Mahou mo Ken

Explanations and Evolutions

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.

Author's note – as I am unable to find a schedule for Year Six of the Harry Potter books, I made use of the daily course schedule of book five, found at the HP Lexicon. Thanks, guys!

Chapter nine – Explanations and Evolutions

Harry walked into the Great Hall, his Gryffindor friends all around him. He smiled slightly when he spotted Maya, and sat himself down right next to her, making Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Ginny scramble for the free seats near them.

He glanced at the notebook in front of his Magic Sister, and the countless equations she was rapidly filling the pages with.

"Hey, Sis," he finally said, leaning to look theatrically over her shoulder. "Whatcha doin'?"

She glanced at him. "Writing," she replied.

He nodded. "I thought so," he said, turning to grab himself some breakfast. Maya nodded, as if she saying 'you're welcome', and turned back to her work.

When his plate was filled, he looked up at a frustrated huff.

"Whatcha writin'?" he asked.

"I don't get it," she replied. "The theory is sound. The Elemental Equations match. Why doesn't it work?"

"Still working on the Animagus Transformation?"

She huffed.

Harry shrugged. "Sorry, can't help you there, Sis." He frowned in thought for a few seconds. "Maybe you're looking at this from the wrong angle. The Animagus Transformation is a Western piece of magic, and you're looking at it from an oriental mindset."

Maya nodded thoughtfully at the notes. "Maybe. But the same laws of magic should still apply!"

"Maybe," Harry allowed. "But still, I can't cast a western spell using oriental methods."

Maya crossed her arms, and stared at her empty plate. "Maybe I am," she allowed. "All right, overview. I am balancing the Void as well as the Air, in order to achieve an animal transfiguration on myself. I know this theory is sound, as I can use it to Transfigure someone else into an animal."

Harry nodded. "True. However, that is Transfiguration, not Animagus Transformation. One is a Transfiguration, basically, the changing of shape and size of one object into another. The other is a Transformation, a complete change of mind and body."

Maya stared at her brother for a few seconds. "I hadn't thought of it that way. Transfiguration of the Self is rather difficult, isn't it?"

Harry grinned.

"Will you two stop that!" Hermione said forcefully.

"Stop what?" Harry asked.

"Jabbering in Japanese like that!"

Harry looked sheepish. "Sorry. I guess it just comes naturally." He looked at Maya. "Also, Animagus Transformation is supposed to be to one animal, the one that is closest to you in mind and spirit. What animal were you trying to transform into?"

Hermione blustered as Harry picked right up in the middle of his conversation.

Maya frowned slightly. "I was going for a tiger, actually."

Harry looked thoughtful for a few moments. "I think the first thing we need to figure out is how to find the animal that is supposed to be your Animagus form, then figure out how to do the transformation. I know that my father and his friends figured it out by themselves, so it should be possible."

"True," Maya said, before muttering a 'finally' when the food appeared. "It still irks me that I could have overlooked the difference between Transfiguration and Transformation. And I still don't get why it can only do a single animal."

"Probably just because it is supposed to be the animal that is closest to you in mind and spirit. There can be only one of those, after all," Harry replied after starting to finally eat the food on his plate.

Maya glanced at Ken, seated at the Head Table for once. "Maybe Sensei can help."

"Maybe not," Harry said with a grin. "How about we do this as an extra-curricular exercise?"

Maya was silent for a few moments, before a wicked look entered her classic Asian features. "Great idea, Bro. I knew there was a reason why I kept you around."

"You needed someone to use as a punching bag?" Harry suggested helpfully, right as she was taking a drink from her goblet of pumpkin juice. The result was that she started hacking and coughing as the fluid went down her windpipe.

Finally having cleared the blockage, she turned to look at Harry. "Not to mention your wonderful personality."

He grinned. "Thanks, Sis."

She shot a grin back. "And maybe you can help me multi-cast Seals, too."

He shrugged. "Sure. As long as you help me with my control. I'm tired of leaking so much. Sure, it makes me look impressive, but the hit on my reserves is atrocious."

She didn't reply verbally, merely sending her confirmation through their mental link. As breakfast progressed around them, Harry found himself looking up at the Head Table, seeing Ken involved in a discussion with McGonagall, probably about the subject of Maya's tantrum yesterday during Transfiguration class.

It was NOT a tantrum!

Yes, it was, Sis, Harry shot back with a grin as he looked at the other teachers. His eyes rested on Dumbledore's blackened hand, and the sight triggered a latent memory, a memory of a promise he had forgotten up until now.

Harry, don't, Maya thought into his mind, recognizing what he was thinking about.

I promised, Sis, he returned. Besides, if I can help him, I might be able to get some better treatment at his hands. It's better if he cooperates, rather than try and fight every step of the way.

That's true, Maya was forced to admit. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. And I can tell you right now that Sensei will do whatever she can to stop you.

Harry grumbled, yet stood up anyway. Calmly, he walked to the Head Table, and stopped in front of the Headmaster. "Sir, when would be a good time for me to attempt to keep the promise I have made you a while back?"

Dumbledore glanced at his blackened hand, and immediately recognized what Harry was talking about. "If I remember correctly, you have Divination first, followed by a break."

Harry nodded. "That's correct, Sir."

"How about you join me in my office during your break, Harry?" the elderly Headmaster suggested.

Harry nodded. "That'll be fine, Sir."

00000

"I can not believe you have such a useless class," Maya complained in straight Japanese as the small group walked to Dumbledore's office. Ron just stared back and forth between Harry and Maya as they jabbered back and forth in the language, seemingly not paying any attention at all to him.

Harry produced the password and the trio was walking up the stairs when an out-of-breath Hermione joined them, having run all the way from Arithmancy to catch up to them.

"It may be useless," Harry replied to Maya, "but it's also a nice diversion, and it's a very laid-back course. Good for catching up on some laughs and such."

"You're doing that again!?" Hermione complained.

"Sorry," Harry said, lifting his hand to knock on the door. Dumbledore's voice told them to enter before it made contact.

"You may be able to relax, but it serves you no purpose," Maya retorted in English. "You need combat skills, not useless gimmicks. It's no wonder you're so far behind, if you are taking a bunch of courses that have nothing whatsoever to do with applied or combat magics."

Hermione started to go red, but before she could say something, Maya stopped and turned to Harry. "I am the first to admit my own training is skewed. I excel in what you call Charms and Transfiguration. I know some very basic potion-making skills, and have a very rudimentary knowledge of Runes. But why would someone in your position be required to take," she started ticking off fingers, "Potions, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and Astronomy?"

"Just because you don't know them doesn't make them useless!" Hermione almost-shouted, somewhat more subdued then her usual full-shout, seeing as they were having this argument in the Headmaster's office.

"If you had listened," Maya said contemptuously, staring at Hermione, "I was referring to Harry, and the position he was in. I did not call the subjects useless. I called them superfluous for Harry's well-being. What he needed was a person like Sensei, who could have trained him as I have been trained." She turned, not even waiting for Hermione to say anything, and nodded respectfully to the Headmaster. "My apologies, Headmaster."

"No apologies needed," the Headmaster waved her off. "It is a Japanese viewpoint you defend, one that, unfortunately, can not be defended in Britain, seeing as the Ministry has determined that a minimum diversion of courses is required for a balanced education."

Harry sat down next to Maya, yet looked a little apprehensive at her. "Then your Ministry should have made an exception in Harry's case. The prophecy was activated in 1981, it should have taken precedence to train Harry from that point on."

"Maya..." Harry muttered.

"Oh, fine!" she snapped at him. "I'll refrain of lecturing the ones who have wronged you so."

Harry winced, and glanced apologetically at his Headmaster, even if he inwardly agreed with Maya. The old man seemed more amused than offended. "Although it is true that I have made mistakes, I truly did what I thought was for the best, and hoped to give you a trouble-free childhood, away from the pressures of fame."

"And instead you destroyed my childhood by placing me with people who locked me in a cupboard," Harry said carefully, not wanting to show just how much anger he had been holding in.

The Headmaster sighed. "I truly did not know."

"Did you even check?" Maya demanded.

"Maya..." Harry begged.

Maya huffed, and crossed her arms.

"Headmaster? Can we do this?" Harry asked, standing up. The old man nodded, and placed his blackened hand on clear display on the desk.

Harry drew a breath and materialized a seal. He was about to attach it to Dumbledore's hand before cutting himself and getting the blood required, when the door to the office opened on its own, and Ken angrily strode in, towering above Harry with a burning look in her gaze.

"Just what," she demanded, "do you think you are doing?"

Harry glanced at the blackened hand of his bemused-looking Headmaster, then at the blank seal in between his fingers, then back up at Ken. "I'm trying to help my Headmaster, Sensei," he replied, somehow sensing that a sarcastic reply would not do him any favours, especially as angry as she looked.

"Did you invent any new Healing Seals I am unaware of?" she asked, her voice calm, but her presence still towering above the desk and the people seated at it. Through the link, he could feel the anxiousness of Maya. Had he looked, he would have seen that Ron and Hermione both had drawn pale. In fact, even the bemused look had vanished off of Dumbledore's face, to be replaced by a polite look that had been borne out of political experience.

"No, Sensei," he replied.

