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 J. K. Rowling.
The Last Few Days of Summer
It was a few days after the funerals of the Order members and Harry found himself outside the door of Neville's bedroom. He raised his hand to knock on the door, but stopped it in mid air when he heard the soft moan coming from within the room. It was quickly followed by more moans and when he strained his ears he could hear anguished muttering.
He quietly opened the door and stepped into the dark room, which was lit by shards of silvery moonlight filtering in through the window. As he stepped closer to the center of the room, where the bed was, he could hear the sounds more clearly and saw the shape of his friend lying in the bed thrashing around in the throes of a terrible nightmare.
He stood quietly and watched the boy on the bed, his eyes shining with pity. The demons of the night had found him too and would not let him be. He wanted to help his friend, wanted to wipe away the darkness tormenting his dreams, but no force on earth could grant him peace. The demons were his own and only he could battle them.
Harry had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that told him that this night would only have increased Neville's determination to hunt down Bellatrix.
He sighed tiredly. Maybe Neville would be able to find some peace if he was able to finish his quest. He knew that he would need to drive Neville beyond all reasonable limits to ensure he was ready. It was going to be a long road ahead.
He glanced at the shivering figure of Neville and couldn't help but to recall the prophecy that Dumbledore had told him. When he had learnt that Neville was the other person that could have been marked he had reflected for a long time on how truly different he and Neville were.
Neville Longbottom was soft spoken, had a very mild temperament, and had tons of patience, as shown by his love of Herbology. Harry was almost the exact opposite. The two of them looked different, acted different and had totally different upbringings.
Tonight, despite all of that he couldn't help but see a lot of similarities between them too. Both of them had their tasks, their own demons to battle and long, hard roads before them.
Harry shook himself out of his stupor and walking over to the bed, gently shook Neville awake.
Neville sat up with a start, his eyes wide and fearful, his hands blindly searching for his wand.
Harry put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Calm down, Neville, it's just me."
Neville peered up at Harry. "H-h-Harry? What are you doing here at this time of the night? Is everything all right?"
"It's a little before five in the morning," Harry replied quietly. "Get dressed and come down, we are all waiting for you."
He then turned around and walked out of the room, never looking back. He had had nightmares far too often and he knew how much he hated having people gawking at him afterwards, asking him to talk about it and offering words of reassurance, when both parties knew that it was a meaningless gesture. Nobody could help him, the nightmares could not be stopped. Also he didn't want Neville to see that most despicable emotion in his eyes - pity. Neville deserved far better than that.
Five minutes later a still sleepy Neville joined him and the others downstairs. It was obvious that he had hardly slept during the night.
"Let's go," Harry said softly, as he moved to open the door.
They all filed out and slowly started their run. Harry fell back with Neville and let the others go on ahead. He had an idea that Neville would not take well to physical exercise and he was proved right a few minutes later when the chubby boy was red in the face and panting heavily.
"Take deep breaths," Harry advised.
"I c-can't breathe at all," Neville gasped.
"Yes, you can, your body is just reacting to the exercise as it's not used to it. You may feel like you are going to collapse but you are perfectly fine. In a few days you'll be able to do this without any problems."
Neville, it seemed, was not paying attention as he suddenly stopped and sat down on the pavement gasping for breath. His face was bright red and he was sweating heavily.
"Get up," Harry said quietly, his voice emotionless.
Neville shook his head, too tired to even answer.
"Get up, right now," Harry barked.
"Merlin, Harry, I can't," Neville croaked out.
"You will get up immediately or you can find yourself somebody else to train you," Harry said softly.
Neville's eyes moved up to meet Harry's, shock and hurt flashing in them.
"What's it going to be, Neville?"
Neville got up slowly, his face set in a determined and proud mask. "Fine, I'm up."
"Take deep breaths and keep running. You can run a bit slower if you want, but under no circumstances are you to stop."
Neville nodded quietly and they took off again. He was hurt and confused at Harry's behavior as he had never seen Harry acting so coldly. Was all of this some way of telling him that he wasn't willing to spend time training him? Was this a way of showing him why he could never defeat Bellatrix?
