Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Potter's Resistance 1: Breaking Ties

Chapter 7: Visiting day, every day

by IP82 3 Reviews

The first part of my comeback chapter. Long conversation with Rookwood and magical training.

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Harry - Warnings: [!!] [V] - Published: 2006/07/09 - Updated: 2006/07/10 - 17449 words

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Potter's Resistance 1: Breaking Ties
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Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury, Scholastic, and Raincoast Books, and Warner Brothers Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. I do not own Harry Potter or anything related to Harry Potter.
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Chapter 7: Visiting day, every day



Harry awoke to the annoying ringing of his mechanical alarm clock. He slammed the thing off and threw a wishful look at Dick snoozing in a heated corner of the room. He blearily stumbled out of bed and dragged himself to a badly transfigured mirror. He stared darkly at his skewed reflection as he adjusted his eyesight and 'retracted' his one-day beard using his shape-shifter abilities. He was just about to take a shower, when he realized that his current accommodations didn't include one. Grumbling about the unfairness of his life, he started casting cleaning and refreshing charms all over himself as he stumbled out of his makeshift room. He immediately sobered, however, when he realized where was he residing and why he was there in the first place.

Harry was standing in the vast central hall of his leased warehouse. All the old boxes and other miscellaneous junk were dragged over by the walls, leaving a large clear space in the middle. In the center of that clearing, draped across the floor was a half-completed arabesque of arcane symbols, runes and lines, drawn in three distinctive colors. On one edge of the clearing stood three cauldrons, filled with the 'paint' used to draw the image. On the opposite edge of the room was a huge but crude work-desk, filled with piles and piles of Arithmancy textbooks, rune charts, hand-made notes and sketches of arcane symbols. Aside it was a smaller table, with only a single volume of Morhad Arven's collection laying on top of it. The journal was currently showing a page adorned with what seemed like a completed version of the unfinished drawing from the floor.

Harry smiled ruefully at the mess. Even with the detailed description of the ritual in the book, the preparation procedure itself was far from simple. Many things had to be altered depending on various factors pertinent to the ritual, such as power of the participants, magical radiation in the air, premises in the potions, proportion between the sizes of 'tabela arcanum' , ritual chamber and participants' bodies and many more. Then all these variables had to be recalculated in dependence to one-another and applied by making small, almost insignificant changes in the rune drawings and their arrangement. In the end, Harry was forced to take a preliminary introduction into Arithmancy as well as the Rune magic, once again cursing his foolishness for not choosing these subjects in his third year at Hogwarts. Maybe reading tea cups would help me recalculate the exact orientation of 'Jera' rune contingent upon the subspecies of hellebore used in the 'Vita Fundimentum' solution, Harry remembered himself grumbling, while pouring through the Arithmancy and Rune tomes, trying to grasp up at least some basic knowledge of the subjects as quickly as possible.

Shaking himself from these musings and the last vestiges of sleep, Harry started with his standard morning routine, all the while grumbling under his breath. Early morning workout, no shower afterwards and dry canned food for breakfast... How can life get any sweater?
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An hour later, totally awake and alert Harry Potter carefully approached a structure in the corner of the hall, tray with canned food carefully balanced in his hands. Dick was slithering behind him, quietly grumbling about him being too old for this. Not unlike Harry's own 'private quarters', the structure he was heading to was crudely put together from various transfigured pieces of garbage found in the warehouse. But while his hut was nothing more than a loosely enclosed living space, this other object looked more like a rough concrete cuboid, with no windows and a single heavily barred door plastered on the front right side. Even a cursory glance at the thing left no doubts of its function. Plain and simple, it was a jail, constructed for the sole purpose of housing one particular prisoner - Augustus Rookwood.

Once he reached the robust door, barred by a steel latch, Harry carefully deposited the tray on the floor and pulled out his wand. »Cover my back, will you?« he hissed to the snake curled around the tray, receiving only a drowsy blink in return.

Shaking his head, he threw a quick glare at a blue Phoenix perched on the roof of the structure. After his almost fatal duel with Rookwood, where his stalker simply refused to step in and help him out, Harry decided to give the traitorous bird a wide berth, determined not to fall into the same trap of trusting him again. To Harry's relief, the phoenix seemed to have sensed his change of mood and was keeping greater distance than usual, going even as far as to stay out of the cell during Harry's daily visits to his prisoner.

Putting the mysterious observer out of his mind for the time being, Harry carefully removed the latch and quickly stepped back, remembering very well the last time he had just stood there waiting. Rookwood had immediately kicked the door open, smacking Harry straight in the noise and knocking him down. Only a quick stunner from the floor had stopped Rookwood from escaping that time and prematurely ending Harry's jailer career.

Seeing no evidence of action from the other side, Harry carefully pulled the door open and again stepped back, shield spell lingering on his lips. Memories of Rookwood's surprise attacks at the sign of the door being opened were still fresh in Harry's mind, especially the fact that the contents of the man's waste bucket were frequently used tools during these endeavors. Well, at least it motivated me to bring up my physical shields and banishing charms up to scratch , Harry reasoned, grimacing slightly at the unpleasant memories. There was only so much that magic could remove. Memories and lingering smell of human feces were unfortunately not it.

Encouraged by the lack of response, Harry carefully stepped forward, keeping the whole doorway at wand-point. With some trepidation he noted that the waste basket was standing untouched in the far right corner of the room. Harry peaked in further and saw a lumpy sleeping-bag in the far left corner. He examined it further and noticed that the 'person' in it was totally covered with blankets, rolled in like a cocoon.

So, another one of those cheap 'sleeping man' distractions , Harry mused, figuring that Rookwood was probably lying in wait in the near left corner of the room. Bracing himself and pumping up his magic, Harry quickly stepped in and whipped his wand to the left, stunner ready on his lips. At the same moment, a sickly-looking figure with greasy dark hair leaped from the sleeping bag, hurling a piece of crap in his direction and screaming like a banshee. Distant part of Harry's brain recognized the gaunt form of his wayward prisoner.

Only days ago, Harry would have probably panicked, stumbled with a stunner and ended up with Rookwood literally beating the shit out of him. But after more than a week of acting as Rookwood's warden, he was well versed in dealing with his prisoner's insane escape attempts. He took one calm step back and made a circular wand motion, while forcefully incanting "Expello spherae!"

Harry's wand buckled as it released huge amount of accumulated magic into a giant, almost invisible blob, which was then hurled straight towards the leaping Rookwood and the flying byproducts of his bodily functions. Moment later, both Rookwood and his projectile found themselves forcefully hurled backwards and pinned against the far wall, before crumbling in a heap on the floor. Rookwood had just enough time to form a sneer at the approaching stunner, before collapsing in a dead faint, his head splashing straight into his own shit on the floor.

So, a reversed 'sleeping man' feint. Interesting , mused Harry, as he took mercy on his prisoner and vanished the feces back into the bucket.

»You know, you should really give the guy a lesson about basic hygiene, this is getting really disgusting,« snapped Dick from the door, glaring at the mess in the cell.

Harry shrugged noncommittally and started preparing the room for another grueling learning session with his prisoner. »As long as he stays true to his end of the bargain, he can bathe in his own piss for all I care,« he said, as he retrieved a pair of bracelets from his robes. The first one, so called 'jellobind' bracelet, he fastened around Rookwood's right knuckle, while the 'leeching armlet' went on his left.

Harry then cast a basic activation spell and tapped the jellobind, powering it up first. The bronze piece of jewelry let go a wave of shining magic that enveloped Rookwood's entire body, before subduing to a barely noticeable hum. Harry nodded to himself, satisfied that the permanent Impedimenta curse was in place, before redirecting his attention to his prisoner's other arm. He once again poured a fair amount of power into the activation spell, before spilling it all into the leeching armlet. The silver halo briefly flashed with power, before all the magic suddenly disappeared with a faint sucking noise. Harry touched the bracelet and felt a soft tug on his magic, as if there was a low-pressure zone on the other side that desperately needed to be filled. Harry knew very well that any raw magic he tried to push while touching the lecher would keep getting sucked in, until the power trapped within the object reached equilibrium with its initial charge.

Done with that, Harry carefully frisked Rookwood and then searched the rest of the room, looking for anything that might be used as a weapon. He wasn't about to take any chances with his wand dangling so close to a dangerous Death Eater. After conjuring a mat for Dick and placing a heating charms on it, a concession his snake had requested before accepting to act as his backup during these 'sessions', the room was finally ready for the session.

"Enervate," Harry cast at the unconscious man and took a few steps back.

Rookwood groaned and blearily pulled himself up to a sitting position, his moves slowed to a crawl thanks to the bronze bracelet. He moved to rub the sleep out of his eyes, but flinched back when the smell from his hands reminded him just what they were holding only minutes ago. Not that it mattered a great deal - his face wasn't in much better condition either.

"If it's not too much of an inconvenience for you Potter, would you mind terribly cleaning me up a bit?" he drawled sarcastically, trying to stay calm considering his current situation.

"Are you sure? You know, if you smear it little to the left, it'd look even better than a death eater mask," Harry smiled.

"Ha, ha, ha. Very funny," Rookwood drawled unenthusiastically, rolling his eyes. "Now, if you're all done with your little immature toilet humor stand up comedy act, would you, for the love of Merlin, fucking clean me up already!" he ended up shouting, his forced calm forgotten in the nauseous feeling coming from his own stench.

"Alright, alright, calm down. It was just a little joke, you know, no need to get all shitfaced about it," Harry quipped, giving the man a cheeky smile. Rookwood tried to glare back, but the feces smeared over his face pretty much ruined the effect. Biting back another retort, Harry finally pulled out his wand and started working on the irate man.

"I hope you understand that this situation is entirely your own fault," he said absentmindedly, while casting every cleaning, banishing and air filtering spell he could think off. Fitwick's lessons were at least good for something. "If you'd just behave, like any normal well-mannered prisoner should, I wouldn't have to patch you up each morning... Hmm... I'm almost tempted to put you under a nice sleep spell one of these nights... give you a little break, you know," he commented offhandedly while casting one final air freshening charm.

"And I hope you remember the particulars of our deal - as long as you are not restraining me in any way during the time you're not in here, including the sleep inducing magic and narcotics, I'll keep giving you pointers with whatever pathetic kindergarten-level magic you try to learn," Rookwood snapped back, not giving in to Harry's 'gentle' suggestion.

"Augustus, I'm hurt," Harry said mockingly, hand over his heart. "I was only trying to be a good host by taking care of my esteemed guest's wellbeing."

