The events leading to chapter 1 - FINALLY.
Acknowledgements - Where to begin? FairyQilan did a wonderful job on the beta. All the Alpha Fighters (IP82, Nukular Winter, ChuckDaTruck, Nonjon, Japanesse-Jew, Cubdom, Jmcqk6) all chipped in to really make this chapter stand out. IP82 deserves special kudos for his assistance on the Luna and Harry letters. I'd also like to thank those on DLP and FFA that commented on the preview threads for this chapter.
Date - Monday, August 12, 1996
Chapter 17- Just Say a Word and the Boys Will be Right There
It's Monday morning, you say a tearful goodbye to Chico and promise to come back and visit him. Karina is slowly getting better. The healer says she'll be able to move about in a magical wheelchair in three or four days. Your uneasy alliance with Nikolai Colastos continues to build a slight trust. Most off all, you're happy to be away from The Frau.
Opening the journal, you look at Luna's response.
You never cease to amaze me with how you can turn any situation into something about you! I forgot that you're king of the rough times! You always hear about the sad and tragic story of Harry Potter! Well I've got a story for you, how about the story of a nine year old girl, who interrupts her Mum's little experiment and causes an explosion that ends up killing her Mum! Then she gets to watch her Dad slowly go insane and know that it was all her fault! You and Neville didn't know your parents. I did. So pardon me if I consider the two of you lucky.
After all that, I get to read an annoying letter from you telling me that I should relax and that I'm being too sensitive. Sorry, I'm not used to being used as leverage against my father.
Write back. Don't write back. I don't really care right now.
The friendship is just about at rock bottom. She's lashing out and you think that she's finally cutting loose with the real reasons she hides behind 'Looney'. Luna is angry, very angry. In a way she did get the worst deal. One parent had been instantly taken from her and the other one going away piece by piece. To make matters worse, she blames herself! It's a good bet that Looney is there to prevent her from ever getting close to someone. She's trying to drive you away, whether she knows it or not.
You have to decide whether you have time for this right now? How do you feel about Luna? She's sweet when she wants to be. She has a sarcastic sense of humor that you can appreciate. She also has quite a few problems and she is throwing a major fit.
A few minutes of deep thought and you decide to keep writing and see what happens next.
You shouldn't blame yourself for what happened to your Mum. You were nine. Kids don't understand that Mum and Dad need to be left alone. It's not your fault. What was your Mum doing practicing experimental magic in the house in the first place? People normally have shielded labs for that kind of thing, don't they? Why didn't she spell the door to keep you out?
You're being too hard on yourself. You're taking it out on me to prove that you don't need anyone in your life. In two years when you're out of school, are you really going to stop using 'Looney'? Do you even want to? Hiding from your pain doesn't make it go away. Hiding your feelings away just makes you numb.
I wouldn't be much of a friend if I turned my back on you now. Maybe you should write to Professor Flitwick. He might be a good source of help. I've never had much luck talking to Professor McGonagall, but it might be worth a shot.
You put the journal in with the rest of your stuff and dress to leave. You make certain to stop and pay your respects to Don Nikolai before leaving. He has arranged for you to be allowed to come visit a couple of times this week. He's also considering a few of the requests that Bill recommended. Most of them aren't important until you are preparing to head back to England, so they aren't an immediate need.
You Apparate back into your hotel room and scare the heebejeebies out of the housekeeper, who thought the room was empty, oops. Fortunately, she was running the vacuum cleaner and didn't hear the crack of your Apparition. You read the note that Bill left for you. He and Fleur have gone to the Bank. The rest are checked in to the Dancing Dolphin.
After the housekeeper leaves, you slip your armor on underneath your clothes and head over to the magical community. You swing by Karina's shack and notice a cleanup crew is on site repairing the damage. You wonder if there's a 'for sale' sign already up at Amanda's?
At the Dolphin, you meet up with Kwan, Collins and Thundercloud. You use a chunk of your five hundred galleons to rent a private dueling chamber with target range. The two Hitwizards put you through a grueling workout as Thundercloud looks on. On a break, you describe in detail the battle at the mansion. Collins opts to go head back into Rio for some 'action' and to see if he can find a private gun club to take you shooting. You discuss your newly acquired 'clarity' with the two remaining wizards over a light lunch.
"I cannot use the killing curse without nausea either. The other two, I can use with no problem." Kwan admits. You find it odd that a Hitwizard can't use it. You recall Collins tossing it out like a stunner.
"Forgive me Kwan, but you're a Hitwizard?"
"Stupid cook growing up. Two weeks ago you would have been whining 'but you're a Hitwizard?' Now, you ask question with respect." Sadly, he did a passable impersonation of you whining. "People are different. Some people good at charms, some turn into animals, and some use killing curse without side affects. Besides, many other ways to kill other than that curse. Require more skill, yes, but that is why I teach you. You killed four people in short period of time. Surprise and luck were on your side. You were better trained then they thought you were. Every fight comes down to surprise, luck and skill. You cannot guarantee two of them, so you must learn skill and hope it's enough when the other two are not on your side."
Thundercloud jumps in, "Harry, one thing that stands out is that even in your animal form, you wanted to kill Paulo. Needing to kill is a primal instinct for food and survival. Wanting to kill is what we mistakenly call, 'higher thought' processes."
