~ Leonardo da Vinci ~
She shoved open the entrance doors, leaving the secure halls of the school behind, and walked out onto the rapidly cooling grounds. She blinked back the moisture that lingered within her eyes. No tears would fall, no matter how hard they threatened. This she promised herself.
She was furious, but her anger paled in comparison to her self loathing. She had been so unbelievably stupid! It had been bad enough to trust Remus, but to have nearly let down that barrier again...
"Damn't Potter!" She swore quietly.
Despite the pain they had been in, the time spent within the hospital wing had been pleasant. She and Potter had dwelt in silent companionship, both knowing there were things that needed to be discussed. Despite that he had not pressed her to talk, instead he had seemed to calmly accept her silence.
This change had been oddly comforting.
At least until she had stormed out, to find him standing there with an extendable ear.
She kicked the ground , scattering dirt in her wake.
She could not fathom why she had thought he would let her keep her secrets. But she had been a complete fool for entertaining the notion.
And for some reason his small betrayal hurt her.
Gods... She turned her tear filled eyes towards the sky, tracing along the darkening clouds, and noted how low they hung. It was the incoming storm that had drawn her outdoors after all. The strange feeling slithering through her, as if static electricity were tickling her very skin, had been hard to ignore.
She reveled in the small distraction from her thoughts, and allowed herself to simply feel.
The looming clouds pulsated with unstable vibrations, their rhythmic throbbing pulsated within her very blood, and her hair stood on end as if one had just run a balloon through her hair.
The storm front rolled in above her, and the more astute of her peers began to head indoors. The area surrounding the lake had been the first of the grounds to be abandoned, and her feet led her there.
She wanted the seclusion.
She had grown so used to despair, to feeling only constant numbness, punctuated by bouts of undiluted anger, that she had forgotten how to feel something as human as fear.
Everything had happened so fast the day she had received the shopkeepers note, and there had been no time for the cold truth to sink in. Only over the past days, as she and Potter had lain there in silence, had it finally registered.
Pomfrey's words had just driven it home.
Somehow, hearing the Healer's words had made it real, and now fear held her heart in a vice grip.
Despite the fear, she felt oddly detached, each aching step reminding her how she had already nearly died from her stout with the werewolf.
Perhaps death would be a blessing. She just had things to do before it found her.
The vibrations in the high sky were back, and she cringed at the electricity there. Being a part of such things, feeling such things, was not always pleasant.
It was often painful.
She rubbed her arms against the chill wind, thankful that God had some sense of pity. Fortunately for her, the human brain could only register pain as abnormal for so long, before it accepted the pain as the constant state of affairs. Then it would be ignored.
Oddly enough, it was very similar to how the fragrant scent of roses would lessen, if one were to stand amongst them, breathing them in for too long.
Still, acclimation could only do so much, and her body ached, protesting constantly.
Instead of leaving the grounds at the threat of rain, she continued meandering across the grounds, walking the circumference of the lake, observing it carefully.
She took it all in with her normal perceptiveness. There were spots where the grounds ended, dropping off sharply to meet the duckweed covered surface of the water.
In other spots the ground gradually sloped down, kissing the lake's rippling waves. There the dark earth was muddied, imprinted with the footprints of those who had braved the shallows to swim, before the weather had cooled in wake of the incoming afternoon storm.
She passed by both these areas, heading closer to the Forbidden Forest. Here she kicked off her shoes, allowing them to dangle freely from one hand as she picked her way across the far end of the lake. Here small stones formed a natural beach, and she sat down near the edge, letting her fingers trail across the rough pebbled edges beneath her.
She accumulated a small collection of flat bottomed rocks, gathering them within her hands, and she cast the first across the serene water, breaking it's glassy surface.
The giant squid lazily reached out a tentacle, swatting at and missing the cast stone.
She smiled ruefully, casting another towards him. This time the tentacle swung and connected, sending the stone flying high above her head.
A low rumble filled the sky, and the altocumulus clouds dipped threateningly lower, wafting the scent of rain upon the breeze towards her. The sky had grown darker, and she vaguely remembered the afternoons she and Sean had once spent, skipping stones across the lake near their family home.
But there had been no giant squid to play with there.
She skipped another.
A fleshy pink tentacle connected with it, hurtling it back.
To the side of her came an unmistakable grunt.
Harry winced, rubbing his forehead. That was definitely going to leave a mark.
It had taken him all of thirty seconds to decide to follow her. The memory of her watery eyes had been alarming, and he couldn't let her leave like that, not when she didn't understand.
