It was after supper, the Saturday before Halloween and Harry waited silently under his invisibility cloak near Hagrid's hut. Hagrid was currently tending the Thestrals so there was little chance of him being seen, but he was being careful. Tonight was very important.
Hermione and Ron thought he was planning out a lesson for the DA in the Room of Requirement while Draco was overseeing a detention for some wayward third years who had blown up one too many cauldrons in Snape's classes. The part about Draco was true, but the detention had ended fifteen minutes ago and his soulmate was on his way to him now.
He didn't need to see the black shadow moving towards him to know Draco was close and Draco made a beeline to him even though he was invisible. Wrapped in a cloak that almost seemed to absorb light it was of such dark fabric, Draco was all but invisible himself. However, as soon as Draco was close enough, Harry threw his cloak around his soulmate as well.
[Well, if you're ashamed to be seen with me,] Draco said in an affronted tone.
Harry almost laughed. Draco always knew how to drag him out of his darker thoughts.
[Don't leave me standing around in dark corners if you don't want me brooding,] he replied.
[Sorry,] Draco apologised, [Snape wanted to talk about the first year lessons for next week, I couldn't exactly tell him I was in a hurry because we're taking a jaunt into the Forbidden Forest.]
The quick peck on the cheek was somewhat unexpected and more than a little awkward under the cloak, but it did make Harry smile.
[Come on,] he said and they set off.
It wasn't until they stepped through the first line of trees that they removed the cloak or spoke again.
The Forbidden Forest had always been foreboding, but it was even more so since Harry's awakening to his new senses. The whole place was alive and, if he let himself, he could feel it. This was not just a forest where magical creatures lived, it was a magical place itself. That was why the first thing Harry did after he took the cloak off was reach out to one of the trees, place his palm flat against it and close his eyes.
Whenever he had been in the Forbidden Forest he had always felt as if he was being watched, now he knew it was true. It wasn't just the residents who watched from the darkness, it was the forest itself.
Being very, very careful, Harry sent a small trickle of magic into the tree and waited. It was the closest he could get to a 'here I am'. After a few moments he felt the prickle of magic coming back to his palm. It was over in seconds, but when he stood back and opened his eyes again, he smiled.
"For the first time in my life," he said, turning to Draco, "I actually feel that I'm allowed to be here."
"You might," Draco said.
Harry couldn't help being reminded of the first detention all those years ago and the frightened little Slytherin trying to hide behind bravado.
"Come here," Harry said, taking Draco's hand and placing it against the same tree, covering it with his own. "May I?" he asked.
Harry had an entirely different relationship with magic than any other wizard and he very gently pulled on his soulmate's, urging the tiniest trickle into the tree again, but this time Draco's. It wasn't something a wizard would have found easy to do. Harry knew the moment the forest acknowledged Draco as well, because Draco's features filled with something like wonder for just a second.
"That..," said Draco, but seemed to run out of words.
"Exactly," Harry agreed.
They really didn't need to talk about it; it was something of a singular experience.
No longer feeling as if he was interloping into a world he one hundred percent did not belong in, Harry pulled out the box with the wild wand. He sensed the magic around him shift as he opened it to reveal the wand inside.
"What was that?" Draco asked, clearly getting something of the same feeling Harry experienced.
"There is wild magic in everything here," Harry said, "like knows like."
They were here for only one reason; they needed a site for the ritual to bring Sirius back. It couldn't be in the school and it had to be far enough away so that there was no chance of anyone interrupting them or coming into danger by contact with the unpredictable magic they would be channelling. Harry focused on the wand, holding it lightly in his hand, and, at a fundamental level, asked its advice.
The wand twitched in his hand, pulling his arm towards the right. It wasn't exactly a point me spell, but it had the same net effect.
"This way," he said and set off with Draco close behind.
As they walked he took no notice of where they were going, only what the wand was telling him. He knew Draco would be marking the way and he had total faith in his soulmate to get them back out once they had found what they needed.
They had been walking a seemingly random path in the forest for about ten minutes when Harry stepped into a perfectly round clearing. It had been cloudy and dark when they had entered the forest, but, almost as if the universe was making a point, the clearing was lit by bright moonlight. Everything was vaguely silver under the moon and it gave the whole place an ethereal quality to it.
