Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Echoes of Power, Part I: Anger

7. . . . In The Same Direction . . .

by moshpit 4 reviews

Chapter 7

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Andromeda Tonks, Angelina Johnson, Arthur Weasley, Barty Crouch Jr., Bellatrix, Bill Weasley, Blaise Zabini, Cho, Colin Creevey, Crabbe, Dean Thomas, Dobby, Draco, Dudley, Dumbledore, Ernie, Fleur, Flitwick, Fred, Fudge, George, Gilderoy Lockhart, Gi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006-12-30 - Updated: 2006-12-31 - 6811 words

Chapter 7: ... in the same direction ...

Harry woke up early, the grey pre-dawn light filtering through the window. A slight chill in the air let him know he was definitely in an old castle somewhere up north and at a higher altitude than what he was used to in the outskirts of Brighton. While clouds dotted the sky, there was less of the oppressive gloom that had marked yesterday. It was a good morning to get up and fly around a bit, to explore the lay of the land around the castle.

Digging into his trunk, Harry got dressed in his usual Muggle jeans and T-shirt; he grabbed a jumper just in case the wind became too much. He also pulled out his Firebolt from the special case Sirius had made for him. It was designed to let him store the broom at a fraction of its size - when packed, the broom's case was about the size of a regular Muggle notebook.

Harry next pulled out his /aufero scrinium/, or as he liked to call it - his transporter - from the deeper confines of the trunk. Lifting the lid, Harry was excited to find a bag full of small rings that filled most of the space and a slightly mangled scroll on top of the pile. Pulling out both items, Harry returned his transporter and locked his trunk. Dropping his Firebolt and the bag of rings onto his bed, he opened the scroll to see what his outlandish mentors had come up with.

2 Sep 1995

Our dear Scoundrel in Training:

Here are the 500 rings you asked for. After some work, we've found we can make them for around half a Galleon each, as the metal is cheap but strong, a type of mild steel the Muggles use. If we can manage to sell about 2,500 of them, we'll be making pure profit at that point. Let us know how well they work, and we can look into ways to market them. It took Edgar and me a while to make them work. As I told you, they won't hold up beyond a superficial look. The magical oath parchment you asked for is inside the bag with an Impervius charm on it, so it should also be ready for your immediate use.

As for your Snape prank, I let Padfoot work out how to do it and then helped him refine it a bit. We've put two variations on the prank, as well as the suppression charm you asked for. The first variation will affect paper rather than clothing and the second variation will have a very similar effect on water. Having tested it, I think we need to put that in the journal, but only if you can pull it off properly. We expect to see the evidence, right?

Master Gata has asked me to remind you that you need at least two hours a day with him for your martial arts practice and training. He is less than pleased that his promising student has been whisked away, and I fear for my safety if you don't show up by Tuesday afternoon. That man is mean.

Edgar and I would like to remind you that we still have a lot of magical theory to work on, and you need to be around for that. While Edgar can see you there, it's probably for the best if I not visit you at Hogwarts with the laws currently being what they are. Padfoot is whining as I write this, you know he misses you as well.

At any rate, buck up, get the evidence, plan to be back here daily no later than Tuesday, and don't forget -- keep your head down!

Your Scoundrels, Pranksters, and Plotters

Chuckling, Harry studied the spell and its two variants that his friends had created to help him break the shadow of terror Snape cast wherever he went. Laughing outright at points, he tucked the scroll into his main bag, along with the smaller bag of rings, before slinging his bag over his shoulder. Opening the window fully, Harry leaned out with his Firebolt in his right hand and leapt into the sky, pulling the broom under him as he shot off to explore the grounds around Hogwarts.

After relaxing and enjoying the scenery for nearly half an hour, Harry had a rough idea of where all the major fixtures were. Later in the day he might have the chance to poke around Hogsmeade a bit, but otherwise the castle, Quidditch pitch, forest, and lake were clear enough in his mind. As he flew toward the main entrance for breakfast, he took his time gliding over the surface of the water. The reflection of full daylight hitting the clouds and the bits of sky on the surface of the still lake was quaint in many respects, and it spoke of a certain timelessness that Harry could imagine stretched back to the Founders. He wondered idly if the lake had been there prior to the castle, or if they added it afterward.

