Categories > Books > Harry Potter > The Darkest Hour

A Stormy Order Meeting

by Ham 0 Reviews

Sixth Year!PostOOtp Its Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts and he has to make some hard decisions in order to survive. But will these decisions help him or make him weaker? Martial arts, dueling, anima...

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Dumbledore, Ginny, Harry, Hermione, Neville, Ron, Voldemort - Warnings: [!] [V] - Published: 2007/04/15 - Updated: 2007/04/15 - 10251 words

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Title: The Darkest Hour (12)

Author name: Ham

Summary: Harry is back in Privet Drive just a few days after the happenings in the Department of Mysteries. He is struggling to cope with his loss and the immense burden placed on him. He suddenly finds it very hard to go on - To find a reason to live. Will his task break his spirit? After all he is just a sixteen year old...

He knows that he must fight. Knows that he has to win at all costs. But he knows that if he even is to have a slim chance of defeating Voldemort he will need to make some hard decisions. Decisions that would hurt him and those close to him.

But will Harry be able to take the hard road back when he finally realizes that his decisions only made him weaker? That they took away his only reason to live. His only reason to fight.

DISCLAIMER: If you truly believe that I own Harry Potter and that I'm making money out of this, just imagine in what other ways I can con you. (Rubs hands in glee)

This Chapter is dedicated to my friend Sally (Mugglewitch)

Thank you Tricia (Mugglemomma) for taking on the challenge of being my beta.

Sharon thank you yet again for the wonderful job you are doing as my britpicker.




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Chapter 12 - A Stormy Order Meeting.

~~~*~



Harry arrived at No. 12 Grimmauld Place, landing rather awkwardly. He stood swaying on the spot, his weak legs barely supporting him. His entire body was aching with the after-effects of the Cruciatus curse and his left side was a mess of burnt skin.

He looked around and saw that he was in the hall. It was looking much cleaner than the last time, but the dull and dreary atmosphere still pervaded the house. Harry shut his eyes tightly. Every inch of the house reminded him of Sirius and he struggled to block out the memories of his Godfather that jumped out at him from every corner.

He suddenly noticed voices coming from the kitchen and guessed that was where everybody were. He slowly made his way over, being careful to take slow steps in order not to antagonize his aching muscles. His face cracked into a small smile as heard the voices a bit clearer.

"Oh... I hope he's fine. I wonder what's keeping him?" Hermione said frantically.

"Don't worry, Hermione, he'll be here soon," Ginny soothed, but she too sounded worried.

"I swear, sometimes I think I've lost ten years of my life worrying about that boy. Trouble is his middle name," Hermione sighed.

"Actually, it's James," Harry said quietly from the door.

"Harry!" Hermione shrieked, flinging herself on him and hugging him tightly.

Harry was shocked with the speed at which she hurled herself at him and was quite unable to stop her. When she hugged him, her arms rubbed painfully against his burnt skin. On top of that, his aching body protested against the tight squeezing it was receiving from her hug.

Harry's screamed instinctively, his cry of pain echoing throughout the house.

Hermione let go of him immediately. "Oh, Harry! What's the matter?"

"I... I..." Harry wheezed in pain, pointing at his left side.

Hermione bent to look at him and she gasped. "Oh... I'm so sorry, Harry," she said in a horrified whisper, tears welling in her eyes.

"Don't... don't worry about it," Harry gasped weakly.

"Mr. Potter, you finally manage to show up," Madam Pomfrey said, hurrying into the kitchen. Harry's scream had alerted her to his arrival.

By now the portrait of Sirius' mother had woken up and she was screeching bloody murder.

"SCUM, BLOOD TRAITORS, MUDBLOODS, YOU DARE BRING YOUR FILTHY PRESENCE INTO THE HOUSE OF MY ANCESTORS!"

Remus came bounding down the stairs and struggled to pull the curtains around her closed. Sirius' mother's voice screamed on.

"/YOU/ AGAIN! A WEREWOLF IN MY HOUSE..."

As Remus was struggling with the portrait, Madam Pomfrey was looking at Harry's wounds in dismay.

"Goodness, Potter!" she exclaimed. "How can one person get into so much trouble?"

"It's not like I went looking for the Death Eaters so that they could torture me," Harry said wryly.

Madam Pomfrey snorted. "You and trouble have a very mysterious relationship, Potter. If you don't go looking for it then it comes looking for you."

Harry conceded the point and kept his mouth shut.

"Can you take off your shirt, Potter?" Madam Pomfrey asked looking up from examining his burns.

"I don't know," Harry said doubtfully. "I think a bit of it is stuck to my skin..."

"Hmm... we'll have to cut it off then." She muttered a charm and a pair of scissor blades appeared at the end of her wand. She quickly cut the t-shirt away from Harry's body until it fell away except for a bit which was stuck to Harry's left side and was held there by blood, skin and a lot of dirt.

Ginny and Hermione, who had been watching Harry all the while, winced when his wounds were finally unveiled. The entire area on his left side from his waist till his shoulder and all over his arm was a mess. Large chunks of skin were burnt almost black and some of it had been rubbed away, leaving the flesh raw. Tiny pieces of stone were embedded into the skin and a layer of mud mixed with blood was covering all the wounds making it hard to see the extent of the injury.

"OK, I'm going to cast a cleaning charm to get out all the dirt and clean the wounds, Potter. This might hurt a bit," Madam Pomfrey warned.

Harry nodded, indicating that he was ready.

Madam Pomfrey waved her wand and Harry felt a funny feeling on his inflamed skin. At first, it felt like someone was blowing gently on it. Then he felt the first twinges of pain as the wounds began to be cleaned and all the dirt and debris vanished from it, starting the bleeding anew. Harry sunk his teeth into his cheek and waited for the feeling to pass, all the while trying valiantly not to scream.

He felt Madam Pomfrey moving her wand over the wounds that were bleeding, and they closed up immediately.

Ginny closed her eyes, unable to watch anymore. She couldn't bear to see Harry in so much pain. Why did it always have to happen to him?

Harry lifted his head when he heard somebody else enter the room. "Hello, Moony."

Remus didn't hear Harry as he was too busy looking at Harry's exposed wounds. Guilt was playing heavily on his face as he realized that they had failed to protect Harry once again.

Harry turned to Hermione. "Where's everybody else?"

"Well, Mr. Weasley is still at work and I think he'll head over to St Mungo's after that. Fred and George are at their shop. They should be arriving soon. As for Mrs. Weasley, she is with Bill at St. Mungo's," Hermione said slowly.

Harry nodded then winced as Madam Pomfrey began to apply an orange coloured lotion to his burns.

"Where's Ron?" Harry asked, looking up and trying to ignore the painful feeling of Madam Pomfrey's hands applying the lotion on his wounds.

Hermione and Ginny shot each other wary looks. "He's gone with Mum to visit Bill," Ginny said carefully.

"Oh, all right," Harry nodded. "Didn't you want to go?" he asked Ginny.

Ginny nodded. "I did, but Mum said that he will most probably be back home by tomorrow and the Healers wouldn't allow too many visitors anyway."

Madam Pomfrey finished applying the lotion, reached for her wand, and gave it a complicated twirl. Bandages flew out immediately and began wrapping themselves all over Harry's left side.

She then quickly handed Harry a couple of vials of potion. "Drink up, Potter."

Harry took the vials and gulped them down one after the other. His face screwed up in disgust at the vile taste of the potions.

"Do I want to know what I just drank?" Harry asked.

"A post-Cruciatus potion, a blood replenishing potion and a pain reliving potion," Madam Pomfrey said distractedly as she glanced at Harry once again to see if he had injured himself anywhere else.

"Thank you, Madam Pomfrey," Harry said gratefully.

"You can thank me better by keeping out of trouble, Potter. It would be a pleasure not to see you in the hospital wing this year," Madam Pomfrey said sternly.

Harry grinned at the nurse that had put him together so many times that he had lost count. "I'll try. But no promises."

Madam Pomfrey glared at him. "Now, I want you to go straight to bed, young man. Your body needs time to recover."

Harry nodded and called for Dobby.

Dobby appeared immediately with a loud crack.

"Is Harry Potter wanting anything?"

"Yes, Dobby, can you have one of the bedrooms ready for me?"

"Dobby and Winky has already prepared Harry Potter's room. Would Harry Potter like to see it?" Dobby asked.

From a corner of his eye Harry noticed Hermione pursing up her lips in anger and glaring at him.

"Hermione, I don't have the strength to argue about house elves' rights today. You can yell at me tomorrow, all right?" Harry said tiredly.

Hermione's face immediately softened and she looked apologetic.

"Why aren't you bunking with Ron as usual, Harry?" Ginny asked curiously.

Harry looked at her, choosing his words carefully. "I think it would be best if I had my own room."

Staying with Ron would create the unnecessary problem of having Ron wake up every night due to his nightmares. He didn't think he could stand it if his friends found out about them. Hermione would ask him endless questions about them and search every book in known existence, looking for something to help him. He didn't want to go through the pitying looks and the endless and pointless discussions, especially since they couldn't help him with the problem. Nobody could do that. They were his own demons and he alone would have to fight against them.

Ginny nodded and looked at Hermione. Both shared worried glances.

"All right, then, I think I'll go up to bed. Good night, everyone," Harry said, cracking a small forced smile.

"I'll walk you up, Harry," Remus said quietly, as he caught Harry's elbow and helped him stand.

Harry nodded and they slowly exited the kitchen and made their way up to Harry's bedroom.

On the way up Remus stole several glances at Harry to try and gauge his frame of mind. He knew that Harry had been hit with the Cruciatus curse several times, and after an experience like that nobody should be left on their own to brood.

But before he could even try and say anything to Harry they had reached his bedroom.

"Goodnight, Moony," Harry said softly before he entered the bedroom and closed the door behind him.

Remus sighed as the door closed. Getting through to Harry was going to be harder than he thought.