He cast a glare at the giant squid, approaching her cautiously, carefully trying to not slip upon the slick rocks as he walked down towards her.
He treaded as close as he dared, pausing to hover uncertainly. Her shoulders had stiffened at his outcry, the only sign to indicate that she was aware of his presence.
He swallowed hard. From where he stood besides her, he could see the drawn line of her lips, and how her eyes gazed, almost longingly across the dark surface of the lake. He followed her gaze, the first drops of rain drizzling upon them.
The lake's once glossy exterior now moved with a life of its own. Each raindrop sending circular ripples outwards, each disturbance merging with the other furrows spreading across its surface. The effect was entrancing, and he drew his eyes away from the scene before him, to the girl before him. She was why he had ventured out here, despite the threatening storm.
"What are you doing out here?" He asked carefully. Another rock of thunder shuddered the sky, drowning him out, and the giant squid disappeared beneath the lake's surface.
"Enjoying the sunshine," Her hair fluttered lightly around her face. "I thought it would be obvious."
"It's not," He responded, the wind carrying his voice.
Silence reigned for some time, broken only by the increasing rhythm of rain, pattering around them. The water gradually matted his unruly hair to his forehead, and Kaylen's golden hair darkened with saturation.
She sat with a relaxed air, unbothered by the icy droplets pouring down. Slowly, with evident pain in her movements, she scooted closer to the lake's edge, dipping her feet into the churning water as casually as if it were a mid-summer day, rather than a windy October downpour. Never once did she look at him.
Her shoulders were bare, and her damp hair clung to them. He was close enough to notice the slight goose bumps prickling across her pale skin.
The conversation he had overheard forced it's way to the forefront of his mind as he watched her shiver.
Kaylens was sick...
"Here," He said, shattering their verbal lapse. He picked his way across the pebbly decline to her, shrugging out of his cloak. He felt no awkwardness as he picked up her damp hair, draping it across her shoulders.
She looked up, turning her questioning gaze towards him. He was at a loss, for the glossiness of her eyes could not be from rain water alone.
"You'll er...well you're soaked..."
Her eyes held his, and for the most fleeting of seconds the suspicion he was so used to seeing vanished. "Thank you," She murmured, inclining her head to the spot besides her.
He lowered himself besides her, afraid to speak. His heart pounded loudly in his chest. Never before had he been so fearful of reprimand. His luck may have lasted thus far, but even he would not blame her for screaming if she so chose.
For once he could admit to deserving it, and her silent acceptance of his presence was unnerving.
The sky thundered, lighting up as lighting flashed high in the clouds. It struck him as extremely unwise to be in their positions, so close to water.
"We should go in." His voice lacked conviction.
With the back of her wrist she rubbed the water from her eyes.
"Well?" Above the rumbling overhead he could tell she was speaking louder. Though the difference was barely discernable.
"I doubt you came here out of concern for my well being," She said, staring resolutely across the lake.
He opened his mouth to explain that that was exactly why he had come, but she went on.
"And since there are no conversations going on for you to listen to, I'm wondering what your doing here." Another flash of lightning illuminated her soaked features, and he found himself drawn towards her serene expression, confounded by her words.
Despite their content, her tone held no trace of the familiar sarcasm or malice.
Instead she sounded curious.
The realization sent an out of place smile across his face.
"Kaylens, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"I came to apologize."
To his surprise, she actually laughed. The sound had a haunting quality to it, for it blended artfully with the wind howling around them. The storm had crept upon them fast.
"You're right." She said, shaking her wet hair out in vain. "I don't."
He seized the opportunity to keep her talking. "Well I am. Kaylens I..."
"How much did you hear?" Her gaze turned pointedly down.
He sighed in frustration. "Enough to know that you shouldn't be out in this downpour."
She nodded, closing her eyes as if pained. "You have no idea how wrong you are."
He frowned. "I would if you just talked to me."
The look she shot him could silence the devil himself. "And why should I? You haven't been the portrait of honesty Potter."
"Perhaps if you would just listen you would find out."
She did not answer. Instead, she tilted her face towards the sky, allowing the rain to pour over her more freely. Her hair fell away from her shoulders, revealing her long neck. She remained this way for what may have been mere seconds, but to him, felt like hours.
"Okay Potter," She finally breathed. "Try me."
Such was his astonishment that for once, he did not hesitate.
And he explained.
He explained why he had followed her that day into Knockturn Alley, how her stubborn refusal to answer questions about Death Eaters had led him, to what he hoped, were wrong assumptions, and how, after days of watching her in a comatose state, he had feared that she had fallen ill once again.