Reflecting back on his reading, Harry dropped down on the rocky beach by the front of the castle. Stretching to get his blood flowing again, he studied the seemingly random types of rocks lying around. After a trip to Mexico, he had been amused that the stiff upper lip British seemed to think that a group of very small rocks by a body of water constituted a beach in Brighton, whereas anyplace else it would be considered a poor place to relax. There were nicer beaches, like the so-called English Riviera, but the water was a bit on the frigid side. That said, the currents of the Atlantic and the Channel around the Isles left few really desirable beaches. Maybe that was part of why so many people flocked to the soft beaches and the warm waters of the Mediterranean or the Americas for their holidays.

Reaching down, Harry scooped up a handful of two-inch diameter stones and found a small rock made up of mostly quartz, one of mostly granite, and a bunch of things he had no idea what their composition was. Dropping all but one of the random ones, he pocketed it along with the granite and quartz for later study.

Swinging back onto his broom, he flew back up to the Gryffindor tower window and entered while the other boys were still having a lie-in on the brisk Sunday morning. Stowing his broom safely, Harry headed downstairs to the common room. He was a little surprised to see all three of his redheaded conspirators chatting quietly while waiting for him.

"Up a little late this morning, eh, Harry?" George asked him as Harry motioned them to the portrait hole.

"Nah, went flying for a while. Wanted to see the area a bit, see where all the ways in and out are, that kind of thing."

Fred perked up at this. "You didn't ask us to come along? Come now, Harry, you should know that we know all the secrets worth knowing around here." This outrageous statement was followed by a pronounced wink. "Know what I mean?" he asked.

Harry arched one eyebrow as they headed down the main staircase toward the Great Hall. "Really? All the secrets?"

Ginny chuckled quietly while Fred's eyebrows drew down. "Well, all the ones except about you. But we'll work those out soon, won't we, Fred?" Fred looked expectantly at George, who just smiled.

Harry smacked Fred on the back of the head. "You're Fred, Fred. He's George. Are you daft, man?"

Ginny's laughter was a little more pronounced as Fred looked confused. "Here, now, how'd you know that?"

George just said in a monotone, "Trade secret."

Harry winked at Ginny and nodded. The three of them were the first students into the Great Hall, and they had even preceded the house-elves - the tables were still empty of food. Strolling to the far end away from where most people would sit, Harry sat next to Fred this time while George and Ginny sat across from them. All three watched as Harry silently pulled out his wand and made a few intricate motions before replacing his wand in his right sleeve.

Harry looked at each of them briefly, his eyes finally settling on George. "Right, then, profit or pleasure first?"

Fred smacked Harry lightly. "Profit, you fool!"

While they all laughed, Harry opened up his bag and extracted the smaller bag of rings. Placing his bag back by his feet, he rummaged around in the ring bag until he extracted a piece of parchment folded in half.

"Right. Here's the deal. Err, hang on." Harry pulled his bag back into his lap as he dug around for the paper Dumbledore gave him last night. "Ah!" Finding it, he placed the bag back at his feet before tapping the much maligned parchment from Dumbledore with a fingertip.

"This bit of paper is a copy of Minister Fudge authorizing one Severus Snape to use Legilimency on any and all students while they are at Hogwarts to ensure the safety of the student body. Presumably, he's to ferret out children who are going to use Dark Arts." Harry slid the note out to the middle of the table and opened it. "Note that it's signed and dated the day after Snape was hired - 1 August 1987 - and that Dumbledore counter-signed as head of the Wizengamot. This basically gives Snape carte blanche to poke in any students' head under the pretense of security and the good of all."

Harry paused while the three read the order from Fudge. None of them seemed particularly pleased.

"Now, I had Snape arrested because he tried Legilimency on me, which is illegal in any form on any non-consenting target, and much more so on a minor. There are exceptions, and this note counts as one. While I can't prove it, the odds are that the ink on the original order giving him permission is less than 48 hours old. So, the Aurors had to release Snape when Fudge and Dumbledore came up with this letter, right?"

