Harry was sorry to say goodbye to the Burrow. Some of the happiest days of his life had just taken place there. Everything had been so wonderful, he doubted even that returning to Hogwarts, which had always been something he had looked forward to, could measure up this year. His only consolation was that Ginny and all of his friends were making the trip with him.
Harry sat in the compartment on the Hogwarts Express next to Ginny. They were listening along with Ron and Neville as Hermione told all about her summer travels through Europe with her parents. Harry had to admit that slipping back into his life as a student was being made much smoother the longer he sat there among his friends. He had little doubt that the fact that he was holding Ginny’s hand, and feeling wonderful for it, helped immensely in that area.
“So how long has all of this been going on between you all?” Neville asked. “You go away for one summer, and when you come back you’ve started dating.”
“Actually,” Hermione said, “only a few days since it became official. Even though we didn’t plan it, Harry and Ginny started dating on the same night as Ron and I.”
“Sometimes the stars just line up that way I guess,” Neville said.
“So,” Ron said, “is there anyone you have your eye on the next time the stars line up Neville?”
Neville’s only answer was a shy smile as he looked down at the floor to avoid everyone’s eyes.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Ron said. “Come on Neville, who is it?”
“Ron,” Ginny said. “Leave him alone. No one forced you to shout out your feelings for Hermione did they.”
“Of course, Ron had it written all over his face,” Harry said with a smile. “Everyone else knew it even if he wasn’t ready to admit it.”
Neville shocked everyone when he said, “If you all promise not to tell, I guess I can trust you not to laugh.”
“Of course we won’t laugh,” Ginny said looking around and confirming with everyone that she spoke for them all.
“Alright,” Neville said hesitantly. “Its Luna.”
“Luna Lovegood?” Harry asked.
“I knew I never should have said anything,” Neville said as his cheeks reddened even more than they had already.
“No,” Harry said, “don’t take me wrong, Neville. “I think Luna is a great girl. There are a lot of people who don’t bother to look past her quirks to see what a smart and caring girl she is. I’m glad you’re one of them.”
“I guess we all have our quirks,” Neville said. “I know I have a few myself. Maybe that’s why, when I look at her, all I can see is how beautiful she is.”
“Take my advice, Neville,” Ron said. “Don’t wait too long like Harry and I did to say something to her. If you wait a month to tell her, and she says yes, you’ll always look back at that month and regret every second you wasted.”
“Well, hasn’t Ron turned into the romantic one,” Ginny said teasing.
Ron never had time to respond as they all froze for a moment when Luna Lovegood walked up and opened the compartment door.
“Sorry to bother you all,” Luna said smoothly, “but I was sitting in the compartment next door and had the sudden feeling that someone in here needed me.”
They all waited as they wondered if she really did get a feeling, or if the walls between compartments were thinner than they had thought. There was an awkward silence that none of them knew quite how to break.
“I… I…” Neville stammered surprising everyone, “I have something… I need to ask you.”
“Of course, Neville,” Luna said as she looked at him.
They all watched as he melted under her gaze, and they thought he was going to back out of it.
“Why don’t we take a walk,” Neville finally said as he stood on shaky legs and crossed to the passageway with her.
When they had walked too far for anyone in the compartment to see them, Ginny said, “I can’t believe it. He was backed into a corner, and instead of retreating he went on the attack. I didn’t think he had it in him.”
“I’m betting you’ll see a different, Neville after today,” Harry said. “I think we just watched him jump one of the biggest huddles he’s ever faced. If she says yes it will really boost his confidence.”
“That is all Neville has ever needed,” Hermione said. “He would be a great wizard if he just had a little confidence in his abilities.”
“Uh oh,” Ron said looking to the passageway. “Look who’s coming now.”
They all had a suspicion of who it might be before they ever looked. Their suspicions were confirmed as they watched Draco Malfoy and his two goons stop at their open door and sneer.
“Well,” Malfoy said, “look what we have here. Potter and his little fan club are returning to Hogwarts. I had a bet that you wouldn’t even bother coming back this year Potter, what with a battle you can’t win quickly approaching.”
“I’ll be sure to save you a front row seat, Malfoy,” Harry said as calmly as he could. “Maybe after I fight Voldemort you would like to have a go at me.”
“As if there would be anything left of you, Potter,” Malfoy said as he looked down and suddenly saw that Harry was holding Ginny’s hand. “I should have guessed you would end up with her, Potter. After you’re gone, I’ll…”
Malfoy suddenly stopped speaking as Harry flipped an invisible switch in his mind.
“You won’t do anything,” Harry said.
“I won’t do anything,” Malfoy repeated.
“Ginny is a beautiful woman that any man would be lucky to have,” Harry said.
“Ginny is a beautiful woman that any man would be lucky to have,” Malfoy repeated.
“Except for you because you’re a stupid git,” Harry said.
“Except for me because I’m a stupid git,” Malfoy repeated.
“Now go and tell everyone on the train what a git you are,” Harry said.
Malfoy turned to Crabbe and Goyle and said, “I’m a big git.”
They all watched as Malfoy turned and moved to the next compartment and repeated himself.
“Harry,” Hermione said. “What on earth did you do to him?”
“A weak mind is easy prey,” Harry said. “I think that will be the first lesson for the D.A. this year.”
“Wow,” Ron said. “You are a dangerous man, Harry Potter. Voldemort had better watch out.”
Harry was just about to respond to Ron when something else caught their eye. Neville was coming back up the passageway wearing a big smile, and a positively glowing Luna Lovegood was on his arm.
Harry sat next to Ginny at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall as the sorting of the first years took place as it always had. There had been several new additions to all of the houses already, and everyone was wondering where the last first year would be placed.
Professor McGonagall stood holding the sorting hat while she looked down to her list and said, “Vivian Wexler.”
The last remaining girl walked up and sat on the stool. The sorting hat was placed on her head and it was only a few seconds later when everyone heard the sorting hat proclaim that Vivian was to be a Hufflepuff. Vivian jumped up and walked smiling to the Hufflepuff table to a chorus of applause from her house.
What everyone was expecting to see next was for McGonagall to remove the sorting hat and the stool so that Dumbledore could begin the opening feast in his usual manner. What they were not expecting was for McGonagall to set the hat back on the stool, walk back up the center isle and out of the Great Hall.
Questioning murmurs had erupted all over the Great Hall before she had even made half of the trip to the doors. The murmurs continued until Professor Dumbledore stood and cleared his throat, returning attention to the front of the Hall.
“No doubt,” Professor Dumbledore began, “you have all noticed that things are not proceeding as usual. We have some special circumstances this year that need us to allow for some changes. First, let me introduce to you Professor Bryce Bane, who will be acting as your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for the year.”
At that point an elderly looking man sitting at the teacher’s table rose and gave a small wave to the students before retaking his seat.
“Professor Bane,” Dumbledore continued, “is here during a sabbatical from The Salem School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in America.”
“America?” Ron whispered to his friends around him. “I never even thought about there being a school in America.”
“There are two actually,” Hermione whispered in answer. “There is one on each coast of the United States. The one in Salem is the oldest.”
“Now that Professor Bane’s introduction is taken care of,” Dumbledore said, “this would usually be the time when we would begin the feast. Before we do that though, there is one more sorting to be done.
“It is my great pleasure to inform you that, for the first time in its history, Hogwarts has accepted a transfer student from another school. A transfer from the very school from which Professor Bane comes to us as a matter of fact. The student is in the last year of study, so some time of adjustment may be needed.
“At this time I think it is necessary for me to tell you the circumstances that have brought this student to us, since I’m sure it would become a matter of rumor soon anyway. Up until this last year, there was a dark wizard in America named Jarvis Hornquist who terrorized the wizarding communities on the eastern coast of the country. I say last year, because at the end of the last school year, he came across a young student who proved too powerful for him when they dueled. As you might imagine, the fame that resulted for the student made returning for another year at the school impossible. It is my hope that the students of Hogwarts will make every effort to welcome the new student with treatment no different than they would give to any other student. The special sorting ceremony will now begin.”
“Dueling dark wizards,” Ron said. “He must be a really tough guy. It sounds like a Gryffindor if I ever heard of one.”
It was at that moment that Professor McGonagall opened the door to the Great Hall and began walking back up the center isle. The new student followed close behind her, and every jaw in the Great Hall dropped at the sight.
They had all conjured a picture of the wizard who had battled and defeated such a powerful enemy, but what they saw walking up the isle, was as far from what they were expecting as it could be. The wizard turned out to be a tall well tanned witch with flowing blonde hair that looked as if she had been pulled straight off of the beach and thrown into a Hogwarts uniform.
The young witch held the eye of everyone in the Great Hall as she walked, but acknowledged none of them as she stared straight at McGonagall’s back as she glided up the isle. Her focus never wavered until she turned her head slightly and looked straight into Harry’s eyes as she passed where he was sitting.
Harry had been surprised that she had looked over at him, but the thing that really disturbed him was the shiver that ran down his spine when he saw the look in her eyes. He didn’t know if the feeling was some kind of warning or not, but he knew that it wasn’t a good feeling.
Professor McGonagall reached the steps and raised the sorting hat once more as she said, “Cassidy Silverwood.”
The young witch stepped forward and took a seat on the stool. Professor McGonagall placed the sorting hat on her head, and everyone waited to hear the sorting hat’s decision.
“I tell you it’s a sure thing,” Ron whispered. “She’s going to be a Gryffindor.”
Still remembering the feeling he had when she looked at him, Harry said, “Don’t be too sure of that. I have a funny feeling…”
“Slytherin,” the sorting hat announced, causing the Slytherin table to erupt in cheers.
Cassidy Silverwood stood up and moved to the empty seat at the Slytherin table, which just happened to be next to Malfoy. As they watched her walk to the table, Harry saw something out of the corner of his eye. When he looked up to the teacher’s table, he noticed that Snape was looking right at him, and he had a rare grin on his face.
Professor Dumbledore stood once again and said, “Now that we have welcomed Miss Silverwood into our school, let the feast begin.”
Dumbledore waved his hand, and as expected, a mountain of food appeared along every table. The first years, were in awe at the surprise, but everyone else set right in to discussing what they thought of their new student.
“I think the sorting hat might have made a mistake,” Neville said.
“Don’t be too sure, Neville,” Harry said. “Remember that the sorting hat nearly put me in Slytherin.”
