Dumbledore finds his powers beginning to decline, while Voldemort's are growing. Harry discovers new powers, but will the Wizarding World accept them? The Prophecy is revealed to all, but is it o...
What You Are
With his mind racing, Harry sat in the darkness and watched until the last glowing embers in the hearth finally twinkled out. So much had happened over the last few days that it was a struggle for him to process it all. Here he was, not even sixteen years old, and fate, destiny, or just plain bad luck had determined that history's most powerful Dark Lord could only be defeated by him. The absurdity of that idea almost made him laugh.
The duel that Harry had witnessed, between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the Department of Mysteries, had chilled him to the bone. The level of magic that the two powerful wizards had called upon was beyond what Harry had deemed as possible. It had frightened him at the time, but now that he looked back on it, he realized that it had also been beautiful; two absolute masters of their craft, involved in a macabre dance of death. Neither wizard even bothered to use incantations while they dueled. They simply forced their spells to take shape through sheer willpower, and their magic had responded to their needs. In fact so skilled were the two duelists that it often appeared to Harry as if one would launch a counter-spell before the other had even finished his attack.
Harry held no illusions that he could reach that level of skill any time soon. While he may have been Voldemort's equal in power, or so the Prophecy would have him believe, he would never be able to overcome the advantage those many decades of research and experience had given Voldemort. Unless Merlin himself suddenly appeared, gave Harry his magic staff, and magically transferred all of his knowledge to him, he doubted that he would ever be able to defeat Voldemort in a straight up duel of magical skill. However, as nice a thought as that was, Harry lived in the real world, and he knew that things like that just didn't happen. No, he would have to figure a way out of this situation himself. It wasn't going to be easy, but the longer he sat there deep in thought, the stronger he felt his resolve grow.
Over the course of the night, Harry had toyed with the thought of simply running away from the Wizarding World all together. At this point, it would have been a simple thing for him to vanish. After all, everyone, except for Gus, thought he was dead. The Wizarding World hadn't exactly been overly gracious to him in the past. In the few short years that he had been a part of it, he had been called almost everything one could think of, from a savior and hero, to an attention-seeking child and unbalanced menace. It wasn't as if Harry felt that he owed these people anything. In fact, part of him felt that they deserved whatever Voldemort gave them. However, Harry realized that the world was a remarkably small place, and he wouldn't be able to run far enough away. All it would take was a rumor that he had been spotted somewhere, and Voldemort would hunt him to the ends of the earth.
In the end, Harry made his decision to stay not because it was the right thing to do, or because of the fact that his friends might suffer without him, and certainly not for the faceless masses of the Wizarding World. No, he was staying for himself. Everything that he had lost in his life to this point could be easily traced back to Voldemort. He had robbed Harry of his chance at a normal life, and Harry wanted to make him pay for that. Simply put, he was staying for one reason; revenge.
Harry knew that he had a lot to do before he reached that point though. While Dumbledore had insisted that Harry's 'Power' was his capacity to love. That explanation had never really made much sense to Harry. After last night's conversation with Gus, he now held little doubt that his newly discovered psychic abilities were the power that the Prophecy spoke of. From what Gus had said, these talents were highly individualized, so beyond his apparent ability to heal himself, he really had no idea what to expect from them. Whatever they turned out to be, he would spend the remainder of the summer here with Gus, working to develop them. He only hoped that they would eventually give him an advantage over Voldemort.
Probably the most interesting thing that Harry had learned from Gus was the fact that his psychic abilities had been hampering his magical development all these years. This simple statement had explained many things to Harry. To this point, he had never really been serious about his schooling at Hogwarts. However, this wasn't because he was lazy or stupid. When he was learning a new spell or theory in class, he always felt like he should be able to perform it easily. That he was rarely able to do so, without a great deal of practice anyway, often left him feeling extremely frustrated. The relief that he felt after hearing there was an actual reason for the difficulty that he had experienced, went beyond words. Harry was very anxious to see what he was capable of once he had developed he mental core to the point that it was no longer inhibiting his magic.
Of course, Harry realized that he was going to have to make changes in the way he did things upon his return to Hogwarts. That is, if he planned to survive. First off, he would need to stop wasting as much time as he had been screwing around. There would be no more pointless games of Chess or Exploding Snap for him. He would use that time to do research in the Library, or to practice on his own in the Room of Requirement.
The second thing that Harry felt he needed to do was to take only those classes that were going to help him defeat Voldemort. He highly doubted that he would learn anything along those lines in Potions, History of Magic, or in fact, in most of the classes he had been required to take to this point. That would be changing as soon as he returned to Hogwarts, as the only classes that he planned to continue with were Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense. While carrying such a light class load wasn't normally allowed, Harry wasn't overly worried about it. He had a feeling that Dumbledore would be so glad to see him that he would quickly agree to the request, just to keep Harry at Hogwarts.
After all, Harry had plenty of money, so he wasn't without other options. Between the money his Parents had left for him and his inheritance from Sirius' Will, he was sure that he could hire the best instructors that money could buy to finish his education. While he preferred to finish his schooling in the relative safety of Hogwarts, he wouldn't hesitate to try that option in the event that he wasn't developing as rapidly as he hoped to. If he spent every last Knut he had in the process then, so be it, because all the money in the world wouldn't do him any good if Voldemort killed him.