The three looked at him while nodding slowly.

"Dumbledore trusts Snape. I do not, nor, I think, do you. So, what we're going to do is rain on Snape's parade, and each of us is going to make some money doing it." Harry was grinning now. "These rings," he said, pulling one out of the bag, "are Occlumency Shadows. I had a few of my mentors work this out based on a training exercise when you first learn Occlumency, so they should be perfect for what we want."

Harry slid the ring onto his right pinky finger, where the ring shuddered slightly before resizing to fit his finger. "Each ring has several properties. Let me explain them in turn. First, they project to any surface Legilimency scan a perfect shield, as though the wearer is a master Level One Occlumens."

Ginny looked confused. "What does that mean?"

Harry smiled in response. "Every human mind has a very faint natural barrier to intrusion. Mind reading or truth sensing is the skill to bypass that barrier, which even Muggles can do in a very basic fashion. But when driven by magic through Occlumency, that barrier can be strengthened, such that the initial touch of a mind reader sees walls around the mind, not the thin filmy substance of an unprotected mind. To get past barriers like that requires magic to drive the mind reading, or Legilimency, skills. It then becomes a contest between who has better training and control over their mind, the Occlumens or the Legilimens. Anyway, these rings make a Shadow projection of walls in your mind, so it looks like you are protected to any surface scan. In reality, any actual attempt to read your mind will shatter the image, unless you really do know Occlumency."

His three co-conspirators looked at each a bit before looking back at Harry. Ginny was silently elected spokesperson. "Err, what good is that, Harry?"

Harry was grinning evilly. "Well, aside from annoying the hell out of Snape when he decides to probe somebody, not much. What is good is the second enchantment on the ring. It will become a very audible alarm that lets people know that they are having their mind scanned by a Legilimens."

Fred leaned over the table. "How audible?"

Harry started laughing. "Trust me."

The others grinned at each other. Ginny looked back at Harry. "Ok, what else?"

Harry pulled out three rings and placed one in front of each Weasley. "It must be worn on the hand, and I suggest the favoured hand for doing wand work. It has an auto-sizing spell and must not be taken off once you put it on, or else it stops working. Right? If you take it off for any reason, it won't work. Clear?"

The other three nodded. Ginny picked up the ring and looked closely at it. A mischievous glint in her eyes, she stared at Harry and said, "Isn't it a little early for you to be giving me a ring, Mr. Potter?"

Harry looked puzzled for the briefest second before giving her a wide-eyed smile. "But Gin-Gin, aren't you my 'intended lady'?"

Ginny smirked as she slid the ring on her finger, while Fred and George were just looking at each other and communing in some silent way.

Harry elbowed Fred sharply to get his attention. "Profit?" he asked.

Fred nodded his head as George and Ginny leaned in. "So here's the final bit. Since my team came up with these beauties, you get to figure out how to sell them. I want one Galleon for each of them. You three keep half the money you receive, then give me the rest. It's more important to me that every non-Slytherin student that is on the side of Light has one than you getting full price, so let it be known that a payment plan with zero interest is welcome to people who can't spare a Galleon, and you only need one Knut to hand the ring out with the rest due by the end of the year. Fair?"

The other three were nodding their heads vigorously, quickly realizing the mathematics of over 200 non-Slytherin students each spending a Galleon for a ring.

"Ok, this last bit is the hardest part. This other parchment here," Harry said, sliding out the crisp and clean sheet, "is a magical oath each person has to sign before getting their ring/. I want you three to sign it now, but you can have your rings for free. It's a compulsion oath that you will: first, never willingly serve any Dark Lord; second, never willingly, with deliberate intent, attempt to permanently harm or control another unless in defense of yourself or others; third, you may defend any property not being used by a Dark Lord, or used as a place to harm or control others; and fourth, you agree to swear by signing your name to make the oath binding. Violators will get repercussions. That's the first oath. The second oath, which requires a signature in this other column, is relatively minor and says you will not discuss the rings without /my permission to anyone not wearing one, and then only after making sure you are in a private area."

