Blinded at the age of four, Harry Potter only wants to lead a normal life with his family. On his eleventh birthday, he finds out that he can have anything but...
There were three very sleepy members of Merlin House that joined Neville for breakfast the next morning.
"What happened last night?" the chubby boy asked quietly. "When I came down to the common room you were all gone, and nobody had returned by bedtime. "
"We had to go fix a mistake," said Harry diplomatically as possible. "Sorry about worrying you, but we got back really late."
Being Friday, they only had Double Potions to look forward to, and then they would have the weekend to talk about what they'd seen the night before. They ate their meal in relative silence until Draco felt a touch on his shoulder. The memories of the day before and their little night jaunt had him a bit tense, which made him physically jump at the contact; he blushed slightly and turned to see whom it was.
"What do you want?" he said as he matched the sour-faced look from Ron Weasley.
"I don't like you," began the redhead, "and I meant what I said yesterday in class." Draco reddened further and made as if to stand but Ron raised his hands in surrender and continued quickly. "It's just that I had to thank you for getting me out of there last night. If I'd been caught, the twins would never let me live it down and mum would kill me."
"It was nothing," said Harry quickly, knowing Draco wouldn't have been as kind. "You'd have done the same thing if it was reversed. Sit down and have some breakfast with us."
Grudgingly, and with more than a little apprehension the red-headed boy sat with the Merlins though he seemed to have little problem heaping his plate from their table. They ate and made idle chat until the owl post came and Hermione, at a slight gesture from Harry, began reading an article from her issue of the Daily Prophet aloud.
Gringotts Break-in Still Under Investigation
Ministry Aurors are still investigating the July 31st break-in of vault 713 at the wizarding bank, Gringotts. While the identity of the person or persons involved are still not known, reliable sources inside Gringotts assure us that though the vault had been opened by the perpetrators, nothing of value had been taken as it had been emptied earlier that day.
"Vault 713," said Harry quietly. "That was the 'business for Dumbledore' that Hagrid was talking about the day he took me for my school things. He's the one who emptied the vault."
"Well whatever he took," said Draco leaning in to keep their conversation quiet, "it has to be incredibly valuable for someone to risk the curses the goblins keep on those vaults."
"I don't know about valuable," answered Harry. "I mean, after all, what ever he took fit inside the pocket of his coat."
"This is Hagrid you're talking about, Harry," said Ron through a mouth full of eggs. "He could tuck a large goat in there and probably lose it."
"Well, whatever it is," put in Hermione, "at least we know where it is."
"And how would you know something like that?" asked the redhead.
"If you'd quit chewing with your brain and think about it, Weasel," said Draco, "we know the oaf was on business for the headmaster and he retrieved something valuable enough for someone risking breaking into Gringotts to get it. Where else would he bring it but Hogwarts?"
"And more exactly," added Harry, "whatever it is, it's likely beyond that trapdoor under the three-headed dog. The only question is, what could be worth that kind of protection?"
The five of them kicked around several ideas, getting nowhere, until it was time to head down for their Double Potions class. They arrived with time to spare and Harry, after stowing his books by the seat in the back he'd been assigned by Snape, stood up by his friends talking until the door burst open and the Potions Master appeared.
"Mr. Potter," he said with a look of disgust, "return to your seat. Five points will be taken from Merlin House for your wandering."
Snape quickly went through a thorough lecture on the assignment for that day, a potion that would double a person's strength for a short time. Harry listened distractedly, having done this particular assignment and brewed the potion on Wednesday under Snape's unwavering eye and barrage of questions. When the question and answer portion of the lecture came, the Potions Master seemed to pointedly ignore both Harry and Hermione's hands as he harangued the class for answers Frustrated after having his hand up for so long that he'd actually developed a cramp, he stood and said, "Professor, please!"
"Mr. Potter," said Snape snidely, "twenty points from Merlin House and detention with me after your remedial potions session for interrupting my class. Now what is so important that you have to dance around my class like a fool?"