With a quick glance out the window, Harry noticed a gradual brightening of the sky, which heralded the rise of the sun. He let out a long sigh as he resigned himself to the fact that he would find no sleep tonight. He rose stiffly to his feet, grabbed an old jumper that was thrown casually over the arm of the sofa, and headed for the door. Despite that fact that it was too large for him, he put it on over the T-shirt and shorts that he had woken up in yesterday.
If Harry was to be spending his summer here, he felt that he should look around and get a feel for the area. As he stepped out onto the porch, he was surprised to find that the cabin sat on a hill several hundred meters from, what appeared to be, a good-sized lake. Giant trees grew in a thick forest on either side of the cabin, but there were none in front of it, and the view of the lake was spectacular. As he stepped outside, he was silently thankful he had decided to wear that old jumper because the early morning air was damp and quite cool, as a light breeze fought to drive last night's rain clouds from the sky.
The cabin, for that's indeed what the place was, sat up on a hillside that overlooked the small lake. A large twisted mass of ivy grew up one wall and encircled the stone chimney on the roof. The shutters on the windows were missing, or in one case, hung loosely and blew back and forth in the light breeze, and the small porch was in desperate need of new paint. Even with the distorted image his broken glasses provided him, Harry saw that it had once been an attractive place, and could easily be again, with a little work. Obviously, he hadn't known Gus for that long, but he seriously doubted that he was the type of person who cared about such things.
The long uncut grass, still heavy from last night's storm, was cool on his bare feet as he turned from the cabin and headed to the lake. While the cabin was obviously built on a hillside, Harry was surprised to find that the yard was completely level and didn't slope down to the lake like had he expected. He spotted the bone white tops of large stones that encircled the lawn and, seeing as how the ground disappeared just past them, he realized that a retaining wall had been built to make the yard level.
An owl hooted softly as it flew back to its home, and Harry's heart leapt as he thought of Hedwig. She too, was now dead because of Voldemort. For a moment, he found it odd that he cared more for about the death of his Owl than he did about the deaths of the Dursleys, his only remaining family. That feeling passed quickly though as the Dursleys had never shown him anything but disdain. On some level, he felt sorry they were dead, but he wouldn't waste his time mourning for them. They certainly wouldn't have mourned his passing. With his thoughts dark, he turned to continue his survey of the area.
Off to the left were two lampposts, one flickering futilely and the other long since burned out, which hung over what he thought must have been horseshoe pits. To his right, was an old stone fire-pit, with a small pile of logs nearby. Beyond these things, the yard was rather plain. As he approached the far end of the lawn, he saw a set of stairs that lead down to a small dock. Eagerly, he took the steps two at a time, until he found himself at the edge of the dock, looking out at the lake. It wasn't a large lake by any means, but the water was crystal-clear and, he found after dipping his foot into it, quite cold.
It was a very peaceful spot, Harry thought as he sat down and got comfortable. He saw that the sun had begun to rise above the trees behind him and he watched as its warming light crept towards him across the lake. He knew that it would reach him eventually, but for the time being, Harry sat alone in the shadows, with only his thoughts for company.
Some hours later, Harry finally left the dock and headed back up the steps towards the cabin to see if he could find some breakfast. About halfway there, he was suddenly startled by a loud yell coming from the cabin, followed by a long string of curses that would have made a sailor blush. He sprinted the final few yards to the cabin and once he made it inside, he had to stop and catch himself before he burst out laughing.
Gus stood in the kitchen, dressed only in a faded blue bathrobe, shaking his hand about wildly. His stringy hair, what little of it remained on his balding head, stuck up strangely to the right side, which gave him the appearance of someone who was struggling to hang on to the last fragments of his sanity. A glint of silver caught Harry's eye and he saw an old-fashioned metal coffee pot spinning slowly in a steaming pool of liquid on the floor. He quickly realized that Gus must have burned himself while making coffee.
Still unaware that Harry had entered the room, Gus tore open the freezer and grabbed a bottle of Peppermint Schnapps with his burned hand. Apparently, the icy bottle must have soothed his burn because Harry saw Gus' shoulders relax as he blew out a deep breath.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked, as he tried to keep the amusement he felt out of his voice.
At the sound of Harry's voice, Gus jumped in surprise and spun around to face him. "No," he answered abruptly, "I'm not alright." He must have seen the glint of laughter that was dancing in Harry's eyes, because his voice took on a hard, dangerous edge as he ground out, "What is so fucking funny?"
This caught Harry completely off guard. Who the hell did this guy think he was? Harry wondered to himself. Regardless of fact that Gus seemed to be the only person who could help him develop his new abilities, Harry certainly wasn't about to just sit here and put up with endless crap all summer. No, he had played out that game for too many years with the Dursleys, and now that they were out of his life, he wasn't about to let anyone treat him that way again.
Harry was preparing to tell Gus exactly were he could stick his attitude, when the older man suddenly sat down at the table. He took a deep breath and brought his good hand up to massage the bridge of his nose. "Look," he began again with his voice much calmer and even apologetic this time. "I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have snapped at you."
Harry relaxed a little at the apology, and waited calmly as Gus continued to speak.
"I'm not much of a morning person and I'm not used to having other people around me. Plus, I drank too much last night and now I have a pretty bad hangover as well." Gus looked Harry straight in the eye as he gave a second apology. "I didn't mean anything by it, honest."
