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

13. Reflections

by moshpit 6 reviews

Chapter 13

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 - 12262 words

Chapter 13: Reflections

Harry had the sudden urge to crawl under the table, but Hermione would never let him escape so easily. By deliberately baiting her during Charms, he hoped to nudge her beyond the basics and push her to try something that would lead to new insight in magical theory. Unfortunately, his display had probably just added another hundred questions to her mounting list.

"First, Harry," the brunette started, "you'll be at Potions Tutoring today, right?"

Harry smiled. "Of course I will. I know that while you will be tutoring all of us, Dumbledore arranged this so you could specifically tutor me. Thank you for that, Hermione."

Hermione smiled brightly back at Harry. "You're welcome, Harry." She seemed incredibly pleased to be appreciated for what she could offer in the way of knowledge.

George leaned over. "Barmy, this one, she'd lecture a troll if she thought it might learn anything," he whispered loudly enough for everyone to hear.

Harry chuckled. "No worries. Hermione reminds me of someone I admire very much. They seem like they might be kindred spirits."

Hermione's eyes lit up. "Really? Who?"

Harry shrugged. "Maybe I'll tell you later."

Hermione looked disappointed at being denied a prospective intellectual to converse with but regained her cheery demeanor quickly enough. Harry flicked his eyes down the table to see Ron glaring at him. Ginny was talking to one of the Quidditch players. Harry was having a hard time remembering their names but thought she might be Katie.

As he was looking around, Dumbledore and Cyril walked back into the Great Hall. Harry was curious where Snape and Umbridge had gone, but it was clear that they would not be returning with the Headmaster. Shrugging it off as a mystery to be explored later, he turned his attention back to Hermione, who already had her scroll of questions pinned to the table. She had a quill in one hand and a fork in the other.

"Ready, Harry?" she asked with enough enthusiasm to make Harry wish lightning would strike him down immediately. "Go ahead," he replied with some trepidation as she took a dainty bite of her lunch. Her expression was decidedly hungry, but Harry was unclear whether it was for food or information.

Over the next thirty minutes, Hermione bombarded Harry with a series of questions about the principles behind magic that he answered in half-riddles and vague hints. She obsessed over how Harry could convert an Accio in mid-flight into some other spell. Since she kept reminding him not to just give her the answers, he began to take a perverse pleasure in twisting her questions back upon themselves until the answer was hidden in plain sight. Hermione was dutifully taking notes of everything they discussed but seemed no closer to making the next step of intuitive connections that would lead her into the next enlightenment about words, thoughts, and magical energy.

Fred and George contributed to the conversation with often hysterical commentary, but Harry knew they were paying closer attention than it appeared. He was certain that once or twice Fred had written down a few cryptic words of an exchange to refer to later. Harry was unsure what exactly that would lead to, but with the earlier implicit reaffirmation of a prank war about to begin among the three of them, he was sure it would be interesting.

Neville, for his part, listened and asked a question or two but mostly tried to follow the topics without appearing too lost. Harry thought that with simply a significant boost of self confidence, Neville might become a real force to be reckoned with. His quiet but insightful questions left Harry bemused; Neville, of all people, was the quintessential paradox: brave enough to confront Harry on behalf of others but too cowardly to speak up for himself; smart enough to challenge Hermione when he put his mind to it but too uncertain to realize his own gifts. For all the sympathy he received from Neville, Harry was beginning to think that perhaps Neville needed it more than he did.

Shortly before the clock in the Great Hall announced the end of lunch, Hermione put away her materials and, with a quiet goodbye to the twins, walked out of the Great Hall with Harry and Neville.

Hermione led them into the same empty classroom that Harry had waited for the Sorting. They spent a few moments to magically clean and reorganize the room. After she had enlarged the lone instructor's desk with a quick Engorgio! charm, everyone pulled out their texts and settled around the table. Harry grabbed a Muggle notebook, while Hermione and Neville extracted their parchment notes.

"Very well," Hermione began, "since I'm supposed to be tutoring you, let's discuss how we'll do this."

Harry nodded his head at the door. "D'you want to wait for the others, or are they not showing?"

Hermione's excited expression fell slightly. "I'm sorry, Harry, but I don't think Ron or Ginny will be coming."

Neville looked sadly at him. Harry was reluctant to admit it, but he thought that Neville's facial expression was rather appropriate - he knew that winning friends and influencing people in a positive way was going to be difficult for him. Neville was clearly more perceptive than his appearance suggested.

Hermione shuffled some parchment slips before placing a stack of Muggle sized note cards made from clipped bits of parchment on the table. "These are my notes on Potions," she said. "I've been working to make sure it's all cross-referenced. The Potions textbook is the best source of information, really, as the class is more of a practical. I've found that in order to-"

Hermione stopped abruptly when arguing voices - a male and a female - were heard in the hallway. Based on the steadily increasing volume level, the bickering couple was approaching the room.

"- not like that!" With a flurry of motion, Ginny Weasley stormed through the partially open doorway, Ron hot on her heels. Shrugging her arm out of Ron's grip, she headed for the table the others were sitting at. Apparently giving in to whatever inevitability was dictating Ginny's actions, Ron literally ran in front of her and threw himself into the empty seat next to Harry and glared at his sister. Ginny showed no reaction beyond her already annoyed state as she took the only remaining empty seat, diametrically opposite Harry and as far from him as the table allowed.

As Ron sat panting slightly and glowering at everyone in general, Ginny calmly reached into her bag and extracted her materials. "Sorry I'm late, Hermione. I ran into a recurring problem on the way."

Hermione gave her a small smile, one wary eye on a flushed and still glaring Ron. "Right, well, we were just getting started. Ron, are you going to be studying or not?"

Ron shot her a dark look before he sullenly pulled his text and materials out of his bag. Somehow Ron managed to make a complete production out of placing his things on the desk as he continued to stare balefully at his sister. He ignored Harry completely.

Sighing, Hermione extracted her wand neatly from her robes and flicked it at the door to close it. Looking back at Harry, she tried again for the bright and energetic look that he had occasionally seen, but it fell flat. "As I was saying, I've got these notes I've been working on since first year, and-"

She was cut short when the door opened again with a loud bang. Two figures in billowing black cloaks stormed in, wearing white drama 'sorrow' face masks adorned with a single stark tear of blood, black hair jutting up at crazy angles, and shimmering fake green eyes. Everyone froze in alarm, looking like deer startled by a bright light. Harry however, was trying his best not to laugh, but he was hard pressed to stop the derisive chuckle that threatened to burst from him.

As Harry struggled to keep from laughing out loud, the figure in the rear slammed the door closed. The lead figure slowly raised a fist, a wand clutched tightly in it. "Silence!" he roared. "We have come to do the bidding of our master!"

The second form stalked slowly forward, causing Ron to scurry around the table and stand in front of Hermione of all people, wand in hand but clearly scared. Harry was almost certain that the effort of holding in his laughter was medically unsound and contrary to a prolonged life. The second one came to a stop before Harry and slowly went down on one knee. "What is thy bidding, my Master?" he asked in a hollow voice.

At this point, the pressure of keeping his amusement in check became too much. Harry lost control and burst out laughing. "Perfect!" Harry said appreciatively as he paused to wipe the tears from his eyes. "Where did you two get those outfits?"

