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...
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: No I don't own Harry Potter. I just write fanfics for fun and make absolutely no money out of it. It all belongs to the great JK Rowling.
This chapter is dedicated to MuggleMomma as it is her birthday. Happy Birthday, Trish, May you have a very happy and prosperous year ahead of you.
The Gang Arrives
It was around 10 pm, dinner had been eaten a while ago, and mostly everybody had gone up to bed. Harry was sitting at his desk, peering at a large Arithmancy textbook and then making notes on one of the several pieces of parchment in front of him in his untidy, spiky handwriting. His hands were ink stained and some of it had rubbed off on his face when he had unconsciously scratched his nose with his inky hands.
The ground around him was littered with crumpled up pieces of paper, evidence of plenty of frustrated efforts. Arithmancy had begun to get really difficult and he just couldn't figure out some of it.
At first he didn't hear the soft knock on his door, but when it was repeated he looked up in confusion. Trying to understand the problem he was working on was taking all of his attention and so the knock sounded like it was coming from very far away.
The knocking was repeated again and Harry sighed in annoyance.
The door opened slightly and Hermione peeked in. Her bushy hair was tied up in a bun and she was dressed in a thick, sky blue robe, from under which he could see glimpses of a matching cotton nightgown.
"May I come in?" she asked in a small voice.
Harry nodded. "Come on in, Hermione."
She walked in hesitantly and took the seat opposite him.
Harry watched her curiously as she bit her lip nervously and refused to look at him directly. He had seen this look on her face several times over the years. It appeared usually when she was gathering up her courage or getting ready to say something she knew the other person wouldn't take kindly to.
She finally raised her eyes and looked at him. There was a sad, lost expression in the soft brown orbs. "You were right."
One thing Hermione could never stand was being wrong and Harry knew how difficult this admission must have been for her.
"I wasn't helping them. I decided what was best for them without even knowing what they wanted. Last year... if any of them had been freed it would have been a disaster."
"It's ok, the important thing is that nothing did happen," Harry said shrugging his shoulders. "And whatever anybody may say, you have been the only one at Hogwarts crusading for their rights. Your intentions were good, that's all that matters."
"Oh, Harry! It seems so hopeless," Hermione said sadly. "The more I think of it, the more it looks impossible. The wizarding world is so set in its prejudices. The purity of blood counts for everything. You really think anybody is going to listen to me at the Ministry when I ask for the laws to be changed? You really think they'll prosecute a pureblood family for abusing their house elves if a 'Mudblood' makes a complaint? No, nobody will care. Most of the old pureblooded families have House Elves, and they are hardly going to set them free and inconvenience themselves."
Harry looked back at her, a determined look in his eyes. "Hermione, I never claimed that this was going to be easy. It's going to be a battle all the way. For it to succeed people will have to change. And not one person or two, or even twenty. All of them. If they don't... well, then we have a lot bigger problems than House Elves rights on our hands. But this is something worth doing, a battle worth fighting. And you aren't alone, I'm with you, so is Ron, Ginny, and if you do this properly, most of the Order. That's a start."
Hermione suddenly leapt from her seat and hugged Harry tightly. "Thank you," she whispered against his ear. "It means so much to me to hear you say that."
Harry blushed and patted Hermione's back awkwardly. He was still very unused to anybody hugging him.
Hermione got up and turned to leave. When she reached the door she glanced back at him slowly. "You've changed, Harry."
Harry looked up at her and shrugged slowly. "I've had to."
Harry tiredly walked down the stairs to the kitchen after another sleepless night. He had woken screaming from yet another nightmare where he had been forced to see all his loved ones die. It was getting so bad that Harry was seriously considering asking Madam Pomfrey for some Dreamless Sleep Potion. He badly needed sleep.
But right now he needed a cup of tea, needed to clear the cobwebs in his mind and calm down before he could start studying again. He had to work hard if he was to have even a chance at passing the OWL tests that he would be taking in a few days.