~~~*~


Harry was pleasantly surprised to see what Dobby and Winky had done to the bedroom. The wooden flooring had been given a thorough cleaning and polishing and looked almost brand new. The walls had been given a fresh coating of light blue paint, adding to the brightness of the room. Harry also noticed that Dobby had transferred his four poster bed and his armchairs and glass topped table over from Privet Drive. His books were neatly put on shelves that stood in a corner of the room. All in all, it made for a lovely transformation.

"Dobby, Winky," Harry called.

The two house elves appeared immediately. Harry noticed Winky was looking a lot better than the last time. Her dress was mended and she looked neat and clean.

"Is Harry Potter liking the room?" Dobby asked eagerly.

Harry smiled. "It's brilliant, Dobby. Thank you very much, both of you."

Dobby and Winky both blushed at the praise. "Master is not needing to thank us. We is only doing our job," Winky said bashfully.

"I do need to thank you," Harry said firmly. "And didn't Dobby tell you something about not calling me master? You are to call me by my name."

Harry looked over to Dobby, who was suddenly looking very uncomfortable. Harry suspected that Dobby had told her and she had flatly refused to do so.

"Winky could never call master by his name. Only a wicked house elf would do that," Winky said, glaring at Dobby, who looked like he would rather not be here at the moment.

"Winky, are you refusing to do as I ask of you?" Harry asked slowly.

Winky's eyes widened as she realized the trap she had fallen into. If she called Harry by his name it would mean she was being disrespectful. But if she refused to obey a direct command of his it was so much more unforgivable.

"But...but..." she stuttered.

"But nothing," Harry said sternly. "Listen to me, Winky. You are not my servant and you are not my slave. You are my employee. That is the way it is going to be."

He saw Winky's face twist in dismay and bent down on his knees, despite the pain it caused him to do so. He put his hands on Winky's shoulders.

"Winky, I have my flaws just like everybody. But I live by my own codes and beliefs. I do not believe that any creature was born solely to serve another. If I were to have you as my slave then I would never be able to respect myself anymore. I do not need a slave. I need someone who is loyal to me because they love me and care for me, not because they are forced to do so."

Winky looked at Harry, tears welling in her large eyes. "I understands...H-H-Harry Potter," she said slowly, trying out the name.

