Harry begins to find himself.
The next several weeks passed by for Harry quickly. He gradually got the greenhouse on the roof repaired, and replaced the old soil with new topsoil. Harry carried the thirty bags of soil up the stairs to the rook himself. Olivia watched him walk up and down the stairs. On his fifth trip, she had some lemonade set out on a small table for him. The next day, quick stop at the apothecary for some bags of dragon dung provided all the fertilizer he needed. The glass panels that were to replace the cracked or broken ones came only a few days later. Much of the clean up was removing the nests and droppings left by the pigeons that had taken up residence in the old greenhouse.
As Harry worked, his constant companion was Hedwig. She perched on the overhead pipes that were used to water the plants. Her eyes missed little. Several times, Hedwig would hop off her perch and drop to the floor to snatch up a mouse.
In the evenings, Harry would read Ollivander's book. He would take notes, and then practice the skills at work the next day. Harry found the work to be exacting, almost cathartic. He could concentrate on his work, and let his mind wander.
One section of the book, in particular, caught Harry's attention. It was a treatise on Tai Chi. According to the book, Tai Chi was originally a form of concentrating or refining a wizard's magical core. The focus of the art was meditation. As one focused on the movements you brought your core into internal focus, and manipulated it energies in concert with the movements. As the wizard or witch progressed, the movements could be sped up, and incorporated into dueling. Many of the muggles who practiced the art would report a great calm, and increased health. In reality, these people were most likely squibs whose minute magical power was focused internally on their bodies, much like regular wizards naturally did with their magic. This was one of the reasons wizards were much longer lived than muggles.
Harry started going to the nearby park in the morning to practice. He found several other people also practicing. They had quickly invited him to join the group. As the weeks progressed, Harry found himself becoming lost in his movements. One such morning, he was deep into his form when the sky opened and started to rain. His normal partners had left early, but he was so focused in his movements that he had not noticed.
The colors of the grass and trees around him gradually melted away to greys, then a muted blur. His breathing was smooth and slow. The walls of his chest pulsing in and out like a slow bellows fanning a blacksmith's forge fire. He closed his eyes against the rain and sweat that was starting to run off his forehead. As his mind fell into the meditative center, he lost awareness of what was happening around him. He could see his inner magical core. This was the first time he had been able to sense his magic since he had been sent to Azkaban.
His magic's foundation looked like a small point of unimaginable brightness, almost painful to look at with his mind's eye. Around it was a dark crackling of energy. He swooped in closer to observe this part of himself. The light grew to encompass his entire field of view. As he approached, the black mist condensed. It formed something of a shield around his core. Harry felt waves of cold emanating from the shell. He reached out aprobe to touch the shell. Suddenly the shell lashed out and struck him. The darkness swirled up around him.
Harry could hear his mother's voice, "Not Harry! Take me instead!" A soul shattering scream penetrated through to his core. Harry's eyes snapped open. They shone with the inner light. In the time between moments, Harry could see a lorry skidding towards a mother and her baby. The rain had become bad enough to produce poor road conditions. The young mother had crossed against the light in an effort to spare her baby from the elements.
Harry felt another presence with him watching the frozen scene. He could hear faint whisperings, like half heard conversations. "Harry...."
"What's happening? Who are you?" Harry felt frozen. He couldn't move, but his awareness was free.
"You need to make a choice. Will you let fickle Fate decide your path? Will you be her little plaything for the rest of your life? Or will you take charge of your life and do what you know you want and need to do?"
Harry couldn't look away from the lorry's skid. At the rate it was going, the young woman would be crushed between two bumpers. She could hardly live through that. Harry couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen to the pram. The truck was flowing towards the impact at a slow, painful pace.
The voice continued, "You were put into prison because you let others make decisions for you. You allow things to affect you instead of you affecting them. You allowed Cedric to die. You allowed Sirius to die. Your inaction in this war will cause Hermione and Ron to die shortly. Tell me. Are you prepared to do that, or are you a puppet?"
Harry felt a rage boiling up. His throat was convulsing with bile. The scene in front of him grew in crystal clarity. He hadn't killed anyone! His arms slowly started to move into the next Tai Chi form. His lips began to form a phrase. In his mind he spat back at the voice, "I will not.... Iwill not be a plaything any longer!"
