Mahou mo Ken

Hogwarts

Mahou mo Ken

All rights to Harry Potter and its world, characters, and settings belong to JK Rowling. I don't own any of its characters, and I am not making any money off this.

Chapter five – Hogwarts

Harry watched his Uncle drive off with mixed feelings. On one side, he had just lost ten thousand pounds. On the other hand, this summer had been the best he could ever remember having at Privet Drive, and that fact alone made the money worthwhile. After all… it wasn't as if he couldn't afford it.

Looking down at his trolley, he winked at Hedwig, the big snowy owl blinking back at him as he did so. "Come on, Hedwig," he whispered. "Time to go back to Hogwarts."

Carefully, he started making his way through the mass of people in King's Cross station, looking at his left hip, sighing at the lack of a sword there. Somehow, he had managed to get Headmaster Dumbledore to agree to let him go to Diagon Alley to do his own shopping. The old man had first wanted to let Molly Weasley do his shopping for him, and even though he liked her very much, the humiliation alone had made him object.

Thankfully, it was before his latest mishap, and he had been well rested at the time, and able to use his new words to convince Dumbledore to let him out and do his own shopping… even if it meant that he needed an escort.

Harry smiled at the thought. It was his all-time favorite Auror that had joined him, a cheerful metamorphmagus known as Tonks. He knew her first name, of course, but just like everybody he was too scared to use it where she could hear it. Well, everybody but Dumbledore, that is; the old man used her first name at every occasion, and merely smiled off her threats.

Convincing Tonks that someone holding his hand while shopping for new clothes was going to be hell on his reputation hadn't been hard. As such, he had been able to enter Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions without hassle, and in private, with Tonks merely standing guard outside the door.

After she had done a thorough sweep of the shop to make sure nobody was inside that would harm him, of course. Harry had smiled and nodded at the time. Tonks was thorough, even if she was a little clumsy. He rather liked her, and didn't mind her 'escorting' him. It felt almost like they were friends, and were merely doing some last-minute shopping. Almost.

Harry had arrived at the barrier, and he looked down at his left hip again. The sword was still in his room, ready to be summoned; he had made sure of that before he had torn down his room. With breaking heart, he had removed the Enlargement Seals, and the Concealment Seals, returning his room to the state it used to be. But before all that, he had hidden his sword and staff carefully, readying them to be summoned at a moment's notice. He hoped his wait would be over soon, he was feeling naked without a sword on his hip, and without a staff in his hands.

Even if it hadn't been more than a couple of days since he started bearing them, their presence was now sorely missed.

He needed to be dressed in his new robes before he could summon them. He smiled slightly. Madam Malkin was a genius, he knew, and he also knew he could count on her to keep things quiet. At least, keep quiet until the excrement hit the ventilator.

He pushed through the barrier, and arrived at platform nine and three-quarters. Momentarily, he stood still, and watched the mass of parents and Hogwarts students, talking, crying, saying good-byes, preparing to leave. He just stood there, achingly aware that, once again, he was here alone.

No, a voice sounded in his head. Not Alone, Harry. A mental wave, almost like a hug, came over him, and Harry couldn't help but smile.

Thanks, Maya. His mental voice was more resonant that his bodily one, and the Japanese girl could hear just how much Harry meant it. A mental smile was returned to him.

Are you sure you want to do this? she asked. You know that you'll draw an awful lot of attention, even without meaning to. And they will not take kindly for it… I'm sure Sensei could arrange something. You could come over here.

Harry pushed his trolley out of the way, and stood quietly in a corner. I know, Maya. I know. Part of him wanted nothing more than to take her up on her offer, leave Britain, and never return. On the other hand, he had friends here. He counted Ron and Hermione as his friends, and last year, Neville, Ginny, and Luna had been invaluable as well, and he had started to count on them as friends, too.

I can't, Maya. Not yet…

I understand, Harry. But I am not going anywhere. If you need to talk to me, I'm there.

Harry smiled once again. I know… and you know you can come to me as well, right? Even with the time difference. I don't care.

Maya returned a mental smile. I know, the Japanese girl answered. They were silent for a few moments.

You know, Maya said, This would have freaked me out before I met you. But somehow… I don't mind us being linked like this anymore.

Harry was silently nodding his head. I know. You and Sensei have warped me. I wasn't capable of things like this before I met you. Maya laughed through their magical mind-link, and he returned it easily. He couldn't believe how easy it was to use the link they had formed just the night before. It was as if they were standing right next to each other, and using Legilimency on each other to read the other's minds.

He sighed. I guess it's time I got on the train, he thought to Maya, and started walking again. He didn't want to be subjected to Molly Weasley's goodbyes, even if they were heartfelt. He knew it was childish of him, but for once, he would have liked to have his own parents say goodbye, or someone who was here for him, and not for someone else first. He smiled slightly. In a way, he had gotten his wish, as Maya rode at the back of his mind, just as he rode at the back of hers.

And even though both now knew that it was so easy to look into each other's mind now, both refrained, trusting the other implicitly, to the point where it not even occurred to them to use the link to do anything other than talk to each other.

Aware as they were, though, they knew when the other was in pain, or feeling strong emotions, and it was Harry's thoughts that he brought Maya to come and talk to him. He was aware he had probably interrupted her in something, and he felt guilty about it. He would have to make sure of his thoughts and emotions. Pressure built in his mind. Maya was 'hugging' him again.

Don't even think about that, she replied, having correctly guessed his emotional state. You needed me, I could tell. Her voice became softer. You wanted someone there for you, and not for someone else, first, right?

Harry didn't talk, afraid his voice would break. This first day always brought such mixed feelings… glad to be going back to Hogwarts, sad that he, once again, was just dropped off without anyone to be there just for him. No parents, no godparents, not even guardians.

Maya sent a mental smile at him, and retreated. Remember, I will always be there for you, not for someone else, she stated resolutely.

Thanks, Maya, he replied honestly, moving into the train, somehow making it without drawing attention to himself, even with his well-known looks. As he came upon a compartment that was empty, save for Luna, Harry smiled and pushed inside, smiling a greeting at the girl, who was once again reading the Quibbler, upside down.

He greeted Luna, and sat down as the girl looked up from her upside-down newspaper and smiled slightly at him.

"Good morning to you, too, Harry," she greeted. "Have you taken care to avoid the Gorlacks this summer?"

Harry smiled slightly, and glanced from Luna's trademarked radish earrings to her butterbeer-cap necklace. "Yes, I have, Luna. They can be nasty buggers." For a moment, Harry blinked. He had been meaning to just agree with her, and didn't really know where the last part of his statement had come from, but found that he rather liked it. Real or not, playing 'pretend' along brought a smile to his lips.

Luna seemed to study him, before a smile tugged at her own lips, right before her usual dreamy look came over her eyes. "Good. For a moment, I thought I should be worried if you had been replaced."

Harry blinked twice, trying to come up with a decent response, before smiling. "You don't need to worry about me, Luna. I'm still me. No Gorlack can replace me that easily."

"Oh, of course," Luna replied immediately. "I had forgotten about that," she said with so much honesty that Harry had to stop his chuckle. Maybe it was the result of his newly organized mind, or maybe it was his training with Ken and Maya, as well as the subsequent change in his outlook on life, but he found discussing these impossible matters with Luna to be quite enjoyable all of a sudden.

As the compartment door opened, Ron and Hermione entered, Harry glanced at him, at Ginny, and bent over to Luna in a conspiring manner. "Now them... I can see them being replaced by the Gorlacks."

Luna looked over the edge of her newspaper, glanced at Ron and Hermione, looked at Harry, and nodded.

Harry had to stop himself from laughing out loud as, for the next thirty minutes, Ron and Hermione had a difficult time convincing Luna that they had not been replaced by Gorlacks, whatever they were. Every now and then, when the discussion seemed to sway in Ron and Hermione's favor, Harry would interject something. By the end of things, he was almost bursting by holding in his laughter, Ron was almost bright red, and Hermione was now hiding behind one of her books, refusing to take part in the discussion any longer.

The door opened as the train pulled out of London. "Here you guys are!" Neville said, pulling his trunk in behind him. "I was late, and couldn't find a compartment..."

"Neville! Pal!" Harry said, grinning widely, pulling the boy down on the seat next to him, simultaneously pointing at Ron and Hermione, who were still debating with Luna. "Do they look like they've been replaced by Gorlacks, or not?"

Neville fell down, and gave the only response he could to such a question. "Huh?"

Luna looked over. "Are you sure that he's not... oh, right." She looked at Harry. "I forgot again, didn't I?"

Harry nodded, and winked at Neville, who caught on, and grinned widely. "That's right, Luna. I'll never be replaced by... by..."

"Gorlacks," Harry said, grinning widely as Neville fought down his chuckle. Ron and Hermione turned even redder as Luna turned back on them. At that moment, Ron got up, and pulled Hermione with him.

"I think it's time we go to the Prefect's car," he grunted, hurriedly waving goodbye to Neville, shooting an angry glare at Harry, and pulling Hermione out the compartment.

Harry chuckled. "So, how was your summer, Neville?"

Neville chuckled slightly to himself. It was rare to see Harry laugh and enjoy himself like this, and he couldn't help but enjoy the moment. "It was pretty good, Harry. And yours obviously agreed with you."

