Harry & Hermione
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MattD12027 - Harry Potter and the Eternal Right
Chapter 26 - Judgment Cometh
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related plot events and characters are the property of JK Rowling.
Summary: PostHogwarts. Harry must deal with the horrors of war, and in doing so he will embrace his heritage and leave a lasting legacy on the world.
A/N: 'Only the dead have seen the end of war.' –Plato
Chapter 26: Judgment Cometh
"Seems to be worse today," Hermione commented, and glanced toward the low-hanging dark clouds. They were producing very heavy rain, which was blown around by a heavy wind, and her and Harry were trying to run through it at the moment. They had been getting up before breakfast and running together for the past few weeks, and today was no exception.
She pressed against the muddy ground with her trainers, digging out as much traction as she could, and increased her pace a little. Harry kept with her stride for stride, and let her dictate the speed of the run, as he had been doing. She passed a hand over her face, trying to wipe the water away long enough to see clearly, but it was futile. It was just raining too hard, whipping around too much.
"Seems so," Harry said, and she heard him grunt a bit as a particularly strong gust of wind buffeted them from his side. He blocked her from it somewhat, but she still felt the errant currents snake past her body.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, and hopped a bit, before returning to her normal stride. Even though she was soaked through, puddles still felt cold, and she had just ran through the deepest one yet. She heard Harry chuckle.
"If this doesn't let up soon," he mused, "all of Hogwarts' grounds will be a lake." As he said it, he leapt lightly over another puddle that looked particularly deep, and she saw him raise a hand to wipe water from his face, as well. She enjoyed running, but this was not fun. It felt like she was battling the elements, and that was taking more energy than the running.
"If it doesn't let up soon, I'm permanently moving to Sicily," Hermione said, sarcastically, albeit with an ounce of truth. After that Christmas they spent there, she thought more and more about it every day—if she and Harry didn't have great jobs, she probably would have already suggested it.
"You've barely been back a year," Harry joked, but Hermione didn't laugh. It wasn't that it didn't hold humor; rather, it was that she was in no mood to laugh. She was wet, cold, and tired, and Harry had just unwittingly splashed her with more muddy water than she ever cared to see again.
"I'll just be glad when we can get to that class today," she said. "Is this the first time in Hogwarts' illustrious history that a Defense and Transfiguration class have been taught jointly?"
She saw Harry look sidelong at her, as if he was considering her present state of mind, and wisely said nothing about her lack of mirth. And if he splashed her one more time…she might just have to try those new martial arts skills he'd showed her on him.
"Probably," he said, and then sputtered for a moment. Rainwater had probably worked its way into his open mouth when he uttered the word. He cleared his throat. "Probably," he tried again. "It's not exactly sanctioned, you know."
Hermione shrugged, or made some motion that was as close to a shrug one could make while running. "So? What do we care?"
She noticed Harry was smiling. "I don't, but I thought you might…you know, being a stickler for the rules, and all."
Hermione smiled also. "Fuck the bloody rules," she said, and then increased her speed once again. It was a little longer, this time, before Harry fell into synch beside her once again; maybe her words had shocked him?
"I hope you don't talk to your students like that," he said. She could hear the wit in his tone.
"Like what?" she asked, demurely.
"Like—FUCK!" Harry cried, and although it was probably along the lines of what he had originally intended to say, he surely hadn't intended to fall on his ass in a rather dirty looking puddle. Hermione had to laugh this time—she couldn't control it. Here was the world's most powerful person, sitting a pool of water that almost covered his legs, looking like he had no idea how he'd gotten there.
And then Harry splashed her; or rather, engulfed her. She hadn't discerned so much as a muscle moving, but somehow half of the water in the puddle had ended up on her. She stood there staring at him with an open mouth.
"Careful," he said, as he stood up, "you don't want that mud running down your face to get into your mouth. Probably won't taste great."
Hermione slowly passed a hand over her face, most likely smearing said mud, and bent down. She scrutinized the ground for a moment, grabbed what looked the muddiest bit of sludge she could reach, and straightened up. Harry just arched his eyebrow at her.
"I know you don't want to do that—we're supposed to be running," he said. She hefted the dripping pile in her hand for moment, glanced to Harry, and then reared back and flung it at him.
