Chapter Eleven: States of Development
After interrupting Terpsichore and George, Evie had returned to gauge her patient's progress. She was pleased; young Miss Potter's thoughts were becoming more easily traversed. She was able to peek a bit behind the girl's mental construction of her master's door before leaving the girl to seek out her apprentice. Vampires and fighting! Amazing, that's what I call it. And to think, Albus never said a word! Hermione was having difficulty accepting her limitations, but that was to be expected. One doesn't like being on the other side of any door, after all.
The younger witch was pacing the room, and was not breathing in the "I-will-be-calm, I-will-be-calm" manner to which Evie had grown accustomed.
"Is there a problem, dear?"
"I was surprised to find you gone. I couldn't find you."
"We must have missed each other--I had a family situation--I apologize. But what is wrong?"
"I can't even meet her thoughts, Evie."
"It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, dear. And you may not have the knack."
"Surely you don't believe that, with enough study, anything is possible, do you?"
"Of course I do!"
"You do? Well, that's simply balderdash, my dear. How can you believe that everything is possible?"
"Because it is, isn't it?"
"Dear, if everything were possible, it would follow, wouldn't it, that some things would have to be impossible?"
Hermione looked positively devastated by this thought.
"Now, now--I think it would be best if you took yourself off, Hermione. You can try again, later."
The haruspices walked to the door, and then Evie put the kettle on. She suspected that Hermione was afraid that she would not be able to find her Ron beyond the Veil when her time came. It made the woman feel sad.
"But I suppose it's for the best that she can't see inside of Ree's head. I don't suppose Albus would want what's going on in the Wilds to be common knowledge, would he?"
"No, I wouldn't," a quiet voice spoke from the doorway.
Evie turned to greet her guest, but before she could say anything, the wizard acted.
"Oh, Albus--I didn't hear you come in!"
"I apologize. May I see the patient?"
Albus was surprised to find that Ree had moved on further than he would have imagined. He had never seen the memory in which he found her, though Tancredo had sent word of what had passed. He watched, fascinated, as Ree threw open the doors to the Council Room.
"How in Merlin's name can you sanction such slaughter?" the girl yelled at Tancredo. "They were children! Women and children!"
Tancredo did not look up from the maps he and his ministers were studying on a long table set out before the high chair in which he usually sat, as he said, "They were ogres, Harry James. It is the business of this land and its stewards to kill ogres."
"There's no honor in the slaughter of innocents!"
Many of the ministers laughed at her comments, but were silenced by a sharp flick of Tancredo's eyes.
"There is nothing noble about war, Harry James. Its driving force is always, at its core, a simple matter of 'us' versus 'them'. It is the most basic distinction one can make, though a most destructive principle. But without such a distinction, civilization could not be maintained."
"Man is not generous by nature, Harry James. We seek out and protect our own."
"You're justifying murder by saying 'you can't save everyone'?"
"Indeed, I'm saying that one does not wish to save everyone, only those whom he feels are his, be those feelings of ownership valid, or not."
I could never feel like that, Albus heard the girl think, and remembered a time when he would have agreed with the sentiment.
"From the moment you arrived at your school, if what you have told me is true, everyone and everything in it was yours. You are a protector of what you know to belong to you--no matter your feelings about how some of your own go on. Is that not so?"
"Among others," Tancredo said, easily picking up the girl's thought. "Guardians seek to protect what is theirs in order that their worlds remain intact. Pure selfishness--but the sheen lent them by their acts of heroism make their decisions more palatable for the people with whom they share themselves. 'Us' versus 'them', Harry James, that is why we fight."
"That's . . . that can't be . . . that can't be all there is to it, Master," Harry choked out, the memory of a wide-eyed, darkly furred ogre child rising in her mind.
"Infant," Tancredo said in his customary monotone. "Go to the window."
Harry did. The blurred ogric hordes surged far beneath the battlements of the castle. She shuddered. There are so many of them.
"Indeed. Yet you still fight them, do you not?"
"Yes," she replied heavily. "They would overrun and kill us if we didn't. They would breach the barrier of the Wilds and spill--"
"Into your world, take what you love, push you out of it--so it does not matter to you why they come to fight, only that they do, and that their advance must be halted."
After a brief hesitation, the girl said, "Yes, Master. Thank you for the lesson."
Tancredo smiled inwardly as his young heroine forgot to concern herself with the loss of inculpable mama ogres and their young.
