A/n Finally thought I'd try my hand at a Harry gets help fanfiction. Hope you enjoy.

It was dark out at Gryffindor tower. Well, really it was dark everywhere, but the focus of the story is on Gryffindor. In the second year boys dorm, five boys slept. One boy tossed and turned, twisting in his blankets, moaning, though it wasn't audible outside his bed.

Harry woke with a muffled scream. He struggled against his blankets wildly for a moment, still caught up in his nightmare. He breathed heavily as he did so, looking around wildly until he fell out of bed with a thump. He shook his head and tried to calm down. He untangled himself, and looked around. None of the other boys had woken up, to his relief.

He felt grateful he'd found that silencing charm. It kept him from waking anyone up from his screaming. Took him a few sleepless nights to find it though, but it was worth it. Keeping his nightmares from his dormmates. Dean and Seamus would mostly just be annoyed that they lost sleep, which was bad enough. Neville would be concerned, but wouldn't say so, and then there was Ron... Ron would ask a million questions, not understanding he didn't want to talk, and if he did... Ron would fail to understand. After all why would he have nightmares about his most recent heroic feat? Sure the other boy had been terrified of losing his younger sister, but he didn't truly understand the danger both Harry and Ginny had faced.

Harry shivered and shook his head. Ron wasn't there to feel the fear he had when he saw Ginny, when he lost his wand, when the basilisk appeared... He barely survived, but his nightmares centered around Ginny accusing him of failing, of being too late. He ran his hand through his hair, noting that it was damp with sweat. He sighed and checked his watch. 3am. He knew he wasn't going to get any more sleep tonight. A years worth of experience with nightmares taught him that. The only difference now was more material to torture him with.

The black haired preteen tossed his blankets onto the bed and closed his curtains. He pulled on some clothes and grabbed a book to read. He headed down to the common room. No one would be there at this hour, and he could relax until it was officially time to be up. He settled down into the most comfy chair by the fire and opened his book.

"H-harry?" Ginny's voice startled him into looking up. He blinked, then registered how pale she was, close to how pale she was in the Chamber. He dropped his book and went over to her.

"Ginny, are you okay?" he asked worriedly. "Why are you up?" She blushed and looked at her feet.

"I... had a nightmare," she mumbled in shame before asking more clearly and louder. "Why are you up?" Harry froze for a moment then decided to make things even and help her feel better. He pulled her over to a couch and sat down with her.

"I had a nightmare too," he admitted softly. At her surprised look, he decided to clarify. "I'd been too late to save you." He shuddered. "And you kept accusing me of... not being a hero or not caring..." He looked away, tears glistening behind his glasses as he willed them not to fall.

"I'd never do that! You arrived in time and you saved me!" she exclaimed, wrapping her arms around him. She hesitated. "My nightmare was about Tom taunting me about what I did..." She sniffled before bursting into tears. Harry sat frozen for a moment before returning the hug she had yet to release him from.

"It's not your fault... Tom was Voldemort and Voldemort was powerful... you're only 11 you can't do much against him, you survived..." He counted on his fingers from September to May. "9 months before he went for becoming alive. You were brilliant, and it's not your fault he made you do those things!" Harry responded softly, not wanting to wake anyone, but firmly.

He found his hand stroking her hair, and she seemed to be calming down. He felt relief because he had no clue how to calm a crying girl down, he just reacted. Finally she pulled away slightly and looked up at him tearfully.

"Thank you..." she whispered. "I've... I've been having nightmares since..." She sniffled again and tightened her hug. Harry nodded.

"Me too and I still get occasional nightmares from last year too," he responded quietly. "I'm glad I'm not the only one this time, though I hate you had to go through that..." She nodded shyly.

"Yeah... I can't believe it's only been a week... I wish I didn't either, if we still had exams, I doubt I'd pass, I don't remember half of the last two months... Mum's never going to let me grow up, my brothers are going to be super protective, and no one understands what I went through," she rambled, crying silently as she relieved herself of her worries for the first time since she woke up in the Chamber. Harry hugged her tightly instinctively.

"I don't understand what you went through, but I've had hard times too so I do have an idea. I hate it when Hermione and Ron drown me with questions and don't give me space, and Hermione thinks she understands but only manages to act like she looks down on me when she offers the advice she'd looked up..." Harry trailed off sadly. "I can't help you with that sort of problem but I could help you with your classes if you'd like, I'm not the best student but I'm sure between us we can figure it out..." Ginny stared at him hopefully.

"Really? You'd do that for me?" she questioned, disbelief. "After everything embarrassing I've done since we met?" she whispered. He nodded, smiling slightly.

"I don't like the Boy-Who-Lived fame, but you always seemed more in awe of me because of my first year than... surviving when my parents didn't. I... I've been more worried about you than Ron has been... And he didn't like it when I even talked about you so I shut up... But I'd love to help you, it's not like I'm going to get any more sleep tonight, are you?" She shook her head.

"I never get any sleep after a nightmare..." she whispered. Harry nodded, not surprised at all.

"Me either. We still have a few hours before other people start waking up, it is a Saturday after all that gives us at least 3 hours, doesn't the earliest get up at 7?" Harry asked. She nodded.

"I think so... at least that's the earliest I've seen on the weekends over the year..." she responded slowly, hardly believing that she's having a normal conversation with the boy she has every reason to have a crush on. She still did, but without the crippling nervousness, probably because he just admitted to having nightmares too.

"Alright, what class do you want to work on first?" he queried.

"Potions," she replied promptly. "I've always had trouble with it, Snape's so hard to deal with... even now, actually it may be worse..." Harry grimaced.

