Harry decides to go proactive in his Sixth year, with help from a tutor and his friends. In thic chapter, Harry continues training, writes letters, and confesses his feelings to Hermione.
That night, Harry sat down thoughtfully at the small table he used as a desk. He picked up the copy quill Hermione had given him. Like a broomstick, its magic was self-contained. He could therefore use it without being cited.
I'm sorry I've been such a poor writer this summer. I guess I've been acting like a prat, but you know everything that happened last spring, or at least most of it. Dumbledore is sending back my firebolt, but I don't know if I can play. At least I'll be able to fly!
I'm being released from my relatives this Saturday. I'm not certain where I'll be sent, but I've been told it should be some place I can fly. Hedwig will have to deliver six letters, so she will not be able to wait around. I'll have to send her around again next week, unless Dumbledore allows other owls to find me.
Speaking of owls, as I told you I did well on my OWLs. I just realized I didn't send the actual results. I got the O in Defense and Creatures, E's in Potions, Charms, and Transfiguration, and A's in Astronomy, Herbology, and History. I did get the P in Divination, so no D's or T's. 8 OWLs, I'm shocked! Especially by the A's in Astronomy and especially History! I still don't know how that one happened, since I could swear I didn't finish one question. And I've been told there will be a special potions class for those of us interested in becoming aurors but who didn't get the O Snape demands for the NEWT classes.
I'm still trying to decide if I want to do Herbology, Creatures, History, Muggle Studies or perhaps Basic Medicine for my final courses. The medical course might be good, it just requires A OWLs in Herbology, Charms, and Potions. I enjoy working with Hagrid, but really that's the only reason to do Creatures. I do not like working with Binns (who does?), which is an excellent reason not to pursue that. Am I too far behind to do Muggle Studies? would that really help me if I do become an auror? I guess I'll have to write McGonagall, but your opinion is welcome.
I still miss Sirius every day, but I'm starting to accept that it wasn't all my fault he was killed. And I miss my friends; I'm sorry I cut you all off. I hope to hear from you next week. Maybe there'll be some chance we can get together in August?
Harry reread the letter, and decided to leave it as it was. He had apologized, let his friends know he wasn't continuing on his downward spiral, asked them for advice (he knew they all loved giving him advice, especially Hermione). And Hedwig was looking happy for the first time since they arrived.
"Yes," he told the bird, "You can deliver these in a little bit. I've not finished yet." Hedwig let out a happy squawk.
Harry thought a moment, and then signed and addressed Neville's as it was. He then went to add more to the other five.
To Ginny Weasley
I hope I am allowed to come to the Burrow, but I don't think that will happen. I hope to see you and Ron before 1 September.
To Remus Lupin
The above is a copy quill letter I sent to my school friends, but I thought I should send this to you, too. I realized last week that I haven't written to you all summer, even if you've been writing me every third day or so. I realized that as much as I missed Sirius, because I loved and needed him, you probably miss him even more. I'm sorry, Professor.
I know, you told me in your first letter and each time we met to call you Remus, but Mr. Zoric told me you should be coming back to Hogwarts, so I guess I shouldn't get used to calling you Remus. I don't suppose you can tell me anything useful about him, can you?
I would value your advice, about what class to take and about what I should do about Professor Dumbledore. I trusted him so much, yet I really felt, and feel, betrayed. I need someone I can trust to really have my interests at heart. Can that someone be you? I know I can trust Ron and Hermione, but I don't know if I can really tell them about the Prophecy yet. Do you know it? I have to either kill Voldemort, or die trying. Can I really kill anyone? Help me, please
At that point, Harry did something he had been resisting doing for weeks, and had only done that one time with Remus since Sirius died. He cried.
When he recovered, Harry almost tore the letter to Lupin to pieces. After a long struggle, he signed, sealed, and addressed it.
To Ron Weasley
I wish I knew where I was being sent. Hopefully your place, but somehow, I doubt it. If it is someplace I can fly, and you can come, I'll let you know so you can bring your broom. Even if I can't play, I can practice with you. Hope to see you soon.
