I've made a minor but relatively important edit to the previous chapter. Namely, I've changed it so that Harry is now convinced that Voldemort is dead since his phylactery(the diary) is destroyed. It was pointed out to me that he would have no reason to think that Voldemort would – or even could- have more than one. This may or may not have any effect on the story as it goes forward, but it was a blunder on my part that needed to be corrected.
This chapter was a pain in the ass to write, which is why it took so long. Special thanks to Joe Lawyer, who was instrumental in refining it.
Harry walked through the door of his foster home with a faint sense of resignation. He would have much rather skipped the hollow reunion routine that Robert and Katherine were no doubt going to be intent on going through even though there was nobody to see it.
"I'm home." He announced without enthusiasm.
He heard them coming a second later.
"Welcome...back?" Robert said, trailing off in confusion as he took in the changes in his adopted son.
"What are they feeding you at that school of yours?" Katherine asked, sounding genuinely amazed. "You're huge!"
Harry shifted awkwardly. The Weasleys hadn't commented on his size, probably out of politeness and Xeno Lovegood may not even have registered anything strange, but he knew that he was too big for his age. He might be just shy of thirteen years old, but he looked closer to fifteen thanks to the runes. He'd even caught the first hints of facial hair growing on his chin a while ago. To the Shaws, who hadn't seen him for ten months, the difference in his appearance must be massive.
"Just a growth spurt I guess."
Katherine came closer, reaching out to touch the mess that was his hair. It too was growing faster than normal and now hung just above his shoulders. It was currently at that annoying midway length where it was long enough to be annoying, but not quite long enough to be put into a ponytail.
"And your hair is a complete mess again." She fussed. "We'll have to get it cut soon."
Harry leaned away from her, not even bothering to be annoyed anymore. Of course she'd be worried about appearances right away. He'd stopped hoping for a hug by the time he was nine. That, and her perfume was stirring up his libido, which was still creepy.
"I was actually thinking of growing it long." He told her, taking an inordinate amount of pleasure in the appalled expressions it got him.
"No son of ours will be going around looking like some long-haired hooligan." Robert said firmly, his wife nodding in agreement.
Harry's expression brielfy twisted in irritation at their narrow-mindedness. Fortunately, he'd prepared some countermeasures ahead of time.
Not for the sake of his hair mind you, but it would be a good test.
Taking a deep breath, Harry used the months of Occlumency practice to suffuse his mind with a feeling of calm. Then he focused it and sent a pair of wandless calming spells at his foster parents.
"It's really not that big of a deal." He said in a conversational tone that hid his anxiety to see if it had worked. "We're not in the 1950s anymore, lots of men wear their hair long these days."
"I guess it won't be a problem if you style it properly." Katherine agreed with some reluctance.
Robert was still frowning however, clearly more resistant to either the idea or the effects of the spell. "I still think it would be better to keep it short."
Harry sent another calming spell at him, feeling incredibly pleased with the fact that it produced no flashy jets of light.
"Men frequently wear their hair long in the Wizarding World. It's tradition."
A tradition for Heirs and Lords of Noble Houses that had pretty much died out and which Harry didn't give two shits about, but he needed to test how much he could bend the wills of his nominal guardians. If he could use this to talk them into not objecting to him keeping his hair long, then he might also be able to use it to dodge any kind of responsibility for the whole summer.
"Alright." Robert capitulated, being a proponent of tradition. "But only if you get it styled into something elegant instead of the rat's nest it is now."
Harry stared at the row of hair products in consternation, wondering if long hair was really worth it if he had to bother with all that crap. Maybe the Wizarding World had some kind of enchanted soap that simplified hair care? It probably did, he'd noticed a trend in the differences between the magical and non-magical. The magical world made small things incredibly convenient, but lacked wide scale sophistication, whereas the non-magical world excelled at large projects but contained numerous day to day inconveniances that couldn't simply be magicked away.
His introduction to the inconveniances of the non-magical female had been arranged by his foster mother. Calming spells might have worked to convince her that there was nothing wrong with a boy having long hair, but that was because she'd been upset about his refusal to comply and her personal dislike of the practice.
Convincing Katherine that it didn't need to be fastidiously taken care of would have taken an Imperius. She had seemingly decided that if he was going to keep the long hair, then they were going to make a day of it.
Harry had not been that bored in a long time and spent most of the day practicing his Occlumency. How women could find that enjoyable was beyond him. He had to admit that he had enjoyed having a pretty hairdresser massaging his scalp though, slightly embarrassing though the trip to the obviously female targeted business had been.
At least he'd managed to buy that high-powered laptop he'd been meaning to get in addition to learning entirely too much about hair care. Now if only he could figure out how get a charger running in Potter Manor. Enchanting an object into being some kind of self-propelling dynamo wouldn't be a problem for him at this point, but putting together a gizmo to take advantage of it would be.
Charlus and Dorea had been eager to hear how the Chamber of Secrets business had been concluded and were amazed that Harry had participated in the slaying of an ancient basilisk, even if it was with a rooster. They were also quite proud of him for making a profit out of instead of letting Dumbledore claim the entire carcass.
"Whoever slipped your friend that cursed diary must have been a Death Eater." Dorea theorized.
"And Dobby was probably their house elf." Charlus added.
"Probably." Harry agreed.
"I can only be thankful that their foolishness resulted in Voldemort's soul container being destroyed." Dorea said with a shudder. "It does not bear thinking of that he might have returned if such things function as you said, Harry."
"No mention of soul containers in the Black Library?" Charlus asked.
"There very well might be, my family would certainly not think twice about keeping knowledge of such foul magic alive." Dorea replied with a distasteful frown. "It was not something I had ever considered reading up on, nor did my Head of House at the time allow me free access to the library since I was not of the main line."
"I guess we should just be glad that Voldemort didn't get a chance to regain his body." Charlus said with a sigh.
"Would I be able to access the Black Library?" Harry asked thoughtfully. He knew that creating a phylactery himself more than likely carried a steeper price than he was willing to pay, but he still wanted to learn about it. Dumbledore was the only person who seemed to know anything about the subject and asking him didn't strike Harry as a smart thing to do.
Neither Charlus nor Dorea were too happy about the direction of Harry's interests right now, but they weren't really people. They were portraits, and family portraits are always made to help the still living members of the family. Since Harry was the last Potter, they were compelled to obey his orders and answer his questions regardless of their own opinions.
"No, you were never keyed into the wards. The war with Voldemort has not been kind to the House of Black; most of its members are dead and the rest in prison. I believe that Sirius is next in line to become Lord Black, but he is currently rotting in Azkaban." Dorea finished bitterly.
Harry had done some investigating into his parents and their friends after being told about them by his grandparents. That was why he knew that Pettigrew was dead, that Remus Lupin had seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth and that Sirius Black was in Azkaban for betraying his parents to Voldemort, as well as the murder of twelve muggles and Peter Pettigrew.
Sirius had been like a son to her and Charlus, they would have adopted him if it wasn't for inter-House politics. The idea that he would have betrayed James and Lily to Voldemort was ludicrous. The memories that Harry had unlocked after performing his second ritual had only reinforced that belief. After all, why would Sirius have just given Harry to Hagrid if he had really been in Voldemort's service?
No, whatever had happened that night, they were certain that Sirius was innocent of betraying the Potters. The charges of murdering Pettigrew and twelve muggles were harder to dismiss however, especially if Pettigrew was the real traitor. Sirius had always been a hothead and it was far from impossible that he might have thrown out a careless blasting curse in the throes of rage.
"You must have been quite the school hero for the rest of the year after that." Charlus said with forced amusement, trying to move away from the depressing topic.
"You could say that." Harry grumbled a bit, though a smile pulled at his lips. Most of the school might have been annoyingly curious, but his mysterious late night visitor had certainly made up for it with her particular show of gratitude.
"Did any girls get crushes on you?" Dorea teased.
Harry shrugged, though he couldn't quite keep a tinge of pink off his cheeks. Aside from Ginny, he wasn't aware of any crushes, but that wasn't what he was thinking about.