Fred and George doffed their masks and wiped the sweat from their faces. "Trade Secret, old bean, Trade Secret," Fred replied. Harry just rolled his eyes and kept laughing at the twins and the way everyone had reacted to them.

His face crimson in outrage, Ron started yelling at his brothers. Neville slowly buried his head in his hands. Hermione started fanning her face with a bit of parchment. Ginny was watching the twins keenly, her eyes flashing with what Harry suspected was admiration for their handiwork.

After Ron had finally wound down and slunk back into his seat, Fred and George casually dragged two chairs from the pile of old furniture and sat on either side of Harry. George clapped Harry rather hard on the shoulder, causing him to lurch in his seat. "So, young Harry, here we are."

Fred clapped Harry's other shoulder just as forcefully. "Quite right, brother mine. Here we are. Right, Harry?"

Harry shook their hands off and traded long looks with each of the Trouble Twins. "You're best qualified to know where you are, be it here, there, or in-between."

Fred cuffed Harry lightly on the head. "Stop being dense, Harry. You promised us a memory."

Harry quirked his eyebrow. "I don't recall making a promise of any such thing."

George snorted. "Sophistry, Harry. You said you'd show us. Here we are, so show us."

Harry paused to reflect on the situation. Fred, George, and Ginny were certainly entitled to see the memory of the fight in the corridor Sunday night if they were so inclined, and Harry respected Neville enough to show it to the boy if he wanted to see it.

Hermione was a risk - showing her anything like this would just add to her list of insatiable questions and might lead to more revelations than he was prepared for. Harry was a bit astounded that she was able to make lightning fast connections to the very things that he himself had struggled to work out the answers to. It was probably an unfair comparison since at the time none of his mentors had answers to his questions; Remus and the others had worked it out one painful step at a time with Harry acting as the amazing magical guinea pig.

Ron was a definite problem. First of all, he clearly had extensive issues with Harry, probably due to the incident involving his sister and brothers. More disturbing, however, was that Ron did not seem to think anything through before acting - his impetuous response to Harry's baiting in Charms, his sullen reaction to the suppressed Howler - they were testimony to his rash and impulsive behavior, and only added up to problems here and now.

Harry frowned at Fred and George. "I'm not sure this is the right place to do this," he offered carefully. Hopefully the twins would understand his reluctance. The others were somewhat puzzled by the conversation, but Harry had no intention of spelling it out and hoped the twins would avoid it as well.

Fred exchanged a meaningful glance with his twin then turned to Ron. "What's it going to be, Ron?" he asked pointedly.

Ron was instantly on guard. "What do you mean?" he demanded loudly.

George shook his head in exasperation. "Look, Ron, your desire to protect Ginny is admirable, but do you really think Harry meant to hurt her?"

Ron flushed dark red but stubbornly held his ground. "'Course he did. He was trying to kill all of you!" he shot back.

Fred held up his hands. "How do you know?" he asked quietly.

Ron opened his mouth to retort but suddenly stopped.

"That's right, Ron, none of us really know." George said pointedly. "That's what we want Harry to explain to us. But we don't want the explanation, we want to see it, and Harry here offered it to us. Well, to Fred and me, at any rate. Probably Ginny - if she wants to see it."

Harry let them argue it out. "You three are certainly entitled to see how events unfolded. As for Hermione, Neville and Ron... I'm not sure if they want to know, let alone whether they should know."

Neville was looking decidedly uncertain, while Hermione was starting to develop the glint in her eye that told Harry he was about to be on the receiving end of a pointed scroll of questions -- or maybe a tome of them. Ron had a strange expression on his face, perhaps half-longing and half-fearing to know what the big brouhaha had been about.

Finally Fred spoke up, breaking the uneasy silence. "Dumbledore already said you were just defending yourself and that you didn't set out to kill anyone. How bad can it be?"

Harry shrugged in a noncommittal fashion. What Dumbledore had stated was certainly true, though Harry personally thought that it was a truth that was on par with the truth according to Rita Skeeter. A casual conveyance would suggest one thing, but the reality was often far, far different. Harry had every intention of killing the people that attacked him, and he knew it.

Resigned to losing this particular argument sooner or later, Harry carefully extracted the small pensieve Remus had foisted on him from his bag. Placing it on the table, Harry focused on recalling the sequence of events from when he first stood on the stairs leading from the Headmaster's office. He was equally careful to cut the scene off before he hit the wall. There was no point in subjecting Ginny to any ancillary trauma based on whatever she had inadvertently done to him.

After depositing the memory into the small pensieve, filling it to capacity, Harry pushed the bowl to the middle of the table. He slowly looked at each of them. "I want your word that you will not discuss what you see in this memory without my permission -- not to each other or to anyone else."

After everyone gave their promises, Harry cast a few charms over the pensieve, causing several small runes on the outside to glow faintly. "Alright then. All you have to do is stick a finger in the pensieve. I've set the memory to run at full speed the first time you watch it. If any of you go in a second time, it will run at half speed."

Harry sat back as all the students glanced warily at each other. Like moths drawn inexplicably to a flame, they all slowly placed one finger into the silvery substance in the bowl. Harry leaned back to wait for them to experience the events and to individually decide whether they wanted to see the incident again. For his part, Harry had no need to view the memory once more, since he relived most of it during R.E.M. sleep state, albeit with 'interesting' variations on what actually happened. Harry felt that if his life was any more 'interesting' he would be checking into the long-term ward at St. Mungos next Tuesday for a bit of vacation.

Suddenly they were all standing there, staring at Harry intensely. Ron and Neville were looking a bit unsteady, Hermione was very pale, and Fred and George seemed almost unfazed. Ginny, however, had eyes that were just a bit too bright and an enigmatic expression on her face.

Hermione, Fred, George, and Neville each slowly reached for the bowl and promptly went back into the memory a second time. Ginny sat and stared at the table surface. Looking extremely pale, Ron slowly put his head into his hands, shaking it side to side, moaning and muttering occasionally. Harry kept his face expressionless as he waited for some type of feedback from the Weasleys.

Harry watched as Ginny toyed absently with the pages of the Potions text in front of her. Her eyebrows knit together and then she raised her head to meet Harry's impassive gaze with one of her own. Harry could almost feel the energy flowing through her as she sat quietly, but her eyes betrayed nothing of her thoughts and emotions.

Ginny finally opened her mouth to speak only to close it and continue watching him. It was evident she was trying to work out what to say but had no idea how to start. Harry had no clue how to help her with her struggle.

Just as she appeared to finally decide how to voice her thoughts, she was interrupted when Ron abruptly turned from the table and was noisily sick on the floor. Ginny closed her mouth with a snap, shook her head and moved to her brother. Harry gathered up his unused papers and Potions text and shoved them into his bag. It was clear that this tutoring session would not cover Potions.

As Ginny cleaned up Ron's mess and helped him from the room, Harry leaned back to wait for the others to finish their second examination of the events. Almost the instant that Ginny and Ron stepped out of the door, the others were back and staring at Harry again. Neville and Hermione now looked like Ron - they were both pale and appeared deeply shaken. George was watching Harry while Fred scanned the room.

"Where'd Ron and Ginny get off to, then?" Fred asked.

Harry smiled half-heartedly. "Ron had a hard time with the images. Ginny took him to get cleaned up."

