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Introduction:

harry potter fanfiction
Chapter 14: The Man in the Mask


There was something familiar about the room Harry found himself in, and for a few seconds he didn’t register what it was. Then it hit him - it looked almost identical to the room Voldemort had been in when… when he showed Harry the deaths of his parents. The gold serpent was slithering around the wall still; the portraits were still there – although the furniture had changed slightly. Harry was currently sitting upon a plush throne-like chair, legs raised upon a footstool. He was sipping a drink that burnt his throat as it descended – he didn’t think it really tasted of much other than fire. Across the room, a snake – real this time – was curled up in front of the blazing hearth, in mockery of household pets everywhere.

“He is here, My Lord!” Bellatrix’s voice came from behind the door.

“Show him in.” Harry said in a cold voice, kicking away the footstool, and putting down the drink.

Two figures in Death Eater’s robes and masks walked in. One of them fell to the floor immediately, face bent to touch the ground. Bellatrix, the other, remained standing,

“Do you wish me to stay, Master?” Sirius’ killer asked breathless with anticipation.

“Leave us.” Harry answered coldly, as if he had one tone of voice and one only.

Neither he nor the other figure spoke until the door closed, and they were the only ones left in the room. Harry waved a hand towards the door, preventing any sound from escaping from inside the room. As he did so, the kneeling Death Eater spoke for the first time.

“My Lord. Thank you Master.”

He crawled to Harry’s feet, kissing his robes. Harry eyed him for a few seconds before speaking.

“Take off your mask.”

Trembling fingers reached up to unclasp the facial disguise, allowing long, black, greasy hair to slide down the sides of the man’s face. It was Severus Snape.

“Crucio!” Harry said, withdrawing his wand and pointing at the Hogwarts’ Potions’ Professor.

Harry stared intently at Snape’s face. He was yelling in agony, creases appearing where Harry did not know creases could appear, hair flying over his face as he bucked and tossed, occasionally revealing the bulging eyes, which were half rolling upwards, refocusing every time his head smashed to the ground. Blood was running out from his mouth, where he had bitten his tongue; he seemed unable to accomplish speech, to plead for mercy even, but rather could only scream unintelligibly again and again and again.

The rest of his body was in similar pain: one of his legs had been caught beneath his writhing body, lodged in a most unnatural position, the top part of his robes had split, from where his body continued to swell ever larger as the curse racked it, revealing veins which seemed to be trying to force their way out of his body, getting closer and closer to the surface until…

Harry lifted the curse. He felt intense satisfaction, this, at last, was some semblance of payback for what Snape had done to him.

“Master,” Snape pled, having at last regained use of his voice, “Master, forgive me, I have long yearned to return to your side, but I did not know the way.”

“Silence!” Harry spat. “You did not return to my side upon my rebirth. Why? You were once Lord Voldemort’s most loyal, most trusted servant. Why then, did you refuse to come to me?”

“Master, I dared not, I was beside Dumbledore when I felt your return, attempting to discover where Diggory and Potter had disappeared to. If I had left, he would have known. I thought you might still find me useful as a spy if I remained, Master. I waited until he asked me to return to you, but by then you had prevented me from ever finding your side.”

“You lie!” Lord Voldemort said, raising his wand to curse Snape again.

“No Master, My Lord, you are my Master, I could never forsake you!”

“Do not use such words to me Severus, they only serve to deepen our mistrust. You are the truest Slytherin among my followers, and we both know what that means. Do not treat Lord Voldemort as a fool, for he knows you better than you do yourself. Crucio!”

It was as Harry watched Snape writhe before him once more, that, even as he felt pleasure at the sight of Snape getting what he deserved, he had the first inklings that this was not a dream, and this was not his unconscious getting revenge on Snape. Slowly, the pleasure that he was receiving from torturing the man started to wane. Voldemort lifted the wand.

“Speak, Severus, if you would save your life.”

“My Lord!” Harry could hear the desperation in Snape’s voice, “I only meant, you are the one that first showed me the way, how to hone my talents, what I must do, and for that, you shall always be my master, my teacher. I could never turn away from you, and what the Great Salazar, your forefather represents.”

Lord Voldemort paused, slightly appeased; although how Harry knew that, he didn’t know.

He took another sip of his drink, before continuing, “You are lucky, Severus, that I know you to be a true Slytherin, for the fact that you will always look for power has kept you alive thus far tonight. That and your trial this summer, of course, for you could have betrayed me if you wished. You must prove your loyalty beyond doubt however if you wish to stay that way.”

“My Lord, you know me to be loyal to Salazar’s principles, how then could I turn from you, a man that cannot be killed, to follow a Muggle lover such as Dumbledore?” His voice carried utter revulsion. “What power, what glory for me or Slytherin could lie that way? I have always followed you my Lord, I have just been waiting to be recalled.”

“Why then, did you not come immediately Bella called you to my service?” Voldemort demanded.

Something deep inside told Harry he should be thinking about trying to wake up, but two things stopped him. One was that he did not believe that Voldemort was aware of his presence yet, and the other was that this could be his best way of discovering proof that Snape was a Death Eater.

“Which side are you on Severus?” Lord Voldemort asked. “Slytherin’s or the Mudbloods’?”

“Yours my Lord, always yours. I could not come any sooner, it would have been too risky – Dumbledore –”

“And you wished to discover whether there was a chance I would accept you back before you came, did you not?”

Snape hung his head. “Yes, Master, I am sorry, Master.”

“I expected it. You are Slytherin. How ironic it is that you should be a half-blood, my friend.”

“My Lord, I was always trying to return to your side, the information I was relaying to Malfoy –”

Lord Voldemort silenced him with a wave of his hand. “Yes, I only recently discovered that much of the information Lucius claimed for himself originally came through you. He has suffered, and shall continue to, accordingly.”

“I still require proof.” Voldemort continued. “Lower your Occlumency defences. Now.”

“Yes my Lord.” Snape said meekly.

“Legilimens!”

There was silence. Harry had obviously not followed Voldemort into his search of Snape’s mind. Snape was just allowing Voldemort to see whatever he wanted? Harry felt the burning hatred towards Snape return, he had been giving Voldemort information all last year, even though he hadn’t been accepted as a Death Eater? Somehow that made it ten times worse.

“Know this, Severus, I will not permit you to perform Occlumency in my presence until I can trust you once more. It is a foible that I shall no longer indulge.” Voldemort said, as he returned to his body, seemingly satisfied. “If I ever discover your usage of it, your death will be swift.”

“Of course, my Lord, of course.” Snape agreed.

Damn it, why couldn’t Voldemort Crucio him again? Maybe he could torture him into insanity – if anyone deserved it, it was him. Kill Snape before his treachery cost Harry and his friends dearly once more. Why couldn’t the bloodthirsty maniac just refuse to accept him back?

Harry felt Lord Voldemort’s eyes grow wider. “It appears Potter has vouched for you, Severus.”

Snape grew alarmed once more, “My Lord, Potter is here? He shall tell Dumbledore.”

“No matter, Dumbledore will believe you ahead of the boy.”

“But my Lord, I always tell him if I am spying for him; I thought tonight should remain secret.”

“Then we shall have to give incontestable-”

Harry hardly heard the first few words of Voldemort’s sentence; he was feeling pain, pain equal to the Cruciatus curse. His whole body felt like it was being squashed into something the size of a Rubik’s cube. His head was being pressed down to meet his feet, pushed somewhere between his arms, almost inside his chest, until suddenly he lost all sense of inhabiting a body. As he tried to adjust to the strange sensation, the vision of Snape started to flicker before him, replaced by the back of his own, or rather Voldemort’s, body, until it too started to distort and blur. Concentrating with all his might, he tried to wake up.
________________________________________


He spat out the sheets that he had somehow stuffed inside his mouth while writhing on the bed. He sat up once more, the pain was fading rapidly. He swung his legs to the floor and held his head in his hands. He had used the Cruciatus curse on Snape, and he had enjoyed it.

‘No you didn’t.” A voice said in his head, Hermione’s. “You were feeling Voldemort’s emotions, you were feeling his enjoyment.”

Why was he feeling guilty about Snape anyway? Snape was the one that had set Voldemort on his parents, Snape had just returned to Voldemort’s side, returned as a Death Eater. Snape had been working for Voldemort even when Voldemort had not trusted him, trying to be readmitted into his followers. Snape deserved to die.

“But maybe he wasn’t.” Hermione’s voice said once more. “Maybe he was still working on Dumbledore’s orders; maybe the meeting tonight was just part of his attempts to spy upon Voldemort.”

“Yeah, right.” Harry muttered out loud. “That’s why he let Voldemort see everything he wanted to.”

He put his glasses on, then stood up and walked to his trunk, where he had put his mirror last night.

“Remus. Remus Lupin.” Nothing happened.

He looked at his watch, it was three a.m. Harry mentally hit himself. Of course Remus would not respond, he was fast asleep. Harry put it back in his trunk, and closed the lid. What now? He couldn’t just go back to sleep, could he? He wanted to do something, but couldn’t see what.

He walked softly to the door, wand in hand, and descended to the common room. At least here he could move around without fear of waking anyone. He shivered. The fire was out. He paced around the room, trying to stay warm, and trying to think. What should he do? Professor Dumbledore wasn’t here, he couldn’t contact Remus, he supposed he could go and find Professor McGonagall, but what would happen then?

She’d probably be furious about being woken up, would tell him that Snape was only doing his job for Dumbledore, and order him back to bed. That’s what everyone would say, isn’t it – that’s what Hermione will say when she finds out what happened. He had to tell Dumbledore. Snape had said that Dumbledore did not know about the meeting, so if Harry told him before Snape had a chance to say anything first…

But how could he?! Snape, as well as being a Death Eater, was a member of the Order of the Phoenix, which he already knew had methods of communicating quickly and easily. Far quicker than anything Harry could do; Snape would probably have a cover story told to Dumbledore, maybe even immediately he left Voldemort tonight.

And would Dumbledore believe him? Surely, it was, as Voldemort had implied, inevitable that Dumbledore would believe Snape over him? And it didn’t help that he hated Snape with a passion, and Dumbledore knew it, or that he had just discovered Snape had told the Prophecy to Voldemort, and Dumbledore would find that out through Remus. Why had Hermione had to tell him? His word would surely mean much less to Dumbledore than ever before on the subject.

Harry kicked over a table. Anything he said, or did, would just be discounted as his hatred of Snape. Or worse, they might say that it was something Voldemort had intentionally shown him, in order to spread dissension in Dumbledore’s Order. That Voldemort was using the vision to trick him, like he had with Sirius.

Harry stopped pacing, trying desperately to think. Could Voldemort have shown it to him trick him? Had it not really happened at all? But no… Harry had sensed his emotions; Harry had sensed surprise when Voldemort had discovered him. No, this was definitely real, wasn’t it? He yawned, and then shivered again.

“Go back to bed.” Hermione’s voice advised him. “There’s nothing you can do now, go to sleep so that you’re wide awake enough to do something tomorrow.”

When Harry finally took ‘Hermione’s’ advice, he found, however, that for all his tiredness, he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned, trying to get comfortable, when he really knew that he had to stop thinking about Snape instead. No matter what Occlumency technique he tried to use, it didn’t help. He sat up, frustrated, and reached for his wand, to make sure he didn’t wake anyone as he struggled with the covers and mattress.

As he picked his wand up, his hand brushed a piece of parchment for the second time late at night that week. He put his glasses back on. It was the Marauders’ Map: he could make sure the dream was real, rather than something Voldemort had planted there! He tapped the Map with his wand.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” He whispered, and then added, “But I’m afraid I’m going to have to break that promise. Right then Snape, where are you.”

But no lines marking classrooms, common rooms, and living quarters appeared. Instead, in the middle of the parchment, was a sentence, written by Prongs.

No enemy of a Marauder may use this map.

“What?” Harry hissed. “Damn it this is important.”

The sentence remained in dark black ink, a lone feature on a desert landscape.

“Come on.” Harry urged, tapping the paper once more. “This could mean life or death! Look, if you won’t let me look at the map, at least tell me if Snape is in the castle or not!”

No.

“No he isn’t in the castle, or no you won’t tell me?”

No-one who calls a friend of mine a traitor will get any help from me.

Another script joined the discussion, it was Moony’s. Prongs, give him a chance to explain. There must be a reason.

No need, I think I already know everything I need to.

Come on James, Padfoot’s writing now said, let’s hear him out. Else what are we going to do? Refuse to let anyone use our map after all the work we put in to it?

Give us a few minutes, Harry, we’ll get him to at least listen to you.

Oh you will, will you Moony?

Harry glanced at his watch; it was nearing four in the morning, nearly an hour after he woke up. If he didn’t find out soon, Snape would be back from Voldemort regardless. That is, if he wasn’t already. He didn’t have time for this. He padded over to his trunk once more, taking out the mirror.

“Remus. Remus Lupin.”

Again there was no answer. He placed it beside his bed with a sigh. Was there anything else that he could try? He glanced at the Map again. A sentence was sitting there, waiting to be read.

Harry, are you there?

Harry deliberated momentarily. What was there to lose? He wanted to feel he was doing something, and what else could he do? He tapped the map with his wand, so that he could answer Padfoot.

“Yes.”

All right. Prongs scrawled. Fine, I’ll listen. But this better be good.

“Look you can’t tell me whether Snape is in the castle first, could you?” Harry asked, “And I can explain after. It’s just this is urgent.”

No. I’ll listen, and then maybe, if your tale is good enough, you can use the map again. Not before.

So then, Padfoot wrote, are you still claiming that Peter is a traitor?

“It’s not just a claim.” Harry muttered, “It’s the truth.”

Why?

Suddenly Harry wondered if they’d ever even heard of Voldemort. Had he begun his reign of terror when they were in school?

“Have any of you heard of someone called Voldemort? Lord Voldemort?”

Nope. Never heard of him. Friend of yours? Prongs wrote.

I haven’t heard of him either, how about you Moony?

Harry continued before Moony could write anything. “How about Tom Riddle? He changed his name to Voldemort when he grew older.”

Tom Riddle… Yeah, I’ve heard of him. Didn’t he win some kind of award for services to the school in Hogwarts? Yeah I’m sure he did, I had to clean his plaque one detention, a month or two ago. Prongs said.

“He is the Heir of Slytherin.” Harry said, taking a deep breath. “He unlocked the Chamber of Secrets, and killed someone with Slytherin’s monster, a Basilisk, then blamed the death on someone else, who took the punishment for him. That’s what he got the award for.”

Come off it! Prongs’ sceptical hand wrote. The Chamber of Secrets is a myth, it never existed. Heir of Slytherin. A Basilisk. You don’t expect me to believe this do you?

Hear him out Prongs, you did promise. Padfoot cut in.

“Well, Tom Riddle left Hogwarts and then tried to find out everything he could about the Dark Arts. When he returned, he had changed his name to Lord Voldemort. He wanted to get rid of all the Muggleborn witches or wizards, or half-bloods, and to-”

Hang on. Padfoot interrupted once more. I have heard of him. He’s got a kind of cult thing, my parents were talking about him last Christmas, agreeing with everything he said, so he’s got to be bad news. Trying to get all Purebloods to gang up and kick everyone else out of the Wizarding world or some such rubbish.

But what has this got to do with us Marauders. What has it got to do with Wormtail?

Maybe if you didn’t keep interrupting, Prongs, you’d find out. Moony said.

“Anyway, after you made this map, he started getting more and more followers, and people started disappearing and dying everywhere. He put people under the Imperius curse, threatened other people into submission, tortured and killed families if they didn’t worship him-”

What has this got to do with Peter! Prongs wrote, in large, bold letters across the page.

Give it a rest Prongs, let him finish!

Why are you sticking up for him Padfoot? He’s accusing one of us of being, of being a traitor, of selling out!

Because I have a good feeling about him. Canine instinct, you know how us dogs can tell decent people from people, well, people like my parents.

“Well Voldemort wanted to kill my parents.” Harry continued, before they could really start bickering, but wondering why, for it seemed obvious that he wasn’t achieving anything. “And they tried to protect themselves with the Fidelius charm, with Wormtail as their Secret Keeper. He betrayed them to him. Because of him, Voldemort killed my parents, and tried to kill me, but failed. That’s why Pettigrew’s a traitor. That’s why I won’t tell you anything with him here.”

And who exactly were your parents? Prongs scribbled. Probably a pair of Dark Wizards. Who was your father? One of Snivellus’ mates, and that’s why you want to find him is it?

I doubt it, James. Padfoot wrote, as Harry’s wand was about to descend to tell them to forget it, that Prongs would never believe him.

And why is that?

Because you’re his father.

All sentences bar Padfoot’s final one dissolved away, Harry’s wand stayed motionless above the parchment. There was a wait of seconds, before more writing appeared below it.

I what? What are you talking about, Padfoot mate?

Harry tapped the paper. “How did you know?”

I was watching the map. The only Harry in Hogwarts that is moving around at this time of night is Harry Potter. And that, and Moony’s older self introducing you, and your parents choosing a Marauder as a Secret Keeper all suggests that you, are James’ son.

My son? You’re kidding me? How can I have a son? But…

Prongs being speechless. I never thought I’d see it. Moony wrote.

Just wondering, but why didn’t Prongs choose either of us? Padfoot asked.

“It was meant to be a bluff, but it failed.” Harry said, not wanting to explain further. “It meant that one of you got sent to Azkaban, and Pettigrew got away.”

Pett- But Wormtail! Prongs wrote, remembering, Wormtail wouldn’t betray us like that, you must have it wrong! It must be someone else. I – We – trust Wormtail with our lives.

That was the problem, Harry thought bitterly.

“Voldemort is really powerful, Pettigrew was attracted to his power. Do you believe me or not? Can I now see whether Snape is here?”

I don’t know, I, I need to think about it. Prongs wrote shakily.

Snape entered the castle while we were talking. Moony told him.

“Thank you, Moony.” Harry said. “That’s what I needed to know.”

Harry, son – damn, I can’t say that, it doesn’t sound right, I’m only fifteen! – er… who is, was, um, will be my w- your mother?

Harry had an insane urge to laugh, but suppressed it. “Lily Evans.”

Li-

“Fin.”
________________________________________


“You’re sure, Harry, quite sure, that Voldemort didn’t show it to you on purpose?” Hermione was saying for the sixth time that day – which was quite impressive seeing as it was only lunchtime.

The three of them had hidden in a portrait-less disused classroom, with every secrecy charm they could think of on the door and walls (including imperturbable charms in case anyone had been to Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes, and decided to try to eavesdrop on them with Extendable Ears – the ones they were selling were sold without the upgrades.)

“For the last time Hermione, yes! I checked on the Marauders Map, Snape wasn’t in the castle. Anyway, I don’t think Voldemort knew I was there until the very end. I mean,” He said uncertainly, “I wasn’t exactly thinking nice things about Snape, and I thought I was just dreaming, or fantasising or something, so I guess he couldn’t tell.”

“But, Harry, you know… I mean your visions have been really useful before but-”

“But one of them got Sirius killed. I know Hermione; you don’t have to tell me.” Harry said furiously.

“I’m sorry Harry, that was really tactless, but… you know what I mean, don’t you?”

“Yes, I know what you mean.” Harry snapped, and then sighed. “Look, I spent most of this morning wondering the same thing, okay?”

“But this is proof, Harry.” Ron breathed. “This is proof that Snape is a Death Eater. You have to tell Dumbledore!”

“No it isn’t proof Ron.” Hermione said exasperated. “What if he was just trying to return as a spy?”

Neither Hermione nor Ron had said anything so far, that Harry hadn’t already thought of and asked himself a hundred times.

“He is a spy Hermione! You-Know-Who’s! Don’t you remember what he’s done to Harry?”

“Yes, I do.” Hermione said, eyes narrowing, in a tone that suggested that she wouldn’t forgive him for it easily. “But are you sure you aren’t letting that colour your judgement?”

“You mean if I dislike someone with a passion, then it’s a point in their favour?” Harry asked angrily.

“You know that’s not what I me-”

“Hang on.” Ron interrupted, “Harry, you said that Snape lowered his Occlumency shield for Voldemort, right?” Harry nodded. “Then that proves it. If Snape was working for us then Voldemort would have killed him.”

Hermione was silent – so far, in all of her arguments, she hadn’t really managed to deal with this problem.

“So he’s a spy.” Ron concluded. “Harry, tell Dumbledore.”

“I can’t!” Harry said in frustration. “Haven’t you been listening, Ron? Dumbledore isn’t around at the moment, and I couldn’t get through to Remus on the mirror when I tried earlier.”

“He’s probably out on Order business, or something.” Hermione told them. “That’s probably why. Harry, how long does it take to see a memory when someone performs Occlumency?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never timed it.” Harry said irritably. “Why?”

“Well, I was just thinking, V- Voldemort could hardly have looked at every single one of Snape’s memories, could he? Maybe he only saw some memories of Snape’s that made it look like he was a Death Eater.”

“Hermione,” Ron said in exasperation (Harry’s understandably tetchy mood was spreading it seemed), “Snape is a Death Eater. Accept it, and move on. Tell McGonagall – maybe she can get Dumbledore back so you can speak to him.”

“But don’t you see Ron? McGonagall will just say the same thing as Hermione’s been saying. She won’t believe me.”

“Well you might as well at least try. Look, we have to talk to her about letting that first year ride a decent broom if she’s going to be your sub, you might as well mention it then, we can go ask her at dinner or something.”
________________________________________


The whole of the day continued in contrast to Harry’s morning, in exceptional calm. Double Charms passed by quickly and without incident, and even Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts had no surprises this time. They were learning to cast, and then demonstrating their proficiency with, the Falxia spell, Harry found that he seemed to have picked it up faster than anyone else, even Hermione. The spell that came out of his Abramite was accompanied by a flash of crimson red which nobody else could match. Another blessing for Harry, was that not having Potions on Fridays, all they saw of Snape was his limping to the staff table at dinner.

This, Harry was quick to point out to Hermione, was proof that he had been tortured by Voldemort, and caused Ron to repeat his belief that Harry should tell McGonagall. But when they approached her, and Harry and Ron put her on the spot by reminding her that she had allowed Harry to have a broom in first year, that he was afraid it would look like favouritism, and they thus finally managed to gain permission (as long as the Captain stored the broom when it wasn’t practice or a match), Harry found he couldn’t mention it.

“Harry wanted to ask you something else.” Ron said, stepping on Harry’s foot, as she dismissed them.

“Very well then Mr Potter, what is it?”

“I wanted to… I wanted to ask you if you knew when Professor Dumbledore would be back, and if you could tell him that I need to speak with him. It’s about Voldemort.”

She winced at the name. “I am not sure, but rest assured that I shall mention it when we next talk.”

“Thanks. It’s just kind of important.”

“I will let him know Potter.” She said with some asperity.

“Why didn’t you tell her?” Ron hissed as they walked away.

Harry shrugged. “This’ll achieve the same thing, won’t it?”
________________________________________


Harry, Ron, and Hermione paid their first visit to Hagrid’s hut that evening. They had hardly spoken to him all week, and Harry had the nasty feeling that Hagrid had been hurt by the fact that none of them had taken his class. He did, in fact, give them a rather cool greeting, but it soon vanished upon their entreaties that they just didn’t have time to include it with their schedules.

“Harry and I are already taking one more than we have to.” Ron said earnestly, “And that’s because we felt we needed Herbology to help us with Potions. And Hermione hasn’t got a free period in her timetable!”

“I do.” Hermione replied, slightly indignantly. “I have one Thursday mornings. I had to drop Ancient Runes as well.” She continued, slightly mournfully.

“Ah well.” Hagrid said at last. “I didn’ really expec’ yeh to, like, it’d jus’ be nice teh see a few frien’ly faces in the class an’ all.”

“How are the classes going Hagrid?” Harry asked.

“Well your year’s goin’ righ’ nicely at the mo’.” He told them. “Teachin’ ‘em all about the different breeds of Winged Horses, yeh know, to carry on from Thestrals last year. Speakin’ of Thestrals, I got myself hold of a couple of Augureys, Irish Phoenixes, yeh know, one of the thir’ years still believed they signalled death if yeh’ll believe it.”

Harry found the time with Hagrid quite enjoyable, even if he never quite got rid of his fears about Snape and Voldemort. He was, however, trying to take Ron’s advice, which was that seeing as he’d done pretty much all he could, he might as well try to forget about it until he could speak to Dumbledore. When he finally talked to Remus before going to sleep, he found the same sort of advice, but somehow their conversation was a bit more conducive to that goal.

Remus had taken the news of Snape’s appearance before Voldemort rather better than Harry had expected.

“Yes, we all expected this to happen sooner or later. As I imagine you’ve gathered, his attempts to return to Voldemort’s inner circle had failed before now, but we always expected him to succeed at some point. All we can do now is believe Dumbledore.”

“But Remus, he opened up his mind to Voldemort!” Harry protested.

“I don’t pretend to know more than a basic knowledge of Occlumency Harry, but Snape truly is a master at it. I would not be surprised if he could make it seem like he was not hiding anything, when he actually was. I would have thought he has had that demand to drop his shields before, from Albus as well as Voldemort.”

Harry hadn’t thought of that. Now he came to think about it, he had to admit, if someone claimed that he was a spy in both camps, neither camp would believe him unless they thought he had lowered his defences.

“So he might be still working for us then?” Harry said dubiously, “But Remus, he, he was the one that told-”

Remus’ reflection held up his hand, his face seemed to tighten. “Hermione told me last night, Harry. Have no mistake, I shall be having words with him; of course it is now no longer surprising that I could not find him last night to do just that. However… Dumbledore trusts him to be on our side, and it is true that we have gained ground thanks to some of his information…”

Remus shook his head, and continued, very seriously, “Harry. I can’t help but have the feeling that being the side that Snape chooses may be key to winning this war.”

“So I should do what? Just sit there while he does all in his power to expel me? While he tells me that he was the one to send Voldemort after Mum and Dad? Should I trust him completely no matter what he does to me?” Harry asked bitterly.

“I don’t ask you to trust him. But I would ask you to make absolutely certain that you don’t assume he is a Death Eater because of all of the things he has done to you. Snape is stubborn Harry and while that means he still hates James, it also means that if he has decided to fight Voldemort, then he could end up saving us all.”

“I’ll try,” Harry muttered, “but it isn’t easy when he goes out of his way to do things to me.”

Remus smiled in relief. “And speaking of James and stubborn, have you tried talking to the map again yet?”

“Oh! Yeah! That was how I knew that the vision was real – Snape wasn’t actually in the castle.”

As Harry talked to Remus, he started to appreciate the funny side of his conversation with the Marauders, which was only possible when you were viewing it as a bystander rather than a participant. When he got to the bit when Prongs had asked who he was going to marry, Remus roared with laughter.

“You know,” He told Harry, still chuckling; “I have a feeling he’s going to believe you after you told him that. Did Wormtail say anything?”

“Nothing.” Harry said. “I was a bit surprised, I expected him to be denying everything.”

Remus gave a bit of a grimace, and his face became lined with worry once more. “Yeah, that sounds like Pettigrew alright. He hardly said anything to anyone except us. He was just really shy. You know Harry; this Pettigrew probably has no idea what he would grow up to do to us.”

Harry said nothing.

“You know I said that you wouldn’t know the adult James or Sirius from the map? Well you probably won’t see any of the adult Peter in it either. But enough about that, how has your first week been apart from Snape and Voldemort and us Marauders?”

Harry felt easier in his conversation with Remus than he had all day. There was something, he felt, about talking to someone who was going through some of the same feelings you were, that could make those things easier to bear.

Just as Remus was about to sign off, and reminded Harry to do his Occlumency, despite any wish he might have to find information out, Harry remembered his first dream of the previous night.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot Moony.” He said excitedly. “I think I’ve finally got past that problem I was having with storing my memories. You couldn’t tell Professor Dumbledore if you see him could you? I already asked Professor McGonagall to tell him I needed to see him, but not what about. Maybe you could mention both things to him if you see him?”
________________________________________


The weekend held surprisingly little free time for Harry. Ron had somehow managed to get a prime Saturday afternoon spot on the Quidditch pitch, where they held their first training session, letting an ecstatic Emily Crowley know that she would be allowed to bring her Nimbus to school, as long as Ron looked after it while she was not using it.

Calling them to him before the practice got underway, Ron began by saying: “Look, I know that we haven't had reserves before now, and some of you may not play in that many matches, but everyone has to be ready.” He then added magnanimously, “I won’t expect the reserves to make every single training session, but I do expect at least a fifty percent attendance when we don’t have a match coming up, and you’d better be at almost all of them when we do. There’s no point in having reserves that can’t fit in with the team when they’re needed.”

Harry thought that Ron performed admirably, both as captain, and as a Keeper. The fact that he was busy giving instructions to his team meant that he was Keeping on instincts – and Ron’s instincts were good. It was when he thought too much, or worried about whether or not he was good enough that he started to have problems.

Off the Quidditch pitch, Harry was finding his time was short this weekend. He had done no homework Friday, not feeling up to having to think hard about something other than Snape, to tell the truth, which meant that he had work to catch up on. He was trying to get ahead on work as well, seeing as he was hoping to speak to Dumbledore at some point the following week. To top it all off, Hermione had persuaded Ron and him to help on a little project of hers.

“Why do you want my help? Anything you do will be far better than mine or Ron’s efforts Hermione.”

“Well, it’s just, last time I had far more time to do this.” Hermione said anxiously.

“Hermione, you were meant to say that that wasn’t true, and Harry and I could do some of the things just as well.” Ron told her in mock anger.

“Oh.” Hermione went slightly red. “Well, of course you can, I was just tryi-”

“Hermione – he’s joking.” Harry said with a grin. “We both know perfectly well that nothing we could do would approach your standards.”

Hermione looked mortified. “That’s not true Harry. I- I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t want help, would I?”

Ron snorted with laughter. “But why do you want our help? I mean, let’s be honest, you gave Edgecombe what was coming to her, didn’t you?”

“I had a good few weeks to do that last time though. Okay, some of it was taken up with finding out how exactly to cast the charm, but anyway, I think we’d better put extra protection on it this time, if we’re worried about someone betraying us to Voldemort.”

“I can wait before arranging the meeting.” Harry said, almost hopefully.

“No Harry, we need to get back into the DA as soon as possible. I mean,” She added hastily, “those of us that decide to keep going with it despite the risks of course.”

“I was thinking I’d arrange it in about a fortnight. That Saturday evening, you know? Things will have calmed down then.”

“That long away?” Hermione said in relief. “I was thinking you’d arrange it sooner. It still isn’t much time though, we’d better get working on it.”

“Fine.” Ron told her resignedly. “You can tell us what you want us to do then.”

This, of course, meant that Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s free time was spent in the library – working. While this was a source of enjoyment for Hermione, Harry and Ron could think of other things they’d have liked to do with their time.

Harry’s nights that weekend were completely devoid of any kind of visions whatsoever, and, for the first time for a long time, he didn’t dream of Sirius in the Arch room either. It was dangerous to think it, but it seemed to Harry as if there was little else that could top – or bottom, depending on how you looked at it – Thursday and Snape, and he had dealt with that, after all, hadn’t he? He pushed the uncomfortable feeling and annoying voice that was saying ‘only barely’ out of his mind.

Monday dawned grey and drearily, the raindrops in the Great Hall disappearing just before they made contact with Harry’s head as he sat down for breakfast. His quick glance at the staff table showed Dumbledore’s seat to still be empty, to his disappointment. It wasn’t just that he wanted to explain about Snape, but almost just as urgently, he wanted to find out what he was meant to do next in his Occlumency lessons. It had felt like the only thing he could do to resist Voldemort over the summer, and not knowing what to do next was frustrating.

The majority of Harry’s transfiguration lesson was as depressing as the day outside. No matter how hard he tried, he seemed to be making as little progress as in any Transfiguration – no, any subject’s – class he had had at Hogwarts. Indeed, when Professor McGonagall told him to stay behind after class, he felt sure that it was because of his abysmal performance.

“Potter,” Minerva McGonagall began, “Professor Dumbledore has asked me to inform you that he will be returning to the school tonight, and that he would be delighted to see you in his study at nine o’clock this evening. The password to his office is ‘Ice Mice’.”

“Oh.” Harry said, taken slightly aback. “Thank you Professor.”

“And Potter,” She continued, before Harry could make for the door, “you are far better at Transfiguration than you showed today – I expect you to put the work in before your next class to prove it.”

“Yes Professor.”

Harry informed Hermione and Ron of his meeting with Dumbledore that evening as he caught up to them at lunch.

“Good.” Hermione said, pleased, “He’ll be able to explain everything then.”

“Hope so.” Harry said. “Er, why are you eating so quickly Hermione?”

Hermione, who had started to eat at a speed that would have impressed Ron, swallowed hastily. “We have lots of work to do, remember? We have to get back up to the library.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Ron said, stabbing at his carrots with his fork, and studying them.
________________________________________


Defence Against the Dark Arts today was a theoretical class. Aravenne introduced them to Magi, Virgaemin, and then Virgaemin Magi, before proceeding to lecture them on the first. These, as Hermione was delighted to tell them, were terms used for the ways in which witches or wizards duelled.

A Magus was somebody that duelled without speaking aloud the incantation for the spells they used, these were quite common. A Virgaemin was a person that was able to proficiently duel without using their wand, but yet verbalised the spells, they were quite rare, and tended only to use their abilities when forced to. Virgaemin Magi, were, as the name suggested, a combination of the two – a witch or wizard that was able to cast wandless magic without speech – Aravenne told them there were only a handful of people alive in Britain who could do this. Harry knew two of them – Dumbledore and Voldemort.

“To cast a spell without speaking the incantation is a relatively simple task, and all of you should be able to accomplish it, casting a spell of similar strength to your verbalised attempts. It simply requires complete concentration on the task at hand. To translate this to a duel, however, is not so simple. Why?”

A couple of hands shot up, Aravenne pointed towards Susan Bones.

“Because if you’re concentrating really hard all the time, it’ll tire you out quickly?”

Aravenne nodded, “Very true, although continual practice will improve your stamina, for some people it is indeed too taxing to send spell after spell at an opponent non-verbally. Anyone else? Mr Finnegan?”

“Because it’s hard to concentrate when you’re diving out of the way of other people’s spells, Professor?”

The class grinned along with the teacher. “Indeed, some people can find it very hard to block out what is happening enough to cast a non-verbal spell. Of course, some people go too far, and are so intent on concentrating solely on casting a non-verbal spell, that they get outthought by their opponent, or fail to avoid a curse coming their way.”

They spent the next short while discussing the possible advantages for a Magus, with Aravenne asking for input from the class once more.

“The enemy doesn’t know what spell you’re casting?”

“If they can’t see you, they won’t know where exactly you are.”

“You can take them by surprise!”

“You can fight even if you are silenced.” Harry suggested, remembering how a Death Eater had been able to cast his spell even though Hermione had used the Silencio curse on him.

“If it’s one of a load of hexes that do the same kind of thing, then they might not know the counter-curse.”

Professor Aravenne held up his hands. “Very good. These are all advantages that a Magus might have. So how do you counter them? You have to recognise these curses by means other than their incantation, and utilise tactics in order to prevent a hidden opponent from casting a spell while you are unawares. There are many hazards that a Magus’ duelling style can bring to your fights if you or your enemy choose to adopt it. Over the next few weeks I shall be teaching you how to fight like a Magus, to deal with these hazards, and how to combat a proficient Magus as an opponent. Everyone has their weakness, remember that.”

Although Aravenne had said that non-verbal spells were relatively simple, Harry was inclined to disagree with him after that first lesson. Oh, he could cast a spell alright, but it was a pretty pathetic attempt. Summoned objects would crawl towards him at a snail’s pace, the Jelly Legs curse was barely noticeable – Ron wondered why he was ever so slightly off balance – and Falxia barely made a mark on the target he was using to practice on – giving off a slightly bluish light.

Their teacher seemed quite unworried by the class’ struggles to get to grips with non-verbal magic however, he even told them at the end of the class that he would expect them to feel able to combat non-verbally on Tuesdays after the next few weeks, and that soon they could be considered fully fledged Magi.

Immediately their classes for Monday finished, Harry’s attention turned to the meeting that evening with Dumbledore, and began to think once more about Snape. He knew that he should have to check his Transfiguration homework before he gave it in, for he felt sure he had included words such as ‘Snivellus’ or ‘traitor’ or ‘Death Eater’ as his mind wandered.

“Ice Mice.” Harry said to the Gargoyle that guarded Dumbledore’s office.

The Gargoyle moved aside to allow the wall to open, and Harry to walk onto the spiral staircase that ascended on its own. Taking a deep breath, he lifted the griffon shaped knocker, and knocked, slightly hesitantly, on the door.

“Come in.” Dumbledore’s voice said strongly from the room behind.

Harry pushed the door open, and walked inside. He noticed a couple of the portraits straighten up and pay closer attention, and others seemingly fall into deeper sleeps. Phineus Nigellus didn’t stir, or even snore a little louder.

“Ah, Harry,” Dumbledore said rather solemnly, “good. I understand that you have made considerable progress with the choice of a memory to protect yourself with.”

“Yes sir, but-”

“But that shall have to wait for now.” Dumbledore finished for him. “Harry, I have talked to Professor Snape. He has explained his reasons for his behaviour towards you, and whilst I understand them, I have warned him against behaving in such a manner again.”

Harry waited for a few seconds, but Dumbledore showed no signs of continuing to speak, and tell Harry what Snape’s reasons may have been, if they were that convincing.

“Why did he do it then? If it was something other than the fact that-” Harry stopped, something about Dumbledore’s gaze warned him not to speak his mind about Snape too freely.

Dumbledore sighed. “Please, take a seat.” He waited for Harry to do so before continuing. “I am aware that it has proven difficult for either of you to lay aside your differences, Harry, and that you naturally mistrust Severus after your most recent meetings, but consider this:

“Professor Snape discovered Lord Voldemort’s desire to meet with him less than an hour before the Welcoming Feast. I am sure you will quite understand that this discovery would, among other things, cause some trepidation to anybody, let alone a man who is attempting to spy on Voldemort.”

Harry said nothing, nor did he move an inch.

“Severus made a couple of, perhaps, slightly rash decisions, before he could consult with me about what was best to do. Among them was his premeditated behaviour towards you, and hence your confrontation as you walked up to your common room.”

“Where he tried to find out the Prophecy.” Harry burst out angrily.

Dumbledore’s slightly disappointed look stopped him from continuing. Harry suddenly noticed just how old and tired he looked. It was an impression of Dumbledore that he had had only rarely, and yet it had been increasing in regularity the more Harry had seen him, ever since their discussion after they had faced Voldemort.

“Where he saw the beginning lines to the Prophecy that Sybil Trelawney made about you and Voldemort, so many years ago. Tell me Harry, did you not wonder why Severus attacked you so obviously, and made no attempt to conceal the attempt to discover the Prophecy after he left your mind?”

“Yeah, I did. We all did. Hermione thought that it couldn’t mean that he was working for Voldemort, because it would have meant he’d given himself away. Remus agreed with her.”

Dumbledore made no comment about the information that Remus and Harry had been talking together. Harry supposed Moony must have told him something about the mirror.

“Your friend, Miss Granger, is quite right Harry. Severus did not perform Legilimency upon you for any benefit of Voldemort’s.”

“But you already know it!” Harry said. “How could finding it out be helping our side either?”

“It couldn’t.” Dumbledore told him, serenely. “At least, not directly. Harry, Professor Snape had no intention of seeing the Prophecy in its entirety.” He paused for a second. “Think of it like this. If the deed had been done in order to discover the Prophecy for Voldemort, then he would have gone about it differently. Even if he had performed a memory charm upon you upon its completion, you would have been questioned about your tardiness, and the truth would eventually have been discovered.

“If however he was continuing to work with the Order of Phoenix, then he would have been going against direct orders from me, seeing as I have told everyone who is aware of the happenings last year to avoid questions pertaining to the information inside the smashed globe. Doing so would mean that Severus would be questioning his own loyalty to our cause, and, as you said, served no purpose, seeing as I already know it.”

“Are you saying that he only ever meant to see the bit he already knew?” Harry asked doubtfully.

Dumbledore nodded. “It would have been the only logical explanation, even if I hadn’t questioned Severus myself.”

And of course, Dumbledore trusted Snape.

“But he was the one that told Voldemort the start of the prophecy. He was the one that sent him after us! Me and my parents! He is the reason-”

“He is one of the reasons that your father, who had once saved his life, and your mother, a Muggleborn witch, are dead, and that Voldemort, like so many tyrants before him, has named you as the second party in the Prophecy, and in so doing, has given you the motive, and the tools you need to successfully oppose him. Yes Harry, I am well aware of how Professor Snape has affected your life whilst in the service of Lord Voldemort.”

“But I saw him! He was kissing Voldemort’s feet! I saw him Thursday night, I had a vision. And I know it was true – it wasn’t a fake vision – I know it!”

“I am aware of what you saw.” Dumbledore said quietly. “I have already been informed by both Professor Snape and Remus Lupin as to the scene in which you found yourself.”

Snape had told him. He knew it: Snape had got his story in first, and now Dumbledore wouldn’t allow a word to be said contrariwise.

“But I was there – the things he was saying, the way he looked – he said it with such conviction. He called you a Muggle lover, and was horrified at the idea that he might be helping you.”

Dumbledore gave Harry a slight smile. “He has had to call me far worse to Voldemort before now, do not fear. You must understand that Professor Snape knows that if he makes the slightest mistake, is the smallest bit hesitant in any of his profusions, or is too quick or slow to make the correct move, then he will be discovered.”

“But… when Voldemort found out I was there… he was telling Pr- Professor Snape that they had to make sure that you believed he was still working for you.”

“Yes. Severus told me. Voldemort instructed him to relay some information to me which will result in a substantial achievement for our side. He also instructed Severus to tell me that it was because Voldemort wanted me to be sure he is still working with us.”

“But what if Voldemort told him to tell you that too?” Harry asked.

“Quite so, Harry.” Dumbledore said seriously. “You realise exactly how complicated this is. The three of us: Voldemort, Severus, and I; are involved in a supremely dangerous game, where the question of Severus’ loyalty is paramount, for I do not for a second believe that Voldemort trusts him yet.”

“And yet you trust him?” Harry said, in a voice which carried both disbelief and pleading. “Even after he caused Voldemort to kill Mum and Dad? Even after he caused Voldemort to try to kill me? Even after he has pledged his allegiance to Lord Voldemort again?

“Yes Harry, I trust him.” Dumbledore said firmly. “You are not the only one to see the evil in that action. It was that grievous wrong that he committed towards you and your family that perhaps first caused him to consider his loyalty to Voldemort, and his own morals and beliefs. As for where his allegiance lies – you know quite as well as I do that the only man who can say for certain is Professor Snape, and the rest of us have differing levels of trust, founded on differing levels of knowledge.”

Harry said nothing, but had an expression of deepest scepticism on his face. He knew he was being rude, but he didn’t care when he next opened his mouth.

“Well I’m sorry sir, but how can you expect me to trust him after the things he’s done without knowing any proof?”

There were sounds of dissent from the portraits in the office around them, but they fell silently immediately Dumbledore opened his mouth to say sharply.

“I have told you before, Harry that the reason I trust him is a matter between Professor Snape and myself.”

“Well, why did he want to see the start of the Prophecy if he already knew it then?” Harry said in frustration.

“I know how little you will like to hear it, but I cannot tell you much Harry. At present, as I have said, Professor Snape’s life hangs by a thread – he is a spy in Lord Voldemort’s ranks, and he is suspected. I repeat: Voldemort has not simply accepted him back. Severus is now forced to defend his mind without resorting to conventional Occlumency, or he knows that he will be killed. If anything was to come to his attention that might throw Severus’ loyalty into question, then we both know what that would mean. You must trust me, Harry, and be satisfied.”

“But what if you are wrong, sir? You and Voldemort are probably the two strongest wizards alive, and one of you has to be wrong.”

“Very true, Harry, and one might at first glance think that I am more trusting, and therefore more easily fooled, is that not so?”

Harry opened his mouth but didn’t say a word.

“It is a strange thing, perhaps, but for a clever man, it is easier to appear a loyal follower to a suspicious, perhaps even paranoid, mind, than to be a friend to somebody with similar intellect.”

Dumbledore smiled as Harry tried to work out the slightly cryptic statement. There was a slight pause.

“Professor? If my Occlumency improves, will you then tell me why you are so sure he isn’t a Death Eater?”

Dumbledore hesitated. “When you are able to protect yourself, I shall tell you as much as would be fair to his confidences Harry. You have my word. Until then, however, my assurances shall have to do.”

It wasn’t said in as many words, but Harry knew that any more questionings on the subject would not be kindly received. Dumbledore had humoured his impertinence for the last time. It was not necessarily the way he looked, or the inflections he placed on the words, or even the words themselves, but Harry got the message regardless.

“If it makes you feel slightly happier, then before you leave tonight, enter your memory of the vision last week into my Pensieve, and I promise you that I shall consider it thoroughly.”

“Yes sir. Thank you.”

“Maybe we can move onto Occlumency then; for you have been progressing excellently I hear.”

“I thought I was getting better,” Harry told Dumbledore, still feeling rather flattened by Dumbledore’s rebuttals to his questions about Snape, “but I’ve had two visions in the last week. Maybe I’m not improving at all.”

“Two?” Dumbledore questioned keenly.

“Yeah. I had one the night we came back here. I – I was having a nightmare, and then suddenly I was holding a wand at Bellatrix Lestrange, and was casting the Cruciatus curse. I don’t remember much about it.”

“Indeed?” Dumbledore asked, and he looked rather arrested by the information. “Were you perhaps thinking of Professor Snape and your altercation before you went to sleep?”

“Um, yeah.” Harry told him uncertainly. “Why?”

“You may be interested to hear, Harry, that Bellatrix Lestrange was the one delegated with the task of bringing Professor Snape before Lord Voldemort. It is possible that you were unintentionally performing Legilimency yourself, and the fact that both Voldemort and your train of thoughts were similar caused you to invade his mind.”

“So these things actually happened, and he really didn’t want me to know?” Harry asked. “They weren’t things he meant to show me, were they, like when he showed me the Thomases?”

“It is more than probable; as you are aware, Professor Snape was indeed in the company of Lord Voldemort on Thursday night - Friday morning, and Voldemort showed no signs of realising you were eavesdropping. Tell me – have you felt any pain in your scar since that night?”

“I – don’t think so.” Harry said, trying hard to remember. “But ever since we started these lessons in the summer it hasn’t been as bad. Why?”

“Then I would suggest that proves it. I imagine Voldemort has started to constantly employ Occlumency against you. I have no doubt that he would normally have sensed the intrusion of your thoughts upon his, but perhaps he had his attention firmly upon his meeting with Severus, and did not notice your presence.”

“So I don’t need to keep learning Occlumency?” Harry asked.

“No, I believe that you do. The fact that Voldemort has decided to prevent accidental intrusions from one of you into the other’s mind does not mean that he will not stage an intentional assault upon you.”

It certainly wasn’t a relief to Harry – that he should have to continue doing Occlumency, but in a strange sort of way, it would have been rather depressing if all of his work in the summer had been for nothing.

“Now. To business. Have you indeed decided upon your ‘Sanctuary’?”

“Yes sir.” Harry nodded. “It’s the Arch room, you know, in the Department of Mysteries.”

“Indeed?” An eyebrow raised, and Harry could sense that Dumbledore was slightly surprised. “May I ask why?”

“It’s… complicated. I’m not entirely sure why myself, it’s just… I know that it’s right. I suppose, it’s the memory I know best – I mean – I… was dreaming about it all summer, you know. It and Sirius. I just, I know everything about it. How high the steps are, how far the archway is from each door, how high the ceiling is. I, I’m sorry, I can’t explain it properly.” He looked away from Dumbledore, aware of how he had been rambling.

“No, please, go on.” Dumbledore invited him. “How, er, how exactly did you know this was the right memory to choose?”

“It was – I woke up before I had the vision of S- Professor Snape, after I’d had another dream. I was dreaming of the night Sirius died – he was duelling with Bellatrix Lestrange. I had seen it so often, and not been able to do anything to stop it, but this time was different, I stepped forward, cast a spell at her, and she and Sirius just disappeared. I just – knew – then.”

He looked back at Dumbledore who had a pensive look on his face. “It sounds stupid, doesn’t it?”

“Quite the opposite, Harry, quite the opposite. It reminds me, in fact, of the way that I came to my own decision.” He looked at Harry intently, and Harry got the impression that he was thinking hard about something which he hadn’t actually said. “No, I am very impressed Harry, very impressed indeed.”

“Really?” Harry asked, and his spirits rose slightly.

“Yes, I am extremely proud of you Harry, not least for the memory you have chosen, as for exactly how far you have come in such a difficult subject over these last few months. I know it will not go to your head, if I say that I very much doubt whether many other people your age could have progressed quite as well as you have. Let alone with the tribulations you have had to endure during this time, as well.

“Now.” Dumbledore continued, rubbing his hands together, and looking quite youthful all of a sudden, a remarkable turn around from earlier in their discussion. “Let us continue your training, and see just how far we can go.”

________________________________________
Chapter 15: Good News, Bad News

The rest of the week seemed to fly by to Harry. He was used to everything that the teachers expected of him by now, even Aravenne, who seemed to have devoted the lesson corresponding with each day of the week to a different thing, or at least, it followed the routine of the last week, with tactics followed by duelling, followed by defensive spells (and the wordless casting of them now), and offensive spells (again, including the non-verbal casting of them). With the Advanced subject, they seemed to have adopted a more normal approach, as they continued to learn new offensive spells.

In fact, one of the most unexpected things to happen that week was in Potions, where, although Snape gave Harry some particularly evil looks, he was almost friendly. Or at least, he left Harry alone and did not pick on him as he normally did. The way he did it, could have been construed as being viciously icy, but from the point of view of how Snape usually treated him…

He did break from this pattern once: during Tuesday’s lesson. As the double period wound down, Snape stepped forward from his patrol route to whisper, very quietly, in Harry’s ear.

“That is twice your inability to protect yourself from the Dark Lord has served me favourably Potter, but I do not wish to test my luck a third time. Do I make myself clear?”