He gracefully sidestepped it, and turned his head to watch it arch and resoundingly plop back into the ground. He looked at her once again, and this time both eyebrows were raised.
Hermione stamped her foot, which unfortunately did nothing but splash more muck. "Why do your reflexes have to be so good, Mr. Potter?"
"So I can avoid the mud thrown by insane witches," he deadpanned with a shrug.
"Insanity is in the eye of the beholder," Hermione retorted. Harry just rolled his eyes, and then looked to the sky. He squinted against the rain hitting his face.
"Why don't we just stop for today? We're both cold and wet—let's just go take a shower," he suggested.
"Shower? Or showers?" she asked. He just cocked his head at her. "What? You think you're going to get to shower with me after calling me insane?" She watched in satisfaction as his mouth dropped open. He was about to protest, but she cut him off.
"Save it," she said. "You can redeem yourself by exceeding my expectations today in class." She turned her back on him and started for the castle, but the last thing she saw was the priceless look of someone deprived of something they were looking forward to. She smirked to herself, and pressed forward through the rain toward the castle.
"Did you decide where we're going to do this yet?" Harry asked, as he piled some breakfast onto his plate. He looked at Hermione, who was freshly showered, and quirked an eyebrow.
She finished chewing and swallowed before responding: "Yeah, I think so…I was thinking here would be a good place." She swept the Great Hall with her eyes.
Harry nodded. "Yeah, it's spacious…"
"And hard to damage," Hermione said, with a sideways look at him. He shrugged—that depended on the spell and who was doing the casting. He could bring the whole room down fairly easily, if he wanted to. Not that he would, though.
"Alright, sounds like a plan."
"Which years are you doing this for?" Dumbledore asked them. He was looking at the two of them with interest.
Harry looked to Hermione; they had never really talked about that. He could see the same indecision in her gaze, so he turned to the Headmaster.
"Just the seventh years this year." He glanced at Hermione and she nodded her approval. "If all goes well, then next year we can think about expanding it to other years."
Dumbledore inclined his head. "And do you think it will go well?"
Harry shrugged, and Hermione supplied the response. "I don't see why not," she said.
"Neither do I," Dumbledore said, smiling. "I couldn't think of a better way to use the skills of two of my most talented Professors. If it does go well, I'll have to consider officially sanctioning more of them, perhaps for other subjects and years."
"Can't hurt," Harry commented. He looked up as Helen approached the table and sat down. He nodded to her, which she returned sleepily.
"Just rejoin the living?" he asked her. She just glared at him for a moment, and then placed some food onto her plate.
"Late night," she said, and proceeded to eat. Harry just raised his eyebrow.
Hermione leaned forward to look past Harry and Dumbledore at Helen. "Doing what?" she asked, barely able to hide the laugh that was threatening to escape.
Helen stopped eating mid-chew and slowly turned her head to look at Hermione. Harry sat back slightly, and he noticed Dumbledore did the same. Helen seemed grouchy this morning… Harry watched his daughter swallow slowly and then continue to stare at Hermione. Hermione just stared right back.
"Grading papers," she finally said, and smiled coyly at Hermione.
"Is that what they're calling it these days?" Harry heard Hermione mumble, and he laughed. It was an easy light laugh, and it was contagious, because soon Helen, Hermione, and Dumbledore were as well.
"Are we ever going to grow up?" Harry asked, once it had subsided.
Dumbledore cleared his throat. "Believe me, Harry, when I say I can respond from experience to that question: nope."
Harry just smiled and shook his head. Hermione said, "I do hope you've been careful with the Floos of late, Albus." She looked pointedly at the Headmaster.
"Oh, can't you forgive an old man his oversights?" he pleaded mockingly.
"As long as you can forgive us young people our…fun," Helen interjected, and smiled at the look that Harry was sure was on his face. He was happy that she had found something special with Paul, but he wasn't sure if he really wanted to hear about it—or even hear allusions to it.
"Could you imagine this conversation at seventeen?" Hermione said, thoughtfully. Harry was about to respond, but Helen beat him to it.
"How about eighteen?"