Fred frowned at this. Hermione had her head in her hands. Neville was rubbing his temples in small circles, his eyes squeezed firmly shut.

George finally spoke up. "This was a normal occurrence for you then?"

Harry quirked one eyebrow. "Normal is one word that doesn't apply to me."

Hermione seemed to be fighting to control her stomach, and her hands were trembling slightly. "So much blood. There was just so much blood." She slowly lifted her head to stare in Harry's eyes. "Is this what you really want to do in life?"

Harry shook his head briefly. "No. But I have no choice in this life." Pushing Ron's quill around in lazy circles with a fingertip, Harry tried to articulate what they failed to grasp. "Look, you lot live in a normal world. People don't try to kill you regularly. People don't want to forcibly take your blood for Dark Rituals to resurrect Dark Lords. You worry about grades, about boyfriends and girlfriends, about what to wear, or where to go."

Harry stopped playing with the quill and looked at Hermione. "I worry about staying alive."

Harry paused to stare in turn at Neville. "I worry about who is going to attack me next, and if I'll be able to fight my way out."

Harry turned and faced George. "I worry that Voldemort will catch up with me before I'm ready for him."

Finally looking at Fred, Harry finished his impromptu lecture. "This is not a game. If I fail even once, I'm dead. And then... then, so are all of you."

The silence that followed Harry's casual comments was profound. None of the students would meet his eyes, and Harry wondered if they understood just how trivial he considered most of their quotidian concerns. Then again, human nature seemed to dictate that regardless of the overall scope of a problem, the problem immediately in front of you always seemed bigger and more important than anything else.

The others were still sitting in complete silence when Ron and Ginny returned to the room. Ron refused to even look at Harry and silently gathered his supplies with a reckless abandon, shoving them into his bag without concern. With nary a passing word, Ron turned and left the room. Harry detachedly noted that while Ron's complexion looked better than the random ghost wandering the castle, it still was a far cry from a healthy colour.

Ginny, however, returned to her seat and watched the others at the table. She seemed aware that something happened while she was out, or perhaps she just suspected it based on the very quiet nature of everyone in the room. "What did I miss?" she asked with a relatively calm voice.

"Nothing, really," Harry replied. "I doubt if any of you are comfortable with death." He was tempted to add the word yet onto that sentence, but hopefully they never would have to become comfortable with the idea. That was if he could get his plans restarted. Resigned, Harry sighed a bit before saying it anyway. "Yet."

Hermione looked back at Harry, lifting her head from her hands in slow motion. "What do you mean you worry that... that... that V-V-Vo... He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named... will catch up with you? Before you want him to?" This time even Ginny reacted, startled at the direct use of the much feared name.

Harry leaned back and contemplated the ceiling for a few moments. How much of the truth should he reveal to them? Bandying about sensitive information such as Voldemort's return would probably put everyone he told in immeasurable danger. The one person who knew the whole truth - Dumbledore - was already being taken to task over the reality of the situation. And if someone as prestigious and powerful as Dumbledore was being attacked for seemingly 'coddling' the volatile and unstable shadowy figure that was Harry Potter, then maybe Harry should keep his thoughts to himself.

But then again, he had already told George most of it during their earlier conversation, and did Harry have the right to withhold information that might be critical to survival? Harry had experienced more than his fair share of being kept in the dark for his own good, and he disliked it immensely.

Surveying the faces looking at him, Harry was still undecided. If he revealed the truth, what would happen next? How would the word spread from these few students? And would it affect Dumbledore's intended discussion about how to get the full ICW to admit to the return of Riddle? The War Mages were convinced but held little political influence, and the whole night of Voldemort's resurrection was tied into the events around Nicholas and Wormtail. The short but fierce battle that took place after the resurrection was also full of dangerous information that should not be revealed to just anyone, particularly if Snape decided to take steps and become more invasive or found a way to circumvent the rings.

George finally broke the silence. "Let's hear it, Harry. You already told me that he's back. Fred isn't quite so accepting of it coming from me, though."

Harry blew his breath out and closed his eyes, massaging his temples in an unconscious echo of Neville, while he tried to decide what to say. "Look, I need you all to keep this quiet for now. We're trying to work out a way to reveal the truth and not get royally screwed for it. But yeah, Voldemort is back."

Harry opened his eyes and saw the drawn faces staring back at him. "He got a body back on the night of the last task in the Triwizard Tournament. It was not a pretty picture. His new body is ... very different."

"How do you know this?" Hermione asked quietly.

Harry smirked at her. "I was there, of course. Can't have the Dark Lord's resurrection gala without the cause of his downfall there to witness the events, right? I was the guest of honor, you might say."

Fred leaned over. "Let's see it then, Harry. Put that memory in the pensieve, right?"

Harry shook his head. "No. That's not something for you to see." Ignoring the looks of disbelief the twins were giving him, Harry pulled the memories of the corridor attack out of the pensieve and placed them back in his head. He needed to start thinking of something else or else his temper might start to build up again, and that would not help him in the forthcoming Potions class.

"Why not?" George asked loudly.

Harry stared at George, not caring that his expression was very cold. "There are things you don't need to know. And that night of Dark magic is one of them."

Fred looked ready to burst. "You've got our oaths to not go Dark, or even help those that are! What's the big deal?"

Harry stood up and grabbed the pensieve, carefully tucking it into his bag. Looking directly at the twins, Harry gave them a deeply irritated look. "You cannot possibly justify needing to see that."

With a short nod at Hermione, Neville, and Ginny, Harry left the room behind to find some peace before heading to the tower for the Potions lesson. In his current state of mind, he was more likely to kill Snape if the man pushed him too far than just stun him like he did with Umbridge. Murder would definitely not earn him laurels from Remus and Sirius.

Harry finally settled on flying to the top of the North Tower and sitting upon the edge. While the new Potions classroom was just below him, the view from the top of the tower was quite calm and refreshing. Perhaps if he could arrange to work by a window he would be able to drain his anger with natural scenery.

"That could have gone better, Mr. Potter." Floppy's tone was neither accusatory nor welcoming.

"Not now, Floppy," Harry replied with a sigh. "I need to think of other things for a while."

"As you wish, then." The hat returned to an inert state as Harry settled firmly on the ledge of the tower.

Far below him, he noticed that Hagrid appeared to be running a Magical Creatures lesson for some younger students, as they were all clustered around a series of small crates by the back of his cabin on the grounds. As Harry watched with passive interest, there were faint screams and suddenly the entire class bolted in different directions from whatever was in the crates. Harry had to chuckle as Hagrid grabbed whatever was crawling out of one crate and wrestled it back in before slamming the door so hard that Harry could clearly hear the echo from his perch.

Keeping one eye on the time, Harry spent an enjoyable ten minutes or so alternately watching Hagrid try to get his class back together and just admiring Hogwarts' picturesque setting. Nestled in a valley Harry estimated as roughly 50 miles northwest of Glasgow, the untouched woods and surrounding snow-peaked mountains were quite attractive. Harry was almost certain the Forbidden Forest ended near the Argyll Forest region.

When the time for Potions was near, Harry gave up his perch and dropped back over the edge of the tower on his broom. The little bit of peace and quiet he had regained would hopefully carry him through what would invariably be a very trying lesson. Pausing by the first window he was sure would not open into the Potions classroom, he quickly cast an unlocking charm on it before pushing it open and hopping into the corridor. Shoving his broom back into his bag, he caught the tail glimpse of Dean and Seamus heading down the corridor, talking with the two giggling girls whose names Harry could not recall.

