Categories > Books > Harry Potter > Echoes of Power, Part I: Anger

10. . . . Control . . .

by moshpit 3 reviews

Chapter 10

Category: Harry Potter - Rating: R - Genres: Action/Adventure - Characters: Andromeda Tonks, Angelina Johnson, Arthur Weasley, Barty Crouch Jr., Bellatrix, Bill Weasley, Blaise Zabini, Cho, Colin Creevey, Crabbe, Dean Thomas, Dobby, Draco, Dudley, Dumbledore, Ernie, Fleur, Flitwick, Fred, Fudge, George, Gilderoy Lockhart, Gi - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006-12-30 - Updated: 2006-12-31 - 7341 words

Chapter 10: Lessons in Control

Mon, 4 Sep, 7:36

Snape sat at the Head Table, not even thirty feet from where Harry sat at the end of the Gryffindor table. Harry's impromptu glaring contest with the man was brought to a screeching halt when a school owl landed in the middle of his empty plate. It nipped at his ear to get his attention.

Surprised to be receiving any post by this method, Harry looked at the owl and saw a note attached to its leg. Harry scratched the owl's neck as he retrieved the note, which had his name on it. It fluttered off, presumably heading back to the Owlery.

Unfolding the parchment, Harry read the terse message. We're waiting for you in the same place. -Fred and George Preferring to see the twins rather than sit in the silent fishbowl of fear that was the Great Hall, Harry grabbed his bag and a couple of rolls off the table. He noticed many students bent over the morning post, casting furtive glances at him. Shrugging off the stares as a consequence of the already rampant rumors, Harry stood up and turned back to head out of the hall.

As he stood up, however, he came face to face with Professor McGonagall, who was staring at him with an indecipherable expression. Without saying a word, she thrust his schedule at him. As soon as his fingers touched it, she released her grip and stalked off to the rest of the students in her house, the stack of schedules clutched in her pale fingers.

Resigned to animosity from the entire school, Harry again tried to head for the exit, yet was stopped before he could take more than two strides. Without Harry's noticing, Snape had smoothly descended from the Head Table and now blocked his path.

"Potter," he sneered, his eyes still glinting in a way that profoundly irritated Harry. "For your collection of clippings. I'm positive you enjoy collecting articles about your conquests." The strange statement was accompanied by Snape thrusting a rolled up copy of the morning paper at him. With a further sneer, Snape returned to his seat, his cloak billowing behind him.

Deciding he would figure out the man's game later, Harry left to find the twin pranksters and eat his rolls in peace.

Mon, 4 Sep, 7:41

George was waiting for him outside the entrance to the collapsed secret passageway. He was pacing back and forth, his face pale, any trace of humor gone. Spotting Harry, he jerked his head at the slightly open portrait door. Harry followed George down into the little area and closed the door behind him.

At the bottom of the stairs, Fred was sitting in one of three straight wooden chairs, with a small table separating them. George slumped into one chair while Fred waved Harry to sit down. Fred looked just as pale and serious as his twin.

Harry put his bag under the seat and dropped the paper he was carrying onto the table. It partially unfurled, revealing a bit of a headline that suddenly grabbed his attention. Straightening out the paper, Harry quickly read the top-fold story, ignoring the series of pictures next to it of the four students he killed.

Boy Who Lived Kills Four
Tries to kill more!
by Rita Skeeter

Late yesterday evening, Harry Potter, The Boy Who Lived, attacked at least seven students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with a sword. Four unarmed students (all of them from Slytherin House) were mercilessly killed. Three more students were grievously wounded when they stumbled across the blood bath Potter made in butchering the Slytherin students. Enraged at being discovered, Potter then tried to eliminate the witnesses, all Gryffindors, only to be caught off guard by the fast thinking of one would-be victim.

Potter, who mysteriously disappeared at the age of six, refused to attend Hogwarts when invited for his first year studies. Rumors quickly suggested that he was receiving training in the Dark Arts from former Death Eaters, as well as Dark creatures such as vampires, werewolves, and malcontent goblins. He refused to attend each time an offer was extended, until this summer, when he suddenly agreed for unknown reasons. Potter's unexpected reappearance has raised many questions not only as to where he has been but also to what he has been learning.

While it has never been proven, additional evidence suggesting Potter is indeed Dark came to light after the fight yesterday eve. While trying to clean up the pools of blood and body parts Potter left behind, the hard-working and generous Argus Filch, Caretaker of Hogwarts, also became a victim of Potter's Dark powers when he picked up one of Potter's weapons. The sword, clearly a Dark artifact, attempted to take the life of Filch and successfully removed his left hand through some form of curse. Clearly, Potter is using Dark Arts if he is able to handle cursed objects with impunity.

