Categories > Books > Harry Potter > The Darkest Hour

All Hell Breaks Loose

by Ham 5 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: 2007/04/30 - Updated: 2007/04/30 - 6217 words

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Title: The Darkest Hour (20)

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.



~~~*~

All Hell Breaks Loose


~~~*~




Harry sat at the breakfast table with Pat and Hermione, eating calmly, as all around them chaos raged.

It was Sept. 1, and as usual, none of the Weasleys were ready. All over the house they ran, in a mad scramble to find everything and pack it. Tempers were on an all time high.

"Muuuum!" Ginny wailed, "I can't find my Quidditch robes."

Mrs. Weasley sighed. "Check properly, Ginny, they must be right there."

"I did check! They are gone."

"Honestly, you are so irresponsible, Ginevra," Mrs. Weasley said irritably. "It would serve you right if you had to go to Hogwarts without them."

"But without them I won't be allowed to play Quidditch!" Ginny said in a horrified tone.

"Then that will teach you to pack earlier next time, won't it?" her mother reprimanded.

"Hey, mum, did you happen to see our samples of Lethifold skin lying around anywhere?" Fred inquired.

"No, dear," Mrs. Weasley said absently, as she bent under the bed to retrieve Ginny's missing robes. "Wait a minute... Lethifold skin?" she said standing up suddenly and banging her head painfully on the underside of the bed.

"Ouch... careful mum, that looked painful."

"Fredrick Weasley!" Molly Weasley screamed, "What are you doing messing around with Lethifold skin? It's a restricted item."

A bemused Neville joined them at the breakfast table. "Is it always like this?"

Harry grinned. "Oh, yes, usually it's worse." This year he had no need to pack as Dobby and Winky had done everything for him. Hermione, sensible as always, had packed last night before going to bed, as had Pat.

Harry went back to his breakfast, wondering how the last few days had flown by so quickly. Sean, Jack and Alan had returned home last night, after promises had been made to them that he and Pat would stay in touch through Owl post and plans had been made to spend Christmas together.

It was something Harry was already looking forward to. They had become very good friends over the summer, and Harry knew that he would miss all three of them while he was at Hogwarts.

"RONALD WEASLEY!" Mrs. Weasley yelled, flicking her wand and sending an icy stream of water at her wayward youngest son. "What are you still doing in bed? And you haven't even packed yet!"

"What the... Muuuuum! That water is freezing!" Ron yelled.

"Get up and get packed right away, unless you want to stay home this year," His mother retorted in a no nonsense tone, sounding like she was at the end of her patience.

Five minutes later Ron's harried voice was heard moaning.

"Arghhh... I can't find my prefect badge."

Harry couldn't resist poking fun at him. "You lost your prefect badge? Boy, you're in trouble. I bet Hermione won't allow you to kiss her for months now."

Ron just gave him the finger, which Mrs. Weasley unfortunately saw. "Do you want me to cut that finger off, Ronald Weasley?"

Ron spluttered and blushed a deep red.

He was saved by George casually tossing him his badge. "There you go, Ronniekins, I saw it lying around. Better pin it on, lest you lose it again."

A flustered Ron mumbled his thanks and pinned it on absently. A second later his skin turned a bright shade of orange.

Ron didn't even notice, as he was busy looking around for his copy of Chuddley Cannons: Strategies and plays.

Mrs. Weasley, however, noticed immediately.

"George Weasley! You turn your brother back to normal at once!"

Ron looked up at that and quickly realized that he had been pranked. He started screaming at George at the same time as his mother, creating such a big racket, that the portrait of the late Mrs. Black would have turned green with envy.

He was even angrier when he found out that the spell would last for a few hours and could not be cancelled. He demanded that Fred and George be turned an unnatural colour too, if he had to look like this. Fred and George looked only too pleased at this and Mrs. Weasley quickly shot down that idea. She wasn't going to escort three rainbow coloured sons to the station, one was bad enough.

"I can't go to Hogwarts like this!" Ron moaned.

Molly Weasley had completely lost her temper by this point. "Fine," she snapped. "Don't go to Hogwarts. You can stay here for the rest of the year."

A very pissed off Ron reluctantly stomped up the stairs to finish his packing.