"Do you, perhaps, hold a medical degree in Seal Magic you have hidden from me?"

Harry swallowed. He did not like the look of this. "No, Sensei."

"Then perhaps you can explain to me why you think you might be able to help your Headmaster when the rest of the medical minds in Great Britain have failed to do so?" she asked, still on that same level tone.

Harry swallowed. How his teacher had found out, he didn't know. Nor was it a particular concern right about now. "Sensei, I, you know, I thought, you see..."

"Just say it, Harry," she interrupted, placing one hand on the desk in front of him and leaning over. "Explain your reasoning and your current course of action."

He shrunk back, her anger almost palpable. Knowing the depth of her control over her magic, he knew just how angry she would have to be in order for even this much to escape her grasp. He closed his eyes, and grit his teeth. Better to get things over with. "I was going to use the same Seal that has brought you back from the brink of death, Sensei. My reasoning was that, if it did no good, then it did no harm."

"Not to your Headmaster," she replied, confirming to Harry that she most definitely knew what this was about, and what his plans had been.

"Harry, what exactly was your plan?" Dumbledore asked, retrieving his blackened hand.

"It is called a Blood Seal," Ken replied. "It is habitually used in the construction of undead. However, in a pinch, it can also be used to bring people back from the brink of death. However, as this is not the usual purpose of said Seals, it has a severe impact on the magic of the caster."

"I see," Dumbledore said, turning to look at Harry. "I do not believe that it would be wise to use this spell-"

"It will work, Headmaster," Harry said. "I have seen it repair a lot more damage." He looked up at Ken. "And I was injured at the time."

"So you have left the safety of your relatives' house," Dumbledore said, sighing sadly.

"Sensei was injured," Harry doggedly replied. "I helped her. Like I can help you."

"And it nearly killed you last time," Ken said. "I have forbidden you from using this spell."

Harry licked his lips, and looked up at her. "On you, Sensei."

Ken seemed to startle, blinked twice, then shook her head. "And still you remain the bravest and most foolish man I have ever met. I should wash my hands of you."

Ice-cold settled in his stomach, and Harry was well aware that he was going faint in his head. He stared at the seal, stuck in between his trembling fingers. "S-Sensei... I..."

"However, I will not," she said when it was obvious that Harry wasn't going to say anything else. The sigh of relief coming from his lips was extremely loud. "I am well aware that this time, you are unhurt, and at peak physical and magical condition. I am also aware that the damage done to the Headmaster is not as extensive as mine was. However, I believe the choice has been taken out of our hands, and as it seems that the Headmaster will not allow you to continue with your spell."

Dumbledore merely nodded his agreement to that statement. Harry looked at him. "We had a deal, Headmaster. You would protect Daphne and Tracey, I would attempt this spell."

"Although that is correct, Harry, that was before it was brought to my attention that you would be employing the Dark Arts in order to do so."

"It is not a Dark Arts spell when used to heal people, just like an Avada Kedavra is not an Unforgivable when used to hunt for food," Harry replied.

"Although technically true, Harry, I still do not think I would be comfortable with the situation," Dumbledore replied. "Regardless, I shall continue to endeavour to protect Miss Greengrass and Miss Davies."

Harry just sat there, not having a comeback from that. Finally, he sighed. "Sir, imagine how I will feel. Every time I see that hand, I will be reminded of my failure – indeed, my very own inability to even try and help you. At least let me try. If it doesn't work, nothing has changed but at least I will know I have tried."

"And if it does work, Harry?" Dumbledore asked. "How will I be able to enjoy this hand, knowing that you have invoked the dark arts in order to bring it back to me?"

"Not Dark Arts, Headmaster," Harry said. "Blood arts. They are being used for healing purposes, after all."

Dumbledore sighed. "I believe we have discussed this point already, Harry."

Harry smiled slightly suddenly. "And I shall remain at your side until you allow me to cast the spell."

The ageing Headmaster looked over his half-moon spectacles at Harry, and shook his head ruefully. "And I do believe you would carry out your threat, too."

"Of course, Headmaster. I would not have made it otherwise," Harry said with a small grin. The Headmaster looked at Ken.

"You have a dangerous apprentice there, Ken-sama, and you seem to have worked wonders on him."

"Thank you, Lord Dumbledore. Although a lot of the progress can be attributed to my first apprentice as well," Ken replied solemnly as Dumbledore extended his blackened hand. She sounded distinctly unhappy, and Harry wondered for just a moment whether or not it would be better to call this whole thing off.

He finally affixed the blank seal, and slipped his sword five centimetres from its scabbard, lightly running his thumb over it to draw blood. Smearing the blood on the Seal, he incanted.

"Even as blood is of the element Water," he whispered, bringing his hands together, closing his eyes, and letting his magic shape before his mind's eye. "I must now summon the blood as a bond, beyond the meaning of liquid, but as the meaning of Life."

When Harry's eyes opened, they were glowing white, and Ken and Maya, closest to him, put distance between themselves and Harry. "Harry Potter, Plasmatizer, asks the Blood Seal! What are you!?"

Magic flashed up. I am reanimation and rejuvenation! I bring life to what once was dead!

Harry could feel his spell biting into Dumbledore's hand, working its wonderful brand of rejuvenation and reanimation magic. His eyes squinted closed soon after when he could feel the Blood Seal encounter a resistance that was more fierce than when he had tried to heal Ken's injuries, and he grunted when he could feel his core being squeezed for all it was worth.

Unable to overcome the magic inherent in Dumbledore's decaying hand, Harry could feel the Blood Seal change its tactics, and seek out the edge of the decay. Finding it, and the subsequent boundary where Dumbledore's magic was fighting the decay, Harry got his second surprise. Something else was fighting the magic as well.

There was no time to pounder the situation, as the Blood Seal went to drastic steps to complete the order given to it by Harry. He vaguely heard a muffled scream from Dumbledore penetrate the black-out that was his determined focus when the magic in the Black Arts destroyed Dumbledore's hand, withering magic and all, only to rebuild it – fresh and clean, taking its form and function straight from Dumbledore's own DNA.

The spell completed, and Harry let out his breath. The world twirled and danced around him as he opened his eyes, and he sunk into his chair, gasping for breath and wiping sweat off his face.

"That was no mere withering curse," Harry accused. "The Blood Seal had to rip that hand off and build a new one."

Dumbledore didn't seem to hear him, staring instead at his hand, which opened and closed experimentally. The hand looked brand-new. In fact, it looked as if it wasn't over 150 years old, the skin unmarked and unwrinkled.

"Remarkable," the Headmaster stated. "Truly remarkable."

"As it seems the spell was successful, and that you did not suffer any ill effects from your use of the Black Arts, Harry, I will take my leave now," Ken said, turning around and walking out of the office without waiting for his reply.

"Sensei," Harry said after her, but she ignored him and strode out of the office. Maya merely gave him a dirty look, and followed their teacher. "Oneesan?" he asked, but she, too, ignored him. "Senpai!?"

She stopped, and threw him a dirty look over her shoulder. "Once again, you used the Black Arts," she told him, coldly. "And once again you managed not to get bit. You are playing a dangerous game, Harry James Potter." Saying nothing else, she threw the door of the office closed behind her, not bothering to wait for a reply.

Harry's face twisted through the entire range of emotional motion, before he glared at Dumbledore. "I hope you enjoy your new hand, Sir. But remember, I paid for it, in blood and magic, and it may have just cost me my only teacher and sister." He stood up, a little unsteadily, and he was grateful that his friends, who had remained quiet throughout the entire ordeal, were there to help him. Leaning slightly on Ron's shoulder, and grateful for Hermione's close presence reminding him that he had not been completely abandoned, he walked out of the office as well.

"My dear boy," Dumbledore muttered after the trio had gone. "There is always a price to pay for the use of the Dark Arts, and I hope that the price demanded of you will not be too high." He looked at his hand. "But still, this is a remarkable feat."

00000

Harry was practically asleep by the time Transfiguration ended and he could get some lunch. Much to his dismay, Maya had sat down on the other side of the classroom, and had refused to even look at him during the entire lesson. He had tried to contact her using their link, and found her side of it firmly barred with impenetrable shields.

Lunch was even worse, with both Ken and Maya sitting on the far end of the Gryffindor table, obviously in a deep, if whispered, conversation. A single glance from both of them had told Harry was not welcome to join them. Sighing, he sat down among his friends, and tried to carry on as normal... which failed abysmally when he just shoved food down his throat in a mechanical fashion, even failing to realize the conversation everyone else was having.

He managed to recuperate some of his energy during Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures before dinner rolled around, which was a repeat of lunch.

After dinner, Harry retreated to the Common Room, where he tried to speak with Maya one last time, before going up to his dorm, grabbing his invisibility cloak, and walking out the portrait hole.

Or trying to, at least.

"You all right, mate?" Ron asked when he noticed Harry making his way to the exit.

"I'll be fine," Harry replied, trying to catch Maya's eye, but failed dismally, the Japanese girl still in deep conversation with Ken. Part of him wondered what they were discussing, and how bad it would be for him. "I'm going for a walk."

Ron nodded, and opened his mouth to ask whether Harry would like some company, then seemed to reconsider. "Can't say I blame you, mate," he said. "If you need anything you know we're here for you, right?"