"I know the feeling. He hates me, and makes Neville so nervous he melts cauldrons. Sometimes it should be impossible for a potion to be messed up that badly, but he does when Snape is standing too close." Harry sighed. As much as he hated being taunted and graded low, poor Neville had it worse. He stood up and grabbed the book he was reading before returning to Ginny. He handed it to her.

"I found this when I was looking for silencing charms. It turns out Snape really hasn't been teaching us much about potions at all, not that it surprised me," he informed her. "This book talks about every ingredient and how best to harvest it for potions. Some ingredients its better to get juice by crushing it instead of slicing it, for example. It even has a few tables on reactivity so you know how to fix mistakes... oh and a substitution list too in case you run out of an ingredient... and this is only the book for those who aren't in NEWT classes. There's an even bigger book for them," Harry finished enthusiastically. Ginny stared at him for a moment, speechless before she recovered.

"Why hasn't Snape been fired yet then if he can't teach?" she questioned as she opened the book. Harry sighed.

"I don't know... Any complaints against him are ignored, believe me, Hermione has tried. Now let's start with how to prepare ingredients, that's actually very important because you can get different effects especially if it's a magical ingredient. Too bad we can't practice right now, or I'd show you an effective way to cut them."

And so the lesson on potions began. Ginny learned a lot from Harry that morning, and from her questions and explaining everything after looking it up, so did he. They also ended up laughing quite a bit. And before they knew it, students were entering the common room.

"Want to hang out with me today?" Harry asked Ginny softly. "It'd be nice to have someone who understands with me, and I don't want to leave you by yourself..." She brightened up a bit.

"Really? You'd let me do that?" she asked hopefully. He scoffed.

"Of course, you're my friend. Any of my friends can hang out with me." He smiled reassuringly at her. "Now both of us should go get ready for the day... let's meet down here in say... an hour? And then we can go to breakfast."

"Thanks Harry, you're the nicest person I've ever met!" She hugged him impulsively. He stiffened before smiling and patting her on the back.

"You're welcome. I really do want you to be my friend," he told her quietly before they parted ways.

They were some of the first few down for breakfast. Many Ravenclaws were up, being overachievers, and same with Slytherins. Of course many still had fallen to teenage syndrome where they slept in when possible, planning on staying up late if they had to. Most preferred that. There was just something about getting up early that most students hated. Percy was the only one of the Gryffindors down for breakfast, no surprise, and he had his nose stuck in a book and so didn't notice them.

They held a quiet discussion of random things, carefully avoiding the topic of the Chamber of Secrets. Harry spent a lot of the time observing Ginny, and was coming to the conclusion that she wasn't recovering well if at all. She looked just as bad as she did before being taken down there. Pale, dark bags under her eyes, withdrawn, skinny. Neither of them ate much either. Harry knew this wasn't very healthy, for either of them, though she certainly looked the worse off. So he made an effort to be sure she ate a decent meal for breakfast. She didn't seem to notice or mind. Consequently, since he ended up serving himself the same things he put on her plate, he ended up with his first good breakfast of the week. After a while, he realized that it was nearly breakfast rush time.

"I think we should think about heading to the library," he remarked anxiously. He had had enough of the stares following him around, and knew Ginny had endured the same but for different reasons. She nodded.

"Yeah," she responded softly. "That's a good place to study... I do have some charms homework I wanted to finish today." She ducked her head, hiding behind her hair. Harry smiled at her reassuringly.

"So do I. It's in my bag. Maybe I could help you out."

"You'd do that? You don't mind not being with Hermione and Ron?" she inquired shyly. It wasn't just that he was her rescuer, but that she'd found in the last week she had no real friends, not even among her brothers. It made her rather insecure as a result.

"Not at all. We don't need to stick together like glue all the time, and I'm tired of Hermione frantically trying to catch up and Ron thinking that it was a brilliant adventure... he hadn't been in danger the whole time," Harry explained with a sigh. "And I'm sick of these stares, at least in the library people are there to work not gape at me and my scar," he added bitterly. Ginny was taken aback for a bit but after considering for a bit decided that she could understand, after all she was getting tired of the pitying stares and whispers.

"I guess that would be a bit much... I do need to go get my homework though..." she whispered sheepishly. Harry had been observing the people in the hall and noticed McGonagall leave. That struck him with an idea.

"That's fine, go get it and meet me at the library, alright? I wanted to ask McGonagall about the electives I'm supposed to pick for next year, and I don't know how long it'll be so maybe you could work on some potions work or read my book until then," he suggested, pulling out said potions book, feeling a bit bad about hiding his real intentions. Ginny brightened.

"That sounds like a plan, I'll see you later then."

They left the Great Hall, parting ways for now. Just in time too, as the usual breakfast rush approached. Breakfast stopped being served at 10, so most students liked to get there around 9 or so to have a decent amount of time to eat. Otherwise they had to wait until 11 as lunch was served from 11-2 on the weekends.

Harry walked down the halls to the transfiguration classroom, feeling immensely nervous. He had never gone to Professor McGonagall before besides the incident with the stone. In hindsight it was kind of understandable why she didn't listen. Maybe they should've gone to her before. And he didn't like going to authority figures. They rarely liked him or listened to him anyways. So why bother trying. But... this wasn't just about him. It was about Ginny. She needed more help than what he could give her and she wasn't receiving any from outside sources.

He took a deep breath, reminding himself of that as he stood outside the office. He gulped and gathered all of his Gryffindor courage before knocking tentatively on the door.

"Come in," the professor called brusquely. Harry nearly turned around and gave up but opened the door slowly instead.

"Hello professor," he greeted her timidly as he approached her desk. Minerva McGonagall didn't show her surprise that he had actually come to her. It wasn't often any of her lions did, and he was the least expected of all.

"Mr. Potter," she responded and gestured to the chair in front of her desk. "Take a seat. To what do I owe this pleasure?" He sat down, fidgeting.

