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

17. Inflection Points, Part 1 of 4

by moshpit 1 review

Chapter 17

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: 2006-12-31 - Updated: 2007-01-01 - 10854 words

WARNING: As the prior chapters had warnings that this story is Rated R for a reason, I will no longer be inserting warnings. Be advised that at any moment, things might become graphic for violence, language, or other reasons.

A/N: Thanks for being patient with the delay. For those who don't follow the group or failed to catch the updated A/N at the end of the last chapter, my wife and I welcomed our second child into the world recently. Poor planning on my part had the writing pipeline drained at that moment, so... the long delay. The pipeline is running again, albeit at a slower pace for the obvious reasons. More details in the postfix.

Chapter 17 : Inflection Points, Part 1

. . .

The introduction of magic to the life cycle of creatures upon the planet has had various effects upon those creatures. While the presently loose classification system in widespread use is commonly categorized at four levels -- non-magical humans, magical humans, non-magical animal or plant, and magical animal or plant -- in reality every living thing is magical at some level. The artificial and flawed distinction in vernacular use is centred entirely around those that are capable of using their inherent magic, such as Wizards or Witches or so-called powerful magical creatures, and those that are not so capable.

Each living thing, be it plant or animal or other, contains a magical core. This core is analogous to what the Muggles refer to as a battery, in that it stores a certain amount of magical energy. To properly categorize the magical capability of any living thing requires an understanding of the approximate scaling of the core size across species, and the resultant natural breakpoints to amalgamate zones of high conformance.

Without regard to fundamental unit volume, the approximate size of a "Muggle" or other non-magic-using entity's core is one unit. Minor magic using creatures, such as so-called squibs, garden gnomes, flobberworms, kneazles, or post owls have a core volume of approximately 10 units. Moderate magical creatures, such as acromantulas and nymphs, have a core size of around 75 units. Complex magical creatures, including wizards, witches, centaurs, unicorns, or hippogriffs have a core size of 200 units. The last major distinction is for major magical creatures, such as a dragon or phoenix, which have a core size of nearly 500 units.

While there is natural genetic and species variation, after exhaustive study of many specimens, no variation has yet been observed beyond a five percent margin over the indicated approximate core size. The surprising implication of this is that the widely held belief that some wizards or witches are "more powerful" than others is patently untrue. Much like the brain, which is roughly equal in volume and composition among members of a species, the variation in ability is controlled by other factors than such a rather mundane concept as raw core size.

The empirical evidence also paints a very surprising result in that it shows magical core size is set by the time of birth, hatching, or sprouting. Moreover, magical core size is completely unalterable. Infantile life forms come into existence with fully formed magical cores, while the resultant support infrastructure must grow with the development of the life form. There are few recorded cases of attempts to alter core size through rituals or potions, but the end result has always been terminal. Each and every person attempting such a change experienced nearly instantaneous death by unquenchable fire, enveloping the host from the inside out.

Close examination has further revealed that the magical core acts like a battery in more ways than the storage analogy suggests. The issues of recharge and discharge also bear a striking resemblance to the Muggle concepts around electricity and magnets, in that both recharge and discharge require interaction with other parts of the magical infrastructure in living entities. The essence of magical energy itself is composed of six different ...

... Excerpt from Theory of Magic, Volume I, Section 1, edited by R.J.L.

/Sun, 10 Sep 1995/

The incessant scrrrtch/, /scrrrtch was the sound that finally permeated Harry's consciousness while he was still in the warm haze of sleep. No matter how he rearranged the blankets or shifted his position, it was a noise that refused to fade into the background, causing him to finally sit up and blearily look around the room.

Latent stiffness in his muscles and a lingering echo of pain in his very bones caused him to groan involuntarily. The stark reminders of being in the hospital wing rushed into his brain, from the unpleasantly coarse pyjamas he was wearing, to the tediously uniform white colours everywhere, and finally to the militant precision with which everything was organized, all the way down to the thin sheets on every bed.

With his groan, however, the noise ceased, causing Harry to realise it was coming from the bed to his left. Remus was sitting up, surrounded by parchment, one quill in hand and an improvised lap desk across his knees. The werewolf was watching Harry carefully, while Harry was in turn trying to rouse his brain enough to fully note Remus' condition.

Despite the dark circles under his old friend's eyes, and the appearance of a few bandages on his arms, he seemed no worse for the wear. Remus' eyes, however, were still tracking Harry's movements.

"Alright there, Harry?" he asked carefully.

Harry opened his mouth for a quick retort but found that the overwhelming bad taste in the back of his throat made him choke on his own breath. "Ungh!" was all he could mutter while Remus smiled at him briefly before giving a soft push to a cart with a pitcher of water and a goblet toward Harry's bedside.

After several swishing motions and a rapid draining of the cup contents, Harry shook his head briefly before realising that there was a low-level headache lurking at the base of his skull. It also seemed that the headache had no intention of remaining a low-level threat for long. "Yeah," he finally offered while carefully holding his head, "just great. Is there some rule that medical types have to dress you in really itchy clothes?"

Remus just chuckled in response.

"Your writing was kind of loud. I thought you hated that whole antiquated parchment and quill bit, old man."

"Still pushing the same tired joke, Harry?" Remus absently twirled the quill with incredible deftness as he wove it in and out of all his fingers. "When in Rome, Harry, when in Rome... I should call Poppy, I suspect you need another dose of potions and a checkup."

Harry winced slightly at the thought of the matron coming out and giving him more potions. "She's a sneaky one, Remus. Made me loopy with some pain potions and such last night, probably to get me to sleep. And the aftertaste... bleh!"

"It's for your own good, Harry," Remus replied quietly.

"Eat your lima beans, Harry, they're for your own good!" Harry mocked his friend. After a moment of rubbing at various spots on his head that were bothering him, Harry looked back over to Remus. "What are you working on anyway?"

Remus shrugged. "I thought I'd try again to work on the magical core explanation. I can't say it's any more readable now than it was before. I keep trying to come up with an analogy for the core and magic energy that doesn't hinge on understanding either Muggles or the Magical Community, but so far no luck."

Harry snorted. "You're not still comparing it to an airplane, are you?"

Remus laughed outright. "No, I gave up on that. Now I'm trying batteries and electricity. The problem is, Muggles only understand one type of electricity."

Harry rolled onto his side and stared balefully at Remus. "For a well educated man, Remus, you're amazingly dense. No pureblood will read that duff, and if you keep going with the analogy, you'll just confuse those who were raised by Muggles when they try to unravel it all."

