Spectre of the Phoenix
"Never mess with Harry!" roared Harry as the elevator doors slammed shut on the retreating trio. Even his eyes looked like they were shooting emerald sparks, so infused was he with bolts of magical power.
"Harry?" questioned a timid voice. His friends had come up behind him during the countdown; he should've known they'd do something like that. He cursed worriedly under his breath "Shit!" He couldn't hold onto this force much longer!
"GET DOWN! NOW!" Harry hollered, louder still, as he spun about and faced the opposite direction. Simultaneously checking to make sure his friends had hit the floor and his aim was true, he brought up his other hand and let loose the burst of apocalyptic charge that had built within him.
Two cosmic jets streamed forth from his arms and struck the chamber's access plate with a resounding CLANG! Within three seconds, the metal door had collected enough power to flare white-hot, and an answering feedback started travelling back toward Harry along the energetic lines. Shuddering convulsively, he warred with it, yelling and screaming at the thing to go back toward the door; he even had to bury his head into his figurative shoulder, for all the good it did. Not knowing whether it would matter, Harry let go the last of his power and covered his face in his arms. It was an automatic reaction; but it was probably a good thing he did it. This energy seemed to cut across all time and space as the reverberating explosion that filled the antechamber drove him backward a good ten metres.
Having mentally dug in his heels, Harry "skidded" to a stop, kept his stance, and opened his eyes. Even through the debris and smoke, he could see the twisted remains of the snake-décored chamber cover. It had flown off its hinges and cracked the wall in front of it, to ricochet and come to a stop not far from where his friends had once stood in the shadows. Hmm… perhaps it had been a good thing the group had moved after all. The safest place for them would've been near the focal point of all that power.…
"Ha ha ha!" a knackered high-pitched chuckle escaped Harry, who had been drained to the point of craziness, "Wooo! So much for Parseltongue." Then he collapsed bonelessly to the floor into a ghostly heap.
Harry wasn't sure how much time he'd lost after passing out, but he knew it couldn't have been much. When he came to, his friends were standing over him, faces full of consternation over the fact they could do nothing whatsoever to help him. Thankfully, except for the one lightning burst while he'd tried to exact the Imperius Curse, he hadn't felt anything remotely physically painful…just…sheer debilitative exhaustion. At the moment, he felt so weak he couldn't even speak to his friends. Evidently he should've let go of that energy just a titch sooner…it may have helped him stay upright, at least.
Right now, he just wished his friends would leave him be; all he needed was a little sleep…sleep…sleep? How long had it been since Harry actually had a real rest? He'd been wandering around aimlessly for ten days or more, having nowhere to return to…not knowing who was whom, which way was up or down.…
The surrounding group were now frantically trying to get his attention for something…he crankily told them all just to leave him alone, rolled over, and feebly attempted to push Neville's arm away…and…succeeded? What the hell? Harry hardly had to give a second thought to spectral manipulation anymore. That alone penetrated his exhaustion in a way nothing else could have.
Struggling now and throwing his hair away from his eyes, he pushed himself to his feet for the second time that night, and saw precisely what it was all his friends were raving about. They had good reason to be shouting; that was certain. Apparently, while he had been out, several dementors had positioned themselves in front of the now-permanently open access way to the chamber. From his previous thought-gathering activities, Harry had known the dark beings were in the sealed room. However, he hadn't counted on passing out, and had no time to warn present company.
Standing there with his petrified friends, Harry expected the requisite cold, or at least the numbing all-over fear to start eating away at his consciousness again. But it didn't come. The dementors also failed to rush the whole of them, seemingly content to hover in front of their doorway.
