AU Sixth year. When Harry is removed from the Dursleys in the summer of his sixth year for his own safety, the last thing he's expecting is to be propelled on a new adventure that this time, he's ...
For a moment after waking, his mind still thought he was at the Dursleys, despite the fact he was lying on a soft bed beneath a warm blanket. Then Harry opened his eyes and recognized the ceiling as that of his year's Gryffindor dorm room. It took just a little more time for the fifteen-year-old to remember just why he was there, but remember he did.
Once he and Hagrid had finally got to Hogwarts, they'd barely made it to the base of the stairs before that strange energy ran out and he collapsed. Harry couldn't remember anything that happened after that, but he realized with a blush of embarrassment that Hagrid must have carried him all the rest of the way to the Gryffindor Tower.
Sitting up and plucking his glasses from the side table, he looked around, and saw his cloak and album sitting next to his trunk, proof positive that Profess- Remus must have escaped the foul clutches of Vernon Dursley intact. With them was his wand, and he felt a profound sense of relief once he had tucked it into his waistband. Unfortunately, after that he didn't have a clue what to do.
And that being so, when Remus opened the door of the dorm a few minutes later he found Harry slumped on his bed, fiddling with his father's invisibility cloak. "Oh, good, you're awake."
The teenager started to get up, but was waved back down as the wizard stepped inside and closed the door after him. "Don't bother. Dobby will be up with some breakfast in just a minute; I was coming to get you up so you could eat."
Harry started to protest that he wasn't hungry- he really wasn't, despite how he'd nearly fainted from the lack of food the night before- but Remus stopped him with a stern look. "Don't even try it, mister. I'll admit I wasn't tracking too well at the end of last term, but even so I can tell you've lost at least a stone since then. And it's only been three weeks!"
The boy's cheeks flushed a bright red, and he dropped his eyes to stare down at his lap. "Yes, Remus," he said quietly, so quietly that only his curse-enhanced hearing let Remus make out the words.
He looked at the small boy for a long moment, then sighed, and sat down on the bed next to him. "It's all right, Harry," he said softly, putting his arms around him. "I'm not angry with you, just... worried about you. I hate seeing you do this to yourself."
Harry stiffened as soon as he felt the hug, but gradually relaxed as the older wizard didn't let go. Shuddering, he pressed his face against Remus's shoulder, knowing his robes would absorb any of the tears he was holding back if he lost control of them. "I know..." he whispered. "I just can't..."
"Hush," Remus murmured, holding him more tightly. "You don't need to defend yourself to me, Harry. You'll never have to do that. Just..." He pulled away slightly, tilting the boy's face so they could look each other in the eye. "Please, stop this. For my sake, for his sake, for yours. He'd hate to see you like this, even more than I do."
Harry couldn't hide the flinch that statement produced, the only outward sign of the sudden empty abyss that seemed to huddle inside his chest. But all the same he nodded, staring up into the gold-flecked hazel eyes of the only true family he had left. "I'll try," he promised weakly, his voice cracking from the suppressed tears.
Remus gave him a gentle smile. "That's all I can ask for."
The boy smiled weakly at him, sniffling and rubbing a hand over his eyes. He was about to speak when there was a loud pop from just beside the bed.
"Harry Potter, sir!" Harry managed to untangle one arm fast enough to catch the flying house elf. "It is good to be seeing you, sir!"
"You too, Dobby," the wizard said in a voice still rough from unshed tears, genuinely glad to see the little creature.
"Hello." Remus smiled at the house elf. "Did you bring the tray?"
He nodded hastily, beaming, and pointed towards the dish-covered tray floating just a few feet away. "Yes, sir. Dobby is having all of Harry Potter sir's favorite things!"
"Thanks, Dobby," Harry said quietly, impulsively pulling the energetic house elf into another hug. "It's so good to be back..."
Dobby's joyous face shone even brighter, until finally he broke away and waved over the floating tray. Remus caught it and set it gently down on the rumpled bed. A couple of minutes later the house elf popped back out, pleading work that he needed to do.
The tray did indeed hold Harry's most beloved foods: fluffy scrambled eggs, crispy, greasy bacon, slices of bread toasted to the perfect shade of golden-brown and accompanied by an entire pot of strawberry jam.
All in all, the next half hour or so was a very pleasurable experience for the Boy-Who-Lived, even when his stomach began to protest over being stuffed with more food in one sitting than he'd eaten in a week. Remus agreed to eat a few bites as well, after being subjected to Harry's best puppy eyes, which were unknowingly enhanced by his starved-waif appearance; the professor had already eaten, but Harry felt uncomfortable with having him simply sit there while he himself was stuffing his face.
But then the time came when the plates were empty, and Harry shoved away the tray and looked seriously at his former professor. "Are the Dursleys all right?" he asked bluntly, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth.
Remus grimaced, and reluctantly nodded. "Yes, they're fine. There hasn't been any sign of the Death Eaters yet, but we have at least two wizards permanently stationed at Arabella's to sound the alarm when they actually attack."