"I know that look." Charlus said with a grin. "James and Sirius always had the same shifty look on their faces when they'd just been having a discussion about witches and didn't want us to know about it. What happened, Harry? Did a pretty girl show you her gratitude with a kiss?"
"Yes." Harry admitted, electing not to mention what had happened before the kiss.
"Who was she?" Dorea asked curiously.
"I, er, don't know."
"How can you not know?" Charlus asked, baffled. "Surely she didn't just walk up to you, kiss you, and then leave without ever introducing herself?"
No, she just snuck into my room in the middle of the night, gave me a handjob, kissed me and left without introducing herself. Harry thought to himself with a mental snicker despite his embarrassment.
He could only give another shrug to Charlus though, having no idea what to tell the man without outright lying, which he was reluctant to do.
"Harry, how old was this girl?" Dorea questioned suspiciously.
"Errr, she was a seventh year." He admitted with a nervous fidget.
"Going after the older girls, eh Harry?" Charlus chuckled while Dorea muttered disapprovingly.
"She went after me." Harry corrected, lips being pulled into a grin. "Said that she wanted to show me how much she appreciated my efforts."
"Women do like poweful wizards." Charlus said, exchanging a sly look with his grandson.
"Men." Dorea huffed, hiding her own amusement.
Harry spent the next couple of weeks in intense study, desperately trying to bring his knowledge of mathemathics and arithmancy up to the point where he would be able to perform another ritual. Learning how to use a computer to help with that pursuit also took up some time, but all in all he felt that he was making good progress.
It was fortunate that unlike spells, rituals were fairly structured things and he could re-use a lot of the work from his previous two. The task of precisely defining the movements of the knife was time consuming and difficult with only a miniscule margin for error, but it did not contain any of the bizzare variables that magic introduced into spellcraft. It was essentially pure science, reliably predictable and math heavy, whereas crafting a new spell was oftentimes more of an art.
Robert and Katherine occasionally tried to drag him off to some social event or another and kept making plans for turning his birthday into one.
Judicious application of calming spells and what weak compulsions he could cast kept things under control for the most part. Any sense of guilt that Harry might have felt at magically messing with their heads was overshadowed by his relief at having a means to get them to bugger off.
He received no letters from either Luna or Ginny, which was to be expected given his little owl problem. He still had no idea how he was going to deal with that, if it even could be dealt with. The three of them had agreed not to bother with letters over the summer due to a combination of that issue and him not having an owl of his own, but there was another letter he was expecting that would probably turn out to be problematic when it couldn't be delivered.
Namely, his Hogwarts supply list for third year. In all likelihood, he would need to explain himself to an irate Deputy Headmistress come August when the school owls found themselves unable to deliver anything to him.
Filling his days with nothing but sleeping, eating and study quickly began to make Harry a dull boy however. He still kept at it in spite of that, which turned him from a dull boy into a frustrated one and then an angry one, at which point he became about ready to set his notes on fire if he had to look at one more symbol.
Seeing as this would be incredibly counter-productive, he decided to take a day off instead.
Standing in a bus on the way to the cinema, Harry debated whether he should praise or curse the capricious whims of the weather.
The July temperatures in London usually hung around 20°C, but 2013 was turning out to be an unusually hot year. Furthermore, July 22nd was turning out to be an unusually hot day in an already unusually hot year, with temperatures going over 30°C.
Harry had not yet mastered wandless cooling charms and was reduced to sweating it out like everyone else. At least the bus had air conditioning.
On the up side, he was standing next to the seat of a pretty girl that was perhaps sixteen or seventeen years old, who was wearing a pair of very short jean shorts and a black tank top that gave him a perfect view down her cleavage. The Wizarding World could boast about a lot of things, but sexy female clothing was not one of them. He hadn't even realized what he was missing until he saw the barely perceptible sheen of sweat on a pair of firm teenaged breasts. The compulsive power of rune enhanced puberty kept his eyes glued to the sight of them.
The girl looked up. She saw him staring.
"See something you like, Green-Eyes?" She asked, both as a warning and challenge.
Shite. I really need to stop getting caught doing that. Time to dip into the excuse box, Potter.
"I'm sorry," He began with an awkward smile. "I go to a boarding school with a very strict dress code and I don't get to see pretty girls in anything but stodgy uniforms for most of the year."
The girl snorted, either amused or unimpressed. Harry couldn't quite tell.
Harry bit his lip, an idea popping into his mind. He'd gotten used to having friendly company around, which was why he'd decided on going to the cinema instead of staying in his room and fooling around on the internet or gaming like he usually did, but it still wasn't the same as having Luna around(or even Ginny).
This girl was a complete stranger and might very well be mildly pissed at him for the staring, but they were already sort of talking and he could use the company. As a bonus, she was quite pretty, had almost certainly never heard of the Boy-Who-Lived(the chances of her being a witch or having a magical relative had to be insanely remote) and would probably assume that he was only slightly younger than her instead of the not-quite-thirteen year old that he actually was.
"Listen, I'm sorry about the staring. How about you let me take you to dinner and a movie as an apology?" He offered, employing his hard earned skill at Occlumency to keep any hints of nervous stutter out of his voice and the much resented etiquette lessons that Robert and Katherine had forced on him to sound smoother than he felt.
She looked up at him again, this time speculatively. She had a small metal stud in her nose and another one in her tongue if his eyes did not deceive him. Her eyes were a very dark brown and her hair was obviously dyed black. Aside from her jean shorts and tank top, all she had on her were a pair of scuffed trainers and a deliberately beaten up looking tan green bag that sported a plenthora of doodles depicting what he guessed were band signs.
His foster parents would have been horrified if they knew that he was associating with someone like her, which just made it better as far as he was concerned.
"Are you asking me on a date?" She asked.
"I guess I am." He replied evenly, doing his level best to keep the blood away from his face.
She stayed quiet for a while, deliberately prolonging his torment.
Most of her already mild irritation at his peeping had dissipated when he'd apologized, so she was not entirely opposed to his suggestion and it wasn't like she'd had any plans for the day in the first place. The black haired boy was more polite than what she was used to and a bit on the young side, but not at all bad looking, had the most gorgeous green eyes she'd ever seen and probably had money to spare if his mention of going to a boarding school was true. As far as random date requests went, this one was actually quite appealing.
"Alright, Green-Eyes, I'll go on a date with you."
"Harry." He introduced himself with a smile, offering her his hand.
"Zoe." She smiled back, taking the hand.
Harry had already learned with Luna that being around people that didn't expect anything from you could be fun. He learned with Zoe that just goofing off for a while was very liberating. He couldn't even recall the last time he'd felt so relaxed.
They went to an 'all you can eat' type restaurant first, where he decided to show off a bit by eating enough for three grown men, much to his date's disgusted awe and fascination.
After that they went to see a movie, where Harry learned that Zoe was one of those people that liked to point out plot holes, logic failures and inconsistencies rather than watch quietly. They didn't make any new friends there.
Harry mentioned reading somewhere that the Headmaster of his school enjoyed ten-pin bowling, which had Zoe suggesting that they go do that since neither of them had ever tried it. As it turned out, they both sucked at it.
Harry paid for everything without really giving it much thought. He'd grown up rich, but rarely spent anything until recently. He remembered what it was like to be poor all too well and had no desire to return to that through careless spending, no matter how unlikely it was. He hadn't expected to have this much fun on their date and the last thing he wanted to do was spoil it by being cheap.
The day had to end eventually though and the two of them set off toward home, though it was long after it had gotten dark.
"I can't believe that you're stuffing your face again." Zoe was saying in exasperation, staring at the subway sandwich Harry had picked up a short while ago.
"I'm a growing boy." He replied with the standard excuse.
"You'll be growing sideways if you don't watch it, you plonker." She threw back with a wide grin.
"You're just jealous." He retorted smugly.
"Damn right I'm jealous!" The girl exclaimed loudly, scowling playfully. "You've been shoving food down your gob the whole bloody day like it's nothing. If it tried that, I'd be the size of a bus in a month."
"A double decker." Harry agreed with a laugh.
They lapsed into silence for a while, just waiting for their respective buses to arrive to take them home while Harry finished off his latest meal.
"Harry, listen..." Zoe started, suddenly nervous. "I had a really great time today..."