Remus smiled back. "You're no slouch upstairs either, Harry, and your best suggestion was to compare it to flavours of sweets."

Harry smiled a bit before his headache insisted that he move as little as possible and talk a bit quieter. "Yeah, well, it works for me."

Shaking his head, Remus gathered up the parchments, stacking them neatly, before clambering over to Harry and dropping into the chair by the bedside. "So did we win yesterday? I'm not quite sure what happened, and no one else has any answers for me right now."

Harry glanced around, noting that Cyril was still out cold and that the Headmaster's bed was enclosed by curtains. Looking back at Remus, Harry decided that there would be no useful conversation without some intervention. "Alright Remus," he offered, "go and get the mediwitch, and if she can stop this headache, we'll get into it, right?"

Remus flashed a grin at Harry and shuffled off to the office in the back. Within seconds, the plain-spoken but generous woman was striding back toward Harry while Remus followed slowly along in her wake.

"Mr. Potter, awake at last, I see," she said absently, as she promptly waved her wand about his body in various patterns. "Bit of a headache there, and it looks like some rather impressive bone bruises are forming." She started clucking absently under her breath as she continued to consider him. "The burns seem to be almost gone. That leg is healing a little slower than I expected... Looked more like an animal bite than anything, but it's not responding as I'd expect..."

Harry winced slightly when she reached out one hand to vigorously poke and prod where the transfigured wolf had left him a loving bite to reflect on. After an interminable amount of poking and prodding, Madam Pomfrey gathered up a collection of potions and deposited them in front of Harry.

"Very well, Mr. Potter. You still won't tell me more about the events of yesterday? It might help in your treatment."

Harry just offered a wan smile in silence.

Sighing, she pointed at the collection of vials. "Take those. I'll order some breakfast for you and Remus. If you behave, Mr. Potter, I'll let you wander about the Wing and maybe sit with Remus for a while."

Remus was doing his best to hide his grin behind a hand, but the mediwitch rounded on him quickly. "And you, Remus Lupin, ought to still be in your bed! I said you could do some quiet writing, not quiet roaming!" Grabbing one arm, she manhandled the werewolf back to his bed and forced him to climb under the thin blankets. "Now you stay there this time! You're still recovering from those clandestine events, and the full moon isn't helping you at all."

Shaking her head apparently at the stupidity of them all, she bustled off to check on Cyril and then the Headmaster, disappearing briefly behind the curtains. She was back out and walking toward the office almost before the fabric stopped billowing from her entrance. As she passed Harry's bed, however, she stopped and glared at Harry before pointing again at the potions.

Sighing, Harry did his best to consume the foul concoctions as quickly as possible to minimize the amount of time he had to taste them. When he had swallowed the last drop, she nodded once in satisfaction before flicking her wand and continuing back to her office, the various vials and goblets following along in a dance of silent merriment through the air.

Remus was snickering softly, which only caused Harry to frown at his friend. While he could feel the potions slowly working at relieving the various aches and pains, and most importantly his now-blossoming headache, the matron walked back out of her office with a bundle of wooden bricks that resembled over-sized children's building blocks. Watching with increasing curiosity, Harry saw her place them in a neat line with ample space between blocks, all around the three beds on the left wall closest to her office. Standing back, she muttered a few incantations while tracing delicate arcs in the air. When she finished her wand work, the blocks shimmered briefly before becoming a solid stone wall with a soft pop!

Exchanging a startled glance with an equally surprised Remus, Harry watched as she tapped the centre of the wall facing the aisle. Immediately, a large door appeared, gently swinging inward. Nodding to herself, the mediwitch did some rapid spellwork to float the three beds out of the private room, moving them to the front of the Infirmary. Striding back toward the Headmaster's area, she gathered the privacy curtains and everything inside them, gently steering it all into the vacant space and tutting absently when Fawkes started trilling inquisitively.

When the mediwitch disappeared into the room with the Headmaster, Harry shot a tight grin at Remus. "We need to learn more about those block things, Remus."

Remus gave Harry a long look. "What are you thinking of now, Harry?"

Harry shook his head silently. "Trust me. You don't want to know. Can you pump her for details? Which spells and where to get the blocks?"

Sighing, his old friend gave a long suffering look at the ceiling. "Ignoring your abysmal word choice, Harry, I'll see what I can find out."

"What?" Harry adopted a face of pure innocence, his eyes wide open as he restarted an old discussion. "You can call it a discussion or socialisation or whatever, but it's still just milking her for her knowledge. Whatever were you thinking of?"

Remus shook his head, glancing back at Madam Pomfrey as she exited the private room, sealing the door shut before returning to her office. As soon as she was out of sight, Harry scrambled in his pockets to pull out his wand. Pointing it at Remus' bed, Harry thought a firm Accio! and was rewarded by his old friend being in a more convenient range for private conversation.

Turning around, Harry quickly cast a perimeter alert charm set to activate on the foot of his bed. Looking back to Remus, Harry sighed and lay down in the bed, mildly regretful it was so firm and hard to get comfortable in. He squirmed around a moment, then, to Remus' consternation, Harry finally climbed out of the bed and cast a fast Cushioning Charm on the surface. He then converted the blankets into soft green fuzzy ones, as well as his scratchy pajamas to black fleece. With those changes in place, Harry happily settled into his bed. When Remus' eyes lit up in sudden hope, Harry dug around on the stand by his bed before turning up Remus' wand and throwing it to the werewolf. In a matter of moments, both were slouched down and quite comfortable, although their blankets were suspiciously thick looking under the very thin covers.

Remus cleared his throat briefly, before expanding on his original question. "So, aside from the playful Cynocephs dropping by for a visit, what started it all? And how did we wind up here? Did we win, lose, or draw?"

Harry sighed as he slunk down a little lower. "I wish I knew, Remus, I wish I knew." Pulling his sensory monitor off from around his neck, he placed it on the edge of the bed. "Be glad that Dumbledore showed me the trick of making these things play back at different rates, or else we'd be sitting here a long time, /old man/." Harry glared at his friend when the werewolf snorted disbelievingly. "Imagine that someone who could invent something kept failing to educate the ignorant purchasers on fully using it. Crazy talk, eh?"

Remus rolled his eyes and grabbed the monitor from Harry. "Only amateurs adjust playback rates, Harry. Professionals know how to jump around." With a quick wink, Remus applied his wand and caused the monitor to project four different moments simultaneously, each spaced apart by hours. Through a rapid series of selections with the wand in the displays, Remus quickly settled into the scene right before Dumbledore reached for the concealed brick in the fireplace.