"Though it be hard at times, take comfort in the fact that you are serving the Greater Good by your actions here, Harry James, as you will no doubt do creditably when you leave this place."
"It's not a comfort, master. They were just bab--"
"Note well, won't you, that ogric children become adult ogres--a stage of development at which they are more difficult to kill."
"I can't help wishing that there was some other way, master. . . . I don't care for killing."
"That is an excellent trait in a heroine," Tancredo allowed, turning once again to his ministers.
Harry wasn't certain if her master's words were complimentary, or not. She thought not.
For his part, her master felt that his apprentice was now prepared to graduate from his instruction. It did not concern him that Harry James had not developed a taste for killing in her two years of service. That she had displayed her stomach for killing was all that mattered. She's as finely tuned an instrument as you've ever played, Godrixibus, thought Tancredo. And only Isarat knows how pleased I shall be to completely discharge my life-debt to you with the completion of the other matter.
Isarat. Faugh! thought, Albus, following the path of Ree's thoughts.
"Why did you allow him to refer to you as 'Harry James'?"
The young woman did not flinch to find the wizard standing next to her. "Master Tancredo does as he wishes. Besides, it is my name, isn't it?"
"And to have him acknowledge me at all is gratifying."
"Was," Ree corrected herself.
"Did you not have daily training?"
"Yes, but not always with my master, Albus."
"Ah . . . . Do you understand what's happening to you?"
"We're not actually in the Wilds?"
"No. We're walking through your memories."
The young woman laughed before replying, "That is the most direct thing you've ever said to me."
"Perhaps it is."
"Master Tancredo is rather literal, but, as pleasing him is no longer my main concern, 'Ree' will do."
"I've looked into the matter, you know, Ree, and I have been unable to discover whence you came by that nickname."
In an excellent approximation of Blaise Zabini's low, smooth, mocking voice, she replied, "'Well, I expect Harriet is boring, and Harriandra is too dreadful to contemplate--but what about Harrianna'?"
"He made me so mad that I yelled at him to call me 'Harry! Harry, Harry, Harree'!"
"Ah. But if you still think of yourself as Harry, then why . . . ?"
Ree began walking through the psychically reconstructed corridors of Tancredo's castle, and Dumbledore kept pace with her.
"It's quite stupid, really. Blaise mentioned me in passing to Draco as 'Ree', and he forbade him to refer to me by the name."
"Thus compelling both of you to persist in the use of it."
"That is understandable."
They approached a low door, which Ree opened to reveal a small stone garden. Moonlight shone down on them, bathing the rock walls with light that made the rough surface of their "room" gleam brightly.
"I know that Evie is helping me put my memories back in order, but not all of them belong to me, do they?"
"I suspect not," the wizard told her, sitting himself down on a bench. "Can you think of anything that you have seen that seems out of place, or that you know does not belong to you?"
"Yes. I saw Tom Riddle taking an apprentice," the witch said, turning a hard gaze on the wizard. "Why? Why did you allow it?"
She saw that, did she? Albus thought, taking a settling breath before explaining, "Because had Lord Voldemort recruited the individual he truly desired to assist him, more people than you can easily imagine would have died."
"You can't possibly know that."
"Ree, soon you will understand precisely how I can know it."
"I don't want to understand it. I just want it to stop!"
"I know, dear girl. I felt the same way, I'm sure. But some gifts you cannot return."
Unbidden, an image of a blood-stained girl rose in Harry's mind.
"I don't understand--why would he take Ron's body away, Hermione?" Sirius, now in human form, asked the witch.
Rather than answer him, she stared fixedly at the stained ground beneath her feet and muttered, "It's a secret."
A disembodied howl filtered through the trees, and Harry saw how Severus shivered.
"I will not be much use here, now that the fighting is done. Perhaps I should attempt to find Harry."
Sirius didn't respond, occupied as he was with Hermione.
"Black?" Severus said, somewhat sharply. "I do not wish Harry to hear of Ron's death from a stranger."
"No, of course not," the other wizard replied.
"I'll go to the inn and have Rosmerta send help. . . . Will you be all right?"
A woman's voice startled Severus, who seemed, Harry thought, to be cursing himself for letting down his guard.
"I'll see to them until the Aurors come, young man," she told him, and then Harry had a flash of memory through a young Severus' eyes.
The lady was the Widow Blake, the lady Severus and his school fellows had harried many years ago. Harry could tell that the Potions master remembered her.