"And I am just trying to be a good guest , by making sure my esteemed benefactor doesn't strain himself too much in his overwhelming concern for my comfort," Rookwood shot back.

Both men, however, kept their tone light, taking their 'argument' for nothing more than an absentminded banter, which in fact it was. After all, their flimsy truce was useful for both sides of the bargain. Harry had gotten the unique chance to receive help and advices from a real-live Unspeakable, within the boundaries set by various magical contracts the man had signed, of course. Rookwood, on the other hand, had gotten an unspoken permission to make his daily escape attempts without fear of retribution, proving once again that hope can be a very valuable bargaining chip in capable hands.

Finally bringing himself up to a sitting position by the wall, Rookwood tried to stretch his shoulders, only to wince painfully and move to rub them on the spot when he hit the wall. "Damn it, Potter, that's some punch you have there. Expello spherae ?"

Harry summoned a cushion from the warehouse and sat down in front of his irate prisoner, before nodding in affirmative. "Charged to the brim."

Rookwood shook his head and whistled lowly. "And overcharged two times over, judging by that shockwave I've felt. That spell hardly had any structure at all."

"Well, it's not like it matters for a simple banishing hex," Harry shrugged an excuse.

"That's not the point, Potter, and you know it," countered Rookwood somewhat irritably. "If you'd used anything more complicated than a simple banisher, the power would have completely broken through the spell's matrix and instead of a nice, structured effect, you'd have a harmless wave of raw magic."

Harry looking pointedly at Rookwood's bruised shoulder. "Not so harmless, it seems to me," he commented dryly.

Rookwood scoffed. "Yes, let's throw magic around like confetti and look all mighty and powerful." He rolled his eyes, shaking his head in disappointment. "Typical novice philosophy. Yes, your wave of raw magic had some minor physical effect, but deterioration of the banishing spell's structure more than made up for it. In the end, your attack had approximately the same punch, only with thrice as much invested magic than necessary. Besides, what if you needed a summoning charm instead, huh? In that case, every percent of spilled over energy would have worked twice as hard against your effort."

"Perhaps. But the fact remains that in this particular case, I needed anything but the summoning charm. It's not like I wanted you near me, is it?" Harry gave Rookwood a patronizing look and spoke softly. "Augustus, I can see how you'd rather snog a hunk like me than your own shit... and I'm flattered, really I am... but I-"

"But what? Already involved with your own hand?" retorted Rookwood, taking up the challenge.

"Why yes, we're quite attached," Harry quipped back, before growing serious. "Besides, it's not like I have a choice. It's your stinking master's fault I can't get a steady girlfriend."

"Oh yes, I can see how the Dark Lord's top priority would be standing guard on the astronomy tower after dark, trying to ruin your style, Casanova," Rookwood drawled sarcastically.

"Don't give me that Slytherin sarcastic bullshit, you know what I mean. He's the reason I have to spend all my time in this stinking place, working my arse off, instead of enjoying the finer things in life," Harry almost whined.

"Oh, so it's his fault you're trying to make something out of your life? You'd rather turn into another worthless playboy living off the Potter trust fund?"

There was no need to add "like your father used to," judging by the scowl briefly passing over Harry's face, he understood the gibe perfectly. "No, it's just that... I'd for once like to learn something because I like it, not because I need it to survive. It's not that I abhor studying, especially now when I'm making such a good progress, it's the constant pressure that's bothering me."

Rookwood gave him a calculative look, their brief bout of teasing forgotten. "Well, there's one very easy way out of this. Join us."

Harry gave him a blank look. "What, you have a study group or something?"

"No, you idiot, join him , the Dark Lord." Seeing Harry's incredulous look, Rookwood hurried on. "Potter, just hear me out, alright? I don't know what lies you've been fed about my lord, but trust me, he's not some evil madman who bathes in children's blood and enjoys killing random people for the sheer fun of it. On the contrary, the Dark Lord is a very precise and rational person. His every action, even those that may seem harsh to you now, is carefully conceived, planned and executed, for the sole purpose of leading our world one step closer to this... this beautiful vision of future all of us working under him share."

Rookwood gave Harry an eager, almost fanatical look. "Pot... Harry , one of these days, you should really have a talk, a real talk with my master about the kind of world he's trying to create... not that propaganda bullshit the public is being fed with, but the real thing. Once you see what a great wizard he truly is, and hear his revolutionary ideas for revitalization of our kind and revival of the old ways and lore, I bet you'd change your tune in a heartbeat."

He sighed in remembrance, his eyes taking on a faraway look. "Ah, just to hear his ultimate conviction, while honoring you with a mere glimpse of his grand vision... to feel this... this relentless determination pouring out of his every word... You realize that nothing... nothing could ever stop him from reaching this goal... this dream ... and, if you're honest with yourself and you truly care for the future of our world, you realize that nothing should."

The Death Eater seemed lost in his thoughts for a few moments, before shaking himself out of it. "Look Harry, I'm not trying to sell you his ideology here. I'm just trying to relay how rational and driven person the Dark Lord truly is. It would simply be against the nature of such a brilliant strategist to pursue his personal matters and vendettas at the cost of his larger objectives. As long as you are not a threat to him, he will not go out of his way to harm you. Unlike what your minders had led you to believe so you would foolishly oppose him, the Dark Lord can be reasoned with."

Rookwood gave Harry what amounted to a sincere look. "Harry, what I'm saying is this. I'm willing to let bygones be bygones and negotiate with the Dark Lord on your behalf. I can see the raw potential inside you and I'm positive I could make my master see it too. Like I said, he's not known to needlessly throw away resources that could significantly help his own cause. I'm positive that, once you prove your loyalty, he'll be more than happy to end this foolish feud and welcome you into the flock with open arms. Then I could officially take you under my wing as my apprentice and start showing you some real magic, instead of these parlor tricks Hogwarts has filled your brain with. Harry, just think of the things the I'd be able to teach you, of all the things we could accomplish together with our lord. You might not even have to go on raids that often, since you'll be on the research and development team with me." Rookwood finished, smiling gently at Harry. "So, what do you say, Harry? Certainly better than letting yourself become a pawn of the so-called light and getting killed while trying to save a bunch of brainwashed ingrates. Just remove these binds and let me send an owl to a secure drop-box, requesting a summoning. You'll see, Harry, I'll get you out of this mess within a day."

Harry, who'd been keeping a blank expression throughout Rookwood's speech, faked a happy smile. "Aww, that's so sweet of you. Can I call you Uncle Augustus?"

Rookwood's hopeful smile became a bit strained. "Come on now Harry, this is not a joking matter... Why don't I give you some time to consider-"

But Harry's face lost all traces of happiness in a blink. "So who do you think it'd be?"

"Excuse me?"

"I've heard a thing or two about Death Eater initiations. You said it yourself, the Dark Lord would never take in the famous Boy-Who-Lived, without making sure I've truly turned my back to the 'light' side. So, who do you think I'd have to kill for my initiation?"

Rookwood looked vaguely uncomfortable. "Well, as you so cleverly pointed out, there is a purpose to these harsh requirements. Giving up on some cherished aspect of their life is a proof of the initiate's devotion to the cause, and it also cements their loyalty to-"

"No, what I meant was, who do you think it would be? Hermione Granger, the filthy mudblood bitch, or maybe one of the blood traitor Weasleys?"

Rookwood seemed stumped for a moment, before responding in a mildly annoyed voice. "Well if you join the Dark Lord, you can hardly expect-"

"Or would it be some innocent muggle, completely clueless to what's going on?"

"Potter..."

"How about a muggleborn baby? You know, take out the competition before they learn how to defend themselves. Or why not topple a bridge, or blow up an airplane instead? Better take several hundred muggles than a single baby. I wonder if there's some sort of scale for things like that? Maybe Vold-"

"Oh, drop the fucking sanctimonious crap, Potter! You know what's at stake here, what are we trying to achieve. The wizarding world has become decadent and will sooner or later collapse upon itself, if something isn't done about it. I know you agree with me Potter, don't deny it. Do you honestly believe we can make the necessary changes with just smart arguments and petitions to people like Fudge or Dumbledore? There are significant forces opposing us Potter, deep-rooted fears and prejudices that will fight to their last breath against the changes that are so desperately needed. Are you so naïve to think that these forces would suddenly see the folly of their ways and step away quietly? Look into history Potter, and find me a single example of a non-violent revolution that had achieved long-lasting results. Let me tell you straight out that you won't find any. Successful revolution has to be lubricated by the blood of its children and those opposing it, the history has taught us that much."

Rookwood took a deep breath and exhaled in frustration, as if Harry was failing to see some painfully obvious truth that was dangling before his face. He spoke on with an almost pleading quality in his voice. "Don't you see that, in order to truly revive our world, we must cut out the weed that has infested it and is slowly dragging it down? We can't reason with the weed, can't negotiate and let it live in peace, only to thrive again once we turn our backs to it and let our guards down! No , we must pulverize it! Completely obliterate it to the extent that it'll never be able to recover, never again be allowed to pollute our kind, halting our evolution towards the enlightenment that our blood has promised us!"

Rookwood paused, panting slightly, and then finished his speech in a quiet, but determined tone of voice. "And if a few flowers get cut during the weeding... so be it . It's a small price to pay for our future." He gave Harry challenging look, as if daring him to say anything contrary to his statement.

Harry hid his amusement at how easy it was to get the man into one of his passionate rants and nodded seriously in response. His initial goal was to divert the conversation towards Voldemort and try and get a feel of his prisoner's real opinions about the Dark Lord and his ideals. He, however, never expected from Rookwood to go out and outright offer to initiate him into the cult. Harry concluded that ordinary Death Eaters obviously still don't have a clue about the true meaning of the Prophecy.

"Oh, I agree with you completely, Rookwood," Harry responded earnestly. "After all, as the muggle saying goes, you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs . I'm well aware that nothing will ever change without taking some drastic actions against those in power who oppose the progress with their conformism and corruption."

"You agree?" August asked perplexedly, before his face split into a grin. "Well, then it's all settled then. If you'd just remove these bracelets and let me write the letter to the Dark Lord-"

"No, I think you misunderstood me, Rookwood," Harry interrupted him. "You see, while I do agree almost completely with your general views and partially with the suggested methods, I can't in all honesty condone your choice of a leader."

