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Kjkit - Harry Potter and the Marcello School
Chapter 43 - The new Harry
Chapter 43: The new Harry
Harry grinned widely as he saw Ron and Hermione leaning against the wall next to the portrait of the fat lady. At least it solved the problem of him getting into the common room without a password, though he knew that he could've easily entered by a number of means.
"Now that is the Harry Potter we all know and love." Ron said with a grin.
Harry looked down at himself. He had taken the time after seeing the other Marcello students to have a quick shower and get changed, feeling somewhat nervous about meeting all his friends again after so long. He was now dressed in a long white-sleeved shirt that covered the pale scarring on his forearms, with some dark worn jeans. His hair, still wet, had been pulled back into a high ponytail, though his shorter bangs still fell into his face.
"You mean I didn't look like me before?" he asked.
"You looked well weird, mate." Ron said with a small shake of his head. "What with all those battle robes, and then you went and pulled out that sword…" he hesitated. "Do you still have it on you?"
Harry laughed. "Not really" he said. "Though it'll always be there when I need it."
Ron frowned slightly but Hermione just smiled at her boyfriend's expression. "But now you look like Harry again!" she said. "Even if you are a bit taller… with longer hair… and your eyes really stand out now you don't wear those thick glasses anymore…"
Ron started to stare at her, and Hermione gave her boyfriend an innocent look, before winking at Harry. "…You're just as skinny as ever though." She finished.
Harry laughed as she pulled Ron's head closer to hers and gave him a quick peck on the cheek causing him to blush slightly. "And what did happen to your glasses?" she asked as she turned back to her friend.
Harry shrugged. "Just didn't need them any more." He said. "Probably a good thing, as they didn't make the journey with me to Marcello. I never really noticed until I woke up one morning and started searching for them. I haven't thought about them since." He looked up at the portrait who was staring down at them and dabbing a white laced handkerchief at her eyes. "And how are you doing milady?" he asked with a small bow that made the fat lady blush and hide her face behind the lace.
"A charmer as always." She said with a smile. "Just like your father."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Now there's something I haven't heard for a while." He mused aloud. He looked at his friends questioning looks and shrugged again. "I guess it has been nice not to have to live up to anyone else's name." He explained.
Ron pulled a face. "Yeah, well I still have to escape that." He said.
Harry clapped a hand against his friends' shoulder. "You are prefect, Quidditch captain, all you need is head boy and you're one up on all your brothers."
Ron snorted. "As if I'd get that with you back." He muttered.
Harry stared intently at his friend, trying to gage his mood before continuing. "Ron, I'm not coming back to Hogwarts to learn. I have learnt all I need at Marcello, and everything else will come from going out into the big, wide world and experiencing it all for myself." He grinned as Ron started thinking about that.
"You're not coming back?" Hermione asked.
Harry shook his head. "Other than the fact that I now have my own school to run, I also have a rather large confrontation with an evil dark wizard to look forward to." His face fell a little bit. "Who knows what is going to happen with that?"
Hermione looked at him. "You don't seem as upset about that as I'd imagined." She said.
Harry smiled, looking slightly wistful. "I not pretending that there aren't risks involved." He said. "I know fully well what's at stake. But if there is one thing that Marcello has taught me, that is to live for the moment and to enjoy things as they are. Bad things will happen, they always do. You just have to ride with them." He looked up at his friends. "And I think you two should remember that as well."
Hermione's breath hitched in her chest as she saw the seriousness in Harry's eyes. Ron just shook his head. "You aren't going to leave us, mate." He said. "We won't let you."
"Not again, anyway." Hermione added.
Harry smiled and pulled his friends into a quick hug. "Thanks." He muttered, not wanting to tell them of the type of thoughts that had planted themselves steadfastly in his mind. He took a deep breath and looked up at the entrance to the Gryffindor common room again. "So are we going to go in? Or are we going to stay out here talking all night?" he asked.
Ron smiled and said the password, but hesitated before pushing the entrance open. "You ready for this?" he asked.
Harry frowned warily. "How much did you tell them?"
"Only that you were back." Hermione replied. "They wanted to know who all those boys were and why we were allowed up to the meeting when most people weren't. We refused to tell them anything else."
Harry nodded. "Sounds good." He said. "I'm sure you two realise that most of what I told you has to be kept secret until I meet Voldemort?"
Both Ron and Hermione nodded. "Of course." Hermione said, and reached past Ron to push at the portrait.
"Harry!" Harry was barely able to prepare himself as Ginny leapt forward into his arms. "You're back!"
He laughed and spun her around in a small circle, carrying her weight easily. As soon as he had put her down the rest of the common room were instantly crowded around Harry, firing questions at him and trying to shake his hand or hug him.
"Alright! Alright!" Harry laughed, holding his hands up in the air at his friends. "Give me some room and I'll do some explaining!"
"We were beginning to wonder when you were coming back." Neville said, as the group followed Harry over to the large fireplace. Harry turned his back to the flames, taking a moment to close his eyes and feel their reassuring presence before looking back over the room.
"We were really worried about you." Ginny said.
"All this time?" Harry asked with a smile as Dean wrapped his arm protectively around her waist.