"Yes, thank you, Ma'am," he said awkwardly, and then he apparated away.
"You're welcome, dear," the Widow Blake replied to the ozone-laced air.
"Very good, Ree. You're beginning to direct it."
Standing in the memory, staring at the scene, Harry found that she had no response. Did I imagine Neville? she wondered.
Albus was surprised by this thought. If you did not, then you are progressing more rapidly than I could possibly have imagined.
Harry did not hear the wizard. She was already casting about for another memory.
Sirius had not been the only person waiting for Aurors during the fighting in Hogsmeade. Voldemort had caused attacks to be carried out all over Britain, and one of these was an assault on the Ministry itself. These moments rose in Harry's mind until it seized on one particular scene, and she did not possess the skill to ignore it.
"Secretary Croakes, Secretary Croakes!" called voices from the smoke-filled doorway.
"We're in here--please, hurry!"
Arthur Weasley was laying on his back on top of a pile of bloody parchment, wounded somewhere in his stomach. The secretary was jamming memoranda and a jacket into what appeared to be the bloodiest place on Mr. Weasley's mid-section. Apparently, he knew no medical spells.
"Father, Father, please!" Percy Weasley cried, bursting into the room.
"Easy there, young man," Croakes cautioned. "I've been trying to keep him comfortable. Is it over?"
"Shacklebolt and the others have barricaded this wing of the building. We've been going room to room, but when I couldn't find father, I--"
A small explosion interrupted the boy.
"Oh, dear. I don't think I killed him, Percy. But I did try."
"The Death Eater in the conference room. I locked him in and spelled out the air--I wanted to make him pass out, you know--or suffocate him properly--but perhaps I'm a bit rusty since the war. Watch your father," Croakes said, his hands visibly shaking, "and I'll go see what I can do."
"No, Secretary Croakes--please. Stay here and lock the door behind me. Don't let anyone in. Not even me, understand?"
What does he mean, "not even me"? Harry wondered.
"Nymphadora Tonks has a rare gift amongst wizards, Ree, but she is not alone in her ability," Albus told her, interrupted the young woman's vision of Percy Weasley resolutely leaving the room.
Shortly thereafter, Percy could be heard to say, "It's no use, Mr. Goyle. This place is crawling with Aurors--you'll never get out."
His declaration was followed by the sound of a wall falling in.
"Well, they're not here now, are they you filthy Muggle-lover?"
"Stupefy!" came the response.
"Here's a better idea," Goyle's harsh voice ground out on the other side of the door--"Avada Kedavra!"
Mr. Weasley stirred. "Per--Percy?" he called weakly. "Is that my boy?"
"Shh, man," Croakes urged him. "Somnius!"
Harry watched, helplessly, as the secretary dragged Ron's father--Percy's father--over to the far wall of the office and charmed himself and the other man so that they would fade into the background.
"If you can see these things, why don't you stop them?" she demanded.
"Because I cannot be everywhere at once, child. Only see," the wizard instructed, as the scene shifted again.
"You don't want to lose your heart to a witch, boy. . . . She'll baste it in your own juices and roast it until it's nice and crisp and black."
"Thanks for the advice, Mr. Coachman, but Trinny's a nice girl," Terrence Tellefor Toadhopple-Thompson responded to the old man above him.
The young man had been late to the Toll House, which was located on the Untaken Road a mile outside of Hogsmeade, but just in time to find John Coachman leading his carriage up to the gate. It was none of his business what was beyond the gate, of course, but Terrence still plied Mr. Coachman with liquor in hopes of learning something about that man's journeys.
"Leave it be, lad. Leave a Squib some mystery about his life," was the only response the young man had ever received. Most of the time, the coachman was more interested in detailing his suspect myriad amorous encounters--which was ofttimes almost enough to put Terrence off of sneaking around to Trintitia Tamantha Trilby's window for a "chat" before having to be home by dawn.
"I expect I'll wait another minute, but then I'd best be going. I've got passengers to bring back tonight."
"And you have one passenger to take forth," a stern wizard ordered, appearing suddenly next to the carriage.
Albus, Harry thought, realizing that she was no longer merely a watcher, but a participant in the moment.
When Harry/Terrence looked at the man, she/he could see that Professor Dumbledore was covered in blood, and holding the limp body of an injured man whose face was obscured by damp red hair.
"Gods, what's happened to him?"
