Mahou mo Ken

Hogsmeade

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 six – Hogsmeade

Frowning in concentration, ignoring the looks he got from the students present in the Room of Requirement, Harry walked to the far wall, and sat down. He had just finished his meeting with Dumbledore, as he had promised, right after he had finished with Draco Malfoy.

It ended up with him leaving his memory of the interview with the old Headmaster; somehow he knew that it was Ken's knowledge dump that enabled him to make a memory copy.

It was Hermione who broke the silence first. "Harry, what happened?"

Harry looked up sharply, startled out of his thoughts, as the other students started shouting at him at the same time. Most were wondering what happened, how much trouble he was in, where he had been this last hour, why he had done what he did, and so on.

Finally, he drew a breath, and grinned. It was good to be home, he thought. He stood up, and lifted his hands up, silently asking for silence; he got his wish almost immediately.

"What happened is simple, really," he said. "I lost control over my emotions… even if I was able to control my spell and make sure it did not hit Malfoy. As to how much trouble I'm in, Dumbledore has given me a very stern talking-to." He grinned slightly at this point. "Apparently, the fact that Malfoy was never in any danger saved me from harsher punishment. As to what I've been doing since then… I've talked to Malfoy, and then talked to Dumbledore again." He made eye-contact with Ron and Hermione, and then went on. "I've found out a couple of things. Unfortunately, I can't tell them to you now… we first need to build up your Occlumency. We need to make sure this information is protected, just as the training I'm giving you should be protected."

Cho raised her hand, and Harry called on her.

"About the training, Harry… I've been thinking, and I have a question. Why is your teacher allowing you to teach us, while my parents refused to do it?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't know. I'll ask my teacher next time. But I think it's because my teacher isn't very traditional… which is probably the reason I'm getting training as well."

Cho nodded, accepting his explanation, even if it didn't satisfy himself. He looked around, seeing the expectant faces. He sighed; shaking his head as he did so. "I am not going to explain more about this afternoon, not without Occlumency on your part."

Disappointed groans filled the air of the Room of Requirement, and Harry smiled slightly. "But that doesn't mean I can't give a small demonstration," he added, somehow knowing he had to give them something. He at once realized where he had learned this particular teaching technique... it was the same way Ken had taught him.

He stepped forward, and splayed his right hand. "To me," he thought without moving his lips, feeling the connection form between his staff and him. It teleported directly into his hand. He thought they wouldn't be too impressed with the trick, seeing as he had used it against Snape already, but his students proved him wrong once again.

Excited chatter rose, and it was Hermione's voice that rose above the hubbub. "How do you do that, Harry? This is the second time I've seen you do that!"

Harry looked this staff, surprised that they'd actually be interested. "Well, Japanese staves are created differently from western wands. Where wands are wood, filled with a magical core, Staves are just wood. They are made from special trees, groomed specifically to have little defects. As soon as a wizard reaches the point in his or her training where they can benefit from a staff, they are taught how to create one."

He swallowed, took a breath, and walked slowly through the room, looking the gathered people in the eye as he talked. "A staff is then carved for them, after which they, themselves, have to activate it. The mage meditates, and binds an element to the staff, at which point it takes in the nature of the element, and becomes magical. At that point only is it able to start channelling magic. Binding an element to a staff is an incredibly draining experience. As you can imagine, it is different for each person, and an incredibly tight bond is formed. As such, a mage can summon his or her staff to themselves, as long as the staff is nearby."

"But... you can't apparate in Hogwarts!" Hermione interjected.

Harry smiled at her. "True. But there are other ways of teleportation. For instance..." He opened his left hand, and his sword flashed from his hip to his hand. "The power of the Japanese Sword can not be stopped by any means known to wizard-kind." He put the sword back. "The staff can be summoned when nearby. Range deteriorates fast with distance, and obstacles. Within Hogwarts, I don't think I can summon my staff from more than fifty meters or so away."

He glanced around the room again. "I can not tell you more, not without protections." He smiled slightly. "And as I want to start teaching you soon, how about we go back to meditation?"

The people groaned, but sat down obediently.

"Let's start breathing," he said as he sat down in front of them, crossing his legs without thinking about it? Closing his eyes, and putting his open hands, palms to the skies, on top of his knees. "The Hansa method may help those of you who have trouble," he said, remembering the morning's session. "Take little sniffling breaths, not very deeply. The breath should not reach your lungs; if you feel tingling or dizziness, you're hyperventilating, you're breathing too deeply. When you sniff in, think han. When sniffing out, think sa. It's called a mantra... and it will allow you to focus. Become aware of the breath you take as you breathe in." He drew a breath after his monologue, feeling his own awareness shift. "When you feel the urge to breathe, do so. Then return to the Hansa mantra."

He became aware of some of them, not taking his lesson seriously, who were sniffing loudly. He closed his mind, refused to smile. They would feel the results soon.

The loud sniffing died out, the students in question feeling dizzy, their fingers tingling with hyperventilation.

Harry opened his eyes, and erected himself out of lotus position with practised ease. "Now," he said, "On to Occlumency. With the Hansa method, you've cleared your mind. Now, focus. Focus on a stone wall, a wall that will protect you, your mind, your memories and your emotions. Focus on the wall as it encompasses you, protects you, and makes you feel safe."

He saw how some of them took a deep, shuddering breath, holding it, then slowly releasing it, returning to the shallow breaths of the Hansa meditation.

He smiled slightly, and let his Legilimency loose. He was not very good at it, his skill mostly theoretical, with just the small amount of practice testing Ron and Hermione over the summer. As his senses flew out, he touched walls of steel here and there, he touched walls that were more like liquid than solid, and he also touched open minds, minds that held no secrets should he wish to read them.

He stopped himself from reading anything other than the stone wall thought. As his probe flew over one student, he frowned. The wall was solid, impenetrable. His gaze locked on the stoic appearance of Luna Lovegood, and his frown deepened. The girl fluttered her eyes open, and smiled at him.

He blinked in surprise, and her smile widened, before she closed her eyes and returned to the meditation. Her wall had not shifted, not once. Just as sudden, it did shift.

It shifted into the smooth curve of a full Occlumency shield, smooth and full of energy, and Harry had not a doubt what it would cost him should he attempt to breach those walls. He smiled, shook his head, and returned to probing the rest of his students. This was going to be even more interesting than he had imagined.

He finished their lesson an hour or so later, when it became apparent to him that they were tiring. He smiled slightly to himself, well aware that he would get their stamina up in these types of exercises. Before she left, Harry asked Luna to stay behind.

When everyone else was gone, and only Ron, Hermione and Luna remained, harry motioned for the exit. "So, Luna," he began. "Since when have you been an Occlumens?" he asked as they walked in the direction of Ravenclaw tower.

Luna looked at him as she walked, and her usually dreamy look was decidedly less dreamy. "Father taught me when I was eight. I needed to protect myself from the mind-sucking effects of the zebals."

Harry smiled slightly, and it became a little less slight when he noticed the corner of her mouth quirk for just an instant. "In any case," he said, going on without comment, "your shields are probably as strong as mine, if not stronger, as you've been at this longer than I have."

She shrugged, and almost un-Luna motion for her. "Probably, but I am not going to teach the rest of them."

Ron and Hermione gaped at the girl. Harry just chuckled, and shook his head. "No matter how Luna you are, you're still in Ravenclaw," he said, grinning.

Luna just stared ahead of her, her dreamy look fixed on a point on the far wall. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," he told her. "Luna?"

"Yes, Harry?" she said, re-focusing her large silver eyes on him.

"As you're an Occlumens, there is no reason for me to keep my abilities a secret from you. You are quite capable of protecting them." He glanced over his shoulder to Ron and Hermione, who were still gaping at the duo, unable to believe how naturally Harry was talking with Luna, nor how... normal Luna sounded, all of a sudden. "My friends are probably dying to know more as well."

Luna just nodded. "They are your secrets, Harry," she replied. "I will hold them, as securely as a mother Zluton protects her cubs."

Harry smiled again when he noticed her lips quirk. "I'm assuming she's very protective?"

"Oh, very," Luna replied with total sincerity. By the time they got to the Ravenclaw tower, Ron and Hermione were about ready to kill Harry, as he kept asking and participating in the conversation with Luna. They knew more about Zlutons then they ever wanted to know, imaginary or not.

"How about we meet at seven, in the library?" Harry asked. "We can find an empty classroom then, and I can explain things."

Luna just nodded. "Seven is fine for me," she replied, quirked the edge of her lips again, and walking up the final set of stairs to the Ravenclaw Tower.

00000

When Harry went to bed that evening, he felt drained. That explanation had taken more out of him then he had liked. Before his head hit the pillow, he was asleep.

He awoke in his mindscape. Seeing Maya appear, he opened his shields for Ken.

"Good evening, Sensei, Maya," he greeted his guests. Maya smiled at him, while Ken remained her usual neutral self.