Ginny looked up at her boyfriend and turned a little red. "Well…" she said with a shrug.
Harry laughed easily again.
"What happened, Harry?" Dean asked. "We all heard that you had escaped from You-Know-Who, but other than that no one has told us anything."
Harry smiled. "That's probably because that is all they knew." He explained.
"Well, you certainly don't look like you've been hiding out all this time." Lavender said who was sitting with Parvati Patil. Both were looking at Harry appreciatively. "Where have you been?"
Harry blushed slightly and glanced around the room before replying. He noticed a couple of non-Gryffindor faces, particularly those who had been in the DA when he had run it. He supposed that they had been notified of his return and had been allowed in the common room especially.
He took a deep breath. "There's just so much to say." He said with another grin. "Basically, though, I ended up at another school, where they specialise in teaching boys how to fight…"
He spent the best part of the next half hour explaining about Marcello and what the students learnt there. He left out a lot of details, limiting his new abilities to only the wolf animagi form, his wandless magic and his sword skills. He had many of the girls giggling behind their hands when he had performed a demonstration of his wandless magic by lifting one of the sofas they were sitting on into the air, and had willingly pulled the katana out of the air for them to see, though warned them about the dangers of touching it.
After a while he stretched slightly, flexing his hands behind his back and causing the flames in the hearth behind him to flare up a little. "Any questions?" he asked, feeling as if he had just given a lecture.
There were various shakes of heads around the room and Harry mentally heaved a sigh of relief. He saw Hermione and Ron send a smile his way, and the male Weasley sent a glance to the stairs leading up to the dormitories.
Harry nodded in acknowledgement. "Well," he said, "If that's all, I'm going to head off to bed. It's been quite a long day."
There was a general motion to stand as people came to say goodnight to him, a few cracking jokes about not disappearing again by morning. Soon only his closest friends were left in the common room, and Harry fell onto one of the sofas with a sigh.
"Well, that went better than expected." He said, leaning back and closing his eyes.
Ron stretched out beside Hermione on one of the sofas. "And how did you expect it to go?" he asked.
Harry thought for a moment before answering. "I wasn't really expecting to have to do it on my own." He said in a monotone.
"Oh?" Ginny asked from next to Dean. "Why?"
Harry shrugged. "I had a friend at Marcello." He said. "Yes, a female friend. And yes, we were close." He confirmed as a number of his friends sent him questioning looks.
"Ooh, Cho won't be happy." Seamus said with a laugh. "You were all she talked about when you went missing from the Medical Wing that night, and did you see her face when you came in the common room?" he chuckled slightly.
"When's your friend coming, Harry?" Ginny asked.
"She's not." Harry replied. "She died the morning of the day that I appeared in the Great Hall. It's really because of her that I've come back so soon. I just didn't want to stay at that school any longer than I had to."
The others fell silent in shock, only Hermione and Ron had heard about Kat and neither were sure whether they should break the silence.
Eventually Hermione spoke up, sliding her hands around her neck and pulling out her pendant. "What are these?" she asked Harry, who looked up at her with glistening eyes.
Harry smiled. "They are both phoenix, Hermione," he said with a smile.
She rolled her eyes at him. "I know that," she said. "I meant what's the stone. We showed them to Dumbledore, but he didn't know. And we also tried to do some research on them in the library, but couldn't find anything that resembled the substance inside it."
Harry shook his head, sending a quick glance around the people in the room before carefully answering. "You wouldn't find much." He said. "I did a bit of research on phoenix when I was at Marcello, and there is a sample of phoenix blood in each of those stones. In fact, they are probably the only two of three samples ever willingly given by a phoenix. If you know how to trigger the magic in them, then they can do pretty much anything you want them to."
"Such as?" Hermione asked.
Harry shrugged. "You could use them as a homing beacon of sorts, or if you broke the stone you could use the blood much in the same way as phoenix tears, though it is a lot more potent."
"So you were keeping tabs on us, then?" Ron asked.
His friend smiled. "I just wanted to know I could find you if Voldemort ever got it into his head to whisk you away." He said. "I don't know what I would do if I lost anyone else."
The room fell into silence again, this time broken by Neville. "You'd keep going." He said, then explained further. "You may not want to, but you would."
Harry smiled at him, noting that the short, chubby boy he once knew was rapidly catching him up in height and was beginning to lose the roundness of youth. "I suppose I would." He said, and looked at Hermione. "I guess that "saving people thing" won't ever really disappear."
Hermione didn't blush this time, but met his gaze fully. "You'll never change," she said with a smile and a small shake of her head.
"Well, I'm beat." Ron announced, kissing Hermione on the head and pushing himself to the edge of his chair. "At least the weekend starts tomorrow. Means we can lie in as long as we like!"
Harry shook his head. "I'll probably be up before daybreak." He said. "I've been up at that time every morning to train since the middle of summer, and I fully suspect that I'll up around at that time again tomorrow. I'll probably head down to the lake and do some training before breakfast…" his voice dropped away as he looked at the expressions on his friends faces. "What?" he asked.
"You're going to go out, at that time of the morning, to train?" Ron asked incredulously. Harry nodded and Ron shook his head. "Rather you than me, mate." He said.