Following them around the corner, he was somewhat surprised to find a rope ladder hanging from a trap door in the ceiling. The others were already climbing up, so, despite his belief that this was even stranger than temperamental staircases, Harry followed them.

The room he entered was quite a contradiction to his senses. The six very large windows were all firmly shut, but no drapes were present to cover the light streaming in. Meanwhile, it appeared an interior decorator with a serious bent for gothic styles had run amok. The walls were a uniform dark charcoal grey, while the floor and ceiling were both flat black. In the center of the room were 10 tables, a dark and sickly yellow, for two people each, and around the edges of the room were large laboratory work benches, each a light grey. The deep scarring of the workbenches was a mute testament to the many potions brewed incorrectly upon them.

Seeing that there were several tables empty, Harry proceeded directly to the back of the room, sitting by one of the large windows. Knowing that this class would wind up being a contest of some sort between Snape and himself, Harry hoped that by isolating himself at the back of the room the emerging conflict would fail to spill over onto his classmates.

As Harry unpacked his materials, Snape strode out of the back room and stood beside the massive monolithic granite teacher's desk. With two sharp flicks of his wand, the trapdoor slammed shut and glowed brightly indicating a very advanced locking charm. Harry was less impressed with what he did than the casual manner in which he did it. Snape's command of non-verbal magic was, for all intents and purposes, complete. Advanced locking charms were tricky to do silently, a fact that Harry had learned the hard way.

"So," Snape began in a soft hiss, "here we are." The man slowly surveyed the group of students who were all shifting nervously. "Alone. At the top of a tower. Far from anyone who might... hear us." The oily tone in Snape's voice was enough to make Harry want to draw his wand, but he knew that Snape would be keeping a very close eye on every move Harry made.

"Mr. Potter." Snape paused significantly while slowly eyeing Harry up and down as though inspecting some particularly vile material. "How... nice... to have a celebrity among us." The sibilance that Snape was using emphasized the complete loathing that was clearly mutual between the two.

"Tell me, Mr. Potter. What is the primary ingredient to the Draught of Peace?" Snape was letting one hand trail slowly across the desk as he walked to the center of the classroom, his cloak billowing slightly.

"I wouldn't know, sir," Harry replied with as much respect as he could summon for someone he disliked so strongly.

Snape smirked outright. "Tut, tut, Mr. Potter. That will be 10 points from Gryffindor. Clearly, your infamy isn't everything, no matter how powerfully Dark you may be. Let's try again. Tell me how to counter the effects of the Draught of Peace." Snape's gaze on Harry left him with a sensation of desperately needing a bath.

"I wouldn't know, sir," Harry again replied, keeping his tone even.

"So you are not only arrogant but also ignorant. That shall be a further 10 points from Gryffindor, Potter. One more try, then. Tell me how to prepare hellebore syrup." Most of the other students were shifting uneasily, keeping their heads down as they apparently waited for Snape to vent his frustrations on the easy target that was Harry.

"Which type of hellebore syrup do we need, sir?" Harry asked as pleasantly as he could manage.

Snape scowled so deeply that Harry thought the man might start leaking grey matter from the vacuum forces at work on his face. "What are you getting at, Potter?" Snape demanded in a cool voice.

"Well, you asked for the ingredient as 'hellebore syrup.' Are you referring to the Niger type, which is useful for healing wounds? Or perhaps you mean the Foetidus, which supposedly cured the madness inflicted by Dionysus? Or did you mean-"

"Enough!" Snape spat. "We are using the Lividus hellebore, Potter, now get on with your explanation!"

Harry paused to write down on the corner of his notebook the specific type of hellebore plant required.

"What is the concentration of the syrup, sir?" Harry put on his best winning smile, ignoring Neville's earlier warnings. Surely this smile would make someone like Fudge proud, not someone like Voldemort.

Harry knew his polite behavior was driving the potions professor barmy, but he really felt that the request was completely inadequate. If Nicholas had caught Harry writing down an ingredient as poorly specified as this, Harry doubted he would see daylight for months since he would be so involved in musty tomes of magical ingredients to learn the 'finer aspects' of magical ingredients.

Snape slowly exhaled and seemed to be counting the bricks on the back wall. His tone, however, could have frozen the lake in front of the castle during August. "One part in seventeen by volume, to a base of five percent saline, Potter. Now is there anything else you would like to ask before admitting even more ignorance?"

"Thank you sir, just one more question. Would that be a sodium or potassium saline, sir?" Harry tried for the best impression of Hermione he could arrange on his face. His efforts were rewarded with a slow tic appearing in the muscles over Snape's right eye.

"Sodium, Potter." Snape continued to alternately glare at Harry and the wall behind him.

"Thank you, sir." With a grand flourish, Harry updated his notes to cover all of the additional details revealed. "Surely you just overlooked such little details in your haste to be sure I knew how to prepare a proper syrup, sir."

With a broad smile, Harry stood up and cleared his throat. "To extract the essence of Lividus hellebore, you would first gather the nectar petals at dawn and then crush them into a pulp. After straining the pulp through a cheesecloth, the colloidal liquid result must be boiled until all the water has vaporized and only a blue powder is left in the cauldron. To prepare a 1 to 17 syrup based on five percent sodium saline, you first must prepare the saline mix. By requiring five percent weight-volume of sodium chloride in a base of deionized water, you would add five grams of purified sodium salt to every 95 grams of water. To effect the desired concentration of 1 in 17 by volume, equal measures of powder and fluid content between essence of Lividus hellebore and the saline base would be mixed in the proper ratio. The end result of this mixture is your desired syrup of hellebore, /sir/." Harry then sank into his chair with a flourish.

The tic above Snape's eye was much more rapid now. As the man scanned the classroom, his expression grew very dark. "As shocking as it is that you might actually have something in your head other than your ego, you are... correct." The sour expression on the Professor's face made Harry wonder if there was a magical way to recreate that expression on others.

Snape turned abruptly to stalk behind his desk. "You will be brewing the Draught of Peace today." With a flick of his wand, the blackboard at the front of the room became filled with miniscule writing. "The instructions are on the board, and-" with another flick the cupboard in the front of the room opened "- the ingredients are ready. You have exactly 90 minutes. Begin."

Snape stood and watched the students scurry about to obtain their materials and hastily scribble down notes on the brewing process. As Harry took notes on the basic process and steps, he observed Snape glare and scowl as each student passed by in turn. Finally taking a deep breath, Harry proceeded to the front to obtain his supplies. He could feel Snape's eyes boring holes in his back the entire time. Opting to simply ignore the man, Harry returned to his seat with a fake smile plastered on his face.

Harry spent a few minutes quickly setting up his cauldron and raw materials on the lab table adjacent to the window. Since he was at the back of the classroom, the only way in or out of his work area was along one narrow aisle through the desks, or else by walking along the back of the classroom.

As Harry slowly started the fire and prepared the base solution of water and buffer ingredients, he could hear Snape moving about the room, leveling devastating criticism for poor techniques yet never correcting anyone or teaching the proper methods.