"Oh yeah…I forgot about that," Hermione said, and laughed.
"I don't know if I should be offended or not," Helen said.
"Take it as a compliment," Harry said. "You're very mature for your age…well, most of the time," he said, and stared into her eyes. He was waiting for it…would she…
Yep. There it was. She stuck her tongue out at him, to which he just shook his head. "Perhaps I need to rescind that statement?"
She shrugged, continued eating, and without looking at him, said, "Do what you will."
"I see how it is," Harry said, and turned to Hermione. "You see what I have to put up with?"
"I think she puts up with just as much, Potter," she said, and added, "as do I." Harry opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it. He turned to Dumbledore, who was just watching and listening to the conversation with amusement on his face.
"I guess us blokes have to stick together," Harry said. Instead of agreeing with him, though, the old man shook his head.
"I'd be a fool to stand against Helen and Hermione, Harry. I'm afraid you're on your own."
Harry looked at the smug faces of his daughter and girlfriend, and sighed in defeat. There were just some battles he couldn't win…no matter how hard he tried.
"Alright, alright…you two are amazing, and I bow down to your gloriousness. That satisfy you?" he asked.
Helen shrugged, and Hermione leaned over to Harry. "I might just let you in the shower later on, if we need to," she whispered, hinting at perhaps greater things to come. Harry felt his face coloring a bit, and he knew he'd be distracted for the rest of the day now. He was already imagining the water rushing from the showerhead, sliding down and over the exciting, tantalizing curves of her body…
He shook his head. Now was not the time. Now he would finish his breakfast, head to his office to finish up some paper work, and then return to the Great Hall for the joint class.
He leaned over to Hermione. "I'm gonna hold you to that," he whispered in her ear. She made no outward response, but he felt a slight pulse in her magical signature. He smiled to himself. It was going to be a fun day.
"So what do you want to start with?" Harry asked Hermione; he was watching the seventh years as they filed into the Great Hall, leaning against the Head Table with his arms crossed.
"You're the resident celebrity," Hermione arched. She seemed to be surveying the students as well, and he noticed that she shook her head at something.
"What is it?" he asked.
She turned to him with a raised eyebrow. "Hmm?"
"Why'd you shake your head?"
A confused look crossed briefly passed over her features. "Umm…oh…I was just noticing that some of the old House prejudices seem to still be here," she said, nodding to the students. Harry looked at them more closely, and sure enough, they were more or less divided by House. That was odd…he hadn't really noticed that in a long time. Although…perhaps it had always been there, but it just wasn't something that concerned him.
"Most of it was harmless when we were in school, Hermione," he said.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much," he cut her off, with a smile. She scrutinized him for a moment, and then just shrugged. She pushed herself into a standing position off of the Head Table, and called for silence. The muttering died down quickly.
"Let's get one thing straight, everyone," she said, assuming what Harry liked to call her 'stern' voice. "Today is a privilege for you all—this has never been done before. We will be showing you some things today that aren't normally taught at Hogwarts, but I'm sure you'll find them useful, if not stimulating." She looked to Harry, and he pushed himself off the Head Table as well.
"You heard the lady," he said. "If you mess around…I'll just give you to her," he said, smiling at them. It received a few laughs, and a slight glare from the bushy-haired witch standing next to him. The sudden loud hammering of rain against the windows momentarily distracted Harry, but it passed. It must have just been a particularly strong wind gust.
"Now," Harry continued, regaining his train of thought, "I want you all to stand up and pull out your wands." He watched as they did so, and noticed some looks of anticipation. He couldn't blame them, though; he probably would have found something like this very exciting as a student.
Chairs had replaced the Great Hall's tables and benches, and it was them that Harry now pointed at. "I first want to make sure that all of you can Transfigure quickly and accurately. When I say to, please turn the chair into a footstool. You will have three seconds."
Harry trusted Hermione's skill as a teacher, but if any of these students couldn't Transfigure with speed, then they wouldn't be allowed to participate. For the purposes of this lesson, they would need to be able to Transfigure successfully without a moment's hesitation.
He looked to Hermione, and she nodded at him. She understood what he was doing, and did not think that he was calling into question what she had taught them. He was merely testing their individual magical prowess.
