After finishing his post dinner chores, Harry settled into his room to escape Uncle Vernon's persistent glare. This summer was an improvement over previous summers, but he did not want to press his luck by being constantly underfoot. Harry hadn't decided how much longer he would stay with the Dursleys. He wanted Ron and Hermione to spend as much uninterrupted time with their respective families as possible before he dragged them into unknown dangers. But, each day that passed increased his desire to owl them to pick him up. The thought of their impending journey motivated him to settle at his desk to research spells that might prove the difference between survival and death.
He was so absorbed in his studies that he didn't hear the doorbell ring. The walrus-like bellow of his uncle pulled him out of his studies. "BOY! Boy, get the door." Harry jumped and quickly made his way to the top of the stairs. Glancing down the stairs he realized that he was too late. His uncle's large body was already blocking the front door.
His Uncle threw the door open in one violent motion. "You! What are you doing here?"
A much quieter and calmer voice responded, "I am here to see Harry, of course."
"You can't. This isn't a civilized hour to come calling and I won't tolerate your kind thinking you can disturb us at any time of the day or night," Mr. Dursley spluttered.
The light voice responded in what sounded like an amused tone. "Come now, Mr. Dursley, what can you really do to stop me? Instead of posturing and being rude why don't you just invite me in? I promise you, Harry and I will stay out of your way."
"I'll tell you what I'll do," Vernon roared, "I'll have my freak of a nephew make up for this inconvenience. First that Bumbledor person, and now you, disturbing decent folk in their homes in the middle of the night. I won't stand for that. I'll make sure that boy learns what is right and proper."
"You will do nothing of the sort," Remus interrupted in a curt voice. "Here is a letter from our Minister of Magic granting Harry permission to use magic in the weeks leading up to his birthday. You see, the Minister is convinced that not only Harry's well being, but your entire family's, would be best served if Harry were allowed use of his magic at this time. Now if you will excuse me." Harry watched as Remus Lupin brushed past Mr. Dursley who was too stunned to do anything other than a credible impression of a goldfish out of water.
A bright smile broke across Remus' face when he reached Harry at the top of the stairs. He pulled Harry into a fierce hug and gestured toward Harry's room. "Why don't we step into your room so we can talk a little more privately?"
As soon as Remus closed the door behind them he waved his wand at each of the four walls in turn, ensuring the conversation could not be overheard.
"As Ron would say, 'That was bloody brilliant'!" Harry exclaimed. "What did you do to convince my Uncle about the letter from the Minister? A Confundus Charm?"
"Something even better," Remus replied. "I told him the truth. Here." Remus handed the letter to Harry, who quickly scanned it, eyes widening the further he read.
"This is fantastic. How did this come about? Why did he agree to this? I am not going to accept this if it means he expects me to be his lap dog," Harry stated in a rush.
"Slow down, Harry. A lot has happened since Dumbledore's funeral and we have a lot to cover tonight. Not the least of which is the question you forwarded to me through Tonks. Now, we might as well get comfortable." A quick glance around the room showed Remus a lack of anything which could be considered comfortable. A brief spasm of anger washed across his face before he sighed and cleared a space among the teenage clutter in the middle of the room with a couple quick flicks of his wand. Another quick spell transfigured a couple of Dudley's old items into a pair of comfortable chairs.
"Where to begin?" Remus muttered as he settled into one of the chairs. "All right, the new head of the order is Mr. Weasley." Harry's eyebrows shot upward in surprise. Remus let out a small laugh. "No need to be surprised, Harry. You know that he has a heart of gold and that he's well respected in the Order. What you might not know is that he's also a fine tactician. Plus, his position in the Ministry has allowed us to establish a new relationship with the Minister that wasn't possible with Dumbledore. Even better for the Weasleys, Arthur accomplished this through Percy of all people. While Percy is still not fully reconciled with his family, he is at least talking to Arthur. I am sure you can imagine how happy this has made Molly.
"But I digress. We debated the merits of several candidates. After some debate it became apparent that Arthur was someone we were all comfortable with. So Arthur is in and he has quickly moved to establish a better relationship with the Ministry."
"This all sounds like good news," Harry started. "While I am not very fond of the Minister and the Ministry in general, we are on the same side. Hopefully some good will come of this."