“How can she fight dark wizards and still be in Slytherin?” Ron asked.
“She may not be overtly evil like Malfoy and some of the others,” Harry warned, “but the sorting hat always has reasons for making the choices it does. Just don’t drop your guard until you know what those reasons are.”
Ginny nudged Harry in the ribs and motioned for him to look at something. What he saw was that Cassidy had gotten up from the Slytherin table and every head was once again fixed on her as she walked in the direction of the Gryffindor table. Harry tried to ignore it and made the others stop watching as well.
Harry didn’t have any choice but to take notice as Cassidy stopped right behind him and cleared her throat softly as she said, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but are you Harry Potter?”
“Yes, I am,” Harry said as he turned in his seat and looked up at her questioningly.
“I’m Cassidy Silverwood,” she said as she extended her hand, which Harry accepted in a gentle handshake. “I really can’t believe I’m getting to meet you in person. All of my friends back in America have your picture posted all over their walls.”
“What?” Harry asked, not sure he had heard her right. “What pictures?”
“Well, the ones from the paper,” Cassidy responded. “Even in America, a person can’t go a month without reading a story about something to do with you. People are hoping you’ll defeat Voldemort and keep him from spreading his evil overseas.”
“I would warn you that some people in this country aren’t very comfortable hearing Voldemort’s name said out loud,” Harry said.
“I know,” Cassidy said. “There are plenty of people in my country who believe the same garbage and call him He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. As if the name itself could hurt anyone.”
“Congratulations on your defeat of Hornquist,” Harry said.
“Oh, thanks,” Cassidy said. “He wasn’t nearly as powerful as Voldemort though. It will take a special wizard to defeat him.”
“Or just a dedicated group of friends,” Harry said as he motioned to those around him. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them. Let me introduce you.”
Harry began introducing all of his friends, as well as some others who nudged closer to get in on the discussion. The last person Harry came to introducing was Ginny.
“And last, but by no means the least, my girlfriend Ginny,” Harry said.
Cassidy reached her hand out to shake Ginny’s as she said, “You have no idea how many hearts you just broke back in America. My friends are going to cry for days when they find out Harry Potter has a girlfriend. As if he was going to sweep out of the sky on his broom and carry them off with him anyway. Well, I had better get back to my own house table before they send out a search party for me. It was nice to meet you all.”
After she had walked a safe distance away, Neville said, “I still say they made a mistake putting her in Slytherin. When was the last time a Slytherin was that nice to anyone?”
“Don’t be fooled by that sweet smile she puts on,” Harry said. “Something still bothers me about her. It’s something deep inside, and likely the thing that made the sorting hat put her in Slytherin in the first place.”
The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw seventh years sat in their Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom waiting for their first class of the new school year to begin. They were all anxious to see what kind of teacher Professor Bane would be. They had gone through other teachers of the class in the past, and while some were fairly good, others provided an experience they would rather forget. They were all wondering how an American would stack up against the rest who had preceded him.
Professor Bane walked through the doors of the classroom, moving slowly and looking labored in his effort as he made his way to the front of the class.
As he got to the front, he turned and said, “You will all have to forgive me if I seem out of breath. I’m afraid I spent a bit too long chatting with the other teachers, and left too little time for a man of my age to climb the several sets of stairs to get to the room.”
“Professor,” Seamus began, “wouldn’t it have been easier to levitate yourself up the stairs?”
“That it would, Mr. Finnigan,” Bane said still trying to catch his breath. “However, when I reach the day when I take the easy way out of something, that will be the day I need to lay down in bed and not get out of it. There are many things in life that are hard to do, but that does not mean that we should not do them. If I’m not mistaken, that is the whole point of this class.”
“Sorry, Professor,” Seamus said.
“Don’t be sorry,” Bane said reaching a shaking hand into his robes as if he was massaging his chest. “Chalk it up as your first lesson in this class.”
The class didn’t have a chance to react as the feeble old man suddenly and swiftly pulled his wand out of his robes and sent a stunning charm out that hit the entire class before they knew what was happening. They all felt themselves go numb and slide out of their chairs to the floor having no control over their own bodies. The numbness passed a few seconds later and they all began to stand up and get back in their seats. What they saw when they got up was that the spell hadn’t affected quite everyone.
“Mr. Potter,” Bane began, suddenly breathing normally and standing up straighter, “you are the only one of your classmates that was not affected by the spell I cast. How do you explain that?”
“I had cast a shield charm around myself as soon as you came into the room, Professor,” Harry answered.
“Remarkable,” Bane said impressed. “I have done that same trick at the beginning of every one of the seventh year classes I have taught since I began teaching. Not once has anyone escaped it. How did you know I was going to do it?”
“I didn’t,” Harry said. “It was just a precaution in the event something happened.”
“Wonderful,” Bane said with a smile on his face. “Let that be a lesson to you all. A person who practices the dark arts is likely to be a very cunning individual, and use trickery to weaken your response ability. You all watched me walk in the classroom acting as if I was a feeble old man. I slowed my pace and quickened my breath in order to gain your sympathy. You all sat there and watched while I reached into my robes and took hold of my wand, and yet all you saw was an old man who could drop dead at any moment. Do you know why they were so easily fooled, Mr. Potter?”
“Because they trusted you, as a Hogwarts teacher, not to harm them,” Harry said.
“Yet you did not,” Bane said.
“I’ve learned not to trust anyone until you get to know them,” Harry said.
“Sound advice,” Bane said still smiling. “I hope some day I will be able to earn your trust then.”
“Outside of this class you already have, Professor,” Harry said. “Inside of this class, not a chance.”
“Ah,” Bane said chuckling, “wisdom beyond your years.”
“Are you going to stun us every day like that, Professor?” Dean asked.
“Goodness no, Mr. Thomas,” Bane responded. “I only stun everyone at the beginning of class on the first day. I won’t do it again.”
Just the same, most of the class took the trouble to cast a shield charm around themselves anyway. They didn’t have any idea what the American professor might have up his sleeve next.
Professor Bane went on to explain to them the kinds of things he was planning on teaching them during the year. Having looked back over the lesson plans of his predecessors, he found them to be somewhat chaotic. He told them that with a few well planned lessons he felt that he would be able to fill in the gaps where they had fallen behind as well as teach them all of the things that were expected from a seventh year student.
“If there is time,” Professor Bane said, “I would like to teach you all an all but forgotten form of magic that I always try to teach to my students back in America. In fact, I am one of only three know people in America that know how to use the craft properly. How many of you have ever heard of circle magic?”
To no one’s surprise, Hermione’s hand shot up instantly, but what they were amazed to find was that Harry’s hand went up almost as quickly.
“Well,” Bane said, “the surprises never stop around here. I didn’t think any of you would have heard of it at all. I believe your hand was up first, Miss Granger.”
“I read once,” Hermione began as she usually did, “that a magic circle could be used as a protection for anyone who stood inside it. They fell out of favor though, because they were complicated and took a great deal of time to draw out, therefore making them impractical to use against a much faster wand spell.”
“Quite true,” Bane said. “Is there anything you can add to that Mr. Potter?”
“The circle can also be used to amplify the power of a wand spell, or conjure other forces outside of the circle to help battle an enemy,” Harry said.
“Very good,” Bane said actually sounding impressed that they knew so much. “Unfortunately, what Miss Granger said is true. Drawing the circle is very complicated and time consuming, and not of much practical use in a real time battle.”
“Wasn’t an American wizard in the nineteenth century working on a way to conjure a circle using a wand spell?” Harry asked.
Bane just sat there for a moment wondering just how much Harry knew about circles before he said, “It is true that some have tried, but none have ever been successful.”
“But I have,” Harry said.
Every eye in the class turned to Harry half expecting to hear that it was a joke, but Harry just sat and looked calmly back into the eyes of Professor Bane.
“That is quite a boast, Mr. Potter,” Bane said not sure if he should be proud of him for his nerve or scold him for his impudence. “Would you like to demonstrate that for the class?”
Harry got up without saying a word and walked to the front of the class, took out his wand and held it upright in the center of his chest as he softly said, “Valaya atra saikata.”
They all watched as Harry pointed his wand at the floor and a sandy substance spewed out, arranging itself around him in two neat circles. One of the circles formed a few inches inside of the other, and between them was some kind of writing that none of them recognized. Everyone, including Professor Bane, was speechless as they studied the strange writing and thought about the words that brought them forth.
After taking a few seconds to recover, Bane said, “Extraordinary, Mr. Potter. I have to admit that I am not familiar with the language written in the circle.”
“Sanskrit,” Harry said.
“Of course further tests will have to be conducted to determine if this circle would actually protect a person who was standing inside of it,” Bane said still not able to take his eyes off of the circle.
“Go ahead and test it now if you like,” Harry said.
“I am reluctant to try it, Mr. Potter,” Bane said looking at him for the first time since the circle was conjured. “If it is not properly formed, then you could be seriously injured.”
Harry just grinned as he said, “Don’t worry, Professor. A simple stunning spell won’t do any permanent damage even if it did get through.”
“If you are sure you don’t mind, Mr. Potter,” Bane said as he pulled out his wand.
Harry nodded to Professor Bane that he was ready, and Bane sent a stunning spell directly at him. An instant later there was a small flash as the spell hit something before it reached Harry, and the energy of the spell dissipated around Harry. The circles glowed a fire red for only a few seconds before returning to their original sandy color.
“Nivarta,” Harry said pointing his wand at the ground once more as the sand flew back to where it had come from.
“How long have you known how to do this,” Bane asked.
“Only a couple of months,” Harry responded.
“But Harry,” Hermione said, “that would mean that you did it in the summer when you weren’t supposed to do magic. How in the world did you manage it?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Harry said.
“We seem to be getting that quite a lot lately,” Ron said.
“I think what we have seen here today, class,” Bane began, “is something monumental in the world of magic. I’m not quite used to this house point system you use here since we don’t use it in America, but I think some are definitely in order. Do you think fifty would be too many?”
Not surprisingly, the Gryfindors in the class seemed to be alright with that number. Their first class couldn’t have started off better as far as they were concerned.
“Very well then,” Bane said, “fifty it is then. I think I need to send a few owls to some colleagues in America, so I hope you will all forgive me if I let class out a bit early today. Please read the first two chapters in your book for the next class.”
Everyone got up and turned to walk for the door. A few seconds later, all but three of them found themselves lying numbly on the floor. Harry, Ron and Hermione looked back to see what had happened.