To Hermione Granger
For once, I can not only use your advice, but I promise to listen to what you and Professor Lupin have to say. And I'm sorry I didn't write back, and congratulations on your 11 OWLs. Yes, I'm sorry you only got 10 O's, and yes they should have scored on Astronomy practical on more of a curve, but I'm still very proud of your score, and I hope you are, too.
And please don't take the auror potions class with us; not because we won't need you there to help us, but because you deserve to take the NEWT potions class. At least none of us have to take the vocational classes, right?
Thinking about last year, and really most of the previous year, I have to admit you've almost always been right (not that you've ever been totally wrong). I promise to try to listen to you more; but as I've heard you say several times, the problem is not always choosing between right and wrong, but between two rights. Somehow, I suspect I won't always do what you think is right, but I hope you will always know it's because I think I'm doing something that is also right, not because I think you're wrong.
Thank you for being my friend, even if I've treated you badly.
To Luna Lovegood
I hope you're having a good time in Sweden. Thank your father for me for the subscription to The Quibbler. If I don't see you in August, I hope to see you on the train.
I think about our talk by the bulletin board often (I hope you got all your things back). Thank you for trusting me and believing in me. Both mean a lot. Could we walk to Hogsmeade sometime and talk some more? It's hard to find time and places to talk with someone in another year and another House.
"What's the worst thing she can say?" Harry asked Hedwig. "And if she does say 'yes,' at least she won't cry on me."
Hedwig glided from the top of her cage to the table, and nuzzled against Harry's hand. "I guess I should tell you 'thank you,' too," Harry told her. "It's going to get better, somehow; I promise. But it's not going to be easy."
Wednesday, July 24, 1996
Tomas Zoric arrived at precisely 1:00 the next day.
"And how are you, Mister Potter?" he asked.
"About the same. Writing the letters did make me feel a little better," Harry answered. "I kept a copy of the basic letter I sent off, if you want to read it."
"Thank you, Mister Potter," Zoric answered, taking the copy. "To whom did you send it?"
"Neville, Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Luna, and Professor Lupin," Harry answered. "And I thought about the classes, but I'll wait until Hermione and Professor Lupin write back before I decide anything."
"With your background, you're not too far behind in Muggle Studies," Zoric told him, handing the letter back. "And those with strong Muggle backgrounds often work cases that cross into the Muggle world."
"Oh!" Harry sounded interested.
"And don't forget, you can take two more courses," Zoric pointed out. "I would recommend Muggle Studies and one other, perhaps Medicine, but you are correct. You should hear from the others before deciding for yourself."
Harry merely nodded his understanding.
"If you don't mind, I should like to step things up a notch today," Zoric told him.
"What does that mean? That I can start Legilimency?"
"Legilimency may only be taught in special circumstances, including auror training, so that will have to wait." Zoric handed Harry a parchment. "I'd like to incorporate the Imperius Curse. I will not do so without your express consent. I will not make you do anything embarrassing or harmful."
Harry stared at the paper, already co-signed by a number of officials. He looked over the parchment at Zoric.
"Do not let the fact all these people approved sway you, Mister Potter."
"You can call me Harry, you know."
"Thank you, Harry."
Harry reached for a ball point pen that was on the hall table. "Stop!" Zoric commanded.
"Think about your image, Harry. We do not want people to think of you as . . . odd, for any reason. Skeeter, and then The Prophet, did quite a number on you over the past two years. We must not give even a little sign of eccentricity if it can be helped."
"Like signing with a pen?" Harry asked, incredulous.
"At least not one of those pens." Zoric handed Harry a fountain pen.
"All right," Harry said, doubt in his voice as he signed. "Is that why you're taking me clothes shopping?"
"In part. You want to feel like a new man, so we're going to give you a new image."
"Because I can't be a hero. . . ."
"Dressed like a ragamuffin," Zoric finished. "Although, of course you can be, it is just easier to be confident when you dress that way." He shrugged slightly. "It can't hurt if we find you clothes you're actually comfortable in, right?"
"Harry, if I ask you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, tell me. If you have any questions, and circumstances permit it, ask them."
