Unofficial Portkey Archive

The Duelist by Hawkins

The Duelist


Chapter 1: The connection

Disclaimer: JK Rowling and those she has sold rights to own Harry Potter. I am doing this for fun and neither expect nor will accept profit.

A spiral galaxy turned in a vast black expanse of space. Completely out of proportion, a man sat on an elaborate chair, floating above the pinwheel of stars. Long white hair and beard, deep purple robes, and a very thoughtful look on his face made him to appear to be God looking down on the firmament.

Albus Dumbledore was contemplating results after running magical simulations. He zoomed out, not wanting any detail to distract him from his contemplation. Not exactly a form of divination, his invention of magical simulations, run at thousands of times normal speed let him change small actions and observe outcomes. The simulations were not perfectly faithful to reality, so it only gave a sense of what would happen. He offset this by running the same scenario multiple times, gaining a sense of statistical likelihoods, but he sometimes wondered if for each simulation there was a different reality, a different existence created with each choice made.

A muggle swordsman and teacher had once said, "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles." And that wisdom guided Dumbledore as he considered the children at the core of his thoughts. There were hundreds who would play a role, but three were at the very center.

Considered as archetypes, although to do so was to oversimplify, he thought of them as his natural, his scholar, and his savant.

The natural didn't think about what he was doing, he simply acted and in the moment, it was generally the right action. He was at his best when he did not overthink. Surprise him to your peril, but lead him to agonize over a decision and he lost focus. Some of his flaws came from his friendship with one of the others, one who was perhaps too lazy for his own good.

The scholar was almost the opposite, although thinking of them as opposites was difficult, since sometimes they seemed to share one mind. Give her time to think, to research, and she was in her element. Give her time to practice and her spells would be so precisely cast that it was as if the textbook itself had come to life. Surprise her and she choked. Ask her to improvise and she would plead for time to read up on the topic. Her emotions were too constrained by the rigidity of her reason.

The savant was something that had not been seen in some time. Most modern wizards thought of magic solely in regards to spells, although every wizard used some non-spell magic, such as apparition. Only highly educated wizards went on to learn non-spell based magic, such as legilimency, although spells could duplicate the effects and were often used to teach the basics. However, old talents were rarely seen. Wizards who could control creatures, control plants, or control fire had once existed and still did. Hagrid, for instance, hadn't much used his wand in years, but his knowledge of creatures was a form of magic. The savant was another, the bearer of a lost talent for strategy that hadn't been seen in ages. Generals used to cultivate the talent, the best men like Napoleon, but now the talent was lost. The savant had great talent, but no discipline in developing it. He was born with it and never learned to build on what he found so effortless. Albus had great hope after seeing the strategic genius during that early chess game, but too often the savant relied on the scholar to guide them or the natural to lead them, leaving his own talent for mere games.

Dumbledore was gravely concerned. His simulations showed him something frightening. Under his tutelage, the trio was progressing, but not rapidly enough. Most choices led to loss, to death, and the reign of a Dark Lord over the entire wizarding world. No clear choices led to victory. He could not isolate the actions that might secure the future and that shook him. Since the beginning, though, he had recognized that there was one thing that might bring the victory and that was the power the Dark Lord knew not… but how to teach that? He tried, most recently by bringing Remus to Hogwarts, a connection to Harry's parents and a potential father figure. He believed that was bearing fruit, seen recently in memories Remus shared of Harry's casting of the Patronus charm, but the simulations showed that was not enough. Was anything he could do enough? He'd finally decided to do something different, to break out of his usual pattern of subtlety and deceit. He'd try to actually teach. He knew he took a grave risk. Prompting the natural to think, or rather to over think, was a danger, but he felt he must prod the situation.

Albus shook himself out of his reverie as a chime announced the gargoyle had been given the password.

"Finite Incantum" and the star scape disappeared, leaving the old wizard in his throne like chair behind the desk, as a knock sounded on the door.

"Hello, Harry. Have a seat."

"You wanted to see me, Headmaster?" Harry said.