Harry took a step forward and took the seat opposite from Gus at the table. He sat quietly for a few moments and just looked at the older man, unsure of how he felt about him just yet. "So," he finally asked to break the awkward silence. "You're... a bit of a dick then?"
Gus snorted in laughter at that and his face broke out in a smile. "I've been called a lot worse." He said as he opened the chilled bottle of Schnapps he was holding and promptly took a slug from it.
"I thought you had a hangover?" Harry questioned.
Gus just gave a shrug of his shoulders as he lowered the bottle. "Hair of the dog," he answered "and all that rot I guess."
Harry watched intently as Gus raised his left hand to catch small glass that was floating towards him from the kitchen. He caught the curious look on Harry's face as he filled the glass with Schnapps and answered his unspoken question. "That was just a bit of Telekinesis. It's not one of the abilities that I'm all that good at, but it sure is dead useful if you're a lazy sack of shit like me."
"Wow," Harry answered excitably. "That's brilliant. Do you think that I might be able to do that?"
Gus shrugged his shoulders in response before he set his bottle of liquor on the table between the two of them. "Well hotshot," he said as he rose to his feet, "there's only one way to find out. Why don't you give it a try? Go ahead and see if you can call that bottle into your hand."
"Alright," Harry said skeptically. "But, how do I do it?"
Gus stopped fumbling around with his cigarette pack, stared at Harry intently for a moment, before he shut his eyes and again rubbed the bridge of his nose. Harry couldn't tell if Gus was deep in thought, or just annoyed by his question. However, Gus answered him before he could give it too much thought. "Well, you just need to focus on the bottle and concentrate on pulling it into your hand. It may take a while, but if you are capable of learning to do this, then eventually, you will feel a surge of energy just before the bottle moves. If you can even do it in the first place, of course.
"Now, in the beginning, it will probably help you to clear your mind completely of everything except the image of the bottle. It will help you to focus on your target, and more importantly, help you to recognize the feeling you have when you release some of your power. The sooner we get you to the point where you understand the way it feels to use your power the better."
"I'll give it a try then," Harry responded with a firm nod of his head. "It sounds a lot like Occlumency to me though."
"Wait a tick," Gus cut back in, "how is it that you know about Occlumency?"
"I was given lessons in it last year. It was supposed to help me block out Voldemort's attempts to enter my mind," Harry answered quietly. "It didn't do me any good though. Between my teacher having it out for me, and my dream of seeing him fed to a Hungarian Horntail, I didn't learn much of anything useful."
Gus shook his head slowly as he lit a cigarette. "/Jesus/," he spat as he blew out a puff of smoke. "You aren't capable of learning Occlumency, not that they would know that of course. It's a bleeding miracle that you, or this teacher of yours, weren't hurt. Although, from what you just said, I doubt the idea of seeing him in pain would have bothered you too much."
"Yeah," Harry said after a small snort of laughter. "Seeing Snape suffer wouldn't have been too bad at all." He relaxed back in his chair, content to imagine Snape twisting in pain for a moment, before he was jolted by the other part of Gus' statement. "Wait a minute," he asked, "why is it that I can't learn Occlumency?"
"Well," Gus started to explain. "Our psychic abilities are not compatible with the study of Occlumency. Early on in my time with the Unspeakables, they tried to find out more about me and my gifts by using a skilled Legimens to read my thought patterns. It didn't work though, and the Unspeakable felt a surge of pain when he tried to enter my mind. Every few years, one of them would get it into their heads to try the process again, but they never had any better luck. In fact, as my powers grew, the reaction seemed to grow more intense. I think that the last time one of their Legimens tried to read me, the poor fellow was thrown across the room and knocked unconscious for several hours."
A smile blossomed on Harry's face as he considered what this revelation would mean for him. A part of him almost hoped that Dumbledore would insist that continue his Occlumency lessons with Snape. He quickly shifted his attention back to Gus as the man continued to speak.
"I should warn you though, this incompatibility is a two way street. My powers give me a little bit of talent with ESP. When the Unspeakables worked with me to develop it, I could sometimes catch glimpses of their thoughts. However, when I tried to read someone who was trained in Occlumency, I was hit with the same sort of burst of pain. It's a lot like the feeling of being hit with a cattle prod, so trust me when I tell you that it is no fun at all.
"But, I'm getting ahead of myself a little bit. At this point, it's too early to tell what powers you'll be capable of, so we won't worry about that just yet.
"Oh, before I forget," Gus said suddenly, as he pulled a small package wrapped in brown paper from his pocket and tossed it to Harry. "You'll need to put this on."
"What is it?" Harry asked as he deftly snatched the package out of the air.
"Well," Gus answered quickly. "I read a little about the connection that you share with the Dark Lord. I know that you can't believe everything that you read in the papers, but when I decided that I was going to help you, I figured it be a good idea to be safe just in case. From what you just said about not being able to block him from your mind, I'm glad I did too.
"It's just a necklace that I embedded with a touch of my power, to help keep you hidden from the Dark Lord for the time being. When I am nearby, I can use my powers to keep you safe, but I won't be with you every minute of the summer. That necklace should keep you hidden while I'm away."
"Why won't you be around all summer?" Harry asked as he tore open the package to reveal a simple silver chain with a small black stone on it.
"Well, I do have to work you know," Gus responded as he swept his arms around the small cabin in a grand gesture. "You don't think that all this luxury is free do you?"
Harry laughed softly at Gus as he slipped the simple pendant around his neck and asked, "So, what do you do then?"