"Good evening, Harry," his teacher replied.

Harry drew a breath. "Sensei, something happened today."

Ken merely lifted an eyebrow, allowing him to continue. Harry drew another breath, steeling himself. "I lost my temper. Someone attacked me in the back... when I jumped aside, the spell would have struck one of my teachers. Instead of letting the teacher handle it, I jumped in, deviated the spell, and attacked the student."

Ken blinked. "How is the student?"

"He's fine. I did the same thing Maya once did to me... I gave him thirty seconds, then busted his shield, locked him down with Demon Magic, and threw a Rasengan next to his head."

Ken nodded. "So," she said, starting to circle him as he remained stiff. "You attacked a student."

"Yes, Sensei."

"A student who attacked you when your back was turned. And you dodged his spell, even if you could not see it."

"Yes, Sensei," Harry repeated.

"And when that spell was about to hit one of your teachers, you deviated the spell," she went on, continuing to circle him.

Harry swallowed. This was not going to be pretty; he could feel that in his bones. He just nodded. When she looked at his face, obviously waiting for an answer, he said, "Yes, Sensei."

"And then, you protected yourself for thirty seconds against his barrage of spells. And then, what spells, did you use?"

Harry gulped. "Yes, Sensei. I used a Kuzuryusen, a Six Rods Prison of Light, and a Rasengan."

Ken nodded, and continued her circling. "So, to recapitulate. You claim to have lost your temper, while keeping enough presence of mind to do complex magical deviation, against a spell you could not see approach, then used magical deviation protection for thirty seconds, followed by a medium-level Japanese spell, a higher-level Demon Magic spell, and a high-level Japanese finishing move?"

Harry nodded, thinking all of that didn't sound so bad, when stated in that fashion. "Yes, Sensei", he said, when it became apparent that she was looking at him again.

"And even though you claim to lose your temper, you retained enough control to neither hurt nor injure this student?"

"Yes, Sensei," Harry said, not knowing where she was going.

She stopped in front of him. "Harry, I hope this is the only kind of loss of control you will ever experience," she finally stated. "You did not lose control, my student. You were in perfect control over your own actions, but merely allowed yourself to listen to your emotions rather than to your mind. There is nothing wrong with that, especially when it is in the defence of others. You tried to protect your teacher, even though he or she probably did not need it, and you did it without injuring the student."

Harry nodded. "Thank you, Sensei."

She smiled slightly at him. "I don't anger easily, Harry. You'll need to do a lot more than this in order to get me angry."

"And you don't want to see Sensei angry," Maya said, smiling.

Harry just nodded, accepting that statement. "Sensei, I had a question... it's actually one posed to me by one of the people I'm teaching, and I think it's a pretty valid question."

Ken nodded, and Harry went on, "Sensei, why are you allowing me to teach other people? The person that asked me is Chinese, her parents tried to find a Sensei for her, but failed... and they then refused to teach her any of the Eastern Styles."

Ken nodded. "I'm not very traditional, Harry. I'd rather we all trained together, however, this is impossible. And besides, the things you are teaching your friends are the basics, the very basics. Like teaching someone a stunning spell... after all, I doubt you'd feel up to teaching the real power of the Easter Magics... Elemental control, Magic Deviation, Demon Magic. Am I right?"

Harry nodded, admitting that he did indeed, not feel up to teaching those kinds of techniques. "Everyone can learn a Kuzuryusen, Harry... the difference between it and a a Cutting Curse is small. But to learn how to use a Seal, or to use Demon Magic, that requires more than you can give."

Harry nodded once again. "I know, Sensei. And I understand."

"Good," Ken said, smiling. "Now, let's get down to training. I think you've rested enough... if you have the energy to fight classmates, you have energy for some real training. Begin by running around the lake. Then we'll get down to magic."

Harry nodded, and started running. Maya joined him after only five seconds, having received a silent nod from Ken.

"Hey, Oneesan," Harry said as he jogged.

"Hey yourself, Oniisan," she replied calmly.

"So, how come you didn't know about this?" Harry asked. "I thought you pretty much knew everything I did." He frowned. "And I know practically nothing of what you do. I wonder why that is."

Maya laughed. "I need to sleep, too, you know, Oniisan. And the reason you don't know everything about me is because I hide better then you do."

He looked at her as they ran, trusting his feet to find their own path. "What do you mean?"

"You shield yourself, true, and you have that part of Occlumency down... but the second part, the control of yourself, the control over your emotions, that's still eluding you," Maya said. "And that's why I feel you, your emotions come through the link. While I manage to contain most of myself within myself, and so, you don't feel me. Hang on a sec, I'll prove it." She closed her eyes, continuing to run. Soon, Harry felt a burst of laughter come through the link he shared with his magically bonded sister.

"Now I feel you!" he exclaimed. Maya laughed again, her laughter bubbling through his mind.

"Yes, and now you know why I prefer to feel you happy... you don't know how depressing it can be to have someone else' dark thoughts on the other side of a mindlink. And if I can make you happy, make you laugh, it feels so much better."

Harry nodded. "Sorry. I don't mean to..." he apologized. She waved it off, and her emotions vanished from his mind. Immediately, his world seemed to clear, only now he realized just how distracting someone else's emotions could be. "Wow. I really should get to shielding myself."

Maya smiled, and bumped him as they continued their run. "Don't worry, Oniisan, I'll teach you, even if it kills you."

"Thanks, Oneesan," he said, sincerely.

Maya just nodded. "Come on, we'd better move it, or Sensei will think we're taking it easy." She put forth a burst of speed without waiting for him, and Harry sprinted after her, laughing and screaming at her for cheating. She laughed back at him, pulling him forward, neither realizing that they were egging each other on.

When they finished, panting and sweating, Ken nodded in satisfaction. "Good. You're both warmed up. Today, some more martial arts practice, followed by magical deviation practice." She turned to Harry. "Would you mind sharing your memory of the fight earlier? It would show me where to work on."

Harry shrugged. "I don't see any problems with it," he said, although he did flush slightly.

"Remember, Oniisan, sometimes, it's better to listen to your heart than your mind," Maya said gently, feeling his emotions.

He looked at her, and smiled ruefully. "I need to learn how to shield myself."

Ken smiled. "I see you two have a new project to work on. Now, first things first. Martial Arts practice. Harry, have you managed to do the First Draw yet?"

Harry shook his head, and lifted the sword from his hip. "I haven't, Sensei." He pulled on the handle, the sword coming clear until the very end, where it stuck. "I don't know where I fail."

Ken nodded. "Your heart, mind, body, and soul have not yet united, Harry. Your mind is still young, I unlocked it a mere two and a half months ago. Your body has not fully adapted to it yet. You don't know whether to listen to your heart or your mind, and it is creating conflict, and your soul is torn between them. Only when you are completely at peace with yourself, your strength, your limits, and your frailties will you be able to draw your sword, and bond with it."

Harry nodded, sheathing his sword once more. "For now, create a training blade... one of metal, if you would."

He frowned. This was the first time Ken had asked him to create a metal training blade. After putting the sword back on his hip, he lifted one hand, and created a dull, metal, training sword. Ken inspected it, and nodded. "Have you been keeping up your training during meditation? I hope you haven't been slacking off your martial arts in favour of magic?"

Harry shook his head. "No, Sensei," he replied honestly. "I have tried to keep up my training, but without an opponent, it is rather difficult to see my progress."

His teacher nodded. "I know. That is why, today, you will be training against Maya. Maya?" she asked, turning to her first Apprentice. Maya nodded, and materialized a dagger in her right hand. Ken smiled slightly. "Maya is very good a Defence. She's almost up to my level, and that after a mere half decade of training. She is a natural born defender."

Harry just nodded, and looked at his sister as she played with the dagger, making it flip over and over as she twirled it around. He grasped his training blade. She smiled, the dagger remaining in her right hand.

He struck, fast and precise, just as his instincts guided him to do. Maya stepped aside, and blocked his strike. He could see the shock travel through her body, and she frowned slightly. "Woa, you pack a punch, Oniisan!"

He smiled. "Domo arigatou, Oneesan," he replied in Japanese. (a/n here I go again with the Japanese... Harry just said, what would translate to 'Thank you very much, Sister'.)

He flung his sword around, and struck at her other side. Again, she blocked it. Stepping forward, he flung a downward strike against her head, and she darted aside, nimbly. Halfway down, however, he shifted his strike, and flung a horizontal slash at her side. Again, she blocked it, her dagger and his training sword clashing so hard that sparks were struck and metal rung like bells. Once again, he shifted, and attacked her other side. Again and again, she blocked.

Concerned, Harry pressed on, never once suffering a single attack from her. She was defending, and defending was all she did. It unnerved him.

Finally, he broke off, panting deeply, the strength and stamina required to keep up a sword fight draining him. Maya too, was breathing deeply, sweat on her forehead. "You really pack a punch, Oniisan," she said, panting. Her dagger shifted to her left hand. "Never mind, though," she added, grinning.