Harry kept his head down and continued to work as if he had not heard him, while he debated as to whether he should answer, and if so, how. Snape however had retreated, solving the problem for him. Even when he came to check Harry’s antidotes for the poisons on offer this lesson, he made little comment, despite the fact that Harry’s potions proved to be just short of satisfactory once more. (One produced a faded blue; the other had a hint of green.)

There was a ripple of excitement that spread through the DA members late on in the week when Harry altered the figures on his coin to detail the time and date of the first meeting that year, and he had to be quite firm when each different person came to ask him about what they were doing.

“It’s like I said before.” He told a beaming Susan Bones, who had appeared in order to corroborate what she had heard from Ernie Macmillan earlier that day, one free period. “We’re going to have this one meeting to decide what we should do, and we’ll work from there. This doesn’t mean we’re definitely doing it. You may not want to when you hear what I have to say.”

“What?” Susan asked, her smiling face fading ever so slightly. “I know everyone in Hufflepuff is going to want to keep going with it Harry.”

“Look, let’s just wait until we can all talk together next week.” Harry said resolutely.

It was when the weekend came, however, that the big news hit. Hermione’s Daily Prophet arrived as usual that Saturday morning, and there was more than one excited voice in the Great Hall once the owls had been paid and sent back on their way by the recipients. Hermione spread the paper on the table so that Harry and Ron could read it.
Wizarding Britain decides! Rufus Scrimgeour Elected new Minister of Magic.

Below it was a subheading:
Head of the Auror Office Replaces Fudge as Ministry Supremo

As the final votes were tallied in secret this morning, anxious witches and wizards across the country waited with bated breath for the knowledge as to who exactly would be leading the fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, in the desperate struggle to keep their homes and children safe. This need was perhaps reflected by the voting, which led the highly respected defensive expert Rufus Scrimgeour to be called to power. His promises to safeguard our country proved to be enough to secure a narrow victory over leading other candidate Alexander Maguire.


The article then went on to detail the press conference held upon the news, including Scrimgeour’s assurances of speedy action to counter He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s continued assaults on the public (for latest details on recent attacks turn to page four), the defeated candidates’ belief that the important thing was to band behind the new Minister (despite some bitter comments from Maguire), and the exact details of the voting procedures, and the security measures that had been in place.

Harry noticed the article finished by mentioning that Fudge had been asked for a comment but had been nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t say he was surprised however, he imagined that Fudge must harbour a rather deep resentment towards the Wizarding world at the moment. Supposedly, unfortunately, he had been asked by Scrimgeour to stay on in an advisory role to smooth over the process of change of Minster. Harry couldn’t help but secretly hope that that was all it was, and Fudge had no hope of finding a cushy government job when that was finished.

“So he did get the job then.” Ron said approvingly. “Isn’t he the guy that Tonks and Kingsley wanted in?”

“Yeah.” Harry said, “I guess that seeing as they’ve worked under him already they ought to know if he’s any good or not.”

“His campaign promises sounded a bit unachievable.” Hermione said, removing her head from behind the paper which she had picked back up and begun to read more thoroughly.

“You mean you read all that rubbish they were spouting?” Ron asked.

Hermione sighed disapprovingly. “Yes, Ron, I did. Did you just want the candidate with the best name to win?”

“No!” Ron said defensively. “But it’s not like I had a vote, is it? I’ll just ask the people who did, and find out what they are like that way!”

She rolled her eyes. “But anyway, he seems to have the right idea about fighting Voldemort. There’s none of this um-ing and arr-ing of Fudge’s, but rather plans for action. He says here that he is planning a complete reshuffle of personnel in the Ministry, and that everyone will have to undergo intensive scrutinising.”

“I guess we better hope he listens to Dumbledore.” Harry said. “But he may be too pigheaded like Fudge was, or be scared of making hard decisions.”

“I would imagine he’d have to be able to make hard decisions.” Hermione told him, sticking her head out once more. “He was the Head of all the Aurors after all.”

“Since when did you get so suspicious, mate?” Ron asked.

“I’ve learnt to be wary of politicians.” Harry replied dryly.

“It’s about time we got someone elected though, isn’t it?” Ron said. “I mean, the Ministry’s been doing nothing for a month!”

“Yes, well we had to ma-” Hermione began, but she was interrupted by a shout of pain by Ron.

“OUCH! What was that f– Oh it’s Errol!” An old, decrepit looking owl had just pecked Ron rather fiercely. “I didn’t know you could still peck that strongly old thing.”

There were two letters tied to Errol’s leg, and Ron untied the one with his name on. Errol took flight once more, and landed at the other end of the table, next to Ginny. Ron glanced at the writing.

“Looks like it’s from Mum.” He told them, rubbing his arm. “She usually writes a bit sooner after we come back. I imagine she’s been busy.”

He unrolled the scroll and started reading it. As he did so, his eyes started to narrow, and Harry distinctly saw the words ‘No way’ form on his face.

“What is it Ron?”

Ron didn’t answer, and only when he reached the end did he enlighten Harry on what the matter was.

“Percy.” He said in disgust, stuffing the letter in his pocket.

“What has he done this time?” Harry asked apprehensively.

“He came knocking on the door of the Burrow three days ago, setting off all the intruder alarms and everything.”

“Well what happened?” Harry asked impatiently.

“He apologised. Supposedly.” Ron said as if he didn’t believe a word of it.

“Well, that’s good news, isn’t it?” Hermione cut in.

“Percy doesn’t admit he’s wrong.” Ron told her. “I bet you he got wind of the fact that Scrimgeour would bring his own people in, and he thinks he’s going to be without a job, so he wants Mum and Dad to take him in.”

“Come on Ron.” She said, as if he was being unreasonable. “Maybe he’s just sorry and it took him a while to get the courage to say so.”

“You didn’t hear him in the summer.” Ron said angrily. “Mum and Dad tracked him down to try and sort everything out. They thought that seeing as you and Dumbledore were proved right, Harry, he might come back home, and treat us all a bit more decently. But he yelled at them, and ended up threatening to call the Magical Law Enforcement Office to arrest them if they didn’t leave. Mum was in tears when she came back.”

“He didn’t!” Harry said furiously.

“He did. And don’t you remember what he wrote about Harry last year, Hermione? There’s no way he means it, I tell you – he’s just saying it to get back in with Mum and Dad in case he’s out of work.”

“Ron, he’s your brother.” Hermione said placatingly.

“Not after the things he’s done. He wanted nothing to do with us, so let him I say. Being a Weasley is more than just blood you know.”

“What did your parents say?” Harry asked.

“They accepted his apology.” Ron spat. “He’s going to be staying in the Burrow for a couple of weeks, and then will probably only spend weekdays in his own flat. I tell you, when I see him, I’m going to clock him one.”

Ron stood up, and stormed off, leaving his untouched plate. Harry half rose to follow him, but Hermione reached over the table to grab his arm.

“Let him go.” She advised him. “He just needs a bit of time to himself.”

“How come that’s a good idea for him, and yet it wasn’t for me in the summer?” Harry asked her, slumping back down again.

“Because you wanted more than just a bit of time.” Hermione told him gently. “He needs to think about it, and calm down. It’s a family thing, either one of us would just get in the way.”

Harry glanced towards Ginny, imagining her letter had similar information. She had obviously just seen Ron storm off, for she excused herself, and followed him.

“You know,” Harry said to Hermione quietly, suddenly finding his own food less appealing. “I kept thinking this summer that Percy was an idiot for not wanting a family like the Weasleys, and thought everything would be fine if he only apologised, but looking at Ron I dunno.”

“He just thinks that Percy has treated them all and you really badly, Harry, and he probably thinks that Percy should have had to do more than just say he’s sorry. It’s going to take a long time until Ron will trust him again. It’ll be the same for Ginny and the twins, and probably Bill and Charlie too. It’ll work out okay, Percy just needs to prove he’s sorry to them.”

“I hope you’re right.” Harry said glumly.

“I am. Trust me.”
________________________________________


Neither Ron nor Ginny wanted to talk about Percy, and Harry followed Hermione’s lead, and didn’t raise it himself. It was only when they were putting their finishing touches to the new DA members’ magical contract that Hermione mentioned it at all, and it was a quick conversation. Ron just grunted a ‘yeah’ to her entreaty to him to give Percy a chance, in case he did mean what he said. Surprisingly, to Harry, Hermione was willing to leave it at that for now.

They left the library, after returning the piles of books that they had withdrawn from the shelves, and Harry would have been quite happy not to see it again for the next couple of months. Rather than returning to Gryffindor Tower however, Hermione led them into a disused classroom, pulled out another piece of parchment, which looked exactly as it had looked when it had first been signed by the DA members, and as when Harry had last seen it, in Dumbledore’s office.

“I rescued it last year.” Hermione told them. “I summoned it from Umbridge’s office after Dumbledore had had to leave the school. Now hang on.”

Her face was racked with concentration for a moment or two, and she passed her wand over it, mumbling some words unintelligibly.

“There.” She said triumphantly. “Oh no, I almost forgot:”

She did something else with her wand, placed the parchment down in the middle of the room, and, without verbalising the incantation, lit it.

Ron watched the smokeless fire burn through it. “I wonder what the reaction is in Ravenclaw right now?”

“They might not have noticed.” Harry sniggered. “Marietta Edgecombe has so much make-up on, they might not know until this evening.”

Hermione had a glum expression on her face. “I put so much work into that, and now it’s gone.”

“Cheer up Hermione,” Ron said, “you got to make an even more devious one.”

“We did.” Hermione said. “Where on earth did you hear of that tracking charm Harry? Even Madam Pince had difficulty trying to find a book with it in.”

“Oh.” Harry said, he hadn’t told either her or Ron about the Marauders’ Map yet. “I was just talking to Moony – it’s a spell my father used a few times.”

It wasn’t a lie – he had been talking to Moony… and Padfoot, and Prongs. He had the sudden inspiration that they might have some suggestions as to possible charms to use, and it was his father’s younger self that had suggested the Vestigo tracking charm as a place to begin. They had used a version of it to map people onto parchment, and the fact that it worked was evidenced by their map.

Prongs seemed to have taken it for granted now that Harry was telling the truth, and he and Padfoot, backed up by Moony, insisted that although they couldn’t stop Pettigrew listening to things that were said, they could prevent him from writing. As a result, he could never betray Harry’s confidences, but they also assured him that the Wormtail they knew would never do that anyway. Although Harry wasn’t completely reassured by this, it had meant he had started to be less reserved in their discussions.

In fact, the way that Prongs had started to ask questions and show interest in Harry, it would have been hard for Harry not to talk about himself a bit more. It was remarkable how charming and persuasive he could be when he was talking about other people, and the bombshell that Harry had released – via Padfoot – had triggered it. On the other side of the coin, drawn love-hearts now appeared around the map if Harry used it, which invariably had J. P. and L. E. close by, showing two sides to James’ maturity.

It wasn’t that Harry didn’t trust either Ron or Hermione with the knowledge that the map wasn’t just a map, far from it. But he had a slight dread of what Hermione might say, or Merlin forbid, Ginny, if they found out he was talking to a magical object, and taking its advice. Even if it was something created by the Marauders. And there was something else… Harry knew it was slightly selfish, but he wanted to keep Sirius and his father to himself for now.

There was a bit of stir the next morning, when Cho Chang and Marietta Edgecombe walked through the Great Hall doors for breakfast. One person noticed the change, whispered to their neighbour, and pretty soon everyone was staring at Marietta’s face. It did not take long for the faces to turn to look at Hermione, Ron, and Harry, for the school knew (unofficially) that it had been Hermione’s doing in the first place.

Marietta was smiling happily, although she still didn’t seem to want to show her face too much, even though it was minus the spots. She sat down at the Ravenclaw table and immediately started talking to one of the girls already there. Cho, however, rather than sitting down, walked over to Harry, Ron and Hermione.

“Thank you, Harry.” She said rather breathlessly.

“What for?” He asked coolly. “We didn’t have much choice; we wouldn’t have removed the hex if it was possible. Anyway, it wasn’t me that removed it, it was Hermione.”

Cho looked rather taken aback. She glared at Hermione, to Harry’s right, before saying rather stiffly. “Thank you then.”

She turned back to Harry before Hermione could say anything. “ Marietta’s learnt from her mistake, Harry, I promise she won’t do it again.”

“I’d rather not have to find out.” Harry said shortly.

“We can still be friends though, can’t we?” Cho pressed.

Harry shrugged noncommittally. “I guess that depends on you. Are you going to introduce me to more people who want to betray us?”

Cho looked rather stricken. “I’m sorry Harry, truly I am. But I didn’t do anything! What did you expect me to do? Stop talking to someone I’ve known since I was six because she made a mistake? You want me to give up her friendship for you, Harry?”

“You be friends with whoever you want,” Ron said, “just don’t expect Harry to hang around people who like stabbing him in the back.”

Cho looked like she wanted to snap at Ron, but was holding herself back. She stood there for a couple of seconds, before turning back to Harry again.

“Can we still go to this DA meeting though? I mean, will you let us –”

“ Marietta isn’t wanted there.” Harry said stonily.

“But I can come? You won’t throw me out or anything.”

“I don’t know what everyone else will think, but I guess you can be there on Saturday.” Harry told her. “You’re the one who dragged Marietta along, aren’t you? I don’t know if people will want you there. But you can come along and see I guess.”

“I can?” Cho said, face brightening, “You won’t stop me coming? Thank you Harry.”

“I suppose we’ll see you Saturday then Cho.” Hermione said frostily, putting her arm around Harry.

Cho’s momentarily happy look vanished, and she muttered a hurried goodbye, and stormed away. Hermione removed her arm immediately Cho’s back turned, but made sure to glare at Cho as she sat down.

“What was that for Hermione?” Ron said grumpily.

“I just thought Harry might want a hand getting rid of her, that was all.” Hermione said, grinning wickedly.

Ginny wandered up to them a minute later, as Dean made his way out of the hall with Seamus. She sat down beside her brother.

“What was that all about?” Ginny nodded across to the Ravenclaw table.

“She wanted to thank us for getting rid of her friend’s zits.” Harry told her succinctly.

“That all, or have you and Hermione been hiding something from us all?” She grinned.

Harry sniggered, and Hermione answered her.

“Cho still has her eye on Harry, and, er, as Harry doesn’t return it, I scared her away.”

“That sounds like something I’d do, not you. I must be a good influence.” Ginny said cheerily. “So Edgecombe isn’t going around with ‘SNEAK’ written on her forehead anymore. Pity.”

The three of them spent the rest of breakfast explaining to her what exactly they had been doing for the last fortnight.
________________________________________


“Well, hi.” Harry said slightly awkwardly, looking around the Room of Requirement.

He felt a little silly as his eyes fell upon the faces of each member of the DA, sitting on settees and armchairs that the room had provided for them. He had been thinking about what he should say for days now, but he had neglected to consider how he would start it all off. The eyes of everybody in the room rested upon him, he had their complete attention.

“Um, well, as you know I wasn’t sure if we should keep this going this year or not. I told most of you that we should wait and see if the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher was any good.”

“He is.” Little Dennis Creevey piped up.

“But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing the DA.” His older brother, Colin, added.

“Yeah. That’s what most people said to me.” Harry admitted. “But that wasn’t the only reason I didn’t think we should keep it going.”

Harry paused. He knew what he ought to say, but was having trouble saying it.

“All of us learnt a lot from you last year Harry,” Ernie Macmillan began formally, “and I for one, think that we need to learn all we can if we are to have a chance to fight against You-Know-Who’s Death Eaters.”

There were murmurs of assent from the other people in the room. Zacharias Smith wasn’t one of them, but he was one of the few that weren’t. Hermione, Ron and Ginny didn’t, of course, because Harry already knew all too well what their decisions were going to be, and he had made them swear not to influence other people’s decisions. Beside Ginny, both Dean and Seamus were silent also.

“What you taught us last year meant we had some chance of fighting back against them.” Neville said, speaking up. “If you teach us more things we’ll have an even better chance.”

In a way, Harry was grateful Neville had spoken up, for it gave him an opening to start to explain.

He gave a lopsided smile to Neville, before turning to the room at large. “Thanks Neville. I guess you all know that Neville, Luna, Ginny, Hermione, Ron and me ended up fighting Voldemort’s Death Eaters after our O.W.L.s. You guys were amazing, and if the DA helped then I’m glad, but…” He took a deep breath. “I was the reason we were all in danger in the first place. It was my fault we went to the Ministry, and we walked straight into a trap of Voldemort. Even if I did help you with some of the spells, you wouldn’t have had to use them if it wasn’t for me.”

Nobody said anything, and Harry felt glad of it. It was strange, but actually admitting that it had all been his fault like that, and not hearing anyone object, made him feel a bit better. It was as if he had just unloaded a guilty conscience.

“Why?” A voice asked snidely – Zacharias Smith.

“Why was it my fault?” Harry replied. “I told you, I was tricked into going to the Ministry by Voldemort, and led us into a trap.”

Zacharias winced visibly at the name of Voldemort, but continued nonetheless. “Why did He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named want to trick you in the first place?” He asked, putting stress on the words used instead of Voldemort’s name.

“His name is Voldemort.” Harry said fiercely. “He wants you to be scared of his name, so if you want to fight against him, why do what he wants you to? If you don’t want to fight him, what are you doing here?”

Zacharias didn’t look away. “Why did he want to trick you?”

“Shut up, Smith.” Ron said hotly, “It’s none of your business.”

Zacharias bristled, but Harry cut in before an argument was started. “No, it’s okay Ron. You want to know why he wanted to trick me? He wants me dead. That’s why. He tried to kill me when I was a baby, he tried in first year, and the last two years. I’m still here. Do you really think he wants me to still be alive?”

“Fine. But why did he want to kill you when you were a baby then?”

“Now that is none of your business.” Cho Chang said angrily.

“Who asked you?” Michael Corner said just as furiously. “He has more of a right to be here than you. He wasn’t the one that told Umbridge about the DA, was he?”

“Nor was she, and I didn’t see you complaining after our Quidditch match against Gryffindor last year.” Terry Boot said acidly.

Harry wondered about what he was referring to, until he remembered Ginny mentioning that Cho and Michael Corner were going out when they were going home on the Hogwarts Express. Harry looked at Hermione in desperation. He couldn’t think of a thing to stop this degenerating into a brawl.

As soon as she took the hint, a whistle appeared in Hermione’s hand, and she blew it shrilly. All arguments stopped.

“I thought that when we founded the DA, it was to fight against Voldemort, not each other.” She said tartly. “How about we let Harry speak?”

She seemed quite unconcerned by the mutinous faces turned in her direction.

“Thanks Hermione.” Harry said gratefully. “Why did he want to kill me when I was an infant? Guess. That’s what I had to do ever since I found out. Does it really matter? He tried to kill me, and didn’t. No-one really knows for certain why not, but he’s going to want to kill me to prove it was a fluke, isn’t he?”

“But that’s the point, isn’t it?” Harry continued, before anyone could say a word. “Voldemort wants me dead, and he’s going to want anyone that’s friends with me dead too. If you all are part of the DA, he’s going to think that you’re my friend, so he’s going to go after you.”

“We’re all in danger anyway.” Hannah Abbott said. “That’s why we wanted to learn from you in the first place. None of us are going to side with You-Know-Who, so he’s going to want us all dead.”

“True.” Harry told her, “But think about it, for most people here, he hasn’t got any reason to go after you yet, has he? He’s at least as likely to go after other people. With the rest of you,” here he looked at Neville, Luna, Hermione and the two Weasleys, “if you were to quit the DA, and distance yourself from me, you’d be okay too.”

“Not going to happen.” Ron muttered audibly. Most of the people in the room seemed to agree with him.

“How is You-Know-Who meant to know if we’re doing the DA or not?” Susan Bones asked.

“The Slytherins. We know most of their parents are Death Eaters, don’t we? Well they know which of us were in the DA, and you know they’re going to find out if we’re still going, now they know we exist.”

Harry took another deep breath. “Look. If we are going to keep doing the DA, then all of you are going to be in danger from Voldemort. He might kill you, torture you, put you under the Imperius curse, and trust me; you don’t want any of those things to happen. He might even go after your family.”

Harry didn’t look at Dean. There was another silence as it sunk in.

“And if we want to fight him regardless?” Katie Bell asked.

“Then I guess we keep doing the DA.”

“I’d like to keep going.” Luna said from a corner.

“Me too.” Susan Bones added.

“You know we’re all with you Harry.” Ron said, indicating the five that had gone to the Ministry with him.

Harry grimaced inside. He had expected someone at least to leave. Time to play his last card.

“Hermione has a piece of paper.” He said carefully. “Anyone who wants to keep doing this should sign it, to say they promise to never help Voldemort.”

“Sure.” Dennis Creevey said eagerly.

“Hang on.” Zacharias said dubiously, as Hermione passed the parchment to Harry, and a self inking quill appeared in his hand. “Are we entering some kind of agreement we don’t know about, like before?”

Harry celebrated internally, but remained outwardly calm. “It’s as I said, if you sign this, you are promising to never help Voldemort, no matter what. Which means, among other things, that you’re saying you’ll never give any of us away to him, but also, that if you do anything to try and help him, anything at all, then this agreement will kick in.”

“It’s the intent that causes the jinxes to activate.” Hermione supplied.

“Jinxes?” Cho asked nervously, picking up on the use of the plural.

“What do they do?” Hannah Abbott demanded.

“One of them immediately tells Harry who set it off. The others… well, we don’t want to say in case someone thinks they can get around them somehow.” Hermione told them serenely.

“Don’t you trust us?” Lavender Brown said.

“Yes.” Harry told her. “But I trusted everyone last year too.”

Everyone turned to look at Cho again.

“Well I’m going to sign it now, because there is no way I’ll ever help Voldemort in any circumstances.” Harry told them all. “But I don’t expect any of you to, or even make up your minds straight away. We only have until ten here, or Filch might catch us up after curfew, but that gives you a bit of time to think about it, anyway.”

“What if You-Know-Who forces us to help him?” Anthony Goldstein asked.

“Then it will activate.” Harry told him. “Signing this promises that if he tortures you, you don’t tell him anything, if he uses the Imperius curse, you fight him, and if he tries to persuade you, you don’t listen. And trust me. It isn’t as easy as it sounds.”

“What if he goes after your family?” Seamus demanded from beside Dean.

“Then it will activate.” Harry told him, not looking at the person sitting to Seamus’ side. “I know it’s not-”

“Easy for you to say. You don’t have any family.” Zacharias said from across the room.

“No. I don’t.” Harry said angrily. “And you know why? Because Voldemort killed them. You know why he killed them? Because he wanted to. He didn’t have to kill them if he didn’t want to, but he did anyway. You think he’s going to make a deal with you so that your family isn’t hurt? Well he will, and then he won’t keep his end of the bargain. If Voldemort feels like killing someone, he’ll kill them no matter what promise he makes.”

“So you expect us to sign this parchment, so that we swear not to help You-Know-Who even if it means our family die?” The Hufflepuff said.

“Hey!” Ginny said fiercely. “In case you didn’t notice, it was Harry that was saying he didn’t think we should keep doing this.”

“Pass me the parchment Harry.” Ron said, glaring at Zacharias. “I want to sign it.”

“Well I don’t.” Anthony Goldstein said, standing up. “I’m sorry Harry, it’s not that I don’t want to fight him or his Death Eaters, but I’m not putting my family in danger.”

“It’s okay.” Harry told him. “I don’t want to put them or you in danger either, but I was persuaded that it was your choice to make, not mine.” He looked towards Ron and Hermione without even realising it.

“I’m sorry.” He repeated, and then walked out the door.

“If anyone else wants to go, I don’t blame you.” Harry told the room at large. “I probably would in your situation.”

“The people I care about are already in danger.” Susan Bones said slowly. “If I can learn to protect myself and them better, then it’s worth it.”

“I agree Susan, well said.” Ernie said pompously.

“I need to think about it some more.” Padma Patil said. “You said we have until ten, right?”

And so began a period of muttered conversation, and general quiet, which, to Harry’s shock, resulted in not one of them deciding to follow Anthony Goldstein out the door, not even Zacharias Smith, Cho Chang, or Dean Thomas.

“Okay.” He said, as the last person (Zacharias) put quill to paper. “I th-”

“Harry?” Hermione interrupted. “Can I?”

“Sure.” He said, sitting back down.

“Okay. Can everyone give me their Galleon?” She asked. “I had better redo the charm so that neither of the other coins work. It’s safer that way.”

“When are we going to meet next then?” Ernie asked.

“Shall we say eight next Saturday?” Harry suggested.

People started to file solemnly out of the door, and made their way back to their common rooms. Dean looked loath to go, and in fact told the people around him (Seamus, Ginny, Lavender, and Parvati Patil) to go without him. Getting the feeling Dean wanted to say something to him, Harry told Ron and Hermione to likewise meet him later. When they were the last two people in the room, Dean approached.

“Look, Harry.” He began and then stopped.

Harry stood there feeling awkward. He had no idea what Dean was going to say. If he were Dean he’d probably hate his, Harry’s, guts, but yet Dean was now on the Quidditch team with Harry, and he even wanted to keep on with the DA.

“Harry.” Dean tried again. “I’m sorry mate, I know it’s not your fault. You didn’t ask You-Know-Who to attack Mum and A-”

“You don’t need to apologise.” Harry interrupted. “I may not have asked him to, but he did, anyway.”

“Yeah, well you’ve done nothing wrong.” Dean said determinedly, “All you’ve done is stay alive when he tried to kill you. I just want to say I’m with you. I’m not going to give V- Vol,” he looked frustrated, and screwed himself up in a tremendous effort, “Voldemort what he wants.”

Harry didn’t know what to say. He had always liked Dean, and it seemed that Dean really took him seriously, if that sentence Harry had said to Zacharias Smith had caused Dean to not only forgive him, but also say Voldemort’s name.

“Thanks.” He decided upon finally, and added quite honestly. “I don’t know if I could have said that.”

Dean gave a small grin. “Yeah you could, it’s just getting the guts to say it. It’s taken me since before the Quidditch tryouts.”

Harry laughed, suddenly feeling extremely happy.

“There’s something else Harry.” And Dean looked awkward once more. Harry wondered if he had been trying to say this for weeks as well.

“Last Christmas, in our dorm… You had a dream, didn’t you? Where you saw Ron’s dad being attacked. At least, that’s what you said. And he was attacked, wasn’t he? Was it You-Kn- Vol- Voldemort?”

Harry said nothing. He didn’t know what to say, and that much was obvious just by looking at him.

“It’s just,” Dean continued, suddenly scared, “I was wondering, after what you said in the train, if Ginny didn’t tell you… did you… did you see what happened, what happened to- to my family?”

The happy feeling in Harry’s stomach had suddenly been replaced by nausea. His mouth opened and closed but nothing came out of it.

“I need to know what happened, Harry. They Obliviated Mum, and Lucy and David, all I know is that they were attacked. What happened? What did he do to them? You saw it, didn’t you?” Dean pressed.

Harry sat down in a chair, which appeared behind him as he fell backwards.

“Yes.” He muttered. “Some of it.” He looked up, and added, painfully. “But please, don’t tell anyone.”
________________________________________


Dean’s wish to know what had happened surprised Harry slightly. He personally had not wanted to witness his parents’ death at the hands of Voldemort, when he had had it forced upon him. It wasn’t something he wanted to go through again either, and yet Dean had wanted more and more details, as if he was storing them up inside, so he knew exactly what Voldemort and his Death Eaters had done. Perhaps it was because Voldemort had never done anything directly to Dean? Harry, of course, seemed to have had little but things done to him by Voldemort since he learnt about the Wizarding world.

By the time they had finished their conversation, it was well past the time they were allowed to move around in the corridors, but they managed to avoid Filch and Mrs Norris on the way back to Gryffindor Tower – although they did run into Crookshanks once. Most people had gone to bed when they came back, although Hermione and Ron were both still up, as were Seamus and Ginny, all of them with rather enquiring gazes. Harry and Dean both grinned at them, but didn’t elaborate on what they had talked about, but rather professed tiredness and a wish for bed.

When Harry next went to Dumbledore’s office, as the next week started, he fully expected to continue working on places to store his memories in the vicinity of the Arch room, and in particular the area of naming the places the memories were stored. As Harry found out when Dumbledore had begun to seriously probe his mind, his cupboards had been named a bit too descriptively to fool anyone. He was quite right, in that they did begin to tackle this problem, but not however, before Dumbledore produced another piece of news.

“I assured Madam Bones and Rufus Scrimgeour, our new Minister, that I would give you this.” He told Harry, passing him a scroll with the Ministry’s seal upon it. “I fancy you may consider it both good news, and yet a cause for slight apprehension.” He continued, as Harry opened it.
Dear Mr Potter,

Further to our discussion on the seventeenth of July, I am writing to inform you that the inquest into the alleged innocence of Sirius Black has now commenced. As part of our investigation, we shall require you to give testimony on Saturday the ninth of November at eleven a.m. Following discussions with the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, and your magical guardian, Headmaster Dumbledore of Hogwarts School, he shall escort you to the appropriate room, where he shall interrogate you with the use of Veritaserum, as agreed.

Yours sincerely,

Amelia Bones, Head of Magical Law Enforcement Office.


“So this is our chance to clear Sirius?” Harry asked.

“It is.” Dumbledore nodded. “I might add that I believe our chances of success are high indeed. The public wish at the moment to hear that the problems in Cornelius Fudge’s, and other previous regimes are being put right, so it is in Minister Scrimgeour’s interest to find Sirius innocent.”

“But we have to make sure that Sirius stays innocent.” Harry said, slightly worried. “If people think it is just a political thing, then they might not believe it.”

“Precisely. There is also, of course, the fact that Madam Bones has little patience for the manipulation of justice for politics’ sake, which means that we shall nevertheless have to be convincing. However, thanks to your quick thinking when it came to who could ask you questions whilst undergoing Veritaserum, I believe we can prove his innocence without a shadow of a doubt, and without reference to certain delicate subjects which may have otherwise cropped up.”

“What will I have to do?” Harry asked.

“Very little.” Dumbledore assured him. “I shall ask you questions, which you shall be compelled to answer, and seeing as you will not be able to hear anybody else’s words, there is thus little for you to worry about. I shall escort you to the Ministry of course, and shall be with you the whole time, so there is little reason for you to concern yourself.”

“The ninth of November though?” Harry said, rereading the letter. “That’s over a month away, why is it taking so long?”

“Yours will be the last piece of evidence that is collected, Harry. They shall first be re-examining the evidence at the trial, and new evidence that has come to light regarding his activities since his escape from Azkaban. Kingsley shall be of great help there, seeing as he was the man in charge of the hunt for Sirius. It is indeed a while until your interview, Harry, but a little foreknowledge is never a bad thing.”

“When will they make up their mind do you think?” Harry asked.

“I would have thought that we shall know before a fortnight will have passed. Now that that knowledge has been communicated, perhaps we can return to the main reason you are here. Occlumency.” Dumbledore said, smiling.

To Harry’s disappointment, it appeared that the names of the areas of storage was something else that Dumbledore wanted him to decide to himself, so he had no sooner had one revelation than he needed another. They did, however, agree that the only conceivable areas to store the memories were behind the doors. Seeing as there were not enough doors in the original room for this purpose, Harry thought back to the dream in which he had had his epiphany, and had another bright idea.

“What if each of the doors I go through lead me into a different room that looks the same, until there is enough space to fit each type of memory in?” He asked Dumbledore.

“Good Harry, good. Now, what problems might this create that you need to work out?”

Harry thought for a bit. “I suppose I’d almost be making a maze, so I’d need to make sure I could find my own way around really easily.”

“How would you do that?”

“I suppose I could learn my way around, kind of like making a map.” Harry suggested, shooting a glance at Dumbledore.

“You could, but where would you store your memory of the routes to take?” Dumbledore asked.

“Oh.” Harry said. “I didn’t think of that. So… what you mean, is I need to find my way around in a way other than just simply memory?”

“Exactly!” Dumbledore said jubilantly. “And how can you do that?”

“I dunno.” He thought for a bit. How could he find his way around? He’d almost need signposts. He groaned. “It’s the markings I decide to put on the doors, isn’t it? I need to find something that I associate with the right way to go, and that someone else wouldn’t.”

“Correct.” Dumbledore said, his beard twitching as if he could feel the indignation coming from Harry, and found it rather amusing.

“But why couldn’t you have just told me that?” Harry complained. “I mean, we were just talking about that, I know I have to find out how to mark them.”

“I could have told you.” Dumbledore agreed. “But some lessons are best learnt on your own. As I said when we began our time together, I will not tell you what to do, but rather point you in the right directions to take. Besides, the thought process needed to work things like this out is just as important to know as the answer. So, can you perceive any other problems that might arise with your different rooms?”

By the time Harry left Dumbledore’s office, his head was aching. Since they had reached Hogwarts, the lessons had turned into sessions that demanded use of logic and more logic, and while Dumbledore pointed him towards possible mistakes in his thinking, he was never actually told them directly, until he discovered them himself. He wasn’t sure why it popped into his head, but it occurred to him, that Hermione might love the subject of Occlumency if she were to learn it.
________________________________________


September started to fail, as did the last of the sunny weather, which meant that Harry’s attention soon moved onto the first Quidditch match of the year: the early November match against Slytherin. With just a month to go, Ron was fast becoming as cruel a taskmaster as they had had as a Quidditch Captain. Only Oliver Wood had arranged more training sessions a week as far as Harry could remember, and that was only in third year, where it had been the Keeper’s last chance to win the Quidditch Cup. This was Ron’s first game of the season.

Ron’s reasoning, and Harry had to admit that it was valid, was that most of the team had never played together, and Ron placed great importance on teamwork. Despite the added sessions, there was no risk that they might get sick and tired of training drills, however, for the fact they had reserves proved to be an important addition to their training sessions: Ron was actually able to recreate match situations for his players, and get the Chasers and Beaters combining exactly as he wanted. They would also often stage a practice match as well.

As for Harry’s lonely role as Seeker, having another person trying to catch the Snitch gave him far better match practice than ever before. He would almost always beat Emily Crowley to the Snitch, but from the point of view of pure flying ability, she was good. It was his Firebolt, and added experience that gave him the edge, but she was learning fast.

Ron’s passion for teamwork came to the fore here too, as he set the Beaters and Seekers together, so that the Beaters could, by one successful move, give the Seeker the chance they might need to catch the Snitch. There was one move that Ritchie Coote performed while protecting Emily, which caught Harry in the ribs with a Bludger. Luckily, Harry had seen it coming at the last second, and rolled with the hit, so that his ribs were just a little tender, rather than broken. He had a feeling Madam Pomfrey might try to ban him from Quidditch entirely if he had to see her after Quidditch practices as well as matches.

“Nice one.” Harry called to the Beater, wincing.

Ritchie grinned. “Give me the chance, and I’ll get Malfoy for you when we play them. You knew it was coming, he won’t – let’s see him take the hit.”

“Do that, and you’ll be my friend for life.” Harry told the younger Gryffindor. “Hit him in the head, and you’ll be in my will!”

Ritchie winked as Emily Crowley grasped the Snitch in her hand, far above them. “I’d nail him for free, but thanks.”

Harry, Emily, and the four Beaters took up their positions once more, and began the practice again. This time, the first year was forced away thanks to Seamus’ well aimed bludgeon, although she avoided any physical contact. Harry knew that Dean in particular felt a little guilty at smashing a Bludger at someone so much younger than him, but opposition Beaters in a match wouldn’t, so she had to get used to it.

Ron meanwhile was leading the Chasers in a practice designed to encourage manoeuvres such as the Loganstock’s Leap that he had alluded to when given the captaincy. Unfortunately, Romilda Vane was still pretty hopeless, and Ron wanted to organise at this point in time, rather than play as Keeper. That would come later in the training session. Still, the Chasers seemed to have built up a good relationship with each other, even the reserves.

Before their first Quidditch match, however, was Halloween, and before that, was their first Hogsmeade weekend. Fred and George had written to Ron to suggest that they all meet up over a drink in the Three Broomsticks, seeing as they needed the break from work. Harry didn’t believe it. He imagined that there could be only one reason they wanted to meet up, and that was on an order from the Order to look after Harry. Hermione suggested they wanted to talk about Percy to Ron and Ginny, which was, he acknowledged finally, another possibility.

Ginny, however, quickly told them that she probably wouldn’t be there, as she and Dean were planning to do something. Again, this could mean one of two things. Either she didn’t want to talk about Percy, or else, and Harry had a suspicion that this could be closer to the truth, she didn’t want to be near her brothers, whilst going out with her boyfriend. Not only might her brothers be a little protective of Ginny, but Fred and George in particular, would tease her mercilessly in front of Dean.

No, she and Dean would likely go to Madam Puddifoot’s, Harry thought, wincing slightly as he thought of the place. Still, even if Cho still fancied him as Hermione said, at least she hadn’t suggested going out to Hogsmeade, and that accursed place, together again. He half wondered if the cherubs and confetti that he remembered so well were a Valentine’s Day only thing, or if they happened to be resident throughout the year.

Still. He was looking forward to seeing Fred and George again, whether they were only there because Dumbledore wanted to protect Harry or not. He thought he might, if given the chance, ask exactly what they had done to use the map in the first place. He was interested to see what tests they had had to pass to get his father and friends to trust them. Unfortunately, that time was a long way away, although the things they were doing before it were definitely interesting.

During this time, for example, they had the matter of Apparition lessons, as well as Defence Against the Dark Arts, and the other lessons, to do. Harry found the advertising for the Apparition lessons quite ironic. Ministry of Magic posters screamed at them that Apparition could be the most important defensive technique to use when He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s Death Eaters came calling, and yet in small writing on each of the lists students could sign to indicate they wished instruction, was written: ‘Cost 12 Galleons’. Hermione and Ron both told him he was being cynical, but Harry found it hard to trust the Ministry to actually look out for the people it represented after last year, even if Fudge had gone, and a new Minister had arrived in his place.

They had had two Apparition lessons before the Hogsmeade trip, and after them, only Hermione seemed to be showing much progress, and even she still splinched herself regularly (which Harry found out wasn’t actually as painful as it had sounded to him when described by Mr Weasley). She assured them it was just a matter of concentrating hard enough, and Harry made a mental note to try some of his Occlumency techniques when they next had a lesson.

Harry was finding his Occlumency techniques were coming in handy in a lot of situations in fact. His attempts to become a Magi in Defence Against the Dark Arts were fast improving as a result of their usage, and in Potions, they were remarkably successfully at helping him ignore Snape. That wasn’t quite the problem it once was however, and Harry imagined that it was because of the words Dumbledore had had with Snape after the start of the school year. After all, if Snape was a Death Eater, Voldemort had probably ordered him to obey Dumbledore’s orders to the letter when it came to Harry, hadn’t he?

They were of no help whatsoever in Charms mind, for practical Charms lessons tended to be the best place to have a discussion without being heard, and Harry by no means had the mental discipline to resist that yet. It was a shame, because they were continuing to learn charms that could be used in practical first-aid situations, and they remained as complicated as ever, even if Hermione had now progressed to be streets ahead of anyone else.

Likewise in Transfiguration, although Harry suspected that the subject may just be too complicated for him with or without the techniques he used to help his concentration. Still, his wish to become an Auror looked like it might succeed or fail on both Transfiguration and Potions, so he struggled gamely on. As for Herbology – well – he would never have the green fingers of a Neville, but he was getting through it. To be fair, no-one in the class had the abilities of Neville when it came to Herbology, he seemed to have some strange ability to quieten any vicious plant he was around, and get any plant to do whatever he wanted.
________________________________________


The Saturday of the Hogsmeade weekend came finally, and when they eventually got through the increased security, they set off towards the bigger of the two pubs in Hogsmeade. Ron complained bitterly about Filch and the delight he took in prodding and poking them with all manner of different security equipment.

“Honestly!” He told them. “What does it matter if we were to smuggle Dark stuff out of Hogwarts, wouldn’t that be a good thing anyway?”

Harry and Hermione allowed Ron to continue complaining for most of the walk to Hogsmeade, grinning at each other as he did. When they reached the Three Broomsticks, they had to struggle rather to get inside. It was absolutely packed.

“Funny, isn’t it?” He said to Hermione and Ron. “I’d have thought that now they know Voldemort’s about, people wouldn’t want to be out that much, but I can’t see a free table.”

“Yes,” Hermione said back quietly, “it is a bit. But maybe the fact that Voldemort is back means that they feel they need a drink.”

Harry looked at her. She raised her eyebrows but said nothing else.

“Fred and George aren’t here yet.” Ron told them, ignoring the conversation. “Look, those people are going, let’s sit down quick, before someone else gets the table.”

They squeezed through to the table, and sat down, beating a group of Ravenclaw fourth years to it. They scowled at them, but quickly turned away, looking for another table.

“Sorry guys, but we got here first.” Ron called to them quickly. “Shall one of us get the drinks, while the other two sit here?”

“I’ll go.” Harry said hastily. “Three Butterbeers?”

“Not like we can have anything stronger is it? Madam Rosmerta would never serve us. Hermione could though, she’s of age.”

“No, all I fancy is a Butterbeer anyway.” Hermione said complacently.

Fred and George didn’t take long to show up, wearing clothes designed to get attention. It didn’t look like they were wearing Dragon hide this time, but their outfits were still ridiculously shiny, and probably had a chance of blinding you if you looked at them in bright sunlight. Before long, they were sitting at the table with Harry, Ron and Hermione, but with a couple of large glasses containing a honey coloured concoction.

“What’s that?” Ron asked them eagerly.

“Madam Rosmerta’s own mulled mead. It’s good – try some.” Fred offered.

Hermione declined with a face of stiff disapproval, but Ron and Harry eagerly accepted. As soon as he took a sip, a warm sensation spread down Harry’s throat, and into each of his limbs. He suddenly found himself feeling a lot more relaxed. He had never experienced a taste like it before, but he enjoyed it immensely.

“It is good.” He said, returning the glass to George.

George winked at him. “Sure you won’t have any Hermione? I tell you, it’s better than most of that Muggle stuff.”

“Quite sure.” She said shortly.

“Who’s looking after your shop?” Harry asked, feeling sure that they would not have closed it, with their love of making money.

“Verity’s looking after it.” Fred told him. “She’s got a good business brain that one.”

“And she’s a bit of a looker.” George supplied.

“True.” His twin mused. “Oops, sorry Hermione.” He smirked at her expression of exasperation.

“Shop’s going well then?” Ron asked.

“Well, given that you are looking at the Entrepreneurs of the Month, according to the Daily Prophet’s business section, you could say that.”

“You’re joking.” Ron said, impressed.

“Not at all Ron, we gave our interviews yesterday. Now we’re just going to have to decide where to put the certificate without harming our shop display window.”

“You gave an interview to the Daily P-”

“Look, Harry.” Fred interrupted. “You didn’t want any of the publicity that Skeeter woman gave you – we do. We want to make a statement to the public, make sure everyone knows about us: the more outrageous the interview the better. Plus we threw in some of our insights into You-Know-Who too. That’s sure to get us publicity. Maybe even move us into the main paper rather than the business section.”

Ron and Harry laughed, but Hermione looked rather worried. “You didn’t? Voldemort won’t let you get away with that, he’ll come after you, you do know that?”

“You sound like our mother.” George laughed. “If you’re scared stiff of saying or doing anything, then what’s the point of living? So what if he wants to come after us? It means he isn’t going after other people like you guys then, doesn’t it? Don’t worry about us – we have plenty of plans made if we need them.”

“You sound like Harry.” Hermione said in irritation. “If they come after me, then other people are safe.”

“Well it’s true.” Fred said. “And you won’t make us change our minds Hermione, so drop it. The interview’s done anyway. Oh! Speaking of the shop, take a look at this, one of our newer inventions.”

He laid a gold locket on the table. The three of them eyed it carefully. They touched it, poked it, and prodded it gingerly, but none of them wanted to open the unknown item.

“What is it?” Ron said cautiously.

“Well we haven’t decided on the name of it yet. We were thinking of calling it The Amulet of Love, but that’s just a name that we’ve thrown about. A beauty, isn’t it?” Fred said.

“What does it do?” Hermione asked, just as suspiciously as Ron.

“Open it and have a look and see.” George said mischievously.

“No way. I haven’t only just met you two you know.” Ron and Harry shook their heads vehemently too.

“Fine.” George sounded disappointed. “When you look into the amulet, if you really fancy someone – not just a small thing mind – but really fancy them, then their face appears on the mirror inside.”

“What then?” Hermione asked.

“Well, at the moment, the image fades away once the amulet is closed, but we’re considering making it permanent. We’re going to make it part of our ‘Sixteens and Over’ section, where we have the love potions and things. It has a double appeal you see, I mean, how romantic is it to see your own face magically appear in your true love’s locket? And if it doesn’t…” George said.

“Well, that has a different appeal, doesn’t it?” Fred finished. “Here, give it a go.”

“Not until you two use it first.” Hermione said firmly. “I want to make sure it fades.”

Fred and George smiled knowingly at one another. “Seems a touchy subject for you Hermione, don’t you want the people at this table to know or something?”

Hermione went a shade of pink.

“Well, Fred, if one of us has to do it, you’d better. I am alas single, and-”

“Have your eye on more than one person.” Fred finished with a grin. “Right-o, pass it over here Hermione.”

Hermione pushed it towards him without picking it up. Fred rubbed his hands, opened it, and then without a trace of embarrassment, showed them the girl whose face adorned the mirror.

“Verity.” He said promptly, closing the lid, and passing it to Hermione. “Your turn now, Hermione.”

Picking it up, and holding it close to her so that no-one could see, not even Ron, who was craning his neck rather, she opened it up briefly, looked at the reflection, went red, and closed it again quickly.

“Well it works.” She said hastily, trying to recover herself, and handing it to Harry.

Harry swiftly handed it to Ron, who just as quickly handed it back to George.

“Cowards.” Hermione scoffed in disgust. “How did you do it?” She asked the twins.

“Trade secrets.” They said together, George tapping his nose.

“Honestly Hermione,” Fred continued, “I don’t know why you don’t want us to know, I mean, we’re quite aware who everyone at this table is after already.”

“Oh you are, are you?” Hermione asked fiercely, suddenly looking quite ferocious.

“But we may be wrong about you.” George said hastily.

“And we would never dream of telling anyone, even if we aren’t.” Fred added.

The twins then both proceeded to wink at Harry as they drained their glasses, quite undoing any backtracking they had achieved.

“Fancy a walk?” Fred suggested. “Have a look around Hogsmeade, you know, seems an age since we were last here.”

The five of them squeezed out of the crowded pub, and set off down the less populated road, looking in the windows of the shops, but not stopping to buy. It looked like Ron might have been waiting for the added privacy.

“Have you two seen Percy yet?” He asked the twins.

“Yeah. Arrogant prat that he is.” Fred replied shortly.

“I don’t think Dad would have let him back in the house if it wasn’t for Mum.” George told them. “She’s the only one that seems happy about the whole thing.”

“Do you want Hermione and me to go, and let you guys talk?” Harry said, feeling awkward, and remembering what Hermione had said about non-family members getting in the way. “We can meet up again later.”

“What?” George asked uncomprehendingly. “Of course not, you two are as good as family to us, you have a right to know too.”

Harry glanced at Hermione, who for some reason had gone slightly red again. She looked rather pleased to be thought of as part of the family. Now that the summer was over, Harry was rather pleased too.

“Percy didn’t mean his apology.” Fred told them definitively.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Ron said. “I thought he wanted someone to fall back on in case he was fired.”

“No, I mean we know he didn’t mean it. He isn’t behaving like Percy at all. We know what he’s like when he’s made a mistake, and apologises for it. He doesn’t like admitting he’s wrong, so he does, or did, things to make up for it in other ways. It’s like he does things so that he feels he’s made up for it, without other people noticing, so he doesn’t have to say he’s wrong. That’s just what Percy does.”

“But now it’s like he’s making it as obvious as possible to help Mum and Dad, and Bill and Charlie, and even us when we showed our faces in there.” George continued. “I mean, he even offered to help test our stuff! That is not Percy. That just isn’t the way he does things. Ron’s right, he only apologised because he wanted something else. He’s still junior Undersecretary at the moment, but maybe you're right, and he is worried about what would happen if he was fired.”

“Maybe if he thinks you didn’t notice the things he did to make up for mistakes before, he feels he has to make it really obvious this time.” Hermione suggested timidly. “What if he actually is sorry?”

By now they had reached the end of the street, and were in fact walking towards the Shrieking Shack, but nobody suggested they turned around. The thing they were talking about could do with a bit of privacy.

George shook his head. “He keeps saying he’s sorry, but that isn’t like him either. Something stinks about it, and we intend to find out what. After the things he said about Mum and Dad and Harry, we’re not going to let him get away with anything else.”

“Did you use him to test some of your products?” Ron asked hopefully.

“Course we did. No way we could do anything that might have been too dangerous though, not with Mum around.” Fred said regretfully.

“What’s happening with him and the Order?” Harry asked, slightly anxious.

“We’re keeping him as far away as possible.” George said. “He knows nothing about anything that goes on, hasn’t got a clue about Grimmauld Place, or where we go for the meetings or anything. Mum doesn’t want any of the family in the Order anyway, and the rest of us want him nowhere near anything important. He knows a couple of people that are in the Order, but then he did anyway, before he started this whole thing.”

“Remus came over for dinner the couple of times we were there, and Percy was polite to him and all, but that’s about it.” Fred told him. “But let’s not spend your day in Hogsmeade talking about that git. How’s the new Quidditch team going you two?”

“Oh thanks.” Hermione said dryly.

“Well you aren’t on it, are you?” George said. “So, have you replaced everyone okay?”

The Quidditch talk didn’t last long however. Behind them was the sound of screaming and yelling, that caused the whole group to whip around in horror. High over the village of Hogsmeade, sat the Dark Mark.

All four of the male contingent in the group swore loudly.

“What’s going on?” Ron asked.

“How are we meant to know Ron?” Fred snapped.

He and George were fumbling in their pockets. They withdrew what looked like two small black, plastic coins. Tapping them with their wands, they quickly reached up, and inserted them into their right ears, where the coins moulded themselves to fit snugly in the ear hole.

