If one were to ask Harry Potter how he was feeling at the moment as he sat collapsed at the base of the statue of the late Salazar Slytherin, he would probably have said one thing. He hurt. That was the simplest way to put it.
If asked for more detail, he would say it felt like his blood was on fire, his body ached like he'd just gone ten rounds with his whale of a cousin and his head felt like it was splitting open. Though with the amount of blood dripping down his face into his eyes, he honestly wouldn't be surprised if it really had.
He could vaguely hear the shade known as Tom Riddle gloating about something, but the blood rushing through his ears made it difficult to understand and his already limited eyesight kept swimming. Of course, the latter could be from a multitude of sources, from the simplest, the fact that his glasses had been shattered, to the more complicated, like the fact that there was more of his blood on the ground than in his body, to the most likely, the fact that he had a big ass Basilisk fang sticking through his arm.
Speaking of the fang...
As his vision cleared briefly, bringing to his sight the diary he remembered Riddle mentioning, Harry ripped the sword-sized fang from his arm and plunged it into the open pages, smirking ferally when it and the shade of Riddle shrieked in pain, proving his hunch correct. The bastard and the diary were intimately connected. §Take that you evil son of a whore!§ he snarled in Parseltongue, viciously repeating the process three more times until the shade exploded.
Falling backwards into one of the many shallow pools of water in the Chamber, he barely registered the sound of Ginny awakening, immediately babbling about something he was sure he could care less about at the moment, even if he could actually understand what she was saying. He was vaguely aware of the presence of Fawkes and a warm wetness soothing the bite in his arm and cooling the molten lava in the veins, the same he felt dripping carefully into his mouth as he fought to draw another breath.
With each heartbeat he could feel his death moving through his blood, the liquid life racing after it to save him. Beaten in the battleground of his heart, Death took a final stand in his head as Life attacked, swooping down both inside and out in forms of tears and song, marshaling his magic for one final push, resulting in a scream disturbingly similar to the wraith-like creature that had fled Riddle's diary upon it's destruction.
He was only dimly aware of the soothing fire that spread across his body as Fawkes flamed he and Ginny out of the Chamber directly to the hospital wing.
He only distantly heard the frantic calls of Madame Pomfrey as her magic washed over him hoping to aid Fawkes' tears in healing the damage done by the Basilisk's venom before it couldn't be reversed.
He only vaguely felt the overbearing presence of Dumbledore as his magic joined to do the same.
In the quiet blackness at the edge of Death, his whole existence was only to draw the next desperate life giving breath.
And the next.
And the next.
And the next...
The first thing Harry became aware of when the haze of unconsciousness started lifting from his mind was the deep thrum of his magic as it moved about his body in a thin healing cocoon just under his skin, the Instinctive state he had developed at a young age frantically working to heal his injuries as quickly as possible without causing him further harm. The next was the almost painful beat of his heart moving his lifeblood through his veins and into his aching muscles, carrying with it something that his magic identified as 'foreign-but-not-dangerous'. This information was mostly ignored, however, as his nerves then decided to remind his brain what they were made for, shooting a constant message of allover pain up his spine.
As the blissful darkness of unconsciousness was cruelly torn away, Harry stifled the pained groan that tried to push its way from his throat out of long learned habit, despite being in what was possibly one of the worse states of pain he'd ever been in. Every heartbeat sent waves of pain rolling across his muscles. Every breath was a study in agony. Every movement felt like glass scraping across his flesh. Under the circumstances, the twelve-year-old felt no shame in the small whimper that escaped him nor the tears, despite the fact that both involuntary acts hurt as much as everything else did.
Minutes or hours could have passed before steady hands eased him out of the fetal position he'd curled into after waking and sat him up, mindful of the protest his muscles made at the action. It took several seconds before his brain was able to translate the soft words spoken in his ear to something he could understand, making the connection that the cool glass pressed to his lips was a vial containing some sort of potion and that the voice wanted him to drink it. Opening his mouth, Harry grimaced at the taste and texture of the brew, forcing himself to swallow it knowing, whatever it was, it couldn't possibly make things worse.
A few minutes later the potion kicked in, lessening the pain from torturous to a mere throb, a state he was more than familiar with and could more ably handle, allowing him to identify what and how everything hurt instead of just constant, allover pain. Virtually all of his muscles had a deep ache in them, like they'd been overworked and forced to keep going despite. The sharp pain in his left side informed him that at least a couple ribs had been broken and repaired; he learned what that felt like after that idiot Lockhart screwed up his arm. There was one deep ache in his arm, the cause of which he couldn't quite identify, underlain with increasingly familiar sharp pain of a recently broken and repaired bone. His throat felt like he'd been forced to breath sand and the dim light coming through the privacy screen made his eyes, and the nerves attached to them, scream. The worse, however, was the sensation he was getting from the nerves in his skin; his flesh felt like it had been scraped raw, every movement against the sheets feeling like thousands of tiny knives.
"Mr. Potter? Harry? Can you hear me?" the voice belonging, he realized, to Madame Pomfrey, questioned, running her fingers through his hair.
"Yeah." Harry muttered, groaning as he had to add another sensation to his mental list; even his hair hurt. How the Hell did hair hurt? "How long have I been out, Madame Pomfrey?" he questioned, forcing his eyes open enough to see the blurry shape of one of the few adults he trusted standing by his bedside.
"Three days, Harry." came the reply, before the Healer placed her hands on her hips, waggling her finger at him "And what did I tell you?"
"Sorry, Poppy." Harry answered with as cheeky of a grin as he could pull off with the ache in his muscles and raw nerves in his cheeks. After the third time he'd ended up in her care in that year alone, the Healer had, in her exasperation, asked him to just call her by her given name in private. It took a minute before her answer actually sunk in, making him recall a rather important detail "Ron! He and–"
"Easy, Harry. Relax." Poppy ordered, gently pressing him back against the pillows she'd piled behind him while the pain potion she'd fed him was kicking in. A soft trill from the headboard washed over them, bringing attention to the fact that they weren't the only one's in the room. "Fawkes went back and got young Mr. Weasley and that idiot Lockhart after we got you stabilized, though I got the distinct impression he wanted to leave Lockhart down there until you woke up." she informed him, waving a hand to the Phoenix as he started singing, the young Wizard visibly relaxing as the ancient fire spirit's magic washed over him, heat seeming to seep into his muscles, soothing the ache better than a soak in a heated pool. He knew very little about it or the species that used it, something he promised to change as soon as he got out of the hospital, but he had already decided that he thoroughly loved Phoenix magic.
Best. Medicine. In the world.
"Aside from needing a good washing, Mr. Weasley was perfectly fine. Lockhart has been sent to Saint Mungo's for spell damage. Unfortunately, the spell he tried to use on the two of you has left him with the mental capacity of about a three-year-old, so he's in no shape to be charged for his crimes at the moment."
The disgruntled expression Harry displayed told her exactly what he thought of that little problem.
"Yes, well, there's nothing we can do about it for now. The Healer's at Saint Mungo's are working to reverse the damage but, despite being useless in every other form of magic, he was an apparent genius went it came to memory charms. I checked him out before we sent him away and, in addition to having reduced his mental maturity by several decades, which should be impossible considering what the spell was suppose to do, the memories associated with those lost years have been completely wiped." Poppy sighed, not sure whether she should be glad about that fact or not. "There has been talk of reteaching him from the bottom up, but whether he'll be able to retain that knowledge is debatable. And even if they did, unless they can bring his previous memories back, he is, essentially, an entirely different person from the one that attacked you in the Chamber."
"And Ginny? I think I remember her waking up after I stabbed the diary but..." Harry questioned, choosing to ignore Lockhart's little mental malfunction. It was beyond his problem now; he would just let the authorities deal with it unless he ever had to personally deal with the idiot again.
"Ms. Weasley is fine as well. She was exhausted –mentally, physically and magically– and more than a little frightened, but otherwise fine. Given what she went through, I recommended to her parents that she be taken to see a Mind Healer, as well as have her thoroughly checked for signs of Dark Magic Dependency." Poppy explained before giving him a puzzled look "What exactly did you stab the diary with? Ms. Weasley mentioned it and and her interaction with it throughout the year, but for some reason Albus couldn't enter the Chamber even with Fawkes. The melted blob of refuse Fawkes brought back when he was asked to get it hardly resembled a book of any sort."