"And you still haven't shown me how to do any of that," Harry reminded him pointedly.

"You still owe me on how to bypass Exclusions," Remus countered absently.

"Yeah, but you still owe me on how to switch a portkey destination," Harry shot back.

"You still haven't told me how you did that trick with Hedwig."

"You haven't taught me how to build nested Wards."

"You keep hiding how you designed those hexes that get through shields."

"You keep avoiding me when I ask you how to make a Pensieve."

"I gave you the book for that when you came to Hogwarts." When Remus finally glanced back at him, Harry could tell he looked like a fool with one finger in the air and his mouth open like a goldfish. Resigned to losing this exchange, Harry nodded in defeat. "Right, well, that's the start of it, then, Remus."

Grinning triumphantly, Remus went back to the sensory monitor. Before Remus could start the playback, however, the doors to the Infirmary burst open, and Fred and George Weasley strode in, carrying Ginny between them. Her face was scrunched up in an expression of high discomfort, and the twins looked rather agitated as well. "Madam Pomfrey!" Fred called urgently.

Before the Weasley's could realise that anyone else was in the room, Harry quickly Summoned the sensory monitor, stuffed it into the pouch around his neck, and hastily disarmed the proximity charm that was making his bed vibrate and hum. As the matron came bustling out, Harry surreptitiously Banished Remus' bed back to where it was supposed to be. The motion of the bed moving was enough to cause the Weasleys to become conscious that others were present, whereas Madam Pomfrey took no notice and broke into a run to see what was wrong with Ginny.

Harry watched as she floated Ginny, ignoring the young woman's groans and protests, into a bed and started running diagnostics over her. Without breaking her concentration, she called out to the twins in a voice that brooked no mischief and demanded to know what exactly happened.

"Dunno," Fred said anxiously. "She was supposed to meet us in the common room, but we got worried when she was late. She's never late when she says she'll meet us, uh, for, err..."

George piped up, apparently to cover his brother's momentary lack of mental adroitness. "For our tutoring lessons, Madam Pomfrey. We were about to try the stairs to get her when she came staggering down and groaning about how much pain she was in, so we decided to bring her here."

Fred nodded with his twin. Harry, meanwhile, started laughing at them. "Let me guess," he called out loudly, "you can't find anything wrong but a few traces of a prior lactic acid buildup, some over-worked muscles, and a high enzyme level?"

All the conscious people in the room turned to stare at Harry. Madam Pomfrey looked surprised that he knew what she had found. "That's exactly correct, Mr. Potter. How do you know this?"

Harry shrugged absently. "I've taken over Ginny's physical conditioning. Yesterday, I pushed her to see how willing she was to get in shape. It's the natural side effect of her body telling her to take it easy for a few days, considering what I did to her."

Madam Pomfrey seemed unimpressed with the answer. "Well, I've got a potion that will fix her right up."

Before she could turn to fetch it, however, Harry stopped her quickly. "Wait a moment, please. You need to ask Ginny if she wants to take it." Ignoring the redhead's exaggerated but slow nodding, Harry kept his eyes on Madam Pomfrey as he explained. "It's up to you, of course, to provide it. But if Ginny takes it, I won't be training her any more, and she needs to know that's part of the choice."

"What?!" Fred exploded. "You want her to be in pain like that?"

Ginny was giving Harry a look that he was sure could peel grindylows off a baby, but he continued to ignore her as he looked at the outraged faces of Fred and George. "If she takes the potion, do you know what it will really do?"

Both the boys stopped to look at each other in puzzlement at the very odd question before giving a quick shake of their heads. Looking back at Madam Pomfrey, he asked her point blank, "And you, Madam Pomfrey?"

Pomfrey nodded her head slowly, clearly understanding the point Harry was making. "It will restore her muscles to their undamaged state."

"Exactly. And that state is unconditioned. If she takes the potion, it will be like she never did the exercise yesterday." Smiling sadly back at Ginny, he finally met her death glares. "It's up to you, of course. You may take the potion and feel better now, but you'll have to find your own way to train. I'm not helping someone who won't do the work. If you work through the pain, which is telling you to go easy for a day or three, eventually you won't need potions."

Ginny hissed at Harry vehemently as she narrowed her eyes. "You did this to me knowing how I would feel this morning? And you didn't warn me?"

Harry smiled blandly at the witch.

In the blink of an eye, her wand was trained on Harry and sparks were coming off the tip. "You put me in this condition!"

"Oi!" George said, while shoving his brother out of the line of fire. "You may have six brothers, but we're not exactly quick to replace!"

Everyone else seemed to be focused on the two fifteen year olds. Harry shrugged and kept his smile on his face. "So you're jogging around the lake again today, then, Ginny? Or are you going to take that potion?"

The sparks shooting off her wand started veering in random directions around her shaking fist, as Ginny started muttering oaths so vile that Fred leaned over and clapped a hand on her mouth.

"Right!" he said while looking at Madam Pomfrey's scowl. "We'll just be, uh, going then!"

As the twins grabbed the swearing and glaring redhead to carry her back out of the room, Harry watched her face go pale before she looked at him with horror. "Jog around the lake...?" was all he heard as they hurried her out of the room.

Chuckling, Remus stared out the window while shaking his head. "That is not a witch to turn your back on," he observed to no one in particular.

Harry flashed Remus a tight smile while Madam Pomfrey went back to her office, muttering about the foibles of teenagers and their strange notions of a good time. Remus glanced at the large clock on the wall by the mediwitch's office door and pointed it out to Harry. "Sirius thinks you're going to meet him this morning."

"Yeah," Harry agreed while fishing out his sensory monitor again. He tossed it over to Remus. "I sent him a note last night to come help you and wait for me today. I wanted to explain it to him quickly rather than get the sad puppy eyes and guilt trip later."

Smiling at the image, Remus took the silvery orb without saying anything for a long moment. "Thanks, Harry."

Harry shrugged. "I would've been there for you, but I ran into a spot of trouble on the way home from work yesterday..."

Both Harry and Remus shared a smirk. "He said he'd wait on the far side of the lake. When are you going to go see him?"

Harry sighed. "I doubt Madam Pomfrey's going to let me just walk out of here," he replied while jerking his head toward the office in the back. "I need a diversion of some kind so I can sneak off. Maybe I'll turn one of the beds into a flock of pixies or something." Pausing in thought, he glanced uneasily at the doors of the Hospital wing. "Speaking of which, those three Weasleys were up to something last night."

Remus was again flicking through sections of the sensory monitor to isolate the beginning of events yesterday. "Oh?" he asked in a distracted voice.