"You seem a little upset," Harry said, no daring to go further. Zoric gave off few signals, and it was clear that he didn't like giving those few signals off.
Zoric moved them towards the basement, but told Harry what he was thinking anyway. "When Dumbledore told me the Prophecy, he told me you knew."
"So, I do not fully approve of what he did with you over the years."
"What do you think he should have done?" Harry obviously had some ideas of his own about that subject.
"If he really needed to leave you here, he should have had at least slightly more supervision. Your uncle would not have liked it, but there is a simple way he could have been encouraged to accept it."
"A quick kick in the backside?"
That earned Harry a disapproving look. "No. Positive reenforcement would be better for the magic."
"Exactly. It could even have been done without your knowing, if that was really important. And once you learned of your heritage, you should have had a summer tutor every summer, to help prepare you for this burden."
"So you don't blindly agree with him? Good!"
"Mister Potter, I hope I do not 'blindly agree' with anyone or anything." Zoric looked at Harry closely. "Questions? If they are important, we can deal with them now."
"Have you ever killed anyone?" Harry asked bluntly.
Zoric understood. "Yes. I have killed twelve people. And some people have died because of me. I do not feel guilty about any of the former. It takes time to deal with the latter."
Harry nodded his understanding.
"However," Zoric went on, "I never set off to kill anyone. That is a heavy burden."
"It is," Harry agreed. "Not telling me my First year is one of Dumbledore's decisions I can't argue with, but maybe he should have told me by the end of my Fourth year."
The session was a little short of two hours. Harry was more mentally exhausted than usual, but he had shown great ability to throw off the Imperius curse by itself. Harry had not been able to throw it and practice Occlumency at the same time, but Zoric explained that even achieving half the results was far above average.
That evening, Uncle Vernon announced that the Dursleys would be leaving the next morning. Dudley had a boxing tournament that weekend near Liverpool, and they would be leaving early. To celebrate getting away from Harry, the Dursleys went out for the evening. He was instructed not to leave the house until he left the house for good that Saturday.
Harry was happy to make the promise, even when he realized there were only canned goods left in the house to eat. 'I can make do with tinned soup,' he told himself as they packed. After all, that was better than he had usually given over the years.
As soon as they were gone, Harry dialed Hermione's parents, remembering to reverse the charges as she had instructed him.
"Yes!" Hermione told the exchange operator, "Harry! Is that you?"
"Hello, Hermione. Err, maybe you should call me back? It's a lot cheaper that way."
"You're still at the Dursleys?"
"Okay. Hang up and I'll call right back!"
Harry answered on the first ring. "The Dursleys."
"Harry! Are you all right?" Hermione sounded worried.
"I'm fine. . . ."
"Harry!" Hermione scolded.
Harry grimaced. "I'm better?"
"Are you really?"
"You know," Harry said, considering it, "I think I am. But . . . Hermione, can I trust you?"
"Do you really have to ask, after all we've been through?" She was offended.
"Hermione, I know you're my friend. I know you will stand beside me, and I certainly know you'll give me advice. . . ."
"Even if you don't follow it," she said tartly.
"Even if I don't always follow it," Harry agreed. "That's not what I'm asking. . . ."
"What are you asking?"
Suddenly, Harry's feelings for Hermione coalesced and became perfectly clear. "Hermione, I love you," Harry blurted.
Hermione made strangling sounds of shock and surprise.
"Not like that," Harry hastened to clarify, "although I meant it when I said you are pretty."
"Then . . . how?"
"I need . . . I think I need a sister, I guess. Someone. . . ." Harry choked up.
"Someone who loves you unconditionally as well as for who you are; someone who trusts you and you can trust; someone who will comfort you and accept comfort from you; someone who will confide in you and that you can confide in," Hermione said, her voice saying she felt those very things, and would give it all to him. "Is that what you mean, Harry?"
"Yes," Harry managed to say.
"Then yes, Harry. I love you that way, too."
Harry cleared his throat. "Ron might get jealous, of both of us."
"I know, and that worries me at times," Hermione acknowledged.