"The fang..." Harry explained, his hand drifting to where he remembered the Basilisk's fang had been sticking out of his arm, phantom pains flashes across his body as he recalled the sensation of the liquid Death searing its way through his circulatory system, battling the liquid Life in the form of Fawkes' tears as it systematically attacked his major organs, leaving a trail of seared veins in it's wake. That was, without a doubt, the worst amount of pain he'd ever experienced, and he was in no hurry to repeat it. The pain he experienced upon waking was undoubtedly the result of his body being used as the field in a battle of epical proportions.
"That's what I thought." Poppy sighed, resting her hand over his even as she locked the Hospital Wing down. He had learned, earlier in the year, that the Hospital Wing was one of the few places in the entire school that the Headmaster had little to no control over. In Poppy's domain, her word was law, and even Dumbledore couldn't overturn it if she put her foot down. In that, amusingly enough, it was actually the most secure location in the entire damn school. "There are things you need to be told, Harry. I haven't informed Albus of any of this because, frankly, he doesn't really need to know and would only insist that it wasn't important as long as you were still functional; same bull he always uses about you being too young and the information too much to place on your shoulders." she snorted, echoed by Harry "As you're well aware, however, I disagree and believe you it's your right to know."
Nodding, Harry relaxed against the pillows behind him, absently stroking Fawkes plumage when the Phoenix settled on the bed next to him, still singing softly. After he'd been stuck in the Hospital Wing when Lockhart vanished the bones in his arm, he had learned from Poppy that she didn't agree with Dumbledore over many of his policies towards her patients. She hated it when Dumbledore encouraged her to send a patient away without being completely healed and doubly so when it came to keeping medical information away from said patient. If Dumbledore had had his way, Harry would have never known that there were shards of the Philosopher's Stone embedded in his hip after his little adventure at the end of his First Year. Poppy had promised him that, as long as he trusted her as his Healer, she would always inform him of any information pertaining to him... as long as he promised not to lie to her about his medical status. She was the only person in the world, magical or otherwise, who knew of his complete medical history... and what he did to hide it.
"I've done a thorough medical scan of your systems. You're surprisingly healthy considering what you've been through, but when you come back from Summer break I'd like to see you once a month for at least the first semester to make certain." Poppy began, waiting until she got a nod of agreement before continuing. Him coming to see her was more or less a steady practice by now anyway. "Before you leave I'll be giving you a rack of nutrient potions that I expect you to take every morning. If there are any left when you get back I'll be reading you the Riot Act, mister." she stated, waggling her finger at him again, smiling when she got a laugh for her efforts. She smiled because otherwise she was sure she'd cry over the reason those potions were even needed. Dumbledore would hear none of it.
"I'll take them, Poppy. I promise."
"Now, of recent problems. As I'm sure you can feel, your little adventure left you with one broken and two fractured ribs. Any idea what caused this?" Poppy questioned. They were almost completely healed by then, just tender, but she still wanted to know what had caused the injury in the first place. In all her years as a Healer she'd never seen anything quite like it.
"Not sure exactly. I don't remember hurting them." Harry answered honestly. Really, who can remember a little thing like broken ribs when you have a three foot fang leaking highly acidic poison sticking out of your arm? "But I'm sure being pulled off the thirty foot statue of Salazar Slytherin's face by a sixty foot, highly insane Basilisk probably had something to do with it." he continued sarcastically with a cheeky grin, sighing tiredly when Poppy rested her hand over her heart with a soft gasp of surprise and resignation.
"Oh yes, I'm sure that contributed to it." Poppy muttered rolling her eyes at the trouble the boy managed to get himself into, letting loose a soft sigh of her own before continuing her diagnosis. "Aside from your ribs, the radius and ulna in you right arm were completely snapped in two –from the fang no doubt– and all of your internal origins have suffered damaged from the Basilisk venom. Fawkes has helped immensely with that. I'm sure he's set some sort of record for the amount of Tears shed at one time. We almost lost you several time after Fawkes brought you to me." she informed him, tenderly running her fingers through his hair, happy that he didn't grimace away from her like he had before; his magic had obviously kicked into high gear in the healing process now that he was conscious "I had to kick Albus out after the first twenty minutes because you kept fighting anything he did. Your magic even threw him into a wall at one point." she snickered softly.
Despite all things, especially given the circumstances, it sent her into giggles every time she thought about the great Albus Dumbledore getting tossed around like a rag doll by a twelve-year-old's magic. An unconscious twelve-year-old's magic. She had diagnosed the very first time she'd seen him, just two months after entering Hogwarts, that Harry's magic had a sharp, Instinctive quality to it that ninety-nine point nine percent of all magic-users lacked... and for good reason considering what a Wizard had to experience to gain it. Witches and Wizards were taught, from the moment they started learning about their magic, to hold absolute control over it at all times, even unconsciously.
Harry's magic often acted on it's own to protect him. It was constantly searching his surroundings, testing everyone and everything he came in contact with for it's level of danger towards him, making it nearly impossibly to sneak up the young Wizard. He learned to interpret these sensations at a young age, even without knowing what caused them. Defensively, his magic was known to form thin, protective barriers around him to combat minor threats, such as spells or flying objects. Offensively, which was a rare reaction, his magic was known to lash out in direct proportion to the threat against him, even while he was unconscious, such as what happened with Dumbledore.
She could only guess, as he hadn't been doing anything but trying to help heal the boy, that the Headmaster's naturally overbearing presence was seen a large threat and combated accordingly.
"I'll have to apologize later." Harry murmured, trying not to laugh himself. Not because he didn't find the mental imagery funny, because he did, but the act of laughing hurt.
"I'm sure he's already forgiven you, given that you were unconscious at the time." Poppy waved off before getting to the meat of the problem. "Now, the bite you sustained is the real problem at present."
"Why? Aside from feeling like I've just been at the center of Beater practice with a dozen Weasley Twins I feel fine. Nothing like I did in the Chamber." Harry questioned, even as his magic chose that moment to perk up and remind him of that 'foreign-but-not-dangerous' sensation he'd felt during his initial internal inspection when he'd first awoken. "The Basilisk venom hasn't left my system, has it?" he realized, connecting the dots between what she'd said and his own diagnostic.
"How...? No, never mind. Internal magic that you couldn't express verbally anyway, I'm sure." Poppy said, shaking her head. They'd had conversations like this before when it came to his magic. It was like someone who knew nothing about anatomy trying to explain how to take a breath or how the heart moved blood about the body. He couldn't explain the hows or whys, he just knew it did. It amazed her, really, the intimate, almost symbiotic, relationship the young Potter heir had with his magic.
"Yes, the Basilisk venom is still in your body. So are Fawkes tears, for that matter." At his shocked and puzzled expression, she did her best to explain "Both Basilisk venom and Phoenix tears are extremely potent magical substances. For reasons that have been extensively studied and never really deciphered, such substances, when introduced into a living body, never fully leave unless draw out or overpowered by their opposite magical substance. Phoenix tears and Basilisk venom are on this scale, opposite to each other at their most basic of natures. Basilisk venom kills, without fail, unless combated immediately by Phoenix tears, and even then, as you experienced, it still might not be enough if it's not introduced fast enough or if the Phoenix isn't powerful enough. I couldn't do anything about the venom, that was entirely on the Fawkes. All I did was make sure your body didn't fail while the two substances were using it as a battleground." Poppy explained before getting onto the complicated part.
"Now usually, in a case like this, the two substances would cancel each other out, leaving only trace amounts in the victim's body. It's Larait's Fifth Law at it's most basic." she explained, sighing as she mentally ran over everything she knew on the subject for the millionth time in the past three days. "I don't know if it was due to the age of the Basilisk, Fawkes, something about your magic or a combination of all three, but somehow, when everything was said and done with, both Tears and Venom found a balance in your bloodstream with your magic. Your blood now contains a new, never-before-seen substance that is one part Basilisk venom, one part Phoenix tears and one part something I can't even begin to identify, though I'm sure your magic has something to do with it."