Neville was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't even notice that they had returned to Grimmauld Place.
Ginny turned around at hearing Harry's raised voice and looked at the scene before her in surprise. Neville was sitting down on the ground, seemingly exhausted, and from what she could make out Harry was berating him instead of helping him up. She couldn't believe it. It was obvious that Neville had never exercised much before and therefore it was unfair to expect too much from him on his first day. She started to walk over to help Neville up and give Harry a piece of her mind when a hand on her shoulder stopped her.
"Don't, Ginny," Pat said softly. "Neville asked Harry for his help and now Harry is training him. Neville is now his apprentice in a way. What goes on between them is strictly their business."
"How can you say that? Look at him, he's exhausted!" Ginny said angrily.
"Trust me on this, Ginny," Pat said soothingly, "You think Harry is being unreasonable right now, but sometimes you have to use undesirable methods to gain the results you want."
Ginny wasn't convinced, but she wisely kept her mouth shut and took off after the boys, Pat following in her wake.
When they reached Grimmauld Place they immediately paired up for the Aikido training. Harry paired with Sean, as usual, Pat paired up with Ginny, and Neville was taken on by Alan, who was a very patient teacher.
Jack was left without a partner but he didn't mind and began practicing on his own.
The already exhausted Neville had problems with getting the forms right but Alan patiently corrected him again and again till he got it right. By the end of it all he was ready to collapse.
He was thinking longingly of a long hot shower when Harry tapped him on his shoulder.
Neville raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Come on, we need to talk," Harry said quietly, motioning towards the parlour.
Neville didn't particularly want to talk to Harry at the moment, as he was still hurting from Harry's unusual curtness, but he shrugged and followed him without protest.
Once they were seated, Harry cleared his throat, and began. "This is going to be a very hard..."
"Look," Neville interrupted him, "If you don't want to help me, you don't have to. It's okay, I understand."
"What are you talking about?" Harry asked, his brows furrowed in confusion.
"In the morning... you said... I know I'm hopeless. You don't need to waste your time on me," Neville said tiredly.
"Shut up," Harry said coldly. "Stop pitying yourself, Neville. It won't help you."
"Pitying myself?" Neville said angrily.
"Yes," Harry replied evenly. "There is nothing wrong with you. You have all your limbs intact, you do have brains, despite many people telling you otherwise, and you have a lot of magical potential. But it's all untapped. You are the son of Frank and Alice Longbottom, two of the best Aurors of their time, how could you not be powerful? Have you ever thought about that?"
Neville looked away, his face trembling with emotion.
"You want to know why I said that to you today morning?" Harry went on, his tone harsh. "Because you thought you couldn't go on. You believed it so firmly that you wouldn't even try. But guess what? You did go on. The moment you stopped thinking about it you did complete the run."
Neville looked up at Harry, his eyes wide with shock.
Harry smiled. "Be proud of yourself, today was your first hurdle and you did very well."
Neville's face lit up at the praise and he smiled back at Harry, the morning's incident totally forgotten.
"Now listen," Harry said seriously, "Bellatrix is a very powerful witch. She has learnt from Voldemort himself. She is sure to have an arsenal of hundreds of spells that you need to have a counter for. Going against her toe to toe in a show of raw power is a bad idea. We need to play to your strengths."
"What strengths?" Neville asked hesitantly.
"You are younger than her, Neville. The stamina and agility you can have is not possible for her. She has been in Azkaban for the past ten years and her body must surely have been affected by this. Also, physically you are much stronger than her, since you are a male. To win against her you will need to use every advantage you have and that's what we will work on."
Neville nodded, a determined glint in his eyes. "I'm ready to work hard, Harry."
"Good," Harry said softly. He took out a vial of purple potion and handed it to Neville. "Here, this will help out a bit with your exhaustion. Don't expect it everyday though."
Neville nodded and then swallowed the potion thankfully. He immediately felt better.
Pat smiled at Ginny as they both walked away from the entrance to the parlour where they had been eavesdropping on the conversation. "Harry is a very unique person, Ginny. He won't ever hurt his friends without a reason."
