Harry had forgotten to lock the door behind him, a poor habit he had gotten into since living at the Grim Old Place. It came from living in a place that only those invited could find and was a bad habit he'd work on breaking just as soon as he made it out of this. Harry cursed his stupidity as he watched as the handle turned and the door swung inwards, the metal creaking dangerously as crystals of ice crept outward from the handle, along the door and into the door jam. The hinges creaked in protest as whatever lubrication they might have once had turned solid.
Pulling up his hood, Harry’s first thought was to run outside, but he knew he couldn’t escape quickly enough in the nasty slush that was still coming down; certainly not against things that could fly. The depressing aura was already seeping into his core and he knew that he had to do something. Slipping a sliver of chocolate between his lips as a precaution, Harry did what months of training had prepared him for.
Charging across the room, he missed the sight of the first dementor bowing its head to gain entrance as it hovered, with only its ragged robes trailing along the icy floor. Its head just barely cleared the ceiling, and even so, it would have to duck to avoid the exposed beams and stringers propping up the second floor. Harry grabbed a bow off the rack, frantically searching for a string as the oppressive aura grew and his vision began to darken.
Glancing up, the dementor lazed towards him, as if there was no hurry and Harry's fate had already been decided. His cold fingers failing him, the string slipped out of his jittery hands as he heard a man's screaming command for a woman to take Harry and run. Frantic, panicking, and intently breaking his focus away from his father's last words, Harry thrust out his hand at the dark creature and thought: Expecto Patronum!
A vaguely shaped silver cloud charged forth, chasing the dementors back, but not banishing them. As soon as it vanished, the five dementors surged forward, their previously relaxed pace forgotten.
He'd gained just enough time, though. Harry bent down, strung the bow and drew an arrow, all in the same motion. With a grim look, Harry aimed at the general area where the head should be on the lead dementor and let the arrow fly. The birch arrow flew straight, unwavering, right into the dementor’s eye-socket as it pulled its cloak back in preparation for the Kiss.
It hissed and fell backwards in a heap. Harry didn’t wait to watch it fall, but had already turned and launched another birch arrow at the next dementor, hitting this one in the sternum -- not a deadly shot, but wounding, nonetheless, and he'd made it pause in its approach.
Harry slipped another piece of chocolate between his lips and drew another arrow. He didn’t know if dementors had any other weak spots like humans, so he tried for head shots, since that had worked earlier. He missed. He was panicking in the creatures' aura as visions of deaths passed through his mind. He heard his mother calling out for Voldemort to take her first. Flashes of green filled his vision.
Harry ran again, charging through the doors to the barn, the dementors close on his heels. Harry spun around and shot two more arrows in quick succession, missing one and hitting another in the shoulder. The wounded creature let out a sound something between a hiss of rage and a howl of pain as it glanced down in surprise at the strange object protruding from its flesh. Its inhuman hand closed around the shaft and wrenched it from the wound. With an absent toss, the arrow was thrown to the concrete floor, the extreme, unnatural cold of the dementor's grasp causing the shaft to shatter like glass on impact.
Harry grimaced and hissed the incantation he knew could banish them: Expecto Patronum!
He let fly his last arrow, reinforcing the shot with every ounce of his Will, calling on every memory that had ever worked in the casting before. To his great surprise and relief, a translucent stag of brilliant energy charged forward with the arrow in its core. Instead of the usual effect, the arrow blew a hole through the three dementors in front of him the size of a bludger. They toppled over into a heap.
Harry felt a bit of confidence slip back into his mind as he put his last piece of chocolate into his mouth and charged back to the arrows, careful to stay out of the remaining dementor’s grasp. He slid in, like a batter coming home in baseball and grabbing one last arrow. Shooting from a prone position, the hawthorn arrow glowed with the light of a patronum once more, and Harry dispatched the final creature, once more blasting a large hole through the middle of it.
Breathing hard, still slightly affected by the dementor’s aura, Harry stood unsteadily on his feet, using the bow to hold him upright. He looked up just in time to see a group of three ministry-loyal aurors bust through the door. They gasped, seeing the unfamiliar green figure standing amongst the bodies of the dementors, holding a strange staff with a string attached. They watched, stunned into inaction, as the figure bent over and pulled a strange feathered stick from a fallen dementor. It didn't even twitch, and terrified caution filed them. After all, each of them knew for a fact that dementors couldn’t be killed.