“I thought you said you weren’t going to stun us any more, Professor,” Seamus said.
“On the contrary Mr. Finnigan,” Bane answered. “I said I wouldn’t do it at the beginning of class. I never said anything about the end.”
Since the Defense Against the Dark Arts class was cut so short, Harry had plenty of time on his hands to do whatever he wanted. Hermione and Ron were both intent on pressing him for an answer to what he had been doing during the summer, but he shook them off by telling them he would tell them everything later. They weren’t going to let him off that easy, but he promised them he would tell them everything later that night after dinner.
Hermione had taken off for the library to get in a bit of pre-class studying, and Ron went along with her just because he couldn’t come up with a good excuse not to. Harry though had as good of an excuse as any love struck boyfriend could. He was going to sit outside the potions classroom where Ginny was currently imprisoned, just in case Snape decided to let them out early. They all knew that was a hopeless cause, but Harry was all right with just being that much closer to Ginny.
Snape stayed true to form though, letting the class out at least five minutes late. Ginny emerged from the class in what Harry could tell to be a barely controlled temper. She turned and caught sight of him leaning against the wall though, and her anger seemed to fade almost instantly.
“Don’t tell me he kept us that late,” Ginny said. “How did you manage to get here from your class so quick?”
“We got out early,” Harry said still wondering what had made Ginny so angry. “How was potions? Any problems?”
“Not in the first three seconds,” Ginny said, some of the temper returning. “After that was barely tolerable though.”
“What happened?” Harry asked.
Ginny started to tell him everything, but caught herself in time to ask, “Don’t you have potions next?”
“Yes,” Harry answered.
“I should probably wait until later to tell you then,” Ginny said. “Gryffindor can’t afford to have that many points taken off on the first day.”
“Oh he wouldn’t,” Harry said getting a hint of what it could be. “It was me wasn’t it? He picked on you during the entire class just because you’re dating me.”
Ginny was afraid to say anything one way or the other. If she denied it, Harry would know she was lying. If she confirmed it, she was afraid, seeing the look in Harry’s eyes, of what might happen.
“I thought as much,” Harry said fuming already. “I’ll deal with it.”
“Harry don’t,” Ginny said. “That’s what he wants. Don’t you know that? I can handle Snape on my own. You just worry about brewing your potions right and not letting your temper control you.”
Harry realized that she was right. The anger and hostility that Voldemort had put into him was threatening to take control of his actions. Harry forced himself to calm as he had in countless meditation sessions over the summer. He had only to concentrate on Ginny’s eyes to lose himself in an ocean of tranquility.
Once his breathing had returned to normal, Harry said, “You’re right. What would I do without you?”
“I hope you won’t have to find that out any time soon,” Ginny said with a smile as she leaned in and kissed him gently.
Harry and Ginny were just parting when Cassidy walked up and said, “Hi Ginny. Hi Harry.”
“Hi Cassidy,” they both responded together.
“I am in the right place for potions aren’t I?” Cassidy asked looking at the door to the classroom.
“This is it alright,” Harry said.
“So how is Professor Snape as a teacher?” Cassidy asked.
“I’m probably not the one to ask,” Harry said. “We usually don’t get along too well.”
“Not get along with you?” Cassidy asked. “He must be awful then.”
“I had better be getting to my next class or I’ll be late,” Ginny said not wanting to elaborate on Cassidy’s observation. “I’ll see you for lunch, Harry.”
“I’ll be there,” Harry said not wanting to let her go.
“It was good to see you again, Ginny,” Cassidy said a bit too sweetly for Ginny’s comfort.
“You too,” Ginny said as she turned to go.
“She seems like a great girl,” Cassidy said.
“The best,” Harry said still lost in watching Ginny walk down the hall.
“Shall we go in then?” Cassidy asked.
“Sure,” Harry said forcing his attention away from Ginny.
There were only a couple of other students in the classroom by the time they entered. Harry knew that Ron and Hermione would soon be joining him. He also knew that it wouldn’t do any good for him to take a seat in the back. Snape would seek him out no matter if he sat in the hallway.
“Are there any kind of assigned seats in this class?” Cassidy asked.
“No,” Harry said. “Not unless Professor Snape decided to change things this year.”
“Would you mind if I sat with you then?” Cassidy asked. “I don’t really know anyone else very well yet.”
“I don’t mind,” Harry said. “It will be a first in this class though. Gryffindors and Slytherin usually don’t mix much.”
“I think it’s awful,” Cassidy began, “the way they split you into these houses and create a natural competition between you.”
“I guess I never really thought about it any other way,” Harry said. “You don’t have houses at your school in America?”
“No,” Cassidy answered. “They go out of their way to promote cooperation between all of the students. Don’t any of the houses here ever mix together?”
“Sure,” Harry said. “Three of them anyway.”
“Just not Slytherin I take it,” Cassidy said.
“I think this is the longest conversation I’ve had with a Slytherin since I’ve been here at Hogwarts,” Harry said.
“Oh,” Cassidy said, “that is so wrong. I can’t let that last for long. People who never step outside their own house miss the rest of the world.”
“You’ll find quite a bit of resistance to that,” Harry said, “especially in your own house.”
“Hey Harry,” Ron said from behind them.
Harry turned to see Ron and Hermione standing there seeming a bit confused to see a Slytherin sitting with him.
“I know,” Cassidy said to them. “Harry told me that Gryffindor and Slytherin don't ever mix, but you all are the only ones I’ve really been able to feel comfortable with so far. If you're too uncomfortable with my sitting here though, I’ll move somewhere else.”
“Of course not,” Hermione said. “It was just a bit of a shock to see it at first.”
“I can’t wait to see how Snape reacts,” Ron said with a grin.
“He’ll probably find some way to blame Harry for it and take points away from Gryffindor again,” Hermione said.
“Does he really do it that often?” Cassidy asked.
“I don’t think there has been a class yet where Snape didn’t take at least ten points away from Harry,” Ron said. “Gryffindor loses more points in potions class since Harry got here than it does in any other class or at any other time during the school year.”
“Except of course when Snape is patrolling the hallways,” Hermione added.
“Incredible,” Cassidy said. “Why does he do that to Harry?”
“He hates my dad,” Harry said.
“But I thought your dad was killed,” Cassidy said.
“He was,” Harry said. “Snape never got to take his anger out on him, so he has to settle for taking it out on me.”
“How thick do you have to be, Potter,” Malfoy said as he walked into the classroom and spotted Harry. “Why do you even bother taking a potions class?”
Cassidy turned around and Malfoy realized for the first time where she was sitting. She leveled a glare at him that was enough to silence him immediately, and made him take a seat on the other side of the room.
“I still say the sorting hat made a mistake,” Ron said.
“Maybe it just isn’t used to examining an American brain,” Cassidy said with a smile. “It doesn’t matter to me what house I’m in though. I make friends with whom ever I please.”
Snape suddenly entered the room out of his adjoining office and waved his wand to close and lock the doors at the back of the room.
“As you can see,” Snape said in his usual stern manner, “doors to the class will be locked at the exact time class is to begin every day. Anyone not inside by then will miss the class and points will be deducted from your final grade. Snape looked over at Harry when he mentioned it and the scowl on his face seemed to drop, if possible, even further when he saw who was sitting with him.
After a moment taken to recover from the initial shock, Snape looked right at Harry and said, “Well, Potter, you seem to be doing a better job of picking your friends. Miss Silverwood may prove to be a good influence on you. You should warn her though that you tend to drag your friends down with you in this class.”
“I think she should be fine since I’m not dating her, Professor Snape,” Harry said pointedly wondering if Snape would take the bait.
“Careful, Potter,” Snape seethed. “Disrespectful insinuations could be grounds for taking points. I would hate for that to happen. Just to show you how much I want you to earn points in this class, a little quiz perhaps. Answer the questions correctly and Gryffindor will earn points. Give the wrong answer and you will lose points. Would you like to try, Potter?”
“Professor Snape, I don’t think that is…” Cassidy began to say.
“I will warn you only once Miss Silverwood,” Snape said cutting her off, “ you speak only when asked to in this class. I will overlook it this time since you are new to the school and don’t know the rules as well as everyone else.”
“I’ll do it,” Harry said calmly.
“Harry, don’t,” Hermione said.
“That is five points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger,” Snape said with a smile of satisfaction. “You have been here long enough to know the rules.”
“We’ll get them back soon enough,” Harry said. “Five points per question? Or would you like to raise the stakes a bit?”
“What did you have in mind?” Snape said intrigued.
“Five questions,” Harry said. “Each one worth, say, twenty points?”
“You must have lost your mind over the summer, Potter,” Snape said smiling as Hermione and Ron had to bite their tongues to keep from saying the same thing to Harry . “You would throw away one hundred points that easily?”
“Or gain them that easily,” Harry said. “That isn’t all I want in return though. If I get the questions right, then you can’t turn around and take them back away at any point during the day. If you do take points away, they have to come from your own house.”
“And when you lose?” Snape asked.
“Then you can take as many other points from Gryffindor as you feel are necessary,” Harry answered
All of the Gryffindors in the class didn’t know if they wanted to cheer Harry for standing up to Snape, or beat him to within an inch of his life for even opening his mouth.
“And the questions?” Snape asked seeming like a man who was anxious to make the kill.
“Can be about the magical uses or properties of any potion ingredient,” Harry said.
“Fool,” Snape spat, “you should have at least limited it to ingredients we have covered in class.”
“I only have one more condition,” Harry said. “From now on, if you have a problem with me you take it up with me, not my girlfriend.”
Snape was so beside himself with joy at the opportunity Harry had laid before him, he would have agreed to almost anything if it meant bringing the famous Harry Potter down a few notches.
“Agreed,” Snape said with a sadistic grin as he wrapped his robes about him. “Dicentra spectabilis.”
“One of the main ingredients in several love potions,” Harry said immediately astonishing everyone, “though it is rarely used since it’s effects are more temporary than some other more trusted ingredients.”
Snape was surprised, but not wanting to show any signs of being flustered said, “Farsera speciosa.”
“Minor ingredient in a potion used during meditations to help focus thought,” Harry said.
“Bloodwort,” Snap said.
“A resin that can be combined with other more minor ingredients and burned to drive away evil and negativity,” Harry said.