He spoke to her, the rain cascading down their bodies as they sat, keeping each other's acquaintance, the storm forgotten. Several times she made to move, shaking her head disbelievingly, but his hand on her arm silenced her refutes. By the time he was done, a sad expression had crossed her features.
He studied her, puzzled. "Look, Kaylens I didn't mean to upset you if..."
She shivered noticeably, shaking her sopping hair. "No, it's not that Potter..." She trailed off, showing no intent of finishing.
He swallowed hard. God he just wanted things to be okay between them. There was still so much to talk about...
Her expression darkened at his words, and she stood abruptly, her shivering more pronounced.
"We should go in," She stated, interrupting him.
He nodded disappointedly, noting that the storm showed no sign of relenting soon, and stood with her. He already felt bad that they had stayed out there so long.
The second he was up she unceremoniously shoved his cloak back into his arms. He looked at it in surprise, and was about to argue, noting how far a walk to the school it still was, when he realized that she had already spun and taken off into the downpour.
"Wait!" He called, utterly confused. He stumbled after her, slipping on the wet rocks, and caught up to her on the grass.
"Kaylens keep it. You'll freeze otherwise." He went to drape it across her shoulders but she brushed him off.
"I'm fine," She said grimacing. "Really," She added, seeing his disbelieving look.
He matched her stride determinedly, noticing the reemergence of her stubborn streak, and threw it around her anyway. "Kaylens if you're sick you're wearing this until we're inside. I don’t care..."
She whorled on him, looking disturbingly distressed, her skin dangerously pale. "Look, Potter... Do yourself a favor okay? Don't worry about me."
He found himself shaking, be it from the cold or the icy palor of her skin, he did not know, yet all thoughts of speech were driven away.
It was as if she were transforming before him. Her icy barriers that he had not even noticed to be missing before, were coming back. What had he done to cause this? A few seconds ago they had been on almost civil terms.
The thought of her hating him again churned his stomach. He couldn't allow it...
She was backing away from him. "In fact..." She continued, sounding like a frightened animal. "For your own good, just stay the hell away from me."
She took off, leaving him standing there stunned, his sopping wet cloak on the muddied ground.
Over the past few days, since Kaylens had left him standing there in the pouring rain, Harry's mood had not improved.
He just did not understand what he had done, and every time he caught a glimpse of her he felt sick.
Everytime he had seen her, she had been with Draco Malfoy...
The fact that he still had a sneaking suspicion that she was clueless as to what a Death Eater was did not help matters.
It was enough for him to nearly send curses flying. At Luna's insistence, he had taken to kicking suits of armor instead.
Apparently the metallic noise made by kicking something attracted Crumple Horned Snorkacks.
Or something like that.
His reaction was puzzling, even to him. He could not deny that he felt oddly protective of her. How could he not? He had spent far too much time watching over her in the hospital wing, and the thought of further harm coming to her drove him mad.
Perhaps that was why he felt so crushed now that the fragile rapport he had, for a few exhilarating moments, thought they had built, had shattered.
But still... He could not fathom what it was he had said wrong. All he knew was that she was no longer openly hostile towards him. Instead she avoided him like the plague.
He had seen her alone that very morning, and it had taken all his patience to avoid hexing her into next week when she had practically sprinted down the hall to talk to Dean, upon catching sight of him.
Hell, he had come damn near closer to hexing her and Malfoy in Defense Against the Dark Arts that very day. He had walked in to find her and Malfoy chatting in hushed whispers, bent over parchment.
The second he had come within earshot the parchment had been rolled up and stuffed hastily into Malfoy's book satchel.
Kaylens had refused to look at him. But he had not failed to notice how her hands shook for the rest of class.
It had been easy to notice since he had been sitting alone. Ron and Hermione had holed themselves up on the other side of the room. And unlike Kaylens and Hermione, who contented themselves to avoiding him, Ron had made sport of sending hostile glares his way.
At least the hostile looks from his roommates were understandable. He had had another violent dream with Voldemort that week, and had woken up in a right state, screaming at every one of them.
Even the suits of armor had taken to cursing him when he walked by. Apparently they didn't like attracting afore mentioned snorkacks.
Come to think of it, the only person talking to him now seemed to be Luna. And since she was in the year below him, he found himself sitting alone in classes, and eating lunch at the Ravenclaw table.
In short, the week had passed by in a dizzying haze.
Fortunately it would soon be over. Luna had already expressed her intent to get his mind off of things, and was planning on forcibly dragging him to Hogsmeade.
He actually didn't mind the idea.
