moments pondered the possibility of Harry having some kind of elven ancestry, but he quickly dismissed the possibility. Haven't Dumbledore told him, that his kind was but a legend, a myth from the olden days in this world? Still, the color of the eyes mesmerized the drow and sent his mind into overdrive.
Then there was the fact, that he was able to use some simple spells. The small display of power the young boy had shown was enough to spike his interest. The trick with the blanket seemed to resemble the Mage's Hand spell, he even seen the patterns of magic flowing through the boy's hand and around the said blanket, matching what he came to associate with that small cantrip. And if he was to believe what he had told about the other things: being able to summon lights, making plants grow faster… If he didn't know any better, he would say that this Harry character was just taking his first steps on the path to become not a wizard, but a sorcerer. In short, he was beginning to look extremely interesting in the eyes of the drow Spellsword.
And then there was the issue with the handshake.
The moment Harry and Zak touched their respective outstretched hands, the drow knew, that something that he wouldn't in a million years expect had just happened. The strange feeling, the sensation, that accompanied the touch –like if a small, electrical current shot through his body, making him pleasantly numb for a brief moment and in the same time making his hair stand for a second on the back of his neck –it was as surprising, as it was familiar to him. He felt something like that before: only once, true, and it felt slightly different that time, but still –he felt it. And the fact, that his insides began radiating a pleasant warmness throughout his body added to his suspicion. He just found someone with the same gift as he had.
He was going to ponder that piece of information a bit more, trying to discern how exactly someone of this world had such an unusual and rare power, when he felt his crow companion land on his shoulder. He didn't think much of it, figuring, that Kelell just wanted to sit around with him and possibly ask him about his thought. Unfortunately, he didn't predict a furious beak to the ear.
"Hey, what gives?!" Zak whirled around to face the crow, rubbing his pecked ear. He definitely felt a bit of blood seeping through a cut made by the avian. "What's the big idea?!"
"Oh, you know full well what gives, you sadistic, two-legged bastard!" Kelell exclaimed, although silently, as to not wake up the other occupants of the room. Now that the drow took a good look at his familiar, he noticed his feathers bristling in anger. "You put me in a blasted backpack with hardly any air, and then proceed to drag me who knows where for the next few hours, letting me slowly suffocate, and then you have the audacity to try and buy me with some overcooked sausage. What are you, trying to kill me?!"
Zak stared at him for a moment with a not amused expression on his face, still rubbing his sore ear.
"If you had the presence of mind, you would notice, that there was a Bottle of Air in the bag, that you could use to breath." He stated flatly. This only reinforced the glare, that the bird was giving the wizard.
"If you had the presence of mind, you would remember, that you moved the damned bottle to the lab a few days before all this happened." Kelell retorted. Zak's face paled at that.
"You mean to tell me…" He trailed off, seeing his avian friend ostentatiously turning his back to him and pointedly ignoring him. Zak hid his face in his hands and groaned, after which he looked again at his familiar. "Sorry about that. You're right, I should have remembered that and kept the backpack partially opened for you. My bad."
Kelell still ignored him, and if he could do something like that, he would have crossed his wings on his chest. Zak rolled his eyes at that, but nevertheless continued.
"Listen, Kelell, I really feel like an ass right about now. I mean you know that I wouldn't do that if I remembered about that bottle not being there. If you want, I'll prepare a Pocket spell for tomorrow, just for you? How does that that sound? You happy now?"
"Barely pleased would be a better way to put it, but okay." The crow answered, yet still didn't look at his master. After a moment of silence the crow added. "You're running low on the mushroom extract."
That took Zak by surprise. He looked first at his familiar, then at his backpack, and then once again at Kelell, his eyes widening with every passing second. Those weren't good news.
"How… how much?" He asked, a bit of a nervous tremble to his voice. Only then did the crow look at his boss, and the look he gave him was definitely not one that spoke of hidden amusement at a prank. He was dead serious.
"Nothing to worry about right now –you have enough to last you a few months if you carefully dose the stuff. Possibly even a year and a half. I just thought that you should know and begin making arrangements for a large shipment of fungi."
"Sweet Eilistraee, how I hate that stuff." Zak visibly shivered, the thought of mushrooms of any kind making him pale. Kelell however suddenly perked up, a slight shine to his beady little eyes, clearly indicating, that he was in "pranking mode".
"That reminds me –when did you take that extract the last time?" At the blank face of his master, Kelell had a hard time to not laugh outright. "Let me guess –before we ended up here, ain't that right?"
Zak, resigned to his fate reached inside his backpack and produced a smile vial of clear liquid, looking like if it was water. The drow unfortunately knew exactly what was the concoction that rested inside the glass utensil, and dreaded the taste of it as much as he dreaded Tris. Steeling himself for what was to come, the whitehead took a deep breath, uncorked the vial and downed its content in one large gulp, shivering as the liquid run down his throat. He caught a bit, the vile taste of fungi, the worst possible thing in the world for him to eat lingering in his mouth. All trough that, Kelell was audibly chuckling to himself. Zak glared at the avian for a moment, but then lowered his head in defeat.
"I guess I deserved that." He muttered, and the crow was all too eager to nod in agreement.
A flash of lightning caught the eye of the black bird, bringing his attention to the only window in the room. Kelell, the curious bird as he was, decided to check out his new surroundings. With a few flaps of his wings he reached the windowsill and peered out the glass barer, studying the area. He stared, stunned at what he saw, and then looked back at Zak, who still was trying to get the vile taste out of his mouth, this time trying to do that by gulping down mouthfuls of water from his waterskin.
"We're on the middle of the sea." Kelell announced. Zak looked at him with a "you don't say" type of expression.
"Tell me something that I don't know."
The crow looked once more out the window, and again turned his head in the drow's direction.
"We're on the middle of the sea." He repeated. "And you're perfectly fine with that?"
"Hey, it's not like we're on boat or something. We're on dry land… as much as a rocky island the size of a barn can be called dry land that is." He shrugged.
"I admit –I'm impressed." Announced Kelell, perching himself on Zak's shoulder once more. "Normally you would freak out if you knew, that you're surrounded by a large body of water. Hells, you're normally scared out of your mind even on a boat on the middle of a large lake. And here you are, a paragon of calmness, shrugging off the fact, that there is a storm raging outside, twenty foot tall waves crashing at the rocky shore, slowly eroding the stone into nothing more than little pebbles, on the middle of an alien sea, the closest shore miles away from here, and to get there you would have to swim the whole way trough icy cold water…"
"Shut up already!" Zak finally snapped, although he did look a fair bit spooked by his familiars words. It was no secret –he wasn't fond of seas. He was even terrified at the prospect of staying on a ship if he couldn't see the nearest shore. And Kelell knew that full well, and decided to play on his Boss' fears for his own amusement. One thing however was for sure.
Zak would not spend the night peacefully.
*Drowish for Mystery of the green eyes