Ginny nodded, feeling incredibly stupid for having doubted him. Her respect and love for him had risen even higher today, leaving the hole in her heart a little big larger. It didn't help that Pat had trusted him and she hadn't.
She sighed. Maybe he would be better off with the older girl. He deserved someone as special as he was.
Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Sean, Alan, Jack, Fred and George were sitting around after dinner listening to Tonks, Moody, Kingsley and Arthur Weasley discussing the Death Eater situation.
"It's going to backfire on us, all this leniency on the filth," Moody growled. "You put them in prison and they will be broken out every time."
"Leave it, Mad-eye," Kingsley said shaking his head. "You know she's right. We can't execute them. It would make us too much like them."
"Why do they keep breaking out?" Alan asked curiously. "Isn't your prison secure enough?"
"It's the Dementors," Tonks explained, "They were the guardians of Azkaban, but once they joined V-Voldemort our forces were stretched a bit thin. Also none of the Aurors can really match him in terms of sheer magical power. We would need Dumbledore for that and there are good odds that he won't make it there on time."
"It's too bad that you can't suppress his magic," Sean said pensively, "Without that he'd be powerless to attack you."
Hermione suddenly sat up straight, an excited gleam in her eyes. "Of course! That's the answer... The crystals..."
"What are you babbling about, lass?" Moody asked curiously.
Hermione leapt up and ran upstairs, leaving everybody staring at her like she had lost her marbles.
Ron cleared his throat. "Don't worry, she often does that. If I know her she'll be back in a minute, carrying some abnormally thick book, which will explain everything."
True to his prediction, Hermione came down a minute or so later, clutching an old, musty book which had well over a thousand pages. She flipped through it impatiently as she searched for what she was looking for.
"Here it is!" she said triumphantly, putting the book down on the table before the Aurors.
All of them bent forward to see what the page said.
A hellfire crystal is a substance of legendry powers and is considered priceless due to its extreme rarity. It gets its name due to its deep orange and crimson colouring, which makes it look like it is burning from inside.
It is said that the hellfire crystal can be used with the ancient bloodmagic ritual - The Demon's Breath, to ward an area against the usage of magic.
It is alleged that this ritual was once used by the high mages of Atlantis to ward off the great island against the attacking forces of a rival kingdom.
Kingsley whistled. "This would solve all our problems, except for the fact that the crystal would be almost impossible to obtain. I've never even heard of it before today."
"It is possible," Hermione said excitedly. "Professor Binns told us that the only known crystal in existence is owned by the Goblins."
"Lass, it would be easier to capture a Nundu single-handedly than to convince the Goblins to give up something that precious. They will never give it to us," Moody said shaking his head dismissively.
"Yes, but what if they don't have to give it up?" Hermione insisted.
"You aren't making sense, Hermione," Mr. Weasley said slowly. "If they don't give it up then how can we use it?"
"Well, if I recall correctly, the Ministry recently passed a law that all possessions of convicted Death Eaters would be seized and handed over to the war effort. What if the Goblins were allowed to keep part of the money and in return they would take over Azkaban and guard the prisoners?" Hermione explained. "The Goblins are known to be a warrior clan and they could easily maintain a prison. Also this way the crystal would never really leave their possession. They themselves would be using it for guarding Azkaban."
Kingsley jerked up in his seat, staring at Hermione in admiration.
Moody's battle worn face twisted into a semblance of a grin. "I think Amelia would definitely be interested in this proposal," he cackled gleefully. "I'm beginning to understand why Potter relies on you lot so much. Maybe we should rethink letting you into the Order."
"I don't think that letting them into the Order is a very good idea, but there is no reason they cannot help us in an unofficial manner," Mr. Weasley said carefully. "But he is right, Hermione, this idea might just change the tide of the war. Ofcourse, there is the problem of the Goblins agreeing and convincing the Wizengamot to pass the necessary laws, but if we are lucky it should all fall into place. I will talk to the Minister tomorrow on what can be done to implement your idea."