The soft rustle of fabric was the only indicator that Snape had entered Harry's work area. "You chop the root, Potter, not mash it! That will be 10 more points from Gryffindor!" Snape snarled his criticism and stormed off, headed to where Neville and Ginny were working together. Harry shrugged absently and went back to mashing the galanga root, rather than chopping it. He knew from Nicholas that it required full saturation with magical essence to turn galanga into a strong magical buffer to limit the rate of reaction. Chopping the roots would only impart the weakest of strengths to the buffer, making the potion much harder to control during brewing. It all boiled down to how much you handled the root in the end.

By the time Snape had docked every Gryffindor some measure of points, while praising the pitiable few Slytherins, Harry had reached the first critical phase in the brewing process. The powdered moonstone, which Harry found to be far too old to be as potent as it should be, would require a vicious acidic reaction within the other ingredients.

To bring out the dreaming essence contained within the stone, the moonstone must be a natural product from the magical mines in Sri Lanka. For some reason, other moonstone sources lacked the proper essence and only that geographic area could produce proper magical moonstones. The individual flakes that formed the core of every moonstone each contained a minute amount of potent dream inducing magical energy, and the raw potassium silicate matrix that held it suspended had to be dissolved first. The potassium would have the added benefit of limiting excess sodium from the body during the effects of the potion to prevent a gradual hypertension.

Harry carefully added the powdered moonstone and then began stirring to maintain a fixed rate of reaction. Harry always hated risking his wand by stirring potions, but he knew it gave the best results by imparting any necessary extra energy to the process. After the requisite duration of brewing, Harry added the Lividus hellebore syrup to begin neutralizing the acidic action in the cauldron.

As Harry leaned back, Snape's sudden yell made him jump reflexively, whipping his wand from the potion and pointing it directly at the man. "Potter! You do not stir a potion with your wand! Another 15 points from Gryffindor!" Sneering at Harry who was still breathing hard and fast from the surprise of the potions master, Harry could almost swear Snape was laughing at him inside.

"And you have your wand trained on me?" Now Snape's voice was a soft caress of malice. "That will be another 50 points. If you do not put your wand down now, I shall give you detention for two weeks." Harry slowly lowered his wand, fighting to keep his reactions under control. Harry hated having people sneak up on him when he was concentrating on anything. Even worse was a completely untrustworthy person like Snape managing to pull the surprise off. "Amazing, you can follow instructions - when your brain understands them," Snape stated loud enough for everyone to hear clearly.

Snape leaned forward until his nose was mere inches from Harry's. The man pitched his voice such that only Harry could hear him. "You're mine, Potter. Next month, I've got you."

Harry was unable to stop his completely reflexive sarcasm. "What can I say? I'm thrilled."

Snape sneered at Harry for a moment, his eyes alone promising misery immeasurable for Harry during his month-long bout of detention. Finally, as Snape turned and strode back over toward Ron and Hermione's table, Harry got his breathing back under control and contemplated how best to save his potion.

"You didn't really think you could get away with all of this, did you?" The silky whispers of punishments and ominous unspecified pleasures that Harry would be facing during his detentions with Snape were slowly eating through the firm barriers he had placed on his normal reactions. While Snape had failed to sneak up on Harry a second time, the man had been muttering in his ear for the past hour or more. "Whatever you do, Potter, I can easily undo."

Harry continued to patiently stir the cauldron while closely monitoring the heat from the flames, as his cauldron began to give off a dark grey vapor in small puffs. It was quite unsuitable as the Draught of Peace, but it was a far cry better than most other student potions. Harry had managed to recover most of the reactions after some hard work, but the inability to stir with his wand was hampering the corrections he could make.

Snape, however, seemed completely unconcerned with what any student was doing, most especially Harry. All he wanted to do was drill into each student for the slightest mistake, using any pretext to launch a vicious character assassination attempt. Harry had witnessed both Neville and Ginny having their potions Evanesco'd, after either adding too much galanga root or stirring a cauldron one time too many, respectively. How anyone could learn in such an environment was beyond his skills to comprehend. If Harry had not received the extensive Alchemy knowledge of magical ingredients imparted from Nicholas, he was certain that he would be horrible at Potions in this environment.

As Harry finished stirring and killed the flame, he heard a soft plunk! and turned to see ripples across the surface of his potion. Snape was immediately standing behind him, eyes once again flashing in triumph as Harry's potion turned a putrid green. "Mr. Potter, what is this?" he asked in a voice that was overly casual.

Harry could think of no way to answer the question without causing quite the scene. He could either accuse Snape of sabotage with no evidence, or he could try to state the truth that /someone/, most likely Snape, had put something into his potion. Either way, he would certainly be ridiculed and belittled.

"It appears to be a potion, sir," Harry said with a smile that could only be described as plastic.

"That will be zero marks then for today, Mr. Potter. Evanesco!" Snape's eyes were challenging Harry to try and do something about the situation. When Harry continued his facially distorting smile, Snape finally looked away to the rest of the class.

"The lesson is over. Drop a flagon of your potion on my desk if you have not received a zero, and everyone leave." Snape's voice was firmly into the malicious and silky stage, as he stood blocking the aisle Harry was in so that there was no way for Harry to leave the room without climbing around the man. However, with Snape's back toward him, Harry decided he had no desire to loiter and have Snape spew whatever was on his diseased serpentine mind.

Harry quickly and quietly packed his materials. Pulling his broom case from the top of the bag, he stalked directly to the window behind his table and threw it open with a reverberating clang! as the frame slapped against the outside wall.

"Potter!" Snape shouted at Harry, but Harry had no intention of stopping to listen. With one smooth move, he vaulted out of the window and enjoyed a moment of free-fall and Snape's shouts from within the classroom, now lost in the whistling wind of his passage. Pulling his Firebolt under him, Harry rocketed off at maximum speed for the gates of the castle. /Nice-Nice/. Remus and Sirius were about to get a lesson in playing nice-nice, he was sure.

When Harry activated the portkey outside the gates, Harry landed softly behind the cottage he called home. Pulling both his wands out, Harry tried to decide how he was going to proceed. The problem with the disruptor fields around the property was that the only magic you could cast while inside the fields was the magic you brought in with you.

Coming from such a low-energy class like potions, Harry was fairly certain he was close to fully charged in his core, but it was a given that Sirius and Remus would be near fully charged as well. They made a point of leaving for a few hours every day to recover from any magical energy expended during the prior 24 hours.

Taking a deep breath and deciding that this situation called for trickery rather than brute force, Harry unconsciously donned his wolf smile and stepped across the ward line.

Before he had taken two steps, the back door opened and Sirius stood there, smiling broadly at Harry. Harry inwardly was quite gleeful to have a stationary target and carefully kept his hands held behind his back. Harry made a broad show of walking casually toward Sirius, keeping his gait friendly and rolling. As he got closer, however, Sirius' internal warning detector must have gone off, for he paled briefly before turning and diving into the back of the house with reckless abandon.

"Remus!" Sirius yelled out. "Harry's on the war path!"

Swearing softly, Harry ran to the back door and ducked to one side, peeking around the doorjamb. Sirius was so going to get a lesson in making nice-nice with the locals. And then Remus would have to be tracked down...


The return portkey trip dropped Harry off in front of Hogwarts. For once, he was too tired to even care about the beautiful sight of the magical energy shooting off from the gates. The running battle with Sirius and Remus had consumed most of the evening when he was not directly training with Master Gata. Studies of the theory of magic were fine, but prank wars always came first.