"So did I." He replied, wondering what she was trying to say.
"...But I don't think we should be doing this again."
Harry blinked at the sudden serious turn the evening had taken.
"I didn't really expect us to." He admitted after a moment. "I don't get much free time. Today was an exception because I was overworked, but I'm going to be busy for the rest of the summer and then I'll be off in my school for ten months. I like you, but I never expected this to be more than a one time thing."
And that wasn't even mentionning that he had to keep magic a secret from her. He had no idea what the protocol was for bringing someone new in on it, but he suspected that it was pretty draconian. Not that he had an abundance of respect for the Ministry's laws, but he did have respect for the consequences of those laws.
"Yeah...I kind of have a boyfriend already anyway." She admitted, scratching awkwardly at the back of her head.
Harry blinked again and stared at her for a long few seconds.
"Won't he be upset that you went on a date with me?"
"We're having a bit of a break right now, so it's cool."
They lapsed into silence again, a significantly more uncomfortable one this time.
"So...this school of yours gives you homework to do over the summer?" Zoe asked after a minute.
"Yep, quite a lot of it actually." None of which he'd even looked at yet. The preparations for the next ritual had consumed all of his attention.
"We can still stay in touch though, right?" She asked brightly. "You can never have too many friends."
Harry winced. Staying in touch while he was at Hogwarts would be quite the feat. Owls and the Floo Network were the only ways for students to communicate with the outside world and neither would work for talking to someone that didn't know about magic.
"That might be a problem." He said after a few seconds. "The school I go to is seriously isolated. I'd be shocked if there's so much as a phone anywhere within fifty kilometers of it."
In fact, he knew that there wasn't one.
Zoe's face fell into a sad expression.
"You don't have to lie, Harry. If you're mad at me for not mentioning my boyfriend, then just tell me."
"I'm not lying." Harry insisted. "There really isn't any phone or internet access at my school."
"Where the hell do you go to school, the middle of the Atlantic?" She asked sarcastically, not at all convinced.
"Some Scottish Highland in the ass end of nowhere actually." He admitted ruefully.
"You're serious?!" She asked incredulously.
"What could they possibly be teaching you up there without any technology, the best way to shag a sheep?"
Harry snickered, having a bizzare mental image of McGonagall transfiguring a desk into the aforementioned animal and tutoring them in the proper technique to shag it in true Scottish fashion. It certainly gave him a new perspective on the possible alternative uses of transfiguration.
"It's a very...traditional...sort of place." He evaded, rapidly developing an appreciation for how much bullshit the non-magical family members of wizards and witches had to shovel to keep magic a secret.
"Keep telling yourself that, sheep shagger."
"I'll have you know that everyone there is very right and proper, they would've been scandalized by your pierced tongue and poor manners." Harry retorted lightly, knowing that he was probably right. The wizard-raised would be both baffled and horrified at the idea of having a metal stud in one's tongue.
"So it's a bunch of snobbish sheep shaggers?" She asked.
Harry gave it a moment's thought before giving a slow nod. He could easily imagine Draco Malfoy with his nose up in the air even while shagging a sheep. He wished he hadn't imagined it, but it was too late for that now.
"A lot of them are snobby."
"I'm actually kind of surprised that you aren't." She admitted.
"Why? Because my foster parents are snobby twats?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Foster parents? I thought they were your real parents."
"Nah, my real parents were murdered by a psychotic neo-nazi when I was a year old." That was as good a description for Voldemort as any.
Zoe recoiled in shock despite his casual tone and stared at him in horror.
"Don't worry about it, it was a long time ago. I've gotten over it." Harry assured her.
Well, I've mostly gotten over it.
"I guess that explains why you're not a snobby rich kid, haha." She said, giving a nervous (and quite fake) laugh.
"Sorry, probably shouldn't have just blurted it out like that."
"It was a bit of a surprise." She admitted and they went silent again.
"I think that's your bus." Harry said about a minute later, seeing the vehicle in question approaching.
Zoe bit her lip at that, suddenly looking a bit indecisive for a moment before her face firmed in resolve. The next thing Harry knew, she was mashing her lips up against his.
Eyes going wide in shock, Harry responded on a clumsy autopilot, feeling the now familiar shiver of magic pulse from his runes as his arousal rose. He was barely aware of his hands going around her to grab her rear end as he began to respond more enthusiastically.
"My mum isn't coming home until tomorrow." She whispered into his ear when they separated, the invitation clear.
Later on, Harry would have liked to say that he had considered this offer carefully and thought about various factors such as his brief acquaintance with Zoe, her uncertain relationship status, his youth and several other things.
In reality, most of his higher reasoning had migrated south along with his blood. Indeed, his most complex thought was something along the lines of 'I'm getting laid!'.
Inexperienced with this kind of situation and unsure of how to accept, he merely gave her butt a squeeze and leaned in for another kiss.
They got on the bus together and spent an impatient ten minutes touching in a way that didn't really help with the waiting.
Then they made a B line towards the apartment building where Zoe lived with her mother, her father not being around for reasons that Harry had felt it unwise to press her on. An interesting session of heavy elevator snogging and a short walk down the hallway later, they were through the door of the flat.
Harry had only a few seconds to take in the small-ish living space as Zoe led him to her room. It was fairly tidy, but the pile of towels on the couch, a few dirty dishes in the sink and traces of dust in places betrayed the fact that the people living here were not as obsessive about neatness as he was used to. Teeny would have a nervous breakdown at the thought of a mess being left anywhere in a place that people lived and Robert and Katherine would turn their noses up so high that they'd be able to collect rainwater with their nostrils.
The thought of his foster parents penetrated the lust currently fogging his brain and he recalled that he had to do something.
"Hang on a second." He said, pulling out his phone. "I need to call Katherine and tell her that I'm not coming home today."
"They don't like you slipping the leash?" Zoe smirked, toying with the waistband of her shorts.
"You could say that." Harry grumbled. "I wouldn't put it past her to call the police and make a huge scene."
And not out of worry that he'd been kidnapped or something either, since it would hardly be the first time that he'd slept over in Potter Manor. No, she'd do it for the publicity. Then she would spend the next month or so milking the 'I was so scared' card before it got old. She probably wouldn't do it since it might also make her look neurotic, but it was best to not give her an excuse.
Sometimes, Harry got the distinct feeling that Robert and Katherine were actually hoping that someone would kidnap him, just so that they'd have a legitimate reason to plaster themselves all over the news.
"Go ahead then." Zoe said, still smirking and starting to take off her clothes.
Harry had some trouble finding the name of his foster mother with the impromptu striptease going on in front of him. To be fair, the mismatched pair of black bra and blue thong was a lot more interesting. He did manage to call her eventually though.
"Hello?" Katherine answered with her usual overdone sense of poise.
"Katherine, hi. I'm not going to be coming home today." Harry said without preamble, the majority of his attention fixed on Zoe.
"Sleeping over in the magical house your parents left you again?" Katherine asked rhetorically, a fair bit of bite in her words. "Robert and I would really like to see it one day, you know."
Harry did know, the two of them hadn't stopped wheedling about it since they'd learned that he actually owned something. Call him paranoid, but Harry wasn't keen to let them anywhere near Potter Manor. He feared for the antique furniture at the very least, even if two non-magicals didn't really have any right to them according to wizard law. Both Robert and Katherine had a sense of entitlement to rival any wizard and were sure to attempt getting their mitts on anything they could. He didn't even want to think about their reaction to the vaults full of gold he had in Gringotts.
"You know it's not that easy." He said back, a trace of irritation seeping into his own tone.
Zoe looked at him curiously and suddenly developed a mischievous grin.
"Yes, so you said. These wards of yours that are supposed to repel non-magical people." Katherine replied, dubiously. Not that she doubted their existence, merely their ability to affect her. She was just about arrogant enough to think herself too strong willed for that."But it's your house. Couldn't you disable them or something?"
While Katherine had been talking, Zoe had taken the opportunity to yank his shorts down to his ankles, leaving him suddenly and unceremoniously exposed.
Harry gaped at Zoe in shock at the unexpected move. She winked back up at him from her kneeling position and pushed him to sit on the bed.
