He was trapped. He kept pacing in a circle, watching the figures cloaked in dark robes that were observing him. He felt like a caged animal. The bars were on all sides of him. He felt a longing deep inside. He wanted nothing more than to get outside these bars and rip those on the other side to shreds for the torments they had placed upon him. Time after time, they had poked him, prodded him, cast spells upon him, and forced him to ingest foul-tasting potions.
He knew that if they gave him a chance, any chance, he would escape and they would pay. He would maim and kill every one of them for the suffering they had inflicted on him. He knew it was only a matter of time before they made a mistake, and he would be free. They kept murmuring among themselves and occasionally pointing at him. He felt like a circus animal on display for their amusement.
Suddenly there was a flash of light, and he felt every cell in his body burst in pain. He howled in agony as his body felt like it was tearing itself apart. Finally he found relief, and the blackness of oblivion overtook him.
He was on his back again. His arms and legs were bound in some type of restraints, and no matter how much he struggled and pulled, he couldn't free himself. He was feeling quite frustrated. Once again, he heard voices, but this time, he could distinctly hear the word 'prophecy' above all of the others.
His mind began racing. The prophecy was the biggest secret he knew. If they already knew about that, what else had they already gleaned from whatever they were doing to him? He thought of all the secrets he could have given up. He knew the identities of several Order members and knew that Snape was acting as a spy for the Order. If that information fell into Voldemort's hands, he could use it to target Order members directly and eliminate the one reliable source of information the Order had for Voldemort's plans and actions.
He needed to escape. He needed to get back to those who cared about him and whom he cared about. He began furiously struggling with his bonds, wishing he had his wand to open them. Suddenly, there was a click and he was free. He scrambled off of the table and looked around like a madman, trying to find his wand or something he could use as a weapon.
The figures around him seemed startled, for a moment. Then the nearest one levelled his wand at him. The word Stupefy rang out and a bright red beam of light approached. He sidestepped it easily and heard a muffled thump. He quickly charged the nearest figure to his right and tackled her in an attempt to gain her wand. However, their tangle gave the others the perfect opportunity. He heard several voices at once mutter the Stunning Spell and he knew that he wasn't going to be able to dodge all of them. He tried anyway and found his reflexes were the best they had ever been, and he had actually managed to dodge five or six of the Stunners before being hit in the chest and falling into unconsciousness.
Harry heard voices around him. He gradually headed towards consciousness, becoming more aware of the voices and the presence of others around him. The more awake and aware he became, the more agitated and panicked he became, although he couldn't decide why. He had a feeling of being trapped and restrained – of awful things being done to him.
Harry began to battle with himself, willing himself to wake up. If only he could cast an Enervation Charm on himself. Enervate, he thought and imagined the result: him being able to spring awake. Then the panic began to settle on him and he chanted to himself, again, over and over: Enervate! Enervate! Enervate!
Suddenly, with a gasp of breath that he hadn't realized he had been holding, Harry sprang to a sitting position. He began looking wildly around the room, seeing images of people and cabinets and other beds. However, the rapid beating of his heart and the feeling of being trapped caused him to not be able to focus on anything or anyone.
"Where am I?" he shouted. He darted his eyes around the room while his hands begin fingering the area around him, searching for his wand. Finally, something bright red caught his eye. He forced himself to focus, and finally, his vision seemed to clear. As it cleared, the bright red object coalesced into the form of Mrs. Weasley with a very concerned look upon her face. She immediately stepped forward and embraced Harry.
"Thank goodness, they've found you," she murmured as she squeezed him in a hug that Harry had begun to associate the past year as one that a mother gives a child.
Harry's mind was racing. Found you? he thought. How long has it been since the attack in the alley? Harry didn't think he had been unconscious very long, but then, would he really have been able tell?
After what seemed to be several minutes, Mrs. Weasley released him and placed a peck on his brow. He looked about the room to take in the others present.
Harry immediately recognized the form of the headmaster, Professor Dumbledore, who was gazing at him with a look of curiosity. He took a moment to take in the headmaster, to whom he had not spoken since that fateful night Sirius had died. Dumbledore was wearing relatively subdued robes of midnight blue with various constellations mapped out upon them. His face looked careworn and tired, and the normal twinkle in his eyes was somewhat dimmed. "Harry," he began. "Could you try to tell us where you have been the past eight weeks and what you were doing?