And Harry was almost certain that Remus would find a cure for Sirius' eyebrows which had become twelve feet long, 20 kilos of combined weight, and virtually indestructible. It would probably take some time for Harry to get his own clothing to stop emitting puffs of smoke randomly, though, so he was not in a substantially better position than his Godfather -- possibly in even a worse position if Remus' spell had been tied to his body and not his clothes. It seemed Remus may have won the latest round, but tomorrow was always another day - and it would be at least tomorrow morning before Remus stopped sounding like Donald Duck. Harry was proud of that curse; it had taken days to work out.

Working magic at home always required the trade-off between power and craftiness. Since very energy-draining magic like shields, stunners, summoning or banishing charms would tap core reserves quickly in a real fight, they had each learned long before to use stealth, surprise, and peculiar low power spells like cosmetic charms to raise pranking to a type of New Art. True skill was in how you used the forces that magic offered and not how powerful a spell you could toss around without getting burned.

"Harry!" The echoing voice down the corridor caused Harry to spin lightly, amused to see Fred and George scurrying toward him. They both looked rather flushed with excitement or, perhaps, from running down the corridor to catch Harry.

"Yeeeeesss?" he asked the twins, drawing the one word out into an entire welcoming committee. Harry always felt much better after venting his pent up tension in a good prank battle.

"You won't believe it!" Fred said excitedly between pants of exertion. "Those rings that scream when Snape goes picking your brain? We're selling them like mad!"

Harry smirked. "Good. So the practical demonstration during lunch was useful?"

George took over for his panting twin. Harry was amused to see that while they might look alike, they clearly were not in the same physical condition. "Definitely. We've had to distance your part in them a bit, though. People will still sign off on the oaths, but we've led them to think these are our design and you just fronted the money." Fred was nodding his head while catching his breath.

"You're hyperventilating, Fred, hold your breath for a slow 20 count, you'll feel better," Harry observed. Looking back at George, he just shrugged. "If it sells them, it's fine with me. I'll even get you the design, so you can make them yourselves. We'll negotiate a new split when you start making your own, right?"

Both of the twins adopted a wide-eyed expression of glee. "Sir, yes, sir!" George threw a snappy salute, inadvertently poking his own eye with his thumb. "Ow! Ow! Ow!" Harry just laughed at George while he danced in spot, one hand covering his eye. Fred was shaking his head but appeared to be fairly well recovered.

"Anything else, my faithful followers?" Harry asked Fred.

Fred smirked back at Harry before jerking his thumb at George. "Never could take him anywhere. Those rings have been singing a siren song of love all evening. Snape is really on the warpath. It's great that Snape's having to give up his casual reading of students' minds that have the rings. It's funny to see a first year running down the corridor away from Snape while screaming 'La! La! La!' at the top of their lungs. The best part is that apparently Snape can't punish a student from running away from him!" Fred was grinning with malicious glee, apparently in a fond memory from earlier.

Even George stopped prancing, smiling dreamily while recalling the episode . George's voice had an echo of the ethereal quality of dreams. "Dumbledore told Snape that he couldn't in front of a bunch of us outside the Great Hall."

"Very nice," Harry smiled in return. "Well, I'm off for a fun little chat with the Headmaster, so I'll see you two later."

George rubbed his eye a bit but looked extremely curious. "In trouble again there, Harry? What for this time? You didn't take down someone else without your followers, now did you?"

Harry's clothing decided this was the perfect instant to release a huge puff of smoke, rapidly filling the immediate area in the corridor. After much coughing and hand-waving, the twins looked around to see where Harry was. Harry, standing directly behind them, reached out and smacked the back of both their heads at the same instant. The twins immediately jumped sideways and glared at Harry.

"You're not volunteering to be my next victims, now are you?" he asked with a wide smile. The combination of Remus' little Smoke Screen charm tied into some Time Randomizer hex was perfect to play with the twins' collective mind since it went off at such an opportune moment. The Time Hexes were one family of magic that Harry used very, very carefully. His first few attempts had led to rather disastrous consequences for his goldfish. Hedwig had enjoyed the results, however.

The twins both furtively shook their heads and slowly took a few steps back. Harry shook his head while laughing softly. "Right, then. I'm sure I'll be finding out what Dumbledore wants shortly. Later, gents." With a casual wave, Harry walked off, leaving the twins staring at each other.

Harry felt no need to correct their initial impressions. It was probably better if everyone suspected that the time Harry was spending with the Headmaster was related to his various punishments for less than upstanding Hogwarts behavior.

As he resumed his trek to the Headmaster's office, Harry started becoming rather nervous. Today had seen quite a few incidents that he was sure the old man would want to review, perhaps in painful detail. And then Cyril was bound to be someplace nearby, and talking with Cyril would most likely involve yet another rehash of what was going on in the castle.

Sighing, Harry gave the password to the Gargoyle before knocking on the door and entering Dumbledore's private sanctum. The Headmaster smiled as Harry walked in. "Please, take a seat, Harry."

Feeling somewhat as though he was a sacrificial lamb being led to the altar, Harry dropped into the seat Dumbledore indicated. Without warning, Harry's clothes again shot a ball of smoke into the air that engulfed both of them. Fawkes gave a cry of indignation before flashing out of the room.

As the Headmaster cleared the air, Harry just smiled blandly. "Sorry about that. Remus got me with a twisted bit of magic I haven't unraveled yet."

Dumbledore chuckled lightly, waving his hand in a gesture of dismissal. "Family problems are always murky, Harry. Let us begin by discussing what is going on here at Hogwarts." Pausing to collect his thoughts, Dumbledore absently poured two cups of tea, much to Harry's chagrin. Sooner or later, he was sure he would not be able to go through one of these meetings drinking gallons of tea without becoming violent.

After Harry politely declined a cup, Dumbledore took a sip and tented his fingers while leaning forward on his elbows. "I spent nearly an hour conferring with Severus last night, Harry. I am unhappy with the outcome. No matter how I approached the topics, it was evident both that Severus had no knowledge of the attack upon you or the attacks done by Slytherin students through the years, and yet it was equally evident that he knew something. What exactly he does know I cannot say."

Dumbledore paused as Fawkes burst back into the room, but both he and Harry had to laugh out loud as Fawkes landed in Harry's lap and trilled a song of condemnation. "I suspect Fawkes did not appreciate being awakened in such a crude manner, Harry," the Headmaster speculated. Harry tried to calm Fawkes in the same way he calmed Hedwig, with casual stroking of the feathers and scratching of the skin in places birds would have a hard time reaching.

As Fawkes quieted down and closed his eyes in response to Harry's ministrations, Dumbledore leaned back and resumed his summary. "I believe that Severus is working in conjunction with others but cannot as yet prove anything. I am, however, keeping a close eye on him. Moving him to the tower was one step in reducing his influence, but it also makes it easier for me to monitor with whom he is in contact."

Harry nodded his head. "I get weird impressions from him. On the one hand, he challenges me to give him veritaserum and claims ignorance. During class, he insinuated quite a bit about events he claims to know nothing about. It makes no sense."