Harry was silent for several minutes as he thought about this, watching as Poppy puttered around the room, setting things to right while he was processing what she'd said. When she came back to him, he started with the most logical of questions. "What does this mean for me? I'm still Human, right?"
"As far as I can tell, yes. Internally it doesn't seem to effect you in the least, thought only time will tell for sure. However, I doubt you'll be sprouting feathers or scales any time in the near future." Poppy joked before turning serious "I would, however, be cautious about where your blood ends up, even beyond the basic precautions I've taught you the past couple years. You'll never be able to donate as the substance will likely be as fatal to anyone else as giving them the wrong blood type."
Nodding, Harry thought a few moments before asking his next question "What about externally? I know Basilisk venom is highly acidic and corrodes most anything it touches; I looked up anything I could find on the species after we found Hermione's message. What will happen if I get in fight and my blood ends up on someone else?" he questioned, thinking mostly about what might happen to his Cousin and Uncle the next time they decided to... get rough with him.
"I'll have to do more tests to know exactly what it's properties are, but you should do your best to avoid it ending up anywhere but inside your own body until then. Anyone who ends up with your blood on their fists probably deserves anything that happens to them." Poppy said, knowing even without asking what he was thinking. If it wasn't for her oaths, which prevented her from using her medical knowledge to harm, she wasn't the least bit ashamed to admit she would be quick to show those beasts he was forced to live with what a pissed off Healer could do to the Human body.
"How does this hybrid-substance effect my magic?" Harry questioned, mentally poking at his own magic curiously, snickering as it seemed to poke back at him. His magic was strange. It acted nothing like he'd ever read magic was suppose to act. Hermione would probably have a minor heart attack if she, or Ron for that matter, knew how much he actually read when their backs were turned. The primary difference between he and Hermione was that, with the exception of very few subjects, he didn't read for enjoyment or collect information just for the pleasure of knowing the information, but for how he could use it to his benefit. It was one of the reasons he didn't end up in Ravenclaw and yet another of why the Hat wanted him in Slytherin.
"Again, I don't know. Unlike with your blood, I'm sure that's something only you can tell." Poppy answered "I would recommend, once I let you out of here, starting with the basics and working your way up. Your magic works differently than any other I've seen, so it will probably be mostly instinct."
"Just like before then..." Harry grumbled in annoyance, rolling his eyes. It was because of that very reason that he had so much difficulty during his First Year, and why he seemed to do so poorly in class. It wasn't until he stopped trying to do things the way the teachers made them do it and do them following his instincts about it that he was able to do any magic at all. A prime example of this was that the wand movements they were taught only seemed to create blocks for him. It generally worked better if he just pointed his wand and said the spell... or, in some cases, just thought about what he wanted to happen. Transfiguration seemed to work like that. So did most elemental based Charms. "Why–?"
His question was cut off by a sharp knock on the doors. His magic identified it as Dumbledore and a highly annoyed Snape even before Poppy unsealed the room, the Potion Master's dark blurred form sweeping into the room like he owned it, followed by the colorful blob that was the Headmaster. It was only then that Harry's mind fully comprehended the fact that he didn't have his glasses. Normally his lack of sight didn't bother him, as he had spent the majority of his life with bad eyesight in varying degrees, but he hated have such a obvious weakness around the dungeon bat while he was bedridden. The nervousness caused by Snape's aggressive demeanor and Dumbledore's just generally overpowering presence caused his magic to react immediately to the perceived threat, forming a thin, invisible barrier just under his skin, tendrils coiling like a serpent around his body, ready to strike out at any given moment.
"Ah, Harry. How are you? You gave us quite a scare, my boy." Dumbledore questioned, conjuring an extravagant chair by his bedside in a casual display of power that Harry couldn't help but feel silently annoyed over. He was well aware of the fact that such display's of silent, almost absentminded casting were suppose to leave people in awe of the Headmaster, but he had to wonder how many out there just felt annoyed by what was essentially magical posturing on the old man's part. Same with Snape for that matter.
"I've been better, Headmaster." Harry answered softly, drawing comfort and calm from the presence of the Phoenix by his side, a tendril of his magic intermingling with the Phoenix magic Fawkes was exuding, as if trying to keep itself calm as well and not lashing out at the perceived threat to it's host. "Don't think I'll be going anywhere for a few days, however."
"Poppy, when do you believe young Harry will be able to get back to his friends?" Dumbledore questioned cheerily, seemingly completely disregarding what the twelve-year-old had just told him while Snape hovered menacingly nearby.
"A few days at least, Albus." Poppy stated, doing her best to not let her annoyance at the both of them leak into her tone. "As I told you three days ago, he had severe damage to all his internal origins and his circulatory system due to the Basilisk venom. His nervous system was also shot for the same reason. From the tests I've run, his fine motor functions are just now starting to function at a moderately normal level. He should be able to walk by tomorrow evening at the earliest. At the moment, however, even if he could stand on his own, it would likely feel like he was walking on glass. He's suffering from acute hyper-sensitivity right now."
A soft, disbelieving snort from Snape's corner drew the Healer's full annoyance directly on him.
"You have something you wish to say, Severus?" Poppy questioned flatly.
"I don't doubt your healing abilities, Madame Pomfrey." the Potions Master answered in the soft, dangerous tone he always seemed to use, even as his gaze focused on the boy that seemed to refuse to meet any of their eyes. The opinion he left unstated, but was rather clear to all of them, was that he believed the Potter brat to be faking the severity of his symptoms for sympathy.
"I do not draw my conclusions from what Mr. Potter has told me he feels like, Severus, but my own medical scans." Poppy stated tightly, her tone warning that he was on very thin ice. "I'm sure if it was up to him he would be attempting to leave now, able to walk correctly or not."
Snape wisely kept any further opinion to himself.
"Well, now that that's out of the way, perhaps you can give me your point of view in what happened in the Chamber, my boy?" Dumbledore stated, breaking the tense silence that had fallen over the room.
"From which point would you like me to start, Headmaster?" Harry questioned, staring in the general direction of the colorful blob on his right.
"Perhaps the point where you and Mr. Weasley were separated. Young Mr. Weasley has already explained and given us the memory of what led you to that point." Dumbledore said after a moment of thought, his eyes twinkling. "And I would like to apologize for Mr. Lockhart's behavior when you two went to him for help. It seems we were all hoodwinked by his stories."
"There's no need for you to apologize for him, Headmaster. Lockhart is a grown adult and is thus fully responsible for his own actions." Harry countered calmly. Though his couldn't see it, Dumbledore's twinkle dimmed briefly when he tilted his head, ever so slightly, in Snape's direction, seemingly without thought of how the gesture could be perceived. Never let it be said that Harry hadn't long since mastered the art of passive-aggressiveness. He could practically feel the steam coming from the Potion Master's ears as the slight was received loud and clear. Protesting would only prove his point.
Year Two score: Harry - 40. Bat Teacher - 39.
"As for the Chamber..." Harry paused a moment to gather his thoughts "I'm not sure exactly what caused the collapse of the tunnel. Ron and Lockhart were behind me while I was trying to figure out how to open the door. All I recall is Lockhart saying something about us not remember and Ron shouting. I spun around in time to see a spell flash clip Lockhart, then I was dodging falling stone as the ceiling collapsed in on us."
"You seem to be contradicting yourself, boy." Snape sneered "You claimed you didn't know what caused the collapse and yet you just described it."
"Have you ever seen a spell that turns a charlatan's brain into that of a dribbling three-year-old's punch through a solid stone ceiling like an overpowered blasting hex, Snape?" Harry snorted, glaring in the general direction of the black blur by the far wall when he didn't get an answer. "I didn't think so."
Harry - 40. Bat Teacher - 38.
Points taken for verbalizing a stupid statement in a bad attempt at posturing.
"Now, now, boys. Don't fight, please." Dumbledore interrupted before it could become a contest of who could hold their temper's longer. They both bristled at the statement, both for the patronizing tone and the fact that the Headmaster put them both on the same level of 'misbehaving children'. Harry hated to admit it, but in this case, Snape had more to offended about. He could at least still claim the title of child due to his age... for the next month in any case. "Now, Harry, what happened after the tunnel collapsed?"