Was Potter trying to eliminate any opposition in his bid to take control of the school? Were the Slytherin students, who were waiting outside the Headmaster's office to talk with him, trying to report him for crimes or to relay their suspicions? Or is Potter merely out to eliminate all of the pure-blood families?

Recall that Potter also viciously attacked three other Slytherin students on the train ride to school. Two of those students have since been exonerated. Last night's events, coupled with Potter's false accusations against Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle, raise deep questions about the supposed charges against the honorable Draco Malfoy. The Malfoy family has a long history of generous donations to charities and civic involvement in government.

Rumors also claim that Potter is trying to oust the talented Severus Snape, Potions Master at Hogwarts and Head of Slytherin House, who has tried to catch Potter in his acts of aggression. Professor Snape was unavailable for comment prior to publication, hard-pressed to console the families devastated by Potter's killing spree gathered at St. Mungo's in their grief and loss.

Our hearts must go out to the noble and distinguished families who have lost their children, victimized by the last Potter. Those involved in the battle were (continued, page 2.)

In disgust, Harry threw the paper away. George caught it and scanned the article, raising one eyebrow as he did so.

Realizing that clearly Snape knew or at least was involved with more than he was revealing, Harry could feel his rage building. Would Dumbledore still find Snape free of doubt over this incident, given his actions this morning? Tonight he would go back to pushing on the old man to find out. Glaring at the four pictures of innocent, happy looking children smiling and waving at the camera, Harry realized that he had been quite neatly set up.

It had been a calculated risk on the part of his enemies: the four students had been ordered to attack him - kill him if possible. If they had been successful in killing him, the charges against the other Slytherin students would have been dropped; if Harry somehow managed to survive but injure his assailants, then his actions would have been used against him to eliminate the threat that he posed.

The fact that Harry had executed the Slytherins had probably taken his opponents by surprise, but knowing Lucius Malfoy and his cronies, they would - and had already done so, judging from the article in the Daily Prophet - turn these unexpected events to their advantage.

That Lucius sacrificed the children of other families in the gamble would never cross the man's mind.

Harry would now find himself under the magical equivalent of the spotlight. Any movement he made, any spell he cast, any conversation he had would be carefully replayed and scrutinized. Even the most outlandish accusations trying to connect his actions with the Dark Arts would become justifiable.

Harry had to hand it to Lucius; he had orchestrated events masterfully in his attempt to redeem Draco. If sufficient doubt could be cast on Harry's character, Draco would be able to skate by with self-defense claims. Especially if Lucius could point out that he had known and warned Draco beforehand that Harry might be Dark.

In fact, Harry could see the defense clearly now. They would claim that Draco had sought Harry out to ascertain the truth behind Lucius' fears, thinking Draco safe in a public place to interact with impunity. Somehow, Harry knew that Draco's own comments would be played off as some kind of test of Harry.

Nothing was adding up correctly. The question was how did Snape and Fudge play into this? And was Dumbledore really blindly trusting Snape, or was he somehow involved too?
How did the Slytherin students get their instructions? How was Lucius passing along his plans? Where did Voldemort enter the equation? There was more than he could understand involved here.

George cleared his throat to get Harry's attention off the paper. Fred, who made a show of just finishing his reading of the article, dropped the paper back on the table.

The twins involuntarily flinched when Harry stared at them with a look that clearly conveyed pain to anyone who crossed him, before Harry realized he was out of line and carefully rearranged his face into a neutral expression.

George cleared his throat again, suddenly nervous in the setting. "Er, Harry, Dumbledore told us before we got here that you asked to see us last night." Glancing quickly at Fred, George tried and failed to look Harry in the eye. "What did you want?"

Harry took a few deep breaths, blowing them out slowly, trying to regain his center. His rage was boiling over, and he needed to keep it in check until he could safely vent it during training. Shaking himself mentally and physically, he glanced at his watch and realized he had little time to say anything at all.

"Well," Harry looked at Fred and George, wanting to meet both their eyes. "First, I wanted to apologize. I was acting on instinct, and I shouldn't have been."

Harry waited a moment, but neither twin was reacting. "Second, I wanted to find out if you were okay. Dumbledore," the name came out colder than he intended, "said you two were alright, but that Ginny was hurt. Is she okay?" Harry was trying to be calm and sincere since he truly was concerned, but his irritation and frustration were making his voice harsher than he desired.

