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Free Life Posted on 8/16/2014 1:03:46 AM
Chapter 7: 4000 words and counting
Hero Posted on 3/25/2012 7:32:33 PM
Chapter 6 Chance and Choice: 3,600 words and counting
Long Lost Brother Posted on 4/21/2010 2:57:30 PM
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Disclaimer: Harry Potter is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Bros. I in no way claim ownership of any rights to the Harry Potter Universe.

Author's Note:

Chapter 7: The Animal Within
Ginny spent the whole day wondering if and when she would ever get a chance to get Harry alone for a few minutes. She was anxious. She wanted to know how his trip to Diagon Alley went. She was pretty curious how he managed to get off the grounds to apparate and back into the school without anyone noticing, but she had already resigned herself not to ask that question. It was none of her business to know all of his secrets, and she had promised him she wouldn’t pry into his business. If he wanted her to know, he’d tell her. But she really wanted to know when they could brew the potion and when their training would begin.

But luck was not with her. Harry was surrounded by people the entire day. Ron and Hermione rarely left his side. Neville was almost as bad. And practically every member of their HA class in Gryffindor made it a point to talk to him at some point. Ginny still found herself wanting to call it the DA, but Harry always insisted that everyone call it the HA now. But that’s beside the point. She couldn’t really blame any of them for wanting to talk to Harry about the class. It was different. And he had put on quite a spectacle.

Growing up in the wizarding world, physical activity was always downplayed. The only real sport the wizarding world had was Quidditch, and while the sport put some strain on the body after hours of play, it was really the broom that did most of the work. They never had to worry about running around anywhere or being quick on their feet, unlike those who grew up in the muggle world. She didn’t know much about muggles, but she knew enough about sports like football and basketball to know that there was a lot of running involved and that you needed to be quick on your feet to be any good.

Even beyond the world of sports, muggles did a lot more walking or running around than wizards. The average adult wizard or witch can instantaneously disappear from one spot and reappear in another, eliminating the need to walk anywhere. The only reason one would have to avoid apparation as a mode of travel is because of children. Seeing that children cannot apparate, other means often have to be found. But the floo network alleviates that for the most part. You can floo from your own home to most places you would need to go. And even in the case that you’re going somewhere without a floo, chances are that there is a floo nearby.

Even children in the wizarding world don’t run around as much as in the muggle world. They do run and play around to some extent, but a lot of that is done on a broom instead of on the ground. Even younger kids have things like training brooms that will only hover a few feet above the ground to avoid injury should an accident occur. So anyone who grew up in the wizarding world was really walking into something entirely outside the norm in Harry’s class.

He had managed to avoid being hexed for several minutes straight by simply running around, ducking, dodging, leaping out of harms way. He made a very good point. There is a defense against the Unforgivables, and that is to not allow yourself to be hit with one. If he was able to dodge successfully against a stinging hex cast in rapid succession, which was very easy to cast rapidly, then what’s to stop him from dodging a series of Avada Kedavra’s as well? Often times the best solution is the simplest.

But it wasn’t the premise behind the drill that had people flocking to him; it was his demonstration. Not only had he managed to cast spells faster than she had ever seen before, he had also managed to move with such quickness and agility so as to avoid being hit with a single hex. His performance was beyond all expectations. So it was natural that everyone who had witnessed the event would want to talk to him about it. But that didn’t make it any less frustrating for her.

Why couldn’t everyone go up and talk to him all at once? They were all talking about the same things anyway. Harry was bound to get sick of talking about the same thing over and over, telling them the same things, answering the same questions. But no, everyone had to come up and talk to him separately. By the end of the night, she was getting sick of it. When she had asked Harry if he would mind helping her train to be an animagus, she hadn’t really known what to expect. She wasn’t expecting to be turned down or anything like that; Harry was much too nice to even consider such a thing.

She hadn’t expected much out of him, on the other hand. A vague agreement, perhaps. He would tell her he’d be happy to help and that they’d set something up in the future. She had not anticipated that Harry would run off to Diagon Alley at the drop of a hat to get all the potions ingredients they would need so that they could get started right away. That went well beyond what she had been expecting.

But ever since they had set the whole thing up, she was getting more and more anxious to get started. She couldn’t wait to find out what her form would be. She was hoping for a cat or something that could fly, but she’d be happy with a lot of different animals. So long as she didn’t end up as something stupid, like an ant or a bug or any kind or a rat. She got herself so worked up thinking that they’d be starting today, that by the end of the day she would know what animal she would be. But at this point, she held little hope that they’d be starting this weekend. Maybe next weekend, if she was lucky.

She was not looking forward to the week to come. She knew that she’d be hard pressed to focus her attention on anything besides animagi. The night was winding down, and she was beginning to think about heading up to bed when something brushed up against her arm, or rather someone.

“Hey, Gin,” a masculine voice greeted her.

She started and looked to her side where a black haired man gave her a lopsided grin, his green eyes sparkling. “Hey yourself. You startled me.”

“Sorry,” he said rather unapologetically.

“I’m sure,” she replied steadily. “So what brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“You have a break right before dinner tomorrow, right?” he asked abruptly.

“Err…yes. Why?”

“Meet me in my office after your last class.”

She cottoned on at that point, and a smile lit up her face. “I’ll be there.” He returned her grin and bid her a goodnight. As he turned to leave, she grabbed his forearm to stall him and called out softly “Harry?”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks,” she told him gratefully.

“Don’t mention it.” And then he turned and walked up the staircase to the boys’ dormitory. After a moment, she shook herself and went to bed. This week wasn’t looking so bad after all.

OoOoO

Harry’s day was flying by quickly. He found that classes continued to be quite easy for him. His initial success in Transfiguration on the first day of classes had not just been a fluke. All manners of magic were just coming easily to him. He actually began restraining himself from progressing too quickly in public. He would let Hermione beat him to spells here and there to keep up the guise that nothing was out of the ordinary. He wanted it to look like he was just trying hard and taking his studies seriously, not that he was just picking things up with remarkable ease.

Hermione continued to spend the majority of her time in the library. She seemed bolstered every time she would work out a spell before Harry, and part of Hermione’s attitude since the start of term started to catch up with him. She was jealous that he was doing better than her in classes. She had become used to being the first one to master every spell. She had been doing it for five years after all. Now this year came around, and Harry was beating her as often as not. Harry found that he didn’t feel as bad about this as he thought he might have. Hermione needed to learn some humility. She placed too much emphasis on being the best at everything. But he was careful not to call attention to his new success or to rub it in in any way. That would just be unnecessarily cruel.

But her obsession with studying all day to keep up with Harry was not healthy for Hermione. It was only a matter of time before she began to burn out like she had in their third year. Harry was afraid to broach the subject, though, knowing she would not take it well and most likely deny everything fervently. She would make a grand speech about NEWTs and how important they were. No, this was a lesson she needed to learn on her own. He just hoped that she learned this as quickly as she learned things in class; otherwise, she would have a rough time of it this term.

