Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: Induction :: 17 :: Reestablishing Routines

17 • Reestablishing Routines

It wasn’t until the day the students were to arrive that Harry felt comfortable enough to move ahead with his newest plans. He had been made aware of several attacks against him, keeping his definition of attack to mean any time Voldemort either deliberately tried to access his mind, or when it happened inadvertently because Voldemort’s emotions were running high. However, because the students were expected, he thought it would probably be a bad idea to render himself unavailable just then.

So, instead, Harry set to thinking about what he wanted to do about Severus’s Dark Mark. Assuming he could actually figure out how to remove it, he had no idea what he would actually do at that point. If he were to remove it, a lot of questions would be raised—questions Harry wouldn’t want to answer. But leaving it in place presented a different kind of danger.

Well, he thought, I reckon there’s no sense in getting wound up about it until I have more information.

After coming to that conclusion, Harry went back to his studies. His morning was spent in the lab working on another new potion he needed to master. Lunch was a quiet affair in his lounge after having firecalled for a meal, and then he was back in his lab for another potion. By the time he left to take a shower before dinner, Harry’s hair was feeling decidedly oily, making him all that much more ready to clean up. In retrospect, he felt a slight pang of guilt for having called Severus a greasy git in the past.

He dried himself off and dressed, then walked to the main entrance and spoke to Professor McGonagall. “Would it be all right if I went down to meet the train, or should I remain here?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, “I see no reason why you cannot. But I trust you will be cautious and watchful.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Harry took off before she could change her mind, jumping into a carriage outside before it had a chance to start its journey down to the station. When he arrived, Hagrid was already waiting, so they chatted until the train pulled up. Hagrid began his calls for the first years, so Harry waited patiently for his friends to disembark.

“Harry!” came a shout from further down the platform. He turned to see Ron and Hermione racing up toward him, dodging around other students and garnering more than a few dark looks in the process. He caught Hermione in a hug, then exchanged a round of back slaps with Ron in greeting. They immediately made for a carriage and piled in.

“I thought I’d sit at the Gryffindor table tonight so we can catch up,” Harry said.

“I’d been wondering about that,” said Hermione. “You aren’t a student now, so we had no idea where you’d be sitting for meals.”

Harry nodded. “I have a choice, basically. I can sit with you, at the head table with Remus, or eat in my rooms. And I’ll probably end up doing all of those depending on how busy I am or how I feel at the time.”

“I still can’t believe you’re going for your Mastery,” said Ron with a slight frown. “But if it makes you happy. . . .”

“It does,” Harry affirmed. “I’m having loads of fun.” He cut himself off, continuing once they were inside the Great Hall and seated. “That guide you got me for my birthday has been lots of help too, Hermione. I also picked up a test booklet so I can gauge my retention of the material.”

She gave him a bright smile in response. “That’s very nice, Harry. But shush now. They’re bringing in the first years.”

Ron rolled his eyes and settled into a bored expression—leavened occasionally by morose glances at his empty plate—as each new child was sorted into a house. Harry clapped for all of them, even the new Slytherins, and was not in the least surprised when Dumbledore stated during his start of term announcements that Hermione was that year’s Head Girl. He did, of course, give her a pleased hug before loading up his plate.

In between bites he told Ron, “Your mum’s cooking is just as good as this, so I was quite happy with what you sent for my birthday. Aunt Petunia isn’t that good of a cook.”

Ron grunted; his mouth was stuffed.

When the meal was nearing its end, Harry said, “Do either of you have to be in a meeting or anything right after? I know you must have been in one already on the train.”

“No,” Hermione answered. “Why?”

“Why? I wanted to show you my rooms. Thought you might like to see where I’m living. I reckon if I don’t, you’ll be asking soon enough.” Harry gave her a cheeky grin.

Ron nodded vigorously as Hermione shot Harry a dark look. “Yes,” she said primly, “I would like to see them.”