"Ok…now!" he said, and watched as all but two students completed the task set before them. He stepped down from the Head platform and walked amongst the footstools; some were very good, intricately detailed and fine pieces of furniture; some were cruder, but they still had gotten the job done. He came to the two students, one boy and one girl, who had failed to achieve the goal.
"I'm sorry you two…but we will be conducting some dangerous exercises today, and you need to be able to do this…" At their crestfallen faces, he acquiesced slightly. He waved his hand, turning the messily Transfigured objects back into their original form.
"Alright, I'll give you both one more shot—but you must do it this time." He nodded to them, and they tried once again. The boy was successful this time, but the girl struggled. Harry watched it take the shape of footstool, start to fade back, but then solidify into the footstool once again. Her sigh of relief was audible. He nodded once more at them, and returned to the platform.
"Now that that's settled," Hermione said, we can begin. She looked to Harry, but he nodded toward the students. She looked back at them. "Who can tell me a powerful offensive spell?"
She called on someone. "Uh…how about Reducto," he said, and Hermione nodded.
"Yes, the Reductor curse. Very powerful…very effective…very nasty," she said, and Harry picked up the thread.
"Depending on the amount of power used, Reducto can do quite a lot of damage. It's not quite as effective as the Killing Curse," he said, "but if one does not move out of the way or block it somehow, it's effect is most often the same."
All of these students were either seventeen or eighteen, so he didn't need to soften up anything. They were all old enough to realize the real consequences of curses such as the Reductor if used on living things.
Hermione nodded. "Yes…and what if your Protego, or another shield spell, is already weakened. Or, what if you know the curse flying at you is going to be too powerful for a magical barrier?"
"That's where we come in," continued Harry, "as well as our attempt to bring to light some useful defensive—or offensive—Transfiguration techniques. Hermione—that is, Miss Granger—and I," he corrected himself, smiling, "will begin with a demonstration."
A student raised their hand, and Harry called on her. "But Professor, what could possibly block a Reductor, if not magical? The curse is extremely volatile…" she trailed off.
He nodded. "Yes, that is very true." He scanned the faces. "Does anyone have any ideas?"
No one made a move to answer, and he sensed Hermione shift next to him. Sure enough, she addressed them: "Come on…you're all smart enough to know the answer to this. Magic can usually be reflected," she said, placing emphasis on the last word. Harry saw several faces light up in realization.
"Of course," someone said. "A mirror would do the trick."
"Ah," said Harry. "Would it? Would just any mirror be sufficient?"
"Er…" the student faltered.
"If the mirror was flat, what would happen?" asked Hermione.
"The Reductor curse would shatter it," Harry heard. He nodded.
"How do we solve that problem?"
"Bend it!" someone yelled, quite enthusiastically, and Harry smiled.
"Yes, yes…very good. We would need a concave mirror for this to work properly. If done correctly, the magical energy of the curse will travel along the curved surface of the mirror and be flung away from you."
"Now," continued Hermione, stepping away from Harry, "watch closely at the timing and angle with which Harry blocks my curse." Harry looked at the Head Table, saw a plate sitting there, and decided that he'd use that as the initial object. He glanced back to Hermione; he saw that she was ready, and nodded to her.
"Reducto!" she cried, and the destructive magical energy burst forth from her wand. It sizzled as it crossed the room. Harry summoned the plate to him and effortlessly transfigured it into a perfect concave mirror. He swept it across the front of him in a graceful motion, catching the curse as it neared. He felt the mirror vibrate slightly, but then the curse was flying upward. He concentrated for a moment, pushing some of his magic into the curse, and it dissipated before it could crash into the ceiling. He let the mirror shift back into the plate, and set it back onto the Head Table.
"So," he addressed the students once again, "is everyone clear on what you will be doing for this exercise?"
They all nodded, although some looked skeptical. He assumed that it was because of the power of Hermione's curse, which had surprised even him slightly, but none of them were able to cast that forcefully.
"Ok, pair up, and use your chairs as the starting objects," Hermione said. She moved back toward Harry, watching as the students selected partners and spread out around the room, chairs in hand.