Harry didn’t say anything, but simply slid his new glasses on and whispered the activation phrase. He pulled back on the string, not yet bringing the bow to bear.
“Who are you?” one of the aurors demanded. His eyes seemed to bug out of his head slightly and he wore his robes stiffly, as if he were some kind of manikin or statue.
“Shouldn’t you already know, Auror Dawlish?” Harry asked, his voice rough with the ordeal, and thus almost unrecognizable. “Or does the Ministry no longer care who the dementors Kiss?”
“What? How dare you speak that way!” Dawlish snarled. “I demand you identify yourself!”
“Or what?” Harry demanded in return. He’d already lost his wand, so there wasn’t much more to lose, save for life, liberty and mind. Harry reached down and picked up a dementor by the cloak. “You’ve already sent these. So, what's next, John? May I call you John?”
He took a step forward, dragging the corpse alongside him. The teen stalked forward, emanating menace, even as the dementor’s aura faded in death. The aurors, at least partially trained, pointed their wands at him in preparation to strike.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Harry said, his voice still dark and rough from his previous exertions. “This is personal property and it doesn’t belong to you.”
“Stun him!” Dawlish commanded and a moment later, three 'stupefy's' shot off in his direction. His reflexes at their peak and adrenalin still pumping, Harry threw himself low, rolling along the cold, hard floor. In mid-roll, he reached out, snatching a fallen dementor from his path and threw the unnatural corpse at them. The aurors jumped back, their spells going wild. The cloak came off the corpse and tangled in his hand, and Harry turned and ran towards the barn. He grabbed door and slid around behind it.
The aurors charged forward, but were unprepared for him to jump out and kick Dawlish in the wrist, knocking his wand free. Harry hit the next auror with his bow, the woman’s jaw snapping with a nasty crack. The third spun at him, but Harry was faster. Before the man could even raise his arm, Harry was there, pressing against him, with the hand grip of the bow pressing into the man's neck, leaving him gasping to air.
“I just killed five dementors with this,” Harry said quietly, keeping the pressure against his attacker to prevent words from passing his lips. “Do you really think your little wand can do anything?”
He knew he was bluffing, but he could clearly see that there was fear in his opponent’s eyes. That was enough for him, so Harry grabbed the wand right out of his hand and kicked the man in the chest, thwacking him upside the head with his bow for good measure. Behind him, Dawlish was getting back up, wand in hand and a scowl on his face.
And an instant later, he was back down on the floor, with a hoofmark on the back of his head. Chest heaving with exertion, Harry bent down and confiscated the stick.
Harry turned and looked at the lead auror. “Why don’t you take Mathis and Cobblepot back to the Ministry and ask why dementors are attacking innocent people in private homes?”
The man looked to where his wand had gone and then back at Harry. It was clear the man didn’t recognize the boy with his hood and glasses. The dark lighting helped as well. “You’ll get your wands tomorrow,” he said, then paused. “Maybe.”
Harry heard a slight clomping of hooves as he stared down the man. Harry stood tall, surrounded by nine horses with manes glowing and rippling like fire and pointed towards the door. “Go. I’m leaving you your lives.”
Reluctantly, the three left and closed the door behind them. Harry sighed and slumped against one of the horses.
“Bloody hell, that was scary.”
Harry knew he couldn’t stop for long. If he knew Ministry cronies, and he suspected he did, they would be back with reinforcements as soon as possible.
Harry scooped up the wands and set them in front of the door, locking it shut with the key. He glanced at the dementor corpses. Walking over, he stole their cloaks. He wasn’t sure why, but for some reason, a line Sir Roderick had repeated stuck in his head: “Always loot the bodies.” He tucked the cloaks in his green coat’s magically deep pockets, then quickly loaded up a few arrows, mentally promising to make it up to Marion.
He held the holly bow in his hands. Unfinished, unrefined, but otherwise whole, he tucked it into his coat as well. He would thank her tomorrow at the hospital. He looked up to see the horses still following him. One bent down to nuzzle his face and he petted its nose back.