The three of them looked slightly uncomfortable. "What happens to oath breakers?" George watched Harry's eyes as he responded.

"Break the minor oath and you get some nasty messages all across your body about not being trustworthy. It won't come off for a few years, I think. Break the major oath and you'll have problems practicing magic." Harry felt a little bad about being less than honest with them, but he wanted the signatures from the students.

Ginny stared hard at Harry. "What kind of problems?"

Harry looked at his hands for a moment, before placing his hands in his lap and slowly sliding his right wand into his hand. Looking at each briefly in the eyes, he prepared himself to Obliviate them immediately if necessary. "Total inability to cast magic." He reached out and tapped the top of the parchment, and the exact wording of the oath was revealed in the space between the short summary and the signature lines.

The other three paled and became silent. It was nearly two minutes before Harry spoke again. "That's why the word 'willingly' is in the oath. If you're under mind control and unwilling, you're safe. Otherwise, I'm sorry, but I won't give anyone tools - no matter how frivilous - if they might choose to serve evil. The block on magic use can only be reversed by my involvement. I personally have to release you from the oath." Harry carefully chose to overlook the knowledge that magically preventing any creature with a substantial magical core, such as a witch or wizard, from actually being able to release energy from that core was always fatal within a few weeks, and he would never release someone who had abused their power for evil intent.

Harry kept a tight grip on his wand as he continued to watch them. The background noise in the Hall was slowly picking up as other students trickled in. The three Weasleys were gazing intently at one another, a type of familial speech comprised of twitches, glances, and eyebrows going on between them. Finally, Ginny pulled the parchment in front of her and signed both columns, followed promptly by George and then Fred. Harry slid his right wand back into his sleeve holster.

Exhaling slowly, George watched Harry put his hands back on the table. "Harry, what would you have done if we refused?"

Harry's face became an expressionless mask. "Do you really want to know?"

George swallowed loudly before nodding.

Harry kept his face blank. "Obliviate you, remove the rings, scan your minds for evil intentions and actions, and then possibly turn you over to the Aurors. I need partners I can trust, not traitors with a cheery demeanor. Since you willingly signed that document, I now can trust you to get these rings distributed."

Ginny frowned slowly. "You can trust us with more than that, Harry."

Harry looked at her. "Maybe." The implications were left unsaid, but they were still quite clear to everyone.

The tense atmosphere was broken by the sound of an owl hooting. Confused, Ginny, Fred and George were astonished to hear the sound coming from the table itself.

"Perimeter charm has been breached," Harry explained and looked up to see Hermione, Ron, Neville, Dean, and Seamus approaching hearing distance of their conversation. Snapping his wand back out, Harry flicked it a few times to cancel the perimeter charm. Looking back at the others, he decided it was time to change the topic.

Harry reached for a platter of eggs that had suddenly appeared before him. "Right, so how about some breakfast before we do that bit of lessons afterward, Fred?"

As George and Fred began to banter, Harry ate slowly and tried not to think about how the prior conversation ended. Ginny kept giving him furtive glances, but she opted not to say anything. As Hermione and crew settled in next to him and the others, Harry wondered if he was pushing too hard too quickly. While he thought that the three Weasleys he was working with were trustworthy to a point, he was far from ready to candidly discuss the current state of events with anyone at Hogwarts, especially not with people he had known for less than 48 hours.

As Harry randomly selected bits of fruit, scrambled eggs, soft cooked bacon, and pumpkin juice, he noticed that Hermione was arranging her breakfast with nearly military parade precision. Toast, check. Eggs, check, carefully separated from the sausage, check. One dollop of jam, dead center on the toast, check. A cup of hot tea, no sugar, a dash of cream, check. Two apples, sliced exactly into eight perfect wedges each, check. Each category of food was clearly segregated on her plate with a gap between any two dissimilar items. The care and devotion to little details she was displaying before even beginning her breakfast left him wondering what types of activities she might do for fun.

