Authornote: I would like to thank you for your patience to wait for an update that long. The past few weeks were pretty against me. Some of you may know that I was in the hospital and after that I needed some time to recover. Through this I couldn’t give Perivayne enough feedback. I thank her very much for her guidance and that she was so kind to point out flaws in this chapter which I send her without this you wouldn’t be able and read this update.
Chapter 6 – Training and Trials
The armchair was old and uncomfortable and the sun shining through the dingy windows played straight across Harry’s face. It was now midday and the sun at zenith, the air warm and humid with the heat of summer, but Harry still felt a chill deep inside.
In the last few days, so much had happened that his mind was still seeking to come to terms with all the changes and shocks. Always searching for a better solution for his problems but it seemed there were none to be found and Harry could not stop the wondering. Hermione’s parents still hovered between life and death. Ron did not even know the impact of this new curse. It was only a matter of time until he began to figure it out or started to wonder why his parents were acting strangely. Harry hated to keep Ron in the dark just because his parents didn’t want let him deal with this situation.
“Harry, are you listening to me?” The soft voice of his headmaster penetrated his circling thoughts. Harry looked up into his blue eyes, which were only twinkling this time because of the sunlight that touched lightly on the side of Dumbledore’s face.
“Sorry, sir. I was just – “
”Just deep in your thoughts; I understand, Harry. You carry a heavy burden on your young shoulders. As I said, we do not know what Voldemort is planning currently, at least not precisely. I’m determined to inform you as much as is possible. If you know what is happening, then you can prepare. ‘Chance favours the prepared mind.’ A strangely applicable Muggle quote…”
After a short pause, Dumbledore asked quietly, his voice sombre “Do you remember what I said about the curse, Harry?”
Silently Harry nodded. “Only the order, Miss Granger and you know what this curse is doing to its victims and I insist that you do not tell anyone else. We cannot risk the possibility that Voldemort’s followers glean that we know about his new curse. That the Order recognizes it’s design and purpose.” This statement echoed in Harry’s mind, but he felt that Dumbledore wasn’t telling him everything he wanted to tell Harry. That Dumbledore might answer to a higher authority was a concept Harry had learned in the most brutal way last term.
“I know all this already, sir.” Harry stated, irritation rising inside. Again, Harry was having information withheld from him.
“I hope you haven’t told anyone about the prophecy or what you felt when Voldemort possessed you in the Ministry?” Though the sun was shining along Dumbledore’s face, his eyes no longer reflected this light.
“No, I haven’t.” Harry answered in a small voice, suddenly very aware where he was.
The walls of 12 Grimmauld Place seemed to close around him; to swallow him whole. Harry had never felt that since his arrival, but now it overwhelmed him to be here.
Only a few feet away from this room, Harry had seen Sirius for the first time in this ancient house of the Black Family. How could Harry have forgotten Sirius’ loss, even for a moment?
“Very well, then we should start your Occlumency lessons. Voldemort must not be able to manipulate your dreams or your mind. It is now more important then ever to close the Dark Lord out.”
“Now?” Harry questioned, taken aback by the Headmaster’s pronouncement. . He knew a lesson wouldn’t help him today, for it was just would be impossible to clear his mind. Too much had happened the past days, weeks in his life.
Ron’s voice, raised in anger, drifted into the parlour despite the two closed doors. The argument with his parents in the kitchen certainly was still going strong.
“Certainly not today, but tomorrow. Harry, you must know that I can only teach you till the next term starts. I hope you’ll understand that I won’t have enough time to teach you as often as you need during term. Probably on your weekends, but during the week, Professor Sna- “
“No! Not Snape.” Harry interrupted Dumbledore, his voice trembling with rage.
“Professor Snape, Harry. I understand that you don’t want- “
“You don’t understand. I hate Snape. He hates me. I won’t have extra lessons with him again.” With that, Harry suddenly stood up strode from the room toward the stairs.
As he reached the bottom step, Harry heard a loud crack and he ran straight into Dumbledore.
“Do you want Voldemort to be able to trick you again, Harry?” The old wizard’s voice was no longer warm and comforting, but rather cold and abrupt.
Harry stared mutinously into Dumbledore’s eyes. The Headmaster held his gaze and after a moment, simply raised one brow in a questioning gesture.
“NO.” Harry finally shouted, goaded by Dumbledore into a response.
“Then you will have to have occlumency lessons with Professor Snape. Of course I’ll try to teach you as often as possible myself, but I can’t always promise you that. You need to learn restraint and control of your emotions, Harry. If you can overcome your dislike and mutual enmity to learn from Snape, it will only be to your benefit. You cannot let your temper rule your life.” Dumbledore said firmly.
“Tell Snape this. He is the one who hates me because of my father, the one who couldn’t care about Sirius’ death other than to celebrate it and he is the one who chose to serve Voldemort. Who to say that he won’t return to Voldemort?” Harry paused for a moment, then continued, “I hate him and I won’t let him weaken me, not again.”