"Yes, Harry. I do in fact want to see you. Do you remember what we talked about in the hospital wing when you woke up after your encounter with Quirrel and Voldemort in your first year here?"

"We talked about a lot, Headmaster. The stone, Professor Snape. Did you call me here to talk about them?"

"No, Harry. I called you here to discuss the most important thing we talked about that day. I'm not sure if you realized how important it was, but that's why I called you here. I have decided to begin tutoring you outside of class at times. Our lessons will be wide ranging and may follow no syllabus other than the wanderings of an old man's mind, but today I want to start with the most important lesson. I will likely teach you spells, but I suspect that ultimately it's no spell that will make the difference in this conflict. I think it's an older magic. Before magic was tamed, before it was harnessed like an ox to the yoke, it still existed. The first form, perhaps the most primal form, is rooted in love. I talked to you about the protection your mother's love left on you. Love is what made the difference that night. Love is what defeated Voldemort when he was driven out of Quirrel. I have a feeling it will make the difference every time you face him."

"Sir, I don't understand. How can I use love against him? It's not like a spell I can cast on him… is it? I can't love him. I don't know what you mean."

"That makes two of us. Think of this as less of a practical lesson and more of a theoretical lesson. I bring it up because since that day, you may have had few opportunities to understand love. Since coming to Hogwarts, you've been exposed to love, but I'm not sure you've understood it. There are many kinds of love, from Molly Weasley's love of her many children that leads her to knit all year so they'll each receive a sweater, to the much different love of Ron for Ginny. How can hexes show love in the same way that a mother's hands knitting? That's the amazing thing about love. It may perhaps be more magical than anything else in this magical world."

"So you want me to think about love?" Harry asked perplexed.

"Yes, that's exactly it. I want you to consciously think about it each time you see it. Notice it. Once you get good at noticing it, I want you to try to see it in yourself. Who do you love and who loves you? If you get particularly brave, I want you to tell those you realize you love that you love them. I think that will be the ultimate test of this lesson."

"Ok, Headmaster. If you say so, but I think somebody is going to decide I'm crazy." Harry said, thinking maybe Dumbledore was becoming a bit barmy.

"All I can ask is that you try. You're older now. Lessons may not be as clear, may not have as defined an outcome. There may be times when we don't know whether you've learned what I intended to teach or not. That may be part of the lesson in itself." Dumbledore replied, "Now, off to your bed and goodnight."

Harry walked back to the Griffindor tower, musing about this odd discussion as he went. Almost without thinking he arrived back at the common room, giving the password, "Fortuna Major" and entered. Inside, he found Hermione, having fallen asleep on the couch, a book on her lap. He fleetingly thought of Dumbledore's words. What had triggered his thought? Hermione's love of books? He scratched his head and ran his fingers through his thatch of messy black hair. Then he gently bent down, moved the book aside, and shook his friend. "Go to sleep, Hermione. It's late." He too walked up the stairs, his mind working on the problem.

The school year passed. Dumbledore's words crossed Harry's mind occasionally. He thought of them when working with Professor Lupin, trying to understand the positive magic of the Patronus and the persistent efforts of the professor to teach him a very difficult spell. He thought of them when playing Quidditch. His love for the game, his love of flying, his love of his team members and their love for him. It was difficult, but he slowly began to see love in more difficult places. Madam Pomfrey's love of the students she healed, even though she often had a gruff exterior. Professor McGonnagal's love for her Gryiffindors, even though she often had a very gruff exterior. Brotherly love with Ron even briefly crossed his mind, although thinking of love between men initially made him a little uncomfortable.

Most easily, though, he found himself thinking of love when he thought of Hermione. It started similarly to thinking of Ron. Friendship, shared struggles, and love. He thought back to the quest for the philosopher's stone. Ron's sacrifice on the chessboard quickly came to mind, but then he thought of his discussion with Hermione. He hadn't thought of it immediately afterwards, but remembering now, he wondered what word she was thinking of as she trailed off. "More important things, like friendship and bravery and…" that last "and" hung in the air in his memory and he realized something had to come next, but only one virtue made sense next.