Not really sure that you understand, "But what about the first fight with the Goblins? I was fighting for my life there too?" Hmm, lets see Dragon, Goblins, Goblins and Colastos ambush. So far you've managed to accumulate a life or death situation roughly every seven days. This isn't a good trend is it?
"You didn't hate those Goblins did you?"
"No. Not really."
"Then there is your answer."
The attendant setting up the fresh targets for your afternoon workout and clearing away the lunch plates is none other than Sheila Lopez. She seems happy to see you. You smile politely and avoid saying anything resembling, 'How is Reese? Sorry his brother ended up dead. Well not really considering I'm the one that did it.'
She comes back in later on during your afternoon workout to finish cleaning the tables. You have a sneaking suspicion about why she really came in, while you destroy several targets with powerful spells. On your way out for the day she reminds you that you owe her a game of pool sometime. You give her a little smile and say you'll take her up on that soon. You didn't really like Reese. Paulo and Amanda tried to kill you. Maybe there is hope for the last member of your team? Then again, you're a bit suspicious these days.
You catch up with Bill and Fleur. They let you know how negotiations fared, slowly. The three of you grab some dinner and you read the note from Collins letting you know that you have some time on a gun range tomorrow night after your time at the dueling club. Thundercloud wants you to sleep in your jaguar form tonight to ensure that you have sufficient clarity to start working on Occlumency and Bill just handed you some effing curse breaking homework! You smile and grumble when he tells you that the purpose and answer to this scheme is in one of the six current books you have borrowed from him. It's a good thing you don't have to cook for these people anymore. You don't have the time!
You settle back into your room and open the journal with a slight feeling of dread. Your relationship with Luna is on the threshold of becoming an unmitigated disaster. Even Fleur isn't sure you can salvage it and she's a hopeless romantic, as well as a sexual deviant. She does recommend that you 'stick to your spells' and don't budge.
YOU COMPLETE AND UTTER BASTARD!
You have NO RIGHT to say anything about my Mum! You weren't there. You don't know what happened; yet there you go passing judgment without even establishing the facts.
So after you finish insulting my dead parent, what's next? You suddenly grow a brain and decide that you'll analyze the source of my emotional pain and give Healer Potter's diagnosis of what's really wrong with me. Stay the hell out of my head!
Furthermore, if I am taking something out on you, it's because you bloody well deserve it! Get off your broomstick there, Mr. High and Mighty Chosen One! Who's the one hiding from their problems in ANOTHER COUNTRY? Where do you get off with the amateur mind healer shit? Like you're so together. Teach me, oh wise savior of the Wizarding world, show me how to make lasting friendships and foster deep personal relationships.
Sarcasm really doesn't suit her does it? As much as you would like to, you put off a response in favor of Bill's homework. Fleur said Luna would probably continue to lash out and try to drive you away. The more you keep writing her, the closer she is to some kind of breakthrough.
An hour and a half later, you have determined that Bill's homework is the directions to a Nordic style magical toilet. Naturally, you looked for all these dangerous curses first. At least you narrowed it down to Scandinavian runes quick enough. Only two books to look through! Activating the last rune with two wand taps vanishes the contents of the bowl. You appreciate the humor. Even ancient ruins can have a crapper around.
I understand that you are angry with me. I've been hanging on to my belief that I was responsible for Sirius' death up until Dumbledore, Granger and the Weasleys started their little manipulation of my life. I'd probably still be a pathetic mess if they didn't give me something else to focus on.
There have been times that I blamed myself for my parents being killed. Doesn't that sound ridiculous? I'm sure Neville does too. I was one. You told me at the veil that you heard the voices, just like me. They didn't sound angry. They weren't accusing me of anything. When I thought back to that, it was partly that which helped me get over my grief.
If you want to know why I couldn't write you on Friday, it's because I wandered into an ambush. I ran off - thinking I was going to save Karina and her little boy Chico. I had two Aurors with me. Turns out the Aurors were about as crooked as the Malfoys. They were working for this crime boss, who wanted to kill his father and take control of his family. Sounds like something Draco would do! I had to fight for my life again. Kwan summed it up best. I was lucky, I surprised them and I was more trained than they expected. I owe my survival to my Animagus form. It's a jaguar. I'll miss the little guessing game we used to play. I won't go into any details, but I'm alive and they aren't.
I spent the next few days taking care of Chico, while his Mum heals. That was when I got the journal back and began writing back.
I guess in a way you are right, I haven't really talked about Karina. She and I were pretty close, but not anymore. I was doing my 'saving people thing' and she needed help. If I hadn't befriended her, I think the people would have found a way to kill her and her son. This time I was lucky. Only the bad guys died.
Well, I'll let you go now. I hope things are getting better for you.
You close the book. Fleur's advice had been to just keep writing and let Luna address the issues on her own timetable. You doubt it could be any worse than the mess you've already created. You reread it and are satisfied with your writing. You're calm and friendly. That's about all you can do for now.
You spend a bit more time studying runes. Bill had told you that the OWL and NEWT written exams in Ancient Runes were all about simple memorization. Curse Breaking is about recognizing what type of runes you are faced with and applying research and deductive reasoning to beat them. Unless you are attacking someone's fortifications, then you have ample time to slow down and do things the right way.