Harry shrugged, and nodded. "After Sirius… well, I pulled my head together." He sighed, and glanced at the ground. Neville remained silent, understanding what must be going through Harry's head at that moment.

Harry sighed, visibly pulled himself together, and looked up. He looked at both Neville and Luna. "I must apologize, to the both of you. I was a horrible friend last year. I'm sorry."

Luna cocked her head at him, her usually dreamy complexion gone from her eyes. "It was understandable," she intoned casually. "No Gorlack could have done worse to you than what happened." There was an odd twinkle in her eyes, and Harry smiled slightly.

"Even so, it was inexcusable."

"Apology accepted, Harry," Neville said, grabbing hold of the other boy's shoulder and squeezing in support, something he couldn't have seen himself do to last year's Harry. "Like Luna said, it was understandable."

"Thanks," he whispered sincerely. "I pulled myself together over the summer, did a lot of extra work, and started to think, really think, about things, you know?" he said, looking from one to the other.

"I'm sure you had a lot to think about," Neville said, Luna returning to her newspaper. He sounded so honest that Harry couldn't help but nod. He sighed, and looked outside. The train had left London far behind by now, and he knew that the witch with the snack cart would be coming by in a little while.

"Maybe we should change," he said, slowly standing up, deciding that the time had come… at least; the time had come for these two friends to know something more about him, and about his summer. Neville shrugged, and Luna merely looked up dreamily, and shot him a small smile.

Harry went to change. Finding an empty compartment a little while away, he stepped inside, thought about locking it, decided against it, and stepped into his new robes.

Stripping down to his underclothes, Harry pulled out the first item, a pair of pants that were made out of the finest dragonhide, the item a dark purple that clung to his every curve. Then came the body part, and he slipped inside. The spells on the opening in the back activated upon his whispered word of closing, and the long-sleeved jacket closed up. At the same time, it locked to the pants, creating what seemed to be a single-piece bodysuit of dragonhide.

Next were a set of dragonhide cloves, soft to the touch, and he pulled them on. They, too, sealed to the bodysuit. The boots were last, and they sealed to the suit as well.

He had asked Madam Malkin for something that would allow him maximum freedom of movement, as well as providing a maximum of protection. An ample donation of Galleons had convinced the tailor to keep her mouth about his purchase, as well as the next.

He pulled out his 'robes'. Throwing them over the bodysuit, they sealed at the front with a second incantation, looking, for all intents and purposes, like ordinary robes. They differed only slightly from ordinary robes, and it would be a very attentive individual that could see the differences at a glance.

Harry sighed, spread his arms, and closed his eyes. He had practiced with this in his room, but this was the furthest he had tried this. He focused on his sword and his staff, and for a moment he was afraid that it wouldn't work.

Then, Devastation settled into his left hand, followed a few moments later by the comfortable weight of his staff settling into his right. Harry smiled. Now came the real test… would the robes work as advertised?

Pulling back his left arm, he grabbed for the middle of his robes with two freed fingers, pulling to the left. The item split obediently, billowing nicely as it was flung away from his left side, clearing a path for him to enter the sword into the belt of his pants. Pulling the robes closed, he found them sealing up again with a mere word, this time hiding both the bodysuit and the sword from view.

He thanked the heavens that he had grown a little taller, so that the sword could be vertical, next to his leg, without hindering him as he walked. As the handle stuck up, next to his side, nobody could see the weapon at his hip. The camouflaging spells on the uniform did its work.

He looked at his staff. It would be his new wand, his old one stored safely in a quick-draw holster on his left arm, sewn into the dragonhide. All he had to do was reach into his left sleeve with his right hand, and he could draw his wand, should it ever become necessary.

He unlocked the door, and stepped outside, his staff tapping the floor in rhythm with his strides, his confidence rising now that he was both armed and dangerous. A small smile tugged at his lips.

When he returned, Luna was already done changing, and was once again engrossed in the upside-down Quibbler. She glanced at him, looked back at her paper upon recognition of his face, then frowned slightly, and glanced back at him.

Her eyes slid up and down, and a small and dreamy smile appeared on her face. "I should wonder," she started, "whether you weren't replaced by Gorlacks after all."

He sat down next to her, resting his staff in the crook of his elbow and against his shoulder. "Nope, no replacements, but I have most definitely changed over the summer."

She nodded, just accepting his statement, and not asking any further questions. She turned back to her paper, and Harry leaned in. "I always see you reading this," he said, glancing at the upside-down newspaper. "And I just have to know, what's so interesting about it?"

She shrugged, and let him watch. As he tried to make heads or tails out of the paper, he realized that he was sitting quite close to her. Not that she seemed to mind… and truth be told, neither did he. He focused on the paper, and not the proximity of the girl, and tried to find out what was so interesting.

"Need a hand?" she asked, dreamily. "The most fun is figuring it out for yourself, though."

He grinned ruefully. "Right," he said, ignoring the fact that he was just about to ask for an explanation. Or a pointer in the right direction. He frowned as he focused on the paper. Trying to figure out what was written while the paper was upside-down couldn't be the point, could it?

Suddenly, he realized something, his eyes just flickering over the upside-down words. "Hey, some of these spell out really interesting things when you're reading them backwards."

Luna's face broke the biggest smile he had seen on her yet, and it didn't seem all that dreamy right about now. "Don't they?" she asked. "Father does it, just to amuse me."

Harry chuckled, settled himself better in the seat, and leaned in to read the paper. Luna held out one end, and he accepted it, the paper now officially in front of both of them… still sitting quite close.

The door opened, and Neville entered. He threw one look at Harry and Luna, who were both glancing at him over the edge of the upside-down Quibbler.

"Eh… I'm not interrupting, am I?" Neville asked, back to his nervous self. Harry and Luna shook their heads, and it was downright eerie how in sync they were.

"Just reading the paper, Nev," Harry said.

It was at that point that Neville saw the staff sticking out, and an odd look to Harry's robes, as if he had three legs… "Eh, Harry… what's with the staff? And the robes?"

Harry folded his edge of the paper away, and looked down, seeing that, even though his legs were bent as he sat, his sword had not, in fact, done the same, and it was now plainly visible. He grunted darkly, now he wouldn't be able to hide his sword under his robes while he was sitting.

Throwing open his robes, revealing the dark-colored dragonhide bodysuit underneath, he drew the sword out of his belt, and put it next to him on the seat. There, Harry thought. Both out in the open. He sighed. Just like in every classroom or in the Great Hall. Everywhere where I have to sit.

"I learned a lot over the summer, Nev," Harry said, feeling his robes seal shut once more. "And I've changed."

Neville wasn't as easy as Luna was, and Harry was forced to explain a few of his new skills to Neville, swearing the other boy to secrecy, and urging him to learn Occlumency if he wanted to know more.

Ron and Hermione returned at one point, threw one look at the sword leaning against Harry, the staff resting in the crook of his arm, and the way he sat next to Luna, halfway trying to read the Quibbler, upside-down, with her.

Without a word, and with a small smile tugging at their lips, they sat down next to Neville on the opposite end, close together. Briefly, Harry wondered why he hadn't seen Malfoy yet. The blonde Slytherin had come in and annoyed him ever since his First Year, and Harry couldn't help but wonder where he was. Now that he had his staff, he could finally scare the living daylights out of his rival. But, much to his regret, Harry was forced to live without Malfoy's interruption this year.

Sooner than he wanted, the train pulled into Hogsmeade station, and they were forced to disembark for the last leg of their journey.

As they exited the train, the sight and sound of Harry and his staff tapping along drew the attention of every Hogwarts student he passed. Harry ignored them all, his newfound confidence shrugging off their attention, and inquiring looks. Deep in his mind, he was aware of barriers being erected, leveling off his emotions, enabling him to remain calm.

Somewhere from behind him came the voice he had missed on the train.

"Compensating for something, Potter?" Draco Malfoy asked from behind him. Harry smirked, and turned.

"Not all of us are as obsessed as you are, Malfoy," he returned calmly. The Slytherin chuckled.

"And I am not the one walking around with a small tree."

Harry glanced at his staff. "I've read over the summer that a staff is more difficult to use than a wand. So, I wanted to give Voldemort a fighting chance, and use a staff." As Malfoy went red, Harry went on, "Of course, that also means that I am giving an advantage to you and your goons as well… but you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs."

Harry chuckled, turned, and walked off with a chuckle at the sight of a bright-red angry and speechless Malfoy. Neville, Ron, and Hermione were laughing openly, while Luna merely glanced at Harry with a small smile on her lips. As they reached the carriages, they picked one. Without thinking about it, Harry held out his hand, helping Luna inside before lifting himself up after her.

Without him knowing, amid the mass of stares and whispers, one girl had a thoughtful look on her face, which had replaced the look of surprise she had held first. She shook her head, and vanished in the crowd. She'd need to talk to Harry, and find out.

Did he realize what he was carrying, and the significance of it?

As Harry entered the Great Hall for the start of term feast, he found himself confronted by the sight he had tried his very best to ignore for the last couple of hours. Ever since his plan of hiding his sword had fallen to pieces, he had tried to come up with a decent way to keep his sword hidden.

He had not been successful.