"Well," he began hesitantly. "I have a... friend... who's been suffering from nightmares, and I was wondering if there was anything that could help... I know in the muggle world there are people who are trained to talk through problems with people confidentially but I haven't heard of anything like that here... But I think that would help the most..." McGonagall frowned thoughtfully.

"I'd noticed that both you and Miss Weasley are suffering from little sleep, and its affecting both of your schoolwork," she answered slowly. He stiffened and stared at her, panicked. She softened and went on gently. "Relax, it's only to be expected after what both of you went through. Adults would have nightmares of it. Now, explain a bit more about what you were just asking about. The only thing we have in the wizarding world that helps with nightmares is dreamless sleep and that doesn't help all the way, as well as the fact it's not recommended for those under the age of 14, and even then only small doses until the age of 17 or 18. It's highly addictive and doesn't solve the problem," she added. She kept to the same soothing tone the whole time. She knew she was dealing with a scared 12 year old here, and needed to keep him from bolting, and so being her usual stern self was not a good idea. She smiled inwardly, it'd been a while since she'd been able to be someone other than the disciplinarian.

"I think they're called psychiatrists... They talk to people and help them through problems... many people think they're only for the weak and the crazy." Harry knew about them from his Uncle's rants, and disagreed with his Uncle's opinions. "But they really help people overcome depression and anxiety and other stuff like that. And I think that would help..." he took a deep breath before admitting it, "us. I... I can't get over these on my own and I can't help Ginny... we're only a year apart in age... And..." Another deep breath. "I still have nightmares about last year," he whispered, looking down in shame.

Professor McGonagall had heard and seen enough. She dropped her deputy headmistress role and stepped into the role she should have been fulfilling as Gryffindor Head of House. She stood up and walked around her desk before pulling the twelve year old boy into her arms. He stiffened at the touch and she felt a stab of pain. James and Lily's son should not be wary of physical touch and comfort. She kept her hug gentle rather than tightening instinctively, knowing that would make him more tense.

"You've got nothing to be ashamed of," she murmured into his ear as he slowly started relaxing. "You're just a 12 year old boy who's had to do things because the adults weren't there to protect you. I still wish I'd listened to you last year instead of seeing your father trying to pull a prank. And I should've just helped you like I wanted to instead of listening to Albus afterwards. No eleven year old should be left alone after what you went through, but he thought it was perfectly fine that man." She scowled before getting back to the matter at hand. "Having nightmares is normal Harry." He looked up at her with wide eyes. She smiled at him gently. "I'll check around with some graduates to see if I can find anything for you and Ginny, but until then and even after, my door is always open. For both of you."

"R-really?" Harry stuttered, hardly daring to believe it. She brushed a hand over his head.

"Of course. I'm supposed to look after my lions but most are too stubborn to admit they need help, and my other duties make it hard to keep up with you cubs. How about this, every day after dinner you come and we can talk. It doesn't have to be about what happened, just anything you feel like talking about. And Ginny can come too," she added as an afterthought, deciding it'd be good for the Weasley girl. Harry smiled shyly at her in return, deciding not to question it for now. And he was confused about some things she said. She moved away slightly but sat down next to him.

"I... I'd like that. Oh shoot I said I'd meet Ginny in the library after talking to you about my... classes," he finished with a sigh. She raised an eyebrow.

"Oh? What about them?" she asked, curious. He was fairly average in all his classes, which still surprised her. He was certainly smart enough to do far better, especially with who his parents were. James slacked off as much as Harry and still was near the top of the class.

"Well... there's not much information on the electives. Like, what jobs are they good for? I mean I don't want to skip a class then after deciding on a career realize it was a class I actually needed to take... And why weren't there some sort of class thing to show us what they're about? I mean the books Hermione's looked through don't seem helpful and neither are the older students..." He blushed at the appraising look she gave him.

"That is actually a good idea, giving students an idea of what to expect when they choose classes as well as an overview of what sort of careers require them..." she mused, filing that thought away to see if she could arrange for before the students left and if not, for next year. "As for the different classes... Do you want an unbiased opinion, or my honest opinion?" Harry thought for a moment.

"I think your honest opinion, professor. If you don't like something you probably have a good reason... But um could you explain it to me? No one ever does..." he added quietly in frustration. She frowned briefly at the slip, and decided it was no wonder he didn't much trust authority figures for help.

"I can do that, Harry," she agreed easily, smiling at the way he brightened a little at hearing his first name rather than his surname. "Divination is a useless subject. Predicting the future can interesting yes, and learning about how to interpret signs is nice as well, but you're only truly accurate if you have some sort of gift for it. And since there's so few seers around, the whole subject is rubbish. Even those few seers only make a few accurate predictions in their lifetimes, and since most of them are either self-fulfilling prophecies or prophecies that can only be understood after completion... even the true seers aren't very useful," she tried to explain. Harry made a face.

"I don't think I want to learn about that even if it is just an easy course," he declared. She beamed at him for his decision, knowing that other students would still take the course since it was easy even knowing that. She had actually expected it based on his work.

"Muggle studies... You don't really need it since you grew up in that world. And the course is outdated by a decade at least. You could however still take the OWL test so that you have the qualifications. Then there's the other three courses. All three are very useful."

"Alright... what do they cover?" Harry questioned, feeling a bit elated at getting some useful advice for once.

"Care of magical creatures covers just that. Magical creatures. Up until OWL level covers various creatures that are actually easy to come across and also some of the creatures that can be potions ingredients. Considering your recent history, and how often trouble finds you, it probably would be a good class for you. It's also a more active class than usual, since it includes hands on lessons where you can deal with the creatures." The boy grinned.

"That does sound pretty awesome," he admitted. "And the creatures do intrigue me." Next the professor weighed her options on which of the next two subjects to cover.