Before Harry knew it, he was finishing up his last class of the day, and incidentally only his second class: Care of Magical Creatures. Ron, with whom he shared the class, was off to Divination, leaving Harry free to make his way to the Room of Requirement for his daily training without either of his two best friends being any the wiser. He wasn’t worried about most of his other friends noticing that he was sneaking away for time off by himself. Nobody else would call him on it, and if they did, the most simple of excuses would suffice.

His two best friends, on the other hand, were an entirely different story. Keeping his training hidden from them was not an easy chore. They were both inquisitive in nature, especially Hermione. And Hermione really could be much too clever for her own good, or Harry’s good as the case may be. No, they were bound to get suspicious if they saw him slipping away on his own all the time. And they were bound to question him about it until they got answers. So it was best if they never caught him at it. Luckily for Harry, Hermione was so busy with all her studying in the library, that she probably wouldn’t notice his absence anyway.

Ron was another story. Harry had a feeling that Ron would soon ask him where he was spending all of his free time. In the past, any time they had a break, Ron and Harry always spent that time together, the only exception to this being when the two were fighting. So it would be hard to explain his absence during those free periods to Ron. Harry tried to arrange his training during times that Ron would be in class so as not to miss him, but that didn’t always work out. And the weekends proved even harder to arrange.

Harry thought about all of this as he warded the room and began his training exercises with the practice dummies in the Room of Requirement. He hated having to be so secretive in everything he did, but at this stage in the game, he couldn’t afford anyone else to find out about his abilities.

When Ginny realized that he was the one who had saved her in Diagon Alley over the summer, Harry didn’t know what to do. He thought he had been so careful, but thinking back on it, he realized that he made one really big mistake: his hair. He modeled his new hair style on the way he wore his hair in disguise. He never really thought much about it. He had just liked the way his hair looked longer. He had never planned to have any interaction with anyone that he knew while in disguise. And he knew that nobody he saw while shopping would ever make a connection between him and the stranger unless they saw his scar.

When Ginny had figured it out, Harry had briefly considered obliviating her. He had read up a bit on the spell in one of his books, but he had never tried the spell. He would have to do some additional reading about it before he would even think about trying it on another person. So Harry immediately dismissed the thought. He couldn’t do that to her. What if something went wrong? He would never be able to live with himself if he caused her any harm. Not only that, but it just seemed wrong to him to do that to a friend. If a death eater found out some vital information, he wouldn’t have second thoughts about removing the memory, but doing that to a friend without their knowledge was just wrong.

When he reflected back on it, Harry was just glad it had been Ginny who found out and not anyone else. Ron couldn’t keep a secret to save his life. He’d probably tell Hermione first thing, but even if he tried to keep it a secret, the minute Ron lost his temper it was bound to come out. And Ron losing his temper was a given. It was only a matter of when. If Hermione were to find out, she’d feel compelled to tell an authority figure. Not only was Harry breaking the law by performing magic away from Hogwarts, but he was also placing himself in danger. No amount of pleading would ever convince her otherwise. Her tattling would be out of a misplaced way of showing that she cared, but Harry knew that he would never be able to forgive Hermione if she ruined this newfound freedom for him. So he prayed that she didn’t find out any time soon.

Ginny was really the perfect choice if he had to choose for one of his friends to find out the truth. Either Ginny or Neville: both were unassuming and supportive and loyal. But Harry was glad it was Ginny instead of Neville. He liked Neville a lot, but if he only had one person in the world to confide in, Neville wouldn’t be his first choice. He had a feeling that it could get really awkward with Neville, and he didn’t know if the boy would be able to act normally under the circumstances.

Ginny was handling everything wonderfully. She never called attention to the fact that anything was up. And she didn’t push him to tell her everything. She was happy with whatever he was willing to give. In a way he was glad that she had found out. At least now he had someone around who knew, at least somewhat, what was going on in his life. He had Sirius to talk to at night as well, but it was nice having someone his own age, who was at Hogwarts, who could potentially help him out, cover for him if need be.

He was so caught up in his musings and his training that, before he knew it, he was glancing down at his watch to find that Ginny was already out of class. He rushed out of the room and down two flights of stairs to his office. When he threw the door open, he found Ginny sitting in front of the empty fireplace waiting patiently.

“Merlin, Harry! You look terrible,” she exclaimed. Then she seemed to realize exactly what she had said and began backpedaling. “I don’t mean you look ugly or anything. It’s just, you’re all sweaty and your face is flushed and you seem to have a couple cuts on your face.”

Too much diving around for his own good, apparently. “It’s alright, Gin. I don’t imagine I look my best right now, but I was just doing some training, so what do you expect? Sorry I’m late. Why don’t you have a seat at my desk? All the ingredients are there, and I’ve written out instructions for you. While you get started on preparing the ingredients, I’m gonna get cleaned up. Then I’ll give you a hand with everything.”

“Ok…” she said, thinking over what he had said. “You run up to Gryffindor Tower then. I’ll be fine here until you get back.”

“That won’t be necessary,” he said. “I’ll be back before you know it.” Then, without explaining a thing, he pulled his trunk out of his pocket, enlarged it, opened it up, and climbed right in. She was staring at the trunk for several minutes before she realized it and shook herself out of her stupor.

She looked down at the desk and found the instructions that he had told her about. He wasn’t kidding when he said he had written them out. There, on a piece of parchment, was a scribbled list of ingredients and the steps to take in preparing the potion. The writing was a little messier than his usual correspondence. He had probably written the instructions up in a hurry. But it was at least still legible. So she began preparing the ingredients as he had instructed her to do.

Several minutes later, she glanced up and was startled to see Harry grinning back at her. “Hey. So how’s it going so far?”

Not one to be distracted from what she wanted, Ginny ignored his question and asked one of her own. “Where did you go? And how? And how did you get back here?”

He chuckled. It was such a refreshing thing to hear Harry laugh. After everything he had been through in his life, culminating in the rebirth of Voldemort and the death of his godfather, Harry had every right to be angry, upset, and inconsolable. He had every right to lash out at the world. And he had done a little of that last year. He was never intentionally hurtful to anyone, but he did have some problems with his temper the previous year. But in spite of everything bad that had happened in his life, he never let it change him.

The only thing different about him this year was that he seemed to overcome some of his shyness. And that could hardly be considered a bad thing. He didn’t let all the bad things that happened to him kill his spirit. He still loved life and would never stop fighting to create a world where people would be able to enjoy their lives in peace without the threat of a dark lord hanging over them. And in the meantime, he seemed determined not to let that threat and fear control him. He had written to her over the summer saying that he refused to let Voldemort win. And putting your life on hold worrying about what was going to happen would be doing just that. So he was living his life in the meantime. And it was an inspiration. If he could do it, anybody could. He had more reason to let this war drag him down than anyone else.