Sighing, he took three quick steps and hid in the shadows, behind a conventiently placed suit of armor. He drew a breath. Here goes nothing, Potter. Are you a man, or are you a mouse?

There is nothing wrong with being a mouse on occassion, Maya returned easily, a cheeky smile audible in her voice.

Listening in to my thoughts, Maya-Senpai? He asked, returning a mental grin.

Only when you're practically shouting at yourself. It makes it pretty hard to ignore you, you know, she replied honestly.

Sorry, didn't mean to disturb you, he answered honestly.

No problem, Harry. Now... why would you be a man, or a mouse? She asked.

My plan of hiding my sword backfired. The cloack only hides it when I stand up. When I sit down, it looks... well, it shows.

He felt Maya nod to him through the mental connection they somehow shared. I see.

Now, I have but one choice. I can't let the sword out of my sight, he grunted. He noticed that the stream of students started to thin out. He had to get in there, soon. Drawing a breath, he said goodbye to Maya, and threw his robes open. Drawing his sword from his belt, he unhooked it, and pulled his robes closed. A single thought later had the dragonhide belt closed around his waist, and the sword tugged into it.

His right hand clenched around his staff, and he felt Maya riding with him, at the back of his mind. He smiled at her presence. Won't Ken-Sensei miss you?

I'm meditating, she answered levelly.

He bit back a snort and walked into the Great Hall, his staff tapping in concert with his confident strides, thankful for the balancing presence of Maya at the back of his mind.

The talking in the Hall slowly died out as more and more students saw Harry and focused the attention of themselves and their friends on him. Everyone watched him as he walked, quiet and confident, his staff in his right hand, and his left hand unconsciously on the hilt of the sword on his hip.

He sat down in the spot kept for him by his friends, leaning his staff against him and drawing the sheathed sword from his belt in a practiced swoop as he sat down, the powerful weapon leaning against him on his other side.

The teachers present had seen him enter, most looking at him in shock, and the hated Professor Snape glaring spitefully at him. Harry ignored them, and looked at his friends. Most of them stared at him with a shocked smile, amazed at his audacity to walk in here, with weapons bared.

Slowly, the start of term feast picked up once more. Professor McGonagall, Harry's Head of House, glared at him as she brought in the first years and noticed the weapons at his side. After the Sorting was done, and the Headmaster, Professor Dumbledore had done his customary speech at the start of the year, along with the introduction of Professor Slughorn as Potions teacher and Snape's transferral to Defense of the Dark arts, the Feast started.

No sooner had they started eating, than Minerva McGonagall strode over to the Gryffindor table. "You are expected in the Headaster's Office after dinner, Mr. Potter," she bit out, rather angrily, and made her way back to the head table without another word.

Dinner progressed somewhat slowly for Harry's tastes, even though he still put away more food than half his house... combined.

After dinner, he stood up, and excused himself to go to the Headmaster's office. As he walked out of the Great Hall, someone stopped him.

"Cho?" Harry asked, shocked that she would still talk to him. The beautiful Ravenclaw was Head Girl this year, a year his superior. After the fiasco that was his one date with her last year, he was sure she would never want to talk to him again.

"Harry," she said on a low tone, glancing around. "Can we talk? Privately?"

"Can this wait, Cho?" he asked. "I really need to go see the Headmaster."

She seemed to straighten. "Just answer me one thing... do you know the significance of what you are carrying, or are you merely playing with my people's legacy?"

Harry swallowed, never having seen Cho like this before. He straightened out. "I am well aware of what I am carrying, Cho. I will not forgive such a slight on my honor again," he retorted coldly, somehow knowing this was the correct thing to say. She deflated, and nodded.

"Then yes, it will wait," she whispered, bowing. "When would you have time for me?" she asked, her entire posture and vocal timbre changing to one of submissiveness. Harry pondered her question, not understanding what the attitude change was all about. He had his guesses, but he could not be sure.

"How about tonight?" he asked. "At nine?"

She nodded gratefully, smiling up at him as she bowed, and vanished in the throng of students rushing past. Harry shook his head, and entered the fray as well. Somehow, he was given a wide berth, most students preferring to talk about him behind his back.

And Harry ignored them. Their comments meant nothing to him anymore, and he could not care less if he tried.

What he did care about was Cho's odd behavior, and his walk to the Headmaster's office was spent debating it with himself. He had felt Maya leave during the Feast, and he missed having her around. He could use her input in this... he was sure it was some sort of Far East thing he hadn't picked up through Ken's heavy tutoring.

He reached the office, and found himself stopped by the Stone Gargoyle guarding the stairs. He had no password, and thus could not enter.

"Acid Pops," McGonagall snapped from behind him, the Gargoyle instantly moving aside. "Come along, Potter."

Harry swallowed. McGonagall hardly ever called him by just his last name. He was in serious trouble; he only wished that he didn't know why. His shields strengthening in place, he calmed his raging nerves. Of course he knew why he was here, there was no reason to be nervous.

"Sit down," his Head of House grunted angrily, sitting down on an empty seat herself. Harry sat down in the only chair on the opposite side of the Headmaster's desk.

"I assume you know why you're here?" McGonagall asked.

He looked at her, and he could see that his calm behavior was making her even more angry. "I assume it is because of the items I have chosen to carry with me." He astonished even himself with his words. Was this the result of his shields blocking his emotions? Somehow, he had been able to use the big words with Dumbledore as well, when he had needed them.

"My dear boy," Dumbledore said. "A staff we could permit, but a sword is a weapon, and weapons are not permitted within Hogwarts."

Harry nodded. "I understand, but this is not just a weapon," he said, calm as ever.

"It is a sword, is it not?" McGonagall double-teamed him. He nodded. She stood up, and held out one hand. "Give it here, Potter."

"I don't think that is a good idea, Professor," Harry said. "You see..."

"Now, you see here, Potter. You are in violation of the rules of Hogwarts. We are within our rights to expel you. Do you understand? We could expel you for this! Now don't make it harder on yourself, and hand over the sword."

Harry stood up, and for the first time, he showed emotion. It was not fear, however. No, his green eyes shone with anger. "Nobody touches this sword, but me," he said, his voice tightly controlled, left hand curled closed around the sheath of his sword, directly beneath the cross-guard. As he had stood up, his staff had remained leaning against his chair, and Harry now glanced at it. Taking it wouldnow be seen as drawing his wand. He could not risk it.

"Give... me... the sword, Potter!" McGonagall said, one hand outstretched.

Harry closed his eyes. So they would not listen. Harry drew a breath. Very well. He hefted the sword up with his left hand, and spun it around, letting the end of it slap into his right hand, holding the sheathed weapon horizontally in front of him. "If you must, then take it. But remember that I warned you."

As McGonagall reached for it, a shout stopped her. "Do not touch that weapon, Minerva!"

McGonagall stared at Dumbledore. "Albus?"

Albus Dumbledore remained, watching Harry. "It took me this long to see... dear boy, what have you done?"

Harry turned his head slowly and looked at the Headmaster. "What I had to do."

"That weapon, Minerva, is a Soulbound. Had you touched it, it would have had nefarious consequences."

Harry nodded. "Yet you would not listen."

"Harry, please," Dumbledore said. "Show me one thing... can you draw the sword?"

Harry glanced at the Headmaster, and flipped the sword over. Somehow, he realized that he would be able to draw it here and now. It would be a draw of desperation, of will over matter. It would not be the First Draw, the Draw that would bind him to his weapon. He was not yet ready, but that did not mean that the weapon would abandon him here, should he need it.

His right hand curled around the handle. He closed his eyes.

And let out his breath. He lowered the sword. "No. A sword should be drawn only to shed blood. To draw a sword is to draw blood. I will not draw my sword unless the situation calls upon it."

McGonagall stared from one to the other, and back to the one. "Who are you, and what have you done to Harry Potter?" she asked.

Harry glanced at her. "I was forced to grow up. To learn. To mature. Yes, I bound a sword to me. It was not meant to be as such, but it happened. And now I can not leave it, nor can it leave me. And I will not draw unless necessary, as that is what it means to carry a blade."

Dumbledore nodded. "I am glad to see the lessons you took over the summer are blossoming within you, although I am saddened that you did not confide in me who it is that has taught you so wonderfully."

"They respect me and my privacy, and I will do the same for them," Harry returned evenly, feeling his shields maintain integrity. Somehow, he had expected Dumbledore to try Legilimency on him. Within seconds he realized that he had demonstrated his ability to shield himself over the summer. Dumbledore was brilliant, he would not have forgotten.

The Headmaster nodded. "You have shown maturity, Harry. I trust you will carry yourself in the school as you have carried yourself in this office... please return to your friends. I am sure they have lots of questions."

"Albus!"

Dumbledore nodded to him, and Harry left. The last thing he heard before the door to the office slipped shut was Dumbledore explaining the theory of a Soulbound to Minerva McGonagall. Somehow, knowing he performed magic that his Head of House had not yet heard of filled him with pride.

Casting a quick tempus, he checked the time, and realized that he had ample time to get to the library in time to meet Cho. Or, he could go back to the Common Room, gather his friends, try and get a message to Luna in the Ravenclaw Common Room, and then go meet Cho. He was sure she had a lot of questions... questions his friends may not have asked, but sure would like to know the answers to.

