Content Harry Potter
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Standard Disclaimer:
Ron: "How come you’ve turned me into an ass in this story?"
Bob: "Because JKR says we’re allowed to write stories in her universe. Do you like the scenery from up here Ron?"
Ron: "Ummm… it’s awful high up here, how high up are we? AAAAAAA!!!!"
Bob: "High enough to find out if Ron’s bounce"
Bob: "Nope, we don’t own it."

Sunset over Britain
Chapter 5

Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…

The rest of the trip on the Express was uneventful and in a few hours they were piling out of the car and heading towards the carriages that would take them to the castle. Harry spotted Hagrid collecting the first years, but he refrained from greeting his old friend. He just wasn’t sure whom among the staff he could trust.

He helped Hermione into the carriage before joining her.   Neville and Ginny followed, taking the opposite seat, while Susan and Luna claimed the carriage behind them. Once Harry was seated, he pulled a small vial from his robes and passed it to Hermione. She looked at it for a moment, and then smiled at him in thanks.

Ginny and Neville watched, confused, as Hermione opened the vial and drank the contents. Her face screw up in disgust at the bitter taste it left behind. Harry chuckled and flexed his wrist, which released his wand into his hand. With a wave, he conjured a small glass of pumpkin juice, Hermione’s favorite drink, and passed it to her. Her eyes lit up in gratitude as she took the glass and washed the bitter flavor away. Another flex of his wrist and his wand vanished from sight again.

Neville gasped when Harry’s wand disappeared. "How did you do that, Harry?" he asked.

Harry grinned and pulled up his sleeve, revealing the wrist holster. Neville leaned closer for a better look. "That’s an Auror model, that is!" he exclaimed.

"That’s right, Nev. Hermione and I both have them. If things work out, I’ll be able to get more of them for you guys," Harry replied softly.

As the carriage slowed, Harry looked out the window. In the gathering twilight, he could see the castle looming over him as they pulled into the main courtyard and stopped. Stepping out of the carriage, he whispered to Hermione, reminding her to use the wards he had taught her for her dorm room.

Hermione nodded, grinning to herself. Harry had taught her a number of wards she planned to place around her bed as protection at night. She was also pleased that he trusted her with doing this, rather than insisting on doing it himself. Most of what needed to be done would only take a few minutes and no one would notice.

Harry had also mentioned something about a ‘surprise’ during the trip, but hadn’t elaborated on it. He’d said he wanted to check out Hogwart’s wards first, before he could be sure his plan would work.

Stepping into the entrance hall, Harry found himself grabbed from behind, spun and flung bodily against a wall. He shook his head to clear the dizziness and straightened his glasses, only to find himself facing Professor Snape.

"That will be 50 points from Gryffindor for breaking my wand, Potter. And a month’s detention with me," Snape snapped at him.

Harry brushed the dirt off his school robe casually and looked the Professor in the eye. For a brief moment he was surprised to discover that he was as tall as Snape was, but he brushed that off an unimportant.

"No, Sir. I don’t think so. Under Article 16, paragraph B, published in 1751, Hogwarts Teacher’s Rules, you may not deduct points or assign detentions for anything that happens before the beginning of school term. Technically, what you did on platform 9 ¾’s happened before the start of term. In addition, SIR, as a legal adult, I am within my rights to have you arrested for making threats to me and my friends. Now I ask you, how can I possibly serve detention while you’re in a Ministry holding cell awaiting your trial, Professor?" Harry asked in wide-eyed innocence.

Snape stared at him for a moment longer, but Harry’s growth spurt over the summer meant he had lost the ability to loom over him in an intimidating manner. Snape spun on his heel and started to move away.

Harry called after him. "One more thing, Sir. I can assure you that I will press those charges if you try punishing me unjustly."

Snape paused for a moment before continued to walk from the entrance hall. The rest of his friends and a number of other students gaped at him.

Harry took a quick look around. In some eyes, far too few in his opinion, he saw admiration for standing up to Snape. In most eyes, however, all he saw was fear and mistrust.

With a resigned sigh, he turned back to his friends. "Come on guys, let’s get to the feast."

Leading them to the Great Hall, Harry and his friends sat near the doors instead of up by the Head table. Luna and Susan split from the group when they entered to join their own tables. Hermione sat next to Harry and a third year Gryffindor girl she didn’t know very well. Ron sauntered in and sat across from them, next to Ginny. All four eyed him warily and Hermione slipped her hand under the table to rest it on Harry’s thigh.

"Look mate," Ron began, "I want to apologize for everything. I’m sorry, I was being an idiot…"

Harry cut him off harshly. "You’re right about one thing, Weasley. You are an idiot. And you’re not my mate so don’t call me that again. Your barmy if you think an apology will cover for what you said about me in the papers. The only reason I don’t hex you right here and now is because you’re Ginny’s brother, and unlike you, she’s my friend."

"Don’t hold back on my account," Ginny muttered under her breath, staring at her brother with hard, fierce eyes.

Ron stared at him for a moment, but shrugged off the impression of power radiating from Harry’s cold emerald gaze and turned to Hermione with a slight smile. He ignored the new first years as they were marched past him in the aisle.

Ron was about to say something when Hermione waved him to be silent. He frowned at her until he realized she wanted to hear the sorting hat.

Harry and Hermione craned their necks to see the sorting. The group of first years seemed awful short to Harry this year. He leaned over to whisper that to Hermione when she shushed him.

Professor McGonagall walked over to the side of the Great Hall and picked up a stool and a rumpled old hat. Placing the stool before the main table in front of Headmaster Dumbledore, she placed the hat on the stool and stepped back to allow the hat to sing it’s traditional, opening feast song.

The hat stirred and appeared to look around. Satisfied that the hall was full and it had everyone’s attention, it began to sing.

A warning, united I told last year,
Ignore you did, my words so clear.
And now light dims and darkness falls,
Hogwarts to ashes ‘tis the end o’ all.

Hermione appeared startled and quickly conjured a quill and parchment to write down the song as the hat continued to sing. Harry watched over her shoulder. Like her, he realized this song was different and needed to be examined carefully, not just by the students.

The sunset comes, it looms so near
Evil will spread with rule and fear.
The light falters, and hope undone.
Sunset comes with a darkening sun.

From blackest night will beacon burn,
To an emerald land all hope will turn.
The land will burn and death bells ring,
From the ashes of all will a hero spring,

Brotherhood arising, legends of yore,
Old power awakes and so much more.
Legends renewed, his spirit unbroken,
The evil’s bane these words are spoken.

Silence reigned in the Great Hall as the last words echoed away. McGonagall looked up at Dumbledore, but he had apparently been reading a note passed to him by Professor Snape. Looking up from the parchment in his hand, he motioned for his deputy Headmistress to begin the sorting ceremony, before he went back to his reading.

Minerva McGonagall was badly shaken. In the more than fifty years she had spent at Hogwarts, she had never heard such a foreboding song. She unrolled the parchment nervously and began the sorting ceremony.

Meanwhile, Harry had finished rereading Hermione’s transcription of the song. He nodded to her and handed it back.

Ron turned away from the sorting to look at Hermione and his expression softened.   "’Mione, I want to apologize for what I called you earlier on the Express. I was upset and angry…"

Hermione bristled at the nickname. "Don’t ever call me ‘Mione, Ron," she hissed at him.

"Um… well, I’m sorry. I just wanted to tell you that. I was confused. I thought you might be going out with Harry, you know?"

"Did you take a stupid potion today, Ron? I am going out with Harry," she replied acidly.

Harry was about to interrupt but didn’t when she squeezed his thigh. The conversation was cut short as the sorting ceremony ended and Dumbledore stood up.

"Welcome! Welcome one and all! And so we begin another fine year at Hogwarts. I have a few words I would like to say before we begin our fine feast. Orange Snappers. Now, tuck in!"

As the tables filled with food, Harry glanced over to Hermione. He could see her eyeing the food carefully, but the slight tremble in her hand on his leg told him how afraid she was. He casually ran a hand over a platter of roast beef and casting the detection charm. Feeling no response, he picked up the platter and placed thick slices on both their plates.

She shot him a grateful glance and copied his action, carefully testing the food before putting anything on her plate. Because she was doing the charm wandlessly, and nearly silently, no one knew why she hesitated over a dish before taking something.

Harry ate and watched her closely as she picked at her food. His aunt had beaten proper table manners into him, but he wanted to double check her plate so he could tell her it was alright to eat. He stretched slowly across her, reaching for a salt shaker. He felt nothing as he passed her plate, but once he passed over her goblet, his hand burned. He grabbed the salt and pulled his hand back. As he did, he whispered, "Goblet."

She nodded slightly and moved her goblet to the other side of her plate, closer to Harry. Ron’s eyes lit up in anticipation when she picked up the goblet, then his expression fell when she set it down again. Needing a bit of a diversion, Harry looked up the table at the area where the first years were seated.

He smiled and silently sent a cracking hex up the table. One of the pitcher’s near the end of the table exploded, showering everyone around it with pumpkin juice. Like so many of the spells Harry could cast, it was very nearly invisible, unless he wanted it to be seen. Several of the first years jumped up and a few started to cry, causing heads to turn towards the disturbance.