"Well, you are welcome to come down and watch if you like." Harry said. "I'm pretty sure some of my friends will be up before breakfast as well. You can come and see what sort of things I've been doing these past few months."
Hermione nodded. "That would be great." She said, and nudged her boyfriend. "Won't it, Ron?"
Ron looked anything but enthusiastic. "I guess," he muttered.
Harry laughed. "Just come down when you wake up." He said. "We'll probably be training throughout the day. Just because we aren't at Marcello doesn't mean that we can afford to let our skills go rusty."
Ginny stifled a yawn and started heading for the stairs, giving Harry one last hug before she left. "I'll probably wander down after breakfast, then." She said. "I'm exhausted."
Harry nodded. "See you there." He said and followed Ron up the stairs into the boys' dormitory.
Ron awoke in the morning to find someone painfully jabbing at his shoulder. He mumbled some insults at the intruder before digging his head underneath his pillow, blocking the sound of his name being whispered softly.
He was just about aware of someone saying his name frustratedly before his pillow was snatched away and rudely used to pummel him over the head.
He twisted onto his elbow, ready to shout at the person who was disturbing his sleep when he bit his tongue. Hermione was standing there, dressed in black trousers and a thick jumper. She had her warmest cloak hung over one arm, and Ron's pillow was still in her hands raised ready for another swipe at her boyfriend. "Are you awake now?" she asked innocently, lowering the feather-filled weapon.
Ron grumbled slightly, finishing with something that sounded like "What are you doing here?"
"Harry's already left." Hermione told him. "I figured you would want to go and see what he's been getting up to these past few months."
Ron frowned and looked at his watch, which he kept next to his pillow. "It's just gone six!" he exclaimed, and Hermione shushed him as a grunt was heard from one of the other beds.
"There's no need to tell everyone." She said. "I don't think they'd appreciate being woken up at this time on a Saturday morning."
Ron raised an eyebrow at her. "No? Really?" he asked, but sighed as she looked hurt.
"Fine." She said, pausing dramatically before continuing. "I'll go down by myself then. I shall see you at breakfast."
Ron rolled his eyes and turned over to watch his girlfriend walk to the door. "Wait, Hermione." He said, pulling back his blankets and swinging his legs over the edge of his bed. "Give me a few minutes to wake up, and I'll meet you in the common room."
In the dark he saw a bright flash as Hermione smiled at him. "See you in a bit then." She said cheerfully, and exited the room.
"Completely smitten." He heard Dean mumble sleepily from his bed, and Ron felt an elated swell of triumph when he heard a quiet "oomph" as his pillow connected with his friend's head.
Ron tried to stifle a yawn as he followed Hermione down the stairs in the entrance hall of Hogwarts. She looked at him and smiled apologetically. "I'm sorry." She said. "I just really wanted to see all this new stuff he says he's learnt."
Ron smiled at her and put his arm around her waist. "It's okay." He said. "It's just that we were up talking till pretty late last night."
Hermione nodded. "I should've realised that I suppose." She said, and hesitated on the bottom stair as she noticed a number of other people already standing in front of the doors.
She recognised the headmaster, Remus, Snape and Leo, and assumed that the other boys were all students from Marcello.
The headmaster greeted them with a smile. It never ceased to amaze Ron that the older wizard could make a smile seem so genuine, no matter what time of day or night it was, and tried once again to shake the sleepiness from his head as the headmaster started to speak.
"Ronald, Hermione," he welcomed them by name as a means of introduction. "You remember Leo from last night, and these are some of Harry's friends from Marcello."
One of the boys stepped forward, and Hermione recognised his as being one of the boys who had flanked Leo the day before.
"It's great to finally meet you." he said, shaking hands with both Ron and Hermione. "We've certainly heard a fair bit about you from Pyro. I'm Horus, another Master at the school."
Hermione raised an eyebrow. "There seems to be a lot of young people running this school." She said dubiously, for Horus didn't look that much older than herself and Ron.
The boys laughed and another stepped forward. "We work on achievement levels." He said. "Once we successfully complete one level, we move on. That way we don't have to wait for end of year exams if we are already surpassed that skill level." He held out his hand. "Conway." He introduced himself. "And we also have Sheridan, Brogan, Todd, and Brandon."
"We've spent a lot of time training with Pi over the past few months." Brogan said. "Both he and Kat are… were very good friends of ours."
Hermione and Ron glanced at each other in the saddened silence that followed, before Ron spoke up. "Are you all here to train as well?" he asked.
Todd shook his head. "No. We've come to watch Pyro train, just like you. We know what he's capable of in our team practises, but we have never seen him train solo. Leo tells us it is quite a sight to see."
The boy called Sheridan nodded in agreement. "I'm particularly interested in seeing his moves." He said with a smirk, and stumbled slightly as Brandon gave him a shove. "Hey!"
Leo smiled at his students' antics. "Well, we better head off." He said. "Else we might miss something." And led the way out the main doors and across the cool grass towards the lake.
"Where is he?" Ron asked when they had reached the water's edge.