"Harry, are you still there?"
"Wh- yeah, I'm still here." He said, sounding much more flustered than before.
"What happened? You sound strange."
Inwardly cursing nosy foster mothers who couldn't just end the fucking call already, Harry made up a quick excuse.
"Um, the carpet grabbed my leg."
Zoe slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from bursting into giggles at what probably sounded like an outrageous lie to her.
"Animated carpets. Honestly, I will never understand why anyone would use magic for something like that."
Neither would Harry to be perfectly honest, but he was for once glad that wizards and witches were generally insane enough for pretty much anything to sound plausible.
"What was it this time?"
"Stubbed my toe." Harry answered with strain in his voice.
He hadn't of course, since he was quite stationery. The real reason was that Zoe had apparently gotten impatient and decided to start him off with a blowjob, though the amused gleam in her dark eyes suggested that she was also doing it to add some extra difficulty to his phone call.
"Figures that you'd be clumsy with how fast you're growing. I read that people that grow quickly tend to be less aware of their body." Katherine commented, oblivious to the fact that her audience couldn't care less if he tried.
"That's great." Harry replied, not sure if he was saying it to his foster mother or the girl currently demonstrating the uses of a tongue stud during oral sex.
"You must have hit your toe really hard, you sound like you're in a lot of pain."
"Yes, pain." Harry agreed, clenching his teeth tightly as Zoe suddenly hollowed out her cheeks and began sucking on him earnestly. "Listen Katherine, I really need to do something about this."
What he really needed to do was warn Zoe that he was about to blow and he could hardly do that with his foster mother still on the line. He'd already tried to tug on her hair but she didn't seem to be getting the message.
"Alright, but do look into lowering those wards later."
Unable to hold back any more, Harry resigned himself to getting yelled at for unloading in a girl's mouth without warning her.
"Harry?" Katherine asked, no doubt hearing his heavy breathing through the nose as Zoe kept on sucking through his orgasm, apparently unbothered by the lack of warning.
"Yeah, I got it. Talk to you later, Katherine." Harry said and ended the call, trying not to sound too relieved when Zoe popped his oversensitive cock out of her mouth.
While Harry took a moment to catch his breath, Zoe took a tissue and a bottle of water from her bag, spat the semen she'd so industriously extracted from him into it and then gulped down a few mouthfuls of water.
"Sorry." He apologized with a wince.
"Don't be, you taste a lot better than Jeff ever did. Man eats too much cheese." Zoe replied with a shrug.
Not exactly the response he'd been expecting, but Harry made a note to investigate the effects of food on the taste of his sperm.
"I meant for not warning you." He clarified.
"Oh Harry, you really think I couldn't tell?" Zoe chuckled, stepping closer until panty clad crotch was practically rubbing against his nose. There was a small spot of wetness on the blue fabric that made her own arousal clear. "It was obvious, even if you did cum as quick as a virgin."
"I am a virgin." Harry admitted, resisting the surprisingly strong temptation to bury his nose in her crotch. The runes had settled down a bit after his orgasm, but the faint smell of her arousal was quickly bringing his own back and the magic with it.
"Really?" There was a hint of incredulity in Zoe's voice that baffled Harry. He looked fifteen at most and she couldn't possibly be more than seventeen, though she was probably sixteen. What was so strange about being a virgin at that age?
"Really." He confirmed, looking at her a bit oddly.
"We'll have to do something about that." She said with a smirk, pulling his shirt off, unclipping her bra and sliding her thong down her legs to expose her recently shaved crotch. "But first, how about getting me ready?"
It was quite obvious what she wanted and Harry wasn't opposed to it in the slightest. The smell was certainly enticing.
He leaned in closer and hesitantly dragged his tongue across her slit, unsure what to expect. To his mild surprise, there wasn't much of a taste to her sex aside from the salty tang of her sweat from the hot day and a very faint musk that corresponded to the smell of her.
Zoe's hands went into his hair as he continued his slow exploration of her lower lips, getting bolder every time she made a sound of pleasure. He kept it up for a minute or two before becoming dissatisfied with the position. With him sitting down and her standing in front of him, he had fairly limited access and he wanted to change it.
Zoe made a small sound of disappointment when he nudged her to get on the bed, but she did it anyway, settling herself on it and spreading her legs for him. She looked like she was about to say something, but stopped herself when he once again went for her crotch with his face.
"You're doing pretty well for a virgin." She said with a pleased sigh, running her fingers through his hair. "Most boys don't like licking a girl, they just stick it in and start hammering away."
Buried as he was in muff, Harry couldn't respond, but he couldn't for the life of him understand why anyone would dislike this. Sure, he was almost painfully hard, but there was nowhere he'd rather be right now. Besides, she'd sucked him off and it seemed only right to return the favor.
"Higher." She directed, tugging on his hair.
Harry obliged and moved upward, leaving her vaginal opening alone for now.
"Just a little bit higher."
Puzzled as to why, he nonetheless did as he was told and moved his tongue a little bit higher. He figured that his tongue had nearly completely left her nether lips when she suddenly bucked with a quickly indrawn breath.
Intrigued by the powerful reaction, he dragged his tongue over the same area again.
"Yes! Right there." Zoe gasped, her hand clenching in his hair almost painfully.
That was exactly what he'd been about to do either way, so Harry was more than happy to follow her directions again. Several more long licks over the area revealed a little nub of some sort that appeared to elicit an especially intense reaction, so he began to focus on it exclusively.
This quickly had Zoe panting her way to an orgasm, squeezing her legs around Harry's head to stop him from abusing her overstimulated clitoris any further.
"Wow...not bad." She breathed. "You were a bit clueless at the start and a bit too rough at the end, but not bad at all. I give you a six out of ten in licking pussy."
Wiping the spit and other fluids off his jaw, Harry shot her an amused look. "You have a scale?"
"Oh yes." She confirmed with a giggle. "'one' is 'painful and not at all pleasant' and 'ten' is 'explosive squirting'."
Harry didn't really know how to respond to that, so he just ran his hand across her still spread legs and shuffled closer, lining himself up with her opening.
"Wait." Zoe stopped him, reaching over to a small nightstand and pulling out a condom. "Put that on. I'm on the pill, but we wouldn't want to have any accidents, would we?"
This ended up being Harry's introduction to the frustration of dealing with condom packaging.
"Give it here." Zoe said in exasperation after seeing him fumble with the prophylactic for a full fifteen seconds without success. With easy motions that betrayed a lot of practice, she quickly ripped the packaging and wrapped the latex tube around his shaft.
"Come on in." She beckonked once that was done, spreading her legs lewdly in invitation.
Feeling a mix of eagerness and nervous anticipaton, Harry moved forward and placed his hands on the enticing pair of breasts that had started this whole sequence of events, sinking into her wet warmth at the same time.
Once he was completely inside her, she suddenly pulled him down on top of her, wrapping her legs around his waist and grabbing the back of his head to whisper in his ear.
"Your virginity is mine now, Harry, and you're never getting it back."
He looked at her incredulously and she burst out laughing, apparently unable to keep a straight face.
"Sorry, I've always wanted to say that." She explained with a giggle. "Now get to the shagging, and try not to blow your load in thirty seconds again."
Ever since he'd completed his first ritual and discovered the unexpected side-effects, Harry had occasionally pondered what a rune like Uruz would mean for his sexual stamina. He hadn't noticed any particular difference during his many wand polishing sessions, nor had he lasted long during the surprise handjob at the end of his second year, but he hadn't wanted to dismiss the possibility.
He finally had a definite answer.
"Why are you hard again? How are you hard again." Zoe asked plaintively, exhaustion evident in her tone.
"Must be magic." Harry quipped, snickering at his private joke.
He may not have lasted very long the first couple of times, but his recovery period was turning out to be inhumanly fast. He'd also built enough stamina that he was lasting a much more respectable length of time by round six, which was now.
"Well you and your magical cock are going to have to calm down because I'm running out of condoms. I can't use them all on you, in one night no less."
"I'll buy you as many as you want tomorrow." He offered, flicking his tongue over one of her nipples.