Harry frowned. He did not like that look on her face. "Attack," she said, urging him on with her right hand.

He swallowed, and struck. Her left hand guided the dagger through the air, and a bell-like toll rung across the skies. Harry felt his sword catapult in the other direction, and he barely kept his balance.

"What the...?" Harry asked, bringing his sword up again. Maya smirked, her panting decidedly less. "Attack me, Brother," she stated in flawless English.

"Here I come, Sister," he replied in pure Japanese. He flung his sword at her. Again, the bell-like sound rang across the skies, and he felt his sword go in the opposite direction. Maya smirked, and lifted her left hand, the dagger pointing to the skies.

"The personal defensive techniques of the Emperors of Japan, the Left Hand," she stated. "I will turn your sword, and your strength, against you." Her smirk widened. "Attack me."

Harry smiled. "You're cheating again, Oneesan," he whispered, charging her.

Five minutes later, he was panting heavier, while Maya was looking as fresh as ever. "You... recuperated... while I... drained," he panted.

Maya smirked, and nodded. "As I turn the speed and direction of your sword, I am not using my strength, but your own strength and stamina. However... as good as I am at defence, it will not defeat an opponent."

Her left hand struck out, the dagger going for him. Harry danced out of the way. She's FAST! His eyes wide in surprise, he was next forced to dance the opposite direction as she struck at his other side. Her lithe form and the faster dagger completely sealed his larger body and his large metal training sword. He was unable to block her strikes, all he could do was dance away. He needed to increase his distance to her, allow for the range of his weapon to come into play, but that was not nearly as easy as it sounded in his mind, and soon, he found himself on the ground, having tripped over his own feet in his haste, her dagger at his throat as she loomed over him.

"So, what did we learn?" Ken asked as she helped Harry up.

"Maya is wicked fast," he grunted. "And a small weapon, with lesser range, will beat a large weapon when used with sufficient skill and speed."

Ken nodded. "Speed and skill will overcome the odds in weapons," she said in agreement. "And sufficient technique falls under skill. What did Maya do that got you off-balance? You were doing fine for a while."

Harry had caught his breath by now. "She used that Left Hand technique, and turned my own weapon against me."

Ken nodded. "And we will teach it to you." She smiled slightly. "However, Harry, it will depend on you whether you will master it... it requires the use of the opposite hand of the opponent. That means that you will be forced to use your left hand against right-handed opponents. Using your left hand will have to become as easy as using your right hand... and that is something that most people never master."

Harry just nodded. "I am ready."

"Not today, my young apprentice," Ken said, smiling. "Now, Magical Deviation. Can you show us your memory?"

Harry showed them. By the time it was over, both Ken and Maya were looking thoughtful.

"It seems you're able to deviate magic in a low-powered fight," Ken said. "However, your direction needs a lot of work."

Harry frowned. "I thought I did pretty well, Sensei," he replied. "I kept the spells away from the others."

Ken nodded. "You got the general direction down. However, as your continued failure at Spellis shows, you're still lacking in finesse." She motioned around. "Create ten targets, put them in a large semicircle in front of you."

Harry looked toward a large grassy area, and created the requested targets. Because he had a fair idea what was to happen, he made them fairly large, which, coincidentally, forced him to create quite a large semicircle... and thus put them further away from him.

Ken nodded. "Maya?"

Maya replied with a single nod, and stepped to the semicircle. Standing on the baseline of it, facing him, she brandished her staff. Because of her position, and the size of the targets and the semicircle he had created, he was able to see each and every target.

"Nothing fancy," Ken said, and Maya dipped her head, hefting her staff.

"Now, Harry. I want you to deviate each of Maya's spells, and return them to the targets. Hitting the target is good, hitting closer to centre is better, hitting the bull's eye is what you're aiming for."

Harry gulped loudly, and nodded. He took his own staff. The first spell was a low-powered straight-forward stunning spell. He began the deviation, and the spell spun off, hitting a tree to his side. He grimaced, just in time to see a low-powered hex come at him. Again, he deviated it away from everyone, this time at least hitting it in the general direction of the targets; missing by a mere ten centimetres.

He groaned. The third spell was another stunner; he at least hit the target that time.

"Stop, Maya," Ken said, walking up to Harry, and standing behind him.

"You're too focused on the Western Ways," Ken said as she stood behind him. "Do not force the magic; rather, work with it, make it flow through you like water."

Harry swallowed, and nodded. "Lift your staff, Harry," Ken's voice stated from behind him, and he lifted his staff into defensive position. To his surprise, her left hand placed itself on his left arm, while her right arm reach around, her right hand placing itself on top of his wrist.

"The movement is fluid and even, not a jerky motion," she said, her hand gently pushing his wrist in the movements required. "Release just a little but of your magic, you're not casting a spell here. You're merely learning the movement... overcoming the force of the spell is for another lesson."

He followed her direction, the fluid movement feeling a lot more natural to him now that he had her guidance for a couple of test-runs. "Maya, just one stunner."

Maya nodded, and shot another low-powered stunner. Ken's hand guided Harry through the motion as he focused on his magic. Just a little flowed from his fingertips into his staff. The spell deviated perfectly, and struck the first target, just a little off-centre.

"Better," Ken said, pulling back. "Maya? Another one."

Maya lobbed another. Harry deviated it, this time focusing on the magic and the movement both. It struck the first target, hitting about halfway between the edge and the centre. Ken nodded in satisfaction. "Well done," she said calmly, making him glow inside with her praise.

"Maya, continue," she said, walking back to the side. "Harry, try and hit each target in succession."

Harry nodded silently, focusing on the spells that were to come. The first stunner hit the first target. The second spell was the tickling hex she had used earlier, and he deviated it into the second target, barely scraping the edge of it. Somehow, the hex deviated differently than the stunner did.

"Good, keep rotating the spells," Ken said. "Harry, each spell is different. Learn how to see where it will end up as you deviate it."

Now Harry had three things to focus on. First, do not overpower the deviation. Second, make a fluid motion. And now, third, read the incoming spell and figure out how to deviate it properly. Now that he thought about it, a lot of the spells Malfoy had cast at him had ended up somewhere else than he had intended. He felt rather ashamed now, any one of those spells could have hit an innocent bystander.

His eyes narrowed as he felt his determination rise. Never again would he endanger anyone else.

Never again.

The third spell was a petrification spell, and he slapped it in the correct target.

About an hour later, the spells were coming at a fast pace, and Harry finally figured out how to read his opponent's spells. Maya started adding a couple of narrow loops to her spells, making them act all irregular, and Harry had to figure out how to read them. Still her spells were low-powered, the focus more on technique rather than strength.

Ken nodded finally, after his nightly training session came to a halt. He guessed he had been busy for a good four hours already. "That was a good training, Harry," Ken said. "I'll be returning now... I still have a couple of things I must do."

Harry bowed. "Thank you, Sensei. I've learned a lot."

Ken returned the bow. "You're an excellent student, my second apprentice. Good night." She vanished with those words.

"So... Harry," Maya said, grinning. "Last time, you sucked at Spellis. Want to try again?"

Harry grinned. "Sure!"

It was another two hours later that Maya returned, and Harry felt the night catch up to him; he had not slept, not really. His mind had been incredibly active for the last six hours, pumping new training into his body. He needed rest, and energy.

Closing his eyes in his mindscape, he focused on the triple Ley Line that was present under Hogwarts. It used to take five long minutes of concentration in order to tap into the Line. But now... now, all it took was a mere ten seconds. He hoped to be able to pull it off instantaneously at some point, and so he kept practising. Tapping into the Line, even barely, filled him with power and a sense of purpose, and Harry felt as if he had slept all night.

He knew better than to do it every night, however... who knew how easily one might become addicted to this rush? He had heard of the non-magical drugs, and he was sure that there were hidden temptations like that in the magical world as well. The last thing he wanted was to end up some magical junkie, constantly tapped into some Ley Line for his 'fix'.

00000

Ron awoke with a strange golden light in the room. As he cracked open his eyes, he glanced around, not tired enough to realize that it was too early for the sun to bother him. Pulling back the curtain around his bed, he noticed that his room mates, Neville, Dean, and Seamus were still asleep, their curtains closed and snores coming from behind them.

What had woken him, however, came from behind the curtain that was sealing off the bed of his best friend, Harry Potter. The curtains were dancing, and a soft golden light shone above and below them, casting ghostly shadows on the wall. At once he realized that the light must have shone through one of the cracks in his own curtains and woke him up that way.

He frowned; he did not know what would have caused that light, and he was not so sure he wanted to know.

However, this was the bed of his best mate. Maybe he was in trouble?

Slowly, he got out of bed, and shivered as his bare feet touched the cold floor. He made his way to Harry's bed.

"Harry, mate? You okay in there?" he asked, worriedly. Not receiving an answer, he pulled the curtain back.