Sighing, Harry explained about the tunnels and the Chamber, seeing Ginny, the memory of some psychotic teenager with delusions of grandeur named Tom Riddle –conveniently leaving out the part about Riddle telling him that he was the past self of Voldemort– and a severally understated overview of the fight with the Basilisk. "I don't really remember much past being bitten. I remember pulling the fang out of my arm and stabbing the diary, and Riddle's... memory I guess you could call it, screaming and exploding, but everything past that is more or less a big blur."
"More or less, my boy?" Dumbledore questioned.
Harry just nodded, quite capable of recognizing when someone was fishing for information. Surprisingly, listening in on his Uncle's dinner party's were actually good for something. "There are moments that are clear, sir, but it like... listening to a bad radio station that occasionally clears up for a few seconds before going staticy again." he shrugged, unable to come up with a better analogy than that and not particularly caring if they were too stuck in the Dark Ages to understand it to begin with.
Dumbledore hummed thoughtfully, tapping his wand against the back of his hand. "Would you be willing to submit your memories to my Pensieve, my boy?"
"If you would tell me precisely what a Pensieve is, Headmaster?" Harry questioned, recalling the Headmaster saying something about Ron given them his memory of what happened when they'd went to get Lockhart's dubious help.
Rule Number 8: Never agree to anything until you know exactly what you're agreeing to.
"Ah, a Pensieve is a wonderful device that allows one to remove their memories from their mind and view them from a third person point of view." Dumbledore explained "The Human mind processes far more in any given moment than we consciously realize. With our magic, even more information about our surroundings is gathered, creating a complete picture of even things going on behind us, or far beyond our natural sensory range."
Chewing on the inside of his lip, a neutral noise rose from the back of throat in response. If he was to be completely honest, after his recent experiences Harry wasn't too enthused about any sort of magic that messed with his memories. "What happens to the memory when it's put into the Pensieve? Is is permanently removed from the mind or is what goes into the Pensieve more like a... copy or something?"
"An interesting question, my boy." Dumbledore answered, nodding in a sage manner that only served to annoy the preteen further. He was really getting tired of that 'wise and powerful old man' act. Honestly, he was only twelve and he could see it was just a mask. Why the Hell couldn't the rest of the mortal population? "No, the process of extracting a memory doesn't remove it completely. More like, hazes it, taking the lions share of what the memory really is while leaving behind an... imprint, if you will. A mold of where and what the memory was before it was removed, so that, when it is returned, it settles back into place without hassle."
"Huh... sounds like an easy way to forget something you don't want to remember." Harry murmured thoughtfully 'Also sounds like a good way to thoroughly examine your memories before sorting them out... I may just have to get me a few of those things.'
"Perhaps, my boy. Perhaps." Dumbledore agreed "So, will you allow us to view your memories?"
"I don't have any objections to it..." and if that wasn't one of the biggest fibs he'd ever told "However, if the memory relies on vision, I'm afraid most of it will just be sound."
"And why, Potter, do you believe that?" Snape spoke up, drifting over to his bedside like some sort of wraith.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Harry exhaled noisily in clear exasperation before sending the most vicious glare he could muster at the black blur that was the Potions Master, using one of his abilities to focus his eyes just long enough to see him clearly; all the patience he had saved for dealing with the man on a daily basis was officially gone. His effort was rewarded with the gift of being able to see the greasy dungeon bat that was three times his age flinch and take a half step back from him before his vision once again failed. He made a mental note to stop neglecting the practicing of his abilities; for some reason he'd done that far too much since he discovered he was a Wizard.
"Your mind may have failed to register the fact, Snape, but I don't wear those glasses because they're fashionable." Harry stated sharply "Without them, anything that stands more than a foot away from me is, at best, blurred. More than five foot is definitely blurred and anything beyond ten is little more than shadows." He found Snape's sputtering, as his mind processed that fact, highly amusing. Even if it did give the bastard a potential weakness on him later. 'Meh, he wouldn't be the first.'
"How in the bloody name of Circe do you manage to play Quidditch?!" Snape finally managed to sputter, horrified by the fact that his House Seeker had lost, two years in a row, to someone that was, effectively, almost blind.
Of all the questions or responses he'd expected from the snarky Potions Master, that had not been one of them.
"My eyes are a weakness. I learned at an early age not to rely on them." Harry snorted, answering without actually answering as he internally smirked. That was a trump card he'd take to his blood soaked grave before he willingly told Snape of all people. "In spite needing them in one degree or another for most of my childhood, I didn't get glasses until I was almost ten. And that was only because one of my teacher's made an appointment for me before informing my relatives of it. If they hadn't taken me, people would have asked questions about why not, and such questions would have cast a bad light on their sacred "normality". The ones I have now are the first and only pair I've ever owned, despite how many times they've been broken by my cousin." Thinking a moment, Harry turned his attention to the Phoenix beside him while the two adults that didn't already know that fact struggled to process it; it also put a rather large dent in the 'spoiled-prince-childhood' image Snape, for some Spirits only knew reason, had drawn up for him. Really, to hear the man talk you'd think he'd grown up like a Malfoy. "Fawkes, would you mind terribly going down to the Chamber and seeing if you can't find whatever is left of my glasses? I don't recall where exactly I managed to lose them, but they might still be repairable."
Nodding, the Phoenix trilled softly before vanishing in a ball of flame, startling the adults in the room as the fire washed harmlessly over him. Tilting his head slightly, Harry hummed thoughtfully as he magic perked in interest. He wasn't absolutely sure, but he could have sworn he had felt it, a build up of some sort, before Fawkes had left. Was it just his magic, or perhaps a result of the couple of cups worth of Phoenix tears in his body?
"Ah... well... that's certainly an... interesting bit of information." Dumbledore said slowly, clearing his throat a few times due to the potentially awkward questions that could be asked if that knowledge became widely known. "Can I assume you lost your glasses sometime before the fight with the Basilisk?"
"Somewhere in the tunnels, actually, shortly after Riddle ordered her to attack me." Harry answered after a moment to recalled exactly when he'd actually lost them. As he'd told Snape, he didn't tend to rely primarily on his vision. He'd surprised more than one person whom had divested him of his glasses to leave him in a weak position, only for him to knock them ass-over-teakettle with his eyes closed. He had, on more than occasion, even walked through Hogwarts with his eyes closed; he'd found more secret passages that way. "They got knocked off when I took a rolling dive into a small side tunnel when she struck at me. I didn't have time to try and find them before I was running again."
"Her?" Snape questioned confusedly, still off balance from his previous revelation.
"Parselmouth, remember?" Harry answered, giving the man a small amount of slack in the interest of avoiding anymore arguments for the time being. He wasn't in the mood to rack up the points in a verbal spar with the bat right now. "Snakes, magical snakes especially, have a well-defined difference in their manner of speech between male and female. I have no idea why, they just do. Even if she was highly insane at that point, the Basilisk's manner of speech was still distinctly female."
"And how, young Harry, have you come to this discovery? To my knowledge there aren't many serpents in this school, excluding the students in silver and green, of course." Dumbledore questioned, pulling what appeared to be a stone bowl of some sort from somewhere deep in his robes that Harry wasn't certain he wanted to know in case it turned out to be somewhere he really didn't want to know.
"Not in the school, maybe. But I've yet to see an ecosystem that doesn't have at least one species." Harry answered, giving them a small, amused smile "There are about a dozen different species of snake on the grounds, most of them magical. And that's only what I've come across since realizing that the whispers I've always been able to hear were, in fact, snakes."
"You've actively been using it?" Dumbledore asked in surprise as he set the bowl down on the bedside table. Snape seemed just as surprised as the Headmaster, but his interest seemed far less negative.
