Disclaimer: If by now you think I own Harry Potter you're just plain silly! Only thing I own are my original characters
A/N: Wow so it has been a really long time! I apologize everyone for taking so long. Real life is a truly unforgiving mistress. I know that you guys might rather enjoy an update for the fourth rider but I am sadly still working on that one. I hope you all can forgive me for the inordinate amount of time it has taken me to post anything. I hope you enjoy this chapter!
Harry glided lazily on the winds over Hogwarts enjoying the warm sunny day. Winter had come and gone and the school year had resumed. When Hermione came back to the castle he had arranged a private meeting and revealed who he was to her and explaining why he had to hide. She had, at first, been completely shocked (and embarrassed when she had given him his Christmas gift of a light blue hand knitted neck warmer meant for a feline with Namir on it in emerald green letters) but she had come to realize the importance of the façade and had assured Harry that she did not feel upset in anyway over him having kept the secret for so long. Hermione had even started helping Harry with his studies since he could not always actively participate in all the classes.
During his free time Harry endeavored to devour the book he had taken from The Library that resided deep beneath the bowels of the mountain range that surrounded Hogwarts. The secrets and information that the book contained was truly fascinating and it helped Harry and his magic grow closer faster and allowed the feats they could perform expand even further from what they had started out with. They were quickly becoming what Fawkes had wanted all along, though they still had a great deal left to discover about themselves and each other. According to Fawkes, they would never fully understand each other's secrets or their own but that was the way it was supposed to be. They were supposed to be individuals as well as partners.
After what had happened with Weasley on Christmas day Harry's magical abilities had become slightly more widely known throughout the staff of Hogwarts, to those who knew who he was anyways. Harry had even heard Minerva talking with the Headmaster, saying how astounded she was when Harry had not only proven that he could perform magic while in his animagus form but could accomplish things that were beyond even her, such as conjuring food out of thin air (which had been delicious by the way). Dumbledore had been slightly skeptical but had no reason to doubt his transfiguration professor and had immediately become intrigued. He had yet to confront Harry about it and Harry thought Fawkes had something to do with that.
I wish things could be like this forever. Harry lamented with a little sad sigh as he floated beneath a stray cloud that slicked his fur with moisture. His magic piqued in curiosity at Harry's sudden shift in mood and he simply expressed his desire and showed it an image of things never changing. They could communicate roughly with words now but it was still easier to use the method of impressions rather than words sometimes. He received a sad and regretful feeling back; some things even magic could not do.
Suddenly and out of nowhere a flash of light sailed up from the ground and nearly struck Harry full on in the chest; nearly. His magic had been spread out enjoying the day as well and had sensed the assault, for it could be nothing else, and sent the curse hurling off to the side. Harry looked down and attempted to ascertain the source of the spell. He was well within the wards of Hogwarts and was not actually flying that high, just high enough to clear the spires and towers of the castle, so it was not inconceivable that someone had seen him. Indeed, it was a bright sunny, late spring day and most, if not all of the students and faculty of the castle knew what he looked like well enough by now in order to pinpoint him while he was up in the sky.
Another bolt of light, which Harry registered as an angry red this time, came sailing up at him only to be cast aside once more. This time, though, Harry managed to catch the direction it came from and saw that it was actually not coming from Hogwarts' grounds but rather from the edges of it. He looked and saw a man standing there in a hooded cloak that kept his face hidden, though it would not have mattered since Harry would not have been able to pick out any identifying features from his height. It was obvious, however, that the man (or woman for all Harry could tell) wanted to seriously harm him for some reason or another as another spell came flying from their wand, this one a sickly green.
Harry didn't like the way this curse looked or felt. Just the sight of it made the hair on his back stand on end with a sense of foreboding. He swerved to the side even as his magic solidified the air in front of him, causing the green spell to deflect to the side towards the mountains and creating a gong like sound. His magic also seemed to dislike the curse and rose up from within him in all its furious glory. Colors washed around Harry as his magic touched into the latent magic from the Great Wars and its might grew even bigger.
The ground quaked and the students who had been on the ground enjoying the sunny day began to scream in fear. Harry dodged another spell as stone began to rise up from the ground, coming to rest just below him. The rock hardened and morphed into sharp spikes before shooting towards the ground and the figure below at such speeds that Harry could barely track their progress. As it was, the man barely managed to vanish with a pop before the spikes skewered themselves back into the earth and creating a forest of spikes.
Harry's magic grumbled in annoyance at having missed its target but it disconnected with the ancient magic all the same. He glided down from the clouds and landed in front of the spikes his magic had created, making sure to remain well within the boundary lines of the wards. The feeling of fresh and dark magic clung to the air in the midst of the spikes but it was already fading since its source had vanished. Harry sat there staring at the spikes. Tears built up in his eyes as a feeling of despair built up in his chest. He had finally begun to think that he was safe from people who wanted to hurt him.
Ever since he ran from the Dursley's Harry thought he was safe. No one had tried to hurt or abuse him since Hedwig led him to Hogwarts. There had been that incident with Quirrell during the summer but he had not been directly attacked during that fiasco. Until Christmas everything had been perfectly fine. No one had harmed him and everyone had actually loved his presence as Namir. When Weasley had attacked him, he had been so distracted afterwards that he hadn't given it a second thought but this attack brought it to the forefront of his mind just how often people wanted him dead.