He finally reached the door, and Crusantheus surprisingly opened without complaint, revealing Dumbledore's office. He stepped in for his lessons, removing his wand in preparation.
"That will be unnecessary today Harry." Dumbledore said, catching sight of him from behind his desk.
Perhaps it was because his thoughts had been elsewhere, but the idea of a wandless Occlumency lesson caught him off guard. He furrowed his brow questioningly.
Dumbledore caught the unspoken question. "Tonight, I have something different planned. Besides, I have taught you all I can regarding Occlumency Harry. The rest is up to you."
Somehow Harry strongly disagreed with this. If he had learned all there was to know about Occlumency, he would not still be having violent nightmares. "Professor, in all due respect, if I had actually learned everything wouldn't I be well...good at this then?"
Dumbledore cracked a smile. "Ah, you see Harry, therein lies the difference. You have learned all I have to teach about Occlumency. That is an entirely different matter from mastering the discipline."
Harry was stunned, all previous thoughts and irritation at the Professor driven from his mind.
Never in his life would he have imagined Dumbledore being unable to teach him something.
"Occlumency, Harry, is less about erecting mental barriers, and more about controlling one's emotions. Keeping your emotions hidden from the enemy is of extreme importance. And frankly, gets easier with age." Dumbledore stood with a rather large feather duster and began to attack a disgruntled portrait with it.
"Harry, you have become quite adept at creating barriers, visualizing a brick wall is your barrier of choice is it not?" Harry nodded but Dumbledore was continuing. "But the only way to strengthen that wall at this point, is to learn to mask your emotions."
Harry stared somewhat unabashedly as the previous headmistress made a rather crude hand gesture.
"Er... Professor?" He questioned hesitantly. "What exactly do you mean by 'masking' them?"
"Ah, not explaining myself very well am I?"
He valued his education far too much to respond truthfully.
"Well Harry, when one sifts through your mind, painful memories can get unearthed. It's natural to recall the emotions these experiences caused you. Such a distraction is all the enemy would need to delve deeper into your mind." Dumbledore was carrying on with all the air of one discussing a weekend outing. "And you have no shortage of painful memories Harry. It would be quite easy for Voldemort to find one to use against you."
He did not need Dumbledore to tell him that, he had already re-lived the guilt of Sirius' death all summer.
"So are you going to make me relive those memories for practice?" He asked, somewhat apprehensive.
Dumledore turned to look at him, balancing precariously on the stool he was using to reach ole Phinneus' portrait. "Why of course not. Certainly, I could go sifting about through your mind, forcing you to recall bad times in your life. But dredging up old memories and forcing you to deal with them would only help you build up indifference. We don't want that."
Dumbledore turned back and shoved the feather duster right where Phinneus' face had just re-appeared. The former headmaster cringed and jumped out of the frame again.
"Harry, what we do want, is for you to come to terms with the crueler parts of your past. And only you can define what those terms are. But I dare remind you, there is a difference between allowing the past to remind you, and allowing the past to control you."
Dumbledore jumped down from the stool, wiping his dusty hands on his robes. "Well now that’s done. Now I have something to show you."
He beckoned him to where he stood, withdrawing a worn, leather bound book from one of his shelves. "You know, I almost lost this after that squabble yourself, Mr. Weasley, and Ms. Kaylens had the other day Harry." He peered down his spectacles at him. "I trust that is now resolved?"
Harry found himself oddly stuttering. "S-sort of..."
Dumbledore shrugged. "Well, give it time, give it time. It may take her awhile to open up to anyone, seeing as how matters are."
The Headmaster was running his wand up and down the spine of the book in an odd zig-zag pattern, muttering something about mothballs. A loud 'pop' was heard, making Harry jump, and the book sprang out of Dumbledore's hands, falling open on the table before them.
"Now this Harry, is something you will not have seen, nor heard of before."
Harry had to admit that Dumbledore was dead on.
Inside the open book, where the pages should have been, lay a pink layer of fog. There was a sense of depth to the interior of it, and Harry had the vague sense that another dimension lay just beyond the peacefully swirls.
Dumbledore reached his hand into it. "It is a rather clever hiding spot for things. Not only is the locking mechanism for it rather tricky, but only a hand with my DNA could reach into this and still find their hand attatched."
Harry had been unconsciously leaning forward, trying to peer through the fog, but at this pronouncement took a step back. Dumbledore's hand fished around blindly for a few minutes, before emerging with a silvery chain. A small vial was attached to the end of it.
The Headmaster shut the book, muttering a few charms, and replaced it upon the shelf. "This is something that I have been wanting to give you for quite some time Harry. But until recently, the opportunity had not presented itself. The fact that it had not, is entirely my fault, and for that I am sorry."