“What’s going on?” George said.

“How are we meant to know?” Ron snapped back.

George put his finger to his mouth to indicate silence, and then both twins turned their backs.

“It must be those things they invented to talk over distances.” Hermione whispered.

The twins turned back to them.

“Death Eaters appeared in Hogsmeade and set the mark up, there’s fighting, but no casualties or anything yet. Just a lot of people panicking. Moody wants us to take you guys back to the castle. Good thing we went for a walk.”

“Where are they?” Harry asked quickly.

“Near Scrivenshaft’s, you know, that quill shop.” Fred said grimly.

“Scrivenshaft’s?!” Ron asked in alarm. “Isn’t that near Madam Puddifoot’s?”

“Ginny!” Harry and Hermione yelled together.
________________________________________


A/N: Okay, you knew I'd throw in a cliff hanger somewhere, I'm sure... ;) I'm not a big fan of them to tell the truth, because I think they're overused, but now and again is okay, and this was a good time to stop... hehe... I know this chapter was a bit quiet, but next chapter will hopefully more than make up for it for those people who like action. (Now that I'm trusted I'll try and keep updating once or twice a week until I've published all that I've written)

What else... Oh yeah, I think I had better return to the question of HBP, and my own work. I can quite honestly say that apart from one or two very minor things (as in minute references), the only things I have used that weren't originally in are the names. Rufus Scrimgeour, for example,was previous named Maguire, who is now his nearest competitor. The only problem is, I wanted him in law enforcement, and in a high up position (I chose Head of Aurors). Once I found that Rufus Scrimgeour was head of the Auror Department, I had no choice really - I'm trying to keep it as true to the universe as possible. I already owned up to grabbing the Quidditch players names, but even Cormac McLaggen was in as a different name (and size!),- as a way to give Ron respect as team captain. Everything in this is my own work, I promise.

________________________________________
Chapter 16: The Essence of Karma


“What?” The twins demanded.

“Ginny and Dean were going to Madam Puddifoot’s.” Hermione explained quickly.

“What?” They shouted again. “We’re going to help. You lot can see yourselves back to the castle.”

The twins disappeared with a loud crack. Harry and Ron looked at each other, sharing the same thought. As one, they started sprinting towards Hogsmeade.

“Guys, wait!” Hermione yelled from behind them.

Harry and Ron stopped, and turned around. Hermione was running to catch up. Harry and Ron shared another look.

“Look-” Hermione began.

“Hermione.” Ron said. “This is my sister that’s in danger here. I’m not going back to the castle to wait and see if she’s okay, okay?”

“I don’t expect you to. And even if I did, there’s no way I can force you there.”

“Thank you. Now if you don’t mind.” Ron turned to continuing running, but Hermione continued talking.

“But we’re not going to be any help to anyone if we just run in there and get attacked ourselves.”

“So what do you suggest? Wait here until they come to us?” Ron said fiercely.

“Of course not Ron, but if we’re going to help Ginny we have to stay out of sight for as long as possible. And…” She hesitated. “If the Order see us we won’t be able to do anything either. You do know that, right?”

“Damn.” Harry muttered, more to himself than anything. “I’m not going anywhere without my Invisibility Cloak from now on.”

His mind had started to race as he tried to work out what they should do. “Hermione, you don’t know how to do disillusionment charms do you?”

Hermione shook her head. “No, I don’t. I think what we have to do is get back to town, and head towards the Mark while staying out of sight.”

They started running again, trying to cover the short distance as quickly as possible.

“What are they doing here?” Ron panted.

“Dunno.” Harry said. “Maybe they’re after me, but they must know that there’d be extra protection, especially around me.”

Hermione, who wasn’t as quick as Ron or Harry, said nothing. She was using all her energy to keep up with them.

“Maybe he’s after us,” Ron said, and despite the exercise he went slightly paler, “the people that went to the Department of Mysteries with you. If anyone lays a finger on my sister…” But he fell silent, as Harry took the lead, and he had to speed up to catch him.

As the three of them joined the village’s main street, they stopped dead. It was deserted, apart from a few robed people who were firing curses from their wands, and sheltering behind buildings, midway down, where Harry remembered Scrivenshaft’s to be.

“What now?” He panted to his two companions, but it was he that answered the question. “If we head down one of those side streets, we can get closer.”

“Right.” Ron agreed. Hermione just gasped for air.

They raced up the side streets, seemingly unnoticed. Quick glances showed that houses, and flats above shops – not to mention the shops themselves – had all been abandoned. Probably immediately the Dark Mark appeared, Harry thought. As they drew nearer, and they were in the adjacent side street to Madam Puddifoot’s, the screaming intensified, and youngest voices were heard loudest of all.

“Now what?” Harry asked Hermione. “You didn’t want us to rush in, so now what?”

“Let me just think a minute.” She said anxiously.

Suddenly, whether it was because the voice was louder than the others, or just more recognisable, all three of them clearly heard Ginny yell: “Stupefy!”

Harry turned back to Hermione anxiously. “Come-”

“Ron!” Hermione shouted.

He turned; Ron had tired of waiting, and raced around the corner. Harry followed him, all thoughts of planning forgotten. He had to get in there, he had to help Ron save Ginny. The footsteps behind him signalled Hermione to be in pursuit.

Harry barely took in the scene in front of him, as he too turned the corner. Men and women in Aurors’ robes were sending curses down the street, towards where the Dark Mark had been sent up. Ron had been grabbed around the waist by one of them, and was struggling to continue his run forward towards the fray. The diversion gave Harry all the time he needed to avoid the Aurors. Harry pushed past Ron’s captor, and flung himself out around the corner.

As he did so, he heard Ron yelling. “Let me go! My sister’s in there!”

“Harry!” Hermione screamed.

“Falxia!” Harry yelled in rage, pointing his wand towards the nearest person in Death Eater’s robes and masks, who was casting a spell at an Auror ensconced behind some kind of barricade.

Rather than retreating once he had cast the spell, or trying to find cover, Harry rushed forwards. His target heard him just in time to see the curse, but was caught on the arm, causing a large, red, glutinous mark to form on her robes. She kept hold of the wand in her other hand however, and dived to the side.

A loud nasal voice rang out, as the woman screamed to her companions from where she was hiding. “It’s Harry Potter! Kill him!”

Harry heard voices to his side and rear, as people cursed, and lost some of their discipline.

“Potter? The Harry Potter?”

“What the hell is he doing? Damn it! Put down shields.”

Ahead of him, the other side of the Death Eaters, came another voice. Remus Lupin’s.

“What are you doing Harry? Get back to safety, we’ll take care of them! Leave them to us.”

Another voice, unmistakably Mad-Eye Moody’s, was roaring as well, but Harry wasn’t listening. It was as if he had only now realised where he was, and what he had done. He suddenly knew that if he didn’t concentrate, then he was as good as dead. He was by now past the nearest Auror, and was between both sets of combatants. Curses shot towards him, and shouts of ‘Mutucutus’ and other shielding spells meant that barriers would appear in front of him, but they would be no use against the killing curse, Avada Kedavra.

Harry looked around, and in that split second, instinctively knew what to do. Diving to his right, he yelled his spell out for the whole world to hear, aiming his wand in front of him, at a wooden door barring the way to somebody’s house.

“Reducto!”

The wood split down the middle and splintered into small pieces. Outside, Harry heard the wall being peppered by spells. He landed heavily, causing pieces of wood to embed themselves in his arm, but rolled over immediately, ready to cast a spell. No-one came into sight.

“Bloody stay in there!” Someone yelled out to him.

The sounds of battle outside seemed to be never ending to Harry, as he got to his feet. Yelling, screaming, and shouting continued without sign of abating. There was, however, no sound of Ginny, or even other Hogwarts students. Now it was all Aurors and Death Eaters making the noise. Harry prayed that that was a good sign, rather than bad.

Trying to stay out of sight, Harry crept forward towards the door. This was what those duelling sessions with Aravenne were all about – trying to prepare him for something like this. The spells and tactics he had used in those mock duels raced through his mind as he stuck his head out. Aravenne had told them that he was better when he took the aggressive role, and aimed more dangerous, more damaging, spells at his opponent.

“Reducto.” Harry thought desperately, as he pointed his wand at a Death Eater.

He was on the other side of the street, sheltering behind a large piece of rubble that had fallen from the building, kneeling in front of a door. Unfortunately he had been looking at Harry, and spotted the curse coming, despite the fact that it wasn’t verbalised. He deflected it up harmlessly into the air, and cast a spell of his own. Harry easily avoided the green light of the curse, which took a huge chunk out of the hall he was standing in.

Retreating out of sight, and thinking quickly, he remembered his duel with Blaise Zabini, on the first Tuesday of term, and tried to picture the door across the street in his head.

“Accio door!”

The loud crashes and shouts outside continued, so Harry had no idea whether his idea had worked or not. A random curse shot through the doorway, demolishing the hall Harry was in further, preventing him from sticking his head out once more.

“Merlin help me, I thought I told you to get to safety, you f-” Someone yelled from outside, who, judging from the grunt, was prevented from finishing his sentence by having to move quickly.

“Look! Just stay out of the way Mr Potter!” The same voice said angrily.

Harry retreated back up the hall, there was no way he could do anything from where he was, anyway. Behind him rose wooden stairs to some flat over a shop and either side of him were just plain walls, there were no doors leading from the hall he was in. Another curse came in through the door, destroying what remained of that piece of wall to his left. A large hole at head height showed the insides of a robes shop next door. It gave Harry an idea – maybe he could make a door. Pushing his back to the wall, he aimed his wand at the wall on his other side.

“Reducto!” He muttered, shielding his eyes with his free hand.

The spell ricocheted at an angle, missing Harry, and continuing to bounce across the hallway towards the door, before it fizzled out. Obviously the Reductor curse wasn’t strong enough to destroy walls in a witch or wizard’s house. Harry glanced back to the door quickly. Curse light was flying past, too close to the opening for Harry’s comfort. Instinctively he knew that someone was trying to get into the corridor after him. Unless he stood and fought, the only way open to him was up.

There was a resounding crash, louder than any other sound outside, and it almost seemed to have come from above Harry. Dust covered the way out onto the battlefield momentarily, but as it cleared, Harry saw what looked like a large part of a wall, nestling between the doorway, and the Aurors.

Harry’s heart hammered. That could only mean one thing: Death Eaters were going to come after him. Of course they would, he, Harry Potter, had just shown himself to them, and they knew exactly where he was.

You idiot! He screamed at himself internally. Why do you never listen to Hermione?

Harry backed up the stairs behind him, never leaving the door with his eyes. Upstairs was the only way left to him, so that was the way he had to go. Before he had climbed five steps, however, a man appeared, crouching behind the stone wreckage, and looked in through the door.

“Farcio!” Harry yelled, summoning up all his heart and soul into the spell.

In the short time the spell took to reach the man, Harry saw him sneer, and make a type of flick with his wand. The sneer changed to shock, as, despite hitting a shimmering barrier, Harry’s spell caused the man to fly backwards, shield and all. Harry fell backwards himself, ending in a sitting position. Both he and the Death Eater struggled to rise, but while Harry succeeded, the Death Eater was caught by a spell from an Auror, and first went rigid, and then magical bindings appeared, tying him up, and gagging him.

A second Death Eater appeared before Harry could so much as move, but he fell across the doorway, struck by a spell before he could reach cover. The third came as Harry reached what was sort of a mini-landing, where the stairs doubled back on themselves, leading to a wide corridor above. Trying the same spell that had worked against the previous opponent, Harry raised his wand.

This time, however, his spell work seemed to be treated with a new respect, and the masked man avoided it, pressing himself against one of the walls. The Death Eater replied with a spell of his own. Not only did Harry not hear an incantation, but he didn’t recognise anything else about the spell either, so he too avoided it, sidestepping out of view.

The spell however, did not simply fizzle out against the wall behind Harry, but exploded upon contact. It was only a mild force, but it caused Harry to go crashing face first onto the stairs leading upwards in front of him. There was the sound of laughter below him, as the Death Eater enjoyed what he obviously saw as his triumph.

“You’re only a kid.” He said, in a voice which didn’t sound very old itself. “There’s no way you can fight me. The Dark Lord told us that all you were is lucky, and he’s right. You were lucky.” He continued to laugh unpleasantly.

Harry used the time to roll over. His whole body was in pain from the explosion, and from the fact that splinters of wood had, ever more painfully, been pushed further into his left arm. Strangely, however, he wasn’t scared, nor was he bothered by the soreness. His head was pounding, and his heart pumping, but he was thinking clearly.

He had to get upstairs. If he could do that, then he would be in a large space, where curses like the one that had just been used, couldn’t work, and he could dodge easily. His opponent, meanwhile, would be stuck in this cramped stairwell.

Harry struggled to his feet, and pointed his wand at the debris that had been created by the explosion. Rather than casting the spell he had in mind immediately, however, he crept backwards up the stairs, trying to get as far up them as possible before the Death Eater realised that he wasn’t too badly wounded.

He didn’t have long to wait. A stair creaked, and he heard a vehement curse from below him. The man’s steps, which before now had been soft, and lazy, suddenly broke into a run, and he mounted the stairs himself.

Harry concentrated firmly upon the rubble, and banished it down the stairs, hoping that the pieces might hit some target he couldn’t see. Hearing a thump of pain, he turned and sprinted upstairs. There was a crash behind him, and the whole staircase seemed to shudder, but he didn’t look back. A second crash resounded, and shook the wood beneath him, before Harry reached the top. He turned around to hear a third crash, and see the third of three holes appear in the stairs that he had just seconds ago climbed.

The Death Eater had obviously just aimed wildly, rather than running the risk of being surprised again by someone lying in wait. Harry could see pieces of the floor below through the apertures, and the stairs now looked in danger of falling down. Harry backed away slowly, without taking his eyes off the spot, where any second now, the Death Eater, or Death Eaters could appear.

He paused. Now he came to think of it, perhaps the fact that the stairs looked about to disintegrate was a good thing. If there were no stairs, how could they get up to him? He raised his wand, and pointed it at the topmost stair. He took a deep breath.

“Re-”

“Petrificus Totalus!”

Harry looked up, midway through his incantation. The Death Eater had climbed onto the mini-landing, and aimed a curse at Harry. His body stiffened, legs springing together, arms snapping to a rigid position at his sides, as his hand dropped his wand, and it rolled away a few feet. With a loud ‘thunk’, Harry fell backwards.

“I’m going to enjoy hurting you, you little runt.” The Death Eater snarled, stomping up the stairs.

Harry strained his eyes to see where the man was, but all he could see was the ceiling above him, and, if he tried hard enough, his nose. He struggled to move his arms – if he was going to die, this was not how it was meant to happen. To his sudden excitement, he thought there might have been a little bit of give there. Maybe the Death Eater wasn’t such a good wizard as he imagined himself. He strained his head forwards, trying to see over his chest.

A loud scream and crash suddenly tore through the air, and Harry abruptly found himself able to move, albeit very slowly, and stiffly. He sat up. The staircase that had made its way up to the level that Harry was now on, was no more. Instead, he discovered as he crawled forwards, lying motionless on the empty ground floor and surrounded by wooden wreckage, was the Death Eater, and an ominous pool of crimson.

Harry’s hand fell upon his wand, and he muttered the counter curse to the full body bind, suddenly able to move freely again. He didn’t understand why he had been able to even move at all. Regardless if the Death Eater was dead or not, it shouldn’t have lifted so immediately. And he didn’t think he’d ever heard of a curse like that ‘half-lifting’. He didn’t think about it much however, to be honest, he really didn’t care: it was the body below that had his attention. It was almost the first dead body he had seen that actually looked dead, and he didn’t like the feeling it gave him.

He turned his back to where the staircase once had been, and, wincing, made his way to a door in front of him. It was locked, but opened easily with the Alohomora charm. Harry suddenly realised that everything had gone quiet, voices drifted up to him, but no longer yelling curses to and fro, and there was a distinct lack of the sound of battle. In front of Harry was a dust covered room, armchairs and other furniture looking quite white from the paint, or plaster, that had fallen on them.

There was a large hole, big enough to stand three people side by side comfortably, in the external wall which adjoined the street. Harry made his way cautiously to it, listening to the voices all the time.

“Lower the Apparition wards.” Somebody snarled. “Or I’ll kill her.”

“We have you surrounded, Lestrange, let her go, and come in quietly.”

The first speaker laughed nastily. It was a man’s voice, so Harry assumed it had to be Bellatrix Lestrange’s husband Rodolphus, and it sounded like he had a hostage.

“What’s one more death to my list of supposed crimes? What are you going to give me now? Two life sentences in Azkaban? Three? Lower the wards and she might not die.”

“You’re not getting away Lestrange, you know that. Drop your wand, and let her go.”

“Stay where you are! One step closer and she dies, if any of you try to cast a spell then she dies, and if any of you lot try to get to safety, then she dies too. Lower the wards.”

Harry peered out through the hole in the wall. Down on the street were many motionless bodies, from both sides, most of them bound in one form or another, but some were free of bonds, dead. One of the bodies looked like a Hogwarts’ student.

There were four main groups in the scene, two groups of Aurors and civilians (who looked to Harry to be mainly Order members) and Ron and Hermione (being restrained by Moody and Moony respectively), were either side of a mask-less Death Eater and a small girl, who was crying fiercely, and had the point of his wand pointed at the back of her neck, and his arm around the front. The Death Eater, Rodolphus Lestrange, had his back to Harry, so that he could see both groups of Aurors, and the fourth group of people.

The fourth group was made up of mainly Hogwarts students, although there were adults with them, and was outside Madam Puddifoot’s – a blazing fire was raging inside, but as of yet, no-one was trying to put it out, maybe because the fire seemed unable to touch the walls or door of the building. At the front of the fourth group, were Ginny, Dean, Cho Chang, and Terry Boot, all of whom had their wands raised.

“You won’t do that Lestrange; she’s the only thing stopping you from dying right now.” A young man’s voice said confidently. “Drop your wand now, or we will curse to kill.”

“You’re right.” Lestrange said, and Harry sensed a ripple of relaxation spread through the Aurors present. “I only have one hostage after all.”

Lestrange moved with a speed born of desperation it seemed, and whipped his wand at the crowd of civilians, caught in the middle of this standoff. Ginny’s wand flew out of her hand, and she was dragged forwards a couple of metres. Dean moved forward himself, but Lestrange screamed out to stop him.

“Stay where you are, if anyone moves, then she dies too. Now lower the wards!”

A lesser person than Ginny might have screamed, or tried to get away, but Ginny just stood there trembling, knowing that her life was in the hands of another, but that if she moved then someone else, someone just as innocent, someone that the Death Eater had even less reason to kill, would get hurt instead. Harry was suddenly reminded of another redhead, one that had stood her ground in front of Voldemort so that he might live.

His mother had died, but Harry swore that Ginny wouldn’t. He stepped out into the gap, aiming his wand at Lestrange’s back. At that exact second, an almighty ‘CRACK’ rang out, shattering the comparative quiet. The sky seemed to change through a myriad of colours, before returning to the cloudy grey it had been before. A voice rang out from across the street, from the window of a building.

“Watch behind you Roddy! Just leave now, forget about the scum!” The owner of the voice disappeared with a loud crack, apparating away; a couple more cracks signalled that some other Death Eaters had been hiding and escaped.

The Death Eater glanced behind, seeing Harry with his wand pointed at him. As he did so, Harry knew exactly what he was going to do, he was going to apparate, but before he did, he would kill one last innocent person. All he could think about was making sure that that person wasn’t going to be Ginny. She was not going to die, like his mother had, because she did not move out of the way. Hardly knowing what he was doing, he imagined the piece of road directly between Ginny and Lestrange, and, wand in front of him, disappeared with a distorted sort of snapping sound.

The next thing he knew, he felt rather strange, the feeling that he had recently come to associate with splinching. Echoing, slurred voices were saying things he couldn’t make out, and fuzzy shapes in front of him were moving out of focus. All he knew was that he had to make some kind of shield, but he didn’t seem to be able to say anything, and so, wand in front of him, he thought of the word ‘Protego’ desperately. A second later, everything went green.
________________________________________


He was standing in the Arch room of the Department of Mysteries, suddenly finding himself in great pain, and having to double over. Every breath he took was torturous. He coughed, red liquid hitting the floor in front of him, creating a puddle, and staying there. The more Harry struggled to breath, the more it hurt.

“Slow down your breathing, Harry.” A deep voice told him.

Harry’s head snapped up, causing his head to scream in pain, although his voice box couldn’t make the sound. His pulse quickened, and his breathing started to become even more ragged, even more painful. His legs collapsed underneath him, and he fell to the floor.

The dark haired man stooped in concern, and, trying to sound both calming and urgent at the same time, lifted Harry into a sitting position, and talked to him.

“Slow your breathing, it won’t hurt as much. You must slow your breathing Harry.”

“Si- Si?” Harry tried, but failed to make the right sounds to speak.

“It’s me, Harry, just relax, and slow your breathing. It’ll feel better, trust me.” The man who looked so like Sirius Black said.

Slowly, Harry did relax, and as he did so, his breathing steadied. Sirius was right, he did start to feel better. In fact, the longer he sat there, not saying anything, but being supported and kept company by Sirius, the more the pain started to fade.

“Sirius?” He managed to say eventually, without any pain whatsoever. “You are Sirius, aren’t you?”

Sirius smiled, nodded, and held him a little bit tighter.

“Am I dead?” Harry asked, the words first ringing in his head, and then echoing in the room around him, but no matter how many times he heard it repeated, it didn’t sound a stupid question to him.

“Do you feel dead?” Sirius asked him, smiling.

“No…” Harry muttered, “No… I’m in too much pain to be dead, unless, unless I’m going to Hell because I failed.”

His voice suddenly sounded weak, and frightened, even to him, but the closest he could remember to ever feeling this way was one of the first times the Dursleys had set him a near impossible task to do, in not enough time, just so they could punish him.

“I couldn’t do it Sirius, I couldn’t.” Harry said, suddenly feeling close to tears. “I don’t know enough, I’m not strong enough, how could I kill Voldemort, when people who knew more magic than me, and were better wizards failed?”

“Harry,” Sirius said quietly, “you haven’t failed.”

“Everything I do, fails.” Harry said, feeling rather small and insignificant. “All I do, is put other people in danger. It doesn’t matter what I think of, I’m always a step behind. Because I failed, Voldemort can’t be defeated. Because I failed, I put everyone in even more danger in Hogsmeade, in the Department of Mysteries. Because I failed, you died.”

“Harry.” Sirius said, with a slight bite in his voice. “You have not failed in anything. You are not dead.”

“Then what am I?” Harry asked. “I can’t be alive, I was in Hogsmeade a second ago, how could I have got here? And if I had, wouldn’t the place have people in? And how are you here? You are here aren’t you? You are Sirius?” He added suddenly.

“I’m here.” Sirius told him. “Try pinching me.”

“But you really are Sirius?” Harry pressed.

Sirius just gave a sad smile, and then stood, and looked around him. “Interesting choice of a place to hide your memories in, Harry.”

“You’re not real, are you?” Harry asked slowly.

Sirius just smiled at him again.

“This is just a dream.” Harry said, suddenly feeling cheated, but why, he didn’t know.

Because I’m not dead? He asked himself, incredulously. Or because Sirius hasn’t somehow come back to life?

“When you were transported to Voldemort’s rebirth, did you fail then?” Sirius asked him.

“If I’d moved quicker, maybe Cedric wouldn’t have…” Harry trailed off, Sirius was looking at him sternly. “No.” Harry said quietly. “I couldn’t have done anything else, could I?”

Sirius didn’t respond, but rather continued. “What about in the Triwizard tournament itself? True, you may have had a bit of help in the first two tasks, Barty Crouch Junior, and then Diggory and Dobby, but in any of the tasks, did you actually fail?”

“No.” Harry muttered, using his arms to push himself upright – the pain was nearly gone.

“You saved my life in your third year, and,” He added humorously, “at the risk of sounding rather soppy, and quite unlike my normal self, you gave me a reason to keep living. You and Moony gave me a reason other than revenge.”

“But because of me Pettigrew escaped, and Voldemort was reborn-”

“Tell me Harry,” Sirius cut across him, “if you do manage to kill Voldemort, will you still say that you failed then? Not even Dumbledore would have been able to kill Voldemort while he had no actual body to speak of. And before that, did you fail against the Basilisk? Against Voldemort and Quirrell? Most people I know that knew more magic than you did then, or even now, would have failed, but you didn’t.”

Harry was quiet for a few seconds, before he said quietly. “I failed to stop you going through that veil. Because of me you left the safety of Grimmauld Place.”

Sirius gave his bark of a laugh. “Harry, I was going to get out of that house one way or another at some point. I’d had enough of it. I needed a fight, to go after the Death Eaters, rather than stay in that hellhole of my parents’. I didn’t want the ‘safety’ of Grimmauld Place, you know what it’s like. You were there all summer, and you’ve had to live with those Muggle relations of yours. I just wasn’t able to duel the way I used to.”

He looked rather wistful, Harry thought.

“But if I-”

Sirius didn’t let Harry finish his sentence. “I don’t blame you Harry. If I don’t, what right do you have to?”

“I miss you, Sirius.” Harry said huskily.

Sirius walked over to him, and gave him a bear hug. “Look, Harry, there’s one thing I – well, two things actually – that I want you to do, okay?”

“What?” Harry asked.

“You and Moony. Make sure you look after each other will you? He was – is – the truest friend James or I ever had.”

“Yeah.” Harry said, with more certainty than he had had thus far in this dream, or whatever it was. “We will. What else?”

Sirius turned away, and walked towards the raised dais.

“Live.” He said simply.

“Don’t go!” Harry called after him, the words echoing once more.

Sirius turned, to give him a rather poignant smile. “Harry. Do you think you failed when Voldemort killed your parents? Do you think you could have done anything else?”

With that, Sirius walked through the veil, not appearing on the other side of it.

Harry fell back onto one of the steps that rose around the pit, and sat down. He was confused, and tired, and now that Sirius was gone, he was beginning to hurt again. Had that really been Sirius? But no, it couldn’t have been. Sirius was dead, he wasn’t a ghost, and the only way they could have talked was if Harry was dead too and there was an afterlife. And from the things Sirius had been saying, if he was to believe him, Harry wasn’t dead. No, maybe he was just dreaming, and Sirius had just been part of his imagination.

Harry tried to accept that, but for some reason couldn’t. He didn’t want to, and, he thought, yawning, not only did he not understand what was going on, but he was so… so tired. His head started to droop.
________________________________________


There was screaming, a man in pain. Harry opened his eyes, and the scene was all too familiar to him. It was identical to the vision he had had when Voldemort showed him the deaths of his parents. For some reason, he didn’t feel surprised, if anything, he felt rather detached, as if he was both here and not here at the same time.

He walked forwards towards the torture victim, studying his face. He could not have been more than thirty, if that. His was a strange face, Harry decided; it reminded him of twenty different people that he had known. The eyes looked a bit like Ginny’s, the shape of the mouth was Seamus’, and the nose looked almost like Dumbledore’s – if he squinted a bit. It was as if he was representing the whole world. This man could be any of them, if Voldemort was not stopped.

Harry was vaguely aware of a curse coming out of his body, and hitting the man, and of the door opening, and Wormtail coming in, but he didn’t pay much attention. Who was this man? What had he done? Why was he trussed up here for Voldemort’s pleasure? Harry wasn’t sure if he had ever been quite as aware of how much he hated Voldemort.

Before Harry knew it, he had disappeared, and reappeared somewhere else entirely. Rather than, like he had before, trying to dig in his heels, and shut his ears, he followed Voldemort, until they disapparated to Godric’s Hollow and appeared in front of Chaser’s Rest: Harry’s house.

Harry walked away, completely ignoring Voldemort. He strode into the driveway, looking around him carefully, trying to ingrain the image of where he should have lived into his brain. The feel of the grass on the lawn, the fruit trees at one side, the look of the Muggle car that his parents had owned. He walked around the house slowly, trying to get a feel of where each room in the building was, which way the windows faced, everything.

It was once he had completed his circuit, that Voldemort walked purposefully towards him and the house, stopping to demolish the car en route. It would not be long until Voldemort broke into the house and killed his father. This time, however, Harry was ready for it, and he followed in quite willingly, looking at his father, and feasting his eyes on the way he looked, and the way he moved, the things he did, and the things he said.

It suddenly struck Harry, that Voldemort was convinced he could not be beaten, and yet his father had come very close to it. If the bullet from the Muggle gun, something that Voldemort looked down upon with nothing but contempt, had just embedded itself a few inches away, in Voldemort’s heart, nothing Voldemort could have done would have saved him. His father could easily have killed Voldemort that night, before he had had a chance to mark him, Harry, as his equal.

When his father fell, Harry did not look away, nor did he flinch. Instead, he took one last look at James Potter, and then followed Voldemort through the house, once more trying to take in every detail. They stopped. Voldemort had sensed Lily and baby Harry behind a door, and it flung open.

It was as Harry saw the flash of light from the window, where his mother was, that he realised again that Voldemort was fallible. If he had taken a little more time to find the two of them, his mother would have carried him to safety on a broom, or Portkeyed away, and Voldemort would have failed.

Harry stared at his mother. Never before had he had such a chance to take in every inch of her, to have some more knowledge than mere photographs, and the screams he had heard when the Dementors had attacked. He reached forward to touch her, to know what she felt like, but his hand passed straight through her. Strange. He had been able to touch the grass outside.

His throat constricted as the life seemed to vanish from her body, but it was as if someone else was in control of him, and he did not weep this time, but rather took her dead body in with his eyes one last time, and stepped to the cot, to look at his own self within.

He was bawling loudly, aware that some evil travesty had occurred, but not exactly what. What could baby Harry have done to change things? Could Harry have got to his feet, and cast a spell at Voldemort? Could he have told his mother and father that Pettigrew was a traitor, and that Voldemort was going to know where they were? Could he have leapt through the air, and taken the curse that had been meant for his mother? Of course not. What could he have done differently? How could he have changed anything? How, exactly, had he failed?
________________________________________


Harry opened his eyes slowly, feeling drained of energy, and unable to raise his head. His throat and chest ached, and he involuntarily coughed, causing a burning sensation to spread throughout his body.

“Harry!” Ginny’s delighted voice floated across the room. “Harry, you’re awake! How are you?”

“Water.” Harry gasped, unable to say anything more of substance.

He felt his head being lifted, and saw a glass, and Ginny’s face, as she put it to his lips. He felt like he was swallowing greedily, but that not much liquid was descending to sooth his throat. He spluttered slightly, and Ginny removed the glass anxiously. Harry coughed; it hurt terribly again. His breathing had started to become erratic, and every breath he took was painful, just as it had been in his dream of Sirius.

Ginny was anxiously saying something, but what exactly she said didn’t register. He turned his head to the side, and tried to slow his breathing down. It had worked in his dream, after all.

“Harry, Harry, are you okay?”

“Where?” Harry had said only two words so far, but each had hurt him.

“You’re in the Hospital Wing. Madam Pomfrey has been looking after you for the last two days. Ron, Hermione, and I have been coming up whenever we can to see you.”

“Ron? Herm… Hermio-” He coughed again.

“It’s Monday, Harry.” Ginny said soothingly. “They have classes. My Potions lesson was cancelled.”

“You… okay?” He croaked, starting to remember what had happened: Ginny had been in danger.

Harry lifted his head with a tremendous effort, in order to see her face. It had gone rather red – she was blushing fiercely.

“Thanks to you. You saved my life.” She whispered, looking away from Harry’s gaze.

“Had… to.” Harry said.

Ginny looked back, giving a sort of nervous smile. “I promise I won’t not talk to you for a year again.”

Harry tried to laugh, but instead started to cough violently, shuddering with each convulsion.

“I’m sorry Harry, I didn’t mean to make you...” Ginny said mortified.

“Miss Weasley.” A stern voice said from somewhere. “I thought I told you all to tell me if Mr Potter woke up while you were here.”

“He only just woke up.” Ginny protested, going, if anything, redder.

Harry saw Madam Pomfrey’s face come into view, and felt strong arms pull him up into a sitting position.

“I’m afraid I shall have to ask you to leave, Miss Weasley, he needs potions, and bed rest. You may visit him this evening.”

Harry watched Ginny retreat to the door, still blushing. “I’ll see you later Harry, and I’ll tell Ron and Hermione.”

Harry’s face felt rather warm too, as he watched her disappear from view – coughing violently, and finding each cough quite so excruciating would do that to you, he supposed. Madam Pomfrey bustled around him, giving him what felt like endless potions to swallow, and doing things with her wand. Once he had drunk what Madam Pomfrey said was the last of them, he slipped back down into a lying position, and soon fell back to sleep.
________________________________________


When he came to again, he could hear voices indistinctly in the background. It took him a moment to realise where he was, and work out who might be speaking, the difficulty of which was only augmented by the fact that the curtains, which had been raised to divide the wing into two, were closed. As it happened, it was Madam Pomfrey that was speaking, using the Floo.

“I’ve healed the splinching damage, which was quite considerable, the cuts, the bumps, the bruises, and one broken bone on his left hand, Professor, but I’m afraid it’s the damage to his lungs that is the problem. I know you aren’t well, but it was the Pulmelido curse, so I’m going to need some of your Dilator solution if you have any left.”

There was a pause of a few seconds, before she continued. “Oh good, could you send a house-elf up with them please? Thank you Severus, it’ll make things far easier on him.”

He vaguely remembered Ginny saying that her Potions lesson had been cancelled. So it was because Snape wasn’t feeling well? Harry was willing to bet that that wasn’t it at all, but rather he had been summoned by Voldemort for some reason. So he was back in Hogwarts now, and sending him up potions… Somehow he doubted that Snape would have been pleased to hear it was Harry that he was making feel better, and half feared that whatever potion it was he was sending up wouldn’t work.

He had been hit by the Pulmelido curse (whatever that was), had he? He struggled to remember, but all he could remember was green light, and fuzzy shapes. The green light would suggest Avada Kedavra, but he was the only one to have survived it once, he was hardly going to have survived it twice, was he? What was it that Pomfrey had said? It was his lungs that were the problem. Well, that would explain the trouble he was having breathing.

As if on cue, he coughed violently, after taking too deep a breath. The curtains opened, and Madam Pomfrey walked briskly towards him.

“Ah, Mr Potter. You’re awake. Here, let me help you sit up, and then I shall have to give you more potions, I’m afraid.”

Harry found it quite easy to allow his mind to wander as Madam Pomfrey fussed around him. He didn’t feel strong enough to move his body anyway, or speak much, so it didn’t make much difference whether he paid attention to his Healer or not. As she finished force feeding him potions, the door opened with a bang, revealing a ragged Remus Lupin.

“Harry? Are you okay?” He asked anxiously. “What were you thinking?”

“Remus.” Madam Pomfrey said firmly. “This is a Hospital Wing, and Mr Potter is in no condition to be stressed. Any chastisement can wait until he is recovered.”

“Oh. Yes Poppy, of course.” Remus said; pulling up a chair beside Harry and grasping his hand firmly, as if he wanted to make sure he didn’t slip away.

“I do not want to hear Mr Potter talking much whatsoever.” She continued sternly. “His lungs, throat, and voice box all need rest. Indeed, it is against my better judgement that you are here at all today.”

“Please stay.” Harry forced out.

It was easier to talk than earlier, but each syllable still hurt. Harry, however, didn’t want to be left all alone in the Hospital Wing. He was a great believer in taking his mind off the pain, by having other people staying with him. He didn’t want to be left all alone, with only his own ragged breaths, and wretched coughs for company.

“He may, Mr Potter.” Madam Pomfrey said. “But only for as long as you do not tax yourself. If I have to, Remus Lupin,” She said, looking the man firmly in the eye, “I will forcibly remove you.”

“Yes Ma’am!” He said hastily, causing Harry to smile weakly.

“You’ll be okay, Harry.” Remus said, comfortingly. “I promise.”

Remus was the perfect visitor to an injured patient in Harry’s condition. He talked about plenty of things, assurances about other friends’ health, Percy’s reintegration into the Weasley family, little things that did not involve Harry, or his participation, but that gave him something else to think about. True to his word to Madam Pomfrey, there was no scolding directed at Harry, but judging from the worried looks Lupin gave him, Harry had a feeling that he would get it at some point.

Eventually they moved on to the reason that Harry was in the Hospital Wing bed in the first place, and it was Harry that brought it up. He wanted to know when he was going to get out of here, and how long he would be struggling to breathe.

“What does that curse do? The one-” He coughed, but managed to prevent it degenerating into a fit. “The one that hit me?”

“Pulmelido?” Remus said, getting his answer from Harry’s eyes. “It’s a vicious curse.” He said hatefully. “It attacks your lungs, windpipe, everything the human body uses to breathe. It crushes everything, leaving them useless, and the victim to suffocate. You took the worst amount of damage any of us, even Dumbledore or Madam Pomfrey, has ever heard of someone having taken and lived – it’s not surprising that you are feeling weak and in pain.”

“How long-” This time, Harry had to fight harder to suppress his coughing, and it brought involuntary tears to his eyes.

Remus understood the question Harry had wanted to say however, and with a quick anxious look at Madam Pomfrey, who was looking at them through narrowed slits, he answered before Harry could try to speak again.

“I think I’m about to be thrown out Harry. You’ll be here until Madam Pomfrey releases you, but judging by your improvement since Saturday, you could find yourself out of here by the end of the week.”

“My improvement?” Harry asked in horror, before succumbing to the pain again.

Madam Pomfrey, however, had had enough. She strode over to the pair of them, and told Remus, quite sternly, that that was enough for now.

“No, Mr Potter, you need rest, and things such as speaking only make yourself worse. I will not allow you to speak any more. You may see Mr Lupin and your friends this evening, but only if I adjudge you to be well enough. If you are not rested, they shall have to wait until tomorrow. A couple more potions, and then you must sleep once more. Yes Mr Potter, sleep. It helps the recovery process.”

Moony left with a couple of anxious glances in Harry’s direction, but also leaving Harry in no doubt that Madam Pomfrey’s advice should be followed.

One of the potions he had been given must have been a sleeping potion, for he soon began to feel very drowsy. Possibly his last thought before he went to sleep, was that if he had made such an improvement in two days, that Remus suggested he might only be here another few, how bad exactly, had he been after the attack?
________________________________________


When Harry woke up, which, judging by the day outside, was quite late in the evening, he did, in actual fact, feel much stronger. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, the sound of which drew Madam Pomfrey to open the curtains once more, and he attempted to tell Madam Pomfrey as much.

Madam Pomfrey, however, quickly shut him up, by saying that if he didn’t rest his voice then his friends definitely wouldn’t be allowed to see him.

“I shall decide whether you are fit to have company, Mr Potter, not you.”

The matron then proceeded to study his body by use of her wand, and other instruments, before she clucked her tongue, and shook her head.

“I have been in this school for many years, Mr Potter, but yet it still never ceases to amaze me how quickly young bodies heal themselves. Yours may still have a long way to go, but you may have visitors, yes. I shall be watching, however, and if I believe you need rest, I will order them away. And the same rules apply. You must not tax your voice or body.”

Harry nodded, half afraid that Madam Pomfrey might change her mind if he were to verbalise an answer.

It did not take long for Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to appear; indeed, it was so soon, that Harry wondered whether they had been waiting for some sign from Madam Pomfrey that they had the green light to visit him. All three of them looked like they hadn’t slept well for a while, in fact, Harry hadn’t noticed how big the bags under Ginny’s eyes were when he saw her earlier.

Harry had the distinct impression that Hermione was close to flinging herself at him to give him a hug.

Ron seemed to notice too, for he grabbed her robes, and told her, rather anxiously, “Don’t crush him to death now.” He winced painfully. “Bad choice of words, sorry Harry.”

It actually took Harry a couple of seconds to realise what Ron was referring to, but grinned as he understood. “It’s okay, just do me a favour, and don’t make any funny jokes. It hurts to laugh, or try to.”

Ginny looked slightly ashamed, but neither Ron nor Hermione noticed, nevertheless, she couldn’t restrain herself from saying. “Ron’s okay then, he can make all the jokes he likes.”

“Very funny.” Ron retorted, pushing her in the half playful manner that only siblings of similar ages have.

“How are you feeling Harry?” Hermione asked anxiously.

“Better than I was when I first woke up.” Harry admitted. “Is it really Monday?”

“Yeah.” Ron said. “Although it feels like Wednesday to be honest. The last two days feel like they lasted twice as long.”

“Not for me they don’t.” Harry muttered. “Listen… was I really… really that bad? What exactly happened?”

His three visitors shared glances. “Harry, how much do you remember of the attack in Hogsmeade?” Hermione asked gently.

“Not much…” Harry admitted. “I remember Lestrange talking with some Auror, and threatening a girl, and then Ginny… Did I disapparate?” He asked, struggling to remember.

“In a manner of speaking.” Ron said, and they all winced.

“I splinched myself didn’t I?” Harry persisted.

“That’s… that’s one way of putting it.” Hermione said. “Harry, you appeared between Ginny and Lestrange. Or half of you did, anyway.”

“You were missing an arm and a leg. Literally.” Ginny told him. “An ear, and part of the other one, your mouth, your eyes, your-”

“I think he gets the picture.” Ron said, grimacing again.

“So you mean I was in two places at the same time without the aid of a time-turner?” Harry asked, trying to lighten the mood, but none of them smiled.

“Pretty much.” Ron agreed.

“Well, that’s an improvement on last Apparition lesson.” Harry said, still trying to make fun of the situation. “Reversing splinching is easy for qualified witches and wizards. Look at how quickly that Ministry instructor sorted us all out. It can’t have been that bad!”

Harry’s throat started to throb a little bit, but he ignored it. He didn’t want his friends to be thrown out before they had begun to talk. He’d just have to try and say what he wanted to in fewer words. Hermione, Ron, and Ginny shared looks again.

“It’s easy enough if it’s done immediately, and nothing happens to your body in the mean time.” Hermione agreed. “But Harry, you had just been hit by a curse that could have killed you, and it was a while before anyone could reverse the splinching anyway.”

“And that wasn’t the most dangerous thing that happened to you,” Ginny continued, “but Madam Pomfrey couldn’t do anything to help you against the curse that hit you, until she put your body back together again.”

“Oh.” Harry said.

He suddenly realised why it was he had been asleep for two days, woke up feeling lousy, and had still made considerable progress. It also explained just how worried everyone had been, and still were, about him. He looked at the three anxious faces around him, and started to feel more than a little concerned himself. He was going to be all right wasn’t he?

“The curse,” he said quietly. “Pummelido-”

“Pulmelido.” Hermione corrected.

“What happened? Why didn’t it kill me?”

“You don’t remember anything?” Hermione asked again.

Harry said nothing for a little while, thinking hard. He did remember splinching, yes, and then he had been in the Department of Mysteries with Sirius. He deliberated carefully.

“Just loads of green light.” He said eventually. “And I don’t know how I saw that, if I didn’t have my eyes.”

“That was your shield, mate.” Ron informed him.

“Harry, the Death Eater was just about to curse me when you appeared in between us. You held your wand out, and conjured some kind of shield.” Ginny told him.

Harry tried to remember that happening, but couldn’t.

“His curse hit your shield,” Ron continued for her, “and it looked like it had got through it, but as it hit your body… Your shield turned, sort of, well, green, and the curse bounced away. You just collapsed.”

“You weren’t breathing.” Hermione told him, swallowing slightly. “You didn’t seem to have any pulse, everyone thought you were dead.”

“Well, I wasn’t, was I?” Harry said, for some reason feeling rather nettled.

“No.” Hermione said, slightly stronger, “You did have a pulse, it was just very faint.”

“You gave us one hell of a scare.” Ron said softly, verbalising what the three of them were thinking.

“I didn’t mean to.” Harry said, almost defensively.

“We know you didn’t.” Hermione reassured him.

“What we’re trying to say, Harry,” Ginny told him, “is that we don’t want anything like that to happen again. And we’re not going to let you get that close to dying, until you’re two hundred, and dying from old age.”

“And by then Hermione will have figured out how to make a Philosopher’s Stone.” Ron added.

Harry snorted with laughter, and then coughed hard.

“Ron.” Hermione said disapprovingly.

“It’s Ginny’s fault!” Ron said. “She said it wouldn’t matter if I made jokes.”

Harry laughed again, the chuckle once more turning into chesty coughs. He turned his head to the side to look at Madam Pomfrey. She was looking most annoyed, and was walking towards them.

“I’m okay, Madam Pomfrey.” Harry said, before she could say a word. “Please let them stay.”

She looked at his visitors sternly. “The only reason I am allowing you here in the first place, is because of the vigil you kept. If my patient shows one more sign of the strain of his condition, you shall have to leave. This is your only chance. Just one more cough.”

“Thanks.” Harry said quietly, as she left, warmth starting to appear behind his eyes. “For what you just said, you know. And I’ll try not to end up in any, but it is going to happen at least once more, you know.”

“It might do.” Ginny told him. “But not if we’re there to help stop it.”

Harry gave them all a small smile. “Let’s hope then. By the way, what happened to Lestrange? Did he escape, or did the Ministry get him.”

The three of them shared a third glance, which Harry was beginning to associate with them thinking they had bad news to share.

“Mate.” Ron began, hesitatingly. “You know we said his curse rebounded? Well it-”

“Hit him.” Harry finished the sentence for him, suddenly understanding. “And-”

“And he didn’t have any shield to protect him.” Hermione said.

“He’s dead, Harry. There was nothing anyone could have done. He just lay there trying to breathe, but not being able to. And he died.” Ginny told him in a slightly quavering voice.

“Good.” Harry said; amazing them all, even himself to some extent. “You know what, I’m glad he’s dead.”

“Harry?” Hermione asked, not in shock, but in surprise certainly.

“Yesterday – I mean a few days ago – I wouldn’t have said that, but you know if he’d been arrested he’d have escaped, and killed someone else. At least this way he can’t hurt anyone.”

Harry felt an episode of pain coming on for his throat, and fought desperately to prevent any more coughing, he didn’t want them to be thrown out.

“You okay Harry?” Ginny asked, concerned.

“Yeah.” He said eventually. “Just trying not to cough. Hurts to talk.”

“We can go if you want.” Hermione told him.

Harry shook his head. “Please don’t.”

“Well, we’ll talk, you can listen.” Ron said.

They weren’t allowed to stay much longer by Madam Pomfrey though, nor was Remus allowed to visit him again that night. The healer had had enough, and was quite strict when Harry had begged her to let them stay. He soon fell asleep however, and without the aid of any potions. His body seemed to be using all of his energy to heal itself.
________________________________________


Harry had two more visits of real note, before he was released at the weekend. That wasn’t to say that he did not enjoy the other visits, for he certainly did: the laughs (when he was recovered enough not to find them painful), the company, even the class notes that Hermione brought with her; all were most appreciated, but the visits that stood out the most, were those of the Weasley family, and Dumbledore.

Madam Pomfrey, it appeared, had been holding back a crowd of people that wished to see him, convinced that it would set back his recovery. The Weasleys, however, all appeared on the Wednesday afternoon, while Ron, Hermione, and Ginny were in their classes. Everyone was there: Mr and Mrs Weasley, Bill, Charlie, Fred and George – even Percy. The prodigal son of the family was the only one that held back as they first saw Harry, and Mrs Weasley’s greeting would have made him feel quite embarrassed if he had been feeling anywhere near normal.

It was Fred and George that first offered more than wishes of good health, but their thanks as well. They looked the most harried of any of them there, probably, Harry thought, because of the consequences they faced after not escorting Harry, Ron, and Hermione back to the castle. As if they could have, or any of their family would have even, after hearing Ginny was in danger.

“Thanks for what you did for Ginny, mate.” Fred said.

“Yeah, I don’t know what we can do to make up for it, but name it.” George said. “We’d let you take anything you wanted from our shop, but you’re already the only reason we got to start it, and it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough anyway.”

“I didn’t do it for the thanks.” Harry said hurriedly. “I did it because I didn’t want to see Ginny die, not because I wanted any of you to feel, to feel obligated to me or something.”

“And that is why you deserve them.” Mr Weasley said, eyes twinkling. “You risked your own life, knowingly put yourself in the way of a curse meant for our daughter, and didn’t do it for any reason other than you wanted to save her life. You may not want our thanks, Harry, but you have them, and anything we can do to help you.”

“You’ve already done more for me than anyone.” Harry told them. “It should be me thanking you, not the other way around. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for you Mrs Weasley, or you, Mr Weasley. I wouldn’t have even found out how to get onto Platform nine and three-quarters if it wasn’t for you. It’s me that owes you.”

Mrs Weasley’s eyes glistened, and she leant forward and gave Harry what started off as a huge hug, until she remembered that he was still an invalid. Percy continued to stay quiet, and refused to meet Harry’s eye. It wasn’t that he looked like he didn’t want to be there, but rather that he felt like he shouldn’t be there.

The Weasleys stayed for most of the afternoon, until Madam Pomfrey decided that her patient needed a break, and she ended up trying both to shepherd them away, and prevent Ginny from entering to visit. Percy, who had kept as much distance between them as he could for most of the stay, was the last to go. He allowed his family to move away so they couldn’t hear what he said.

“You’re probably wondering why I came to see you.” He said, in a low, but matter of fact, tone. He turned to look at Harry for what was almost the first time.

“I did. Kind of.” Harry said awkwardly. “I mean…”

“After the things I wrote to Ron, I know.” Percy took a deep breath. “I – I wanted to see if you were okay Harry.”

There was a vulnerability to his voice that Harry had never heard before. His normal self certain smugness had been replaced by something else – he did not seem anywhere near as sure of himself any more. Percy looked away, pushing his glasses back into place, in what seemed a nervous manoeuvre rather than anything else. He looked instead, at his family, who were talking to the newly arrived Ginny.

“Thank you for what you did for Ginny.” Percy continued, after Harry had said nothing.

I didn’t do it for the thanks.” Harry repeated awkwardly, before plunging forward. “She’s a great person, your whole family are. You’re lucky to have them.”

“I know.” Percy said in a muted voice.