As though sensing someone watching her, she looked up at and met Harry's gaze. "Good morning, Harry. Will you be sticking around for breakfast so we can talk, or are you running off again?"

Harry watched with mild fascination as she held the toast in her left hand, carefully teasing the jam -- which looked rather like blackberry -- into a perfectly uniform film that exactly covered the bread yet never made contact with the crust. Never taking his eyes off her toast, he jerked a thumb in the vague direction of the Weasley twins. "Err, I'm sticking around, business with the pranksters here."

"Is there something wrong with my toast, Harry?"

Harry looked up at her, noting absently that most of the people around them were delightedly grinning at him. "Do you always eat the same thing in the same manner for breakfast?"

"Except Monday mornings, yes. I've found what I like, so I make sure that I eat just that." Hermione shrugged as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

"Err, Hermione, do you try new things when you're traveling?" Harry was almost sure the answer would be no.

"Of course, Harry," Hermione said in a patient and faintly patronizing tone. "After all, you need to adopt local customs when in a strange place. Sometimes I even find things I like better than what I usually eat, which I always try to get the recipe for. Then I can have it on my schedule."

Harry blinked a couple of times, while Ginny laughed outright. "Schedule? You have a schedule for your diet?"

Hermione reached into her bag and pulled out a small planner. "Certainly. How else can you maintain a balanced diet if you don't keep track of what you're eating?" Everyone else seemed to be calmly accepting of Hermione's peculiar behavior, so Harry just gave up and resumed eating his own breakfast.

Hermione, however, had other plans. "So, Harry, can we talk?"

Harry nodded while chewing his bacon, waiting to see what she would come up with. Hermione smiled at him with a hint of excitement showing up on her face, as she delved into her bag again and pulled out a parchment with a long list of questions, as well as a quill and ink.

"Right. First, I wanted to ask you about magic, then about some things on War Mages I found in the library. Is that okay with you?"

Harry glanced at Fred and George and noted they were mostly done with their breakfast and were studiously trying not to laugh at Harry's predicament. Ginny was still eating, but would probably be done in another couple of minutes. Harry looked back at Hermione while shaking his head. "We've got some things we need to go over shortly, Hermione, so how about if we get through a few questions for now and try to take on the others during lunch, right?"

Hermione seemed a little disappointed at Harry's unavailability, but she was covering it well. "First, you said that the only real question was whether the Chinese had invented Latin. Obviously they didn't. Our spells are based on Latin roots. Are you trying to say that the words are irrelevant?"

Harry smiled at her long route to arrive at a simple question. "Not at all. To learn a spell, the words are very important, even critical. Without the words, you'll never get your magic to work right."

Hermione stared at Harry for a long moment before scribbling down on her parchment. Harry leaned over to see her write down exactly what he said. Rolling his eyes at Fred and Ginny, Harry sat back and looked around as he awaited the next question. Dean and Seamus were talking to the two girls Harry had brushed off during the feast, Larvati and Pavender or some such. Based on the giggles, it was something he had no interest in anyway.

"That doesn't make sense, Harry. If the words are important, then how can you make anything work by saying `Tweet, Tweet'?" Hermione was rubbing the side of her head with the back of the quill, staring at her breakfast as though the answer would appear among the orderly food collection.

Harry sighed. "The next question, Hermione, is if you want me to give you the answers, or if you want to puzzle them out for yourself?"

Hermione continued staring at her plate before speaking slowly. "I want the answers, yes, but I'd rather understand the answers than have them handed to me. If you think I can't find the answer on my own, like about War Mages, I want you to tell me. For the magic questions, if I can't figure them out, I'll ask you to give me the answers."

Harry could tell this girl was a kindred spirit to Remus and perhaps some others he knew. "Alright, Hermione. Let's go back to your question. You asked about the words. Read what I said and look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn't know much about magic."

After casually watching Hermione eat her eggs, Harry realized that she never mixed her food. She ate the entirety of one item at a time. While he was pondering which type of food she was likely to eat next, she sat up and looked triumphant. "Ha! You said the words were important for learning the spell. You're implying that they aren't important once you know the spell!"