Snickers broke out on the Slytherin side of the room and Harry's face turned beet-red with anger at the draconian punishment given by the professor. Forgoing his answer, he sat back down and fumed at his desk, clenching his fists and muttering curses under his breath.
"That's it, Potter," said the Potions Master heatedly. "If you cannot contain yourself in my class, please seat yourself in my office until the period has ended...Go!"
Harry got up, shoved his books into his bag, and navigated across the room towards the office while slamming his cane against the desks ahead of him so forcefully that it was a wonder neither it nor the desks were broken. Finding the door, he went in and threw himself in the first chair he was able to find.
Several minutes later, he was still supremely angry when the professor stormed in and slammed the door closed. "Just what do you think you were doing out there, Potter?"
"Trying to answer the question!" the boy snapped back.
"If I don't call on you, I expect you to remain in your seat silently. Is that understood, you spoiled little brat? Do you think you have special dispensation to act any way you please just because you're blind? I really couldn't care any less. Now, you will stay in my office until the class is over, and then we will go see the headmaster about your insubordination."
Not giving Harry a chance to answer, Snape turned and went back into his classroom, leaving Harry alone in the room. The boy was so frustrated he wanted to scream and nearly did so when Hedwig suddenly appeared on his shoulder.
"The master is distressed," she said as she rubbed herself against his ear.
"Oh, Hedwig," he said, nearly in tears. "Right now I wish I was anywhere else in the world, just so it's far from here."
The snake let out a long, low hiss and Harry suddenly felt a wave of dizziness come over him. He felt himself being lifted up off of the chair and then--nothing.
Professor Snape stood before the door to his office at the end of class, kicking himself for his earlier words. Regardless of the fact that he was James Potter's son, the boy was brilliant in potions and had a natural ability that eclipsed even his own. He'd only wanted the boy to realise that he hadn't chosen him to answer any questions because the other students were already relying on Harry to think for them in that part of the class and wouldn't even try if they knew the boy would answer for them. Heaving a great sigh and desperately trying to think of a way to mend the situation, he opened the door to an empty room.
Harry came back to his senses to find himself sitting on a grassy surface and leaning against a tree with a soft breeze ruffling his hair.
"Hedwig," he said. "Where are we and what happened?"
"The forest, my master," came the Coatl's sleepy voice from the ground beside him. "The other place was causing you pain and I brought you here."
"Brought me here? How?"
"I must sleep now my master, bringing you was...very hard." With that, the serpent rustled her feathers once and was silent.
"Hedwig? Hedwig!" The boy reached frantically to find his silent friend and gasped when he did as she was so still. After a few moments, he was able to feel her breathing and relaxed a bit. Feeling a chill in the air, the boy wrapped his robes around him a little tighter and settled in to wait for his pet to awaken again.
Back at the school pandemonium reigned. It had been several hours since Harry's disappearance from Snape's office, and a thorough search of the Castle and grounds had proved fruitless. The Potions Master was cursing both himself and the boy over this fiasco, Harry for running away and himself for overreacting the way he had and pushing him away.
Now he and the other professors were waiting in the staff room for the arrival of Harry's aunt. She'd been notified through Mrs. Figg the moment they'd realised that the boy was no longer in the castle. Dumbledore had Flooed her straight to his office to explain the situation before she came to meet with the staff.
"Really," said Professor Flitwick, "we should be out looking for the boy, not waiting for some distant family member."
"Hush, Filius," answered McGonagall quietly. "Petunia Dursley and her son are all the family that Harry has left."
The opening of the door interrupted their conversations. Through it came the headmaster preceded by a thin, blond haired woman whose face was lined by years of worry and sorrow, though at the moment it was looking quite feral.
Giving them all a scathing glare, she asked over her shoulder, "Which one is he?"
Snape blanched as the headmaster sheepishly pointed him out and said, "This is our Potions Master, Severus Snape."
The potions professor felt himself trapped under the jade-green gaze of this woman who's eyes reminded him so much of Lily. In a steely voice, she said, "Everyone else out."