"Yes, it is a problem." Dumbledore stopped to reflect on the situation and enjoy his tea. "We shall have to continue to compare notes. I am certain you have something else going on with Severus, but I will await those events to unfold in their own time. The only thing I must demand is that Severus not be imprisoned, Harry. I need the information he can provide."

Harry smiled without realizing it. "I don't see him being charged with anything that could lead to time in Azkaban, Headmaster. At least, not right now."

Dumbledore shook his head slightly, the twinkle in his eyes somewhat dull and lackluster. "Very well. I tried to calm the students regarding you and your recent... actions, shall we say. Their reactions have been somewhat expected given the situation. I am afraid that it will take quite a bit of good faith on your part, not to mention good behavior, to smooth things over."

Harry just smirked. "Good behaviour. That's the ticket. I'll get right on that, sir," Harry replied while rolling his eyes.

Dumbledore coughed abruptly while drinking his tea, before hitting his own chest a time or two to get the coughing under control. "There you are, Harry." Harry was somewhat puzzled by the twinkle suddenly going full force in the Headmaster's eyes. "As I was saying, you should be able to smooth things over and perhaps make friends. I fear the approach of Slytherin students will take some thought on your part, but I'm sure you can think of something, Harry."

Pulling out some notes on parchment, the Headmaster consulted a scroll in a strikingly reminiscent fashion to Hermione. Harry wondered whether there was a master list of Grill-Harry questions on this parchment as there apparently was on every piece of parchment in Hermione's possession.

"In regards to the Head of House problem with Severus... this ties into Voldemort, so I must discuss it with you. As you know, Severus spies on Voldemort's side for us. His duties as Head of House, combined with the time consuming Potions lessons and inevitable cleanups, acquisition of supplies, and so forth led Severus to tell me he lacked sufficient time to closely monitor the students of his House. He further informed me that he approached each student who was reported to be abusive or in conflict with others, handed out punishments as appropriate, and forgot the matter as he had little time to follow-up with each situation."

Dumbledore frowned for a moment, idly stroking his long beard. "While his explanations here, as everywhere lately, were logical and without flaw that I could find, the overall feeling I have is one of Severus deliberately misdirecting my inquiries."

Dumbledore looked sorrowfully back at Harry. "Severus has given me the excuse that he lacks enough time for all his duties. Given his reactions on the night of the first attack and subsequent actions suggesting his involvement with the Daily Prophet, I felt it was time to eliminate this supposed problem of his. Therefore, I switched the Head of House status this morning. Officially, this is because Severus lacked the resources to keep up with his duties. Unofficially, this is so that I might monitor him more closely while he is here, and more importantly, he can spend more time insinuating himself into Tom's graces. I have seen the evidence of Severus' recent... welcome, shall we say, back into Tom's ranks of faithful servants. To that end, I will be relaying to you what I learn from Severus as I find out the details. I trust this is acceptable?"

Harry simply nodded in response. Fawkes, apparently tired of the attention, flew back over to his perch before tucking his head under his wing and returning to sleep.

"With those things out of the way, I wish to spend the bulk of this evening exploring everything we each know about Horcruxes Harry, and see what we may expect to come."

With that preface, Dumbledore proceeded to launch into a sketch of the material he knew. Over the following hour and more, Harry and Dumbledore went back and forth discussing what they knew, what they suspected, and making educated guesses. The biggest problem was the detection and destruction of the soul cages. The destruction of the first Horcrux, the diary, had been under such a confusing confrontation and helter-skelter set of actions that it was hard to identify exactly what had successfully destroyed it. Harry and Dumbledore spent some time carefully reviewing his memories of the event, and while Dumbledore was clearly shocked and thoroughly depressed by the sequence of events, he could not tell what events had been the magic ones to enable the destruction. Everything Harry and Dumbledore knew indicated that to destroy a Horcrux was not a trivial problem.

"Now that we have fully explored the theory of Horcruxes as well as we both understand it, Harry," Dumbledore said while leaning back into his oversized chair, "I wish to discuss your plans for this Saturday."

Harry's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Saturday, sir? Aside from detention and training, and perhaps a bit of business with the Weasleys, nothing of import."

"Excellent!" Dumbledore said. "You see, there is a place that I wish us to go to, perhaps with Cyril if he would care to join us. I would like to begin looking into Tom's past, and your skills would be most useful for what I wish to do."

Harry wanted to groan with how Dumbledore was trying to lead him around. "And just what would that be, sir? It's late, and I'd rather dispense with the leading statements, with all due respect, sir."

Dumbledore chuckled softly. "I would be more candid, but I know nothing concrete. I suspect, however, that we may be able to turn up some clues as to where we should begin looking into Tom's past. You see, I think his past will be critical to understand, as that will lead us to locating any other Horcruxes he has made."

Harry nodded slowly. "Very well, then. I'll talk to Cyril about it, but anytime after lunch should be fine."

"I think we shall call this your detention for the day, Mr. Potter. I will speak to Mr. Filch, and release you from your detention for both Saturday and Sunday since you must also go to the ICW this weekend."

Dumbledore looked carefully over the notes on his desk before nodding to himself and looking back at Harry. "One last thing, Harry. Your new sleeping arrangements have been made. Cyril also asked me to set up a private suite of rooms for the two of you. In the passageway that contains the entrance to the Gryffindor common room, directly opposite the painting of the Fat Lady, there exists a suite of rooms guarded by a painting of a two-headed Troll. The password is 'Redemption', and this will be your designated area for sleeping or meeting privately with your mentor."

Harry inclined his head. "Thank you, sir," he replied politely.

Dumbledore smiled wanly. "I doubt you will thank me later, Harry. You should proceed directly there now, as I'm almost certain that Cyril will be waiting for you."

Harry rose to his feet and politely said goodbye to the sleeping Fawkes before heading out of the Headmaster's office. Out of partially forced paranoia, he came down the stairs with his left wand in hand and his right hand grasping the katana hilt attached at his belt. Moving through the hallways at the time of curfew was clearly going to wear on his nerves, as he would never know when an ambush might be coming.

Harry arrived in the corridor, noting the Fat Lady guarding the Gryffindor common room to his right as the painting of the hunch-backed two-headed troll was on his left. He was curious why he had never noticed the painting before, but realized he had only been to the area a few times. He would have to ask Neville or maybe Hermione about it later.

Entering the suite, Harry was confronted with a small common area with a pair of empty book cases, two stiff-looking large chairs with wing backs, and a rather comfortable three-person sofa. Three doors on the far wall showed two bedrooms and a small bathroom. One bedroom was clearly his, being rather Spartan in appearance; his trunk and other possessions were at the foot of the bed. The other bedroom contained several trunks, probably Cyril's possessions, although Harry refrained from going in and investigating. He doubted Cyril would appreciate Harry's rather strong sense of curiosity.

Resigning himself to waiting for Cyril to arrive, Harry started the fire in the fireplace and sat down on the end of the sofa by the fire, pulling out the book on Wards he seemed to be forever trying to read. As the minutes ticked by, Harry felt himself becoming fully absorbed in the strange properties and subtle complexities of wards and their construction. He could begin to understand why Remus complained when the wards around their home in Brighton required even a minor modification.

The sudden sound of a throat clearing caused Harry to look up sharply. Cyril was sitting in one of the chairs across from him, and from his posture and slightly amused expression, Harry surmised he had been there for some time. "You didn't really check the room carefully, did you?" Cyril asked with a hint of disapproval.