Harry smiled at her. "That might be the tip of the iceberg. Let me know when you've got that bit figured out, yeah?" Looking back at Ginny and seeing her plate was clean, he looked over at his co-conspirators and gestured out the door. They all got up and walked out of the Great Hall, ignoring the furtive glances that were cast their way and Hermione's glowing expression of new discovery. Fred and George took the lead, with Harry and Ginny falling in behind them as they tread a complex pattern of twists, turns, and staircases to wind up outside of an old portrait on the fifth floor.

George motioned them to stop while Fred tapped the portrait with his wand and whispered to the reclining centaur under the trees. The portrait slid aside quietly, revealing a staircase down into darkness. With everyone casting a quick /Lumos/, they all entered and the portrait closed behind them.

Fred turned around when they reached the bottom of the stairs. The passageway was wide enough for four people abreast if they were comfortable with each other, but otherwise it appeared to be fairly unused. "This is an old way out of the castle that's blocked - the ceiling fell in a hundred feet or so on down. It's a nice little place to hide away from others."

Harry nodded and pulled out the extra sensory monitor he was carrying. After quickly conjuring a temporary table and four chairs, Harry placed the monitor in the middle of the table. "Right, we've got several things to get through. I'm going to teach you how to bind one of these to a willing person, unbind it, activate its recording, and stop its recording. Later, if you guys want to learn, I'll show you how to watch their playback and do a few other basic things with them." Harry spent an hour coaching the Weasleys before they went their separate ways to plan private mischief.

Strolling back into the Great Hall at lunchtime, Harry was amused to see a single seat open among his new Gryffindor acquaintances. The vacancy was between Ginny and George, and directly across from Hermione, who had her blasted roll of parchment out along with quill and ink. Slightly resigned to his fate of 2,000 questions over lunch, Harry dropped into the seat and decided it was time to up the ante a bit.

"Thanks, Ginny love, for saving me a seat next to you. I wasn't sure if I'd have to ask someone to move or not." Smiling blandly at Ginny, he was amused to see the glint of fire back in her eyes as she smirked.

"Oh, Harry, I've missed you! Here, let me help you with your lunch!" Ginny proceeded to put together a sandwich identical to the one he made yesterday but was unable to enjoy. "Was that right, /love/?"

Harry had to admire her skills and was sure she would be a mean poker player. "Close enough, Gin-Gin." Pouring himself a goblet of pumpkin juice, he was unsurprised when Ginny nicked it from him. "Let me know if I need more in my goblet, right?" he asked her. Taking her goblet and pouring his own drink, he looked over at Hermione to see a faint smirk on her face. "Oh don't look at me like that Hermione. Wasn't that Ron you went with into the cupboard on the seventh floor?"

Hermione's face went milk white as all the Weasleys except Ron let out a whoop of glee. "Ickle Ronniekins! How long has this been going on?!" Fred demanded. Harry just smiled smugly at Hermione.

"How did you know?" she demanded of Harry. "We're always careful not to be seen!" Realizing her mistake too late, she blushed dark red and tucked her head into her arms groaning.

Fred and George looked like Christmas had come early. Harry only patted Hermione on the top of her head and gave his patented answer. "Trade secret, Hermione. Sorry."

Ginny looked pointedly at her brother. "And who was it that was telling everyone last year you were just friends? How long has this been going on?" Ron and Hermione were both red faced and refusing to talk, but Harry was amused at their discomfort. Harry watched as the siblings gave each other grief for a few minutes before everyone settled back to eat their respective lunches.

Ginny leaned over and whispered to Harry, "Thanks. You have no idea how long we've been trying to catch them in the act." Harry chuckled in response, watching Hermione absently while he ate the fruit he picked off the serving plates. Reaching down to grab his sandwich, he was flustered to realize it was missing. Ginny, however, had a self-satisfied look as she openly savoured the sandwich she had made for him. "Too slow, Harry, too slow," she gloated.

Hermione clearing her throat interrupted his plans for the next move against the unpredictable redhead. Harry glanced back at Hermione as she pointedly asked him, "You said we could talk over lunch, right?"