"Some prank or something in the Great Hall for this morning." Harry shrugged. "I should have asked one of them about it, I suppose, but I wasn't tracking too well by that point. It's all kind of fuzzy after that woman foisted off her potions on me last night."

Remus just grunted slightly as the image of Dumbledore reaching for the fireplace appeared again. Before he released the playback, Harry cast another proximity charm around their beds and leaned back. "Let me know when you've seen it all."

Remus was already ignoring Harry, intently watching the scene unfold in the sensory monitor's projection field. Harry enjoyed the pretty patterns of magic flowing from Remus' wand into the monitor, and up into the volume of air where the projection was displayed. It was hauntingly similar to the rippling waves in a small creek as the water ran over submerged rocks.

"That doesn't seem right," Remus murmured while watching the duel inside the cottage. "Harry, I'm going to have to watch this a dozen times to figure out the sequencing." The playback showed them already outside, Harry preparing for the second round. "There's no way Dumbledore should be standing."

Remus continued muttering as the fight playback continued, but Harry ignored it as he dug around and pulled his broom up onto the bed. After a careful examination, he was satisfied that there was no damage to his Firebolt and put it to one side. Rummaging through the rest of his stuff, he confirmed that his armour was sadly unsalvageable. The remnants of his clothes would only serve for cleaning the loo at best. Resigned to being stuck in his somewhat more comfortable hospital pyjamas, Harry looked back at his friend to find that the playback was over and that Remus was staring at the ceiling.

"Remus?" he asked quietly.

"You shouldn't have survived that, Harry," his old friend replied, as he gazed at the boring yet uniform white surface. "Dumbledore had the drop on you, and he landed the first round. You know that almost always decides things right then and there."

Harry grunted noncommittally and played with the handle of the Firebolt. "If the cottage hadn't started coming down, Remus, I wouldn't have survived. I needed that breather to get my balance back."

The werewolf turned to look at Harry with a puzzled expression. "You've been holding back on us, haven't you, Harry?"

Harry sighed and leaned back to mimic his friend's habit of staring at the ceiling when debating issues. "Not really, Remus. If I get hacked off enough, I've found I can do a couple of things that I can't seem to figure out how to do otherwise."

"Hmmm..." Remus was quiet for a while. "You know, in the long run, Dumbledore will thank you for what you did, Harry. But up front, it's going to be very hard for him to come to terms with it."

"Maybe," Harry offered cautiously. "I'm not sure I had another option. I couldn't think of one. You missed the big news. You should watch the diagnosis when we got back here. Pomfrey said Dumbledore's magic is gone."

"What?!" Remus sat up and stared at Harry. "That's not possible!"

Harry held up his hands in a placating manner. "Don't shoot the messenger, Remus. Before yesterday, I would've said half the things in that fight weren't possible, but they happened."

Remus just kept staring at Harry as the thoughts chased across his face. Resigned, he nodded and leaned back on the bed again. After a long moment of silence, Remus snorted. "Sirius is so going to kick your behind, Harry, when he finds out he missed you taking on Dumbledore. And David is going to be really upset if he ever sees this. After your encounter with those Slytherins last week, I have never seen him so distressed. Well, not since. . ." Sighing, Remus tossed the sensory monitor back to Harry. "Sirius will want to watch that too."

Harry stuffed the monitor back in its pouch. "Yeah, well, I'll go see Sirius and come back with a sore arse. Dad will be okay once we talk about it. I hope." Glancing again at his old friend, Harry knew they were dancing around the central issue. "Are we wrong about how magic works, Remus?"

Remus began absently running his hands over his face. After a long time of reflection, he shook his head slowly. "Occam's razor, Harry. We've been using it all along, and the theory we have fits all the other facts. Until we can talk to Dumbledore about what happened and what he experienced, we have to assume our model is still correct."

"What about those problems with the other magic styles? Did you ever work those out?" Harry asked curiously.

"I think so," Remus replied slowly. "From what we've been able to observe, it appears to be due to a difference in conduits. The real problem is how Edgar can do any magic at all, but last week I think I worked out that as well. He was supposed to be doing some tests with Sirius when you showed up to kidnap me yesterday."

Harry chucked quietly. "You're hardly a kid, Remus. Sirius, now, well that would be kidnapping."

Before Remus could fire off a retort, the doors to the Infirmary again banged open and a variety of misshapen lumps moved by various forms of locomotion into the area. Close scrutiny revealed what appeared to be half-human, half-animal creatures clustered about the entranceway, all of which were wearing Hogwarts robes. Most of the odd beings had animal heads, but there were a few human heads surmounted on strange animal bodies. Harry thought they resembled a Dr. Seuss drawing, but the "human" heads were so alien in anatomy that they were unable to talk and could only articulate groans and moans. The cacophony that ensued as the roughly dozen students clamored for attention and fought each other to reach the mediwitch turned the Infirmary into a warped menagerie. Harry and Remus were unable to stop their laughter at the whole scene.

The end result was that Madam Pomfrey came back out of her office and let out a screech of indignation. "Those Weasley boys! Just wait until I see them next!"

Firing a wink at Remus and gesturing vaguely at the crowd of misshapen students, Harry used a quick Summoning charm to draw the curtains around his bed. "I've got to go have a rather grim talk, cover for me while I'm out, right?"

After a fast Alohomora on the window, Harry waved once at his old friend before he leapt to freedom on his broom. Heading toward the lake, Harry speculated that with any luck, the matron would be so occupied that she would fail to notice the empty bed before he returned. Harry needed to keep his presence rather quiet lest word get back that he was out and about, so he dove for the tree line that encircled nearly two thirds of the lake. Opting to rocket around the lake just above the long-worn path at the edge of it, Harry dove in and out of trees as he raced for the far side and wherever Sirius might be hiding.

Slowing down as he came near the far side of the lake, Harry started scanning the grounds carefully for any traces of magical signatures. Finally spotting one bush near a clump of trees on the path that was radiating slightly, Harry came to a stop and dropped to the ground a few feet away from it.

"Okay, Padfoot," Harry called, "I know you're in there. Come on out."

The faint rustling in the bushes ceased, but Harry could tell there was something large just out of his sight. When nothing came out, Harry cautiously drew his wand and stepped by the trees to get a bit of cover before taking aim on the thickest part. Silently casting Aguamenti to spray water all over the bushes, Harry was surprised to see a pair of nifflers running out of the bushes before heading deeper into the forest. Realising Padfoot had, for once, not set a trap for him, he relaxed and put his wand back in his holster.