He nodded to himself, and set out for the Common Room. They would still need to learn Occlumency before he would divulge any of his secrets. He did not trust Snape and his mind-reading abilities any more than he trusted Dumbledore. As he walked, he berated himself for letting the old man know about the sword. Now he knew that Harry had a Soulbound sword with him... he sighed, letting his anger at himself drain from his mind's shields.

At least the man knew about Soulbounds, and he was now allowed to carry it out in the open. Still tapping his staff on the ground as he walked, he grinned at himself. It was actually fun to walk with this thing. Now he knew why a lot of trekkers used a walking stick. Having something else touch the ground added to the sense of balance.

Plus, all he would need to do was lift it off the ground, and it would not make any more sound than a wand would. He entered the Common Room, and left barely five minutes later with a group of people around him. Ron and Hermione he had pulled away from their Prefect duties, Ron a lot more willing than Hermione. The promise of more questions answered solved her dilemma quite easily.

Neville came along willingly, still impressed with some of the stuff Harry had told him during the train ride. A lot of other people had wanted to come and ask questions. Harry's entrance in the Great Hall was not inconscpicious and a lot of people wanted to know. Harry had ignored them all. He had made a small exception for Ginny, Ron's younger sister. He had saved her from a Basilisk when he was in his second year. It had been her first year.

He didn't say much, and the group fell quiet soon after, realizing they weren't going to get any answers out of Harry when he was all introspective. His eyes literally were focused on infinity, and it would be doubtful that he could see where he was going.

He thought more and more about how this year was going to be. He was doing a lot of that recently, he realized... he never was a thinker, that was more Hermione's job. But after Sirius' death, and after meeting Ken and getting the first decent education he had gotten since he started magic school, he had changed. He had changed big time.

As the group halted in front of the Ravenclaw Common Room, without a password, the group realized one thing.

How would they get a message to Luna?

As luck would have it, the door opened, and a young Ravenclaw was coming out. They boy stopped as he realized he was facing a whole bunch of Gryffindor upperclassmen, and stood there, gaping at them like a fish out of water.

Especially as the Harry Potter was standing at the front of the group, sword on hip and staff in hand. "Hi," Harry said, in what he hoped was his most disarming tone. "Could you get a message to Luna Lovegood? Can you ask her to come out here? We need to speak with her."

The second year nodded dumbly, turned, and vanished back inside.

Barely five minutes later, the door opened again, and Luna came out, a dreamy look on her face. "Hello," she said airily, looking at each in turn. "Harry, Ronald, Neville, Ginevra, Hermione."

"Hello Luna," Harry greeted right back, grinning. "We're about to meet with Cho in the library. She seems like she has a lot of questions, and figured something out about me from just looking at my staff and my sword."

Luna seemed to appraise him. "Of course," he added, "if you're too busy warding against Gorlacks, I can understand."

She shrugged. "I've done my warding at the end of last year," she answered with brutal honesty. "All it took was some maintenance." Hermione was almost bursting, Ron was goggling, Neville was smiling, just playing along, and Ginny was laughing at the expressions on the faces of Ron and Hermione.

"Great!" Harry said, grinning. "Then you'll come with us?"

Luna nodded dreamily, and joined the group in their walk to the library. For a brief moment, Harry wondered how Madam Pince, the Librarian, would react to seeing such a large group of people enter her domain. He ingored the question, the library was a meeting place, and it was doubtful that they would be staying. Judging from Cho's reaction, there might be shouting this evening. He hoped that he had at least alayed her fears that he was doing it as an insult of some kind.

They arrived at the library, and Harry quickly located Cho, who was doing her very best to look inconspicuous, sitting by herself and reading a large book. As Harry sat down, and everyone else grabbed extra chairs, she looked up from her book.

He said nothing, merely sat there and looked at the pretty Asian girl. Finally, she bowed her head. "Thank you for coming," she whispered. It was still a library, after all.

Harry dipped his head. "You had me curious... but maybe we shouldn't be having this conversation here. How about we go and find ourselves an empty classroom?"

She shrugged. "Whatever you want to do, Harry," she answered honestly, and it sounded very different from the usually confident Cho Chang, Head Girl, Quidditch Player, and Ravenclaw Top Student.

He nodded, and stood up, shooting a strange glance at her, reflecting the confusion he felt at her subservience. The rest of the group stared as well, and followed Harry out of the library. The first empty classroom they came across, they entered.

Regardless of the curiosity everybody felt, nobody said a word, neither to Harry or to Cho, both lost in thoughts. As soon as they entered the empty room, Harry closed it and threw a locked charm at it.

"So, Cho," Harry said, sitting down in one of the empty seats; the others arranging themselves neatly around him. "What did you want to talk to me about?"

Cho Chang swallowed, and nodded, still looking at the ground. "You obviously know the importance and the meaning of what you carry," she said, still in a near-whisper. "But... did you really..." she looked up.

Harry thought for a few moments about what she meant before nodding, understanding what she was asking. "Yes."

Cho finally sat down. "Wow," she whispered.

"Ehm... for those of us who have no idea what you're talking about... what?" Ron asked.

"He's an Apprentice," Cho snapped at him. She then looked back at Harry and her face softened, before glancing down at the desk she was sitting behind. "It means that Harry was accepted by a Master. It is the traditional method of learning in most far-eastern countries and societies. My mother and father tried to place me with a master... but I was not accepted by the Chinese masters. I live in Britain, I was raised in Western Society. I was rejected." she swallowed, obviously against a lump that had formed in her throat.

"I'm sorry, Cho," Harry said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I didn't want to bring up bad memories."

She shook her head. "You were accepted, Harry. You should show your status. You shouldn't concern yourself with my pitiful emotions." She looked up at him. "Can I... can I see your sword?" she asked.

Harry frowned at first, but he realized that her hands were still on the desk. She was not asking to touch it... she was asking precisely what she had said, to see it. His left hand lifted his sword out of his belt, scabbard and all.

"Hey now! You won't let anybody else see it!" Ron said.

"You wanted to touch it," Harry said, shrugging. "Nobody touches my sword but me." Cho, meanwhile, stared at the weapon.

"A Katana," she whispered. She glanced up at Harry's face. "You were accepted by a Japanese master?"

Harry nodded. "C-can I know?" she asked timidly.

The boy sighed. He wanted to keep the privacy of his teacher. But this was Cho. She knew of what he was, of what he had become. "Mahou mo Ken," he finally said.

The Asian girl paled, and her mouth opened and closed a few times. "You were accepted by Mahou mo Ken-sama?" (a/n: -sama is a Japanese suffix, attached to a name to indicate great respect. It would be like calling someone 'lord' or 'lady' in English, although it is not just used for nobility. The suffix is used for anyone a certain person feels is worthy of great respect)

Harry nodded. "I won't tell much more than that... you obviously know her, but I will not disclose anything that will go against the privacy of my Sensei."

Cho nodded. "U-understood," she whispered.

Now it was Hermione who burst in. "Hey now! You haven't told us her name! And who is this Mahou mo Ken? Why is she so important? Judging from Cho's reaction, she isn't just any person."

Cho glanced at Harry, then frowned harshly at Hermione. "Harry has asked to respect the privacy of his teacher, and I will do so," she replied, somewhat harsher than her usual voice. "However, I will say this. Mahou mo Ken is to Asian culture who Albus Dumbledore is to you Westerners." She glanced at Harry, and saw that he was calm, not angry at her words as she had feared. "If you want to know more about her, you won't find out from me. Harry's wishes have to be respected."

"Why are you so doting on Harry all of a sudden?" Ron asked. "Last year, you couldn't get rid of him fast enough, and now you follow his every word!"

Cho shot him a glare. "This isn't about personal likes or dislikes," she said, somewhat coldly. "Harry is an Apprentice. He will be a Master some day. He's our better, we should listen to his words."

"Hey now," Harry said. "I'm nobody's better! I'm still just Harry Potter!"

"Forgive me, but you are not just Harry Potter," Cho interrupted, as respectfully as she could without raising her voice. "Your actions reflect on your teacher, and your teacher reflects down upon you. One should treat you as one would treat your master. To dishonor you is to bring dishonor on your teacher." She swallowed. "And to bring dishonor on your teacher, Harry, is something most people would not even contemplate."

Harry shrugged. "Just treat me as you would treat me normally," he said. "That's all I want."

Cho swallowed, and glanced at his face once more, and smiled slightly. "Thank you, Harry."

Ron grunted under his breath, but it was Hermione who asked the next question. "From what you said, you weren't raised like that... why are you still following Eastern philosophy?"

"I would have loved to be an Apprentice," Cho said. "To be raised by a teacher, to be taught by a teacher, to live and breathe and learn as the teacher does. To be accepted into the teacher's family, it is one of the greatest honors that one could have in Eastern culture. The number of true masters is limited, and so is the number of apprentices. Most teachers take only one Apprentice at a time, and train three, maybe four Apprentices in their lifetime."

She looked at Harry. "Didn't Mahou mo Ken-sama already have an Apprentice?"

Harry dipped his head. "I am her second Apprentice."

Cho shook her head, and smiled. "You are so lucky, Harry."

"Another question, Cho," Hermione said, curiosity still not abated. "You said your parents are Chinese, and you were raised with Chinese traditions... then how come you know Harry's Japanese teacher?"