"This is ... unexpected," Draco said.
There were no fallen trees to explain the break in the dense forest, nothing that could give an obvious explanation as to why this particular place was open to the sky. The floor of the clearing was even grass and a few tight closed flowers, more like a meadow than a forest clearing.
"Someone made this," Draco said as they walked further into the open space.
"Must have," Harry agreed.
As if that was all that was needed, Harry felt something that was very similar to Wizarding magic, but had an alien edge to it. He turned to find he and Draco were no longer alone. There at the edge of the trees was a centaur that Harry had never seen before.
Of course it would have been centaurs that had made the clearing; it gave them a view of the stars.
Harry immediately lowered the wild wand; the last thing he wanted was conflict with the centaurs. After the debacle of everything that had happened during Harry's fifth year, the Ministry had backed down somewhat and there was once again a tentative peace between the centaurs and wizards, but it was very much not stable.
"Many of our number saw of your coming," the centaur said and Harry was pretty sure they didn't just mean tonight.
"We are honoured to have been seen," Harry replied.
"No wizard has been allowed to find this place before you," the centaur said.
Harry had always known the centaurs had secrets, but he wasn't sure he wanted to know how they kept wizards from finding something as large as the clearing.
"No others shall hear of it from us," Draco said with a slight bow.
Of course Draco knew what to say and the centaur bowed his head back.
"As the stars predict," the centaur said and turned to leave.
"Do the stars say if we will succeed?" Harry found himself asking before he could stop himself.
The centaur turned his head back and said nothing for a long few seconds.
"The stars say many things," was all he said and then moved off into the darkness.
[Guess we found the right place then,] Harry said and tried to bring his heartbeat back to normal.
* * *
It was finally Halloween and the light from Draco's wand filled the clearing with cold clarity and although they were only inside the Forbidden Forest they could have been in the middle of nowhere as far as familiarity went. Harry looked around and even though he had been here several times over the last couple of days the ritual site looked alien to him. It rather suited his purpose since what he and Draco were about the attempt was completely at odds with just about all the magical theory they had ever been taught.
The matrix stone felt heavy in his arms as he carried it and placed it in the centre of the circle. There were eight other stones around the outside of the circle, carefully aligned with the points of the compass, although they were completely inert. As he put the bag he was carrying down, Draco moved from each of the outside stones to the next, placing a large white candle on top of it.
He slipped off his cloak, revealing the white robe he was wearing underneath. It barely kept out the Autumn chill, but he had far more other things to worry about other than the cold. His cloak had been exposed to far too much magic in its time, so he placed it a little way from the matrix stone. He wanted no stray traced to affect the ritual.
Next he pulled the bowl, the wild wand and the knife from the bag, placing the bag flat on the grass next to the matrix stone and the utensils on top of it. As he did so the moon came out from behind the clouds, filling the circle with light. His robe almost seemed to glow with it.
[A good omen,] Draco said.
[You don't believe in omens,] Harry pointed out.
[Tonight I think I believe in a lot of things,] and with those ominous words, Draco shrugged off his hood and cloak as well.
Harry thought he might be looking at a Sidhe, the way Draco's hair shone in the moonlight. He decided he might believe in a lot of things too.
[Come on,] he decided, [let's get on with it.]
Draco didn't reply, but walked over to him anyway. Their first job was to cast a protective circle. The wild magic would come, of that there was no doubt, and Harry needed to be in control of when it reached him. That at least was well known magic.
[You're sure you're ready?] Draco asked, looking him in the eye.
Harry nodded. He had been ready for days.
[Yes.] Draco's voice was as resolute as Harry felt.
Pulling his wand from his sleeve, Harry held it tightly and lifted both his hands. Draco mirrored him, pale fingers winding around Harry's wand hand as Harry followed suit. Protective circles were ancient magic, used for generations, although they had fallen out of favour in recent centuries. The one they had chosen was a spell native to the area in local Gaelic.
It was a chant rather than a singular charm and the words were rather beautiful even translated into English:
Praise to the air, may the wind lend its strength.
Praise to the earth, may the soil lend its bounty.
Praise to the moon, may she give us her power.
Praise to the night, protect us from all.