“Why the hell not? That’s what expansion charms and magic were for,” Harry said to himself before swinging up bareback on the one nuzzling him, and headed out the barn door into the slushy darkness of the park. He’d be back for the hay and feed.
He wasn’t quite ready for his ride. These particular horses were rather faster than he expected, actually passing motorized traffic, which was not really that surprising when the weather conditions were taken into consideration. Harry and his herd paused for a red light next to a sedan with a little child.
“Look Daddy! It’s a Ring Wraith!” she said giggling as she pointed up at Harry.
“Don’t be silly!” the father said from the front seat, not even looking back at his daughter. The light turned green, and the man gawked as a dark rider with nine horses charged off into the haze of the nasty night, a trail of fog kicking up from the hooves as they took off. He didn’t move until a car behind him honked a horn.
By this time, Harry was long gone.
A bus filled with tourists watched as it was passed by a herd of dark horses that seemed to blend with the sleet and rain. The rider looked towards the bus and its eyes seemed to gleam with some sort of eerie light. The bus went right and the horses went left, leaving the tourists to wonder what it was they had just seen.
It was well past midnight by the time Harry got back to the Grim Old Place. He came in the back, leading the horses into the old porch over the long since abandoned garden. He was about to dismount when he heard a familiar charm.
Remus Lupin’s patronus washed over Harry and the teen saw his father’s friend shiver with fear as the charm did nothing against him.
“Moony, what was that for?” Harry asked, throwing his hood back.
? Where the-bloody-hell have you been
?” Remus asked before taking a step forward. He glanced at the horses. “And where in hell did you get a herd of Nightmares?”
“These are just Marion’s horses; she wanted me to take care of them,” the boy explained as he dismounted. “Why’d you think I was a dementor?”
“Those are definitely Nightmares and you looked like a dementor,” Remus said. “I’m so glad you’re safe. We were so worried after what happened at the hospital.”
That brought Harry up short. “What happened at the hospital?” One explanation later:
“He is going to die slowly,” Harry snarled in a voice that made even Moody jump.
“Harry, this is no time to fly off the handle,” Dumbledore said. “She was clearly under the Imperius curse. There was nothing anyone could have done.”
“I know that!” Harry screamed. Tears were welling up in his eyes. “I was just talking with her! And then she gave me a key to take care of her horses and then the dementors attacked and then the aurors burst in! I’m exhausted, I’m nearly turned full nutter, and I feel like I’m falling apart!”
“What dementors and aurors?” Dumbledore asked. Harry shrugged.
“I was attacked by dementors at Marion’s place,” Harry said dismissively. “I took care of them.”
“Harry, did you take someone’s wand?” Dumbledore asked in a low, serious voice.
“No! I killed them!” Harry said. “The dementors, that is, not the aurors, although I could have.”
“Potter,” Snape sneered as he came into the room, “dementors cannot be killed.”
Harry glared at him, reached into his pocket and wrenched out the Dementors’ cloaks. The other wizards and witches jumped backwards as they felt the air cool billow around the teen. “Then where the hell did these
come from, Snivelous? What? I just popped down to the store and picked a few up?”
“How did you kill dementors?”
“Easy,” Harry snarled. “I didn’t use a wand.” He smirked at his former potions professor before turning and heading up the stairs. “And I took out three aurors, too. If you want, we can use a pensieve to watch the memories. Oh, wait, we can’t, because I’m not allowed to use a wand!”
Harry, stricken by grief and anger, stomped up the stairs and slammed the door shut with such force that every floor shook.
“That could have gone better,” Remus said clamly. “We might need that memory. If dementors can be killed, we need to know how.”
“I want to know why a muggle had a herd of nightmares,” Snape demanded. “They’re supposed to be extinct in the Isles.”
“I suppose you want them for their manes,” Remus stated as he looked disapprovingly at the potions master. “I doubt Harry will let you get away with that.”
“He won’t have a choice,” the man sneered at his former school adversary. He was about to say something more when he felt himself picked up by the collar from behind.
“Severus Snape, you are no longer welcome in my house,” Sirius snarled into the man's ear as he pulled him out of the chair he was sitting in. “Go back to your dungeon where you belong.” He released the potions master, giving him a little push to help him on his way.
Snape turned to look at the Headmaster who reluctantly nodded. “He is the Master of the House and so he has the right.”