"Some good has already come from this." Remus answered, picking up the letter and good-naturedly tapping Harry on the head with it. "You probably noted that this document declares you a legal adult. Ostensibly it grants you access to your magic outside of school. However, it also means that you can take the Apparition exam. In all ways, you are truly an adult."
"You really haven't answered my original question. Does this put me under obligation to the Ministry?"
"No. At least not in any immediate and tangible sense. You have to understand that the loss of Dumbledore brought the morale of the Wizarding World even lower. Scrimgeour hopes that letting people know the Ministry is working with Dumbledore's old organization will help lift morale a little. It also helps the Ministry be more pro-active. From the Order's point of view, it gives us better resources when we gather reliable intelligence. Just two days ago, Ministry Aurors raided Snape's old residence. This was based on information we provided. In return, they allowed Sturgis to be among the people who go over the items found there."
"Should I be alarmed by the fact that you are telling me all of the Order's business?" Harry questioned. "Don't get me wrong, I want to know. But I can't help feeling that this is a remarkable change in attitude."
Remus smiled. "This is where I have a conflict of interest. I have permission to discuss these things with you. Moreover, I have been asked to invite you to join the Order. But, Arthur and I feel conflicted because we are loath to think of you and your friends fighting a battle that should be the province of adults." Remus held up his hand, forestalling the protest that he knew would be coming. "We care so much for you, and we wish you could be a normal teenager. But, we also know that there is no way we can keep you out of the fight that is coming. We also know there are some things that you are keeping secret. Things we wish you would share with the Order." Harry grimaced and looked away from Remus' penetrating gaze. "Despite this, we are still extending the invitation and we will respect the fact that you have your secrets."
Harry sank back into his chair as he contemplated what Remus had told him. He didn't want to isolate himself from the Order or the friends that he had gained among them. At times his promise of silence to Dumbledore felt like a millstone around his neck. All that was missing was the proverbial shove into the deep ocean. Looking back at Remus he stated, "You can tell Mr. Weasley that I accept. I think there are things that I will be able to offer the Order, and it'll be good to know what's going on with Voldemort."
"Good. Now let's talk about Occlumency. I was a little surprised to hear from Tonks that you wanted to work on this again. It's my understanding, from Dumbledore, that Voldemort sealed his mind to you. And that you have not felt a twinge in scar for over six months. If that is true, why would you want to focus you energies on it now?"
"On the night that Dumbledore died, Snape and I battled near the gates of Hogwarts. He practically knew what I was going to do before I knew myself. He countered my every move and I was helpless against him." Harry slammed his hand down on the table, shaking in anger. "I can't let him beat me so handily again."
Remus frowned in thought. "What you say just doesn't make sense. You are right that a Legilimens does have an advantage in duelling. And you are also correct in thinking that being an Occlumens will help you, not only against Snape, but also with Voldemort. But, everything I have read about duelling against a Legilimens indicates that their advantage is simply an easier time picking up the patterns of your thoughts. It shouldn't have been possible for Snape to know what you were actually thinking. A duel is much too fast paced to pick up specific thoughts. Unless…" He paused and absently looked to the ground. "Well, there is one possibility." Remus leaned forward and in a whisper he continued, "Snape might have put a Teacher's Hook in your mind."
"What! A hook? What are you talking about?" Harry jumped up from his chair and proceeded to pace his room. He stopped and spun to face Remus. "You mean that he can read my thoughts at will?"
"A couple of centuries ago," Remus intoned as he entered teaching mode, "it was a regular practice for a Master to put a Teaching Hook into the mind of their apprentice. It was a useful tool as the Hook allowed a Master to better understand his student's level of comprehension. Learning was greatly accelerated by this process. However, this teaching tool was outlawed because it gave unscrupulous Masters too much control over apprentices' lives. In a couple of extraordinary cases it led to the practical enslavement of the students. Since that time, the practice of using Teaching Hooks has been outlawed."
"How can you check for this and can you get rid of this? I can't tell you how defiled I feel." Harry collapsed back into his chair.