"You're damn right you will, but I'm tired." Zoe continued in the same plaintive voice as before. "And sore. And sweaty. I just want to take a shower and go to sleep."
"Want me to wash your back?" Truth be told, he was pretty tired himself and wouldn't mind a shower and sleep either, but teasing the girl he'd exhausted was making his ego skyrocket.
She snorted. "Nice try, but our shower isn't even close to big enough for that."
"Tell you what, Harry. I'll give you another blowjob in the bathroom if you stop poking me in the arse with that thing." Zoe offered tiredly.
"Okay." Harry quickly agreed.
He might be tired, but a blowjob was a blowjob.
The next morning, Harry left Zoe's apartment block with a skip in his step after leaving behind a twenty pound note to pay for the amount of condoms he'd used, feeling subtly different than when he'd gone in. For all the effort he'd put into learning Occlumency, his hormones had still been all over the place ever since his first rune set. They were still all over the place and would continue to be until his accelerated puberty was over, but the sex seemed to have made it a bit better. The magic in the in his runes felt a bit less chaotic.
Or it could just be that he was in a good mood and was imagining things.
Harry got back to work on his ritual after that, finding it much easier now that he was no longer wound tighter than a steel cable.
He resisted the urge to do more with Zoe than send an occasional text, regardless of the understandable urge to focus on the pretty girl instead of the preparations to carve a set of symbols into his skin with a knife. All the reasons for why getting too close to her was a bad idea were very valid and he'd checked the Ministry guidelines for introducing an uninformed and unrelated muggle to magic. It was exactly as draconian as he'd suspected it would be.
Basically, if they weren't immediate family such as a sibling, spouse, parent or child, then it was illegal to tell them. Meaning that unless he married her(which he obviously wasn't intending to do, considering his actual age and their brief acquintance), he'd have to keep Zoe in the dark or else be charged with violating the Statute of Secrecy if he got discovered. Naturally, they'd wipe her memories as well, including her memories of him. Harry wasn't so confident in his ability to fool the Ministry that he'd be willing to risk it and that wasn't even taking into account how Zoe herself might react to the notion of magic.
On the home front, his foster parents continued their attempts to use his birthday as an excuse to organize something, only to run afoul a constant stream of calming charms and mild compulsion spells from him until it was too late. Harry could only breathe a sigh of relief at getting through his birthday without any fuss for a change.
As expected, he received no owls, not from Luna or Ginny for his birthday and not from McGonagall for his school supplies.
He wasn't surprised when she showed up personally the next day.
"Would you care to explain why the Hogwarts owls seem unable to locate you, Mr. Potter?" McGonagall asked once they were settled in the sitting room.
"I couldn't say, Professor." Harry said evenly, being well prepared for this conversation. "All I know is that it's been going on since Christmas. Luna and Ginny weren't able to send me their presents either."
"And you did not think to inform anyone of this?" The old witch asked in a displeased tone.
"I didn't think it was that big of a deal." Harry shrugged.
"Having an Owl Ward set up around you without your knowledge or your magical guardian's permission is indeed a 'big deal'." McGonagall huffed and pulled out her wand.
Harry sat still while she waved it over him and muttered to herself. This was the most nerve wracking part of the experience, where he could do nothing but trust that Arhain would be able to frustrate her efforts at determining the truth. He would have very much liked to tell her that he didn't want anyone casting diagnostic spells on him, but he knew that it would only serve to make them suspicious. Dumbledore, being his magical guardian in loco parentis, would probably force the issue and Harry would be legally forced to comply.
Even the more progressive laws of the mundane world didn't really consider thirteen year olds as people in the legal sense. Rather, it considered them as something very close to the property of their guardians, similar to pets really. Sure, it was to protect them from making any hugely stupid decisions due to their youth, but it still rankled.
"That's strange." McGonagall said, looking perplexed. "I can't find any trace of an Owl Ward."
Harry resisted the urge to say something dismissive. Being cheeky about it was not the way to deflect suspicion.
"What is it then?" He asked instead, politely.
"I don't know." She answered with a frown, making another few swishes over him with her wand. "I'm not detecting anything out of the ordinary."
Harry held back a relieved sigh. Arhain was working.
"We will need to have the Headmaster and perhaps Poppy examine you further when you return to Hogwarts."
And there was the downside. Unexplained mysteries made people curious and nosy.
A few days after McGonagall's visit, Harry happened to be passing through the living room where his foster parents were watching TV when he caught sight of a very interesting article on the news.
"Mass murderer Sirius Black has escaped from prison and is considered armed and extremely dangerous. If you see him, contact the police immediately. Do NOT approach him."
The article was accompanied by a picture of the man looking quite deranged, with an elbow length tangle of hair, pasty white skin, sunken eyes and rotten teeth. He was much changed from the few memories of him that Harry had, but it was undoubtedly his godfather.
There was no information on which prison he'd escaped from, which gave Robert something to complain about, but Harry knew which one it was. He would keep a wary eye out for any unusually large black dogs this year. Even if he was almost positive that Sirius had nothing to do with the deaths of his parents, there was still a good chance of him actually being guilty for the other crimes he'd been imprisoned for and there was no telling what state the dementors had left him in over the past twelve years.
Harry pushed away from his desk and thrust both his arms into the air victoriously, a feeling of deep satisfaction filling him.
He lowered them after a few seconds and slumped into a lazy, relieved slouch.
It was finally done. The symbols were chosen, the arithmancy checked out, everything had been triple checked both by himself and the computer. The ritual was ready.
Seven words, this time in kanji. He'd not quite realized how much trouble that particular alphabet would give him when he'd chosen it, but he hadn't wanted to back out of using it simply because it would be difficult.
Unlike the Norse or Avariel runes, kanji characters were far more complex in appearance and often had multiple characters per word, making them take more cuts to carve as a result, but they were not as ambiguous in meaning and thus far more predictable. He would be glad to have them carved and get it over with.
Tomorrow. Right now it was time for a nap so that his brain stopped hurting.
Harry kept these seven words firmly in mind as he stepped into the ritual circle and felt the built in petrification spell take hold.
The purpose of this rune set was simple. To increase the speed at which poisons and foreign magic was purged from him. The downside of it was as obvious as it was simple. It would also work against beneficial magic and medicines, as healing spells were still foreign to his body and medicines were really nothing more than targeted poisons. He deemed it a fair exchange.
The knife rose and began carving the two character word into his right shoulder. It took longer than any of his previous runes because of the complexity, but that was how it was. Harry ignored the pain as best he could and sank into an Occlumency trance, focusing on the meaning and purpose of his newest rune.
When it was done, he felt his magic move into the freshly carved wound and settle into a tense wait. It wasn't a latent bit of magic anymore, but something that had been given a purpose that needed to be fulfilled. Harry smiled. The same had happened with Raido, so he knew that it was working as it should.
A single character word this time, carved into his left shoulder. His magic settled into it just as easily, but the sense of anticipation grew.
A four character word, carved into his upper breastbone. This time, the magic already held in the previous two runes joined the latent magic flowing into the new one, taking further direction from it.
Now to tell it where to go.
This one was a bit different than the three before it. He had two lungs, so two sets of the two character rune were carved into his chest, where the organs in question were.
As soon as it was done, he felt the previously prepared magic rushing into his lungs.
Harry gasped in wonder, getting a true feel for his lungs for the first time in his life. A shiver of sensation ran through his first set of runes and he could feel their magic joining that of the ones he'd just carved, instinctively knowing that their healing effects were being put to work to undo what little damage his lungs had accrued over his short life.
The knife moved to his back and began carving another two set of two character kanji over his kidneys. His magic filled them the same as it had his lungs, repairing any damage to them and enhancing their natural purpose of purifying the blood.
Another important bit of information came back to the forefront of Harry's mind as this happened.
The lungs did not have pain receptors.
The kidneys did however, as Harry learned when he felt a dull burn flare up in them as they were magically enhanced beyond normal capacity.
Knowing that there was no choice but to keep going and hope that it would pass quickly, he hurried on with the last two parts of the ritual.
The knife made quick work of the single character word and the burn spread to his liver as well.