Harry smiled and pulled her into a gentle hug. "Good, Winky. Now was that so bad?"

Winky looked at him fearfully and then nodded her head vigorously, causing Harry to explode in laughter. "Don't worry. It will get easier with time," he said with a grin.

Harry dismissed the two house elves and they disappeared with dual pops.

He got up slowly, took a pair of blue silk pyjamas from the dresser, and slowly pulled them on.

Harry's injuries and lack of sleep over the past two weeks finally took their toll on him, and he fell asleep as soon as his head touched his pillow. He thankfully didn't have any nightmares, but his sleep was still very uneasy.

Dobby kept his usual nightly vigil and tried to ease Harry's discomfort by gently sponging his sweating forehead. He was happy that Harry Potter was finally getting some sleep.



~~~*~



Harry woke up refreshed the next morning and just a bit surprised that he had managed to stay asleep so long. He saw that Dobby had drawn the blinds so that he would not be disturbed by the sunlight streaming through his window and thanked the thoughtful little house elf silently.

He got up and opened the blinds to let the sunlight in and saw that it was late morning. The sun was already high up in the sky. He briefly wondered whether Madam Pomfrey has slipped him a sleeping potion to make sure he slept and shrugged. It did not matter one way or the other.

Harry flexed his muscles slowly and winced when he realized that they had not fully recovered from yesterday's ordeal. He felt really stiff and lethargic and realized that this was probably because he had missed his entire routine of jogging and Aikido classes and his body was unused to so much inactivity.

He prodded his bandages and realized that he wouldn't be able to do any strenuous activities for a few days at least.

He suddenly felt a rumbling in his stomach and realized that he hadn't had any food since yesterday. He quickly dressed and headed down, eager to get some breakfast and chat with Ron. He realized that he had been disappointed not to see Ron around when he arrived yesterday, but immediately felt guilty about thinking such thoughts. It had been his fault that Bill was injured and it was common sense that Ron had wanted to be with his brother.

He headed towards the kitchen, and upon reaching it, was surprised to find the door closed. He raised his hand to knock on the door when Hermione's voice stopped him.

"Oh, don't do that, Harry. A meeting is going on in there."

Harry turned around to see Hermione standing on the stairs, Ron and Ginny standing behind her.

"Hello, Ron, is Bill all right?"

Ron looked at Harry strangely before gruffly replying. "Yeah, he's fine now. He's in there," he said nodding to the closed kitchen door.

"Oh, that's great to hear," Harry said brightly.

He suddenly turned to the closed door and looked deep in thought about something. Then nodding his head decisively he raised his hand and knocked sharply.

Hermione opened her mouth to ask him what he thought he was doing, but closed it when she heard the sound of the door opening.

Unfortunately for Harry, the door was opened by none other than Snape, who looked at him as if he had just crawled out of a troll's nose. "Get lost, Potter, there's a meeting going on." saying that he slammed the door shut on his face.

Dumbledore heard Snape's words from his seat at the head of the table and sighed in frustration.

Harry stared at the closed door in shock before a molten anger began to rise within him. He drew his wand and tapped it on the door.

'Alohomora.'

"Harry, what are you doing?" Hermione said shrilly. "There's an Order meeting going on inside. You'll get into so much trouble." Ron was looking at Harry curiously, but he kept strangely silent.

Harry ignored her and once more tried using the Alohomora charm to open the door.

"It won't work, Harry. They have most probably used some advanced locking charms to seal the door," Ginny said quietly.

Harry had reached a similar conclusion and he grit his teeth in frustration. "Dobby."

Dobby appeared with a loud crack. "Is Harry Potter ready for breakfast? Dobby can serve him in the bedroom."

"No, Dobby. I don't want breakfast at the moment. Can you open this door for me?"

Dobby looked at the door and then at Harry in a horror. "But, sir, there is the meeting..."

"Open the door, Dobby," Harry commanded.

"Harry, what are you doing?" Hermione almost yelled. "You can't just barge into a meeting like that."

"Watch me, Hermione," Harry said tersely.

Dobby looked at Harry and then at the door and reluctantly snapped his fingers. Immediately the door flew open and Harry walked in, followed quickly by Ron, Hermione and Ginny.

The Order members saw the door crash open and Harry striding in and were stunned silent for a moment before all hell broke loose.

"Potter, a meeting is going on," McGonagall said irritably.

"Didn't anybody charm the door? How did he get in?" Moody growled. He was looking highly upset that the door had not been charmed shut and that anybody could have walked in or listened in on the meeting.

"Harry, dear, please go out," Molly Weasley said gently, when she noticed that Harry was not budging. She turned to Ron, Hermione and Ginny. "What are you lot thinking? Barging in like this. Didn't you three know that a meeting was going on?"

"Potter, you imbecile, I told you a meeting is going on. Is that hard for your addled brain to understand?" The last comment, of course, was from Snape.

Harry ignored them all and turned to Dumbledore.

"Is there anything you wanted, Harry?" Dumbledore asked quietly.

"I have decided that it is high time I joined the Order."

His statement was like a bomb that exploded in the room.

"Harry, like I told you last year, the Order is only for people who are of age," Remus began.

"Yes, dear, you are far too young to be involved in all this mess. You are only sixteen. You should not be thinking about these things. Leave it to the adults," Molly said firmly.

Harry ignored everybody and turned to Dumbledore. "I'm not leaving until I've had my say, Headmaster."

Dumbledore nodded. "Very well, Harry."

Harry was about to speak when Molly interrupted. "Wait. Ron, Ginny, Hermione, please go up to your rooms. You are too young to be involved in Order business."

Ron exploded. "We are just as old as Harry. Why is he allowed to stay and not us?"

Ginny backed Ron up to the hilt, an outraged expression on her face.

"I don't want to hear one more word from you," Molly shouted. "Go up to your rooms now."

"That's not fair!" Ron yelled. "Why is he allowed to join the Order and not us?"

"Ron, no one said anything about him joining the Order," Arthur Weasley said calmly. "Now please do as your mother says. She is right. You are far too young to be involved in the Order."

Ron threw an angry look at Harry and stormed out of the room, followed by Ginny. Hermione looked at Harry curiously for a second before following them out.

Dumbledore waved his wand and the door shut again and locked itself. "What is it you wanted to talk to us about, Harry?" he asked gently.

Harry looked at Dumbledore. "As I said I think it is about time I joined the Order." Molly opened her mouth to protest, but Harry silenced her by raising his hand. He looked at her for a moment and then softly asked, "You want me to live like a normal sixteen year old, right?"

Molly looked back at him and spoke earnestly: "Yes, Harry, I do. I see you growing up too fast. No child should be forced to do that. Your childhood will only come once."