Harry smiled slightly, and glanced around the Common Room, noticing how Hermione, Ginny, and Neville were watching him. Giving them a small smile and a nod, he turned back to Ron. "Thanks, mate. That means a lot. I just... need some time alone, I guess." As Ron nodded, Harry turned, and walked out, throwing the invisibility cloak over himself as he did so. He really wanted to be alone.

Looking at each other, Harry's four friends stuck their head together.

"All right, so who's going to talk to them?" Hermione asked.

"I say, let Gin do it," Ron suggested.

"Oh?" Ginny asked, raising an eyebrow. "Any particular reason why you'd send your kid sister off to go talk to the two most dangerous people to come to Hogwarts since V-Voldemort himself?" she hesitated slightly on the name, having to gather her resolve to do so. Years of ingrained upbringing was difficult to throw off, but a certain dark-haired green-eyed example was changing all of that.

Ron shrugged. "I've seen you when you get going, Gin. You're the only one besides Mom who could scare Fred and George, so I don't think a couple of Japanese witches are going to be much of a challenge for you... especially as they're totally unprepared to you."

The red-haired witch glowered at her brother.

"Motion seconded," Hermione said, raising his hand.

Before Ginny could turn on the other girl, Neville raised his hand. "Thirded."

"Motion carries," Ron said hurriedly. "Thanks, Gin."

Planting her fists in her sides, the tiny redhead glared at all of them. "Fine." She stomped off.

"I am feeling guilty now," Ron said, watching his angry sister storm off.

"Really?" Neville asked.

"And it's gone," Ron replied.

"I thought so," Neville said, grinning slightly.

"Are you sure she'll be all right?" Hermione asked, looking at Ginny, stalking to the two Japanese women, seated in front of the little shelter, discussing who-knew-what. She hated the fact they were jabbering in Japanese again. She really had to try and figure out a way to learn the language.

"She'll be fine," Ron said with conviction, drawing her attention to his right hand, which was holding his wand. To her surprise, Neville, too, was holding his wand.

"I doubt we have much of a chance," he added. "But Harry's taught us to stick together."

Hermione nodded, and surreptitiously drew her wand. "True. He'd do the same for us."

Ginny had made her way over to the two women by now.

"Just what," she demanded from behind Ken, "do you think you are doing?"

In the nearby couches, the two Creevey brothers threw one look at her, recognized the look and the tone and stood up, backing away slowly.

"We were having a conversation," Maya replied, deadpan, while Ken half-turned to look at the angry witch.

"And would this discussion have anything to do with Harry?" Ginny asked.

"Not everything revolves around Harry," Ken replied, coldly. "And I would appreciate a different tone of voice."

"And I would appreciate for you two to stop treating Harry the way you have been," Ginny replied, refusing to be intimidated. "But we can't all have what we want, can we?"

"Oh?" Ken asked, her tone softening, and Maya threw a look at her Sensei's face, before looking at Ginny, and shaking her head, as if trying to stop the girl from continuing. Ken went on, "And how is it a business of yours how I treat my Apprentice?"

"He is a friend of mine," Ginny replied, levelly, even though she had to admit this woman before her was doing a pretty-bang up job of intimidating her. "And I have made it my business. Harry's saved my life, he's protected all of us, he has always tried to help us and protect us. I don't think I can do anything less for him. Now, you still have not replied to my first question. Just what do you think you are doing!?" she glared at Maya. "And being cheeky does not count as an answer."

"I will thank you for taking a more civil tone of voice, young lady," Ken snapped, and Ginny actually backed up one step. The next moment, the totally cold infliction had vanished from Ken's voice. "Today, Harry made a very foolish decision, one that may, in the future, cost him more than some magic. He must be prepared to face the consequences of his decisions. The Dark Arts are not to be trifled with, and it must be brought home to him that he must not use them lightly."

Ginny drew her wand, and accio-ed a chair. Sitting down, she stared Ken straight in the eyes, trying her best to hide the fear and intimidation she felt from this woman. "I have never seen Harry as happy and as focused as he has been since he met you. And today, he looked as if someone had killed his family all over again. So let me tell you something else about Harry," she pushed on, seeing Maya flinch, and Ken sigh slightly. "Harry is one of the most noble people I have ever seen. He would risk his own life to save a stranger, no questions asked. In fact, he has done so on more than one occasion! During my first year, he saved me even though he did not really know me. Last year, he risked his own life to save his godfather, going as far as to break into the Ministry of Magic to do so. This year, he saved two Slytherin girls from being killed while he was rushing off to save another friend of his!" Her voice had risen into a shout by now, and half the Common Room, the half nearest Ginny, had followed the Creevey brother's example, and had edged to the far half of the Common Room.

"Today, he had a chance to heal the Headmaster's injury, and the fact that he had to risk his life to do so probably didn't matter to him, as it was no more than he has done in the past. Whether it is fighting the Death Eaters, or using a Healing Spell from Hell, risk is risk, and I'm sure to Harry, there is no difference whatsoever." She stood up again. "I said what I came to say. I'm sure you'll make the right decision", she said, starting to turn.

"Sit," Ken demanded, and despite herself, Ginny sat. One did not ignore an order given by Mahou mo Ken-sama.

"I will treat my own Apprentice in any way I want," she told the girl. "And I have knowledge of the events of which you speak. However, I will not have my Apprentices second-guess me. I assumed your Headmaster would have been intelligent enough to stop Harry, however, he allowed himself to be talked into this foolishness. I am well aware of Harry's penchant to get himself into trouble, and out of it as well. I am also well aware of his ability to survive the most horrendous of events. I will, however, not allow him to risk not just his life, but his very soul in the use of the Dark Arts, even if they are used to save someone. Right now, he is debating whether what he did was right. He will be reminded of this event the next time he needs to make this choice."

Ken glanced at Maya, before looking back at Ginny. "The Dark Arts are treacherous. They will slip their way into one's thinking. Two times, Harry used them to heal someone. The next time it may be for some other reason. Eventually, he will have slipped completely. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I am doing this. I have no wish to see one of my precious Apprentices go down that slippery road."

Ginny swallowed, feeling rather embarrassed now. "There is one thing you did not take into account," she said after swallowing her fear and embarrassment.

"Oh?" Ken asked. "Then please, child, enlighten me."

"Us," Ginny said, motioning for the other side of the room, where Ron, Neville, and Hermione still had their wands drawn. To her surprise, some of the other Gryffindors had followed suit, and she could see the Creevey brothers, Dean, and Seamus all had their wands out as well. "We are Harry's friends. We will not let him fall. Harry does not do what is easy – he does what is right. And I believe that, taking a risk to heal another's injury, that is the right thing to do. Even if it is dangerous, just as it is right to save someone, and risking your life to do so." She swallowed again. "I hope that, one day, I can be as brave as Harry is, and look death in the eye the way he can."

Ken and Maya shared a long look.

00000

Harry threw the hood of his invisibility cloak off. Playing 'floating head' was fun at times, but right now, at the top of the Divination Tower, it was rather chilly and the cloak offered some of the warmth he was missing due to his forgotten coat.

He cursed under his breath as his foot kicked at the battlement. The tower was abandoned, most couples went to the Astronomy Tower to be alone, and nobody wanted to be near Trelawney any more than was strictly necessary.

At this point, Harry couldn't care less, and he kicked the battlement again. He was alone. That was what was important. He tried, one last time, to contact Maya through the link. It was shielded shut.

Letting out his breath, his hand reached underneath his cloak and robe, and drew his sword. He hadn't practised with it in a while, Ken having focused on his magical training first and foremost, and Harry found that he missed the sword practice he had enjoyed in Japan.

Realizing that he might never have another sword-lesson, never mind seeing Japan again, caused him to throw off his invisibility cloak, and go through an aggressive couple of motions, his body and sword cutting through the chilly autumn air. Slowly, his eyes closed and he lost himself to the feeling of his body moving, drifting into the repetitive motions of the sword kata.

His kata ended, and Harry opened his eyes once more. Drawing a breath, he looked at his staff, upright and balancing on its tip not far away. He looked around, finding himself still alone, and nodded faintly. He stepped back to his initial position, closed his eyes, and felt for his magic.

He burst into motion, not following a predetermined path, but letting his mind battle the shadows, guiding his body through the magic connecting himself to his sword. Faster and faster his movements became, uncaring of sight or sound, losing himself in the ecstasy of movement. In perfect silence he danced, guided by the rustle of his boots and the whisper of the wind.

Finally, with a strangled gasp, his movement stopped, his body erect, both arms outstretched with both hands locked on the handle of his sword, the weapon itself halted mere centimetres above the battlement he was facing.

It would have been so easy to let the movement continue, slam sword against stone and letting magic decide who was better.

Harry released his breath. It would have been too easy.

Stepping back, he saluted the thin air, before sheathing the sword. With a sharp snap, the weapon locked in its scabbard. His heart was pounding, he realized for the first time, and it had felt good to release the day's pent-up frustrations into his exercise.

Sinking against the battlement he had been mere moments away from cleaving in half, Harry leaned his face in his hands, sword securely leaning against his shoulder. Just how long would he have, before Ken and Maya returned to Japan? Just how much longer...

He swallowed.