The Breaker who owned this copy of Golinard's before his untimely death at the hands of the Goblin rebels, was fairly imaginative. He had a few custom schemes in his notes that were interesting. His most unique one was an eight rune combination that created blistering gas, a bit more powerful than a stinging hex, but falling short of completely recreating Mustard gas, which is what he was aiming for. Still, it's dead useful. Bill thought it was interesting since most Breakers would be expecting direct spells and wouldn't think to recheck for air purity.
Nice to see after all this time you finally admit there was something going on with you and this Karina woman. See doesn't it feel better now? All this time, I thought you were lonely there and in desperate need of friendship. Small wonder you just wrote me off as just a friend? Now that whatever the two of you had is over, I guess you thought you could come back to chatting me up? Wrong!
Of course you say that if you didn't have something else or is that someone else to focus on you'd be a 'pathetic mess'. So I am guessing that by your definition, I am also a pathetic mess? If I decide I need help and want help, it will be professional help and not some idiot like you offering half-arsed ideas and opinions.
Stop writing me. I don't want to talk to you anymore. I don't care about your life. I don't care about your thoughts or observations. I sure as hell don't care about your love life! If I never read another letter from you, it will be too soon.
Her handwriting is basically a scrawl. She isn't even talking about what is happening in her life. The whole letter is basically an insult directed at you. It's working. You're pretty angry by the end of it. So much for calm and friendly! All right, if that's the way she wants to be, well let's just see if she can take a little bit of what she's dishing out?
Our friendship has nothing to do with whatever Karina and I had. The only times I haven't been writing you were times that I was injured or not able to get to my journal! Jealousy isn't a good look for you. For that matter, I'm not even sure what is a good look for you? You're so adept at hiding who you really are. How do I even know if you haven't been lying to me just like you are lying to everyone else?
Is your Dad back from the hospital? Is the Ministry still trying to blackmail your father? You're not even talking about that anymore. All you want to do is write about my brief relationship with Karina. Fine, if it will satisfy you, what do you want to know? Is it over? Yes. Did we snog? Yes. Did we shag? Several times in fact.
Insulting me isn't going to get you any closer to a resolution with your problems, but if that is what you need to do to make yourself feel better, then by all means vent on me.
If you want to actually do something about your problems, you could probably mention you're situation to Fred and George. They'll be able to pass it into Dumbledore's organization. If Dumbledore is aware of what's going on, he might be able to get the Minister to ease up. I don't trust Dumbledore as far as I can banish him, but he'd probably be on your father's side.
Six hours later, as you are getting ready for the day, you get your answer.
I hate you! You disgust me. I can't even believe I actually had a thing for you! Why am I even still writing a man-slag like you? Makes me wonder if all those rumors about you were actually true? Stop writing me. It will only waste your valuable time that you could be using finding a new slut to polish your broomstick.
The following days are filled with Kwan, Collins, and Thundercloud working you like you've never been worked before. Kwan and Collins show you more varied and destructive spellchains. Some of them mix offense and defense others are strictly destructive in nature. Both of them add a few Dark curses into the mix. Nothing really 'light' about a bone shattering curse, is there? Collins smiles as he shows you a Dark variant of the Incarcerous spell that utilizes barbed wire instead of ropes. You worry about Collins.
Surprisingly enough, Thundercloud has some of the most interesting things to add. Things that are now considered Dark were not so in his youth, scalding geysers of steam and jets of acid to blind your opponent, cutters that won't heal from a standard wound closing charm without the lingering power of the spell being dispelled first and a stunner wrapped in a vomiting hex which has the potential to make the target choke on their own bile. Even Kwan looks interested in that one.
Additionally, Thundercloud has been working with you coming out of your Jaguar form and casting spells. He promises that you will get better with time and practice. To that end gives you a series of exercises to further continue frustrate you. Now, he would like you to do some of your reading in your animal form to improve your cognitive thought processes. As if reading about Ancient Runes in human form isn't tedious enough at times. At least you figured out how to charm the book. One growl turns the page forward. Two growls will turn it back.
Furthermore, if you need to stop and take notes, you have to shift back into your human form. It seems rather tedious, but you've learned enough to know that there is a method to the madness. Especially, when you have to stop and think about what you wanted to write down. It all ties back to coming out of your form and casting spells.
Collins has given up trying to teach you to use an AK-47. You're also pretty much worthless with a pistol. By the end of the first day, you're massaging bruises from the recoil of a Mossberg 590. After he lightens it, it kicks even worse than before, but you like the destructive power. The Hitwizard shows you how to apply a cushioning and recoil charm only after you learn how to hold it correctly. Fucker spends too much time around Kwan.
You have to give credit where it is due. He knows his stuff, as he shows you proper care and cleaning of the weapon. Collins is as meticulous as Snape with a potions recipe when it comes to firearms. He whispers in reverence of fifty caliber weapons like the Barrett Sniper rifle and a Desert Eagle pistol. He actually owns the pistol and showed you damage the large caliber handgun could inflict. The Hitwizard from Texas seems to enjoy large holes in wooden and paper targets. You're pretty content with the Mossberg. It reminds you of some of the games Dudders would play on his computer and his Playstation.
You've had two visits with Chico and Karina. They're both doing better. You're glad. Chico's new room is larger that Karina's whole house and Karina is able to get around in a wheelchair.
In the evenings, Bill hands you strange and bizarre rune combinations to decipher and carve. To finish off your night, you have Luna's insults. Your war of words with her continues to escalate. You've had enough of backing down and apologizing for things that have nothing to do with Luna. It's frustrating to keep writing her, the insults are getting more descriptive. Threatening to hex your pecker off isn't something to be taken lightly!