Harry pushed past Dumbledore and ran up the stairs. Faintly he heard his headmaster’s response.
“Maybe tomorrow you’ll understand.” Dumbledore’s voice was soft and weary.
Panting for breath, Harry leaned his forehead against the cool wood of his bedroom door.
“I’ve had enough…” Harry whispered, his voice horse from yelling. With a final click the door was shut and locked and he was alone. It was something he desperately needed. Times like this he wished for Sirius and his advice. He would understand him. At least, he could tell Sirius about the prophecy. Something furry brushed against his leg, startling Harry from his morose wishing.
He looked down and a squashed ginger face looked back. “Crookshanks, you blighter! You nearly startled me to death.” Remembering his conversation earlier with Hermione, Harry quickly unlocked his door and went to Hermione’s room.
Silently, he eased the door open to find Hermione resting peacefully, one hand tucked beneath her head. Harry looked down at Crookshanks, who gazed up at him with a definite “What?” expression.
“You were supposed to stay with her, you know that?” The ginger cat merely gazed back at the black-haired wizard inscrutably. Harry retraced his steps back to his room and went to relock his door, but Crookshanks was meowing and scratching at it, insistent on being let inside. Giving in, Harry cracked the door wide enough for the familiar to slip through and then shut and locked it once more.
With a soft sigh, Harry slid down against the wall next to his bed, and found his lap instantly occupied by the tomcat that curled up in it and began to purr loudly. The purring intensified when the wizard began to stroke the ginger cat absently.
All the rest of the afternoon, Harry remained in this room and just plain refused to think about tomorrow. Crookshanks remained with him, a stolid comforting presence, rather like Buckbeak had been the previous year, minus the rats, of course. Harry promised himself that Buckbeak would get a special dinner of a certain human rat one day. At dinnertime, he heard Mrs. Weasley softly calling his name from the first floor.
Getting up from his sitting position after several hours proved both difficult and painful, especially with Crookshanks’ bulk cutting off some of the circulation in his legs, but after some groaning and stretching, Harry managed. Crookshanks accompanied him out onto the landing, where Harry instructed the cat to go keep watch on Hermione.
“Don’t let on to Hermione about this. She would just worry about me. She always does.” Harry told Crookshanks as cat headed off to Hermione’s room. He could hear her voice in his mind, lecturing on how he needed to practice his Occlumency.
As he headed downstairs to the kitchen, her voice changed to another familiar plea, “Harry, I’m begging you, please!” he could still hear her desperately. “Please let’s just check that Sirius isn’t at home before we go charging off to London. If we find out he’s not there, then I swear I won’t try to stop you. I’ll come, I’ll d – do whatever it takes to try and save him.”
And she had done just that. Shaking his head vigorously, Harry desperately tried to stop this particular memory and it’s painful conclusion. He did not want to agonize again over his lost godfather and injuries to his best friends who had put themselves in harm’s way for Harry’s sake.
It was early evening now and though Harry had not eaten anything since breakfast, he found he was not hungry. Mrs. Weasley would very likely fret if he missed this meal, so Harry reluctantly went down to dinner.
Painful memories and deeply felt guilt made this house nearly intolerable to Harry. Several times during his isolation, Crookshanks had found his fur dampened by Harry’s quiet tears, but the cat had remained with him. The questions he had asked himself throughout the time he had spent with the Dursleys had been asked to Crookshanks, who could offer no reply except a soft meow or rumbling purr to comfort the boy. Questions about death and what it meant to be dead. About fate and destiny, and could they be changed?
Dinner was a strained affair with the Weasleys definitely showing problems in their interactions. Ron barely spoke, and then only to Harry. Ginny bravely tried to keep a conversation going, but failed. As soon as the meal finished, Harry escaped upstairs with Hermione’s tray. He heard Ron enter the bedroom and slam the door loudly.
Hermione had awoken at the slamming, and was a bit hungry. She ate lightly and then chatted quietly with Harry about nothing in particular. Harry did let her know about the Weasley’s argument and Ron’s anger. Her expression showed concern, but also disdain at Ron’s antics.
“Honestly! No wonder they don’t treat him more like a grown man. He’ll have to show some maturity sometime if he wants them to change.” Harry felt he should defend Ron’s position, since facts were being withheld from their red-haired friend, but Hermione had snuggled back down with an exhausted expression, so Harry held his peace on the matter.
After returning the tray and dishes back the kitchen, Harry carefully opened the door to the bedroom that he shared with Ron. The steady snoring from Ron seemed genuine, so Harry undressed quietly before slipping into his own bed. The last time they had stayed here in this room together flashed through Harry’s mind, with all the pain and anguish that Harry had felt was made fresh once more. At least I don’t have to fear that Voldemort wants to possess me this time, he thought. Still, Harry wished that he could know what it would be like to be free of the fears and expectations. To be anyone but Harry Potter.