"To me," he whispered, hand outstretched to his staff. Thanks to the thick Hogwarts wards, drawing his staff to him was extremely limited in range, but even he could manage to five or so meters that it was separated from him. Leaning his staff against his other shoulder, Harry hunched in on himself, trying not to feel the cold of the night air, trying not to feel the cold that had placed itself in his heart, trying not to feel, period.

His head snapped up when he heard footsteps. He wanted to be alone! Slowly, he stood up, just as the door was pushed open.

"I'm sorry," Luna said when she saw him. "I didn't mean to intrude."

"It's all right," Harry told the blond as she was about to close the door and go back the way she came from. "I'm guessing you came up here for the same reason I did."

Luna turned to look at him, then nodded. "To be alone."

Harry dipped his head in confirmation.

"That's why I apologized," Luna said. "I come up here to look at the stars... to be away from everything."

"I can understand that," Harry said, leaning against the battlement. "I know the Astronomy Tower is used for other things, but I didn't think anybody would think of coming up here."

Luna shrugged, and walked over to him, leaning against the wall next to him. True to her word, she looked up at the stars.

For long minutes, they remained in silence, and for once, Harry didn't mind it. To be alone, together, sounded just fine to him.

"Would you like to talk about it?" Luna finally asked. "I have heard, and seen, quite a few things today, but I'd rather know the full story before saying anything else."

Harry rubbed his forehead. Should he tell her? He glanced at Luna, who was watching him with her larger-than-life pale silver eyes, and he remembered the Occlumency that shaped her personality. "Luna," he whispered. "If I tell this to you... will you promise to keep it locked up? Behind your Occlumency?"

She frowned slightly, as if wondering if she should feel insulted or not, before smiling. "I always keep everything behind my Occlumency," she replied. "But if you'd rather not tell, that's okay."

He lapsed into silence again. He'd rather not say anything, but a small part of him argued that maybe an outside perspective could help.

So, Harry licked his lips, and started to talk. He talked and talked, telling Luna everything that had happened, unable to stop once he got going. Telling her felt strangely liberating, especially when he talked about the Dursleys, about meeting Ken, how he had felt after meeting her, how her teachings had helped him. He tried to be honest, talked about his mistakes, about the risks he took, about saving Ken by going halfway around the world. He talked about everything he could think of, the story seemingly rolling off his lips on its own, regardless of whether he wanted to tell it or not.

Finally, he sighed, and stopped. "And now, they'll probably turn their backs on me."

Luna had remained silent throughout his story, her attention unwaveringly on him, as if nothing else in the world mattered but listening to him.

Absent-mindedly, Luna rubbed her arms. "I don't think you will lose them, Harry," she finally said. "But I also think you owe them an apology."

He frowned at her. "I am NOT apologizing for helping the Headmaster!" she said, sounding slightly angry.

Luna shook her head. "Not for that. But, I think, you have forgotten that your teacher and her first apprentice are Japanese witches. For them, honour, duty, and loyalty are much more than they are to us Westerners. I believe that Ken is angry not because you helped the Headmaster, but because you broke a promise to her, and because you went against her wishes. Maya, I believe, is angry with you for the same reason. She is loyal to her teacher."

Harry's mouth sagged open slightly. "I didn't think about that," he muttered, then noticed her rubbing her arms again. "Accio cloak," he said, summoning his invisibility cloak to him, opening it up and draping it around Luna's shoulders.

"An invisibility cloak", she said with a smile. "I had wondered."

"It's not much, but it's warmer than being out here in just plain robes," Harry replied.

"Thank you. I had not counted on being out here for a while," Luna said with an honest smile on her face. "Aren't you cold?"

Harry trembled slightly, but shook his head anyway. "Not really."

Luna's stare turned penetrating. "I believe you are lying to me," she declared flatly. And because it was not a question but a statement, there was not much Harry could say to it before Luna had shimmied closer to him, and had thrown half of the cloak over his shoulders.

"Eh... Luna..." Harry whispered when he felt her lean against him so both could huddle under the invisibility cloak, twin floating heads and twin pairs dismembered feet all that was visible about them.

"I believe it would be more comfortable if you would put your arm around me," Luna suggested. Harry reacted on automatic and put his arm around her shoulders. Feeling her lean against his side made him realize that a) she was soft, b) she was warm, and c) she was right about both of them fitting under the cloak more easily this way.

"Now, I believe we were talking about your teacher," Luna said with a small smile.

Harry just nodded dumbly.

"Are you going to apologize?" she asked.

"I don't know," Harry replied, blinking a couple of times to get his mind cleared. "I think I will. I hadn't looked at it like that."

"Good," she replied with a small nod.

She went silent then, and returned to staring at the stars above. It was only now, after they had both fallen silent, that Harry realized he actually had an arm around Luna's shoulders, and that he was most definitely closer than was usually accepted between friends. However, he didn't really know what to do about it – except stand up and go inside, that is.

"I haven't been attacked by a bandersnatch, Harry," Luna whispered from her position.

"Eh?" Harry asked eloquently, off-guard by the non-sequitur.

"A bandersnatch," Luna replied. "I haven't been attacked by one."

Harry glanced down at her, and for a moment he thought he saw an amused smile on her face, before it was replaced by her usually airy disposition. "What do you mean by that, Luna?"

"That I have not been turned into an animated glass statue against my wishes," she replied with a definite note of amusement in her voice.

Harry blinked owlishly at her, still not understanding. Luna's mouth quirked into a faint smile. "Your arm has been twitching for a while, and it feels as if you're afraid I will break if you hold me."

Harry didn't know whether to turn red, chuckle, laugh, or snort.

So he did all of the above, and Luna's look of amusement increased at the strange sights and noises of the boy right next to her. But his arm did drop comfortably across her shoulders now. "I'm sorry Luna," he said finally. "But I'm not really used to... this. You know?"

Luna's head turned to behold him. "This?" she asked.

He blew out his breath. He should have known she wasn't going to make it easy for him. For a moment he debated on how it could be that he started to know Luna so well, before he turned his attention back to her. "Holding someone. Like this."

Luna merely shrugged, the motion carrying from her shoulders into his body. "It is quite relaxing, though. Even if I am not used to... this... either."

He smiled slightly at her choice of words. "It is very relaxing," he agreed with her. "It feels very nice."

Luna just nodded. Again, they lapsed into silence, each alone with their thoughts, before Luna glanced back to him, rather than at the stars above. "You're really not used to... this?"

He chuckled slightly. It seemed like that they had a new inside-joke between them. "I'm not exactly prime dating material, Luna," he said with a small smile. "Even if I didn't have Voldemort after me, there's always someone out to hurt me... or worse. Plus, I don't seem to be having all that much luck in the personality department either."

"You are brave, loyal, and have been doing your best to change yourself," she answered levelly. "You really shouldn't put yourself down like that, Harry."

He shrugged slightly. "More like I'm stupid, doing all that stuff without thinking of the consequences." He sighed. "Sensei is right, I take stupid risks. I'm an idiot."

Luna removed herself from under his arm and from under the cloak, and stood up to face him. To his consternation, she actually looked angry. "Does that mean you regret what you did for me, as well?"

Harry blinked. "What? No! Of course not!"

"Then you regret saving the Headmaster?"

He sighed. "Not really," he muttered, looking at the ground.

She dropped to her knees, and lifted his head so they were face-to-face once more. "Harry, you are loyal, and you are brave. You would risk all you have to help someone. And that is quality that you should never lose!"

He swallowed. Luna, fully worked up, was a sight to behold. "But still... it may have cost me something that was more than I was willing to pay."

"It hasn't," she declared with utmost certainty. "I am certain that, if you apologize for going against your teacher's word, for breaking your promise, that all will be forgiven." She seemed to relax, and he could see a faint notion of Occlumency coming up in her mind again. "Do you know there are two kinds of loyalty, Harry?"

Again, he blinked at the jump in thoughts, and shook his head. "No, I didn't, Luna."

She nodded. "There is the usual kind of loyalty, the kind of loyalty a person has to his or her leader, or his or her country, or whatever group they belong to. It is that kind of loyalty that has men march to their death at the drop of a word. And then there is the kind of loyalty that only the great ever have, the loyalty of a leader to their subordinates, to his followers. It is a rare thing, Harry, for a leader to show the kind of loyalty that you have been showing. Last year in the Department of Mysteries, this year in Hogsmeade. You protected us, and did whatever you could to help us, and in the end, even thanked us for being there."

Harry blinked, not having expected that string of perfectly coherent consciousness from Luna. "And because of it, we will follow you," she said. "I am certain of myself, and if I have read Ronald, Hermione, Ginerva, and Neville correctly, they too, will be there, if only you would ask."

"So you see, Harry, you are not as bad as you think yourself to be. There are still people here who care about you."

He smiled faintly. "And I'll probably get all of you killed, too," he muttered. He thought he had muttered quietly enough to be unheard.

He thought wrong. "If we die, it is because they will have gone through you to get to us," Luna said, the vaguely-angry tone back in her voice, and it was disconcerting how much more that faint tone of anger worried him, compared to everybody else. "I refuse to let you put yourself down, Harry."

"But..."