"Ahh, I see. So it's personal then. Big bad Dark Lord hurt your mummy and daddy, so you wanna hurt him back," Rookwood sneered mockingly. "I expected more mature attitude from you, Potter. Yes, it must have been rough growing up without parents, but you should understand that they've willingly applied themselves to fight against the Dark Lord, making themselves perfectly legit targets. Besides, you were hardly the sole injured party there. How many Death Eaters ended up in Azkaban thanks to you? The Dark Lord had almost been killed, for Merlin's sake, while you came out none the worse and became a celebrity to boot! He should be the one holding the grudge, not you!"

Harry stared at him for a few moments, before shrugging in silent acceptance. "While I do admit that there's some resentment left from the fact that your master destroyed my childhood, that's not my sole reason for rejecting your offer," he said, managing to keep bitterness out of his voice. "The thing is, I simply don't believe that Riddle is the kind of man who would seek to bring betterment to anyone but himself. Unlike you Rookwood, he's not trying to make the world a better place. He's trying to make it his own place. That's what the title 'Dark Lord' is all about, if you missed that particular history lesson in school."

Rookwood sneered in return. "I, unlike you Potter, know my history perfectly well, including the part about derogatory names freedom fighters are always getting labeled with by corrupt governments. I certainly don't need lessons from some snot-nosed brainwashed brat , who's only parroting the biased slogans his minders had-"

"Oh, would you shut the fuck up!" Harry snapped, cutting another one of Rookwood's tirades in the bud. "If you'd just cease your fucking yapping for a moment and hear yourself, you'd realize how utterly fucking delusional your arguments sound. What, am I supposed to believe that a god damn dark lord who looks like a mummified dinosaur and gets a boner from people fearing his made up super-villain name, is actually a cuddly misunderstood freedom-loving philanthropist under his rough mask? What are you, his fucking fan-girl? Jesus Christ, I thought you were gonna cum during that ode to the fucker's supposed brilliance and strategic genius."

All traces of friendly demeanor disappeared from Rookwood's face, as the Death Eater seethed with rage. "Don't presume to speak of the things you know nothing about, boy . After more than twenty years of service under the Dark Lord, I certainly don't need some wet behind the ears schoolboy, with an over-inflated ego and little to no actual life experience to lecture me what my lord is like."

Harry rolled his eyes and drawled sarcastically. "Yes of course, being one of the tiny, insignificant screws in the Lord Anagram's evil organization certainly gives you a better insight into the madman's mindframe, than his mentally-linked arch-nemesis could ever hope to have."

"Insignificant!?" Rookwood sputtered in outrage. "I happen to be the Dark Lord's most trusted advisor!" At this, Harry burst out into a fit of laughter. "Well I am! I've been working with him personally! He confided in me! Told me the aspects of his plan that those high and mighty royal purebloods would never dream of! I'll have you know... Stop laughing!" And indeed, with each exclamation, Harry was laughing harder and harder, almost choking near the end.

"Augustus, you crack me up," he finally stuttered, trying to get himself under some semblance of control. Rookwood might have picked up mannerisms and pattern of speech from his Slytherin colleagues, but underneath that mask lay just a naïve Ravenclaw nerd, with his head stuck up in the clouds. He found it especially funny that a man, who presumed himself capable of reforming a whole society, could be so blind to the finer intricacies of simple human interactions and manipulations.

"Are you even aware of how many Death Eaters tend to make ridiculous claims like that? Has it never occurred to you that they too might have received similar 'soul-baring' speeches from Voldemort, only customized to their own expectations?" Harry asked, fully expecting to be interrupted by denials or insults. To his surprise, Rookwood just kept glaring, a furious whirlwind of emotions playing in his eyes. Harry decided to press on, not showing how unnerved he was by this lack of argument.

"Let's see, first there's Lucius Malfoy, whose head must be full of promises on how the complete segregation from the muggle world and restoration of pureblood privileges will happen just days after the final victory. Then, there's the infamous Lestrange family, who are probably having collective wet dreams about all the bloodshed they'll partake in once their master breaks the Statute of Secrecy and declares an all out war against muggles. Next, we have Fenrir Greyback, a filthy half-bred working happily with some of the worst blood-purists in the world. But wait, his master must have confided in him too, explaining how he doesn't really share the pureblood radicals' views, but is in fact only using them to achieve total equality for all magical creatures and races. Who's left, let's see... Ah yes, Barty Crouch Junior, a poor sod who decided that the Dark Lord makes much better parent than a day-care center could ever be. I can just imagine how crushed Voldemort must have felt when his self-titled surrogate son ended his career on a date with a dementor. It must have taken him a whole week to find a replacement."

Harry let go a nasty chuckle and then gave Rookwood a penetrating look. "And then, of course, there's you. A fifty year old idealistic fool on a holy quest to change the world. I bet you were the easiest one to woo. Riddle only had to listen to one of your little rants and nod at all the right places, before branding you as his property and sending you in line with all the other idiots he'd duped that afternoon. Just another obedient little pawn, ready to waste his insignificant little life on helping his owner one step further towards the absolute power and-"

"I know!" snapped Rookwood suddenly, making Harry jerk back in surprise. In the ensuing silence, the Death Eater was panting harshly, absolutely fuming with rage and frustration. Few times he opened his mouth, as if trying to voice something, an objection, rebuttal, denial. Then, as suddenly as it came, his fight left him. He deflated and said in a defeated tone of voice. " I know , Potter. I know."

He then leaned in and started hissing conspiratorially, as if afraid that someone might overhear him. "Do you honestly believe there weren't days when I second-guessed my choices, bereted myself for making so many sacrifices for the cause and receiving so little in return? Do you think I've never had... moments of weakness ... misgivings about my Lord's plans and motivation? I'm neither blind nor foolish, Potter. I can see how the master plays us all, fueling our desires and ambitions, and then urging us to fulfill them by following his command. I see the other Death Eaters enter his chamber solemnly and exit carrying a devoted look on their faces, the same look I see myself carrying at times." He sighed and shook his head dejectedly. "It's just that... I'm aware that some things are amiss, but..."

"Sometimes it's easier to just give in and go along with the flow," Harry nodded understandingly. He realized that he had misjudged Rookwood earlier on. He thought him blind to Voldemort's manipulations, while he was actually consciously deluding himself, letting his idealism and optimism get better of himself and cloud his logical reasoning. "It's easier to close your eyes and blindly trudge forward, hoping for the best, than admit that you were wrong and-"

"And what?" Rookwood challenged. "What would you have me do? Hide away from the world and hope that neither side would find me? Piss over all the sacrifices I've made so far for the cause and give up the one purpose I have left in my life? Decide that everything I've achieved during the last 20 years was for nothing and revert to being just another mindless drone, obliviously wasting his life away in a crumbling society, drowning in its own corruption and decadence?" With each word Rookwood was looking more and more sure of himself, his temporary pessimism slowly giving way to his usual passion. "No one is perfect, Potter, the Dark Lord included. He may not be all he claims to be, but he is still the best god damn chance we have to shake away some of the sludge that's holding our society down! So what if he achieves his own ambitions in the process? Anything is better than the way things are now!"

Rookwood took a breath and forced himself not to get into another long-winded speech. "When all is said and done Potter, our world simply can't afford to wait any longer for the reforms it desperately needs. The Dark Lord may not be the perfect man for the job, but he's still the only one available with both the willingness to oppose the current system and enough power to do it."

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, before deciding to take a plunge. "What about me?"

" You!? " Rookwood snorted incredulously. "Don't get me wrong kid, you have lots of potential... even though you're not exactly the fastest snitch on the field-"

"There's only one snitch on the field, dumbarse."

"Alright, you're dense, happy now?" Rookwood huffed. "My point is, all your power won't do you any good in the end. You'll simply need years and years of training to reach your full potential, the time you definitely won't have before you're caught and brought before the Dark Lord. And let me assure you Potter, that will happen eventually, no matter how hard you train and what deceptions you pull. The Dark Lord always finds his prey."

Seeing Harry's mock-bored look, Rookwood sighed in frustration. "Potter, I don't think you fully appreciate the seriousness of your situation, so let me spell it out for you. You are the current number one target on the Dark Lord's hit list. Throughout the first war, that position had been occupied by many wizards, almost all of whom were much more skilled and experienced than you are. Top aurors, dueling masters, rich purebloods, protected politicians... even your own parents, who were a force to be reckoned with in their own right. None of them lasted more than a year. Not one ."

He made a small dramatic pause, letting the point sink in, before pressing on. "The Dark Lord's network of spies and affiliates is almost completely regenerated now. Very soon he'll direct his complete attention to hunting you down and removing you from the equation. I urge you once again to reconsider my offer. Let me approach the Dark Lord in your stead and plead with him to spare your life in return for your allegiance. It may not seem that way now, but I assure you, that's your best and probably the only chance to come out of this war alive."

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment, before exhaling in frustration and giving Rookwood a sincere look. "Well, I appreciate your offer Augustus, really I do. Alas, I simply don't dare change my mind now, after already meeting the devil in person and making my choice known."

Rookwood seemed very eager to mollify Harry's fears. "Harry, if you're talking of my Lord's earlier propositions, than-"

"What? No, no. I meant my career advice interview with McGonagall, when I've chosen the career of an 'auror' over an 'evil madman's cohort' , thanks to a better dental plan. I'm afraid that changing my mind now would simply break the old bird's heart, especially after all the help- "

"Oh do shut up Potter," Rookwood drawled in a tired and slightly disappointed tone of voice. "What the fuck is wrong with you, boy? Why can't you take this seriously? Don't you care whether you live or die? Sweet Merlin, for all you know, the Dark Lord might be on his way here right now, following the link to my dark mark!"

Harry rolled his eyes. "Don't take me for a fool Rookwood. I sincerely doubt that the dark mark is capable of working as anything but a receptor. Voldemort is just too damn paranoid to allow existence of a backdoor through which any average schmuck could send him potentially harmful magic from anywhere in the world. And if the mark is technically unable to send magic towards Voldemort, it's a small leap of logic that it can't send its location either."

Rookwood scoffed for a moment, before shrugging in a grudging acceptance. "Well, at least you're not as dimwitted as you look." He then sneered and went on bitingly. "Of course, all the people who went through my master's shit-list thought themselves rather clever too, but that didn't save them in the end. So, you just keep fooling yourself with your little games and observations. That won't stop the Dark Lord from locating you sooner or later and bringing you down, with or without the dark mark locator."

Harry shrugged carelessly, knowing that his callous dismissal of Voldemort's skills would rile Rookwood up more than any direct insult possibly could. "Well, it's not like the big V is having a good running time so far. Even Dumbledore is closer to catching me than him... which doesn't say much, mind you, seeing how the old fart is still chasing his own arse on the other side of the globe."