“Inula dysenterica,” Snape said through gritted teeth.
“Used in a potion to drive out possessive spirits in exorcisms,” Harry said.
“Quickbane,” Snape forced out.
Harry paused for a moment to give Snape some hope that he may not know the answer before he said, “Reduces the influence of outside stimuli on mental processes, therefore it is used as one of the main ingredients in a potion helping werewolves resist transformation during the full moon.”
Snape was so livid he could barely see straight much less teach a class, so he turned and began walking toward his office. He waved his wand at the doors he had locked and they flew open as he said, “Class dismissed.”
“I think you forgot something, Professor,” Harry said. “I believe you have some points to award.”
Everyone in the room was sure that Snape was going to turn around and hex Harry. They all waited as Snape stood motionless with is back to them just outside his office door.
“One hundred points to Gryffindor,” Snape finally said grudgingly just before he slammed his office door behind him.
The entire class was so stunned by what had just happened that not one of them other than Harry began to stand up. They all looked at him and saw that he had a small grin on his face. He was acting like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.
Harry gathered all of his things and turned to Ron and Hermione and said, “I’ll see you all at lunch. I’m going to go and wait for Ginny to get out of her class.”
They all just stared as Harry walked out of the classroom. They could swear they heard him humming to himself as he walked down the hallway outside.
As Harry left the Potions classroom, he felt a great sense of satisfaction with himself. He had endured six years of harassment from Snape, and for the first time he felt that he had finally dealt a blow for his side. More importantly, he had done it without having his heart rate increase even one beat, and had not pulled his wand out to give Snape the hexing he had dreamed of giving him for years.
Harry was so pleased with himself, and realizing that he had even more time to waste than he had after his first class, that he got an idea while on his way to the transfiguration classroom. Instead of going straight there, he took a detour to a place where most Hogwarts students never even thought of going.
Harry stepped through the entrance and saw a flurry of activity that he was hesitant to interrupt. He was on the verge of changing his mind and turning back when a shrill cry of joy stopped him.
“Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby said as he spotted Harry and immediately stopped what he was doing to walk over and greet Harry.
“Hello, Dobby,” Harry said. “I hope you’re well.”
“Dobby is so lucky to have someone like the noble Harry Potter to care how he is doing,” Dobby said. “Dobby is doing quite well here at Hogwarts thanks to his friend Harry Potter.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Harry said.
“Is there something that Harry Potter needs that Dobby can do for him?” Dobby asked hopefully.
“Actually,” Harry said with a smile, “there is something I would like if it’s possible.”
Ginny walked out of the Transfiguration classroom and was stopped in her tracks as she noticed Harry leaning against the wall just like he had been when she got out of Potions.
“Oh no, Harry,” Ginny said concerned. “You didn’t get yourself kicked out of Potions did you?”
“No,” Harry said walking over to her. “Actually, Snape let class out early.”
“Early?” Ginny asked not believing that she had heard him right.
“Yep,” Harry said as he leaned over and gave her a kiss.
“But Snape never…” Ginny protested after Harry had broken the kiss.
“Let’s not talk about Snape anymore,” Harry said. “It’s such a beautiful day, I thought you might like to take a walk down by the lake.”
Ginny stood back and looked at Harry trying to determine if he was being serious or not before she said, “You would rather take a walk by the lake instead of eating lunch.”
“There’s plenty of time,” Harry said.
Ginny hesitated, but realized she couldn’t say no to him if she tried, and said, “Alright, but it’ll be your head if I don’t get to eat lunch.”
Harry smiled as he stuck out his arm for Ginny. She put her arm in his and they walked leisurely down the hallway toward the nearest exit to the grounds. They walked down to the lake and watched the ripples on the water roll in to the shore.
Harry turned toward Ginny and gave her a long tender kiss, and as he broke away he said softly, “I can’t tell you how much I wish this moment wouldn’t end. I have everything I need right here.”
“I agree with you in part, Harry,” Ginny said, making Harry look questioningly at her. “I have everything I need, except lunch. I’m starving.”
“Patience, love,” Harry said. “I have everything under control.”
Just then Ginny looked beside them as a blanket appeared with a full spread of picnic food arrayed on top of it.
“Lunch is served, My Lady,” Harry said with a slight bow.
“How did you do this?” Ginny asked amazed.
“Well,” Harry said, “I happen to have some very influential friends in the kitchens around here.”
“A good thing for you,” Ginny said. “Any longer and you would have been standing here on your own while I went to get some lunch.”
“Then by all means,” Harry said, “let’s eat.”
Harry and Ginny sat down and ate happily together. When they had both eaten their fill, Harry laid his head in Ginny’s lap and let her attempt to smooth down his unruly hair.
“It’s really going to be strange around here next year,” Ginny said half to herself.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“Well,” Ginny began, “you will have graduated, but I’ll be stuck here for another year without you.”
“I guess I never thought about that,” Harry said as he sat up wondering why that never occurred to him.
“You’ll go off to continue your training as an auror,” Ginny said, “and I’ll be sitting here by the lake longing to relive this moment.”
“Well maybe I could get a job in Hogsmead,” Harry said thinking out loud. “That way we would at least see each other on Hogsmead weekends.”
“But you’ve wanted to be an auror for years now,” Ginny said. “I don’t want you to give that up just because we’ll have to spend time apart. It would hurt me more to know that I was the thing that caused that dream to die.”
“Sometimes dreams change,” Harry said. “Nobody ever said I had to start my auror training right after I graduate. It wouldn’t hurt anything to wait a year or two.”
“No, Harry,” Ginny said. “I can’t let you do that. You need to get as much training as you can for when..."
“When I fight Voldemort,” Harry said finishing her thought.
Ginny felt a deep guilt for bringing up the subject on what Harry had meant to be such a nice picnic. Of all of the things she could have said, she had brought up the one subject she knew to avoid most of all.
“I am so sorry, Harry,” Ginny said. “I didn’t mean to ruin this day for you.”
“You haven’t,” Harry said taking hold of her hand. “Listen, I want to make it clear here and now that I know my fight with Voldemort is coming near. No one knows that more that I do. I expect it to happen before I graduate this year. I know that shocks you, but it’s something I’ve been working very hard to prepare for. When it comes, I’ll do the very best I can to end it once and for all. Until then, I am not about to let Voldemort influence my life like you might think. I’m perfectly all right with discussing Voldemort, and our impending battle, with people. Most of all you. I feel closer to you right now then I have ever been to anyone. The only reason I never bring it up myself is because I know it makes other people uncomfortable to talk about it.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Harry,” Ginny said as she pressed her tear stained face to Harry's chest.
“I don’t want to lose you either,” Harry said. “I just want to make the most of whatever time we have left together, whether it’s five minutes or a hundred years. I’m going to love you with every part of my soul for as long as I can.”
Harry tilted Ginny’s head back and kissed her until both of them felt the joy coursing through them as it always did.
“Hmmm.” Dobby said, causing Harry and Ginny to look and see who had sneaked up on them so quietly.
“Dobby is sorry to interrupt Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby said, “but he wanted to make sure you knew that you will be late for your classes if you do not leave now.”
Harry looked down at his watch and realized that he was right. They wouldn’t have to run, but they weren’t far from having to.
“Thanks for everything, Dobby,” Harry said as he and Ginny got up to leave. “You’re a real friend.”
Dobby couldn’t have been more proud as he snapped his fingers and vanished the picnic blanket away. Harry Potter was the greatest wizard that ever lived, he was sure. And to the end of his days he would make sure that all of the other house elves knew it.
The remainder of the day went smoothly for Harry. None of his other classes got out early enough to meet Ginny, but his lunch picnic with her turned out to be enough to sustain him through the rest of his classes. He was looking forward to seeing her in the common room when all of their classes were done. He thought that they would have time for another walk around the grounds before they had to go to dinner.
He was looking forward to getting away from Ron and Hermione for a while anyway. They had been pestering him all day to tell them what he had done during the summer to suddenly become a whiz in every one of his classes. Harry had tried to tell them that it didn’t really matter as long as he kept earning points for Gryffindor. While they agreed that it was great that Harry had personally managed to earn more points on the first day than some of the houses usually got in the first six months; they still wanted to know what mutation he had undergone that made him able to answer any question, and perform magic that no other wizard had ever been able to.
Harry’s hopes of taking a late walk with Ginny and watching the sunset were not to be though, as Professor McGonagall walked into the common room and told Harry that Professor Dumbledore wanted to meet with him right away. Knowing that there was no way to get out of it, Harry left word with Neville of where he had gone, and told him to tell Ginny about it. It wasn’t until after he left that he wondered if Neville’s memory had gotten any better over the summer.
Professor McGonagall walked Harry all the way to Dumbledore’s office, and when she took him inside, Professor Dumbledore said, “You should stay for this as well since you are Harry’s head of house Professor McGonagall. You seem to have had quite an eventful day, Harry.”
“Yes, sir,” Harry said, suspecting what the meeting might be about.
“From what I hear, you managed to earn one hundred and seventy five points for your house today,” Dumbledore said looking down over his glasses at Harry. “I asked you to come here about one hundred of those points. Professor Snape has filed a protest with me over your actions in Potions class today. He seems to think that you managed to cheat in some way on an oral quiz.”
“There was never any cheating, Professor,” Harry said. “There was no way for me to cheat. I had no prior knowledge that he would choose to give me a quiz or what would be on it, so there was no way to have arranged for anyone to help me.”
“How do you explain it then that you were able to answer every question correctly,” Dumbledore said calmly, “even though Professor Snape assures me the test was designed so that you shouldn’t have been able to answer correctly.”
“With all due respect to Professor Snape,” Harry said, “he has no way of knowing, in advance, what I might know. I spent a good part of the summer studying potion ingredients. That, in addition to what I uncovered in my own mind this past summer, was all I needed to know.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Potter?” McGonagall asked. “What did you uncover in your mind?”
“That is something that I will discuss with you, with Harry’s permission,” Dumbledore said, “after Harry is on his way back to the common room.”
“I don’t mind,” Harry said. “I think Professor McGonagall should know just in case something happens.”
“Thank you, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “I just need to tell you that I have reviewed Professor Snape’s complaint, and informed him that there is nothing that can be done unless he can show any evidence of cheating.”
“Thank you, Professor,” Harry said.