Harry smiled, but everyone noticed that the smile never reached his eyes. "All right, maybe you are right about that. But before I leave, can I please ask all of you a question?"

"Of course you can, Harry," Remus said hesitantly. "What do you want to ask?"

"Well, you said that I should live the life of a normal sixteen year old. Does that mean I can do whatever a sixteen year old does? I mean... can I go to the cinema? Or maybe go for a vacation this Christmas? I've never been anywhere outside the country. It would be nice to look around a bit. Can I do that?" Harry asked in mock excitement.

"Harry, you know it is dangerous for you to go out in public," Arthur said softly. He had a fair idea where Harry was going with this and it worried him.

"Hmm... I guess that leaves out the music concerts and Quidditch matches too," Harry said wryly. "So if I am understanding you correctly, I cannot do most of the things a sixteen year old usually does, is that about right?"

"What would you have us do, Potter?" McGonagall said exasperatedly.

"Oh, nothing, I just wanted to ask you exactly how I should live and behave like a teenager. It isn't very clear to me. But maybe it's because I'm not as clever as you people," Harry said softly. "To me it just seems very hypocritical that you want me to be a kid when you know that there is no way I can behave like or live the life of a sixteen year old."

"Harry, we know that the situation is not fair for you. Believe me, we understand how you feel. But don't you see that you cannot possibly join the fight right now? You are not ready," Remus said.

"Moony, you know next to nothing about me so don't presume to think you can understand me. I don't like being patronized. As for whether I am ready or not, someone forgot to tell Voldemort that," Harry said coldly.

Most of the Order flinched at the use of the Dark Lord's name. Remus, on the other hand, looked like he had been whipped at hearing Harry's words.

"Oh, will you look at that. The great, wise warriors of the light. The so called members of the Order cannot even say the name of the person they are fighting. Boy, I feel safe that you guys are responsible for my well being," Harry sneered.

"You have surpassed even your father in your arrogance, Potter," Snape said scathingly. "Just because you foolishly utter the Dark Lord's name doesn't make you capable of fighting him. He will toy with you before killing you off like the inconsequential pest that you are."

"Enough, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly. "Why do you suddenly want to join the Order, Harry? I told you that I will keep you informed of what is going on."

Harry shook his head. "I thought that would be enough, but its not. I have to join now. We can't waste any more time. Time is one thing we don't have on our side. I just can't sit on the sidelines anymore."

"Harry... you know you cannot go on any missions. And you know why," Dumbledore said gently.

The Order members looked at each other curiously wondering what the Headmaster meant by his words.

Harry laughed bitterly "Oh yes, I know. I can't very well forget that, can I? As to your question, I don't intend to go on any missions. But I want to know everything. And to be very frank, after yesterday's attack, I cannot put my life in the hands of the Order anymore. I need to be able to make my own decisions."

"This is the limit, Headmaster. I told you not to give him so much freedom over the years. I told you not to pamper him. Look at the arrogant idiot. He stands there and insults and questions the very people who have kept him alive until now," Snape yelled furiously.

Suddenly Harry lost it. "You keep talking about this alleged pampering, Snape. Just what do you know about my life?" he asked in a dangerous tone.

"What's the matter, Potter? The Muggle relatives not bow down and kiss your feet like the royalty you seem to think you are?" Snape snarled.

Harry looked at him thoughtfully for a second. "Why don't you have a look and tell me, Snape? You are always going on about how pampered and spoilt I have been. Maybe you should see just to make sure whether you were right or not."

He snapped his fingers and Dobby appeared. "Dobby, would you kindly bring me my Pensieve?"

Dobby nodded and disappeared, reappearing a second later with Harry's Pensieve.

"Potter, I have neither the time nor the patience to see you wallowing in self pity. You are wasting our time. Some of us have work to do. So if you have finished your nonsense, kindly get out."

"Oh, this won't take too much time," Harry said carelessly, putting memories rapidly into the Pensieve. "Or could it be that you are just afraid to find out that you are wrong about me?"

Harry placed the Pensieve in front of Snape and eyed him challengingly.

Snape glared at him and slowly the glare changed into a smirk. "Very well, Potter. I will take a look if you insist." The expression on the greasy Potion Master's face made it clear that he intended to use whatever was stored inside the Pensieve to taunt Harry later.

Harry saw this, but kept silent. He had challenged Snape and would go through with it. But before Snape could enter the Pensieve, Dumbledore stopped him. "Harry, I too would like permission to look at the memories, if you are willing. It is my request of you."

Harry closed his eyes. Could he stand Dumbledore going through his memories? Looking at his most private moments... moments where he had been at his lowest.

When he had offered the Pensieve to Snape, he had fully expected him to refuse the offer. But when Snape had agreed to see them and made the comment about him being treated like royalty, a part of him wanted Snape to see the memories. He wanted the greasy potions master to be shocked at what he saw. To see how wrong he was. He knew that it wouldn't make a difference in the end. Snape would still hate him. But he would never be able to make comments about him being pampered anymore.

Dumbledore was another matter altogether. Snape would have either kept quiet about the memories or crack some cruel comment about them. Dumbledore would likely react very differently. He would probably pity him. And while he could stand the cruel jibes of Snape, he didn't think he could stand Dumbledore's pity.

But he also knew that he couldn't deny Dumbledore. Not when he had requested permission like he had.

"Very well, Headmaster. Since it was you that placed me there perhaps you too should see whether you made the correct decision or not," Harry said finally.

Molly and Arthur had been looking at each other during this and holding a silent conversation. "Harry, we would like to see it too, if you don't mind," Arthur said awkwardly. "Ever since Fred and George told us about the bars on your window, we have always wondered..."

"I think all of us would, Potter," McGonagall said. "I was there the night Albus left you at the Dursley's doorstep. Later, I always wondered whether we made the right decision, and always wondered if I would have changed the Headmasters mind if I had been a bit more insistent."

Harry was by now highly regretting bringing out the Pensieve to show Snape. Damn it! Why did he always have to be so impulsive? "Very well," he said with a bitter sigh. "I don't like the idea of all of you sifting through my memories, but if you feel you must, go ahead. It hardly matters whether two or twenty see it."

Harry sank down on a chair and watched as Professor Dumbledore moved the Pensieve into the center of the table before muttering a spell that caused a blue glow to surround it.

One by one, all the members dipped their wands into the bowl and fell into Harry Potter's childhood.


