A Sixth year (pre-HBP) story: Harry decides the best way to fight back is to take the DA to the next level. He succeeds better than he thought he would. In this chapter, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, and ...
Chapter 05 July 28
To Harry's slight surprise, the dueling practice was himself and Neville attacking Zoric. To Zoric's surprise, the students sometimes won. The purpose, Zoric had explained, was not just to learn how to attack in pairs, but to so that, in learning, they would learn how they might be attacked. Death Eaters rarely attacked one-on-one.
Neville watched Harry's Occlumency lesson. Zoric would teach Harry's friends the very basics and see if any had any talent in the area. If Harry and his friends were going to keep ending up in the front lines, they should be prepared, and if any of them had any chance of making Auror, they would have to learn to at least Harry's current level.
Zoric left the two boys alone after practice. Harry took Neville down to the small gym in the manor cellar to work out. Neville's garden work had trimmed him down and built up some real muscles, and Neville enjoyed the workout. After showers and lunch, the two teens went out and sat under a tree. Harry would go flying when the day cooled a little, while Neville would go to look over the small formal garden and the kitchen and medicinal gardens.
"Harry. . . ." Neville started.
"You keep looking at me. Is there something you want to say?"
Harry flushed a little under his light sunburn from the previous day. "Sorry, Neville. I was wondering if you could tell me some things about wizarding culture."
"What do you mean?" Neville asked, puzzled.
"Well, the Potter family might have been Pure-bloods for all I know. . . ."
"They were, although not one of the really famous families." Neville reminded himself of Harry's upbringing. "Most of them have died out in any case."
"Anyway," Harry went on, "remember, I'm as Muggle-raised as anyone can get. I don't know much about the cultural ideas, except what I've picked up from you and Ron, or that Binns teaches us by accident."
"True," Neville admitted. "What do you need to know?"
"I need to know about wizarding debts and apprenticeships," Harry replied. "Ginny says she owes me a wizarding debt because I saved her life, and Dumbledore says that Snape owes me a debt because my father saved his life. Does that mean I owe you and the others for following me to save Sirius?" Harry didn't want to mention Wormtail to Neville yet.
"Snape and your father disliked each other, right?" Neville asked.
"They HATED each other," Harry replied.
"Then Snape owes the debt because there were no other ties. In fact, he was saved by an enemy, which raises the debt. You inherit the debt, because that level, the highest, is for life unless Snape saves your life and you, as an adult, release him."
"So Snape has to try and save my life until I'm an adult?"
"And until you, as an adult, release him. Most would say that he would have to save you at least once as an adult before you should consider releasing him, but that's up to you. You never have to release him."
Harry thought about that. "And Ginny?"
"The same applies to a lesser degree, but it wouldn't be inherited, because of your ties with Ron. Plus, didn't you stay with the Weasleys before you saved Ginny?"
Harry nodded. "Yeah, I did. They rescued me from the Dursleys the summer before."
Neville pulled out a small pocket notebook and started scribbling. "But you and Ginny weren't friends yet, right?"
"Right," Harry agreed.
"Who rescued you?"
"Fred, George, and Ron."
"Did you give Fred and George your Tri-Wizard money to start that joke shop?"
"I did," Harry admitted. Neville had been one of the twins main victims; Harry hoped Neville didn't hold a grudge.
Neville looked up from his notes after a few moments of study. "Then I'd say there was no wizard debt involved on either side, because of the closeness of you and the Weasleys. As for me, well, you're my friend, and, because of the DA if nothing else, you're something of a mentor. We owe each other our support, and no debts can really be transferred. Just like we don't owe Dumbledore an official debt for saving us at the end."
Harry nodded again. "Maybe you could explain that to Ginny for me."
"She's definitely coming, then?" Neville asked, perking up.
"Yes," Harry said. "We'd just better hope Hermione comes, too."
"Why?" Neville asked, puzzled. "I mean, I like having Hermione around, but. . . ."
"Do you think Ron will let you make time with Ginny if Hermione's not here to distract him?" Harry teased.
Now it was Neville's turn to blush, but he gamely retorted, "I can always wait until you and Ron go flying!"
"No, Ginny might want to fly then, too," Harry pointed out. "You'd better hope Hermione shows up."
"Then you'd better hope Luna does," Neville teased back, "or else you might end up flying solo." Neville then paused a second, then asked, "Do you think Ginny would really be . . . interested?"
"I think so," Harry answered. "I don't think she has a crush or really likes anyone right now, no not even me," Harry stated firmly when Neville tried to interject. "I do think she would like to get to know you more. And, if Ron and Hermione and Luna and I are together, and you two are here, that gives you a chance. Plus, if you talk to her about the debt thing, you have a good topic to start off with, and an excuse Ron will have to accept. It's up to you if it works."
Neville grinned to himself for over a minute, while Harry relaxed, happy he was making a closer friend, and happy he was making Neville happy.
Then Neville recovered slightly. "Why would you want to know about apprenticeships? Full wizard apprenticeships are pretty rare these days in Britain, and I doubt if you'd be doing a trade apprenticeship."
"It was mentioned to me as a possibility, and I had never heard of them," Harry answered.
