Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Shades of Gray

Chapter 13: The Letters

by Shadow_Rebirth 12 Reviews

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Characters:  - Published: 2008/10/31 - Updated: 2008/11/01 - 4929 words

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Title: Shades of Gray: The Letters
Author: Shadow Rebirth
Beta Reader: StormyBabe1988
Rating: T/PG-13
Warnings: Death, blood and gore, language, spoilers
Chapter WC: 4,624
Story WC: 65,600
First Written: October 4, 2008
Last Edited: November 17, 2008
Posted: October 31, 2008
Summary: Harry has a dark secret: He isn't a wizard. But that certainly doesn't mean he can't do magic. Unfortunately, it also means that in the face of fanatical governments and enraged demigods, Voldemort is going to be the least of his problems. AU, Gray!Harry, foreign school, vampires, werewolves, politics, no pairings.

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Shades of Gray

Chapter 13
The Letters

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Remus Lupin stared deeply into his mug of coffee, idly stirring it with a spoon. Despite the intensity of his gaze, his eyes were staring through the mug, clearly lost in thought. The crinkle in his brow and the unconscious bouncing of his leg were the only indications of his agitation.

That morning Dumbledore had left to go collect Harry from the Dursleys. He hadn't returned. Now everyone else was milling around in the dining room, preparing for the Order meeting that night and Dumbledore still hadn't come back. Thus Remus found himself in the kitchen, alone, waiting for any sign of the Headmaster's return.

As such, when the kitchen door did finally open, Remus was up out of his seat in an instant. The very second that Dumbledore stepped into the room, the werewolf was hovering anxiously next to him. When it became apparent that Harry was not with him his concern only increased.

"What happened?" he all but demanded.

Dumbledore looked older than Remus had ever seen him. The lines on his face were deep and prominent, displaying the weariness that the older wizard felt. With a low sigh—and a wince at the crackling of his joints—Dumbledore lowered himself into a seat at the kitchen table. After a moment his dull blue eyes lifted from his knotted hands to meet Remus' gaze.

"He's gone."

Remus froze, instantly understanding what Dumbledore was saying, even if his mind couldn't quite comprehend it yet. Even though his mind had harbored such dreads that day, it was still a bit much to take in.

Dumbledore's gaze dropped back to the table and his shoulder slumped as if bearing some great weight. "He left his relatives of his own free will," he continued, "Just a couple of days ago, apparently. I've spent the rest of the day looking for any sign of him, but no one has seen him since he left Hogwarts and all of my locating spells have been blocked. I have sent an owl with a tracking spell after him, but I fear that there is little else that I can do now..."

Remus flexed his hands convulsively. His breath seemed to be caught in his lungs, as if his chest had been frozen. He'd already lost everyone close to him and now...

"You...you don't think that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named—" His throat seemed to close in on itself, not allowing him to finish his sentence.

The aging Headmaster solemnly considered the question. "No," he said finally. "I do not believe so; this does not feel like his work. But we do not know anything yet, so we can't make any assumptions."

"By Harry wouldn't just leave, without saying anything—!"

Dumbledore cut Remus off with a sad shake of his head. "As I said, we do not know anything yet. For now, we can only wait." He let out a tired sigh. "Come, we must pass this news, dreadful though it may be, onto the rest of the Order before the night grows old."

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Neville Longbottom sat in his room in the Longbottom Manor, reading a thick tome. A crackling fire was lit in the fireplace next to him, spreading warmth through the room. He was enjoying a simple evening at the end of his summer.

Or at least he had been until an envelope had suddenly appeared with a quiet pop on his desk.

In an instant Neville's wand was out and trained on the seemingly innocent piece of paper. When nothing else happened he cautiously began to approach it, never allowing his wand to waver. He poked it gently with the tip of his wand and quickly leapt back, but still nothing happened. The boy finally began to lower his wand, assuming—and hoping, if he was to tell the truth—that the wards wouldn't have let anything harmful through.

Not that he knew how the letter had gotten there in the first place.