Professor McGonagall got up from the Head table to calm the first year students, thinking it was a burst of accidental magic from one of them.

Only Hermione, Neville and Ginny saw Harry place a hand on Hermione’s goblet. Only the three saw his hand glow faintly. Harry shot a warning look to Ginny and Neville. Both nodded. This was something he’d explain another time.

Harry leaned over to Hermione and whispered, "It’s all safe now, Hermione. You can drink your pumpkin juice."

As he started to pull back from her, she kissed him on the cheek. She knew the potion she took would have protected her, but had been concerned anyway. Somehow, she thought, Harry had replaced the potion laced juice with untainted juice.

Harry smiled and lifted his goblet. She lifted hers and they clinked them together before each took a drink.

Across the table, Ron watched Hermione, a smile of satisfaction on his face. He leaned back from the table and crossed his arms across his chest as if waiting expectantly for something to happen.

Harry and Hermione finished their meal and sat back, satisfied. Under the table, Hermione laid her hand on Harry’s leg once more. They knew that Ron was supposed to slip some kind of potion to Hermione, with Dumbledore’s approval, and that the potion was supposed to control her in some way, but they didn’t know what type of potion it was. There were several different options to choose from, according to Tonks. The one Tonks seemed to believe they would use was the Liquid Imperio, which turned the drinker into a mindless automaton.

Turning to Neville and Ginny, Harry asked, "So what’s the rumor on the new Defense Teacher? Anyone know?"

Ginny shook her head, but Neville spoke up. "My Gran says that we have another Government appointee this year. Gran’s a substitute member of the Board of Governors. She was present when Minister Fudge offered the services of a former Ministry employee."

Ron snorted. "Sounds like another Umbridge, if you ask me."

Ginny muttered, "Just your type, Ronald."

Harry frowned. Another government employee? He rubbed a finger over the covered scars on his hand.

As people finished their meals, plates, goblets and platters vanished, one at a time, from the tables. When the last of the tables was finally cleared, all heads turned expectantly to the Head table.

Professor Dumbledore stood and waited for the students to quiet down.

"I have a few start of term announcements which I should like to make before you all run off to your dorms. First of all, the Forbidden Forest is just that, forbidden, to all who wish to survive for another school year. Mr. Filch informs me that he has added all of the product line of Weasley Wizarding Wheezes to the banned items list and asks me to remind all students that there is no casting of magic within the school hallways unless under direct teacher supervision.

"Our latest Defense Against the Darks Arts Teacher had been delayed, but assures me she will arrive for tomorrow’s class.

"Last year, an illegal club was formed within the school for the express purpose of teaching the defense subject. While I cannot condone unsanctioned clubs within the school, I am pleased to note that the members of that group achieved the highest defense scores seen by this school in over two hundred years.

"This year, I intend to legitimize that club and opening it’s membership up to anyone interested. Professor Snape has graciously consented to sponsor the club. Mr. Harry Potter will be its leader…"

Harry’s head snapped up and his eyes turned hard.

"And finally…" Dumbledore trailed off as a disturbance at the Slytherin table caused heads to whip around.

 "Ronald!   Where is he?   I can’t see him!" a voice cried out, the words reverberating around the hall.   A figure scrambled from the Slytherin bench and started climbing over the Ravenclaw table in a bid to reach the Gryffindor table.

Ron paled as Millicent Bulstrode kicked a fourth year Ravenclaw out of her way and jumped to the floor.

Dumbledore frowned as the corpulent Slytherin reached Ron. Snape stood up, his expression darkening. Millicent grabbed Ron and pulled him out of his seat. Tossing him to the floor, she started fumbling with his belt, while shouting how much she adored him.

"That explains much," Harry murmured quietly, while an astonished Hermione watched Ron try to get away, her jaw nearly on the table.

Ron scrambled frantically as his pants were pulled off his legs. He managed to push her off long enough to spring to his feet, sans pants and other under garments. There was a flash of light as Colin Creevey took a photo of the couple.

Screaming, Ron ran from the Great Hall with Millicent close behind. The students sat, shocked for a moment. From the entrance to the hall came a piercing scream, followed by Millicent’s shout of, "Ron!   Don’t run.   Don’t leave me. I love you! Come back!"

"Blimey! I never knew Millicent could move that fast," Seamus said loudly.

His comment was heard throughout the hall and everyone erupted into laughter. Harry suddenly found himself holding Hermione, who had tears of mirth running down her face. When Harry had calmed himself, he glanced up at the Head table. Most of the teachers seemed to be trying to control their own laughter, but two people in particular did not seem to find it funny. Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape.

Dumbledore nodded to Minerva and she shouted over the sound of the students. "Prefects, escort your students to their houses, please!"

Ginny and Colin, the fifth year prefects, marched up the table to collect the first years. Ginny glanced back at Hermione for a moment with a questioning look.   Hermione shook her head and left the hall with Harry.

"All right, you lot of midgets, follow me!" Ginny yelled, trying to round up the first years.

Harry walked with Hermione up to the common room. "Well now we know what they were going to slip you Hermione," he murmured softly.

She nodded bleakly, upset that they were going to slip her a love potion, and at the same time amused at the way Harry turned it around on Ron.

"Millicent…" she murmured. "You know, Harry Potter… You are truly evil and, more importantly, you are your father’s son. I expected to rely on the neutralizer, not have you swap the potion to someone else’s goblet."

"I’m sorry, Hermione, but if I can help you, I’ll do it. Maybe I’m too overprotective…"

She stopped him and pulled him into a darkened corner. "Harry, you’ve given me all sorts of ways to protecting myself. I’m glad you believe in me enough to give me what I need to do it, but it’s not overprotective to want to shield someone you love from harm. Now, let’s get up to our dorms and cast those wards."

Harry nodded. "After I cast my wards I want to see what I can figure out about the wards around Hogwarts. If what I sense is right, I might be able to surprise you tonight, so keep your curtains closed."

Hermione nodded and wondered what he was up to as he led her to the portrait hole. Stepping up to the portrait, Harry gave the password and the door swung open. He stepped aside to let Hermione enter first. Starting to follow her into the common room, he spotted Ron running, several staircases below, with Millicent still on his heels. Chuckling, he stepped through the hole and closed the portrait behind him.

Looking up, Harry’s heart sank as he saw head after head turn his way and watch him with distrust and, in some cases, fear.

"See you in a half hour or so?" he asked Hermione.

She nodded to him worriedly. She had not expected him to have to deal with the level of open fear displayed by his housemates.   She watched his retreating back for a moment before going up to her own dorm room.

Up in the empty sixth year boys dorm, he pulled his trunk from his pocket, expanded it back to normal size, and then he double-checked its wards. Opening the trunk he pulled Hermione’s concealment cloak and returned it to normal size before placing it in the trunk next to his own.

He then turned to his bed and started casting wards over it.   He had chosen a multi-layered ward approach, with the last ward allowing very few people through. If someone weren’t on his list of people allowed through, the last ward would be just short of lethal for anyone trying to breech it.

Heading back down to the common room, he found Hermione scribbling a quick note on the parchment containing the sorting hat’s song.   She looked up as he approached.

"Can I borrow Hedwig for a letter run?"

"Of course you can. We still have an hour to curfew, do you want to send that letter now?"

She nodded and folded the note carefully, sealing it with wax. Together, they left the common room and walked up to the owlery. Once there, Harry slipped Hedwig a few treats, then asked if she would like to deliver a letter for Hermione. The large bird blinked owlishly at him, then she sprang from her perch to land on Hermione’s shoulder.

Chuckling, Harry said, "I think she likes you."

"She’s the smartest owl I’ve ever met. Even when I first met her, she made me feel like she could tell what I was thinking. You’re lucky to own her, Harry," replied Hermione.

Harry frowned. "I don’t own her, Hermione. She’s my friend. In some ways, I think she does know what I’m feeling and thinking. I owe her my life. I can’t owe that kind of debt and still own her," he said softly, while stroking the bird on her shoulder.

With a smile of understanding, Hermione attached the letter to Hedwig’s leg and the bird took flight. Holding hands, they returned to their common room.

Shortly after they left the owlery, another owl took to wing, flying south, towards Malfoy Manor.

Breakfast in the Great Hall…

Harry was eating breakfast when Hermione entered the hall. She’d made a quick trip to the library for a potions book before heading down to the Great Hall. Eyeing the book, Harry couldn’t help but comment.

"Potions already, Hermione? We haven’t even gotten our schedules yet."

She shook her head and flipped open the book then turned it so Harry could read the chapter heading: Love and Sexual Enhancement Potions.

Harry blushed. She laughed at his discomfit and laid a hand on his. "No silly, I’m curious how long the love potion will last. As to the others, well they’re mostly to correct certain problems that men occasionally have. I don’t think you’ll need them anytime soon."

"So how long do they last?" he asked, curious now.

She chewed on her lip for a moment. "Most last less than a day. Two of them last a week, and there’s one that lasts for months. All of them are proscribed by the Ministry as a form of rape."