Looking around, Harry was surprised when he found himself flat on the ground with a massive weight on his back pinning him in place. "Harry, Harry," the disappointed voice said, "how many times do I have to tell you, look up when you're checking an area?"

Groaning slightly at the weight and having been caught again, Harry's muffled sarcastic reply was almost lost in the dirt. "At least once more?"

After Sirius helped him back up, he helped brush the dirt, leaves, and sticks off Harry's clothing. Pausing to look him slowly up and down, Sirius' face took on a sly expression. "So when did Pomfrey start giving out designer sleepwear? Or is it just for famous patients?" The humour in his voice was obvious, as he absently fingered the collar of Harry's fleece pajamas.

"Yeah, yeah," Harry muttered. "Just because a guy sneaks up on you he thinks he's entitled to all kinds of opinions."

Laughing a bit, Sirius clapped Harry on the shoulder before steering him back into the trees to keep their presence hidden from view. "Just because a guy is your Godfather means he's entitled to all kinds of opinions," he corrected.

"How was last night?" Harry asked, diverting Sirius from his gloating.

Sirius conjured up a pair of dark brown leather recliners before dropping into one of them. Harry cast a proximity charm before settling into the opposite seat and smiling at his magical guardian.

"A little rough," Sirius admitted. "Remus missed the last dose of Wolfsbane since he was away from home, so..." Shrugging slightly, Sirius pushed up his sleeves to show some faint wounds still visible. "He got a little frisky, I guess, but he was slow enough from his injuries that he didn't get me more than a couple of times."

Harry coughed slightly when Sirius stared at him. "Thanks for staying with him, Padfoot."

"Harry," Sirius began slowly, "why wasn't I called to help with whatever happened? Remus didn't tell me much other than to ask you what was going on."

Harry thought he could hear the faint whinge of indignation and hurt in the question. "Well, when I showed up to get Remus, you were out with Edgar," he offered quietly. "Dumbledore wanted to do some exploring, and we had no idea it would turn sour." Taking a deep breath, Harry looked back at his Godfather and met the injured gaze. "I wish you had been there; you would've been a big help. As it is, we got our arses kicked pretty thoroughly."

With a sigh, Sirius held his hand out in front of Harry. "Let's see it," he said without much conviction. Harry fished out his sensory monitor and dropped it in the proffered palm, sitting back to quietly watch his Godfather review the playback. Harry was not quite sure what to make of the fact that Sirius' face grew increasingly dark as he replayed the entire fight scene twice before backing it up and watching everything from when they first arrived on the outskirts of the Gaunt house. At last, Sirius stopped the playback and stared balefully at Harry.

"Harry," Sirius said sternly, "you completely buggered this up. You should be dead, kiddo."

Sighing heavily, Harry started passively counting leaves on the nearest tree. "Funny, that, since Remus and I agree with you."

Sirius continued on as though Harry had said nothing. "Not only should you be dead, you should have never gone there without some more backup! Dumbledore had the complete drop on you and..." Sirius paused to blink a few times. "You guys agree with me?"

Harry grimaced slightly and nodded.

"Woo hoo! Paddy wins one!" Sirius jumped up and grabbed Harry by the shoulder, spinning him around abruptly while he was still in his chair. "Take that, theory monkeys!"

Laughing slightly despite the context, Harry regarded Sirius with amusement. "Yeah, yeah, even a mangy old dog has to be right now and then."

Sirius calmed down after a minute and became more subdued. "Did Pomfrey get Dumbledore's arm fixed up okay? She's dealt with worse before, so as long as you made good time, it should have been okay."

Harry had a hard time looking at Sirius, so he settled on watching the mostly calm lake water. "Err, that depends on how you define fixed up. He's no longer under the sway of the ring, but he's lost the hand, uh, permanently."

Sirius lost all the humour in his face as he sank back into his chair. "Why?"

"Errr, well, you caught the point that the ring was a Horcrux?"

Sirius snorted. "Just because I don't read books the way Remus does, Harry, doesn't make me an idiot."

Flashing a slight smirk, Harry started playing with a twig he picked up from the ground. "Yeah, well, maybe not. But the monitor and the pensieve don't show the auras and flows I see, as you know. That ring was doing some pretty wild stuff to the Headmaster, Sirius. It was clearly taking control of him somehow."

Sirius just started at Harry with disbelief. "Did I not just tell you I'm not an idiot?"

"Look, Paddy," Harry said with some heat, "I'm trying to explain this the best way I can. Do you mind? I'm not even sure what the hell happened, so let me work it out, right?"

Sirius quickly held his hand up placatingly. "Okay, okay, sorry Harry. I'll be a good boy."

Rolling his shoulders, Harry got up and paced about among the trees. "I can't really explain it. It was like the ring was sucking power out of the ground, and it was pushing that power into Dumbledore. No matter what I hit him with, the aura enveloping the ring never flickered during the whole power transfer thing, and that alone is pretty damn odd."

Harry sat back down and put his head in his hands. "You didn't go far enough to see it, but the mediwitch needed someone skilled in Dark Arts to break the curse placed on the Headmaster. She wanted to bring Snape into it, but I told her she couldn't. It got a bit tense for a while, but I eventually got approval to go get Crowley."

Sirius paled considerably. "You didn't! No way! Harry, you idiot!" Sirius got up and grabbed Harry's shoulders hard. "The Wards should have killed both of you for even thinking about it!"

Harry shook off Sirius' grip before glaring back at his Godfather. "Really? Thanks for telling me that. I already told Remus I can get around Exclusions." Harry almost wanted to laugh at the expression of open horror on Sirius' face. "What, you thought I was going to stay in my room all those times you did that?"

Gaping like a goldfish, Sirius sat back down slowly. "That's not possible!"

Harry shrugged. "Yeah, well, it gets more interesting. Apparently, the ring had an incomplete `owth Qayin on it."

Groaning, Sirius dropped his head into his hands. "Not another one."

"Crowley broke it. But in the process, Dumbledore's hand had to be destroyed with the ring." Harry shrugged. "I wish I could go back in time and kick Pavlov's arse for rediscovering that one. It was better off left as legend."

Sirius exhaled slowly. "Will Dumbledore's mind come back?"

Harry shrugged. "Crowley said it was an issue of willpower. He broke the curse, but we both know that leaves some residue. The real mystery is why Dumbledore's magic seems to be gone. He still radiates an aura, so... I don't quite follow that diagnosis."