“Great. It won’t take but a few minutes and I assume you’ve already told the Gryffindor prefects the password for the tower.”

“Did you want to know it as well?” she asked.

“Should I? I’m not a student anymore, or staff.”

Hermione frowned slightly and tapped her chin. “I don’t know,” she said finally. “I’ll have to ask and get back to you on that.”

Harry nodded, and, when Ron had finished eating, he led them down into the dungeons, ignoring the horrified look on Ron’s face during the short trip. At the door he hissed the password, then gestured for them to enter ahead of him.

“It’s not much, but I rather like it,” Harry explained. “I’ve got a lab, a small kitchen, bedroom, and bath, but I might have told you that in my last letter.”

“It’s very nice, Harry,” Hermione commented, then stuck her head into the lab and gasped. “Merlin, Harry, you’ve got everything in here.”

Noticing a faint look of unease on Ron’s face, Harry said, “Yeah. I was really surprised when I saw what they’d done. I’ve been using it a lot, though, and it means I don’t have to intrude on classes or anything. At least if I blow something up I won’t have any witnesses to laugh at me.” That made Ron grin, so Harry relaxed.

“That fireplace doesn’t allow for floo travel, does it?” asked Ron.

“No. Just firecalls. I’m not even sure I can firecall to anyone outside the castle—I’ve never bothered to try.”

“Well, Harry, if things get really rough this year, I might ask you occasionally if I can work here to get away from the hordes of people in the common room or the library.”

Harry shrugged and nodded at Hermione. “As long as I can be here, I don’t see why not. I don’t know yet what kind of schedule I’ll be on. The Mastery work is mostly self-study, but the Defense training schedule is something I have to work out with Remus.” He turned to Ron and said, “Do you know yet who’s Captain this year?”

Ron puffed out his chest and said, “I am. Got the letter just last week.”

“That’s brilliant, mate! I’m really proud of you. I knew you could do it.” Harry smiled widely and slapped Ron on the back. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me at dinner.”

Ron gave him a sideways look and said, “I was busy eating. You know.”

Hermione spoke up to say, “It’s getting on, so we should head up to the tower. Harry, I’ll ask Professor McGonagall about the password, all right? Come along now, Ron. We don’t want to set a bad example.” Before Harry had a chance to say anything else she had taken Ron by the arm and dragged him out the door.

Harry didn’t sense any attacks that night, or for the next few. He did, however, get to talk to Remus about his Defense training and begin his lessons. Going on the theory that after a hard morning of work at Potions Harry would be less alert, Remus scheduled training on weekday afternoons. He had said by way of explanation, “If you’re tired, your reflexes will be blunted, so if I can get excellent results out of you now, you’ll be even better when you’re refreshed.”

Rather than start Harry out immediately on dueling, though, Remus had begun forcing him to inventory the contents of the room they were in, plus provide a use for each item in a combat situation. For example, if there was a blanket or other covering of some sort available, Harry could try to maneuver his opponent around so that he could—in theory—levitate the material up and over to drop on his opponent and temporarily blind him. Benches could be kicked or flung across the room, dirt could be scooped up out of sight and thrown into his attacker’s eyes. Rocks could be used to divert a spell off target. Harry recognized that Dumbledore had used similar tactics against Voldemort at the Ministry, and applied himself industriously to the mental conditioning.

The second aspect of his early lessons was to moderate the volume of his voice as he cast spells with the aim of bringing it down to a mere whisper. What one’s opponent couldn’t hear, or lip read—assuming the wand movements didn’t give the spell away—they couldn’t counter as easily. And because wand movement recognition was a risk, Harry concentrated on reducing those to the absolute minimum as well.

The first time Harry did feel an attack was the first Friday night of the term. He had eaten dinner in the Great Hall with his friends, then gone up to visit in Gryffindor tower for several hours, and was only just back in his rooms when he felt the peculiar sliding sensation over his barriers that heralded an attack. After checking to be sure his bedroom door was closed, Harry flung himself on the couch and closed his eyes, reminding himself to breathe normally.