He waved his wand distractedly and the kitchen lamps flared to life. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he walked to the counter and started rummaging around for some teabags.
He was startled when a voice behind him softly asked, "Hi, can't sleep again?"
He turned around slowly to see a sleepy Ginny Weasley standing behind him, dressed in a thin, mint green cotton nightshirt. It barely came up to mid-thigh, giving Harry a tantalizing view of her legs.
"Yeah," Harry said in a slightly high pitched voice as he tore his eyes away from her legs. He quickly turned around and went back to trying to find the teabags. "You... you have another nightmare?"
"No, I heard you walking down the stairs and woke up," Ginny answered with a soft sigh, as she walked up to him and removed the teabags from their proper tin.
Harry looked up at her apologetically. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."
Ginny waved it off. "It's nothing, Harry, I'm a light sleeper. When you live in the same house as Fred and George you have to be to avoid getting pranked. It's not your fault."
Between the two of them they soon had the tea ready and sat across each other with their mugs, slowly sipping the hot, fragrant liquid.
Harry found himself stealing constant looks at the pretty redhead sitting opposite him. He was clueless as to why he suddenly found the youngest Weasley so fascinating, but he knew that it wouldn't do to have her catch him staring at her. Too many questions would be raised... most of which he didn't have an answer to.
Ginny had noticed the looks. It was very difficult not to. She had also seen him look at her legs when she had first come down and she was more than pleased. She had come down without her robe for a reason, after all. Ginny knew that if her mother came down and caught her dressed like this... Oh! Molly Weasley would have dragons! but some risks had to be taken when seducing thick boys who never noticed what was right in front of them.
She had a feeling that Harry was attracted to her, or atleast he would be with a little nudging. But with what she saw in his Pensieve she wondered whether he would ever act on it. She realized that he would probably never make the first move, she agreed with Hermione completely about that. His disastrous relationship with Cho Chang must not have done a great deal for his self confidence. It might have even gone on to make him think that dating at this stage of his life was not a very appealing thing.
"You know, you never told me, how is it going with you and Dean?" Harry asked, trying to break the awkward silence between them.
"We broke up, Harry," Ginny said with a gentle shrug of her shoulders.
Harry looked surprised. "Oh, I'm sorry. What happened, if I may ask?"
Ginny sighed. "The short version, he was a jealous git who felt I was in love with somebody else... you."
Harry seemed flabbergasted at this. "But what gave him that impression? I don't understand... Do you want me to talk to him and tell him that's not true?"
Ginny looked at him, her soft brown eyes looking straight into his. "What if it was true, Harry?"
Harry gaped at her. "What? What do... Do you... You mean..."
Ginny blushed fiercely but still continued to look right at him, her heart in her eyes. "Yes, Harry."
"But...but...but... Hermione told me... I thought you were over me," Harry said in bewilderment.
"I tried, Harry," Ginny said softly. "I tried so hard to get over you. I kept myself busy with my friends and school to try and forget you. But yet you were never really out of my thoughts. I went out with other boys hoping that it would help me get over you. But they aren't who I want to be with."
Ginny's face was red with embarrassment by this point and she looked away hurriedly.
Harry's mind felt like a whirlwind had just blown through it. He just didn't know how to take this revelation.
One part of him was screaming at him to ask her out. She was fun to be with, she had similar interests to him, was intelligent, an excellent fighter, and somewhere over the past few years she had become amazingly beautiful. When she had looked at him a moment ago he had seen such immense love for him in her eyes, so pure, so accepting. It had hit him hard and left him reeling. He hadn't felt that it was possible to have anybody love him that much.
But the other part of him was very afraid of getting involved with her. If he started dating her she would become a major target of Voldemort. Her name would probably be right below his and Dumbledore's on the Dark Lord's list. Was it right to put her in so much danger? What if something happened to her? Or if Voldemort captured her? Would he ever be able to look Ron or the Weasley's in the eye again? Would he ever forgive himself?