"Ancient runes covers just that. Runes. They start with Norse runes, then go onto Egyptian, those two are the most common ones people work with. Other alphabets are covered but usually later on in the course. Runes is the foundation of warding, and can be helpful in other areas of life, but they're not helpful during a fight, just in preparing for one. And don't tell the Weasley twins I said this, but some effective pranks can be set using runes," she whispered conspiratorially. Harry grinned at that, wondering if he could get away with pranking. "The practical part of the course involves being able to carve or engrave the runes. It gets covered on and off until OWLs where it isn't covered as part of the test, and then is about half the course afterwards and a part of the NEWTs."

"Is it like those puzzles where you need to figure out what a sentence is and every letter is a different symbol?" Harry inquired. When he could get puzzles to do, those were some of his favorites.

"Especially when you first learn the alphabets. I take it this is a course you're interested in?" she questioned. He nodded.

"Yeah, it sounds like it could be fun and useful," he responded enthusiastically, showing a side of him only Ron and Hermione had really seen though they didn't realize it and a side Ginny was beginning to see.

"The final course is arithmancy. It's the hardest course of all of the electives, and possibly any course. Arithmancy uses numbers to break down spells, potions, and many things in life. Some of it does venture a little more towards astrology, yet it can be fairly accurate albeit not always. People always forget parents and upbringing factor into what a person is good at. Sometime in 6th and 7th year students start trying to figure out the strength of their core. It's a project for 7th year, one that lasts the whole year before they turn in the results for a grade. Sometimes the NEWT examiners take the projects to grade, other times they choose not to and set a test during what is considered the 'practical' part of the exam that is similar. A fact many do not know is that the math used can be compared to calculus in the muggle world. I've heard it from many muggle borns who come to me after graduation, talking about their progress with university. Those who had taken arithmancy always had an easier time with their math courses over any other muggle course." She watched Harry's eyes grow excited as well as thoughtful though this time he did not say anything. Despite having to be worse than Dudley, maths was his favorite subject and he always did well there when he did the work secretly and not to hand in. After a moment, he spoke up.

"Which classes do you think I should take?" he asked, after all the explanation she had given him, he knew he could trust her at least in this matter.

"That depends on what sort of careers you're thinking about," she responded after a moment. She wasn't expecting much of an answer. 12 year olds rarely had any sort of idea, but that may be because they didn't get any pamphlets or books until their career discussions with their head of house in fifth year. Maybe doing a preliminary one or something in second year to help with choosing electives was in store...

"Well... I've considered healing but other than wanting to know it for any trouble I get into because of Voldemort, I don't think I want that to be my job. I kind of want to play quidditch but I know in the muggle world people retire fairly young from sports because it takes a toll on their bodies, so I'd need another career... I really like the idea of cursebreaking though, it sounds like a lot of fun, and I don't think I could handle a desk job. And I don't know of any other careers really in the magical world... I don't even know what my parents did..." he trailed off wistfully. Minerva had to restrain her anger at finding out that Harry didn't even know that about his parents. The poor child. Though it was interesting how much thought and intelligence had gone into what he was thinking about.

"Your father chose to become an auror. They're law enforcement essentially, and they're a bit more like the military than police since they're trained more in how to fight. He was also working on a transfiguration mastery with me when he could. He would've succeeded in another few years too but..." She shook her head sadly as Harry hung onto every word, soaking up the knowledge about his parents. "Your mother was working dually on a potions mastery and a charms mastery. Professor Flitwick was mentoring her for charms, and she chose to self study for potions."

"What... what are the requirements? What does being a master at something mean?" She had never heard him so engaged, and so curious. He rarely asked questions in class.

"A master can do many things as a career. They easily get positions even if they're muggleborns, especially in businesses like broom making companies." Harry's eyes went wide, like he'd never thought of it before. "And other similar companies. Potions masters can sell their potions. A common route many who receive masteries go is research. Your mother was thinking about either opening her own apothecary or becoming an Unspeakable. They research many things, and it's all kept secret. Eventually what they learn is released to the public, after it goes through the Ministry. She also was planning on creating her own spells either way, and she did create at least one while still in school. Muffliato." She demonstrated on the door. "It prevents anybody from overhearing you. All it does is create a buzzing sound." Harry's look of awe made her smile. He pulled his wand out and mimicked her movement.

"Muffliato." He aimed his wand at the door. Minerva used a spell she rarely used, one that teachers could use to test if a spell worked without having to test it. It was more useful for charms rather than transfiguration.

"Very good," she praised. "Your mother would be proud." She had never seen him so happy. His eyes glistened with tears at the thought of making his mum proud. McGonagall put her arm around him. "Another route masters choose to go is teaching. Some teach classes, and receive money from their students. Others just mentor, like me with James, and Filius with Lily. Both Lily and James were planning on becoming Hogwarts professors eventually, even if Lily had to leave the Unspeakables for it. James after he retired from being an auror, and Lily probably around the same time."

"Really? Were they good at teaching?" Harry queried quickly. She chuckled and nodded.

"I couldn't believe my eyes the first time I let James handle a first year class. He was able to help them all at least get started on the spell, and made it fun at the same time. He would've made a great teacher."

"I wish they could've raised me..." the preteen murmured in awe. She gave him a comforting squeeze.