"Well, yeah." Harry said, in a tone that suggested he thought to do anything else would be stupid. Pausing a moment as something tingled in the back of his mind, he resisted the urge to look to his left where, to his moderate surprise, Fawkes then appeared a few seconds later with his mangled but still recognizable glasses in his talons. Murmuring his thanks, he carefully ran his fingers over the frames, deftly avoiding the broken glass. They were bad, definitely crushed, but he'd repaired things that were worse. Reaching to his right where he felt his wand, he deftly plucked it from the bedside table, his knuckles brushing against the stone bowl, making him pause briefly as he felt... something, before he focused entirely on the task at hand.
Concentrating, he tapped the frames then the glasses themselves, murmuring the basic repairing spell twice, rewarded with the distinct sound of unbreaking metal and glass. Holding them up to the torchlight, hummed in moderate annoyance and cleaned them on the sheets –absently wondering how the heck they could be so dirty when they were essentially brand new– before putting them on, sighing internally when he realized that his prescription had changed again. He didn't know why they did that; something about his ability made it happen on occasion. He figured it was his magic continually trying to fix his damaged eyes.
"Would you like to explain that comment, Harry." Dumbledore spoke up, interrupting his internal musing.
Sighing heavily, he gave the Headmaster a flat look "I don't know why everyone is so touchy about Parseltongue, Professor. It's just a language. One not generally spoken by Humans, granted, but a language nonetheless."
"The negative connotation has to do, primarily, with the fact that the two people who are most famed for speaking it have been two of the darkest Dark Lords in our history, Harry." Dumbledore answered, as if he was imparting some great grain of wisdom to a member of the the unintelligent masses.
Harry wondered if he would feel anything but annoyance with the Headmaster that day. The way he kept going on, he didn't think so. "Pardon my objection, Headmaster, but I think only the most recent of those two should be included on that rather bias list." Harry countered, continuing before the Headmaster could do any more than raise a brow. "I did some research and have given this some thought since the fickle masses of this school started accusing me of being the Heir of Slytherin just because I happen to be a Parselmouth. I have come to the belief that, really, we don't have any right to judge the methods of someone that lived in a world a thousand years removed from the one we live in. Yes, a lot of his documented methods may seem barbarous to us in this day and age, but they weren't any different than the ones used by Godric Gryffindor. There has been a number of Witches and Wizards even within your lifetime, whom were considered Leader's of the Light, who's methods or ideologies if used in this day and age would have them immediately labeled as Dark." he paused a few moments to let that sink in while he ran his fingers through Fawkes plumage before continuing.
"And really, what the Hell do we know about how Salazar Slytherin really was? Yeah, there are stories of him, but for all we know they're just that: stories. No more true than the various works of fiction written on me that claim I spent my childhood battling Giants during the week and taming Dragon's on the weekends." he snorted in contempt. Harry hated those stories. "We don't have any solid facts on the man because anyone who may have known him has been dead for as long as he has. We just have stories, colored by a thousand years of telling and retelling by bias minds. Can we really say that those stories are accurate, when a story can't even go from one end of this school to the other without being changed beyond recognition?"
The tense, thoughtful silence that descended upon the room was broken a few minutes later, not by anyone there, but the portrait over the mantel place that Harry had often noticed but, for some reason, never really asked about. He didn't even know who she was. "Bravo, young man! Bravo! I couldn't have said it better myself." she praised, clapping lightly. She was a beautiful young Lady with honey blonde hair tied in an intricate braid pulled over her shoulder, dressed in a simply designed but well made black and gold dress and cloak, her head left uncovered, indicating, if Harry remember his history correctly, that she was married at the time the portrait was done. She appeared to only be in her mid-twenties, early-thirties, but with how slowly their people aged after they reached maturity, she could have easily been twice that age. The scene she was painted in was one Harry easily recognized as one of the courtyards near where the Hufflepuff common room was said to be, though the one in the painting was obviously still fairly new compared to the worn one of the modern time. "Salazar could be an ornery bastard at times, but he was no worse than Godric. I would say, in fact, that Godric was often worse. Comes from being raised as the middle child of a family of eight children in the wild moors of what is now called West Country, I suppose." she shrugged lightly.
"Pardon me, m'Lady. But who are you and how did you know Salazar Slytherin?" Harry asked curiously, absently noting the expressions of open mouthed shock both Snape and Dumbledore were sporting as they stared at the portrait.
"Salazar and I lived in the same time, young man. I knew him quite well when I was still alive." the Lady said, standing from the bench to curtsy "As for my name, I have gone by many, but the one I am most known for is Helga."
"Helga Hufflepuff?!" Harry said excitedly as remembered a description of the Founders he'd read once, sitting up and forward abruptly before leaning back just as quickly with a pained groan as his body harshly reminded him that it was injured. How could he have forgotten? "Ow." he gave the Lady a low level glare when she giggled at him.
"Pardon my laughter, kitling, but in that moment you reminded me so much of Godric I couldn't help it." Helga said, curtsying again before retaking her seat on the bench.
"Helga Hufflepuff? But how?" Dumbledore questioned, managing to shake off his shock "All the portraits of the Founders were said to have been lost centuries ago. How long have you been here? Do you know where the others are?"
"My, my. You certainly are full of questions aren't you?" Helga said, raising a brow at the man, a glint of something that Harry couldn't quite identify flashing briefly in her eyes before vanishing "To answer in order: I have been here for the past couple of centuries. I requested to be moved in here from my private quarters a couple of centuries ago when the Headmaster of the time had the Healing Hall expanded to what you see now. And yes, I do know where my friend's portraits are, but no, I will not be telling you."
Was it just him, or did that sound suspiciously like a whine coming from the Headmaster's mouth?
"Firstly, I don't know if they are in the portraits that are here in this school. I know I didn't stay in mine very often before it was moved in here. There wouldn't be much point in staring at an empty canvas." Helga stated simply "Secondly, I don't like you."
"You... don't– Wait. What?!" Dumbledore questioned, flabbergasted.
"I don't like you, therefore I will not be telling you where my friend's portraits are located." Helga repeated, and Harry had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing, finally recognizing the look she had given them. Helga Hufflepuff had a mischievous side. Who'd have thunk?
Dumbledore merely scowled, standing from his place to stand in front of the portrait "Madame, I am the Headmaster of this school–"
"And I am one of this school's Founders, fledgeling." Helga interrupted snappishly. Really, did the man honestly believe he could intimidate a portrait? "Even if I did tell you I doubt neither Godric nor Rowena would speak to you. The last I saw them, they were rather disappointed with the way our school is being run, and how far it has fallen. We set standards before we departed from this world, standards we created because we were frustrated with the lack in the local system. Standards that, disappointingly, have long since stopped being met."
"What about Lord Slytherin?" Harry questioned, covering a yawn, suddenly feeling worn out even though he'd been awake for less than an hour.
"I haven't seen Salazar in centuries, kitling. No saying what he's out there doing." Helga answered kindly, shaking her head in amusement. "Now, Mr. Dumbledore, young Mr. Potter is in dire need of rest. He's had a rather harrowing experience recently, after all, and Basilisk venom poisoning is a rather nasty affliction to recover from. Please do whatever it was you came here to do and leave him to it." she all but ordered, giving the man a stern look that seemed to be patented by Healers everywhere.
Clearing his throat lightly, still reeling at being so summarily denied and dismissed, Dumbledore nodded, walking back over to his student's bedside. "Alright, Harry. Using a Pensieve is really quiet simple. All you need to do is concentrate on the memory while I use my wand to extract it and place it in the Pensieve, like so." he explained, placing his wand to his own temple and extracting what appeared to be a silvery thread, disconnecting it with a flick of his wrist. The thread floated at the end of the wand like a strange spider web before he placed the wand back at his temple, the thread disappearing back to whence it came. "Now, all I need you to do is concentrate on what happened in the Chamber, particularly your confrontation with Mr. Riddle, if you will."
Nodding, Harry closed his eyes and concentrated. However, what he was really thinking what that his conversation with Riddle was really the last thing he wanted the Headmaster to be looking at. Honestly, he didn't really want he or Snape, who would undoubtedly be there, looking at any of his memories. His magic reacted to his thoughts as he felt the Headmaster's wand touch his temple, forming what he could only describe as a blackhole at the center of his thoughts, sucking them in and away from the strand of the Headmaster's magic he felt searching for them.