A second later he was carefully inching along the connection he could feel—that was the image supplied by his mind—working his way closer and closer to the source. Abruptly, he was seeing out of eyes not his own.

He laughed wildly as he stared at the heavily-breathing figure on the floor. “Crucio!” he said in exaltation, cackling as the figure erupted into fresh spasms and earsplitting howls of pain. “You’ll have to do better than that,” he scolded. “I don’t think you quite understand who is in charge here.” When the sight no longer amused him, he lifted the curse with a flourish of his wand.

“The next time I ask you for your boy, you will bring him. I don’t care if he’s at Hogwarts or not. Find a way. If you fail again, I can’t be held accountable for what I might do to you.

“Bella!” he roared. “Take this sniveling fool out of my sight.”

“Yes, master,” she breathed as she stepped forward, then immediately turned to levitate the man and march him out of the room, not caring when his head smacked into the door frame. A moment later he heard a loud thump and a smiling Bellatrix sauntered back in to take her place.

“Would anyone else care to tell me of their failures? Are you sure?” His mouth stretched into a wide grin. “The next one dies, my loyal friends. The raid tomorrow will go off as planned. If even one of you blithering idiots fails I may well kill the lot of you! Now get out!”

Harry spent the next ten minutes listening to Bellatrix—who hadn’t left with the others—simper at and fawn over Voldemort. When he started to feel like he might gag at the sight, he opted to try to get out. He followed the same line he had used to get in, though his progress felt faster. After having read a number of books in his search for possible ways to deal with Voldemort he supposed there might be some validity to the idea that returning to one’s own physical form was always easier.

When Harry was entirely in his own body and staring at his own ceiling, he felt both excited and disappointed. The line was there; the line was always there. He could visit Voldemort’s mind at any point. It didn’t mean he was going to find out anything interesting. On the other hand, he could visit at any time, and apparently get right back out.

He wrestled with his conscience briefly. It was a step toward endorsing cruelty to be disappointed that he hadn’t witnessed a Marking, and he didn’t like that about himself at the moment. But he wasn’t going to learn anything if he couldn’t see what he needed to see, and that required some poor fool being hauled before Voldemort. Logic stepped in at that point—unless Harry truly defeated Voldemort more people were going to be Marked. He couldn’t yet prevent it, so he might as well learn from it so he could. Nothing said he had to enjoy it.

He had learned two things, neither of which was very useful. He couldn’t warn anybody about the raid, and he wasn’t sure the boy Voldemort wanted to see was to be Marked. The only thing he could do was to keep checking in, and not always when he sensed an attack.

*

Harry was watching the next morning, having kept to his quarters. He had one of his books in hand to read, and checked every so often to see if Voldemort was doing anything interesting. He knew that it was unlikely for Voldemort himself to participate in a raid, but without being able to discount the possibility, he felt it was wiser to keep a weather eye open.

By the time lunch rolled around nothing of interest had occurred, and Harry was getting restless, though his forays had become much easier to accomplish. Putting his book on the table, Harry left his quarters to eat in the Great Hall. His seat conveniently placed him between Remus and Severus. When he was not there, the empty space was a silent reminder for Remus to leave Severus alone, and when he was present, Harry got to sit between two of his favorite adults.

Remus was happy to have the additional company, and a constant stream of low-voiced talk passed between them as the meal progressed. Sensitive topics were avoided in favor of discussions on training, news, quidditch—anything safe. Two odd things happened, though, before Harry left the Great Hall.

The first was a note that Severus slid across the table to him. Harry shifted it so it was centered below his plate and read it while he toyed with his food.

We should discuss Occlumency soon.

Harry slipped the note off the table and tucked it into his pocket, giving Severus a tiny nod in the process. Several minutes later, when Harry was about to rise, Albus came to stand behind him. “Sir?”