"You happen to be looking at one of the finest Horse Handicappers around," Gus said grandly, as he winked at Harry. "You see, I found that my psychic gifts allow me to see the general health and fitness level of people or, in this case, horses. It makes the wagering aspect of it much easier, almost like taking candy from a baby."
"So," Harry responded, as a sour expression crept onto his face "you're a cheater then."
"Well, excuse me Saint Potter, but that's a very naÃ¯ve opinion," Gus bit back harshly. "You'll have to forgive me if the way I make my living has offended your delicate sensibilities, but I just don't think that it's cheating for me to use my God given abilities for something, even if they do give me an edge.
"I read that you are one hell of a Quidditch player, and that you're the youngest seeker that Hogwarts has seen in over a century. That's pretty impressive, but what if I told you that the reason that you are such a good Seeker was because of your psychic talents. Wouldn't that make you a cheater as well?"
"Wha...," Harry began, somewhat caught off guard by the way that Gus had redirected the conversation. "What do you mean by that?"
"I told you yesterday that the tests your mother ran on you before you were born showed that your psychic talents are primarily based on your ability to influence your metabolism. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that your abilities, even in their current raw and undeveloped state, provide you with exceptional reflexes when you need them most. Your body unconsciously releases an extra burst of adrenaline, and /what do you know/, all of a sudden you can fly a little faster, turn a little tighter, and beat the other guy to the Snitch."
Gus saw Harry slump back in his chair as he thought about what he had just heard, so decided to just add one final point before he moved on. "Think about that the next time you are so quick to judge someone, or better yet, think about it the next time you snatch a Snitch right out from under the other Seeker's nose.
"Alright," Gus continued in a much more upbeat voice. "Do you want to see whether you've got what it takes to move this bottle, or not?" He had to consciously fight to keep a smile from appearing on his face when he saw the grim look of determination that Harry showed after hearing the challenge. "Okay great, but don't be discouraged if you can do it. Like I said, it's very possible that this isn't one of your particular skills."
Harry focused on the bottle intently as he tried to tune out the rest of the room. He was slightly stung by the way Gus had turned the conversation back on him just now, but more than that, he had felt his pride take a bit of a shot when Gus implied that he couldn't do this. /Well/, he thought to himself, /Gus is about to learn that it's never a good idea to underestimate me/.
Harry sat trying to will the bottle into his hand for some time. However, nothing he tried seemed to have any effect and the Schnapps bottle stayed firmly in place, almost like it was mocking him. He caught the slight smirk as it appeared on Gus' face, and he gritted his teeth and tried harder. After several more frustrating minutes, he was about to give up and admit defeat. Before he could say anything though, he felt a sudden twinge in his head, that reminded him of the feeling he got whenever he clenched his fist suddenly, and the bottle finally moved.
However, instead of floating gently into his hand, as he had seen the glass that Gus called in from the kitchen do, the bottle leapt off the table away from him where it shattered on the cabin wall, spraying Peppermint Schnapps and little shards of glass everywhere.
"What the hell was that?" Gus shouted, as he rushed over to inspect the damage.
"Sorry," Harry offered meekly, as he felt his face flush with embarrassment. "I didn't mean for that to happen. I did feel something just before that happened though."
Gus pulled his wand and quickly Vanished the mess before he rounded on Harry. "That was an expensive bottle of Schnapps you know."
Harry could tell that Gus was on the verge of loosing his temper again and he offered another quick apology that he hoped would head him off before he got a head of steam.
It seemed to work too, because Gus paused and took a deep breath. He closed his eyes and once again rubbed the bridge of his nose as he spoke. "It's okay," he began, sounding much more in control this time. "I know it was an accident. This arrangement is definitely going to take some getting used to on my part. Look Harry, if I give you something that you can work on by yourself, do you think you could let me be for a bit while I get myself together for the day?"
"Yeah, I can do that." Harry answered quickly, missing the slight smirk that had crept onto Gus' face. However, seeing the man's wand led Harry to think of his own, as of yet, missing wand. "You didn't happen to grab my wand when you pulled me out of my Uncle's place the other day, did you?"
Gus shook his head no as he spoke, "Sorry, but there wasn't really much time for me to look around for souvenirs. Don't worry though, I know a guy who deals in Wizarding Estates. He gets his hands on the occasional wand, so I'm sure we can find something for you. It probably won't be too good of a match for you, but it'll be better than nothing."
"Okay," Harry answered with a shrug of his shoulders, "but I don't see why we just can't go to a Wandmaker and get one that will match me."
"Now why didn't I think of that?" Gus wondered loudly, the sarcasm heavy in his voice. "We'll just go right now. You know what, we'll even stop and pick you up a Phoenix on the way."
Gus winced slightly when he saw the hard glare that appeared in Harry's eyes at his last verbal jab and began again, in a more apologetic voice this time. "I'm sorry Harry. My father used to love my sarcasm, but it's a bit of an acquired taste. I haven't met too many people over the years who could stomach it. I need to keep in mind that you weren't brought up in the Wizarding World, so you would have no real way of knowing just how few Wandmakers there really are.
"Beyond the fact that there aren't many around, a wand can be even more dangerous than a muggle firearm. As such, every Ministry in the world keeps close tabs on Wandmakers and every sale is registered. At the moment, everyone believes that Harry Potter is dead, and I don't think that we should give up that advantage by taking a half-assed trip to get you a new wand."