He almost screamed. There sat Harry Potter, in perfect lotus position, as he showed them during their meditation classes, shining in golden light, wind tugging at the curtains and clothes. That was not what made Ron take a step back.

It was the paleness of Harry's skin, the darkness that surrounded his eyes, the deep colour that made his veins contrast against the alabaster of his skin.

"Harry?" Ron asked again, not loud enough to wake the others. He didn't know if Harry wanted the rest to see him like this... he guessed not. "Harry, wake up, mate!"

Harry shuddered, the wind and the glow falling away. At once, his skin and appearance took on a more normal tone. "Ron?" Harry asked, sounding rather out of it. "What is it?"

"Mate, you were glowing," Ron grunted, too stunned to be able to say anything but the sheer truth.

Harry just stared at him. "Glowing?" he finally asked.

"With lots of bloody nifty wind-effects, too!" his best friend blurted. "Bloody hell, mate, is that what you're like you when you're meditating now?"

Harry shook his head, unable to lie to his friend. He drew a breath. "No, that was something else," he replied, resigned. He had to admit that he had struck an impasse in trying to figure out the Ley Lines, and he had to admit that he needed help. Hermione would be a great help in the research department, Harry mused, and Ron would be able to help him look at things in a different spotlight. Harry finally looked up at Ron, who was still staring at him with a look of shock on his face. "Mate, I will explain. But, can you with until tonight?"

For a moment, Ron looked as if he wanted to drag the answer out of Harry, right here and now, but the intense mental training he had undergone the last month and a half had changed him. "I guess I have no choice, then," he said, grinning.

Harry smiled as well, and got out of bed. He cast tempus silently, and threw a look at the clock. Seeing that it was almost six, he nodded. "Listen, mate. I've realized something," Harry said, pressing on, as he walked passed Ron and looked out one of the windows. "I can't cut it like this. I need to train." He turned back to Ron. "Starting today, I'm starting to train. I'm going to change, go out there, and run around the lake."

Ron stared at Harry as if he had lost his mind; his mouth imitating a fish's most curious movements before he caught himself. "Have you lost your bloody mind?" Ron hissed. "Why would you do something as daft as that?"

Harry smiled slightly, having expected a reaction like that from the pureblooded Ron. "Because, mate, one day, we might not have magic to help us, and on that day, having the physical strength and endurance might just save our lives."

Ron was silent, before nodding, acknowledging the truth in that statement. "But still, there is no way you're getting me up at six in the bloody morning," Ron said. "I'm up too early right now." He let out a yawn to punctuate his remark. "I'm crawling back into bed."

Harry grinned, and vanished into the bathroom. Five minutes later, dressed solely in his dragonhide, his school robes thrown over one arm, he walked out. Ron, who miraculously enough was still awake, stared after him.

"So that's what's with the gloves," Ron grunted, finally having the question on Harry's perpetual gloves answered. Shrugging, he turned around and went back to sleep.

00000

An hour later, after a hot shower and a scourgify on his dragonhide armour, Harry walked into the Great Hall with Ron and Hermione. Noticing Luna sitting by herself at the Ravenclaw table, he motioned for his friends to go ahead. Ron and Hermione threw him a look as they went to the Gryffindor table. Harry shrugged, and walked to the Ravenclaw one, and bent close to Luna.

"Good morning, Luna," he greeted the strange blonde.

Luna seemed to startle, before turning and gracing him with her usually spacey smile. "Good morning, Harry," she replied.

"Do you have time to meet us at seven in the Library? There's something I could use your help with," Harry asked.

Luna seemed to check something on a mental checklist, before nodding. "Of course, Harry." She blinked, and seemed to become more aware of her surroundings. Harry guessed her Occlumency had just been turned down a bit. "Does it have something to do with..." she glanced at his sword.

Harry smiled. "Something like that. But I can't explain where everyone can overhear."

Luna's dreamy look returned. "Of course. The Burklangs might overhear and hand out your secrets to everyone." She smiled. "They're the ones responsible for secrets getting out."

Harry smiled, and nodded. "Then it's a good thing I have you, as Burklang expert, to keep us safe."

Luna just nodded, a strange twinkle in her eyes and a quirk tugging at her lips. "Anyway," Harry said, straightening up. "I'll see you later."

Luna returned his nod. "And I will see you as well."

Harry chuckled at that parting line as he made his way back to the Gryffindor table. Luna could always be counted on to make him smile. He liked that about her.

That evening, after dinner, Harry, Ron, and Hermione made their way to the library, where they sat down and waited for Luna to join them.

"It's weird, you know, that we're spending more time here waiting for people then we ever were studying," Ron said to Harry, who chuckled. Hermione just shot them an angry glance, and was about to berate them when Luna appeared, wearing her spaced-out look that Harry now recognised as a state of utmost Occlumency.

He got up, Ron and Hermione following his example without being told to. "Let's find an empty classroom," Harry said as they walked out of the library. He couldn't help himself and nodded respectfully at Madam Pince, the Librarian. Ever since he started learning from Mahou mo Ken, and the knowledge transfer she had dumped into his subconscious, he found his respect for those who were his teachers increasing. Except for one Severus Snape, of course, but that had more to do with the fact that the man was a total git.

The first classroom they came across, they entered.

And exited immediately after. Ron and Hermione stared at Harry as he motioned them for silence, and guided them instead of a lesser-used classroom a couple of hallways down. Luna merely smiled serenely, and soon after, Harry had closed the door.

"Harry Potter, Plasmatizer, asks the Seal... What are you?" he whispered, six blanks seals suddenly appearing in between his fingers. His his friends, Luna included, took a step back when obvious power burned in his eyes as he channelled six seals at the same time.

The six conjoined voices boomed through the room as the large black Kanji sign filled the previously empty seals. We are what hides that which you seek to hide. We are Privacy, and we are Locking!

Six Seals flashed away from Harry's hand, one going to each of the walls, while one went to the ceiling and one attached itself to the floor. They flashed, and the six walls to the room starting glowing with golden-green energy.

Harry drew a deep breath, then threw a locking charm at the door. He grinned. "That first room had a monitoring charm stuck to the ceiling. I'm sure that my Seals would have overcome it... but whoever was monitoring it would have heard me charge the seals before it went out."

Luna stared at the shining wall, and touched it. "This is really powerful magic," she stated.

Harry shrugged. "Not really. Just based on different principles. It has the downside of being hardly inconspicuous, plus it takes its good time to charge up. As always, things has an up and a downside."

Luna shrugged, accepting this.

"Now," Ron said. "We've heard about the Seals before, and Hermione and me have seen it used before. What is this about you glowing in the middle of the night?"

"Glowing?" Hermione asked.

"Did you get attacked by Wilwartles?" Luna asked, sounding concerned.

Harry shook his head. "No, no Wilwartles. Now, this is something else... and I've hit a roadblock. I need your help to figure things out." He drew another breath, and explained about the Ley Lines, and how he found that he could tap them.

"Really?" Hermione asked, frowning as her mind kicked into high gear. "Being a Druid, or having a Druid's abilities would surely be a great help. I haven't read about anyone being able to tap into that power since the Druids died, over sixteen hundred years ago. Of course, there are other ways to tap into the Ley Lines, like warding, or Runes, for instance, but to tap into the Lines directly..."

Harry interrupted her. "Exactly. A lot of potential. Unfortunately, I can't do it quickly, and even if that wasn't an issue, once I have tapped into them, I have no clue what to do with it."

"How did you figure out you can tap lines?" Hermione asked. "Maybe there's something there. I mean, I don't think you just decided to go out and tap a line, did you?"

Harry shook his head. "No, I didn't. It was during the creating of my staff... I overreached, and I was dying by my own spell, it was draining me dry... I needed more power, and somehow, I tapped a line. Nearly burned myself to death, channelling the Line's power into the spell. My room stunk with ozone for days."

Hermione frowned, silently nodding. "I think there is your answer, Harry," she finally said. "You can do whatever you want with it, as if it were your own magical energy... but you will need to learn to control the amount of magic you drain from it."

Harry shrugged. "I can see that... but I don't want to go around, experimenting with this without knowing more about it."

"I will research it," Hermione said immediately.

"There's little in the library, and I have read those already," Harry said.

"Then I'll go to Flourish and Blotts, and order more books," Hermione said, grinning, feeling in her element.

"I'll ask my family," Ron said. "Bill's a cursebreaker, he's an expert on warding, maybe he knows something. And who knows, maybe there are some old things going around in the family that might help."

Luna nodded. "I will ask my father as well. I am sure he has information about the Druids. I haven't heard from it, but it is possible they may have survived. No organisation ever really dies... its knowledge may be somewhere, buried, and if you were to uncover it, they may be resurrected."