Hermione beamed at him happily.
Molly Weasley came downstairs to find Harry immersed in reading the Arithmancy notes that Hermione had lent him. She walked over and ruffled his hair lovingly, pressing a soft kiss on his forehead.
"That's quite enough studying, dear," she said firmly. "It's best not to overdo it today. You'll need a clear head for the exam."
Harry sighed. "I don't know if I am ready enough. I need to pass this."
"You'll do fine, dear," Molly said with a gentle smile. "If there was any doubt that you wouldn't pass this then Hermione would have been frantic by now. Seeing as she's sleeping peacefully in her room I am taking it to mean that she thinks you are ready."
"Go on dear, go take a shower and come on down. I'll get started on breakfast."
Harry nodded and after gathering his books made his way upstairs to have his shower.
When he came back down he found Pat already up and having breakfast.
"Good morning, Harry," she greeted him cheerfully.
Harry nodded to her, acknowledging her greeting. "You ready for the exam?"
Pat shrugged. "I think so. If I'm not ready yet I don't think I ever will be. What about you?"
Harry shrugged. "Don't really know. On one hand I think I'll do okay and on the other hand I think I'll suddenly forget everything and flunk miserably."
"You'll do fine, Harry," a yawning Hermione said, walking in through the door.
"Hello, Hermione," Harry said with a smile. "What are you doing up so early?"
"Are you kidding?" Ron asked from the doorway, looking half asleep and grumpy. "This is like the Quidditch World Cup for her."
Hermione glared at him. "You'll pay for that, Weasley."
Harry snickered. "I can understand her getting up. But what's got you up, sleeping beauty?"
Ron's answer was short and to the point. "Smelt breakfast."
The rest of the time passed quickly, most of it spent with Hermione who was giving him last minute tips and was running him through what she felt was sure to appear on the exam. Before he knew it Mrs. Weasley was calling him.
"Harry, dear, it's time to go."
Harry entered the hall to find Tonks and Mad-Eye waiting for him. Kingsley and Arthur were sitting at the breakfast table discussing some Auror business.
"How are we getting there?" Harry asked.
"Apparating to Auror Headquarters and we'll head to the Examination Dept. from there," Mad Eye replied.
"What about me?" Pat asked. "I can't apparate."
"Tonks can dual apparate you there," Moody answered. He looked at the clumsy, pink haired Auror for a moment and then changed his mind. "Or maybe it would be best if I took you along. We don't need you to be splinched today."
"Hey!" an outraged Tonks said glaring at Moody. "I've never gotten splinched!"
"True," Moody admitted grudgingly. "Thankfully its one thing you haven't done... yet."
Tonks huffed. "You're always on my case. Tell me one instance where I screwed up in the past year."
Moody stared at her, one thick eyebrow raised up sardonically. "What about the whole mess up while you were staking out the gang that were smuggling those dragon eggs?"
Tonks went red. "That was Hopkins fault!" she screamed. "You can't blame me for that."
"What happened?" Harry asked eagerly, a wicked grin on his face.
It was Kingsley who answered. "She and another rookie Auror named Hopkins were staking out a gang that were believed to be dealing in illegal dragon eggs. They finally thought they had enough evidence and decided to move in and make the arrests. Unfortunately, Tonks here, apparated right on top of the naked gang leader just as he was getting out of the bath. He was rather displeased with the situation and words and hexes were exchanged. Apparently, she made a few very insulting comments about his... uh... reproductive organs. They found a dozen illegal dragon eggs in the house but it was all for naught. The man got a slick lawyer and got off claiming that he was sexually harassed."
Tonks was beet red by this point. "I still say that if Hopkins had given me the correct layout of the house all problems would have been avoided," she mumbled.
Moody just shook his head and walked over to Pat. He motioned for her to grip his arm and she quickly did so. "Hold on tightly now," he warned, before disappearing with a soft pop.
Harry and Tonks appeared in the Auror Headquarters and found Pat looking around with great curiosity at the bustling room and the glimpses she got of a group of Aurors dueling in the gymnasium, the door of which was slightly open. She probably would have liked to spend hours looking at everything, but unfortunately they didn't have time. Moody took out an old and battered pocket watch from within his robes and after glancing at it hurried them along to the lifts and from there to the Examination department.