"As for the requirements, to even get a mentor or register to self study, one needs excellent grades in their chosen field, though sometimes with lesser grades they'll let the applicant take a test to see if they are up to the program. They also need good grades in classes that supplement their mastery. For potions, that's herbology and care of magical creatures. Both require NEWTS. Astronomy is also needed but it only requires an OWL, its necessary to know when certain ingredients can be picked, so the in depth knowledge isn't required but helpful. Charms requires transfiguration and arithmancy, and almost any other class can help. Now each mastery requires a rather large final test to be taken over the course of two weeks, a final project, which is generally a new spell, potion, transfiguration, application, or a series of improvements, varying with the mastery of course. Each mentor will require something different, and self study will have certain landmarks. I require my students to become an animagus, which is the term for a person able to turn into an animal, such as me into my cat form. Your father was a stag. He passed it off as a quick study, but I suspect he went for it while still in school which makes me wonder if any of his friends were as well."

"Cool! Can I become one?"

"Some day, Harry, some day. Now I believe you had wanted me to advise you on what classes you should take. Based on what you said, I believe you should plan on taking the muggle studies OWLs and NEWTs but not the course. I would say care of magical creatures, arithmancy, and ancient runes would be a good choice for you but I'm based on your performance throughout the last two years, I'm not sure you could handle it." She looked at him sternly. He blushed and studied his lap.

"Would... would my parents want to see me doing better?" he asked quietly. She blinked, taken aback by the question.

"They would. They would expect you to try your best, no matter if you were the top of the students or not. I don't think you are trying your best, I've noticed that your work is generally within a few points of Mr. Weasley consistently." His head hung lower. "You also don't get the spells until he's starting to make changes at the least. Are you afraid of excelling?" she inquired softly after seeing how hard he was taking her blunt words.

"I... Yeah... I suppose... the... the Dursleys never liked me doing better than Dudley so I always had to do worse than him, and... and Ron was my first friend... and he gets jealous if I do better than him and... I don't want to lose him," Harry explained tentatively, not realizing until it was too late what he revealed. To his surprise, his professor just hugged him again.

"If Mr. Weasley cannot get over his jealousy and accept it when others do better than his lack of effort, then it is not your fault." She chose not to inform him that it wasn't very friend-like behavior either, deciding that if he kept coming to her, she could broach the subject with him eventually. Harry nodded firmly.

"Then I'll do my parents proud. I really like what you said about my parents and getting a mastery and creating my own spells like my mum sounds great. I'll do better," he promised. She smiled and hugged him once more.

"Now I believe Miss Weasley will be waiting for you. Remember, you can visit me every day after dinner if you so like, including tonight if you wish." He beamed at her.

"I'd really like that, I have so many questions about my parents!" he told her excitedly. "Thank you so much... I think I'm going to try to take the three courses. I think I can handle it if I work hard, which I plan to do and all three sound so amazing I don't think I could choose." He picked up his bag before hesitating. He hugged her briefly and then left rather quickly.

She chuckled at him, pleased that he actually initiated a hug. Then McGonagall sat down to write some letters. One to a muggle born witch who was now about 27 and had gone to university to learn muggle healing. Of the students McGonagall was still in contact with, she was the most likely to have an idea of how to help Harry and Ginny. She also started writing down her observations and an outline of things she wanted to discuss with Poppy later. After that she went back to some of the essays she was grading.

Ginny was sitting in an isolated corner of the library taking notes on the potions book Harry lent her. It explained so much. Why some ingredients needed to be cut one way for one potion and another way for different potion. Even how to correct mistakes on simple potions. No more wading her way through impossible essays with this book. She wondered idly if the Slytherins knew about this. With a snort, she decided based on their high grades they probably did. Especially since some did actually earn those grades. Snape must've told them or something. She doubted that he had the patience to tutor them.

"Helpful isn't it?" Harry's voice made her jump. "Sorry," he apologized sincerely. "I didn't realize you were that into taking notes. Didn't mean to make you jump." He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly before sitting down. He pulled out his homework. "Ready to get to work?" She nodded with a small smile as she pulled out the charms homework.

"I'm so glad Flitwick is having us do review work on everything... Means I won't be missing anything and it is a good replacement for tests," she commented. Harry nodded.

"Yeah, he's done the same with my class. After talking with McGonagall, I think it's a good thing... means I can try harder and learn it without having to do too much catching up," he remarked casually.

"What do you mean try harder?" she questioned curiously. Harry froze for a moment, wondering how he slipped up. He never slipped up around Ron and Hermione. With a sigh he decided to answer.

"I... I've been holding back. And if I don't work hard, I won't be able to handle the three electives I'm going to be taking," he explained hesitantly. She regarded him for a moment.

"Alright." She started flipping through the charms book. Harry stared at her, quill hanging loosely in his fingers. After a bit, it fell. Ginny looked up, startled and then grew worried and self conscious.

"What?" she asked quietly, eyes wide as she tried not to squeak and freak out. He jumped and blinked. Then he sighed.

"I was just... I was surprised. If Ron or Hermione heard me say that... they'd bother me for more answers, with Ron wondering why I want to take three electives instead of taking things easy, and Hermione going between proud and anxiously trying to force me to work harder. And they'd keep asking me questions... no privacy once I slip up," he clarified slowly, wondering how he could trust Ginny so much already. Sure she wasn't actually pressing him for questions, but what else was it? Was it just that they felt so close already because of what they went through? This friendship didn't feel like his friendship with Ron or Hermione. Ginny gaped at him.

"That's... that's so rude Harry! They have no right to stick their noses in your business, not when they don't share those things with you!" Ginny ranted furiously. Harry shrunk a little. It was no wonder the twins were scared of getting on her bad side. That was probably the only reason they hadn't been body-guarding her like Percy and Ron kept attempting.

"I... yeah. I guess I thought it was unfair but... they're my first friends... I didn't want to lose them..." he mumbled sheepishly. Ginny softened.

"That doesn't make it right, and it means that maybe they're not the best friends you could have," she told him gently. "I've had a little more experience than you with that... Trust me, they shouldn't be prying like that. And they shouldn't be dictating your every move either." Harry sighed.