He thought of the time he spent by her bedside second year, after she had been petrified. He thought of his confused mix of feelings. Terror that she might not be saved, frustration that he had to solve the most difficult mystery of his time at Hogwarts without her help, but what he hadn't thought of was the basis for all the fear. He was starting to realize, but he was afraid to let his mind come to the conclusion it wanted to. He only had a limited amount of experience with friendships and no experience with anything else. He would have been able to avoid this distressing line of thought if it hadn't been for Dumbledore, charging him to think, setting him an assignment to open the barriers he'd placed around his emotions to protect him as lonely, frightened child, forcing him to face these confusing thoughts.

He was normal most of the time, it was just in the gaps that these thoughts penetrated. The rest of the time he was his usual self, perhaps even better. He grew in his ability to summon his patronus and if he'd stopped to realize, the thought exercises may have even contributed, because what was more associated with happiness than love?

His thoughts refocused to the present, waiting with his best friend at the edge of the forbidden forest, in sight of the Whomping Willow. They had to wait for over an hour, maybe closer to two, and couldn't be seen. He had avoided talking to her about the conflicting thoughts Dumbledore's assignment brought up, but he was always going to fail, because this was the one person he would always eventually end up talking to. Just about to speak, he was interrupted when she asked him about the Dementors.

"Harry, there's something I don't understand… Why didn't the Dementors get Sirius? Why didn't they get us? I remember them coming, I remember it was cold and all I could think of was hopelessness and fear. I think I passed out, there were so many of them…"

Harry described what he had seen, on the edge of passing out himself. As one of the Dementors leaned down to administer the kiss, a large shining silver something had come streaking across the lake, galloping to the rescue and forcing the Dementors to retreat.

Hermione's mouth had dropped open while he spoke. A look of utter concentration was on her face. He was briefly distracted by a warm feeling as he realized how much he loved her "thinking look" before he pushed that thought firmly away, trying to keep up his defense mechanisms.

"But what was it?"

He startled a little, having lost the train of his story, but quickly recovered. He thought she was probably just trying to draw him out. There's no way that Hermione hadn't made the connection, but she often thought out loud. He realized it was her way of making sure others could keep up.

"There's only one thing it could have been to make the Dementors go. A real patronus. A powerful one."

"But whose? It must have been a powerful wizard to drive all those Dementors away. You say it was shining, did it create enough light to see who had cast it?"

"I saw, but I didn't see well. I…I think I imagined it."

"Harry! Who did you see?"

"I." He swallowed, his throat dry. He cared too much what she thought of him. He was terrified she would think he was crazy. He was scarred by years of being called a freak by his own family and while he knew Hermione would never think that of him, he couldn't get the fear out of the deepest darkest corner of his mind. "I think it was my dad."

Hermione's mouth fell all the way open and he thought he saw the beginnings of a look of combined alarm and pity, but that look barely hinted before it was gone to be replaced by one of complete sympathy and concern.

"Oh, Harry!" She grabbed him in a bone crushing hug and he let his head drop to her shoulder. He was afraid for her to think he was crazy, but he was afraid to fully release his emotions, afraid she would think he wasn't brave, but his fear couldn't prevent the bursting of all his defenses as his deepest mind realized that here was one person with whom he could feel safe. He broke down and cried. The fear and hopelessness of that moment, just hours before when they had all almost died combined with the thoughts of his father which carried with it the loss of everything good in his life and the beginning of years of abuse just overwhelmed him and he wept until he couldn't weep anymore. Hermione just held him close and stroked his hair until finally he shuddered to a stop, feeling somehow cleansed, like the windows had been opened in a stale room and a fresh breeze had blown through. He stayed there holding her close, just enjoying her support. He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes. He looked at her face as she peered at him from just inches away. The look of devoted friendship and complete acceptance was so powerful he couldn't look away. They just stared at each other for minutes.