Turning from the forest of spikes, Harry took back to the air and made for the Great Hall, where he huddled down in the rafters and started to cry. His magic expressed its concern, not entirely understanding why Harry was crying until he explained why he was upset. Harry's magic seemed to croon in sympathy and sorrow for Harry's past. It stroked Harry's back with invisible fingers and tried to reassure him with feelings and images of happiness and fun. Harry acknowledged his magic's attempt to cheer him up but he was too upset to be cheered at the moment.
Noise reached his ears and Harry looked down to see the hall filling with frightened students and teachers alike. His magic created a bubble of silence around him since it sensed that the noise was doing anything but helping Harry's mood at the moment. Harry thanked his magic as he turned his attention away from the crowd and simply tried to shut is mind down so he didn't have to think. His magic continued to try and cheer him up by creating dancing balls of light. It even conjured a stuffed toy for Harry to snuggle. That half backfired. Harry had never had such things before and the toy drove that fact home even harder and while it made Harry cry harder it also made him laugh in amusement. It had been the last thing he had expected at that point in time.
"Harry," Fawkes' musical voice sounded, drawing Harry's attention from his dark thoughts. He looked up to see the firebird standing on the on the wooden beam directly in front of him and within the radius of Harry's bubble of silence. "Youngling, talk to me. What happened?" Harry didn't respond. He just looked away and buried his face in the stuffed moose that his magic had given him. Harry felt his magic do something and he turned to see a glass orb with colors swirling in the center. "It has been thousands of years since I've seen one of these. I would not have thought that your magic knew how to make one?"
"What is it?" Harry asked in spite of himself.
"It's a memory ark," Fawkes said as he bent his neck until his beady black eye was a hairs breadth away from the orb. "Specifically, it's an ark of your magic's memories of a specific time or incident. Usually, someone's magic provides memories only if its host is unable so people can know what happened in order to help the host get better. Clearly your magic wishes you to not have to explain things but knows that someone needs to know what happened." The firebird paused briefly, evidently watching the memories playing out within the orb. "You both are lucky I'm here, I do not think even my human could have watched the memories in this. Rest youngling, I will deal with what has happened."
Fawkes flew off only to be replaced by Hedwig seconds later. The owl sidled up to Harry's side and draped a wing over Harry in a motherly fashion and crooned softly. Harry smiled slightly, in a feline way, and curled up tighter against both his new stuffed moose and Hedwig. It helped him a great deal to know that there were people out there, even if they were technically animals, that cared for him but it still hurt that so many people out there wanted to hurt him, always wanted to hurt him. The worst of it all though was that he just didn't understand why they wanted to hurt him. As far as he was aware he had done nothing to warrant people's vitriol like this.
"You have done nothing fledgling," Hedwig said softly, sensing Harry's thoughts and mood. "The people who hurt you, it is not because of you but because of them. You are special, unique, and wonderful and that frightens them and they lash out because they do not understand and they always fear what they do not understand."
Harry acknowledged her wisdom but otherwise didn't say anything. She may have had a point but that did nothing to lessen the pain Harry felt at what these people did to him and what his relatives did to him on a near regular basis. Intellectually he understood Hedwig's wisdom and it made perfect sense but feelings were anything but intellectual and logical, especially pain.
Harry wandered aimlessly through the streets of the buried city that rested beneath the mountains that surrounded Hogwarts. He was alone except for his magic. The presence of magic itself was all around him, telling him that he was safe and welcome here. That was why Harry was here. He felt safe here. There weren't any auras of magical creatures like there was in the Forbidden Forest so he knew that he needn't fear getting into trouble with something he or his magic couldn't deal with. There were, in fact, no presences or auras at all; just magic, pure, and unadulterated magic that blanketed the entire area.
He had needed to get away. School had ended two and a half weeks after the hooded stranger had attacked and tried to kill Harry and while he had put on a good front to most everyone around him he was still reeling and in pain from the attack. Only Fawkes and Hedwig knew the truth about his feelings as he was uncomfortable sharing them with even his closest friends. The only reason the two birds knew how he felt was because they could sense it better than any of the humans. This was the reason that neither Fawkes nor Hedwig were with him. He needed to be by himself so he could not only have some peace but try and sort out and come to terms with both his feelings and what had happened.
Harry's magic twitched along his skin and muscles as it spread out and wandered through the area around Harry, exploring the nooks and crannies of the buildings around him. Harry had finished the book Fawkes had let him take from The Library that rested in the center of the city a week into the summer holidays and it had showed him so much. The book had brought him and his magic so much closer than they already were, made them stronger. They were still young and individual but they had begun to move and act more as one being rather than two separate entities.
Something shifted in a building Harry was passing and made a loud clanging noise that echoed endlessly throughout the cavern. Harry froze at the unexpected noise. He knew nothing was down here and therefore knew he was safe but that did nothing to still the spike in fear at the unexpected noise. His magic investigated the building as Harry cautiously approached and found nothing but inanimate objects and the ever present aura of magic that pervaded the entire city. Still, Harry opened the door slowly and carefully, his magic providing Harry with a soft red light to see by.
The room beyond the door was empty and had obviously been so for uncounted centuries, though there wasn't any dust covering the place. Furniture had long since been blown away by time so there was nothing beyond the door but four walls, a ceiling and a floor. At least, Harry thought that to be the case. The farther Harry went into the room, the more Harry noticed random objects lying on the floor or up against the walls. Particularly, there were several still paintings hanging on the wall of families, landscapes, and individuals. Harry assumed these things had once been sentimental treasures of a family that had once lived here. But the objects, excepting the paintings, were so entirely random, that Harry had to wonder why magic had preserved them for these long years when it had left everything else to fade with time.