“You really hurt them you know.” Harry said, causing Percy to look at him sharply, and although Harry felt uncomfortable at lecturing someone that was older than him on how to treat his family, he continued anyway. “Don’t hurt them again.”

Percy stood up, probably affronted, Harry thought. “I never intended to hurt them. I just wanted them not to get in any trouble.”

He walked away stiffly, not offering a goodbye. Harry wasn’t surprised, perhaps he shouldn’t have said it, but he didn’t want Percy reducing Mrs Weasley to tears again.

“I’ll come back this evening.” Ginny waved to Harry, from behind Madam Pomfrey’s determined figure, as she succeeded in pushing them all out of the door.

True to her word, she did come back that evening, along with Hermione and Ron. In fact, Harry was so much recovered by this time, that Madam Pomfrey had to come over to ask him to keep it down, to give the Ravenclaw that was also currently in the ward some peace and quiet (a Quidditch accident). She also interrupted their conversation, which was, coincidently, about Quidditch, where Harry had been promising Ron that he would be fully recovered to play against Slytherin.

“No you won’t, Mr Potter. I forbid you from even so much as holding a broom. When the fourteen players are mounting their brooms at the start of that match, you shall be in the stands. Your respiratory system takes a long time to recover, and there is only so much I can do with magic, and potions. That goes double for your Defence Against the Dark Arts duelling sessions.”

“But they aren’t even real magic!” Harry protested. “The magic can’t hurt you!”

“I am well aware of the fact, Mr Potter. The aerobic exercise, however, is far too extreme for you to even contemplate for weeks.”

That succeeded in putting a dampener in Harry’s spirits more than anything, so the poor Ravenclaw got the tranquillity that was so necessary for them to heal.

Dumbledore appeared on Friday morning, looking rather stern, and giving Harry a nasty feeling in his throat which was quite unrelated to the Pulmelido curse.

“I am glad to see you up and about, Harry.” Dumbledore began – Harry was sitting at a desk, going over some of the notes Hermione had given him.

“Thank you sir.”

Dumbledore sat down slowly on Harry’s hospital bed, and looked at him through his spectacles. His expression remained serious. He waved his hand, and the separating curtains closed.

“I am not here to scold you Harry, or tell you what I believe you should have, or should not have done. You are quite aware of the things I would have wished you to do, and my saying them would serve no purpose. You know, as well as I do, that the Order of Phoenix is attempting to combat Voldemort in every way we can, and that we wish to keep everyone we can, not least you and your friends, as safe as possible.”

“Yeah.” Harry replied. “And I know you wanted me to stay away from the fight, but I couldn’t…”

“You know the situation Harry,” Dumbledore continued, “I have told you all I know about the Prophecy, and about the danger you are in from Voldemort, why exactly he wants to kill you. You have, and he knows that you have, the ability to defeat him.”

Harry nodded.

“Then I must ask you why you did what you did.” Dumbledore said simply.

“Ginny was in danger!” Harry said indignantly. “I wasn’t going to come safely back to the castle when I knew one of my friends might be killed!”

“No, I can understand your decision as regards that,” Dumbledore said, but there was still a steely note in his voice, “especially once Fred and George, two men I had entrusted with your safety, disapparated. I can understand why you and your two friends ran to enter the fray. I can even understand why you put yourself on the frontlines, with little thought for your own safety, and why you then entered an abandoned flat. I can understand all of your actions up to a point.

“What I should very much like to know, Harry, is why, once the battle was over, you apparated between Rodolphus Lestrange, and Miss Ginny Weasley, in order to take the deadly curse that was meant for her, when you are well aware that you may possibly be the only person that can defeat Tom Riddle, and in so doing save your friends from a fate that some would consider worse than death.”

“What do you mean possibly?” Harry asked bitterly, “The Prophecy is clear isn’t it? Either I kill Voldemort, or he kills me, and if I don’t kill him no-one can. Besides,” he continued recklessly, “Lestrange couldn’t have killed me, could he? If I die it has to be by Voldemort’s hand.”

Dumbledore’s face grew graver. “Some prophecies, Harry, to the best of our knowledge have never come to pass, and never will. Just because they have been prophesied does not mean that they will occur.”

“Then why does this prophecy matter so much?” Harry asked irritably, “If they might, or might not, happen, then what does it matter that they’re made?”

“It matters, in your case, because part of the Prophecy has come true. While that by no means infers that the rest of it will, it is still enough to make you the person best equipped to defeat Voldemort. He has marked you as his equal – remember your scar – which, by process of logical reasoning, has also marked you as the one with the power to vanquish him. That much of the Prophecy has been confirmed, but only that much.”

“So… I am still the one with the power to defeat him, but it doesn’t mean that I will be the one to defeat him, or that he will be the one to defeat me?” Harry asked, trying to follow the argument.”

“Precisely. That indeed, may or may not be true as well, we have no way of knowing.” Dumbledore sighed. “Prophecies should not be second guessed Harry.”

“But you’re telling me not to try to save my friends because of the Prophecy!” Harry said indignantly. “I didn’t think about the Prophecy when I apparated, I just wanted to stop Ginny from dying.”

“Even though if you die, their best hope of avoiding death at the hands of Lord Voldemort or his supporters dies also?”

“I’m not going to choose between one friend and another if that’s what you’re asking me to do.” Harry told Dumbledore fiercely.

“I am doing no such thing. I simply wish to understand why you did what you did. Why did you apparate between Miss Ginny Weasley and her attacker, knowing that you should be hit by a curse intended to kill?”

Harry stayed silent for a while, staring at the Headmaster, but in reality thinking hard.

“I didn’t want her to die.” He said eventually – the same thing he had been telling everyone.

“Quite understandable.” Dumbledore replied. “But that does not entirely answer my question. There was something else that triggered your decision, was there not? Did you believe that you would survive if hit by the curse, or that you would die?”

Harry said nothing for a few seconds again. “I don’t think I was thinking of that at all. I just saw her, standing there, knowing that she was going to die, but not moving out of the way in case someone else was hit instead. And I just… I didn’t want her to die.” Harry looked away from Dumbledore, towards the window, and mumbled the rest of his statement. “She reminded me of my mum.”

“I see.” Dumbledore said evenly, and Harry did not turn to see his look. “Very well.”

“Why, Professor? Why was that so important?” Harry asked.

“There are the obvious reasons.” Dumbledore said, “Ones which I did not for a second believe, but am glad to nevertheless hear a denial – that you were not bothered whether you lived or died, for example. The other…

“Let me tell you a story, Harry, which a friend of mine, Nicolas Flamel, once told me, when I was but a young man myself. It involves two French wizards, and their sons, and an identical prophecy involving each family separately.

“The first man, a wizard called Perinaud, and the second, named Flaurent, stumbled across their respective prophecies one day, as they were working in their yards. The things they heard, shocked them both a great deal, and scared them, but neither rushed into anything. Instead, they used their magical knowledge to relive the prophecy, and study it closely, to make sure they understood what it meant.

“By the time Perinaud had finished, which took him several weeks, he had understood the Prophecy to mean that his son would die while still in his twenties, and that Perinaud would be the one to kill him. Unable to even contemplate doing such a deed, the man destroyed all records of the prophecy, and then killed himself.”

“So the prophecy didn’t come true.” Harry said.

“Quite so. However, the second man, Flaurent, although he came to the same conclusion, killed himself before he had thought to smash all records of the prophecy, and his son proceeded to see the prophecy himself. After a suitable grieving period, the son concluded that the prophecy couldn’t come true, and that thus, he could not be killed whilst in his twenties. As a result, he decided to do all the dangerous things he may have wanted to do, but never had the courage to before, safe in the knowledge, that he wouldn’t die.

“The son perished three weeks later, while hunting a Dragon. Now tell me Harry, in this second situation, did the prophecy come true?”

Harry’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean? The father was dead before the son died.”

“True, but consider. If the father had not killed himself, would the son have set out on that mission to kill a Dragon?”

“I guess not. So he would have killed his son because he tried not to? But the first man saved his son by trying the same thing!”

“Indeed.”

“But what does that have to do with your questions to me?”

“I leave it for you to decide.” Dumbledore said, in a manner that was reminiscent of Harry’s Occlumency lessons.

There was a period of silence, during which Dumbledore was obviously waiting for Harry to hazard a theory. He thought hard. How could that story have any bearing on him? Yes, he was in a Prophecy, and those men were, but he had not been trying to change anything in the prophecy, had he?

What was it the men had done? They had listened to a prophecy, and tried to change what was going to happen. What was it Dumbledore had said? Prophecies should not be second guessed. So in the second one, because the man, Flaurent, had believed the prophecy completely, and tried to change it, the Prophecy had come true. And yet in the first, it didn’t. So what Dumbledore was saying was…

“Do you mean that if I do something because of what the Prophecy says, then I might complete it, or break it, and I have no way of knowing which?”

“In a fashion, yes. Both men made their decisions based solely upon what their prophecies had said.”

“And you thought that I apparated in front of the curse, because I thought I couldn’t be killed by anyone other than Voldemort, and that I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.” Harry finished, understanding at last.

“The Prophecy may, or may not be fulfilled.” Dumbledore told him. “But when you decide what you must do, make your decisions with a mind filled only by your own thoughts, not a sense of duty or complacency that may come to be there because of a prophecy. If you look at yourself and decide you do not wish to fight, then do not do so.”

There was no way Harry wouldn’t fight of course, but he had a sudden, powerful sense of the difference between fighting because of your own beliefs, and fighting because you were forced to, and a feeling, just as strong, that that was what Dumbledore wanted him to know.

“Whether you decide to attempt to vanquish Voldemort, or not, what you do from here is your decision, and I shall not attempt to force you one way or the other. I shall aid you as best I can, if you so desire. Remember, however, that if you do fight Tom Riddle, then it is as a group that we have our best chance, and as a group we must work together.”

It was as close as Dumbledore had really got to telling Harry off for not staying out of the fight with the Death Eaters, but it was not phrased as such, but rather as a choice Harry had to make. If he were to fight, then he would have to follow orders – up to a point.

“I want to fight him.” Harry said determinedly. “And not because of the Prophecy. Because of what he’s done to me, my family, and my friends. I want to be the one to kill him.”

Dumbledore inclined his head respectfully. “As you wish. I shall see you at our next Occlumency session, Harry, although it had best be delayed until next Tuesday I fear. Same time.” He stood up to leave. “And Harry – get well soon.”
________________________________________



A/N: I have better say, I think, that I am aware that Occlumency is very complicated the way I am writing (and it is meant to be - if it was easy everyone could do it). I am doing my best to explain everything gradually, and make it as simple as I can, just bear in mind that Harry doesn't know how to do everything yet - far from it. He hasn't even done much storing of memories in his new 'Sanctuary'.

________________________________________
Chapter 17: Heroes, Healers, and Halloween


Saturday morning dawned, with Harry still stuck in the Hospital Wing. Dobby had delivered some breakfast up to him, and he was steadily making his way through bacon, sausages, tomato, mushrooms, and egg, when Hermione slipped through the parting of the curtain, holding her recently delivered edition of the Daily Prophet in one hand, and a rack of toast in the other. She looked a little put out to see that Harry was already having some breakfast.

“You’re off hospital rations I see.” She said as way of greeting. “And there was I thinking you might appreciate something other than potions.”

“No, I do!” Harry said hastily, “I could do with a bit of toast to go with this.”

“Who brought you it?” Hermione asked, almost suspiciously.

“Dobby. And don’t look like that just because he’s a house-elf. He’s also a friend, and you brought me up some food.” Harry said pointedly, trying desperately to prevent Hermione from moving back to the subject of S.P.E.W.

“Well I didn’t just come up to give you food. You need to have a look at this.” Hermione threw down the paper in front of him.
Ministry Launches Successful Double Strike!


The new Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, has today revealed the first successful strike towards the ranks of You-Know-Who’s supporters, and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named himself. The Daily Prophet can exclusively reveal an amazing strike at the heart of the Death Eaters as well as the astonishing truth behind the rumours of the Hogsmeade attack last week, which was happening at the same time.

As the attack upon innocent civilians in Hogsmeade began, a combined effort by the Ministry of Magic, and Headmaster Dumbledore of Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and some of the teachers of the said school, was also under way, in order to uncover the whereabouts of one of You-Know-Who’s secret bases of operation.

There were no serious casualties, the Ministry of Magic announced yesterday evening, although a Hogwarts teacher, rumoured to be Professor Severus Snape, was injured in the attack. Professor Snape has had to fight allegations of involvement with the Death Eaters this summer, and maybe this new information, if true, will finally put these scandalous claims to rest. Neither the Ministry nor Hogwarts have been willing to comment on these reports however.

Among those people captured in this raid, was Lucius Malfoy, once highly respected Governor of Hogwarts, but now known as one of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s most senior Death Eaters. He escaped from the prison at Azkaban this past summer. Captured with him were many of the other men to have fled the prison at the same time (a full list of whom may be found on page seven), and many items and volumes of great danger, and of use to the Dark Arts, were seized.


“Snape helped arrest Malfoy?” Harry asked, blankly. “But they’re friends aren’t they… you know, from school. I can remember Sirius calling him ‘Malfoy’s lapdog’.”

“Well, he’s rumoured to have helped arrest him. But if he did, that would explain why his classes were cancelled;” Hermione told him, looking at him keenly, “he was injured.”

“But…” Harry said. “But… if he is working as a spy for us, why would they let his name be mentioned?”

“Well, if Voldemort thinks he’s working as a spy for him, then it will probably make him think Snape isn’t suspected.” Hermione pointed out. “And if he wasn’t a spy for us, then how did they know where to go to capture them?”

“Well he isn’t suspected, is he? Apart from by me it seems.” Harry told her. “Maybe he is working against us, and Voldemort set it up so that people would trust him, maybe he wanted Malfoy to be captured.”

“Harry.” Hermione said, wearily, “Has there been one year you haven’t suspected Snape of something, and how many times have you been right? Why exactly would Voldemort want his own Death Eaters to be captured?”

“I saw him with Voldemort Hermione.” Harry reminded her.

Hermione just sighed, and shook her head. “But if he was working for Voldemort, don’t you think he’d have tried to kill you, or capture you, or something like that by now?”

“Maybe I’m not important enough for Voldemort to go after yet, if it means that Snape’s cover is blown.” Harry told her, crossing his fingers behind his back; he didn’t want to allow the possibility that Snape was helping them – helping him – in his quest to kill Voldemort.

“I can’t believe you kept a straight face.” Hermione told him, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, that’s not the worst part of the article, read on.”

Harry obediently turned his eyes back down to the paper.
This is not all that can now be revealed however: as our readers will be aware, the attack last Saturday was on one of Hogwarts’ trips into Hogsmeade, where all students in their third year or above are allowed to attend. We are now assured by eyewitnesses that among the students that arrived in Hogsmeade that day, were The-Boy-Who-Lived: Harry Potter, Ginevra Weasley, Felicity Howells, and Timothy Dunn, and all of them were to become involved in the events that took place.


“They mention Ginny?” Harry said in alarm. “And who are Felicity Howells and Timothy Dunn? Hang on, Timothy Dunn… He’s a friend of Jack Sloper isn’t he?”

“We didn’t want to tell you seeing as you were so bad yourself, but… well, keep reading.” Hermione said awkwardly.
Young Timothy Dunn, a fourth year Muggleborn Gryffindor, was cut down as soon as the fighting started, and the Daily Prophet’s condolences go out to his family at this time. However, the Ministry, as we have been previously informed, were ready for such an attack (for an exclusive, comprehensive list of Death Eaters killed and captured, turn to page seven), although the brave Aurors Sabrina Ferrair, Augnacious Episcopus, and Nathan Barbarus all lost their lives in the battle (for our tribute to these courageous souls, turn to page three).


“Cut down, as in killed?” Harry asked, aghast.

Hermione nodded. “Ginny said that he was in Madam Puddifoot’s with them, but ran out of it when the fighting started. He was hit by a curse.”

“Dead?” Harry asked again. “What’s happening?”

“There was a ceremony for Timothy Dunn on the Sunday, but,” and here Hermione looked rather abashed, “to be honest, Ron, Ginny, and I were up here with you for most of the time. All I know is that a couple of people’s parents have withdrawn them from Hogwarts, I’m not sure who, except Seamus’ mother is trying to take him out. He’s refusing, but he isn’t of age yet, so he mightn’t have any choice.”

Harry felt rather sick; another student dead in the middle of term – two in less than three years – and all because of Voldemort. He almost asked Hermione what the rest of the bad news was, sure that there had to be yet more misery in the newspaper report, but instead, bent his head back to the page, to find out himself.
Thanks to the new eyewitness evidence, the Daily Prophet can now reveal a further insight into this battle. The infamous Rodolphus Lestrange, best known for his part in the Longbottom Torturings, was the last Death Eater standing at the end of the battle, and in a final effort to escape, he seized hold of the young third year Hufflepuff: Felicity Howells; attempting to bargain her life for his. In a final, desperate attempt, he also threatened one Ginevra Weasley, a fifth year Gryffindor, claiming that she too would die if wards preventing his escape were not lowered.

In a last stunning twist, The-Boy-Who-Lived apparated between the Death Eater and his intended victim, deflecting the deadly curse back towards its caster, killing him. Rumours have now come to light, that the rebounded curse may indeed be the most Unforgivable of curses, Avada Kedavra, and if that is the case, then maybe The-Boy-Who-Lived, is, as some sections of the public are claiming, the person that can defeat He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for good. (For further arguments for The-Boy-Who-Lived’s possible destiny to save our world, turn to page four.)

(Miss Ginevra Weasley is sister to Master Ron Weasley, a good friend of Harry Potter’s, and Mr.s Fred and George Weasley, the recipients of this month’s Entrepreneurs of the Month award, who, in their interview printed this week, but given before the Hogsmeade attack, have been quite outspoken on their opinions as regards He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and the measures that should be taken to combat him. For a full account of the Weasley family’s connection to The-Boy-Who-Lived, turn to page two.)


Harry looked at Hermione, the words sticking in his throat. “They think it was the Avada Kedavra curse? They think I survived it again? And they’re telling everyone that I’m going to kill Voldemort?”

Hermione nodded solemnly.

“And why did they have to mention the Weasley family? They… they’re setting them up to be targets!” Harry said, his voice rising in alarm.

Hermione looked rather philosophical. “Well, to be honest Harry, Voldemort will already be well aware that you have been almost adopted into the Weasley family, he didn’t need the Daily Prophet for that – not when he has the Slytherins. I thought you ought to know the kind of reaction you might get from the public though… and the students.”

“So everyone is going to be expecting me to kill Voldemort?” Harry asked again. “Well now he’s definitely going to want to get rid of me, isn’t he? I mean, if everybody is relying on me to kill him. Don’t they know I’m only sixteen?” Harry burst out angrily.
________________________________________


When Harry was finally released from the Hospital Wing the next day, there was less than a week before Halloween, and only a few days after that was the match against Slytherin. Ron and Ginny were at Quidditch practice, and Harry would have loved the feel of air rushing past him, but disobeying Madam Pomfrey’s orders would not have been worth it, especially as she was threatening to check every practice, and even go along to the Slytherin match to see if he was resting or not. If Harry was honest, he would have had to admit that it still hurt if he took too many deep breaths anyway.

When Harry gave the password (‘Lilypad’) to the Fat Lady, he was completely unprepared for the cheer that greeted his entrance. In fact, he almost turned around again, and walked back out of the portrait hole. People he’d hardly spoken to were coming up to him and asking how he was. The burning question on most of their minds, however, was whether it had indeed been the Killing curse that hit him.

“No it wasn’t Avada Kedavra!” Harry roared finally, his throat wincing as he did so. “Since when did the Daily Prophet get anything right about me?”

He pushed his way through the crowd, attempting to get to his dormitory. He had a vague idea that if he got to the Marauder’s Map, he would be able to see where all the sane people in the castle were. Before he reached the stairs though, he spotted Jack Sloper and a couple of his friends, sitting very quietly, not looking quite as enamoured with Harry as everybody else was.

After a moment’s deliberation, Harry altered his route to move towards them. He felt he ought to say something, even though he knew that he had wanted to be left alone when Sirius died.

“Jack?” He began. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry to hear about Timothy.”

The three fourth years looked at him, with dislike in their eyes.

“Yeah?” Sloper asked. “Doesn’t do him much good, does it? You’re the hero that saved Weasley’s life, but he’s dead.”

“What did I do?” Harry asked, half annoyed, but mainly in utter surprise.

“What did you do?” One of Sloper’s friends said in a bitter, sarcastic tone. “The only reason You-Know-Who sent anyone there was because you were there.”

“And how did you figure that out?” Harry asked, coldly. “I wasn’t even around when the attack happened.”

“You still managed to save Weasley though, didn’t you?” Jack Sloper said, resentfully. “Diggory died because of you, didn’t he? And now Tim has too.”

Harry’s eyes narrowed, but he suddenly realised that the crowd that had been surrounding him once he came in, were now surrounding the four of them, glaring at the three fourth year Gryffindors who seemed to have a problem with him.

“Were any of you there?” Harry asked icily. “He was dead before I was, but maybe you could have done something.”

He turned, pushing through the crowd once more, and stalked, this time with no interruptions, up the stairs to the boys’ dormitories. The first thing he did was to grab his Invisibility Cloak, and the Marauders Map. Hermione was in the library.

Harry walked quickly once he exited the common room portrait, churning over the reasons that he was being blamed for his fellow Gryffindor’s death. It’s not as if he could have been there any sooner, and anyway, once he did get there, he just made things worse. How could he have done anything to stop it? Or did he die because Harry got there? Was it because of him that Dunn ran out of Madam Puddifoot’s?

No, it couldn’t have been, the Daily Prophet said that Timothy Dunn had been cut down soon after the fighting began, so it couldn’t have been his fault. He wasn’t even there, he couldn’t have changed anything to stop it happening. But since when did the Daily Prophet bother to get its facts right? And Dumbledore and everyone else in the Order hadn’t wanted him there… Maybe it was somehow his fault.

But if I wasn’t there, then Ginny might have died, he thought fiercely. Ginny didn’t have a wand to protect herself, and Harry still wasn’t sure what shield he had used to reflect the curse, so how would Ginny have survived if he hadn’t been there? No, he told himself mulishly, they can tell me I should have followed orders all they want, but at least I saved Ginny.

What was really irritating Harry, was that he could see why Dean could be angry with him, and why anyone else whose family or friends had been killed just because they knew him, might hate him. But this fourth year – he had never even spoken to him. It’s not as if he, Harry, could have done anything to make, or prevent, him being a target. That was, if he was targeted.

He shed his Invisibility Cloak just outside the library, and walked in, causing people to crane their necks, and start whispering. Maybe he was imagining it, but Madam Pince seemed to be looking at him in an annoyed manner as if the sudden outbreak of noise was his fault. Harry spotted Hermione sitting down at a table with her back to the door, and walked over, sliding into a chair beside her.

“Hi.” He said.

“Oh!” Hermione said, startled. “Oh, you’re out of the Hospital Wing. But I th-” She paused, looking at him. “What’s up Harry, you look all hot and bothered?”

Harry glanced at the librarian. “I’ll tell you when Madam Pince isn’t looking at me as if all this muttering is my fault.”

Hermione looked around, seemingly noticing the sudden outbreak in noise for the first time, and nodded understandingly.

Harry stood up again, and withdrew a random book from the shelf, and started to read. It was titled: ‘Virgaemin – The Masters of Wandless Battle Magic’; and looked to Harry to be well thumbed, until he flicked through the pages and found the ones at the end barely touched.

Harry did eventually explain to Hermione about his altercation with Jack Sloper. “I’m not even really bothered by all this belief that I’m some kind of Messiah – I’m used to it. But how is it my fault that their friend died!? I mean, I’m used to people hating my guts as well, but I usually know why, even if they haven’t a clue about what really happened.”

“It’s probably a lot of different things.” Hermione said sympathetically. “He’s been annoyed with you and Ron since the beginning of term anyway, because you dropped him as a Beater, and his friends probably feel annoyed at you on his behalf. Then these Death Eaters appear and kill one of his best friends, and you and Ginny manage to walk away. He’s been rude to Ginny too, you know?”

“But-” Harry began, but Hermione interrupted him.

“And then on top of all that, there is all this stuff in the Prophet about you saving people, and being the person who’s going to save all of us against Voldemort, and here is his best friend just having died, and everyone is ignoring it. And maybe they’re even thinking that if you saved Ginny, you should have been able to save Dunn.”

“And how exactly was I meant to stop any of that happening?” Harry demanded.

“I know it’s not fair, Harry. You couldn’t have done anything, but not everyone thinks logically when they are upset. They can’t stop to think things through, because they already know what they want to believe; and sometimes it’s hard to admit it if people point that out to you. None of it is your fault, but there’s no point trying to prove anything to him. Just don’t let it bother you.”

“I guess.” Harry sighed. “Is that why Ginny looks so tired all the time at the moment? Because Sloper’s been having a go at her?”

“No.” Hermione replied calmly.

“Then why? I thought she’d be getting more sleep after – after I started to recover – you know, like you and Ron have, but she’s looking worse.”

Hermione looked at him in an almost pitying fashion. “Isn’t it obvious Harry?”

“Obviously not.” Harry told her. “Or I wouldn’t be asking you.”

Hermione looked like she was debating whether to tell him why or not.

Eventually, she said, gently, “Harry… You almost died trying to save her life. And for a while we thought you were dead, and we didn’t know you were going to be okay until you woke up on Monday. How do you think she feels?”

Harry went rather red, but said nothing. Instead, he remembered just how hard he had beaten himself up because Sirius had died protecting him.

“But I’m better now, so what’s the problem? No harm done at all!” He said eventually.

Hermione looked at him pityingly once more. “Try putting yourself in her place Harry, no harm done this time maybe, but what if it happens again? And that isn’t the only thing.” But Hermione trailed off.

“What else then?” Harry demanded, but this time Hermione didn’t explain.

“It’s not fair on her if I… Look, if you can’t think of any other reason, but want to find out, then ask her yourself. If she wants you to know, she’ll tell you.”

“Well, I hope she starts to sleep soon, she’ll need her energy for the Quidditch match against Slytherin.”

Hermione bent her head back to her books, and muttered in disbelief. “Quidditch. Is that all you three think about?”

“Ginny as well?” Harry said, amused.

“Since Madam Pomfrey said you couldn’t play, all she and Ron have talked about is Quidditch tactics.” She said indistinctly, as she settled back down to work.

Harry quickly tired of the book he had withdrawn, it seemed to have been written by somebody with all the personality of a quill with a broken point, or maybe even Professor Binns. The idea behind it was one that would normally have gripped Harry, and most other students: tips as to master the usage of wandless magic. Maybe the real reason that there were so few Virgaemin around, was because you had to struggle through books like these if you wanted to become one.

Ron was indeed talking about nothing but Quidditch, as Harry soon found out when he next saw him.

“Look, Harry, can you come down to the practice sessions and watch, maybe see if you can spot something that I haven’t? And maybe you could give Emily some tips about Malfoy?”

“What, that he’s the dirtiest player in the school?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, exactly.” Ron said. “The whole team is dirty, and they’ve all played together before. Why did you have to be out for this one?”

“Trust me, I want to play this match even more than you want me to.” Harry told him.

Quite apart from the fact that he just wanted to play, he wished that it wasn’t the Slytherin match he was missing. He had never lost to Slytherin yet, and Emily Crowley, his young replacement, wouldn’t have a fun debut – a far better debut match would be against Hufflepuff, the weakest of the three opposing houses.

“Yeah, well.” Ron said, looking almost petrified at the task before him. “We haven’t lost to Slytherin since you joined the team, and I don’t want to be the first captain to lose to them again. I mean, without you playing…”

“I know Ron. But you’ll be fine. Trust me.”

“I almost lost the game single-handedly last year.” Ron moaned.

“Look, you won us the Cup last year, so don’t worry about the Gryffindor Keeper.” Harry said sternly. “He’ll be fine. You’re the captain; just make sure you worry about everyone else, and what they should be doing.”

But no matter what Harry said, he couldn’t shift Ron’s nerves. He was, at least, doing a better job than last year when Slytherins threw insults at him across the corridor. The fact that the Gryffindors anywhere near started up a chant of ‘Weasley is our King’ probably helped. Harry also had a word with Emily Crowley about Malfoy, but he didn’t want to scare her.

“Remember,” He finished, “the reason Malfoy plays dirty, and cheats, is because he’s a rubbish flyer. He’s never beaten me to the Snitch – you have. You can outfly him any day of the week – just try not to let him get too close to you.”
________________________________________


Harry was grateful when he returned to classes the next week, because it meant that the attention wasn’t directed at him wherever he walked. Dinner on Sunday, and breakfast on Monday morning had been almost unbearable, but once the classes started, people started to focus on other things. Maybe they were so used to him being the subject of attention that it took less time for them to get bored with it all than previously.

The tactical Defence Against the Dark Arts class that day was based around teamwork, and fighting with people against a large group of opponents. Harry had the uncomfortable feeling that Aravenne was looking at him for a lot of the class, but just dismissed it as nothing. That was, until Aravenne asked him to stay behind after class. The Professor waited until all of his class mates had left, closing the door behind them, and then sat on the edge of his desk.

“I wanted to congratulate you, Mr Potter.” He began.

“Sir?” Harry asked, confused.

“On killing your first Death Eaters. Well done.”

Harry looked at his teacher with a furrowed brow. “But…” He stopped, not knowing what to say.

“The world is a better place without those two people in it, Mr Potter, killing them was a service to Britain, and the whole of the Wizarding world.”

Harry said nothing for a few seconds, puzzled. During this time, Aravenne was looking at him intently. Harry had admitted to his friends that he was glad that Lestrange was dead, and he was, but to be congratulated for killing somebody? To be congratulated by a teacher? That was wrong, wasn’t it? And what was this about two people?

“I only killed Rodolphus Lestrange.” He said eventually. “And then I didn’t really mean it, it just… hit off my shield and rebounded.”

“Really?” Aravenne asked in surprise, “I heard that a Death Eater that went after you was found dead in a hallway.”

“Oh.” Harry said momentarily perplexed as to why Aravenne had that idea. “Oh, he… the other man died… because of an accident, the stairs gave way, it wasn’t anything to do with me.”

“Is that so?” Aravenne replied sceptically, as if he didn’t believe Harry for some reason. “Well, nevertheless, congratulations in getting rid of Rodolphus Lestrange then.”

Seeing Harry’s face, which was bemused, guilty, incredulous, suspicious, and a couple more expressions for good measure, all at the same time, Aravenne continued. “I happen to be unfortunate enough to know Rodolphus Lestrange, and his wife Bellatrix Black of old. Trust me, with those people, either they kill hundreds of people, or you kill them. All Death Eaters are the same.”

His face had a very ugly look on it, which surprised Harry even more. He had grown used to Aravenne being, or at least, looking, in control all the time. His lessons exuded confidence and an intrinsic sort of discipline which nobody dared test, and yet here he was revealing a hate of the Lestranges that few could match – and for the Lestranges, that was probably saying something.

“Professor?” Harry asked, somewhat cautiously.

Aravenne seemed to come out of a reverie. “Yes?”

“How did you know the Lestranges?”

“Oh!” He shook his head, as if ridding himself of unpleasant memories. “I happened to go to school with them. In a different year of course. They were just as bad then, as they are now. Well, as one of them was a week ago.” He finished with satisfaction.

“Oh, right. Did you want me for anything else?” Harry asked, eager to leave the room; he felt completely off kilter with the way Aravenne was acting.

“Yes, I did. Madam Pomfrey has not so much requested, as ordered me not to include you in any duels tomorrow.” He smiled, seemingly forgetting all about the previous conversation. “I was going to give you a choice. You can come along and watch, or else catch up on some of the work you’ve missed in the library. It is up to you.”

“Thanks. Um, I’ll probably come along and watch. Hermione Granger gave me her notes while I was in the Hospital Wing.”

The Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher nodded. “I might suggest you concentrate on tactics, and tactical situations, that is probably the area you need to focus on the most.”

Harry nodded, and walked to the door with a muttered ‘Thanks’. Before he could open the door however, Aravenne stopped him.

“By the way Mr Potter, what shield did you use to reflect Rodolphus Lestrange’s curse? I don’t believe I have taught you any shield strong enough to reflect the Pulmelido curse so far.”

“I don’t remember, sir. I can’t remember much about what happened at all.”

Aravenne hmmed, but said nothing else. By the time Harry left the room, the Slytherins and Ravenclaws were waiting to enter. Harry pushed his way through them, not looking at anyone. He was just glad to go. He spent the practical Charms lesson devoted to mending broken bones, telling Hermione and Ron what had happened.

There was another reaction to Rodolphus Lestrange’s death that Harry found rather surprising, and that came from Neville Longbottom.

He cornered Harry, and began, quite abruptly, by asking: “Did you really kill him Harry? Lestrange is dead, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, he’s dead.” Harry replied, not really knowing what else to say.

A strange expression came across Neville’s face: it seemed both wistful, and relieved. It, had, of course, been the Lestranges that were instrumental in torturing his parents, in turning them into the shells of human beings that they were today.

“When I was young,” He muttered, “I used to dream that I would kill them all. Gran and Uncle Algie always made sure I knew why Mum and Dad were… like they were. I just wanted Mum and Dad back, and I used to dream that killing them would make everything okay. Then I grew up and found I was rubbish at magic, and wouldn’t have a chance, or the guts to do it.

“Gran told Mum and Dad that he was dead. She said they didn’t even seem to hear her. I kind of hoped… that it was because he was still alive. And yet I want him to be dead too.”

Neville turned away, his shoulders slumping. Harry had an almost uncontrollable urge to grab him, and say something to make him feel better, but what, he had no idea. It was as if Neville was being taunted. His parents were there, but just out of reach.
________________________________________


When Harry saw Snape next, in his Potions lesson, he wasn’t surprised to see Snape showing no signs of injury whatsoever (which Hermione told him was to be expected seeing as Harry, himself, was fit again), but he was a little bemused by the reception the Slytherins gave him. Okay, some of the Slytherins – a very few – didn’t seem to have openly shown their allegiance to Voldemort yet, but Snape had supposedly arrested Malfoy’s dad, and he was still being treated respectfully by all of them.

“Now what do you think about Snape being a traitor?” Ron asked Hermione, taking the words out of Harry’s mouth. “Even Malfoy was treating him normally.”

“Ron, he’s a spy,” Hermione replied in a tone which suggested absolute exasperation, “and he’s also the head of Slytherin. He could have told them anything he wanted to make them believe he was still working for Voldemort rather than against him.”

“I don’t believe you Hermione.” Ron said, irritably, “Despite all the evidence you refuse to see what is obvious. Snape. Is. A. Death Eater! What is he going to tell Malfoy to stop him being annoyed at him then? I led the Ministry and Dumbledore to arrest your dad, but I’m still working for You-Know-Who really?”

“Well he’s going to have to say something similar either way, whether he is our spy or not.” Hermione said, firing up. “So it makes no difference, Ron.”

“But maybe he already knew it was going to happen, and that his father will be rescued.” Suggested Harry. “It’d be far easier to convince him if he knew what was going to happen beforehand, wouldn’t it? Maybe Malfoy knows that it’s just a part of Voldemort’s plan to make the Ministry and Dumbledore believe Snape is working for them.”

“You two just can’t get over the fact that you were wrong about him in first year.” She said angrily, and stalked ahead of them.

“What is her problem about Snape?” Ron asked Harry. “I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it.”

Harry shrugged. “Maybe it’s because she knows Dumbledore trusts him still.”

“I don’t get that, either.” Ron said, kicking the ground.

The rest of the week, and Halloween, passed by without much incident whatsoever, unless you count Harry’s failed attempt to prove his fitness to Madam Pomfrey, in a final, last ditch effort to play in the Quidditch match. He was (almost) feeling as fit as a fiddle (whatever that meant, he thought to himself), although he still had slight pains now and then, but it was nothing particularly bad, and nothing that he was going to admit to. But, while she checked and double checked his health, as though trying and failing to find something to stop him playing, she held firm.

“No Mr Potter, you may resume light duelling in your lessons – and by light, I mean just one duel at first, and at the first sign of pain you must stop – but Quidditch is out of the question. You have a reserve do you not?”

“Yes.” Harry muttered.

“Then Gryffindor’s Quidditch team will do fine without you.”

“But-”

“No buts, Mr Potter. When the match starts, you will be sitting firmly in the stands. And I will be there to check, so don’t get any ideas.”

“She knows I’m fit enough to play.” Harry grumbled to Ron that evening, as they were going over final strategies. “She couldn’t find anything wrong with me – she even said I could start duelling again.”

“So the DA is on again next week?” Ron asked.

“I guess so...” Harry replied, marvelling how the subject of the DA never seemed to drop.

“Well I believe you when you say you're fit enough mate. How about we-” Ron began, but Harry interrupted him.

“No use. She’s going to go to the match to make sure we don’t try anything. And anyway, you’ve already done all your strategies, and everyone knows who’s playing.” Harry punched the arm of his chair in anger. “I haven’t played a Quidditch match for a year now. If Pomfrey has her way, she’ll ban me from Quidditch this year too.”

“We could really do with you mate.” Ron said anxiously.

“You’ll be fine.” Harry said quickly, remembering that it wasn’t a good idea to let Ron start to feel the nerves champing away at his insides. “Emily’s more than a match for Malfoy. Trust me, I’m the one who’s flown against them both.”
________________________________________


When Harry, Hermione, Ron, and the whole of the Gryffindor Quidditch team entered the Great Hall the next morning, Malfoy was looking rather smug, for in front of him was laid a new broom. A Firebolt. He had placed it in front of him in such a manner, that it was impossible for the Gryffindor team to miss it.

“Of course,” He drawled lazily, to Pansy Parkinson, as they passed him, “Potter is really fit to play you know. I imagine that he heard about the present that was sent to me the other day, the Firebolt, you know. He knows that he’d never beat me if we were flying with the same broom, he just isn’t good enough to live with me.”

“Where did you get that from Malfoy?” Ginny asked cuttingly. “I thought your dad was in Azkaban, and everything you owned seized by the Ministry.”

“Weasley, even with my father not being around, he can still put his hands on more money than yours will earn in a life time.”

“You know, he might be right.” Dean replied, “I heard that the Ministry spent a king’s ransom of Galleons on the new cells in Azkaban.”

Malfoy ignored him. “You know, I almost feel sorry for that first year. Everyone else is too scared to fly against me, so they’re putting her there instead. Easy to blame first years, isn’t it Potter?”

“Malfoy, you couldn’t catch the Snitch if it perched on your broom. Remind me, how many times have you caught the Snitch against Gryffindor?” Harry asked, firing up.

It was Ron’s voice which halted the exchange of words. “Team, come on. Breakfast, and then a quick check on conditions. You’ll get to embarrass Malfoy on the pitch.”

“How about you remind me Weasley: did you make a single save last year?” Malfoy called after them, and it was only Hermione’s hand on Ron’s shoulder that stopped him turning around and forgetting his own instructions.

Harry watched his friend’s ears turn crimson, with concern.

“Remember,” He hissed, before the two of them sat down, “you’re the captain, and this is most of our players’ first match, you’ve got to make sure they’re okay, and give them instructions. Remember why you were made Captain in the first place; you’re great at strategising, so tell everyone what they should be doing on and off the pitch.”

It seemed to work, and Ron was so busy making sure his six team mates ate, that he forgot to pick at his own food and ate hungrily himself. It was, Harry felt, a good sign from Ron’s point of view. The two youngest members of the team, Demelza Robins, and Emily Crowley looked absolutely petrified however, and Harry’s heart went out to Emily in particular. He vividly remembered his first match, also against Slytherin, and being told by someone, Seamus he thought, that he had better eat because Seekers always got targeted.

Ron seemed to be thinking along the same lines, for he tried to buoy Emily’s spirits up.

“So what if Malfoy’s got a Firebolt?” He asked her. “You’ve flown against Harry, haven’t you? And no-one else has ever beaten him on his Firebolt. You know what to do, you’ve done it enough in practice. If you weren’t good enough for this, I wouldn’t have bothered going to McGonagall to let you bring your broom to school. There aren’t many people who fly better than you, and Malfoy isn’t one of them.”

“She’ll be okay when she’s in the air.” Harry muttered to Ron, “It’s just the wait that’s making her nervous.”

“Hope so.” Ron said, slightly anxiously. “Well, see you later, I’ll take them down and get them ready.”

“Right.” Harry said, for some reason butterflies beginning to form in his own stomach.

“Aren’t you going to wish us luck?”

“Luck?” Harry said out loud. “You won’t need it. The game’s in the bag mate.”

“I wish I was there with them.” Harry groaned to Hermione, as the Quidditch team left for the changing rooms.

“Well, what if you ended up just as bad as you ever were before?” Hermione asked reasonably. “It’s worth it to be on the safe side.”

“As long as I caught the Snitch and we won, I wouldn’t care.” Harry moaned.

“Don’t be silly.” Hermione told him sternly. “Look, if it makes you feel any better, we can go down early and get good seats.”

“I was already planning on that!” Harry said, half-indignantly.
________________________________________


Madam Pomfrey was indeed at the match, and she cast a swift eye towards the Gryffindor stands, before she spotted Harry. Harry felt a small amount of resentment inside him well up towards her. He was fine!

It was an overcast day, with slight drizzle, but no winds, and Harry found himself tapping his glasses almost automatically with his wand, and muttering ‘Impervious’.

“Thanks for that charm, Hermione.” He grinned to his side. “You’ve no idea how useful it’s been.”

A Ravenclaw third year, Jerome Bulley, was doing the commentary today, and his young voice rang out, magnified by the microphone, as the sides took the field.

“And here comes Gryffindor’s team. It’s a new look lineout, with four players making their debuts. The captain Ron Weasley leads out his players, followed by Bell, Weasley, Robins, Thomas, Coote, and Crowley, the new first year Seeker. Harry Potter was ruled out of this game of course, after the attack in Hogsmeade a few weeks ago, which means that Gryffindor are blooding their new talent.

“No-one has seen her fly much so far, but I’ve been assured by Professor McGonagall that the only reason she is allowed her own broom in school is because she is an amazing talent. Crowley of course is only the second first year to play Quidditch here this century, after Potter himself.”

The commentary was, as usual, greeted by cheers and applause by the Gryffindor supporters, and jeers by the Slytherins, especially when he mentioned the Gryffindor Seekers.

“And here come the Slytherins! Captain Malfoy has recently acquired a Firebolt, maybe his father looted it before he was caught by the Ministry-”

Jeers and boos met his statement, along with laughs, and a huge round of applause. It wasn’t, however, quite so well received in the staff stands.

“Bulley!” McGonagall roared in anger, and she could be heard without aid of the microphone.

“Sorry Professor, didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to refer to politics. I won’t mention his father being a Death Eater again. Promise! Anyway, here come Malfoy, Vaisey, Urquhart…”

Harry sniggered, and looked at Hermione, who was looking rather concerned. “Come on.” He said, “Don’t tell me you didn’t find that comment about Malfoy’s dad funny.”

Her face slipped into a short, reluctant grin. “Well, okay. I’m just worried about Ron, that’s all.”

“He’ll be fine.” Harry said, crossing his fingers. “He’s been really good in the practices, I think he’s still confident after last match.

Madam Hooch called Ron and Malfoy to her to shake hands, which both of them looked particularly loath to do. However, after the merest grasp of a handshake, the two of them took to the air, to join their teams. With a sharp blow on her whistle, the balls were released, and she threw the Quaffle high into the sky.

“And Bell catches the Quaffle, a quick pass back to Weasley, who moves the ball on to Robins. Robins – OUCH – but the referee says no foul, Robins gets away from her two opponents and passes the ball to Weasley. Slytherin are going into these challenges hard – or trying to, beautiful dummy by Katie Bell there. And Weasley is flying over the top of her, and grabs the ball as it’s thrown. She’s past the Slytherin Chasers, and Bletchley is coming out to meet her. She shoots! So close, Gryffindor almost open the scoring immediately!”

It had been close as well, Bletchley had just got a fingertip on it to divert it wide of the left hoop. It hadn’t been the Loganstock’s Leap as they had practiced it, but it had been a pretty good variation of it, and it could only give the Gryffindor Chasers confidence. Slytherin surged back immediately, but they soon found that Ron was up for the game too, although it had been a bit of a weak shot by Urquhart. The first save may have been easy however, but the second, third, and fourth were all top class. Unfortunately, Bletchley was having a blinder as well, and for the first ten minutes, the game remained scoreless, and the Snitch wasn’t even spotted.

Emily was taking care to stay out of trouble’s way, but Malfoy was sticking with her, and seemed to have set one of the Beaters, Crabbe, to aim for her constantly. Goyle was targeting Demelza Robins, as was the entire Slytherin Chaser line-up it seemed. Time and time again they went in on her hard, and although she dodged most of the attacks by ball or man, her confidence was disappearing faster than Hermione’s best transfiguration charm. Slytherin were rapidly getting the edge in that battle, and Ron was finding himself deluged with saves to make, but even in his current form he couldn’t stop them all.

“And it’s Urquhart again!” Jerome Bulley’s voice rang out. “And this time he scores. Sixty – Forty to Slytherin. And the Gryffindor Captain is furious. He can’t understand how Vaisey got away with what looked like fairly blatant cobbing to me on Robins.”

The Gryffindor fans were also adding their voices to Ron’s. The Slytherins seemed to be trying to do whatever they could without quite straying over the line, and giving away a penalty. Harry’s voice however, wasn’t with theirs; instead, he was staring at Emily Crowley, who had suddenly shot off towards the Slytherins’ goal hoops. No-one else seemed to have spotted it for a while, until the Slytherin fans’ voices raised themselves urgently, begging their players to look around.

Malfoy shot after her, as did Crabbe, who smashed a Bludger in her direction. She avoided it easily, and continued to hare after the Snitch. Malfoy was gaining on her, but she was following the Snitch with the air of someone who had but one goal in mind. She swerved two more Bludgers from Crabbe, and rose into the air, following the Snitch’s change in trajectory. She put out her hand to catch it, but it was still just a little too far away.

She started to slow down. Just as he had to Harry a couple of years earlier, Malfoy had leant forward, and grabbed the end of her broom. The whistle blew fiercely, giving a penalty to Gryffindor. Emily Crowley turned around in anger, but as she did so, she turned her back to Crabbe. He swung his bat at a passing Bludger, and – WHAM – it hit a glancing blow to the back of Emily’s head.

Malfoy let go of the broom, triumphant. Emily and her broom, however, were falling in the same direction as the blood that was coming out of the wound to her skull. Downwards. It was only the fact that she had locked her legs around the handle that was preventing her from falling off, for she was dangling dangerously upside down, unconscious.

Pandemonium broke out. Ron and Dean had to be restrained from physically pummelling Malfoy, Madam Hooch was yelling herself hoarse, and blowing the whistle shrilly, and Madam Pomfrey was on the pitch tending to the fallen first year, who had dropped to earth like a stone. She magicked a stretcher, and levitated Emily Crowley up to the castle, and was soon out of sight. Madam Hooch however was still remonstrating with Malfoy, Ron with her, and there was general chaos all around on the Quidditch pitch.

“Three penalties to Gryffindor!” Bulley announced. “But surely that can’t make up for the loss of their Seeker. The Slytherins will more than happily take this.”

The penalties couldn’t be taken for a while however; such was the Gryffindor players’ indignation. In the end, it was only Ginny and Katie Bell that managed to calm Ron down, and away from Madam Hooch.

“And up steps Katie Bell! Bletchley is trying to put her off – but she scores anyway! Sixty – Fifty, and two penalties to go for Gryffindor. They could momentarily be in the lead, but for how long, without their Seeker?”

Katie did indeed put away the remaining two penalties, to put Gryffindor ahead, and immediately the ball sailed through a hoop for the third time, Ron called for a time out, calling the remaining players into a huddle, to discuss their tactics. Harry, like everyone else, was furious.

“She’s let them get away with murder all game!” He yelled. “And she only gives three penalties when Crabbe and Malfoy nearly do it literally! Unbelievable!”

Hermione was white as a sheet, and didn’t say a word.

Harry could see Ron and Ginny gesticulating fiercely, Ginny pointing at the stands, and Ron shaking his head. He didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, but both of them looked livid. Finally, as Madam Hooch walked over to them to tell them to get back on their brooms, Ron went to meet with her. He seemed to have just about controlled his temper, and was talking to her earnestly until finally she nodded her head, and turned away.

He talked with his sister again for a few moments, and Harry saw where she was pointing this time, it was towards the stand which the first reserve Beater, Jimmy Peakes was sitting in. He just had time to see Ron shake his head again, before Hermione tapped his arm.

“What are they doing?” She asked. “It looks like they’re making a substitution or something. I didn’t know you could do that in Quidditch.”

“You can’t.” Harry replied, bemused. “At least, not for an injury anyway. If a player is injured then you have to play on until they’re fit again, or the game is over.”

“So what are they doing then?” Hermione asked.

“I don’t kn-”

“Harry!” Ron’s voice bellowed across the field. “Get your bloody robes on and your broom! We’re making a substitution!”
________________________________________


“Harry, you’re not well enough, you’re not allowed.”

But Harry had jumped off his seat, and squeezed out of the stand as quickly as he could, leaving Hermione’s remonstrations far behind him. He didn’t know what exactly was going on, but he didn’t care, he just wanted to be up in the air again. He raced towards the changing rooms, and as he did so, listened to the booming commentary, which at present was asking what was going on.

“And it seems that Gryffindor are going to make a substitution.” Bulley was saying nonplussed. “Despite the fact that, as every Quidditch follower knows, substitutions due to injuries are expressly forbidden. Any other substitution request is at the discretion of the referee of course, so maybe she is allowing it for a reason other than injury…”

The game restarted before Harry even reached the changing rooms, where he summoned his Firebolt, and his Quidditch robes from his room. As he did so, he thanked his lucky stars that Madam Pomfrey was too busy to stop any of this; she would be furious, but at least Harry would be able to prove to her that he was fine, when he came through the match without any trouble. He sprinted out onto the pitch, carrying his broom, and hearing loud murmurings from all around him.