The Headmaster, indeed, truly looked sorry. In fact he was looking rather grave all of a sudden. "Ever since the day that cursed prophecy was made Harry, myself and a few others have been working on this. I still feel that it is woefully inadequate, but for now, it is all I can give you."
At this pronouncement, Dumbledore handed the vial over. Harry took it with no small amount of trepidation. The vial, Harry found, was surprisingly warm
"The vial you now hold is a special form of pensieve, Harry." Dumbledore said by way of explanation. "It is called a Kunnskap. It means knowledge. And unlike normal pensieves, it does not have an unlimited capacity. It can only contain a select few memories, and I believe that there are 81 different lessons contained within this one."
Only eighty-one? He thought, slightly amused by the Headmasters definition of only. He turned the vial within his hands, noting that unlike in Dumbledore's pensieve, blue specs darted to and fro within the silvery substance here, colliding frequently to emit dark green sparks. It was like watching the reflection of fireworks in a silvery pond, only on a miniature scale.
A thought occurred to him.
"What do you mean by lessons, Professor?" He asked curiously.
"I was just getting to that." Dumbledore replied, looking strained. "But given the danger that you have been in ever since that cursed prophecy was made, I wanted to have a way of preserving, and passing on, knowledge of certain spells to you."
The Headmaster paused, shutting the leather volume. Whisps of curling pink tendrils snuck out around the edges as he placed it back upon the shelf.
"Times were dark." He continued gravely. "I did not know how many of us would survive, but we knew it was essential to pass on our knowledge to the next generation. This was our way of ensuring that at least one good wizard recieved that if the worst were to happen."
Such a glum pronouncement chilled him, for in admitting that he had once prepared for the worst, Dumbledore had admitted to his own mortality.
Despite his irritation and anger at all the Headmaster had withheld over the years, the thought of a mortal Dumbledore shook his concept of a stable universe.
The Headmaster motioned Harry into a plush plum armchair, oblivious to his pupil's dark thoughts.
"Over the years, myself, and others within the old Order, added select pieces of knowledge that we wanted to depart to you, to this. You'll even find some of my old school day lessons there. Things like apparition, curse-breaking, animagus studies... They are all in there."
Harry listened intently, not wanting to miss a word. The conversation had become oddly personal.
A house elf popped into existence then, extending a plate of biscuits to him. He scarcely managed to take one, for his mind was fixated on the cruel irony of the situation.
This vial was a true gift, yet he was only receiving it because of the prophecy's heavy burden.
Suddenly he felt rather blunt. "Professor, you made this to help me figuer out how to defeat Voldemort, didn't you?"
Dumbledore smiled sadly, sipping the tea that had materialized. "We made it, because we still have hope."
Hope... Why couldn't someone else have been wizarding kind's hope?
Dumbledore was mercifully oblivious to the dark thoughts still flitting through his mind.
"Harry, the Kunnskap does not work like a normal pensieve. Instead of entering a memory, the memory enters you. So once you unearth one, it's knowledge will remain permanently yours."
This piqued his interest. "So you mean that I can become an animagus just by looking at the memory in it?"
Dumbledore smiled ruefully. "No. This will teach you the theory, and knowing the theory of something is entirely different from putting it to use. However..." The man's blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "I have it on good word that learning and researching just the theory on animagi can take years. So all you will have left to do is practice putting what this will teach you, into use."
Thinking of what he, Ron, and Hermione had planned, he suddenly wondered, for the thousandth time since coming to Hogwarts, just how much that the Headmaster knew about his students.
Against his better judgment, he broke out into a small smile. Even Hermione, with all her convictions against taking short cuts to learn something, would probably die for a look into this thing.
God he would miss them... Perhaps one day, when things were different....
As if reading his thoughts, Dumbledore smiled. "For the time being Harry, I would keep this to yourself. Because of the Kunnskap's potential for misuse, only seven were made. We would not want this falling into the wrong hands."
Harry was taken aback. For once, Dumbledore was actually trusting him with something important. "T-thanks Professor. I'll look after it."
He'd be damned if he disappointed him.
Dumbledore smiled over his cup. "I'm sure you will Harry. Do try to use it in private though. When one uses it they tend to appear in a trance, and I would hate to see what your roommates would do if they stumbled upon you in such a state. And I would know, Mrs. Norris once caught me using this."
Harry nearly choked on his biscuit.
The past fortnight, he realized, had truly been full of surprises.
Thank you SticksN'Stones for the excellent banner!
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