Eight weeks! I've been gone for eight weeks? Harry's mind was racing. It seemed like he had been in the battle just this morning. Could he have been held in captivity for eight weeks while he was unconscious?
Dumbledore saw the confusion on Harry's face, and so he intervened. "Harry, why don't you begin with your return to Privet Drive in June?"
OK, that's easy enough, Harry thought. And he went back and told them of the events preceding his return to Privet Drive. He told them of his dozing in the car on the way there and then his unloading his belongings and carrying them to the room he slept in.
While he was talking, he noted who was in the room with him. In addition to Mrs. Weasley and Professor Dumbledore, there were Madam Pomfrey, Professor Snape, Professor Lupin, and Auror Tonks.
He'd reached the point in his story where he was unloading his trunk and then had fallen asleep when Lupin interrupted him, "Wait a minute, Harry; you don't remember anything on the day you returned to Privet Drive beyond unloading your trunk?"
As he began replaying the events in his head, Harry frowned at his former professor. He had dragged the trunk upstairs, along with Hedwig's cage. He had gone to the loo and had returned to his room and began unpacking and putting his things away. He remembered prying the loose floorboard up to hide some things from his relatives and then…nothing. He couldn't remember becoming tired, laying down on his bed, or anything else.
"Harry," Professor Dumbledore interrupted his reverie. "Perhaps you should begin with the events of this morning." His voice radiated calm and Harry felt it seep into him.
Harry recounted waking up in his room and realizing that all of his things were gone. He made a mental note to ask what had become of them. The tale moved to his realisation that the house on Privet Drive had apparently been abandoned.
Harry paused at this point and asked, "Professor, do you know where the Dursleys are? And does anyone know where all my things are? And what about Hedwig?"
Professor Dumbledore smiled at him. "Harry, our sources tell us that your relatives have been vacationing in Majorca for the past two weeks. As for your belongings, they are currently sitting in your dormitory in Gryffindor Tower."
"But what about Hedwig?" he snapped, fear and concern for his beloved owl growing.
"Harry, dear," Mrs. Weasley interjected, "Hedwig showed up at the Burrow the day after you disappeared. Ginny has been caring for her."
Harry let out a sigh of relief. Good, Ginny is wonderful with animals; she will have taken good care of her. Harry genuinely felt much better. Hedwig, in her way, was possibly his best friend. She was the one who always had to suffer alongside him throughout the summer holidays with the Dursleys. The two had been through a lot together, and Harry could honestly say that he loved her. That wasn't something he could say about many people.
In fact, it was a rather short list. He knew he had loved Sirius, even though he had never told him as much. Ron and Hermione were like the brother and sister he'd never had. He would even go so far as to say that he held a certain amount of affection for all the Weasleys and knew that if something ever happened to any of them, even that prat, Percy, he would mourn.
"Harry, perhaps you should continue your tale with the events of this morning." Harry turned to look at the headmaster and noted the slight, knowing smile that had formed on his face.
While recounting his discovery of the Dursleys' absence that morning, it jogged something in Harry's mind. He paused to ask, "Professor, if I've been gone for the last eight weeks, wouldn't the blood protection around the Dursleys' house have failed?" Harry awaited the headmaster's reply with restrained hope that the protection had indeed failed, which would mean there was no longer a reason for him to return to Privet Drive ever again.
Harry's hopes were dashed when Dumbledore responded, "Harry, I have checked the wards every week since your disappearance, and the wards and protections in place have not faded but have curiously recharged just as they would have had you stayed there."
Harry blew his breath out in a long sigh. He knew his disappointment had shown on his face, but at this point, he didn't really care. He hated staying with the Dursleys. No protection he received was worth the abuse he received at their hands. Unfortunately, Professor Dumbledore didn't agree with him and, as a result, Harry had been consigned to returning to the house on Privet Drive every summer. One more year, he thought, and then I'll be seventeen, and Dumbledore can sod off; I'll never go back there again.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sneering voice of his Potions professor, Severus Snape. "What, Potter, not satisfied with the little vacation you took to get all of this attention? The others may believe your silly lies about not remembering, but I know your type all too well. This is exactly the kind of stunt your arrogant father would have pulled. Disappearing for the attention, and of course, that is exactly what we have given you."