"You have given a lot," she interrupted him. "You lost your parents, you lost your godfather. But, Harry, remember what I told you... one day, we will meet again those we lost. And as long as we remember them, how can they be really gone? But, Harry, you can't let it change you. Your best quality is the fact that you are willing to risk your life and limb to help someone, even when there is only a glimmer of a chance. That's why you jumped to Japan using short-range teleportation seals, and that's why you used the Blood Arts to help your Sensei and our Headmaster. You can't let people take that from you... or Voldemort will have won."

"You can say his name," he whispered.

Luna smiled faintly. "Now lift that arm, I am getting cold." He smiled, and lifted his arm, opening the cloak up so she could crawl back next to him. His arm dropped into place.

"I hope you're right, Luna," he whispered faintly. "I really hope you're right."

"Of course I am, Harry," Luna said with a faint smile. "I always am... and I can even be wrong if I want to."

He chuckled. It may not have been the best joke he had ever heard, but it cleared the air after that moody discussion, and it lifted his spirits. "Thanks, Luna. I really needed that talk," he said, honestly. Vaguely, he remembered Maya shouting 'say thank you' into his mind at one time.

She smiled up at him, then seemed to gather her resolve. "Can I try something?"

Harry shrugged. "Sure. What?"

Smiling mysteriously, Luna lifted one hand. To his surprise, she reached for the back of his head while sitting up straight. Right before he could ask what she was planning, Luna reached in, and her lips met his.

His first reaction was the startle, and pull away.

His second reaction made him forget all about his first one, as electricity seemed to reach for the tips of his fingers and toes.

By the time she let him go, he was almost out of breath. Before he could kick start his mind, his body reacted. "Wow. Can we do that again?"

She moved away from him, and turned to face him. "I am not that kind of girl, Harry."

He blinked at that, and asked, "What do you mean?"

She smiled faintly. "I am not going to kiss a boy unless we are going out. I am not that kind of girl."

That threw him for a loop, and his thoughts raced, one after another.

His first thought was, But you just kissed me...

His second thought followed right after the first, Waitaminute... did she just say what I think she did?

He looked at her, and his third thought formed, and stuck around. Do I want her to say what I think she said?

He swallowed deeply, unsure of the unfamiliar territory he had suddenly seemed to find himself on. It was one thing to face Death Eaters, heck, he could face Voldemort. But this... this was something else entirely. "L-Luna," he whispered. "I... do you... I mean... will you... go out with me?"

Pain seemed to etch itself on her face, the small smile and joking attitude fading as if never existing. "Please don't joke about this, Harry," she asked, her voice suddenly frail and uncertain. It was something he had never heard in the airy and confident Luna Lovegood before, and he didn't much care for hearing it ever again.

"I'm not," he found himself saying. "Not about things like this."

He saw her swallow, and sit down next to him again. "In that case... yes," she said, the faint smile growing wider than he had seen it ever be, and that was something he wanted to see again.

"So..." he finally said, "does this mean... we can do that again?"

A mischievous look appeared took over her features. "I do believe that that is something that usually happens between boyfriend and girlfriend."

Girlfriend, he thought. Luna Lovegood, my girlfriend, he repeated his thoughts. I like the sound of that.

The next moment, his thoughts vanished entirely as their lips met once more.

After their kiss ended, and Harry leaned against the battlement once more, he was most gratified when Luna actually leaned against him, putting her head on his shoulder, his arm coming up automatically to encompass her. Throwing the invisibility cloak over them with his free right arm, he remained silent, not really knowing what to say. Nor did he know what to do, either. It wasn't exactly a situation he had ever found himself in before.

Both of them remained silent for an indeterminable amount of time, neither of them quite sure of themselves, or on what to do.

Deciding on dragging his Gryffindor courage to the front, Harry drew a breath, and looked at Luna, her head still on his shoulder, her eyes closed. "Luna?"

"Hm?" the girl asked, opening her silver eyes to peer at him.

"I'm... scared," he admitted.

She smiled faintly. "I'm not going to hurt you, Harry."

He found himself returning her smile. "I'm scared of hurting you," he replied. "I'm not... exactly experienced. I don't know what to do. I don't know what I can do. I don't..."

He stopped when she put one finger against his lips. "I haven't done this before either," Luna replied. "We're both insecure. Neither of us have done this before. We don't know what to do or how to act. Let's make a deal... if either of us does something the other doesn't like, we tell them, and they'll back off. What do you think?"

Harry was silent at that, thinking that over. Finally, he smiled and nodded. "Deal." He smiled down at her. Deciding on testing their deal already, he leaned in close, aiming his lips at hers. Her smile grew, and she leaned up, meeting him halfway.

"That keeps getting better," Harry muttered when they leaned back.

"I think we need to practice a lot more," Luna said impishly. "Practice is fun."

"Yes," Harry agreed. "Yes, it is."

Luna sighed, and shifted slightly. "I think I should go," she whispered, sounding somewhat sad. "I think we're about to miss curfew, and you still need to have a talk with your Sensei."

"Oh?" Harry asked, smiling slightly as he held on to her, not letting her get up. "Deciding on running my life, Luna?"

"It's what a girlfriend does, isn't it? Tell you things that everybody else either doesn't want to, or is scared of, telling you?"

He chuckled at that. "I guess it is," he admitted, standing up and holding out a hand to her. She took it, and he helped her to her feet. "And you're right. I do still need to talk to Sensei."

"I guess this is where you kiss me goodnight," Luna suggested.

Harry's eyebrows rose. "Why can't I walk you to the Ravenclaw entrance?" he asked.

Luna blinked twice. "You would want to be seen with me?" she asked. Suddenly, that same frail and uncertain girl was back, the girl that, despite keeping up appearances, had been hurt and shunned by most of the general population.

"Of course," he replied, frowning slightly. "I thought that was one of those things a boyfriend does."

When he saw her lean in, he smiled, and kissed her. "Thank you," she whispered to him. "I'm rather uncertain..."

This time, it was his turn to put a finger against her lips. "I've been shunned, laughed at, called many things since I have been here. I can take whatever they hand out." He suddenly looked worried. "Of course, if you'd rather not be seen with me, I'll understand."

"Absolutely not," she declared from behind his finger. Kissing the finger pressed against her lips, she grabbed his hand. "Come on."

He smiled, and let the blond drag him from the Tower, his free hand summoning his staff to him before the door had closed.

"Sorry," Luna said as they walked down the stairs. "I forgot about your staff."

"It's a good thing I have my sword in my belt," Harry said, smiling. "Otherwise, I'd be short one hand."

"In that case, yes, it's a very good thing," Luna replied, squeezing his hand. "I think I would miss this hand in mine."

00000

"Aren't you going to give me the password, dearie?" the Fat Lady asked.

"I'm trying to gather my courage," Harry told her. "I've had to draw on it too much already, and I'm not sure I've got much of it left."

The Fat Lady nodded. "I see. Well, if there's one thing I know, it's that us Gryffindors always seem to have more courage than we know."

Harry chuckled. "Familiar with the feeling, huh?" he asked her. The portrait chuckled in reply, and Harry drew a steeling breath. "Very well. I might as well go on."

He gave her the password, and boldly, he entered the Common Room. Immediately, he picked up on the tense atmosphere present. Glancing to one side, where most of the Gryffindors seemed to have gathered, glaring openly to the other side. The other side held merely Ken and Maya.

There was a time when he would have turned, and walked up the stairs. But that was a long time ago. There was a time, a shorter while ago, where he would have asked what the matter was. But, he had a pretty good idea, and he no longer felt like he could let his confidence out. It was his self-confidence that had gotten him here.

Right now was the time where he would need to be the apprentice, the student, rather than the teacher. He would need to take of responsibility for his actions. Even if those actions saved yet another life.

He drew another breath, his mind recalling what Luna had told him – to apologize for disobeying her order, rather than apologizing for saving the Headmaster. He lifted his head, and strode over to where his teacher and his magically adopted sister were sitting.

"Sensei, maybe I have a moment of your time?"

She looked at him from her seated position, and even though he was standing, he could feel the intimidation factor that came off her. "I wish to apologize for going against your wishes." He bowed deeply. "I'm very sorry."

He felt, rather than saw, Ken stand up. Knowing better than to release his bow, he awaited her reaction. "You are apologizing for going against my wishes," Ken said, standing in front of him so he could see her boots. "Yet you are not apologizing for the act itself?"

Harry swallowed. "That is correct, Sensei. I have gone against your wishes, and for that I apologize." He drew another deep breath. Why was his courage fleeing? Why was his heart attempting to drop into his shoes, and crawl away? "I cannot apologize for the action itself, for I do not regret it, and I do not wish to lie to you, my teacher."

She remained silent, and Harry swallowed deeply. Finally, "I see." More silence. "How do you expect me to be able to trust you?"

Harry flinched, wishing that he had a decent answer for her. At last, he said, "Sensei, you know I will never abuse what you have taught me, nor what, I hope, you will teach me in the future."

"Yet you have," Ken stated. "The Dark Arts are discouraged for a reason. They are insidious and treacherous. I do not wish you using them, even for saving someone."

Harry sighed, and felt like the floor was dropping from underneath him. "I cannot, in good conscience, stand by and let a person suffer when I am in the possibility of helping them," he stated, his voice dull and flat. "I don't want to make a promise I cannot keep. When a person is in need, I will help them, regardless of the cost to myself."