Finally, after multiple threats, screaming, and some much appreciated help from the two house-elves, they were ready to leave. A very orange Ron was steaming. Because of the delay in his packing he didn't have time for any breakfast.

Moody handed all of them a Portkey necklace to wear around their necks. "At the first hint of trouble you lot are to activate your portkeys and get out. They will take you straight to the Headmaster's office."

"Yes, Mad-eye," they all dutifully replied.

Moody grinned. "And remember..."

Harry cut him off. "We know, we know, CONSTANT VIGILANCE."

"That's right, lad," Moody said with a grin.

They all piled into two Ministry provided cars and headed off towards King's Cross.


~~~*~


They arrived at King's Cross just ten minutes before the train was due to leave. The group got their share of strange looks from people passing by, what with Ron a hideous orange, the flashy Dragon hide jackets the twins wore and the Owls in their cages.

Molly and the twins went first, followed by Pat, Neville and Hermione. Ron, who was getting tired of all the attention rushed at the barrier next, and here was when things started going wrong. Ron's trunk fell out of the trolley and burst open, spewing everything out on the platform for people to see. Pig's indignant hoots attracted even more attention from the Muggles and soon a crowd of them had gathered around to see what the fuss was all about.

Remus slapped a hand on his forehead and Moody looked fit to murder Ron. There was no way to explain the magical books, cauldron, broom and other clearly magical artefacts to the muggles. Some minor memory modification would have to be done.

"You, start picking up your stuff and putting it back into the trunk," Moody barked, pointing at Ron. "And you two, get going, no reason you both should miss the train just because your brother is a clumsy oaf."

"It was a mistake!" Ron protested.

"Be quiet, and do as you are told, lad!" Moody growled.

Harry and Ginny quickly made their way through the barrier, leaving the two irate Order members and Ron behind.

But the bad day was not over yet. The first faces they saw on the other side were Draco Malfoy and his cronies, Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.

Draco sneered at Harry. "I saw the Mudblood and wondered where you were, Potty. For a moment I almost thought you were skipping the year and hiding. Not that I would be surprised, now that the Dark Lord is back you won't be alive much longer."

Harry shook his head in amusement. "Really cocky, aren't you? Forgotten the hexing you got on the return trip last year?"

"Laugh away, Potty. My father's out of Azkaban now. It won't be long before you get yours. You and your blood traitor friends."

Harry simply smiled. "I'm glad he was broken out. Now the Aurors can kill him on sight. A permanent solution to the problem."

"Like your dogfather, you mean?" Draco sneered.

Harry tensed, but Ginny put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "No, Harry, don't lose your temper. It's what he wants." she whispered in his ear.

Harry nodded and began to walk on, keeping a tight reign on his temper.

"I heard the Dark Lord had your half-breed friend thrown to the manticores. They had a giant feast," Draco said malevolently, his voice carrying through the air.

Harry stopped, his body tense and unmoving.

"All of your friends will go one by one. I hope the Dark Lord gives the mudblood to me, I..."

Draco never got to finish what he was saying, as the next moment he found himself lying on the floor, nursing a broken jaw. He gazed up into cold emerald green eyes that were blazing with anger.

Harry suddenly felt a heavy hand fall on his shoulder. He brought his elbow up viciously and smashed it into throat of his assailant. Vincent Crabbe bent over, clutching his throat, trying desperately to breathe. Harry lifted his leg and brought it down on Crabbe's left kneecap, breaking it in the process.

Crabbe keeled over with an anguished scream.

The next moment Harry felt a hard blow land on his temple, with enough force to make him see stars. He felt, rather than saw, the next punch coming and his seeker reflexes kicked in. He swirled around quickly and caught the descending fist. Then he fell backwards on to the ground, pulling Goyle forward by using his own body weight against him. Harry finished off by placing his two feet on Goyle's stomach and adding a hard push, while letting Goyle's fist go at the same time.

Goyle sailed over Harry's body and crashed headlong into a carriage of the Hogwart's Express with a tremendous crash. He wouldn't be getting up anytime soon.

All of this happened so fast that Ginny didn't even have a chance to react. But she recovered quickly, and rushed towards Harry to stop him. Molly, Pat, Hermione and the others had heard the commotion, and they too were running towards them.