"You may begin, when ready, but make sure you both are ready. We don't want any accidents…" Harry said. He and Hermione watched as they began to test out their defensive transfiguration skills—Reductors were soon flying around the room. Harry had placed a magical barrier over the walls and ceiling, which would absorb any errant curse; after all, he couldn't have the Great Hall destroyed.
"That was some curse," he said quietly, to Hermione. "Actually wasn't expecting that much power from you…no offense."
Hermione just smiled and shrugged. "Ever since I started doing the physical training with you and Helen," she responded, keeping one eye on the students and one eye on Harry, "I've noticed an increase in my power."
"Oh…yeah, that makes sense," he said. "Dumbledore once told me that he believed physical fitness helps magical fitness, and I think he's right. What you just did…that's more proof, I guess."
She inclined her head and returned her full attention to the students. They stood in silence, watching the seventh years perform the curse and the transfiguration, successfully, for the most part. There were a few close calls, but in those cases, the students either dove out of the way or protected themselves with hastily erected Protegos.
"Ok everyone, I think that is enough practice with that," Hermione called out, and waited for the students to return to their previous positions. Some of them were sweating or breathing heavily, and a few had slightly wild looks about them. A sure way of getting the blood flowing and the heart racing was to have someone fire a deadly curse at you…
"Who can give another powerful—" Harry started, but was cut off by a particularly loud crack of thunder. A wash of rain blowing against the windows accompanied it, and Harry felt the floor vibrate from the cacophonous sound. That lightning must have been very close…
"Well, anyways…who can give another powerful offensive spell?" he asked them. Many of their faces were turned toward the windows, out of which only the lashing rain could be seen.
Harry snapped his fingers and whistled. "Hey…over here, everyone. It's just a storm…it's not like you haven't seen them before. Try to focus, please. Remember, dropping the ball today could be detrimental to yourselves or your classmates." All of their attention was, once again, back on him and Hermione.
"Spell? Anyone?" he asked, cutting the question short out of impatience. It was the third time he'd asked it.
"Diffindo," someone said.
"Yes, that is indeed another very powerful—and very lethal—curse," Hermione responded. "Anyone have any ideas as to how one would go about defending against it using transfiguration?"
"Make something that can't be cut," it was suggested.
Harry raised an eyebrow. "What can't be cut?" Silence greeted his question, and he allowed himself to smile a little. "Anything can be, if the spell is powerful enough," he said. "And how can you know exactly how powerful the spell is, and if what you're using to block it will stop it?" There was still only silence.
"So…that creates a bit of a dilemma," said Hermione, playing off of Harry's train of thought. They hadn't rehearsed or gone over what they were going to say at all, but it seemed to be working out nicely. "If it can't be consistently blocked, then how can transfiguration be useful here?"
"What about using something similar…to cut it, that is?" someone asked.
"Now you're getting somewhere," Harry said. "If you can't block it…why not use it against itself? Something sharp against something else just as sharp…" he trailed off.
"They would effectively cancel each other out," Hermione finished.
Harry nodded. "For instance, if I transfigured that plate into something sharp or with a point…such as a sword…I could nullify the effects of the curse." He looked at Hermione. "Shall we?" She nodded, and walked back over to the other spot.
She raised her wand and yelled, "Diffindo!" A thin, bright ribbon of magical energy streamed forth. Harry considered the plate for a microsecond, but then instantaneously summoned his wand into his hand and changed it into his sword. He brought the sword down toward the curse, which was hurtling at his face, and split the ribbon in two. The two pieces sailed by his head; their closeness caused the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. They disappeared before they crashed into the wall.
"The key is," Harry said, addressing the students again, "to force whatever sharp object you're using through the middle of the curse. The curse can't cut something so thin and pointed, and will be split in two."
"You can use your chairs again," Hermione said, and they all returned to their practical positions and resumed testing out their abilities. Hermione moved to stand by Harry once again.
"Decided against the plate?" she asked him. There was a small smile on her face.
"Yeah…I like Animus better," he said.
She looked wistfully at his sword for a moment. "I wish I could wield one," she said, but shook her head and focused on the students. In the brief silence that followed, the sound of the rain on the roof of the Great Hall grew somewhat.