On the front page of the Daily Prophet the next morning was the grinning, happy visage of a handsome boy around 19 or so with a Nimbus 2001 broom over his shoulder and waving cheerfully at Harry. Under the picture was the scrolling legend: Benji Looping, the new Seeker of the Tornados.
The front page of the Prophet annoyed Harry a great deal, because not a single line was about the attack at St Mungo’s yesterday. Instead there was just this silly guy and all the other mindless gossip that abounded in the Wizarding World. Behind the paper, he saw the flaming-red hair that belonged to Ginny Weasley.
She seemed to be adopting some of Hermione’s daily morning habits as she intently read the paper as she ate. Harry forced down a bit of his porridge and a couple slices of toast, but nothing else. In the kitchen, the mood was still as tense as the night before, with angry glances still being exchanged between the Weasleys and their youngest son. Hermione was still too weak to come downstairs for breakfast, or so she had said.
The atmosphere in the room did not lighten as the meal continued. Harry kept glancing over at Ginny expecting to see someone else in her place. Ron did not seem keen to talk to anyone, even him this morning. Harry assumed the argument between Mr and Mrs Weasley and Ron had been quite intense since the dark feelings had not even begun to subside.
“Ginny, would you be so kind and bring Hermione her breakfast?” Mrs Weasley said firmly. The shock of hearing her voice caused both Harry and Ginny to jerk in their seats. Ginny was quick to take the opportunity to escape.
“Of course, Mum!” she said joyfully as she laid her paper down and jumped to her feet to take the prepared tray Mrs. Weasley held out to her.
“Isn’t she allowed to get her breakfast herself?” Ron asked sharply.
Harry looked in astonishment from Ginny to Ron and then he looked back to Ginny who just shrugged as their eyes met.
“No, she is not coming down today, Ron. If you haven’t noticed, she is still suffering from being cursed. Hermione is a strong girl, but not invulnerable.” Mrs Weasley answered in the same sharp tone.
“Oh, that’s rich. Like you even care!” Ron snapped back. Mrs Weasley’s face paled ominously as she lowered her voice, “Don’t take that tone with me, young man.”
In the meantime, Ginny gathered some pumpkin juice for the tray and left the kitchen quietly. Harry watched her departure with a wistful look. If only he could escape as easily as she had done. He had never been witness to such unguarded emotion from the Weasley family and it was becoming distinctly disturbing to Harry.
As Harry glanced about for anything to distract the pair, he observed both of their faces were flushing a bright red as tempers roused.
“Bloody Hell, Mum!. Why can’t you accept that I can decide myself now? I’m sixteen years old!” Ron exploded with rage from his chair.
“You are not of age, Ronald Weasley! I’m your mother and I do care what happens to you!” Mrs Weasley’s eyes were bright with unshed tears that made Harry squirm inside with discomfort.
“C’mon Ron, let be, won’t you? Your mother’s just worried for you. What’s wrong that?” Harry said calmly.
His face even redder than before, Ron now turned on Harry. “Who asked you? Who asked you for your opinion? How…how dare you – “
”Ron! Stop this at once! Harry, I think you should go up to your room. Dumbledore should be here to see you very soon.” Mrs Weasley interrupted Ron hurriedly. Harry glanced at Ron as he stood up and left the kitchen with a worried feeling that there was more to Ron’s anger than just his parents’ protectiveness.
As the green-eyed wizard climbed the stairs to the second floor, he realized that he had no idea what had happened yesterday between the Weasleys and their son. This bothered Harry a lot. He entered his room and found Dumbledore was already waiting at him. The tall figure of his Headmaster was standing in front of the windows looking out over the somewhat seedy looking neighbourhood of Grimmauld Place.
“I had just a little chat with Miss Granger and she informed me what colour light this curse had. I’m more than a little bit concerned about our young lady. You know, Harry, that her parents are still in a fragile state, but Hermione refuses to admit any particular weakness stemming from her attack.”
Without a pause, Dumbledore continued as Harry sank onto the edge of his bed, stricken by the elderly wizard’s words. “We both know she is stubborn, but in this case, this attribute could cause her harm. I’m afraid that she seems to be shutting out all of her normal fears and turning inward with an almost manic edge. Now is the time when her true friends must support and sustain her.”
Dumbledore finished speaking, and turned slowly to watch the younger man.
“I know, sir.” Harry said quietly as he gazed down at his hands, clasped loosely at his knees.
Dumbledore’s figure was limned with light as he came forward to place his hand on Harry’s shoulder. Silence filled the room for an endless moment, then Dumbledore made a slight gesture and the lock on the door snibbed with a loud click.
“Let us begin, Harry.”
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