Harry got up swiftly and charged at Draco, just as the blond Slytherin cast a sickly looking green spell at him. He barely managed to get out of the way. The next moment he was standing before Draco and he grabbed the wrist that was holding the wand and twisted it violently.

Draco screamed and dropped the wand.

Harry was just about to raise his fist to drive it into the blond ferret's face when Ginny caught him and pulled him back. She was joined by Pat, Fred, George, Hermione, Neville and Molly.

"No, Harry, you'll kill him like this," Pat said urgently, trying to talk some sense into the enraged Boy-who-lived.

Just then Remus and Moody came through the barrier, escorting a sheepish Ron. A quick look around was enough to tell them all they needed to know.

"I... I'll kill you, Potter. You're dead," Draco screamed in rage. "You and every one of your filthy friends."

Harry struggled mightily, trying to get back at Draco and beat him into the ground with his fists. His struggles were in vain though, as too many people were holding on to him to restrain him.

"The dog and the giant had it easy, but the rest of the filth will die much more slowly and painfully. You'll be last, Potter, you'll beg for death by the time the Dark Lord is done with you," Draco said, almost frothing from the mouth with anger.

Harry struggled harder, murder in his eyes.

Narcissa Malfoy had just returned from talking to Juliet Nott and she was stunned at the scene before her. Her son was standing up shakily, blood flowing from his mouth, and screaming at Harry Potter, who was restrained by atleast half a dozen people.

"I heard that the mudblood Jones screamed like a whore while they raped her. And they tortured Longbottom's Granny till her vocal chords gave out. It won't be too long before all of them are killed."

Narcissa gasped in horror. What was the little fool thinking? There were Aurors around, and they were sure to be very interested in some of Draco's words. Lucius would not spare him this time. But she soon forgot all about this line of thinking, as a second later a huge blast of raw magic flew out of Harry Potter and knocked all of the people holding him to the floor.

Harry was murderously angry and he went after Draco, hammering his fist into his face with all his strength. Draco fought back, but Harry brushed aside his blows like they were nothing. His rage was driving him at the moment and he was past caring about pain and consequences. All he wanted to feel was the satisfying feeling of his fist hammering into Draco's body.

Draco could not match the sheer force of Harry's blows and soon he was driven to his knees, whimpering for Harry to stop.

Narcissa raised her wand swiftly, a lethal curse on her lips, when a hard wand jabbed her on her neck. "Finish the spell and you'll die before you see the result," Alastor Moody hissed furiously.

The ones that had fallen on the floor had gotten up hurriedly and rushed at Harry, dragging him off Draco by force.

"Calm down, lad," Moody thundered, walking upto the restrained Harry. "Or I'll stun you till you reach Hogwarts."

Harry slowly settled down. It was evident to everybody that he was making an almost inhuman effort to control his anger.

Draco looked up at Harry, his eyes filled with equal parts of loathing and fear.

"You just don't know when to stop, do you, Malfoy?" Harry spat angrily. "Next time you'll think twice before you needle me."

"I'm going to report you to the Aurors, boy!" Narcissa Malfoy screamed furiously. "You'll be in Azkaban before the sun sets."

Moody turned his gaze upon the proud matriarch of the Malfoy family. "The Aurors are also very interested to know how that spawn of yours knows of the deaths of Hestia Jones and Augusta Longbottom. Think about that before you do anything foolish."

Narcissa Malfoy paled. Moody's words had hit right on target and she knew that there was nothing she could do. She shot Draco a disappointed glare.

"Mrs. Malfoy," Harry said in a low, furious tone. "I am fully aware that you know where your husband is. Be so kind as to pass this little message of mine to him - Tell him that before this war is over I will kill him. Tell him to snivel before his half-blooded master or bring along as many Death Eater friends as he wants for his protection. His time is over."

Narcissa looked at him, smiling coldly. "Very big words, Potter. Let's see if you live upto them."

Harry looked back at her, his hard eyes locked with her cold grey ones. She looked away first. There was too much power in those eyes, and she was Slytherin enough to see it and know when to back off.

"One more thing," Harry said softly. "The day I find a dark mark on Draco's arm I'll kill him where he stands and no one will be able to stop me. I promise you this."

Saying this, he shrugged off the hands holding him and moved to his trolley, walking through the gathered crowd briskly.

And like every other time, the whispers followed him all the way to his carriage at the end of the train.