"Well, Ron came to bed late last night, so I assume that either Millicent found him, or one of the teachers rescued him. Do any of the longer lasting potions have antidotes?"

"The week long potions do. The last one doesn’t, at least not that I can find."

Harry nodded.

"By the way, Harry, I found the little note you left me this morning and, while it was sweet, would you mind telling me how you managed to get up the girls stairs?"

"I didn’t go up the stairs. After checking the wards last night, I tried an idea I’ve been working on. It’s a way of apparating by concentrating on a specific person, rather than a location."

"You can’t apparate in Hogwarts. It says so in Hogwarts: A History," she exclaimed loudly.

Instinctively, Harry hunkered down and looked around for a moment before turning back to her. Fortunately the Great Hall was relatively empty. "Not so loud, Hermione," he said in a low tone. "The anti-apparation wards are fine, as far as I can determine. But they don’t seem to affect me. So yes, I can apparate in and out of the school. But that’s one skill I don’t want anyone to find out about."

Hermione sat, stunned for a moment. A long held belief had been shot down and, in the process, it cast doubt on the information contained in her favorite book. She wasn’t sure if she should be mad at him or happy. She was mad that he was casting her book into doubt. On the other hand, if he could do one impossible thing, then killing Voldemort might not be all that dangerous for him. She chewed her lower lip as she considered the possibilities.

Harry looked at her, his eyes narrowing. He knew that look of hers and decided to put her back on track. "He’s still got experience over me, Hermione," he murmured quietly.

She snapped back into focus, forgetting about books. "Then we’ll just have to give you the time you need to gain the experience," she said firmly.

Harry looked up as McGonagall escorted Ron to a seat at the Gryffindor table, well away from Harry and his friends. After depositing Ron in a seat, McGonagall walked down the aisle, handing out schedules.

"Your schedules, Mr. Potter, Miss Granger," said McGonagall, handing them their course lists.

"Professor, thank you for the schedule. Would you please pass a message along to the Headmaster for me?" Harry asked in a respectful tone.

"Of course, Mr. Potter. What would you like me to tell the Headmaster?"

"Please inform him that I will not be able to participate in any defense club this year. He will have to find another to take my place."

McGonagall blinked in surprise. She had never known Harry to shirk from any responsibility before.

"Are you sure, Mr. Potter? The Headmaster was so set on having you take charge of the group." she asked, worried now that Harry was deliberately setting himself apart.

"Quite sure, Professor. I seriously doubt he wants someone he believes to be turning dark to run the club. Besides, with my schedule, it simply isn’t possible," he replied.

Frowning, McGonagall turned to Hermione. "What about you, Miss Granger? I understand you were instrumental in last year’s defense club, nearly as instrumental as Mr. Potter."

Hermione glanced over at Harry before turning to McGonagall, "Oh no, Professor. I simply don’t have the time this term. Besides, all I did was advise Harry on which spells to teach. He did all the real work," she replied breathlessly.

Scowling, McGonagall nodded to the two and went back to handing out schedules. I’ll have words with the Headmaster as soon as he showed up for the morning meal, she thought angrily.

The Great Hall slowly filled as more students came down from their houses for breakfast. Hermione and Harry were busy comparing schedules, so they missed seeing Professor Snape escort Millicent into the hall. Millicent kept shooting pleading looks at Ron.

Harry looked up to see Snape forcing Millicent back into her seat and he started to snicker. He nudged Hermione to catch her attention and she had trouble hiding the smile after seeing how pale Ron looked. McGonagall had returned him to the common room well past curfew last night, his clothing torn to shreds and a blanket wrapped round him to cover his nakedness. He had a haunted look in his eyes when he crawled into bed.

Harry was about to slip an arm around Hermione and pull her closer when he noticed Dumbledore motioning him up to the Head table. With a sigh, he nodded and murmured to Hermione, "Wish me luck."

As he slowly made his way up the aisle, he noted Snape glaring daggers at him. The Headmaster didn’t look all that pleased either. When he stepped up to the table Dumbledore passed him a copy of the Daily Prophet.

"Tell me Harry, what do you know about this article?"

Harry looked at the paper. It was very clear what article had Snape and Dumbledore so upset. As Harry started to read, the students realized that something unusual was in the works at the Head table and turned their attention to it.

Hogwarts Professor a Spy?
By Rita Skeeter

Yesterday, in an altercation on the platform for the Hogwarts Express, this reporter witnessed Hogwarts Professor Severus Snape threaten the life of student. He was then disarmed by a cloaked figure and accused of being a spy for Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and some covert organization called the Order of the Phoenix.

The figure that disarmed the Professor turned out to be none other than Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived. After breaking the Professor’s wand, he stepped back amidst a group of mysteriously cloaked figured, where he instructed them to, "let it live".

Mr. Potter had apparently been missing over the summer and this reporter has learned that Headmaster Dumbledore went to great lengths to find him…

Harry handed the paper back to the Headmaster. "I would say, Sir, that Ms. Skeeter has considerably improved her journalistic skills. Other than that, it’s reasonably accurate," he said with a shrug.

"Harry, do you not understand what damage this does to our side?" asked Dumbledore in an annoyed tone.

"Damage to your plans perhaps, Headmaster. It has no impact on me whatsoever. Tell me, why are you ignoring the fact that one of your Professors assaulted a student in public yesterday, threatening her in front of dozens of witnesses? I wonder what the Board of Governors would say about your leadership when you allow a Professor to assault a student in public?" asked Harry in a cold voice.

"Professor Snape wouldn’t hurt Miss Granger, Harry, of that I assure you," replied Dumbledore, somewhat confused by being put on the defensive.

"Unlike you, Sir, I don’t share your faith in Snape. Had there been any Auror’s present, he would be in a holding cell at the Ministry right now. Besides, he did hurt her. I’ve seen the bruises for myself, both on her arm, and at the base of her neck. Now, I’ll ask you again, why are you bothering me with trivial concerns when you employ a sadist in your school?" he asked again, trying very hard to control his temper.

"That’s Professor Snape, Harry, and he is not a sadist. He is a respected member of our faculty and deserves your respect," replied Dumbledore.

"You are avoiding the issue, Headmaster. He injured a student. Might I add, he did it publicly, off school property and before school term began? I assure you, the only reason why charges have not been pressed against him is because Hermione asked me not to," Harry replied flatly.

Snape was livid. He started to stand, but Dumbledore waved him back to his seat. A gasp had gone through the student body with Harry’s last comment. Dumbledore looked up and realized he needed to change the subject matter to avoid any further embarrassing comments.

"Professor McGonagall informs me you do not wish to lead the Defense club, is that correct, Harry?" he asked turning his eyes to a maximum twinkle.

"Quite correct, Headmaster. To be honest, I have no desire to cooperate with you in any matter, considering your malicious interview," he replied frostily.

"Ah, I see. You are upset about what I said in the Prophet. I assure you, my boy, Ms. Skeeter badly misquoted me," Dumbledore replied smoothly.

"Perhaps she did, but you volunteered for that interview, she didn’t eavesdrop on you. So if I seem less than willing to work with you this year, you’ll understand why," Harry replied.

Harry felt a tingle at the back of his head as his warning ward was breached. He slammed his primary Occlumency shields into place and quickly built a deflective shield, mentally thanking Miles, his tutor.

Dumbledore’s vision shifted as he tried to probe Harry’s mind.

He looked down a dimly lit hall with torches sputtering on the walls between portraits.   A darkened stairway could be seen in the distance.   A large group of students walked towards him and he felt his lips curl in a sneer.   Oh how he loathed the little brats!

Blinking rapidly, Dumbledore broke himself out of the strange vision. He looked at Harry and thought, just for a moment, that the young man had been smiling.

"Very well Harry, run along to your classes. I would like to see you after the evening meal, however. We still have much to discuss," Dumbledore said, still confused by what he had seen. What did it mean? He wondered as he watched Harry walk away.

From one end of the Slytherin table, Draco Malfoy watched Harry as well.

Breakfast at Grimmauld Place…

Remus, Tonks and the Grangers were enjoying an early breakfast. Dan and Emma had just finished talking about putting their stuff in storage and their home on the market so they could stay at Grimmauld without worrying about their home, when Hedwig flew into the kitchen and landed near Remus.

A little puzzled, Remus removed the note from her leg, while Tonks fed her choice bits of bacon.

"Gone one day and already he’s writing you, Remus. Now if only we could teach Hermione to do that," said Dan with a laugh. Emma smiled, and then poked him in the ribs for making fun of their daughter.

"It’s not from Harry, it’s from Hermione," Remus said as he quickly read the note.

"Hermione? She wrote a note to you? What’s wrong?" asked a worried Emma.

"She asks me to get involved in a research project. It seems that this year’s sorting hat song may also involve a bit of prophecy in it. She’s concerned because she seems to think it refers to Harry, and all of us," he said, passing the note to Dan, who read it quickly.

"Interesting. It’s a bit far fetched, but I can see some similarities," Dan murmured thoughtfully.

Remus scribbled a quick note to Hermione and attached it to Hedwig’s leg. Nodding, the bird took another piece of bacon from Tonks before taking flight.