Harry and Hermione stared at Luna, while Ron grinned madly. "Imagine the fun," he finally said, turning to Harry. "You may be a Druid. The first one since forever." His eyes took on a mad glint. "Care to teach us that, too?"

harry glanced at the people present. "After Occlumency," he said. "And only you three. I am planning on keeping this from Voldemort. Imagine his surprise if he gets a mouth full of Line Energy."

Ron, Hermione, and Luna nodded. "We'll keep this a secret between the four of us," they promised. Harry nodded his gratitude.

00000

The man once known as Tom Marvolo Riddle, now known better as Voldemort, was sitting on the throne-like chair, quietly contemplating his next move, when a dark-brown barn owl came flying in. Recognising the Hogwarts owl, the Dark Lord sat up straighter and took the note off the owl's leg.

My lord,

Today was announced that, in two weeks time, a Hogsmeade weekend will be organised.

We have done our best, and discovered through surveillance under Disillusionment that HP will indeed be going, along with most of his friends.

We also wish to note that HP seems to be growing in influence, as well as power.

When we stuck a listening charm to the couple of classrooms he and his friends were prone to using, he discovered it within moments.

As I was Disillusioned, I followed them to another classroom, but was prevented from listening in by a privacy charm of unbelievable strength. Forgive me, Lord, for I must have done something wrong with the Listening Charms you yourself have taught the both of us, as I was unable to penetrate the walls of silence HP had thrown up.

You servant,

DG

Voldemort frowned. He trusted his extra spies, had supervised their training personally. They had not yet been Marked, a move he had made to protect their covers should it become needed, and he knew the strength they held. If they could not penetrate the privacy wards that brat threw up, he was sure that it would take at least one of the teachers to get through it.

His hand clenched, the parchment roasted under his power. He knew that his spy had written the note for her colleague as well, noting the difference between plural and singular forms, and assumed that his second spy had nothing to add to the report.

"Wormtail!" Voldemort growled.

The cowering rat-faced man bowed low as he rushed before his master. "Yes, Master?"

"Arm," Voldemort ordered, holding out one of his hands. Shivering, Wormtail complied, holding out the arm containing the Dark Mark. As his Master grabbed it, he screamed as his master's wand was pressed against it, summoning his Inner Circle to him.

Barely ten minutes later, his Inner circle was assembled before him, and Voldemort looked up from his pensive state. "I have received notice that another Hogsmeade weekend is planned at Hogwarts." He looked at the faces of his trusted Death Eaters. The arrogant and aristocratic Lucius Malfoy. The insane yet beautiful Bellatrix Lestrange. Her husband, Rudolphos Lestrange. His brother, Rastaban.

And, of course, Wormtail. Yes, Voldemort had to admit, the little rat has its uses. He had been there, lived with his target and his friends for so long, knew their moves, their habits. And the snivelling coward was good at one thing... doing what was needed to save his skin. And as such, Voldemort knew that the rat-man's loyalty was assured for as long as he remained on the top of the food chain.

Voldemort smirked at that thought.

That would be forever.

"In two weeks, I want you, Lucius, to lead the raid on the village. Take fifty Death Eaters, and attack... and I want you to kidnap as many of little Harry's friends as you can. Leave him alive, if you can... and free, too. I want him to go insane with worry over what we will do to his precious friends." Voldemort then grew a sadistic smile. "On second thought... focus on his female friends. It will increase the burden." He glanced at Wormtail. "Am I correct, Wormtail?"

"O-of course, Master!" Wormtail snivelled. "He feels very protective of his friends, the female ones even more so! He always tried to keep them out of danger."

Voldemort nodded with satisfaction. "Excellent. I want you to plan this out, you who are my most trusted lieutenants."

They all glanced at each other, a glint of satisfaction in their eyes. All of them knew there was one person missing here... Severus Snape. The same Severus Snape that had fallen from grace when the Potions Master had returned before their master, and said master had seen how Harry Potter had gotten the best of the man.

They bowed deeply, and left the room upon their master's signal. They had a battle to plan.

00000

Harry drew a deep breath when he reached the outskirts of Hogsmeade village. Closing his eyes momentarily, he savoured the sweet smell of freedom. He opened his eyes, and smiled at the friends that were accompanying him: Ron, Hermione, Luna, Neville, even Ginny.

They all smiled back, and made their way deeper into the village.

Of course, Hermione dragged them to the book store first. Knowing that she was probably looking for reference materials concerning the Druids, Harry did not resist too much. A shared glance with Ron stopped his arguments as well. Neville was his usual self, and was okay with just about anything. Luna was staring at some cloud or other, yet Harry knew that she was probably more aware of everything that was going around them then his friends. As she did not complain, he took it as a good sign. Ginny protested almost as much as her brother had, but it too, stopped soon after, when Harry promised that their next stop would be the Quidditch Supplies store.

Entering the book store, the small group split up. Harry managed to sneak Ron and Hermione with him. "Any luck?" he asked when they reached the book of the store, where the oldest and most rare of the books were located.

Ron shook his head. "I haven't found anything out yet," he replied.

Hermione shook her head as well. "It seems you were right, the library has precious little information on Druidism, and their way of magic."

Harry sighed. "No worries," he said. "Let's see if we can find anything in here."

When they left the story, about half an hour later, Hermione was carrying five books she proclaimed to 'hold promise'. Harry took it as a good sign, even if the things were written in Ancient Runes, a subject he himself had never gotten a single lesson on. This was going to be a Hermione-only project, it seemed.

After the book store came the Quidditch shop, which lifted Ron and Ginny's spirits, even Harry felt better looking at the new and shiny brooms on display. They didn't spend any money there this day, but the half an hour spent relaxing helped Harry immensely.

They ended up in the Three Broomsticks, each holding a butterbeer, and simply enjoying the company. Even Luna's airy comments didn't rattle Hermione, and Harry was inwardly chuckling at some of the theories Luna came up with. Aware as he was now of the immense Occlumency shield she was keeping up, her odd behaviour made an odd sort of sense now. He had been warned that keeping his shields on full power could have serious effects on his mind. Now he knew what the result could be... even if it was highly amusing.

He found himself liking Luna because of it, rather than in spite of it, her way of looking at things making his smile and laugh when there was precious little to smile or laugh about these days.

They had a wonderful time together, drinking the butterbeer that the three Broomsticks was known for, laughing, joking, talking.

Mid-laugh, Harry suddenly broke off. Something had triggered the outer edges of his mental awareness, and his shields had tightened into a hard ball. Ever since Snape had tried to attack him, Harry had worked on the sensitivity of his sensors, tying them directly into his shields, so they would activate automatically. Never again would it take him precious seconds to do it himself. Maya had been impressed... and had promptly copied his technique.

But now, something had triggered his sensors. His shields had tightened. Harry frowned, and looked at the front of the pub, trying to figure out what had happened. His shields did not tighten by themselves.

The group present, seeing Harry go from laughing and carefree to cold and distant in the passing of just a single moment, glanced between each other, confused, wondering what was going on.

Harry looked around the group, finally registering they were still there. When he came to Luna, she held his gaze. "They've Apparated in," Luna stated.

Harry nodded. "You can feel them too? I lost contact."

Luna shrugged, then dipped her head once. "Just like the Crumple-Horned Snorkack. I know they're there, but I can't see them."

Harry frowned. "This is not good." He stood up, Luna following automatically. The rest of the group, confused, followed a couple of seconds later, not really knowing what was going on.

"Death Eaters have gotten into the village," Harry said, low enough so they weren't overheard. "We need to get out of here."

The group gasped, and it was Hermione who spoke first. "The fastest way..."

"Will probably be blocked," Harry said, calmly. His eyes glittered dangerously, though. Once again, he looked around the group. "Ron, Hermione. Neville, you're with Ginny. Luna, you're with me. Always look out for the back of your partner. Defend them, as they will defend you. I've broken us up in groups that complement each other... keep each other balanced, don't get riled up, and whatever happens... do not get killed."

The confusion over Harry's take-charge attitude ebbed away, and the people present nodded. "The goal is to get help, then get to the castle. Survival is the name of the game, being a hero doesn't come into this," he said, finally, and they nodded again. And then... he took out a Galleon.

He rearranged the numbers on it, changing them to date and time, here and now. He just hoped that there was still someone in the village who had his or her fake Galleon with them. Hermione frowned, took out her own, then grinned at Harry.

"I just hope the DA is still checking theirs. If they're here, we could use their help," Harry said as they made their way to the door.

Just as they reached it, it was blown in, three Death Eaters following right behind it, shooting Unforgiveables everywhere.

Harry, the closest to the door, had pushed his friends down with him as he flew, and as such, saved their lives as they all went down in a tangled heap of arms and legs. Already his staff was pointing at them.

Intent is what brings the result of a spell, Harry heard Ken quote in his mind. He gritted his teeth when he saw a mother and father mowed down with Avada Kedavra while trying to protect a young girl. He didn't think at that moment, and just pointed his staff, his spell fuelled by emotion rather than thought. "Kuzuryusen!"