The voice receded slightly and calmly replied, "I thought not. We will speak again Harry. Now, affect the event, do not let it affect you."
Harry's core flared though the shell, as if a portal had been opened. He touched the power, shaped it up his arm, and into his hand. Ahazy matrix of power formed, vaguely shaped like antlers from a stag. His arm flowed into the form, and remembering a simple push charm said, "Pulsus!"
With an actinic flash, much like lightning, Harry's spell lanced out from his hand and struck the front corner of the lorry. The nudge was enough to push it back out of its fishtail and back into traffic again, where it regained control.
Harry collapsed to his knees. He saw the young woman curled overtop of her baby. The mixture of her scream and the screech of the tires on the Lorry had sounded exactly like his memory of his mother's last moments. She looked up and relief flooded her face. She quickly pushed the pram across the street and into a doorway out of the rain. Several people who had witnessed the incident came over to make sure she was ok.
A few moments later, Harry composed himself enough to get back to his feet. He quickly packed his things. He briskly walked back to his apartment. The nearby bobby watched the young man leave the park. A puzzled grin grew on his face. The man pulled what looked like a peg-leg out of his duffel and headed behind a bush. A few moments later, Mad-Eye Moody emerged.
Moody started to walk towards the Leaky Cauldron. Tom always had some warm Fire Whiskey ready for him on days like this. The old injuries ached when it rained. As he stumped towards the pub Mad-eye contemplated what to do with the knowledge of Potter's location. He had known about the suffering Harry had put up with at the Dursley's. He had some idea of the manipulation Dumbledore had done to him. What he didn't know what where he had been for all these years. It had been like he had fallen of the face of the Earth.
Entering the Leaky Cauldron, Moody waved to Tom. The innkeeper nodded and brought out a steamy mug of whiskey. Handing Tom a few galleons, he asked, "We've been friends for a while now, Tom. Haven't we?"
"Since the last war. You know the only reason I'm here to run this place today is because you saved me. I owe you my life."
"If I asked you a question, strictly in confidence, would you answer me truthfully?" Moody kept looking down into his mug as he took amouthful of the contents.
"As long as I didn't break any of the secrecy oaths you know we had to take upon leaving the Unspeakables. What do you need, old friend?"
Moody looked up and into Tom's eyes. "How long has Potter been back?"
Tom's eyebrows dropped into a frown. He furtively looked around the pub. With a flick of his fingers, a privacy shield grew around the two men. He looked back at Moody's penetrating gaze.
"I only want to ask you one thing before I answer your question, Moody. Why do you want to know? If you think I'm going to join the"Bird" club of yours, you are sadly mistaken. Dumbledore may have killed Grindlewald, but He has never seemed to be upfront about his motives since."
"I saw Potter today. He seemed to be meditating in a park. The rain didn't seem to be bothering him much. I almost didn't catch the whole thing myself. I'm going to have to review it in a pensieve several times to be sure of myself. A lorry lost control going around a corner, the skid was going to take it into a pedestrian. Potter's arm snapped out, almost as if he had planned to be in the position he was in, spoke a spell, and wandlesslypushed a loaded lorry from its skid. He then packed his gear and was gone in less than 15 seconds. Even in our prime, I don't think we could have done that with our wands."
Tom stroked his bald head. He shook it in wonder. "The boy was just beginning to show some of his potential when he was here several weeks ago. I didn't even recognize him until he asked for some privacy. While it wasn't a compulsion spell or anything, I would have been hard pressed to have told anyone he was here that night. With time, it has worn off, but even now Ifeel uneasy telling you."
Moody nodded. "Dumbledore hasn't given up on finding him, but I think the Headmaster has lost the track of the light. He's caught up in the politics of the situation. Granted, it's important to keep the government from being completely consumed, but he's too focused. We need to be hitting Voldemort." Moody swung the mug up and swallowed the last of the whisky. He looked back down at the table, and then nodded.
"I quit the Order last week. Albus was trying to get me to reactivate in the Auror Corps. I'm too old, and besides, I like the freedom of being my own commander."