Rookwood glared at him for a moment, before surprisingly letting go a slight chuckle. "Well, I can hardly argue with that, I guess."

Harry smirked a bit too, satisfied with Rookwood's veiled praise, before growing serious again, deeming this a good time to make a point. "Word of advice, Rookwood. Don't underestimate me. Ever. That was the undoing of many capable wizards, including your esteemed master, Dumbledore and now your own."

Rookwood huffed indignantly. "Hey now, that was just a lucky shot and you know it! I had you dancing there like a baboon and could have taken you out any time I wanted."

"But you haven't, which is exactly my point. You underestimated me and it cost you, just like it cost your stupid arse master on number of occasions," Harry pointed out and then smirked viciously, his eyes suddenly taking a calculating look. "So, you might have had an upper hand and greater dueling skill, but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you're sitting over there, restrained and smeared in your own shit, while I'm sitting over here, holding you at wand point and getting ready to use you as a lab rat for my personal amusement."

During Harry's mocking speech, Rookwood's slightly annoyed slowly transformed into an angry scowl. "You know what? Fuck you, Potter! This conversation is over and can be continued once my lord catches you and lets me have a few moments alone with you, before your execution. Now, since you seem so eager to experiment , why don't you take out your pathetic little wand and shovel it up your-"

" Oblivate! "

Harry immediately immersed himself in Rookwood's mind and relaxed, letting himself feel emotional texture of the target's memories. As expected, his most recent feelings were extreme annoyance and anger, showing that his effort to rile the man up for experimental purposes was successful. Harry studied the pattern for a few seconds, making careful observations about the way emotions intersected themselves with sensual data, before getting on with his work. He carefully marked the beginning of a 'bubble' and started stretching it backwards through Rookwood's recollections of the conversation they've just had. He slowly drifted through various emotional and sensual patterns, until reaching the desired timeframe. He was just about to finish the job routinely, when he had a sudden urge to try something new for a change. Instead of fear or embarrassment, which he'd normally use, Harry concentrated on strong feelings on happiness, like he would when casting Patronus. All the gathered happy emotions he pushed forwards, funneling them towards the bubble, while gently bringing the two ends together and sewing them shut. The bubble bounced slightly, as a beach ball in water, before slowly drifting away towards the 'happy' section of Rookwood's brain, guided by its own happy aura that surrounded it.

Harry let the spell go and stored his wand away, curiously observing the results. He waited for Rookwood to regain some of his faculties, before chirping out cheerfully "Are you ok, Rookwood? You blacked out there for a moment. What, your own stench got the better of you?"

Rookwood made a grimace, sniffing disgustingly. "If it's not too big of a task for your puny Gryffindork brain, would you lift your fucking arse off the ground and start throwing some fucking cleaning charms around!" he snapped, annoyance seeping from his words.

"Are you sure? You know, if you smear it little to the left, it'd look even better than a death eater mask," Harry parroted his earlier jibe absentmindedly, while curiously observing Rookwood's facial expressions and reactions.

"Stop with the fucking comedy act Potter and wipe this fucking shit off my fucking face, or..." Rookwood suddenly stopped and for the first time really looked at his surroundings. He inspected his hands, showing only a slight surprise at seeing them clean. He than carefully felt up his feces-free face, before exhaling in annoyance. "We've already started the session, haven't we?"

Only then did Harry end his inspection of Rookwood's behavior and nodded, while stating his observations in a thoughtful tone of voice. "So that's what pattern aggregation means. When the latest un-Oblivated memory is activated, its recorded emotional stratum seeps into the current mindset, causing a temporary emotional instability while the two patterns merge together. Interesting phenomenon."

"Correct textbook definition. And let me assure you, it's much more fascinating from your end of the wand," Rookwood grumbled as he made himself comfortable, getting ready to inspect his captor's work.

"Wait, wait!" Harry stopped him and activated the stopwatch function on his newly acquired wristwatch. "Ok, go on."

Rookwood closed his eyes and completely relaxed himself in a meditative position. Only small twitches of his eyes indicated that he was browsing through some emotionally charged memories. While he was busy, Harry abbreviated his boredom by trying to orchestrate a dance act with several summoned spiders he had placed under Imperio.

"What the hell did you do, Potter?" Rookwood hissed in frustration, after being unable to find the bubble for ten straight minutes, which was Harry's new time record.

"Nothing at all," Harry chirped unconvincingly. "Just keep looking."

After two more minutes, the twitching of Rookwood's eyes suddenly changed pattern, indicating that the man has taken on a different approach. Four minutes later, he finally opened his eyes, ending the search.

"Sixteen minutes and 32 seconds," Harry exclaimed happily, sounding mightily pleased with himself.

"Do shut up Potter and explain yourself," Rookwood drawled back tiredly.

"Well, I wanted to do something new, so I figured I could try with using happy associations to infuse the bubble, instead of disturbing ones, you know. And it worked too, it seems, seeing how it took you twice longer than usual to locate the block!"

Rookwood's eyes suddenly lit up with wonderment. "Sweet Merlin, Potter! Do you realize you've just discovered a whole new method of Oblivation cloaking?"

"Really?" Harry asked eagerly.

"Yes, yes! It's amazing, really. Dozens of brilliant scholars have spent their entire lives researching various Oblivation techniques, and here you are, having a spur of the moment decision and coming up with a breakthrough! Remarkable Potter, absolutely remarkable! I'm in complete awe of your astonishing creativity and insight!" Rookwood gushed mockingly, making a grotesque impression of a child on Christmas morning.

"Err... It's not really a breakthrough, is it?" Harry asked, his happy smile turning into a strained one.

"Of course not, you dimwit! What, you think you're the first person ever to try that?" snapped Rookwood, his mocking happiness gone in a blink of eye. He then sighed and spoke on in a calmer voice. "You know Potter, back when I was still working for the D.O.M, I've had to deal with a fair share of trainees that department heads used to send us to show them a thing or two. And every once in a while, I'd came across a kid like you - a bright youngster, usually a mudblood, who'd get it in their head that everything in the wizarding world is completely backwards and stupid and that wizards who wrote the textbooks were all small-minded bigoted idiots not worthy of their attention. They'd have this annoying tendency to think they could figure out completely new ways of doing things, mostly by doing something as simple as applying some ridiculous muggle concept they've seen on that TV thing of theirs. It'd always take them several failed experiments to realize that there's generally a damn good reason why all other wizards in the world decided to handle things one way, and not the other. Now I'm not saying that progress isn't possible, only that, in order to make a real breakthrough, it usually takes much more effort than switching one little parameter and hoping for a miracle. Lucky breaks like that happen once in a lifetime, if ever."

"Or, in the abbreviated, non-preaching version, scholars have already experimented with hiding memory blocks inside the 'happy' sections and found the approach lacking," Harry said calmly, making Rookwood frown at the fact that the full extent of his wisdom wasn't being properly appreciated. "But my question is, why? I mean, the method can't be that bad if I've just doubled my record time by applying it, right?"

"Wrong," Rookwood answered. "Potter, the whole point of cloaking techniques is to hide memory blocks from accidental detection and prevent the subject from ever realizing they've been Oblivated. Once they realize there's a block in their memory, finding it is just a matter of time and skill. Whether it takes them 5 minutes or 5 days, it makes little to no difference to you. And as for why not the 'happy' sections... Well, it's a proven fact that people have much clearer recollections of events associated with strong emotions, booth positive and negative, than of everyday occurrences. You know that, right?"

Seeing Harry's nod, he went on. "The clarity of these memories makes any distortion, like the ones caused by memory blocks, relatively easy to spot, especially for a well-organized mind. That's why, when hiding a bubble in one of these highly-emotional zones, you better make damn sure to associate it with the vilest, most terrifying memories you can find, the kind of which your subject wouldn't want to recall or spot too many details of. You definitely don't place it amongst happy and pleasant memories, which the subject would want to savor over and over again, thus increasing their chance of spotting the distortion."

"I see," Harry nodded. "Still, theoretically speaking, if I were to Oblivate someone not well versed in spotting memory blocks, wouldn't doing something this random deter a potential mind mage from locating the block during a superficial search?"

Rookwood shrugged. "Theoretically speaking? Well, I guess it could work, but your subject would then have to be a complete dunce not to notice-"

"Or a muggle," Harry noted.

"Or a muggle," Rookwood confirmed thoughtfully. Seeing Harry's vaguely smug look, he suddenly scowled and snapped. "Oh get over yourself, Potter. You're like a toddler discovering that a cylinder can be stuffed through a square hole if you push hard enough. Here's a hint - no one gives a shit. All Obliviators worth their salt are long past these beginner steps, having progressed to much more serious methods, the best of them even to-"

"The neutral zones," Harry finished with a sigh.

Rookwood nodded. "Indeed. I see you've managed to locate some reading material about this method. You know the gist of it, yes?"

Harry nodded in confirmation. Associating memory blocks with strong feelings is like mislabeling files in a huge database. It might take some time and concentration, but if the clerks knows what they're doing, sooner or later they'll find the inconsistency. Making neutrally-tempered bubbles, on the other hand, is like hiding a grain of sand in a desert. It takes an extremely experienced wizard to find the distortion in the sea of mundane, every day memories, lacking any emotional texture to distinguish them from each other. Of course, sending memory bubbles towards these neutral zones, without any feeling to use as a guidance, is extremely difficult. In the end, it's what distinguishes an expert mind mage from just any average Joe who can cast the spell.

"I know the gist alright, it's the practical aspects I'm having difficulties with," Harry complained. "How am I supposed to infuse bubbles with nothing, no emotion at all? It seems impossible to me."

Rookwood smirked. "Ahh, so you see the problem. That's why you have your expert Oblivators, who manage to master these advanced techniques before going all gung-ho on poor commoners' minds, and then you have your ordinary Hogwarts alumni shmocks, who make a mess out of their amateur attempts and sooner or later get caught red-handed." Harry shifted nervously, imagining what would Rookwood think of his first Oblivation job. The clumsy block he'd left in that old pauper's head back in Australia might as well have a beacon saying "I'm here! Remove me!" .

Seeing Harry's nervousness, Rookwood sighed and said carefully. "Don't worry Potter, as much as it pains me to admit, you're powerful and motivated enough to get this technique down. But that's only if you drop this kindergarten stuff right now and start practicing the real thing."

Harry looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded in acceptance. "Very well, we'll start right after the breakfast. But first, let me just remove that block I've placed earlier."