Horus' sharp eyes pointed out a small clearing about a third of the way around the lake. "He's over there." He said, and the others watched to see a small flare of light, as if a match had just been struck.
A few moments later, the others could see Harry more clearly as he lit a number of torches around the clearing. He was close enough that they could see the expressions on his face, but it was evident from his movements that he was either not aware of their presence or was not directly acknowledging them.
"His strongest element is fire." Leo explained to the group. "But an elemental is not able to control anything that is magically created. Conjured elements just don't behave in the same way as the real thing." He smiled to himself. "If he is lighting torches, then I would assume that he'll be doing some elemental training this morning. I think he suspects that he is being watched."
Hermione nodded. "He actually asked some of us if we wanted to come down last night." She said.
Todd chuckled. "I never knew that Pi was such a show off." He said.
"What's he doing now?" Ron asked.
"He's doing some stretches." Conway replied from beside him. "He's probably already done his morning run, and is just stretching down before he starts his other routines."
Ron shook his head. "And he used to complain about early Quidditch practises." He said and the others next to him smiled.
"I guess some people change." Remus said, staring in wonder at the son of his dead friend as he stretched.
"Doesn't he get cold?" Hermione asked, shivering in the early morning breeze. Harry was only wearing his combat trousers and a vest top, leaving his arms bare.
"Nah." Todd replied, "He's probably got some sort of wandless heating charm on the area."
Dumbledore looked to the potions professors next to him. "You'll have to remind me to return his wand at some point today." He said.
Snape just looked at the headmaster. "If he can do half of what he told us last night, then will he really need it?" he asked.
"Probably not." Leo replied, causing both men to look at him. "His studies with the elements has produced a high level of control over his magic, and because of this he should have the same amount of control over his wandless magic as he would with a wand, and even more-so I would suspect. Without a wand he can manipulate higher intensities of magic, such as he does with the elements. I doubt any wand would be able to cope with that now."
Remus nodded. "His phoenix feather core certainly had trouble accommodating the level of power he showed at his relatives house over the summer." He said. "It became so hot we couldn't touch it."
"Phoenix feather?" Leo asked, and the professor nodded. Leo shook his head slightly and looked back across the lake. "It makes a strange sort of sense." He admitted.
Suddenly, Sheridan started clapping his hands together excitedly. "Now this is what we've come here to see." He said.
"What is?" Hermione asked.
"His Dance," Brandon said, a gleam of anticipation in his eyes.
"We saw it once a couple of days after he had first found it." Conway explained. "But we haven't seen it since he's been able to complete it."
"And certainly not with Kudos." Horus added.
"Kudos?" Lupin asked.
"His sword." Todd replied.
"It has a name?" Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, not really understanding the cause for excitement in the Marcello students. Leo was a lot calmer, but even he had a similar expression of anticipation on his face.
The Hogwarts students stole a glance at their Defence teacher, but Lupin just shrugged and turned his attention back to the lit area on the banks of the lake, where Harry had taken out his katana and was doing a few warm up swings.
As they watched, Harry stopped and straightened up, pulling his shoulders back and raising his head. He then dropped into a duelling stance, one foot placed behind the other so that he was balanced with the katana raised in front of him; a silent challenge to an invisible opponent.
Before a second had passed, Harry had started his Dance, moving with a speed and agility as he deflected, thrust and literally danced around the torch-lit clearing. His body created flickering shadows against the trees that gave his observers the impression that there were a large number of people performing some sort of ritualistic dance around him.
"He's certainly one for the dramatic." Snape murmured from the end of the line, but most ignored the comment due to the level of awe they could hear in his voice.
It really was a majestic sight. They could see that there was a strange sense lack of emotion on Harry's face as he concentrated on the moves. Hermione was momentarily distracted as one of the Marcello students started chanting "C'mon, c'mon." under his breath, but her attention was once more grabbed as Harry bent backwards, his feet leaving the ground and passing over his head in the prefect flip. Within seconds the Dance was finished, and Harry was once more knelt with one knee on the ground, the blade held flat against the floor in front of him.
"Yes!" Hermione looked to her right again to see the Marcello students nodding in respect of his moves, large grins on their faces. She looked to her left and met Ron's gaze as he stared at her slightly dazed.
"Wow." He said with a whisper, and his girlfriend nodded in agreement.
The other teachers were all staring across the lake, unmoving as they watched Harry stand and walk to the edge of the clearing, where he picked up his jumper to wipe the sweat of his face.
He made his way back to centre of the clearing and started swinging the blade again, though this time he didn't seem to be performing the full Dance.
"What's he doing now?" Lupin asked Leo, not taking his eyes of the boy in front of him.
"Practising the bits that didn't go right." Leo replied, and smiled at the frown that appeared on the werewolf's face. "It takes a long time to perfect the Dance." He said. "Pyro has done really well with it, but he still doesn't think its perfect yet."
"Three guesses at the bit which he doesn't like." They heard Todd mutter from the other end of the line.
They watched as Harry swung the blade and then bent his back again, this time performing the flip in slow motion. He brought his legs up above his head and held them there, shuffling his hands around on the floor and moving the katana until it was in a position under his right palm that felt comfortable.