“You are welcome,” Dumbledore said. “By the way Harry, I hear that we also have you to thank for Professor Bane’s considerable good mood. I haven’t seen a Hogwarts teacher that excited since Professor McGonagall told me she had found a new seeker for her house team some years ago.”
Harry walked back to the Gryffindor common room expecting to find no sight of anyone since they would all be down at dinner. To his surprise, there was someone still there waiting for him.
“How was your meeting with Dumbledore?” Ginny asked.
“Fine,” Harry said walking over and taking her in his arms. “He just had to tell me about a complaint Snape had made to him.”
“You never did tell me why he let class out early,” Ginny said pulling back to look at him.
“I’m hungry,” Harry said trying to change the subject. “Why don’t we go down to dinner now.”
“Alright,” Ginny said taking his hand. “You can tell me all about Potions class on the way.”
Harry just smiled at her as he led her out of the common room. Knowing that she would drag it out of him or hear it from someone else anyway, he spent most of the trip to the Great Hall relating to her everything he could remember about his potions class. Unknown to Harry, it was his friendly conversation with Cassidy Silverwood that bothered her more than what had happened with Snape.
A cheer went up from the Gryffindor table as Harry and Ginny walked in. As usually happened at dinner, everyone checked on where the house points stood and found Gryffindor had jumped out to a substantial lead that the other houses would be hard pressed to catch. It hadn’t taken long for the tales of what Harry had done during the day to get around. From the way they congratulated him, a person would have thought he had just won the house cup for them single handedly.
As hungry as he might have been, it didn’t take long for Harry to grab some food and suggest that they get it to go. He told Ron and Hermione to grab Neville and meet him in the room of requirement.
Twenty minutes later, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna walked through the door into the room of requirement to find themselves standing in the Hogwarts Library. They spotted Harry and Ginny sitting at one of the tables, and went over and sat down with them.
“I just wanted all of you to be here so I could explain to you what I did over the summer,” Harry said. “Actually I spent most of it right here in this room.”
“In the room of requirement?” Hermione asked. “But Harry, that’s impossible. Hogwarts is closed over the summer. How would you have gotten in?”
“With this,” Harry said as he unwrapped a coin he had pulled out of his pocket and placed it on the table.
“Is that what I think it is?” Ron asked. “Is that a portkey?”
“Yes,” Harry said. “I made it last year before I left, so that I would be able to come back here when I wanted and then return to my room at the Dursley’s.”
“Brilliant,” Neville said. “You can’t do magic outside of Hogwarts, so you make a portkey to bring you back here so that you can.”
“But why?” Hermione asked.
“This is what you meant wasn’t it Harry?” Ginny asked. “At lunch today you told me that you had been working hard to prepare for your battle with Voldemort.”
“Right,” Harry said.
“I find it hard to believe that Harry Potter spent an entire summer reading and doing research,” Hermione said.
“I didn’t,” Harry said. “Remember that this room can be whatever I need it to be. Sometimes it was the library, but other times it was an assortment of other rooms. Sometimes it was the streets of Hogsmead, or the Forbidden Forest. I also did quite a bit of meditating.”
“So why the sudden change, Harry?” Hermione asked. “Studying and meditating aren’t things that we’ve ever associated with you before.”
“I should think it was Voldemort,” Luna said airily. “Perhaps Harry finally realized how close his battle really was.”
“That’s partially true,” Harry said. “At the end of last year I was having flashes of memory, but they weren’t memories that I should have remembered. They were Voldemort’s memories. At first I thought he was placing the thoughts into my head on purpose, but my occulemency practice had taught me how to block something like that from happening without my knowing it. I kept looking for external ways he might have been doing it, but eventually I thought to take a look internally.
“My meditations quickly showed me what I feared to be true. Professor Dumbledore always thought that Voldemort transferred some of his power to me the night he gave me my scar. That’s how he explained my being able to speak parcletongue. What I found was that he did much more than transfer some power to me. What he actually did was to copy everything he knew at the time into my brain without either of us knowing it.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny said horrified for him. “Please tell me you don’t have a memory of…”
“Killing my parents?” Harry asked. “Unfortunately, I have a clear memory of that and every other time he killed someone. Once I started digging to find these hidden memories, I couldn’t stop them from flooding back to me of their own will. I’ve been meditating all summer to calm my mind so I can keep a handle on which memories are mine and which are his, but they’ve become such a part of me that the line isn’t so clear cut all the time.”
“I’m so sorry, Harry,” Hermione said as tears dripped from her chin. “I never should have pressured you to tell us what you had been doing during the summer.”
“I’m sorry too, mate,” Ron said. “I can’t imagine what you must be going through.”
“I spent quite a bit of time feeling sorry for myself,” Harry said. “I won’t lie to you. I would love to have some of the memories taken out of my head somehow, but there are other things that I need to keep.”
“What could Voldemort give you that you would want to keep?” Neville asked.
“His knowledge of magic,” Harry answered. “His intellectual research abilities. The knowledge of what his favorite spells are and how they can be blocked. All of these things that I know about him, that he isn’t aware that I know, could be just the edge I need to defeat him once and for all.”
“So when you answered all of Snape’s questions in Potions today…” Ron said.
“I drew on those memories to help me get the right answer,” Harry said. “I know more about making potions right now than Snape could ever dream of. I’ve even been working on a special one of my own over the summer.”
“And the magic circle in Defense Against the Dark Arts?” Hermione asked.
“Only partially in that case,” Harry said. “Voldemort knew about circle magic and tried to produce one with a wand spell, but eventually gave up thinking it was impossible.”
“But you did it,” Neville said.
“Yes,” Harry said. “I used the room of requirement to make a room that had all of the information that had ever been written down about the study of circles. What I found out was that they had been around much longer than most people today give them credit for. They were all trying spells in Latin or Greek. I started trying some of the older languages and finally found out that Sanskrit got a reaction. After that it was just a matter of finding the right words.”
“Wait a minute.” Ginny said waving her hand. “What is all this about magic circles?”
“That’s right,” Hermione said. “I forgot that you weren’t there in class with us. I guess I thought Harry would have told you about it already.”
“I just managed to drag what happened in Potions out of him,” Ginny said. “I didn’t know there was anything else I should have been asking about.”
Hermione took the next few minutes to fill Ginny in on what Harry had done and how excited Professor Bane had been about it.
“But Harry,” Luna began, having just heard the story for the first time as well, “if this is something you didn’t want Voldemort to know about, you probably shouldn’t have revealed it to anyone in front of a class. If Professor Bane tells the wrong people in Slytherin it will be just an owl away from Voldemort knowing about it.”
“I realized that shortly after class had ended,” Harry said. “Before I went to meet Ginny, I went back to see Professor Bane. He agreed not to mention it to any of his other classes, and to only send owls to people he trusted with instructions to keep the information to themselves for a while. In exchange I agreed to go to America and give a demonstration to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes at the school in Salem.”
“So you think one of these circles will help you to defeat Voldemort?” Ginny asked.
“Possibly,” Harry responded. “I really had another purpose in mind for them though. I was really thinking of it as a weapon against the dementors. Remember that a circle can be used for more than defense. I was working on a way to amplify a patronus charm using a circle.”
“But why, Harry?” Ron asked. “Your patronus is already strong enough to run the dementors off.”
“I’m not trying to run them off, Ron,” Harry answered. “I’m trying to kill them.”
“Can a dementor be killed?” Neville asked.
“I think so,” Harry said. “I’ve been doing some research here over the summer about them. Not many people realize that the dementors were once wizards. I guess you would say that they had formed sort of a cult that was obsessed with becoming immortal. They found a way to get their immortality, but by the time they realized what the price for it was it was too late. Since then they’ve turned into creatures that have to feed off of the very life force of others to survive. They have an existence that has trapped them in between life and death with no way to achieve either. I think that a sufficiently powerful patronus would be able to give them their final push into death.”
“Have you had any luck with it yet?” Hermione asked amazed.
“I have been able to make my patronus much stronger,” Harry said, “but I still haven’t been able to make it strong enough.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been testing it in this room all summer?” Ginny asked. “Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? You could have been killed by a dementor created in this room just as easily as a real one, and no one would have known until somebody came in here and found you.”
“At the time, I wasn’t really thinking about what happened to me,” Harry said. “If you remember, I was still dealing with losing Sirius on top of everything else that has happened since Voldemort killed my parents. It wasn’t safety I was looking for. It was revenge. I can’t be expected to think clearly with all of that running through my head.”
“Do you really think the dementors will be that much of a problem?” Hermione asked. “After all, they haven’t been heard from since they abandoned Azkaban and freed all of the death eaters they had there.”
“I think we should bet on it,” Harry said. “They’re still working for Voldemort. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he was just waiting to use them where he thought it would do the most damage.”
“If they or the death eaters come near this place,” Neville said with a determination that they had not heard from him before, “you can count on the D.A. to stand against them.”
“Which brings up another point, Harry,” Hermione said. “When are you going to call the first D.A. meeting?”
“I hadn’t really given it too much thought,” Harry said.
“I would expect an increased number of Ravenclaws to join this year, Harry,” Luna said. “There seems to be great interest since all of the members from last year did substantially better in Defense Against the Dark Arts than those who didn’t come to the meetings.”
“But we’ve only been back in school for one day,” Harry said. “How can there be that much interest already?”
“Well they all read the flyer of course,” Luna said.
“There’s a flyer?” Harry asked.
“I must have forgotten to mention that to you, Harry,” Hermione said. “I sort of took the liberty of handing out an information sheet to be posted on the common room bulletin boards about it. I didn’t think you would mind.”
“Oh of course not,” Harry said a bit sarcastically. “While we’re on a roll, does anyone else have anything they would like to confess while we’re all here?”
I was the Friday of that week that Harry chose to hold the first D.A. meeting of the year. As it turned out, he was the one who learned something that day. The room he had created for the meeting had always been large enough for every other meeting, but the number of students that showed up that year was nothing short of shocking. Even before they had all arrived, he had been forced to change the room to one that resembled the great hall so that they would have room to spread out.
Harry didn’t know how he was ever going to be able to teach all of them anything. He liked to walk among the students while they practiced so he could offer one on one help. There is no way that he would have the time to make it around to every group unless they had the class last most of the day.
“Unless you have a time turner that we don’t know about, Harry,” Hermione began in response to Harry’s latest suggestion as they sat at dinner, “I don’t see how you can possibly do it that way. I don’t think you realize just how much of your time that would take up. You would have to squeeze in all of your regular classes, quidditch practice, and don’t forget that we’ll be taking our N.E.W.T. exams this year.”