Rookwood looked rather reluctant, before nodding apprehensively. "Alright. But for the love of Merlin, do try and keep that power of yours in check for once. I'm really not up for another headache."

"I'll try," Harry fought down a smirk, as he retrieved his wand and incanted "Commeminssate!"

Harry projected positive feelings down the newly formed link, quickly locating the appropriate section of Rookwood's mind. He let the flow of happy memories smoothly slip through his mental fingers, until he felt a slight bump on the memory lane. Harry stopped his search there and pushed more magic towards the distortion, enveloping it and separating it from the other memories, until there was a clearly distinguishable sphere formed around the memory block. With an evil smirk, he gathered a relatively huge blob of magic and viciously pushed it into the bubble, making it literally explode under the onslaught. His job done, Harry quickly retreated from Rookwood's mind and formed an expression of innocent apprehension on his face.

A moment later, Rookwood groaned and rubbed his eyes blearily, fighting a mammoth headache. "For fuck's sake Potter, I told you to watch that magic of yours. Don't you have any control over it, boy?"

"Sorry," Harry winced sheepishly, trying really hard not to smirk.

Rookwood gave him a suspicious look, showing just how convinced he was by Harry's act, before shaking his head dejectedly and murmuring something that sounded like "Smartarse." He then closed his eyes for a few seconds, browsing through the memories he had just recovered.

"You know, that was very rude of you, first needling me into an argument and then interrupting me in the middle of a rather nice comeback!" Rookwood snapped once he went through the first fifteen minutes of their session, referring to the way that conversation ended.

Harry rolled his eyes and drawled back. "Whatever, I already knew what you're gonna say anyway. Dark Lord is cool, blah, blah, destroy the Ministry, blah, blah, kill all the mudbloods- "

"That's not what I said! I just told you to take your wand and shovel it up your-"

"Feeling up for some déjà vu?" Harry challenged, pointing his wand towards Rookwood's forehead threateningly.

"Alright, alright, I get the point, you curse-happy little prick," Rookwood hastily prevented another Oblivation, finishing the sentence in a barely audible murmur.

"Excellent," Harry chirped back smugly, as he let his wand slip back into his arm holster. "So, how about some breakfast then?"

*

As usual, the breakfast consisted of dry canned food and muggle sodas in plastic cups. After some grumbling about lousy treatment, Rookwood selected mince pie, toast and pineapple, and let Harry chop it to pieces suitable for handling with bare hands. Of course, that didn't stop the Death Eater from utilizing his well-versed methods of silent protest at having to wear jellobind during his meals with Harry. He would intentionally miss his mouth, spraying food all over himself, or spill the soda and blame it on his clumsy restrained hands, all in a vain hope that Harry would take pity on him and remove the bracelet during the course of the meal. Of course, Harry remained impassive at his prisoner's plight. After years of sharing meals with the Dursleys, abysmal table manners left little to no impact on his appetite. After the meal was finally over, Harry quickly cleaned the pigsty left after Rookwood's meal, before banishing the tray and getting ready for some real work.

Harry quickly learned that the neutral zones cloaking technique more than lived up to its reputation of being extremely difficult to get a grip on. As he suspected, the main hitch was focusing no emotion at all into a 'bubble', without just 'staring' blankly at it, or in the other extreme, pumping up some combination of frustration and anger. Even worse, Rookwood obviously knew a thing or two about solving this problem, but the contracts he'd signed with the Unspeakables prevented him from saying much about it, which infuriated Harry to no end. It took Harry almost an hour and half of constant practice to make the initial breakthrough and nudge his bubble even a little bit towards the neutral zone. That finally cheered him up a bit and broke him out of his funk, even if he wasn't exactly sure how he'd managed to do it. Unfortunately, at that point, both him and Rookwood were suffering from heavy headaches and disorientation, a side effect of using too much mind magic in a short period of time. Thus, Harry decided that he'd had enough Oblivation training for the day, content to end his session on a slightly uplifting note.

After sharing a light snack with Rookwood, toasted with a couple of aspirins to appease their headaches, Harry decided to move on to an area of magic that was quickly growing on him - magical pooling. The gist of this technique was basically collecting raw magic inside the wand and using it to quickly power up spells, without cumbersome delays during the casting and feeling drained upon release. This whole idea came rather easy to Harry, probably because of the excess reserves of magic he seemed to posses. Unfortunately, powerful bursts of magic buckling through his wand just felt too damn appealing to the young wizard, making him slowly develop a tendency to overpower his spells beyond reasonable limits their matrixes allowed.

This tendency Rookwood seemed very motivated to crush, which was understandable seeing how he was the most regular victim of these overenthusiastic discharges. That's why the first twenty minutes of the lesson were spent with Rookwood ranting and raving about the importance of precision and control when pooling magic and stating all the possible pitfalls of overpowering spells, augmenting his each claim with rather colorful examples. Harry's callous comment that he was just peeved because he got hit with an overpowered spell that morning only served to add more oil to the fire.

In the end, it took another Oblivation threat to bully Rookwood into ending his theoretical session, as he called it. He sulked for a few minutes, but his mood lifted somewhat when Harry finally admitted that his control over magical pooling was indeed lacking and required some practice. Rookwood was quick to come up with a whole family of spells designed just for the purpose of testing and improving that skill. There were several dozens of these charms, all easy to learn, and all with different power requirements, in the terms of minimal and maximal amounts of magic their matrix can handle. Their effect was uniform too - each spell would conjure a kaleidoscope of colors, informing the caster of the amount of magic they've infused, compared to maximal and minimal power levels that particular spell can take.

After some time of practicing with several of these spells, Harry came to realize just how erratic his control actually was. What he considered a normal dose, was actually spiking through the matrix's upper power limit half way through. Harry would usually manage to pinpoint the right amount after several attempts, but this never became instinctive to him, even after several tips from Rookwood on how to sense when the maximal charge was reached.

A whole hour of practice unfortunately did nothing to break him through this block. The only thing he had to show for his effort was the ability to gauge his precision after the fact, once the spell has already left his wand.

Of course, Rookwood was quick to blame this relative failure on Harry's lack of motivation, claiming that he was still too taken by his own power to give this line of training a real shot. After some argument and another rant on Rookwood's part, they finally agreed to perform a test.

Harry brought in three old coils from the warehouse and, with some effort, transfigured them into huge marble slabs. The idea was to select some real-life destructive spell, and then compare the effects of a perfectly powered shot with one of Harry's standard overcharged blasts. Rookwood, of course, wouldn't even hear of using the good old Reducto , going even as far as to mock Harry's previous attempt at casting this spell, mimicking rather successfully the consequent startled look on the younger man's face. After a few 'subtle' reminders of how that fight had actually ended, Rookwood sulkily explained to Harry incantation and wand movements of an above-average rock churning spell they've agreed to use for the purpose of the test. After the ten minutes it took Harry to familiarize himself with the spell, everything was finally ready for the experiment.

" Comminuere Interna! " Harry said casually, letting a brown beam of magic spill out of his wand and burrow itself into one of the stone slabs, creating a fine web of cracks over its entire surface.

"Alright, that's the normal charge," he said to Rookwood, while inspecting the layer of fractures and ruptures with a slight dissatisfied frown marring his face. He then levitated the slab aside and placed the second one in its place. "Now for the real thing."

Harry exhaled his breath and started pooling power in his wand, relishing the feel of magic buzzing stronger and stronger at the tips of his fingers, itching to be released at his command. After collecting as much power as he could hold, Harry released it into the spell matrix with strong, powerful swipes of his wand, yelling out the incantation " COMMINUERE INTERNA!"

His wand buckled back, as huge brown beam burst out of it, smacking straight into the slab with a resounding crash. The giant marble block was forcefully thrown into the wall behind it, only the basic strengthening enchantments preventing Rookwood's prison from collapsing under the impact. A cloud of fine stone dust enveloped the whole cell, but was quickly cleared with a pair of air filtering charms. Harry carefully approached the far wall, waving the remnants of dust away. His face split into a self-satisfied grin when he saw the slab adorning huge cracks and ruptures all over it, with several rather large chunks missing from the back when it hit the cell wall.

"Not so bad for a wand-happy rookie, now is it," he said smugly to Rockwood, still admiring his work.

Rookwood rolled his eyes before returning a challenging gaze. "Why don't you try now with the proper way of doing things," he suggested knowingly.

"Gladly," Harry shrugged, looking rather sure of himself. He slowly levitated the heavily damaged slab away, careful not to churn it further, and deposited it besides the first one. He took another moment to admire the outcome of his overpowered beauty compared to the results of an ordinary spell, before levitating the third slab to the customary place in the end of the room.

"I do hope you know some good physical shield, Potter." stated Rookwood skeptically.

"Yeah I do, but we won't be needing it on this distance. I don't think the recoil could get any worse than after that previous blast."

"No, I meant for the slab, dimwit. You know you'll need several attempts at casting the spell to find its upper limit," explained Rookwood.

Harry gave him a dubious look. "Err... And why exactly couldn't I practice the spell on the unshielded slab and repair it after each hit, as I always do?"

"Because!" Rookwood snapped lamely and crossed his arms, looking rather like a petulant child at that moment. At Harry's challenging gaze, he huffed and shrugged. "Because I want you to see the results only after you've already found the optimal charge."

"Alright, I guess that's a fair request," Harry relented, feeling rather amused by Rookwood's antics. "The thing is, while I do know a few personal shields, I know none that can be cast on some other object or a person," he admitted.

Rookwood sighed in exasperation, before proceeding with showing Harry how to cast 'Lapidea Vallum de Amicus' physical shield. After mastering the spell several minutes later, Harry began alternately casting the rock churner and reapplying the newly learned physical shield on the marble slab, trying to gauge the right amount of power needed to completely power up the hex, without spiking through its matrix.

"I think I've got it," he finally said, after what seemed like ages to the Death Eater.

"Took you long enough," Rookwood muttered grumpily. "So? What are you waiting for?" he snapped, seeing that Harry was still standing idly in the middle of the room.

"Err... How do I remove the shield without damaging the slab?"

"For Merlin's sake boy, don't they teach you anything in that infernal school of yours?" Rookwood snapped, growing visibly impatient to finally prove his point.

"Well, they do teach us all those nice cleaning charms I get to cast on you every hour or two," Harry bit back.

Rookwood seemed on verge of arguing further, but quickly changed his mind and ran Harry through a quick course in dispelling various shield charms, for once seeming more interested in getting the gist of the matter out, rather than taking court with his long speeches. Done with that, he showed him a counter curse that should dispel most physical shields and had him cast it on the slab once he got a hang of it.