He brought his legs back down so that he was standing in the original position again, then repeated the move, aiming to put his hands in the position he had found comfortable before. After a couple of repetitions of this he performed the last few moves before the flip up to speed and performed the manoeuvre easily, bringing the katana up in front of him, and paced forward to perform the final swing.
He once again paused before standing and letting Kudos disappear from sight once more. He then sat himself down on his heels facing the water and his audience could see him close his eyes, calming himself before moving onto his next routine.
"His elements?" Lupin asked Leo who was standing by his right shoulder.
Leo nodded. "They require a large degree of concentration to prevent them getting out of hand. He has pretty much mastered the control of one element at a time, though he isn't as strong with the earth and water elements as he is with air and fire. He has recently been able to control fire and air together, though, which can produce quite a show if he is so inclined."
"In which case, why are we still standing?" Dumbledore asked with a smile. He pulled out his wand and conjured up a line of sofas, which had a charm on them to make them feel warm to the touch. He also conjured up a small bowl of sweets and passed them down the line as they waited for Harry to start his elemental training.
After a short while, they noticed Harry raise a hand in the direction of one of the torches, his tongue flicking out to wet his lips before he took on an intense look of concentration as he focused on the flame.
Hermione couldn't help but groan when the flame snuffed out, and could sense the disappointment in the other Marcello students when the image of Harry disappeared into the darkness.
Leo, however, was chuckling slightly. And soon they could see Harry's face glowing surreally from below as he opened the hand that had been resting lightly on his stomach, revealing a small ball of flame.
"It's his favourite trick." Leo explained as they watched Harry get to his feet, the ball of flame still happily nestling in his palm. "He found that if he focuses on the heat of the fire rather than on the flame itself, then he is able to manipulate it a lot more."
"How does he do it?" Dumbledore asked, fascinated by Harry's movements as the dark-haired boy bent to place the flaming ball on the ground, and stepping back. The group flinched as the fire suddenly soared into the sky, creating a twenty foot column of heat before dying away to match Harry's height.
"By concentrating on the heat, he is able to disperse it enough to not be a flame anymore, yet still control it enough to be able to remould it back into a flame." Leo said. "That's how he was able to move it from the torch to his hand without you seeing it move."
"But couldn't he just produce fire on a normal sunny day?" Hermione asked. "A bit like solar panels?" The wizards around her gave her confused looks and she just shook her head in return. "Forget that." She said with a sigh.
Leo frowned at her, but tried to explain. "He might be able to do it if he had something to focus the sun's energy with." He said. "Like a lens of some sort. But I don't think he'll ever have the ability to pull fire out of nothing."
They continued to watch Harry manipulate the fire tower with occasional comments from Leo until the sky began to lighten and the effect of the flames against the darkness was lost. They watched, fascinated, as Harry cupped the flame in his hands and gently replaced back onto the top of the torch, then took the torch to the water to snuff out the flame.
"He has to respect the elements." Leo responded to the unasked question. "After manipulating something like fire, and giving it part of your own magical focus to make it perform like that, you can't just expect to blow it out like you would a candle. That would just release it from its restraints and can cause a serious amount of damage. Many elementals have lost their lives by becoming too complacent at the end of their practises."
Harry knelt at the lakeside, scooping up a small handful of water in his hands before glancing up in the direction of where his audience sat with a smirk on his face.
Sheridan, Horus, Todd and Leo immediately stood up and jumped over the back of the sofas, leaving the others staring confusedly after them. Ron turned back to look at his friend. He noticed the elemental make eye contact with him and give a quick wink before pulling his hands apart, sending a shower of water droplets into the surface of the still lake.
Instantly, a large splash of water erupted in front of where the others were still sat, as if something large and heavy had been dropped from a great height into the water. Hermione squealed and the others gave shouts of alarm as they were covered with a fine spray of water. Behind them, the two Marcello students and the two Masters laughed, having correctly anticipated Harry's moves by the expression on his face.
"That'll teach you never to mess with an elemental!" Sheridan said with a laugh.
The Hogwarts students shook their clothes to remove the droplets as the staff members performed quick drying charms on themselves. Snape had a sour expression on his face, Remus was chuckling softly, and the headmaster had his usual twinkle in his eyes.
"Oh, he so deserves a punishment for that!" Brandon said, readjusting his robes after drying them.
Brogan looked across the lake at the now dark clearing. "Where is he?" he asked.
"I think he's headed back round." Todd said, daring to come a bit closer now the company was mostly dry.
Conway smirked, "Leave him to me." He said, and disappeared into the dark shadows beneath the trees that lined part of the bank.
Ron stared curiously after him, but after a quick nudge from Sheridan he turned his attention to the path along which Harry would arrive and tried to mimic the innocent expressions of the Marcello students.
He didn't have to wait long for Harry to appear. He had put his jumper on and had a big grin on his face as he approached. As soon as he came within hearing distance, however, he paused, his smile disappearing from his face and his head cocked to one side as if he was anticipating something. Without any further warning, he ducked low as the shadowy form of a large wolf flew from the bushes in an attack.
The wolf had not anticipated Harry's evasion and consequently overshot it's goal, skidding across the path as it fought to regain balance enough to change its direction and attempt another charge at the boy.
