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, Dumbledore approves Harry'...
Wednesday, July 31
"A word please, Miss Granger."
Hermione hung back from the rush upstairs to the bedrooms. Everyone had supplies, robes, books, and other packages in their rooms (or would as soon as the elves moved them from the magically expanded boot of the car).
Tomas guided Hermione into the sitting room. "Harry thinks very highly of you, Miss Granger. He has a distinct habit of not taking advice from anyone, but you probably come closest."
Hermione merely nodded. She was not easily intimidated, but the stoic Tomas Zoric came close.
"I do not know you well, but I believe I know you well enough to know that you will never betray Harry's trust." Hermione reacted proudly to that statement. She liked being admired by authority figures. "I do ask that you come to me with any problem you deem necessary." Now Hermione frowned a bit, as the main authority figure in her life was now Harry. "You, better than anyone except perhaps Remus Lupin and soon Miss Lovegood, can understand the pressures on Harry. I also believe you are understanding enough to be told that I believe Harry has been, and almost certainly still is, dealing with a mild form of depression."
"I'm not overly surprised," Hermione managed to say warily.
"I have little doubt that if he had spent the entire summer with his relatives, it could easily have slipped into something even more serious. As it is, he's been riding a peak since shortly after we met. This means he could also crash. You are the person most likely to see it for what it is. I expect you to let me know if that happens. I am trying to keep his life interesting without being overwhelming."
"But having to face down Voldemort, to have to kill or be killed, is enough to overwhelm anyone," Hermione said drily. "Even someone as strong as Harry."
"Exactly. So, expect momentary flashes of melancholy. Those will be normal to someone of his condition and situation. Inform me if there is anything more than that."
"Very well," Hermione agreed. "I will let Harry know."
"Of course. The other thing is more . . . personal," Tomas said, very glad he had his non-emotional mask on. "You and Harry are the two people the other four respect. There may be many opportunities for each of the three couples to be . . . alone." Hermione blushed.
"Exactly, Miss Granger. Probably Harry and Miss Lovegood make the shiest couple, but they are still a couple. Miss Weasley and Mister Longbottom are currently the least attached couple. However, I believe Miss Weasley may be the most . . . impetuous of the six of you. Try and contain yourself, and the others, over the next few days. I shall be giving you all a proposition for the next few weeks, which may seem to force choices upon you. Try and guide your friends, no matter what happens, to make careful choices, no matter what their final choices might be."
Hermione merely nodded.
"You will find a box wrapped with green paper. In it, you will find various Muggle and magical . . . items. Miss Lovegood and Miss Weasley probably already know certain . . . magical consequences for a certain act. Perhaps this is covered at Hogwarts now; it wasn't twenty years ago. There are several pamphlets; please read the one from the Division of Medical Magic, and then give it to Harry. I trust you to dole out the other knowledge wisely." Tomas bowed deeply, and fled the room in the most dignified manner he could.
Hermione rushed upstairs, and of course opened the green-wrapped box first. Inside were instructions for anti-conception spells and Muggle condoms and lubricants. Hermione blushed at some of the instruction booklets also included, and hid everything, except the pamphlet, called Why it's Important for Witches to Wait, away in her trunk. Zoric obvious hoped nothing would happen, but if it did, he wanted things done right and with full knowledge of the consequences. She would read the pamphlet, and give it to Harry a few days later.
Harry celebrated his birthday that evening. His only presents were small ones from Remus and Hagrid, as he had said he wanted no presents from his friends that year, other than their company. After the ice cream and cake that followed the light dinner, Tomas brought them into the sitting room.
"It is unlikely Harry will ever return to his Muggle relatives. He will certainly not be returning this summer. The question therefore arises, where shall he stay for the rest of the summer, and who will stay with him?" All six teens were on the edge of their chairs in anxious anticipation. They had not been promised anything past the next few days at most.
"If it were just Harry, or perhaps Harry and Neville, then there would be no problem staying here. However, I cannot be here to supervise at all times, especially at night, and I rather believe the combination of Harry and Ron might prove . . . mischievous. And I'm sure at least two sets of parents would disapprove of the girls staying here alone with you lot, if they knew." The Weasleys and Neville all blushed.
"As some of you may know, I am married. We have four children, one of our own and three orphans we are in charge of. Our son left Hogwarts a few years ago, the two girls will be starting their Fifth year."