I decided I should answer the question you keep asking. 'Why am I still writing to you?' I'll tell you why. You might have found a real friend in me, so you are doing everything to sabotage our friendship. It doesn't 'fit' with the fake life you have mapped out for yourself. So, you think that if you insult me enough, I'll go away and you can go back to being Looney knowing that you were right and I wasn't a real friend anyway.
I think, and both Bill and Fleur agree with me, that you are letting your prank control you. You might be angry with me now, but maybe one day you'll thank me and tell me I was right.
In hindsight getting that confrontational with her has given her all the ammunition she needs to end the correspondence. She's upped the ante and is daring you to call her bluff.
I can't believe you! Thank you? Okay I'll thank you. Thank you for being a backstabbing, traitorous little fucker! You really are a little shit aren't you? Do you even have a loyal bone in your body? Is betrayal your middle name or is it just your motto? It was so nice of you to just start discussing me with your friends? Maybe I should find someone to discuss your writings with? Ginny and Hermione are gone into hiding until school starts, so how about I ask Dumbledore what he thinks of our correspondence?
Maybe you can't take a hint? Maybe your pea-sized brain just can't process the fact that I don't want to write to you anymore? I've had enough! So, I am going to spell it out for you in plain terms that even a thick idiot like yourself can understand. If you write so much as one more sentence, no one single word in this journal. I will owl the damn thing to Dumbledore! It's a promise, not a threat! Go ahead try me! I dare you! Maybe I'll do it anyway. I'm certain he would help Daddy out if I had information he wants.
Guess you'll have to wonder whether I'm going to do it or not.
Pleasant dreams traitor and good riddance,
That hurt. That hurt a lot. Bill agrees with you, when you show it to him. There's nothing in Bill's journal communications with the Order to indicate she has. You're too close to getting into the City of the Damned. You can't risk Dumbledore finding out now. Fleur and Bill take rooms at the Dolphin with an empty one for you there. You reregister at the normal hotel under the name of Brian Daniels. Your wallet is now a voice activated Portkey to the road outside the Colastos estate. Angrily, you shove the journal back into the trunk. You made a lot of mistakes with Luna, but then again, so did she.
Contemplating taking Sheila up on her not so subtle, 'let's go shoot a round of pool, oh and did I mention that I've dumped Reese' offer, you sit at the restaurant waiting for Bill and Fleur to arrive. The only reason you haven't taken Sheila up on her offer is the nagging feeling that somehow it would prove Luna was right and you are a man-slag. You need a distraction, badly.
"Well there's someone I hadn't expected to see again? How's the Dark Wizard hunting going?"
You look up from your plate recognizing the voice attached to the questions directed at you. It looks like your much-needed distraction just arrived. "Hello Amy, I see you came back. How's Canada? Hmmm, Dark Wizard hunting, I got rid a few of them last week. This week has been slow, but I've already made my quota. How have you been?" You reply with a chuckle. Sometimes the best lie is the truth.
"Not too shabby. School is starting up again next soon, so Daddy brought us down for one last getaway before my last year at Havergal." You vaguely recall the name of the Private Academy she attends.
"Where are the twins?"
"Oh, Heather and Melissa will be down soon enough. Why aren't I enough for little old you?" She sits down batting her eyes at you. Flirty little vixen isn't she?
A short time ago you would be a stammering mess of Neville Longbottom proportions. Now, you just flash her a grin and say. "Of course you are, I was just wondering how long I had to charm you before we would be interrupted." The brief look of surprise that crosses her face is worth it. She gives you a devilish grin. Apparently, she likes a challenge.
All too soon her sisters interrupt the little flirtatious game the two of you are playing. "Damn Heather! If you hadn't taken forever, we'd have beat Amy down here and found our friend first." The one who must be Melissa says. The nice part is this one has a perm and the other has kept her hair straight. It's much easier to differentiate between the two of them now.
"Lookey lookey, it seems like Brazil has been good to someone. We leave you down here for a few weeks and you get all toned and scrumptious." At least they don't do that ridiculous 'twinspeak' crap. Heather is squeezing your bicep like you're some kind of meat. It's odd considering how your inner animal thinks everything else is meat. You have fleshed out a bit, since your Animagus transformation.
As you recall, Amy is eighteen and the twins just turned sixteen. Wow! Three teenaged girls, you haven't met their father, but he already has your sympathy. "So has Amy asked you out clubbing yet or can I jump in here?"
"I was just getting to it, sister dear. Go find your own." You watch as Heather gives a mock pout and goes to the breakfast buffet. Melissa joins her twin, but not before giving you a wink.
"So are you up for another night of dancing?"
"I suppose I could free up my schedule this evening. What time?" You answer with a smile. Not much of a choice, gun shooting with Collins or an evening with a trio of pretty Canadians.
"Be ready to party at eight tonight - room 1214."
You smile your way through breakfast. The girls try their best to rile you up, but you seem to be holding your own. Their demeanor changes when Bill and Fleur enter. In a way you feel for Fleur. Most men drool over her and the women are green with envy. You wonder if she gets used to it. Fleur makes a beeline for you. Maybe she likes to rub it in every now and then.