Harry felt the anger and indignation welling up within him. He could suddenly feel heat flowing through his body, building up and begging for release. He clenched and unclenched his fists and ground his teeth. A small part of his mind realized that losing control and attacking the Professor would most likely result in his expulsion from Hogwarts, and he fought to regain control. He could feel a tingling sensation all over his body, as if magic was rolling over him.
Molly Weasley, her face red and scowling in fury, began fumbling for her wand, but the actions of Remus Lupin finally broke the tension. He simply stepped over to the sallow faced Potions Master and, with a growl reminiscent of the werewolf within him, smashed Snape's hooked nose with his fist.
The force of the blow knocked the bandy-legged professor over the hospital bed beside him and into one of the medical storage cabinets. When he struck the glass, it shattered, and the shelves buckled from the impact, dumping bandages and other supplies all over him.
Professor Lupin stalked towards his fallen opponent and likely would have yanked him up and punched him again, had Tonks and Dumbledore not intercepted him and firmly restrained him.
"Snivellus, if you ever speak ill of Harry or his parents in my presence again, I swear, ripping your greasy head from your body would be worth facing Azkaban for." Remus's breath was coming out in gasps, and his face was flushed with anger. Harry had never seen Remus Lupin lose control like this. For the first time since Harry had met him, he could see a hint of the vicious beast, which lived within.
"Remus, that is quite enough," Dumbledore's stern voice rang out. "Severus, after Poppy sets your nose, I believe it would be best if you excused yourself from the remainder of this meeting. It is apparent you have learned nothing since our talk about your failure to teach Harry Occlumency."
Harry was stunned; never before had Professor Dumbledore criticized any of the actions Professor Snape had taken. Then again, it could have been possible that Dumbledore had spoken to him previously about his failings in private, but this had been the first time there had ever been a rift between them in public.
Snape rose to his feet unsteadily, but once he regained his balance, Harry could see he was shaking with rage. He stood there mutely as Madam Pomfrey cast the incantation that would heal the bones in his nose, restoring the hooked appendage to its normal prominence. He snatched a towel from her hand and began dabbing the blood from his face.
He then slung the towel down and stomped from the hospital wing, never acknowledging Professor Dumbledore in the slightest. He flashed Harry a murderous look as he passed by.
"Remus," Dumbledore continued, his voice firm. "Severus's comments were uncalled for and inappropriate, but your response to them was even more reprehensible. We need to realize that we are all in this together."
Yeah right, Harry thought. 'We' might be in this together but 'you' are the one that gets to play God and decide who knows what and who goes where. Harry knew he was being petty in his assessment of the Headmaster, but part of him still resented the way Dumbledore had manipulated so much of his life.
If only he had told me why I needed to learn Occlumency. Harry knew he had been down that road many times, and the only result was an increase in his anger and bitterness towards the headmaster. He fought down those feelings and tried to focus on gathering his thoughts for finishing his tale.
Before Harry could continue with his explanation, Dumbledore interrupted, "Tonks, perhaps you could tell us about the events of this morning."
The Auror stepped into Harry's line of sight, and his first reaction was the assumption that she must have been in a serious scrap recently. Suddenly, Harry didn't feel quite so bad for his opponents getting the drop on him earlier. It looked like they had given Tonks quite a fight, and she was a fully trained Auror.
He examined her appearance. Her heart shaped face usually carried a smile or smirk, but today she held her full lips pensively, as if she were in pain. She had a bruise on her left cheek and her lip was split. Her purple hair was mussed, but not any more than usual.
What was most unusual about her appearance was her clothing. The few times Harry had seen the Auror in the past, she had usually worn torn Muggle jeans, trainers, and some type of T-shirt, usually with the logo of a wizarding musical group. Today, she was wearing a long coat that came to her knees that appeared to be leather or maybe even dragon hide. The boots that came to the bottom of her knees were definitely dragon hide. The overall effect of the ensemble was to make Tonks appear more formidable. Harry reckoned that she could have been wearing torn Muggle jeans and concert shirt under the coat and boots.