~~~*~


The Order members found themselves crowded into a small kitchen. They were far too many to actually fit in, but the spell Dumbledore had cast was meant to take care of that. Any place they now visited inside the Pensieve would magically change to allow them to fit in, even if the area was as small as a shoe box.

A four year old Harry was standing before them. His tiny, thin body was dressed in an overly large pair of yellow shorts that kept sliding down his legs and a torn green t-shirt which was also too large for his body. His head was covered with tufts of messy black hair and his large green eyes stood out on his pale face. He reached back to pull his shorts back up giving the Order a peek at his tushy.

"He's so adorable!" Tonks whispered softly. The other Order members, except for Snape, heartily agreed with her. Snape just sneered.

Harry was standing in front of a thin, sour looking woman and was holding out a small paper card to her. He had made it especially for her in class today and spent hours drawing and colouring it.

She irritatedly took it from him and glanced at it, seeing the crudely drawn family scene with distaste. She suddenly felt Harry clinging to her knees and looking up at her.

She pushed him away from her angrily and with a cruel bunching up of her fist, crumpled up the card and tossed it into the dustbin.

Harry looked up at her from the floor where he had fallen down when she had pushed him. His eyes were blurred with tears of confusion.

"Didn't you like it? I made it for you in class today," he said, getting up slowly.

"I don't have time to look at your stupid drawings," Petunia Dursley said harshly as she went back to her cooking, not even sparing her nephew a glance.

"But I made it because I love you..." Harry said sadly. "Don't you love me?"

Petunia Dursley turned to him, her face contorted in rage.

"Love? Love you? Who would love a freak like you? You don't deserve to be loved. Now get lost and stop bothering me."

Harry looked up at her, a scared and heartbroken expression on his face. Her words tore into him. He was a freak!

Nobody would ever love him.


The scene changed and the Order members were transported to another memory. They found themselves back in the same kitchen.

"That horrible woman!" Mrs. Weasley said with tears in her eyes. "How could anyone do that to a child?"

She was silenced by her husband as the memory started.

Harry was standing on the kitchen stove frying bacon and eggs. His face barely cleared the stovetop and he had to stand on tiptoe to see what he was doing. The pan was far too heavy for him and he was struggling to make sure the eggs did not get burnt.

The Dursleys were sitting down on the kitchen table, which was piled high with brightly wrapped presents. A fat, pink faced boy with blond hair was sitting before the presents and smiling happily as both his parents fussed over him.

Suddenly there was a loud crash as the pan fell down onto the floor. Harry was squealing in pain and clutching his forearm, nursing the burn he had received.

Petunia Dursley got up from the table, and angrily walked over to Harry, eyeing him with the deepest loathing. "You stupid boy! Can't you do anything right?"

Dudley immediately started crying as he spotted an opportunity to get Harry in trouble.

"I'm sorry, but the pan was too heavy," Harry said trying to hold back his tears of pain. "It's not my fault."

"Don't you dare talk back to your Aunt, you ungrateful whelp," Vernon Dursley said as he hurried over and grabbed Harry by the scruff of his neck. "I think you need a lesson in manners."

He took quick strides towards the living room, dragging a protesting Harry behind him. Pausing beneath the stairs, he opened a small cupboard and roughly shoved Harry inside and locked the door. "I think two days in there without food will teach you to talk back to your superiors, boy," Vernon Dursley said triumphantly.


Before the shocked Order could react the memory was changing again.


Vernon Dursley was standing before a cowering Harry holding a broken vase in his hands.

"You brat! Do you know how much this vase cost me?"

Harry looked up at his uncle pleadingly. "But I didn't break it. Dudley broke..."

The rest of his words were cut off as Vernon Dursleys large hand struck him on his face, throwing him off his feet with the force of the blow.

"You disgusting hoodlum. Now you have started lying too, is it? Not only do you break the vase but you dare blame it on your cousin?" Vernon Dursleys frame shook with righteous anger.

Harry knew better than to protest any more. That day he learned a valuable lesson, that of never daring to blame Dudley.

The Order watched in shock as Vernon Dursley locked Harry into the cupboard again. "Let's see if a week in there without food keeps you from breaking things and telling lies, shall we, boy?"

Dumbledore's face had lost all its colour and he had a look of deep sadness on his face. Molly, on the other hand, was red with fury. Tears of rage were coursing down her face as she watched her surrogate son being treated worse than an animal by the monstrous Dursleys. She couldn't understand how anybody could treat a child like that


The memory changed again.


Harry covered his eyes feebly to protect them against the glare of the sunlight filtering into his cupboard. The sudden bright light after a week of darkness hurt his eyes.

"Get up, boy, there are lots of chores to do. You have lazed around the entire week. It's time you did some work for change. Come and have your breakfast quickly or you'll have to go without," Petunia Dursley said coldly.

Harry was too weak from lack of nourishment to even think of replying to her. All he could think of was food. He had been given just enough food and water that he didn't die of starvation. Otherwise, he had not had a proper meal all week.

As he struggled to get to his feet his Aunt scrunched up her nose. "You smell like a sewage plant," she said in disgust. "I'm not having you sit at my table. You can have your breakfast in the kitchen."