Gus cinched his bathrobe a little tighter around his ample stomach and to a step towards Harry with his hand extended. "No hard feelings I hope?"
Harry got to his feet and reached out to shake Gus' hand as he replied evenly, "no, it's okay."
Just before their hands clasped, Gus produced a small penknife, that he had been holding unseen in his outstretched hand, and slashed at Harry's exposed palm. Harry hissed at the unexpected pain as the small, but razor sharp blade, opened a deep slash in his hand. "What the hell was that for?" he shouted angrily as he stumbled backwards and nearly tripped over his chair.
"I told you I was going to give you something you could work on by yourself this morning." Gus said in a placating voice as he took a wary step back from Harry, who in his anger, had begun to move like a trapped and injured animal about to pounce. "I probably should have warned you first, but..., well, I don't really know why I didn't."
"Look Harry it's like this," Gus continued, "your psychic core is a lot like a muscle. In order for it to get stronger, it needs to be /used/. At this point, the only power that we can be sure that you have is your ability to heal yourself. So, for the time being that is all we have to work with. Now, as your core develops I'm sure that more of your latent abilities will surface, but until then, I just can't afford to have you breaking all my expensive bottles of liquor."
Gus had meant his last bit to be a joke, but seeing as the icy glare remained in Harry's eyes, he was smart enough to know that he had failed miserably. He gave a cough to clear his throat and forged ahead. "Why don't you head outside and find a comfortable place to sit. I don't think you'll have to do much. I expect that you body will deal with the injury by itself. What I want you to do is just to focus on the feeling as the cut heals. The sooner you can identify how your power feels when it works, the faster you will be able to call on it when you need it.
"Listen, I know I must seem like a complete nutter to you right now," Gus added, still trying to break the tension, "but trust me, this will all be worth it later. I'll check up on you in a little bit."
"Fine." Harry bit out coldly as he turned and headed outside, loudly slamming the screen door behind him as he went.
Gus watched him head down to the dock for a few seconds before he moved to retrieve a bottle of Scotch from the pantry. /Well old boy/, he thought, /that went terribly. This is shaping up to be a long summer/. Not bothering with a glass, he opened the bottle and took a big gulp of the fiery liquid as he sat back down at the table to think.
Harry was furious as he stormed out of the cabin and headed down to the dock. There was no better way to explain it. However, it wasn't really Gus' sneak attack that had set him off. As twisted as it was, Harry could still see the logic of it. When Gus had first told him about his psychic abilities, he had realized that like anything else, they were most likely going to require a good bit of hard work and sacrifice on his part, at least in the beginning stages of their development. Had Gus just told him what he planned to do and his reasons for it, Harry would have gladly cut his own hand. Hell, he had suffered through much worse injuries in his life than a small cut on his hand. No, it wasn't what Gus just did that had made him this angry it was the way that he had gone about it.
Like seemingly every other adult that Harry had known to this point in his life, Gus had assumed that he knew what was best. He made his plan of action alone, and even though it directly affected Harry, he chose to leave him in the dark about it. Well, Harry had seen more than enough of that so far in his life. He wasn't about to stand by and be treated like his opinion didn't matter for even one day more.
Whether or not anyone would acknowledge it, Harry was no child, and in all honesty, he hadn't been one for a long time. His life had not been an easy one, and to survive he had been forced to throw away the trappings of childhood at a young age. True, he was not yet sixteen years old, but from a maturity stand point he was already an adult. If only the actual adults in his life would have realized this, many of the tragedies he had seen to this point could have been easily avoided. He was going to make them understand this very soon. He just hoped that no one else would have to die before they listened to him.
When Harry arrived down at the dock, he knelt down and dipped his still bleeding hand in the lake to clean it. Unsure what he needed to do, he sat back against one of the dock support beams, and stared blankly at the blood slowly oozing from his wound. Gus had said that his body would pretty much take care of healing the cut and all Harry needed to do was concentrate on the feeling his body had when this happened. Unfortunately, his lingering anger and frustration made it difficult for him to focus on much of anything for more than a few seconds at a time.
Finally, the warm afternoon sun combined with the gentle lapping sound of the lake against the dock, helped to ease Harry into a much more peaceful and relaxed state of mind. Because he hadn't slept at all the night before, he eventually nodded off to sleep. It didn't turn out to be a long nap though. Just moments after he drifted off, he slipped from the post he had been leaning against and was jarred awake by the sudden movement.
After a short moment's disorientation, Harry noticed that his injured hand was strangely warm. Curious, he dipped his hand back in the lake and began to wipe away the blood that had long since dried over his cut. The warmth that he felt soon changed into a tingling sensation, which quickly became an uncomfortable itchy feeling. Over the next few minutes, he watched in fascination as his power knitted the small slice on his hand back together. When the itchy sensation finally ceased, it was like his hand had never been cut in the first place.
With a great swell of satisfaction, Harry got to his feet and headed back up to the cabin to talk with Gus about what he had just felt. He wasn't sure exactly how long it had taken, but he was satisfied with the results for his first attempt. As he left the dock, he saw Gus heading down to meet him so he stopped and waited for him to draw near.
"Well," Harry said as Gus came to a halt in front of him, "I did it. It took me a while at first, but I did feel something eventually."
"Really?" Gus responded in a pleased voice as he handed Harry a sandwich. "I hope you like ham because it's all I had. Let me take a look and see how you made out."