Tonks looked around somewhat sheepishly at those assembled and began to relay her story. Harry listened intently as Tonks reported that she had been observing the house on Privet Drive just as the Order had done ever since the day Harry had disappeared. At approximately 7:30 am, Harry was observed leaving the residence through the front door. Tonks had immediately alerted her back-up team of Hestia Jones and Sturgis Podmore, who had Portkeyed in under Disillusionment Charms.
That statement distracted Harry momentarily. Under Disillusionment Charms… His mind began concocting a most fanciful scenario where the two assailants he had defeated in the alley had been the two Order members sent there to protect him.
Harry tuned back into the conversation. Tonks had reached the point where Harry had ducked into the alley. She reported that the three had crept as stealthily as possible into the alley where it appeared Harry had vanished into thin air. According to Tonks, they had nearly been ready to split their group apart and begin combing the neighbourhood, when a Stunning Spell from Harry had nailed Hestia.
"Blimey, Harry, but your Stunners pack a good punch," Tonks interjected into her own report. "Hestia had three cracked ribs from the impact of that spell, and it took me casting Enervate on her four times to wake her."
At that point Harry's blood ran cold. I've used magic to injure someone who was there to help me. His mind raced quickly through various scenarios. I've used underage magic again. There is no way Dumbledore will be able to get me off on this one.
At this point Dumbledore must have noticed Harry's worried expression, because he interrupted his reverie. "Harry, do not become vexed over this: both Hestia and Sturgis are fine. As for the Ministry, for some reason we can't fathom, your magic didn't register on their monitors. We suspect that as news of your disappearance began to filter through the community, they simply redirected their monitors to other locations."
Relief flooded into him at the pronouncement that both Hestia and Sturgis would be fine. As listened to the Professor's explanation for not getting caught for underage magic, he had a feeling that Dumbledore was being less than truthful with him. Although exactly what it was that he wasn't being totally truthful about, Harry had no idea.
"Tonks, please continue," Dumbledore gestured
She picked up her story where she had left off. She described Harry using a Shield Spell to block the Reductor Curse that Podmore had cast at him. Harry watched the expressions on the faces of Lupin and Mrs. Weasley. Lupin's face had gone from one of worry to one of surprise and pride as Tonks continued her report. Mrs. Weasley, however, had worn an expression similar to the one she'd worn when she had been confronted by that boggart last summer in Grimmauld Place. To Harry, it had seemed as if she was as concerned about his well being as she would be about of any of her brood. Her expression fell momentarily to one of wonder as Tonks described Harry casting the powerful Bludgeoning Spell that had apparently broken Podmore's ribs on impact, which led to him breaking his arm when he crashed to the ground after being thrown across the alley. What seemed to impress everyone was that this happened in spite of the fact that Podmore had managed to cast a Shield Spell to absorb much of the impact.
Harry felt his face heating up with embarrassment, and it felt as if his unruly hair had been standing on end as the witches and wizards all glanced at Harry in amazement. Great, Harry thought, through his annoyance and embarrassment, just something else to make me seem different.
He had been pulled from his darkening thoughts as Tonks completed her report by telling of her attempt to sneak up on Harry while underneath an invisibility cloak and of her accidentally kicking a can across the alleyway. She mentioned Harry's immediate reaction of firing a Cluster-Bludgeoning Spell. Tonks mentioned that she was saved from major injury by the fact that she had been startled when Harry reacted and fired the spell at her so quickly, which caused her to trip over her own feet and to fall to the ground, glanced by one of the bludgeons.
According to her, the trip had caused her head to pop out from beneath the cloak, at which point Harry had hesitated. That had given her enough time to hit him with a Stunning Spell. To her surprise at the time, Harry had been merely staggered by the spell, and she had been forced to hit him with a second Stunner, which finally knocked him unconscious.
Once again, Harry felt himself flush as everyone glanced nervously at him. Everyone that is, save Mrs. Weasley, who began a good rant about the dangers of hitting someone, especially a child, with multiple Stunning Spells. She then moved on to the inconsideration of telling a phoney story to her and Professor Lupin about Harry passing out.
At this point, Dumbledore intervened, "Molly, it was at my request that the information regarding Harry's return to us wasn't related outside the privacy of Hogwarts and a few other secure locations that the Order possesses." That explanation seemed to mollify Mrs. Weasley, for the moment.
Dumbledore then continued, "At this time, we know as much as we are going to, so I recommend that we end this meeting and take care of the matters at hand."