The last word was also just one character, which the knife carved into the soft tissue of his petrified, unmuscled stomach. Predictably, his entire intestinal tract began burning painfully.
The ritual dropped him unceremoniously into the small pool of blood that had run down his legs, leaving him groaning pitifully as the burn continued to slowly worsen.
He hadn't anticipated that little wrinkle, for which he knew that Charlus and Dorea were going to give him knowingly pointed looks and Teeny would confine him to bed for the next few days, all the while wringing her hands nervously at her inability to make the pain stop and making him feel guilty for worrying her.
Good thing he'd told Robert and Katherine that he'd be spending a few days with a friend from school. The last thing he wanted was to deal with them while feeling as if his organs were being microwaved.
Harry spent the next couple of days experiencing the joys of his body suddenly having much more effective filtration system, complete with such wonderful features as a burning pain when taking a piss. It fortunately settled down after the initial change, for which Harry was grateful. He had been briefly worried that he'd made a huge mistake and had a lifetime of constant pain to look forward to, but it turned out that all was well as soon his body was brought down to a lower toxin threshhold than it had been at before.
He still felt that the end result was worth it, but he wouldn't soon forget that applying magical changes directly to one's organs hurt.
Once that unpleasant experience was over with, Harry suddenly found himself with some free time on his hands before the summer ended. Sure, he still had to do the homework that Hogwarts had assigned him, but that was a day's work at the most. Two if he was slow about it.
Zoe had sent him a few texts that were a clear invitation for another date and later a repeat of their last encounter, but he had reluctantly begged off due to his desire to finish the ritual. There wasn't anything like that holding him back now though.
Mind made up, he took out his phone and started writing the text. Sure, Zoe was technically in a relationship with someone already, but that was honestly between her and this 'Jeff' character that he presumed was her on-again off-again boyfriend. Zoe could tell him to back off at any time, but until then he was going to treat her as if she was single.
Harry boarded the Hogwarts Express early, as had been his habit for the past two years. He wanted to stake a claim on an empty compartment, rather than end up in a situation where he had to sit with strangers.
He'd gotten to meet up with Zoe an additional two times, both of which had ended with sex at her place. Apparently her mother often spent the night with her own current boyfriend, which left Zoe plenty of alone time for her own activities.
It had quickly become obvious to Harry that he was being used for his money as much as for his company, as Zoe had picked out a list of activities that were well out of the sensible budget of a normal teenager on both days and never mentioned the fact that he always left behind more money than a few condoms warranted.
He didn't really mind, truth be told. The expenditure for him was far from huge and it ended in sex. Zoe didn't seem any more interested in making something more of their arrangement than him, for which he was thankful, as it would be simply impractical for him to get involved with a muggle girl at this point. He hadn't expected his spur of the moment date request back in July to formulate into having a summer fuck buddy, but he was certainly not complaining.
At the very least, it had reduced the amount of incidents where he was seized by the sudden urge to bend his foster mother over a table. That had never stopped being weird, even if he'd gotten kind of used to it.
Luna walked in some time after him, followed by Ginny who barely boarded before the train started moving. Luna had some amusing stories to tell about her snorkack hunting adventure, but Harry was far more interested in what Ginny had to say for a change.
"There are animated skeletons in the Egyptian tombs?" He asked with surprised interest.
"Yeah, but some of them were really weird. My brothers said that one of them had two heads because of some curse or other that was in there." The redhead explained enthusiastically.
"You didn't see them yourself?" He wondered.
"No." She scowled. "Mum didn't let me see, said that it was 'no place for a young lady'. Pah!"
Harry's lips twitched into a smile at her irritability. He'd have been angry too in her position.
"So she didn't let you go into any of the tombs?"
"Only the ones that the curse breakers have already cleared, and even then only if Bill went with us."
"Your oldest brother? The one that works for Gringotts?" Harry asked, inwardly wondering why anyone would want to work for the little bastards.
"That's him." Ginny confirmed.
"What kind of claim do the goblins have on the tombs of humans?" He asked further, perplexed.
"Errr..." Ginny stammered, stumped by the question.
"It's part of the treaty they have with the ICW." Luna offered dreamily.
"The ICW gave them free access to the resting places of long dead Egyptian wizards?" Harry asked sceptically.
"The Egyptian tombs hadn't been discovered yet when the treaty was signed. That specific clause of the treaty gives them ownership of any place where the magical dead were interred as long as it is over two thousand years old. Rather short-sighted of them in retrospect, but that's what you get when you don't protect yourself from buzzing grox pixies." The blonde girl explained.
"Why do you even know that?" Ginny wondered, ignoring the mention of yet another potentially imaginary creture with the ease of practice.
"Oh, I've known about the dangers of grox pixies for years." Luna explained.
"Not that! Why do you know so much about some treaty between the goblins and the ICW from hundreds of years ago?"
"Daddy and I were doing research on Egypt to see if we might find any crumple-horned snorkacks there, but it seems that our original thinking was correct instead. They prefer colder climes, which must mean that they have fur."
Harry was a bit confused as to how Luna and her father intended to find a crumple-horned snorkack if they were still guessing about the creature's appearance.
"Luna, how can you even be sure that snorkacks have crumpled horns?" He asked just for the sake of his curiousity.
"Oh, we aren't, but it makes sense." Luna answered cheerfully. "After all, if they didn't have crumpled horns, then they wouldn't be crumple-horned snorkacks."
Harry exchanged a glance with Ginny, both of them silently agreeing that the circular logic was as childish as it was unassailable and decided to drop the subject.
"Sooo, what else did you see in Egypt?" He asked, shifting the conversation back to his main interest.
Ginny was more than happy to talk about her holiday, her crush on the black haired boy still not fully gone, especially since he seemed to be going in the 'tall, dark and handsome' direction.
As he listened to the redhead describing the magical side of Egypt, Harry became ever more determined to see it for himself one day.
Unlike the Weasleys however, he wasn't inclined to only see the goblin approved areas. How hard could it be to slip past the ornery midgets?
The three of them continued to have a sporadic conversation for another few hours, intersped with some reading when Ginny brought up something she'd been skirting around ever since she got on the train.
"Did you hear about Sirius Black escaping Azkaban?"
"No, but I did read about it." Luna replied, looking up from her upside down copy of the Quibbler.
"What about it?" Harry asked, deciding not to respond to Luna's little witticism.
"Aren't you worried?" Ginny asked nervously. "I mean...he was You-Know-Who's right hand man and responsible for...you know."
"The death of my parents?" Harry asked with a raised eyebrow, inwardly scoffing at the notion.
"Yeah." Ginny said quietly.
"Not really." Harry shrugged. "If he's smart, then he's already left the country."
He didn't really believe that though. The picture that Charlus and Dorea had painted of Sirius Black was of a man that thought with his heart rather than his head and that was assuming that he was still sane, which was far from guaranteed. The only mystery were the man's goals.
The train slowed and jerked to a stop at that point, halting the conversation in the process.
"Why are we stopping?" Ginny asked, knowing that they couldn't possibly be at their destination yet. The Express arrived at Hogwarts in the evening and it was still afternoon. A dark and stormy afternoon, but afternoon nonetheless.
Harry knew this just as well as her and went to look out the window in an attempt to divine the cause of their stop.
"It's getting cold." Luna said quietly, her breath misting.
Harry had noticed that too, but he was far more worried about something else. His constant practice with wandless magic had given him a sensitivity towards ambient magic that he was quite sure most people didn't have. Whatever was causing the temperature to plummet was definitely not natural, but it didn't feel like any magic he'd ever sensed either.
He had scoffed at the notion of magic being divided between Dark and Light ever since the first time he'd heard that there was a class called Defense Against the Dark Arts. It seemed far too much like some idiot's justification for villifying magic they didn't like rather than anything that had a basis in reality. The only way he could describe how this unnatural cold felt however, was capital-D Dark.
"There's something moving out there." He said, noticing the dark shapes flitting through the sky, apparently unbothered by the rain and the wind.
"It's the dementors." Luna said faintly, now hugging her legs to her chest.
"But the dementors aren't supposed to leave Azkaban." Ginny protested.
"Nobody is supposed to escape Azkaban either." Luna argued, a note of distress in her tone that her voice didn't usually carry.