"Harry, are you concentrating?" he heard Dumbledore ask as the wand pressed just a little harder against his temple.
"Yes, sir. Is something wrong?" Harry questioned, opening his eyes to stare at the man above him, formulating a mask of confusion over his real feelings about the subject.
"I'm not sure." Dumbledore said, pulling his wand away. With it came a thread similar to the one he'd pulled from his own temple, but it was dull compared to the shining silver it was supposed to be, swirling with something he couldn't even begin to describe but was certainly intelligent enough to not want to come into physical or mental contact with it. "Do you feel like I'm taking a memory? Anything odd?"
Tilting his head slightly, Harry gave that an honest moment of consideration before shrugging. "Since I don't know what it's actually suppose to feel like, Headmaster, I don't know if I can answer that. I've got a bit of a headache, but I don't know if that has anything to do with what your doing."
Humming thoughtfully, Dumbledore flicked his wand and disconnected the strand from Harry's temple, lowing it into a vial Snape pulled out of his robes "Well, I'll examine this and see if I can't figure out what the problem is. It may just have to do with how severely you were recently injured. Magic has been known to horde resources to heal it's host when the injury is severe enough. I've never heard of it effecting a memory spell like this, but if anything could, I suppose Basilisk venom would do it."
"Sorry I couldn't be more help, Headmaster." Harry apologized disingenuously, stifling another yawn.
"Ah, think nothing of it, my boy. I'm sure we'll sort this out." Dumbledore said, his eyes back in full twinkling mode "If not, well, it's not exceptionally important. I just wished to know what happened down there. Since the Basilisk is dead we... the Basilisk is dead, isn't it." he questioned as the thought suddenly occurred to him.
"Last time I saw her she had the entire length a bastard sword sticking into her brain. So yes, I think it's safe to say she's dead." Harry answered, working very hard to keep any sarcasm out of his tone. He'd already told them that he'd been bitten when he stuck the sword into the roof of the Basilisk's mouth. How did that not constitute as dead? The slight sneer Snape gave him told him he wasn't entirely successful, but didn't call him on it. Probably on the grounds that the man could privately agree that it was a moderately stupid question and that anyone who knew anything about his personality would agree that sarcasm was the least he would have produced when faced with it.
"Ah– yes, well, that would certainly do it." Dumbledore said slowly, obviously realizing his faux pas. "As I was saying, as the Basilisk is dead then the primary danger has passed. I do wish to know precisely what happened down there, but it's not urgent."
"If that's all, Albus, I would like Mr. Potter to try and get some more sleep. Fighting it and physically exhausting himself won't help him recover any faster." Poppy spoke up, shooing them out of her domain. "You may tell his friends that they may visit him in the morning." she explained, smirking as she shut the door in Snape's face as he turned around to protest. "And good riddance to that." she grumbled, pointedly ignoring the giggle coming from both her favorite patient and the Lady in the portrait as she once again locked the Hospital Wing down.
It took nearly a week after he first awoke before both he and Poppy felt it safe for him to leave and head back out into the school. It was a long, painful week, as he had to get use to his steadily decreasing hyper-sensitivity. Poppy hadn't been kidding when she'd said it would feel like he was walking on glass.
During that time, Hermione had visited him everyday with notes from all their classes. Ron popped in a few times to see him also, though he admittedly was only there most of the time to keep their friend on a leash while he was still recovering, as her naturally inquisitive personality had her wanting to observe every step of his recovery. Ginny came once as well, but Harry had quickly feigned exhaustion to make her leave. She was a nice girl, she really was, but there was just something about her that sent shivers up his spine. It might have had something to do with the shrine of him Fred and George claimed she had in her room. It may or may have not been true, but the mere thought of it combined with that stare she seemed to have left him wanting little to do with her until she matured enough that she could speak to him without going into red-faced convulsions.
It was both bad and good luck that, just as he was leaving, he had a run in with one Lucius Malfoy, with one very familiar House-Elf trailing behind him. It took a little bit of charades on Dobby's part while Malfoy Sr. prattled on for him to figure out that the blonde was the cause of the diary ending up in Ginny's hands. He clearly remembered the fight between he and Mr. Weasley outside the bookstore and how he'd picked up one of Ginny's books. The diary had certainly been thin enough to fit inside one of the texts without notice.
It was a testament to the closeness of the House-Elf community, despite the curse that left them as slaves, that without asking Harry found the remnants of the diary and an absolutely filthy sock pushed into his hands from one of the invisible Hogwarts House-Elves that had been following Malfoy, obviously looking for an opportunity to use said items. He didn't need anymore prompting than that to goad the Pureblood into taking the diary back, with sock, which promptly lead him to tossing both filthy items away in nose raised disgust. Harry was moderately shocked when he actually felt the already strained bond between Dobby and the Malfoy patriarch snap like a rubber band, making both of them flinch. The expression of surprise on Malfoy's face was well worth the rage that soon followed. Especially when the newly freed House-Elf decided to get a little retribution on his former Master, slamming him into the walls a few times before delivering him into the waiting clutches of Madame Pomfrey, who had stepped out into the hall the moment she heard the adult's presence.
It was a testament to her amusement over the scene that she only raised a brow at them when unconscious blonde went flying past her, landing in a crumpled heap in one of the beds. She shooed them away without a word after making sure the man was still breathing, not bothering to do anything more. She wasn't his Healer and he hadn't asked for her help; it wasn't her responsibility to coddle a man who thought he could attack a child.
The middle of June found them back on the Hogwarts Express heading back to London for the Summer. At Kings Crossing, Harry felt a chill of dread run up his spine at the foreboding expression his Uncle wore, far worse than the one from the previous year which lead to bars being put on his windows and multiple locks on his door. Not wanting to tempt fate, he quickly released Hedwig, telling her to stay out of sight of his relatives, and sent a prayer up to whichever deity up there was in charge of his life before crawling into the back of his Uncle's car.
Two days later found Harry standing in the kitchen of No. 4 Privet Drive, facing the very reason for Vernon's expression at the train station. The fat bitch he was forced to call Aunt: Marge Dursley. Vernon had picked her up at noon and, less than six hours later, she was three sheets to the wind with Harry trying very hard to control his magic and not do something that he'd very likely not regret, but would get him into trouble nonetheless. He'd already shattered one of the wine glasses she'd been drinking out of due to one of her more closely hitting comments, though she'd taken the credit for that one, claiming the same thing happened while she was visiting her neighbor, Colonel Fubster.
His patience, however, lasted right up to the point that she started insulting his parents. He could handle her insulting him, claiming that the fictional school she'd been told he went to wasn't beating him hard enough if he could still 'take that tone with her'; it wasn't anything more than he'd dealt with his entire life. But his parents were off limits.
When he was younger he hadn't known any better. He'd been told all his life his parents had died in a car crash caused by his drunk Father, which was where he'd gotten the scar on his brow. It was different now. He wasn't ignorant of his heritage anymore. He knew now that he was a Wizard, and that his parents had been a respected Witch and Wizard. He knew now that his Father had been the Lord of an Ancient and Nobel household, of which he was the heir, and that his Mother had been apprenticed to Filius Flitwick, well on her way to her Mastery in Charms before they'd been forced to go into hiding.
It would surprise him, when he later looked back on the event, that it wasn't just her words, but a combination of Marge's words and Petunia's expression that eventually set him off. It was one that match his own: Absolute Fury.
"You see it all the time with dogs." Marge prattled on to her brother in a slurred manner, having already consumed at least two bottles of wine and half a bottle of brandy herself "If there's something wrong with the bitch, there'll be something wrong with the pup–" And yet another wine glass shattered in her hand. This time, however, it wasn't just a simple crushing as the first had been, but an all out explosion, all of which was directed directly at Marge Dursley, the fine crystal slicing effortlessly through her flesh.