At first Harry thought that they had come to the wrong place. The whole room, huge as it was, was crammed with shelves and the shelves were literally overflowing with files and records.
A few tiny desks were crammed here and there and Harry saw harried men and women busy dealing with stacks of paperwork. The paper planes, that was the Ministry's way of sending and receiving messages between Departments, flew in and out of the room.
Moody guided them through the chaos with great ease and into an adjoining room that was bare save for two empty desks and a large table, behind which three examiners were sitting. One of them was Professor Tofty and the other Harry recognized as Pat's Great Grandmother, Griselda Marchbanks.
Pat rushed forward and enveloped the tiny lady in a fierce hug.
"Easy with the hugs," Griselda protested. "My old bones aren't what they once were."
"Oh, go on, you fraud!" Pat said with a grin. "You're not old at all."
Griselda chuckled and looked up to where Mad-Eye, Tonks and Harry were standing.
"Alastor, how's life been treating you? Still terrorizing the new recruits?"
Mad-Eye grinned. "Somebody's got to. They all are in lousy shape. Been sitting on their arses and taking it easy for far too long."
Griselda shook her head and turned to Harry. "Ah, Mr. Potter, I've heard some very interesting things about your exploits at Hogwarts from Albus during Dolores' trial. How is it that you know Patricia?"
"We met at a mutual friend's place, ma'am. In the summers I stay with my relatives who live in the same area. As for whatever you have heard, well... I'd say you'd best take it with a pinch of salt. I've been very lucky on most occasions."
"Polite as well as modest. When are you going to catch a fine wizard like him, Patricia?"
"GRANDMA!" Patricia yelled in a mortified tone.
Griselda just grinned unrepentantly.
Professor Tofty cleared his throat and Griselda sighed. "We can talk later. The examinations will have to be started now as we have to finish the practical and theoretical parts today and then have to send them for grading so that the results can be announced before the start of term."
Mad-Eye nodded. "I'll be back in a couple of hours to pick them up. Tonks, you stay outside and keep watch."
"Sure thing, Mad-Eye," Tonks chirped.
Harry and at headed to the desks in the middle of the room and sat down. A moment later the exam sheets and quills and ink appeared before them.
Pat immediately started looking through her exam and Harry took her cue and bent his head over his Arithmancy theory question paper.
As he read through the questions he felt a jitter in his stomach due to nervousness and his palms started sweating. He wiped them on his robes and picked up his quill determinedly.
He could do this! They had studied all of this.
He began answering the first question and soon lost himself in the exam, filling page after page with answers in his spiky handwriting.
Before he knew it, the exam was over, and after a five minute break, the Ancient Runes exam appeared before him. This one he found relatively harder. They had spent comparatively lesser time on Ancient Runes than on Arithmancy and Harry struggled with more than a few questions.
Pat had already finished her exam, and since Muggle studies didn't have a Practical exam, she was sitting off to a side quietly catching up with her Grandmother, as the other two examiners kept an eye on Harry.
Finally, he finished with the exam, and he felt almost sure he hadn't passed it. There were too many questions he had struggled with and too many of his answers he had been unsure about.
They had a twenty minute break, where Harry took the time to use the loo and devour some sandwiches that Tonks had got for him from the cafeteria, and then the Practicals began.
They were simple. He was given a spell that was broken down to its base and he had to figure out what kind of a spell it was and what it did. Bonus points would be given if he could suggest ways it could be made more powerful. He had half an hour to do this.
Harry started on it and it was obvious to him that the spell was a defensive one. Probably a shield spell. A little more brain racking and he realized that it was the basic Protego shield. He grinned and started looking at the formula trying to see in what ways it could be made stronger.
At the end of half an hour the quizzing began.
"Have you figured it out, Mr. Potter?" Griselda asked.
"It's a shield charm. I'd say most probably the Protego shield," Harry answered confidently.