"Harry, is it Zoric?" Neville asked excitedly.
"Well, yes," Harry admitted.
Neville looked at Harry for a few moments. Then he asked, "Harry, do you really want to be an Auror?"
Harry thought about that before answering. "Not necessarily, I guess. But let's be honest; even if I destroy Voldemort, that would make me a target for any fanatical followers and whoever tries to take his place." Seeing Neville's startled look, Harry scolded him slightly. "Come on, even sleeping as we both do in Binns' class, you have to have noticed there are Dark wizards every few generations. Grindelwald and Voldemort were just a bit worse than the bunch in the nineteenth century."
"True," Neville admitted.
"So I'm always going to be a target. I'd best be prepared."
Neville nodded. "Then let me tell you something, Harry. It goes back to some things Hermione and I talked about during Third year. The Ministry is not the same as the Muggle government."
"What does that mean?" Harry asked, puzzled.
"It means there're not as many rules governing us as there are the Muggles. If, once we're all adults, you walk up to Malfoy and say, 'Ferret, I'm going to hex you, defend yourself,' and he pulls his wand, you can kill him if he agrees to a formal duel. If he doesn't, you can still hex him, although not kill him. Legally. The Lestranges were not put away because they attacked my parents, but because they used an illegal curse to do it, and because they also attacked me."
"What are you saying, Neville?"
"I'm saying you don't have to be an auror to fight evil, Harry. Aurors didn't really exist as we know them until about a hundred and fifty years ago. The International Confederation lays down guidelines, and they and the Ministries try to enforce them, but the old families and clans don't always go along, and don't always have to."
"Take the Auror training," Neville concluded, "but don't feel you have to be an Auror. After all, that's what the Zoric Agency does. If you really want to fight evil," Neville added "fight it on your own terms."
Harry shrugged. "Like I said, I don't think I'm going to have a huge choice. And what else can I do when I'm not? Play Quidditch? I'll never be as tall as Ron or as husky as you or the Weasley twins, but if I get much bigger in either way, I'll be too big to be a professional seeker."
Neville looked at his friend and smiled. Harry had put on several pounds of muscle, but he would still be called lanky (although no longer skinny). And he was still only between five foot five and six, but Neville knew there were few really good professional seekers over five foot seven. Harry was right; he was unlikely to ever be a professional seeker. "Don't worry," Neville teased, "you'll always be 'ickle Harry' to us."
"Git," Harry muttered.
Monday, July 29, 1996
Ron and Ginny arrived early in the morning, just after Harry and Neville had finished their breakfast. Hermione and Luna arrived separately, but still slightly before 10:00.
It was at 10:00, their greetings over, that Tomas assembled them, his 'mask' firmly in place. "Every morning at Eight o'clock, breakfast shall be served. At Nine, we will assemble in the entrance hall. You shall be learning the basics of Occlumency. Mister Potter knows the basics, and will be tutoring you, while I shall be testing you. After a ten minute break, we shall be practicing dueling -- or perhaps we should call it combat? -- from Ten to Eleven. Wednesday evening, there will be a dinner party to celebrate Mister Potter's birthday, along with cake for Mister Longbottom and Miss Lovegood on their birthdays. Several guests may be present at Mister Potter's. By next Saturday afternoon, we shall have discussed possible scenarios for the rest of August. Final decisions will be needed by Sunday, if not before."
"Now, I trust you six be behave yourselves. Underage magic can not be detected by the Ministry, but it will be recorded for me to review. There are six guest bedrooms, and I expect you to be in yours." All six, except Luna, blushed furiously, and even she lowered her eyes.
"At least I can trust you not to abuse the house elves. Remember, that includes asking them for things difficult to procure on short notices." Tomas turned to Hermione. "That also includes trying to change their world view." Ron grinned, while Hermione frowned.
"Stay out of the bar and wine cellar. If you wish one bottle of wine for dinner to split between the six of you, feel free to request it. I would prefer not to have to stay here with you, and I know you probably feel the same, so we shall try it this way for now. Questions?"
There were none any wanted to ask badly.
"Then I shall see you tomorrow morning. Mister Potter, remember, your life is yours." Zoric bowed. "Have a pleasant day."
"Wow," Ron said. "I'd always heard he was one tough man, but I never thought I'd meet someone so. . . ."
"Intimidating?" Hermione supplied.
"Exactly!" Ron said, while Ginny nodded weakly in agreement. "He could give Snape lessons!"
"Hopefully, he will," Harry muttered.
"What did he mean with that crack about your life?" Hermione asked.
Harry had been wondering the same thing. Then, he realized that these five people were more than his friends, let alone just his followers. They were his family, his support. He would need their help to get through what he had to do. It was up to him to decide what to tell them, not Dumbledore or even Zoric. "Dorsey!" Harry called, startling the four newcomers.
A house elf appeared. "Mister Harry?"
"Would it be possible to have a quantity of iced butterbeer in the card room?"
The elf thought for a moment. "Would it perhaps be better for Mister Harry and his friends to have lemonade and pumpkin juice now, and then have butterbeer during or after dinner?"