That was, until he felt magic radiating from the objects themselves. It was then that Harry realized that magic had preserved these things because like The Library, they were relics of a long forgotten era that magic mourned the loss of. Harry approached a chalice that rested in the middle of the floor on its side. He didn't dare touch the thing since he had no clue as to what it was supposed to do, but he examined it all the same. He saw runes, of which he knew nothing about, etched along the top rim of the silver cup. Beyond that, the chalice looked completely plebian and normal.
Another noise drew Harry's attention away from the goblet on the floor to one of the walls. This naturally raised Harry's curiosity as the wall was completely solid and had no visible doors. There were paintings, some rather large, but no doors. Having lived in Hogwarts for the past year Harry had a pretty good idea of why a seemingly solid wall would allow sound to come from behind it. There was a hidden door that could not be seen by the naked eye. He stood up and moved towards the wall, careful not to touch any of the objects on the floor with either his feet or his magic.
Harry carefully inspected the wall from one end to the other, looking for a switch or gap that would reveal the passage. He found it when his magic licked up against the edge of a floor to ceiling painting of a mansion set against a beautiful country side. At the touch of magic the painting reacted and swung outward a few inches with a small click. Harry cautiously pulled the door open even further. The passage beyond the door was dark but even as he watched Harry's magic filled the walls with a soft red light, revealing a staircase that ended about half a dozen steps down.
The noise sounded again, this time accompanied by a squeaking noise that sounded like a rusty hinge that needed oiling. This made Harry suspect that something was moving in a set pattern instead of just shifting and making noise. Aware that there were things down here that could potentially harm him, Harry made sure to have his magic check the area for any potential threats before he started going down. The steps ended in a hallway that had several doors along both sides, all of which were open.
Each room contained different things from an armory filled with shields and swords to simple storage. One room in particular caught his attention though; the room that held a large metronome that squeaked and struck a metal container on one of its swings. When he entered the room the metronome suddenly stopped and all was almost frighteningly silent. The room seemed barren for the most part, though once his eyes adjusted a little bit he could make out chalk carvings on the walls, ceiling and floor. Harry also noticed a few books and journals lying about the floor, likely where work desks used to be.
"Who dares to walk among this sacred hollow?" A voice suddenly boomed, causing the ground to shake. Harry started violently at the sudden voice and backed up a step or two only to bump into a wall. The ground shook and the markings lit up, stinging Harry's eyes that had grown accustomed to the darkness of the cavern. Stone broke away from the walls and coalesced into a humanoid from before falling away to reveal a beautiful woman clad in a golden dress and silver jewelry. "This city is forbidden to all by the decree of magic herself. A youngling?" She said in surprise as she came up short when she saw Harry pressing himself against the wall in fear. "And one who is more magic than human. Tell me child, what is your name?"
Harry just stood there half blind from the sudden light and nearly shaking in fear. The regal looking woman stared back at him in curiosity and surprise, obviously waiting for an answer. Harry wasn't forthcoming with his name for two reasons. One, he was supposed to be hiding somewhere and he had no clue who this person was or whether they were a threat or not. Two, experience told him that giving his name to people rarely ended well for him. It was just a simple fact. Whether he was human or feline, someone always wanted to hurt him but with a name usually meant things would be worse.
"I have frightened you," the woman said, her features softening slightly. She slowly waved her hand and the light dimmed before vanishing entirely, leaving only the soft red glow of Harry's magic. "I apologize, youngling. I did not know who had entered this cavern. I have been slumbering for many centuries until the presence of you and your magic woke me. Magic herself appointed me long ago to watch over this place to keep it safe from the outside world. My name is Gaea, Queen of the Domhan tribes of the Jinn. If you are here then magic approves of your presence and I will not hurt you."
"S-s-sorry," Harry stuttered reflexively.
"For what child?" Gaea said in genuine confusion, having no idea why Harry would be apologizing.
"Waking you," Harry said in a slightly steadier voice, his long ingrained instincts forcing his voice to become steady and clear since every time he had stuttered or mumbled at the Dursley's they had beat him. "Didn't mean to."
"Oh child, do not worry about that," Gaea said with a small chuckle, waving aside the apology with her hand. "My slumber was merely something to pass the time. It is nice to have someone to speak with again."
"There you are!" Another voice sounded, this one Harry easily recognized as Fawkes. The firebird came sailing in through the door and alighted on Harry's shoulder. Harry felt his muscles relax minutely. "Do you have any idea how worried everyone at the castle is? You've been gone all day."
"Well, well, well," Gaea said, drawing Fawkes' and Harry's attention back to her. "Last I saw of you, Fawkes, you were not but five years old and leading your people against the Dark Ones to give more time to evacuate the city."
"Queen Gaea," Fawkes said in no small amount of surprise, he clearly had not been expecting the woman's presence. "I wasn't aware that any of your kind still lived in the world of man."
"A rare few drift along the fringes of the world, watching and observing," Gaea said with a distant look in her eyes. "But as I was telling this youngling, magic herself appointed me to guard the buried city and its many secrets."
"I see," Fawkes said. Something was off in the firebird's voice that Harry couldn't quite place. He almost sounded as if he was leery of Gaea and uncertain of what her being here meant. "Regardless though, we need to be leaving. People are starting to worry over the youngling's absence."