Resigned, Harry just nodded as he assembled his new sandwich. This was difficult as he found himself fending off Ginny's attempts to liven it up with more spices and other ingredients he was unable to identify. Finally giving it up as a bad job, he leaned back and let Ginny go wild. "Go ahead," he said in resignation.

In hindsight, he supposed either girl could have interpreted it the way she wanted, but the identical looks of glee on Ginny and Hermione's faces made him wonder just how much time they spent together.

"So we've established that the words are only important for learning the spell. Once you've learned the spell, the words are less relevant. You suggested it was the tip of the iceberg, meaning there's a mountain under the simple statement you gave me. So the next question I want to ask you is, what do the words actually do when you're learning a spell?"

Harry sighed as Hermione once again took the long way to ask an easy question. "What are words?"

Ron groaned. "Not this again, please." He looked like someone had killed his favorite pet.

Hermione hit Ron softly on the back of the head. "Just because you never appreciated the argument on whether there can be any thought without communication, Ron, doesn't mean others have the same limits." Harry laughed. "What?!" she demanded.

"You asked me what the words do when you're learning a spell, but you already know the answer." Harry gently pointed out.

"I do?"

Harry nodded. "You just said it." Ginny elbowed him in the ribs and he looked down to see a sandwich with all kinds of things he was unsure of sticking out. Taking a hesitant bite, he was pleasantly surprised to find it tasted quite good. Except for the olives. Putting the sandwich back down to pick off the olives, Harry thanked Ginny with a quiet murmur before going back to eating while Hermione kept staring at Harry.

"I did?" she finally asked.

Harry nodded patiently.

Ginny leaned over and whispered, "Did she just say that there can be no thought without communication?" Harry nodded again. "That's what the words do?" Harry smiled at her. "But what thought?"

Harry grinned evilly while eyeing her slowly from head to toe. "Which words?" he whispered back at her. "Sensational? Voluptuous? My Fallen Angel?"

Ginny flushed slightly before hitting him on the shoulder. "Pervert. What thoughts do the words trigger when learning spells?"

Harry shrugged absently while he finished off his sandwich. Hermione was now dividing her glare between both Harry and Ginny, although Ginny seemed just as impervious as Harry. Ginny leaned back over to Harry to continue their whispered conversation. "Is that why some spells make you feel funny? Like sad, or happy, or a little bit sick inside?"

Harry paused, wondering at the implications of that statement. Making a mental note to revisit this conversation tonight in his sensory monitor playback, Harry nodded again at Ginny. "That's part of it. You'd have to be pretty sensitive to pick that bit up, though." Ginny lapsed into thoughtful silence while drinking her juice.

Hermione, however, reached her breaking point. "Ginny figured it out, didn't she?"

Ginny smiled sweetly back at Hermione while Harry kept a half-smile plastered on his face. Hermione just scowled at them. "Fine, then. Let's talk about War Mages since you're not helping me along at the moment."

Harry grabbed another apple and waited for Hermione to start again.

"I read that there are four distinct grades to the War Mage. Student, Apprentice, Mage, and Mentor. You're an Apprentice, since you wear both emblems but not the silver chain of full status, right?"

Harry nodded. That was a fairly basic question with an obvious answer.

"It also said that no Apprentice can be without a Mentor. So who is your mentor?"

Harry froze for a second. "Was. Who was my mentor. He's dead now. His name was Nicholas." Harry felt that the full name would just cause undue attention to again focus on him.

Hermione deflated slightly. "I'm sorry to hear that. What will happen now?"

Harry shrugged again. "They'll assign a new mentor in the October Convocation of the ICW."

Hermione leaned forward, looking a bit more excited. "I wasn't clear on how it is that War Mages are outside the direct control of the Ministry, but still fall under the ICW."

Ron leaned in abruptly. "You mean the International Confederation of Wizards?"