"That might be better, especially if we could have the option of one butterbeer each with lunch."
"Would soup, salad, and chicken sandwiches be nice for Mister Harry and friends for lunch?"
Harry looked around, and saw general agreement. "Yes, that would be very nice."
"Then Dorsey will arrange for the usual time." The elf disappeared.
Harry looked at his friends. "There are some things I need to tell you, if you will swear never to discuss them with anyone I don't agree you can talk to. There's also some things I need your advice for."
"Will you let us walk the path with you, Harry?" Luna asked.
"Under those conditions, yes."
"Then I shall walk with you, I shall follow you," Luna said. She looked at the others. "Well? If Harry will treat you as friends and followers, will you follow Harry? We all have some idea where he has to go, what he has to do. I will follow him, and help him. Will you?"
"I don't know why you have to put it like that," Ron almost snapped. "I've been Harry's friend for almost six years."
"But it hasn't always been easy, has it Ronald?" Luna asked. "You dislike metaphors? Fine. Will you fight for Harry? Will you sacrifice for Harry? Will you die for Harry? Will you kill for Harry? I will."
"So will I," Ginny said.
"Ginny!" Ron objected.
"No, Ronald," Luna stated. "This is the time for a free choice. You made one when you were all of what? Eleven or twelve? Now you must make it again. This time, you know what it means. Ginny has faced more than any of us have, except for Harry. None of us are innocents any more. Decide for yourself, not for any of us."
Hermione looked at Ron, then Harry. Neville stood up. "I'll follow you, Harry."
"Well?" Ron demanded, looking at Hermione.
"I've made my decision," Hermione said quietly. "I have always been there for Harry. I will always be there for Harry. What's yours?"
Ron turned to Harry. "What else do you have to say?"
Harry shrugged. "I tried to stop all of you last month. I failed. I can't stop any of you now, but I need to know how far you want to go and you need to know what it all means. Ron, this isn't about friendship. I know you're my friend. It's not about trust. I know I can trust you. It's about what role you want to play in what's coming. That's up to you to decide. You won't be betraying me if you want to stay out of things until you finish Hogwarts, so that you can go the Auror route. But that's about all I'm going to say right now. I don't want to influence any of you."
Harry took a deep breath. "I am going to have to face Voldemort at least one more time. That's all I can say right now. I'll explain what I can, to those who want to come with me. I know you'd all come if I ask you to. I'm not asking. Some of us could easily be killed." Harry looked at Ron. "There is no glory in killing or being killed, Ron. It's just a dirty job that somehow I got stuck with. Part of me would rather none of you were involved, because I don't want you hurt or worse. But I've learned my lesson. When I try to stop you, it makes things worse."
"Now, I'm going to the card room. That's up the stairs, the last door down the right side in the front of the house. If any or all of you decide you don't want to come, that's fine. Stand approximately here and call for Dorsey. She'll come and show you to your room. We'll have lunch at noon, and all meet in the dining hall. Please wait ten minutes or so and really think about it before starting to leave. If you want to argue, do so then." Harry walked past them and then up the stairs.
"What the hell is this all about?" Ron demanded. It was clear he was hurt and confused.
"We've always helped Harry," Hermione told him, "but have we ever really thought things through before hand? We helped, because it was the right thing to do at the time. Now, we won't just be taking a chance on being hurt, there is a good chance if we help Harry, some of us will be killed, or even tortured and killed, and the same for our families. If we go up there to talk with him, there is no turning back, Ron. We're agreeing to do whatever is necessary to help Harry beat He-, well, Voldemort."
The others all flinched slightly.
"If we don't go up, we help him just like we always have, but there will be things he won't tell us. If we do go up, there will still be things he can't tell us. Harry will be our friend if we go up or not. If we do, he will also be our leader, or commander. If things get really bad, he might have to even sacrifice us."
"Hermione!" Ginny objected.
"Provided Harry doesn't go completely over to the Dark, how can he not sacrifice someone for the greater good?" Hermione asked. "He'd hate it, but he might have to. Tell me Ron, what would you do if you found out that Percy was secretly a Death Eater?"
"Percy is a git, but he's not. . . ."
"You're probably right, but that doesn't matter. If Percy was a Death Eater, could you turn him over to be executed? Could you kill him yourself? Could any of us ignore someone we loved, our father or beloved, being tortured? These are questions we will likely have to face if we walk up those stairs; these are things Harry has already started to face. Harry realizes he made two mistakes last June. One was going to help Sirius at all when he knew it was part of a trap. He's not likely to fall into that error again. Can we resist the same temptation? Can we withstand that torture ourselves, so that we don't give away Harry's plans?" She looked at all of them. "This has been a very dangerous game we've been playing these last five years. It's no longer a game. It's life or a torturous death for the wizarding world. All of us are going to be part of it. The question is, do we fight it from the inside with Harry, or with everyone else later?"
They all looked at Ron. "I don't know what I would do if I had to face Percy in a fight," he admitted. "Hopefully, the git has learned his lesson. But I know I will stand by Harry."
"I will walk with Harry," Luna said again.
"We will walk with Harry," Hermione amended.