Cho smiled slightly. "Eastern wizards didn't let pesky geographical borders stop them. They pulled together. Languages may differ, but after what happened in recent history, we learned that there was more uniting us then there were muggle barriers dividing us."

"I see you're also using that word," Harry said, sounding sad.

Cho looked at him, and her mouth sagged open. "I'm sorry, Harry. After years in western society, I forgot." she sighed. "The things that unite Eastern wizards are greater than the non-magical barriers that divide us. We leave the non-magical governments and economical situations out of things, and we get along just fine. After the second world war, we had no other choice."

"Maybe we should do that over here as well," Harry grunted under his breath. "Instead of fighting each other, help each other. The way Ken-Sensei did," he said.

"We should," Cho agreed immediately. "Harry," she said, turning back to him with a question in her eyes. "What exactly are you learning? I know so little of Eastern magics, just that they are so different from Western ones." She sighed then. "My parents wouldn't teach me... without a master, they said, I wouldn't be able to learn them the way they were meant to be learned."

Harry nodded. "They are vastly different," he said, then let out his breath. "But I can't talk about them to you..." As he saw her face fall, he pressed. "Come to the next DA meeting. I'll start teaching everyone, who still wants to be in it, Occlumency. I won't explain anything to a person who doesn't have Occlumency shields. There are too many people about who will read my secrets from your minds."

Cho swallowed, and nodded. "If I learn Occlumency, you will teach me?"

"I will teach everybody who wants to know," he promised. "But only after they have protected their minds."

"I think I can accept that," Cho said, standing up. The rest got up as well; it was getting rather late, and they should be going back to their Common Rooms. For the rest of the evening, Harry spoke hardly a word, lost in thoughts and in a world of his own.

His friends left him, knowing that a lot was going on in his mind, and Harry turned in early.

Instead of going to sleep, however, he closed the drapes around his four-poster bed, and sat down, cross-legged, on top of the covers. His closed his eyes, and meditated.

The blackness overtook him, and he focused outward. He wanted to know what Hogwarts looked like to his new senses. Looking through his mental eyes, he was stunned to see the magic brim and shimmer in everything he saw.

Something drew his attention, and Harry shifted his focus. The blackness overtook him once more, and slowly, something blurred into focus.

Almost, he lost his concentration. Three of them. Great Merlin's Beard... Hogwarts is built on top of a congregation of three Ley Lines! For a moment, he lost his sight of the Lines, before it flowed back into focus, the mythical combination point of three Ley Lines. The one in Surrey was but a thread compared to these three, and for a moment, Harry felt the urge to tap them, to see and feel the power for himself.

He resisted. He smiled slightly to himself... it had taken him many long minutes of focus to see the Line back in Surrey the first time since his nearly disastrous tapping of the Line the first time. Since then, it had gotten progressively easier, but he had resisted the urge to tap into it, knowing the power that it contained. He needed to know more, first. And as long as he didn't know for sure he wasn't going to end up like he had the first time, he refused to channel its power.

He told himself he would go into the library tomorrow, and see if he couldn't borrow some books on Druidism. He was lucky enough to know where to look... somehow, he suspected Ken's knowledge was responsible for this, be he wasn't sure. And he most assuredly didn't care how he knew.

After a relaxing training session in his mindscape later that night, Harry had about five hours of well-deserved slumber. After that... a new day was afoot, and new challenges awaited him.

All the teachers knew of Harry's staff, his sword, and the fact that Harry could not be separated from either weapon.

Harry was perfectly glad to let school slip him by, he was certain that no matter what he did, he would still end up somewhere. Ken was training him too well for him not to.

However, it was not to be. When Professor McGonagall handed out the schedules, she had a word to say to Harry.

More than one word, in fact.

He didn't mind, and just let her words flow over him. It was a mental exercise he had learned from Ken. Called the Calm of the Lake, he projected his own emotional state like a mountain lake, and her words were merely the wind that rustled the surface of his calm, cool, waters.

First, he had a free period, and then came the class he was least looking forward to... Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Professor Snape.

Harry drew a breath, well in time before class started. After the Professor rudely ordered them inside, Harry felt as if the light was being sucked out of the room.

As the teacher struck off a speech about the Dark Arts, which sounded too much like he liked the Dark Arts instead of the defense against them, he started walking through the class. Harry, as he had taken to do, had his sword leaning against his desk, right next to him; his staff was leaning against his side, should he need it.

As Snape walked by, the hated professor hooked his foot behind the staff, and kicked it away. "Whoops," he said, not sounded apologetic at all. "I guess that this comes with me, Potter. No clutter in the pathways."

Harry's eyes narrowed when he saw the Professor take his staff.

Ron, sitting next to him, physically pulled back when he saw Harry's body tremble. The Calm of the Lake was now a raging storm, maelstroms whipped up by the gale-force winds.

Harry stood up. "To me!" he barked out, outstretching his hand. The staff glowed white, vanished from Snape's grip, and appeared in Harry's hand, who clenched it, turned it tip-down, and closed his eyes.

As he sat down, the jammed the staff down, and magic crackled over the ground, balancing the staff upright on its tip, without damaging the floor.

"Detention, Potter," Snape snarled.

Harry glared at the man. "Fine."

Snape's upper lip curled away from his teeth, and Harry felt something tingle. Snape looked confused for just a moment, and then smirked devilishly. "Trying to shield your thoughts, Potter?" he asked with a vicious glint in his eyes. Faster than anyone had thought possible, the man had snapped out his wand, and snarled "Legilimens!"

Harry staggered in his seat, feeling his outer shields crumble like wax paper under the Professor's onslaught. He didn't mind much... his outer shields were detection-based, not defense-based, and crumbling was their purpose. He drew a breath, held it, and focused. His mental hands jammed on the Big Red Button in the middle of the Headmaster's office of his Mental Hogwarts. He felt a thrill shoot through his mind, as his Occlumency shifted gears, going from defense to offense.

The moat, still filled with inflammable liquids, ignited.

In the Real World, Snape staggered, actually grabbing hold of a chair to keep himself upright.

"Potter!"

"Trying to read my mind isn't as easy as it was last year, is it, Professor?" Harry asked, calmly, somehow feeling an incredible calm settling over him. He had done it! He had kept Snape out of his mind!

"As we're discussing nonverbal magic," Snape snarled, "How about a demonstration, Potter?" he snapped out his wand, throwing a nonverbal hex at Harry.

Harry snapped out of the way of the spell, making it hit his desk. He flowed to his legs, his staff coming off the ground without hesitation. He was glad of Ken's extra training, and her teachings. They had made him fast, even if the entire class was now watching him with looks that ranged from awe to fear.

"You tried to hex me," Harry whispered.

Snape's look was murderous. He snapped out one hex, and then a second, right after.

Harry dodged the first one, and decided not to give away all his secrets. He blocked the second one on a Protego shield he cast verbally, using Western Magic. "We were discussing nonverbal magic, Potter."

Fool. I could rip you to pieces, Harry thought, feeling his new-found confidence flare. Closing his eyes, he drew a deep breath, and released it. Another hex came flying at him. Harry's hand clenched around his staff, and spun it around, deviating Snape's spell into the ground right next to him, feeling the amount of effort it required of him to deviate a spell of such strength. Or rather, he slammed it into the ground, using brute force to do so, knowing fully well that his skills in magical deviation were a mess.

Snape's eyes went wide, recognizing the motion. "Who taught you to do that?" he asked with an angry scowl on his face.

Harry's eyes opened, and his left hand was held out. His sword came to it with hardly a thought. "The same person who taught me to use the sword, as well as the staff," he whispered. He sat down. Snape stood there, staring for close to ten seconds at the boy, then shook his head and resumed his lesson, shooting a suspicious look at Harry the entire time. Harry, for his part, ignored the looks and focused on the lessons.

That night, after half an hour of private meditation, he found himself in his mindscape, with Ken and Maya with him.

"So, you kept that bastard out?" Maya said, grinning, after exchanging pleasantries. She, of course, had seen everything through the link she shared with Harry, and had shown it to their teacher as soon as it was over and she had verified that Harry was alright.

Harry nodded. "My Occlumency behaved admirably... and when I switched into high gear, I could actually see him stagger!" Harry was grinning widely, his eyes shining with excitement. "It was incredible!"

While Maya complimented him, Harry saw Ken nod in satisfaction, a pleased smile on her face. "You did well, Harry. Your shields have grown quite strong, and with your daily exercises, your mind is developing as well. I wouldn't be surprised if you would be able to draw your sword any day now," Ken said finally, and glanced at Hogwarts Castle, noticing details that weren't present the first time, or even the second time he had rebuilt his mind. "The level of detail is increasing."

Harry nodded, stepping up next to his teacher. "I know. I can feel it... I'm calmer than I've ever been. But I still lost my temper when he grabbed my staff."

Ken nodded. "That is to be expected. He took your magical weapon away. And even though we can not bind it in the same way we can bind a sword, it is still a very personal item. Of course you lost your temper over it." She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Do not worry about it. Just be thankful that it stopped where it did... you managed to surprise him, and he backed off. But remember... had he been serious, and aware of your abilities, he could have hurt you severely. Western Magic has its own potency."