Fred stirred a bit before slowly nodding his head. "The healers released her about an hour ago. They say she's fine now, at least physically. We all came back together."

Harry nodded his head slowly. "I'm glad," he offered simply. "I'm sorry for what I did do, and almost did, to all three of you."

George shifted before looking back at Harry. "What about the other four?"

Harry stared him in the eye. "Not in the least."

Fred slowly stretched out a finger and tapped the paper on the table. "We know not to believe everything we read, Harry, but this is the only account we've heard about it. You understand?"

George leaned toward Harry, a rather slight frown on his face. "Remember that 'please do not make things worse' thing we talked about, Harry?"

Harry sighed, realizing the twins were in a full protection mode of some kind. "Look, I don't have time to give you a blow-by-blow right now. It was self-defense. I'll give you any oath you want on it. You're going to have to believe what you want to believe until I can show you what happened." Fred and George shared a frown.

Harry glanced at his watch again before standing. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry you all were involved. Dumbledore and Auror Shacklebolt both agreed it was self-defense. I've got to get to my first class, so I'll show you the memory later, right?"

There was a long drawn out moment of silence before Harry finished. "You two need to realize I won't always be able to tell you or show you what's going on. At some point, you're going to have to take it on faith that I'm not what that article portrays me as."

Harry left the twins in their unhappy silence as he went to meet Neville Longbottom outside the Greenhouse Number Two, almost certain that any change in his relations with the twins would be centered on how events affected their sister. There was nothing he could do about it now - what was done was done. Maybe when they talked later, things would get better.

Resigned to a prolonged stay in the proverbial house of frustration and condemnation, Harry was already tired as he departed the castle, ignoring the wide berth students gave him as he passed through the halls.

Mon, 4 Sep, 8:00

Neville Longbottom was waiting outside the greenhouse as Harry approached. The slightly pudgy boy was looking fairly anxious, and Harry was having a hard time deciding if Neville was relieved or disappointed that Harry actually showed up. Opening the door to the greenhouse, Neville walked inside, keeping a good bit of distance between the two of them. As Neville tried to put on his dragon hide gloves with shaking hands, Harry finally opted for directness.

"Something on your mind, Neville?" The brown-haired boy looked up at Harry with a squeak, dropping both his gloves on the ground.

"N-no," he said quietly, squatting down to grab his gloves.

"Come off it, Neville. It's clear you expect me to do something. Is it that article in the paper?" Harry asked, trying to find a tone of patience but merely coming across as frustrated.

Neville stood back up while keeping his eyes on his gloves. Wringing the gloves in his hands nervously, Neville slowly nodded his head. "I-I don't know w-what happened... b-but you did k-kill them?" The question was more of a statement.

Harry sighed softly. "After they ambushed me and tried to kill me, yes, I killed them in self-defense."

Neville flushed slightly. "But what about G-Ginny? And the twins?"

Harry became silent and studied Neville's face. The boy was clearly torn with worry and something else, something that kept his cheeks rosy and his demeanor uneasy. "You like her?" Harry asked quietly. "I thought you had something with Hannah."

Neville paled a bit before trying to look at Harry and failing. Returning his gaze to the gloves which were being silently tortured, Neville shook his head. "I used to. S-She's special, you know? She was a-always so nice to m-me..."

As Neville's voice trailed off, Harry realized Ginny had probably just seen Neville as a friend, and Neville had eventually outgrown his crush. Ginny, however, would always be special to the boy as his first crush. Harry had vague memories of his first crush in school, and he knew that he would always be fond of her in a slightly nostalgic way.

Deciding to answer Neville's question since the boy was painfully honest with him, Harry sighed and motioned Neville to join him on a bench by the tools. "Those three came along during the fight, Neville." Harry paused to play with his own gloves for a moment. "At the time, I was trying to defend myself from people trying to kill me. They jumped into the fight without realizing what that might mean to me."

Harry realized that he was telling a half-truth and that he wanted Neville to understand. "I was also a bit out of it. The first round of curses hit me hard and knocked me for a loop. I would have attacked Dumbledore if he stepped into the middle of things." Harry leaned back a bit. "Ginny stopped me before I could hurt them as well, Neville."

Neville stopped playing with his gloves and started fondling one of the trenching tools. His devotion to Herbology was apparent to Harry at the wistful look on the boys face as he absently played with the tools of his trade. That Harry had yet to lash out at him seemed to be giving his confidence a boost. "But you would have hurt them too?"