"They've boarded the train." Harry interjected grimly, reaching for his wand. He wasn't sure what good it would do in this situation, but it was better than cowering helplessly in a corner.
"How can you tell?" Ginny asked fearfully.
That was a good question that Harry didn't really have an answer for. He hadn't seen them do it, but the sense of Dark felt much closer now and had split off into several distinct blobs.
He was not liking this whatsoever. The cold was more than just a drop of temperature, it felt as if the very warmth of the world was being leeched away, bringing with it a powerful but unnatural fear and depression. His grip tightened around his wand. He'd never much cared for it as anything other than a crutch until he could easily use magic without it, but right now the echo of a phoenix's magic within the feather it held was comforting.
The closest dementor finally reached their compartment, bringing with it the cold and the Dark. It was close enough now to begin affecting their minds much more strongly.
Luna and Ginny both had the misfortune of having some pretty bad memories, Ginny from last year and Luna from the day that she saw her mother die. Both of them had already retreated as far into the compartment as was physically possible and buried their heads into their knees in a vain attempt to block out the memories that came flooding back to the forefront of their minds, some of which they'd blocked out.
Harry had also backed up gainst the window, but was shakily aiming his wand towards the door, somehow knowing that the thing outside it wasn't intending to just pass by as it had all the other compartments.
He was proven right as it slowly pulled open the door and began to glide in.
Harry wasn't spared the misery and memory inducing effects of the dementor any more than the girls, but he did have the advantage of having come to terms with them already. Yes, the memory of his mother's murder was pretty terrible, but he'd seen it a year ago already and put it behind him. He would have liked to have parents, but he'd stopped pining for them a long time ago. Similarly, the memories of his life with the Dursleys and in the orpahange were far from pleasant, but not debilitatingly horrible even with the dementor augmenting them.
He was no keener to have the soul sucking creature coming any closer to him than any other sane person though and sent a powerful gout of flame at it.
The fire guttered out before it could hit the dementor, the draining effect of its aura snuffing out the magic behind it harmlessly.
Starting to get a little desperate to stop the thing from advancing, Harry sent a cutting curse at it. He saw it hit, but there was no effect. It was like his spell had simply vanished, its cutting edge without meaning.
The dementor was well into the compartment by now and Harry was starting to panic. He didn't know any spells that were guaranteed to be useful and he probably couldn't muster the focus necessary even if he did, so he resorted to desperate measures. That being that when in doubt, explosions were usually a solution.
He cast the most powerful blasting curse that he could manage, knowing it was a terrible idea even as he did it. The few feet of distance between him and the dementor was not even close to the recommended minimum for casting any kind of explosive spell. If it worked, it was entirely likely to kill everything in the compartment except the dementor itself.
The spell rocketed out of his wand, the magic frayed and barely formed due to his lack of focus, but powerful all the same.
The dementor was struck center mass, but there was no explosion. The only thing Harry felt was his magic vanishing into the depthless sense of Dark exuded by the creature in the same way as his previous spells, as well as the warmth of the world and the happiness in peoples minds.
Then it was on top of him, its cadaverous fingers griping his head and turning it upwards into the shadows of the hood.
Harry once again heard the screaming of his mother, but it seemed to come from a great distance. His magic felt as if it was freezing, however little sense that made. The runes scattered across his body, where magic was infused into flesh, became so cold that the skin turned blue in seconds. The four organs that he'd runically enhanced over the summer were similarly affected, though much more severely.
But none of that mattered when the Dark was so close.
Albus Dumbledore looked on as Poppy finished working on his most important student, feeling deeply concerned.
It hadn't escaped his notice that Harry was incongruously large for his age. A growth spurt was nothing odd, but the one that Harry was having stretched credulity. Neither James nor Lily had been exceptonally tall people after all, so their son's current size was quite unusual.
He'd been hoping for an excuse to give Harry a thorough medical examination for a while, but this wasn't what he'd had in mind. The strange situation with the owls would have sufficed. Harry nearly losing his soul to a dementor was something he'd have preferred to avoid, convenient though it was as far as excuses went. He had barely been able to keep the information from reaching the ears of the Ministry. The last thing anyone needed right now was for Cornelius to come blustering in and making a bigger mess of things. It was a good thing that Remus had been nearby to drive the dementor away.
"How is he doing, Poppy?" He asked when the Hogwarts matron approached him.
"Still unconscious but stable." She said with a tired sigh. "It's almost like the dementor was trying to freeze him solid. If his lungs, liver, kidneys and intestines had gotten any colder, they would have formed ice crystals and killed him. It was a near thing as it was, my spells didn't work as well as they should, but his body fortunately seemed to recover on its own. I've never seen the like of it, but I've never heard of anyone coming so close to losing their soul and surviving either."
"Will there be any permanent consequences to young Harry?"
"I couldn't say." Poppy replied with a frown. "The organs I mentioned are still saturated with his magic and operating at a much higher level than normal. He also has a similar but less pronounced effect across the rest of his body."
"Thank you, Poppy." The old wizard said with a smile. "When do you think he will wake up? I need to speak to him."
"He needs rest, Headmaster." Poppy said with disapproval.
"It will not take long." Dumbledore assured her.
Harry was mildly surprised when he opened his eyes. Given what his last few memories were, he should be dead. Oddly enough, there was absolutely no emotion attached to his near death experience. He felt the same as if he'd just realized that water was wet.
This must be the Hogwarts Infirmary. He'd never been here before, but only a place of healing could be so obnoxiously white. He'd never understood the reasoning behind that. I don't think I like it much.
"Good evening, Harry." Came the voice of Dumbledore from nearby.
"Is it?" Harry wondered.
"I suppose it could have been better." The old wizard conceded. "Dementors do tend to ruin one's day."
"There was so much Dark." Harry murmured, mostly to himself.
"I am sorry that you had to go through that, Harry." Dumbledore sighed regretfully.
Harry wasn't really upset about it. He wasn't sure if that was because of the strangely trance-like state he was currently in, or because he'd actually found the Dark strangely comforting in his last moments of consciousness. When the biting cold and grotesque appearance of the dementor had ceased to matter, it had been beautiful in its own way. He had been ready to sink into it and let it have him forever.
"Minister Fudge insisted on a dementor presence despite my objections." The old man went on, oblivious to Harry's thoughts.
"To search for Sirius Black." The much younger wizard said with certainty.
"They won't find him." If he'd slipped past them in Azkaban, then he would certainly have little trouble doing it in the open.
"I agree, but the Ministry unfortunately does not."
"Of course it doesn't, it wouldn't be the government if it wasn't both stupid and incompetent." Harry said, finally starting to shake off the strange lethargy.
"That is a very cynical viewpoint for someone so young." Dumbledore commented.
"I've found that I prefer to be cynical and occasionally wrong than idealistic and constantly disappointed." Harry retorted, sitting up on the bed and grabbing his wand from the nearby table. "What happened after I passed out?"
"Professor Lupin arrived just in time to drive off the dementor."
"Lupin?" Harry asked sharply, recognizing the name of one of his parents supposed friends.
"Am I to take it that you know of him already?" Dumbledore asked shrewdly.
"I've heard of him." Harry said with a shrug, inwardly cursing his own reaction. There was no need to inform the old meddler what he knew and what he didn't.
"The dementor affected you most severely, my boy. I don't suppose you know why?" Dumbledore asked, changing the subject when he saw that Harry had no intention of talking about it. He didn't want to come off as overly pushy and alienate him.
Harry remembered the way that his runes had burned with cold fire in the dementor's presence. As far as he understood it, a wizard's magic was not physically part of their body, so it was no doubt having magic bound to so closely his body that had caused the effect.
Not that he was going to volunteer that information.
"I don't know." He lied. "Frankly, I'm more interested in why it attacked me specifically."
Dumbledore wasn't entirely convinced that he wasn't being lied to. The strange way that the boy's magic was infused into his body and some of his organs did not look like anything he'd ever seen before, nor did it look natural. A wizard's magic simply did not work that way normally.