Neville opened the letter and swift scanned through the words written there, his eyebrows steadily rising as he did so. When he came to the end of the letter, a smirk that his peers would call decidedly uncharacteristic settled onto his face.

With a few quick strides Neville was standing before his fireplace. He took a pinch of Floo powder from the jar on the mantelpiece and tossed it into the flames. With a roar the fire turned green and leapt up, as if someone had breathed life into it.

"Nott Manor," Neville said clearly as he stuck his head into the flames.

He waited for a moment and the view of another room swam into view. Another teen glanced up in surprise from his spot on a large sofa. Neville grinned widely in greeting.

"Hey Theo, you'll never guess what just happened..."

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By the end of his first week of school, Harry was justifiably exhausted. Silvermoor pushed its students far harder than Hogwarts ever had and drawing upon and controlling magic was much more tiring than most people would expect. The weekend was a welcome respite from the work.

On Saturday morning Harry only managed to pull himself out of bed at around ten in the morning. Or at least he assumed that was the time; the odd lighting caused by the sun's angle made it difficult to interpret the time. Surprisingly, there was no one waiting for him to get up. Harry was so accustomed to finding various people sitting on his couches and chairs at odd hours of the day that it actually threw him off balance for a moment.

After grabbing something to eat from the buffet in the Banquet Hall he began to meander though the Cross Ways, unsure of how to spend the day. He was just considering snooping through Silvermoor's expansive library when he caught sight of Ryan ahead of him.

The werewolf was amiably conversing with several other students—werewolves, it looked like, though there were a few mages and elves with them. Ryan glanced up at Harry's approach and flashed the teen a smile. He quickly said something to the werewolf next to him before turning away and striding quickly up to Harry.

"Hey Blake!" Ryan greeted jubilantly. "It's nearly the full moon, so we're going to take a trip out into the Reserve. Want to come?"

"Full moon? What does that have to do with anything?"

Ryan was practically bouncing in place. "We 'wolves always get a bit antsy around this time 'cause the moon boosts our magic," he said. "So a bunch of us are going out for the day where we can change into our other forms for a time."

Harry's eyebrows shot up into his hairline. He cast his mind back to the book he'd read, Branches of Magic. It'd said that, unlike bitten werewolves, born werewolves didn't have some half-man, half-wolf form. Instead they could change into a full wolf form at will.

After a moment of contemplation, Harry finally shrugged. "Sure," he said. "Why not?"

Ryan's grin widened and he pivoted back around to the big group. "Alright, is everyone ready then?" he called out as he strode toward them.

The wild wind sifted through Harry's hair as he walked with the others through Greenland's Magical Creature Reserve. He was momentarily thankful that his short pony tail was tied at the nape of his neck, as always. It wasn't cold out yet since it was still summer, but the wind held a biting northern chill.

The group stopped about a mile into the forest, next to a large rock outcropping. There, most of the group was told to stand back while the werewolves changed.

Harry watched with unabashed curiosity as the werewolves, Ryan among them, braced themselves. One by one they each suddenly began to shift. Bones crunched, muscles stretched, fur sprouted, teeth lengthened, and clothes faded. In less than a minute a dozen fully transformed wolves stood in place of the werewolves, stretching casually.

The wolf form of a true werewolf actually only had a passing resemblance to a real wolf. They were massive both in bulk and height, the tallest of them standing as high as Harry's chest. They were lean, but rippling with taunt muscle and their deadly teeth gleamed with saliva. No wonder muggle legends about werewolves spoke about them with fear, Harry noticed with a hint of awe.

Ryan turned out to be a light brown wolf with gleaming pale green eyes. A thick, fluffy tail waved enthusiastically behind him and pair of bony horns protruded from his forehead, giving him the appearance of some sort of a demon wolf(1). Harry offhandedly noticed that a few of the other werewolves also had horns or other strange attachments. The young mage also observed that Ryan's hoops earrings had stayed with him through the transformation, even though his clothes had not.

Ryan bounded over to Harry, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. It made his wolf form look less like a vicious killer and more like some deranged puppy. Harry chuckled in amusement and threaded his hand though the werewolf's shaggy fur that was so much like the teen's hair. It seemed that some things didn't change, no matter the form.