“I know it won’t be easy,” Harry said. “I just don’t see any other way unless we cancel the D.A. classes all together. I can’t teach that large of a group all at once. It just isn’t my style of teaching.”
“I don’t know, Harry,” Ginny said. “Maybe you should let some of the other D.A members teach the first and second year students. At least that would only leave you with two separate classes to teach.”
“I don’t think that would work, Ginny,” Neville said. “Think about why we all started coming to the classes in the first place. It wasn’t just because we wanted to learn more Defense Against the Dark Arts. How many people would have come if you or Hermione or anyone else had been teaching it? The reason people come is because of Harry. They know that what he teaches doesn’t just come from a book. He has actually faced Voldemort on several occasions and lived to tell about it. None of us can substitute for that.”
They all just sat their and looked at Neville for a while, admiring his passion, before Harry said, “Thanks, Neville. I think you may be selling yourself a little bit short though. I may have fought Voldemort, but you were all the ones who were there fighting the death eaters right beside me. You deserve the same credit I do.”
“Sure we know that,” Ron said, “but Neville is right. In the eyes of the rest of the students, you are still the general. We may be your lieutenants, but they aren’t going to accept any substitutes for the real thing.”
“Then I guess that’s the way it has to be,” Harry said. “I’ll take the first and second years on Mondays, third fourth and fifth years on Tuesdays, and sixth and seventh years on Sundays. That will still leave Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday for class work and quidditch practice.”
“Hold on, Harry,” Ron said. “You forgot to include Thursday in that list.”
“I didn’t forget,” Harry said. “Thursday is for Ginny.”
Everyone looked over to Ginny to notice that she turned a light shade of red even as a smile spread over her face that told everyone that one of her fears had just been laid to rest.
“Hello everyone,” Cassidy said, breaking them all out of their thinking. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything. If I am, I’ll come back later.”
“It’s alright,” Harry said. “What can we do for you?”
“Well, I just wanted to ask a question about something I heard,” Cassidy said. “Are you teaching some kind of Defense Against the Dark Arts study group or something?”
“Something like that,” Harry responded.
“Well, I heard that there were flyers put up in the other common rooms about it,” Cassidy said. “I haven’t seen one in the Slytherin common room though.”
“You have to understand,” Hermione said, “this class is designed specifically to train students to defend themselves if they ever encounter a death eater. There are some of the students who are in your house whose parents are death eaters.”
“Malfoy I suspect,” Cassidy said.
“Along with some others,” Hermione said.
“Well Malfoy is a twit,” Cassidy said. “You shouldn’t judge all of us just because Malfoy and his friends are bad apples. There are some of us who would love to come to the class.”
“I don’t think it would be a problem if you wanted to come,” Harry said. “Seventh years will meet in the room of requirement on Sunday. We’ll get back to you about a time by tomorrow.”
“Would it be alright if I brought along some friends?” Cassidy asked.
“Anyone who wants to come is welcome,” Harry said.
“Great,” Cassidy said with a smile that made all of the boys watching from the other tables melt. “I’ll be looking forward to it. See you all later.”
Cassidy walked out of the great hall, and as usual most of the heads in the room turned and watched her go.
“Who would have ever imagined it?” Ron asked. “Slytherins in the D.A. meetings.”
Harry was just about to respond when he looked up and realized that Malfoy was looking right at him with a stare of hatred.
Cassidy sat in a chair in the Slytherin common room as she composed several letters to her friends back in America. She had gotten several letters from them telling her how jealous they were that she was getting to sit next to Harry Potter in every potions class. She was wondering what they would say when they found out she was going to be taking a class where Harry Potter himself was going to be her teacher. She was sure to tell them that she thought she would need to have lots of one on one training. She was sure it was just the thing to drive them all mad.
Cassidy was just signing the last letter when she noticed that someone had stopped to stand just in front of her. Looking up, she wasn’t surprised to see that it was no other than Draco Malfoy.
“For the last time, Draco” Cassidy said, “I’m not interested in dating you.”
“I can’t believe you would fall for that aura of fame that people have created around that fool,” Malfoy said maliciously.
“What are you talking about?” Cassidy asked.
“I see the way you sit next to Potter in Potions and the way you look at him when you talk to him,” Malfoy said with a sneer. “Let me give you a little piece of advice. It won’t be a good idea to align yourself with Potter this year. I would hate to see you get hurt.”
“Let me make something clear to you, Malfoy,” Cassidy spat at him as she stood and caused him to take a step back. “I would advise you to stay out of my business. I make friends with who I need to.”
“What do you mean need to?” Malfoy asked. “What possible need could you have of Potter?”
“Idiot,” Cassidy said. “I bet you made your feelings about Harry known to him the first time you met him. If you had been smart, you should have done everything you could to become his friend. I’m sure your father and Voldemort would have valued what could have been gained with a supposed friendship with Harry. As it is you don’t know anything about what he is like or what he really thinks or feels.”
“Don’t tell me you’re hanging all over him because you hate him,” Malfoy said. “You’re only here for one year anyway. Why would you care about getting close to him?”
“Do you have any idea what it’s like to do something extraordinary,” Cassidy said letting her emotions spill out more than she had intended, “and have it tainted by the knowledge that someone is poised to do something even greater?”
“What?” Draco said not quite getting what she meant.
“I defeated the most powerful dark wizard in America,” Cassidy said fighting to hold back the rage inside of her, “and my name should have been on everyone’s lips for it. But it wasn’t. It was always Harry Potter. Harry Potter and his battle with Voldemort that he hadn’t even fought yet were still what they were all talking about. Who was going to remember what I had done if Harry actually managed to defeat Voldemort? That, Malfoy, is why I’m here. That is what I gain from being close to Harry Potter. So send owls to whomever you need to and let them know that they have more to worry about than Harry. I’ll defeat Voldemort myself, and I’ll take down anyone else who gets in my way until then.”
By the time Sunday arrived, all of the houses had been notified of the schedule for the D.A. meetings. Harry waited in the room of requirement talking with his friends as they waited for everyone to arrive. Most of the sixth and seventh years he was used to seeing in the class, but there were enough new ones to justify his decision to split into the three classes. It would enable him to concentrate on come of the more advanced forms of magic with the older groups anyway.
Every head in the room turned to see Cassidy Silverwood walk into the door. It wasn’t a real surprise to most of them since it had become fairly normal to see her mingling with the rest of the houses. The thing that surprised them was that she was followed by eight more girls in Slytherin robes.
Harry could sense the tension that had just formed in the room, and knowing that it was his job as the teacher to attempt to alleviate that tension, he walked over to Cassidy and said, “Welcome to the class. It’s nice to see you all here. We’re just waiting for a few more people to arrive before we get started.”
“Thanks, Harry,” Cassidy said smoothly. “Didn’t I tell you that there would be other people in Slytherin who would like to come?”
“I’m glad to see that there are,” Harry said. “I always wished there would be some, but I never thought any of you would want to come to a class that I taught.”
“Not all of us feel the same way about you that Malfoy does, Harry,” Cassidy said making Ginny cringe a bit at the way she said it.
“I hope there will be others that come to the other classes,” Harry said.
“Quite a few seemed interested,” Cassidy said. “I may have to come with them to get them here the first few times, but there is definitely an interest.”
“Great,” Harry said with a smile.
Once everyone was there, Harry started the class and told them that he would be starting out with some new attack and defensive spells. He explained the spells in great detail and asked the class to pair up to practice the spells individually. Most everyone paired up fairly quickly with someone from their own house or their significant other. The Slytherin were no exception as eight of the girls formed four groups. Unfortunately, that left Cassidy without a partner. Harry had originally planned on teaming with Ginny, but when he saw that Cassidy didn’t have a partner, he asked Ginny to partner with her instead and give him the chance to walk around and give help where needed.
“Sure,” Ginny said after only a slight hesitation.
“Cassidy,” Harry said, “you can partner with Ginny.”
“I’d love to,” Cassidy responded in a voice that seemed like slightly forced sweetness to Ginny.
They had only practiced the spells on each other a couple of times when Cassidy said, “Harry is a great guy.”
“I think so,” Ginny said as nicely as she could manage.
“So how did you two meet?” Cassidy asked as if they were old friends.
“I met Harry when he was heading to Hogwarts for his first year,” Ginny said.
“Oh that’s right,” Cassidy said. “I forgot that you were a year behind him. I guess he became friends with your brother first.”
“That’s right,” Ginny said not wanting to discuss her personal life with Cassidy, but knowing that those questions were probably coming.
“So how long have you been dating him?” Cassidy asked.
“A few weeks,” Ginny said.
“Really?” Cassidy asked. “From the way you two act I figured you had been going out for years.”
“I guess if we had you would have read about it in those American newspapers where your friends get his picture from,” Ginny said trying hard to keep her temper under control.
“I guess it can’t be easy being the girlfriend of someone who is seen as a savior on one hand, and an international icon on the other,” Cassidy said.
“Only to those who read about him in the newspaper,” Ginny said. “To those of us who know him he’s just Harry. A great wizard, but still, at the heart of it, just Harry.”
“I imagine you’re right,” Cassidy said. “He certainly isn’t what I thought he would be. I like him much more than I thought I would.”
“Not really something you should tell his girlfriend,” Ginny said feeling her face flush with anger.
“I’m sorry,” Cassidy said sounding as genuine as she could. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just thought he would be a snob that only associated with a select group of friends. Instead I found out that he was as open and giving with his friendship as a person could be.”
Several seconds passed in silence between them as Ginny attacked and Cassidy defended before Harry said, “Be careful to complete that rotation of the wand tip when you defend Cassidy. If you don’t complete it fully, it won’t produce a shield strong enough to hold off the attack. Here, let me show you.”
Ginny watched as Harry stepped up behind Cassidy and reached around to grab her wand hand. He guided her hand in a slow motion demonstration of the precise movement. As she watched, Ginny didn’t know if she wanted to scream out or hex Cassidy as she watched a small grin form on her face.
Harry had them go through the exercise with one another one more time while he watched and proclaimed that they were both doing very well. Then he told the class that they were going to move on to something else for the rest of the class. He had them all sit on some mats that he conjured as he attempted to lead them through a meditation exercise that was designed to calm their minds. He told them that it would be something that they would do every time, as he would try to teach them all occlumency in the near future.