The Head of Slytherin hissed, turned and immediately flooed back to Hogwarts.
“Sirius, you could have been the better man,” Dumbledore chided softly.
the better man,” Sirius said darkly. “I wanted to gut him like a fish. Be thankful I didn't”
“And you’d have been right to do so,” Tonks said as she came into the room.
“What’s the official word?” Remus asked. Things were still tense between them, and neither had really talked to the other about what happened. Tonks looked at him for a moment before responding.
“Officially? Sirius Black used the Imperius Curse to force her to kill her grandfather and herself in front of Harry, but she was strong enough to wait until after he left,” Tonks answered. She nodded to her cousin sadly. The man's body tensed, his hands clenched so hard the knuckles went white. With nary a word, Sirius turned and stalked out of the room.
“What about the dementors and aurors at her house?” Dumbledore asked, drawing attention back to the table.
“Officially? They were never there, since dementors cannot be killed and it was a muggle house, anyway, so, why bother, but the aurors were
attacked, unwarranted, in Diagon Alley,” she replied with a sarcastic smile towards the end. “Unofficially, the aurors are claiming some super-dark wizard dueled them all to a standstill and commanded a dementor to attack them, only to be chased off at the last moment.”
“Both are wrong,” Remus said. “Harry killed the dementors. Then he beat the aurors in hand to hand combat from what he was saying.”
“He may have done more,” Dumbledore commented. “He has been practicing with wandless magic.”
Heads turned in amazement. From their expressions, Remus obviously knew, as did Tonks, Dumbledore noted. The others were surprised. Remus gave a short amused snort.
“What did you expect him to do when his wand was broken?" Remus asked. "Just sit around and play exploding snap? Harry’s a doer, a leader. He’s Gryffindor to the core. Don’t expect him to just lay back and relax while others do the hard work.”
“Why didn’t we know this earlier?” Moody asked.
“It was none of your business,” Tonks told her former mentor frankly. “Harry isn’t a commodity to be used. He’s a person and the rest of you need to start seeing that.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Remus agreed. “And that goes for all of us. It doesn’t matter if he’s working on wandless spells or not; he’s trying to keep busy, seeing as he doesn’t have school to take up his time.”
“I’m hoping to arrange for him to be able to take the OWLS with everyone else,” Dumbledore put forth.
“How is that going to help him? He hasn’t been learning new spells; he’s been relearning old ones,” Tonks said. “He’s not going to willingly read books on history of magic or other non-essentials. He has
been trying to throw himself into things to keep him busy, but that’s not going to help him earn his OWLs.”
“An excellent point,” Harry said from the doorway. His face was wet, as if he’d just splashed water on his face. He had changed his clothes from his previous “battle gear” to a sleeveless undershirt and workout shorts. “I’m studying, but I’m no Hermione. I’m not a genius that can just pick things up like that. The only thing I’m a natural at is flying, and everyone says that’s genetic. Everything else I do requires practice and I do better with a visual aide. You can’t get that from books.”
“I’m glad you could join us once more,” Dumbledore said welcomingly.
“I’ve been thinking of this a lot,” Harry said. “I’m not going to catch up; I’m going to fall further and further behind. I don’t have a wand, I can’t practice new spells. I don’t have a wand, so I can’t practice most potions. I could take divination because that just takes a mirror test to pass.”
“Mirror test?” Dumbledore asked.
“Breathe on a mirror and you’ve passed,” Harry said, derisively. The twinkle briefly left the headmaster’s eyes when he heard the boy’s opinion and tone of voice. “But the fact remains: I don’t fit in muggle society, either. I’ve missed five years of mandatory schooling and I don’t have any transcripts or such to back it up. I don’t know how to type and I don’t know how to work many other things.”
“But you’re mastering wandless magic!” protested one of the other members present.
“Wrong, I’ve mastered three wandless spells,” Harry corrected them. “And all of them took extreme emotions, the first time. My Patronus came out only when I was surrounded by five dementors. I think I could pull it off now, but before? Not a chance.” He pointed at Moody’s false eye. “Lumos
The old auror screamed as his vision was disrupted by the sudden brightness.
“Now, now, Moody,” Harry chided. “Constant Vigilance, mind you.”