She quickly took a plate and put an egg and a few thin strips of bacon on it. Grabbing a slice of toast, she put it on the plate and thrust it at Harry.

Harry quickly took the plate and going into a corner of the kitchen sat down on the floor and began to wolf down his food. He was so hungry that he hardly chewed his food, he just swallowed it down.

This was a very dangerous thing to do, as his stomach had been mostly empty for a week, and when he wolfed down his food so fast his stomach rebelled. Before he knew it, Harry was clutching his stomach and vomiting violently all over his Aunt's gleaming kitchen floor.

Harry's entire body trembled with the effort it took him to up his breakfast and he fell over sideways, nearly unconscious.

"You animal!" Petunia Dursley screamed, throwing a glass of water on him. "Look what you did to my kitchen. I just waxed it yesterday."

"S-s-sorry," Harry gasped weakly.

"Sorry? Sorry isn't going to get my kitchen clean. Go get the mop and clean up this mess."

Harry made a heroic effort to get to his feet and went to get the mop to clean the mess up.

The Order watched as he slowly mopped up the kitchen, leaning on the mop because his legs just wouldn't support him. They watched as his Aunt made him do all the chores in his condition. By the end of the day, Harry was running a fever and he just managed to get into his cupboard before he passed out from exhaustion and weakness.


The scene changed.


The horrified Order members found themselves in the garden of Privet Drive. Suddenly, a small black haired boy streaked past them screaming with fear. Right behind him, a large and fierce looking Bulldog gave chase. Harry just managed to hurl himself up a tree in time to escape the snarling dog that had been right on his heels. He quickly climbed higher up and sat down on one of the lower branches looking at the dog in terror.

A large and heavy jowled woman came rushing out of the house and stopped angrily by the tree. "What did you do to him, boy?" the woman bellowed up at Harry.

"I didn't do anything," Harry protested.

"Don't give me that, boy. Ripper is a lamb. He wouldn't attack a fly without provocation. You must have done something to upset him."

"But I didn't," Harry pleaded. "Look, just take him away. He'll bite me if I come down."

"Serves you right if he would," the woman thundered. "In fact I will leave him here."

She turned to Ripper "Bite this filthy rat if he comes down, boy."

Ripper barked loudly, wagged his tail, and sat down below the tree.

Harry saw his Aunt Marge pat Ripper on the head and mutter "Good boy," before she made her way back to the house.

"Wait... please, I didn't do anything," Harry called out in a miserable voice, but she didn't stop or even turn around to spare Harry a glance.

Harry sat on the branch, hoping that the dog would tire of him and go off somewhere, but it was not to be. One time when he did go away, Dudley brought him right back just as Harry was climbing down the tree, and he nearly got bitten by him.

For Dudley, it was a huge sport to see his freakish cousin trapped on the tree and unable to come down. But slowly he got bored of watching Harry sit on the tree and decided to liven things up a bit. Surely it would be more fun if Harry fell off the tree and Ripper bit him.

So he picked up pebbles and sticks and chucked them at Harry, laughing when Harry pleaded for him to stop. It was all Harry could do to avoid falling of the tree while dealing with the missiles.


The scene changed.


Harry was standing in the kitchen pleading with his Aunt.

"Please, Aunt Petunia. Can't you tell me anything about my parents? What happened to them? What were they like?"

"Go away, boy. I don't have time to waste on you," Petunia Dursley said brusquely, ignoring her nephew and going about her work.

"It will only take a few minutes," Harry pleaded. "I don't know anything about them. Please, I beg you."

Petunia Dursley looked at him angrily and sighed. "Very well, if you do all your chores properly and are a very good boy then maybe I will tell you."

Harry nodded eagerly and, picking up the list that his aunt had given him, he went off to get them done.

He was on his knees busy pruning the rose bushes when Dudley came up from behind him and jerked his legs, sending Harry sprawling into the thorny bush.

Harry angrily picked himself up and glared at his fat cousin. "Go away, Dudley. Don't you have anything better to do than to annoy me?"

"I know what you were talking about with Mum," Dudley said with a smirk.

"Oh, good, added eavesdropping to your list of nasty habits too, have you?" Harry said, going back to pruning the bushes.

Dudley continued to smirk at him. "Ooh, the freak wants to know about his parents. Think you can get those chores done today, runt?"

Harry looked at him carefully. "Do you have a point to all your idiotic blabbering?"

Dudley shrugged. "Oh nothing, I was just wondering what would happen if Mum came to inspect the garden tonight and found her rose bushes damaged or the windows dirty."

"Are you threatening me?" Harry said angrily.

Dudley just grinned at him. "No, I was just wondering what would happen if something like that did take place."

"What do you want?" Harry asked quietly.

"Well, if you do as I say all day today then maybe I'll let you off easy and won't do anything to ruin this for you," Dudley said casually.

Harry wanted to kill him at the moment, wanted to stab him with the pruning shears. Any punishment would be worth it to wipe that hateful smirk off his face. But he knew that it would ruin everything for him. And he wanted to know too badly.

"All right. What do you want me to do, Dudley?"

"First, no calling me Dudley. All of today you will call me 'sir.' It's best you learnt how to address your superiors."

"What?" Harry snorted. "If you think I'm going to call you that you can think again."

"Well, all right, if that's the way you want it..."

Harry clenched his jaw furiously. "Ok, fine. I'll call you sir. Any thing else you want?"

Dudley grinned. "Well, it's really hot today. Get me a glass of lemonade. Oh, and while you are at it, get me a sandwich too."

Harry threw the pruning shears down and stiffly walked into the house to get Dudley his drink and sandwich.

The day went by and Harry went on with his chores and did whatever Dudley wanted him to do. Mostly all the tasks were just to humiliate him, and Harry barely kept himself from murdering Dudley. Whenever he felt like telling Dudley to go to hell he remembered Aunt Petunia's promise and did whatever he was asked to do quietly. It wouldn't be long now. It would soon be over. And then he would finally find out about his parents.

The day ended and Harry watched eagerly as Aunt Petunia inspected all the work he had done. She tied to find fault with his work but Harry had spent such a lot of time making sure that everything was perfect that there wasn't much she could say.