"Virginia Driver and Georgia Anderson," Luna said in her 'dreamy' voice. "Hufflepuffs. Virginia had a crush on Ginny our Second year, on Cedric our Third, and alternated between Harry and Ginny last year. She takes Creatures and Muggle Studies. Georgia had a crush on Cedric until he was killed, even though she likes to flirt with Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, and Padma Patil. She also worked on Cedric's memorial in Hufflepuff's common room most of last year. She takes Divination and Arithmancy. Both seriously thought about joining the DA, but Zacharias talked all the younger Hufflepuffs out of joining."
Luna frowned, then looked at Harry. "Harry, you should have a talk with . . . what are their names now? . . . Justin and . . . Ernest?"
"Ernie Macmillan," Harry said. "Why?"
"They and Zach are competing for dominance of Hufflepuff," Hermione answered.
"And Zacharias will incline the House towards neutrality," Luna stated. "Being friends with me, and the incident with Marietta, will tend to throw many Ravenclaws towards neutrality as well. Hogwarts is not just a minor front in the War with Voldemort. It represents the future as well. Gryffindor may lead, but it can not be a straight Gryffindor/Slytherin rivalry. One other House must strongly stand by Gryffindor, and draw a number of students from the other. Only then will some of the Slytherins feel safe enough to move away from neutrality."
"Aw, who needs any Slytherins?" Ron demanded.
"We do," Hermione stated firmly. "We can't just throw away a quarter of the students. People like Malfoy could play havoc with the wards during the day simply by inviting people across them. The more students, especially Slytherins, can keep an eye on Malfoy, Nott, and the others, the less Dumbledore, and we, will have to worry about."
"Probably less than half the Slytherins give any real support to Voldemort and his ideas," Harry mused. "We have to at least keep the majority of them neutral, if not working with us."
"All true," Ginny said, "but that's getting us away from the point Mister Zoric was trying to make." She looked at Tomas. "I think we'd all like to stay with Harry." The other four nodded, giving Tomas their attention.
"I own another, smaller island, as well as this one, in the Adriatic. My daughters, my wife, and I holiday there. It is fairly safe."
"I didn't pack my swim suit," Hermione complained.
"Well, actually, now that peace has come to the area the Muggle tourists are back, albeit in smaller numbers. Still, recent local Muggle custom at that set of islands demands . . . no swim suit," Tomas said delicately. "While there are repelling wards to keep unauthorized people off the island, it is visible to the many holidaying Muggle tourists, and swim suits on the beach would actually draw more attention than . . . nothing."
All six teens were blushing. Ron looked likely to explode from terror and embarrassment. "Not a good idea, I take it?" Six heads shook in terrified near-unison, even Luna's. "Then I shall think on the matter some more. I shall do my best to keep you all together. I should add that I have permission from all your parents, or grandmother, to do what I think best with you, provided that you owl them at least twice a week. Write tomorrow; we shall see how things go. Let's see if I can trust you."
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday saw a routine work itself out. Neville, Harry and Hermione would wake up first, and while Neville puttered around the garden for half an hour, Harry and Hermione would talk about possible ideas for the DA. A little before 7:30, Neville would come in and pound on Ginny and Ron's doors to wake them up and then go get cleaned up. Luna would have just finished getting dressed and would join Hermione and Harry.
At 8:45, Zoric would show up (or at least finally show himself), and the group would practice dueling for 50 minutes at 9:00. They would then practice Occlumency at 10:00 and flying at 11:00. After a quick clean-up, they would have lunch. Now that all the Sixth year students had chosen their courses, 1:00 to 3:00 was study time. Part of it was devoted in coaching the two Fifth years for their O.W.L.s, the rest was spent with general study. Generally, the last fifteen minutes was devoted to Luna and Ginny going over what they had covered in Muggle Studies to help Harry catch up with the actual material. Zoric had petitioned the Department of Education for permission for Harry to take the O.W.L. the following June, although he would be studying for the N.E.W.T. the following year.
Zoric would appear to leave around 3:30, and the teens would hurry back to their rooms to shower. From just before 4:00 until 6:30, they would spend time together as couples. All of them, even Hermione and Ron, were still getting used to the idea of being together as couples.
At 6:30, they would come in for dinner. After dinner, they spent their time until 10:00 or so as a group, playing games, listening to the wizarding wireless, and talking. Since August 1 was Luna's birthday, they tried dancing to the wireless, but none thought that particularly successful.
From 3:00 to 3:30, however, Tomas would take Harry aside and drop his mask. He encouraged Harry to talk about anything he felt the need to talk about. Each of the first three days, talking about his upbringing with the Dursleys, Harry didn't make it more than 5 or 6 minutes before breaking down, crying.