His laughter died down and his voice brought her out of her musings. “Well, to put it quite simply: I went into my trunk to take a shower. When I was finished, I came back out.”

She just stared at him. What kind of explanation was that? “Maybe you should start earlier than that. Where did you get this trunk of yours? And how did you shower inside of it?”

He laughed again. It didn’t warm her heart quite as much as the last time because she was quite anxious to hear what he had to say. Before she knew it, he was talking again. “Well, I bought this trunk over the summer,” he said, as he walked over and patted the trunk. “It’s one of the models that has several different compartments, not just for storage but also containing rooms. I have a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room all inside of there. So I went inside, took a shower in the bathroom, then I came back out.”

“How did you get it?” she asked, then realized how stupid the question was. “Wait, never mind. That’s pretty obvious. That had to be really expensive though. I knew you had a lot of money, but I can’t believe you just bought something like that.”

“Well, I do have a lot of money,” he admitted quietly. “And I’ve never really bought much of anything for myself. So this summer I bought myself lots of things: a new wardrobe, both muggle and wizarding, this trunk, lots of books, contact lenses to replace my glasses, and a wand holster. I have more money than I know what to do with, so I thought I’d spoil myself a bit for once.” He sounded almost defensive about it, like he had to explain himself before she got mad at him.

“Relax, Harry,” she soothed him. “I’m not going to jump onto your case for treating yourself to something nice. It’s your money, so you might as well spend some of it. If you don’t, then it just sits there and doesn’t do anybody any good. The fact that you have expensive things doesn’t make you like Malfoy.”

He looked immensely relieved to hear her say that. “Thanks.” And he truly meant it. “So anyway, how is the potion coming along?”

And so they moved back to the reason she was there in the first place. She explained that she barely even got started. He pulled up a chair and gave her a hand preparing the ingredients. Before long they were dumping things into the cauldron in specific quantities in a specific order being stirred a specific number of times in a specific direction in between. It was all very exact but not terribly difficult as long as you are paying attention.

After some time, the potion was simmering, all the ingredients added, and now all that was left was to wait. They had just missed the end of dinner, so the two decided to kip down to the kitchens to get something to eat.

Harry tickled the pair, pulled on the doorknob that appeared, and had barely taken a step into the threshold when he felt something collide into his legs. “Harry Potter sir! Harry Potter has come to visit Dobby! Harry Potter is a great and powerful wizard. He is too kind to come visit Dobby. And he has brought his Wheezy, but it’s not his usual Wheezy.”

“Dobby,” Harry said as he pried the elf’s arms from around his legs. “This is Ginny, a friend of mine. Ginny, this is Dobby.”

Ginny was giggling behind Harry at the scene before her. She stepped to the side of Harry and held her hand out to Dobby to shake. “It’s nice to meet you Dobby.”

Dobby looked at the hand in front of him with large, awe filled eyes. “Never before has Dobby been asked to shake hands. Harry Potter’s new Wheezy is a great witch. She must be to be friends with Harry Potter and to be so nice to Dobby.”

“Dobby,” Harry was struggling to control his mirth, “don’t you think it would be polite to shake her hand.”

In all his praise, the elf had completely neglected the hand that was stretched out before him. “Bad Dobby,” he scolded himself. “Dobby is a bad house elf. Dobby is not worthy to shake Harry Potter sir’s Wheezy’s hand.”

“Nonsense, Dobby,” Harry interrupted him. “You are very worthy to shake her hand. In fact, it would be offensive to refuse to do so.”

“Dobby is sorry, sir,” the elf pleaded, as he tentatively shook Ginny’s hand. Ginny was still struggling to gain control of her giggling.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” she managed to say. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Harry didn’t think it was possible, but the elf’s eyes grew wider at that statement. “You has heard of Dobby?”

“Uh huh. I’ve heard Harry and Ron and Hermione all talk about you a couple times,” she explained.

“Harry Potter and his friends are truly the greatest wizards in the world,” Dobby praised.

“That’s enough of that,” Harry said. “Dobby, we missed dinner and were wondering if you could possibly pull something together for us.”

And the house elves were only too happy to provide. Dobby bustled away and not more than a couple minutes later, a magnificent feast that could have served the entire Weasley family was laid out before the two of them. They began to slowly eat their fill, talking and laughing all the way through it. They spent over two hours in the kitchen before heading back up to Harry’s office. They passed the rest of the time reading and doing homework.

When the potion was finally finished, Harry bottled it up and presented it to Ginny with instructions to drink it that night when she was ready for bed. He warned her that she should probably be in bed already when she drank it, to avoid the possibility of letting the potion induced sleep claim her before she managed to make it under her covers.

When the two returned to the common room, they managed to side step the inquiries on where they had been and why they missed dinner. Ron seemed especially upset over their absence but didn’t speak up about it. Harry decided it was best just to let things be and not call any more attention to it than necessary.

The next day, Ginny seemed to be full of life and energy, and Harry found himself wondering what it was she had seen. But he couldn’t manage to get her alone to ask her about it. At meals there were always too many people around. He caught a couple glimpses of her in the halls, but she was always surrounded by people.

It wasn’t until well after dinner, in the Gryffindor common room, that Ginny practically burst out in a whisper, “I’m a lioness,” to Harry the second she was able to get him out of ear shot of all of their house mates. Harry was excited for her. He thought her form was a fitting one. She did have a certain feline grace to her. Maybe once she made the full transformation they could go running together through the Forbidden Forest. That thought left him excited. As fun as it was to play around in his animagus forms, it was a pretty lonely experience. When in his owl form, he occasionally got the chance to fly with Hedwig, which was nice. But in panther form he never had any company.

Everything seemed to pick up as that week went by. Classes were in full swing, although Harry’s schedule was pretty light. But he kept himself especially busy with his own training and the HA. Quidditch practices began at the end of the week as well. Right now they were to begin practicing three times a week, and as their first game approached, Harry imagined Ron would step up the practices a bit.

His class work load was nothing compared to what it had been the year previous. Not only was Harry well ahead in his reading, but he actually had less homework to do because he was always one of the first to get the spell correct in class. He realized that part of the reason Hermione was always able to stay ahead was because she never had as much actual work to hand in as the rest of the class. The professors tended to add on additional assignments to those who were struggling in an attempt to help them better grasp the concepts.

This just freed up more time for Harry to study even further ahead and to do some independent reading. He still found himself enthralled with the subject of wards, but he also take a vested interest in healing spells. He put his studies in the field to the test on the minor cuts and bruises he often acquired during his training sessions. They were the simplest spells of the field, but he was able to perform them with ease.