Harry sighed. "I'd like to think not, Neville, but the reality was that I was in no condition to determine who was safe and who wasn't. Yes, I would have hurt them too. Rather badly, I imagine."

Neville put the trenching tool down and started playing with his hands as he worked his way through whatever was still inside his head causing trouble. Harry waited patiently for the boy to make up his mind. Neville finally held out his right hand, showing Harry the steel ring around the pinky finger. "They said you made these. I had to sign an oath about them. Are you D-Dark, Harry?" Neville was shaking slightly, almost as though he expected Harry to finally strike him down.

Harry felt saddened by Neville's question. He should have seen this coming. He pulled out his wand, Neville flinching as he did so, obviously expecting to be attacked. Harry shook his head before holding the wand up in front of him. "I, Harry James Potter, do solemnly swear upon my magic that I am not Dark, I have no intention of going Dark, and I do not secretly practice Dark magic." The soft glow that surrounded Harry's wand was silent testimony to the truth of his oath.

Neville exhaled slowly and leaned forward, elbows on knees. Breathing deeply for a few minutes, Neville looked at Harry and slowly nodded. "Alright, Harry. I'll trust you for now."

Harry decided that maybe Gryffindors really were brave after all, despite what Floppy said. "Thanks, Neville."

"You know most of the school thinks you're Dark, and that you're going to kill more students, don't you?" Neville inquired cautiously.

Harry shrugged. "They can think what they want, Neville. I feel no need to explain my actions. You were able to confront me in spite of your fears, which took a lot of courage. I respect you for that. I felt that you deserved the truth because you acted like an adult and braved your fears, asking out of concern for others. But all those who just want to whisper or talk about me behind my back, well, that's not my problem, and they're frankly not worth my time."

Neville was silent for a few minutes while he pondered Harry's statement. "Alright. I'll keep your confidence on this. You know it will just get worse, right?"

Harry smiled absently. "What will be, will be, Neville."

Neville got to his feet, before putting his gloves on, more relaxed but still a bit shaky. "I thought we'd try to see what you already know, Harry, then go from there... is that okay?"

Harry nodded before standing up and putting his own gloves on, following Neville to the first row of plants at the front of the greenhouse. Maybe he would still have a friendly face or two left by the end of the day.

Mon, 4 Sep, 9:07

Harry supposed that being in a Herbology lesson with the Hufflepuffs, given how they reacted to his sitting at their table, should have been a predictable disaster. What before had been uncomfortable silence from the majority of Hufflepuffs at their table was now the closed rank of uniform antipathy. Most surprising was Professor Sprout's similar manifestation of almost open hostility. The kindest label he could attach to her demeanor was distantly cold.

Throughout an apparently standard O.W.L. year speech emphasizing the importance of doing well, studying hard, expecting large workloads, and more drivel that Harry was disinclined to listen to, he observed the students around him. The Gryffindors, for the most part, avoided being close to him. The Hufflepuffs actively shunned him and put as many Gryffindors between him and their group as possible.

As Sprout began outlining the activities for the day and week, Harry sighed in contemplation of how life was going to be at Hogwarts. Somehow, Harry decided, he needed to get even with Remus and Sirius for talking him into coming to the school in the first place. He understood that with the loss of Nicholas, he needed more than they could offer, but it seemed unlikely that Albus would be providing aid any time soon. True, some of that was due to Harry's actions, but it seemed that most of the delay was due to the Headmaster's own prior inactions.

As they broke into partner groups for the lesson, Neville told Hannah that he needed to keep working with Harry and invited her to join them. Her refusal left Neville puzzled, and the subsequent complete avoidance of Neville by Hannah left him more confused as the lesson progressed. She ignored his inquiries and attempts at conversation, finally going so far as to move with her partner to a more distant table.

For his part, Harry was deeply impressed with Neville's knowledge and understanding of what they were doing, but more importantly, why the plants mattered. Apparently, Neville kept his own greenhouse at home, which was of sufficient size to rival one of Hogwarts' teaching greenhouses. The mix of plants Neville had, however, tended more toward the exotic than the basic ones found at school. It saddened him to think that because Neville was willing to give Harry the benefit of the doubt and continue tutoring him, Hannah might become lost to Neville.

Harry saw Ginny enter with her brother Ron and Hermione, but she avoided making eye contact with him and kept to a table on the far side of the greenhouse. Resigned to more unpleasant conversations in the near future, Harry tried his best to keep up with Neville's instructions, but the combination of hostility, glances, and whispers slowly nudged his frustration into high gear.