"Really?" Harry asked her, after a moment.
"Yeah," she said. "I've always been secretly fascinated by them."
"Maybe sometime we can get you one, and I can train you a bit," he suggested, and was rewarded by a smile on her face.
"That would be fantastic, Harry," she said, but the smile faded slightly. She looked around, and then back at Harry. "Is it just me, or is it getting darker in here?" she asked him. He saw her eyes go to one of the many windows, and he looked to one as well. Sure enough, the heavy wind-blown rain wasn't the only thing he could see anymore—dark, ominous clouds were now prevalent in the stormy sky.
"Yeah, I think it is…" he mused, still staring out of the window. He realized that neither of them was watching the students, though, and hurriedly returned his eyes to their activities. Thankfully, none of them had done anything careless. He watched one student transfigure his chair into a machete, slice the Cutting curse flying at him, and turn to watch it fly off toward the wall. He caught Harry's eye; Harry nodded to him and then focused on all of the students.
"Alright, I think that is enough," he said, calling them back to order. They again returned with their chairs to their original positions. He was about to go on, but a shadow suddenly passing over him gave him pause. His eyes slid to the windows again, and he was greeted with a most unwelcome sight—blackness. The clouds were an extremely dark almost pure black. He narrowed his eyes for a moment, and then glanced at Hermione. She too was staring out of the windows.
"Is that normal?" she asked him, quietly.
Whatever answer he had been about to give was overrode by a bright flash of lightning and another violent, jarring crash of thunder, almost immediately following the streak. It was right on top of Hogwarts…
He looked to the students and saw that they were losing focus once again, but he couldn't blame them. This was a most unusual storm; it was exceedingly strong for April. He could almost feel the pervasive energy of it, crackling around in the air in the room…
But wait a minute. That wasn't the energy of the storm, was it? It was something else…something he couldn't quite put his finger on. He knew he'd felt it before, though. It was familiar, in a foreboding way that didn't make sense to him, and he puzzled over it for a moment.
"Uh…" Hermione said, "Why don't we take a five minute break?" She turned to Harry after the students agreed, and looked at him with a curious eye.
"What is it?" she asked him.
"I'm…I'm not sure," he said, slowly. "Something…" He paused. There was something eating away at his brain, that he knew he should have realized by now, but what was it? Where had he felt his before?
Another flash of lightning shown throughout the hall and the resulting blast of thunder echoed loudly; the rain was an ever-increasing white noise on the sides and top of the castle. Harry cocked his head to the side, digging deep within his own memory, trying to ascertain the origin of whatever was causing him to feel like this. Whatever it was, it was unpleasant.
"Something's wrong—" he started, but cut himself off. It had clicked. With widened, horrified eyes, he slowly turned to Hermione. She just looked at him with slight apprehension; he knew there was naked fear on his face.
"Impossible…" he breathed, and Disapparated.
"Following that, you add the boomslang skin—" Helen started to explain, but stopped short. The wind driving the rain against the window behind her distracted her for a moment, but she focused on what she was feeling.
There it was again…it was some huge spike of magic. It was almost tangible it was so large. She knew that her class was looking at her a little weirdly now, waiting for her to continue, but she had to figure out what it was. Part of it felt familiar…but the other part felt dirty and corrupted.
Whatever it was, it was large. Very large. She didn't know if she'd ever felt anything that powerful, not even from her father. Another surge…and she dropped the vial she was holding. It shattered on the floor, sending shards of glass skittering for a meter or two.
"Are you alright?" someone asked, but she ignored the question. It had been Harry…that's what she had felt. But there was something wrong. Something was different about it, and it felt horrible. She shivered at the mental caress of that foreign magic, and tried to push it away. It responded in kind, and there was another surge of magic from her father; this time, though, she was able to determine where it was coming from.
She looked up, into the concerned faces of her students. "Whatever happens, stay here," she implored. "Stay here," she repeated, and suddenly Disapparated.
Dumbledore stood by his window, gazing out at the maelstrom currently raging over Britain. He had no idea how this had gone on for so long now, and as far as he knew, all the Muggle weather experts were just as baffled. It defied explanation, at least with conventional science, and therefore Dumbledore reluctantly turned to the magical world for answers.