"True, it’s farfetched, but it’s not like I have a job to go to. I’ll start looking into this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about your daughter, it’s to respect her mind," he replied.

"She gets that from her mother," Emma said smugly.

Dan tried to glare at her, but couldn’t hold it as he started laughing.

Malfoy Manor…

Lucius Malfoy bowed low before Voldemort before standing again.

"What news do you bring, Lucius?" asked Voldemort in a low monotone.

"One of our spies in Hogwarts has confirmed several items, my Lord. They have confirmed that my son is attending classes. There are also signs that Harry Potter and one of his friends, a Ronald Weasley, are fighting.   The boy is isolating himself from those around him."

"Is that all, Lucius?"

"No, my Lord. According to newspaper reports, there is a distinct possibility that Severus Snape may be working for Dumbledore as a spy."

Voldemort pounded a fist on the side of his chair. "A spy? Summon Snape and Prepare some Veritaserum!"

Lucius bowed low. "It shall be as you command, my Lord."

Defense Against the Dark Arts Class…

Hermione and Harry filed into the classroom a few minutes early, taking seats right next to each other. Something about the room disturbed Harry.

A moment later Theodore Nott came in, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. Nott scowled at Hermione as he passed her, and sat down not far from Harry and Hermione. Nott pulled out a small bottle, which he passed to Goyle.

Goyle looked around carefully, students were still filing into the classroom, but there was no sign of the new Professor. Taking aim, he threw the bottle hard at the back of Hermione’s head. It was a good shot and it would have hit her, but Harry had spotted Goyle’s movement out of the corner of his eye.

Relying on his seeker reflexes, he snapped the bottle out of the air before it could hit her. Holding it in one hand, he spun out of his seat and faced the three Slytherin’s.

Hermione looked around, startled, as the three of them bounced from their chairs and fumbled for their wands. Nott looked up when he felt a vise like grip grab and twist his wrist cruelly. Harry had moved so quickly that no one had seen him. One moment he was in his chair, the next, he was standing in front of Nott.

"I’m warning you, Nott, I’m not going to put up with any of you Slytherin’s this year, baby Death Nibbler’s or not. If a group of student’s can take on Voldemort’s boot lickers, including your father, and survive, you pose no threat.   Pass the word, before you find your House decimated," Harry hissed. He released his grip on Nott’s wrist and the student staggered back.

Nott glared at him from the floor and finally managed to pull his wand. "You’ll get yours Potter… The Dark Lord will see to that… Look at you, afraid to even draw your wand!" Nott spat.

"If you want to draw your wand in the presence of a Professor and threaten another student, that’s your problem Nott. But then, Voldemort doesn’t exactly recruit intelligent lackeys, does he?" Harry replied nonchalantly as he turned away and walked towards his desk.

With his back turned, Nott figured his chances and snarled at his housemates, "Get him!"

Crabbe and Goyle both raised their wands, and then froze. Harry rolled hard to one side and came up in a crouch, his wand out and aiming at empty space. Hermione had rolled out of her seat and was aiming at Nott.

There was a swish of cloth as an invisibility cloak fell to the floor, revealing the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor.

She was a tall woman with black hair, just starting to streak with gray. Her olive complexion glowed in the light of the classroom, and her intense, violet colored eyes took in the scene before her with great interest. No one would ever accuse her of being a great beauty, but her appearance was striking and her movements so graceful that she reminded Harry of some of the Aurors he had known.

"Bravo, Mr. Potter. Not only did you refrain from pulling your wand until necessary, but when you finally did, you correctly aimed it at the greatest threat. Now, may I see the bottle that Mr. Goyle hurled at Miss Granger?"

Harry stood and flexed his wrist slightly, retracting his wand. The Professor’s eyes widened slightly and she nodded in approval. Harry handed her the bottle.

Holding the bottle up and checking the color of the contents, she nodded.   Removing the cork, she sniffed it carefully, before replacing it and walking towards the three Slytherin’s.

She removed their wands before releasing them from stasis. "You three, fifty points from Slytherin… each. And a month’s detention with Mr. Filch, I think. Now, I expect you to go straight to the Headmaster’s office and tell him I’ve dismissed you from class for the rest of the year for attempting to cause severe injury to another student. This is NEWT level Defense and I will not have this foolishness in my class.   Your Head of House may allow it, but I will not."

Crabbe, Goyle and Nott blinked at her in surprise. One hundred and fifty points down in their first class and an automatic failure? No one did that to a Slytherin!

"MOVE IT," barked the Professor. She watched them run from the room, then she turned and picked up her invisibility cloak and walked to front of the classroom.

"Very well then, I am Professor Romany Blackthorne and this is your NEWT level Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Let me make a few things clear. This class will concentrate on more practical aspects of Defensive magic than theory.

"I will be giving out homework, but the theoretical aspects will constitute a lower portion of your grade than the practical. From what I can see, except for your third year, your previous defense teachers have been all seriously lacking. That’s going to change! We’re at war, and you people are going to learn how to defend yourselves.

"Now that I have your attention, we’re going to start with the basics. Mr. Potter, you knew I was under an invisibility cloak. How?"

"Um… Well, Professor, there were a couple of indicators. First, you made some noise as you moved to cover the three Slytherin students. Second, as you passed by one of the wall torches, you cast a shadow for a brief moment…"

"Excellent, Mr. Potter. Take ten points for Gryffindor. Now, concealment…"

Harry leaned back in relief as Professor Blackthorne continued her lecture. He was glad she had accepted his answer. The real answer, he felt, would have been harder for her to accept. Harry had sensed her presence there as plain as day. Her aura was quite noticeable.

Harry centered himself and reached out with his magical senses. Blackthorne paced in front of the class as she explained some of the basic methods of concealment. She paused for a moment and frowned, as if she felt something, before continuing on with her lecture. Harry quickly pulled back. He had touched the edge of a ward he had never heard about before. He wasn’t sure if he had triggered it, but it was coming from the Professor.

At the end of the class, Harry and Hermione were both surprised to hear Professor Blackthorne call their names. "Mr. Potter and Miss Granger, please stay after class," she called.

They both nodded and started to pack their bags. Since Defense had been double period, their next stop would have been to the Great Hall for a long lunch before going on to Charms and Ancient Runes in the afternoon. When Harry stood, he felt someone bump into him.

He was startled when he saw it was Draco Malfoy, and even more startled when he felt a hand slip something into his pocket. He looked into Draco’s eyes and saw something he never thought to see in those gray eyes. A plea.

Harry watched Draco pass him and leave the class room. Once the room was emptied, Professor Blackthorne waved her wand, closing the door and locking it. She then cast several privacy and masking charms before turning her attention to the two students.

Harry and Hermione glanced at each other, puzzled, before facing the smiling Professor.

"I must say Harry, Amelia told me you were good, but I had no idea you were that good," she said, chuckling.

Harry eyed her suspiciously. Hermione opened her mouth to ask a question, but he stopped her by placing a hand on her arm.

Sitting on the edge of her desk, Professor Blackthorne watched the two students. Hermione looked as if she wanted to trust her, but Harry was clearly suspicious.

Romany sighed. "I guess I owe five galleons to Tonks. She said you wouldn’t trust me without hearing from someone who’d been to Padfoot Manor. Miles, by the way, sends his very best to you both. He told me that he wished he had picked up Occulumency as well as you two did."

Harry breathed a sigh of relief. "You’re with the MLE?" he asked.

"No, Harry. Actually, I’m on loan from another department at the Ministry. For now, I’m here to help you two if need be. Amelia felt you would be more comfortable if someone was close by. And please, while we’re alone, call me Romany. I’m not comfortable with the title of Professor."

Harry nodded. "That’s good, because I’ve already got a problem."

Hermione looked up at Harry. "What do you mean?"

"Draco Malfoy slipped something into my right robe pocket. I don’t know what it is, but I’d hate to find out the hard way it’s a portkey ticket to Voldemort. I can feel the magic on it," Harry explained with a worried frown.

The atmosphere in the room became tense. Hermione bit her lip as she stared at Harry’s pocket.   Romany frowned and stood up.

"Hermione, grab the bottom right hem of his robe and hold it taut," the new Defense Professor ordered sharply.

Hermione quickly moved closer to Harry’s side and pulled hard on the bottom of his robe. Romany felt carefully around the pocket. Feeling the object within, she cast a minor animation spell on it, causing the parchment inside to crawl out. Once it was out of his pocket, Hermione flipped the robe and the note fluttered to the floor.

When it hit the floor, Harry cast a number of detection Charms on the note, noting that Romany did the same.   Detecting nothing, and receiving a nod from the Professor, he relaxed.

"It has some sort of concealment charm on it, but that’s it," Harry said for Hermione’s benefit.

Scooping down, he picked up the note and unfolded it.

I need to talk to you. Lucius hunts my mother and me. I have no place to hide and no one else to turn to.
Draco Malfoy.

Harry passed the note to Hermione, who read it before passing it to Romany.

"I’ll get word to the Ministry to check into the whereabouts of Narcissa Malfoy," Romany said, frowning at the parchment. "In the meantime, you two should get going. Staying in here too long would look suspicious. Just remember, you can come to me for help."