Ginny found it most difficult to calm herself. Every time she tried to empty her mind, thoughts of her conversation with Cassidy kept popping into her head. She could only wonder why it was that Harry couldn’t see what was going on the way she saw it. At the end of class she told Harry that she wasn’t feeling well and was going back to the common room and then on to bed. Harry offered to walk her back, but she told him to go ahead and answer everyone’s questions and she would see him in the morning.
“Is something bothering Ginny?” Harry asked Hermione.
“Not that I know of,” Hermione responded. “What makes you ask?”
“Well, she just left here saying she wasn’t feeling well,” Harry said. “She looked like she felt fine, but she looked as if she was upset about something.”
“Nothing she’s told me about,” Hermione said. “I can go and check on her if you want me to.”
“Please do,” Harry said. “I hope she would have told me if it was something I did.”
“Don’t worry mate,” Ron said. “Maybe she really is feeling bad. I mean, I hope she isn’t, but if she is then…”
“You had better come with me, Ron,” Hermione said, “before you put your foot in your mouth again.”
“Thanks guys,” Harry said as they turned to go.
After they had stepped outside, Cassidy walked up to Harry and said, “Great class, Harry. I’ve talked to all of the other Slytherin, and they say they thought it was great too.”
“I’m glad to hear it,” Harry said with a smile. “I guess I owe you a bit of thanks for getting them here.”
“Speak nothing of it,” Cassidy said. “I’ll be back tomorrow with a larger number of first and second years.”
“Well, the class tomorrow may be well below your level, but you’re welcome to stay if you want,” Harry said.
“I’d love to,” Cassidy said. “I’ll even help if you need me to.”
“I think that would go a long way to making the other Slytherins feel more comfortable,” Harry said.
“Well, I have some letters to write before I go to bed tonight,” Cassidy said. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Harry.”
“Goodnight,” Harry said as she turned to go.
When he got back to the common room, Harry spotted Hermione and Ron sitting next to the fire.
“No luck, Harry,” Hermione said. “I tried to ask her if anything was wrong, but she just acted like she was already asleep. I took that to mean she really didn’t want to talk about what ever it is.”
“I guess I’ll have to try again tomorrow,” Harry said. “I’d go and find out right now if there wasn’t that silly charm on the stairs to the girls dormitories.”
“I can’t believe even you haven’t found a way around that one yet,” Ron said.
“I doubt it would do any good,” Harry said. “I wouldn’t doubt it if there were other spells to get through even if you did manage to get past the stairs.”
“Well you could just read her mind you know,” Ron said. “You can do that now you know.”
“I wouldn’t invade her privacy like that,” Harry said disturbed that Ron would even suggest it. “If she decides to tell me on her own, fine, but I won’t do anything to force her to tell me. I know what it’s like having someone else getting into your head. I hope none of you ever have to feel that.”
“I’m sorry mate,” Ron said. “I just didn’t think about what I was saying before I said it, as usual.”
“It’s alright,” Harry said. “I’ve been known to do the same thing a few times before.”
Meanwhile, in the Slytherin common room, Cassidy was sitting in her usual chair by the fire, writing another letter to her friends back in America. Unbeknownst to Cassidy someone else had noticed her writing another letter, and walked up behind her to see if they could get a look at what she had written.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Malfoy said as he swiped the letter out of Cassidy’s lap before she could stop him.
“Give it back, Malfoy,” Cassidy warned him.
“I can’t believe how wonderful Harry is,” Malfoy said reading the letter out loud. “I thought I was going to melt when he touched my hand.”
“Stop it,” Cassidy yelled as she lunged for the letter that Malfoy managed to hold up, out of her reach.
“It doesn’t sound like you’re using him to me,” Malfoy said. “It sounds like you actually love him.”
“Shut up, Malfoy,” Cassidy yelled. “It’s none of your business.”
“Oh, I think it is,” Malfoy said. “Speaking as someone you’ve rejected, I think I have a right to know who the competition is. I just can’t believe it would be Potter. What kind of a Slytherin are you anyway?”
“A better one than you’ll ever be, Malfoy,” Cassidy said finally managing to tear the letter from Malfoy’s hand.
“Don’t bet on it,” Malfoy sneered. “You had better watch your back if you align yourself with Potter. You won’t even be safe in your own common room. Maybe you should beg the Gryffindors to let you join their house.”
“I told you before, Malfoy,” Cassidy said. “I have plans for my time here, and anyone who gets in my way will pay the price, even if they are from my own house.”
“What about your precious Harry?” Malfoy asked bitterly. “Are you going to take him out if he interferes?”
“He won’t,” Cassidy answered.
“Then you don’t know Potter as well as you think you do,” Malfoy said.
“I think I know him well enough,” Cassidy said. “And if you breathe a single word about what you read in my letter to anyone, I’ll kill you myself.”
Cassidy pulled her wand out before Malfoy could react and shoved it into his chest. Malfoy just put his hands up and backed away a few steps.
“We’ll see who gets the last laugh, Silverwood,” Malfoy said nastily. “You aren’t the only one who knows how to play mind games you know.”
Malfoy turned and walked over to the stairs that would take him to the boys’ dormitories. Cassidy stood there considering whether she should go ahead and get rid of Malfoy, or take a chance that he would somehow reveal her true feelings for Harry to the entire school. He had disappeared from sight before Cassidy had really made her final choice, so there was nothing she could do but sit back and wait for the other shoe to drop.
The next morning, Harry got up early and went down to the common room to wait for Ginny. He spotted Hermione sitting in a chair opening a book.
“Morning, Hermione,” Harry said as he sat in the chair opposite her.
“Good morning, Harry,” Hermione said a bit surprised. “Kind of early for you isn’t it?”
“I didn’t sleep well,” Harry said. “I was just to worried about Ginny.”
“Well don’t,” Hermione said. “She’s upstairs right now getting dressed. She popped right up out of bed this morning as if nothing was ever wrong. When I asked her, she said she was feeling better, but never said what had been wrong to begin with.”
“Maybe she wasn’t feeling well after all,” Harry said.
“Harry,” Ginny said with a smile as she walked over to his chair. “What are you doing up already? I thought I would have to come up to wake you like usual.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Harry said as she bent down and gave him a little kiss.
“Sorry to hear that, Harry,” Ginny said. “I slept great.”
“So you’re feeling better this morning?” Harry asked.
“Loads,” Ginny said smiling. “Feel like some breakfast?”
“Sure,” Harry said. “What about you, Hermione?”
“I guess I had better go wake Ron up,” Hermione said. “We’ll meet you there.”
Hermione had finally managed to roust Ron out of bed, and gotten him down to breakfast. They sat at the end of the Gryffindor table closest to the doors along with Harry, Ginny and Neville. Everything was fine until Cassidy entered and said good morning as she passed on her way to the Slytherin table.
Hermione never would have noticed anything if she hadn’t still had Ginny’s problem from the previous night in her mind. It was subtle, but it was definitely there. Hermione noticed a slight stiffening in Ginny as if chills had just run down her spine when Cassidy passed. She knew that whatever her problem was, Cassidy Silverwood was at the heart of it. She decided it would be best if she talked to Ginny about it alone before she made a decision of whether to tell Harry about it or not.
Later that day, Hermione found her chance as she and Ginny waited in the common room for Harry and Ron before they went down to lunch.
“Don’t try to deny it, Ginny,” Hermione said. “It may have taken me a while to notice it, but there is definitely something going on between you two.”
Ginny finally decided that she was fighting a losing battle, and said, “You’re right. I do have a problem with her. I think she’s trying to steal Harry away from me.”
“What?” Hermione said. “Why would you think that?”
“I know it probably sounds crazy to you,” Ginny said, “but I’ve had a feeling there was something I didn’t like about her ever since that first day when she came over to introduce herself. Everything she said to Harry was something to butter him up. Then she made that comment about all of her friends having pictures of Harry stuck up on their walls. I wonder how many of him she has on her wall.”
“But that doesn’t necessarily mean…” Hermione began.
“I’ve seen the way she looks at him, Hermione,” Ginny said. “I know that look very well. I looked at him the same way for years. Then yesterday in the D.A. meeting when he came over to show her the right wand movement, I swear I saw her grin when Harry touched her hand.”
“Do you think that you may be over reacting to all of this just because you’re his girlfriend?” Hermione asked. “You can’t exactly see it with objective eyes.”
“I don’t just see it, Hermione,” Ginny said. “I know it sounds strange, but I can feel it in my very soul. I know she wants Harry for herself.”
“I don’t think you have anything to worry about even if she does,” Hermione said. “Harry is totally in love with you. He isn’t going to give up what he has with you just for her.”
“Dreams change, Hermione,” Ginny said sadly. “Harry told me that himself just a few days ago.”
“Well for goodness sake,” Hermione said, “at least give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Hermione decided against saying anything to Harry, since he likely would have blown it off as ridiculous anyway. As the week progressed though, Hermione started paying close attention to Cassidy’s behavior toward Harry. She had to admit, Ginny had a point. She did have a very different look and voice when she talked to Harry, as well as an inordinate amount of hair flipping. She was happy to see, at least, that Harry’s behavior with her was no different than it was for anyone else, other than Ginny of course.
Ginny, however, did not take solace in Harry’s good behavior. Every word Cassidy said to him grated her nerves raw, and every look that she gave him made her blood boil. So, after only two weeks of school, even Draco Malfoy found it easy to push her over the edge.
“Sitting here all alone huh?” Malfoy asked, as he walked up to the library table Ginny was sitting at.
“What’s it to you, Draco?” Ginny asked in response.
“Nothing at all,” Malfoy replied. “Of course I would have expected to find Potter here with you if I didn’t know that he had something more important to do on a Saturday than to spend it with his girlfriend.”
“Harry’s going to meet me here when he gets done,” Ginny said trying to force herself not to think of where he was.
“I have to hand it to you, Ginny,” Malfoy said, “I don’t think I could put up with it. Harry leaves you here so he can go to the room of requirement and give Cassidy private lessons, and you sit here without a care in the world. Maybe you don’t know then.”
“Know what?” Ginny said starting to lose her patience.