"There was a time when trust existed between us." Gaea said with a sad and heavy sigh. Harry got the distinct feeling that she was lonely. "But after what my kind, even my own people did before retreating from the mortal world I cannot blame you. Perhaps you will trust me again in time. Come, I shall lead you through the mountain and back outside."
"We shall find our own way out, as we always do." Fawkes said in a stern voice that brooked no room for argument. He dug his claws into Harry's shoulders just enough to signal the boy to start moving.
Harry hesitated only briefly but obediently sidled out of the room and left the building all together. Once outside, Harry transformed and followed the irate firebird into the air. They flew silently for some time, as they made their way out of the underground cavern city. In fact, they flew the entire way back to Hogwarts in silence. It wasn't until they swept into the Headmaster's office that Fawkes finally broke the silence.
"Why were you in that city by yourself?" Fawkes asked in barely controlled fury. Harry had honestly never seen the phoenix so completely irate before.
"I needed to be alone," Harry answered, slightly confused as to why Fawkes was mad. "I wasn't doing anything, I was just wondering. I needed to think where I could be alone and undisturbed and I couldn't get that here at Hogwarts."
"Harry," Fawkes said in an obvious attempt to control himself. He paused for quite a few seconds before he continued speaking. Neither of them paid any attention to the slightly dumbfounded Headmaster that sat behind his desk. He had tried getting their attention a few times but they had both essentially ignored him. "After everything you have been through, I cannot blame you for wanting some alone time to think. You must understand though, just how much you frightened everyone today by not telling anyone where you were going."
"Why?" Harry asked in genuine confusion. He was not used to people needing to know or caring where he was at all times of the day. It took Fawkes a few minutes to process that fact before speaking again.
"We care about you Harry," Fawkes explained, his temper fading as sorrow and pity took its place, though he hid those emotions completely from Harry as they would not have been well received. "You are mature, more so than most children your age, but to the rest of us you are still a child and we will always be concerned for your safety. Even when you are an adult with children of your own, we will be concerned and we will be concerned because we care about you. Next time you go wandering off, please, let someone know where you are going. If you go into that city but don't want me to come with you then simply tell me so. I must caution you though, against meeting with that woman again and especially against giving her your name."
"Why?" Harry asked again. "She seemed nice enough."
"She is of the Jinn, Harry," Fawkes explained patiently. "Some today call them genies or tricksters. That is because lore that has been passed down through the generations stems from something that happened during the Great Wars. The Jinn used to walk freely among humans, guiding them and teaching them ways of magic that would have taken humans thousands if not millions of years to learn on their own. But during the Great Wars, many of the Jinn ended up slaughtering hundreds, if not thousands of innocents. The Jinn that stood against the slaughter ended up dead themselves until only a handful of the Jinn race remained." Fawkes paused briefly to catch his breath and his thoughts. "The rulers of the four tribes of Jinn were powerless to control their people. When banded together the Jinn are very nearly impossible to stop. For Jinn, one against one and the odds will be even either way. But even two against one will result in near instant death for the lone Jinn. For humans… even in groups few would be able to stand against the Jinn."
"But Gaea said magic had appointed her to aide in guarding the city." Harry reasoned with a slight frown on his leopard face. "Wouldn't that at least indicate that she wasn't like the rest of her people?"
"Maybe," Fawkes said with a shrug of his wings. "And we shall see now that she is awake but should you and she ever meet again and I am not there, I strongly advise you to watch what you say. Not only is she royalty but she is a Jinn. You could very easily end up in a very dangerous situation." Harry nodded his understanding, however sad it was. "Now, go and get something to eat. I will explain things to my human."
Harry lay out under a tree by the lake as Namir about a week after his birthday and with another book he had retrieved from The Library. He had asked Fawkes a few days into summer if he would take Harry to the underground city to get another book for him to read since he had finished The Path of Magic: The Basics. Now he was reading a book that was meant more for his magic than himself. It was one of many books written by the first mage, someone whose magical strength reached beyond the norm, and detailed many things that his magic could accomplish and how it accomplished things. Whether it was for him or his magic didn't matter much to Harry. It was a fascinating read and Harry was loving every minute of it.
"I had forgotten what it felt like to have the sun beat down on my skin," a voice sounded next to Harry, causing him to start badly. He looked up to see Gaea standing in all her glory next to Harry. In the sunlight Harry could see that her skin, while obviously meant to be white, was so tanned that she almost looked Hispanic. Her golden dress fell off her shoulders in shimmering waves and her hair, which was whiter than snow, fell in rivulets around her head and was held back by silver beaded jewelry. "The long centuries of sleep have left me ignorant of much of this world's history."
"I'm sorry," Harry said, forgetting that he was in his animal form. It needn't matter though as Gaea appeared to have understood him.
"It is not your fault child," Gaea said with a soft smile. She held up her hand and examined it in the sunlight, as if she had never seen it before. "Time means little to me. I have many years yet to reacquaint myself with the beauty of walking in the light. As long as I maintain my post and protect the city then I could spend countless hours enjoying the sun's rays."
"Should I be happy I woke you then?" Harry half joked. Fawkes' words of warning rang in his head but he set them aside for the time being. Gaea wasn't setting off any flags in Harry's mind and he had yet to say anything that might be considered offensive.