Dumbledore looked to Mrs. Weasley first. "Molly, do you suppose it would be possible to retrieve Miss Granger and Mr. Weasley and bring them here to reunite them with Harry? I dare say that friendly, familiar faces would do wonders for him, right now."
Mrs. Weasley glanced over to Harry for a moment, and the look on her face indicated that she didn't want to let him out of her sight. However, she nodded twice and responded, "Yes, Albus, I think you're right. I'll go right away and round them up."
She stepped up to Harry, wrapped him in another hug, and brushed her lips across his forehead in a motherly kiss. She pulled back and gazed at him as if using her eyes to memorize every one of his features, whispered her farewell, and was off.
Dumbledore then gazed over at Professor Lupin. "Remus, do you suppose that you could get in contact with Bill Weasley and the other ward specialist and have them begin the work to prepare the wards we discussed."
Lupin looked as if he would have preferred to let someone else run the errand, but he nodded his acquiescence. He turned to Harry and spoke, "Harry, there is something I need to give to you later this evening. Would you mind if I joined you for supper tonight?"
With a puzzled look on his face, Harry nodded his acceptance and watched his former Defense Professor step out the door. Tonks followed, after a quick goodbye, and once they cleared the hospital wing, they began speaking back and forth in hushed tones.
Harry leaned back heavily onto the pillows propping him up and turned his attention to the headmaster. Madame Pomfrey had retreated to her office and shut the door while Harry was saying his goodbyes to the others..
Dumbledore studied Harry for a moment, trying to take in what changes had occurred in him. Finally finding what he was looking for, he cleared his throat and stepped forward, muttered an incantation, and flicked his wand to conjure a chintz armchair to sit in.
He cast a few privacy charms around them and began, "Harry, my boy, how do you feel, physically?"
Harry thought about it for a moment, scrunching up his eyebrows and pursing his lips as he pondered. "To be honest, Professor, other than being a bit sore from the two Stunners I got hit with, I can't remember feeling better than I do now."
"Interesting, Harry," the wizened headmaster continued, "According to Poppy, when she examined you, other than the bruises you received from the Stunning Spells, you are the healthiest that she has ever seen you. Can I assume that since you haven't been wearing your glasses, that somehow your vision has been improved, as well?"
Bollocks, I forgot about my glasses. Harry reached up to his face and realised that he didn't have on the familiar wire-rimmed glasses that he wore to correct his poor eyesight. "Professor, I remember noticing my eyesight had improved this morning, but I forgot to mention it. Do you have any idea how my eyes could have been fixed?"
"Harry there are several magical methods and a couple of Muggle ones that could have been used to correct your eyesight. Unfortunately, it will take time to determine what has actually been done to them. Some methods, such as spells or charms, would wear off over time, and then we would know. If Muggle methods were used, then from what I understand of the procedures, the change would be permanent," Dumbledore responded thoughtfully.
Harry's mind began running through the possibilities. His vision seemed to be perfect. In fact, it seemed to be better than perfect. He remembered something from his fourth year defense class with Barty Crouch, Jnr, who had impersonated Mad-Eye Moody: he recalled a statement about hidden talents and concealing them. "Professor," he began somewhat tentatively, "is there any way you could conjure a phoney pair of glasses that look like my old ones, so that I could wear them to conceal that my vision has been fixed?"Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted at this. "I see that you have been paying more attention to Alastor than anyone had thought. It is a sensible idea, I believe, to hide your corrected vision behind an image of weakness. It will be done." He muttered an incantation and waved his wand and with a small audible pop, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses appeared. He muttered a few more spells over them and handed them to Harry.
Harry eyed them for a moment before slipping them on. Of course, there was no change to his sight, but the glasses felt comfortable and familiar resting on his face. Dumbledore began speaking, "Harry, I took the liberty of adding an Unbreakable Charm and an Impervious Spell. You shouldn't have to worry about them breaking, and they will resist water and fogging. Perhaps once the term begins, we could meet with Professor Flitwick, and we could set about charming them to do things, such as giving you magnified sight or detecting magical auras."
Harry thought it over and nodded his head in acceptance. "Thank you, Professor. I do have one request: I would like to be able to learn how to do those charms myself." Another thought hit him. "Professor, I also would like to have him look over a charmed object Sirius gave me last year. I'd like to see if he could figure out how the charm was done and how it could be reproduced."