"Good morning! You look well rested." Fleur pecks both your cheeks right in front of the girls. You swear one of the twins mouth 'Euro trash' to the other one. Fleur ignores it. "Introduce me to your leetle friends." She allows her accent to come out. Guess she didn't ignore it after all. You remember how much it angered you a few years ago, when she kept calling you a 'leetle boy'.
Bill comes over, "James Black, it seems Fleur and I can't leave you alone can we?" His use of your alias was probably more of a reminder to Fleur than anything else. A look of recognition crosses his face, "Just remember what you felt like last time before you think about drinking any alcohol?"
You nod at his tacit approval and introduce the Canadian trio to Bill Weasley and the future Fleur Weasley. That brings a smile to Fleur's face. It's probably the first time anyone has referred to her as that. Bill slides a smaller table up next to yours to give the two of them space to sit.
Not surprisingly, the girls finish quickly and leave the three of you unsure of what to make of Fleur. Previously, they were all over you. Now, they seem a bit intimidated. It reminds you of how Karina acted towards her at the Dodgespell tournament.
"Fleur, is it tough for you to make female friends?"
"Oui, c'est vrai. It is almost as difficult as it is to find real male friends, who aren't gay." She pats you hand.
Bill jumps in quickly, "Harry's not gay. At least I think so, right?" It causes both of them to start laughing.
"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response, you twisted little perv!"
Many hours later you find yourself wondering, 'Maybe you are a man-slag? Maybe Luna is right?' Amy's naked body lay under a sheet next to yours. She snores a little bit and takes something called Claritin for allergies. It was fumbling and slightly awkward at first. She insisted you wear one of those condom things. Damn things are tough to get on and really kill the feeling! It bothers you a little that she had several in her purse. Karina was definitely better in bed, but Amy was no slouch! Hell, the foreplay was even a little better or maybe it might have been you feeling that you were on a more level playing field? The animal in you likes dominance!
Too bad you couldn't use a contraception charm on her. You did the male variant on yourself in the bathroom. The one, that Bill showed you, when the whole talk about fertility potions cropped up. It levels the playing field against the fertility potion. Thus the chance of pregnancy is again reduce to fate rolling the dice.
The charm further killed the feeling, but you didn't want Amy to learn about the magical world eleven years and nine months from now. At least the net result seemed to please her, as you quite literally wore her out.
Snuggling afterwards was pretty good as well. So why is it you feel guilty, like you were doing it just to spite Luna? It doesn't help that Amy vaguely resembles her. It also doesn't help that thinking about Luna reminds you that she could be selling you and Bill out to Dumbledore this very instant. The fact that you aren't wondering 'What would Karina think?' amazes you. Ironic, isn't it? You're hung up on the semi-crazy girl you didn't sleep with would think and don't even really consider what the woman you had recently been sleeping with would think.
Kwan's right 'Stupid kitty cook thinks too damn much.'
The ringing telephone stirs you. Your first instinct is silencing charm. Instead you answer it.
"It's Melissa. If Amy is there, tell her Dad came by the room. Heather spilled. He might be on the way down to your room!"
Amy's already awake. You relay the message. The panic in her eyes is not very reassuring. She stumbles out of bed and starts throwing her clothes on muttering curse words. As if on cue, there is a pounding on the door.
"Open the goddamn door! Now!"
It's like one of those idiotic frat boy movies that Dudders is always laughing about. Boy caught with half naked daughter in his room by father. Poor Amy looks like she's going to panic. You've quickly moved past the initial panic and are now evaluating options. Magic is a wonderful thing isn't it? You haven't ever really practiced memory charms and now isn't the best time to try.
"Stupefy" Amy topples over back onto the bed. You'll tell her she fainted. She never saw it coming! The pounding continues as you deposit her, her purse, her shoes, her black lacy bra and her shirt onto the comfortable chair by the wall. You disillusion her and drop a Notice-Me-Not on the entire chair and it's disillusioned contents. You remember that she snores and add a silencing charm.
You vanish the condom, the wrapper and any everything else in the bin. Angles covered you pull on your shorts and drop your wand into the pocket to go see what the pounding on the door is about. You leave the shackle on the door and crack it open while toying with the notion of handing your Portkey to him and sending him on a trip. Tempting isn't it?
In your very best innocent schoolboy voice you ask, "Can I help you?"
"Let me in! Where's my daughter?" He pushes on the door straining the chain.
"Who in blazes are you and give me a reason I don't call security?" That slowed him down.
"I'm Amy's father! Let me in right now! Amy, I know you're in there!"
"Sorry governor, it's just me in here. I'll prove it!" You open the door. He pushes past you and starts looking around the room. He goes out by on the balcony. Opens the closet. Runs into the bathroom. You suppress the tiny smirk as he doesn't even notice the chair where his daughter is stunned.
Finally, he comes back out and stares you down. "I get a knock on my door and one of my daughters tells me that Amy didn't come back last night. Where is she? What have you done with her?"
He probably mistakes the expression of shock your face for something else. What he just told you doesn't quite mesh with the phone call you got - devious little bints!
"Sir, we came back. I kissed her goodnight and she left. Is she missing? Give me a minute. I'll get the rest of my clothes on and I'll help you look for her."
"I'm this close to calling the police, boy. You better be straight with me now!"
"Hey! I'm not your boy! Do you see her here? Go wait in the hall and I'll be out in a minute."