The other professors moved en-masse towards the door; it was if Voldemort himself had appeared in the room and they all wanted no part of what was to come. Snape turned a pleading eye to the headmaster, begging for some form of assistance but only received a helpless shrug in return as Dumbledore stepped out last and closed the door, leaving him alone with Petunia Dursley.
In the hallway outside the headmaster was busy dividing the teachers into groups of two for their search of the forest. Through the door, however, they could hear the conversation between Harry's aunt and the Potions Master begin to escalate quickly into a shouting match. After one particularly nasty sounding comment from Snape, there was a short silence that was soon broken by the unmistakable sound of a hand striking flesh.
The professors all jumped as one at the sound and even Dumbledore turned as if debating whether he should intervene when they heard Snape roar like a wounded animal followed by several more slaps and a loud, hollow cracking sound. Now thoroughly alarmed and cursing himself for not stepping in sooner the headmaster reached for the door only to have it open of its own accord. Standing in the doorway was a flushed and very determined Petunia.
"I'll be going with you to find my nephew," she said, leaving no room for argument. "If someone could please find me the proper clothes..."
Professor McGonagall stepped forward and took her hand. "Please, dear, if you'll follow me."
Dumbledore, slipping back into the room and closing the door, turned to find Professor Snape leaning against the window breathing heavily.
"Are you alright, Severus?"
Noticing Albus' presence for the first time, Snape sighed and turned to face the room. Truth be told, Dumbledore, thought to himself, he'd seen the man look worse, though Petunia had done a bang-up job. The entire left side of Severus' face was red and blotchy. His lips were puffy and trickling blood, his eye was swollen and darkening as the headmaster watched, and, from the looks of it, the man's oversized nose might very well be broken.
"I regret," Snape, said through swollen lips, "that I will not be able to participate in the search this afternoon. I would, however, request that you allow me to floo to Diagon Alley some time this weekend before classes resume on Monday."
"Of course, Severus, but might I ask why?"
Grimacing, Snape replied, "A... personal matter."
Nodding, though not really understanding the need, the headmaster retreated back out the door to help in the search. Snape heaved a sigh of relief, feeling a little better at least that Dumbledore hadn't noticed the two broken pieces of a wand burning merrily on the fire.
Harry was cold. It had been hours since Hedwig had brought them here and she was still sound asleep. He could tell by the steady drop in temperature and the increased noise around him that night was falling rapidly.
The boy felt half-tempted to just pick up his pet, wrap her around him and try walking out of there, but the problem was he really didn't know where he was or in what direction the school lay. Using his senses he could only see the trees around him and some of the creatures when they came close enough. This meant that he was far enough away from the castle that even its intense magic was invisible to him. He also knew that without warmer clothes or a fire he would be in for a miserable night.
Harry was snapped out of his thoughts by a sound off to the right. It sounded kind of like a snort, but very deep. He could sense a faint glow of magic just beyond the trees as well. A bit afraid, but also curious, the boy extended his cane and began feeling his way towards the sound. As he got closer, he decided that whatever it was sounded very similar to a horse. Creeping through some bushes, he came into a small clearing where a mare was nursing her colt.
The boy was thunderstruck at the beauty of their auras. The sparks were tightly packed and silvery, flowing over the creature's bodies like quicksilver. They were supremely regal, and Harry knew he was in love with them, from the end of their tails to the tips of their...horns-these were unicorns!
Harry had tried to remain silent, but the mother seemed to know he was there anyhow. Seeing him for the first time, she put her body in front of her colt and advanced on Harry with her horn leading the way. Alarmed by her aggressive action, he stumbled backward and fell into the thicket he'd just climbed through. The nettles tangled with his robes, effectively holding him down as the mare continued her menacing approach.
His heart hammering inside his chest, Harry tried not to breathe as the beast investigated him from head to toe. At last, satisfied that the boy was no threat to her young, she backed up with a nod of her great head and gave room for Harry to stand.
Struggling back to his feet he was unsure what he should do until the beast waved it's head again, this time in a way that he was sure she was calling him over. Stepping forward slowly, the boy reached out and touched the unicorn's shimmering hide. Her coat was warm and soft, drawing Harry in to lay his cheek against her flank. Lost in her warmth he stood for untold minutes until finally he pulled himself back with a sigh.