"Very well, Harry. I will speak with Filius when I leave and explain to him that you would like to see him either this evening or tomorrow morning before you leave." The headmaster paused and then continued, "Harry, I would like to meet with your later this evening to discuss issues pertaining to the prophecy. We don't have time to discuss them at the moment, and I need to contact a few people and make arrangements for the upcoming school term." He paused again and took a deep breath, "Harry, may I inquire as to whether you've shared the information of the prophecy with anyone?"
Harry was taken aback for a moment, but then simply shook his head and replied, "Professor, to be honest, I was too wrapped up in dealing with Sirius's death and trying to work out what it meant to actually consider sharing it with anyone. I reckoned I would think about it over the summer and then decide how to tell Ron and Hermione about it this fall."
Professor Dumbledore seemed relieved. "Harry, I know this will be difficult, but I must ask something of you: please consider keeping the contents of the prophecy to yourself. That knowledge is something that Tom will stop at nothing to acquire. I will arrange for Occlumency lessons for your two friends this fall, and once I'm satisfied that they can shield their minds effectively enough, you may tell them then, if you so choose."
Harry nodded; it would give him more time to digest the contents of the prophecy. He wanted to tell Ron and Hermione and unburden himself, but he also was afraid of their reactions even though he reckoned he could predict what they'd be:
Ron would probably sit with an expression of total disbelief on his face at first. But once he managed to wrap his mind around it, he would either begin to suggest different people that they could talk to for advice and help on how to deal with it, or he would try to act as if it didn't exist.
Hermione, on the other hand, would either immediately burst into tears, or she would throw herself into the library and begin researching until she was so tired that she would have an emotional breakdown. Either way, the end result would be that Hermione would need to somehow collect herself before she would be able to help Harry.
The more Harry thought about it, the more he realized that he didn't think his friends would be able to help him any more than the help he would have received from the Order anyway. With this in mind, he spoke up, "Professor, truthfully, I don't think it will be necessary to teach them Occlumency. I really don't reckon I'll be sharing this with them. I don't see how they could do anything more than worry themselves sick over it."
Dumbledore stared at him curiously and then seemed to come to a decision. "Of course, Harry, whatever you wish; I had just thought you might want to share your burden to ease you pain."
Harry thought about it for a moment, but decided that it was his destiny and his burden; so therefore, it would be his responsibility to carry it alone. Besides, if they don't know, they won't treat me any differently.
"Very well; I think Madam Pomfrey has said you are free to leave the hospital wing. I believe Professor McGonagall wanted to speak with you briefly, and then you can head up to Gryffindor Tower. Professor McGonagall can give you the password." Professor Dumbledore stood up and Vanished the chair he had been sitting in. He nodded to Harry and then began walking away. He turned, however, before leaving. "Harry, if you wouldn't mind, perhaps you could come to my office tonight around seven o'clock. We have much to discuss, but I need to contact a few people to make some arrangements before then."
Harry nodded and watched him leave. He sat back for a few minutes and pondered everything that had happened. He had apparently been kidnapped for eight weeks, and now he had no memories of what happened during that time. Furthermore, it appeared that his vision had been corrected, although by whatever means it had been accomplished or its permanency were unknown to him. He felt a small chill wash over him as he contemplated the thought that perhaps more things about him had been changed during the past eight weeks.
It felt comforting to be strolling through the corridors of Hogwarts again. From Harry's perspective, he had been here just the day before. Eight weeks, he thought bitterly. Only I would have someone kidnap me for eight weeks and then have no memory of it.
Professor McGonagall's office was one floor below the hospital wing – not a long journey, but Harry had decided to take a somewhat round-a-bout pathway to get there. For some reason he couldn't fathom, he had this desire to stretch his muscles, much the way he had been taught by his physical education teacher in primary school, along with an overwhelming urge to do something strenuous. It was almost as if it were a compulsion. He figured that if he still felt this way after his meeting with McGonagall, he would indulge it, if only to burn off his restlessness.
Harry finally had made it to the staircases when he sensed something rapidly moving up behind him. Harry ducked to the side, just in time to dodge a series of water balloons Peeves was flinging at him.