The first Death Eater slipped apart after the spell washed over him, arms, legs, torso and head slipping to the ground separately. Harry had stood up meanwhile, and brandished his staff at death Eater number two. Again, he cast his spell, but this man was ready for him, and blocked the spell using a Protego Shield. Harry growled, and started casting.

At the same time, his friends had gotten up as well, and were now brandishing their wands against Death Eater number three, who was, just like his colleague, too busy protecting to be able to cast another Killing Curse.

Luna, doing as Harry had asked, was casting at the same guy Harry was, keeping him busy while Harry charged the Kuzuryusen strikes that had become his new trademark spell.

Finally, a startled scream later, the second Death Eater slipped into pieces on the ground. Fighting the rising bile and the horror he felt over killing two people, Harry turned to the last Death Eater.

The man was on the ground now, the result of a Full Body-Bind(Hermione), two Boils curses(Ron and Neville), and a Bat-Bogey Hex(Ginny). Harry drew a breath, and stunned the man. "He can be revived later," he said. "I just hope it'll be our side that revives him, and not the Death Eaters."

They slipped out of the Three Broomsticks, and into the empty Main Street. To the left, they could see Hogsmeade Station, beyond which lay Hogwart's lake and the trail that led up to the school proper. To the right, they could see the smoke rising from where various business had been hit with incendiary charms.

Harry's hand clenched around his staff, and he was about to run off to the right, when Luna said, "The Flitterwitters are out today."

Harry blinked; everyone stared at her. She nodded her head, indicting the clear blue sky. "They eat clouds."

Unable to help himself, Harry looked up to the clear blue sky, and indeed, there was not a cloud in sight. He looked back down, staring at her. Right as Hermione was about to launch into a lecture, Luna smiled.

"Are you calm now, Harry? That was my job, wasn't it? To keep you calm, stop you from doing something stupid?"

Harry sighed, and nodded. "Thanks, Luna."

She smiled slightly. "You were about to run into the village, weren't you?"

Harry nodded. "Anyway," he said. "We need to get back to Hogwarts. We can't stay here."

Just as he spoke those words, the door of the house in front of them burst from its hinges, blasted from the inside out. Apparantly, the Death Eaters had been allowed entrance at one point, and were now in the process of tearing the place to shreds.

For just a few seconds, the six friends stared at the two Death Eaters that exited the building, neither believing that the other group just showed up like that.

Harry launched the first spell, and the Death Eaters blocked it admirably.

Harry and his friends immediately realized that these Death Eaters were of a different calibre than the ones now lying inside the Three Broomsticks. Those men had led with Unforgiveables. These Death Eaters, however, were cool and composed, using nonverbal spells to hide their casting, and decreasing their casting time.

As the group ducked back into the Three Broomsticks, Harry found out the limit of his training... as his magical deviation was met with the incredible force of a spell cast at full power by a fully trained dark Wizard. He barely managed to deflect the spells as his friends ran back into one by one. He slammed the door closed behind him, and immediately slammed an imperturbable charm on it, to try and strengthen it.

He cursed under his breath. "They're powerful, I can barely knock their spells aside," Harry grunted as the barrage tore into the door. "And my Japanese spells are too slow."

Ron glanced at Harry, then at the group. "You've got the most chance out of all of us to take them down, mate," the redhead spoke. "We'll create a diversion."

Harry was about to protest when Hermione cut him off. They were all in this together, and if them creating a diversion for Harry was the best way to go forward, then so be it. Harry nodded, not feeling up to arguing with his friends, even as the door was torn to splinters.

Immediately, the group jumped up, Harry going first to cover for his friends exiting. As soon as the others had cleared the building, so they could use their superior numbers, they started lying into the Death Eaters.

But these were highly training Death Eaters; Harry felt his power wane as he pushed more and more power into deviating the spells coming at him. As his friends starts casting, the death Eaters put up shields, and returned fire.

Stepping back, Harry focused. His Rasengan packed quite a punch, but his magic-leak was atrocious, and it lost more than three-quarters of its power while going for the target. He needed more control before he could use that under combat conditions.

His left hand came up. A blank Seal appeared

Artillery magic, indeed.

"Harry Potter, Plasmatizer, asks the Seal, what are you?"

The Japanese voice boomed through the sky, startling the Death Eaters into inactivity for just a few seconds. "I am Burning Hell, bringing Punishment to the Wicked! I ride through the Skies in a Chariot of Fire!"

The Fireball flashed from the Seal in Harry's left hand, and struck the Death Eater on the right, tearing through his shield and blackening his skin. The man fell over, dead.

Yet another death on my conscience, Harry thought bitterly.

And here, yet another downside of the Seals made itself known... for the answer generated by the Seal boomed across the battlefield, attracting their opponent's comrades. Harry cursed on his breath again; and flung his staff around, closing his eyes and focusing on his magic.

Transfiguration was not a problem for him since Ken started teaching him how to manipulate magic on a more basic level. The ground before them warped, creating a stone barrier they could hide behind.

But that still left their one opponent, for the moment kept at bay by a continuous barrage of spells, forcing the man to cast and re-cast his shields constantly, not allowing him the time to cast any offensive spells.

Harry threw the head of his staff in the Death Eater's direction. "Kuzuryusen!"

This time, the spell tore the man's shield, but it did not reduce him to sliced and diced Human Being. Rather, it produced deep gashes that were debilitating and hurt terribly, but were mostly non-fatal.

Mostly.

The man was in definite need of a Healer. Hermione cast a blood-clotting charm, preventing the man from dying of blood loss, but keeping him sufficiently incapacitated to make sure he wouldn't come up and shoot them in the back.

"We're in deep trouble," Harry grunted. "It will only take them a few moments to start apparating over."

Ron, ducking behind the wall, next to Harry, nodded grimly. "Quite a pickle, mate."

Hermione, Ginny, Luna, and Neville ducked low as well.

"So, what do we do, Harry?" Neville asked. "Do we go back, or do we stay and help?"

Harry wanted to say, stay and help, but deep inside, he knew it was best to go back to the castle. His friends could see the inner war raging as they saw his face pull and twitch. "We should go back to the castle," Harry grunted, glancing at the wall. The spell-casting and the screams were filling the air. Harry's fist balled. "So much death," he grunted, thinking nobody heard him.

"It isn't your fault, nor your responsibility," Luna said from next to him. He blinked at her. How did she know what he was thinking? She blinked back at him, and smiled slightly. "Death comes to us all, Harry," she said, calmly. "But some of us have the luxury of being able to chose our time and place."

Harry swallowed, before finally nodding. "You're right." He held out his empty left hand. Three seals appeared. "I can only cast these if I can see the target," he said. "Can you generate a distraction? I can take out three of them with these."

His friends nodded grimly. The dead Death Eaters, the dying Death Eater, and the one trussed-up Death Eater, coupled with Luna's speech, had instilled the truth of the situation into them. At the count of three, they sprung up, and Harry took a step back, beginning his incantation, holding the Seals out.

He almost stopped when a Bludgeoning Hex came at him, only to be blocked by a Banished piece of rubble. Luna had just saved him... He could not even spare the word to thank her. He could not interrupt his incantation.

"Harry Potter, Plasmatizer-" This time, it was some sort of cutting hex. Once again, Luna covered him. He glanced at his friends for just a second. They were in teams, covering each other, just as he had asked. He felt pride in them and their accomplishments.

"-asks the Seals-" He almost stopped casting when he saw a Lung-crushing Curse sail toward Luna. It was his job to cover her! She blocked it with a summoned piece of his wall. Now she had less wall to cover behind.

"-what are you!?" His voice was booming in and by itself, the magic in him taking hold as the Seals activated.

"We are Burning Hell, bringing Punishment to the Wicked! We ride through the Skies in Chariots of Fire!"

Three Fireballs lashed out, one directly after another, striking three Death Eaters to the ground. Just as Harry felt the euphoria of a job well-done go through him, he heard the tell-tale pops of multiple Apparations behind him.

He turned immediately, just as his friends did, his focus already on his next spell.

He took his eyes off Luna for one second.

One second was all it took.

His target was on the ground, bleeding, when her voice reaching him. He turned, looked, and saw her fall, Petrified, into the arms of a Death Eater. The man looked up, meeting Harry's eyes, and even though his face was hidden by a mask, Harry could swear that he was smiling.

His staff came up.

"Harry!"

Harry ducked, and rolled, a Bone-Crushing hex barely missing him. He looked up, and saw the Death Eater vanish around the corner, bearing Luna. For one fleeting second, Harry was glad that the man obviously hadn't heard of Forced Apparition, nor of Portkeys. He wouldn't be able to track them, then.

He got up, his right hand clenched on his staff. It lashed out in the direction of the Death Eater that had tried to curse him. "Electrifius," he muttered under his breath, the bolt of electricity striking the man dead-on, smiting his shield to pieces, and throwing him back, residual energy pulsing over his body.