That all ended when she went outside to check her rose bushes. What she saw sent her into paroxysms of anger. Three of her precious rose bushes were lying mutilated on the ground.

Harry looked at the bushes in shock as he saw his Aunt turn to screech at him. From a corner of his eye he saw Dudley grin at him from the door and at that moment Harry lost it.

He rushed at him and started pummeling him with all the strength in his skinny body. He punched him wherever he could reach him. He didn't care that Dudley was hitting him back. All he cared about was causing Dudley pain, because he knew that Aunt Petunia would never tell him now.

He didn't hear Aunt Petunia yell for his uncle. He didn't hear his uncle come down thundering. And he never saw the heavy fist descend on his face knocking him senseless.

He woke up hours later locked inside his cupboard. He got a week inside for the incident.

And that was the day he started hating the Dursleys with a passion. He no longer cared about pleasing him or if they loved him. He just hated them with every fiber of his being.


The scene changed.


The Order were standing in Harry's small cupboard. Again, it was Dumbledore's modifications that enabled them to get into such a small space. The walls of the cupboard simply expanded around them, allowing them all to fit in.

Harry was kneeling down on the floor, his eyes were closed and his hands were clasped together.

"Dear God, I know that I must have done something really bad and that's why you took my parents away. And that's why nobody will ever love me."

Harry paused, thinking carefully about his next words.

"I know that I deserve whatever is happening to me but I heard in church today that you forgive people when they are sorry for what they did. I am really, really sorry. Please forgive me and take me to be with my parents. I promise to be really quiet and not to bother anyone."

He paused and looked around the cupboard. It almost seemed as if he was searching for God in the tiny cramped place.

"I hope you will forgive me and take me to be with you soon. Thank you, God. Amen." Tears rolled down his tiny cheeks as he finished his prayer.


The scene changed.


Harry was standing cowering in a corner as his Uncle advanced on him menacingly.

The reason for him doing this was because Ickle Duddykins had slipped on some ice while trying to kick Harry and fallen down hard and broken his wrist.

"I'm going to make you regret the day you were born, boy," Vernon Dursley said angrily. "You have gone too far this time. How dare you attack your cousin?"

"B-b-but he fell down while he was trying to k-kick me," Harry stammered. "I d-d-didn't do anything to him."

A dangerous glint came into Vernon Dursleys eyes. "You filthy liar. Dudley told me that you tripped him."

Harry shrank further into the wall.

"I have tried to be patient with you. I have tried to make you see the error of your ways. I have punished you and yet nothing seems to work. Not only are you a dangerous lunatic, but you lie all the time, steal food from the fridge, talk back to your Aunt and do it with the most innocent look on your face. I see I will have to discipline you this time."

He caught Harry by the scruff of his neck and threw him face first onto a chair. His hands went to his belt and he removed it slowly.

Harry was never so terrified in his life. He wondered what was going to happen to him. He found out soon as Vernon's heavy belt came crashing down on his back.

Harry screamed in pain.

Again and again the belt came down on his back, each blow getting harder and harder. Harry's throat felt raw with screaming and the pain was unbearable. His t-shirt stuck to his back and felt sticky. He suspected that his back was bleeding from the wounds.

Before he could do anything about it he was thrown into his cupboard. He was not allowed out for a week.


The scene changed.


The Order watched in shock as memory after memory of Harry's childhood flashed before them, each as terrible as the one before it. By the time it was over all of them were in shock. By the time it was over not one of them were the same people. All of them, even Snape, were struck speechless with horror.

Dumbledore had aged years in the short time he had spent in the Pensieve. His shoulders were drooping with fatigue and a great burden of guilt. As long as he lived he would never be able to forgive himself.

Molly's eyes were red from all the crying she had done. Her heart bled for her black haired son. How could he have survived all of this? Survived to become the person he was?

Remus Lupin died nearly a hundred times with guilt when he saw what Harry had gone through. How could he ever face Harry again? How could he ever face James and Lily? He promised himself that he would make it right. Somehow he would do it. Whatever the price was, he would pay it. But as long as he was alive Harry would never be harmed again.

