Disclaimer: I'm not JK Rowling and I make no money off of this. I know, spoiler alert. I'm sorry you had to figure it out this way.
Warnings: minor swearing, violence
Yay Chapter 25, things are going to start going more quickly.
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He woke up in a cold sweat, feeling like little more than a shivering mass of flesh. Disorientation clouded his head in a soupy fog; where was he? He had thought he was in the forest... or was that a dream? His head pounded and he couldn't see... was he blind? No.. no.. it's only nighttime. He lifted a trembling hand to his forehead, rubbing his expanding skull, feeling dim surprise that there was a mulch like, muddy texture crusted on his slick hair.
Groping the air, Harry thought that maybe he actually was in the forest... somehow... he couldn't remember going there. Why would he be there in the first place?
His tired legs twisted and he felt a something obstructing their movement... no.. what was it? A tree? Had he wandered into the forest and a tree fell on them...? No, that makes no sense... it didn't feel like a tree, it was almost slimy. Was it a dark creature, dragging him deeper into the forest... opening its jaws lined with sharp teeth... devouring him...
His heart sounded like a discordant drum being pounded intermittently into his own ears, sometimes so strong that it felt like it was physically rattling his chest yet other times so soft as to be unnoticeable. What was it that he was so afraid of again?
God, his head hurt, and arms and chest and especially his hands. It was as if something had sliced into every nerve on his body... or, the feeling he got after the burning a while ago. Wouldn't he have remembered it if he just burned now?
His limbs battled against whatever was grasping him again... the beast was there again... puncturing his legs with its long, carved claws, dragging him further... he couldn't escape...
He wanted to scream, to cry out, he wished Snape was here. Or Fawkes. It felt like there was a weight on his chest, he couldn't move. The beast was perched on his belly, making it impossible to yell out.
Suddenly the weight evaporated like water droplets on grass drying under the sun's intense heat. It was gone, and the thing around his legs wasn't so scary anymore. Harry sat up, feeling around in the darkness, and disentangled himself from... from... bed sheets? Like a blind man, he felt the fleecy texture of the fabric and realized almost immediately that the surface he was lying on was much too comfortable to be a forest bed.
Last night... last night... had he talked to Neville? Yes, then he went back to the tower. The boy kicked away the sweaty sheets and cautiously peeked through the crack in the curtains on his four-poster bed. Everyone was asleep.
Carefully, he slid them open and slinked against the wall to an adjoining bathroom. He shut the door behind him and for an extra measure of safety stuffed a towel in the crack under the door.
Harry shielded his eyes from the sudden flood of light when he flipped a switch, squinting every now and again until his eyes adjusted. The wall gave him a sense of stability and he stumbled around until his hands clamped onto a sink with a mirror above it.
"What the..." The reflection stared back at him with saucer-like eyes, ashen face lined with red scratches and streaks of brown earth. He pawed at the sludge hastily, looking at his hands and feet coated in mud and leaves. How did...
The frantic breaths filling his chest felt like they weren't his own any longer, it was as if there was someone else in there with him too. He had been out in the forest. Somehow, someway, he had been in a forest and... and... he didn't remember going out, or he hit his head and forgot, or... or... even worse, he didn't do it of his own will.
Someone could've been controlling him. He stumbled back, shying away from the mirror yet finding himself unable to escape the damning evidence. "What did I do?"
Scenarios flooded his head to the brim, making his eyes glass over. He could've hurt himself. Or someone. Or something. That could happen again, whatever it was.
The ache in his hands increased the more he grappled the cool sink edge, and the more pressure he placed on them, the more the pain escalated out of the invisible ball in the center and pulsated through the tendrils. It was as if there were delicate designs that had been carved into them with a butcher's knife. Letting his curiosity override the feverish nightmare in his head, the boy pried the delicate glamour apart and almost yelped in shock.
The tendrils had grown like weeds to his upper elbow, branching out into a feathery motif of magic. Intense white light instantly flooded out of the narrow strips of magic on his arms and wavered against the ceiling like an aurora borealis. That... that wasn't possible! Only a day ago the glowing was only just barely touched above of his wrist, yet now it had surged upward with incredible speed.