"I'm going after Luna," he stated coldly, glancing at his friends. "She's my partner."

Ron nodded. "We'll come with you, mate," he stated firmly.

"No," Harry said, coldly. "You go back to the Castle. That's your job. Mine's to Luna. I had to cover her back, and I failed. Never again." He turned, and walked off, before setting in a full run. In just a few moments, he was glad that he had started running around the lake in the mornings. He'd never be able to run like this otherwise.

As he turned the corner, he felt his legs catch his robes. Stumbling three steps and managing to remain upright, Harry cursed under his breath. Stupid robes, he thought, trailing his hand over the seam while whispering the release spell.

The robes opened up at the front, and Harry shrugged his arms out of the garment, letting the upper part of his robes dangle down over the dragonhide belt he worse over them, keeping sword attached to his hip.

A second incantation later, the belt was open, and the robes fell to the ground. As he closed his belt, completing his dragonhide armour outfit once more, he contemplated what to do with the discarded robes.

It only lasted a second, as he turned and kept running. He had lost barely five seconds, and wasn't about to give up now. Setting in a sprint, he soon caught the Death Eater carrying Luna in his sights.

The man vanished around the Shrieking Shack. Harry kept up the pace.

00000

Behind the Shrieking Shack, two Slytherin girls were standing, talking quietly to themselves.

"They should be here any minute," the first girl said to the second.

The second one, a brunette, nodded at her blonde friend. Just as she nodded, the tell-tale Apparition pops were heard all over the village. Scant seconds later, the screams began.

"Looks like they're right on time," the blonde remarked to her brunette friend, who only nodded, a smile slowly spreading on her face before hiding itself behind the Slytherin mask of indifference.

As they said so, they started walking back into the village, avoiding the path and cutting through the grass toward the buildings. After barely ten seconds, they stopped, seeing a Death Eater carrying a six-year old child toward them. Both girls felt their blood turn at the sight of the stunned girl dangle over the shoulder of the fully grown man.

He immediately dropped the girl and raising his wand towards the two Slytherins.

Both drew themselves up to their full height, not even going for their wands, which confused the Death Eater into inaction. "Fool," the brunette stated coldly. "We are special emissaries to Our Lord!"

The Death eater obviously didn't believe them, and brandished his wand, ready to curse them. Seeing the spell-motions form, the brunette glanced around, and withdrew something out of her robes, something she kept on a string around her neck.

It was a stone casting of the Dark Mark. Righteously so, the Dark Lord had deemed it too imprudent to mark his followers permanently, yet he had given them something to identify themselves with.

"Everyone can have something like that," the Death Eater grumbled, starting his aborted incantation once again.

The brunette grunted under his breath, and squeezed the item. The image of the Dark Lord appeared, stating in clear terms, that the bearer of this medallion was not to be harmed. The man lowered his wand.

Both girls nodded, the brunette putting the item back under her clothes before walking away. As they passed, the Death Eater threw the trussed-up child over his shoulder again, his very posture one of glee. The two Slytherins looked at each other as the man walked away.

They knew what was to happen.

"Halt," the blonde stated.

The man actually stopped, and turned. Special Emissaries to the Dark Lord were dangerous, and he'd rather not be cursed by Voldemort for harming them. "What?" he asked.

"The parents," the bruentte said, her head indicating the girl.

"Dead. AK-ed them," the response came.

The girls nodded, expecting that much. "And the girl?"

"A dirty half-blood. Her father tried to brain me with a club. Pathetic."

A half-blood. The two Slytherins looked at each other again. It was one thing to wish for supremacy of the full-bloods. It was another to kill parents and abduct little six-year-old girls. And it was a third thing to have it happen in front of you. In that instant, they realized just what they had been doing. They swallowed, recognising in each others eyes what they themselves thought.

Their wands came up in an instant.

They were not part of the DA, and even though they had received some training from the Death Eaters, they were nowhere near the level of Harry and his friends, let alone anywhere near the level of the Death Eaters.

And so, the Death Eater was faster.

As spells and hexes flew, the two Slytherins felt their shields buckle and shatter. Managing at least to force the man to drop his six-year-old burden, they manoeuvred him away from her, trying to put themselves between the girl and her attacker.

"Foolish," the Death Eater muttered. "Very Foolish."

"It's one thing to want a thing. It's another to actually see what the results of that thing are," the blonde Slytherin grunted deeply, her left hand clutching at the deep gash in her right arm, trying to stem the flow of blood that was making her wand slippery. She was breathing deeply.

Next to her, the brunette was on the ground, one leg shattered under the Bone-breaking hex.

The man, even though his features were hidden by a mask, was looking gleeful as he raising his wand for the final blow. The brunette on the ground still had a somewhat-firm grip on her wand, but her mobility was gone. The blonde had her mobility, but was panting deeply and could hardly lift her wand-arm. He liked his odds.

At the moment, their attention was distracted by a Death Eater racing past the Shrieking Shack and making a beeline for the Forbidden Forest, carrying a blonde girl. About twenty to thirty seconds behind him, Harry Potter raced around the corner, his gaze firmly looked on the Death Eater disappearing into the Forest.

As he raced toward his goal, his gaze swept around now that he was in the clearing. His gaze rested upon them. One girl on the ground, a second bleeding deeply, a very young girl on the ground. A Death Eater with a wand.

Harry could not cast and run at the same time, his pumping arms preventing him from doing so.

To their utter surprise, the two Slytherins saw him break off pursuit, lift his staff, and jam it in the direction of the Death Eater, who was now in a sort of combat stance, trying to minimize his signature.

A fireball came racing toward him, and his shield blocked it in time. The second strike was a lightning bolt, hidden behind the fireball. The Death Eater fell to the ground, screaming horribly before passing out, his skin blackened and burned, the smell of burnt flesh emanating from him.

Harry spared them a single glance, making sure they were okay, turned, and started racing again. He had lost another fifteen precious seconds.

Both Slytherins stared at each other.

"I think we joined the wrong side, Daphne," the blonde said.

"I think so too, Tracy," the brunette answered.

00000

As Harry entered the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, his thoughts quickly left the two Slytherin girls he had just saved. The fact that they had been Slytherin had barely registered, the fact that they had been standing in between a Death Eater and an unconscious child had. He blew out his breath, calming himself as he pressed on, chasing his target. He was really glad for his physical training now, he was still fresh after the flat-out chase, the battle he had done earlier, and the fact that he had just thrown a fireball and an electrifius, right behind each other.

The Death eater was nowhere near in shape, as he was audibly panting, and his speed had dropped to barely above walking.

In the Forest, it hardly mattered, as Harry could not press his speed advantage as much as he wanted.

The Death Eater emerged into a clearing, and dropped his load. The girl may not be big, but she had been weighing him down considerably. "I have one," the man panted, addressing a Death Eater standing on the other side of the clearing.

"Good," the suave voice of Lucius Malfoy drifted across the clearing. He threw an object to his underling. "Drop this Portkey on her, get her to manor. I hope the others are just as successful, and the Dark Lord will be pleased."

The man caught the object, and was about to place it on the unconscious Luna.

The next moment, he let out a scream, right before his body seemingly combusted and vanished into ashes.

Out of the Forest came Harry Potter, his staff aimed in the direction of the Death Eaters still present. For a moment, he stared at the ashes caused by his lightning spell, before focusing on Luna. "Finite Incantatem, Ennervate," he cast, the end of one spell flowing into the beginning of the next. Luna blinked, focused her blurry eyes on Harry, before realizing where she was, and slowly started to crawl to her legs.

"Harry Potter," Lucius drawled. "Get lost, boy. We're here only for your friends."

Harry's fist clenched his staff to the point where his popping knuckles were audible to all. Deep inside his mind, a mantra started to form. I will never let them hurt my friends. Never again. His Occlumency shields, already at an impressive level, tightened further, and Harry clamped down on his emotions. He could not afford to make mistakes. Not here, not now.

"Luna. Get behind me," he stated, voice level, yet a command all the same. The girl struggled to her legs and stood up, wobbling slightly as she took a step.

"Crucio," Lucius incanted in a drawl, his spell striking her back, knocking her to the ground as a scream tore from her throat and her body contorted under the pressure on her nervous system.

Harry threw a fireball at the man. A second Death Eater stepped in front of his leader, and calmly took the spell on his shield. To Harry's surprise, his spell washed around the man's shield, and did seemingly no damage to it.

Lucius broke off the spell after ten seconds, not wishing to cause her insanity. After all, what good was an insane prisoner? Except make Harry angry, of course.

"You want him, Gibbon?" Lucius asked, his smirk audible in his voice but unseen, hidden behind his Death Eater mask. "Then he's yours. Hurt him, don't kill him, as the Dark Lord wants him to suffer."

Harry grinned at those words, and stepped in front of Luna, using the Death Eater's speech to give him time to do so.

