Auror training sounded great to Harry. As he walked over to Mrs. Figg's house, he was hoping that Mad Eye Moody would be there for tea so he could press him for details of Auror training and Auror life. "You should go with your strengths," he thought, "and my strength is Defense Against the Dark Arts." He just hoped that now that he had decided on that goal, something beyond his control didn't hold him back.
As he passed the hedge, he heard a soft swish of cloth over to his left. With his Seeker's reflexes he spun toward the sound pulling his wand out to the ready at the same time. He connected awkwardly with something solid and fell to the pavement with an uncomfortable scrape. Sure enough Mad Eye Moody poked his head out from under his Invisibility Cloak and untangled himself from Harry swearing, "#$%&*, Potter. How did you spot me this time?"
With a chuckle, Harry said, "If I tell you, I might not be able to catch you next time. Good to see you, Professor Moody."
"OK, fair enough answer. But one of these days, I'll be the one catching you. Constant vigilance is your only chance," Moody replied.
At this last comment, Harry mouthed the words, "constant vigilance." He and his Hogwarts friends had that phrase ingrained into them during their fourth year by the fake Professor Moody. Harry was learning to live by those words this summer. "What do you hear from Professor Lupin?"
Mad Eye walked on in silence. Once inside Mrs. Figg's kitchen door, he answered, "Careful what you talk about outside, Potter. You never know who is listening. Animagi could be buzzing by your ear pretending to be in search of pollen, when they are really just eavesdropping on you."
"Sorry. But have you spoken to Professor Lupin?" Harry persisted.
As the two walked into Mrs. Figg's lounge, Mad Eye sighed and said in a serious tone, "Lupin is not himself since losing Sirius. He is staying at headquarters, but we never see him. Keeps to himself."
"Maybe I could go and stay with him when my annual sentence with the Dursleys is over," Harry said. "Maybe I could talk to him." Harry stared at his feet while he tried to put aside the horrible guilt he felt in hearing about Professor Lupin. The man had lost his last best friend because of Harry's rash actions. He must be avoiding Harry because he blamed him for Sirius' death.
"Maybe," agreed Mad Eye. "Where's our tea, Arabella?" he called out to Mrs. Figg, then asked Harry, "Why do you keep calling Remus Lupin and I, Professor? He hasn't been your teacher in years and I have NEVER been your teacher. Call me Mad Eye or Moody. I call you Harry or Potter, don't I? I don't really see myself as the professor type." He shook his head at the thought of himself in professorial robes.
Mrs. Figg came in wrestling with a large tea tray covered with sandwiches and cakes and tea. She had a big smile on her face. "I couldn't help but notice that you have had a growth spurt, Harry. You need to eat more food to keep up with all that new height. Help yourself. I'll wrap the leftovers for you to take home with you." To Mad-Eye she said, "Was that you bellowing?"
Moody ignored her teasing tone and said, "How are the Dursleys treating you, Harry? Do they feed you enough? Is there anything you want me to talk to them about? I notice your Muggle clothes have improved."
"I have a lot to thank you for this summer, Mad Eye. The Dursleys have been decent although I still prefer the wizarding life to the Muggle life. I can't wait to leave Privet Drive." As he was guzzling tea and sandwiches, thinking of the beauties of the wizarding world, one of its less appealing aspects stepped out of the shadow of Mrs. Figg's hallway and into the lounge. 'Professor Snape has a habit of slipping out of shadows like an overgrown bat,' thought Harry. Then he stopped himself, remembering that Professor Snape also was skilled at sneaking into his thoughts and eavesdropping.
Officially they had a truce. Harry wasn't sure how Dumbledore convinced Snape to resume his Occlumency lessons, but it must have been good. For his part Harry was determined to do it right this time. He knew he needed the Professor's help.
"Ready for our lesson, Potter, or are you too busy stuffing your face?" Snape said with that sneer he seemed to save just for Harry.
While Mrs. Figg frowned at him and Mad Eye raised an eyebrow, Harry turned to Snape and said evenly, "Thank you for asking, Professor. I would like to finish my tea. Please join us. Would you like a sandwich?" That Harry could say this without sounding utterly sarcastic was a testament to his newfound control over his emotions. He had decided that he was not going to react to Professor Snape and his sneering anymore. Life was too short. Plus it would help with the Occlumency lesson they were about to begin if Harry could detach from his emotional reaction to Snape and clear his mind.
Snape was getting used to this sort of overly polite reaction. His scowl showed he didn't like it. But with a little shake of his head, he simply sat down and said, "Thank you, Arabella, could I trouble you for an extra cup."
The meal went on in silence although Harry thought that Mad Eye appeared to be stifling a laugh. When most of the sandwiches and cake had been consumed, Mad Eye and Mrs. Figg went into the kitchen. Harry asked Professor Snape to begin. "Legilimens!" said Snape without any warning. Harry was ready for him. He had put up a block in his mind calming himself and envisioning a wall. He tried to hold the vision of a brick wall in his mind. After an hour of repeating such assaults on Harry's mind, Snape gave up with a gasp. "You are doing much better, Potter. I never thought I'd see any progress. How are your nightmares? Do you feel your scar?"
Harry hesitated in answering this question. Was Snape asking these questions for Dumbledore? While Dumbledore trusted Snape implicitly, Harry disliked the man more than ever because he could have prevented Sirius' death last June by preventing Harry and his friends from going to rescue him. Snape knew that was their intention and he knew how to contact the other Order members. He could have stopped them. Even so, he kept the information to himself until it was too late. Harry took a moment to calm himself before answering, "Scar still hurts sometimes. My nightmares haven't been about Voldemort."
Snape's scowl deepened at this answer. "That's not the answer that will end our lessons together, Potter. I was hoping to hear that you have achieved sufficient prowess in Occlumency to shut out your connection with the Dark Lord. I will report this to Dumbledore."
Harry swallowed his dislike of Snape and his using the term "Dark Lord" and took this chance to ask Professor Snape for a favor. First with a little flattery, he said, "I think the lessons this summer have really helped Professor...I was wondering if you would let me into your N.E.W.T. Potions class. I don't have my O.W.L. results yet, but I have been studying potions all summer. I'm trying to improve. I know there will be a need to work hard if I am going to earn a N.E.W.T., but I want you to know that I am willing to do whatever it takes to be successful in the N.E.W.T. Potions class. Maybe you could suggest some summer reading in potions?"
With an oddly satisfied smile, Snape responded, "Let's just wait and see what your O.W.L. results are, shall we?" He looked like he wanted to say more as he turned to leave. When he reached the door, he said over his shoulder, "Look for a book called Potions for Dummies. It might help you close the gaps that your spotty interest in potions through the years has left you with. Anyway, it's aptly named."
As he left, Harry chuckled to himself. "It's aptly named? Was that really your best shot, Professor?" He had done what he could toward his goal to become an Auror today. He walked home with Mad-Eye and a sack of cakes and sandwiches from Mrs. Figg feeling pretty good about himself.