He had seen them all die in his dreams, saw them die every night. The only thing that kept him going was the fact that he could get up in the morning and see them safe and sound. If she were to die he didn't think he could take it.
No, he couldn't do this, not now. He couldn't be with her... with anybody.
"Ginny, you are very pretty and are such an amazing person," Harry said softly, not being able to look at her. "But I've never thought of you that way."
"Don't," Ginny said fiercely, tears shining in her eyes. "Don't say that you think of me as a sister. If you like someone else, or don't want to be with me, that's fine. But don't ever say that to me, Harry."
Harry put his face in his hands. He couldn't deal with this... not now.
Why couldn't something be easy for once? Why did it always have to be so difficult? He was probably the only sixteen year old who had to think twice about dating a pretty girl, because an insane Dark Wizard might kill her for being close to him. Why did he have to have the whole fucking world's burdens on his shoulders?
Harry savagely brought up all of his Occlumency shields and dropped his hands from his face. Slowly, he lifted his head up to look at Ginny, meeting her tear misted eyes with his cold and empty ones. "I don't love you, Ginny," he said in a harsh and ragged whisper. "I have never thought of you that way. Even though I know you want it to work out I don't think it can, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me."
He got up swiftly and walked out of the room. A moment later Ginny heard him bounding up the stairs and his room door opening and closing.
And then she sobbed. Sobbed for everything that she had lost... everything that could never be.
Ginny Weasley sat in an overstuffed armchair, seeming to be almost swallowed in its soft depths. Her face was pale and drawn and her normally bright eyes were dull and sparkless. She felt hollow and empty inside, and at the moment she wanted nothing more than to hide in a deep dark corner till the hurt went away. She could still see Harry's emotionless eyes as he told her in no uncertain terms that he didn't love her and never would. She had thought that he found her attractive, but he had dismissed her affections like they meant nothing. To her it seemed like a belittling of all her possibilities as a woman. Wasn't she good enough for him to even try to have a relationship with her?
Hermione, who was sitting opposite her, noticed her moroseness and shook her head sadly. She had woken up when Ginny had come back into the room last night, her eyes red with crying and a miserable look on her face. Ginny had thrown herself at her and started crying anew. It had taken a long time before she was able to piece what had happened from Ginny's broken words and sobs, and when she had she was stunned. It hadn't sounded like the Harry Potter she had known since her first day at Hogwarts at all!
She couldn't understand why Harry was behaving like this. She too had noticed Harry's appreciative glances at Ginny. So why would he refuse a relationship with her without even a single date?
What had happened to make him behave like this? How many more secrets was Harry hiding?
She glanced at him, noticing the expressionless look on his face and was even more intrigued. Harry had always been thick about feelings and emotions, though to be fair he was far better than Ron. But she had never known him to ever be cold and unfeeling. How could this not affect him at all?
Then it hit her like a ton of bricks.
Harry sat quietly on the couch beside Ron, staring straight ahead. He could feel Hermione and Ron studying him intently but he ignored them both. Beneath his mask his emotions were raging inside him, boiling just below the surface. It took all of his skill in Occlumency to hide it.
He hated himself passionately. He knew he had hurt Ginny. He had noticed her red eyes at breakfast, noticed her crushed demeanor.
His heart felt raw with pain. Everything that had happened in the past few weeks since Hagrid had died had contributed towards breaking his spirit, little by little at a time. He would have preferred the Cruciatus curse, atleast the pain of that vanished with time. From this there was no escape, not for a single minute. The worry plagued him every second of every day.
The silence was shattered with a loud thump as four people appeared in the middle of the silent room.
Actually 'appeared' was not exactly right, since the boys all landed awkwardly on their feet and fell down hard on the floor in a spectacular heap. Poor Sean had the misfortune of having both Alan and Jack landing on him, crushing him with their weight. But instead of getting up off him they just lay there with dazed looks on their faces.