"Oi, Potty wee Potter. You are such a rotter.Trips down the stairs and lands in hot water.
Has no one to talk to and no one to snog.When it comes to the ladies, he is such a frog.
Needs him a lass to share with a load.But poor Potter's just an ugly, old toad."
With that, Peeves flung more water balloons at Harry. This time Harry didn't have anywhere to duck to, and so he just put his arms in front of his face to shield himself from the water. Protego! Protego! I wish could cast a Shield Spell! Harry heard several splashes, but felt no water. Slowly he lowered his arms and looked around. It appeared that Peeves had missed with every throw. Peeves had a surprised look on his face, but then his normal, jovial grin returned. He blew out a large raspberry and shot off down the corridor, crashing through suits of armour on the way.
Shaking his head and marvelling at his good fortune, or even better, Peeves's bad aim, Harry turned and continued down the stairs to the first floor corridor. Harry absently glanced at the portraits as he made his way to the office of his head of house. The moving portraits never ceased to amaze him. He paused and watched, in amusement, one particular portrait. In the picture, there appeared to be a group of monks walking double file, chanting, and smacking their heads with pieces of wood, all in rhythm to their chants
After watching the monks for a few minutes, Harry continued on his way. He often wondered at what had inspired some of the portraits. A couple of twists and turns later, Harry finally arrived at Professor McGonagall's office. He found the door open, and when he entered, his Transfiguration Professor was seated at her desk, scribbling on some parchment. She glanced up. "Thank you for joining me, Mr. Potter." Her voice was as authoritative and stern as ever. "Please, have a seat; I'll be with you in a moment."
Harry quietly slid into one of the chairs stationed in front of her desk and began glancing around the office, taking in the decor. The walls were decorated with a tartan design that had been painted in a band around the perimeter of the room. There were several portraits of wizards and witches from various time periods, who all seemed to be wearing clothing that had the same tartan pattern. Harry realized that these must be portraits of members of her family.
"Mr. Potter," her brisk voice interrupted his reverie. "Please, take these: they are your OWL results and your school letter." She handed over two envelopes. One was clearly the typical Hogwarts letter that he received each year. The other was thicker and more formal looking, with stamps from both Hogwarts and the Ministry.
Harry tentatively held them in front of him. Harry was actually dreading opening his OWL results. He knew that if his scores weren't what he needed in certain subjects, his hopes of someday being an Auror would be dashed right then and there. He licked his lips, set the lighter school letter down, and broke the seal on his OWL results.
Congratulations upon completing you OWL examinations. Your results are listed below:
Astronomy ------------------------------- A
Care of Magical Creatures ------------ E
Charms ---------------------------------- O
Divination ------------------------------- A
Defense Against the Dark Arts -------- O
Herbology ------------------------------- E
History of Magic ------------------------ A
Potions ---------------------------------- O
Transfiguration ------------------------- E
Total OWLs ------------------------ 9
Please fill out the enclosed form indicating which courses you wish to pursue at NEWT level. (Note: all students are required to take NEWT History of Magic).
Dumbfounded, he re-read the results. Nine OWLs, he thought, and I got the 'O' in Potions that I needed. He couldn't believe it. He could still be an Auror. He quickly pulled the form out and motioned at one of the quills and inkbottles sitting in front of McGonagall.
He filled out the form by signing up for the four NEWT classes he knew he needed: Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Potions, and Transfiguration. He knew he needed at least one more NEWT to qualify for Auror. He didn't want to take a chance at not getting that NEWT, so he signed up for two more classes: Care of Magical Creatures, mainly out of loyalty to Hagrid, and Herbology.
He folded the parchment over and handed it across the desk to his professor. She glanced down at the requests and nodded her head and murmured, "Good choices, Potter; I don't see that these will be a problem."
She pulled out another piece of parchment and began scribbling furiously. While she wrote, Harry opened his school letter and found that the only difference was that it listed every NEWT class offered at Hogwarts, along with the required textbooks for each. As usual, The Standard Book of Spells was there; this time it was the sixth volume. There were advanced textbooks listed for Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Herbology, Potions, and Transfiguration.
He was surprised to note that the Defense Against the Dark Arts class required the purchase of several textbooks; there were a couple exclusively devoted to duelling, a couple that pertained to battling dark creatures, and a few on general defensive spells and offensive curses, hexes, and jinxes. If these were any indication, the new Defense instructor must be well qualified.