Harry didn’t get a chance to do any animagus training with Ginny that week, but they did manage to sit down and schedule out a couple hour long sessions each week that they would try to abide by. He met with Professor Snape for another Occlumency lesson on Thursday, to similar results as the last. Snape attempted to break into his mind with even less success than the previous week, but he didn’t seem as strained as the last time. Perhaps Harry had just caught him off guard. Regardless, after several attempts to break into Harry’s mind with very little success, Snape told him to continue practicing and to be there at the same time next week.

His HA classes during the week went off smoothly for the most part. It was his weekend HA classes that brought about something unexpected, though not entirely a surprise. Once everyone had arrived, he performed his usual ritual of checking for anybody present who had not signed the contract when, to his surprise, a red glow emanated from a corner of the room, a corner of the room that to the naked eye looked empty.

Harry surreptitiously drew his wand from his holster and called out, “Accio invisibility cloak.” The charm worked to perfection, revealing the interloper to be none other than Professor Snape. When Harry asked why Snape was hiding in his class, the man sneered at him and got into a long-winded tirade about Potter showing favoritism in his classes and wanting to be able to watch without Harry’s knowing so that he could see how he handled the class unsupervised.

To Harry’s great surprise, the two Slytherin members came to his defense against the Professor’s accusations. They emphatically stated that Harry had been nothing but fair thus far and had stood up for them even when some of his own best friends were yelling at him for allowing them into the class. That seemed to quiet Snape down, though he didn’t seem any less unpleasant toward Harry as a result.

Other than that, the class went great. Professor Snape even offered a very helpful suggestion when Harry once again had trouble getting the class to take the dodging sessions seriously. Rather than allowing the students to just pair off with their best friends as they had been doing, he suggested that they be forced to pair up with someone from another house so that they wouldn’t mind hexing their partner as much as they would their best friend. It made sense, and it worked well too. He still spotted some people giving less than their full effort, and he called them on it. But for the most part, the performance of the casters was greatly improved after the switch. Harry made sure to offer his thanks to the Professor for the suggestion. He received a curt nod in reply, but there was no scathing reply to accompany it, so Harry took that as a good sign.

The next week flew by even more quickly for Harry. He met with Ginny twice that week to work on her animagus form, without much success. He tried to start her off the same way he had: concentrating on her form and willing individual parts of her body to make the change into its animal counterpart. But thus far she had been unable to make any changes to her body. Sirius said that it had taken him months of hard work to accomplish even that, so Harry wasn’t discouraged by her lack of success. He told her the same.

He was a bit taken aback when he was asked to stay after his Defense class that Tuesday. Professor Caldwell requested his help teaching the Patronus charm to his seventh year class, having heard how familiar Harry was with the charm. Harry had almost forgotten the comment that the Headmaster had made that he would be asked to help the Defense Professor occasionally throughout the year, either in class demonstrations or in helping him grade papers. Luckily, the class didn’t interfere with anything he had planned. He would help out a week from that Friday. The class was directly after his own DADA class on Fridays, so he would just remain after class to help out with the seventh years.

It was good that his help was not required on the Friday of the current week because Harry had another engagement that day. The class would not actually have interfered with what he had planned, but it would prove to be a nuisance that he didn’t want to have to worry about given what he was planning to do that day.

That Friday was a full moon. It would mark the first full moon he would spend with Remus while the man turned into a werewolf. He let Ginny in on that secret since she already knew of his animagus form. If nothing else, she could always help to cover for him if people became curious about his absence. She also helped him work out his plan for how to slip away unnoticed.

He was basically going to feign illness. Thanks to the twins’ inventions, it would not be terribly difficult to pull off. The trick would be not to overdo it so as to warrant a trip to the Hospital Wing. He would take just enough of the Skiving Snackboxes to give him a slight fever and cough. He would then let them know that he was a little under the weather and was tired, so he was headed to bed early.

They guessed that Hermione would put up a fight in an effort to convince him to go to the Hospital Wing but decided that Harry would most likely be able to talk her out of it. If she continued to struggle he would promise to visit Madame Pomfrey the next day if he was still feeling under the weather. As a last result, they decided that Ginny would come to his aid if Hermione refused to give up.

That Friday, the plan went off without a hitch. It did take some convincing, but Hermione relented when Harry made the promise to go to the Hospital Wing the next day if he was still feeling under the weather. So Harry made his escape up the stairs and set up a complex illusionary spell around his bed. It made it appear and sound as though Harry was asleep in the bed. He also erected a very minor repelling ward that would discourage anyone from approaching the bed. It was similar to the muggle repelling charms in that it made people suddenly remember something else they needed to be doing at that moment, but it targeted everyone.

Harry then snuck back out of the dorm under his invisibility cloak and carefully made his way out of the castle and over to the Whomping Willow. With a slight burst of magic, Harry managed to press the knot at the base of the tree to prevent the tree from attacking him. Harry climbed into the tunnel that led to the Shrieking Shack and took off his invisibility cloak, no longer needing it. He made the long trek through the dank passageway until he finally came upon his destination.

He rose out of the trap door to find the room more or less how he had remembered it: trashed. But there was one chair that lacked any of the marks that marred the rest of the furniture of the room. Sitting on that seat was none other than Remus Lupin. “Remus!” Harry exclaimed, jumping up and rushing to embrace the man.

Remus smiled as Harry’s head appeared out of the trap door and stood to return the hug that Harry gave him. “It’s good to see you Harry. We never agreed on a specific time to meet, so I had no idea when you planned to show up.”

“I hope you weren’t waiting too long,” Harry immediately stated.

“No, no, it’s fine. I haven’t been here long at all. I was merely stating that I’m glad you’re here so early because I have something I need to discuss with you.” The seriousness of his tone did not go unnoticed by Harry, who nodded solemnly. Remus pulled out his wand, and with a little wave and murmured incantation, a second chair appeared in the room. “Please, have a seat and make yourself comfortable.”

So he did just that. The chair wasn’t the most comfortable that he had ever sat in, but he didn’t complain about it. It was more than enough to suit him for the time being. “So what is it that you wanted to talk about?” He was anxious to hear just what had this normally calm and collected man worried.

“Well…” Remus began. “Gosh, I don’t know how to start. It’s like this Harry: before Sirius died, he wrote up a will. He basically split up everything he owned in two, giving half to me and half to you.”

Harry sat there, utterly gob-smacked. Whatever he was expecting this conversation to be about, this was not it. He just shook his head trying to grasp what he had just been told. “What? Why? Why now?”

Remus leaned forward and put a hand on Harry’s knee. “I’m sorry Harry. I know this isn’t easy for you. It’s not easy for me either. But it’s what Sirius wanted.”

“But why now? He’s been dead for three months now. Why is this just coming out now?” Harry asked, anger etching his tone. He rose out of his chair and began to pace.