He was always hesitant to explore those types of options, especially for natural problems, such as the weather, because it usually meant something very powerful or abnormal was at work. He was worried that somehow he had overlooked something glaringly important, and it was now coming back to haunt them all…
It was a nagging feeling, but the fact that the weather was now getting continually worse didn't help to mollify it. It was deadening, for everyone. The constant gloom permanently dampened spirits, and truth be told, he was starting to get irritated. He knew it wasn't an uncommon feeling, but he rarely was annoyed by something as petty as the weather. It just didn't seem like a good use of his energy, especially at this late stage of his life. However…he couldn't help it. It really was annoying.
His eye twitched and he stepped back from the window. That was odd. What was that he had just felt? It had seemed like some sort of spike in the magical energies all around the castle. He had distinctly felt it, but what did it mean? Were the wards failing? Was Harry or Helen doing something that they had not informed him about?
He was distracted from that line of thought by the image of Helen and Harry, dueling one another with the fully unlocked potential of their powers. He was more powerful than Helen, in terms of raw strength, but she was quicker, and yes, smarter and more adept when it came to magic. Before he had met her, no one had even come close to equaling him in terms of the vastness of his or her magical arsenal. Helen had, though, and she had surpassed him. He knew that she was aware of spells that he most likely had never even heard of, and he wouldn't have been surprised if she was inventing her own.
Harry…well Harry had the most power, by far, and he was a brilliant tactician, but he sometimes lacked the foresight required. He was best when quick thinking was necessary, rather than planned strategy. He had the uncanny knack to get himself and others out of impossible situations—he had been doing so all of his life.
His eye twitched again, and he furrowed his brows. There was that same sudden burst in magic…but now he could tell that it wasn't Helen or Harry; at least, not alone or together. There was something else there, something unfamiliar and repulsive, but it was flitting just at the edges of his comprehension.
His signature ocular twinkle faded as he felt a slight push and pull at his own magical energy, and he began to make a connection. There was only one person that had affected his magic like that, as far as he knew, but that didn't make any sense. It was impossible.
Suddenly, there was clear surge of Harry's magical power, and then Helen's and the third. They were successive, one after another, and for the first time, he clearly felt what the third was.
With dawning horror, his eyes slid to the window behind his half-moon spectacles. Of course…it all made sense now. The weather…the constant pall…the dreary mood…how could he have not seen it before? With disbelief, frustration, fear, and anger exploding inside of him, he Disapparated from his office, leaving it empty, save for the sound of the raging storm.
Harry appeared just outside the main doors of the castle, and was immediately driven back against the hard wood behind him by the gusting winds. The rain pelted his face, lashing his skin like a thousand tiny pebbles, but he didn't notice. All of his attention—all of his being—was focused on what he was feeling at the moment.
It didn't make any sense, yet it was clear to him what he had felt was. He refused to believe it, though, unless he had visual proof, so he squinted through the tempest before him, trying to catch a glimpse of something he'd believed to he left in the past. All he could see, though, was the torrential rain and the muddy pools of water that now covered the whole of the grounds.
He pushed against the wind, striding slowly and willfully away from the security of the castle, descending the stairs and stepping into the mud. The wind howled in his ears, through his hair, and around his robe, threatening to knock him over, but he held his ground. Still staring ahead, trying to get a glimpse, he continued forward slowly. He had to see.
He felt that magical pulse again, and surged against. He hated the way it felt, and thought perhaps his own magic would keep it at bay. There was an indistinct battle of wills for a moment, and then it receded momentarily. Just then, he heard a splash beside him, over the wind, and pivoted toward it, sword raised.
It was Helen. She was looking at him with wide eyes; she had her own sword out and was poised to use it. He cringed as another of the pulses swept over him, and he buffeted against it again with his magic—he felt Helen do the same. This time the third force put up more of a resistance, even though there was now two pushing against it, but it subsided after a moment.
There was another splash, and Helen and Harry both turned toward it, ready to strike. Dumbledore stood there, sword out, looking at the two of them with something akin to disbelief and subdued horror in his eyes.