After their session Saturday, Tomas put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "I know you dislike exposing yourself like this, Harry. I really think, in the long run, it is good for you to let these feelings out."
"I suppose," Harry admitted. "It's embarrassing to, well, act like this." He knew, however, he had a lot to work out, a lot to vent.
"It can be," Tomas agreed gently. "I don't think any less of you, though. You've endured a lot of pain, Harry, more than was good for you, more than anyone deserved. It would have crushed most people, and it has scarred your soul as much as that curse scarred your forehead. Going over that pain won't get rid of the scars, but it will help them fade."
"Alright," Harry said squaring his shoulders, "if you can listen to me whinge and whine, I'll keep at it."
Tomas patted Harry's shoulder and smiled. "Good man. Now, can I trust you folks to keep the daily schedule you seem to have established for yourselves?"
"Alright. Then I shall leave you to it. Tomorrow, however, I need you all present in front of the manor at Five. Nice clean shirts, shorts or skirts for the women, et cetera. You'll be joining us for dinner in the Adriatic."
"I assure you, everyone will be dressed, Harry," Tomas teased. "My wife is quite accomplished in Muggle Studies, Arithmancy, and Runes, and she will be living with me at the Castle, at least part of the time. She'll be coaching you during the year with Muggle Studies, and probably helping out with Arithmancy and Runes with the girls, if they need it."
And so the schedule continued through most of August. The group only left the island for Sunday dinners in the Adriatic. Harry continued to work through his pains: those created by the Dursleys, the deaths that surrounded him, his encounters with Voldemort, his fights with Snape, and his disappointments with Dumbledore. Each still hurt, especially the loss of Cedric and Sirius.
As Tomas had warned Hermione, who had then talked to Luna, Harry often had short periods of melancholia. The friendship and support of the entire group, the affection given him by Hermione and Luna, the love quietly growing between himself and Luna, all helped get him through those spells, and prevented him from sliding further into the true depression he had been entering since Sirius' death.
Ron had sputtered the first time he saw Hermione hugging Harry, but he reluctantly agreed that the pressures on Harry were more than he would want to deal with. If Hermione was somewhat physically affectionate with Harry, if Harry sometimes ended up with his head in Hermione's lap getting a neck-rub or even putting Harry asleep while running her fingers through his hair (usually Luna did that, though), he decided he could live with it.
The only frequent visitor had been Remus Lupin, who had shown up six times. Both he and Tomas had been impressed by the skills the group was showing, and were truly shocked by Harry's progress. By the end of the summer, Hermione was operating around the E-N.E.W.T. level in Transfiguration and Charms. She, Ron, Neville, and even Luna were probably at the A-N.E.W.T. level in practical Defense, with Ginny just a short way behind, although they all would need more time to learn the theory. Neville had quickly shown that there was nothing even the elves who took care of the gardens could teach him about Herbology, and he was tutoring Ginny and Luna for their O.W.L.s. Tomas was not teaching them potions directly, but had gone over their techniques, and concentrated on their knowing the ingredients, including the advanced ones they would be needing to know, better.
By the end of the summer, Luna was immune to the Imperius curse, and could deflect a Legilimency attack with ease. The other four could fight an Imperius curse, but still had great difficulty operating while fighting it. They could also detect even the subtlest Legilimency attack, although they had difficulty deflecting most of them.
Harry, however, was now fighting at Auror levels, even if his general Transfiguration work was around the same level as Ron's. Imperius curses affected him almost as little as they did Luna, and Harry could not only deflect Legilimency attacks, he discovered he could direct them directly into the scarred parts of his psyche, so deep that nothing but his pain could be felt. When he did that, he only let the pain burn his opponents for a fraction of a second, more than enough to discourage Tomas or Remus. Tomas wasn't sure how Harry could do this, but accepted it as a plus.
Dumbledore and Snape came on the 18th of August to see the groups' progress in Defense. Snape had given Zoric and Lupin a twisted leer when they had invited Snape to fight with Harry -- anything except deadly hexes and the Cruciatus curse allowed.
Snape hadn't been smiling in any way five minutes later as Harry started battering Snape's shields down. Harry's had already withstood the worst Snape could throw at him. In desperation, Snape finally called, "Legilimens!"