Harry sagged back into his pillow, feeling a profound, if rather unwarranted sense of relief. "Thank God..." he murmured under his breath.
Apparently not quietly enough, though, as Remus grimaced again. "I confess," he said with care, "I would not be terribly... depressed, should they not make it out of this completely unscathed. I don't want them dead," he hurried to add, "but... the things your uncle said, after you'd gone through the Floo-"
"Don't tell me," Harry interrupted hastily. "I... I can make a pretty good guess of it myself." He dropped his head and starred at his lap, his fingers playing with the edge of the sheet.
The werewolf nodded silently as he stared off into the distance, still looking a tad upset. Harry reached over and patted him clumsily on the hand, not used to reassuring other people. "It doesn't matter. I only have to go through one more summer with them anyway." Then he thought that through again. "Assuming the house is still standing, of course... Hey, do you think we can tell the Death Eaters we don't mind property damage?" he asked brightly, trying to break the tension.
It seemed to work, as Remus chuckled. "That, or we could simply set the Weasley twins on them..." He stopped, and shuddered. "I take that back. That would be too cruel."
The boy grinned, green eyes flashing with muted laughter for the first time in over a month. "I dunno... maybe if we only set one twin on them?"
"I'll see if I can arrange it," Remus said with a smile, getting up. Harry realized he was about to leave.
"Um, Remus? What... what am I supposed to do now?" he asked with a worried frown. Sure, it was great being back at Hogwarts, but if the dÃ©cor was going to be the only difference from the sheer boredom of the Dursleys...
The older wizard hesitated, looking startled. "Er... there's always your homework," he suggested uncertainly.
Harry grimaced. "Finished it a few days ago. Hermione would be proud."
Remus frowned thoughtfully, leaning against the bedpost. "Well... I don't see anything wrong with you exploring the castle, as long as you don't go outside. I mean, I don't know if you'd want to, but we always had fun doing it..."
"No, no," the teenager interrupted quickly, "exploring sounds fun. I don't think I've ever gotten the chance to just look around Hogwarts."
The werewolf smiled at him. "All right, then. Just remember, no leaving the castle. The wards protect the grounds, too, but they're not as strong outside the walls."
Harry nodded. "I promise, I won't go out on the grounds." He grimaced slightly, glancing over towards his trunk. "Even if I do miss flying..."
Remus gave him a sympathetic look, and walked over to the door. "Remember that promise. If you need anything, Argus, Hagrid and I are the only professors staying here, though you can probably ask Dobby as well."
The Boy-Who-Lived shuddered. "I think I'll just ask you, thanks..." He loved Dobby, he really did, but he did not need the house elf trying to 'help' him again.
He could hear Remus still chuckling as he went down the stairs.
And indeed, exploring the castle was what Harry did for the next week. Some of the time he spent simply wandering around its myriad passageways, seeing what he would find that he hadn't seen before. Other times he would pull out the Marauder's Map and choose a specific destination, then head out to find it.
The Room of Requirement was a frequent stop, though it couldn't seem to make up its mind as to what he 'required'. Sometimes it was the dueling classroom he and his friends had used for the DA; sometimes it just appeared as a quiet place to relax in, with a comfy couch a few feet from a roaring fireplace.
Harry resisted the urge to visit the Chamber of Secrets again whenever it reared its head. Not only would it likely be considered beyond his self-imposed boundary of the castle walls, but going there would mean going through Myrtle's bathroom. Sure, the long-dead girl was a nice person, once you got to know her, and she had helped him out in the second task, but...
Okay, so the invitation to share her toilet after he died was still spooking the boy. And could anyone really blame him?
On the fifth day in he tried to visit the forbidden corridor on the third floor that had once guarded the Sorcerer's Stone. The room that had held Fluffy, Hagrid's beloved Cerberus, was still there, but the trapdoor that had once led down into the series of trial rooms was gone. Tapping on the floor revealed nothing- the stones were as solid as though nothing had ever been there. Harry was a little disappointed, but not much more. The place didn't exactly hold golden memories for him.
He didn't spend every moment exploring, of course. In between meals down in the kitchen that the house elves were only too pleased to make for him, and occasionally Remus when he decided to join him, the wizard-in-training would stop by the library for the odd book or two. Some were just for reading (and he could see the look of betrayal on Ron's face already) and others were for revising the homework he'd done over the summer, since once Harry had reread his various essays he discovered that writing while half-starved and sleep-deprived would not be good for his grades.
As the week came to a close, the Boy-Who-Lived found himself beginning to feel just a tad burned out towards exploring. Sure, it was fun- loads of fun, actually. But it was not how he wanted to be spending his summer vacation. Still, there were a couple of places he wanted to check out before he called it quits for now. And after that... well, maybe he'd take a page out of Hermione's book, and get some serious studying done for the next year.