"What is going on!" Helen yelled, over the sound of the wind and rain. The sky was split in half by a violent streak of lightning, and the three of them automatically flinched at the loud, piercing crack of thunder.
Harry stared at Dumbledore. The two men locked eyes, oblivious to the myriad raindrops cutting through their direct line of vision, and Harry immediately understood that what he had feared, unfortunately, was exactly what the Headmaster was thinking.
"I think…" started Dumbledore, but the wind carried away the rest of what he said.
"What?" yelled Harry and Helen.
"I think," the old man tried again, bracing himself against the wind, "we need to ensure the safety of the students!"
Harry looked around for a moment, squinting into the rain, but still saw nothing concrete. He turned back to Dumbledore, who he saw was now gazing protectively at the castle. Harry felt for the man in that instant—Hogwarts was something he had endeavored to protect and sanctify his entire life, and now that might be threatened?
"As long as they remain inside they should be fine!" Harry exclaimed, trying to make himself heard.
Another pulse came just then, much stronger and more repugnant than any of the others, and the three of them visibly braced themselves against it. It wasn't just a feeling any more—Harry could visibly see black trails of something slowly wafting past them, as if the sensation had tangible evidence.
He looked around again; this time much more heatedly, but still saw nothing. He pushed against the foreign magic, and felt Helen and Dumbledore do the same. It seemed to do the trick, but as he watched, the black tendrils seemed to pull back and then coalesce into something more solid.
His eyes followed the sight, and he turned in a slow circle to track its progress. It was receding back through the storm, toward Hogwarts' gates. His eyes were drawn to the sky by some peripheral movement, and he looked up with shock on his face as he watched the clouds do something he'd never seen before.
They seemed to be swirling, darkening and coming together above some point that was not very far away. He could actually see the torrents of rain as they fell from those clouds, and every few seconds, some internal bolt of lightning would light them up. The wind was so overpowering now that he could barely hear the resulting thunder; he was having a hard time standing, and he knew that Dumbledore and Helen were as well. They were all braced against whatever was coming…natural or magical…
All three of their faces were turned toward the violent skies, watching as the swirling clouds drew closer overhead. Harry was vaguely aware that someone had joined them, and that that someone was Hermione, but he was too morbidly mesmerized by what he seeing. It wasn't a tornado, but it wasn't anything else that he knew of, either. The whole sky seemed to be drawing toward some singularity, pushing further and further in, becoming denser and denser.
As it drew closer and closer, the clouds slowly made their way toward the ground, becoming blacker as they did so. The rain increased, until it was almost unbearable, and the wind drove him sideways; he rebraced himself, and continued staring at what was happening. His eyes—the others', as well—were drawn slowly down toward the gates. The black mass that had been the clouds settled there, and they were all looking into some colorless, sightless void. It was a truly terrible sight. With bated breath, and a foreboding sense of the unknown, Harry watched as the mass slowly drew toward them.
He felt Hermione grip his arm, as well as Helen and Dumbledore drawing closer to him, but his stare remained fix in front of him. The amount of energy it was putting off…and the way that energy felt—the horrible, ghastly way it felt…was overwhelming. He couldn't focus it was so powerful.
He knew it, though. He had felt it before, and now that it was so clear, there was no doubt in his mind about whom it belonged to. Regardless of the fact that it didn't make any sense, that he had watched the soul of the person shatter, here he was. He knew it. He could feel it in his very core, and his magic pulsed to the beat of the disbelief and fear that were throbbing through him.
The black void lifted and parted slightly, and an indefinite form began to take shape. As it drew nearer, foot-by-foot, it became a little clearer, and Harry felt his heart speed up. Was it possible? Could this really be him? If it was…how though? How could it be?
Those questions were rendered moot, however, when Hermione shrieked and clenched his arm painfully. He looked at her, distracted, and saw that she was rigid and white with terror. He saw Helen next to her, whose eyes were also wide with disbelief. Dumbledore was further beyond her, and he was staring straight ahead with a kind of shock Harry had never seen on his face before.
Harry returned his eyes to the front, and almost lost his battle against the wind at what he saw. There, standing no more than fifty meters away…was Lord Voldemort. The Dark Lord had returned.