Severus Snape had lived a hard life to that point. He had endured cruelty, neglect, and many many disappointments. He had dealt with these abuses to his soul by burying his pains so deeply they rarely erupted, except in anger. Harry's raw pain flowing into his mind, however, triggered the release of all his own buried pain. Pain even greater than Harry Potter's had suffered over-whelmed him, and Severus Snape passed out.
Harry walked over to look at the fallen man, who had enjoyed torturing him for the crimes of his father. With an expressionless face, and an expressionless voice that would have been a credit to his Master, Harry simply said, "I win."
Harry turned and walked over to the stunned Dumbledore. "Sir, have you made any decisions as to the official status of the DA?"
Harry's tone had left no doubt that the DA would continue in some form if Harry had anything to say about it. As he had said to Ron a few days before on the subject, "If you lot won't let me fight alone, I'm going to have a bloody army."
"Officially, it can exist as a tutoring club for students, Fourth year and above, who wish practical practice with Defense outside of class. You are in charge of it, although a professor or Mister Zoric should be present at official practices. I might add that Mister Zoric will be given the title and responsibilities of a professor once the term starts, since he will be acting as Professor Lupin's substitute when necessary. You may accept or refuse any student."
"And unofficially?" Harry asked, looking straight into Dumbledore's eyes.
'Those eyes,' Dumbledore thought. 'How they burn with justice. I can feel his power, and his cause -- the burning fire of justice, instead of the cold ice of hatred that Grindelwald and Voldemort projected.' "If it is not official, then I need say nothing about it," Dumbledore said with care. Seeing a flash of disappointment and anger, he added, "I shall be giving you and Miss Granger my passwords as they change. If there is something you feel the need to report, you will get word to me." The disappointment was still there, but the anger was turning into sorrow. "And of course Mister Zoric will be fully briefed, and I expect he will share most of it with you."
Harry looked puzzled. "It may seem as if I am still avoiding you," Dumbledore said, "but that is not so, I promise you, Harry. You must be kept better informed these next two years than you have been in the past. Once you leave, of course, you may be a full member of the Order. However, it is still best that we not be seen as being too close. At times, it may even appear as if your Mentor and I are at odds. That will just be a ploy, making us seem weaker than we are."
"Shouldn't we try to appear stronger than we are?" Harry asked.
"No," Dumbledore said. "That would not stop Voldemort. He will have some successes, alas, and we shall have some as well. If we appear strong, that will magnify his successes. If we appear weak, that will magnify ours. We must win, Harry, but that does not just mean your defeating Voldemort. . . ."
"Killing Voldemort," Harry corrected.
"Killing Voldemort," Dumbledore agreed. "We must also show his followers that their goals can never be achieved, that supporting a Dark wizard will always fail, no matter how powerful he appears to be."
"I see," Harry said. Just being told the reasons for anything without having to beg too much eased a small part of Harry's pain. "Are you sure you weren't in Slytherin, sir?"
"Like yourself, the Hat took its time, trying to place me in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Like yourself, I believe it made the correct choice in the end." He looked over Harry's shoulder. "Ah, I see Professor Lupin and Miss Granger have revived Professor Snape. I think a visit to Madam Pomfrey would be in order. Well done, Harry, well done."
'I wish I could stay angry at him,' Harry thought as Dumbledore guided the shaken Snape away. 'I wish his approval didn't matter so much.'
The only other visitor was Mrs. Weasley, who visited twice. She was startled the first time to see that the teens had paired off. Fortunately, Tomas managed to reassure her they were well-supervised without actually lying to her. She was glad to see that all the students looked well and happy (or, in Harry's case, well and happy for him).
She had always approved of Hermione (except when she had thought Hermione had been playing games with both Harry's and Ron's hearts in their Fourth year), and was glad Hermione and Ron were together. She was a little disappointed that Ginny and Harry weren't a couple, but other than that, she was glad Ginny had found herself a devoted, reliable boyfriend. While Molly had always thought Luna a bit eccentric, she seemed to be making Harry happy, and that was a very good thing.
Coming back on August 20, Molly Weasley was even happier. She had never seen Harry in such a good mood or good physical condition, and her approval for Luna went up another notch. She was not to know that Harry's good mood came from having taken his revenge on Snape two days before and from Dumbledore's tacit approval of Harry and Hermione's plans for the DA. For the first time since before the Second Task, Harry felt he had some control over his life.
In fact, Harry and Hermione had spent most of Saturday afternoon planning together, and then planning with the rest of the group after they returned from the Adriatic the previous evening.
It was time to send out the first feelers to see if they could truly create an army.