"That is for you to decide," Gaea said with a small huffing laugh that raised Harry's spirits slightly. "But I am grateful that you did so as I have missed much of what this world offers." She paused for a few moments and Harry waited patiently, knowing that he shouldn't interrupt her thoughts. "I came to ask a favor of you, youngling. Do not fear," she hastened to add upon seeing the apprehension crossing Harry's feline face. "It is of no great importance. I merely wish you to inform Fawkes that I wish to speak with him. I doubt he would take my going directly to him to talk kindly so I ask you to merely tell him I wish to speak. Something has come to my attention that requires his notification as well." When Harry hesitated she added, "Give him this."
Gaea held out her hand and let what looked like a petal fall to the ground. It was see through and multicolored. It was quite obviously a jewel but it floated just like a rose petal falling towards the earth. Harry didn't dare touch the thing. He was about to respond to her request but when he looked up he saw that Gaea had turned into dirt and had crumbled to the ground, a wind coming by to spread the pieces everywhere. Harry saw why a few seconds later. Dumbledore was making his way down from the castle and headed towards the lake. He did not appear to have noticed Gaea's presence given the distance between the castle's main door and the tree Harry was laying under.
"Hello Harry," Dumbledore said with a calm smile as he gazed down at Harry, completely ignoring the quickly fading spread of dirt and the gem entirely. "Enjoying the sun are we?" Harry smiled slightly and bobbed his head up and down. "I am happy to hear that. I wonder if I might have a word with you. It is safe for you to be yourself here. Everyone else is busy preparing for the new school year."
"Is something wrong Headmaster?" Harry asked as he sat crossed-legged on the ground in front of the aged man, resisting the temptation to pick up the glass petal and hide it from Dumbledore. He knew that if he were to try then it would only draw attention to the jewel.
"Goodness no," Dumbledore said with a reassuring smile. He slowly bent down and sat next to Harry on the ground, mere inches from the jewel and pile of dirt that had been Gaea. "I merely wished to speak. The new school year is approaching and I was wondering if you wished to be sorted. We could do it before the school year starts and you could almost seamlessly blend right into your second year. Now that your friends know about you, I see no reason to continue hiding. The choice, however, remains yours."
"I…" Harry trailed off in mild surprise. He had given no thought on that subject at all over the past school year or even the past two months. Now that his friends knew about him there truly was no real reason as to why he should remain hidden as Namir. "I guess there's no reason why I can't do it. Like you said, my friends know who Namir really is now. It'll be a little weird to be me attending classes but I can adjust. When did you want to do the sorting?"
"We can do it now if you wish." Dumbledore said with a beaming smile that filled Harry with a strange sense of contentedness. A second later it was gone as his magic seemed to make a sweeping motion within his mind. Harry frowned mentally at what this revealed to him. He could still feel whatever had taken up residence within his mind skirting the edges of his mentality but his magic easily kept it at bay. "The sooner we get it done the more time you can sort things out with your new head of house and someone can take you to get your supplies. I'm sure Sirius would be more than happy to help you with that, along with some of the staff to ensure your safety."
"Okay," Harry said with a mild shrug as he stood up, picking up his book as he did so. He used his magic to scoop up the dirt around the jewel petal, not daring to touch it with either hands or magic until he knew what it was. He had it hover closely to the ground and kept it at the very edge of his vision and close to his heel.
Harry followed Dumbledore into the castle, all the while pondering the strange magic that he had discovered in his mind. The only place it could have come from was the Headmaster but for the life of him, Harry could not figure out why the man would be using magic on him. His head was clear when he made his decision to be sorted and placed with the other students and it was clear now. It was almost as if Dumbledore was attempting to reinforce Harry's decision to agree with the Headmaster's way of thinking. That thought made Harry visibly frown. No matter what his opinion of Dumbledore was he did not like the idea of manipulating people in such a way.
When they stepped into the Headmaster's office Harry set his book down in an empty chair and sat down in another one in front of Dumbledore's desk while Dumbledore went to a shelf behind his desk and retrieved the sorting hat. While the old man was distracted Harry discretely floated the bit of dirt with the gem over to Fawkes' perch, nudging the firebird slightly since he was in the middle of a nap. Fawkes brought his head out from his head and looked around blearily before he was nudged a second time. He looked down at the jewel and Harry would have sworn that his feathers paled. The firebird snatched the jewel with one of his claws before hightailing it through a window.
"Are you ready Harry?" Dumbledore asked as he came back around his desk, holding the Sorting Hat in one hand. Harry still swore that the thing looked like it would crumble to dust at the slightest provocation. Harry nodded his affirmation and the Headmaster placed the hat on Harry's head.
Hmmm… A voice sounded in Harry's head. Harry assumed it belonged to the hat. It is rare that I am put to use any other time than the beginning of the school year, especially with the times we live in. I had wondered why you had not shown up during your first year. The hat fell silent and Harry felt some slight ruffling going on in his head. His magic twitched in mild agitation at having a foreign presence rifling where it didn't belong. The hat chuckled. I can see that you are not like my usual guests. Your magic greatly dislikes my presence so I shall make this quick. There were a few more minutes of silence before the hat shouted, HUFFLEPUFF!
"Well," Dumbledore said as he pulled off the hat. Surprise laced his voice. "That was a little unexpected."
"What was?" Harry asked in confusion.