Harry nodded. "I wouldn't have been able to keep bending his spells away."

"Not unless your power can overcome his," Ken said. "And it is a good point you make. Today, let's train more in magical manipulation." As Harry nodded, Ken went on, "Have you tried to use what I have taught you in your regular classes? To help with the manipulation of magic that your teachers are demanding of you?"

"I've tried, Sensei," Harry said. "But the elemental aspects are still beyond me... I still can't figure it out completely."

Ken nodded. "I have provided you with knowledge, most of which is still hidden. I did not, and can not, transfer a complete manual into you, nor can I give you a set of ready-to-use skills. You must develop the skills by yourself. But, at lest you tried." Harry looked up at her. It was strange how different she was from his other teachers; no teacher he had ever had was as encouraging as Ken was, no other had ever told him it was okay to fail, as long as he got up and tried again, and again, and again, until he succeeded. Harry swallowed. That was exactly what he would do. There was no way he would give up now.

Not after all the hard work Ken had put into him. His teacher nodded at him when she saw his resolve. "Good. Keep trying, Harry. You will succeed. And then, you will understand the nature of the spells better than most of the people you will ever meet in combat. And understanding of a thing will alleviate fear of that thing, and will enable you to defeat that thing."

Harry nodded once more, understanding what she meant. "Ken-Sensei, I have a question." He sighed. Ken remained silent, looking at him. He didn't usually ask permission to ask a question, and Ken realized that this must be a big thing for her newest student.

"In school, I have a study group, called the Defense Association, the DA... basically, a group of students that I teach defensive spells." He swallowed. "I wondered... how much of what you teach me here can I try and teach them?"

Ken was silent for a few moments, before nodding. "You can try and teach them anything you want, Harry. I would advise against teaching them Soul-binding, but that should not stop you from teaching those arts to those you think are ready." Once again, he found her hand on his shoulder. "You are a very responsible young man, Harry. Most people your age would hoard their skills, better themselves, and hold those skills above the rest. I am proud to be your teacher."

"T-thank you, Sensei," Harry whispered, hearing words to those effects for the first time in his life.

Ken dipped her head. "Now, if I may make a suggestion, try and teach your students how to defend their minds first. Then you can relate all of your secrets to them. Full disclosure, trust, is very important between teacher and students. After you teach them to defend their minds, you have my permission to relate any and all information to them you think is necessary."

Harry nodded again. "Thank you, Sensei."

Ken smiled, lifted her hand off his shoulder. "Now... let's start today's lesson. Magic manipulation in a fun way. Maya?"

Maya smiled, and nodded. "This is a game Sensei and I play... it's what has taught me to bend spells away. It's called spellis, like tennis, only with a spell."

Harry frowned, then shrugged. Whatever the game was, as long as it taught him new things, it was okay in his book. He could see in Maya's mind what the court looked like, and soon, there was a spellis court next to the lake at Hogwarts. Shaped like a rectangle, almost like a tennis court without the added lines for double-play, it sported just one line down the center, halving the court.

Maya and Harry each stood at one end, facing each other, the line separating them instead of a net. "Okay, bro," Maya said, slipping into English, "The rules are simple. One of us has the serve. Meaning, they can shoot the spell and start the game. The spell can not leave the court by the side-lines. If it does, the other person gets a point. If the spell goes over the baselines, the shooter gets a point. Point of the game is to use the correct magic-manipulation to shoot the spell back to the other side of the court, while not letting it touch the ground."

Harry nodded. That sounded simple enough. Maya went on. "The Serve changes with the points. The person who loses a point can serve. Oh, and hitting the opponent is the same as having your spell go over the baseline, means you get a point."

Maya grinned. "Best of all, the magic manipulation adds speed and power to the spell as it is 'deflected' back and forth. After a while, it goes very fast, and packs quite a punch. Usually, a mild tickling spell is used... but every now and then, Sensei and I use explosion or blast curses. Adds a whole new dimension to the game when the spell is quite capable of taking your head off. Excellent for teaching spell-deflection for under combat conditions."

Harry nodded, then thought of something. "Hey! Does that mean, you could have reflected all my spells back at me during our sparring match?"

Maya shrugged, and gave him a saucy grin. As Harry shook his head, she laughed. "You'll figure out, Harry, that not all spells can be returned from where they came. Some can, some can't. And some can't be deflected at all. Like your Unforgivable Curses."

"Hey... MY Unforgivable Curses?" Harry asked.

"They're not unforgivable in Japan," Maya said, shrugging. "Magic is magic. You either outlaw all, or you outlaw nothing. A killing curse can be used to put someone out of his misery, or to hunt something. There's no reason to outlaw a spell... it is enough to outlaw the results. All deaths by magic are treated the same way."

Harry glanced at Ken, who nodded. Harry smiled, and shook his head. It sounded so logical, now that he thought about it. "Now," Maya said. "Are we going to stand here and talk your night away, or are we going to play spellis?"

Harry shrugged. "Let's play."

It took him nearly an hour before he managed to get the spell back to Maya's side of the court. Magical Manipulation was nowhere as easy as he thought it would be. Deflecting a spell to his left or right was easy enough, but to reflect it back to her side of the court, totally reverting its course, that was something else entirely. Harry gritted his teeth. This was just another obstacle for him to overcome, and overcome it he would.

00000

The week slipped by at a fast pace, Harry's mind too occupied with other things to really stand still and realize just how much work he had on his plate. During the days, there were endless classes, most of them focusing on nonverbal incantations now, and endless assignments of homework. He was glad he didn't have to take Potions anymore. He could always get an extra course later, should he need the subject after defeating Voldemort.

If he was still alive, that was.

At night, there was his customary half-hour to full-hour of meditation before lessons with Ken. And even though his Japanese teacher no longer pushed him for more than two hours a night, he still felt the effects the next day.

And then, it was Saturday, and he found himself in front of the students in the Defense Association, minus a couple of notable absences. Mariette Edgecombe, who had betrayed them last year, was not present. The unflattering hex Hermione had embedded into the document they had all signed last year was still irreversible, apparently. Also missing was Zacharias Smith, but he had never been the most positive about the DA.

In fact, Harry was rather surprised by the amount of people that had still showed up. He hadn't expected so many of them to still be interested, but he guessed the impression he had made had to account for something.

"Thank you all for coming," Harry said, letting the surprise show in his voice. He drew a breath while the group muttered. "This year, things will be a little different," he began, "Over the summer, I have been learning many things, things I am still learning right now. And those are the things that I will be teaching you." He drew another breath. "But not yet."

He ignored their startled outcries and the indignant responses. "First, you will all need to learn to protect what I'm going to teach you. You all need to learn Occlumency." He turned to Hermione and Ron, standing next to him. "Even my best friends didn't get a word out of me before they learned. So, the first thing I will be teaching you is Occlumency. It will make sure nobody can read your minds... like well-meaning Headmasters or Greasy Potions and Defense Teachers, and then I will begin to teach you some of the new things I've learned over the summer."

"And what if we can't learn Occlumency?" Justin Flinch-Fletchly asked.

Harry sighed, he had thought a long time about this, and the answer wasn't really what he wanted it to be. "Then we will work on it until you can. I don't expect you to be masters. I just want you to be able to defend yourself long enough to either get help, activate a Portkey, or snap off a curse to deter the bastard trying to read your mind from trying again. And as long as you can't do that... I can't show you these secrets." They were muttering angrily now.

Harry understood, he was angry with himself as well. "Please, it's that important." He lifted his empty hand. "I don't want Voldemort to find out about these skills, so I must keep them a secret. And showing off that I have a staff and a sword is one thing, but actually teaching you guys to do the same thing... if that falls into Voldemort's hands, the results are catastrophic."

The group calmed down, introspective now, beginning to understand how important this was... as well as how dangerous it was what they were doing. Harry was going to teach them defense, he was going to teach them to take care of themselves, and he was going to do it because there was an insane lunatic out there who wanted to kill them, their friends, and their families, just because of it. The muttering slowly died down as they pulled themselves together.

Harry nodded, glad to see that they were listing to his words, and that none of them was going to give up. "Great!" he said. "First things first... let me show you how to meditate. It's a non-magical practice, it helps to sharpen to mind."

The lesson was calm and peaceful as Harry taught them to meditate. Somehow, the purebloods didn't mind the practice as much as he had feared. He guessed calling it 'nonmagical' rather than 'Muggle' didn't make it sound as bad.

Breaking for lunch, the entire group made their way to the Great Hall to strengthen their inner human. Fully intending to go back to the Room of Requirement after lunch, the Trio sat down for lunch, waiting for the food to appear.

In came Malfoy, alone and bereft of his usual bodyguards. He looked rather tired, Harry thought, and he frowned.

"What is it, Harry?" Ron asked. "I know that frown. You're thinking about something again."

"Malfoy," Harry replied, honestly. "He hasn't made any comments, he's late for meals, and so forth. I think he's up to something."

"Who's to say he hasn't changed?" Hermione asked. "Just because he's not being his usual obnoxious self doesn't mean that he's up to something."