"You need a Legilimens. There is no other means for you to see if a Teacher's Hook is in place. Aside from that, I do think it is a good idea for you to proceed with Occlumency training. It will improve your duelling. When you centre your thoughts, you can approach problems with a clear mind. No amount of training will help you, however, if Snape has done what I think he has."
Harry looked up and leaned in close. "Can't you help me with this?"
"I have solid basic skills in Occlumency, most of the Order do. My skills with Legilimency are even more rudimentary. I can do it but it has to be with a very willing target. Even then I'm clumsy and I can't properly control what I see as I look for the Hook. I am afraid I can't promise that I won't see things that you'd rather I not see. I wouldn't want to violate your privacy or your secrets."
"It wouldn't bother me," Harry said bitterly, "if I didn't have to keep Dumbledore's secrets. I do trust you, Remus."
"There is one possibility that I hesitate to mention," Remus mentioned. "If you do trust me, there is a charm that you can perform that will ensure your secrets stay that way. Religious confessors often use this charm; it prevents the confessor from repeating anything the supplicant mentioned. If we did this I would be incapable of repeating anything you told me or showed me without your permission."
"How do you perform this charm?" Harry asked.
"The incantation is simple enough, Quies Specialis Confiteor, which basically translates to Intimate Quiet Confessor. The trick is to cast Finite Incantatem when you're done with your confession. Oh, and we need to be grasping hands when you perform the charm."
Taking a deep breath Harry muttered, "Ok, let's get this over with." Harry grasped Remus' hand and looking into his eyes he incanted, "Quies Specialis Confiteor." A feeling of electrical shock travelled from Harry's chest down through their clasped hands and into Remus. Harry could read Remus' surprise as the spell completed its work.
"Well, that was something unexpected; I think I felt the shock down to my toes." Remus laughed. "Well, now we can get a move on with my Legilimency. I want to apologize in advance as I'm sure I'll be as delicate as a herd of elephants running through the plains of Africa. Now please lie down, there is a good chance this is going to hurt."
Harry went to his bed and tried to get comfortable. The knowledge of what was about to happen kept him from being able to lie still and he nervously watched Remus cross the room and sit on the edge of the bed. Grasping Harry's hand again, he looked into his eye and quickly brought up his wand muttering, "Legilimens."
Remus found himself in Dumbledore's office. The Headmaster was behind his desk holding up a damaged ring with his equally damaged hand. The scene shifted and this time Remus saw Dumbledore standing before a basin that gave of an eerie green glow. The images and thoughts began moving more rapidly; Ginny smiling at him as they sat by the lake, Inferi rising out of water, Dumbledore falling over the parapet of the Astronomy tower. With a supreme effort, Remus took control of the situation and the images froze. Slowly feeling his way across the landscape of Harry's mind, he spotted an unnatural protrusion. He mentally imagined himself reaching for it and once grasped, he pulled sharply.
Harry could feel the intrusion; it felt as if someone was slowly pushing his way around in his mind. The sensation became almost unbearably painful when it felt as if a shard of glass was being forcibly removed from his mind. His body arched upward in spasm before it once again collapsed back into the bed. It was several immeasurable moments before he realized that someone was speaking to him and holding a damp cloth to his head.
"Harry, can you hear me? Come on, Harry, open your eyes. I shouldn't have done this." Harry could tell that Remus was very worried and he slowly opened his eyes to see Remus looking down anxiously at him.
"I'm fine. What's all the fuss about?" He tried to get up but immediately realized that he was much better off lying still in bed. "How long was I out?"
"About five minutes," Remus answered in relief. "You need to rest now. What I did was much more invasive than I anticipated and you'll probably have a splitting headache tomorrow. We have much we still need to talk about, but for now you need to sleep." Remus started to get up but stopped as Harry's hand darted out and grabbed his sleeve.
"Remus," Harry muttered, "thanks for being my confessor."
Remus laughed. "Who ever heard of a Saint that needed a confessor? What an unlikely pair we are. Now hush and go to sleep. I'll be back first thing in the morning so we can take up where we left off. Goodnight, Harry."
AN:Thank you to all of you who reviewed. Each one was very much appreciated. I am sure it comes as no surprise that they are very motivating. I would also like to thank Tante for applying her awesome beta skills to this story.