“There is something I forgot to do earlier, Harry. Would you be so kind as to come with me?”

“Of course, professor.” Harry noticed in his peripheral vision that Severus tensed slightly and wondered why. When the headmaster stepped back, Harry rose, then followed him to his office.

“Harry, I realized when I saw you at lunch today that I have been remiss in my duty to you,” Dumbledore began. “I should have done this the day of your birthday, but I had other, more pressing concerns at the time. That is no excuse, of course.”

“Sir?” He was totally mystified, as usual, by the headmaster’s tendency toward rampant vagueness.

Albus pulled open a drawer of his desk and extracted a small ring of keys. “This, dear boy.” Intrigued, Harry stepped closer, taking the keys the headmaster extended to him. “Those are the keys to the vaults your family held. As an adult, they rightfully belong to you.”

Harry didn’t want to appear to be an idiot, so he nodded and said, “Thank you, sir.” Perhaps it was obvious—or had been—to everyone but him that this was to have been expected, but that didn’t mean Harry had to openly admit he never saw it coming.

They stared at each other for a full minute before Dumbledore said, “Yes, yes, it was certainly time for you to receive those. But, I realize this is a day of relaxation for you, so I won’t keep you any longer, unless there is anything you need to talk to me about.” A benevolent smile was aimed at him.

“No, sir. I expect Remus has already told you how things are going.” Harry slipped the keys into his pocket and smiled. “Thank you, again.” He ducked out as quickly as he could without seeming rude and hastily sought his rooms. The whole encounter left him feeling unsettled and disturbed. The headmaster had acted almost as though he had expected some deep and startling revelation to spill from Harry’s mouth, and Harry hadn’t the faintest idea how to react to the implied questions. He made a mental note to ask Severus if the headmaster knew exactly what he’d been up to when it came to his method of teaching Harry Occlumency.

When he gained the privacy of his quarters he searched out his map and activated it, then spread it over the table next to his couch. If he did actually sense an attack from Voldemort that afternoon or evening, he wanted to know if Severus responded to it by seeking out Albus. Harry sat down, checked in on Voldemort and saw nothing of interest, then picked up his book and resumed reading where he’d left off earlier. He hadn’t been there much over an hour when someone knocked on his door. When he cast the revealing spell he saw Ron pacing back and forth. Harry set down his book, quickly hid the map, then rushed over to allow his friend entrance.

“Harry, you’ve got to come,” said Ron seriously.

“Come in, and what?” He closed the door and spun around to see Ron pacing again. “Ron?”

“The quidditch tryouts.” Ron gave him a slightly wild-eyed look and said, “We have to pick a new seeker, remember? I don’t care if you aren’t a student. I want you there where I can get my hands on your opinion.”

Harry relaxed. “You had me worried for a moment.”

“And you should be! Without you—” Ron stopped pacing and glared at him. “You’re coming even if I have to drag you to the pitch.”

Harry glanced all around the room, even over his shoulder, then back at Ron. Grinning, he asked, “You and what army?”

“You’re coming,” Ron insisted.

“Of course I’ll come. But if Madam Hooch gets testy, I’m not taking the blame.”

Ron stumped over to the couch and flopped down. “We’ve got about a half hour before we need to head over. Say, do you ever wonder what happened to Malfoy?”

“Now that you mention it, I hadn’t thought about him and his friends.” Harry dropped into his chair and frowned. “I expect they’re over at Durmstrang?”

“Do you think the headmaster would tell you if you asked?”

“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “Why?”

“Are you feeling all right, mate? Malfoy tried to kill you, remember? I’m curious about what happened to him.” Ron’s voice rose in pitch with each word.

Harry held up his hands in surrender. “All right, I was just asking. I can try.” He shrugged and continued, “Though, I don’t know if he’ll be able to tell me anything.” Harry checked the clock and stood up.

“What are you doing?”