The older man just sat and watched as the last remnant of his best friends, of his former life, wore a whole in the shabby hearthrug. Eventually he spoke up. “There were several complications that arose which delayed the process. There was no body to prove his death. It took a long time to convince anyone he was even dead. In fact, the Ministry still refuses to believe it, but we did manage to bring the goblins around.”

“What? How can the Ministry not believe that he died? Don’t they have some sort of way of tracking that sort of thing?” Harry didn’t understand why this was making him so angry. He couldn’t care less what the Ministry thought. Even if they did admit that Sirius was dead, they would no doubt celebrate the fact. They would claim it as a great victory in the war against You-Know-Who. How they think they can fight against Voldemort when they’re too scared to even say his name was completely beyond Harry.

“They claim that he found a way to fake his death to throw them off his trail,” Remus replied evenly.

“Never mind the Ministry. I don’t care what they think anyway,” Harry ranted.

“Indeed. After we finally managed to convince the goblins that Sirius was in fact dead, we ran into further trouble when trying to execute his last will and testament.” There was an edge of bitterness in his voice now.

Harry picked up on the strain and immediately asked “What kind of trouble?”

Remus sighed and rubbed his eyes tiredly. “The will was contested by Narcissa Malfoy. Being the closest living relative of Sirius, she claimed that she was the rightful heir of the Black fortune.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Harry yelled out. “It doesn’t matter who he’s related to if he made up a will.”

“You’re right, of course,” Remus soothed the young man before him. “And that’s why the goblins eventually decided that her claims were invalid in light of the fact that in his will, Sirius explicitly stated that none of his wealth or property be given to Narcissa or Bellatrix or any of his other relatives, save for a small sum he set aside for Andromeda Tonks and her family. Because of this declaration, Narcissa had very little ground to stand on, and her complaints were eventually tossed aside.

“Which brings us back to the fact that we have both been named as beneficiaries in Sirius’s will. Half of the gold in his vaults will be transferred over to you. He left Grimmauld Place to me with the stipulation that I allow the Order to continue to use it. There are a couple other properties that he owned, but he asked that we work out who would get what on our own. And there are numerous other possessions to be sorted of course. He only specifically listed a couple.”

Harry perked up at this. “What did he mention?” Harry asked, genuinely curious.

“Well, most notably,” Remus paused for dramatic effect, “is the fact that he left to you his newly refinished motorcycle. He had apparently been working on restoring his old, flying motorcycle for several months.”

Harry felt his jaw drop. He knew the motorcycle in question, of course. It was the one that Hagrid had driven when he was taking Harry from Godric’s Hollow to Privet Drive back when Harry was only a year old. Harry had many dreams about a flying motorcycle when he was little but never realized the significance until he was introduced to the wizarding world after his eleventh birthday. He had no idea that his godfather had been working on it, nor did he know what to think about owning it. It would offer him a way of traveling in the muggle world inconspicuously, provided he didn’t use the flight feature, of course.

When he looked up he noticed that Remus was studying him carefully. He figured the man must have been waiting for some sort of response from him, but he had no idea what to say. “Oh,” was all that came out in his first attempt. “Did you know he was working on it?”

“No,” Remus replied while shaking his head. “I had no idea. I didn’t know he even had the bike, let alone that he was restoring it. He must have asked Hagrid for it at some point.”

“Yeah,” Harry replied distractedly.

“We can go over the specifics some other time. I just thought you should know,” Remus explained to the young man in front of him.

“Hmm? Oh, yes, of course. No, I’m glad that you told me. Where is the motorcycle?”

“It’s in Grimmauld Place right now,” Remus told him. “I could bring it to you next time we meet if you’d like. Otherwise you could keep it there until you’re ready to use it.”

Harry thought it over for a minute. He really had no use at all for the bike at Hogwarts. “Why don’t we leave it where it is for now,” he stated more than asked. “I’ll let you know if and when I want it in the future.”

“Sounds good.” And then their conversation lapsed into more comfortable territory. Remus wanted to hear all about Hogwarts and how school was going for him. He was especially interested in the HA. When Harry explained his dodging exercises the werewolf raised an eyebrow and wanted to hear all about it. Remus asked Harry for a demonstration of his animagus form which Harry was happy to provide. The man was very impressed. Harry considered telling Remus that he was teaching Ginny to be an animagus as well but eventually decided not to. It wasn’t his secret to tell.

The time dwindled away, and Remus eventually warned Harry that he should change so that he was ready when Remus made the change into a werewolf. Harry complied, and before long, fur was sprouting all along his friend’s body. His bones and muscles reshaped themselves. When the transformation was complete, a formidable looking beast was before him.

The two didn’t go roaming the grounds as Moony had once done with his friends back in his own school days. They stayed in the Shrieking Shack keeping each other company. They play wrestled a little bit with Moony always emerging the victor. They eventually settled down and actually got a couple hours of sleep in their animal forms. This was a new experience for Harry, but not as awkward as he thought it might be.

When Remus changed back to human form, he nudged panther Harry awake. When Harry noticed that his former professor was back to normal, he reverted back to his human form as well. Remus thanked Harry profusely for spending the night with him and went on to say how much calmer the wolf was with another animal present. Harry simply smiled and told Remus not to worry about that, that he was happy to be able to help. With a promise to see him next month, Harry began his trek back through the tunnel leading back to Hogwarts.

It was barely dawn, and Harry was tired. Before emerging from the tunnel, he pressed the knot on the Whomping Willow and changed into his owl form while still hidden from view. He flew out of the tunnel and up to the owlery. He greeted Hedwig briefly when he saw her, then hurried back to his dorm room. Careful not to wake anyone, Harry snuck into his four poster bed and was asleep within a minute of his head hitting the pillow.

Harry missed breakfast the next morning. He almost missed lunch as well. Thinking that he was under the weather, Ron had let Harry sleep in that morning. Left on his own, Harry hadn’t woken up until just before lunch time. He had just enough time to take a quick shower and get dressed to meet his friends in the common room before they left for the Great Hall. Hermione was very interested to hear how he was feeling, and he spent the majority of lunch trying to convince her that he was feeling perfectly fine now. He shared a half-amused, half-exasperated look with Ginny when no one else was looking.

Harry was a bit tired that day, but his friends seemed to accept that as coming with the territory of getting over his illness. Harry wasn’t about to correct them. He just continued to share small, knowing looks with Ginny any time the subject came up. Reflecting back on it, he really was glad that Ginny knew at least some of what was going on. It was great just having someone who knew. Granted there was still a lot that Ginny didn’t know, but he was reluctant to share any more just yet.

There were some secrets that probably wouldn’t make a difference if she knew, like his second animagus form, for example. But he chose to keep that a secret until he needed to reveal it. He never knew when he might need to be able to use the form inconspicuously, even to hide from Ginny as well. He had a feeling he’d be sharing that tidbit sooner or later, but there was no rush to do so.