Then something changed. He thought about what it might have been incessantly later that summer, but he never could place a finger on what changed. Was it the look in her eye? Did she close the distance slightly? For all the thought he put into it later, he had none at the time. He just reacted, like he reacted to a glint of light off the snitch or an air current buffeting his broom or the shift of weight as the basilisk had lunged at him, here was his talent and gone was the choking weight of too much thought.

He swiftly leaned towards her and pressed his lips against hers. He had time to see her eyes drift shut before he shut his and concentrated on the sensation of her mouth against his. He had never kissed a girl, had the barest idea of how it was supposed to go, but he didn't strive for finesse, he just basked in the sensation of her against him, her lips very slightly open in surprise. Then another feeling, electrical, fizzing, like sparks flowing from one to the other. Was he feeling it in his lips? In his head? All over? It felt like the sensation he had when he cast the strongest spells he knew, like when he cast his Patronus, both the feeling of positive energy and joy, but also the feeling of magic flowing outward. Here there was another feeling, of magic flowing inward, as well. It felt like some circuit had been completed and his magic was flowing outward, but then somehow returning to him. It seemed to be building, to be strengthening, becoming frightening in its intensity. They broke apart, only to stare into each other's eyes again. He noticed a silvery glow around them, like the white-silver glow he'd seen around the Patronus and it only slowly faded.

"Wow." Harry mumbled. He was afraid he'd said something stupid, but he was quickly reassured.

"Yeah, wow." Hermione gasped. "Harry… what? What made you…?"

"Did you not like it?" Only now did he question himself. Luckily at the time it was all reaction, but now a bit of the awkwardness and defensiveness that had kept this from happening far earlier crept back.

"No, it's not that. Don't think that! I'm just… surprised. We'd never hinted at that."

"Dumbledore gave me an assignment. He said he realized I might have been a little isolated from a loving family after my parents and he thinks my protections have always come from love, so I needed to think about it. Well, I don't know if I did exactly what he wanted, but as I tried, I kept coming back to images of you. So while I didn't say anything, I have been thinking about you...this way…lately."

She smiled and he felt all was right.

"So, Harry, what does this mean? Are we, can I call you… are we together?"

"I hope so, because I still feel that way. Do you?"

Hermione for once couldn't talk and just nodded. She moved closer to him and just tucked her head under his chin and laid her cheek against his chest. He felt warmth and happiness flowing through him.

Eventually they saw the strange party come out. They saw the werewolf and realized that if they didn't move, it would stumble right over them. They untied Buckbeak and moved to the cabin. Once inside, he put his back to the door, breathing heavily. She was leaned over, hands on her knees, also catching her breath. Then she looked up and grinned at him. He returned her smile and this time she closed the distance and pressed her lips to his. He felt the same magical connection, like putting your tongue against a battery, but where that was pain this was just joy, with a hint of the phoenix's song. He noticed a low glow surrounding them when they broke the kiss. He gave her a quizzical look and she shrugged her shoulders.

"Accidental magic?" she suggested.

"I don't know. I thought you might." He said, knowing deep down she would be deep in the library, looking it up at her first opportunity.

"I'd better get back out there. I can't see anything from here. I have to know when it's time for us to move."

"I'll come with you." She said, bringing along Buckbeak.

Together they crept closer to the lake. He was drawn along unconsciously and she, trusting him more now than she ever had before, followed with just a whispered warning, reminding him that they couldn't be seen. His mind began to churn, making the intuitive connections and he suddenly had a flash of insight. The lake here… the curve there… he must be very near where his father had cast the Patronus. He realized the truth.

"Hermione, wait here! You can't be seen. You weren't seen."

He rushed forward, suddenly completely confident. A happy thought was not hard to find and and his eyes fastened on the vortex of Dementors ready to drain their earlier selves, he felt a powerful surge of positive energy. He understood! He loved and was loved, he'd had his first kiss and had the hope and certain knowledge of many more to come.

"EXPECTO PATRONUM!" he called. He didn't realize it, but it was his adult voice, the voice of the man he was becoming, without crack or break that sounded out. Hermione watched him and never told him that this vision would power more than one Patronus in her future.