~~~*~


Harry was sitting by the window, his head pressed to the cold pane of glass. He vaguely felt Ron and the others enter and sit down around him. He was in no mood to talk to anybody, the anger was still too close to the surface.

The minutes passed in silence and suddenly he felt the train start to move. He sat back, leaning his head on the seat and staring at the ceiling.

The silence was suddenly disrupted by Ron exclaiming. "That was bloody brilliant!"

Harry slowly looked down, meeting Ron's eyes, unable to believe the uttered statement.

"I mean... he had it coming to him for years. Maybe now he will stop strutting around like he usually does," Ron went on, grinning brightly.

Harry got up swiftly and left the compartment, slamming the door behind him.

"What the..." Ron exclaimed in shock. "Did I say something wrong?"

Hermione moaned in dismay.

"Ron, what happened out there was not a good thing, and Harry isn't happy with what he did," Pat said softly.

"But why? You heard what that ferret was saying, he deserved what he got," Ron protested.

"He could have killed him, Ron," Pat said exasperatedly. "What Harry has been learning can be lethal when used in anger. That boy might have been an idiot, but killing him for it is not something one can do."

"I still say he had it coming. I mean, you heard him, if things go wrong he'll probably be there first in line to torture one of us," Ron said stubbornly.

"And that's what makes us different from them, Ron," Hermione said in a biting tone. "If he had died today, Harry would have been behind bars. You can't kill a person for insulting you or making threats."

Pat got up, followed by Ginny, both of them thinking about going to look for Harry.

"I'm going to look for him," Pat said tiredly, "Be back soon."

Ginny slowly sat back down. Pat was probably the best person to go to Harry, anyway, she thought sadly. She was the one he loved, after all.


~~~*~


Pat went around the train, peeking into the compartments. Harry wasn't in any one of them. She finally found him in a small baggage compartment, sitting slumped on the floor.

She nimbly sat down beside him.

"Want to talk about it?" she asked.

"Not really," he said with a tired sigh.

"Too bad," she said sternly. "I expected better of you, Harry."

Harry looked up at her, anger shining from his eyes. "I'm not in the mood for a lecture, Pat," he said in a warning tone.

"You're going to get one anyway," Pat said coolly. "And don't you dare look at me like that, Harry Potter, I am not afraid of you. In case you have forgotten, I can still kick your arse."

Harry looked away.

"You could have killed him," she said, laying a hand on his shoulder.

"I wanted to. For a moment, I wanted to," Harry admitted.

"You have to learn control, Harry. He isn't a Death Eater, not yet anyway," Pat said softly.

"I know."

"I need you to promise me that this won't ever happen again, or else I can't teach you anymore," she continued sadly.

Harry nodded. "I'll try harder. I have to. It was just... for a moment there I just... hearing him say all of that..." Harry said slowly, shaking his head, his hands rubbing his brow tiredly. "If he said anything to me I wouldn't have minded... but... "

"I know," Pat said gently.

Suddenly Mad-Eye poked his head into the door of the carriage. "You're to portkey to Hogwarts, Dumbledore's orders."

Harry nodded and said the activation phrase, disappearing from the moving Hogwarts Express soundlessly.


~~~*~


Harry felt the Portkey drag him through space and then deposit him smoothly in Dumbledore's office. It looked the same as it had all summer and it gave him a familiar feeling of comfort.

He lifted his eyes to see the Headmaster sipping a cup of tea and looking at him serenely.

"Do you need to go see Madam Pomfrey, Harry?" he asked quietly.

"No, Professor, I'm fine," Harry replied.

"Have a seat, then. Would you like some tea?" Dumbledore said with a small smile.

"I'd just like to get it over with. I know you're disappointed in me, so go ahead, yell at me if you like. Punish me, if you must," Harry said, looking at his hands as he spoke, as if he suddenly found them fascinating.

"I did not call you here to berate you or to punish you, Harry. Your conscience, as ever, is very powerful and will punish you as it deems appropriate. But I would like to impart a bit of wisdom to you," Dumbledore said gently.

Harry nodded. "I'll be glad to listen to what you have to say."

"Firstly, let me say that you have taken a step backwards today, in regards to winning this war," Dumbledore said gravely

"Really? I thought that it might have sent a message to the Death Eaters that we are ready and willing to fight back."