"It's too bad he can't talk yet," Senka's soft voice spoke. Harry's shoulders tensed, but he'd been around the elf enough to not be so surprised by her sudden appearances anymore. His eyes slid around to find that Senka was standing next to him, looking for all the world as if she'd always been there. That was the thing about Senka: she could easily blend into the background until she wanted to be known. It made her dangerous.

"Yet?" he asked.

Senka's gaze didn't stray from Ryan, who was now grinning a wolfish grin. "Yes. Werewolves eventually are able to transfigure their voice boxes so that they can speak. But of course, that's only after we learn self-transfiguration in our fourth year." She tapped her lower lip thoughtfully. "Well, I suppose that some 'wolves project their thoughts instead, but we only learn that in neuro-magic class, which is only available to upperclassmen, since even the slightest mistake can be deadly."

Harry frowned thoughtfully. Neuro-magic? He hadn't heard of that branch before. He mentally filed the term away to ask Ciar about later.

"Hey, Senka," Harry said suddenly. The elf titled her head to the side, indicating her attention. "You know how elves can only control one element? Well I was, uh, wondering since you're half wood elf and half ice elf...Which element do you control?"

Senka's eyes finally slid around to meet Harry's. The mage resisted the sudden urge to take a step back while her eyes bored into him. Just when he was really starting to get nervous however, she smiled and her eyes flickered away once more.

"When an elf has parents from two races, the element they control is all up to genetics, just like gender is," she explained. "I can control earth to a small degree, but my main element is ice."

Harry nodded and gulped silently, turning his attention back to the group. Sometimes Senka could be too intense and then she'd change abruptly and suddenly seem meek. The unpredictability made Harry's head reel.

The werewolves took off with a loping gait, leaving everyone else to follow at a more sedate pace. They doubled back every now and then so that they stayed with the group but were still able to run to their hearts' content. Harry noticed that Ryan was at the front of the group, leading them, even though he wasn't the largest of the wolves.

The group toured around some parts of the Reserve, passing through various environments. Eventually they stopped at the base of a long, snowy mountain range. Though they were about the same height as the mountains Harry had seen in Scotland, they were far more rocky and treacherous.

As they stopped at the edge of a narrow valley, the werewolves suddenly came bounding out of the trees ahead to join them. They skidded to a stop around the students and Harry soon saw why: They were being chased by a short, thick bearded dwarf who was shaking his fist at them as he ran. Fortunately, he looked more exasperated than angry.

"Go back, you foolish werewolves!" the dwarf growled as he approached. "Go back! You students aren't allowed in the Petur Mountains. This is dwarves land!"

In a few seconds Ryan had shifted back to his humanoid form. "Yes sir," he was saying to the dwarf. "Of course sir."

The squat dwarf grumbled a bit, but seemed to accept Ryan's words. "Well get going," he said at last. "It'll take a while for you kids to get back to the school anyway and I doubt that any of you know how to Apparate or even Shift." Without another word he turned around and disappeared back into the foliage.

As soon as the dwarf had left, Ryan's shoulders slumped and he let out an annoyed sigh. "...He's right though," the teen said after a moment. "We should be getting back. Does anyone have a watch?" When the students simply glanced at each other, Ryan rolled his eyes. "Alright, no watch. Does anyone have an ETC then?"

"I do," one of the mages said. "Hold on and I'll check the time."

The girl pushed her hair back, revealing a small metal circle about the size of a dime on the skin directly behind her ear. She pressed a finger to it and held it there for several seconds before removing her finger again and announcing the time.

Harry glanced back at Senka. "...Am I missing something?" he asked, thoroughly confused.

A slight smile flickered across Senka's face. "ETC stands for Electro-Telepathic Connecter," she told him. "It's a magical device that allows for an automatic telepathic connection. Kind of like a muggle phone, in a way."

"...Telepathic connection?" Harry questioned, still staring at her.