Tom's laugh barked out as he broke the privacy charm. "That you do, Moody. Write me a note, and I will pass it on to him when I see him next. I will not tell you where or what he has been doing. I will allow him to make that decision when he comes to it."
Moody nodded and handed Tom a rolled up scroll case. "It has all the typical security charms on it. I'll be by again in a week. I have a few things I need to do if Harry decides to take me into his confidence."
Hermione closed the door to her quarters. She stripped out of her school robes as quickly as she could, and hung them up on the hook by the door. She walked into her study and sat at her desk, eyes closed. It seemed like the students got more and more disrespectful every year. She thought she was going to have to defend herself in the hallway from some sixth year Slytherins. They had followed her from the library, through the castle until she got to the teacher's housing entrance. Hogwarts has kept them from following her through the doorway. She rubbed her eyes, and sighed. A slight sound in the room made her start. Looking over at the perch Hedwig had used, she saw a small rolled piece of paper. A frown lit her face as she cast adetection charm on it.
There was no magic signature on the paper. As she unrolled it, she realized it was a muggle envelope. It had been addressed to H. Granger. The writing, while different from what she remembered, was definitely Harry's. She tore it open and read.
As she absorbed the letter, tears rolled down her cheeks. She was just glad he had replied to her letter. Recently, it seemed like her life had begun to fall apart around her. She was doing a job she liked, and had coworkers who respected her gifts, but the students were becoming violent. Just last week they had to send one of the muggle borns home. The poor girl had been beat fairly badly, and if Peeves hadn't started screaming, may have even died. The students who Peeves had named had all had solid alibis, but the staff knew better. The ghosts of Hogwarts had declared during the evening feast that they were going into a self imposed exile to the caverns under the castle, until the ideals of the founders were once more in the majority.
Dumbledore had retreated to his office without a word, and had spent the last few days at the Ministry trying to get some of the newer laws rescinded. Hermione had thought about resigning and heading back to her parents for a rest. They had implored her to come home several months now, but she had refused knowing that the moment she left, Harry would come back. Thinking back on it, she had been acting kind of obsessed, but in the end it had been true.
She glanced around the small suite. She thought about the pros and cons of staying, and made a decision. A quick spell and some flue powder had her connected to McGonagall. "I'm going on a bit of a sabbatical, Minerva. I'm not sure when I will be back."
McGonagall sputtered for a moment, then a sly look came over her face. "You've found him! Of course. Go! But promise me you will keep in touch?"
"I will. Minerva, please keep where and why I'm gone to yourself? I don't want him to go to ground again before I get to him. It's important."
"Certainly, my dear. If you need any help, owl me. And I'm sure Filius would be delighted to help."
Hermione extinguished the fire. She went to the small bed and pulled out her old chest. With a quick flick of her wand, her possessions started flying into the first compartment. As the trunk was packing itself, she snagged a quill and parchment out of the air. A quick note to her parents advised them of her intent to come back for several weeks.
A slight popping sound heralded the house elf's arrival. He gave a short bow and said, "Yes, Miss?" Dobby was glad that Hermione had stopped trying to free all of the house elves in Hogwarts. She had finally done some research into them and found that elves that were not bound slowly fell into depression and would eventually die. Harry's acceptance and unprejudiced feelings towards Dobby had in effect bound him, not as a master-slave, but as afriend. Hermione handed him the letter.
"Please take that to the Owlery, and have it posted as soon as possible. I'm going to be staying at my parents for the next little while."
"Miss won't be in the castle?"
"No Dobby. You are welcome to come with me if you wish. I'm sure Mom would love to have you again. Her dinner club is still reeling from the last time you exchanged recipes with her."
Dobby's face lit up in a smile. He bashfully looked down."Miss's mother was very nice. Dobby will pack and then come and get Miss's trunk." A sharp pop and he was gone.
Hermione looked around to see if the packing spell had missed anything. She pulled the robes from the hook, pu them on, and left her suite. A few minutes later she was walking down the path the edge of the wards. With a last look at the place she had called home for almost a decade, she apparated away.