His wand bucked, recoiled, like something powerful had been shot out of it. Indeed, a giant glowing stag shot forth like a lightning bolt, almost knocking him down with the force of it. The light was blinding and he couldn't look directly at it. The trees cast long shadows with sharp edges. The feeling of joy and happiness blazing out of the powerful Patronus started to disperse the Dementors before the stag even reached them, but once it did reach them, they avoided its horns like they might be fatal. The Dementors dispersed, fading into the deeper shadows of the forest as the mighty stag circled the unconscious bodies protectively.

"Harry! That's very advanced magic. To drive away that many Dementors… I could calculate how much magic that would take, but it doesn't make sense. You're not supposed to be able to drive away that many Dementors with a single Patronus!"

"Well, you see, I knew I could, because I had. And I had the right memory to power it."

At that, she grinned up at him.

They found cover as Snape, across the lake, began to stir. They watched as he moved off with the children on stretchers.

"It's about time." She said, looking at her watch, "It's about 45 minutes until Professor Dumbledore closes the doors to the infirmary. It's time to go."

They watched McNair hurry from the castle, going to gather the Dementors for Sirius' punishment. They climbed on the Griffin, Harry in front and Hermione pressed closely against him. He could feel her warmth along his body and he blushed, distracted by her body. He urged Buckbeak into the air and felt them all moving together, like one creature in flight.

Sirius' rescue went smoothly, almost anticlimactically, after that. Harry did notice a brief look between he and Hermione, but it was so brief he didn't have time to be embarrassed. In no time at all, they were back at the hospital wing. They were let in so smoothly that Madame Pomfrey never realized they'd been gone. Minister Fudge and Professor Snape had come in after realizing Sirius' escape, but with their alibi, it was easily dismissed. A few bites of chocolate and they were swiftly in bed. Both children noticed an odd look from the healer as she gave them a quick glance before leaving. It almost looked like she wanted to say something else and they both caught their breath in fear. Did she know they'd been involved? Or could she somehow tell what had happened in the woods? She walked on, though, and they quickly fell asleep.

In the morning, Ron awoke. They gave him a brief overview of what he'd missed overnight, omitting only one very important part of the story, because neither of them felt quite ready to discuss it. After telling him the brief overiew, the three went walking on the Hogwart's grounds and continued to discuss it. It was a Hogsmeade weekend, but none of them felt quite up to the trip.

Harry looked around at the lake as they sat on the bank and realized he'd never see it the same way again after last night's adventure. He snuck a glance at Hermione, wondering if she felt the same, and caught her looking at him. She gave him a small smile, blushed, and turned away.

"Ron. I think Harry's got something he wants to tell you about." Hermione said.

"What?" Harry said, panicked. "I do?"

"Yes," Hermione said firmly, "You do."

"What is it mate? What do you need to tell me?" Ron said, puzzled.

Griffyndor's Charge, Harry thought, and took a deep breath, "HermioneandIaredating."

"What??" Ron said, "Slow down, I didn't hear you."

"Hermione. And. I. Are. Together." Harry said, forcing himself to speak slowly and clearly. He felt much better when he got it out. Even if Ron totally lost it, he could deal with that.

"Oh." Ron said, "Really? Well, that's ok with me, I suppose. As long as it's not strange around you two."

Hermione squealed, surprising Harry who rarely remembered her squealing, and threw her arms around Ron. Harry patted both of them on the back, pleased his friend had taken it so well and hadn't made it awkward.

As they were breaking the hug, Hagrid walked up, beaming joy at the opportunity to tell them Buckbeak had escaped. They all had to pretend surprise, but luckily, it was Hagrid and he was not that hard to fool. In the course of the conversation, Hagrid mentioned Professor Lupin was leaving.
"I've got to see him." Harry said, standing.

"I'll go with you." Hermione said, walking with him. "Ron, we'll see you in the common room after?"