"Except for the fact that Mr. Malfoy is not a Death Eater," Dumbledore replied dryly.

"Oh, come on, Professor. He's as good as. He probably will get the mark as soon as he can."

"But until he does there is still a small chance that he might choose another path," Dumbledore pointed out.

Harry laughed bitterly. "You are far more optimistic than I am. I think he's a hopeless case. He's always been eager to serve Voldemort."

"What you say might be true, Harry. Perhaps there is very little chance for Mr. Malfoy to change his ways. But as long as there is even a small chance of redeeming him we must make every effort to try and give him our support."

"I don't see your point. He has made the choice of his path a long time ago and has made it widely known, so why bother with trying to accomplish the impossible?"

"Because every person we manage to help see the light is one person less that is standing at the other end of the battlefield. It is one person less that you might have to kill," Dumbledore said slowly.

The silence in the room stretched on for a few minutes as Harry struggled to digest this statement.

Finally, he looked back at the Headmaster, the reality of it hitting him hard. He realized that he would have to kill many of the Death Eaters, and the more people he had to kill, the more blood that would be on his hands. So far he had only thought about Voldemort and a few of his Inner Circle. But he realized that to get to Voldemort he would have to wade through a sea of Death Eaters.

He covered his face in his hands, pressing them against his eyes. He didn't need to think of this right now.

"Harry, another thing that makes me very apprehensive is the way you lost your temper today. I understand that Mr. Malfoy said a few very hurtful things to you, things that you were unable to bear quietly. But Mr. Malfoy is a rank amateur compared to some of the Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. When you face them they will try their best to unsettle you, to make you lose control. Every mistake you make will be used against you, every weakness will be exploited. And you won't be able to use your anger to win."

Harry nodded, feeling the weight on his shoulders increase by the minute.

"Voldemort will surely learn of today's incident, and the next time you meet, you can expect him to use this against you. I realize that this is very difficult for you, but you need to learn to keep your emotions under control. It will be the first step to your becoming ready to defeat Voldemort."

"I understand, Professor."

"Try and understand one thing, Harry," Dumbledore went on, "When people say hurtful things they say it because they want a negative reaction from you. They want to hurt you and when they see that their words have unsettled you it gives them the satisfaction they were seeking. But if you show them no reaction then you have won. They didn't get what they were after."

"I understand, Professor, really I do. If anybody says anything about me I would mostly ignore it. I have learnt to. But when he said all those things about Hagrid and the others... I couldn't stand it."

Harry rubbed a hand over his eyes wearily. "I... I've been having nightmares about it... seeing them die... it just makes me feel so helpless. And when he said those things I just wanted to destroy him... destroy him for naming all my deepest fears."

Dumbledore looked at him sharply. "Nightmares? How long have you been having them? Is it possible they are from Voldemort?"

"All summer," Harry said reluctantly. "And no, I practice my Occlumency before sleeping, so I don't think it's him."

"I'll have Madam Pomfrey give you some Dreamless sleep potion," Dumbledore said gently.

Harry shook his head. "It's best I don't. I can't take it everyday anyway."

"Do you have them everyday, then?" Dumbledore asked, looking very worried.

Harry shrugged.

Dumbledore frowned. "Why didn't you tell somebody about this, Harry?"

"Why? It's not like anybody can help."

"That's a very silly view to take, my boy. We are here for you and we love you. Telling us things like this isn't a weakness, Harry, everybody needs people to lean on. It's when you think you can go the distance alone when you start choosing the wrong paths."

"I... I didn't want to be a nuisance," Harry said in a small voice.

"You are never a nuisance. Don't ever believe that," Dumbledore said firmly.

"Professor, is it possible... do you think..."

"Yes?"

"Can... Can I have a private room this year? I'd really appreciate it."

Dumbledore frowned for a second, and looked at Harry shrewdly.

"I suppose you could use the Gryffindor Head Boy dormitory," he said finally. "Which brings me to the next topic. Professor Snape has told me that he has agreed to assist you with the DA. I must say I am very pleased at your choice. The meetings will be held an hour after dinner in the Great Hall, once every other day of the week."

Harry nodded. "That sounds fine."

Dumbledore inclined his head. "In order to make sure that you have adequate control over the club, you will be given the designation of Assistant Professor during the meetings. You will have the authority to assign detentions and deduct points, within reasonable limits."