"You heard him on the first day, Hermione," Harry said. "He was still being his own self. Only, he's doing something else... I'm sure of it." His eyes squinted at Malfoy, who was just shoveling food now, not even talking or joking or making derogatory comments about Harry and his friends. It unnerved Harry, it was just so wrong for the Malfoy Heir. As lunch ended, and Malfoy was about to slip out of the Great Hall, Harry was there to intercept him, contrary to Hermione who kept trying to stop him.

"Malfoy."

"Potter," Draco Malfoy returned coldly. "What do you want?"

Now Harry was sure something was up. "I want to know what you've been doing. Something is up, and don't bother denying it. No bodyguards, late at meals, and, oh yeah, lack of targeting me and mine." He started out light and easy, but as he said 'me and mine', Harry's tone seemed to drop to the antarctic regions of frigidity.

Malfoy looked down and away, and grunted. "Why would something be up?"

"Because you've had it in me for five years, that's why. I know you, Malfoy. This isn't like you, and I know you're up to no good." He drew a breath. "What is that half-blood master of yours up to now?"

Harry ignored the muttering of the students around them, most of which had seen Harry accost Malfoy right outside of the Great Hall, and were now sticking around to see the end of this. Malfoy did not disappoint them. Faster than they thought possible, his wand was in his hand.

"One of these days, Potter, your big mouth is going to get yourself killed!" The Malfoy heir screamed.

Harry grinned. "If he can't kill me, Malfoy, what makes you think that you can?" He asked with a sneer.

Draco's wand came up, and wordless curse left it. Harry, ever-ready thanks to intensive late-night training sessions with Ken and Maya, side-stepped the clumsy too-fast curse. "You want to fight me now, Malfoy?" Harry asked, a dangerous glint in his eyes. He threw his staff sideways. Ron caught it without a second thought. Harry reached in his left sleeve, touched the release for his quick draw holster, and withdrew his wand.

"I am not going to dirty my staff on the likes of you," Harry grunted under his breath, feeling the wand pulse in his hand. As Malfoy cast again, Harry flung his wand around, throwing the spell off to one side, deflecting it harmlessly into a wall.

Harry realized right there and then what the difference was between a staff and a wand. The wand, shorter, and infused with a magical substance, was the Western goal of magic: brute force, with very little control. At the same while, his staff was the Eastern philosophy embodied: less in brute strength, but tremendous control. As he returned a spell, and felt the magic blast out of his wand, shattering Draco's hurriedly-constructed shield and catapult him back, back into the Great Hall, Harry grinned.

"Attacking me, Malfoy, is a huge mistake. I have learned and studied. I am not your frightened opponent I was in the last five years. Give it up, Malfoy, you can't beat me. Just tell me what I want to know. What are you up to?"

Draco snarled, jumped up, and loosed a flurry of spells at Harry, who scoffed, and deviated them all away, without harming anyone. Harry returned a single spell, a Petrificus Totalus full body-bind he cast in total silence, freezing Malfoy on the spot, regardless of the shield he had up.

"See?" Harry asked, walking around the Draco statue, realizing at once that everyone was staring at him. He glanced at the Head table, at which sat only Dumbledore. He was glad that the other teachers were already away. As he saw the Headmaster get up, he realized that he was still in trouble, but at least he was sure of fair treatment at the hand of the Headmaster.

Harry waved his hand, wordlessly, and without wand, removing the Body-bind. The Headmaster was slowly walking toward them, and Harry put his wand away. Draco fell to the ground after the Body-Bind released. Harry ignored him.

Draco, now released from the body-bind, but still angry, aimed his wand at Harry's back, and whispered a curse.

Half of the present students yelled, but not before Harry had already started to move away, making the spell miss. Unfortunately, the Headmaster was still approaching, and he was now in the direct path of the spell. Quick as lightning, Harry's wand was in his hand, and it whipped around in a sickeningly quick motion. The spell exploded up, and hit the enchanted ceiling, which crackled angrily as it dissipated the spell.

Harry's face was furious, and he motioned with his free hand to Ron. The staff was thrown to him, and he put his wand away. Totally forgetting the stunned look on the headmaster's face as he threw the spell off-course, totally forgetting that the man was even there, Harry flung around and glared at Malfoy. "Shooting in the back now, Malfoy? You sniveling little coward! Let me show you just what I am capable of!"

Harry jerked his staff, and Malfoy found himself on his feet.

"Thirty seconds, Malfoy. I'm giving you thirty seconds to land a spell on me. After that, my turn. And I will destroy you with three spells," Harry snarled, his entire body raging. Dumbledore walked closer, intent on stopping the fight, when Malfoy snarled, and started shooting off spells.

Harry just stood there, and let them come. At the last moment, he deviated them, throwing them into the ground, the air, or the walls, at all times away from himself or any of the other students. He knew better than to return them... he still wasn't very good at Spellis, and this was a battle.

He grinned slightly, remembering how Maya had once humiliated him in a similar fashion. He hoped it would be enough to get Malfoy to confess whatever it was he was up to.

As the spells continued to come, and he continued to deviate them, Harry started to whisper. Splitting his focus was harder than he thought it would be; and his respect for Maya and Ken went up again.

Under his breath, he muttered, knowing he was nearing the thirty-second limit. "Carriage of thunder, chasm of a spinning wheel, divide this light into six." He felt the Kidou, the demon arts, take hold within him, and he knew that he had successfully activated the incantation.

"Thirty seconds," Harry muttered, jerking his staff in Draco's direction. "Kuzuryusen!" the nine flashes of magic caught everybody by surprise, and a too-angry-to-care Harry ignored the fact that everyone could see him do Japanese magic.

The nine flashes broke through the Protego-shield Draco had up, and flung him back, precisely as Harry had wanted. His empty left hand jerked in the boy's direction. "Ways of Binding, number sixty-one. Six rods Prison of Light!"

Six flashes of light penetrated Draco's torso, arms, and legs, holding him in place. Draco, never one to have a tan, grew paler still when he felt Harry's magic grip him. In a corner of his mind, Draco started to wonder if Harry knew how much power he had, and whether he realized that everyone in the room could feel it. And a second thought formed itself into a doubt. Could it be, that Potter actually would be able to win against the Dark Lord?

Harry snarled, bringing his staff up, and cupping his left hand behind the head. In mindscape, he always had tremendous difficulty with this spell, but he had to learn it at some point. And better here, against Draco, then in a fight for his life against Voldemort.

"Rasengan," he whispered, feeling his magic build and shape and reshape. His magic control was far from perfect, and a lot of his effort leaked away into the air around him. It was ironic, he would note later, that it was his slipping control that made him glow, and made the air thick with magic, giving him the appearance of being way stronger than he actually was.

As his magic shaped, and Draco continued to struggle to free himself, Dumbledore yelled at Harry when the spell completed.

Harry, however, did not hear him. The sounds of magic and the pounding of it in his ears and chest elevated him beyond hearing and caring. As the boy jerked his staff forward, and the rasengan spell flashed towards Draco, it upturned tables, pushed students back, and burnt the floor underneath. Draco let out a final scream, right before the spell detonated against the wall, right next to his head.

"It is not my intention to kill you now," Harry said in the absolute silence of the Great Hall. He dispelled the Kidou that held Draco in place. The boy was shaking. And stinking, too, as he had wet himself. "But you will tell me what you were trying to do."

Malfoy nodded. "Ha... give me half an hour... and I'll tell you everything." Draco swallowed, and stood up on shaking legs. His entire body trembled. He had been in Voldemort's presence, had felt the strength of his spells. But never, ever, had he held fear as he had right now. Seeing a glowing Harry Potter, body trembling with magical energies, taking a mere three spells to kill someone, it terrified him in a way that no Voldemort could hope to match.

Yes, Draco Malfoy realized, perhaps a change of allegiance is in order.

"Harry," Dumbledore spoke from behind Harry's back. For the first time, the Headmaster sounded angry, and Harry turned around, lifting his head high. He was not about to apologize for what he did, even if he realized that he had let his impulsive nature get the better of him.

"My office," Dumbledore said, walking past Harry, toward the exit of the Great Hall. Harry just nodded, and spun around. As he turned to follow, he noticed all the students in the Great Hall stare at him. Harry met the eyes of those in the DA, and gave them the most imperceptible of nods. He would explain to them this afternoon, at the continuation of the DA meeting. He ignored everyone else on his way out of the Hall.

In total silence, they made their way to Dumbledore's office, and Harry was too drawn into himself to hear the password this time. He was too busy thinking about what he did, and what it represented. He had actually shaped the Rasengan, had used it in battle, and had actually managed to guide and control it. Even if his magic-leakage was atrocious, and he had bled off more than half of his power into the surrounding air instead of into the spell itself, this was still a great success.

He came back to the real world when Dumbledore sat down and motioned for Harry to do the same. Harry stared into the Headmaster's eyes. They were devoid of their twinkle, and the look of anger and disappointment was enough to make Harry's heart tremble.

"I am very disappointed in your actions today," Dumbledore said.

Harry nodded. "Yes, Sir."

Dumbledore looked calculatingly at Harry. "You will not apologize?"

Harry shrugged. "There is no sense in apologizing... it happened. My control slipped when he attacked my back. And when the spell aimed for you, I failed to let you deal with it, and jumped in." He drew a breath. "I am not going to apologize for my actions, after all, I merely scared him and did no damage. My control over my emotions may have slipped, but my control over my spells did not."