"You will be silent!" Harry snarled, his relatives frozen in place, either by magic or in fear, as his magic flared into the visible spectrum, glowing red with his rage "I don't give a damn what Vernon has been telling you, but you are the only bitch here. My parents were respected members of our society! And they most certainly did not die in a bloody car crash–"
"You are an insolent, lying little wastrel!" Marge slurred, shakily standing from her seat as the blood dripped down her face and neck, either too drunk or too stupid to fear the rapidly darkening red aura around the enraged Wizard "Your parents were nothing but a couple of penceless, jobless drunkards who had the gall to get themselves kill and leave you with their honest, hardworking relatives! The only use your Mother had was on her back with her legs in the–"
"Be silent!" Harry roared, his magic surging forward like a horde of striking serpents. Simultaneously, the woman was thrown into the wall hard enough to send spider-webbing cracks over the entirety of it while her mouth of painfully transfigured shut until it was little more than a sealed stretch of skin, all but completely silencing her before she was pulled away from the wall, hovering a few feet above the ground, the crystal from the broken wineglass orbiting around her.
Breathing harshly, Harry cursed violently under his breath in Parseltongue, fighting to control his magic and more bloody-natured thoughts. It would be easy, he knew. So ridiculously easy to let that hovering crystal slice through the bitches flesh until she could speak no more ill of his family. To silence her for good. It was, perhaps, good fortune that a near inaudible hiss at his feet and gasp from Petunia drew his attention to the bloody crescents his nails had dug into his palms, and the magically charged, softly glowing blood dripping from his fists onto the carpet, leaving small holes as the acidic substance slowly burned through.
Growling, his mind settled on an alternative solution, his magic once again surging forward before he spun on his heel, heading upstairs where he'd hidden all of his possessions, his magic healing the minor wounds as if they had never been there. He didn't bother looking back as the woman began to slowly inflate, his mind set on her stopping only just before she popped like an overinflated balloon. Better than the alternative and ironically fitting, for her to be inflated just like her bloated sense of self-regard.
It took him less than two minutes to gather everything he owned, stuffing them into his trunk before slapping his hand angrily on the brass depiction of a lily, ordering it to shrink and slipping the tiny charm-like trunk into a special pocket in his wand holster that he'd made especially for that reason. Not for the first time, Harry thanked the Spirits that he'd convinced Hagrid during his first trip to Diagon Alley to let him spend the extra money for that feature.
'I live with Muggles who obviously hate magic and don't want me to go to Hogwarts, after all. They might destroy my things before school starts.' He'd told the half-Giant. After the confrontation between he and Vernon in the shack he'd found them in, Hagrid had been inclined to agree with him on that fact.
Double checking that he had everything, Harry all but ran back down stairs, pausing only long enough to vanish the burnt spot on the carpet before taking off out the door at full tilt, not wanting to leave his changed blood laying around anywhere and not caring about that little bit of harmless magic after what he'd already done. He didn't know what the Ministry would do to him, having already threatened to expel him over Dobby's equally harmless little hovering charm the year before, but he wasn't sticking around to find out.
He paused in his flight from Privet Drive nearly two miles away, silently congratulating himself on making it that far at a full sprint before pulling his trunk back out, making certain he couldn't be seen from the road before unshrinking it. "Hedwig, come down here please, lovely." he called out as he stripped out of the oversized hand-me-downs the Dursley's had forced him to wear while Marge was there, pulling on a set of more decently fitting clothes he'd bought the year before in Muggle London. The shirt was a little tight and the pants rode lower on his hips than he was strictly comfortable with, but they were still a thousand times better than Dudley's castoffs.
A soft rustle of feathers announced the arrival of his precious familiar before she landed lightly on his shoulder, gently preening his hair before hooting in question.
"I've gone and done it now, Hedwig. Lost my temper with that cunt, Marge." Harry answered, his voice slightly muffled as he somehow managed to pull a t-shirt on even with the owl on his shoulder. "She's currently floating against the ceiling in the kitchen with no mouth, bleeding on Aunt Petunia's hideous carpet." he snorted. Really, he couldn't understand how his normally fashionably minded Aunt could think the thing looked good in any sense of the word. "The Ministry threatened to expel me last year when Dobby floated that pudding onto Mrs. Mason's head and that was completely harmless; she didn't even see that damn thing before it dropped on her. Don't know what they'll do over something like this, but I'm sure as Hell not going to make myself an easy target. They'll have to find me first." he muttered. "I need you to stay away until I call for you, lovely. I know you hate it, but you're too unique and I'd be recognized instantly, no matter what I look like." The silver feathered owl hooted morosely, but seemed to agree and comply as she nipped him gently on the ear and fluttered into the branches.
Glancing around again, he clutched something beneath his shirt before pulling on an all-but-invisible chain, revealing an amber triskele in an onyx circle covered in an intricate weave of runes that Harry had only recently finished translating, two years after he'd been gifted it. Murmuring the phrase he'd been taught when the Goblins had presented the charm to him, he pushed his magic into it, turning off the glamour the runes created. Sinking to the ground, he concentrated on one of the only abilities he'd know about before discovering he was a Wizard, his features changing slightly while his hair grew out and his most well known scar, his curse scar, moved and stretched until it was laying across his nose, making it completely unidentifiable as the one that made recognizing him as the Boy-Who-Lived so easy.
Harry Potter was a scrawny little thing with short, messy black hair and large, innocent green eyes, pale flesh marred only by his famous lightning bolt shaped curse scar.
This boy was thin, but carried the build of a runner, with the tanned olive skin of someone who spent a great deal of time outside in every bit of what little sun England provided. His dark hair, while moderately messy, looked like it had been styled that way and fell down just long enough to be tied back into tail, which he promptly did. Formally bright green eyes were now only green at the middle with central heterochromia, surrounded in blue-gray with a distinct dark gray ring around the iris.
What would really throw anyone off, however, were the scars. On his face, as well as one across his nose, he also had a long, thin one that traveled from the right side of his brow, curving down over his right eye and across his lips, coming to a stop at his chin. Just visible on his left temple and the upper part of his left ear was part of a burn scar that extended over the entirety of the left side of his head, caused by his Uncle when he let the eggs boil too long. Three notches in his right cheek were a gift from his Aunt when he was six for doing better than Dudley on their first math test. One rather nasty one –running along the right side of his jaw and across his throat– was from Dudley's very brief obsession with ninjas, using one of Petunia's carving knives as a short sword. It was the only time he'd ever seen his Cousin get in any sort of, much less serious, trouble. It was also probably the only time they thanked whoever was responsible for his abnormal healing ability, as it probably saved his life... oh, and allowed them to avoid having to explain his various scars to a doctor or the police. Couldn't have that could they?
Aside from that were a maraud of interesting scars that were littered about his body, caused mostly by Vernon and his lovely sister. Though the one on his left calf were from her little beast of a dog, Ripper. And the large amount of tiny ones, covering body, arms and hands, were from when Dudley had pushed him into Petunia's rose bushes... three times... repeatedly...
Overall, the end result was a boy that was completely unrecognizable as Harry Potter.
Just as he wanted.
The Wizarding World at large would be appalled to discover that their precious Boy-Who-Lived didn't actually exist. 'Harry Potter', as they knew him, was nothing but a mask. A mask that he had developed from a young age to hide his true self, whom hadn't had a name before the first time he met his Vault Master. His scars, now hidden with a magical glamour, had once been hidden by liquid foundation and his limited ability to change what he looked like. Before Hogwarts his intelligence had been downplayed to not overshadow his Cousin and later continued so as to not ostracize Ron.
Harry Potter was the mask.
He was Merak.
Packing everything away, Merak once again shrunk his trunk, tucking it back into his holster before standing and brushing himself off. Taking one last look around, the scarred boy spun in place and pulled the second of his tricks, an ability he'd first discovered and had been secretly practicing since he was eight: Teleportation.
Twenty feet away, the astonished blue-grey eyes of an innocent convict hiding in the guise of Death's guide stared at the recently vacated spot in shock. Two blinks later and the shock was replaced by the first bit of amusement he'd had in twelve years. Had anyone had been around, they would have been treated to the sight of a large black dog curled up and rolling on the ground in a canine version of side-splitting laughter, something that would be repeated in the weeks to come as people panicked over the disappearance of their boy-hero.
Sirius Black would later congratulate the young teen on what he would describe as one massive, ongoing prank on the entirety of the British Wizarding World.