Nodding, the two students picked up their bags and left the room.

As they walked to the Great Hall Hermione had to ask, "What are you going to do about Malfoy?"

"What can I do, Hermione? If his mother’s in trouble, I have to help him. She’s family, of a sort. She’s a Black, after all, and I’m the Head of that family. Besides, I’d like to think that if my mum was in trouble, people would help her," he replied softly.

She smiled in understanding.

Headmaster’s Office, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry…

Harry sighed and looked at his now empty dinner plate. Thanks to the potion slipped to Millicent, Ron hadn’t been around to bother them all day. But now, Hermione would return to the common room alone, while he had to go to the Headmaster’s office.

After class, Harry had changed out of his robes. He now wore the casual robes of the Head of the Potter family. He’d also put his earring back in, and Hermione had insisted that he tie off his hair into a ponytail. It was all for dramatic effect he supposed, but it was needed. If he was going to meet with the Headmaster, he was going to do it on his own terms.

He smiled at Hermione and she squeezed his hand in support before he left the Great Hall. Arriving at the Headmaster’s office, he cursed when he realized that no one had given him the password. He extended his magical senses and saw two people in the office above. Concentrating on the Gargoyle, he could see the weaves of magic surrounding it. With a deft twist he shifted the spell slightly and the Gargoyle sprang into action, causing the stairway to rise.

Stepping onto the stairway, he reinforced his mental shields and set up several traps for anyone interested in a little unauthorized peeking. He smiled when the stairway reached the platform in front of the office door.   Stepping off the stairs, he knocked.

"Enter," came a voice from within.

Stepping in, Dumbledore waved him to a comfortable chair in front of the desk. Snape stood, leaning against one wall, looking at him with an expression of disgust.

Dumbledore noted Harry’s robe and, in particular, the tattoo and earring, and couldn’t quite hide his surprise.   He found the tattoo and earring disturbing, and wondered why he hadn’t noticed them before.

"Ah, Harry. It was nice of you to arrive so promptly. Might I offer you a lemon drop?" asked Dumbledore benignly.

"No, thank you, Headmaster," Harry replied politely.

"I’d like to ask you where you were this past summer, Harry. Disappearing from Privet Drive left you unprotected from attacks by Voldemort. Your relatives…"

"My relatives are little more than common criminals, Headmaster, now serving extensive prison sentences. Had I stayed with them, there is every chance I would have ended up lost in the muggle child welfare system. As to my whereabouts this past summer, they really are no concern of yours. What I do and where I go during my holidays is no business of yours," Harry interrupted in a cool tone.

"Harry, your disappearance put a significant number of the Order members at risk while they searched for you," countered Dumbledore, while trying to remain calm.

"I didn’t ask them to search, Headmaster. I was perfectly safe. If they wish to risk themselves, it’s no concern of mine. As a legal adult, I’m free to come and go as I please. I answer to no one," Harry said calmly.

Dumbledore frowned at the boy’s uncooperative behavior. "Harry, It’s vital to our efforts that we protect you. Voldemort still considers you his prime target," Dumbledore said, trying a different tack.

"I was quite safe over the summer, but since you appear to be stuck in a rut, I’ll remind you that your own vaulted bird club couldn’t find me. What makes you think Voldemort could? When the time comes, I will deal with Riddle without your help," Harry replied, dismissing Dumbledore’s comments as if they were meaningless.

Dumbledore blinked in surprise and decided to try a more direct approach. "Tell me Harry, what do you know about the Brotherhood of Druidic Knights?"

Harry smiled sweetly at the frustrated old man. He repositioned himself on the chair so his tattoo was clearly visible, as was his Celtic cross earring. "The Brotherhood of Druidic Knights, Sir? I’ve never heard of them," Harry said truthfully.  

"Tell me about those cloaked people you were with on the platform."

"I’m sorry, but I fail to see how any friends I have outside of Hogwarts could possibly be any concern of yours. I would remind you that your authority ends at the walls of this school."

"Harry, these ‘friends’ of yours could be leading you astray."

"Leading me astray, Sir? Oh, I see. Yes, you would think that being taught to stand on one’s own feet and demanding one’s rights would constitute being led astray, wouldn’t you?" Harry asked with disdain.

Dumbledore sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose before looking at the hostile youth again. "Harry, you must trust me. I have only your best interests at heart. We want to protect you and see that nothing happens to you. The war with Voldemort has begun and you are still woefully ill prepared.

"Trust you, Headmaster?" Harry asked, cocking his head. "Like my parent’s trusted you with their infant son, who you left on the doorstep of a sadistic man like Vernon Dursley?   What was it you said last year?   Oh yes, ‘I knew I was condemning you to ten dark and difficult years.’   Did you think I would thank you for that?

"Protect me, you say?   Then why was the Sorcerer’s stone so poorly guarded that three first year students were able to find it?   Why did I have to face Voldemort at the age of eleven?   Where was your ‘protection’ then?" Harry asked, sneering.

"Harry, you don’t understand…"

"Oh, I’m not finished yet, Sir. In my second year, I had to face Voldemort again, or at least his boyhood memory, and face Slytherin’s little pet.   Ginny Weasley nearly lost her life and, had it not been for Fawkes, who I see has left your company, I would have lost mine. In a school full of adult wizards, why was the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets never found? I understand that no one on the staff could have opened it, but I find it hard to believe that, with all your vaulted knowledge, you didn’t even know where it was."

"I don’t know why you’re insisting on bringing up the past," Dumbledore said harshly. "It can’t be changed…"

"In my fourth year," Harry continued, ignoring the Headmaster’s comment for the moment, "my name was added to the Goblet of Fire, and you let it stand."

"I couldn’t have changed it, Harry.   You know…"

"What I know," Harry interrupted, "is that you could have called the competition a draw, thereby nullifying the list of participants.   Once done, the submission of names could have been repeated.   Oh yes," Harry said with a fierce grin as he noted Dumbledore’s surprised expression, "I did a little research into the Tournament’s history and found the loophole you insisted didn’t exist.   Why was I forced to confront Voldemort a third time, insuring that the Dark Lord became embodied once more? Had you called the Tournament a draw, Cedric Diggory would still be alive.

"Which brings us to last year. Your insistence that Snape teach me Occlumency caused my Godfather’s death by leaving me more open to Voldemort’s mind than I was before he started his so called lessons.   The man can’t teach potions to save his life…"

"How dare you, Potter," interrupted Snape angrily.

"…and that’s a simple subject that requires following directions in a book." Harry continued, ignoring his potion’s Professor. "He does his best to ridicule and harass anyone not in his house, while allowing his little bunch of snakes and Death Nibbler wannabe’s to harm and sabotage the other student’s efforts.

"And that brings up another point about your precious spy. If he’s so talented at both Occlumency and Legilimency, why was a poly-juiced Death Eater able to impersonate an Order member and allowed free run of this school for a full year?   Why was it that I had to discover that he wasn’t who and what he said he was?

"Oh no, Headmaster, I’m not asking to change the past, I’m learning from it.   Your brand of protection has killed one student, severely harmed or injured others, and put this school and everyone attending it in jeopardy. It’s caused the death of my Godfather and forced me to live with a family that took pleasure in beating and starving me.

"If you can answer all of my questions to my satisfaction, then I might, just might, think about answering yours."

"I own you nothing, Harry," Dumbledore said coldly.   "My actions were only ever for your own good." At Harry’s snort of disbelief, he stood angrily and leaned over his desk. "I need explain nothing to you," he thundered, losing his composure. "My protection has kept you out of far greater danger than any you’ve experienced.   I will put up with no more rule breaking or resistance from you, boy!   You will re-start your lessons with Professor Snape as soon as possible…"

"Him? He couldn’t teach a newborn babe to dirty his nappies," Harry said scornfully. "No sir, I have mastered Occlumency on my own this summer and will not accept any extra class work from either of you."

Harry repressed the urge to grin as he felt the breaching of one of his wards and the tenuous mental tendril coming from Snape. With a covert surge, one of his traps triggered, inserting a dream loop back into Snape’s mind.

I hope you like dreamless sleep potions, you bastard, Harry thought.

Turning to Snape, Harry smiled broadly. "You know, Professor, legally I could have you arrested for what you’re doing. I’d suggest you stop now, unless you really want to go to Azkaban."

Snape glared and hissed, "Let me in, Potter!"

"Why would I want to do that? Trying to make me more vulnerable to your real master again?   Tell me, do you enjoy groveling before Voldemort?   Do you like licking his boots?   No?   Oh well, perhaps you should go practice your Legilimency. Your technique is quite sloppy, you know."

As Snape stalked towards Harry, Dumbledore held up his hand, stopping him.

"Enough, Severus," the Headmaster said tiredly. Raising an eyebrow in question, he frowned when Snape shook his head and scowled.   The Legilimency attempt hadn’t been successful.

Harry turned to face Dumbledore once more. "As you can see, your trusted spy can’t breach my shields, so you’ll understand when I tell you that I will not attend any extra ‘lessons’ with him. Should you attempt to force the issue, I will inform the Board of Governors that you are giving me preferential treatment over the other students."