Senka sighed. "You remember how I mention earlier that in the neuro-magic course we learn how to project our thoughts? Well that's basically what telepathy is. It's sending electrical signals that the Wernicke's area(2) in our brain can convert to words. Normally it takes a lot of control and practice to be able to project your thoughts like this, but the ETC is an ingenious device that, when activated, allows for an automatic connection to another person with an ETC, just by concentrating on them. Like I said, it's like a phone, except ETCs have been around for about four centuries."

Harry blinked a couple of times as he digested this, surprised. At first he was taken aback at the existence of such a device, but after a moment of thinking it over, he realized that it made sense. After all, wizards had created the Floo for communication, so why wouldn't magical beings be able to invent a communication device as well?

The sound of Ryan's neck crackling as he titled his head back and forth brought Harry out of his reverie. He glanced over and saw that Ryan was addressing the group once more.

"—should get going," he was saying. "We'll head back by the quickest path, through the plains." Once everyone nodded, Ryan grinned and proceeded to once again shift back into his wolf form. He nodded then, communicating what he couldn't say with words: Let's go.

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"I'm sorry, /what?/"

Ciar sighed in exasperation, but Harry just continued to stare at him, shocked. "I said that you received a letter today," he repeated. "Normally mail would be automatically forwarded to your room, but this one contained a tracking charm so I wanted to give it to you personally."

Harry stiffened in his seat in Ciar's office. He glanced warily at the thick envelope resting oh-so-innocently in the dark elf's hand, as if expecting it to suddenly sprout teeth and leap at him. Ciar rolled his eyes again.

"The charm has been removed, of course," he said gruffly. "The wards around the school saw to that. I just wanted to let you know. In the future any letters will be sent to your room automatically."

"...Thanks," Harry said after a moment. Still cautious, even if irrationally so, he reached out to take the letter. He contemplated opening it there and then for a moment, but Ciar's glare reminded him that they had a soul magic lesson to get to, so with a sigh he tucked it away.

Harry didn't get a chance to even think about the letter again until he reached his rooms that night. There, in the privacy of his bedroom, he pulled the envelope out again and stared at it without really seeing it. Then, with a jolt, he realized exactly what he was seeing.

It was parchment. And the only society that he knew of that was still using parchment was wizards. Harry's eyes narrowed in thought. Surely they couldn't have noticed his absence already...But then again; it was only a week until the start of September so it wasn't too abstract of a concept.

Harry hesitated for only another second before tearing the envelope open.

True to his prediction, the letter turned out to be from Dumbledore. The wizened headmaster was expressing his concerns over Harry's whereabouts and was politely asking that he return to either Grimmauld Place or Hogwarts itself. Harry snorted derisively; fat chance of that.

Harry considered not replying to the letter. He also considered sending a letter back with some sort of a hex on it, to make his displeasure known. But in the end he decided that it'd be best to reply with a simple note saying that he was fine but wouldn't be returning to Hogwarts because he was off training to defeat Voldemort.

It was technically true; it just left out ninety five percent of the story.

A quiet pop accompanied by the appearance of a second envelope startled Harry out of his thoughts. He paused to stare at it for a moment, noticing that his real name was written on it in a very familiar script.

"Huh, so that's what they meant by forwarding my mail."

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One week, almost to the hour, later, Harry Apparated silently in the top floor of Grimmauld Place, into a room he'd been in only a handful of times before. He was taking a great risk by coming here, but the benefits quite outweighed the risks.

For nearly a minute after his arrival, Harry stayed perfectly still while straining his ears for any sort of sound. Only once he was sure that no one had been alerted to his arrival—be it through the wards or something else—did he allow himself to relax. He glanced quietly around the room and soon found himself staring into the piercing orange eyes of Buckbeak the hippogriff.

Calmly, Harry bowed low to Buckbeak. The hippogriff silently studied him for several seconds before he rose to his feet, ignoring the way his claws scrapped against the wooden floor, and returned the bow. Only then did Harry relax and straighten back up.

He slowly approached Buckbeak and threaded his fingers through his stormy gray feathers. Buckbeak leaned into the touch and Harry had to pityingly wonder how much company he got, cooped up here all the time. It only strengthened his resolve to get the hippogriff out of there.