The Order had finally gotten a glimpse of what made Harry Potter tick and what went into making him what he was today.



~~~*~



Harry was sitting and eating breakfast when the Order came out of the Pensieve.

He saw the expressions on most of the Order member's faces and raised his hand to stop them from speaking.

"Before you say anything I want to make one thing very clear. I never want to talk about what you saw in there. I didn't ask for you to see what you saw. You wanted to see it. I hope your curiosity is sated. One more thing, I neither want nor need your pity, so keep it to yourself."

He turned to Snape. "Don't think I showed you any of that because I want your sympathy. I just wanted to show it to you to shut your mouth once and for all about how pampered I was. I know that you still hate me and that's perfectly fine with me. I really don't give a fig about what you think of me. But remember one thing. Whether you like me or not, you will treat me with respect or I promise you I will make you regret it."

Snape glared at Harry but kept his mouth shut. Even he knew that it would be very dangerous to push Harry right now.

Harry turned to Dumbledore. "You know, when Hagrid first came for me and I found out about what I was, I couldn't help but feel that it was a dream come true. Maybe there was a chance for me to finally live life the way I wanted to. But that was never really an option, was it?" Harry said bitterly.

"From the beginning I had to deal with all your bullshit. I never asked for any of it - the fame, the money, the publicity - I never wanted any of it. But you know what the biggest joke is? At the end of it all I have to listen to people like him," he said, pointing at Snape, "Tell me what an arrogant idiot I am. At the end of it all I have to sit and watch the rest of you treat me like a kid and make decisions about my life without even caring how I feel about them."

Dumbledore listened to Harry in silence and forced himself to meet Harry's eyes. As Harry talked a little more of the twinkle in his eye died.

"You know, I always wanted to ask you a few questions, Headmaster. For instance, why you allow Snape here, free reign to terrorize the students. Do you think you could answer me now? Or is it another of those secrets that you feel like keeping?" Harry asked sarcastically.

Dumbledore sighed. "Harry, Professor Snape spies for us at great risk to his own life. He has to keep up a certain front. One mistake on his part could mean certain death for him."

Harry nodded. "Could I dare ask what gave you the right to make this decision?"

McGonagall spluttered. "Potter, I know you are angry but that hardly gives you the right to talk to Professor Dumbledore like that."

Harry turned and faced her. "I have the right because I am a student studying in the school in which he is the Headmaster. As the Headmaster, he has a responsibility to his students to make sure that they have a good education and are kept safe."

Harry glared at Dumbledore. "Tell me what right you had to choose one man's life over so many hundreds of students and their ambitions. Tell me what right you had to allow him to poison generations of Slytherins against the other houses. I know that you are the leader of the resistance against Voldemort, Headmaster, but you have a moral responsibility to keep your duties as Headmaster of Hogwarts separate from your duties as leader of the Order. The parents trust you to keep their children safe and for you to teach them what's right from wrong. Don't you think you have abused their trust in you?"

Dumbledore kept quiet.

"And the Philosophers Stone... You knew Voldemort was after it, didn't you? Yet you allowed it to be hidden there. You must have known that Voldemort would have tried to come after it. Tell me how you can justify endangering the lives of the students under your care to do that. Yes, Hogwarts was the safest place for it, and yes, Voldemort would have been invincible had he got the stone. But you have forgotten that Hogwarts is a school, Headmaster. It isn't a fortress to wage war against Voldemort."

"Harry, I realize that I am at fault," Dumbledore said quietly. "But at that time there wasn't any other place we had to hide it."

"Are you really trying to tell me that the risk that a few students would die was worth the price to have the stone hidden at Hogwarts?" Harry said softly.

"Potter, you have to understand that sometimes it is not always possible to do what's right. If Voldemort was to arise again the students would be in far greater danger than if he were to try and steal the stone. Life cannot be viewed in black and white. Sometimes we don't have a choice," McGonagall said gently.

"Really? If you wanted to prevent Voldemort from getting the stone then you should have destroyed it. That's what you did in the end, wasn't it? And don't tell me there wasn't a choice. There are always choices. Say you found it easy not to make the hard choices. Potions is a very important subject for getting into many careers. Because of how he teaches, barely a handful of students make it into NEWT Potions. You have let that happen. You put the life of one man over the welfare of generations of your students. Now you think whether it was worth it."

"Harry, the life of a man, any one man, is infinitely precious. It is the most valuable thing there is," Dumbledore said slowly.

"Headmaster," Harry sighed. "I never said his life wasn't valuable. But I was under the impression that we were fighting in a war. When anybody joins the Order they know the risks fully. If a person can't handle the risks, then maybe they have no business joining the Order."

Snape had kept silent up till now but he finally exploded. "So lectures the Saint Potter. Tell me Potter, does this right and wrong ever penetrate your thick skull when you are breaking the school rules right and left? When you are stealing from teachers and making Polyjuice potion to illegally enter the Slytherin dungeons? Quite easy to point fingers at others, isn't it?"

Harry nodded. "Yes, I break school rules. I admit I have made my share of mistakes. Are you man enough to admit to yours? To be very frank I would love to stop breaking the school rules. Can you just make sure that Basilisks, three-headed dogs, Acromantulas and Dementors are not roaming around, though? That would really help a lot."

Snape sneered. "I don't have time to hear this nonsense. Nobody asked you to do anything about any of those things, Potter. If you had just obeyed the rules like you were asked to, you would never have been in danger."

"Really? And yet I remember Quirrel hexing my broom and my name being slipped into the Goblet of Fire without me doing anything. I was obeying all of you last summer, wasn't I? And yet two Dementors were sent after me. Maybe there was some rule of yours I didn't follow then, /Professor/?" Harry said sarcastically.

Snape glared at Harry, hate burning in his eyes.

"Oh, forget it. It's pointless to discuss all of it when I know that nothing will come of it. Let's just get back to me joining the Order," Harry said disgustedly. "I will no longer tolerate any of you controlling my life. I will no longer tolerate you keeping secrets about me, /from me./"

Harry ran his hands through his hair and walked over to the window. "I too have feelings and wants. I'm not some pawn to be moved around according to your whims. I want to have the chance to be happy, to dream and have the ability to make those dreams true. But that is never going to happen until Voldemort is gone. So let me fight. Let me fight Voldemort so that I can finally have the chance to live my life the way I want after he is gone. Is that so much to ask? Is that so unreasonable?"

"No, Harry, that is not unreasonable. I think you have earned the right to join the Order," Dumbledore said sadly. No one questioned Dumbledore's decision, even Molly Weasley.

"Harry, you do know that with you joining the Order, Ron, Hermione and Ginny will ask to do so too, right?" Bill said quietly.

Harry shook his head. "No, Ron and Hermione and Ginny won't be joining the Order. I don't want them involved. Not yet. I don't want them to have to deal with this when they don't have to. I want them to have a normal life, as normal as possible. It isn't possible to keep them out of this war, but at least they can have a year or two more before they get involved. I don't want them facing Voldemort or seeing what I have seen. I don't want them to ever know what a Cruciatus curse feels like. I want them to be able to sleep peacefully at night, to play Quidditch and worry about their NEWT's. There will be time enough to fight the war later on for them."

"They aren't going to like that, Harry," Tonks warned.

"No, I don't suppose they will. But that is the way it has to be. I have joined the Order because Voldemort is actively after me. They don't have that problem. It would be better if it is kept that way," Harry said grimly.

"Very well, let's get on with the meeting, shall we?" Dumbledore said wearily. "Arthur, what is the status of the bill to allow the Aurors to use lethal force against the Death Eaters?"

Arthur Weasley opened his mouth to answer him when Snape got up suddenly, clutching his arm in pain.

"I must go Headmaster. He is calling me."

Dumbledore nodded. "Take care, Severus."

Harry was looking at Snape's departing back and something was nudging his memory. Something about the night that Voldemort was resurrected. Suddenly it hit him. It was so obvious! What fools they had been.

He got out of the chair and ran after Snape, yelling furiously for him to stop.


~~~*~
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