Dumbledore’s fists clenched in anger.   Taking several deep, calming breaths, he controlled himself with effort.   Staring at the belligerent boy before him, he wondered what had taken place during the summer to cause such distrust from a child who’d always looked up to and loved him like a respected grandfather. With a sigh, he tried again.

"Harry, I’m afraid I must insist that you remain on the school grounds this year. It’s the only way we can adequately protect you," said Dumbledore in a gentle tone.

"Insist all you want, Headmaster. However, as I am considered an adult now, you don’t have any authority over me outside this school."

"Harry, please try to understand…" Dumbledore began.

This is getting old, thought Harry. Time to put an end to this interview.

"Enough! I’ve tried being polite, but that doesn’t seem to be working, so let’s skip the tact and diplomacy. Last year, you broke faith with me. I don’t trust you, I don’t trust the Order, and I certainly don’t trust the greasy git trying to glare a hole in my back! I don’t want your help in any way, except for the matter of providing me with a standard education, as mandated by law. As Headmaster of this school, I will bow to your authority within these walls and only if it pertains strictly to the classes I am already taking. What I do in my own free time and outside of these walls is my business and you will stay out of it!

"Now, if you will excuse me," Harry said, standing, "I still have homework to do. Goodnight Headmaster, Professor."

As Harry exited the office, Dumbledore frowned in confusion. Harry had parried every question he had been asked, and Albus wasn’t sure how it had happened. Turning to Snape, he arched an eyebrow questioningly.

Snape stood silent for a moment, rubbing his temples. "Albus, the arrogant prig had shields the likes of which I’ve never seen before. Not only couldn’t I get in, I wasn’t even sure the spell was working! And now I have this blinding headache," he snarled.

"The newspaper article about you puts you in a difficult position, Severus. I won’t impose my wishes on you, but I think that you would be safe, for now, if you did not leave the castle, even if Voldemort summons you."

Snape nodded tiredly at the old man.

Dumbledore sighed in resignation. "Very well, go get yourself a pain relief potion and some sleep. I will think on this tonight and see what we can do to convince Harry to be more cooperative."

The Gryffindor Common Room…

Harry wasn’t surprised to see Millicent standing by the entrance portrait to the common room, but he wasn’t in the mood to wait for her to go away. Giving the password, the door swung open and Millicent bolted into the passageway.

"RONALD!" She bellowed as she barreled into the common room.

Ron, standing near Hermione Ginny and Neville, looked up, startled. Seeing the Slytherin running towards him, he dodged around the couch. They circled the room a few times, weaving between furniture and people before Ron dashed for the exit, Millicent close on his heels.

Spotting Harry, Ginny made room so he could sit next to Hermione. He smiled gratefully at her, and then collapsed on the couch, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He tried to relax and beat back the anger he’d been suppressing for the past hour.

Exhausted, he opened an eye he looked at his silent friends. They all looked angry.

"Alright, what’s wrong here?" Harry asked with a sigh.

"Ron and the others have been trying to grill us about where you were this summer," Ginny answered him quietly. He glanced at Hermione and she nodded, still upset.

He rubbed a tired hand over his face. "Look guys, I’m sorry. If I’d known it would be this hard on you, I would have tried harder to convince you to stay away from me."

Hermione could see how tired he was, and hugged him, trying to offer her support. He wrapped both arms around her, holding her tightly. "I’m sorry," he whispered.

"This isn’t your fault, Harry. It’s these prats," she said, waving a hand towards the students watching them, "who’ve decided to believe Ron and Dumbledore’s interview, despite the Ministry clearing you."

Ginny looked hesitant, but finally cleared her throat and asked what Dumbledore wanted with him.

"He wanted to know where I was this summer. He made some threats, I countered them by reminding him I was a legal adult and therefore not entirely under his control. He tried to make me agree to his idea of protection, Snape tried to break into my mind, you know, the usual stuff," he said with a sardonic grin. "That reminds me. Hermione? There’s something I’d like you to think about."

"What’s that?"

"An Occlumency study group. I think we both want to tell our friends what’s going on, but we can’t without putting them at risk," he replied.

Hermione sat back thinking, while Harry, without really thinking about it, cast a privacy spell around them all, pulled out his tin whistle and started to play. He’d discovered that playing relaxing him and had begun to carry the tin whistle everywhere he went,

Hermione grinned at Ginny and Neville as they stared at Harry in astonishment. In all the years they’d known him, they’d never suspected that he had any sort of musical ability. Neville was about to say something when Ginny hushed him with a look.

Harry’s music moved from a fast paced tune to a slow Irish ballad. His eyes were closed and his face serene as the music lulled him and the others. Hermione snuggled closer to Harry, as the sweet tones of his music filled the privacy sphere.

Neville and Ginny enjoyed the sweet sound of the tin whistle so much, neither noticed they were holding hands.

Potions with Snape…

The next morning at breakfast Harry finally broached a topic he had been dreading to bring up with Hermione. "I was sort of wondering… do you think maybe I should just drop potions?" he asked, while buttering some toast.

Hermione froze for a moment and her eyes turned hard. Ginny and Neville glanced at each other and leaned away from Mount Hermione as she erupted.

She turned to Harry slowly and he quailed under her unwavering gaze. "You. Are. Not. Dropping. Potions," she said slowly.

OOPS! Harry thought. This was a really bad idea. All right, let’s see if I can fix this.

"Well, I was sort of wondering, you know, I could just read a few books and take the test. Sort of self study?" He said hopefully.

WRONG THING TO SAY! His mind screamed at him. Mount Hermione was close to releasing a full scale pryoclastic cloud.

He sighed under her hard gaze. "Alright, I won’t drop it. I just thought it would be a good way to avoid Snape."

Her eyes softened a little, but they remained narrowed and fixed firmly on him. He looked down at his hands, and for some reason, Hermione thought he looked like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Laughing, she offered him a hand as she stood. They had double Potions first today. Sighing he took her hand and followed her off to class.

Slipping into the classroom, Harry took a seat next to Hermione’s so he could be her partner and looked around the room. There weren’t many in NEWT potions, so few, in fact, that they had combined all of the previous potion classes into one class of just eight students.

Harry whispered a quick warning to Hermione to keep her mental shields up in class. She nodded and went about pulling out her book and parchment

The door slammed open and Snape stormed into the room. "This is sixth year NEWT potions, which means that you all obtained an outstanding on your OWL tests. How some of you managed such a score without resorting to cheating is beyond me," Snape said, glaring at Harry.

Harry returned his glare with a look of cool indifference.

"First thing we’re going to do is prevent certain persons from cheating any longer. Potter! Swap places with Zabini."

Harry gathered up his books and smiled weakly at Hermione, before taking Zabini’s position as lab partner to Draco Malfoy. Inwardly, Harry smiled. The change in seats could actually work to his advantage. Nodding coolly to Malfoy, he turned his attention back to Snape.

"Today we will begin a very difficult potion. A single mistake will result in an…unpleasant reaction. Since you will all be testing your own potions on yourselves, I suggest you pay attention," he sneered.

"On the board you will find directions for brewing the Draught of Knowledge. This particular potion will enable you to enhance your mental abilities for a 24-hour period. Under the potion’s influence, anything you learn will be retained perfectly. This potion is highly addictive, meaning it can only be used infrequently.

"Now copy the brewing instructions and begin." With a flick of his wand, the board flipped over and the instructions appeared.

Harry turned to Draco and said quietly, "If you trust me, I’ll copy the instructions for us both while you get the ingredients."

With a slightly puzzled look, Draco nodded and walked off towards the ingredient cabinet.

When he returned to his cauldron, he was surprised to find a parchment, containing the potion’s instructions, on his desk. While Harry was busy preparing the basic ingredients, he quickly scanned the directions. At the bottom of the parchment was an extra line that caused his eyes to widen.

I read your note. Meet me by the statue of Samantha the Siren in the courtyard tonight at seven pm to talk. Come alone. HP

Draco glanced around nervously for a moment before looking down at the parchment again. Harry’s note had vanished from sight. Bending over to work on the potion, he managed to catch Harry’s eye long enough to nod at him.

The rest of the class continued without any problems and, surprisingly, Harry didn’t lose a single point for Gryffindor.

Hogwarts Infirmary…

Madam Pomfrey was busy at her desk when she heard a knock on her open door. Looking up, she smiled at her friend, Minerva McGonagall.

"Minerva, come in. Would you like some tea? I was about to have some for myself."

"Thank you Poppy, some tea would be nice. I stopped by to see if you had finished those requisition forms?"

"I’m finishing them now. If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll have them all for you. Honestly, sometimes I think this job is more paperwork than anything else," she exclaimed.

Minerva chuckled. "Tell me about it. At least your beds are empty right now."

"Oh, well, that’s because we’re only two days into the new term, Minnie. All I see this early in the term are cases of homesickness and the occasional sniffle. Wait ‘til Quidditch season starts. The beds will fill up then. I’m sure your lions will be among them, particularly Mr. Potter."

Minerva smiled. Harry had spent more than his fair share of time in the infirmary during his years at school.