"You can't keep protecting her," Gibbon said, gravely. "Step away. Let us take her, and you can leave, without getting hurt."

"Like you'll actually let me walk out of here," Harry grunted, throwing another electrifius at the man. The Death Eater banished it aside, and threw a Bludgeoning Hex at him. Harry tried to throw it aside, but found that the spell was beyond his power level to Deviate, and had to resort to ducking away. The moment he cleared, he heard the man cast Crucio on Luna.

Her screams tore at his heart, and he screamed his next hex, a bone-breaking hex that was almost Dark, which the man slapped aside and after which he returned a Reducto, and Harry once again found himself unable to Deviate it; the spell's power overwhelming his meagre ability. Again, he was forced to his knees when Gibbon cast a Crucio on Luna.

Each time, it lasted barely a few seconds, but it was enough to tear at Harry, at his composure, at his ability to remain calm. As he started spell upon spell, trying to overwhelm his opponent into surrender, he was barely aware of the fact that his spells were either slapped aside nonchalantly, or absorbed into the man's insanely powerful Shield Charm.

The man's wand suddenly jerked sideways, and the powerful banishing charm slapped Harry aside like a broken doll. Feeling joints twist, he bit off a startled, pain-filled scream. Never would he have thought he was so ill-prepared for battle.

He realized then and there, this time, the Death Eaters were fighting for keeps. They were not startled by his power or his cleverness. He was alone, Luna had been tortured, and he had nobody to rely on but himself.

He needed help.

He slowly got to his feet, leaning on his staff as he did so. Drawing a deep breath to qualm his pains, he spared a thought to his faithful dragonhide armour, his deeply coloured outfit that had absorbed an inordinate amount of magic already, which had kept him from being cut, which had made sure the spells did not penetrate. He was in pain from blunt-force trauma, but unhurt from magical spells.

He got to his legs, and wanted to start another spell when Luna's scream once again penetrated the fog between his ears.

"Expelliarmus!" Gibbon cast, immensely to Harry's surprise. As his staff tore from his hand, Gibbon aimed his wand and cast a Banishment charm.

The staff vanished over the tree line-out of his sight and out of the clearing. He opened his hand. "To me!"

His staff did not reappear. Gibbon's Banishment charm had thrown it out of his reach.

"Harry... run," Luna croaked as Gibbon lifted his wand at her.

Harry threw himself in his path. For a moment, the Boy-Who-Lived stared down the Death Eater. Fianlly, Gibbon cast his spell.

A Slashing Hex. Diffindo.

The Dragonhide absorbed most of the damage, but this time, the curse had been aimed specifically at damaging him. Harry fell back, feeling his suit rip and tear, and feeling the spell taste his flesh.

For a moment, he was sure his right arm was going to fall off, and it was only when his back met the ground that he realized that he was still alive, and still had feeling in it. The Dragonhide had absorbed enough energy to permit him the use of his arm.

Should he chose to ignore the pain in his chest, the spell having gotten several millimetres deep and biting deep into the muscle of his chest.

Never again, Harry whispered, standing up.

"I'm surprised you can still get up after that," Gibbon said, sounding somewhat surprised. "That dragonhide you're wearing must be really good." His voice took on a menacing tone. "Or not, seeing how you're bleeding like a pig."

"This has nothing to do with you, boy," Lucius growled under his breath. "Leave."

"Get out of here, harry," Luna whispered from behind him.

Harry's left fist balled. At least that didn't hurt. He couldn't bear to lift his right arm with the amount of damage done to his chest, blood from his wound dripping down his front and hitting the ground.

"Diffindo," Gibbon cast again.

This time, the hex hit his left side, and Harry twisted in the air as he fell. He hit the ground. He stayed on the ground, panting deeply, feeling pain flash through his entire body, unable to believe that anything outside of the Cruciatus Curse could make him feel anything like this.

Maybe I should stay down, he thought to himself. His eyes blinked slowly. He wanted to close them. To sleep. To embrace the darkness of blissful unconsciousness.

Gibbon gasped.

Lucius' eyes, visible through the mask, opened wide.

Luna bit back a sob. "Harry... please... not for me..."

Harry had stood up.

"Harry," Luna tried again, her body still shuddering from over-exposure to the Cruciatus. "Harry, get out..." Her voice trailed off.

He just stood there, head bowed, blood spilling on the ground, unable to use his arms, legs spread to maintain his balance, seemingly incapable of movement. He stood there. He would not move.

Never again, His mind droned. Never Again. Never Again will I let someone else get hurt. Never again will I let someone else die. Not for me. He looked up, his green eyes ablaze with power. Never again.

Inside his mind, his Occlumency-induced control over his emotions shattered.

Magic burst around him, tugging at his clothes, at his hair, as the leaves of the nearby trees. Gibbon startled.

Harry's left hand grabbed hold of his sword, hefted it out of his belt, and held it horizontal. His right hand came up, grabbed the hilt, and pulled.

As the blade came free, its gleaming white surface shining, blue flames of magic seemed to emanate from it. Transfixed, everyone just stood there as Harry pulled his sword, staring at the gleaming white-reflective surface of the sword.

The tip cleared.

First Draw, Harry's mind resonated through the desolation of his mindscape. Harry growled, took a step, and seemed to vanish.

Gibbon threw himself aside just in the nick of time, Harry's sword flashing down from where the boy appeared right next to him. It would have cleaved him in half had he been at his original location.

The sword came up, and flashed toward him again. Clashing against the Protego Shield Charm, bright white sparks of magic were throw off as Gibbon was pushed backward. Again, Harry flashed from his location, directly next to his opponent, his sword coming down in a death-strike.

The ground cleaved. "What's wrong!?" Harry snarled. "Why aren't you returning spells?"

Shut up, Gibbon thought to himself as he threw himself away from yet another lethal slash. You've got a whole of a lot of power stashed away, kid!

Harry flashed after Gibbon again, feeling himself connect with his sword the longer it was out.

As he dodged a hurriedly-cast spell, he felt the truth hit him.

The truth. Why it had taken him so long to draw his sword.

The truth. What he had done that night he had bound his sword to him.

Ken's words flashed through his mind. You will need to be yourself, at one with yourself, your heart and mind and body and soul. Only then will you be able to draw your sword.

The truth. He needed to be more at one with himself.

He flung Gibbon's spell aside, hitting it with the flat of his sword, and drew another gash in the ground, as of yet still unable to hit his just-fast-enough target.

He needed to be at one with not only himself. He needed his magic as well. And that is why... why it had taken him longer than most.

Harry snarled, and threw a bolt of magic from his sword at his opponent, who blinked in fear, and Apparated a couple of meters to one side. Apparently, the clearing was warded against Apparition. It allowed internal Apparition, but it did not allow one to Apparate in or out.

Gibbon winced, and grabbed his right shoulder. That bolt had actually grazed him! The boy was getting faster and faster!

The truth, Harry repeated to himself. What really happened when he created his staff, tapped the Line, and overcharged his spell, the surplus energy of which he channelled into the bounding of his sword.

Harry came to a stop. Gibbon stood there, panting deeply, his magic and his body at his limits.

"Breathe," Harry whispered. "Breathe," he repeated, lifting his sword. His green eyes flashed white. "Breathe!" he screamed. "Kaze no yojimbo!" (A/N: Bodyguard of Wind)

His sword seemed to flashed brightly, the oval cross guard morphing fluidly into a pentagram.

When Harry had channelled the Line energy left-over from the Elemental Binding into the Soul Binding ritual, he unwittingly bound something else.

Harry had bound the Five Elements to his Soulbound Sword.

The blade of his sword vanished... and Gibbon let out a single, blood-curling scream as his body was torn apart, sending blood and parts and intestines and organs flying in all directions.

As the blade reformed, Lucius was suddenly standing right in front of him, the man's wand pressed hard against Harry's side. Harry's eyes locked with Lucius', and that one second before the word fell seemed to last an eternity.

"Reducto."

Harry didn't even scream when the spell tore his Dragonhide away, and bit into his side, spewing blood out his back. As he fell, he faintly heard something crack, and it was as if a previously unnoticed pressure fell away from him.

He realized a second later, when his back had just finished reaching the ground, that the Anti-Apparition Wards had been broken, as no less than a dozen people Apparated into the clearing.

Harry's eyes met Dumbledore's, right before his elder Headmaster threw a single spell in Lucius' direction.

Before it had a chance to hit, Lucius and the three remaining Death Eaters had Apparated away. Harry groaned, and looked over to where Professor McGonagall had Luna in a gentle mobilicorpus spell.

He smiled.

This time, he had saved someone. Even if it was by stalling until someone else got there.

He closed his eyes, and let unconsciousness claim him, unaware of the stares the teachers and Order members were shooting each other when Harry's sword morphed back to its normal state, sheathed itself, and attached itself to his hip.

Ignorance was bliss.

End of Chapter

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