“That Cassidy Silverwood is in love with your boyfriend,” Malfoy said. “She sits in the Slytherin common room every night and writes letters to her friends back in America and tells them about melting ever time he looks at her. She even told me that she came here this year with one goal in mind. She means to get it, too. She says that she won’t let anyone stand in her way of getting what she wants. And you sit here, not standing in her way at all.”
“I happen to trust Harry, Malfoy,” Ginny said as she got up and gathered her things together. “Maybe that’s something you wouldn’t know about.”
Ginny turned and left the library. She wasn’t about to let Malfoy know that what he said had gotten to her as much as it did. As it was, Ginny found herself in a nearly blinding rage. Harry was her man, and if Silverwood wanted a fight she was going to get one. She knew where to find them, but she had the presence of mind to make a little detour first.
Ginny was nearly in a blinding jealous rage as she made her way to the room of requirement. It was bad enough that she had to give up so much time with Harry so that he could give private patronus lessons to Cassidy, the new object of desire for most of the male student body, but trying to endure the pestering from Malfoy about it had finally sent her over the edge.
Ginny neared the room where she would find the two of them doing, whatever it was they were doing. Even as boiling mad as she was, she had had the forethought to stop by Harry’s dorm and take his invisibility cloak, so she could slip in and see what they were up to without alerting them to her presence.
Covering herself in the cloak, Ginny slowly turned the knob of the door until she felt the catch give way. She pushed the door open gently, knowing that this was her greatest chance of being caught in the act. If Harry or Cassidy were facing the door, they would see the door open and know that someone was spying on them. To her relief she found herself entering a room very much like the Defense Against he Dark Arts classroom, and Harry and Cassidy were both at the far end of the room facing away from her.
She shut the door as silently as she could never taking her eyes off of the two of them. She caught her breath when Harry turned around and looked toward the door as if he had heard something. Harry apparently dismissed the thought and turned to resume the lesson just in time to produce his own patronus to drive the dementor back into the wardrobe it had sprang from.
Ginny took great satisfaction in seeing that Cassidy Silverwood was lying sprawled out on the floor having succumbed to the effects of the dementor. What she took no pleasure in was seeing Harry bend down and gently revive her and help her back up after giving her a piece of chocolate to eat.
“I still can’t believe that you’re in your final year,” Harry was saying to her, “and you have never even tried to produce a patronus.”
“Well, there would never have been any need for me to,” Cassidy said in her all too silky voice that made Ginny’s blood boil. “There aren’t any Dementors in America.”
“Well,” Harry continued, “anyway, at least you managed to produce a silvery mist that time. I suspect that you may need to choose a happier memory to hold on to during the spell.”
“I was thinking about when I defeated Hornquist last year, and the way I felt after it was over,” she said. “I really thought it would be enough.”
“Maybe it isn’t personal enough to you,” Harry said. “Maybe Hornquist wasn’t something that brought you joy, it was just something that needed to be done.”
“Is that the way you feel when you think about Voldemort?” she asked gently. “Is it a duty you have to do that doesn’t bring you any joy?”
“None at all,” Harry said. “Voldemort to me is the embodiment of fear and oppression. When I think of him I can’t help but feel anything but pity.”
“For Voldemort?” Cassidy asked surprised.
“Yes,” Harry said seriously. “At one time, Voldemort was a boy much like myself. He could have been a great wizard. But he chose a different path. The things he’s done to himself trying to make himself more powerful; transfigurations, taking potions that would alter him physically as well as mentally, spells to extend his life. I think there is a little bit of what drives Voldemort in all of us. We all want to be the best at what we do. He chose his way though, and there is nothing that can bring true joy back to him. For that reason I pity him.”
Cassidy was silent for some time before saying softly, “I guess the two of us are the only ones who could really understand that.”
Harry was lost in thought for just a moment before he snapped back into the moment and asked, “Do you think you’re ready to try again?”
Cassidy considered that while she looked into Harry’s eyes for a moment. “I think so,” she finally said.
Ginny watched as Harry opened the wardrobe and a Dementor sprang out of it heading straight for Cassidy. A bright silver flash sprang from the end of Cassidy’s wand and coalesced into the form of an eagle that instantly began driving the Dementor back to its hiding place. When Harry closed the door, Cassidy lowered her wand and the eagle disappeared.
“Well done, Cassidy,” Harry said with a wide grin.
“Thanks, Harry,” Cassidy said smiling and moving closer to
Harry. “I never could have done it without you.”
“You must have come up with a really happy thought,” Harry said. “Most people don’t produce a patronus so early on.”
“Maybe I should just show you what I was thinking about,” Cassidy said smoothly as she closed to within inches of Harry.
Ginny’s insides felt as if they were being wrenched out of place as she watched Cassidy reach out and take Harry in her arms and pull him into her until her lips crushed onto his in a passionate kiss. Ginny didn’t know whether to scream out or just die where she stood. She knew that Harry was lost to her now. The person she had loved was being stolen away from her and there was nothing she could do to get him back.
Harry realized too late what Cassidy was up to, so his reaction time was a bit slow, but he eventually managed to push Cassidy away from him and take a few steps back.
“What are you doing?” Harry managed to ask Cassidy surprised.
“I would have thought that would have been obvious,” Cassidy said still savoring the touch of Harry’s lips.
“You can’t do that, Cassidy,” Harry said sternly, “you know I have a girlfriend.”
“Oh come on, Harry,” Cassidy said. “Don’t you think I’m attractive?”
“What does that have to do with it?” Harry spat, his temper beginning to flare.
“Can’t you see what a good team we would make, Harry?” Cassidy asked. “I’m attracted to you, and you’re attracted to me. We both have experience fighting dark wizards. That in itself would be enough to form a bond between us. Surely you can see that I would be a better girlfriend for you than the Weasley girl could ever hope to be.”
“That’s a lie,” Harry said looking at Cassidy with disgust. “You have no idea what a wonderful woman Ginny is or how important she is to me. The bond I have with her is stronger than you can possibly imagine.”
“Oh give me a break,” Cassidy said with a sudden nastiness in her voice. “Do you really think she’ll stand beside you as you battle with Voldemort? She’ll run at the first sight of him.”
“Then you obviously don’t know Ginny very well,” Harry said resisting the urge to throw a hex at her. “She has already stood with me in battle, and she would likely place herself in front of me as a shield if she could.”
Cassidy said, “All hail Saint Ginny. Good God, Potter, she’s just a girlfriend, not your wife.”
“Not yet,” Harry said
Ginny had to stifle a gasp while at the same time controlling her sobs as tears of joy streamed freely down her face. She had been so blinded by her jealousy that she had lost faith in Harry’s feelings for her. Knowing now that she had been so very wrong was almost more than she could take.
Harry stood glaring at Cassidy with pure disgust in his eyes and said, “The training is over. You got what you wanted from me, so there won’t be any need for further sessions.”
With that, Harry turned and started toward the door, passing through it with a thunderous slam that seemed to shake the very room.
“We’ll see who gets the last word, Potter,” Cassidy said, all of the sweetness gone from her voice. “I’ll defeat Voldemort myself, and then I’ll take care of you and the Weasley brat.”
Cassidy only had a split second to notice as a bolt of light flashed out of nowhere and caught her squarely in the chest, knocking her to the floor unconscious.
“We’ll be ready for you when the time comes, Silverwood,” Ginny said as she pulled the invisibility cloak off, and turned to leave the room
Ginny left the room of requirement and headed for the Gryffindor common room, where she was hoping Harry would have gone. She was just about to say the password that would cause the portrait to open when it opened on its own, and Hermione walked out into the hallway.
“Ginny, what is going on?” Hermione asked.
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked a bit confused.
“I hope you and Harry didn’t have a fight,” Hermione said.
“What makes you think that?” Ginny asked suspecting what might be wrong.
“Well Harry just stormed into the common room,” Hermione said, “and went up to get his broom, before storming back out again looking mad enough to kill.”
“No we didn’t have a fight,” Ginny said. “He’s just had his faith in someone destroyed, and you know how Harry feels about that. I would say he’s headed to the quiditch pitch to get some frustration out. I think I’ll stroll down there and see if I can talk him down.”
“Wait a second,” Hermione said as Ginny was turning to go. “Who was it that upset him like that?”
“Let’s just say I don’t think we’ll be seeing quite as much of Miss Silverwood anymore,” Ginny said with a noticeable twinkle in her eye. Before she turned to leave she held out the invisibility cloak to Hermione and asked, “Oh, would you mind taking this back up to Harry’s dorm for me?”
Ginny walked out of the castle and headed for the quiditch pitch just in time to look up and see a familiar blur streak nearly straight up at a fantastic speed. Harry kept climbing until he was no more than the faintest dot to anyone on the ground. Ginny watched as Harry sped around in great circles with as much speed as he could muster.
The thing that Ginny started to notice was that the more Harry flew out his rage the darker the sky seemed to get. It had been quite a nice sunny day before, but somehow all of that was changing. Thick dark clouds seemed to roll in from every direction. As Ginny looked around she noticed Professor Dumbeldore standing on a high balcony watching intently the unfolding events.
Students who had been sunning by the lake began running for cover when cold rain began sheeting down on them and lightning flashed across the sky. A fierce storm was in full bloom, but Ginny didn’t run for the castle. She continued to walk into the stadium and stood soaked to the bone in the middle of the pitch. She noticed that Dumbledore was also still watching, though he had taken the trouble to summon a shield that kept the rain off of him.
A few minutes later Ginny saw Harry go into a screaming dive that looked as if he would slam straight into the ground, with lightning just missing the tail of his broom. Ginny knew Harry though, and no matter what his state of mind, he was not the suicidal type. He did have a talent for taking it to the edge of the point of no return though, so she was relieved to see him pull out with just inches to spare before rocketing back into the sky above.
Even through his rage though, Harry had noticed something as he pulled out of his dive that made him cut his ascent short at around a hundred feet above the stadium. As he steadied his broom he looked back down to see Ginny standing perfectly still watching him. Something in him seemed to dissolve in that moment, and a warm feeling started to envelop him even as the cold raindrops eased their assault upon his skin. As he slowly descended toward Ginny, rays of brilliant sunlight broke through the departing clouds and made her skin glisten sweetly before him.
Harry landed only a few feet away from Ginny and dismounted his broom as she stretched out her hand for him. Not taking his eyes off of her, he took her offered hand into his and felt his entire body tingle as if it had just been bathed in happiness. The skies were clear once again.
Næst er það kafli 16.