He couldn’t bring himself to talk about Sirius. Part of him really wanted to talk to someone about his dead godfather who happened to be visiting his dreams for the past few months. But overriding that feeling was one that forced him to remain mute on the subject. No one else could possibly understand. They’d probably think he was crazy. But he knew better. He knew it was really Sirius. And another little selfish part of him kept it a secret because he wanted it to remain his. This was something for him that he didn’t have to share with anyone else.

Then there was the prophecy. That was a complicated matter. He hardly dared to even consider telling anybody about it. Not only would it be incredibly difficult to discuss, but that information needed to be guarded at all costs. And if word ever got out that he had told someone its contents, that person would quickly rise to number two on Voldemort’s hit list, right behind Harry himself. If he ever did share the prophecy with anyone, he had to be completely sure that they would be willing and able to guard the information for all it was worth. Even the smallest slip that hinted that they even knew the prophecy was more than they could afford, should the information fall into the wrong hands.

He didn’t think he’d ever be able to share it with Ron or Hermione. Ron was too much of a wild card to be trusted with the information. His temper was much too unstable to be trusted with information that sensitive. Not only that, but Harry didn’t think he’d like very much how Ron would react to the news. The one good thing that might come of it would be that Ron might finally get over his thick-headed jealousy of Harry. Ron had everything that Harry ever wanted, yet he was jealous over Harry’s money and fame. Harry hated his fame and could care less about the money. Ron had a loving family, more siblings than can be counted on one hand, and countless memories from a happy childhood.

Harry would have traded his wealth just for those memories. All the memories he had of life before Hogwarts were of torture and ridicule, all at his expense. Whether he was being beat up by Dudley, mishandled by his Aunt or Uncle, belittled for his freakishness, teased for being different, forced into slave labor by his relatives, starved, or confined to the loneliness, solitude, and darkness of his cupboard under the stairs.

Ron was blind to all of that. He was blind to the fact that Harry was always at the center of attention, good or bad. He couldn’t do anything without someone noticing. Everyone always had something to say about him. And people’s opinions of him were fickle at best.

Hermione would react terribly to the news when she first heard it. She would no doubt break down in sobs and throw her arms around Harry. For awhile she would be inconsolable. But then her intellectual nature would kick in, and she’d find some reason for all of them to begin research in the library. They’d look into the nature of prophecies and any theories behind them. Then she’d probably have them all trying to look up different spells that could possibly do the “dark lord” in or any hints about what this power could be. And she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She would analyze every single facet of the prophecy, every word and nuance. Then she’d want to discuss Harry’s feelings about it. She’d pry into his thoughts and feelings every chance she got, determined to unearth anything and everything. Harry had no intention of subjecting himself to that torture.

He could see himself telling Ginny at some point. He wasn’t sure how she would react, to be honest with himself. He knew Ron and Hermione well, but Ginny was still new to him, still a mystery to an extent. She wouldn’t react like either Ron or Hermione; he was sure about that. He figured she would either just offer him some quiet comfort, try to make light of the subject, or try to find some way to relate to him. Any way he looked at it, he imagined that she would make him feel better about the situation. But he wasn’t ready to take a risk telling her yet. Not only did he not want to put her in danger, but he wanted to get to know her better first. He didn’t want to risk telling her the prophecy and having her react badly about it. And even when he was pretty sure he knew how she’d react, he’d have plenty to think about before actually telling her.

It struck him at times just how quickly he had become so close and comfortable with Ginny. Sometimes he wondered how he ever survived without her. When Ron and Hermione got to be too much, usually because of their bickering, Ginny was usually there to pull him away. And when she wasn’t around, he found now that Neville made another convenient escape. Not that that’s all Ginny and Neville were to him: people he went to when he became annoyed or frustrated with Ron and Hermione.

No, Neville and Ginny were great friends. And he considered himself lucky to have them. Neville had always been around, Harry realized, but he had been too quiet and reserved. Harry was shy enough himself. Stick him with Neville a couple years back and the conversation would be scarce. And of course, a few years back, stick Harry in a room with Ginny and the latter would blush like mad, stammer an incoherent something, or do something else equally embarrassing, then flee from his presence. How she went from the girl that was terrified by his simple presence to the young woman with whom he had become such good friends, Harry had no idea. But he wasn’t complaining.

The day passed by quickly enough after lunch, especially considering that it was a much shorter day than usual for Harry. The next morning he was back on his morning workout routine and another week of classes was laid out in front of him. Harry continued to coast through most of his classes. The only class that put any type of strain on him at all was Potions. He was actually getting the subject material pretty well for once, and he rarely had difficulty producing a passable potion. The main problem in the class was dealing with Snape and his merry band of Slytherins.

In the few weeks of class they’d had so far, Harry had managed to avoid five different sabotage attempts by the Slytherins in the class. Draco Malfoy was the “master mind” behind them all, Harry was sure, but he was not against recruiting other Slytherins to do the dirty work. Not only did this alleviate him of all blame should something go terribly wrong or they get caught, but it also kept Harry on his toes at all times. Rather than just having to keep his eye on Malfoy, Harry now had to pay attention to every single Slytherin in the class.

On top of that, Harry had to put up with Snape’s incessant barbs and insults. The personal insults didn’t faze him at all anymore. He could only be called an attention-seeking, arrogant brat so many times before the words lost all meaning to him. The man’s insults about his father still bothered him a little, but even those were beginning to lose their edge as well.

The ones that really rankled him were the comments relating to Sirius. The first time Snape made such a comment, Harry almost lost it. He was only barely able to rein in his anger before he lashed out at his Professor. He was lucky that he had been able to control himself because with his newfound abilities, he wasn’t sure exactly what would have happened. But he was pretty sure that it would have ended up with Snape hexed into oblivion and Harry in deep trouble. Hermione was beside herself with anger after that class. It was comforting to know that she could get so upset on his behalf. She had even confessed that she had been close to hexing Snape herself, and she praised Harry on his newfound self control.

Hermione was also curious as to how he got so good at potions and all his other subjects for that matter. He had already at least somewhat explained his success in his other classes through his summer studying. Add to that the fact that he as almost always with a book of some sort these days and it wasn’t that hard to believe. Potions class was somewhat different though, plus he had always been abysmal at it. Harry tried to explain to her that part of it was that he never put forth an effort in the past, and he was never able to concentrate with the Slytherins and Snape all breathing down his neck. He was simply ignoring everybody else this year. He did manage an Outstanding on his Potions OWL, he reminded her. So the talent must have always been there. She wasn’t as happy for him as Harry would have liked, but she accepted his explanation nonetheless.

His Beginner HA class, or BHA as he began calling it in his head, was progressing fairly well. Having a set schedule was definitely helpful in keeping everything going on track. The previous year, the DA had met at irregular intervals so as not to arouse suspicion. And they didn’t have two meetings a week either. The only thing that was slowing the class down in any way was the sheer size of it. There were many more students than he had to teach in the DA or even in his Intermediate HA class, IHA. Nevertheless, he knew he would have this bunch caught up to where the IHA began this year by the end of the term if not sooner. For that he was very happy.