"How'd you like to be able to roam free again, Buckbeak?" Harry murmured softly. Immediately the hippogriff perked up and twisted his head around to stare at Harry, who smiled in reply. "Yes? Well then, let's get out of here."

Harry rested his hands on Buckbeak's flank and began to cover him in a thin film of magic. Buckbeak twitched slightly, unsettled by the energy, but did not try to move. Harry sent him an apologetic glance and then his magic swirled around them and they silently disappeared.

As the floor beneath his feet shifted from wood to stone, Harry took a staggering step backwards, releasing Buckbeak. He'd never transported such a large load before and was surprised to find himself quite disoriented. It was for this very reason that Harry couldn't Apparate Buckbeak to Silvermoor; it was impossible for anyone, even a magical being, to Apparate over long distances, let alone with such a load.

"Mr. Potter," a voice behind him greeted.

Harry turned and nodded politely to Grimsheild, his account manager. He'd seen the goblin less than a half an hour ago, after traveling to England via the goblins' transport disks(3) though, so he said nothing. Grimsheild already knew what was going on.

A glance around revealed that the three of them were standing in a large, empty bank vault. It was supposed to be a standard sized one, but without any gold to fill it up it felt like a massive, gaping cave.

There was a screeching reminiscent of a stopping cart outside the vault, prompting Harry to glance over to the open vault door. Sure enough, only moments later a second goblin led Neville Longbottom inside.

"Ha—" Neville faltered, taking in Harry's changed appearance. "...Harry?"

Harry smirked. "Hey, Neville. How was your summer?"

The wizard crossed his arms in front of him, relaxed, and snorted. "Don't be so damn polite. We both know that your not one for pleasantries."

Harry couldn't help it; he laughed. Now this was the Neville he knew. The teen had some serious issues with crowds that caused him to be nervous nearly all the time. When he was around some one that he was comfortable with however, he was like an entirely different person. Like night and day, his confidence shot up completely. It was too bad that his grandmother scared him too much for her to ever see this side of him.

"Of course," Harry agreed warmly. "I've been around some pretty formal people lately though. I guess they've started to rub off on me."

Neville frowned thoughtfully. "Yeah, you mentioned something about training in your letter..." he said, subtly fishing for information.

Harry easily noticed what Neville was doing and smirked at him. Like hell he was going to fall for that. "Where's Theo?" he asked instead.

"I don't know," Neville replied with a shrug. "He'll probably be here soon; you know him, always 'fashionably late'."

The two were still snickering when Theodore Nott finally arrived, less than a minute later. The Slytherin was a thin boy with auburn colored hair and dark eyes. He was indeed the son of a Death Eater, but he disliked both his father and Voldemort's cause for reasons he'd never seen fit to share.

"What?" Theodore asked, his eyes shifting from Harry and Neville and back again. "What'd I miss?"

Harry coughed to cover the last of his amusement. "Nothing, nothing," he said, quickly waving the matter away. "Anyway, this is Buckbeak and, as I mentioned, I've got a new home for him. Problem is, I'm unable to transport him across the ocean..."

"And that's where we come in," Neville finished.

"So you'll help out?"

"Would we be here if we weren't planning on doing so?"

"Point," Harry agreed with a smile. "So, here's the deal: You'd have to fly Buckbeak across the Atlantic, where I'd meet up with you. From there you would have to take an international portkey back to Great Britain. Considering the speeds that Buckbeak can travel at, you'd be back within a few days."

"An international portkey?" Theodore questioned doubtfully. "There's at least a month waiting list for those."

Harry shrugged. "I've...got connections." What he didn't tell them was that he'd gotten it through Grimsheild, who was still standing up against one of the vault walls, smirking. The portkey had been made by magical beings—not even they could Apparate over thousands of miles; it exhausted the body too much—and as such was untraceable to wizards.

Theodore and Neville's gazes locked for a few moments, silently debating. Then, as one, they turned back to Harry and said, "We'll do it."

"But we'll expect compensation, of course," Theodore added after a moment, ever the Slytherin.