Taking the sandwich gratefully, Harry extended his palm to show off the newly healed skin as Gus reached out and pulled it closer to examine it. "Looks pretty good," he said simply.
Harry allowed himself a satisfied smile at Gus' simple statement. However, it quickly disappeared when Gus produced his penknife again and proceeded to carve another slice in Harry's freshly healed hand.
"What the hell's wrong with you?" Harry yelled, feeling his earlier anger return in force as he tugged his hand out of Gus' grasp. Gus said nothing in response. He just gave a small shrug of his shoulders, turned away, and headed back to the cabin, whistling softly as he went.
"I didn't ask for any of this you know." Harry shouted in frustration at the retreating man's back.
"Never said that you did," Gus responded evenly, without breaking his stride towards the cabin, "but that doesn't change anything. It took you nearly two hours to heal that cut and that's not good enough. If it had been a serious wound, you'd have died long before then. Do it faster this time."
Harry stared after Gus until he finally disappeared into the cabin. Not having any real outlet for his frustrations, he bit into his sandwich angrily and stomped back down to his spot on the dock. He made short work of the sandwich and quickly settled in so he could concentrate on the task at hand.
This time, however, it did not go well for Harry. Try as he might, he couldn't seem to call up the same feeling he had experienced earlier, and the angry red slice on his hand remained unchanged. As the hours slowly passed without results, he became more and more frustrated.
Eventually, Harry noticed that the shadows had begun to grow longer as the afternoon gave way to evening. With a deep sigh, which turned quickly into a yawn, he realized just how tired he was. He decided that if he wasn't going to make any more progress today, then he might as well try to get some sleep. Not wanting to give Gus the satisfaction of knowing that he had failed to heal the second cut, he pulled off his sweatshirt and tucked it behind his head as he lay back on the dock. In just a few moments, he was sound asleep.
A short time later, Harry woke feeling much more rested. He wasn't sure how long he had slept, but the sun hadn't set yet, so he was sure it mustn't have been too long. As he got slowly to his feet, he was surprised to feel the same warmth he had felt earlier, growing in his injured hand. He watched mesmerized, as the warmth quickly gave way to the same itchy sensation that he had felt earlier, and his cut disappeared.
Feeling suddenly pleased with himself, Harry was about to head back to the cabin when he stopped dead in his tracks. /I just spent forever trying to do that/, he thought to himself, /what suddenly changed that made it so simple for me/? He leaned down onto the dock railing, and looked out over the lake as he chewed over that thought. For a long time, he could find no answer but then, out of the blue, it hit him.
/Could it be that simple/? Harry wondered, as his eyes fixed on a loose nail whose point stuck out from the railing. /Well/, he thought as he casually dropped his hand onto the nail, breaking the skin, /only one way to know for sure/. He stared blankly at the fresh crimson droplets of blood that sprang from this newest wound, and concentrated hard. In mere seconds this time, he felt the warm itchy sensation, and just like that, the cut was gone.
The difference between being shown how to do something, and figuring it out for oneself, was immense. As such, Harry felt a great swell of pride at having solved this particular puzzle himself. He realized that both times he struggled to heal the cuts that Gus had given him; he had been angry and increasingly frustrated. In both these cases, it had only been after he woke from a short nap, with his mind relaxed and peaceful, that the healing took place. He had concentrated hard on that same feeling of calm when he healed the puncture from the nail. Like firing a gun, the results had been immediate and impressive. He had found a trigger for his healing ability now, but before he got too excited, he decided that one more test was in order.
Still elated with his success, Harry gritted his teeth and hissed at the pain as he drew the entire length of his forearm down the exposed nail and opened up a long, deep cut this time. With another moment's concentration, he felt the rush of warmth to his forearm and watched as this wound also vanished without a trace.
A smile broke out on Harry's face, but it was short lived. Suddenly, his vision blurred and he was hit with a sudden feeling of extreme dizziness, which forced him to his knees and made him break out in a cold sweat. After several seconds, he felt the sensation dissipate, only to be replaced with a dull throbbing headache. Leaning over the edge of the dock, he scooped up a handful of cool lake water and splashed it on his face before he sat back up.
/Well/, Harry thought, with a rueful shake of his head, which he immediately regretted, /Gus said that the psychic core was a lot like a muscle. I guess it's only fair that I'm a little sore after I give it a workout/. He sat collecting himself for a few more minutes, before he put his old jumper back on and headed up to the cabin.
As soon as Harry reached the top of the steps onto the level area in front of the cabin, he got a sudden, overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and his heart began to violently hammer in his chest. His eyes flashed back and forth searching for danger and he unconsciously shifted his weight onto the balls of his feet as he cautiously stalked forward. He saw nothing out of place that would indicate there was any danger, but his instincts were certain that it was there.
With each measured step Harry took towards the cabin, his sense of unease grew. Finally, as he drew even with the old stone fire-pit, the pounding of his heart had reached a fever pitch and the sense of foreboding he felt had him in a near state of panic. He didn't know what was wrong, but he knew that he was in immediate danger and he had do something immediately.
Without making a conscious decision to act, Harry's instincts took over and he suddenly threw his body into a dive over the old fire-pit. As soon as he began his dive, he heard the deafening crack of a shotgun being fired. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a man, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere, crouched down at the edge of the retaining wall next to the broken light post. Before he had even hit the ground, Harry heard the sound of the shotgun pellets ricocheting off the stone of the fireplace that he had been standing in front of just a second before.