The glow had never been this fast to grow and that dreadful thought leaked through Harry's body, settling in his stomach like old algae at the bottom of a lake. He scratched his inner arms, wanting desperately to peel off his own skin. He remembered the constant dreams of instinct literally burning him alive and, like two neurons snapping together, he finally understood.
The forest. The forest had something to do with his dreams which had something to do with his arms which had something to do with the phoenixes and... and...
He quivered, fidgeting mercilessly, wanting to escape himself. He didn't want this. He didn't need this. But he was trapped, caged like an animal, caged like he was back at the Durselys' with the bars on his window in second year but this time there was no Ron with a flying car to save him.
He could not escape this, it defined the very air he breathed. It was the very core of his magic and even if he ripped himself apart, skin from muscle, and muscle from blood vessel, and flesh from bone, it would always be apart of him. It was as tangible as the blood that traversed through his veins, yet it was so more than just that- it was more connected than merely by body, it's more than mere magical vessels that grew on his hands and arms. Quite possibly insane, or perhaps being the most introspective that he could ever be, Harry understood in that very moment that the magic in his hands was intertwined with his very being. It resided in that mystical, undefined space that exists just past where the synapses end and the self begins. It was the most permanent, irrevocable and powerful of magic- it was soul magic. It was the Old magicks.
He choked on air, feeling like a branded cow. Like he was in line to get into a slaughterhouse. Whatever was going to happen to him, whatever destiny he was tied to, was going to happen soon.
He pressed his hand hot with magic to his mouth to try and muffle the sound of his raspy breathing before casting a silencing charm over the perimeter of the bathroom. He wanted to scream, to belt out into air until his lungs were so empty that he felt dizzy. Instead the boy cuffed the edge of the sink, feeling rage surge in his gut, set his blood alight with fire, and force his hands to clench into fists and before bashing into the mirror.
Soon screams of rage accompanied the shards of glass that dug into his palm, until he slammed into the mirror for so long that his arms were completely coated in blood. Stopping momentarily, the boy looked into one of the remaining pieces of mirror and felt shock at the crazed gleam in his eye. That wasn't him. That couldn't be him.
He stopped, breathing heavily. It took only a few minutes for the adrenaline to dip downward and his arms to hurt like hell on earth.
The ache of magic had not abated at all and that, on top of that, the glass shards impaled in his arms created an unbearable acidic sting. He stumbled backwards, wondering just what he had done, and fell into unconsciousness.
He woke up early with the sun just barely peeking over the expanse of green hills, the sound of chirping making a groan emit from his dry mouth. The boy was so tired, he didn't want to wake up yet. It was only a Saturday anyways so there was nothing he had to do in the first place, unless Hermione nagged him about doing his homework.
Something soothing was dripping onto his hands, yet it felt as if it were going right through his skin, quieting the swell of magic beating against his palms and spreading throughout his entire body. The moment the drops of liquid touched his the surface of his arms, it was as if it turned into a vaporous liquid hitchhiking on the back of his cells and removing all pain.
Curious, the boy opened his eyes to find himself staring at a chilly, tiled ground coated in glass and random spots of red. The more his eyes followed the trail of glass, the more dried red that seemed to be crusted over the floor and when he finally tilted his tired head to his arms, he flinched in shock.
A phoenix was hunched over his arms, engrossed in the task of dripping tears over the surface of his arms. The boy's left arm was covered in crusty, brown-tinted blood only to be distilled by the translucent water on it. That was his own blood.
"Fawkes?" His voice sounded gruff in his own ears.
The bird threw a chilled glance in his direction before going back to healing him. He felt light-headed even though he was lying on the ground and judging by the shards of mirror everywhere, he could tell that he messed himself up really bad.
Incoherent images of anger, fear, and a whisper of 'old magicks' rung in his head, furthering his sensation of dizziness. Had he hit his head, too?
A knock on the door. Or had he just imagined that? "Hey! Who's in there?" a rugged, Irish voice asked. Seamus.
Fawkes stilled, his feathers ruffling up in the air like a wary dog with raised hackles.
"I am." Harry said, trying yet failing to disguise his raspy voice, "I'll be out in a little bit."
"Yeah, well, you've been in there forever! And I've been waitin forever! I haven't even heard water running, it's been dead silent in there, and if you don't get out in five minutes I'm coming in." His accent grew thicker.