Only Neville was willing to buck the trend, and while he was still nervous with Harry, by the end of their nearly three hours of working together including the private tutoring period, the boy no longer seemed afraid. He tended to avoid casual banter, but his passing comments on the work they were doing and the applications filled the time with trivia and facts that Harry hastily scribbled down in his Muggle style notebook. He would never understand why anyone chose parchment and quill for taking notes in a classroom. Official communication was one thing, as was turning in assignments he supposed, but it was so much cleaner, faster, and easier to use a notebook during lessons.

Harry had heard his mentors discuss the herd-like mentality of many in the magical community, but this was becoming his first sharp experience in the phenomenon. Despite the public knowledge that Rita Skeeter was less than an honest reporter, everyone was more than ready to accept her sensationalistic spin on events. Her clear sympathies for the pure-blood families made Harry rather curious about who supplemented her income. Making a mental note to discuss the press situation with Remus, Harry longed to escape the castle and the dangerous groupthink of its inhabitants.

Mon, 4 Sep, 11:04

Harry walked toward Hagrid's cabin, heading for the back of the building. His schedule said that Ginny would meet him here, but he was not sure whether she would actually show up. Throughout the Herbology lesson, she had avoided being near Harry, which was to be expected. Ron had kept up a running commentary under his breath that Harry was certain concerned him. The ominous looks he had received from the gangly boy assured him that the commentary was less than friendly. The Daily Prophet prominently sticking out of Ron's bag was a sure sign that things would be tense in the dormitory that night. Perhaps he would need to take steps to minimize the fallout within the Gryffindor House.

To reach his tutoring session, Harry had opted for the expedient method of simply walking toward Hagrid's cabin and not trying to talk to or wait for Ginny. Harry felt that if he had chosen to wait for her after class by the greenhouse, between the other students and his presence she would have been put under enough pressure to further resent and avoid him. Hopefully by giving her space, she should have the chance to reflect on whether she still wanted to tutor him, as well as decide how to deal with her brother.

Ultimately, if she was going to show up, she would, otherwise he would use the time to try and write a letter to Remus outlining the situation. A lot of unexpected events were occurring, and he was in need of some solid advice. Perhaps if Remus was able to think about it before Harry arrived this afternoon, they could have a more useful discussion.

Finding a large porch on the back of Hagrid's cabin, Harry sat down on the two steps leading to it and dropped his bag behind him. Trying to reach a state of calm through a few basic breathing exercises, Harry watched the clouds crawl by. Since Herbology had ended nearly twenty minutes prior, Harry was coming to the conclusion that Ginny would be a no-show.

Glancing around before leaving, he was mildly surprised to see Ginny walking around the cabin toward the porch. She was watching her feet as she walked, apparently lost in her own thoughts. When she looked up and saw Harry, what little color she had drained quickly as she slowed to a stop directly in front of him.

Harry sat back for a moment, trying to decide how to talk to the redhead. There were things he needed to say, but more importantly, he needed to apologize to her. The silence between them seemed to stretch forever, as neither appeared to know how to start. Finally, Ginny broke the silence.

"Harry," Ginny said while looking anywhere but at him, "I'm... sorry... for what I did to you."

Harry felt thunderstruck that she would be the one apologizing to him. "Er, Ginny, why are you sorry? I'm the one that was about to attack you."

Ginny settled her gaze back to the ground, shifting uncertainly on her feet. "I lost control," she said quietly. "All of that... what was happening... we only saw the last little bit... and the bodies, and the blood... and it made... made me feel really sick... I'm sorry for losing control and for hurting you."

Harry sighed and ran one hand through his hair as he gazed at some of the clouds from his seat on the back porch steps. "Ginny," Harry tried again, "you have nothing to apologize for. Bloody hell, when I went back through the memory of what happened in a pensieve before breakfast, it made me sick." Ginny still refused to look at Harry. "Do you know what would have happened if you hadn't stopped me?" Harry asked.

Ginny sank down onto the grass. "You didn't know if I was going to attack you, did you?"

Harry shook his head, although she was still looking away. "No, I wasn't even aware of who you were, I just knew that my life was at risk, and I was taking steps to stop that risk." Harry reached down and picked up a long blade of grass, slowly shredding it as he rested his arms across his knees. "I was well on my way to killing you, actually. I don't think you'd be here if you hadn't stopped me, Ginny."

The silence stretched between them again. Blowing the grass fragments off his hands, he looked back at Ginny. "I'm sorry for that. I should have realized you weren't there to join in the attack. I'm sorry for what I did, or almost did, to you and your brothers."