"There, you're all ready now. Or do you need me to show you how to tie your shoelaces too," Rookwood snapped impatiently, once the shield was down.

"No, my shoelaces are just fine, although there is this itch on my back that I just can seem to reach-"

"Potter!" Rookwood snapped. "Get on with the fucking show! I haven't suffered through teaching you more of these annoying charms, just so I could hear you prattle your abysmal jokes, further wasting my time."

"Yeah, I can see how I must be interrupting your busy schedule of collecting your own shit and using it-" Harry raised his hands in mock-surrender when Rookwood started growling in anger. "Alright, alright, I'm on it. Although, I don't see why I can't just blast the damn thing away like I did the last time," he finished in a murmur, as he took his position and got ready to cast the spell.

Harry closed his eyes and started pooling magic, stopping the process just at the amount he knew was the optimum for the rock churner he was about to use. With a dejected sigh at the moderate amount of magic in his wand, he performed the wand movement in precise flicks and said strongly " Comminuere Interna! "

Harry's wand shuddered slightly, releasing a good sized brown beam of magic that flew straight towards the marble slab, before disappearing completely, as if swallowed by the stone. That was the last thing Harry saw before the whole room was enveloped in a suffocating cloud of stone dust. Harry started throwing air fresheners around, feeling slightly confused by this development. There wasn't much of an impact there, was it? The slab hasn't even swayed when the spell hit it. So where's all this dust coming from? he mused.

Harry was slowly approaching the slab, clearing the air in front of him, only to realize that the slab was gone and in its place stood a large pile of pulverized rocks and stone boulders, most of which not exceeding the size of his fist. He did a double take at the pile of rubble before him, before turning back to Rookwood, an expression of utter confusion plastered over his face. There wasn't need for Rookwood to say I told you so ; his utterly smug and self-satisfied look spoke more than words could ever express.

"I told you so, Potter! I told you my way would work better, didn't I? Of course I did! But do you ever listen? No! All you teenagers think you know the best, even when people much smarter and more experienced..."

Well, it's not like I'd ever thought Rookwood above pettiness, Harry grumbled mentally, before tuning out his prisoner's gloating and thinking on what had just happened. As much as he loathed to admit it, it turned out Rookwood had been absolutely right. While his overpowered shot packed much stronger punch, there was an obvious loss in the effects of the spell, a clear consequence of the overabundance of power spilling over its matrix. Harry came to realize that, as much as he thought himself above such failings, he had been rather taken by the blissful feeling of power dancing on his fingertips. He decided to end this bad practice right then and there, and in future, concentrate harder on gaining a firmer control over his magic. After all, there are names for wizards who end up having their magic control them, instead of the other way around, and none of them was what he'd like to be remembered by.

Harry was just about to suggest some more pooling practice, when a wave of dizziness and sleepiness informed him of just how much magic he'd thrown around that morning. He took a glance at his wristwatch and was surprised when he saw it was already one o'clock in the afternoon. Time flies when you're making progress, he thought drowsily, the exhaustion finally catching up to him full force.

"What Potter, am I boring you?" Rookwood snapped snidely at seeing Harry groggily taking a look at his wristwatch. "Is this another thing I know nothing about and you know the best? Like oh, I don't know, that magical pooling thing? Remember? The one that I was absolutely right -"

"No, but I'm afraid it's time for my midday nap," Harry said casually, before whipping a stunner straight at the unsuspecting Rookwood's forehead.

»Finally!« snapped Dick, who had been dozing contently in his corner until the blast tests started. »I thought that man would never shut up. Tom really knows how to pick them, eh?«

»Indeed,« answered Harry tiredly, while casting several more sleeping and restraining spells on his unconscious prisoner. »Would you look out over him while I catch some rest? Thanks, Dick.«

Without waiting to hear the ensuing grumbling from his pet, Harry trudged out of the cell and towards his own bunk. He fumbled with his bedside cabinet for a moment, before gulping a fall-asleep biscuit, followed by a nutrition cocktail and a restoration draught. With last vestiges of consciousness he turned the alarm clock on, before finally falling into a deep, replenishing sleep.
------------------------------------
After the annoying ringing woke him up at 3 PM sharp, Harry trudged back to the cell, ready for a few more hours of practice before calling it a day. Upon further reflection, he decided not to restart his magical pooling practice, content to let his new awareness about this technique sink in over the night. Instead, he decided to move on to a similar, and yet much more harder area of magic - the infamous 'free wielding' .

This technique was similar to magical pooling in the way that both skills required directing raw magic into one's wand. But this is where every similarity between the two ended. Magical pooling was consisted of accumulating wild magic inside one's wand, and then using it to power up standardized spells, increasing both their potency and the speed of casting. With free wielding , however, one would push this wild magic straight into the outside world and will it to perform the desired effect, completely circumventing the usage of spells, wand movements and incantations. Needless to say, this was much harder than simply providing the raw magic and letting the spell matrix do all the work.

Not an easy thing to learn, but in the end, I feel it'll be well worth the effort, Harry mused, while he recharged the bracelets on Rookwood's arms and cleaned the cell up a bit, banishing the stone slabs and refuse back to the warehouse. Done with the janitor work, he approached his prisoner carefully, a wicked smirk playing on his lips.

" Ennervate ," he cast on Rookwood quietly, before shaking him awake urgently. "Wake up, Augustus! Wake up, damn it! Hurry up, you fool, the master is coming to see you," he yelled panicky, trying to keep a smile from his face.

Rookwood immediately snapped up, deer in a headlight expression on his face. He whirled his head a few times anxiously, before his eyes caught a smiling form of Harry looming over him. "Blast it Potter, that wasn't funny even the first time you've pulled it, and it's getting pretty fucking annoying after more than a week!" he snapped at Harry, massaging his aching head.

"Trust me, it's much funnier from my point of view," Harry quipped back cheekily, smiling even more when Dick full-heartedly confirmed this from his corner of the room.

Of course, this was the moment when Rookwood remembered the 'conversation' they were having, before Harry called his daily time-out. He seemingly had every intention of returning right back into it, but a few well placed Oblivation threats assured him how bad idea that would have been. This whole ordeal put him into quite a bad mood during the lunch, which to Harry's misfortune, hasn't deterred him much from exercising his rights on silent protest against prisoner mishandling. Thus, after the meal was done, Harry was once again forced to apply his rapidly developing knowledge of cleaning charms and restore Rookwood to something resembling a civilized human being.

Strangely, Rookwood hasn't made too much of a fuss when Harry informed him of moving the training on to the next subject. It might had something to do with free wielding being very similar to magical pooling , but Harry suspected that the real reason was more likely his own humble admission that he had been wrong about the whole issue of overcharging spells.

Thus, with the self-satisfied air of a man who deemed himself gifted with both the unmatched intellect, ensuring that he's always right, and a kind heart, allowing him to forgive those less fortunate than himself, Rookwood pointed out how now, once Harry had finally grasped the importance of control, he expected of him to double the effort he invested in practicing that particular aspect of the free wielding . Of course, after a comment like this, it wasn't too hard to divine what course Rookwood thought the next lesson should take.

"Alright, so power-flow training it is," Harry sighed half-heartedly, accepting his quasi-mentor's not-so-veiled suggestion. He knew better than to hope for a nice blasting practice, while Rookwood was still high from his earlier moral victory and looking to rub it in any chance he get. Of course, Harry could have easily put his foot down and decided to practice anything he wanted, but the experience had taught him that Rookwood was at his most helpful when he was given a measure of control over the course of training.

Besides, Harry thought , it's not like I'm opposed to improving my control over the power flow, especially after that demonstration I've just witnessed. Refusing Rookwood's suggestion now wouldn't achieve anything, other than make me feel like a spiteful, vindictive jerk , he concluded.

"I'll just bring in the pinball machine and get it ready," Harry said offhandedly, before swiftly walking out of the cell, cutting off Rookwood's oncoming rebuttal. He returned a minute later, levitating what seemed like a waist-high, hedged table, with one pair of legs significantly higher than the other.

"It's called the gravity-hopper Potter, and you know it well!" Rookwood lashed out the objection he'd swallowed a minute ago, while Harry carefully deposited the contraption in the corner of the cell and tossed a billiard-sized ball in the hedged area. Thankfully, the start of the training session moments later prevented further bickering about the name of the mysterious object.

It's actually been almost a week since Rookwood had pulled out this particular teaching aid out of his proverbial pocket, and offered it to Harry as a way of improving his abyssal control over the power flow while free wielding. Rookwood's Unspeakable tutors had called it a gravity-hopper , when they first introduced it to him during his own training. His death eater colleagues and pureblood aristocrats knew it by that name as well. Dick confirmed that even Tom referred to it as such, a picture that for some reason drew a smile to Harry's face. But as soon as Harry first saw what the item he needed to craft actually looked like, he immediately rechristened it to what he considered a much more appropriate and ultimately cooler name - 'the pinball machine' . Of course, Rookwood's indignation at the usage of muggle-based title was just an additional bonus for the young wizard.

In reality, the contraption was hardly a pinball machine in the classical sense of that word. It did have a slated surface and a ball trapped within it, but it lacked any obstacles and flippers in the bottom of the table, requiring from 'player' to control the ball using magic instead of mechanics. The rules of the 'game' were quite simple; Use magic to keep the ball in the middle of slope as long as possible. Any contact with either the upper or the lower edge of the panel signals the end of game.

Of course, as with most things regarding magic, the game was actually much harder than it first appeared to be. Harry would either push too much magic and slam the ball into the upper boarder, or disperse the flow completely, letting the damn thing slid all the way to the bottom.

But today, after the moral defeat he'd just suffered, Harry was determined to give the defiant ball a run for its money and wipe that self-satisfied look from Rookwood's face.
------------------------------------
After two hours of relentless practice, intersected by Rookwood giving an occasional advice or a rant about something that bothered him in the modern magical world, both men were completely exhausted. Harry was tiredly leaning over his makeshift pinball machine, trying to glare a hole through the uncooperative ball, while beads of sweat slowly dripped from his furrowed forehead. Rookwood wasn't in much better condition either, overuse of various mind magics and restraining bracelets taking an obvious toll on both his mind and body.

Seeing Harry's frustration, Rookwood tried to encourage him from his vantage point on the ground. "Relax Potter, you did good for a rooky today, better than usual in any case. Why don't we call it a day?"

Harry redirected his glare at the Death Eater, before sighing in frustration. "I think I'll give it another try. Maybe I manage to break the record this time," he decided.