"Mr. Potter," McGonagall interrupted him out of his reverie once again. "I have three other things to give to you and then you are dismissed." She handed him one of the parchments that had been sitting in front of her. He looked down at the parchment and read:
After thorough review of the events surrounding various actions of the Hogwarts High Inquisitor, Dolores Umbridge, and after careful review of written reports of the events as reported regarding the date in question, it has been decided by the Hogwarts Board of Governors to revoke the lifetime ban from Quidditch that had been placed upon you last year.
We look forward to seeing your exploits on the pitch resume when you return to action as a member of the Gryffindor house team, after they were unfortunately and unfairly halted last fall.
Chairman, Hogwarts Board of Governors
He read through the parchment one more time, and after the second time, he felt the edges of his lips curl into the beginnings of a smile. I'm going to play Quidditch again. His thoughts then turned a bit dark when he realized that he no longer had the broom that his godfather had given him, and that furthermore, his godfather wouldn't be around to ever see him play again. No! I won't dishonour Sirius by dwelling on the negative; I have to be better than this. With effort, he forced the negative feelings down and allowed honest joy to fill him.
"I trust that the decision of the Board of Governors appeals to you," McGonagall stated, staring at him with one eyebrow arched. "I also believe you will need this…" She reached down and lifted up his Firebolt, the broom that Sirius had given him.
Once again a wave of emotion filled him. Yes! I have it back! He tentatively reached across the desk and lovingly cradled the broom his right hand, absently rubbing the handle. He noticed immediately that it sported a couple of grooves that had not been present before.
"We were able to retrieve you broom right after term ended and the students had left. Madam Hooch and Professor Flitwick have carefully examined it and removed several nasty jinxes that were placed upon it," McGonagall offered in explanation. "Madam Hooch also carefully tuned and polished it, so that it would be ready for you when you returned. She was not able, however, to remove the grooves caused by the chains that were used to secure you broom in the dungeon where… that hag was keeping it. You might want to take it out this afternoon to test it out."
Harry nodded at her explanation and continued to caress the handle of the Firebolt almost reverently. I have my broom back. I can fly again! For Harry, flying was one of the things that always brought him joy. It was the one thing that Harry was known for that he honestly felt he deserved the recognition that he received; he was a very good flyer.
"Now, Mr. Potter, I have one more thing to present to you." Harry looked up and noted that McGonagall was reaching for what appeared to be a thick, leather bound volume, which seemed familiar to him. It took him a moment to register that the volume was the Gryffindor playbook that Wood had constantly carried around with him. At this realization, Harry's eyes widened in shock, and he stared at his head of house.
His mouth dropped open and he was speechless. Does this mean what I think it means? His mind raced furiously and he remembered Angelina carrying the book around last year. The only person who has possession of that book is the Gryffindor Captain. Harry suddenly felt overwhelmed.
"Yes, Potter, this means exactly what you think it does." Her face lit up with one of her rare smiles that reached to her eyes. Harry thought her eyes might even be twinkling, much the same as Professor Dumbledore's were known to. "You are hereby named Captain of the Gryffindor House Team. You need to meet with Madam Hooch the first day of classes and book the pitch for tryouts to fill the vacancies in the roster left by the departure of Miss Johnson and Miss Spinnet."
He nodded his head in acceptance, and the smile that had been tugging at the corners of his mouth broke out into a full-fledged grin. "Mind you, Mr. Potter, I have high expectations. I have grown quite used to the Quidditch Cup occupying my office." Harry looked at her when she spoke, but her expression indicated that she had every confidence that he would lead the team to another Cup.
"Thank you," he finally blurted out, "for believing in me and for giving me a chance." He stood up, clutching his broom in left hand, and reached across the desk and shook McGonagall's hand.
"You'll do fine, Mr. Potter; I'm sure of it," she responded. "By the way, the password to the Gryffindor common room is Felix Felicitous."
Harry nodded to her, again, said his goodbyes, and began to head through the corridors towards the Gryffindor common room. His plan was to stash his letters and the playbook in his trunk and then make his way down to the pitch and get some flying in before supper. As Harry began climbing the stairs towards the seventh floor he marvelled at the fact that he was happier now than he had been in months.