In his IHA class that week, he had them doing their dodging drills for the first half of the lesson. The second half he spent introducing them to a new type of shielding spell. Protego was the most basic shielding spell there was. There were more powerful versions of that spell to withstand stronger spells, but there were also entirely different types of shielding spells. Contego, for example, allowed the caster to shield another person.

Protego was only for personal protection. It put a shield right in front of the caster and blocked a single spell. Contego worked similar to protego except that the shield could be directed to appear anywhere. But it, like protego, would only block a single spell and would not hold up against the more powerful curses and hexes. There were also more powerful versions of each shield which would hold up against stronger attacks. But it would be quite some time before the class was ready for those. Harry was still working on perfecting those spells himself.

Harry’s Occlumency lesson that Thursday went even better than the previous two. Snape immediately went on the offensive when Harry came into the room, but Harry was prepared for the assault. For the first time, Harry was able to keep Snape from ever penetrating his outer barriers. Snape continued to assault Harry’s mind, but he was never able to penetrate the wall Harry had built.

In the previous lessons, Snape was eventually able to hammer his way through into Harry’s mind. Harry was always able to expel the man before he was able to see anything of importance, but that was beside the point. This time the man was unable to even accomplish that much. After 15 minutes of continuous mental battering, both were fatigued. Snape dismissed Harry but did not confirm a meeting for the next week. Harry was going to ask but thought better of it. Any conversation at all with the man was liable to escalate into a duel with how aggravated they both were at the moment.

Harry was tired afterwards, but he was in high spirits. He found it hard to believe how far he had progressed in his Occlumency skills in such a short time. If only things had been different last year…. He refused to dwell on that now. What’s done was done and wouldn’t be changed. So he concentrated on the here and now and let his success bolster him.

Despite his successes in Occlumency, he still experienced scar pains and the occasional flash of emotion from Voldemort. This fact troubled him because his Occlumency was supposed to block out his connection to Voldemort, but it didn’t seem to have any effect on their connection whatsoever. He hadn’t had a vision since the one preceding the attack on his friends in Diagon Alley, but he had no idea whether that was a result of his Occlumency or not. There was nothing he could do but wait and see what happened.

He was worried though. It had been a long time ago that he had witnessed his first vision of the summer, where Voldemort promised a party to announce his return to the world. The only attack Harry was aware of since then was the one on his friends, and he was sure that was not related to the party Voldemort was planning. Whatever it was, if Voldemort was taking this long to plan and prepare for it, then it must be something big. But there was nothing they could do but do their best to prepare for the war ahead and wait for it to begin.

His personal training was advancing well. The training dummies that the Room of Requirement provided were a godsend. He still trained with Sirius at night, but they mostly concentrated on perfecting new spells that Harry was learning. Sirius was just unable to keep up with Harry in an all out duel at this point. But the training dummies were more than able to accommodate his needs. They weren’t able to simulate a real life encounter with Death Eaters, but they were able to continue to improve his dueling skills.

His ability to dodge spells improved a little every day. He was coming to a point where he didn’t even have to by sustaining a shield spell over himself at all times with one hand while still being able to cast spells with his other hand. Maintaining a spell for a length of time was incredibly draining, as he quickly learned the first time he tried it. He was only able to hold a continuous shield for a minute the first time he tried it while casting offensive spells at the same time. And he was left exhausted. But after rigorous practice, he was steadily improving. He noticed a small improvement almost every day.

It was just like working a muscle to become stronger. You push yourself to your limits, and the muscle responds by growing to handle the stress. He continued to push his magic to its limits in his training, and it was growing to meet the demand. He was now able to sustain the shield while casting offensive spells for almost two minutes, which had been enough time for him to dispose of several opponents. But he wasn’t satisfied yet. He planned to continue to push himself. As long as he continued to see improvement, that was all the incentive he needed to continue his efforts.

Friday finally rolled around, and after his Defense class, he waved his friends goodbye to wait for the 7th year class. He walked up to Professor Caldwell’s desk and asked him what he had in mind for the class. The Professor was going to lecture for a bit on the theory behind the spell. He would call for a demonstration from Harry. Then the two of them would work with the class on conjuring Patronuses. This sounded easy enough for Harry. It was more or less just repeating the lesson he gave the HA on Patronuses.

There were a couple HA members in the class: Katie Bell, Cho Chang, Walter Gatton, Rob Bankston, and Stephen Cornfoot. Cho was the only one able to conjure a fully corporeal Patronus. Katie was close, but her mist was unable to fully take form. The others had all managed a strong mist the last time he had seen them all try to the charm. Professor Caldwell was shocked to find that two of his students were already capable of conjuring corporeal Patronuses. Harry was only mildly surprised to find that Katie had managed to get her mist to take the form of a hawk.

When those two students explained that Harry had taught them, the professor’s gaze flicked over to Harry. He wasn’t sure, but Harry thought the professor seemed to be quite impressed. The rest of the class flew by rather quickly with Harry moving in between the various students offering tips and advice on how to improve upon their performance. The class ended soon enough, and Harry remained behind as the rest of the students exited. He wasn’t sure if anything else was expected of him or if he was free to go, so he thought it best to wait and let the Professor tell him.

“I must say, you really know your stuff,” Professor Caldwell praised as the last student left the classroom. “I was a bit skeptical at first, but Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall both vouched for not only your Defense skills but your teaching skills as well. I didn’t know that you had already covered Patronuses in your club. It’s a very advanced spell, beyond NEWT level even. The only reason I’m even teaching it is because of the threat of You-Know-Who.”

“Yes,” Harry interrupted, “that is why I made sure to cover Patronuses as well. We actually began work on them last year before the DA was shut down.”

“And when did you learn the charm yourself?” the professor asked him.

“I learned it my third year here. There were Dementors guarding the castle then, and I was affected pretty badly by them, so I asked Professor Lupin, the Defense professor that year, to teach me how to defend myself against them. We started our lessons in January, and I conjured my first corporeal Patronus at the end of the term,” Harry explained.

“Incredible,” Caldwell exclaimed. “It took me a full year of practice to manage a corporeal Patronus. And I was out of Hogwarts at the time. I daresay I may be asking for your assistance more often, Mr. Potter. And I’ll have to be on top of my game, lest you steal this job out from under me.”

Harry laughed along with his professor. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about just yet. I still have another year of classes here after all.”

“That didn’t stop them from making you an Assistant Professor though, did it?” he teased. “But never mind that. You’re free to go now. And thank you for your help.”

“You’re welcome, Professor.” Harry left the classroom then and was surprised to find someone waiting for him.