“Getting ready.” Harry went down the hall and opened the door to his bedroom. He stashed the keys from his pocket in the library trunk, then grabbed a set of robes and pulled them on. Exiting, and tugging the bedroom door closed behind him, Harry returned to the lounge.

“No broom?” Ron asked.

“I’m only going to be there to watch.”

“But—”

“If Madam Hooch doesn’t mind that I’m there, I can use a school broom to hover so I could watch more properly. I don’t need my Firebolt for that.” After another look at the clock he added, “And we should get going.”

The walk didn’t take that long, Madam Hooch wasn’t annoyed, and Harry was soon hovering on an old broom high up, watching the seeker hopefuls race around the pitch. When their trial was over, he retired to the side of the field and got comfortable on the grass, resting his back against one of the stands. Then he quickly became bored, and spent the majority of his time suffering through yawns that threatened to break his jaw if he resisted. He was exceedingly grateful when it came time to discuss who was to be added to the team, and even more grateful when he could trudge back up to the castle.

He split off from Ron at the second floor landing and headed toward Dumbledore’s office, whispering the password and letting the stairs twist him upward. Still yawning, he knocked on the office door and stepped in a moment later.

“What is it, Harry?” asked Dumbledore with his usual smile.

Harry was beginning to get a bit wary of that smile, but returned it nonetheless. He felt a little silly showing up so soon, but figured he might as well get it over with. “I’ve been thinking,” he said, “and was wondering if you might be able to answer something for me, sir.”

“I’ll certainly do my best, dear boy. What do you wish to know?”

“It occurred to me that, while I know the immediate result, I never did wonder until now what happened to Malfoy and the others after they were expelled. Do you? And do you think they’re a threat of any kind?”

Dumbledore didn’t speak for a moment, his eyes taking on an odd gleam—one that Harry immediately associated with an evening encounter approximately three years prior. Then he said, “I’m afraid I don’t know, Harry. After they were removed from the school, I lost sight of them.”

“I thought they might have ended up at Durmstrang,” Harry said with a slight shrug.

“I can check. Were you worried that one or all of them might attempt to return to the castle for something . . . underhanded?”

“I’m not really sure, professor. I just realized I’d never asked, and questions unasked tend to become irritatingly persistent thoughts after a while.”

Dumbledore nodded in understanding. “I will check with both Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, and let you know as soon as I receive answers. Will that suit?”

Harry nodded and said, “Yes, thank you, professor.”

After a quick pause, presumably for Harry to voice any other thoughts, Dumbledore said, “Very well. I will send out letters tomorrow first thing. You run along now and enjoy your evening.”

Harry flashed the headmaster a smile and left, quickstepping back to his rooms. Inside he wondered if he should continue to spy or if he should take care of speaking to Severus. The note had said soon. Coming to a decision, he reversed himself and took the long way around to his mentor’s door and knocked, stepping in once the door opened and closing it behind himself.

Severus promptly dropped a thick tome into his hands. “Soon,” he said. “Look it up.” Then he turned his back on Harry and stalked off to his chair.

Harry winced, put the book back on a shelf, and sat on the couch.

“Now that you are here”—Severus favored him with another one of those looks—“you will tell me if you have anything in particular planned for your weekend mornings.”

Harry shook his head.

“Splendid. You do now. In here, with me, both days.”

“All right. If you think that’s best, who am I to argue?” Harry replied agreeably.

The corner of his mentor’s mouth quirked up. “It will not be much different from before, Haze. Testing your defenses, your ability to lie under veritaserum, and so forth. I plan to work you just as hard as I ever have. I am quite sure it will continue to be a learning experience for you.”

Harry grinned without even thinking about it, immediately wondered why, then recalled the reason. He briefly considered a flippant reply, but he hadn’t worked for so long on his self-control as to give in to the impulse.

“Since there is time yet before dinner, I suggest you go into my lab and demonstrate to me just how well you’ve been doing on your Mastery work.”

Harry leapt to his feet like a good, obedient boy, and headed for the lab.