“Well played, boy,” Moody said with a grudging smile. “Well played. Lighting up my eye to blind me; I’ll have to remember that one for the future.”
“When I get to school, I’m going to be a minimum of a year behind everyone else,” Harry said. “And I don’t have my usual study partner. You forget: I studied with Hermione, a girl who was petrified for a month and who still came out first in our class.” Harry paused. “I don’t even know why we’re talking about this. Voldemort killed all of my non-Wizarding friends this week and I don’t know if I’m going to cry, or destroy something.”
Eyes filled with emotion, the boy turned and walked out to where the horses were being stabled. On the way, it occurred to him that he hadn’t even brought any gear to brush them down. He arrived to find Sirius had the same idea.
“Transmuted a few rocks,” Sirius said by way of explanation as he handed Harry a brush. He started cleaning the horses down alongside his godfather, not speaking for a good while.
“Why do they call them nightmares?” Harry asked.
“As legend would have it, Nightmares are horses that live on dreams,” Sirius said. “The truth is they’re like kneasles and cats: they can interbreed with horses, but are magical creatures, capable of much greater speeds and strength. They’re nearly as smart as people and were used as familiars for centuries.”
“Why not now?” Harry asked. “I’d think they’d be wonderful familiars.”
“Statute of Secrecy,” Sirius shrugged. “Muggles started using autos and motorbikes, so less and less people kept them for horses, until finally, horses became exceedingly rare for the average muggle. Started killing off herds to ‘protect’
the Wizarding World. It’s easy to hide a cat or a rat, but a horse was a big deal, especially when we were living in cities. It's strange, though, since their hides, manes and blood are valuable potion ingredients. Also, the Ministry banned them from being kept at Hogwarts. Or at least, that’s what your mother said. I was assigned as her partner for Care of Magical Creatures for one assignment on extinct magical creatures. She actually did the work. Honest truth, she was the only reason I passed that class.”
“You almost failed Care? How’d you manage that?” Harry asked incredulously.
“I was more interested in boobs than books,” Sirius replied truthfully. He grinned, but it didn't reach his eyes and it didn’t last. He shook his head and turned his mind back to the current task. “This might be the only full, or mostly full, nightmare herd in the Isles,” Sirius said looking kindly at his godson. “Your mother would be proud of you rescuing them.”
“I guess that makes me feel a little better,” Harry said. “We’ll need someone to conjure or transmute food for them.” He paused for a while before looking back up at his godfather. “Do you think Marion knew what she was going to do when she gave me the keys?”
“What keys?” Sirius asked.
“She gave me keys to her flat and the General’s, to take care of pets and such,” Harry said.
“I think she did know what was happening,” Sirius said. “It was also a way for her to get you out of there, so you didn’t have to watch.”
“She was really strong minded,” Harry said.
“Yes, she was.” They were quiet as they thought over the events of the past few days.
“Harry,” the older man said. “We'll get through this.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed morosely, as he moved over to the next horse. “I guess we'll have to.”
Neither one said a word for the rest of the night.
The first day back from classes, Hermione was introduced to the latest of the Educational Decrees. Apparently, Deloris Umbridge now had permission to judge who could and could not be prefects. It seemed there were some disagreements that had continued, due to some of Hermione’s specific point deductions and Dumbledore had refused to sack the girl.
Umbridge had taken matters into her own hand and informed the Ministry of her difficulties in dealing out mandated stupidity. However, she hadn’t even had the guts to tell Hermione to her face.
Hermione decided to enlist some help of her own.
“Mister Weasley,” she said to Fred. She turned to George and nodded. “Mister Weasley.”
“What can we do for you today, Ms. Granger?” they said in unison, respect for her clear in their voices. Their last conversation was still quite fresh in their minds, and they couldn't help but have a little worry about her. They could tell she was tense, like a mongoose ready to strike on an unsuspecting cobra, and they were quite willing to do pretty much anything needed to stay on her good side.
“We seem to have an issue with an uppity High Inquisitor and I thought I might procure some of your creative energies,” Hermione replied formally.
“Oh, what do you have in mind?” the Twins said, grins blatantly spread from ear to ear in hopes that she was starting to forgive them.
“I think you'll appreciate my plan,” Hermione said without an ounce of emotion.