“And here comes Potter onto the field, and it really does seem like this change is going to be allowed. Wait. Madam Hooch is signalling for him to wait before mounting his broom. And here come Slytherin again. They are really taking advantage of the extra man, with Chaser Weasley marking Malfoy, Gryffindor are just being overrun with Slytherin players controlling the Quaffle. And Vaisey scores! A hundred and twenty points plays seventy!

“Madam Hooch blows her whistle, signalling play to stop. It seems that Professor McGonagall wants a word with her before the substitution is allowed to take place. This may be as regards Harry Potter’s fitness, which we were all led to believe was nowhere near healthy enough for him to take part. Either Gryffindor’s hero is not as ill as we all thought, or he is willing to fight through the pain barrier in order to send his side to victory.”

Professor McGonagall was talking animatedly to Madam Hooch, and Harry had the distinct feeling that he was being forbidden to play by his Head of House. His momentary relief at Madam Pomfrey’s disappearance vanished. Of course, she had probably left instructions that he was not allowed to compete, no matter what.

To Harry’s surprise however, despite the fact that he had been looking at Harry sternly, Professor Dumbledore leant forward, placing a hand on McGonagall’s arm. He said a few words, which apparently did not go down at all well with Professor McGonagall, but they seemed to be enough to allow Harry to compete.

Madam Hooch flew down to him. “Before I allow you to join the match, I have been requested to ask you a few questions. Firstly, are you completely fit?”

“Yes.” Harry told her, defiantly.

“Secondly, have you done anything before today that suggests your body is able to take the rigours of Quidditch – you saw what happened to Miss Crowley, would something like that do more damage to your body than normal?”

“I’m fine.” Harry lied. “Okay, I haven’t had Bludgers hit at me in the last couple of days, but I’m able to do exercise without any problems.”

“Thirdly, have you been forbidden by a Healer from taking part in this game?”

Harry winced internally. They would find out after the match, but by then it would be too late, and anyway, he could say quite truthfully…

“She told me that I couldn’t start the game, not that I couldn’t come on as a sub if needed.”

Madam Hooch gave a glance towards the staff stand, and more particularly, towards McGonagall and Dumbledore, she seemed to make a slight inclination of her head, before turning back to Harry.

“Get on your broom then.”

“And I’ve just been told by Professor McGonagall, that the substitution is going to take place, and Madam Hooch is allowing it because of the fouls made by Draco Malfoy and Vincent Crabbe, not because of the injury itself. I’ve never heard of a substitution because of fouls happening before, but I suppose it’s legal.”

It was the turn of the Slytherin fans (and players) to now be beside themselves, and Harry thought it was quite ironic the way that they were now calling foul.

“And it seems that Slytherin’s dubious tactics may just have backfired! Yes, they have gained points while the substitution was taking place, but they are now facing Gryffindor’s A Seeker, and even if he isn’t a hundred per cent fit, Slytherin have a poor record when facing him. Gryffindor must just be hoping that this gamble pays off. And as Potter kicks off, the Quaffle is thrown back into play once more. And Weasley has the Quaffle, now freed from her role of marking Malfoy...”

Ginny and Katie took the offensive, protecting Demelza, who was just behind them, from the Slytherin attacks as best they could, and moving the ball on quickly. Harry shot up into the air, and took stock of the field. There was no telltale flash of gold, and Malfoy seemed to be just as clueless as to where it was. Crabbe smashed a Bludger towards him, and Harry rolled, avoiding it easily. The second time it happened, however, he felt an ominous twinge in his chest.

“Ritchie – guard Harry.” Ron yelled out. “You know what to do. Dean, look after the Chasers – don’t worry about Goyle, he couldn’t hit the castle from ten yards away.”

Harry, along with his guard, started to circle the pitch slowly, keeping his eyes peeled for the Snitch, and trying not to worry about the commentary, or the rest of the game. The Gryffindor supporters had started to sing ‘Weasley is our King’ once more, which Harry imagined must signal the fact that Ron was having another excellent period guarding the hoops. The evening up of the sides probably helped too.

Suddenly, Harry caught sight of the fluttering of wings in between him and the stand he had minutes ago been sitting in. He turned lazily, so as not to alert Malfoy to the fact that he had seen it, and coasted towards it, still turning his head this way and that, as if he was still looking for the Snitch. Ritchie was flying in front of him, keeping an eye out for any Bludgers.

Harry had just got himself closer to the Snitch than Malfoy, when the Slytherin seemed to realise what he was up to, and he sped towards Harry, obviously not seeing the Snitch himself, but knowing Harry had. Harry flattened himself to the handle, and urged himself forward, feeling another pain, this time in his throat, as he flew straight towards Hermione. Malfoy was now right behind him, but Harry knew that even with his Firebolt, Malfoy wouldn’t be able to catch him.

Suddenly, without warning, he coughed violently, as the whistling air flew into his lungs. The broom wavered slightly off course, and Malfoy was gaining upon him. Harry soon recovered, but Malfoy was now travelling at a quicker speed than he was. Harry would have cursed under his breath, but was concentrating too hard on getting to the Snitch first. A Bludger flew past him, missing by inches, and Harry followed it with his eyes towards Gryffindor Beater Ritchie Coote, while still keeping half an eye on the Snitch.

It was almost as if he had been sent an invisible command. As Ritchie’s bat hit it back towards them, Harry rolled to the side, just as Emily Crowley had done to him in practice. A glance behind him showed a completely unprepared Malfoy rear up, and be struck directly on the rib cage. His broom fell down to earth, head over heels, completely out of control. Harry quickly looked forwards again, momentarily losing sight of the Snitch, but he spotted it once more almost instantly, and sped towards it to make the easy catch.

As Bulley yelled out the final score (‘two hundred and sixty plays one hundred and forty!’), and the ending remarks to his commentary, the entire Gryffindor team sped towards him, embracing him madly, and causing them all to tumble into the stands, amongst their supporters. It also caused a nasty jolt of pain to spear through his body.

“You did it Harry!” Ron yelled, as he and Ginny gave him a hug so powerful, that he found himself wincing, and tears came to his eyes.

“Let me breathe.” He choked out.

But only Ron and Ginny seemed to appreciate the request, and the reason behind it, and they were hard pressed to prevent Dean, or Ritchie from smashing him on the back.

“I told you I’d get Malfoy for you!” Ritchie yelled joyfully. “Look at him, he’s still out cold on the ground!”

“Give him room!” A furious voice roared. “Or you’ll put him back in the Hospital Wing.”

The crowd around him parted slightly, to reveal Hermione. Harry slipped onto a seat, bent over double, in order to pant fiercely and feel his sore chest.

“And you Harry!” She yelled angrily. “Look at yourself! Madam Pomfrey told you you weren’t fit to play, and now look! You’ll be in the Hospital Wing for another week at this rate!”

“I got the Snitch.” Harry panted. “We won.”

“Who cares whether you won or not? It’s only a stupid game!” Hermione shouted heatedly. “You’re coming with me. You need to see Madam Pomfrey.”

“I’m fine.” Harry said, trying to straighten up, but finding his body ached too much. “It wasn’t the match anyway that did it, it was the celebrations.”

Most of the Gryffindors around him laughed, but Hermione stayed angrily silent. Ron and Ginny looked rather concerned.

“And you, Ron.” Hermione continued fiercely. “You knew Madam Pomfrey had forbidden Harry to play, how could you bring him on as a substitute?”

“Harry said he was fine.” Ron said defensively.

“Don’t give me that rubbish, you were more interested in winning a game than Harry’s health. And you Ginny – how could you let him?”

Hermione’s tirade, however, was cut short by the fact that Harry was having another coughing fit.

“Hermione’s right.” Ron said quickly, seemingly throwing Hermione off guard for a second or two by agreeing with her. “You need to go to the Hospital Wing, Harry. I thought you said you were fine? Can someone give me a hand? We’ll help him up there.”

“I am fine.” Harry said, standing up.

He was suddenly struck by a strange feeling of weakness, and slumped back down on to the seat.

“Just give me a minute.” He muttered.

He couldn’t say another word, nor could he muster a complaint, however, before Dean and Ron went either side of him, and half supported, half carried him back up towards the school, followed by an entourage of Gryffindor supporters, which was whittled down to the Gryffindor team and Hermione as they entered the Hospital Wing.

Madam Pomfrey, who was at that moment dealing with a rather ashen faced Draco Malfoy, who, as always, seemed to be milking his injury for all that it was worth, turned as they entered, with a face so fierce, that everyone except Harry, Dean, and Ron took a pace or two backwards.

”Put him there.” She said, pointing to a bed, “And then kindly leave. Mr Potter will not be allowed any visitors.”

“Miss Crowley.” She said, turning to Emily, who was looking rather pale. “Take this blood replenishing potion, and then you may go. As for you Mr Malfoy, there is nothing more I can do for you. You shall have to put up with those minor aches and pains.”

Harry watched the two other patients leave with some trepidation. He was not looking forward to the ticking down he would now receive. Especially as Madam Pomfrey had been proved right.

He was right not to, too. He was obviously not in a bad enough condition to avoid chastisement this time around, for he was made to squirm uncomfortably, before he was forced to take potions, and settle down to an unpleasant day stuck in the Hospital Wing, with no visitors, and nothing to take his mind off things. As Harry lay there, feeling ever more lonely, and sore, he couldn't help but dwell on the fact that he hadn't even been struck by a Bludger, or collided with an opponent. Maybe he really should have listened to Madam Pomfrey.
________________________________________


A/N: Okay, own up, how many of you thought that I was chickening out of writing a Quidditch match with Harry's injury? Go on :P! I was looking for something different to the norm, and hope I found it.

________________________________________
Chapter 18: Question and Answer Sessions


Harry’s stay in the Hospital Wing was (thankfully) a short one this time – he was released the very next day. He did however have to endure a furious Madam Pomfrey, who ended up removing Harry’s permission to duel for that week. But although he wasn’t allowed to duel in Aravenne’s lesson, he kept his promise to Ron, and set the next DA meeting for the next Thursday.

He was ever more the hero in the eyes of most of the Gryffindors after the way he had come on and caught the Snitch for them, even though he knew (they thought) that if he did so, he’d end up in the Hospital Wing again. It was being looked upon as some strange sort of noble bravery by his housemates. He, himself, was still thinking it was probably stupidity. He had no doubt that people like McGonagall, Pomfrey, Snape, and probably Dumbledore thought of it as an arrogant belief of his that he was untouchable in some way. Maybe Hermione did too.

When Harry entered the Gryffindor common room, once more to the excitement of most of the people there, he soon spotted Ron and Ginny, who looked to be reliving the match with the rest of the team, but Hermione was nowhere to be seen. His Quidditch team mates soon grabbed him, and congratulated him once more on defeating Slytherin, but Harry’s mind was only half there.

“Where’s Hermione?” He asked Ron.

Ron scowled slightly. “She’s off in a huff somewhere. She wanted to keep tearing strips off Ginny and me when we got back to the common room, but we managed to escape. And the party was going on in the evening, so she gave up and ignored us. But anyway – are you okay mate?”

“Yeah.” Harry told him. “But honestly, you lot are more dangerous than the entire Slytherin team.” He felt his chest with his hand.

Ritchie and Dean just grinned.

“Are you okay, Emily?” Harry asked the nervous first year, who looked like she didn’t think she belonged for some reason, but had obviously been pressed into the group by her team mates.

“I’m fine.” She mumbled. “Madam Pomfrey was furious when she heard Bulley say you were coming on as a substitute though.”

“I know.” Harry told her fervently. “At least Ritchie got Malfoy back for you.”
________________________________________


Hermione was in the library, Harry discovered when he looked at the Marauders’ Map, but he didn’t think she’d appreciate being disturbed by him at the moment. He’d have to try to catch her at dinner. But dinner came and went, with Harry staying for the entire time, listening to the Quidditch team talk merrily, ably abetted by the Gryffindor supporters, and all the while no Hermione appeared.

Indeed, the only time Harry saw her that Sunday at all, was when he was the last person in the Gryffindor common room – and he would have been in bed himself, if it weren’t for the fact he had a Transfiguration essay to finish. Hermione slipped through the portrait hole, but stopped at the sight of Harry.

“Hi Hermione.” Harry said, lifting his head.

“Hello Harry.” Was the stiff reply.

Harry sighed, but looked back down to his work. He knew Hermione would continue, and she did.

“You do realise that you could have done serious damage to yourself?” Hermione asked him accusatorially. “That you might have even ended up dying? All for a stupid game that it doesn’t really matter whether you won or lost. You could have refused to play, you know? You could have said you weren’t fit enough. Ginny suggested that someone else came on and she played Seeker, but you’d told Ron you were fine. You weren’t even their only hope.”

Harry looked up at her. “I know.” He said guiltily.

“Don’t tr-” Hermione stopped, obviously having expected him to deny it. She looked at him mistrustfully. “You know?” She repeated.

“I was thinking about it for most of yesterday. Wasn’t much else to think about to be honest. I mean, I thought I was fine.” He said defensively. “I felt okay, Pomfrey had said I could try duelling again, I didn’t think there’d be any problem.”

“Since when did you become a qualified Healer?” Hermione asked in something which had obviously meant to be disgust, but seemed to be slightly mollified.

“I know I’m not a Healer, Hermione. But I just felt fine. Yeah, I probably should have listened to Pomfrey, but I didn’t, I was wrong, okay?”

“Just after you had told us you wouldn’t put yourself in dangerous situations too.” Hermione was trying to continue her planned lecture, but Harry could tell that she was losing steam.

“I know. Look, I’m sorry. Although I guess it’s my own body I should be apologising to. Why were you in the library all day though?”

He knew the answer of course, but he felt like putting Hermione on the spot – she was in the library because she was feeling annoyed that Ron and Ginny were still celebrating the win, and Harry was already being released from the Hospital Wing.

“I didn’t think the three of you would want me around.” She shrugged. “And I had a lot of work to do.”

“What work? You always have everything done before Sunday night.” Harry asked disbelievingly, and secretly feeling rather pleased that he had put Hermione on the back foot.

“Yes, well, I’m doing more subjects than you, aren’t I?” Hermione replied obtusely.

Harry hid a grin. But as he looked at Hermione, he sensed that she was hiding something rather bigger than a smile, and was wondering whether to mention it or not.

“What’s up?” He asked.

“Nothing.” But eventually she seemed to overlook her annoyance towards Harry, and continued. “Well, okay, there is something. I needed a break from my Arithmancy work, so I did something I’d been thinking about for a while now.”

“What?”

“Well, you know what you said about Aravenne? About how he was glad Lestrange was dead, and how he knew them from school.”

“Yes…” Harry led on, slowly.

“Well, I just thought I’d check up on him, see if he was in school at the same time as them and what year and house and everything. Maybe find out why he hated them so much. So I got out the records, and looked-”

Harry had to stop a small snigger at this, but Hermione caught him.

“What?” She demanded.

“Well, only you could take a break from work, by doing more work.” Harry grinned as explanation. Hermione frowned. “Sorry. I’m guessing you found something out.”

“Yes.” Hermione said, eyes still narrowed. “Or no. I couldn’t find anyone with a surname of Aravenne in Hogwarts even fifty years before the Lestranges were in school, or since they left.”

“So you mean he lied?” Harry asked. “That he didn’t know them from school at all?”

“That’s just it, Harry, I don’t think he went to Hogwarts at all.” Hermione told him.

“But why would he say he did then?”

“I don’t know.” Hermione mused. “I haven’t been able to stop wondering that myself.”

“What if he’s an impostor?” Harry asked, mind racing. “Like Mad-Eye Moody, you know?”

“Wouldn’t be a very good one then, would he? But check on the Marauders Map if you want.” Hermione suggested.

“I can’t see him being a Death Eater though.” Harry said thoughtfully. “You should have seen him when he mentioned the Lestranges. No-one could pretend to hate someone that much.”

Nevertheless, Harry dug into his pockets, past the Invisibility Cloak that he had stashed there, and withdrew his father’s map.

“I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

Harry eyes slid across the page, looking for Aravenne’s name, passing over the common rooms, Dumbledore’s office, the dungeons, in a manner that had grown to be well practiced. There, in his office, not moving, was a dot called Syde Aravenne.

“He’s real.” Harry said, almost disappointedly.

“What’s that, Harry?” Hermione asked, pointing at the parchment.

At the tip of her finger was one of Prongs’ love-hearts, complete with Lily Evans’ name scrawled in full. Harry swallowed slightly.

“Er... Well you know my dad was one of the people that wrote this, right? Well, he also had a crush on my mum all through school.” Harry said, in a falsely natural voice.

“I know that Harry, but it’s never happened before.” Hermione looked at him shrewdly.

“Well… Um… Okay. Look, in the summer, Remus…”

But to Harry’s surprise, Hermione wasn’t condemnatory of the map at all. In fact, she demanded to know why he hadn’t told any of them about it before now.

“Well. I- I thought you and… Ginny in particular… After Riddle’s diary… Well, you know.” Harry muttered.

“Oh.” Hermione said taken aback. “Oh. Well, yes, I don’t know how Ginny would- Ginny! Are you okay?”

Before Harry could ask what Hermione was talking about, a voice came from the stairs behind him.

“It’s just Dean. He won’t leave me alone. I keep telling him I don’t want to talk b-” She suddenly noticed Harry, and stopped talking.

“What’s up?” Harry asked.

Ginny shook her head. “It’s nothing.”

Harry turned around fully to look at her. She was standing on the stairs in her dressing gown, obviously having stopped on her way downstairs when she had seen Harry. Harry got the unavoidable feeling that he was in the way, and should leave the two girls to themselves.

“I’m just going up to bed.” He said swiftly, “I’m too tired to do this essay now; I’ll finish it in my free period tomorrow. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Oh, good night then, Harry.” Hermione said, slightly surprised it seemed.

“Yeah, good night.” Ginny’s voice came from behind him, sounding as if she had continued coming downstairs.

As Harry piled his books into his bag to take upstairs, he caught sight of Ginny’s face. She looked awful. Haggard, worn, and tired, hardly seemed strong enough words to describe her appearance. Harry paused on his way past her to the boys’ staircase.

“Are you having trouble sleeping?” He asked, in concern, for he knew what that felt like.

“A bit.” Ginny said, trying to shrug. “Just… bad dreams. That’s all.”

“You should ask Madam Pomfrey for some Dreamless Sleep potion. Doesn’t get rid of the dreams for ever, but at least you can get a good night’s sleep now and then.”

“Maybe.” Ginny said without conviction. “But, I don’t like the sound of it really.”

“All it does is let you get a bit of sleep. Trust me, it helps.”

Ginny looked almost a little upset, and Harry couldn’t understand why that might be. All he had suggested was she got a decent night’s sleep. He shrugged.

“Anyway, I’m off to bed. Night.” He turned away.

He had just reached the door to the dormitories, when Ginny called up to him. “Thanks for the suggestion Harry, it’s just. I don’t… don’t want to go to sleep, and not be able to wake up. But… thanks.”

Harry went to bed that night trying to figure out what she meant. Wasn’t the whole point of sleeping that you weren’t awake during the night? And the potion would mean that she wasn’t plagued by any bad dreams, so wouldn’t want to wake up. It was kind of a win-win situation, surely.

Harry’s unexpected apology, along with what she seemed to see as sensitivity she didn’t know he had had, was enough to satisfy Hermione, for she treated him normally after their conversation. As did the fact that Ginny was upset, or ill, or just not sleeping (which it was, Harry couldn’t say for sure) protect her from Hermione’s ire. Ron, however, had no such luck. For one thing, he didn’t seem to be willing to say that he had done anything wrong at all. And he hadn’t, really, in Harry’s eyes; after all, he was the one that had said he was fit to play. But although he told that to Hermione, she didn’t seem to agree with him.

In fact, when it came to the DA meeting on Thursday, Hermione seemed to be far more aggressive in her spell work to her partner (Ron) than usual, as if taking out some of her frustrations on him. Ron’s confidence looked to be in danger of being crushed by the way his scattering charm failed to disperse Hermione’s charm as it should. Harry decided to take drastic action, and made the DA switch partners halfway through, so, he said, that they could get used to different techniques.

It was noticeable to Harry, as he was now resuming the role of teacher, that Neville’s wand work seemed to have improved over the summer. He didn’t know what could have prompted the change, perhaps it was because he had been involved in the fight at the Department of Mysteries, or maybe it was something else, but although he wasn’t up to the standard of many of the DA members, he was by no means the disaster he had once been.

Harry’s mind, however, was quickly moving away from school, and work, and even the DA and Snape, for Sirius’ inquest was to begin soon, and he found he could think of little else. Even though Dumbledore had told him that there was little for him to worry about, he couldn’t help but fret that he would mess it up somehow, or that he would let something slip about the Order – or even that he had tried to perform the Cruciatus curse. Dumbledore didn’t know about that, did he?

He arrived, feeling extremely nervous, at Dumbledore’s office at twenty to eleven. Dumbledore opened the door in robes of silver, which had the effect of portraying him as a wise, but aging man, which it was often easy to forget he was, despite his energy, and sometimes slightly eccentric appearance.

“Ah, Harry.” Dumbledore greeted him. “You are very prompt. Good. We shall be off in a minute or two. Before we do so, however, I feel it only right of me to warn you that Madam Bones has asked Cornelius Fudge to be present as an advisor.”

Harry stared at him, in slight alarm. “Why? I thought–”

“Thought that Madam Bones had lost all patience with him at Severus’ hearing?” Dumbledore suggested as a reasonable ending to the sentence.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“And although I happen to believe you may be right about how Madam Bones views our former Minister, she is quite aware that Rufus Scrimgeour wants to find Sirius innocent, and so decided to call upon the person most willing to find any holes in your story, if any exist. After all, he completely ignored all pleas that Sirius was framed, and that it was in fact Peter Pettigrew who was the wrongdoer. In short, Cornelius Fudge has a lot to lose if the inquest finds Sirius innocent, and so has a great deal to gain if he asks the most pertinent questions to find a hole in your story.”

“But you are the only one who can ask me questions, right?” Harry asked nervously.

“I am. And you may rest assured that I shall not allow any invasive questions whatsoever to be asked.”

“How?” Harry demanded. “I mean, if I have Veritaserum, you won’t be able to stop me answering, will you?”

Dumbledore inclined his head slightly. “No-one shall be allowed to ask you questions but me, Harry. I am afraid Rufus Scrimgeour has asked the explanation to be made when we arrive at the Ministry, but you may trust me, when I say that you shall be all right.”

“Rufus Scrimgeour?” Harry asked. “Is the new Minister going to be there?”

“But why?” He continued, as Dumbledore nodded his head. “I didn’t think he had anything to do with it?”

“He doesn’t – as such. But he has persuaded Madam Bones that it is right that he is present at your testimony as an advisor, seeing as it is a decision that could send shockwaves through the Wizarding World. But I fancy that there may be other reasons he wishes to be present.”

“Like what?” Harry demanded.

“Can you not think of any?” Dumbledore asked with a smile.

“Is it because of me?” Harry asked slowly, as he watched Dumbledore looking at him through those piercing eyes. “Because of what the Daily Prophet has written about me?”

“The Minister is not a person that believes idle speculation, Harry, but yes, I think it quite probable that he wishes to repair some of the damage done to the Ministry that Fudge caused by his treatment of you. Of course,” He continued, “it is up to you whether you decide to accept the apologies likely to come your way.”

“Yes sir.” Harry replied, wondering exactly whether he would accept an apology or not – he was a different man to Fudge, but then again, it was the same Ministry that he was in charge of.

“But we had better be off, Harry, or we shall be late for the Ministry, and that would not do at all.” He gave a wave of his hand towards the fireplace, and it burst into flames. “After you.”

Harry walked to the fireplace, took a large amount of floo powder, and threw it into the blazing fire.

“The Ministry of Magic.”
________________________________________


Dumbledore stepped gracefully out of the fire behind Harry, and took the lead, speaking swiftly, but politely, to the woman with the checklist.

“Good morning. Harry is here to give evidence in the Sirius Black inquiry.”

The woman, identified as Nora Newman, seemed rather scared, or perhaps overawed, by the presence of Dumbledore. Or perhaps it was him, Harry thought with a jolt, as she tentatively handed him his badge. And she wasn’t the only one – the change in attitude by the witch who took Harry’s wand for tagging, Helga Burns, made Harry seriously wonder exactly how much people believed the Daily Prophet’s articles about him. That wasn’t to say that Helga Burns had decided that he was more of a worthwhile person than she had imagined previously, but rather, this time, she seemed almost frightened of him, or his (supposed) powers.

The only other time Harry had been aware of witches or wizards who were afraid of him, had been when the Hogwarts students had suspected him to be the Heir of Slytherin, and then he had at least had Fred and George nearby to make fun of the situation. But who was going to make light of the fact people now believed him to be immune to the Avada Kedavra curse? And these weren’t students that were scared of him, but adults – fully qualified witches and wizards that surely should know better than to believe the Daily Prophet’s rumour mongering.

Dumbledore led him through the Department of Law Enforcement to a small room, where Madam Bones and Fudge were already present. The first thing Harry noticed, as he looked around, was a large bluish coloured box surrounding a chair, with another chair half in – half out. It was strange – looking through the box gave the appearance of looking through tinted glass, and yet the cuboid didn’t seem to be physical in any respect whatsoever. It didn’t take long for Harry to realise that this box had to be magical. Before he had decided what it did however, a cough made him look away towards its owner – Cornelius Fudge.

“Good morning.” Madam Bones said curtly, before the former Minister could say a word. “I trust everything is arranged to your satisfaction Albus?”

“I believe it is perfectly adequate Amelia, yes, but possibly the one to be persuaded of that is Harry. Perhaps you could run through the precautions being taken for his benefit?”

“You did not explain, Dumbledore?” Fudge asked, bad temperedly.

“Rufus asked me to delay letting Harry know until he could actually see the room. I believe he thought it would be more effective coming from the Ministry.” The headmaster said comfortably. “It would, perhaps, be more reassuring.”

“Very well.” Madam Bones agreed, and Harry wondered if he imagined the slight, knowing smile that played on her lips.

“The blue cubicle you see there prevents all sound from entering, but allows sound to escape. You shall be sitting in the chair that is in the middle, and so unable to hear any question that is asked from outside of the box. Nobody shall be allowed inside apart from you, or Professor Dumbledore. If someone is only partially inside the box, then they are unaffected by any of its magical properties. They can talk to you as normal, and also converse with anyone outside, which is how we shall enforce your request that only Albus Dumbledore can ask you questions.

“Once the hearing is over, Dumbledore shall give you this antidote to the Veritaserum, which, like the Veritaserum itself, has been under my care since its testing, and so has not been tampered with. No-one else will be within ten feet of you, or the box, while you are under its influence.”

“And if someone tries to?” Harry asked nervously, but not feeling so timid so as not to ask the question, or give a sidelong glance at Fudge.

“Why, we won’t allow them to.” Madam Bones said in surprise. “Albus, the Minister, and I will be here, and one of us, or Cornelius will prevent that ever happening.”

Harry decided not to mention that it wasn’t an outsider that he was worried about, after all, he did trust Dumbledore to stop anything like that happening, and probably Madam Bones too for that matter. It was the rest of the Ministry he wasn’t so trusting about.

Fudge scowled, as if he knew who Harry was inferring might try to take advantage of his state. He coughed again, loudly.

“You know, Amelia, I am rather dubious about the whole proceedings. After all-”

“What do you mean, Cornelius?” She replied, in a rather restrained voice.

“Well, I am unsure that the use of Veritaserum will conclusively prove anything in this case.”

“Do you still wish to cast aspersions upon Harry’s sanity Cornelius?” Dumbledore asked, in a perfectly polite tone.

“Well, there is that of course,” Fudge said, as if he hadn’t thought of it, “but what I was referring to was the fact that Mr Potter managed to expel Professor Robin Fleming from his mind when he attempted to perform Legilimency on him.”

“On your orders.” Harry said pointedly.

Fudge went red. “Yes well, that may be, but what I was suggesting is that if he could expel a skilled Legilimens, perhaps he could also prevent the truth serum from fully taking effect.”

Dumbledore blinked, as though taken by surprise. Madam Bones seemed to be momentarily lost for words too.

“Do you truly believe Harry to be such a powerful Occlumens?” Dumbledore asked.

“Well from what I have heard recently-” Fudge began, but was cut short by Madam Bones.

“From what you have read in the Daily Prophet you mean?”

Fudge drew himself up in indignation. “You asked me here to bring what I considered to be valid objections to Mr Potter’s testimony, Amelia, and I consider this one to be very valid. Mr Potter has some knowledge of Occlumency, that we know. Is it not possible that his knowledge is enough to circumvent the effects of Veritaserum?”

“I thought you believed that Harry’s repelling of the attack was down in some way to Voldemort?” Dumbledore asked politely. “Indeed, I believe the records of the trial will show that you succeeded in proving that.”

“Yes, well, perhaps we can leave references to that part of the trial behind us. It seemed to have… to have been resolved to most people’s satisfaction.” Fudge said, looking like he was trying to put on a brave face. “I think we can all agree that the truth is we don’t really know why the attack was abortive, so we must allow that he may have knowledge of Occlumency.”

Dumbledore and I know why Fleming’s attack didn’t work, Harry thought to himself. But we can’t really explain why, can we?

“We can take every precaution against that also, Cornelius.” Madam Bones said calmly. “There is no reason why we cannot give Mr Potter a sedative of some sort, with his permission of course, which shall lower any resistance to the potion. But I find the likelihood of a teenager knowing enough Occlumency to nullify Veritaserum very slim indeed.”

“That would be acceptable, I trust, Harry?” Dumbledore asked immediately.

“Well, you would still make sure no-one else could ask questions sir?”

“I would.” He replied, in a calm, reassuring tone.

“I guess.” Harry said unwillingly. “If it will help prove Sirius’ innocence.”

Harry was quite sure Dumbledore would look after him. Quite apart from protecting Harry’s privacy, there was also the fact that Harry knew information about the Order of Phoenix which Dumbledore would want to remain secret. While the prospect of losing all control was unnerving, it was necessary, so Harry would do it.

There was a quiet period, where Harry investigated the blue box, finding that it did indeed do what he had been told, and Dumbledore enlarged it, creating a bed to fit inside it, to replace the chair which Harry had been going to sit on. The potion Fudge wanted Harry to take arrived at almost the exact same time the Minister of Magic walked through the door – five minutes after the hearing had been set to start.

Harry had seen Rufus Scrimgeour’s picture in the Daily Prophet of course, and he was what Harry expected. A man who looked self assured, and confident, and walked with a lope in his stride, almost like a predator. Despite the fact that his immediate apology included the admission that he had had important business with the new Head of Aurors, he did not show a sign of being ill at ease in any way. Harry wondered how much of that was an act, a man that refused to say Voldemort’s name could surely not be as assertive as that when Voldemort was at large!

“Ah! Mr Harry Potter. Delighted to make your acquaintance.” Scrimgeour said, as soon as possible after he had entered the room. “We had better progress with the interview I suppose, seeing as that is the reason I am here, but perhaps we can say a few more words to each other if there is time at its conclusion?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Harry said uncomfortably – perhaps more at the fact that Scrimgeour did not glance at his scar once, than the words he had said.

It was rather odd, but Harry now tended to notice it when people didn’t look at the lightning bolt on his forehead. It was, after all, a far rarer occurrence, even among people he had already met.

It did not take long for Harry to sit on the bed, and then swing his legs up onto the mattress, feeling rather embarrassed for some reason. Almost as soon as he took the proffered potion from Dumbledore, all uncomfortable thoughts fled, for he slumped backwards, unable to take the weight of his body in a sitting position, unable, in fact, to do anything except look at the ceiling. He felt his mouth being opened gently by a pair of firm hands, and three drops of liquid touch, and then dissolve on, his tongue.

Harry felt most peculiar. He didn’t feel overly tired, but his limbs felt as though they were made of granite, and his mind was feeling rather reluctant to work. He didn’t know how long he stared at the ceiling, but it didn’t seem long at all before he heard a voice say something. His own mouth moved on its own accord, and he heard a voice reply in time to its movement.

“Yes.”

The voice didn’t sound like him at all – it was almost as if he was listening to a recording. He heard the words to the next question, as well as its speaker, only by concentrating hard. It was Dumbledore.

“When did you start to learn Occlumency?”

As Harry stared at the ceiling, he could almost see into his Occlumency Sanctuary, it was projected on top of the white paint, but not very clearly. There was a bright yellow light that seemed to be zooming around it. A pause followed, before Harry’s mouth opened once more.

“This January, the eleventh, at five in the afternoon.”

“Are you satisfied?” Harry heard Dumbledore ask, and his mouth immediately opened once more.

“About what?”

“Not you, Harry.” Dumbledore’s voice said.

“Harry, when did you first see Sirius?”

Harry felt his mouth open once more.
________________________________________


Most of the questions and answers faded away in Harry’s memory, so what he was asked exactly, he couldn’t remember. He was questioned about his first meeting with Sirius, whether he had seen him before, what had happened; about whether he had seen Sirius in fourth year, what role Sirius had played in his life; and finally about last year, and how often they had seen each other, how they had interacted, until they reached the question of how Sirius had died. Harry wasn’t sure about his answers – the only thing he was certain about, was that he hadn’t let anything slip he shouldn’t have. Dumbledore was too good a questioner for that.

He felt himself swallow some sort of liquid, and then another, and the image of his Sanctuary was gone. He sat up gradually, still feeling leaden, but able to think and move once more.

“How are you Harry?” Dumbledore asked.

“Fine. Just a bit tired.” Harry replied automatically, and then stopped. “I have had the antidote to the Veritaserum, right?”

“What colour are your socks?” Dumbledore asked promptly.

Harry’s only answer was a grin. He swung his legs back down on to the floor, and tried to stand up, but couldn’t. He was still a bit disorientated. When he had recollected himself enough to look around, he noticed that Fudge was no longer in the room. Dumbledore noticed his glance at the empty chair.

“Cornelius left immediately the interview finished. He did not attempt to circumvent the precautions, do not fear.”

As soon as Harry left the blue box, Madam Bones strode forward to shake his hand.

“Thank you, Mr Potter. It must have taken courage to not only take Veritaserum, but also allow yourself to be sedated like that. Your evidence is very much appreciated.”

“So Sirius is…” Harry began, hopefully, but Madam Bones shook her head.

“You will know in a fortnight’s time. I must go over all of the facts in the case first –whether there was a miscarriage of justice or not the first time, I must make sure there isn’t now.”

Madam Bones left soon after, but the Minister who had been so busy that he had been slightly late initially, hung on. Scrimgeour addressed himself to Dumbledore.

“I wonder, Albus, if you would mind allowing Mr Potter and I to have a couple of private words for a minute or two?”

“Certainly. I’ll wait over there shall I? It seems a shame to waste such a marvellous charm.”

Dumbledore gave Harry a reassuring smile, and walked over to the charmed area Harry had been interviewed in. Vanishing the bed, he levitated the armchair that was only partially in the box to the centre, and sat down facing Harry and the Minister of Magic, studying his hands serenely. It took a couple of seconds for Harry to remember that Dumbledore had been initially supposed to sit on a normal straight backed chair, his mind was still working slightly slowly.

“Well, first of all, I would like to add my congratulations to Madam Bones. As she said, that took guts.”

“Thank you sir.” Harry said, knowing that that couldn’t be all he wanted to say.

“I might add that it was rather convincing evidence also.” Scrimgeour continued. “If I were you I’d be rather hopeful as to the outcome of the trial. You have persuaded me.”

“But it was only the things I have been saying all along about Sirius.” Harry said suspiciously. “If it’s that’s believable, why didn’t you believe me before?”

Scrimgeour slightly inclined his head, as if conceding a point. “And, I am sure you might add, why didn’t I believe you when you explained about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s return? You perhaps suppose that I have some ulterior motive for saying I believe you now?”

There. Scrimgeour had come right out and said what Harry was thinking, even if he wouldn’t have said it quite like that. Was this some kind of trick to make him trust a man who was being so open with him?

“Why didn’t you, then?” Harry challenged, boldly.

“You must understand, Mr Potter, that I was a Ministry employee, and Cornelius Fudge, at that time, was my 'boss', as they say. A word from him, and I would have lost my job.”

That didn’t go down particularly well with Harry. He did what was easy rather than what was right? But Scrimgeour was continuing.

“Then there was also the fact that I received all of my information through the then Minister Fudge, and had to try to piece the truth together from the Daily Prophet. I might add that I have little respect for any paper’s reporting prowess, but The Quibbler at that time had the least. For most of the time you and the previous Minister were at conflict, the things I heard supported the Ministry. I was wrong, and I apologise.”

“But you could have done something even if Fudge was your boss.” Harry said, trying not to sound angry.

“I could have.” Scrimgeour allowed. “But first I would have had to believe your version of the events, and the things I was being told had me doubting them. The fact I was a Ministry employee may have clouded my perceptions, and for that I am sorry, but there is nothing I can do now except strive to find the justice in these reports now that I am Minister. For example, in the reopening of the case against your Godfather.”

Harry looked at him mistrustfully. After everything he had been put through, he didn’t feel that sorry was quite good enough somehow. And here the Minister seemed to be playing up to the fact that he wanted Sirius to be cleared. But the Minister was looking at him shrewdly, and continued to speak.

“I do not wish this enmity between you and the Ministry as a whole to continue, but there have been enough lies and cover-ups in the last few years coming from the Minister of Magic. I have told you why I did what I did, and I apologise for it, but you shall have to decide whether it is enough for you. I hope you are willing to judge me as a Minister by my actions rather than my predecessor’s.”

Harry still wasn’t convinced, although he was glad to hear the Minister’s views on cover-ups – if indeed that was his view. He decided not to give a straight answer, both because he wasn’t sure, and to see if it might provoke the Minister into a reply which might tell more about his sincerity.

“I don’t know. I guess I’ll have to think about it. The Ministry made my life hell last year, what with Umbridge and the Daily Prophet.” He said, looking Rufus Scrimgeour in the eye.

Scrimgeour seemed to be pleased, maybe even relieved by this answer. “Thank you, I did not expect you to trust me straight away. There is one more thing before I go however.”

“What is it?” Harry asked apprehensively.

“I would have rather waited until you had decided whether to trust me or not, but it should be done in person. Assuming your Godfather is cleared, I wish to announce it publicly, and, unless you think he would rather I didn’t, offer him a posthumous Order of Merlin, first class.”

“I don’t know. He was punished, and then on the run for a long time for a crime he didn’t commit.” Harry told him. “I don’t know if he’d want an award from the Ministry.”

“It is meant as an apology to him, for what the Ministry did. It does not have to be anything more; although it sounds like he deserves it from your testimony, for continuing to fight against He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named despite everything.” The Minister said, and he and Harry scrutinised each other’s faces. “Think about it, anyway. And when you do, perhaps you might also think about whether you would be willing to be the one to accept the award for him.”

“Why me?” Harry demanded, pretty sure he knew already.

“You were his Godson, and he has no close relations we know of alive.”

“And?”

“And I think you know.” The Minister offered a smile, and although his eyes did not twinkle, they did brighten up somewhat. “With your current image in the public eye, after the things you have done, and the way the Daily Prophet have reported it, a show of unity between you and the Ministry would do wonders for the support for the Ministry, and for unity in Wizarding Britain. That is not to take anything away from Sirius Black of course, for if innocent, his case will let Britain see that we intend to carry justice through.”

Again Scrimgeour had admitted it. He did not hide it behind false words, a show of friends between Harry and the Ministry would help him politically. Harry already knew it, but it was rather reassuring that it had been admitted openly, in a strange sort of way. He had even admitted that Sirius’ innocence would be a political success.

“I’ll think about it.” Harry promised.

“Excellent!” Scrimgeour said jovially.

When Harry and Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts, Harry did not leave Dumbledore’s office immediately. He had a rather pressing question to ask.

“What do you think of Minister Scrimgeour?”

“You wish guidance as to how you should take your conversation with him?” Dumbledore asked.

Harry nodded.

“I believe he is a man of principles, which is probably one of the reasons he was elected. You may rest assured that he isn’t a supporter of Tom Riddle. Despite not having had a great deal of political experience, he is a shrewd customer, hard to fool, and a good judge of character. I am sure that he will have used these skills to pre-decide the best way to approach any requests to you he might make. You can always expect him to face problems head on, and not attempt to hide them, but he is not afraid to use subterfuge if necessary.”

“Is he good at what he does? Can I trust him?” Harry pressed.

“That, alas, can probably only be answered by time.”

And so Harry was left to wonder about whether he should trust Rufus Scrimgeour and the Ministry on his own. Assuming Sirius was found not guilty, should he publicly accept the Ministry’s apology to Sirius, so the whole world knew for certain he was no Death Eater, even if it suggested he was giving the Ministry support? It was a question that he dwelt on for most of the day, and almost all of the next.
________________________________________


“And in arena two will be Potter, Granger, and Longbottom, against Malfoy, Zabini and Parkinson.” Aravenne’s voice boomed out. “You will have one minute after entering the arena to prepare.”

Harry, Hermione, and Neville made their way down to the arena, which today represented a hilly landscape at night, complete with trees, boulders, and even a stream or two. There was a cave immediately beside them which seemed to disappear into the darkness. They didn’t shelter inside it – nobody fancied the cold, moist, pitch black of the cave. The stars outside gave some kind of illumination at least.

“So what do you think we should do, Harry?” Neville asked immediately – he seemed to have elected Harry as the leader of the trio.

“We have to stay close together.” Harry said immediately. “If we don’t know where each other is, they’ll just find us and pick us off one by one. We know they’re going to be in that direction somewhere, so let’s follow this ridge. That alright with you Hermione?”

She nodded. “And remember to keep looking below us as well, or we might miss them.”

An owl hooted above them, making them jump. Neville gave a bit of a frightened yelp.

“This is almost too realistic.” Harry muttered. “I wonder if we’ll see badgers on the ground or something?”

A buzzer rang out above them, reminding them that the scene wasn’t in fact real, and that they had a duel to win.

“Come on,” Harry hissed, “and keep quiet.”

The three of them stole forward, pushed in as far as possible towards the rock face at the top of the slope. A rustling sound made them stop almost immediately. Some kind of rodent darted out from a bush in front of them.

“This is really creepy.” Neville murmured behind Harry, and Harry privately agreed.

There was no way that he wanted to lose this duel. Particularly not to Malfoy. It was his first duel back since the attack in Hogsmeade, and he was not just feeling nervous because of the surrounds. If he lost to fellow students after defeating, after killing, Rodolphus Lestrange… There was extra pressure on him this duel – both from his own expectations, and other people’s. His heart was thumping loudly in his chest, but as of yet he was feeling no ill effects from the Pulmelido curse.

“Come on.” His whispered softly, and led the way once more.

Creeping from bush, to boulder, to tree, jumping the stream that gushed out of the cliff face, they moved on at a snail’s pace. The further they went, the more Harry started to imagine things. A shuffle of some sort below them; whispering in front; even footfalls to his right, inside the rock itself. A howl sounded from far off in the distance, making Harry’s hairs stand on end.

Harry held up his hand to make the others stop. He had not imagined that sound, there had definitely been the rustling of leaves from just below, and in front of them. Harry descended to a handy rock, and peered over the top. Neville followed him, but Hermione hid behind a nearby bush instead. The howl sounded again, and then a shadow crept out from behind a bush, barely visible in the starlight. Harry sent a stunner towards it, but missed. The light from the curse showed a fox scampering away as it passed.

“Do you think we missed them?” Neville asked in a rather loud whisper.

“Sh.” Harry told him, and scrambled down to another boulder, in case his curse had been seen by the Slytherins.

Hermione and Neville joined him.

“I think we should keep going.” Hermione said softly. “I’m pretty sure that no-one went past us down the slope, I’ve been looking there all the time.”

Harry nodded. “Okay. And remember,” He said, looking at Neville, “keep quiet.”

The further they went, the more anxious Harry became, and he continuously looked behind him to see if Hermione and Neville were alright. They were looking extremely tense also, and were creeping along as if this was far more than just a mock duel in a Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. The problem was, it was impossible to think about it as a mock duel, when all five senses were telling you that it was real.

Harry turned at the sound of falling rubble behind him, worried that Hermione or Neville might have slipped, because they were now navigating a rather gritty patch, but neither of them were in any difficulty. He stared behind them. Could Malfoy and the other two have got behind them somehow? Surely not. But just as he was about to resume walking again, wondering just how much further the landscape extended, he saw movement, and the definite outline of a girl’s head.

“They’re behind us!” Harry yelled, all thoughts of staying quiet forgotten.

A curse shot across to meet them, and Harry gave Neville a push down the slope, before diving out of the way himself. Hermione – thank Merlin – had already taken evasive action. The curse hit the rock wall, and disappeared. Another one flew at the same spot, but exploded upon contact, showering the three Gryffindors with pieces of rock.

“Incendio!” Harry yelled, aiming his wand towards the area the Slytherins had fired from.

A bush ignited, illuminating the face of Pansy Parkinson, who Hermione aimed a spell at but missed. Neville was trying to hobble behind cover, and ended up diving behind a rock.

“Falxiardor!” Draco Malfoy’s voice drawled out from below them.

A swipe of fire struck Neville face first, and he lay still – ‘dead’ – before vanishing.

“The Mudblood’s next, Potter, then you.” Malfoy shouted out joyfully.

Harry aimed an explosive hex towards Malfoy’s voice, and was rewarded by the sound of breath being knocked out of the fair haired Slytherin. Harry set fire to the area Malfoy had been in too, hoping to catch him in the blaze. Speaking of which, Blaise Zabini’s voice rang out clearly in the air.

“Rejicia Maxima!”

Harry peered over the rock he was hiding behind, and ducked quickly. It seemed the rock was the target however, not Harry, for it shuddered ominously. When the spell was repeated, Harry pointed his own wand over the boulder, and cast one of his own.

“Effringo!”

The two jets of light met, and broke into tiny beams, before dispersing completely. Harry had already cast his next spell before the curses had disappeared however, and it was directed towards the face of Pansy Parkinson, which was standing out clearly in the firelight.

Densaugeo! He thought, concentrating hard.

The minor jinx flew through the air far more quickly than the more dangerous curses they had been throwing around earlier, and it hit Pansy Parkinson before she had had a chance to move. Harry just had time to see the Slytherin girl feel her lengthening teeth with fear, before he had to duck another curse from Zabini. When he next peered over, she was lying on the ground, teeth still lengthening. Hermione had hit her with a stunner.

Harry’s rock shuddered once more, and he thought he might have heard a cracking sound, as it started to split. He and Hermione were out numbered, and out manoeuvred. They needed to retreat. He looked over the rock once more, and cast the Reductor curse towards Pansy Parkinson’s prone body, before retreating towards a rock behind the one where he was currently sheltering. A resounding wooden crack split the air. Harry had missed Pansy, but hit the tree behind, which thundered down on top of the Slytherin’s legs. One of the Slytherin boys sent a curse in reply, which caused Harry to fly off his feet, and crunch into the cliff wall. He slumped onto his bottom, not feeling pain, but also not feeling one of his legs.

As luck would have it, the part of rock he had hit was hidden by a gorse bush from the battle below, and so, using his hands, he managed to force his leg in front of him to be examined in safety. It looked most realistically broken. Harry had never quite got the hang of mending broken bones, but there was nothing to lose, so he waved his wand over the affected area. Nothing happened.

There was no sound of fighting now, just the crackle and hiss of wood and grass on fire. Harry wondered if Hermione had been subdued too. Maybe he was the only one of the Gryffindors left to face both Malfoy and Zabini. Just as he was thinking that, however, still trying to mend his broken leg, Hermione’s face appeared, rather red, and grubby, but still a most welcome sight!

“Here, let me do that.” She whispered, taking in Harry’s predicament. “You keep a look out for the Slytherins.”

Harry nodded, and soon a soothing feeling went through his leg – taking Harry by surprise somewhat, considering the leg hadn’t even hurt, it had just been… useless. Harry pushed himself into a crouching position. The leg still felt a little sluggish, but otherwise was reacting fine.

“Thanks.” Harry muttered. “Did they heal Parkinson?”

“Malfoy was trying to – that’s how I got away. Can you walk?”

Harry nodded. “Let’s retreat a bit.”

Harry and Hermione practically crawled their way backwards for the next thirty yards. As they did so, Harry was beginning to work out a plan. He crouched behind a large tree trunk to let Hermione know what he was thinking.

“I’ll cut down below, to attract their attention, and then retreat. Then you can cast spells on them from up here when they aren’t expecting it. Actually – don’t cast spells to begin with – banish pieces of rock or something at them, they won’t see them coming.”

“Are you sure?” Hermione asked, nervously. “They’ll both be going after you then.”

“I’ll be fine.” Harry nodded. “Anyway, that’s the idea. Malfoy will want to try to kill me anyway, and Zabini said he wanted a rematch. They’ll both go after me. If we can take one of them out, we can gang up on the one that’s left.”

He got to his feet, and, crouching, limped off downhill. He knew he was making a lot of noise, but he didn’t care, that was the plan. He reached a sort of clearing, which gave him an unimpeded view to the battle scene. He could just about make out the tree trunk he had felled by the firelight. Well, he wanted them to see where he was, didn’t he? Maybe he should make it obvious.

Harry aimed carefully. “Incendio!”

The curse flew through the air, its fiery colour illuminating the night it flew through, before the felled trunk burst into flames. Harry watched it settle for a few moments, as if something below it had just been removed. That got rid of Pansy Parkinson from this duel! Harry glanced up the slope to where Hermione was hiding, waiting for Malfoy or Zabini to show their heads. As he did so, he also caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye.

There was a figure creeping out of a cave at the top of the hill. But it was not the side of Hermione that the Slytherins had been, but rather the other, the side that they had been moving towards. The Slytherins had somehow got behind them again – but how? He faced up the slope this time, and pointed his wand at the cave.

“Solas!” He cried.

The spell shot through the air, hitting the rock face just above the cave, and suddenly illuminating the area, before the light faded away again. Harry distinctly saw the head of Draco Malfoy, before he ducked out of the way of the light, and crept along the cliff face – in the direction that would take him to Hermione.