Patricia, on the other hand, was standing upright, poised and unruffled. She had an amused twinkle in her eyes as she looked at the three ungainly figures lying by her feet.
Then her eyes flickered up and met Harry's. A huge smile broke out on her face, making it light up like a Christmas tree, and she literally threw herself at him, hugging him tightly. "Thank you, Harry. I don't know how to tell you what this means to me. Ever since I was a kid and heard about Hogwarts I wanted to go. I so desperately wished for a letter to come to me, even though I knew it wasn't possible. And now I can finally go. I can never thank you enough."
She then proceeded to kiss a stunned Harry on both cheeks.
Harry was a bit uncomfortable with her show of affection, especially since the episode with Ginny last night. But Pat was so happy, so excited, that he couldn't help but smile back at her.
Ginny watched quietly as Harry friends arrived. Her first look at Pat stunned her. The long, waist length black hair, the fluid grace in her form, her unusually pretty violet eyes... She hadn't expected her to be so beautiful! A wave of pure jealousy rushed through her as she saw her hug Harry and then kiss him, at that moment she wanted to tear the older girl to shreds.
But a lot of things were becoming a lot clearer to her. She now had an idea why Harry didn't like her that way. It was highly possible that he had fallen for Patricia. And she didn't blame him.
Pat was very beautiful.
Ginny closed her eyes quickly, lest someone see the pain within. She couldn't blame Harry for this. He hadn't known about her feelings for him. As far as Harry had been concerned she had been over him and had been happily dating Dean. Why then could he not find someone to date? He had a right to his happiness too.
Harry had saved her life and had always been a good friend to her. Right now he needed a friend, not someone who dumped more emotional baggage on him. She would be that friend, even if it killed her to do it. She owed him that much.
She forced a bright smile on her face and went forward to meet his friends.
Sean groaned. "Gerrof me you two lumps!"
Pat and Harry moved forward to give them a hand up, grinning at the scowling Sean.
"You could have warned us," Sean told Pat accusingly.
"What? And miss all the fun?" Pat smirked.
Sean glared at her but it didn't take long for his glare to turn into a grin as his eyes fell on Harry.
"Hiya mate," he said walking forward and enveloping Harry in a one armed hug.
"Hi Sean," Harry said with a smile as he returned the hug. "It's good to have you guys here."
He turned to where Ron, Hermione and Ginny were standing, waiting for him to introduce them to his muggle friends. "This is Sean Hazelton. He was my Aikido partner back at Privet Drive. And these three here," he said pointing to where Pat, Jack and Alan were standing. "Are Jack McKnight, Alan Smith and Patricia Marchbanks. You guys, meet my friends, Hermione Granger, Ron and Ginny Weasley."
Greetings were exchanged and soon they were all chatting away nineteen to the dozen.
"Hello," Hermione said warmly, shaking Pat's hand. "Harry told us a lot about you. Mentioned that you are a master at Aikido."
Pat shrugged. "Oh no, I'm barely a beginner. There are people who have been studying it for decades and they still haven't learnt all of it. It's just something I enjoy."
"Oh? Well, anyway, you are still better than I will ever be at it. I am an absolute dunce at any kind of sports or physical activity," Hermione said honestly.
"Oh, don't say that. I'm sure you haven't even tried half of them," Pat said with a shake of her head. "Anybody can excel if they put enough effort into it. And from what I hear, you make up for all of it in the brains department. Harry keeps saying that you are the smartest witch he has ever met. To be honest, I would be very grateful if you could give me a few pointers to help prepare for the Muggle Studies OWL."
Hermione beamed. "Of course I'll help. And now that you are going to Hogwarts you might want to read /Hogwarts, a History/. I'll lend you my copy. It will help you blend in easier once you are there."
Pat smiled back. "I've already read it. Fantastic book. Everybody who attends Hogwarts should read it atleast once."
With that statement Pat made a friend for life of Hermione.
While Hermione and Pat were talking, Ron was getting acquainted with Alan.