It took three weeks to analyze, cast and ward the prank. It was completed by Wednesday in the early, early morning. The Twins, so pleased with their result, did not even ask for forgiveness in exchange.
Dumbledore was the first to notice the change. His eyes twinkled with mirth when he noticed the changes, but he said nothing and sat down at the head table. The students were second, noticing the glaring change in the Great Hall, whispering about the changes, but no one truly spoke up. The other professors, filling in as the sun rose, also noticed the change. However, only one commented on it.
“What is that
?” exclaimed the pink monstrosity. She was pointing to a fifth column, black, but otherwise identical to the other columns totaling House Points. This one, however, was labeled “Ministry.”
“Ten points from the ministry for speaking out of turn,” intoned a deep voice that sounded suspiciously like Darth Vader. Students gaped as some of the magical sand drained from the column. “Two points to each other house for being alive.”
“Fifty points from the Ministry for cheek and protesting Hogwarts' decision,” intoned the voice. “Ten points to Gryffindor for being brave. Ten points to Hufflepuff for being loyal. Ten points to Ravenclaw for being smart. Ten points from Slytherin for being a house of pansies.”
While most of the students and staff were gaping in horror or amazement at the fact that the voice was actually giving and taking points, the muggleborns grinned at the sound of Darth Vader saying the word ‘pansy,' while a certain Miss Parkinson was clearly miffed.
“I find this prank to be in very poor taste against the traditions of Hogwarts,” Umbridge said in her sickly sweet voice that she used when she wanted to sound superior.
“I find your lack of faith in Hogwarts...disturbing
,” the ominous voice spoke. “Ten points from Ministry for being a house of brain sucking minions.”
“This is not right! I command that to stop! Whoever is doing this, stop it this instance!”
“One hundred points from the Ministry for speaking out of turn, contradicting Hogwarts and being insufferable. That is detention, Umbridge,” said the voice. “You’ll be scrubbing the floors for Filch tonight, with no magic allowed.”
“I will destroy you!”
“Your overconfidence is your weakness,” intoned the voice.
Justin, a Hufflepuff, leaned over to his friend. “Wasn’t that Luke’s line?”
“Who’s Luke?” asked his pureblooded friend.
This situation continued throughout the next few days.
Every time Umbridge or a Slytherin took points or gave a detention, the deep, heavy breathing would start up and Vader would return those points to their rightful owners. Detentions and points from professors, rightful professors, stayed, ensuring that the House Cup was actually worth something.
Umbridge was furious. She verbally assaulted the Weasley Twins, who, professing innocence, earned Gryffindor twenty-five points each. She gave them both detentions, which the voice instructed would be served by giving free backrubs in the Great Hall from 6:30 pm until 9:00 pm that night.
Both Weasleys were rather agreeable to that kind of punishment and took off to serve their detentions early. Unfortunately, however, there weren't a bunch of pretty young girls waiting, like the twins had been expecting, but instead almost the entire staff, minus Severus Snape and their own head of house. Even Filch was there.
“Ah, thank you for being prompt,” Dumbledore said as the two arrived precisely at 6:15. “Frederick, I've had a particularly ornery knot in my neck for the last week. See if you can work that out. George, my boy, why don't you start on Madame Pomfrey's shoulders. You and your fellows have put her under a great deal of stress over the years.”
Fred and George shared a look. This wasn't what they were expecting, but they could make it work.
“Granger! I know you had something to do with this!” Umbridge snarled. Her fingers were clenched around her unusually short wand and she shook with fury. She was just about to bring her wand up to bear when a voice cut through her rage.
“Professor Umbridge!” snapped a sharp voice. The Ministry toady turned to see the Deputy Headmistress glaring down at her. “I will have you know that Ms. Granger is an excellent student and, professor or no, I will not allow base slander. Forty points from the Ministry for slander.”
“If that is your bidding, my Mistress,” intoned the voice. Umbridge snarled wordlessly.
“Will that be all, Professors?” Hermione asked serenely.
“The Headmaster would like to speak with you, Ms. Granger, after the twins are done giving him his backrub,” McGonagall said with a kind smile as the pink toady stormed off into her dead kitten infested office of horrors.
“Thank you, professor.”
Bow before the awesome might of GreyWizard who reads these probably more thoroughly than I and divines my errors.