“Hi Professor Potter,” a woman greeted him.

“Oh no, not you too,” Harry grunted.

His exclamation earned him a small giggle from the woman. “Wouldn’t want to disrespect Hogwarts’s newest and most popular professor, would I?”

Harry put his face in his hands and groaned which earned even more laughter from his companion. “I don’t think I ever congratulated you on making Head Girl. So congratulations,” Harry made an attempt at changing the conversation.

“Thank you, Harry. Congrats to you as well on being named an Assistant Professor,” she told him. “And no, I’m not going to let you just change the conversation that easily.”

“Thanks Cho,” Harry said insincerely.

“Any time, Professor Potter,” she answered back with a wide smile. “Come on, it’s about time for dinner. I’ll walk you down.”

“Alright,” Harry relented. The two walked down the corridors to the Great Hall talking about how the term was going so far. The conversation was a bit forced but going on well enough when Harry asked, “So how are things with Michael?”

Cho looked at him sharply. “You heard about that?”

Harry returned her gaze, nonplussed. “Yeah, I heard about it on the train home last June.”

“Oh,” she replied distractedly. “I don’t know, things are alright I guess. I’m just not sure he’s really my type any more.”

Harry shrugged his shoulders. “Well, there are plenty of other guys out there. I’m sure you’ll find the right one sooner or later.”

She smiled at him and said, “Thanks, Harry. That’s sweet of you to say.”

Harry just smiled back, happy that he was back to Harry instead of Professor Potter. The two entered the Great Hall then and split up to go to their house tables.

His entrance did not go unnoticed by Hermione and Ron, apparently, who wanted to know why he walked in with Cho Chang and what the two were talking about. Harry avoided as much of the interrogation as possible by answering simply and straight forward. Cho waited for him after class and walked with him to the Great Hall. They talked a little about how the year was going so far, that was all. They didn’t seem entirely satisfied but dropped the matter when they realized that Harry wasn’t going to give them anything else.

The next day, Harry and Ginny met for another one of their animagus training sessions right after lunch. Harry tried to explain to Ginny how to call up her magic to make the change, but nothing he said seemed to help at all. It was hard to describe how to do it when the whole process was mostly instinctual. It was still early in the training, but Ginny was beginning to show signs of frustration. So far she hadn’t been able to change anything. Harry kept reminding her that it took Sirius and his dad months to get that far. She would retort by asking him how long it took him to do it. When Harry would refuse to answer, she would let out a harrumph and try again.

They eventually called it quits for the day, and Ginny still had not made any progress. Harry let her know that it wasn’t a big deal and that he’d keep working with her no matter how long it took. That seemed to raise her spirits a little, but she still seemed discouraged at her lack of progress.

They split up right outside his office. She went down to the library, while Harry headed up to the common room. Ron and Hermione were both seated in chairs by the fire. Hermione with her head in a book and Ron with a book in his lap, not that it was getting any attention from the redhead. Ron’s eyes lit up when he noticed Harry approaching. Hermione was too focuses on her book to take notice of much else.

Harry plopped down on a sofa across from the two chairs and called “What’s up, guys?”

Hermione looked up from her book long enough to say “Oh, hi Harry.” Before she even finished his name, her face was once again hidden by the tome.

“Harry,” Ron called in an urgent whisper. “Where’s the Marauder’s Map?”

“Huh?” Harry asked him.

“The Marauder’s Map, it wasn’t in your trunk. Where is it?” Ron asked impatiently, leaning forward on his chair.

“What do you mean it wasn’t in my trunk?” Harry asked in a measured tone.

“I mean it isn’t in your trunk. I turned the whole thing inside out looking for it,” Ron explained as if Harry was a dimwitted child.

“You mean to tell me that you went digging through my trunk looking for the Marauder’s Map?” Harry asked in the same deliberate voice.

“Yes,” Ron said, glad that Harry was finally catching on, “and it wasn’t there. I need it.”

“And what exactly do you need it for that you felt the need to dig through my trunk?” The warning in Harry’s voice was clear, except to Ron who was completely oblivious.

“I think Ginny’s been sneaking around with a guy, but I can’t seem to catch her at it. I wanted to take a look at the map to see where she was and who she was with,” Ron explained, clearly seeing no fault in his chosen course of actions. Hermione’s attention was peaked at this revelation, but she kept her nose in her book.

“So let me get this straight. You went through my things, to look for my map, so that you could spy on your sister?” Hermione cringed at the icy tone in Harry’s voice.

“Yes!” Ron practically screamed through a whisper. “And it wasn’t there. Did somebody steal it?”

“And what exactly made you think that it was alright for you to go through my trunk?” Harry asked, trying valiantly to keep his temper in check.

“How else was I supposed to find the map?” Ron asked as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“You didn’t think to ask me?”

“You weren’t around, and I needed it right away so I could catch her in the act. If I waited until you came back, I could have missed the opportunity to catch her.” Ron was clearly exasperated that Harry did not seem to get the point.

“So you felt justified to go through my things on the off chance that your sister was snogging some guy in a broom cupboard so that you could catch her in the act.”

“Yes.” Ron was struggling to keep his voice down at this point. “Now do you know where it is? I might still be able to catch her.”

“Unbelievable,” Harry exclaimed.

“Huh?” was Ron’s only response as he looked at Harry as though he had sprouted another arm.

“You have got to be the thickest person I have ever met,” Harry bit out.

“Hey,” Ron protested, angry and confused at this turn of events. “What do you mean by that?”

“How can you just sit there and admit to rifling through my things and not even feel the least bit sorry for it? And that’s not to mention the fact that you did it to spy on your sister. And you just admit to all of this as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, like you didn’t do a thing wrong.” Harry’s voice was starting to rise.

“What are you on about?” Ron asked hotly. “It’s none of your business anyway. Ginny’s my sister, and I need to look out for her. Not that I expect you to understand what that’s like.”

Harry’s eyes widened dangerously and his voice was icy. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well you don’t exactly have any family, do you?” Ron asked matter-of-factly. Hermione gasped audibly and held a hand over her mouth as she finally looked up from her book. Harry was now standing up in front of the couch, completely stiff. It was clear to her that he was struggling to control his emotions, but she wasn’t sure who was going to win that battle.

“No,” Harry finally replied. “No, I don’t have a family, Ron. Thank you very much for the reminder. Next time I catch you going through my trunk it’ll be detention with Filch for invading another student’s privacy. And for your own good, stop prying into Ginny’s life.” Harry turned abruptly on his heel and marched out of the common room. The room shook with every step he took.

Ron watched Harry stomp out of the room. When he was gone, Ron sat back and looked toward Hermione. “What’s got into him?” Hermione shook her head and huffed loudly, then raised her book and proceeded to ignore Ron entirely. After a minute, Ron stood and walked away muttering, “Mental, the whole lot of them,” under his breath.

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