Disclaimer: All property of JK Rowling, I'm just borrowing to play with for a while.
Harry was nineteen years old and back in the Room of Requirement. He and Ginny still came back on certain days to carry on the tradition of "Dumbledore's army" and teach the students how to defend themselves, if need be. Voldemort remained undefeated and they were still at war, so any extra defence lessons the teenagers could get were accepted gratefully; they were scared and wanted to be prepared.
Ginny and Harry had been living together at Godric's hollow since Ginny left Hogwarts. They started to get close in the holidays after Sirius' death. Harry had wanted to retreat into himself and shut away from his friends; this was his way of dealing with grief. Ginny didn't let him though, she forced him to see how much people cared, and after that they became inseparable.
"Ok, everyone!" Harry shouted over the noise of the students. "That's enough for tonight, it'll be time for dinner soon." He turned around and started to clean up the cushions they had been using. In the past few lessons, the students had found they could ask Harry questions and he answered them honestly. They seemed to be thankful that he didn't treat them like kids, he just told them the truth exactly as it was. Harry knew what it was like to be patronized- it wasn't pleasant.
He assumed that they would have more questions tonight and he wasn't wrong. He turned around a few of the crowd had left but the majority had stayed. They were looking up expectantly at Harry as though waiting for some kind of signal.
"You have more questions don't you?" He looked over the teenagers surrounding him they all nodded eagerly.
"Ok," he sighed quietly, and sat on the seat nearest him.
Jamie one of the first years was the first to speak. "Harry, why do the Slytherins come to the DA? Aren't we supposed to be learning how to fight them?" he questioned.
As Harry's eyes swooped over the crowd he found that the few who had left were the Slytherins, and the ones that remained were all nodding their heads in agreement to Jamie's comment.
"You're not learning to fight Slytherins, you're learning how to get out of a duel with a death eater alive, should you ever be forced into one," he answered calmly.
"But it's the Slytherins that are the ones who will turn into death eaters!" a girl to his left insisted.
Harry sighed, "The world isn't separated into good people and death eaters, it's not that simple, and it's not that black and white. Sometimes you have to see the world in shades of grey." He ran his fingers through his hair as he spoke. "Not all Slytherins side with Voldemort."
He smiled slightly as he saw that no one in the room flinched at the name, he had made sure of that. "There will be those in Slytherin who are against Voldemort and people in Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Gryffindor that will support him. You have to decide what you believe," he said to the crowd.
"When you know that, you'll see that some things are worth fighting for, worth dying for. If you continue to think the way you do now, you're weakened. It all comes back what the sorting hat has been singing about for years: 'united we stand, divided we fall!'"
Harry conjured six branches of a tree and passed each one out into the crowd and said, "Break it." They did, then they passed the pieces of wood, broken in half, back to the front with puzzled looks on their faces. He then conjured six more branches identical to the first set only bundled together with string. He threw the bundle out to the crowd and repeated, "Break it. "In turn each child tried and tried but they couldn't do it and the realization of Harry's meaning dawned on each of their faces.
"Divided," he said indicating the pile of broken wood at his feet, "like you are right now - when you assume all Slytherins are bad, and you let prejudices get in the way of common sense. Tonight, did the Slytherins act differently to the rest of you? Talk differently?" he asked his audience, who shook their heads slowly still hanging onto every word he spoke.
"No they didn't, if they had been strangers you would have gone up to them and spoken to them, treated them the same, yet you didn't." He didn't shout at them or make them feel bad; he just stated the truth.
"United," he continued gesturing toward the unbroken bundle, "is practically unbreakable, like we would be if you only opened up your eyes and realised the truth. Like Professor Dumbledore once said 'It's the choices we make that define who we are far more than our abilities' and he was right. Slytherin are supposed to be known for their resourcefulness, determination and ambition. Is that what you think of when you think of Slytherins?" he asked them. He almost smiled as he saw them cast guilty side glances at each other as he asked the question.
"I felt the same way when I was your age, but now I know that I was wrong; I learnt from my mistakes," he smiled.
A third-year boy called Ethan raised his hand slowly. "How do you know you'll learn from your mistakes? How do you know you won't just keep doing the same thing wrong?" he asked.
"Well, when have you made a big mistake in the past?" Harry prompted.
"My brother was taken, when the Death Eaters were going from village to village taking hundreds of children hostage. I don't know how it happened, my back was turned for just a few moments and Jack was gone when I turned back, his twin brother Sam was devastated. I never really been able to look him in the eye again." The small fair-haired boy's voice cracked slightly as he relived painful memories.
"And when you were with Sam after that, I bet you never let him out of you sight did you?" Harry asked softly.
"Well, no, of course not," Ethan answered quickly.
"Is that not learning from your mistake?" Harry questioned, not really expecting a reply. "We all make mistakes and do things and wish we could change but we can't, so we just have to learn from it and move on, no matter how hard that may seem to do."
Maria, a second year girl with brown hair in plaits asked, "So how do you know the answer to everything? How did you get so wise?"