Rookwood waved him off indifferently. "Knock your self out, kid."

»Actually, try not to knock yourself out. I'm really not up for wrestling with the amazing shitman again«, piped in Dick from his cot, referring to the incident from three days ago, when Harry was rendered unconscious by a misfired spell and only Dick's quick reaction prevented Rookwood from grabbing his wand. It's a good thing crawling never came as naturally to humans as it did to snakes.

»Why not? It would do you world of good to stretch your legs a bit, you lazy slug,« Harry jibed back, managing a weak smile at his animal partner.

»My legs are just fine, thank you very much!« snapped back Dick, before realizing what he was saying. It happened to him a lot.

»Well, suit yourself. If you wanna spend your whole life laying around, that's your choice,« Harry responded and redirected his attention to the task at hand, leaving Dick to grumble to himself how certain humans should keep their nose out of his preferred way of life, thank you very much.

Feeling slightly better after having some friendly banter with his snake friend, Harry positioned himself in front of the pinball machine and relaxed. He started slowly pushing magic into the wand, as he would when pooling magic, until he felt it hit sort of a barrier in the very tip of the shaft. He immediately recognized the infamous 'wild threshold' , an invisible wall that separates wizard's own magic from the outside world and the source of liters and liters of tears and sweat shed by countless aspiring wizards throughout the history.

Simply put, learning to breach this wall is what separates an excellent wizard from a merely capable one, or as some prefer to say, a true magical person from a person that can use magic. Mastering this technique enables direct application of magic in the physical world, without cumbersome incantations and wand movements, which gives so called 'free wielders' a nice edge in combat and a few other areas of magic. Unfortunately, this technique comes with a cost. Without incantations and spells to draw magic out and shape it into a desired effect, it's up to wizard himself to do all this, with the strength of will and magical skill alone. Of course, however talented he might be at manipulating raw magic, no wizard could ever hope to match the precision, complexity and variety of effects that structured magic has to offer. That's why this technique had largely fallen out of practice with the invention of spellcrafting , leaving the famous Merlin for its last great practitioner. That's also why mastering this technique nowadays isn't so much a matter of a necessity for the average folk, as a matter of prestige and status in the circles of wizards and witches who are aware that there's much more to magic than mere wand waving and spell casting.

For his part, Harry hadn't understood what the big deal about this art was, until he actually tried his hand at it, two weeks prior to his birthday. Detailed information about free wielding, as it turned out, was suspiciously hard to find, but he was eventually able to piece together a rough method from several different manuscripts he had managed to locate. Instructions finally at hand, he eagerly threw himself into the exciting new field of magic, only to slam head-first into the infamous wild threshold , an obstacle many wizards throughout the history found impossible to breach.

At that point, Harry was already well-versed with magical pooling , which made the first part of the process, pushing magic into the wand, rather simple to achieve. But after he'd accumulate a nice blob of magic inside the tip, the real torture would begin. No matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn't figure out the way to push magic beyond the wand and into the physical world. But Harry was nothing if not determined. Night after night he'd slam his magic against the threshold, pushing with all his strength until literally collapsing from exhaustion. And all his efforts had finally paid off two weeks ago, after nearly a month of nightly practices.

On that particular night, he started his wielding practice later than usual, feeling already drained from the hard day's work. His exhaustion quickly reared its ugly head, rendering him unable to form even a half-decent effort against the threshold. Frustrated, he pushed over and over again, trying to drain the last drop from an already dry sponge. And then, something strange happened, a feeling he vaguely remembered experiencing each time he'd performed accidental magic during his childhood. His magic, for the lack of better term, coagulated . What used to be an intangible spectral web congregating towards his wand, suddenly constricted into a focused beam of magic, turning almost corporal in its narrowest point. The following push crashed harder then ever against the barrier, making the invisible block burst like a soap bubble under the onslaught. Harry was forced to throw himself to the ground, as a mighty wave of magic leaped out of his wand, taking away both the wooden table and the practice feather on it, and slamming them both against the opposite wall with a resounding crash. That night cost him half an hour of flirting with Clarissa the clerk, to hush up the incident. It also cost him five galleons worth of Ogden's Finest and a galleon of anti-hangover potion in the morning.

But even more important, that was the night when Harry realized a vital piece of information about free wielding, a fact that was suspiciously left out of all the publications dealing with this subject - the amount of power doesn't matter . As Harry experienced first hand, simply pressing huge amounts of magic against the barrier wouldn't even make a dent in it. It's the concentration of magic that counts, that is the key to passing the infamous free threshold. What many wizards fail to grasp is that coagulating magic is completely different technique from increasing its amount , popularly referred to as 'magical power'. The latter concept is a decisive factor when performing structured magic, which is why any average wizard or witch is very well versed in dealing with it. The former, however, had largely fallen out of practice, both technically and evolutionally. Unlike certain magical creatures that can coagulate magic instinctively, wizards gradually lose this ability during their ontogenesis, resulting in performing less and less accidental magic , until it finally ceases altogether somewhere in the early teens. That's why all prospective wild wielders must workout these atrophied muscles, before even thinking of learning how to shape magic to having one effect or the other. In retrospect, Harry concluded that the process is similar to learning how to wiggle your ears; It seems impossible at first, usually resulting in moving some surrounding muscles, but after the initial breakthrough, it gets easier with each try.

Thus, after breaking the barrier for the first time, Harry threw himself into the free wielding with a renewed gusto, slowly learning how to coagulate his magic without making those annoying power spikes, that tend to blow up feathers and launch balls over the edge of the pinball table.

All this briefly flicked through Harry's mind, as he let his magic wash over the threshold for a moment, before retreating it to a moderate level. He then closed his eyes and concentrated on a delicate drapery twisting itself into his wand, forcing his newly found muscles to intensify it into a constricted ramming beam directed towards the accursed barrier. After ten seconds of utmost concentration, he reached the highest thread intensity he could muster at the moment, and then pushed it gently towards the tip. He felt the barrier give way, as an invisible beam of magic burst out of his wand towards the red ball laying in the boarded bottom of the slanted surface. The ball jumped upwards, for a moment threatening to hit the top edge, but Harry quickly quenched the power, letting it slide down towards the safe area in the middle. Harry only vaguely registered Rookwood activating a stopwatch, his whole concentration was on regulating the beam of magic, trying to keep up its intensity, without increasing the power output. And indeed, what followed was a strange dance, where the ball would jump up during power spikes and slid down when the beam would lose its consistency. Small beads of sweat appeared on Harry's forehead, but he kept the attention on the pinball, determined to keep the game going as long as possible. Unfortunately, his concentration soon began to slip as fatigue kicked in, resulting in bigger and bigger oscillations the ball was making over the board. Finally, the beam lost its focus for a moment too long, allowing the ball to hit the bottom screen.

"Fuck!" Harry cursed viciously and lashed out in frustration, launching the ball over the pinball's top, into the wall behind it and from there, bouncing all over the cell. "Time?" he barked at his prisoner.

"1 minute, 27 seconds, and I assure you Potter, I can hear perfectly well," Rookwood drawled back, his impassiveness indicating that this was the way Harry's 'pinball games' often ended.

"Fuck! Four seconds short of the record!" Harry cursed, as he brandished his wand furiously and banished the pinball table back to the warehouse, not caring it hit something on its way. The ease and simplicity of good old spellwork came to Harry like a cold, refreshing shower after a scorching day at work. Done with his little temper tantrum, he threw himself on a cushion against the wall across from Rookwood and exhaled in relief as he stretched out his aching legs. "No wonder people ditched this stupid shit ages ago," he murmured, as he massaged his aching templates.

"You know Potter, just because you can't cut it, doesn't mean the whole area of magic is worthless. Free wielding is dead useful in combat, not to mention how it gives you a foothold into the wider area of-"

"Rookwood!" Harry interrupted him. "If you don't shut your trap this minute, you're back to: Ahh, there's shit all over my pimpled face! Take it off! Take it off! " he mocked in a shrill girlish voice.

At mention of another Oblivation, Rookwood hastily ended his lecture and scowled at Harry. "It's because of kids like you that they've placed restrictions on underage magic," he grumbled, but bit back further comments, when he saw Harry rubbing his head painfully, a consequence of his amateur acting attempt. He tried to smirk at the foolish boy, only to wince at his own killer headache, a friendly reminder of his earlier endeavors. He really needed another aspirin, or preferably a headache potion.

Harry, on his end, satisfied that he had once again bullied his prisoner into submission, just relaxed and absentmindedly summoned a pair of butterbears from a temporary cooler outside the cell. He opened them, levitated one to Rookwood and gave him a silent toast. Next few minutes were spent in silence, as both man nursed their refreshments, contemplated on their day so far. Rookwood, who was much more rested than Harry, broke the silence first. "So, what's going on in the real world these days?"

"Well, yesterday's edition of Daily Prophet printed another article about poor lil' me's cruel fate. This time, I had apparently been kidnapped by muggle white slavers and sold as a sex toy to a Middle Eastern drug lord," Harry said, rolling his eyes at the wizard kind's rampaging stupidity.

Rookwood chuckled tiredly. "You probably have Lucius to thank for that. Turning the public against muggles has always been his forte. Not to mention there are rumors he had dealings with a few sex slaves himself."

Harry nodded. "I figured as much. Well, bummer for Lucius that no one will remember his little foray into the world of fiction pass tomorrow."

Seeing Harry's smirk, Rookwood frowned. "Potter... what are you planning?"

Wordlessly, Harry whipped his wand and summoned one specific letter from his work desk back in the warehouse, before gently levitating it to Rookwood. The older man plucked the letter from thin air with his restrained hands and started reading it, murmuring an occasional passage under his breath. " Dear editor, I'm sending you this missive in hope of disproving false allegations regarding my so called disappearance... just seen a copy of your esteemed publication after several days incommunicado... merely enjoying my vacation out of public eye... please find enclosed copies of my muggle guardian permits, as a proof that I have every right to travel on my own discretion... not sure why neither my headmaster (Mr. Albus Dumbledore) nor the Ministry officials deemed fit to inform the public of this fact, but instead... Sincerely yours, Harry James Potter. "

Rookwood finished the letter and gave Harry an approving look. "Nice move Potter. This will damage both Fudge's and Dumbledore's reputation and get the Ministry off your back. Just out of curiosity, why did you wait five days to do this?"

"Why, I was simply waiting for Dumbledore to dig his own hole with all those supporting interviews about the Ministry's search operation," Harry smirked nastily. "Not to mention that news like this will have much greater impact now that the Ministry has already wasted thousands of taxpayers' galleons on a needles task."