Harry winced slightly as some of the shot grazed his cheek and knocked his glasses from his face. He hit the ground hard but he quickly rolled up into a crouch, all the while wishing he had his wand. He saw the blurry shape of the armed man getting to his feet and he felt a sudden swell of rage boil up from his stomach.
He felt the warm blood trickling down his injured cheek and his eyes began to water when he realized the scratch was burning like it was on fire. /Why does this always happen to me/? Harry thought bitterly to himself. /All I want is to be left alone/. He quickly shook away the feeling of self-pity that just come over him and once again focused on his attacker.
As Harry's eyes once again fell on the blurry shape of the man, he immediately felt a sudden, and very intense, surge of power ripple through his body. This sensation was nearly identical to what he had felt earlier in the day when he had tried, unsuccessfully, to call the liquor bottle to him, only this feeling was many times stronger.
With a great deal of satisfaction, Harry heard a loud grunt of surprise issue from his attacker, and he watched as the man fell backwards out of sight. Without even pausing to wonder what had happened to the man, he sprang to his feet intent on finding Gus, curious as to why the gunshot hadn't brought him running.
Harry had only taken one-step, when he was hit with a violent wave of dizziness and his vision began to fade to black around the edges. He stumbled suddenly and fell to his knees where he retched violently, only just keeping down the contents of his stomach.
With a sinking feeling, he realized that he was only seconds away from blacking out completely. He fought valiantly against the veil of darkness that was descending over him, but between the dizziness he felt, and the sudden acute pain that was ripping through his skull, he was losing.
"No!" The defiant scream tore itself from Harry's throat as he fought against the inevitable. He had fought his whole life, and he wasn't about to stop now. With fierce determination, Harry tapped into his deep reserve of willpower and fought desperately to maintain consciousness.
Finally, after what seemed to Harry to be a long struggle, but was in reality no more than a few short seconds, his eyes snapped open again. He saw his glasses, still short one lens, laying just a few inches from his face and he quickly snatched them up and returned them to their proper place as he struggled to his feet. The dizziness he felt earlier was gone, but the sharp pain in his head remained. He winced slightly as he looked quickly around for his attacker, the sudden movement making his headache worse.
Harry saw no immediate threat, and his earlier feeling of danger was also gone, but he wasn't about to take any chances. He spotted a weathered old axe-handle lying on the ground near his feet, which he picked up. While the axe-head had long since broken off and lay rusting on the ground at his feet, the handle was still a good sturdy piece of wood and, without a wand; it was the closest thing to a weapon he could find.
Harry was giving his club a few tentative swings to get the feel for it, when he heard a muffled grunt issue from the area where he had last seen his attacker. Instantly wary, he dropped into a crouch and spun towards the noise, while a sudden spike of pain in his head encouraged him to move slower next time. He saw some movement and quickly focused on its source.
Near the base of the broken lamppost, which along with its still working partner had at one time lit the horseshoe pits they stood watch over, Harry saw a foot. More specifically, he saw a foot tangled up in the electrical cord that had once supplied power to the lamppost. Moving as quickly and quietly as he could manage, he crossed the yard towards his attacker. As he drew nearer, he saw the foot twitching wildly and he realized that the man must have slipped over the edge of the retaining wall and was now hanging suspended by his entwined foot. Having discovered that his attacker was effectively trapped, he dropped any pretense of stealth, rushed to the edge of the retaining wall and peered cautiously down at the trapped man, determined to act while he still held an advantage.
What Harry saw when he looked over the edge caused him to freeze in place as an angry chill shot up his spine. The man suspended upside-down below him was not the dangerous assassin that he had anticipated, it was a very red-faced and short of breath Gus. Shaking his head in anger, he stepped back from the edge and decided what he was going to do about this situation.
Seconds later, a very grim-faced Harry Potter stepped over the edge of the wall and dropped into a crouch just a few short feet from Gus. Still tightly clutching his axe-handle, he rose slowly to his feet and fought down another stab of pain in his head brought on by the sudden movement.
"Harry!" Gus slurred cheerfully as his gaze snapped onto him. "Give us a hand would you? I seem to be sort of stuck at the moment."
As soon as Gus began to speak, Harry had been almost overpowered by the strong smell of alcohol coming from him. /Great/, Harry thought to himself wryly, /he's drunk as Hell. Doesn't matter though, this might actually make this easier. After all, he hasn't exactly been forthcoming about what his psychic powers are. Maybe the alcohol will impede his thought processes, and his powers, enough so that I can get away with this/.
"Not just yet Gus." Harry said evenly as he circled around in front of the suspended man and dropped down so he was nearly eye-level with him. "You see, I think we need to have a little talk about the way things are going to go, from here on out, first."
Gus sputtered indignantly for a moment but, "Wha...," was as far as he got with his reply.
"I think its best that I finish what with what I have to say before you respond." Harry said, abruptly cutting off Gus. "You just tried to shoot me. Whether you did it because you take some sick pleasure in torturing people, or because you thought it would help my training, I don't know and, frankly, I don't care anymore.
"What I care about," Harry continued as he stood up and began to pace back and forth, "is where we go from here. I need to learn what you have to teach me Gus, but that doesn't make me your personal whipping boy, so we are going to make some changes in the way we do things around here.