Both Hermione and Harry nodded before Harry answered the brown haired girl's question. "The short answer is that back in 1594, the ICW put forward to the Ministry of each nation participating in the ICW that they should accept the Treatise on International Law and Rule, which created the War Mage title and made all War Mages beholden to the law and courts of the ICW exclusively. Eventually everyone was signatory to it, and that was 1596."

Hermione frowned for a moment. "So you can't be arrested?"

Harry shook his head. "No, that's not true. If I commit a crime by local laws, regardless of what those laws may be, and I am not under mission orders, I can be arrested. The local authorities, however, cannot try me, interrogate me, or subject me to any conditions other than those usually warranted by a simple arrest. I must be turned over to the ICW for all evaluations, and if necessary, punishments. It's rather like the Muggles and their military jurisdiction principle."

Hermione nodded thoughtfully. "That makes it clearer. Why don't the books just cite the military system of justice?"

Harry smiled back at her. "How many pure-bloods would understand the reference? Most books are written by or for pure-bloods."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "They could all benefit from a few years of living with the Muggles. Parchment and quills are quaint and fun at first, but after that, they're just tedious."

Harry laughed before asking, "Half-blood or Muggle-born?"

"Muggle-born." Hermione absently turned back to her list of questions, checking off items or making a few notes as she went down the list. "Right, so the next question. I can find several famous War Mages and even mention of battles and wars they were involved with, but nothing actually talks about what you do or how you train. What can you tell us?"

Harry put his head in his hands for a minute to collect his thoughts. Glancing around at all the people deliberately trying to listen in to the conversation, he had little choice on what he could reveal. "Look, I'll tell you a bit, but there are a lot of things I'm not allowed to tell you. I've got things I need to do, so this will be the last question for now. You can ask more later, right?"

Hermione nodded eagerly.

"The fundamental basis for being a War Mage, or a War Magus - whichever you prefer to call it - is a deep understanding of right and wrong, with a commitment to always serve the side of the right and defend innocent people from the wrong. That sounds pretty simple, but it took me three years of discussions and debates to make it out of the Student stage, which is considered the point where a minimum grasp of right and wrong has been attained. I became an Apprentice about six months ago, and that required a full oath to the War Mage creed. That in turn entitles me to the same protections that full War Mages enjoy. During this phase of my training, I will continue striving to understand right and wrong, which is different from notions of Light and Dark. I'll also begin to train in the style and skills, magically speaking, of the War Mage. So far, I've had little training that wasn't centered on my mental attitude and philosophies."

Hermione, along with most of the others, looked bewildered.

"You don't understand the point of the philosophy, do you?" Harry sighed when they all shook their heads. "What's the number one rule of fighting?" No one answered. "To not get into a fight." They continued to stare at him like he was spouting Sanskrit proverbs at them.

"The number two rule is to apply as much force as the situation calls for in as fast a manner as possible. The longer the fight goes on, the more chance of losing. Tickling an opponent with a knife is a bad idea. Respond with the force needed, but not more, and end the fight quickly. But above all else, avoid the fight if at all possible. Why should you avoid the fight?"

Harry waited, but no one answered.

"It's simple. Do you want to die? Getting into a fight is placing your life on the line. You may not think so, but it's true. When you're standing up for others, you're also placing their lives on the line. That's not something you should risk lightly. Then there is timing and location - this may be the wrong time or the wrong place, where you are inherently at a disadvantage. And until you can understand when it is and when it is not the right time to take that risk, you're just a liability in any real fight."

Harry watched them carefully, but he suspected none of them really understood the point yet, or if they would any time soon.

"Right, I'm done for now, Hermione." Harry stood up and, picking up his bag from the floor, announced he was off to study and would see them later in the day. Leaning over toward George, Harry whispered, "I'll see you outside that passage at tea time." Standing up straight, Harry winked at Ginny before saying, "See you later, love. Great sandwich."


A big thank you to my genius betas who have valiantly strived to make this story better, despite my crafty attempts to make it incomprehensible. Immeasurable thanks to cwarbeck and Chreechree.

As Chreechree observed: "You're the worst kind. You're high maintenance, but you think you're low maintenance." ... When Harry Met Hermione.

Sign up to rate and review this story