Harry goggled at him. "Is that really necessary, Professor?"

"I believe so," Dumbledore said calmly.

"Well, thank you, Professor. I'll do my best not to abuse the position."

"I have full faith in you," Dumbledore said, his eyes losing their gravity of the past half hour and twinkling faintly.



~~~*~


They used the next couple of hours practising Occlumency. Dumbledore was very pleased with Harry's progress and he felt it was time they moved on to the next stage of Occlumency - creating false memories.

"This part of Occlumency requires great concentration, Harry," Dumbledore said with an encouraging smile. "You need to give attention to the smallest details, or else there is a good chance that the invader will find out that the memory is false."

Harry nodded.

"Now, close your eyes and imagine this scene. We are sitting, in this very office. It is late afternoon and I am telling you that Voldemort has gotten his hands on the Philosopher's stone. Can you do that?"

"I think so," Harry said, a determined look on his face.

"Ok, tell me when you are ready."

Harry closed his eyes and tried to imagine the scene as Dumbledore had described it. He tried to visualize the office as he remembered it, paying attention to tiny details.

"I think I'm ready, Professor."

The first try was a disaster. Harry was unable to maintain the illusion as Dumbledore entered his mind, and all the Headmaster got was random images.

Dumbledore just smiled and told Harry to try again.

By the end of two hours Harry had gotten a little better at it, but he was still not able to add the small details to his memories. But Dumbledore was very pleased with him anyway.

"You have progressed further than I thought you would, Harry. Just practise everyday. Imagine a scene and add as much detail as you can think of to it. Eventually it will come more naturally to you."

His fireplace suddenly flared green. "The students will be here within five minutes, Headmaster," McGonagall's voice floated out.

"Thank you, Professor McGonagall. We shall be down in a few moments," Dumbledore replied amiably.

He turned to Harry. "Time to head down to the feast, Harry. I hope you will think very carefully about all I have discussed with you today."

Harry looked back at him determinedly. "I will, Professor."

"Very well, then, let's head down, shall we?" Dumbledore said ushering Harry out of his office.

~~~*~


Harry took a seat towards the end of the Gryffindor table and waited for Ron, Hermione and the others to trickle in. He was hoping for the feast to get over soon, as he really wasn't looking forward to the entire school gawking at him. He knew that Dumbledore's announcements would only make the spotlight on him even brighter.

He decided that since he was alone he might as well try and work on his Occlumency. It would keep him occupied and hopefully he would be able to tune out the annoying whispering that was sure to take place when the students arrived.

He began to try and add details to the scene they were working on in Dumbledore's office. He soon realized that it was incredibly difficult to get people right. The posture, mannerisms, and the way they spoke, etc. It all ended up coming out incorrectly, and creating a very unrealistic memory at times.

He realized that the only solution to this was to be more observant. Most people hardly paid attention to the small details. It was the whole that they saw, and consequently it was very hard to replicate.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't notice the students arriving and it was only when Hermione nudged him on his shoulder that he realized that they were there.

"Oh, hello, didn't notice you come in," he said sheepishly.

"That's because you were day dreaming, mate," Ron said with a grin. "What were you thinking about anyway?"

"Just something related to Occlumency," Harry said with a shrug.

"Was Dumbledore mad? Are you in any trouble?" Hermione asked anxiously.

"No, not really mad," Harry reassured her. "I just think he was a bit disappointed, really."

"Oh, Harry, that's great! I was so worried you'd be expelled," Hermione said smiling happily.

Harry just shook his head. Hermione would never change. She still thought that being expelled was worse than any other fate.

"Where's Pat?" Harry asked suddenly.

"She went with McGonagall," Ginny replied. "She'll be sorted with the firsties to see which dorm she'll be boarding in for the year."

Ron's stomach chose this moment to growl loudly. "I wish they'd hurry up already. I'm starving!" he moaned.

They all ignored him. This was Ron's usual complaint every year.

Soon enough, the group of nervous first years were led in by McGonagall and the sorting started.

"Hey, isn't that Emmeline Vance?" Ginny said suddenly, pointing towards the staff table. "Do you reckon she's our DADA Professor?"

Harry shrugged. "I suppose she must be."

"This is great!" Hermione squealed. "I heard rumours that she is an Unspeakable. We are sure to learn a lot from her."