"Thank you. I'd love to spend the rest of the night like this, but I'm lost. I have to find a way to get back to Hogwarts."
The unicorn whickered quietly, took the boy's robes in her teeth, and began pulling him in one particular direction.
"You know the way, don't you?" he said, in realization. "You'll take me there?"
Again the beast nodded its head in the affirmative.
"Brilliant!" Harry said excitedly "Wait one second while I go get my pet.'
Scrambling back through the thicket he found Hedwig laying exactly where he'd left her, snoring, of all things. Laying her about his neck, he returned to the unicorn, which lowered herself to one knee, allowing him to climb on her back. Any fears of the animal's reaction to Hedwig were groundless, as it seemed to take no notice of the snake at all.
They rode along in silence for a time, the boy exploring their environment with his senses as he swayed atop the magical creature.
"It's so beautiful here," he said as much to himself as the unicorn. "If you don't mind I'd like to give you a name. I'd feel silly calling you 'Unicorn' all the time. I'll call you Quicksilver, if that's alright, because that's what you look like to me."
The beast gave no outward indication whether she liked it or not, but somehow the boy could feel that she approved. They continued on through the night, their progress slowed a bit at times by dense vegetation, but Quicksilver was always able to find a path even in the wildest of spots. By the time Harry began to feel the warmth of the sun's rays on his skin, he was also beginning to sense Hogwarts magic and, surprisingly, hear people calling his name.
Dismounting the unicorn, which was growing increasingly more skittish as the sounds of people drew nearer, he gave her a final farewell hug. "Thanks," he said. "I owe you one."
The majestic animal bowed her head as if to acknowledge the boy's words, turned, and bolted deeper into the forest and out of sight. Harry, turning back towards the voices, realized that one he recognised, couldn't belong to the person he thought; she'd never come out here.
"Haaarrrryyy!" came his aunt's unmistakable voice. "Harry, where are you?"
"Aunt Petunia?" he called back a bit apprehensively. He loved her but he didn't know if he could stand the lecture he was going to get for this little adventure. Resigning himself to it, and not wanting her to worry needlessly, he began waving his arms around in the air and yelled, "I'm over here!"
The next thing he knew his aunt had burst from the trees and wrapped him in a bone-crushing hug while scolding him at the same time.
"Harry Potter! You scared the living daylights out of me. If you ever pull such a fool stunt again I'll... I'll put a leash on you!"
Several professors quickly surrounded the boy as he was hustled out of the forest and back to the castle. Harry was truly surprised that he appeared to be in no trouble at all for vanishing in the middle of one of his classes and spending the night in the forbidden forest. After being thoroughly checked by Madame Pomfrey, he was escorted to the Headmaster's office where he gave an edited version of his overnight stay.
Professor Dumbledore didn't seem shocked by his vanishing trick in Snape's office; in fact, he said it was a rumoured power of Coatl's to be able to magically retrieve their masters from danger, though at no light cost. Hedwig was still asleep and the headmaster assured him it would be several more days before she recovered fully.
Petunia walked with him and Professor Flitwick back to the Merlin tower, where she told Harry that she would be returning home before Dudley woke up and she'd see him on the holidays. Harry gave her a final hug goodbye before she turned to leave.
Harry was happy that he hadn't had to face Professor Snape at all after his return. He'd almost expected the Potions Master to come jumping out from behind every corner and lash at him for leaving class without permission. Snape, however, had been conspicuously absent that morning and no mention at all was made about him or the potions class the day before.
Harry snuck quietly into the common room. Since it was still fairly early on a Saturday morning, he expected everyone to still be asleep in his or her bed. He was only half right. The entire house was still asleep, but it looked as though a major portion of them had camped out in the common room over night. On the couch before the fire he found Neville, Hermione, and Draco all leaning against one another, completely out. Not wanting to disturb them, he climbed up and made himself comfortable on a fluffy pillow leaning on the other arm of the couch and promptly fell asleep.