"I was merely expecting Gryffindor like your parents," Dumbledore said with a mild shake of his head to indicate that nothing was wrong with the sorting and that he was just surprised. "Then again, much has changed and while you do physically resemble your parents and you have a knack for studying like your mother, you are very different personality wise from them both." The old man traipsed over to the shelf and replaced the Sorting Hat back where it would sit until the new year started. "Well, now that you're sorted we can get you some proper school uniforms. I think Pomona would love to escort you to Diagon Alley to get your supplies and it would be prudent to have Severus go along as well. Why don't you go and get Severus while I inform Pomona."
"Okay," Harry said happily, getting up and making his way out of the room, his magic floating the book behind him.
Fawkes flew quickly from Hogwarts and towards the buried city, the jewel petal that Gaea had given Harry clutched in his claw. The jewel was a special relic that was common place among the allies of those who fought against the instigators of the Great Wars but it was not of their making. It was made by magic and magic alone. No living creature could effectively recreate the gem. Not even their magic could recreate it on their own. Physically they could do it without any issues but the imprinting of orders and the near complete weightlessness, petal like feel, and the complete indestructibility of the jewel could only be constructed by the very force of magic herself. She had aided the fight in the war as much as she could but even she could only do so much.
"I found that the other day when you and the youngling left from The Library," Gaea said, drawing Fawkes' attention as the firebird landed on the roof of one of the buildings. "As I'm sure you know none of those were left after the Great Wars, magic having destroyed them all when she created the curse on Dark Magic and plagued the lands with so much disease so as to reduce the human population."
"Do you know what she wants?" Fawkes asked as he set the jewel aside next to him.
"Me," Gaea said solemnly. There was something else in her voice that caused Fawkes to look at her funny since she sounded apprehensive. It was not a tone he was used to hearing from Jinn. Jinn were forever confident and even arrogant. He had never heard a Jinn sound apprehensive before. "To train the boy."
"What did you do that would gain her trust like this?" Fawkes asked in speculation as he looked at Gaea in speculation and wonder. Magic had trusted no one, no creature, human or Jinn, once the wars started and though she aided those who had not started the wars even they were distrusted.
"Once my people started on their war path against the humans and creatures of this realm," Gaea said with sadness and sorrow weighing heavily in her voice. Her entire demeanor screamed towards anxiety and grief. Again Fawkes was surprised. Jinn were renowned for their aloof and cold demeanors, especially those of the earth tribes. For Gaea to show such emotion meant that she was very distraught. "I conceived a plan. I enlisted the aid of two people of my personal court, those I trusted implicitly above all other people. Together we forged spells that had never before been seen by man or Jinn. Two spells in particular. One of them slaughtered dozens, hundreds of Jinn by turning their magic against them, drowning them in their power. The other, sealed away those strong enough to fight the spell, trapping them forever in the void between worlds. My friends gave themselves to the seal, ensuring that three or more Jinn were needed to break it and by that time none of the Jinn that were left could work together enough to work the magic necessary to break the seal."
"I thought the Jinn simply abandoned the human realm when they disappeared from the wars," Fawkes said as he looked to Gaea in shock. He had never known what had happened that caused the Jinn to vanish from the realm of man two thirds of the way through the war.
"The three of us decided that it would be best if mankind was left with rumors of distrust for the Jinn race in case those who had escaped both spells ever started causing trouble again," Gaea said as she finally turned to face Fawkes fully. She had not actually been facing Fawkes since he had landed on the roof but had been standing to the side and looked out over the city. "It would protect those with proper sense in their heads from their manipulations and deceit. So far, things have gone according to plan. The human race is surviving well without our influence, however ignorant and hotheaded they may be."
"I did not know, Gaea," Fawkes said solemnly, looking the Jinn straight in the eye. "I am truly sorry." The two of them stared at each other for long moments before Gaea nodded in acceptance of his apology. "I am not one to disagree with either the truth or magic. I shall speak with Harry and prepare him. I think tomorrow or the day after would be a good time to start."
"I shall follow your lead in handling the youngling, Harry," Gaea said with a small smile at the firebird, happy that he was so forgiving and understanding. "I know nothing of him except his potential and I do not want take a wrong step."
Fawkes nodded in understanding and proceeded to give her a general outline of Harry and his life.
"Are we certain we want to go shopping like this?" Severus questioned as he walked beside Harry into the entrance hall where Dumbledore and Pomona were already waiting. "Hogwarts' staff, including the Headmaster no less, escorts Harry Potter through Diagon Alley? We would draw less attention if we paraded through the alley with a marching band."
"I am merely walking you to the gates," Dumbledore said with a pleased smile as he led the way out the doors and down onto the lawn. He seemed inordinately pleased for some reason. "It is a nice day and I wish to stretch my legs. You and Pomona both are in the alley often enough to not raise suspicions. Harry is adept enough at blending in that few people would be likely to notice him, especially since he had only had one public appearance. Also, Sirius will be meeting you in the alley and will appear as Harry's guide and guardian. You two will merely be extra protection is all."
"I have to agree," Pomona said with a thoughtful nod. "If we were to show up in the alley with Namir we would have all eyes on us. If we do things right, Harry can do his shopping and we will merely appear to be in the alley doing our own shopping."
"I doubt any shopping will be done today," Severus said as he put a hand on Harry's shoulder and stopping them both. Harry looked up in confusion but only saw Severus gazing out over the grounds. Following Severus' gaze, everyone saw a troupe of about five people making their way across the grounds.