"Hi, I hear you're a very good chess player," Ron said eagerly.
Alan shook his head. "I wouldn't say I'm all that good. I've only entered a few local tournaments and out of them won only one. I don't think I'll ever make a grandmaster."
Ron looked highly confused. "Tournaments? Grandmaster?"
Alan laughed. "Well, there are chess tournaments held in nearly every school. The winners of each local school in the district go on to play against each other in inter school tournaments. The winners of that then get to play at a National level. And if you are good enough you might get a chance to play on an International level against the best players in the world. The top International players get the title of grandmaster."
Ron's eyes shone. "That sounds really neat."
"Oh yes, it is. Some of the matches I have seen are amazing. They play at an entirely different level than you or me," Alan said enthusiastically.
"This is great," Ron said eagerly. "We must play soon. I haven't had a good game in ages."
Alan nodded sadly and pointed towards Sean and Jack, who were busy talking with Harry and Ginny. "These two lumps will never play against me. Not that they are any good, mind you. But it's nice to have somebody to play with."
Sean heard that and turned around indignantly. "Of course we don't play with you. What's the point? The last time I played you it was over in seven moves. Seven! I don't like to waste my time, thank you very much."
Everybody burst out laughing at that and a lot of the gloom that had been in the air disappeared.
Harry noticed the luggage that Pat and the boys had brought along and softly called for Dobby.
There was a loud pop and Dobby appeared before them, startling Sean, Alan and Jack greatly. They still hadn't gotten used to people vanishing and appearing around them.
"Is Harry Potter calling Dobby?"
"Yes, Dobby, can you take the luggage up to their rooms and bring us some Pumpkin juice and sandwiches up in ten minutes?"
"Dobby will do it right away, Harry Potter," the tiny house elf said happily, vanishing with the luggage a second later.
"Come on, let me show you to your rooms," Harry said motioning towards the stairs.
Jack, who had been having a look at the room, whistled appreciatively. "Nice place you got here, Harry."
Harry snorted. "You should have seen it a year ago. Looked like something right out of a horror film. It's all Dobby and Winky's doing that it looks like this."
The room really did look totally different.
The walls had been stripped bare of multiple layers of paint. Dobby and Winky had then re-plastered all the walls and done the room up in a lovely golden cream colour.
The sofas had all been reupholstered in a deep red velvet, giving a vivid contrast to the walls.
The serpent fixtures, dark tapestries and paintings that had once dominated the creepy room had all been removed and gotten rid of. The walls now held a series of seven magnificent paintings of a phoenix that completed the room.
There were two particular ones that really stood out. One was of a Phoenix in flight, the gorgeous red and gold plumage contrasting wonderfully against the deep blue sky. The second was of a phoenix chick rising out of the ashes, reborn.
Harry didn't know where the paintings had come from, but he promised himself to ask Dobby as soon as he got the chance.
All in all, it looked like a totally different room.
Harry quickly took them up to show them their rooms. The three boys were sharing a large bedroom and Pat was bunking down with Ginny and Hermione in their room. Dobby had already taken the luggage up and Winky had even gone ahead and unpacked for them.
Ten minutes later they were all sitting in Harry's bedroom, munching on sandwiches and drinking Pumpkin juice.
Sean and Jack were talking to Ginny and eagerly asking questions about the magical world. Ginny was smiling at their enthusiasm and answering all their questions.
Alan and Ron were sitting in a corner, where Alan was patiently explaining to Ron what a computer was, what the internet was and finally the wonders of online chess rooms. He was also telling him about all the great matches he had watched on Television. Which, of course, led to him having to explain to Ron what the Television was and how it worked.
Harry was sitting with Pat and listening to Hermione excitedly talk about the study schedule that she was planning out for him and Pat.
Inside he felt like a seething cauldron of emotions. He couldn't seem to get distracted by the pleasant chatter and his happy friends.
All he could think about was some way to keep them safe... some way...