"Very good, Mr. Potter," Professor Tofty said, sounding pleased with the answer. "Would you like to try for the bonus points?"
Harry nodded slowly. "I think the basic flaw of the spell is that it draws power from the wizard casting it and so it will only be as powerful as the wizard's magic. A more powerful wizard or witch will be able to overpower the shield easily."
The third tester, Henry Fellowes, a man in his early fifties, and by far the youngest of the testers, nodded his head. "That is a fair assessment, Mr. Potter. What do you think can be done to correct the flaw?"
"Well... I dunno if this can be done... But I thought that if there was a way to make it so that the shield drew its power from the spells cast at it, then it would pretty much solve the problem and make the strength of the shield possibly unlimited," Harry offered hesitantly.
"Very good answer, Mr. Potter," Professor Marchbanks said with a small smile. "Unfortunately, that has been tried by many of the top minds of the wizarding world. The runes required to tie such a shield together would have to be immensely powerful, probably only the ancient Elvish runes were capable of generating that much power... but they are lost to us. Any other way of creating the spell makes it too unstable and it has never held up against more than a high powered stunner. There was one instance where a version was created that could have possibly worked... but the magic required to cast the shield was so much that not even Dumbledore or the Dark Lord would have managed the initial casting."
Harry nodded. He felt he had done well enough on the test and would scrape by with an Acceptable.
Next was the Ancient Runes exam and he was given a parchment that had on it a set of runes used to lock one of the chambers of the tomb of one of the lesser Pharaohs of Egypt. His assignment was to replace the rune sequence with a similar one using the Dark Era runes.
This was a very tricky assignment and by the end of the half hour Harry had not managed to complete more than seventy five percent of the assignment. He closed his eyes and sighed. He had failed Ancient Runes for sure.
Moody arrived soon after and they were hustled out of there to return to Grimmauld Place, as it was getting late. Also the tests had to be graded by the three examiners and that would take a lot of time. Pat reluctantly said goodbye to her Great Grandmother, and they left, heading back the same way they had arrived. The results of the exams would be revealed to them on the first day of classes.
Everybody was gathered around the kitchen having lunch. The elves had made sandwiches and there was fresh, cold, Pumpkin juice.
Fred looked up and cleared his throat. "Professor McGonagall..."
Minerva looked up at him questioningly. "Yes, Mr. Weasley?"
George spoke instead. "Me and Fred were thinking about it... and we decided that we'd like it if we can come back to Hogwarts to finish our final year."
Molly choked on her Pumpkin juice.
"If you are truly interested then I can make arrangements," McGonagall said, eyeing them both suspiciously. "Can I ask what made you want to come back?"
"Harry asked us to come back as a special favor to him. He explained his reasons and they sounded fair to us," Fred said with a shrug.
"Yeah, besides, what's a year anyway?" George put in.
"Oh, Severus is going to love this," McGonagall muttered softly.
Molly, on the other hand, was beaming like the sun on a clear day. She immediately drew both her wayward sons into a tight hug. "I'm so proud of you."
"Gerrof Mom!" Fred said struggling out of the hug.
Ginny leaned closer to Ron and whispered. "Better warn Harry. If Mum sees him she's liable to hug him to death."
Ron nodded in bemusement. He wondered what Harry had said to the two of them to make them agree to go back.
"So, who is going to look after the store with you two at school?" Ginny asked curiously.
"Dunno, I suppose Lee will still be there to help out," Fred replied thoughtfully.
"Actually, we were hoping to offer Percy the post of Manager for the chain. If you'll accept, that is," Bill said quietly.
Percy spluttered. "Me? Why me? I don't know anything about joke shops and pranking."
"You don't need to. The inventing will be done by these two clowns," Bill said waving towards Fred and George. "You will be handling the more technical parts. There needs to be somebody sensible handling the strings behind the scene."
Percy looked lost. "I... I don't know what to say."
Bill smiled. "Say yes. We need you right now, and this job won't be a bad thing for you either. Centaur Liaisons is no place for a Weasley."
Percy nodded, a small smile lighting up his face.