"Now," Harry continued as he once again dropped into a crouch so he was at eye level with Gus, "from here on out, you are going to teach me how to use my psychic powers, but we will discuss every exercise that you want to try. There will be no more stabbing me with knives, or jumping out from behind trees and trying to shoot me, or whatever other demented thing you can think of.
"Believe me Gus; I understand how important my learning to develop these psychic powers is. My life is on the line, and I promise you that I will give everything I have to learning what you have to teach me this summer. All I ask is that you treat me like an equal. If you can do that, then we will get along just fine. So, what do you say?"
"Fuck you/!" Gus spat back at Harry with an angry wheeze. "Who the /Hell do you think you are anyway? Nobody/, not even Merlin himself, can tell /me what to do. I agreed to help you this summer because I owed it to your Mother, but you know what, you can go fuck yourself, because I won't be teaching you anything now."
"Oh," Harry said calmly as a smile crept onto his face, "I think you will. You see, right now you need me just as much, if not more, than I need you."
Gus looked at him skeptically for a moment before he asked harshly, "And why the fuck would that be?"
"Well," Harry answered evenly, "it seems to me that you are in more than a little spot of trouble at the moment. Before I hopped down here, I had a look at your trapped foot. From the looks of that knotted mess, I can't see you getting your foot free, without help, anytime soon. Now, that doesn't sound too bad, does it?
"Unfortunately for you, there is more to your current situation than just been caught in some wire. Judging by how red your face is at the moment, and that loud rasping noise you are making whenever you take a breath, I'd guess that you are having trouble breathing.
"With you being upside down and all," Harry continued jovially, "it looks to me as if that massively fat stomach of yours is slowly crushing all the air out of your lungs, and making it nearly impossible for you to keep drawing breath. So, the way I see it, you have two choices right now. One, you tell me to piss off, and you take your chances that you'll be able to get free before you blackout from lack of oxygen and eventually suffocate. Or two, you give me your oath right now, that you will do everything you can to help me this summer, and I'll cut you down so that we can get to work. The choice is yours."
Gus stared blankly at him for several seconds as he tried to figure out whether or not Harry was bluffing, but he met Gus' gaze with a cold blank stare of his own that gave away nothing. Finally, unable to match the intensity of the younger man's eyes, Gus looked away convinced that Harry was, in fact, deathly serious about his earlier threat.
When Gus looked away, his heart jumped suddenly as he saw a third option, one that Harry hadn't offered him, lying just inches away from him was his forgotten wand. With a grunt of desperation, Gus made a grab for his wand, allowed himself a smile of satisfaction as his fingers wrapped around the familiar piece of wood, and began to raise it.
Harry had noticed the stray wand just seconds before Gus had, and wasn't the least bit surprised when the older man made a grab for it. Not really having time to think of a plan, Harry acted on instinct. Grabbing the axe-handle he still held firmly with both hands, he swung it back over his head and sent it whistling down in a short arc until it connected on the back of Gus' hand just he had scooped up his wand.
Harry heard the distinctive crack of breaking bone, followed by a piercing scream of pain from Gus. He deftly bent and caught the wand as it fell from Gus' grasp. Harry took a cautious step back, slightly sickened by what he had just done, and fought to keep his expression blank. He hadn't meant for this to get out of hand. He had been bluffing earlier when he said he would leave Gus to die, but things had quickly gotten out of control and his hand had been forced.
"You broke my fucking hand." Gus spat bitterly at Harry.
"I did." Harry answered coldly as he tossed aside the axe-handle. "Now, what's your decision? Either give me your vow now, or I'll leave you to your fate."
Gus stared angrily at Harry for several minutes, but in the end, he caved in and gave Harry the Wizard's Oath that he wanted. Harry blew out a sigh of relief after the oath was given. He had learned enough about Wizard's Oaths from Hermione's near constant babbling over the years, to know that he didn't have to worry about Gus turning on him once he was free. The oath would prevent that, so he raised the wand he still held and uttered a quick Diffendo that severed the wire holding Gus, and sent the man crashing to the ground in a heap. Without another word, Harry turned away and headed back to the cabin.
In the end, Harry had gotten what he wanted, but it had left a bad taste in his mouth. Although he would deny it even to himself, the truth was that on some level, he had felt a rush of power when he realized that Gus was completely under his control. As he walked away, he wondered if Voldemort, back when he had been simply Tom Riddle, had ever felt the same feeling when he first imposed his will on another. Had Voldemort always been evil, or had been made that way by his circumstances? By manipulating Gus like he just did, had he just started down the same path that Riddle walked all those decades ago?
Harry pushed these thoughts from his mind, scared of where their answers might lead him, and made a silent vow to himself. He knew that this war would force him to do some distasteful things if he was to survive it, but he vowed that he wouldn't lose himself in the process. He would not allow himself to become like the monster who had taken so much from him.
As Harry walked silently toward the cabin, surrounded by his dark thoughts, he was blissfully unaware of the set of intelligent, dark eyes that peered out of the forest and watched him with interest. The sound of the earlier gunshot had peaked her interest, and curious, she had drawn nearer to investigate. When her sharp eyes had fallen on the young wizard, it had been all she could do, not to let loose a cry of victory. It was the same cry that had, for years, made grown-men's blood run cold. Many had considered her search to be futile, but despite that she had endured, and now she had found him. Soon, it would be time for her to act.
A/N: Well, here is Chapter six. Hope you enjoy it, and Happy Holidays to you all.