Harry, now aware of who it was attacking him, didn't give Conway the chance to regain his composure. Instead, he turned into another wolf and directed his own charge at his assailant, taking the offensive and connecting with the side of the first animagus, sending them into the bushes in a snarling ball of teeth-slashing fur.
The Marcello boys cheered and followed the two through the bushes and onto another path the other side, those from Hogwarts following with mixed emotions behind.
It wasn't long before the dogfight was over. Harry had Conway pinned to the ground on his back, his strong jaws clamped firmly around the animagus' throat and his weight pinning the wolf's chest to the ground.
Both beasts were panting heavily in their sudden exertion, and Hermione gasped as she saw the feral look in the eyes that belonged to Harry's wolf form. Her gasp caused the wolf to look up, and immediately his look softened in realisation of what this would look like to his friends.
He backed away from Conway quickly and both changed back into their human forms, helping each other to their feet. Harry shot a guilty look at his friends, before helping Conway brush his robes down. "Sorry." He murmured. "I shouldn't have done that." He nervously glanced at his friends again, trying to gage their reaction.
Conway laughed at him, and started mimicking Harry's movements with the multi-animagus' robes. "What are you apologising for, Pi?" he asked. "I was the one who attacked you after all." He took a moment to rub at his throat. "But maybe you could've eased off on the death grip a bit, though" he added.
Harry nodded. "Sorry." He muttered again.
Sheridan shook his head in defeated gesture. "It means something when you can still beat your opponent after being ambushed unawares."
"I wouldn't say he was totally unaware." Brogan said. "After all, he must've imagined we would claim some sort of compensation for our unexpected shower!"
"Besides" Brandon added, "I don't think he got off completely unscathed. Look at his shoulder."
Hermione gave a squeal and rushed forward, "Harry! You're bleeding!"
Snape gave the girl a scathing look. "Really, Miss Granger." He said. "Do you have to pitch your voice at such high levels this early in the morning?"
Harry sent him a glare before shrugging off the Gryffindor prefect's attention. "It's okay, Hermione." He assured her. "It'll be gone in a couple of hours. That's one of the benefits of having a phoenix form."
She looked at him dubiously. "Honestly." He said again. "It's fine!"
Leo looked at the slowly rising sun, then down at the worn watch around his wrist. "Well, we'd better be heading off." He said, and at Harry's questioning gaze explained, "The other Marcello students will be waiting for you to go and start their training. They'll be needing some sort of briefing now we are here, and Albus has kindly loaned us the use of…"
Harry started shaking his head and backing away. "Oh no." he said firmly. "No! No way am I taking charge of the training. You agreed that the Masters would do it until I felt I was ready."
Horus shook his head. "No, we said that we would continue to follow traditional methods until you reached an acceptable standard and gain enough experience to be able to run things on your own. And there is no way that is going to happen unless you start taking charge."
Harry glared at the other Marcello students who were smirking at him, and at Dumbledore and Snape who were looking decidedly amused. "This is so not funny!" he insisted. "I am not ready for anything like this."
"Oh, I don't know." Remus said with a smile. "I have had very good reports about that illegal defence club you ran last year."
Harry shook his head. "But that was all Hermione's idea…"
"But you were the one that ran it." Hermione interrupted.
Harry huffed angrily. "I don't want to do it." he muttered sulkily.
Brogan laughed with the others. He placed a heavyset arm over Harry's shoulders, and started directing him towards the school building. "But do you have a choice?" he asked.
"You did make a promise to the old man." Conway pointed out.
"And what better chance have you got than having two Masters who will willingly support your decisions, and a number of students who will set the example for the others?" Horus said. rHarHHHHhH
"Trust us, Pyro." Leo said. "Without the presence of other Masters and students who might want to question your authority, this will go a lot easier. These boys have followed you here for a reason, most probably because they admired the way you dealt with Orson…"
"Just because I got him back for killing Kat." Harry said sourly.
Leo glared at him. "Snap out of it, Pyro!" he said, becoming impatient with Harry's self-degrading. "You'll find most of those boys were already won over before Kat died and you appeared with Orson's body. It was your novel approach to Orson's tauntings that inspired them. By refusing to fight him they realised that there was more to Marcello than fighting. There was also honour. That's why those boys are here, Pi. That's why they followed you. They want reason for what they do."
Harry looked up from where he had been looking at his feet, making brief contact with the others before shaking his head, once more looking down at the ground.
"The Doyen saw it in you." Leo said in a softer tone. "And to be honest, I did too. Why else would we spend the time to train you as we have? Why else would we encourage you and the others to form friendships and learn to work together? There was a reason for it, Pi. Marcello needed to change, and when you started up the training groups with Kat and the others we realised that you were what it needed. You showed us that companionship is a vital part of human nature, and that teamwork can achieve a lot more than working individually. But often that team needs inspiration, someone to lead them…"
"And that would be you, Harry" Dumbledore said with a soft smile, coming up behind Leo.
Harry frowned at him, but its intensity had been lost. "There's no need to gang up." He muttered.