As he stared, Harry felt something brush the back of his mind. It was so subtle at first, that he'd assumed somebody had accidentally touched him, but how could that be the case? He was still a ghost. Out of curiosity, Harry reached out to the thin threads that were in his mind. The gathering of thoughts opened itself to him…it sounded as a chamber orchestra; a psychic melody…so melancholy, and yet so indescribably beautiful. It sang to him of love lost and found, friends departed and reunited, sound defeat yet glorious victory in war.…
Harry felt his jaw drop as he realised it was coming from the direction of the dementors. The one that was straight in front…it even began to address him personally. It wasn't like a real voice, or resembling anything else Harry had ever heard in his life. What to anybody else would have been a disgusting or even frightening noise, he instead listened to all it had to say, drinking of the selfless outpouring it seemed happy to give. It was even better than all of those things Harry had felt through the music; this wonderful dementor was promising him a much-deserved rest. Finally…at long last, somebody who understood he just needed to sleep. He told it how tired he was, how sick of fighting, how sick of everybody telling him what he should and shouldn't do, how he just…wanted to shove off for a while. And it understood him! This beautiful, empathetic creature understood everything. How could Harry have ever been afraid of something so compassionate as this dementor?
It reached out to him and he came forward to follow it and finally get the promised sleep his weary, soul-sick spirit had needed for so long.
Before it could touch him, Harry was assailed by a blinding white light; one that had been far brighter than the power he had just used to blast the chamber door open. He distantly heard an outside voice yell, "Suck this! Expecto Patronum!" as the celestial brightness repeated itself a second time, and added to the first.
Almost immediately began a shrieking, tearing noise in the back of his head. This light was hurting the dementor! Its mental scream was starting to shred into his thoughts.… Harry wanted to turn around and tell the people to stop it, to leave the dementors alone, how the poor creatures were only trying to help him, but he found he couldn't move. As sure as an immobiliser curse had been used on him, Harry was frozen in his current position and unable to shift a single inch.
The flare of light again rejoined its companions and the dementors' screams became louder. This warm light was somehow blocking the effects of the screaming from his mind now, however. Looking down, he also noticed something else that shocked and terrified him. Of all the things Harry had experienced, even as of late, not one was even half as horrifying as what he now witnessed was happening to his very spirit.
The place on his arm where the glass-shard scar was had been exposed because his up-reaching arm's sleeve had fallen back from it. Now the scar had sunk clean into his skin, turned black and was overtaking the rest of his hand as he watched. Only, his hand wasn't looking much like a hand anymore; so much as resembling a rotting, decrepit, drab-tinged claw. NO! cried Harry under the assault, but not a sound escaped him. He was trapped in his own mind, unable to convey his desperate plea for help.
The light around he and his friends grew still brighter, and Harry could feel the dementors' lock on him lessen a little. But it still pulled inexorably. It was going to hurt if something wrenched your soul out of you, through your mouth or by a curse, or any other means. Evidently, if one failed to have a body to house their spirit, it didn't hurt to be exposed to a dementor; dementors communicated with spirit and body on different levels. Harry hadn't even seen it coming; the evil things had known how very weary he was and had been waiting for his inevitable return to his body. That was why they had been so patient in front of the door; the dementors had been counting on this, expecting him. They wanted him. And his now-defenseless soul had been seduced by the siren call of death…lest Dark One's minions will make him their member…the poem had told all…but this was worse than death. More terrible still, Harry had no means to stop it.
"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" shouted a fifth and final voice.
This appeared to have done what the other spells had failed to thus far. As the screaming in the back of his mind became less than a dull roar, Harry watched as the dementors began to shrink in size and were overcome with the unquenchable light surrounding them all. Then, for the second time in less than five minutes, the antechamber was rocked with an explosion. The combined effect of five Patronus Charms had built to such a crescendo; the resultant achievement was a sonic boom of epic proportions that drove he and his friends to their knees.
Gratefully, this chamber seemed to have been built along much sturdier lines than the old one, or at least had some regular upkeep of a sort. Though debris rained down on them all, the structure still held well, surprisingly enough.