"What about the cost to others?" Ken demanded. "If you lose your soul, it is your friends, and your family, that will have to deal with the consequences."

Harry was silent then. "I told you!" He heard Ginny snap at Ken, and Harry startled as her angry voice cut through the thoughts rolling around in his head. "We won't let him fall!"

At her words, he thought of Luna, who had informed him that it was part of her duties as a girlfriend to tell him those things others were afraid to tell him. "My friends will help me, Sensei. I trust them to tell me when and if I go to far, and I trust them to be honest and forthright enough to stop me should I reach that point."

"That's right, and don't you forget it, buster," Ginny told him, and he could imagine her waggling her finger as she said so.

Ken was silent, and Harry was starting to think the worst when he felt her hand on his shoulder, telling him he could get up now. He did so, ignoring the protesting of his back, and looked into her eyes. "You have very loyal friends, Harry," she said with a faint smile. "I will accept your apology – on the condition that you will accept mine. I should have realized after what happened this summer that you would never turn your back on a person in trouble."

He hadn't expected that. "O-of course, Sensei!"

Her faint smile grew a little less faint. "Then I think it is time for me to welcome you back."

"Thank you, Sensei!"

00000

It was long after curfew, and the Common Room was dark, safe for the almost-extinguished fire in the fireplace. Long shadows played catch with the furniture, the windows, the floor and the walls. In the couch in front of the fire, Harry sat, hunched over, staring at the few remaining dancing flames, lost in thought.

Someone sat down next to him. "Harry?"

He glanced at his visitor. He had been expecting her, truth be told. However, he had expected her much sooner. "Maya?"

She winced slightly. "Things have changed, haven't they?"

He nodded silently.

"You were an idiot," she said, bluntly.

"I was an idiot to save a person's life," he replied.

"You didn't know that at the time."

"But I do now," he told her. "The Headmaster's magic, and that unknown magic, were barely enough to arrest that... curse. It would have killed him." He turned to look at her. "I saved the Headmaster's life, and I refuse to be guilty for doing so."

"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," Maya answered.

"I made the right decision," Harry said, stubbornly.

She shrugged. "Maybe. It was idiotic." She drew a breath. "And brave." She swallowed. "Harry... I was so scared. Scared I was going to lose you. Those seals are so dangerous. They could have drawn more from you than you were willing to give. Once invoked, they can't be interrupted. If it hadn't been enough to stop whatever was eating the Headmaster's hand, it would have killed you doing it before giving up. Or it could have taken your soul, instead."

"I have more power than that, Maya," he answered, not a hint of boasting. "I know. The last time I ran out of magic, I tapped a Line, remember?"

Maya turned, lifting one leg up in the couch to turn to him fully. "I had forgotten about that."

"I thought you might," he said, somewhat bitterly, as he looked back at the flames.

"Harry?"

"Yes?"

Silence.

"Maya?"

"I'm sorry. I was so scared. And then Sensei got angry. It was easier to go along with her. And she's Sensei... I... I'm sorry."

"Is that why you still have the link blocked off?"

"You have it blocked off, too," she answered softly.

He chuckled slightly. "Let's not play the game of who blocked it off, okay?" He turned slightly to face her. "What are we, now?" he asked.

She went silent, and sighed. "We still have this link," she finally said.

"Fat load of good it will do us if we both keep it blocked," he replied.

"You know just as well as I do that the blocking only keeps us from leaking to the other. If you wanted, you could rip through without effort, just like I could rip through yours," she said. He shrugged in answer. "Harry... I really am sorry, you know."

He sighed, and nodded. "I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to scare you. I just wanted to help my Headmaster."

"Will you forgive me, if I forgive you?"

He smiled faintly as he looked at her. "Isn't that what family does? Forgive each other?"

"In that case, I forgive you, onii-san," she said, smiling widely.

He returned the same. "And I forgive you, onee-san."

They laughed, feeling the barriers on the link dissolve as they opened their thoughts once more. "I want to do something decidedly un-Japanese, Sis," Harry told her.

"Oh?" Maya asked, lifting an eyebrow, a cute smile on her lips. "And what's that?"

He dove at her, using her relaxed position against her, and before she could react, his arms had clamped around her. "I missed you, Sis, even if it was just for less than a day."

He felt her tense up, before relaxing, and her arms came around him. "I missed you too," she whispered. "But I will deny saying so."

He chuckled. "Let's make a deal. Next time one of us does something stupid, we'll talk it out, rather than... you know."

"Deal," Maya said, following it up by a mental handshake. Just the sensation of her mind against his made Harry smile once more.

"Now, what has you so happy?" Maya asked. "I can feel it oozing at me. And it's not just because Sensei and I have decided to forgive you."

"Now that would be telling, and a gentleman never tells," Harry said, grinning, as he stood and walked up the stairs to the boy's dormitory. Maya faint laughter reached after him, through the ever-lengthening shadows continuing their game of catch.

00000

When Harry entered the Great Hall for breakfast the next morning, he told Maya to go and save him a seat. The girl gave up on trying to wheedle information from him, recognising that she probably was going to get an answer to her questions pretty soon, and grinned as she walked to the Gryffindor table, saving an empty seat. Harry's friends looked strangely at him as he walked to the Ravenclaw table.

Leaning over Luna's shoulder, he kissed her cheek. "Good morning, beautiful."

Rather than startle her, as he had hoped, the girl turned her spacey look at him. "Good morning to you, too, handsome," she replied casually, as if him kissing her good morning was an every-day occurrence. Silence was dropping faster across the Great Hall than a block of granite throw from the Astronomy Tower.

He leaned closer to her, and whispered in her ear, "Can I try something?"

Recognising the words she had used yesterday, Luna nodded at him; She looked absolutely confident in him, confident that, no matter what he did, it would never intentionally hurt her, and that, no matter what, should she be hurt, she would recover.

He leaned even closer, and picked her up. Apparently, it was enough to startle even Luna, as she let out a cute little squeak as he did so. Ignoring the looks and stares, he calmly walked to the Gryffindor table with his precious burden, and sat down in the seat Maya had saved him, placing Luna firmly across his lap.

"Good morning, everybody," he greeted his friends. "And what a good morning it is."

Out of all of his friends, it was Hermione who recovered first. "Harry Potter! Just what are you doing?"

Harry looked at her, looked at Luna, looked back at Hermione, his face displaying what a stupid question he thought it was, and tried thinking of a decent thing to say. Finally, his brain engaged into first gear, and he smiled faintly. "Proving I can pick up a girl in the Great Hall?"

His response brought a big smile to Luna's face, and she leaned closer against him. "We have lots of things to do, Harry," she told him in the sheer quiet of the Great Hall. "You need to prove you can pick up girls in the library, in the hallways, in the Transfiguration classroom, the Charms classroom,..." she leaned in closer, "The Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom."

He chuckled, and glanced at Snape, who was going a vicious puce-like colour. Ron started choking on an aborted laugh. Hermione planted her hands in her sides. "That's not funny!"

"Of course not, Hermione," Luna admonished. "It'll be lots and lots of hard work. But the benefits to Harry's physical condition will be worth it."

Harry chuckled, along with Ron and Neville, while Hermione huffed, and Ginny grinned. "You're beaten, Hermione," Ginny finally said, before looking at Harry and Luna. "So, I guess congratulations are in order?"

"Thanks, Ginny," Harry said, while Luna blinked dreamily, and started filling a breakfast plate. Ignoring the whispers breaking out in the rest of the Great Hall, Harry reached with one arm to the breakfast table, only to find it intercepted by Luna.

"I like it better if you keep both arms around me," she told him. Shrugging, Harry dropped his arm, and draped it around her, joining his left arm, which had already been doing so. Luna, meanwhile, had finished heaping a huge breakfast onto a plate, and grabbed the plate and a fork.

She took the first bite herself, before holding the second bite out to Harry. Catching on, he let her feed him, grinning widely as she did so. Conversation ground to a halt once more as Luna fed both herself and Harry, both grinning widely.

"I wouldn't mind some bacon rashers, though," Harry suggested after swallowing yet another fork-full of scrambled eggs.

"Of course, how silly of me," Luna said, reaching out and grabbing a few rashers.

"Harry, you really shouldn't take advantage of Luna like that," Hermione grunted, still somewhat upset over Harry's earlier behaviour.

Harry immediately got a stricken look on his face. "Luna, I-" he stopped talking when the blond put a finger on his lips.

"You do not take advantage of me, Harry. Don't listen to her." She turned to look at Hermione. "I would kindly ask you not to poke your nose in other people's affairs. Especially as those people's affairs might be protected by Borogoves, and your nose might be bitten off."

"But..." Hermione tried to defend herself.

"Harry does not take advantage of me. I do not take advantage of Harry. We have discussed this – neither of us will do anything against our wishes. And now kindly refrain from making my boyfriend feel bad. He has had enough of that from his teacher and his sister," Luna pushed on, over Hermione's aborted objection. A blink of an eye later, airy and spacey Luna was back, and she held out a bacon rasher for Harry. "You really should eat a bit more, Harry. Otherwise, the Dorkoms might come and get you."