Still glaring at you, he stalks out slamming the door behind him. Time to implement phase two. You grab Amy, her stuff, and a beach towel. Taking a calming breath, you Apparate down the alley behind the hotel. You wake her up and hand her the beach towel and the rest of her stuff.
"James! What happened? I..."
You fake some heavy breathing. "Listen, you fainted and I just carried you down four flights of stairs. Take this beach towel and go sit out on the beach. Your story is you got back, your sisters were asleep and you couldn't sleep, so you sat out on the beach and watched the sunrise. Get some sand on the towel and you. Wait five minutes and come back. Go! That way! I'm going to go help look for you."
She heads off looking confused as hell. Confusion is a marvelous thing. You Apparate back into your hotel room and grab a shirt and your shoes. He's pounding on the door.
"Alright, I hear you. I just woke up for crying out loud."
Her father insists on doing another search of the room. You spend a few minutes helping to 'look for her' when she comes back off the elevator carrying the now sandy towel. You listen to her lie through her teeth about getting up and watching the sunrise. Her feigned embarrassment at her father almost breaking your door down is impressive. It was only slightly better than the looks of the two sisters who were obviously trying to spring a trap on her.
His mortified apology to you is acceptable and he scolds Amy for not leaving a note. Her response of being an eighteen year old makes him sigh. He apologizes to you again and leads the twins off. Once they are safely on the elevator, she looks at you.
"How on Earth did you pull that off?"
You smile at her and wink, "Talent, skill, luck, take your pick. By the way the twins tried to set you up. Your dad said that one of them came and got him. The one on the phone said he came there. I'm inclined to believe your Dad."
The misdirection immediately gets her away from wondering how you managed to pull this off. "Those little bitches! Heather was probably trying to get me in trouble and Melissa was trying to get in good with you! Apparently, they haven't learned their lesson yet."
Perhaps you should interrupt her plans for revenge, "So, are we on for tonight?"
"We'll, have to play it by ear. I'm a little sore tiger. Dad's likely to be suspicious and I'll have to ditch Slut A and Slut B, but I think it's doable." She gives you a wicked grin.
"Actually, I think I'm more of a jaguar than a tiger. Jaguars are better at stalking their prey."
"Whatever, bye tiger."
You want to shout that it's the truth, but you restrain yourself.
You catch both Bill and Fleur up on your antics. They deserve a good laugh and you have to admit it was pretty funny. "Hell, I thought when I opened the door it might be you standing doing one of your juvenile pranks. So Bill, mind teaching me how to do memory charms? I'd rather not have to go through that again. I should have an affinity for them considering how many times I've been subjected to them."
"Maybe I already have and you just don't remember?" Bill continues to laugh and smacks his leg.
"Seriously Fleur, what in Merlin's name do you see in him?"
She tosses her hair and puts on a look of mock seriousness. "Zat is zee question I keep asking myself. I will teach you the charms, Harry. I have experience using them. Many of your classmates discovered this during the tournament, though zey do not remember. It is, how you say, an occupational 'azard of being a Veela. Bill can play with the goblins alone today."
You wonder if she'll name names later, you could use a good laugh at your former classmates expense. "Thank you Fleur. Still going slowly with the Gobs?"
Bill finally shuts up. "Fourfangs is a shrewd one. He didn't like losing out on the armband last time. So far the best offer he has made is only twenty percent of the gold and they get first choice of magical items. I have to make it seem like we're just as interested in the gold. Otherwise it tips our hand. The moment he offers us first choice on the magical items, I'll take it. Fleur came up with the idea of offering them first choice of magical items not in the vaults of the Gringott's branch there and we get first choice on those. We think he would've put it in a vault. I'm going to put it on the table today. Might actually look better if Fleur doesn't come with me today. It'll make me look a bit more underhanded, like I'm going behind her back or something. They like that kind of crap."
"Should we offer up the armband? Do you even know if the transfer system will work?"
"No, on both counts. If they ask for it, I can offer it. If I offer it, it makes us look weak. As for the transfer system, we can't even go there until we have the agreement in place. Right now, all they know is that we think we have a way in and need their assistance to pull it off."
"What have you been telling the Order?"
"They think we're at the third site, another one in the Amazonia region and that we've moved our base of operations to Brazilia. If they do come, it'll slow them down for a day or two."
"Anything you need me to do?"
"Keep training, keep learning and keep making me laugh - especially the last one!"
The rest of the day passes by too quickly, most likely because Fleur confunding and obliviating portions of your memory, while Kwan and the rest looked on in amusement. She's really good, at least you think. You get some compliments on being fairly resistant to mind alteration. Must be why Ma Weasley's gang had so many problems with it. In your animal form you are highly resistant to it. The spells are cast with humans in mind. Catbrain shrugs it off well enough. You need a better name than Catbrain. How about Claws? Stalker? Pounce? Oh well, maybe later. Who knows maybe you already thought of the perfect name and Fleur got rid of that thought?
It takes two nights to get another rendezvous with Amy Harris, but you manage to reenact a shower scene from one of those movies they show on late night TV, and Bill says fire always makes it better. Not always! Sometimes you need soap and water!
You leave those little hook ups completely on her timetable as you concentrate on the three dozen or so things that are vying for your attention. One thing that doesn't require your attention is the journal. You've looked at it a couple of times, no glow whatsoever.