"What is he doing?" Pomona questioned in surprise when she recognized the man in the middle as the Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge.
"I've no idea," Dumbledore said, his expression suddenly serious and grave. He stepped between Harry and the group of people, blocking him from view as they reached close enough to be within talking distance. "Cornelius! What a pleasant surprise. What're you doing here on this fine day?"
"Pleasant surprise indeed," Cornelius said in a huff as he stopped a few paces away from Dumbledore. "Why is it that I just received a report from one of my personal staff that Harry Potter's relatives have not seen the boy in just over a year?"
"I haven't the faintest idea Minister," Dumbledore lied through his teeth. Harry actually wasn't surprised with the ease in which Dumbledore lied, not after his experience with the Headmaster trying to use magic on his mind. "Mr. Potter left the castle with the rest of the students at the end of term."
"Then who exactly is that standing behind you?" Fudge demanded in an alarming show of observation. Harry ducked his head slightly, ensuring his hair was covering his scar the light reflected off his glasses to conceal his eyes, and sidled closer to Severus' side to partially conceal himself.
"A nephew of Pomona's," Dumbledore said, once again lying easily to Fudge's face. "Pomona had some last minute school business to tend to so he was forced to meet her here before they left for her home."
"Does he have a name or is he simply called nephew?" Fudge asked with an eyebrow raised in challenge.
"Damian," Pomona said with an air of offense about her. "Damian Sprout, my brother's second son."
"Why did you send someone to Mr. Potter's residence in the first place?" Dumbledore asked. He sounded genuinely curious and he probably was but Harry doubted it was for any reason other than trying to figure out what the Minister was up to. "Since Mr. Potter has officially gone missing it obviously was beneficial but I cannot help but wonder why?"
"I was attempting to ascertain whether or not the boy was safe," Fudge practically snarled and even Harry could tell the man was lying. It was a wonder how he became Minister. "Given the year the boy had and the unusualness of his situation I thought it prudent to check on him."
"I see," Dumbledore said with a well-practiced nod that gave nothing away. "I would be more than happy to help with the search Minister but Pomona and Severus here have some shopping they must tend to before the school year begins and I'm sure Pomona is eager to spend time with her nephew."
"That won't be necessary Headmaster," Fudge said, before anyone could either open their mouths or even blink for that matter. "We know where the boy is. Tracking charms." Those two words had the three staff members stiff as a board and Fudge looking like a cat that had just caught its prey. "Why hasn't the boy been returned to his family and the safety they provide him?" Harry bristled at that comment and the only thing that kept him from speaking was the tightening of Severus' grip on his shoulder.
"He is perfectly safe here, Minister," Dumbledore said calmly, though any ruse he was attempting to feed Fudge was gone and he sounded more like a man who had fought in a war than the dotting Headmaster of a school. "With everything that has been happening with Voldemort I saw fit to keep the boy hidden where he could not be reached."
"There is nothing going on with You-Know-Who, Albus." Fudge said in barely controlled hysterics. Everyone stared at him in shock. "Regardless of whether he possessed a teacher or not, the Dark Lord is not operating in a physical capacity. Therefore, there is no reason for the boy to be hidden away like this and you have no authority to separate a loving family–"
"Loving?" Harry bit out in shock and disgust as Severus restrained him from leaping forward to get into the man's face, though he was shaking in fear. Severus could tell that the fear came from him openly speaking out against an authority figure. It was common among those abused to fear those in authority and openly speaking out against one would send them into fits just thinking about it. "Do you have any idea what those people put me through?"
"Don't be ridiculous child," Fudge said in a highly condescending tone that grated on Harry's nerves like glass shards in his eyes. "They seemed highly distraught to have you missing. They did not even appear to know you were attending Hogwarts this past year. As such, I cannot help but wonder what is going on here." He turned his attention from Harry back to Dumbledore. "Until I discover just what sort of operation you are running here, Headmaster, the boy is to return to his family. Now, hand him over so we may be on our way."
"If you think I am going anywhere near those people again, you are sorely mistaken." Harry snarled, a growl vibrating his throat, though only Severus could feel or hear it since he now had both hands around Harry's shoulders.
"You are a minor in the eyes of the law, you don't have a choice in the matter," Fudge said as he signaled his entourage of Aurors, all of whom suddenly fired off spells that sent the three Hogwarts' staff members flying and tumbling away. Harry stared in shock and fear at the prone bodies and those approaching him. "Now, come with me so you can return to your family."
"No," Harry said defiantly. His heart was racing in his chest and he could hardly believe that he was being so brazen but he would rather lick the Giant Squid's eyeball than go back to his relatives.
"You don't have a choice," Fudge said as he nodded to an Auror, who raised their wand and let loose a jet of red light.
Harry's magic easily deflected the spell but at the same time something inside Harry seemed to snap. It was a barrier of sorts; one that Harry had not known existed. He felt magic and power flood through his veins, more than he had ever felt before. Even the times when his magic had tapped into the latent magic that had been left by the Great Wars Harry did not feel this much magic and power. With it, though, came a surge of anger and defiance and a strange sense of superiority that he had definitely never experienced before. He was far from a confident person, let alone superior, but that mattered little at the moment. What mattered was that these people dared to think they wielded power over him and were trying to force him to return to a place where he would be continuously beaten within an inch of his life.