Sirius was just looking at Harry blankly. "So aside from you lot almost getting killed, Dumbledore almost killing you, you almost killing Dumbledore, Dumbledore losing his mind and magic, is there anything else you'd like to tell me?" Harry winced somewhat at the slightly hysterical note creeping into Sirius' voice. "You know, Harry, just in case it has slipped your mind lately, between you and Dumbledore, the big V has all his competition identified... you guys don't need to be offing each other for him."

"C'mon, Padfoot," Harry said in an effort at a cheery tone, "you know he'd just be jealous he couldn't be there with a big tub of popcorn when it happened."

Sirius seemed unable to prevent the small snort of laughter that escaped him. Harry smiled at his Godfather as the man slowly recovered from the realisation of just how much had happened in the past twenty hours or so. "Right, Harry, you think he'd want butter on that?"

"Nah," Harry offered with as much nonchalance as he could. "Probably just brains and maybe a coupon for a free Unforgivable practice session on Fudge."

Both of them started laughing at the imagery, some of the tension draining away. Harry, however, was quickly reminded of the gravity of the situation when his Godfather conjured up a small glass phial. Silently, Harry extracted a copy of his memory of the previous day's entire battle and placed it into the phial, putting the stopper back on it before handing it back. Sirius would surely be using the Pensieve back at the house soon.

"Ok," Sirius started over, "let's go through this a little bit. I'll spend the afternoon doing a full walkthrough when I'm home, and we'll talk more about it tomorrow afternoon. For now, let's think about the major things. Alright?"

Harry nodded then leaned forward to see what Sirius Black would find. While there were definitely better duelers out there, and Harry had fought some of them, Sirius had a natural eye to dissect battles and fights and suggest all kinds of alternative strategies, as well as point out when Harry was sinking into predictable combat patterns.

Sirius held up the sensory monitor and ran the playback to the point of Dumbledore opening the brick before pausing it. "First, Harry, you never should have let Dumbledore hold his wand when he went for the secret hiding spot. One of you guys should have stood back and kept a close eye on everything, ready with a Stunner at a moment's notice. You had no idea what was in there -- it could have been a portkey, it could have been a doorway, an explosive, anything really. What if it were a basilisk? Eh?"

Harry smiled affectionately at his Godfather for a moment. "You're really bent out of shape that you weren't there, aren't you?"

Sirius growled slightly before smacking Harry on the shoulder fairly hard. "Look, kiddo, the reason you needed me is because you weren't paranoid enough, and you needed someone to watch your back." The look on Sirius' face quelled any lingering humour Harry was feeling. "It doesn't have to be me, Harry. Sometimes I'll be working on things elsewhere. But you need someone to watch your back. This game is for keeps. It could be anyone -- Cyril, Remus, someone who can hold their own. You see that, right?"

Harry reluctantly nodded his head.

Sirius bent back to the monitor and acted like the chastisement never happened. "Ok, I'll give you credit that you got Remus involved - that was smart - but the whole hiding place situation was bungled. Now, as soon as Dumbledore didn't respond to your demand to stop, you should have taken him out, Harry. You knew you were dealing with Riddle and his sick mind, so none of you should have paused. If necessary, you should have done one of your charm tricks."

Harry found himself staring at his Godfather. "I'm so stupid..."

"Not really, Harry." Sirius shook his head, but there was no levity on his face. "You were surprised and didn't think straight. The next problem is that you didn't go for crippling blows up front. You tried to be nice." Sirius ran both of his hands across his face and through his hair, making it stick up in every direction. "Tell me, is Riddle a nice guy?"

Harry shook his head, knowing his Godfather was going to lead him by the nose to some painful conclusion. Remus was always more subtle, but Sirius made points in a way that was completely blunt.

"Do you think Riddle would throw Stunners or Killing Curses?"

Sighing, Harry just waved for his Godfather to continue.

"So why would you never suspect that someone's mind, controlled by Riddle, would do otherwise?"

"You think I should have gone for killing blows instantly?"

Sirius nodded slowly. "It would be the safest thing to do, Harry. It doesn't matter who it is - being under the sway of that man or his followers is equal to being that man or his followers."

Harry had a lingering feeling of unease with the direction the conversation was going. "Yet we know that both Dumbledore and I can throw off the Imperius from Riddle himself."

Sirius sighed as he leaned back. "True. You are the only two we know of that can, though Mad-Eye is supposed to be able to make it a stalemate from what I've heard. But was that the Imperius on Dumbledore? You and I both know there was something more. You said Crowley identified it as the 'Mark of Cain' curse. No amount of willpower can stop that, Harry."

Harry sat in silence, considering the words Sirius had been throwing at him so casually. The idea of striking down anyone under mind control seemed wrong somehow, but he had to agree that it probably would have to become the first choice in any repeat situation.

"Alright, Sirius," Harry said at last, "I'll talk about it with Cyril. Maybe I will have to go full out immediately, but I don't like the idea of lethal force from the get-go."

"Good." Sirius fumbled a bit with the sensory monitor before handing it back. As Harry put it away, Sirius coughed to get his attention. "The rest of the fight went about as you'd expect for a melee. The one thing I still think you're doing wrong is playing too much with your big knife. You need to find a better way to switch between that and your wand. Swapping takes too much time, which makes it a weakness."

"I'm open to ideas. This dimensional sheath you did works as well as the broom case does. I just can't see any way to be..." The perimeter charm suddenly went off, sounding like two squirrels in a chittering argument. Both Harry and Sirius dropped to the ground and started looking around.

Sirius nudged Harry and pointed. "Three, over there, coming around the path."

Harry groaned slightly. "Weasleys. Damn. I need to get out of here before they see me, and if they see you..." Flicking his wand, Harry cancelled the proximity charm. "Get going, Sirius. I'll be there tomorrow afternoon. Let Dad know we'll all be okay, right?"

Sirius gave a quick one-armed hug to Harry before leaping into the bushes, changing into Padfoot halfway through the leap. A bit of rustling later, and the massive black dog was bounding off into the Forbidden Forest. Harry took a minute to remove the conjured chairs before Disillusioning himself and stepping back into the shadows of the trees to let the incoming troublemakers pass.

Fred's voice drifted toward Harry as the twins were hovering through the air behind their sister on brooms, while she was jogging fairly slowly around the footpath. "... changing the spells so those gits stayed transfigured is going to cause problems, Gin! Pomfrey is going to have our heads after McGonagall is finished with us!"

The girl in question was trying to glare at her brothers but was breathing too heavily to do more than grunt slightly and gasp out one word at a time. "They. Deserved. It."

George shared a look with his twin. "Look, Gin, we're not idiots. Are you going to tell us what that was ..."