"Speaking of Mr. Potter, did you see him yesterday? I barely recognized the lad, Minnie. He’s shot up to nearly six foot, if he’s grown an inch, and added an incredible amount of upper body mass. His face may be his father’s, but James never looked like that. He’s going to have every girl in the school chasing him this year."

"Yes… well, I hope you won’t see much of him this year, Poppy. The Headmaster has refused to lift his Quidditch ban, so he won’t be playing."

Poppy frowned. "Just what’s going on between the Headmaster and Harry? I know it’s none of my business, but I nearly died when I read that interview."

Minerva looked thoughtful for a moment, and then she cast a privacy charm, causing the Medi-Witch to raise her eyebrows in question.

"Poppy, I can honestly say that I do not understand what Albus is doing. He’s deliberately set himself on a path that will lead to a confrontation between himself and Mr. Potter. I hate to say this, but he’s set most of my own house against the lad. I’m quite afraid for all of them at this point. It’s not going to be a pleasant year."

Poppy snorted. "Young Harry hasn’t had a pleasant year since attending Hogwarts. In fact, each year has gotten worse. I will say this much though, should he end up under my care, my healer’s oath is more important than my loyalty to the school."

Minerva leaned back and sighed in relief. She and Poppy had been friends for years, and their friendship had reached the point where things could be left unsaid and still be understood. Smiling gratefully at Poppy, she turned the discussion to the new batch of first years, her true reason for the meeting accomplished.

Hogwarts Courtyard, not far from Samantha the Siren…

Harry sat on a nearby bench playing his tin whistle. Being outside, he didn’t put up a privacy charm. One of the nice things about his music was that it allowed him to think while playing. The lighthearted tune he was currently playing left his mind free to work on detecting nearby magic. He smiled inwardly as he detected a few nearby sources of magic. The one he was most interested in was still approaching.

He had added one particular item to his wardrobe for this evening, one he didn’t know if he’d need or if Malfoy would recognize. Harry stopped playing as a figure approached.

"Potter," Draco said by way of greeting


Draco sat on the bench as far away from Harry as he could. He rubbed his cheek absently, unsure where to start or even if the meeting was a good idea.

Harry sensed the hesitation in Draco and decided to cut to the chase. "Tell me what’s going on, Malfoy. What’s wrong with your mum?"

Draco looked startled. His note hadn’t said anything about his mother, except that they were both being hunted.

When he didn’t respond, Harry prodded him again. "I can’t help you if I don’t know what is going on…"

Draco sighed and nodded. "It started a long time ago, Potter. My father was never a gentle man, neither to my mother, or myself. It got worse as I got older. When I came home from Hogwarts for my first holiday, I found he’d taken to drugging and beating my mother. I think she had threatened to leave him and he took steps to prevent it.

"As the years progressed, he seemed to think I would join him as a Death Eater, and his treatment of my mother became more cruel. Sometimes he’d cast the Cruciatus curse on her, and he really enjoyed parading his doxies in front of her, taunting her. Of course, being controlled by potions and the Imperious curse, she never said a word.

"When he went to Azkaban, one of his fellow Death Eaters told us that the Dark Lord would be moving into our manor house, and it was expected that I would take my father’s place. When the man left, I took my mother and fled. I’ve heard that the Dark Lord has ordered Lucius to kill my mother and bring me back to take the Dark Mark.   If I don’t, I’ll be killed.

"We Malfoy’s have spent years buying influence, Potter. I’ve since discovered that, when you’re on the run with little money, your friends vanish. My mother needs help. I don’t have enough money to pay for the healing she needs. All I can do is keep buying her the addictive potions.

"I went to Dumbledore at the end of last term, looking for help. He said he’d help get my mother out and healed, if I’d agree to take the Dark Mark and become a spy for him. I don’t want to be another Snape," he said vehemently.

Harry sat silently for a moment. "You and I have never been friends, Malfoy," Harry said quietly.   "Why ask for my help?"

Draco looked at him then laughed weakly. "Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t like you and may never like you. I don’t like those half breeds and mudbloods you hang around with either. But I do know one thing. You are the only person I am aware of who’s actively working against the Dark Lord. I thought maybe…" he trailed off, not really knowing what else he could say.

"Are you willing to trust me enough to tell me where you’ve hidden your mother?"

Draco took a deep breath and nodded.   He’d thought about this for days, and knew he’d have to give Harry the information and trust that he would help his mother. He placed a slip of parchment on the bench between them and waited.

Harry performed a quick scan of the parchment and, finding no magic surrounding it, he picked it up and placed it in his pocket.

"Malfoy, I’m going to have this checked out. If what you’ve said is true, I’ll see that your mother is taken to a place of safety and the best healers looking after her. I’ll give her refuge and offer the same thing to you, but under two conditions. If this checks out, she should be safe in a few days."

"What conditions?" Draco asked, annoyed and a bit nervous.

"Simple really, Malfoy. You once offered me a handshake once and I refused. Today, I suggest that we start over with a new handshake. The second condition will be harder for you, but I ask you to try to learn that full bloods aren’t the best of the Wizarding world."

When Draco’s expression hardened and he opened his mouth to comment, Harry cut him off.

"Your father’s a full blood, Malfoy.   If full bloods are so worthy, why are you and your mother fleeing from him? Why does your father bow and scrape to Voldemort, a known half blood? Nott, Crabbe and Goyle are all full bloods, yet they look at you as though you’re trash.   Are they right, then?" Harry asked sharply.

Draco blew out a frustrated breath, unable to counter Harry’s claims.   His shoulders slumped and he conceded the point.

"It’s a big world out there, Malfoy and everyone, full blood, half blood, muggle born and muggle alike have to live in it. Besides, I can’t have you romping around my sanctuary, insulting my girlfriend, can I?"

Draco swayed with relief.   He thought about Harry’s conditions and, though he knew it would be hard, he also knew he’d do his best to abide by them. He’d do anything he had to, if it kept his mother safe. Finally, he extended his hand to Harry.

"Hello, I’m Draco Malfoy."

Harry reached out and grabbed his hand. "Harry Potter, or just Harry to my friends."

Draco smiled weakly as he stood up. Then his eyes narrowed and he looked at Harry again.

"Harry," he said in a snooty tone, "I do not romp."

Harry blinked at him in surprise and started to laugh. Draco looked sheepish for a moment before, he too, started to laugh.

As the laughter ebbed away, Draco looked at Harry curiously. "Can I ask why you’re doing this?"

"It’s simple really, Draco. You’re family."

Draco’s jaw dropped open. "B-B-But I’m sure there’s no relation between the Potter and Malfoy lines."

Harry held up his right hand, revealing the signet ring bearing the Black Family crest. Draco paled.

"Yes Draco, by a strange quirk of fate, I’m now the Head of the Black family. I don’t have much experience with family life, but it has to be different than what Dumbledore made me endure. As such, I intend to protect my family, and that includes you and your mum," Harry said fervently. "Don’t worry. Your mum will be well taken care of and you’ll see her again over the holiday. Hopefully, she’ll be much better then."

Draco nodded absently, his mind whirling with conflicting thoughts and emotions.

"One other thing, Draco. A group of us will be getting together to study Occlumency. I’d like you to join. Once you’ve mastered it, you’ll be better able to deal with what’s going on. You don’t have too, but I’d like it if you were there."

"I’ll think about it Harry, but you know Slytherins and Gryffindor’s don’t mix."

"I suspect we’re both outcasts in our own Houses now, Draco. I know I am at any rate. It hasn’t come to open war yet, but I suspect it will, eventually."

Draco looked down and scuffed a foot in the grass. "It will come, Harry," he said quietly. "It has to. I don’t know who it is, but I know the Dark Lord has at least one servant in your House."

Harry looked up sharply at him, then nodded in thanks. Strangely enough, Harry wasn’t as shocked by the idea as he thought he might be. Wormtail’s defection and betrayal of his parents had set the stage for all Gryffindors to be at risk.

"Thank you for the warning. I’ll let you know when your mum’s safe."

"Thanks, Harry. G’night."

"‘Night, Draco."

Harry leaned back on the bench and considered everything Draco had told him as he watched the pale young man walk away.

As the quiet night descended around him, he smiled slightly and said, "Alright Hermione, Romany, you can both come out from under the cloaks now."

He heard the distinctive swish of two invisibility cloaks being removed and chuckled lightly.

Hermione draped the cloak over her arm and sat down next to Harry, while Romany simply walked over to stare at him.

"I know you didn’t hear me or see my shadow that time, Mr. Potter. You saw my aura, didn’t you?" she asked softly. Romany didn’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed.

Harry wrapped an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. "Professor, you know as well as I that hiding one’s abilities is a good defensive measure," he said with a cheeky grin. "All amusements aside however, I’ve kept a lot of my abilities hidden from all but a select few, even Amelia. I haven’t hidden them because they are dark, Romany. I hide them to protect myself and my friends."

"An excellent point, Harry.   However, since we’re on the subject, is there anything else I should know about?" she asked curiously.

Hermione looked up at Harry and noted his frown as he debated with himself. "Harry, you have to tell her. As your Professor, she has to know in order to protect you and the other students," she said.