Dumbledore smiled. "I just like to see my students reach their full potential." He said. "And you cannot deny that people often hold a certain degree of respect for the credibility that comes with being the Boy-Who-Lived. That name holds a lot of power, Harry. Power that can be used to unite people to fight together."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm really not going to be able to get out of this, am I?" he said.
Sheridan chuckled. "I'd imagine this would go a lot easier if you looked more enthusiastic about the whole thing." He said. "After all, think of all the things you could do with twenty fit young men who are willing to comply to your every order…"
"Chill, Romeo." Todd said. "And get your head out the gutter."
Harry turned to where the Hermione and Ron were standing with their professors. "Do I stand a chance of having any of you see things from my point of view?" he asked hopefully.
Ron shook his head. "I'm sorry, mate." He said. "But what I saw you do out there was amazing. If nothing else you would make a great example to others. You know, for not letting him beat you, and being determined to keep going, and so on."
Hermione nodded. "And Professor Dumbledore is right, Harry." She said. "You've been through a lot, but that just makes people respect you even more. Yes, okay, I'd admit that some people have made it their life's work to present you in a negative light…" Harry snorted. "…but they'd still follow you if you gave them reason to."
Snape nodded. "Loathe I am to admit, Potter, but I agree with Ms. Granger. But I'd add extra emphasis to the latter part of her argument. People need motivation, and therefore they would need a reason to follow you. I suggest you take up your place with these students, get some practise in so that your leadership techniques won't backfire on you when you need the support the most."
Harry sighed, knowing full well of the reasons why he was expected to become such a prominent figure in the upcoming war, though it didn't make him like it any more. "What do I have to do?" he asked.
"Just be yourself." Leo replied automatically. "That should be more than enough."
Harry nodded, inhaling deeply before following his friends across the grounds of Hogwarts. As he walked, Ron and Hermione fell into step beside him.
"Sorry, mate." Ron said awkwardly. "I know how much you hate all that "Boy-Who-Lived" crap."
Harry nodded. "I guess it's a big part of who I am." He said. "I just had to live with that."
"But it is not all of who you are." Hermione reminded him. "The Harry we know is so much more, yet at the same time so much less than what their expectations predict."
Harry's breath caught in his chest as he remembered that night he had spent with Kat in the clearing at Marcello. Her words had implied the same meanings as Hermione's had. He sniffed a little as an acute sense of loss filled his chest, and he had to gulp to remove the lump in his throat that was threatening to block his airway.
He had really loved Kat, and he had never been ashamed to admit that. She had reminded him of the meaning of life that evening by the lake, and he felt he owed it to her to fulfil the promises he had made to himself after she had left. He no longer worried about having the power to defeat Voldemort, both the gifts he had received from his phoenix form and the awakening of his elemental powers had given him enough confidence to face the Dark Wizard, but he knew he was no match for the large number of Death Eaters and other evil allies that he would have predictably been recruiting. It made a painful sort of sense to know that he would need others to be there with him during the final stand, though he hated the idea of putting others at risk.
He looked up to see where the others were silently leading him, and frowned when he noticed they had passed the path that led to the front entrance of the school and were instead walking around the tall, stone structure towards...
"We're going the Quidditch pitch?" He asked Ron.
The boy nodded glumly. "Dumbledore cancelled Quidditch after the attack in Hogsmeade." He said. "Said it was too dangerous."
Hermione nodded. "There was obviously a large uproar about it." she said. "I think Cho is still appealing on behalf of the teams, but all he says is that he'll try and organise a dance or something to compensate."
Harry looked thoughtful as they continued to walk. "So he's leant us the use of the pitch for our training then?" he asked, and Hermione nodded.
"I assume so." She said. "That seems to be where we are headed."
Harry tried to calm his nerves and willed his katana to appear in its sheath across his back as he walked up to where Leo and the other Marcello boys were waiting by the entrance to the stadium. As he passed they took their places behind him, effectively cutting those from Hogwarts out of the parade as they walked under the arch that marked the way in.
Ron huffed a little at this, but was calmed by Hermione's hand on his arm and a small smile accompanied by a nod from Leo as he took up the rear of the procession. From that look, Ron realised that this would enhance the symbolism of Harry's position at the school, and that it was best dealt with those who were part of the school. Instead, he followed Dumbledore and his other professors as they inconspicuously made their way to some of the ground-level stands to take a seat.
As Harry walked onto the pitch, he observed the other Marcello boys congregating around in a group, though one that was much quieter than those commonly seen at Hogwarts. He was aware that the others were following him, though didn't dare turn around to see what sort of impression they were making.
As he neared the other boys they noticed him and snapped to attention, quickly marking out their places and performing right-dress to ensure that they were all inline and equidistant apart. Once their positions were checked they all faced front, raising their arms in the position of attention that had been adopted by Marcello tradition.
Harry frowned at their actions. He knew that this was the behaviour expected on the arrival of a Master, but after his experiences with Orson he knew it was something that he didn't want to continue.
"Stand down!" he ordered as he came within hearing distance and stopped in front of the two lines of students.
The boys looked at him doubtfully, their eyes not daring to waver to question their neighbours. At their delay, Harry repeated his order. "Stand down! Why do you continue to stand like this?" he asked.