"Are you two . . . dating?"
"Sort of." She paused. "We've never actually talked about it.
"Not that it's really any of my business, but are you two, well. . . ."
"Well, yes." Harry decided that sounded better than snogging.
"Nothing serious, yet," Hermione said. "Harry, does it bother you that Ron and I might become . . . seriously involved?"
"Not really," Harry said.
"I, well, I hate to sound selfish, but I need you both."
"I know, Harry, and we need you, too," Hermione said gently. 'Thank God he can finally admit it,' she thought. "How about you, Harry? Are you really over Cho?"
"Oh, yes," Harry said firmly. "No more older women for me!"
Hermione almost giggled. "Oh, and what younger girl are you attracted to?"
"Besides you?" Harry asked, only semi-teasingly.
"Harry, I'm ten months other than you, not two months younger."
"I know, but the telly shows always say you need to say you think a woman is younger than she is."
"Ha, ha. It's not Ginny, is it?"
"Was she serious about Dean?" Harry asked.
"Not really," Hermione answered cautiously. "But I do think, as much as she likes you and is attracted to you, she'd really fall back into her crush if you actually dated at this point, and that wouldn't be good for either of you."
"That's what I thought, too," Harry admitted. "I do hope we can be closer friends, though."
'Yes!' Hermione thought. She really did love Harry platonically, but possessively, yet she still wanted him to have more close friends to rely on. "Is it Luna?"
"That would be nice," Harry told her. "But you don't really like her, do you?"
"I just don't know what to make of her," Hermione admitted. "Ginny says she has a form of Second Sight, which might explain things."
"At least she doesn't think she's a Seer like Trelawney," Harry muttered.
"True," Hermione admitted. "And she does like you, although I don't know if she likes you in that way. And, if she does, she's probably the one girl at school who doesn't care you're, well. . . ."
"The Boy-Who-Lived, or Harry Potter, crazy celebrity," Harry finished drily.
"Exactly. To Luna, you're. . . ."
". . . just a boy she wants to be friends with," Hermione said firmly, "maybe more."
"And she won't cry on me so much," Harry added.
Hermione did giggle at that. She wasn't sure what to make of Luna Lovegood, but she knew she didn't like Cho dating Harry. "So, you never said exactly how you did on your O.W.L.s," Hermione said, to change the subject.
"I wrote everyone a real letter, with that copy quill you gave me. Hedwig probably delivered to Remus, Neville, and the Weasleys before going to you and then Luna. He should be at your place any time now."
"Oh, okay. Is there any word on when they might let you go to the Burrow, or is that secret until I get the letter, too?" Hermione asked archly.
"Sorry. I got eight O.W.L.s, but didn't get the O in Potions. The Aurors do allow candidates to test on areas they don't get N.E.W.T.s in, other than Defense. I'm leaving here Saturday, but I'm not certain where I'll be sent."
"Are you going to take the Household Potions class, then?"
"Apparently there were a lot of us who got E's or A's who want to try to become aurors. Snape is supposed to teach a class for us."
"So they actually approved that! It should be fun!"
"Hermione," Harry said seriously, "don't take it."
"Why not? I don't want to become a Potion Master."
"You deserve a chance at every N.E.W.T. possible. Don't miss out on one because you want to help us in class."
Hermione sighed. "You're probably right."
"Hermione?" Harry asked.
"I . . . I really will need someone I can confide in."
'Harry sounds like he's about to cry,' Hermione realized. 'That's what he really means. He needs someone who can comfort as well as advise him. It can't be anyone but me, not even Luna, for some time yet.' She smiled.
"I love you, Harry," Hermione said. "If I could, I'd come there right now."
"Thanks," Harry said. "Like I said, I'm leaving here Saturday, but I'm not certain where I'm going. I hope you and everyone else can visit me wherever in August."
"If I can, I will be there," Hermione promised. "If it's possible, I will always be there for you."
"Thank you," Harry said so sincerely Hermione actually teared up at the sound. "And I'll always be there for you, too." If there was one thing that could be said about both Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, it was that they always kept their word.