Harry started firing spells at the cliff face, hoping to hit Malfoy with the debris, or maybe stop him from continuing along the top, but to attack him instead. A loud snap – the sound of foot upon twigs – came from Harry’s right, reminding him that Zabini was still around also. Harry stopped casting spells, and glanced around. A flash of yellow light sped towards him, barely giving Harry time to duck, and get behind a tree trunk. There was the sound of flying objects, and grunts, as they hit their mark, and Harry slipped into the open again, to see if he could finish off Zabini.

Blaise Zabini, however, although on one knee, was ready for him.

“Farcio!”

Harry flew backwards through the air, a couple of feet off the ground. He fell onto his back, barely keeping hold of his wand, and rolled sideways, avoiding the second curse that was coming his way. He cast his own spell at Zabini – a tickling jinx – which caused Zabini’s next spell to miss violently. The Slytherin disappeared behind a bush, in order to remove the jinx in safety.

“Reducto!” Harry yelled, trying to destroy the bush, and his foe’s cover.

Unfortunately, the curse didn’t do much good against the gorse, and Harry belatedly remembered how the Reductor curse had failed to help him through the hedges in the Tri-Wizard maze. He glanced up towards Hermione, to see her duelling with Malfoy. She seemed to be on the defensive, penned in rather, and unable to launch a counter attack.

Expelliarmus! Harry thought desperately, and aimed his wand at Malfoy’s back.

No sooner had he done so, however, then Zabini’s voice rang out. “Malfoy – look out!”

Malfoy stepped to his side to avoid the curse, smirked at Harry as if he wanted to tell him to watch carefully, and aimed his wand at Hermione.

Harry didn’t need the loud gong to sound to tell him what the spell Malfoy had cast was. Even though Malfoy hadn’t verbalised it, he recognised the wand movement, the flourish, and the colour of the curse that came out of his wand. It was the Avada Kedavra curse. For a split second, Harry did what he had been threatening to do all duel – and forgot that this wasn’t real, and no-one could truly be harmed. All he could think about was that Malfoy had tried to kill Hermione. No sooner had the green curse hit Hermione, and she had fallen to one knee, then another curse zoomed towards Malfoy at a ridiculous speed, and he was picked up, and flung across the countryside.

As Malfoy flew through the air, the scenery changed. No longer was it night, and no longer were they outside. Instead, they were back into that disused classroom which Aravenne had made into four duelling arenas, and Malfoy was flying over the ropes that bounded them in, and crashing against one of the four walls, hitting it high in the air, before slumping down to the ground unconscious.

“Quiet!” Aravenne’s voice said sharply, silencing the excited mutterings.

There was electricity in the air, and although Harry was still fuming, everything starting to come flooding back to him, he sensed that he was only half responsible for it. Aravenne’s face still looked the model of composure, but it was somehow darker than before, the face of somebody to be afraid of. He strode over to Draco Malfoy, and revived him.

Aravenne’s voice was calm, but hard. “I made the rules of these duelling sessions perfectly clear when we began, Mr Malfoy, did I not?”

Malfoy didn’t answer. Instead he put his arm to his shoulder, where a red stain was even now working its way through his robes.

“He attacked me! Potter-”

“I will repeat the question in case you did not understand that either. When I began these duelling sessions I informed you all that, among other things, the Unforgivables remained unforgivable, and that I would quite willingly see to all those who used them. Is that not so?”

Malfoy glared at him, but didn’t say a word.

“Detention, then Mr Malfoy. Today and tomorrow at seven. We shall see if you decide to ignore my warnings after that. Indeed, you are fortunate that you were unable to cast the spell correctly, or else your punishment would be far worse.”

“I have Quidditch practice-” Malfoy began mulishly.

“Which you shall have to miss.” Aravenne finished coldly. “For every word in argument you utter from now on, I shall be deducting five points from Slytherin.”

Malfoy looked sulky. “Fine” He felt his bleeding shoulder once more. “May I go to the Hospital Wing, sir?”

Aravenne glanced at it. “It is hardly life threatening. You shall stay here, and watch the rest of the class continue to duel. Perhaps you will pick up a thing or two about maturity and responsibility.”

Malfoy slouched off to the stands, but not even his posse of Slytherins paid him much attention. Everyone was staring at the Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher. He had always seemed a Professor not to be crossed, and now he had proved it. Who would have thought that somebody who was so at ease with his students, who was firm but friendly towards them, could transform into somebody who was as ruthless as Snape could be at enforcing discipline?

“Mr Potter,” Aravenne continued, as Malfoy sat, “I believe I also made it clear that only Abramites were to be used, and not your normal wand. Because one person broke the rules is hardly an excuse for you to also. Come here please.”

Harry walked, rather nervously, towards the teacher. He hadn’t used his wand! It had just happened. But he had a feeling that now wasn’t a good time to argue – even though the electricity flying around the room seemed to have lessened somewhat.

Aravenne spoke in a quieter voice to Harry, which nonetheless carried across the room. “You will also have no further part to play in this duelling session.”

Well, that was alright, Harry thought quickly, he wasn’t allowed to duel more than once thanks to Madam Pomfrey anyway. Aravenne must have forgotten in the excitement.

“And I will expect you outside my office no later than half nine this evening, is that clear?”

Harry nodded. His sessions with Professor Dumbledore had now been pushed back to Wednesdays, so there was no conflict there. In fact, Dumbledore was finding it rather difficult to fit him in at all, Harry felt. There was so much that he had to do. There was a Gryffindor Quidditch session at some point tonight, but Harry knew that he wouldn’t be allowed near a broom until after Christmas at least. So a detention with Aravenne was to fill up the empty spot in his calendar.

Harry walked to take his place beside Hermione wordlessly. The Gryffindors around her were watching Harry approach silently, and with admiration at the way he had thrown Malfoy about. It wasn’t just Gryffindors either, the Ravenclaws too, and the Hufflepuffs were looking at him with something approaching awe. The Slytherins were too busy looking at Draco Malfoy but he could have sworn he saw Blaise Zabini turn around and look at him with what looked like respect emanating from his narrowed eyes. They made eye contact just for a second, before Zabini turned back to Malfoy, and started a vicious verbal assault for the way he had disqualified them from the duel.

“You shouldn’t have done that Harry.” Hermione began, and Harry turned his head towards her as he slipped into his seat. “But thank you.”

Harry gave a small smile, but found he couldn’t say anything. His mouth was too dry – and he felt more than a little shaken and drained. Emotions boiled up inside him, and whirled around. That was what he had been afraid of: one of his friends dying. That was the thing Voldemort was likely to do, and that was probably what he had ordered his Death Eaters to do as well. He would try to save Harry for himself, to prove that Harry wasn’t able to defeat him, but Harry’s friends, they would be considered fair game.

Did Malfoy know that that was what Voldemort wanted to happen? Even if his father was in Azkaban, he would surely know from some of his father’s slimy friends. Or even from Crabbe or Goyle’s fathers – they weren’t in Azkaban. Nor was Malfoy’s mother. Could Malfoy have even become a Death Eater himself? But no – Harry scolded himself – he was letting his imagination run away with him there.

Draco Malfoy turned around in his seat, to stare at Harry. His mouth curled into a sneer, just as it had before he had tried to cast the Avada Kedavra curse at Hermione. Harry had no doubt what Malfoy was trying to tell him. He was trying to tell Harry he would like nothing better than to kill him or his friends. Harry was forcibly reminded of the words Malfoy had said to him at the end of his last school year, and he decided he did not want to find out how strong that resolution was – his enmity with Malfoy had suddenly moved far further than a simple schoolboy rivalry.

The students wanted to talk to Harry, to show their admiration, all through the lesson – when they weren’t duelling – but Harry had no wish to do anything other than remain silent. The only people he paid much attention to were Ron and Hermione, and even to them he said very little.

“Malfoy, Zabini and Parkinson went through that passageway.” Ron said, as they watched the next duel on arena two. “You see, the one that goes between those two big caves. You each started outside them. They came right up behind you, and after Neville and Parkinson were out of it, Malfoy went back through it.”

“So that’s how they did it.” Harry said in realisation.

He looked at the other arenas. They took some time to get used to – like the magically enhanced cars Harry had been in, they seemed to have far more space on the inside than out. When a person entered the arena they seemed to be squashed somehow in order to take less space, so it felt like they were a far larger distance away than they actually were. As far as Harry could see, arena two was the only one with a passage between two caves.

“The one we were on had a kind of mountain pass in.” Ron said, pointing to arena four. “Lavender, Parvati and I managed to surround them with it.” He sounded rather proud, as if it had been his idea. “But it was daylight for us, of course.”

Harry grinned, but didn’t feel up to making a reply.

“You okay, mate?” Ron asked in concern.

Harry made a gesture with his head that was half way between a nod and a shake, and gave a shrug along with it. He quite honestly had no idea.
________________________________________


Potions that day was a nightmare once more. It was as if he had done something to personally insult Snape, for gone was the uneasy truce that Dumbledore seemed to have forced upon them. They had moved on from antidotes to poisons, and were now brewing the poisons themselves – according to the textbook so that they could learn about the way poisons work, and thus find it easier to create antidotes. Judging by the veiled threats Snape was sending towards Harry, he couldn’t help wondering if Snape had an ulterior motive. Like testing them on Harry, for example.

Malfoy spent the class trying to double Harry’s torment, laughing at Snape’s insults and bullying, and always attempting to goad Harry into something that could allow Snape to continue. All that Harry’s Occlumency was able to do today, was to prevent him from grabbing the contents of Hermione’s cauldron and shoving it down Snape’s throat. Malfoy stayed behind after class, obviously attempting to persuade Snape to alter Aravenne’s punishment, hoping his continual sucking up might help.

Even Herbology, after the Potions lesson, proved to be a minor disaster for Harry, for he could not focus, and succeeded in decimating the delicate vitria vine he was supposed to be planting. He got a loud dressing down from Madam Sprout as the shards of the plants flew across the bed, and succeeded in losing Gryffindor fifteen points.

Try as he might, he seemed unable to prevent himself thinking about the Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson. It was a miracle he had been able to push it to the back of his mind in Potions, but once he was away from Snape’s eyes, it was a different matter. If he wasn’t thinking about Malfoy’s attempt to use the Avada Kedavra curse, he was thinking about Aravenne, and the fact that he was going to have a detention with a man who Harry had not only always been suspicious about, but who had told a blatant lie about his past.

And yet Harry was still absolutely certain that Aravenne hated the Lestranges, which had to be a point in his favour. He also seemed to have no qualms about meting out punishment towards Malfoy, which was a second one. And then of course there were his teaching methods – attacking the students, claiming that there was no dark magic, teaching them dangerous spells such as Falxia (which Harry was almost shocked to realise he now used himself without much hesitation), and encouraging them to go for the kill if they should face Dark Wizards. And there was that lie about attending Hogwarts. That silly falsehood which Hermione had so easily discovered, and yet which none of them could understand.

Ron seemed to trust him, more than that, to like him. He didn’t seem to have any of Harry’s concerns about his teaching methods, and went into each class eagerly, relishing the duels, whatever their outcome. The only worry he seemed to have, was about Aravenne’s assertion that there was no dark magic, and that didn’t seem to affect him much.

Hermione, on the other hand, found that claim the most compelling of the things Aravenne had taught. Despite her initial scepticism, she had gone through his argument with a fine tooth comb, and now agreed with him. Indeed, she seemed to admire him for wanting to think outside the conventional wisdom, and challenge traditional ideas. The thing that was worrying her, like Harry, was his claim to have been a Hogwarts student. In fact, she offered to follow Harry that evening in Harry’s Invisibility Cloak because of it. Harry however didn’t want to have the cloak out of his possession anymore, ever since the Hogsmeade attack.

As for Ginny – she hadn’t experienced many of the things the others had, but she was a great fan of Aravenne’s. For one thing, she said, he seemed to be teaching them the entire syllabus for fourth year, as well as fifth, to make up for the knowledge Umbridge hadn’t imparted. For another, she told them that the way he taught them new spells reminded her a bit of the DA, which left Harry feeling very surprised, and rather complimented, for the one thing he did not doubt about Aravenne was his teaching ability.

As Harry approached the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher’s office that night, the door opened with a slight bang, and out of it swayed Malfoy. The Slytherin didn’t seem to spot Harry at all, but rather walked the other way down the corridor, stumbling slightly now and then, as if he were drunk tired, and was using what little strength he had left to get away from Aravenne as quickly as he could. The grin of satisfaction Harry would normally have had at seeing Malfoy in such a state was tempered only by the thought that he would perhaps be the next to receive some drastic kind of punishment.

He glanced at his watch. He was still a little early, but rather than delaying another few minutes, Harry decided it would be better to get it over with, and so, nervously approached the door, to knock hesitantly.

“Come in.” A voice called from inside the room, and Harry pushed the door open gently.

The room was sparsely decorated, with black as the predominant colour. Two large bookshelves were beside a large, leather covered, mahogany desk, with two matching cushioned leather chairs either side of it. The floor was mahogany – like every piece of wood in the room, it seemed – and had two rugs placed down upon it. One of them looked like it might have been a large brown bear’s, and the other was a dazzling gold colour, which Harry gazed at, transfixed.

“That’s a Re’em hide.” Aravenne told Harry, watching his gaze. “I was given one by a wise man I met in Japan. I performed a few tasks for him in return for his skills, but it turned out he was only able to partially help me, so he gave me his most valuable possession instead. It was a matter of honour for him that he gave me something to make up for not fulfilling his promise. Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Harry nodded, turning to look at Aravenne. He was standing at a table, packing what looked like the Abramites into their box.

“Please, sit down.” Aravenne said, pointing to the leather chair nearest to Harry.

Harry took his seat cautiously, completing his inspection of the room. Apart from a couple more chairs near the desk Aravenne was working at, the only other things there, were five rather sturdy looking chests. They were engraved quite beautifully, with pictures of such wild beasts as lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, and some other animals that Harry did not recognise immediately.

“That is where I keep the arenas you duel in on Tuesdays.” Aravenne smiled, following Harry’s gaze once more.

“You keep them in chests…” Harry began, not completely understanding what Aravenne meant.

“Yes, I am rather proud of them, I must admit; they have taken me many years to create, and these chests have been with me for many a year now. They are African, you see. You are still yet to see some of my favourites.” Aravenne said, with a satisfied look in his eyes. “Although, of course, today you were duelling in one of them.”

Harry looked at him cautiously. He had been surprised by the friendliness in Aravenne’s tone and words when he had entered the room, but now they had got to the reason that Harry was here for a detention. He wondered whether he should attempt to explain what had happened or not.

“And that of course, leads us to why you are here.” Aravenne continued, as though he were reading his thoughts. “Draco Malfoy tried to use the Avada Kedavra curse in your duel, and you replied by sending him through the air at such speed that he hit the wall and fell unconscious.”

“Professor, I-” Harry begun, but Aravenne held up his hand.

“I am aware that you did not use your wand, which is what I imagine you were about to say. No, what you did was wandless magic: wordless wandless magic. That is why I asked you here tonight.”

“But why did you tell everyone that I used my wand then?” Harry asked in astonishment.

Aravenne looked at him appraisingly, and half leant, half sat on the table behind him.

“Do you remember when I first introduced Magi to your class, I also mentioned Virgaemin, and Virgaemin Magi?”

“Yes.” Harry replied at once. “Virgaemin can duel without a wand, and Virgaemin Magi can duel without speaking either.”

“Exactly. Now, having taught you for a good few weeks, I had the impression that you would not have wished me to tell the class that you had just, effectively, done something only a handful of people could have done. Cast a very powerful spell, without use of your wand, or your voice. Perhaps I was wrong?”

“No!” Harry said immediately, rather loudly in his haste. “But I didn-”

Aravenne nodded. “There is another way that wizards cast a spell like that. You must remember that magic is a part of us. Before we learned to control it, it was chaotic, unrefined, controlled only by our natural instincts, triggered by our emotions. That is why young children often perform wandless magic before they go to school, and why it is rarely seen after they begin to control their gifts. To an observer such as myself, it appears possible, in fact, most likely, that Mr Malfoy’s attack on your friend Miss Granger, caused you to momentarily lose control, and to allow your emotions to take over.”

“So you knew I didn’t mean it? Then why did you give me detention?” Harry demanded.

“Did I say anything about detention?” Aravenne replied calmly. “I told you, you couldn’t duel again that class, and to be here tonight. Did you think I had forgotten Madam Pomfrey’s orders to me? Listen, if I had told the class that you had used wandless magic, I would be telling them that either you were one of the most powerful wizards in Britain, or else, that you were unable to control your emotions. I did not think either option would be fair to you.”

“Then… why did you tell me to come here?”

“I wanted to offer to help you learn the basics of wandless magic.”

Harry looked at him in scepticism. “Why?”

“Why?” Aravenne echoed, in surprise.

“Yes, why would you offer to teach me how to become a Virgaemin? And why do you think I could learn to be one. You said yourself, it wasn’t powerful magic I did, it was because I wasn’t strong enough to control my emotions.”

“Strong enough to control your emotions?” Aravenne repeated in astonishment. “Mr Potter, Harry, your emotions have nothing to do with it. The magic you did was powerful, that has nothing to do with emotions. I will not promise to turn you into a Virgaemin, that is exceptionally difficult for anyone to master, but whether or not you can become one, you certainly can learn how to cast basic spells without your wand, and even without your voice! As for controlling your emotions, learning how to cast wandless magic will help you control when you use it, even with your passions running high.

“And why would I want to do it? Why, as a teacher, to be able to instruct a student in such a difficult branch of magical studies, to perhaps even help him do something that very few people in the world can do. That is a teacher’s dream!”

Aravenne was speaking with a verve and excitement that Harry had rarely seen. He seemed to be run away with the idea of teaching Harry this additional skill.

“What if I don’t think I can do it?” Harry asked. “I have hardly any time already.”

Aravenne’s face didn’t so much fall, as collect itself again, into what Harry was starting to think of the mask of calm that he wore in classes, and he controlled his voice similarly, so that when he next spoke it was once more the voice of the teacher in control.

“Yes, I am aware that you are running a defensive society, the DA do you call it? And then you will have Quidditch practice when you are fit and well again, along with your other classes, but you must understand, Mr Potter, that few people have the opportunity to learn how to use wandless magic so young. For that matter, few people have the opportunity to be taught at all, most have to learn through books rather than another teacher.”

“But what if I decide not to? What then?” Harry persisted.

“Do you not trust me?” Aravenne asked shrewdly. “Are you afraid that I may turn out to be in league with You-Know-Who, like two of your Professors were?”

“Um. Well.” Harry wasn’t sure what to say. “It’s not you… To be honest we’ve only had one Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher that has actually helped me so far, and he…”

“And he was a friend of your father’s: Remus Lupin.” Aravenne completed, to a sharp glance from Harry. “Do not be surprised or worried that I know. I like to be aware of the people I am likely to interact with. It is a survival trait that became quite necessary before I settled down in America, and then returned here. You learn whether to trust people, and whether to be on your guard or not that way. As such, I can sympathise with your reluctance to trust me.

“If you are unsure about me, then I suggest that you question me until you decide whether I am honest or not. I will answer your questions as best I can.”

Aravenne pulled himself up to sit on the table behind him, looking at Harry patiently, and silently. For a few seconds, Harry just stared at him. Aravenne was right, of course, he didn’t trust him. And he didn’t trust him because of something he had said. But here was Aravenne inviting Harry to question him, as if he had no fear of being discovered as a… as a… as someone who had ill-intent. And one of the problems Harry had, was that even though he didn’t trust Aravenne, he had no idea what to suspect him of either.

It was only after Aravenne invited him to speak once more, that Harry asked him his first question.

“Well, sir, you know you said you were in Hogwarts at the same time as the Lestranges?”

Harry had intended to demand why he wasn’t listed as a student in the school, but a glance at Aravenne’s face changed his mind. He was certain he had seen a glimmer of surprise, and even concern on his face, and possibly even anger. If Aravenne really was up to something, maybe Harry shouldn’t let him know that he knew.

“Yes.” Aravenne said slowly, fixing Harry with his eyes.

“What house were you in?”

Aravenne seemed to take forever to reply. There seemed to be some strange kind of internal conflict going on inside him.

“I was a Slytherin.” He answered finally.

Harry looked at him, suddenly more suspicious than ever, and said nothing. Aravenne wasn’t even a Hogwarts student, why say he was a Slytherin?

“And now you see why it took me a long time to tell you.” Aravenne gave a slight smile. “Our houses are traditional foes, are they not?”

“Yes.” Harry agreed. “They are.”

“If I wanted to cause you harm.” Aravenne said swiftly. “Would I not have concealed my house, knowing our houses’ rivalry?”

“Unless you wanted to persuade me to trust you by admitting it outright.”

“Spoken like a true Slytherin.” Aravenne replied, and laughed at the insulted expression on Harry’s face. “Like it or not, you have abilities that would make you a prime candidate for Slytherin. But then, not every Slytherin is a Dark Wizard. For that matter, not all of them despise Muggleborn students. In fact, my Head of House’s favourite student was a Gryffindor Muggleborn.”

Harry glared at him, desperately trying to stop himself blurting out that he knew Aravenne wasn’t a Slytherin.

“So why were you made a Slytherin then?” He challenged, pushing the invitation to ask questions to the limit. “Why did the Sorting Hat make you a Slytherin?”

“Because I asked it to with all my heart and soul. To not become a Slytherin would have been a sin in my family’s eyes. To become a Gryffindor for example…” Aravenne laughed, and shook his head. “I would have been tossed out on my rear if I joined a different house. And I had traits that Salazar valued. I was pureblood, I was desperate to prove myself, and I had been brought up on the belief that Muggleborns and Half-bloods were inferior.”

Harry cast around for another question to ask. “Why did you leave Britain to go to America?”

Again, Aravenne took his time to reply. “A few reasons. One of which was to flee from You-Know-Who-”

“You fled from Voldemort?” Harry asked immediately.

Aravenne flinched at the name. “I was a Slytherin, and came from a long line of ancestors who despised Muggleborns. I must confess that I was not brave enough to fight him, and I was in no position to remain neutral. Yes, I fled from Y-”

“Voldemort.” Harry said firmly, well aware that no-one in the service of Voldemort could bear to hear their master’s name said so loudly for long. Even Snape couldn’t stand it, and he was supposedly the master spy.

Aravenne’s flinch wasn’t as pronounced the second time. Instead, he was staring at Harry hard.

“I have met very few people willing to say his name since he started to rise to power. Professor Dumbledore, of course, is one. The others were your father and two of his friends. Sirius Black, and Remus Lupin. Like them, you are undoubtedly brave – but bravery alone is not enough. It can even be a disadvantage at times. Are you not scared of the – the person that has our world in chaos?”

He had very neatly turned Harry’s challenge back upon him. “Yeah, well, of course I am, but I’m not scared of saying a name. It’s not going to make much difference to whether he wants to kill me or not.”

Aravenne chuckled. “Gryffindor bravery. I do envy you.”

Harry eyed Aravenne carefully once more. “Why else did you run away then? You said there were a couple of reasons.”

There was the usual wait for Aravenne’s answer. “I wanted to start afresh, to go somewhere where I had no family pressure to do this, or that. Quite apart from You-Know-Who-”

“-Voldemort-” Harry substituted again, but Aravenne gave a slight smile, seemingly unaffected now.

“-I wanted to escape from Britain. I wanted to get away, and it didn’t matter where I went. I did not settle in America straight away by any means, in fact, when I left, I had no clue that I would end up there.”

“Well then, why didn’t you return when Voldemort was defeated?” Harry demanded, but starting to ever-so-slightly forget his suspicions in his interest to hear Aravenne’s story.

He paused once more. “I was never convinced You-Know-Who was gone forever. But more than that, I suppose the war made me lose my faith in humanity, or at least in Wizarding Britain, and it took me many long years to find it again. I could have returned – my family were either dead, or thought I was, and I imagine I could have made a new beginning here, but… I don’t think I was ready to see the place once more. I made my living teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts, and lived a very enjoyable life in America.”

“So why come back now? When Voldemort came back.”

“I don’t think I can give you a good answer to that. Events simply conspired to cause it. My faith in humanity was restored, and America made me a different person.”

It was the first time Aravenne had made his reply immediately, and, coincidentally, it was the statement that caused Harry’s suspicions to flood back. He looked at Aravenne sharply.

“Is there anything else I can say to try to convince you to take lessons with me?” Aravenne smiled.

“Roll up your left sleeve.” Harry said, on the spur of the moment, all thoughts of restraint forgotten.

If Aravenne was a Death Eater, the Dark Mark would be shown. Harry fingered the wand in his pocket, suddenly remembering his self-advised caution, and wondering whether he had just made a grave error. Aravenne however, seemed rather surprised by this request, and looked at Harry quizzically for a second or two. Then, he thrust out his left arm, and rolled up the robes that covered it, revealing the unblemished skin below.

Harry let out his breath in a hiss of relief, not even realising that he had been holding it.

“Did I pass the test?” Aravenne asked suddenly. “Will you consent to learn the basics of wandless magic? I make no guarantees that you will find it easy however, or that you will progress quickly. Most of us can only successfully cast the more basic charms.”

As if to demonstrate, he summoned a piece of parchment to his hand without using his wand, and then set it on fire, seemingly feeling no pain as the fire ate up the parchment.

“Can I think about it?” Harry asked, slightly nervously.

“Of course. But don’t take too long: next time someone might end up worse than unconscious.”
________________________________________


A/N: Okay, a couple of things that come to mind based upon some things reviewers have said. Firstly, Luna is a nightmare to write in character (for me), and isn't in Harry's year or House, which means her involvement will be pretty limited. Sorry to all her fans, but if I am going to write her OOC, I'd rather not write her at all. Just my personal opinion as to how fanfic should be treated, which I sometimes think is a little unusual... As for ships - I try not to let romance get in the way of the story - and there was far too much romance in HBP for my liking, it got a bit... tedious after a while.

ATB

________________________________________
Chapter 19: The Scrivenings of Slytherin


Harry closed the door softly behind him, and took a deep breath. That had been the strangest detention he’d ever had. Not to mention the shortest. So what had he found out? Aravenne didn’t have the Dark Mark on his arm, and… That was all really. True, he had found the Professor’s tale compelling, but it still started off with that same lie. That he had been to Hogwarts. That he had been in Slytherin even. And they (he and his friends) knew that that simply wasn’t true.

He glanced at his wrist. It was past ten: in theory, he was out after curfew. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, seeing as he had been told to go to a teacher’s office, but there would still be awkward questions to answer if he was seen, and a whole load of time wasted, especially if it was Filch that found him. Besides, having to explain everything would take his thoughts away from the question of Aravenne, and whether he should take an extra lesson with him. The idea of wandless magic might be tempting, but he wasn’t going to be reckless with his decisions this time.

He dug deep into his robe’s pockets, withdrawing both his Invisibility Cloak, and the Marauder’s Map. He whispered the words to activate the map, and quickly scanned the corridors near him. Filch was walking in his direction, it looked like. Harry swept the cloak over him with a bit of a flourish from years of practice, and crept towards one of the secret ways of the castle. Before he could reach the portrait of Ferrn the Furtive (always willing to help a student wanting to avoid detection), however, Filch came clumping around the corner.

Harry shrunk back towards the wall, hastily double-checking that he was completely concealed. He glanced back down at the map, and then stopped. There, over the lines depicting the rooms below him on the map was a small, untidy script that Harry didn’t recognise. It wasn’t Prongs’, Padfoot’s, or Moony’s, so it had to be…

Harry Potter? James’s son? Are you there? Can you see this? Wormtail wrote. HARRY POTTER! I am in the castle.

Harry stared at the map mutely, mind surprisingly blank for a few seconds. And then what he was being told suddenly clicked in his head. Wormtail was in the castle?

All thoughts of staying hidden until he could get to Ferrn’s secret passageway were forgotten. Keeping the cloak wrapped tightly around him, and holding the map in his other hand, he practically ran in the opposite direction to Filch.

“Who’s there?” Filch demanded, hearing Harry’s footsteps. He turned to stare in Harry’s direction, searching for the student that might be lurking in shadows, just waiting for him to catch. “Wretched Poltergeist,” he muttered eventually, as the ownerless footsteps disappeared into the distance.

Harry however, was long gone. He stopped as he rounded a corner and tapped the map.

“I’m here.” He gasped. “Where’s Wormtail? Is he-” Harry stopped, something had just hit him. “Why are you telling me this?”

Harry Potter! I’m near the Great Hall.

Harry shifted the map in his hands until it was open at the main door to the Great Hall, where a dot called Peter Pettigrew was moving past slowly.

“Why are you telling me this?” Harry demanded again.

I’m not a traitor. I’d never hurt James or any son of his. The me in the castle must be bewitched, but I would never do anything to hurt my friends.

Harry barely let the sentence sink in before he started to sprint, Invisibility Cloak billowing behind him, and not hiding him at all. He stuffed it back into his pocket as he ran and sprinted past complaining portraits, wrenching back the curtains and tapestries that covered some of the secret ways, or slamming doors behind him. At every turning he would take another look at the map, sometimes retracing his steps, as first Wormtail, and then the rest of the Marauders, directed him towards the intruder.

He skidded out onto the corridor that led to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom, almost knocking Snape over as he did so and resuming his mad dash before Snape realized what had happened.

“Potter! Come back here!”

A flash of light sped over Harry’s shoulder as he barged through a half open door, which slammed against the wall, and bounced back. Wand out, Harry swiveled, in order to take in the whole of the bathroom. There was momentary silence, where all that could be heard was the dripping of a tap that had not been turned off fully. Then –

“Just what do you think you’re doing Potter?” Snape’s voice shouted angrily from behind him.

“Wormtail.” Harry bellowed. “He’s here somewhere. Somewhere in this room.”

“How do you- ? Of course – your map. So where is he?”

“There’s no need to shout, you know.” Moaning Myrtle’s voice came from behind one of the closed doors, and drifting upwards with her back to them.

“Ghost – have you seen anyone come in here?” Snape snapped.

“There I was, sleeping peacefully, and the two of you have to come in here and shout loud enough to waken the dead. And this is a girls’ bathroom, and you’re not girls. Oh. Harry.” She finished, seeing him for the first time as she turned.

“Hi Myrtle. Have you seen anyone or anything come in here?” Harry said loudly, and quickly, still looking around him frantically.

“You know it’s rude not to look at someone when you’re talking to them.” Myrtle pointed out. “But nobody cares about Myrtle’s feelings do they? You haven’t even come to see me for ages, Harry. You used to be-”

“I know Myrtle. Look, I’m sorry, but this is important.”

“Yes, everything’s important except Myrtle, isn’t it?”

“Ghost!” Snape said angrily. “Did you, or did you not see a rat come in here.”

Myrtle shuddered. “I hate rats. But they don’t like me either, no-one does, so they don’t come in here.”

“What direction is he then Potter? Surely your map will tell you that at least?” Snape snarled.

But before Harry could look at the Marauders’ Map, Myrtle screamed, and pointed at the ceiling above her toilet. A rat with a silver paw launched itself through Myrtle’s body, towards the sink opposite. Myrtle fled back to her toilet. Wormtail landed on the floor, and dodged a curse from Snape, running up the smooth ceramics towards the sink itself.

Thinking quickly, Harry pointed at the sink in question, and yelled loudly: “Suplaga!”

The spell hit the wall behind the sink, and a fine net extended over the basin, blocking the way to the plughole. Wormtail changed direction at the speed of light, and, dodging another spell of Snape’s, slipped through the gap between the door to Myrtle’s toilet, and the ground.

Harry ran forward, and opened the door, just in time to see Peter Pettigrew jump into the toilet bowl, and swim through Myrtle’s head (and then body) once more.

“Damn it!” Harry yelled furiously, as Myrtle shrieked and rose into the air again.

He slammed the door behind him as he turned his back on the toilet bowl. It rebounded, causing the whole row of cubicles to shudder.

“Control your emotions, Potter.” Snape snarled, walking to take his place to stare at the toilet. “Where is he?”

“Going down the pipes to the lake I guess, how should I know?” Harry replied angrily.

“You are the only one of the two of us currently holding a map of the castle and grounds.” Snape said in a furiously calm voice.

“A map of the castle.” Harry emphasised. “Not the plumbing.”

“Well, are you sure he is not in this room?” Snape demanded.

Harry glanced at the map before replying defiantly. “Yes.”

Snape walked forwards, pulled the chain, and then stood over the seat with his wand, muttering something. A shimmering, translucent puddle of – something – rose up from the u-bend, and solidified below the rim. Finally, he stepped backwards, and closed the door once more.

“Ghost.” He commanded. “Come here.”

A muffled ‘No.’ came from one of the toilets further down the row.

“I am a teacher of this school, ghost, and if you do not do as I say, I shall cast the charms to force you on your way. I have no time for the dearly departed.” He gave Harry a cold smile as he spoke.

Myrtle rose sulkily into the air, rubbing at her tear stained face. “What?”

“If anyone, whether a man or a rat with a silver paw, enters this room before I come back, you will tell me immediately. Understood?”

“Why should I?” Myrtle replied petulantly.

Harry jumped in before Snape could say anything. “Myrtle, you remember the boy who was with the snake that killed you? Well, the rat that was just here is an animagus, and was trying to help him. We’re trying to stop him. So if you see anyone, then-”

“O-oh! I’ll tell you, Harry, I promise. But Harry, after fourth year and-”

Harry glared at her, and nodded towards Snape surreptitiously, but anxiously.

“- I thought you said you’d try and see me more often.”

“I’m sorry Myrtle – I really will try. Thanks for saying you’ll help us though.”

Myrtle giggled, and did a sort of backwards somersault in the air, landing in a toilet once more. Harry felt rather sorry that such a simple word of praise should mean so much to her. She may be pretty annoying at times, but she must have been treated rather awfully.

“Friend of yours, Potter?” Snape said snidely.

“Yeah.” Harry said loudly, and could have sworn he heard another joyful sort of sound coming from across the room.

Snape sneered, and then, said, commandingly. “Out, Potter.”

“Why?”

“Because, you fool, I want to seal this room off to prevent intruders.”

Harry retreated out of the door wordlessly, Snape following behind him.

“Perhaps you would like to tell me how you met this ‘Myrtle’.” Snape jeered, but Harry didn’t respond.

There was a few seconds of silence, where Harry took a few steps backwards, but Snape held up his hand.

“Stay. After I finish, we are going to see the Headmaster.”

“Fine. Why are you doing this, won’t Wormtail be able to eventually break your charms?”

“Sir.”

“Sir.”

Snape gave a condescending smirk. “Because, Potter, in order to break my charms, you would have to be a wizard, and I somehow doubt Pettigrew will want to resume his normal form in the middle of a pipe leading to a toilet.”
________________________________________


“Severus, news already?” Dumbledore’s slightly surprised face said as he opened the door, before he caught sight of the second person waiting there. “Ah. Harry. Please, come in and have a seat, both of you.”

Fawkes started singing softly as he caught sight of Harry, and Harry felt a warmth spread inside him as he took his seat in a chair that was so comfortable, it almost seemed to swallow him up. Snape began to pace, now being watched carefully by Fawkes. Harry wondered if Fawkes was able to sense whether or not Snape was loyal to Dumbledore, like he had with him in second year, or if Occlumency prevented the Phoenix’s natural ability.

“I am sure,” Dumbledore continued, “that there is some rather interesting story behind yours and Harry’s visit, Severus, but perhaps you would like to take a seat before imparting it?”

Snape continued to pace, before saying in disgust. “Potter ruined it, Albus. He came stampeding out of some passageway, causing Pettigrew to disappear down a toilet.”

“A toilet?” Dumbledore asked, looking questioningly at Harry.

Harry nodded.

“Yes. A toilet in a girls’ bathroom on the second floor.” Snape replied.

“Very well, what have you done?”

“Oh, I cast a few simple charms, a solidifying charm on the toilet itself, a basic Prohibito charm on the bathroom, in case Pettigrew should try to re-enter the castle through the pipes, but he won’t do that. He’s too much of a coward. By now he has probably returned to the Dark Lord and told of his failure in such a way that he will avoid as much punishment as he can, laying the blame squarely upon me.”

Snape had gestured wildly as he spoke, but as he came to the end, he visibly seemed to control himself, and, with a slight shake of the head, sat down on a straight backed chair.

“Are you saying you knew Wormtail was in the castle?” Harry demanded.

“Yes, Harry-” Professor Dumbledore began, but Harry interrupted him.

“And let me guess, he was following him?” Harry asked sarcastically.

Dumbledore looked sternly at Harry. “Professor Snape was following Peter Pettigrew, yes.”

“Albus.” Snape cut in, speaking quickly, but calmly. “Not only is it considerably in my best interests if nobody is aware of any of the orders that either the Dark Lord, or you give me, but I believe I can safely say that Potter is probably the person whose knowledge of my activities would be the most detrimental.”

“Scared I’m going to return the favour, and tell Voldemort that you are the most likely person to get rid of him, are you?” Harry retorted.

“Why do you assume that everything I do must revolve around you, Potter? Believe me when I say that the less I have to do with you the better in my opinion. When I… heard what I heard, I had no idea it applied to anybody called Potter. Believe it or not, but I had hoped I would never have to think of your family again.” Snape scowled.

“That is enough. Both of you.” Dumbledore said sharply. “I have long decided that persuading you to trust, even like, each other is a job too large for any one man. You shall have to prove yourselves to each other.” Both Harry and Snape scoffed loudly, but Dumbledore continued. “But that is no reason why you cannot be civil to each other while we are in private. Working against Voldemort means that we have to work together.”

“Really Albus,” Snape said, eying Harry malevolently, “I think I would rather Potter kept his attitude towards me, it certainly does come in useful.”

“Oh yeah?” Harry demanded. “That’s why you obsess about trying to put me in detention is it?”

“Harry, Severus, while you are in my office, there will be no more hostilities. Understood?” Dumbledore said with finality.

“Potter is a student-” Snape began.

“A student who has done things, and endured things whilst attempting to stop Voldemort that most people can scarcely imagine.” Dumbledore said quietly.

“Very well, Albus, but I still believe that with the Dark Lord’s access to Mr Potter’s mind, that he is the last person who should be given sensitive information.” Snape said eventually.

“I am quite aware of the situation, Severus; I am also quite aware that it is necessary for Harry to be told certain information.” Dumbledore replied calmly. “Now, Harry, do I have your word that you will try to leave your problems with Professor Snape outside this room?”

Harry glared at the Headmaster for a few seconds. Fawkes, who had quietened as the argument began, flew to Harry’s knee, and perched there calmly, staring at the Headmaster, and allowing Harry to stroke him.

“I’ll try.” Harry said finally. “But it’s hard when he brings… things … up.”

Dumbledore nodded slightly. “Very well. Now, Harry, Lord Voldemort sent Peter Pettigrew here tonight on a mission that we know little about. All that Severus was told, was that he must find a way to grant him access, and make sure he was not disturbed. Being unsure as to Voldemort’s intentions, Severus followed Pettigrew, both to make sure nobody could come to harm, and to discover Voldemort’s goal.”

“However,” Snape took over, speaking in a forcedly polite tone, “you appeared, startling Peter Pettigrew, and causing him to flee before I could discover his final destination.”

“Of course, had we not already been aware of Pettigrew’s intrusion, Professor Snape would now be praising you, rather than bemoaning your interference.” Dumbledore said, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Of course.” Snape said, looking like he would never even consider bestowing a word of praise towards Harry.

“All is not lost, however, for I fancy that Harry can tell us at least part of what Peter Pettigrew’s mission was. And, if my suspicions are correct, we can suggest the rest.”

“The Chamber of Secrets,” Harry said immediately. “He tried to get into the pipe that leads there.”

“Yes.” Dumbledore mused. “I confess I had not considered that Peter Pettigrew might be able to enter the Chamber of Secrets without Parseltongue before you entered my room just now. I imagined that he must have been searching for a book of some sort, but now I think we know differently.”

“So why?” Harry burst out. “Why did he want to get into the Chamber of Secrets? I mean, all that’s there now is a dead snake, and a load of bones of mice and rats and things.”

“Albus.” Snape said warningly. “Potter does not need to know this.”

“Yes. I do.” Harry said defiantly. “I am the person he has tried to kill for four out of the last five years.”

“Potter, believe it or not, it is for your own safety I do not wish you to know.”

Harry was ever so tempted to fling a retort in Snape’s direction, but he was restrained by his promise to Dumbledore.

“I believe,” Dumbledore began slowly, “and so does Severus, that Voldemort wishes you to hear of the thing he is searching for. However, seeing as this affects you powerfully, I also believe you have the right to hear it. Tom Riddle, I believe, is after something that a few months ago I didn’t think even existed, except in legend; an existence which even a few weeks ago, despite learning of his interest in it, I still believed more than implausible. But now... He shook his head. “Despite the fact that I still find the idea highly unlikely, it is something I can no longer dismiss.”

“But what is it?” Harry urged.

“I believe he is striving to find the Scrivenings of Slytherin.” Dumbledore said finally.

Judging by the looks of the two men in the room with Harry, as well as the looks on the couple of portraits that had not managed to successfully keep their façade of sleep, Harry was missing something.

“Er… Scrivenings?”

“Scrivenings, Potter. Scribings, Writings, Compositions. Scrivenings.” Snape said impatiently.

“Oh. Well, what are they about, and why does he want them?”

Snape shook his head in disbelief at Harry’s ignorance, but said nothing. It was Dumbledore that explained.

“Salazar Slytherin is the one Founder that we have virtually no information about. We know that he came from a largely uninhabited area, near few witches or wizards, but even less Muggles, that it was he and Gryffindor that first put forward the plans to make a Wizarding school, and that after its completion he and Godric Gryffindor had some kind of falling out because of the Muggleborn witches and wizards that wished to attend the school. After that, even from the records of the other Founders, the details are sparse.

“From there, we have to resort to gleaning details from legends. The first legend, of course, was the Chamber of Secrets: a room that for centuries was believed to be myth, until Tom Riddle managed to open it. Now we know that that legend, at least, was true. Many other myths have been suggested, including a place of great Dark powers that he retreated to after leaving Hogwarts; that he left Britain entirely, in order to create a place for Dark Wizards to study, so that they might return and exact his revenge against Hogwarts; and others too preposterous to mention. The Scrivenings of Slytherin was another of these legends.

“It is said that Slytherin spent all of his energies into the research of the Old Magicks. Depending on which tale you believe, he took a very heterogeneous approach to this study, or a very confined one, concentrating on solely the darker aspects of the Old Magicks. It is perhaps significant that the older the legend, the more it is suggested that his studies covered defensive charms, or offensive jinxes, healing spells, or dangerous curses, medicinal draughts, or poisonous concoctions rather than solely the more dangerous subjects. This research he then entered into – again depending on the account – an encyclopaedic sized collection of volumes, or a single scrap of parchment.”

“So basically,” Harry summarised, with a nervous pain in his stomach, “if Voldemort finds them, then we’re screwed?”

Dumbledore raised his eyebrows. “I am not sure I would quite put it like that, but yes, if Voldemort does successfully obtain the Scrivenings, he shall eventually increase his abilities, and magical knowledge, considerably. That does not necessarily mean that we will be, er, screwed, as you put it, however.”

Seeing Harry’s rather fearful face, the old man continued. “That is not to say that there is any convincing evidence that the Scrivenings do in fact exist. However, seeing as Voldemort appears to be serious in his efforts to find them, we must take them seriously also.”

“Why now?” Harry asked. “Why is he only trying to find them now?”

“That would be because of you.” Snape inserted dryly.

Dumbledore looked at Snape with a rather amused, yet irritated expression on his face.

“It has taken numerous years, but it appears that Voldemort has only now decided to take the lines that he heard of the Prophecy seriously. After the attack in Hogsmeade, he now seems to accept the fact that you may have the power to vanquish him, and that he ought to be wary of you.”

“Why?” Harry asked, nonplussed. “I mean, its not as if I did anything really spectacular is it?”

“You deflected a powerful curse back towards a powerful wizard. By all rights, you should have been killed, but yet it was Rodolphus Lestrange who did not survive. Voldemort has finally stopped underestimating much of the protection surrounding you.”

“Yeah, but that was just luck, wasn’t it?”

“How do you imagine you might have survived the encounter?” Dumbledore asked.

“Um, well, I dunno.” Harry said, feeling uncomfortable. “I guess I thought I must have done accidental magic or something. I seem to have done that a bit recently.”

“That would have been possible, if unlikely.” Dumbledore allowed. “But I fancy that the reason can be traced to the things you were thinking at, or just before, that moment.”

“You mean…” Harry said, slowly, “I was thinking of my… mum. And so… You said when he came back, the reason I survived was because I was thinking of… And… the reason he wants to find out about old magic is…”

“Your mother’s sacrifice.” Dumbledore said quietly. “Yes, Harry.”

“Which isn’t to say that this doesn’t affect the rest of us as well.” Snape said, unable to completely hide his sneer. “Virtually nobody has knowledge about the Old Magicks.”

“Not even you, sir?” Harry asked Dumbledore.

Dumbledore gave a small smile. “No, neither Voldemort, nor even myself, can say we know more than the tip of the iceberg. Even in the time of the Founders, most of the knowledge had been lost, and more has disappeared since.”

“So what do we do sir?” Harry asked Dumbledore.

“We?” Snape began, but Dumbledore overrode him.

“The first thing the three of us will do, is sleep, and get some rest. Tomorrow night, we shall have to see if we can find what Peter Pettigrew was searching for. Harry, of course,” He said, looking at Snape, “is the only person who can allow us entry to the Chamber. And Severus,” now he looked towards Harry and Fawkes, “being the Head of Slytherin House, will definitely be required.”

Snape and Harry both scowled.

“When, sir?” Harry asked.

“I think immediately dinner finishes tomorrow Harry. I am afraid we may have to forego your Occlumency lesson this week.”
________________________________________


Harry walked through the portrait hole a quarter of an hour later, mind whirling. The first people he saw were Ron, Ginny, and Dean, talking together, seemingly about Quidditch, although judging by the expressions on Ginny and Dean’s faces, they didn’t want Ron’s company, and judging by how well Harry knew Ron, he knew it and was staying there on purpose. Hermione was curled up in an armchair in front of the fire with a book; in exactly the same pose, in fact, in which she had settled herself when Harry left the common room to see Aravenne. There were a sprinkling of other people in the room, but most had gone upstairs to bed. Harry made a beeline for Ron, who looked up as he approached.

“Hi Harry, how was detention with Aravenne?” Ron began, before looking at Harry more carefully. “Are you okay mate?”

“Yeah, fine. Look, I need to talk to you.” Harry said distractedly.

Dean’s look of gratitude towards Harry quickly turned into a frown, as Ginny was the next to question him. “What about? Are you sure you’re okay? You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine. It’s nothing.” Harry replied absently. “Look, Ron, I think I’d better get Hermione too, I’ll be back in a second.”

“Okay.” Ron replied slowly, looking rather concerned.

Harry walked over to where Hermione was sitting, who jumped as Harry reached a yard in front of her, snapping shut her book with a slight yelp. She shook her head, and took a couple of deep breaths.

“You startled me Harry, I didn’t think you’d be back this soon. You only went something like five minutes ago!”

“I need to talk to you and Ron.” Harry said shortly, not really hearing what she had just said.

“Ron? But…” Hermione finally glanced at her watch, and saw the time. “Yes, of course, but why?”

Harry led her to the most secluded part of the common room, and Ron joined him there with a shrug at Ginny and Dean. Dean looked delighted to be rid of him, while Ginny looked rather worried.

“What’s up Harry?” Ron said, rather loudly, “Something happen with Aravenne.”

“Shut up.” Harry hissed, looking around.

“Wait a moment.” Hermione said calmly.

She took out her wand, muttered a few words, and the noise around them dimmed slightly.

“What’d you do?” Ron demanded.

“I got the idea from Harry’s dad and Sirius’ mirror,” Hermione began, “it makes it harder for people to listen in on us. They-”

“You can tell us later.” Harry said irritably. “This is important.”

Hermione looked a trifle put out.

“So what happened then mate?” Ron asked. “Something about Aravenne?”

“What? No, not Aravenne. He wasn’t even giving me detention.”

“What?” Ron demanded.

“Look – I’ll explain it later, just let me talk will you? It was after I finished talking to him. I looked at the Marauders’ Map, and it told me-”

“What do you mean it told you?” Ron demanded.

“What? It told me, you know, it wrote that…” Harry hesitated, remembering he hadn’t told Ron about the map’s ability to converse. “Look it doesn’t matter now, I’ll explain it later, but it told me that Wormtail was in the castle.”

At that moment, Ginny appeared next to Hermione. “So what’s up?” She asked.

Harry was momentarily distracted. “I thought you’d want to be with Dean?”

“Don’t tell me you didn’t hear.” Ginny said, looking as if she thought Harry was trying to make a very bad joke.

“Hear what?” Ron demanded.

“That huge row I just had with Dean.”

“Oh.” Hermione interrupted, as if she suddenly realised something. “That would have been because of the charm I cast-”

“Later!” Harry said in absolute exasperation. “Look, you can explain later!”

And finally, Harry managed to tell the tale of his evening to his friends.

“The Scrivenings of Slytherin.” Hermione said slowly, almost to herself, immediately Harry explained what it was.

“Don’t tell me you’ve heard of it?” Ron said in what was more like resignation than surprise.

“There was something in ‘Hogwarts, a History’ about it. Near where it mentioned the Chamber of Secrets actually.”

There was a very small intake of breath, that Harry barely noticed, and he got halfway through his next sentence before stopping.

“Yeah, well, I doubt it’ll say something Dumb- Ginny. Are you okay?”

Ginny’s face was pale, and her reply had an almost imperceptible slight stammer. “Y- Yeah. I’m fine.”

Ron seemed slightly taken aback, and a little worried. “Are you sure Gin?”

Hermione looked more sympathetic than concerned, and it was that that meant Harry put two and two together. The fact that Ginny had been having bad dreams, and had been talking only to Hermione, that she didn’t want Dreamless Sleep potions, why Harry nearly dying while saving her at Hogsmeade might have affected her so badly, suddenly all made sense.

“Look, Ginny. The only two people that actually know what happened down there in the Chamber of Secrets are you and me. And Dumbledore.” He amended. “Voldemort doesn’t have a clue, and nor do any of his Death Eaters.”