Harry came to realise the dementors were gone and he was free from their imprisonment. His ghostly visage no longer bore the resemblance akin to the dark soulless animals. But it still left a sort of aching void in the back of his mind where the threads once were.
Slightly dazed yet amazed, Harry said softly, "You killed it…" but the words came out wrong; they sounded accusatory instead of thankful. So, a few of his friends let him know in a very blunt manner precisely what they thought of his ingratitude.
"Yeah, well, getting on with a dementor isn't exactly what I'd call a healthy past-time, Harry!" lashed Ginny, angrily. Her whole attitude was completely devoid of any hint of amusement. She was wide-eyed and shaking; it was obvious she was on the verge of tears. And she wasn't the only one. After their latest ordeal, he could hear everyone was breathing hard as if they had run a marathon whilst trying to suppress sobs which were threatening to come out of them. And this was definitely not a group to give over to this type of emotional display. It's said to be almost unbearable to witness...Snape's words about administration of dementor's Kisses skimmed across Harry's mind.
Neville said breathlessly, "I think he was actually trying to waltz with it…" it was obvious that Longbottom was horrified, too. Harry knew he should say something, but as the realisation of all that had happened washed over him, his ability for conversation was muted. What could you possibly say to a group of people who had so selflessly brought you back from the brink? For once, Harry had been utterly incapable of protecting or defending himself, and it was against the worst thing anyone could possibly imagine...staring death in the face, and not being able to run away. Each of them had accepted the challenge and crushed it for him instead. "Gee thanks, spot you later" and "oops, sorry about that" just didn't seem to cut it. Rather, Harry just said the first random thought that came to his mind.
"But I hate dancing," Harry protested, his nose wrinkling in distaste.
A sound somewhere between weeping and giggling burst from Susan's throat and she held a hand up to her mouth. It made Harry smile and answer in kind as he turned around to face his friends, they all joined together in a fit of profoundly relieved, if a tad mental laughter. This was definitely a situation of laugh or cry, and everyone present seemed to have subconsciously agreed on a little of both. Although irrevocably changed, their friend was back once more, and it was entirely because of their own grace under fire.
The changes within him were something Harry would never have cause to share; it just wouldn't do to try and explain to them he'd actually momentarily felt sorry for a dementor. That was a type of Stockholm Syndrome nobody should be privy to, and one which Harry hoped they would never have the misfortune to understand. Now those were cheery thoughts.
"Out of curiosity, what were you guys thinking of when you performed your charms?" That was an astounding bit of magic he had just witnessed—and based on what was arguably the most important spell which they had learned from him in the D.A. This was also the self-same charm which Harry himself should've supposedly been unable to do at his age; it pleased him to know that he could actually pass on that skill. And just like any true teacher, he wanted to know precisely what had inspired his students.
They all smiled hugely and exchanged looks, whilst Ginny turned to him again and stated, "We used the same thoughts for this that we'd used for the séance summoning. It made perfect sense to do it. Each of our best thoughts of you had one thing in common—you being alive. Cheers to happy memories, Harry," she ended, and inclined her head toward him, as if in acknowledgment of his superior instruction. Talk about satirical.
Harry stood there, zoning about a bit once more with his thoughts and soaking up the positive residual energy left from his friends' charms. Two of the group had decided to warily enter the chamber, after having asked him if there was anymore dementors lurking about. That was something he'd definitely be able to tell now, and thankfully the answer was a resounding no. The Patronuses had, without question, done away with them all. Harry just hadn't been able to bring himself to go into that chamber yet; he knew exactly what his friends were going to come across, and he was pushing off the inevitable as long as possible.
He and his other friends heard another ding! come from the direction of the elevator, and at the same time Dean and Luna had come sprinting back out of the main chamber. Next, Harry heard the exact same comment said with the exact same incredulity from opposite sides of the antechamber.
"Dear lord, it's Harry!" Dean and Professor Lupin whispered disbelievingly at the same time.
The Order of the Phoenix had just shown up.