"I expected nothing less," Harry grinned. "I'll be waiting for you outside of Nuuk, in Greenland. Buckbeak will be able to take you there. Grimsheild—" Harry gestured to the goblin behind him. "—Will provide you with any provisions you need and help you out of the bank."

With that, Harry turned around and walked over to Buckbeak. He pulled out his wand and waved it while simultaneously cloaking the hippogriff so that he'd turn invisible. Behind him, Neville hissed sharply.

"I guess you really aren't coming back to Hogwarts..." the wizard muttered.

Harry rolled his shoulders in an easy shrug. "I have more important things to deal with," was all he'd say. He gave the other two teens a grin and waved one hand lazily. "See you around."

And then he disappeared silently. After he'd reappeared in the upper level of the bank, next to the transport disks, he realized belatedly that he should have created a cracking sound to accompany it.

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Harry pulled his thin jacket tighter around his shoulders as his eyes raked across the sea. It was the end of summer, so the temperature was still in the high 60s, but the wind had an unusually sharp bite to it. Harry absently placed a buffer around him, instantly blocking out the wind by diverting around him.

The young mage was standing on the outskirts of Nuuk, waiting for Neville and Theodore to arrive with Buckbeak. Speaking of which...

A grin broke out across Harry's face as he spotted a dot that was growing steadily larger on the horizon. Harry stood; watching and waiting, for only another fifteen minutes before Buckbeak finally came zooming in. He circled around a couple of times before landing in a crouch ten feet from Harry.

No sooner had Buckbeak touched the ground than Neville and Theodore slid off him and fell to their knees. Neville shuddered and placed his cheek against the ground.

"Oh Merlin," he groaned. "I will never curse the ground again, I swear. And I'll never touch a broom again either."

Harry raised one eyebrow, not even attempting to hide his amusement. "Rough ride?"

"Long ride," Theodore muttered. "Long, long ride." He glared up at his black haired friend. "I am never doing anything like that again. Never, no matter how much you pay me."

Harry ignored the comments and instead pulled a muggle pen out from his coat pocket. "This is your portkey," he told them as he tossed it to Theodore. Neville was still lying on the ground with his eyes closed. "Just say 'England' and it'll activate. Oh, and the money has been deposited into your accounts." He paused for a moment. "Thanks. For...doing this, and all."

Neville finally lifted his head from the ground. "...Why didn't you ask Hermione? Or Ron?"

Harry avoided Neville's searching gaze. "They would have told Dumbledore about this," he admitted finally. "They would have thought that it was in my best interests, certainly, but still...I can't afford to take that risk. Not now."

The two wizards nodded silently.

"Keep in contact," Theodore warned him. Harry quirked a smirk in reply.

"Only if you two do the same in return." Without another word he turned to Buckbeak. "Shall we get going, Buck'?"

Behind him he heard a quiet "England" and then felt the rush of magic that accompanied a portkey's departure. Harry leaned his head against Buckbeak's warm neck and let out a deep sigh.

"When did I start trusting Theo more than Hermione?" he murmured.

Neither Buckbeak nor the whistling wind had a reply.

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(1) - A picture of Ryan's wolf form can be found here: photobucket(DOT)com/albums/nn35/Shadow_Rebirth/RyansAnimangusForm(DOT)jpg
(2) - About the "Wernicke's area in the brain" that's mentioned: unless you know what it is, ignore it. It's neuroscience crap that's not important to the story. The only reason I even put it in is because it's do with Senka's character, knowing that sort of stuff. But you as readers don't need to know it.
(3) - If you don't remember what transports disks are, their definition and explanations for other odd things can be found in my yahoo group. For more info about that, read the A/N below.

A/N: For NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I'll be working on this story, so you'll probably see a bunch of chapters in the next few weeks.

I've also recently started a yahoo group for my fanfictions. It'll act as an archive, but also has posted a lot of information on various races, magical theory, etc. as well as character bios. If you have any questions about this story, please direction them there and I'll get back to you. Please check it out at: www(DOT)groups(DOT)yahoo(DOT)com/group/ShadowRebirthFanfiction

Thanks and please review!

--S.R.
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