"Yeah... McGonagall said that I shouldn't let Ron decide how well I do in school... And I think she agrees with you... I just... I don't know what to do... I've never had to confront anyone before... If I tried that at the Dursleys..." He shuddered. Ginny chose to change the subject.

"Did McGonagall say anything else?" she questioned curiously. "You don't have to tell me," she added hastily.

"Well... she said I can visit her every day after dinner... and that you can come too if you'd like... and I don't think I'd mind actually as long as I can have some visits with her alone."

"Really? That could be interesting... Though I think I should work on homework some more after dinner, I'm more behind than you are." Ginny sighed. Harry groaned as he worked on writing his essay.

"Alright." He glared at his paper. "Why do we do homework like this? In the muggle world we rarely wrote essays as homework... Instead we were given worksheets where we had to fill in the blank or solve the puzzle using the things we learned in class or give short answers or find what's wrong with the paragraph... ugh essays are just so much more work for the same amount of gain," he grumbled as he continued writing. Ginny stared at him in surprise but then she tilted her head.

"You know that would make sense... I remember the kinds of thing Mum always set us to work on when we were learning the basics... But it's not like we get much work now," she added. Harry nodded.

"I know, but I've hated essays since I started... Right now we're given essays that are supposed to be 12 inches in length at the least, which means at least two paragraphs. Each class is given at least one essay per week. Right now we both have 7 classes total, that means at least 7 essays a week. Not too bad, one essay per night on average. Next year I'm adding three classes, which means I'll have 10 essays a week. That means I'll have to spend time on more than one essay per night most nights. And the lengths increase as does the difficulty per year. And have you heard about the fifth and seventh year breakdowns? They get piled with so much work that they didn't even get a break when it came to Easter break. They just did homework the whole time or at least as far as I can tell. And the sixth years have as much work as the fifth years, just with less subjects but with a much higher difficulty. I mean sure the workload is actually light this year... but starting next year and especially OWL year... that's going to be torture," Harry ranted. "Besides, it's not like the teachers are going easy on us either, some assigning two essays per week, as well as reading chapters and practicing." Ginny stared at him in awe.

"You actually noticed all that?" she queried. He nodded.

"I did, I mean it's kind of hard not to notice the breakdowns and the complaints in the common room."

"Wow... I guess we'll just have to be as prepared as possible then..."

"Yeah... for now... our homework awaits." He made a face. They worked silently for a while.

"Potter, Weasley, what are you doing here?" a boy asked them, not sounding very happy. Harry looked up, and noted that they were three Slytherins from his year, but none had ever bothered him.

"Working on our homework," he replied coolly. "And taking advantage of the fact it's an isolated table and therefore people are less likely to stare at us. What are you doing here?"

"This is our table."

"Funny, I don't see your names anywhere. Though I suppose you're welcome to sit down if you can stand sharing a table with Gryffindors," Ginny fired back. Harry barely managed to keep from grinning. He liked this Ginny. All three looked taken aback by that statement. After a moment they slowly sat down, but mostly kept glancing at Harry.

"That's Blaise Zabini, Daphne Greengrass, and Tracey Davis. They're all in my year," Harry informed Ginny. He turned to the three Slytherins. "And this is Ginny Weasley, though judging by your greeting you already knew that."

They all nodded curtly and pulled out their homework. Harry went back to working on his essay, and was surprised that he was done writing this draft. And now he had to rewrite it. Probably at least twice more before it was legible without mistakes. He sighed and pulled out a fresh piece of parchment to get to it.

"Why do you hate Slytherins so much?" Daphne asked suddenly. Harry nearly spilled his inkwell but saved it just in time. He looked up at her.

"Why do you hate Gryffindors so much?" he retorted. They stared at him as if he was stupid.

"Because Gryffindors are bullies, they never leave us alone and always push us down!" Tracey burst out, gaining surprised looks from everyone at the table. Even non-Slytherins knew she barely spoke to anyone besides Daphne and Blaise.

"Not all Gryffindors are bullies," Harry commented quietly. "None of my year has come close to being that way besides Ron, and I can't think of any third years. In fourth year, Fred and George either target those who deserve it or just prank randomly, maybe they do target the Slytherins, but that's because it's more satisfying than any of the other three houses." They blinked at him in surprise. "And of those who do bully, it's because they think Slytherins get away with too much, most Gryffindors are too honorable to bully without a good reason, even though those good reasons don't justify bullying."

"Well, not all Slytherins are bad," Blaise pointed out after a minute of shock that Potter was so observant. Harry sighed.

"I'm trying to see that, but considering all my dealings with Slytherin since I got here... Hard to not hate Slytherin." Even Ginny stared at him, all looking curious but unsure of whether to pressure him or not. After a moment of internal debate, he decided on telling them because it wasn't necessarily anything he didn't want getting out.

"I didn't know anything about Hogwarts or even magic before I got my letter, I grew up with relatives who hated magic. The first time I heard of the houses was when I met Malfoy in the shop. He disgusted me with his attitude, and he brought in the houses, said he'd rather leave if he was in Hufflepuff. Makes me wonder how he would've reacted if he got into Gryffindor." He shook his head. "Anyways, I then asked Hagrid, who was the one escorting me, about the houses and he told me that people say there isn't a wizard who wasn't bad who came from Slytherin, and that people think Hufflepuffs are a load of duffers, I cut him off then, saying I was probably going to make Hufflepuff. Then I met Ron who quickly became my first friend. We were enjoying our snacks and candy when Malfoy appeared with Crabbe and Goyle. He barged in asking if I was Harry Potter, then said he could help me make better friends than Ron and when I turned him down said that if I weren't more careful, I'd go the same way as my parents." Ginny gasped while the three Slytherins reacted less obviously, but there was a slight widening of the eyes on each of them.