Harry chuckled. "Wise? God no, you're just asking me the same questions I have been asking myself and others for the past nine years. I have had a variety of answers and have decided which I believe; eventually you'll do the same"
"Does it get easier?" a voice said.
Harry couldn't see who had asked so he directed his question to the crowd. "Does what get easier?"
"This," the voice said as the crowd parted slightly until Harry could see a small first-year girl, "living in this world with all this evil and killing? Everyday you hear of more death and torture, a brother, a stranger, a friend. Does it ever get easier?"
Harry couldn't lie.
"No," he simply stated. "But with time you see why people do the things they do, 'Understanding is the first step to acceptance.' That's what Dumbledore said. I'm not saying it makes you forgive them because it doesn't, but understanding why they did it helps."
"And then," he continued, "you start to concentrate on all the good things in life," he looked up at Ginny, who was standing behind the kids watching Harry speak with rapt interest, "those things in your future that you think about when you conjure a Patronus."
He pointed to Ethan and said, "What do you think of?" he asked and smiled slightly.
"I remember the day they finally found my brother Jack, he was ill, but alive, the look on Sam's face, I think that's something I will never forget."
Harry agreed, "You probably won't. And what about you?" he pointed to a fourth-year girl called Emily.
"I remember what it felt like when my mum got her degree to be a Healer. All her life people told her she wasn't smart enough, that she couldn't do it, but she did! She proved them all wrong. I have never been more proud of her then I was that day."
"What was it that spurred her on all those years, to carry on, to never give up? Even with all that discouragement? he questioned.
"My dad," she said simply with a smile.
"And you?" he asked another third-year boy.
"My brother, the day he got the all clear, the day we found out he had fought the cancer."
"And you?" he pointed at a girl near the back; she was a seventh-year
"The day my boyfriend proposed to me, that was the happiest day of my life, knowing I'd spend the rest of life with him."
"And you?" he said pointing at a girl at the side.
"My first day of Hogwarts. I'm nothing like my family at home, they're Dark wizards, I'm not. I came here and Hogwarts became my home, and my friends became my family."
"Well, I can relate to that" Harry said with a smile. "Don't you see that you are looking to the future with these memories? Voldemort or no Voldemort, you know things are gonna be okay as long as you have the people you love right there by your side. Be that family, friends -- a mixture of both -- it doesn't matter, it all amounts to the same thing. After Sirius -- my godfather -- died, I blamed my self for a long time. But there comes a point when guilt fails to be about the person you hurt anymore and more about yourself and that is when you know you have to stop. We think back and wish we could have done things differently, turned back the clocks, but you can't. 'Best not to dwell on dreams' Dumbledore said. You make of that what you will."
"You quote Dumbledore a lot!" said a first-year.
"Yes." Harry answered with a small smile. "Well, he is a wise man, and has said a lot of wise things, and I have a great deal of respect for him. Then again, one of the first questions I asked someone about him was 'is he crazy?'"
A small laugh went about the crowd. "What did they say?" someone asked.
"Something along the lines of 'Brilliant man, brilliant mind, but yes, completely off his trolley,'" Harry answered smiling.
"Now, you better go get your dinner; I'll see you next time," Harry said as he turned away and continued to pick up the cushions as he had started to do before, only this time the teenagers got up and left the room talking happily.
"Wise words, Mr. Potter," a voice said behind him. Harry looked up and spun around to find that Remus Lupin was standing there smiling.
"Remus!" he said and went to shake his hand. They spoke for several minuets before Ginny joined them. Harry felt a tap on his back; he turned to find that Emily stood looking up at him.
"Is something wrong, Emily?" he asked.
"No, not wrong exactly. May I show you, Ginny, and Professor Lupin something?" she asked politely.
"Yes, okay," Harry agreed and she led the three of them to the entrance hall, before stopping abruptly and saying to Harry, "You said 'Best not to dwell on dreams you make of that what you will.' Well, I think it means don't sit there thinking about how things can be, either accept it, or do something about it, if it can be done," she said quickly.
Harry nodded. "Well that makes-"
"So we did," she interrupted and opened up the great hall doors and what Harry saw left him gob smacked. The Gryffyndors were eating with the Slytherins and the Ravenlaws with the Hufflepuffs and so on, they had all mixed together.
"Because of me? Because of what I said?" Harry asked in astonishment. Emily smiled at him, then she walked off to join her friends, leaving Harry, Ginny, and Remus gazing into the hall in amazement.
Harry heard footsteps behind him, and saw Dumbledore standing by him, surveying the hall.
Dumbledore turned to Harry, his eyes twinkling and said, "Mmmm, so miracles do happen," and with that he carried on up to the teachers table, followed by Ginny and Remus, and Harry was left talking to himself.
"Apparently so, sir," he said quietly with a small chuckle. "Apparently so."
AN- Massive thanks to alli_lynn for all her help she has been fantastic and helped so much. I wanted to write this because I always wondered about how Dumbledore knew and how everyone looked up to him. I figured all of this must just have come through life experience, and if anyone has a lot of that it's Harry. After all HP fan fiction writers put him through, he deserved a little reward. :-)