"I suppose you’re right," he said reluctantly. Turning towards Romany, he looked down with an embarrassed expression.   "Professor… I have a bit of a power problem. Have you read the reports the Aurors made to the Ministry over the summer about the fact that I wouldn’t duel with them, except defensively?"

Romany remembered reading the reports after being briefed on her assignment at Hogwarts. She’d thought it strange at the time and had puzzled over it to no avail. Nodding and motioning for him to continue, she waited for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.

He looked at her then and his eyes took a far away, lost look. "Every spell I cast is strong, too strong. In Diagon Alley, when I faced down those Death Eaters, my simple Reductor curse blew through their shields. It didn’t just blow the arm off the shoulder of that one Death Eater, it blew it, and the wand it held, apart. You need to know this because, if you set me against a student in a class duel, I could accidentally kill someone."

"Have you tried controlling the amount of power you put into a spell?" Romany asked.

Harry blinked at her with a dumbfounded expression on his face. "Is that even possible? How come I’ve never heard of such a thing?"

"It’s pretty rare, Harry. In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s ever needed to learn it. But now I’m curious. Why do you have so much power all of a sudden? I’ve read your record and, while your Defense scores have always blown away the curve, there’s never been anything to suggest this kind of power," Romany said.

Hermione felt him tense up at the question. This was going to dredge up some issues he didn’t want to really talk about it.

"Do you want me to explain it to her?" she asked gently when he turned to look at her.

Running a hand through his hair he nodded. "Thanks, Hermione.   I think I’ll go play for a bit."

Hermione watched him walk to a bench about fifty feet away and pull out his tin whistle. Slowly, the pure strains of music wafted over the two of them.

"Touchy subject. I didn’t know I was going to upset him," Romany murmured apologetically.

Hermione looked at the older woman for a long moment. "It brings up some painful issues that he’s only just begun to come to grips with. But to answer your question, Harry, at the beginning of the summer, underwent his Matura. He was very ill for a long time and it nearly killed him."

"But that’s impossible! He should have undergone the Matura at ten, not at sixteen!" Romany protested.

"His home life before coming to Hogwarts was different from most… it’s probably why his Matura was so delayed… Oh bloody hell, there’s no polite way to say this. The muggles he lived with abused, starved and beat him. You read the interview Dumbledore gave. That much of it was true, at least. Harry’s life before Hogwarts was brutal at best. Anyway, he had a long, very delayed Matura, which explains his power jump."

"How powerful is he, Hermione?" asked Romany, watching the boy… no, young man, quietly playing the tin whistle.

"Honestly Romany, I don’t think anyone’s ever had the amount of power that Harry now possesses, and I think it terrifies him. How powerful is he? You’ll have to see for yourself. Just go slow with him, let him come to trust you and he’ll be more open with you. The one lesson you need to learn about him is, if you think it’s impossible, he’ll show you it can be done. He’s already done some things I was positive were impossible," she replied softly.

Romany sat down next to Hermione and watched Harry play his instrument while she thought. There had been a few hints here and there in his file, but nothing that stood out and said anything directly about his abilities. She’d read about his life with the muggles and reviewed the extensive medical records he’d amassed over the years he had spent with them. That level of abuse had to leave some kind of mark on a person. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask Amelia to consult with a mind healer from St. Mungos. Child abuse in the wizarding world wasn’t unheard of, but it was fairly rare due to the possibilities of accidental magic in retaliation.

Several minutes passed before Romany turned to the young witch sitting beside her. "I think it’s time to rejoin your young man, Hermione."

The two stood and walked over to sit on the bench with Harry. He stopped playing and shrunk the tin whistle before putting it in his pocket.

"Harry," began Romany, "I think I can help you with the power problem. That is, if you’re willing to trust me enough to let me help you."

Hermione squeezed arm gently. He looked at her and smiled, then turned to Romany and nodded.

"Romany can you get in touch with Tonks," Harry asked, pulling out the parchment Draco had given him earlier, "and ask her to check out this address?"

She took the parchment from him and nodded.   "That’s simple enough."

"Tell Tonks that if Narcissa is there and in the shape Malfoy says she is in, to get her to a healer, then to the London house." Harry paused and frowned. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tell the weasel that’s trying to get into my trunk that it’s bad for his health," Harry said, standing and walking off.

Romany scowled as she watched Harry’s retreating back.   "A Weasel?   In Hogwarts?   Hermione, what’s going on?"

Hermione stood suddenly, her eyes wide.   "Ron!" she exclaimed loudly and turned to run after Harry.

"Well, that explains everything," Romany said, throwing her arms up in frustration.   "I don’t get kids today," she muttered as she reached out and grabbed Hermione’s arm.

"Professor!" Hermione protested as she was jerked to a halt.

"Explain, Miss Granger.   Weasel?"

"Harry placed wards around his trunk to keep people out.   Ron Weasley must be trying to get into it," she said in a rush, trying to jerk her arm loose.

"There, was that so hard?   Well, go on then," Romany said, releasing the young woman and watched as she bolted for the castle.

"If this Weasel boy ends up in the infirmary because of those wards, Amelia will have my ass, sure as shit," she muttered to herself.   Rubbing her now aching head, she walked towards the castle, promising herself a nice stiff shot of whiskey and a pain-relieving potion.

Gryffindor Tower, Sixth Year Boy’s Dorm…

Harry had slipped away earlier and Ron had no idea where he’d went. He sat on his bed pondering what to do when it hit him. The Marauders Map! Sliding out of bed, he walked over to Harry’s trunk. When he reached out to open the trunk, he hit an impenetrable barrier some six inches shy of the top.

Ron growled in frustration and ran his hands over the barrier. Finding no breaks in it, he put all his weight behind one hand and tried to force his way through.

His hand seemed to slide, very slowly, through the barrier and Ron grinned in triumph.   His victory was short lived however as his hand became warm, then turn hot. Yelping, he pulled his hand away from the trunk and dashed to the bathroom to run it under cold water.

When he came out of the bathroom, he found Harry leaning against a wall, his arms crossed, staring at him. "That was your first warning, Weasley. Effective anti-theft charm, don’t you agree? Each time a person attempts it, the response gets more violent until they’re eventually knocked into a coma," Harry said, coldly.

"I want to know what you’re hiding in that trunk, Potter!" snapped Ron. "It’s probably some dark art object you’re using to control ‘Mione!"

"Oh come off it, Weasley. She’s made her choice. She’s her own person and has the right to choose. If you have a problem with that, then I pity the girl stupid enough to go out with you," Harry replied with disdain.

Watching as Ron’s face turned purple with rage, Harry shook his head and left the dorm room.

Authors Notes:

A couple points that should be made about people making suggestions. It’s not that we   mind the suggestions, but people tend to make them about potential stuff to come in the next chapter. As this chapter (5) is published, chapters 6, 7 and 8, are completed and in the editing process. So you see, there is always a minimum of three chapters written already. We have an outline which we are following as closely as possible.

This story is moving slowly, but that’s because this story is so AU there is a lot of back filling and characterization to do. So the time line moves slowly. In the end, that means more chapters for you, our greedy little readers. I don’t think you’ll complain about that.

The last known brotherhood member died out long before Merlin was born. I seriously doubt anyone will see the real brotherhood show up in this story. End of comments on the brotherhood.

YES WE HATE DRACO. That’s exactly why we chose to redeem him. Working with a character that you loathe in cannon and giving him a believable reason for turning good is a decent test for a writer. That’s why in this story we’ll redeem Draco and pair him with… a girl… read and you’ll see.

A quick comment about HBP which my wife has read, but I have not. From her description JKR has built a wonderful storyline, but one I find hard to swallow. If Harry were a real person that had undergone the abuse and hardship Harry had, a real life teen would have spent the summer trying to escape his past and totally alienated from most adults. Sorry JKR I don’t buy it.

Return Grimmauld Place to the Order?   Now why would Harry want to do that?

How do we turn out chapters so fast?   House elves, coffee, and very little sleep.

We did a lot with Blaise in our last two stories (DA and SC).   This time around, he’s a typical Slytherin and will stay mostly in the background.   We have enough characters begging to be heard without adding more!

Kinsfire: No need to apologize.   The A/N in the last chapter about ridiculing people’s ship choices wasn’t aimed at anyone in particular. It was just something that we felt needed to be said.

The comment in the last A/N about Snape being misunderstood was a joke.   He’s not misunderstood. He’s an angry, ugly, greasy git of a man!   And if that wasn’t clear enough: In Sunset over Britain, Snape is, for the most part, in canon (Listens to the cheers).   As my husband continually tells me, Snape is NOT Alan Rickman.   * Sigh *

Wytil: We laughed when we read your review. This chapter had already been written at that point, so we found it amusing that you wanted us to send Ron’s potion to Cho or Millicent.   We hope you enjoy it…Ron certainly won’t!

Thanks for the reviews, everyone.   We’ll have the next chapter up soon!

Bob and Alyx

Pet Peeves:

This chapter’s pet peeve is a simple one. Is it too much to ask people to use a spell checker? A few misspelled words out of thousands in a chapter isn’t bad. But I’ve seen some really bad spelling.

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