Blinking, he smiled faintly. "Thanks, Luna," he whispered to her, gently kissing her cheek before biting into the rasher. He liked kissing her cheek. It was soft, like kissing a peach.

00000

"Faurink Maya, Plasmatizer, asks the Seals, what are you!?" Maya demanded the two blank seals held between her fingers of her right and left hands. The magic started to shape, and almost, the voice started speaking, before they disintegrated back into the nothingness from which they came. A rather loud cuss word broke the stillness of the afternoon air, demonstrating her displeasure quite loudly.

"You still did not power the Seals sufficiently," Ken said as she walked over to Maya. "Harry has no problems with this, his core holds more than enough magical energy to multi-cast Seals, but you will need some more practice."

Maya muttered under her breath, before nodding, and drawing two new Seals. "While you practice that, I will continue to teach Harry how to do the Flash Step," Ken told her first apprentice, before turning to look at Harry.

"Recapitulation?" she asked.

Harry nodded. "The Shunpo, or Flash Step, is a method of extreme short-range teleportation that is carried out during a standard run or walking step. A practitioner focuses on the target, no more than a dozen metres away, and forces his or her magic to accelerate his or her body to near instantaneous movement. The higher the skill of the practitioner, the nearer the speed will be to 'instantaneous'."

"Correct," Ken replied. "At higher skill levels, what are the results of this near-instantaneous movement?"

"It will appear as if the practitioner is in more than one place at once, conceivably attacking multiple opponents at the same time, or, stepping away from an attack that, at first glance, seemed to have struck."

"Good," Ken replied with a small nod. "Now, why do you fail?"

In the background, Harry could hear the first syllable come from a dual-cast Seal, before it disintegrated, punctuated by another cuss from Maya. He closed his eyes, and went over what he knew, and what he felt. "I don't know, Sensei," he whispered. "I'm sorry."

She cocked her head slightly, and her gaze burned into his eyes. "There is no shame in not knowing. I have told you this before... why do you apologize?"

He let his breath out audibly. Drawing a breath, he opened his mouth to reply, seemed to reconsider, closed it, and thought about his answer. Her frown deepened slightly. "I have not known you to mince words. You have always been honest with me, as I have been with you. What is wrong?"

Harry looked at the ground. "I don't want to anger you, Sensei," he finally admitted. "Yesterday... it has shown me there are things I can not bear, and one of those is losing you."

"And now," Ken said, "we are getting to the heart of the matter." She walked toward him, and placed her hand on his shoulder, causing him to look up. "You will never anger me through failure. As long as you try, try, and try again, you will never disappoint me. Your progress is remarkable."

"T-Thank you, Sensei."

"I realize that things have... changed... between us. However, if I did not wish to remain your teacher, I would not have. I don't intend to change the way I teach you, nor will I change the way I relate to you. I only ask that you try and do the same, and in short order, we will be able to put this behind us, and, perhaps, in the future, will remain only as a fond memory, worthy of jokes and laughs."

He almost asked, 'Really?', but refrained at the last moment. "I would like that, Sensei."

She dropped her hand, turned, and walked back to her original location. "Good. Now, try again."

Harry nodded, and focused one a spot five metres away. He took a step, willing his magic to respond. Something within him pushed and strained, yet Harry took just a normal step. Behind him, he could hear half a dual-cast incantation, half a second before Maya's grunt of dissatisfaction. Harry closed his eyes, and reached for his magic.

Focus, intent, determination. I will take this step. Opening his eyes, his mantra repeated itself. I will take this step. He stepped, and the magic that he was pushing out of his core finally acted.

The world blurred around him, and he fell down when it came into focus once more, his velocity knocking him off-balance and making him tumble through the grass. "Good," Ken said from over him, at his side in barely an instant. "You have taken the first step. Now take the second."

Nodding with determination, Harry stood up, and stepped. Now that he knew what it felt like, now that he knew what to do, he forced his magic through it. He stepped, and the world blurred. This time, his stumble barely knocked him to the ground, but he still grunted with pain as his feet and his knees took the brunt of the impact against the ground. Wincing as he stood, he rubbed his aching muscles.

"You do not cut the speed correctly," Ken said from next to him. "That is unusual, normally, one does that automatically. It is as if you are re-entering normal speed faster than normal."

Harry blinked owlishly at her. "Could that be why I keep falling when I use the Floo?"

Ken rubbed her chin in though. "Perhaps," she allowed. "Without witnessing it, I can not say. However, I can comment on the Flash Step." She circled him, staring him up and down, and eyeing the ground. "Just how much power are you pushing into it?"

Harry shrugged. "I don't know, Sensei. My magical control isn't far enough to tell you."

She stopped in front of him. "So, basically, you are still subscribing to the motto of 'shove enough energy at it, and any problem can be solved'?"

Harry shrugged. "Basically," he allowed.

Ken rubbed her eyes. "I will tell Maya to redouble your magical control exercises. Once you gain perfect control, your reserves will make you one of the Great Wizards of your time." She waved her hand. "No matter. We are here for the Flash Step."

Maya's dual-cast Seals were getting louder, and came close to finishing now. Harry could feel the wasted magic of the disintegrated spell matrix pulse over him with each aborted try. "I want you to pay attention to your speed. Step normally, feel how fast you are going. I then want you to try and mimic that speed when you arrive out of Flash speeds."

Harry nodded, and did as she asked, taking three normal steps before taking a Flash Step. When the blurred world started to arrive into focus, he slammed his magic 'in reverse' in a matter of speaking, and arrived, standing perfectly still.

Ken appeared next to him. "Your arrived sounded like a gunshot," she told him. "However, your speed seemed better." She looked pointedly at the floor. "Although, once again, you have shoved enough magic at the problem."

Harry followed her gaze, to a blackened patch of grass. "Oops?"

"Oops, indeed," Ken said with a faint smile. "Again."

Harry nodded, taking two steps before Flashing. He arrived, standing still. The grass was blackened half as much. "Better," Ken acknowledged. "Your progress, once again, is remarkable. Half a gunshot, and only half a lawn has been burned. Again."

Half an hour later, both Maya and Harry were standing in front of Ken.

"You have both worked well," she told her two apprentices. "Maya, you have shown that you have the power control necessary to force dual-casting of Seals. With practice, you will be able to do the same with more than two Seals. Although I would caution you against trying to do six simultaneous seals the way Harry does. It would probably drain you at once."

"Yes, Sensei. Thank you," Maya said.

"Harry," Ken spoke, turning to her second apprentice. "You have shown great progress. You have mastered a nearly silent Flash Step of a pretty good speed for a beginner. All you need now is to practice, and your speed will improve on its own."

"I will, Sensei," Harry replied with a slight bow.

"Practice, I can help you with, Ototokun," Maya said, before slapping his shoulder. "Tag! You're it!"

Harry tried to look at her, but found her already a good few metres away. "You can't catch me!"

Harry grunted playfully, and gave chase. When he re-appeared, she had already stepped away, once more a few metres away, out of his reach. Again and again, they stepped, one trying to catch the other, flashing and blurring through and around groups of students.

"Stand still!" Harry shouted.

"Nuh-uh," Maya shouted back. "You're not getting the rules of tag," she taunted, flashing right next to him, flicking his ear, before flashing away. "You see, you're supposed to catch me, while I try and keep away from you!"

He flashed after her, only to see her step... sideways, before flashing past him. Looking over his shoulder, Harry focused on his destination, and stepped... backwards.

Flashing backwards was a lot harder than it was flashing forward, and he stumbled and rolled across the ground when he emerged. "Whoa!" Maya exclaimed, jumping up and over him as he rolled toward her. "You're learning fast," she declared. "Good!"

She had an infectious grin on her face, and Harry growled playfully, laughing as he chased after her. "I'm still not going to let you catch me!"

"To me," Harry said, pulling his staff to him, and flashing it around as it emerged into his hand.

"Missed me!" Maya shouted as a Petrificus went by her.

"Harry Potter, Plasmatizer, asks the Seal, what are you?" he muttered under his breath, forgetting the Seal's booming voice. I am ice and snow, white ice and snow! I am the one who becomes a veil of ice that freezes everything!

Maya's eyes went wide, and she stepped a few dozen metres away. Of course, Harry was as likely to let her put distance between him and her as she was to let him close that distance. He emerged out of Flash speeds, directly in front of her, a mere two metres difference between them, just as the final word was said.

He slapped the Seal to the ground, and watched with satisfaction as the area-of-effect Seal coated the green grass with the ice and snow of deep winter.

"That's cheating!" Maya declared as Harry slid toward her. She slipped away, nearly losing her balance, both unable to use the Flash step on the slippery underground.

"No, it's not!" Harry shouted back, laughing as he slipped and slid toward her on hands and knees.

"No magic!" Maya shouted back, laughing, trying to slip the other way, and succeeding, more or less.

"You started it by using the Flash Step!" Harry shot back.

"Fine!" Maya muttered, drawing her staff, and casting a fireball that melted the underground, giving her an underground stable enough to allow her to Flash Step away.

"Damn," Harry muttered, releasing his Mass Freeze-Seal, and standing up. "This is getting frustrating. Especially as she can go sideways, while I'm stuck going back and forth."