As the trio of redheads moved out of hearing range, Harry smirked slightly. He had a sneaking suspicion that if he were to investigate the reasons as to why Ginny wanted to train so badly, he only had to think of those students who were receiving medical attention in the Infirmary right now. Suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to break back into the medical facility, Harry hopped back on his broom and took off for the castle.

Glancing through the Infirmary window, Harry saw that Remus was once again writing on his improvised lap desk, while the curtains were still closed around Harry's bed. Harry could hear the faint sounds of the matron bustling about and complaining to others. Harry quietly glided in and put the broom by the bed. He closed the window and climbed back under the covers. Remus shot him an amused look and then nodded back out to the ward area. After taking a moment to make sure there was no lingering evidence of his unauthorized sortie, Harry used his wand to move the curtains back away from his bed.

Directly across from him was Hermione Granger, carefully holding the hand of a tall boy in Gryffindor robes with a giant donkey's head where his face should have been. Upon seeing Harry, Hermione flushed brightly and dropped her eyes to the hand she was clutching tightly. All the other students appeared to have already escaped the ministrations of the woman. Harry noticed Cyril was sitting up and watching the scene with a high level of interest.

"You Weasleys!" Madam Pomfrey was ranting on, while what was clearly Ron continued making a strange hee-haw bray. Schooling himself to keep a straight face, Harry tried to keep track of the methods the matron was using to fix the gangly boy. "If you're not blowing something up or turning people into slugs or getting hurt during Quidditch, you're plotting to do one of them! I've half a mind to get your mother out here to deal with you lot!"

Ron's braying became more strained and quite rapid, at which point Madam Pomfrey simply Silenced him. "Do I want to know why your siblings have singled you out like this?" When Ron shook his head, the woman looked completely disbelieving. "So I don't need to lay in a store of materials to keep you alive?" By now, Hermione was so red and uncomfortable looking that Harry was wondering if she had enough blood in the rest of her body to keep functioning.

"Very well, Mr. Weasley, but do try to talk to those brothers of yours. I don't want to see you back here after every meal, do you understand?" When Ron nodded his head, the mediwitch spent some minutes using her wand and two potions to get Ron back to normal. Leaving him with a sniff of doubt as to his prospects for continued good health, Madam Pomfrey glanced at the three longer-term patients and then went back to her office.

Ron stood up and glared hard at Harry before pulling his hand away from Hermione and stomping out of the Infirmary. By the time the door shut, Harry and Remus were both laughing openly.

"I want to meet the twins," Remus said after a moment of mirth. "I need to know how they did that. I'd swear it was layered with a hex to anyone that tried to undo it."

Harry grinned sharply at Remus after thinking about what he overheard by the lake. "It wasn't supposed to be, but someone tampered with the prank spells."

Hermione gasped and stormed toward Harry. "How could you?!"

Harry held up his hands while trying to smother his chuckles. "I didn't, but I know who did."

Hermione struggled for a moment before her eyes lit up in understanding. "So that's why she was suddenly nice to him yesterday evening." Hermione held her head in one hand. "Ron's going to take the rest of the day to calm down now. At least this time he's not got impervious shag carpet for eyebrows and a beard."

Groaning, Hermione sank down into the chair between Remus' and Harry's bed. "Ginny's always been rather vindictive with her payback."

Remus smiled brightly at that. "Really?" Glancing at Harry, Remus looked at Hermione who was fighting a small set of giggles at some memory. "I think Harry's been in suspense over what your Miss Weasley is planning to do to him for payback."

Harry groaned slightly when Hermione really did break out into laughter. "He told you about yesterday, then?" she asked Remus.

Remus looked puzzled for a moment.

"She's been bugging me to teach her how to fight Muggle style, Remus. I gave her a brutal test to see if she's really willing." Sighing, Harry looked back at Hermione. "I was surprised. Most people quit, but she didn't. Since she passed the initiation torture test, I'm going to train her."

Remus nodded his understanding. "I see. That's what you were referring to earlier when she was in here." Harry nodded. "And was this initiation similar to what yours was like?" Harry grinned wolfishly. "I see. Payback, it seems, is now due twice over."

Harry shrugged slightly. "That wager is still running. She's got until the end of the month." Looking back at Hermione, Harry waved vaguely at the older man. "Remus, meet Hermione. Hermione, Remus."

Hermione rose and shook Remus' hand, before glancing back at Harry. "Harry, since you're here, I wanted to ask you some questions."

Harry held up one hand briefly. "Remember that kindred spirit I mentioned?"

Hermione slowly nodded her head.

Jerking one thumb at Remus, Harry just gave a benign smile. "That's him."

"Really?" Hermione's entire countenance changed in a flash, and she looked highly excited and pleased. "Mr. Remus?"

Remus held up one hand. "Just Remus is fine, Hermione. Harry's told me a bit about you."

Hermione smiled even more brightly. "All good things, I hope." When Remus nodded with a wry smile, Harry had to put his hand over his mouth so as not to succumb to the laughter he felt inside. He was almost certain Remus would be plotting ways to get back at Harry for the casual introduction and transference of the inquisitive witch's focus. "Did he tell you how he's been avoiding answering my questions?"

Remus kept his smile fixed in place as his eyes started flashing. "Why no, he didn't, but then Harry has always been a rather unwilling student. He's not the sharpest tool in the box, if you catch my meaning."

Hermione flashed Harry a mocking smile while he glowered at Remus. "I've definitely noticed," she said with an air of playful superiority.

Remus quirked one eyebrow at Harry before looking at Hermione. "I've been led to understand he's got you looking into words and thoughts, and how they influence magic."

Hermione rolled her eyes at Harry's expression before turning her back on him. "Exactly. The boy's managed to give me enough information that I've narrowed it down to just a few possibilities, but I need some more data before I can be sure."

Remus smiled. "Well, I need to talk to Harry a bit more this morning, so if you've got only a few questions, why don't you try them out and we'll see where that leaves us."

Hermione's smile, if anything, became even brighter. "There seems to be a dichotomy. Harry has made it clear that the words are important to learning a spell, but that the language in use is not. What he has not made clear is the division between words and thoughts. Not all languages can express the same thought, for example, so how is it possible that any language at all can be used for magic?"

Harry leaned back into his bed and covered his head with a pillow. This was exactly the question he had been dreading. Hermione was far too bright and had asked enough questions that there was a fragile jigsaw puzzle in front of her. She now knew that the world was not, as per the textbooks, flat. But she had yet to discover what new shape it was.

"Excellent question, Hermione," Remus responded. Harry could hear some bubbling enthusiasm through the pillow in his old friend. "But it's the wrong question you should be asking right now. The question you want to be asking is why do you need words or thoughts at all?"