All too soon, Ms. Harris and her sisters leave town. With your distraction gone, you throw yourself full time back into your training. Standing at one end of the dueling pit you look at Collins. Hack, Kwan, Sanchez and Thundercloud are seated behind the shielding wards. Well Hack is just sitting on the ground.
"You sure you ready for this, youngster."
"No time like the present. If I can't hang with you guys, I'll be leading the 'B Team' all the time." You answer Collins as he fingers his wand,
His spells come fast and furious. You start with /foci contego/, a dueler's shield surrounding your wand with a wedge of defending energy. You literally parry his first two curses and dodge the third - a barely forgivable African electrical discharge nicknamed 'Shock A Zulu'. You dive hard to your left and send a flare of light out to momentarily blind him. You conjure a snake right behind it and send it towards him. Collins deals in direct damage. He is powerful, but lacking in imagination. Thundercloud mixes transfiguration with elemental magic, but tires easily. Outlasting him is difficult. Kwan is simply a monster, rarely fighting the same way twice. You haven't come close to beating or outlasting him.
He blasts the snake into pieces - overkill, simpler to vanish it. You send a conjured arrow, a cloud of bees and a confundus charm in reply as your wand whips around creating a protego. You have no intention of hiding behind it. Collins powers right through it with an exploding hex. Good thing you weren't there. You learn from your mistakes. Your stunner comes flying back at you. Damn! He hasn't shown you that shield yet! He switches to wordless magic to keep you guessing, good mixture, but you've got a strategy too. Some kind of numbing charm hits your left arm. He doesn't use anything that a simple finite can get rid of.
"Tonare! Reducto! Immunda Induviae! Confundus!"
He shields the first, dodges the second, but Karina's 'Nanny Charm' clips him and his pants drop to his ankles tripping him. He shields the confunding hex, but your follow on stunner catches him, while he is trying to pull his pants up.
"Should I leave him for a while, stunned with his pants down?" You look over at the rest. Bad move, as a banisher tosses you back into the padded walls. He must have dodged the stunner! Damn!
You stagger to your feet and look at Collins holding your wand and pulling his pants up. Kwan is glaring at you.
"Do you ever listen? Is Kwan wasting his time by telling you things? When you stun someone you do what? Choices are gloat like an idiot or bind your enemy and take their wand? Never assume your curses hit."
Collins tosses you your wand back. "What was that one you got me with?"
"Nanny charm, used to undress a kid with dirty clothes."
"Probably only work once."
"In a fight, once is all I need right?"
"Good point. Let me see the wand movements."
Several hours, a few defeats, a couple of draws, and even a fleeting victory later, Bill and Fleur burst into the chamber. "We've got an agreement - eighteen percent of the gold and first selection of magic items contained in the vault areas. The goblins get the rest and first choice of the items from the ruins of town. At two in the morning, we all need to go to the bank. We're going to do a trial to see if the Transfer system in the lost city is still functional."
The predawn hours find you standing in the lobby of Gringotts. No one is in the lobby except for the expedition and a handful of goblins. Fourfangs looks you over, appraising you.
"You are the one the British are in such an uproar to find. The one know as green-eyed scarface?"
"I don't know what you are talking about?"
"There have been inquiries Mr. Potter. Polite requests to various bank managers throughout the world to inform certain parties should you attempt to access your funds. Quite a cast of admirers you have, heads of state, Dumbledore, Members of the ICW, Death Eaters, Bounty Hunters, Hit Wizards, those who have power and those who are desperate get it."
You look at Bill and he looks at you. You turn your attention to the grizzled Goblin before you. "Then it is truly fortunate for our business venture that I am not here to access my funds. I assume you wouldn't have to report my presence to your superiors unless I attempt to access my account."
Fourfangs smiles a cruel and calculating grin, "I believe those are my orders. After all, why else would you be in one of our branches? I'm glad we had this conversation, Mr. Potter."
A crystal mirror surrounded by several enchanted lights sits on the middle of the Bulk Transfer Platform. A goblin is making adjustments to some kind of console to direct the crystal to the destination. They reminds you of the small handheld mirror that could have prevented the entire Department of Mysteries fiasco, if your dumb arse had remembered it. The companion sits on the wall with virtually everyone else looking into it.
"Begin the test."
The crystal disappears. You turn your attention to remaining crystal. You see the image of a bank and several shapes moving around it. Several of the goblins are chattering away in their language and gesturing towards picture. More shapes get closer to the mirror. You see the dead faces of Inferi staring back at you. The entire lobby is full of them. The mirror is pushed to the ground and partially shatters. You can still see the distorted image of the Inferi surrounding the object. The magic fails and the image fades.
The still functioning mirror is taken into one of the conference rooms. Everyone heads into there. Fourfangs listens to a group of goblins before translating. "We have several problems. The most obvious is the large quantity of Inferi there. The other issue was the state of the crystals that power the destination's transfer platform. My expert informs me that the transfer platform will function only once more. The plans that involved luring the creatures to the platform and removing them are useless."
Bill looked up. "We need to determine if we can be transported there. Have you made arrangements with another Bank Manager to perform that test?"
"As soon as you can provide the necessary potions to transform a troll and a goblin into animals, we can perform the test. One of yours will be needed as well."
You start to nominate yourself. There's a prophecy protecting you after all. Bill waves you off. "My expedition, my risk. You can come as well since you and Thundercloud will be using your Animagus form."