Harry nodded absently. He was getting annoyed at all the pointing and whispering and was trying hard to ignore it. Many of the Slytherin's were giving him hostile glares. In fact, if looks could kill, he'd already be dead ten times over, judging by the deadly glare Pansy Parkinson was giving him.

Finally the last first year was sorted and it was Pat's turn. She hesitantly walked forward and put on the hat. The hat was silent for a few seconds before it resoundingly yelled out, "GRYFFINDOR."

Harry found himself up on his feet and cheering, along with the twins, Hermione, Ron and Ginny.

Pat just beamed and headed over to join them at the table.

The feast started a few seconds later and Ron attacked the food like he had been starved for a week. Hermione scrunched up her nose at the way he was shovelling in the food into his mouth.

"Yeah, it's hard to imagine that you actually allow that mouth of his to exchange fluids with yours, isn't it? Ginny said wickedly.

Hermione gave her a deadly glare and promptly whacked the tiny redhead across the back of her head.

Ginny pouted. "That's not nice."

"So, what exactly did you and Dumbledore talk about for so long?" Hermione asked curiously.

"Just some things I needed to know," Harry said shrugging.

"That means you're not going to tell us, right?" Ginny said wryly.

"That means it's nothing you need to know," Harry agreed. "But we did discuss a few things regarding the DA. I suppose you'll know more after the feast."

Soon, even Ron's appetite was sated, and the plates cleared up.

Dumbledore got to his feet, a large smile on his face.

"Welcome back, all of you. I hope you have come back from the holidays well rested and eager to learn. Now, I know you all must be very tired and so I'll just make a few short announcements and then you can head to bed."

The tired students tried to fight off their sleep and leaned forward to hear what Dumbledore had to say.

"I'd like you all to extend a warm welcome to our new Professor for Defence against the Dark Arts, Miss Emmeline Vance."

There was scattered applause from the House tables, as nobody really knew too much about her and after the previous Defence Professors they had over the years, they were more than a bit wary. Harry and the Gryffindor group made up for this by cheering loudly, earning them a small smile from Emmeline.

"I'd also like to welcome back Professor Grubbly Plank, who has consented to taking over the position of Care of Magical Creatures Professor."

There was a bit more enthusiastic clapping this time. A lot of people who took Care of Magical Creatures had been tired of Hagrid and his dangerous beasts and were glad to see another year with Grubbly Plank, who was a popular teacher. Harry closed his eyes, memories of Hagrid's death painfully flashing before his eyes.

A moment later he felt Hermione's hand resting on his shoulder, squeezing it softly.

"Mr Filch has told me to remind you that the usage of magic is banned in the corridors. He also has asked me to tell you that every item on the newly opened Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes is hereby banned, among other items. For the full list you may visit his office."

The twins burst out laughing at this, earning them a glare from Professor McGonagall.

"The Forbidden Forest is strictly off limits, and anybody caught venturing there will be very severely punished."

Harry sighed. That was one part of Hogwarts that worried him greatly. If an attack was to occur the chances were great that it would occur from there.

"This year there will be an official Dueling Club run at Hogwarts. The sessions will be held an hour after dinner on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. It is open to all students. Teaching this club will be Assistant Professor Harry Potter and our very own Severus Snape. I hope all of you attend and take full advantage of this opportunity."

Harry felt the entire school gaze at him and he gave them a small forced smile.

"Assistant Professor!" Hermione squealed excitedly.

"Snape!" Ron said in horror. "Mate, why did you agree to him? Surely Dumbledore would have got somebody else if you had protested a bit more."

"Actually, Ron, I asked Professor Snape to help out," Harry said quietly.

Ron goggled at him, unable to believe his ears.

Thankfully, he was saved by McGonagall arriving. "Come along, Potter, I'll show you your quarters."

"Quarters?" Ginny asked curiously.

"As an Assistant Professor he has been given the privilege of having his own rooms," McGonagall replied crisply.

Harry got up and gave his friends a small smile. "Good night. I'll see you lot at breakfast. Pat, Gin, Neville, I'll see you in the Gryffindor Common room at five sharp?"

"See you then, Harry," Neville said with a smile.

"Works for me, Harry," Pat replied.

Ginny nodded. "Sure, I'll be there."



~~~*~
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