They walked to Lupin's office, the door open and his luggage already packed. The marauder's map was open on the table and Remus had seen them coming. They talked about how Snape had spread the word that Lupin was a werewolf out of rage at Sirius' escape.

"More importantly, though," Remus said, "tell me about your Patronus."

"How did you know about that?" Harry asked.

"There's only one thing that could have driven off those Dementors, Harry."

Harry told the story and described his Patronus' stag form. Remus smiled at that, telling him about his father's Patronus and animagi forms.

"What memory did you use?" Remus asked, with his normal serious expression, but just the hint of a twinkle in his eye.

"Umm, erm…." Harry blushed. He looked at Hermione again. He felt like he couldn't stop looking at her and he wondered would his eyes always be drawn her way. She smiled at him, he smiled back, and looking back to his Uncle, he realized there was no need to answer.

"That's another thing that reminds me of your father. Your mother was the smartest witch of her age, as well. He took until he was much later to convince her he wasn't a complete git, though. Now take this," Remus said, handing Harry his invisibility cloak, "I found it in the Shrieking Shack. You can take this map, too. Now that I'm no longer a professor here, I feel much less guilty about you having it."

Remus finished closing his trunks, just as there was a knock at the door. It was Professor Dumbledore.

"Your carriage is here." Dumbledore said, seeming unsurprised at finding Harry there.

"Goodbye, Harry." Remus said, seeming to want to be gone as quickly as he could. Harry understood, feeling a tightness in his chest. He probably would have let Remus leave without much more goodbye than that, but Hermione ran up and hugged the professor.

"Boys!" he thought he heard her say, before he also gave Remus a hug. He thought he felt the man relax a bit and when he looked at him he saw tension ease from his face. Hermione gave him a significant look and he could tell she understood more than he did.

Remus levitated his luggage behind him, leaving through the front door.

Harry felt such a mix of emotions he wasn't sure how he didn't fly apart. There was joy of having rescued Sirius, having conjured a full corporeal Patronus, but there was sadness that just as he almost had family, he lost them. Sirius was still on the run and Remus was forced away, too. If it hadn't been for Hermione, he thought he would be depressed, despite all that had happened, but nothing could overcome that joy.

He, Hermione, and Dumbledore discussed Trelawney's brief prediction. They discussed Pettigrew's escape and the wizard's debt he owed Harry.

"Your father would have spared him, as well."

Harry was embarrassed, but told the Headmaster about his initial belief that it had been James who had saved them by casting the Patronus charm and only later realizing he had to cast it.

"That's nothing to be embarrassed about, Harry. I know you've heard what a striking resemblance you have to your father, except you have your mother's eyes. Sirius also told me about the marauders and their animagi transformations." Dumbledore said, "I remember your Patronus from the Quidditch game when Draco disguised himself as a Dementor, so there's another connection. Do you remember what we spoke about earlier in the term? When we discussed love? I think you're beginning to see what I mean. It's the connections between us that make us stronger than Voldemort's followers. They only have fear between them. Love is a much stronger thing. In fact, that's something else I need to discuss with you. Madame Pomfrey noticed something unusual last night."

Harry remembered the pause when the healer had hesitated before leaving them to sleep.

"What is it, Professor?" Hermione said, "Could you she tell we'd used the time turner?"

"No, although I did worry, since part of a healer's training is to tell the chronological age of a child and while I warned her about your use of the time turner, since she would need to supervise your health and be sure you didn't exhaust yourself, I didn't want her to notice Harry had used it. His hours of use weren't likely to be noticed, though. What she noticed was your auras. Auramancy is a magical discipline allowing one to see the magical field surrounding wizards and witches. It isn't widely practiced, but is very common among healers. In fact, it is part of what distinguishes true healers from their associates. It allows very rapid diagnosis. While in the initial stages of healer training, student healers have to cast a spell to see auras, later most of them learn to cast wandlessly, non-verbally, and eventually use it instinctively almost constantly. Well, most wizards do not realize how much auras can reveal. Do you want to see yours?"