Ginny shook her head but still refused to look at Harry. Harry was starting to understand that she was still struggling with some internal issues that had left her rattled.

Harry leaned forward, slowly reaching out and placing one hand on her shoulder. Ginny raised her head and he could see that her brown eyes were overly bright. "Thank you, Ginny, for doing what you did. You saved yourself, you may have even saved Fred and George, and you certainly saved me from myself. I would have been pretty broken if you hadn't stopped me and I had done the unthinkable. So, thank you." Harry tried for a smile, but he knew it was half-hearted at best.

Ginny looked back down at her lap. Harry retracted his hand and waited for her to get her thoughts under control, reverting to his cloud watching. He felt there was more they should say, but first they needed to get past this moment.

Heaving a great sigh, Ginny wiped at her face briefly before getting back to her feet. "Right," she was clearly trying to be calm and collected, "I guess we should start with the basics, so that means the old Flobberworm, so..." Ginny trailed off in a whisper before turning and walking quickly toward the edge of the forest, leaving Harry to follow.

Harry felt mildly distressed that their budding friendship had probably just taken a fatal blow, but he accepted this change as the inevitable outcome of his actions. His life never really let him have normalcy beyond a few illusory moments that would quickly be snatched away at the first opportunity.

Sighing as well, Harry got to his feet and followed the now taciturn girl toward some workbenches Hagrid had set up for the two of them. Harry realized as he followed her that those other things would apparently wind up remaining unsaid. It was going to be a long, painful tutoring lesson.

Mon, 4 Sep, 12:13

Ginny left Harry to clean up their work area while she proceeded to lunch in the Great Hall by herself. Harry remained behind Hagrid's cabin after he finished, collecting his thoughts. Deciding that he was already reaching his limit with tolerating stupidity after the Herbology lesson, it was clear that another private meal with the house elves was required.

Just as he was beginning to unwind and relax around the elves that treated him no differently than they had the first time he ate with them, Dumbledore arrived to ruin his contentment.

"I had wondered if you would be here, Harry." Dumbledore took a seat opposite him. Several elves rushed over to place a bevy of food in front of the Headmaster. "I have heard that your reception since returning has been rather lackluster, to say the least." Harry watched the Headmaster casually drink from his goblet of juice.

Shrugging in response, Harry merely kept eating, deciding that he would ignore the man's presence. Given how he felt about Snape and the article, he was unclear on how any interaction they might have would turn out. It was better to keep quiet and figure it all out later when he was under less scrutiny.

"I was not surprised that you did not appear for lunch. Tell me, Harry, have you relayed the real events to anyone as yet?" Dumbledore seemed content to make light conversation of the recent events, which was somewhat surprising to Harry.

Leaning back for a moment, Harry nodded briefly. "Neville." Pausing for a moment, Harry looked at the Headmaster. "To a lesser extent, the three Weasleys."

The Headmaster gave Harry a bland smile. Their conversation could have been about the weather for all the emotion he was expressing. After Dumbledore finished the fruit he was working on, he looked back at Harry with a slight twinkle in his eye. "I had thought to ask a boon of you, Harry."

Harry raised one eyebrow in response.

Dumbledore chuckled softly. "As you noted on your schedule, we are due to meet this evening, Thursday evening, and Saturday and Sunday mornings. I wish to skip our meeting this evening and move it to tomorrow."

Harry shrugged, completely indifferent to the idea. The last thing he wanted to do was sit in an office today and pick over the history of the diseased carcass also known as Riddle.

Dumbledore leaned forward, causing Harry to look up at the Headmaster. "I intend to talk to Severus tonight in your place, Harry. I wish to explore those questions you have raised."

Harry blinked for a few moments before pulling his wand out. Grabbing an empty goblet from a tray behind the table, Harry copied his memories of Snape's actions this morning and placed them into the receptacle. "Here's another one for you, Headmaster. I'd love to know how he got around your questions last night, as I find it very clear he is involved in this somehow."

Dumbledore looked at him shrewdly before accepting the goblet. Bringing forth his own wand, Dumbledore swirled the memory before placing it onto his wand and directly inserting it into his own mind. Harry watched in fascination, knowing that anyone who was not very skilled could literally fracture their mind by doing that. Harry would never even attempt it, regardless of how urgent the situation was. It was far safer to use the buffering mechanism a pensieve provided. Dumbledore's eyes glazed over for a long moment before he blinked backed to awareness.