Suddenly, Harry felt himself transforming. Everything grew smaller and smaller until the tops of the trees that made up the Forbidden Forest were just above his line of sight. The sight of massive fur paws that resembled the ones he had when he was in his animagus form told Harry that not only was he on all four but no longer looking human either. He couldn't see it but Harry was now a cross between his animagus form and a canine and about twenty times larger. His spots had turned into stripes and much of his fluff had disappeared and left behind a lean and well-toned, fur covered body. His face appeared to be more fox like, an artful combination of feline and canine. His snout protruded more than it usually did, though not ridiculously so, and his ears were a bit longer, though they were still rounded. His eyes were the most striking change, however, becoming a dizzying array of colors that constantly shifted.
"We said no." Harry snarled as he bore down on the now frightened wizards, not caring that he technically should not have been able to speak actual words. What did catch his notice, however distant it was, was that his voice radiated power and sounded more two than one. Its baritone resonance bounced through the air, vibrating everything. "We do not abide by the laws of those that would condone the abuse of a child and supports ignorance against the darker forces of this world. Our life is ours. You hold no authority here. Leave, lest we take that choice from you."
Harry felt the presence of the professors beside and behind him, one of which appeared to be shifting and waking up, but he kept his focus riveted on the men that appeared no more than ants before him. He snarled in warning when he saw one of them make a move to raise their wands. His pearly white teeth shone with such a sharp edge in the light of the afternoon sun that everyone present could almost feel the pain that would come from being bitten by one. The Auror that had moved to attack thought better of his actions and lowered his wand and took a step back.
"I am the Minister–" Fudge tried to say but cut himself off when claws shot out from Harry's paws and he snarled again.
"Magic has no Minister." Harry declared as he put his nose so close to Fudge's face that the tiny man could see almost all the way into Harry's sinus cavity. "Magic is free and supreme. You are nothing more than a man elected to govern people who wield magic. A man who abuses his power daily just so he can have what he wishes." Harry snorted in bitter derision as a flash of Dudley played across his mind briefly. "No, you are not a man. You are a spoiled child used to getting their way. Leave."
Surprisingly, the man listened this time and Fudge turned and fled with his Aurors trailing behind him. Harry watched them go, his height and sharp eyes easily tracking them all the way to the gates where they vanished with small pops that his ears picked up as if he were standing right next to them. A soft breeze slid across Harry's fur, a stark contrast to his sudden dark mood. It was so peaceful and calm and he was so angry and afraid. It amazed him how uncaring the elements of the world were, how they simply went about their tasks whether the lives they affected were appreciative or not. Harry shifted his wings as he stared off into the distance, wondering why humans were as thick headed and arrogant as they were.
"Harry?" Severus' voice sounded, surprise lacing his voice. Harry turned his head, shifting his weight slightly, and saw Severus staring up at him in a combination of shock and wonder. Something in Severus' scent and the feel of his magic felt familiar and it was more than just an 'I recognize this person' feel. This was something more, something deep and familiar, yet completely foreign all at the same time.
"Youngling," a new voice called before Harry could contemplate the scent any further. In unison, Severus and Harry turned their heads towards the new voice, Severus drawing his wand in the process. He was still on edge from the attack from the Aurors and minister. He was also slightly annoyed at having been stunned so easily. Standing a few feet away was a beautiful woman clad in gold, whom Harry recognized as Gaea. "Youngling, I know not what happened to cause this but I know the barrier you just crossed. Few humans have ever survived it. You must calm yourself and reestablish your balance before the magic burns out your body. Humans are not born of magic like Jinn and magical creatures. To let it possess you like this will kill you in time and the greater the possession, the faster the burn out."
Harry stood there with his head cocked to the side, obviously listening to what the woman was saying but appearing to be reluctant to listen. Finally, after catching a glimpse of Severus out of the corner of his eye and smelling that scent a second time, Harry inhaled deeply and released a heavy sigh. With that sigh, the magic seemed to calm and dissipate and Harry started shrinking. As fast as he had grown, Harry had shrunk back down to his normal animagus and then returned to being human. His eyes continued with their dancing color changes before returning to normal. Feeling suddenly very drained, Harry started to collapse in exhaustion.
"Easy," Gaea's gentle voice sounded as she caught Harry at the last minute and stabilizing him. "Let us get you inside so you can rest."
"And why should I just let him wander off with a complete stranger?" Severus' cold and cutting voice remarked before Gaea could even twitch in the direction of the castle.
"I was under the impression that you would be accompanying us." Gaea said in a neutral voice, not at all perturbed by the voice Severus had used. She had heard every tone known to man and had dealt with them all. She was also aware that Severus was an important figure in Harry's life, not to mention Fawkes had given her a basic run down of everyone in the castle in case she was ever discovered by them. "Unless you'd prefer to remain behind while we go to the castle."
"She's okay Professor," Harry said in a small voice that clearly spoke of exhaustion. Severus locked his eyes on the boy, clearly seeing that he did not view Gaea as a threat, given the way he was clinging to her for support. "I've met her before. She won't hurt me or any of us." As if to back his statement up, Fawkes came swooping out of nowhere and landed on Gaea's shoulder.
"Severus," another voice groaned. Three heads turned to see Dumbledore shifting and beginning to wake up. The same stood for Pomona, though she was still struggling to open her eyes. "What happened?"
"How about we all go inside and recover while we debrief?" Gaea offered, drawing everyone's attention. "There is obviously much that needs to be discussed."
"Agreed," Severus drawled lazily.