"Well, if magic just responded willy-nilly to your impulsive desires, it would be terrible. Babies would curse their parents, boyfriends and girlfriends would strike each other dead with regularity, and so forth."

"True to a point, Hermione, true to a point." Harry thought that Remus missed his calling in life as a university professor, probably somewhere rustic and idyllic. "But then if you needed words or thoughts to make magic work, then what difference will the words or thoughts make? If I said /wooga wooga/, for example, how is that any better than /lumos/? Both are really equally meaningless to a first-year student unfamiliar with Latin."

When the silence had drawn out long enough, Harry pulled the pillow off of his head and watched the two of them staring at each other. Cyril, meanwhile, had pulled up a chair silently and was contemplating the teacher and student in a manner strikingly similar to how Harry was. When Cyril and Harry made eye contact, they shared a wry grin before waiting for the two to come out of their contemplation.

Finally, Hermione snapped her fingers. "It doesn't!" she said triumphantly. "The words are only there to guide the thoughts! Once you've learned how to release the magic, it doesn't matter what words you use." Smiling with the excitement of discovery, she looked at Harry. "'Tweet, tweet', was it?"

Pulling out her wand, she made a quick arc and said, "Lumos!" followed rapidly by "Nox!" Concentrating, she made the same movement but changed the phrase, "Wooga wooga!" Opening her eyes, she was clearly surprised to find her wand remained unlit. Puzzled, she looked at Remus for an explanation.

Remus smiled kindly at her, before looking at Harry. "Want to tell her, Harry, or shall I?"

Harry grimaced slightly before looking at the puzzled girl. "Once I made that connection, it took me over a week of non-stop effort to get even the light spell to work, Hermione. Intellectually, you're correct, but your body doesn't know how to do it yet without the words."

Grinning, Hermione reached over and patted Harry's hand. "That's alright, Harry. I'm sure I'll work it out before the week is up." Standing up, she was almost bouncing on her feet, her wand emitting an occasional spark into the air as she let her happiness run wild. "Thanks, Remus! Bye Harry!" Before anyone could get a word in edgewise, she was bouncing out of the room, humming to herself the entire time.

Harry shared a long look with Remus before the two started quietly laughing. "That was cruel, Harry," Remus said with a smile. "As I recall, it was more like a month before you got it."

Harry smirked a bit. "But I was also a lot younger and barely had any real understanding of magic. Look at it this way, if she can do it in a week, she's clearly better than all of us put together."

"Indeed," Cyril observed. "She worked that out in just a little over a week?"

Harry nodded. "I gave her some clues and would derail her from what we knew for sure is impossible, but the real impetus was seeing me do things her textbooks said are impossible."

Cyril rubbed at his beard absently before looking back at Harry. "A most promising young woman, Harry. Her insight might be most useful, would you agree?"

The overly bland tone his Mentor was using caused all kinds of warning bells to go off in the back of his head. "You can't be serious."

Remus looked puzzled for the briefest of moments, before apparently putting it together. "She may be faster than I am, Harry. To date, we have no idea how you're supposed to solve our little Riddle, even if all the other pieces were in place."

Harry shook his head before staring at Cyril. "It's not that simple, and you both know it. No one has any clue what that whole 'power' bit is all about."

Cyril shifted slightly, before looking about the room. "That's not entirely true, Harry. Albus and I were talking yesterday afternoon while you and Remus were amusing yourselves with the Gaunt Wards. We both suspect it may have a very simple interpretation."

The absolute silence among the three of them was broken only by the harsh breathing of Harry. Finally snapping out of his moment of paralysis, Harry layered proximity charms all over the Wing in rapid succession before turning back to Cyril. "Explain." While his tone was less than a demand, it was far from a polite request.


Harry spent over a minute staring at his Mentor before the snort escaped his lips. "Right. That's just the ticket." Rolling his eyes, Harry shot a look of irritation to his Mentor. "The first problem is, I like girls. The second problem is, even if I did like boys, I'm not about to like him like that!"

Cyril shook his head. "Remus was right. You are a rather poor student, are you not? Your anger blocks your mind far too much, Harry."

Before Harry could retort, Cyril held up one hand. "Clear your mind of what you think I have said or implied, and listen to me, Harry. You are smarter than this."

Cyril calmly gazed at Harry for a long moment before Harry nodded his head to signal his readiness to listen. "Voldemort's mother believed herself to be in love with his father, but it was all a sham. She resorted to love potions and treachery. When he discovered the truth, he left, for there never had been any love. It was only a figment in the diseased, obsessive mind of a broken young woman. Riddle grew up knowing nothing of love, but when he found out the truth of his parentage and circumstances, what do you think his reaction to the idea of love became? Contempt for love, contempt for those who would feel it. Therefore, he will never consider it as a source of power, only something on which to waste dreams and a weakness in anybody that might feel it."

Harry had to agree that it made a modicum of sense, but it was a far stretch to go from contempt of love to having some magic loving power. Waving for Cyril to continue, Harry tried to keep as open a mind as possible.

"With you, Harry, what was the one thing that saved you? Your mother's love for you. When she sacrificed herself to protect you, it forever burned into you the knowledge that love does, in fact, have a tremendous amount of power. It can apparently even stop the Killing Curse, something no one else has ever been able to do. The one power that Voldemort 'knows not' is the one power you 'know intimately'."

Opening his mouth to raise several objections, they all jumped slightly when a cacophony of animal noises rioted through the room as several proximity charms activated simultaneously. As Harry cancelled all the charms and Madam Pomfrey came running back out at hearing the ruckus, while muttering about dealing with those Weasley boys, they all heard the sounds of many feet outside the doors.

With excessive force, several Aurors marched in, flanking Cornelius Fudge, Dolores Umbridge, and Severus Snape. Glancing around contemptuously, Fudge pointed one fat finger at the mediwitch. "I want Dumbledore, now!"


So, also for those of you that haven't seen the updated A/N from the prior chapter, the update frequency is obviously going to slow down. Between work, family, and other obligations, Echoes will no longer update every 1-1.5 weeks. I would tentatively project every 2-2.5 weeks for an update. I'll do my best to keep the writing pipeline and my betas busy, but we'll see how it plays out.

Thanks for your patience and understanding. This story will never be abandoned, so have no fears on that score.

Thanks, as always, 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. Thanks also to Reg for his Brit-picking, Treecat for slang checking, and Sovran for a pre-publish sanity check. We all know I have no sanity left.

Sign up to rate and review this story