One of the boys on the front row spoke up. "Because we are to respect you. By standing like this we can show that respect, and you know that we are listening to what you say."
Harry shook his head. "I believe you would show more respect if you actually made eye-contact with me, it would show that you are attending to what I am saying, and not letting your thoughts wonder as to how long it would be before I would let you drop your arms. Now, once again, stand down!"
The boys slowly lowered their arms and looked towards Harry who nodded. "I'm no older than any of you," he said as an explanation. "And many of you have much more experience than I have. Because of that I want to propose a working relationship with you. I will eventually become Doyen, it's a given fact with my ownership of Kudos, but until then I am happy to stand on a level with you, to listen to you and respect you. And in return I hope that you can give me the same level of respect."
He watched as the boys looked towards one another. "You all came here for a reason." He said, carefully using the same words that had been used to convince him to take up his position as Master. "And I believe that reason is because you didn't agree with the traditions of Marcello. You felt there was something missing there. With the training exercises that myself, Leo and Horus are going to explain to you today, and with the demonstrations from a couple of others, I hope that you will come to realise what it is that Marcello lacks."
He turned to where his friends were standing, and was silently elated to see Leo and Horus give him quick nods of congratulations. "Shall we start?" he asked with a self-satisfied air, and proceeded to separate the Marcello students into groups, with a Master and a couple of his friends in each.
A/N – well, I eventually finished it, in between various hangovers, etc. I wasn't overly impressed with the last bit with Harry. I did have it set out perfectly in my mind, but forgot to write it down and consequently forgot it… serves me right really.
Everything should be back on track now, at least until the end of this week that is. Then I shall probably wait to post the last chapters in one go (the end is nearly in sight!), just so that I don't upset the build up in too many ways. Thanks for all sticking by me, and I'm overwhelmed by the infinite number of reviews in my inbox. I appreciate that a number of them are from a couple of you that have just started reading and have reviewed each chapter – in which case I'll just mention those that reviewed ch.42 below. If I leave any of you out, again I apologise. I shall be making every effort to reply individually to any review sent to me this week as I may not have the time nor the facilities to do it next week, so now is the time to ask any questions you may have. Again, thanks a lot to you all. Kit. Xxxx
Padfoot (x3) Should I get the earplugs out now…? Excited howler expected! ;-) Airwolf1, UncleD87, TankerMDK look at my favourites list, there are a couple I like on there. And I'm afraid that there isn't likely to be a follow up… keep reading and you'll find out why (if you haven't already guessed!), Dius Corvus, Mel, Kyleace, The Lady Reaper of the Shadows, Blood-Covered-Ivory, Lyonser thanks, but I daren't attempt to write Harry into potions lessons, Snape is hard enough to portray as it is… and who said anything about him passing OWL potions?, lluvatar (x2), Crazyworld, Elvenears13 Thanks, and I think fantabulous is a word!, HPBeatles thanks for the heads up on Dark Lord terms, I'm always a little unsure which to use. I'll change them when I get the time! Madskillzpro (x3), crystalline (x2), slytheringirl action is on its way, promise, Al, Takamarushi thanks!, Sexy Little Slytherin, Blip-Dragon I'll see, but I probably won't have the time to re-write with Kat surviving. I might bring her back in an alternative fic though, I'm beginning to get ideas!, I forgot I've finished education now! Ha! Good luck surviving yours though! Prongs, Chocoliciouz (x2), Lucasmjl thanks – to you and the rest of your family. Hope you enjoy the rest, Rayearth, ObsessedwithHarryPotter – aren't we all ;-) And Voldies on his way… Devilishlydreamy thanks! Rocky235 thanks for all the reviews on the previous chapters as well… hope you enjoy the rest! Pinkfogg, Rini Sayian-jin, I-Want-to-fly thanks for all the reviews you gave on all the previous chapters as well… hope to hear from you again soon!, Warmastered, Newbie-sama, Whispyraven, Apraxas, Cynical Slytherin, Strawberry22 predictions can be wrong! Guess again! Madfootmoony (x4), Lucky13 (x2), Alanpatty07 (x2), Falcorsfire, zorro X, Jbfritz, Lady Ana Maria Lorinan thanks!, Huntagirl (x2), Goldfeather, Candidus-lupus-full Moon, Frozenwings (x4)aka horus! Noor mann, Lady Kacey, Lunalovegood61, Hellish Kitten, doublewats thanks, and I haven't forgotten about the gifts, Remus' should be revealed in the next chapter, SPASH Panther, Miss Laine, Qazicle (x2), Sirius24, FroBoy, Fairydust29, NoAlias, Lily and James Potter, Mindylou, Blackdragonofslytherin, LeaBlack (x2), Virginia Madison, Wolfpack, Jericholic-baby, Von, Iniysa, Not a muggle, Brent Braten, Kate Potter, Greasy Socks, Omagic, DHMC, Prisilha, ColdFlameX (x2), Gaull, Maxennce (x2), Bowser, Misty43, Solar, Tara6, Venomous, The Reader, Phoenix, Potter Reader, Heala, and finally, the first review of the chapter… Sambow24!