More to the point, Harry's body appeared to be...too old. It was something of a sketchy assessment since there were no spells that determined the age of a person, but Madam Pomfrey's examination as well as the one he'd performed before the boy had woken up pointed to a level of maturity of someone in their mid teens.
There was an off chance that it had somehow occured naturally, but it was far more likely to be the result of something that Harry had done to himself.
He was terribly curious about it, but once again decided not to push. He needed Harry to trust him, and he'd learned a long time ago that asking uncomfortable questions did not inspire trust.
"I see. Should you should ever discover the cause, I would appreciate it if you would indulge an old man's curiosity. It is not often that I encounter something new."
That would hopefully let Harry know that he did not intend to judge and could possibly even help. If the boy was half as smart as he suspected, then he would catch the implication. It was crucial that the boy see him as a mentor, and for that to happen, Dumbledore had to act like one.
"Of course, sir." Harry lied with a smile, swinging his legs out of the bed. It hadn't escaped his notice that Dumbledore had neglected to answer his implied question about why the dementor had attacked him.
"Madam Pomfrey will be most upset if you leave the infirmary without her permission." The old wizard said, seeing that the boy was intent on leaving.
"That's too bad, but I feel fine and I'm not staying in bed just to make her feel better."
"It is unfortunate that I still need to speak to Poppy about something." Dumbledore said, also getting on his feet, completely unphased by the boy's surly attitude. He didn't much like being a patient either. "I hope that you will not use this opportunity to sneak to Ravenclaw tower while her attention is elsewhere."
Harry raised an eyebrow as the elderly wizard walked off towards the healer's office and then shrugged. If Dumbledore wanted to give him a distraction while he escaped, then that was fine with him.
The shout greeted him almost as soon as he entered the Ravenclaw common room, attracting the attention of several of the upper years as well.
Ginny all but smashed into him in her eagerness to give him a hug, which Harry returned awkwardly for a moment before gently pushing her away.
"Hello Harry." Luna greeted much more calmly, though it was obvious to anyone who knew her that she was relieved to see him.
"What happened to you?" Ginny all but demanded. "The dementors were pretty hard on me and Luna, but you looked like you'd frozen to death! They had to portkey you to the infirmary."
Harry's eyebrows went up at that. He hadn't known that bit.
"Nearly having your soul sucked out is apparently bad for your health." He joked.
"No doubt." Luna agreed. "Would you be willing to speak about your near-soulless experience in an interview with the Quibbler?"
"That's not funny." Ginny scolded, glaring at them both.
"Err...sure, Luna. We can do it tomorrow." Harry offered, quirking a smile at Ginny's even more pronounced scowl.
He couldn't help but find the whole thing a bit ridiculous. Both Luna and Ginny were a bit on the petite side, which meant that he now towered over them by a considerable margin. Even if he was only a year older than them, it was sometimes hard not to feel like he was hanging around kids that were three or four years younger than him, especially in light of the things he'd been up to during the summer.
"Alright there, Harry?"
The question was accompanied by a hand on his shoulder and he turned to look at the year's Head Girl, Penelope Clearwater. He noted with some shock that the girl who had occasionally come to talk to him back in first year was now actually a shade shorter than him. Granted, Penelope was not prodigiously tall by any stretch, but it was still a bit of a surprise to find himself looking down at someone that had been nearly two feet taller than him only a couple of years ago.
"Yeah, I'm fine." He replied after a moment, giving the girl a smile. It was much easier to be confident around people when you weren't looking up at them.
"Good." Penelope said with a nod, returning his smile. "Try to stay away from the dementors in the future, yeah?"
"I'll try, I'd certainly prefer to kiss girls than dementors." Harry joked.
The Head Girl gave a short laugh, accompanied by a small blush at what could be taken as flirting if you squinted.
"Even I'd rather get kissed by a girl than a dementor." She joked back, inwardly very pleased at how different he was from the anti-social boy that he'd been in his first year. She'd always felt that Harry was trying too hard to isolate himself back then and it was gratifying to see that he'd loosened up a bit. She had no idea what had caused him to be so prickly with people when he'd started Hogwarts and she wasn't going to ask, but she did like to think that she'd helped him move past it.
"I can kiss you if you want." Luna offered out of the blue.
The joking mood screeched to a halt at Luna's words, everyone trying to figure out if she was serious or not.
"Is she joking or not? I can't tell." Penelope eventually asked, giving up on figuring it out.
"No idea, I can never tell either." Harry shrugged, being less affected due to experience.
"I'm as serious as a crumple-horned snorkack." Luna said firmly.
Which tells us nothing. Harry thought wryly, giving Penelope another shrug when she looked to him for clarification.
"Right." The Head Girl said after a moment, deciding to just ignore the small blonde's strangeness. "You three had better head off to bed, it's past your usual curfew already."
Penny had felt the assessing gazes of several other girls on her ever since Harry's appearance in the common room. It wasn't the first time that this had happened. Curious students had seen her talking to him before and had wanted to know what he was like since the boy tended to avoid social contact.
It felt a bit different this time though.
"So, Penny….." Opened up Bryanna Torres, a dark haired, blue eyed seventh year whose slightly olive skin tone betrayed a hint of medditeranean ancestry a few generations back. "….We saw you talking to Potter."
"Yeah, so?" Penny returned cautiously.
She and Bryanna had never really gotten along too well, the other girl possessing a cunning and ambition that should have by all rights landed her in Slytherin, as well as a beauty that drew many a boy's attention, whereas Penny was fairly plain and straightforward. Not that they were enemies or anything like that, but they hadn't really interacted since third year, when Bryanna had started moving in completely different social circles.
"He's looking pretty good." The other girl noted, too casually to be real.
And with that sentence Penny realized what Bryanna was aiming at.
It wouldn't be the first time that an ambitious girl from a Common House like Bryanna had targeted the younger Heir of a Noble House in an attempt to increase her own status.
It could theoretically happen the other way around as well, but it was much less likely. Witches, even those not of main Noble lines, were guarded far more carefully against that sort of thing. That had taken a while for Penny to wrap her mind around, being a muggleborn as she was. The Wizarding World's only definition for rape was a violent and/or magically compelled man-on-woman assault, which seemed especially strange to her with an equalizer like magic being present. Anyone proposing the idea of statutory rape to magicals received only baffled looks, as if the mere concept was lunacy. Even slipping someone love or lust potions was a legal grey area.
It was frankly astonishing that it happened as little as it did, though Penny knew that might simply be her ignorance on the subject.
The reason for Bryanna's sudden interest in Harry was unlikely to be his looks, but rather his money and status. His youth would only make him a more tempting target because it would leave him vulnerable. Heirs of Noble Houses weren't normally subjected to this kind of thing because they had parents who could easily ruin a girl's family and future in the Wizarding World for attempting to install herself as the future Lady of a Noble House in such a manner.
Harry had no parents to protect him however.
"He's only thirteen, Bryanna." She said disapprovingly in an attempt to get the other girl to back off.
"Funny, he doesn't look thirteen." Bryanna countered with a smirk, abandoning subtlety since it was obvious that her intentions had been guessed.
Penny had noticed that, it was in all honesty hard not to, but it didn't change the fact that Harry Potter was thirteen and thus entirely too young to be dealing with the advances of a girl four years his senior.
The problem was that she couldn't even go to anyone about this.
Professor Flitwick was a great teacher, but he was part goblin and had certain goblin sensibilities. A refusal to meddle in other people's issues being one of them.
Headmaster Dumbledore would just wave it off like he waved off everything. For all the respect that Penny had for the aged wizard, he tended to be extremely hands off. Snape was a good example.
McGonagall would simply refer her to Dumbledore.
Even if she could have gone to anyone about it, it would make her a lot of enemies in Ravenclaw that could make her life very difficult for the rest of the year.
What a mess. She'd just have to warn Harry and hope for the best, which Bryanna was probably expecting her to do anyway. Hopefully her ambitious fellow Ravenclaw was overestimating her own appeal.
Bryanna spent another twenty minutes attempting to get information on Harry out of her, but Penny was for once glad to be fairly clueless. The green-eyed boy was not exactly liberal with information on himself, so she had little to go on. It wouldn't stop them of course, but it wasn't going to be as easy as they'd hoped.