"So then there I was being sorted, and suddenly the Sorting Hat told me Slytherin would help me on the way to greatness, and seeing as Malfoy had already acted the role of the bully, actually similarly to the cousin I'd left behind, I wasn't keen on going there, so I went to Gryffindor." Ginny suddenly seemed a bit relieved.

"The hat wanted to put me in Slytherin too," she admitted. "But you know my family, and so do the Slytherins, and other than... Tom," she hesitated over mentioning the diary in any way, "it would've sucked for me. The hat did tell me he wanted to sort Percy and the twins into Slytherin though." The Slytherins seemed to have lost their grip on their masks, openly gaping. Harry patted her back before continuing.

"After that, Malfoy went out of his way to antagonize me and Ron, usually one of us until the other is dragged in. And he never gets in trouble for it. And you know how much Snape hates me," Harry finished. "So while I do want to believe that not all Slytherins are bad, none have stepped up before to convince me rather than alienate me." There was silence for a bit.

"Actually, Malfoy does get punished. Snape does punishes all of us in private, he keeps track of everything we do in class and outside it and then gives out punishments that night," Daphne spoke up. Now it was the Gryffindor's turn to be surprised.

"Yeah, he says we need to show a united front to the other houses since they'll tear us apart otherwise, so it's better to be punished in private then with all the other houses noticing," Blaise added. Harry looked between all three, torn between horror, amusement, and face-palming. Ginny was still gaping.

"Well, that's a stupid policy. All it does is make everyone else hate you guys more," Harry informed them. "By not punishing you publicly, it looks like he's taking your side and rewarding you for doing bad things, so of course the Gryffindors and even Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws resent you. You know how many times Malfoy has provoked Ron to fighting but only Ron got in trouble in public? That's only made Ron despise Malfoy and Snape even more than he already does. And the united front... seriously? That's isolating you from making any friends outside the house. And it makes you all look arrogant, even though we're barely even 13 if that."

"Well, Snape's a spy, he has to act that way," Tracey offered. "No one in Slytherin is sure if he's on the side of Dumbledore or You-Know-Who." Harry stared at her and the other two incredulously.

"Haven't you ever heard of unbiased teaching? In the muggle world, if any teacher acted the way he did, they'd at least be investigated, if not fired! It's not like he teaches anything other than how to follow instructions, and that's not how being a potions master works! I just found out for the first time the reaction table of ingredients, and explanations of methods, no one in Gryffindor has those books, and if they did, they found them on accident because no one told us they'd be necessary. At the least Dumbledore could force Snape to be fair and teach or he'd be fired, surely Snape could use that as an excuse for parents."

"Well the older students said that he switches ingredients on the board and assigns essays the way he does to weed out those who could be potions masters..." Blaise responded, uncertainly. Ginny spoke up.

"But how are they even supposed to know that something like that could happen if they didn't know ingredient reactions or study the recipe, it's impossible to memorize a potion just by staring at it, I've tried, and until Harry showed me this book he found, I never understood what we were doing. Besides, we're only first and second years right now, shouldn't he be saving that for fourth year at the earliest? Right now we really are supposed to be learning how to handle ingredients and follow the instructions, and basics of reactions. That's what the book advises in the introduction at least, spend lots of time just studying the ingredients and practicing preparation... but at the beginning of the year... We didn't learn anything about ingredient preparation, and don't say that most of you learned it at home. What about the muggleborns? What are they supposed to do?"

"I never thought of it like that," Daphne admitted. "I guess Snape is just trying to make up for some bullying he had as a student here, so he's trying to make it happen less..."

"But with his personality, I bet he probably earned a lot of that bullying or at least gave as good as he got," Blaise commented thoughtfully. "I mean, Gryffindors do tend to overreact and go too far, and some don't know the difference between funny and cruel, but like Potter pointed out, most of them are too noble to strike first. And I can really see how the bullying is bad... how we act is only making it worse... yet it's supposed to protect us, you saying we should give into bullying?" he challenged Harry, but more to see how he would react than truly believing that's what Harry meant. Harry sighed.

"No, I'm not. I'm saying that by from the moment you get sorted you act aloof and above everyone and never serve punishments, and if other professors punish you, Snape gets you off mostly unless it's really bad. If you tried to be friendly and talk, like you are now, then people may actually believe you're not just a slimy snake destined to be evil."

"Just because we're Slytherin doesn't mean we're evil..." Daphne groaned. Harry rolled his eyes.

"I know. I was nearly one of you remember? But I can see why people believe that. Compare traits of the houses. Gryffindors are chivalrous, noble, and brave. That's almost always the opposite of evil, of course there's probably the odd one who goes evil every once in a while, but that's rare. They're more likely to be bullies and arrogant than truly evil like Voldemort. Then there's Hufflepuffs. They're loyal and hardworking. Evil people generally don't serve anyone but themselves so they have no room for loyalty, though being hardworking can be useful for evil, which is why slightly more bad people come out of Hufflepuff. And Ravenclaws have a thirst for knowledge, which means that they're somewhat likely to become evil because in the pursuit of knowledge they could easily ignore what it cost to gain the knowledge. Then there's Slytherin. Cunning, sly, and ambitious. That's generally exactly what every evil person is. Ambition is the trait that is the easiest to turn to evil. Because ambition to be the best could turn to hurting other people to prove it. Ambition could mean they take out opponents by hiring assassins or something so they can become the next minister. Of all the house traits, that's the one that leads to evil the most and the easiest. That's why Slytherins turn out the most bad people, and since most of the obvious bad people came from Slytherin... of course people have a prejudice against it. So really, you guys have it really hard because you have to make yourself seem like a normal friendly person like the rest of us but you have to battle your ambition if you have it, and sure everyone has ambition, Percy Weasley has quite a bit for a Gryffindor, so he could go bad if he isn't careful, but he's an exception to Gryffindors rather than the rule Slytherins have." The three Slytherins seemed subdued.