Ginny flinched more violently than she had for years at the sound of Voldemort’s name, and looked away. Harry struggled for something to say, and for some reason felt he had to keep talking.

“That can never happen again. You know that, right? The Basilisk’s dead, and…” He looked at Hermione desperately pleading for help.

Hermione, of course, must have been trying to help Ginny for weeks, but she comforted her now, and took over.

“I think what Harry’s trying to say, is that the Voldemort in the diary and the Voldemort out there now don’t know the same things. He doesn’t know the things you told the diary, or the things that happened in second year – your first. And there’s no way he ever will.”

“Yeah.” Harry said gratefully. “And Ginny… The dreams, they do go away. They…” He stopped, looking uncomfortably at Ron and Hermione, but plunged on anyway. “I had nightmares about Cedric… and Sirius… and they do, they will go. They’re not going to haunt you every night for a hundred years.”

Harry didn’t say anything else, but now he was also looking anywhere but at any of his three friends too.

There was silence, before he looked back at the sound of Ginny’s voice. “Thanks Harry,” she said weakly. “Well, thanks, all of you. But I am okay, really.”

She gave a small smile to Hermione and Ron, while the latter was trying desperately to be the big, dependable, brother, and comfort her, while also looking like he hadn’t a clue what to do, and like he didn’t want to be part of a scene (although Hermione’s charm seemed to be taking care of that side of things).

“So, why exactly is You-Know-Who after these Scrivenings, or whatever they are?” she continued, visibly making an effort.

So Harry told them everything he could remember Dumbledore saying, including Harry’s blood protection. He figured that if he was going to tell them some of it, he might as well tell them everything.

“So it was the blood protection that saved you from Lestrange?” Ron asked. “Did Dumbledore say why exactly? Or can you just not die?”

Harry felt himself going red. He remembered Dumbledore asking him about why he had apparated in front of Ginny. He hadn’t wanted her to die protecting someone else like his mother had. He also remembered how Dumbledore had had to make sure that he had not done it because he thought he couldn’t be killed.

“I’m not immortal.” He said quickly.

“Was it something you were thinking or doing then?” Ron asked, giving a very quick, almost imperceptible glance towards Ginny.

“Supposedly if I think of certain things, I can call my mum’s protection to me or something. I’m not completely sure. But I know it only works against Voldemort or someone who wants to hurt me for him.”

“That explains your shield.” Hermione said thoughtfully. “I wondered about that.”

“How?” Ginny asked; she had not said much since Harry had talked about the Chamber of Secrets.

“Don’t you remember how the curse went through his shield, but as the curse hit Harry, the shield changed colour? It went green – like the curse that-”

“Should have killed me.” Harry finished for Hermione. “You know, now I think about it, all I can remember from that Halloween is a load of green light.”

“But I still don’t understand what you meant when you said the map told you Wormtail was in the castle.” Ron said.

“It was Wormtail himself. Well, the fifteen year old version of hi-” He glanced at Ginny, before looking beseechingly at Hermione. “Can you explain, Hermione?”

And after Hermione had tactfully explained about that, and everyone had told of their surprise, Ginny looking nervous, and Ron annoyed that Harry hadn’t mentioned it sooner; then Harry was forced to relate the other thing he had promised to explain later – his meeting with Aravenne. Whereupon (to her satisfaction) Hermione finally had a chance to explain how her charm ensured that unless people were consciously trying to spy on them, they wouldn’t see, or hear anything unusual about their conversation.

“And I haven’t worked out a way to make it only one way, so we aren’t going to notice much happening around us either. It’s too dangerous to use a lot of the time, but I thought it would be okay for now.” She finished.

“Yes, you did seem to be chatting rather happily considering how Harry looked when he came in.” Ginny noted. “I didn’t think of it at the time, but-”

“What was your argument with Dean about?” Ron asked immediately, remembering what Ginny had said.

“Oh.” Ginny said, turning red, and sounding annoyed. “Dean just got jealous because I was worried if a male non-blood related friend was all right. It’s nothing. But anyway, what are you going to do about Aravenne, Harry? Are you going to take this extra class?”

“I dunno.” Harry admitted. “I didn’t know when I left his office, and then I forgot about it. I still can’t really think about it to be honest. All I can think of is how Voldemort is trying to get his hands on something that could make him even more powerful, and stop what seems like the only thing that Dumbledore said he underestimated, and that could defeat him. Or at least protect me.”

“You still have ‘power that he knows not’ mate.” Ron said, trying to encourage him. “Remember what the Prophecy said?”

“Yeah, well, what if this was it? What if that was the power he didn’t know?” Harry said glumly.

“Well, we’ll just have to find this ‘Scrivenings’ before he does then,” Ron said sensibly.

“What’s Dumbledore doing about it Harry?” Hermione asked.

“What Ron said: trying to find it first. I’m going to open the Chamber up tomorrow and go in there with him and Snape. See if we can find what Wormtail was looking for.”

“You’ll be careful, won’t you Harry?” Ginny said rather anxiously.

“I’ll be with Dumbledore.” Harry said with a slight shrug. “I’ll be fine. Anyway, the Basilisk is dead.”
________________________________________


“Er, Myrtle?” Harry asked cautiously as he entered her bathroom behind Professor Snape.

Almost immediately, her ghostly shape rose up from a cubicle. “Hi Harry!”

“Um. Hi. Myrtle, this is Headmaster Dumbledore. Professor, this is, ah, Myrtle.” He didn’t bother to introduce Snape.

“I know who he is.” Myrtle answered. “He used to teach me Transfiguration.”

“Good evening Miss de’ Los,” Dumbledore said, taking off his hat politely, “please allow me to thank you for keeping guard for the last day. I am sure Harry has explained how important this is, and thus how much we appreciate your help.”

“Harry said that you’re trying to stop the boy who killed me.” Myrtle said, in a voice that sounded like she couldn’t believe the attention she was getting.

“Quite so.” Dumbledore replied, with a glance at Harry. “Perhaps you would consent to continue to keep your vigil? It would certainly be very much appreciated if you could warn us if that rat with the silver paw appears, or if anyone opens this sink.”

“Do you mean like Harry did four years ago?” Myrtle asked curiously.

“Exactly, and, with any luck, you shall see it happen again now.”

“I’ll tell Harry if anyone comes in here. Harry or you, sir.” She added as an afterthought.

Dumbledore offered her his twinkling smile. “You have my thanks Miss de’ Los.”

“Right.” Harry muttered, walking to the sink, and staring at it, trying to believe the snakes were real.

“Are you going to open it, or look at it Potter?” Snape asked impatiently.

“It’s not like speaking French or something.” Harry snapped back. “I need to believe I’m actually talking to a snake.”

“Severus.” Dumbledore warned in a soft voice.

“Very well.” Snape said, ignoring Dumbledore. “Step back, Potter.”

Harry glanced at Dumbledore, who nodded, so Harry took a couple of steps backwards.

“Serpensortia!” Snape uttered.

A smooth and shining large black snake coiled itself together in front of the sink. It raised its head, and looked directly towards Harry.

“Er. Hi.” Harry said, but it wasn’t in his normal voice, instead it came out in a sibilant hiss.

“Well Potter, go on, open it.”

“Open up.” Harry hissed, and the sink started to sink.

The snake disappeared in a puff of smoke, but Snape’s superior sneer remained.

“After you, sir.” Harry said politely to the Potions master, in order to get some revenge.

The prospect of stepping into the unknown first, however, did not seem to worry Snape as Harry had hoped. He simply strode to the gaping hole, sat down and slipped inside, disappearing.

“After you, Harry.” Dumbledore smiled.

“Harry.” Myrtle said slightly breathlessly, as he approached the hole. “What I said, last time… I still mean it, you know?”

Harry’s mouth opened, but he couldn’t find any words for a few seconds. “Er. Thanks Myrtle,” he said finally, before turning to Dumbledore. “Oh. Sir, it’s likely to get very messy down here.”

“Which you naturally forgot to inform Professor Snape of.” Dumbledore said with just a hint of reproach. “Still, at least the two of us need not worry. Altecutis.”

Dumbledore had pointed the wand at Harry as he spoke the spell, and Harry felt a light film cover his body, although he seemed to have no trouble breathing. Dumbledore repeated the spell, pointing at himself this time.

“I think we are ready now Harry, so after you.”

“I really did forget.” Harry said sheepishly as he jumped into the pipe, rather enjoying the slide down to the Chamber this time, as he knew where he was going.

He landed on his hands and knees on the same rocky passage, with the same thin film of slime on top of it, that Harry remembered. Ahead of him, he could just about make out an extremely mucky Snape trying to remove the worst of the dirt from himself in the darkness. Harry hid his grin, and moved quickly upright, and out of the way, for Dumbledore was following behind him.

Dumbledore landed lightly on his feet, gave an amused glance towards both Harry and Snape, and muttered calmly: “Effundo.”

The dirt and slime that had momentarily been coating both Harry and Dumbledore fell off, as did the translucent film that had also covered their bodies. Snape shot Harry a venomous look.

“Thank you for the warning, Potter.”

Harry shrugged. He might have forgotten, but he enjoyed the effect.

A bright light shone out from above them, causing Harry to blink. A five metre square of the ceiling was glowing cheerfully, illuminating the dark of the passageway.

“There is little point remaining in the dark.” Dumbledore said brightly. “Shall we?”

Dumbledore took the lead, and Harry followed him, followed by a slightly cleaner (but not much) Snape. They continued down the winding passageway, Dumbledore providing light from the ceiling until they reached the roof fall where Dumbledore raised his eyes towards Harry in an unspoken question.

“This is where Gilderoy Lockhart tried to wipe Ron and my memories.” Harry hastened to explain. “We kind of burrowed a way through it, in case we caused another collapse while trying to get rid of the rocks.”

“Quite sensible.” Dumbledore nodded. “However, there is no need to worry about that now I am here.”

With just a small motion of his wand, he created a bright, shining, marble pillar from the ground upwards, the rocks he was transfiguring disappearing as he worked. Another effortless spell caused the cracks in the ceiling above them to disappear, and hold firm once more. Dumbledore’s spell work seemed to have cleaned the floor as well as tidied it, for the rock beneath was spotless and bone dry.

“Shall we continue then?”

They continued in silence, apart from a merry tune that Dumbledore was humming under his breath, and, far quicker than Harry had remembered it taking, were met by a sudden barrier. A perfectly smooth space of rock faced them, where Harry had remembered two serpents entwined. Serpents with emerald green eyes which looked almost alive.

“What now, Potter?” Snape demanded. “You have led us to a dead end.”

“But…” Harry said, perplexed. “When I was here before, there were two snakes on that wall. And they split in two when I spoke Parseltongue.”

“Curious.” Dumbledore said. “You are sure we could not have missed a turning?”

“Yes.” Harry said firmly.

“Very well.”

The old wizard moved forwards, and felt the wall in front of them. He needed mere seconds before turning to Harry and Snape.

“There is indeed a door here, protected by some powerful magic it seems. I believe I shall be able to find a way through, but it may take time. Hopefully we shall not have to resort to physical force. Severus, if you would give me a hand please?”

Snape walked forwards to assist Dumbledore, and Harry took a step back. His knowledge of magic wouldn’t be of any use to Dumbledore. Dumbledore and Snape were speaking quietly and out of Harry’s earshot, and Harry ignored them but rather tried to solve the question of where the two snakes had gone.

“-a Gryffind-”

Harry blinked, he was sure he had just heard a whisper. It wasn’t something he’d normally have noticed, but he had definitely heard a voice, a whisper, over the voices of the two men trying to open the door.

“Sh.” He said reflexively.

“What is it Potter?” Snape demanded.

“I heard something. Just be quiet for a second.”

Harry turned his back in order to concentrate, but nevertheless saw Dumbledore hold out his hand to prevent Snape from replying.

“-killed Salazar’s basilisk.” A different voice hissed.

“But the other attacked him; the one who claimed to be his heir.”

“Who’s there?” Harry demanded, and with a start, he realised he was speaking in Parseltongue.

Were there snakes around? He wondered.

There was silence, but Harry could have sworn he had heard an angry, wordless, hiss.

“Parseltongue,” Dumbledore said in the silence. “I presume you were talking to the guardians of the door, Harry?”

“Oh.” Harry said. “Yes, I might have been. I thought they might have been actual, real, snakes out of sight, but they were talking about Salazar Slytherin by name. But then how do you teach stone carvings how to speak Parseltongue? If it was easy to teach it, wouldn’t more people be able to talk to snakes?”

“Salazar Slytherin was a great wizard Potter. Perhaps in terms of magical ability, the greatest of the Hogwarts four.” Snape told him.

Dumbledore just smiled. “What were they saying, Harry?”

“Er, one was saying that I was the one who killed the Basilisk, at least, I think that’s what he said, I didn’t catch all of it. The other was suggesting it wasn’t my fault. I asked who was there, but they didn’t answer.”

“I see. Are they saying anything now?”

Harry listened intently. “No.”

Dumbledore nodded. “No doubt they heard us coming, and hid before we approached. Now they must be trying to decide whether to allow us entry or not. Well, we must enter, so if they will not show themselves, we may, I fear, be forced to open the door by force.”

“Albus!” Snape cried in alarm. “These carvings, they may be Salazar’s familiars! We can’t just destroy them.”

“Perhaps. But they may give us no choice. Perhaps you ought to warn them, Harry.”

Harry turned his back, and then cleared his mind, and tried to think of those two snakes’ voices he had heard earlier.

“Are you two still here?” He asked in what he was relieved to hear was a hiss. “Come out and talk to me, or else we shall have to force our way through.”

There was a slight silence, before he heard a reply. “You shall fail. Salazar Slytherin himself protected our gateway.”

“Professor Dumbledore is the strongest wizard alive today. If anyone can break it, it’s him.” Harry said, and then waited for a reply.

“Who is the other?” The other snake’s voice asked.

“Professor Snape. He’s the Head of Slytherin House. He doesn’t want to destroy you.”

“Ah. Success.” Albus Dumbledore’s voice said mildly.

Harry swivelled to see one snake back in its place on the wall, staring out at the three of them, while the other made its way onto the smooth slab, winding around its companion as it did.

“Why do you want to go in?” It hissed angrily.

“Remember, Harry, the truth is your most powerful weapon.” Dumbledore said quietly.

“But,” Harry replied, “but what if they want to support Voldemort? He is Slytherin’s descendent.”

“What are you saying?” The snake that had spoken before hissed. “Does the Head of Salazar’s house not speak Parseltongue?”

“No. I am the only one that speaks it.”

Both the snakes hissed angrily, and wordlessly.

“What are you saying, Potter?” Snape demanded.

Harry sighed. He was going to have a very sore throat after this, if he was going to have to translate to and fro.

“They want to know why we want to enter the Chamber of Secrets. And they don’t seem very impressed that you don’t know how to speak Parseltongue.” He smirked slightly, despite himself.

“Perhaps you should start by finalising the introductions.” Dumbledore suggested. “I always find that the best place to start a negotiation.”

“Um. Maybe we should- Er. My name is Harry Potter, it’ll be easier to talk if we know what to call each other.” Harry said awkwardly in Parseltongue.

“I am Shiakana.” The second of the snakes told him. Harry wondered if it was a female.

“Kaen.” The other said, in a slightly aggressive tone.

“Kaen and Shiakana.” Dumbledore repeated to Harry’s translation. “Perhaps you should ask why they do not wish us to enter?”

“There is nothing there, no reason for you to enter.” Shiakana hissed in response.

“Then why can’t we go in?”

“You killed the creature that could have saved this school,” Kaen said angrily. “Do you deny it?”

“Saved the school?” Harry repeated equally angrily. “It was petrifying innocent Muggleborns. It attacked two of my friends!”

“Typical Gryffindor idealism.” Kaen hissed. “The death of a couple of innocents is worth it if it saves our kind from extinction.”

“Your kind.” Harry spat. “Maybe your kind shouldn’t survive if it has to kill innocent people.”

“Our kind.” Shiakana replied. “Wizard-kind everywhere.”

“Albus, Potter cannot be trusted with delicate negotiations.” Snape said loudly. “Surely you have noticed how he seems to be antagonising Salazar’s guardians, judging by the tones of these hisses.”

Little as Harry would like to admit it – Snape had a point. He perhaps should change topic.

“Okay – it’ll probably take a long time until we agree with each other there. You do know that Tom Riddle attacked me with the Basilisk, right? I had to defend myself.”

“Which is what I said.” Shiakana hissed. “If you were attacked, Kaen, would you not kill your attacker rather than be destroyed yourself?”

“It does not matter! If Salazar’s heir wishes him dead, then who are we to argue? Did not this Lord Voldemort share the same goals as his ancestor? The removal of the Muggleborns?”

“But he-”

“Did you know Voldemort is a Halfblood?” Harry said in mild desperation. “His real name is Tom Riddle, after his father: a Muggle.”

There was silence.

“And did you know that the reason I came here in the first place was that he kidnapped my friend? My pureblood friend?”

This seemed to make a rather large impact upon Kaen, for he recoiled on the tablet, his body far looser around Shiakana than previously.

“What is your bloodline?” Shiakana asked – quite politely it seemed.

“Both of my parents went to Hogwarts. My mother was Muggleborn, and my father pureblood.” Harry told them, defiantly proud of his Muggle blood.

“And?” Kaen demanded.

“And I don’t know anything else. They were murdered when I was one.”

Harry wasn’t quite sure why he had admitted to them that he was a Halfblood, for he did not expect it to impress them. It was what Dumbledore had told him to do, however, and he trusted him.

“Well, Potter?” Snape demanded, quite annoyed, it seemed, that Harry was talking to these statues that were created by Slytherin, and he couldn’t.

“The Head of Slytherin House. What is his heritage?” Kaen demanded.

“Er, Kaen wants to know if you are a pureblood or not.”

“Pureblood. Of course.” Snape sneered.

The sounds the snakes made when Harry related his answer could have been either approval, or disgust. Harry couldn’t tell. As of yet he was not particularly proficient at judging what their wordless hisses meant. By the very slight raising of Dumbledore’s eyebrows, he wondered whether Snape was telling the truth or not himself. Although he couldn’t imagine him being made a Slytherin if he wasn’t.

“Why do you wish to enter?” Shiakana asked. “Nothing lies inside, Salazar’s gift is gone.”

“Thanks to you.” Kaen added.

“Quiet!” Shiakana hissed angrily.

“I do not take orders from females-” Kaen began.

Shiakana reared up on the tablet, and in the matter of seconds spread Kaen’s coils apart, and bared her fangs behind his head.

“I take it they are having a disagreement.” Dumbledore said calmly.

“Shiakana wants to know why we want to enter. And Kaen is a bit of a chauvinist, and Shiakana doesn’t like it.” Harry added as an afterthought.

“Ah, yes, the fairer sex should certainly be underestimated at your peril.” Dumbledore said cheerfully.

“You don’t need to tell me; I’m friends with Hermione and Ginny.”

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “Indeed. Well Harry, as I said before, the truth is your friend.”

“You want me to tell them we are searching for the Scrivenings of Slytherin?” Harry asked dubiously.

“Albus-” Snape began, seemingly sharing Harry’s opinions for a change.

“Yes Harry, I do.”

“Well?” Shiakana demanded.

“We- We are searching for the Scrivenings of Slytherin.” Harry said nervously.

“Indeed?” Shiakana said in a dubious voice. “And what exactly are they?”

“You don’t know?” Harry asked, trying not to allow his eagerness to show.

“No.” Kaen hissed, now freed from Shiakana’s threat.

“You are pleased that we do not know of them.” Shiakana observed. “Their discovery would affect you in some way.”

Harry said nothing.

“What are they?” She repeated.

“They’re a collection of writings about Old Magicks.” Harry said.

“I see.” She hissed.

“What does this Professor Snape think of Muggleborns?” Kaen demanded, changing the direction of the conversation once more.

“Tell them that they cannot seriously expect me to answer that question in present circumstances.” Snape said in answer to Harry’s question. “And pray also ask them to cease their attempts at Legilimency towards me. I appreciate my privacy.”

Harry could have sworn that the sound this time was one of laughter from the two snakes. Snape’s reply seemed to amuse them.

“Perhaps he could put forward reasons that are not his own as to why the Muggleborns should be removed from this school then?” Kaen asked, almost mockingly.

Snape paused for a few moments. “It has been suggested to me that without their knowledge of our ways and customs, we are in danger of losing our identity.”

“Not enough.” Kaen hissed. “Rituals can be taught.”

“I have also been told that often the pure-blooded amongst our number are of superior skill. A Squib, although they happen, is a rare occurrence in comparison to Muggleborns of inferior quality.”

“True, but again not enough.” Kaen replied. “Some Muggleborns have power.”

“A third reason put forward is that if more time is spent towards the improvement of the knowledge of purebloods,” Snape began again, “then the Wizarding World will be in the hands of those that understand our needs.”

“Anything else?”

“The other reason the Dark Lord told me was simply that Muggleborns are dirty in some way. Unworthy. Inferior.” Snape finished.

As Harry translated Snape’s answer, correcting the Dark Lord to Voldemort as he spoke, he suddenly appreciated what Snape was doing. He was trying to make them distrust Voldemort. It created a reaction from the two snakes as well: Kaen hissed angrily and although Shiakana stayed silent, her Emerald eyes seemed to gleam.

“Who else is after Salazar’s Scrivenings?” She demanded from Harry suddenly.

Harry looked at Dumbledore imploringly. “She wants to know who else is after them!”

Kaen hissed furiously at his reversion to English. Snape shook his head.

“Then tell her the truth, Harry.” Dumbledore said serenely.

“Lord Voldemort.” Harry said unwillingly in Parseltongue.

“And why is the Head of Slytherin not working for the Heir of Salazar?” She demanded.

“My reasons are my own.” Snape replied furiously.

“Then you may not enter.” Shiakana said with finality.

Harry glared at Snape as he translated.

“I do not believe that he follows the same beliefs the great Salazar Slytherin had.” Snape said guardedly. “He is just as willing to kill Purebloods as anybody else.”

“Why else?” Shiakana demanded.

“He will kill anyone who gains power enough to even slightly threaten him. My own chances of success in the world will be nonexistent if he triumphs.”

“These are not all of his feelings.” Kaen hissed angrily. “Nor must he be telling the truth. We know he will lie.”

“And yet some of his words are truthful. And if he does not know Salazar’s beliefs, why should this Voldemort? Remember, he kidnapped a Pureblood girl, in order to attack a boy with blood as pure, or purer, than his. Salazar would not have done that.”

“I do not believe either of them. This boy is a Gryffindor. Why should we trust him?”

“I didn’t lie.” Harry began hotly, but the amused hisses from the snakes stopped him.

“Because he is a Gryffindor.” Shiakana whispered. “A true Gryffindor. He withdrew Godric’s sword, remember? It would shame his honour to lie.”

“Gryffindor’s ideology means nothing. Would this boy not lie if it meant an innocent survives? Would Gryffindor not have lied? Would you not, Harry Potter?”

“I don’t know.” Harry said awkwardly, and truthfully. “I guess I probably would.”

“See!” Shiakana hissed triumphantly. “He does not lie, even when it would help him.”

Harry’s head hurt from trying to follow their logic, but he started to get the feeling that it didn’t particularly matter what he said, these two snakes would find ways to support their own arguments.

“Hear this, Potter.” Shiakana said. “The Great Salazar Slytherin did research the Old ways. We know of no finished Scrivenings of his, however, simply half completed notes. But there is nothing in here, or we would know.”

“Can we check, anyway?” Harry asked.

Kaen hissed angrily, but Shiakana stayed silent. Then, slowly, she unwound from her position, and her portion of the wall started to slowly open with a cracking sound.

“You have betrayed Salazar!” Kaen told her.

“I do not believe so. You can stay there, and guard your half, or you can come with me.”

And, with another angry hiss, the second half of the door opened.

“Well done Harry!” Dumbledore said quietly. “Very well done indeed.”

“I’m not sure I actually did that much.” Harry said honestly.

“Regardless of your feelings, if you were not here, we would have been unable to go any further.” Dumbledore reminded him.

Snape made a sound of disgust, and walked through the revealed doorway. Harry saw him stop, and gaze around him, before continuing inside.

“Professor,” Harry said, before he and Dumbledore entered, “what did Professor Snape mean about Slytherin’s familiars?”

“Each of the other founders had objects they charmed to take the appearance of life, to have a mind of their own, Harry. Godric Gryffindor’s, was, of course, his hat, the Sorting Hat, as it now is. Rowena Ravenclaw’s quill is now the keeper of the Prophecies in the Department of Mysteries: it is her familiar that decides what each Prophecy refers to. Helga Hufflepuff’s familiar, her staff, has been passed on to the Healer in charge of St Mungo’s for centuries now. Whether Salazar had one was unknown until now.”

“Oh.” Harry could think of nothing else to say, so walked through into the cavern where he had fought Tom Riddle.

The air was remarkably pure, and the cavern itself remarkably empty of wildlife. Harry had expected to see a horde of rats, without the Basilisk to quell their population, but the whole room was empty. He and Dumbledore walked forward to where Snape was standing – in front of what remained of the basilisk. It appeared that rats had at least been here once upon a time, for they had obviously had their revenge. All that was left of the basilisk was a brilliantly green, but nibbled, skin, and a collection of bones. Nature had removed the rest. Snape was examining the remains, and removing samples, and placing them into a bag.

“A potion brewer’s dream.” Dumbledore observed. “I would imagine you are one of but a few people to have the chance to discover the traits of these potion ingredients, Severus.”

“And one of a few people with the ability to use them to their potential.” Snape replied, eyes glittering.

“What are we looking for, exactly, sir?” Harry asked Dumbledore.

“Anything that looks remotely unusual.” Dumbledore replied. “I fear it is too much to hope that there will be carvings on the wall detailing the Scrivenings of Slytherin, especially given the Guardians’ declarations, but there may be something that gives us a clue as to how to proceed. Voldemort obviously thought there to be something of value here, that might aid his search, and it is our job to discover what that might be.”

Dumbledore again provided illumination, lighting up the dimly lit chamber brilliantly, showing the tall pillars stretch upwards as if for ever, and shining on the snakes that adorned the pillars, just as Kaen and Shiakana had decorated the door. Unlike those two snakes, however, these ones didn’t seem to move. Harry went left, Dumbledore went right, and Snape, once he had finished with the carcass of the basilisk, began to examine the base of Slytherin’s statue, and the pillars.

Harry soon tired of the tedious job of looking for something and yet not knowing what it looked like. The walls were carved with long, almost snakelike lines, but if they were a language, Harry hadn’t got a clue what they said. They looked more like patterns than words, but he dutifully followed them along the wall, looking for something that might somehow appear unusual. Now and then, he heard wordless hisses, as if his every move was being watched by the lifeless snake carvings.

He wasn’t sure how long it took him to follow the wall back to Slytherin’s statue again, it felt like forever, but as he slumped down against the legs of the statue he noticed Dumbledore only seemed to be a quarter of the way along his side, feeling the walls carefully, and casting spells of some kind in an effort to discover something. Harry half wondered if there was any point in his being there except to speak to the snakes.

He tried desperately to remember his only other visit to the Chamber of Secrets, and any information that might have helped, but all he could really remember was worry for Ginny, and then a desperate struggle for both of their lives. He lost himself deep in thought, before a sound made him look up. Snape must have said something condemnatory, for he was sneering at Harry in a disapproving fashion.

He stood up again in order to turn his back towards Snape, and stared at the statue. The snake had come out of the mouth, hadn’t it? Harry stared at a nearby pillar, examining the glittering eyes of the snake there, and then looked back to the statue.

“Open up.” He hissed.

Nothing happened. He looked back at the snake, which promptly moved, and opened its mouth.

“Come now, Gryffindor. You heard Slytherin’s heir open the statue; surely you can remember the words.” It was Kaen.

“Speak to me Slytherin-” Harry muttered, and then stopped.

“Greatest of the Hogwarts Four.” Kaen completed for him, and the statue’s mouth started to widen.

“If Slytherin was so great, why did he need people to tell him that?” Harry asked irritably; Kaen got on his nerves.

A sound of amusement came from the pillar on the other side of Harry. It was Shiakana. They seemed to have followed Harry.

“That sounds like something Godric would have said.” Shiakana said, amused.

“What do you mean?”

“He always used to tell Salazar Slytherin that he was too full of himself. Of course, he was the only wizard that approached Salazar’s ability, that’s why they were attracted to each other as friends.” Shiakana explained.

“Friends?” Harry said, surprised.

“Of course.” Kaen sneered, sounding almost like Snape. “You don’t think either Salazar or Gryffindor would have worked together if they didn’t like each other, do you? What rubbish has that Hat been telling you?”

“The Sorting Hat?” Harry asked.

“Who else? Gryffindor made it so that he could select the best students for his house. Luckily, his instincts when it came to choosing his students were poor.”

“I suppose the Hat did say they were friends before Slytherin turned on him.” Harry said bluntly.

“Turned on him?” Shiakana hissed angrily.

“Never could trust that Hat.” Kaen said. “It was Gryffindor’s policy of letting anyone in, no matter their background, which made them enemies.”

“What, so it’s Godric Gryffindor’s fault because he didn’t want to kill all the Muggleborns?” Harry challenged.

“Salazar Slytherin wanted to save the school, and wizards in Britain from Gryffindor’s naivety, it was because of Godric’s pigheadedness that he nurtured the Basilisk, and hid it here. Salazar didn’t want to kill anybody.” Kaen replied.

“If Slytherin was so blameless, then why did he use Dark Magic and Dark Creatures to try and kill the Muggleborns?” Harry asked mockingly.

Both snakes hissed in angry unease.

“Dark Magic?” Shiakana scoffed. “And do you call it Dark Magic if it saves the Wizarding World from destruction? And do you call Gryffindor’s magic Light, if it dooms us all?”

The sentence stopped Harry dead. “What did you say?”

Shiakana repeated herself. “Why?” She demanded as she finished.

“My Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher said something similar.” Harry hissed, half to himself.

“He is a Slytherin?” Shiakana asked.

“I dunno.” Harry shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Why is Snape Head of Slytherin then, if this other teacher knows more of Slytherin’s philosophies?” Kaen hissed angrily.

Harry got the impression he didn’t like the Potions’ teacher. It was a bit strange, because Harry was pretty sure he didn’t like either of them for very similar reasons. Kaen seemed to be just as arrogant, just as cocky, just… as much of a git, as Snape.

“Scala.” Snape hissed – in English – jerking Harry’s attention from the two snakes.

“Are you not going to bother searching, Potter? Do you think your job is simply to open up doors protected by Parseltongue?” Snape snarled, before stepping onto the ladder he had just created and causing it to rise by magic, curling up neatly at the top of Slytherin’s bottom lip.

Harry got up unwillingly, to return to his seemingly pointless examination of the walls.
________________________________________


A/N: Okay, pronunciation for Slytherin's Snake's names has been raised with me, so here goes:

Kaen is pronounced: 'kay' 'en' - simple enough I guess. Shiakana is pronounced: 'she' 'a' (as in that) 'car' 'na'.

I think I may have mentioned how well I felt this has fitted in with the HBP universe, I guess, thinking about it, the whole familiar thing is another example (although these wouldn't be particularly conducive to Horcruxes...)

Hope you enjoyed,

ATB

P.S. Feel free to review! Even if it's a simple you like it/don't like it. I'm sure it looks a little odd for a fic this length to have just three reviews... :P Of course, if you don't I'll keep posting, so it's really completely up to you.

________________________________________
A/N: I knew that I'd get no reviews from what I posted last chapter... :P
Chapter 20: A Question of Trust


“And how did Professor Dumbledore leave it?” Remus asked, his haggard face looking at Harry intently from the other side of the two way mirror.

Harry shrugged. “He didn’t seem surprised that we didn’t really find anything much, and said that we had enough to go on with for the moment. I’m not exactly sure what though, there wasn’t anything useful there at all. Just a load of carved snakes, and the remains of the Basilisk. He said we’ll have another go in a few days though.”

“Dumbledore could quite likely have found something that you, or Snape did not.” Remus told him. “Perhaps he needs to do some more research, or will re-examine it in his Pensieve later. I suppose those two snakes you talked to didn’t give you any help, did they?”

“Kaen and Shiakana? They disappeared again. Professor Dumbledore wanted me to talk to them again before we left, but they didn’t come out. I think they were spying on us from the pillars. But neither of them know anything about any Scrivenings of Slytherin, they said they didn’t exist, remember? And Voldemort can’t have wanted to talk to them, Wormtail can’t speak Parseltongue.”

“True. But they could still offer some help without realizing it. Give us a lead to go on perhaps. But anyway, it was lucky you saw Wormtail on the map, Harry.”

Harry paused. “So, you don’t believe that Snape was just making sure he stayed out of trouble, either?”

It was Moony’s turn to hesitate now. Harry had noticed that while Remus tried to give Snape the benefit of the doubt, and show Harry that he believed Dumbledore, now and then he made little lapses which betrayed his actual regard for the Slytherin. Harry didn’t understand why he didn’t just come straight out and admit it to Harry – he felt the same way – but Moony seemed determined not to.

“It’s more that… because of you, not only did Wormtail fail to find whatever it was Lord Voldemort wanted him to, but we discovered his intent regardless. So you were lucky enough to see him on the map, then?”

“Not exactly.” Harry admitted. “The Peter Pettigrew on the map actually told me.”

Moony’s face contorted, as emotions fought their way on to the surface. He stayed completely silent for a long couple of seconds, before shaking his head. “I think I told you before, Harry, that this Wormtail might not yet have been a traitor. Of course, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t always destined to become one,” he added darkly.

“Yeah, I know.” Harry said. “But you guys said you can keep him under control if he was to become a traitor. Well, the Moony, Padfoot and Prongs on the map, anyway.”

“Peter would have seen them write that,” Moony said softly. “We were his only friends, and on the map we turned against him. Could we have…” He trailed off.

“It’s not your fault,” Harry said sharply. “You didn’t make him betray us.”

There was a pause, where both of them seemed to become lost in thought as to how Harry, James, Lily, and even Sirius, had been betrayed. It was a train of thought Harry had been down many times before, and had never found particularly pleasant. The fact that Wormtail had done something that was to Harry’s advantage – and could only have been meant that way – just made it more confusing. Maybe he was just doing it to try to gain Harry’s, or even regain the rest of the Marauders’, trust.

“Remus?” Harry asked, trying to push the thoughts out of his mind. “What do you know about Professor Aravenne?”

“Not much. Why?”

“Well, he offered to give me lessons in wandless magic a couple of days ago.”

Moony’s eyes narrowed slightly, and Harry could sense his suspicion. “And why did he do that?”

“Well, I, er, kinda did some accidental magic to Malfoy.” Harry admitted. “Like I did with Kreacher.” He spat, anger still building up inside him towards the elf. “He gave me detention for using my real wand in a duel, but asked me to learn wandless magic instead.”

“So you told him you didn’t use your wand, and he believed you?” Moony queried. “Or-”

“No, he knew I hadn’t used my wand, but he didn’t think I’d want everyone else to know, so gave me that detention.”

“I see.” Remus said, nodding, but still sounding suspicious, perhaps even protective. “Well, all I can tell you is that Professor Dumbledore trusts him, and almost all of the teachers seem to like him, despite the fact Professor Snape doesn’t trust him at all.”

“Really?” Harry asked in interest. “That’s a point in Aravenne’s favour then!”

Remus did not look impressed. “Harry, this isn’t the time to joke.”

“Who said anything about joking? I find it comforting that Snape doesn’t like him.” Harry retorted.

“Professor Snape doesn’t trust many people, Harry, and seeing as he seems to regard Aravenne as a Roamer, despite his having lived in a steady address in New York for about fourteen years, it is not surprising that he does not trust him. Roamers are often distrusted, I might even say usually distrusted, by wizards and witches.”

“What’s a Roamer?” Harry asked. Despite having lived in the Magical world for over five years now, there were still many terms he did not know – and, unlike Hermione, had not troubled to read up about.

“Someone who moves about from country to country, with no real established home, and no real past. Often, especially centuries ago, they were, and still are, associated with thieving, plundering, the spread of disease, causing infidelity, you name it. Wizards, especially Pureblood wizards, are generally a bit of a xenophobic bunch. It is very hard to understand why someone might want to move around the world, if you are content to simply remain in your own secluded plot of land.”

“And Snape thinks Aravenne is one?”

“As far as I can gather, he does. No-one really knows much about what Aravenne did, or where he was, before he took up the Defensive Magic post in America. From what I can tell, he has politely refused to talk about what he did before then. Dumbledore seems quite happy not to pry any further, as are the teachers – other than Snape of course. Mad-Eye Moody wasn’t very impressed with Dumbledore, I can tell you, appointing a man without knowing his past.”

“So you think he could be working for Voldemort or something then?” Harry asked nervously.

“I doubt it. The name Syde Aravenne is synonymous in America with the production of their equivalent of our Aurors. Ever since he took the job, the New York Seminary saw a large increase in the proportion of Muggleborns, or Half-bloods who bolstered their Aurors’ ranks. The acceptance rate of students wishing and able to enter law enforcement over there from his school also soared rather once he took the post.”

“So how did Dumbledore get him here then?” Harry asked. “If he was such a success there, why’d he want to leave?”

“He didn’t do anything. It was Aravenne himself that applied for the job; Dumbledore didn’t offer it to him. And no-one knows why he left, or what he did before he taught there. It’s very strange, but Dumbledore seems satisfied.”

“Well he was born here, and then travelled across the world before he went to America.” Harry told him.

“How-” Remus began.

“Well, that’s what he said, anyway.” Harry shrugged. “And he has a load of weird stuff in his room, a Re’em hide, I think he said it was, and the skin of something else too. And he said he’s been to Asia and Africa too.”

Remus half shook his head in mild amazement. “I think that’s more information about his past pre-America than the entire teaching staff managed to find out about him. I don’t suppose he told you when he left here to travel the world, did he?” He asked jokingly.

Harry thought. “Well, he said that Voldemort was one of the reasons he left, if that helps. But I don’t believe some of things he said, so I don’t know if that’s true or not. I mean, I don’t know if any of it’s true; he said he went to Hogwarts, but Hermione checked, and he didn’t.”

Remus chuckled. “It sounds to me like you have a better idea of him than I do. Well, my advice would be to trust your own judgment. If, like Dumbledore, you feel you can trust him, I suggest that you take the classes. If you were to learn how to become a Virgaemin, well that would certainly be something no-one would expect of you. But take my word for it – it isn’t an easy thing to learn.”

Harry nodded. “Thanks Moony. I guess I have already been in the same room as him on my own for half an hour, and he didn’t try to kill me once, so that’s probably another plus point for him too.”

Remus chuckled again, before asking. “Do you like him?”

“I dunno.” Harry replied. “I think I might, if I weren’t expecting him to try to do something to me like all the other Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers.”

Remus raised his eyebrows, and grinned.

“Except you, Moony, of course.” Harry added quickly. “I mean, some of the things he does and says… It’s just, well, put it this way, one of the snakes in the Chamber of Secrets said something almost identical to something he said about magic.”

Remus laughed again. “Harry, not all Slytherins are bad people. Tonks’ mother was a Slytherin, you know, and she ended up marrying a Muggle, and raised Tonks pretty well, now, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, well, maybe. I guess Shiakana seemed like she might be okay. Even though Kaen was an absolute – er – jerk. But you taught my year, how many of Malfoy’s gang would you tell me to trust?”

Remus expression was almost reproachful. “You know quite as well as I do, Harry, that not all the Slytherins like Draco Malfoy, or for that matter are like him. I would have thought you of all people would refuse to make sweeping judgements about people like others have done about you.”

“As the stark raving mad loony, you mean.” Harry finished.

“Exactly. Look how everyone, including me, assumed Sirius was a Death Eater because he hunted down a friend of your parents after the attack.”

They were back on the subject of Peter’s betrayal. “Yeah.” Harry said, before trying to change the subject again. “Remus – the Minister was at the thing I had to go to about Sirius.”

“Really? I imagine he wanted to apologise for last year did he?”

“Yeah, well not just that. He… Well, he said that if Sirius was found innocent, he wanted to give him the Order of Merlin First Class, as a kind of apology to his memory or something. And for the work that he continued to do against Voldemort even after his escape from Azkaban.”

“So Sirius is to be honoured by the Ministry of Magic?” Remus said, amused.

“Well, not exactly. He said he’d only do it if I thought he’d want it, seeing as I’m his Godson, and his family that are alive weren’t close to him – or in other words, are Death Eaters.”

“And what did you say?” Remus said with a grin.

“Well I was tempted to tell him to ‘eff off.” Harry admitted. “I mean, Sirius always said he wasn’t sure if he’d ever accept an apology from them, didn’t he? But I just said I’d think about it.”

“Yes, Sirius probably would have told them to ‘eff off’, himself.” Remus agreed, sounding as if he was finding the whole thing rather funny. “But then, Sirius had to always look like he didn’t care about what people thought of him, even, or rather, especially, in Hogwarts. It was one of the ways he was cool. And it worked – well, to some extent – he certainly had a way with some of the ladies. Although James always used to say the reason he didn’t get any steady relationship was down to the same thing.”

“So you think I should refuse it for Sirius?” Harry asked.

“Well, he might have out of ‘principle’. But then again, he would also have wanted the world to know that he was being offered it in the first place. There was little Sirius hated more than being thought of as the same kind of person as his family.”

“What do you think I should do then?”

Remus’ smile faded. “Well, if you don’t agree to it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a small paragraph appear in the Daily Prophet somewhere, about how Sirius Black was found innocent. With the kind of thing that has been reported recently, it wouldn’t take much effort to hush it up. If you do agree, then the whole world will know about it.”

That was certainly true; although Voldemort’s attacks had become less frequent since the Hogsmeade Weekend, there were enough deaths of ‘important’ (and not so ‘important’) people for the Daily Prophet to exploit for months on its front page. And that was without all the other attacks that didn’t result in, or weren’t intended to cause, more deaths. Even Diagon Alley wasn’t safe anymore, despite its priority for Ministry Aurors, with many of the less well known shops (or perhaps less well protected) being decimated.

“So what would you do, then?” Harry pressed.

“Me?” Remus sighed. “I don’t care if Sirius wanted to look like he didn’t mind what people thought of him. I want every damn person in Britain to know how he stood by your parents, how he fought against Voldemort, how the reason he broke out of Azkaban was to protect you from Voldemort, and how he then spent the rest of his life working against Death Eaters and the scum they represent.”
________________________________________


We told you, Harry, Prongs wrote triumphantly, Wormtail’s one of us.

Yeah, great spot, Wormtail. Padfoot added.

“I- um- Yeah, thanks. But you see that the Wormtail around now isn’t… er… well, is working against us, yeah?”

I guess… What was Snivellus doing there? Prongs asked. You went up to Dumbledore’s office with him, what did he say?

“Dumbledore still trusts him.” Harry said bitterly. “Voldemort wanted Snape to make sure Peter Pettigrew got into the castle, and Dumbledore wanted Snape to follow him and tell him why. But because of you guys, I stopped him finding what he wanted, and he ran away. And we worked out why he was there anyway.”

Don’t thank us. Moony wrote. Thank Peter.

“Y- yeah. Th- thanks, Wormtail.” Harry said, stumbling over the words a little. He never thought he’d ever say those words.

I said I wasn’t a traitor. Wormtail’s untidy writing replied.

Yeah, well, you’ve proved it now mate. Hasn’t he Harry? Prongs wrote.

“Well, yeah, I guess.” Harry said. “But, Prongs, I… Well, the first time I met Peter Pettigrew, I learned that he was the reason my parents died, and I got sent to live with the Dursleys. So you know why I find it hard to trust you Wormtail…”

Yes, which of us was the one that got sent to Azkaban? Moony asked. You never told us. I take it he’s out again now, seeing as Padfoot died in the Ministry, and you and I apparently talk.

Gee, thanks Moony! But anyway, why didn’t the other one of us look after you? Padfoot demanded.

“Er.” Harry said. He hadn’t told them because he knew just how much the real life Moony berated himself about not looking after Harry. “Well. He had really good reasons not to find me. And there were some protective charms Dumbledore cast that needed me to live with my blood relations. But it was you that went to Azkaban, Padfoot.”

And it was me that abandoned you. Moony completed.

“No!” Harry said quickly. “The real life Moony had really good reasons, like I said. He couldn’t have done anything. Trust me.”

Oh well, Padfoot scribbled, good thing we made the most of our lives in Hogwarts, wasn’t it Prongs?

Yeah... And I married Lily... Prongs wrote, and Harry could almost see the dreaminess in his writing.

Oh brother…Moving swiftly on. Padfoot continued. Where did you go last night, Harry? One minute you were on the map, next you were gone.

“That’s the way into the Chamber of Secrets.” Harry explained.

You mean you found a secret passage we didn’t? Ha ha! That’s my boy! Like father like son, eh Padfoot?

That’s the bathroom that whinging ghost haunts, isn’t it? Millie, or something. She wouldn’t shut up when we mapped it. I don’t get why she decided to bloody well stay on if she hates life, and is that miserable all the time, Padfoot wrote. Not surprising we didn’t find it in there; I just wanted to get out of there and get some peace and quiet!

Harry felt a stab of annoyance. “Myrtle’s okay, she just got used to everybody treating her like dirt, and bullying her all the time.”

Yeah well, of course she will if she mopes around all the time. Prongs wrote dismissively.

Harry felt a jab of irritation towards his father this time. Maybe some people just didn’t understand what it felt like to not have a friend, and be the person that was picked on all the time. Harry did. He had grown up with nothing else. But then again, maybe James and Sirius did realise it a few years after writing the map. Just not now.

“She’s fine.” Harry said. “She’s keeping an eye out for any intruders trying to get into the Chamber of Secrets for us.”

Maybe she’s better now than she was. Padfoot scribbled.

Maybe. Moony wrote. Of course, she might be just the same, and you never thought that she might have feelings.

What’s that supposed to mean? Prongs demanded.

“You wouldn’t have found it anyway.” Harry said quickly, before an argument could start. “The Chamber of Secrets, I mean.”

Oh yeah? What makes you so sure?

“Because you need to be able to speak Parseltongue to open it.” Harry had the insanely childish urge to stick his tongue out. Not that they could have seen it anyway.

Oh. So only Dark Wizards can enter I suppose, Padfoot said.

“Hey!”

What?

“I can speak Parseltongue,” Harry told them.

Er… Oh.

Of course, Moony wrote, just because someone can talk to snakes doesn’t mean that they have to be a Dark Wizard.

“Thanks Moony.” Harry said, grinning.

What’s it like? Wormtail asked.

“Er, well-” Harry began.

Hang on, before Wormtail wets himself from awe, can you get back in there Harry? Prongs asked.

“Yeah. I’ll be going back in there with Professor Dumbledore and Snivellus anyway.”

No, this would be on your own. How do you fancy adding the Chamber of Secrets to the Marauders’ Map?

We’ll tell you how to do it. Padfoot said. But you’ll need to have at least one other person with you. Is there anyone you can trust enough? And they’d have to be a pretty good wizard – some of the things can get complicated.

“Well, I guess I could ask Hermione.” Harry said.
________________________________________


“So, how do you two feel about a trip into the Chamber of Secrets at some point?” Harry asked Hermione and Ron quietly as he sat down beside them at the nearly deserted Gryffindor table, breakfast Saturday morning.

Ron looked at him as if he was insane. “Yes Harry, I’d love to do that mate,” he said sarcastically. “I got far enough in the last time, and if you dare ask Ginny, I swear I’ll… I’ll start raiding Fred and George’s unfinished products.”

“Don’t be stupid, of course I’m not going to ask Ginny. Not after everything that happened to her there.”

Hermione made a rather noncommittal, dubious noise.

“What?” Harry demanded.

She shook her head. “Why do you want us to go down there, Harry?”

“It’s an idea I got from the Marauders’ Map.” Harry explained. “Well, their idea really. They want me to put the Chamber of Secrets on the Map, only we need at least two people down there to do it, they said.”

“Now that’s an idea!” Ron said appreciatively. “That way we’ll know if anyone tries to get in it or not.”

“Well, only if they are in it when I’m looking at the Map, Ron.”

“You didn’t see Peter Pettigrew, did you?” Ron reminded him.

“You don’t need to try and persuade me Ron, I’m all for it, remember? So you’ll do it, will you?”

Ron paused. “Well, I don’t know.” He said doubtfully.

“I’ll do it Harry.” Hermione said crisply. “I always wondered how they made the Marauder’s Map.”

“Here’s your chance to find out then!”

“I guess I will too.” Ron said finally. “So when do we go?”

“Some time when people won’t miss us, I guess.”
________________________________________


“Mr Potter, if you could stay behind a while, please.” Aravenne asked, just as Harry reached the door, and a large group of awed first years who had been passing the duelling room looked in at him.

Harry stepped away, and out of sight, as the rest of the class filed out. He saw Aravenne slightly raise his right eyebrow, as Harry sought for a place that meant as few first years as possible could stare at him.

Aravenne walked over to the door, and closed it softly as Sally-Ann Perks left the room last. He had a grin on his face as he turned to Harry.

“Being somebody’s hero isn’t something you should have to shy away from. Try to think of it as a… compliment, rather than a curse of some sort.”

“I’m not their hero.” Harry said flatly. “Their hero is some imaginary person; they haven’t a clue about who I am.”

“Perhaps.” Aravenne said, summoning one of the chests Harry had seen in his office to him from a recess Harry hadn’t seen, and making a complicated wand motion at one of the arenas.

“I should imagine they think of you,” he began thoughtfully, “as a person who has defeated You-Know-Who on more than one occasion, a person who has escaped from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his Death Eaters, also on more than one occasion and a person who won the Tri-Wizard tournament, even when up against older students, who supposedly knew more magic. And also a person who is spoken of as one of the best Seekers the school has had and someone who taught Defence Against the Dark Arts to his fellow students last year, even to students older than him.”

Aravenne looked at Harry in an almost calculating fashion. “Shall I go on? Perhaps I should mention how you stayed true to justice, no matter what was thrown towards you last year?”