"I figured as much," Rookwood smirked back, before frowning in puzzlement. "What I don't understand is why Dumbledore exposed himself like that, when he could have simply stayed in the background and let Cornelius take all the heat."

"I don't think he had much of a choice," Harry replied thoughtfully. "My best guess is that Fudge had wrongly concluded that the initial report about my disappearance was just some sort of Dumbledore's trick targeted against him-"

"Hold on there," stopped him Rookwood. "What initial report?"

"Oh, didn't I mention it? As soon as Dumbledore figured out the game with my relatives, I made sure that both Fudge and Voldemort find out about it too."

"You what?" snapped Rookwood incredulously. "You willingly informed the Dark Lord that you've left Dumbledore's protection? Potter... are you freaking mad or just plain suicidal?"

"Well, seeing how I'm still alive, it must be the second," Harry snapped, rolling his eyes at Rookwood's blind faith in his master's infallibility. "Besides, Voldemort would have learned of it anyway, either from his spies or just by monitoring the Order's movements. This way, I at least curried a favor or two with certain underground elements."

Rookwood just shook his head, murmuring about the foolishness of youth and Gryffindors in particular.

"Anyway," Harry interrupted him. "Imagine Fudge's indignation and paranoia when this supposedly falsified report targeted at dethroning him suddenly reached the press. I bet he made Dumbledore chose between publicly backing him up and his search operation, or becoming a target of another smear campaign, something the old man definitely didn't need now that Riddle is almost ready to strike."

"Well, that's a rather far-fetched theory, but I can't find a flaw in its logic." Rookwood nodded thoughtfully after a moment of reflection. "Of course, you do realize that this would notify Dumbledore to the fact that you're not as deep inside some rainforest as he'd been led to believe?"

"Yeah, I figure he'd grow suspicious of me at least having someone helping me out on the island," Harry confirmed and then shrugged. "Dumbledore is a smart man. He's bound to see through my deception sooner or later. This way, I at least get to keep a measure of control over him, for a change," he concluded, as he finished his butterbeer and stood up tiredly.

Rookwood gave the young wizard a dubious look, before shrugging and leaning back against the wall. "So, how will you deliver the letter? Be mindful that an owl's memory can be examined."

"I know better than to leave anything traceable back to my location," Harry admonished. "I'll simply make the delivery in person, you know, just sneak in under my Invisibility cloak and leave it on the front desk. I'm already having a meeting tonight, so I'll do it on my way there," he explained, while banishing a rather beaten up pinball ball back to the warehouse.

"A meeting? Ahh, so you're finally starting up this mysterious plan of yours. What was the name of that bloke again... Peterson?"

"Pederson. And yes, I have a rather unbelievable, complicated, over-thought, farfetched and ultimately, very likely futile scheme planned, that requires this guy's unwitting help to be carried out," Harry spoke absentmindedly, while inspecting the cell, making sure that all potentially dangerous objects are accounted for and removed from Rookwood's habitat. He nodded to himself in satisfaction, before directing his attention towards his still restrained prisoner.

"And, pray tell, what the objective of this half-brained scheme might be?" Rookwood drawled, hoping to postpone the inevitable.

"Well, that would be breaking into the Ministry's central archive and retrieving an official, certified copy of one of their level 7 files, without anyone ever finding out about it," Harry replied casually as he snapped his wrist, letting his wand smoothly slid into his right hand.

He waited just long enough for Rookwood to form an incredulous expression on his face, before wiping it off with a stunner to his head. Let him ponder on that one until tomorrow , Harry concluded with a slightly sadistic smirk playing on his lips.

*

Rookwood stirred and shook his head blearily. He immediately recognized the aftereffects of a stunning spell and utilized certain advanced mental techniques to fight them off. A mere second later, he was wide awake and alert, his body tensing instinctively in anticipation of danger. That was also the moment when his memories returned, including the last thing he'd heard before getting stunned. His head immediately snapped up, spotting his captor, who was slowly retreating towards the door, with his wand drawn and his snake curled around his arm.

Thousands of questions flew through Rookwood's mind, but faced with the incredulity the idea he'd just heard, the only thing he managed to utter was a weak " What!? "

"Sweet dreams, Rookwood," chirped back Harry, before swiftly stepping out of the cell.

"Potter wait!" yelped Rookwood as he jumped up to his feet and ran towards the door, a distant part of his brain relishing the feel of unrestricted movements.

The only answer he received were sounds of a door slamming shut and a latch settling in place. Rookwood reached the door a few seconds too late, but he immediately started banging on it furiously. "Potter! Explain yourself!"

After a few more seconds of futile demands and threats, Rookwood pressed his ear against the door and picked up a faint sound of steps fading away and off-key whistles of some cheerful tune. "Potter! I don't care! You hear me!? I don't fucking care! You can take your stupid secret and shovel it up your arse! Ha! Déjà vu that, you obnoxious brat!"

He waited hopefully for a few seconds, before giving up and retreating to his cot sulkily.

"That little prick, what did he mean by that?" Rookwood brooded, slowly coming to realize that he would spend many following hours asking himself that same question over and over again.

Needless to say, his next escape plan would be far from his usual level.
------------------------------------
Author notes



Well, I took my sweet time with this one, eh? There were all sorts of problems I've had while writing this chapter, including writer's block(s), occasional lack of motivation, many real life issues and general laziness... Yes, I admit that. And no, I'm not gonna take 'my HD miraculously blew up and I'm a stupid fucker who doesn't back up' free excuse card. I'm saving that one for later :-)

Well, enough about that. As you might have noticed, this chapter turned out a bit longer than I expected. Believe it or not, this was originally supposed to be only one fourth of a light 6-7K filler chapter. Instead, it turned into a 17K monster of a... well, still filler chapter I guess. Sorry, but some things just have to be explained, others set in motion, and I refuse to do anything half-arsedly. So, there you go. More than 7 months of waiting, only to receive 17 thousand words of basically nothing. Good thing this warning is at the end of chapter, eh? Too late, suckers! :-)

Well, if it's any consolation, the next chapter is already completed (seeing how it was originally a second part of this one), and will be posted in a few days. Too bad for you it'll suck ass too!

Seriously, for the third time I'd like to thank my beta, Jolly Rancher for fixing grammar and other errors in this chapters... and not forgetting he's somebody's beta during my hiatus too.

As always, my profile has also been updated, so you might wanna check it out... or not.

Oh and one final notice. To break out of my funk, I went through all the previous chapters and edited them. Some grammar errors have been fixed and some smaller corrections made, but the general plot remained the same. You do NOT have to re-read the story to know what's going on in the future plot!

o - Harry the amazing innovator

You might have noticed I took a jibe at all those fics where Harry, in spur of a moment, discovers something that no one, throughout the whole history of humankind, has ever thought of before. Classic examples of this plot tool are: Harry asks house-elves to teach him their brand of magic; Harry speaks kindly with the Goblins, which gains him big benefits in Gringotts; Harry teaches DA team tactics, that helps them trounce disorganized death eaters; Harry has house elves apparate him through wards, to high security locations; Harry uses muggle methods/tools to fool the backwards/ignorant wizards; Harry doesn't know limitations of magic and realizes he can do anything he wishes etc...

o - Canon contains hints of "free wielding"?

'Free wielding' and 'magical pooling' are two new concepts that are part of a relatively comprehensive "theory of magic" that I've developed for the purpose of this story (which will be introduced gradually). And while 'magical pooling' is pretty much made up from scratch, the idea of free wielding was inspired by several passages from the HBP, where characters performed some rather unusual effects with their wands.

For example:

"I'd rather not be interrupted," said Scrimgeour shortly, "or watched," he added, pointing his wand at the windows, so that the curtains swept across them.
(HBP Chapter 1: The Other Minister)

Now, I know this is supposed to be a foreshadowing of 'nonverbal spells', but ask yourselves, who in their right mind would invent a spell that opens or closes a pair of curtains? And who would bother learning it anyway?

There are more hints of this: Dumbledore sliding chairs at the Dursleys, him and Horace cleaning up Slughorn's house, madam Pomphrey closing screens around hospital beds, etc... By going with the theory that these are 'nonverbal spells', I just can't imagine the kind and number of spells needed to achieve these varied effects.

Thus, I added a technique allowing direct manipulation of magic (or telekinesis, if you will).

o - Sources and additional disclaimers

Information about Norse runes (I used only one, I believe):

> members-aol-com/JehanaS/futhark/

The encyclopedias I've used for reference are Britannica 2005 and Wikipedia (www-wikipedia-org).

I don't own any intellectual property mentioned above.

o - SPECIAL NOTICE!

Some two weeks ago I've been invited to join a newly formed group of relatively prominent authors and critics (but mostly people with lots of free time) named "Fanfiction Writers Guild" (FWG) . Now, besides practicing secret handshakes and bickering like children, our first and main function was to organize a brand new writing competition, which would hopefully turn into a regular event. And we did.

So starting on July 16th and closing on September 3rd will take place the Summer Challenge 2006 , named simply "Horcrux" .

As you might have guessed from the title, the main theme of this writing competition is the so-called 'Horcrux hunt', that Harry needs to commence amidst the fallout from the events of "Half-Blood Prince". The fact of the matter is that more and more authors choose to send Harry to his younger body and start it all over again, rather than try and wrestle with all the baggage HBP has left them with. Our goal is to challenge them to apply all their writing skills and imagination in overcoming these obstacles and gift us with a post-HBP story or two worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with post-OOTP and post-GOF legends, that had practically created HP fandom as we know it today.

So, what we are basically looking for are 15K to 75K words long post-HBP stories featuring Voldemort's Horcruxes in one form or the other. I should point out that, even though I'm an Independent!Harry author and supporter, the challenge won't be tied to this genre exclusively. Even though non-pussy!Harry stories will obviously receive higher marks from me, other judges ( BioPlague/Lord Merrill , nonjon , Sree/Jolly Rancher and Master Slytherin ) will have their own criteria, allowing for a wider variety of stories and ideas to be acceptable. And of course, the best three stories by the choice of the jury will receive appropriate titles and monetary awards ( $100 for the first place).

So if you're interested in joining the contest with your own story, following it on our forum or just finding more information about this whole idea, copy & paste the following link in your browser and replace '-' with '.':

tinyurl-com/jlye2

Or you could simply go to my author profile and click on a proper link there. Either one is good, as long as you get suckered in. :-)

Well, hope to see you there on the July 16th, when the competition kicks off!
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