Harry hated to admit it, but it simply wasn't likely that he'd managed to get the Outstanding he needed to get into Advanced Potions. Without Advanced Potions, there was no way he could be an Auror, even if that was what life and fate were turning him into, so he figured he'd better start looking for other job prospects.
He was wondering if he should maybe bring up the subject next time he talked to Remus as he wandered through the corridors, since it was likely the older wizard could come up with a few good suggestions. The boy paused in front of the Great Hall, hearing his professor's voice inside. Yeah, Remus would probably help him, but...
Harry grimaced. Okay, so his Gryffindor hubris was coming into play. He didn't want to acknowledge the fact that he'd failed at something- well, at least to anyone but himself. Maybe Snape was right after all, and he was just as bigheaded as his father...
The green-eyed wizard shuddered, leaning against the thick stone wall. Damn it, he did not just think that greasy git might be right about something... Yes, his father was an obnoxious, bullying little arse. That did not automatically mean Harry was cut from the same cloth!
Not that he'd ever be able to convince Snape of that rather obvious little fact. For all that he was a Slytherin to the bone, Harry's Potions professor had an uncanny ability to bury his head in the sand when it came to things he simply did not want to see. And he wouldn't see them, even if other people's lives depended on it.
Trying to distract himself from his increasingly bitter thoughts, Harry glanced around the Entrance Hall, and for the first time saw a tiny hallway off to the side of the room. Curious, he walked over to it, and found it wasn't tiny at all, but merely well-hidden. After a moment of digging through his memories, the boy realized that it wasn't a new corridor by any means- this was how he'd first entered Hogwarts, after his traditional first-year boat ride across the lake with Hagrid.
This was the corridor that led to the cavern under Hogwarts that held the docks.
By this point his curiosity was nearly overwhelming, and Harry actually took a few steps down the passageway before the memory of his promise to Remus made him stop again. Would the docks be considered outside of Hogwarts' walls?
He frowned down the corridor. Well, maybe if he didn't actually go into the cave...
The boy managed to get about ten steps further before his conscience twinged. "Damn it," he muttered, leaning against the wall again. "Alright, alright, I won't go look at the docks, happy?" Well, he supposed he could always ask Remus if he could go see them...
Sighing, Harry turned and started back towards the Great Hall, and paused yet again as an unexpected breeze caressed his face. Startled, he glanced to the side and saw a narrow slip in the wall, one so small that only a child or an abnormally slight person would fit through it.
Harry grimaced as he realized he was just the perfect size.
Though, it was a good thing he'd left his robes behind that morning, he reflected as he squeezed himself through the narrow gap. As it was, he was going to leave some skin behind. Beyond, the crevice led into a slightly wider passageway. Curious, Harry began walking along it, this time silencing the little annoying voice in the back of his head by telling it that he was inside Hogwarts' walls. Literally.
After a minute or so, the passage opened up into a cave, and for a brief moment Harry wondered if he'd somehow made it to the docks. Then that thought was tossed out as he took a few more steps inside and the sheer awe of the place stopped him dead in his tracks.
The cavern itself wasn't all that large, and while there was no dust, he somehow had the impression that no person had walked in this hallowed place for many years. A small hole in the cave's ceiling let a beam of sunlight tumble in, which landed almost directly on the tile mosaic on the floor. The reflected light from the sunbeam lit up the walls as well, and Harry was stunned by the beauty and complexity of the colorful murals that covered the limestone.
The boy approached the nearest mural, and found it depicted a picturesque landscape, one of rolling green hills and dramatic outcroppings of rock. A beautiful Grecian temple made of a white stone stood on one of the hills. When he looked closely, he could just make out little black dots that must have been people wandering around the extensive gardens outside.
After a minute or so Harry backed away, and spun in a slow circle, trying to take everything in. It was only then that he saw the shrine set up against the far wall. He didn't know how he knew it was a shrine, but he couldn't see how it could be anything else. Eyes wide, he had crossed the room before he knew precisely what he was doing, and had come to a stop before it.
The first thing he noticed about it was the dazzling sunburst made of beaten gold that presided over the shrine. The sunlight gleamed off its rays, shining down onto the shrine itself. The raised platform was made of some kind of golden wood that Harry had never seen before. It was draped with bolts of an elegant golden cloth, silk that looked so soft and smooth that the wizard's hands itched to run over it. He controlled himself, though, keeping his hands firmly to his sides. Instead, Harry let his eyes rove over the shrine as his hands longed to do.
Resting on the level part of the shrine were an incense burner and an empty metal bowl, made of bronze or copper, and the first things he'd seen that weren't of a golden hue. Just above them the shrine rose and joined with the wall, and on that erect surface Harry saw an inscription carved into the wood. He leaned forward, and almost of their own volition his fingers came up and traced over the sculpted letters, even as his lips unconsciously formed the words.
I know more than Apollo,
For oft while he lies sleeping
I see the stars of bloody wars
In the wounded welkin weeping...
He had only a moment to realize that he had just done a very stupid thing before magic swelled around him and there was a brilliant flash of light. Then, he knew no more.