Dumbledore was silent for a good twenty seconds, merely looking at Harry. Harry, in turn, just looked back. Finally, the Headmaster's mouth twitched slightly. "I see. Then, tell me, why did you leak such a horrible amount of magic into the Great Hall? I am sure that even the untrained First Years could feel it. As a second thought, I am sure they could even smell it. The air stank with it."

Harry nodded. "Control over spells and control over magic are two different things, Headmaster, and I am sure that you know that. I am still working on my magic control."

Dumbledore nodded, and was silent again. A good thirty seconds later, he nodded. "Now, Harry, will you be honest with me? Last summer, you told me you were studying meditation. This is not the result of meditation. Those spells you were using... I have only seen them performed by Wizards of Japanese descent."

Harry sighed. He was afraid of that. His little show had tipped too much of his hand. He closed his eyes, and cursed himself. "In fact," Dumbledore went on, "Some of the techniques I saw you use today can only be performed by the masters of the trade. Exactly how long have you been training in the Eastern Arts, and the Japanese Styles to be exact?"

Harry drew a breath. "Since this summer." He opened his eyes, and looked at the Headmaster, aware of his mental shield's integrity, and pushing some energy into them for good measure. "And I can only tell you that I am training, learning from a Japanese master. I can not tell you more without violating confidentiality."

Dumbledore was silent again, aware of the boy's impressive mental shields. What was worse, he had been aware since this summer that his friends, too, had started to shield their minds. And at an impressive rate, too. "I am aware of that, Harry, and I am pleased to see that you would not violate a confidence to get out of trouble."

Harry remained silent. Finally, he said, "Am I in trouble, then, Sir?"

Dumbledore watched Harry intently. "Even if I punish you, you will only see it as unfair, will you, Harry?"

Harry shrugged, and admitted to something he never thought he'd admit to before this summer. "I violated your rules, and I deserve to be punished for that. That does not mean that I think the rules are just." He smiled slightly. "My intention was to scare Draco Malfoy, maybe impress him, and get him to tell me what he was up to. It worked. My mission was a success. If I must suffer through detention for it, so be it." He refused to voice his other thought. The last thing he wanted was to be expelled.

On the other hand, that meant he could go to Japan and live with Ken and Maya full time.

If they would still have him, that was.

Dumbledore sat there, watching the emotions flicker through the boy's eyes, somewhat able to guesstimate what was going through his mind. A small smile tugged at his lips. "I believe I will let you go with a stern warning and a good talking-to."

Harry dipped his head. "Yes, sir. Thank you, Sir."

Dumbledore nodded. "You can go now, Harry. Have you conversation with Draco Malfoy, and then go talk to your friends. I am sure they are bursting with curiosity by now. Especially Miss Granger."

Harry smiled. Hermione would be running up the walls to ask him questions, he just knew it. As he got up and walked out of the office, Dumbledore stopped him one final time.

"Harry? Everything Draco Malfoy tells you that may be important..."

Harry nodded. "You will be the first to know, Sir," Harry replied with a small smile. Dumbledore nodded, and Harry left the office, off to find Draco Malfoy. And thanks to a certain Marauder's Map, that wasn't as difficult as one might think.

He found Malfoy in the library, exactly half an hour after he had let the other boy walk out of the Great Hall, and for a moment, Harry wondered how everyone just knew how to meet him here when he wanted to talk to them. First Cho, and now Malfoy. Both had come here to meet him in private, even without him saying where exactly they were to meet.

He sat down in front of the Malfoy heir, and regarded him for a good twenty seconds. Seconds that made the Slytherin decidedly more sweaty and nervous then they would have done previously. "So, Malfoy," Harry opened. "What exactly is going on?"

Draco swallowed nervously, and looked around skittishly. "Not here, Potter. Let's go somewhere private."

Harry shrugged, and got up, trailing Malfoy as both boys left the library. They entered the first empty classroom they came across, and the other boy threw up a couple of privacy wards. Harry would have done the same, but the sole fact that he didn't want Malfoy to know about Seal Magic as well stopped him.

Harry sat down in the teacher's chair, and smirked at Malfoy when the boy shot him a dirty look. Lifting one eyebrow, his entire posture told Malfoy that he was now waiting for an explanation.

Malfoy sat down on the desk of the front room, directly in front of the teacher's desk, obviously trying to work up the courage needed to tell everything he knew to the boy that used to be his arch-nemesis. All the way to this meeting, Draco had housed doubts, but each and every time, his thoughts had revolved back to a single point.

Harry Potter had developed one serious case of magical stones over the summer, and his new-found self-confidence obviously agreed with him. And the power… Draco had felt it sound in his bones. He had felt the floor tremor beneath him as that last spell was cast, he had felt the constricting pressure on his chest, he had seen the boy glow. Draco swallowed again. It was time to jump ship, and join the other team. He wanted to live, and live he would!

"The Dark Lord gave me a mission," Draco said. "To kill Dumbledore."

Harry was upright and out of the chair in an instant. "Don't worry, Potter," Draco snapped. "I'm not going to go through with it now, obviously."

Harry's eyes narrowed dangerously. Never a good sign, that.

"You'd better explain, and not let anything out, Malfoy," Harry snapped, his staff striking the floor so hard it drew sparks from the stones.

Malfoy talked, and Harry listened, and by the time the long narrative was over, Harry had to admit that he found to have a small bit of respect for the other boy. The choice he made could not have been easy, and he was going against his family, as well as against the guy he had seen brutalize everything he knew. And Harry knew how much Voldemort's curses could hurt… he did not envy Draco's position, and he grudgingly gave the boy some respect. He was not sure he would have been able to make the same choice, had the situations been reversed.

"Thank you for telling me, Malfoy," Harry said after the other boy stopped talking. "Now I'm going to go out and destroy those Vanishing Cabinets you were going to use to get people in here, and I'm going to go talk to Dumbledore." He stepped towards the boy, still sitting on the desk, and held out a hand. "For what it's worth, Malfoy… thank you for chosing the right side. It couldn't have been easy, going against your friends and your family."

Draco, stunned for just a moment, smiled slightly as he grabbed Harry's hand, and allowed himself to be lifted upright. "My family are a bunch of bastards, Potter, and I know that better than you. They would stab me in the back to gain favor with the Dark Lord. Betraying them… well, I would say it feels good, if only I wasn't sure that I hadn't signed a shoot-on-sight order on myself with all of the Death Eaters out there."

Harry nodded, and released the hand. "I'll talk to Dumbledore; we'll figure something out. If there is anyone else from Slytherin who wants to jump ship and join the right side, let me know, okay?"

Malfoy nodded. "I'll see to it, Po…" he stopped, and drew a breath. "Harry," he finally said, almost choking on the name. He hadn't expected to be offered protection, not beyond Hogwarts, anyway. This was better than he had hoped for.

Harry was surprised for just a few seconds, then smiled. "You're welcome, Draco," he replied, accepting the statement for what it veiled. He nodded once more, and left the classroom. Draco stared… he hadn't taken down the privacy spells, and Harry had just walked out without canceling them.

He swallowed. If the guy can disable privacy spells by walking through them, who knows what else he's capable of!

00000

At the same time Harry was having his conversation with the young Malfoy, two cloaked figures made their way up to the Owlery. Unseen, they attached their message, consisting out of a small roll of parchment and two small vials containing a white viscous liquid.

As the two owls flew off, each carrying a single parchment and a single vial, the two cloaked figures made their way back down to their Common Room, their mission accomplished.

Half an hour later, a random underling brought the messages and the accompanying vials to an odious figure sitting on an ornate throne.

"My Lord, two messages have come from the school," the underling spoke as he bowed deeply before the figure, holding in his hands the parchments and the vials. Voldemort looked at his subordinate, and dismissed him after accepting the messages.

He opened the first scroll, and his white face seemed to split at the seams as a wide grin appeared on that cold and inhuman face.

My Lord,

Today we saw HP humiliate DM in front of the entire Great Hall. In order to do this, he had in his possession spells of which we had never heard.

After some quick research into the incantations, all we could determine was that the spells were of Japanese origin.

We thought it prudent to bring the information to you as soon as possible, rather than researching it ourselves and risking exposure.

After all, My Lord, you are the Dark Lord.

As a further precaution, we duplicated this message. Each message is accompanied by the memories of one of us.

We remain in your humble service,

TD

DG

Voldemort smiled. Teaching his junior subordinates how to duplicate pensieve memories had been a great idea. He looked at one of the flasks, and swirled the memory around. The small container was labeled 'TD', indicating the owner it had come from.

Pulling his pensieve out of its hiding place, he emptied the memory into it. Immediately, he fell into it, seeing and experiencing the memory for himself.

Ten minutes later, he raced to watch the second memory, this one labeled 'DG'. Another fifteen minutes passed as he viewed this memory. By the time he was done, Voldemort was shaking.

His mouth twisted in a vicious scowl, he bellowed for his underling to bring him his Inner Circle. He had a battle to plan. Whomsoever dared to teach that brat Japanese Combat Magic deserved a long and painful death, but first he needed to get rid of Harry Potter. Once and for all… the boy was definitely moving up on the danger scale, and Voldemort hated the risk the boy posed to his plans.

End of Chapter

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