Over the next ten days, you train in a mockup of a Gringotts lobby. This is it, a one way ticket into hell. Everyone will have the Bubblehead charm. Several of the Goblins expressed concerns about methane gas build up. If the air freshening charms in the city no longer function, the results of using a fire spell could be catastrophic.
Collins puts forth the option to use firearms charmed for ammunition reloading and to prevent muzzle flash. They will work well against the Inferi. It is quickly adopted. The final composition of the assault team is decided, eight goblins, two trolls and the six of you. Hack's smallish size makes him a prime choice. You're happy to have him along. He wants to crush a lot of skulls with you.
September 1, 1996 is chosen for the date. It should be the start of your sixth year. Bill still has a sense of irony, doesn't he? Fleur has to head back to London on Order business. She says a heartfelt goodbye to you and you can only imagine the goodbye she gave Bill.
You were tempted to actually make a date with Sheila, but opted against it. Instead you visited Chico and Karina a final time. Karina is getting steadily better and Chico is adjusting to his new lifestyle.
The day finally arrives. You'll never have Quidditch jitters again. No breakfast left to try and get down. Your trunk is packed. There's nothing left to do except wait. Is this what condemned people feel? Do they feel time working against them? Well there is one thing left you can do. You pull out the journal. As you expected, she hasn't left any messages. You stopped checking after the first three days of silence.
Eventually you will read this, I am sure your curiosity will get the best of you at some point. If you want to go to Dumbledore, then do so. Bill is already informing them. It doesn't matter.
By the time you read this, we will have tried to access the City of the Damned. We're going in through the Goblin's Bulk Transfer System. We've already scryed the lobby at the other end. It's full of Inferi, hundreds of them. If we are to have any chance at all, the doors must be shut to stop more from getting in. Otherwise, we'll all be dead in about five minutes.
I don't know if the journal will work once we're in there, but I'll keep writing. Bill suspects that we will be able to transmit, but not receive messages. You may have not even taken your journal to school with you.
Luna, I'm sorry for the way things ended between us. I reread our letters and take responsibility for my words and the pain they caused you. I'm sorry if I betrayed you. It was not my intent. I hurt you and I realize that. I wanted you to be happy and I don't think you really are. You deserve to be as much as anyone else does.
Why am I writing now? I'm standing at the abyss and the view isn't pretty. I'm scared and I'm not ready to die, but it's a possibility - my luck can't last forever. If it does happen, I don't want anything left unsaid, no regrets. Does that surprise you? Practically everyone I can still call 'friend' will be going into battle with me. It's likely that some of us won't make it. If I die today, I want to do it knowing that I asked for your forgiveness and I forgave you as well.
Live a long life, be safe and be happy. I am a better person for knowing you. May the next time we see each other, in this life or the next, be a joyous occasion.
Harry James Potter
You close the journal and place it in your trunk next to food, potions, jugs of fresh water, precarved runes, books, and ammunition. Sad how empty your life looks inside this trunk. There are no pictures of friends, no trinkets of happy times, and the only things to tell someone about the owner of this trunk are a Dodgespell mitt, a journal telling a story of how badly two people can hurt each other with only words, and a Dragonfly racing broom. All in all, a bit pathetic don't you think? It makes you wonder what mark Harry James Potter will leave on this world.
At the appointed time, you place your trunk with all the rest on the platform. You set your Mossberg shotgun, holly wand, and ammunition case in their designated spots. Everyone else has the same grim expression on their faces, except for Hack. He smiles at you and you do a quick game of rock, paper, and scissors. You went for paper and he trips you up by picking scissors, tricky little Jungle Troll, even if he was only little by Troll standards. You recognize the other troll as Glurg. You don't particularly care for him, but he was the second smallest of the trolls employed here and space is a premium.
Bill nods at you from the other side of the platform. "Well Harry, see you on the other side. I'm proud to be your friend." He holds the potion to his lips that will transform him into a cat for one minute.
"Thanks Bill, I still want to give that Best Man speech, so we both need to make it."
"I'll keep that in mind."
Kwan taps you on the shoulder. "Time to answer life's question. 'You have five minutes to live. How do you spend it?' Good luck. Fight well. Don't be stupid."
Fourfangs gives everyone the count down. You and Thundercloud go ahead and transform. A wizard employed by the bank places the Bubblehead charm on you and everyone else. No time restrictions on your Animagus forms. Plenty of dead meat to see in a moment. You feel the crackle of magic that will twist you inside out and send you to a hidden city, where your destiny awaits. Everything has led you to this point. It is time to find out if you are really the hero everyone hopes you are. No phoenix is here to bail you out. No blood protection to fall back on. No extremely rare wand event to save you. If things go to shit, Dumbledore isn't showing up with the calvary this time. Oddly enough, you wouldn't want it any other way, would you?
You squeeze back into existence and see the shapes beginning to amble towards you. Shifting back into your human form, you scoop up the wand and shotgun. Your five minutes to live just started.
Authors notes - FINALLY! We're back to chapter 1. Now would be a great time to go back and reread it. To answer a few questions, Harry's friend back in London is Fleur not Luna. He's not sure what they are anymore. The girl he was smitten with was Karina and it took a long time to cover that disaster. Next chapter we pick up the action inside the ruins of a Wizarding city. For those of you that are curious, I expect this story to last between 6 and 8 more chapters before the sequel starts. See my story threads on Darklordpotter (dot) net and Fanficauthors (dot) net for lively discussion.