“I- well- Yes, I did all that, but not the way they think I did.” Harry said irritably. “But – but, what did you want to ask me, sir?”

“I wondered if you had decided whether to accept me as your teacher in wandless magic?” Aravenne asked as he bent over to place the arena in the chest.

“Um… not really. A lot of things have happened the last week.”

Aravenne straightened up and nodded. “You shall have to forgive me for pressuring you, but time is rather of the essence.”

“Why?” Harry demanded.

“Well, it is possible, if it happens again, that someone could die. Someone less deserving than either of the Death Eaters that died in Hogsmeade.”

There he went with the idea that Harry had killed that other Death Eater again. The way Aravenne was talking it sounded like Harry went around killing people by accident. Or by design.

“And if you don’t want to take these lessons I wouldn’t have a choice except to warn the Ministry. If you were to lose control of your temper, and someone died, then I… I would be just as responsible.”

Harry tried hard not to allow the expression on his face fall. He wasn’t particularly worried about Dumbledore finding out, except it might suggest to Dumbledore that he had done the right thing in not trusting him with everything from the start. But if the Ministry found out that he was ‘regularly’ losing control… Well, he didn’t trust them… and the Daily Prophet or some other paper would almost certainly find out too. Even after Scrimgeour’s supposed reshuffling, the papers were still happily printing leaked information week in, week out.

“I’m not going to kill someone.” Harry said quickly, and annoyed.

“I’m not saying you’d do it on purpose.” Aravenne said sharply. “The duel last week, however, was not the first time you did accidental magic, was it? This isn’t an isolated incident.”

“Well-”

“I must admit I heard of an incident in the Ministry over the summer. They treated it as a one off because of extenuating circumstances from what I can gather.”

“I- How do you know about that?” Harry asked in disbelief. The trial was as private as possible; okay, Harry’s wandless magic hadn’t taken place in the trial, but still...

“I have learnt to keep my ears open. The Hogwarts portraits have also talked about an incident involving Peeves the Poltergeist.”

“Yeah, but still, that’s not that often, is it?” Harry said, a little flustered.

“I wonder, Harry, if you would mind explaining the accident that killed the Death Eater who was attacking you in Hogsmeade. Not Lestrange – the other.”

“Why?”

Aravenne paused. “Just a theory I have, that is all.”

Well, it could hardly hurt, could it? Harry told himself, and began with a shrug.

“Er, well, we were duelling. I ran up the staircase, and he sent curses at me at random through the stairs, from below me. I got to the top of them, and they kind of shook. Then, just as I had the idea to destroy them so he couldn’t get up to me without being an easy target, he put the full body-bind on me. As he came up the stairs towards me, the stairs collapsed, and I was able to move again, well, sort of, anyway.”

“What do you mean?” Aravenne prompted.

“Well, I could move, just really slowly and awkwardly. I got my wand, got rid of the curse, and looked over the edge to see him lying dead on the floor.”

Aravenne nodded. “Were your emotions high at the time?”

“Of course they were,” Harry said, wondering if Aravenne was serious. “I thought I was going to die, didn’t I?”

“What would you say… if I suggested that it was you that caused the stairs to collapse, sending the Death Eater to his doom?”

Harry stared at the teacher, but said nothing for a long time. “How? I was in the full body-bind, remember?”

“Wandless magic,” Aravenne said, staring at Harry all the time. “You had already been thinking of destroying the stairs, you just hadn’t been able to do it, and as soon as he reached you, you would surely have died. So, like with Draco Malfoy last week, your emotions took over, and destroyed the stairs. Then again, you managed to move, despite the full body-bind, did you not? Again, consider that that may have also have been wandless magic.”

Harry’s blood ran cold. Aravenne’s suggestion made too much sense for his liking. He shook his head unconvincingly.

“Not that that is a bad thing by any means in this instance.” Aravenne said hurriedly, seeing the expression on Harry’s face. “Just like Lestrange, it is safe to say it is a good thing that Leonard Caulfield is no longer with us – if only because it means that you are. Speaking of Lestrange, have you considered the possibility that the shield you conjured, and yet can’t remember, may again have been wandless magic?”

“No,” Harry said shaking his head. “That wasn’t wandless magic.” But the other man’s death might have been.

“If we are to have these lessons, Harry,” Aravenne began once more, but looking unconvinced by Harry’s denial, “we should begin them as soon as possible. We shall not be able to fit many of them in before Christmas, and the more you have, the more likely you will be able to control any wandless magic you may do.”

“I’ll tell you by the end of the week at the latest.” Harry promised.

Aravenne looked at him long and hard. “Very well,” he said eventually.

Harry turned to go, but another word from Aravenne stopped him.

“Harry. The first years – and many other people – may have the 'how' incorrect about the things you have done, but not the 'what'. They are also right about the honour and justice you have fought to protect. It would not be just yourself you let down, were you to sway from your ideals. Some of the people will follow their hero no matter what, even to places they shouldn’t; others would be devastated. Whether you want it or not, you have a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders.”

Harry pondered these words as he left the room. Aravenne was worried about Harry being, or becoming, a Dark Wizard?

He was starting to wonder if it would only make sense to take the wandless magic lessons. If he really had killed that Death Eater with accidental magic, what was to say he wouldn't do that to someone else? Someone, perhaps, that was a friend, or a member of the Order? Or else, in the case of Snape, someone he'd love to see dead, but that might cause him to lose his temper in a situation that wasn't self-defence. He almost asked Dumbledore his opinion in his Occlumency lesson on Wednesday night. Almost, but not quite.

He had a shrewd idea of what Dumbledore's answer would be, even if he did pose the question. It would be that the decision was his to make, not Dumbledore's. He obviously trusted Aravenne himself, or he wouldn't have appointed him to the post. And Harry wasn't particularly willing to admit his failure to control himself. His conversation with Remus did however prevail upon him to take Dumbledore aside about something else.

“Sir?” He began. “When Minister Scrimgeour wanted to talk to me after you asked me all those questions about Sirius, he wanted to know if I’d accept an Order of Merlin for Sirius, if he was found innocent.”

“I see.” Dumbledore said, remaining impassive, as if he didn’t want to impact Harry’s decision whatsoever.

“It’s going to be a big event, isn’t it?” Harry asked. “If I say yes, I mean.”

“Undoubtedly, Harry. As I am sure you have decided yourself, after the enmity between you and the Ministry over the last year or more, the Minister would want to make sure the whole of Britain knew of any show of unity between you and the establishment.”

“I was thinking…” Harry began. “I was thinking I’d do it, as long as I don’t have to say anything, anyway. But I don’t know how I’m meant to tell him. I mean, I can’t really owl the Minister for Magic, can I?”

Dumbledore gave Harry a reassuring smile. “You need not concern yourself with that, Harry. I shall tell him myself, when I discuss security arrangements with him.”
________________________________________


The first chance Harry had to explore the Chamber of Secrets on his own, or rather with his friends, was the Thursday of that week, and, seeing as Gryffindor had a Quidditch practice, only Harry and Hermione entered Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom that night. Ron didn’t seem that disappointed.

“Oh, Harry!” Myrtle said happily. “Hi!”

“Er- Hi Myrtle.” Harry said, a little warily in truth.

Myrtle pouted. “What’s she doing here?” She pointed at Hermione.

“Well, it is a girls’ bathroom.” Harry pointed out, with a grin.

Myrtle burst into tears, and shrieked her way into a toilet bowl.

“Everyone’s always making fun of me.” The ghost sobbed from the far side of the room.

“Myrtle, Harry didn’t mean it like that.” Hermione said patiently. “He just meant that I probably have more right to be here than him, that’s all.”

“But I asked him to come see me.” Myrtle sobbed. “I didn’t ask you, did I?”

“Myrtle, I didn’t want to upset you-” Harry began.

“Yeah right.” She sniffed unhappily.

“Look, Myrtle, the two of us are going to have a look around the Chamber of Secrets-” Harry began to a fresh wail of tears from the ghost.

“Do you want to come with us?” Hermione asked.

“No- I’d- I’d just get in your way, wouldn’t I?” Myrtle cried.

There was a loud gurgle, as she fled down the pipes.

“What?” Harry asked in incomprehension.

Hermione looked hard pressed to stop herself from giggling. “You do know she has a crush on you, don’t you Harry?”

“Yes, well, you weren’t there when she invited me to share her toilet if I died.” Harry said, going red.

Hermione did this time snort with laughter.

“I don’t get it.” Harry continued. “Why do all the girls in this school seem to think we’re an item? I mean, isn’t it obvious? And anyway – the Chamber of Secrets wouldn’t be my idea of a romantic occasion.”

“So I’m not good enough for you, Harry?” Hermione said with an affronted look.

“No! That’s not what I mean! But-!” Harry said in indignation. “But I mean, if I- Well- We’re friends, right? And if I- if we wanted-” He went furiously red. “Well, I mean, I’d have asked you wouldn’t I? Or you’d have said something!”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Hermione said. “After all, it took you and Ron until fourth year to figure out I was a girl, didn’t it?”

Harry was speechless, but rather opened and closed his mouth a bit like a fish.

Hermione burst out laughing again. “It’s okay Harry, don’t worry. It was just rather fun watching you squirm,” she said, with a glint in her eye. “I feel the same way about you, honestly. Friends. Anyway, I’m not the right woman for you, am I? Not with a certain other person about.”

“What are you talking about?” Harry said in amazement. “Look, you can’t be talking about Cho, I told you, there is no way I’m getting back with her. I don’t think I could put up with all the waterworks.”

“Not Cho, no.” Hermione said, with a knowing look in her eyes.

Harry just stared at her, and then gave up. He decided to take a line from Ron’s vocabulary and shook his head. “Barking. Completely Barking.”

“Oh Harry, you can fight Voldemort, Dragons, Death Eaters, and everything else, but you still can’t cope with love, can you?” Hermione was still giggling when Harry opened the sink.

“Right.” Harry said firmly, hoping to bring an end to the conversation. “Oh, wait. Hang on. Altecutis.” He said, pointing his wand at himself.

He was relieved to feel the thin coating of film cover him, and repeated the spell for Hermione.

“It’s to stop us getting covered in muck.” He explained.

“Good thinking.” Hermione said, approvingly.

“Just enjoy the ride.” Harry grinned, and jumped into the hole with a loud whoop.
________________________________________


Hermione landed rather inelegantly on the slimy floor, and gave a slightly shaky laugh. “That reminds me of a funfair my parents took me to when I was seven.”

She stood up, and withdrew her wand. “Effundo.”

The film covering her fell off. Harry just shrugged, and repeated the spell for himself. Catching Hermione out with a spell, even one he had learned from Dumbledore, was not an easy business.

“How do we get back up again?” She questioned, looking in to the darkness of the pipe.

Harry let out a hiss, and a ladder appeared in the middle of the pipe. He made a show of pushing down on it. It didn’t move.

“I just have to say a few magic words.” He grinned. “Slytherin seems to have thought of most things.”

It had been Snape who had suggested that Salazar would have an easy way of exiting the Chamber, but Harry wasn’t going to tell Hermione that.

Dumbledore’s ‘lights’ in the ceiling had faded away, so Harry and Hermione progressed with their wands lit. He had already agreed with the map to chart the passage last. It required one of them to be at either end of it, so it only made sense.

“You are back again.” Shiakana hissed as they approached, before first Kaen, and then she, reared up in anger.

“You have brought a Muggleborn with you!” Kaen’s hiss was almost deafening. “How dare you!”

Harry glared at the two of them. “So wh-”

He stopped. That second, Harry felt a slight prickle in his head, and before he knew it, was using one of his Occlumency techniques. He wrenched his head sideways.

“Hermione, don’t make eye-contact with them.” He said furiously, putting his body between her and the carved snakes. “They can do Legilimency. They might even be able to possess you.”

His mind remembered the agony that Voldemort had put him through in the Ministry of Magic, because of his attempt to possess Harry’s body. How dare those two snakes attempt to put Hermione through that kind of pain? A loud bang came from behind them and to Harry’s right. A crack was slowly forming from ceiling to the floor.

“Harry!” Hermione said anxiously, making Harry vaguely aware of the electricity in the air and the heaviness in his breathing.

“You have power.” Kaen said angrily, but with new respect in his voice.

Hermione, however, was working slowly, but efficiently, to close the fracture that had formed.

“So what if Hermione’s Muggleborn?” He hissed venomously. “Who cares? She’s the best witch in the year. Top of everything.”

“Harry, what’s going on?” Hermione said in a quiet, slightly strained voice.

“They somehow know your parents are Muggles.” He replied in English, fury in every syllable. “And… well, they’re Slytherins, aren’t they?”

“This Chamber was made by the great Salazar Slytherin himself to protect this school against Muggleborns, and you dare to bring one here?” Shiakana hissed angrily.

Scratch the ‘Shiakana seemed okay’, Harry thought bitterly.

“So what if she is a Muggleborn?” Harry demanded again. “You don’t really think that the Wizarding race wouldn’t have become inbred or something if it weren’t for marrying Muggles or Muggleborns, do you? And what about the witches and wizards that aren’t trained, and then have witch or wizard children? How long until they become purebloods?”

This statement seemed to produce nothing but fury from Salazar’s two familiars. The two of them started to circle the doorway menacingly, although Harry noticed that they did not attempt to invade his mind again, nor Hermione’s, who was keeping her eyes firmly away from the gleaming emeralds of the snakes. She looked more than a little confused, but then, it was hard for Harry to keep translating at the moment.

“It is not her; it is what she is, where she comes from. Surely you must see that.” Kaen said eventually.

“No. What exactly is so bad about having a Muggle for a parent?” Harry spat.

“They hate us!” Shiakana said in what sounded like disbelief. “They have been trying to wipe us out for centuries – ever since their religions made us start to live apart. Even Gryffindor admitted that. The only reason they would allow Muggleborn wizards to live is to use them against us.”

Harry looked at Hermione in confusion. “What?” he said in English.

“What?” She repeated.

Harry shook his head. “Sorry. It’s just… Shiakana just said that the reason they hate Muggleborns is that any Muggle would try to kill a witch or a wizard.”

“They-” Hermione began, but Harry turned back to the snakes.

“Shiakana, what are you talking about? Muggles don’t want to kill us… and so what if they did, they can’t can they? I mean we can just use magic!”

“Even ants, were there enough of them, could kill a dragon.” Kaen snapped. “And what can witches or wizards do if they do not know how to control, or use their magic correctly? Why do you think we need schools in the first place?”

“Even one Muggleborn could lead the Muggles to Hogwarts, where they could kill the weakest of our race before they learn to protect themselves. Just one student turned against their own kind could spell our doom,” Shiakana said. “Surely you can see that?”

“No… But… If it’s as obvious as you say, then why did the other Founders not agree with you?” Harry demanded, but slightly shaken.

He had always assumed that Slytherin’s hate was just racial prejudice, or jealousy, or something. He had never thought he might have a reason for it, no matter how wrong it might be.

Kaen slithered off the door, and angry hisses started to fill the corridor from their right side.

“Godric and Hufflepuff claimed that that only increased the need for us to rescue the Muggleborn witches or wizards from them before they were harmed.” Shiakana explained, but she seemed more in control of her anger now than before. “Ravenclaw was sympathetic, but did nothing.”

“But that doesn’t matter!” Harry said wildly, “The Muggles don’t even believe we exist now, let alone try to hunt us down!”

“Lies!” Kaen’s hisses filled the passageway. “Salazar’s heir proved that they have not changed. We saw how they treated him, how lucky he was to escape. Muggles killed Salazar’s mother, and they haven’t changed.”

“Prove it!” Shiakana demanded. “Let us see how the Muggles have treated you.”

“No!” Harry said angrily. “My memories are mine. They aren’t for anyone else to see.”

Kaen hissed mockingly. “So the Muggles are different now, are they?”

Well the Dursleys weren’t.

“Harry, what is going on?” Hermione demanded.

Harry told her, and unlike Harry, the more she heard, the more she seemed to become at ease. It was the not knowing that seemed to have been worrying her.

Finally, Hermione nodded thoughtfully. “So if Slytherin was around today, he probably wouldn’t have any problem with Muggleborns.”

Harry stared at her. “Yes, well I’ve told them that, and they’re still going off their rockers!”

With a hiss, Shiakana slithered off the door, as Kaen had before her.

“Well, look at it from their point of view,” Hermione began, taking the snakes’ side, “the witch persecutions were probably at their worst in the six- or seventeenth century, and that was a long time after Hogwarts was founded. It only really started to stop when Muggles began to learn a lot about science.”

“Hermione…” Harry began, shaking his head, “are you honestly saying that Slytherin was right to hate Muggleborns? And how come you know all this stuff about witch burnings? I thought they stopped in the fourteenth century or something.”

“Of course I’m not agreeing with their policy of killing Muggleborns.” Hermione said dismissively. “Don’t be stupid. And as for knowing… I listen in class, Harry, and I read. All I’m saying is that yes, some witches or wizards were hunted down by the Muggles. Of course, the real ones usually got away, and it was only the Muggles that were wrongly accused that died.”

“So what do I say?” Harry asked. “I have to do something – what if Dumbledore wants to come back down again?”

“We’re going to have to persuade them that Muggles don’t even think magic exists anymore.” Hermione said thoughtfully.

“Yeah, well I told them that, but the only way they say they might believe me is if they use Legilimency to see what’s in my head. I am not going to let them root through my memories. Anyway, if they see the Dursleys they’ll probably think it’s just as bad as ever.”

“If they were to see my memories though…” Hermione began slowly.

“Hermione, that’s nuts!” Harry said furiously. “You’ve no way of stopping them doing whatever they want in your head. Remember what Voldemort did to me? I’ve spent I don’t know how long trying to learn Occlumency, and I still haven’t even learnt to hide my memories properly. These are Slytherin’s familiars, remember? They don’t care about using low down tricks.”

“You told me you thought Shiakana was more reasonable…” Hermione said again, almost to herself.

“And I was wrong, wasn’t I? I mean, she’s just as prejudiced.”

“Well, what else are we going to do, then?” Hermione demanded.

Harry made an angry noise from between his teeth, before hissing in Parseltongue. “I know you two are here. Look, you two don’t realise how the Muggles have come on. I mean, they can travel through the air themselves now, and they don’t need magic for it. They think that the Muggles who saw magic centuries ago were just seeing people who could do things they could do if they only understood how they did it. Or else that the Muggles made it up or something.”

Harry’s only answer was a hiss of disbelief from one of the two snakes, probably Kaen.

“Look. Is there anyway I can persuade you without you two using Legilimency.” Harry asked desperately. “I mean, would you two want someone you didn’t trust going through your memories?”

“Show us your memories,” Kaen hissed angrily. “You know how to perform Occlumency, do you not? You know that everything we see, you will see also.”

“Why do you think I learnt it in the first place?” Harry hissed.

“To stop your enemies from finding out information from your memories,” Shiakana hissed from behind him.

Harry turned sharply, but could not make out the shape of a snake on the dark, dank wall.

“Why must we be your enemies?” Shiakana hissed softly, almost seductively.

“Because he is a Muggle lover,” Kaen hissed angrily from elsewhere.

“Well, for starters, you hate Muggles.” Harry said at the same time.

“Why else?” Shiakana asked. “If you were to convince us that Muggles no longer were a problem, would you then distrust us?”

“Well, I don’t generally get on with people who try to invade my mind-” Harry began.

“Harry, what are you saying?” Hermione demanded again.

“Shiakana wants to know if the question of blood is the only reason I don’t trust them. So I told her no-”

“Harry, don’t put their backs up. Otherwise they definitely won’t want to let us into the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Well, I just said I don’t get on with people that like using Legilimency on me.” He told her, before muttering, “Besides, snakes don’t have backs… or spines anyway.”

“Harry,” Hermione said, taking command, and ignoring the flippancy, “ask them to tell us more about Slytherin before we might begin to trust them. Say that we’ve grown up listening to people say he was a Dark Wizard, so they have to prove us wrong if they want us to trust them.”

A few seconds after Harry had translated, Shiakana appeared back on the door once more.

“How do you define Dark Wizard?” She hissed angrily. “He would use dangerous, or unstable magic to defend his race, does that make him Dark?”

“What kind of person was he?” Hermione asked.

“He was a scholar. He spent his days trying to compile information so that wizards would not lose the knowledge they had discovered. History, spells, potions, the Old Magicks, myths, and stories, he wanted to preserve it all. He dreamed of creating a repository for learning that wizards would travel from afar to use. He dreamed of creating a world which Wizardkind could live in, and prosper, unbothered by magical or non-magical beings.”

“And if that meant murdering innocent people, then it was fine with him?” Harry said angrily.

“Let me do the talking,” Hermione whispered fiercely in his ear.

“He had no wish to kill anyone unless it was necessary. Even when Hogwarts continued to accept Muggleborns, and Salazar was long gone, we stuck to his wishes, and ordered the Basilisk not to look at the Muggleborns directly if he could help it. Did you know that seeing the Basilisk’s reflection only causes petrification? He only wished us to scare them away, not kill them.

“But yes, if it meant the salvation of us all, he would kill innocent people. It meant many more innocent people would live.” Shiakana concluded savagely.

“Harry, what if they’re telling the truth?” Hermione suggested suddenly. “What if the only reason they don’t like… people like me… is because they were scared of the Muggles? What if, if Salazar Slytherin was alive today, he wouldn’t have any problem with non-purebloods?”

“Who cares Hermione? These two snakes still hate you don’t they?”

“Why do you do nothing except let them talk between themselves, Shiakana?” Kaen hissed angrily. “This Harry Potter consorts with Muggleborns, and openly admits he works against Salazar’s Heir.”

“Blood is not everything, Kaen,” Shiakana hissed, and it gave Harry faint hope.

“Where did Salazar go when he left Hogwarts?” Harry asked, at Hermione’s prompting.

“We do not know,” Shiakana hissed. “He left to continue his work alone.”

“Alone?” Hermione asked. “He didn’t take any of his students?”

“No. Although boys like Moreau and Antrim wished to go, and girls such as Ara and Talen promised to help him expel the Muggleborns. He wanted them to learn enough to protect themselves, and he would not be able to teach and research at the same time. The other Founders were superb teachers, even if they were short sighted.”

“But they were hardly short sighted, were they? Hogwarts is still here a thousand years on, and the Muggles don’t even believe we exist, let alone want to kill any of us,” Harry burst out angrily.

“So you claim,” Shiakana said coolly.

“Look,” Harry said, ignoring Hermione. “Say you were right, and the Muggles did want to kill us all. Why would I be standing here right now, telling you they didn’t? Do you really think I’d live with Muggles if they all wanted to kill me?” Both snakes hissed at this for some reason. Okay, bad example. “Or let my friends go back to the same world if it meant they’d be attacked and killed? What possible reason could I have for saying otherwise?!”

“I do not know,” Shiakana said quietly. “That is why I am still here, on this door, listening to you, and giving you a chance to prove yourself. However, while you continue to refuse to give me hard evidence, you shall not proceed any further.”

Hermione drew a deep breath. “Harry, tell Shiakana to perform Legilimency on me. She’ll be able to see for herself that the Muggles don’t even believe magic exists anymore.”

“Are you crazy Hermione?” Harry exploded. “I thought you were meant to be the calm, rational, one of me, you, and Ron? If you let her in your head, you can’t protect anything. She might even possess you!”

“If I show her my memories, then I will prove to the people that started this whole idea that," She took a deep breath, "that, people like me are somehow inferior, I'll prove that they are wrong.” Hermione’s voice was slightly constricted, but nevertheless it contained resolve.

“We know he has nothing to tell us except stories of neglect at the hands of Muggles, Shiakana. Why do you insist upon listening to the lies he has to say?” Kaen snapped from the shadows.

“Wait a second Harry,” Hermione said, as he translated. “Ask Shiakana if Voldemort just told them about his life in the Muggle orphanage, or if there was anything else.”

There was silence. “Because, no-one likes orphanages.” Harry continued hastily, “I mean, you haven’t any family there, do you?”

“Salazar’s Heir is not the only person who knows of the Muggles’ ways,” Kaen hissed in answer.

Hermione thought hard for a second. “Okay, ask them if they found anything out four years ago, when Ginny opened the Chamber of Secrets.”

“You mean…” Harry said in answer. “You think Riddle’s diary?”

Hermione nodded. “Well, maybe. Initially I thought they might have performed Legilimency on Ginny when she was possessed by the diary, but yes, what if she wrote something in the diary about you, and the Dursleys, and Riddle told them? You hadn’t really talked much, but she still knew how they treated you.”

She did write about me, as well. Harry thought to himself.

Ginny had poured herself into the diary, and talked about her worries… and all about Harry. Riddle had wanted to hear more and more about Harry. She must have mentioned how Harry was mistreated at the Dursleys – her brothers had just rescued him from them that summer, after all. Either way, whether through her or Tom Riddle, the two snakes would know that he wasn’t being completely truthful when he claimed that no Muggles wanted to kill witches or wizards.

“The girl who opened the Chamber of Secrets the last time, before me,” Harry began, “did you perform Legilimency on her?”

There was a soft hiss, and a movement of Shiakana’s head that Harry took as a yes. Her eyes gleamed suddenly.

“Ah.” Harry hissed reflexively, before turning to Hermione, and saying glumly. “Yep. They know.”

Hermione’s forehead creased, and she started to pace.

“What?” Harry asked, after he had watched her for a couple of seconds.

“Maybe…” She began, “Maybe you can still prove to them that most Muggles don’t believe in magic anyway.”

Harry made a disbelieving sound. “How?”

“Well, you said the Dursleys thought you weren’t normal because you could use magic… That they were scared the neighbours would find out that you were a freak.”

“And you think if I show them memories like that, then they’ll know that most Muggles don’t believe in magic,” Harry said triumphantly, resisting the urge to punch the air.

He turned back to the door, and Shiakana. “Okay. I think I understand why you don’t believe me then. Look, the thing about the Dursleys is, my Aunt is actually a Muggleborn witch, but because none of the Muggles believe in magic, she thought there was something wrong with her, and wanted to stay a Muggle.”

There was a sound of disbelief from the shadows, where Kaen still lurked, but Shiakana stayed calm. “Go on.”

“You see, my Aunt and Uncle, they know magic exists, but they don’t want to believe it, because then they would be different. And all their friends don’t know about magic, so they were scared stiff I might do something ‘abnormal’. The only reason I live with them is because there’s a charm on the house that gives me protection from...”

“Lord Voldemort. Protection against the person that took the life of one of your parents.” Shiakana hissed, eyes widening. “Your Aunt or Uncle’s sibling.”

Kaen slithered back onto the door. “So some of the old Magicks are still remembered.”

He sounded as friendly as Harry had heard him, but the tone soon changed, as he turned to tell Hermione about this change in attitude towards him. “Do not waste our time by talking to the Muggleborn, boy.”

Harry took a few seconds to control his temper, before replying. “Look, Shiakana, I can show you some of my memories that might prove the Muggles don’t know about us anymore, just, remember, not all Muggles are like the Dursleys.”

“Very well,” Shiakana hissed, her long body swaying in what could have been a nod of the head.

“I shall observe also.” Kaen hissed self-importantly.

“No, you won’t,” Harry said, trembling with anger. “I trust Shiakana more than I trust you. And if either of you do anything to me or Hermione, I swear I’ll destroy you and your door. Shiakana, after I let you in my head, you do nothing. You just wait, and I’ll show you.”

“Agreed,” she hissed.

“Okay Hermione,” Harry said nervously. “I’m going to show Shiakana my memories. Don’t look at Kaen whatever you do, and if I start acting weird or something, stun me, and ask questions later.”

Hermione nodded.

“Right.” Harry looked at Shiakana’s eyes.

“Legilimens!” She hissed.

Harry concentrated hard. He would allow Shiakana into his mind, but he was going to give himself as much control over what she could and could not do as possible. Shiakana did not fight his supremacy in the initial battle of wills.
________________________________________


Harry stared at the large gleaming snake that was coiled up on the other side of the archway.

“Follow me.” He hissed.

He climbed up the benches, until he was face to face with the door that led to his childhood memories. He passed through the doorway, into an identical room. Shiakana was right behind him.

“Interesting.” She hissed. “A labyrinth.”

“Stay here.” Harry commanded, and walked forwards to one of the doors.

He knew the exact memories he wanted for this particular task. They were ones that had haunted him rather, and for very different reasons.
________________________________________


“I don’t know how it grew back!” A young Harry was shouting, while dodging a flailing hand from his aunt. “It must have been magic or something.”

Aunt Petunia gave out a loud howl. “There is no such thing as magic, boy!”

Her bony hand finally connected with Harry’s cheek, causing him to shout in pain.

“But I keep telling you! I don’t know how it-” He ducked.

“A likely story, Potter. Just like you don’t know how you ended up on the top of the school roofs last week.”

“I told you.” The eight year old screamed, fighting back tears. “I must have been caught by a puff of wind or something.”

“You are a nasty, ungrateful, liar!” Harry’s aunt yelled. “For once in your life you will act normal. Go to your cupboard.”
________________________________________


“I didn’t believe magic existed, until I was told by someone from Hogwarts.” Harry hissed to the snake. “Don’t you think I would have realised that things like growing my hair back, or suddenly appearing on the top of buildings were magic, if people believed in it?”

He didn’t give Shiakana a chance to reply, but searched for another memory.
________________________________________


The two four year olds, Harry and Dudley, and Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia, were all at one of Uncle Vernon’s business picnics. Harry would normally not have been allowed to go, but Mrs Figg was unavailable for this afternoon, and Harry’s Uncle’s fellow directors all wished their employees to have good family homes. It would have looked a bit odd if one of the directors had appeared without all their family. Upset stomachs could only cover the excuses for a certain amount of time.

Harry, dressed in Dudley’s old clothes, but still looking relatively respectable, as their size differences hadn’t become too large yet (and the Dursleys had an image to look after), was playing with the child of another of the directors.

Suddenly Harry’s playmate burst out crying.

“Where Lowwy?” Was the lament, as the child searched for his favourite toy.

The young Harry looked around anxiously. He hadn’t had many friends, and he didn’t want one to get upset. The Dursleys stopped him talking to them again if they cried. Aha! There it was. The toy lorry was half hidden behind a young sapling. The young Harry vaguely remembered his companion hiding it there as part of their game. He walked over and picked it up, before presenting it to the young boy.

He grabbed it, eyes wide. “How’d you find it?”

Harry smiled shyly. “Magic.” He said.

The laugh of the boy’s mother was blotted out of Harry’s ears by the sound of heavy breathing approaching: Uncle Vernon.

“There’s no such thing as magic, boy, and I won’t have you tormenting other children with the idea.”

“It’s okay Vernon,” the boy’s mother said genially, “they were just having a game. And it does no harm to let them believe in magic at this stage in their little lives, does it? They’ll have to deal with harsh realities soon enough. Your boy had just found Edgar’s lost toy. Thank Harry, Edgar.”

Edgar was looking in a rather frightened manner at Uncle Vernon. “Thank you, Harry,” he said automatically, while not looking away from Harry’s Uncle.

“You must be proud of the lad, Vernon. Most kids that age think only of themselves, but no sooner was little Edgar upset, then Harry was trying to help, and help he did.”

“Did he?” Vernon Dursley grunted. “I’m sorry Liz, but the boy has an unfortunate habit of taking things that aren’t his. It needs to be stamped out of him as soon as possible. It was probably he that took it in the first place.”

“No, no!” Liz said with another little laugh. “I saw Edgar put it there earlier.”

“Well, we really have to be going, Liz, I’ll take Harry off your hands.”

Harry vaguely heard Liz turn to her husband, and it was the next line that had tormented him the most. “He seemed such a well mannered child. I’m sure Vernon and Petunia must really be very proud of him. Pity Vernon is so stressed with that takeover deal at the moment.”

Harry had long wondered why fate had chosen to land him with the Dursleys, rather than Liz, and her family.
________________________________________


“See?” Harry told Shiakana. “Most of the Muggles are decent, it’s just the Dursleys that are the problem. And none of them believe in magic.”

He turned back to look for another memory, but he felt Shiakana withdraw from his head.
________________________________________


“I am convinced, Kaen.” She hissed. “As far as he is concerned, he is telling the truth.”

“So we can pass then?” Harry asked, almost disbelievingly.

“You may. And I hope you get your revenge on your Uncle and Aunt some day, Harry Potter.” She hissed, her half of the door opening.

Harry turned to Hermione. “Are you okay? Kaen didn’t do anything did he?”

“I’m fine. And well done Harry.”

Harry stepped through Shiakana’s half of the door (Kaen’s remained closed), into the dim Chamber inside, withdrawing the Marauders’ Map as he did so.

Hermione peered around. “Slytherin didn’t install any lights, did he?” She whispered.

“I dunno. Dumbledore provides the light when I come down with him.” Harry switched to Parseltongue. “Light.”

Green flames erupted from torches set high in each of the pillars, and the walls. It succeeded in illuminating the Chamber, but in an eerie green glow that added an air of creepiness that wasn’t there with Dumbledore’s brilliant white light.

The first thing to attract Hermione’s attention wasn’t the remains of the Basilisk, or the statue of Slytherin, but rather the snakelike carvings that stretched the length of the Chamber before turning back on themselves.

“Do you think this is some sort of writing?” She asked Harry.

Harry shrugged. “No idea. If it is, it’s one that even Dumbledore doesn’t know, so I don’t know how we could find out what it said.”

Hermione nodded thoughtfully. “But all codes or languages can eventually be decoded. I bet that if this is a language, Dumbledore will be able to translate it in the end.”

Harry shrugged again. If Hermione was that desperate to look around the Chamber of Secrets, he’d let her. They had plenty of time.
________________________________________


“Did you think that I wouldn’t be able to cope with going back down there?” Ginny hissed furiously. “That I was scared, or not able to look after myself?”

When Harry and Hermione had returned to the Gryffindor common room that night, they had been met by an irate Ginny, who had discovered where they were through Ron. Harry had noticed Hermione producing her ‘secrecy’ charm out of the corner of his eye the moment they had seen Ginny’s face, which meant he probably should have been ready for the outburst.

“No, I just-” Harry began.

“Or don’t you trust me?” Ginny demanded. “Are there some things you tell Ron and Hermione, but don’t trust me with?”

“No!” Harry said. “It’s not that! I just… I didn’t want to put you in danger, I mean after the last time you were there-”

“Oh, so it is that you don’t think I’m good enough then? Well, Harry, I don’t want to be protected. I went to the Ministry too, didn’t I? I fought as well as anyone else didn’t I? At least my brain didn’t go to mush like Ron’s did. And if You-K- if Voldemort is going to mean I’m in danger sometimes if I help fight him, then I don’t care.”

“But Ginny-” Harry tried again.

“You can’t just expect me to wait in safety when people I care about are in danger. You’re the one who tried to save all the hostages in the Tri-Wizard tournament.”

She raised her hand, and for a mad split second Harry thought she was going to slap him, but instead she grabbed her broom, and Quidditch robes, and stalked upstairs in fury.

“What was that all about?” Harry asked, feeling rather staggered.

“No idea, mate.” Ron said, sounding just as clueless. “She just asked me where you guys were, and when I told her, and that you didn’t think it would be fair to ask her if she wanted to go, she just… flipped. She was having a right go at me as we came back from training, too. Something about how she can look after herself.”

They both looked at Hermione. She simply shrugged her shoulders.

“How come you get away scot-free?” Harry asked.

“I won’t.” She sighed. “But at least she doesn’t see me as the ones treating her as useless. And she knows my hands were tied.”

“But we’re not!” Ron protested. “She’s my little sister; I just want to make sure she’s okay! And what’s this rubbish about your hands being tied?”

But Harry thought he knew what Hermione had meant. She had been Ginny’s confidante when she was having sleepless nights. Remembering Hermione’s noise of scepticism earlier, she was probably quite aware this would happen, but didn’t want to break Ginny’s confidences.

“Well, I’m just going to get some study done for my Apparition test.” (She had announced to Harry and Ron at the last session that she was going to take it this weekend.) “Don’t you two have homework to do? And have you decided whether you’re going to take those lessons with Professor Aravenne yet, Harry?”

“What?” Harry asked, taking a second to follow the change in conversation. “Oh, I guess I’d better. I mean…” He lowered his voice; “I almost buried the passage earlier didn’t I? I just don’t trust him still.”

Hermione nodded. “Look, Harry, I know you didn’t want to earlier, but how about you give me the Invisibility Cloak, and I sit in with you, to make sure he doesn’t do anything to you? Just for the first time.”

Harry didn’t feel like doing any more arguing tonight, so he just shrugged his shoulders and gave in. “Yeah, sure.”
________________________________________


Neither Ron nor Harry were particularly successful at getting Hermione to talk at breakfast on Saturday. She was engrossed in ‘Apparition Accidents: An Almanac of What to Avoid’, although Harry thought it was hard to imagine her being any more prepared for her test later that day. Harry and Ron used it as an opportunity to talk Quidditch.

Hermione in fact, was so oblivious to the world around her this morning, that the post owl which delivered her Daily Prophet was forced to stand in front of her plate, gently nudging her with no success. Harry eventually took pity on the bird, and removed its burden. The large bold print on the front page made him forget his intention to alert Hermione to its appearance, however, and caused him to lay it down flat on the table.

Ron let out a whoop, as he saw the same headline Harry had. Harry glanced around, the attention of most people in the hall was firmly upon him. He ignored them, and bent over the paper to see what exactly it had to say, just as Hermione raised her head from her book.
Black Was Innocent!


Not Guilty! That was the findings of Madam Amelia Bones’ personally led investigation into whether or not Sirius Black was indeed guilty of the crimes that have been levelled at him for many years. These supposed crimes included being a senior Death Eater, of various murders, including one particularly vicious killing of thirteen people with one curse, passing information to You-Know-Who from inside the Ministry, and plotting to kill James and Lily Potter, and the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry Potter, on the night that the Dark Lord first fell.

This morning, Minister Scrimgeour launched a scathing attack on his predecessors, outraged that they could have allowed, what he calls, a blatant miscarriage of justice. He also promised Wizarding Britain to do everything in his powers to prevent it occurring again.

“Perhaps the most appalling thing about Sirius Black’s case, was the fact that despite the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he was not allowed to represent himself at his own trial. Sirius Black did not even get the chance to defend himself against these accusations. While this may have been understandable, if reprehensible, during the height of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s power, there can be no excuse once he had been defeated. As a direct result of this, an innocent man who had in fact done everything within his power to fight for the side of light was sent to Azkaban. Allow me to assure the British public that for as long as I am in office, this shall never happen again.”

The Minister then proceeded to detail the work done by Sirius Black to fight You-Know-Who, even after he was thought of throughout the world as a murderer, culminating in his untimely death at the Ministry in May, as he strove to protect his Godson, Harry Potter. He finished by informing us that the Ministry intended to honour Sirius Black at the earliest possible date.

“I am delighted to announce that Sirius Black’s Godson, Harry Potter, has consented to accept a posthumous Order of Merlin, First Class for Sirius Black, to be presented at the Opening Ceremony of the Monument of Magical Unity on the evening of the twenty first of December.”

The Monument of Magical Unity, of course, is set to replace the Fountain of Magical Brethren in the Ministry foyer. The world renowned sculptor Edvard de-”


Harry looked up, and grinned at Ron and Hermione in satisfaction; Ron immediately proceeded to clap him on the back. For once in his life the stares that followed Harry around the school that day didn’t bother him one bit.
________________________________________


Harry knocked on the door to Aravenne’s office late Monday evening. Hermione, now an Apparition license holding adult, was hidden beside him underneath Harry’s Invisibility Cloak.

“Come in,” Aravenne’s voice told him.

He opened the door, and walked in a little nervously, making a show of removing his bag from his shoulders before shutting the door, to enable Hermione to slip in behind him.

Aravenne gave a small smile. “Good evening Harry. I’m afraid I should have told you not to bother bringing any books or parchment. There are a couple of books in the library that you shall find useful however, although I’m afraid they are rather dry. I may end up setting you some recommended reading at the end of each lesson. For now, however: the basics. Here, take a seat.” He waved to a leather chair that was in the centre of the room.

Harry glanced around as he took his seat. Aravenne had pushed everything except for two chairs to the walls, giving them as much space as possible. The two rugs were rolled up, and leaning against the bookshelves. He noticed Harry looking around, and grinned.

“Just a precaution – although if you do manage to produce some wandless magic in our first session, I’ll be very impressed. It takes a while to get your head around the theory of it I found.”

“Okay,” Harry nodded.

“Very well,” Aravenne said, taking his seat. “The art of wandless magic to some extent follows from learning to become a Magus. You may remember I called the voice a focusing tool in our lessons on Magi.”

Harry nodded. “You said that incantations don’t actually have any magical abilities at all, they are just a way for us to tell spells apart.”

“Not exactly,” Aravenne corrected. “The actual words of the spells are important, for example: Lumos takes its name from the Latin for ‘light’, and Nox from the Latin for ‘darkness’. The fact that these words are associated with the effects of the spells themselves helps us to cast the spell. It is possible to cast the spell with some other incantation, but it is not as easy.”

He took out his wand, and uttered, “Green.”

Aravenne showed Harry the lit wand for a few seconds, before he cancelled the spell, and recast it with the proper incantation. While the wand tip had been bright the first time, the difference in brightness was nevertheless visible.

“You see?” He asked.

Harry nodded.

“The wand is like the voice. It helps cast the spell, nothing more. Magic is inside us, but it is uncontrolled. The way we have learnt to use it is with focussing items such as wands, or the use of incantations. While these help, they don’t actually produce the magic, they just help us bring it out.”

“And when I was doing accidental magic, it was because my subconscious, or whatever, knew how to bring out the magic without needing to use wands or words?” Harry asked.

Aravenne nodded. “Exactly. Now, the trick to casting spells wandlessly is to use other things to focus on until the mind starts to do it automatically. It is probably easiest to understand by doing, so I shall lead you through the steps that work best for the majority of people, before explaining what each step does. I do not expect you to actually succeed in casting a spell, so do not worry, but a trial run through may help.”

“Okay,” Harry said. “So what do I do?”

“First I want you to relax into the chair. Make yourself comfortable. Then I want you to close your eyes.”

Harry looked at Aravenne quizzically, but did so.

“All right. I want you to imagine this office in your head, just as we are now, you sitting in that chair, and me in this one. Now I want you to close your eyes in this image, and as you do so, everything will start to go black, as if you actually are closing your eyes.”

Harry couldn’t help but make a small sound of amusement.

“This is just to help you concentrate, Harry. You need to be able to picture things in your mind, and yet keep your mind sharp. I know it sounds silly, but in order to get rid of one focussing item, we need to make it as easy as possible to find another.”

“Okay.” Harry grinned, while keeping his eyes firmly shut.

He did understand it, because it reminded him of his Occlumency to some extent. One of the hardest things about clearing his mind had been that objects would jump into his mind as soon as he got rid of any that were already there. This exercise was obviously designed in order to teach him control over the images that might enter his mind while his eyes were closed.

“We’ll keep going, as this is just a trial run,” Aravenne’s voice said. “You will probably find that in the future you will need to repeat this exercise in order to help your concentration. I want you to see nothing but darkness in your mind now, nothing at all.”

Harry nodded. “Okay.”

“I want you to imagine you can see the magic inside your body, the magic that you are trying to use. It is constantly moving, it crackles with power, and as it does so, it forms large spheres which spread themselves out through your head.”

Harry started to concentrate hard, and eventually he started to see a liquid blue substance gel together, split, and then form together once more. They sparked whenever they approached each other, as if each blob contained electricity. Soon it began to fill his vision, as more and more balls started to appear from thin air.

“Okay.” He spoke in a soft, slow voice. As he spoke, the image flickered slightly, as he was forced to concentrate on something else.

“What colour is it?”

“Blue.” Harry replied without hesitation.

“Blue?” Aravenne repeated in slight surprise. Harry wondered if he had actually expected him to be able to see anything at all. “Very well. I want you to control the blue substance with your mind. Make it form into one perfectly spherical ball.”

Harry struggled to control it, but it seemed to have a life of its own. Every time he tried to force it together, another piece or two would break free. Aravenne, however, did not give him long to try to influence it.

“Now, I want you to change the colour of the ball to white. This is the colour of the spell you are going to attempt to cast.”

Again, this wasn’t as easy as Harry had expected. He managed to create a paler blue, but that was about it.

“Now, this ball of magic is inside your head, which is why you can see it in your mind’s eye. I want you to concentrate on moving the ball from your head, down your neck, to your right shoulder, down your arm, all the way to your hand. Have you managed that?” Aravenne asked, his voice slow.

Eventually Harry nodded, but in truth he wasn’t sure that he had. He had tried to imagine his own body in his head, and lead the blue ball down the route Aravenne had suggested, but wasn’t sure if that was the right way to go about it.

“Good. Now I want you to say the incantation for the spell: Lumos.”

“Lumos.”

As he said the word, Harry felt a tingling in his right hand side, a little like pins and needles. The closer it got to his hand, the stronger it became. He opened his eyes.

His hand was glowing a faint blue.

Harry looked at Aravenne, trying to gauge his reaction. There was the faintest glimmer of surprise, but nothing else.

“Very good.” He said slowly. “It took me far, far longer to produce my first reaction. I must admit that I was unable to truly imagine magic in any physical sense or form whatsoever. You obviously have a vivid imagination.” He grinned.

“So how do I get rid of it?” Harry asked, waving his hand gingerly.

Aravenne made a sound of amusement. “Very well, I shall allow you to attempt to cancel the spell before I explain what you have just done. To cancel the spell is rather simple. Close your eyes once more.”

Harry closed his eyes obediently, and started to imagine the scene in Aravenne’s office before he was even instructed to.

“Now, I want you to imagine that ball of light again. It is currently in your hand, so I want you to move your consciousness down from your head to your right hand once more, just as you did when casting the spell.”

“Okay.”

“Do you see the ball of light?”

Harry nodded. “Yes.”

“Good. Now I want you to break the ball up into pieces, so that each piece moves freely once more. As you do so, utter the spell: ‘Nox’.”

Harry opened his eyes. His hand had stopped glowing.

“Okay. So what did I just do?” Harry asked.

“Something I certainly did not expect you to.” Aravenne replied. “Tell me, have you done any similar mental exercises before? Where you attempted to imagine things, and control every aspect of your imagination I mean.”

Harry shrugged. “A bit.” He wasn’t going to explain to Aravenne about the Occlumency techniques, which he had been doing for days on end, being rather similar.

Aravenne simply nodded. “That would probably explain it then. The aim of this exercise is to ‘see’ the magic inside you, and try to control it. You are not actually viewing it of course, but rather you are giving your mind a way to interact with it. Your subconscious can translate this image with the actual magical ability inside you.”

“So it’s kind of like the wand, but inside me, rather than outside?” Harry asked

“Exactly, it is another focussing technique. And just like with wands, each wizard’s view of magic is slightly different, and it is a matter of finding the right ‘view’ for you. Just as some wizards are better suited by a short, thick Holly wand with Unicorn hair, as opposed to a long, thin wand made from Willow, and Dragon teeth, each wizard’s view of the magic inside them differs slightly. Unfortunately, when it comes to wandless magic, it is rather trial and error to discover the thing that works best.”

“Okay.” Harry said. “I think I understand that, but why did I have to make it into a ball?”

“Ah. The shape you force the representation of magic into is a depiction of the wand movement. The Lumos spell, of course, is possibly the simplest spell we know, because it requires no wand movement. Therefore the ball represented a dot, or the amount of movement a wand would have to do to cast the spell. It again, is another focussing technique. If, for example, you were to cast a levitation spell, you would not form a ball from the magic, but rather a pattern which mimicked the swish and flick necessary to cast it with a wand.”

“Okay.” Harry said dubiously.

“It will make more sense the more practice you do.” Aravenne assured him.

“I hope so.” Harry admitted sheepishly. “Um, the next thing you told me to do was change the colour of the ball-”

“Yes. With Lumos that does not matter so much, as the light emitted will be the same colour you are thinking of, but with other spells, like the stunning spell for example, you will be unable to cast the spell unless you match the colour with the colour of the curse.”

“So it would have to be red?” Harry checked.

“Exactly. Now, as you know, certain charms don’t produce a visible colour when cast. The summoning charm, for example. So when casting these spells, rather than forcing the ball into a colour, you must cause it to become transparent.”

“I see. And the last bit was a matter of deciding where the curse should come from. So I could cast it from my hand, or else from my eyes or something.”

Aravenne laughed at this. “Theoretically you could, I suppose, but it is best to stick to the hands, and the fingers, as they are the easiest parts of the body to make delicate movements with, and with the more advanced spells, it helps to use your hands as additional focussing tools.”

Harry nodded. “So what now, practice, practice, and more practice?”

“I’m afraid so. You will find that the difficulty increases drastically, the more powerful a spell you wish to cast, however. Of course, this is only the basics, and there will be more theory involved, but for now, this will do.”
________________________________________


By the time Aravenne decided to call their lesson over, he had not once attempted to do anything to Harry, except teach him how to cast the Lumos spell wandlessly. This did not stop Hermione from offering to accompany him to Aravenne’s office each lesson. Ron found this rather funny.

“You know what it is Harry.” He said between sniggers. “She just doesn’t want you to know how to do something she doesn’t. She actually trusts Aravenne, but she wants to learn how to cast spells wandlessly too.”

From the way Hermione’s cheeks turned slightly pinker, Harry thought there might have been an element of truth to Ron’s words.

The days before Christmas started to fly by, and it wasn’t surprising when Harry thought about it. After all, even though he was still banned from Quidditch practices, he now had Wandless magic classes to fit in, along with Occlumency, DA, Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts, Apparition lessons, and another trip down to the Chamber of Secrets. McGonagall’s conjuration came and went, with Harry’s butterfly lasting for a couple of hours longer than necessary (Hermione’s was a week and counting), and before Harry knew it, he was soon facing a return to Grimmauld Place. To his surprise, he was no longer dreading it; instead, it was the much publicised opening of the new statue in the Ministry that was attracting his trepidation.
________________________________________

A/N: Okay, sorry for the slightly longer amount of time it took for me to post the chapter - the server down time threw me a bit. (Yup - blatant excuse, I know! :P)

________________________________________
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