"We hadn't thought of it like that, and you are most certainly correct," Daphne mused. "And I think the problem on our part is that we let our ambition get in the way, thinking that we'll do the best in school if we act the way Snape says, and we also forget that we're only kids and so are the other students." Blaise nodded.

"We're already trying to act like we're out of school already and that isolates us... and yet many of us wouldn't mind having friends rather than allies," Blaise added. Harry and Ginny shared a look.

"You could be our friend if you'd like," Ginny offered. All three Slytherins stare.

"What?" Harry inquired. "You haven't insulted us. You listened to us and offered your thoughts, and there's no bloodshed. We're pretty much acting like friends right now." The other four at the table snickered a little at his description.

"I suppose..." Daphne began hesitantly, "but don't expect us to trust you immediately."

"Of course not," Ginny answered. "Not after what happened this year." Harry nodded in agreement. And with that, they returned to working on their homework, occasionally asking each other for help on some part of their essays.

Hermione sighed to herself as she walked the corridors of Hogwarts. Ron had been more concerned with eating breakfast than looking for Harry. Like he had been recently, only room in his brain for chess, quidditch, food, and protecting Ginny. But she was worried. He didn't seem to be getting much sleep these days and he refused to talk to them about it. He was barely even eating at most meals. She even looked up information to help him and he didn't listen. She didn't know what to do.

She walked into the library and looked around. She wasn't expecting to find him. She always had to drag him and Ron to the library, so it'd be weird if he was there. She glanced around again, resisting the urge to browse books. And then she saw him. With Ginny. And three Slytherins. She gasped and ducked behind a bookshelf, heart pounding. What were they doing? How could Harry and Ginny talk to Slytherins, who took every opportunity to mock her?

The Gryffindor bookworm breathed deeply as she tried to calm down. Something must've deeply affected Harry and Ginny down in the Chamber, and that's why they were talking to the Slytherins. Those snakes were probably trying to take advantage of the two being vulnerable. Or, the traitorous part of her mind whispered, they turned dark, evil from what happened. She couldn't confront them alone. She left the library and headed for the Great Hall. There she found Ron, who was winding down on eating.

"Ron... Harry and Ginny are in the library. Talking to Zabini, Greengrass and Davis. They're Slytherins in our year."

A/n Can't believe I made it so long.

But I am going to keep working on this. It just doesn't have as high a priority as my Fairy Tail fanfiction. Like that fanfictions, I'm taking several cliches aka common plots, and making them my own. But I'm not going to reveal what they are just yet. What's the fun in that?

And NO. I am NOT intentionally bashing Ron and Hermione. I am writing them as I see 13 year old them (remember Hermione's 13th was in September of second year, and Ron March of second year, so at this point those two are 13). It's not bashing because bashing according to fanlore is as follows: Character bashing occurs when fans are hostile to a particular character and express their dislike through fanfiction, icons, and other fan activities. Any character may be bashed, from the hero to the new addition to a recurring character.

Bashing may be done in fanfic by depicting the character as a terrible person, such as making them extremely dogmatic or cruel when dealing with the author's woobie, sometimes to the point of being physically abusive; or having them otherwise fulfill the potentially OOC role of the villain. The bashed character may also be subjected to blackly comedic deathfics, derogatory nicknames and epithets, and other expressions of hate. Discussion of character-bashing frequently straddles the line between wank and unfunnybusiness, as deep emotional attachment to characters is a core element of fanning, and many fans will take offense at what they see as undeserved bashing.

I'm not planning on doing any of those things. They will not be made fun of or made out to be a terrible person... okay maybe a terrible friend, but I'm not sure about terrible person, they are only 13 right now anyways.

Ron is lazy and self absorbed. He does have a heart of gold, but it's hidden by his jealousy and him basically not understanding any hardship unless it involves having siblings and no money. He's also rather smart, and when given incentive, will master spells quite quickly. The troll is a good example. He had no luck with the spell in class, and I bet there's a reason they use feathers in their first class, yet his first casting has him use it on a troll's club. But he's really only holding Harry back. Yes, he's 13. We can't expect him to be perfect. But that doesn't mean that he's the kind of friend Harry needs.

Hermione takes books as fact. She doesn't realize that in non-fiction there is bias, and that there are more than one ways to do things. Take her freaking out at Harry for not following the potion instructions in 6th year, for example. If she was truly good at potions, she'd know that there were ways to improve the recipe, and possibly even do them herself. Instead, she doggedly follows the instructions even when they don't get her the best results. She's very bossy, especially in books 1 and 2. She assumes she knows best without listening to other sources, with the house elves, with Harry's broom (she could've at least tried to talk to Harry and beyond commenting that it could be dangerous, she doesn't, she goes straight to McGonagall. And Harry hadn't even used it yet, and I think he would've been leery of using it himself. It's always seemed to me that he was angry because she didn't talk to him rather than losing his broom), schoolwork... Her way is not the only way. I was more of a Harry in school, and yet I graduated high school with a 3.7 average. So she doesn't need to be high and mighty. Sad thing is, I'm using more examples from later on in the series than from where I picked up. Either way, she's not the sort of friend Harry needs either. Especially once he starts working on studying on his own and picks up nearly as much knowledge as her. And he now has McGonagall to help guide his decisions and help him learn. So with that aspect of her friendship gone, where does that leave her? Sure it's always good when they're on adventures, but she was petrified during the most recent. And while she would be a big help with her looking up things about guilt and nightmares and all that, she's shoving it down Harry's throat rather than truly helping him.

If I am actually bashing them, I'm sorry. But they will grow up. It's just going to take a while.