"Never you mind, boy. Open the gate," Coachman ordered, swinging down off the box to assist the wizard with placing his charge in the carriage.
"Here is your direction," Dumbledore said, handing the coachman something Terrence could not see.
"Sir? Sir, is everything all right at home?"
Ignoring the boy, Albus raised his wand and whispered an incantation, and the gate opened.
The horses raised no dust as they galloped down the road, and the carriage intermixed with the scenery until it was no longer a distinct object.
"You're a Toadhopple-Thompson?"
The question helped Harry to regain a sense of remove from the scene, at least temporarily.
"There are Death Eaters in the village. Lock yourself in the toll booth and wait for John's return. Do not allow his passengers to apparate into the village until I send someone back to tell you it is safe."
"But what of my family? I should--"
"You should listen to me," the wizard said, his voice seeming to seep into the boy's frame.
The power emanating from the wizard drew Harry back, and she, as Terrence, found herself/himself following her/his bones before they could leave her/his skin.
"No!" the witch insisted, struggling to separate herself from the boy.
She was not sure why, but yelling helped. She was free to watch the boy run to the Toll House and slam the door, and could hear him thinking, "Gods, but I'm glad Mum home-schooled us!" before his thoughts became a stream of worries about all of his family and friends.
"We'll talk more when you've returned to us properly," Albus said, leaving before Harry could demand answers of him.
Oh, I hate you!
Her guilt at the thought turned her in an interesting mental direction. She was not certain if what she saw next was her memory, or her master's, or perhaps a mixture of both.
Harry had not intended to throw one of her fellow soldiers into the line of ogres ahead of her battle group's position, but that is the way it happened. She had been frightened out of her wits as the creatures had surged, and had aimed her sword like a wand in their general direction, catching more than just the ogre on which she had nominally focused. Now, hours later, she found herself feeling more than guilt.
"Don't know as 'ow I like havin' to fight next to an Out-of-Boundser as can't tell her own mates from a monster," spat the squarish-shaped soldier with the two fake eyes--one glass, and one magical. "I ain't got the notion to start fightin' a battle on two fronts."
"Agreed," concurred another fighter, glaring over his shoulder at her.
She stood up and came toward the fire.
"Oh, you are? Well then, that makes everything right and tight."
"Easy there, man. The scarred bint isn't worth it--just stay out of her way."
There was a low grumbling from a few of the men, but that comment settled them.
Losing control on later occasions, Harry did not actually harm anyone; she merely destroyed food or equipment. After each incident when the fighting was over and they had made camp for the day, the witch would creep off alone and practice using wandless magic in as focused a manner as she could manage until she began to gain confidence--which was why she, more than anyone, was the most surprised to see the head of the man taking point explode with those of two ogres nearest himself when in the thick of it some time later.
"Right! Enough!" she'd heard, after the blade emerged just under her arm and was pulled away. Mercifully, it had only caused a scraping wound.
But the next thrust of the weapon sliced into something rather more necessary.
Harry awoke to find Master Tancredo smiling slowly down at her. This was unpleasant because her master rarely smiled. His face was usually an almost immobile mask.
"Stop killing my men. They do not care for it."
A growl nearby her caused an echo of discontent to bounce heavily off of the stone walls of the damp, twilit room in which she found herself.
"Do not be concerned. He is chained," Tancredo reassured her in a bland tone.
Turning her head, Harry saw the soldier she had caused to explode not three beds down.
"'How' what, Harry James?"
"How can he be alive, Master? I killed him."
"I grow them on trees. They are a hardy breed."
Given her place as a watcher/sharer of the moment, Harry could tell that her master had been teasing her when he made that remark. At the time, she knew she had believed him. Idiot, she thought, turning her attention back to the scene as it resumed in her mind.
"But, Harry James? No, no 'but'. Either you do kill my men, or you do not kill my men--and I tell you now that you will not kill my men."
"How do I stop doing it?" she asked, feeling helpless.
"If you must employ magic here, you must focus your energies before casting. Feel the energy build in your finger, for example, and cast from that point. Your Albus Dumbledore will not appreciate it if I return you to him in a pouch."
When she was feeling up to it a few days later, Harry asked one of the white-robed ladies caring for her to bring her several empty cauldrons into one of the gardens that grew in the shadow of the tor that formed the peak of the fog-shrouded isle on which the old hospital was built. She was just beginning to be able to control the shrapnel produced upon the destruction of the vessels when someone came to bid her to return to battle.