The Headmaster leaned back in his seat before staring at Harry in contemplation. "Indeed, Harry, you have raised yet more questions. I shall, with your permission, show your memory of what happened yesterday to the combined faculty this evening as well. Hopefully they will be able to help the other students understand." Harry grunted noncommittally before returning to his lunch.

After a moment, Harry looked up and started a new thread. "I believe, Headmaster, that I am going to require some private sleeping arrangements. The... tension... among the others in the school is sufficient that I worry for their safety." Harry left the reason for his worry unspoken.

Dumbledore inclined his head. "I believe we can make the necessary arrangements, Harry. For tonight, why don't you stay with your mentors and return tomorrow morning. We can discuss further arrangements tomorrow evening during our meeting."

Harry eagerly agreed to this suggestion. While not as relaxing as he had desired, he found that the presence of the Headmaster did not disturb him as much as he expected it would. The two of them ate the remainder of their meal in an almost comfortable silence and then parted ways, Harry to class and Dumbledore to his normal activities.

Mon, 4 Sep, 1:01

Attending a joint class with the Slytherins was bound to be entertaining. Having realized he was being ostracized by nearly the entirety of the Hogwarts population, he supposed it should have come as no surprise that only Neville would be near him during the lesson. Ginny resumed her distant milling amid the pack of Gryffindors, while the Slytherins kept a baleful eye on him. For a moment, he was disconcerted to realize there were only four Slytherins present, before he did the math to realize that he had eliminated six in his own year and apparently one from a different year. He wondered if all fifth year Slytherins were enrolled in Hagrid's class.

Hagrid himself seemed to be at a loss of how to treat Harry. On the one hand, Harry could almost swear that the half-giant wanted to take him aside as a long-lost friend. On the other, Harry thought the man had no idea whether or not Harry should be treated as a half-wild and wounded animal ready to attack at the slightest provocation. In the end, Hagrid had resorted to smiling a lot and encouraging Harry as much as he could to work hard. Hagrid had even offered extra lessons on the weekends if Harry wanted some more hands-on time than the work he was going to be covering with Ginny.

For his part, Neville seemed to be more resigned to Hagrid's class than particularly eager to be there. He warned Harry repeatedly while Hagrid was giving a bog standard O.W.L. warning speech that Hagrid had peculiar notions about what was interesting and worthy of study.

Following the half-giant, who was carrying a large carcass slung over his shoulder, into the Forbidden Forest, Harry walked with Neville at the back of the group, noticing how all the other students were striving to keep some distance between themselves and the two stragglers.

Harry and Neville caught up with the group once they stopped in a wide clearing, and the body of students parted soundlessly as they approached. It was beginning to both amuse and anger Harry that they almost behaved like a crowd of serfs, parting before a lord -- or in this case, a perceived Dark Lord in Harry.

As Hagrid tried to draw attention to the carcass being eaten by thestrals, Harry just tuned out the people around him and studied the vaguely horse-like creatures. They looked like a cross between Stephen King's imagination and Dr. Seuss' rendition of said imagination. Hagrid's sudden question about who could see the animals left Harry curious about who would raise their hands. His own hand was half-raised in a vague gesture toward participation, but he was surprised that Neville also had his hand up.

The silence stretched as most students were staring at Ginny, who kept her hand down. Harry took this as another sign that she had yet to come to grips with the deaths she had witnessed. It was less than one day later, so there was no reasonable expectation for her to see the thestrals yet.

Hagrid must have perceived the situation, since he started explaining about how seeing someone die was not enough to see a thestral. You had to understand death itself, which was much harder. You could really only do that after seeing someone die and then coming to terms with what that meant for your own future date with the grim reaper.

Every life form had both a birth-day, and a death-day, and all the moments in between were unknown. Those two moments, however, were inevitable, even for supposedly immortal creatures like the Phoenix. Someday, Harry would help Tom Riddle realize that.

Following Neville's lead, Harry pulled out a sketch book and began drawing what he saw, writing notes as Hagrid talked to them about the wonders of the creatures.

Harry thought the thestrals looked sad as they studied the humans who were trying to see them. He supposed that if the only people who could see him had watched someone die, he might be sad as well.

Mon, 4 Sep, 2:09

The presence of Dolores Umbridge in the mixed Gryffindor and Slytherin class for Defense Against the Dark Arts caused Harry significant disquiet. He watched her from the back of the classroom, appalled at almost everything about her.