"I didn't see any auras beyond the usual in the castle," Harry replied. Cyril's implication that Harry had just assumed the room was safe bothered him.

Cyril seemed only more amused but also disappointed. "Lad, I've been here since before you came in. Nicholas told me about your special vision abilities. I found a way to suppress my aura while maintaining invisibility."

Harry frowned at his mentor. "Alright, but who else is going to know to do that, let alone how?"

Cyril shook his head. "You've never made a real secret of your abilities, and you're not careful enough in hiding what you can do. It's safe to assume your enemies will figure it out very quickly."

Harry sighed in resignation.

"Don't take it so hard, lad. Most people become so used to having tools at their disposal that they don't know what to do when the tool suddenly stops working." Cyril paused to reveal a drink on the small table between the two wing-backed chairs. This was a further hint that Harry had failed to check the room, since both the table and the drink had been invisible. "That's what I'm here for, Harry. I'm going to start your real training."

Cyril placed his hands on the arm rests of the large wing-backed chair, his weathered face settling into a picture of apathy. "Don't look to me for sympathy, lad. I may like you, even though I think you've made a right mess of things lately, but I'm not here to be nice. Clear?"

Harry nodded, accepting that it was time for him to go to the next stage of training.

"I doubt most of the Professors here understand the theory of magic as well as you do, Harry. And your years of martial arts, combined with magical dueling, leave you a very capable fighter." Harry felt slightly awkward at the blunt yet generous assessment. "But you're a right babe in the woods for everything else, lad."

Cyril placed his drink back on the table before standing up to pace. "Tell me, Harry, why do you think Hogwarts will not even consider someone for a Professor position before they are at least 25 years of age, but only under special consideration will hire someone under 40?"

Harry paused to think about possible motivations. The complete lack of any higher learning beyond Hogwarts was a real issue in any argument. There were trade schools -- Auror, Healer, Unspeakable -- that would require two to five years of additional study, but the bulk of the populace was simply cut loose after Hogwarts, their education complete. Harry was appalled whenever he considered the lack of basic mathematical training that most magical people received.

The only possible explanation was the obvious one. "Experience. Professors should have more than academic knowledge of their subject."

Cyril waggled his hand slightly before stopping to stare at Harry. "Somewhat. Definitely the mentor should have first-hand experience with application. But the larger issue is life experience. If you gather more than one human into a group, some type of politics will erupt, pecking orders, all that. If you have to survive with your training for a few years, you have a completely new appreciation for how even the little things can make a huge impact. Learning how to live, how to really work with others and not just around them, takes time and a lot of first-hand experience. Do you see?"

Harry scratched at the back of his head while nodding. "In the abstract, sure, it makes sense."

Cyril looked back at Harry and raised one eyebrow. "And do you realize that, in general, no one is allowed to become a War Mage Apprentice before they are 30? That Nicholas had to have many long conversations to even take you as a student, let alone promote you?"

Harry was definitely surprised. Nicholas had never mentioned any conflicts and made the entire thing seem as a fairly simple process. Once again, his mentors were looking out for him, and he was unaware of how much they had to give up to help him prepare for what was coming.

Cyril resumed pacing and his narrative. "Mmmm. I spent the day observing you, Harry. I followed you from class to class. I am rather concerned. You act like the proverbial bull in a china shop. From what Albus told me and from what I have seen today, you came in holding the keys and as prepared as you thought you needed to be. Tell me, how well have you done with your goals?"

Harry shook his head slowly. "Not well at all."

Cyril returned to his seat. "Now tell me why."

Harry had no real answers for the question. He had spent some time talking to David about it, but Remus has deflected any effort to get insight. After reflecting on the overall situation for a couple of minutes, he just shrugged. "I'm not really sure. Too many things keep getting in the way."

Watching Harry for a few moments, Cyril finally stood, motioning Harry to rise as well. "Come with me."

Cyril led Harry to his bedroom, which was void of furnishings except a small desk, dresser, and typical Hogwarts bed. Placing a small stick on the floor by the wall, Cyril stepped back and took on a palpable air of concentration as he made intricate wand movements. With a last flick, the stick grew into a perfect mirror, seven feet tall and nearly three feet wide. It stood alongside a wall barren of any other objects, decorations, windows or doors. "Stand in front of the mirror, Harry."

Harry slowly moved to stand in front of the mirror.

Cyril sat on the edge of the bed, contemplating his hands. "Everyone has to learn to face themselves, Harry. Their actions, the consequences of their actions, the reactions to your actions. Ego, pride, lies, manipulations, these are the blanket you wrap yourself in. When you understand this, you begin to understand life."

Cyril moved to stand just behind Harry. In a flat tone, Cyril commanded his Apprentice. "Look into the mirror and tell me what you see."

Harry was unsure of what reaction Cyril was expecting, or what the man thought Harry might see. "I see my hands, my clothes, my hair. I see you standing behind me. I see bits of the room around us."

Cyril shook his head in response. "Stare into your own eyes, Harry."

Harry tried to do what Cyril told him to, but found it odd that he was unable to hold his own gaze for more than a moment or two. "Uh, Cyril, what did you do to the mirror?"

"Very little," Cyril replied quietly. "You must learn to accept yourself for who and what you are, Harry. You live, you make decisions, you act on those decisions. You do not yet appreciate the consequences of those decisions in full."

Cyril frowned at Harry for a long moment before turning and walking over to the door. "Until you can meet your own gaze for as long as I desire, you are to stare into this mirror every evening for at least 10 minutes before bed. During this time, you are to reflect on your life thus far -- what you have done, what you have seen, what your life has wrought in the world. Once you can hold your own gaze, we will move on with your Apprenticeship. I will give you things to read in the interim." Without another word, Harry's mentor left the room.

Harry stood quietly, staring in puzzlement at his own reflection. For some reason, he doubted he would sleep easy any night soon.


As always, 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 cwarbeck and Chreechree. Also thanks to Treecat for Brit-picking.

Harry's Schedule (all as of this point in the story, all holes are expected "free" or "detention" time):

Breakfast: 7:00 - 8:00am daily (at Hogwarts)
Lunch: 12:00-1:00 daily (at Hogwarts)
Dinner: 6:00 - 7:30 daily (at Hogwarts)
Library closes: 9:00p daily
Curfew: Years 1-3: 9p daily, Years 4-7: 10p daily

M/W/F: Herb Tutor, 8-9; Herb w/Huffs 9-11; COMC Tutor 11-12; COMC w/Slyth 1-2; DADA 2-3; Free 3+
T/R: Charms w/Raven 8-10; Transfig w/Huffs 10-12; Potions Tutor 1-2; Potions w/Slyth 2-4; Free 4+
Dumbledore Meetings: Mon, 8p-10p; Thurs, 8p-10p; Sat, 8a-10a
Private Training: Mon-Fri, 4p-8p; Sat-Sun, 10a-12

/FicWad Readers:/

At this point, I have to go back and figure out why FicWad is parsing some of my material incorrectly. I'll bring this up to date through the end of Chapter 19 very soon. If you want to read the other chapters, skip over to SIYE until I get caught up at this site.

Note - since FicWad doesn't delay posting to "validate" content, new chapters of Echoes will likely be available here about a day before they are on SIYE.
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