Together, Harry and Draco spoke the original Gaelic, calling on the protection of their surrounding and funnelling their own magic into the spell. As they finished the last word all the candles flared into life and mist flowed out the end of both their wands. It floated to the ground, settling in a layer all through the circle, except the very centre.
There was a completely clear space all around the matrix stone, as if the mist dare not approach it. Where the magical fog touched the edges of the circle, it glittered as if held in by a sparkling vessel. The mist brought with it a strange calm that settled over Harry as completely as the white layer settled over the ground. It was almost as if everything was now inevitable, so there was no point in worrying about it.
[Now Sirius,] Draco said.
Harry nodded. Primrose had given him this technique. As with many things about their kind, it was more to do with will than anything concrete. Harry slipped his wand back into its hiding place, closed his eyes and concentrated.
"Sirius," he whispered under his breath and put everything he had into calling out to his godfather.
There was a connection between them and Primrose had shown him how to find it. She had only ever used the technique on a separate person, but it worked the same way when it was himself involved. It might even have been easier, but Harry didn't care about the detail. He put every iota of want and need he had and focused it on Sirius. It worked surprisingly quickly, the discomfort started almost immediately.
However, Harry refused to let up. He needed to be sure and he didn't stop for a second, even as the universe screamed at him. No one could feel what he was feeling and not know something was very wrong.
He finally opened his eyes as he heard Sirius' familiar voice. Now came the hard part.
* * *
"Harry," Sirius said again, scanning the clearing, "what's going on."
"We're bringing you back," Harry told him.
Sirius took a longer look at the circle this time.
"We're bringing you back," Draco repeated so Harry didn't have to.
"But I'm dead," Sirius pointed out.
"No you're not," Harry replied, "at least not exactly."
"Enough to count. Bringing back the dead is impossible, there's no magic strong enough, what you get isn't what you had before."
"Wild magic is."
Sirius' mouth dropped open and his eyes widened.
"You're not thinking..?"
"We're more than thinking," Harry said.
"Wild magic is lethal."
"Not when used correctly."
Sirius walked quickly across the clearing so they were no more than two feet apart.
"Harry, you mustn't do this," Sirius pleaded, "I'm not worth it."
Harry bent down and picked up the small bowl, the knife and the wild wand, placing them on the matrix stone before turning back to his godfather. Sirius really did look desperate, face twisted with worry and genuine fear, but Harry shook his head slowly.
"Draco, stop him," Sirius sent his request to Draco this time and Harry looked at his lover knowingly.
Draco's eyes were grave and his expression was anxious as were his thoughts, but he made no move to stop his soulmate. They had decided on this together, and Harry could feel the same resolve in his lover as there was in him.
"It's not just for you," Draco said and walked over to beside Harry.
"Every time I see you, Sirius, I know that it is wrong," Harry said, trying to explain what he knew to his godfather. "The universe is screaming that you should not exist as you do. Whatever magic created the Veil in the Ministry, it is wrong at a fundamental level. Because of how you fell through it did something to you that is not death. The only way to right that wrong is to bring you back."
The expression on Sirius' face was forlorn, his fear almost tangible.
"It could kill you, Harry," his godfather said almost reaching out to touch and only pulling back at the last moment. "You're playing with wild magic, it could destroy you."
"I am wild magic," Harry replied simply with the same calm he had felt since the moment he created the circle.
"Harry please," Sirius said desperately.
Ignoring his godfather's protests, Harry knelt down in front of the small block of stone. Draco moved up behind him and placed a hand on each of his shoulders, lending his strength wordlessly. Harry knew what he had to do; the scribbled instructions and his own notes were clear in his memory.
He reached for the knife, but it moved and fell onto the ground. Harry looked round at his godfather and the man had the extreme look of concentration on his face that meant he was trying to effect his surroundings. An abstract feeling of guilt tried to make it to the front of Harry's thoughts as he realised quite how desperate Sirius was to stop this, but it failed to upset his equilibrium.
"You can't stop me," he told his godfather calmly, "please don't try."
The concentration dissolved from Sirius' face and was replaced by a frown and expression of resigned fear.
"I love you, Harry," his godfather said quietly, "I don't want you to do this, please stop."
"I can't," Harry said, "it has already started."