Hermione was focused. Soaking up knowledge and of course she would want to see. Harry strangely felt drawn to the information, too. They both nodded.

Dumbledore drew his wand and transfigured a desk into a large standing mirror. He'd placed it so they could each see themselves. The picture was very clear, it was obviously a high quality mirror. He waved his wand again and the picture changed. Around Dumbledore was a very bright, very golden light. It seemed strongest around his head, almost like a halo. Harry thought of medieval portrayals of Saints, but wondered why he would think of that, it was almost a Hermione thought. Around Hermione was also a golden aura, less bright than Dumbledore's but more diffuse, extending further away. It was very homogenous and orderly. Around his own body, he noticed a green aura. It was bright, not as bright as Dumbledore's and much less contained, blazing away from his body like a fire. It seemed drawn to Hermione and would spit out sparks and streamers towards her. Around his forehead, there was a darkness.

Hermione gasped, taking it all in. She started talking, trying to reason through what she was seeing.

"So Professor, your aura is the brightest, because your magic is the strongest. It's also concentrated, because you have full control over it, which we can see by it being close to your body."

"Very good! 10 points to Griffyndor. What else do you see?"

"Harry's is bright, too. He's probably also very strong magically, but he's not very orderly and he doesn't keep his magic as well controlled. My aura is in-between. It seems more controlled than his, less than yours. I'm not as powerful as either."

"My dear, power is not as simple as that. Part of why my aura is bright is because it is all focused. You will learn that, too, but even that is too simple. Have you ever heard of occulomency? It's a discipline to protect the mind. Closely related is an unnamed disciple to protect and control the aura. I can dampen my aura so that others can't tell how powerful I am. Or I can push it out to make it obvious, if I want to make an impression. Almost every wizard does this instinctively, but some train very carefully. Usually a powerful occulomencer will also have a tightly controlled aura. Do you see anything else?"

"Well, Harry's aura seems to like mine." Hermione said, less seriously.

"Yes. His aura responds to you. Yours, too, although your aura is more controlled, reflecting your personality. Look closely." Dumbleore waved his wand, warping the shape of the mirror, causing it to magnify.

They both noticed a wisp of light extending between the aura around their heads. Subtle, but more consistent than the streamers Harry's aura kept shooting towards hers, there was a bridge between Harry's green aura and Hermione's golden. It wasn't static, but seemed to flow, with some green sparking through Hermione's aura and some gold floating through Harry's. Now, with more detail of their heads, they could also see the black aura superimposed over Harry's forehead. It had a very bright lining of green, like the green had concentrated around it. There was one place Harry's aura was tightly controlled.

"What is that cord, Professor? And what is that around my scar?" Harry asked.

"Those are two good questions, Harry. First, about your scar. It's a cursed scar and you can still see it in your aura. The first question is more interesting. Madame Pomfrey is well acquainted with your auras, as she sees them every time you're in her ward. She says this is a new development. I think you formed a connection. Do you remember anything happening?"

"Well…" Harry struggled, trying to find a way to say something embarrassing. He wished he could just disappear.

"Harry, whatever it is, it may be important. You won't be in trouble."

"Last night, after we had rescued Buckbeak, but before I cast the Patronus, we kissed. I felt some spark flow between us and even thought I saw a light. I don't know what it was. I thought Hermione would figure it out. We're both from muggle houses, so I thought it might even be normal when wizards and witches kissed."

Dumbledore gave a small smile, looking like a proud grandfather. "Ah, I see! Well, this is wonderful! Nothing to be embarrassed about, although if you get caught in the hallways I am afraid it will cost you house points. No, this doesn't happen with every kiss. Far, far from it. If I'm right and not to be overmodest, I usually am, this is a very rare thing. Miss Granger can research it this summer, but I think you may have formed a nascent 'soul-bond'. If so, it's a good thing. I want to do more research and I'll tell you more when I know more."