He stepped after her. She stepped away. He didn't let up, and went after her the moment he came back to normal speed, starting to chain his Flash Steps the way he had seen Ken do in her demonstrations, and upping the pressure on Maya, who was forced to do the same.

Harry Potter had changed the game from agility to endurance. Feeling her lesser reserves act against her, Maya emerged next to a tree, and hopped up, grabbing one of the thickest branches she could reach.

"A-hah!" Harry cried triumphantly, as he made to tag her.

"Nuh-uh," Maya said, grinning widely. "My feet are off the ground!"

"Does that count?" Harry asked, leaning against the tree trunk.

"Yes, it does!" Maya declared.

Harry rubbed his chin. He had never been involved in children's games like these – rather, he was always 'it' and if he were caught, Dudley and his gang weren't about to listen to 'my feet are off the ground'. And if he were caught, that would be the least of the worries.

How would children resolve these issues? She could stay up there indefinitely... of course.

He grinned. "One, two, three, four," he started counting, in an over-the-top childish fashion, brandishing fingers and everything. Maya cursed. Harry was laughing as he continued his count. Frantically looking around, Maya drew in a deep breath, let herself fall, and immediately jumped up again.

"Drat," Harry muttered. "Sneaky wench."

"Rules are rules, Little Brother," Maya said, laughing as Harry restarted his count, but this time from right next to where she would land, in case she tried the trick again.

Powering herself up, Maya used six out of her ten allotted seconds to get her weight on the branch, before closing her eyes, shooting a quick prayer, and Flash Stepping away.

The branch broke.

But not before she was launched to Flash Speeds.

"Crap," Harry muttered, Flashing after her.

He started pushing more power into it now, feeling how it boosted his speed. He was getting better at re-appearing at normal speeds, and felt he could up the ante. Maya's eyes went big when she saw him catch up, hand outstretched.

"Crap," she muttered, dropping under his hands, and rolling across the ground. Right as he was about to tag her, she lifted her feet off the ground.

"Ow, come on!" Harry muttered, fingers already counting. "Three, four five, six, seven..."

"Eh..." Maya looked around frantically, trying to figure out how to get out of this. She didn't find anything, and Harry had reached number nine. This is going to hurt, Harry heard through the link right before she pushed her hands on the ground, and pushed.

Harry blinked the spots out of his vision when he was suddenly confronted by a blank spot of grass in front of him. "That's just not fair!" he shouted, right before he spotted Maya, not far away, rolling across the ground, holding both her arms.

"I'm never doing that again!" she shouted loudly, "Damn that hurts!"

Harry flashed next to her, and grabbed her shoulder. "You okay, Sis?"

She looked at him, then at his hand on her shoulder. "Damn, you caught me."

"Nice moves," he complimented her, helping her stand up.

"There is a reason why it is called a Flash Step," Ken said, appearing next to them. "However, it seems no permanent damage was done, and that game has certainly helped Harry's use of the technique."

"Thank you, Sensei," Harry said, smiling slightly.

"And now I know not to try a Flash Push," Maya muttered.

Harry shrugged. "In a pinch, it might work – I certainly wasn't expecting it. In a fight, you could have thrown a curse through me."

Maya nodded. "True. But I'm still not going to do it again!"

Harry laughed, while Ken merely smiled. "Do you need to see the nurse?" she asked Maya.

"I'll be fine, Sensei," the girl replied. "But I think I'll have to take it slow for the rest of the day. I feel like I've spent the entire day lifting weights."

00000

Harry bit back a curse as the spell smashed over the line. "I'll never be good at this," he muttered while flinging his staff, vanishing the lines of the improvised Spellis court.

"You are getting better, Little Brother," Maya said with a cheeky smile. "There was a time you couldn't even give me a decent return. Now all we need to do is work more on your power-control."

Harry shrugged. "I guess," he muttered as they started to walk to the castle. Luna, who had been watching the last twenty minutes of the Spellis game, along with quite a bit of the Hogwarts student population, moulded herself to his side.

"As all things, it's only a matter of practice," the blonde said. "I'm sure you'll get better at it."

He shrugged again. "Listen to your girlfriend, Harry," Maya said, winking at the Ravenclaw. "She's a very smart girl."

"As long as she agrees with you, I wager," Harry returned easily.

"Well, everyone is entitled to a lapse in judgement every now and again," his magical sister replied, chuckling.

Bantering easily back and forth, they soon reached the entrance to the Ravenclaw Common Room. "I guess I will see you for dinner," Harry said, kissing his girlfriend on the lips.

"Unless the warbingers kidnap me," the Ravenclaw said with a tiny smile and a twinkle in her eyes. He pecked her lips again.

"In that case, I will be cursing first, second, and third, and try and pose my questions to a bunch of corpses," he answered.

It seemed as if Luna was going to say something, but then reconsidered. "In that case, make sure you bring plenty of backup. Warbingers can be quite lethal if provoked."

He grinned, gave her one last kiss, and nodded. "Of course."

She smiled, and skipped merrily up the stairs to the Ravenclaw entrance.

"My diabetes!" Maya crowed. "Saccharine overload! I need my insulin!"

Harry slapped her shoulder. "Be nice, Sis."

"I am nice, Bro. I could have made some lewd remarks pertaining to rooms, and various kinds of anti-conception potions."

Harry shot his sister a dirty look. She grinned back, unrepentantly. "Sometimes, I don't doubt why some people hate their siblings," he declared flatly.

"Because those siblings aren't as cute and loveable as I am?" Maya wondered, causing Harry to lose his scowl and break into a snigger.

You know, Sis, it's nice to be able to do this again, he sent through their link as they both laughed together. I really though I'd lost you and Sensei both.

Maya calmed herself, and looked at Harry. You can be such a girl sometimes, Harry, the Japanese witch chuckled.

Harry snorted. Better to act like a girl than be a girl, he replied.

Maya mock-growled. "Why you little...." she reached out to grab him, as if wanting to choke the life out of him; He laughed, and darted away, instigating another game of tag, only indoors and without any magically enhanced steps.

Five minutes later, both teens were laughing as they stopped their grappling right in front of the Fat Lady. "I wonder if Hermione will finally give me back my MC?" Maya pouted as Harry said the password to grant them entrance.

Harry merely shrugged as they crossed the threshold. He stopped immediately, Maya almost bumping into him. Before she could ask what the big idea was, she stopped and stared as well.

Hermione stood, in a corner of the Common Room, facing, what for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a giant game of Pong. Her wand flashed up, causing her virtual paddle to bounce up and smash the little simulated ball back. The game retaliated impressively, countering the move flawlessly, and Hermione let out a little startled grunt as she was forced to react with impressive speed to the fast little ball.

"Eh... Hermione?" Harry asked, walking up to his classmate.

"Pause!" the witch snapped out, and the game froze instantly. Superimposed over the mid-air image were the words, Game Paused by Player one. Pauses remaining; 2.

"Harry! Maya!" the girl said, smiling wider than they had ever seen her smile. "I made a breakthrough this afternoon-" her voice cut off when a new voice sounded from the game.

"Hermione-san? Why did you pause the game?"

"Ayumi-chan?" Maya asked.

"Maya-chan!" Ayumi replied, sounding happy to hear about her friend. "Hermione-san and I have managed to make a breakthrough!"

Hermione nodded. "I was just about to tell them, Ayumi-san." She turned to look at Harry and Maya, ignoring the rest of the Gryffindors. "You see, the MC can transmit voice, and text, so I thought, why shouldn't it transmit other kinds of singals? And then I recalled how mug... non-magicals have something called a modem, which can piggyback data-signals on voice-signals. So I constructed something similar for the MC, with a lot of Ayumi-san's help, and now the MCs can do things like this, for instance."

Harry nodded. "All right, I am spooked because I actually understood all that... but Hermione... PONG ?"

Hermione blushed. "We wanted to try it out, and this was the easiest and fastest thing I could come up with."

"So... how does it work?" Maya asked, looking interestedly at the little device connected to her MC. "In plain Japanese please."

Hermione made a face. "Very funny."

"I guess English will do," Maya said with a cheeky grin.

The English witch huffed. "One day, I'm going to learn Japanese," she muttered under her breath. She turned to her construction. "Like I said, I got the idea from the non-magicals and what they call the Internet, which is a network that connects a lot of computers together. Basically, I modified that idea to work with the MCs. These six runes here give this device, and by extension, the MC, a unique address, which allows us to make sure that the transmission goes to the correct MC."

"We had to use that workaround, because Hermione-san couldn't figure out the identification runes Sensei constructed for the original MCs," Ayumi said over the link.

"Yes, yes," Hermione huffed. "I didn't have the years worth of background to understand the construction." She crossed her arms across her chest. "But at least I managed to find a way around it."

"So... what else does it do?" Harry asked. "Because that's still... Pong."

"Anything we want," Hermione said, smiling broadly. "And now I actually know enough to build my own MCs. Well, they won't be MCs, strictly speaking, but they'll be close enough so they can work with the originals. And we can do with it whatever we want, just like the non-magicals use the internet. The MCs have a keyboard, and a screen, and now they can exchange data."

Maya nodded, then glanced at Hermione, and grinned. "So fifty percent will be utter trash, and the other fifty percent will be porn?"

Harry grinned widely at the sight of someone else being Maya's target.

End of Chapter

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