Despite her new-found prowess, the young woman decided to exercise her increasing skill with her blades. In this way, her compatriots fell into charity with her and stopped trying to effect her murder.
Magic, the young woman reflected, is perhaps sometimes overrated. "I'm probably the only person who feels that way," she said, again standing in the stone garden of her master's castle.
And then suddenly she found someone with whom she had more in common than she knew.
Ginny had decided not to argue with her mother about graduating anymore; she merely was not going to do it. True, Professor Dumbledore had decreed that the students who had lost significant class time due to the war would be able to make up their educational deficiencies in a special summer term, and this, Ginny had done. But she still felt as though leaving school with no clear plans for her future was unwise--that way led to what was tantamount to training in assassination, something in which the young witch was not interested. Ron and Harry, each with their first year of Auror studies under their belts, had both been pressing Ginny to consider that career option.
But it did not appeal to her.
In fact, nothing appealed to her.
She had thought she might like to follow Hermione's example and train as a medi-witch, but that had been before seeing the devastation of St. Mungo's after the Death Eater attack on the building the previous year.
Poor Neville. To have to see his parents in that state . . . horrible, the girl shuddered.
Harry felt her hands clench. She successfully pushed away the moment of the Longbottom's slaughter and focused on feeling what Ginny had felt just before her own graduation from Hogwarts.
Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Blaise had gone with Neville to see his parents as moral support near Christmastime, and Ginny had been along because they had been coming from a rather merry gathering at Grimmauld Place. The plan had been to wait for Neville, and then proceed to the Peppermint Patch for more age-appropriate holiday cheer.
No one had expected the shredding charms.
And now, faced with a graduation celebration only weeks away, Ginny decided she would just have to design an independent study in something, and try not think about the future for awhile.
But it was difficult not to think, really. She could not stop trying to figure out what she wanted. She knew that she was good at several things: she was an excellent chaser, and Ron's orgulous effusions on this score had almost proved to sicken her on the subject of Quidditch entirely; her potion-making was "very fine," according to Professor Snape's assessment of her final project; she had beaten Blaise Zabini at an impromptu alumni trivia gathering over the holidays, so she knew she'd learnt enough history from Professor Binns; and she could transfigure herself into an intimidating, large red and cream hawk, fly in that form, and hunt with accuracy.
But the youngest Weasley had no desire to play for the Chuddley Cannons. She did not wish to turn her potion-making toward a career in medi-witchery. Teaching did not appeal to her. And while it was satisfying to take the form of an avian predatrix in ways she did not dare contemplate too closely, particularly when she found fur under her fingernails, how could being a hawk-girl help her to develop a career?
Maybe I should make like a Muggle tourist and knock around the isles for a year or two.
Shortly after announcing her intention to do just that, Ginny received a letter from her brother Bill.
"Mum tells me the exciting news! I've always wanting to go into "bumming" myself, but my job takes up too much of my time. Speaking of which, I've spoken to Mr. Bonewhittler at the bank, and he thinks that we've room for another trainee in our program. Now, countermanding curses can be a demanding job. Fighting is sometimes mandatory, but our battles are usually with dead and unknown foes who've done a bloody good job securing a site for people long dead--well, when it isn't Mr. Cranston of Blenheim who thinks his neighbor's cache of magical weapons is really on his side of the shared property line, but that is neither here nor there. The job takes a synthesis of many skills and a calm head in order to apply them if one is to do it well. I think that describes you, sis, and I'd like you to consider following your old brother into the profession.
"It wouldn't do to go about sleeping in the mud and eating over fires for no reason, would it? Why camp when you can curse-break? The pay is good, the opportunity for travel is great, and there are plenty of likely looking lads just waiting to meet a pretty professional like yourself--which is why you'd be training with me, of course.
"Actually, I'm not. Kidding about the lads, I mean. Or about the fact that I'll kill any of them who try to--perhaps I'm being premature. You haven't yet accepted any offer, and not everyone fancies a red-head.
"Right. You're training with me. End of discussion.
It seemed weird, given her circumstances, to feel better, to want to laugh. But knowing that Ginny had been worried about her future made it easier for Harry to contemplate her own.
Sodding mess that it is, she told herself. Where's a door when you need one?
Almost at once, Professor Snape's office door appeared before her. She knocked without thinking about it at all.
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