The boy's throat constricted, and he waved Fawkes away, trying to brush the glass into a pile and pricking his fingers. Oh god, the mirror is broken, what's he going to do about the mirror?
Suddenly he slapped a hand to his forehead and remembered that he was a wizard. Groping for his wand and finding out he left it in his trunk, the boy waved his empty hand towards the mirror with a whispered "Reparo!"
The shards of glass immediately shot back into place, once again forming a seamless oblong mirror. Sending hasty 'scourgify's', 'reparo's, and other spells flying in random directions throughout the room, the boy spelled the blood off of his hands and pajamas as well as the mud off of his face.
Fawkes landed onto his shoulder, lending him silent support. "Hide out the window," he whispered, and the bird did so hesitantly. Jumping slightly, the boy just then remembered to place a glamour of his faintly glowing hands and arms.
Letting himself have a sigh of relief, he grappled with the doorknob and twisted it open to be rejoined with his dorm mates. Seamus growled at him, before shoving him harshly out of the way and going into the bathroom.
Harry spun, feeling his world tilt after the other boy had pushed him, and saw expanding black dots cloud his vision. He grasped a bed post and used it to support himself. Suddenly Neville was standing before him- how did he get there so quickly?- telling him he looked pale and shaky in a slurred voice. He must have lost a lot of blood...
Settling down on his bed, it took another moment before the boy regained his sense of place. "We should take you to the hospital wing..."
His fervent protestations fell of deaf ears, and the boy was then dragged down multiple flights of stairs before plopped for the third time in two months on a hospital wing bed.
"What's wrong?" a bustling Madam Pomphrey asked, checking over his pale form hastily.
"Just feeling a little dizzy...", "He virtually passed out!, and "I swear he almost died!" was the range of replies she got from the group of boys and, before he knew it, he was tucked under a series of covers and hit with a multiplicity of diagnostic charms.
Harry thought that he was dozing from time to time because every few seconds his eyes opened again and he was staring at an entirely different scene than before. This happened three times until, on the third time, suddenly a wary Professor Snape was standing over him with a grim expression. "What's wrong with the boy?"
Ron appeared to have been pushed aside by the man, as if the professor had rushed into the room, and was about to say something indignant before Neville shook his shoulder to remind him that this was a teacher. A rather mean one, at that, who wouldn't hesitate to drain Gryffindor's points in the negatives.
Pomphrey pursed her lips together in thought, "He's not hurt physically, but it's as if copious amounts of blood disappeared from his body. I've determined it's a moderate anemia he's suffering from." she informed, "What surprises me is that he doesn't have a history of this occurring, yet he does appear to be low on iron and blood sugar."
Suddenly a series of potions- all red, drippy and metallic tasting- were stuffed down his throat by none other than Snape. The man pushed Poppy aside from time to time, looking like a highly territorial animal, and performed many more diagnostic charms even though the woman mentioned multiple times that she had already done so. The mediwitch, of course, looked like a mixture of offended and indignant yet said nothing.
Soon Ron and Neville were herded out of the hospital wing and he spent the rest of the day dozing in and out of semi-consciousness. At the end of it he felt a little less light headed. Looking up towards the metal head board, he saw a watchful Fawkes eyeing him and smiled at the bird. The phoenix jumped onto his arm, letting Harry pet his feathers while the boy tried to piece together a disjointed memory of what happened before he passed out in the bathroom.
Eyes shifting over to his left at the figure that appeared in his peripheral vision, he found himself looking at Professor Snape. Harry remembered that he hated him now and felt his eyes sting. He said nothing, not ready to hear whatever vicious words the man would spew at him for taking up the man's precious free-time by getting himself hurt again.
Poised in a tense position, as if trying to protect himself from the tirade that would surely follow the silence in a few seconds, he fearfully watched the man fill chest with air, preparing to speak. The words that came out of his mouth did not contain freak, nor I hate you, or even worthless, and were enough to surprise the boy into speechlessness.
There the man sat for a moment, steadying himself, and watching the boy with dimmed black eyes. "Don't scare me that again, daft boy. I could've gone into cardiac arrest by seeing you here again."
That was the happiest Harry had ever felt in weeks.
aww, isn't that sweet?
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