Her taste in clothing bordered on the criminal and did nothing to make her already unpleasant physical characteristics any less objectionable. Rather, they almost enhanced the effect, rendering him somewhat speechless that Aurors allowed her to walk around without fining her for her appearance. Surely there was some obscure law in the books that could be used to arrest her. Harry made a mental note to check with Remus if there was one, after he had shown him how the woman dressed.

While bothered by her appearance, he was more disturbed on how she expected a room full of 15 year olds to respond and to dutifully do as they were told - no matter how nonsensical the instructions - as though they were all Year 1 students in Primary school.

Harry was further horrifyingly fascinated by the foolishness Dolores Umbridge was displaying. Not teaching spells? Only studying theory? It seemed Hermione's primary acceptance for figures in authority was being put to the test as she continued to argue with the so-called Professor of Defense.

"Come now, Miss Granger, you surely aren't expecting to be attacked during my class?" Her simpering smile and saccharine, patronizing tone was enough for an already aggravated Harry to begin grinding his teeth subconsciously.

Hermione looked surprised at the question. "But, surely the whole point of learning Defense Against the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?"

Umbridge shook her head slowly, making a soft tut-tut noise at Hermione. "You are not qualified to decide what the 'whole point' of any class is. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way-"

Harry would not have stopped the snort that escaped his mouth even if he could have.

"Yes, Mr. Potter?" Umbridge asked with a false motherly voice.

"And you expect people to just walk up and in a secure, risk-free way attack us?" Harry's voice was loaded with sarcasm.

Umbridge's eyes were glittering in the light as she stared Harry. "You have all been led to believe by your prior and inferior teachers that you will be attacked at any moment. They have told you that Dark Wizards are around every corner, even that Death Eaters are still out there. These are all /lies/. The Ministry does not allow--"

"Right!" Harry said rather loudly. "Voldemort never existed, Death Eaters are figments of the imagination, and Draco Malfoy was the child of an immaculate conception!"

Umbridge's eyes shot wide as she pointed her stubby hand at Harry. "Twenty points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter! Do not make your situation worse!"

Turning her gaze back on the class, she continued her lecture. "I repeat! The Ministry does not allow Dark Wizards to move freely about, they are all in Azkaban! And when a new one rises," she said while malevolently staring at Harry, "we will stop them!"

Harry could feel the day wearing on him in a whole new light. The mere suggestion that the Ministry stopped Dark Wizards was laughable. "Oh, right, how could I forget how well The Ministry stopped /Lord Voldemort/!" Harry ignored the second round of sudden gasps around the room.

Umbridge smiled thinly at Harry. "Detention, Mr. Potter." Turning back to the classroom, she ignored the issue Harry raised. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named no longer exists. His supporters were all tried, convicted, and put in prison. There! Is! No! More! Danger!"

Harry could clearly remember Nicholas Flamel dying. Harry could clearly remember Voldemort's resurrection, attended by Malfoy, Nott, and Pettigrew. Harry could even remember the voices and masks of the Death Eaters who Apparated to Voldemort's side when his resurrection was complete.

Quickly rising to his feet, Harry whipped his wand forward and thought, "Stupefy!" His spell caught her completely unprepared and not only left her unconscious but also threw her violently against the wall.

Glaring at the stunned woman, Harry merely grunted, "Bakka!" as she slid to the ground behind her desk. Gathering his bag, he left the shocked students behind him as he stalked to the door. Finding it locked, he flicked his wand in an intricate pattern before the door exploded outward in a shower of toothpick sized splinters. Glancing back at the students, Harry saw most of them watching him with fear, except for two.

Ginny looked like she was about to be ill from the reminders of the violence she witnessed less than 24 hours prior, and Neville was just looking at Harry with sorrow clearly stamped on his face. For some reason, this just made his anger stronger. So much for having any friendly faces left by the end of the day.

Storming out of the castle, Harry exited the gates before placing his hand over his watch, and said, "Cobalt Sanctuary!" The jerk behind his navel as he was whisked away from Hogwarts was actually soothing for a change.


To resolve any lingering confusion of the age of characters, since I tampered with birthdays, I offer the following for you:

Canon birthdays: Hermione: Sep, 1979; Ron: Mar, 1980: Harry: Jul, 1980; Ginny: Aug, 1981.

AU birthdays: Hermione: Sep, 1979; Ron: Sep, 1979; Harry: Jul, 1980; Ginny: Aug, 1980.

Bakka means (approximately) "empty headed fool" in Japanese.

A big thank you to my genius betas who have valiantly strived to make this story better, despite my crafty attempts to make it incomprehensible. Immeasurable thanks to Chreechree and cwarbeck.

Sign up to rate and review this story