Knowing someone would be looking for him, whether it be the Ministry for his underage, albeit accidental, magic, or Dumbledore wishing him to return to his "family", something he had absolutely no intentions of comply with ever again, sick and tired of being the Dursley's slave, Merak spent the week after his escape literally popping from one cheap inn to another around the greater London area, using landmarks he'd memorized specifically for that purpose, long since knowing that the day would come when the Durlsey's finally pushed him too far and he'd be forced to run. And that was before he'd learned he was a Wizard.
Only when his normal money –near three hundred pounds, shamelessly stolen from Vernon's wallet– ran too low for him to pick another place in Mundane London did he head for Diagon Alley. However, he quickly bypassed the Leaky Cauldron, knowing that it would be the first place they would look and continue to look for him. After all, he was Harry Potter, the pure light Gryffindor Golden Boy. He'd had had it drilled into his head since the day he'd learned that magic was real that only Diagon Alley was safe and Knockturn Alley was an evil cesspool that only Dark Wizards and Creatures congregated. And the Leaky Cauldron was the only inn in Diagon. Due to these circumstances, Merak decided against tempting fate, quickly passing through Diagon into Knockturn before moving out of Knockturn into one of the lesser known alleys in the area: Twilight Alley.
It was odd and strangely liberating to walk so freely through the Alley's, even past people he went to school with without being recognized, proving his previous theory; without the short messy hair, green eyes and well known scar, no one recognized him as Harry Potter.
With his appearance unrecognizable, Merak quickly acquired himself a room at a hostel he'd heard about from one of the older students, a Hufflepuff surprisingly, called Donovan's. When one of the 'Puff's friends had asked why it was named that, he'd answered that it was named after the owner, who called himself that because his real name, for some reason, seemed to be unpronounceable by most Brits. It took Merak all of three seconds after walking through the door to see why the 'Puff thought so.
The owner was a Drow.
For the next week, Merak more or less barricaded himself into his room, only leaving for meals and once when he needed to go to Gringotts for more money, until he'd thoroughly reread every book he'd previously bought or borrowed from Hagrid on etiquette towards the non-Human races. It damn well wouldn't do for him to survive Voldemort, ten years of his Uncle's wrath and a thousand-year-old Basilisk, just to die because he'd accidentally insulted a Vampire or one of the other dozens of species that congregated in and around the alleys he was sticking to to avoid Dumbledore and the Ministry.
His first major foray into Twilight Alley found him on the doorstep of a Muggleborn optometrist who'd learned her craft primarily from her parents as she'd been unable to get into a university after seven years at Hogwarts, but had found the Wizarding World surprising fertile ground for such a trade. Who knew so many Witches and Wizards needed glasses, contacts, or even artificial eyes? Not, she had told him, like that monstrosity the famed Mad-Eye Moody was known for, but eyes like the ones used in the Muggle World, produced for a fraction the price, effort, time and materials with magic.
Merak left that afternoon with a shiny new pair of contacts in the making and an order to come back in the morning, happy that he'd found the place. Because glasses, transfigured or otherwise, were "Harry's" thing, he'd spent the entire time since fleeing the Durlsey's practicing focusing his eyes with his Shifting abilities. He could only hold it for a few minutes at a time and it often left him with a headache by the time he went to bed, but it was getting easier, and he only planned to use the contacts on an as-needed bases. He wanted to eliminate that weakness.
Early the next morning, well after the sun had come up, Merak strode down Res Street towards the optometrist, eager to pick up his order. The day, however, would not go as planned as he soon found himself cornered by a trio of Fledgeling Vampires looking for a quick, bloody meal, having been kicked out of the local donor bar for getting greedy and nearly killing three of the donors.
Palming his wand, Merak straighten his spine and loosened the hold on his aura, his multicolored eyes glowing lightly from the shadows of his cloak. "I'm not looking for a fight, gentlemen. Move on." he stated simply, letting his magic curl around him as it was wont to do when he wasn't trying to control it, hoping the Fledgelings would leave to find an easier target.
"Too bad, Human." the apparent leader of the trio sneered "You see, we're feeling a bit peckish, and you just happen to be chalk full of what we're hungry for."
"First and only warning, Fledgeling." Merak warned, completely letting loose his hold on his magic "I'm no ones meal." The two followers took a few steps back, but seemed to take courage, or perhaps simply direction, from the third when he stepped forward instead. For an inane moment, Merak couldn't help but think of them as a Vampire version of Malfoy and his two musclebound bookends, making him realize that there was only one way this was going to end. "So be it."
As if it was an unspoken signal, the three Fledgelings rushed forward, clearly planning to overwhelm with their speed, far faster than a Human's eyes could follow. Unfortunately, for them that is, Merak wasn't relying on his eyes, having already taken his focus completely off of them, leaving him all but blind in the darkness of the alley. They were, therefore, understandably confused, for a brief moment in any case, when they found the young Wizard's wand pointed directly at them, a powerful blasting curse divesting one of them of their left leg at the thigh while the barrier spell that followed left them bouncing backwards to the opposite wall of the alley.
Merak used their confusion to his advantage, flicking his wand to the second, ignoring the screams of pain from the first. With a whispered "Ardeo", a softball sized ball of flame shot from his wand into the off-balanced Vampire's chest. Despite his advantage of tracking them with his magic, he still wasn't fast enough to turn his wand on the third, who used the death of his companions to rush him, wrapping a hand around his throat. Almost faster than he could comprehend, Merak found himself slammed into the wall behind him, his wand slipping from his nerveless fingers as his body went briefly numb from his head's impact with the stone.
The sensation of returning feeling wasn't pleasant, however, as the Fledgeling's fangs pierced deeply into his neck, greedily swallowing the rich blood that flowed from the wound. Spurred by the pain, his magic reacted faster and more effectively than he could, lashing out at the Fledgeling much in the same manner it had Dumbledore weeks before, leaving him to slump to the ground. The sound of a body hitting the ground was followed immediately by a scream unlike anything he'd ever heard before, prodding him to focus his eyes even as he struggled to draw breath passed his damaged airway.
Several feet in front of him, the Fledgeling convulsed on the ground, his flesh actually smoking as if he was burning from the inside out. Thirty seconds after his first and only swallow of blood, the Fledgeling let loose a final tortured scream and, to Merak's shock, actually exploded into ash. In the back of his mind he quietly filed that fact away to give to Poppy at a later date, while absently categorized the now deceased Fledgeling, and probably the other two as well, as part of either the Dracula or Caine bloodlines. He had read from a tome he'd copied from one in his family vault that they were the only two that suffered from spontaneous combustion when they died.
Shaking himself from his shock, Merak mentally cursed as he tried and failed to stand, slowly blacking out as he laid slumped against the alley wall, his magic working frantically to heal his severally damaged airway; he was sure if it was capable it would be cursing him for the trouble he kept managing to get himself into. With his darkening vision and swimming head, he was just barely able to pick up the sound of footsteps echoing ominously off the alley walls, making out a pair of well made boots as they came to stand before him.
"Well, young Wizard. This is quite a predicament you've gotten yourself into, isn't it?" a deep, powerful and highly cultured voice questioned, tinged with amusement and curiosity as it's owner stood above him.
Fighting back against the darkness descending on his mind, scared that he might not wake back up if he fell unconscious unprotected, Merak twitched violently as he struggled to both get up and breath properly, pulling the most powerful defensive spell he knew he could cast at the moment from the recesses of his mind; the full-body barrier. Throwing all the magic he dared spend into it, he forced his hand to move in the correct manner despite the overall numbness he was feeling, smiling slightly when he felt the warm tingle over his flesh that indicated the spell had taken hold before passing out from oxygen deprivation, trusting his magic to heal him and keep the barrier up even while unconscious.
Above him, metallic purple eyes blinked in surprise at what they had just witnessed before levitating the young Wizard and his personal effects, barrier and all, with a flick of his wand, disappearing into the shadows with nary a glance back at the ash of the dead Fledgelings.
What Merak had failed to recall in his half unconscious state was that, when the Fledgeling had slammed him into the wall, his wand had been knocked from his hand and thus had been sitting on the ground several feet away from him when he cast his spell.
He'd just preformed wandless magic.