"Harry and Hermione, this brings up one more issue, I meant to speak to Harry alone, but I think this changes things. You both know about the underage restriction on magic, don't you? Well, I have been thinking. The restriction really only affects muggleborns, because when a spell is cast in a wizard household, the ministry has difficulty telling whether it was a child or the child's parents. So for most of your classmates, like Draco Malfoy, or the Weasleys, there really is no restriction, except what their parents enforce. Some, like Mr. Malfoy, actually get extensive tutoring over the summer."

"That's unfair!" Hermione exclaimed, before realizing she's interrupted the Headmaster.

"Yes, it's blatantly unfair. It's also shocking, when you realize you're still the top Witch in your class. Harry's not doing badly, either. This despite the fact that there are months and months when you can't do magic at all. Those muggleborn students who aren't strong academically or magically often have difficulty staying up with their class. I've thought extensively about Harry's situation and I had a plan to let him continue his studies over the summer. You know I'm the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot? There are few perks that come with the job, but this is one of them."

The professor pulled out two parchments with impressive seals. One had Harry's name written on it and one had Hermione's name.

"Touch your wands to the parchment." Dumbledore directed.

The two complied and there was a flash.

"You can now cast spells at home. You are restricted to anything from the curriculum. Anything from prior years or covered by next year's syllabus is fair game. Additionally, I have authorized the Patronus charm, since it is definitely not in the fourth year syllabus and I want you to be able to continue practicing, Harry."

They spoke for a few more minutes and then Dumbledore dismissed them. Harry and Hermione walked towards their common room.

"What do you think?" Harry asked quietly, "I didn't mean to…"

"Harry Potter! You are not going to feel guilty about this!" Hermione spat out, very vehemently, even stamping her foot.

"Well, I didn't mean to stick you with some bond that you didn't ask for." Harry said, eyes downcast.

"Who said you did it? Maybe I did?" Hermione said, "Or more likely, something like this doesn't happen like that at all. I think it may just be a visible sign of what I already know. I already knew how much I liked you, how good a friend you were. I already felt like I could complete your sentences, sometimes. To be honest, if Madame Pomfrey had said this had been there for a year, I wouldn't have been surprised."

"Really?" Harry asked, "So you're not mad?"

"Mad? Harry, what would I be mad about? Your my best friend in the world. If that's visible in our auras, it doesn't bother me. I'll know more after I've had some time to read about. In fact, I might go there now. I'm so excited, Harry! I'm not mad, not only are we together, this summer I can actually practice magic, not just read about it!"

For the few days remaining in the term, the two noticed they were drawn to one another. They held hands, sat so close they touched, completed each other's sentences. In short, they acted like all new lovers do and nobody thought anything else about it.

They returned on the train, agreeing to write constantly. Both had tentatively agreed to Ron's invitation to the Quidditch cup. Having something to look forward to made the parting tenable, although just barely.

Soon, Harry was driving away from King's Cross Station with the Dursleys, looking forward to being back with his friends as soon as he could.

Meanwhile, Dumbledore was meditating on the ramifications of what had happened. If the bond did what he suspected it would, it could be a very good thing, indeed. What would the scholar be with the confidence of the natural? How could the natural progress with the focus and training of the scholar? Oh, this could be a very good development indeed!

A/N: Please read and review. I'm a new amateur author, so please be gentle. I know my work doesn't approach my dreams, but I think it's worth sharing, since I have enjoyed so many others' work.

I can't write a Dumbles. I have read and appreciated many works that made Dumbledore totally incompetent, senile, or evil, but when I think about Harry's speech about being "Dumbledore's man", I can't go down that road. I attribute his errors to the transition between a children's story, where plot holes are expected and tolerated to a more mature work, where he should have realized and fixed the abuse. Ron is likewise flawed, but generally a good person. He will probably be OOC in my work, as he will mature more rapidly than he would have and be much less of a git than he probably would have been given the H/Hr relationship.

Snape is one of the most interesting characters for me, but was wasted. I don't think JKR made any argument that would have Harry name one of his children after his long time tormentor. Would he name one of his other kids Dudley? I'm going to try to avoid any logical jumps like that.